Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Adios, amigos.

It was fun while it lasted, but it seems that I'm all alone here, now. And arguing with the ether just ain't my style. See y'all on the other 'blogs.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Just in case ...

... you were wondering what I'm doing these days, I've begun a new blog called l'antagonista. It's still a work in progress and everything, but I wanted to start writing again in a non-TGWNA format. This place was dead, anyway.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The fine line between cheap and thrifty.

My man Diesel pointed me toward an interesting bit of reading the other day. I had sensed from the manner in which it was sent to me that the Diesel views Arsene Wenger's frugality in a positive light, as the author does, which makes sense for someone as financially savvy as he.

Initially, the article garnered somewhat of a 'meh' response on my end. Then I got to thinking about it, and I don't know if Wenger's financial tactics are really all that laudable, particularly in a league with such high stakes as the Premiership.

Now, I understand that the Gunners are paying for their new stadium with team revenues only, which is quite commendable. And I am aware that brand-new stadia cost a lot of bread, especially when you aren't having local taxpayers fund it for you. Also, I concede that it would be nice, I guess, if the organization didn't hemorrhage money. But my contention with the sort of blanket-statement of "He's being smart by spending less" is that it, in itself, fails to address the core concept of value.

Value is, of course, the simple ratio of what one gets per what one pays. It is OK if you spend a lot of money, so long as you get a lot of silverware (ManU). Conversely, if you spend little and receive little, then what good are you? (Derby County) The fact is that championships brings fans, and fans bring revenue. If you want to fill stadiums and bring in the skrilla, you have to put butts in seats by winning. Also, in my view, the situation is made all the more significant by the fact that the EPL is essentially a 4-team league. When you're Arsenal, keeping up with the Joneses means putting up the required cash to compete with three of the best teams in the world. In fact, there are already pretty valid concerns that Wenger's spendthrift policies may end up costing the team valuable players, and, by extension, wins. Losing Hleb and Adebayor would leave holes that I doubt that Samir Nasri and Aaron Ramsey will be able to fill. It may be a sage advice to buy low and sell high on the stock market, but a strong balance sheet does not necessarily translate to notches in the win-column, as members from both sides of the salary cap issue are all too eager to impart.

And let's dispense right now with the rubbish that it is better to have an inexpensive player with future? potential than an established player with experience and skill that serves you now. Fans don't come to this week's game because the team will be good in 3 years, they come because they are hoping for a victory today. Affirming the contrary would be tantamount to saying that you like to go to such-and-such a restaurant every day because the food shouldn't suck so bad in a few years:


Person 1: "Man, this burger sucks; I think it is made of pigeon meat! And it cost me $10!"

Person 2: "Dude, stick with this place, man. With all of the money that they are making off of selling $10 rat-burgers, they'll have enough dough in a few months to start serving real beef! Besides, isn't this a nice looking dining room?"

Person 1: "But.....that assumes that they'll even want to buy real beef after a few months. If they've already established that they can get $10 for a 89 cent product, why would they ever upgrade their ingredients? Let's go."

Person 2: "That's not how I roll, Broseph. This imitation pork fritatta may make me gag, but it has tremendous upside."


And, getting away from questionable meat products for a moment, allow me to also put the pre-emptive kibosh on any 'quantity is better than quality' bullshit. If anyone else but Diesel is reading this, you may wonder what the hell I am talking about. In that event, execute a post search on this blog for 'Cat Skinner 2000', or a variant thereof. You should find a post authored by the D that suggests that having a large amount of cheaper, less competent cat skinners is the same or better than a fewer number of more expensive units, or whatever.

Although quantity does indeed have a quality all of it's own, this model for selecting sports team rosters just doesn't any level. Why? Because only X number of players can be on the field at any given time. You can have a million Phillipe Senderos' on the bench, but not a one of them is going to be able to stop Cristiano Ronaldo. Even if you tied 4 of them together with bungee cords, put one oversized jersey over the lot, and convinced the ref that this constituted only one player, they would not have a prayer against that fairy on the wing. Another hole in this logic is found by trying to extend it into other, comparable realms.

For example, if I went out and got 3 day-laborers from the Home Depot and sat them at my desk, my job wouldn't get done (or done properly, anyway). Even if I paid them an amount that totalled among the 3 of them to be less than my hourly rate (about $7 per hour right now), you'd still get a bunch of garbled crap on the CAD drawings, and my clients would be considerably less likely to keep doing business with my firm. I'm not saying that I am better than these 3 men, but I am saying that, for now, I am a better engineer. Now, extend this to the sports world. Team quality is not an additive property of individual player proficiency. Sucks + Sucks + Sucks = Sucks.

P.S. Um, upon review, I realize that I may have built a few straw men here, Diesel. Please feel free to tell me off if I have put any words in your mouth vis-a-vis any of the supposed positions that I present as being contrary to yours.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

zzzzzz...Huh?...Oh, Euro 2008 is here!

That's right, you lazy, cholesterol-soaked, American Imperialists! It's time for the Euro 2008 championship, and I, for one, couldn't be more excited. Really!

Despite the fact that, for me, this is a pretty exciting time of year for sports (Stanley Cup finals, F1 is in full swing, NBA finals involving two teams that anyone gives half a shit about), there hasn't been anything blogworthy to write about that anyone but I would care to read. But the Euro championship is different. This affects everyone, and anyone not caring about this clash of the soccer titans is an unwashed rube.

Perhaps that last part is a bit much, but the fact remains that the Euros are an excellent and almost unavoidable opportunity to allow your ethnic pride to bait you into arguments about a sport that you know little about with equally impassioned strangers. Count this as a rare chance to throw your undivided support towards a team of players whose names you cannot pronounce. It's like the St. Patrick's Day of the sporting world. No one really cares about being Irish; you don't speak the language and have never been there, but, by God, you'll jump at the opportunity to get wasted and proclaim your pride as a member of Celtic race.

Speaking of Celtic pride, Ireland will not be represented in this year's tournament. Booooo. Neither will any of the UK nations, for that matter. There goes that half of the Big C gene pool, and the ill-fitting Irish national team jersey, to boot. So, who am I throwing in with (primarily)?


That's 'Poland' for you non-Slavic wags. I don't speak a word of the language, have never been there, and, because my father was adopted, haven't the slightest clue as to the origins or whereabouts of my ancestors. That makes me the perfect candidate to get into a barfight with some dago or kraut bastard over the honor of one Jakub Blaszczykowski. Fuck all haters.

Also, in the true spirit of the modern day euro-mutt, I'll give 1/16th of my support to, wait for it,.....France! Three reasons:

1. They have received absolutely zero dap from ESPN's annoying little TV ads. Portugal, which has accomplished roughly dick in international play, gets a 30-second spot; but France, apparently, can go fuck themselves. What a great way for me to be both an asshole and an iconoclast at the same time. I'm in douchebag heaven with this one; and that's what soccer is really all about. Fuck all haters.

2. Entertainment value. France plays the most exciting, beautiful soccer in Europe. A win for the frogs is a win for the sport. I really enjoy the irony of the fact that the only country that can possibly get Americans to give a flying fuck about soccer will be the one nation that everyone here pretty much universally despises.

3. Um, they are going to win and it's not even going to be close. Seriously, vive la France.

So, everybody, all two of you; Fire up the HD, don those expensive, brand-new jerseys, and pledge your schizoid allegiance to whichever half, third, quarter, or sixteenth of your ethnic heritage is represented on the pitch over the next few weeks. So long as you're not looking for an explosive offense, aggressive playing style, and well, scoring, you'll be in set. Catch the fever.

P.S. Why is Lukas Podolski not starting for the German squad? If the krauts don't want him, we'll be glad to welcome him back to the motherland. Miroslav Klose, too, please.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

OK, I can't imagine anyone's checking in anymore ...

... but, something actually came up that got me interested enough to write.

Jason over at It IS About the Money, Stupid, recently posted a sort-of rhetorical question: Why is it that pitchers today — particularly young ones — are getting Tommy John Surgery in such high numbers? Jason posits, as many have, that the efforts to help pitchers — restricted pitch counts, five-man rotations, etc. — might actually be the cause. I've heard this said often, and even written about it a little before in this space.

The problem with that idea — and I'm not criticizing Jason, simply offering a counter-point — is that it isn't taking into account one vital, fundamental difference between the "olden-days" when pitchers routinely threw complete games, and today:

It is way, way, way, way, way, way, way, WAY harder to pitch in today's game.

