Of 51s, Favre, and Federer’s greatness

Weekly summer thoughts …

The 51s on Sunday might have discovered a cure for their continuing ills: a pitcher who hadn’t won, throwing as if he might never lose.

That’s how good Brad Mills was over seven innings of a 4-0 win against Tacoma at Cashman Field. Four hits. No walks. Eleven strikeouts.

He had the Rainiers guessing so much, they were swinging through straight fastballs that didn’t come close to topping 90. They were more confused than Paula Abdul on a good day.

Mills also won for the first time following seven losses. His frustration meter had risen to BURNING, sort of like waking up each day a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.

“To be honest, it wears on you,” Mills said. “I probably let it get too far getting in my head a little bit. I can’t let it get too big. It’s a process. It doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods yet.”

His team is still lost deep within the forest. The 51s haven’t managed a win streak longer than three and are now 22-35. It’s one reason that following a Friday night announced gathering of more than 7,000, only 2,200 and change were credited with showing up Sunday on a June day best described as gorgeous.

“We just have to play better,” manager Mike Basso said. “The guys do their work. It’s a matter of getting a break here and there.”

Or 10. …

Raise your hand if you would rather watch 365 days straight of cricket than hear one more lousy Brett Favre update. Good. I’m not alone. …

Best-ever conversations can be fun, but they mean as much as the next athlete’s denial about using performance enhancing drugs. Roger Federer swings a tennis racket with more graphite and aluminum than your average NASA shuttle, king of an era with more power than variety. Rod Laver swung a hunk of wood heavier than an antique desk.

Who is the best in tennis history? Who cares? Brilliance should be appreciated before debated. …

How important to some is Federer matching the record 14 Grand Slams of Pete Sampras? For most of Sunday afternoon, it was the fourth story listed on the front of ESPN.com. The top story was on Favre. I’m telling you, there is no end to the lunacy. …

I like UNLV baseball coach Buddy Gouldsmith. I like the fact he and his family have another year of security. I don’t like continuing to extend a struggling coach for one season. It shows indecisiveness on the part of those making decisions.

One-year deals are bad for coaches hoping to recruit anyone worth a darn and bad for athletic departments with the hope (fantasy?) their baseball program can win enough games to matter.

Can anyone make up their minds out there?

And yet I’m sure this week’s announcement will get the team’s loyal fans amped for 2010. All 250 of them. …

Here’s guessing Bryce Harper won’t feel much added pressure following that Sports Illustrated cover shot. “I’ve always wanted to play for the Yankees,” the Las Vegas High baseball standout told the Review-Journal’s Todd Dewey this week. “Pinstripes are crazy. It’s awesome. I’d love to play in the House That Ruth Built. Maybe the new stadium will be the House That Harper Built. That would be great. … I have high expectations for myself — play in college, play in the College World Series, play in the pros, make the Hall of Fame.”

Prediction: The Yankees won’t be picking first in 2011, and there is as much chance of Harper playing in college beyond perhaps a season at College of Southern Nevada to prepare for the draft as there is the 51s not losing again this season. That, and I’m guessing the stadium name is safe. …

Something else Michael Gaughan does better than anyone: Give a speech. It took the casino owner just a few minutes to accept his admittance into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame on Friday evening.

Gaughan either knows the drill or realized he had to make up time after wrestling coach Jimmy May needed Academy Award fade music, dimming of the lights and finally his microphone being cut off to signal the end of his 18-minute speech.

(The maximum allotted for each honoree is five minutes.)

A sign things were running long: May was the first inductee to speak. Dinner plates were removed during his remarks. …

Final thought: David Carradine … Ouch.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at 702-383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

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