So usually this blog is about sports in one way or another, but as the tagline suggests, “whatever else comes to mind” is also an option.
As a member of the Michigan Marching Band over the last four years, I have had some pretty cool opportunities and have met some awesome people. However, none of those past experiences compared to this past Friday, January 27.
Warning: Possibly excessive gloating/horn-tooting ahead
To take a page from It’s Primetime Somewhere, I want to review the MLB Network’s new game show, Baseball IQ. It premiered earlier this week and features representatives from two teams going head to head answering questions about baseball, both past and present. The two players play for pride of their organization and for a $5,000 contribution to the charity of the organization’s choice.
As I have entered my final semester at Michigan and begun looking for jobs, I have taken a lot of time to evaluate my real interests and what they mean to me. I’ve considered many different career paths: high school history teacher, neurologist, writer, etc. But everything has always come back to baseball. While I am still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do within the sport, I have had the opportunity to think about my introduction to the sport and how a simple game has grown into an obsession.
A recent story on ESPN detailed the changing culture in the Indianapolis Colts organization, specifically revolving around star quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning, who missed the entire season with a nerve problem in his neck, watched as the only team he has ever played for struggled to a 2-14 season, earning them the first overall pick in the NFL draft in April. Following the Colts’ disastrous season, owner Jim Irsay fired vice president Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian. Just a short time ago, Irsay continued cleaning house when he fired head coach Jim Caldwell.
All of the changes have taken their toll on Manning, who, at age 35, may be on his way out of Indianapolis to make way for likely #1 overall pick, quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford. Much of the concern focused on the $28 million bonus that the Colts owe Manning in early March. Before this past season, there was very little question that Manning would receive his bonus; however, with his health a key issue, the Colts may not want to spend that kind of money on someone that may not play much longer.
This is why they should. Read more…
Many years after his father ruled the field in Detroit, Prince Fielder has returned to play first base for the Detroit Tigers. The power-hitting first baseman signed a 9-year $214 million contract on Tuesday, giving the Tigers one of the most formidable offenses in the Major Leagues. What does this mean for Detroit next season? What about after? Read more…
Last week, shortstop Barry Larkin gained acceptance into the Baseball Hall of Fame after 19 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. Larkin, a University of Michigan attendee, won the 1990 World Series with the Reds and won the 1995 NL Most Valuable Player award. Although his numbers alone were never among the elites in the league, which may have swayed some voters to refuse admission, Larkin’s statistics rank among the best all-time for shortstops, especially when compared to other Hall of Famers.
Strictly on numbers alone, Larkin’s .295 batting average ties him for 8th among the 21 Hall of Fame shortstops. His 1,329 runs scored rank him 8th, and his 198 home runs place Larkin 4th among Hall of Fame shortstops. He also ranks in the top half of Hall of Fame shortstops in hits (2,340), on-base percentage (.371), slugging percentage (.444- total bases/at-bats), and stolen bases (379).
But what made Larkin so worthy of the Hall of Fame was not necessarily his career statistics, but the way he played the game and his incredible job as the leader and captain of the Reds. Sure, Barry had decent numbers that adequately stack up to other Hall of Famers, but he played the game with such class and enthusiasm, which set him apart from most others of his era. Consider his MVP season of 1995. Larkin ranked higher than 5th in just one major offensive category (2nd in stolen bases); meanwhile, Dante Bichette of the Colorado Rockies led the National League in hits, home runs, runs batted in, and 3rd in batting average for the 2nd place Rockies. Those kinds of numbers would normally secure an MVP award, but Larkin’s leadership on the first place Reds, combined with his stellar statistics both at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field, earned him the honor.
Larkin retired after the 2004 season with 3 Gold Glove awards (best fielder at each position), 9 Silver Slugger awards (best hitter at each position), and 12 All-Star Game appearances. In 1996, Larkin became the first shortstop ever to record 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season, a remarkable feat considering how many players had played the game prior to that season. Even more remarkable is Larkin’s career Wins Above Replacement, which measures how many more a player would give a team as opposed to another player at the position. Of all players to play the game of baseball, Larkin ranks 90th all-time at 68.9 WAR.
The effect that Barry Larkin had on the Cincinnati Reds was clear during his 19-year career with the team. As one of the most respected and liked individuals in baseball, not to mention talented, Larkin deserves this Hall of Fame nomination.
Last night’s 60-59 victory over the Michigan State Spartans ran Michigan’s winning streak against their in-state rival to three, and gave the Wolverines a big win in Big Ten play. Most importantly though, the game also provided viewers with a glimpse into the inner workings of the Wolverines’ team.
First and foremost, Trey Burke is a star. The freshman has come in and has done a better job of replacing Darius Morris than most expected. Burke scored 20 points last night, and led the team in rebounds, assists, and steals as well. While Burke does not have the passing ability that Morris has, and tends to try to do a little too much with the ball, Burke has proven to be an ample replacement for the current Los Angeles Lakers guard. Last night’s performance against MSU showed us that Burke also has the ability to rise up and lead the team in big games; on nearly every possession, Burke led the Wolverines down the floor and made plays.
Along the same vein, Michigan has the tremendous ability to account for the struggles of others. Tim Hardaway, Jr. has not shot as well from the field as in the past, perhaps due in part to a recent growth spurt. The sophomore shot just 2 of 13 against Iowa and did not hit a field goal last night until his dunk to begin the second half. In his place, though, Michigan has seen guys like Burke, seniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, and sophomore Evan Smotrycz step up in different games. Even as Smotrycz has struggled this season, others have filled the void in different ways. Last night, Hardaway and Smotrycz didn’t perform to the best of their abilities. Burke, Novak, and Douglass all had at least nine points, including Douglass’ lay-up with 31 seconds left in the game.
While it was unfortunate to see the Spartans overcome the large Michigan advantage and take the lead late in the game, the Wolverines showed their tenacity and their ability to hang around with bigger teams. Draymond Green and Derrick Nix of MSU present much larger presences in the paint than any of Michigan’s players, but the Wolverines’ defense limited them to a combined 20 points.
It may not have been the prettiest victory (although both teams shot over 48% from the field), Michigan showed that they should be considered among the best in the country and certainly in the Big Ten.