FIRE JOE MORGAN: 02.06

FIRE JOE MORGAN

Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

FJM has gone dark for the foreseeable future. Sorry folks. We may post once in a while, but it's pretty much over. You can still e-mail dak, Ken Tremendous, Junior, Matthew Murbles, or Coach.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

 

The Most Geniusest, Hilariousest, Bestish Post About Hyperbole, Ever


There's encyclopedic knowledge inside this man, everything he knows ...


Who do you think we're talking about here? Bill Gates? Some sort of male version of Marilyn Vos Savant? Dick Wikipedia? Wait. The sentence begins an article written by a guy named Rich Draper. And it's on mlb.com. And in its entirety, it looks like this:

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's encyclopedic knowledge inside this man, everything he knows -- and was never afraid to ask -- about playing the outfield.

Uh oh. This is starting to smell a little funny. Sort of puff-piece-y. I'm still open to guesses, though. Willie Mays? Ichiro's dad who happens to be visiting Scottsdale, Arizona for some reason?

Giants center fielder Steve Finley has a master's degree in physics on the infinite art of snaring fast-flying objects, where hand-eye coordination and foot speed are merely basic elements.

Oh, Lordy lord lord f. Steve Finley? Fun fact: if you Google

steve finley defense

you get, on the first page of results, phrases like

"Finley’s defense had already gone south,"
"
Finley's defense last season was likely in the -10 range,"
"
Finley will actually hurt the already bad San Francisco outfield defense," and
"
Finley's defense has really slipped."

That last phrase comes from an article written in 2004.
I'm not kidding. Try it. Unlike most fun facts, this one is actually fun to verify.

Oh yeah, you have to run after the ball like a border collie chasing a Frisbee, but Finley can spend hours discussing every brain-firing synapse involved in outfield play, aspects of the game akin to Einstein's E=mc2 theory.

What? I'm not even angry about the hyperbole here (okay, that is an absolute lie); what the hell is he talking about? As far as I know, a synapse is a junction between two neurons, between which electrical or chemical signals are passed. How can a synapse fire a brain? (Fun fact: if you Google for "brain-firing synapse" (with quotes) you get zero results.) Never mind the 5th-grade level "Einstein is my go-to smart guy and I only know one scientific equation" comparison.

An acknowledged pro's pro outfielder,

Again, what? This is clumsy. Acknowledged by whom? Other pros? Isn't that implicit in the phrase "pro's pro"? Which is itself a meaningless cliche?

the 17-year veteran and five-time Gold Glove Award winner returns to the National League -- after a season's hiatus in Anaheim -- with San Francisco for 2006, and he brings with him information on West division hitters that he stores on his inner PDA.

He also brings with him a sweet .271 OBP from last year (and an OPS+ of 73). But we're talking about his fielding, sorry. No, wait, you're going to mention his offense now.

An early shoulder injury hampered Finley's offense last year, but the two-time All-Star is healthy now, and he's three homers away from joining Willie Mays as the only players in baseball to compile at least 425 doubles, 100 triples, 300 homers and 300 stolen bases in a career.

Ah, the legendary 425-100-300-300 Club. Mr. 425-100-300-300 is the title of the sequel to Mr. 3000, I believe. Those numbers are horrendously arbitrary.

It's Finley's defense, though, that causes jaws to drop. The man is a complete package, and he doesn't mind saying it.

Last year, according to Baseball Prospectus, Finley was 1 run below average as a center fielder.

"I feel there [are] guys who can hit more home runs than me, guys who can run faster than me or are better than me in center field, but I don't know if there [are] too many guys who can put it together more than I can," said Finley, who turns 41 on March 12.

Yes, yes, yes, and in fact, yes there are, Steve Finley. Oh, you were a fine player in the mid- to late Nineties, and even managed a few good seasons in the early Aughts. But honestly, at 41, no one expects you to be even marginally better than a replacement player. In any facet of the game. Also, here is my list of guys who can "put it together" more than you can:

Andruw Jones
Grady Sizemore
Jim Edmonds
Johnny Damon
Carlos Beltran
Torii Hunter
Brady Clark
Vernon Wells
Coco Crisp
Aaron Rowand
Brad Wilkerson
Juan Pierre
Gary Matthews, Jr.
David DeJesus
Pretty much every starting MLB center fielder
Many AAA center fielders
A handful of AA guys, any position
Some Japanese dudes? Probably
I hear there's some guys in Turkey who play on the weekend like twice a year

"Especially the knowledge of how to play hitters," he said, "knowing where they like to hit the ball on 2-0 counts, 0-2 counts, with guys in scoring position, different situations of the game. It just goes on and on, and I don't have to think about it. It just happens."

Wow. He really thinks he's awesome.

Finley has seen, heard and felt thousands and thousands of airborne baseballs, and there are veterans who claim the new Giant can manipulate gravity -- absolutely will it -- to make balls land in his soft Wilson gamer glove.

Who are these veterans? I demand a list. I will post it at TheFollowingMLBPLayersThinkSteveFinleyIsAMagicalBeingCapableOfTelekinesis.com

The article goes on and on, but I've lost the will to continue commentary. I'll leave you with this:

"Some teams look good on paper, and this is one of them," he says. "We've got a lot of great young talent and veterans who can play. That's the big key for us."

I actually really like the way he finishes that first sentence. So often you hear "some teams look good on paper" and then the person says, "but the GAMES are played on the FIELD," as if that's some sort of revelation. Oh, the FIELD!! That's where they play the GAMES of BASEBALL that I'm watching!!

I do, however, take issue with his claim that the Giants look all that good on paper. Plus, the "big key" for you is that you have a lot of great young talent and veterans who can play? That is the most generic big key I've ever heard. You know what my "big key" is for the Yankees, a team that will be awesome? Their baseball ability. That will be the key.

