The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament are in the books and given my record (I have 12 of the 16 teams remaining) I’ve become certain that two things are true.
First, we’re living in Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin’s world. The dude is good…damn good.
I hope whatever sorry excuse for an NBA franchise doesn’t draft this kid and ruin him. He can either be Tim Duncan or Chris Washburn (not likely), so let’s see what team miraculously drops to number one and snags him. If the ball bounces their way, how good would he look next to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green in OKC?
Second, I’m an idiot for ever filling out a bracket. It’s true. I’ve never won…never will. I’m convinced of it.
But maybe it’s the blind optimism of all the Chicago Cubs fans I’ve had to share time with that has corrupted me. Here’s a team that has gone a century without winning a championship and me, having never won a pool in my life, I continue to drop five bucks every March.
Which brings me to the NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL.
The “Loveable Losers” haven’t won a World Series since 1908, so clearly, that would be the number one milestone for them to achieve. Talk to any Cubs fan and “this is the year”…we’ll see.
On the field of play, there are some milestones that are a little easier to attain. Alfonso Soriano starts the year with 270 home runs and barring injury, he’ll surpass 300 by the time 2009 comes to a close.
Manager Lou Pinella is sitting at 1701 wins…good for fourteenth place on the all-time list. While there is no chance he moves up on the list this season, his win total is pretty noteworthy considering the three active managers that he trails…Tony LaRussa (2461), Bobby Cox (2327) and Joe Torre (2151).
1701 wins is also of note because of the thirteen managers that are Hall eligible and ahead of Pinella on the all-time wins list...only one (Gene Mauch) is NOT enshrined. Not too shabby.
While not a milestone, the Cubs are doing something pretty cool and pretty monumental on May 3. Before the “North Siders” take the field against the Florida Marlins, they’ll retire number 31 for Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux. Each hurler won a Cy Young Award and combined for 300 victories while wearing the pinstriped 31.
Since I mentioned former Reds skipper Lou Pinella, I feel obligated to mention current Reds skipper Dusty Baker. Baker (1236) enters the season just behind Whitey Herzog (1281) and Billy Martin (1253) on the all-time wins list. And outside of a serious collapse (which is possible) and Baker getting the axe (which would then be probably)…he’ll move into the top 30 on the career list.
Last week, Houston inked catcher Ivan Rodriguez to a one-year deal and automatically entered themselves into the milestone watch. The Astros now have four, count ‘em FOUR hitters approaching 300 home runs. And the amazing thing…they’ll all get them this season. In order they are: “Pudge” (295), Lance Berkman (288), Carlos Lee (281) and Miguel Tejada (271).
Already the career leader for hits and Gold Gloves for a catcher, it’s of note to mention that Rodriguez is poised to leap frog a number of Hall of Famers on the career doubles. I’d name them all, but let’s face it…we’re talking doubles and that really isn't a stat that snags the headlines.
Did you hear the one about the all-time saves leader being let go by his former team via fax and signing with the Brewers in the off season? If so, you know that Trevor Hoffman will be closing games for the “Brew Crew” and putting the finishing touches on his plaque in Cooperstown.
Hoffman is also 28 games away from becoming baseball’s all-time leader in games finished. As a side note…can we please get Lee Smith into the Hall of Fame before Hoffman and Mariano Rivera pass him up in every statistical category?
I heard a rumor once that Bobby Bonds' kid Barry started his career in Pittsburgh and once his career got going, he, well...nevermind.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
When 2008 came to a close, Albert Pujols became the only player in Major League history who started his career with eight consecutive seasons with a .300 batting average, 30 or more home runs and 100 RBI. The only other players to accomplish the 100 RBI feat…Al Simmons, who did it in eleven straight and Ted Williams, who stalled after eight.
All in all, “Prince Albert” is 31 home runs away from 350, 23 RBI from 1000 and 53 runs from 1000. And oh yeah, he just turned 29. Check out what Nick Underhill had to say about “The Legend of Pujols” over at his site.
Cardinals manager LaRussa continues his climb toward second place on the all-time wins list. He’s 302 behind John McGraw, so check back sometime in May or June 2012 to watch this play itself out.
And for those of you who were sucked in with the NCAA Tournament reference at the top, my Final Four is Louisville and Villanova with Memphis topping Oklahoma in the final. However, like the Cubs winning the World Series, it won’t happen.
The American League Central is next. In the meantime, feel free to check out Milestone Previews of the American League East and National League East.