Sports are wonderful.

You already knew that.

We were all given a reminder of this last week.

On July 1 Tyler Skaggs, a 27 year old pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, was found dead in his Texas hotel room. Let’s put aside any speculation about the cause of death, and focus on the aftermath.

The Angels and Texas Rangers game scheduled for that night was quickly canceled. Moments of silence were observed throughout Major League Baseball. Skaggs’ teammates had to come to grips with the loss of a teammate, a friend, a brother.

Sports teams are essentially a family. Sure they don’t always get along, and sometimes a separation even has to happen. For the most part, though, a team spends so much time together that you become united in good times and bad. Therefore, Skaggs’ unthinkable and unfortunate death forced the rest of his Angels brothers to come together.

This is where the shot of wonderful was injected.

The All Star break gave everyone with the Angels a chance to take a breath. Mike Trout, as always, did a great job representing the team, and Skaggs, at the All Star game.

Then came last Thursday night, when the Angels played their first game in Anaheim since the death of Skaggs. Every Angels player wore Skaggs number 45, and the number was painted onto the mound. Finally, the team had Skaggs’ mother throw out the first pitch to his best friend on the team, Andrew Heaney. Of course she threw a perfect strike.

Then we got a booster shot of wonderful.

Taylor Cole and Felix Pena combined on a no-hitter, as the Angels throttled the Seattle Mariners 13-0. A no hitter on the night the team honored their fallen pitcher. Only sports can write this kind of script.

As the entire team gathered on the field to celebrate look what happened next.

That is powerful stuff.

Nothing will bring back Tyler Skaggs. However, for at least one night his family got to see how much their son, brother, husband meant to his teammates, and how much those teammates cared for him.

Bad things happen in life. We all wish the bad stuff would stay away, but unfortunately it rears its ugly head from time to time. Often times sports are there to give relief, honor the fallen, and provide at least a small sense of comfort to those affected by the bad events.

Sports truly are wonderful.


Two Cent Takes

Pirates

~Nobody should be surprised by the Pirates getting swept in Chicago over the weekend. As I said before the break, they aren’t truly contenders. They have no number one or number two starting pitchers, although Chris Archer showed signs Friday. He will need many more starts like that to convince me.

Jordan Lyles is finally pitching like Jordan Lyles, and that’s not a good thing. Trevor Williams has been pitching like Jordan Lyles ever since coming off the IL in June. That is definitely not a good thing. Lastly, Dario Agrazal, a guy who wasn’t even on the 40 man roster a month ago, has apparently become a member of the starting rotation. The hitting is bound to cool off, and that pitching isn’t nearly good enough to cover.

~The Pirates should be sellers, provided the right deals come their way. Melky Cabrera, Jung Ho Kang, Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, and any bullpen arm not named Felipe Vazquez should be on the block. I would not be against the Pirates resigning Dickerson and Cabrera. Cabrera is just such a good presence in the clubhouse, especially with the Latin players.

~The wildcard has most teams thinking they are still in contention. Neal Huntington said last week he will be a buyer at the deadline. The prudent move would be to build around their young core, and make a run at contention in the next several years.

Phillies

~I took the bait. I thought Bryce Harper was going to ride in on his $330 million white horse and lead the Phillies to the playoffs. Boy, was I wrong.

The Phillies pitching staff, this side of Aaron Nola, is way beyond awful. Jake Arrieta continues to rub people the wrong way, and now someone in his camp leaked news of an injury he is supposedly pitching through of late. Naturally it isn’t just that he stinks. I listened to Philly sports talk this week, and they are ready to help him pack his bags and get him out of town.

~The Phillies will be buyers. They didn’t bring in Harper as a building block. No, Phillies management wants to win, NOW. They have some high end talent in their farm system, but not a lot of depth. The top five prospects in the system are all top 150 in all of baseball, but after that there is a significant drop off. They would be wise not to trade off that high end talent just to for a chance at a one game wildcard.

~There just isn’t enough pitching to be had at the deadline to turn this team into World Series contenders. They should make the best of this season, and focus on getting better for 2020.

Home Run Derby

~My Pete Alonso prediction was spot on, however Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. stole the show. Man, that kid looked like a machine. Plus, he was like the Energizer Bunny. He just kept going, showing no signs of let up. He is going to be some kind of player.

~BP pitchers matter. Alonso’s pitcher was awful, and nearly cost him the contest. Josh Bell’s pitcher didn’t do him any favors either.

~Baseball deserves credit for keeping the contest fresh, unlike the NBA dunk contest. It was quite a show last Monday night.

Wimbledon

~Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer put on one heckuva show Sunday. Five sets with an extended tie break to finally settle things. Djokovic outlasted Federer and won his sixteenth major title. He is 32, has won 4 of the last 5 majors, and is likely to shatter Federer’s majors record.

Until further notice, Djokovic is the favorite at every major except the French Open. The clay surface at Roland-Garros has not been his friend. Provided he doesn’t lose motivation, which can happen with individual sports, he will soar right to the head of the list of all time greats in the sport of tennis.

Federer is truly amazing, still looking quick as a cat at age 37. Having said that, time is running out on his chances to win another major. He had two match points, and let them slip away. This one will hurt for awhile. I still wouldn’t doubt his ability to rise to the occasion one more time.

Wimbledon stats said Federer covered 3.6 miles in the nearly 5 hour match. All of those stops and starts, short bursts, change of directions, all while returning 120 MPH shots should look tougher for a 37 year old. Again, Federer is truly amazing, and a treasure for the sport of tennis.

~These two, along with Rafael Nadal have provided the best stretch of tennis ever. Unfortunately here in America we continue to struggle finding good players to get behind. Consequently, tennis popularity in the United States has waned. Only 9 of the top 100 players are American, with John Isner topping the list at 12.

The women’s game isn’t doing much better in the States. Once the Williams sisters finally fade away, there isn’t a ton to hang your hat on. Sloane Stephens is ranked 9 and Madison Keys is 16.

One thing is for sure, American tennis needs to pick up the pace.

~ESPN’s Chris Fowler and the McEnroe brothers, Patrick and John, are really good in the announcing booth.

NFL

~The NFL proposed an eighteen game schedule in which players would only be permitted to play in sixteen of those games.

I’ve got one word for this: Completely idiotic idea. Oh, completely and idea are taking that phrase off, so yea, one word.

The player’s union is never going to go for this idea, so it is a moot point. It is baffling why the powers that be continue to mess with America’s favorite sport. I suppose when Roger Goodell is your commissioner it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

A Penny For My Final Thought…

I was on vacation last week, and my Final Thought went with me and still hasn’t returned. Some would suggest all of my thoughts are on permanent vacation.

I did, however, revisit the whole “Is mini golf a sport” debate that took place in this column a year ago. Take a look to see that my stance clearly hasn’t changed…for obvious reasons!

Need more evidence?

   

Putting through fake manure, around fake pizza being eaten by a fake seagull, and best of all under Fred and Barney’s foot powered car should be plenty of evidence to support my position.

Okay, back to reality next week.

Just my two cents…