Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Mariano

Great story in the New York Times (although it's curious they don't mention Alexander Karelin...they must not be up on this blog).

I don't see any mention of his most devastating outing. Three (!) innings. I distinctly remember that he was the last guy in the Yankee pen, and if Aaron Boone doesn't hit that homer, the Sox were going to win that game. Or maybe he would have pitched forever that night, because he's Mariano Rivera.

As a sidenote, Tim Salmon. Haven't thought of him for a while.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Spain. We beat Spain 2-0. Seriously. Spain.

Spain is the best soccer team in the world right now. Without a doubt. It's such a stunning outcome, I don't even know how to react. Exactly two of our players play regularly in a top European (England, Spain, Italy) league, Clint Dempsey at Fulham and our keeper, Tim Howard, at Everton. Every single player on the Spanish team plays regularly in Spain or England. The only guy on our roster who might--might!-- make the Spanish squad is Howard.

Although I bet Oguchi Onyewu and Jay Demerit will get some serious consideration by teams looking for central defenders after this game. Spain spent much of the game unsuccessfully trying to cross the ball in past these two. The last half hour of the game consisted largely of Spain crossing the ball across our goal and one of those two heading it away. It's a nervy strategy, and it only works if one has complete confidence in one's central defense, it worked today.
And I bet Jozy Altidore will get a lot more playing time next season. He's looking good.

Peter Vecsey points out that the real benefit should come in the draw for the 2010 World Cup, where we should (finally!) be seeded ahead of Mexico.

Where would I put this on the list of US Soccer victories? #5. It's not higher because it didn't happen in the World Cup.

#1 USA 2-Mexico 0 in the 2002 World Cup: (a) we made the quarterfinals, and (b) we knocked Mexico out of the World Cup. It doesn't get any better.

#2 USA 3-Portugal 2 2002 World Cup group stage: Portugal was seen as a serious contender for the title. This game was personally outstanding because Schlamp was so tired he lay his head down on the bar of the Chieftain at halftime and napped. For me, this was funny. For Schlamp's immune system, this was a test. You don't want to put your head on the bar of the Chieftain.

#3 USA 2-Columbia 1, 1994 World Cup group stage: supposedly Columbia was going to challenge for the title.

#4 USA 1-England 0, 1950 World Cup: it happened a long time ago.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sammy Sosa

Sadly, is anyone surprised? I didn't think so.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Experiment

Someone (Schlamp?) brought up the possibility of Alexander Karelin as a candidate for athletic dominance. Yes.

Karelin went undefeated from 1987-2000. I'll give him 13 consecutive years of dominance, which puts him one above Mariano Rivera. As The Experiment, Karelin may also have the best nickname. We'll see how long Rivera is on top, it seems to me he's slipping a little. Just a little. He can't pitch forever (right?), and Papelbon or K-Rod may become the guy baseball people most trust to get out of an inning if their lives depended on it. But my sense is that Rivera is still the man, until further notice.

I also thought of Steve Redgrave. Who? Just a guy who won gold medals in rowing at (ahem) five different Olympics. But he wasn't always the best. He came in third in 1990 in a race. Plus, crew is such a team sport. Except for singles, you're always part of a team, and everyone is doing the same work. It's tough to say that anyone is the "best". Redgrave may be the greatest rower in history, but it's difficult to prove that he was the best rower in the world at any one point.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Mariano Rivera

How many people are the best in the world at what they do? Usually, it's hard to even know who's the best in the world at anything, much less find the person who's the best at it.

Now consider, how many people have been the best in the world at their chosen profession for twelve consecutive years? Mariano Rivera's had some competition lately: Papelbon's been great the last couple of years, and plenty of other closers have had individually better years. But since he became a closer in 1997, pretty much everyone in baseball would choose him to pitch the bottom of the ninth with a one run lead.

Has any athlete in history ever been the best at what he did for twelve consecutive years?

My first thought was Edwin Moses. Undefeated from 1977-1987, he won Olympic Gold in 1976. He was at the top from 1976-1987, but by 1988, he "only" got the bronze in Seoul. He didn't last 12 years.

You could make a case for Rickey Henderson. He was the best leadoff hitter in baseball starting about 1980, but I don't think he was necessarily the best for 12 years. Henderson was hurt in 1987, and Vince Coleman was probably better. Tim Raines was undoubtedly better in 1986. Henderson was the best for a long time, but not consecutively.

What about Bill Russell? If one assumes he was the best center in basketball starting in the 1957-58 season, when he was the league MVP, I'm not sure he lasts 12 years. I don't follow basketball closely enough to know, but according to wikipedia, Russell was falling off by the 67-68 season. Maybe Russell gets ten or eleven years, but that's not as impressive as Rivera

Am I missing any other plausible candidates?

(As a sidenote, Edwin Moses was a double major in college in physics and industrial engineering? So he's like Ed Cho, but faster and with an additional physics major.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor

I'm making a rare reversion back into politics, because the Supreme Court is important.

Obviously, Sonia Sotomayor's ethnicity and her gender are hot topics. The way I see it, there are somewhere around 100 people in this country who are qualified for the Supreme Court at any given time. We may not agree with their decisions, but they have the training, background, and experience to be qualified. (I think that both of W's appointees, Roberts and Alito, fall into the 'qualified' category, although his first choice, Harriet Miers, definitely does not.)

So the President has to choose someone from a pool of people, all of whom have roughly the same set of qualifications. I think that it's worthwhile if the Supreme Court resembles the people of this country, and since Sotomayor comes from the set of people who are eligible due to their experience, she's a good choice.

Sonia Sotomayor is unquestionably qualified. None of the present justices ever worked as a state prosecutor, and only Alito, who worked as a federal prosecutor, has ANY criminal law experience. Hard to believe, but true. NONE of the present justices ever served as a trial judge (Souter did, but he's the one who's retiring). Since the justices regularly have to decide questions that are a trial judge's bread and butter (evidence, procedure, jury instructions, etc.), it would be worthwhile to have someone in the room who's actually had to make those kind of decisions.

So what kind of justice will she be? I don't have any idea. No one does. Souter was supposed to be a pocket conservative, and Scalia was seen as a moderate consensus builder. Who knows how someone will be in ten or twenty years? Not me.

One can demand that the President chooses someone who falls in the 'qualified' group, but outside that, you pretty much just have to hope they rule the way you want when the time comes.