Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 NFL Season, Few Of Them Good

So what has the 2014 NFL season taught us?

Nothing good, really.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Football Grumpiness

In about six months, they'll be pointing to Florida State's participation in the college football playoff and the fact that the ACC got 11 teams to go bowling as evidence that once again, the ACC had an awesome football year.

Take a closer look, of course, and you see that 4 of those teams finished the year 6-6, and wouldn't have been bowl-eligible if not for cupcake non-conference schedules. (Virginia Tech, you're excused from this criticism). Another two went 7-5. Near as I can tell, everyone played - and beat - Tulane.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Hall Monitors

The main problem with the voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame is not the fact that the voting membership contains a significant chunk of people who don't write about baseball. It is not the fact that rampant hypocrisy about PED issues has subsumed the debate over Hall-worthiness. It is not the fact that Dan LeBatard gave his ballot to Deadspin last year (and Deadspin readers did a pretty good job with it), or that voters are only allowed to vote for 10 guys a year. It's not even the annual inanities of guys like Pedro Gomez and Dan Shaughnessy, whose self-righteous self-regard for their roles as Keepers Of The Sacred Flame Of Cooperstown (self-appointed) carries with it the unmistakable stench of bullshit.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pad People

There's something uniquely enjoyable about watching the Padres slide into the spotlight in the offseason. Usually that slot goes to the Red Sox and Yankees (and maybe the Dodgers and Angels), who are inevitably in on every big free agent out there; the A's and Rays' payroll contortions as detractors revel in the sell-off and supporters struggle to divine the logic; and the sad-sacks like the Phillies and the Marlins and the Mets, who only make offseason news for the wrong reasons.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nixer the Sixer

There's nothing funnier in sports right now (with the possible exception of the Atlanta Braves' stadium shenanigans) than the tsunami of outraged think pieces about how bad the Philadelphia 76ers are.

And yes, they're bad. Legendarily bad. Historically awful, if you want to be honest. The youngest team in league history, they're the result of a clearly defined strategy to tear the roster down to the foundations and rebuild by being awful and getting several years of high draft picks. So far, they've done two out of three: they've been awful and they've gotten high draft picks. The rebuild, they're still working on - this year is still firmly in the "Be awful" pile.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Football in LA

At some point, there will be another NFL team in Los Angeles.

This will not happen any time soon. The reason it is not happening any time soon is that there currently no NFL stadium in Los Angeles, and those things take a while to build. Seriously, it's taken roughly a year for them to put a small cafe and an exercise room in at the office part where I work; and whether or not you include water fountains it's my understanding that stadiums take considerably more work.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Johnny On The Spot

And now we know why Cleveland stuck with the flailing Brian Hoyer for so long, even when it was obvious he'd lost his early season mojo: He gave the team a better chance to win. This is not a banner wave for Hoyer, who appears to have topped out in lesser-Detmer-brother territory. His confidence is shot, his accuracy isn't there, and he can't buy time in the pocket. And he still gives Cleveland a better chance to win than Johnny Football.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rollins West

The rational, calculating fan in me who values victories over everything else is glad that the Phillies' rebuild has officially begun with the trades of Antonio Bastardo and, more importantly, Jimmy Rollins. Bastardoo is a reliever and about to get expensive, not the sort of luxury a team that's unlikely to be winning much in the near future can afford. Rollins is a a late-30s shortstop who's slowly moving into decline phase and makes a ton of money. Trading him while he still has some value officially kicks off the Phillies' desperately needed rebuild process.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Bowling For Chicken In The Bahamas

If you want to know exactly how stupid college football has gotten, look at this year's bowl schedule.

No, I'm not talking about how TCU and Baylor got shut out of the "playoff". They got cute with this whole "co-champions" nonsense, de-valued their seasons, and paid for it. (and for the record, you can stop argle-bargling about that win over Minnesota any day now. Any. Day. Now.)

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Overheard at Big XII Conference HQ

"So there are 4 teams allowed in the playoff."
"Right."
"And we're gonna have two teams that will have 1 loss each?"
"Right."
"And the playoff says they value conference championships?"
"Right."

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Basic Reading Comprehension For Fans, Part 1

Time for some remedial English reminders:

"I don't like this move" is not the same as "I hate your team".

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pack Over Spiders

This is how big guys beat little guys: depth.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

An Eagles' Fan's Dearest Hope

Here is every Philadelphia Eagles fan's fondest wish:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Real Reasons ESPN Put Keith Law on Twitter Suspension

By now, ESPN’s ludicrous “Twitter suspension” of baseball writer Keith Law has wrapped up, leaving numerous unanswered questions in its wake. Questions such as “Why the hell did they suspend Keith Law?” and, well, that’s about it, though the popular wisdom is that it’s because Law brought the heavy lumber when walking gamedev nightmare Curt Schilling started spouting off on Twitter about how evolution isn’t real neener neener neener. 

ESPN, for its part, claims that the Twitter exchange had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the suspension and now they’re sticking their fingers in their ears so they can’t hear you LA LA LA LA LA LA WE’RE NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

On Rooting For Some Of The Bad Guys

There's a lot of talk swirling around the Tampa Bay Rays these days. They lost their GM to the Dodgers. They lost their manager, under weird circumstances, to the Cubs. They traded a former Rookie of the Year for prospects, they're making minor deals left and right, they DFA'ed their starting catcher whose pitch-framing genius never seemed to translate into getting above the Mendoza line at the plate, and they're the subject of persistent "maybe they'll move to Montreal" rumors.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It is the official position of this blog:

That Curt Schilling is an addle-pated ninny.

That is all.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gratuitous Who Lyric Reference

So the differences between the BCS and the "College Football Playoff" are:

1-The playoff isn't called the BCS, which let the parties involved renegotiate their sponsorship deals.
2-The playoff involves 4 teams instead of 2, though once again the participating teams will be chosen by an arcane illogical process superficially disguised as "scientific".

The similarities are:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Conspiracy Theories For Fun And Profit!



The great thing about conspiracy theories is that they only have to make sense within their own context, which they conveniently create. Once you're inside the bubble, every fact becomes new evidence of the theory and every fact that disproves the conspiracy theory becomes evidence of a coverup, which ends up lending credence to the conspiracy theory all over again. This is how people find themselves believing that the Smithsonian Institute is actively engaged in a massive coverup to hide proof that giant half-alien hybrids colonized the US in the 5th century, among other less intellectually defensible positions. Never mind that it makes absolutely no sense, once you're convinced that those giant alien-human hybrids existed and learn there's no evidence, then logic (such as it is) immediately dictates that the evidence must have been destroyed. The alternative - that there never were any half-alien power forwards lurching across the landscape during the Moundbuilder period and the whole concept is loonier than a pile of Canadian currency - is unthinkable.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Like I Was Saying

A post-game handshake between two members of the Cleveland Cavaliers is now a national controversy. LeBron saying he wasn't letting his kids play football, like about a gazillion other parents, now a national controversy. Oy, the geshrying.

