7/16/41=56

7/16/41=56
When we think of records that seem to be unbreakable, one invariably always comes up. That would be the 56-game hitting streak of Joe DiMaggio. On July 16, 1941, Joltin’ Joe extended his hitting streak to that magical number of 56 games…unbelievable. So unbelievable that in that same year, there was s song (Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio by Les Brown, sung by Betty Bonney) written about it. Since that time, there have been many noble tries to eclipse that mark, but in reality no one has really come close. I remember watching Pete Rose take a hitting streak to 44-games in 1978. It was enthralling stuff to a 14 year-old baseball infatuated teenager. My friends and I used to watch this event unfold on a daily basis, and we were disappointed when it ended in August 1st of that season.
Of course, this has got me thinking. What other MLB records are ‘untouchable’? Before McGuire / Sosa, it was thought that the home run records of Babe Ruth (60 in 154 games) or Roger Maris (61 in 162 games) was unbreakable. Well, WRONG!!! In the summer of 1998, Mark McGuire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs gave us an unbelievable fireworks show, with BOTH of them eclipsing Ruth and Maris. In fact, between Mark and Sammy, they would surpass the 60 or 61 home run mark 5 more times. This would stand as the gold standard of slugging until 2001, when Barry Bonds hit 73 dingers. Of course, now I have to ask if the 73* mark will ever be broken…
Let’s give the pitchers some love also. The modern era (post-1900) record for strikeouts is 383, set in 1973 by one Nolan Ryan. A close second is the 382 K’s by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Randy ‘Big Unit’ Johnson came close in 2001 with 372, and there have been several other worthy mentions, but in my humble opinion I don’t see anyone breaking Ryan’s mark. As good as Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner are, and as good as I think Jacob deGrom may become, breaking Ryan’s record is a tall order.
And now on to Mount Olympus. Lou Gehrig was considered to be the Iron Man. His 2,130 straight games played was thought to be unbreakable, until Cal Ripken Jr. did just that on the night of September 6th, 1995. Ripken became the all-time Iron Man. Ripken would go on to set the new consecutive game record at 2,632. I also do not ever see this record falling.
Whenever I think of records and how they are considered untouchable, I am reminded of one Roger Bannister. You may have heard of him. Roger Bannister is the first human being to ever break the 4-minute mile. On May 4th, 1954, Bannister accomplished what many experts considered to be a ‘physical impossibility’. It was believed that the human pulmonary and respiratory systems were simply incapable of supporting such an effort, and that the human heart would just explode. The experts were wrong, and since that historic day, the sub 4-minute mile is almost routine.
Oh. My original point. On this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio etched himself in the Mount Rushmore of baseball immortals with his 56-gamne hitting streak. Many have tried to equal it. All have failed. It is a record that I do not see ever being broken.

Joltin' Joe DiMaggio

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

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2015 MLB All-Star Game…Something is Fishy.

The 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is now in our rearview mirror. Kudos to the City of Cincinnati for hosting a great event for the baseball world. There are some elements of the two day baseball fest that I want to discuss.

Let’s start with the Home Run Derby. I generally do not watch the ‘skills competition’ in any sport, which would explain my revulsion at the shootout in the National Hockey League, as well as the compulsory 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 in their overtimes. But that is a debate best left to another forum. The Home Run Derby had become this tedious, almost mind-numbing exercise. I was not sure that an imposed time limit would help, but I was pleasantly surprised and quite happy to be wrong. I have to admit that it is better now. I am not going to say that the ending felt scripted, but really…Todd Frazier, the hometown kid, winning the competition by one home run with precious little time left on the clock? You be the judge.

Next up, the Pete Rose saga. If MLB wanted to instill a sense of insane frenzied emotion, why didn’t Commissioner Manfred announce that he was going to reinstate Rose? It would have been appropriate given that the game was in Cincinnati. At least that is what I thought at first glance. But then I thought about it a little more, and I drew a very different conclusion. If the Commissioner had done that, it would have basically allowed the spectre of the whole Pete Rose debate to hijack the entire event, and THAT would have been wrong. It would have taken the attention away from the people who truly deserved it, and that is the players on the field. Rose got some love, and a 1 minute 20 second standing ovation by being allowed to participate in the ‘Franchise Four’ ceremonies, and he was on one of the television promos. That should be enough for now. The Pete Rose soap opera will be best left to another time.

And now, for the game itself. I’ll get right to it….how did Mike Trout win the MVP award in this game? Yes, he opened the game with a leadoff HR off of Zach Greinke. Sorry baseball fans, but I was not impressed. Trout was the first batter Greinke faced. His adrenaline was pumping. He was not dialed in yet, and he had not settled down into his normal pitching rhythm. It is not a huge surprise that Trout took him over the wall. If you look at how Greinke pitched AFTER the Trout bomb, it is a very different story. My point is that a single home run at the very beginning of a game should not an MVP make. There were other performances that were much more worthy. How about Lorenzo Cain? He had a great night, going 2 for 3 with an RBI. Prince Fielder had a pretty good night with the stick as well. But thinking a little outside the box a little bit, an argument can be made that Zach Greinke could have been the MVP. If we break down what MVP actually is about, it is for the player who was the most valuable to his team. The HR that Greinke allowed had no bearing on the outcome of the game. It was also the only hit that he allowed, and that goes along with the 4 K’s that he rang up. Pretty valuable if you ask me. How about Jacob DeGrom of the Mets.  He strikes out three hitters on TEN pitches (9 is the absolute minimum)… In the All-Star game! Impressive, no? Who does that?

Don’t misconstrue my meaning. Mike Trout is a great player. He is possibly, okay, probably the best player in the Major Leagues now. He is deserving of all the accolades that he receives…almost. In my opinion, he was not the MVP of the 2015 All-Star game. But Trout has become the face of MLB, and MLB needs to sell that image. Who will sell more merchandise and tickets for MLB, Trout or Lorenzo Cain? DUH! In a time of sky-rocketing contracts and other distractions, MLB needs a fresh faced 23year-old stud outfielder like Mike Trout to be its representative. It is great for the game to be sure. In the wings are players like Kris Bryant, Alex Gordon, Andrew McCutchen, Brock Holt, Joc Pederson, and many others, but today it is Mike Trout….a great player. I am just not sure that he deserved the ASG MVP this year.