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Terrell Who? Today is Jerry Kramer’s Day 0

Posted on August 04, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Jerry Kramer was a key part of the famous Packer power sweep.

Jerry Kramer was a key part of the famous Packer power sweep.

When we started Sports Then and Now nine years ago, one of the first things we did was create a list of former NFL players who we felt were deserving of being included in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but up until that time had been snubbed for induction.

Number one on that list was former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer. Today, Kramer’s name can finally be removed from that list.

While one member of the Hall of Fame class of 2018 is trying to steal the attention by focusing on what he believes was a personal snub not to be a first-year inductee, in reality, his perceived snub and hardship is nothing compared to what Jerry Kramer has endured over the last half century.

When the NFL announced the 50th Anniversary All-NFL Team in 1969, Jerry Kramer was one of the two offensive guards named to the team. Yet, it took until just one year before the 100th Anniversary All-NFL Team will be announced before Kramer was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Green Bay Packers of the 1960s were one of the great dynasty teams in NFL history. Kramer will join 12 other members of the 1960s Packers (plus Coach Vince Lombardi) in the Hall of Fame.

Kramer retired after the 1968 season and was first listed as a Hall of Fame finalist in 1974. Initially, it seemed likely that Kramer would be inducted pretty quickly. He was a finalist seven times in an eight year stretch between 1974 and 1981 while seven of his teammates were inducted.

At that time, Kramer wasn’t the only 1960s Packer having to wait his turn for induction. In 1981, two of his former teammates, Willie Davis and Jim Ringo, were inducted in their sixth and seventh years as a finalist, respectively. Later in the decade, Paul Hornung was selected in his 12th year as a finalist in 1986 and Willie Wood in 1989 in his 10th time as a finalist.

Kramer was again a finalist in 1984 and 1987, but still had not yet received the call. Read the rest of this entry →

Wake Up Baseball Fans – WAR is Fake and Meaningless 2

Posted on July 28, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Mike Trout is a great player, but sabermetrics thinks he is one of the greatest of all-time.

Mike Trout is a great player, but sabermetrics thinks he is one of the greatest of all-time.

As a baseball fan who has been paying attention to baseball stats since the early 1970s when my primary motivation to learn to read was so I could read the statistics on the back of baseball cards, I have reached my limit with those baseball “stat geeks” who have taken the game I love and turned it into a mathematical equation that seems more designed to show how smart they are rather than really identifying who the best baseball players are.

I started reaching my limit over the last several years when the sabermetrics craze has minimized some baseball greats while pushing others to a higher level, regardless of what their real statistics say.

The greatest example of this is Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout. If you judge baseball based simply on sabermetrics, you will likely try to argue that he is the greatest baseball player since Babe Ruth, heck, maybe even better.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Mike Trout is a great player, but I am not yet ready to consider him in the same conversation as some of the all-time greats.

Earlier this year, there was an article claiming that Trout was on his way to having the greatest single season in baseball since Ruth. That sounds amazing, but at the time he was hitting .below .300 and was not ranked among the league leaders in home runs or runs batted in.

What the sabermetrics folks have done is change the definition of what is considered important in judging the success and greatness of a baseball player.

For generations, batting average, home runs, extra base hits and runs batted in were the primary stats used to judge greatness. Heck, those were most of the stats listed on baseball cards when I was growing up. Secondary to those would be things like runs scored, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

Beginning in the mid-1980s with the publication of Bill James Baseball Abstract and continuing at a greater pace as fantasy baseball (originally known as rotisserie baseball) started building in popularity, there has been a growing desire among some baseball fans to look at the value of players in different ways.

Bill James originally devised the idea of “win shares” and that concept has been taken to a greater extent through sabermetrics with what is now considered by some baseball fans as “THE” measurement statistic of a player’s value known as WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

While I am not going to pretend to know enough about WAR to explain how it is computed, it is very clear that at some level WAR is designed to reward players who do more than just get base hits, drive in runs and hit home runs. Players who score well in WAR tend to get on base a lot, score runs and are quality defensive players.

In 2012 there was quite an uproar when the old school baseball definition of greatness clashed head-on with the new school definition of value for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

At first glance, the 2012 AL MVP voting should have been a “no brainer”. Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera had an amazing season in becoming the first American Leaguer since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the triple crown (lead the league in home runs, batting average and RBIs). Read the rest of this entry →

Novak Djokovic is Back! 0

Posted on July 15, 2018 by Dean Hybl
It was a long road back for Novak Djokovic to claim the 2018 Wimbledon title.

It was a long road back for Novak Djokovic to claim the 2018 Wimbledon title.

In the sports world it is interesting how two years can feel like a lifetime. It was only two years ago that Novak Djokovic had entered Wimbledon as the first men’s player in nearly 50 years to hold all four tennis major titles at the same, yet, much has transpired in the tennis world from that moment until Djokovic finally hoisted another major trophy with a three set win over Kevin Anderson at the 2018 Wimbledon.

Initially, the stunning third round loss by Djokovic to Sam Querry at the 2016 Wimbledon looked like just a blimp on the radar. Djokovic solidified his place as the number one player in the world by reaching the finals at the U.S. Open, though he lost in four sets to Stan Wawrinka.

What no one could have predicted at the time was that not only would Djokovic not win another major for nearly two years, but after making the finals in 19 of the previous 25 majors would not get past the quarterfinals in six straight majors and would fall out of the top 20 in the world rankings.

After losing in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open and quarterfinals of both the French Open and Wimbledon, Djokovic missed the 2017 U.S. Open due to an elbow injury. He reached the fourth round of the 2018 Australian Open, but after the tournament underwent elbow surgery.

