Past Their Prime – Episode 10

Sorry – it’s been a while since I’ve updated everyone on the podcast. We’re still going strong and are 10 episodes in. From Wednesday:

We’re back and true to our Northeast roots, we spend 15 minutes dissecting the collapse of the Lakers (and taking some glee in it). We also try not to get too distracted by the collapse of the Celtics occuring in real time. SPOILER ALERT: They lose in overtime.

Sticking with our NBA theme, Phil from Los Angeles emails us and asks about the future of the NBA playoffs.

Also, Jesse goes all 1930’s on us with his analysis of the Kentucky Derby, boxing, and Constitutional law as it applies to Twitter and Rashard Mendenhall. Welcome to the Atlantic 10, new GW head coach Mark Lonergan. You have your work cut out for you.

Be a part of the show – please. Email your question to PastTheirPrime@gmail.com and have it read on the air.

You can follow us on Twitter at @_PastTheirPrime. We promise, we won’t go all political on you.

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Why Most No-Hitters Mean Absolutely Nothing

Minnesota Twins SP Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter was the first of 2011 and the 270th recognized by Major League Baseball.  Liriano, who has been up-and-down since undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2006 season, hadn’t pitched a complete game in his career until last night.  He needed a good outing as he has been a clear detriment to the Twins recently and has yet to reach his highest potential.  But one thing this no-hitter doesn’t tell us is whether Liriano has finally revived his old pitching self.  Like most no-hitters, they tell us, and mean, absolutely nothing.

No-hitters are celebrated in baseball for their rarity.  227 no-hitters have been thrown since the American League was established in 1901.  That’s an average of 2.06 no-nos per year in the modern era.  So the odds of turning on MLB.TV and seeing one is about 1 in 1,215.  If you want to see one in person at the ball park, the odds are considerably worse considering most fans are going to only one ballpark each year.  Is that what we are celebrating?  That it happened.  Are we actually celebrating a well-pitched ballgame?

It clearly depends on each individual game.  Last night, Francisco Liriano walked six batters and struck out only two.  Was his performance yesterday one of the 270 greatest in baseball history?  Absolutely not.  To use another Twins pitching performance as a comparison, it certainly illustrates that point.  Jack Morris in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series was way better and wasn’t a no-hitter.  Morris’s line was 10 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 8 K and 0 R and that line might represent the greatest pitching performance ever.  No-hitters don’t look so hot now compared to that!  Yeah, I know that unfair to compare Liriano’s no-no to Morris’s legendary game seven but shows that no-hitters can be well-thrown ball games or ugly as hell.  Liriano’s was the latter.

No-hitters are statistically unique and that’s why fans love them.  Nothing says success like 0 – 0 – 0 at the end of a game.  What strikes me as odd is our fascination with it, considering most no-hitters, like hitting streaks, exist purely out of some form of luck.  Liriano was lucky that the ump in the eight, missed a clear safe call at first.  They can happen at any time by any pitcher.  The Hall of Famer, the one-year phenom or any machination in between is able to accomplish the feat.

Baseball is, in fact, a game of chance.  Statistical analysis is synonymous with the game.  I get drawn to no-hitters also but I can’t explain it even when I have the opinion I hold.  No-hitters, I think, draw our attention because we all wish for that near-perfect moment.  Baseball tells us that no-hitters are special so we deem it that way in our own minds.  Celebrating a no-hitter is fine by me.  It’s a special day for any pitcher who manages to pitch one but in the whole scheme of things, they usually mean absolutely nothing.

Perfection Always Means Something

Perfect games, on the other hand, mean more than just numbers on a stat sheet.  They are indeed special beyond mere words.  Their rarity combined with the fact that not one opposing player in nine innings safely touches first base boggles my mind.  The odds of such a thing are completely off the charts.  Don Larsen being the ultimate example of perfection with his 19 other “perfect” counterparts show us that those performances are truly among the best in baseball’s history.  In the 396,154 games played since the NL was formed in 1876, the odds of achieving perfection are 1 in 19,808.  The percentage of all baseball games that were “27 up and 27 down” is 0.005%.  Yes, that’s five one-thousandths of a percent.  Perfection is truly special while no-hitters are interesting anomalies in baseball’s history, celebrated and then often forgotten.

