Thursday, December 26, 2013

Jonah Keri does not show us the funny

Jonah's annual MLB trade value column came out a couple weeks ago (ZOMG SIMMONS IS A GENIUS THIS IS THE BEST LISTICLE OF ALL TIME).  I give his analysis a B-plus, it's fine.  I give his ability to write coherently a C-minus, it is slipshod at best.  And most importantly, I give his sense of humor an F-minus, because it's fucking terrible.  Let's dive right in to his rundown of guys who were in the top 50 last year but fell out this year.

Meanwhile, it's time to retire Keith Law's brilliant "Sliced bread is actually the best thing since Matt Wieters" (41) meme … 

Keith Law is a gaping asshole, and there is nothing brilliant about anything he has ever done, perhaps other than convince people that he's an amazing baseball analyst.  That joke is terrible, Keith is terrible, and I hope he loses every writing gig he has before the year is out.  (Check the comments for PNoles's obligatory defense of Keith, because... well, I have no idea why PNoles defends Keith.  Keith fucking sucks.)

Desmond Jennings (39) improved his power, batting eye, and contact skills in 2013 and offers four more years of team control, so leaving him off this (stacked) list could wind up looking really stupid … 

Classic Simmonism: make arbitrary list.  Question own decisions in crafting said list, as if something is at stake, or worse, as if it wasn't possible to put an extra 15 seconds into re-ordering said list before publishing if desired.  Collect enormous paycheck.

Justin Upton (38) might have already delivered his best season, 

Almost certainly.  Fuck Justin Upton and fuck anyone who gave him serious MVP consideration in 2011.  No, I am not ready to let that go.

and his brother was the worst outfielder in the NL last season, ruining another excellent meme … 

That's not a meme.  It's a bit.  The Weithers thing was not a meme either, but at least this Upton one isn't horribly unclever.

Brett Lawrie (21) and Dylan Bundy (20) are Exhibits A and B for why we shouldn't overrate prospects until they actually start producing; and yes, I'm a terrible, Canadian-loving homer 

I mean, admitting it is nice and all, but the other option is to stop journalistically tonguing Alex Anthopoulos's balls and realize that the Blue Jays continue to be a mediocre team with mediocre management, no matter how many SUPER ULTRA GENIUS moves they make.  Anthopoulos is the AL's answer to Jack Zduriencik (Remember him?  He's the guy who invented RUN PREVENTION and took the 2010 Mariners to the Super Bowl!).

Also, all fans of all teams in all sports overrate prospects, but baseball fans are undoubtedly the worst about it.  The reasons are obvious (takes much longer for prospects to develop relative to other sports, takes longer for teams to go for bad to good relative to other sports), but that doesn't mean every fan who lights up a message board with a comment to the effect of "[My favorite team] would never trade [name of prospect who is at least two years from MLB and will probably never make it] for [established and available above average player].  [Name is prospect] is a sure thing." shouldn't be shot out of a circus cannon into an alligator pit.

[Shelby Miller] faded in the second half, which isn't that unusual for a pitcher tossing more innings than ever before. Then the Curious Case of the Disappearing Shelby happened, 

Is that a joke?  If so, no points awarded.

with the Cardinals opting to use Bob Forsch, Dane Iorg, 

Hooray for unremarkable players from the 80s!  Hope Jonah paid Pearlman his royalty fees for using that bit.

and a plate of toasted ravioli rather than put Miller in a postseason game.


44. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers (NR): The Brewers owe Lucroy a total of $9 million over the next three years, or $14.25 million over the next four assuming they pick up his option in 2017. Here's a list of the things Lucroy would have to do to fail to earn that contract:

1. Hit .024 with 400 strikeouts and 968 errors

2. Suffer a career-ending stubbed toe tomorrow

3. Say the word "Smaug" 17,227 times in a row until someone stabs him

I'm not saying I've never used hyperbole to sell a joke.  But come on, what Jonah just wrote is terrible.  It's fucking horrible.  Especially the last part.  Jesus H. Christ-that line is Easterbrookian.

Given the flashier names around Lucroy on this list, he might seem out of place at first glance. But if anything, this ranking feels a little low.

More patented Simmons second guessing your own arbitrary ranking cow shit.  Infuriating.  YOU KNOW I THINK I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING HERE, BUT ON SECOND THOUGHT, MAYBE I'M ACTUALLY SMARTER THAN MYSELF AND THUS AM MAKING ERRORS THAT MYSELF IS UNABLE TO CATCH.  Fucking barf.

He delivered offense 5 percent better than the league average, excellent defense, and the health and stamina to play 138 games. After that campaign, [Salvador] Perez's contract looks even more unbelievable. Like, it's actually impossible to believe. The Royals owe Perez $1.5 million in 2014, $1.75 million in 2015, and $2 million in 2016. KC then has a $3.75 million club option for 2017, followed by a $5 million option for 2018 and a $6 million option for 2019, which would normally be Perez's first two years of free agency. That's $20 million for his next six seasons, for a four-win player.


I mean, of course that contract is very team friendly.  The Royals are getting a great deal.  But to call it "actually impossible to believe" is actually really fucking dumb.

32. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers (18); 31. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox (NR):

Remember how Brett Lawrie and Dylan Bundy were high on last year's list?  This time around, Jonah promises to stop overrating prospects.

18. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies (23): I live in Denver. I'm at Coors Field a lot. Last fall, I spent two hours talking to de facto Rockies general manager Bill Geivett about … everything, really. And I still have no idea what the Rockies are doing, other than making arguably the best party atmosphere in and around any ballpark even better. This winter's Tulowitzki dance continues that theme. Tulo's name came up in trade rumors with the Cardinals, a team with enough talent to revitalize the Rockies' stockpile of good, young players and potentially set Colorado up with its best starting rotation ever. Instead, the Rockies more or less came out and said Tulo isn't going anywhere under any circumstances. 

A) Tulowitzki's extension, signed in 2011 and good through 2021, is fairly team friendly.  Even with his injury problems, which are overstated most of the time because most baseball fans are mouth breathers, he's a pretty safe bet to provide more value than it pays him over the duration.  In 2010 he put up 6.7 rWAR in 122 games.  Last year he put up 5.3 rWAR in 128 games.  I'll pay that guy $20MM a year (as he'll be paid from 2015 through 2019), even if I expect him to miss time, no problem.  He will have to move away from SS eventually, which will hurt his value, but that doesn't change the overall likelihood that the extension works out well for the Rockies.  

2) Just because the Cardinals were sniffing around doesn't mean there was any kind of a decent deal to be had.  If the Cardinals' management has a mentality anything like any of the Best Fans In Baseball who provided internet insight on the possibility of their team scooping up Tulo, it would be the worst trade in history if they offered any of their 10 best prospects, because LOLCOORZ (Tulo career on the road: .276/.348/.471) and INJUREEZ (see above).  I don't think any rational Rockies fan gave even a passing thought to the idea of trading him for future assets. And as far as current assets goes, he's one of the best in the game, and is locked up for the rest of his career to a good contract.  

D) Describing a passing and unsubstantiated rumor that the SS-needy Cardinals had interest in the best SS in baseball, who happens to play for a non-playoff team, as "this winter's Tulowitzki dance" is embarrassingly terrible analysis.

So, OK, they see an open window over the next two or three years, with Tulo and CarGo in their primes. But then why did they just trade Dexter Fowler for a bucket of beans?

Who knows, it was probably a bad trade, but the Rockies have had success recently in converting some "plenty of potential but no real results" young arms into decent SPs in recent years (Jorge de la Rosa, Tyler Chatwood).  Fowler has the same injury problems Tulowitzki does, and is of course not nearly the player Tulowitzki is.  He's also streaky, getting hot for a few weeks and then disappearing for a few weeks, which isn't the end of the world when the end of year results are above average, but hurts a little more when it's your leadoff hitter doing it as opposed to someone lower in the lineup.  

Further, Gonzalez is a natural CF who is ready to take over, and corner OFs (to replace Gonzalez in LF) aren't exactly hard to find.  They're probably going to run a platoon of Corey Dickerson (.819 OPS against righties last year as a rookie) and Drew Stubbs (never quite blossomed fully, but career .796 OPS against lefties) out there, and they used the money they would have owed Fowler to sign Justin Morneau to play 1B (which was a tire fire last year).  THAT move could also blow up, but if you give the situation more than just a cursory look, it's easy to see how all the moves fit together.  Sheesh.

Yes, I know you can tell that I'm a Rockies fan, and that you don't give a fuck about that fact or the Rockies themselves.  Let me have my moment tearing Jonah down.  It's the least you can do for me.

None of those moves or non-moves is that bad in isolation; Tulo is a superstar who, even when he plays only 130 games a year, is still the best shortstop in baseball and one of the 20 best players in the majors, and Fowler is a perfectly fine player who also has gigantic home/road splits. The bigger issue is that management doesn't seem to have much of a tangible plan, other than keeping its biggest star in town so fans will keep lining up to buy $12 microbrews on sunny afternoons and the club can keep raking in gigantic gobs of money that it pretends not to have.

That's the most cynical, retarded viewpoint on how an MLB team should manage its assets I've ever read.  Jonah is apparently one of those IF YOU DON'T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS BLOW IT ALL UP AND START OVER PROSPECTS ARE AWESOME guys.  What a dope.

15. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (8): Strasburg falls a few spots from last year, since there's now at least a little doubt over his ability to take over the world. There's the still-tough-to-fathom innings-limit gambit of 2012, which sparks doubt over whether there was something else at play aside from a shot-in-the-dark guess at his appropriate workload in the thick of a pennant race.

What?  What the hell else could have been at play?  Someone in the Nationals front office ordering a shutdown so he could profit from betting against the team's postseason chances?  That decision was astonishingly dumb, but I'm 100% certain it was motivated solely by a shot-in-the-dark guess at Strasburg's appropriate workload.

13. Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants (27): Bumgarner should have ranked higher last year, so we're correcting matters this time.

Pretty much every player should have been ranked differently than they were on last year's list.  Please stop trying to sound like you've finally cracked the trade value code and are providing 100% accurate information, as opposed to last year when you were only providing barely-educated guesses.

12. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals (44): Wins Above Replacement underrates Molina, maybe severely.

CHECK OUT HIS CATCHER ERA!  ALSO HE FRAMES PITCHES A LOT!  Fucking gag me.  Not saying there's no value to pitch framing or "handling the staff," but to say Molina is "severely underrated" by any metric is laughable.  He's been a 6ish rWAR player these last two years.  I'm pretty sure he's not really actually a 10 rWAR player or something ridiculous like that.  He's not Barry fucking Bonds.

For now, though, Molina just might be the best player in the NL.

No.  He's not, and he's not in the top 5.  He might not be in the top 10.

5. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants (4); 4. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays (5): There are always what-ifs in baseball, especially when it comes to the draft. But given the success the Rays had with their top picks in 2006 (Longoria) and 2007 (Price), we might need to give a team of scientists 100 years to figure out how Tampa Bay chose Tim Beckham over Buster Posey with its top pick in 2008.

