Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. Jerome Holtzman. This Hall of Fame baseball historian and beat writer/columnist, mostly with the Chicago Sun-Times passed away yesterday after a long illness. He had 81 fruitful years and spent most of those living, breathing and changing baseball. Aside from covering both the White Sox and the Cubs, conceiving and editing one of the great works of sportswrtiting (No Cheering in the Press Box), Holtzman invented the "save" statistic and lobbied for its inclusion on the backs of baseball cards and in the game's vernacular. Needless to say, the "save" revolutionized the way that baseball was played and managed and the way that players were paid. Before Holtzman, relief pitchers were evaluated by the same categories as starting pitchers. They only had wins, losses, ERA and strikeouts to hang their hats on. And, for Holtzman that just wouldn't do. After all, if you were coming out to the bullpen when your team had the lead and you ended up with the win then you must have done something wrong. Yes, you could say that the invention of the "save" was the death knell of the complete game and the 30-win season as pitchers became more and more specialized from that moment on. You could say that. And, you might even be correct in making such an assertion but you would also do an injustice to how much Holtzman's attention to detail has benefited the game. Moreover, Holtzman proved how integral any game's chroniclers are to its health. He was a part of Baseball just as much as the managers, scouts and players in a way that has been lost in this day and age when the press and those in the game find themselves in a perpetually adversarial stance.

2. The Battle for the Missing G. It's the Amazins and the Fightins squaring off tonight at Shea Stadium with first place in the NL East on the line. This is as big as it gets. At least, in July. The Mets seem to have (w)righted themselves with their recent 10-game winning streak and the Phillies have gone out and acquired former Oakland A's pitcher Joe Blanton to sure up their rotation. Tonight Johan Santana faces off against the new kid in Philly, Blanton. I always feel much better about a Mets/Phils series when it is played at Shea because that small little park down there terrifies me. Down there would-be fly balls (which Maine and Santana get a lot of) become unexpected long balls. That's not the case in relatively spacious Shea. And aside from Utley (and Rollins when he's going) I feel like Howard and Burrell can be struck out in big spots. Either way, this is big-time NL East baseball and hopefully the 3-gamer can do a little more to further this burgeoning rivalry. If the Mets win the series then they're hot streak has put them in the driver's seat and the Phils will be demoralized. However, if the Phils win than the Mets will have to feel like their streak was somewhat wasted since they couldn't get over the hump. Still, I think the Mets are in better shape to deal with not winning this series than Utley and company. No matter what happens the Mets are in better position than they were three weeks ago. No matter what happens the Phillies will not be able to say the same. Unless, of course, Blanton goes out and no-hits the Metropolitans. Then they'll have to feel pretty darn good about the way that acquisition affects the balance of power.

3. The Euro. With the US economy floundering and the dollar tanking it seems the hoopsters (and hockey players) have begun to explore their options. Atlanta Hawks restricted free Josh Childress is entertaining an offer from Greek club Olympiakos and may be considering playing (at least) next season in Europe rather than in the Association. This revelation comes shortly after former NJ Nets forward Bostjan Nachbar inked a contract with a Russian club for far more than he would have earned stateside. And this all comes on the heels of the announcement that flat-top sporting high schooler Brandon Jennings will opt to play in Europe next year to prepare for the NBA rather than to attend college.

4. Justice. In a huge victory for those who actually care about such things, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Kardazic (also known as the "Butcher of Bosnia") was apprehended in Serbia yesterday. He will be transferred to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague and will be held accountable for the atrocities, including the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995, that were carried out under his watch and at his behest.

5. The New Orleans Saints. No matter what you think about former NY Football Giant tight end Jeremy Shockey, there is no doubting that the Saints wanted him on their team. Now, everyone will find out everything they wanted to know about him. The Giants will find out whether all the headaches were worth it, whether Eli Manning is really better off without Shockey as the Super Bowl run might show and if Kevin Boss's big catch in the Super Bowl was the indicator of talent that it was hailed as. Meanwhile, the Saints will find out how much back-talk Drew Brees can really take.

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