It was a good sign that he was able to return for the 2018 French Open, but a four set loss to unranked Marco Cecchinato gave new question as to whether Djokovic would ever return to his previous form.

When Djokovic held all four major titles entering the 2016 Wimbledon not only had he done something previously done only by Rod Laver in the open era, but he was beginning to make a case for himself as the greatest player of his era, perhaps even ahead of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

However, over the past two years not only did Djokovic struggle, but Nadal and Federer both had a resurgence.

After combining for only one major title between 2014 and 2016 (Nadal winning 2014 French Open), Nadal and Federer split the four majors in 2017 (Federer won Australian and Wimbledon and Nadal claimed French and U.S. Open). They then began 2018 with Federer repeating at the Australian Open for his 20th Grand Slam and Nadal winning the French Open for his 17th.

Though Djokovic’s win at the 2018 Wimbledon breaks that streak and gives him 13 major titles, the 31-year-old now has much more work to do if he hopes to significantly narrow the gap between his titles and those of his two rivals. Read the rest of this entry →

LeBron to the Lakers! What’s the Big Deal? 0

Posted on July 04, 2018 by Dean Hybl
LeBron James will become the 20th out of the top 83 scorers in NBA history to play for the Lakers.

LeBron James will become the 20th out of the top 83 scorers in NBA history to play for the Lakers.

If you are surprised by NBA superstar LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers then you obviously are not much of a follower of basketball history.

Once LeBron officially takes the court for the Lakers, he will become the sixth of the top eight scorers in NBA history to wear the purple and gold for the Lakers. Currently the seventh leading scorer in league history, James will join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (first), Karl Malone (second), Kobe Bryant (third), Wilt Chamberlain (fifth) and Shaquille O’Neal (eighth). Only Michael Jordan (fourth) and Dirk Nowitzki (sixth) among the top eight never player in Los Angeles.

But looking at career scoring really only scratches the surface in terms of how normal it is for NBA greats to play for the Lakers.

Though not in the top 10 in all-time scoring, Jerry West (21st), Elgin Baylor (29th), Magic Johnson (77th) and James Worthy (102nd) all were all-time greats who spent their entire careers playing for the Lakers. Of course we also cannot forget the first great NBA player, George Mikan, who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA titles in six years and won three scoring titles during his seven year career.

Others from among the top 100 scorers of all-time who spent at least a portion of their career with the Lakers include Adrian Dantley (28th), Gary Payton (32nd), Pau Gasol (39th), Mitch Richmond (41st), Antawn Jamison (44th), Gail Goodrich (52nd), Bob McAdoo (61st), Glen Rice (68th), Dwight Howard (70th), Lou Hudson (73rd) and Steve Nash (83rd). Read the rest of this entry →

Bill Freehan: Michigan Man 2

Posted on May 12, 2018 by Dean Hybl

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was an 11-time American League All-Star at one of the most demanding positions in baseball, yet outside of Detroit his exploits have been largely forgotten.

For more than a decade, Bill Freehan was the rock behind home plate for the Detroit Tigers. In addition to earning All-Star honors 10 straight years and 11 times overall, Freehan was a five-time Gold Glove winner and in 1968 finished second in the American League in the MVP voting.

A true “Michigan Man”, Freehan played his entire sports career representing teams from Michigan. Read the rest of this entry →

44 Years Ago: Number 44 Became Number 1 1

Posted on April 08, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Hank Aaron being celebrated after hitting career home run number 715 on April 8, 1974

Hank Aaron being celebrated after hitting career home run number 715 on April 8, 1974

It was 44 years ago today, April 8, 1974, that Hank Aaron, wearing number 44 for the Atlanta Braves, broke the seemingly unbreakable home run record of Babe Ruth with his 715th career home run.

In the decades since, the home run in baseball has lost some of its individual luster as juiced balls, juiced bats and juiced people (not to mention shrunken ballparks) have made the home run a much more common occurrence than in past generations.

However, that “cheapening” of the home run has in some ways elevated the realization of just how amazing it was for Aaron to amass more than 700 home runs despite playing much of his career during a time when baseball wasn’t geared to make it easier to hit home runs.

Few players have displayed the long-term consistency of greatness that Aaron compiled during his career. From 1955 through 1973 (19 years), he finished in the top 17 in the National League MVP voting every year, including 13 times in the top 10 and winning the award in 1957.

He led the National League in home runs four times and blasted 40 or more home runs in a season eight times. He hit a career-high 47 at the age of 37 in 1971 and two years later hit 40 home runs in just 120 games.

While his total of 755 career home runs has technically been passed, Aaron is still recognized by many as the Home Run King. His 2,297 career RBIs and 6,856 total bases are still the highest totals in Major League history. Not to mention, he finished his career with 3,771 career hits and a .305 career batting average.

In celebration of the 44th anniversary of his record-setting home run, check out videos of that blast as well as Aaron’s career.

 

Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Bill Freehan: Michigan Man
      May 12, 2018 | 6:21 pm

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was an 11-time American League All-Star at one of the most demanding positions in baseball, yet outside of Detroit his exploits have been largely forgotten.

      For more than a decade, Bill Freehan was the rock behind home plate for the Detroit Tigers. In addition to earning All-Star honors 10 straight years and 11 times overall, Freehan was a five-time Gold Glove winner and in 1968 finished second in the American League in the MVP voting.

      A true “Michigan Man”, Freehan played his entire sports career representing teams from Michigan.

      Read more »

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