No team has ever had mixed success with high draft picks!  It's impossible to believe it happened to the Rays!  Like, literally impossible to believe!

When SI's Tom Verducci wrote about Harper back in 2009, he called the Las Vegas–based teenager "Baseball's LeBron," adding: "Golf has Tiger Woods, basketball has LeBron James, hockey had Wayne Gretzky and military history had Alexander the Great, but baseball, like jazz, is a discipline that does not easily engender prodigies … So good and so young is Bryce Harper, however, that he explodes baseball convention." Those words weren't just hosannas from a seasoned and well-respected writer; they reflected the opinion of every talent evaluator in baseball. When Verducci revisited Harper in May of last year, right after Harper's major league debut, it was impossible to overlook the irony involved. "Harper's debut was the most anticipated debut in baseball history," Verducci wrote, "if only because of the volume, scope, and speed of coverage we give professional sports." Basically, Harper is megahyped because Verducci and I and everyone else who writes about the sport drools over Harper's ability.

IRONIC IRONY!  Good job by Jonah of 1) misusing that, 2) not grasping that there's nothing weird (let alone ironic) about a writer doing a profile of a megaprospect and then three years later noting that lots of people were eager to see said megaprospect reach MLB, and 3) incorrectly crystalizing his own point, awkwardly flailing and ultimately failing to give any insight into the feedback loop of hype he's trying to describe.  Good effort, Jonah.  Better luck next year.  At least you put Mike Trout at #1 on the list.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Well, shit. I haven't done that Jonah Keri post.


In the meantime, here's an extremely short post about Bill Barnwell.  Besides the fact that he's a little smarmy (not funny smarmy--more like pretentious smarmy) and he's also constantly trying to emulate Simmons (I would know a little something about that don't you think lolololololol), Barnwell is really good.  I have no problem with 97% of what he writes.  These come from that other 3%.  Re: Josh McCown.

After completing 58 percent of his passes, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt, and throwing interceptions once every 25 attempts before this year as a pro, McCown's run as the Chicago starter saw him complete 66.8 percent of his passes while averaging 8.2 yards per attempt and throwing a lone interception in 220 attempts. It's likely the hottest stretch of his life — the proverbial pinch hitter who hits .400 in 150 at-bats after the starter gets hurt —

Ah yes.  That old, well-known proverb.  That old chestnut.  "That's as surprising as a pinch hitter who hits .400 in 150 at bats after the starter gets hurt."  Barnwell's misuse of "proverbial" is making my head literally explode with rage.

Re: Rashad Jennings

Oakland's goal as a team right now should be to try to find players who can contribute to their next great football team;

ARRRRRRRRRRRGH SMASH SMASH SMASH SMASH.  Really?  The Raiders are a FOOTBALL team with FOOTBALL players on the FOOTBALL field?  I had no idea.  I thought they played squash.

Re: Anthony Collins

Collins has the athleticism to protect quarterbacks on the left side; the only thing he lacks is experience, as he has been stuck behind Whitworth. With Whitworth (say that five times fast)


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rick Reilly gets OHsofuckingclose to writing a good article; ruins it in the last five sentences

Been working on a post about Jonah Keri's MLB trade value rankings, but it's not done, so I thought I'd share this tonight.  Holy ballsack, there is no way Rick Reilly wrote the first 95% of this.  You can bet your bottom dollar he wrote the last 5% though--particularly the last sentence.  You'll see.  Most of this is so inoffensive (and at times, even dryly funny) that I can present it with very minimal comment.  The subject matter: while HOF voters are taking idiotic (and often completely unfounded; Bagwell, Biggio, and more to come) stances regarding players who are allegedly tied to PEDs, the expansion era committee voters happily sent in three managers who managed several of STEROID HISTORY'S GREATEST MONSTERS for extended periods of time.  Although the two voting bodies consist of different people, that's fucking dumb, no?

I'm so pumped up for next July in Cooperstown!

I can't wait to see who's going to be in the crowd at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for new members Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre.

Maybe Mark McGwire will show up? It might be as close as he'll ever get. La Russa managed him for 15 seasons in both Oakland and St. Louis and says he never saw McGwire do a single steroid. Imagine that.

Simple unadorned sarcasm that doesn't have a cringe-inducing pun or play on words.  Like I said, if you're like me, you'll have a hard time believing Rick wrote this.

Maybe Alex Rodriguez will attend? He probably won't get in, either. Former New York Yankees skipper Torre says he didn't even notice A-Roid's alleged PED use in the four years he managed him. A-Roid's got plenty of time to go to Cooperstown. He's appealing a 211-game suspension for PEDs. Torre? No ban for him. In fact, he's an executive vice president of Major League Baseball now.

Maybe former Atlanta Braves manager Cox will look out in the crowd to see his old star Gary Sheffield. Probably not. Cox says he never saw all the PEDs Sheffield was taking when he had him right under his nose in the Atlanta clubhouse.

To be fair, Cox was probably legally blind by the mid 90s.

In all, the three managers being inducted oversaw at least 34 players who've been implicated as PED users and never noticed a thing wrong.

Now this isn't entirely fair.  It's not like any of these managers have (to my knowledge) gone on record and swore that they never once ever suspected any of their players ever took any steroids ever ever cross my heart and hope to die on a stack of Bibles.  But the general point here is 100% fair--the national media and a good chunk of baseball's fanbase have spent the last 15 years getting preachy and angry about steroid use.  It's escalated during the course of the last 5 or so years to a fever pitch.  It's probably not going away anytime soon.  So given that the role of a manager is to know his players inside and out so he can put them in the best possible position to succeed on the field, how is there zero outrage directed at these guys?  I'm not saying that steroidmongers should treat managers exactly the same as they treat players.  I'm saying, given that there are dozens of writers and hundreds of thousands of fans bursting with moral indignation at the idea of guys like Clemens and Bonds getting into the HOF, why hasn't there been ANY discussion at all on the national level about the role managers played in enabling steroid use?

Sorry.  Rick, you're doing a good job.  Back to you.

You could build a wing with the admitted and suspected drug cheats they won with: A-Rod, Roger Clemens (Torre), Jason Giambi (Torre and La Russa), McGwire, Jose Canseco (La Russa), Melky Cabrera (Torre and Cox), David Justice (Torre and Cox), Andy Pettite (Torre), Manny Ramirez (Torre with the Dodgers) and Sheffield (Torre and Cox.)

What the fuck is Melky Cabrera doing with the rest of these guys?  Other than that, great point.

If we get really lucky, maybe disgraced HGH pitcher Darren Holmes will show up. He played under all three of them!

I'm sure Rick didn't do that research himself, but the fact that he thought to ask someone else to do it represents a level of effort miles beyond what he usually puts out.

It's just another year in the Hall of Farce, 

Dumb, but not as dumb as his usual "jokes."  I'm just thrilled he DIDN'T go with "Hall of Shame."

where the codes of conduct shift like beach sand; where the rules for one set of men are ignored for another; where PED poppers can never enter, but the men who turned their backs to the cheating get gleaming, bronze plaques.

Hail The Great Enablers!

Holy crap, it's a little melodramatic (it's not like the managers were buying the steroids for the players or anything), but wow, that's borderline good writing.

La Russa's slipping on the Hall of Fame jersey Monday is the sight that really tested my gag reflex. He did more for juicers than Jack LaLanne. 

A dated reference, to be sure, but again not nearly as dumb as his usual fare.  I expected a joke about Orange Julius or something.

He managed McGwire and Canseco -- the Wright Brothers of the Druggie Era -- for 21 combined seasons. He made millions on their pimpled backs, won his first World Series title on their syringes and built his 33-year managing career on their artificially carved biceps.

Under La Russa, the Oakland clubhouse became a kind of leather-upholstered showroom for creams, rubs and injections that allowed players to work out harder, recover quicker and attack the game like a wolf in a hen house. It didn't change much in St. Louis, either, where he says he didn't notice what McGwire, Troy Glaus, Fernando Vina and Ryan Franklin were doing.

Score another victory for Baseball's Best Fans, who trip over their dicks telling you about how their team always Plays The Game The Right Way.  I hope Will Leitch falls out of a hot air balloon.

He spent eight hours a day around these guys, eight months a year, and yet he never saw a thing. Maybe he dressed in a different clubhouse?

Who knows whether and how many of these players were openly using in the clubhouse, but the managers aren't idiots.  You know they knew.  Sorry to acknowledge Canseco, because the last thing he deserves (besides attention) is acknowledgement, but I pretty firmly believe him (and Ken Caminiti, and the rest of the long list of players who have said that everyone in baseball knew everyone was using).

But he goes into the HOF and those players never will. Maybe he can send them some Instagrams.

A pretty bad cultural reference without any meaningful context other than "this is one-uh them apps them kids like to use these days," but still, this is an A+ relative to everything Reilly has done since like 2004.

Hey, you think any of the three skips will mention how PEDS helped them get to that sunny afternoon in Cooperstown?

Oh, and I can't forget to thank Katalina at Tijuana Pharmacy for all her help. Like my players always said, "We can't get cut without Kat!"

You won't even have to be in Cooperstown to smell the hypocrisy. Even the faintest scent of a rumor of PED use is enough to sink a player now.

Managers? Odorless.

Take Houston Astros great Craig Biggio. He had more than enough career to get in, and even though there isn't a stitch of evidence against him, the writers have kept him out because they have a niggling hunch he might've used.

Again, the BBWAA is not responsible for the election of these managers, but the broader point is absolutely worth talking about.  Currently, the discussion about steroid use by subtopic is split up as follows: 90% players, 5% MLB itself, 5% owners.  Managers need a chunk of that pie.  A pretty big one.  (Obviously the owners and league could also stand to gain at least twenty percentage points as well.)

Remember, kids: If you play the game under even a single cloud of suspicion, you're out. Manage it under one? Come on in and pull up a plaque!

Can you imagine this in any other sport? Do you think for a second Johan Bruyneel, the manager of all of Lance Armstrong's cheating, champion Tour de France teams, didn't know what was going on? You figure Bonnie and Clyde's driver just thought they were always running late?

As I think I've made pretty clear around here, I dislike steroid users but do not hate them with the flaming passion of a thousand burning suns.  I especially dislike guys like Bonds and Clemens, who were gigantic assholes in addition to using steroids, but what are you gonna do?  They were great players, as were McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, etc.  I don't want to be in the business of being the morality police and punishing players for conduct that wasn't against the rules when they were doing it.  I also don't want to be in the business of deciding who would or would not have gotten in anyways absent steroid use.  And I sure as fucking fuck especially don't want to be in the business of deciding whether a guy who's never been formally connected to steroids "looked like a user," or some horrendous garbage like that.  

So you know what?  If I were voting, I'd pretty much just vote without factoring it in.  That might allow for the admission of a guy like McGwire or Sosa who may not have made it in without roids, but that's a far lesser evil in my mind than the exclusion of guys like Bagwell or Biggio.  I don't like steroid use, but Jesus, can we please unbundle the national panties?  It happened.  There are now good measures in place to curb its use.  Anyways, this has been a great and thoughtful article by Rick, and I'm happy to see what he may be in the process of turning over a new leaf, so why don't we---

Next month, the writers are expected to vote down McGwire for the eighth time and Clemens for the second time. 

