Monday, March 23, 2015

NBA WHO SAYS NO Rankings - Part 1


First, a fun (not really!) anecdote: on Thursday night I was at a bar that was (of course) showing NCAA tournament games on 59ish of its 60ish TVs.  The only exception was one screen over in a corner showing what was on ESPN at the time--a Phillies/Yankees spring training game.  No better demonstration of what ESPN's baseball coverage is all about than their decision to televise a game between two teams that, if things go well, will combine to win 150 games.  Anyways, I (partially) focused on this game for about 8 or 9 minutes.  That's all the time I needed to see: 1) Ryan Howard make an error trying to field a ground ball that 80% of high school first basemen would make 2) an unearned Yankee run score due to said error, and finally 3) a montage of Derek Jeter moments, likely prompted by the fact that new Yankees SS Didi Gregorious committed the baseball faux pas of coming up to bat while playing Jeter's former position.  I really feel bad for Gregoious.  If he starts at least 120 games at SS for the Yankees this year and performs at any worse than an All-Star level, someone in the Bronx is going to run onto the field and attack him by mid May.  Anyways, fuck ESPN's baseball coverage.

Now we move to Bill's piece de resistance, his Trade Value column.  Not content simply to write like an asshole, this year he also edited/promoted like an asshole as well.  I don't need to cover that, 1) because it's hard enough to just critique the flaws with the substance of this piece and 2) because Drew Magary did a great job talking about the other stuff last week.  It's awesome.  Go click that link and read it.  If I were to pick the best and most demonstrative line, it would be:

Bill Walton and Larry Bird changed my too-harsh opinion of Kobe's style…

(Magary) "No way! Two great basketball players told you a great player was great? WHAT A REVELATION."

Really, that just about sums up what Simmons is about at this point.  He's a wannabe "hoops nerd" who actually knows little about basketball but hopes that hiring Zach Lowe and having access to NBA greats via his ESPN gig will make his opinions interesting and legitimate.  But the opinions are just as idiotic as ever, and now, by flaunting these ESPN-facilitated relationships that would NEVER develop or maintain themselves organically if he were an independent blogger (even a nationally popular one) outside of the ESPNiverse, he's exposed for being a starfucker too.  Good on you, Bill.  Feel free to quit ESPN and go the fuck away any month now.  DIE.

Anyways, this is actually part 3 of 3 of his trade value column.  I'm just going to start here because it's plenty long anyways and I'm blogging at a snail's pace these days.  In fact, this whole first post is just going to be the first half of his recap of the previously published rankings from 60 up to 11, and commentary on how things have changed in the time since he made those rankings in January and February.  Really makes sense, right?  No one enjoys Bill's writing and Bill's thinking and Bill more than Bill, so of course he's going to comment on thoughts he thinks he thought a few weeks ago.

GROUP O: “You’re Just Lowballing Me Because He Expires Soon”

One of the dumbest features of what could (could) be an interesting premise for a column--the fact that conveniently, he ends up ranking guys that all have some relatively unimportant (relatively unimportant in the entire scheme of the player's total trade value, I mean) in common together consecutively in groups.  For fuck's sake, he puts Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge together at 13 and 14 below because they're both unrestricted free agents this offseason.  Yeah, they're maybe both top 20 value guys right now, but did you absolutely have to do it that way?  To the extent Bill takes this serious (he really, really does) this really takes away whatever legitimacy he was hoping to cultivate.

60. Brandon Knight
59. Greg Monroe
58. Paul Millsap
57. Draymond Green
56. Goran Dragic

UPDATE: In February, no. 56 and no. 60 DID get traded … and Dragic fetched a slightly higher price than Knight did. Big win for the 2015 Trade Value column! Don’t get used to it.

Both were dealt in three way deals, but in essence, in exchange for Knight the Bucks got a possibly useful combo guard (Michael Carter-Williams, who should be less of a shooting disaster now that he's not carrying the crappy Sixers around) who has two team option contract years left, a young point guard (Tyler Ennis) who may or may not be anything, and a warm body (Miles Plumlee).  Meanwhile, in exchange for Dragic, the Suns got a guy who probably doesn't even qualify as a warm body (Danny Granger or THE CORPSE of Danny Granger lolololol) and first round draft picks in 2017 (top 7 protected) and 2021 (apparently unprotected).

They're both good players, but Dragic is a better scorer than Knight (for now), so Dragic is definitely the better overall player (for now).  But as far as value goes, I feel like Carter-Williams + Ennis >>> a protected first rounder that's 27 months away and an unprotected first rounder that's more than two presidential elections away.  Like, that's a pretty clear win for the Bucks, as far as comparing their haul to Phoenix's.  Yeah yeah yeah, you've got to stockpile draft choices blah blah blah, but fuck that.  A first rounder in 2021?  The guy the Suns could potentially take with that pick is probably in like 8th grade right now.

GROUP N: “I’m Hanging Up and Calling You Back From a Pay Phone”

Why would a GM do this?  Because their office phone is tapped?  By who?  Unfunny, unclever, dumb.

55. DeMar DeRozan
54. Ty Lawson
53. Eric Bledsoe
52. Kevin Love

Here we have a group of guys who are thankfully not tied together by some unifying thread; Bill just thinks they have relatively equal trade value.  But here's another fundamental weakness of this whole thing that ruins its legitimacy from the start.  (And again, I get that the whole column is just supposed to be a fun thought exercise.  But you Billophiles out there know this to be true: Bill desperately wants to be taken seriously, and the NBA is the sport which he knows the most about.)  Love is a stretch four with just one year left on his deal.  Bledsoe is a point guard with four years left on his deal.  The idea of either getting traded for the other, or either getting traded for draft picks and trying to decide which would fetch more, is so totally dependent on the needs of the other hypothetical teams involved and those teams' willingness to take on long term salary that this list loses all meaning.

Yes, I know I just a minute ago said it was bullshit that Bill groups together guys who have something in common, and now I'm saying it's bullshit that he groups together guys who have nothing in common.  Guess what?  This whole dumb column is, in fact, bullshit.  If you asked me for a sincere idea for how to make it less bullshitty, after telling you to jump in a wood chipper, I'd suggest that the whole list be just 20 players long.  How the hell do we even begin to guess if the Suns would or would not swap Bledsoe for Love?  It's pointless.  The only fun and meaningful theoreticals of that kind involve superstar level players, not guys like the four listed above.

UPDATE: Latest odds for Kevin Love’s new home address this fall: Back Bay (-120), Brookline (+200), Beacon Hill (+350), Wellesley (+500), Weston (+500), South End (+700), Charlestown (+2000), Scituate/Hingham/Duxbury (+4000), Revere (+2000000).

KEVIN LOVE!!!  NEVAH WAS THEY-AH A TRUE-AH CELTIC.  HE'S BEEN PAHHHHT OF OW-UH CITY HIS WHOLE LIFE!  IT JUST TOOK HIM UNTIL NAW TO GET HE-AH!

GROUP M: “I Know, I Know, We’re Being Irrational”

51. Victor Oladipo
50. Alex Len
49. Jonas Valanciunas
48. Nikola Vucevic
47. Jusuf Nurkic
46. Nikola Mirotic
45. Derrick Favors

UPDATE: Oladipo made The Semi-Leap after the All-Star break: 12 games, 20.6 ppg, 4.8 apg, 45-39-83 percent splits, excellent defense and a recent Orlando Sentinel story headlined “Victor Oladipo is learning that success commands opponents’ attention.” 

That's not "making the leap."  "Making the leap" is a dumbass concept that Bill likes a lot (naturally), when he most commonly applies it to situation like this which would more properly be called "a good month-long stretch by a good player on a bad team."  OLADIPO IS ON HIS WAY TO THE HALL OF FAME, READERS.  YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST.

The following "self-deprecating" sentence is presented without commentary:

Please add “Oladipo over Bennett and Noel” to my all-time NBA draft win tally, along with “Durant over Oden,” “CP3 over Bogut and Williams,” “Derrick Williams over Kyrie,” “Okafor over Dwight” and “Jabari over Wiggins.” (Fine, I’m batting .500. Whatever.)

What an asshole.

GROUP L: “Sorry, He’s Worth More to Us Than He’s Worth to You”

44. The Completely Rejuvenated Pau Gasol

He gets a special nickname because he's white!

43. Jeff Teague
42: Zach Randolph
41. Joakim Noah
40. Markieff Morris
39. Wesley Matthews
38. Kyle Korver

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Korver is a good player signed to a good contract (about $6MM per year for the next two years).  Many contenders would be happy to have him; he's obviously the best pure three point shooter in the game right now (he has a shot at finishing the season above 50%) and he's not too much of a liability on defense because of his size.  But holy shit--Randolph is also signed for the next two years, at about $10MM per.  Teague is signed for the next two years at $8MM per.  Noah is signed for next year at $13MM.  You're either drunk or mentally challenged if you think Korver has more value than any of those guys, and it's not particularly close.

UPDATE: Matthews was earmarked for an $80 million to $90 million market max payday before that unfortunate Achilles injury. What a bummer. 

Even without that injury, since he was on an expiring deal this year, he's probably the one guy from the above list who maybe actually belonged alongside the likes of Korver.

If you gave me a do-over, I’d stick Matthews on the Trade Value DL, move Oladipo into this group and give Oladipo’s old spot to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Why? Because MKG is destroying people on defense, to the point that he boasted, “I want to be the best defender ever” last week — and nobody laughed. 

I'll laugh.  He's not even in the top 20 in the NBA right now in defensive rating, which might seem to some like a bullshit fancypants way to judge defense until you see that the top 5 (currently) are Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Rudy Gobert and Tony Allen.  Or in other words, five guys who all are frequently mentioned as among the best in the league based on the ol' eye test.  So yeah, maybe Kidd-Gilchrist is on his way to greatness, but he's a couple plane flights away.

Kawhi and MKG are in the Finals in any “Which Guy Would You NOT Want Guarding You If You Had To Score A Basket To Save Your Own Life?” contest.

That isn't a contest, and it's a really dumb way of trying to make the point you're trying to make.  In any case, Leonard is obviously way better, as are a lot of guys.

GROUP K: “No Thanks — We Don’t Want Him to Come Back and Haunt Us”

37. Rudy Gobert
36. Jabari Parker
35. Joel Embiid

UPDATE: I didn’t have the balls to throw Gobert in the low 20s with Giannis and Wiggins. Big mistake. His next 11 games after Part 2 was published: 11.3 ppg, 15.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg, nine wins in 11 games, one Kirk Goldsberry piece titled “Rudy Gobert Is Making Utah an Elite Defensive Team.” Anytime “The French Rejection” and “The Gobert Report” aren’t your best possible nicknames, you know something special is going on. All hail the Stifle Tower!

MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST FOR DEFENSIVE POY!!!!  Also, just the fact that you have to account for a guy like Embiid in these rankings makes them not worth writing, or reading.  Obviously the guy is untradeable right now.  Nothing anyone offered the Sixers would be good enough, and if they shopped him around, every team they offered him to would say that they were asking an insane price.

