Monday, May 31, 2010

Jon Heyman Makes the Big Bucks For a Reason

Roy Oswalt has demanded a trade. Jon, how's that going to shake out?

While it's logical that Oswalt should go (possibly along with longtime teammate Lance Berkman), there's no guarantee that he will, and there are two very good reasons for this:

So there's no way we can be sure that events in the future can happen. They might, or they might not. We can't make any guarantees. Constantly acknowledging this reality is known as "Morgan Syndrome."

1) There's no guarantee that Astros owner Drayton McLane wants to trade Oswalt, despite Oswalt's wishes; and

See: above.

2) there's no guarantee that the Astros can find the right trading partner, considering the $31 million remaining on Oswalt's contract through next season, teams' general unwillingness to spend big bucks while also surrendering top prospects, and frankly, no obvious matches.

See: above. And please note that $31 MM for a guy of Oswalt's caliber is chump change for the Yankees. You can probably throw the Red Sox, Giants, Cubs, Nationals, and Mets onto a list (not that the Mets will have any use for him) of teams that would be more than happy to find a way to make a trade for Oswalt work. The Dodgers would be on the list if not for the messy McCourt divorce. I'm sure whichever teams are interested and the Astros will bullshit around the bush about what kinds of deals they're willing to accept for the next few weeks/couple of months, but if Houston is in last place in July, I'm pretty sure he'll move.

In the meantime, Jon, feel free to continuously remind us that there's no way to be absolutely sure what's going to happen in this crazy, wacky, post 9/11 world of ours.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Great Moments in Sports Journalism Ledes

From Pete Prisco's article about overrated and underrated NFL players:


The word isn't very nice, but let's face it: There are a lot of things overrated.

There's sushi, the first snow, New Year's Eve, Bruce Springsteen, Julia Roberts and dark beers.

Oh, and plenty of NFL football players.

By contrast, there are also a lot of underrated things. Some of them are: The first bite of pizza, a hot shower, a cold beer after a round of golf and tree-ripe peaches.
Oh, and plenty of NFL football players.

Now THAT'S sportswriting!

Friday, May 28, 2010


Seriously, sports media- give it a goddamn motherfucking rest. This is not basketball, where height is usually integral to one's performance. This is not football, where height is a huge asset for QBs, WRs, CBs, and DEs. This is not boxing or MMA. This is a sport where players on opposing teams make physical contact with one another about once every 40 games. This is a sport where being short provides a key advantage to a hitter (smaller strike zone) and doesn't exact hurt a second baseman's ability to field ground balls cleanly. Hell, soccer has way more physical contact in it than baseball, and short guys thrive there as high paid/high profile finishers. Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi are both like 4'7". Pedroia deserves plenty of press for being a good player. He deserves absolutely none because of his height. Let's keep it that way. Right after I tear apart this article that some clown named Tim Brown wrote for Yahoo.

Pedroia stands tall for Boston

There was a time when the soul of the Boston Red Sox would be found within broad shoulders and towering frames, amid men who filled the role as they did the uniform.

Men who were complete and total assholes, like Ted Williams and Jim Rice.

Now there’s Dustin Pedroia.

Such deft juxtaposition! My head is spinning. Also- Pedroia is the only short star the Red Sox have ever had in their 100+ year history.

So, the organization leans a little more toward Kevin Youkilis and, of course, to Pedroia, who might not fill the uniform, but does the role as the new soul of the Red Sox.

He does fill the fucking uniform. It's a slightly smaller uniform than most MLB players wear. WHAT PERSEVERANCE AND HEART HE SHOWS JUST BY TAKING THE FIELD. Jesus Lord of all that is holy in heaven. The guy went to Arizona State, pretty much the best college baseball program of all time. This is not an underdog story. Stop trying to make it one. At least when writers get all up in Eckstein's jock, they're talking about a guy who isn't particularly good at the MLB level. Pedroia is good. He's been good for three years.

It is one thing to be league MVP (Pedroia was two seasons ago), another to lead a clubhouse splashed in champions,


another still to get behind and push from an exaggeratedly reported 5-foot-9, with sloped shoulders over a body that, kindly, is less-than-classically constructed.

Oh my! Billy Beane would cringe at this description. A non-classically constructed body? Send him to the glue factory.

“I don’t know,” Pedroia said. “I just try to show up every day and play hard. That’s pretty much all every player can do.

Besides be tall.

We show up, play to win. If we win, we win. If we lose, you know, we try to go get ‘em tomorrow. Your attitude always has to be good and you have to do the little things to be a championship team. That’s what I’ve had to do my whole life to be successful.

