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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Thursday, January 31, 2008


Larry "Hungry" Dobrow Fills Our Bellies With Nutritious Food Metaphors

Meet Hungry Dobrow, our new favorite food metaphor chef and very possibly the near-pinnacle of stale sportswritingmanship. His first sentences:

Finally, some consummation in the Johan Santana derby. My God, it's like finally being allowed to eat after staring at the cold-cuts spread for 11 hours.

Sex metaphor, other sport metaphor, food metaphor!

I was bullish on the Mets' chances before they grabbed Johan for 55 cents on the dollar. Now, I'm double-bullish, with butterscotch and a cherry on top.

Animal/financial metaphor, straight financial metaphor, weird metaphor, food metaphor! How about some intangible buzzwords?

I know the Phillies still have the "we-done-did-it!" swagger in their step....
Just book my ticket for any town where Santana leads off a three-game series.

* Game 1: Johan and his swagger.

Who's "hungry" for some cliches?

...vaulting the Mets past the Diamondbacks, Cubs and the rest of the unwashed masses...
...major metropolitan areas with a massive media presence offer more in the way of marketing opportunities than smaller burgs; and that grass is, indeed, green...

Now a plain ol' typo!

Poor Mr. Smith simply had the back [sic] luck to have come along at the precise moment that the Bronx boys developed a backbone.

Gonna professionally throw the word "retard" professionally into your professional article?

He plays for the Yankees. "Dealing with mouthy, delusional retards" is part of his job description.


Gonna trot out the tired truism that playing in New York is like playing under a huge...

The pressure of being tagged as the guy who coulda/shoulda been traded for Johan Santana is no more or less suffocating than the pressure of performing day-in, day-out under the harsh New York spotlight.

...spotlight, correct!

Okay, how about you finish us off with some old-fashioned flip-flopping? You know, like a pancake! Or a fried egg! Or a salmon (also edible)!!!

Twins GM Bill Smith isn't the boob he's being made out to be...
Hell no, I wouldn't have done that deal if I were Smith...
Poor Mr. Smith simply had the back [sic] luck to have come along at the precise moment that the Bronx boys developed a backbone...
Unless at least two of the four prospects become legit contributors or Santana blows out his arm within the next nine months, Smith goes down in history as That Guy Who Traded The Great Johan Santana And Only Got A Few Warm Bodies In Return...

One more time:

Hell no, I wouldn't have done that deal if I were Smith. Come on. Be serious.

Mr. Hungry, sir, well done. Nothing egregious here. Just a bountiful muffin basket full of mediocrity! Bon appetit!

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posted by Junior  # 11:03 PM
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Mike Seate Is My New Favorite Writer

I say that because of an email from Kevin, directing us to this photo:

found on this blog, accompanied by a heartwarming story about Mr. Seate's reaction to receiving an award. [Edit: it also includes the first ever recorded use of the term "clenching the pennant. Remember where you were.]

Mike Seate is my new favorite sportswriter.

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posted by Anonymous  # 5:35 PM
Did any of you read the section of that blog post wherein Big Mike Seate says:

many of the men in the audience are dressed like they're on their way to a high school prom and slapping each other on the back like the New York Yankees after clenching the pennant...


I missed the malaprop entirely. But Tyler didn't:

A) Never mind the sound a mouse erection makes - I have NO desire to know what the New York Yankees look like "slapping each other on the back...after clenching the pennant

B) I submit that "clenching the pennant" needs to be a new tag.

Also - I'm having that photo of Big Mike enlarged and mounted. And possibly clenched.

Tyler, in honor of your excellent eye, and your slavish devotion to all things Mike Seate, I am hereby establishing the "clenching the pennant" tag.

Well done.

I am as always sir your most humble and devoted servant etc.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Honestly One of the Weirdest Things I Have Ever Read

A special tip of the cap to Ted, who sends us this...thing, by Mike Seate of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. (It had already been FJM-icized [unbeknownst to us] before we published this, at Bucs Dugout.)

Anyway, it starts off kind of normal, and gets super weird, superquick. I just don't know what to say.

Bucs' 'fans' don't know meaning of the word

The smell of freshly greased leather and the crack of Louisville Sluggers drew me inside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center over the weekend.

It was the 18th annual PirateFest. It's a courageous act, celebrating baseball in Pittsburgh, considering the Pirates suffer from one of the lousiest fan bases in all professional sports.

Okay, so, maybe Pittsburgh fans aren't the most ardent in the nation. Dave Littlefield, Kevin McClatchy, and fifteen straight losing seasons will do that to people. But it's okay, I guess, to call them out, if you're a local journalist and you support the home team.

There, I said it. And, no, I'm not about to backpedal or apologize for characterizing most of the team's followers as whiny, loudmouthed louts who are too insecure to appreciate what being a fan is really about.

Yes. You're very brave. Get to the point.

To make my case, I'd like to compare the difference between the ways fans of stick-and-ball sports -- a category that includes baseball -- approach their favorite games, to the manner in which fans of my personal favorite sport, superbike racing, do.


Sorry, I'm going to ask you to repeat that. Because for a second, I thought you were about to compare baseball to a made-up thing called "superbike racing."

To make my case, I'd like to compare the difference between the ways fans of stick-and-ball sports -- a category that includes baseball -- approach their favorite games, to the manner in which fans of my personal favorite sport, superbike racing, do.


Huh. Okay. You did say you were going to compare baseball to "superbike racing."

Or, at least, compare fans of baseball to "fans" of "superbike racing."

Let's just pause here and try to figure out what the fuck superbike racing is.

Superbike racing is a category of motorcycle racing that employs modified production motorcycles. Superbike World Championship is the worldwide superbike championship. Many countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, and Canada, operate national superbike championships. Superbike racing is very popular with manufacturers, since it helps promote and sell their product. “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” is very relevant in Superbike racing.

You guys have all heard that famous phrase, right? "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday?" It's the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" of superbike racing. Also, look at this again:

Superbike World Championship is the worldwide superbike championship.

That's Escherian. That's a brain teaser of a sentence, man. Who wrote this Wikipedia entry? Some like Japanese motorcycle designer who doesn't speak English very well? (Probable answer: yes.)

Now, many of you are probably saying, "But Ken, isn't superbike racing just the same as MotoGP racing? No, you ignorant assholes, it isn't.

Superbikes are based on standard production models, MotoGP bikes on the other hand are propotype machines that bear little resemblance to production machines. One might consider that a MotoGP bike is related to a Superbike in the same way that a Formula One car is related to a Touring car.

The analogy is imperfect, however; while a touring car could never compete with a Formula One machine, the performance gap between a Superbike and a MotoGP bike is much smaller. MotoGP bikes develop approximately 230 bhp, and reach top speeds of 340 km/h while superbikes develop 220 bhp and reach speeds of 320 km/h. Based on lap times from circuits where both MotoGP bikes and Superbikes race, superbikes are 2-3 seconds per lap slower than MotoGP bikes. This means that a number of superbikes would be able to easily qualify for a MotoGP race.


The point, though, is: fans of superbike racing are superior to fans of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. (That's the point. Can you believe that's the point?) Let's see how.

Whether viewing superbike races on TV or from the grandstands or paddock, you will never find one of us screaming "You suck!" at a racer.

Shocking though this may be to some of you, I have never attended a superbike race. I've always meant to, it's just that I would rather do anything else in the fucking world than attend a superbike race. I have come to this conclusion in the last 15 seconds, which is the total amount of time I have known that there are superbike races. But: and this is key: I would imagine that yelling "you suck" at a superbike racer would be a mostly futile enterprise, because (a) I am going to assume that superbikes make a lot of noise, and (b) the racers are really close to the noisy bikes and (c) wearing helmets.

We do not, by habit, turn our backs on racers at the start or finish lines because of a lack of winning results, as Pirates' "fans" did last summer, and we do not view ourselves as part of the team.

Sorry, I just need a minute here.

Hang on.

Okay. I am ready to continue.

Mike Seate, superbike racing's #1 fan in the greater Pittsburgh-metro area, is bragging about the fact that fans of superbike racing do not "turn their backs" on superbike racers at the "start or finish lines" because of a "lack of winning results."

That is one of the strangest brags I have ever seen. I don't...I can't even wrap my head around that brag. We do not, by habit, turn our backs on racers at the start or finish lines because of a lack of winning results.

Someone needs to cut a hip-hop single around this sentiment.

And as for baseball fans thinking they are part of "the team," well, yes, that's kind of silly, when people do that. But I certainly don't give you any points for not thinking you are part of the superbike racing team because what the fuck is a superbike racing team?

It is endlessly fascinating to hear football or baseball fans lamenting that "we lost" after their city's team is defeated, when the fan's contribution to the team effort involved chugging cans of Coors Light while munching on bags of Doritos.

Not specific to Pittsburgh. Not specific to baseball. Not germane to the discussion of baseball fans vs. superbike racing fans. (In case you started reading this halfway through, that's what we're doing, here, today -- discussing the merits of superbike racing fans as they relate to, and outnumber, the merits of baseball fans in the Pittsburgh area. I know. I can't believe it either.)

Because superbike racing is a dangerous sport to master, fans tend to be more realistic about the outcome. We don't call 2006 Moto GP champ Nicky Hayden a bum when he crashes, because many of us know what it feels like to be thrown off a motorcycle at triple-digit speeds.

My brain just spun around in my brainpan.

I am going to try to disassemble this paragraph so I can understand it. It's going to take some work. I might need to break down every letter to its constituent pixels before I get to like a sub-atomic level where I might be able to see something I recognize as English.

Because superbike racing is a dangerous sport to master, fans tend to be more realistic about the outcome.

No idea what this means. Not even close. Because it is to be more "realistic"...about the..."outcome?" Okay. I think what he means is, because of the dangers of superbike racing, whoever wins a race, the fans are kind of like, well, it's superbike racing -- and we all know what that means, because we're huge superbike racing guys. And what that means is, hey, anything can happen, and let's just be happy that everyone is alive, because their participation in this incredibly dangerous sport is kind of like its own reward, or something. Close?

We don't call 2006 Moto GP champ Nicky Hayden a bum when he crashes,

1. Why did you pick the 2006 champ?

2. Knowing nothing about superbike racing, I somehow instinctively know that "Nicky Hayden" is an absolutely perfect name for a motorcycle racer, and that

3. Nicky Hayden is a dick.

3a. That might be unfair. I just went to his website, and I can't tell whether he's a dick or not. Here's a picture of him riding on a camel:

Judge for yourselves.

4. Um, excuse me, there, Mike, but it's my Wikipedia-based understanding that MotoGP racing and superbike racing are two very different things. Check your facts!

because many of us know what it feels like to be thrown off a motorcycle at triple-digit speeds.

How many of you know that? Seriously. How many of you know that? A lot of you? If so: what are you doing riding motorcycles that fast?

By comparison, how many Steelers or Pirates fans who rail against the team's performance have even touched a football or baseball after age 12?

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than have fallen off a motorcycle at 100+ MPH, you dingbat.

When one of my favorite racers, Australian Troy Bayliss,

Well, sure, who doesn't love Troy Bayliss? "Oh, you know who my favorite baseball player is? Babe Ruth." What a hacky choice.

crashed at 170 miles per hour last year, grinding off one of his pinky fingers, I didn't scream at him for incompetence.

Did you wince and moan and turn away in fucking disgust that you live in a world where people are allowed to fly off motorcycles at 170 MPH and grind their pinky fingers down to dust for other people's entertainment? Because that's what I would have done.