GROUP J: “Don’t Tell Anyone, and I’ll Deny It to the Death, But I’m Listening”

34. Carmelo Anthony

HAHAHAHAHA again.  Simmons went into greater detail about how fucked Carmelo and the Knicks are in the full version of part 2 of these rankings, but he (Simmons) still refused to recant his position that you can "absolutely" win a title if Carmelo is your best player.  Really, if I had to pick one piece of evidence that he's a fucking moron when it comes to the NBA, I might settle on that one.

33. Chris Bosh
33. Hassan Whiteside
32. Dwight Howard

UPDATE: Whiteside wasn’t really a top-60 guy (just filling in for Bosh), 

Just another reminder that while Bill wants these rankings to be taken seriously, a guy with like 100 games of NBA experience can be plugged in for a ten time all star.  Because both guys play on the same team and sort of play the same position, kind of!  It makes sense!  WHO SAYS NO

but let’s say I told you, “I will bet you $100 that Whiteside will either make the 2016 All-Star Game OR be out of the league before the 2016 All-Star Game, and you can pick only one of the two sides of that bet,” which side would you pick? I can’t decide, either.

I hate entertaining his little thought experiments, but I'll take the latter.  Whiteside kind of seems like an asshole who can't get his shit together.

GROUP I: “This Is So Ludicrous That I Can’t Even Hang Up On You Yet”

31. Gregg Popovich

UPDATE: I don’t know if you noticed the ’69 Celts potential of the 2015 Spurs lately, but … well … I mean …

IT ALL COMES BACK TO THE C'S!  BAWSTON IS THE LITAHRAL AND FIG-YOU-A-TIVE CENTAH OF THE UNIVAHSE!  FIFTY YE-AHS FROM NOW, PEOPLE WILL ASK "DID THE POPOVICH SPURS PROPAHLY CARRY THE DYNASTY BANNER ESTABLISHED BY THE AUERBACH C'S?  AND THE ANSWER WILL BE FACK YOU, BEANTOWN IS THE GREATEST!  I BET POPOVICH WEARS C'S PAJAMAS TO BED!  WHO SAYS NO?

More later.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What the fuck is this shit? Fuck you


OK, so, as promised, I'm going to get around to Bill's NBA trade value column.  I'm going to pretend like I didn't go to Grantland to pull its text earlier today and see that the front page story right now is a two-authored piece titled "Who is the Greatest Fictional Basketball Player of All Time?"  I'm just going to tell myself that this is not capital "c" Content that any reader in the world would ever want, and thus that a major sports website would never publish it.  I must have just imagined it.  Nothing to see here, move along to the trade value column.

Actually, that's not quite true.  I'm going to make one other quick stop (that definitely does not involve rhetorical questions about who would win a 1 on 1 showdown between Bugs Bunny in Space Jam and Jimmy from Hoosiers) on the way.  I received a tip about another non-Simmons Grantland NBA article last week, and boy, is it a load of garbage.

Maybe you have heard--in fact, if you pay attention to the NBA, you definitely have heard--that the 76ers are really bad again this year.  For the 2nd year in a row.  Wow, it's so zany that it has to be talked about by everyone.  Anyways, I suppose it's somewhat notable because even though teams are bad for two consecutive seasons all the time, the way the 76ers are doing it is a bit unorthodox.  First, they've now drafted (or traded for on draft day) two players in the last two years who they knew would not play a single minute in the then-upcoming season--Nerlens Noel in 2013 and of course Joel Embiid in 2014.  (And of course, the fact that they acquired Noel on draft day in 2013 is part of what put them in position to be bad enough to draft Embiid a year later.)  That's a move that screams "we are bad and we want to stay bad."  Second, they are shuffling their roster incessantly, stockpiling draft picks and moving various players and assets around without any evident desire for the current team to be anything but a placeholder.

Now, none of this should sound too crazy to you.  In fact, a very prominent "sports" "writer" named Bill Simmons is a big advocate of NBA teams getting shitty in order to get good later, rather than staying mediocre (as Philly was from 2010-2012).  But it does raise eyebrows, and make people say unfunny and unclever things like OMG THEY'RE TAKING A DUMP ON THEIR FANS.  And that outrage can lead to counteroutrage, from analyticsphiles who love the way the team is aggressively pursuing its goal in unorthdox ways.  And that counteroutrage can lead to some asshole Grantland writer trying to write a thinking man's response to the whole situation.  And that response can be, and is, absolutely horrible, trite, and full of WRONG all the way through, but I want to highlight probably the worst part of it, which also happens to be the guy's first point in support of his thesis.  The thesis is that while no one should be outraged about the situation--it's not "insulting" to the game of basketball or some bullshit like that (true)--it IS stupid.

The Sixers’ plan is stupid.

It’s not disgraceful. It’s not wrong. [...]


But it’s pretty stupid.

[...]

That’s my real problem with what the team is doing. It’s not the plan that’s been unbearable, it’s the cult of Sixers fans and media members who insist on mocking the skeptics while they marvel at Philly’s brilliance. 


He's referring to the counteroutrage, and to be sure, both those people as well as the regular outraged people who think tanking is disgraceful can all go eat a dump truck full of dicks.

The NBA system incentivizes losing, they say. Lose to win.  Here’s a GM who’s smart enough to exploit the system for as many chances as possible.

I get it. I really do. The only thing wrong with what Philly’s doing are the people who think it’s some profound approach to basketball philosophy. 

So the ONLY thing wrong is that some of the supporters of what Philly is doing are obnoxious about their support.  Got it.

Just because something is counterintuitive doesn’t make it more intuitive.

Oh, so you were bullshitting a sentence ago.  Really, there is another thing wrong with tanking.  Tell me all about it!

Start with the fundamental idea: lose to win.

And again, I'm not going to cover this whole article.  But I can't not cover his analysis of this first point.

Are We Sure Tanking Actually Works?

Well, yeah, it sure does.  And he'll start to establish right now, but fail to properly fully establish it by cutting off his own analysis well short of completion, because if he actually dug into the topic he'd realize how dumb it is to question whether tanking works.  In order to preserve his pre-determined conclusion he lies.  Allow me to help correct that lie, after he's done saying his bit.

There have been three triumphant NBA tanking efforts. 

And we start with a Simmons staple.  THREE AND ONLY THREE.  NO ONE DENIES THIS.

The first involved the Spurs. When David Robinson broke his foot at the end of 1996, their season crumbled, and San Antonio decided to keep Robinson on the sideline and bottom out. Spurs fans will deny this happened, and I guess you can’t prove it one way or another. But San Antonio landed the no. 1 pick at the end of Robinson’s prime, drafted Tim Duncan, and won five titles over the next 17 years.

This is true.  This is all true.  Good for them.  Fucking Spurs.

The Celtics also tanked in 1996-97. They went all in to get Duncan and came away with Ron Mercer and Chauncey Billups. They didn’t make the playoffs for another five years.

Did they go all in?  Did they?  (No.)  In 1995-96 they were a bad but not horrible team that won 33 games.  Their whole nucleus was under the age of 30.  In the 1996 offseason, their only meaningful move was on draft day, when they swapped first round picks with Dallas (which netted them Antoine Walker) and in that same trade sent off Eric Montross (not a significant contributor to the 1995-96 team; 7 PPG, 6 RPG) while receiving Dallas's 1997 first rounder, which would end up being 6th overall (nice!) and was used to select Mercer (damn).  That was a good trade that definitely can't be interpreted as a tanking move.  That was one of only two trades they made that year, and the other was pretty insignificant.  

In 1996-97 they brought back almost the same roster.  The season end player stat breakdown is very similar to the previous season, with the following changes: 
1) The addition of Walker, who had a great rookie season, going for 18 and 9.
2) 1995-96 top scorer and rebounder Dino Radja (HEY REMEMBER HIM???? JEFF PEARLMAN PROBABLY DOES!!!!) was sidelined for the rest of the 1996-97 season after a knee injury just 25 games in.  The only way this was a tanking move is if the Celtics hired someone to take his knee out telekinetically.  Radja would never play in the NBA again, despite being a 20 and 10 guy the previous season (at age 28), which pretty much tells you whether or not this was a "They held him out in order to tank!" move like Robinson's is alleged to be.
3) 1995-96 sixth man Dana Barros was also limited to only 24 games, presumably due to injury; his Wikipedia page isn't nearly as awesome as Radja's so I'm lacking detail here.

That's really it.  Two important rotation guys got hurt, and a promising rookie stepped in to kind of fill the shoes of one of the departed guys.  The Celtics literally didn't make a single trade during the season.  And that's it?  That's "going all in" to get Duncan?  Fucking hardly.  Add to that the fact that while Mercer was a bit of a dud, they did get Billups, who ended up being a five time All-Star and a possible Hall of Famer.  The fact that he didn't even get to play a full season for Boston before being traded has nothing to do with the argument that THE CELTICS TRIED TO TANK AND FAIL.  First, they barely (if at all) tried to tank, and second, they got a really awesome player anyways.  So even though I hate the Celtics and hate researching their pointless mid-90s transaction histories, you can see why I'm writing this post.  This author (I'm not even going to identify him by name--fuck him) is writing shit.  And I like writing responses to shit.

Boston’s tanking success didn’t come until 10 years later. With a roster built around Paul Pierce and younger players like Al Jefferson and Rajon Rondo, the team was going nowhere. So when Pierce went down with a vague “stress injury,” Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge held him out for most of the second half of the 2006-07 season. A starting lineup that featured Ryan Gomes and Allan Ray 

Can't believe this dingbat passed up a chance to make a "from Allan Ray to Ray Allen!!!!" joke anywhere in here.

finished out the year at the bottom of the league. That spring, they got screwed in the lottery 

Bill, your tears are so delicious!  Too bad they won a fucking title anyways.

and wound up with the fifth pick. Then they got lucky. They turned that fifth pick into Ray Allen, and then Kevin Garnett wanted out of Minnesota, and Ubuntu was born. Boston won a title 10 months later.

Yep.  I'd say that tank job worked, if unconventionally.

The other side of that Ray Allen Celtics deal is what the Sixers are chasing. Seattle stripped its roster in 2007, in part to rebuild around Kevin Durant and (maybe, possibly) in part because the owners were gearing up to move the team to Oklahoma City. 

I'd like to reiterate my intent to kick in the nuts any Seattle fan who is still bitching about this, should I get the chance.  They've been warned.

They traded Allen and Rashard Lewis, and while Washington state was stalling on stadium proposals, attendance suffered — it certainly didn’t hurt that the basketball product became borderline unwatchable (even with Durant). Over the next two years, all the losing birthed a title-contending nucleus that also featured James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Russell Westbrook. It’s just that they played in Oklahoma City.