Oh no.  Rick, please don't.  Please stop while you're ahead.  We don't need to delve into this.  You've done a great job here--

They're right to do it. 

Noooooooooooooooo.  Even if you disagree with my steroids stance and agree with his, I hope you can agree that he didn't need to go into this.  The article would have been just fine without it.

Those guys are tainted beyond any reasonable doubt, though Clemens still maintains innocence. But for the expansion error 

Rick, please!  That's the kind of joke we're used to seeing from you!  The wheels are coming off!

committee to let these three managers in -- unanimously, no less -- after winning hundreds of games with better chemistry is the gold standard of double standards.

Jesus.  That's so disappointing.  Just please don't finish with one of your signature horrendous one liners--

If you believe they didn't know, then you'll fit perfectly in Dupers Town.

And the collapse is complete.  Jean van de Velde, Rick.  Rick, Jean van de Velde.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bill Simmons started watching the 2013 Red Sox in August, and hey, what do you know, a championship! Time to write about them like he had been paying attention all season (Part 3 of 3)

It's sad it has taken me this long to wade through this.  I have missed about twenty great opportunities to comment on Bill's weekly NFL point spreads picks articles, where he is 25 games under .500 (and God knows how many aggregate games under .500 in the last however many years) and keeps saying things like "As for this Chiefs-Broncos game: I'm grabbing the points only because the line should be "Broncos by 3" and I'm getting an extra 1.5 points." (Actual quote.)  Oh yeah Bill, are ya?  Is it really the case that someone who is now 80-105-6 against the spread this season has the ability to discern 1.5 point errors in the spreads created by Vegas insiders?  Or are you just a fucking idiot?  This guy is a world class horse's ass.  Let's finish out his attempt to pretend to care about baseball at any time other than when the Red Sox are throwing a parade.

I am old enough to remember every Red Sox season since 1975. Baseball is long. Baseball takes forever. It's day in, day out, for six solid months — seven if you're lucky.

Insert joke about Chris W and the NBA playoffs here.

Winning is always fun. But this team? This team was REALLY fun.

Because they won a LOT.  Had they won only a medium amount, this team would have been a REALLY big disappointment.

They weren't the most talented 25 guys we've ever had,

Yeah, I don't have time to do a full breakdown of their roster, but what with them only winning 97 games and having like seven All-Star caliber players on the team (granted, only four made the team, but you can make the case for Lester, Lackey, Ellsbury and Uehara being in the neighborhood), I agree.  This is only one of the fifteen or so most talented Red Sox teams in their 100+ year history.  NO ONE BELIEVED IN US!

but they had a way of lifting each other up and making each other better in ways that — for an individual sport disguised as a team sport, one in which you're on your own just about all the time — make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Terrible writing.

For the first three months, I thought we'd remember them as a likable group that helped the city heal after the marathon bombings. We didn't have that one lights-out starter,

Clay Buchholz, as of his injury on June 8: 9-0, 1.71 ERA.

or that second big bopper in the lineup.

Yeah, all they had was a lineup with very good hitters at nearly every position.  Other than Will Middlebrooks, every guy who received significant ABs ended up with and OPS+ of at least 111.  I'm not going to track down their OPS+ as of June, but suffice it to say, it wasn't exactly David Ortiz and a bunch of all glove no bat guys.  This team could hit.  Anyone who actually watched them, rather than ignored them because they hadn't won a World Series since 2007, would know that.

You can only go so far with the "everyone lifting everyone else up" thing, right?

Throw yourself in front of a train.

A team with A-list starters — maybe Detroit, maybe Tampa —

Or maybe Boston, with Buchholz (ERA+ of 234), Lackey (116) and Lester (109)

would rip through us in October and that would be that.


I never thought they had a higher ceiling until August, right around the time Koji Uehara turned into Dennis Eckersley circa 1989. 

Which, as the commenter from like a month ago pointed out, was probably the first time all season Bill watched a game.

You need weird shit to happen during the season to win a World Series; this season certainly qualified. In mid-August, they outplayed a scorching-hot Dodgers team in Dodger Stadium; that's the first time I remember thinking they had a chance. 


They protected home-field advantage in September, rolled through Tampa in the ALDS, then everything crashed in the ALCS. Their bats died for 16 solid innings. Sanchez and Scherzer 

When he first wrote this, he said "Verlander and Scherzer" (they published a correction later), because, you know, he totally is a big Red Sox fan who watches every game, even when they're not playing well.

weren't just shutting them down; they were eviscerating them.

They weren't just pitching well.  They were pitching REALLY well!  Pulitzer please!

And then the eighth inning happened … and this happened.


[Ortiz grand slam video goes here; apologies to all readers in Michigan]

He came through. Again.

So here we are, about 3000 words into this piece: we're finally ready to hear about David Ortiz.  DID YOU KNOW HE PLAYED SMALL FORWARD ON HIS MIDDLE SCHOOL BASKETBALL TEAM?  HIS FAVORITE PLAYER WAS A CERTAIN 6'8" GUY FROM FRENCH LICK INDIANA (MAYBE YOU'VE HEARD OF HIM)?!?!?!?!?!

The playoffs were never the same. 

Horrendous, terrible, horrible, gut-wrenching writing.

The Beards ripped off eight wins in 11 games, more than enough for Boston's third World Series title in my lifetime.  My friend Sully summed it up best via text: "Aidan's (his 12-year-old son's) 


reaction was like, 'Cool, another championship.' They have no idea that this doesn't happen." They really don't. I never thought I'd see one … and I've seen three in 10 years. Huh????

Die die die die die die.  The only reason I didn't put that in ALL CAPS was to distinguish it from the mean things I'm saying as Bill's proxy.  Trust me, I meant DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE.

We'll remember 2004 for all the obvious reasons. 


We'll remember 2007 as proof that 2004 wasn't lightning in a bottle that could never be replicated. 

Fucking Cleveland.  Thanks, Ryan Garko.  Colorado-Cleveland would have been the least watched World Series of the 21st century (and who gives a shit about that, really?) and also would have produced a WS champion that wasn't patently obnoxious about everything.

We'll remember 2013 for Boston Strong and the beards, and over everything else, for David Ortiz. And that's the case for three reasons.

Let's start a list for no reason!  People like lists!  Bill is the Buzzfeed of sportwriters.

1. We thought he was done. 

Steroid joke here.  Honestly, I don't even hate Ortiz, so I don't really want to get into bitter specifics on my own.  But after the way 2009 was his worst season ever (.238/.332/.462 as a 33 year old) and he way he started 2010 (.185/.267/.407 through mid-May) it's kind of hard to believe he became a 4.4 WAR .309/.395/.564 player as a 37 year old in 2013.  I'm not some rosary-clutching loser who thinks steroid users are worse than war criminals.  I'm just saying, do I think David Ortiz uses steroids?  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm no comment.

This has to be mentioned. I wrote Papi's baseball eulogy in June of 2009, when his body was (seemingly) breaking down and he couldn't get around on 89 mph fastballs anymore. Boston fans loved him so much that they never booed him


 — every Ortiz failure was greeted with an awkward silence, the ultimate respect for everything he meant. I can't remember another sound quite like it. 

You mean, like silence?  The same sound you can get pretty much anywhere on Earth at any time?

You almost wanted to hear a few boos, 

No you didn't, this is just awful writing.

if only to temper the collective discomfort. But no Boston fan could boo that guy, just like we could have never jeered at Bird or Orr. My final takeaway in that column: "Barring a miraculous return of bat speed, he'll be benched or released soon. It'll hurt, and I'm going to feel bad. I already do."


But wait! His bat speed eventually returned. That same season, Ortiz's name got "released" in connection with a positive result from a 2003 MLB drug test that was supposed to be anonymous, a stigma that trails him to this day. The details of that report were so murky, nobody can fully explain what happened — more than 100 players apparently tested positive for something, only they weren't breaking any baseball rules because there were no rules in place, and they could have triggered a positive test for amphetamines or some now-illegal supplement that wasn't illegal in 2003. Ortiz professed his innocence, although Boston fans would have preferred that he did it a little more belligerently. The moment passed and he hasn't failed a test since. He's never been involved in a Biogenesis-type scandal, outed by a clubhouse attendant, tied to some shady Victor Conte character, anything. He looks exactly like he looked in 2003; if anything, he's a few pounds skinnier.

But he's also 37 years old (he will be 38 on November 18), and he's cranking 98 mph fastballs, and he looked finished four years ago. So I get it. After everything that happened these past two decades, we're always going to be a little suspicious. Of everybody. 

You know what, that's way more than I'd expect Bill to acknowledge.  That's actually only 75% biased and idiotic.  But yeah, Ortiz is probably on steroids.  Peter King says MAYBE.  THAT'S A LEGIT 75% CHANCE.

But if you examine his 11-year Boston run as a whole, it makes a little more sense: His first Boston season in 2003 (31 homers, 101 RBIs, .288/.369/.592) doesn't look much different than his 11th Boston season in 2013 (30 homers, 103 RBIs, .309/.395/.564).

If you compare his numbers from when he was in his athletic prime to his numbers from when he was at the age that most professional athletes get put out to pasture, they're basically the same!  That PROVES that he's clean!

Bill Simmons is a fucking jackass.

Even if his 2013 World Series numbers look supernatural — 25 plate appearances, 11 hits, eight walks, two homers — really, he just caught fire for five games after slumping the previous series (2-for-25), then they smartly pitched around him in Game 6. Did you know his regular-season OPS in Boston is the exact same number as his playoff career OPS (including his trip with the 2002 Twins)? 

Fascinating!  Who gives a flying violent fuck, in the context of a discussion as to his value to the 2013 team, his likelihood of steroid use, and his relationship to Bill Russell?

It's true — .962 for both. Big Papi has looked the same for 11 years, barring a couple of peaks (2004 through 2006) and valleys (the homestretch in 2008, the first three months of 2009 and 2010). I don't know what else to tell you. 

You could tell us it's suspicious as fuck that a 33 year old cratered, and then was back to being a superstar at 37.  That's one option.  In fact you DID tell us that, you just failed to draw the world's most obvious conclusion from it.

In a vacuum, this goes down as the second-greatest career comeback in Boston sports history behind everything Ted Williams did after Korea. Ortiz was finished, then suddenly he wasn't.

/Larry B has head in hands

2. Five days after the Tsarnaev brothers blew up Boston's most sacred event, and just 24 hours after one brother was killed and the other was caught, everyone decided that it was OK to play baseball at Fenway again. 

MLB and John Henry decided it was OK to play baseball at Fenway again, because 1) the bombers were killed/caught, and 2) there was money to be made.

The game happened on a Saturday afternoon, preceded by an emotional ceremony and many prayers. You always hear that tragedies put sports in perspective, that they prove we shouldn't care this much about the successes and failures of a bunch of wealthy strangers. I'm going the other way — sometimes, sports put everything else in perspective. 

Horrible, terrible, head banging against wall god awful writing.  Klosterman would be proud though.  SECRETLY IT'S ACTUALLY PERSPECTIVE THAT PUTS EVERYTHING ELSE IN SPORTS!  THINK ABOUT IT!