There were no ESPN superbike racing talk shows to phone repeatedly about whether Bayliss would ever return to form and no Internet chat rooms to gather in.

That's not because superbike racing fans are superior to baseball fans in terms of their like maturity level or something. That's because -- and I need to you to hear me on this -- no one cares about superbike racing. (If you do care about superbike racing, please, I am begging you, do not write to me with statistics showing how much people care about superbike racing. I beg you.)

Instead, we race fans simply got on with our lives as if nothing happened.

You are truly brave. It is astonishing to me that after someone named Troy Bayliss fell off of his motorcycle in a race no one cares about or has ever heard of, while competing in a sport no one cares about or has ever heard of, that your whole worlds did not come tumbling down. How did you even function, after that made-up-world-rocking event?

When I turned on the TV a few weeks later to see Bayliss win a race -- with his injured digit wrapped in a bandage -- it was a fine show of self-determination and grit,

That is amazing, I have to say, that the dude got back on a bike and raced again so soon after that. Amazing, and fucking insane.

and not, as stick-and-ball sports fans would have it, an occasion to head for the nearest sports bar to pound beers and talk loudly about the incident until even the bartenders tire of our company.

Sorry -- so, the complaint here is that baseball fans talk about baseball too much? Maybe that's because baseball exists and is interesting. Unlike -- to give one example off the top of my head that I just like pulled out of nowhere as a thing that neither exists nor is interesting -- superbike racing.

I can think of two reasons superbike fans don't go to sports bars, drink beers, and talk loudly about superbike racing:

1. There are only two superbike racing fans in the entire world, and finding a bar exactly halfway between Pittsburgh and Manitoba is tough.

2. If you went to a sports bar and talked loudly about superbike racing, the other people in the bar, who are probably talking about actual, real sports that actually exist and about which people care, would tell you to shut the fuck up.

So, with the start of baseball season only a few weeks away, try to remember that part of being a fan means being respectful toward those who do what you cannot. And it means the team needs your support, win or lose.

I cannot believe that after eating mushrooms, making up the sport of "superbike racing," furiously typing a 750-word article on why superbike racing fans are better than baseball fans, and telling me that after some Aussie ground his pinky into a nub by falling off his bike at 170 MPH and how superbike racing fans kind of didn't care about it that much and somehow suggesting that this was a positive aspect of superbike racing fans, his conclusion is: "Being a fan means supporting your team."

I have never been more confused.

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posted by Anonymous  # 6:52 PM
I just got an email from Aaron, who points me here:

It's a Pirates-based blog where the author dismantles Seate's piece (even saying "I'm going to go FJM-style", for which we thank him). He and I actually had several nearly-identical observations, including that superbike racing clearly doesn't exist.

I tip my cap to Charlie, who was there first, and urge you all to hit up his blog post for that reason.
David sez:

I'm really confused why Seate keeps talking about the...Steelers:

"It is endlessly fascinating to hear football or baseball fans lamenting that "we lost" after their city's team is defeated, when the fan's contribution to the team effort involved chugging cans of Coors Light while munching on bags of Doritos."


"By comparison, how many Steelers or Pirates fans who rail against the team's performance have even touched a football or baseball after age 12?"

Because it sure seemed like he used a certain phrase...

"To make my case, I'd like to compare the difference between the ways fans of stick-and-ball sports -- a category that includes baseball -- approach their favorite games [...]" and "[...] it was a fine show of self-determination and grit, and not, as stick-and-ball sports fans would have it, an occasion to head for the nearest sports bar to pound beers and talk loudly about the incident until even the bartenders tire of our company."

...which prohibitively excludes football from the argument, since the act of playing football DOES NOT INVOLVE A STICK.

I also like how he stereotypes that all baseball and football fans are alcohol-abusing, junk-food-consuming fucktards.

Yes -- I like that part, too.
I don't know why I feel compelled to write this, but I do:

I seriously don't have any idea whether Nicky Hayden is a dick. That's what I meant to imply by (3a) in that list, but then I put in that picture of him on a camel and it seemed like I was using that to say that he is, actually, clearly, a dick.

The point is, I have never met the man and was just making a joke. I'm sure he's perfectly nice, even if he "plays" a made-up "sport."
Michael writes, excellently:

I do know what it feels like to fly off a bike at 100+ (not bad unless you hit something), I do know what superbike racing is, and even consider myself a fan, which, I can assure you, does entail giving sackless riders all kinds of shit as any casual look at a racing fan bulletin board will make clear.

AND: that is the stupidest fucking article I have ever read.

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Three Quick Things About Stephen A. Smith's Blog

According to an article linked through Deadspin, the Philly Inquirer officially fired FJM favorite Stephen A. Smith today, which: congratulations. This fact reminds us here at the World-Wide Leader in Sports [Journalism Attacking]™ that Stephen A. Smith has a blog. And further leads to three observations about that blog.

1. At the top it says: "Welcome to the Official Stephen A. Smith Online Blog." "Online Blog" is now the "ATM Machine" of web-based redundancies.

2. Also at the top, it says this, and exactly this:

"I Have Learned Over The Years That When One's Mind Is made up, This Diminishes Fear." -- Rosa Parks

The relevance of this inspirational quote to the chunks of nonsense that come out of Stephen A. Smith's mouth on a daily basis I will leave to the reader to determine. My question -- and no, I don't believe this is petty -- is: why capitalize every word of the quote except "made up?" He even capitalizes "The" and "That" and "This," and for some reason does not capitalize "Made Up." That is all kinds of nuts. That's like a note you find from a crazy old lady after she's found in her apartment being eaten by her cats.

3. Stephen A. has now posted exactly twice in like fifteen days. We post on this blog like 5-10 times a week, and we all have full-time jobs. What is the man doing?

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posted by Anonymous  # 6:06 PM
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Monday, January 28, 2008


Clarification: Eric Walker

Some of you have emailed me to defend Eric Walker, cited and gently mocked in the post sub as a guy who thinks that steroids didn't increase HR (which he does). I introduced him as "a guy you may have heard of" for precisely this reason -- he is one of the good guys, I think, who recently established this site as a scientific investigation on the true benefits (or lack thereof) of PEDs. It's excellent, and I recommend it, especially this page, which is dedicated to the actual effects (or lack thereof) of steroid use. (He can also be found right here on Blogger, with his excellently-titled "Is It a Blog Yet?", a more general-interest kind of deal, but fun reading.)

I love Eric Walker. Eric Walker is awesome. The problem with that article in my opinion, whether it is due to a lack of context or Walker's own words (or both), are:

(1) The author (not Walker) attributes a "late-30's surge" to Aaron, when his numbers were pretty similar in that period to those from his early 30s (which itself is impressive, I suppose). This is not the same thing as suddenly out of nowhere hitting 73 HR in a season when you've never before hit more than 49 (and that was the year before), and also you are 36/37. It's not the same. Not. Same.

(2) Walker, who is smarter than I am and much more thorough, challenges us to find a counterargument rooted in mathematics, and there is one, and I linked it. [EDIT: Please see comments for a good counter-argument to the study, and a call-to-arms.] Now, obviously, the standard deviation break-down of Bonds's season does not in any way link the HR to steroids -- nor does it attempt to. What it does, is: it shows the extreme improbability of a 37 year-old man hitting 73 HR in a season. Is it possible that Bonds is, actually, just the 1 in 53 million who could do it? I suppose. But he's also, apparently, the #1 abuser of PEDs -- not just steroids, but crazy, never-before-seen-or-analyzed shit -- in baseball history. That is worth looking at, I think.

A large part of Walker's site's argument has to do with the fact that steroids add more muscle mass to the upper body than the lower body, and that power is generated in the lower body. Problem is, I don't think the Cream or the Clear were used in those studies. And I don't know what counts as "steroids." (This could be due to my own careless reading of the site or its many sister sites. There's a lot of stuff there.)

He also seems, when he does his calculations, to use only "lower body" muscle gain, and I am not sure if that includes the torso or not. Because Bonds's torso is massive, and so was Giambi's when he was using, and so was McGwire's. It is unclear to me whether torso muscle mass is being included in Walker's calculations, and I am reasonably certain that Prof. Adair mentions in his writings that power is generated primarily from legs, ass, and torso.

Walker also seeks to disprove the notion that the rejuvenation effects of steroids help guys, really, in terms of HR-hitting, but the way he does it (as far as I can tell) is by arguing that they can't recover that quickly from injuries that would make them miss games, and even if they did, since the best HR hitters only really hit like 2 a week or so, it wouldn't make that much difference. But he doesn't, I don't think, try to quantify the effects of steroids on just minor nagging injuries that might make a guy play who's playing at 80% effectiveness feel good-as-new. Cortisone is a steroid, and guys get cortisone shots all the time to relieve pain, and it helps them play better. [EDIT: please see comments.] Perhaps the true benefit of steroids is in this marginal universe, where a guy who might just be banged-up gets to feel tip-top. (I truthfully don't remember offhand whether Walker deals with that specifically -- I'll have to check again.)

Anyway, I was just responding to the specific things in that article that seemed slapdash. As for the first comment I made, about him ignoring the spike in 50-HR seasons, well, that was probably knee-jerk. He mostly uses the Power Factor thing in his analysis, which, since he is smarter than I am, I am going to assume is worthwhile. I still would like to know why it is that the three guys who have hit 60+ HR since Maris are all hard-core PED users. Small Sample Size? Coincidence? I guess?

Anyway, I digress, a lot. I promise I love Eric Walker. I aspire to be as intellectually rigorous as he is. But I also reserve the right to be lazily critical of New York Times sportswriters for the sake of comedy.

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posted by Anonymous  # 5:35 PM
Thoughtful stuff from David:

The problem I have with the study showing Bonds' gazillion standard deviations away from the mean stems from the arbitrariness of the data selected: steroids aside, it is ridiculous to assume that a 37-year-old playing in the 1930s has the same relative age as a 37-year-old playing today, or even 10-20 years ago. Babe Ruth once knocked himself unconscious in Spring Training by running into a palm tree; he nor any other player in his time preserved his body like a PED-free player today can and does. Not to mention that the article uses raw numbers from these vastly different eras, a glaring error that you've criticized multiple times in HOF articles. If you would post this it might motivate one your more analytically inclined readers (i.e. anyone that reads FJM) to run the same study with age and/or normalization factored into the equation.

Anyone want to take him up on it?
Aaron makes a good point, E. E. Cummings-style:

in the 2003 edition of his baseball abstract, bill james points out that hank aaron had the "illusion of consistency" late in his career because he moved from a pitchers park to one suited for hitters, right at the time (non-steroidal) home run hitters usually decline in power.

bonds moved parks as well at about that age, except it was from one pitchers park to another one that was arguably even worse for (non-steroidal) home run hitters. so that probably makes his 73 home runs even more unlikely.

An important clarification comes via Brian:

Ken, I'm concerned that your most recent post, while generally thorough and well-reasoned, suffers at one point from the kind of insufficient specificity that tends to plague discussions of PED use nowadays. More specifically, you talk about "steroids" generally and then refer to cortisone -- "a steroid" -- as archetypal evidence that "steroids" can aid day-to-day recovery. As you probably know in the back of your mind, but failed to elucidate here, catabolic steroids and anabolic steroids are, in biological terms, opposites with respect to building muscle. Cortisone is an effective anti-inflammatory but also a corticosteroid; stanazolol (e.g.), is an effective anabolic but you wouldn't want to inject it into a tendon to reduce swelling. This is not to say that there isn't a plausible argument that anabolics and/or HGH and/or insulin and/or equipoise (all of which have probably entered Mr. Bonds' ham-hock gluteals at one point or another) contribute to day-to-day recovery; this is merely to point out that relying on cortisone's classification as a "steroid" does not prove, even a little bit, the day-to-day recovery attributes of anabolic steroids.