God help the national sports media when they actually start playing winning basketball.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

So That Was Ugly (Panthers-Eagles Edition)

I'm out of town this week, but I can only imagine the wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth back home over the Carolina Panthers' extended demolition at the occasional hands of Mark Sanchez. No doubt the drums are beating for the team to do something about Cam Newton - what "something" is, nobody is quite sure, except it boils down to "play better for less money" - and to burn Riverboat Ron Rivera and the front office in effigy for letting Steve Smith go. Sometimes, it is true, riverboats catch on fire and sink.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

RAUL! (And Charlie)

Word came down the pike this morning that Durham Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo is one of the finalists for the vacant managing job in Tampa, and this has me torn.

Friday, November 07, 2014

ACC Weekly...Oh, The Heck With It.

So the ACC stacks up like this:


  • Florida State - Actually very good, especially when their quarterback isn't doing things with online memes, criminal investigations or seafood that keep him off the field. An almost certain lock for the playoff.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Sky Is Falling (In Cleveland)

We are now 4 games into The LeBron Redux era in Cleveland, and the alarm klaxons are officially sounding. They lost their first game! Their rookie coach called a team meeting after that first loss! LeBron said something about players from a culture of losing! LeBron's not taking enough shots! They haven't won all four games by a gazillion points each! Sports talk guys are discussing how LeBron's gone soft! How he doesn't have the motivation he had in Miami! How people like him too much! LeBron and Irving had a "healthy discussion"! Something something Dion Waiters something! 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

But the Sanchize Is Also Cursed

Insofar as I root for anything related to the NFL, I root for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles lost their QB of record for the foreseeable future in Sunday's game against the Texans. This leaves them, at least temporarily, in the hands of former Jets punching bag Mark Sanchez, and Eagles fandom in the equivalent of the old "But the frogurt is also cursed" routine from the Simpsons. To wit:

Monday, November 03, 2014

Game Changers in the Temple

Going to go out on a limb here and predict the impossible: that Temple will beat Penn State this season. Sometimes, a team just gets that look of destiny - and by "destiny" I mean "the laws of probability take a double hit from the bong whenever this team is around" - and
In their opener, Temple - still theoretically reeling from losing coach Al Golden to Miami a while back - beat Vanderbilt. This was the first time they'd beaten an SEC team since the late Triassic, and cause for minor celebration on North Broad Street. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Phillies No Way

Apparently Phillies GM has just unleashed a new organizational bible on the team called "The Phillies Way". 

This, as you might expect, is a terrible idea.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

World Series - Final Thought

Madison Bumgarner has a terrible nickname.

Seriously. "MadBum". That's the sort of thing you expect to hear attached to a minor character in a Monty Python skit, or maybe used as an insult when the Gallagher boys from Oasis are feuding again. It doesn't even fit into the sort of pre-fab model of modern baseball nicknames, where you either add a "-sey" to a  guy's last name, or take his first initial and the first syllable of his last name and get something that I'm pretty much started out as an internet "What's Your Porn Star Name?" meme.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Royal Thank A Twin

Here is what we know about the World Series:

It may be decided by Glen Perkins. Perkins, some of you may note, plays for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins, some of you may further note, are not playing in the World Series. As a matter of fact, they got about as close to the Series as I currently am to the Coachella Valley and the big carrot festival therein, which is to say "not very".

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

RIP Oscar Taveras

Somewhere in my baseball card collection is an In Memoriam card for Ken Hubbs. Hubbs won Rookie of the Year and a Gold Glove for the Cubs back in the day. In 1964, a small plane he was piloting crashed, and he was killed.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Observations From The Third Deck, World Series Edition

Friday, I was lucky enough to attend game 3 of the World Series. Hitting a World Series game has been a dream of mine since I was old enough to be called out for being terrible at baseball (as opposed to when I was younger than that and simply lacked the small motor skills to do things like "catch" and "throw a two-seamer", and so, when the opportunity materialized (courtesy of friend and occasional Sportsthodoxy contributor), I went. 

Now, I have been to a lot of baseball games in my time. Majors, minors, good games, bad games, games where I helped heckle Von Hayes into incoherent confusion and games where Mike Schmidt turned around and gave my dad the finger. (True story. I swear.) I'd even been to a playoff game before - though that was in Atlanta, so it didn't entirely count. But there is nothing like a World Series game. A few notes from the seething cauldron of orange-and-black noise that was AT&T Park...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scene From A Royals Game

The one time I went to a game in Kansas City, the Royals were terrible.

Which was fine, because they were playing the pre-Maddon Rays, who were terrible, too. Which meant lots of runs and lots of wacky fielding and lots of opportunities to buy beer and hang out with my wife and our friends as the game rolled along.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Latest UNC Scandal, In Five Sentences

Five takeaways from the latest scandal at UNC, where the ship of institutional integrity has foundered on the rocks of the desire for mid-tier bowl payouts.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Your Weekly ACC Roundup: Weak 8 Edition

People describe a conference as "competitive" when they want to say one of two things.

One, they mean that the conference is really, really good and that the level of competition is high.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Your Handy Dandy Guide To Stupid Baseball Think-Pieces

Now is the season when writers and talk show hosts who have paid absolutely no attention to baseball for the last six months suddenly develop Very Important Opinions on things, and share those opinions with the world. It should not come as a terrible surprise, however, that most of those opinions are about as finely considered and well thought out as your average episode of Challenge of the Superfriends.

Fortunately, we're here to make sense of all this newly minted brilliance, largely so you don't have to. Just sit back and let us translate pundit to English by way of baseball:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ACC Week 7 Wrapup: Here Is What We Know

Here is what we know about North Carolina: They can’t stop anybody. The fewest points they have allowed this season is 27, to a SDSU team that’s ranked 98th in the country in scoring. Notre Dame just hung 50 on them to run their PPG allowed to 43.3, which, I’m pretty sure, is more than Tulane has scored all year. They may have finally figured out that going with just one quarterback is a good idea, but it’s too late for this season. They’ll have to win 4 out of 6 to be bowl-eligible, and I don’t see them knocking off Duke, Virginia or Miami. Only Pitt and a suddenly vulnerable NC State, both at home, look like solid possibilities, and that’s for a team that started the year ranked.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Words is Words, ALCS Division

Jarrod Dyson is a very fast man. Jarrod Dyson said some stuff. The stuff, and I'm paraphrasing here, is that the team he plays for, the Kansas City Royals, is going to win the playoff series they're currently contesting, in five games at most. Another bit of stuff he said suggested that if the team his team is playing got down 3 games to none, they wouldn't think they could come back and win it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Sportsthodoxy Interview - Kevin Wilson




While Duke may grab the college sports headlines in Durham, the city is home to another Division 
I school that's making some noise in athletics. Last season North Carolina Central's men's basketball team went 17-1 in-conference on its way to a MEAC championship and a first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. Thanks to a fortuitous Twitter encounter, we got the chance to sit down and talk with one of the individuals behind the rise of NCCU, Associate Athletic Director Kevin Wilson. From Kierkegaard to Fayetteville and the ins and outs of development for an athletic program, here's the straight scoop from the Eagles' Nest: 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Your National League Championship Series Rooting Guide