OK, given OKC's whole one Finals appearance and zero titles with that nucleus so far, I wouldn't call that tank job "triumphant" (and sticking to that insane standard is really the only way he can get 25% of the way to justifying his point, so it's kind of funny to watch him tacitly abandon it here).  But it was certainly successful.  Now, I expect he'll start listing any of the other many, many teams that have gone from bad to good thanks to emptying their team of good players and gunning for a great lottery pick.

In other words, the only recent examples of tanking to a title come from two teams that already had franchise players and used one bad season to rebuild on the fly. 

Oh?  That's it, is it?  I almost forgot--THREE AND ONLY THREE.  First of all, as I just mentioned in that excessively lengthy parenthetical in my last paragraph, the Thunder don't have a title, no matter how much HOOP NERDS who NERDGASM all over the place when RUSSELL WESTBROOK dunks GOSH YOU HEATHENS DON'T PROPERLY APPRECIATE RUSSELL ONLY HOOP NERDS LIKE US DO want to award them with a title.  Second of all, holy shit, are you serious?  THAT'S your standard for figuring out if tanking works or not?

The Cavaliers tanked like dogs to get LeBron in 2003, sending away their top three scorers from 2001-02 (Andre Miller, Wesley Person, Lamond Murray) for peanuts during the 2002 offseason.  In his first seven year run with them, the team would make five straight playoff appearances, losing once in the conference finals and once in the Finals.  That's not "triumphant," I suppose, but fuck, what was their other option?  Build around Miller, Person, Murray, and 2002 draftee Carlos Boozer, and try to compete with the Lakers/Spurs that way?  Fuck you.  Give them a chance to do that sequence over again and they'd tank like they did 100 out of 100 times.  

The Nuggets also tanked (I'm not going to get into the details, but believe me, they tanked) throughout 2001 and 2002 to land Carmelo in that 2003 draft.  They then made the playoffs for ten consecutive seasons (after going to the playoffs twice in the previous twelve seasons) and came thiiiiis close to a Finals appearance against a mediocre Magic team in 2009.  Same story--not triumphant, but fuck, they wouldn't change anything about 2001-2002 in hindsight.

So, no titles for either of them.  Hey, how about this?  The Bulls were a playoff team in 1980-81, and a bad but not horrible 34 win team in 1981-82 (which went through three coaches, and then switched again during the 1982 offseason).  Then during the 1982-83 season they trade HOFer Artis Gilmore, still in his late prime, for nothing (yes, Dave Corzine is nothing), along with several other player-for-pick trades.  Then, during the 1983-84 season, ANOTHER new head coach (their sixth in four seasons... sounds a bit tanky to me) decided that Reggie Theus, who had scored 23.5 per game the previous season, should come off the bench.  He would be traded for nothing that February.  The Bulls still somehow managed 27 wins, but had the 3rd overall pick, and then took Michael Jordan.  Now in this case, shit, they actually DID have a good alternative--I'm not going to research it, but I bet a lot of fans were pissed that they traded Gilmore and Theus for peanuts in back to back offseasons.  Trying to win a championship with those two guys isn't exactly the worst idea.  But given how things worked out, again, I think the Bulls were happy with their choice.

I'm not going to go on like this for every single great player who was drafted by a team that obviously tanked to at least some level of significance.  (More than the 1996-97 Celtics tanked anyways.)  But you get the point.  This writer is an asshole who is annoyed by people on the internet and his preferred method for dealing with them is deciding that because they are annoying they must be wrong.  Well, trust me: I am both annoying and right all the time.  It's not that hard to do.  Where were we?  Oh yeah, back to the end of this little F-minus explanation as to why tanking is stupid.

That’s why it always made the most sense for a team like the Knicks to sit Carmelo and lose as much as possible this year. You never know what can happen. For everyone else, there’s a chance you could be the ’97 Spurs, but there’s a much better chance you will be the ’97 Celtics. 

"Be careful, everyone!  If you tank, you might only end up with a top 25-ever point guard!"  Now, terrible syntax in that sentence aside, I will grant this point: tanking does not guarantee that you will draft the greatest power forward ever the following June.  But it's sure as hell a lot smarter than NOT tanking.

The only recent example of a full-scale, multiyear tanking success story comes from a team that quite possibly used that strategy to kill basketball in its own home city. That’s the dream.

Yeah, good logical implication, fuckhead--if your team tanks, they'll probably end up leaving town.  Totally.

I’m not saying losing deliberately is a horrible idea, 

You kind of are though!

but it’s OK to look at the history before we call it brilliant. 

Cool, just did.  It's not "brilliant" per se, it's just smarter than NOT tanking, and the way it is done may or may not turn out to have been brilliant post hoc.  Maybe what the Sixers are doing is a brilliant tank job, or maybe it's just an average tank job.  But just because HOOPS NERDS who care about the Sixers or are otherwise complimentary of what the team is doing are shitheads doesn't mean you can just ignore history.  

If the Sixers are going DEFCON: TANK for several seasons in a devious play to maximize the probability of landing a title nucleus … shouldn’t it matter that this only really worked three times in 20 years? 

I like the 20 year cutoff thing.  Helps you avoid that whole Jordan issue.  Also, if tanking "didn't work" for the Cavs or Nuggets, I'd hate to see what results they would have come up with during the 2000s had they tried something else.

Is this plan really that devious?

It's not devious, it's just a good, solid plan.  And the rest of this article is just as bad.  Fuck yourself, Grantland staff writer guy.  Grantland is the worst.

Trade value column forthcoming.  No, seriously.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Grantland has another MLB guy besides Jonah Keri. He's a dumbshit.

[Edited to change my comments on this bozo's Nationals 2B situation analysis.  He's a bozo.  I'm a bozo.  We're all bozos.]

Before I get into this though, you know what I noticed while cruising around Bill Simmons's Grantland Brought To You By Bill Simmons And Edited By Bill Simmons By Which I Mean Not Edited At All?  Bill did part 1 of his NBA trade value column back in late January, and hasn't done part 2 yet.  (There's a disclaimer at the end of part 1 that says part 2 will happen after the Super Bowl.)  This asshole is just as lazy as I am!  Holy shit, how do you let yourself get away with that as the EIC of a major content mill?  "Yeah, I just kind of set my own deadlines and then I don't stick to them, because I had some podcasts and TV work to do."  Sure, I do that all the time around here.  I also don't make a dime from this, and have another job to work in order to make dimes.  Fuck you, Bill.  I'll start working on that trade value column next week.  (Seriously!  I will!)

In the meantime, as I've said many many times, I don't really mind Jonah Keri that much.  But today I stumbled across an MLB spring training preview piece written by some diptard named Michael Baumann.  As you'll see when you start to read it, this isn't really meant to be taken as 100% serious analysis.  There's a decent number of "jokes" and a medium amount of whimsical bullshit.  But you'll also see that Michael actually does take his baseball knowledge seriously.  And that's why I'm writing this post.  Michael is also, according to his mini-bio, "author of the upcoming book Philadelphia Phenoms: The Most Amazing Athletes to Play in the City of Brotherly Love, due in November 2014."  This will be relevant later, when I get butthurt about what he says about my favorite team.  Away we go.

Yesterday, I listed the pressing spring training question facing each American League team. 


And don't think I won't take a shot at that if I get positive feedback on this post, buster.

Today, it’s the National League’s turn. 

Can't believe Simmons is paying someone to write about AAAA baseball lololololololol

I hope his AL-only keeper league has disbanded due to everyone in it realizing what a turd Bill is.

Here’s hoping we get some resolution by Opening Day! 

You sound like you're writing for Bleacher Report when you start an article like that!

Arizona Diamondbacks: Is Archie Bradley Archie Bradley again?

Excellent non-question.

Diamondbacks fans don’t have much to feel optimistic about, but that could change if Bradley, arguably the top pitching prospect in the game a year ago, 

Sure, but that was coming off of his 20 year old season spent at AA ball.  Even if he had been awesome in the minors in 2014, he probably wouldn't be slated for a callup until late this summer at the earliest.  As things stand, there's no way he's in Phoenix before 2016.  Not sure why this would be a really exciting spring training question.

bounces back from the injuries that derailed his 2014 campaign. 

Even during his awesome 2013 season, he still had a BB/9 over 4.  He needs a little more work.

Those ailments led to ineffectiveness and mechanical inconsistency, and so the cycle goes, but a healthy, effective Bradley has the potential to be the team’s best homegrown pitcher since Brandon Webb. 

Webb was never even any kind of elite prospect--he was an 8th round pick who didn't debut in the majors until he was 24, and had little minor league track record of dominance.  Those lucky assholes in Arizona. 

We’ll get a sense of his progress in camp. 

I know the Diamondbacks are going to suck this year, but I'm pretty sure you could have come up with something better than this angle.  Christ, just note that Paul Goldschmidt had an amazing 2013 and then just a really good 2014 and ask if he can get back to being an MVP candidate.

Atlanta Braves: How do Nick Markakis and Melvin (yes, Melvin) Upton look?

SO HILARIOUS AND INTERESTING THAT THIS TERRIBLE PLAYER WHO WILL BE OUT OF MLB IN A COUPLE OF YEARS DECIDED TO GO BY A DIFFERENT NAME.  I'M NOT AT ALL SICK OF HEARING ABOUT IT YET.  Christ.  If Upton played in New York or Boston this would be the biggest story in the game for the next six weeks.  Let's all count our blessings that this isn't the case.

After liquidating Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis, and Justin Upton, 

Eh, they got Shelby Miller for Heyward, but I'll grant that "liquidating" is an accurate verb as to what they did with Gattis and Upton.

the Braves brought in Markakis to play right field on a four-year, $44 million contract, which is weird, because that seems like a lot to give a 31-year-old corner outfielder who doesn’t hit for power and needed offseason neck surgery. 

Well, take a little trip on the Google machine and try "Braves new stadium racism."  Here's a great start!  It shouldn't be a surprise that they're doing a mini-rebuild that crafts a team, ahem, a little more in the image of their target fan demographic.

Even if he’s not 100 percent to start the season, though, Markakis can’t possibly be more disappointing than the newly christened Melvin Upton. 

WAIT DID HE CHANGE HIS NAME I DIDN'T HEAR!

It’s hard not to feel bad for Upton at this point, 

He is on a $75MM contract, and his problems at the plate are a result of his failure to change his approach once pitchers stopped throwing him fastballs.  Stuff your sorries for MELVIN in a sack, Michael.

but maybe something will finally click this spring and he’ll return to something approaching his former glory.

Doubtful.

Chicago Cubs: Who are those guys with the jersey numbers in the 70s?

Maybe they play offensive line for the Bears lol!!!!!

Adding ace Jon Lester and veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler will help the Cubs in the short term, but the buzz building around the franchise is largely based on Chicago amassing, in scientific terms, a butt load of young position players. 

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

We saw Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and Jorge Soler for the first time last year, 

All three of these guys could become good players, although Baez (admittedly the one with the highest pedigree) struck out in more than 40% of his PAs last year.  Obviously that will have to change.

and here’s a partial list of the nonroster invitees who will get a crack at major league camp: Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and Kyle Schwarber. 

