Friday, May 31, 2013

Zimm Zimminy

Once upon a time, it went like this:

Analytics-friendly baseball writer/blogger said something, mainstream baseball establishment jumped on them, and everyone got a good laugh piling on.

These days, it goes like this:

Baseball player, manager, or front-office type says something goofy and analytics-unfriendly, online baseball fandom jumps on them, and everyone has a good laugh.

The worm, she has turned. Today, it's turned on Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman, who's upset about predictions made by, and I quote, "nerds". Like I said, everyone's getting a good laugh, pointing to what the predictions actually say, and so forth, which is to say "come on, people, give it a rest already".

We have just been called "nerds" by Ryan Zimmerman, and we're acting like, well, nerds. Look, Ryan Zimmerman is paid to do a couple of things: hit baseballs, catch baseballs, and send baseballs sailing past the first baseman so we can make humorous animated jpegs of someone in the third row taking an E-5 off the noggin. He's not paid to do math, make eloquent speeches, or discuss the finer points of Bayesian statistics. Of course he's going to call analytics types nerds. This is a "General Franco is still dead" kind of story. And yet, predictably, we dogpile on with a ferocity normally only reserved for comments section debates over whether Batman's installed Ubuntu on the Batcave computers ('cause everyone knows the JLA Watchtower uses Red Hat).

Look, I'm a nerd. I have committed LARP professionally, and on nationally syndicated television. And God knows it's fun to get back at the bullies. But really, do we need to jump in every single time, giving these guys ammo for their persecution complexes? Or is it better to nod sagely, grin to ourselves, and let these guys rage to each other in their ever-shrinking circle?

Because it ain't nerds flinging three-hoppers past the bag at first on routine grounders. It's the jocks.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

One of the major differences between MLB and the NFL is in the media that cover them. Baseball writers tend to nag and nitpick, ostensibly because they love the sport they're covering, and they're sure it would be better if it just listened to them.
Football writers, on the other hand, offer the sort of uncritical house organ groupthink last seen when Pravda was reporting on Brezhnev.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Great Moments In Realizing San Antonio Is Really Good (Again)

It has become increasingly clear that the dominant narrative of the upcoming NBA Finals is going to be "why don't we like San Antonio more?"

It's an old song, one we've heard before, and it's one reporters and pundits rediscover every time the Spurs make some noise in the playoffs. Basically, it goes like this: Gosh, we keep on talking about how we want teams that play fundamental ball and don't have any divas or criminals, and yet when one comes along like San Antonio, nobody wants to talk about them!"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bear Season

Did anyone really doubt?

I mean, the Memphis Grizzlies were a great story, and it was fashionable to talk about them as a dark horse coming out of the Western Conference for a while, in the same way it was fashionable to talk about how you couldn't wait to go see Oz The Great And Powerful until it actually showed up in theaters and you suddenly realized you had much better things to do with your life. Yes, they beat a Clippers team that was hobbled by injuries and crippled by internal dissension over the fate of its underskilled coach. Yes, they also beat a Thunder team that was - stop me if you've heard this - crippled by injuries. And they had some nifty inside-outside play, and Kid Gasol has finally grown up, and any Sixers fan who roots against a team coached by Lionel Hollins should have their fan card revoked.

But.

The fact is, they don't get past a Thunder team at full strength. They probably don't get past an all-cylinders Clippers team. I mean, kudos to Griz GM Chris Wallace for putting together a very good team, but the fact of the matter is that the NBA playoffs are an endless deathmarch where there are too many opportunities for one injury to wreck a team's entire season. (See also: Westbrook, Russell; If you ever wondered why any given series can last longer than the siege of Stalingrad, it's so the inevitable casualties of the four-round grind have the month or so before the playoffs end to get themselves back into playing shape.) Both of Memphis' prior opponents fell victim to attrition as much as they did Zach Randolph and Mike Conley.

But.

