Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, Bloody Monday

From Sunday evening into early Monday afternoon, five NFL head coaches lost their jobs:

  • Rob Chudzinski, one-year head coach of the Browns (record with the Browns: 4-12)
  • Leslie Frazier, 3.5-year head coach of the Vikings (record with the Vikings: 21-32, with one playoff appearance -- a loss to the Packers in 2012)
  • Mike Shanahan, 4-year head coach of the Washington football club (record with Washington: 24-40 with one playoff appearance -- a loss in the wild card round while hosting the Seahawks in 2012)
  • Buccaneers 2-year head coach Greg Schiano (record with Tampa: 11-21)
  • Lions 5-year head coach Jim Schwartz (record with Detroit: 29-51 with one playoff appearance -- a wild card loss)

Monday, December 30, 2013

That's the Back, Jack

Lost in the tumult from yesterday's Romopocalypse, wherein some dude randomly taking his shirt off in the owner's box after the final play - presumably for a ritual flogging - has become a national sensation, is the fact that the NFL is apparently going to fine the Cowboys. Not for being the Cowboys or inflicting Kyle Orton on a national television audience, though Lord knows, either of them is certainly a hanging offense. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Your Upcoming Cowboys-Eagles Clash

Sunday night, the Eagles and the Cowboys go at it for all the marbles in the NFC East, which basically means "the chance to play a pissed-off Wild Card team from a superior division in the first round". The winner goes to the playoffs; the loser goes home. Adding spice to the mixture is the common knowledge that if the Cowboys don't win, coach Jason Garrett can start cleaning out his office, and the fact that Dallas QB/human lightning rod Tony Romo, who took PR lessons from Alex Rodriguez, is allegedly out with a bad back. Whether this is actually the case, no one knows, as the Jerrydome leaks rumors like a drunk contributor to Crazy Days and Nights. With that in mind, here are a few possible scenarios we'll see on Sunday.

(Bear in mind that very few of them involve the Cowboys actually winning)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Tip of the Cap

Just remember, on Christmas Day, that when you're watching a basketball game or a Bowl, you're not just watching the players. You're watching the camera operators and the broadcast crew, the hot dog vendors and the ticket takers, the venue security and the venue cleanup crew, the guys standing in the parking lot in orange vests getting people in and out as fast as possible and the people who got there early to make sure the beer taps were turned on and the nacho sauce melted.

Nothing happens in a vacuum, and a lot of people give up their Christmases at home with family and loved ones in order to give us something to throw popcorn at the screen over when we just can't stand talking politics with crazy uncle Louie from Poughkeepsie any more. So tip your caps to everyone who makes it possible for us to watch sports on Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and every other holiday. Because their work matters, too.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All We Want For Christmas

Here at Sportsthodoxy, we're a simple lot. We like our games good, our sports team owners insane, our municipalities unwilling to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to support corporate welfare, and our mascots ridiculous. Which is why we have but a few basic things we want for Christmas, or the religiously appropriate seasonal equivalent thereof. Here's what we want under the tree (or menorah):

  1. Someone to record and shoot a video for "What Does Coach O Say", starring Ed Orgeron. (Hint: It sounds like YO YO YO YO YO YO YO FOOBAW").
  2. John Clayton to finally admit that, yes, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is his father.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Boras Fails! Except Math!

One of the narratives going around today is how Scott Boras, in getting his client Shin-Soo Choo picked up by Texas, "failed". 

Look, as the producers of the American version of Godzilla were told after their "flop" of a movie grossed $379M worldwide, "Fail like this every time". He got an outfielder on the wrong side of 30 a 7 year contract worth $18M a year. This, in a year when free agents recently signed to long-term deals are the second hottest item (after David Price) on the trade market, because, hey, someone figured out what the words "decline phase" means. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Parting of the Hairston

The coverup is worse than the crime.

That's the takeaway from the messy, pointless conclusion to the P.J. Hairston mess at  UNC. Hairston, the team's leading scorer last year, was suspended for "impermissible benefits" before the season. He was caught driving a rental car (and good luck getting one of those if you're under 25 and not a star athlete) provided by known criminal "Fats" Thomas, then ran into trouble in a couple more borrowed cars over the next few months.

(Side note: On a certain level, it's weirdly old-school for the crook in this piece to be nicknamed "Fats". It's like we just took a sharp left turn into a '30s gangster movie. But I digress.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What's The Phanatic Say?

Somewhere in this house, there is a picture of the Phillie Phanatic planting his snout on top of the head of a 10 year old Richard Dansky, taken at "Sports Night" at the lost, lamented Temple Judea of northeast Philadelphia. Also in attendance: local sports reporter Rod Luck, but that's neither here nor. Suffice to say that the Phanatic and I go way, way, waaaay back, and that I have always been staunchly pro-Phanatic.

Until, perhaps, now.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Your Handy-Dandy ACC Bowl Season Preview

Look, bowl season won-loss records absolutely don't matter. For all that they're supposed to be all star-caliber showdowns on the order of Hulk taking on Thor or suchlike, all too often they're played under circumstances that prevent them from being good football games. Coaches get fired or moved on, meaning that teams have to get used to new coaching staffs in time for one game. Players misbehave and get suspended, or get injured and sit out. Unglamorous match ups lead to uninspired performances, especially from teams that viewed the trip to Shreveport or Memphis or whatever as the real reward, or from ones who couldn't care less that they were playing the second place team in the Sun Belt conference. The teams that take the field for the bowl game rarely are the same, in composition or in attitude, as the ones that played the regular season, and that, my ducklings, is why the Big East consistently had a winning bowl record year after year.

Which brings us to the current bowl season, and the ACC's participation in it. On paper, this was a great year for the conference - three teams bouncing around the top 10 for much of the season, a team in the national championship game, and Duke finally picked itself off the mat. As a result, ACC teams are playing in a ridiculous 11 bowls, roughly 1/3 of the ones that are out there (at the moment).

And yet. It only takes 6-6 to get to a bowl, with no more than 1 win coming over an FCS team. An awful lot of the conference's bowl reps are sitting at or just above that magical 6-6 mark, meaning they just squeaked in, and if their opponents show up, it could be a long bowl season indeed. 

Here, then, is a quick and uninformed look at the ACC's bowl lineup. Quick, because there are people whose entire career revolves around writing up detailed predictions of the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl and we're not going to try to compete with that. Uninformed because if you actually spend the time to do in-depth research on the subtle nuances of the AdvoCare  V100 Bowl matchup, you clearly have too much time on your hands.

So without further ado:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

MLB Revenues Are Large

And the numbers are in. for 2013, Major League Baseball revenues crossed the magical $8B barrier, up from $7.5B the year before. And with new television contracts kicking in, that number's potentially going to rise above $9B for 2014.

That would be "B", as in "Billion".

He's My Cherry Pie!

Don Cherry is an idiot.

