published Monday, June 30th, 2014

5-at-10: Halfway home in baseball and the sports year, plus a Rushmore of almost all-timers

Hope your summer travels have been fun and energizing. (Side question: When did we get to the age when we need a vacation to recover from vacation? So it goes.)

We also hope you summer travels have been only very infrequently plagued by the worst of all backseat questions: "Are we there yet?" (OK, second-worst, "Who did that and what do you say?")

As of today, the correct answer is to the long-time parental nemesis is "We're halfway there."

Today is the final day of the first half of 2014. This weekend we got to the midpoint of the baseball regular season, Wimbledon and even roughly that kickball tournament in South America.

So from the "Talks too much" studios, Daddy, who's gonna' hold your hat?

Baseball turns for home

The big league teams passed the halfway point this weekend, moving beyond the 81-game mark across the league.

We'll break this down in two scenarios: The Atlanta Braves halfway and the league halfway. Deal? Deal.

  • photo
    Philadelphia Phillies' Marlon Byrd is greeted by Cody Asche after his solo home run during their game with the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, June 29, 2014, in Philadelphia.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

For the Braves, being 44-38 after a four-game sweep of the hapless Phillies is the consummate glass with water reaching the midway portion of the middle.

Is the glass half full, as our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer suggests here? It's a fair assumption considering three of the scheduled five pitchers in the rotation are on the shelf with arm injuries and the Braves are still a half-game in front of Washington in the NL East.

Is the glass half empty? Also a fair assumption since the Braves are next to last in runs in the big leagues — you stay classy San Diego — and have a run differential of zero, meaning they have capitalized on playing in the worst division in baseball — Atlanta is 21-14 against the NL East and 23-24 against everyone else.

The feel of this bunch is that they find a way to win, which is an extreme positive. They also are not as good as their pieces and have struggled to be consistent after a torrid start. That's not a positive.

So at the halfway turn, is the Braves' glass half full or half empty? Hard to know. It does make a fellow thirsty though. Co-Colas for everyone.

We'll say the Braves are individually underachieving while overachieving as a team if that makes sense. And while it's next to impossible to bottle or predict a team's ability to consistently deliver — and these Braves are a serious dichotomy in that department considering they are 16-10 in one-run games and are second in the NL with an average of .273 in late/close situations (a category similar to the offensive equal to a save situation) and one of the worst teams in the baseball with runners in scoring position and two outs (NL-worst .181).

As for the rest of the league, well, who before the season had the two teams playing better than .600 baseball would be the A's and the Brewers? Yep, that's what we thought.

Here's a quick top-five things we think we know this morning:

• Clayton Kershaw is worth the price of admission — be it in Chattanooga or on Mercury. Dude is slap nasty.

  • photo
    Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout, (27), celebrates his three-run walk off home run against the Tampa Bay Rays on during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Thursday, May 15, 2014.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

• Mike Trout is worth the price of admission — and he still will be when the Yankees give him a $300-million contract in the next eight months and raise ticket prices every year.

• For all the mumbo jumbo surrounding all-star games in the various leagues, this year's home-run derby could be a lot of fun. Lot of intriguing names in the mix. That said, if Chris Berman is doing the broadcast, we'll have to turn the sound off.

• We are completely open to all the new stats and metrics that baseball has adopted. Case in point, by the WAR stat (wins above replacement that values an array of stats comparative to your position and rates the number of wins a player generates over an average player at that position) the best player in each league is Mike Trout in the AL and Troy Tuloqitzki in the NL. We're good by that. Of course, the WAR argument takes a dent when it has Jason Heyward as the fifth-best player in the NL.

• Halfway home, we'll go with the Jays, Tigers and A's as the divisional winners in the AL. The Nats, Brewers and Dodgers as the divisional winners in the NL. Wildcards, we'll take Yankees and Angels and Giants and Cardinals. Thoughts?


Halfway to World Cupdom

The U.S. plays Tuesday. We're in.

The world has been focused on the grandness and the play and that's great for soccer fans around the globe.

  • photo
    Dutch soccer fans celebrate their team's victory after they watched the World Cup round of 16 match against Mexico on a live telecast inside the FIFA Fan Fest area on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 29, 2014. The Netherlands staged a dramatic late comeback, scoring two goals in the dying minutes to beat Mexico 2-1 and advance to the World Cup quarterfinals.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Something happened Sunday, though, that needs to be addressed. Mexico lost in the knockout round because some dude from the Netherlands tooks dive. Yep, a flop from the Nether regions cost Mexico a World Cup shot. (Side note: Some guy in Vegas bet on the Netherlands to win when they were down 1-0 with less than four minutes left and turned $400 into $20,000. That's a good day — messed around and got a triple-double and everything.)

Maybe acting and faking are parts of all sports, but this has become a significant story line in this World Cup. That and biting, and if biting and flopping are two main terms and we're not talking about throwing a line in a lake somewhere, well, that's not good.

As for the U.S., we need to thank the boys for giving us a great ride so far. Will it continue beyond Tuesday? That seems to be a tall order against Belgium team that waffles between very good and great, especially in the syrupy climate that is eating danger for breakfast like the World Cup.

We'll see, but here's hoping the U.S. pancakes 'em. And flips their flops for that matter.


Halfway through the sports year

Tomorrow, we're going to offer up our best and worst of the first half of the year.

Today, we'll take some nominations if you want to share them.

Best athlete. Best moment. Worst moment. Best game. We'll even let you guys and gals nominate a category — and winner/loser of course — if you'd like.

So what say you fine, smart folks of the clan? Discuss.