Our favorite teams bring people together, keep family members close, bond people from different generations. 

Other thing that brings people together, keeps family members close, and bonds people from different generations: being close to people, being family with them, and interacting with them.

Some of the happiest moments of my life involve something that happened with one of my teams. Some of the best relationships I ever had were with Boston athletes that I never even met. That's a bad thing?

Yes.  The happiest moment thing, I won't lie, I actually agree with.  Some of my happiest moments do non-sarcastically involve sports.  The relationship thing?  This guy is a huge fucking loser.

Of course, we always worry that these guys don't care about us. 

Only if we're insecure and are desperate to think that OW-UH GUYS play the game the right way BETTAH THAN YO-AH GUYS.  Any of us who are rational just want to see our team win because we like our team, and we don't really care very much about whether the players are deeply invested in the team or just there to make a buck.  Because we're not fucking stupid.

That they're just passing through, throwing on some laundry, cashing some checks and pretending they care. We've all been burned by favorite players. 


You start throwing your guard up after awhile, 

Holy Jesus, melodramatic much?

and eventually you stop caring quite as much … 

When your team goes a few years without winning a title...

even if you don't want to admit it. I am 44 years old now, a million years away from being the kid who lugged his autographed, framed Clemens/20 K's photo to six different apartments before breaking it into pieces in the seventh. 

Terrible writing; were these apartments he lived in, or apartments he visited in an effort to track down Clemens to get him to autograph it again?

It's really hard to rope me in at this point. But when Ortiz grabbed the mic on that Saturday and screamed, "THIS IS OUR FUCKIN' CITY!!!!!," I don't think I've ever been prouder of an athlete. 

Non-sarcastically, I kind of agree.  I love profanity on TV.  Although I find it annoying that the FCC didn't fine FOX, or whoever televised the game, because the director was a Red Sox fan.  You'd better believe that if the bombing happened in Phoenix and Paul Goldschmidt swore on TV, there would have been fines galore.  America is full of retards.

3. He's been the life of the World Series party three times now — 2004, 2007 and 2013 — and over everything else, that's when the David Ortiz era becomes historically fascinating. 

No. Lots of players have won three rings with the same team in non-consecutive years.

By the time I graduated college, Bird, Russell, Orr and Williams were the big four. All discussions started and ended with them. 

He's 44, born in or around 1969.  Graduated college in or around 1992 (because he went to prep school, the spoiled fuck).  WHAT ABOUT THE GREATRIOTS, BILL?  WHY WASN'T TONY EASON IN THE DISCUSSION?  Oh that's right, the Patriots weren't good yet.  I'm obviously trolling because there is no Patriot from the 1960s through 1990s who compares to Bird, Russell, Orr or Williams.  But I can happily say that although I would sooner throw myself into a volcano than become Bill Simmons, if I am still writing about sports when I'm 44, I'll have no qualms with talking about my favorite Rockies and Nuggets from days gone by.  That's because I'm not a frrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrontrunner (Do we have a label for that?  We should).

In the 2000s, Tom Brady made his run … and if the 2007 Pats had finished 19-0, he would have joined them. 


Right now, he's still standing outside the front door waiting for the bouncer to let him in. To be continued.


But Ortiz? We thought the bouncer shooed him away a while ago. Now he's back. He just cemented his reputation as one of the greatest clutch Boston athletes ever, and one of the greatest clutch baseball players, too. He came through time and time and time and time and time again. So many times that I can't even keep track, actually.

Evidently you haven't been, because as you said yourself, Ortiz's regular season OPS in Boston is the same as his playoff OPS (.962).  It's higher than his career OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position (.945), in "late and close" (as defined by situations (.875), and "high leverage" (also bbr) situations (.936).  Basically, he's always been really good; no better, and perhaps a bit worse, when it was 6-0 in the 4th inning of a game in May than when it was 2-2 in the 8th inning of a playoff game.

Throw in his personality, throw in the iconic "our city" moment, and throw in the stakes — nothing from 1919 through 2003, with people living entire lives and dying without seeing a Red Sox title — and I think the bouncer just let him in. 

Bill Russell and Bobby Orr and Ted Williams > Larry Bird >>>>> Tom Brady >>>>>> David Ortiz.

And you know what else? It's a great place. It's the best place. You get to live forever in there. People tell stories about you to their kids, and their grandkids, and they can always say they saw you play. You might even get your own statue downtown someday. Tomorrow, it happens for the great Bill Russell. Someday, it will happen for David Ortiz. It will.

Worst.  Callback.  Ever.  Fuck this guy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bill Simmons started watching the 2013 Red Sox in August, and hey, what do you know, a championship! Time to write about them like he had been paying attention all season (Part 2)

Bill was in the middle of telling us how 79-year-old Bill Russell tires easily.  But don't worry, Red Sox fans, you'll be hearing about your team soon enough.  Just need to account for the fact that Bill doesn't know jack fucking dick about baseball and is a huge fairweather Red Sox fan.  Once he gets done telling his story about an athlete from the sport he actually follows, he'll get around to you.

We walked into his library, which was practically sinking under all the books and pictures.

We walked into his kitchen, which was practically sinking under all the pans and dishes.  We walked into his bedroom, which was practically sinking due to the really big bed.  We walked into his basement, and over there, in the left corner, you could see the way the room was sinking into the foundation of the house.  

Fucking terrible writing.

To describe Russell as "well read" would be an understatement. 

There's the mealy-mouthed racism we were waiting for!  I know I was on pins and needles.  He reads books!  Doesn't that surprise you?  And he's SO well spoken.  He's not one of them.

During a bathroom break earlier, I had sneaked in there to peruse his books — if only because you can learn a lot from someone just by their books — 

1) We all know the only reason Simmons was looking was because he desperately hoped that Russell owned a copy of The Book of Basketball
2) Insert joke about what books are in Simmons's house here (I was going to go with Dr. Seuss, but I'm sure you can do better)

and noticed my own basketball tome, which Russell had allegedly read and enjoyed. 


The condition of the book made it seem like someone had read it, so maybe he did. 

Maybe he lent it to Larry Bird, and Bird read it!  Did you know Bird respected Russell and once told a crowd that Russell was good at basketball?  Just another classic Larry Legend moment.

Without him knowing, I signed one of the pages inside and carefully placed it back in the same spot. Now I was pretending that I had never seen his library before.

What an asshole.

"Here, look at this," Bill Russell said.

I hope Russell did the "You've got something on your shirt VWOOP gotcha!" move.

He handed me a framed photo of himself and Obama — taken two years earlier in 2010, when Obama had invited Russell to the White House, given him the Presidential Medal of Freedom and urged the city of Boston to build a statue for him. 

I can't think of a better example of a plea destined to fall upon deaf ears.

"Isn't that something?" he asked me, beaming proudly, looking like me after my daughter 


crushes one of her soccer games. Only Obama gets Bill Russell to geek out. 

Terrible writing.

He loved everything about that day. Once upon a time, Russell had given speeches telling his fellow African Americans to keep their eyes on the prize, to never let anyone define them, or keep them down, or tell them they couldn't do something. He wanted them to believe that they didn't have a ceiling, that 40 or 50 years later, one of them could even be president. He made that point in more than one speech. 

Specific examples?  Research?  Context?  Not here, reader.  You're in Grantland now.

Now it was 2012 … and Bill Russell was holding a photo of him and President Barack Obama. Isn't that something? Yes. That's something.

Terrible writing.

We spent the next hour sitting at his kitchen table, with Russell telling us story after story. He kept bringing up his late wife, his third one, who had passed away a few years earlier. It became more and more obvious that he hadn't recovered yet. 

From all of that brutal standing he had to do earlier.

I found myself worrying about him. He's not alone all the time, right? People come to visit him, right? Russell talked about his various road trips, 

Terrible writing.

how sometimes he just packs a bag, climbs into his car and goes. He drives to Los Angeles, Chicago, wherever. He loves driving. Sometimes he'll bring a friend to keep him company.

This is somehow even less interesting than the part of the article I covered in my last post.

Eventually, we started talking about Boston again. I had a good handle on Russell at this point. You get one chance with him and that's that. It's a theme that kept coming up all day. Boston had already used up that one chance, as well as about seven other ones. 

Terrible writing.

How much bitterness did Russell have toward Boston? When the Celtics retired his number in 1972, he skipped the ceremony. No-showed it. Who does that? He made the same point over and over again: His loyalties lay with his Celtics teammates, and Red Auerbach, and Walter Brown. Not the fans, and definitely not the city. He didn't care if he ever went back. Or so he claimed.

Remember that part about him not showing up for his own number retirement ceremony?  Seems pretty legit.  HAHA BUT JOKE'S ON YOU, BILL RUSSELL, YOU WERE LURED BACK AFTER THE PRESIDENT TOLD THE CITY TO MAKE AMENDS AND THEN THEY BUILT YOU A STATUE.  YOUR CONVICTIONS AREN'T SO STRONG AFTER ALL!  This just goes to prove that racism doesn't exist in Boston.

I didn't totally believe him. Deep down, he cares. I think he does, anyway.

Terrible writing.

But that statue was going up whether Bill Russell showed up or not. The city needed it as much as he did. 

I'm pretty sure the city needed it way more than he did, given the way it treated him.

The mayor kept pressuring him, cajoling him, practically begging him to return. Same for Steve Pagliuca, one of the current owners of the Celtics (and one of the people responsible for making the statue happen). Same for Russell's daughter, Karen, and everyone else who Russell trusts in his life. Eventually, the great Bill Russell caved. He agreed to come back to Boston.

The ceremony will happen two days after the Red Sox won another World Series. Russell returns to a different city in every respect. 

Terrible writing.  Every respect?  Every last one?

The Big Dig finished nearly a decade ago, opening up downtown and even extinguishing some of the suffocating traffic.

Traffic Bill probably didn't have to deal with that much, considering he left in 1969.

It's a much happier city now, with a recent run of championships killing off the "woe is us" mentality that had become an identity of sorts (both locally and nationally). 

You know when else they had a run of championships?  In the 1960s, when Russell was there.  I'm not sure he would really have been aware of the insufferable woe is us vibe that permeated the place during the 80s and 90s.

Boston fans don't expect the worst anymore. 


During the late innings of Game 2 of the ALCS against Detroit, when it looked like the Red Sox offense had a giant salad fork sticking out of it, I found it fascinating that everyone at Fenway kept waiting for the boys to improbably rally even before that improbable rally happened.

Can you believe the stadium didn't just empty out because it was 5-1 in the 7th inning of a playoff game?  Those fans who stuck around in their $400 seats are literally amazing heroes.  And they didn't just stick around--they stuck around AND hoped their team would win, and then the team did exactly that.  It's the most astonishing human accomplishment I have ever heard of, other than the moon landing (if we assume the moon landing actually happened).

Holy dog balls, the self-importance of the fans of this city can barely be described.

