Thursday, June 26, 2014

I hope you remember game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals (part 3)

The 2014 Finals ended like two weeks ago.  Probably time for me to finish this article up.  God, it's so horrible.  I'm not even enjoying picking it apart.  This is the thankless job of a blogger.

I knew that shot was going in.

I already did this last post, but let me translate for Bill: because the shot went in, he wants you to think that he knew it was going in, even though he had no more idea than anyone else watching that game.

I would have wagered anything. Even with a 102-degree temperature, even with dried contacts, even with a lump of phlegm wedged in my throat, even with everything feeling vaguely white and hazy — 


the same way you feel right before you die, I’m guessing — 

Holy Jesus, you had a head cold.  Get over yourself.  You're an embarrassment.  NO ONE HAS SUFFAHED LIKE I HAVE SUFFAHED!  I WAS DRINKING COUGH SYRUP FROM THE BOTTLE, PEOPLE!

I saw the future once Ray started moving backward. I had watched him nail those shots too many times. Nobody had been better in those moments. Nobody. I remember yelping when the shot went through. I remember the fans losing their minds. I remember thinking, There’s no way he didn’t step on a line; it’s impossible, even for Ray, there’s just no way.

This is melodramatic writing, and the person who wrote it should be either heavily edited or fired.

They started reviewing the play. We whirled around and studied replays on our undersized monitor. Unbelievable. Never touched either line. You could compare it to only one other NBA shot: Kareem’s walk-off sky hook in Game 6 of the 1974 Finals, which saved Milwaukee at the buzzer in double overtime. If Kareem missed it, Boston took the title. If he made it, Milwaukee hosted Game 7. He made it. One problem: The Celtics flew to Milwaukee and won the title there, anyway.

How surprising!  I am truly shocked that this column about how the 2013 Heat beat the 2013 Spurs has turned into a reminder of a Celtics title from decades earlier.  Never saw it coming, not even when we were reminded that even though Allen plays for the Heat, Bill knows more about him than any of us dumb readers, because only Bill studied Allen's every move while he was in Boston.

This time around, Ray Allen saved Miami’s season and swung the title. 

Take that, Kareem!  Loser!

There’s never been a greater NBA shot. 

I hate Robert Horry (and the Lakers) and the legend surrounding him, but he's hit several shots as great as that one, with similar degree of difficulty.  Speaking of the Lakers, Derek Fisher hit a huge shot that had such an insane degree of difficulty that it contributed to the NBA changing the rules about whether such shots were physically possible in the amount of time Fisher had.  That's pretty cool.  

God I hate the Lakers.

With all due respect to Jordan’s iconic jumper against the ’98 Jazz, Allen’s shot had similar clutchness, bigger stakes and a higher degree of difficulty. If you or I caught that pass as we were backpedaling, then launched a desperation 3 with someone running at us, we’d screw up every time. Only a few players could dream of making that shot with that footwork — Kobe, Durant, Bird, T-Mac, Reggie Miller, maybe Jamal Crawford with lower stakes — but the moment itself made it a different animal. You wouldn’t want anyone else shooting that shot other than Ray Allen. His whole career led to those three seconds. It really did.

Shut the fuck up.  Really, that's what I could write as a consistent response throughout this whole mess of an article.

I love so many things about the NBA, but over everything else, it’s those moments when you know you’re seeing something special — something that will get replayed forever, something that lets you say, “Yeah, I was there,” 

On the ESPN set!  Next to Jalen Rose!  More quasi-semi-Peter King-ian unsubtle bragging.

and someone else turns into Will Hunting and screams, “Really? You were there? YOU WERE FUCKING THERE?” 

These moments happen in literally every professional sport.

I was there for Gar Heard’s miracle heave in Boston, Bird’s steal from Isiah and Magic’s baby sky hook over McHale and Parish. Now, I was there for Ray’s 3. That’s four all-timers. 

All for Boston!  Or basically for Boston!  When Allen hit that shot, he was really doing it for Big Papi Nation!

Only Ray’s moment remains hazy. 

You just spent four paragraphs talking about how well you remember it.

Everything was white and blurry, and then, there was Ray, and everything got clear for a second. Yeah, I was there.