This and that

— Tomorrow is the first day NBA teams can talk to free agents. The biggest story is the Big Three in Miami, considering each of whom has opted out and appear set to resign in Miami for discounts and the chance to reload a flawed roster. That's completely their right of course, and taking less to make sure you have more qualified co-workers is a an interesting idea.

— Big Papi David Ortiz hit homer No. 450. In the steroid era — and Papi's name has been at least whispered in some of those chats — is Papi a Hall of Famer?

  • photo
    Tiger Woods walks off the 11th green during the second round of the Quicken Loans National PGA golf tournament on Friday, June 27, 2014, in Bethesda, Md.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— Tiger returned to the course but managed to keep his weekend open for whatever. Woods' return was less than grand.

— According to news reports, someone with the online handle Blubbler beat Super Mario Brothers in less than five minutes. And somehow, we were amazingly impressed by that. Yes, Super Mario Brothers came out in 1985 — and if you are over 40 and say you never played it, well, hope you're comfortable living in that web of lies — and we watched some of Blubbler's highlights here. As we are wont to do here at the 5-at-10, we celebrate excellence, and today, that excellence belongs to Blubbler. "Ma, MEATLOAF!"


Today's question

As always, we have the Monday stalwart of who won the weekend. We feel certain this will come up on Press Row today on ESPN 105.1.

Still if you need more, let's discuss a Rushmore of almost all-timers in honor of Mike Tyson turning 47. This is our list of guys who were great, but because of one reason or another, despite a great and even Hall of Fame career, you can make a hard argument they still underachieved.

Discuss, and with Friday being the 4th, let's have at least a few Patriotic questions in the mailbag. Deal? Deal.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
WilliamRscott said...

WC Futbol needs sudden-death overtime. If a player falls out + the ball goes in the net, so be it. Game over. Current system is too much "playing not to lose".

Ortiz is a HOFer. Dude may be the best clutch hitter in the game today. Spy: what say you?


June 30, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.
chas9 said...

Is T. J. Yates any good? And what other quarterbacks join Y. A. Title on the all-initials Rushmore?

Since this forum last convened, the Directors' Cup 2014 results for best all-around sports has been announced. Again, Stanford won. Among SEC schools, Florida (again) was #2, Texas A&M was #10, and Kentucky was #11.

Gawga and Bama were #16 and #17. Auburn was #34 and Tennessee scratched at #40. Worst in the conference (again) were the Mississippi schools.

Think football should count more in the standings than rifle? Me, too. But seven years ago, when UT finished seventh, The Vols thought the overall sports picture mattered. Since then, UT has fallen apart and UK has zoomed upward.

And as of today, Mark Stoops has already gotten more four-star recruits than his three predecessors combined got in 11 years.

Best answer to the backseat questions is: If you don't shut up, I'm gonna pull this car over…

Best game of the year's first half? NCAA semifinal UK 74, Wisconsin 73. Cats' nailbiter wins over Wichita State, Michigan, and Louisville also deserve mention.

Dale Murphy is an almost-all-timer. Perhaps Bartkowski, too.

June 30, 2014 at 11:09 a.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Great stuff there. Front to back.

Our baseball almost all-timer is Ken Griffey Jr. If not for an injury or three, dude could have been the guy.

UK's ascent — especially in the women's sports — has been impressive.

Not a lot of initial QBs to phone about other Y.A. JT O'Sullivan and J.P. Losman come to mind but not in a good way. Those sound like craft breweries more than quarterbacks.

BiB —

Ortiz does get bonus points for money postseason performances. But are we ready to vote in a guy that we're not sure owns a glove?

June 30, 2014 at 11:54 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Who the heck does Jason Kidd think he is by demanding a role above the GM to oversee basketball operations? And this is after an underwhelming rookie season with an A-list roster. It's one thing to be driven; it's another thing to unrealistically and arrogantly expect more than you're worth. The Nets looked dumb by signing Kidd as their coach; now the Bucks look even dumber for giving up 2 draft picks to obtain Kidd. Next move for the Nets is to get a real coach (Lionel Hollins is rumored to be the frontrunner).

Best Athlete--Rafa Nadal--got his 9th French title and would have won the Aussie too if not for an injury that flared up in time for the final.

Best moment--Kevin Durant's MVP speech.

Worst moment--All of Super Bowl 48.

Best game--Florida St. vs. Auburn (sorry Jay).

June 30, 2014 at 1:53 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Ortiz plays first when the Sox visit a NL team (re: the Braves series) and does so in the World Series. He's actually not a bad first baseman. Just ask Jeff Suppan.

His postseason performance alone merits consideration for the Hall, and yes, that is through Red Sox-tinted glasses. Adam Dunn also has 450 homers (452) but Ortiz's batting average and RBI totals, coupled with his penchant for big hits at big times, makes him a little more worthy of a Cooperstown candidate.

Hooge sweep for the Braves. Then again, the NL East is an amalgam of various degrees of mediocrity. So too, alas, is the AL East.

Trout is worth the price of admission. Also does not appear to be a tool of the scale Bryce Harper is.

On the careers question - I go Eric Davis of the Reds and Dodgers, and you can throw Darryl Strawberry in there, too, though Straw's setbacks were more self-inflicted. When it comes to hoops, still thinking about what Reggie Lewis could have been had he lived saddens me. Injuries also impacted William Andrews' career with the Falcons.

And if his knees had ever been anywhere close to healthy, there is no telling the numbers Bobby Orr would have been able to put up for a career. Dude was an instant Hall of Famer the moment he retired because of what he had already accomplished - at the age of 30.

June 30, 2014 at 1:55 p.m.
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