By Don Wanlass
The baseball world lost another all-time great when Hank Aaron died Jan. 22.
Aaron was an outfielder who could hit, run, catch and throw for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, before ending his career as a designated hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1974 and 1975.
In the 1960s, Aaron was one of several Black outfielders — Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente were the others — who stood head and shoulders above the rest of the major leagues. All four are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mays started his career in New York and was flashier so he always had more publicity, but all four were perennial all stars who put fear in the hearts of pitchers whenever they came to the plate. And all four were extremely gifted fielders, too.
One of the last players to make the jump from the Negro Leagues to the major leagues, Aaron shattered Babe Ruth’s all-time home run of 714 in 1974, hitting a home run off the Dodgers’ AL Downing for the record-breaking 715th. He played the 1973 and ’74 seasons under the heavy cloud of death threats sent to him by bigoted white men who didn’t like the idea of a Black man breaking the hallowed Ruth’s record.
Aaron ended up with 755 home runs, a record that stood until Barry Bonds, allegedly aided by performance-enhancing steroids, broke it in 2007 and finished his career with 762.
But Aaron still holds the Major League records for most runs batted in, 2,297, and total bases, 6856, ahead of Bonds, who had 1,996 RBI and 5,976 total bases. And Aaron was a much better outfielder.
STILL WINNING: Although both teams had winning streaks stopped in the last week, the Lakers and Clippers continue to be among the top teams in the NBA.
As of Jan. 27, the Lakers were 14-4 heading into a game with Philadelphia, while the Clippers were 13-5, third in the NBA Western Conference (Utah was 13-4) after having a six-game winning streak stopped in Atlanta Jan. 26, a game Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both missed because of the league’s health and safety protocols.
The Clippers hope their two superstars can rejoin them sometime on this road trip that includes three games in four nights against Miami, Orlando and New York, starting Jan. 28.
The Lakers are also on the road, facing their own three-games-in-four-nights stretch with Boston and Detroit following Philadelphia.
RAMS DILEMMA: Jared Goff was good enough to quarterback the Rams to the 2019 Super Bowl. In his third year as an NFL quarterback, he completed 64.9% of his passes while gaining 4,688 yards and throwing 32 touchdown passes.
The Rams rewarded him with a contract extension that guaranteed him $110 million. Two years later the Rams are regretting that move.
Since their season ended last week in Green Bay, Rams management, led by general Manager Ed Snead and head coach Sean McVay, have said little that would indicate they have any confidence in Goff going forward.
Granted, Goff took a tremendous step backward this year, throwing for only 3,952 yards and 20 touchdowns, but it’s hard to see why he went from franchise quarterback to trade bait in two years.
Part of the blame goes to McVay, who has proven the last two years he isn’t the offensive genius people thought he was when he got to the Super Bowl in his second season as head coach.
If Goff’s statistics have fallen off, the play caller (McVay) should assume some of the blame.
Going back to the late 1950s, the Rams have a tradition of trading quarterbacks who led their new teams to championships. The Rams have a lot of money invested in Goff.
Not only the $110 million guarantee, but the two first round draft picks and four other picks they sent to the Tennessee Titans in 2016 so they could move up to draft him.
Granted, Goff isn’t as mobile as most of the new breed of NFL quarterbacks, a fact that was clearly evident in a late-season loss to Seattle.
But trading Goff this off-season would mean that Snead and McVay both over-rated Goff’s skills and ability to grow as an NFL quarterback.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and the Los Angeles Chargers now seem to have a future franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert.
Two years ago, the Rams thought they had a franchise quarterback, too. Whose error in judgment was that?