Greatest Hitter Ever?

Is Ichiro the best hitter of all-time?

By: Chris Ross

Everybody knows that the Japanese make high quality machinery, and one of the best products to come out of Japan is the machine-like Ichiro Suzuki.

Last week, Ichiro became the first player in Major League history to have 200 hits in an astounding 10 straight seasons. Of course, with any phenomenal stat for any athlete there is always talk of where that athlete ranks towards others of his kind. There have been so many great hitters that have come and gone in the Major Leagues, and we have to wonder where Ichiro ranks among them?

There is no doubt in my mind that Ichiro is one of the greatest hitters of all time, but what is questionable is his status of the greatest ever.

How about we compare some statistics.

Ted Williams, the one player that many people have failed to mention in this discussion, could possibly be the greatest. In 19 seasons Ted Williams finished with a career batting average of .344, a staggering .482 on-base percentage and 521 home runs. However, what is even more impressive about those numbers is that he missed 3 seasons in the prime of his career from 1943-1945 because of World War II. Even at the age of 41 Williams still hit a solid .316 in 113 games. Oh yeah, he was also the last player to hit above .400 in a season.

A .366 career batting average, .433 on-base, and never having a season with a batting average under .323. The man who put up these astounding numbers is Ty Cobb. Cobb also had 9 consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits.

Whenever you speak of the best hitters in baseball history Babe Ruth is going to come into the conversation 99% of the time. This is not without good reason. We all know about the 714 home runs that he hit, but we sometimes forget that he also hit for average. Ruth finished his career with a .342 batting average and a single season high at .393. He also had an on-base percentage of over .500 in multiple seasons.

Of course there are a number of other players that I would love to go through, but the above are the ones that I felt are in need of going further in-depth of. Other hitters that I could have gone farther in-depth with include Pete Rose, Tony Gwyn, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, etc. If you feel that I am missing anyone desperately important then please let it be known.

Let’s get back to the man in question.

Ichiro is one of those once in a forever players and not just because he is a great player. It is the quirky way in which he hits the ball and conducts himself as a person on and off the field. Albert Pujols is a great hitter, but he has as technically a sound swing as it gets. On the other hand, I’m not going to be telling my kid to pull away from the ball à la Ichiro

With that being said, the way in which Ichiro conducts himself has nothing to do with how good of a hitter he is. Despite his 10 straight 200 hit seasons, there have been a number of seasons in his career that have not been too impressive. If you include this season, there will be four years in his MLB career in which he has batted under .315, and only once has he had an on-base percentage above .400.

Personally, I don’t believe that on-base percentage is a big part of being a great hitter because it does not actually involve hitting the ball. With that being said, it still is a part of being an all-around hitter and Ichiro flat out does not walk very often.

Moreover, Ichiro has played 7 of his 10 seasons in the Majors over the age of 30, which means we have no idea what he could have done if he had started his career at say 23 years of age rather than 27.

Now, even though Ichiro is my favourite baseball of all-time, I think that there is enough evidence to conclude that he is not the greatest hitter of all-time. Top 5, yes. Best ever, no.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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C’mon Man!

The NBA announced that they are cracking down on technical fouls

By: Chris Ross

Officials get a lot of criticism for a job that could be considered one of the most high pressure jobs in the world. Don’t believe me? Just ask the referees from the World Cup who didn’t see Frank Lampard’s shot cross the goal line. If you can’t get a hold of them, you might want to send an e-mail to MLB umpire Jim Joyce, the man who took away the perfect game from Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga. How about searching up NFL referee Phil Luckett?

Okay, enough with the examples. We get it, refereeing is not an easy job, and by no means have I been on the side of an umpire or referee at any point in my life. Notice how I said high pressure, not high degree of difficulty. As an athlete I probably don’t give refs enough credit, but the fact of the matter is that in professional sports referees are slowly but surely being given too much protection by their respective leagues.

Today, the NBA announced that they are going to be cracking down even more heavily on players and giving more technical fouls. The NBA plans to take out gestures such as swinging a fist in the air out of anger. They plan to give technical fouls even if these gestures are not directed specifically at officials. Apparently, fans feel that players complain too much, *cough* Tim Duncan *cough*, and this is part of the reasoning behind this decision.

Sorry David Stern, but this is exactly the opposite of what should be happening. Well at least partly.

I do agree there is too much complaining to officials, but it is not coming from the players as much. I think that toleration to the way coaches get in the referees ear during games is unbelievable. However, what the NBA is now trying to crack down on is raw emotion. As a player in any type of competitive sport it is virtually impossible to stay calm and collected under certain circumstances and calling a technical on a player whose actions are more or less determined by the heat of a pressure packed game is just wrong. Especially when these actions are not directed at an official.

