Thursday, June 28, 2012

More level 12 stomach punch level bad analysis of LeBron

It wasn't just a matter of LeBron playing really well.  There are like four other storylines down there somewhere.  Just let Bill scrape around for a few thousand words, he'll find them.

In the postgame presser, he mentioned being happy it played out the way it did, that he needed to "hit rock-bottom" before he could become the player he needed to be. I don't believe this for two reasons. 

1) That doesn't fit with my worldview that there are compelling narratives driving everything that happens in sports

First, his jaw-dropping performance in the 2009 playoffs (35.3 PPG, 7.3 APG, 9.1 RPG, .510 FG) strongly hinted that this 2012 bloodbath (30.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 5.6 APG, the first player ever to average a 30-9-5 twice in the postseason) was coming. 

How about basically everything he's done on the court for the past 6 or so years suggested this postseason was coming?  He went for 24, 8 and 6 in the 2011 playoffs while shooting 46%.  Some of that scoring deficiency probably comes from the fact that Bosh was hurt for much of the 2012 playoffs. The guy is really, really good and has been for a while.  Stop trying to make it more complex than it is.

His evolution was always headed this way; we just got delayed (and nearly derailed) by 2010's meltdown in the Boston series, then "The Decision," then everything from last year. 

Nearly derailed: no, not at any point.  Sort of kind of delayed: I suppose so, at least in the case of the 2010 playoffs.  Shit you already knew presented as high level analysis: definitely.

Second, I can't imagine LeBron would ever repeat the last 23 months. There had to be better ways to get there. During last night's interviews, we kept hearing the same wistful refrain from LeBron, his teammates and even his coach. The last two years weren't fun. Wearing that big bull's-eye and the black cowboy hat wasn't fun. Being booed wasn't fun, being picked apart wasn't fun, being maligned wasn't fun. 

No fucking shit, Sherlock.  I don't know if he's publicly commented on the subject, but I'd bet a fair sum of money LeBron would like it better if The Decision had never happened.  Other than that, and losing the 2011 Finals, would he change anything from the past 23 months?  Doubtful.

They spent last season battling the collective vitriol, figuring out how to use it to their advantage … and ultimately failing. 

No.  They spent last season getting booed everywhere they went because LeBron is a horse's ass, winning the ECF, and losing in the Finals because Dallas played a little better.  They spent this season getting booed everywhere they went because LeBron is a horse's ass, winning the ECF, and then winning in the Finals because they played better than OKC.  Jesus fucking Christ.

As LeBron admitted last night, it just wasn't him. He wasn't meant to be someone who dunked on opponents and stared defiantly into the stands like a wrestling heel. 

He still did that this year.  I saw him do it, including during the playoffs.  Sorry to ruin your screenplay.  

He lost himself in the process, spent the summer remembering why he liked basketball, rededicated himself, found that same joy … and the rest was history. 

Go fuck yourself.

Even if that sounds like a sweet plot for a sports movie, I'm not buying that LeBron needed that specific sequence to achieve his manifest destiny. 

I'm totally not buying that this off-the-cuff quote LeBron gave without providing much context fully and precisely describes why the Heat won it all this year!  I'M TOO SMART FOR THAT!

Sports would have taken care of that for him. You keep losing the title, you keep going back to the drawing board, you keep trying to get better. Wilt wanted to get past the Celtics. Bird wanted to get past the Sixers. Magic wanted to get past the Celtics. Jordan wanted to get past the Pistons. That's basketball. 

Let's change that to "the best players tend to get better as they enter their mid to late 20s, and then start winning championships."

Eventually, LeBron would realize that losing sucked and spend the summer accordingly. Decision or no Decision. 

/buries head in hands

How is he simultaneously making this both unnecessarily complicated and overly simplistic?

So what actually changed? For one thing, Dwyane Wade injured his knee and became 70 Percent Of Dwyane Wade, inadvertently solving the "dueling banjos" dilemma. The Heat tried to thwart six decades of NBA history by teaming two alpha dogs together, making them equals and assuming their overwhelming talent would overcome any resulting bumpiness. 

After all, it had been a whole ten years since a team with two alpha dogs who were made equals won a title!

They were wrong. Basketball doesn't work that way, 

It has worked that way as recently as 2002.

for the same reason you don't need two transcendent lead guitarists for a rock band.

Because 1) basketball teams in the free agency era are exactly like rock bands, there's a lot of mobility and guys switching teams/bands all the time and such, and 2) there are all kinds of bands out there with two lead guitarists (sarcasm rescinded for metal bands like Slayer and Metallica, who really actually do have two awesome lead guitarists, making Bill double wrong).

Someone had to learn bass. It ended up being Wade, and only because fate intervened. We'll remember Game 6 of the Boston series for a variety of reasons, but mainly because LeBron looked around and said, I'm going down on my own terms. I'm playing all 48 minutes and scoring 50 points. If we lose, we lose. At least nobody will say that I rolled over. It ended up being the most important two hours of his career. He went out and assassinated the Celtics. 


And that's only scratching the surface. Imagine you're Wade. Imagine you talk Bosh and LeBron into joining YOUR team and living in YOUR city. Imagine that first year going to hell. 

In the movie about the 2010-2011 Heat playing in Bill's mind, they went 38-44, lost by 40 in Cleveland as the crowd showered LeBron with rocks, and were nearly kicked out of the league after the season was over.  In reality, they were a great team that got booed a lot and missed winning a title (and being serenaded by a Simmons article similar to this one, telling everyone a nonexistant story about how they overcame adversity and grew and changed and invented team basketball) by a couple games.

Imagine coming to the begrudging realization that you're only going as far as LeBron takes you, that — even though it's your city, and you're the one who gets introduced last at every home game — you're going to have to wear the Robin costume. By Game 2 of the Finals, everyone is wondering whether you're the same guy you used to be; meanwhile, you've never had to take a backseat on a basketball court before, and that's what is screwing you up more than anything. By Game 5, you're listening to your fans serenade LeBron with "M-V-P!" chants as he holds two trophies like a hunter holding a couple of deer heads. You're standing on the side, just like Shaq six years ago. Maybe that's what he meant by "difficult." 

