sports: February 2005 Archives


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That's what you get when you cross hyperbole with the Super Bowl. Of course, that's kind of redundant, yes?

There's a part of me that appreciates the fact that Owens and Seymour and others had an extra week to heal up for the Bowl, and yet, that also meant an extra week of:

  • Are the Patriots a dynasty?
  • Is Belicheck the best coach ever?
  • Is Brady the best QB ever?
  • X-factor, X-factor, who will be the X-factor?

X-factor is now on my official Hate List, by the way. It was a good game, better than many had predicted. But the theme of this year's playoffs had to be game management. Philly's clock management in the fourth quarter was horrible. And it extended all the way down to specific players. With 47 seconds to go, Westbrook caught a pass at the line of scrimmage and was promptly tackled, allowing another 25 to drain off the clock. On his own 5 yard line. Bat the damn thing to the ground, please!

The Patriots won the game, fair and square, but the Eagles sure didn't do themselves any favors there late in the game. They looked like a team down by 21, on an end-of-game drive to make the score look a little more respectable, instead of playing like they were down by 10 with a chance to tie or win.

Fa Sosa Ti Do

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I know that Cubs Nation has been waiting on the edges of their seats, waiting to hear what I'll have to say about the Sosa trade, which should be finalized sometime soon, if it hasn't been already. On the one hand, I agree with Phil Rogers, who calls it an "unceremonious dump job" over at ESPN. And for once I wish I were paying for ESPN Insider so that I could read Rob Neyer's take on it. My own sense of things is that it's deceptive to cite stats like Rogers does:

Can they really be better without Sosa, who averaged 41 homers and 97 RBI over the last three years -- not bad numbers for a guy in decline.

Well, yes and no. Those are Sosa's 3-year numbers, but they don't really get at the trends of Sosa's career, and this is where Neyer is gold. Check Sammy's walks: from 96 to 01, he drew more bases on balls each year than the year previous. He dropped a little in 02, okay, but plummeted in the last two years. His pitch selection at the plate has peaked, period. Until 98, he was stealing around 20 bases a season, and had 3 seasons with more than 30. In the last four years combined, 2 stolen bases. 35 homers is a comedown, yes, but he's had two other seasons with 36; the big number there is that last year, he batted in 40 less runs than those other two seasons. It was pretty clear that he was getting better pitches to hit when the bases were empty--he got a rep for hitting the 1-run homer. His OPS and his average with runners in scoring position have dropped for four straight seasons.

So, yeah, it's the end of an era. It was bad enough for him to walk during the final game and then lie about it, but that was symptomatic of a one-man-band sort of selfishness that's been going on since before the NLCS. When you hit your 30's, your talent starts to fade. Guys like Bonds and Gwynn made up for it with skill--Sammy hasn't. He no longer has the bat speed to stand as far off the plate as he does and hit the outside pitches and/or sinkers. I'll miss him, but I won't miss watching him strike out with men on base--and last season, it felt like that happened a lot more than it was supposed to.

I hope hope hope that Sammy will go to Baltimore, work with a hitting coach, and both relearn the strike zone and how to hit for contact. If he can reverse some of these trends, he'll be a contributor for several more years yet. But it won't happen if he doesn't stop resting on talent. And it won't break my heart if he doesn't, not like it would if he were still in a Cubs jersey...



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This page is a archive of entries in the sports category from February 2005.

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