Super compelling writing.

And here’s what happens when you’re there: You’re crammed around a basketball court watching these physical freaks bring out the best in each other, and occasionally, something unbelievable happens, and it creates this sound that can’t even really be described. It’s the single best sound, actually. 

This isn't at all repetitive.  Say what you will about Simmons, and I always do, but man--I'll never accuse him of using too few words.

When Bird dueled Dominique in 1988, Game 7, we made that sound for most of the fourth quarter. We knew something magical was happening. 


You attend hundreds and hundreds of games waiting for that sound to happen. In Game 6, it happened. Ray’s 3 swung the title and preserved a small chunk of LeBron’s legacy. It shattered a magnificent San Antonio team and kept Miami’s three-peat alive. 

OK.  We got it.  Thanks.  Move on.

And it guaranteed that Ray Allen would make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

He was already going to make the HOF on the first ballot (he's 26th all time in scoring, just behind Ewing and Duncan--he just passed Barkley and Iverson--The More You Know), but actually, that's a non-shitty argument.  There are probably a handful of dumb voters who were won over by that shot.

You know what happened next. 


Parker missed San Antonio’s last shot in regulation, with a little help from a barely perceptible shove by LeBron. Miami prevailed in overtime, escaping after Bosh swallowed up Danny Green’s last-second 3 attempt. Our studio show popped on TV after midnight. Wilbon went first, then Magic, then Jalen, then me. I declared that no NBA team had ever come closer to winning a title without actually winning a title, which I hoped was true. (It was.) We bantered for a few minutes, then returned a few minutes later and did it again. We filmed a couple more segments, then we were done. The whole thing wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as I expected. In retrospect, I would have rather written about it.

TV is NAWT glamorous!  I have an insider's perspective!  You like hearing me tell you about it!  Jalen and I are best friends!  

I'd rather read a description of what it's like to watch paint dry.

Instead, I returned to my hotel room, cranked the thermostat to 80 and crashed. I stayed in bed for the next 36 hours. I lost six pounds. I finished the first half of Season 5 of Breaking Bad. 

Tell me more, please.

I watched the Bruins blow a Stanley Cup game. 


I launched an antibiotics cycle with help from an NBA doctor. 


I ordered room service and barely touched it. I felt like a failure for never writing a Game 6 column. I took hot shower after hot shower, since it was the only thing that made my head feel better. I wondered if I would make it to Game 7. I remember every single thing about that dark room.

This is excruciating.  Find me a more self-obsessed writer and I'll PayPal you a dollar.

Around 4 p.m. the following afternoon, the TV adrenaline started kicking in. We were five hours away from Game 7. I took another hot shower, shaved my face, slipped on a wrinkled suit, knotted a colorful tie, 

Beautiful description.  Feels like I'm there. 

gnawed on another cough drop. Then I pulled open the curtains to my room, the light blinding me from every angle. 

Or just from the window.  One of the two.  Someone get this asshole an editor.

I waited for my eyes to adjust, and when they did, I could see the water and the buildings lurking in front of me. Downtown Miami was waiting. So was Game 7.

Shut the fuck up.  See, told you I'd come back to that.  I don't even know if I'll eventually finish this disaster.  It's truly one of the worst things he's ever written.  Sorry about the only once a week posting, by the way.  It's summer.  I'm often busy during the evenings, when I usually tend to write.  Want to read a 4,000 word piece about the time I played softball with a twisted ankle, and how much I remember about the game, but don't remember?  Didn't think so.  I'll try to post more frequently during July.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I hope you remember game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals (part 2)

Before we begin: let's make sure everyone has seen this.  

Then, let's do a quick detour from basketball to soccer, since the World Cup is happening, and remind everyone that if you were born in the USA and you call a field a "pitch," a uniform a "kit," the number zero "nil," and/or a team a "side," you are a fucking dipshit of the highest order and you should be embarrassed.  I'm very excited about the World Cup, and I sometimes sort of follow the Champions League. (Admittedly, I do not have a favorite club team in America or outside of America, so it's not like I'm Mr. Soccer.)  But seriously, if you were born here and you like to use British terminology to describe the sport, you should be thrown out of a moving train.  You suck.  Go away.