True, this is regarded by pretty much everyone as the best farm system in baseball for good reason.  Now watch the Cubs find a way to royally fuck it up.

Also new to the team and sporting a number in the 70s: Joe Maddon, in case all the commotion made you forget that Chicago also added the game’s best manager this offseason. 

/Larry B adds "managers don't do that much" tag to post

The Cubs are either another year or another big trade away from making a run at the playoffs, but right now, this team is where the Nationals were four years ago. 

Hopefully they are leading the division in July, get greedy and deplete the farm system by trading for some rental player at the trade deadline, lose in the divisional round, and go back to sucking.  Doesn't sound like something Theo Epstein would do, but I can dream.

Cincinnati Reds: Can this team prove that the complex interpersonal relationships surrounding baseball are more interesting than the game itself?

No, because that premise only holds any water if you're a boring idiot who doesn't actually care about sports.

I make no secret of how profoundly boring I find exhibition baseball, 

Whoa, don't go too far out on that limb!  Most baseball fans, especially die hard baseball fans, find ST games RIVETING.

but the first week of Reds camp has shown that spring training can be interesting if you don’t pay attention to the games. Would I watch a matchmaking show about pitchers picking throwing partners in the style of a turn-of-the-century MTV dating program? Yes. 

WHO SAYS NO

Was the highlight of the preseason Mat Latos not only burning the bridge he just crossed to leave Cincinnati, but rigging it to explode in a shower of glitter and flower petals? It was, until out of nowhere, in came Marlon Byrd — who wasn’t even on the Reds last year — off the top rope to fire back at Latos. I’m so drunk on human drama I can’t keep my metaphors straight.

More interested in gossip than actual events that affect the outcome of games/seasons?  You're fitting right in at ESPN, buddy.  Good job.

Colorado Rockies: Y’all want a hug?

Fuck you, no they don't.  (This is where I get butthurt, as referenced earlier.)

I’m serious. I spent forever trying to give Rockies fans a reason to be optimistic other than “Maybe Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez won’t get hurt this year?” but I struck out.
Well, they have some actually-relevant-like-not-just-relevant-to-Rockies-fans young players like Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson and (maybe, fingers crossed) Tyler Matzek.   That's still a fair point--they will probably suck this year.  HOWEVA.  Here's where I lose my shit.

The Rockies are going to be bad again, and unlike other similarly bad teams, they don’t have a great chance of bouncing off rock bottom and back into contention thanks to their farm system or front office.

Oh, really?  Interesting--there is a pretty good consensus out there, from Keith Law (who I hate, but who knows prospects and farm systems very well thank you very much) on down, that the Rockies have a top 10 farm system.  I see that you are apparently a Philadelphia native, sir, and therefore likely a Phillies fan.  How are they doing these days?  What's that?  Just as shitty as the Rockies?  Interesting--they appear to also have, by most accounts, a bottom 10 farm system.  Can't wait for that Ryan Howard contract to finally come off the books in two seasons though!  Go fuck yourself, needledick.

But hey, Coors Field is lovely. I haven’t seen such a beautiful building filled with so much garbage since my last trip to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, though.

OH ZING WOW.  MODERN ART BURN. 

I hope the Phillies never win another game.

Los Angeles Dodgers: How weird is it going to be to see Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick in Dodger uniforms?

Ooh, this guy has learned well from Simmons.  "How [noteworthy/interesting/weird] is [thing that isn't noteworthy/interesting/weird]?" has been a Bill staple for more than a decade now.

The Dodgers now have a pair of very experienced, very good two-way middle infielders in Rollins and Kendrick, 

Good to see him carrying water for former Phillie Rollins, who did have a good 2014, but was terrible in 2012 and 2013 and is on the wrong side of 35.  I'm sure the Dodgers won't miss Hanley Ramirez at all.

both of whom come from extremely stable double-play combinations (Rollins with Chase Utley since 2005, Kendrick with Erick Aybar since 2007). This spring, they’ll have to develop that kind of chemistry with each other. 

That's your spring training angle for this team?  This World Series contender, with the best pitcher in the game and one of the most interesting and talented young position players around?  Their new 2B and SS need to develop "chemistry?"  Hmm.  Arizona preview = boring.  Colorado preview = inaccurate.  Dodgers preview = boring.  Excuse me while I cry myself a river, but I've got a vague idea that perhaps Michael doesn't really give a flying shit about things that happen west of Pittsburgh.  We'll see what he does for the Giants and Padres.

Truthfully, though, the adjustment probably won’t be as hard on them as it will be on the fans; it’ll probably be June or July before seeing these guys in Dodger blue stops being jarringly weird.

GOD IT'S SO WEIRD THAT GUYS SWITCH TEAMS ISN'T IT?  SO WEIRD.  SPECIFICALLY WITH REGARD TO J-ROLL, WHO EVERYONE AGREES IS AS PHILADELPHIAN AS THE LIBERTY BELL AND CASUAL RACISM.

Miami Marlins: How is the Mighty Giancarlo Stanton’s Face?

I'm sure it's fine.

The big questions for Miami’s playoff hopes (when will Jose Fernandez come back? Is Dee Gordon actually good? What’s Christian Yelich’s ceiling?) can’t be answered in the spring. 

Uh, the last two of those sort of can.  Hell, all three of them sort of can.  I'm not going to look it up but I'm sure Fernandez is at spring training, going through rehab.  He had his surgery last May and was throwing by September.  He'll probably be ready for game action in the minors soon after the regular season starts.

But we haven’t seen TMGS take a swing in game action since Mike Fiers hit him in the face with a baseball in September. It’s overwhelmingly likely that he’s fine, 

Because that was a freak accident and baseball players get hit with pitches all the time, and you don't need your face to hit or throw, for fuck's sake it's not like the guy tore his hamstring or broke his back or something.

because the Marlins wouldn’t have signed him to a $325 million extension if they didn’t think he was, but I won’t be able to relax completely until he hits his first home run. 

What the fuck are you talking about?  Do you know what baseball is?

Milwaukee Brewers: What critter will the Brew Crew find at the ballpark this year?

OK, admittedly, drivel like this makes my criticism of his blurbs that seem to contain actual analysis feel a little out of place.  I don't care, it's my blog and if you don't like it I'm taking my ball and leaving.

The highlight of last season — yes, including Jonathan Lucroy’s insane breakout performance — was the emergence of Hank, a stray bichon frise mix who wandered into the team’s spring training facility and became the Brewers’ unofficial mascot. 

That was a highlight of last season on par with Lucroy's performance for Brewers fans under the age of 10 and over the age of 90.  Everyone else, I'm sure, was much more interested in Lucroy than a dog.

Hank was adopted by Brewers executive Marti Wronski, leaving a spot open for another animal to sneak into Maryvale Park and, from there, into our hearts. I’m rooting for a sheep this year.

Awesome joke.

New York Mets: Is it time for Thor? WE WANT THOR! WE WANT THOR!

I left that link in on purpose--I guess Mets fans refer to Noah Syndergaard as "Thor."  Mets fans are fucking idiots and I've never met one I liked.  This does not change that.

“You know, between Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Bartolo Colon, the Mets have a decent rotation. Matt Harvey’s throwing again — I don’t think you guys need to rush Noah Syndergaard to the maj—”

[A terrifying, baseball-headed man bursts through the wall, followed by a mob of blue-and-orange-clad villagers.] “WE WANT THOR! WE WANT THOR!” 

You know, that's less unfunny than most of Simmons's little imaginary dialogues.  Points for trying.

Philadelphia Phillies: Are the broken pitchers still broken?

Chad Billingsley and Cliff Lee would’ve made a great one-two punch in 2008, yet in 2015, the best-case scenario for the Phillies involves both returning to health. 

Sure, their current roster is a garbage fire past old-ass Chase Utley, "please trade me now" Cole Hamels and injured-ass Cliff Lee, and they have hands down the WORST front office in MLB, but totally, that's the big question this spring--can Lee and Chad Billingsley pitch up to expectations?  If they do, this team might win 75 games!

This team probably wouldn’t go anywhere even if both pitchers could return to their 2008 form, 

It sure as fuck wouldn't.

but both would make for attractive trade chips come midseason if would-be trade partners were convinced they’d stand up to a playoff run. 

Yeah, Ruben Amaro Jr. might be able to turn them into a couple bags of magic beans.  Phight on!

Pittsburgh Pirates: What can the Bucs expect from Jung Ho Kang?

What's this?  Relevant analysis that's more or less on point?

Spring training will be our first extended look at Kang, a 27-year-old South Korean infielder who arrived in Pittsburgh this offseason. With only $16 million invested in Kang, and Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison already in the fold, the Pirates don’t need Kang to perform, but it’d sure be nice if he did. 

My God!  It is!  Who ghost-wrote this section for him?

Translating performance in the Korean Baseball Organization to MLB is still very much an inexact science, 

Oof, I don't hate the Pirates, but that translation is "an inexact science" in the sense that "the KBO is significantly worse than the NPB, and even the best players from the NPB often struggle to transition to MLB, sooooo....."

so even a few dozen spring at-bats should help the Pirates get a better idea of the kind of player they’ve bought. 

Fair enough.

San Diego Padres: Who’s going to play center field?

Hmmm.  After those Diamondbacks/Rockies/Dodgers blurbs, I was hoping this would say "Haha will the Padres be too distracted by San Diego's beautiful weather to have a good season?"  This is still a pretty dumb question, but it's made less dumb by the fact that Petco's CF is gigantic.

Contrary to popular opinion, going to war with three outfielders who fall just short of being able to play center field isn’t a season-killer. 

I... I don't think that's popular opinion.

The Dodgers, Cardinals, and Nationals have all won division titles without a real center fielder in recent years, though in all cases, that was a temporary solution. 

"Popular opinion, which no one actually subscribes to due to these very recent and obvious counterexamples..."

Right now, it looks like Wil Myers is going to play center field for San Diego, though if he doesn’t bounce back from a down sophomore season, it might be time to have a serious talk about whether Cameron Maybin, if healthy, can do enough on defense to be the more productive player overall. 

Maybin has a career 87 OPS+ in 2000 PA, and it's significantly worse than that since 2012.  It's time to stop thinking of him as a starter no matter how good his glove is.  Myers was rotten last year, but come on, he's got to be better than Maybin or the Padres just spent a bunch of money for no good reason.

San Francisco Giants: Do you think wearing three World Series rings at once looks tacky?

THERE we go.  There's the "other side of the country" analysis I expected.

PS--fuck the Giants

There’s not much to worry about here, since the Giants return almost everyone from the pretty well-rounded, veteran team that won the World Series last year. 