What he meant by "difficult" is that he's kind of a crybaby, and he's having trouble coping with the fact that LeBron is completely amazing at basketball while he is only kind of amazing, and he just turned 30.

Just know the situation was resolved organically, much like it was during the 2008 Olympics, when Spain was closing in and Kobe said I got this, followed by everyone else letting him have it. That's just how basketball works. You can't have two guys saying "I got this." 

Yes, you are actually right about that.  It's also sad how wrong you are about the idea that you can't have two superstars on the same team and win a title.

Miami figured that out a year late. And if Wade hadn't tweaked his knee, maybe they never would have. 


The other twist of fate: Derrick Rose wrecked his knee in Round 1, propelling the Celtics into the Conference Finals … 

Wait, holy shit, did he just admit that?  I get that the use of "propelling" implies that it could have happened even with a healthy Rose, but I'm still shocked.

you know, LeBron's nemesis, 

That earlier stuff was just a teaser of the WITHOUT THE CELTICS LEBRON WOULD BE NOTHING horseshit.  Here's the real deal, presented without comment because I don't think anything I could add anything that would make this more hilarious.

the bullies who beat him in 2008 and 2010, the grizzled veterans who were convinced that LeBron would always cave when it mattered most. Garnett and Pierce loved pushing his buttons more than anyone. During their final regular-season road trip to Miami, which turned out to be a surprisingly easy win for the Celtics, they spent the last two minutes busting Wade's balls about LeBron. You picked the wrong guy. You'll never win with that guy. LeBron could hear everything. They didn't care. In Game 5 of their playoff series, Garnett and Pierce pushed things a little further, believing that LeBron was ready to cave again. Down the stretch, Garnett muttered derisive obscenities under his breath anytime LeBron was in earshot, then stuffed him at the rim on a pivotal drive. A little bit later, Pierce nailed a back-breaking 3 right in LeBron's mug, then yelled, "I have the balls to take that!" as he trotted back down the floor.
In retrospect, they pushed him too far. The Celtics regarded LeBron with a surprising amount of disdain — that's why Rondo angrily yelped, "Let's go!" before defending LeBron's final drive of regulation in Game 2. LeBron ended up settling for a 21-footer against someone seven inches shorter than him, followed by Rondo strutting back to the huddle and probably telling his teammates, "I knew he didn't have the balls to come at me." They spent that whole series challenging his manhood; by the end of Game 5, they thought they had broken him. Was that what turned him into a serial killer in Game 6? Not entirely … but it definitely helped. I just don't think LeBron makes LeLeap without the bullies from Boston.

Yeah. Fuck.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This whole article is one huge reverse jinx on the 2012-2013 Heat!!!!

Bill has thoughts about LeBron and the Finals.  Guess how insightful and worthwhile those thoughts are.

You know what saddens me? 

You realized you've been using the same tired style and jokes for like 15 years now?

The funniest clip on YouTube is no longer funny.
Klosterman thinks what makes funny Youtube videos funny is that they are secretly super underratedly unfunny.  Also, I'm pretty sure videos of Denny Green encouraging reporters to "crown they ass" will always be funny, so there's no need to say there's been a change in power at the top of the funniest Youtube video rankings, which do not exist.

Yep, you can finally rest in peace, "The Heat Welcome Party" video. Thanks for giving us two sterling years atop the Internet comedy rankings.
I love when Bill tries to flaunt his comedy chops. HEY I FOUND A YOUTUBE VIDEO THAT IS AMUSING YOU KIDS WOULD LOVE THIS. Bill is your aunt, forwarding you lolcats and clips from Leno's "Jaywalking" segments. While certainly somewhat amusing in its own way, I'm pretty sure the Heat welcome video has never been one of the 1,000 funniest Youtube videos out there at any time.

We're replacing you with a bullpen by committee of old reliables like "I Like Turtles," "Charlie Bit Me," the "It's Still Real to Me, Dammit" guy, Journey's immortal "Separate Ways" video, and even the "I Like Turtles" techno remix. 
Like I said. Wow, the I like turtles kid? Even Daniel Tosh got over that two or three years ago.

Let's hope you don't resurface as something else — something scarier, something more ominous, something on the level of Namath guaranteeing Super Bowl III or Ali promising to defeat Liston.
Seeing as how at least one of James, Wade and Bosh will be moving on within 4 years, I have a hard time believing they'll actually win twelve championships of whatever they promised. I suppose you can say they're as good a bet to win in 2013 as anyone else, but they're not going to get better in the offseason (even if they get the player Bill might call "the corpse of Ray Allen") and I'm sure the Bulls and Pacers (among others) will find a way to improve.

See, the ceiling of "The Heat Welcome Party" slowly changed during the last two games of the 2012 Finals. It's no longer about hubris or a suffocating lack of self-awareness.
What's that you just said, sportswriter who displays hubris and a suffocating lack of self-awareness on a weekly basis? THE IRONING IS DELICIOUS

It might be more of an omen, a warning, a little like the Game of Thrones characters seeing a red comet streak across the sky and saying, Uh-oh, dragons are coming.
Yes! It's exactly like that brutally shoehorned pop culture reference! It's also like the Client List, I think!

I mention this only because, like every other non-Miami fan who attended the last two home games, I left that arena muttering to myself, "Shit … he finally figured it out."
Or maybe he finally had the right supporting cast, or simply got the shots to fall which hadn't been falling. This is lazy sportswriting at its finest. A team didn't win or lose because they won or lost, it won or lost because of [fill in the blank with something about hustle, character, playing the game the right way, "figuring it out" or some other such tardery].