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posted by Junior  # 9:11 PM
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Sunday, February 26, 2006

 

Fox News Replacement Host David Asman Does Not Check His First-Half / Second-Half Splits!


Believe it or not, non-sports-related-news-broadcaster David Asman, sitting in for Neil Cavuto on Your World with Neil Cavuto, said some pretty inaccurate things about former Mets pitcher Kris Benson's performance in the second half of 2005. He was interviewing harpy freakshow Anna Benson, because that's newsworthy for some reason:


ASMAN: Now -- now -- now, a lot of people say -- or make the suggestion, sometimes very blatantly, that you are partly responsible for your husband leaving the New York Mets and going to Baltimore, because of some of the things you have said, some of the things you have done. What do -- how do you respond to that?

BENSON: You know, I don't really know what the truth is. You know, the Mets have said to me that was not the case, that it was simply a trade.

ASMAN: But your husband was doing pretty well at the Mets --

BENSON: He was doing well.

ASMAN: -- particularly in the last half of the season.

Kris Benson, pre-ASB, 2005:
ERA 3.65, WHIP 1.20

Kris Benson, post-ASB, 2005:
ERA 4.55, WHIP 1.31

Check your splits, David Asman. We're watching you.

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posted by Junior  # 5:45 PM
Comments:
"Asman?" More like "Jerk-Man!"
 
"Asman?" More like "Ass-Jerk!"
 
"Asman?" More like "Jerk-Jerk!"
 
0110101101001101001001010010.
 
0110101101001101001001010010 MORE LIKE 0110101101001101001001010011 ... ZZZZZZZ ... END TASK
 
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Friday, February 24, 2006

 

Welcome To Larry's World


Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen: Larry Beil has entered the arena.

Barry Bonds is retiring after this season … or he might play another five years. Barry's body is wracked with pain … or he feels great. So what's true here? With Bonds, the answer is all of the above.


I know what he means. But no, it is impossible that all of this is true. It can't be true that he's retiring after this season and he might play another five years.

It was classic Bonds this past week, with Barry fueling dueling headlines, supplying quotes about his imminent demise and his bright future.

I'm sorry -- fueling headlines? Bonds did that? I get that people hate Barry Bonds. I'm fine with that, even though I root for the guy. I don't care that he did steroids, I don't even really care that he's pretty clearly kind of a dick. That's just me. What I don't get is how people who hate Bonds can accuse him of "headline fueling," when they're the ones writing the stories. You did this, Larry Biel; you wrote the headline on the Yahoo! sports homepage. You're saying he's fueling headlines because, over the course of the week, he was sort of duplicitous? And now you're going to write an article which is promoted on the Yahoo! MLB front page as "an exercise in futility"? I guess that's one way to go about things.

Major League Baseball is trying to distance itself from the steroid era, so Bonds eclipsing 755 is not necessarily a good thing. But tying Aaron would be perfect. MLB would get the excitement of another chase at history and Aaron would still hold a share of the title. Bonds would get his glory. Those who love him can cheer and those who loathe him can boo what they'd view as a tainted record.

Larry, you genius! Here's a phone tree -- you start with Selig, get him and his cronies to be mum about the conspiracy. I'll start calling pitchers in the NL West, make sure they know the arrangement. Junior, Ken and Murbles will deal with Felipe Alou, Bob Costas and Hank Aaron. Since it's such a perfect plan, and as you noted, Bonds would get his glory, I doubt we even need to get in touch with Barry himself to let him know what's up. Seven fifty-five it is.

Well played, Beil! Your move, Mr. Kasparov.

posted by dak  # 4:38 PM
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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

 

Jay "Snore"

Get it? Jay "Snore"? Does anyone know who I'm talking about? Hello? Forget it. I hate everyone. Anyway, Jay Mohr has a new article up called "A giant snore," and he's not talking about the pun in the title of a an Internet blog post written long after his article was published. No, he's talking about the very serious issue of NBA All-Star Weekend, and how this Grandaddy of All Important Sporting Events just ain't what it used to be, back in the good ol' days, back when players didn't jump while they shot and everyone played in loafers and top hats.

Hey, here's his subhead:

NBA All-Star Game and 'events' have become a joke

Okay, the Shooting Stars thing was pretty much a joke. Also, the celebrity game. It's not like I loved every second of All-Star Weekend. Come on -- the events included Clyde Drexler shooting half-court shots and Bow Wow and Christopher Meloni playing a game of pickup. The point is -- for the most part, it's not even supposed to be NOT a joke. Let's get to the article.

Was the NBA All-Star Game on this year?

Yes. You either watched it or read about it extensively, enough so that you gathered a bunch of facts that you wrote about in this article. Plus, you cared about it so much you decided to write an indignant, old-bitter-sportswriter-style column about how it has to change to be more like it used to be in some hypothetical dream world universe that you made up.

I must have missed it. Maybe it was because there was just too much great television to watch instead of the NBA's mid-winter classic. Like reruns of 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray on the Food Network or that show on Telemundo where the guy dresses up in a bumblebee costume.

Very current reference. How many years has The Simpsons been doing the Channel Ocho Bumblebee Guy? My uniformed guess is 13 years. Possibly more.

For years the NBA All-Star Game has been completely irrelevant.

I agree, except I would take out the words "for years." All All-Star Games are irrelevant, unless you count the sort of stupid rule in baseball where the league that wins an exhibition game gets to host the World Series. They're All-Star games. They're shows. They're exhibitions. Complaining about their relevance is like going to the circus and saying "I didn't learn anything and nothing was at stake even though I really enjoyed the lions!"

