Monthly Archives: August 2017

A WEEK THAT BASEBALL WONT SOON FORGET

It’s been an interesting week to say the least.  From the last time I wrote about baseball, the Miami Marlins have won 4 out of 6 games. Miami now finds themselves five and a half games behind the Colorado Rockies for the second National League Wild Card spot.  The even bigger story coming out of South Beach these days is the torrid pace that Giancarlo Stanton is hitting home runs at.  Since we last spoke, Stanton has hit 5 round-trippers, and became the first player since Chris Davis in 2013 to hit 50 home runs in a season.  He is sitting on 51 as I write this, and it isn’t even Labor Day yet!

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Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton leads the Major Leagues with 51 home runs.

Last Wednesday night a rarity occurred at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.  Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Rich Hill pitched the game of his career.  Hill was perfect going into the ninth inning of a scoreless tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Jordy Mercer lead off the Pirates half of the ninth by hitting a ground ball to third base.  Dodgers’ third baseman Logan Forsythe booted the grounder to break up the perfect game.  Hill would get out of the inning without allowing a hit.  This would’ve put the finishing touches on the second no-hitter of this year, except the game was still scoreless!  Josh Harrison lead off the tenth inning with a home run.  His walk-off broke up the no-no and pinned Hill with a loss after nine innings of no-hit pitching.

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Rich Hill takes the loss after pitching nine innings without allowing a hit.

 

Last Friday night, life changed forever in Southeast Texas.  Hurricane Harvey battered the Texas Gulf Coast during the night and into the morning as a Category 4 storm, that was just the beginning.  It would stall over the Houston  metropolitan area as a Tropical Storm  and flood the city and surrounding areas until yesterday.  Over 50 inches of rain fell in some places.

As a result, fun and games came to a halt in Houston.  Over the weekend the Astros were out in Anaheim playing the Angels.  The NFL Texans were in New Orleans on Saturday night playing the Saints in a preseason game.

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Flooding from Hurricane Harvey outside Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The Astros and Texans were supposed to come home on Monday, neither of them did. Both teams arrived in Dallas on Sunday.  The Astros were scheduled to host their cross-state rival Texas Rangers this week at Minute Maid Park, while the Texans were scheduled to host their cross-state rivals from Dallas on Thursday.  It was to be the preseason finale for both teams.

The city of Houston was in no condition to host sporting events this week.  After moving the Texans-Cowboys preseason tilt to AT&T Stadium in Dallas, the NFL cancelled the game altogether so the Texans could return to Houston to tend to their families and neighbors.

The Astros and Rangers are also scheduled to play a three game series in late September in Arlington.  The Astros approached the Rangers about swapping the two series’ and play this week in Arlington and in Houston in September.  Much to the shock of most fans, the Rangers balked at the idea of going to Houston in September.  This writer is still floored by the decision of  Texas Rangers’ brain trust.  This is how you handle a crisis in YOUR state?? This situation was about real life, this wasn’t about a Wild Card race and the prospect of playing on the road late in the season!  Terrible decision, guys.

Hat’s off to the Tampa Bay Rays who opened their ballpark to host the three game series. And yes, the Rangers get to play host in September.  GO ASTROS!

 

I dedicate this article to everyone affected by the tragedy that has hit Southeast Texas.  I was made aware of two families that my friends are personally connected to that lost everything.  Thank God they are all alive and safe and able to rebuild their lives.  It hit me personally knowing that businesses that I work closely with suffered major damage in Port Aransas, and Fulton as well as in Port Arthur. Many were not as fortunate, the death toll will rise in the coming days.

The population of Houston, Galveston, Beaumont and the surrounding areas desperately need help.  In addition to financial donations, simple supplies are needed such as toiletries, towels, clothing, and diapers.  So many common items were washed away, so many lives are gone, or stripped.  Be strong Texas!

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A NEW YEAR WITH THE SAME BAD CHAMPIONSHIP SYSTEM

I would like to begin today’s blog by wishing all of my friends and readers in the coastal regions of Texas, God Speed.  I also would like to offer prayers for all to ride out Hurricane Harvey safely.  Good luck to all!

