45 Straight: A Burly Mark
The new major league record of 15 consecutive innings' worth of pitching perfection this week was a great accomplishment for a perfectly accomplished pitcher. Mark Buehrle has long been recognized as having superstar talent, and this record is clear evidence of that (with a word from D. Wise--he certainly had something to say about it--notwithstanding).
Anything over the 38 or so that Harvey Haddix achieved in the not-quite-perfect 13-inning loss in 1959 is amazing to me. Buehrle has something more to show in the record book, a solid, asterisk-less perfect game last week in a key game against the Detroit Tigers. The consecutive batters retired record is one of natural appeal which has never gotten much attention, until now.
That's what Michael Phelps should say to the swimming world, and take a break until the ban on the new cheat suits takes effect--it will be next year, the suits of swimming-dom are saying right now. Phelps has been taunted for taking a pass on the new, extra-buoyant and unnatural swimming attire going round the World Championships. The result of the new suits, which take inordinately long to prepare, have proven beyond doubt how critical suit buoyancy can be to world-class performance, where success and abject failure are divided by tenths of seconds, or less.
This world championships has had literally incredible numbers of world records. Not proof in themselves of unfairness, but several of the records have come from folks coming out of nowhere at the championship level in the new suits.
This looks to be a near-obvious asterisk situation; clearly the international swimming institution (I've read it's called FINA, though that means nothing to me--I thought that was a nearly-extinct Italian gasoline brand) got sandbagged and will have to do so some serious backtracking. Buoyancy is soon going to be one of those performance characteristics governed directly, like carburetion in auto racing.
Phelps should finish the meet, then take a break, and see how things play out. At this point, he has much more to offer the sport than it him. He's been penalized for excessive fame recently; now he must allow himself to be penalized for his loyalty to his sponsoring brand.
Sam Shows 'Er Form
We watched the first two sets of the Samantha Stosur ("Sam") vs. Serena Williams match, then went to dinner. Stosur was rocking the best serve I've seen from a woman: wicked low kick serve, delivered from an incredible angle behind her head, with well-hidden direction. Serena looked disgusted with her game, rusty, low in energy. Still, the commentators all emphasized how--in this type of match, implicitly--Serena pulls them out with fire and intimidation, even when her quality of tennis suffers. They also commented how the outcome of her matches is always about Serena's quality of play--when she's on her game, there's no one who can beat her (well, maybe Venus or Maria--Shaparova).
I guess of the two contradictory fatuous observations, the second one was operable today. Serena lost 6-2 in the third, which is at least consistent with the theory that she can't lose when on her game. She was certainly off, in this first of the US Open prep series, but Stosur is now officially a contender. I just hope she's legit (no performance enhancement by illicit means), as her improvement seems almost too great.
As for the men, going into this series of US hardcourt matches Andy Roddick has to be considered a co-favorite with Federer and Nadal--even if Rafa is fully back by the US Open.