It was that kind of season. A different dude with a different beard seemed to come through every time we needed it. Coming off an unhappy 2011 ending (that's an understatement) 


That's one of my favorite nights of sports ever, and my favorite team was most certainly not involved in any of the action or fun.

and a catastrophic 2012 season, 


the owners and GM Ben Cherington smartly shifted gears and emphasized chemistry over everything else. 

Ah, chemistry.  The favorite worthless narrative of shithead sportswriters everywhere.  If the Red Sox had the exact same group of players who all had the exact same amount of fun, but lost to Tampa in the ALDS, then the problem would have been NOT ENOUGH TEAM CHEMISTRY.  Meanwhile I'm sure their title had nothing to do with their awesome pitching staff and surprisingly potent lineup.  Nah, it was just that the players really liked high fiving each other.

They gravitated toward likable guys who could handle playing in Boston, even severely overpaying one of the league's best teammates (Shane Victorino) 

No one has ever said that about Victorino prior to this October.  Suddenly he has a good playoffs for a championship team and he's Mr. Chemistry.  Sportswriters are the dumbest fucking people on the planet.

because he made more sense for this plan than just about anyone else. Victorino's at-bat music ended up being the rallying cry for 2013: Every time he came up at Fenway, you could hear the first notes of a Bob Marley song, followed by Marley singing, "Don't worry … about a thing," and then 35,000 fans screaming, "CUZ EVERY LITTLE THING … IS GONNA BE ALL RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!"

Percentage this had to do with Boston's title: fucking Z fucking E fucking R fucking fuckity fuck fuck O.

That's all you needed to know about the 2013 Red Sox. 

What he means here, and in everything that follows, is "This is pretty much all I know about the 2013 Red Sox, because I didn't pay attention to them until August.  Hey did you know Bill Russell likes Eggo waffles?  His freezer is full of them."

For the first four months, nobody expected them to win the World Series — 

You're right, they were only in first place on May 1, June 1, and July 1 (best record in the AL at that time), but I agree--the 2013 Red Sox were truly the little engine that could.  With their scant $158MM payroll (4th highest in baseball) and loads of on-field success throughout the season, who could have seen a deep playoff run coming?

we were just happy to have a likable Red Sox team again. 


Go eat a fucking knife, Bill.  You're the worst.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bill Simmons started watching the 2013 Red Sox in August, and hey, what do you know, a championship! Time to write about them like he had been paying attention all season (Part 1)

This article is actually an expose on Big Papi, rather than the 2013 Red Sox as a whole.  But they're one and the same for our (OW-UH) purposes.  And since Bill couldn't be bothered to watch the 2012 Red Sox after it became clear by early summer that they were not going to be the Best Team Ever, nor was he able to stomach the 2013 Red Sox until most of the way through the season when it became clear they would make the playoffs, he begins with 4,000 words about something exactly like Big Papi and the Red Sox: Bill Russell.

Tomorrow afternoon in Boston, Massachusetts, the great Bill Russell finally gets his own statue.

I'm just going to get this out of the way early and not go back to it (unless Bill does something really super terrible later on): Boston is a racist city that actively disliked Russell while he was leading the Celtics to like 12 championships in 13 years or whatever it was.  Racism.  Boston.  Potato.  Poe-tah-toe.  It still makes me laugh even though it's so sad.  But I don't want to go back to the well for that kind of joke 50 times throughout the course of this post, so that'll be it for now.

Details were scarce until recently. We know the statue will be unveiled in City Hall Plaza, that it stands about eight feet tall, that a talented local artist named Ann Hirsch created it.


We know President Obama passed through Boston on Wednesday and caught an early glimpse. We know Russell and his family will attend the ceremony — no small feat, because Russell is wired like a Sicilian mafia boss. He remembers every slight, every offense, every ill word, everything. Boston let him down for good a long time ago.

At least Bill acknowledges it.

He gave up on Boston. Gave up on the city. Gave up on the people. Bill Russell has spent the past four decades living in Seattle, on Mercer Island, about as far from Boston as you can get without falling into the Pacific Ocean.

When I spent the day with Russell last November, 


he maintained that he didn't care about Boston anymore. 

I think moving to Seattle is a pretty good hint that he's not bluffing.

Little clues throughout our conversation said otherwise. He remembered everyone mistakenly assuming that a budding Celtics dynasty would come to a halt in 1963, when Bob Cousy retired, as if the Cooz was the reason for those first six titles. He remembered playing more than one Game 7 in a Boston Garden that was only 70 percent full, and he definitely remembered Bobby Orr's Bruins selling out games in December and January. He remembered the reaction after Red Auerbach named Russell as his coaching successor, as if nobody could believe that a black guy — a black guy — could tell a bunch of white people what to do. He remembered the idiots who wrecked his new house, destroyed his trophies and defecated on his walls, because how would anyone ever forget something like that? He definitely remembered how Boston fans deified Larry Bird, how they put him on a pedestal for winning eight fewer titles than Russell did.

It seems Bill is trying to get into a semantics argument and say that "still being really angry at a city that never appreciated his greatness because of his skin color" is different than not caring.  You and I, since we have brains, know that you can be furious about something but not really, truly care about it.  You can just leave it behind and let it fade away.  Which sounds exactly like what Russell was doing, except that it's harder for him to forget all those things than it is for you and I to forget that the coach cut us from the 9th grade baseball team, because 1) as Bill just said, Russell is wired like a crazy person and 2) he was disrespected because of the way he was born; you and I were disrespected (read: told by the universe to give up) because we sucked at baseball.

These moments kept coming up, and they kept coming up, and by the end of it, I just assumed that Bill Russell would never return to Boston. That he would live the rest of his life and die in Seattle, and that would be it. 

And all they had to do to lure him back for a few days was PUT UP A FUCKING STATUE OF HIM.  What a faker that Russell is--always pretending like he was deeply hurt by racism!

We spent the first chunk of our interview in Russell's basement, with the six-time MVP standing in front of his trophy case and telling stories about everything inside it. A few months earlier, he had undergone a heart procedure and was still recovering from it. Someone close to him warned us, "Make sure he doesn't stand for too long — he's still a little weak."  Like a dummy, I became so enthralled with our conversation that I kept him standing for 90 solid minutes. 

Riveting journalism.  "I interviewed Bill Russell.  He was standing.  Someone told me to make sure he didn't stand too much.  Later, we sat."

I can remember exactly where we were — the left corner of his basement,

I FEEL LIKE I'M THERE!  Also, what the fuck is the "left corner" of a room?  Is Russell's house in a side scrolling video game?

at the tail end of a wall covered with framed photos, magazine covers and newspaper clippings. Russell had framed a Boston Herald article from June 1986, right after Bird won his third title — the summer when Larry Legend could have announced that he was walking across the Charles River and 50,000 locals would have scurried down there to witness it — 


when many believed that Bird was the greatest basketball player ever. 

I said I wouldn't do more racism jokes.  I said I wouldn't do more racism jokes.  /grits teeth

You know who disagreed with that argument? Larry Joe Bird. He maintained that Bill Russell was the best, that the 11 rings spoke for themselves. The headline of the piece said something like "Bird: Russell Still the Best." If you think it doesn't mean anything that Russell framed this article and put it in his basement, then you don't know anything about Bill Russell.

And since you've never met him and stood with him for a medium amount of time, you definitely don't know him like I do!  Hey did I mention I got to meet Bird at one point too?

And as we were talking about it, suddenly, his eyes went blank.


I was standing there looking up at Russell — remember, he towers over me by eight inches — 

Still more beautiful and expository writing.  Bill Russell is tall.  Also a nice humblebrag tucked in there; just so you know, Bill is over six feet.  AND HE PLAYS PICKUP BASKETBALL STILL HIS KIDS ARE CRAZY KOBE BRYANT USED STEROIDS EFF YOU MODE!

waiting for his next sentence to come. We had a camera crew watching us from a few feet away, along with a few other selected guests. 

Peter King was there, for some reason, asking Russell what his favorite Sam Adams seasonal was.

I thought Russell had dramatically paused before his next point, eventually realizing that he couldn't get his next breath. I can still see his face — dark and weathered, white beard, whiskers popping from the sides like snowflakes. I can still see his blank eyes. I remember panicking about 1.8 seconds before anyone else started to panic. Oh my god. We killed Bill Russell. Someone frantically pulled over a tall stool. We urged him to sit down. Russell asked for a minute. We stood there in silence, watching one of the greatest athletes who ever lived now struggling to breathe. Someone gave him a bottle of water and that helped.

Bill Russell is 79.  Everyone knows this (NO ONE DENIES IT!).  This is not even slightly interesting, and I would be shocked if Bill wasn't embellishing the amount of drama in the moment.  The guy is old; old people get tired just from watching TV, let alone talking.  Please, continue this riveting tale.  What happened next?  Did you continue the interview?

We decided to change locations, moving upstairs into Russell's living room, 

So, how about David Ortiz and those 2013 Red Sox?  What a playoff run.

where we had arranged one of those traditional interview setups with two chairs facing each other. Russell made his way up the stairs — slowly, painstakingly, to the point where you could feel every step — 

Copy and paste my analysis from above.  Also, that's truly horrendous writing.

before finding his chair and sitting down. The camera crew hustled to turn on the lights and set everything else up, 

And to turn on their cameras and set up the sound and stuff!  It was neat!  This is turning into a long-winded 2nd grader's story about a trip to the zoo, only less interesting.

and now Russell and I were just looking at each other. I was concerned. Really, really concerned. Russell was staring at me with glassy eyes. He was in another place. Just concentrating on his breaths. 


The room was dead silent, like a church, with everyone else fretting and talking in hushed-beyond-hushed tones. His friend Charlie kept telling us, "He's fine, just give him a minute, he's fine."

And then … BOOM! Bill Russell was fine. He sprang back to life. "I'm OK," he said, unleashing his trademark laugh, and I can still feel my own heart racing happily after he said it. 

I considered doing that thing that I often do with TMQ writing where I cut a paragraph off midsentence and fast forward to the next point, but I wanted to firmly establish for you how horrendous this article is.  So far, in like 1500 words, we have 1) learned that Simmons did an interview with Bill Russell 2) learned that one part of the interview involved Larry Bird praising Bill (what a shock that that made it into the article) and 3) had Simmons tell us what walking around a house with a 79 year old is like.  Jesus H.

We spent the next 90 minutes talking about his life. The interview ended and everyone shook hands. 

But what about Charlie?  You can't just bring in a new character and then leave us hanging!

Our crew started packing up. I sat down at Russell's kitchen table with my friend Hirschy, the biggest basketball fan I know, 

And we agreed that the Thunder at 7/1 to win the title this year is WAY TOO HIGH.  THANKS FOR THE FREE MONEY, VEGAS.

as well as someone who had helped arrange the entire day. This wasn't just one of the highlights of our careers; this was one of the highlights of our lives. We were trying to act like adults. We were trying to remain professional. 

Just take about 5 semesters of high school level English composition classes and you might get there one day.

We were fighting off the urge to repeatedly high-five each other while screaming "YES!!!!" and "WE DID IT!" A three-hour hang in Bill Russell's house? With Russell talking about anything and everything?

We thought he'd schedule the interview, invite us in, and then only want to talk about NASCAR!

