Thursday, July 30, 2009

Execs Love Stats, Thinking; Managers Hate Stats, Thinking

Reading Tim Kurkihjidsian's latest article (it's pretty good) about the magic number of the 100-pitch start, I came across an interesting paragraph that seems to corroborate the postulate I suggested in my last post about Jeter:

There is an growing discord in baseball between the managers and players in an organization and the management of an organization over the use of numbers/statistics/quantifiers to make baseball decisions.

Consider this paragraph, which attributes the slow but significant decline in pitches per start to:

Today's young general manager

Twenty years ago, nearly 90 percent of all GMs had played in the major leagues. Now there are three out of 30: Philadelphia's Ruben Amaro Jr., the White Sox's Kenny Williams and Billy Beane of the A's.

An interesting stat, though it's not like any of those players had major league careers of major significance.

This decade has brought a new breed of GM, one who is highly educated, can run a spreadsheet and has mountains of data to support his theories.

It certainly has, suggesting that the Moneyball revolution has really shaken the management of the game to its core.

"We have a new wave of general managers who are deeply into mathematics, analysis, metrics -- I'm not saying it's wrong -- because that's what they charted in the minor leagues," said Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey.

I'm not really sure what he means here. Does he mean the GM started charting these things in the minor leagues of being a GM?

"I don't know the numbers, but the new wave of GMs are the ones who have charted that the chance of injury is, say, greater at 85 pitches than it is at 75. And with every five-pitch increment, there's a 22.8 percent more likely chance that someone gets hurt. With each 10 extra pitches, it goes up by five percent."

Interesting. So it seems like a basic calculation: after X number of pitches, you get a diminishing return on your investment in a starting pitcher. Obviously a pitcher isn't much more likely to get hurt between 50 and 55 pitches, but if a pitcher's chance of going on the DL rises significantly after, say, 105 pitches... is it really worth leaving them in for another inning when you have a reliever who can throw that inning almost as well?

The new GMs sometimes clash with the old-school manager about how the club should be run. Often, the GM wins.

I sure wish Wayne Krivsky would clash with Dusty Baker about having the player with the lowest VORP of any starting major leaguer hit leadoff and get the most at-bats for the Cincinnati Reds. Literally! He's 865th in the majors in VORP! Where is the stat-conscious GM when I need him?

"My GM used to load reams and reams of paper on my desk about that night's game," one former manager said. "Sometimes I'd read it; sometimes I just throw it in the trash.

... awesome.

But in the end, if it comes down to him or me, he's usually going to win. And if the discussion is about pitch counts, he is always going to win."


It seems as though the disconnection between the front office's love of player statistics and players' and managers' distaste for them is only going to increase in coming years. I wonder if there will be real consequence from it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

He'll be Back

Trust me. He'll be back. You know who I'm talking about. He just doesn't want to go to training camp. As soon as late August rolls around, he'll have a change of heart and explain that he "just couldn't stay away because [he] loves the game too much." Substitute "attention" for "game" in your mind, of course, when he says that in subsequent interviews.

If you want to throw up all over the place read this.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Execs Love Stats, Thinking: Players Hate Stats, Thinking

MLB.com's Bryan Hoch examines the curious case of Derek Jeter's 2009 resurgence at baseball - particularly his defensive numbers. I think the following article supports a pair of postulates:

1. The "Derek Jeter is bad at defense" debate will continue to rage as a corresponding countercurrent to all the adulation he currently gets from the press for being clutch and a leader and such.

2. Baseball players, famously undereducated, are nevertheless managed by a group of executives who are increasingly statistically-savvy. It seems like this causes a bit of resentment.

Interestingly, Hoch interviewed some of the Yankees' brass for the article. Then, he went and got Jeter's own opinion. Here's the text:

It was last spring that Derek Jeter offered dismissive smirks to a small gathering in front of his locker at the Yankees' Spring Training complex. He chose his words carefully, but expressed clear skepticism regarding a statistical study that pegged him as the worst defensive shortstop in the big leagues.

Well, there's Bill James' very interesting analysis. This, by the way, is based not just on a bunch of numbers but on an analysis of 40 video replays of Jeter vs. Adam Everett.

There's also reports of a study done at UPenn which concluded, after analyzing every ball put into play from 2002 to 2005, that Jeter was the worst defensive shortstop. By the way, some of the quotes from that NY Post article are worth reprinting:

"I don't know what they're smoking down at Penn," said Yankees fan Mike Birch, 32. "That's preposterous. I completely disagree. Jeter's a clutch player. [dan-bob's note: I did not fabricate this quotation]"

"It's ridiculous," said fan Jay Ricker, 22. "Jeter is all-around awesome. He's better than A-Rod any day. Character has a lot to do with it. He's out there for his teammates, not just himself. He does it for the good of the team. That's the kind of guy you want on the field."

"He has intangible qualities that can't be measured with statistics," said East Village bar owner Kevin Hooshangi, 28.

"He's he ultimate teammate. It doesn't matter what his percentages are when he's making big plays in big games. He's the one with four World Series rings."

... awesome.

Jeter didn't buy into that brand of defensive analysis then, and he still doesn't.

Interesting that after Jeter's boss made him change his workout routine based on statistical evidence, and after that routine has helped him become a better defensive shortstop, he still doesn't believe in it. Stats to Jeter are like dinosaur bones to Carl Everett: they're only there to confuse you.

But Jeter had another reason not to worry about the data that computer programs had spit out concerning his fielding ability: Upon recommendation from the Yankees, Jeter had already started working to improve his range and mobility.

About time!

The Yanks saw some improvement in 2008, and as Jeter's second full season under the new conditioning program passes the midway point, the numbers are again focused on one of their favorite subjects. But this time, the raw data claims that Jeter, 35, is playing his best defensive baseball since he was in his 20s.

Good old raw data.

"You have to make adjustments throughout the years, and if things don't go the way you want them to go or you don't feel the way you want to feel, you make adjustments in order to compensate for it," Jeter said. "I just wanted to be healthy; that's it."

Right: and the adjustments you made were a direct result of your team's statistical analysis of your poor defense. I like how Jeter minimizes the whole thought process behind this by claiming "I just wanted to be healty" - even though he was never injured.

The pivotal conversation with team brass took place after the '07 season, when it had become clear to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and his staff that his shortstop's defense was an issue that needed to be addressed.

Obviously.

"Whatever weaknesses we may see develop in our players, we talk to our players about it," Cashman said. "We look for ways to attack it. He changed his workout routine to improve his lateral defense, and that took place before last year. He's been better the last two years."

Gosh, what a sensible thing to do. Good work there, Cashman!

According to FanGraphs.com, a sabermetric analysis Web site, Jeter's 2007 Ultimate Zone Rating (or UZR) was -15.3, projecting that Jeter cost the Yankees 15.3 more runs than the average Major League shortstop over the 155 games in which he played. That ranked worst among American Leaguers.

Ouch. No matter what your opinion of UZR is... that's some bad defense there.

"I don't really sit around and look at that," Jeter said. "You can criticize -- everyone gets criticized. I don't pay attention to it. If someone wants to write an article, let them write it. It doesn't really matter to me. My job is to come out here and to improve and try to help this team win. That's all I've been doing. All the other stuff, I don't pay attention to."

That's probably a healthy attitude for a major leaguer to take. God knows anyone would go nuts reading about themselves. But Jeter could be a little less ignorant and admit that the statistical analysis of his defense contributed to his new workout regimen that has improved his defense.

But Jeter -- who claims to not even use the Internet

... awesome. Also, I bet he's full of shit. Everyone uses the internet at some point.

-- isn't about to crunch his own numbers to check up.

Maybe because the last time he took a math class was Algebra II in like 1992?

He still turns a quizzical eye toward an analysis performed at the University of Pennsylvania, which read every ball put in play between 2005 and 2007 and labeled him at the bottom of the pack.

I wonder what grounds Jeter might cite to suggest some sort of invalidity to the studies done at UPenn.

"You can't sit around and figure out a defensive chart on somebody," Jeter said. "I mean, that's impossible to do, so I don't pay attention to it. There's different pitchers, different hitters, different runners and different people playing different positions. You cannot do it."

Well, that's settled.

