Monday, May 10, 2010

11 and 34

BabySignIt’s funny how certain numbers can pop up again and again in your life.  I’m not talking anything as severe as Hurley’s 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42, but since sports are full of numbers it’s bound to happen.

I was born on the 11th of September and those two numbers correspond with my current favorite players on the Celtics: Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Rajon Rondo.

I’ve been collecting Big Baby since his rookie season.  I was still bumming over the departure of “Big Al” Jefferson and Davis seemed like a fun rookie to root for.  He’s exactly the type of player that I love.  He’s got a natural instinct to be around the ball, battles hard on the offensive boards and is always hustling.  The biggest hole in his game is his lack of any vertical leap to speak of, but hopefully as he slims down and continues to work that will improve a little.

RondoAutoI haven’t fully committed to collecting Rondo yet because I’m already collecting a lot of players and it’s never a good idea to dive into a collection when a player is red hot.  I do have a handful or Rondo rookies, autographs and relics though.  I complete forgot to nominate Rondo for the terrible autograph tournament.  Some of his early autos have his full name, but he quickly switched to just signing “RR.”

Rondo has improved dramatically by leaps and bounds every year in the league.  This was a guy who “Boston Sports Guy” Bill Simmons crapped all over when the Celtics acquired him, jumped on the bandwagon after the Summer League and then resumed pooping for most of his rookie season.  To be fair, Rondo couldn’t shoot coming into the league.  Once he learned how to use his superior speed to get to the basket almost at will, it caused defenders to respect his speed and opened up room for his jumper which started going in more frequently.

Where Rondo has really shined is in the playoffs.  People were afraid that he might be a liability when the Celtics won it all in 2007-08, but that wasn’t the case.  Rondo really shined last season in the playoffs, but the Celtics couldn’t overcome the loss of Kevin Garnett on the defensive end of the floor even with Big Baby stepping up offensively in Garnett’s place.  This year, Rondo has been phenomenal.  Forget the new “Big Three,” right now in Boston there’s just a “Big One.”  Rondo’s triple-double today against the Cavaliers will go down as one of the all-time great Celtics playoff performances and that’s saying a lot when you’re wearing the jersey of a team that has won 17 Championships and could have their own wing of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

BuchholzGinterAutoAnother player that I haven’t really chased as far as a collection goes is Clay Buchholz.  I hadn’t noticed until two starts ago that Buchholz is now wearing 11 on his jersey this season.  It’s the number that he wore all through his childhood and on school teams.

I already had a connection with Buchholz due to being at his no-hitter.  My Buchholz collection started with all of the cards that mentioned the no-hitter and then grew from there.  I now have a couple of autographs and relic cards.  I’ve been eyeing an autographed rookie, but the majority that I see are slabbed and I’m not too big on that.  The prices on those cards always seem to be through the roof.  I will make sure that I track down all of Buchholz’s cards once they start depicting him with his new jersey number. 

PierceSilkI turned 34 on my last birthday and I currently collect two players with that jersey number.  I’ve been collecting Paul Pierce ever since I returned to the hobby casually around 2001 or so.  At that time, Pierce was one of the best clutch players in the game and also one of the most underrated.  He played with some terrible teams and chose to stay in Boston when he had chances to leave.  That decision was rewarded when Danny Ainge added Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to the mix along with a great supporting cast and Pierce led the Celtics to their 17th NBA Championship winning NBA Finals MVP in the process.  Pierce has been struggling this year in the playoffs due to age and nagging injuries, but once he retires his 34 will be raised to the rafters in the Garden and he’ll take his place in the Hall of Fame.

Ortiz09BlueThe other 34 is Red Sox Slugger David Ortiz.  One thing that I liked a lot about the 2004 World Series Championship team was that it was built with the addition of two of my fantasy baseball favorites: David Ortiz and Billy Mueller.  Both of these guys seemed to annually be on the verge of their breakout season only to lose large parts of the season to injury.  Both of these guys were great, low-risk/high-reward free agent signings by Theo Epstein that looked brilliant in retrospect.

It’s tough not to like Ortiz.  He’s got an infectious smile, seemed to be well-liked by his teammates and under the tutelage of hitting coach Papa Jack became one of the most fearsome hitters in all of baseball.  He cemented his place in Boston Sports History with his clutch hitting during the 2004 championship run.  He struggled at the beginning of last season before leading the league in home runs from the middle of June to the end of the season.  It looks like he’s struggling again at the start of this season, but a platoon with Mike Lowell at DH will hopefully rejuvenate him like the platoon at catcher has done to Jason Varitek.  If not, it just means that Ortiz cards might be cheaper for me to acquire for my collection.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a lottery ticket.


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