He says that the 15 game suspension to Shawn Thornton was too much.  Now, let's get the accusations of Homerism out of the way:  yes, I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Yes, Thornton concussed Brooks Orpik, who is a Pens player.  Therefore, I can be accused of bias.  Let me nip that in the bud here:

1>  No player deserves to get slewfooted, knocked down and punched in the head twice while flat on his back on the ice.  Ever.  Not even Eric Lindros.

2>  James Neal got 5 games for kneeing Brad Marchand in the same game.  That's hardly enough.

3>  Puck Daddy (Yahoo's hockey blog) agrees with 15 games.

To get back to Don Cherry, this is a guy gets mad when the Toronto Maple Leafs don't have any players from Ontario.  Talk about Homerism.  No wonder they missed the playoffs for so many years.

Another point against him:  You fight, you get hurt.  Really?  I think fighting has its place in the NHL, but the guy is basically condoning concussions.

He's a dinosaur that needs to shut the hell up, and preferably soon.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Data Points

For the record, the single most commonly searched term that brings people to this blog is, and I quote, "Pro Bowl sucks".

"Ryan Braun Jewish Conspiracy" is fifth.

That is all.

Baseball's Silly Season - For Commentators

So the offseason baseball grades are starting to come out. Which teams helped themselves, which teams hurt themselves, which players made bank for their agents - you get the idea. Many, many thousands of words and column inches are going to be devoted to these Solonic analyses of where exactly Seattle is going to stick all their immobile DH-1B types, or if they're going to simply stack them at first base like cordwood.


Monday, December 16, 2013

See Previous Post, Dallas Cowboys Edition

In the wake of the Cowboys hairballing away a 23 point lead last night and losing 37-36, we at Sportsthodoxy are just going to quietly post a link to the bit on Tony Romo we ran a couple of days ago. 


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Three Thoughts on College Football

Because there was only one game on the schedule Saturday, and yet all sorts of action that  allowed a look behind the curtain. Here's a few thoughts on the big stories of the day.

1-Mack Brown was never going to come back as the coach at Texas.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Assessing the BCS

It is important to remember, in this last year of the Bowl Championship Series, that it is not now and never was "a series". It was a championship game, and then a few other well-paying games that were somehow portrayed as being somehow more meaningful than any of the other non-championship bowl games that were being played, but which ultimately had precisely zero outcome on the "championship" part of the thing's title. If you weren't in the big game, you might as well have been playing in the Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl (or whatever they're calling that these days) on the SmurfTurf up at Boise, for all the impact it would have on the selection of the final "champion". Next year's move to a 4-team playoff, while explicitly a cash grab designed to forcibly separate schools like Boise State from even the remotest possibility of sniffing some of the big money, is actually more of a "series" in that it involves more than one game. Of course, the SEC is going to demand 3 of the 4 spots by virtue of being the SEC, but right now that's not important.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Your Handy-Dandy Guide To What's Going On In DC, Football-Wise

Initially this post was going to be about how selective the Hall of Fame's memory was, that they barred the door against even suspected PED users but welcomed in a couple of managers who rode the throbbing, twitching, back-acne spotted fast twitch of the PED generation into the postseason and the record books. But then Rick Reilly wrote something about exactly that same point over at ESPN.com, and I'm not comfortable any time there's an indication that Reilly and I shared a thought process.

So I'm going to talk about the Washington Professional Football Team instead.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

These Things I Tell You Are True

Look, Cowboys fans, this isn't going to be easy to accept, but you're going to have to try:

It's not Tony Romo's fault you have a terrible defense. 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

What's the right Price? Houston, we have a solution!

Since the mystery of Robinson Cano and Jay-Z has now been solved, we can turn our attention to the fate of Cy Young winner, David Price. At the ripe age of 28, Price is in his perfect prime. Tampa Bay has shown time and time again that it's perfectly happy to part ways and to inherit up and coming prospects, rather than pony up.

Mandatory Post On the BCS Made Whilst Possibly Inebriated

To those who are fervently agitating for a one-loss SEC team to be chosen for the BCS Championship game over an unbeaten Ohio State team, I say to you this:

You're jerks.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Panic in the Fens

Word from back home is that my ten year old nephew, who is a Red Sox fan like I am a fan of oxygen, went ballistic this morning over the Yankees' signing of Jacoby Ellsbury for 7 years and roughly the gross national product of Lithuania.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Jack Morris Versus the Hall of Fame

Here is what I think about Jack Morris and the baseball Hall of Fame.

Jack Morris does not belong in the Hall of Fame.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Your Weekly ACC Football Update: Thank God It's Over Edition

Precisely one game in the ACC mattered: Duke beat a resurgent UNC team - barely - to win the Coastal Division and punch their ticket to the conference championship game next week, wherein without intervention from either the Divine or Florida law enforcement officials, they will be turned to chutney by Florida State.

(Note: Duke fans, please don't even pretend to get upset here. Duke is a wonderful story and a much better team than anyone had a right to expect this year. But scraping past the Wake Forests and UNCs of the world - the same teams FSU beat by 50 or so - is indicative of a slight talent gap. Whatever happens in Charlotte, it's going to be ugly.)

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Mad Dog Down

Greg Maddux will not be the first baseball player unanimously elected into the Hall of Fame.

It's not that he's not worthy, whatever that means. And for all the high-horse maundering about how if Ty Cobb didn't get voted in unanimously then ain't no one going in unanimously, that's not what's going to do it. Because even the most self-righteous of Hall of Fame voter types loves them some Maddux, with his Mickey Mouse watch and his glasses and his ne'er a whiff o' steroids and his command (which is the sort of thing baseball writers dream about having when they finally realize they'll never through 98 with movement). 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Great Moments In Crowds Versus Jerks, Hockey Edition

Not shown: Cam Ward getting heckled
It was the guy yelling on his way out the door that made tonight's game memorable.

The game itself, not so much. Cam Ward had stood on his head for a little over two periods when suddenly the roof caved in, and a 2-1 Hurricanes lead turned into a 5-2 deficit in a hurry. And after that last goal was methodically stuffed in behind a flailing, desperate Ward by Jaromir Jagr, as the crowd started filing out toward the PNC Arena parking lot, one guy stopped as he headed for the exits. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

And I Didn't Even Get A Toaster

So yesterday, Detroit smoked what was left of Green Bay, Dallas relentlessly marched over an undermanned Oakland team whose quarterback clearly had taken lessons from the Donovan McNabb School Of Underthrowing Open Receivers, and Baltimore and Pittsburgh renewed their rivalry in a series of steel cage matches occasionally interrupted by Bernard Pierce rushes of 4 yards or less.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Things In Sports I Am Thankful For, Part A Gazillion

In no particular order, I am thankful that:

Steve Logan, former East Carolina football coach, has a radio show. Imagine, if you will, a devoted blues fan and wine expert who talks like an extra from Walking Tall while expertly dissecting the previous week's football coaching blunders. It's a gift, I tell you. A gift.

