Every sport can experience an era of dominance from an individual, or a select set of individuals, making it very difficult for the casual fan (let alone the rest of the field) to believe in an upset. In Formula One, Michael Schumacher’s five consecutive world championships with Ferrari at the turn of the millennium prompted a change in the regulations to shake things up. At the same time, Tiger Woods was winning major after major in golf. Roger Federer claimed his first Wimbledon title in 2003, and since then, 41 of the 50 Grand Slam tournaments have been won by Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
In MotoGP, the dominance can be attributed to a ‘group of five’ – Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez. These five riders have won fourteen of the last fifteen premier class world championships (Nicky Hayden’s sole triumph in 2006 is the only anomaly).
It’s an understatement to say Dallas Keuchel had a memorable 2015. Keuchel was a twenty-game winner in the Major Leagues, started the All-Star Game, made his inaugural appearance in the play-offs with the Houston Astros, and to top it all off, was the recipient of the American League Cy Young award.
We’re still in the very early stages of the 2016 season, and it would be foolish to draw any serious conclusions at a time when Houston have played less than six percent of their games. As an Astros fan, I should be clear that this article is not intended to be used as a prediction as to how the season may pan out. The only purpose this particular piece serves is to answer a topic raised by esteemed broadcasters Bill Brown and Alan Ashby during the broadcast on Sunday’s game at Milwaukee – had Dallas Keuchel struggled as much in any first inning of 2015, as he did at Miller Park on Sunday?
It’s often said “it’s the hope that kills you” – a phrase usually applied to football. Fans spend weekend after weekend following their team up and down the land, knowing more often than not, failure will triumph over success. Indeed, no club in English football history has ever had more ups than downs, even the successful ones. Despite the three post-war top division titles won by Manchester City, they suffered seven relegations in that period. Chelsea had to wait fifty years between their second and third league championships. Manchester United fans have had to watch Louis van Gaal wage a one-man war to suck all the entertainment out of the game, culminating in a ten match run at Old Trafford earlier this season in which his team only scored two goals before half-time. The ups and downs are all relative, of course – United’s biggest ‘down’ would be higher than the biggest ‘up’ for the majority of teams – but for fans, these are ups and downs nonetheless.