"Everybody doesn't play the same position, everybody doesn't get hit the same ground ball, everyone doesn't have the same runner. So you can't figure out a mathematical equation on it. If Ichiro hits a ball in the same spot that a slower runner does, how can you compute that in a computer? You can't do it."

Well, you don't have to, Mr. Jeter. That's what's great about taking large sample sizes (like, for example every single groundball from 2005 to 2007). There are a few Ichiros in there, but there are also a few Prince Fielders and some Bengie Molinas. Overall, looking at the thousands of ground balls you fielded during those years, Derek, it doesn't really matter that Ichiro exists.

You don't have to compute it in a computer, either.

[bunch of stories about Jeter working on his defense in the minors are omitted due to the fact that they are boring]

With the next statistical study no doubt already in the works, Jeter will continue to pick his spots to discuss his defense.

I hope the stats continue to tell us how good players are, instead of being completely irrelevant. Fortunately, I think they will!

But with more pep on the bases -- he has already stolen 18 bases, his highest total since 2006 -- it seems clear that Jeter has found a new gear to work with.

"People always try to overanalyze things," Jeter said. "I mean, sometimes, some years, you may feel better than other years. That's pretty much it. I think people always try to figure out, 'Well, what's the reason?' I just feel good. I just think there's really not much more than that."

Well, Derek, you might attribute it to "just feeling good" - but I think the rest of this article, including the direct evidence of your general manager - suggests that the statistically-informed training program you're on, which works to increase lateral movement, has been the primary cause of your resurgent defense.

But maybe you're just feeling good. Yep.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Might as well Beat the Hell out of this Joke

Rachel Nichols with a fascinating update (current as of 3 PM EST Monday)!

Brett Favre continues to wrestle with a decision on whether to come out of retirement, agent Bus Cook told ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Monday.

I think you mean "wrassle" with a decision. Also, if there's one person in professional sports who deserves to be attacked by an even angrier swarm of bees than Brett Favre, it's Bus Cook.

Favre told The Associated Press earlier this month that he'll give the Minnesota Vikings an answer on whether he'll play by the July 30 start of training camp.

Does anyone actually take this guy at his word anymore? How the fuck could you? How could you watch what he's done in the press over the course of the past, say, three years, and believe a single thing he says? Preaching to the choir, I know.

At issue for Favre is whether he's really up to the mental and physical requirements of a long season in which he'll turn 40 years old.

Also at issue are the number of happy endings he can negotiate out of Peter King and company.

The quarterback's friends and family say they are leaving this decision solely up to him and will be supportive no matter which way he goes.

I wish just one of them would crack him a good one right across the face and shout "YOU'RE A HORRIBLE PERSON. GET OVER YOURSELF AND EITHER PLAY OR DON'T. DECIDE RIGHT THIS SECOND. NOW. NOW NOW NOW." /slapslapslapslapslap

"AND DON'T YOU EVER FUCKING TALK TO THE MEDIA AGAIN."

In the meantime Favre is poking some fun at his own indecisiveness in a new advertisement for Sears that will run in September. Cook told ESPN that Favre shot the ad last Monday.

God help us all. I'd rather hear "saved by zero" incessantly for five more months.

Rachel Nichols is a reporter for ESPN.

Go have her report on something, then.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

If You Need to Know Something, Ask the Experts

Hey, ever wondered what Terrell Owens thinks about stuff going on around the NFL which is completely unrelated to him or the team he plays for? Of course you did! He's the foremost authority on everything. For example, recently he said during a press conference that he doesn't think Mike Vick should face an NFL suspension once reinstated because Vick already spent almost two years in prison. Four minutes of Sportscenter were devoted to this, and I think we can all agree that that is an appropriate amount of time to devote to a know-nothing dipshit loudmouth team killing sociopath's opinions.

Unfortunately, during that press conference TO failed to address Brett Favre's situation. But as soon as he says something about it- because as we just agreed, anything TO says about anything is completely valid and worthy of media coverage- we will be sure to update you. In the meantime I think I'll rampantly speculate that TO thinks Favre is a great quarterback, but should only play this season if he really feels like he's physically and mentally capable of doing so.

You heard it here first, people. TO probably thinks Brett Favre should probably play this season. Probably. Maybe. Back to PNoles with more round-the-clock coverage of what's going on outside Brett Favre's house.

Just In Case You Were Wondering......

Brett Favre's throwing motion is "OK".

We'll now take you back to Larry's live coverage, already in progress.

Brett Favre Update

Since we so rarely talk about this kind of thing here at FireJay, I thought people might want to know that Favre worked out with a local high school team near his home in Mississippi yesterday. ESPN's Ed Werder reported that the workout went "well," but that Favre was no closer to deciding what he will do this coming fall than he was the last time Werder had asked. Which was 6 hours earlier.

Updates as events warrant. Everyone see PNoles' most recent post for more substantive analysis.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

We Have Proof That This Is All ESPN's Fault

Applause to msnbc.com, nfl.com, foxsports.com, and cbssportsline.com, all of whom seem to understand that news isn't news unless something has actually happened.

Sorry for postblocking, pnoles.

We're Going to Keep Doing This Until They Stop

Read the following article. It's about the tactical differences between Jim Tracy and Clint Hurdle.

Just kidding. The article doesn't contain any actual news or information at all.

Sorry to obscure the importance of what you had to say, Larry.

BREAKING NEWS

Sorry to bury your post, PNoles, but I just heard on ESPN that Brett Favre may or may not want to play for the Vikings next year. He hasn't made up his mind yet, and will only do so as soon as every media outlet on the planet is giving him the attention he so desperately craves.

OK, sorry again. Everyone go read PNoles' post immediately below this one, in which he talks about someone on the Cubs bowling a perfect game. Nice story. Very uplifting.

Brett Favre Throws Perfect Game

As most of you know, Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game on Thursday. I know it's happened about 4,421 times before, but still kind of a big deal. I woke up on Friday morning, excited to watch the beginning of SC on ESPN to get a look at the highlights.

First story: Brett Favre having some misgivings about returning to play for the Vikings.

Second story: Michael Vick will find out next week whether he will be reinstated into the NFL.

After spending 5 minutes apiece on these two "stories" we hit White Sox / Rays.

It's like ESPN is a 15-year-old girl, and Brett Favre is her overly dramatic best friend.

FUCK YOU ESPN.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Jay-Bird Hypocritically Deals With Erin Andrews & Celeb Culture

As you might remember,the JayBird writes for AOL Fanhouse now. Basically, he's a professional blogger. Here's his take on the Erin Andrews blowup. Basically, he excoriates the blogosphere for feeding the Andrews frenzy. While he has some points, he kind of misses the point. There's a lot of shit in this article, but I don't feel like Tolstoying it for this post. Here's the best selection:

A second-guess, this is not. I've been saying it for years. And sadly enough, I've feared it would involve Andrews, whose only sin is being good-looking and blond on a powerful television network watched predominantly by sports-and-female-loving males.

Well, shit. She's managed to get to the top of the pile in the sportscasting world almost surely because of her incredibly high rating on the conventional attractiveness scale. Though Erin herself didn't commit this sin, isn't it partially ESPN's fault for parading this sex object on the sidelines of famous football games? It's like Jay wants to excuse ESPN for marketing and profiting off Erin-Andrews-as-sex-symbol but then complains when someone actually treats Erin like a sex symbol.

Am I blaming sports bloggers and their commenters that a very disturbed person secretly videotaped Andrews as she was standing nude in her hotel room, then posted the five-minute video on the Internet?

It's not my fault.

No, I am not, even though the video was posted under the title "Hot naked blonde who looks a lot like a sports blogger favorite in her hotel room.'' But am I blaming bloggers for helping create the daily sex-and-objectification culture that turned Andrews into an ongoing peep show on their Web sites?


Look, Jay. Why don't you just blame masculine culture as a whole - the culture that can't look at a good-looking woman on television without objectifying her? That's not something exclusive to the sports-blogging world, that's something shared in any public sphere.

Occasionally glancing at such junk through the years, I was whisked into a cross between a frat boy's porn fantasies and a sports remake of Revenge of the Nerds. Who were these geeks? Why was the Internet, once again, giving semi-lives to people with no lives?

Hey Jay, didn't you recently and publicly abandon your print-media old-school ethics-bound news organization for an internet-only basically-a-blog gig?