Night at Nationals Park: Mets-Nats Tonight

After a few weeks of waiting through a busy April, I’m finally making my way to Nationals Park tonight.  I wasn’t anticipating wearing any Mets garb but in light of their recent six game win-streak, I find myself in a bit of a bind.  Wearing blue and orange tonight would go against this mini-boycott I have going.  On the other hand, I’ve got Nats tickets so the Wilpons won’t see a dime.  Essentially, when you see your boyhood team winning (even if they are still under .500), there are times when logic gives way to emotion.

I’m often cynical about the Amazins and their ability to make anything constructive of the problems they now face.  I am unapologetic, as most Mets fans are, regarding my disdain for the Wilpons.  I hope that they will make a wise decision and sell, ending months of embarrassing press that has stained the team’s reputation (what was left of it anyway).  But I can say that Sandy Alderson is not messing around.  He has a vision for this team that is completely his and makes no excuses for it.  Win or lose in 2011, Alderson is convinced he has the right strategy for success in the coming years, whether the money is available or not.  Happy for me, that’s what I’ve always said about the Mets.  They’re better off acting as a small-market juggernaut rather than a Bronx doppleganger.

So tonight, despite my deepest reservations, I will be wearing #7.  We all anticipate Reyes being shipped out by the trade deadline so I’m going to take this opportunity to wear his uniform perhaps one last time.  Perhaps we can win seven in a row.  Now that I’ve said it, all Mets fans can let me have it when the team falls flat later tonight.  I expect I will do a fair amount of tweeting, in between shoving Ben’s Chili Bowl in my mouth and taking pictures of soon-to-be former Mets.  However, if the Mets are on the verge of ending this streak and it is a save situation, Storen better be on the pitching slab at the beginning of the ninth.

Mets Boycott suspended until the final out.  I reserve the right to reinstate this thing at any point during the game and because I will actually be in attendance, I fully expect I will.  LETS GO METS!

Talk to Me at 45 Games: Andre Ethier Now 41% to DiMaggio’s Record

Andre Ethier hit safely again last night, stretching the Dodgers right-fielder’s hitting streak to 23 games.  He also set a new record for a hit streak in the month of April.  Ethier is now 33 games away from tying Yankee great Joe DiMaggio’s legendary 56-game hitting streak.

Highlighting Ethier’s batting average during this season is legitimate.  It is baseball and we live for statistics.  He is hitting .369 this year.  Ethier is a solid .294 career hitter so a streak like this wasn’t out of realm of possibility, especially in his sabermetric prime.  Naturally, I take issue with covering such a streak when his team is under .500 and in the bottom third in run differential.  However, the Dodgers couldn’t have asked for a better time considering the McCourt garbage that forced the MLB takeover.  Don’t mention the streak but respect the season he’s having.  He just happens to be in the midst of a 23-game hitting streak.

Talk to Me When A Streak Reaches 45 Games

Covering Ethier’s hitting streak at this point is pure ridiculousness.  It always becomes sports sensationalism run amok when guys hit in as many games as Ethier.  At this point, Ethier remains less than half way to DiMaggio.  41 percent of the way there to be exact.  Andre is also approaching the point usually when the ground falls out from underneath your feet.

Since DiMaggio hitting streak ended on 17 July 1941, no one has hit in 50 games in row.  Only one player, Pete Rose, managed to threaten the record, only to crap out at 44 in 1978.  Paul Molitor nearly reached 40, hitting in 39-straight in 1987.  In the past twenty years, thirteen players have hit between 30 and 38 games in a row.  None reached 40.  If someone ever passes Rose’s 44-game hit streak, I’ll start paying close attention.