You mean you haven't constantly focused on your physical stature, and tried to overcome the rough hand life dealt you?

The little things, that’s the biggest part of baseball.”

Right. The little things, like you.

“He’s a competitor, man,” Lackey said. “The dude is one of the most intense, driven players I’ve ever been around. His baseball sense is as high as I’ve ever seen.”

About that size, Lackey said, “He’s doing all right with it, isn’t he?”

I doubt this is really the case, but I hope that was Lackey subtly telling Brown "Why don't you go write about something else, you clod. No one cares that he's two or three inches shorter than many HOFers who never got this kind of attention."

“We’re grinding, man,” Pedroia said.

Of course they are. They can only follow their soul.

You're atrocious. You make me want to read a Rick Reilly column about a dwarf long jumper who was born blind but still made his high school track team.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hey, Yankees/Mets!

I started this post intending to write a meticulously analyzed breakdown of the performance of the announcers of tonight's Sunday Night Baseball. [In an astonishing move that will be questioned for years to come, ESPN decided to air the Yankees/Mets game!] Only on this blog is it laudable to spend a few hours watching a sports game and then not writing about the sports.

Top of the 3rd
Morgan: "I've never seen Jeter with his average so low. It has been at times, but I've never seen him play when it was this low."

Who cares if you actually saw him play when his average was low, Joe? Jeter promptly ripped a single to right.

Bottom of the 3rd
Miller: "Actually, Jeter's Zone Rating has gone up the last few years, even though he's had trouble going to his left on a couple of balls tonight."
Morgan:"I don't know anything about Zone Ratings and all that, I just watch a guy and see how he's moving, and he did not move too quickly on that."

This is just good old fashioned JoeTalk, demonstrating ignorance of statistical terms that are (a) very relevant to his profession and (b) not all that hard to comprehend. It's been awhile since we had a good dose of Joe on this site, and it makes me yearn for the good old days.

I got kind of distracted as the game went on, so I don't really have any more silliness to report. But hey! Joe is still alive and kicking and he hasn't destroyed the Reds yet, so so far, so good!

And since this post is so short, I'll embed a video that I found while scrolling through the old FJM:

Also, RIP Jose Lima.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Melissa Isaacson Annoys Me While Saying Something I Generally Agree With

Here's the thing: Brian Urlacher is not my favorite guy off the field. He can't keep his haploids from making diploids with trashy women. He pops off at the mouth. He looks like a bad guy in a Steven Segal movie. All that sort of thing. The dustup he's had recently with Gale Sayers is no exception--Urlacher thinking that taking shots at an all-time great for "not having won anything" will function as a comeback to Sayers's critiques of the current Bears team kind of typifies why Urlacher's a shithead.

So I agree in principle with Melissa Isaacson's column on why Urlacher is an asshole in this incident. But that just makes the trainwreck that is her column all the more difficult to watch.

For a big, tough linebacker, Brian Urlacher sure is sensitive.

Gale Sayers speaks nothing but the truth in answering questions at a banquet two weeks ago in Omaha, Neb., and next thing he knows, he is being torn apart by a guy who needs to stop getting annoyed by comments he thinks are mean and unfair and concentrate on making his team respectable.

Off to a smashingly snarky start, Melissa. I'm going to go ahead and nominate that second "paragraph" for "most awkwardest sentence of the year award."

Sayers told the Chicago Tribune he was just being honest. Good grief, the guy wasn't even being controversial.

Isaacson can't really be this stupid right? Since when is an ex-superstar ripping an organization "not controversial"? Isaacson is trying to make the point that what Sayers said in his critique is "true" and therefore not controversial:

"[Jay] Cutler hasn't done the job," Sayers said.

Um, that would be true.

"Urlacher, I don't know how good he's going to be coming back [from surgery]," Sayers continued. "He's [32] years old [this Tuesday]. They need a couple wide receivers, a couple defensive backs. They haven't done a good job."


"If Lovie [Smith] doesn't do it this year, I think he's gone," Sayers said in answering another question and giving his opinion, which is basically acknowledged as fact.

"He had a good team the Super Bowl year. Nothing came together for him the last couple years."

Stop the presses.


For these factual observations, Urlacher found it necessary to rip one of the most revered players in Bears history.

...but clearly that misses the point. What is eminently obvious is that the controversy of the statement comes from Sayers' decision to speak up in the first place and rip the organization--right or wrong. Something Urlacher explicitly commented on in his remarks:

"Does it bother me? There are enough people throwing daggers at us right now. Why does one of our ex-players have to jump in? There are enough experts talking [expletive] about us, so why does a Bear, an all-time great, have to jump in? I just don't like that."