Here was my response to him:

I was aware of the difference and did not mean to imply that anyone would inject, like, Winstrol as an anti-inflammatory. (It does read that way, and the mistake is mine.) What I meant to say was that steroids generally -- in different ways -- can be used to accelerate health, whether as "calm down!" or "speed up!" The only point I was trying to make was that Walker accounts for, and seems to disprove, a lot of arguments people have about PED use, and the smaller, day-to-day health benefits of steroids of all kinds seemed not to be accounted for.
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Let's Take a Spin Around the Internet

I'm going to Buster Olney it up and just link a few stories that I don't have the energy to lay into. Setting a bad precedent? Absolutely. But: easier.

Here's a little ditty entitled "Attitude Can't Just Be a Platitude for Sox," by legendary comic actor Dave van Dyck (The Dave van Dyck Show, Diagnosis: Murder.) The thesis is that what the 2007 Chicago White Sox lacked was not "hitting" or "pitching" or any of those other pesky "tangibles," but rather: a certain je ne sais quoi.

It has been called "swagger" and "a chip on your shoulder," a sort of no-respect, us-against-the-world motivational mentality.

Another thing it has been called is "last in the league in runs scored."

Of course, [Paul] Konerko was around when the White Sox had that intangible benefit of swagger. And he was there when it vanished, perhaps through complacency caused by lack of competition, which led to losing and a lack of confidence.

For those of you keeping your own Intangible Scorecard at home, that was:

Lack of competition ----> Complacency ----> Vanishing of Intangible Benefit of Swagger ----> Losing ----> Lack of Confidence.

Here's another flow chart: Team ERA of 3.61 in 2005 ----> Team ERA of 4.61 in 2006 ----> Team ERA of 4.77 in 2007 ----> Worse Team in 2007 Than in 2005

"The younger guys are hungry, and that adds energy," [Buehrle] said. "And it takes some of the older guys who have been around here to refocus and get that little edge back, knowing that it's more than going out and putting up numbers, that you have to have a purpose on how you're doing it. We have to try to get back to that."

It might be more than going out and putting up numbers. But I would highly recommend: going out and putting up numbers, as like a starting point.

The question is whether swagger comes naturally or takes some team meetings for everyone to believe they should have it.

That's the question? Not: "How do we improve our AL-low .318 team OBP?"

Next up, we have this useless article about how Tom Brady really isn't that good at football, and how Johnny Unitas was better. Take it away, Plaschke.

The first thing you notice about Tom Brady is, well, nothing.

Really? I notice that he is the world's most handsome man. I might also notice his league MVP award, his 3 Super Bowl rings, his 2 Super Bowl MVPs, or the fact that his smoldering eyes and dimpled chin have forced me to take a long hard look at my own sexuality and conclude in like 5 seconds that although I love Mrs. Tremendous with all my heart, I would trade her and our unborn child and everything I own to kiss Tom Brady on the mouth for fifteen seconds, because then I would know what it feels like to melt into perfection.

He doesn't have a nick on his face because today's referees won't allow it.

Also, his offensive line is quite good.

He doesn't have a growl to his voice because today's huddles don't require it.

I just looked at the HTML coding for this sentence, and it reads like this:

{PlaschkeStyle ="nonsense-level: total; meaning: none; point? no; faux-poetry: yes; garbage garbage garbage"}He doesn't have a growl to his voice because today's huddles don't require it.{/Plaschke}

He doesn't have fire in his eyes because today's teams don't need it.

What claptrap. Ugh. You've killed the mood. I don't even want to kiss Brady on the mouth anymore. You ruined it.

Tom Brady is fantastic, but he's formula. He's a champion, but he's a creation. And to anoint him as the best quarterback ever would be to forget that his position was invented, inspired and made famous by those who were neither.

He's a creation who had 50 TD passes this year. He completed 26 of 28 passes in a playoff game. He has led game-winning scoring drives late in the 4th quarter of like 9 Super Bowls. He is 14-2 in the postseason. So, yes, he is a creation...of Football Jesus.

If Brady leads the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl win over the New York Giants next Sunday, everyone will celebrate his four world championships.

They will forget that Otto Graham won seven league championships.

Graham was an incredible athlete and a great winner. But when he played, there were like 12 teams and the average LB was 4'8", 120 and played his college ball at Yale. It's a different game. There are now 32 teams, and the average placekicker can curl 900 lbs. Players sprinkle steroids into their protein shakes, which they pour over bowls of steroids. Free agency, scouting, PhD.-level offensive and defensive coordination schemes, illegal videotaping of other teams''s a very different game. A harder-to-succeed-in game.

Everyone will marvel at Brady's 15-2 postseason record.

They will forget that Bart Starr was 9-1 in the postseason with a record 104.8 passer rating.

I like that he italicizes 9-1, as if (a) Brady didn't start his postseason career 10-0, and (b) 9-1 is so much more impressive than a theoretical 15-2.

Everyone will wax about how, in two Super Bowls, Brady led his team on late fourth-quarter game-winning field-goal drives.

They will forget that, in one of his four Super Bowl championships, Joe Montana drove his San Francisco team 92 yards for a last-second, game-winning touchdown.

No one will forget that. It's like the most famous thing that has ever happened in football history. Also, Montana needed a TD. Brady did not. Apples and oranges. Or, apples and different-but-equally-delicious apples.

Everyone will applaud Brady for his tough defender's mentality.

They will forget that Slingin' Sammy Baugh actually played defense, picking off 31 passes in his career, which is more than he threw in his last three seasons combined.

Different game, man. You really can't penalize Brady for not playing both ways, a thing that has not happened in decades. And speaking of Brady playing both ways, I would like to kiss him on the mouth.

Yeah, everyone will forget Johnny Unitas.

No, we won't. Swear.

[Unitas] was football's Babe Ruth, and Bart Starr was its Lou Gehrig, and Sammy Baugh was its Ty Cobb, and Joe Montana was its Joe DiMaggio.

Dan Fouts was its George Sisler. Rich Gannon was its Paul Molitor. Rob Johnson was its George Kendrick. Jim Zorn was its Mark Loretta. Al Toon was its Wil Cordero. Marc Edwards was its La Marr Hoyt. Joe DeLamielleure was its Rick Rhoden. And, most obviously of all, Billy Joe DuPree was its Kevin Tapani. That's just a no-brainer.

Tom Brady is football's, well, um, Alex Rodriguez.

...right. He's the best player in the game. Except that Alex Rodriguez, as boneheads like you are fond of pointing out, has never won a championship. So defend this statement, please.

"I hear all these people talking about Tom Brady and I just sort of smirk," said John Unitas Jr., the late quarterback's son. "It's an entirely different game. I'm biased, but what my father did, you can't compare it to anything today."

Tell that to Plaschke. He's devoting an entire column to doing just that.

While Brady is famous for his "decision making," many of those decisions have actually been made for him by his offensive coordinators.

The Patriots' game plan is more homework than instinct, more science than scrabble.

Late in the season finale against the Giants, Brady threw deep to Moss on second down, underthrew him, and Moss dropped the ball. On the next play, 3rd and long, with the Pats losing, their perfect regular season in jeopardy, they ran a play designed to check down to Welker to try to get the first. But Brady, in the 0.8 seconds a QB has to make a decision, saw that the Giants had not rotated safety help over to Moss (perhaps expecting the check-down?), meaning Moss would be single-covered by a CB. So Brady said, calmly, handsomely, to himself: "Fuck this noise," and uncorked a 60-yard pass that dropped into Moss's hands like a day-old helium balloon. Two records fell, the Pats went ahead for good, and all was right with the world.

Please don't say that Tom Brady -- or any modern QB -- doesn't employ "instinct." That's all they have out there, really. Watch how the man preternaturally senses and avoids blind-side pass rushes, and then write Whitman-style poetry about his instinct. Because that's the only logical response to how good his instincts are.

Here's my favorite part:

Brady is playing in an era when the following scenario would never happen:

Playing in overtime for the league championship, having driven his team to his opponent's eight-yard line, a quarterback decides to pass.

That was Unitas, 50 years ago. His Colts were in position to kick a field goal to beat the Giants for the title. Yet he saw a hole in the defense and threw a seven-yard pass to Jim Mutscheller to set up Alan Ameche's one-yard touchdown run.

This is incredibly dumb. Kick the field goal. It's overtime. (Unless NFL rules were different back then and it wasn't sudden-death. Anyone weigh in on this?)

I said I was just going to sample some articles to save time and energy, and now here we are, like two hours later. Oh well. Here's one more, about a man you might have heard of, Eric Walker, who thinks steroids don't really help people that much.

“If power were up, we’d see it in the statistics,” Walker said. “But the boost just isn’t there.” [...]

Apparently, he hasn't noted the extreme end-of-the-bell-curve-probability rise in 50- and 60-HR seasons since the "Steroid Era" began. Smaller parks, maybe. Expansion, maybe. Steroids probably helped, too, though, considering McGwire, Sosa, and a bunch of other Congressionally-invited dudes are on that 50+ list.

Regarding Bonds, for example, they note that, yes, his peak home run rates came at 36 through 39 years old, when most players are in decline. Then again, another slugger three decades before enjoyed almost the same late-30s surge: a fellow named Hank Aaron.

Hank Aaron, HR by age:

32: 44
33: 39
34: 29
35: 44
36: 38
37: 47
38: 34
39: 40
40: 20

That doesn't seem like a huge "surge." (Though he did play in fewer games at 37-40 than in the previous years, so his HR/AB rate was higher.)

“I’m tired of people saying, ‘This is what happened because I see more home runs,’ ” Walker said. “If you disagree with me, deconstruct the argument; tell me where it’s wrong. If you can, more power to you.”

The argument has already been "deconstructed" [sic], at least w/r/t Bonds. It's here, and it's telling. Basically, it sets the odds of a 37 year-old hitting 73 HR at one in 53 million. That season was so many standard deviations from the mean, the author had to like go searching for a chart that would even calculate it.

And before any of you make fun of me for wanting to make out with Tom Brady...I got nothing. Go ahead. I want to make out with Tom Brady. Do your worst.

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posted by Anonymous  # 12:31 PM
Vinnie writes:

I'm pretty sure it was the first game in NFL history that required sudden-death (regular season games just ended in a tie with no OT, I believe).

As far as throwing the ball from the 8 in sudden death, that does seem like pretty horrible strategy, especially when you consider that was before the goal posts were moved to the back of the end zone. I suppose one could argue that place kicking was so brutal back then (pre-soccer style of course) that a field goal from any distance was a risk. (Come to think of it, maybe the 8 was even too close to kick because of the goal post thing.) Also, their kicker Steve Myhra was just 4 of 10 in FGs that year according to Pro Football Reference.

Thanks, Vinnie. Although, I'm pretty sure I could hit a 15-yard FG more than 40% of the time.
Part II, from Joshua:

before Pete Gogolak popularized soccer-style field goal kicking in the 1960s (that is to say, well after Unitas' and the Colts' victory over the Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played"), field goal kicking was much more of a crapshoot than it is today, to the extent that successfully executing a field goal try from the 8 yard line (or even from the 1 yard line) wasn't really the given that it would be today. (As an illustration, per Wikipedia, Lou Groza, NFL Hall of Famer and namesake of the NCAA's annual award for the best DI-A kicker, made just 58% of his kicks, well below what even an average kicker accomplishes today.)