Ironically, the internet (and the ESPNiverse) has given a semi-life to people like Mariotti - who should have no life.

My punishment for writing this, naturally, will be a full-scale assault on my character by these very sites,

A deserved assault, considering all the stupid things you've said and done in your entire career.

none of which are worthy of being mentioned on a respectable, globally regarded site such as this.

You're such a fucking big deal, Jay, that you have to remind us about how big a deal you are on AOL fucking Fanhouse.

See, these dweebs can dish out the criticism but can't take it.

Name-calling: way to go, Jay.

Rather than take on an almighty sports executive -- the real test of a sportswriter in an age when leagues and media are frequent bedfellows -- they go after media people.

What? Bloggers are afraid to take on sports execs? I don't even understand this point - in the whole article he complains about amoral bloggers who take advantage of people like Erin Andrews, but now he seems to complain about the media members who are cozied up to the leagues. That's NOT bloggers, who have very little connection to the inside sports world.

When a blog gets something right about me, for instance, I'll be the first to say so.

Jesus H. Christ, Jay. Save yourself a few bucks and mail the fifty-pound package of letters you owe us third-class. We've waited two years; we can wait a few more days.

To date, they're batting way under the Mendoza line, about .150.

He must not have read us.

A blog said I was with a "semi-hot blonde'' at an NBA party; she was a public-relations person for a player marketing a charity game.

So was the blog wrong?

A blog was woefully wrong about my salary, just guessing and never bothering to look into it.

How would they look into it? Is your salary public knowledge? Shit, Jay, there's a lot of things you rarely bother to look into.

A blog recklessly ran items that weren't remotely true when I left the
Chicago Sun-Times.

I hope he's referring to this epic post of ours. I think we can admit to being reckless, though.

A blog said I brag endlessly about our TV show in bars; when people ask about
Around The Horn, I'm friendly and answer all questions or else I'm called a jerk.

We've looked at a lot of your articles and you actually are kind of a jerk. You've made a career off being a jerk, at least in print. Who knows, Jay, maybe you are a nice guy in person.

A blog said I don't like to have pictures taken in bars; that's true, because I don't want some blogger running a picture and calling me drunk when I've had one beer.


That's your prerogative. That's pretty sensible actually - and it doesn't have a lot to do with blogs. Lots of people in this country don't want to be photographed drinking, only because there's a bit of a social stigma about being publicly drunk that extends to more people than you, Jay.

If this is the American Way, what happened to the truth and justice part?

The sort of truth created when you sign a three-year contract extension with your employer in mid-June, only to quit in early August?

A few years ago, after the blogs had their way with me during another Ozzie Guillen meltdown,

You mean last year? Or maybe the summer of 2007? Or all those other times you said stupid shit?

I had death threats in Chicago.

For the official record, that wasn't us. We just wanted to see him fired.

The newspaper ordered me to have a driver take me to U.S. Cellular Field so I would avoid possible violence in the stadium parking lots.

I'm sure you protested all night about being given such special treatment.

So, sure, the Erin Andrews case gives me the shivers, too. While I'm more Jim Belushi than George Clooney, I think I'll take a good, long look at the peephole the next time I'm in a hotel room.

Jay, you're not that important. Or even vaguely attractive. Notice that no male sportscasters ever get this shit happening to them.

And wonder what the hell happened to my profession.

Hey, that's why we're here, Jay. We wonder why people like you have important roles in it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bill Simmons: Still not talking about sports, still sounding like a complete toolbox

Q: I'm 18 and just graduated high school. When my college decisions came in in April, I narrowed down my choices to Dartmouth and Princeton and had no idea what to do. Whether it's teenage indecision or my relative laziness, the only thing I could think of was your pure hatred for Princeton. So I chose Dartmouth. You, Bill Simmons, made the biggest decision I have ever made. Most likely, you will be responsible for whatever shenanigans I go through in life. Just wanted to let you know and say thanks.
-- Sam, New York

A: You're one of two things:

1. A complete liar (most likely).
2. The poster-child for 75th trimester abortions.

SG: I couldn't be prouder. To think, I saved you from a terminal case of insufferable "dooshdom."

Yes, but that was by not recomending that he go to Holy Cross.

Now I want to offer my services as the deciding vote for anyone's college choice. Wouldn't you watch a "Judge Judy"-type show in which high school seniors went on, told a "Judge" (in this case, me) a little bit about themselves, rattled off the colleges that accepted them, and then Judge Simmons made the decision? Then we could have moments like this …

Me: "OK, we're back on 'Judge Simmons.' So Michael, you're debating between Duke and Princeton. You seem like a good guy. I read your bio. You like sports, you have a lot of friends and I enjoyed your essay in which you vowed not to get married until you're 40 because love is overrated. I was particularly impressed that you were the commissioner of three fantasy leagues, and that you were suspended four months ago for trying to organize a wet T-shirt contest with girls from your prep school's sister school. They called it offensive, I call it ingenious. Anyway, I can't let you attend Duke or Princeton. Everyone hates Duke and the list of insufferable jerks from Princeton is longer than all the other Ivies combined.

"Therefore, my decision is this: I'm enrolling you at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. Maybe it's not Ivy quality, but it's a good school and you'll get to wear shorts to class every day. Also, every day when you're walking around campus you'll think you're a judge on 'America's Top Model.' Just trust me. This case is dismissed. And remember, folks, as always, it doesn't matter where you go to college, just what you did when you were there … and that the weather was warm. Until next time on 'Judge Simmons'!"

Let me paraphrase: "Michael, you seem like a smart guy who probably enjoys college sports. Therefore, I recommend that rather than going Princeton (a top 3 school, which has a shot at making the NCAA basketball tournament every year, and a top 3 lax team) or Duke (top 5 school, one of the best basketball and lax programs in the country), you should go to Rollins College (third tier school, no D-I sports teams) because it's warm. Case closed."

As an anecdotal aside, I've met students from Princeton, Dartmouth, Duke, and Rollins, and by far the douchiest guy was the one who went to Rollins. Ipso facto, all guys at Rollins are intolerable pricks. Good job, Simmons.

Q: Simmons, you amaze me. You are either the embodiment of the American Dream or a sure sign of Armageddon. You write for ESPN, yet you break no stories, have no sources, offer little analysis. Instead you write superfluous pieces of fluff that are only your half-baked opinion, offer no proof and constantly write about the NBA, the Red Sox and Pats to the exclusion of anything else of substance. To top it off, you seem as mature as a horny, pimply 14-year-old. I don't get it.
-- Rick D, Saint Joseph, Mo.

Tip of the cap: Bill Simmons for running this email.

Wag of the finger: Larry B for not using his real name.

Q: I am a die-hard soccer fan living abroad and agree with your theory that international soccer could take off in the States. But not everyone listens to your podcasts, so could you please make the same case in one of your columns so everyone can see it? I think it's important. Thanks and cheers from the UK!
-- T.J., Leeds, England

Can one be a die-hard fan of an entire sport? My guess is that T.J. considers himself a Manchester United fan because he once stopped in Manchester on his way to London. Whatever.

Sure. I'll do it in five short paragraphs and 500 words total. The theory goes like this …

1. Americans enjoy watching the best (fill in any sport). We are elitists. That's why we like the Olympics

Which for the most part have gotten lower and lower ratings over the past 20 years.

that's why we enjoy any finals, that's why we watch Wimbledon

If some combination of Federer, Nadal, or Roddick is in it.

and the Masters

If Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, or some complete long shot has a chance of winning.

that's why we don't care about sports like the WNBA, MLS or arena football

Three leagues which I believe have finals that no one watches.

International soccer plays into this. It's the best of the best.

Actually, European club soccer is the best of the best as it includes all the best players in the world, not just the ones whose entire country is good at soccer.

2. The games zoom along: no commercials, no sideline reporters, no corporate tie-ins, no four-hour games like in baseball, no "takes 20 minutes to play the last two" like in the NBA.