Long ago, fans began tuning out the league's best players playing bad basketball. For too long the stars have embraced an all-offense and no-defense approach, and this is one of the many reasons it has become unwatchable.

All offense and no defense, huh? Mohr must remember all those All-Star Games of yore, where Michael locked down Magic like his life depended on it and Cousy played airtight defense on George Mikan or that one time that Dr. James Naismith made the guys play with the lid still on the peach basket. Unwatchable? When has it been watchable? This year the final score was East 122, West 120. Did Mohr prefer the classic 1998 tilt, when Michael Jordan was MVP and the final was 135-114, East? Or perhaps he enjoyed Magic Johnson's performance in 1992, when the West won 153-113? Oh, he's probably an 80's guy. How about 1987, when the final was West 154, East 149? Phenomenal defense in that one. More of a 70's aficionado? Great. In 1970, the East beat the West 142-135, and Willis Reed won the MVP. 1961: 153-131. 1958: 130-118. That's pretty much the entire history of the game.

Jay Mohr: the NBA All-Star Game is not about defense.

At the end of the game this year, guys buckled down and tried to win. That happens every year. It's not a surprise. LeBron even fouled Tracy McGrady on the last shot while trying to play tight defense on him. They just didn't call it. Everyone knows the first 43 minutes or so are the time to throw alley-oop dunks off the backboard to yourself. Then you play some defense. Hey, in 24 minutes, Ben Wallace had 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. He was playing some D.

If you disagree with me, then explain why the All-Star Game was shown on TNT, sandwiched between Steven Seagal movies. It's because it stinks.

There are a variety of factors. Every major sport is declining in television ratings (except maybe football). There are a lot more options out there, and people are availing themselves of them. NASCAR is more popular than a lot of the sports that you, Jay Mohr, probably think are bigger and more important. The Daytona 500 got better ratings than some of the World Series games. Does that mean that auto racing is better than baseball? No. People like different things. And yes, I'm aware that you're sort of, kind of making a joke because you mentioned the name Steven Seagal. My point is: popularity does not equal quality, and I don't care what network a show is on.

The "events" that lead up to the game stink too. The slam dunk contest is a perennial snore.

The dunk contest was insanely popular when Michael and Dominique were trading 50's in the 80's. Then it sucked for awhile. Then Vince Carter was amazing in 2000. Then it sucked for awhile again. I thought it was pretty entertaining this year. Iguodala's off-the-backboard dunk would have broken people's brains in the 80's. Seriously, if he had done that in 1989, I believe the city of Houston would have been burned down by people running out of the arena thinking they had just seen an alien.

Why do we celebrate a dunk contest, anyway?

Because it's fun to watch guys dunk. If you don't agree, I think you are borderline crazy. Tell me it's not entertaining to see a 5'9" guy jump over a 5'7" previous dunk champ and hammer down. Why do we go to a museum to look at fucking paintings of a pond of lily pads or whatever the fuck? That last sentence didn't really prove my point.

Aren't these players paid to make dunks?

Ugh. No, they're paid to play basketball. Some guys in the league can dunk, and a smaller number of those can do it in a really entertaining way over and over again. Does this really have to be explained? Rhetorical questions with easy answers do not equal comedy.

Isn't the slam dunk contest akin to the NHL having an "open net" contest?

Yes, if NHL players could shoot at the net while jumping in the air and turning 360 degrees and throwing the stick between their legs twice. Or if Sidney Crosby jumped over Bobby Orr and then took a shot. I think people would pay to see that.

I would much rather watch a three-point shootout, and I am sure Spud Webb would also.

Spud Webb probably loves watching dunk contests. I mean, loves. Did you see how happy everybody was watching the dunk contest on Saturday? He won one, remember? Jesus.

After all the concerts and uncontested three-pointers and dunks, the actual "game" was played. What a thrill this must have been to the fans who slapped down hundreds of dollars of hard-earned money to watch Kevin Garnett shoot 1-for-9 and the West and East shoot (with no defense) a whopping 46 and 50 percent, respectively.

First of all, All-Star Games are filled with media and businessperson-types who go see like one game a year. Who cares if they didn't get their money's worth? Most of them didn't pay anyway. And again, who the hell wants to see defense in an All-Star Game? People always complain about this, but NO ONE LIKES SEEING 84-79 NBA GAMES.

The NBA needs to spend less time putting together rap concerts at halftime and more time putting together a great game.

This makes him sound like a racist.

Maybe the league needs to follow in the footsteps of Major League Baseball and give home court advantage to the winner. Maybe then the players would guard someone. Maybe then the dunk contest and three-point shootouts would return to what they were intended to be -- entertaining events that precede a basketball classic.

How would that change make the dunk contest or the three-point shootout better? I don't understand. Maybe the guy's team who wins the three-point shootout should get an extra win in the standings? No, wait, that would be terrible.

Now what we are forced to watch is something very different. Each year we have to sit through somewhat entertaining events that lead up to a basketball snore. If the league continues to endorse the shoot-first, -second and -third version of the All-Star Game, they will be lucky to have TNT as its network. Maybe next year the All-Star Game could be on Telemundo right after that guy in the bumblebee suit.

BOOM -- CALLBACK!!! (Mohr throws down his microphone and stalks off the stage)

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posted by Junior  # 7:30 PM
Comments:
If Mr. Mohr wants to see "team play" and defense, he is cordially invited to watch the Bucknell-Princeton first-round match-up in this year's NCAA tourney, which, I am guessing, will be a 38-35 affair. The very idea that there should be more defense in the NBA All-Star Game is so gargantuanly stupid. Almost as stupid as that Bumblebee guy on Telemundo -- what is the deal with that guy?
 
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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

 

A Gene Wojciechowski Two-fer!

ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski seems to be gunning for the crown of "World's Bitterest Old White Dude," a title held since time immemorial by one Jonathon Edward "Skip" Bayless of Cold Pizza, a show which, I kid you not, is still on the air. (By the way, that non-traditional spelling of "Jonathon" is, according to Wikipedia, sic).

The targets of his last two posts? None other than every 55 year-old sportswriter's favorite fish in a barrel, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. Now, I'm aware of all of the negative things one can say about these guys. Mostly because they've been repeated ad nauseam by every low-level internet sports columnist with a sufficient level of misplaced indignation. Guys. We get it. You don't like Bonds and Sosa. You think they are selfish, morally questionable, egocentric millionaires who have the audacity to be better than David Eckstein. Can we move on now? Apparently not.

Part 1: Sammy Sosa's Love For the Game

In his Feb. 17th column, GW writes that he, for one, doesn't believe Sosa's agent's claims that Sammy is likely retired. He writes:

Sosa, who is less accessible these days than Dick Cheney, could have signed a non-guaranteed $500,000 deal with the Washington Nationals, but decided to take a pass. Katz said the decision "was not a money issue," which means it had everything to do with the Benjamins. Whenever anyone in sports says it's not about the money ... it's about the money.

First of all, great reference. Both topical and hilarious. Secondly, GW, your point here is a little bit murky. You say it's about the money, but doesn't Sammy's choice to retire prove that, in fact, it's not about the money? Meaning, since he already has millions, is there really a need for him to go out there and play for any amount of money with a body that seems to be breaking down more and more every day? You'll probably say "He should do it for the love of the game," but if I'm Sammy Sosa, the game's probably not all that fun when you're in constant pain and there are funny-named sportswriters out there attacking you for retiring from baseball. Also, as to your last sentence, you must have known when you wrote it that it is patently untrue/dumb. A man named Tony Gwynn comes to mind. Also Curt Schilling. And also, ironically, Barry Bonds.

I know Sosa well enough to know he is a man of immense pride and ego. That pride and ego is why Sosa pouted when Dusty Baker had no choice but to drop him in the Chicago Cubs batting order during the 2004 season. It's why he ditched the Cubs on the final day of the '04 season -- and then lied about it. It's why you probably could steam a clam on Sosa's forehead these days.

"Steam a clam on Sosa's forehead?" Really? You're gonna go with that? Okay, man, good luck. Anyway, yes, Sammy Sosa, does have a huge ego. You would too if you knew that you were one of the five greatest home run hitters of all time. And you'd probably be a little pissed off to be having as un-Sosa-like of a season as he did in 2004 (and 2005, for that matter). And also, it doesn't take a huge ego to not get along with Dusty Baker, a crazy person.

There are rumors the New York Yankees might stick their pinstripes in the Sosa waters. If that happens, alert FEMA for disaster relief. Can you imagine how fast Yankees fans will turn on Sosa after a few O-fers?

Ha ha ha ha ha! A FEMA joke! Classic! Do one about Judge Ito! No, wait...Lewinsky, dude! Do a Lewinsky joke! Oh, man! FEMA! So true...so true...

There are no guarantees in sports, which is why Katz's remarks about Sosa's refusing to subject himself to the "possibility" of another 2005-like season are almost laughable.

You say 37 year-old millionaire Sammy Sosa should accept an almost minimum value non-guaranteed contract coming off a year in which he missed 60 games due to injuries, injuries which could allow a non-guaranteed contract to be voided at any time. I say, what is laughable about walking away from that?

Baseball is a game predicated on failure. If Sosa has doubts -- and Katz said he does -- then the $500,000 Nationals offer was too generous.

Wait, so now the Nationals shouldn't have offered the contract in the first place? Where is this going?

Sosa should have taken the Nationals' deal and, in the process, taken a chance on himself. He could have shown he wasn't about the money, or pride, or ego. He could have played for something as innocent as his self-proclaimed love of the game.

You're right, Wojo. All you players out there, take heed. Next time your deals are up, calculate your Love For The Game (LFTG) and value your contracts accordingly. (Hint: it will be somewhere around $500,000 non-guaranteed)

But as usual, he does the E-Sosa thing. He doesn't understand there is no dishonor in trying and failing. The dishonor comes when you don't try at all.

I just re-read the article. Nowhere did I find a reference to this "E-Sosa thing," or what that could possibly mean. I honestly have no idea. Does he mean E like, an error? Or like, Electronic-Sosa? BTW: e-sosa.com seems to be owned by Sosa Fashion (Hong Kong) Co. Ltd. esosa.com seems to be held by a text advertising company. I think we could probably buy it.

------------------

Part 2: Guess who doesn't like Barry Bonds?

So Barry Bonds is going to hang up his cleats and violin after this season, eh? Good for him. Good for us.

Who is "us?" Is it the fans? Because most of the fans I know want Barry Bonds to break as many records as possible. And yes, we all know he's a jerk. And yes, the steroids, blah blah blah. I don't care. He's the best baseball player we will probably ever see. So does "us" mean sportswriters? Because it seems like Bonds is a fucking gift from the gods for you dudes. You finally have a guy you can rip for just about anything at any time. What else would you be writing your column about, Gene? There hasn't been any Scott Podsednik news lately for you guys to jizz your pants over. (Although I did hear while on vacation in Bermuda, he scrappily legged out a 12 yard TD run in a pickup beach-football game. What a gamer!) Also, what happened to the "Dishonor comes when you don't try at all" from your last column? Is that Sosa (or E-Sosa) specific?

Bonds told USA Today on Sunday that he will retire at season's end, which must be why the birds are chirping a little louder, the sun is shining a little brighter, and the beer on tap tastes a little colder. This is like the Wicked Witch of the West throwing a bucket of water on herself.

