It’s Friday, which means it’s time to break out in song and dance. However, before we do that let’s unload some news and headlines from the city of Boston!
* The Boston Celtics punched their ticket to the second round of the NBA playoffs on Thursday, as they defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 83-80. Kevin Garnettpaced the Green and White with 28 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, while Paul Pierceadded 18 points and seven assists.
* Boston will return to the hardwood on Saturday when they tip-off against the Philadelphia 76ers at 8pm at the TD Garden. The 76ers won the regular season bout against the Celtics, 2-1, and also became the fifth team since the league expanded the postseason to 16 teams to knock-off a No. 1 seed.
* Josh Beckettreturned to the bump 10-days after his last start, and lasted 2.1 innings against Cleveland, as the Indians defeated the Boston Red Sox, 8-3 at Fenway Park. Former Sox pitcher Derek Lowepicked up his fifth win of the season, while Jack Hannahanand Jason Kipnissmacked long balls against Beckett in Cleveland’s 18th win of the season.
* Boston has now lost eight of their last nine contests, and will once again attempt to end their current losing streak of three games on Friday.
In one of Noonan’s grand schemes to get you, the fair reader, involved, he has initiated a top-10 voting spree. The readers (you) must vote for those who you feel are most worthy of being named Boston’s top-10 athletes of the 21st century, i.e., from 2000 to this very day. My responsibilities to you are the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. I will give you a name, followed by a very short reason why. I feel you are all big boys and girls out there, and thus need no more instruction.
Top-10 Boston Red Sox of the 21st Century
Honorable mention: Dustin Pedroia. Pedey will be on this list very, very soon.
10.Dave Roberts. A short stint to be sure, but without The Steal, the Red Sox go home and the Yankees punish St. Louis for the 2004 World Series win.
9. Derek Lowe. Lowe went 21-8 in 2002, threw a no-hitter, saved 42 games for the Sox in 2000, but most importantly, won the clinching games of the 2004 ALDS, ALCS, and World Series. 2004 playoffs: 3-0, 1,06 ERA after being relegated to the bullpen.
8. Nomar Garciaparra.In a very hard decision, Nomar makes this list. In 2000 he batted a ridiculous .372 and hit over .300 in 2002 and 2003. There hasn’t been a fixture at shortstop in Boston since. What might have been if only Garciaparra could have stayed healthy?
7. Trot Nixon. Hall of Famer? By no means, but Nixon brought a grit and “never say die” attitude to the Sox for seven seasons in the 21st century, including whacking 118 homers and knocking in 471 runs during that span.
6. Keith Foulke. He only spent three years in Boston, but he only needed one to make this list. In 2004 he sported a 2.17 ERA and 32 saves during the regular season and wrecked his arm pitching in 11 games that postseason, including finishing all four games of the Word Series (in which he should have arguably been named the MVP). He never pitched the same again, but gave everything he had and then some for a title.
5. Kevin Youkilis. It’s interesting to see Youkilis here but he’s a proven winner with two rings in his time in Boston from a rookie in 2004 to now. He has won a Gold Glove, two titles, and has brought stability to virtually every single spot in the lineup when asked, and has hit well in every single spot in the lineup. Youk is all about the team and it has shown.
4. Manny Ramirez. Manny’s antics get him knocked back to number four, but his impact was undeniable; two Championships, 274 homers, 868 RBI, a 999 OPS and a .312 batting average in eight years with Boston. For a time, he was the best right-handed bat in the game next to Albert Pujols.
3. Curt Schilling. Schilling spent four years in Boston and won two World Series’ with them, retiring after the 2007 Championship. He promised to end “an 86-year old curse” and delivered. In only four years with the Sox, he won 53 games.
2. Pedro Martinez. The only reason Martinez isn’t #1 is because two of his Cy Young’s came before 2000. In 2000 Pedro went 18-6 with an astonishing 1.74 ERA. How he ever lost six games is a testament to how weak the offense was. He went 20-4 in 2002 with a 2.26 ERA (losing the Cy Young to Barry Zito), and went 14-4 in 2003 with a 2.22 ERA. Martinez led the league in strikeouts in 2000 and 2002. In five years with Boston this century, he won 75 games and struck out 1,119…in FIVE years.
1. David Ortiz. I was surprised I gave the top spot to Papi, but it had to happen. In his nine years with Boston he has hit .288 with 308 homers and 980 RBI. He hit 54 bombs in 2006, breaking the Red Sox club record and has twice led the league in RBI. Most importantly, he has accumulated walk-off hit after walk-off hit, none more prevalent than in the 2004 playoffs against the Yankees. In that series alone, he batted .387 with 3 homers and 11 RBI in seven games. Ortiz left Minnesota a castoff in 2002, but will leave Boston one day as a legend.
Baseball, more so than any other American sport, is deeply rooted in history, intertwined within the very fabric of America. Much evidence of that history is the fact that in baseball, they count everything. Statistics in the game have been around since its inception.
Some of the grandest accomplishments in the sport have occurred well before what many of us can remember. Sure, the home run records are falling and will probably continue to fall as players become more and more genetically engineered to hit a baseball. But the pitcher today endures the most change.
In the near future, the Baseball Hall of Fame will feature pitchers with questionable resumes by the sport’s historical standards.
I believe that we will never again see a 300-game winner.
Pitchers today are coddled investments, incapable of going deep enough into a game to garner a win more than 15 times in a year in many cases. Baseball has become a game of relief pitchers, arguably the most value commodity in the game today. A quality start is considered to be six innings while giving up three runs. That is a 4.50 ERA, and according to Nolan Ryan, there is nothing quality about that.
And it’s true there is little quality to such a start. However more and more starters are evaluated on the amount of quality starts they throw as a bridge to the bullpen.
The active leader in wins is 44-year-old Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield with 193, and he probably won’t hit 200 career wins. Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay is 20 wins behind Wakefield’s mark at the age of 34. Wakefield is also the active leader for innings pitched in a career, a signal of how deep into games a pitcher goes or has gone in his career. For his career, Wakefield has thrown 3,088.2 innings, good for 117th all time.
Cy Young with an absurd 7356. If Wakefield is the active leader with a shade over 3,000 innings, then how can we expect any pitcher currently or in the future to pitch enough to even come close to 200 wins?
Lefty Grove and Early Winn both have 300 career wins, which is a mark that used to signal instant access to the Hall of Fame, much like 3,000 hits or 500 home runs does for a hitter. However, with how today’s game has changed, there will in all likelihood be anyone who ever reaches that mark again, so what is the Hall to do?
Unfortunately, they must lower their standards. With less innings pitched, ERA’s will rise because hurlers won’t throw enough to lower them. Win totals will drop dramatically. And those very few who are built to throw deep into games will be pulled at the slightest hint of trouble without a chance to pitch themselves to a win.
It’s a sad fact, but starting pitching, one of the greatest aspects of the game of baseball, looks to be on its way out as a position or royalty in the game. These guys used to command games. They set the tone. Creeping on the plate? Have fun with a Nolan Ryan heater under your nose.
Sandy Koufax would split your ribs. Partial fault goes to the umpires who are too quick to warn players in today’s game.
Maybe one day we’ll see a shift back toward the starting pitcher, but it doesn’t look to be anytime soon.
Given the topic, here’s a poll question!
Which of these active pitchers have the best shot at only 200 career wins? Current ages and win totals are in parenthesis.