The last time I wrote about this, I challenged the self-reinforcing memory device that allows people to think that pitchers back in the day never got hurt. I wish I had the time to do a breakdown on the length of pitchers' careers in previous eras, but I've got my nose buried in the world of soccer statistics these days and don't really feel like making my brain and/or processor melt with even more Excel work. But I would be willing to bet cold, hard currency that pitchers, on the whole, experience longer careers now than they used to. It's sort of a sucker's bet, because there are so many developments in the game, particularly in the related fields of training and medical treatment, that it is virtually impossible that I'm on the wrong side of this. And the reason that such a counter-intuitive belief has persisted within many circles is because we tend to only remember those who did have long careers, and quickly forget the Jeff D'Amicos of the world who make an impact one season, and are gone a couple later.

However, for the sake of my argument, I can allow for the idea that injuries are more common today for pitchers. To simply hone in on the so-called "improvements" teams have made in pitcher handling as the possible cause of all this TJ surgery distress is missing the forest for the trees; the reason teams have hard pitch restrictions and five-man rotations is because they were adjusting to both the realities of pitcher attrition rates and the fact that, since the lowering of the mound, pitchers must pitch much better if they're to pitch effectively (say that sentence five times fast).

Here's what's changed since Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA season in 1968, often cited as the single-greatest pitching season in the history of the sport:

• Mounds have been lowered four inches
• Balls have gone from being hand-wound to machine-wound, resulting in a tighter ball
• Balls are often swapped out after a few impacts with a bat, resulting in fewer "softened" balls
• Ballparks have become exponentially smaller, most notably w/r/t power alleys and foul territories
• Hitters have gotten bigger
• Hitters have gotten smarter, thanks in large part to video analysis
• Hitters are encouraged to work counts much more often
• The strike zone has gotten smaller

I'm probably leaving some things off the list, but that will do. Essentially, just about everything that's happened in the last 40 years has been almost virulently anti-pitcher. So, it's tougher to get an out than it's ever been in the history of baseball, if we're talking in broad strokes.

The next logical step is to assume that pitchers must exert more effort, on average, with each pitch than they would have 40 years ago. It's the effort per pitch — not necessarily the raw number of pitchers — that determines pitcher fatigue. And it's when pitchers continue to pitch while fatigued that leads to injuries, as Dr. James Andrews has said a million and a half times. The only reason things like Pitcher Abuse Points exist is because it's much easier to try and figure out a general number for a ceiling that can be applied to the average pitcher than it is trying to figure out a number for each individual pitcher. I'll bet, though, that the individual teams' pitch counts are much more nuanced and specific; coaches should be able to tell, based upon an individuals level of effort per pitch and stamina level, what number works for each pitcher on the staff. If they don't, they should probably be fired (you hear that Charlie Manuel, he who is attempting to end Cole Hamels' career?).

There are a lot of ancillary issues that are leading to the rise in TJ surgery, which is an increased ability to diagnose specific problems as opposed to nebulous terms like "tired arms," specialization at early ages for athletes, the Vanderbilt coaching staff and the 10-year-old curve ball. It doesn't hurt that the surgery is more available and affordable than it's ever been, which allows it to be an option for younger players who probably would have been forced to just give up the game after tearing a UCL in years past. Shit, there's something to be said about the correlation between advanced surgical procedures and the demise of knuckleballers, as many of those who turned to the world of constant manicuring did so as a result of a fastball-killing arm injury.

But the bottom line is that the rise in TJ surgery isn't because pitchers don't train to throw 150 pitches per game or 300 innings a season any longer; they don't do those things anymore because, if they did, it would probably result in an even more TJ surgeries. As far as I can tell, arguments like this come down to figuring out where in the chain of causality one wishes to begin his or her inquest. Starting at the increase of TJ surgery is, I believe, about three or four links too far up the chain.

Thanks, Jason, for writing something that got me thinking.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Reason number 23,367 that NASCAR sucks.

As the latest in the ever-increasing number of reasons to turn your racing attentions elsewhere, this article serves as a paragon of inept, completely out-of-touch journalism. A stark contrast to this guy, who has been put on blast for actually relating an informed, accurate take on a topic, Blount's premise is fundamentally asinine and laughably wrong.

What Blount (and the complaining drivers, for that matter) doesn't seem to grasp is that NASCAR, unlike, say, F1, is a sport that prides itself upon uniformity, simplicity, and antiquity.

I mean, NASCAR, still uses pushrod motors! Pushrod! No one even produces cars with pushrod (no camshaft(s)) motors anymore! Is anyone really surprised that a sport that not only embraces, but champions outdated and inferior technology would not be receptive to change? Forget about those fancy fuel injectors, Poindexter, that shit's for pussies. And don't even start trying to push that non-oval-tracks-make-for-more-interesting-races bullshit; I ain't had enough Milwaukee's Best tonight to get roped into that conversation. Give me a chaw, boy, and a knife to whittle this switch!
Aaaaaaaand, we're back.... It should not be lost on anyone that all of the kvetching over the pushrod-using, carburated, breadbox of a vehicle is taking place over a vehicle once dubbed the 'Car of Tomorrow'. Aside from helping us understand the definition of the word 'irony', that little tidbit should serve as the codex of the NASCAR world: spitefully ignorant, intentionally backward, and complaining all the way.

Aerodynamics?! They're complaining about aerodynamics?! Sweet Enola Gay, son! I only finished 3 semesters as an aero before switching to physics, but here's a quick primer on some astute observations that I have made whilst pondering this issue:


are more aerodynamically sound than this:

For the Flying Spaghetti Monster's sake, even the rearview mirrors have been engineered and wind-tunnel tested on the F1 cars!
P.S - This is completely off-topic, but why is texting (on standard keypad phones, anyway) so popular? Does anyone realize that we have essentially reverted back to Morse code? What's up with that, people?

I wish this were the last word on Lute Olson

But I know it's not going to be.

I don't know how much more I'm going to be posting, and this doesn't exactly qualify as breaking news here. But considering I've spent no small amount of time baiting columnists in this space — even this particular one once or twice, though I've always done so with some hesitation, because I know Greg a little and respect him very much — I wanted to take the opportunity to present a columnist not only writing/doing something good, but brave.

For those who may not know, Olson blackballed Hansen for quite a few years after the city's leading sportswriter had the temerity to call out Olson and the program for letting a player sit in jail (I believe this is the story, but I could be wrong). Olson's megalomania is no recent development; he's been pulling this shit for years. And, after what appeared to be a heartfelt burying of the hatchet with Greg a couple of years back -- lore has it that the patch-up came at the request of Lute's now-late wife, Bobbi, under whose well-deserved halo Lute has lived to this day -- it appears Lute thinks there's cause enough to draw arms again. That's sad, because Greg's one of those writers who only grudgingly gets into it with those he covers. That's not to say he's a sycophant — he's certainly not, as this column proves (as do dozens of others through the years) — but he is clearly more attuned to the kind of column writing that makes people better fans of a program, as opposed to better critics. Furthermore, just about any time Greg actually decides to write something even remotely strident, he gets fucking killed by readers (read the comments after the Olson column, but be sure to take a couple of Advil first). Yeah, maybe the Mariottis of the world get it worse, but they actually deserve it. Greg Hansen has spent the last two-plus decades giving big-league coverage, in terms of the quality of his writing and the respect/gravity he affords his subjects, to the world's biggest college town. He deserves, at the least, a poorly populated e-mail inbox on column days.

I'm actually getting angrier about this as I write, which means that I'm reaching the point where I'll probably just start throwing bombs at Tucson. But I don't want to. I'm exhausted by the entire Lute Olson situation -- he really is the grinch that stole college basketball, at least for me -- and I'm not really interested in slamming my former home because I still like a lot of things about Tucson.

But, seriously, I have no idea how anyone with a shred of intelligence can still be a fan of this program as long as Shakes is at the helm.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Exhibit A:

Try this at home, kids! The above is a one-of-a-kind, 100% completely accurate litmus test for racism! A sort of Rorschach test for prejudice, if you will, for this image is exactly what the observer wants it to be. Follow these steps:

1. Show this to someone you know. If they find Gisele to be overrated due to her lack of titties, or express interest in the no-exercise diet, then you have witnessed a perfectly normal reaction to this otherwise uninspiring cover for a magazine no one really reads unless they are in the waiting room at the dentist. Skip to Step 4. However, if the person in question deems the image to be racist or offensive, then you have a real, live bigot on your hands. And, if that isn't bad enough, you would be in the presence of the worst (OK, second-to-worst) kind; the latent racist. The latent racist, or LR, is a person who, amid vehement claims to the contrary, harbors a deep-seated and potentially dangerous form of racial misunderstanding and/or resentment. At least the Archie Bunkers of the world are honest.