And here is where I potentially end relationships with either all of my friends in the gaming industry in the Bay Area, or my wife's family in Missouri. Forward!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Your American League Championship Series Rooting Guide

Baltimore Orioles
Reasons to Root For Them:
Haven't been to a World Series since 1983, when I would sneak out of bar mitzvah receptions to try to find a TV so I could watch them pummel the Phillies. Buck Showalter is the best manager left in the playoffs, and is actually interesting to watch. The team survived season-ending injuries to its best player (Manny Machado) and second best player (Matt Wieters), plus last year's MVP candidate went kerblooey before getting popped for ADD meds and their expensive free agent pitcher did his best Shawn Boskie impersonation all season long. Camden Yards is still a gorgeous ballpark, and Boog's BBQ is actually edible. Plus, karma - at this point the kid who stole that home run ball from Tony Tarasco in the playoffs against the Yankees is a Weleyan grad, but c'mon - the universe owes them one.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Your Weekly ACC Roundup - Week 6: Things We Were Wrong About

On the surface, Week 6 - the first full week of conference play - looked pretty normal in the ACC. After the giddy heights of the first few weeks and the mayhem of weeks 4 and 5, it was almost a relief to get into conference play and have favorite pretty much run the table. But even in the midst of a sea of the expected - like, say, Florida State pummeling Wake Forest like they were re-enacting the Hulk-Loki scene in Avengers - there is still proof that we got some things wrong. Namely:

Monday, October 06, 2014

We're Doomed: World Series Ratings Edition (Again)

The transcript of a conversation held inside Fox Sports HQ last night after the baseball scores went final.

EXECUTIVE ONE: Oh crap, we're doomed.

EXECUTIVE TWO: What do you mean?

EXECUTIVE ONE: The American League. We thought we were going to get LA-

Sunday, October 05, 2014

10 Things We Learned From Last Night's Giants-Nationals Game

Nationals/Giants pre-game photo. Note the beards.

The short version of last night's Giants-Nationals playoff game is: Nationals blew a 1 run lead in the bottom of the 9th and then lost it on a home run in the 18th. Which, of course, is saying The Hobbit is about a hiking expedition. Scratch the surface of an 18 inning game and you'll find plenty beyond the score; dig deep and you'll find really interesting things like:


  1. At times the game resembled the old "Action Hank" episode of Dexter's Laboratory. You kind of expected Jayson Werth's beard to charge the mound and attack Yusmeiro Petit's remarkable facial foliage. Just remember, Little Hank - It ain't the beard on the outside, it's the beard on the inside. Unless it's elevated, in which case a left-handed batter can turn on it.

Friday, October 03, 2014

The Foles Guy

So everyone in Philadelphia is freaking out because Nick Foles has apparently forgotten how to pass.

This is not true. (the "forgetting how to pass" part, not the "people in Philadelphia freaking out" part. Because I grew up in Philly, and if there is one thing the good people of Fildelfyuh do exceedingly well, it's panic on cue when calling in to sports talk radio. And make cheesesteaks. But mostly panic on sports talk radio.)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

ACC Roundup: Week Five, Which Looks Oddly Familiar

Here are ten things we know about the ACC following week 5's results:


  1. North Carolina State is absolutely for real. You could be forgiven for doubting them, considering their first for games - all wins - were against two community colleges, a school that stopped playing football in 1972, and Jimmy John's Sandwich University. But they took it to Florida State from the opening kickoff and stayed in it largely to the end, when FSU's superior depth finally allowed them to put it away. NC State coach Dave Doeren was later forced to apologize for suggesting the FSU players had faked injury to slow down NC State's offense; this was a clear case of "just because it's true doesn't mean you can actually get away with saying it." But all things considered, the Pack might be the second-best team in the conference right now, which, considering last year's debacle, is an impressive place for them to be.

Wild Wild Life

Baseball is layered thicker than lasagna with stories.  These stories are immensely varied in length, quality and character.

The smallest unit is the individual pitch.
An at-bat.
A half-inning.
A full inning.
One pass through the batting order.
The full game.
A three or four game regular season series.
The full season series between two teams.
The playoff race near the end of the season.
The whole regular season.
The playoffs.
The whole year.
A generation of players for any team (for instance, the Derek Jeter era).
The full history of a team.
The full history of baseball.
The perogie race (Hunter Pence cheers for Potato Pete).

There's one thing that cuts this structure of stories off at the shoulders.  The Wild Card game.

It's a one game win-or-go-home pressure cooker.  There's no "We'll get them next game!"  There's no chance for a multi-game comeback.  It has the pressure of a game 7 without all the build-up of games 1-6.  No chance to develop a nice seething hatred for Hunter Pence (who loves Jar-Jar Binks).  It doesn't even feel like a true playoff game.

It should be a best of 3 series.  It's short, which doesn't give the division winners that much additional rest, and you can have multiple high-pressure games.

There are some downsides, of course.  How do you manage the travel issues?  Pittsburgh-San Francisco is some serious back and forth, when games are every day.  Does it give too much rest to the division winners, such that they're at a significant advantage over the teams that had to play at least two additional games?  Does this end up being like the NHL playoffs, where it seems like they go on longer than Hunter Pence spends doing his hair?

But I think it would be better for the game to have a longer Wild Card series.

(Disclaimer:  I live in Pittsburgh.  But I felt this way last year too).

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

If (Oakland Version)

If...

If Coco Crisp hadn't hurt himself in an 11th inning that never should have happened, he would have been out there to snag that fly ball that found turf in the twelfth. Or Sam Fuld is in left, where he belonged, and he gets it, and lovable but immobile Jonny Gomes is on the bench, a minimum safe distance from his glove...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Game 162

Last day of the season.

The sure things are fighting for their lives. The under performers have caught fire and pulled ahead, then away. Two divisions might not be settled, even after today; a playoff for a playoff between a team that once seemed inevitable and a team that seemed to have no chance is a distinct possibility. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Please Shut Up Now (Derek Jeter Edition)

So.

Derek Jeter, iconic shortstop, is retiring. He had an emotional and narratively perfect final game at Yankee Stadium where he drove in the winning run in the 9th inning, largely because the Yankee's Mariano-less pen couldn't hold a three run lead, but who cares about the details? It was a lovely moment, precisely the sort of heart-warming Field-of-Dreams-esque narrative moment that baseball excels at in a way that no other sport does. Hell, I'm a total Derek Jeter agnostic - I think he was a great player, but I can't stand the hagiography, I think he kind of screwed A-Rod with the New York media, and nothing will ever convince me he could go to his left - and I thought it was pretty damn cool.

And then the nonsense started, because in the land of social media, there is absolutely nothing so important as getting your opinion on something out there, right now.1 So, in the interest of preserving the tiny shreds of something nice that remain, I would request that if you want to talk about:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Your Weekly ACC Football Roundup: Week 4 - The Great Unraveling.


Sometimes the bill comes due a little sooner than expected.

