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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

MLB Umpires

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

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Is it just me, or does it seem like someone took a nasty piss in the collective corn flakes of Major League Baseball umpires. First Balking Bob Davidson gets in an argument with Carl Crawford and Joe Maddon that would embarrass even the most belligerent drunk buffoon at a bar, then the embarrassing and pathetic Joe West tossed Mark Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen after calling Buehrle for two balks and generally making a spectacle of himself, and now Bill Hohn has gone looking for a fight, tossing out Astros ace Roy Oswalt in yesterday’s game. What is going on? I’m somewhat tempted to think this all started when West took the liberty to call the Yankees and Red Sox “embarrassing and pathetic” for their slow pace of play at the beginning of the year, something that’s just completely indefensible coming from an official, but the truth is, all of these guys have long track records with this sort of thing, particularly for Hohn and West, and nothing has ever happened to them before. Indeed, West is President of the world umpire’s union. So really, why shouldn’t they do this sort of thing? They know good and well nothing is going to happen to them. If Hohn can survive brazenly antagonizing the Braves, including calling time-out himself to go argue with a manager in the dugout, what can’t he survive?

Baseball umpires get a lot of flak for blown calls and odd missing balls and strikes. God knows I’ve criticized them for that multiple times. There are varying degrees of thought as to how bad the problem is, and that’s fine. But this isn’t about blown calls or idiosyncratic strike zones, it’s about the professional conduct of officials. That ought to be non-negotiable. Can you imagine an NFL official criticizing a team for passing too much, causing more clock stoppages than a team who runs the ball 30 times a game? Or an NBA official calling a time-out to stop and argue a foul call with a coach sitting on his bench? Of course not, because these officials would be fired immediately afterwards. And they should, because this sort of thing damages the integrity of the game. And not just because it calls into question the official’s credibility (and it does), but because it can have actual effects on the game. Roy Oswalt getting ejected forces the Astros to go to an inferior reliever, and makes them over-tax their bullpen as well, something that will affect their game-management for a week or more. Let me repeat that, a decision made by an umpire will have effects on games played for the next week.

Officials wield a lot of power on a baseball field, they need to wield that power judiciously. Games, to say nothing of seasons, should not turn on the bad attitude of an umpire on a power trip. Additionally, this isn’t good for the umpires either. Baseball umpires get enough criticism for missed calls, and several people probably aren’t giving them enough credit for doing the difficult job their taxed with. And nothing is hurting the umpire who maybe makes an honest mistake on a call, but nonetheless conducts himself with professionalism and integrity at all times than the Hohns and Wests of the world carrying on like arrogant buffoons. More than just baseball, those umpires, as well as the umpires union, need to speak out and marginalize these bad apples, for the good of the game, as well as their own.

On Manny

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

I will admit, I probably wouldn’t have guessed Manny Ramirez was using PED’s if you asked me. He never really seemed that bulky, never really exhibited common symptoms, and frankly, never seemed to care enough to bother with it. Manny always looked like hitting was effortless to him, and like the game was just fun. I would have leaned toward the view that A-Rod was clean as well, but I wouldn’t have had much trouble imagining him shooting up either. Not so much with Manny.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that baseball’s steroid hysteria is nothing but an attempt to take another crack at union busting, after the efforts to break the MLBPA failed in the early 1990’s. That’s why the Mitchell Report made little note of ownership’s complicity in the prevalence of steroids in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and why baseball officials have seeded “rumors” that “union officials” were tipping off players to upcoming drug tests. From a PR standpoint, they’re playng on the inate resentment fans feel for players who are making a lot of money to do something most of them (the fans) wish they could do, even for less money. That’s the sentiment you hear expressed about how the legends of yesteryear “did it for the love of the game,” never mind that most of them hated the reserve clause that kept their salaries artificially low, and embraced free agency when it finally came around, and forced owners who wanted to compete to pay players a fair market value. And as an aside, let me say that while he might have been a stupid, overbearing, egotistical son of a bitch, George Steinbrenner deserves a lot of credit for embracing free agency early on, and killing any attempts at collusion ownership might have attempted before it could even start.

So far as numbers are concerned, there’s really no other way to explain the phenomenon. Lots of records were broken a generation or two ago. Roger Maris broke Bae Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961, Hank Aaron broke his career home run record in 1975, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record in 1986, and so on. The difference between these guys and today’s players, for the most part, was money. Records broken before free agency were broken by guys who were still being paid a pittance of what they were worth, because of a regulation that bordered on legalized slavery. Rose is an exception, breaking Cobb’s record about a decade after free agency became a reality, but Rose was generally regarded as a guy who managed to produce above his natural talent level by sheer force of “hustle,” always the kind of guy fans like to see, because they’re easier to live vicariously through.