Moving on: as succinctly and comedically explained to us by Anonymous in the comments to part 1 of this post, Bill doesn't remember anything about game 6.  Except the parts he remembers, because it was so unforgettable, which HE KNEW WAS THE CASE AT THE TIME.  Make sense?

But the fourth quarter? I remember a bunch of things. 

Of course you do.  You remember tweeting about how in ten years, people might remember this as a moment in which they decided to look forward and think about how they might remember it in ten years.

I remember Duncan fading as LeBron ascended to an ungodly level. 

LeBron has been the best player in the NBA for like seven or eight years.  Noticing that he was better in the 4th quarter of a game late in the playoffs than 37 year old Tim Duncan is not novel or interesting.

Stretch Bo Jackson to 6-foot-8, give him T-Mac’s streaky jump shot, Jordan’s competitiveness, Pippen’s defensive prowess and Bird’s brain, and that was LeBron dominating both ends for nine solid minutes. 

Attention, ignorant readers who know nothing unless Bill tells you you know something: LeBron is really good at basketball.

He fought off a slightly better San Antonio team, by himself … and then, just as unexpectedly, he remembered he was human and ran out of gas. 

LeBron played 49:46 of that 53 minute game.  Him running out of gas late in the 4th is not at all unexpected.

That’s when Tony Parker made a couple of Tony Parker plays, 

So descriptive!  I say this every few months, but "[Name] making [name] plays" is the dumbest fucking thing any person can write about sports.

and before we blinked, San Antonio’s bench was celebrating and Miami had bungled the series.

During that now-fateful timeout with San Antonio up five, 

Someone should have asked Popovich what he thought he would think about that timeout in five years!  I know I'm beating that joke into the ground, but Simmons's obsession with that concept is out of hand.

Jalen Rose and I watched NBA officials wheel the Larry O’Brien Trophy into the runway to our right. 


It couldn’t have been farther than 15 feet from us. We watched security guards assume positions around the court, and we watched Heat employees hastily sticking up yellow rope around the courtside seats. 

You know what, I'll give him non-sarcastic credit here.  This is actually non-horrendous description of a rarely-seen occurrence at a sporting event that most people don't really notice or pay attention to.  

Like they were cordoning off a homicide scene. 

And now we're back to the same old Bill--the employees cordoned off this area like they were cordoning off another kind of area.

Even after LeBron’s second-gasp 3, I still thought we were going home. Some Heat fans had already trickled out. 

Nooooo!  Heat fans aren't bad fans!  They are great fans who just have to beat traffic!  Miami is known for its terrible traffic, right?

We watched them leave in disbelief. How could the Basketball Gods reward … that?

Gregg and Bill have more in common than either would admit, but let's get down to brass tacks: if what Bill is saying is that Heat fans suck balls, he's not wrong.  Regardless of his reference to the Basketball Gods.

After Miller fouled Leonard with 19.4 seconds left, he strolled impassively to the free throw line, with Miami’s rejuvenated crowd suffocating him with boos and screams. I remember thinking, Forget about making these free throws — I wonder if this kid is hitting the rim. 

Kawhi Leonard is a career 80% free throw shooter.  No matter how he wants to tell the story, Bill knew Leonard was going to miss one of those free throws right after he missed it, and not a minute sooner.

Leonard sized up those freebies, the clatter bouncing off him, a Spurs collapse suddenly in play. How many current players could have nailed these specific free throws? 


Maybe 10 total? 

You're a fucking idiot.

Leonard clanged the first one. Mayhem. He made the second one, and by the way, I will always respect Kawhi for making that second one. 


Three-point game.

After Miami’s timeout, we watched in disbelief as Pop removed Duncan for the ensuing defensive possession. How can you keep the power forward GOAT off the floor twice? Jalen and I were flipping out. What was Pop thinking? 

I have no idea, and maybe it was the right decision and maybe it wasn't, but Gregg Popovich has more basketball knowledge in his pinkie toe than Bill Simmons could ever possibly accumulate.  Not to say that the "if you knew anything about the game, you'd be playing/coaching/managing it" argument is always infallible, but when we're talking about Popovich, I think it's worth giving him the benefit of the doubt on literally every decision.

