Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"Reg-gie! Reg-gie! Reg-gie!"

There are two kinds of basketball players that scare you if you have to guard them. The scariest of the scary is the guy who can get his own shot. He beats you off the dribble, he slithers through double teams, he gets the ball in his hands even when you're working your tail off to deny him a touch. In short, Michael Jordan.

There's another kind of player that's appreciably less scary, but still deadly effective: the catch and shoot guy. He can't work you off the dribble. He needs plays drawn up for him and screens from his teammates to get open looks. If he gets that open look, though, if you give him a smidgen of daylight, he'll knife you again and again and again. In short, Reggie Miller.

Baseball is a long way from being the same sport as basketball. It's harder to create solo opportunities, and I've only seen three players in my twenty-odd years of watching baseball who could "get their own shot." Rickey Henderson, in his walk-drawing, long-ball-popping, base-pilfering prime. Barry Bonds, blasting forty homers a year with only eighty pitches to hit.

The third? Pedro Martinez, 1999-2000.

As many writers, including yours truly, have noted, that guy is not walking back through that door. Pedro wasn't Michael Jordan last night. He needed an outfield assist from Manny Ramirez and an incomprehensible base-running gaffe from his opposite number to open the door. Once he saw daylight, though, he went off in a Reggie Miller "7 for 8 from the arc, 12 for 13 from the line" kind of way. Playing the percentages, never throwing the same pitch at the same speed in the same spot twice, trusting his defense to make the plays behind him.

To put it bluntly, Pedro dished out a big, heaping plate of sh'up to the whisperers and the doubters, including yours truly. (Note: sh'up is a registered trademark of college buddy Cara Ewell Hodkin.) Thank you, Pedro, for turning back the clock.


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