Does Barry Bonds really affect your life this much, Gene Wojciechowski? If so, I strongly recommend counseling. Or go play with your kids or something, dude.

No one is holding a Jugs Gun to his head and telling him to play in 2006. If he's so tired of it all, so desperate to be forgotten, so embarrassed to wear a big league uni, then retire now. And don't let the clubhouse door hit you on the way out.

Barry Bonds is extremely close to passing Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. He is not going to retire now. If I were him, I would play simply to stick it in the face of guys like GW and Mike Celizic and J.E. Bayless. Seriously. That alone would be motivation enough for me.

He trivialized the first-ever Classic, saying, "Come on, the World Cup isn't the Olympics. Who cares? Does it mean anything?"

Not in BarryWorld, it doesn't.

Umm, Gene, it doesn't mean anything. It is a marketing ploy. I'm very excited about it, don't get me wrong. It will be better than spring training. But I'm not exactly swelling with national pride about it, especially considering that many of the best players will not be playing. And this BarryWorld sounds interesting. Is it just Barry Bonds World, or are other Barrys represented? Gibb? Switzer? Manilow? Marion Barry? How does Barry Greenstein feel about the WBC?

--------------------

Postscript: My favorite thing about articles like this is the not-even-thinly-veiled bitterness about them. Sammy Sosa should play for $500,000! I get paid less and I'm a sportswriter for ESPN-dot-frigging-com! Barry Bonds should take all of our abuse because he's a millionaire and he probably did steroids! He should simply love that every week we manufacture enough outrage to attack him personally in our columns!

Post-postscript: I have enlisted a venture capital firm for the first round of financing for esosa.com. Right now, we have approx. $15 million US and about 20,000 sq. feet of office space in the greater Palo Alto area. I encourage all of you to invest, as this will surely be the greatest website in the history of the universe, especially once we figure out what it will do.

posted by Murbles  # 11:47 AM
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Time to Start Keeping Track

of terrible, basis-less predictions. Here's one from MSNBC.com's Ted Robinson:

Best acquisitions of the offseason: Toronto’s trade for Troy Glaus, and San Francisco’s trade for Steve Finley.

Glaus...whatever. He's good. Defend Finley, please.

Finley cost the Giants nothing, and with a remarkably healthy body for a 40-year-old, he provides the Giants with veteran experience to support the fragile Barry Bonds and Moises Alou.

Steve Finley will be 41 on March 12. Here are his numbers from 2005:

AB -- 440
RC/27 -- 3.34
OPB/SLG/OPS -- .271/.374/.645
OPS+ 73
EQA -- .225
WARP -- 1.1
FRAA -- (-2)

He cost them nothing, and, barring a massive and statistically improbable turnaround at age 41, he will provide them with nothing.

He did achieve an outstanding 165.431 in "veteran experience," though.

Baseball's back!

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 12:54 AM
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Sunday, February 19, 2006

 

Our Most Irrelevant Post Ever


I just wanted everyone to know that Junior has come up with a term for this phenomenon, and it is: "camelbro."

You're welcome, America.

(Hattip to Deadspin for pic.)

posted by dak  # 9:27 PM
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Thursday, February 09, 2006

 

The Wisdom of Crowds, Part II

An update on a very old post. Another football post. Apologies.

Before the 2005-2006 NFL season, ESPN.com's NFL experts predicted how many wins each team would get. How did they do?

Well, they were off by a total of 94 wins. That's 2.93 wins per NFL team. If that doesn't sound that bad, ask yourself this question: "How good is an 8-8 team, versus an 11-5 team?" That's the average amount of wrong, if you will, that ESPN.com's experts were good for.

In fact, here's a better way of looking at it: Let's say I'm the world's worst prognosticator. I have no idea how good any NFL team is before the season starts. What would be the best way for me to pick the over under on each team's number of wins? Well, I'd have no choice but to pick each team to go 8-8. Remember: I'm dumb, I hate football, and for all I know the Colts are as good as the Texans. But I'm just trying to avoid being way off here.

So, how would ESPN.com's experts have done against the world's worst football expert? They would have beat him...by 2 wins. Total.

Picking every team to go 8-8 would have missed the mark by a total of 96 wins, compared to 94 for the collective efforts of Clayton, Pasquarelli, and whoever the hell else got in on this garbage pile. In other words, on average, their experts were .07 wins better at predicting your favorite team's final record than a baby. Or, I guess, a baby who knows nothing about football but a tiny bit about math. Maybe I mean a six-year-old.

They were bad, is the point.

posted by dak  # 6:38 PM
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

 

Hey, Murray Chass Wrote Something! And I'm Feeling Long-Winded!

I wonder if Murray Chass wakes up in the morning and thinks, Murray, old fella, today you're gonna write an article in a real special way: you know the scientific method? That thing where you make observations and marshal data before you draw conclusions and say things are true? Well, the way you're gonna write this real special article is by reversing that -- you're gonna take an idea that's been rattling around in the old upstairs for awhile now (here's the idea: that that darn Moneyball book isn't all it's cracked up to be) and then do your damndest to find evidence -- any wisp of a scintilla of evidence -- to support that idea.

You think that's what he thinks in the morning? I sort of do. Because his latest article is called -- I kid you not -- "When 'Moneyball' No Longer Pays Off." And I know this is shocking -- fasten your seatbelts and place your babies in baby safety chairs and fasten their baby seat belts -- he doesn't really support this title with good, solid evidence.

Look, I realize that this is baseball. It's not particle physics or oncology or the study of a hypothetical technological singularity. But if you're going to take a way of thinking seriously and then criticize it in the New York Times for all to see, I reserve the right to criticize your criticism. Let's begin.

