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Sports Then and Now



Flash and Burn – Rookie of the Year Doesn’t Guarantee Long-term Greatness 5

Posted on June 18, 2017 by Dean Hybl

 

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was a baseball phenomenon in 1976.

Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was a baseball phenomenon in 1976.

The recent Major League Baseball Draft has brought a new crop of prospects vying to one day secure major league stardom. It is likely that a significant number of players selected in the draft will reach the majors, but even if they achieve short-term success, forging a long and successful career is much harder.

Many players who burst onto the scene as rookies have struggled to maintain that success over the long-term. Below is a look at some former Rookie of the Year winners whose careers soon flamed out.

Earl Williams – 1971 NL Rookie of the Year: At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Earl Williams was a powerfully built versatile player who was primarily a third baseman when he came up with the Atlanta Braves late in the 1970 season. After hitting .368 in 10 games in 1970, Williams earned a starting position for 1971. He began the season at third base, but despite having never played catcher in the minors was soon planted behind the plate and caught 71 games out of the 145 he played as a rookie, On a team with all-time slugger Hank Aaron, Williams proved to be another valuable weapon as he finished second on the squad with 33 home runs and 87 RBI while hitting .260. Playing primarily behind the plate the next season, Williams again had strong offensive numbers with 28 home runs and 87 RBI. However, after striking out only 80 times as a rookie, he whiffed 118 times in 1972. The Braves traded him to Baltimore in the offseason for second baseman Davey Johnson and several other players. He gave Baltimore much needed offensive pop in 1973 with 22 home runs and 83 RBI. His power numbers started to decline in 1974 as he hit only 14 home runs with 52 RBI. He was traded back to Atlanta after the season and spent a year and a half with the Braves before finishing the 1976 season in Montreal. After being released by the Expos, he hit 13 home runs with 38 RBI for the Oakland A’s in 1977. That proved to be the end of the line for Williams, who finished his career with 138 home runs, 457 RBI and a career batting average of .247. He passed away from Leukemia in 2013.

Mark “The Bird” Fidrych – 1976 AL Rookie of the Year: Few players have enjoyed the meteoric rise or quick fall of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. Earning a spot on the Detroit Tigers roster as a rookie in 1976, Fidrych made only two relief appearances during the first month of the season. However, in his first major league start on May 15th, he allowed the Indians only two hits and one run in a 2-1 complete game victory and the legend of “The Bird” had begun. With his curly hair and lanky body, Fidrych quickly was dubbed “The Bird” in reference to Sesame Street character Big Bird. He also entertained the crowd with his many mannerisms, including grooming the mound and talking to the baseball. Though he lost a 2-0 decision to Boston in his next start, Fidrych rebounded to win his next eight starts, with seven complete games, including back-to-back 11 inning performances. He took his act national on June 28th when more than 32 million people watched on ABC’s Monday Night Baseball as he defeated the New York Yankees 5-1. After losing a 1-0 decision to Kansas City on July 9th, Fidrych entered the All-Star game with a 9-2 record and 1.78 ERA and was named the American League starter for the All-Star Game. For the season, Fidrych completed 24 of 29 starts (five of which went extra innings) and had a 19-9 record and 2.34 ERA in 250 innings. He won the Rookie of the Year Award and finished second in the Cy Young voting. Fidrych suffered a knee injury while fooling around in the outfield in spring training before the 1977 season. However, he appeared fine after his return as he posted a 6-4 record with a 2.89 ERA, but suffered a shoulder injury (later diagnosed as a torn rotator cuff) that proved to be the beginning of the end of his career. He would make only 19 starts for the Tigers over the next three seasons with a 4-6 record. The Massachusetts native tried to make a comeback with the Boston Red Sox, but eventually retired after pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Fidrych died on April 13, 2009 after an accident on his farm.   Read the rest of this entry →

ST&N 2012 NFL Awards 0

Posted on January 03, 2013 by Andy Larmand

While the NFL won’t give out its real awards until Super Bowl time, I will make my predictions for who will be receiving said awards. Only one thing is certain as of right now: the best of 2012 have a lot to live up to next year. It’s time, for me at least, to tell everyone who will win the awards in February and why.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuehly not only led the 10th-ranked defense of the Carolina Panthers in tackles as a rookie. He led the entire division. He led the entire NFC. And just for good measure, he led all of the NFL in tackles as a rookie fresh out of Boston College. Kuechly, a 6-foot-3-inch, 235-pound linebacker, finished the season with 164 tackles, 15 ahead of NaVorro Bowman of the 49ers who had 149 on the year. He’s begun to transform the defense of the Panthers, which just last year, was 28th in the league. Out of the 17 defenders drafted in the first round of this past year’s draft, Kuechly was far and away the most productive. The next most was Bucs‘ safety Mark Barron, who had 89 tackles on the year. Carolina gave up 22.7 points per game in 2012 after allowing 26.8 last season. Kuechly was instrumental in holding strong offensive opponents like the Giants, Seahawks, Cowboys and Chargers to seven, 12, 14 and seven points, respectively. My 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly.