Additionally, while I can't find any specific information on point, we're talking about a game that was played on natural grass in New York in the winter. Heck, even today field goals at Giants Stadium on FieldTurf can be an adventure. One article I've read says the game featured numerous turnovers and missed field goals. I'm guessing weather probably would've added to the difficulty of a game-winning field goal attempt.

Those things being the case, I'd imagine that continuing to drive for a touchdown was netiher as "incredibly dumb" as you might have thought, nor as heroic as Plaschke portrays it as being.

I will officially back off from the position that going for it was dumb because they should've kicked, though I still think a 15-yarder was makable. However, as Joshua notes, Unitas maybe shouldn't be given a ton of credit for passing, since they kind of had to try to score a TD, and who knows what defensive alignment he was facing (10 in the box?).

Either way, I am definitely sure that I could have been the league's best FG kicker in the 1950s. Maybe even a good RB.
Howard, with the juiciest email of the year:

You're too young to remember, but the rumor was that the Colts' owner bet on the game and gave the points and needed a TD to cover not just a FG.

I really hope that's the true story. That would be awesome.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008


Not Sure How I Missed This

Old. But bad.

Does the statistic "RBIs per 100 at-bats" really measure how valuable a hitter is? You have cited that stat in at least two stories comparing Brian Schneider to Paul Lo Duca.

Schneider is a strong defensive catcher, and a below-average hitter. The RBI as a stat is not nearly as telling about a player's ability to be a productive hitter as are on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, extra-base hits and even the vastly overrated batting average stat. I just feel that citing that statistic adds little, and is somewhat insulting to students of the game.
-- James K., no hometown given

Good question, James. And more restrained than we stat-minded basement dwellers usually are. Very well done. Who can argue with such logic?

Oh. Marty Noble can.

I beg to differ, and I guess I'm obligated to explain my use of RBIs per 100 at-bats because yours is one nine [sic] e-mails I've received that have questioned it. To me, it is a fundamental and quite legitimate means of measuring run production.

Obvious thing:

Player A and Player B both have 500 AB. Both have 65 RBI. Player A and Player B are the same, in terms of run production, right? Wrong! You fell into my trap. I am a diabolical genius who totally just outsmarted you so bad.

Because what you don't know is that Player A hits clean-up for the Awesome City Crushers, and the three guys in front of him all have .950 OBPs, so in his 500 AB he had like 1450 guys on base and only drove in 65. He struck out like 400 times, never walked, and generally acted like a sullen dick. He is terrible. The only reason he is hitting clean-up is that his dad owns the team. It's totally unfair.

Player B hit lead-off for the North Suckington Suck-Bears. He was an excellent baseball player who walked all the time and hit like .450 with a .700 OBP, but in his 500 AB, his stupid sucky teammates had only gotten on base 20 times, total, in front of him, and he was so good he drove all of them, and also hit 45 solo bombs. (Why was he batting leadoff, am I right? Maybe it's because his manager saw that the Cubs were hitting Soriano leadoff and followed suit.)

Anyway, here's the undeniably true thing: Player B is better than Player A. Player B will create more runs than Player A 10 seasons out of 10, assuming their seasons were not total flukes.

Now here's something that will blow your mind. Player A is Mickey Mantle. Player B is Dustin Pedroia!!!!!!

(Just kidding. I made them up.)

Computers have contributed to a current glut of statistics that, to a degree, distort the picture. We have so many now that we lose focus on what is most important. The objective of the game is to win, and to win a team must outscore its opponent. Nothing, therefore, is more important than runs -- both producing and preventing them.

Wow. I am being taught a very valuable lesson here. Color me: chagrined. No -- ashamed. In all of my stat-mongering, I forgot that the idea of baseball is to win. I further forgot that in order to win, a team must outscore its opponent. Mary Noble's condescending spoonful of proudly provincial bullshit has jolted my RobotBrain™ back to earthly reality. Thank you, sir. Or, as my people say,


Runs and RBI totals provide insufficient information because neither tells us how many opportunities a player has had to produce. And in the case of catchers, who are unlikely to play every day, the number of opportunities helps us understand how they produce.

What's amazing is that he acknowledges a problem with RBI here. He even goes so far as to say that the problem is that RBI as a raw stat doesn't work because it ignores RBI as a percentage of RBI opportunities. Then explains his method of using RBI, which does little or nothing to fix the problem. It's like saying, "Throwing money into your toilet is bad, because if you throw money in your toilet, you won't be able to use it to buy food, or furniture. Instead, you should set it on fire, and toss the ashes into the toilet. That way, the toilet won't clog."

Knowing the potential rates of production affords us a better sense of what a player does, particularly if the rates are compared, as they were in the two instances you cited.

RBIs per 100 at-bats measures run production as ERA -- earned runs per nine innings -- measures pitching. It's a quite legitimate means of determining who does what.

Last year, Lo Duca had 487 plate appearances, and Schneider had 477. Pretty damn close. Given this fact, RBI/100 AB is essentially exactly the same thing as just asking "who had more RBI?" (Plus, you should use PA instead of AB, probably, since AB don't count walks.) If the difference were huge -- like 100 or more PA -- it might shed a little more light on the subject. But 10 PA? Two games?

What matters more is -- obviously -- how many guys were on base when they got their PA, and how successful they were driving them in. Schneider had 331 guys on base in his 477 PA. Lo Duca had 307. So Lo Duca drove in the same number of guys, in almost exactly the same number of PA, but there were 24 fewer guys on base for him. Now, 24 isn't a ton, but it's something, and the only thing a rational, non-condescending person could possibly conclude is that Lo Duca was more efficient in terms of driving in runs last year than Schneider was.

Now, this isn't the be-all, end-all of a batter's worth. Clearly, OBP, SLG, and myriad other things should be checked out. But Noble concerns himself solely with RBI, so that's what we're doing, here, on our Saturday, is looking through BP's sortable stats to determine that Lo Duca drove in runs at a higher rate last year than Schneider. (He also had a higher VORP -- 9.2 to 2.4.)

I'm too lazy to do this for the last three years, but it actually doesn't matter. It's the methodology I object to. Sorry -- mis-typed. It's the methodology logic objects to.

That Lo Duca might have had a higher on-base percentage or slugging percentage means less to me than the number of runs he produced. The next time a team wins a game because it produced a higher on-base mark and scored fewer runs than its opponent, please alert me.

This is hard-core boneheaded. The more guys are on base, the more chances they have to score. That can't be hard to grasp. Why fight it?

OBP, OPS, et al, are the ingredients in the recipe for offense. Runs are the meal.

"Food metaphors" label? Today is your lucky day.

Next question for Marty?

C'mon, Marty. Jerry Koosman must be considered for the Hall of Fame, given what we are witnessing today. He must be considered.

-- Ray, Matawan, N.J.

Must he, Ray? Must he really? A .500 pitcher with a 110 ERA+? With a 1.26 WHIP and barely a 2/1 K/BB ratio? Must he be?

I'm not quite sure if you're referring to something specific that I've written about Koosman or just making a general comment. I wish there were a place for Koosman in the Hall. He's a personal favorite. When he was healthy, he was as effective as almost any Hall of Fame pitcher and nastier than most of them. [...]

This bold claim might -- might -- be defensible in 1968, 1969, and 1976. I guess he wasn't healthy in any of the 16 other seasons.

Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Morris are popular answers to the question, "Which pitcher would you choose to start a must-win game?" Koosman wouldn't be a bad choice, either.

Homework assignment: name 100 pitchers since 1960 you would rather have start a big game then Jerry Koosman. (Don't really. Or if you do, don't send them to me. Print them out and post them on your wall, and look at them every day and say to yourself, "I am so happy Jerry Koosman is not in the Hall of Fame." And then say to yourself, "No one should ever use 'Who would I want to start a big game?' as a criterion for Hall of Fame induction." And then say to yourself, "I can't believe I spent an hour making this list. I should read more."

At least Noble doesn't actually say Koosman belongs in the HOF. That's something, I guess.

How can Aaron Heilman not be given a real shot as starter? He pitched a one-hitter. At least it'll stop him from wondering. And if it works? Remember, what good is relief if you're down by six or seven runs all the time?
-- Charles F., Brooklyn, N.Y.

That one-hitter didn't make Heilman a lock to produce a 15-victory season as a starter. And making him a starter would affect one game in five. Losing him as a reliever might affect three or four games in 10. Chances are Heilman working as a starter wouldn't prevent being "down by six or seven runs all the time."

Noble's solution: make every pitcher a reliever. That way, they all get to affect the most games.

Abrupt ending to this

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posted by Anonymous  # 6:33 PM
Hat tip: yuhsing720.
To those of you who asked, yes, it does actually say "Thank you" in binary code. Perhaps I need to read more.
Joe sez:

Not sure if you know this or not but you're binary code translates to THANkyou. "Thank you" would be: 0101010011010001100001110111011010110010000011110010110111101110101.
01010100 01001000 01001001 01010011 00100000 01001001 01010011 00100000 01010111 01001000 01000001 01010100 00100000 01001000 01000001 01010000 01010000 01000101 01001110 01010011 00100000 01010111 01001000 01000101 01001110 00100000 01010100 01001000 01000101 01010010 01000101 00100111 01010011 00100000 01001110 01001111 00100000 01000110 01010101 01000011 01001011 01001001 01001110 01000111 00100000 01000010 01000001 01010011 01000101 01000010 01000001 01001100 01001100 00101110 00100000 01010000 01001100 01000101 01000001 01010011 01000101 00100000 01010011 01001111 01001101 01000101 01000010 01001111 01000100 01011001 00100000 01010011 01001000 01001111 01010111 00100000 01010101 01010000 00100000 01010100 01001111 00100000 01010011 01010000 01010010 01001001 01001110 01000111 00100000 01010100 01010010 01000001 01001001 01001110 01001001 01001110 01000111 00100000 01000001 01001100 01010010 01000101 01000001 01000100 01011001 00101110 00100000
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Next Sunday, it's Either Gonna Be the Patties or the Giants

Neal points us to this article, wherein Wojo revisits his pre-season NFL predictions and determines their accuracy.

Here's one:

If one NFC team is going to shock the world, it's going to be ... the New York Giants. Workable schedule. Desperate team. Quarterback with something to prove. Better-than-you-think replacements for Tiki Barber (remember what Tiki says in those Caddy ads about opportunity?). Understanding, patient fan base. It all adds up to a possible mini-miracle.

Pretty cool, right? Nice work, Wojo! Heres another one:

NFC East finish: 1. Philly, 2. Dallas, 3. Redskins, 4. Giants.

What is the point -- I say, what is the point -- of making two equal and opposite predictions. You have no chance of getting credit for either of them. At least be the person who gets to write, "What a bonehead I am!" recaps. This way, you just look like a hedger.

(Pitchers and catchers soon, people. Then we can stop writing about football, and start getting real.)

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posted by Anonymous  # 12:34 PM
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I Am Being Baited

But, okay, I'll be baited. Because the bait is a delicious juicy worm of an article about Boston vs. New York, pierced on the lure of an expert sportsman who looks like this:

I've missed you old buddy. Welcome back.

How does Boston compare to N.Y.? It doesn’t

Big Apple superior to Boston in nightlife, atmosphere, and especially sports

Let me begin by agreeing, agreeing, and saying: "Fuck the heck?" Among even the most ardent supporters of Boston, MA you will find few who think it is a "better" city than New York. New York is much larger, has many more people and things, and stays open very late. New York is awesome. Boston is also awesome, but in a smaller, more ornery way.

