Column as I see ’em:
• I was too busy watching the conclusion of the U.S Open and NBA Finals to confirm this, but rumor has it that Chris Berman is considering a new motto: “Nobody circles the month of June like the Buffalo Bills.”
Rex Ryan recently declared that the Bills had “won the offseason” and challenged other NFL teams to match their heroic run of lifting weights and assertively barking out defensive signals at One Bills Drive.
Ryan said he expects his team to kick July’s sorry behind as well. I’m not sure the team media policy will allow the intrusive media to confirm it first-hand, but I have every confidence that everyone will report to camp in “the best shape of their lives.”
The Bills always dominate the offseason, right? Who doesn’t get all tingly thinking back to the Bledsoe trade, the J.P. Losman draft, the Terrell Owens and Mario Williams signings, the trade for Shady McCoy, or the feel-good hiring of 80-year-old Marv Levy as GM a decade ago?
As I recall, they hoisted the offseason trophy when Gregg Williams predicted they would break the NFL sack record in his first year as coach. Donte Whitner was the spring MVP when he guaranteed the playoffs in 2008.
And of course, Ryan raised the bar a year ago when he showed up in town and promised to build a bully and make the playoffs right away. Rather than hold a parade right away, fans bought season tickets in record numbers.
Look, I know Ryan likes to talk big and wants to pump up his team, especially Tyrod Taylor. The man always has an agenda, and this sounds like an attempt to show the world that his guys are buying into the program, and to remind us that the players were the real problem last season.
But if Ryan expects hardened fans to get excited about workouts in June, he’s kidding himself. The Bills have gone 16 straight years without making the playoffs. They’re tired of fabricated swagger and empty promises.
What people want is to see results. If you want to talk about winning the month, do it in September and October. Don’t brag about them pumping iron until they’ve lifted the weight of a 16-season playoff drought off the franchise.
• It’s pointless to argue whether Ichiro Suzuki’s hits in Japan should be included in his all-time total. They don’t count. It’s enough to know that Ichiro could have passed Rose if he had played his entire career in MLB.
The more compelling question is who was the better player? That’s a purely subjective argument (the kind we love). Anyone who saw Ichiro in the big leagues the last 16 seasons has to agree it’s a close call.
Ichiro, who is batting .354 in part-time work for the Marlins, has a higher batting average (.314 to .303). Rose has a slight better slugging percentage (.409 to .406), but far more walks (1,566 to 609). Ichiro had 504 stolen bases to 198 for Rose, who was actually thrown out more times than Suzuki.
So I’d give Rose a slight edge as a hitter. But Ichiro was faster and a better baserunner, and he was a better fielder with a rocket arm. Ichiro might have been the best defensive right fielder of the past 25 years.
Rose was a supreme competitor whose value couldn’t be measured solely in numbers. If I had to pick one in his prime, I’d give Charlie Hustle a slight edge. Unlike Rose, Ichiro is a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Oh, and if Mets manager Terry Collins has a heart, he’ll name Ichiro as a reserve for the National League all-star team.
• Tiger Woods hasn’t played in either of the majors this year. But when I watch top golfers struggle in a major, I gain a renewed appreciation for how great Woods was in his prime.
Rory McIlroy, who was hailed as the new Tiger when he won the U.S. Open with a record 16-under par five years ago, missed the cut this year. So did Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Patrick Reed.
Woods made a record 142 straight cuts from February, 1998, to May of 2005. He made 37 cuts in a row in majors during that stretch. Byron Nelson (113) and Jack Nicklaus (105) are the only other golfers who made 100 cuts in a row.
The longest active streak of cuts made on the PGA Tour going into the U.S. Open? It was 21 by Dustin Johnson. Bubba Watson was next with 17.
• Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva has been the most outspoken critic of the IAAF’s decision to ban the Russian track team from the Olympics for its doping program. Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, insists her human rights are being violated.
We know from experience, of course, that steroid users are notorious for pleading their innocence. I asked Jenn Suhr if the ban made her wonder if Isinbayeva might have been using PEDs when her rival beat her in Beijing.
“It does raise questions,” Suhr said.
Her husband and coach, Rick Suhr, said he had no idea whether Isinbayeva was clean or not.
“All we can do is go into a meet and compete as hard as we can,” he said. “In the U.S. system, we’re drug-tested so much, it’s ridiculous. It’s downright invasive. We were tested twice in the last month. They show up at 6 a.m.”
• As of Sunday, 21 of 30 MLB teams were within five games of first or the wild card. That included the Yankees, who are seeing a resurgence from veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia, whose ERA was over 4.70 in each of the last three seasons, has been magnificent since the start of May. Over his last seven starts, he has allowed four earned runs in 44 innings, allowing 29 hits and 16 walks while striking out 41.
He’s still getting by without his old fastball, but Sabathia has been sharp with his cutter and tough with men on base. His knee has held up nicely. Masahiro Tanaka has also been tough, giving up two or fewer runs in five of his last six starts.
• Maybe it’s a new trend for NFL coaches to gush about their teams after spring workouts. Here’s Bruce Arians after Arizona’s minicamp:
“We just probably finished up the best 13 practices I’ve ever been around in the NFL,” Arians said. “This is my 22nd year, and our last two days it scared me how hard we were competing against each other.”
Maybe Rex and Arians could arrange for their teams to meet in an offseason Super Bowl.
• During his last 34 starts, dating back to a shutout at Minnesota last June 21, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta is 27-2 with a 1.20 ERA. In 239.1 innings, he’s allowed 133 hits with 58 walks and 248 strikeouts.
Let’s compare it with a season seen by some as the greatest ever: In 1968, Bob Gibson went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA. He gave up 198 hits, walked 62 and K’d 268. Arrieta gave up fewer hits per nine innings than Gibson (.56 to .65) and had a lower ratio (.798 to .853).
• My favorite part of Tyler Dunne’s Q&A with Tyrod Taylor in Sunday’s newspaper was Taylor pointing out that he and Tom Brady were both drafted in the sixth round and share the same birthday (Aug. 3).
I love that sort of trivia. By the way, Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin on Aug. 3. Which reminds me, I’ll arrive in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics on Aug. 3.
• Cristiano Ronaldo had a rough Saturday night in Portugal’s 0-0 tie with Austria at Euro 2016, missing a late penalty shot and some other glorious chances. But you don’t need to be a soccer expert to appreciate the guy’s talent. I stopped in at Mes Que to watch and couldn’t pull myself away.
• Am I the only one who has absolutely zero interest in the O.J. Simpson documentary? I’m sure it’s riveting, but I have better things to do.