Rolen earned 76.3% of the votes from submitted ballots, just barely enough.

I’m ambivalent about this selection.

  • The six most comparable players are not in.
  • Rolen has ZERO black ink (never led the league in anything), compared to a score of 27 for an average Hall of Famer.
  • He has a gray ink score of 27 (meaning he was rarely among the leaders), compared to a gray ink score of 144 for an average Hall of Famer.
  • In 17 years in the majors, he was only in the top ten in the MVP balloting one time.

On the other hand, he did put in a lot of solid years, was an excellent fielder, and his lifetime WAR of 70 is HOF caliber, ahead of many current solid HoFers, including (for example) Ernie Banks.

So whether he belongs depends on whether you think the primary criterion should be superstardom at his peak, or the total value of his career.

 

There’s a lot of speculation about his future, but Brady is saying nothing.

Will a guy with that much pride be willing to quit on a sour note?

Can he get up for another season?

Weird NFL stat: Dallas kicker Brett Maher missed four PATs in Monday’s game. To put that in perspective:

  • Matt Stover only missed three in his life – and he played in the NFL 19 years, suiting up for 297 regular season games and 16 more playoff games! At one point he made 469 in a row.
  • Rian Lindell missed only one PAT in 14 years (212 games) and made his first 321 attempts. He is the all-time leader in PAT% at 99.8%

Georgia won the final game by more than eight touchdowns. They were favored, but I’m pretty sure they covered the spread.

What an embarrassment, and what an anti-climax! The two semi-final games were terrific, and since THE Ohio State University should have beaten Georgia (Ohio State led by 14 at the end of the third period), it seemed that the Bulldogs were vulnerable.

That was an illusion.

TCU had nothin’. Georgia scored on every possession in the first half.

Anyway, congrats to the Bulldogs. The won their second consecutive championship by finishing undefeated and beating the second-place team 65-7. How often do you get to play the third stringers in a national championship game? In sports, that’s as good as it ever gets.

The last time I remember a team approximately as dominant was that UCLA basketball team in 1966-67 that was #1 wire-to-wire. Kareem was so dominant that they changed the college rules after that season, banning the dunk. Sadly for the rest of the teams in college hoops, the sky hook was totally legal, so Kareem won two more championships, with a combined record of 58-2.

No dunking allowed? Boy, was that a different time!

Well, yeah, maybe that.

Or maybe because he’s an old coot playing a young man’s game with a mediocre receiving corps.

Hard to say.

To be fair, Brady has not been bad. He leads the league in completions. He is second in the NFL in interception percentage, and is the very best in the NFL at avoiding the sack, which is impressive for an old codger who had no foot speed even when he was young (so he’s not doing that with his legs). The only weakness evident from his stats is that he is second-last in the league in yards per completion and yards per attempt, but that kinda tells you more about the Bucs’ offensive strategy than about Brady himself.

By the way, although they suck mightily, the Buccaneers are in first place in a division of ultra-suckitude (despite a 6-8 record and a point differential of minus 41), so Brady might get one more (extreme long shot) chance at the Owl.

2022 WORLD CUP WINNER ODDS

France +110
Argentina +170
Croatia +750
Morocco +900

France and Argentina are heavily favored in the semis.

Interestingly, Croatia and Morocco are the two undefeated teams, but are the underdogs with the longest odds. Argentina lost that shocker to Saudi Arabia in pool play. France did also drop a game (to Tunisia) in pool play, but they didn’t make an effort to win that game. They had already clinched a spot in the elimination rounds, so they rested their starters against Tunisia.

Croatia and Morocco have already played each other in the tournament. They were in the same pool, and drew. Morocco won its other two games to win the pool, while Croatia finished with a win and two draws.

SIDEBAR: The country of Croatia has fewer than four million people, a small pool to draw a great national team from.

I appreciate soccer more than I used to, but I still find the penalty kick concept absurd. Soccer must be the only sport where ties are decided by playing a completely different game.

Imagine if a baseball game ended in a tie after nine, so they decided it with a home run derby.

Or if a basketball game were tied in reg, so they decided it by shooting free throws.

Or if a golf tournament ended in a tie, to be decided on the practice green by a putting contest.

