Thursday, February 28, 2019

Phillies Finally Sign Harper and Surprise, It Makes Sense.

So the Phillies finally got their man, wrapping up generational talent Bryce Harper for 13 years and $330M. It's the biggest contract ever (though not the highest AAV), and this is causing some otherwise sensible people to lose their minds.
Before we get into the crazy, let's make one thing clear. The Phillies can afford this. They can afford this and the Andrew McCutcheon deal and the David Robertson deal and the Aaron Nola extension. If they had decided to go that way, they could have afforded Manny Machado's deal on top of it, and probably whatever Dallas Kuechel gets, too. They are a lone team in one of the biggest markets in the country, with a sweet cable deal that's a license to print money. They can afford to spend money to put better players on the field. (Which, history has shown time and again, leads to more butts in seats, more shirseys sold, and more $10 beers getting guzzled at the ballpark, i.e. more profit.)
The main objection to the Phillies - freely and of their own accord - paying Harper this money is that it's a lot of money. To which I say yes, yes it is and it's doing what a baseball team's money is supposed to be doing - paying players, who happen to be the product. (We'll leave the real estate conglomerate that is the Atlanta Braves alone for the moment.) What else exactly should a team be doing with its money? Hoarding it for a rainy day? Trust me, they're not going to turn it into cheaper seats and beers. Keeping it in the owner's hands so they can buy a Dan Snyder-style mega yacht? Surely that can't be what people are actually rooting for.
No, the Phillies did what they were supposed to - they took their revenues and plowed them back into the product, with an eye towards competitiveness and the profitability that comes with it. By shrieking about the size of the contract, all the various voices are doing is demonstrating a lack of understanding of basic economics.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

On Failed Offseasons

We are caught between two polar opposites, both of them frustrating, when it comes to the offseason of professional sports. Consider on one hand the NBA, where there is nothing but off-season - there's more buzz now about the impending destinations of Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard and God knows who else that nobody appears to be paying any actual attention to the games being played here and now.
On the other hand, we have MLB, where 30 identical front offices filled with identical Ivy League grad analytics wonks have all independently decided they don't need to do anything in the offseason to stoke fan excitement. The end result there has been a winter of discontent even as franchise-changing superstars hung out their shingles.
Only the NFL gets it right, and that's largely due to commissioner Roger Goodell's uncanny ability to flub the smallest of controversies so that they blow up and have us talking about the NFL. Not in a positive way, mind you, but there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Please God Let Them Be A Bunch of Jerks

Hockey Night in Canada Muppet and all-around-old-man-yelling-at-clouds has made it official: By doing their "storm surge" celebrations on home ice after victories, the Carolina Hurricanes are hereby proclaimed to be a bunch of jerks. Let's unpack that one, shall we?
One, sick burn there, Don. Going to call them hooligans or rapscallions next?
Two, no grown man who dresses to go out in public like Don Cherry does gets to comment on anyone's attempts to express their individuality. When Cherry gives up the jackets that look like mid-90s screen saver patterns, then maybe we can talk.
Three, thank God the Hurricanes are doing this, precisely because it demonstrates a little bit of personality. If you look back at the past ten years of Canes hockey, it is notable for a lack of success, a lack of quality goaltending, and a lack of personality. Not only was the team always bad, but it was bad and boring, with as much personality as a stoned marmot. They were agonizing to watch, and a large part of it was that the team had no identity, win or (mostly) lose. Now, however, they've got something. Maybe it's immature. Maybe it's premature - after all, the Canes are still on the outside of the playoff bubble looking in, despite their scorching hot streak since New Year's. And maybe it's a sign that the Hurricanes are indeed a bunch of jerks who like showing up their opponents (but only on home ice after a victory), but I'll take it. Give me a bunch of jerks who actually play like they care about the result and show it, and you've got my interest. Combine that with a few actual wins, and you've got my attention.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Flacco? Again?