As we were venting, they started playing basketball again. 

Back to some rock solid Bill exposition.  So descriptive, it's like watching with Jalen Rose.

Chalmers dumped it to LeBron, who missed another 3 near Miami’s bench. The ball caromed to the right side, with Bosh securing it right before Ginobili bounced off him. (For what it’s worth, that was a GREAT rebound by Bosh.) 

Everyone hates Chris Bosh.  He's 6'11", and here he's getting credit for grabbing a board over a 6'6" guy.

As Ginobili tumbled to the ground, Allen furiously retreated toward the right corner. None of the Spurs was close enough to him. And Bosh was tossing the ball his way.

Why?  Because, as Bill will soon show us, only a TROOOOO FACKIN' CELTIC (who spent approximately 30% of his career in Boston) like Allen could come up big in a moment like this.

Now …
I watched Ray Allen play for my favorite team for five years. 


He goes to the same spots and does the same things the same ways — not just for weeks, or months, but for years and years and years. 

This is not true.  He has favorite spots--and every player has favorite spots.  Allen is also first all time in NBA history in total three point FGs made by a lot, and 36th in 3FG%.  He's probably the best three point shooter ever.  He will kill you from anywhere behind the arc.  If you wrote a best-selling book about basketball, I'd think you might comprehend that.  I'd also think you wouldn't be a petulant child if given the chance to go on TV and talk about basketball, but here we are, with that link at the beginning of this post existing.

He’s the closest thing we have to an NBA robot. 

Wait, I thought Duncan was a robot!  Because he never shows emotion!  NO ONE APPRECIATES TIM DUNCAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This is not mockery of Simmons, it's a mockery of every dipshit out there who has been pushing that retarded-ass angle for the past five years or so.

He treats 3-pointers like tennis players treat their serves, golfers treat their swings and pitchers treat their delivery — quick jump, quick release, perfect form, line drive, bang. 

Or in other words, he treats three pointers like every NBA guard treats every jump shot.

Every shot looks the same. Watch Ray long enough and you instinctively realize when he’s heating up, when he’s shooting from a spot he likes, and when he’s thrust into a situation that — even if it seems chaotic — happens to be perfect for Ray Allen and Ray Allen only.


With seven seconds left in Game 6, suddenly, we were in one of those situations. And I knew just from watching him backpedal those first two steps.

The fuck you did.  Die.

True story: When Ray practices 3s from different parts of the court, sometimes he blindfolds himself so he can’t see the 3-point line. His complicated shooting routine unfolds hours before games — like, HOURS before games — sometimes with cheerleaders practicing and arena employees turning the lights on and off. He practices footwork as diligently as a ballerina, partly because he’s a perfectionist, partly out of basketball OCD, and partly because he always wants to be prepared for anything. And you know what’s really crazy? Ray Allen is enough of a lovable weirdo that he practiced this specific shot. In fact, he’s been practicing it since his Milwaukee days.

This may be true or it may not be true.  Wouldn't surprise me; also wouldn't surprise me if this is embellishment of a story where, like, one time Allen wore a blindfold while shooting around because he was super in the zone.  Bill's source?  Bill's perspective, other than "Take my word for it?"  None.  Bill Simmons, everyone.  America's loudest semi-informed sports fan.  If anyone you know tries to cite him as an authority on anything other than Larry Bird, be sure to kick them in the nuts and then run away.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Good riddance, Rick Reilly

Don't let the door hit you in the lazy, self-plagiarizing ass on your way out.  May your next job, if there is one, be for a much less prominent company than ESPN.

One last time, Rick's proudest moment at the World Wide Leader.  His shittiness and ESPN's shittiness couldn't possibly be better distilled into a five second moment than they are here.

Fuck Rick Reilly.  That is all.

Monday, June 9, 2014

I hope you remember game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals (Part 1)

Because if you do, you'll certainly agree with me that that game was all about one thing: Bill Simmons.  Yes, that's right, I hope you're ready for yet another post about this self-obsessed blowhard who now seems to spend approximately 20% of each column writing about how he thought about how he would think about considering what he was watching as he witnessed the event in question when he looks back on it in ten years him him him him him.
You know when people are witnessing something historic, then claim they never realized the importance until after the fact? 