2. The latent racist, at this point, should not be openly ridiculed or chastised. Rather, you should maintain eye contact and slowly back away, smiling affirmatively. The latent racist is the most dangerous of the non-violent racist breed, and should be treated with a measure of caution. The LR is irrational, you see, and sees a visage of King Kong where there is really just a picture of a forward for a hopelessly lost basketball franchise. Other symptoms include, but are not limited to; naively positing that affirmative action is a good idea, a feverish, unsupported support of Barack Obama's presidential candidacy, and the refusal to acknowledge that prison tats make a black person (or anyone, for that matter) appear threatening. This last one seems a bit ironic, I know, but is consistent with the LR's very measured attempts at appearing to be non-racist. The fact is that the LR is actually very racist, indeed. Deep down, he/she is terrified of and/or disgusted by black people, yet desperately wants the world to know that they're cool and unaffected by racial distinctions, despite the fact that they filter everything they see through a color-sensitive lens.

3. If the subject is a friend, encourage them to fight the symptoms of latent racism. Make them aware that everyone is aware of the slight undercurrent of racial tension in this country, but that treating fashion magazine covers with the same gravitas as, say, real-life, violent racism (a la the Jena Six) is not the definition of progress. Inform them that they have nothing to feel guilty for, and that slavery was not their fault. Walking on eggshells around blacks or the issues surrounding blacks only drives the feelings of LR deeper within, and that treating them as poor, disadvantaged wretches (I am talking about affirmative action) is about the most condescending, insulting, and, well, racist thing that anyone can do.

4. Sit back and laugh as a few nuts in the media out themselves as being latent racists on a hair-trigger by getting all up in a tizzy and apologizing profusely for an image that doesn't even upset black people. Equally ridiculous will be the remaining contingent who, under the guise of neutrality, will try to stir up shit and lay the kindling for a flame war by posing it as an 'Is this offensive, America?' piece. They certainly need that manual.
P.S: I rescind that 'no-tittie' comment about Gisele. Subsequent photos reveal that she does, in fact, have boobs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Friend of the Program Previews the NCAA Tourney

I got the following NCAA tourney preview via e-mail from a friend of mine, and thought it was too good not to post. So, with his blessing and Diesel's, I present you:

The Official Jim 2008 NCAA Tournament Preview/Suicide Note


My fondest tournament memory from the last few years came in the first round game in 2006 between Michigan St. and Utah St. About five minutes in, Utah St. point guard David Pak got fouled and went to the line. As Pak shot his first free throws, the venerable Dick Enberg was obliged to share some personal information about the "young" man.

"Pak is actually a 29 year old freshman," began Enberg, cheerfully, with his customary grace and warmth, as he read whatever notes had been put in front of him.

Pause. Obviously Enberg hadn’t read the notes beforehand.

"It seems Pak actually spent seven years in prison..."

Long Pause.

"...for the...heinous crime...of rape," stuttered poor Enberg, a broken man, his belief in humanity crushed.

The best part is that I realized David Pak was actually from my hometown and that we had once played on the same NJB all-star team in 4th grade. Yeah, that’s right, I was an all-star! Suck it!

Some thoughts on the season that was:

Duke: I don’t know how they do it, but each year Duke somehow becomes whiter and more insufferable. I thought they hit the highwater mark two years ago with J.J. Redick, who I actually liked as a player, until some of his poems were published in Sports Illustrated. Here’s a stanza:

No bandage can cover my scars
It's hard living a life behind invisible bars
Searching for the face of God
I'm only inspired by the poems of Nas

I believe this has the same scansion as Rilke’s Duino Elegies. In any case, it makes me proud as an American to know that Duke, for so long an insidious bastion of corporate virtue, inspires so much hate in so many people. Not even the delicate lyricism of J.J. Redick can redeem them. It is a moral imperative that you pick them to lose to West Virginia in the second round.

Pac-10: Out here on the West Coast, when I’m not playing beach volleyball or enjoying fresh avocados on an eerily beautiful afternoon, I like to watch games from the best conference in the country. It was brutal this year. The middle of the pack teams out here all would have competed for titles in the Big Ten, Big 12, Small 7, and SEC. There’s still a purity to the Pac-10; unlike the ACC and the Big East no new teams have been added or dropped based on the whims of television revenue and football scheduling. It’s the same teams every year in the Pac-10, playing the same home and away. God bless.

Freshman: Michael Beasley at Kansas State had a great year and will likely be the No. 1 pick. But to me, he’s the second coming of Derrick Coleman – which isn’t a good thing. Injuries bothered Eric Gordon all year, but I think he’ll turn it on in the tournament and make a bid for going No. 1 in the draft. Though I faintly despise Kevin Love – mostly because he’s related to Mike Love, the least talented of all the Beach Boys and the man responsible for "Kokomo" –there’s no denying that he’s a beast. Over at Memphis, I can’t help but note a supercilious air about freshman point Derrick Rose. Maybe it’s his elegant last name, or his high cheek bones, but he plays too much like a dauphin and I’m not convinced he can lead Memphis to the final four. In Johnny Flynn and Donta Green, Syracuse has the best freshman duo in the country, and their my early pick to win the tournament next year.

Tyler Hansborough: Torture. That’s the only way to describe watching him. He’s a walking dry heave, and yet will be national player of the year. North Carolina is a magnet for chiseled, robotic atheletes; there’s not an ounce of flavor on their entire team, which is maybe why they are No. 1 in the country.

Players I like: Deron Washington of Virginia Tech, who apparently hates Duke as much as I do. Last year he delivered the play of the year:

Greg Paulus being forced to lick Deron Washington’s balls as he soars over him – it’s an image that should be inscribed on a Grecian Urn. In both games this year, Washington went nuts, hacking every Duke player in sight, drawing technicals, and generally comporting himself like a true gentleman. I think he’s borderline Artest on the mental stability scale and I actually think he’ll make it in the NBA. Too bad Virginia Tech missed out on the tournament. It’s probably the worst tragedy ever to befall that university.

Derek Low and Kyle Weaver of Washington State, both fun to watch in really subtle ways. Low’s what they call in the business "deceptively quick" in that no one can figure out how a pudgy guy with a pony tail can get around people. Weaver is kind of a poor man’s Josh Howard, but an ambitious poor man who perhaps is getting job training at a local community center.

Mike Green of Butler – A.J. Graves, who, as his surname implies, is small, pale, and wizened, like a mortician’s assistant, was supposed to be the star for Butler, but it was Green who carried them all year. Very Andre Miller in the way gets to the basket.

Names: There is a worrying shortage of great names in college basketball this year. There’s Demontez Stitt at Clemson and Wink Adams at UNLV, but neither are worthy of the pantheon. To fill the void, here’s my all-time top 5:

5b. Majestic Mapp (Virginia)
5a. Scientific Mapp (Florida Central)
4. God Shammgod (Providence)
3. Jihad Muhammad (Cincinnati)
2. Baskerville Holmes (Memphis St.)
1. Zenon M (Cal Poly Pomona)

As a kid, I actually watched Zenon M play against Chapman "University". He was not as good as his name. The only current players who could possibly make the list are Dunky Magoo and Ipsissimus Q. Le Fist, the backcourt at South Alabama.

Now to the Brackets


Players to watch:

Tyler Smith (Tennessee): the main reason Tennessee has elevated themselves this year from underachievers with an obnoxious coach to achievers with an obnoxious coach.

David Padgett (Louisville): tough, hard working, white: these are the qualities that a dying generation of TV announcers drool over in a borderline creepy fashion.

St. Joe’s over Oklahoma in the first round; Indiana over North Carolina in the second round – D.J. White neutralizes Hansborough, Eric Gordon goes fucking sick house on their asses .

Tennessee. They are bright orange and fun to watch.

Luke Harongody of Notre Dame: he sort of looks like a ham.


Players to watch

Joe Shipp (UCLA): Love and Collison get most of the attention, but Shipp is a beast in his own right. A classic Socal baller – smooth, sleepy, and efficient, does everything well.

Joe Alexander (West Virginia): His game is catching up with his athleticism. A better, more aggressive version of Chase Budinger, whom he’ll match up with in the first round.

Nuno Gonsalves y Morbo (South Alamaba): born into poverty on the outskirts of Lisbon, this exciting sophomore has overcome the tragic and unexplained loss of his left hand to become one of the top 200 players South Alabama has ever produced.

Tame bracket. West Virginia over Duke in round 2.

UCLA. They have the easiest road to the final four.

My second favorite player on UCLA is Lorenzo Mata-Real, who looks like a cross between Dracula and a 60s mod.


Players to Watch

Ronald Ramon and LaVance Fields (Pitt): a classic NYC combo, tough, low to the ground, tricky around the basket, seeking contact. Unlike most NYC guards, Ramon can actually shoot.