And before we believe Ethier, or a player of Ethier’s caliber, will break DiMaggio’s record, please keep in mind the type of player Joe DiMaggio was and whom he is usually mentioned in company with.  If anyone sniffs a 50-game hit streak or eventually passes him, it will be done by a future Hall of Famer.  This record is so difficult to eclipse, that even my HOF-only theory has a tremendous hole.  Only four (including Rose) of the 26 men who have challenged (30+ game streaks) DiMaggio’s record are Hall of Famers (or should be).  Three HOFers, Ty Cobb, Sam Rice and George Sisler, are the only men to have multiple 30-plus game hitting streaks.  Only one active player who has hit in 30-plus games is a slam-dunk HOFer.  That’s Albert Pujols.

A 23-game hitting streak is a great accomplishment for a career.  Most players would kill for just one streak of equal magnitude.  Joe DiMaggio was once recognized as baseball’s greatest living players.  I’m convinced that the extinction of baseball will occur before this record is ever extinguished.  DiMaggio, but for his wartime service during the prime of his career, probably would’ve had nearly 500 HRs and accumulated nearly 3,000 hits.  This is a no-brainer.  No one will ever break this record.  If Pete Rose couldn’t do it, then no one can.

Past Their Prime – Episode 7

Talk about a late start this week. Between Passover and the Celtics kicking ass, we haven’t had a chance to record and post this thing until now. Well, it was recorded on Wednesday, but you get the idea.

Here’s what you have in store for your listening pleasure – Lee and Jesse break down the NBA Playoffs, discuss the most American football matchup ever and Lee makes a prediction about Jesus . . . Shuttlesworth. Plus Jesse sends his condolences to Cameraman Kevin.

Be a part of the show! Submit your questions to PastTheirPrime@gmail.com and you could be a winner too.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @_PastTheirPrime.

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The Anti-1986: Mets and Astros Play Tonight!

With the exception of the Angels, the current Major League standings are the exact opposite of 1986. The Red Sox, in my opinion, will survive their early swoon. The National League’s 1986 division champions, the 108-win Mets and 96-win Astros, however, will not. Twenty five years on, Houston and New York are terrible, for completely different reasons.  Now they face off in a three-game set starting tonight at CitiField. Who could possibly be enthusiastic about two teams, tied for last in the National League, with a combined 10-22?

Look back 25 years.  Literally every Mets fan thought a dynasty was in the making.  Between excellent veterans, young core players and a slew of prospects, the Mets were supposed to reign for a decade.  Of course, none of that was to be.  The Mets would win two division titles and a single pennant (a surprising one) in the following quarter century.  I presume not speak for the Astros, only to say that after many veterans abandoned Houston in droves after ’86 and the Astros wouldn’t see the playoffs again until the beginning of the Killer B days.

It would probably surprise you to know that since 1986 both the Astros and Mets have winning records.  Their winning percentages are .514 and .508 respectively.  Naturally, that doesn’t give anyone who roots for these teams any warm, fuzzy feelings.  Neither has taken home the Commissioner’s Trophy since 1986 (Houston never having done so) and neither could get past Game 5 of the World Series in each’s lone appearance since they met in 1986.

Our histories will always be inextricably linked.  Houston and New York began play in 1962 and though the Astrodome is certainly more iconic than Shea Stadium, both entered service in the mid-Sixties.  In fifty seasons of play, the Astros have a double-digit number of no-hitters (including former Mets pitcher Nolan Ryan’s fifth) while the Mets have zilch.  The Mets record as the quickest expansion team to baseball’s pinnacle has been erased, not once but twice.  The Astros, meanwhile, haven’t won a single World Series game (0-4).  Seems as if 1962 should be known for the Dodgers new stadium at Chavez Ravine and not for the ascension of the Astros and Mets.  Fifty seasons on and twenty five years later, assess these two franchises: Mostly failure.