2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly.

2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: In a season that was definitely going to result in one of the first two picks in the draft winning this award, it just had to be determined whether it would be Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. So, with that being said, my offensive rookie of the year is Russell Wilson. Wilson is just as much of a two-way threat as the other two and threw more touchdown passes than his two fellow rookie quarterbacks. In fact, Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s 1998 record for the most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26 on the year. In the month of December, when the games mattered most, Wilson quarterbacked a Seattle team that put up 150 points in a three-game span. And he didn’t even enter training camp as the team’s starter. His 69.6 QBR was eighth in the league, just behind Griffin and just ahead of Luck, while his 100.0 passer rating was fourth in the league, just behind Griffin and well ahead of Luck. Neither the Seahawks, nor the Redskins or Colts would likely be in the playoffs without their rookie quarterback, so it kind of came down to stats in making this decision. My 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Russell Wilson.

2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Russell Wilson.

2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year: Russell Wilson.

Coach of the Year: What a year it was for the Colts. It takes a special coach to turn a 2-14 team into an 11-5 team and make the playoffs in the tough AFC South. It’s even more impressive that he did it in an interim role with all that must have been on his mind after head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in October. Bruce Arians took over the team and, under his direction, they never lost focus and were able to win 11 games. They became just the seventh team ever to win at least nine more games than they did the previous year. Pagano has since returned and will coach the team in the playoffs, but they would not be there without the job that Arians did. To keep the team composed under those unbelievably difficult circumstances and to actually succeed on the field at the same time is so impressive and incredibly unique. Some season highlights for Indianapolis included wins against teams like the Texans, Vikings and Packers. My 2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians.

2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians.

2012 Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians.

Read the rest of this entry →

Martin, Marshall and Mikel Headline Week 9 NFL Storylines 1

Posted on November 06, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Buccaneers’ rookie running back, Doug Martin, had a day for the ages on Sunday, rushing for 251 yards and four touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s 42-32 win over the Raiders.

In case anyone forgot why we love this game so much, here are a few incredible achievements, outcomes and performances to remind us all.

Tampa Bay rookie running back, Doug Martin had perhaps the performance of the year in the Bucs’ 42-32 win over the Raiders on Sunday. Martin ran the ball 25 times for a franchise-record 251 yards and not one, not two, not three, but four touchdowns. He was responsible for 24 out of Tampa Bay’s 42 points and 220 of those yards came in the 2nd half. The 251 yards was good fir the third-most all-time by a rookie behind Demarco Murray and Adrian Peterson. If you don’t know Doug Martin, now you know.

Not surprisingly, this performance gave him the top spot in fantasy football leagues this week, as he racked up 51, yes 51, points in standard ESPN leagues. He became just the third Tampa running back to ever rush for 200 yards in a game. He also became the first Buc to rush for 130 yards in consecutive games. More importantly, the Bucs won just their fourth ever game in the state of California.

Wow. Talk about Andrew Luck or RG3 being offensive Rookie of the Year may just have to be put on hold as Martin has combined for 386 yards and five touchdowns in the past two weeks. He has a total of 794 yards on the year, is the top rookie runner in the league after nine weeks and is second overall, trailing only Peterson, who incidentally had a huge day himself on Sunday, running for 182 yards and two scores on just 17 carries.

Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Detroit’s Mikel Leshoure also had huge days in wins by their respective teams. Marshall caught nine balls for 122 yards and three touchdowns in the Bears‘ 51-20 drubbing of the Titans and Leshoure ran 16 times for 70 yards and three scores of his own as the Lions bested the Jaguars 31-14. It was the first time since 2008 that a Lions player had scored three rushing touchdowns in a game. Matthew Stafford reached 10,000 career passing yards in his 37th career game and became the 2nd-fastest to ever do it behind Kurt Warner, who did it in 36 games.

In that Bears win, Brian Urlacher picked off a Matt Hasselbeck pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown. This marked the seventh interception return for a touchdown by the Bears D this season, just two shy of the all-time NFL single-season record. The 51 points the Bears scored are their most since they scored 61 against the Packers in 1980. Titans running back, Chris Johnson, scored on an 80-yard run in the 4th quarter. Two weeks ago, Johnson ran for his fourth career score of 80 yards or more, breaking an NFL record. His fifth adds to his own record.