The ACC cranked up its degree of difficulty a bit on non-conference opponents this weekend, and the results weren't pretty. Oh, there were still plenty of stops in the tasty baked goods aisle (Presbyterian, Maine, Army, FIU and Tulane, combined record 6-12 with those wins coming against schools like Wagner and Southeast Louisiana), but for one week only, a significant slice of the conference went for something a little meatier.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Clemson Is A Verb

"To Clemson" is a verb, derived from the Latin "clemsono", which means "to hand the ACC title to Florida State". They had the game won and they gave it away, like they always do. To watch Clemson in a big game is to watch a Sean Bean movie: you know he's going to get ganked sooner or later, but what keeps you glued to the screen is the details of how.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Roger. Over and Eventually Out.

Friday was the day Roger Goodell learned what every NFL player learns eventually: That he is fungible. He may be highly skilled, he may be highly paid, but the second he's not benefitting his employers, he's replaceable. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Your Weekly ACC Football Roundup, Week 3

So week three of the ACC football season was-

ZOMG BOSTON COLLEGE BEAT USC! HOLY CRAP! THEY BEAT USC!

*ahem* As I was saying, week 3 offered some bad news for the conference that nearly was a lot worse. Leading things off, last week's hero, VT, who-

Sunday, September 14, 2014

To the Drowning Man, An Anchor

Sometimes, the jokes write themselves.

For example: yesterday embattled Washington football team owner Daniel Snyder, best known for A)suing the bejesus out of anyone he thinks makes fun of him B)cutting down trees in a park illegally and then screwing over the park ranger who called him on it C)Trying to buy support for the ridiculously racist nickname of the sports franchise he owns while defending his right to keep that nickname unto the death through outright lies and childish tantrums D)co-opting the local media in a way that would make Kruschev proud and E)doing a truly horrible job of owning a football team, has come out with a statement of support for embattled NFL commissioner and wannabe Cobra Kai member Roger Goodell.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nobody Knows Nothing, Baseball Edition

Let's rewind a few weeks to the MLB trade deadline. We didn't know a lot of things, but we knew these for dead sure:


  • By trading for Jon Lester to go with Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel, Oakland had locked up the AL West
  • By trading for David Price, Detroit had created an unbeatable FrankenRotation that meant they, too, could make October reservations
  • The Brewers had salted away the NL Central, while the Pirates were, err, dead in the water.
  • The Braves were mounting their usual late-season charge and the Nationals were in trouble.
  • The Royals were, well, the Royals. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Guest Post at Off Tackle Empire

Today's read can be found over at SB Nation's B1G blog, Off Tackle Empire. It discusses what it takes to build a rivalry, insofar as the nice people at Rutgers are trying to convince the rest of the world that they have beef with Penn State and Penn State's all, like, "Who?"

Plus, there are sloth references.

Go read.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

ACC Roundup, Week 2: Tasty Baked Goods

This week's breakdown gets divvied up into three sections. Why? There were basically 3 types of games the ACC played. One was a top-flight tilt against a national powerhouse, one was a conference game, and the rest...well, we'll start with those games.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Pivotal Moment

Other people have said the things that need saying on the latest Ray Rice video evidence, and they've said it better than I could. That it shouldn't have taken the release of that video to spur people into action. That the NFL is looking awfully weaselly about what it knew when, as regards the material on that video. That a lot of smart people who should have known better said really dumb things about Ray Rice back in the day. And that, obviously, violence against women is wrong and should not be tolerated in the NFL.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Human Beans

Over at Just A Bit Outside, Ken Rosenthal wrote a great piece about how baseball brought gay former player Billy Bean (no relation) back into the fold as an outreach ambassador to the GLBT community. The piece talks about how Bean ultimately felt driven out of the game he loved by the need to hide his orientation, how baseball eventually reached out to him and offered a mea culpa, and how they set up this outreach role proactively. The piece goes further and talks about how old-school tough-as-nails guys like Joe Torre and Yogi Berra - the sorts of guys you'd think would view a player's coming out as a "distraction", if you weren't thinking too hard - were part of the process and on board with things from the get-go, and about how numerous gay and lesbian baseball employees wrote to Bean to talk about the positive impact his role was having on their lives.

Friday, September 05, 2014

These Eleven Bodies Are A Temple

Because I'm not putting a picture of an owl up here, damnit.
The most important thing to happen in college football thus far in the young season is this:

Temple beat Vanderbilt.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Huh?" You may be saying "What's the big deal?" You may even be saying, if you're a particular sort of snotty college football elitist who decries how the Yankees win the pennant every year but won't even considering paying attention to a team unless it plays in a practice facility that cost more than the GNP of Burkina Faso, "Temple has a football team?"

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Your ACC Football Breakdown: Week 1

Week 1 of college football season generally exists for two reasons. One, to find a small-school cream puff you can whup up on without fear of losing, buffing the record and providing what's really a glorified scrimmage to start the year. These games have the added advantage of allowing coaches to work all those pesky 1-game disciplinary suspensions of key players out before anyone with a pulse comes calling. Justice, such as it is, gets served, but only in the form of an Oscar Meyer Lunchable.

Number two, which is generally a bit rarer, is to provide a team with a chance to play a quality non-conference foe. This technique is used by teams with national championship aspirations who want to burnish their strength-of-schedule rating, or by an up-and-comer team without reasonable title hopes for whom a "good loss" is still useful.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Obvious, Rehashed

We restate the obvious as a public service announcement to those of you who still labor under the delusion that the National Football League is an aspirational meritocracy that exists solely to bring joy to the worthy. To wit:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Go Charlie Go

Someone give Charlie Montoyo a major league job already.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Ballad of The Twitter Cafe

"Painful Literalism Makes Me Cry"
So a random internet guy tweets out before this past weekend's exhibition game between the Rams and Browns that if rookie cause celebre Michael Sam sacks rookie cause celebre Johnny Manziel and then does Manziel's trademark "money" move, then he (Twitter guy, not Sam or Manziel. People on the internet have trouble with pronoun antecedents, I've found) will buy everyone in the world drinks, forever.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On Pete Rose. Again. And Again.

Because it is that point in the season, and because we have reached a nice round number since he agreed to a lifetime ban from the game, it is time for us to talk about Pete Rose, and why he should be reinstated, and such moral huggermugger as to make those of us who just want to watch some baseball quietly ill.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Another Wednesday At The Ballpark

Sometimes, you go to a Single-A ballgame between two teams that might not be loaded with prospects, punching your way through a torrential downpour on your way to get there on a Wednesday night, doing it because you told your dad that you needed to catch another ballgame together before the season ended and, oh, hey, the baseball-loving nephew is coming, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Match the Headline

And now for something a little different: see if you can match the content with the hysterical headline that got put over it. Answers are below:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ACC Football Preview. Sort Of.

