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Archive for March, 2010

Steve Balboni

Steve Balboni was 225 lbs of twisted steel and pain.  Okay, that may be a bit much, but the guy was a beast…a total beast.  He was listed at 225 lbs, but was probably closer to 250 and instead of steel, picture pudding.  Balboni was a big man who could hit a baseball a country mile.  Check out this career line:

  • 181 HR, .229 AVG, .293 OBP

In other words, Balboni usually homered or got himself out.  Steve was a second round pick by the New York Yankees back in 1978 and showed his big power right away in the minor leagues.  He hit 164 home runs in the minors, including at least 30 jacks a year as a youngster from 1980-1982.  Balboni and his big swing (and bigger mustache) made their debut with the Yankees in 1981, but he just could not crack the regular playing rotation.

Following the 1983 season, the Bronx Bombers sent Balboni (and his mustache) to the Kansas City Royals for a bag of balls.  Balboni immediately stepped up as a regular in KC and hit 28 homers  and finished 19th in MVP voting as the Royals won the AL West.  The following season, Balboni and the Royals were even better as Steve crushed a career-high 36 home runs and the Royals won the World Series.  That same season however, Balboni led the AL in strike outs with 166, something that would plague him throughout his career.

Balboni would struggle with injuries, his weight, and strike outs for the rest of his career.  Nicknamed, “Bye Bye Balboni”, Balboni ended up striking out far too often to stay in the big leagues.  Even in the minors he whiffed far too often, once every 3.8 at-bats which is pretty incredible when you think about it.

After leaving KC, Balboni bounced around a bit, playing in Seattle, New York (with the Yankees) and in Texas.  While most big league players retire when they can no longer play in the majors, Balboni stuck around in the minors for as long as he could.

Following the 1990 season, Balboni played in only 2 big league games for the rest of his career.  However, he was more than happy to kick it around in the minors through the 1993 season.  In 1991, 1992 and 1993, Balboni launched 86 home runs for the Rangers AAA club while hitting around .250.

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Reggie Bush

This guy is one hell of a football player!!

Let me get this out-of-the-way right now.  I know two good things about Reggie Bush that are not at all mediocre:

  1. He’s a Super Bowl champion.  Nothing wrong with that.
  2. He’s one of the greatest college football players of all time.  I fully admit this.

However…

Bush has been a disappointment as a pro running back and can only be described as mediocre.  His fans will site his athleticism and speed.  Others will defend Bush by saying that he has great hands and is a real threat as a receiver out of the backfield.  I will contend that the NFL is full of great athletes.  They are everywhere.  As for the hands out the backfield, isn’t the same thing true out of most third-down backs.  I know the guy is young, but seriously, he looks a hell of a lot like a third down back in the NFL.  Reggie Bush is not a feature, first string running back.

When the Houston Texans selected Mario Williams over Bush in the 2006 NFL Draft, many crushed the Texans for “passing on the next Barry Sanders.”  As a Barry Sanders fan, I knew that statement was crazy.  However, I did think that Bush would be an All Star.  It hasn’t played out that way.  Williams has grown into a force in Houston while Bush has never rushed for 600 yards in a single season.

Since coming into the NFL, Bush has rushed for 1,940 yards, a tick below 500 yards a season.  In that four year span, LaDainian Tomlinson has rushed for over 5,000 yards, ditto for Thomas Jones.  In fact, over that time period thirty-eight (38) NFL players have rushed for more yards than Reggie Bush.  Here are some of the all-world running backs that have managed to pick up more rushing yards than one of the NFLs “most exciting players”:

  • DeShaun Foster
  • Maurice Morris
  • Justin Fargas
  • Cedric Benson
  • Ryan Grant
  • Rudi Johnson
  • Matt Forte (in only 2 seasons)

Fans of Bush will point to the fact that he’s a terrific receiver, which is true.  However, to balance things out, I’ll look at total yards (rushing and receiving) to see where Mr. Bush ranks amongst the NFLs best running backs.