Jose Oquendo is still coaching third base for the Cardinals. I mean, I'd rather he were managing (which is another way of saying Dr. Mrs. The Sportsthodoxy has boycotted Cardinals fandom until they make him manager) but hey, he's still on the field and wearing a Cards uniform, so that's something right with the universe.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Your Weekly ACC Update: It's Almost Over

And down the stretch they come. UNC woke up, NCSU went back to sleep, and Idaho accidentally embarrassed two teams in the conference. Just another week at the office, really.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Your Weekly PED Nonsense Panic, Jhonny Peralta Division

If you are upset that the Cardinals gave Jhonny Peralta a 4 year deal in free agency and thus "rewarded" a known PED user, you're not paying attention.

You're not paying attention to Dave Cameron's work over at FanGraphs, where he points out that a guy like Peralta should maybe have gotten more than he actually signed for, based on comparable players and a thin market for shortstops.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dear Boston Sports Fans

Dear Boston Sports Fans:

Look. We - and by "we", I mean "those of us living in the rest of the country, apart from LA and New York, which have their own particular ridiculousness" - understand. You are in an admirable place right now, and a largely unprecedented one. Your baseball team has won the World Series 3 times in the last decade. Your football team is in the middle of a sustained run of excellence that has brought it multiple Super Bowl wins. Your hockey team won the Cup not that long ago, and is a serious contender to do so again. And while the Celtics are rebuilding this year, the Allen/Garnett/Pierce years were a cornucopia of victories. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Roasting the Cobb

The great thing about being a blogger is that you can't get fired for saying inflammatory stuff because you're not getting paid, even when you write inflammatory stuff. Of course, that's also the downside to being a blogger, but there are times when the inflammatory stuff just has to be said.

(To be fair, some of the fun of the inflammatory stuff is ticking off the right people. Getting knuckle-dragging chest-thumpers into a tizzy is better than everything on basic cable except maybe Finding Bigfoot.)

So here's a thing: The Braves' new stadium, which already has people lined up around the block to defend it because, umm, well, I haven't figured that part out yet, except they've succumbed to a virulent form of self-abnegation whereby they identify so strongly with their fandom that they are willing to advocate against their own interests to show public support for their team.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Official Sportsthodoxy Position On the Alex Rodriguez Arbitration Hearing

Be it resolved that we at Sportsthodoxy feel that:

Alex Rodriguez storming out of his arbitration hearing may have been a product of genuine anger upon hearing that Commissioner Selig would not be compelled to testify, but his filmed radio appearance with Mike Francesca was bad amateur theater of the sort that would get laughed out of most 3-day LARPs;

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Your Weekly ACC Update: Duke Brings The Pain Edition

They are now running commercials on local sports talk radio where they talk about Duke football bringing the pain.

Duke football. 

As in "good seats, still available". As in "this is the first time ever - EVER - Duke has been bowl eligible in two consecutive seasons". 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chooch Redux

Yesterday, the Phillies re-signed catcher Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz, who had been a free agent, to a three year deal.

The details of the deal are unimportant. The money is good (3 years, $26M, with a club option for the 4th), but  not great. There is a decent chance that averaged over the life of the contract, it won't be a ridiculous overpay. There is also a decent chance that Ruiz, as a catcher in his mid-30s, will either fall off a cliff, performance-wise, or get hurt. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Toast to the 1972 Dolphins

One of the more ridiculous things that gets people's knickers in a twist about the NFL - and for a league supposedly founded on "manliness", there is a lot of offensensitivity under them thar pads - is the tradition of the surviving members of the 1972 Dolphins, whereby they get together for a champagne toast every year when the last surviving unbeaten team finally goes down. Last night, it was the Kansas City Chiefs' turn, as a combination of Peyton Manning and Andy Reid mysteriously thinking he was still coaching the Eagles coincided to end their run.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Post MVP Thoughts

There was much less shouting over the AL MVP Award this year than last year, largely since a decisive bloc of voters decided back in May that they were going to be giving it to Miguel Cabrera again. He got off to a hot start, Mike Trout didn't, and that was that. There's lots of fun to be had in picking the bones of the ballots - the one guy who put Trout 7th because his team wasn't a contender gave Chris Davis of the 4th-place Baltimore Orioles his first place vote - and trying to untangle the logic that various voters used, but really, it comes down to this: Everyone votes gut feelings, and then constructs rationales to support it. If those rationales contradict the facts, or how the voter in question has voted in previous years, it doesn't matter, because all of this is just a seven-day wonder and a warmup for the really nasty fights over the Hall of Fame ballot that are coming up.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Your ACC Roundup: Why Even Bother Edition

I'm not even going to bother breaking this one up. There's no point. Any given week in the ACC can be summed up in two sentences: Florida State beat holy hell out of someone, and everyone else might as well have played rock-paper-scissors. (Well, except Virginia. Because they probably lost.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hi, Hi, Byrdie

So here's why Marlon Byrd to the Phillies for 2 years and $16M (plus an option year) is a bad signing.

It's not the money. I mean, sure, to you and me $8M a year is a lot of money, but the going rate for decent outfielders, which Byrd might or might not be (depending on whether you view his 2013 season as an outlier or a harbinger of a new skill set), is a little higher than that. So, assuming you're going to get decent production - say a .270 batting average and 25 homers and solid defense - that money's defensible. And it's not like he's blocking anyone. Darrin Ruf's not an everyday guy and plays defense like an Ent. John Mayberry's out the door. The best outfield prospects in the minors are years away, or are not actual prospects. So, since you've got to stick somebody out there, you might as well pay market rate.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Your Handy-Dandy Guide To the Marietta Barves

Today, the Atlanta Braves announced that they've purchased land in suburban Cobb County, upon which they intend to erect a stadium complex they'll move into in time for the 2017 season. This is unusual, in that for the past several decades teams have steadily returned to urban centers from the 'burbs, and because the Braves already have a perfectly serviceable stadium.  Here, then, is our attempt to break down the nuances of the move.

They can do that?
Their lease at Turner Field expires after the 2016 season. They're free to move anywhere they want. Of course, MLB has some fairly strict rules about where they'll allow their teams to play, so realistically their options are A)renew the lease on Turner Field B)build a new place or C)hope the zombified corpse of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium rises from its grave beneath the asphalt of the Turner Field parking lots.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

They Booed Bynum

They booed Andrew Bynum in Philly.
This is not a surprise. It is Philadelphia, after all, and while the legend of pelting Santa with snowballs has been blown out of all proportion, the fans do like to show their displeasure with enthusiasm. And Andrew Bynum is someone the formerly apathetic Sixers fanbase is mightily displeased with.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Weekly ACC Update: Late In The Week Edition

There is Florida State, and there is everybody else. Who the everybody else is doesn't seem to matter much from week to week; right now the biggest drama in the conference is whether all the third-tier teams are going to beat each other up enough to knock a few out of bowl contention. As for FSU, they're clearly the class of the league, but with the rest of the ACC gone all squishy, they're BCS goners unless either Alabama or Oregon loses. In a year when pundits bragged the ACC was as strong as it's ever been, football-wise, the weakness of Florida State's schedule is what's going to let Oregon potentially leapfrog them into the championship game.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Eight Things I Think About Incognito And Martin

1-What Miami Dolphins slab of beef Richie Incognito did to his teammate Jonathan Martin is unconscionable. You do not threaten a coworker. You do not use racial epithets to refer to him or his family. You do not threaten his family. You do not repeatedly do this. You do not demand part of his paycheck on repeated occasions because you are senior to him. Anyone doing this in any rational company would be terminated instantly, and possibly, depending on the threats, arrested.