The Spurs don't lose series to teams like the Griz. They lose series when they're outmanned and outgunned, when the talent difference is just too much for execution and coaching to overcome. When the playing field is reasonably level, they're a machine. Duncan and Parker and Ginobili have been through the grind too many times together under coach Greg Popovich, are just too automatic and practiced to beat themselves. And so as much fun as the Grizzlies were, deep down, we all knew this was the end of the line for them.

But, hey. It was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bring Back the Cucumbers

When I was growing up in Philly, 97.5 was a semi-top 40 station, in that they played hits, but they also played a lot of local music. They played Bon Jovi before anyone else did (YMMV), and they played The Cucumbers and Hooters and John Eddie and Glenn Burtnick and Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers and even some Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. They played the living hell out of Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac", and at Christmas they did the same for his version of "Santa Claus is Coming To Town". And for some unknown reason, they latched onto "When I'm With You" by Sheriff, possibly the most insipid power ballad of the '80s (and that's saying something) and played it endlessly.
These days, 97.5 is a sports yakker. As I'm in Philly on vacation, I decided to tune in for old times' sake. What I got was:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Burning Cole

Cole Hamels didn't speak to reporters before he left the clubhouse yesterday, which somebody is going to try to make into a big deal. After all, part of a player's job is to stand there and answer questions, win or lose. So, taken out of context, Hamels looks like a jerk.
But.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Phillies 3, Reds 2

So.
Bottom of the ninth.
One out, that one out being pinch-runner Cliff Lee having been TOOTBLANned off first base by Aroldis Chapman. Phillies down by 1. 7 and 8 hitters are due up, and Cholly Manual can't hit for his .191 BA backup catcher, because the starting catcher pulled up lame going first to third earlier in the game.
I turn to my wife and I say, "This is going to be ugly. Erik Kratz and Freddy Galvis against Aroldis Chapman? The guy who can throw 104? It's not fair."
And then Kratz parks one ten rows deep in left center, and the place goes nuts.
And then Galvis, the backup middle infielder with a Freddie Patek-level stick, sends one screaming down the line, a wall-scraper that sneaks over the fence and inside the foul pole and then rolls away as the park erupts, and the mob forms at home plate, and Harry the K goes up on the centerfield scoreboard singing "High Hopes".
Maybe Chapman isn't right. He walked unwalkable pinch hitter Delmon Young on 4 pitches before the insanity began. He was throwing in the mid-90s. Doesn't matter. The backup catcher whose mental blunder set up Cincy's second run, the no-bat backup infielder popped for steroids last year after a hot month where his average got all the way up near .250 - they took the ravening bullpen monster deep, and sent the crowd home happy.
And this is why I watch baseball.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Great Moments In Fuzzy Definitions

Overheard tonight on CBS Sports radio1 - a debate over whether Carmelo Anthony is a "star" or a "superstar".
There have been dumber discussions, I suppose, but none in recent memory.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hail to the Kings, Baby

So.
Seattle lost a basketball team.
Seattle wants a new basketball team.
Seattle thought it had a new basketball team lined up, which is a nice way of saying they were about to do to Sacramento what Oklahoma City did to them, albeit with a smaller carbon footprint and more fair trade coffee at the purchase meeting.
Sacramento said "Nuh-uh" and, at last vote, the NBA ownership voted to keep the team in Sacramento for less money.
This primarily infuriated two groups: the Sacramento Kings' current owners and the prospective owner in Seattle. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The NHL Has Something

Sunday afternoon, my wife -- who likes sports in general but is not a die-hard hockey fan -- texted me out of the blue:

we should watch some hockey tonight

There were two Game Sevens on last night.  The Toronto Maple Leafs were playing the Boston Bruins, and the Washington Capitals were playing the New York Rangers.  At the end of the night we would know who was moving on to the east semifinals.

Early on in the evening we were skeptical and considered netflixing* the sixth season of Supernatural (because someone in my house can't get enough of Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and the horsemen of the apocalypse).

We kept putting it off, though... I'd say "so, should we..." and she'd say "five more minutes."

