FIRE JOE MORGAN: It's Always the Same Problem with Mickelson: One Guy, One Cab

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Friday, July 27, 2007

 

It's Always the Same Problem with Mickelson: One Guy, One Cab

Only MSNBC's Michael Ventre -- rapidly becoming my favorite sportswriter in America -- dares to ask the question that is on everyone's mind: are apples like oranges?

Red Sox on Verge of Mickelson-like Collapse?

For the record, Phil Mickelson has won three majors. This year alone he has won at TPC at Sawgrass and the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He's #2 in the world, and #2 on the money list.

He is also a professional golfer, which means he has nothing to do with baseball.

The Boston Red Sox have been doing business a lot longer than Phil Mickelson has been alive.

Yet I can’t help but think of the Red Sox as the Phil Mickelson of baseball.

Excellent thesis statement. You're the Stephen Jay Gould of MSNBC free-lancers.

Lefty had once held the title of Best Golfer Never to Have Won a Major. Then in 2004, he won a major, the Masters. He added to his credentials by winning the PGA Championship in 2005, and another Masters in 2006. Life was good.

But it appears Mickelson had intended only to visit his sport’s peak, not set up camp there. Since then, he collapsed in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. This year, he faltered badly in the Scottish Open, a warm-up tournament for the British Open, then missed the cut at Carnoustie.

Just so I am clear. He won the Masters for the second time last year. He lost in the final round of the Open, missed the cut at the British, and now he is terrible?

If you stare at Mickelson long enough, you can see Mike Torrez. If you look even harder, you can see Bill Buckner.

Oooh -- I love those things. Here's a neat one -- if you stare hard enough you see a toucan!

This bizarre metonymic Mickelson-as-All-Chokers trope is flimsy, man. The guy's won three majors in three years. Also, he is a golfer, and the Red Sox are a baseball team. That should be the most obvious reason why the comparison doesn't work, given the -- shall we say -- significant differences in the two sports. But hell, I admire your can-do attitude. Let's keep rolling.

And if you study the Red Sox these days, the phenomenon is mutual. Stare intently at the wobbly American League East leaders and you’ll see Mickelson, smacking errant tee shots and bogeying three of the final five holes at Loch Lomond.

I'm going to make a good-faith effort to back you on this journalistic suicide mission.

The Red Sox have tripped a bit recently, yes. They are basically .500 since June 1. But they just took 3 of 4 from the best home team in the AL and have a 7.5 game lead in the AL East. BP puts their odds of winning the AL East at 95.9%, and 98.67% to make the playoffs.

Phil Mickelson...is a golfer...who...forget it. I give up. This is insane.

It may not be completely fair to compare the two, since

One is a baseball team and one is a golfer?

Boston’s bustling infirmary has had something to do with its recent vulnerability.

Oh.

David Ortiz is just recently back from resting a strained shoulder. Curt Schilling is rehabbing in the minors because of right shoulder tendinitis. Jon Lester recently returned to the team after battling a form of lymphoma. J.D. Drew has constant hamstring issues. Matt Clement is still working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery. Brendan Donnelly is recovering from a strained forearm.

Clement was never in the 2007 gameplan. Donnelly was pitching pretty well when he went down, but in his absence the bullpen hasn't missed a beat. Lester returned from his cancer scare, and ahead of schedule, so that weakens your argument. Drew's problems have not seemingly been injury-related. Ortiz missed like four games and has a .991 OPS this year.

Mickelson had a wrist thing a little while back. I think with a little tinkering, this "injury" run could be rejiggered to support your claim. Think about it.

But the Red Sox have shown disturbing signs — for their anguished fans, at least — that they might not feel comfortable at the top. Despite their World Series breakthrough in 2004, their natural tendency to collapse appears to be surfacing.

Their "natural tendency to collapse." Because a team's inherent nature transcends ownership and personnel changes from generation to generation. Because baseball franchises are like the four Hogwarts Houses in Harry Potter books. (You're a Slytherin, Michael Ventre. A Slytherin.)

