Stan the Man

One of the most awe-inspiring baseball players of all time died last Saturday, Stan “the Man” Musial.  He was a great, great player for the St. Louis Cardinals with a lifetime batting average of .331.  He was also celebrated for his good sportsmanship, his refusal to complain, his good-nature, and.   his generosity to fans.  Sort of the anti-Lance Armstrong.

From his Washington Post obituary by Dennis Drabelle:

Stan “The Man” Musial, one of major league baseball’s most prolific hitters and a model of good sportsmanship during his Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals, died Saturday. He was 92.

The death was announced by the team. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he had Alzheimer’s disease.

The most beloved Cardinal of all, Mr. Musial led the National League in batting seven times in the 1940s and ’50s and was voted the league’s most valuable player three times. His lifetime batting average was .331, his total of 3,630 hits ranks fourth all-time, and he was a perennial all-star. After spending the entirety of his 22-year career with the Cardinals, Mr. Musial retired in 1963 with so many firsts to his credit that he may have carved out a new category: the record for holding the most records at one time. . . . [Read more…]

Baseball post-mortem

I was glad to see that the Washington Nationals’ Davey Johnson won the National League’s manager of the year.  He also won the award for the American League back in 1997 when he managed  the Baltimore Orioles.  On the same day that reward was announced for getting the Orioles into the post-season for the first time in decades, he got fired.  That won’t happen this time, as the 70-year-old agreed to come back to Washington for one more year before he retires for good.  He took a bad, hapless, hopeless team and turned it, virtually overnight, into the winningness team in baseball.

And, along that line, going from old to young, the National’s Bryce Harper won Rookie of the Year.  He was 19 for most of the season and his infectious energy, as well as his penchant for getting on base and then stealing them, contributed greatly to the team’s successful season.

I was hoping for a trifecta for the Nationals, the home team I’m now following in my new home, but the team’s ace, Gio Gonzalez (not Stephen Strasburg, great young pitcher that he is) finished third in the NL Cy Young.  Usually winning more games than anyone, going 21-8, having 207 strikeouts, and a 2.89 ERA is enough to get you a Cy Young, but this year’s award went to the Met’s kuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who went 20-6.  Since the Mets were a losing team, I can see that this was a greater feat.   race despite having

Gonzalez led the Major Leagues with 21 victories, led the team in strikeouts with 207 and had a 2.89 ERA in 32 games. However, Dickey, who went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, led the NL in starts, complete games, shutouts and innings pitched. The Dodger’s Clayton Kershaw came in second, despite his lowlier 14-9 record, because he came out so well in the sophisticated number crunching of sabremetrics.

 

Trash talk

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler illustrates why talking trash against an opponent is not wise.  Before his team played the Packers, he preened, he bragged, he taunted.  And then he got sacked 7 times and threw 4 interceptions:

When you talk trash to the opposing team before the game, and then throw a bunch of even more odiferous garbage around the field in a loss … well, you have what amounted to a very bad week for quarterback Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears. Not to mention, the other team has every right to talk right back at you.

Packers defensive back Charles Woodson put it best after the game. “Same old Jay. We don’t need luck — we just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball.”

Clay Matthews spent more time in Chicago’s backfield than Matt Forte did. (Getty Images)It started on Tuesday, when Cutler, fresh off an impressive Sunday outing against the Indianapolis Colts, stirred things up by saying that the Packers’ defense could bring whatever it wanted.

“Good luck,” Cutler said to his future tormentors. “Our speed guys are going to get around them and our big guys are going to throw and go … We invite press coverage. We invite man. And if we get in that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us.”

“It’s all about matchups,” receiver Brandon Marshall said on the same day. “I’m 6-5, 230 pounds and there’s not too many DB’s walking around that big. If they want to get physical, I do welcome that.”

The Bears did not make plays, nor did they win any matchups, in a 23-10 disaster that was nowhere near as competitive as the score indicated — the Bears had zero net yards at the end of the first quarter, and Cutler was 7 of 18 for 70 yards and two interceptions after three quarters were done. He finished the game with 11 completions in 27 attempts for 126 yards, one touchdown, and four picks.

via Jay Cutler talks trash, throws picks, gets sacked in embarrassing loss to Packers | Shutdown Corner – Yahoo! Sports.