2-The Dolphins, after initially downplaying the situation and making statements supporting Incognito, were confronted with evidence of the threatening phone calls today. 
Then, they suspended him. 
And if anyone says "they were just protecting their player", well, Martin is their player, too.

Monday, November 04, 2013

On Adrian Cardenas

There are three types of people who show up for online chats with baseball writers. The first kind are genuinely interested in having specific questions answered, usually about players who fly below the radar of the mainstream media. The second kind are guys - and they're always guys - who are there to have a pundit reaffirm their opinion about their team or one of their team's players, and God help the chat host who fails to agree that every local AAAA hero isn't the next coming of Jim Thome.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sox In Six

Two men on. Nobody out. Nobody crosses the plate.
Two on. One out. Nobody scores.
Next inning, two on. One out. No runs.
Bases loaded, two outs, one in. First baseman bobbles the ball. Doesn't matter. Nobody else comes home.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Don'ts of the World Series

There are things you don't do if you want to win a World Series game:

  • You don't leave your best pinch hitter on the bench.
  • You don't let a relief pitcher get his first major league at bat in the ninth inning of a World Series game because you're hoping to extend him, and then pull him one out later.
  • You don't make a lousy throw to third when there's basically no chance you'll get the runner.
  • You don't leave your starting pitcher in to face the top of the opponent's lineup for the third time, not when he's visibly tiring and you've got an army of flamethrowers waiting to come out of the pen.
  • You don't pitch Craig Breslow.
  • You don't trust Will Middlebrooks' D, because it looks like he flinches every time a ball comes his way.
  • You don't leave Jarrod Saltalamacchia out there in the late innings, not when you've got better defensive options.
  • You don't pitch to Big Papi. He's hitting over .700. The rest of the Red Sox are hitting sub-BJ-Upton.
  • You don't walk Stephen Drew. Ever.

Most of these are the little things, the things that happen in the heat of the moment or that seem kind of defensible at the time. But it's the little things that get you, especially when it's two teams so evenly matched. Something as simple as a rookie slipping cost the Cardinals game 4; something as simple as having David Ross in for defense would have prevented two bad throws to third, throws that cost the Red Sox games 2 and 3.

So the lesson is clear. Don't do these things. Don't give the opponent any advantage they didn't earn for themselves, not in a Series so evenly matched. 

To date, the Sox have not done a few more of these than the Cardinals. That's why they're up 3 games to 2. But they've made their share of mistakes, too, given away their share of gifts. If they do it again tonight, we're going seven. If it's the Cards who are feeling generous, then it's the first clinching celebration at Fenway since the Babe was a left handed pitcher.
But it all depends, not on what they do, but what they don't do.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Your Weekly ACC Roundup: Old Tropes Edition

As the weeks creep by, the narrative shifts.

A little over a week ago, it was "is this the strongest ACC football has ever been?" After all, the conference had 3 undefeated teams, including 2 in the top 5, and Virginia Tech sneaking up on the outside, with only a loss to the unstoppable juggernaut that is Alabama.

But that was two weeks ago. One of those undefeated teams got stomped like a grape at a wine festival. Another goes up against FSU next week after a few consecutive weeks of tightrope walking against inferior competition. And Virginia Tech, well, everyone ignored the warning signs of close calls against teams like East Carolina. Can't do that any more, I'm afraid. And now we're back to the "Gosh darn it, the ACC sure is unpredictable" days. Which is another way of saying "nobody's really that good."

So on to business, and the taking care of thereof:

Florida State 49, NC State 17 - Let's put it this way: I was so sure of the outcome of this one that I scheduled my birthday party for a bar across the street from State's campus for that evening. To be fair, the Pack put up more of a fight than Clemson did, but at this point it's like the old days of the ACC, where there's the former Free Shoes U. and then there's everyone else.

Georgia Tech 35, UVa 25 - It's not a surprise that Tech won this game. It's a surprise that they had to come from behind to do it, because Virginia is bad. Then again, fork over 5 turnovers and still win by double digits and you're doing all right.

Clemson 40, Maryland 27 - Now that Maryland's been exposed as the new Indiana, or perhaps Purdue, it makes sense that Clemson would roll up on them like that - particularly coming off the bludgeoning that Florida State delivered last week. On the other hand, allowing the Terps to hang around until the 4th quarter, and allowing them to run up 27 points, that's not a particularly good sign. Or as the great sage once asked: Name two things that are orange and don't show up in late October - The Great Pumpkin and Clemson's D.

Miami 24, Wake Forest 21 - And a near miss at that. Al Golden deserves all sorts of credit for keeping the Ibises unbeaten this far into the season, but you keep playing with fire, you're going to get blasted through sheetrock by a firehose sooner or later. Combined with the NCAA's pattycake disciplinary judgment earlier in the week, that's two gifts the U got within seven days. Next week, though, their luck's going to run out.

UNC 34, Boston College 10 - Clearly, da Sawx gots all da karma this week. BC had established itself as, if not good, then at least solid. UNC had established itself as a speed bump. Mind you, they still can't stop the run, but when you hold the opposition's QB to passing yardage Sammy Hagar probably couldn't drive, well, you're going to win a game now and then. UNC's schedule is relatively soft the rest of the way, so Larry Fedora might be able to salvage a faintly respectable final record. But the empty seats visible in any picture from Saturday's game will tell  you this season's already lost.

Virginia Tech 10, Duke 14 - Yes, it's a great win for Duke. Yes, they're bowl-eligible for the second year in a row for the first time EVER. It's a big deal, I'm very proud of them, such nachas, etc. But. For all the national yammering, Virginia Tech simply isn't that good this year. The fact that they dropped this game to a team that converted precisely zero - that would be "0" - third downs and gave away 4 turnovers says that Virginia Tech was in no way ready for prime time. Good teams let lesser opponents take a swing, absorb the punch, and come back and win. Overrated teams go 4-18 on 3rd down conversions against a team that couldn't stop Pitt.

Navy 24, Pitt 21 - Speaking of which...

So next week the big show is down Florida way, with FSU taking on Miami, and presumably taking them apart as well. Everything else is in-conference, with the UNC-NCSU grudge match being perhaps the biggest game on the docket.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Hint of Obstruction

There are two lessons to take away from last night's game 3 of the World Series (3, if you count "don't let your short reliever who has never batted before in the major leagues get his first big league at-bat against a flame-throwing demon in the 9th inning of a World Series game because you're expecting to get another full inning out of him and then pull him after just one out).

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Kids Are All Right

It's been a long time since Grambling football was in the news. Sure, Coach Eddie Robinson was a legend, and they made a splash when they hired former Washington QB Doug Williams as coach, but historically black colleges don't traditionally show up on ESPN's College Gameday.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Source of Great Pride

It is a source of great pride to those of us here at Sportsthodoxy that multiple readers have found their way here after Googling "Clemsoning".