Good Luck Tonight Boys… In the words of PCU’s Rand McPherson: Doesn’t matter who wins ’cause they’re all losers.

Past Their Prime – Episode 6

A little late in posting this week – mostly because we’re still in shock that Manny retired and that he called to clue us in on what’s important in life. Check out the first segment – Manny must have learned that by reading The Secret.

In addition to the Manny drama, Lee and Jesse butcher the NHL playoffs and talk about the best athletes-turned-politicians ever. Thrilling analysis – we promise.

Welcome to all our new listeners from the Temple University School of Law. We apologize in advance.

Who doesn’t like a $25 gift certificate to an establishment more than 300 miles from your home? Send your sports-related question to us at PastTheirPrime@gmail.com and following us on Twitter at @_PastTheirPrime. All prizes are in the mail – we promise.

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Past Their Prime – Episode 5

We managed to make it through five episodes. Cause for celebration.

This week, Lee and Jesse talk about the most unrealistic finish to a Butler season since Benson became governor. Look it up.

Also, we give our MLB predictions, try to talk Red Sox fans off the ledge and debate which is easier – getting 76ers playoff tickets or hating Spike Lee.

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Want to win a $25 gift certificate? Send your sports-related question to us at PastTheirPrime@gmail.com and following us on Twitter @_PastTheirPrime.The prizes are in the mail – we promise.

A Message to Red Sox Nation

Brethren,

The Red Sox will win a game this season. Take a minute to let that sink in. I’ll wait.

The Red Sox will win a game this season. Here’s how I know:

1. One of the Red Sox’s slogans this season is “We Won’t Rest . . . Until You Run Out of K Cards.” If that’s the case, they haven’t been sleeping much lately. However – Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett will not combine for the 196 strikeouts they are now were on pace to record after the first time through the rotation.

2. Kevin Youkilis will not hit .133 this season. He’ll probably end up closer to .313. Same numbers, different order. And he’ll hit home runs. More than two.

3. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not the cause of the team’s pitching woes. Let me remind you that despite what his bio on the Toronto Blue Jays website says, John Farrell is no longer the pitching Coach for the Boston Red Sox. He manages the Blue Jays. I’ve seen him doing it on TV. Red Sox pitchers are now working with Curt Young who did wonders in Oakland, but still may need some time to “gel” with his new staff in Boston. I’m not blaming Young, but I’m also not putting the blame on the 14-lettered shoulders of the man they call Salty.

4. Marc O’Scutaro and JD Drew will not be batting a combined .125 in August. In fact, I doubt either of them will be seeing regular at-bats in August. Call it a hunch. Call it intuition. Call it both of these guys have a history of injuries and neither of them are getting any younger.

5. Dice-K will not be the number 5 starter all season. While he is the current owner of the lowest ERA by a starter, he nibbles at the plate more than a picky 8-year old. Alfredo Aceves will be in the rotation mid-year, he will be a legitimate #5 starter and you will love him. Trust me – I live in New York and he can pitch.

6. I love the idea of Dennys Reyes. I love that his nickname is the Big Sweat. I love that he’s the second coming of “El Guapo” Rich Garces. I love that the Red Sox list him at 250 pounds when Bartolo Colon is listed at 265. I don’t love that he’s the only lefty in the bullpen. Felix Doubront may not be the replacement and the same could be said for Okajima, but one of the three will be a reliable lefty come September.

7. Tim Wakefield will win at least one game this season. When all else fails, trot out the 44-year old knuckleballer who has been playing professional baseball (1989 Single-A Welland Pirates) longer than Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias (January 5, 1990) has been alive. It’s bound to work.

So step back off the ledge, stop calling your local sports talk station to yell about Theo and Tito and above all else, keep calm.

Unless the Red Sox are swept by the Yankees this weekend. Then you can start to worry.