And for the record let me take a Melissa Isaacson-like look at the "validity" of Urlacher's comments. I'll try to maintain the classic Isaacson snark:

"Let me ask you a question: 'How many championships did Gale Sayers win?'" Urlacher told the Tribune in one of the least classy retorts in memory.

"How many playoff games did he win when he played? None. None. None

Um, that would be true. Stop the presses.

Anyway, more Isaacson, in response to Urlacher's comments about Sayers's failure to make the playoffs:

Boo-hoo. Now Urlacher is bragging about making it to the Super Bowl and being embarrassed. Sorry, doesn't work that way around here.

Wow. I knew the NFL was a bottom-line league, but I didn't realize that someone who's made the playoffs 3 times in his 10 year career and led his team to a Super Bowl had absolutely nothing to hang his hat on. Sorry, Brian--Melissa's not impressed with your resume unless you win the Super Bowl. I'm anxiously anticipating her thoughts on LaDainian Tomlinson.

Hall of Famer Dan Hampton joined Hall of Famer Dick Butkus in talking about Hall of Famer Sayers and telling Urlacher to grow up.

"This is the overarching point," Hampton said. "You can't have thin skin if you can't win. That's just the way it is. Buddy Ryan used to say, 'We're not in the business of playing football, we're in the business of winning games.

"Ultimately, [the Bears] haven't been successful in three years. However you want to cut it, those are the facts. Gale Sayers just had the audacity to point it out."

The only reasonable words in this column are the ones penned neither by Isaacson, Urlacher, or Sayers. You know what the difference between Hampton's comments and Sayers's comments is, Melissa (or the difference between Sayers's comments and an ESPN analyst saying the same thing)? There was a reason for Hampton to give them. There is absolutely no reason for an ex-star to call the team out on the carpet besides being a self-important asshole (which, incidentally, Sayers has shown himself to be time and again).

Sayers was not just admired, he was beloved. And after just six seasons, he was a legend, a player whose legacy has never dimmed, even in the shadow of Walter Payton's greatness.

So fucking what? Sayers was a phenomenal running back who everybody loved. I guess that means it's beyond the realm of possibility that he could ever do anything wrong.

No, that's clearly a low blow and not really relevant. I just wanted to post that picture. But seriously, plenty of world class athletes and class act individuals tend to pop off at the mouth upon retiring. Hank Aaron was a fantastic human being as a ballplayer and one of my all time heroes but after retirement he sometimes fell into the habit of giving his unsolicited, cranky old man opinion with eye-roll inducing results. He's softened a bit as the years went on and he's never been as bad as Sayers, but the point is that talking about how great a guy Sayers was 40 years ago when he was still in the spotlight and everything was smiles and lollipops really doesn't do anything to mitigate him being that obnoxious know it all from the living room coach--only with a voice in the MSM that you have to listen to.

You want tough? Try playing on Sayers' knees in the days before advances such as arthroscopy and the sort of therapy taken for granted by players like Urlacher, whose career could have been over after his neck injury, and again last year, if he had been playing in the '60s.

And Sayers's career would probably have been over much earlier if linebackers in the 1960's weighed 275 pounds and ran mid-4's 40 yard dashes. Big fucking whoop.

Sayers has earned the right to make whatever observations he wants to make about his former team for as long as he lives, the least of which benign comments that happen to be true.

I guess that's technically true insofar as he lives in America and the first amendment is still in play (even though da guvment don't like it!), but as far as "being a good player and a generally good guy" giving him license to be an asshole without getting called on it? Not so much.

"You're part of building a huge company, you're ultra-successful, you retire and the thing goes into crapper," Hampton said. "You're offended; you resent it. If you didn't care, you wouldn't say a word.

"The doublespeak part of the whole thing is since Gale and Dick Butkus didn't win a Super Bowl, maybe they don't have the right to say anything. Well, I beg to differ. Their rings say 'Hall of Famer,' and last time I checked, that was a pretty select group."

That's an absolutely reasonable rebuttal to Urlacher's utterly obnoxious comments. Too bad Isaacson couldn't follow Hampton's lead.

Clearly Urlacher is touchy because neither he nor his team has played close to anyone's expectations the last three years. Maybe because he smells the end of a career that, while impressive overall, individually speaking, still doesn't feel fulfilled. Or maybe because the Bears gave him $6 million guaranteed in a signing bonus last summer, he'll get more than $22 million the next three years and he feels guilty.

