Felix Hernandez’ workday yesterday involved 113 pitches to an assortment of batters sent to the plate by the Tampa Bay Rays. None of that assortment of batters made it safely to first base; Hernandez threw a perfect game for the Mariners, the first in the history of that franchise. Back when Hernandez was a rookie – - he was 19 years old and still had a little “baby fat” hanging on his bones – - I happened to see him on one of my Seattle baseball trips. Our seats for those games are right behind home plate just above field level such that I feel as if I am looking over the umpire’s left shoulder. I came away from that game saying that Hernandez was the best young pitcher I had seen since Dwight Gooden. Even as a 19-year-old kid, he could throw four pitches for strikes and the movement on his breaking balls was both sharp and large.
Felix Hernandez is only 26 now; he still has plenty of baseball ahead of him. And in Seattle, he truly reigns as King Felix…
Speaking of MLB pitching, Leo Mazzone – the longtime pitching coach with the Atlanta Braves under Bobby Cox – was on ESPN’s Mike and Mike In The Morning. Here are two excerpts from the exchange on that program:
“It all starts at the top. It’s called the chain of command. With the chain of command, I have experience with both ends of it. When I was with the Atlanta Braves, there was a chain of command that was in place that was never broken. It was never broken by the players. It started with ownership, with Ted Turner. Then it started with the general manager, John Schuerholz, the manager, Bobby Cox, and the coaching staff and the players. So, you had a chain of command that was never broken.
“Then I go to Baltimore and find out why they’re losing. The chain of command was always broken, where players got to voice their displeasure to the front office, which took away the power from the manager and nobody really knew who was running what. Basically, what it was, was a bunch of players finding excuses for losing. This is what’s going on [with the Red Sox].”
I do not know if that is the only reason that the Orioles have been as miserable as they have been for so long – until this season – but this is an interesting perspective from someone who had been inside the Orioles’ system.
One more baseball note here… Derek Jeter got his 150th hit of the 2012 season last weekend. The noteworthy thing about that achievement is that Jeter has had 150 or more hits in 17 consecutive seasons and only other one player in baseball history ever did that. Take a guess who that player is. The answer is a couple of paragraphs down in this rant – - and the answer might surprise you. My first guess was Pete Rose and that is not correct…
News from the Dallas Cowboys training camp is that tight end, Jason Witten, has a “slightly lacerated spleen” which will keep him out of the rest of the exhibition games. Allow me to pose this question to you:
If the injured spleen in question happened to be your spleen inside your abdomen, just what would you consider to be the meaning of the adverb, “slightly”?
Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times recently:
“First clue you might be wound a little too tight as an NFL fan: You think the use of replacement refs might jeopardize the integrity of the exhibition season.”
With a month to go before Gary Bettman’s “drop-dead date” for a new CBA between the NHL and its players, the two sides have just exchanged their first offers at the bargaining table. It is not as if these folks did not know when the last agreement would end or when the training camp for next season would begin. According to Donald Fehr, the players are willing to report for work and continue negotiating; according to Gary Bettman, they will be locked out. As of now, the two sides remain “far apart” with respect to their first offers.
The last time the NHL went through CBA negotiations, the league went dark for a full year. Back then the mantra was “cost certainty for teams” which was a polite way of saying “salary cap”. The league got a cap and reduced the percentage of revenue that went to the players. That deal took effect in 2005-06 and between now and then, league revenues grew by about 80%. So, what is the problem you might ask?
As I understand it, most of the revenue growth has fallen into the laps of the “big market teams” while the “small market teams” have seen only marginal growth. However, the salary cap is tied to total league revenues and that leaves a bunch of teams scrambling to make a profit.
The NHL did not add “revenue sharing” to the CBA concocted in 2005-06 and that seems to be what is missing now. To get “small market teams” back into the black, the league could either do meaningful “revenue sharing” which is a fight that pits one set of owners against the other set of owners or it can try to slash the players’ share of total revenues yet again. Guess which path the league is taking at this point…
The answer to the question above about the other MLB player to collect 150 or more hits in 17 consecutive seasons is – - Henry Aaron.
Comparing stats, Henry Aaron had those 150+ hits between 1955 and 1971; in that stretch, he had 200 or more hits three times. Aaron collected 3,771 hits for his career putting him 3rd on the al-time list behind Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. Aaron’s career batting average was .305.
Derek Jeter had his 150+ hits between 1996 and 2012; in that stretch, he had 200 or more hits 7 times (and he is on pace to make that 8 times at the end of this season). Jeter has 3245 hits as of this morning meaning he needs just over 500 hits to catch Aaron on the all-time list and just over 1000 hits to catch Pete Rose. Jeter’s career batting average is .313.
Finally, here are some words of wisdom from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald regarding those NHL CBA negotiations:
“The NHL seems at serious risk of a canceled season because of labor strife. Dear hockey: Most of America barely likes you as is. Don’t press your luck.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………