I really enjoy watching high level soccer. That said:

- A lot of soccer games do not feel like they're zooming along. If both teams are ambivalent about taking the offensive, those 45 minute halves can seem like 2 hours each.
- During the Confederation Cup, ESPN had a sideline reporter. Not really the sport's fault, but still.
- "No corporate tie-ins," except for the outer perimeter of the field which has more advertisements than a minor league baseball stadium.
- While it doesn't take 20 minutes to play the last 2 minutes, a team with the lead will do anything to kill clock: meaningless substitutions, taking forever on throw-ins, etc.

you can sit down for a soccer game and say, "I'm going to spend the next two hours watching this and then I'm going to do something else." Like watch more TV.

Excellent point. Unfortunately, it was buried by "facts" that were wrong.

3. Give credit to ESPN for committing air time in non-Cup years to elite international soccer tournaments like the UEFA Cup.

The UEFA Cup is semi-elite that gets almost no air time on ESPN. Bill is thinking of the UEFA Champions League, which ESPN relegates to ESPN 2 or ESPN Classic in order to avoid scheduling conflicts with women's softball or Rome is Burning.

5. International soccer never took off here for the simple reason that American sports fans had trouble following anything they couldn't attend in person and/or watch on television at their leisure.

Yes, Americans have always loved watching tennis, golf, and Olympic gymnastics finals because those are all events that they've either attended themselves, or watched whenever they wanted.

Now? We're turning into a sofa culture; since it's more expensive to go to games, many of us find it just as rewarding to stay home, save money and watch games on a nice TV.

When did this happen, last night!? I am so out of the loop.

Throw in the Internet, DirecTV, fan blogs and everything else and you really can follow soccer from across the Atlantic.

Again, a lucid point buried at the bottom of an otherwise moronic paragraph.

That's why, over the next decade -- starting with the World Cup in 2010 -- I predict international soccer takes off to a modest degree in America during the '10s. Not to compare everything to "The Godfather," but for America, the NASL was Sonny (exciting, impetuous and ultimately self-destructive), the MLS is Fredo (weak) and international soccer is Michael (the heavy hitter who was lurking all along). That's how this plays out I think.

Call me crazy, but I think soccer played at one of its highest levels will be more successful than soccer played at one of its lowest levels.

Simmons on Brock Lesnar and Dan Henderson's recent unsportsmanlike behavior in the UFC:

I appreciate the honesty of the UFC guys -- unlike boxing, if someone trash-talks you in the weeks leading up the fight, you don't just shrug it off right after the fight like it was "part of the promotion" or some crap. There's a code of honor to it. You talk crap about me, fine. But I WILL make you pay, and after it's over, I'm not going to just shrug it off and forget what you did.

Simmons is right, except in the overwhelming majority of UFC fights that end in mutual respect. Anyone who has watched an event besides UFC 100 knows that post-fight hugs and gushing interviews are pretty par for the course in UFC. In addition, there are plenty of examples of fighters being fined/suspended/banned for unsportsmanlike behavior that endangers opponents safety.

In response to the 2md or 3rd Michael Jackson question from the mail bag:

...I've written before about how death can be a good career move (Kurt Cobain, Chris Farley, Heath Ledger, etc.)

Retarded. Completely and absolutely retarded. Let's go through the list:

Kurt Cobain: Maybe this choice would work if Kurt Cobain/Nirvana weren't already hugely popular at the time of his suicide. It's not as if they had one or two good bordering on great songs. Not only that, but he died before grunge/alt rock peaked.

Chris Farley: Three of the four movies Chris Farley starred in were financially successful. The one that wasn't was Almost Heroes, which was also the only one released posthumously. Would you really argue either of the following:

A. Chris Farley would not have kept getting lead comedy roles if he went on living.
B. Chris Farley wans't that funny, but since he died, people choose to remember him being as such.

Heath Ledger: Would he have won the Oscar for Dark Knight? My guess is no. Between Brokeback Mountain and Dark Knight was he well on his way to an equity Oscar, a la Denzel Washington for Training Day and Russel Crowe for Gladiator? Yes. Would he have commanded a high salary and had his pick of movie roles: undoubtedly.

Q: My buddies and I returned home today with a few dozen steamed crabs from a beach adventure this past weekend that involved three cougars, two Hooters waitresses and a hotel room that could only be rivaled by the room in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" or the more recent hotel room fiasco in "The Hangover."

Me: So you and your friends had sex with 5 different women in the same tiny hotel room?

Dave, Baltimore: Uh, no, but those sluts were totally down to fuck. We just got too schwasted to bother with them. Besides bra, the shit we did to that room...it was fuckin' EPIC.

Me: Wow, how much cash did that set you all back?

DB: Well once we threw out all the empty Natty Light cans it really wasn't that bad at all. But dude, we CRUSHED it Saturday night.

After watching four straight hours of the "Entourage" marathon leading up to the Season 6 premiere

I take it back, those guys obviously sexed the cougars and Hooters girls.

we waited for the HBO content screen in anticipation of the "N for nudity" to appear. When it did, we were all thrilled and spent the next 27 minutes trying to figure out who it would be ahead of time (wagers were made and odds went off as such: Sloane 10-1, Meadow Soprano 4-1, Ari's wife 15-1, random Vince slew 1-5).

If you bet on any horse other than "Vince Slew," then you're probably a mouth breather.

When the episode ended boob-less we then argued about whether the chick Vince had in the Escalade might have actually been naked. As I sit here typing, I am looking at my TV realizing HBO has since changed the content screen to no longer say there is nudity in the episode. This should be either illegal or made good with one of the above three naked in a subsequent episode. What are your thoughts on this shafting HBO put on all of us?
-- Dave, Baltimore

My thoughts: There are few things that I'm more ashamed of than the fact that this letter came from Baltimore. If it turns out to be my friend Dave, then he and I have a date at a vacant sometime soon (THE WIRE REFERENCE).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Some Guy Makes a Bunch of Stupid Arguments Why Michael Vick Should Be Banned For Life

For the record, I don't give a shit whether Vick is ever allowed to play football in the NFL again. I don't think there's an irresistible argument on either side of the issue. I also have my doubts that he'll ever see major playing time in the NFL again even if he is reinstated, amazingly dynamic and successful Wildcat offense trend or not.

That said, this article by George Dohrmann (heh heh more like DORKman--that's the FJayM difference!) is chock full of some of the jackassiest argumentation I've ever seen.

For the record, I own two dogs: a yellow Labrador retriever and a mutt my wife rescued from a shelter. My stance that he should not be allowed to return to the NFL, however, has little to do with his abuse of animals. It is grounded in a desire for equitable treatment of all individuals


Am I the only one annoyed by this aspect of all Vick discussions. Whether someone owns dogs, or loves dogs, or thinks dogs are nicer than people always seems to come up when someone's making a point. Not a big deal, just something that grinds my gears.

But "equitable treatment of all individuals"? GMAB. Given that this is a unique circumstance, that shit doesn't fly. Letting Vick back in will be an injustice to whom? Pacman Jones, who was let back in the league? Tank Johnson, who was let back in the league? Chris Henry, who was let back in the league? If anything the "equitable treatment for all individuals" argument is a strike AGAINST Vick being banned for life.

Nice try though, fella.

Vick's crimes repulse me, but matters of fairness and finances are why, if I were Goodell, I'd meet with Vick later this month and inform him that he is banned from the NFL for life.


This is the worst use of the "but" conjunction of all time.

Let me start by debunking one common rationale offered in support of Vick's reinstatement: players who have done far worse have been allowed to return to the league. An oft-cited example is Leonard Little, the St. Louis Rams defensive end who killed a woman in 1998 when driving drunk. The NFL suspended him for eight games for violating the league's substance abuse policy, an appallingly light penalty. Then commissioner Paul Tagliabue erred in his handling of Little's case, which current commissioner Goodell implicitly confirmed when he indefinitely suspended Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth recently for committing the same crime as Little.


Dohrmann apparently has confused "indefinitely" and "permanently". For the record, when Pacman Jones was banned "indefinitely" by Goodell, he ended up serving 4 games (iirc). My guess would be Stallworth will serve a year (if he's even league-caliber after that). So this is a pretty shitty way to argue Vick should be "banned for life".

And what's up with this "if not NO PENALTY, then A RIDICULOUSLY HARSH PENALTY" thing that Dohrmann's running with? So you're going to refute the idea that Vick should have NO PENALTY (a pretty extreme position) and counter by saying he should have THE ULTIMATE PENALTY?

Ok d00d.