Or maybe not.

She gets paid to write this.

Isaacson closes with another solid, reasonable quote from Hampton about if Urlacher doesn't like it he should go 14-2, which is the only intelligent move she makes in this column. But the damage is done. What a steaming turd this column is

Thursday, May 20, 2010


It slipped right past me, because I am too busy living in my parents' basement and eating junk food, but FireJay recently turned three years old. Hard to believe. In case anyone was wondering, even though we don't post as often anymore, we are still part of the "blogosphere."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A New Low for "Irony"

To fucktarded members of the sports media, lots of things are ironic. Things that are coincidences are ironic. "Ironically, he played a really great game just one night after playing a really awful game!" Things that are interesting are ironic. "Ironically, this will be the first time he's played against his former team since they traded him to his new team for a bag of magic beans!" But tonight, as I listened to the Yankees/Red Sox game on WCBS radio while driving cross country via rental car (hey, YOU try finding something else to listen to on AM/FM radio in the middle of East Bumfuck County, Pennsylvania), I heard Yankees broadcaster John Sterling take "irony" to a whole new level.

Side note: hey Chris W, isn't the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry so rich and full of history?

Other side note: Sterling's broadcast partner is still Suzyn Waldman. I thought they fired her for crying on the air during a postgame show. OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS. OF ALL... OF ALL THE DRAMATIC NON-FIRINGS I'VE EVER SEEN.

Anyways, here's what happened during the game: bottom of the ninth. Yankees down a run. Guys on 1st and 3rd, one out. Batter hits a weak grounder back to the pitcher, whose only play is to first. Now there are guys on 2nd and 3rd with two outs. John, your analysis?

And the irony of the situation is that a single will now win the game.


The basic reality/facts of any given situation, as well as any cause/effect relationships you can identify in one, are now ironic. I was hungry this morning, so ironically, I ate breakfast. It was ironic that because Barack Obama won the Democratic primary race in 2008, he became the Democratic nominee for president. Ironically, getting into field goal range when you're down two with 0:01 left on the clock in the 4th quarter gives you a chance to win a game. (A FOOTBALL game on a FOOTBALL field, to be specific.) Thanks John.

Is there anything left that's not "ironic?"

[Note: I'm almost willing to imagine a scenario in which John was trying to indicate that before the productive out, a single would have only tied the game, but after, even though an out is a "bad" play, a single will now win the game. So in that sense the bad play had a good outcome. Which wouldn't really be ironic, in the context of baseball, but would be in the vague neighborhood of irony. Almost. I think it's about a billion times likelier, however, that he was just throwing the word around for the fuck of it. I dunno. If you want to defend him, go for it. I have my theory and I'm sticking to it.]

Sunday, May 16, 2010

(Double!) Short Bullshit Post

Argh, don't have anything substantial to riff on so I'll just make it short with a couple general complaints. I'll do a full writeup of something shitty later in the week. Suggestions welcome in the comments.

1) This complaint pretty much speaks for itself- Chris Berman hosted Sportscenter tonight. Seriously. First time I've seen him on there in more than a year. Guess what? He was terrible. Fuck that chodemunch. Hacky, unfunny, and unnecessarily drew attention to himself. BACKBACKBACKBACKBACKGAWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNN OH GOD I AM A WORTHLESS PECKERHEAD. I can't believe he used to pretty much be the network's "go to" guy for highlights (like 15, 20 years ago). And I can't believe he still gets to do NFL Live every fall. Thank God MLB network is so good. I can turn to their Baseball Tonight-ish show to get my fix in that department, and reluctantly turn back to ESPN if absolutely necessary for other sports.

2) This is a complaint that requires a little more nuance. Are real horse racing fans as hung up on the fact that there hasn't been a Triple Crown winner in however many years as most major sports websites make them out to be? Do they care that much? Are they desperate for it? The media really makes it seem like it's a huge deal- and if that's the case, I don't think I understand why. I don't care about horse racing (in fact I despise it) so I can't relate directly. But I can relate, at least to some extent, by thinking about how much I care about very rare accomplishments in sports I do like a lot.

When the Patriots went 16-0, I didn't care. Not because I despise the Patriots, but because it's not a big deal to me to see a team accomplish that very rare feat. To make a better example, I don't hate or like the Colts, but I've never been super excited to see them open 10-0, 12-0, whatever. I'm not sitting here, hoping some team goes undefeated for a season just for the sake of it. Doesn't matter to me.