We remember NBA stars three different ways:

by the entirety of their career, their career's highest peak,

and the duration of that peak. Something like 25 players had genuinely great careers, but only seven played at the all-around level that LeBron achieved these past few weeks. Jordan, Russell, Kareem, Magic and Bird kept their peaks going. Wilt got bored. Walton got injured. Now we're here again.
I've been thinking recently about why Bill has this compulsive need to constantly make lists and put things in order. I think I have my answer: he's a fucking idiot who knows very little about sports, and this is his way of putting up a facade that says "hey check it out my head totally isn't in my ass right now."

LeBron spent the last nine years juggling various identities — a little Jordan, a little Magic, a little ABA Doc, a little Pippen — never revealing that HE knew what he wanted to be.
That's such complete and utter nonsense I can barely stand to read it. What a fresh, steaming pile of elephant shit. LeBron is a fucking basketball player. He goes out on a the court and (cue up Tedy Bruschi and Trent Dilfer) plays basketball. Making it more complicated than that, into some kind of identity crisis mind game LeBron is somehow playing with the public, is goddamn fucking ridiculous.

Even his position was amorphous. Was he a power forward? A small forward? An oversize point guard? What the hell was he? By the end of the 2012 Finals, we had our answer: He's LeBron James.
You know what, it was an insult to Bruschi and Dilfer to put Simmons on their level. Sorry fellas. Go back to your macho posturing and super serious camera staredowns.

First of a kind. A power point guard who can create his own shot from the perimeter and the low post, a devastating passer who can't be double-teamed, a superior athlete who attacks the rim whenever he wants, an unfathomably durable workhorse on both ends, someone who can defend all five positions (yes, five) at an elite level.
All that is probably true. Unfortunately, it loses all its impact when it comes after some complete gobbledygook about how LeBron has been hiding his identity from us or something.

Over everything else, he fully married his physical gifts with his basketball I.Q. and morphed into something of a basketball monster.
Again, he didn't morph or change into anything in the middle of the playoffs. This is the player he has been for the past several years. He just played better in the playoffs than he has before. Applying post hoc "OH THE TIPPING POINT WAS REACHED" analysis to the situation is the action of a blithering idiot.

Remember all those times when we wondered, Why doesn't LeBron just take it to the rack — it seems like he could score whenever he wants? Yup, pretty much. A good example of LeBron's physical dominance this spring: Late in Game 4, when LeBron started limping and finally toppled to the floor, everyone in the arena had the same reaction. Wait, LeBron can get hurt? LeBron feels pain? It was like seeing Michael Myers keel over. When he was carried off, the crowd audibly gasped in disbelief. They're carrying him off? They're carrying LeBron off?
As opposed when Paul Pierce gets carried off, and the Boston fans say I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY HURT OW-UH PAWL! HOW DAY-UH THEY! while everyone with a brain says Jesus Buttfucking Christ, we all know he'll be back next TV timeout, how does this guy not have a more widely acknowledged reputation as a gigantic drama queen?

So yeah, everything starts with that remarkable body.
Now he sounds like the creepy baseball scouts from Moneyball, except that in basketball, your level of physical fitness is actually really important.

In Game 4, Miami planted him on the low post and LeBron went Larry Bird 2.0 on us. (For the record, there was never supposed to be a Larry Bird 2.0. We discontinued that model in 1992 and assumed it would never be seen again, much less in an even more devastating form. So … yeah.)

That's all I've got for now. Seriously, fuck this guy.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Reasonable minds can disagree.  But in my opinion, if you'd rather a team owned by a card-carrying asshole and played for by at least five card-carrying jerks (Westbrook, Ibaka, Collison, Fisher, Perkins) win a title over LeBron, U MAD.  Go Heat.  I certainly hope they never win another with this nucleus, but this one was deserved and enjoyable.  And fuck the Thunder and their basketball hipster fans in the earhole.

Also, as I typed this, we returned from commercial and were all treated to the following:

PA Announcer: And now ladies and gentlemen, direct your attention to center court for the presentation of the Larry O'Brien trophy and the Bill Russell MVP trophy...  PLEASE WELCOME STUART SCOTT!!!!

That has the same ring to it as "Ladies and gentlemen, you asked for them, you got them... NICKELBACK!!!"  And I'm not going to link to it, but I hope you saw it on Grantland a month or two ago; surprise among surprises, Klosterman thinks Nickelback is SECRETLY SUPER UNDERRATED.  What a chode.  Now let's get the mic to Stuart so he can buttfuck his way through the simple line he had days and days to rehearse.

SS:  Thank you.  Here to present the Larry O'Bryphen trophy

Cue up my main man Carl.

... Larry O'Brien trophy... David Stern.

Which is kind of like Nickelback introducing Jay Mariotti.  Also worth noting that Stern thanked "the wonderful fans of South Florida."  As my first few sentences make clear, I was rooting for Miami in part because OKC's fans are a bunch of entitled dust bowl fatsos who were born on third and think they hit a triple (in the context of sports fandom).  But whoa, UH OH, let's not get carried away with praise for Miami's worthless/barely existant fans.  Stern's use of "wonderful" there reminds me of Louis CK's bit.

Also, I know Chris W was counting, and unfortunately this year the NBA playoffs only lasted 55 days.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I don't understand basketball terminology

Watching game 3 of the Finals from my DVR tonight.  Jeff Van Gundy describes Russell Westbrook's pull up foul line jumper:

That's a "make or miss" shot.

Huh.  Are there other kinds of shots?  Maybe "make or get the offensive rebound" shots?  If so, James Harden should attempt more of those and fewer of the "miss or miss badly" shots he's been putting up.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I Am Here to Dismiss a Rumor

You see, Tom Verducci seems to think that the Pittsburgh Pirates aren't terrible. I, like any rational-minded human being, think that's completely and totally false, 33-31 record be damned.

I have this crazy idea, an idea as crazy as believing in Charlie Brown

I mean, is that like, a thing? Most people, even 4-year-olds, feel like Charlie Brown is completely and totally fictional. You totally shoulda gone with something like Santa Claus. Just sayin'.

a balanced budget


the Cleveland Browns 

I guess we're now equating "crazy" with "terrible"

and pro soccer in America

Tom, way to beat 9.4% of America to making this joke.

