For the Record: MLB 2001 (and MJ too)

A former math teacher of Michael Jordan's once told MJ that he should "go into math because that's where the money is."

Young Michael had his own ideas, though, and instead set off to play basketball. He managed okay and made a few coins doing that. And a few more by doing endorsements. And more again by signing autographs. And more and more and more by marketing his own line of apparel.

And still more, now, by playing for the Washington Wizards, instead of owning them.

Not talking salary here. (His measly $1 million first-year pay will be given to the Sept. 11 victims.)

Talking about holdings. Mike owns a nice chunk of the Wiz, whose economic value had been dropping. If Jordan had wanted to sell his share, he would have likely lost some serious smackeroos.

But if he had to sell his share - say, because he was returning to the game as a player - well then that, that would be another (highly profitable) matter.

Think about it: Washington stinks and no one cares, even if Jordan is in charge of basketball operations in the front office. Washington is losing money.

But soon, Jordan decides he wants to be in charge of basketball operations on the court, and returns to the NBA because he's drowning in his own competitive juices.

And all of a sudden, Wizard fans get wacky. (Example: 60,000 of the 80,000 non-season tickets for all home games were purchased in one day.) And television wants the team on. And kids want Jordan jerseys on.

This for a team that won 19 games last year.

Consequently, the value of the Wizards skyrockets. And because in the NBA one can't play and own, or play-to-own, concurrently, Jordan must sell to big-time buyers.

Shucks. Sucks to be him. (Often thought that.)

But this is not a story about Jordan. Rather, this (the remaining 715 words of it) is a story about the national pastime and how Michael's teacher was right.

For there is money in mathematics. Maybe not in long division. Maybe not in story problems.

But certainly in statistics. And definitely in professional baseball.

Okay, technically it's the ballplayers and not the pencil pushers that make money off baseball stats. Good stats, good pay. Bad stats, still good pay (compared to normal people), but nothing astronomical (compared to All-Stars).

But don't concern yourself with that right now. Because without statisticians, who'd even need Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey, Jr.? Who'd want to remember Ty Cobb and Christy Matthewson?

Without stats, baseball can't compete with the inherent action, physical contact, and tattoos of pro pigskin and hoops. Without stats, Major League Baseball's 162-game season would serve only as a long pre-playoffs nap.

But with stats, baseball doesn't need cheerleaders or a half-time show. With stats, baseball borders on mythical, or legendary, at least, every game.

Baseball stats are beautiful because they're so bountiful. Everywhere inside a game is a stat waiting to happen.

In fact, so many stats happened in 2001 that 47 individual MLB or NL/AL records were broken, and 11 were tied. Six team MLB or NL/AL records were broken, and three were tied.

Most publicized record: Barry Bonds' 73 dingers, duh. But that's not all Barry did during the best individual offensive year in history. He also hit .328 and broke two other records - Babe Ruth's record for walks in a season, and, more impressively, Ruth's record for slugging percentage. (Plus, for what it's worth, he set a bunch of geriatric records, such as oldest player to do this, oldest player to do that.)

Least publicized (and dumbest) record: José Canseco became the first player to hit a homerun in Yankee Stadium with six different teams. What else do you say about that?

Most bittersweet record: The Seattle Mariners won an MLB record 116 games, tying the 1906 Chicago Cubs. Seattle would've had the record all to its own if it could have beaten the Texas Rangers in the last game of the season. Seattle had defeated Texas the three previous days and finished 43-games ahead of the Rangers in the AL West.

Most embarrassing record: The Milwaukee Brewers set the record for most team strikeouts in a year with 1399. Maybe they spent too much time hanging out with their mascot. Infielder Jose Hernandez personally accounted for 185 of those whiffs, and was on pace to strike out the most times in a single season, but the Brewers benched him to prevent him from doing so. Now that's really embarrassing - for the team and for him.

Most impressive record(s): For 13 straight games, the Oakland A's hit a grand slam. All that power is the reason they set the record for the most wins by a wildcard team with 102. The reason they ended up a wildcard team has to do with the Mariners record above. No other teams in the majors won 100 games in 2001.

Most bizarre record: Red Sox catcher Scott Hatteburg became the first guy in baseball history to hit into a triple play and hit a grand slam in the same game. A zero-hero type of day.

Most likely-to-endure records: Other than the A's lucky 13, the most likely records to endure are Rickey Henderson's. In 2001, he broke Ty Cobb's all-time career record for runs, with 2248, and broke the Babe's the all-time career record for walks, with 2141. These records speak almost as much about his endurance as they do his skill; most guys who started out with Henderson (in '79) can't run or walk anymore.

And finally

Records to prove that statisticians should really make big bucks, or records that prove stats guys have too much time on their hands: (1) The New York Mets tied a MLB record by climbing back to .500 after 141 consecutive games with a losing record; (2) On April 20, Rickey Henderson and Tony Gwynn became first pair of 40-year-old teammates to play in same outfield since 1945 (pass the Ben-Gay); and (3) Damon Easily was the first guy to hit for the cycle, have a 6-for-6 game, hit an inside-the-park home run, and start a triple play all in the same season.

Knew you cared.

The Race Begins

Mike Scanlon has declared himself a candidate for council-at-large in the 2002 Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government race. Scanlon said that he would work to ensure that nobody missed out on the great quality of life in Lexington. He is the founding shareholder and President/CEO of Thomas and King, Inc, which owns over 75 Applebee's franchises. (Will this great quality of life include a free meal at Applebee's, or merely a discount on desserts? Scanlon is mum for now.) Scanlon also serves as Treasurer on the board of Big Brothers/Big sisters, and is Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Georgetown College. -JG

The Race Continues

Forty-five Kentuckians will share in carrying the Olympic torch through Kentucky in December. According to Jan Brucato, president and CEO of the YMCA of Central Kentucky, "the goal was to select unsung, everyday heroes who enrich our lives and make Central Kentucky a great place to live." The torch will blaze through Lexington in December. The flame festivities will occur on December 17th as the torch is carried on a ten mile trip through downtown. These festivities do not include bumming a light from, racing, offering bourbon to, or starting a fight with the torch bearer(s). -JG