Matt Cain's perfect game has me wondering about a lesson from a classic "Peanuts" strip.
There's an old Peanuts comic strip that I think about often. It's an old Sunday strip and, in it, Linus comes running out of his house due to sheer excitement. As he breathlessly explains to Charlie Brown, he has just witnessed the most amazing, improbable comeback in football history. It wasn't the famous Stanford "Band on the field!!" game, but it very well could have been inspired by that game. Linus takes panel after panel describing the play on the field and, then, the over-the-top excitement of the fans in the stands. People storming the field, players rolling around in giddiness... finally, Linus lets out a exhausted, happy sigh. "It was fantastic!"
Charlie Brown, who had been quietly listening to the whole thing, responds as only Charlie Brown can. "How did the other team feel?"
Cycling is, above all, a team sport, and the tactics involved are as complicated as those of baseball or basketball. "Ever try to explain the infield fly to somebody?" Armstrong asked me when we were in Texas, where he lives when he is not racing or training in Europe. --New Yorker, 2002
Could Houston's historically bad squad hold its own against Charlie Brown's band of lovable losers?
The Houston Astros awoke on Opening Day this year knowing they were the worst team in the National League Central. Even with some quality players in Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, and Wandy Rodriguez, the Houston squad was never going to match up against the Ryan Brauns or Albert Pujolses or Joey Vottos of the division. A hundred games later, as the July 31 trade deadline approached, General Manager Ed Wade and the rest of the front office acknowledged that weakness, trading away the club's two best players in Bourn and Pence for a handful of prospects from the Phillies and Braves. Fans already knew that the 35-73 club was out of contention for 2011, but the trades showed them beyond the shadow of a doubt that the team probably wouldn't be good in 2012 (or even 2013) either.
That's all well and good, but it doesn't wash away the fact that, with a .325 winning percentage heading into Monday, the Astros were on pace for the franchise’s worst record and a 110-loss season. Even before Pence and Bourn were traded, Houston was near the bottom of the league in runs per game, but remarkably, the team's offense was actually better than the team's pitching, as the staff sat dead last in runs allowed per game.
Finding a novel way to measure Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.
With Duke Snider's passing this weekend, there's been a lot of discussion of the three great New York centerfielders of the 1950s - the famous "Willie, Mickey, and the Duke" trio. And with good cause: Snider was a great player who, for better or worse, will always be tied to those two all-time greats. The fact that he wasn't the equal of Mays or Mantle is no blemish on his fine career.
There is at least one other metric that we can use to compare the three centerfielders that I think many have neglected. We'll call it the "Charlie Brown Coefficient."