Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. Michael Phelps. As someone who was raised watching basketball and football and soccer and baseball it is almost hard to allow for the existence of someone as gifted as Phelps. He is a swimmer and he appears to be one of the greatest athletes I've ever seen compete. In this day and age where athletic excellence is almost always directly connected to earning potential it doesn't quite seem "right" that a guy like Phelps is a swimmer. But he is and he is awesome. Last night he won his third gold medal of these Olympics in the 200 meter freestyle. He flat-out dominated the competition and led by a full body length as he came home on the last leg. The win tied Phelps with Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis for most golds with 9. He doesn't look to tied for long.

2. Aaron Rodgers. Last night he led the Green Bay Packers out onto a football field for game for the first time since the departure of Brett Favre. The Packers were truly his team for the first time last night when they matched up with the Cincinnati Bengals for a preseason edition of Monday Night Football. Rodgers was 9 for 15 for 117 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Not great. But not terrible. And, that's a victory for the time being. Still, any shot of the crowd revealed No. 4 jerseys and home-made signs thanking/missing the Hudson Riverboat Gambler. Rodgers faces a nearly impossible task. Not only does he have to replace Favre but in the win-now NFL he has to try to follow an appearance in the NFC championship game. Good luck.

3. Any Major League Baseball Player Facing A Member of the New York Mets Bullpen in a Late-and-Close Situation in a Regular-Season Baseball Game. They did it again yesterday afternoon. They blew another one. After Pedro Martinez threw his six solid innings and surrendered just a single run to the visiting Pirates, the bullpen combined to allow six runs in just three innings, including three in the ninth to seal the loss. All of sudden, Jerry Manuel might have a better idea of what Willie Randolph was dealing with down the stretch last season.

4. Adam Dunn & the Arizona Diamondbacks. Greeted with less fanfare than word of a potential Manny Ramirez haircut the other contender in the NL West just made a move for a slugging outfielder. Adam Dunn is tied for the Major League lead in home runs right now with 32 and he was able to get through waivers to the D-Backs. I'm not really sure how this happened. The knock on Dunn is that he strikes out too (currently 5th in the Bigs) much and that he is lost in the outfield. Ok. Maybe, but the guy is tied for the Big League lead in long balls, he walks enough to keep his on-base percentage respectable and, oh yeah, he hits a ton of home runs. I feel like the Dunn-trading-waivering market worked almost the exact opposite of the way the mediocre pitching market works in the offseason when all of a sudden the value of Kris Bensons and the Kyle Lohses of the world goes through the roof. Somehow the lemming-like marketplace devalued Dunn with the same enthusiasm. Yeah, he's a rental (his contract expires at season's end) but so what? A lot of players are rentals at the trading deadline. Either way, this is a potentially huge deal for an Arizona team that has the pitching to get to October but was having a hard time scoring runs.

5. Minnesota Twins. By beating the Yankees last night the Twins moved into first place in the AL Central. They've won 6 of 10 and are currently a half game ahead of the Chicago White Sox. The team that traded away the "best pitcher in baseball" Johan Santana is currently battling for a division crown? Yup. Looking very much like the A's from the first few years of the decade, when they continually shipped off "irreplaceable" players and still made the postseason, the Twins have joined the Marlins and the Rays as feel-good teams.

Benched. The Tampa Rays. They're still in first place but outfielder Carl Crawford and rookie third baseman Evan Longoria have both been placed on the Disabled List. Could this be the beginning of the end for our heroes? Will they survive the devastating DL? Will they live to fight another day? Stay tuned.