Because it's that time of year again, and the local airwaves are buzzing with talk of ACC football. In truth, there's more reason to do it than most years, seeing as how A)last year was a remarkably successful one for the conference and B)they've just added an actually good football team in Louisville, and Notre Dame has started keeping a change of clothes and a toothbrush at conference HQ while still insisting that they're just friends with benefits.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thoughts On The Greatest Preseason Game Ever

RGIII VERSUS JOHNNY FOOTBALL WHO IS IN A LIFE OR DEATH STRUGGLE WITH BRIAN HOYER! PRESEASON FOOTBALL AT ITS FINEST! YOU MAY BE FORCED TO BUY YOUR WHOLE SEAT AS PART OF YOUR SEASON TICKET PACKAGE BUT YOU'LL ONLY NEED THE EDGE!

Now that we've got that out of the way, some thoughts:

Friday, August 15, 2014

What I Hate About Baseball

Here's the thing I hate about baseball.

No, it's not the pace of the game. I happen to like a game that's not viciously enthralled to the need to hit commercial timeouts at precise moments. I like a game where you can't run out the clock and thus reduce a sporting event to the grinding misery of the endgame of a poorly designed German board game. Indeed, baseball games may be the only instance on the planet where customers complain about getting more of what they bought for the same money. [Insert mandatory note about how the average football game is longer and has less actual action than a baseball game. But I digress.]

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Best. Excuse. Ever. (Dallas Cowboys Edition)

So this happened today:

Cowboys  DB Orlando Scandrick got suspended 4 games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy. Scandrick tested positive for amphetamines, which he contritely claims got into his system because he took some bad ecstasy while on vacation in Mexico with an ex-girlfriend. 

Let's stop here a minute and count up all the mind-blowing things in that statement:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

NFL Preseason Week 1 Observations

Here are some things we know after the first round of NFL preseason football games:
  • Michael Sam looks like a perfectly competent football player when on the field playing football.
  • Johnny Manziel did not step onto the field and instantly turn into the Best Quarterback Evar.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

A Recipe For Success

"You ordered what?"
For the record, this is how you make the "BBQ Nachos" at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, NC, home of the Carolina Mudcats, the Single-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Wiggins For Love: Oh No No No No No No No (Yes. A Bit)

The worst-kept secret in the history of the NBA is out, namely, that the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to unload disgruntled star and Beach Boys-connected genetic freak Kevin Love to the Cleveland LeBrons in exchange for this year's #1 overall pick (Andrew Wiggins, who claimed to have no idea he was on the block), last year's #1 overall pick (Anthony Bennett, who played last year like he was auditioning to be one of Gonzo the Great's backup chickens) and a protected #1 pick in 2015. (Protected, for those of you who don't speak NBA rules jargon, means "you don't get it if we suck". With LeBron, Love, and Kyrie Irving on board, that seems unlikely.)

For various reasons, the trade can't officially be consummated until August 23rd, which marks precisely 30 days since Wiggins signed his contract with the Cavaliers. This is the rule; no trading a guy within 30 days of signing his first contract. This makes absolutely no sense, as A)you can trade the guy's rights before he signs but not after and B)if you know you're going to trade the guy, there's no reason to make him go through the charade of starting to learn your playbook, finding a place to live, etc. when it's all going to be irrelevant as soon as the calendar rolls over.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Morning Briefing - Daniel Snyder Is In Your House

Every so often, the guys at Deadspin interrupt the cavalcade of Youtube videos of people falling over and backhanded snark at sportswriters who work for other media outlets, and unleash some really good investigative journalism. 


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The MOST IMPORTANT sporting news YOU WILL EVER READ!

Before:



The 5 People Who Watch Preseason Football

As a proper son full of filial piety, I called* my parents last night, and was greeted by "Oh hi, son, we're just watching the football game..." 

I briefly thought that my parents -- who had watched a few World Cup games on purpose -- had lurched into soccer fandom so hard that they were even calling it "football." But then I realized that they were watching the Hall of Fame Game, which is the kickoff of the NFL preseason non-season.

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Five Stages of Grief, David Price Trade Edition

Denial - "There's no way the Rays are trading David Price. They're totally in this thing. Trading him would send the wrong message to the fan base. Really, they should be adding pieces to try to make a run. They're only four and a half games out, and all the TV guys on Baseball Tonight say he's not going anywhere!"

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Hey You, Guy

I have a lot of problems with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, starting with the fact that it looks like a handheld orange juicer and working its way from there. Its voting processes are byzantine even by the standards of modern sports halls of fame; anything that makes the rocket scientists in Cooperstown look good and transparent by comparison may want to re-examine its processes. The logic of the voters is likewise unintelligible, and in a sport where such a high percentage of players don't get to put up "counting stats", the induction classes are heavily weighted away from those laboring in the trenches.

Friday, August 01, 2014

For Once, Believe The Hype

Dear Trading Deadline:

Thank you. Thank you for, for once, living up to the hype. Thank you for short-circuiting the increasingly hackneyed narratives of "Not a lot happened because too many teams still think they're in it" and "There were all of these great rumors being discussed and none of them came true so I'm disappointed". Thank you for shaking up multiple division races, showing us a trade between the Red Sox and the Yankees which retroactively makes that Godawful "Why Can't We Be Friends" commercial bearable, and thank you for teasing a doozy of an ALCS with the suddenly thermonuclear pitching staffs of the A's and Tigers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wait Til Next Year

I'm going to paraphrase here.



Last night, I walked into our living room, where Dr. Mrs. The Sportsthodoxy was on the couch playing Threes on her iPad. The television was on in the background; it was set to MLB Network, which meant the late-night game between the Dodgers and the Braves. And Dr. Mrs. The Sportsthodoxy saw me, and said, "Honey, you have to hear this announcer!"
I listened for a minute. It was, of course, Vin Scully. I said, "That's Vin Scully. He's the greatest announcer in the history of baseball."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

For Want Of A Shirt

If ever there were an argument that college athletes should get paid, it's this:
Right now, on its front page, ESPN.com has a story about how a Johnny Manziel jersey from Texas A&M is likely to fetch $100K at auction. 

One hundred thousand dollars in value. For one shirt.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

ZOMG Selfies!!!!

So a sports talk radio host asks the question - in all seriousness - "Is it beneficial for Johnny Manziel to be taking selfies with Justin Bieber and posting them online?" This is, of course, a rhetorical question. We are meant to answer with a resounding "no", with a side of "how dare he", joining the fuddy-duddy host in stern, serious disapproval.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How To Fix The Home Run Derby, By Me

Here's how you fix the Home Run Derby:


  1. You hire some game designers to fix the rules. Not television guys, not ad execs, not front office guys. Game designers. Because it's a game.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Scenes from the AAA All-Star Game

And to close the book on the All-Star festivities in Durham, some moments from the game:
Pregame Warmups for the International League

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Our All-Star Game

Odds are, I will never take my dad to a World Series game. Odds are, we'll never get to spring training, or to a World Series, either. Our lives just don't stack up that way.

But tonight, we went to the AAA All-Star Game, held in the cozy confines of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park because, hey, when an All-Star Game comes along, you ask yourself, "when am I going to get another chance?" (We missed the NHL All-Star Game a couple of years ago because I was on the road for work, and, well, there are a lot of things to love about living the RTP area, but an overabundance of event-level professional sporting events is not one of them.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Scenes From A (Minor League) Home Run Derby

No snark today, just images from last night's AAA All-Star Home Run Derby. I took my Dad, we had a good time, and once the softball players were done parking shots on the roof of the building you see next to the sign in the first pic, we settled in for the main event.

