If this were 1961, MLB would put an asterisk beside Ichiro Suzuki's record of 262 hits in a season. That is because George Sisler, who held the previous record of 257, achieved his mark in fewer games than Ichiro.
Baseball did this to Roger Maris when he hit a then-record 61 home runs in 1961. In an effort to preserve Babe Ruth's legacy, baseball put the infamous asterisk beside Maris' record since he was unable to match the Bambino's 60 round trippers in 151 games. MLB expanded to a 162-game schedule when Maris bettered Ruth's mark.
Asterisk or no asterisk, Ichiro's record is one of the greatest single-season achievements in MLB history. It may not be as celebrated as Barry Bonds' 73 home runs in 2001 or the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase three years earlier, but Ichiro's mark is far greater than these accomplishments.
It took 84 years for Sisler's record to fall. For 37 years players chased Maris' record, and since 1998 three different players have surpassed the mark a total of six times.
The closest any post-depression player came to Sisler's record before this season was Ichiro himself, getting 242 hits in 2001. Wade Boggs tallied 240 hits in 1985, matched by Darin Erstad in 2000.
Based on these facts, Ichiro's mark trumps Bonds' record.
Earnhardt Jr.: Something to cuss about
Pass the soap: NASCAR better hope that Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the Nextel Cup championship. Or loses it by more than 25 points.
Junior was fined $10,000 U.S. and docked 25 points for swearing in victory lane last week. Instead of leading the Chase for the Cup, he now trails Kurt Busch by 12 points.
NASCAR has a policy in place about conduct in victory lane, and rules are rules. But if a baseball, football, basketball or hockey player swears on live television, is his team docked a win in the standings? Do golfers gain strokes? Do tennis players forfeit matches?
Meanwhile, Robby Gordon intentionally rams his car into two others in a championship race last month, and is only docked two laps by NASCAR. The two drivers he ran into -- Tony Stewart and Jeremy Mayfield -- were in contention for the Cup, but because of the incident have virtually no chance of claiming the title.
Where is the justice there? NASCAR needs to get its priorities straight.
If somebody wins the Nextel Cup by 25 points or less over Earnhardt, how will he feel knowing the only reason he won was because of an inadvertent four-letter bomb? It will be an empty honour.
The potential situation is similar to that of U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm, who won a gold medal at the recent Olympics as a result of an error. South Korea's Yang Tae-young was wrongly docked 0.1 points by the judges, and lost the gold medal by 0.049 points. The International Gymnastics Federation admitted there was a mistake. So how can Hamm believe that he was the best gymnast during that competition?
True sportsmen would see the hollowness of these particular awards and give these honours up to the rightful person. But there is a better chance of NHL hockey being played next week before this ever happens.
Astros: A waste of champagne
Champagne wishes and caviar dreams: You can be champions of a league. You can be champions of a division or conference. You can even be champions of the world. But you are not champions simply by clinching a wild card berth.
The good folks in Houston seem to think so, declaring the Astros N.L. Wild Card Champions. They even displayed a banner celebrating this fact. This can only happen in baseball.
An NHL team doesn't hang a banner from the rafters celebrating a fourth place finish. NFL wild card teams don't declare themselves champions. So why do they do it in MLB?
(Toronto did hold a parade for the Maple Leafs for losing an Eastern Conference final a few years ago. But this can only happen in Toronto.)
Another occurrence that is overdone in baseball is the champagne showers that take place in clubhouses across MLB in the autumn. It is a waste of good alcohol.
When clubs have 10 and 13 consecutive playoff appearances like the Yankees and Braves respectively, and other teams win division crowns by 13 games like the Cardinals, isn't it a little overkill to start dousing each other with champagne? Shouldn't these players wait until they make the World Series?
Other teams in other sports don't conduct themselves in this fashion. Once again, this can only happen in baseball.
Carter: Why is this man smiling?
Don't worry, be happy: Vince Carter had a typical response to suggestions that he might have considered a hold out from the Raptors in an effort to force a trade: "Your questions are ridiculous, y'all ask crazy questions. Why wouldn't I be here?"
Carter just doesn't get it. The media wouldn't have to ask crazy questions if he would just open up and tell people what is on his mind, instead of hiding behind his mother, his agent, his wife, his trainer, the Raptors' mascot, etc., just as he did all summer.
But let's give credit where credit is due. At least Carter appears happy at training camp, and doesn't look as though he will be a distraction for the Raptors.
But Raptors management will not know what they really have in Carter until he appears in regular season action. How hard is he willing to play for an organization that he wants out of? Time will tell in November.
America's newest pastime: A judge last week determined that the person who ended up with Barry Bonds' 700th home run ball was free to sell it after ruling that another person did not have sufficient evident to prove that he was originally in possession of it.
It is great to see there is one sane judge behind the bench.
The fact that the American judicial system has to make room for these idiots who sue each other for baseballs that were not their property in the first place is a disturbing trend. But unfortunately it is a scene that will take place over and over again, as long as these milestones continue to be reached.
It didn't help that a lawsuit gave two people equal claim to Bonds' record 73rd home run ball in 2001. It probably didn't help either that Todd McFarlane paid almost $3 million for Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball in 1998. When people see these kinds of dollar figures, they tend to go nuts.
Baseball can solve this problem easily by declaring that any ball hit into the stands remains the property of MLB and must be returned to the home team. This may be tough to enforce in McCovey's Cove and Waveland Avenue, but hey, it's a start.
Freedom of speech? Not at Wrigley: Steve Stone, a Chicago Cubs analyst, got into hot water with the team after he publicly questioned managerial strategy and criticized the team's approach during their playoff chase.
Stone was forced to face the music, meeting with Cubs president Andy MacPhail, general manager Jim Hendry and manager Dusty Baker to clear the air. No word yet on whether he will be back with the club in 2005.
At the risk of jeopardizing future employment with the Cubs, Stone was probably correct in his remarks, considering Wrigley Field isn't scheduled to host any playoff games in the near future.
Freedom of speech? Not in the NFL: Jake Plummer was forced to remove a decal from the back of his helmet since it violates NFL rules. The No Fun League has a policy that prohibits personal messages on uniforms or helmets.
The No. 40 decal was a tribute to Plummer's former teammate Pat Tillman who was killed in combat duty in April.
This is not the first time the NFL has raised a stink about players honouring the deceased. Payton Manning wanted to wear black hightop shoes in honour of Johnny Unitas after he passed away, but the league refused Manning's wish. Marshall Faulk wanted to switch his uniform number to No. 34 to honour Walter Payton when he died, but was refused.
It is time for the NFL to realize that there are rules, and there are exceptions. Honouring great individuals who provided so much for the league is just cause to bend the rules.
NLL forever: The NLL avoided a lockout with its players, signing a last-minute collective bargaining agreement.
Actually, saying it was last minute is a stretch, considering the season doesn't start until January 2.
The NLL still won't consider moving up the start date of the season to take advantage of the NHL lockout. This still doesn't make any sense, but hey, I'm not a commissioner, I just play one on the Internet.