And then you have the really ridiculous aspects of the way writers employ a double standard to the issue. I love Andy Pettite, but the guy was named in the Mitchell Report, and you never here it mentioned, or if it is, it’s mostly to explain why “it’s different.” Same for Brian Roberts, Paul Lo Duca (who sounds like a narco-trafficer in the Mitchell Report), etc. And don’t get me started on the “old-timers.” Nolan Ryan had a sudden resurrgence after he turned 38 years old, even as he moved to a very hitter friendly park in Arlington, in the late 1980’s. Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,632 straight games, most of them in the 80’s. I’m not saying these guys used steroids, if for no other reason than that there’s no way to prove it, but we know there were steroids in baseball at this time, there was no testing whatsoever for them, there was no real “hard” rule against them, and so on. If either of them were playing today, especially if they were Hispanic, it would just be widely assumed that they were juicing.

Let Them Have Premium Yankees Tickets!

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

This is a whole new level of stupid for Sirota. I don’t even know where to start with it, so I’ll just list my grievances in list form:

1. For Yankee Stadium, as one of Sirota’s commentors pointed out, the city issued tax free bonds, which are cheaper than direct funds, which is how most new stadiums receive subsidies. Perhaps that doesn’t make it any better in Sirota’s eyes (or yours), but it certainly seems worth noting.

2. Sirota focuses only on premium seats to argue that you could never, ever, afford a ticket if you’re not a Wall Street player, which is a little like arguing that, because there are bottles of wine in the world that sell for $50,000+, the working class could never dream of having a glass of wine. Of course, the presence of really expensive wine doesn’t mean that there aren’t more affordable bottles out there, and the fact that the high dollar seats at Yankee Stadium go for an astronomical sum doesn’t mean there aren’t more reasonably priced seats available. You’ve also got to adjust for New York City price levels.

(On a side note, I think this is what annoys me the most when people bitch about baseball ticket costs. Honestly, you don’t have a right to a first base box seat that’s priced to your budget. You may, in fact, have to sit in an outfield seat, or even a higher deck. It’s not the end of the world, and you’re not the victim of some cosmic injustice because of it.)

3. Good on his commentors, and Rob Farley, for hammering Sirota for complaining about infrastructure improvements to accomodate the stadium. Aside from Sirota’s rank hypocrisy, this doesn’t even make sense. As Farley notes, if you want to have a successful mass transit system, then you need transit lines that service the place large volumes of people want to go. If you aren’t providing easy access to a stadium that ~45,000 are going to 85 times a year, give or take, then you’re going to see an influx of traffic into the area on those days, you’re going to need to devote a large amount of space for game day parking, etc. Which is to say that, even if the Steinbrenners had put up every penny for the stadium themselves, the city would still have needed to improve the transit infrastructure servicing Yankee Stadium (and Citi Field for that matter).

Aren’t you glad MSNBC didn’t hire Sirota to host a show? Now if we could only get CNN and Maddow to stop inviting him onto their programs.

Sunday Sports Blogging: Opening Day

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

And it’s about damn time. Finally, we can stop spending our sports time obsessing over amateur basketball. And of course, the new season demands predictions, which I’ll put behind the jump.


Obligatory NCAA Tournament Post

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

So right now, I’m watching some school I’ve never heard of outplay one of the 4 or 5 best teams in the country. ZOMG! Anything can happenz!!1!

Except, really, it doesn’t. In this game, for example, Robert Dozier had 3 fouls in the first 21 minutes of the game. As a result, Cal State Northridge is getting to the line a lot and Memphis is playing soft on the inside. The faster pace and weaker defense is making Cal State Northridge far more competitive than they should be. And that’s a pretty common thread running through NCAA tournament games, and it’s why people picking big man based teams like Pittsburgh and Oklahoma probably won’t do that well in their pools.

(Belated) Sunday Sports Blogging: Collusion?

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

I’ve long maintained that the decline of political media pretty well tracks the decline of sports media. Long story short, there aren’t that many “games” people care about in the grand scheme of things, so most of the time you have to find other ways to fill the airtime on your network. That means you can either re-run the same highlights over and over, or you can bring people in to talk about the “games.” And those people can either all say the same thing, or you can find people, like Skip Bayless, who exist to do nothing but say obviously stupid things in the name of creating a controversy that can be argued about. And since that makes the best television, that’s what you’ll get.