Paddy Mills (St. Mary’s): insanely quick freshman from Australia, which, fun fact, is the only country that is also a continent. Great match up in the first round between he and D.J. Augustine of Texas.

Cherry "Bomb" Rogers (South Alabama): I’m looking forward to watching Rogers, the only player in Division I basketball who plays with a court-ordered tracking device around his ankle. In 2003, he was arrested in Huntsville for providing haven to wanted members of the Symbionese Liberation Army.


Pitt over Memphis in the Sweet 16.

Pitt. I know I’ll regret this, but I can’t stand to see John Calipari go to the final four. Even if Memphis wins it all, I can take solace in the knowing that three years from now, Memphis will be on probation, their title will be stripped, and Calipari will be an assistant coach in the NBA. Go Pitt.

Oregon has the worst uniforms in the history of college basketball. the only possible exception were the satin unotards that N.C. State wore for one game under Jim Valvano. That’s when they had their fire and ice backcourt of Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe. Remember them? No? Then fuck you.


Players to watch

Stephen Curry (Davidson): it’s always fun when a really good player plays in a conference a notch or two below his ability and he’s given the green light to heave it whenever he wants.

Cliff Hammonds (Clemson): a player I’ve always liked in the ACC, gritty and with that little touch of idiosyncrasy in his game that belongs to all left-handed players.

Mario Chalmers (Kansas): Don’t care for him either way but he has the same last name as Superintendant Chalmers on the Simpsons: "Well, Seymour, you are an odd man, but you steam a good ham."

Barabas Van de Shock (South Alabama): his untimely suicide prevents us from seeing the Sun Belt conference’s leader in field goal percentage.

Nothing major here. Davidson over Gonzaga, but that hardly qualifies. USC to the sweet 16.

Georgetown. I love their team, love their coach. If they shoot decently at all, they’ll be fine. I just can’t get on board with Kansas – a very good but somehow anonymous team with a suspect coach.

Georgetown over Tenn
UCLA over Pitt

My fondest basketball memories – besides playing alongside future sexual predator, David Pak – involve the Big East in the mid-80s. It was all going on in NY, with the Golden Age of Hip Hop providing the soundtrack for epic battles between the likes of Pearl Washington and Walter Berry. Seduced by nostalgia, and confident in Jesuit machination, I feel like I have no choice but to make an unforgivably reckless pick in the final and take Georgetown. But I won’t. UCLA has got the goods.

UCLA over Georgetown.

(my N.I.T. picks coming soon!)

About the author: Jim Gavin is a former toilet salesman, PA for Jeopardy!, and Long Beach middle-school hoops legend. He is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction writing at Stanford University. You can read one of his published stories here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And that's my cue.......

I was waiting for an adequate amount of time to pass before my next post for a couple of reasons: one being that Diesel's preseason round table post is a tough act to follow, and the other being that I wanted to afford the blog-viewing public ample time to soak in the awesomeness of that monster of an entry.

Self-imposed moment-of-silence over.

So, what to talk about? It is kind of a weird time in the sportsworld right now, where one is more excited about what is about to happen than what has actually occurred. On one hand, Major League Baseball is bereft of any current major news outside of the Rolen deal, Randy Moss's domestic violence case has been dropped (but we all knew that he was innocent, anyway), Shaq continues to drag the Suns back to earth, the ASU baseball program is riddled with cheaters, and the great, Santa-booing town of Philadelphia has picked up an MLS franchise. Meh. Actually, there is one among us who is actually pretty amped about this.

On the other hand, Selection Sunday looms (please, oh, please, let Arizona be among the 64), the F1 season approaches*, and UEFA Champion's League action is heating up. I'm throwing-in with Roma, by the way, because if they don't win, I'll have to keep Diesel from cutting himself. He's pretty damn committed to the Giallorossi, and I am really only a casual Liverpool fan (although they look really, really good right now). Let's just hope that the lupi don't play Manchester United again.

P.S. ESPN has ditched Sean Salisbury whilst simultaneously making an effort to bring back Battlebots! W00T! This is teh l33t shizNiT!

*= I know that no one cares, but good God almighty is it an exciting time to be an F1 follower. The talent level (both driver and technical) is at an all time high in a season that will be the most challenging in recent memory (the loss of traction control is a biiiiiiiiig deal). In other words, F1 has created the perfect opportunity for drivers to showcase their talent, and there will be no lack of it this year. For all the (well-deserved) critique/hysteria that the organization has received/ created, the sport has somehow managed to revive in spectacular fashion. The teams are incredibly balanced, diverse, and well-equipped, and someone other than Ferrari, McLaren, or Renault has a genuine shot at winning the constructor's cup this year. Gheeeeeeee!

Diesel be tired, yo

Just wanted you all to know I love you, but that I have neither the energy nor impetus necessary to write anything. Big C and b can feel free to actually earn their keep around here, though.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

The First Annual TGWNA Baseball Preseason Roundtable Opinion Session

We here at TGWNA have never been committed to offering our readers the finest in online content, but our New Year's resolution was to actually make this site worth reading. So, we decided to get actual, interesting baseball minds to write stuff for the blog! Welcome to the First Annual TWGNA Roundtable! I don't know why any of these people have decided to risk their reputation by being associated with this decrepit site, but it's amazing what people will do when you just ask.

The responses have been better than I could have ever imagined, to be sure. In addition to the fact that we have some seriously smart contributors, the answers represent a pretty wide cross-section of baseball opinions. Thanks very, very much to those who participated, and I hope the rest of you have as much fun reading this as I have.

Our panelists are:

John Brattain is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and, in this blogger's estimation, one of the the most thoughtful and entertaining baseball columnists in the business. He's never been at a loss for words, except for that one time the Jays went and re-upped John McDonald, and his .227 EqA, for two more years and almost $2 million per. The Hardball Times Season Preview 2008 is available now, by the way.

Craig Calcaterra is better known as Shyster, perhaps the most tireless baseball blogger on the interwebs. When he's not posting something on the order of six items a day, he also claims to be a member of the Ohio bar and a working lawyer (citation needed). A Braves fan, Craig hopes to one day help Mark Lemke sue David Eckstein for trademark infringement.

Connor Doyle — or Diesel — is the co-founder of this blog and a former sports writer in Idaho. He quit the "biz" about three years into his career when he felt the desire to do something even more financially irresponsible that writing for a living, and moved to Italy for a short period of time before finally going broke. He now works as a lackluster accountant and harasses his friends on AOL Instant Messenger all day.

Ryan Finley is a graduate of the renowned University of Arizona School of Journalism and sports writer for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, Ariz. A native of San Diego, Finley is getting married in a couple of months and has promised (or threatened, depending on your perspective) to name his first child Gwynn, regardless of gender (how many names come with a .305 EqA?).

Colin Laisure-Pool goes by Big C around these parts, and he wants you to know the sport we should really be talking about is F1 racing. Or something. Anyway, Colin's still a little bit of a baseball neophyte, but has sort of been worn down in the last year or so by Diesel's constant prattling about the "scientific beauty" of America's Pastime and has since celebrated his 20th game watched during last year's Game 4 of the World Series. Mazel tov!

Voros McCracken is a legend in sabermetric circles for discovering that pitchers had little control over what happened to batted balls put in play, perhaps the last great Eureka! moment we'll ever have in baseball analysis. DIPS (Defense-Independent Pitching Statistics) have become something of a Rorschach Test for the way people see the game, as there's perhaps no idea in baseball analysis that creates as much guffawing from the old school. After a three-year stint as a black ops agent for the Red Sox, he's returned to the blogosphere and now writes for the Baseball Digest Daily. Also, he's the only one of our panelists with his own Wikipedia entry.

Jason Rosenberg is the author of the blog It IS About the Money, Stupid, the platform upon which he unleashes a daily fusillade of anti-hypocrisy rants that warm the cockles of Diesel's heart. Unfortunately, Jason is also a Yankees fan, which means that all the good deeds of the world will never stop him from ending up here. We kid, Jason; you can't be that bad of a guy, because you accept the fact that Jeter is absolute death going to his left.

Justin St. Germain is a former college sportswriter and current Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction writing at Stanford University. Justin cops to knowing the least about baseball of anyone on our panel, although that doesn't mean he's above telling everyone else they're wrong (he tells me this all the time, and it's never true). For real, though, you can see one of Justin's published stories here, and here's the website for the Stanford creative writing program. Classy!

Pete Toms is a writer for Baseball Digest Daily, a gig he scored not too long ago thanks to his always excellent SOC work on his now somewhat dormant blog, A Baseball Geek. A native of Ottawa, Ontario, Pete is both more cultured and polite than anyone who has ever uttered words in this blog before. Also, he is more than willing to admit that he does, indeed, work out of a basement.