I am starting to believe the Pittsburgh Pirates are an honest to goodness contender.

Tom, Tom, TOMMMMMMMM. Really? The Pittsburgh Pirates? That team that's 4 games back in a pretty "meh" division and has been outscored by 26 runs? Those Pittsburgh Pirates? Really?

That's right: the Pirates. The team that hasn't had a winning season in Bryce Harper's lifetime, or since Bush the elder was president, Nolan Ryan was pitching and Barry Bonds was skinny. The team that in recent years passed up Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Jered Weaver, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner, Eric Hosmer and Buster Posey to take Bryan Bullington, Neil Walker, Brad Lincoln, Daniel Moskos and Pedro Alvarez with top-11 picks in the draft.

I'm really proud of you for looking up all of this information. Really, I am. In fact, it's mostly because of everything you just mentioned that your premise is completely and totally terrible and stupid. But I'm a glutton for punishment, so let's press on.

The team that last year was in first place as late as July 25 and wound up with 90 losses

Don't care what happened last year. Don't care.

The team that has scored the fewest runs in baseball this year. 

Uh oh, Tom. That sorta kinda totally completely insinuates that the Pirates have a terrible offense. Which they do.

The team that is the worst hitting team in franchise history (.224) except for the outfit that finished in 11th place in the American Association 128 years ago!

We get it. It's unbelievable for someone to think the Pirates are contenders. That's actually why it's a stupid thing to believe, Tom.

Today those Pirates are tied for first place with Cincinnati in the NL Central with more wins than any of the four 2011 NL playoff teams and the best record in baseball over the past two weeks (12-3). 

Okay, so I confess. This was written a few days ago. But everything he has to say is still stupid. Trust me.

The Pirates are 30-21 since beginning the year 2-6.

Note to self: You're allowed to remove any single 8-game stretch of a season to evaluate how good a baseball team is in mid-June.

It would be easy to dismiss the Pirates as a pretender waiting for the fall -- a reprise of their 2011 season. But Pittsburgh was doomed to fail last year because its pitching staff was a collection of soft-tossing pitchers whose low strikeout rate and high WHIP portended the collapse.

Yes. And now they are doomed to fail because their hitter with the 2nd highest WARP has a .183 batting average and 69 plate appearances. DON'T CALL IT A......collapse.

This year looks very different. The Pirates are striking out 7.41 batters per nine innings, the highest rate in franchise history by a wide margin (7.00 from 1969). Their WHIP has improved from 15th in the league to fourth. In short, the Pirates now have pitchers with stuff.

They are pretty decent at what probably amounts to 40% of playing baseball. They've had good pitching so far. They're also relying on guys like Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett who have chronic relapses of sucking or getting hurt.

A.J. Burnett has found refuge from the AL East with the JV lineups of the NL. Erik Bedard, another veteran happily sprung from the AL, has remained healthy. And James McDonald, courtesy of a wipeout slider discovered at the urging of catcher Rod Barajas in a morning spring training game, is a different pitcher. He just might become the greatest righthanded strikeout pitcher in Pirates history.

I fully buy the James McDonald story. W/R/T the other guys, holllllld your horses a little bit. You wrote this on June 12th. There's very few major league pitchers that survive for a career of at least a few years that don't put up a good 2.5 month stretch now and then. You want to reconsider anything?

Still not convinced this is a different Pirates team from last year? Here are more reasons why Pittsburgh is not collapsing this time:

Ya got me Tommmmm. I'm not convinced. Bring on what you have to say.

The offense isn't as bad as the numbers suggest. The Pirates were historically awful in April and May, but have hit a respectable .257 in June.

Holy shit! Stop the presses! They had 2 historically bad months, but don't worry guys, they sort of hit for an okay BATTING AVERAGE in June! This offense ain't anywhere NEAR as bad as that -0.8 collective WARP makes you think it is!

Neil Walker

0.2 WARP

Garrett Jones

-0.3 WARP

Alex Presley 

-0.3 WARP

and Clint Barmes 

-0.9 WARP

all have awakened to give Andrew McCutchen some help. 

I didn't realize that giving someone the finger and saying, "Fuck you man, we're not gonna help you win shit" qualified as "some help". But I am not as educated as Tom Verducci.

This is still a below-average offense, 

That doesn't cover it. It is a below replacement-level offense.

but Pittsburgh doesn't need as much firepower as most teams because . . .

Goody. This should be good.

The Pirates have a strong homefield advantage. Runs are harder to come by in PNC Park than in any other major league park this season, with teams combining for slightly more than five runs per game.

A statistic not at all attributable to the patheticness of the offense of one of the teams that participates in every single MLB game played at PNC park.

The park plays big in leftfield and left-centerfield, and Hurdle chuckles as opposing hitters try to jack balls over the rightfield wall, which is not as easy a task as it appears. The Pirates have played 18 games at home without hitting a home run and are 9-9 in those games. 


They are 19-6 in home games decided by one or two runs.

This is absurdly lucky.

Pittsburgh's bullpen is ridiculously good, sporting the lowest ERA in baseball (2.44). 

And bullpens are known for how non-fickle they are. I trust this'll last.

Hurdle is proving my theory that many managers are better in their second job (i.e., Terry Francona, Charlie Manuel, Bruce Bochy, Joe Girardi, etc.). Hurdle has been masterful as this team makes the most out of having scored the fewest runs in the majors.

Clint Hurdle honestly probably does deserve some credit, given the circumstances. However, this is pretty easy to overstate, as Verducci is about to prove.

His bullpen usage has been so sharp he has used pitchers three consecutive days only twice.

Genius! All the other managers in the majors use pitchers on three consecutive days on a routine basis!

He twice pulled McDonald from games for a pinch-hitter after just four innings -- and won both games. 

