Robin Roberts: 1926-2010

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Robin Roberts.jpgPhillies great Robin Roberts has died. He was 83 years-old. No word on the cause of death, but judging by the surprise in the blogosphere and Twittervese it was not necessarily expected.

Roberts led the NL in wins for four straight years in the 1950s, winning 28 games in 1952 and 23 each of the next three years.  His win totals are remarkable give that, aside from the Whiz Kids year of 1950, the Phillies were never anything special. They won 83 games once, but otherwise dwelled in fourth and fifth place during Roberts’ prime.

Roberts was the ultimate workhorse, even for the era in which he played, pitching over 300 innings each year between 1950 and 1955, and 297 in 1956. There was no Cy Young award during his best stretch of years, but he almost certainly would have won it multiple times had there been one.

I obviously never got a chance to see Roberts pitch, but he is one of my historical favorites. I used to look at his entry in the Baseball Encyclopedia, marveling at his win totals and innings pitched, wondering how it was possible for a mere mortal to do such a thing.  The truth may be that all of those innings took their toll on Roberts — he swooned badly in mid career, rebounding only once he left Philly and went to Baltimore, where he was treated with a bit more care — but that doesn’t take away from his obvious greatness.

Universally described as a class act by all who knew him, Roberts will no doubt be missed.

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!

Bo Jackson is not gonna change kids’ minds

1989:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals practices his swing as he prepares to bat during a game in the 1989 season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”

Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.

You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.

Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.

The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”

Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.

This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.