I still don’t understand why slamming the ball against the floor is a technical foul. Are we going to get to the point where no one is allowed to say anything without getting a technical foul? Maybe the NBA should just input a no emotion rule. I’m sure that would fix things, right?

What I can’t comprehend even further is why the NBA front office issues an ‘ultimatum’ of sorts on such a non-issue, while other issues such as player flopping have become so much more prominent in today’s game and are being left unaddressed.

We are constantly seeing these athletes hitting the floor like their soccer players or something, yet nothing is being done by the NBA to fix this. Referees do catch players flopping, however, the only thing they can do is not make the call. Instead of simply a non-call, players should be penalized for flopping. I understand that flopping is something that is very hard to detect, but as I’ve stated in previous posts, what do we have video review for? The NBA can review players who are continually accused of flopping then fine or suspend them at their discretion. You get fined or suspended and you’re not going to flop again. End of story.

Instead, the NBA decides that players screaming or fist pumping is the more immediate issue that has to be dealt with. They already are calling technicals for such minor things and they decide that they are going to be more extreme with it.

You know what I think; I think it’s absolutely nonsensical.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Something’s Gotta Give

Is Bud Selig listening to anyone?

By: Chris Ross

There are some things in sports that I just can’t bring myself to care about. The WNBA finals, Paralympic games, and the World Ultimate Championships are not events that I can honestly say I enjoy watching. It’s not a criticism to the incredible ability of these athletes, because they are world-class, but when it comes to spectator sports those examples are not at the top of my list.

However, as a fairly hardcore baseball fan, you would think it would be a given that the AL pennant race is a sports event that I would be excited for. This week’s four game series between the two best teams in the Majors, the Rays and Yankees, should be one of highlight’s of this entire season. Sadly, because of the current structure of Major League Baseball, I could care less about this highly anticipated series.

Tomorrow night, David Price and C.C. Sabathia, the respective aces for their teams take the mound in a game that could be the difference in deciding the AL East champions for this season. But really, in the grand scheme of things it hardly matters. No matter what happens, the Rays and Yankees are both going to make the playoffs handily with the only difference essentially being home-field advantage.

Moreover, this matchup isn’t too big of a deal for most fans because of the fact that their team is most likely already eliminated or at least virtually eliminated from playoff contention. Only 8 out of the Major League’s 30 teams make the playoffs, and it’s no secret that for most teams, the latter part of the season is meaningless. So then why doesn’t Major League Baseball do something about this and make the season more meaningful for a greater amount of teams?

It is a very utopian thought but if Major League Baseball stopped looking through their rose-coloured glasses and actually did something to change the game for the better it could very well increase the hype and fanfare around “America’s pastime.”

One thought that has been thrown around, and something that I am very much in favour of, is the idea of shortening the season by 15 or 20 games. This would do a couple of things. First of all, it would create a longer playoff season. Secondly, a longer playoff season means there would be more teams that qualify for the playoffs.

I think that shortening the season would add a lot more excitement to the regular season as well as the playoffs. More teams would be involved and thus more fans would be more heavily immersed in the regular season rather than just waiting until October once they’ve seen that there team no longer has a shot at the playoffs.

Seriously, everyone loves playoffs and there aren’t too many things more fun than watching your team grind out a playoff berth in a tight race. It just makes sense to shorten the season.

Players like Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa have put an asterisk next to many of baseball's most cherished stats

The major flaw in shortening the season is that future statistics will no longer be relevant to the past statistics of 154 and 162 game seasons. We all know that statistics and baseball go hand in hand, but as many have pointed out, the steroid era has made many of the stats that we hold dear to our heart almost obsolete. There are just so many stats in this day and age that aren’t nearly as meaningful as they were 20 years. We have no idea what stats we can and cannot trust.

Another aspect of Major League Baseball that needs to be changed is the salary cap. I have mentioned it before, but I can’t stress enough that baseball should switch to a hard cap. Now, I do realize that teams with lower payrolls can survive and succeed as shown by the Minnesota Twins and the Florida Marlins. Nevertheless, a couple of anomalies cannot change the fact that we have so many teams struggling to compete with big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.\

Case in point, the Oakland Athletics are no longer thriving under Billy Beane’s revolutionary “Money Ball.”

The MLB should take a page from the NHL’s book and make the change to the hard salary cap. After the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the league decided to set a maximum and minimum cap. This made it so low-budget teams were forced to spend a certain amount of money, as well as keeping high budget teams within an adequate spending range. This has raised the level of competitiveness around the league, and is evident by how close the playoff races have been each and every year post lockout.

If the MLB switched to a hard cap similar to this model, there would no longer be teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates. The perennial losers that make money for their owners in the financial department are forced to at least attempt to be more competitive. How would you feel if you had to cheer for a team with an owner unwilling to spend any cash?

