Lots of big political stories that we’ll get to later. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the retirement of the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, Randy Johnson. Tim Marchman, over at cnnsi, has a great summary of his career that is worth reading. Beyond the stats (which were incredible), beyond the terror that he struck in opposing batters (remember when he threw over John Kruk’s head in the all-star game), beyond the imposing figure on the mound (6’10”) and beyond the death (that poor bird), Johnson was a great ambassador for the game and MLB will miss him.
I’ll never forget meeting him in 1999 at the all-star game in Boston. I was on the field with my Dad prior to the game (during batting practice) and was in heaven. Getting a high-five from Nomah. Meeting Stuart Scott and Chris Berman from ESPN. Having a conversation with Trevor Hoffman. Watching Griffey and Manny joking around and take batting practice. Being in awe as McGwire, and Sosa ambled by. But the highlight, without question, was when Randy Johnson emerged from the dugout. As he walked towards us, I quickly took off the Red Sox hat I’d been wearing (I’m no fool) and hid it behind my back. He walked right up to us, reached around me, took my hat and put it back on my head. “Kid” he said to me. “Kid, don’t ever be ashamed of who you root for. Root with pride.” With a laugh he added “unless it’s the Yankees of course.” (ironic because he later played for them) Then he signed an autograph for me, took pictures with my dad and me, chatted with us for a while and then went out to the field to warm up for the game. From that moment forward (except for that brief stint when he wore pinstripes), he was always my favorite non-Red Sox player.
Despite one of the most rollercoaster seasons the Pats have had in a long time, the drubbing of the Jags yesterday meant that we are, once again, AFC East Champions. This has been a challenging few months for the Patriots but they really seem to be rounding into form now, when it matters most. Brady is playing better, the D is thriving under the new and simplified schemes, the O Line is playing really well and Faulk, Taylor, Morris and Maroney have given the Patriots a respectable running game. To be sure questions remain: Who is the third receiver? Can Maroney get those tough yards at the goal line without fumbling? How will the young defense hold up in the playoffs? Answers to these questions will go a long way towards determining if the Patriots have a real chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy again this year. What we do know about the team is that they are hungry and they have heart. The enthusiasm I saw on the field last Sunday will certainly help them going forward. That, combined with the best coach in the NFL, makes them a scary team in the playoffs – even if they may not be the most talented on paper. Should be fun to watch!
Now, if you are a fan of any of the teams on the bubble, ESPN has a great rundown of exactly what you need to have happen to make it to the playoffs. Good luck sorting it all out! So who will the final 2 in the AFC be? For my money, I think Denver and Baltimore will be those lucky teams to sneak in. But we shall see.