ART HOWE lives in Houston, whose wild-card Astros won the National League pennant last season, and he grew up in Pittsburgh, whose wild-card Steelers won the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Fantastic. Carry on.

"To a large degree," Howe said, discussing the playoff success of wild-card teams, "I think they have less pressure on them when they get into the postseason because no one expects them to go far, and they have a chip on their shoulder so they play harder."

Okay. Sounds good. Wait a minute. No, it doesn't. No one expects the wild card teams to go far? Are you kidding me? The Boston Red Sox were the 2005 AL Wild Card team. You're telling me no one expected them to go farther than, oh, say the mighty 82-win NL West Champion San Diego Padres? We've passed the point where the wild card is a stigma. In general, all of the teams in the playoffs are just teams. They're just there, and they're good, and most reasonable people acknowledge that almost any of them could win it all (except maybe the 2005 Padres). It's not big, bad division champions and weakling wild cards. The AL East proves that year in and year out. Chip on their shoulder? The Braves are going to sit back and play crappily because they eked out another Division title by two games over the Phillies? Jesus, Art, talk some sense.

Oh, maybe he's talking about football. Well, in the sixteen years of the current wild card format, a wild card team has won the Super Bowl a whopping three times. So all those lowered expectations and chips on their shoulders must not be too overwhelming in terms of contributing to actual, tangible football results. Also, bear with me, I haven't even gotten to any Chass opinions yet.

Before the Mets, Howe managed the Astros for five years and the Athletics for seven years. The end of his tenure was described in none-too-flattering terms in the book "Moneyball."

Describing the frustration of General Manager Billy Beane after the Athletics' 2002 playoff loss to "the clearly inferior Minnesota Twins," the book's author, Michael Lewis, wrote that at such times, Beane would make a trade.

I don't have Moneyball in front of me (in fact, believe it or not, I've read it but don't own it), but my guess would be that Lewis used the phrase "the clearly inferior Minnesota Twins" in a passage that describes Beane's thinking, not his own. That is, Lewis was probably saying that in Beane's head, he was frustrated that he was losing to a team he believed to have inferior personnel to his own. Of course, I could be wrong entirely. It just seems like that Lewis wouldn't arbitrarily slam the Twins' roster (while it would make sense that the absurdly confident Beane would believe that about the two respective teams). Can an intrepid FJM reader contextualize this quote for us?

"Moneyball" extolled the talents of Beane, portraying him as superior to other teams' general managers. Lewis celebrated Beane for his ability to produce winning teams with small payrolls, but Terry Ryan has done the same thing with the Twins, a fact Lewis didn't acknowledge.

This is a fair point. But here's the thing: a lot of the anti-Moneyball crowd bemoan the fact that Billy Beane gets a book while poor Terry Ryan sits alone, completely media coverage-less and underappreciated. My question is, what's the story when you're talking about Terry Ryan? Is he doing something different and unconventional enough to fill a 200-some-odd-page book intended for the general reading public? If you lined up the two guys' stories (while assuming, as I think is fair, that their baseball results are relatively similar), whose is more compelling? I bet the answer is Beane's. (Admittedly, I know nothing about Terry Ryan. He could be the league's only GM with Asperger's Syndrome for all I know. That would make for a pretty good book.)

If Chass' point is just that Lewis should have put in some token mention that the Minnesota franchise has done pretty well with a small budget, just like Oakland's, then I don't really disagree with that.

As little as Beane might have thought of Howe, the Athletics reached the playoffs three straight seasons under him and have not been there the last two years with Ken Macha as their manager after making it in his first year.

Aaaargh. To me, this paragraph is smug self-satisfaction disguised as understatement. It seems like they teach that style to every Times writer. You think you're so smart, Beane and Lewis? How about this little fact? I'll write about it very drily so its devastating truth can do all the damage by itself.

Oakland isn't going to make the playoffs every year. And although no one likes to talk about it, a baseball manager contributes very little to how many wins a team finishes with. The fact that Howe went to the playoffs three out of seven years, while so far Macha has gone one for three? I mean, it's pretty much meaningless. Doesn't say anything about either guy. Thanks, Murray.

Again, not that I think the men themselves are remotely responsible for these records, but for what it's worth:

Howe Winning Percentage (7 seasons): .529
Macha Winning Percentage (3 seasons): .566

I'm pretty sure that just means Macha had slightly better baseball players on his teams, but you brought it up, Chass, so there you go.

It has been three years since the publication of "Moneyball," and it is worth assessing other matters the book discusses.

Do tell.

Several times, Lewis wrote about the Athletics' infatuation with Kevin Youkilis, a young player who had a high on-base percentage, the gold standard of Beane's player evaluation.

In limited playing time with Boston the past two seasons, Youkilis has compiled a .376 on-base percentage but has yet to show the Red Sox he is ready to help them on a daily basis. They are planning to try Youkilis, a converted third baseman, as a platooned first baseman this year.

Yes, he did compile a .376 on-base percentage. That's pretty good. It's .025 better than the league average for the last two years. Also, he OBP-ed .400 last year in limited action and he should have played more. He also continued to absolutely mash AAA pitching, OPS-ing a ridiculous 1.051 (.459 of it OBP) in Pawtucket. In what way is that not showing the Red Sox that he is ready to help them on a daily basis? Because Tito Francona, a guy who has never shown any interest in adhering to Moneyball principles, stuck with the steady, professional, entrenched-at-third-base Bill Mueller? Because he refused to take out Kevin Millar for whatever crazy, intangible clubhouse chemistry reason?

Kevin Youkilis should be a serviceable MLB player. I don't think Billy Beane ever expected him to become a superstar.