Still, some take the view that if Little received only an eight-game suspension for killing a woman, how can Vick get a more severe penalty for killing a few dogs?

This presupposes that the league and its fans can't move the line of tolerance. Goodell showed with his early handling of Stallworth's suspension that precedent does not bind him, nor should it. Vick's case is unique, and Goodell should treat it as such.


Certainly the league reserves that right, but that hardly falls into the category of "equitable treatment for all individuals".

Also, I love how this guy has completely misunderstood the nature of Stallworth's suspension.



Vick didn't commit one heinous act; he financed and participated in an illegal operation for years. He is a repeat offender just by the nature of his crimes. In addition to the harm Vick brought upon animals, gambling also occurred at the fights run by Bad Newz Kennels. Vick also lied to Goodell and Falcons owner Arthur Blank when first questioned about his involvement. Violence + gambling + deception = three compelling reasons to banish Vick forever.


I'm not sure how the law works in financing illicit operations, but my suspicion is it's just one count. Financing an illegal operation is a little different from, like rape and murder or something. Larry B, a little help?

By the way, the little equation at the end of this quotation is pretty funny imo.

Is that fair? I think so, even if it goes against one of the loudest arguments made in favor of Vick's reinstatement: After serving a 23-month federal prison sentence, after losing all of his money, after being publicly humiliated, Vick has paid for his crimes. His debt to society fulfilled, he deserves the chance to rebuild his life via the NFL.

I realize celebrities are treated differently, but no job, especially playing in the NFL, should be considered a fundamental right. At a time when millions of people have lost their jobs, why is it unthinkable to some that Vick, after throwing away his football career, should be forced to ply a different trade than he did before?


This is a valid point, but once again "making a compelling argument that Vick shouldn't escape punishment"=/="making a compelling argument that Vick should be banned for life"

To be sure, Vick can find work in football outside the NFL. The new United Football League might pay him $1 million or more a season. He could also get into coaching. Yet those who support his return to the NFL speak as if it would be a failure of the system for him to land anywhere but football's highest peak, that any opportunity short of that would deprive him of a shot at redemption. That is the narrowest view of what constitutes redemption, and it is flat wrong. Would he be insufficiently absolved if he spent the rest of his life working hard at a blue-collar job?


Except that's not the argument. The argument isn't "Should the NFL be forced to give Vick a spot on the roster of one of its teams?" The argument is "Should the NFL allow Vick the opportunity to play for an NFL team if that NFL team thinks he will be beneficial to their success?"

Some believe Goodell should let the market decide Vick's future. Reinstate him and see if a team is willing to sign him. This connects to another reason I believe Goodell should keep Vick out of the league: It's bad for business.

In one online poll, 71 percent of the more than 140,000 respondents replied "No" to the question: "Would you want your favorite team to take a chance on Vick when he gets out of prison?" To the question, "Should the NFL allow Vick back into the league?" people were more divided, with 58.1 percent believing he should be permitted to return and 41.9 percent in favor of a ban. That might appear to be a good sign for Vick -- a majority favored his return -- but Goodell can't be happy knowing that he would appease only 58.1 percent of the league's base if he allowed Vick to return.


This is one of the stupidest fucking things I've ever read.

A more relevant question, one not asked in the poll, would be: Would you stop supporting the NFL if Vick were reinstated? Among die-hard fans the answer would be a resounding "no." Vick or no Vick, they would support their team and play fantasy football. But what about the casual fan or the dog lover who has yet to totally embrace the league and its players? Goodell would lose at least some of those people, and that's not fiscally wise. Sponsors would also have to think twice about supporting the team that signs Vick.


Or this. Sheesh. I give up.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hat Guy, A Man of the People, Loves Steroid Users

I was bored and wanted to post. So I found the latest from an old friend.

"If Fans Don't Boo Manny, Why Should the Media?"

Though I realize that sometimes writers don't create their own titles... this title already suggests a logical conclusion that I do not support. Let's remind ourselves that HatGuy has, in the past, praised the efforts of Sammy Sosa in overcoming steroid judgment and coming back to the game. HatGuy, by all accounts, has little problem with steroid use. Here are the major problems with this article:

1. HatGuy bases a huge argument about baseball, the press and moral indignation based on one anecdote of evidence from a Mets/Dodgers broadcast.

2. HatGuy takes pointless potshots at people who enjoy the historical tradition of baseball.

3. HatGuy makes himself into a people's champion. In that respect, I'm perfectly happy with the blind leading the blind. But it still smacks of arrogance.

The Mets’ play-by-play guy couldn’t believe what he wasn’t hearing. Manny Ramirez, fresh off a 50-game drug suspension, was stepping to the plate for the first time this year in front of the toughest fans this side of Philadelphia, and there were more people taking pictures than booing.

Whose fans are tough? Since when are Mets fans notoriously tough? But the man's right: where are the boos?

“They just don’t care anymore,” SNY’s Gary Cohen said, with a distinct note of disappointment. “Most of them seem to care not much at all about performance-enhancing drugs.”

Which is a significant charge. The player just got caught for cheating and suspended for almost a third of the season... and nobody seems to care.

The camera panned the crowd, catching Dodgers fans wearing novelty caps with Manny dreads attached or waving signs welcoming their hero back from exile. Oh, there was a smattering of boos, but nothing remarkable. They weren’t even as loud as those showered on Mets starter Mike Pelfrey when he let the Dodgers jump out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth.

Well, at least the Mets fans are tough on their bad baseball players, if not on actual cheaters.

Cohen kept talking about it, as if the fans’ behavior was incomprehensible.

HatGuy keeps writing about Cohen, as if his reaction is somehow incomprehensible.

HatGuy is clearly on the side of the fans here - in fact, HatGuy is almost always on the side of popularity and what the ordinary mindless idiot fan thinks.
In an earlier post, pnoles notes that HG said there's "no freer spirit in the game" than Manny Ramirez.

Manny had been caught with a drug in his system that’s used to restore normal testosterone production after using steroids.

Fact. Good to see one of these in HatGuy's work.

He was slammed with a 50-game suspension that cost him more than $8 million.

Fact.

Though he has never tested positive for steroids, all the commentators are calling him a cheater who may never get in the Hall of Fame.

Debatable fact (given the word "all").

He’s sullied the game.

Opinion.
Actually, this is a rhetorical trick by old HatGuy - sticking an opinion with which he does not agree after a series of facts. He's making it seem like this is an obvious fact, so that he can set it up to question it.

You're tricky there, HatGuy, but I'm on to you!


He’s lower than a snake’s belly in a canyon.

Another quality HatGuy comparison. I thought he'd go with his old favorite comparison, but I imagine that snakes' bellies in canyons are pretty low. I thought maybe he would go with something creative and relevant, like "He's lower than Eliot Spitzer's moral compass" or even "He's lower than Eddie Gaedel's jockstrap".

Why aren’t the fans booing?

Because they don't care. Also because they don't care much about the game of baseball.

“Either they put it behind them or they didn’t care to start with,” Cohen finally decided with an almost audible shrug.

What does an audible shrug sound like? Also, Cohen's conclusions are correct.

We in the opinion business like to talk about how players don’t have a clue about just about everything — money, fame, contracts, respect, the real world.

We in the sarcastic blog business like to talk about how journalists don't have a clue about just about everything - sports, logic, basic conventions of English, writing skill, basic statistical maxims, the real world.

But on this subject, the guys in the electronic pulpits are the ones who are clueless, and have been for a long time.

Actually, HatMan, I'm not clueless, I'm just mad. I'm well aware that hordes of morons are baseball fans.

And calling a blog an "electronic pulpit" is amusing. There's an interesting dose of anti-evangelical sentiment in this particular article of HatGuy's. I mean, I always figured HatGuy believed in faith over reason, but maybe not.

I’ve been saying this for years: The fans don’t care.

Bloggers have been saying it for years: you're an idiot.

[I here omit three paragraphs of storytelling about what happened on Manny's return].

The real issue is the fans, who have been packing ballparks at record rates ever since chemically-enhanced players started hitting balls out of the park more than a decade ago. Scandal after scandal was going to destroy the game. Scandal after scandal has produced little more than a collective yawn.

