Draymond's Disgrace; Judge's Record; Baseball's Vanishing Breeds
Draymond Green has always been one of the more controversial players in the NBA. He's unquestionably an integral part of the Warriors' championship chemistry, with his floor leadership, outstanding defense, furious fast-breaking, brilliant passing, and overall intensity.
But he's also been a problem child, berating officials, racking up technical fouls, crotch kicking LeBron James and essentially costing the Warriors the 2016 championship with a one-game suspension, getting into a very public spat with Kevin Durant that may have led to Durant's departure, and then criticizing Warriors' management on his podcast.
But Green hit a new low last Wednesday by charging and brutally punching teammate Jordan Poole in the face during the Warriors' practice session. If you've seen the video posted by TMZ on Friday, it’s pretty sickening to watch.
So Green, and the Warriors, and Poole are all at a critical juncture. The team is negotiating an extension with Poole before he becomes a restricted free agent next July, and they have an Oct. 17 deadline to complete the deal. Green, meanwhile, has one year to go on his $27 million contract, along with a player option for '23-24, and is pushing for a four-year NBA maximum extension.
Some believe contract issues were behind the punch. The Warriors have made no secret of the fact that signing the dynamic Poole is their No. 1 priority, while they're planning to wait on Green. Wednesday's episode will no doubt heighten the pressure to get the Poole deal done, while leaving Green in limbo.
Coach Steve Kerr’s demeanor and uncharacteristic evasiveness at Saturday’s press conference spoke volumes. Warriors’ management is obviously losing patience with Green’s act, with good reason, and the chances of him getting that max extension—from Golden State or any other team—just went out the window.
Stay tuned on this one, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see Poole locked into a $30 million a year deal by next Monday.
Remember This Name: The hottest name in NBA scouting circles right now is Victor Wembanyama, the 18-year old wunderkind from France. Wembanyama is 7'3, runs the floor, can handle it, blocks shots, and shoots the 3 very accurately from Steph Curry-like distances.
I've watched two games between his Metropolitans 92 team and a G League Ignite team led by Scoot Henderson, another 18-year old phenom. They're projected to go 1-2 in the next NBA draft. If you can find some Wembanyama highlights, spend a few minutes watching, You won't be disappointed.
You Be the Judge: We've been wearing our official NY Yankee hat (found at the Puerto Vallarta Airport's New Era store) in honor of Aaron Judge's amazing season.
Judge hit 62 home runs to break Roger Maris' American League record of 61, some 61 years after Maris' feat. He also barely missed winning the Triple Crown, finishing second in the league in batting average at .311 while leaving the rest of the league in the dust in homers and RBIs.
Some have called his record the "true" or "authentic" single season mark, since it was apparently achieved without the aid of performance enhancing drugs, unlike the National Leaguers—Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—who hit a few more.
It's impossible to compare eras and to speculate how many fewer dingers Bonds, McGwire and Sosa would've hit without the steroids, but one statistic really stands out to me.
Back in the day when Babe Ruth was playing, there were eight teams in the league and very few relief pitchers. So he saw the same pitchers day after day. Even Maris had great familiarity with his opponents due to the fact that starters pitched longer in those days.
Consider these numbers, courtesy of SI's Dan Gartland and Tom Verducci: Judge faced 230 pitchers in 161 games this year. It took Ruth 10 years as a Yankee to see that many pitchers. Maris saw a total of 270 pitchers in his seven years with the Yankees.
Judge is now a free agent. As we’ve been saying for the past several months, the San Francisco Giants need to do whatever it takes to sign him.
Where Have All the .300 Hitters Gone? Judge was one of only 11 hitters in all of baseball that hit .300 this year. That number is the third least in MLB history behind 1960 (10) and '68 (6). There were 63 .300 hitters as recently as 2000.
The batting champions in the American and National League are not exactly household names. The Mets' Jeff McNeil won the National League title, batting .326. McNeil, who's known as "the squirrel," is a utility man who plays second, third and left field.
Another utility man, the Twins' Luis Arraez, won the American League title ahead of Judge. It's worth noting that Arraez’ .316 average was the lowest to win the league title since Carl Yastrzemski's .301 in 1968.
Some rule changes next year will help—pitch clocks and elimination of the ridiculous shifts we've seen in recent years. But until the number of pitching chances is reduced considerably (the No. 1 complaint of baseball fans), attendance and TV ratings will continue to shrink, which leads to our next topic.
Where Have the Complete Games Gone? There were only 36 complete games pitched in the major leagues this year. Seriously.
Consider that the Giants' Juan Marichal completed 30 by himself in 1968.
This year teams used an average of 8.71 pitchers per game, second highest total in history after last year's 9.09. And starting pitchers averaged only 5 innings.
Sorry, folks, if you wan to put butts in seats, that ain't gonna do it.
Analytic Epidemic: Baseball games have become tedious for a lot of fans because of the increasing length, number of pitching changes, advent of bullpen games, platoons, defensive shifts, and the excessive number of strikeouts.
Much of this stems from “analytics.” Today’s managers have an abject fear of letting a pitcher go through a lineup three times or throw more than 100 pitches.
SI’s Verducci has published a new book with former Cubs and Angels manager Joe Maddon. In explaining the philosophical differences that led to Maddon's firing by the Angels, Verducci perfectly summarizes the current baseball landscape:
"Knowledge over wisdom. Technology over teaching. Data over art. Efficiency over entertainment."