No.  What a worthless non-rhetorical rhetorical question to kick off this worthless article.

With Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, you knew. 

Bill knew.  BILL KNEW.  The rest of you idiots who didn't think a potential championship-clinching game would be that big of a deal as you were watching it are lucky he even bothers to explain to you how much he knew what he knew.

You knew the entire time. The first 47 minutes and 31.8 seconds had already earned Game 6 a lifetime of NBA TV replays.

Holy shit.  It was an NBA Finals game between two really good and evenly-matched teams, each of which featured one of the ten best players ever.  Way to dig deep and come up with analysis that literally no one else could have, Bill.  Bully for you.

But what happened next? That’s what made it stupendous.

Totally radical and tubular!

With Miami trailing by five points, LeBron James launched a desperation 3 from the top of the key, maybe two steps to the left, and sent the ball sailing over the rim. Actually, it was worse than that — it bounced off the bottom of the backboard like a freaking Super Ball. 

The basketball, a ball that is designed to be bouncy, bounced in a way that resembled... a ball that is designed to be bouncy.  Just masterful command of the English language there.

I watched the trajectory from our makeshift television set across the court, crammed behind San Antonio’s basket, so I could tell right away it was off.

ME!  ME ME ME ME ME I WAS THERRRRRRRRE!  I KNEW THE SHOT WAS GOING TO MISS BEFORE THE REST OF YOU MORONS WATCHING AT HOME KNEW!  Bill Simmons has a lot in common with Peter King, except that I'd be willing to say that King is actually a journalist.

That shot couldn’t have been a bigger brick; 

It was such a bad shot that it resembled a crumpled up ball of paper that someone shot towards a trash can but instead missed the trash can entirely.

LeBron should have just fired that thing with a T-shirt cannon. It also couldn’t have been a better break for Miami. One of the most famous sequences in NBA history was officially in motion.

Bill is a small child, who is convinced that the best/most important [X] is the [X] he most recently saw/learned about.  I'm pretty sure that if you had the misfortune of discussing movies with him, he'd insist that Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club are the three best movies ever made.  Was the end of game 6 crazy and awesome?  Of course.  Do crazy sequences late in NBA Finals elimination games happen pretty frequently?  They sure do, like in 2010 and 2005 and 1994 and 1993 and 1992 and 1988 and....

Waiting for the rebound in front of Miami’s basket, four different Spurs had boxed out three Heat players in a perfect square. Any basketball camp could show their alignment to campers with the note, This is how you box out as a group. If any Spur secured the rebound, San Antonio would bring home the title — the fifth for Duncan and Popovich, and probably the sweetest one too. But none of them expected the basketball to carom that quickly.

Of course it would be the sweetest one.  Of course.  It would be the most recent one, after all.

[a couple paragraphs describing the crazy nature of the rebound deleted]

Duncan and his nearly 16,000 career rebounds watched from afar. His three teammates tipped the ball toward Miami’s bench, right to Ray Allen, who immediately turned into Justin Bieber after five joints and 10 cups of sizzurp. 

It's brilliant and cutting pop culture references like this one that make Bill worth every penny he's paid.

The man lost all of his coordination. He whipped his left arm for the loose basketball, botched the catch and somehow redirected the ball backward toward San Antonio’s bench. LeBron’s brick had morphed into basketball’s version of the magic bullet. The same rebound had changed direction four times. Half the players on the court had already touched it.

This only happens about ten times per game, so give or take like 1200 times per NBA season?  MAGIC BULLET.  TRULY REMARKABLE.

Mike Miller touched it before everyone else — he inbounded the ball to LeBron, then floated toward the foul line for a possible rebound, failed to sneak past the doughier Diaw, watched the basketball get redirected three times, then chased down the loose ball after Allen’s rebounding spasm. Meanwhile, LeBron had remained behind the 3-point line, drifting near Miami’s bench, waiting for a second chance. Miller quickly shoveled the ball his way. LeBron buried it. 