That's the truth: the steroid scandal is not affecting baseball's bottom line and people are still coming out in droves. Even Bud has claimed that "this could be our greatest season". Now - that doesn't mean it's right. Just because people show up doesn't mean that steroids are not a problem and were not a problem.

HatGuy, the ultimate populists, equates moral correctness with popular opinion. I realize that I'm getting a bit preachy here, but isn't that a problem?

And this brings a larger issue to the table: is MLB's job to entertain its fans, or produce the best quality baseball on the planet? HatGuy says the former, I say the latter. If you ask me, too much of HatGuy's entertainment will destroy the quality of the baseball, whereas if the quality of the baseball is held high, it will certainly entertain the fans.

Oh, sure, you won’t have any trouble finding people on message boards and bar stools yawping about how these guys should be hung by their thumbs in Times Square and beaten like piƱatas with the Naked Cowboy’s guitar.

This is what you call humorous hyperbole, a standard tool in the writer's arsenal.

To them, the guys who cheated with steroids are the only people who ever broke the rules of the game.

No. This is what you call "stupid hyperbole", or a straw man logical fallacy. It's where you misrepresent your opponent's argument and then refute the misrepresentation.

The guys who stole signs, used corked bats, gobbled down amphetamines like they were M&Ms, threw cut balls, spitballs, scuff balls, emery balls and Vaseline balls weren’t cheating at all. They were just trying to win.

Not the same thing, HatGuy.

They’re a vocal minority, and their voices are amplified by commentators and columnists who are the baseball equivalent of creationists.

Woah.


Huh?


Did I just get called a "creationist" by the most illogical and unreasonable sportswriter on the entire interwebs?

The reason that all forms of cheating except using performance-enhancers are OK is because it’s written in some sacred book somewhere.

In fact, right here it states that all those types of illegal-substance-balls are clearly banned with the penalty of a ten-game suspension. HatGuy does not seem to know the rules of this game.

Or is he talking about an unwritten sacred book of sportswriters that are designed to crucify steroid users? I wonder who wrote this book. Probably Bill Simmons. I want a copy of this book.

Are there suspicions that anyone in the current game is throwing spitballs?

The book says that if a player takes something that helps him hit more home runs, he’s cheating. If he doesn’t hit more home runs, it doesn’t matter what he does.

Tell that to this list of guys, who were suspended for using corked bats.

Also, unless I am very mistaken, the use of the spitball has been effectively curtailed, putting pitchers on the same level playing field. Obviously, only now has steroid use been effectively curtailed.

Most fans don’t make such fine distinctions.

Most people don't make fine distinctions in anything. That hardly strengthens your argument.

They also don’t have their home pages set to baseball-reference.com and don’t give a rat’s patoot about the sacred numbers that give meaning to the lives of true believers everywhere.

I see what you're doing here, HatGuy. Really, this whole article is about HatGuy's praise of the common baseball fan and his criticism of the ivory-tower blogointellectualfan, who might actually know why OBP is important, or care that hardworking, reasonably-honest players' records are being surpassed by roiding sluggers.

HatGuy's homepage is probably yankees.com

I understand where the true believers are coming from, and it’s kind of touching that people can be so obsessive about it all.

You don't really believe that. Now you're patronizing me, you asshole.

Baseball, like physics, is numbers. There’s nothing in the game that hasn’t been broken down by the wonks and given mystical meaning.

I think balks have never been broken down by the wonks and given mystical meaning. But yes - anything that might have a bearing on how baseball games work and how they might turn out... might actually be fun to think about.

I have to admit, it’s pretty cool, and I’ve bought Bill James’ books and spent more time wandering around baseball-reference.com than is probably healthy.

I'm pretty impressed that he bought them, though he chooses his verbs carefully enough to suggest that maybe he didn't actually read them. And I have no doubt that HatGuy's exprience on b-r.com was truly wandering, since he never goes there with a focused research goal in mind.

But what leaps out at me in baseball’s immutable numbers is that they are always changing. You want unfair? How about 1930, when the National League hit better than .300 and the Giants as a team hit .319? You don’t think that skewed the numbers?

It did skew the numbers. As a result, baseball took action and introduced a less lively baseball in 1931, hoping to bring the game back into a normal competitive balance and preserve the integrity of the numbers.

1920, 1931, 1968... and now in the early 2000s, baseball has always taken steps to retain the competitive balance between hitters and pitchers, no matter what the fans have thought. That's why McGwire's 62nd in 1998 was such a big deal - because it was actually comparable to Ruth and Maris. What other sport can consider a statistical season in 2009 (Pujols possibly hitting 62) somewhat statistically comparable to a season in 1927?

The great majority of fans understand that in their guts. They’re sports fans, and baseball is the sport they follow in the summer.

I wonder if this is the case - are there more or less "dedicated baseball fans" than just "average sports fans who watch baseball in summer". But even then: the great majority of the fans probably still want Manny and other steroid users punished. But they still want to come to games.

They’re used to the collective yawn that greets steroid abusers in the NFL. Their interest in numbers is confined to how their fantasy teams are performing, and if one of their guys hits 89 home runs, they’re not going to complain about it.

Disagree. Well, maybe the home fans won't complain about it, but you can bet the rest of baseball will. See: San Francisco Giants fans.

They’re at the park not to worship numbers or to watch perfect human beings play a perfect game. They’re there to have a beer and a brat and cheer for the home team and have fun.

And go home and punch nerds in the face. For HatGuy, apparently enjoyment of the historical tradition and numerical comparison aspect of baseball is mutually exclusive with eating and drinking. I think I can do both.

In their view, Manny had a slip-up. He got caught. He paid for it. Now he’s back, and ain’t that grand?

Sort of, maybe if you like the Dodgers.

They love Manny because he’s a character who does goofy things and has crazy hair and hits the ball like few others ever have. Guys like him are the reason we buy tickets.

Wild generalization.

The fans got over it a long time ago. It’s getting to be time for those of us in the press box to do the same.

It's never going to be time for those of us in the FJM press box to get over your ignorance.




Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Process

Fans, let me tell you a little bit about how we here at FireJay go about finding articles to write about. They don't just fall into our laps....we've only had a few real gems e-mailed to us in our existence. Most often, we have to trudge on through many internets to find something worth writing about. Of course, we're exposed only to the title and the author before we actually click a link to read something. We'll ignore most of them, of course. There's some authors that we consider too consistently intelligent to ever make fun of. There's articles that are purely factual, that of course we pretty much ignore. It's pretty much all opinion columns from authors that haven't proven themselves to be consistently untouchable. Many times, we can't tell if an article is going to be terrible just from the title. But once every so often, we stumble onto a can't-miss "gem" of an awful article. One that no matter how it is subsequently written, it's in for disaster. You know, something like.......

Baseball Needs More Black Stars

Get ready for all the reverse-racism!!!

By Milton Kent

Milton Kent, you guys!

There's good news and bad news to report to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig from my family gathering this weekend.

For all you people out there that thought the Kent family gathering was an insignificant event in Bud Selig's life, well, JOKE'S ON YOU, MOTHERFUCKERS!

The good news is that John and Joshua, my 17 and 13-year-old great nephews like to play baseball.

I promise you, Bud Selig does not care.

The bad news: They don't like to watch it on television.

I promise you, Bud Selig does not care.

This means that John and Joshua, apparently like millions of other young black men, won't be tuned into tomorrow night's baseball All-Star Game, the annual midsummer showcase of the best and the brightest in the national pastime.

....tensions on the Korean peninsula have spiked since North Korea defiantly conducted its second nuclear explosion on May 25.

Sorry, Milton, what was that significant thing you were talking about?

For them, baseball's leisurely pace and distinct lack of hipness, not to mention the virtual absence of players they can relate to, makes the game a loser.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, Mister Jackass, but I'm guessing that 100% of the reason is the first two, and 0% of the reason is the third one. That's right. I know your great nephews better than you do. Your nephews play baseball, sir. They enjoy the sport. Oh, and by the way......me and LeBron James? Absolutely nothing in common. Can't relate to him at all. LOVE to watch him play basketball.

For decades, the history between baseball and blacks was a rich and meaningful one, from the Negro Leagues to Jackie Robinson's successful infiltration of the majors in 1947, an act that helped set the scene for the civil rights movement.

This has nothing to do with your title: "Baseball needs more black stars". Baseball is crashing and burning right now, yes? People turning it off to watch the WNBA?

