It was the most bizarre football game in NFL history. The division-leading Steelers were 7-4-1, and hosting the 3-9 last place Texans. How much money would you have bet on Pittsburgh, at home, versus Houston on December 8th. if you knew that Pittsburgh would have 24 first downs to Houstonís three, would out-rush them 128-37, would out-pass them 294-10, and would have the ball 40 minutes of the game. And, as a bonus, you could take the Steelers and get 17 points. I know how much Iíd have bet, and Iíd be in a bread line today. Guess who wound up with a 24-6 win. Bizarre doesnít begin to do this game justice.
Story of the Week
Baseball has no salary cap. Yes, Iíve been down this road before. Any reader of my articles knows how I feel about same, so I wonít bore you.
But when a small-market team with limited television revenues is able to lose several star players, the latter signing big-money contracts with big-money teams that can afford them, and continues to win with replacement players who are far from being household names, that teamís management has my full respect, front-office and field management alike. And the team that has my full respect for being able to accomplish this feat is the Seattle Mariners.
Seattle lost Randy Johnson during the 1998 season, Ken Griffey, Jr. after the 1999 season, and Alex Rodriguez after the 2000 season. Letís look at the production they represented during their Seattle years only.
Randy Johnson, pitcher. During his 9 1/2 seasons with Seattle, he won 130 games, lost 74 games, had an ERA of 3.11, had 2,162 strikeouts vs 884 bases-on-balls, a stunning K-W ratio of 7.1-2.9. He led the American League in strikeouts in four seasons, led the league in ERA once, and won the Cy Young award once.
Ken Griffey, Jr., outfielder. During his 11 seasons with the Mariners, he batted .298, hit 398 home runs, drove in 1,152 runs, scored 1,063 runs, had a slugging percentage of .570, and stole 167 bases. He led the American League in homers four times, and won the league MVP once.
Alex Rodriguez, shortstop. During his seven seasons in Seattle, he batted .310, hit 189 home runs, drove in 595 runs, scored 627 runs, had a slugging percentage of .563, and stole 133 bases. He led the American League in hitting once. And heís the best player in the American League.
With all three of these star players gone in 2001, all Seattle did was win 116 regular-season games, their first-ever franchise 100-game-victory season. And in 2002, the Mariners finished with a 93-69 record. To put this awesome display into proper perspective, just imagine how poorly your favorite team would perform without its top three players, and you will appreciate the Marinersí achievements even more.
Seattle doesnít have a major-market attendance base, and they do not enjoy top television revenues. They are successful because of their front office and field management, and their ability to judge talent. What they did it with was Pat Gillick, a great general manager, and Lou Piniella, a stellar field manager and teacher. Now Piniella is gone, but based on their track record, theyíll be back in 2003.
Bud Selig, the lack of a bona-fide salary cap in major league baseball stinks. Baseball is the poorest run of any of the major sports. Iíd love to debate the subject with you personally on national television. Please call me.
Last Weekís Trivia
Who was the first black to be manager or head coach of a major league sports team? Bill Russell became player-coach of the Boston Celtics in 1966.
Trivia Question of the Week
A departure from the norm. Who was the first
person to be inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame?
He is also known for another feat. See next week's Sports Junkie for the answer.