He buried that shot like a hockey player scoring a goal into the back of a hockey net.

Two-point game.

The entire sequence took 8.1 seconds. Seven players touched the ball. Leonard, Miller and LeBron touched it twice. Incredibly, Miami was still alive. Timeout, San Antonio.

You can definitely not feel the drama after that totally overdetailed description of a pretty normal sequence of events.

I don’t remember much about Game 6. 


But I absolutely remember standing there in a medicated haze, thinking to myself, Wait a second … they aren’t gonna screw this up, are they?”


After I joined ESPN’s studio crew last season, my biggest fear was getting sick during the Finals. My immune system [rest of paragraph deleted]

No one cares.  We all get sick.  Get over yourself.

You can’t call in sick for television. You don’t have a choice; you have to keep going. Just keep sucking cough drops, popping Advils and staying hydrated and hope you don’t cough up a lung on live TV. 

Wait... he's on TV?  You'd think he would have mentioned this by now.

And so I wore my best suit and one of my favorite ties. 


They caked my face with makeup. They used drops to save my reddened eyes. You wouldn’t have known I was ill, even if I felt like I was heading for my own funeral. 

Bigger hero: Bill during this game, or Jordan during the "flu game?"  It's a push, because Jordan failed to be Larry Bird.

Right down to how my body had been prepared. And that’s how I watched one of the greatest basketball games ever — in a foggy haze. I remember Duncan dropped 25 points in the first half, torching Miami like he was 25 years old again. I remember discussing him at halftime, wondering if we’d remember it as the Duncan Game — 

And there it is again.  And had the Spurs won, no, no we would not have remembered it as the Duncan Game, because there isn't a "Magic Game" or a "Bird Game" or even a "Jordan Game," because you don't get games named after you if you have a bunch of rings.  You only get them if you had a one time amazing moment, like Willis Reed.  But don't expect Bill to make that connection--he's only written a best selling book about basketball.

his unexpected last chapter,

Yeah, he only averaged 18 and 10 those playoffs, with career playoff averages of 21 and 12.  Who could have seen him having a really good game that night?

the night that could cement his legacy as his generation’s defining player. 

Insert boring and played-out article from some dopey analyst about how NO ONE APPRECIATES THE SPURS OR DUNCAN here, even though everyone fully appreciates the Spurs and Duncan.  At the same time, much as Bill would not want to admit it, I think Kobe probably edges out Duncan as the "defining" player of the 00s, even if Duncan wins a title last year or this year, to the extent that title matters, which it does not.

I don’t remember much else.

If only he could have miraculously forgotten all that other shit he just said as well, we might have been spared the horrible experience of reading this article.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Statistics, Racism, and Stereotyping

This article was originally published in ESPN the Mag in late March. It's an amazing conglomeration of foolishness. It was written by Jeff Phillips, a principal at The Parthenon Group, which is some kind of business consulting firm, so perhaps this isn't exactly sportswriting. But if ESPN the Mag is going to publish it, it qualifies.

FOR 150 YEARS, "clubhouse chemistry" has been impossible to quantify.

Have people been trying to quantify it for 150 years? I don't think there was anyone back in the early days of the American League trying to figure out some way to quantify the clubhouse chemistry. Plus, it would've been totally different back then. All the players were white guys from the good old USA, so the model would probably have to measure things like "willingness to pound moonshine or "ability to cover for me when I need an alibi for the manager's bed checks" or "sleeping ability on a train". I imagine that old time GMs probably had different models for chemistry than their current counterparts.

The only way to measure it, winning teams said, was by gut feeling: Either you have it, the way the Red Sox did with the Idiots of 2004 and 
the Beards of 2013, or you don't.

It's a good thing all the other baseball teams have the RED SOX around to show them examples of good chemistry. God knows the RED SOX are the most charismatic organization playing America's most charismatic sport. This is what makes everyone hate Boston's sports team.

I also find it interesting that the authors don't present the scores of the '04 or '13 Red Sox on their scale. This would've been a really good place to show that their super-duper chemistry metric matches the eye test of the obviously chemically superb Red Sox. But there's no mention.

Until now. 