And the dog act that came with it.
The children, unleashed in the outfield to shag flies

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ten Things To Be Thankful For From the LeBron James Media Frenzy


  1. Endless mockery of the post-Decision letter Cavs owner Dan Gilbert put up on the team's website and which only got taken down during the wooing of LeBron. It's not the mockery that's so delicious, it's the fact that with all the insanity on display in that letter, the internet chose to focus on the fact that it was in Comic Sans. 
  2. The media frenzy around LeBron James temporarily shut down the media frenzy around Johnny Manziel. To be spared endless moralizing by middle-aged men about what a fabulously rich 22 year old should be doing on his summer vacation is, in a word, priceless.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Oops

Today's post was going to be about the media frenzy surrounding the whole "LeBron hasn't told us where he's going" thing. It was very clever and you would have enjoyed it immensely, had King James not completely screwed us by making up his mind. 

Which, of course, I will take as another sign from the universe that I'm supposed to loathe him unreservedly. Or something.

Oh well.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Takeaways: Germany vs Brazil

Here are, in no particular order, the things we learned from Germany's 7-1 shellacking of Brazil in the World Cup semis:

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Great Moments In Sports Talk Radio, Morning LeBron Frenzy Edition

Two bits of LeBron-related brilliance from sports talk radio this morning, because everyone's suddenly A)an expert B)offering financial advice and C)feeding the rumor mill just to keep that log rolling. To wit: 

From the Dan Patrick Show, discussing how disappointing it is that LeBron (the best basketball player on the planet) feels slighted because he's never been the highest paid guy on his own team:

"He was the second-highest paid guy on the team, but that's just because of the way they paid out the money."

Well, yes, that's how hit tends to work.

and from Mike and Mike, discussing the rumors of LeBron returning to Cleveland and how disappointed/angry fans will be if it doesn't happen:

"They should blame you and me. Or the media."

Last I checked, "guys with morning radio show" were, in fact, part of the media. 

Keep the hits coming, people. Keep them coming.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

All Star Time

The nice thing about the MLB All Star Game is that despite all the silliness that has been heaped upon it over the years - wacky selection processes and vague intimations of making it "matter" and a home run derby with rules so borked I could design better ones in my sleep [note: I am a professional game designer. This is not an idle boast. MLB, talk to me] - people still care about it.

The terrible thing about the MBL All Star Game is, of course, that people care so very much about it even when deep down in their bones, they know they shouldn't. Which is why every year, when the rosters are announced, we get the following like clockwork:

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Justice, Soccer Style

Does anyone else think the best possible punishment for the Colombian player who hacksawed Neymar's back in yesterday's game would be to lock him in a room with Luis Suarez, one knife, and one fork?

Or is that just me.

Time-Is-Moneyball

There is a certain rhythm to a baseball season. It starts off in a mad rush, with small hot streaks by bad teams and unknown players exciting all sorts of cloud cuckoo-land extrapolation. (See: This April's Miami Marlins, and everyone who thought they'd win 100 games based on their first week).  Then it settles into the process of shaking itself out, as good teams separate from bad, and injuries knock off contenders without depth. Flashes in the pan fade out until everyone's got a pretty good idea of whether they're contenders or pretenders, and then the trade talk starts. This tends to be a ton of nothing until July, at which point trade talk starts bubbling up ahead of the July 31st deadline. 

It is, as they say, the way things done. Teams will wait until the last minute to be sure to extract the best possible deal for the pieces they're attempting to move, which means that acquiring teams get that much less of their new players, which in turn makes them that much less interested in surrendering quality for them, which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole thing, and, well, oy.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Baseball Second Half Predictions

While we haven't quite reached the All Star Game, we have hit the midway point on the baseball season in terms of games played. It's the time of year when contenders separate themselves - slightly - from the rest of the pack, when teams decide whether to trade or go for it, and flash-in-the-pan first half phenoms get weeded out as real stars emerge. It's also the part of the season where the guys on Baseball Tonight go completely incoherent, largely because they're still trying to wrap their heads around Tim Kurkjian's performance in the Sausage Race in Milwaukee.

That being said, with a half-season under our belts, we feel confident in posting some predictions for the second half. Gaze into the crystal ball with us and see that:

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

And We're Out

You don't win at the World Cup by being 31st out of 32 teams in time of possession.
You don't win by getting outshot by roughly 20. You don't win by being unable to keep the bal out of your end, and you don't win by scoring 5 goals in 4 games. Even when your keeper stands on his head and does everything but polymorph himself into an Ancient Red Dragon to keep the ball out of the goal, that's just stuff you can't overcome.

And yet.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Kidd, No Play

The thing that you have to understand is that Jason Kidd is very, very good at getting things to go his way.

He's outmaneuvered multiple coaches, both in college and in the pros (see also: Frank, Lawrence). He fell into a head coaching gig with an owner willing to pay luxury tax and a pile of experienced vets gunning for one more ring. He juked past multiple mistakes - Sodagate, anyone - that would have gotten anyone else laughed out of the league, and he's made run-ins with domestic abuse and DUI largely vanish from the conversation.

So when people make fun of Kidd for demanding total control of the Nets, then using the refusal to springboard his way to Milwaukee, I'm disinclined to agree.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Post That Will Make American Soccer Fans Mad

Friends of mine in Paris, one of whom is an officially certified soccer aficionado, have decided that they are all in on the USMNT. They're impressed with the level of teamwork and hard work, and think the Yanks have a genuine chance against Belgium.

Which, I must admit, is pretty cool. And it's also cool that the US managed to escape from THE GROUP OF DEATH (add reverb as needed) and reach the knockout round, which, I'm told, comes before the round where they dump green slime on you and then the round with the showcase showdown. I have nothing but admiration for the way in which a team that was told point-blank it was outmanned and outgunned took care of business, and it's nice to see them finally break whatever hex Ghana has cast over them for the last few World Cups.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Feeling a Draft

Going into yesterday's draft the Sixers had 7 picks, including the #3 and #10 selections in the first round. They'd been deliberately terrible this past season, to the point where one of their 2 first-round picks in the last draft spent the entire year out with an injury he'd suffered /before/ the draft, in order to get a high pick in this year's loaded offering so they could get good this year. And with all that in place, they picked:
  • Injured guy with high ceiling who's going to be out all year
  • Croatian guy with high ceiling who's going to be playing in Turkey for the next N years, where 1 < n < 3
  • Crazy athletic guy from Clemson who can't shoot
  • Crazy athletic guy from Syracuse who can't shoot
  • Two Serbian dudes (one of whom has crazy athleticism) who - stop me if you've heard this - can't shoot.
  • And a wing player from Tennessee who can't shoot.

Now, I love Sixers GM Sam Hinkie. I think he has giant swinging cojones of brass so mighty they have orbiting moons. He is going full-on Houston Astros here, tearing a mediocre franchise down to the concrete slab in order to build something with long-term potential. 