Last night the College Football season opened in a limited capacity with fourteenth ranked Stanford and nineteenth ranked University of South Florida both seeing action.  The season will begin in earnest on Thursday night with #2 Ohio State playing Indiana and #10 Oklahoma State going up against the University of Tulsa.

As yet another season gets underway, I have a few questions regarding the ranking system.  First off, how are there rankings in place before any actual games are played?  I know this goes on in basketball too, but the National Championship in basketball is determined by a 68 school tournament!  Secondly, as the defending National Champions from Clemson defend their title, both the AP and USA Today have them ranked #5.  How does that happen? How did they come out on top in January and sink to #5 in August?  Was there a Spring League that was played in secret?  How does Alabama take the top spot?  Last I checked Alabama came out on the short end of a 35-31 score in the National Championship Game!

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Clemson Tigers celebrate the 2016 National Championship.

 

Let’s digest this for a moment, Alabama, who LOST last year’s championship game begins the season as the top team in the nation.  Clemson, who WON last year’s championship game needs to pass USC, Florida State, Ohio State, and Alabama to get back to where they ended last year.  Not only are the defending champions not ranked on top to start the season, they aren’t even in a semi-final position.  How did the Trojans, Buckeyes, and Seminoles cut in front of the defending national champs?  None of this makes sense to this writer!

Let’s also examine the meaning of slots 1 through 4.  In the current National Championship scheme, those are your four playoff positions.  These are also determined by the poles, not by competition.  How does Nick Saban and the boys have a leg up on everyone before the season starts?  Were there style points given out in Spring Mini-Camp?

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Coach Nick Saban leads the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide onto the field.

 

In looking at the opening weekend’s schedule, there is something else that is eye popping.  Clemson opens the season with an “exposure game” vs. Kent State, while Alabama opens on a national stage vs. Florida State.  So follow me on this one, if Florida State upsets Alabama, and Ohio State takes care of business on Thursday against Indiana, either Ohio State or Florida State will take the top spot.  The defending champion Tigers will most likely take care of Kent State and not move anywhere.

To me this is a recipe to remove Clemson from competition before the season even gets rolling.  College Football has been, is, and always will be a popularity contest based on performance and style points.

Some of you might remember a piece I wrote prior to last year’s Bowl Season.  In my opinion, there are way too many Bowl Games that are contested by schools with either .500 or worse records.  I am going to re-print my idea for a national tournament that I outlined last year.  Just like each bracket in the basketball tournament has 16 teams, I believe that football should have a sixteen team national bracket.  This would include the minor Bowl Games as part of the playoffs.  This was based on last year’s top 16 (ignore the dates since I copied and pasted it from the original blog):

 

December 17:

16 West Virginia vs 1 Alabama

15 Western Michigan vs 2 Clemson

14 Auburn vs 3 Ohio State

13 Louisville vs 4 Washington

12 Oklahoma St. vs 5 Penn State

11 Florida St. vs 6 Michigan

10 Colorado vs 7 Oklahoma

9 USC vs 8 Wisconsin

December 23 (since the NFL is playing on Christmas Eve this year):

National Quarterfinals (winners from December 17)

December 31:

National Semifinals

January 9

National Championship.

 

I also think we should scrap the preseason poles.  The Top 25 should begin based on the first weekend’s results.  I also think, just as the Super Bowl champion opens the following NFL season, the National Champion should be playing the marquis game on Opening Weekend.

Whether you like the system that’s in place or not, let’s root hard for our college boys! Good luck to all for a great 2017 season.

 

 

A ONCE IN A CENTURY OCCURRENCE

This past Monday afternoon, most of us here in the United States experienced the first total solar eclipse to occur on our soil in nearly 100 years.  I got to see glimpses of the partial celestial covering that happened here in South Florida, the closest total covering occurred in South Carolina.  I will say that it ranks as one of the most amazing sights my eyes have ever seen!

You may be wondering what a solar eclipse has to do with baseball, or sports in general for that matter.  The answer to that question is, the eclipse has nothing to do with the subject matter of this article.

Tuesday was the tenth anniversary of another rare feat.  On August 22, 2007 the Texas Rangers overcame an early 3-0 deficit to defeat the Baltimore Orioles by the score of 30-3. Yes folks, I didn’t just make a typo, the Rangers lit up Orioles pitching for 30 runs on 29 hits in that game.  To make things even more historic, this modern record-breaking offensive explosion took place during the first game of a doubleheader!  Texas would tack on 9 more runs in a 9-7 victory in the nightcap!

