RIP – - Robin Roberts

Hall of Fame pitcher, Robin Roberts, died yesterday. He was one of the starting pitchers in the first baseball game that I saw in person; that was in 1949. Robin Roberts’ career demonstrates a fundamental change in MLB between the 1950s and today. Pitchers in the 50s pitched more often and more innings than pitchers today. Consider just a few stats:

    In six consecutive seasons from 1950 – 55, Roberts threw more than 300 innings in each season. Today, a pitcher is considered an “innings eater” if he throws 220 innings.

    In 8 different seasons, Roberts threw more than 20 complete games; in 2 of those seasons, he threw more than 30 complete games. In a run that spanned the ‘52 and ‘53 seasons, Roberts completed 28 consecutive starts. Last season, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum tied for the NL lead in complete games with 4 apiece. The last pitcher to have 30 complete games in a season was Catfish Hunter in 1975.

I am not saying that the “good old days” were better than the present; I am saying that the “good old days” were fundamentally different from the baseball of today. Robin Roberts pitched long before the salary explosion for baseball players; he retired in 1966. With stats like his, he would make a huge sum today. RIP, Robin Roberts.

Hall of Fame linebacker, Lawrence Taylor, was arrested and charged with statutory rape yesterday. Police allege that Taylor paid to have sex with a 16-year-old girl in a hotel in upstate New York. Taylor denies the charges; Taylor’s attorney said that Taylor did not “have consensual sex with anyone” on the night in question. Learning from the history associated with the infamous “Duke Lacrosse Case”, I will reserve judgment here until I hear a bit more from Taylor’s attorney. Nevertheless, I would like to offer one generic comment on this situation:

    Lawrence Taylor is a 51-year old man. The alleged victim is a 16-year old girl.

    Men who are 51 years old should never engage in sexual intercourse or sexual activities with girls who are 16 years old. Never…

In other courtroom news yesterday, a judge in Minnesota ruled that the NFL did not violate Minnesota’s drug-testing laws when the NFL sought to suspend Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for failing a drug test in 2008. That would mean that the NFL can suspend these two DTs for the first four games of the 2010 season if the ruling stands. The Williamses announced that they would appeal Judge Larson’s decision. Stay tuned…

The Oakland Raiders released JaMarcus Russell yesterday. One report said that Russell had collected $34M from the Raiders in bonuses and salaries over the past 3 seasons where to say he was a disappointment would be high praise indeed. The sad part of this story is that Russell has to have basic football skills to have excelled in football at LSU. The SEC is not a “chump conference”; Russell led LSU to more than a few wins there over top-flight football teams.

Some analysts have said that Russell does not have sufficient interest in football or a sufficient “work-ethic” to excel at the game. I do not read minds so I do not know for sure if that is the case, but his outward demeanor certainly does not radiate interest or intensity for the game. In addition, his apparent weight control problems – - apparent by looking at his girth and his muscular definition – - would more than hint at the likelihood that he was not willing to spend a lot of time in the weight room or running laps. Nonetheless, under all of that, he has to have those fundamental football skills…

Other reports say that Russell’s lack of interest showed itself in the fact that Russell would fall asleep during film sessions. Since I was not in the room, I have no idea if he did that or not. If he did, that would be a damning indictment. If Peyton Manning were to fall asleep in a film session, I would ignore it because Peyton Manning has shown – - on the field – - that he will perform at an excellent level on a routine basis. JaMarcus Russell has not even begun to reach that level of privilege based on performance. Moreover, I would say that these reports indicate that Russell does not grasp the linkage between “film study” and “improved performance on Sunday”. That linkage exists; assiduous film study does not make every QB into an excellent QB, but it helps all of them improve.

JaMarcus Russell is only 24 years old. He has plenty of time to turn around the perceptions of his attitude and his game. However, he is the one that has to make the effort to convince other “football people” that he is ready to let his football skills emerge. Back before Russell signed with the Raiders, he was a training camp holdout and the reports then were that he and the Raiders could not agree on the amount of money that would be guaranteed within his deal. Personally, that would scare me a lot if I were the guy negotiating on the side of the NFL team.

I like to say that there are lots of players – - in lots of sports by the way – - who suffer from “Fat Wallet Syndrome”. They all have talent and they play really well in their “contract year” and then sign a big contract with lots of “front-end” money and/or contract guarantees. At that point, their “fat wallet” demotivates them just enough that their performance never lives up to the standard that was expected. Until proven otherwise, JaMarcus Russell seems to have suffered from “Fat Wallet Syndrome”.

Maybe it is a good thing that I cannot read minds. I doubt that I would enjoy reading Al Davis’ mind today.

Finally, this note was in Dwight Perry’s column in the Seattle Times earlier this week:

No wonder the Kentucky Derby is so popular.

“No competing horse has ever uttered the phrase, ‘It is what it is,’” pointed out Reggie Hayes of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel. “The whole thing is over in about two minutes, with no halftime analysis. Drinking and gambling are encouraged.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Rich  On May 13, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Robin Roberts would be a superstar in today’s baseball, mainly because of his rising fastball. At 220 innings per year he would, like Nolan Ryan, be pitching into his late forties. Throw in some performance enhancing drugs and he could have more wins than Roger Clemens.
    Sadly, I see that Lawrence Taylor is now absent from the dopey diet system ads featuring other annoying ex-ath-a-letes. It is said he may be preparing the campaign for the New LT Diet, in which one swives a sixteen-year-old and then has bread and water for ten years.
    Was Ken Griffey Jr. screening those tapes with JaMarcus Russell?

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On May 25, 2010 at 5:38 pm


    I think Nutra-System demonstrated just how effective their diet system is when they got rid of about 250 lbs of needless weight in just a single day.

    In addition to Junior napping instead of pinch-hitting, I think it is important to note that his bat has been less than fully conscious for most of this season also.

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