How about someone in baseball hitting .400? That hasn't been done in forever, but it's not like I find myself being really excited when Mauer or someone else is over .400 in June. Whatever. It's just not that compelling to me. Same goes for long hit streaks. Didn't Ryan Zimmerman get to 35 or something last summer? I actually kind of like the Nationals, but I wasn't desperately hoping he'd get into the 50s.

Of course, these analogies are imperfect for a number of reasons. The football one isn't great, because I have a favorite football team, whereas many horse fans hoping for a Triple Crown don't have a favorite and will just root for whoever wins the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness and Belmont. And the baseball ones are about secondary accomplishments, not winning "championships." But still- are horse racing fans really super hung up on this? Are they desperate to see that accomplishment just for the sake of seeing the accomplishment? Would they feel OK seeing it if it was done by a relatively unimpressive horse against terrible competition, as opposed to an all time great horse against good competition? I don't know. I certainly won't lose sleep about it, but I do wonder.

Long story short: horse racing is fucking stupid and I wish it would leave major sports media coverage forever. Keep it where it belongs: as a place for gambling addicts to squander their last few dimes before telling their wives to divorce them and to please take the kids.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rick Reilly Chooses His Examples Poorly

Now, I don't support Jeff Ireland asking Dez Bryant if his mother's a prostitute. By no means do I think that's an acceptable thing to ask. I'm trying to think of a context where that question would be acceptable. Maybe if right before Ireland asked it, Bryant had said, "...and just last night my mother had sex for money like she very often does." But even in that circumstance it would probably be over the line to ask a question like that. And the question is certainly not acceptable, in my opinion, in the interest of "gathering character information to protect his investment" as Ireland claimed his query was.

THAT SAID, if you were going to take the guy to task for this, as Rick Reilly attempts to do in his ESPN column, you might want to choose your counterpoints a little more carefully than the Million Dollar Man does. Let's check it out!

Let's play a game. I'll describe a childhood, and you figure out who had it.

Person No. 1 -- Raised in his grandmother's brothel, the son of a prostitute, he was raped by a neighbor at 6 and molested by a Catholic priest during catechism.

Person No. 2 -- Considered useless and distant, teachers wrote of him, as noted in Catherine Hurley's "Could do Better": "Certainly on the road to failure … hopeless … rather a clown in class … wasting other pupils' time."

Person No. 3 -- Raised in the brothel run by his aunt, he was once sent home from school for "insufficient clothes" and was arrested at 15 for breaking into cars.

Give up?

1. Richard Pryor.
2. John Lennon.
3. James Brown.
Arguably the greatest comedian, songwriter and soul singer of the 20th century, respectively.

The question isn't: "Why did Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland ask Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant if his mom was a prostitute?" The question is: "Why should it matter?"

You're not drafting the mom, you're drafting the son!

Well, like I said, I agree with Reilly's general point but let's look at his counterexamples--all great "artists" (depending on how willing you are to call a joke-teller an artist) to be sure, but perhaps poor examples of people suited to the level of discipline required to be an NFL superstar. Let's take a photojournalistic look at Reilly's examples.

1. Richard Pryor

2. John Lennon

3. James Brown

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Never before in the history of sports have a city's NBA, NHL, and MLB teams all lost on the same day. Ever. So let's all cut Bill Simmons some slack and let him wallow in self-pity, OK? Or, alternatively, let's review some of his tweets from yesterday and laugh at them.

Tonight: Huge C's home playoff game, B's playing for Conf Finals, big Sox-Yanks Fenway tilt... Are we back in the mid-80's?

He's so excited!
Also, other than 1986, there were no seasons during the "mid" 80s (assuming neither 1981 nor 1988 counts) during which both the Red Sox and Yankees finished within 10 games of making the playoffs. Anyways, let's move to the middle of the Cavs/Celtics game.

Early start + awful traffic + late-arriving crowd + Jay-Z + locked-in LeBron + pro-Cle refs + flat Pierce = this sucks.

THE REFS AHHHHH AGAINST US! THE LEAGUE HATES US! Granted, the league probably wants LeBron to win a title. But I doubt they'd shed any tears if the Celtics won the series.

(This exchange sums it up.) My Dad: "Nate gave us a spark." Me: "We're down 26!" Dad: "Yeah, but we were down 30."

I hate you, Bill's dad. You sound like a twatmunch. So how did the day finish up?

It's official: Black Friday in Boston. Glad I flew cross-country to be here. I'm gonna go wander in traffic.