Oh for fuck's sake, come on.  This was an 88 win team that wouldn't have even made the playoffs prior to the second wild card being added in 2012.  They backed in, and then won it all because playoff baseball is much different than regular season baseball and Madison Bumgarner went apeshit.  Outside of Posey and Pence, the offense is a total joke.  If they don't get amazingly strong late career performances from Hudson and Peavy again, they're going to be an 84 win team that plays golf in October instead of what they were last year.  Some of this is sour grapes, but go on, convince me that there's "not much to worry about" for a team with this many old pitchers and shitty hitters. 

Some might worry about the downgrade from Pablo Sandoval to Casey McGehee at third base, but that’ll largely be offset by signee Nori Aoki filling the Mike Morse–size defensive hole in left field. 

Except that Aoki was awful on defense last year too, and unlike Morse, he can't hit for shit.  McGehee was a nice story last year but I'll be shocked if he can replicate Sandoval's numbers.  This team is going to score even fewer runs than they did last year, and I don't see that working out for them unless Bumgarner makes like 50 starts.

Now, watch them win 88 games and a wild card again, thanks to twenty walk off wins on infield singles at home and twenty 2-1 road wins where the other team strands like a million baserunners and the Giants get both their runs on a walk-error-bloop opposite field double sequence.

I see no reason why the Giants won’t be good again in 2015, then go on to win the World Series again in 2016.

Fuck the Giants.

St. Louis Cardinals: Will a change of scenery do Jason Heyward good?

Well, even though his power seems to be eroding as he enters his mid 20s (huh?) he was still worth 6.3 rWAR last year.  So I'm not sure he needed a change.

Heyward isn’t the player we’d hoped he’d be when he came up, but he’s already one of the top outfielders in the National League, and he’s still only 25. A shoulder injury he suffered as a second-year player kicked off a never-ending cycle of swing tinkering that seemed to limit his offensive potential, a theory Heyward himself spoke about after arriving in Cardinals camp. 

Big story here: player hasn't been playing well; blames nagging injury.

If Heyward doesn’t improve one bit, he’ll be a massive addition for St. Louis. 

Correct.

But if he meshes better with the coaching staff in St. Louis than he did in Atlanta and turns into a monster power hitter, we could see a breakout season of biblical proportions.

I have a hard time seeing him go from 14 HR to 11 HR to "monster power hitter" in three seasons, but he is really really good.  Knowing the Cardinals, he'll hit 40 this year.

Washington Nationals: How will Danny Espinosa do against righties?

No.  No.  A thousand times no.  This is not one of the fifty most pressing questions facing the Nationals this spring.  Espinosa has less than 500 PA in the last two seasons combined, because he can't fucking hit.  I'm sure failing at switch hitting is a big part of that, but who cares?  The Nationals traded for Yunel Escobar this offseason, and he's going to start.  Whether Bryce Harper RESPECTS THE GAME ENOUGH is a more pressing question than whether Espinosa can hit righties from the right side.

There aren’t many guys who have 20–home run power, 20-steal speed, and the ability to play above-average middle infield defense. Espinosa is one of them. 

And the Nationals don't need or want him to be one of them anymore, because they're trying to win right now.  Thus, he is a bench player, and thus, there are no pressing questions about him.

The problem is that though the switch-hitting Espinosa hit .301/.374/.485 while batting right-handed last year, he hit only .183/.241/.291 from the left side, which, given the prevalence of right-handed pitching, he did twice as often. 

He still only had 364 PAs, because for a lot of the season the Nationals tried to keep Zimmerman at 3B and Rendon at 2B.

Therefore, in addition to growing a stupendous, Jeff Daniels–in-Gettysburg mustache, 

NEW COLUMN IDEA: WHICH MLB PLAYER'S MUSTACHE IS BEST EXPLAINED BY EACH 2015 BEST PICTURE NOMINEE.

Espinosa is toying with the idea of giving up switch hitting. It’ll be very interesting to see how well that experiment works, and how long he sticks with it.

Michael Baumann sucks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On ESPN's programming decisions


Their decisions related to Sunday Night Baseball, specifically.  Deadspin linked to this earlier today, which is awesome--awesome enough for me to start reading Baseball Essential more regularly from now on.  While whoever wrote that post seemed to be trying not to over-editorialize, the results speak for themselves: ESPN, whenever possible, is going to show Yankees-Red Sox (or either of those teams even when they're not playing the other) no matter how those teams are playing.  If it's not one of those two, you've got a really good chance at seeing the Cardinals, Braves, Mets or Dodgers.  Just under 50% of SNB games since 2005 have included at least one of those teams.

Now, obviously I get that other than the Mets, who have sucked since 2009, those teams have all been very successful for most or all of the past decade.  No one wants to watch shitty teams play, so being a good team is a good way to make it into the only nationally televised game of the week that is alone in its timeslot.  But for fuck's sake, look at this graph from that post:

Total Appearances by Team <img src="images/" width="600" height="440" alt="A Decade of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball: Is It Really Always Red Sox/Yankees? - Sunday">

Are you shitting me?  The Blue Jays haven't even been that bad for the last decade.  Sure, no playoff appearances, but they've fielded some decent teams, finishing at or over .500 for 4 of the past 7 seasons and employing a couple different superstar caliber players in that time.  Add to that the fact that they're in the AL East, and thus have to have at least a couple Sunday games against the Yankees or Red Sox every season.  And they haven't been on fucking SNB fucking ONCE?  Christ on a crutch, that's embarrassing.  It's a little less egregious in the case of the Mariners, who have been pretty bad for a while, but their ballpark is awesome and they do have King Felix.  (Admittedly, it's hard to schedule a SNB game a couple months out and be sure he would start that night, but come on.)  ZERO appearances?  Apply similar logic to varying degrees as we go up the graph from right to left along the graph; when you factor in quality of team and size of fanbase, I think the relatively low numbers of White Sox, Rangers, Twins and Brewers games are also infuriating.

The question about these decisions on ESPN's part is one I've tackled a few times on this here blog, and I'm happy to tackle it again, because I am lazy and like recycling my own ideas like an unpaid version of Rick Reilly.  It's a chicken and egg problem--does ESPN only show the teams that seem to have gigantic fanbases all over the country, or are there gigantic fanbases for those first ten or so teams from left to right in part because ESPN (and MLB itself) forces those teams on everyone at every possible turn?  I'm sure the answer is "some of both," but what pisses me off is the way the other three main American sports leagues seem to not be nearly as egregious about this as MLB and its main primetime national TV partner are.

If the Grizzlies and  Trailblazers are both having a great season, ESPN is going to nationally televise their next game and people are going to watch.  If the Jaguars and Titans are both somehow 10-2 in early December, their divisional game is going to get flexed into Sunday Night Football and people are going to watch (apply same logic for ESPN's Monday Night Football scheduling the following season).  The NHL is actually closer to MLB in this regard than the NFL or NBA, as they don't do a particularly great job of promoting teams other than those in eastern Canada/the Great Lakes region/the Northeast, but 1) they don't have an ESPN contract so I know ESPN isn't complicit, and 2) I spend enough time on the hockey internetz to know that fans are most definitely talking quite a bit about the surprising Predators and Lightning this year--certainly more than I'd expect MLB fans to talk about the Astros and Padres if each are in first place come July.

Based on all this, I guess I have to conclude that there's something about baseball fans that pulls them towards the Yankees/Red Sox/etc. moreso than fans from other sports are pulled towards those sports' equivalent franchises.  By way of example, I'm sure the percentage of baseball fans residing Phoenix who are Yankees fans is way higher than the percentage of hockey fans who are (New York) Rangers fans.  But it's still goddamn ridiculous to look at SNB, which could definitely be used as a tool by the league (in dictating to ESPN what games they can choose for their broadcasts) to promote some up and coming teams, and see that the first five matchups in 2015 include Yankees-Red Sox twice, Yankees-Mets, Cubs-Cardinals and Cardinals-Reds.  That's one team slot out of ten filled by a team that isn't on national TV every goddamn week already via either an ESPN weeknight game or FOX's Saturday games.

I guess what I'm trying to say, besides go read that linked article for yourself, is fuck ESPN, fuck MLB, and fuck everything else.  I hate it all.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Well, the GREATRIOTS did it





Well, after giving myself about ten days to process my feelings, I have come to accept what we all must accept: the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX.  None of us have to accept that Tom Brady is the greatest QB ever (he isn't) or that Belichick is the greatest coach ever (actually, we might have to accept that one).  But the game is done, and thus football season is done.  No more horrible Simmons gambling advice (not sure how he finished on the season, but rest assured that you would have lost money if you followed him).  No more getting mad at thinking about what TMQ is probably writing, even though I don't even read his column anymore.  But most of all, no more NFL for like 7 months--except the combine, the draft, OTAs, training camp, the preseason, and all the ridiculous non-stories we'll have to deal with while trying to pay attention to other sports all summer.   Feels good just saying it.

Before we go, though, just a reminder: the NFL is a fucking joke.

One more reminder that the NFL is a fucking joke.

And finally, a final reminder that the NFL is a fucking joke.

Moving on.

It's almost baseball season yayyyy yayyy yayyy!

/realizes he will once again watch his favorite team lose 90 games this summer

Eh, whatever.  Since it's baseball season might as well start focusing a little bit more on baseball writing.  I hate Jonah Keri (I believe I have established this) even though he's really not that bad of an analyst and an inoffensively mediocre writer.  So, I will pick on stuff he writes even when it's not flagrantly horrible.  YOU CAN'T STOP ME.  Here are some dopey thoughts of his from his "worst contracts in baseball" article from last week.  Most of his picks for the top 10 are fine--I only briefly touch on them at the end of the post.  It's the honorable mentions that mostly get my panties in a bundle.  (Side note: good for him for doing a worst contracts, rather than a "most trade value" article, because fuck Bill Simmons and fuck anyone who appropriates his concepts into their own articles.)  

DH Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians: two years, $30 million remaining

OF Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians: two years, $27.5 million

...I try not to weigh team finances too heavily when analyzing these contracts, I can’t discount that the Swisher and Bourn albatrosses will hurt the small-revenue Indians more than they would nearly any other team.


OK, I guess fair enough, those are some non-ideal contracts.  But really, didn't both of them get paid more or less their market value at the time the contracts were signed?  I mean, why make this list at all if you're just going to list every single player who is into his free agent years and hasn't played well lately?  Bourn was awesome in 2012 and OK in 2013.  Swisher was good in both 2012 and 2013.  They both sucked in 2014 and had they been free agents this winter they'd have gotten "prove it" one year deals.  But I'm not sure I see the point here.  More significantly:
 
SP Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs: two years, $22 million

Among pitchers with at least 140 innings, Jackson’s 6.33 ERA was the worst in baseball last year by nearly a full run. With Jon Lester and Jason Hammel now in the fold, Jackson isn’t even ticketed for the rotation anymore. That means he’s either going to be a mop-up man in 2015 or on the chopping block in spring training.