Before Thursday’s games, they held a 6.5 game lead over the second-place New York Yankees, who had been stuck in as large a mental quagmire as they have ever had to try and overcome. It marked the first time since May 11 that Boston had held a lead of fewer than seven games. The Red Sox held a 12-game lead in early July, but the Yankees have somehow asserted themselves.

Excellent analysis. They didn't "somehow assert themselves." They began performing exactly the way their ExWL numbers predicted they would. In fact, they are still underperforming by about 5-6 games, so we can expect that their good play will continue. The Red Sox, meanwhile, had been very slightly overperforming, but in general just hit a slump. Kind of like Luis Delís between the '87 World Championships and the '93 Central American and Caribbean Games.

And despite the fact that the Red Sox had won five straight before falling on Wednesday against Cleveland, the omens are present.

For the motherhumping record, there is no such thing as: curses, omens, augurs, ghouls, ghosts, True Yankees, or franchises being haunted by fat ex-ballplayers who would have no reason to haunt said franchise, since the trade of the fat player led to him becoming the most famous athlete, maybe, in history.

But please, on with the omen discussion.

For instance, on Wednesday night Boston lost to Fausto Carmona and the Indians, 1-0. Nothing to be ashamed of, yet it was unsettling that Josh Beckett threw an outstanding game but lost on one measly mistake to Franklin Gutierrez, which turned into a solo shot. And it was Beckett’s first road loss since last September.

So spooky! So omen-ish!

The night before, The Sox won 1-0 on several bloop singles that fell just out of the reach of Indians' fielders.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble!

Also, Fausto Carmona is a very good pitcher. He defeated another team by pitching excellently.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble!

Not a problem. Nothing to panic over. Sometimes a black cat crosses your path, and most of the time it means nothing. Most of the time.

No, all of the time it means nothing. I know I'm losing my argument thread here, but now Ventre is crossing over from bad analogy to superstitious piffle. And I don't care if he's winking and "goofing around" and "being lighthearted." Black cats are not any different from other cats. And even in a universe where I good-naturedly agree to play along with the idea that there are "omens" in baseball, this isn't a fucking omen. Being defeated by an excellent pitcher 1-0 in game 3 of a series in which you win the other three games is not an omen of anything except that you are a good baseball team -- indeed, you have the best record in baseball -- and that you should be happy with the results of that series.

Meanwhile, the Yankees, a team some consider the luckiest men on the planet — usually the people who believe that live in, or hail from, the New England area — have managed to avert a complete oil spill of a season and are making a run.

They have gotten their share of good breaks in the last ten years or so, yes. They are also a $200m+ collection of excellent players who, recently, have been absolutely destroying the baseball in exactly the way that mathematics and reason predicts they should. They have also been pitching better. And thus: winning. To draw an analogy for you, Ventre: the Yankees are currently performing much like Carolina Klüft during her magical run at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.

The Yankees trailed by 14.5 games in late May, but they’ve won 11 of their last 13.
Probably nothing to fret over. I’m sure the Red Sox will be cool. Historically, they’re known for their composure down the stretch, especially with the numeral “14” involved. They had a 14-game lead in 1978, but it disappeared down the stretch, and Bucky Dent put an exclamation mark on the disaster with a game-winning home run over the Green Monster in a playoff game.

Yes, that is factually accurate. Tell me, though -- how is the number "14" involved here, though? Because at one point, several months ago, the lead was 14.5 games? And that means that this year and 1978 are linked, portentously? Excellent. By the way, man -- I enjoyed your movie.

But it’s silly to toss and turn over what might happen in the future. After all, what are the chances that the Boston Red Sox will somehow fail to live up to their promise? They have legions of devoted fans who live and die with their exploits. Why in the world would a team disappoint their fans like that?

