By David Roth
Back in the 1990s, Rob Dibble’s fastball touched 105 miles per hour on the radar gun. Detroit Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya has been clocked at 103. Just a few weeks ago, Mets reliever Bobby Parnell threw several pitches in a row beyond 100 miles per hour. What all these relievers have in common, besides a rare God-given gift for throwing a baseball very hard, is their shared defiance of human physiology.
As baseball history tells us – and recently reminded us when Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg blew out his elbow – our bodies were not built to throw a baseball that fast. And yet there Aroldis Chapman was on Tuesday night, defying physics and physiology and common sense all at once by throwing 103 miles per hour during his big-league debut with the Cincinnati Reds. (That’s the number MLB.com had him at. The Reds’ broadcast clocked him at a mere 102.) That higher number is still two miles per hour shy of Chapman’s top minor-league speed, but it’s still plenty fast. As the above video shows, it looked pretty awesome, too.
“The question is, do the Reds really want him to be throwing 105?” Yahoo’s David Brown writes. “The human arm isn’t really meant to pitch at all, much less at those speeds. One of these days, Chapman’s elbow is liable to fly off his arm doing 45.”
In the Dayton Daily News, veteran Reds beat writer Hal McCoy and Reds manager Dusty Baker collaborate on a flattering comparison for Chapman, likening him to former Houston Astros fireballer J.R. Richard. Reds starter Bronson Arroyo tagged Chapman as “The Usain Bolt of baseball” after his dazzling debut. It’s all very impressive, but is there any way Chapman can keep throwing this hard?
At ESPN, Rob Neyer writes that the answer is both yes and no. “It’s true that most of the truly hard-throwing young pitchers have gotten hurt,” Neyer writes. “But the not-so-hard-throwing pitchers have gotten hurt, too. What Aroldis Chapman is doing, professionally, is exceptionally risky. But there probably isn’t anything that he, or his employers, can do about it.”
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Mardy Fish’s name is easy to remember, but most tennis fans probably know him best as one of those American tennis players not named Andy Roddick. That’s because, as talented as the big-serving Fish is, he has never quite broken through. He may or may not ever do so, but the 28-year-old Minnesotan has already made an impressive statement this year by dropping 30 pounds and getting in prime shape. On Tuesday, he made another statement by battling back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Jan Hajek. The win was nice, but it was how Fish did it – by winning the last two sets 6-0, 6-1 – that really stood out. This was, suffice to say, not the Fish tennis fans (kind of) knew.
“Fish is still getting used to the new version of Mardy Fish,” FanHouse’s Greg Couch writes. “His body is a like a new car to him, and he keeps taking it out on the road just to see what this baby can do.”
With temperatures on the court expected to reach 120 degrees again on Wednesday, everyone else in Flushing is certain to cut some weight. As per usual, everything you need to know about the goings-on in Queens can be found at the Journal’s dedicated U.S. Open page. And for the latest scores, click here.
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Last June a blogger named Jerod Morris published a fairly muddled, mostly moderate post on his blog, Midwest Sports Fans, discussing the PED speculation that followed a hot start by Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Raul Ibañez. The response to the post from the mainstream of sports media was swift and brutal – Morris (a pleasant guy with whom your Fixer has corresponded in the past) was everything that was wrong with blogs, sports media, bipeds, and so on. But that was 2009.
In 2010, a respected sports columnist for the Washington Post tweets something he knows isn’t true, ostensibly to prove a prankish point about Twitter’s unreliability as a news source. An associate editor for the Toronto Star haphazardly tosses some steroid-related speculation at Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista on his paper’s website. (Ibañez last year and Bautista this month denied the respective allegations.)
The fallout? Well, the hammer has fallen far heavier on the prankish Tweeter than the casual caster of aspersions. Mike Wise, author of the offending Tweet, was ripped all over the Internet and, on Tuesday, he was suspended by the Post for a month. As unwise as Wise’s gambit was, though – and, as Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky notes, it was spectacularly unwise – it hurt no one but himself. But Damien Cox, who served up that evidence-free steroid chatter about the American League home run leader, has not been disciplined at all. He certainly has not been subjected to anything like the on-camera haranguing that Morris received on ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
“One could argue rather convincingly that Cox’s post is even worse than Morris’ with regard to its accusatory tone, since Morris at least dedicated some space to trying to disprove the idea,” Lookout Landing’s Jeff Sullivan writes. “Cox didn’t do anything of the sort.”
So, why the different responses? Daily Fix O.G./Jedi Jason Fry puts it in perspective in his most recent column for Indiana University’s National Sports Journalism Center.
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As we say our last goodbyes to the news-dry dog days of August, let’s cast an eye back, one last time, at what might be the definitive August non-story. We speak, of course, of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polomalu and his signature three-foot-long hair, which was recently insured for $1 million by Head and Shoulders.
“You’d think that an All-Pro safety who missed 11 games in 2009 due to a knee injury would be most concerned about other body parts, but [Polomalu] also has endorsements to consider,” Yahoo’s Doug Farrar writes. Thus Procter and Gamble’s willingness to take out the million-dollar Lloyd’s of London policy.
Again, a perfectly empty-calorie August story. But it does at least offer an occasion to ponder one of the weirder recurring questions in pop culture – how exactly does one insure a famous body part? At Slate, Daniel Engber answers that query.
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