A result that, I am sure, was entirely due to pulling a good starting pitcher after 4 innings.

He has given Barmes and Alvarez three straight days out of the lineup as a "mental break" to snap a slump; each one came back swinging a hot bat.

Wow. That's brilliant. Nothing fluky about that. We found the secret to making Clint Barmes hit well, everyone. Just don't play him for three days.

The manager also has encouraged his players to run the bases aggressively. The Pirates are among the four best teams in the league at taking the extra base.

If they keep their current pace up, that'll be worth....a whole win!

It's difficult to believe that any baseball team in this era could field a losing team 19 years in a row, especially when the Pirates picked no lower than fourth in six consecutive drafts (2006-11). Other than McCutchen, however, they don't have an impact player on the roster.

But...they're contenders, right?

The NL Central champion has won an average of 93 games in the 16 full seasons since realignment, but this is starting to look like one of the five times when only 83-88 wins was enough to take the division. Pittsburgh may not be a playoff team just yet, but can the Pirates win 83 games -- a total that would have them playing meaningful games in September for the first time in a generation? Yes, they can.

You are nuts if you think 83 games is a likely win total for the NL Central division champion.

The Pirates' front office crunched some numbers before the season began and calculated that the expanded postseason format this year (with the second wild card added to each league) improved their playoff chances by 13 percent. 

Which is fascinating, because Baseball Prospectus pegs their current chances at 2.8%. That ain't the say-all-end-all, but they're significantly worse than their record after 2 months.  Trust me, Pirates,  your odds of making the playoffs never came close to 13%.  Forget about "improved by".

Pittsburgh does have a style that allows little room for error. The Pirates' offense is so bad that they must play close, low-scoring games consistently, a style that puts tremendous pressure on their bullpen.

Again, you realize that offense is like 50% of baseball, right? The way you talk about it makes the Pirates' offense sound like it's an inconvenience rather than a serious handicap. There have been teams that have been good at baseball despite bad offenses but none of them were leaning heavily on a pitching staff full of oft-ineffective pitchers without even having a true ace. It is not that difficult to see that the Pirates aren't good. They've done a great job supporting that even in the less-than-a-week since this article was published.

But in this run-depressed era of baseball -- especially in a pitcher's ballpark -- they have a fighting chance as long as their arms stay healthy. 

Said Verducci, apparently oblivious that he's kind of talking about Erik Bedard.

Maybe October in Pittsburgh still belongs to the Steelers alone, the way it has been for 19 years. But can baseball matter again in September in Pittsburgh? It actually seems possible this year.

Tom -- please see the below message from rational people everywhere:


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Michael Schur would tolerate this post

I didn't say he'd like it; I'd need to provide a link to Fire Joe Morgan at the top of our blog to receive that level of approval.  (Chris W once emailed him to let him know we were fans of theirs, and that we meant only respect as we cribbed their style.   KT replied by saying he didn't understand why Chris would have done this if we were fans, and that he wanted us to link his jillion hits a day blog at the top of our 150 hits a day blog.  True story.  Guy did not come off as a prong at all, not one bit.  Maybe I'll make a post about that email exchange one day.  MAYBE.)  Anyways, the reason I say he would tolerate this is because it's more in the "shitty sportswriting about baseball" vein of Fire Joe Morgan that Fire Jay Mariotti never does anymore, and less in the "fucking dammit I fucking hate fucking ESP fucking N" vein of what Fire Jay Mariotti has become.

This a piece from the Chicago Tribune about one Paul Konerko.  Their whole staff of baseball writers with HOF votes (they still employ at least nine of these fuckers, which kind of erases the mystery of how that paper could be losing money) was asked if Paulie is an HOFer.  Most of them responded somewhat rationally.  Not brilliantly, mind you; I'm just not covering their takes on Konerko because I don't have enough time, and because the two below are leaps and bounds better than any of the others.


In my quest to bolster Paul Konerko's Hall of Fame chops, I did a little research. Now I wish I hadn't.

Numbers are scary and confusing!  Whether or not a player gave a ball from the World Series to his team's owner at the championship parade is fun and accessible!  (Don't get the reference?  Google it, or just ask White Sox/Konerko fan Chris W about whether or not Konerko gave the damn ball to Reinsdorf.)

Konerko actually fares well in the traditional categories, especially if he hits 93 more bombs to reach 500. 

He's playing extremely well for his age, hitting 39 HRs at age 34 and 31 at age 35, but there's just no way he gets 93 more.  I'LL SHUT DOWN THE BLOG IF THAT HAPPENS.  Nevermind, no.  No I won't.

But in the new-school category of WAR (Wins Above Replacement position player), Konerko rates 45th among active players at 26.0.

He somehow trails Orlando Hudson, 

Who is/was an elite defender, and had good OBP skills and decent pop during his prime

Mark Ellis 

Same story

and Grady Sizemore, who had four good seasons. 

Konerko was a decent but unremarkable 1B until his age 29 season in 2005, and is awful on defense both by numbers and by the eye test.  Every Sizemore season from 2005 through 2008 was better than Konerko's best season.

Jim Thome, fourth among actives, has a comparatively Ruthian 67.4 WAR.

Because he's got 10,000 PAs, a career .403 OBP, and 600 HRs.

Of course, that stat does not measure this: Which teammate would you want to go to WAR with? 

Stop the internets.  The competition for greatest turn of phrase (or turn of term?) ever is over.

Konerko is off the charts there.

So if he continues to rake, I'll continue to look for reasons to check his box. He brings every intangible. He's an A-plus guy in the clubhouse.

Like I said, vintage 2005/2006/2007 Fire Joe Morgan stuff.

I covered his dreadful 2003 season (.234 average, 18 homers), and he did not snap at the media once.

A spot in Cooperstown?  HOW ABOUT HIS OWN WING!  IS THERE ANYTHING THIS GUY CAN'T DO (to make fart sniffing sportswriters adore him)?

He has been terrific nearly every year since. 

