Excellent thesis statement. You're the Stephen Jay Gould of MSNBC free-lancers.
Lefty had once held the title of Best Golfer Never to Have Won a Major. Then in 2004, he won a major, the Masters. He added to his credentials by winning the PGA Championship in 2005, and another Masters in 2006. Life was good.
But it appears Mickelson had intended only to visit his sport’s peak, not set up camp there. Since then, he collapsed in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. This year, he faltered badly in the Scottish Open, a warm-up tournament for the British Open, then missed the cut at Carnoustie.
Just so I am clear. He won the Masters for the second time last year. He lost in the final round of the Open, missed the cut at the British, and now he is terrible?
If you stare at Mickelson long enough, you can see Mike Torrez. If you look even harder, you can see Bill Buckner.
Oooh -- I love those things. Here's a neat one -- if you stare hard enough you see a toucan!
This bizarre metonymic Mickelson-as-All-Chokers trope is flimsy, man. The guy's won three majors in three years. Also, he is a golfer, and the Red Sox are a baseball team. That should be the most obvious reason why the comparison doesn't work, given the -- shall we say -- significant differences in the two sports. But hell, I admire your can-do attitude. Let's keep rolling.
And if you study the Red Sox these days, the phenomenon is mutual. Stare intently at the wobbly American League East leaders and you’ll see Mickelson, smacking errant tee shots and bogeying three of the final five holes at Loch Lomond.
I'm going to make a good-faith effort to back you on this journalistic suicide mission.
The Red Sox have tripped a bit recently, yes. They are basically .500 since June 1. But they just took 3 of 4 from the best home team in the AL and have a 7.5 game lead in the AL East. BP puts their odds of winning the AL East at 95.9%, and 98.67% to make the playoffs.
Phil Mickelson...is a golfer...who...forget it. I give up. This is insane.
It may not be completely fair to compare the two, since
One is a baseball team and one is a golfer?
Boston’s bustling infirmary has had something to do with its recent vulnerability.
David Ortiz is just recently back from resting a strained shoulder. Curt Schilling is rehabbing in the minors because of right shoulder tendinitis. Jon Lester recently returned to the team after battling a form of lymphoma. J.D. Drew has constant hamstring issues. Matt Clement is still working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery. Brendan Donnelly is recovering from a strained forearm.
Clement was never in the 2007 gameplan. Donnelly was pitching pretty well when he went down, but in his absence the bullpen hasn't missed a beat. Lester returned from his cancer scare, and ahead of schedule, so that weakens your argument. Drew's problems have not seemingly been injury-related. Ortiz missed like four games and has a .991 OPS this year.
Mickelson had a wrist thing a little while back. I think with a little tinkering, this "injury" run could be rejiggered to support your claim. Think about it.
But the Red Sox have shown disturbing signs — for their anguished fans, at least — that they might not feel comfortable at the top. Despite their World Series breakthrough in 2004, their natural tendency to collapse appears to be surfacing.
Their "natural tendency to collapse." Because a team's inherent nature transcends ownership and personnel changes from generation to generation. Because baseball franchises are like the four Hogwarts Houses in Harry Potter books. (You're a Slytherin, Michael Ventre. A Slytherin.)
Before Thursday’s games, they held a 6.5 game lead over the second-place New York Yankees, who had been stuck in as large a mental quagmire as they have ever had to try and overcome. It marked the first time since May 11 that Boston had held a lead of fewer than seven games. The Red Sox held a 12-game lead in early July, but the Yankees have somehow asserted themselves.
Excellent analysis. They didn't "somehow assert themselves." They began performing exactly the way their ExWL numbers predicted they would. In fact, they are still underperforming by about 5-6 games, so we can expect that their good play will continue. The Red Sox, meanwhile, had been very slightly overperforming, but in general just hit a slump. Kind of like Luis Delís between the '87 World Championships and the '93 Central American and Caribbean Games.
And despite the fact that the Red Sox had won five straight before falling on Wednesday against Cleveland, the omens are present.
For the motherhumping record, there is no such thing as: curses, omens, augurs, ghouls, ghosts, True Yankees, or franchises being haunted by fat ex-ballplayers who would have no reason to haunt said franchise, since the trade of the fat player led to him becoming the most famous athlete, maybe, in history.
But please, on with the omen discussion.
For instance, on Wednesday night Boston lost to Fausto Carmona and the Indians, 1-0. Nothing to be ashamed of, yet it was unsettling that Josh Beckett threw an outstanding game but lost on one measly mistake to Franklin Gutierrez, which turned into a solo shot. And it was Beckett’s first road loss since last September.
So spooky! So omen-ish!