In contrast to this, there would also no longer be the Steinbrenner-like Yankee run franchises that don’t have to rely on prospects, scouting, and quality farm systems to stay competitive.

As I mentioned earlier, I realize that my thoughts are Utopian but the idea of making changes that would make the structure of the game so much better, while not affecting the actual game play, is too tantalizing not to consider.

Baseball is losing its status as America’s pastime and I think it’s high time Bud Selig and his crew take some significant consideration into improving the game of baseball not just for the present, but for the next generation and beyond.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Wake-up Call

At 28 years of age Cameron Wake is finally establishing himself in the NFL

By: Chris Ross

Robert Frost once wrote “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Well the same can be said for Miami Dolphins Linebacker Cameron Wake. Cameron Wake’s route to the NFL is as unconventional as it gets, but now that he has arrived he is taking the league by storm.

Unlike many NFLers, from a young age Cameron Wake did not dream of being a football star, rather he had high hopes of being a basketball player. However, he was unable to crack the starting roster in high school that consisted of current NBA player Keith Bogans. Wake reluctantly switched to football despite never having played, and as a senior he was named the Washington Post defensive player of the year.

Wake played well enough to earn a spot on the Penn State Nittany Lion’s roster as a true freshman in 2000. Blessed with great athletic ability, Wake was able to be a solid player at Penn State despite his limitations caused by his lack of football background. He finished his college career with 118 solo tackles, 8.5 sacks, and an astounding 7 blocked kicks.

Even though Wake had decent numbers and showed incredible athletic ability he was not taken in the 2005 NFL draft. This had much to do with the fact that Cameron was your typical ‘tweener’ player physically. Wake left college just over 230 pounds and at 6”3 he was too big to be a linebacker and too small to play defensive end. It should be of note that at Penn State’s pro day Cameron Wake ran a 4.55 in the 40 yard dash and sports a 45.5” vertical.

He was signed by the New York Giants as a free agent but was subsequently released before training camp even began. No one else bothered to give Wake a chance and for two years he was out of football. He worked as a mortgage advisor as well as a personal trainer, hoping to stay in shape just in case a call came.

In 2007 opportunity came knocking as the Canadian Football League’s B.C. Lions offered Cameron Wake a tryout. However, there was a miscommunication and Cameron showed up at the wrong facility. In spite of this, after watching some of Wake’s game film from Penn State, the B.C. Lions decided to extend him an invitation to training camp. The opportunity was all that Cameron Wake needed.

Wake flourished as a rookie in a league that has produced the likes of Warren Moon and Jeff Garcia. He moved from linebacker to defensive end and in his first year Wake finished the season with 16 sacks and 72 tackles. With high expectations going into his second season Wake did not experience the dreaded sophomore slump as he continued his dominance, and completed the season with a league high 23 sacks as well as taking home defensive player of the year honours. During his time in B.C., Wake was constantly faced with double and triple teams by opposing teams but managed to fight his way through them week after week. Moreover, in the CFL, a league designed for passing, defenders are forced to line up 1 yard off the ball creating a considerable advantage for offensive lineman.

Cameron Wake dominated during his tenure with the British Columbia Lions

As a B.C. Lion season ticket holder myself I was able to see the emergence of Cameron Wake on a game-to-game basis, and let me tell you that he is one of, if not the most exciting defensive player to come to the CFL. It wasn’t just the sacks; it was the distress that he caused opposing teams’ quarterbacks, offensive lines, coaches, and game plans. Someone as electrifying as Wake does not come around every day and the fact that he was playing in the CFL did not take away from the undeniable evidence that this was a star in the making.

His monster season in the CFL drew the interest of many NFL teams (17 to be exact), where he eventually landed in Miami signing a four-year deal worth up to $5 million, with around $1 million of that guaranteed.

With the move to the NFL came a move in positions once again for Cameron Wake as he had to make the transition back to outside linebacker. Playing behind Joey Porter, Wake was able to be slowly inserted into the Dolphins rotation and get re-accustomed with the American game. In limited playing time last year Cameron Wake confirmed what he accomplished in the CFL was no fluke. He ended the season with 5.5 sacks, 23 total tackles with 1 forced fumble.

Now, with the departure of Joey Porter, Wake has assumed the starting outside linebacker role in the Dolphins line-up and through 2 games this year he has not disappointed. He has already accumulated 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble, showing that he is ready to take the next step.

Cameron Wake’s road to the NFL is certainly one that has been traveled by few others, and now that he has made it he is finally turning heads around NFL circles and proving one game at a time that he truly does belong.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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What to do with Jose Bautista?

Jose Bautista has pounded out a franchise record 48 home runs so far this season.