Bush gets a pretty big bump up the list because of his 1,934 yards receiving.  However, it’s not enough bump him out of the mediocre territory.  Since the start of the 2006 season, 19 other running back have more yards from scrimmage than Reggie.  Some of those players include:

  • Chester Taylor
  • Ronnie Brown
  • Larry Johnson
  • Willis McGahee
  • Marion Barber

All of the guys ahead of Bush on this list are pretty good players.  I just think that when you can point to this many players that are more productive than one individual, that player (Bush in this case)  cannot possibly be considered a star.  Yet, Bush gets plenty of publicity around the league and has one of the best selling jersey’s in the game.  What exactly is it about this guy that makes him so damn popular?  It cannot be what he does on the field, but cause that would make absolutely no sense.

Bush was obviously the running back chosen in the 2006 Draft.  While comparing Bush over the past four years to other RBs who may have more seasoning could be considered unfair, here are some other running backs chosen along with Reggie in the 2006 Draft:

  • Reggie Bush 2nd:  1,940 rush yards 28 TDs
  • Laurence Maroney 21st: 2,430 rush yards, 22 TDs
  • DeAngelo Williams 27th:  3,850 rush yards, 36 TDs
  • Joseph Addai 30th: 3,525 rush yards, 43 TDs
  • LenDale White 45th: 2,349 rush yards, 24 TDs
  • Maurice Jones-Drew 60th: 3,924 rush yards, 54 TDs

By looking at the results, one could argue that Bush is the worst running back on this list and at the very best, he’s the 4th best back from the 2006 draft class.  Quite frankly, Bush is more of a celebrity than a football player.  He’s best known for who he is dating and for doing a shit-ton of illegal stuff while at USC.   I’ll take results over tabloid headlines any day.  Take that, Reggie Bush!

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Mark Lemke

You could probably make the argument that Mark Lemke wasn’t even a mediocre baseball player.  You could probably also say that he is simply a footnote in the annals of Major League Baseball.  However, I recall Lemke for providing me and other baseball fans with a great 10 days of entertainment during the 1991 World Series, arguably the greatest Fall Classic of all-time.

By most offensive metrics, Lemke wasn’t even close to being a mediocre hitter.  For his career, the second baseman, hit .246 with an on-base percentage of only .314 and a career OPS+ of 71, 29 points below the average hitter.  Lemke was decent in the field though, and probably rates as better-than-average, this is partly what made him a regular in the Atlanta Braves lineup from 1990-1997.

Lemke’s claim to fame came in the 1991 World Series.  The series pitted the Atlanta Braves against the Minnesota Twins in a battle of teams that went from last place to first place that season.  The Braves boasted a great young pitching staff headlined by Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and Greg Maddux while the Twins had the star power of Kirby Puckett, Jack Morris and Kent Hrbek.  They also featured the mullet of Dan Gladden.

In 1991 regular season, Lemke hit .234 with 2 homers and 2 triples all season.  In the World Series though he turned into an absolute beast.  The consistently light-hitting Lemke went off on Minnesota pitching to the tune of a .417 batting average, a .462 OBP and a staggering 3 triples in the seven game classic.  In game three of the series, Lemke hit a game-winning, walk-off single that prevented the Braves from falling into a 3-0 series hole.  Throughout the epic series, Lemke came through time-after-time and his legend grew in Atlanta.

Lemke’s main career accomplishment, aside from his World Series performance, was that he somehow had 3,664 plate appearances in his career and was never hit by a pitch.  Not once.  Lemke played in 1,069 games and was not hit by a pitch once.  That’s a big league record.  Guessing he stood off the plate a little bit.

When his days a second baseman came to an end with the Boston Red Sox in 1998, Lemke signed with an Independent League team and learned how to throw a knuckleball.  Seriously.  As a IL knuckleball pitcher, he had an ERA of 6.68 and threw dozens of wild pitches.  The dream was over.