So with that in mind, it’s not particularly surprising that I see the shouting heads on ESPN throwing out the word “collusion” in regard to the New England-Kansas City Matt Cassel/Mike Vrabel for the 34th pick trade. It makes a lot of sense on the face of it, Cassel had a decent year at the quarterback position, so you might think he had more value than a 2nd round pick, but that’s bunk. The bottom line on this is pretty simple; the draft is everything in the NFL, first round draft picks have an incredibly high value to teams, and Matt Cassel has only put up one year, with a lot of talent around him. Teams don’t know if Matt Cassel can replicate last season, especially on a team like Kansas City where he’s going to have much less talent, especially on the offensive line, than what he had to work with in New England.

It’s also important to remember that New England had absolutely no leverage here whatsoever. It’s a basic rule of negotiating that, in order to get a good deal, you have to be willing to walk away from the table. If the other team knows that you won’t, or can’t not make a deal, then they’ll just wait you out until you cave. And, in this case, New England couldn’t say no. They still have a guy named Tom Brady on their team, and with the franchise tag had committed $12 million, all against the cap this coming season, to Cassel to carry a clipboard unless Brady gets hurt. Everyone knows that New England couldn’t afford that, and so they absolutely had to trade Cassel. And that’s going to drive the price down for him. In reality, New England was fairly lucky to get the 2nd pick in the 2nd round, as well as dumping Vrabel’s salary, in moving him.

Finally, color me highly skeptical of the rumors about Denver’s involvement in the matter. It makes for interesting fodder on ESPN, and I don’t doubt that Josh McDaniels might have wanted to do the deal, but anyone who actually believes that management in Denver was going to swap Jay Cutler for Matt Cassel, when Cutler is a better, more proven, quarterback, and give up the 13th pick in the draft on top of downgrading at quarterback, is a fucking idiot.

Sunday Sports Blogging: Going to the Well Once Too Often

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

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Watching the NBA coverage on ABC over the last half hour or so, I’m reminded how tired I am of the pervasive excuse for everything that seems wrong in sports at the moment; “The Economy.” The latest thing The Economy seems to be to blame for is the lack of activity at the NBA trading deadline. Well pardon my French, but that’s just bullshit, and not very good bullshit at that.

First of all, some context. It was always insane to expect another deadline like last years, or to expect the flurry of All-Stars changing teams that pervaded the NBA since roughly the time Allen Iverson was traded to the Nuggets to the time he was traded to Detroit. There is a reason, after all, that we say the NBA stands for No Balls Association, and it was last year, not this year, that was the outlier.

As it pertains to the shortage of major deals, allow me to offer a much simpler explanation; the league’s top teams are more or less happy with the teams they have. There’s no need for the Lakers to go out an acquire a Pau Gasol this year. Cleveland is happy with the way their team is playing, and sees no reason to make any major changes. Boston is contending for the top seed in the East again. San Antonio is confident they can still compete in the playoffs if healthy. Orlando did go out and fill their only glaring need, getting Rafer Alston to replace the injured Jameer Nelson for the rest of the year. And there were some fairly important deals made. The Shawn Marion for Jermaine O’Neal makes both the Raptors and the Heat better immediately, and represents a major gamble on the part of the Heat. It also blows up the idea that the economy is looming that large in teams’ minds, as O’Neal is scheduled to make $25 million+ next season.

On the other hand, there just weren’t any big names on the trading block. Amare Stoudamire was never going to get traded, especially once Phoenix canned Terry Porter and brought back the 7 second offense. Chris Bosh wasn’t leaving Toronto, if he wasn’t being replaced with Amare. The one big name that was somewhat likely to move, Shaquille O’Neal to Cleveland, fell through because Cleveland is happy enough with their team this season that they don’t need to give up Wally Sczerbiak’s $13.8 million expiring contract, and there was no reason for Phoenix to swap the All-Star O’Neal for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic if it was only going to free up $5.5 million in cap space.

The question I’m left with then is why, exactly the economy is getting trotted out so often, and the most likely answer seems to be that management is going to use it as a club against players. Reporters are reporting what they’re hearing from executives, after all, so it’s general managers and so forth who are trotting out The Economy as the excuse for all of these things. David Stern is already using it as an excuse to lower the salary cap, even though it’s hard to understand what that has to do with anything. If teams don’t have the money to spend on players, they won’t spend it and players won’t get paid. There’s no need to reduce the salary cap in that situation. It is convenient, however, to use it as a public excuse to drop the cap and artificially force down players’ salaries, putting more money in management’s pockets. And I suspect that’s what you’re seeing in the NBA, and I expect Major League Baseball to use a similar line of reasoning to further agitate for forcing a salary cap on the players.

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