EMPHATIC SENTENCE. Jeff Phillips is following the advice of his 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Higgenbotham, who reminded him to use syntax to reflect meaning. Way to go, Mrs. Higgenbotham!

Working with group dynamics experts Katerina Bezrukova, an assistant professor at Santa Clara, and Chester Spell, an associate professor at Rutgers, we built 
a proprietary team-chemistry regression model.
Jeff Phillips probably pitched his article something like this:

Jeff Phillips: We've got an educated baseball audience hungry for some new insights on baseball, and they seem to love statistics. But we also need to appeal to the good old boys who understand clubhouse chemistry. So we're trying to figure out how to quantify this. This is gonna be a killer article!

Katerina Berzrukova: Listen, I'm busy working on getting tenure, and working with you clowns isn't exactly going to boost my academic resume. Plus I am Russian. Call me if you want to quantify the chemistry on your gymnastics team.

Chester Spell: Yeah, publishing in ESPN the Mag is not exactly a peer-reviewed journal. If I'm trying to build my resume, I probably don't want to get published by the same organization that has employed both John Kruk and Joe Morgan as a baseball analyst.

JP: Wait, did I mention I'm writing an article for the World Wide Leader in Sports? The Biggest Sports Journalism Outlet around? You can get a lot of hits on our website.

[KB looks at CS]

CS: So?

KB: Yeah, so? Nobody reads it in Russia.

JP: Also we can pay you handsomely because our coffers are overflowing with money. I'll just grab a few grand from the Bristol Money Bin, where Simmons and the ESPN execs just swim in cash like Uncle Scrooge.

KB: Now that you mention it, I've got a PhD from Moscow State University, where I helped the vaunted Moscow State Dragoons hockey team run off a four-year undefeated streak by concocting a clubhouse chemistry model based on their loyalty to the motherland and their vodka tolerance. So this stuff is my wheelhouse.

CS: Well, I do a lot of research about organizations and businesses, and Major League Baseball is an organization and a business!

JP: Great! I'll throw some bills at you, you throw some random numbers and regressionspeak back at me, we bang out a few thousand words for the Mag, and we call it a day. Whew! I'm gonna hit the pool.


Plus the model is proprietary. Which basically means that article could've been random numbers thrown out of nowhere. That might work if I thought ESPN had the ethos of being honest and trustworthy and devoted to making a contribution to how we understand the complex game of baseball... hahaha, I kill me.

Our algorithm combines three factors -- clubhouse demographics, trait isolation and stratification of performance to pay -- to discover how well MLB teams concoct positive chemistry.
It's a good thing that human relationships in the complex world of a baseball clubhouse can be reduced to three indicators. And it I'm s
till not buying the premise that MLB teams are trying to "concoct" positive chemistry. Sure, I bet now and again a team makes a decision perhaps not entirely based on baseball performance (the Reds did spend a fair amount of coin for an aging Scott Rolen in 2009 probably in part because of his clubhouse presence), but that particular acquisition wouldn't have done much at all for these threefactors. 

Also, the word choice here is putrid. "Algorithm"? "Concoct"? C'mon, Mrs. Higgenbotham! I know you wanted to teach Jeff as much vocabulary as you possibly could, but you have to also teach him how to use it appropriately!

Plus this model doesn't quantify the major factor that would be conducive to positive chemistry: not signing total assholes like Milton Bradley, John Rocker, or Albert Belle When these guys come up with a model that precisely quantifies being as asshole, I'll start listening.

According to the regression model, teams that maximize these factors can produce a four-win swing during a season.
So by overhauling their entire 25-man roster in order to manipulate the overall chemistry of the team, they might be able to get four wins out of it. Sounds like a plan! Actually, maybe they should manipulate the overall quality of their baseball players instead.

According to our projections, such bonding will clinch this year's World Series: The Rays (third in chem) will prevail over the Cardinals (28th) in six games for Tampa Bay's first Series title. Happy players, happy fans.
At least the Cardinals suck at chemistry. I've heard all sorts of bullshit about the Cardinal Way over the years, so I'm glad to see that the BFIB won't latch on to this as evidence of their moral and personal superiority to the rest of the National League. But this model is still stupid. And if chemistry accounts for 4 wins over 162 games, its effect in a 7 game series must be miniscule. So I don't think it makes any sense at all to over-reach and use it to predict the winners of the World Series.