So I can applaud picking Joel Embiid at #3. If he's healthy - and that's the big if - he's probably the best player in the draft, and potentially a superstar. Alternately, he's Sam Bowie, but if the alternative is permanent mediocrity, might as well swing for the fences (and annoy the hell out of the pundits while you're at it). 

But man, this is a big leap of faith - for the fans,for ownership, and for the few building blocks like Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel who are already in place. To keep all of those parties on board and committed through another year of trainwreck while waiting for the cavalry to arrive en masse, it's going to be work.

And maybe next year they'll draft immediate help, and Embiid will be healthy and ready to contribute, and Saric will get out of his contract in Turkey, and Dangubic and Micic will show up, too. Maybe some of those non-shooters will learn how to shoot. It's a nice dream to hang onto, and at this point, that's all drafts are - dreams.





Thursday, June 26, 2014

Things We Know, NBA Draft Edition

Here is what we know about the NBA draft:


  1. The Cleveland Cavaliers are definitely taking Jabari Parker first overall, because they want to lure LeBron James back to Cleveland and they whiffed on last year's #1, so they're going for the "sure thing".

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Blog Post, Sponsored By the FIFA World Cup (Not Actually Sponsored By FIFA)

This may or may not be FIFA HQ
Is anyone else creeped out by the robotic mention of the World Cup as "the 2014 FIFA World Cup" by all the announcers, commercials by official sponsors, etc? I mean, yes, FIFA puts it on (and as John Oliver notes, absorbs money like Galactus chowing down on a habitable planet in the process), and yes, it is technically the FIFA World Cup, but the creepy Heisenbergian insistence on saying FIFA's name every time it gets mentioned is starting to wig me out. Imagine if the announcers had to say "The NFL Super Bowl" or "The MLB World Series" or "the PGA's Masters Where We're All Just Kind of Hoping Tiger Finally Gets Off The Schneid One Of These Days".

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review - Stars and Strikes

For the readers out there, my review of Dan Epstein's rollicking tome of baseball in 1976 - complete with Joe Torre sucker-punching Lynn McGlothen, bat-throwing, bird-flipping, shorts-wearing, brawling and a million other memories from the good ol' days - is now live over at Sleeping Hedgehog

Check out the review. Then check out the book. It's a good 'un. 

Great Moments In Radio Tags, NBA Draft Division

"The NBA Draft is on Thursday. Every discussion could make or break your team."

Err, no. The thing the discussions are about, like if the Sixers should decide to trade all their picks for Kevin Love, who promptly has a myocardial infarction while eating his first cheesesteak at Jim's and is out for the year, after which he leaves in free agency? That could make or break the team. The discussions on ESPN? Not so much.

But thanks for asking.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

LeBron's Decision Is Wrong (Whatever It Is)

Here is the one thing we know for certain about LeBron James' next move: it will be savaged.


  • If he elects to stay in Miami and gun for another championship, he'll be pilloried for staying with a past-its-prime core and taking the easy way out.
  • If he elects to opt out, stay in Miami for less money in order to facilitate the acquisition of more talent so that he can take another run or three at a championship, he's buying his rings and how dare the players manipulate the system to have a better chance to win.
  • If he opts out of his contract, as is his right (see, it's right there in the contract) and goes to LA, then he's just a publicity hound.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Great Moments In Sports Talk Radio: Playbookgateghazi

Last night, on the Sedano and Stink show on ESPN radio, co-host Jorge Sedano asked a question: Why do we make such a big deal out of this stuff?

The stuff he was referring to was NFL-related, namely the "revelation" from new Browns coach and former Jets assistant Mike Pettine that his former boss, Jets coach and professional loose cannon Rex Ryan, had put his team at a disadvantage by handing a copy of the defensive playbook to Alabama coach Nick Saban. Saban, according to the narrative, then turned around and gave the book to his good buddy, Wesleyan alum Bill Belichick, which led to Patriots QB Tom Brady good-naturedly taunting Jets folk at Wes Welker's wedding that he had access to the Jets' playbook. Pettine told this story to make himself look good, Ryan responded by saying that Pettine's a self-serving jackass, and the whole thing has simmered along nicely as a cross between a telenovela and two third graders having a recess slap fight.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tony Gwynn, RIP

Right about now, you're probably reading a lot about the late Tony Gwynn.

You're reading personal reminiscences of what it was like to talk with Mr. Gwynn, who by all accounts was an exceedingly kind gentleman who was always generous with his time. You're reading machine-gun fire bursts of stats - .344 career BA with the bases loaded, never struck out against Greg Maddux, 15 All Star teams - to demonstrate his greatness, because ever first-ballot Hall of Famers who get 97.5% of the vote going in get second guessed in this day and age. You're hearing how Gwynn basically invented the use of video to help hitters analyze their swings. You're getting links to clips of him talking with Ted Williams.

None of which you will get here.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Springer Spranger Sproinger

Earlier this year, the Houston Astros were pilloried for keeping uber-talented uber-prospect George Springer down in AAA while their outfield was patrolled by a bunch of guys the Toledo Mud Hens had said. "enh, no thanks" to. This was, of course, in order to manipulate Springer's service time past the fuzzy "super two" deadline, making sure that the team got an extra season of control before he could head off into free agency. For all the team's floppy denials, it was pretty obvious that they were willing to let their major league outfield rot in order to ensure that Springer, once up, would be patrolling it for as long as possible, to the point where it looked like they tried to leverage the kid with a "sign this contract that buys out some of your arbitration/free agency years or you're going to stay in the minors with your little dog too" deal

Springer didn't sign, as the contract was a bad deal for him. He stayed in the minors. And the commentators howled.

Friday, June 13, 2014

They Put A What Where?

Via Screamer, there's word that the pitch at the World Cup stadium in Manaus, Brazil, is in bad shape ahead of Saturday's first game.

Which, of course, once again raises the question "They put a World Cup stadium in Manaus?"

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Reasons To Hate Every Team In The World Cup

Generally, it's easy to figure out who to root for in the World Cup (Note: all right-thinking humans should be rooting for a meteor to hit Sepp Blatter). You default to the country you're from if they're playing, and if they're not, you either go for cool jerseys or someone your native land hasn't been at war with too recently. Alternately, if you're a wacky hipster type intent on letting the world know you know SO much about soccer despite  being American and it being one of those weird "sportsball" things, you pick Ecuador or Belgium. (Alternately-alternately, if you're a front-runner, you pick Brazil or Spain, and everyone who knows you secretly thinks you're a jerk.)

Harder, however, is figuring out which team to hate. There are 32, after all, and at least one of them's got to play the heel. Whether it's through blatant match fixing, blatant jerkwad play on the pitch, or just having weird nicknames, there's always a team that will set someone off. Here, then is a way to make up your mind - a list of reasons to hate every team in the Cup.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Balls of Brass Bonanza

As per Field of Schemes, the city of Hartford, Connecticut (or at least its mayor) is prepping to spend something like $60M to lure a AA minor league baseball team to town. So far, so meh, right? I mean, Hartford couldn't hang on to the Whalers, but that was a long time ago, and besides, the Hartford Civic Center was a slightly worse place to see a hockey game than the Wesleyan student gym (trust me, I've been to both, and only one had a faint residual smell of elephant), but hey, a minor league baseball team? Why the heck not?