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Game result

I noticed that one of Morocco’s penalty kickers (Benoun) was a guy who only played the final seconds of the half-hour extra time. Obviously he is just a penalty kick specialist, and he was chosen to go second in the shoot-out. (That isn’t what decided the game. Ironically, he was the only one of their penalty kickers to miss!)

Spain did the same thing with Sarabia. He played only the final two minutes of the extra time, but was the very first shooter in the pen kicks.

He was the first player to lead each league in home runs since the American League was created.

He is a very reasonable selection. I hate all those “least common denominator” arguments, like “so-and-so should be in because he’s better than such-and-such,” because the guys at the lower end of the HOF were only above-average players who should not be in. Having noted that, I will resort to that very argument. He was a better choice than many other post-war 1B/OF/DH players who preceded him, like Jim Rice, Orlando Cepeda, Gil Hodges and (especially) Harold Baines. Based on lifetime WAR, he is approximately as good a selection as Tony Perez or Kirby Puckett.

There are two other strong arguments to be made in his favor:

1. His numbers are better than they look. He amassed some solid career numbers despite playing the first half of his career in an era when offensive numbers were low. (The two times he led his league in homers, he hit 35 and 36.)

2. He never cheated, although he was batting against juiced pitchers. He put up solid numbers in the second half of his career, despite staying straight when many, if not most, players were juicing. In his last four full seasons, for example, he knocked in 100+ runs each year, and he did that at ages 35-38.

The great offensive explosion began in 1993, when home run production suddenly jumped from .72 per team per game to .89. The next year it jumped again to 1.03. That’s more than a 40% jump in just two years. The steroid era had begin. By 1995, somebody was hitting 50 homers or more every year, even though that had been a great rarity throughout baseball history. If you look at McGriff’s stats before the explosion happened, 1987-1992, there were only two players in the majors with more homers – McGwire and Canseco – and they are that high only because they discovered steroids before everyone else. Canseco was basically patient zero, and McGwire was his teammate and protege. That means McGriff was the top guy playing fair. McGriff out-homered Barry Bonds in that period, 191-160, even though they are basically the same age and Bonds had more plate appearances.

Of course, we all know that McGriff continued to hit his same old 30 homers and 100 RBI every year, while Bonds went on to a season were he had hit 39 homers in his first 217 at bats, and looked for a while like he might reach triple figures. Gee, how could that happen? ‘Tis a mystery.

SIDEBAR: Home run production has never dropped back to the 1992 level. The steroid era ended (mostly), and the number settled back to .86 in 2014, but the new “true outcome” offensive philosophy suddenly had everyone swinging for the fences, even the little guys. By 2019, the HR/game number had risen to the all-time high of 1.39, far higher than the steroid-era peak of 1.17, and it would probably still be rising if baseball’s high sheriffs had not taken some action to bring it under control. It was 1.07 last season.

The losses by USC and TCU made things complicated. I expected both of them to get axed, with Alabama and THE Ohio State University waiting in the wings. The committee obviously did not want the final four to contain only two conferences, and TCU had only one loss (compared to two for Alabama), so they left TCU in the dance, much to the relief of the other three coaches, who would much rather face TCU than Alabama. This worked out especially well for Michigan, since the committee decided to give TCU the third seed over THE, presumably so that conference rivals (Michigan and Ohio State) would not meet in the semi-finals.

That was a gift to Michigan. In a world with more justice than this one, they could be the #2 seed and Ohio State would be #3, meaning that the Wolverines could have a very rough road to the finals against a traditional rival seeking revenge. In this world, they are expected to have clear sailing through TCU, and have been installed as ten-point favorites, which is a big spread for a national semi-final.

You may think that fate smiled on the Wolverines, and you would be right. In fact, Michigan’s fate could have been much worse than a rematch with THE. Imagine if the computers decided the match-ups. For what it’s worth, Sagarin’s computer rankings list the top four as

1. Georgia
2. Ohio State
3. Alabama
4. Michigan

If the committee went by those rankings, Michigan would be approximately six-point underdogs in the semis instead of ten-point favorites.

So, yes, fate smiled on the Wolverines.

But let’s not forget that they were undefeated, and earned that smile.