This is why I believe that this is one of those fun sports journalism articles designed to rile people up, get them screaming and yelling on the comment boards, make them send the link of the article to their buddy Weebs in Rehoboth with a note that says "Look at this fucking guy who thinks Boston sucks!" and drive traffic to the site. It's pretty transparently concocted to drive Boston fans nuts. Having said that, and knowing that I am 100% on to you, HatGuy, let me now spend two hours of my life reprinting and dissecting it. Then you'll see who's boss!

Beantown? That’s it? Beantown?

There may be a city with a worse nickname somewhere, although I’m not sure what it could possibly be. Is there a Phlegmville out there?

Well, thanks to the fine people at this site, I can offer you some options:

Annapolis, Maryland is "Crabtown." That's pretty bad. Beaver, OK -- already a terrible name for a place -- proudly self-identifies as "The Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World." Well done. Birmingham, AL can't even really distinguish itself, when it announces that it's "The Pittsburgh of the South." Lyons, KS, about 30 miles due north of me here in Partridge, advertises itself as "The Unexpected Pleasure." Dubious, if you've ever been to Lyons. Santa Rosa, NM boasts that it's "The SCUBA-Diving Capital of New Mexico," which: isn't NM a land-locked desert? Noxubee County, Mississippi, waves on its flag: "Home of the Dancing Rabbit Festival and Magnolia Pilgrimage," next to which "Beantown" looks pretty effing good.

Boston also has: The Athens of America, The City of Kind Hearts, The Cradle of Liberty, The Hub of the Universe, and Puritan City, which are all pretty good.

On the one hand, you got Beantown. On the other, you got the Big Apple, Gotham, the City that Never Sleeps. Did Sinatra ever sing a song about Boston? Did anybody? Even the old rock group “Boston” never sang a song about Boston.

I don't love "The Big Apple," particularly, though it did lead to a truly excellent moment in rock music history when Mick Jagger exhorted: Go ahead / Bite the Big Apple / Don't mind the maggots. Gotham is okay, the City that Never Sleeps is wonderful. As for Sinatra, no, I don't believe he did ever sing about Boston. Though the band Boston certainly did. They even mention Hyannis, which is like Sinatra adding a line to "New York, New York" about how fun it is to hang out in Amagansett.

What were we talking about? Oh right -- nothing.

No wonder Boston has such an inferiority complex. Compared to New York, it really is inferior.

Again, in terms of cities qua cities, not a lot of dissent here. Not proving anything. Not getting anyone riled up. New York City, population: 8.2 million or so, the cultural, economic, and all-night society capital of the country/world, is "superior" to Boston, small/ancient/ provincial whaling town, population 600,000+. You really know how to take a controversial position.

This is like saying: "Benin? Fuck that. America is the superior country."

You want to put Boston in a good light, pick a comparable town. Like Cleveland. Or Sacramento. Maybe Minneapolis.

This is probably a good idea, actually. Comparable cities and climates (except Sacramento). I think Boston rates pretty favorably here, though the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra is among the finest in the world, and Minneapolis has an excellent music scene. Anyway, all fine cities, all better comps for Beantown than New York, which should only be compared to like London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo...places like that.

Now let's get to the really stupid part: sports.

OK, Boston’s won two World Series in the past four seasons and the Foxborough Patriots have won three of the past six Super Bowls. Even a New Yorker will admit that’s a nice little run. But can we have a little perspective here?

Most days of my life recently have included someone -- friend or new acquaintance -- saying some version of this to me: "Wow -- life is pretty good for you right now." And they are right, and they are not talking about my recent promotion to Associate District Director of Claims Oversight here at Fremulon Ins., Inc. What they are talking about is my love of New England-based sports franchises. And they are saying it because -- if you don't closely follow sports but somehow closely follow this blog -- the NE Patriots are about to play in their fourth Super Bowl in seven years, and feature a quarterback who is somehow handsomer at the end of each game than he was at the beginning; the Boston Red Sox have won two of the last four World Serieses; the Boston Celtics are 33-6; and also there is a hockey team.

That's a pretty amazing run, by any city's standards.

And since we are pretty clearly heading for a HatGuy history lesson, allow me to add for the record that the Yankees haven't won a World Series since 2000; the Giants are currently in the Super Bowl (the ostensible point of this article, I guess) but haven't generally been that good in the last several years; the Jets are the Jets; the Mets are the Mets (and were doubly the Mets last year); the Knicks, one suspects, are about to be disbanded after what will most likely be some kind of like RICO-style Federal intervention; and also there are two hockey teams.

In the first decade of this young century, there can be absolutely no question that Boston is the all-sports center of the universe. That's not fanboyism. That's just the situation. Soon, the ride will end, and maybe New York, or Dallas, or San Francisco, or Atlanta will emerge. But 2000-2008, so far, taking all sports into consideration, it's Boston, and anyone who says differently is stubborn or weird or looking for a scrap. Or HatGuy.

The Yankees won the World Series five straight years from 1949-53 and went to the World Series in 10 of 11 seasons. More recently, they won three straight and four out of five. The Red Sox have, what, six titles? Call me when you get to 26, which is what the Yankees have, and then I’ll start adding in all the titles won by the Giants, Dodgers and Mets and you can slink back up I-95 and comfort yourselves with a nice, warm pot of beans.

As far as baiting goes, this is pretty tepid stuff. My blood can boil, friends, and right now I'm maybe at like 98.7 or so. History doesn't concern me so much. England ruled the world for hundreds of years, but I'd invest in China right now over the UK if given the choice, no matter how many pro-Henry IV essays you might churn out. It also doesn't help your case so much when you point out that New York has had four professional baseball franchises, since it only highlights how absurd the comparison is between the two cities. (You think the Peruvian army is awesome? How about I send the US Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and various state militias! Then we'll see how good Peru's army is!)

I’ll grant you that nobody has ever dominated any sport the way the old Celtics did back when the NBA wasn’t important enough to get its playoff games broadcast nationally. And the Bruins were a pretty good hockey team back when the Knicks, which used to be a basketball team, were also pretty good.

Thank you for acknowledging that the Celtics (still) have the most NBA titles. Bill Russell has more rings than fingers to put them on.

But what have you guys really done? Three football titles, which matches the three that the Giants and Jets have won — not counting pre-Super Bowl championships, of which the Giants have four.

What have you guys done? Three football titles, which is barely the same number as these two teams have when added together! Pathetic.

A couple of World Series wins after 86 years of nothing, zip, nada.

Yes, those were bad, dark days. Fortunately, they are over now, and the team has now won two of the last four. So things are looking up, I'd say.

A basketball team that could win a title again — 22 years after its last one. In the immortal words of former Net Derrick Coleman, whoop-de-damn-do.

It will be its seventeenth, if it happens. Why are you allowed to cite Yankee championships of the 1940's, Jet championships of the 60's, and Giant championships of the 80's, but all previous Celtics championships are disregarded with a pithy Derrick Coleman rebuff? As Mark Eaton once said, "What the fuck is your point?"

And when you get done feeling good about all of that, what’s left? New York has Broadway and Wall Street and Fashion Avenue and Harlem and Spanish Harlem and more museums than you can shake a palette knife at. Boston has, well, I’m not sure what it has. I was going to say Harvard and M.I.T., but those aren’t really in Boston; they’re across the river in Cambridge.

Burned! Boston, you got burned. Hard. That is a hard burn, man. Wow. That is some cold, cold shit right there. Damn! Burned to a crispy carbony ash. Bam. Shut down. Down for the count. TKO, HatGuy.

HatGuy is schizophrenically having the kind of argument two five year-olds might have about their dads.

"My dad has won a lot of sports championships recently."
" dad has a Porsche."
"What does that have to do with sports championships?"
"...My house is bigger."

Anyway, even if we give Boston Harvard, when all of those movers and shakers take delivery of their sheepskins and go out into the great world, they don’t stay in Boston. They go to New York or Washington or somewhere else important.

Some of them stay in Boston. But yes, many of them do leave, so they can be in much bigger cities with more cultural, political, and economic advantages, like New York. You are so totally proving an awesome point!

Now, it may be that Boston has charms that I haven’t seen during my many visits to that town. And given the condition of the local streets, I never will see them.

Have you ever tried to get anywhere in Boston? There’s not a single 90-degree intersection in the entire city. And the next time someone stops for a red light will be the first.

New York -- and I say this having lived for several years in both places -- is a far more dangerous town for pedestrians. This might be due to the fact that it has 7.6 million more people, and people walk a lot more. I would put Boston navigation on the far end of the bell curve for difficulty, yes, but you really haven't seen difficult until you emerge drunkenly from a bar deep in the West Village at 4:18 AM and try to find Seventh Avenue.

OK, so there are subways, but they close down at night. What good is that?

It's not terrible. For a city of its size, Boston's T system is pretty clean, safe, and effective. And not surprising that New York's subways remain in operation for more hours, given, again, the 18.4 million person/tax base advantage they service.

Speaking of subways, have you ever wondered why in New York the subways are identified by letters and numbers, while in Boston they go by colors? Could it be that when they built their systems, people in New York could actually read and count? Just asking.

Am I most upset by (a) how bad a joke this is, (b) how lame a dig it is, (c) how clumsily it is presented, (d) how transparent an attempt to get Bostonites angry it is, or (e) that he ended it with "Just asking," as if that's like the final twist of the knife after this devastating indictment of Eastern Massachusetts's intelligence level? Oh -- or (f) the fact that Boston is famously like hyper-literate, rendering the whole dumb gambit nonsensical, to go along with lame and sad?

I'll say: (a).

I’ll grant that Boston was a great city as recently as 220 years ago. And while New York was coddling Tories because that’s where the money was, Boston was off firing the shot heard round the world and starting the Revolution. (Of course, once Boston started it and fought a battle or two, it shipped the whole thing off to New York, New Jersey and Philly and finally to the Carolinas and Virginia and took the rest of the war off.) Back then, the only city with as much cachet as Boston was Philadelphia.

Can anyone effing believe how long an article this is?

But when it came time to choose a capital for the newly formed United States, George Washington rode up to New York City. And when the Founding Fathers were looking for a place to put the National Treasure, they put that in New York, too — or was that just a movie?

I honestly wonder whether HatGuy knows that the U.S. Capital is currently not New York.

Anyway, it’s been a while since the days when if you said “Adams,” people didn’t automatically think of beer. Boston’s a fine little town, one that I have had many wonderful times in. But it ain’t New York, not in sports and not in anything else.

No, it is not New York in many many aspects. But it is far superior to New York in sports, 2000-present. And you are a poor flame-fanner.

I admit it’s not perfect in New York. We do have to put up with Donald Trump, and Rudy Giuliani refuses to shut up and go talk family values with his third wife.


But on the whole, it’s a heck of a town.

Yes it is, my friend. Yes, it is.

Now what the fuck is your point?

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posted by Anonymous  # 5:30 PM
From David:

Boswell, Indiana, proclaims itself to be the "Hub of the Universe" -- on their friggin' water tower, no less:

The only other claims to fame this place has are that:

a) it's on US 41, and

b) the railroad which runs through town is nicknamed the "Kabeeser"
(Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern).