How about some consistency?  Jackson's contract is probably worse than Swisher's/Bourn's, but on the other hand, the Indians don't have a lot of money and are trying to win now.  The Cubs have tanker ships full of money, and aren't really looking to compete until next year.  They could give a shit about giving Jackson $11 million (not even that much for a shitty innings eater, by the by) to make 30 starts this year.  Maybe next year it's a problem, but come on.  It's the Cubs.  Whatever.

SS Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers: eight years, $120 million

Aside from the Boras lesson, the main takeaway here is one that we’ll repeat several times throughout this column: When dealing with players who are still under team control for a couple more years, clubs should tread very carefully before offering an extension that won’t kick in until those years have expired. The consequences of failing to exercise that care can be disastrous.

The Rangers actually have a pretty good revenue stream, so they very well may have foolishly jumped the gun when they gave Andrus that deal.  I mean "jumped the gun" in the sense that they didn't need to try to lock him up to a contract that they were hoping would be a discount over what he could make on the FA market two years later.  But the cautionary note up there is utterly useless for most of the teams that tend to sign players to these kinds of deals (Rays, Rockies, Indians, etc.).  Of COURSE it's risky to sign a player to a big contracts well before they hit free agency.  And then again, the alternative is probably losing that player when they hit free agency, which is risky as well.  Thanks for the GMing tip, Jonah.

SP Bronson Arroyo, Arizona Diamondbacks: one year, $14 million

Technically, Arroyo’s remaining deal is $9.5 million for 2015 plus a $4.5 million buyout to avoid his $11 million salary in 2016. Either way, the result is the same: Arroyo had Tommy John surgery in early July, making him a long shot to return before August and a virtual lock to deliver nothing of value for a moderate-payroll club that’s also overpaying Cody Ross and Trevor Cahill to not contribute.

Teams insure their contracts against major, predictable injuries, like, you know, pitchers who tear their UCLs.  There's no way this is even one of the 100 worst contracts in baseball right now.  Christ, I'd argue that Jon Lester's deal is worse than this one.

SP Ubaldo Jimenez, Baltimore Orioles: three years, $38.75 million

Oy.

OK, you win this round, Jonah.  That's a terrible contract.  Fucking Ubaldo.  

/Larry B cries Rockies fan tears

1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds: nine years, $213 million

Votto signed his gigantic contract in April 2012, and in the two years since, I’ve agonized over whether to include him in my annual look at baseball’s best contracts; I left him off both times and got enough hate mail from Votto supporters to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool. And understandably so: From 2010 through 2013, Votto was around a six-win player every year, and an MVP award winner in 2010.


How quickly things can change. In 2014, he missed 100 games and hit for less power than ever before. It’s human nature to fixate on the recent past, and it’s pretty terrifying to see a 31-year-old player who’s owed $213 million after a season in which he hit .255 with six home runs — terrifying enough to make four years of absolute dominance seem like a distant memory.

So, yeah, again--don't bother making this list if you're just going to list a bunch of guys who are no longer in their team-controlled years and had a bad 2014.  I actually think this belongs in consideration for the list to a greater degree than those "meh" Swisher, Bourn and Jackson contracts, because it's so enormously gigantic.  But Votto isn't just some guy who had a couple good seasons, cashed in, and is now in decline.  He was an MVP contender for five straight years, then got hurt for one, and his best skill is getting on base, which tends to age well.  Jonah seems to know and understand all this and yet here we are.  Annoying.

Now we move into the guys who actually made the top 10.  I was fine with most of the names (Fielder, Hamilton, Pujols, Upton--go find the article on Grantland if you want, I'm not going to link to it) but we have a couple of problems.

4. OF Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers: six years, $116 million (NR)

Oh come on.  Choo is like Votto-lite.  He was a 4 to 6 win player EVERY season from 2008 through 2013.  In fact, 2013 might have been his best year ever.  And like Votto, OBP is his best skill.  Now he stumbles in 2014 and he's got the 4th worst contract in the majors?  GMAFB.  It's especially insane when you factor in this:

7. 1B Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: two years, $60 million (3)

Dude.  Choo was a mess last year, but he still had an OPS+ of 102 and an OBP of .340.  Even if he just rebounds a little bit in the coming years, and never makes it back to his 2013 form (which he still might do), he's a useful, above-average player.  You can make the playoffs with him hitting 2nd or 6th in your lineup.  Ryan Howard is absolutely worthless.  He hasn't even been above average since 2010.  His career is over.  There is, I don't know, like a 25% chance Choo lives up to the rest of his contract.  Maybe it's less than that.  But it's definitely greater than a 0% chance, which is the likelihood that Howard is worth more than even half his remaining contract.  I get that Choo gets dinged for having six years left instead of two, but he's also three years older than Choo, making it an absolute certainty that he's done.  What the hell is Choo doing ahead of him on this list?

Here’s another over-30 Ranger coming off an injury-plagued season who’s signed for waaaay too long and waaaay too much. Though Choo missed just 39 games last year, he first hurt his ankle back in April, so it’s possible a season-long mulligan is warranted. 

Again: guy has crappy 2014, and it's probably at least in part due to injury, and now he's got the 4th worst contract in the game somehow.  BOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

2. SP Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers: three years, $41 million (NR)

When the Rangers gave Harrison his five-year, $55 million deal in January 2013, they were rewarding a 27-year-old durable ground ball pitcher who’d managed the rare feat of putting up solid numbers in the AL’s worst pitcher’s park, in the process buying out three years of arbitration and two years of free agency. Even though Harrison was never a big strikeout pitcher by the standards of the time, the contract didn’t seem like much of a reach.

But now here we are, with Harrison having made just six combined starts in the past two seasons and coming off spinal fusion surgery. It’s unclear if he’ll ever pitch again in the majors, let alone take the ball every fifth day and produce quality numbers.

Buddy, again, insurance--and it's not even that astronomical of a contract.  Second worst in MLB, after only A-Rod?  WORSE than BJ Upton?  I'm not a Rangers fan, but I'm thinking Jonah might have some kind of grudge against that organization for some reason.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

This blog has always been known for its timely analysis


Which is why, per a request in an Anonymous comment from almost two weeks ago, I'm covering ESPN's Jackie MacMullan's SCORCHING HOT TAEK regarding The Incident from the AFC Championship Game Wherein the Patriots Were Found to be Using Underinflated Footballs.  That is my super clever and catchy name for this "scandal."  I hope you enjoy it.  I couldn't think of anything shorter, or involving the suffix -gate or a reference to a political "scandal" from the last couple years involving an embassy in Libya.

By the way, let me also be abundantly clear about one thing: while I despise the Patriots, I don't give a flying rat's cunt about this whole thing.  I just can't bring myself to care.  The Patriots were obviously the best team in the AFC from Halloween onward.  Beyond that, as that awesome story Brad Johnson told about paying guys off to tamper with the game balls before the Raiders-Bucs Super Bowl demonstrates, this shit probably happens all the time.  Honestly: who really gives a fuck?  Fuck the Patriots, fuck the NFL, and most of all, fuck the 24 hour sports news cycle that's obsessed with the NFL.  Now let's go out there and write this dumb post.

We don't know for certain yet whether Bill Belichick had anything to do with the deflation of 11 of the 12 footballs 

This was just another asinine facet to this whole thing--the repeated reporting that it was 11 of 12 footballs.  Not all the footballs.  Not almost all the footballs.  Not all but one.  Not "The Patriots were using a large number of underinflated balls."  No--let me break out my Easterbrook impersonation and point out that 11 out of 12 is HYPERSPECIFIC and we don't need that much fucking information.  Again, this is what happens when an NFL non-story breaks during Pro Bowl weeks.  Sure, there are dozens of NBA and NHL games going on, but we need the Bottom Line ticker to let us know exactly what fraction of the balls were tampered with.  I swear, the retards who inhabit this country love the NFL so much you could get great ratings on a 30 minute show that was just Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen going back and forth about what their sources have told them about that 12th ball that was actually within the league's rules.

the New England Patriots used in their trouncing of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. In fact, we may never know.

We sure won't.  Because this will all be forgotten about about four seconds after the Super Bowl kicks off.

Regardless of what the league determines, the Patriots' coach already has been declared guilty in the court of public opinion, 

By the way, as we go through this piece, you'll discover that Jackie Mac says the league should come down HAHHHHHD on the Pats if they are guilty.  This is a hot taek in so many ways-- 1) she all but conceded in her first three sentences that we'll never really know, therefore more or less saying that there shouldn't be any stiff punishment, but even better, 2) anyone who has seen her on PTI knows that just like every other knuckle-dragging sportswriter from New England, she's an unashamed homer who wears her Pats-loving heart on her sleeve.  Meaning, of course, that this whole article is really just a trolling of other Pats fans who she knows will be totally offended by her position, thus generating BUZZ and CONTROVERSY and PAGEVIEWS.  Somewhere, Mark Shapiro is smiling and nodding.

his football brilliance superseded only by his football arrogance.

Such a deft juxtaposition.  Someone give this woman her own TV show.

Consider this tweet from Hall of Famer Jerry Rice:

11 of 12 balls under-inflated can anyone spell cheating!!! Saying

First of all, Jerry, ask your kids about how hashtags work.  (Lol!  Old people am I right?!)  Second of all, wow, blazing taek right there.  Thanks for the input.

Rice has no skin in New England's game. 

Incredible analysis here.  "This is a very simple  story, but it is also a huge story in the world of the NFL.  Here's someone from that world who has no connection to the Patriots, AND HE'S WEIGHING IN ON THE STORY WITH HIS VERY BASIC OPINION.  Marvel at it, everyone."

He's not a former Raven or Colt, although he did play his final season in Seattle. 

If you see some hipster kid this weekend with a bad mustache, a SuperSonics hat and a Jerry Rice Seahawks jersey, punch him in the face for me please.

He is a football legend with an impeccable résumé and he won't be the first or last to cast aspersions on the football team in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Again, here's Jackie: "Note that this person has an opinion.  Really makes you think, doesn't it?"

On the surface, knowingly tampering with footballs just minutes before (or during?) the AFC Championship Game in which your team is heavily favored seems, in the words of former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, "laughable.''

Yeah, there's a guy who knew how to cheat the RIGHT way.  None of this getting caught for him, at least for most of his career.

It is also incredibly audacious, stupid and paranoid.

This was a single sentence paragraph in the article as published.

Bill Plaschke demands his royalty check.

Also, if the Patriots did this on purpose, it's a lot of things.

But I'm pretty sure it wasn't fueled by paranoia.

It's almost as ludicrous as videotaping the defensive signals of opposing teams after the league sent a memo specifically forbidding the practice and warning there would be serious repercussions if the decree was ignored.

This is more catnip thrown by a New Englander at all the Massholes out there reading this on their phones during their lunch break at the tuna cannery.  "Hey everyone... remember when the Patriots cheated this other time?  That got you good and riled up I'll bet.  Mmm hmm."

Spygate, Deflategate. Connect the dots and it appears to be more of the same, a haughty coach obsessed with winning who will do anything to get an edge -- and will gleefully tweak the league office in the process.

