Major League Baseball is beginning its third week of action. Instead of making early predictions I will spend some time educating you on some milestones that will likely be reached this year. I will also throw in some thoughts of how I see the season progressing.
Adrian Beltre will be the next player to reach 3,000 hits. He will become the 31st member of the 3,000-hit club. Beltre needs only 58 more hits to join Wade Boggs and George Brett as the only 3,000 hit members who played more than half their games at third base. Beltre plays for the Texas Rangers, a team I see finishing third behind the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners in the AL West. Beltre is also close to a couple of smaller milestones that would help him become truly elite. With just nine more doubles and five more home runs, in addition to those 58 hits, Beltre would join Hall of Famers’ Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski as the only players in history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles and 450 homers. That is quite a list for someone who has had a quiet career compiling stats.
Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels is also within range of 3,000 hits. He needs another 175 base knocks to join potentially Beltre and the other 30 legends. Pujols hasn’t collected at least 175 hits in a season since 2010, his second-to-last year with the St. Louis Cardinals, though he did tally 172 just three seasons ago for the Angels. He will likely need another year to reach the milestone. Pujols is only nine homers shy of 600 in his career, a total only equaled by Barry Bonds, Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Thome and Sammy Sosa. Meanwhile, the Angels will fall out of contention early despite having Pujols and the best player in baseball, Mike Trout. It is a shame Trout is stuck on a franchise that has not seen success in quite some time.
Now in his 40s and pitching for the Atlanta Braves, Bartolo Colon is only 135 strikeouts shy of becoming the 33rd member of the 2,500-strikeout club for pitchers. With only 888 career walks, Colon has a good chance to become only the ninth pitcher in history to finish with 2,500 punchouts and fewer than 1,000 walks. The Braves have a young and talented team with several pitchers who should watch and learn from Colon.
Detroit Tigers’ closer Francisco Rodriguez will likely join Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith in 2017 as the only pitchers with 450 career saves. Rodriguez, who’s currently sitting on 430 saves, has struck out 1,119 batters in his storied career, giving him an excellent chance to pass the career totals of Hoffman (1,133) and Rivera (1,173) in the coming season. I see the Tigers contending for the AL Central title or a wildcard berth.
NBA Playoff Thoughts
I will spend more time with the NBA in upcoming weeks when the playoffs move from boring first round action. Here are some early storylines however.
I wonder if Russell Westbrook can take Oklahoma City deep into the playoffs? The Thunder are underdogs in their first round matchup against the Houston Rockets. But it doesn’t seem right to count out the Thunder considering that Westbrook is the most dominant force in the NBA. Westbrook averaged a triple-double this season, posting 31.9 points (first in the NBA), 10.7 rebounds (10th) and 10.4 assists (third).
Most feel the Golden State Warriors dominate the postseason. The Warriors went on a 14-game win streak before losing their season finale. That run included an impressive comeback victory at San Antonio that was sandwiched between two wins over Houston, all without Kevin Durant. Durant is back now and I believe the Warriors will cruise to their second NBA title in three years.
The San Antonio Spurs have the best chance at stopping Golden State. They topped 60 wins again and are well rested heading into the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard is a top-four MVP candidate. Lemarcus Aldridge is a consistent and steady presence at power forward, and center Pau Gasol is averaging a double-double in over the last month or so. The Spurs also have the NBA’s best defensive numbers. I will enjoy watching San Antonio and Golden State in the Western Finals.
One has to wonder who will come out of the Eastern Conference. Lebron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers lost nearly half of their last 28 games during the regular season and were passed by the Boston Celtics as the number one seed. The Cavs rank 22nd in defense. That will not work in playoff basketball.
Where Are They Now?
Remember when Allen Iverson was one of the prolific players in the NBA? The sharp-shooting guard earned a staggering $160 million dollars during his NBA career while embracing a hip-hop and thuggish lifestyle. He is also remembered as a player who stated he did not need to practice. But as is the case with many professional athletes, Iverson’s entourage and freeloading friends helped suck his finances dry. He’s broke now but there is some hope. Iverson is lucky that he had a good agent who worked with Reebok to keep $30 million tucked away for Iverson as part of a “rainy day,” clause in his contract but he won’t