What are you trying to prove here? I honestly don't understand. Are you blaming the team for falling short in past seasons? And insinuating that they did it, like, intentionally?

David Ortiz has 16 home runs this season. Last year he finished with 54. I’m sure that if he bears down and goes on a tear he can match that total. I wouldn’t worry about it.

The team signed Drew to a five-year contract in the offseason worth $70 million. Lately he’s been limping a lot. So far he’s batting .247, with six home runs and 38 RBI. But he’ll catch fire soon, I’m sure.

...this season [Curt Schilling] is just 6-4 with a 4.20 ERA in 15 starts, and he hasn’t pitched since June 18. Yet I feel certain that the 40-year-old veteran of 21 major-league seasons will spring to life soon and power the Red Sox to victory like he did in the days when he was pitching in Arizona alongside another invincible war horse, Randy Johnson.

Michael Ventre is sarcastically pointing out that: Ortiz is having an off-year (.340 EqA, .991 OPS), JD Drew is having an off-year (true) and Curt Schilling isn't as good as he was six years ago when he was in his absolute prime. As if he should be.

The PGA Championship is scheduled to take place in two weeks at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla. The best thing that could happen to the Red Sox would be for Mickelson to snap out of his funk and win another major.

(EDIT: I missed completely how dumb this last sentence was -- the phrasing, I mean. So I will here insert Junior's comment from the comments section below. Take it away, Junior.)

Best thing? Best? You know, actually, if you think about it, of all of the infinite things in the world that could happen between now and the end of the season, Phil Mickelson winning a major is somewhere right around 50th percentile. Because it has no impact on the Sox whatsoever. It goes something like this:

Bestest
-Sox win 60 games in a row, Yankees franchise disbands
-Ortiz gets healthy, Schilling comes back strong
-A-Rod starts looking human
-Barack Obama is revealed to have killed Pat Tillman
-Ugly Betty wins five Emmys
-Phil Mickelson wins a major
-A mother elephant sacrifices its life to safe its baby
-I eat a duck confit sandwich with fig jam
-Youkilis gets super into scuba diving and loses his love for baseball
-Manny loses his hand in a meat cutter
-Sox lose 60 games in a row, Yankees are awarded a Peabody and a Humanitas
Worstest

(END EDIT. Back to Ventre's column.)

That would illustrate to them that negative habits can be broken.

One more time -- "negative habits" like winning the Masters twice in three years and being one of the best golfers of his era and making millions and millions of dollars by being good at golf? Those negative habits?

I tell you what would be a good omen for the Red Sox. If Nathan Deakes could regain the form that led him to Gold at the 2002 Manchester Games. Deakes and the Sox are like totally parallel in terms of what they do athletically.

Labels: , ,


posted by Ken Tremendous  # 10:22 AM
Comments:
Thanks to reader Brent for the tip.
 
And very special thanks to reader David, who pointed out that the bird in that Magic Eye thing is actually a toucan, and not a parrot, as originally reporter.
 
The best thing that could happen to the Red Sox would be for Mickelson to snap out of his funk and win another major.

Best thing? Best? You know, actually, if you think about it, of all of the infinite things in the world that could happen between now and the end of the season, Phil Mickelson winning a major is somewhere right around 50th percentile. Because it has no impact on the Sox whatsoever. It goes something like this:

Bestest
-Sox win 60 games in a row, Yankees franchise disbands
-Ortiz gets healthy, Schilling comes back strong
-A-Rod starts looking human
-Barack Obama is revealed to have killed Pat Tillman
-Ugly Betty wins five Emmys
-Phil Mickelson wins a major
-A mother elephant sacrifices its life to safe its baby
-I eat a duck confit sandwich with fig jam
-Youkilis gets super into scuba diving and loses his love for baseball
-Manny loses his hand in a meat cutter
-Sox lose 60 games in a row, Yankees are awarded a Peabody and a Humanitas
Worstest
 
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