Peter gets a gold star for being the first to point out that HatGuy's dig about the Pats' home town actually being Foxborough is DoubleDumb, because (a) they are called the New England Patriots, and Foxborough is in New England, and (b) you can't nail them for not "counting" as a Boston franchise in a pointless Boston-NY article because both NY NFL teams play in New Jersey.
I hyperbolically set the population of NYC at 19 million, but it was (understandably) confusing people, so I have changed the figured to accurately reflect the 2005 census.
Steve steps up and speaks for New Mexico SCUBA enthusiasts:

Dear Hat Guy Hater:

Blue Hole Santa Rosa�s Blue Hole is an 81-foot-deep artesian well bordered by a ring of sandstone featuring azure waters in a soda bottle-shaped configuration.

The well was once used as a fish hatchery, but it now serves as a dive-training and recreational site for those with water on their minds.

Because the water has a stable temperature of 61 degrees F, you can dive here year-round (winter is the busiest season) with just a quarter-inch wetsuit as thermal protection. Down in the well, the scenery is surreal.

The cylindrical sides are as wide as 130 feet in places, and the gray rock walls are covered with a thin film of algae. The water itself is a deep, clear blue, with visibility up to 80 feet. A metal grate covers the opening to the spring, which feeds the well with a flow of 3,000 gallons of water per minute. The Santa Rosa Dive Center is open on weekends to rent gear and provide air fills. The shop opens midweek only by appointment for certified divers and groups.

Hat tip to Michael for this:

For Hat Guy...

Championships since the establishment of the AFL and the New England Patriots in 1960:

Red Sox: 2
Celtics: 15
Bruins: 2
Patriots: 3

Total: 22

New York
Yankees: 8
Mets: 2
Giants: 2
Jets: 1
Rangers: 1
Islanders: 4
Knicks: 2

Total: 20

Paul says:

I take no issue with your picking apart of Hat-Huy's article, but me being a Mississippi boy, I must take issue of making fun of Neshoba County and Dancing Rabbit. Remember, that is where the Choctaw Indian Reservation is located and Dancing Rabbit Country Club features two Tom Fazio designed courses. One of those courses was named in Golf Digest and Golf Magazine as one of the top 100 places to play in the country.

Yeah, there's Silver Star and Golden Moon Casinos as well. And it's really nice, come on down from Partridge and let's play a few holes and gamble some.

Here's a link:

Devin points out:

Let's also note that the Giants, pre-Super Bowl, lost in the Championship game a whopping eleven times. So those four victories kind of look embarrassing in retrospect.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Does This Mean Anything?

It's time to play no one's favorite game: "Does This Mean Anything?" with Woody Paige.

Simply read one of Woody's complicated, faux-clever, oddly-capitalized pun-tences, and decide whether there is actual, salient, delineable meaning contained therein, or whether it's a smoosh-'em-up of letters which = nothing. Award points based on level of goodness of writing.

Here we go.

Brett Favre committed the Frozen Blunder.

A reference to "Frozen Tundra?" "Blunder" does not rhyme with "Tundra," but it at least has a referent, so I will award Woody .5 of a point.

In Ice Bowl, Too, Favre was neither the star nor a Starr.

I am not sure what rhetorical or stylistic advantage "Ice Bowl, Too" gives you over "Ice Bowl II" or "Ice Bowl Two." It has the appearance of a pun, but it is not, really, anything. Zero points.

"Neither the star nor a Starr" gets a full point, I suppose, though it's pretty lazy.

The Big Chill is not gone from Green Bay.

It was undeniably chilly in Green Bay last Sunday. However, there is no connection that I am aware of between the 2008 Packers-Giants NFC Championship and the seminal 1983 Kasdanian yuppie-celebration "The Big Chill." There is absolutely no reason on earth to cite "The Big Chill" here, and make it seem like it's a clever witticism. Negative 50 points.

The Big Thrill evaporated like a foggy breath in the overtime loss to the Giants.

I don't think there is any such thing as "The Big Thrill." I certainly cannot find any meaning of the term that would lead to it being cited in an article about football, much less in a way that makes it seem like a pun off of "The Big Chill," which itself, again, has nothing to do with football. Unless, of course, Woody is somehow linking the Packers' performance in the 2008 NFC Championship game to the 1989 hard-core porno, "The Big Thrill." Let's see if there is some connection we can draw. I quote from an intrepid IMDb user who has provided a summary:

The "story" revolves around a barber shop where Joey Silvera and Porsche Lynn are the owners, and Nina Hartley, Sharon Kane, Tracy Adams are the barbers, with Peter North as Manuel, the hispanic help. Things are already humid. But when some spanish fly type substance is spilled in the coffee, things really start heating up. Once the effect kicks in, the shop becomes wall to wall sex. It gets going pretty fast, and then there's almost non stop action, with the stunningly gorgeous Nina Hartley, Tracy Adams, and Sharon Kane at the height of their careers.
Huh. I suppose that Woody might have been suggesting that when Favre connected on the 90-yard pass to Driver, it was sort of like when Manuel spilled the spanish fly in the coffee. Then the game got going really fast, and there was non-stop action...but in the end, just like at the end of a hard-core pornographic movie, Packers fans felt depressed, ashamed, lethargic, and angry that they had wasted all that time instead of like reading a book.

Or maybe he was referring to this Axxis album.

Either way: negative 1,000 points.

It should be noted that these first four examples of Woody Paige's overblown fakey non-language were the first four sentences in his article. Unabridged, consecutively quoted.

The Quarterback, who wanted so badly to return to the Super Bowl, passed so badly at the end.

No reason to capitalize "Quarterback," and the rhetorical link between "wanting so badly" and "passed so badly" is a rope of sand, I say! A rope of sand! (Negative 100 points.)

Ultimately, Favre was outplayed by The Other Brother. Eli's certainly coming.

"The Other Brother" marks the sixth consecutive sentence in this article that has employed an archly capitalized non-phrase. And if there is something to "get" involving the sentence "Eli's certainly coming," I don't "get" it. Negative 10 points.

A crowd of 72,740 convened at Lambeau, Two-Below Field.

Seven out of eight, now, with capitalized phrases.

The lights were off, and nobody was home anywhere else in Green Bay.

This is like how a gay British gossip columnist would write about football.

". . . the last pass I threw in this game . . .," Favre said. In this game or this game? This particular game, or this game of football?

Incredibly ironically, the one time he could actually use capital letters, he decides not to. If he had written, "In this game -- or This Game?" he would not have had to repeat the sentiment in the next sentence in order to get his point across. Mind-blowing. Negative ten billion points.

There was no joy in Green Bay and no "v" in Fare on Sunday night.

I swear I have been staring at this for ten minutes and I do not understand it. If "Favre" were spelled "Faivr," and he said "there was no 'v' in Fair," meaning that, like, life isn't fair or something, okay. But what does the word "Fare" have to do with anything? Someone please help me. Negative infinity points until I get an explanation.

(EDIT: see comments. He still gets negative infinity points. I get negative ten for overthinking it.)

Forty years ago, on a similar climatic (weather) and climactic (drama) day, the city was joyous, and the quarterback was victorious.

This makes sense, at least. But isn't anyone else sick of the overwritten, stop-and-go, "The situation was both (x) and (linguistic variant of [x] with wry [y] meaning)" style? Woody Paige's writing style is the literary equivalent of watching "Cloverfield" in the front row while listening to a book on tape of an Oscar Wilde biography. Plus one point for making sense, minus one point for exhaustion.

Here's one that takes waaaaaaay too long to emerge:

Bart Starr, who was captain then and the honorary captain now, sneaked over left guard with 13 seconds left to give the Packers the right to go to the second Super Bowl.

Favre, who has come through so many times for the Packers over the years and this season, was through after the interception. They had no right in Super Bowl XLII.

You have to work really hard to understand that last sentence. It appears to most normal readers that he is missing the words "to be" after "right." Except that you forgot that the man is incapable of writing anything without like forty puns/linguistic trickeries, and is bouncing the word "right" off of the deadened trampoline of the word "left" in the previous paragraph, which itself was used as the A in the A-B link-up of "left"-"right" in that very same paragraph. Negative fifty jabillion points.

He indicated that for the Packers and their Backers, "Everything had fallen into place, and "all that was left was to play the game." They didn't figure on the Giants. And the Packers fell out of grace.

At this moment I am seriously considering legal action against Mr. Paige, the Post, the citizens of Denver, and Johann Gutenberg.

1. The quotation marks are just all kinds of wrong here.

2. "their Backers" = why capitalize this?

3. What does "And the Packers fell out of grace" mean?

Most of America, outside of New York and New Jersey, planned to go to bed Sunday night dreaming about a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl, but barely could sleep after their night of the Living Dread.

"Night of the Living Dread" only makes sense if you believe that everyone wanted the Packers to win, which, I don't know, did they? And also: stop capitalizing things. Negative five.

Don't pity the Pats. They did their job, although not very efficiently.

Why would anyone pity them?

So it's New York and Boston. It's actually Foxborough, Mass., vs. East Rutherford, N.J., but this is not a geography class; this is the Super Bowl.

You're the one who wrote that. You're the one who named the actual cities they play in. Then you got angry. That makes no sense.

New England: The perfect team in a pluperfect land.

What the fuck are you talking about? Or, in the pluperfect tense: "What the fuck had you thought of before you sat down at your computer, drunk, and wrote this?"

New York: The imperfect team with an improbable run.

And the Packers, as the Chargers before them, were not cool in the cold. Especially Brett Favre.

As if this sums up the whole mess, somehow.

Final score: negative infinity. Another record.

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posted by Anonymous  # 7:26 PM
Addenda and Errata:

Many of you have already written in to suggest that "Eli's coming" is a reference to a Three Dog Night Song of the same name. Thank you. And thank you as well to point out that the song is about an inveterate womanizer, making the reference even less applicable.

Also, immediately after publishing this, I understood that in the phrase "There's no 'v' in fare," the "no 'v'" part was in reference to Favre not getting the "v," or "victory." I still think it's odd that he writes "Fare" instead of "Favre." It makes it seem like the word "Fare" is important. I guess I overthought it.
James says -- astutely, I believe --

I think. THINK. The "pluperfect" reference has to do with the old (OLD OLD) joke about someone visiting New England for the first time and asking a cab driver where "you can get scrod around here." Answer: "I've been asked that many times, but never before in the pluperfect subjunctive."

Actually, it's kind of a cute old joke. Percentage of readers who have an outside chance to get the reference: .00021. I don't think Woody cares.

I first heard that joke many many years ago, though I heard it as an old man talking to a hooker on the Green line near Copley Square. If Woody is actually referencing this bit of Boston arcana, he gets one billion points.
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Friday, January 18, 2008


I Don't Own an iPhone

So I will make fun of this Don Banks article about the upcoming AFC Championship game between the New England Perfects and the San Jose Somethings. This falls under the umbrella statement: "Every time a critic tells you how Team X could beat Team Y in a 'Keys to the Game' type of deal, shit gets stupid."

[H]ere are five things the Chargers need to pull one of biggest upsets ever:

1. LaDainian Tomlinson must be a difference-maker.

The #1 offensive weapon the Chargers have must have a good game. That seems crazy to me, but keep going.

2. A surprising contribution from an unsung player.

He's talking about Billy Volek, if Rivers can't play. So, so far we have:

1. Chargers' running back must be good.
2. Chargers' QB must be good.

3. Keep those turnovers coming.

1. Chargers' running back must be good.
2. Chargers' QB must be good.
3. Chargers force turnovers.

4. Harrison and Seau play more like old Patriots rather than ex-Chargers.

1. Chargers' running back must be good.
2. Chargers' QB must be good.
3. Chargers force turnovers.
4. Some members of Patriots' defense do not play well.