Geoff Young is the man behind legendary Padres blog Ducksnorts and author of the Ducksnorts annual, unquestionably the most entertaining and edifying team-centric annual publication in sports (I know this sounds like faint praise, but really, I've already purchased a copy for myself and one as a gift; it's great stuff). Geoff is also a semi-regular contributor to The Hardball Times and a snappy dresser.

And here are the questions:

Bud Selig asks you for two suggestions. Provided you don't ask him to resign, what ideas do you promote?

Brattain: First, get rid of interleague play and get both leagues into a balanced schedule. Put everybody on the same playing field insofar as playoff races go. Second, revenue sharing subsidies should go into a fund that the receiving team cannot touch unilaterally. Clubs can save up from year to year if they’'re building towards a playoff run and blow the wad then. In the meantime, a club can invoice the fund when they make a purchase/sign a player/draft pick so they have access to the money. Let'’s get rid of leaving revenue sharing to the discretion of the team receiving it.

Calcaterra: As a lawyer I spend too much time focusing on rules, but I'm going to make kind of boring, rulesy suggestions anyway: First I'd ask him to abolish interleague play. The games were a nice novelty for a while, but I'd prefer to going back to the leagues not knowing that much about each other until the World Series. Even worse, now that teams within a division are playing different interleague schedules, it's unfairly impacting pennant races. For the same reason, I'd suggest either going back to the balanced schedule or eliminating the wild card.

Second, I'd have him order the umpires to enforce Rule 8.04: "When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call 'Ball.'"

The games are too long, especially in the playoffs. I've been watching a lot of 1970s and 1980s games on tape recently, and I was shocked at how bad the time in between pitches has gotten. While this rule is aimed at being punitive to the pitchers, its enforcement will also cut down on batter baloney (adjusting gloves, hats, nuts, etc.). Let's just play some ball already.

Doyle: I'm going to keep it down to one because it's going to be a little long: I would suggest blowing up the current revenue-sharing system, which is perpetuating the ability of bad owners to continue making substantial profits without concerning themselves about the product on the field. There's nothing more repulsive than billionaires collecting welfare checks, but that's essentially what happens now. Instead of handing out the money to teams, make them come and justify the need for it. Better yet, make them match any contributions from the revenue sharing pool out of their own pocket, as a way of ensuring that the money is being used to better the product instead of ensure profits for an otherwise unsustainable product.

OK, I lied: I'd also suggest he end the entire draft slot charade.

Finley: I actually think history will reflect kindly on Bud Selig. For all the PED/All-Star game bleating, Selig has ushered in an era of popularity and financial stability not seen in decades. Three of Selig’s most visible changes — the wild card, interleague play and realignment — have been major hits with average fans, if not necessarily the minority that considers themselves traditionalists. That said, here’s what I’d change:

1. Eliminate best-of-five playoff series in the first round. Any fan worth his latest installment of “BP” will tell you larger sample sizes are a better gauge of success, a fact that should be considered given it’s the, you know, playoffs. Extending the first round to a traditional best-of-seven format would give fans a chance to enjoy the depth and complexity of a traditional playoff series while extending the season by three days, tops.

2. Limit pickoffs to two attempts per base runner per inning. Imagine how the game would change with the elimination of the “courtesy throw”: Games would move faster, runners would take more larger leads and steal more, and pitchers would probably rely more on pitchouts — for my money, one of the most exciting plays in sports — to get potential base-stealers out. More importantly, a pickoff limit would reintroduce speedsters, players who have been pushed to the margins with the advent of “Moneyball”-style management decisions and the rise of obscene power numbers at traditionally slappy positions.

Laisure-Pool: No. 1, I would suggest that he move as swift as humanly possible concerning the whole PED dust-up. Baseball needs to admit its culpability and re-engineer their lax policies and practices. Although I do believe that, in the short term, this is bringing attention to the sport, I also believe that the long-term effects of a long, protracted process will damage Major League Baseball's reputation permanently and irreparably. The 'train-wreck effect' will attract a number of one-timers, but the overall process is alienating an entire group of die-hards. Case in point: the last round of player's strikes. My father, a rather devout Giants fan, was turned-off to the sport for good after those strikes, which in no small part contributed to the tapering of my interest in baseball, as well. This is a cancer that will eventually kill the sport if left unchecked.

No. 2, Continue and stimulate further the process of making the sport more accessible to working class fans. One should be able to go to a game, park within a 1/2 mile, get good seats (not nose-bleeds), eat a dog or whatever, and have a few beers for under $40. I understand that a baseball team is a business and not a public service, but when my tax dollars are used to fund a stadium, I want to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labors. Lower ticket and concession prices, and I guarantee more interest in even the most mediocre of teams. It is already a widespread perception that MLB is a sport played by pampered, uncaring millionaires and owned by greedy, nefarious billionaires. However right or wrong that perception is is secondary to the fact that the quickest and most effective way to remedy MLB's image is to put butts in seats.

McCracken: 1. Abandon the organized minors. 2. Institute a promotion and relegation scheme.

Rosenberg: First, I’d change some rules regarding the All Star game. I’d eliminate mandatory representation by every team, unless rosters expand to 32-35 to account for the expansion over the years. I’d also eliminate the “World Series” home field advantage bonus; it’s just an exhibition.

There are many subtle rules changes that I’d want to see changed to speed up the pace of the game but the main ones I’d propose would be a stricter enforcement of the “pitch clock”. Get on the hill or in the box or it’s an automatic strike or ball depending on the guilty party. I’d also change the rule requiring pitching 4 balls on an intentional walk. Call the intentional walk and send the runner to first. This is not Little League.

But my main “platform” involves making the game more kid-friendly. To do this, I’d make all Playoff and All Star games to begin at 7pm EST during the weekend and 6pm on week nights. This will be challenged by the West Coasters understandably but games cannot end after 11pm EST. No playoff games on the weekends will be scheduled during the evening. During the season, after every weekend day game, all kids 12 and under will be allowed to run the bases. I’d also give every kid 12 and under a raffle ticket upon admission to every game. Draw 10 tickets each game and the winners get to meet one player after the game. Can you imagine the impact this would have, to actually run the bases or meet a real ballplayer? Talk about building a lifetime connection to the game!

St. Germain: No. 1: Trim interleague play — there's got to be some way to still let the Cubs/Sox and Mets/Yankees play a few games a year without subjecting us to Royals/Pirates and Nats/A's. And then there's the whole unfairness when it comes to the Wild Card. It's just too much.

No. 2: Do away with the All-Star game/home field thing. It's the stupidest sports gimmick since the puck streak.

And then get rid of the DH and contract the Devil Rays, and we're good. I'm not kidding about either one. (Yes, I still call them the Devil Rays, and yes, I could expand on this contraction thing, but this is probably not the place nor time.)

Toms: No. 1: Steroids are good. Bigger, faster, stronger is what we all want. No. 2: Find new ownership for Pittsburgh. Post current CBA, the Rays & Royals have started to try to win (FLA should start trying soon). Pittsburgh's ownership continues to stuff all the revenue sharing/central fund money into its pockets. President Frank Coonelly & GM Neal Huntington, for all the adoration they received from the baseball media this offseason, won’t change this.

Young: No. 1: Make the All-Star game meaningless again. It was more fun that way. Plus, I don't want someone on the Pirates determining who gets home-field advantage in the World Series. No. 2: Find a way to get rid of the anti-trust exemption, and generally be more honest with your customers.

What's the one thing you don't think the industry is doing enough of, on the whole?

Brattain: Fixing the amateur draft. As mentioned earlier, keep revenue sharing subsidies away from receiving clubs until they need it. They could use this money to nab the top picks. That’'s a short-term solution. Over the longer term, they should come up with a different compensation scheme for teams losing free agents like a de facto Rule 5 pick for a Type A free agent. However, they don'’t have to keep the player drafted on the 25-man roster, giving them time to let him develop in the minors. That way, you de-link the draft rules from the MLBPA since it doesn'’t affect major league players, and they can put in hard slot money and larger consequences for going unsigned after being drafted without raising the ire of the union.

Calcaterra: Trusting its product. I went to a Padres game last summer and was absolutely shocked at how much singing, dancing, clowning, and general farting around goes on between innings. It's as if the people running the game are worried that all of the casual fans they've managed to attract over the past few years will simply go away the moment they aren't being assaulted with entertainment. Maybe some will, but do you really want to base your business around customers who are that damn fickle?