Lemke currently does some radio and television work for the Braves.

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Manute Bol

Who are the greatest big men in NBA history?  Some debate the merits of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.  Others think Moses Malone or Shaquille O’Neal are the best post men in league history.  My point is that we can debate this all day and never really come to a conclusion.  The other point is that if I were to ask you, “Can you name the only NBA player ever to kill a real, live lion with a spear?” could you come up with the answer?  I don’t think you could.  Only one player in NBA history has killed a lion other than Manute Bol.  If that were the only interesting thing about Manute Bol, this would still be one hell of an interesting post to write.

Bol was born in the Sudan back in 1962.  Bol’s father was a Dinka warrior chief and chose the name “Manute” which means “Special Blessing.”  Bol stayed in the Sudan into the early 1980s.  He was found there by a scout from Farleigh Dickinson University and then signed to play basketball at Cleveland State University.  After taking some English classes in Cleveland, the team was placed on probation and Bol could not play for them.  He made the move from Ohio to Connecticut and played at Bridgeport University, a DII school.

Manute lasted just one year at Bridgeport and was drafted by the Washington Bullets in the 2nd round of the 1985 draft, becoming the tallest player in NBA history.  Bol was listed at 7’6” or 7’7” depeding on where you looked and his weight ranged from 200-220 pounds, making him pound-for-pound the leanest player in the history of organized athletics.

In his rookie year with the Bullets, Bol led the league with 397 blocks, a rookie record and one of the highest totals in league history.  Bol also pulled off a difficult and rare feat during his rookie year but recording more blocks than points.  Impressively, Bol actually kept this up for his entire career, retiring with 2,086 blocks and only 1,599 points.

Bol and his stringy frame bounced around the NBA for about a decade.  He played for four teams and was especially effective during his first five years in the league.  Around that time, injuries began to rear their ugly head and Bol struggled to stay healthy.

In 1988-89 while with the Golden State Warriors, Bol development a bit of an outside shot.  He hit a career high 20 three-pointers that season, but he hit the shot with only 22% accuracy.  In 1993, while with the 76ers, Bol had arguably his most memorable NBA game.  The game pitted the Sixers against Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns.  The Suns were very good in 1993 and Barkley and Bol were former teammates with the Sixers.  Bol hit only 10 three-point shots all that season, but six of them came in the second half of this game, highlight by Barkley visibly laughing as Bol shot three after three.  What a freak show.

Bol finally left the NBA following the 1994-95 season at the age of only 32.  He bounced around other leagues in the US and abroad for a few years before finally calling it quits.  Bol is known for giving much of the money he earned back to his native Sudan.  Bol has been and is involved in many charities that work for justice in Sudan and the rest of the continent.

Sadly, Manute fell on some hard times later in life and took part in things like appearing in minor league hockey games to sell a few tickets.  He also fought William “The Fridge” Perry in a boxing match.  Ugh.

Manute was in a car accident a few years back and suffered injuries that force him to now walk with a cane.

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Steve DeBerg

Exactly.

With all due apologies going out to Drew Bledsoe and Scott Mitchell, Steve DeBerg may be the perfect example of a mediocre quarterback.  Like Bledsoe, DeBerg was never really great, but hung around the NFL long enough to put up some pretty impressive totals.  For example, did you know that DeBerg ranks in the NFL top twenty in career attempts, completions and yards?

DeBerg was known as a journeyman in the NFL, but he is one of very few athletes to be a journeyman in college as well.  DeBerg was enrolled at two different colleges before heading to the NFL.  Sadly, DeBerg impressed almost no one except his family and friends while in college.  In the 1977 NFL Draft the Cowboys took a shot on Steve in the 10th round, he never played a down for Dallas.

Steve somehow impressed the San Francisco 49ers and their Hall of Fame coach, Bill Walsh.  The youngster DeBerg started 11 games in 1978, leading the 49ers to a record of 1-10.  Somehow, after that god-awful performance, DeBerg kept his job the following season and improved GREATLY, helping the Niners go 2-13 in his starts.  While he was a bit better the following year, DeBerg finally lost the starting job to Joe Montana.  I think the Niners made the right call there.