5. History to repeat itself.

He's talking about Week 4 of the 2005 regular season, when the Bolts beat the Pats and broke their streak of home wins. So, to conclude, here are the things the Chargers need, in order to win the game:

1. Chargers' running back must be good.
2. Chargers' QB must be good.
3. Chargers force turnovers.
4. Patriots' defense does not play well.
5. Chargers [make? cause?] history [to] repeat[s] itself.


5. Chargers win game, thereby winning game.

Who needed this article to be written? This article is a waste of time. This article is the "liberal use of the 'food metaphors' label" label of "Keys to the Game"-style articles.

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posted by Anonymous  # 3:35 PM
If this is the first post you have ever read on this blog: sorry about the borderline-gibberish labels part at the end.
If we're being liberal with the food metaphors label, I would suggest adding it for the use of "turnovers."
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Non-iPhone-related Post

If you're looking for the iPhone icon post, don't panic -- it's right below this one! We don't usually do this, but Rich Lederer did a fantastic job rebutting Buster Olney's variously ridiculous pro-Jim Rice posts here and here. Some of my favorite parts include when Rich points out exactly how many goddamn times Rice came up with men on base and how crazy it was that Buster compared Rice's lack of walks with Pedro's lack of 20-win seasons. I kept meaning to make fun of those posts myself, but Rich has done much more thorough work already and I've been really busy the last few weeks designing and formatting the FJM iPhone icon.

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posted by Junior  # 1:24 PM
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Thursday, January 17, 2008


Boring news: iPhone icon!

For those of you who enjoy reading FJM on your iPhones or iPods Touch or whatever, I've added a nice little smiling-Joe-face icon to our site. So if you choose the "Add to Home Screen" option (available only in the latest software update) you can have a nice little picture of Joe smiling at you in your pocket at all times.

Um, yeah, you're welcome.

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posted by dak  # 7:16 PM
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Someone Buy These Dudes a Slang Dictionary

From reader Eli, and the Toronto Globe and Mail, comes a quotation from the Blue Jays/Scott Rolen Press Conference:

"I believe that I am as strong and I know I feel as good and as strong as I've been in the last three years, by far," he said. "I need to play baseball and be a dirt bag."

That is the term Ricciardi used to describe Rolen's hurly-burly style of play. The general manager said it also applies to shortstop David Eckstein, who signed a free-agent contract with the Jays in December.

Ricciardi believes their moxie gives the Blue Jays hope for overhauling the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the competitive American League East in 2008.

"If you look at the division we play in, Boston has a bunch of dirt bags, the Yankees have a bunch of dirt bags," Ricciardi said. "We have some, but we need more."

I don't think you mean "dirt bag." I think maybe you mean "Dirt Dog," or something. Saying you need more "dirtbags" on your team is like saying, "We need more skeevy dudes who will get drunk and wear tank tops and get tattoos that say 'Born to Bone' and listen to Nickelback and try to roofee some chicks."

You know. Like these guys.

Also: Eckstein is on the Blue Jays! That's hilarious.


Aaron has sent us this article about the Long Beach State 49ers baseball team, which has a long and inexplicably proud history of being referred to as "dirtbags." (This whole debate is feeling very deja vu-ish to me -- has this happened before? ) Anyway, regardless of the fact that "dirtbags" was used to refer to that bunch of baseball players, I am going to go ahead and recommend that the term cease to be used in a non-pejorative way. I mean, dirtbags means: dirtbags. Men of questionable moral character, who wear lots of cologne and get fake tans and spike their hair and flash gang signs at the camera when their picture is taken even though they grew up quite white-ly in Dumont, NJ and think that pec size is fucking key to getting chicks and had their most spiritual moment ever at an Everclear concert in 1998 when the 'Clear played "Father of Mine" acoustic and it fucking rocked and they have a good buddy who's serving 18 months for sexual assault but he was totally innocent and someday they hope to like start their own club in Miami where the music would be awesome and there's dollar-Jaeger-shot Tuesdays and it would be fucking tiiiiiight.

Let's go for "Dirt Dogs," or something? Maybe?

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posted by Anonymous  # 1:53 AM
Andrew sez:

Teaneck is an ok town. I think you meant to say Dumont. I grew up in between the two and I know where the main dirtbags are.

Done and done. I'm changing it to Dumont. (Teaneck I chose for my buddy Dave, who's from there. Hi, Dave.)
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Excellence in Journalism

Take it away, Mr. Excellence:

Memo to 30-year-old stat geeks combing through Jim Rice's numbers: Get out of the house and look at the sky one time. I know personal contact frightens you, but let go of OPS for a moment and try talking to someone who saw Rice play, or better yet, played against him.

An excellent idea. And excellently presented. I should have thought of this. Here I am, a 30 year-old stat geek, living here in my mother's basement, eyes glued to my computer, playing God by determining who should be admitted to the Hall of Fame via Excel spreadsheets. It never occurred to me -- I mean, it literally never even occurred to me -- that I could go watch these games in person. (Truth be told, I actually didn't know they were live events, presented in front of an audience. I assumed -- and who can blame me, given my half-carbon-based, half Intel© Celeron Processor-based brainputer -- that baseball games were avatar simulations run from a Cray Supercomputer somewhere in Langley.

I should definitely talk to someone about what baseball looks like when human men play it. Perhaps I can ask my friend Walter, whose family has had season tickets to Fenway for like 60 years. Or my friend Dave, who essentially lived in Section 41 for the years 1992-1998. Or maybe I can reprogram my frontal lobe algorithm to access stories from my dad, or any one of the hundreds of Sox fans I know, or even from the dark recesses of my own pre-robotic-conversion brain, where live memories of (rough estimate) around six or seven hundred live baseball games I watched, live or on TV, in which Jim Rice played.

That would certainly help me objectively evaluate Jim Rice's candidacy for the Hall, instead of just analyzing the millions of lines of Matrix-style code that I see when I look at a picture of him.

Please stop writing things like this, Dan. Thanks.



P.S. I just climbed up the 1000-foot ladder leading out of my basement and looked at the sky for the first time. Holy fucking shit! It's huge!

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posted by Anonymous  # 9:18 PM
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Saturday, January 12, 2008


Your Defense is Based on an Endorsement of Crash

Think about that, Buster. Crash.

Jim Rice, Hall of Fame, we're all sick of the argument. He's borderline-ish, probably on the side of not Hallworthy. Buster Olney has this, defending his pro-Rice article (which we'll hopefully get to also) from yesterday:

If you want to quibble with the fact that he won the award in 1978, or with his placement in some particular year, OK, I get that. But to ignore the MVP voting entirely, as if it isn't at least some kind of barometer of his play over the course of his career, is embarrassing. This is like saying, "Hey, forget the Oscar voting of the 1950s. Marlon Brando was clearly overrated."

I don't ignore MVP voting entirely. I take it with a Ganymede-size grain of salt. And I, as do most sentient human beings and well-trained domestic helper animals, do the exact same thing with Oscar voting. Your argument doesn't only rely on Marlon Brando. It relies on Forrest Gump. Crash. Marisa Tomei. You, Buster Olney, are saying that you will be happy when Juno wins the Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Documentary, Best Animated Film and Best Supporting Actor (the film itself will win this award, not a person).

Sure, the MVP is "some kind of barometer." But the kind of barometers that pick Pudge Rodriguez over Pedro Martinez in 1999 or A Beautiful Mind over any movie ever aren't necessarily devices I want to hang in my home.

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posted by Junior  # 1:56 PM
Gump beat Pulp Fiction, right?

Yeah. The Oscars is a good barometer.
Gump beat Fiction. It beat Shawshank. Heck, I'd take Quiz Show over Gump 10 times out of 10. Not the Academy's finest hour.

Someone somewhere is assembling a comprehensive year by year comparison of Best Picture winners and MVPs and analyzing who did a worse job, the Academy or the BBWAA. I await the results with bated breath.
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Thursday, January 10, 2008


This is Going to be Annoying

But I think I have to do it anyway.

Settle in.

Regarding this increasingly hard-to-get-into baseball shrine of ours:

[Super over-the-top sarcastic; leaning in as if transfixed] Uh huhhhhhh?!?!?!?!?

A monument to the greatest ballplayers who ever lived, it is about to bar its doors and deny admittance to baseball's all-time leader in hits (Pete Rose) and home runs (Barry Bonds), as well as to the third-best batting average in history (Joe Jackson's .356) and quite possibly to the gargantuan feats of Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

Rose: cheated/lied
Bonds: cheated/lied
Jackson: cheated/maybe didn't/made an example of
Clemens: seems to have cheated/seems to have lied/not voted on yet
Sosa: cheated/lied
McGwire: cheated/lied/lied to Congress*

Let me give you a prime example of the absurdity of it all:

[so over-the-top sarcastic I now have a British accent] Would you please?!!?!

Harold Baines received a mere 28 votes in the recently tabulated Hall of Fame election. The former White Sox outfielder fell 380 shy of the 408 required for induction. Fourteen other players from this year's ballot alone received more than Baines did.

OK, are you ready?


Harold Baines has more hits than Brooks Robinson, Charlie Gehringer, George Sisler, Luke Appling, Lou Gehrig … (keep going) … Billy Williams, Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks … (don't stop now) … Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Richie Ashburn, Ozzie Smith, Lloyd Waner, Pie Traynor, Mickey Mantle … (tired yet?) … Ryne Sandberg, Carlton Fisk, Orlando Cepeda, Eddie Mathews, Kirby Puckett, Mike Schmidt …

Who on blog's green earth would evaluate HOF inductees solely by hits? What kind of insane cherry pick is that? Not any other stat. Not longevity or era...not even taking position into account. Just: hits. Hits! That's like evaluating pitchers based on saves and deciding Pedro Martinez doesn't get in because he only has three.

I guess the answer is: Mike Downey of the Trib. He would evaluate HOF inductees solely by hits.

So, here's where it gets annoying.

Baines: 120 OPS+

Gehringer: 124 OPS+ (as a 2bman)
Sisler: 124
Appling: 112 (as a SS. .399 career OBP)
Gehrig: 179 (4th all-time)
B. Williams: 133
Aparicio: 82. (I know he was a great fielder, but what the hell is he doing in the HOF? Look at his 1959 season. That must be the worst #2 finish in the MVP voting ever. Can someone who knows a lot about that guy please email me and explain it? I'm willing to learn.)
N. Fox: 93. Must have been a hell of a second baseman.
Foxx: 163
T. Williams: 191 (2nd all-time)
R. Jackson: 139
Banks: 122 (for a guy who played a lot of games at SS)
Morgan: 132 (2B)
Perez: 122 (and probably doesn't belong)
Ashburn: 111 (and probably doesn't belong)
O. Smith: 87, for maybe the best fielding SS ever.
L. Waner: only 99 for Little Poison. But he had like 2450 hits in 2200 fewer AB than Baines, and a .316 career average.
Traynor: 107, but he hit .320 career and had 2400+ hits in 7500 AB.
Mantle: 172
Sandberg: 114 as a very good-fielding 2Bman.
Fisk: 117 as a catcher
Cepeda: 133
Mathews: 143
Puckett: 124
Schmidt: 147

The few people he's named who have career OPS+s lower than Baines are either middle IF or C or something, and/or had far higher BA (and thus many more hits in far fewer AB).

And now he's going to name some more people.