In the 1960's, the list of great black players grew exponentially, and with the stardom of men like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Frank Robinson, my childhood hero, the bond between blacks and baseball grew ever stronger. In the part of Maryland where I grew up, pick-up Sunday afternoon baseball games among black men were all the rage come summertime, with decent crowds of spectators watching on makeshift wooden stands.

Baseball needs more black stars because Milton Kent needs pick-up Sunday afternoon baseball games among black men. No whites allowed!

However, as the popularity of the NFL and the NBA grew, the ties between African-Americans and baseball loosened to some degree. Older blacks, who remembered the game and its sociological importance, never left, but as they died off, they weren't replaced within the younger set.

This is an excellent point, sir. Time to strike up awareness in other things similar to this! Where are all the cries for more white people in the NBA? Didn't there used to be a strong history of white people in basketball? And hey, let's get more Asians in the NFL! There also needs to be more Latinos that play professional hockey!

You, Milton Kent, are a racist.

As a result, baseball stopped creating black stars. In the 1990's, either Ken Griffey, Jr. or Barry Bonds - both sons of former baseball players -- seemed to alternately hold the title as the game's best player.

Now you're saying blatantly wrong things! From 1991 - 1997, Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas were unquestionably the two best players in Major League Baseball. Not Griffey. Hey, Frank's black too! Doesn't he matter?

However, Griffey's repeated trips to the disabled list left him unable to sustain his greatness for a long period of time, while Bonds' presumed connection to baseball's steroid era has rendered him a less than credible role model.

Frank....Thomas?

Today, Hispanic players like St. Louis' Albert Pujols, and Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers are baseball's biggest stars.

What a complete and total tragedy.

Oddly, Michael Jordan may have held an important key to reestablishing baseball as a relevant force in the minds of young blacks. Jordan retired to pursue a career in baseball in 1994, and his charisma might have transferred a level of coolness to baseball for the hip-hop community. Instead, Jordan famously flamed out, never rising above the minor leagues, and an opportunity was lost.

You have to be the first person in history to attribute the fact that there are a small amount of African-Americans in the MLB, in some way, shape, or form, to the fact that Michael Jordan was bad at baseball.

The irony is that my great nephews' indifference comes amid signs that MLB's recent efforts to reconnect with the African-American community are starting to bear fruit.

Look, some people just don't care for baseball on TV. It's three hours long, and can be pretty slow sometimes. Your great nephews still clearly LIKE baseball.

Now in its 20th year, the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) program is a grassroots effort among the 30 Major League clubs to provide resources for urban youths who want to learn and play the game.

I am all for this. Everyone should have an opportunity to learn how to play baseball, regardless of family income. This is a great program.

Even though only 10 of the 71 players who were either voted or selected to tomorrow's All-Star game are African-American, there are a handful of budding black stars who could bring back the cool to baseball.

Holy shit. I have never read a more ignorant paragraph in my entire life.

Percentage of U.S. population that is black: 13.4%
Percentage of All-Star Game participants that are black: 14.1%

We need to reverse this tragedy! If black people don't rise to complete and utter dominance of the sport of baseball like they have in the NBA, the sport will die!

But the absolute worst part of this paragraph, Milton, and one of the most racist things I have ever read, is that you claim that baseball needs more black people to bring back the "cool" to baseball. You know what? David Wright and Evan Longoria are pretty fucking cool in my book too. If this was written by a white person, about white baseball players, they would be universally blasted verbally from here until eternity and probably presumed to be a member of the KKK.

The world champion Philadelphia Phillies have a pair of terrific players, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the 2007 National League Most Valuable Player, and first baseman Ryan Howard, who won the award in 2006. Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford is one of baseball's best all-around players, while Adam Jones, who roams centerfield for my Orioles, may actually lift the team over .500 for once.

If only they could just coax John and Joshua to put away their XBox and watch real baseball players play.


Better yet, you actually acknowledge that there are several legitimate African American stars in the game, and that your nephews STILL have no interest in watching them. C'mon now MLB. Less like Willie Bloomquist, more like Willie Harris.

Because this is a sensitive subject for some, I am pulling all of the sarcasm and anger for these closing thoughts.

Since you have great-nephews who are teenagers, Milton, I am assuming that you are an older dude, and have experienced a lot of the hardships and inequities that African-Americans have had to endure over the early/mid decades of the 20th century. I, as a young white male growing up in the late 20th/early 21st century, could never even begin to understand what any of that was like. But none of that changes how overly and ironically racist this article was. Baseball does not need more of any specific race of players. It needs the best players. Period.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All-Star Liveblog!

Here's a few thoughts on the ASG as it unfolds. All quotations are in italics, and are the best paraphrases I can accomplish, since I don't have a DVR.

First off, fuck the nearly hour-long pregame nonsense.
Second off, Obama's left-handed toss was a blooper that barely made it. [Note: I didn't see it till the replays in the second inning]. I think that explains why this country's so screwed up: we elected a southpaw. They can't even walk straight, or even live straight, in the case of Larry B.

Top of the first:

Some poor defense by the NL lets the AL sneak ahead 2-0. Albert Pujols, all-everything, commits the error that lets in a couple of runs. Nothing egregious in the commentary so far.

Bottom of the first.
A graphic calls Roy Halladay "The I-Beam of The Blue Jays". Really.
McCarver:
"We looked that up, I'm not an architect or anything, but it's supposed to be the structure of the house."
Well, I'm glad Tim admits that he looked something up - he's a step ahead of Joe Morgan. Still:
- Who made that stupid graphic?
- Neither of the broadcasters, who've been alive for fifty or so years... know what an "I-beam" is?

McCarver:
"Nobody has had numbers in his first nine years like Albert Pujols. Nobody."
Except this guy and this guy. But ok, Pujols is legendarily good. Not that bad.

Top 2:
lol, Halladay didn't bring a helmet. He's the starting pitcher! And the AL goes quietly.

Bottom 2:
Obama shows up in the booth in a White Sox jacket to chat with our esteemed team. In the course of this inning, Obama commits several FJM cardinal sins: admits that he doesn't hate the Cubs, admits he didn't play the game (wait, that's not one of our Cardinal sins), believes in parity in baseball, endorses the Phillies as a "scrappy team" and engages in blatant Hawaiian homerism.

I'm kidding. If I were the President I'd do the same thing. But shouldn't he be out saving the world?

"No bailout plan in place for the National League" - don't remember which of the two said this, but it's not funny.

Interesting move by Charlie Manuel spending Prince Fielder, perhaps his best pinch-hitter, with two out and a runner on second early in this game. But it pays off with Prince's double to left! Two-out rally plates three and the NL takes the lead.

Top 3
Ryan Franklin has a bizarre beard.

It seems like a lot of players are pulling the ball tonight - you'd think that with some of the hardest throwers in the game only having to go one or two innings, you'd see a lot of balls hit the other way. Maybe they're not throwing their hardest? Speculation.

AL goes in order.

Bottom 3
What happened in this inning?

Top 4
McCarver blathers on a long time about Haren's windup being hard to detect.

A single by Michael Young does nothing and this game is moving quickly.

A commercial by MasterCard comes on to show passionate fans. Of course it shows Cubs, Dodgers and, inexplicably, a Giants fan. Strange: Cubs and Dodgers fans are probably the most notorious fans in baseball for not actually being passionate about baseball.

Bottom 4
At 37, the oldest nonpitcher to make an ASG debut since Babe Ruth (why does nobody note that there was no game for Ruth to make?). The roider fouls out.

Spoiler: The answer to the trivia question is Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby.


Zach Grienke's sick stuff makes the NL look bad, striking out the next two. I wish he still had social anxiety disorder. Did doctors name it that just for the obvious acronym?

Top 5
Crawford leads off with a single. McCarver discusses his speed, comparing him to Lou Brock.
Buck: "Imagine how fast he'd be if he pulled his pants up."

McCarver: "Lou Brock always had his pants up high."

Damn kid
s these days and their fashion.

Also, Jeter apparently cried when Chris Webber called timeout. What a pansy. I thought this was true.


Joe Mauer double ties the game. That Joe Mauer is quite the American. Pujols' diving stop keeps it tied.

Bottom 5:

This inning was uneventful.