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The scoreboard at Oriole Park at Camden Yards shows the historic linescore.

 

As I mentioned at the top of this article, the Orioles actually lead this contest heading into the fourth inning.  After a five run rally in the fourth by the Rangers, the game was actually competitive, with Texas holding a 5-3 advantage.

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Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia ignited a 9 run rally in the sixth inning.

 

In the top of the sixth, Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia ignited a rally with a solo home run.  Texas would then load the bases and center fielder Marlon Byrd would clear the bases later  on in the inning with a grand slam!  Saltalamacchia drove in a total of seven runs in the game, including two home runs.

 

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Utility infielder, and ninth place hitter, Ramon Vazquez belted two home runs and drove in seven runs.

 

Utility infielder Ramon Vazquez also had a historic night.  The ninth place hitter in the Rangers lineup also belted two homers and also knocked in seven runs.  What’s even more amazing is the fact that Vazquez and Saltalamacchia combined for four homers and 14 RBI and that didn’t even account for half of the scoring!

Texas continued the pounding with a ten run eighth and six run ninth.

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Orioles reliever Paul Shuey allowed nine runs in two innings to finish the game.

Now back to the once in a century part.  The last time a Major League ball-club scored 30 runs in a game was on June 29, 1897 when the old Chicago Colts defeated the old Louisville Cardinals by the score of 36-7. Yes that second digit is an 8!  It was the ninth time in the entire history of Major League Baseball that a team scored over 30 runs in a ballgame.

I leave you with this closing question, what will happen first, a solar eclipse in the United States or a 30 run outburst on a Major League field?

 

 

 

WHO’S READY FOR MID-WEEK FOOTBALL?

Last week as the NFL preseason began in earnest, I was a little perplexed when I looked at the schedule.  Why in the name of Roger Godell are the Texans and Panthers playing on a Wednesday night?  I know it’s preseason, and most NFL games are played on Thursday and Saturday, this time of year, but Wednesday???

Unlike the other three major sports, football has always been a once a week occurrence. Pro football was always played on the weekend, primarily on Sunday.

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The first ever Monday night football game was played between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns on September, 21 1970.

 

For the beginning of the 1970 season, the NFL began a new era as a consolidated league. The American Football League and the National Football League began play as the new NFL.  With NBC maintaining a contract with the AFL and CBS doing the same with the NFL it left America’s third network at the time, without access to carrying NFL games on Sunday.  The league and the network came up with the idea of setting aside one game a week to be played in prime time on Monday.  On September 21, 1970 the Cleveland Browns hosted the New York Jets in a match-up in the newly formed American Football Conference.  The Monday night idea was an overwhelming success and continues to be an American icon today.

With a few “specials” carried by ABC, NFL games would be played on Thursday night and Sunday nights a couple of times a year during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  In 1987 ESPN began carrying games on Sunday nights.  Thanksgiving has always been a staple of games played in Detroit and Dallas, but that goes with the holiday.

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The first NFL Thursday Night Football game was played on Thanksgiving night in 2006 between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.

 

As part of the NFL Network’s “Race to the Playoffs”, Thursday Night Football premiered on Thanksgiving night in 2006. It turned out to be a great way to round out the NFL Thanksgiving schedule, however there continues to be pros and cons of staging games on Thursday on a regular basis.  In this writer’s opinion it’s way too soon to play and makes for  too a short of a  week.  Teams will play on Sunday, recover on Monday, and the road team has to travel on either Tuesday or Wednesday.  This really doesn’t leave much preparation time.

Since the debut of Thursday Night Football, it’s scheduling has been controversial.  Is it too high of an injury risk?  Does the home team have the distinct advantage of not having a travel day?  Are the ratings, which have run hot and cold over the years, really worth it?

The pros of the Thursday night game are the prime-time slot and the fact that it provides a kickoff to the NFL weekend.

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The Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers played a preseason game on Wednesday August 9th.  Is this a sign of things to come?

 

Now, back to the preseason schedule, Mr. Godell, does last week’s Wednesday night game mean there are feelers out there from the NFL to sink deeper into the midweek? Since Friday belongs to the high schools, and scheduling games Tuesday is just not feasible, is Wednesday now on the league’s radar?

