[NASCAR] Speed Addicts

2005 Nextel Cup Race Review (Thru Chicagoland)

With the completion of the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland, the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series has raced eighteen of the thirty-six point races on the schedule (the Nextel All-Star Challenge as well). Even though 1/2 of the NASCAR season remains, the past eighteen races to date include some of the best racing on the circuit, and are the exact kind of races that get you primed for the Chase for the Cup. Here’s a quick look back now at the previous eighteen races.

FIRST QUARTER
Race 1: Daytona 500
Date: Sunday, February 20th, 2005 from Daytona Beach, Florida
Time: 1:00 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Dale Jarrett
Distance: 2.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Jeff Gordon

Race 2: Auto Club 500
Date: Sunday, February April 27th, 2005 from Fontana, California
Time: 2:00 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Kyle Busch
Distance: 2.0 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Greg Biffle

Race 3: UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400
Date: Sunday, March 13th, 2005
Time: 2:00 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Ryan Newman
Distance: 1.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Jimmie Johnson

Race 4: Golden Corral 500
Date: Sunday, March 20th, 2005 from Atlanta, Georgia
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Ryan Newman
Distance: 1.54 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Carl Edwards

Race 5: Food City 500
Date: Sunday, April 3rd, 2005 from Phoenix, Arizona
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Elliott Sadler
Distance: 0.533 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Kevin Harvick

Race 6: Advance Auto Parts 500
Date: Sunday, April 10th, 2005 from Martinsville, Virginia
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Scott Riggs
Distance: 0.526 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Jeff Gordon

Race 7: Samsung/RadioShack 500
Date: Sunday, April 17th, 2005 from Justin-Ft. Worth, Texas.
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Ryan Newman
Distance: 1.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Greg Biffle

Race 8: Subway Fresh 500
Date: Saturday, April 23rd, 2005 from Phoenix, Arizona
Time: 7:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Jeff Gordon
Distance: 1.0 Mile per Lap
2005 Winner: Kurt Busch

Race 9: Aaron’s 499
Date: Sunday, May 1st, 2005 from Talladega, Alabama
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Kevin Harvick
Distance: 2.66 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Jeff Gordon

SECOND QUARTER
Race 10: Dodge Charger 500
Date: Saturday, May 7th, 2005 from Darlington, South Carolina
Pole Sitter: Kasey Kahne
Distance: 1.366 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Greg Biffle

Race 11: Chevy American Revolution 400
Date: Saturday, May 14th, 2005 from Richmond, Virginia
Pole Sitter: Kasey Kahne
Distance: 0.75 Mile Per Lap
2005 Winner: Kasey Kahne

Race 12: Coca-Cola 600
Date: Sunday, May 29th, 2005 from Charlotte, North Carolina
Pole Sitter: Ryan Newman
Distance: 1.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Jimmie Johnson

Race 13: MBNA RacePoints 400
Date: Sunday, June 5th, 2005 from Dover, Delaware
Pole Sitter: Jimmie Johnson
Distance: 1.0 Mile per Lap
2005 Winner: Greg Biffle

Race 14: Pocono 500
Date: Sunday, June 12th, 2005 from Long Pond, Pennsylvania
Pole Sitter: Michael Waltrip
Distance: 2.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Carl Edwards

Race 15: Batman Begins 400
Date: Sunday, June 19th, 2005 from Brooklyn, Michigan
Pole Sitter: Ryan Newman
Distance: 2.0 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Greg Biffle

Race 16: Dodge/Save Mart 350
Date: Sunday, June 26th, 2005 from Sonoma, California
Pole Sitter: Jeff Gordon
Distance: 1.99 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Tony Stewart

Race 17: Pepsi 400
Date: Saturday, July 2nd, 2005 from Daytona Beach, Florida
Pole Sitter: Tony Stewart
Distance: 2.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Tony Stewart

Race 18: USG Sheetrock 400
Date: Sunday, July 10th, 2005 from Joliet, Illinois
Pole Sitter: Jimmie Johnson
Distance: 1.5 Miles per Lap
2005 Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Inside Pulse Quarterly Performance Awards
Here at the Pulse, we like to reward those who have raced their tails off over the past nine races. These drivers (and races) are the epitome of what we come to expect from NASCAR. In the second quarter, our slice of redneck pie did not disappoint! Here’s a list of the non-sanctioned Inside Pulse Performance Awards for Quarter #2!

Best Driver: Tony Stewart
Second – Greg Biffle
Third – Jimmie Johnson

Best Crew Chief: Chad Knaus (Jimmie Johnson)
Second – Doug Richert (Greg Biffle)
Third – Greg Zipadelli (Tony Stewart)

Best Qualifier: Ryan Newman
Second – Jimmie Johnson
Third – Kasey Kahne

Best Race: Pepsi 400 (Daytona – 07/02/2005)
Second – Coca-Cola 600 (Charlotte – 05/29/2005)
Third – Dodge Charger 500 (Darlington – 05/07/2005)

Best Performance: Tony Stewart
Second – Jimmie Johnson
Third – Rusty Wallace

Most Improved Driver: Greg Biffle
Second – Elliott Sadler
Third – Carl Edwards

The DUNCE Award: Jeff Gordon (circa Wrigley “Stadium” Incident)

Rookie of the Quarter: Carl Edwards
Second – Kyle Busch
Third – Brian Vickers

Most Disappointing Driver: Matt Kenseth
Second – Sterling Marlin
Third – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Predicted Cup Champion: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon (1st Quarter Prediction)

Best Kurt Busch Imitator: Kurt Busch
Second – Rusty Wallace
Third – Matt Kenseth

NASCAR’s Best of the Best 2005 (Quarter #2)
The show just keeps getting better, folks. A lot of new fans tend to ask NASCAR gurus about which races to watch in order to get more interested in the product. Unfortunately, a lot of NASCAR dipsticks scream and shout their love for every single race on the schedule, which is why people tune into Michigan or New Hampshire and come to hate auto racing with a passion. Thus, for all you newbies out there, this is for you: the best of the best from the second quarter of NASCAR action.

1. Daytona (July)
For the second quarter in a row, Daytona sweeps the #1 slot, with flat out good racing despite the lengthy delays leading up to the race. Quarter #2, upon a close inspection, may not have had the kind of racing that the first quarter did, but the Pepsi 400 is a hidden gem that was a treat for anyone to watch. Tony Stewart cemented his resurgence here with his second win in as many weeks.

2. Charlotte
Some people may call it bias on my part, but I really dug the Coca-Cola 600, because the plot-twists were fast and furious (and plenty). In fact, the only thing that kept it from going higher was the fact that A: So many cautions slowed it down too much, and B: I’d already covered two lengthy races before that 600 mile affair, so I wasn’t in much of a position to make a fair judgment on it. If you like a jumbo-sized Bristol, then Lowe’s Motor Speedway was the place for you. Otherwise, Daytona beats it out at the line. Charlotte does, however, have the best finish of the second quarter, with a nail biter that went to Jimmie Johnson. He beat Bobby Labonte by a foot.

3. Darlington
I didn’t watch Darlington this year; I was at a baseball game in Atlanta. It was unfortunate, because I missed one of the best races of 2005! Seriously, any reservations about Darlington getting tossed aside were eased a bit thanks to the night-racing format they now use, along with the incredible action at the track that is – say it with me – “Too Tough to Tame”. Greg Biffle kick started the second quarter with his third win of 2005 in impressive fashion, while Jeff Green and Michael Waltrip added their names to the respective “Top Feuds of 2005” list.

4. Richmond
Mr. Alliteration knew no bounds on this night, as Kasey Kahne took the pole, then raced his heart out en route to his first career Nextel Cup win. It’s pretty hard to have a bad race at Richmond, and this one pretty much fell into that mold. It wasn’t the best race of the year, nor was it the fastest, but in the end, viewers and fans in attendance alike had to have been pleased with the outcome. Around that time, we were just beginning our push towards the Indy 500/Coke 600 weekend, remember? It seems like so long ago, doesn’t it? It’s the Daytona 500, then the Memorial Day Weekend, then the Chase… and back to Daytona coverage we go.

5. Dover
Dover is probably the most unique track in NASCAR, for various reasons and none of them easy to explain. At 400 miles, it automatically becomes one of the longer races on the schedule due to its “monster” mile dimensions. You can bet that you’ll get a semi-exciting Dover race each time the circuit comes back around to Dover Downs. This year, though, the race wasn’t that… exciting. I don’t really know why, because a lot of people liked this year’s June race (which Greg Biffle won, by the way). Maybe I was just out of it, but I can’t rank it any higher than fifth.

6. Pocono
If you’ll also remember, I did not watch Pocono, either, but for different reasons. Carl Edwards won at a decent, if ultimately bland Pocono race in June. Tire issues were downright laughable, though, thus carrying on the strange rash of tire problems in both F1, NASCAR, and most recently, the IndyCar Series at Nashville this past weekend.

7. Michigan
Speaking of bland races, Michigan has seen better days as well. The problem here stemmed from the fact that there were a group of cars (Biffle, Stewart, and Kenseth most notably) that got out and just ran away with the thing before we had a chance to get settled in, and the rest of the field just kind of ran through the motions as a result. It wasn’t a particularly boring race, since Michigan is pretty good about fielding decent action, but there was nothing that helped it stand out among

8. Infineon
Road Course racing is very much an acquired taste. If you didn’t care much for this year’s race at Infineon, then you probably wont like Watkins Glen in August, either. If you enjoyed the break from left turns, though, then Watkins Glen may also be your cup of tea. As it were, this year’s trip to Sonoma and Infineon Raceway wasn’t quite on par with some of the past races, but it wasn’t too shabby, either. A lot of pseudo-fans were turned off by the prospect of Junior falling out within the first five laps, and the race never really recovered its luster after the fact. Stewart began his resurgence here, a resurgence that is still going strong to this day.

9. Chicagoland
Chicagoland, like Kansas, is just not a very fun track to watch. The surface is too wide, there’s no real difficulty to pass, and the speeds (while impressive) just doesn’t make it an interesting race to watch. Unfortunately, this year’s USG Sheetrock 400 was very much a chore to watch, with a disheartening finish (Junior celebrating a throwaway win like it was the Nextel Cup). Junior’s reaction summed up the race on the whole; should he be that excited, when no one else is?

Victory Lap for the Pimps
Memo to Padilla: that wasn’t a cricket chirping, it was the sound of the doors squeaking at the Carolina Hurricanes fan club meeting.Hurricanes, whoo!

Memo to Eric: If it sounds like I have no clue in Hell what I’m talking about in the next section, that’s because I don’t give a crap about Golf Sorry, best I can do. Kiawah Island Gets the PGA Championship in 2012… SCORE!

Patrick Nguyen is my hero, because he gets it done week after week. I give him pictures of Danica, he gives me pictures of Skip Bayless. Wait, why is that a good thing?Here’s the actual best IP Sports Writer…

and again…

And once more, just because I can.

Dr. Jay Gauss. and Tierney do the Baseball thing.

Victory Lane
That’s it! Finished, finale, adios, hasta luego, peace! Keep reading if you want, don’t if you don’t. Peace to those of you departing; for the rest, there’s a few more treasures to be found if you scroll on down.

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END – AUTO RACING NEWS

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Reflections on the Open Championship
I did not manage to find the time to watch any of the live coverage from St. Andrews, though I did halfway follow it through ESPN in order to give Eric a little bit of golf coverage. The major points from this past weekend are obvious and pretty straightforward, so there’s not a whole lot to go over. In the end, this Open has to be remembered more as the Golden Bear’s last, as opposed to the start of Tiger’s quest to pass his all-time Majors mark. That talk will be saved for the PGA Championship, which may determine a lot about the future path of the PGA’s most marketable star.

It was Jack Nicklaus, not Tiger that was basking in all the media attention. After finished at +3 and missing the cut in his final Open appearance, Nicklaus birdied on 18 to call it a career in the Open. His farewell to the gallery with his son was something to behold, and is one of those photo-opt moments that are almost obligatory in big farewells. Tiger Woods deserves some props though for, you know, winning the Open Championship. With a comfortable five stroke win over Montgomerie, Woods made it seem like fifteen strokes, and almost seemed to morph into 1998 Tiger. Vijay and Phil became afterthoughts, as Tiger now seeks to dominate the sport again. Well, whether he can is debatable, just like whether or not he’ll pass the record for most Majors won. The next stop on his quest comes in the form of the PGA Championship this year at Baltusrol. Baltusrol is set up to Tiger’s liking; with two Par Fives at the end, Tiger has to be considered the favorite when he can focus on driving as opposed to placement. Of course, if you don’t hear it on Sportscenter or an ESPN show over the next two weeks, here’s a little tidbit for the trivially inclined: Tiger is chasing Nicklaus’ majors record. Two of his majors wins came at Baltusrol in the form of two U.S. Open Championships. Food for thought.

But, onto Colin Montgomerie for a moment, who recently had his play in the States questioned by the Pardon the Interruption crew Monday, finished at -9, five strokes behind Tiger. Since I don’t watch golf regularly, I cannot make any sort of guess as to how, or why Montgomerie doesn’t “show up” when push comes to shove in the United States. He seems to play well at the Open, but being Scottish, you can semi-expect that he’d bring his A-game when he’s close to home.

And, on that note, we’ll call it quits until the PGA Championship in a few weeks. Eric, hope you find it more satisfactory than no coverage at all. Gotta keep the staffers happy, you know. That’s what rookies are for.

Reflections on the 2005 ESPY Awards
Much like the Open Championship, a lot of the major highlights were predictable within the first few minutes of the show. The Red Sox were pretty much settled in for the night with a nice little haul (taking in Team of the Year honors, as well as sporting quite a few honors bestowed upon their historic ALCS performances, in both Championship Performance for Curt Schilling and Game of the Year for Game 5). Peyton Manning was also a lock for NFL Player of the Year, and there was no big mystery behind Armstrong’s Male Athlete of the Year title.

Having said that, there were a few awards that are questionable, to say the least. How Tiger Woods managed not to win the “Best Play” for his shot at Augusta on what I believe was the 14th Hole (the infamous roll from the bunker). That was probably the biggest tragedy, though I would also take issue with the Heat’s Wade taking the award for Breakthrough Performance over Sharapova or Danica, simply due to the fact that Wade wasn’t exactly moldy cheese in 2004.

I’m not the world’s biggest Destiny’s Child fan (though they’re infinitely better than Mike Jones, at least), so I just skipped over that whole spiel there. I will, however, admit to being totally moved by the Arthur Ashe Award segment. Much like the Sportscenter specials where they tell the stories of athletes who overcame tremendous odds or pressure to lead inspirational stories, I found the segment to be particularly well done and very classy, although you can’t help but feel for them. To be up on that stage must have been a dream that they thought would never materialize. Whew…

I’m not a big fan of the awards show these days. I can’t stand to watch Hollywood pat itself on the back vis-à-vis the Oscars, which gives fruits the chance to spew their stupid fashion garbage. At least the ESPY Awards are based on Sports, and not… garbage.

Speed Addicts Special: Addict vs. Bayless
Because there’s not enough content already, we’re going to follow up on a bit that Nguyen posted in his Tuesday column that the more astute of you may have caught. It’s no secret (now, at least) that I’m not the biggest fan in the world of Skip Bayless. Though I’ve often disagreed with him on many things (like his assumption that Deion Sanders was the greatest athlete in the world last week), I’ve never been particularly aggravated with his opinions, though God knows he throws them around at every turn. Well, that all changed a few days ago on ESPN.com, where Bayless had the chutzpah to deny Rafael Palmeiro entry into the Hall of Fame. No, scratch that, he said that he didn’t even belong.

He said one of my favorite players, who has broken milestone after milestone, and powered some of the most potent offenses in baseball history, with a .994 fielding percentage and 3,000 hits coupled with 500 Home Runs… isn’t worthy of the Hall of Fame?

He isn’t worthy?

Bayless; an aging moronic tool who seems to be a connoisseur to the cynically inclined crowd, has often expressed views that I haven’t agreed with. Though various IP Staffers have their own reasons for hating him, I personally dislike him for being too much like Jay Mariotti. Mariotti, who like Bayless will present his opinion whether you want him to or not, has the aura of being a stuck up dramatist whenever he appears on television. To Mariotti, a chance to turn Michelle Wie missing the cut into the biggest revelation since the Revelation is an opportunity he salivates for. Bayless fits into this mold, but he is nowhere near as good an analyst, enunciator, or sports information guru as Mariotti. Considering Mariotti is the dope that said Sammy Sosa will be remembered as nothing more than a failure and a footnote in Chicago, that’s some pretty low standards to live down to.

This time, though, Bayless went above and beyond the call of stupidity by calling out one of the most proficiently sound (if rarely heralded) players in the game: Rafael Palmeiro. His point? Despite ranking highly in most offensive categories, and becoming only the fourth player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit 500 home runs and collect 3,000 hits, milestones are “overrated”, and Bayless wants someone who earns his pay like “Mr. October”. Well, considering that Palmeiro never made it to a World Series (a fact that he even mentions in his own column!), that point would kind of be redundant, no?

Bayless has his heart set against voting Palmeiro into the Hall of Fame, even going so far as to say that he’d trade Palmeiro off for Dale Murphy (?) and… Andre Dawson!? Granted, I love Murphy and Dawson as much as the next baseball guru… but would you honestly trade off Palmeiro for either of those two? Palmeiro is statistically better than either of those two in almost every major category, not to mention his having appeared in more clutch games than either of the two. Remember, Murphy played in Atlanta during their down years and Dawson… well, Dawson got stuck in Montreal for a long time, which even in the 1980s wasn’t the best of locations to call home.

Bayless makes the fatal mistake of trying to lump Palmeiro into the category of every other Hall of Fame member and compare him via that route, which is a smoking gun if I ever saw one. For the record for any of you future sports writers out there, you should keep your opinions on pitchers and hitters separate, for trying to combine Killebrew and Koufax in the same argument is a fallible case. So, how are we to determine whether Rafael deserves to be in or not?

Apparently, Skip doesn’t have a clue.

So, we’re going to try a little experiment. Using the excellent resources at MLB.com, we’ll take a look at every major offensive category in Major League Baseball’s record book: Average, RBIs, Home Runs, Doubles, Triples, Runs, Hits, and Slugging. We’ll trace his progression through the ranks of baseball’s all time greats, and then list the notable names through history that he has surpassed.

Home Runs
By far, his most prolific statistic. Considering the fact that just over 200,000 home runs have been hit in the history of Major League Baseball, the fact that Rafael Palmeiro owns 566 of them is no small feat when you consider the thousands upon thousands of players that have set foot on a baseball diamond in the past 134 years. Some would argue that Palmeiro only reached such numbers by playing in Texas, where the ball park was much more suited to a hitter of Palmeiro’s stature. If you want to use that argument, then you must also take a long look at Babe Ruth, who hit many of his career 714 Home Runs over the short porch in Right Field at Yankee Stadium, a design flaw that was purposely concocted to suit Ruth, and one that’s no small secret to the public, either past or present.

All Time Rank: 9th – Home Runs (566)
Notables Passed: Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Eddie Matthews, Mel Ott, Eddie Murray, Lou Gherig, and Carl Yazstremski.

Total Bases
All Time Rank: 11th – Total Bases (5,358)

Only one true first baseman, Eddie Murray, stands between Palmeiro and the all time lead in total bases for a first baseman. Quite an accomplishment, considering the talent that that particular position has fielded over the course of baseball’s history. As in a few other categories listed below, Palmeiro is the active leader in this particular category until Barry Bonds returns (if he returns), holding a sizeable advantage over the next closest active player: Sammy Sosa. Total Bases is a rarely spoke of statistic that I tend to value more than OPS, for the simple reason that I’m sick of hearing about OBP. Some of the names that Palmeiro has passed, though, is downright startling:

Notables Passed: Cal Ripken, Dave Winfield, Ted Williams, Tris Speaker, Lou Gherig, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Honus Wagner, Al Kaline, Reggie Jackson, Andre Dawson, Robin Yount, Rogers Hornsby, Ernie Banks, Ricky Henderson, Tony Perez, Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Dave Parker, Matthews, Brooks Robinson, Gwynn, Brock, McCovey, Stargell, Killebrew, Rice, Boggs, Carew, Morgan, DiMaggio, Sisler, Sandberg, and Dale Murphy.

Doubles
Though most will remember his Home Runs, few people realize how many doubles Rafael has actually hit. To wit, he’s hit 16 more doubles than home runs to date, and one would figure that doubles would increase on par with, if not faster than his home run totals. His most consistent seasons for doubles have actually come in Baltimore of all places, where he logged 40 in 1996, only one shy of his career high of 41, which came in 1988 with the Chicago Cubs. He’s already passed another legendary Baltimore figure in Eddie Murray, and has also topped Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth. And before any of you make a remark about how Bonds and Ruth hit more for power than for average, allow me to add three more names that he’s passed: Lou Gherig, Ted Williams, and Willie Mays. Enough said.