That is all.

A Last Gift To Boston

This is how you lose a trip to the World Series.

You take a first-and-third, no outs situation with the other team's starter on the ropes, and you turn it into a Fine/Howard/Fine-level production on the bases that gives away two outs.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

An Open Letter To My Fellow Phillies Fans

Dear Knuckleheads, Knuckledraggers, and Nucky Thompson Impersonators:

If you are so offended by the fact that a Phillies player - in this case Domonic Brown - expressed a rooting preference for a team other than the Iggles that you are demanding he be run out of town or wishing physical harm upon him, then you need to seek psychiatric treatment immediately. Mr. Brown owes neither the Eagles nor you his football fandom; he is obligated to do his best during baseball season to help the Phillies win - which he did to good effect this year - and that's it. And seeing as he's one of the few position players the Phils have left with a pulse, your idiotic loyalty test would only serve to inch the Philberts closer to '61 Mets territory. So knock it off.

Alternately, take up cross-stitch. You'll find it soothing.

Weekly ACC Update: The Great Clemsoning

Usually, when members of a particular conference beat each other up all season long, it's taken as evidence by supporters that it's a strong conference with a lot of good, evenly matched teams.

This only works, however, if the games are close. When the scores come back 56-0 and 51-14 instead, it's hard to argue that there's league parity. Which brings us to Saturday, and The Great Clemsoning.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

No More Collisions

Over at ESPN, Buster Olney has a piece about why there's going to be a ban, sooner or later, on home plate collisions. This is, by and large, a good thing: It will likely reduce gruesome injuries like the one Buster Posey had a couple of years ago, it will remind people that the point is to touch home, not to pancake the catcher, and it will almost certainly reduce concussions. And, let's face it, those hits always occur when the runner's dead meat, and his only hope is to body-slam the ball out of the catcher's mitt. In other words, it's bad baseball.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Owners Take All The Risks (Of Prosecution)

Let us consider Zygi Wilf.

Wilf, owner of the Minnesota Vikings, and his brother and his cousin, are bad people. They are bad people who defrauded their business partners out of a great deal of money. The legal ruling against the Wilfs, in a case which they have been dodging for two decades, nailed them for fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and violation of racketeering laws.

Racketeering, for those of you not up on your decades-old Dennis Farina cop shows, means "mob-type stuff". Violating racketeering statutes in New Jersey means you really had to work at it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Sometimes, you just sit back and watch a master at work.

Case in point: Charles Pierce on Koji Uehara. And beards.

The Week of 5 (Or 7) QBs

In recent days, a big deal was made out of the fact that there were going to be 5 ACC-pedigree quarterbacks starting games for NFL teams this weekend. (Note that the 5 includes Russell Wilson, who finished his college career at Wisconsin, but let it pass, let it pass.) This was taken by ACC partisans as evidence that the league is indeed a rising football power, as that's a lot of quarterbacks to be starting games. By comparison, the Big 10-ish had 5 (Henne, Brady, Foles, Pryor and Brees), the Big East/AAC had none, and whatever conference Delaware is in had 1. (So did the Ivy League, but don't tell anyone, 'cause they'll freak.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Peraltasaurus Rex

As per Peter Gammons, Red Sox players are privately kvetching that Jase Robertson failed to properly inflate their raft when they were going muskrat hunting and...no, wait, that's not it. They're kvetching that Tigers SS Johnny Peralta, having served his 50 game suspension for PEDs, is now allowed to play. The concern is apparently that they don't know what residual steroids are still in his body, making them wonder if at any moment he could completely Hulk out and turn on a Craig Breslow slider with gamma-irradiated fury.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Weekly ACC Football Roundup: Pack It Up Edition

For three quarters, Clemson was in serious danger of Clemsoning all over themselves again. Up against a feisty but underpowered Boston College team - remember, these guys got creamed by Kiffiny USC - they were down 14-10 going into the late stages. Then, finally, they realized that they were ranked #3 in the country and BC wasn't, and that was that. Still, it was a nice effort for a BC team that seems to have found its second win, and which will probably finish better than expected.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why David Goes Down

Malcolm Gladwell's latest exercise in reverse-engineering hypotheses to fit his cherry-picked data is all about David and Goliath, but there's a key point he missed.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Denial of League of Denial

The pushback has already begun.

Predictable, really - its just too easy a target. Sure, Frontline's documentary on the NFL, League of Denial, was a damning piece of seamless investigative journalism. How seamless? Even Deadspin, whose stock in trade is to try to take anyone else's investigative journalism to pieces to clear the decks for their own, couldn't manage a swipe. (Correction: they've added one.) Sure, it made things very, very clear that the NFL was well aware of the dangers of traumatic head injury to its players and yet did everything in its power to prevent players from learning about the issue. And sure, it was very clear about what those consequences were. Just ask the family of Mike Webster.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Your Weekly ACC Update: Don't Fear The Turtle Edition

Last Saturday, while hanging out at a burger place waiting for my order, I noticed a factoid scrolling across the ticker at the bottom of the screen. It said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that ACC teams were 54-6 against non-conference opponents. Which, I must confess, impressed the hell out of me, as I hadn't realized they'd played 60 or so games against out of conference opponents.
Then the tag rolled by, and it a crucial factoid emerged: that was in reference to field hockey.
So without further ado, here's what happened this week:

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Durham Bulls Backup Catchers Strike Again

This guy. No, the one on the right.
Saturday night, it was Stephen Vogt. Tonight, it was Jose Lobaton, another guy who used to be a backup catcher for the Durham Bulls.

And by now, you should know the story. Next-to-last guy off the bench. Not exactly known for his hitting. In there, with two outs, against the closer who'd just had the single best season in the history of closing. (Yes, better than anything Mariano Rivera did. Ever. Look it up.) Hoping against hope to pick up his closer, who'd just choked up a hard-won lead. 

Naturally, he golfs it pretty much dead center, to the point where some butterfingers fan in what looked to be an Elliot Johnson jersey Bucknered the ball into the 10K gallon fish tank next door.

First postseason walk-off hit in Rays history. Fourth straight elimination game they've won. The conquest of the unhittable closer. All the stuff that's so unlikely as to never, ever happen.
Except it happens every year. Welcome to the playoffs.

Monday, October 07, 2013

On a Walkoff Win By The Bay

Why so serious?
Here's the situation.

First and third, none out. Bottom of the ninth, tie game. Your offense has done nothing against a rookie all game. Your starter is gone and your pitcher is gassed. The guy at the plate has power.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Great Moments In Sports Talk Radio: Contract the 2009 Rays

Many of us, in our day to day jobs, are asked to do a little research. We are impressed with the importance of actually knowing what we're talking about when we're asked to get up in front of people - whether they be customers, co-workers, upper brass, or professional peers - and talk. Not taking this responsibility seriously (or, as professional peers of mine refer to it, "talking out your ass"), is the sort of thing that tends to bring negative performance reviews, audience disapproval, and occasional changes in work address.

