Thursday, September 10, 2009

Derek & Lou

Last night, Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig's Yankee hit record with a single in the seventh inning. There's not much I can say that would do justice to the milestone, or come close to matching the current media coverage. All I can do is tip my blogger cap to the classiest guy in the game, a player whose talent, work ethic, and professionalism has ensured long-lasting success. Here he is, at 35 years old, and he'll most likely finish in the top 3 of MVP voting. Since he became the full-time shorstop in 1996, his highest batting average over a full season is .349. His lowest is .291. And because of his immense capacity for focus, he's always been the guy Yankee fans want batting with the pressure on. And soon he'll be the Yankee Hit King.

And Lou Gehrig was a classy player, too, as Jeter noted in his post-game interview last night. Whenever he breaks the record, probably Friday, it will be a great torch-passing moment. Compared to other recent milestones, like McGuire topping Maris or Bonds surpassing Aaron, there will be no wincing feeling of regret. Jeter deserves what he accomplishes, just like Gehrig deserved it when he passed Babe Ruth 72 years ago.

Moving on to the US Open, Federer won a deceptively tough match yesterday against Robin Soderling, a guy I like more every day since basically crowning him the reigning poor sport of tennis in this post. Federer owned him the first two sets, 6-0, 6-3, but then Robin got back into the match in a big way. He pressed Roger throughout the third, eventually winning a tiebreak 7-6, and did the same in the fourth to earn a set point in that tiebreak. Then Fed hit a typically clutch serve, and won the next two points to advance to the semis. But make no mistake, things got a bit dicey. If Soderling could have come out of the gates playing like that, and maybe gotten lucky on one of his five failed break chances, that match could have gone the other way. Then again, that's why Federer is Federer; there's no room for weakness.

And so, in the semi, the Greatest will face the immensely unlikeable Novak Djokovic. As I mentioned Tuesday, I'm rooting for someone other than Roger to win, specifically Rafa, but I still don't want to see Jock-Itch beat him. And you can bet the crowd won't, either, after last year's post-match rant where he played the sore winner like a method actor and turned the entire city against him. Regardless, it should be entertaining.

Tonight at 7, Rafa vs. Gonzalez in the quarters. This match means the most to me of any this year since Roger-Rafa in the Australian final. Rafa's coming off an injury, and the hard surface in Flushing has never been his best, so I don't expect him to win the title. But Gonzalez is a punk, a conclusion I arrived at quickly watching him live on Tuesday night (covered in yesterday's post), and I'd rather Rafa go down to someone a little more respectable. Actually, I'd rather he beat Federer in the final, but that's getting a bit greedy.

Tomorrow, definitely some college football stuff; thoughts on last week and predictions for this coming Saturday. Tonight, don't miss Rafa-Gonzalez and the start of the NFL season. The Titans will be a strong team, a playoff team, but I can't see Pitt losing at home in the opener. Steelers 27, Titans 17.

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