Doyle: Looking within for new stadiums. I think the fallout in communities from rigged stadium deals — and pretty much every one has been rigged — has really hurt the popularity of the product in most places over the long haul. To piggyback off my revenue-sharing rant, this is precisely the type of thing that could be paid for by baseball if it stops lining Carl Pohlad's pockets with other teams' profits. MLB could set up a below-market lending service for owners looking to improve or build stadiums, which is a good deal for everyone involved (except the owners who would be deprived of the current bounty of free money).

Finley: Finding, and promoting, the game’s next great managers. Face it, baseball is the only major league sport that continues to promote the “you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job” philosophy to find its most important, and visible, on-field coaches. Major-league manager jobs come open about as frequently as Supreme Court spots, and most are filled by retreads.

Laisure-Pool: See Part 2 of Question 1. Baseball is our national pastime because it is a sport of the everyman. You don't have to be 7 feet tall or be built from 300 pounds of solid rock to be a good baseball player. As the game advances, bigger, faster, and stronger players are coming to the forefront for sure; but baseball is like no other major professional sport in its ability to produce players that their fans can relate to. This is a big part of the reason why the PED issue is ripping the sport to shreds in the eyes of the common viewer. Baseball needs to take a heavy-handed approach to stop the bleeding on this issue, stat.

McCracken: Besides paying me money? Incentivizing success on the field for "small-market" teams.

Rosenberg: As you can probably tell, one of my biggest “issues” lies within MLB’s ignoring of the kids with respect to game start times. This is most prevalent and important for the “showcase” games, including the all star game and the entire post season. Kids need to be more engaged with the ballplayers and the game. By allowing them to run the bases after every weekend day game will build an instant bond with the game. This can also be done by randomly selecting some number of kids (say 10) to meet a ballplayer after the game. Kids will not care who it is, just that they got to meet a real major leaguer. If that player gave each kid an autographed ball, all the better. It’s easy, it’s cheap and it’s the right thing to do to get kids re-invested in MLB. (Note to Brian Cashman: If you want me to come on board to help you with this, let me know! I’m ready and just 15 minutes away!)

St. Germain: Maintaining a competitive professional sports league. I know, I know, the World Series hasn't been very predictable this decade, but you've still got fans in eight or ten cities who go into Opening Day knowing their teams have zero shot at making the playoffs, much less the Series. The Rays -- who should have never existed in the first place -- might not finish above fourth place for another ten years. Maybe revenue sharing is the answer, and it just needs more time, but I'm not sold on it yet.

The NFL has kicked MLB's ass in the ring of public opinion for a lot of reasons, but parity's a big one. Even if you're a Raiders fan, you still went to the Super Bowl recently, and could conceivably be competitive next season. How do you justify going on as a Royals fan?

Toms: Shortening game times. Sandy Alderson did make some progress in this regard, but it seems to have gone by the boards. I think we’re currently just under 3 hours typically? No matter how it’s done — mound height, strike zone, deader ball — you have to decrease run scoring to speed it up substantially. I think the trade-off would be OK. Most of us don’t have 3 hour windows to watch uninterrupted, and at the ballpark I think fans would prefer 2.5 hours to 3. Fans like offense, but I think they would be more appreciative of a quicker game.

Young: Being honest with its customers. The Average Joe doesn't want to hear some corporate entity complaining about financial losses while at the same time refusing to divulge actual numbers.

Whom is the one player you're most excited to see play this season?

Brattain: Dustin McGowan. He was a long time coming due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Nevertheless, he has Roy Halladay-level stuff and he took a big leap forward once he realized that he could get major league hitters out with it. In his earlier cups of coffee, he gave opposing hitters too much credit, tended to nibble at the edges, and walked too many hitters. He'’s had the epiphany where he realized ‘My stuff is nasty!’ and has thrown accordingly.

Calcaterra: Kosuke Fukudome. Who knows how accurate the scouting reports are, but if he is as advertised – good plate discipline, moderate power, a little speed, solid defense – he'll be one of those all-around players I'm such a sucker for.

Doyle: Justin Upton. The world of scouting is a minefield of hyperbole, but there's something about this kid that makes it seem like he really could live up to the hype. It's heartening, also, that his brother has made the leap (or so we think). Upton is the ultimate canvas on which prospect aficionados can paint their wildest fantasies; he could do almost anything this year, and it really wouldn't be surprising.

Finley: Delmon Young. Young didn’t quite live up to expectations as a rookie in 2007, but he played in all 162 games, hit 13 home runs and had 93 RBIs, and posted an OPS in the mid-.700s. He led all AL rookies in seven offensive categories, and finished second in ROY voting. By my count, Young can only benefit from the offseason trade that bounced him from Tampa’s all-too-crowded outfield to Minnesota, where the media/public pressure will be nonexistent. Lost in the race to step over Young to crown another young star — Justin Upton is last year’s Chris Young, etc. — is the fact that Delmon is only 22 years old. Assuming he can stay out of trouble, Young will be the last great player to roam the Metrodome and face of the Twins franchise heading into their new ballpark.

Laisure-Pool: Eric Byrnes. That guy better deliver.

McCracken: Alex Gordon.

Rosenberg: Joba Chamberlain. A bit of a homer call but I want to see what he can do over an entire season. He was incredibly exciting to watch in limited action last year so I’m excited to see how he continues to develop.

Aside from guys on my hometown team, I want to see if Ryan Braun can match or better his 5 month blitzkrieg from last year.

St. Germain: I'm not sure if I'm supposed to pick a prospect or just anybody, but, barring Bonds or Rocket coming to town with a visiting team, I guess I'd have to say Ichiro. I've never lived within driving distance of an AL team, but I recently moved to the Bay Area, so if I can go see the most singular talent in the majors play in a surprisingly good stadium for baseball that has a wide variety of cheapish beer, seats that are plentiful and affordable, and easy public transit access ... well, sign me up.

Toms: Justin Upton. Bruce and Longoria are the current “it” prospects, and I don’t doubt they are deserving of the acclaim. But I think J. Upton has more raw talent than anybody.

Young: Johan Santana. I've only seen him once on TV, and now that he's in the National League, I'm hoping I'll get to catch him in person when the Mets come to San Diego.

What's the one thing that stands out the most to you about all the PED hand-wringing this offseason?

Brattain: The hypocrisy. Back in 2000, I got to work the inside of major league clubhouses for the first time. I was surprised at how many guys looked suspiciously like roiders (I have known a great many users in my lifetime). It was obvious even to a hack like me. However, the media was fearful of the players and of losing their access. I can understand this, but surely you can tip off some investigative journalist about the situation rather than remain mute.

Now that others blew the lid off the story, they'’ve become Rambo-like tough guys protecting the game from the dirty rotten cheaters. Give me a break; they were as complicit as the owners, the union and everyone else. They have no right to scream about protecting the sanctity of the game.

Calcaterra: How willing so many people are to conclude that the Mitchell Report is infallible. If you believe most sports writers, everyone mentioned in the report is a rotten cheater, and everyone not mentioned is as pure as the driven snow. If you think there weren't dozens of PED users surprised to see their names not mentioned you're crazy, so how about toning down the demonization of those who were?

Doyle: That America — led by the media's chosen opinion-makers — is still addicted to irrational moral codes that collapse under the weight of any scrutiny.

Finley: That taking HGH will get you into Sports Illustrated, even if it’s only the swimsuit issue.

Lasiure-Pool: The scope and intensity of the coverage/attention astonishes me. Congressional inquiries? Good lord. This is particularly striking after one considers the fact that the press/public has turned its back to this issue for so long. Why now? And why so doggedly pursue a problem that has existed in relative obscurity for decades?

The second half of this debacle is MLB's reaction, which seems slow, uncertain, and weak. It is my perception that Mr. Selig is doing about the worst job imaginable vis-à-vis damage control on this issue, and is doing little or nothing to assuage the suddenly rankled fanbase that serves as the sport's lifeblood.

McCracken: How easily people convince themselves that their outrage over the issue is more common in the public than it really is.

Rosenberg: How incredibly unnecessary and self-inflicted it all was/is. Selig didn’t have to commission the Mitchell Report. In addition, Clemens’ predicament is also seemingly self-inflicted with his apparent lying to a Congressional Committee. Clemens could have simply given the same excuse as Pettitte (“I did it to recover from injury”), gone quiet for some period of time, and go about his private life. He would have been a pariah for a while and likely never made the HOF, but if he took his celebrity and set out on an anti-steroids campaign, he’d be so much better off. Mark McGwire’s efforts to help the anti-steroids campaign rival OJ’s efforts to find the real killer, after all.

St. Germain: The fact that it took the Mitchell report for anybody in the media to acknowledge the likelihood that Roger Clemens was a roider. If there was one player's performance to suspect over the last ten years — as much or more even than McGwire, Sosa, and Barry — it was Clemens.