Jeremy Brown, an overweight college catcher but a high Oakland draft choice in 2002 because of his high on-base percentage, was viewed as a Beane type of pick. But he is still working his way through the minor leagues at 26, having spent the past three seasons at Midland, Tex., in the Class AA Texas League.

Yes, this player appears to have not panned out. Shall we go through a list of players Terry Ryan has drafted who have not panned out? I'm certain it's extremely long. Prospects, as a rule, don't pan out. Check the percentages.

Scott Hatteberg was another on-base guy Beane found attractive. But after four seasons and last year's Oakland-low .334 on-base percentage by Hatteberg, Beane cut him loose as a free agent.

Yes, this other player appears to have not done very well for himself. Now you have named two players who have not done well and one who has done pretty well given a limited opportunity. In other words, you have done nothing to convince me that Moneyball, if you insist on calling it that, no longer pays off. Every team has guys who stop playing well. Every team has draft picks who never amount to anything. To show that something doesn't "pay off," you have to at least begin to show that there is a systematic failure -- that in a long-term, far-reaching sample, things are tending to go poorly using this particular method of scouting and drafting and valuing players. That isn't happening, I don't think. The A's played very well last year with a very young roster. They had the AL Rookie of the Year, and a bunch of their young dudes are good.

Two Beane disciples became general managers with other teams, Paul DePodesta with the Dodgers and J. P. Ricciardi with the Toronto Blue Jays.

"Moneyball" credited DePodesta with great statistical dexterity, but it didn't help him with the Dodgers, who fired him two years into a five-year contract after some highly questionable moves a year ago left them with a weakened team that won 22 fewer games than their division-winning team won the year before.

The Dodgers are idiots. Seriously. DePodesta got run out of town by sportswriters like Bill Plaschke. It also didn't hurt that his team was decimated by injuries and he apparently has piss-poor interpersonal skills. Anyway, Chass' point seems to be that Moneyball isn't working so well because see? The Dodgers fired DePodesta! To me, a guy getting fired doesn't mean anything. You have to look at the decision-making ability of the people doing the firing. In this case, I have some serious questions about Frank McCourt and his judgment.

SPECIAL NYT SIDEBAR!

The caption under the picture of Billy Beane accompanying this article reads, "Billy Beane, the Athletics' general manager, considers on-base percentage the best gauge of a player's value."

This is, I believe, categorically false. I can think of 100 different metrics that are better than on-base percentage at gauging a player's value, and I am willing to bet Billy Beane can too. Like VORP. VORP is a thing. Remember VORP? No, you do not. You are a caption writer for the New York Times Online. And now, back to Chass.

Ricciardi has fared better from an employment standpoint but hasn't finished first in four years.

Really? Not one time has he finished first? In FOUR WHOLE YEARS? In a division with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox? This is a travesty. Burn all copies of Moneyball immediately. Burn all libraries that have ever housed a copy of Moneyball and all people who have ever read its dust jacket or accidentally run their fingers over its cover at Costco. Travel back in time and prevent Mr. and Mrs. Lewis from conceiving their son Michael. Kill Mrs. Lewis, just to be safe. J.P. Ricciardi has failed to finish first in four years in the AL East.

That's pretty much the end of the article. Chass concludes by mentioning that the Blue Jays aren't any cheaper than they were when Ricciardi got hired. Now, having read the article and/or my crazy, barely coherent rants about selected passages from said article, doesn't it seem like Mr. Chass started with an ax to grind and found a couple of anecdotal pieces of evidence to help grind it? Yes, again, it's baseball, and yes, it's a short newspaper article, not a research paper, but I just wish he tried a little harder. I wish he would look at information and then write an article with interesting conclusions and reasonable inferences drawn from that information. Murray, I know you're not a Celizic or a Dibble or a Morgan. You can't be, because those men, as far as I can tell, are functional illiterates who have palsied Cambodian children in sweatshops write their articles for them. You're better than that. Please don't disappoint me again, Murray.

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posted by Junior  # 2:49 AM
Comments:
It's no longer suprising to me that sportswriters like Murray Chass still fundamentally misunderstand "Moneyball" as "OBP-ball." To suggest that Billy Beane feels that OBP is the best metric for measuring ballplayers is wrong, and the Paper of Record should do its research. Beane thought, back in 2001, that OBP was the most undervalued stat. Then he shaded toward defense. Now, he seems to believe its a stockpile of young arms and Frank Thomas. The point is that basbeall can be viewed as a market, and no market stays static for 5 years. Why can't baseball writers understand this point? Because they still like to say that Tony Perez is a Hall of Famer because he smiled and collected 1600 RBI over like 25 seasons, that's why.

I feel that if Michael Lewis had titled his book "Basemarkets," or "Cheap Player-Ball," or "Art Howe Sucks" all of this confusion would be cleared up.
 
When you go back in time to Kill Michael Lewis's parents so he can't write "Moneyball," you should totaly kill Hitler, too! Then, if we espouse unpopular theories about how baseball works and people are screaming at us, we can go, "Hey man -- take it easy -- we're the ones who killed Hitler." And you know what they'll say? This is going to blow your mind. They'll say...

"Who is Hitler?"

What is my point? Unclear. I just woke up and I'm a little groggy.
 
One thing about that article,compositionally, is that it ends so abruptly that I literally had to reload the site two times just to make sure I was logged into NYT.com correctly and was being allowed to see the whole thing. Maybe there was some copyediting going on, but at this point, I assume Murray Chass just fell asleep in his rocking chair, afghan pulled up to his chin, with a slowly-warming unfinished can of Ensure by his side.
 
