November 11, 2004

Rock the Vote, ESPN Style

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People are way dumber than I thought.,p> Hold on, at least let me explain before you start doing the crossword.

Yesterday afternoon I was browsing, and I stumbled across their question of the day, which was phrased something like, “What is the most impressive feat in baseball history?” The choices: Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Roger Clemens’ seven Cy Young Awards, Cal Ripken’s consecutive games-played streak, and Barry Bonds’ 73 home runs in a season.

First of all, shame on ESPN. How about hitting .400 in a season — did they think that was easy? We’ll save that one for another day though.

Anyway, at 2:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon, about 130,000 people had voted in the poll, and the results are as follows. Ripken was first with about 31 percent of the vote, Dimaggio was a close second at around 30 percent, Clemens is next with approximately 21 percent, and finally Bonds with about 18.

Okay, instead of jumping out of my chair and yelling, “Are you kidding me?” like I did in the ILR library yesterday, I’m just going to calmly explain to the stupid American public (note this year’s election) how little they know.

First off, Barry Bonds is a joke. He was a stick figure when he came into the league, then did whatever he had to do to get humongous and hit 73 homers. I’m not taking anything away from Bonds — he’s probably the most feared hitter in history — but he’s in an era where every utility guy hits at least 15 homers because the ballparks are like playpens, the pitching stinks, and everyone has a great “weightlifting program”.

Clemens deserves to be on this list. To have an ERA below three at the age of 42 is one thing, to have done it 10 out of 21 seasons in the league is remarkable. Clemens is the most dominant right-handed pitcher in history as far as I’m concerned, and his staying power is just increasing his legacy. Roger’s no role model, but I’d sure love to see him give another run at it next season.

Now for the real bone I have to pick with the morons of this country.

Bottom line: Cal Ripken Jr. is the most overrated baseball player in the history of the game. I don’t care if he played four thousand games in a row, he was a career .276 hitter, he only hit over 30 homeruns once in a season, and his two gold gloves at shortstop are not enough for me to say he was ever a good fielder.

Basically, Cal was a bum. When he hit that homerun in the 2001 All-Star game off of Chan Ho Park, I didn’t get tingly like some people, I got nauseous that a guy who was hitting around .230 made the game in the first place. All I know is that Willie Mays didn’t get a call for the 1973 midseason classic when he was stumbling all over himself in centerfield for the Mets. So why did Cal get the special treatment?

Now let’s talk about his “amazing” streak. Big deal, he played in about 2,200 games in a row. Okay, that’s his job. I am completely unimpressed. Heck, give me a uniform and I’ll play everyday for 20-plus years for free (Hey Steinbrenner, you listening?). I’m sure there are plenty of people who have been at their jobs for 30, 40, even 50 years who haven’t missed a day — and they work year round.

People will say it’s a wonder he never got hurt. Maybe it’s because he wasn’t a hustle player. I’ll never claim I remember Cal in his early days, but watching him in the early 90’s, I can honestly say I never once remember him stealing a base (he only had 36 of those in his 21 seasons), or even diving to get a ball deep in the hole at short. After a while it wasn’t about winning a title (Cal made just one World Series), or even about performing well, it was just about going through the motions.

In my mind, to get a hit in 56 straight games, there can be no going through the motions — there has to be focus. I won’t even mention that Joe D was about a million times better than Cal (oops, I guess I just did). But seriously, nobody will ever break 56 games in a row, especially now when the media will just become too unbearable on a player.

For all of you who don’t understand the magnitude of this feat, let’s break it down. A guy gets about four trips to the plate per game, and yes, a great hitter averages three hits for every 10 at-bats over the course of his career. Yet that doesn’t mean he will get a hit every 3 1/3 at-bats — it’s cyclical. Some nights, guys go 4-for-4; some nights, 0-for-4.

Some nights there’s just a pitcher who can’t be stopped. What if a guy had a streak going, then had to face Pedro and Schilling to end a three-game set with the Sox, then go to Minnesota and face Johan Santana, and get a hit in every game? It’s nearly impossible — and that’s why Joe D won’t ever be touched on the impressive feat meter.

Okay, if you feel bad I kept you from the crossword, here’s one for you to see if I taught you anything — a three-letter word for an overrated ballplayer.

Finally, you people got something right.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro