Thursday, April 06, 2006

Joltin' Jim is not a new Joltin' Joe

AP story in USA Today flummoxed me.

Says Phillies short stop Jimmy Rollins is chasing Joe DiMaggio's record for consecutive games with a hit.

Rollins kept up his pursuit of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak with a double in the first inning, and finished 2-for-4 with two doubles. He waited until his final at-bat to keep the streak going with a double in the eighth inning of Monday's season opener.

Now by my calculations, Rollins has to hit in each of his next 55 games to break DiMaggio's record.

AP reporter Rob Maadi's writing as if Rollins only has to do it in the next 19, because he's already got a streak going of 38 straight games.

Didn't the season start just this week?

Ok. I understand they're counting the last 36 games of last season. But even if Rollins manages a hit in those 19 games, isn't that a different record? A hitting streak that extends through the end of one season and then picks up at the beginning of the next is pretty darn impressive.

But it isn't as impressive as doing it all in one season. Which DiMaggio did. He started on May 15 and finished on July 16. Two straight months. No six month layover between hits 36 and 37, although he did take a few days off to play in the All Star Game---and got a hit.

Besides it being tougher to do, the beauty and excitement of a hitting streak is watching the player keeping it going day in and day out. That's how I remember it from when Pete Rose was chasing DiMaggio in '78. I hated Pete Rose, but every morning I rushed out to get the paper to see if he'd kept his streak alive, hoping he had. I wanted him to hit in 75 straight, just to see it done.

Rose hit in 44 straight, starting in June.

Once he got above 25 or so and it entered the realm of possibility that he'd catch DiMaggio, every game, every one of his bats, became a thrill.

Who besides Philly fans were paying attention when Rollins hit in his 25th straight last year? There were only a couple more weeks left to the season.

(By the way, 36 games is a helluva streak, all on its own.)

If Rollins does keep a streak going for 19 more games, he'll have a streak of 21 straight games. Which is pretty good. Maybe he'll falter after hitting in 7 more, which would give him a 2 season streak of 45 games. Still not better than what Rose did. He can put either achievement next to his streak of 36 straight from last season on his plaque in the Hall of Fame.

But they shouldn't add them up and say he bested Joe DiMaggio or even Pete Rose.

Has it always been the case that they've counted streaks as extending across seasons?

I believe Orel Hirshiser started off the '89 season with a mini-streak of scoreless innings, but his record's just counted as the 59 consecutive he finished off '88 with, isn't it?

Or is this new? Something somebody thought up so that in the year Barry Bonds is going to pass Babe Ruth on the Home Run list we can watch a player who is isn't juiced break a record too?

Maybe it's just the case that the AP reporter failed to read his own sidebar.

I don't see Bonds catching up with Hank Aaron, assuming Bonds is clean this year. But you know what? I don't really care. Bonds doesn't interest me. Neither does the all-time home run record. Ruth's feat can't be duplicated or bested because of the time when he did it, and just because he couldn't catch Ruth, because of time lost to the Army and having had to play in Candlestick Park, doesn't change the fact that Willie Mays was the greatest player of all time.

As great as Hammerin' Hank was, he wasn't as great as Mays, even if he did pass Ruth.

Bonds can hit 800 home runs and that won't make him as great as any of the three of them.

Though he'll still be great.

But the greatest player now playing, the guy I'm rooting for, is playing in Cincinnati. He's the guy to watch. And yesterday he passed Mickey Mantle on the HR list and went ahead of Joe DiMaggio in RBI.

Update: Rob Farley does care about Aaron's home run record and he hopes to see it broken this season by Bonds. He means see it see it, as in he's expecting to be in the stands watching. Rob is a purer hearted fan than I am.

Rob also thinks that both Bonds and Alex Rodriguez are better players than Ken Griffey Jr., whom he loves. Rob has seen both Rodriguez and Griffey play. Together. On the same team. Some people are just blessed.


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