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Jim Henneman: Starting The New Year With A Clean Slate

January 4, 2017
Starting the New Year with a clean slate provides a good excuse to dust off the cobwebs and empty the notebook. But, despite Satchel Paige's sage advice that "somebody might be gaining," we can't do that without taking a peek at the rear view mirror. So here goes ...

- If we hear, see or read the word "probably" one more time in any assessment of Michael Phelps' Olympic career, I'm guessing Tokyo in 2020 is a definite maybe. Let's face it, his son, Boomer, will be 3 years old when it's time to start training and probably wondering, "What is it with all those medals?"

- But you have to remember I was in denial about Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz's impending retirement right up until it was time to file for free agency, and he passed. I'm still trying to figure it out, but guess it's time to accept it.

- And talking about confusing retirements, since it's Hall of Fame voting time, I'm still ticked and having a tough time accepting the fact right-hander Mike Mussina plodded through 18 major league seasons before winning 20 games -- and then called it quits. It's just one opinion, but honestly, if he'd gone one more decent year, I think "Moose" would be in the Hall of Fame by now. Another double-digit win total (he won at least 11 in each of his 17 full seasons) on top of the 270 already in the books might've been enough to put him over the edge, instead of being matched up against right-hander Curt Schilling (whose regular season body of work is clearly inferior).

- Speaking of HOF voting, which closed Dec. 31, since I'm strongly against exit polls (why can't they be against the law?), and there is such a dedicated tracking system in place for those who go public, this vote won't be revealed until after the Jan. 18 announcement of the 2017 results. One theory worth watching: Since the PED era was on his watch, the election of former Commissioner Bud Selig by the Veterans Committee last month seems to have spurred the notion Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will see a spike in their vote totals.

- Count me among those who would close the curtain if they put one of those MMA championship cages in the backyard. However, would somebody please explain how Ronda Rousey became "the face of the sport" after 12 (mis)matches, fall out of sight for a year, command a $3 million payday to make a "comeback" that lasted 48 seconds and still be relevant? Or was the whole charade just a tune up for an acting career? Puh…leeze.

- While Orioles fans are suffering through their annual bout with mid-winter blues, one can only wonder what Toronto fans are thinking. What I'm thinking is the Blue Jays went all-in for the 2015 season and are now regrouping. Remember, that's when they made an offseason run in an attempt to hire Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette as team president before luring Mark Shapiro from Cleveland, and then ransomed a piece of the future for left-hander David Price in an effort to cash in for all the chips. It didn't work. Price was an expensive rental, and now first baseman Edwin Encarnacion is gone, with outfielder  Jose Bautista likely to follow, leaving a heavy burden for the Blue Jays' talented but young pitching staff. Local fans can identify with that, since Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are carrying a good bit of the Orioles' hopes with their young right arms.

- Let me see if we have this right -- until this year, Los Angeles had been without an NFL team for what seemed like a zillion years, and now a second team (the Chargers) is posturing to join the ragamuffin Rams in the City of Angels? Don't forget Oakland also had an aborted run in the LAX area (and I'm convinced had Art Modell not beaten him to the punch, Al Davis would've brought the Raiders here before Baltimore's sweetheart Stadium deal's 1996 expiration date).

- Is it possible Duke men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski's worst nightmare is coming true? Even before the University of Maryland bolted, Coach K lamented the Atlantic Coast Conference was positioning itself to become a "football conference." Judging by results of this year's bowl games (and the national basketball rankings), the ACC has made the transition, with an 8-3 bowl record that is far superior to any of the so-called Power Five conferences.

- Anointed as "the best football conference in America" by Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago, the Big 10 Plus 4 (Big 14 doesn't work and Big 10 is obsolete) was 3-7 in postseason play, including a dismal 0-5 mark by the East (previously known as "best division in college football"). Oops.

- I know the Chicago Cubs are supposed to win the World Series every year for the foreseeable future, and the Red Sox look to be in position for the "dream matchup" everyone seemed to be hoping for a dozen years or so ago, but the potential of an Astros-Rangers duel in the American League West is intriguing.

- I know everyone keeps insisting the Orioles should be making a move to lock up third baseman Manny Machado long term, but if I were Duquette, I'd be locked in on a more feasible target and try to extend second baseman Jonathan Schoop at least through his early free-agent years.

- Even though super agent Scott Boras seems to be setting the salary bar ($300 million a year ago, now up to $400) for Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, count me among those who think Machado might be the better player.

- Remember when the 10-year, $240 million contract the Angels gave first baseman Albert Pujols seemed to be way over the top? Well, Pujols will be entering his age 37 season in 2017, with $140 million due over the next five years. Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera was responsible for re-setting the $300 million bar when he got Pujols money, but for eight years instead of 10. Cabrera, 34 this year, has seven years and $210 million remaining on his contract, which runs through his age 40 season.

Finally, nobody asked me, but ...

- I'm still not convinced WAR is the only yard stick that accurately measures baseball players. If you have to ask, I understand, but it just means you haven't been paying attention.

- I can't think of a matchup against the Patriots that would excite me for Super Bowl LI -- unless, of course, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning got a chance for a trifecta.

- Maryland's men's and women's basketball teams will get better as this season progresses, and both programs appear to be in good shape for the immediate future. 

- I'd feel a whole lot better about college basketball -- and high school programs -- if so many top recruits weren't coming out of "academies" that sound more like training facilities than schools. Ditto for the various soccer, lacrosse and baseball club teams that, in too many cases, are making high school sports irrelevant.

- Here's some sound advice for parents of talented youngsters: The money spent on outside programs doesn't guarantee a college scholarship and isn't nearly as beneficial as the "school experience."

- Until the NCAA does something about the ridiculous number of football bowl games, how can it ever be taken seriously? Wouldn't you like to see the real bottom line of what the charities get from some of these games?

- When exactly was it that mediocrity -- a 6-6 record gets you bowl eligible -- became a goal?

Jim Henneman can be reached at