"Where's Bill?"

Russell's voice.

"Where's Bill?"



I stood up.

"Come here. I want to show you something," Bill Russell said.

"It's the door.  Beat it, you fucking moron."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jonah Keri shits out a worthless 2013 retrospective, part 2 of 2

Before we get started, earlier today Deadspin informed me that Scott Miller and Danny Knobler were fired by CBS Sportsline.  Cue up the Nelson Muntz laugh, especially for Knobler (Miller wasn't THAT bad, although he certainly was bad), but mostly, be angry that Heyman remains employed.  Fuck that guy with a blender.

Now for the rest of Keri's groundbreaking opus regarding how baseball teams should be constructed and managed.

3. Having no weaknesses can be just as effective as being loaded with multiple stars.

Which team wins--Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Rickey Henderson and twenty two high school players?  Or 25 above average MLB players?  THE ANSWER MAY SURPRISE YOU.  Buckle your seatbelts and get ready for some fascinating analysis.

The A's have turned this idea into an art form. Josh Donaldson enjoyed a big breakout season in 2013. Otherwise, this was a team that relied on contributions from a wide array of players, all the way down to the bottom of their lineup, the back of their rotation, relief middlemen, and key guys off the bench. 

The Astros and Marlins, meanwhile, actually used no relief middlemen (who the hell came up with that term?) or key guys off the bench.  They just ran out the same 9 guys for 162 straight games.

After two decades of losing seasons, the Pirates finally broke through, rolling all the way to the playoffs. 

Did they do it because of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and a dominant bullpen?  No, of course not.  CLINT BARMES WAS THE KEY.  (Side note: Clint Barmes appeared in 108 games and had 330 PAs.  He OPS+ed 58.  Clearly, the Pirates had no superstars or weaknesses.)

Though Andrew McCutchen will likely take home NL MVP honors soon, the Buccos succeeded largely on the strength of diversified talent. They got solid contributions from their nos. 3 through 5 starters (Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke, and Charlie Morton), from the bottom of their lineup (Jordy Mercer, once he grabbed the starting shortstop job), 

Fair enough, Barmes eventually lost his job.  But still, even if we allow for the fact that I'm picking nits and the Pirates actually were a very well-balanced team, holy Jesus on a pogo stick, no fucking shit not having any weaknesses can be as good as having some superstars to go with a bunch of terrible players.  I'm a Rockies fan.  I get it.  So does everyone else who knows anything about baseball.

and from several relievers beyond the closer and primary setup man (Justin Wilson and Tony Watson chief among them). With the trade deadline approaching, there were some wildly ambitious calls for a blockbuster move. Instead, Pittsburgh filled out its roster with useful complementary parts: Byrd to plug a hole in the outfield (he was great), and a past-prime but still functional Justin Morneau to help at first base (he hit for zero power but did at least post a .370 on-base percentage in 25 games).

I'm not going to point out the fact that the Pirates lost in the first round, as did the A's (for like the 7th time in their last 8 playoff appearances), because that's a doucheball thing to do.  Nevertheless, recent anecdotal evidence suggests that if the goal is not just to make the playoffs but to succeed once you get there, you might want some superstars like David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright, etc.

Lest you think this is only a worthwhile strategy for low-payroll teams, remember the mockery the Red Sox went through when they devoted their offseason energy to acquiring players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, and Uehara, and the results they got from these complementary players.

That's the worst anecdotal support for a bad argument I've ever read.  
1) The Red Sox already had a bunch of stars which is why it made sense to surround them with complimentary guys 
2) Victorino, Napoli and Uehara are hardly "complimentary guys," each would play a significant roles on any team in MLB 
3) What mockery did the Red Sox go through for signing those guys?  I sure didn't read about it 
4) Jonah Keri is a twat

4. Keep an eye on the minors.

No fucking way.  Again, beyond those three quick words, sarcasm escapes me.  I can't even respond to that in greater detail.

As productive as in-season trades can be for some aggressive teams, the ideal scenario is to promote from within and have rookies shine. 

More of Jonah Keri's patented, trademarked, top secret team building tips:
1) Be sure to have both pitchers AND hitters
2) Guys who were good in high school and college tend to be good as pros
3) It's easier for guys to catch the ball when using gloves, make sure all fielders are using them

The Cardinals 

Oh fucking hell.  Not this narrative again.  HERPA DERP CARDINALS BEST RUN TEAM IN BASEBALL DO THINGS THE RIGHT WAY (as if such a thing exists) HOME GROWN PLAYERS LOW PAYROLL (they're in the top 10 or close to it every year) NONE OF THIS FANCY FREE AGENT NONSENSE.  But yeah, I'm sure Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday (technically a trade, but they still had to resign him on the open market while he was shopping around) have nothing to do with their success during the past several seasons.  That's only, you know, two of their three best hitters.  Go back to 2011 and you've got Holliday and Lance Berkman, another free agent.  BUT BUT BUT YADI  Kill yourself, imaginary Cardinals fan talking in all caps in my head. 

rode great hitting with runners in scoring position and big contributions from veteran stars like Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Adam Wainwright in their pennant-winning campaign. But they probably don't make the World Series (or maybe even come close) without huge contributions from their rookies: 

This is true of like, every championship team ever.  Yes, they got huge contributions from established players.  BUT ALSO THERE WERE SOME YOUNG GUYS HOW NOVEL.  Can you name a recent championship or EVEN playoff team that DIDN'T get help from a variety of experienced and young players?  Christ, even the 2009 Yankees, with a payroll of a jillion dollars and an average age of like 35, had 23 year old Phil Hughes, 24 year old Melky Cabrera and 23 year old Joba Chamberlain playing significant roles.

If you're looking for teams that might outperform expectations next year, scan the high minors of their farm systems for major league–ready talent. 

This is like a tip you would read in a baseball video game instruction booklet.  "To improve your team try to trade with other teams for some of their young stars."  No fucking way, really?  Look for major league ready talent in the high minors as an indicator of future success?  You don't say.  Got any tips as to how I could more effectively drive my car?  Should I insert the key into the ignition before pushing the gas pedal?

5. Don't overreact to a bad season.

This is the only one of his five points that has any level of nuance.  And it's still fucking moronic.

Last Sox reference: 


If a talented team can play poorly enough to lose 93 games, then come back the next season and win it all, that bodes well for some of 2013's biggest disappointments. Everyone in the world loved the Nationals heading into this season. But Washington disappointed thanks to subpar seasons by multiple players. 

I don't mind the Nationals, but they disappointed because their 2012 was lucky as hell.  Look at that roster--how did it win 96 games?  They're not as bad as they were in 2013, but they sure as fuck aren't as good as they were in 2012.  That's an 86 win team right there if I've ever seen one.  A rotation that's good at the top but has no depth.  A so-so bullpen, featuring really only one shutdown guy (Clippard).  A lineup that should be good if everyone stays healthy, but which will never come close to staying healthy, because Ramos, Zimmerman, Harper and Werth are hurt all the time.  Let's not get carried away about the potential of the 2014 Nats.  They'll probably miss the playoffs again.

Adam LaRoche's power dipped dramatically, 

He's 33 and was never that good in the first place.

Wilson Ramos missed half the year 

Who could have seen that coming, what with his 238 GP in 4 MLB seasons?

(and Kurt Suzuki stunk in his stead), Bryce Harper missed 44 games, Danny Espinosa was awful, and the bullpen ran into trouble frequently. Think of the Nats' 2013 season as a bad result among a range of outcomes for a young and very talented team. And expect them to be right back in the playoff hunt in 2014, with a great trio of starting pitchers, a balanced lineup, and better luck than they had this year.

Oops, nevermind, let's get carried away and assume those problems with rotational depth, the so-so bullpen, and the injury-prone players will just solve themselves.  I don't know what their team BABIP or BABIP allowed was, but if we want to talk about luck from another angle, they actually outperformed their pythag wins by two last year.

The Jays can't claim the recent success the Nats had in 2012. 

Oh my God, this team again.  TORONTO BLUE JAYS, 2012-2013 OFFSEASON CHAMPS.  Wait, wasn't one of his points from this very article (in my last point) that we shouldn't get carried away with that kind of thing?  I forgot, the Blue Jays are the darling of every hipster baseball writer, so now we get to hear about how they're sure to turn things around in 2014 after somehow failing to win the AL East in 2013, as every Jonah Keri in the world told us they would last year.

In fact, with the Pirates making the playoffs this year, Toronto now owns the second-longest playoff drought in baseball, behind only the 28-years-and-counting Royals. But there were some good reasons for the baseball world to get excited about the Jays this year, even if 2013 ended with a last-place finish in the AL East. 

It didn't just end with that.  It also consisted of that throughout pretty much all of April, May, June, July, August and September.  It was kind of a running theme.  They sucked.  Badly.  Thoroughly.  Deeply.

Granted, the starting pitching sucked, the defense sucked, and Jose Reyes missed a big chunk of the season as everyone figured. But Toronto had a bunch of terrible players suck up tons of playing time this year, which in a twisted way bodes well for 2014. Replace the replacement-level performances of Melky Cabrera, J.P. Arencibia, Emilio Bonifacio, and Maicer Izturis with even average production and that alone could spur a charge back to contention. 

Just get a new catcher, second baseman, left fielder and shortstop (to play during the 120 games when Reyes is hurt)!  Just like that!  That'll fix those starting pitching woes!

As we wrote back in August: 

Oh good, a dash of Will Leitch-esque-ian first person plural.  Thank you so much.

"It's entirely possible that the Jays are a pretty good team hiding inside a terrible season."

I hope they lose 130 games next year.

We'll have to wait a while to see how it all plays out. 

Oh, will we?  Can't we just go down to the mall and buy a time machine to speed things up?

In the meantime, get ready for another hectic Hot Stove season, then for new contenders and new stars to emerge next year. Just 104 days until pitchers and catchers report. Can't wait.

Can't wait for Jonah Keri to hopefully one day go the way of Miller and Knobler.  I can only dream.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jonah Keri shits out a worthless 2013 retrospective, part 1 of 2

The last time I dumped on Jonah Keri, the post only generated one comment (albeit a very good one), so I'm not sure if he's not a good target for this blog because he's usually not too shitty or if no one is/was reading the blog (or both).  But I'm about to do it again because this article is truly worthless.  It is a spectacular demonstration of unilluminating analysis.  It parrots a bunch of the stupidest "how to build a team" cliches in sports.  It should not exist, and you will feel dumber for having read the parts of it I copy and paste here.  The topic: What did we learn from the 2013 MLB season?

1. Winning the Hot Stove championship guarantees nothing.

This is so dumb as to not warrant a sarcastic response.

Every winter, teams scramble to make trades and splashy free-agent signings. When it's all over, we media know-it-alls tally everything up, then declare with breathtaking confidence who won and who lost. The problem is, we're doing it wrong. Signing the highest-priced free agent is great, but it might not get you far if you neglect other roster weaknesses to get there.

My god.  It's like a Malcolm Gladwell essay ("SOMETIMES PEOPLE DO STUFF AND BECAUSE THEY DO STUFF OTHER STUFF HAPPENS"), but even stupider.

