Gettin’ Chalky…

A week ago, the mantra was that college basketball was a jumble this year; there were no dominant teams; it was the year for upsets; parity had come to men’s college basketball. Ommmmm…

Well last night two of the regional finals were set. In both the South bracket and the West bracket, the #1 Seed will play the #2 Seed. Oh, and by the way, none of the games last night setting up those “chalky pairings” was very close.

The other two brackets cannot be nearly as “chalky” since the #2 seed has been eliminated in both of those brackets and the winner of Gonzaga/Syracuse (seeded #11 and #10 originally in their bracket) will have to be in the regional final game. Nonetheless, look at the teams that populated the Sweet 16 in this “year of parity” in college basketball. Point to a school that does not have a rather long “basketball tradition” and/or a significant “basketball pedigree”. I’ll give you Oregon and maybe Texas A&M. Iowa State? Well they have been in the tournament more than half the time over the last 25 years so I would not call them an “outsider” in the mold of George Mason or an Ivy League team or Florida Gulf Coast or Loyola Marymount.

Speaking obliquely of “outsiders” in the Tournament, consider this observation from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times from last weekend:

“Butler Blue III, Butler’s live bulldog mascot, had to stay back at the team hotel when NCAA tournament officials said no dogs would be allowed in the building.

“So please explain, then, how the Hampton and Stony Brook basketball teams got in?”

Report say that Alex Rodriguez will retire after the 2017 season. Let me just note that the end of the 2017 season will also coincide with the final moments of the monstrously large contract that he signed with the Yankees back when George Steinbrenner was still alive and signing the checks for the team. At the end of the 2017 season, A-Rod will be 42 years old. If his ego – and we have ample evidence to suggest that he has a significant ego – will not allow him to take a pay cut of 75% or more, then it probably will not matter if he chooses to retire because he is not likely to get an offer from any other team that will be to his liking. Even so, I would prefer to put off any plans he or the Yankees may have for yet another Year of Farewell for A-Rod because his ego may be torn at the end of the 2017 season. Consider:

    A-Rod has hit 687 home runs in his career. That puts him fourth on the all-time list. Last year he hit 33 home runs. If he matches that total, he will wind up at the end of the 2016 season with 720 home runs and will have passed Babe Ruth for third place on the all-time list.

    Assume for a moment that A-Rod enters the 2017 season with 720 home runs. He would be 35 home runs short of tying Henry Aaron’s mark and 42 home runs from equaling Barry Bonds for the all-time record. Now take one more imaginary step with me and assume that A-Rod’s production falls off just a bit in 2017 such that he hits another 25 home runs. He would end the 2017 season in this situation:

      He is only 17 home runs away from the all-time lead – but –

      He has no contract and no team in their right mind is going to pay him anything near $30M per year to give him a shot at the all-time record.

There are enough variants on possibilities here to keep psychologists – or amateur psychologists – busy for the next two years. My guess – and I stress the word guess here – is that if A-Rod is within shouting distance of the all-time record at the end of the 2017 season, he would accept just about any contract that came his way from any team that would allow him to DH for a season to catch the record. I have no deep insight or professional expertise to back that up; it is simply my guess as to which tug on the ego would be stronger.

In Miami, there is another aging baseball star chasing a milestone. Ichiro has a 1-year deal with the Marlins for $2M – and there is a club option for 2017 for another $2M. Ichiro was making more than twice that amount annually back in 2001 when he came to MLB from Japan. He is playing at age 43 at a significant pay cut to chase the possibility of getting 3000 hits in MLB despite the fact that he did not start playing in MLB until he was 28 years old. Ichiro will start the 2016 season with 2,935 base hits; he needs 65 hits to make it to 3000; last year in 153 games, he got 91 hits.

Longtime readers of these rants know that I enjoyed watching Ichiro play on my annual visits to Seattle in the summertime. Father Time has taken a significant toll on his skills but he is still someone who demands attention when he is on the field. He is as instinctive an outfielder as I can recall since the time of Roberto Clemente; when the ball comes off the bat, Ichiro is – seemingly – already at full stride heading to where the ball is going. He may not have the batting stroke he had 5 years ago and he may have lost a step while stealing a base, but baserunners will “take the extra base” off him at their own peril.

Dwight Perry had this comment about the Marlins and one of their scheduled games for the 2016 season in the Seattle Times recently:

“The Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves will play their July 3 game at Fort Bragg, N.C.”

The pitchers, understandably, are worried about getting shelled.”

Finally, since I have stolen material from Dwight Perry twice already today, let me hit the trifecta here:

“The Baltimore Orioles, citing safety reasons, have banned the budding tradition of smashing pies in teammates’ faces to celebrate big wins.

In a related story, Soupy Sales Bobblehead Night is hereby canceled.”

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