The night before, The Sox won 1-0 on several bloop singles that fell just out of the reach of Indians' fielders.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble!
Also, Fausto Carmona is a very good pitcher. He defeated another team by pitching excellently.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble!
Not a problem. Nothing to panic over. Sometimes a black cat crosses your path, and most of the time it means nothing. Most of the time.
No, all of the time it means nothing. I know I'm losing my argument thread here, but now Ventre is crossing over from bad analogy to superstitious piffle. And I don't care if he's winking and "goofing around" and "being lighthearted." Black cats are not any different from other cats. And even in a universe where I good-naturedly agree to play along with the idea that there are "omens" in baseball, this isn't a fucking omen. Being defeated by an excellent pitcher 1-0 in game 3 of a series in which you win the other three games is not an omen of anything except that you are a good baseball team -- indeed, you have the best record in baseball -- and that you should be happy with the results of that series.
Meanwhile, the Yankees, a team some consider the luckiest men on the planet — usually the people who believe that live in, or hail from, the New England area — have managed to avert a complete oil spill of a season and are making a run.
They have gotten their share of good breaks in the last ten years or so, yes. They are also a $200m+ collection of excellent players who, recently, have been absolutely destroying the baseball in exactly the way that mathematics and reason predicts they should. They have also been pitching better. And thus: winning. To draw an analogy for you, Ventre: the Yankees are currently performing much like Carolina Klüft during her magical run at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.
Yes, that is factually accurate. Tell me, though -- how is the number "14" involved here, though? Because at one point, several months ago, the lead was 14.5 games? And that means that this year and 1978 are linked, portentously? Excellent. By the way, man -- I enjoyed your movie.
But it’s silly to toss and turn over what might happen in the future. After all, what are the chances that the Boston Red Sox will somehow fail to live up to their promise? They have legions of devoted fans who live and die with their exploits. Why in the world would a team disappoint their fans like that?
What are you trying to prove here? I honestly don't understand. Are you blaming the team for falling short in past seasons? And insinuating that they did it, like, intentionally?
David Ortiz has 16 home runs this season. Last year he finished with 54. I’m sure that if he bears down and goes on a tear he can match that total. I wouldn’t worry about it.
The team signed Drew to a five-year contract in the offseason worth $70 million. Lately he’s been limping a lot. So far he’s batting .247, with six home runs and 38 RBI. But he’ll catch fire soon, I’m sure....this season [Curt Schilling] is just 6-4 with a 4.20 ERA in 15 starts, and he hasn’t pitched since June 18. Yet I feel certain that the 40-year-old veteran of 21 major-league seasons will spring to life soon and power the Red Sox to victory like he did in the days when he was pitching in Arizona alongside another invincible war horse, Randy Johnson.
Michael Ventre is sarcastically pointing out that: Ortiz is having an off-year (.340 EqA, .991 OPS), JD Drew is having an off-year (true) and Curt Schilling isn't as good as he was six years ago when he was in his absolute prime. As if he should be.
The PGA Championship is scheduled to take place in two weeks at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla. The best thing that could happen to the Red Sox would be for Mickelson to snap out of his funk and win another major.
(EDIT: I missed completely how dumb this last sentence was -- the phrasing, I mean. So I will here insert Junior's comment from the comments section below. Take it away, Junior.)
Best thing? Best? You know, actually, if you think about it, of all of the infinite things in the world that could happen between now and the end of the season, Phil Mickelson winning a major is somewhere right around 50th percentile. Because it has no impact on the Sox whatsoever. It goes something like this:
-Sox win 60 games in a row, Yankees franchise disbands
-Ortiz gets healthy, Schilling comes back strong
-A-Rod starts looking human
-Barack Obama is revealed to have killed Pat Tillman
-Ugly Betty wins five Emmys
-Phil Mickelson wins a major
-A mother elephant sacrifices its life to safe its baby
-I eat a duck confit sandwich with fig jam
-Youkilis gets super into scuba diving and loses his love for baseball
-Manny loses his hand in a meat cutter
-Sox lose 60 games in a row, Yankees are awarded a Peabody and a Humanitas
(END EDIT. Back to Ventre's column.)
That would illustrate to them that negative habits can be broken.
One more time -- "negative habits" like winning the Masters twice in three years and being one of the best golfers of his era and making millions and millions of dollars by being good at golf? Those negative habits?
I tell you what would be a good omen for the Red Sox. If Nathan Deakes could regain the form that led him to Gold at the 2002 Manchester Games. Deakes and the Sox are like totally parallel in terms of what they do athletically.
I love imagination games! I am with you so far.