The 2013 Angels were a perfect example of this phenomenon. 

If care about baseball at all and needed Jonah to tell you about this topic, either generally or as it pertains to the 2013 Angels, you obviously lied when you confirmed to me in my imagination at the beginning of the sentence that you care about baseball at all.  Please stop lying.

2. Bargain hunting can and does often pay off.

This one if fun if you imagine Billy Beane nodding to himself and stroking his chin while reading it.

Francisco Liriano. Russell Martin. Bartolo Colon. James Loney. Koji Uehara. Marlon Byrd. 

All of these guys (except Martin) are, in one way or another, flawed players who didn't command much salary in 2013 for good reason.  They vastly outperformed their pay, because that is a thing that happens in any labor market from time to time.  There were also dozens of bargain bin signings/flyers taken on players that seemed to be close to done in MLB in 2013 that didn't work out at all.  But go on, hit us with the ex post facto analysis that shows that obviously all of these guys were due to break out.

The list of low-priced free agents who delivered big returns for their teams in 2013 is a long one. Each of these players was acquired cheaply because he had a perceived defect. 

Actual defect.

The Pirates got Martin cheap because he hit just .211 in 2012 — even though he bopped 21 homers, played his usual strong defense, and was just 29 years old. 

They didn't get him that cheap--he's on a 2 year $15MM deal.  That's probably close to market value for a decent catcher.  He bopped 21 homers in 2012, but he did so in Yankee Stadium.  And his .211 BA came with a .311 OBP, which isn't horrible for a catcher, but isn't exactly good either.

Loney hit a catastrophic .249/.293/.336 in 2012, but he was just 28 years old, played excellent defense, and had put up some decent offensive seasons, albeit without the power you'd hope for from a slugging-heavy position like first base. 

Loney's 2012 was a dumpster fire.  First base defense isn't that important.  His last offensive season before 2013 that could be fairly characterized as "good" for a 1B was 2007.  He might have cracked the "decent" threshold in 2011, but you'd have to stretch the definition to get him there.  By all reasonable estimation he looked like a guy who should have been out of professional baseball by now.  The Rays probably overpaid him when they offered him $2MM for 2013 (unless it was not guaranteed until he made the roster out of spring training or something).

Liriano and Uehara had injury histories, though both had shown flashes of dominance when healthy enough to stay on the field. 

Liriano was utterly horrendous in 2009, 2011 and 2012.  As of last winter, he wasn't as close to being out of baseball as Loney was, but he was in the neighborhood.  Uehara is actually somewhat like Martin--a guy who, on a 2 year $9.5MM deal, wasn't really a scrap heap find.  He was being paid elite setup guy money; instead, he ended up being an elite closer, because elite setup guys and elite closers have exactly the same skillset. 

Byrd and Colon came with PED suspensions on their records (in Colon's case, one that hadn't yet ended), but Byrd was only a couple years removed from being a four-win player, and Colon actually pitched decently in 2012.

Byrd was bad in 2011 and utterly horrendous in 2012 (when he also picked up a PED suspension).  He is closer to 40 years old than he is to 30.  There was no reason on earth to believe that he would be able to be a contributing MLB player in 2013, which is probably why he ended up with the Mets to start the season.  Unlike Loney, I don't think he was overpaid ($700,000), but seriously, to say that teams should have seen his resurgence coming because he "was only a couple years removed from being a four win player" is fucking stupid.  Colon, on the other hand, was the best signing on this list--I'm surprised he didn't get more than $3MM after being above average in 2011 and 2012.  But also, he's old as fuck and wasn't in MLB in 2010.  So I suppose those things might have been red flags that kept some teams away from him.  In any case, maybe he just wanted to stay in Oakland and the team told him this was the best they could do in terms of salary.

Colon and Uehara were freaks, pitching abnormally well given their age (Colon 40, Uehara 38). But Martin, Liriano, and Loney in particular fit the profile well: players who'd performed well earlier in their careers who were still in their twenties and thus still had decent potential for bounce-back seasons. 

And yet, somehow, every single year there are dozens of guys who fit that profile who get signed to "fuck it, let's take a flyer on the guy and see if he has anything left" contracts and completely fizzle out and disappear.  It's almost like signing bargain bin guys is crapshoot, and this year the Pirates and Rays got lucky while the Rangers (Joakim Soria) and the Indians (Mark Reynolds) got unlucky.  Almost.

Plenty of old biases remain alive and well. Prince Fielder can fetch $214 million because there will always be someone willing to (over)pay for home runs and RBIs. 

Look, I agree that Prince's contract is bad and will likely be one of the worst in baseball within a few years, but he's not just getting paid for home runs and RBIs.  He had a down year in 2013 but from 2009-2012 his OBP exceeded .400 every season.  If you put me in charge of an MLB team with a league average financial/payroll outlook and told me that, for the upcoming season, I could sign January 2012 Prince to his contract or sign January 2013 James Loney to his contract, I'm going with 2012 Prince unless the team I'm in charge of is horrible/rebuilding.  2012 Loney was almost indescribably bad.  I'd figure out a way to make Prince's contract work.  Loney (the version available to me in this hypothetical) doesn't even look like an MLB player anymore.  Good for the Rays for revitalizing him, and who knows if they signed him based on the assumption that their hitting coach could fix an identifiable problem in his swing, but this is classic ex post facto smartest guy in the room stuff.

Meanwhile, defense remains underrated, 

It also remains extremely difficult to quantifiably analyze, particularly when it comes to WAR.  BBR has Loney at -0.2 dWAR and Fielder at -2.2 dWAR in 2013.  I know Fielder has the range of a traffic cone, but I have a hard time believing that there were 2 wins worth of difference in their defensive performances.

batting average overrated — to name just two misguided stances. 

Was this article written in 2003?  Who the fuck doesn't think batting average is a crappy stat at this point?  

We haven't had time to go through this year's free-agent crop yet. But if you want to find the bargains of 2014, look for under-30 players who play good defense, are coming off ugly seasons by traditional metrics, and have some history of strong performance two or three years ago.

Loney OBPed .293 in 2012.  Byrd OBPed .243 (not a typo).  It's not like either was some Scott Hatteberg diamond in the rough who was obviously a good player as long as you were willing to look past antiquated traditional stats.  They were awful.  Yes, signing scrap heap guys is always a good idea because teams need depth guys and occasionally a scrap heap guy turns back into a contributor.  But to say that guys like Loney, Byrd and Liriano were obvious candidates to have the 2013s they did is completely fucking disingenuous.  Shut up, Jonah Keri.  Go fuck yourself.

Tune in later in the week for the exciting conclusion, in which, among other things, Jonah will explain to us that 2013 taught us to "keep an eye on the minors."  I can't believe I don't need an Insider subscription to read this article!  Has anyone showed it to Ruben Amaro Jr. yet?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rest easy, everyone

I know you were wondering what the key to winning tonight's game 5 would be for the Cardinals and the Red Sox.  Tim "a half step above Joe Morgan" McCarver is here to enlighten you: it's to go back to Boston up 3-2.  You're welcome.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Oblivious and self-righteous Cardinals fans vs. desperate-to-play-the-victim Red Sox fans: WHO YA GOT?

If you happen to cross paths with any media members who write about either of these teams anytime in the next few months, kick them in the crotch for me.  I'm not 100% sure which side is worse, although I am leaning strongly towards the Cardinals.  At least loudmouth moron Red Sox fans are pretty honest about themselves: they're loudmouths, they're morons, and they're OK with that.  Their other most annoying flaw is their obsession with climbing up on their crosses and portraying themselves as victims (as seen most recently in the way many of them donned tinfoil hats and briefly insisted that the NFL changed the "pushing your teammates into the line of scrimmage" rules specifically to screw them, or more generally in every tweet Simmons has ever tweeted after a Boston team loses).  And that flaw is insufferable.  HOLY SHIT, THE WORLD IS NOT AGAINST YOU, AND IT SURE AS SHIT HASN'T BEEN PARTICULARLY CRUEL TO YOU IN THE REALM OF SPORTS FANDOM FOR THE PAST 15 YEARS.  But mostly, Boston fans just love their teams, and think their teams are better than your teams, and FACK YOU if you disagree.  I have a modicum of respect for that.  Cardinals fans?  Oh boy, here's where it gets much, much uglier.

The whole "Best Fans In Baseball" thing has been a vomit-inducing and out of control myth for a long time now, perpetuated by mouth-breathing commentators (both national and regional) who bring it up EVERY FUCKING TIME you're watching/listening to a game that's taking place in Saint Louis.  The Bob Costases of the world trip over themselves to point out the fact that the fans clapped for their starting pitcher who came out of the game mid-inning after a good start, or cheered tepidly for a nice catch made by an opposing player in the bottom of the 2nd, before the game gets tense.  Essentially every example some retard might try to give of Cardinals fans being the best around can be put into one of two categories: 1) something that all fans of all teams everywhere do (classic example: cheering for former players who come back as members of other teams) or 2) things that are not true (classic example: being super "classy"--counterpoint, see the Twitter feed linked above, or the way they handled the Pujols departure).

But the real cherry on top of the shit sundae is how oblivious they are.  Most Red Sox fans, if asked to evaluate whether Red Sox fans are obnoxious, will at least consider the possibility.  Most Cardinals fans, if asked to evaluate whether Cardinals fans are obnoxious, will act like they are being asked to evaluate whether the earth is flat.  If you didn't hate Will Leitch before (and Jesus, how could you not?  Will Leitch is a huge piece of shit), you will after this.

All right, we need to get something straight, and we need to get something straight fast. I have never, ever, ever ever ever ever ever, heard a Cardinals fan refer to him or herself as "one of the best fans in baseball." I'm sure it has happened. I've just never seen it. And I hang out with a lot of Cardinals fans.

1) It happens every 15 seconds or so on that Twitter feed I've been linking 
2) As I already said, it happens every. Single. Time you listen to or watch a game that's taking place in Saint Louis, so it doesn't really matter whether they gave themselves this moniker (which I'm sure they did); it's being crammed down our throats anyways, so who gives a shit where it came from
3) It's very unlikely Leitch has any friends, so his story is dubious to begin with

This notion, that Cardinals fans are always walking around patting themselves on the back, telling everyone they run into, "Hey, did you know that I'm part of the best fans in baseball? Well, I am," appears to have secured its place in the public consciousness. 

It's laughable that a person who is smart enough to operate a computer would not understand how this works.  It's like he's never heard of the concept of smugness.

It's ridiculous. Humans don't talk like that, particularly ones as earnest and cheerfully dopey as Cardinals fans. 

He's like a lawyer, using legalese and hyper-literal interpretation of terms to try to confuse the argument.  CARDINALS FANS DO NOT SAY THIS EXACT SET OF WORDS VERY OFTEN; THEREFORE, THEY ARE DEFINITELY NOT SELF-RIGHTEOUS PRICKS ABOUT THEIR BASEBALL TEAM.

The only people I've ever heard anyone refer to Cardinals fans as the best fans in baseball are:

Opposing fans or media members saying so derisively;

Opposing media members saying so derisively?  Which planet are you on?  I suppose Cubs broadcasters/reporters might do that.  Media members for the other 28 teams in the league most assuredly do not.

