Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Last of the 42's.

April 18, 1929: Larry French debuts for the Pittsburgh Pirates as the first of the 42’s.

April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson debuts for the Brooklyn Dodgers as the speediest of the 42’s.

May 23, 1995: Mariano Rivera debuts for the New York Yankees as the last of the 42’s.

April 15, 1997: Major League Baseball retires the number 42

From the first to the last, 42 has had some fun times.  The most memorable being its ride with Jackie Robinson.  The speedster from Cairo, Georgia who broke the color barrier.  He may be the most important player in the history of the game.

Since the Robinson days, 42 has been adorned by so many, but maybe the best to wear it is Mariano Rivera.  After all, this story is about him.  From Panama City, Panama and entering the game via Enter Sandman, Rivera is the undisputed king of the save.  He has over 630 of them and is adding to that in his final year.  Rivera is in his 19th season in the league and he couldn’t be happier. 

With the All-Star game on and the 8th inning about to begin, Buck and McCarver go silent and the cameras are on Rivera.  He throws one last warm-up as the music starts.  You can hear the crowd start to thunder over the music and the start of something incredible begins.  Rivera walks through the gate, and I just know the fans are standing by now.  He starts his jog to the mound and Citi Field is a madhouse.  When Rivera reaches the mound, the cameras finally leave him, long enough to show the whole stadium on their feet, players included.  It cuts back to Rivera who tips his cap and the place is at its loudest.  Then Buck comes back on.

The top of the eighth is won in 16 pitches.  The master is still the master.  Rivera walks off the mound to another thunderous applause and a second ovation.  He reaches the AL dugout and hugs Verlander as if they were the best of friends.  Rivera had just completed his final All-Star game and did so in fantastic fashion.  The AL went on the win the game 3-0 and Rivera won MVP honors, which included the game ball delivered by Joe Nathan.

Of all the moments in Rivera’s career, to me, that All-Star game has to be in his top 10.  Rivera represents class, he represents the Yankees, and he represents the number 42. 

Mariano Rivera is the last of the 42’s.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Why Dwight Howard went to Houston

Some of you are asking just why Dwight Howard is moving to Houston.  He’s somebody who is considered to be the best center in the game of basketball, when he’s healthy.  He’s had playoff experience.  He’s had Finals experience.  Then he moved to LA and it appeared that the Lakers were the team to beat in the West, yet again.  He got the chance to play with the likes of Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, and Kobe Bryant, all future hall of famers.  Of course, there’s playing for future hall of fame coach Mike D’Antoni too.  The Lakers have a much bigger budget than the Rockets.  So, why did Dwight Howard move to Houston?

Here’s reason number one.  Dwight Howard doesn’t like Kobe Bryant.  Kobe Bryant doesn’t like Dwight Howard.  Watching the two bickering back and forth during last season was hysterical.  Here’s two guys, who are great players, on a should be great team, arguing over how well Howard can play with a back injury.  I’m not a Lakers fan by any means, but something like that should never happen. 

Naturally though, that wasn't the whole story.  I don’t know what the entirety of it was, but here’s my take.  The Los Angeles Lakers is Kobe Bryant’s team.  I wouldn't be surprised if he sat in on owners’ meetings.  When Howard came to LA, he wanted the Lakers to be his team.  Therefore, we have a rift among players, and no one will be happy unless they’re winning games or someone cedes to the other.  Well, neither of those really happened. 

The Lakers made the playoffs by the leather of the basketball, and really only because Howard was finally healthy and Bryant realized they needed to win games.  So the two set aside their differences and lost in the first round.  As soon as that happened, I knew Howard wasn't staying in LA.  There’s no chemistry between Howard and Bryant and never will be.

Here’s reason number two.  The Houston rockets are an up and coming team.  They are young.  They got their first taste of the playoffs last season and are looking to take a bigger taste next season with Howard at center.  The Lakers, however, are a somewhat old team, and without new tricks.  Not including Howard, the Lakers’ stars were all 33 or older.  Dwight Howard is 27.  Meanwhile, over in Houston, only one player has been seen on this earth for 30+ years and the core of the team is 27 and under.  Dwight Howard is 27.  He also wants to win for a long time.  He’ll do that in Houston with those young players.

There’s also coach Kevin McHale, whose 4 year resume may be deceiving.  I believe the man knows how to coach and will also be in Houston for a while.  He may not be a Mike D’Antoni, but he’s getting there.  James Harden was a pretty good player before he came to Houston, but McHale is going to make him into a superstar. 

Dwight Howard is healthy.  Dwight Howard is playing with stars.  Dwight Howard has a team.  Dwight Howard has a coach.  Dwight Howard is in Houston.  Dwight Howard is happy.