Top 6
A 4-6-3 and Hoffman gets some useless revenge against Michael Young. Game still tied at 3. I'm almost bored, except for these exciting commercials that remind me that somehow MLB is making piles and piles money off this.

Also, I note that I hate pretty much every commercial, even ones that try to be funny. I think it's because I hate the public to which these companies are trying to appeal. Also, these bullshit "passion for the game" commercials that show a bloody sock or Derek fucking Jeter diving into a bullpen make me sick
. I'm sure it makes hordes of morons want to go drink Gatorade and buy Nike products, but they piss me off.

Anyone who buys Daughtry albums can go hug a cactus already.

Bottom 6
Here's a quote taken out of context, because I missed the context:
McCarver: "How come you didn't tweet me that day?"


Here's a picture taken out of context:



NL goes quietly.

Top 7
Cordero shows a little Reds pride. Shuts down the AL and this one's turning into a barn burner.

Bottom 7:
This is the most uneventful liveblog ever. Nobody's said anything really stupid. Carl Crawford did just make a sick catch, though.

Top 8:
This is where I had to stop watching the game. Fortunately, Larry B watched the rest of it and provided me with a few good quotes:

McCarver, re: Kevin Youkilis: "
You can make a case that he's the most VALUABLE (emphasis Tim's) player in the league this year - by which I mean, look at his salary. Only 6 million a year for his level of production! Then, look at what A-Rod and Mark Teixeira make- $52 million between them!"

Really, Tim? This guy is making $439,000 this year. This guy is probably making about that much - made $408,000 last year. That's a lot more valuable per-dollar than Youkilis. Basically any decent young pre-arbitration player is going to rank higher than Youkilis on this list.

Later: 2 on, 2 out for the NL in the bottom of the 8th.
Joe Buck: "Francisco Rodriguez warming up, just in case"
Larry B: "Just in case? You mean when he has to pitch the top of 9th no matter what happens this half inning?"

Larry B later suggested that Joe Buck was ignorant of the fact that Mr. Rodriguez does not, in fact, pitch in the American League any more, and his job as the Angels' closer has been taken over by Mr. Brian Fuentes, a left-handed sidearm slinger.

[Late edit from Larry B, since dan bob didn't tell the whole story: it was abundantly clear after Buck made that comment that he was clueless as to the fact that K-Rod is no longer with the Angels. When he first said it, I was a bit confused because of, you know, the fact that the NL was the home team. But immediately after he said it, they flashed to the AL bullpen where we see Fuentes warming up. So in Buck's I-don't-give-a-shit-about-baseball-and-there-is-no-way-I-should-ever-call-another-World-Series-game-again brain, he sees Angels reliever, he assumes K-Rod. It's a cherry on top that Fuentes is a lefty submariner and K-Rod has a distinctive righty overhand throw. Seriously, fuck Joe Buck and fuck FOX for making him call baseball games when he clearly doesn't give a shit about them. Just let him stick to football, I don't care how good/famous his dad was.]

And the National League loses again. Dammit.




Monday, July 13, 2009

Bill Simmons is the Most Popular "Sports" Columnist on all teh Internets

See what I did there with the quotation marks? Anyways, that popularity is generated by efforts like this train wreck of a mailbag.

SG: Take it from someone who worked on a late-night talk show for 18 months: Celebrities are staggeringly, improbably short. It's bizarre. I always wanted to play in Garry Shandling's weekend pickup game just so I could play center once in my life.

What? Bill worked on a late night talk show? Whose show was it? I've never heard a peep about this. Seriously though, how self-congratulatory and/or insecure can one quasi-famous guy get? Look, Bill, it didn't work out for you. Probably because you're not that funny, you're certainly not that creative, and you're almost definitely a huge pain in the ass to work with. Move on and enjoy your job as a sportswriter who doesn't even bother to write about sports. You can stop telling people about the "failed TV writer" portion of your life. Sheesh.

(And by the way, I am 6-foot-1½. See? You didn't know that! I'm taller than you thought, aren't I? Admit it. ADMIT YOU CARE!)

DIE.

Q: I started a new job today and I found a copy of your recent column in the men's bathroom stall. I think this job is a keeper!
-- Derek L., Houston

Baseball's All Star weekend is here, NBA free agency is underway, so is the Tour de France, the U.S. Open was a couple weeks ago and the British Open is this weekend (if you're into golf, which I'm not, but I assume at least a few fat old white guys send emails to Bill), Roger Federer just broke a very significant record, and the NFL season is on the horizon. But no. We don't have time or column space to discuss those topics because Bill needed to print an irrelevant ass-kissing email from some clod whose day was made by a computer printout he found while taking a dump.

Q: Do you, Kimmel, Carolla and Cousin Sal have a name for yourselves? If not, I suggest the Crap Pack.
-- Jason, Philadelphia

Say, you may not have heard this, but Bill used to write for a couple of B list TV personalities. It's a part of his life he doesn't really make a big deal out of, though, so you'll have to pay close attention if you want to catch him talking about it.

SG: (Searching for a comeback …)

(Hoping some moron TV executive is reading this, and gives me another shot ...)

Q: I was getting on a plane to Vegas recently for a guys' weekend when I noticed some schmuck in first class who looked like a perfect cross between Pat O'Brien and Danny Bonnaducci [sic]. I was fascinated the whole flight and couldn't wait to tell my friends when we met up. We ultimately named him Bon O'Briduchi and for 72 hours of liver-killing shananigans, he was the invisible fifth guy in our group. We even tried to find similar real guys on the Strip and would make jokes like "Sure, that guy looks like he enjoys drinking, fighting and getting crazy with hookers, but he's no Bon O'Briduchi." In fact, my friend actually bought a round of five beers instead of four and justified it by saying, "Bon just went to take a leak, he'll be back in a minute." We ultimately decided that Bon now resides with such legendary fictional alcoholics/sex addicts such as Norm Peterson, Glenn Quagmire and Joey Buddafucco [sic].
-- Dave, Denver

Dave from Denver should be sterilized, placed in a crate of some kind, and shipped to Siberia so that he cannot reproduce and runs a minimal risk of annoying anyone. Yes, these are Bill's readers- who I'm guessing don't behave all that differently in public than Bill himself.

Q: I have no idea why, but I have a massive S&M crush on you. With other men, including my boyfriend, I'm pretty normal, but something about you makes me want to tie you up and have fun with you. It's weird. This is not a drunk e-mail, or a high one, or anything like that. Can I get a "Yup, these are my readers?"
-- Jennifer, Atlanta

Woo hoo! Sports!

Q: Hey Bill, I saw your man Ray Allen at a bar in Hartford on Saturday night. After getting over the shock of seeing him, my boyfriend turned to me, very serious, and said, "OK, go have sex with Ray Allen and tell me how it is." Would you make that offer to the Sports Gal for any sports figure? If you did would she be offended? Because I wasn't, and I think maybe I should have been.
-- Jen S., Newington, Conn.

Hey, at least this one involved an athlete. I only included a very small sample of the questions in this massive pile of suck of a column, so let me justify my use of sarcastically suggestive quotation marks in the post's title by breaking down the mailbag by questions per topic.

MLB- 1
NBA- 8
NHL- 2
NFL- 1
Other sports/sports in general- 5
Assholes kissing up to Bill/talking about Bill- 4
Shit that has not a fucking thing to do with sports- 9

Five of the NBA ones were quick one liner sour grapes cheap shots at the Lakers. Throw those out and we've got a mailbag written by a sports columnist on the country's most popular sports website that's almost that's almost half about sports. Keep those one liners in, and that percentage skyrockets up near sixty! Why is this happening? How can this man be so useless and yet so popular? The answer is simple, and also happens to be the answer to any number of random questions I find myself asking the cosmos on any given day: America is full of people who are fucking stupid. There's nothing more to it. For example, that's why there are millions out there who don't believe Barry Bonds used steroids. And why Chris Berman is still being hired to announce the Home Run Derby. BACKBACKBACKBACKBACK

GAWWWWWWNNNNNN

THAT ONE WENT ALL THE WAY TO EAST SAINT LOUIS, ILLINOIS

I'm pretty sure that at this point the main reason Bill is still employed by ESPN is so that Rick Reilly looks intelligent and heavily invested in sports by comparison.