He was "eh" from 2007-2009.

I would like to think that's good karma.

And I would like to think good people deserve to have good things happen to them, bad people deserve to have bad things happen to them, and that everything in life turns out to be perfectly fair.

/drinks dish detergent


I would consider Paul Konerko seriously for the Hall of Fame even though his career stats are excellent but not head-turning (.284 BA, 407 HR, .863 OPS).

Of his baseballreference top ten most similar batters, exactly one (Orlando Cepeda, #9) is in the Hall.  His top three are Tino Martinez, Gil Hodges, and Derrek Lee.  Doesn't really scream enshrinement.

Konerko is a good fielder 

/game show buzzer

with an offensive consistency (eight seasons with 97 to 117 RBIs 

Measuring offensive performance with RBIs?  dak is tearing out his hair right now.

in a lineup often devoid of table-setters; eight seasons of 30 or more doubles from a guy with no speed)

I guess he chose the "X seasons with Y or more Zs" construct rather than just going with the raw total, because Konerko's raw doubles total of 377 isn't even in the top 200 all time.

and a professionalism that make him far more than the sum of his stats.

Junior just threw his laptop through his TV.

I said no to a similar player, Jim Thome, when we asked the Hall question about him five years ago, 

Two Paul Konerkos comes somewhat close to being as good as one Jim Thome, so I can see why you'd come to that conclusion given the relatively unamazing number of seasons in a row in which Konerko has hit 30 or more doubles.

and I cited his huge strikeout totals as a negative. 

Another old FJM favorite.

(I since have changed my mind on Thome; 604 home runs erase a lot of K's.)

Good news, Jim: you've won over Phil Hersh.  Put the bubbly on ice.  Cooperstown will be calling in 2018 after all.

With Konerko, it may be a case of familiarity breeding respect: Watching him over 14 seasons with the Sox, my appreciation of his contributions has grown steadily. 

And that's what the HOF is about, right?  Voting in guys you've personally interacted with and who seem like decent fellas.

And his last two full seasons have been his best; another couple like 2010–11 (so far, 2012 is one), and Konerko is a Hall of Famer on my ballot.

Would you go to WAR with him though?  That's the real question.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ironic irony, Stanley Cup edition

As the Kings wrapped up their title-clinching victory over New Jersey tonight, NBC's Mike Emrick made sure to throw some nonsense into the moment by trying to sound smart and clever (roughly paraphrased):

The Cup will make its rounds with the members of the team this summer, as every player will have some time with it in the offseason.  Ironically, it was the Devils who started that practice back in 1995!

Chris W is way better with the English language than I am, so I usually GChat him when I come across misuse of irony and ask him to concoct a way in which the situation in question could be modified to be made actually ironic.  I didn't even bother with this one, I don't even know if it's possible.  THE GAUNTLET IS SORT OF THROWN, CHRIS.  DO YOUR WORST IN THE COMMENTS.

As a freshly minted hockey fan, I can't say I have a lot of experience with a variety of play by play guys.  It's really just Emrick, the dudes from NBC's B/C/D teams (from earlier in the playoffs), and my favorite team's booth guys.  But to the extent that I can criticize him from my small sample size of time spent listening to his broadcasts, this is the problem with Emrick--he tries to sound smart and clever all the time, and he's neither.  Which is to say, he pretty much has the exactly same problem everyone who misidentifies/misuses irony has.

Also, one last time, why the hell not:

Nobody captures their identity better than Dustin Penner, their frustrating 6-foot-3 forward who's evolved into something of a whipping boy for the Kings faithful. One of the biggest guys on the team, Penner barely throws checks, much less punches. Every time he wades into the corner and goes through the motions of not hitting someone, you hear this chorus of pissed-off "COME ON, PENNER!" hisses coming from every direction. I always want him to do well, just because it's funny when he scores and the fans instantly flip that switch and pretend to be Penner fans again. But if you're trying to win the Cup? You need less Penners and more Ryane Clowe.

And sure, I'm the one who laughed uproariously at the idea of the Celtics making the NBA Finals, and then they almost did.  But 1) they didn't, 2) I blame Rose's ACL, and 3) I don't get paid to do this so neener neener neener and I hope Bill Simmons falls out of a blimp.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

When you promote something, aren't you supposed to make it sound appealing?

It's all over but the crying in Boston right now, about five minutes left in game 6 and the starters are headed to the bench with the Heat up 20.  Coming out of commercial, I'm greeted by Scott Van Pelt, telling me what happens on my TV once the game is over:

Coming up on Sportscenter, Saturday night we'll be in South Beach thanks to LeBron James's magnificent performance.  Magic Johnson helps us break it down.  We will hear from the winners, the losers, and of COURSE, Stephen A. Smith.

Like I said earlier this week, God only knows why they've rehired S.A.S. after finally freeing themselves from his bombastic yelling a few years ago.  If you're going to bring him back on board, I suppose you've got to use him.  That's fine.  I just find it really funny that any promo could possibly include the line "and of COURSE, Stephen A. Smith" unless the beginning of that sentence was "ESPN pays all kinds of morons to talk about sports, such as Trent Dilfer, Rick Sutcliffe..."

And as I type this, there's the S.A.S. Prometheus promo again.  Life is good.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Last post in FireJay history?

Experts say: MAYBE.  Not that I would ever actually follow through on my promise to shut down the blog if the Celtics make the NBA Finals.  That was a lie the second I wrote it, and I'd like to extend a great big fuck you to the rest of the Eastern Conference for allowing that outcome to happen.  WAIT IS THAT A JINX I DON'T KNOW GO HEAT WOOOOOOOOO.  Just saying, could be the last post in the blog's history because you never know when the sun is going to supernova or when an idiot 19 year old manning a radar station in North Dakota mistakes a flock of birds for a bunch of nukes and the whole planet gets blown to smithereens.

