Sunday, January 27, 2008

Nonpareil

Is there anyone out there who can be compared to Tiger Woods?

In his first start of the season Tiger left the rest of a good field gasping for air after the first few rounds, prompting Justin Leonard to say "There's two tournaments going on. I'm going to try to win the tournament that Tiger's not playing." Then Tiger went on to easily win the tournament, announcing he felt stronger and better than ever.

It's as if the Mets began the first week of the season by collectively tossing three no-hitters, belting fifteen home runs and throwing in a triple play for good measure.

The called Wayne Gretzky "The Great One", a moniker that seems pitifully understated in describing Woods.

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It wouldn't come as a surprise if the Phillies-Ryan Howard contract squabble grew more acrimonious over the next few weeks as each side digs in its heels. The Phils' alleged brain trust is already underplaying their differences, a sure sign the gulf between them is even greater than $3 million.

Every commentary on the subject mentions the Albert Pujols factor, as in, how much was King Albert paid, for how long and at what point in his career. Frankly, I'd rather have Pujols on my team if I were building one, but that's besides the point. Howard was the leading power hitter in the NL in the last few seasons and big boppers have always commanded big salaries. The Phillies don't have much of a choice if they want to lock up Howard for the long-term and keep him happy in the short one.

On the other hand, Howard's reading on the disrespectomter rises with each passing season, as in, he feels disrespected. When either the subject of his contract or long-termstatus as a Phillie comes up, there has been more of an edge to him since last year's contract negotiations.

Like it or not, management has to understand he is the face of the franchise, the one player most identified around the country as a Phillie.

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Mike Lieberthal retired. Quietly, without ever calling much attention to himself, Lieby set most of the franchise records for his position. He played wounded for half of his career, which is a shame. Looking at his lifetime stats, it is surprising to realize he batted .274 over his thirteen seasons. One always had the sense he came through sporadically at best, about one in four times.

The biggest knock on Lieberthal in the last few seasons he spent in Philadelphia is that he never seemed to take command of the team as its longest-tenured player, nor did he ever seem to take charge of the pitching staff, especially during a game.

In the end, his was a quiet career...perhaps too quiet given the position he played.

3 Comments:

Blogger J. Weitzel said...

Well said about Lieby's quiet career, and to answer your first question - "Is there anyone out there who can be compared to Tiger Woods?" - there isn't. I've never seen someone dominate a sport like the way in which he has manhandled golf. The second-place finisher yesterday had a final round that included nine birdies and he still finished eight strokes behind Tiger, who started the day sinking a mind-blowing putt on 1 that broke about 15 feet to the left.

10:07 AM  
Blogger David said...

Unfortunately, Lieberthal will always have the Von Hayes stigma attached to his career with the Phillies: he had the misfortune of having a long tenure with teams that didn't win, and for this reason was not accorded the proper respect by fans towards the end of it.

When he was in his prime and healthy, Lieberthal had one of the quickest bats from the right side I've ever seen. And moreover he stands out as a rare Phillies first round draft pick who actually succeeded. Lieby had a damn good career, and I enjoyed watching him play. The one legit knock on him, as you say, is that he was not a field leader while playing a position that demanded a greater presence.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Tom G, ballssticksstuff.com said...

Prior to Tiger's first win at the Master's back in 1997, I didn't think we'd ever seen anyone dominate golf, and nearly everyone at the time agreed. The thinking was that there were so many good golfers, it was impossible for one to stand out.

But here we are nearly 11 years later, and as J said, there's no one else dominating any sport the way Tiger is dominating golf.

11:47 PM  

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