The Giants and Steelers played an exciting one in East Rutherford as Pittsburgh, trailing 20-10 entering the 4th quarter, scored the game’s final 14 points to win 24-20. For a change, Ben Roethlisberger, and not Eli Manning, led his team to a 4th quarter comeback. Sorry, I don’t have a stat that says how many 4th quarter leads Manning has blown. Steelers running back, Isaac Redman ran 26 times for 147 yards and a TD as both Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer were out with injuries. With their 35 rushing attempts in the game, Pittsburgh improved to 17-1 under Mike Tomlin when running the ball at least 35 times in a game. Due to Hurricane Sandy, the Steelers only got to New Jersey on Sunday morning.

Out west, maybe they are who we thought they were, as the Cardinals have lost their fifth straight game after a 4-0 start. Without Kevin Kolb, they are forced to start John Skelton, who is 0-4 in four starts since Kolb went down. They fell 31-17 to the Packers at Lambeau Field and still have never won a game there (0-6).

Elsewhere, the aforementioned Luck, has the Colts over .500. They beat the Dolphins, who had won three straight, 23-20 on Sunday for their third straight win. After reaching the 4-3 mark last week, Indy is over .500 for the first time since the end of Peyton Manning’s last season in 2010. Luck became the second rookie in NFL history with four 300-yard passing games in his first year. The other? Manning. Luck finished with 433 passing yards on the day – a new rookie record. He also has four 4th quarter or overtime game-winning drives through eight games. The four other rookie QB’s have combined for four among them. And if that wasn’t enough, Luck’s 2,404 passing yards through his first eight games are the most ever by a rookie.

Cowboys tight end, Jason Witten tied and broke the team’s all-time receptions record in Sunday night’s loss to the undefeated Falcons as he caught seven balls for 51 yards to bring his career total to 754. He passed Michael Irvin, who was the Cowboys’ leader with 751, for the honor. The Falcons did get the win and improved to 8-0 as the last undefeated team left in the league. Six of the last 14 teams to open a season 8-0 have won the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan improved to 30-4 in his career at home, the best home win percentage (.882) by a quarterback since the merger. Tony Gonzalez became just the second player ever to register 15 50-reception seasons. The other is Jerry Rice.

The Panthers finally got their second win of the season as Cam Newton’s squad got the best of Robert Griffin’s, 21-13. Griffin did outperform Newton both in the air and on the ground, however as he and running back, Alfred Morris, became the first pair of rookie teammates to each rush for 500 yards in a season since 1976 and it is the first time ever that this has happened with one of the rushers being a quarterback. Interestingly, the Redskins have not won their last game before Election Day since 1992.

The Bills fell 21-9 to the Texans as defensive tackle, Mario Williams, made his return to Houston. He led Buffalo with seven tackles (two for a loss) and recorded one of their two sacks. For the first time in five weeks, the Bills allowed less than 175 rushing yards as they only surrendered 118.

The week started off with the Chargers scoring 21 4th quarter points to beat the Chiefs 31-13 in a battle of struggling AFC West teams. Kansas City has lost five in a row and still has not led at any point in their eight games this season (1-7). This is the first time since 1929 that has happened, according to Elias.

San Diego had lost three in a row after beating the Chiefs 37-20 in Week 4. Antonio Gates caught his 79th career touchdown, leaving him two behind the Chargers all-time record of 81 set by Lance Alworth. Though they only gave up a single touchdown to San Diego, the Chiefs have now been outscored 61-6 in the 1st quarter this season. Philip Rivers threw his first red-zone interception of the year, but also set a Chargers record by completing 90% of his passes (18-20).

The Broncos beat the Bengals 31-23 and improved to 5-3 atop the AFC West. The Bengals fell to 3-5. Eric Decker caught eight balls for 99 yards and two touchdowns. He now has a TD catch in five straight games, one shy of the franchise record. Trindon Holliday returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown and claimed the longest touchdown in Broncos history.

Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, threw a touchdown pass in his 51st straight game on Monday night against the Eagles. Brees extended his own record with the throw. Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, had a bye in Week 9. The pass went to Marques Colston and it was the 54th time those two have hooked up for a score, tied for the 11th most in NFL history.

Patrick Robinson picked off a Michael Vick pass in the red-zone and returned in 99 yards to give the Saints a 7-0 lead in the 1st quarter. The Eagles have scored a grand total of seven points in the 1st quarter this season after being shut out on Monday night. After a lackluster previous three games, however, LeSean McCoy broke out for 119 yards, but just 17 of those came in the 2nd half.

New Orleans has now won eight in a row on Monday night, the second longest streak all-time and the longest active. This ties the Eagles’ longest losing streak under head coach, Andy Reid, and the first time that all four NFC East teams lost in the same week since Week 13 in 2011. Vick was sacked seven times for 46 yards and took many more hits as he tried to scramble to make something happen. The Saints have won 12 straight games in the month of November.

Some information taken from ESPN Stats & Info.

 

 Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

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      Gino Cappelletti

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