The Denver Broncos have traded for Joe Flacco and I am forced to ask the question "Who the hell cares?" Flacco has been mediocre and largely disinterested for the past several seasons, and Lamar Jackson had clearly surpassed him on the Ravens' depth chart this year. The "IS JOE FLACCO ELITE?" conversations had long since turned to punchlines. Statistically, he was almost identical to Case Keenum, the guy he's being brought in to replace. The best the Ravens could get for him was reportedly a 4th round pick, which is quite the haul when you consider Flacco's age, results, and ginormous contract.
And yet the hot takes flowed on what this meant because it is NFL quarterback news and nothing is more important in sports than NFL quarterback news. Even if that quarterback is terrible or worse, mediocre, as long as there is some name recognition there we must discuss it, because of course we must.
Fine then. Here's my hot take. Denver's offensive line is terrible and Flacco's salary is going to make it hard for them to do anything about it. Ergo, Flacco won't do any better than Keenum did, and considering where he is on the career curve, may well do worse.
The only real point of interest here is the question of how many QB blunders will John Elway be allowed to make and still keep his job as GM? Keenum joins a long line of discarded Abs who couldn't get it done, though he's more expensive than most. Sooner or later, that's going to come home to roost, and Elway's going to have to answer for it.
Unless, of course, Joe Flacco really is elite. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Super Bowl LIII Post-Mortem

Here's what happened in the Super Bowl. The Rams' offense is predicated on play action. Take away the running game and you take away the will-he-won't-he threat of play action. With the Rams' running game essentially stuffed all game, play action wasn't really available to them and when it comes to straight drop-backs, Jared Goff simply is not that good.
The Patriots didn't do a great job either, with Tom Brady missing check downs all night, but he didn't need to do much. This was not so much a game of dominating defenses as it was one of floundering offenses - Brady had a weak game and no, it wasn't because Aaron Donald was in his face all game. And Goff was just bad, throwing wounded ducks all night and making decisions a second slow even when he had time, which was often.
In short, it was a terrible game, and everyone outside of the Patriots' bandwagon will cheerfully admit it. To think we were this close to Chiefs-Saints.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

On the Super Bowl

The official position of this blog on Super Bowl LIII is that we have no rooting interest. On the one hand, rooting for the Patriots and their ludicrous pretensions of being the underdog is like rooting for a billionaire who is shocked, shocked that some people think they should pay more taxes. On the other hand, St. Louis is owned by miserable human being Silent Stan Kroenke, who, while not an out and out crook like the Browns' Jimmy Haslam or the Vikings' Ziggy Wilf, is going to have to produce some serious acrobatics with a camel and the eye of a needle in the afterlife.
Even the halftime act isn't worth rooting for. Maroon 5? Seriously?
As such, we are officially left rooting for...what? Good commercials? Decent hors oeuvres?
Until this year, at least, I had the pleasure of watching the Super Bowl every year with my father. But he passed away in December. So the mere fact of watching the game is bittersweet. Having two teams in the game whom rooting for seems like an exercise in self-violence just makes it worse.
So never mind me. I'll be over here in the corner, waiting for pitchers and catchers to report. And making hors oeuvres.

Monday, January 28, 2019

On Anthony Davis' Inevitable Path to LA

Cutting to the chase, it is clear that Anthony Davis wants to play for the Lakers, his agent Rich Paul wants him to play for the Lakers, franchise eminence grise LeBron James wants him to play for the Lakers and Lakers President Magic Johnson wants him to play for the Lakers. Which is fine, except that Davis currently plays for the Pelicans and would have to be traded to the Lakers in order to suit up for them. Various trade offers have already been bruited about, with names like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, and the expiring contract named Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
There's just one problem with a haul like that. As has been amply demonstrated in LeBron James' injury-induced absence, those guys aren't any good at winning basketball games. If the Pelicans are going to ship out their generational talent and restock, they simply have to get more back than the guys who couldn't get it done without LeBron.