The 45-23 victory was the first time Michigan has won in Columbus in 22 years, and knocks Ohio State out of the Big 10 championship game. Michigan seems like a lock for the final four

With three TD’s in the fourth quarter, Michigan knocked their favored opponents down from “THE” Ohio State University to “AN” Ohio State University. Michigan’s star running back was injured and left the game after two short carries, but their sophomore back-up guy, Donovan Edwards, was pretty much unstoppable in the fourth quarter, with touchdown runs of 85 and 75 yards.

In other contender news:

  • Georgia won easily and seems poised to sail into the finals.
  • TCU gave poor, lowly Iowa State a major ass-kicking (62-14), thus moving one step closer to clinching another of the final four slots.
  • USC moved to 10-1 by defeating Notre Dame. They seem to be the headed for the fourth spot in the fab four. Their opponent in the conference championship game will be Utah. (Surprise!) That happened because the Oregon loss created a three-way tie for second place, and the anfractuous tie-breaker system worked out in Utah’s favor. The practical consequence is that a USC win is the only hope for the conference to get a team into the fab four. I think we all know that the committee is not going to put in three-loss Utah team over Ohio State or Alabama. By the way, a Utah victory is not far-fetched at all. They have already beaten USC once this year!
  • LSU’s spot as the next-in-line was eliminated by their loss to the Aggies in College Station. Clemson’s long-shot chance to make the final four fell off the table after a loss to South Carolina. Oregon’s desperate, hail-mary shot ended with a loss to Oregon State, and that even cost them their spot in the conference championship.

South Carolina was this year’s spoiler team. They had a good, not great, year at 8-4, but they were tremendous in the last two weeks, knocking off Tennessee and Clemson when each was considered a contender for the national championship.

USC and the three undefeated teams (Georgia, Michigan and TCU) all seem to be sure finalists if they win their conference championships.

I think that Georgia is already in the fab four, win or lose in the conference final. If they lose, there will (presumably) be two undefeated teams, and Georgia would be the best team with one loss, giving them a third seed. Michigan has a similar, if slightly weaker case.

On the other hand, USC and TCU wins seem to be the only hope for their respective conferences. If one or both of them should lose, Ohio State and Alabama will probably be the next teams under consideration, with Ohio State first in line because they have but one loss to Alabama’s two.

Here’s how the bookies see the odds of winning the national championship after Saturday’s play:

Georgia 5-8
Michigan 3-1
USC 13-1
TCU 13-1
Ohio State 15-1
Alabama 26-1

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RUTGERS watch: they closed out their season in fine fashion by dropping a 37-0 squeaker to Maryland, following last week’s nail-biting 55-10 loss to Penn State.

Their debating teams are, however, excellent. One of their campuses won the national championship in 2017.

None of the top seven teams looked very impressive.

#1 Georgia scored only 16 against Kentucky, which is a mediocre 3-5 in the SEC.

#2 Ohio State was losing at halftime to Maryland, which is a mediocre 3-5 on the Big Ten.

#3 Michigan needed to stage a furious fourth quarter comeback to win by 2 against Illinois, which is a mediocre 4-4 in the Big Ten.

#4 TCU barely eked out a 29-28 win against Baylor, which is a mediocre 4-4 in the Big 12. To be fair, the practice of barely eking out victories seems to be what TCU does every week. That was their 7th consecutive win by 10 or fewer.

#5 Tennessee got slaughtered, allowing 63 points to South Carolina, which is now a mediocre 4-4 in the SEC.

#6 LSU played a jobber in order to pad their record with an easy win.

#7 USC allowed 45 points, barely escaping with a 48-45 victory.

So Tennessee seems to be totally out of the Final Four picture. If the other six continue to win except when they play each other, then the final four will be:

  • The winner of Michigan vs THE Ohio State next week.
  • The winner of LSU vs Georgia the following week.
  • USC.
  • TCU.

If any of those teams falter badly, Clemson and Oregon still have long-shot odds of sneaking in. Clemson pays off at 20-1 if you bet them to go all the way, while Oregon is up there at 55-1

Moving the Bills game seems to have been the right move. Get this: ” Orchard Park, where the NFL’s Buffalo Bills play, has picked up 77.0 inches in the last 48 hours”

Sports Update: the Bills will play Sunday – in Detroit!