(We're almost done now) … Joe DiMaggio, Kiki Cuyler, Joe Cronin, Joe Medwick, Bill Terry, Pee Wee Reese, Yogi Berra, Duke Snider, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, George Kell, Bobby Doerr, Bill Mazeroski, Johnny Mize, Bill Dickey, Gabby Hartnett, Jackie Robinson and a couple of dozen other "immortals" whose busts are in the Hall of Fame.

I am so annoyed right now.

: 155 OPS+
Cuyler: 125 (and a .386 OBP)
Cronin: 117 (.390 OBP primarily as a SS)
Medwick: 134
Terry: 136
Reese: 99 as a SS (and a .366 OBP)
Berra: 125
Snider: 140
Killebrew: 143
McCovey: 147
Bench: 126
G. Carter: 115 (might not belong)
Kell: 111 (.306 career, elected in by Veterans Committee)
Doerr: 115 as 2Bman. Voted in by VC.
Maz: 84. Voted in by VC. Probably doesn't belong.
Mize: 158
Dickey: 127
Hartnett: 126
J. Robinson: if you have to defend Jackie's inclusion by any measure into the HOF you're an idiot. But his OPS+ is 132.

So there you have it. Very few of the people Downey has listed had a lower adjusted OPS than Harold Baines. The ones that did either played a much tougher position, or racked up tons of hits in a much shorter amount of time, or were Wizards defensively, or were voted in by that big softie of a teddy bear the Veterans Committee, or probably shouldn't be there at all.

How could you begin to explain who is worthy and who is not?

By using something other than "career hits" to evaluate them. Do you really not know the answer to that question?

How do you justify to people why Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter are in Cooperstown, with their humble stats, whereas Lee Smith is not and Clemens with his colossal 354 victories might never be?

Sutter was a weak choice. Gossage was somewhat more defensible, and he had years where he threw like 134 innings. I'm not sure what the argument is against Lee Arthur -- he had roughly a K per inning, and his WHIP is just about the same as Gossage's, though Gossage threw like 600 more innings. And Clemens might not be voted in because he seems to have cheated, lied, and then lied again on 60 Minutes, and then (theoretically) lied to Congress. Did you not hear about that? It was in all the papers.

How do you point out to the public—or, for that matter, to the voters—that Baines stands 40th on the all-time hits list? That he had seven fewer hits than Babe Ruth? could start by saying that Harold Baines was a very good, but not great, hitter, who is 27th on the all-time at-bats list with 9908. And if a guy is a very good, but not great, hitter who has 9908 AB, he will probably get a lot of hits, but that doesn't necessarily make him one of the greatest players every to play the game. You might cite Al Oliver (9049 AB, 2743 H) as another of these people. Or Craig Biggio (10876 AB, 3060 H).

And then someone might say "But Craig Biggio should be in the Hall of Fame!" and you might say, "I think I agree with you, because although he had a tremendous number of AB, which helped him get those 3060 hits, he played very tough positions -- catcher, 2B, CF -- which make his statistical accomplishments more impressive than Harold Baines's, since Baines played more than 60% of his games as a DH and the others as a corner OF."

And then -- your voice straining, your hands shaking from having to explain these incredibly simple concepts to a grown man -- you could also maybe say that Babe Ruth was the greatest fucking hitter in the history of baseball, that he hit more HR in 1921 than eight entire teams, that he is the all-time leader in OPS+, that he hit .342, that he had those seven more hits in 1600 fewer AB than Baines, that he hit 714 HR playing in an era where there was a HOFer whose nickname was "Home Run" who never hit more than twelve HR in a season, and that comparing Harold Baines favorably to Babe Ruth in anything except "months lived after the year 1948" is the biggest and most disingenuous waste of fucking time anyone could possibly fucking imagine.

Would that help explain it?

Couldn't they contend that Bill Buckner's 2,715 hits also are more than the likes of Ted and Billy Williams had, more than Reggie and Mickey, more than Fox and Foxx, more than Mr. Cub and Joe D and Yogi and the Duke? But that by no stretch of your imagination would Billy Buck strike you as worthy of the Hall?

Couldn't they say that Jose Guillen is a better baseball player than Barry Bonds because Guillen has more hit-by-pitches? Yes -- but they would be insane.

How do you argue with Ron Santo's rabid supporters that, good as he was, he ranks tied for 140th place in hits, 80th in home runs, 82nd in RBIs and that his .277 lifetime average was not exactly the stuff of legends?

You say: "He was really good, but not quite good enough." Or, you don't argue at all, but rather agree. Either way is valid.

Roger Maris is not in the Hall of Fame. As you well know, Maris not only broke the Babe's single-season home run record of 60, he did it on a diet that included beer and cigarettes, not human growth hormone.

What is the point? What are we even talking about? Did I die? Am I dead? This seems like hell.

More and more, you hear nostalgic baseball purists rue the fact that Maris never was deemed worthy of the Hall, the same way a lights-out hitter like Jim Rice repeatedly has been denied entry … this week for the 14th consecutive year.

Who hears this? No one seriously believes Roger Maris is one of the all-time greats, really. I think I'm dead.

Well, permit me to remind these folks something about Mr. Maris.

He had 1,325 hits. That ranks him in a tie for 731st place all-time.

Right. Doesn't deserve it. There's no argument here. (I'm definitely dead. Someone murdered me. And this is my penance. I am consigned to reading and commenting on this article for the rest of time.)

Players who already have more hits than Maris did in his entire career include these giants of the game: Jose Valentin, Tony Womack, Neifi Perez, Cliff Floyd, Juan Pierre, Rondell White, Royce Clayton, Ray Durham, Jason Kendall and Mark Grudzielanek.

No one fucking thinks Roger Maris should be in the Hall of Fame. If they do, they're wrong. You are not proving anything by just citing hit totals. (I think I know who did it. I think it was HatGuy. You know how no one's heard from HatGuy in a long time? He's been laying low and planning my murder.)

I see occasional references to "can't-miss" Hall of Famers among active players. Yet so many can't-missers have missed.

Luis Gonzalez, a fine individual, certainly no immortal, currently stands 85th on the all-time hits list. Did you know that? He has more hits than Mantle and DiMaggio did, more than Sandberg and Sosa and Frank Thomas, more than Rice, a guy Boston Red Sox fans continue to adore.

Who adores Luis Gonzalez? Anybody?

Not for the Hall of Fame, no, dummy, no one does.

Steve Finley has more hits than Gonzalez. Is anyone likely to vote for Finley a few years from now? Not many, if any.

So when those of us who cast ballots are asked to weigh every factor—total hits vs. average vs. power vs. fielding vs. durability vs. character—you can see how we might become discombobulated at times, trying to sort it all out.

You didn't do that. You cited their hit totals. You said nothing of average, power, fielding, durability, or character. Nothing. You talked about hits.

Bert Blyleven is not a Hall of Famer. That is a fact as well as an opinion. I have friends and colleagues who all but crusade for Blyleven's candidacy, year after year, citing his very impressive shutout and strikeout counts.

Yet I cannot bring myself to deem Blyleven any better or more worthy than Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Jack Morris and so many others who have failed to gain admission to the Hall. I can't find the discrepancy in their careers.

I just can't bring myself to do this again. Look at Blyleven's best ERA+ and WHIP seasons, his Ks, his shutout totals, his 15 seasons of 200+ Ks (Morris had 3), his postseason record, whatever you want. Then consider that if the teams he played for, or their bullpens, were just very slightly better, like 1% better, he would have won 300 games instead of 287 and no one would ever for one second consider not voting for him. Do you realize that? If he had won 300 games, he would have been a first-ballot guy. People would have said, "300 wins, 5th all-time in Ks, 13th in innings, awesome postseason pitcher -- he's a lock!" Instead, he has 287 wins and people fall all over themselves telling you why he is not in any way a HOFer. It's insane.

There are three kinds of professional baseball players: good, great and immortal. You need to be a good one simply to reach that level, no matter what kind of Mario Mendoza-like batting average you might have beside your name. Hundreds have been excellent, but how many have been truly legendary?

About 280 or so.

Gossage is the 61st pitcher to gain induction. He won 124 games. Clemens very well could be barred from the Hall because of performance-enhancing drug use that has not been proven. He has won 354 games.

Pay attention, people. A new low has been reached. A new god-damned all-time son of a bitching low, in the history of journalism. Not sports journalism -- journalism of any kind. This last paragraph is worse than the worst war reporting, the worst economic reporting, the worst paragraph from the worst article about the most inane party during the worst Hamptons season by the worst society reporter from the worst Hamptons-based magazine.

Mike Downey discussed Goose Gossage's HOF legitimacy by citing his win total.

Forget for the moment that wins are stupid for pitchers, because pitchers rely on at least 8 (and usually like 12-14) other people in order to be credited with a win. Also please forget for the moment that if a pitcher throws 5 innings and gives up 18 runs on 27 hits, but in those 5 innings his team scores 19 runs, he could get a win. Also, forget that a pitcher can come into a game in the seventh inning with a 3-run lead and the bases loaded, give up a triple that clears the bases, then get one out when his CF robs the next batter of a HR, then have his team score runs in the bottom of that inning and he gets credited with a win. Forget all of that and realize this:

Goose Gossage is a fucking relief pitcher.

He's a reliever.

Relievers don't usually gets wins.

Most people know this.

He's a reliever.

In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre: "Hell is -- other [sports journalists]."

Goose is an immortal but the Rocket is not? What kind of Hall of Fame is this going to be, anyhow? One that excludes the greats but includes the merely good?

1. Again, Gossage was a reliever, so his "immortality" has nothing to do with wins. (Although the fact that he had 124 wins is pretty incredible, when you think about it -- in fact, it probably serves to highlight how many innings the guy threw, and how good he was in those innings.)

2. The "Rocket" is quite cockfaceingly obviously one of the greatest pitchers of all time. The fact that he might not get in -- and of course you know this, you sniveling little muckraker -- has nothing to do with this win totals.

3. The Hall of Fame will include the very best players of all time who didn't cheat and/or lie about stuff.

See you in hell, Downey.

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posted by Anonymous  # 4:38 PM
Eric strengthens Downey's excellent argument:

Other Hall of Famers who have fewer hits than Harold Baines:

Grover Alexander
Chief Bender
Mordecai Brown
Jim Bunning
Steve Carlton
Jack Chesbro
John Clarkson
Stan Covelski
Dizzy Dean
Don Drysdale
Dennis Eckersley
Red Faber
Bob Feller
Rollie Fingers
Whitey Ford
Pud Galvin
Bob Gibson
Lefty Gomez
Burleigh Grimes
Lefty Grove
Jesse Haines
Waite Hoyt
Carl Hubbell
Catfish Hunter
Fergie Jenkins
Walter Johnson
Addie Joss
Tim Keefe
Sandy Koufax
Bob Lemon
Ted Lyons
Juan Marichal
Rube Marquard
Christy Mathewson
Joe McGinnity
Hal Newhouser
Kid Nichols
Phil Niekro
Jim Palmer
Herb Pennock
Gaylord Perry
Eddie Plank
Old Hoss Radbourn
Eppa Rixey
Robin Roberts
Red Ruffing
Amos Rusie
Nolan Ryan
Tom Seaver
Warren Spahn
Don Sutton
Dazzy Vance
Rube Waddell
Ed Walsh
Mickey Welch
Hoyt Wilhelm
Vic Willis
Early Wynn
Cy Young

* A few of you point out, correctly, that McGwire did not technically lie to Congress -- at least, not the way Raffy did. He did look like an ass, though. So pretend it says: "Kind of awkwardly dodged questions and looked like an ass in front of Congress."
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