Fuck Belichick, but the guy has balls.  I'm almost starting to like him.

Therein lies Belichick's problem. A man who has made football his life's work, whose reverence for the game and its history is well-documented, 

I love the idea that doing anything to win is somehow not in alignment with loving the game and knowing about its history.  Why, it's almost like he wants to win so he can be a part of that history some day!  Madness!

has forever forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his own integrity. 

Guarantee you he doesn't give a shit.

Earlier this month, 85-year-old Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history and the only one to oversee an undefeated season, 

Barf

with the Miami Dolphins in 1972, 

Oh, is that when it was?  I'm only reminded of that every goddamn 10 minutes during all NFL broadcasts in October/November when there are only a couple of undefeated teams left.

was asked about New England's coach. The congenial Shula replied: "Beli-cheat?"

RAZOR SHARP.  WOW.  EVEN AT 85, THE GUY HAS A FIRM GRASP ON SHITTY PUNS.  THIS IS ALMOST AS CRAZY AS THE TIME JERRY RICE POINTED OUT THAT CHEATING IS THE SAME THING AS CHEATING.

It spoke volumes about the perception of New England's resident football genius. Shula is a man of character and credibility. 

Oh my God.  Holy shit.  No, he's not.  He's not Teddy Roosevelt.  He's not Roberto Clemente.  He's just a guy who was an awesome football coach a while ago.  Of COURSE he's going to shit on Belichick.  That's what all retired legends in every field do when asked about the then-current legends in the making in that field.

His words hold weight, far more than a blustery Ray Lewis embarking on a rant dismissing Tom Brady's career because of the tuck rule. That made no sense and had no merit.

Hahahahha.  I didn't hear that.  That's pretty great, though.  Good for Ray.  I like that taek.

This deflation controversy is a different case altogether. 

Right--one is a case of potential circumvention of league rules.  The other is a case where the league's referees probably did correctly enforce the league's rules, even though those rules are terrible.  Where am I going with this contrast?  I don't know, but fuck Tom Brady.

The Colts became suspicious about the footballs and asked the referees to check them during the game. An investigation was launched, and there is tangible evidence the balls were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below what the league mandates.

2 POUNDS?  ARE YOU SURE IT WASN'T 1.7 POUNDS?  GET ED WERDER TO CAMP OUT OUTSIDE OF JIM CALDWELL'S HOUSE UNTIL WE GET SOME ANSWERS.

Obviously there are myriad unanswered questions. Were the balls properly checked by the officials before the game? Who monitored the Patriots' footballs on the sideline? When, if at all, were the balls that appeared underinflated then discarded or re-inflated? Is there any tangible evidence that someone on New England's sideline tampered with the balls?

That last one is a pretty relevant question, which I hate to admit, because the other three are so mind-numbingly stupid and 24 hour news cycle-y that I want to throw myself down a flight of stairs.  WHEN WERE THE BALLS UN-INFLATED OR RE-INFLATED OR SOMETHING?  WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THE COW THAT THE BALLS WERE EVENTUALLY MADE OUT OF?

Let's dispatch one ridiculous notion: The deflated balls are not why the Patriots are playing in the Super Bowl next weekend. New England completely dismantled Indianapolis in -- as a certain coach likes to say -- every phase of the game.

A little nod and a wink to those Masshole ESPN readers I've been talking about.  "Hey, just so you guys know, I love Belichick and the Pats just as much as you do.  Stay with me here, I'm just trying to get paid."

In a perfect football world, the Patriots 

would not exist, or would go 0-16 every year.

would be riding high in the wake of a surge of creativity that has set them apart in recent weeks.

Nope, I like mine better.

The Brady-to-Edelman-to-Amendola touchdown, the four-offensive-linemen formation and the touchdown pass to tackle Nate Solder were all evidence that New England had rediscovered its innovative, edgy persona.

Hey, cheating is often innovative and edgy too.  Let's not rule out the possibility of having it both ways.

Why can't the coach trust his players' talents and his own intellect and lean on the excellence of the organization 

Fuck the organization and fuck Bob Kraft.  There is no Patriot Way.  It's a fucking team, and it will employ cheaters and murderers just as readily as any other team.  It's had a lot of success recently because of Belichick and Brady.  If those two guys died in their sleep tonight, they'd lose the Super Bowl by 30 and be irrelevant for the next 15 years.  Let's stop patting "the organization" on the back for having generational talents (one of whom they stumbled ass-backwards into employing) holding the two most important jobs on a football team.

he has so painstakingly built into a sustainable football juggernaut? 

Because he likes winning.  Article over.

It's like a prizefighter pummeling his opponent for six straight rounds, then feeling compelled to throw a sucker punch after the bell has sounded. Why? You had the fight won.

No, it's really more like a prizefighter paying someone to poison his opponent's food before the bout even though the opponent was much weaker to begin with.  See how my analogy works and yours is terrible?

I'll say it again: There's no concrete evidence yet that Belichick or the Patriots did anything wrong. 

Yeah, we got it.  Thanks.

But even the most ardent New England fan has to concede that when 11 of the 12 balls are discovered to be deflated, that's a mighty interesting coincidence.

You're doing that thing that all bad sportswriters do where you just start wandering off and either restating your old points or not making any new ones.  Just finish up already.

If the NFL finds the Patriots culpable (and that is still a big "if" at this point),

HOLY FUCK, THAT'S THE EIGHTH TIME YOU'VE REMINDED US.  WE GET IT.

it should lay the hammer down. If Belichick turns out to be a repeat offender in the skirting of the league rules, he should be suspended for the Super Bowl.

MOLTEN LAVA HOT.  BE CAREFUL EVERYONE.

It's not about the deflated balls. It's not about how much of an advantage (if any) it provided the Patriots or Tom Brady.

Actually, had that laughably impossible outcome occurred, it would have been about exactly that advantage.  What the hell else would it be about?  The Patriots having insulted the league's officially licensed ball and pump manufacturers?

It's about the integrity of the sport 

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

The integrity of the NFL

Hahahahah

That's wonderful

I'm crying

and the arrogance of a football coach who, if guilty, will have once again shown that he thinks he is bigger than the game.

Well, he probably does think that, and it's probably true.

For years the Patriots have fostered an "Us Against the World" mentality, whether real or manufactured (usually it was the latter).

It's always the latter.  Drew Magary put it best in his Deadspin weekly column today: "The world doesn’t give a shit. Most of the world is just trying to fucking eat. Some farmer in Burundi isn’t gonna be like, “The Pats won? Well, they showed me!”"  I don't adore Magary like some do (enough about your goddamn kids, holy shit, enough), but that's a pretty great line.

No one was better at inventing slights to motivate his team than Harrison, who is convinced Belichick and the Patriots will utilize the furor surrounding this controversy to their advantage.

No they won't.  That is a dumb, cliched narrative.  They will instead just ignore it and go out and try to outplay Seattle, same as they would have if the big story this week was that Spygate was a complete invention by the league and never happened.

"I can tell you, this is the last thing Seattle needs,'' Harrison said recently. "Those guys in that New England locker room are pumped. After all the hard work they've put in, after all they've accomplished, after all they've done, to have people doubt them?

Fuck yourself, Rodney.

"They're taking that stuff personally. They're fired up. Add the fact Seattle was favored in the Super Bowl, and look out.''

Yeah, and almost immediately after the books opened, the line swung around to favor New England, where it has stayed.  THAT'S THE LAST THING THE PATRIOTS NEED.  THE SEAHAWKS ARE PISSED OFF.  IT'S THEM AGAINST THE WORLD.

He's right. There's nothing like controversy to band a team together and provide them with the extra resolve to prove their detractors wrong.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz God I hate football culture and the journalists who enable it.

But here's the hitch: Even if the Patriots beat the Seahawks 60-0 in Super Bowl XLIX, the win will be declared a tainted one by many. 

I know, it's going to be so fun to use this complete non-story as ammunition against dumb Patriots fans for decades to come.  "Sure, eventually they won another Super Bowl without being able to illegally tape other teams' practices, but that's only because they found a DIFFERENT way to cheat.  Smh."  (Last part should only be used if you are giving your snarky anti-Patriots hot taek in an online environment.)  Seriously, it's going to be great.

The noise will continue, and the chants of "Beli-cheat" will endure.

As they should, as long as we all promise to brainstorm a better and more insulting nickname.

The coach probably won't care, but it's not just his legacy that will be stained. His players also are saddled with the perception that something far more unseemly than their preparation and sacrifice were the reasons for their success.

I'm sure they'll really care while admiring their Super Bowl rings and cashing their bonus checks.

And that's the most deflating reality of all.

OH WOW.  I spent all this time making fun of this article, and then she drops a KILLER closing line on me.  God, I look like a fool now.  Should have just turned this post into a bunch of deflated/soft/mishandled balls (haha balls) jokes.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Murray Chass opines about the HOF results; is an ass


Well first of all, let me cram my fucking foot as far into my mouth as I can get it re: Simmons.  He only went 2-2 straight up in picking the divisional games last weekend, but he went 3-1 against the spread.  And much more importantly from the perspective of me and this angry blog, 1) he nailed his prediction for the GREATriots, correctly picking them to not cover but advance (in a game they really should have lost), and even better, 2) the one game he missed against the spread, and completely whiffed on straight up, was the Denver-Indy game.  As I've probably made clear, I'm a Denver fan.  So that was a really fun little cherry on top of a shit sports weekend.  MAYBE THEY LOST BECAUSE BILL JINXED THEM IN SAYING THEY'D WIN EASILY.  THAT MUST BE IT.  WHAT OTHER EXPLANATION IS THERE?  DAMN YOU SIMMONS YOU HAVE FOILED PEYTON AGAIN!  Anyways, fuck the Patriots and fuck John Fox.  I now hate all four teams remaining in the playoffs, but I hate the Patriots most of all, so besides go meteor, go Colts, I guess.  The good news is that if they move on, Seattle is going to toast them in the Super Bowl.  I hope.  MAYBE.

Moving along to things that make me slightly less angry, HOF voters managed to not totally fuck the dog, in electing four very deserving members to Cooperstown last week.  I mean, they still blew the dog and/or jerked off the dog by leaving Piazza and Bagwell out, but this was progress.  What does Murray Chass think about all this?  Caution: HOT TAEKS ahead.

As Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa sink slowly in tandem toward steroids oblivion, reprising their relationship in their electrifying home run derby of 1998 but in a different direction, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens run slowly in place, doomed to their personal Groundhog Day in baseball cleats. 

Or so Murray hopes.  He's already reneged on this promise, and I'm going to guess the reason is so that he can help continue to keep CHEATING CHEATERS who CHEAT and are BAD PEOPLE out of the Hall.  We'll know in a decade or so whether he succeeded.

Mike Piazza, meanwhile, is very likely headed, undeserved as it may be, 

DIE

to having the last laugh on his nemesis Clemens.

I'm surprised he admits defeat in his quest to keep Piazza unenshrined.