Anyways, this is really more of a quick check in than a full post, so I'll start by saying that I'm really enjoying ESPN's cross promotion of Prometheus.  I will never get sick of Stephen A. Smith (who is back on the Four Letter in several roles after several years away because ... ... ... ???????) asking me to check out the Prometheus trailer.  Never.  I hope they are still running that promo well after the movie is out of theaters.

A few more highlights from the now two week old Simmons column I've been picking at:

The Staples staff hustled everyone out, turned the arena over, burned some sage to get rid of Donald Sterling's aura, 

Sterling is one of the few subjects who can actually draw decent jokes out of Bill.  Here's to him continuing his racist, maniacal ways.  ("Him" being Sterling, not Bill.)

then reopened the doors for Game 4 of the Lakers-OKC series. I skipped this one because of an event for my son's preschool, because I couldn't stomach being around Laker fans for a second straight night, and because I couldn't afford to get divorced. 


That's why Saturday was encouraging. Westbrook played an absolutely breathtaking game, but when the time came for Oklahoma City to plunge that final dagger into the Lakers' season (and, quite possibly, the entire Kobe era),

Alex, I'll take "Wishful Thinking From a Complete Idiot" for $800.  And "Played Out Jeopardy! References" for A JILLION DOLLARS

The morning started off with an off-putting vibe because of the aformentioned bike race, which spawned a Carmageddon-like panic because it shut down so many of the morning's traffic routes. Kings fans were urged to show up three hours early and to even — gulp — take the subway to be safe. Personally, I would rather drive my car through the bike race and pancake some of the cyclists than take the L.A. subway. Fortunately, my special L.A. Live parking pass enabled my daughter and me to circumvent the traffic, park, grab brunch AND watch the first wave of cyclists fly by toward the finish line.

I've been obliterating this point beyond recognizance lately, but again... this is a guy who has a lot of followers who tell you they love him because he's some kind of representative of the everyday fan.

This ended up being one of my favorite father-daughter moments in a while.


Everyone thought the Kings would roll over Phoenix like they did the previous three games, so when things started shifting the other way — a sketchy call against the Kings, a Coyotes power play goal, Smith out-playing Quick — the crowd panicked and eventually checked out altogether. You couldn't blame them; they were bitterly disappointed. As the third period limped along with the Kings trailing by two, my daughter vainly tried to get a few "Let's Go Kings" chants going, then turned around and yelled in frustration, "What's the matter with everybody?" At that point, I knew we'd be driving home with her in tears and me repeatedly explaining to her that the Kings had three more chances to make the finals (which is exactly how it played out). Little kid sports fans are the best. 

/Larry B throws coffee table out apartment window

I almost feel like a blasphemer saying this, but has anyone else noticed how frequently Magary has been writing about his WILD ADVENTURES IN FATHERDOM on Deadspin lately?  It's been bothering the fuck out of me, I won't like.  Come on Drew.  Don't fall into the holy shit I used to be a wacky bachelor but now I have kids and they amaze me every day trap.

The Spurs never flinched, chopping the lead to 15 and eliciting the first of many panicked Clippers timeouts. Watching the Spurs and their bench reacting to that moment (totally locked in, totally expecting the Clippers to cave), you could just tell where the game was going. I even tweeted about it.

That's how you know how smart I am!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

More "all kinds of awesome" stories about unfamous rich people from LA

That one guy who's not known for anything at all, but has a lot of money and hangs out with attractive women and is known by basketball fans in LA?  HE WAS THERE!!!!!

Looking back, one weekend story line stood out over the others, but that shouldn't stop us from ripping through all of them for posterity's sake. 

We must document this weekend! Sure, on most weekends, normal fans simply watch sports on TV which are broadcast from arenas and stadiums all over the country.  But on THIS weekend, normal fans had the option of going to a single arena and watching lots of sports from a single arena.  Oh, what's that?  You weren't able to make it to 5 out of the 6 games like Bill was, and instead watched them on TV like you normally would?  Pity. 

On Thursday night (Day 1), the Kings throttled the Coyotes and moved within one victory of the Stanley Cup finals. My daughter was happy because her favorite player, Anze Kopitar, scored a breakaway goal, dominated the game and did a bunch of Kopi things. 

That's one.

In general, she loves attending playoff games because "the fans are louder" 

Sounds like a bunch of bandwagoners to me.  The legendary Beantown faithful always give 110 fackin' pahcent no matter what.  Unless their teams are below .500.  At that point, it's simply too painful to cheer for the teams because the fans care too much.  They'll only start watching again if the team gets a new owner, or makes the conference finals.  Their passion is a blessing and a curse.

and "everyone tries harder." (Look out, Shaq, I think someone is gunning for your "Master of the Obvious" title.) 

That former athlete on TV says inane things!  Better bring it up in every single column!  

She really loved the last two minutes, when Phoenix couldn't pull its goalie because the Kings were pressuring them so relentlessly. As it happened, the long-suffering Kings fans 

Who are so pathetic, they outwardly hope their team wins the division.

were standing, hollering, waving white towels and practically shattering the glass with their approval. It was all kinds of awesome. 

Totes?  Totes!  "All kinds of awesome."  Glad Grantland is written for people who think the writing at SI for Kids is a little too high fallutin'.

Every time I get worried about burning out on sports after four solid decades of giving a crap about total strangers, 

One of my teams which hasn't been deep into the playoffs for a few years makes a run, and I get to rediscover them and learn about the new players they've added since the last time they were good enough to make me pay attention.

I find myself caught up in a moment like the last two minutes of that Kings game — when you're embedded in the heart of 20,000 people basically losing their shit — and you think to yourself, Oh, yeah, that's why I do this for a living. 

So I can show off my knowledge of reality TV.

What a game.

It was like Shawshank mixed with The Client List!

The drama kept coming on Friday night, when the Lakers rallied in a must-win Game 3 to squeeze past a clearly superior Oklahoma City team. 

Consider your team ZINGED, Lakers fans.