BLACK FRIDAY. WOE IS US. THE BRUINS ARE ONLY UP 3-1 IN THEIR SERIES, THE CELTICS ARE DOWN 2-1, AND THE RED SOX LAWST A SINGLE GAME IN A 162 GAME SEASON. What a fucking loser Bill is. It boggles my mind. This is almost as hilarious as last October, when the Patriots lost and the Red Sox were knocked out of the playoffs on the same day, making it "Black Sunday."

And ate a whole wheel of cheese. I'm not even mad. RT @sehart: LBJ just pooped in your refrigerator.

Like in that movie that everyone has seen and likes to quote!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bob Nightengale makes generally valid point, chooses terrible examples and sample sizes to make it with

Everyone knows it's anywhere from slightly- to significantly harder to pitch in the AL than in the NL. Period. If you don't believe that, you're wrong. I don't dispute the main thesis of this article by Bob Nightengale. But look at the hilariously awful examples he uses to make his case:

Philadelphia Phillies starter Roy Halladay, out of the AL East, is mowing down the NL as if he were a reincarnation of Bob Gibson. He's 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA, pitching three complete games and two shutouts

Last I checked, Halladay was a pretty exceptional pitcher in the AL. Pitching in the toughest division in the toughest league in baseball, he's certainly had stretches where he's put up similar numbers over 6 starts. Unless Nightengale is suggesting the NL East has transofrmed Halladay into a 1.47 ERA pitcher over an entire season. Which....he's not

Oh, and sample size.

Carlos Silva was 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA the last two years for the Seattle Mariners. Traded for outfielder Milton Bradley, he is 2-0 with a 2.90 ERA in five starts for the Chicago Cubs

Carlos Silva

a.) Is a notoriously fast starter
b.) Put up his best years in the....American League
c.) Bob Nightengale isn't really suggesting that a league change is the difference between going 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA and going undefeated with a 2.90 ERA, is he?

Oh, and sample size.

Javier Vazquez, a 15-game winner with a 2.87 ERA with the Atlanta Braves last year, is 1-3 with a 9.78 ERA for the New York Yankees, who will push back his next start.

Once again, must be the league that accounts for a 7.00 ERA differential. Anyone who has ever followed baseball ever knows that the knock on Vazquez is that he's mentally soft and can't pitch in big games (or for big teams). Terrible example.

Oh, and sample size.

The Los Angeles Angels' Joel Pineiro, a 15-game winner for the St. Louis Cardinals last year, is yielding a .320 batting average and has a 5.76 ERA, allowing 21 hits and 15 earned runs in 9⅓ innings in his last two starts.

Ah yes, Pineiro's regression has everything to do with his league and not the fact that his 2009 was way off his career numbers--and therefore likely to be difficult to maintain--and that he was working with a coach who is renowned for wringing solid years out of shitty pitchers.

Oh, and sample size.

Ben Sheets, after eight years with Milwaukee, is 1-3 with a 7.12 ERA for Oakland. Rich Harden, who left the Cubs, has allowed 44 baserunners in 23⅔ innings for the Texas Rangers.

Not like Sheets isn't coming off a season where he didn't play at all, right? But it must be the AL/NL thing. And Harden? He just threw a gem last night. But that must be because the American Leagues is a notoriously streaky league.

Oh yeah and:

2009 with the Cubs Harden went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA (and a 1.34 WHIP, and a 2.5 K/BB for those semi nerds among us)

2005, his last full season with the American League Hard To Pitch For A's Harden went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA (and a 1.06 WHIP and 2.8 K/BB)

Oh and sample s....well you get the point.

Look clearly the AL is more difficult to pitch in than the NL--for one there's the DH. I mean it just intuitively makes sense. And my general impression is that studies show it's about a 1 run difference between leagues, favoring NL pitchers. But if you're going to make that argument, why not use actual evidence. Not just swaths of 5-7 starts from pitchers with myriad other explanations for their success/failure besides "dey switched to day easier/harder league!"

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Phillies Will Pay Ryan Howard $25 MM Per Year During His Age 34, 35, and 36 Seasons

(Apologies to the three of you who read this shitty blog via RSS feed. This is a repost, because some of the HTML in the old version of the post got messed up when I tried to edit something. Since I know nothing about HTML, I figured the best solution was to burn the whole thing to the ground and start over. ANYWAYS- the Phillies will Howard an awful lot of money when he's 34, 35, and 36, and....)