That, in brief, sums up my view of the results of this year’s voting for the Hall of Fame, 

I like how his view is entirely focused on five dudes who didn't get elected.  He doesn't give a shit about baseball greatness--he's just in it for the witch hunting.

[Dumb summary of the vote totals of McGwire and Sosa, who are TOTALLY GETTING WHAT THEY HAD COMING TO THEM MUHAHAHAHAHA ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD, omitted]

Bonds and Clemens aren’t in danger of falling off the face of the earth, but they aren’t in danger either of reaching the doors of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.  Voters have been remarkably consistent in their treatment of the pair. In their first two years on the ballot, Bonds and Clemens each received votes in the mid-30 percent, and that’s precisely where they wound up this week, 36.8 percent for Bonds, 37.5 percent for Clemens.  Each actually went up 2.1 percent, but with seven more chances, at that rate they won’t very likely get where they want to go.

I don't know--every year the electorate gets a little less curmudgeonly as people like Chass retire or die and are replaced by younger voters who are less likely to be fucking stupid.  I'm not aware of (nor could I find) any public opinion polls about how the baseball-following public generally feels about the Steroid Era, but I would wager that attitudes towards the accomplishments of its most accomplished players soften every year.  It sucks for Bonds and Clemens that they are victims of the reduced number of years on the ballot rule that was recently adopted, but I am still hopeful they both get elected (assholes though they are).

By the way, Chass's moralizing got even funnier this week when this news broke, which should remind everyone that not only does the HOF contain horrible shitty people, but it contains other people, like MacPhail, who are also guilty of compromising the integrity of the game.  That second fact is important, because of course the stock comeback from dipshits like Chass when you point out that Ty Cobb was a racist and an asshole and he's in the Hall so why shouldn't Bonds be is "But what Bonds did WAS AN AFFRONT TO BASEBALL ITSELF."  Even if that argument is granted, segregationists like MacPhail actively worked to block talented players from entering MLB for decades, and thus robbed fans of watching exciting players and better teams.  Just food for thought next time you read some asswiping-worthy scree about Bonds or Clemens.

There would seem to be a hardcore group of voters and no one else who ignore the steroids/HGH elements of their careers and believe Bonds and Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame even if they cheated and used illegal substances.

They've only been on the ballot three years, and those were three very crowded ballots.  I'd wager they start trending up next year, when the only sure thing new arrival is Griffey.

What puzzles me is the different vote totals for the pair. If a writer opts to ignore the cheating aspects of their careers, why doesn’t he or she vote for both? 

He actually did a piece on this, which I'm not going to link to and didn't read, because after reading a brief excerpt on HardballTalk my head almost exploded.  Go check it out if you want to read things that really dumb people think.

Yet this year 206 voted for Clemens, 202 for Bonds. Does that mean four voters have a different reason for believing that Bonds doesn’t belong in the Hall?

BBWA members are among the biggest cuntswabbers on earth.  I don't think a little inconsistency among their voting preferences for steroid era guys is anything to be surprised by.

Tim Raines’ vote total also was cause for excitement for some analysts. The outfielder went from 46.1 percent to 55.0, but a year ago he tumbled from 52.2 to 46.1. He has two more chances.

The departure of fringe guys like him from the ballot (even though he might get replaced by Jim Edmonds or Trevor Hoffman, who I think should be out and in, respectively) should also help Bonds and Clemens eventually.

I think the primary reason for the excitement for both Schilling and Raines was that they rank high on the lists of the practitioners of the monster metrics, 

Monster metrics?  That's actually a really cool and non-pejorative sounding name for it.  What happened to calling advanced stats "FWARP, GORP, and other made up computer numbers for nerds in their parents' basements"?

who seemed to be thrilled that the writers were finally starting to get it right where those two players are concerned.

Imagine that--the people who like analyzing baseball using the modern tools that EVERY MLB team are now using (at least to some extent--looking at you, Diamondbacks) to evaluate players would like HOF voters to follow in the steps of those teams.  You know, the ones with huge financial stakes in the success or failure of their franchises.  The ones who are generally (not always, but generally) the right entities to look to if you want to know how people are figuring out which baseball players are good.  Funny that.

Interestingly, while watching one of those shows, I saw a film clip from another show, in which Brian Kenny of MLB.com was arguing with Chris Russo, a talk show host, about which players belong in the Hall of Fame.

Chris "Mad Dog" Russo probably has a hard time tying his shoes and remembering his own birthday.  You do not want to be on his side in an argument, Murray.

Getting nowhere and becoming exasperated with Russo, Kenny, a major proponent of monster metrics, said, “Well, what basic methodology do you use to rate players?”

“I watch the games,” Russo said.

Really?  Do you watch ALL the games?  Would you vote for Raines for the HOF?  Why or why not?  How many of his games have you seen?  He played in over 2500 of them.  He had many 4 and 5 hit nights.  I'm sure he also had plenty of nights with no hits and an error or 2.  How would you know how good he really was unless you watched a statistically significant number of games from throughout every phase of his career, which I'm sure you haven't done?  Needless to say, "analysts" like Mad Dog should be punched in the face and then sent to live somewhere in Montana with no phone or internet service.

I have always avoided listening to Russo, who screams too much and too loud for my liking, 

Yes!  He's going to reach the conclusion that he and Russo have more in common than he originally thought, without realizing that the reason for that is they are both fucking morons!  Yes!

but in this instance, he won my allegiance. In four words, he made the case for those of us who prefer to judge players on what we see on the field, not on the computer screen.

It's glorious!  I told you that was about to happen!  I hope you believed me!

How should we judge Piazza, whose 69.9 percent puts him on the brink of walking into the Hall a year from now? Based on that vote, most writers don’t believe or even suspect that he used steroids. That is probably naïve of them.

One very vocal blogger named Murray Chass is utterly convinced that Piazza used steroids with only the most pathetic and flimsy evidence available to support this position.  That is probably fucking unprofessional and horrid of him.

Using the New York newspapers as a barometer, the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro wrote a column about Piazza in which he didn’t mention even the possibility of the catcher’s use of performance-enhancing drugs. 

WE NEED TO HEAR BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY!  THAT'S IRRESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM!  KIDS NEED TO BE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS ABOUT EVOLUTION AND CREATIONISM EQUALLY!  ALL NEWS STORIES ABOUT CONVICTED MURDERERS SHOULD ALSO CONTAIN INFORMATION ABOUT THE PEOPLE IN THEIR LIVES THEY WERE NICE TO!  THAT'S DEFINITELY THE WAY THINGS SHOULD WORK!  I'M ON METH RIGHT NOW!

If he doesn’t believe Piazza used them, why didn’t Vaccaro write that the accusations are baseless?

Oh my God.  If that alone doesn't raise your blood pressure a few points, this blog is not for you.  I want to go kick a tree after reading that.  It's so insanely idiotic.  THE PERSON WHO BLOGGED THAT LAST SENTENCE GETS A HALL OF FAME VOTE.  HOLY JESUS CHRIST ON A FERRIS WHEEL.  WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS PROCESS?

John Harper of the Daily News did not duck the issue.

Get ready for some courageous truth bombs!

“The problem is we can’t know for sure and there was so much whispering about Piazza and PEDs during his career that you can’t help but have at least some reservations about voting for him.

If you're dumb, yes.

“I heard some of it myself over the years from people in baseball, but in the end I don’t think it’s fair to deny a player the highest honor in baseball without more proof than there is on Piazza.
THERE IS NO PROOF.  NONE.  THERE IS ONLY RETARDED-ASS SPECULATION BASED ON ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE THAT AMOUNTS TO JUST AN ASS HAIR ABOVE "FUCKING NOTHING."

“So after withholding my vote for his first year of eligibility, as a statement of sorts on all the suspicion, I’ve voted for him the last two years. And it seems there are other voters taking a similar tack, feeling more compelled to vote for Piazza with each year that passes.”

This is what progress looks like in the BWAA.  I'd like to say mean things about John Harper, but you know what, the BWAA needs more John Harpers.  So I'll let it slide.

Harper quoted from Piazza’s 2013 autobiography, which in itself was controversial. 

No way!  I'm sure that had nothing to do with the publisher's desire to sell books!

Michael Bamberger, a fine writer from Philadelphia, was originally going to collaborate on the book with Piazza, but he withdrew from the project when Piazza declined to commit to being forthcoming about steroids.

Michael Bamberger is not solely a sportswriter, and when he does write about sports, he is a fucking golf writer.  As far as baseball is concerned, fuck him and fuck any opinions or suspicions he had or has.

When Piazza was writing the book with Lonnie Wheeler, I asked their Simon & Schuster editor if Piazza would include steroids in it. He said Piazza would cover the subject. He, of course, did not admit to using PEDs, saying training and diet were responsible for his bigger, more muscular body.

WHY DIDN'T HE JUST DENY IT IF HE HAS NOTHING TO oh wait, that's what he did.

Had he acknowledged a use of PEDs, he would have killed his chances of making the Hall of Fame, which he desperately wanted to do and now is in position to do.

Conclusion: If Murray Chass says a guy used steroids based solely on Murray claiming that guy had back acne at one point, from that point on we can't trust anything the guy says, because the guy is obviously lying about those steroids he obviously took.  Makes sense.

The New York Times mentioned Piazza and steroids in the same story, and that was by far my favorite. On at least two occasions, maybe three, during Piazza’s years with the New York Mets (1998-2005), 

Glad to hear you're super sure about how this all went down.

as a baseball writer and columnist for The New York Times, I wanted to write about Piazza and the possibility that he had used steroids.

I wonder what Piazza did to Chass to put Chass on this stupid crusade?  My guess: failed to give Chass a juicy quote for a story and brushed him off because he needed to be at some stupid charity event when Chass REALLY was running up against deadline.

However, I was told I could not because Piazza hadn’t tested positive for steroids use and hadn’t been named anywhere as a suspected user.

THE EDITOR WAS IN ON THIS CONSPIRACY TOO.  WAKE UP SHEEPLE

An article in the Times Wednesday cited Piazza’s 427 career home runs and .308 batting average and said, “Those are standout numbers. But in an era in which the voting is shadowed by baseball’s entanglement with steroids, Piazza has suffered from the perception, among some writers, that he might have been a user, although no evidence has emerged that he was.”

Subtext: some writers (by which I mean bloggers like Murray Chass) are unprofessional fuckheads who should never be listened to.

The article was written by Jay Schreiber, who was the editor who said I couldn’t write about Piazza and steroids.

And then, like his previous post I wrote about last month, the blog post just ends.  Was that supposed to be a SPINE TINGLING conclusion or something?  MY GOD.  JAY SCHREIBER SEEMS NOT TO HAVE CHANGED HIS POSITION ON FLIMSY STEROID ACCUSATIONS AT ALL.  CONNECT THE DOTS YOU FOOLS!  IT'S ALL RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!  

Murray Chass is a fundamentally bad person.  Do not be like him.