Toms: The over-reporting. Fans don’t care; It’s a media and baseball chattering classes subject. The overwhelming number of the 80 million-plus who will go to games this season wouldn’t know Radomski from Hardin. The fans who pay the freight want a win for the home team, ballpark food, good weather, beer (of any kind) and a 6-4-3. Ironically those of us who most care abut the PED subject are the people least likely to abandon the product over any matter.

Recently the HGH issue seems to be getting more play. I think it’s a non subject because HGH is not effective; I think the juice is what works. I suspect management and the MLBPA think this too and as a result the union will make some “concessions” on HGH.

Young: The fact that it makes everyone look stupid on so many levels.

Who do you consider to be the most invaluable person in baseball?

Brattain: I would have to say MLB President & COO Bob Dupuy. He'’s Selig'’s tough guy that gets to issue ultimatums about the dire consequences that will befall a community should they not cough up a half billion dollars of corporate welfare. He reminds me of a toothless Rottweiler that folks don'’t seem to realize lacks teeth. Politicos quiver in fear when he arrives at the Legislature, never realizing that he really has no leverage. Washington D.C. has a team and the only available facility for a major league team is in Montreal. Where is a team gonna go? He sounds like the spineless parent who tells his little boy or girl that if they don'’t do what they'’re told, the next warning will be even more dire and “You don’t want that to happen do you?”

It doesn'’t take a lot of skill to issue empty threats, but that’'s generally all you hear him do anymore.

Calcaterra: MLBAM CEO Bob Bowman. If I would have told you a few years ago that baseball would have the kind of online presence – not to mention revenue – it has today, you'd have told me I was crazy. As late as 2002, most baseball executives thought using PowerPoint during arbitration hearings was as state-of-the-art as it got. Now baseball owns online sports.

Doyle: The Padres fan in me wants to say Kevin Towers, but I have to conclude — as the Diamondbacks obviously did this offseason — that it's Josh Byrnes. While it's easy to say he's just a Theo clone, the difference is that Byrnes is playing with fire every time he makes a move, because the Snakes don't have the financial clout to fade bad decisions, whereas the Sox do. With the exception of the Eric Byrnes extension — which probably isn't as awful as people like me make it out to be — he really hasn't misstepped once while making some pretty ballsy moves (or, non-moves, like letting fan favorite Luis Gonzalez walk). Plus, the fact that he now has the kind of job security few GMs in the history of the sport have enjoyed means that he can truly take the kind of bold steps needed to ensure the franchise's viability for the next decade in a rather inhospitable market.

Finley: Omar Minaya. The Mets’ GM continues to raise the bar when it comes to salary negotiations and player acquisition. Johan Santana may be his biggest fish yet.

Laisure-Pool: Bud Selig, of course. I can think of no one else who carries such sway over the sport.

McCracken: Alex Rodriguez.

Rosenberg: I’m not a huge Selig basher, and while I think as long as he’s Commissioner he’s the most important, that doesn’t make him the most invaluable (which I define as irreplaceable). I don’t think anyone is irreplaceable. I think the most invaluable person in baseball is the one who stands up to the Union and demands change in their stance regarding PEDs. Who that is, I am not exactly sure. I wish Jeter’s comments recently about blood testing were more assertive and definitive, but he’s not going to go that far. Not his style. Who is the conscience of the league? Who can force change even against the CBA? Can’t be Selig; it needs to come from within the players’ ranks, against the advice of Donald Fehr.

St. Germain: George Steinbrenner (and his progeny). Nobody in baseball has affected the current state of the game as much. For the worse, most would argue, but damned if the guy doesn't make things interesting. Now that Barry's (probably) gone, is there a better villain in the game?

Toms: Bud Selig. I’m in a very small minority here, but I think he’s done a great job. With the expiration of the CBA in 2011, we will have had 16 straight seasons of labor peace. There is NOTHING more important than that, and don’t underestimate how hard that is. The NHL not so recently lost an entire season, and keep your eyes on the ownership politics in the NFL. There has also been a lot of franchise stability; nobody’s moved, save the Expos. A ton of better, (as in better fan experience) ballparks have been built as well. It is a golden age. The only thing baseball fans love more than baseball is complaining about baseball. Back to Bud, who gives a shit that there was a tie All Star game? I don’t like the Wild Card or interleague or the unbalanced schedule. But again, I’m not typical of the 80 million; I think most like all those things.

Young: The fans. MLB must never forget that. Without us, MLB doesn't exist.

What non-favorite team of yours are you most interested in this season?

Brattain: Tampa Bay. They’'ve been assembling a tremendous cache of talent down there and they'’re starting to fine-tune things and address specific needs. They'’re in a difficult division, to be sure, but they'’re getting close. Barring a wave of injuries or a bunch of inept trades, they may make some noise this year and will be ready to make a major move in 2009. I think this could be the first season with a winning record for the franchise — quite an accomplishment in view of its checkered history.

Calcaterra: The Royals. I used to watch Trey Hillman manage the Columbus Clippers at a time when the Yankees had no one worth a damn in the high minors. Hillman made those awful teams look pretty good. The Royals certainly aren't there talent-wise, yet, so they'll provide a pretty good lab to see how much difference a decent manager can make.

Doyle: My initial answer is the Rays, but I have a feeling that the Diamondbacks are going to be the most compelling team in the majors this season, for many of the same reasons that people will pick the Rays. There's so much to like about the way this club has been built, and outside of the Mets, it's the only NL team I could see being able to hold its own in the American League and still fight for a playoff spot. In fact, even after the Johan signing, I think the D'Backs are still the team to beat in the NL, and they're young and exciting to boot.

Finley: The Nationals. The ex-‘Pos are proving that you don’t need to have a large budget — or a minor-league system, or an experienced manager, or a capable pitching staff — in order to be noteworthy. Jim Bowden continues to launch half-court shots (mixed metaphor alert) as Washington’s GM, with Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Wily Mo Peña and a cast of thousands (a few hundred of them being Boones) competing for spots in a clubhouse straight out of “Major League.” The anticipated return of Nick Johnson, the fate of Dmitri Young and the disastrous catching situation should make the Nats either exciting to watch — or fun to watch lose.

Laisure-Pool: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I've heard promising things about them (read: Diesel says they'll be good), so I want to see if they will be worthy of the dap. Also, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Is it even possible that that team will ever even be competitive?

McCracken: Pittsburgh Pirates. I think they have a chance to surprise this year. Well, probably not, but it's a weak division and for the first time in years I don't see any glaring holes in their lineup.

Rosenberg: They are becoming overhyped underdogs already, but I want to see what Tampa Bay can do this year and next. Can they finally make the leap? Besides them, I’m really excited to see what the Brewers can become. Great young talent there and it should be fun to watch.

St. Germain: This isn't the most interesting or thoughtful response, but either the A's or the Giants. Both teams are going through really interesting transitions, and both will be horrendous. But I can be at either stadium in half an hour, and I have no job this summer, so ... have I mentioned how much I love Stanford?

Toms: I think the Reds have a legit shot at the playoffs. I’m kinda pulling for them because they have a Canadian guy – first baseman Joey Votto – and I would like to see Junior in the playoffs. Junior has never gotten his due, both on and off the field. The Cubs will have to disappoint for the Reds to win, however.

Young: The Rays. There's some tremendous young talent in Tampa Bay, and it would be nice to see that franchise finally get on track.

What's the one annoying thing you hope this season will be the swan song for?

Brattain: Scott Boras. Kenny Rogers fired him, Alex Rodriguez isn'’t speaking to him, he has a number of clients still unsigned. Granted, he just picked up Manny Ramirez, but I’'d really like to see his empire crumble. It’'s not so much the contracts he gets his major league clients, but I'’m sick an tired of his being the 800 lb. gorilla in the room at every amateur draft. His influence has ruined the whole concept of giving the worst teams the first crack at the best talent. Boras has the elite prospects fall down to where teams like the Red Sox and Yankees are waiting.

Many people wonder how these clubs keep coming up with these great kids when they usually draft near the bottom. Well, Scott Boras is the reason. There should never be ‘signability issues’ with the draft.

Calcaterra: The Yankees' second-half rebounds. For once I'd like them to stay dead after everyone pronounces them as such in May. It's not that I hate the Yankees so much (just a little) as much as I am tired of the "They're dead! They're alive! They're dangerous! They choked!" storyline. I want the Yankees to either be dominant or doormats. Leave the in-between stuff to everyone else.