It is only human nature to be in awe of remarkable happenings that don’t come around too often. Has anyone ever seen Halley’s Comet? Well that comes around maybe every 75 years. The type of season that Jose Bautista has had this year with the Toronto Blue Jays may not quite compare to the sight of Halley’s Comet, but it is no less short of spectacular.

In one season Jose Bautista has gone from journeyman utility player to Major League home run king. His rise to fame has been quite a sight to watch day in and day out, but it begs the question, can Bautista duplicate his performance next season when all eyes will be on him to perform?

The Toronto Blue Jays have played better than anyone expected prior to the start of the season. This season was supposed to be a rebuilding year and after the departure of Roy Halladay all hope was lost. However, for some reason the Jays started to crank out the home runs faster than Usain Bolt’s 100 meter sprint. The burst has come from a number of unlikely sources including John Buck, current Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez, and of course Jose Bautista. The home runs haven’t dried up and the Jays continue to lead the Major Leagues in total home runs while posting a record of 74-73 to date in the very competitive AL East division.

The Blue Jays are going to be seeing higher expectations amongst fans next year with all the young talent that is a part of the organization. The rotation looks to be set with the return of their top four starters who have proven their worth in Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Brandon Morrow and Shaun Marcum, plus Kyle Drabek who was the key piece in the Roy Halladay trade should be ready for the big show by next year. Big things are also going to be expected from young catcher J.P. Arencibia, shortstop Yunel Escobar, outfielder Travis Snider as well as “veterans” Aaron Hill, and Adam Lind.

For a team that is going so young it is very difficult to see where Jose Bautista fits into the scheme of things. It is without a doubt that Jose Bautista is going to want, and in my mind deserves a multi-year deal. However, for a player that has never posted more than 16 home runs in a season prior to this year and hasn’t once batted above .254, you have to wonder if it would really be a good idea for the Blue Jays to bring Jose Bautista back.

On the one hand there is the school of thought that now that Bautista has finally been given the opportunity to be an everyday player he has shown his true ability. Or you could be thinking that this is just a fluke year. Somewhat like Adrian Beltre’s final season in LA, before he signed on with the Mariners in 2005, in which he batted a whopping .334 while banging out 46 home runs. Except, I think (with no hard evidence to back it up) that that had something to do with steroids and Bautista is most likely not a steroid case in this day and age.

I lean more towards the school of thought that this season has been a one-hit wonder kind of thing. I guess that’s what most people think considering no one traded for the hot hitting Bautista at the trade deadline. Moreover, when it comes to the Blue Jays situation I think it is even more evident that they really don’t need Jose Bautista even if he can guarantee a couple more solid but not spectacular seasons.

Travis Snider has shown some serious star potential in his time in the Majors

For starters, the ridiculous contract of Vernon Wells doesn’t expire until 2014, and no team is willing or stupid enough to take that contract off of the Blue Jays’ hands. Secondly, the Jays have young players who are or soon going to be ready to make the jump to everyday starter. Travis Snider, who is supposed to be the franchise’s outfielder of the future is a right fielder (Jose Bautista’s position) although he can play all positions in the outfield. Also, the Jays traded first baseman Brett Wallace during the season for 20-year-old outfielder Anthony Gose.

Jose Bautista would be a great guy to hold the fort either in the outfielder or the infield while some of these young guys develop, but after this remarkable season you would think the price would be a little steep for a 30-year-old one-hit wonder. Furthermore, Bautista is going to be an everyday player but in the coming years the choice for the Jays to either play their future or their present, the choice is going to have to be the future, which leaves Bautista expendable.

Of course, it would be hard for the Jays to turn their back on a player who in 57 games since the all-star break has hit .300 with 23 home runs and 55 runs batted in, while also breaking the franchise record for home runs in a single season with 48 last night.

Yes, it would be difficult for the Jays to turn away Bautista and that’s why I think they won’t. However, if they do decide to bring him back I don’t think it will be the right choice. Just the fact that he doesn’t fit into their long-term plans and that he hasn’t actually proven anything over the course of his career makes you wonder what he can do after the age of 30.

Added onto all that is that Jose Bautista doesn’t have the typical physical build of a true home run hitter as he as listed at an even 6 feet and 195 pounds. Just another reason to think that he won’t be able to duplicate any of the magic that we have seen from this season.

It should also be noted that he has an OPS of just under .1000 and has been walked a whopping 93 times during the season. He has a cannon for an arm and plays solid defence.

Someone is bound to take a chance on Jose Bautista and as happy as I am to have been able to watch Jose Bautista throughout the 2010 season, I can’t help but be a sceptic and think that this is something we aren’t going to see from him again. With that being said I think it would be a good idea for someone to take on Jose Bautista for a reasonable price, but under the Blue Jays current situation it would be best for the Blue Jays to let this birdie fly from the nest.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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