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Phelps Diving Back Into It

April 17, 2014

The news did not surprise many. Michael Phelps is coming out of retirement. He stated that he was lured back into the pool by the fun of it and the possibility of swimming at a fifth Olympics in Rio in 2016. 

It all resumes soon for the 28-year old swimmer. Phelps, the 22-time Olympic medalist, will compete for the first time since the 2012 London Games at a meet next week in Mesa, Arizona. Apparently, the comeback has been in the works for a while now. Phelps returned to training last fall and re-entered the U.S. drug-testing program. He has completed his six-month waiting period by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to be eligible for competition. 

Phelps is the winningest and most decorated athlete in Olympic history. He captured 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall at the last three Summer Games. He broke Mark Spitz’s record for a single Olympics by winning eight gold medals at Beijing in 2008.

Welcome back Mr. Phelps 

One has to wonder if Phelps’ legacy will be tarnished if he comes back and does not place in the top three within his races. Long term, I do not think so. His accomplishments to date are unmatched. But it will seem strange if we watch him in the back of the pack. 

Phelps had vowed that he wouldn’t swim into his 30s. Since retiring less than two years ago, he has stayed busy with a chain of swim schools and a foundation focused on water safety. We have only seen him on Subway commercials though he did participate on a golf reality show with acclaimed coach Hank Haney. It appears that he missed the competition. 

Personally, I am all for athletes competing as long as they want while not worrying about their reputation. He’s already done so much on the International stage. Whether he adds a couple more gold medals or not, what he’s done has been so incredible, whatever he does next should be accepted by all. 

If you are interested in observing his comeback, Phelps has already entered the Grand Prix meets in Charlotte. Depending on his early results, Phelps could compete in the U.S. National Championships in August in Irvine, Calif., where teams will be selected for the 2015 world championships. 

There is precedent for a comeback such as Phelps’. Five-time Olympian Dara Torres, at the age of 41, made the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in return to the sport and won three silver medals. She actually made two comebacks. At the age of 33, Torres made the 2000 Olympics after seven years in retirement.  

Baseball’s Back 

America’s pastime (at leas it used to be), baseball, is back. In case you missed it, Major League Baseball started two weeks back. I will spend some time attempting to get you caught up on it. 

There have been a few surprises thus far in 2014. 

The biggest surprise has been the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew got off to a 10-2 start and lead the National League Central. The Brewers are doing it with pitching. Their starting rotation has the third lowest ERA in baseball and their bullpen has allowed just three earned runs in 32 innings. 

The Oakland A’s lost their top two starting pitchers to injury during spring training. Their $10 million closer, Jim Johnson, imploded and is no longer the team’s closer. CoCo Crisp, one of the top leadoff hitters in the game is banged up. Yet, the A’s lead the American League West with a 9-4 record. 

Let me throw a new name out at you. The Chicago White Sox have a new slugger that most of the baseball world has not heard of yet. Jose Abreu already has four home runs for the 7-6 White Sox. It will be interesting to see if pitchers find a weakness in his swing. If not, Abreu could be the next slugger to regularly hit 40 homers a year. Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies if off to a torrid start. The 35-year-old second baseman has played about 100 games a year over the last four seasons due to injuries. Utley is healthy thus far and is hitting a ridiculous .500 heading into this week. 

Alex Rodriguez is serving his season-long suspension. His replacement for the New York Yankees, Yangervis Solarte, is making the most of his opportunity to replace A-Rod. His story is actually one of perseverance. Solarte, an eight-year Minor Leaguer, has become the Yankees’ third baseman. Solarte has made the most of the opportunity with a .357 batting average. Though the Yankees are struggling with a 7-6 record, Solarte has been a bright spot. 

One big change within the game is Instant Replay. It is now utilized in the game in a similar fashion as football. It appears to be off to a pretty good start. But there has been a unintended consequence of the system. 

Yangervis Solarte, in the majors after 8 years

For those you enjoyed old and often overweight managers running onto the field to argue with umpires, you will not be happy with the consequence of instant replay. All managers do now is ask for instant replay. They usually do so in a polite manner. The umpires then make a call to replay headquarters in New York and the final decision is made. The decision still makes one of the managers upset. But they are not going to kick dirt, throw or kick bases or throw dirt at a telephone after the umpire hangs up on Mr. New York. 

The classic matchup of angry manager and cocky ump is a thing of the past. Billy Martin, Lou Piniella, Earl Weaver, and Bobby Cox have provided numerous arguments with umpire replays over the years. That era is likely gone. 

The new system gives us accuracy. But we will likely miss the manager vs. umpire dynamic. Purists can take some solace in that managers can still gripe over balls and strikes since they are not susceptible to replay. 

When you watch your next game, watch how the manager and umpire address a close call. They will likely meet on the field and have a polite conversation before reaching for the phone. Who would have thought that replay use would lead to civility on the diamond?

 


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