Friday, October 04, 2013

One the Hard Way: Rays

This is how you do it the hard way.

You tie one hand behind your back by keeping your best prospect and probably second-best power hitter, the guy you traded your #2 starter and a key pen arm for, down on the farm for nearly half the season to tweak his service time clock, gambling that you won't fall entirely out of the race without him.

You go into the season with first base, one of your big bopper slots, manned by a guy who never was a serious threat to hit 20 homers, and whose offense has been sliding for years. This guy, whom you signed off the scrap heap, got let go by your biggest competition when they really didn't have any other options at first base.

You take chances on guys who are, frankly, jerks, because jerks come cheap, and you need cheap, and there's nobody better at straightening them out than Joe Maddon. And so Yuni Escobar arrives and appears to remove his head from his hindquarters, and Delmon Young comes back and shuts up and just hits like he never did in Philly.  

You run a shuttle back and forth between Tampa and Durham, cycling Archers and Torreses and Odorizzis and more back and forth and in and out while your former Cy Young winner's arm starts barking and your former Rookie of the Year falls apart, all the way down to A-ball.

You enter the final series of the season needing only to take care of business against the sad-sack Blue Jays, a team running on impulse power, and you promptly woof away a couple of games. Your best defensive outfielder makes a Charlie Brown play, and a huge lead evaporates, and suddenly it's the last day of the season and you need to win -on the road - to make sure you don't go home.

And you build another lead, and that one starts to evaporate, and everyone in baseball who loves your story and wants the underdog to win is thinking "oh God, here we go again."
But you pull it out, which earns you the right to go on the road again for another must-win, against a team that thumped you thoroughly in your home stadium, and that has what seems like more money invested in its pitching staff than you have in your payroll. And you send your former Cy Young guy out there, except he's got an ERA in their ballpark that looks like a Boeing jet designation, and they're getting their big bopper back off a 50 game suspension just in time to face you. You get there, and you take a lead, and then you get hit by an epic screw job of a bad call that costs you at least one run, and you're pretty sure you're going to need that run because this place is a launching pad, and the game is a long way from over.

Except your starter gets mad and just deals. Every pitch feels like it's coming from a place of rage. And your last-guy-on-the-bench outfielder, the speed-and-defense guy whose botched pickup of a routine grounder is what led to you being here in the first place, he steals a run for you in the 9th, and you win.

Which gets you the right to get on another plane, and fly to another team's stadium, and play another must-win.

Which you do, against a flamethrowing rookie and a deep lineup full of guys who have been there before, even if the team hasn't.You run a DH out there who couldn't hack it on the sinking ship that was the 2013 Phillies, and he slams a first-pitch home run, the fifth time he's done that in the playoffs. Nine playoff home runs for Delmon Young, five on a first pitch, and yet Ernie Banks never sniffed the post-season. Life, as they say, isn't fair. This time, though, the unfairness works your way. Your kid starter scuffs and ducks and dodges and gets double play balls when he has to, and then suddenly it's done. 

You've won. You've passed the wild card stage. And that gives you the right to get on another plane, to go to another city, to stare down the barrel of another loaded gun.

But this time you get a day off first. Sounds like heaven.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A Rock For The Forgotten In The City of Three Rivers

It was, in the end, just one game.

But it was one game after 162 other games. One game in a place where that team and that city hadn't been for two decades. It was a team that had every reason to be tight or nervous or relieved that they'd just gotten that far after twenty years of futility. And yet, they weren't.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Your Weekly ACC Roundup: Arr, Pirates Edition

And so, week 5, with the drama of an in-state rivalry that only one side wanted to play...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Game 163

It's not quite the postseason, the one game playoff to see who gets the chance to play a one game playoff to advance to the next round of the American League playoffs. The National League side has been reasonably set for a while now; only an impossible run from the Nationals combined with a complete collapse from one of the NL Central front-runners would have shaken things up. It was only a question of seeding, with the Reds and Pirates duking it out to see who got to host the Wild Card game, and the Dodgers and Braves cruising home with 10+ game leads.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

To Tide You Over....

...until the long piece about the Oklahoma State non-scandal hits, here's a few other pieces you should check out.

Adam Sobsey's Bull City Summer has been a marvelous memoir of a season spent following the AAA Durham Bulls closely. It's brilliantly and affectingly written, and this piece on hard-luck OF Brandon Guyer will dent your heart a bit. The rest of the series - and the blog - is well worth reading as well.

Sports On Earth is home to some consistently good writing. This recent guest piece by Susan Elizabeth Shepard stands out, however, for its brutal honestly and refusal to pander to squishy sentimentality. What do pro athletes and strippers have in common? More than you'd think.

There is nothing on Earth better than Joe Posnanski writing about the Royals. Except maybe Posnanski writing about Springsteen. But here he writes about the Royals.

These days the great Charles Pierce makes his crust tearing into politics like a gator tearing into an unwanted Duck Dynasty cast member, but every so often he unlimbers the old sportswriting muscles over at Grantland. The management of this site cheerfully confesses to not being fans of Mr. Simmons' self-absorbtion or style, but he's given Pierce and Jonah Keri a place to play, and that's worth something.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Great Moments In Oversimplified Media Narratives, Atlanta Braves Edition

The narrative is clear. Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez admired his home run against the Braves and took a slow trot around the bases, causing Atlanta catcher Brian McCann to confront him before he got to home plate. This triggered a bench-clearing brawl, which resulted in ejections, suspensions, and an injury to Brewers infielder Aramis Ramirez. But in the aftermath, McCann was lauded for upholding the unwritten rules of the game, and Gomez got blasted as a showboating punk with no respect for baseball or anything else.

Lots and lots of fans  and media types piled onto that narrative, vociferously defending Atlanta and McCann and calling Gomez some fairly awful things.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Adult Swim In Arizona

Apparently there is some outrage being generated in certain quarters over an unsourced rumor that, during their victory celebration in the swimming pool in center field of whatever they're calling the Diamondbacks' park these days, at least one Dodger (and possibly more) embraced their inner six year old and - there is no graceful way to say it - peed in the pool.

Now I find this ridiculous for several reasons, namely:

  • The whole "They partied in our pool!" nonsense out of noted razor clam poacher Willie Bloomquist is precisely that: nonsense. The game was over, the park was empty, and they won. In the words of Chopper, Harden the @#$# up, Willie. 
  • Everybody pees in the pool. 17% of adults - not kids, adults - admit to it, which means that the actual numbers are way higher. Any pool you dare venture into is almost certainly going to have some whiz in it. That's why there's enough chlorine in your average swimming pool to kill half a regiment at Ypres: BECAUSE EVERYONE PEES IN THE DAMN POOL ANYWAY.
  • And because the Dodgers jumped in the pool in uniform. Those bad boys would almost certainly show a narsty colored stain quite well. 