That's kind of dumb. It's roughly what A-Rod (by which I mean PAY-Rod, GAY-Rod, A-ROID, and FISH FILLET-Rod) is making at that age, but 1) A-Rod is the better player 2) A-Rod plays a more valuable position 3) A-Rod keeps himself in peak physical condition and 4) the Phillies aren't the Yankees. With slight modifications, similar arguments apply to the massive contracts currently held by Mark Teixeira (also a 1B, obviously) and Matt Holliday (not a Yankee, obviously). Except for Alfonso Soriano, who holds the worst contract in baseball right now- yes that's right I went out on a limb and said it- no other hitter in the game holds a contract that will pay them that kind of money at that age (Miguel Cabrera and Joe Mauer will be younger during the tail end of the deals they recently signed). It's simply way too much to invest in an aging 1st baseman. Jon Heyman- your poorly formulated thoughts?

Howard's contributions can be overlooked at times because of the overwhelming presence of Pujols, who's clearly the best player in the National League,

Look, I'm pretty sure Ryan Howard is neither overrated nor underrated but properly rated. If anyone's overlooking his contributions, which I don't think anyone in the national media is, it's not because of Pujols. It's because Howard isn't even the most valuable hitter on his own team.

and also because Howard is only part of a fabulous nucleus in Philly that includes Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth.

Unlike Howard, Jimmy Rollins might be the most overrated player in all of baseball right now. If I hear one more announcer or talking head start blabbing about what a SPARKPLUG Rollins is, or how he's Philly's EMOTIONAL LEADER, I'm going to be sick. He's a leadoff hitter with a career .330 OBP. His power is overrated (career best HR totals: 30, 25, 21, 14, 14, 12), his defense is overrated, everything about him is overrated. Wait- what were we talking about again? Oh yeah. So throw Rollins out of that group. But Utley is by far more valuable than Howard, and if Werth backs up his strong 2009 with a strong 2010, you could make an argument that he's more valuable too. So that's just one reason you might not want to pay Ryan Howard $25 MM during his age 36 season; even now, he's not the most valuable hitter on your team.

Howard does have a few negatives, such as his high strikeout totals (an average of 189 the past four seasons),

Kind of a big deal, especially when you're hitting cleanup.

his weakness against left-handed pitchers (last year his OPS was 1.088 vs. right-handers vs .653 vs. lefties),

Definitely a big deal.

his age (30) and the possibility he'll decline during the contract as he gets older.

Oh, the "possibility?" You think he might not hit as well at age 36 as he did at ages 25, 30, or even 32? A bold prediction, Jon. You truly have the wisdom of King Solomon.

But the belief among skeptics of the deal that this was an obvious overpay isn't reflected one bit among baseball people.

Isn't reflected among stupid baseball people.

In fact, a few inside the game remarked that the package was strong though not unreasonably so and one actually opined that it was light.

That guy probably works for another NL East team, and was being sarcastic.

I agree with the prominent competing agent who said, "The $25 million AAV (average annual value) reflects fair market value.''

Oh wow, can you believe it? An agent (who probably represents Adrian Gonzalez, or Pujols, or Prince Fielder) thinks this was a fair deal! COLOR ME SHOCKED. I can't believe it. If you want to evaluate the reasonableness of a contract that will pay a fat first baseman $25 MM when he's 36, that's who you should go to for objectivity- an agent. Well done, Jon. And look, it really doesn't reflect market value. Take Yankees out of the picture, and the contract is one of a kind. Cabrera isn't locked up at that age via his deal. Mauer is, but he's a catcher for the time being. Todd Helton is just now finishing up a contract that certainly paid him too much at those ages, but that was signed in 2001 when money was a little looser. The Rockies (and any team not called the Yankees) won't soon be offering that kind of deal again. The best bet for a current comp to Howard's deal is Holliday's, but it's for less money and at least he plays in the OF (and plays it pretty well). There really isn't a market for fat non-Yankee 34, 35 and 36 year old first basemen. This deal just set it.

As boring as it sounds, it was a good deal for both sides.

Well, it's definitely a good deal for Howard.

There are those suggesting Howard won't be the player at the end of the deal, when he'll be 36, that he is now, and that isn't an unreasonable prediction.

Actually, those people are exactly right unless Howard takes steroids and turns into Barry Bonds. Also- nice sentence, asshole.

But A-Rod, for example, will be 42 when his contract will be up,

I already addressed this. Better player. Different position. More likely to age well. Most importantly, money coming from Yankee coffers.

and besides, that guess can be made about many long-term deals. One GM said five years isn't outrageous at all and actually praised Howard for not being greedy and insisting on seven or eight.

Look, Howard could have done that. And the smart thing for the Phillies to do (and what they should have done here) would be to tell Howard to pound sand. Some other idiot team can overpay him when he hits the FA market after next season. That's the dumbest part about this whole thing, really- the Phillies overpaid Howard a full 18 months before he would have hit free agency. Do they understand what leverage is? You overpay someone when you absolutely need them signed right then. You do not overpay someone when you're already in control of their services for their next 1200 at bats.