All Time Rank: 15th – Doubles (582)
Notables Passed: Barry Bonds, Eddie Murray, Tony Gwynn, Lou Gherig, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, and George Herman “Babe” Ruth.

Runs Batted In (RBI)
Oh, this category was especially fun. 16th All Time is impressive in any sport, regardless the category. To think that Raffy has batted in over 1,800 runs is pretty amazing. Of course, the RBI total becomes Tiddlywinks when you look at the guys he’s passed. The list is long and distinguished, and also includes Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. Robinson, regarded as one of the best baseball players in history, trails Palmeiro in doubles, hits, and runs batted in. He is only twenty home runs ahead of Palmeiro, a total that Rafael looks to break within the next two seasons.

All Time Rank: 16th – Runs Batted In (1,825)
Notables Passed: Frank Robinson, Honus Wagner, Reggie Jackson, Cal Ripken, Tony Perez, Ernie Banks, George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson, Rogers Hornsby, Harmon Killebrew, Al Kaline, Willie McCovey, Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Paul Molitor, Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, and Brooks Robinson.

Hits
As I write this, Palmeiro just laced a double for his 3,000th Career Hit. This puts him at 26th on the All-Time List. Once again, he has surpassed Frank Robinson on the career list, but some other names may surprise you: Raffy is ahead of Rogers Hornsby (arguably one of the best infielders to ever live), Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Brooks Robinson (one of the greatest Orioles of all time), and George Sisler, who held the single season hit record until just last year, when Ichiro assumed that record.

All Time Rank: 26th – Hits (3,000)
Notables Passed: Frank Robinson, Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Brooks Robinson, and George Sisler.

Runs
Only marginally worse than his hits total, Rafael Palmeiro’s career run total is staggering; he’s scored 1,655 times over the course of his career, which is more than Hall of Fame infielders Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Robin Yount, Eddie Murray, and George Brett can say. It also bares mentioning that Skip Bayless was decisive in choosing the first baseman Murray over Palmeiro, despite Rafael having hit more home runs and doubles, and scored more runs. Murray has a better career slugging percentage, more hits and runs batted in. Palmeiro’s .994 Fielding % bests Murray by .001; likewise, Murray’s career average of .287 is a mere one point higher than Palmeiro’s. Of course Murray appears more clutch than Palmeiro; Rafael has never been to a World Series, and has played in less meaningful playoff games than Murray has. For the record, Rafael is a very capable hitter in the clutch, and was and remains one of the more feared two-strike hitters in baseball.

All Time Rank: 29th – Runs (1,655)
Notables Passed: Joe Morgan, Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Rogers Hornsby, George Brett, Robin Yount, and Lou Brock.

Slugging Percentage
To be honest, slugging percentage has never been as important to me as on-base percentage or average totals. I’m much more a substance over flash kind of guy, which explains why some of my favorite players of all time are far from being power hitters (ie Rose, Brett, Fisk, Bench, Morgan, Yount). Of course, many people hold Slugging Pct. in high regard. Though 46th on the Career list may not seem very high, consider how many baseball players have come through the league. Then it becomes much more notable. For what it’s worth, Palmeiro has a higher slugging percentage than Ty Cobb, who was decidedly more of an average hitter than he was a power hitter (average meaning he hit for average, not that he was a mediocre hitter). More impressive is his lead over home run hitting legends’ Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Matthews and Ernie Banks. He also has a better percentage than Jim Rice, who some people argue should be in the Hall of Fame.

All Time Rank: 46th – Slugging Percentage (.513)
Notables Passed: Ty Cobb, Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Matthews, Jim Rice, and Ernie Banks.

The only two statistical categories that Rafael did not fare as well were for average (a career .286 hitter, which lands him within the Top 100 all time), and triples (38). With that aside, let’s just put everything together, shall we? Palmeiro has more home runs than Mickey Mantle, more doubles than Teddy Ballgame, more RBIs than every Tampa Bay Devil Ray, past or present combined, more hits than the Babe, more runs than Hornsby, and a better slugging percentage than Harmon Killebrew, one of only eight men that have more home runs than Palmeiro does. He hit over the .300 mark in six different seasons, and approached that particular plateau on three other occasions in his career, staying mostly in the .275-.290 range. More impressive is the 2,890 games that he’s played in; that’s the most of any active player in either league, and since 1995, has only been bettered by two people – Cal Ripken (3,001 / 8th All Time) and Dave Winfield (2,809 / 10th All Time). Combine that with a damn-near sparkling .994 Fielding Percentage, nearly 18,000 put outs and only 120 errors in over 2,335 career games? Sounds like someone’s defense is pretty solid as well.

