Cubs/Giants Round 2 (and other sports)
August 23, 2015
Well after a makeup game for a rain out earlier this season there’s another big series for both the Giants and the Cubs coming up mid-week this week. Only this time instead of being played in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, they’ll be in the windy, McCovey Cove-surrounded AT&T Park in San Francisco.
After the Cubs swept the 4 game series earlier in the month, these games have even more significance for 2 reasons. First, it’s even later in the season now and the Giants only have 39 games left while the Cubs have 40 left (including Sundays games). Second is the way the division and wild care races are shaping up. Going into today the Cubs, who still have the 4th best record in baseball and 3rd best in their own division, are slotted into the second NL wild card spot. They are 3 games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1st wild card spot. However the Giants are only 5 games back for the Cubs so a sweep of the series would significantly tighten things up in that race. Here’s what the big picture looks like for not only the NL West and Central but the entire league including the Wild Card.
Don’t worry, I won’t spend more time this week ranting about my Cubbies. Instead I’m turning my focus towards the rest of the sporting world and some big, and small, stories which have popped up this past week. First up is some sad but hopeful news from the world of baseball which actually happened late last week but I decided to wait on the story until a little more was known. I’m speaking of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell who, late last week announced he had been diagnosed with an aggressive but early stage of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Luckily it seems to be highly treatable and something he can recover from after some chemotherapy which he started earlier this week. It was discovered earlier this month when he went in for surgery to repair a hernia and within a week was scheduled to start chemo. Obviously he will not be managing the rest of the season as he has three different 21-day treatments (including built-in rest). Wishing John a speedy and safe recovery.
Sticking with the Red Sox for a moment, I’d like to highlight another quick moment most of you missed unless you randomly happened to be watching the local broadcast of the Red Sox game versus the Cleveland Indians on Monday. The national anthem is something that doesn’t get shown a lot but this one was pretty special because of the young man singing it. Christopher Duffley, who is 14, is both blind and autistic. Now this isn’t the first, or certainly the last time, this will happen but I thought I’d highlight it this week There’s really not too much else to say because the video says everything so click here to read the full story and watch the video.
Next we’ll turn to a different type of baseball in the form of the Little League World Series which kicked off a little earlier this week on the 20th in Williamsport, PA. It wraps up next weekend on the 30th with the 68th official LLWS championship game. Now the game of baseball has been around for a long time but Little League baseball has been around for less than 100 years, in fact it started in the 1930s. The first official Little League game was played on June 6th, 1939 in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until 1946 that a team outside of Pennsylvania was formed although the number had already grown to 12 within PA. So once a team from New Jersey was formed they were off. The next year, 1947, saw the creation of a tournament to have all the teams play each in a tournament style format and crown a champion for the season.
When you think about where Little League came from and where it is today, encompassing 180,000 teams across the world it’s a true success story. However it is also an incredibly cutthroat sport compared to even regular baseball when you take some of the numbers into true perspective. First off just remember that number I just mentioned of how many teams there are across the world, granted not every single section of the world competes in the LLWS. Essentially each local area assembles an all-star team which plays other all-star squads in their slightly larger area. They continue playing up the ladder of district, sectional, state tournaments where each U.S. state can send 2 teams to regional, I’ll break those down below, and from there 8 total teams are selected, one for each region. Before we get into the International play, here’s a breakdown of the U.S. Regions and the teams representing them this year:
- New England (Rhode Island)
- Mid-Atlantic (Pennsylvania)
- Southeast (South Carolina)
- Great Lakes (Kentucky)
- Midwest (Missouri)
- Northwest (Oregon)
- Southwest (Texas East)
- West (Southern California)
Here’s where the cutthroat part comes in as there is an estimated 6,500 teams that originally compete for 8 spots. Then you add in another 8 international teams of which there are only about 500 teams competing from these regions:
- Latin America
- Europe-Middle East-Africa
So once all 16 teams reach the LLWS they are broken into 2 brackets, one for U.S. and one for International teams, and 2 pools within each bracket. The winner of each pool will play for the right to represent their area (either U.S. or International) in the championship game. Now there have obviously been a lot of milestones along the way but last year was remembered for 2 big ones … one good and one bad. First there was Mo’ne Davis who, although not the first girl to play in the LLWS, was the first girl to earn a win as a pitcher and pretty much dominated her opponents as she also pitched a shutout, another first of course for the Pennsylvania team which last year.