And then, well, the Leafs-Bruins game got good.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Holding Serve

Overheard this morning on Mike & Mike: Jimmy Connors bemoaning the fact that tennis, as a sport, isn't getting its hands on kids until they're 15 or 16 and have already tried soccer, basketball, etc.
It's not that he's wrong. It's that the implications of that statement are kind of frightening. What he's saying can be boiled down to:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Double Header

I saw two baseball games yesterday.
At one, there was a pretty nifty double play turned, and some smart, aggressive baserunning. At the other, there were four runs scored on bases-loaded walks, and the rare double TOOTBLAN.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pens-Islanders Game 5

Last night the Pittsburgh Penguins played the New York Islanders in game 5 of their 7-game series.  The series had been tied 2-2 going in.  The Pens won 4-0.  Some disconnected observations:
  • Marc-Andre Fleury looked distracted and slow in the Penguins 6-4 loss in game 4. Backup Tomas Vokoun was an absolute wall, by contrast. Vokoun made very few spectacular diving upside-down Spider-Man saves in Game 5, but he never got so far out of position that he was forced to do such nonsense.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

No More Clevelands

There are two possible conclusions that can be drawn from last night's umpiring fiasco in Cleveland, and they are predicated on whether or not umpiring crew chief Angel Hernandez is full of it. Hernandez, partially off the record, said that the replay they had of Josh Donaldson's home-run-that-was-ruled-a-double was inconclusive, and privately grumbled to Jayson Stark that the equipment the umps have for doing instant replay reviews is subpar for the job.
If Hernandez is full of it - and he does  not exactly have a spotless track record - then he deliberately sandbagged the call because he didn't want to be overturned by replay. That's unacceptable professional behavior and baseball shouldn't put up with it. Fans come to the ballpark expecting to see a fair contest, millions of dollars are on the line with playoff spots, and having a team's fate hinge on a case of "Idowanna" makes no sense. So someone needs to get in there, see the replays that Hernandez and his crew saw, and determine if they were actually good enough to show what happened.
If, on the other hand, Hernandez is telling the truth and the equipment was subpar - worse angles than the TV cameras and worse equipment to view it on - then this is also unacceptable. If umps are making calls that decide the outcomes of games on 17" black and white Zeniths with rabbit ears, that needs to stop right now. MLB can pay for one less "surprise appearance" by Puddle of Mudd at the MLB Fan Cave, rip a few of those flatscreens off the wall, and distribute them to the umpires' clubhouses so they can get the goddamn calls right.
It isn't hard, people. One thing or the other has to stop. Figure out which and do it.
Now.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Spitball Versus Deca Durabolin


There is a very simple difference between loading up a baseball and shooting up with PEDs. One gets an amused chuckle, a suggestion that it's a part of the game and its long, glorious history of spitballers, emery boards and Hall of Fame pitchers named Gaylord. The other is high treason equivalent to strangling kittens whilst doing unspeakable things under the influence of My Little Pony slashfic

Monday, May 06, 2013

Ross Redux

You've got something on your chin there, Ben.
The first rule of standing in a hole is "stop digging". Dolphins owner Stephen Ross clearly doesn't get this.
Or maybe he does, and he keeps digging anyway because he's got the mineral rights. Either way, it's going to get ugly.

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Chirping of Ricketts

The Tom Ricketts of musicians
Let's be clear about this: Tom Ricketts is about as likely to move the Cubs out of Wrigley Field as I am to suddenly discover a heretofore unexpressed love of Skrillex (which is to say, not bloody likely). The casual reference to maybe possibly moving the Cubs if he doesn't get the giant video scoreboard he wants at Wrigley was hot air, a meaty quote designed to be picked up by gullible media and talk radio types to fan the flames of panic and exert pressure on Ricketts' behalf. Functionally, it's no different than Jeffty Loria taking well-publicized trips to Portland, San Antonio and Kokomo before extorting stadium dollars from Dade County. The intent is to get gullible idiots panicking and putting pressure on local politicos, who ideally will then turn around and give Ricketts whatever he wants to make sure none of them can have "lost the Cubs" hung around their necks at election time.
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