Weird stuff: Buffalo Channel 4 Weather has confirmed 77 inches in Orchard Park, a southern suburb, but Tonawanda, a northern suburb, has received only three inches! Orchard Park is directly in line with the eastern shore of Lake Erie, while Tonawanda is just far enough north on the Niagara River that it is out of the direct path of the lake effect snow.

The four top teams remained unbeaten

Here are the complications:

* Michigan and Ohio State will match up during the regular season, so they can’t both retain a perfect record.
* When one of them loses, do they stay in the top four, or be replaced by Tennessee?
* But how can the committee select Tennessee to be among the top four in the country when they finish third in their own conference?
* How can the committee select the loser of the Michigan/OSU game to be among the top four in the country when they also finish third in their own conference? (Neither Tennessee nor the loser of the OSU/Michigan game will make their conference championship game.)
* So if it is TCU, OSU-or-Michigan and Georgia – who gets the fourth spot? Tennessee and OSU-or-Michigan seem to be eliminated by the logic above, but assuming one of them will go in, which one? ESPN’s panel of 15 experts takes Michigan by a 14-1 vote!
* #6 LSU can really complicate things in the unlikely event that they defeat Georgia in the SEC championship game, especially since they were slaughtered by Tennessee earlier in the season.
* Michigan, OSU and Tennessee are rooting for TCU to lose one, but the Horned Owls refuse to co-operate. They have won their last six games by ten points or fewer, but they always come out on the correct side of the score. Sagarin’s computer ratings suggest that those three teams (and several others) are better than TCU, but an undefeated team from a Power Five conference is going to get a bid, no questions asked, even though they may go into a Georgia playoff game as two-touchdown underdogs.

She is now playing in her 21st season in the WNBA, and shot .911 from the free throw line one season.

Some of the women in the WNBA are exceptionally good at free throws. Elena Della Donne, for example, has an unreal lifetime free throw percentage of .937 after ten years in the league. (Among the men, even dead-eye Steph Curry is “only” at .909.)

Becky Hammon shot .897 over 16 years, including a perfect 1.000 in her final season. (The male record in .981 – only three misses in 154 attempts. Oddly enough, that guy dropped below .800 the following year.)

Another woman, Kayla McBride, has been over .900 in five of the last six seasons, including the current one – and the other season was .897! (Curry has actually bested this one. He’s topped .900 in eight of the past nine seasons, and his off season was .898.)

None of the six major unbeaten teams lost.

Some of the other ranked teams got exposed as pretenders.

  • Oklahoma State had been ranked #9 in the nation. I reckon they were a tad overrated, considering that they were utterly curb-stomped, 48-0, by Kansas State.
  • Former #10 Wake Forest received a drubbing of their own, 48-21, against unranked Louisville.
  • A few of the teams ranked between 16 and 25 suffered losses, but let’s be honest, those teams are not contenders for the Final Four. They are just hoping for a strong game in the post-season.
  • Rutgers watch: LOSS, 31-0. That’s the Rutgers we know and love!

By the way, there will be no bowl games on New Year’s Day this year. It falls on a Sunday, and the NCAA doesn’t compete with the NFL, so the colleges will play the New Year’s bowls on Monday, January 2nd. (The Final Four will play on December 31st.)

The biggest regular-season game of the year is coming next week – #1 Georgia vs #3 Tennessee. It’s kind of a do-or-die game because its a difficult climb back after a loss there. They are both in the same division (East) of the SEC, which means that only one of them can get into the conference championship game, so the one that doesn’t make the conference championship game is unlikely to make the Final Four, even if it suffers a mere one-point loss to the #1 team in the nation. (This is particularly problematic if there are unbeaten teams in the other conferences, and there could be three: TCU, Clemson, and either Ohio State or Michigan.)

Ohio State and Michigan don’t clash until the final game of the regular season. They are in a similar situation to the one I described in the SEC. Ohio State and Michigan are in the same half of the Big Ten, so only one of them can make the conference championship game, even though they clearly seem to be the best teams in the conference.

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