The funniest thing to me about this kind of "Moneyball" criticism (I've been up for a while now, and am more clear-headed) is that, as we all know, "Moneyball" basically means: "finding untapped value and inefficiency in a competitive market and using it to your advantage." Thus, saying "'Moneyball' no longer pays off" is tantamount to saying "intelligence no longer pays off," or "it's no longer good to be good at something," or "buy stocks high and sell them low," or "you should throw more cash into that sewer" or "you should buy stamps and not use them" or "sure, I'll melt some gold bars and pour them into the ocean" or "I would like to invest in Murray Chass's future as a sportswriter."
 
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It Sounded So Much Better Last Week

The greatest thing about the Super Bowl, of course, is that its end signals the beginning of baseball season. College Hoops fans, save it. With that in mind, one footnote on a terrible football game.

I was watching SportsCenter last week, live from Detroit. I think it was Tuesday. Ron Jaworski and Sean Salisbury spent about five minutes looking at the quarterbacks of Super Bowl XL. Patrick then asked them (paraphrasing): "If I showed you the stats from the game on Sunday once it's over, and you didn't know which team won the game, would you be able to tell which team won based just on the quarterback's statistics?"

To me, acceptable answers would have included:

"Maybe."

"Probably. I would say the odds would be in my favor, but of course I couldn't be sure."

"Well, I've looked at box scores for Super Bowls of the past -- and for that matter many football games of the past -- and estimate that about 65-85% of the time, if you guess which team won based on the quarterback's stats alone, you'd be right."

"I don't know, man. There certainly have been some great performances by losing quarterbacks...Jake Delhomme comes to mind off the top of my head."

"I could make a rational statement, but because I am only capable of knee-jerk reactions, I will say 'absolutely.' Anything to avoid thinking, basically."


Instead, here's how they answered (paraphrasing but pretty close to verbatim here):
Jaws: "Yeah. Yes. Absolutely."
Salisbury: "Yes. [Then, laughing with confidence:] You're talking to two quarterbacks here! We know how to look at those numbers!"
Jaws: "And the key will be: turnovers."

You all know where this is going, but here are the stats anyway:

Ben Roethlisberger:
9/21, 123yds, 0TD, 2INT. Passer rating: 22.6 (not a typo)

Matt Hasselbeck:
26/49, 273yds, 1TD, 1INT. Passer rating: 67.8 (still bad, mind you)

Go ahead, include Big Ben's rushing touchdown which he himself doesn't think he scored on. Who do you think Jaws and Salisbury would have picked if they only saw those stats?

Remember -- they both used to be quarterbacks. They know how to read those numbers. And the key will be: turnovers.

Absolutely.

posted by dak  # 1:56 AM
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Friday, February 03, 2006

 

Simile of the Week

Comes from Scoop Jackson:

And because of that, the come-from-nowhere factor that helps defensive players become stars in the Super Bowl is gone like "Emily's Reasons Why Not."

Read the full article for context. Or -- better -- don't.

(Edited to change "analogy" to "simile.")

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 10:31 PM
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Thursday, February 02, 2006

 

Fire(d) Joe Morgan?

Eagle-eyed reader Greg Cappel points out that Joe is no longer listed under the Contributors section of the ESPN.com MLB page.

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posted by Junior  # 9:51 PM
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Please, People, Just Learn What Sample Size Is

Why do writers like this even have jobs? Mike Fine of the Patriot Ledger has a lot to say about the Red Sox' acquisition of David Riske. Unfortunately, most of it is along the lines of analysis like this:

Hard to imagine what Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein was thinking when he agreed to take on Riske, who had an 8.10 ERA against Boston, 18.00 against its left-handers.

What?? You're going to base your assessment of a reliever with 317.1 career innings pitched on 3.1 innings cherry-picked from a series against a very good offensive team? What the hell are you doing? How about this, Mike Fine: did you know that against Baltimore, Kansas City, the Yankees, Texas, Toronto, San Diego, and Colorado, David Riske posted an ERA of 0.00? Did you know that if you flip a coin a hundred times, sometimes it will come up heads as many as two or three times? Or four?

He was up and down all season: 1-0 in April, 0-2 in May, 1-0 in June, 0-1 in July, 1-0 in August, and 0-1 in September and October when he worked only seven games as the Indians chased a playoff spot.

Yes, Mike Fine just analyzed a relief pitcher's performance using wins and losses month by month. This reminds me of the time Jacques Cousteau analyzed a humpback whale's speed by counting the number of barnacles on its stomach and then I posted about it on firejacquescousteau.com.

I sure hope the season starts soon.

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posted by Junior  # 6:05 PM
Comments:
That is truly insane. I wonder whether he bothered to look at, say, Eric Gagne's W/L per month, which probably looks similar. Seriously, that's nuts. Does he know what relief pitchers do? Wow. Am I still typing? I'm still typing. Don't have anything else to add, but still typing. Man. I sure hope the season starts soon.
 
For the record, I'd also like to add that two nights ago I had a dream that I was playing in the Masters, and I parred the first three holes. Someone congratulated me, and I responded by saying, "Small sample size."
 
Man, was Eric Gagne up and down all season in 2003: 0-0 in April, 0-1 in May, 1-1 in June, 0-1 in July, 0-1 in August, and 0-0 in September. He was so up and down that year, they gave him the Cy Young. His WHIP was 0.69.

David Riske's WHIP last year, by the way, was an excellent 0.96.
 
See? I didn't even look that shizz up. That's why they call me "The Mike Fine of FJM."
 
I just read the article, and this statement caught my eye:

He gave up three homers in 3 1/3 innings to the Sox...seven of his 11 homers allowed were hit by just the Sox and Reds.

Two teams he will not face next year. Against the teams he will face, thus, he gave up 4 HR in like 67 IP or something. So, why wasn't the point of the article: "Sox make good move by picking up Riske?"
 
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