DeBerg then moved on to Denver where he served as a starter and a backup before losing his job to John Elway.  So, in a span of only a few seasons, Steve lost jobs to two Hall of Fame field generals.  Tough break.  He then made the move to the hapless Tampa Bay Bucs and did his usual caliber of work with that franchise, putting up a record of 8-29 while he was the starter down there.  It really looked like things could be over for DeBerg at this point.  He had been mediocre at best on some of the worst teams in the NFL, not exactly something a guy can hang his hat on.

Following his final season in Tampa, DeBerg turned 34 and didn’t look much like starting QB material.  He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs that offseason, a move that turned his career around.  During his four years in KC, DeBerg led the Chiefs to a 31-20, including a record-setting campaign in 1990 at the age of 36.  That season, DeBerg set the NFL single season record for the lowest percentage of passes to be intercepted in a single season.  The aging DeBerg was finally on track.

In his later 30s, DeBerg made cameos in Miami and Tampa Bay and then retired following the 1993 season at the age of 39.  He had a pretty good run.  He stuck around in the NFL for about 15 years and started on a couple of decent teams.  However, the call to the grid iron was too great, and in 1999, a 44-year-old DeBerg returned to the NFL to play for the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.  Steve served as the back up to Chris Chandler, another great mediocre quarterback.

DeBerg retired for good following the Falcons Super Bowl loss with 196 TDs and 204 picks, both among the league leaders in NFL history.  He currently coaches football camps all around the country.

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What form!!

Tim Wakefield is about to start his 18th big league season as a pitcher.  That’s damn impressive.  However, these knuckleball types tend to stick around for a LOOONNNGGG time and it’s possible that Tim has a few decent innings left in the rubber arm of his.

That begs the questions:  Who is your favorite knuckleballer?  Wakefield has been one of the best in the business for the last decade.  Before him, Phil and Joe Neikro were pretty good in their own right and Charlie Hough was no slouch either.  The darkhorse in this race is Jose Canseco.  Canseco threw for the Rangers in 1993 and ruined his arm, requiring surgery.  While Canseco sucked, he provided us with some decent comedy with the knuckleball.

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Lenny Dykstra

Gross.

Boy oh boy, things have been better for Lenny Dykstra.  Dykstra, known as “Nails” during his days as  a big league ball player has recently filed for bankruptcy, sold his house, gotten divorced,  sold his 1986 World Series ring and ruined his relationship with his son.  Tough break.

During his playing days, Dykstra was one of the more exciting and charismatic players in the game.  He played for the Mets from 1985-1989, and played a key role on the 1986 World Series winning club.

He took his scrappy game to Philadelphia in 1989 when he was traded for Juan Samuel.  He took his game to a new level in the City of Brotherly Love and was a fan favorite until retiring after the 1996 season.  In 1990, Lenny flirted with .400 for a little while, hitting over .400 into mid-June.  It was in Philly that Dysktra played his best ball which included an amazing 1993 campaign.

In 1993, Nails led the NL in at-bats, hits, runs, walks and finished 2nd in MVP voting.  It was in that 1993 season that the Phillies took the National League pennant before falling the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series.  All of this makes it sound like Lenny was maybe a bit more than mediocre, however, his personal issues shortened what could have been a much better career.

His last full season in the bigs was that monster season in 1993 (he missed a big chunk of one season due to a drunk driving crash) and he was out of baseball by the time he was 33.  Nails was known as a partier off the field, a reputation he did little to quell.

In addition to some of his other issues, Dykstra has had both of his brothers accuse of him of fraud and he was named in the Mitchell Report as an abuser of steroids.  Dykstra sure was nuts on the field, crashing into walls and playing his heart out, but he was even more reckless off of it.  Too bad.

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