The issue boils down to one simple point: Bayless wants style and substance. If the player in question doesn’t win five MVP awards and three Home Run Derby contests, then you can just check him off of the list as far as Skippy is concerned. Milestones, to Bayless, are overrated fluff pieces that detract from a player’s true abilities. Under some circumstances, I can get with that, but the dichotomy here lies in the fact that Palmeiro’s abilities are defined by the statistical milestones that Bayless would rather have you ignore. For instance, Ted Williams is arguably one of the greatest hitters of all time. Probably the most famous Red Sox player ever, Teddy Ballgame is remembered for a host of things. His performance in the postseason isn’t among that list, though. Oddly enough, Ted Williams performed poorly in almost every playoff-level game he appeared in (which ranges from numerous one/two game shootouts at season’s end with the Yankees and Indians for the AL Pennant), including his lone World Series appearance in 1947, where he hit just over .200 for the series. The milestones, the records that he set and achieved should therefore be the reason that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. But, using the same argument on Williams that Bayless uses on Palmeiro, Ted Williams would be in the Hall of Fame for being one of the two best baseball players of his generation (alongside Joe DiMaggio). Lou Gherig was always overshadowed in the major leagues while he was playing on the great Yankee teams of the 1920s and ’30s, but Bayless thinks he should be in the Hall of Fame. You see, he says that he wants no doubters…

“Give me Aaron, Banks, Bench, Brock, Carew, Carlton, Clemente, Cobb, Dizzy Dean, DiMaggio, Drysdale, Eckersley, Feller, Whitey Ford, Gehrig, Gibson, Grove, Hornsby, Hubbell, Walter Johnson, Kaline, Killebrew, Koufax, Mantle, Marichal, Mathewson, Mays, McCovey …

Mize, Morgan, Musial, Ott, Paige, Palmer, Reese, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Ruth, Ryan, Schmidt, Seaver, Sisler, Ozzie Smith, Snider, Spahn, Speaker, Stargell, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Cy Young and Robin Yount.” – Skip Bayless, ESPN.com

And yet Bayless, who also said Deion Sanders and Allen Iverson were the two best athletes in the world, would take Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy and put them in the Hall of Fame? Score one for the good guys, because Skip is DOA on this one. You cannot ignore statistical milestones when debating whether a player should be in the Hall of Fame or not. The Hall of Fame is not set up to reward those players who achieved the most fame over his career. It’s designed to reward the players who were among the best the game had to offer when he donned the glove.

I’m not trying to make Palmeiro into Babe Ruth here, Heavens no. When it boils down to it, Rafael Palmeiro is not the greatest first baseman to ever play the game. He’s probably never going to be discussed as one of the best hitters of all time in relationship to guys like Ted Williams or Willie Mays. And that’s okay, because baseball, more than anything, is the greatest medium for individual recognition in the guise of a team sport. Yastrzemski will never be as good as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle will never surpass Babe Ruth’s reputation in the eyes of the general public, and Greg Maddux will always play second banana to Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson when historians argue who the best pitcher of our generation was. Palmeiro has played the game with the same kind of heart that we all do when we were young. Baseball is baseball, but for Palmeiro, it’s life. And he has been very good at life for a very long time. So, Skip Bayless, I present to you my side of the argument. You think you’re right, I think you’re wrong. Palmeiro should be in the Hall of Fame. There’s just one word that can describe your argument.

Baseless, Bayless.

End of the Line
Finally, after three parts (because the size necessitated it), we’re done. Because I’m tired, I’ll just cut the Theatre article from the column and add it to the RaceDay Pulse tomorrow. As always, check back tomorrow night for the latest from Pocono, Hockenheim, Milwaukee, and le Tour de Lance. Until then, I’m actually going to quit typing for awhile. Keep it real, and you know the rest from here. We gone!

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Peace!