In an era of concussion protocol, and players weary of suffering life long injury, is it really necessary to take a weekend icon deeper into the midweek?  Monday night actually adds a preparation day, since the road team can  travel on Sunday.  Thursday is way too soon, and Wednesday is pushing an already pushed envelope.

A RECORD SETTING YEAR IN HOLLYWOOD?

It’s been an interesting year in the National League West to say the least.

As of this writing, the surprising tandem of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies find themselves tied atop the National League Wild Card Race.  They currently hold a four-and-a-half game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, and a five game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.  Both have records of 66-53 going into play tonight.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that the Wild Card leaders from the west have no shot at a division title.  In fact , the Brewers and Cardinals have more a shot at winning the Central title.  Coming into play tonight Milwaukee trails the defending World Champion Cubs by one game, St. Louis trails their arch-rivals from Chicago by a game-and-a-half.

So why are two teams that have had such a stronghold on the National League Wild Card race so far back in their divisional race?  The answer resides in the Chavez Ravine section of Los Angeles.  The Dodgers currently hold an 18 1/2 game lead over the Diamondbacks and Rockies.  Yes, the same two teams that have led the Wild Card pack throughout the season trail the Dodgers by over 18 games.

On June 1st the Dodgers were actually in third place in the division with a record of 33-22.  Colorado and Arizona shared the top spot in the division at 34-22.  Since June 1st the Dodgers have gone 51-12, by far the hottest team in the Majors.  Currently Los Angeles is 50 games over .500 at 84-34.  The Dodgers are on pace to win 115 games.

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Cody Bellinger has hit 34 home runs and driven in 79 runs.

Perhaps the turning point of this unbelievable Hollywood script came in late April.  Due to an injury to Joc Pederson, the Dodgers brought up first baseman Cody Bellinger from AAA Oklahoma City.  Since his call-up, Bellinger has been one of baseball’s biggest stories. As of this writing Bellinger is hitting .275, has hit 34 home runs and has 79 RBI’s.  Keep in mind Bellinger didn’t get started with the big club until the end of April.

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Yu Darvish is 2-0 since being acquired from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline.

 

Another new cog in the machine that has taken baseball by storm is Yu Darvish.  The veteran starter was acquired from Texas at the trade deadline.  All Darvish has done in Dodger blue so far is compile a 2–0 record, and an ERA of 1.50.  He has allowed a total of 2 earned runs in 12 innings pitched, and has recorded 20 strikeouts.

The 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1906 Cubs are tied for the most wins in a single season.  The Mariners were a torrid 116-46 in 2001, the Cubs were 116-36 in 1906.

The Mariners record tying season ended with a five game loss to the eventual World Champion Yankees in the American League Championship Series.  The Cubs fell to the White Sox in the 1906 World Series.

Can the Dodgers keep up the pace?  Is this their year?  Can they carry this pace into the post-season unlike the Mariners and Cubs?  Stay tuned!

DESPERATE DAYS IN MIAMI

The fan base of the Miami Dolphins let out a collective gasp on the morning of August 3rd.  The news broke around mid morning that quarterback Ryan Tannehill had injured his left knee while running to the sidelines during a practice drill at the Dolphins training camp in Davie, Florida.  It was the same knee that Tannehill injured late last year when he was sacked by Arizona Cardinals’ defensive end Calais Campbell.

Tannehill will undergo surgery for a torn ACL and will miss the entire 2017 season.

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Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is attended to following a sack vs. Arizona Cardinals late last year.

 

Miami is coming off their first post-season appearance since 2008.  This year’s training camp was bubbling with optimism.  Tannehill was supposedly perfectly healthy. Featured back Jay Ajai was coming off a breakout year.  Ajai featured running savvy not seen in Miami since Ricky Williams.  The Dolphins, who had major problems at linebacker in 2016 drafted Raekwon McMillan out of Ohio State in the second round this past April.  Pieces were really coming together.

 

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Jay Ajai might be the best running back in Miami since Ricky Williams.