That Howard received $2 million more than Teixeira also seems about right under the circumstances.

It doesn't.

Teixeira has a more diverse set of skills,

He's a switch hitter. He hits for both average and power. He plays great defense. All reasons he's more valuable.

is slightly younger and signed in New York as a free agent, but he couldn't make a case that he has the same offensive impact as Howard, a classic slugger.

Yes, Howard piles up the HRs and RBIs better than Teixeira does. That certainly makes him a better fantasy player, but I don't think it speaks to his actual value very well considering his home park. Yankee Stadium may have a short RF porch, but Citizens Bank Park is a fucking joke from foul pole to foul pole. I hope that place burns to the ground tonight. Omar Vizquel could hit 15 HRs this season if he were to start for the Phillies. But there's no way that could happen, because the Phillies already have the best SPARKPLUG OF AN EMOTIONAL LEADER in the game at shortstop.

But here are a few more reasons Howard is worth this investment:

1) He's showed his value by finishing first, fifth, second and third in MVP voting the last four years.

Haha, this is great. Let's see- dipshit MVP voters like Jon Heyman have given Howard a lot of MVP votes. Therefore, dipshit writers like Jon Heyman can cite those votes as a reason to pay Howard $25 MM a season when he's 34, 35, and 36. What a nifty, convenient system.

There is a group of numbers people who think these finishes don't count, but there is no reason to think Howard was vastly overvalued in the voting.

No one thinks Howard is a bad player. No one thinks he isn't one of the best power hitters in MLB. And pretty much no one except Cardinals fans wouldn't want to have Howard on their team. But not at that price, at that age.

2) He also has averaged 49.5 home runs and 143 RBIs over the past four years, far more than anyone else.

OK, again, time for some perspective. He's a great hitter and produces a lot of runs. He's just not worth that amount of money at that age. Also- Phillies lineup + Citizens Bank Park + batting behind Utley = tons of RBIs. But I'm not significantly more impressed with his 143 average than with, say, Lance Berkman's average of 106 over the same span.

Everyone agrees that home runs are an important stat, but to those who believe RBIs are only a reflection of one's teammates, and thus pure luck, here are the top five RBI leaders since 1900: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Five very lucky fellows.

Whoa! Watch out for that straw man! Better tear it down and burn it- make sure it can't hurt anyone. Give me a fucking break. No one with a brain says RBIs are "pure luck." We don't need to get into this. It's like when Joe Morgan waxes poetic about how no one respects stolen bases anymore. Plenty of people respect them- they're just not foolishly overvalued like they used to be.

3) It isn't unreasonable to suggest Howard might decline during his extension.

This is a separate thought, and doesn't belong on a list of reasons Howard is worth what the Phillies will end up paying him.

As a matter of logic, he probably will.

As long as he's not Barry Bonds, he definitely will.

But the evidence isn't strong that he's declining yet, (his 2009 slugging percentage of .571 wasn't significantly different from his .582 career mark), and even if he does suffer a slight drop off, it's from a tremendous height (his 198 home runs over the past four years are 29 more than everyone else).

Right. He's not declining yet. Because he's only 30. This contract doesn't even start until 2012. And it will comically overpay him in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Odds that he's still slugging anything in the neighborhood of .580 then: poor. You know, everyone is saying that the world is going to run out of crude oil at some point, but I went to the gas station yesterday and filled up my car. Therefore: we probably will never run out of crude oil.

Plus, he's shown he's serious about his game and his body. He has lost an estimated 30 pounds and remarkably turned himself into at least an average defensive first baseman from something a lot less than that. So in that way, he's actually on the rise.

On the rise and about to crash into his very low (for a pro athlete) athleticism ceiling.

4) He's a winner and a major part of one of the strongest lineups in baseball. Why mess with a good thing?

Awesome point. You're a fucking idiot.

5) The market could explode.

It won't. If Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder hit the FA market after 2011 and sign contracts that pay them this kind of money when they're 34, 35, and 36, I'll eat my oversized foam cowboy hat.

The economy is improving, baseball is doing great and the appetite for superstars on the free-agent market is always strong, even in down times like the past couple years. "You can't really pinpoint what these guys could be getting on the open market,'' Boggs said, honestly.

Boggs is John Boggs, Gonzalez's agent. HMMMMMM. You think he likes the deal Howard got? In conclusion, don't ever let Jon Heyman run your baseball team.