Welcome to the Clubhouse Report.
Still the One
Baseball 2001 is just about a month old, and the one man I cannot help but think about is Hank Aaron. Over a 23-year career, he batted .305 and hit 755 homers. He still does not get enough modern-day respect. But, to the astute fan, he deserves more with each passing game.
Why? Let's see who is in pursuit of Aaron's all-time home run mark and where they are at this point in the 2001 season.
Mark McGwire is 37 and has 555 home runs, but a diseased tendon has him on the shelf again this year, the same way he ended last year. How could Aaron have lasted more 20 years in this game, play the outfield, hit all those homers and never smack 50 or more in a year? I will tell you why - he played in pain and he played quality innings under the media glare.
McGwire plays first base, rarely hits for average, almost never steals a base and can't stay on the field more then three years without getting injured. Sure, his swing may be mightier, but everyone continues to underestimate Aaron's prowess.
Now to the man Aaron himself says will pass his mark: Ken Griffey Jr. He started this year on the bench with a hamstring injury and for reasons having to do with his outfield hustle gets hurt just about every year. And, at 29, he seems so unhappy he might just quit before doing enough to ensure a spot in Cooperstown, let alone take Hank's crown.
Aaron lived in Willie Mays' shadow and Babe Ruth's legacy. He is projected to lose his all-time record this decade, yet he continues to stand alone. Watching his pursuers, Mark McGwire and Griffey Jr. wince in the dugout, my admiration, as should that of all Americans, will only grow.
Ring of Mediocrity
Now I know why he was so cautious, so boring in the ring.
Lennox Lewis knew what most suspected - he has no chin. The one time he let his defenses down and started to believe his own hype he was sent down for the count. His belt's gone, his legacy is in tatters after Hasim Rahman floored him on a South Africa Saturday morning. Now the heavyweight division is not only not deep in quality, it's not even shallow.
The next century of boxing is now being led by champions Johnny Ruiz, a modern-day Scott Ledoux and Rahmin, a poor man's Ernie Shavers. By the way, do not look for Mike Tyson to save the sports profile when he gets into the ring with Rahman this year.
Rahman is fearless and has an OK chin. Anyone that does not fear Tyson can beat Tyson. At 34, with ample ring rust, he will be in a bloodbath versus Rahman and would have been much better off fighting Lewis.
Hey boxing fans, focus on the middleweights. Thats where your talent is!