Time Zone Sports Wars: 75% of America Gets The Shaft

Sorry West Coast but I’m about to launch into an arrogant East Coast tirade.  Monday night, college basketball’s National Championship game tipped off at 8:23pm local time in Houston.  That’s 9:23pm ET and 6:23pm PT.  Naturally, everyone living in Eastern Daylight Time was generally annoyed by this.  The game ended about 10 minutes before midnight Eastern time while those along the Pacific had a few hours before bed.  Forget the partying students of Storrs, Connecticut, where no one slept.  It was the millions of college basketball fans, and sports fans in general, on the east side of the United States for whom I’m concerned.

Yesterday I tweeted that it was completely unacceptable for anyone watching this Tournament’s penultimate game to be tortured with crappy basketball, especially after 11:30pm.  It is an utter travesty that certain sporting events begin after certain times on the East Coast.  And not to pile on those in the Rockies and west but that half of America isn’t exactly a college basketball mecca.  It most certainly doesn’t have a significant fan base compared to those of us nearer the Atlantic.  I know for sure what the west side doesn’t have and that’s a population that warrants such a favorable start time.  Mix that all together, sports leagues and media outlets are pandering to the West.  Why?  California?

According to the 2010 Census (as of April 1, 2010), the U.S. population (50 states + DC) was 308,748,481.  How many of us live in the Eastern Time Zone?  Over 147 million!  That’s 47.7% of the entire population.  And if you include the Central Time Zone, the eastern half of the U.S. accounts for 76.7% of all Americans.  So someone will have to explain to me why we here on the eastern side have to stay up ridiculous hours for championship events on a weekday while the west side, which has less than three times the population, gets to watch it well before bed?  This is a grave injustice.

For starters, where is the hotbed of college basketball activity?  Perennially, it’s along the East Coast.  Where do your national champions come from?  Since the Tournament expanded to 64 in 1985, 21 of the 27 champions were from the Eastern Time Zone.  Another three came from the Central.  Sarcastically, the powerful Pacific Time Zone gave us two, UNLV in 1990 and UCLA in 1995 (it’s three if you count Arizona in ’97 because they are essentially in PDT during the summer).

OK, West Coast, have at it.  ‘What about John Wooden’s ten titles?  We love college basketball too.’  Sure you do?  As much as the Big East has good football teams.  This is mostly a media argument.  Where are the most eyeballs?  College basketball still has clout, in large part because of and thanks to, people in the East.  Also, it’s largely where, if the NBA institutes a two or three-year eligibility rule, the best NCAA talent will be drawn from.  The Wooden argument, stemming from titles won over 40 years ago, doesn’t make a compelling case.

Millions of us on the East Coast would love football to begin at 10am like in California.  I’d like the NFL to move early games to noon from 1pm, giving us just one extra hour for dinner before the night game.  You have the advantage there.  But then there’s the Super Bowl, where it’s the only thing happening that Sunday.  For you, a nice 3:30pm start.  For us, 6:30pm and the game ends about 10pm.  Totally unjustified, using the same argument as I did with college basketball.  The World Series, it’s the same thing.  I understand if the game is out on the West Coast.  But often times, when not one but two East Coast clubs are playing in the Fall Classic, we must suffer with an 8:30pm first pitch.  The game, especially if it’s the Yankees or Red Sox, drags into the next day.

It’s time the media and our beloved leagues find common ground between the east and west.  These events are starting way too late, especially for kids in the eastern part of the U.S.  In a country where chronic sleeplessness is pervasive, these late starts are indicative of a larger problem.  Midnight finishes are complete lunacy in this age.  Most advertisers aren’t even getting the bang for their buck because millions switch off, optioning to find the end-of-game highlights on SportsCenter.  It’s a lose-lose for all, except the lesser-populated West Coast.  The most populated area in the country, the I-95 corridor, has spoken.  We want our sports earlier.

Lastly, in the meantime, it’s the job of two college teams not to torture us with horrible basketball while we’re staying up.

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