Here is the lesson in life, boys and girls and student athletes:  If you diminish your opponent, that diminishes your victory if you win.  And if you lose, you look oh, so foolish and pathetic.

Far better, even if you are playing a weak team, is to build them up and say how good they are and how you hardly have a chance.  Then if you beat them, you come across not only as a good sport but as a team that has accomplished something significant.  And if you lose, well, that’s understandable.

Also, you wouldn’t have fired up your opposing team and inspired them to wipe you off the field.

Lance Armstrong and two kinds of evidence

Which do you think is the stronger evidence for guilt or innocence?  Eyewitness accounts or scientific forensic evidence?  The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripped cycling great Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him from the sport for life on the basis of eye-witness accounts, even though he never failed a drug test.  Tracee Hamilton thinks this is wrong:

Armstrong never failed a drug test. He was tested in competition, out of competition. He was tested at the Olympics, at the Tour de France, at dozens if not hundreds of other events. And he never failed a test. We know this because if he had, Travis T. Tygart, the head of USADA, would have personally delivered the results to every home in America, like a grim little Santa Claus.

Instead, Tygart gathered a group of people who swear they saw Armstrong doping. There has been no trial, no due process, but in the minds of many, that testimony outweighs the results of hundreds of drug tests.

People lie. Blood and urine usually don’t. And if they do, they don’t lie 500 times. People do. Some lie that many times in a week. But okay. Let’s assume these people really are witnesses, let’s assume they’re telling the truth, and then let’s assume that their testimony is the new standard, outweighing all drug test results.

Then what in the world is the point of drug testing? In any sport, by any group, at any level of competition? If the results can be discarded in favor of testimony, then let’s go right to the testimony phase and quit horsing around with blood and urine. The cheaters are always ahead of USADA and its brethren anyway. They have deeper pockets and better doctors. So let’s toss out the baby with the blood and urine bath water and just call in witnesses who will recount all the bad things they saw their fellow competitors do. What in the world could possibly be wrong with that system?

I don’t know if Armstrong did the things he’s accused of doing, and neither do you. I don’t know if these witnesses are telling the truth, and neither do you. I do know two things: First, he passed all his tests. And second, if he had failed a drug test, and brought in 10 people to testify that they were with him every minute of every day leading up to the test and he never ingested anything, never injected anything, never doped his blood, would we be having this debate today? No, because he would have failed a drug test, and all the testimony in the world wouldn’t matter.

It can’t work both ways. Either a drug test is the standard, or it isn’t. A lot of athletes must be wondering the point of going through testing if they can be taken down anyway, regardless of the results, even years after the fact.

via Lance Armstrong vs. USADA: What are we to believe? – The Washington Post.

 

Olympics post-mortem

The Olympics are over.  The United States took the most medals (104), including the most golds (46).  China came in second, with 87, 38 being golds.  The television ratings were huge.  I resisted at first, but every time I would surf by, I would be drawn in.  What were the high points?  What were the low points?  Any other observations about the games and their significance?

Pride vs. Gratitude

When Gabby Douglas won the gold medal for individual women’s gymnastics, the first thing she did was shift the glory:

“Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” These are the first words 16-year-old gymnast Gabrielle Douglas tweeted after she won the all around gold medal at the London Olympics yesterday. On the stadium floor, Douglas also told a reporter that ”the glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”

via Gabby Douglas Wins Gold, Gives Glory to God | Urban Faith.

It seems to me that this is not saying God made me win, as some athletes seem to, but a perfectly appropriate expression of faith at a moment of great personal joy that could easily be a celebration of one’s self.  That strikes me as a valuable spiritual discipline, the ability to do that.   When a person achieves something great–in sports, in a profession, in life–it is possible to respond with pride or one with gratitude.

HT:  Sarah Pulliam Bailey


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