Which leads me to the conclusion that A)it's probably a load of bollocks that someone dreamed up so more old men could yell at Yasiel Puig to get off their porch and B)nobody in their right mind would give a crap even if it were true.
But, it did get me thinking about how this story might have gone if it had been someone else in that pool. For instance:

  • If it had been the Denver Broncos, it would have been someone else's pee added to the pool.
  • If it had been the Milwaukee Brewers, the pee would somehow have been mishandled on its way into the pool.
  • If it had been Lance Armstrong's, he would have sworn that the pee was actually an organic healing elixir.
  • If it had been the Philadelphia Phillies, someone - probably Ryan Howard - would have gotten hurt while peeing.
  • If it had been Oklahoma State, thousands of angry internet commenters would have demanded to know why it hadn't been Miami or North Carolina or USC or Oregon that peed in the pool instead.
  • If it had been Texas A&M, someone would have sworn that it was just a coincidence that 4500 vials labeled "Urine sample - Manziel" showed up in the pool at that time. And Johnny would have had to sit out of the pool for half an hour.
  • If it had been the Lakers, the story would have been about how nobody would have peed if they'd hired Phil Jackson as coach.
  • If it had been the Coyotes, nobody would have cared.
  • If it had been the Arizona Cardinals, nobody would have believed it.
  • And if it had been the Yankees, it would have been reported as Derek Jeter nobly and honorably marking his territory as God-Emperor of the Suburban Phoenix Dunes, and for that we should all be grateful.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Steelers 911

Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers were 0-2. This doesn't happen a lot here in Pittsburgh.  The player leadership of the team didn't have much of an idea of what to do in response.
Now they're 0-3.

So I guess maybe the team's troubles aren't related to rookies playing 8-ballThat's weird and surprising! The correlation between snooker and crappy football play is well-documented in precisely nowhere.  Perhaps the relationship is too subtle to be detected by modern science. We need better footballoscopes.

Maybe the vets will double down. Maybe next, guys with three years or fewer won't be able to play Battleship, cribbage, or Vampire: the Masquerade.  (Meanwhile Roethlisberger's standing on the trainer's table shouting, "I call a Blood Hunt upon thee, outcast Kindred Ryan Clark!")

Guys, you are a team. The standings don't say "Pittsburgh Steelers New Dudes: 0-3."  You want to refocus the team, refocus the team. Don't pretend that the problem is that the new guys are distracted while the wily vets are pure professionals.

There are some specific, concrete problems that can be addressed.
* Ben Roethlisberger is personally responsible for 7 of the Steelers' 10 turnovers (4 picks, 3 lost fumbles).  He should, uhh, hold onto the ball.
* The offensive line is atrocious. The Steelers' O-line hasn't been great since Russ Grimm left, but the current line gives swiss cheese a bad name. As of this writing, Football Outsiders' advanced stats rank the Steelers' offensive line 30th. I don't know enough about the trenches to know whether this is schematic problems or personnel problems, but with a rank that bad it's almost certainly both.
* Related, the coaches must stop substituting guys in and out of the offensive line from play to play. The linemen must learn to play together, and that requires actually playing together.

The team's not the Titanic. Most observers thought this was going to be a rough year for the Steelers. It's OK to have those once in a while, so long as the team uses this opportunity to get what they can out of the personnel they have, and learn.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Congratulations ARRRRRR In Order

We interrupt our usual non-stop stream of snark and unusually convoluted sub-references to offer congratulations to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who yesterday clinched the franchise's first playoff berth in 20 years.
Or, to put it another way, the last time the Pirates made the playoffs, Mariano Rivera, who is retiring after an unprecedented run as a closer after a ridiculously long career, was in the minors.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Your Weekly ACC Update

Another week, another game against Bethune-Cookman for the league...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

AL MVP: Any Argument In A Storm

I remember it like it was only last year.

The baseball season was headed into its home stretch, and one of the fiercest debates raging was who deserved the AL MVP award. Was it Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, on his way to the first Triple Crown in recent memory? Or Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the darling of the analytics community, whose unprecedented rookie season was made even more impressive by the fact that he got a late start on the year. Columns raged, invective flew, and in the end, Cabrera won. Old-school types cheered it as a win for, well, for old-school types, and yelled at the analytics types to get off their lawns. Analytically-aligned fans chanted "but what about defense" and muttered darkly about how the demographic shift was on their side.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

18 Innings In

18 innings.
21 pitchers.
6 hours, 54 minutes.
184 pitches thrown for each team.
10 consecutive scoreless innings.
A game-winning RBI delivered by a guy who didn't enter the game until the 10th inning, and had enough time to go 2-4.
That's what the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles did to each other last night. That's what you do when there's under 10 games left in the season and the wild card standings are packed tighter than salmon going upstream in a David Attenborough documentary. That's what you do when it's September and your roster has expanded and one loss can drop you from leading the wild card race to a half game out of the second spot. That's what you do when you're a couple back with not that many to go, and you're running out of chances to make up ground.
The storylines are everywhere. The win went to a guy (Jeremy Hellickson) who had to get sent down to Class A to get his head straightened out. That RBI in the 18th came from a guy (David DeJesus) who was traded twice this season, once to a team that expressly didn't want him. The losing pitcher (Bud Norris) was supposed to end up on the West Coast when he got ransomed out of 100-loss factory Houston for prospects; instead he wound up, to everyone's surprise, in Charm City. Super-rookie Wil Myers went 0-8 in the game. The guy who scored the winning run (Desmond Jennings), went 2-4 after getting into the game in the 9th. The Orioles' closer never entered the game, which may say something about the way Buck Showalter manages or may say something about the way Jim Johnson is pitching.
But really, the only storyline that matters is that this is what you do when the year's running out. You fire every bullet, including your Sunday starting pitcher, because this one game really does matter that much. There's no time for sunk costs any more, no saying sometime around the 13th "screw it, put the shortstop in so we can save the bullpen for the rest of the series". Because if you don't win this game, the rest of the series might be too late.
The game wrapped up around 2 in the morning.
And today at 1:05, they do it all again.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What the Bo Pelini Rant Can Teach Us

Soon you will learn the power of this fully operational football coach
There is precisely one circumstance under which Nebraska fans will not forgive coach Bo Pelini for his Mamet-esque rant from a couple years back that just got released over at Deadspin, and that's if he fails to win enough games.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I wear my visor in a fight*

The NHL has implemented a rule where, if a player gets in a fight (where they get a 5 minute major for fighting, instead of the 2 minute roughing call) and removes his helmet, he gets an additional 2 minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.

It's been stated that the reason for this rule is to avoid concussions.  But it's really just a way to penalize fighting even more than it already is.  And I think it's a dumb idea.

Let's be clear here:  the staged fights you see when the guys drop their gloves just after a face-off need to stop.  The players are transparently attempting to pump up the energy of the team, and it's generally transparent.  Although this one (Max Talbot vs. Dan Carcillo in 2009) was an example of one that broke that mold, leading to the Pens eliminating the Flyers.

But a spontaneous fight, where the players just start smacking the living bejeebies out of each other because one guy smashed the other guy into the boards, that almost always results in a momentum shift.

