OJ Simpson: Ground Zero

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The Juice will soon be a free man. Orenthal James Simpson was granted parole last Thursday. He was serving a 33-year prison sentence for his role in a robbery in Las Vegas. OJ will have completed just over 8 years (or one-quarter of his term) once he is let out in October.

Most of you know Simpson either as a star football player, actor, or media personality. But of course whenever his name comes out in conversation these days it always about the so-called “Trial of the Century” and his eventual acquittal of double murder charges in 1995. People also remember the police pursuit with Simpson in the backseat of his white Ford Bronco as it was travelling on a Los Angeles highway just hours after police considered Simpson as a suspect. A lot was happening around that time. Race relations between police and the black community were tense in Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King assault.

9/11 may have changed the world but I don’t think it had the impact the way the murder trial did. To me, that is ground zero. I maintain that some of the junk you see and hear in media today (especially sports media) can be traced back to that trial. For instance, stories of athletes doing drugs, committing crime, and making political statements are now being passed as sports programming. We are also seeing more people use race as an excuse for bad behaviour especially when it comes to domestic violence and gun violence. You can even attribute the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States to that trial.

Would we have known the Kardashians had there had been no trial? Would there be an influx of reality programming on television? Would media outlets like TMZ exist today? I think Harvey Levin owes his career to the Simpson trial even though he wasn’t directly connected to the trial. There are quite a number of those you see on TV or hear on radio that have used the trial to boost their careers.

People are only kidding themselves if they don’t think the Simpson trial had any impact on society today. One would think if this was done all over again, how would things be different? Maybe when OJ officially gets released and hits the golf course looking for the real killer, he’ll be wishing for a mulligan.

Also see:

Sports is Not a Platform for Activism
Nobody is Watching Sports Channels
This is the End of the ESPYS

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A Baseball Record You Likely Never Heard of… But Should

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Baseball is full of records. 56-game hitting streak, .400 batting average, 4,256 career base hits. Here’s another: 26. That is the number of consecutive wins by the Barrie Baycats of the independent Intercounty Baseball League.

The Baycats lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs (not to be confused nor are they affiliated with the NHL club) on Wednesday, their first loss of the 2017 season. That streak broke two records: first was consecutive wins to start a season previously held by the Maple Leafs with 10 in 1999. The second is consecutive wins during the season. The previous record was 22 held by the Brantford Red Sox in 1961. The Red Sox went on to win their 4th of 6 consecutive IBL championships. If you include the 2016 playoffs, the Baycats were on the winning end of 37 consecutive games.

The Baycats were dominating opponents during their win streak. The average margin of victory in those 26 games was 6.1 runs. Five games were won by 10 runs or more. Included in that streak are six 1-run games, and four coming when the Baycats were trailing after 8 innings.

The Intercounty Baseball League consists of 7 teams, all based in Ontario. The players in this league don’t get paid, they do it because they love to play baseball. Despite being what some call a glorified beer league, the record of 26 straight wins to start the season is something to behold. The fact that records like these don’t come often is the reason what the Baycats did is something special. It should there among with other such winning streaks.

In 1987, the Salt Lake City Trappers of the Pioneer League won 29 straight games to hold the minor league record and possibly all of professional baseball. The Major League Baseball record for consecutive wins is… well, it all depends on perspective. The 1916 New York Giants went 26 straight games without a loss. That streak included a tie. For consecutive wins, that belongs to the 1935 Chicago Cubs who won 21 straight. The 2000 Oakland Athletics hold the American league record with 20.

The while the Baycats are appreciative of the record win streak, they have more lofty goals to reach, like setting their sights on a fourth straight league championship. Anything less would be a disappointment for them. But you have got to believe this is becoming a special year for the team. Part of it you can chalk it up to winning the first 26 games of the season.

Also see:

Enjoy the Moment While It Lasts
Rare Feats are Exciting Because it’s Rare
Stability Key to a Successful Team?

 

It Would be Stupid for the Blue Jays to Blow It All Up

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A good number of Blue Jays fans are resigning to the fact that the team is falling short of expectations. While it is fair to say this season has become rather disappointing (41-46, 8.5 GB of AL East lead, 4 GB of WC), it shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who read my blog. If you’ve been reading my stories on a regular basis, you would have known about this for a while.

I could go on as to how Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro did a terrible job in the off-season especially handing the situation with free agents Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. But I’m taking a different direction. I’m willing to give Atkins and Shapiro a mulligan and start the 2018 season like 2017 never happened. Perhaps this time around they will get a real leadoff hitter, a power lefty bat, and some reliable relievers so Roberto Osuna won’t have come out of the bullpen every single game.

The play of Justin Smoak has been somewhat surprising. I say somewhat because he can always hit home runs and play stellar defence at first base. But Smoak has become a more complete offensive threat at the plate. His high batting average (.291 as of July 8) indicates he is making more contact with each at bat rather than swinging at bad pitches. And his 30 walks to this point tells us he is showing more patience at the plate and opposing pitchers are pitching to him more carefully.

For the Blue Jays to deal away core players is the stupidest thing they could do. It is one thing to give up on the season. It is another to give up on the players on the team. Injuries were a factor and they will continue to be a factor down the road. But guys like Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki are still capable of producing runs. Aside from Bautista, none of them are at the down side of their playing careers. You add Smoak to the picture and hopefully a healthy pitching staff, and the Blue Jays can be a contender next season.

You can make the argument that Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano could be dealt at the non-waiver trade deadline. Both are impending free agents and the Blue Jays can get something of value in return. Plus there seems to be plenty of arms available on the market this coming off-season who can replace Estrada and Liriano in the rotation: Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, and Clay Buchholz just to name a few.

I think the frustration of the season is making fans think a total rebuild is necessary. That is like detonating a bomb to start a campfire. There is no one in the Blue Jays farm system who can replace a guy like Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Bautista, or Kendrys Morales, at least in the short-term. Management needs to think very carefully before dealing away core players if they intend on being a contender in 2018.

Also see:

We Should Have Seen This Coming
Even if Bautista and Encarnacion Return, the Blue Jays Still Have Areas to Address
Is the Media Cheering for a Blue Jays Demise?