Notes of Note: Webb Rules; Madsen Excites; McCray Passes; Kelly Scores; Pac-12 Twists
Giants' ace Logan Webb threw the first nine-inning shutout of his career yesterday as the Giants edged Colorado 1-0. It was only the 20th complete game of the season in the major leagues, where analytics and pitch-count madness now rule. It was also the first Giants' game to be completed in under two hours--one hour and 56 minutes to be exact--in almost 14 years. The new rules are working!
Mad Dog: It's very painful for this Stanford alum (and Danville resident) to see Mark Madsen doing exciting things as head basketball coach at Cal. Madsen is resuscitating a moribund program with his enthusiasm, recruiting ability, and positive vibes. The former Stanford and San Ramon Valley Danville H.S. star is making believers out of naysayers and has brought in one of the nation's best transfer portal hauls to Berkeley.
The rub, of course, is that he should be at Stanford, where he led the1998 Cardinal team to the NCAA Final Four. Madsen was reportedly contacted by Stanford AD Bernard Muir about the head job at his alma mater, but Muir was unable to pull the trigger and let head coach Jerod Haase go...something that should have been done awhile ago. Despite several top recruiting classes, Haase has failed to take his team to the NCAA tourney in all seven of his seasons on the Farm.
So while Madsen injects new life into the program at Berkeley, Stanford fans are left to pray that Haase finally can produce a winning team with all the fine talent he has been recruiting to Palo Alto.
Nikki Passes: Nikki McCray-Penson, one of the bright lights in women's basketball for the last 30 years, succumbed to cancer and passed away over the weekend at the age of 51. Much too young for such a great athlete and person.
McCray was a star at Tennessee, with the '96 U.S. Olympic Team, in the ABL and the WNBA. She also was a successful coach, as an assistant with the NCAA championship team at South Carolina, and later as head coach at Old Dominion and Mississippi State.
Nikkin led the Columbus Quest to the ABL title in our inaugural season and was the league MVP, before leaving to join the WNBA. Even though she left our league for greener pastures, I couldn't help but always maintain a genuine fondness for Nikki, one of the kindest and most joyous souls you'd ever meet.
Kelly's Big Catch: As usual, UCLA coach Chip Kelly isn't doing much high school recruiting. His Bruins typically rely on transfers to bolster their program. But Kelly scored a major coup by recruiting quarterback Dante Moore out of Detroit's Martin Luther King Jr. H.S.
Moore was rated the nation's No. 4 prospect and a can't miss pro prospect. The 6-3, 210 pound Michigan Player of the Year led his team to the state Division 3 championship, passing for 2,392 yards and 32 TDs with only 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 282 yards and 5 scores.
Moore is expected to start this year as a freshman and rival the other top QBs in the Pac-12...USC's returning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, Oregon's Bo Nix, Washington's Michael Penix Jr, and Utah's Cam Rising.
Pac-12 Twists in the Wind: Speaking of the Pac-12, the conference still hasn't been able to make a deal for its media rights (the current deals expire after the current season). This despite numerous promises from several presidents of Pac-12 schools, dating back to February, that a new deal was "coming very soon" or "within the next few weeks." In fact, the original hope was to announce a deal by last Thanksgiving.
The league has been in a tailspin since the announcement a year ago that USC and UCLA were leaving to join the Big Ten. Commissioner George Kliavkoff allowed the Big 12 to jump ahead of the Pac-12 in landing a media rights deal from Fox and ESPN last October that will bring $31.7 million per year to each school in the conference.
Now, nine months later, Fox has no interest in the damaged Pac-12 product and ESPN is in the middle of cutbacks and serious budgetary problems. Kliavkoff is hoping to put together a deal including a modest package with ESPN supplemented by coverage on Apple, Amazon, or another streaming service.
Truth is, the conference is on life support. Colorado and Arizona are poised to jump to the Big 12 if the new deal isn't rich enough and the Big Ten is lurking in the background should the Pac-12 fall apart. Pac-12 media day on July 21 will be very interesting unless Kliavkoff can suddenly pull a rabbit out of his hat.
Northwestern Hazing: An ugly story has surfaced at Northwestern, where players' accusations' of hazing have cast a pall over the football program and head coach Pat Fitzgerald. The sickening descriptions of sexual assault in the Wildcats' locker room, confirmed by an outside investigation, led the University president to suspend Fitzgerald for two weeks.
However, as the details became public, further review has been undertaken by the administration. Fitzgerald, a former star at Northwestern and head coach for 17 years, has long been the face of athletics at his alma mater. However, given the fact that his team has gone 3-9 and 1-11 the past two seasons, he is suddenly vulnerable to more severe penalties, and perhaps dismissal.
Ruth/Ohtani: The comparisons between Angels' star Shohei Ohtani and all-time great Babe Ruth continue in the media, including our recent post. Some point out that Ohtani is actually a different animal than Ruth, given that he has been a two-way player for his entire career, whereas Ruth was almost exclusively a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox from 1914-18 and then almost exclusively a position player for the Yankees from 1920-34.
The only seasons where Ruth did both were 1918, when he pitched in 20 games (going 13-7) and either played outfield/first base or pinched hit in 75 (hitting 11 home runs), and 1919, when he pitched in 17 (going 9-5) and played in the field or pinched hit in 113 (hitting 29 HR).
Ohtani, remember, doesn't actually play the field. He's a pitcher or DH. One wonders how the Red Sox and Yankees might have used Ruth if the designated hitter rule had been in effect. It's quite possible he would have been able to pitch and hit throughout his career.
Ruthian Stats: I uncovered some amazing stats while reviewing the Babe's career. In 1917 Ruth posted a 24-13 record for Boston, with a 2.01 ERA. He started 38 games that year and completed 35 of them.
Incredible. As noted above, there have been only 20 complete games, total, in MLB at the halfway point of the 2023 season.