There are also logistical issues with this.  What happens when a guy knocks the other player's helmet off?  What happens if the cause of the fight was a guy high-sticking someone and knocking it off?  Are they penalized then?

I think it's a bad rule, and the NHL should feel bad.

*Sung to the tune of that great 80s hit "Sunglasses at Night".  Yeah, it's a reach.  Deal with it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Improbable Math of September

September is the time for improbable math.

It's when you look at the number of games your team sits out of a playoff spot, and the number of games left, and you squint and you hope and think maybe, just maybe...

Maybe if we win all our games, and the three teams ahead of us keep losing, we'll make it.

Maybe we'll get hot.

Maybe the Reds will go 6-6, and that means all we have to do is go 11-2 to catch them. It's doable, right? We've still got games against the Marlins.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Your 2013 International League Champions, the Durham Bulls

Bulls in Motion...
You may have noticed a decided tilt towards Durham Bulls-related content on this blog over the summer. The reason for this is simple: I live ten minutes from their ballpark, and I get to games (generally with some combination of my dad and nephew or my friends Mur "Sansaball" Lafferty and Jim Van Verth and their mighty daughter) as often as I can. The park is lovely and the games are a lot of fun to attend, and if the food options largely run to "variations on hot dogs", that's just fine.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Your "ACC Is On The Rise" Update For 9/16

In the interests of science, let's see how the resurgent ACC did this weekend:

Just one game this week, with Georgia Tech hammering Duke. Duke has been making strides under David Cutcliffe, but Tech's bizarro offense is tough if you don't have the athletes to pursue the flexbone, and Duke, well, doesn't. Or if they do, they're all playing for Coach K.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

In Defense of Knuckleballers

Our Patron Saint
Those of you not reading Adam Sobsey's marvelous Bull City Summer series, about one year at the ballpark (and beyond) with the AAA Durham Bulls, have been missing out. Graceful, insightful, and fun, it's a long-form exercise that really gets to the heart of the material its covering, with genuine affection for the players, managers and characters who make the AAA game what it is.

But in a recent post, he takes a swipe at knuckleballers, and that's where I've got to draw the line. Sobsey's point is that knuckleballers are, in essence, a novelty act. They have precisely one (1) pitch, and they throw it every time out. And that, he posits, is an unenjoyable fan experience - there's no suspense over what's coming next, there's no chance for a pitcher to magically squeeze that extra bit of velocity out of his arm for that one vital pitch, there's nothing but the knuckler, darting and dancing and eventually making its way to the plate (and occasionally behind it, when the catcher fails to handle it). The comparison he settles on is the comedy of Steven Wright: off kilter, repetitive, and functional only within its own space.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cheatery, NASCAR Style

So the buzz out of NASCAR right now is that Joey Logano - and really, what better sign is there that NASCAR's gone national than a guy whose name make him sound like he should be a roadie for Bon Jovi - did some cheatery to lock up his place in the "Chase".

(The Chase, for those of you unfamiliar with is, is NASCAR's version of the playoffs, wherein the top drivers basically wipe the slate and compete all over again for the last few races of the year. But since those races still include full fields, it's like letting the Yankees and Red Sox slug it out in the ALCS while the Royals and Mariners play catch in the outfield, and the White Sox show up, take batting practice, and then leave right after the first pitch.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Your Jets Update

Mark Sanchez is probably out for the year with a busted labrum.

Which means that there's still a good chance Rex Ryan won't announce his quarterback until the second quarter of Sunday's game.

Your Handy-Dandy Guide to the Sports Illustrated-Oklahoma State Scandal

What's the big deal?
In a five part investigation, Sports Illustrated has allegedly uncovered evidence of massive institutional corruption at Oklahoma State University's football program. Money, sex, academic fraud, you name it - it's all apparently in there, and the allegations extend from the turn of the century up through 2011.

So what's the big deal?
Well, it depicts a program where academics were laughable, players got handed envelopes of cash in the locker room, and more. And all of this is coming from eyewitness reports from former players.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Let's Not Get Too Excited, ACC Edition

Local sports pundits (and a few national ones) are all a-twitter over the notion that finally, after roughly 2 decades of saying "NEXT year we're going to be good at football", the ACC has risen up to show its fangs. After all, the evidence is unmistakeable: a high-profile win by the league's best team, Clemson, over a highly ranked SEC opponent (Georgia). Another win by a league team (Miami) over an SEC powerhouse (Florida). And...and...

And that's about it.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Great Moments In Getting Overexcited Over One Game, Geno Smith Division

Buoyed by the fact that Jets didn't get run out of the stadium by the Buccaneers on Sunday, the pundits are declaring the Geno Smith era to be a resounding success. Leading the chorus is The Sporting News' Vinny Iyer, whose love letter to Smith makes you wonder if Iyer was standing outside the Jets' locker room after the game, hoping to be asked if he'd accept a rose.

Friday, September 06, 2013

A Summer At the Ballparks

Fan Appreciation Day, Durham Bulls Athletic Park. A dad tosses pop flies so his son can learn to make spectacular catches crashing against the fence.

AT&T Park, preseason tour, the view from the Press Box.
And in the distance, the waters of McCovey Cove.

The view from the Giants' dugout, placed along the third base side
because there's more room there. Looking out to dead center,
an awfully long way away.
Outside Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, just before
Opening Day. A bronze statue seemingly hurls a water tower, daring
another statue to hit it. Bronze Ted Kluszewski waits out of shot, patiently, for his chance
to swing.
Domonic Brown stealing second against the Reds, in a game the
Phillies won with 2 homers in the 9th off Aroldis Chapman.
Erik Kratz and Freddy Galvis, you are a thermodynamic miracle.

Opening night, Rogers Centre, Toronto. R.A. Dickey was betrayed by
his catcher, who let a fistful of knucklers roll by. The Jays lost, setting
the tone for the season. But for one night, the joint was jumping.

The end of the Phillies' ballpark tour; a chance to sit in Charlie Manuel's press conference seat,
deep in the bowels of Citizens' Bank Park.
I tried to announce a trade of Michael Young, but no one believed me

Nephew Jake's first college baseball game - Duke vs. Maryland,
right before the ACC tournament. Note the Jays jersey and Bulls hat.
Also note the foul ball, off the bat of Duke's shorstop. While we admired it, the kid hit a second one to the exact same spot and nearly brained us both.

Dad and Jake, Bulls versus Charlotte Knights. 

Dog days of summer. Rochester's bullpen crew heading in to the dugout after pre-game warmups at the DBAP.
Catching warmup tosses in the visitors' pen, during the last homestand of the season.
The catcher's mitt pops with every pitch.

Seated right behind home plate at a Winston-Salem Dash game.
16 rows back and a million miles away.

Bulls infielder Mike Fontenot takes his son onto the field after
a loss to Charlotte in the next to last home game of the year.
The grounds crew ignores Fontenot, and just works around him.

After the last home game of the season, the Bulls gather on the mound to celebrate.
13 runs, 17 hits, and nary a homer to be seen - and that was just for the Bulls.