 

On July 31st things began to crack in Davie.  Ajai suffered a concussion in a training drill. He missed the Dolphins pre-season opener on Thursday night, but returned to individual drills on Tuesday.  Ajai should be ready for the September 10th opener vs. Tampa Bay, but he has missed two weeks of camp.

During Thursday night’s pre-season opener, McMillan tore his ACL on a punt play. McMillan joins Tannehill on the sidelines for the rest of the year.

Obviously the most glaring injury is to Tannehill.  For good, bad, or ugly (and there have been glimpses of all three) this has been Ryan Tannehill’s offense since he first suited up in 2012.  Where do the Dolphins go from here?

Matt Moore, who has been a Dolphin longer than Tannehill, filled in admirably last year. Moore stepped up, like he has most of his career, and took control of the offense.  He, along with the running of Ajai, put the finishing touches on a march to the playoffs. Moore has filled in admirably throughout his career, but he’s a backup for a reason. Many of the Dolphin faithful would like to see Moore become the starter.  Outside of Don Strock, career backups usually fall short when given the top job long-term.

The Colin Kaepernick sideshow kicked into gear as soon as Tannehill went down.  Here’s a fit for the controversial quarterback read many headlines.  Two observations on this, number one, who needs the media circus and sideshow?  This is a franchise that has been down virtually since Dan Marino retired.  The Dolphins are finally relevant again, why the distraction?

Secondly, here we are, basically a quarter of the way through pre-season, does Miami have time to bring someone in who isn’t familiar with the offense?  Normally that really wouldn’t be a problem, they’re all professionals, right?  Quarterbacks have come in at mid-season and learned offenses, right.  However, there is another, very recently retired quarterback in the mix by the name of Jay Cutler.

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Jay Cutler flourished working with Adam Gase during their days with the Chicago Bears.

 

Cutler was forced into retirement after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury.  He played in only five games and threw five interceptions before he lost his starting job with the Bears.  In 2014 and 2015 combined, Cutler played in 30 games, sported a 65% completion percentage, threw for 49 touchdowns. Cutler was picked off 29 times in the two years, however he was intercepted only 11 times in 2015.

In 2015 Adam Gase joined former Denver Broncos head coach John Fox in Chicago.  Gase was Fox’s offensive coordinator in Denver, and was part of Peyton Manning’s monster season in 2013.

In my opinion a Cutler-Gase reunion makes sense for one year.  Cutler is not only familiar with Gase’s offense, he flourished in it.  Cutler needs to just familiarize himself with new players.  The Dolphins have time for that.  Cutler signed a one year $10 million deal with Miami last week.

Can happy days be ahead in South Florida despite the rocky beginning?

 

 

THE DAY THAT BASEBALL DIED

“I met a girl who sang the blues, and I asked her for some happy news, but she just smiled and turned away”… Don McLean from the song “American Pie.  A song which depicted that awful night in February, 1959 when we lost Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper in a plane crash.

This past Sunday night into Monday morning we experienced baseball’s version of virtually the same thing.  On Sunday night the sad news broke, Darren Daulton, an icon in Philadelphia and a leading member of the Cast of Idiots Phillies team that shocked the baseball world in 1993 had passed away.  This bulletin reverberated all the way to South Florida, where Daulton, who was acquired by the Marlins at the trade deadline in 1997, became a force in their locker room as well.  That 1997 Marlins team would also shock the baseball world when they won the World Series that year.  Cancer took Daulton at the age of 55.

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Philllies icon Darren Daulton passed away at 55 on Sunday.

It was an atmosphere in my home in South Florida on Monday morning that began with my wife informing me of the news.  Those of you reading this via the Phillies Inphielder will remember that your administrator put out a post not too long ago, reporting that Daulton’s battle with cancer had reached round two.  Daulton seemingly had the disease beat in 2015.

In a year in which the Phillies Faithful began with the news that Dallas Green, the manager of the 1980 World Championship team had passed away, this is part 2 of a one two whammy.

Daulton’s field presence was fiery and dominating.  He was a major reason that the 1993 Philllies came out of nowhere to win the National League Pennant.  His role as a leader on a team that went from a last place finish in 1992 to National League Champs in 1993 will remain a legend in the City of Brotherly Love for many years to come.

