I have two things on my list of what Australian football does better than American sports, including baseball. First, the announcers speculate. (American announcers specify that they don't want to speculate, then often do exactly that. If you're going to speculate, own it.) If a player tumbles to the ground with an injury, the Australian announcing team will often speculate on the likely injury, and the duration. At least one of the people in the booth is likely a veteran player. Either he's had a similar injury, or seen one like it. It's reasonably educational how, when the booth says the injury will likely keep the player shelved for four to six weeks, they're usually rather close. If they are wrong, they make it clear they're speculating. They're often spot-on, limiting the need for people speculating with less knowledge.
The second thing is they honor history. The Australian football season lasts for 22 games. Some players have very lengthy careers. When players hit milestones, they are celebrated. One of the basics is when a player hits a "games played for the team" milestone. If the bloke that plays centre-half forward is in line for his 250th game, it's a party. In the run-up to the game, if any of the 22 likely players is reaching a milestone, it's in the game notes and part of the team introduction.
American sports tend to be lousy about that. If someone hits his 300th homer, we know. Without looking it up, how many games has Anthony Rizzo played for the Cubs? Where does that rank on the team's all-time list? Why should we care?
Among my concerns: Too many baseball fans like the players that have been playing since they've been following, and that's it. Players from the way-back machine were enjoyable, as well. The Cubs are moderately acceptable in promoting Kerry Wood, Mark Grace, and the Hall of Famers. (Sammy Sosa is an entirely different story.) Other than that, we tend to wait until a person dies to celebrate achievement. Al does a nice job of dipping into history, but the natural flow of a season ought to beckon forth the past at least once a week. That it doesn’t naturally occur is a weakness in our game's coverage.
For instance, Rizzo has played in 1,164 games as a Cub, as of Thursday at noon. When he approaches 1,200, that should be a known thing. He has 220 homers for the North Siders. Next on the team's ladder is Gabby Hartnett with 231, in seventh place. With as much time as is available in a broadcast, when a player achieves a milestone or reaches a totem, an announcement should fit in easily. Sometimes that happens, but not always.
With the success of Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and others, someone ought to be hitting a career milestone, or moving up the leaderboards, a few times every week. I think congeniality would be better if there were more non-combative hat-tips.
What sorts of milestones do you think ought to be more prevalent? Old-timers seem more interested in "counting stats" like runs batted in and pitcher wins. If a pitcher reaches 150 wins, as flawed as the stat is, it celebrates durability, which sometimes gets a bit lost. At-bats by the 500 at or above 5000 seems reasonable. Home runs by the 25 over 200 should be news. Anyone vaulting someone in the team's top 50 ought to celebrate both players. To an extent, I'm willing to do that. Maybe by the time Nico Hoerner or someone else starts climbing the ladder, recognition can be better given as Cubs players reach milestones, and the top 50.
On Thursday, Baez' first plate appearance will be his 2,500th. While he needs 3,489 to reach the team's all-time top fifty, 2,500 plate appearances is a cool threshold, and deserves acknowledgement. Kyle Schwarber has played in 498 games. As such, the lid-lifter against the Pirates out to have an acknowledgment, even though 856 is the number for the top fifty in games played.
Anthony Rizzo is tops in team history with 146 times hit by a pitch, having passed Frank Chance (137) last season. (Bryant, with 75, is third.) With no more steps in that ladder, tracking Rizzo against the top bruise-earners in league history seems appropriate. His 150 (including four with San Diego) puts him in a tie for 23rd with Shin-Soo Choo. After that comes former White Sox outfielder Chet Lemon (151). One more for Rizzo also will make him the leader among active players.
When Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks is pitching, I mind their counting stats, as well. Lester ties Bill Hands for 17th place in Cubs history with his next strikeout, and Hendricks ties Glen Hobbie for 31st with his next start. I wish I had minor league games to dote on, but this works for now. My Twitter feed (@tim815) is all about leaderboards and milestones. It beats speculating on injuries.