Doyle: Baseball's anti-trust exemption. Like most, I'm very much against the insane level of interaction between the feds and baseball lately, but I've also been excited by the prospect of the legislators finally thwacking baseball with the stick it's been threatening to use this entire time. Not only is there no need for the exemption — it is impossible for an upstart league to unseat MLB at this point — but it's given baseball the mistaken impression that it somehow deserves a governmental loophole (or that it's fine for Peter Angelos to block the Nationals unless he gets a kickback). Make MLB compete on the same playing field as every other major business in America; no one's going to try an monopoly-bust a sports league at this point in time.

Finley: Everybody harbors one wildly unpopular sports take, and this one’s mine: Stop it with the national anthem and “God Bless America” already, unless an American team is playing the Blue Jays or two American teams are playing on foreign soil. My distaste for both songs has less to do with a lack of patriotism and more to do with the train wreck that inevitably comes when an aspiring pop star/barber shop quartet/opera singer tries to put his/her own stamp on time-honored songs. Save it for the demo tapes.

Laisure-Pool: Roger Clemens' and Barry Bonds' careers. I don't even say this in a spiteful way; I just feel that it is time for each of these gentlemen to exit stage right. Both have made their imprints, broken records, and left their legacies. For better or worse, it's time to go. Whatever they can contribute to a team at this stage in their careers will be outweighed by the burden of their infamy.

McCracken: Around the Horn.

Rosenberg: Do I have to pick just one? So many things annoy me that I’d like to see gone for good, including: “Manny being Manny,” Congressional hearings involving baseball, mandatory representation in the All Star game, pink Red Sox hats, the Marlins, Fox broadcasts, Carl Pavano, and discussing how players are “reporting in the best shape of their lives."

St. Germain: The furor and media attention surrounding Barry Bonds. I've had enough of the hypocrisy.

Toms: Tony LaRussa. What a pompous, arrogant ass. He pisses me off way more than Bonds. At least Bonds was great at something; why has LaRussa been deified?

Young: Same as every year: The Wave.

What kind of contract are you offering Bonds right now if you're the GM of a team that can reasonably say it's bordering on contention?

Brattain: I’ would offer Bonds a guaranteed $8 million or $1 million for every 10 games played, whichever is higher. If he gets hurt or is fitted for non-Yankee pinstripes, he'’s guaranteed that $8 mil’; if he gets into 150 games then he makes $15 million.

Calcaterra: One year, $4.5M with some plate appearance incentives, and an opt-out clause in the event his bail is revoked.

Doyle: One year, $5 million base, with $1 million added for every 10 games played over 100. Bonus of $2 million if his WARP3 is greater than five.

Finley: It depends. Most of this year’s contenders have legitimate, if not comparable, players in left field, and the ones with left-field issues — the Padres, Braves, etc. — aren’t too keen on taking on Bonds’ baggage and pending legal issues. Assuming that signing Bonds would make my contending team better — and that’s a big if, given the reasons stated above and Bonds’ pending legal issues — I’d offer a basic 1-year, $1 million contract with incentives based solely on home run production.

By adding $1 million to his deal for every 10 home runs hit, I would be assured Bonds is swinging for the fences — and isn’t that why any team would want to employ the game’s home run champ, anyway? — every time he comes to the plate. I would also let the public in on every detail of the contract, especially the homer-based escalators. Face it, most fans would embrace Bonds if they knew he was coming out of his shoes on every hittable pitch.

Laisure-Pool: I would go all The Price is Right and offer one dollar more than the highest bidder. Really, though, it's hard to say. I definitely have the perception that he is somewhat diminished in his abilities, and somewhat of a clubhouse cancer/media circus risk. He's certain to be an asset for many teams, but I don't see him getting any more than Eric Byrnes money.

McCracken: Depends on the team. I don't think he's overly useful to all that many teams. Most teams in contention have good-hitting/poor-defense players available at places like DH and LF. One year at maybe $3.5 or $4 million might work. I mean, he is 43, and though he hit well last year, decline tends to get steeper and steeper at these ages.

Rosenberg: $5M guaranteed, with $1M bonuses at 400, 500, 550 and 600 at bats (including walks, naturally). Full protection for each game missed due to legal issues. Fully voidable if found guilty.

St. Germain: Well, the short answer is, no kind of contract, because I'd want to be the GM of an NL team, and the guy isn't a viable outfielder at this point. I also wouldn't want the media circus in my clubhouse.

But as a hitter he's still clearly worth some cash. It's hard to give a dollar amount, but it would be a one-year, incentive-heavy deal. I mean, if Barry plays 140 games (not likely), he's worth $12-$15M, easy. But if he gets less than 200 ABs as a DH, maybe $5-$7M? I'd try to guarantee him no more than $4M and make the rest dependent on ABs or games.

And of course there'd have to be an out clause in case he winds up in the joint.

Toms: Bill Bavasi should offer Bonds a blank cheque. I think the Mariners have a shot. As has been oft stated, he would be an immense improvement over Vidro at DH (And I like Vidro, as I got to see him play a lot of AAA here).

Young: This is probably an unpopular stance, but if my team is bordering on contention I'd prefer to find ways to improve that don't involve creating unnecessary distraction.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Barry Bonds will likely not be in anyone's camp for Spring Training this season. I have seen some strange, strange things in my life as a sports fan, but I don't think I've ever seen an athlete who remains this valuable not get a shot with someone.

It may seem like I'm being purposely obtuse by expressing any measure of shock at this development, but it's a sign of my almost inexcusable hope in the human race that I am still cowed by the stupidity present in industry groupthink. The fact that Bonds isn't in someone's camp right now makes no more sense than giving a multi-million dollar severance package to a CEO who has bled his shareholders dry, but it has happened nonetheless. Perhaps the capitalists were wrong to think that financial incentive was enough to encourage the majority of people to utilize rational thought.

I've spent the last couple of days truly amazed at the glee the media is taking with the entire Bonds saga. If it's not windbags like Ken Rosenthal trying to compare Bonds' "indiscretions" to actual crimes against human beings, it's the media's dogged hounding of any team official from any team that dares to even be obvious and state that having the guy in the lineup might not be the worst thing ever.

ESPN's Rob Neyer poo-pooed the idea that Bonds' was being actively blackballed by owners and GMs, though perhaps only in terms of a strict definition of the term:

Has Bonds been blackballed? I don't think so. That term suggests conspiracy. I don't see one, nor have I heard any hint of one. As I think I mentioned recently in this space, there's a key piece of information to which we're not privy (at least not yet): How much does he want? I believe that if Bonds were willing to sign for nothing (i.e. just a few million bucks) he could find himself a roster spot.

I, too, doubt there's any kind of organization behind the efforts to keep Bonds out of baseball this year, but I nonetheless feel that Bonds is being informally blackballed, if only by a media that's made it clear they're going to make life hell for anyone who breaks rank on this thing. Believe me, when someone as generally congenial as Ken Rosenthal — we're talking about the Andy Katz of baseball here — starts mentioning Kobe Bryant's rape case in the same breath as Bonds, you know there is some serious revenge on the minds of sports writers who have taken Bonds' shit all these years. This isn't commentary, it's payback.

Pure speculation on my part, but I think the Rays were more than a little interested in Bonds for this season. It's a forward-thinking franchise that's struggled to attract fans, and no one's going to argue that Jonny Gomes is more deserving of ABs at this — or any — point in his career than Bonds. It just seemed like the right fit, not unlike the A's were. And, make no mistake, people will show up to see Bonds. Some of them may boo, some of them may "protest" the team, but there's never been a team that better understood that all attention is good attention that the Rays.

But I also think a young franchise on the verge of landing a new, publicly financed stadium, caught of whiff of the media's incoming shit storm and thought better of being so bold. Again, I could be wrong, and this is all speculation on my part. But I really do believe that the media — not Bonds, not Bonds' agent, and not Bonds' indictment — scared off teams like the Padres, A's and Rays who dared to suggest that maybe Bonds might perhaps be somewhat of a moderate upgrade, maybe, over the horseshit they're planning on trotting out in either LF or at DH.

Considering the tenor of much of what I've seen in the "established" sports media this past week — Rosenthals' thoughtless rant joins TK's anti-blogger diarrhea and Jon Heyman's comical "takedown" of statheads — it appears that the old-school media are fending off what many forecast to be their forthcoming irrelevance by proving they're capable of the same spleen they often criticize bloggers for displaying. And, in this case, it appears that the media is close to successfully taking food out of Bonds' mouth, which is what I think he was accusing them of attempting to do for so long anyway. There's probably an opportunity to tie everything into some snappy line, but I'm going to leave it at that.

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Pepe's Ryan Howard post at his new blog is really interesting, even if I take issue with one of his (albeit smaller) points.