Daulton was dealt to the Florida Marlins at the trade deadline in 1997.  His short time spent here in South Florida was very eventful.  Darren would play first base for the Marlins and would once again provide a huge leadership presence.  This was on a ball-club that included the likes of Jeff Conine, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Bobby Bonilla and Charles Johnson.  He was certainly a leader among leaders in the Marlins clubhouse.

Sadly, part 2 of this horrendous morning for all baseball fans was yet to come.

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1979 American League MVP, and original Colorado Rockies manager Don Baylor passed away at 68 on Monday morning.

 

While the baseball world was mourning the death of the man affectionately known as Dutch, more awful news broke.  I got a notification from my ESPN app on my phone in the middle of Monday morning that Don Baylor had also succumbed to cancer.

Baylor was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1979 while playing for the Western Division champion California Angels.  He also starred with the Baltimore Orioles and spent time with the Yankees, Athletics, and Red Sox.

After his playing days, Baylor pursued a career in managing.  He landed his first managerial job in the Majors with the Colorado Rockies.  He managed Colorado from their inaugural year of 1993 through 1998.  Baylor lead the Rockies to a Wild Card playoff berth in 1995 and was named National League Manager of the Year.  He also managed the Chicago Cubs from 2000-2002.

This past Sunday into Monday was clearly the day that baseball died.  Two of its leading figures from a time gone by were taken way too soon.

Rest well Dutch and Don.

 

 

CANTON OPENS ITS DOORS TO THE CLASS OF 2017

It’s the biggest week and weekend in the mid-western town that bleeds football.  The Pro Football Hall of Fame once again celebrates the legends of America’s favorite professional sport.

Without further ado, I offer my heartiest congratulations to Jason Taylor, Kurt Warner, Morten Andersen, LaDainian Tomlinson, Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, and Jerry Jones.  A job well done guys!  In Jones’ case a job that is still in progress.

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Jason Taylor.

As a resident of South Florida, and a native New Yorker, this class has very special meaning to me.  Jason Taylor is just as much a folk hero in these parts as Dan Marino and Don Shula.  In the early 2000’s Taylor, along with Zach Thomas, Sam Madison, and Patrick Surtain anchored the most successful defense in Miami since the Killer B’s in the 1980’s.

Kurt Warner will be remembered primarily for being the quarterback of the Greatest Show On Turf in St. Louis in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  He will also be forever etched in Arizona Cardinals lore for leading them to their only Super Bowl appearance.  As a native New Yorker, I remember his short time with the Giants.

Warner was signed by the St. Louis Rams in 1997 out of the Arena League as a third string quarterback behind Tony Banks and Steve Bono.  In 1999 he got his chance to start due to an injury in the preseason to starter Trent Green.  The rest, as they say is history. Warner threw three touchdown passes in his first three starts in St. Louis, and capped off the 1999 campaign with a Super Bowl victory and the Super Bowl MVP.

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Kurt Warner

 

Kurt Warner would appear in two more Super Bowls.

The Rams would lose a heart-breaker to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. Adam Vinatieri kicked the game winning field goal for New England on the game’s final play.  Warner threw for 365 yards that day.

In 2008, Warner would lead the Arizona Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance to date.  The Cardinals would lose to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23.  Warner’s tenure brought the Cardinals franchise to relevance for the first time since they moved to the desert from St. Louis.

Morten Andersen joins George Blanda, Lou Groza, and Jan Stenarud as the only place kickers enshrined in Canton.

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LaDainian Tomlinson

 

Running backs La Dainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis will be enshrined in Canton this year. Will Tomlinson be the last of the San Diego Chargers to make it to the Hall?  Drew Brees will join him someday, but that would be mostly for what he accomplished in New Orleans.

Terrell Davis was the featured back in the Denver Broncos’ offense that was led by John Elway in the late 1990’s.  The Broncos won consecutive Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 (Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII).   Davis was the Super Bowl XXXII MVP.

Seattle Seahawks fans have waited quite a while for Kenny Easley to join the Canton Brotherhood.  The safety was a member of the All Decade Team of the 1980’s and appeared in five Pro Bowls.

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Jerry Jones.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joins the party in Canton this year.  Since Jones purchased the Cowboys in 1989, America’s Team has kicked it up a notch.  Dallas has won three Super Bowls under Jones’ ownership.  The list of players that have played for Jones’ reads like a “Who’s Who” of professional football.  Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and Tony Romo head the list, and there are many more.