Players on the field describing the experience of playing in St. Louis.

Every player on every team describes his team's fans as the best in baseball.

The last 24 hours have unleashed a torrent of disdain for the Cardinals and their fans, most notably from Drew Magary at Deadspin

Read that if you haven't, it's great.

who does this sort of thing better than anyone on earth. (Drew's Why Your Team Sucks series is a brilliant experiment in discovering which teams' fanbases are the most sensitive about their public image. The Cardinals rank undeniably high on that last; Drew says he received more "Hate Tweets" 

Also great, read that as well.

in response to that column than any other he's ever written. He got so many that I, who am briefly mentioned in the column, got some too, caught in the Hate Tweet crossfire.) All this disdain comes with the territory: When you win as many games as the Cardinals have, 

Ah, the last refuge of the asshole fan who wants to defend the assholism displayed by him and his kind: Y'ALL JUST JEALOUS!!!!!! 

and have broken the hearts of so many teams in the postseason over the last few years, as the Cardinals have, people are going to get sick of you and thus angry at you. Over the last eight years, the Cardinals have ended the postseason dreams of the Mets, Tigers, Phillies, Brewers, Rangers, Nationals and Pirates. That's a lot of fanbases spitting in your general direction.

Hey, idiot: people aren't sick of the Cardinals because they win so much.  They're sick of the Cardinals because they have won so much that it has turned their fans into a bunch of huge fuckheads.  Is anyone, outside of fans of these teams' rivals, sick of the Spurs or the Ravens the way lots of people are sick of the Cardinals?  What's the difference?  Oh yeah, there aren't that many Spurs fans, and Ravens fans aren't as insufferable as Cardinals fans.

So Cardinals fans don't think they're the best fanbase in baseball, or at least not any more than every fan thinks they're part of the best fanbase in baseball. 

/game show buzzer

But I feel obliged, as someone for whom his Cardinals fandom is central to my life, a critical aspect of my entire existence, 

You're a gigantic fucking loser and I hope you never reproduce.

to stick up for us. If you were to try to figure out the best fanbase in baseball, you could make a case for several teams. The Yankees. The Cubs. The Phillies. The Dodgers. The Giants. The Red Sox. The Tigers. And, yeah, the Cardinals.

That's just a list of the oldest and most popular teams in the league.  There's nothing notable about any of those fan bases other than the fact that there are a lot of people among each, for historical, geographical and/or bandwagony reasons.

Because Cardinals fans could probably use an antidote to all the bile yesterday, and because Game One of the NLCS kicks off at Busch Stadium tonight, this is how one might make that case.

Holy shit.  "Clearly, us Cardinals fans don't think we're special.  Now here are ten reasons why we're special."

10 Reasons Why Cardinals Fans Might Be The Best Fanbase In Baseball

Let's test my theory from above.  I'll be shocked if there are any of these that can't go into one of my two previously stated buckets: 1) not special or 2) not true.

1) They really do cheer opposing players when they make a great play. This actually happens. You'll even see it in the NLCS. If Hanley Ramirez makes a diving stop to throw a Cardinal out, or Clayton Kershaw loses a no-hitter in the eighth inning, Cardinals fans will give them standing ovations. Now, you can mock that if you want. You can call that "fake classiness." But you cannot deny that it happens, all the time.

This is in both buckets.  First, obviously, every fanbase will cheer the opposing team's accomplishments under certain circumstances, like the no-hitter example used above.  Second, no, Cardinals fans will not do this during the playoffs.  You know how I know?  Barry Zito pitched masterfully in this game last October, and was removed mid-inning, giving those classy fans a great chance to class it up and show how classy they are by applauding his performance.  Hell, it wasn't even a backbreaker from the Cards as far as the series was going--after this game, they still held a 3 games to 2 advantage.  Did Zito get applause?  Hmmmm.  (That smattering of cheers you hear is from Giants fans behind the SF dugout.)

2) They love their players even when they leave. When Dodgers centerfielder Skip Schumaker or infielder Nick Punto are announced any time in this series, they will receive huge ovations as well, probably even if they get a base hit. Both were pivotal parts of the 2011 World Series team, and the Cardinals fans will never forget it. Eventually this is even going to happen to Albert Pujols.

First of all, 6 > 5 SO CLEVER FUCK YOU ALBERT.  Second of all, you're the dumbest sports fan on earth if you think this makes your fanbase unique.

3) Everyone just wants to be Stan Musial. Want to know where this whole notion of The Cardinal Way -- winning, and doing so with class, dignity and reserve -- came from? 

Nope, because The Cardinal Way doesn't exist!  (Unless getting DUIs, using steroids and doing all kinds of other shitty things that players on all 30 MLB team do are classy, dignified, reserved things to do.)  Thanks for offering though.  Stan Musial was great at baseball and a nice person.  There are lots of ex-players who fit that mold.  I know this is going to sound crazy, but every team has them.

4) The Winter Warm Up. Every year around MLK Day, the Cardinals have a big Winter Warm Up event at a hotel downtown. It's basically just a bunch of Cardinals signing autographs, but Cardinals fans attend this event like a dying man crawling through a desert being offered water. (You can actually buy tickets to this event three months in advance.) 

This person founded a major sports blog.  He also thinks that his team is the only team in the league that does a "FanFest"-style event.  That's incredible.

5) They always, always come out to the games. Busch Stadium is at the center of everything in St. Louis, and is always, always full. Season capacity this year was 94.6 percent, second-highest in baseball. Last year? 91.6 percent, fourth. Every person within 200 miles of Busch Stadium spent the last 48 hours -- since the end of the Pirates game -- desperately scrambling for tickets to the NLCS. (If you can help my dad, who's still searching, out, let me know.)

Someone call the NYT and WaPo and tell them to get a crack team of reporters on this story: team that won World Series in 2011/went to NLCS in 2012 sold lots of tickets in 2012/2013.

6) They travel as well as any fanbase in the country. If you've ever been to watch your team play the Cardinals in your home stadium, you know this. Cardinals fans have a way of turning whole sections of opposing stadiums bright red. It has become a tradition in September, when the Cardinals are often playing teams out of the pennant chase, that opposing stadiums because de facto home games. We sort of just cheerily invade.

They're not traveling.  They're a bunch of transplants who left Saint Louis because it's an awful city in an awful part of the country.  Some of them are bandwagoners with no ties to Saint Louis whatsoever.  They are there cheering for the Cardinals because the Cardinals are good.  If the Astros had 11 championships, there would be Astros fans all over the place too.  I'm doing my best to write this with a calm and reasonable tone, but honestly, I just want to meet Leitch in real life and punch him in the mouth.  "We just sort of cheerily invade!"  DIE.  You're the worst.

Players are family here, and they know it. In 2004, the Cardinals traded for Larry Walker late in the season. As he came to the plate for his first at-bat, he received a standing ovation. He struck out on three pitches. He then received another one. 

NO WAY.  Most fanbases would have booed him out of the stadium after one failed at bat.

There is a reason the Cardinals have been able to cultivate and keep players, have been able to trade for stars and keep them: They know it's different in St. Louis,

It's not.  

and they want to stay. 

Matt Holliday, a star traded for and then resigned, would have left in a heartbeat for another team during the 2009 offseason if anyone else had needed a LF and offered him the money the Cardinals eventually offered.  Fortunately for them, no other big spending team needed a LF that year.  Fortunately for Holliday, the Cardinals eventually caved and gave him a market value (or perhaps larger) deal.  But if not for a very unusual free agent market that year, he would have been gone.  Not even the magical wondrous mystical powers of Saint Louis, a town where fans cheer for new players, could have kept him there.

Scott Rolen, who gleefully re-upped with the Cardinals shortly after they traded for him, said, "Baseball is so special to them that as an organization, you have a lot to live up to. You feel like you owe it to the fans to put your best foot forward. They adopt you as their own. You become part of their lives." Ask any player which stadiums they love playing at: Busch Stadium is always near the top of the list. Ask them which franchise they'd love to play for: The Cardinals are always near the top of the list. The reason is not the facilities: It's the fans. We can all get online and have fights about "real" fans, but the players, they live it, they know. They know what's special about St. Louis.

This whole article seems like it could be trolling, but that last sentence especially.  I'm afraid to criticize it too sharply in case it really is trolling.  Nothing worse than getting a fast one pulled on you by someone as emptyheaded as Leitch.

The last home game of the season, when everybody sings the National Anthem. It's a tradition: The team doesn't have an anthem singer for the final home game. The whole crowd does it, and it's deeply moving, every year. Here's the last one at the old Busch Stadium.

Who gives a flying fuck?

The fans are the reason the Cardinals can compete. The Cardinals don't have a wealthy owner willing to spend billions on whatever player he wants. 

Come the fuck on.  This article is old, but the ownership structure hasn't changed significantly since it was written.  Bill DeWitt is worth a shitload of money.  That's how he can afford to field a team with the 11th highest payroll in the league in 2013.  Does he spend like George Steinbrenner did near the end of his life?  No.  Is he rich as fuck?  Yes.

They don't have a massive cable contract. 

Their current deal is awful, and doesn't expire until 2017.  At that point, they will get a new deal, and it will be comically huge.  I like how all of this is written like the Cardinals are a non-profit financed by $20 donations from generous fans.

They don't even have that sweetheart of a stadium deal. 

The owners paid for most of the stadium, this is true.  They also got a wide-reaching set of tax breaks that helps offset some of that money that they paid up front.

What they do have is a fanbase that will support them no matter what … and is willing to be patient. The Cardinals have one of the strongest farm systems in baseball, and one of the reasons they do is because they've been allowed to be smart about keeping talent around. There aren't angry calls to trade unknown prospects for veterans at the deadline, moves for the sake of making moves. The Cardinals fans, in a way that's not always healthy, trust their team. There aren't moves made to placate the fanbase because the fanbase is always placated. This is an enormous competitive advantage: The Cardinals front office can make decisions based entirely on whether or not they're good ones, rather than how it will "play" with the fanbase. 

Holy shit, what in the fucking shitfuck are you fucking talking about?  Do you have any idea how anything works?  How have you lived to this age?  Who feeds you and changes your clothes every day?

The greatest example of this, of course, is what happened with Albert Pujols. This was a man who had been compared to The Man, who seemed destined to play his entire career with the Cardinals. But when he wanted more money than was wise for the Cardinals to pay, the team walked away, in large part because it knew the fanbase would understand. And it did! There was little ill will toward the team or toward Pujols. 


Ok, I can't even finish.  You get the idea.  Will Leitch is atrocious.  Oh wait, one last thing: remember the first few paragraphs of this article?  All that stuff about how Cardinals fans don't actually think they're the best in baseball?

But this idea that there isn't anything special about Cardinals fans, that this has all just been made up as some sort of self-aggrandizing exercise, is ludicrous. The Cardinals have a loyal, devoted fanbase, and it is one that has had a direct effect in the success of their team. 



(Snarky response from Jarrett, who is a non-atrocious Cardinals fan, sure to appear in the comments below)