Any conspiracy theorist could have predicted the chain of events down the stretch: Kobe did a few Kobe things; 

There's two.

the officials shifted into "we need this series to last longer than four games" mode; 

I'm way way way way late on this article, but have you been watching Simmons melt down on Twitter re: the refs in the Miami/Boston series?  It's great stuff.  Warms my icy heart.

the Lakers sank an incredible number of free throws (41 of 42 in all, although it felt like 141 of 142 as it was happening); and the young Zombie Sonics 

That bit was tired and inane three years ago.  Easterbrook would be proud.

squandered the pivotal possession of the game (and learned a valuable lesson for the next night). Actually, this deserves its own paragraph.

Mmmm.  Sip it, readers.  Let Bill tell you exactly how Bill is going to tell you how sports work.  After this, he'll begin on a new topic.  Where does this paragraph rank on the list of paragraphs that needed to be written?  Level 7.

Trailing by one with under 20 seconds left, Durant drew a double on his drive and dished to a wide-open Serge Ibaka (bad move), realized his mistake and crashed the boards as Ibaka was mid-brick, retrieved the rebound, went right back up with a second shot and got belted to the ground. No call, game (effectively) over. Durant spent the next few seconds crumpled on the ground in disbelief, his freakishly long arms wrapped around his freakishly long legs, as Kendrick Perkins berated the offending official with one of those "How could you not call that? I know you saw it! You were right there!" sneers on his face. That's my enduring memory of that game. Sometimes in the NBA, it's just not gonna be your night. Let's leave it at that.

Like I was saying, great stuff in light of recent events.

I had brought my buddy Geoff (visiting from Sonoma) 

Tell us more about Geoff!  Sonoma?  Sounds fancy!  Does he wear strange clothing and hang out with HOT BLONDES?

to this game, which doubled as his first Lakers game ever. Other than being totally fascinated by Ron Artest — not just his ongoing insanity from play to play, but the fact that Laker fans screamed "Noooooooo!" at least three different times when it seemed like Artest might take a shot at the wrong time — Geoff was begrudgingly impressed by the passion of Lakers fans, saying simply, "I didn't think they'd be this loud" and admiring their collective confidence in Kobe.

You can assume from context that Geoff (the tastefully named Geoff!) is a Celtics fan.  And that's some lofty Celtics fan analysis of Lakers fans: "Wow, I thought only WE were loud and special and gifted with magical team-to-victory-willing powers.  What's this noise I hear from these other people?  Are they allowed to do this?  THEY LOVE CAR FLAGS, THEY CAN'T BE REAL FANS"

And that's a crucial point: Even if Kobe's overrated crunch-time efficiency can be picked apart in about three seconds, 


when you're sitting there in Staples, you always feel like he's going to come through. He carries himself like that will happen, and really, so do Laker fans. 

I hate Lakers fans so much, and yet when Bill writes about them my brain turns them into protagonists. Those lovable scamps!  They certainly do love that shitbag superstar of theirs, don't they?

I can't handle what happened in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals for a variety of reasons — most notably, 

all the abominable jokes my readers keep emailing to me about the guy who rightfully earned series MVP.

the fact that the Celtics blew the title — but letting Kobe off the hook was my second-biggest regret. 

Imagine how on the hook he would be with four rings instead of five!  People would look back at that hideous game 7, in which neither team could have thrown the ball into the ocean from the beach, and say "Kobe blew it!  It's all his fault!  Hooray for the Celtics!"

After Kobe single-handedly shot the Lakers out of that game, the Celtics only needed to score a couple of times in the third quarter to steal a title that, again, Kobe was gift-wrapping for them. 

Again, shades of Easterbrook.  If the Celtics just score a couple times in the 3rd quarter, nothing in the 4th quarter changes and Boston wins!  Better yet, Boston led until the six minute mark of the 4th.  If they had just drained an average of an extra 10 seconds off the shot clock on each of their first 36 possessions, the clock would have run out before the Lakers took the lead!

Trust me, I was there. 

Trust me folks - I'm a world-renowned source for objective analysis of Boston sports.  Also, have YOU ever been to an NBA Finals game 7 between two of the league's most popular teams?  No?  Pity.  Bill has.  He's part of Hollywood, you see.

The fans were catatonic. You could practically hear them recalibrating Kobe's legacy in their own heads. 

A strong contender for the most laughable thing he's written this year.  If the Lakers hadn't also won the 2009 title, maybe I could kind of sort of buy this because Kobe wouldn't yet have gotten the "win without Shaq" monkey off his back.  As this actually happened, that is ridiculous bullshit.

Then the Celtics started missing shots, 

The refs made them do it!

the Lakers kept crashing the boards, 

Important nuance (doubtlessly intentionally) omitted by Bill: Bryant was one of the Lakers' most important board crashers in that fourth quarter; he had four, all within a three minute stretch that saw the game go from tied to a six point Laker lead.

the game swung their way, and Kobe did just enough in the final eight minutes to make everyone (sort of) forget the first 40. 


Their confidence in Kobe Bean Bryant never wavered again. It's just one of the many reasons why I hate going to Laker games. If you were a Boston fan, would you want to willingly enter a world in which Kobe wears a superhero's cap, everyone wears yellow and "I Love L.A." blares after every victory? 

Got to give him points for acknowledging the possibility that other teams have rivalries, and thus fans of other teams could understand just what it's like to be IN THE TRENCHES for a LEGENDARY CLASH OF TITANS LIKE THIS.

I didn't think so.

Holy shit it's like we're having a conversation!  This is the best sportswriter ever, I've got to tell my new bros in my intro to sociology class about him, he even writes about hot chicks and getting drunk!  This guy is all kinds of awesome!

In case you were wondering, I didn't enjoy Game 3. Was it the second straight superb sporting event of the Playoff Eclipse? (Gritting my teeth.) Yes.

I SUPPOSE I enjoyed seeing an exciting NBA playoff game live from the arena in great seats.  I GUESS.  It's hard to appreciate any single one of them when you attend so many, though.  Now where are my monocle and top hat?