Congratulations to all!!

THE FINAL CHAPTER OF A BYGONE ERA

To begin tonight’s article I would like to offer my heartiest congratulations to the 2017 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class.  Jeff Bagwell, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Tim Raines have etched their immortality as players in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.  In addition, executive John Scheurholz and commissioner Bud Selig were also enshrined. Congratulations again to all!

Of the five new members, the one that stands out the most to this writer is Tim Raines.   He isn’t noticeable because his stats were better than that of Pudge and Bagwell, although he had more stolen bases than the other two combined.  What stands out for me is the logo on Raines’ cap on his plaque.

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Tim Raines’ Hall of Fame plaque will be the last one to depict a Montreal Expos cap.

 

Tim Raines joins Andre Dawson (class of 2010) and Gary Carter (class of 2003) as the representatives of the Montreal Expos in Cooperstown.

The Montreal Expos were one of four expansion franchises that joined the Majors in 1969.  They joined the National League along with the San Diego Padres, while the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots joined the American League.

The Pilots franchise would only play the 1969 season in the Pacific Northwest.  They went to Spring Training in 1970 while the franchise was up for sale.  During Spring Training the team was purchased by Bud Selig.  Selig, a former minority owner of the Milwaukee Braves sought to return Major League Baseball to the city when the Braves left for Atlanta .   Upon closing on the sale of the Pilots, Selig, just prior to the start of the 1970 season, relocated the Pilots to Milwaukee.  The franchise would open the season as the Milwaukee Brewers.  They would play the schedule originally prepared for the Pilots.

Now, back to the Expos.  The Expos were the first Major League Baseball team located outside of the United States.  The Toronto Blue Jays would join Montreal north of the border in 1977 when they began play in the American League.  The franchise would enjoy moderate success in Montreal.  They called Jarry Park, which for years was the smallest venue in the Majors, home from 1969-1976.

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Jarry Park, original home of the Montreal Expos.  Capacity for baseball was 30,000, the smallest in Major League Baseball.

 

Following the 1976 Summer Olympics, which were held in Montreal, the Expos moved into Olympic Stadium.  They began play there in 1977 and would call the “Big O” home until they relocated after the 2004 season.

The Expos enjoyed some success on the field and at the gate through the 1970’s and 1980’s.  In the strike shortened year of 1981, the Expos made their only appearance in the post-season. Since the 1981 season was interrupted between mid June and early August by a players strike, it was split into two halves.  The Philadelphia Phillies lead the National League Eastern Division at the time the players went on strike.  When play resumed, the Phillies were declared first half divisional champions.   The second half was a new season, with a new set of standings.  The Expos would finish the second half on top in the National League East and play a best-of-five series against the Phillies to determine the divisional champion.  Montreal would defeat Philadelphia in five games.  Raines was part of that 1981 squad.  The Expos would lose the National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, also in five games.  The Dodgers went on to win the World Series.

Image result for Expos win 1981 National League Division Series

Montreal Expos celebrate winning the 1981 National League Eastern Division championship after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in a five game series set up by a strike shortened season.

 

Alongside the three Expos that are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, the stars that graced French Canada were many.  Randy Johnson began his career in Montreal.  Pedro Martinez gained notariety in French Canada.  Rusty Staub continues to be a folk hero in Montreal to this day.

Major League Baseball has had two mid-season work stoppages in its history.  The 1981 strike gave the Expos their only real shot at a World Championship.  The other stoppage happened in 1994.  The players walked out in August of that year and the season never resumed.  The Expos had a record of 74-40 on August 12, 1994.  They had the best record in baseball, but never got to finish the season.  This strike was the beginning of the end of the Montreal Expos.

The ownership of the Expos could not keep up with its American competitors financially. Many of their stars were traded away, and as a result attendance and fan interest dwindled.  The Expos finally were relocated by Major League Baseball following the 2004 season.  They moved the franchise to Washington, DC, where they are now known as the Washington Nationals.  To date the Nationals have yet to make an appearance in the World Series.

Raines will be the final Expos player to be enshrined in Cooperstown, this franchise’s next inductee will be sporting a Nationals cap.  Truly the end of an era.