Chemistry breakdown
Demographic factor: The impact from diversity, measured by age, tenure with the team, nationality, race and position. Teams with the highest scores have several overlapping groups based on shared traits and experiences.

Does this mean teams should try to avoid racial integration? Or including foreigners? Or only bring them in if they're in groups? This is such an awful way to look at any kind of group construction - instead of actually working with your players, teaching them not to be assholes to people from other races and countries, and generally working to improve the clubhouse chemistry of the best players they can assemble, it suggests instead that GMs should view their human resources as fixed identities. What a terrible way to view human beings, and what a terrible way to generate organizational culture.

Also, why the hell is position in this factor? Are we really looking at the chemistry impact of the few positional decisions a team makes? OH SHIT IF WE CARRY A THIRD CATCHER THAT TIPS OUR CHEMISTRY FACTOR. CMON UP CORKY!

Isolation factor: The impact from players who are isolated because of a lack of subgroups from these shared demographic traits. Too much diversity can, in fact, produce clubhouse isolation for players who don't have teammates with similar backgrounds or experiences.

If they're assholes, yes, then you'll have a team full of players who don't want to talk to their teammates because they have different backgrounds. God forbid we have TOO MUCH DIVERSITY. I guess that's why the 1927 Yankees were so awesome. They didn't have too much diversity.

Maybe they're thinking of a team like the 1975 Reds - three Latinos, three black guys and too white guys - as their ideal team. That way, every player has his own buddy within his own racial group. I'd be interested to see how they treat race, for example. Perez was Cuban, Concepcion Venezuelan, and Geronimo Dominican; would they they have meaningful shared traits? As a Reds fan I am ashamed that I don't know the answer to that question. As a baseball fan I'm interested to see how they actually categorize demographic traits. Oh wait, this is an article written to appeal to the hordes of fans who just want to throw numbers around without actually thinking about how they were constructed. Shame.

Ego factor: The impact from individuals' differences in performance and monetary status. Too few All-Stars and highly paid players signal a lack of leadership; too many, however, creates conflict. The ideal level falls in the middle.

Actually, too few All-Stars signals a lack of good players. Too many All-Stars signals, generally, a good team. Leaving out the obvious point about All-Star selection being a popularity contest, it's still a stupid-ass thing to say that the IDEAL LEVEL of All Stars is "in the middle". Maybe in Russia an All-Star means something else.

Chris W. once reminded me that Bill James once said that if you find a stat that says some nobody was a better hitter than Babe Ruth, you should probably find a different stat. In this case, if you find a model that says a team should not try to have a maximum number of all star players, you should probably find a different model. Or at least a different proxy variable for "performance". All-Star appearances is a a terrible variable proxy for performance. The current leader in the AL shortstop voting is Derek Jeter, who has the 12th best WAR among AL shortstops.You'd think that with the tons of possible ways to quantify performance , the professors would pick something sensible.

Their point about the possible chemistry effects of income inequality in the clubhouse seems relevant. I can see how that might cause problems in a clubhouse. I'd actually like to see the information on that. BUT NO: the model is proprietary.

The article goes on to discuss every division and how chemistry will affect the standings. I'm not going to go through every division because it's boring, but here's a sample:

The Tigers' clubhouse diversity contributes 0.9 of a win by itself, but the strength of its subgroups is weak due to differences in age and years with the team, leading to an Isolation score of minus-1.6 wins. The Royals' Isolation score, on the other hand, is 4.7 wins higher, boosted by a pitching staff that includes eight Americans among the team's 10 core pitchers.

This is pure junk. We're supposed to draw a meaningful conclusion from the fact that the Royals, are doing their best to keep American jobs at home instead of outsourcing them like those anti-American Pirates? Or that Dave Dombrowski's careful assembling of Tigers' 25-man clubhouse diversity is almost worth one win? It's just so stupid.

Man, that article was bad. Faux academic knowledge? Statistics misused? Terrible writing? Subtly promoting racial stereotyping? Nice work, ESPN The Mag.