Well, the big reason is that the team they're going after currently resides in the far-away land of New Britain, Connecticut.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Philling Out

This is why the New York Knicks can't have nice things.

Which is not to say having Derek Fisher as your coach isn't a nice thing. We honestly have no idea if having Derek Fisher as your coach is a nice thing or not, because Derek Fisher has never been a coach before, just the same what Phil Jackson has never been a front office executive and grand poobah before. It is entirely possible that either or both of those moves could work out fabulously. 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

If Supervillains Owned Sports Teams...

Over at Sports On Earth, the estimable Mike Tanier did a piece this week on what would happen if various superheroes (and Richie Rich, the miserable little son of a gun) were somehow motivated to purchase sports teams. Tanier, whose writing on the NFL has a rare combination of wit, grace and insight, clearly knows and loves comics, and he managed to work a Fin Fang Foom reference into the article, so, nothing to complain about here.

But.

Let’s think for a minute about what we know about sports owners. Do guys like Zygi Wilf really qualify as superheroes, or are they on the opposite side of that equation? Is sticking a city on the hook for $2B for a new stadium the work of a selfless hero, or a masterful manipulator? In short, aren’t an awful lot of team owners really much more like supervillains? And if that’s the case, which villains would potentially invest in sports teams?

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Conscious Uncoupling of the Five Rings

In the end, the thing escaped Game of Thrones character Vladimir Putin might be best remembered for is killing the Winter Olympics. In the wake of the Sochi games, which cost a staggering $51B dollars to put on, competitors for for future hosting opportunities are looking at the bottom line and saying "ennnh, maybe we'll make a run at the World Cup of Roller Derby instead." And without a steady line of sites lined up to wine, dine, and *cough cough line the pockets of cough cough Salt Lake City cough cough* work with the IOC, the Winter Olympics could run out of places to play sooner rather than later.

(Alternately, climate change could take care of that, too - the last few games have featured embarrassing shortages of things like "snow".)

Friday, June 06, 2014

Draft Night For Baseball

I'm not normally a draftnik kind of guy. I think the fact that Mel Kiper Jr. has made a career out of being a "draft guru" is a sign that our civilization is doomed. I think middle-aged men making a bunch of athletic 22 year olds stand around in their skivvies while their measurables get read out is deeply creepy. I think the fact that we have turned roll calls and glorified bingo (in the case of the NBA lottery) into television "events" is a sad, sad thing, especially in a world where your average Community episode had more crew members than viewers.

That being said, I watched a good chunk of the MLB first year player draft tonight. The telecast was largely crisp, the analysis of the players was largely free of Harold Reynolds, and the pace was good - four minutes or so between first round picks, one minute per pick thereafter. Once the first round ended and Bud Selig stepped away from the mike, teams started sending up former players to announce their picks, leading to some great intentional comedy - cue the mighty Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs - and some great unintentional comedy as well. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Because I Want Soccer Fans To Hate Me

My rooting interests in the World Cup are a lot like my rooting interests in the NCAA tournament, whereby family rooting interests aside (my 11 year old nephew is a stone Duke fan, and so it is unseemly for Uncle Rich to be doing cartwheels when Mercer knocks them off), I root for the weird schools. 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Days of Future Passed Balls

"Caught with the help of Mikael Franco"
One of the great things about watching minor league baseball is that it sometimes gives you a glimpse of the future. You get to see rising stars perfect their craft up close and personal. Over the years, going to Durham Bulls and Carolina Mudcats games has offered looks at David Price, Will Myers, Desmond Jennings, Francisco Lindor, Yonder Alonso, BJ Upton and many more.

One of the terrible things about minor league baseball is that it sometimes gives you a glimpse of the future, and the future looks like the Sentinel-infested hellscape of the latest X-Men movie.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ballmer Baller

The best thing possible happened for the NBA Thursday*. former Microsoft CEO and billionaire Steve Ballmer apparently won the bidding for the Los Angeles Clippers, which the league wishes extracted from the palsied, racist claw of owner Donald Sterling, with an all-cash offer of roughly $2B dollars. Sterling, who has the chutzpah to demand the league pay his capital gains tax on an investment that went from $13M to $2B, makes out like a bandit, in that he will still clear somewhere north of a billion dollars when this is all over.

For the Clippers. The team that could not live without Michael Olowokandi. Let that sink in for a minute.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Fiscal Responsibility, Cobb County Style

Never let it be said that baseball let the other sports push it around when it came time to grab the stupid share of the headlines.

At a moment when the season is in full swing, when a guy has hit 16 home runs in a month for the first place Toronto Blue Jays (think about that for a minute), when we've got tight races and rising stars like George Springer and the ever-entertaining Yasiel Puig show is on every night, the Atlanta Braves have to go and jam their spikes in their collective mouth.
Mind you, you can't really blame them. The prospect of getting a couple of hundred million dollars in public money for a poorly thought out stadium to be planted at one of the worst intersections for traffic in the United States where the Braves' financial obligations are, if you read the fine print, kind of more of a suggestion, well, that would make anyone giddy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Feeling Minnesota

In the other football news last Tuesday, the NFL awarded the 2018 Super Bowl to Minnesota. Apparently the stiffest competition came from Indianapolis, which meant that the owner who got four felony charges knocked down to two misdemeanors got beat out by the one who's already had a judge call him a racketeer.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

On Personal Responsibility, the NFL, and Getting Screwed Over

In the wake of the announcement of the lawsuit against the NFL, it's become popular for ESPN's in-house ex-player contingent to dismiss the suit's claimants as, essentially, whiny babies. The meme, stated memorably by Mark Schlereth, is that a player should take responsibility for what was done to him while he played, and by suing, these guys are trying to have their cake and eat it, too.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Great Moments In Mood-Swinging Sports Journalism

And this is why I love NBA journalism:

Before game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals:

"The Pacers are terrible. They're going to get run right out of the gym. I don't know why the Heat even have to bother playing the games. Also, Pacers coach Frank Voepel is a dummy, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is a genius."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Your Handy Dandy Guide to Donald Sterling's First Amendment Rights

And here's a reminder for all you budding constitutional law scholars out there:

Donald Sterling's banishment from the NBA is not a First Amendment issue. Mr. Sterling is not being prosecuted by any government agency for his words, as ill-chosen, hateful, embarrassing or stupid as they might have been. He is free to say as many dumb-ass racist things as he'd like, without fear that they will land him in jail. Ergo, his First Amendment rights are not being infringed.

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's Schafer Time. Or Maybe Not.

Sometimes, the funny stuff that happens in baseball never makes SportsCenter.
Take, for example, the sad case of Braves reserve outfielder Jordan Schafer. A former top prospect who blazed his way out of the Braves organization (and yes, that means exactly what you think it means) before returning as a surprisingly useful spare part last year, Mr. Schafer is not entirely happy with his role.
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