The other, not so great story, focused in on the U.S. team which was not only from my home state but also the U.S. champions who went on to place runner-up to South Korea, the 2014 champion. Well that was runner-up until they were stripped of their title of U.S. champion and it was awarded to the Las Vegas team who they had beat to make the championship game. What happened you may ask, well simply put the Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago, IL had recruited ineligible players. Truly a shame that the people in charge of putting this team together would jeopardize one of the greatest moments for these kids by, I can only assume knowingly, picking players who were from outside the regional boundaries set for the area.
Now as if this isn’t bad enough, a year later it still isn’t over. In June of this year JRW has filed a lawsuit against the Little League’s governing body. Not because they didn’t have players from outside their boundary, which they openly admit, but because they weren’t notified properly, in a timely manner and that it may have been fueled by other factors meaning they weren’t treated fairly compared to the other participating teams. Be that as it may, it would be a shame if Little League International did this but the fact remains that you originally put your team’s success and tournament in jeopardy so shame on you!
Finally one more quick non-baseball story for you this week but as you can imagine with not a lot of other sports going on it’s once again about golf. This is more about some history this past weekend at the PGA Championship by 2 players. First a huge congrats to Jason Day for winning the 2015 PGA Championship. I watched some of the last round and luckily caught the emotional end and 1st major for Day. It brought a tear to your eye to see his well up with them and hear parts of his journey. Here are a few facts about his path to his 1st major:
- His father enrolled him as junior member of a golf club when he was 6 years old however sadly passed away from stomach cancer when he was only 12
- Following his passing his mother needed to take out a second mortgage so he could attend school to focus on golf
- He attended both Kooralbyn International School and the Hills International Golf Academy in Australia where his coach at both was Colin Swatton (Kooralbyn closed which forced the switch to Hills)
- Colin is now his caddy and been a father figure for Day since they met when he was 12 and a half at Kooralbyn
- His wife and son travel around with him to just about every single tournament throughout the year in an RV they drive around in and they have another child on the way
- Last Sunday he not only won his 1st major but set the record for lowest total score in a major at -20
The other bit of golf history made this weekend was something that had been building all year. As you may know there are 4 major golf championships each year (The Masters, The U.S. Open, The Open and The PGA Championship). Now I wrote in my first post about how Jordan Speith was trying to win The Open for his 3rd consecutive major after winning both The Masters and The U.S. Open earlier this year. While he didn’t end up winning The Open (tied for 4th place) and he didn’t win the PGA Championship (2nd place) he did manage to make history with the lowest total score for the 4 combined majors in a calendar year at -54 narrowly beating out Tiger Woods’ mark of -53 in the 2000 majors. Another breakdown of this stat which was interesting was the number of strokes it took each to complete the 4 major tournaments in these record setting years. Woods took 1,095 strokes in 2000 and Speith took 1,090 in 2015. Speith also, finally, took over the #1 ranking in golf after his PGA Championship performance and if he keeps it up he should remain there for quite a while since he is only 22 after all.
Finally, because I thought the facts on the NFL arrests rates were so fascinating last week (and allegedly so did the rest of the world, here are some more to blow your mind/hurt your heart. This week we (and of course Mike Rosenberg who compiled all the data) take a look at the NCAA arrest rates. Again he focuses only on the last 5 years of arrests and breaks it down by school and then broken down by conference. So without further ado …
Quite surprising that Washington State is #1 by a large margin over Florida. So much so that I did some research and found this interesting article, of course from the Washington State University Cougarcenter, but still some good points are made as to how Rosenberg go this info and how “truly accurate” it actually is. Then I did a little more digging since it seemed the the Florida Gators may be the next one up. Well according to this ESPN Outside The Lines article they did in fact have a ton of criminal incidents and a ton of them involved athletes (as well as a good number which involved athletes in more than 1 incident). If you look at the full report though it brings to light even more facts and is quite the eye-opening read.
So until next week in sports … go Cubs!!!