FIRE JOE MORGAN: Let's Take a Spin Around the Internet


Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Monday, January 28, 2008


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 Unknown  # 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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