You pull up to a 7/11 in your Bentley, get out, walk in, grab a candy bar and bring it up to the register. The kid behind the register recognizes you as one of the wealthiest men in the world and says, “That’ll be 100 bucks.”
Ooh -- I know this one. I say, "No -- the pricetag says "55 cents." And I win the game!
Of course, you could easily whip out your wallet, peel off a C note and pay the guy. But you know he’s gouging you because you’re filthy rich. So you tell him what he can do with his $100 candy bar and you split.
Or, I could offer him 55 cents, and if he refuses, tell him I will report him to the Better Business Bureau. Am I playing this game right?
Now replace the kid behind the counter with Scott Boras, and the anonymous multi-billionaire with George Steinbrenner, and that approximates the situation that erupted recently involving Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.
Oh. Wait a second. You failed to inform me that this candy bar is the very very best candy bar in the entire realm of candy bars. You didn't mention that it was in its prime, like, shelf life, in terms of freshness. And you also didn't tell me that I already own this candy bar, and that another 7/11 in Texas is subsidizing this candy bar -- paying me, in this analogy, like $25 or something to defray the cost of it. (This happened because the store owner in Texas is big, dumb, and fat, and loved the candy bar so much that seven years ago he agreed to pay $252 million for it when no one else was even offering more than like $160m. But that is neither here nor there.)
You also failed to mention that this candy bar isn't just something I will eat. It is a magical candy bar that will also make me a lot of money, because it is so awesome that people will come from miles around to pay money just to sniff it. Or whatever. The analogy is running out of steam.
Boras told a New York newspaper that he expects A-Rod to attract a contract worth in the neighborhood of $35 million per season if he opts out of his current deal, which he is expected to do. For that kind of money, it had better be one darned good candy bar.
It is. It is a super super good candy bar. You can tell how good it is based on its performance versus other candy bars:New York Fun-Tastical Chocolate Factory Product Performance:
The situation is complicated,
And packed with peanuts!
depending on which Boras blast and which tabloid report you believe. Boras also said, under A-Rod’s current deal, there are stipulations that would pay the superstar about $32 million per season in 2009 and 2010 anyway.
Oh. So, wait a second. You're telling me -- to revisit the analogy at the beginning -- that I might be on the hook for this candy bar to the tune of like $94 anyway? That, plus the subsidy, and the yummy, Most Valuable Sweet Treat-winning composition of the candy bar, makes the original situation you posed, um, misleading? Wrong? Bad? What's the right word?
What Boras is saying, roughly translated: C’mon, guys. He’s already getting $32 million. What’s another $3 million per? It’s chicken feed, really. You can pay it out of petty cash.
Well, again, it's not that much, if they can extend him. The Texas 7/11 is paying you a decent chunk of that.
So while everybody is arguing about $32 million versus $35 million, Boras has made them all forget that nobody else in baseball makes more than A-Rod’s 2007 salary that is estimated at between $22 million and $27 million (depending on the source and how it’s calculated). Boras is taking a number that is completely out of whack and slowly getting everybody used to it.
Is it out of whack? Ichiro just got 5/90+. ARod is definitely better than Ichiro. And remember -- the original contract, that Tom Hicks signed in 2000, gave him this escalator to $32m or $1m more than the highest paid guy, or whatever it is. Don't blame Boras. Blame Hicks, if you blame anyone.
Supposedly, the Cubs and Red Sox will be willing to meet A-Rod’s price. Yet where is that information coming from? It smells like a Boras plant. I’m surprised we haven’t heard that the L.A. Galaxy wants to sign A-Rod to play next to David Beckham, or that MGM wants him to be the new James Bond. When Boras is finished, the hot rumor will be that A-Rod is about to merge with Google.
What does any of this have to do with candy?
Also, I am guessing that with the money the Sox, Giants, and Angels have coming off the books in the next couple years, there would be at least a few teams willing to do 6/190 or something. Especially if they thought ARod could go back to SS.
It’s true, [ARod is] a stud in the lineup. This year he’s hitting .312, with 31 home runs and 87 RBIs. But he’s doing it during a relatively meaningless season in which it became obvious early on that the Yankees just weren’t going to be in the playoff picture;
First off, the Yankees are still in the playoff picture. They play their next like 30 games against the DRays, the Royals, the Fordham JV Team, and the Washington Generals. Second, and more importantly, how can you write this sentence and believe it is good? That's the real question. If it weren't for ARod, the Yankees would, to paraphrase Johnny Damon a while ago, be about 25 games back. They'd be nowheresville. They would stink to high heaven. He is -- and now I will actually quote Joe Morgan, just for kicks -- carrying this team.
in that regard, his current tear isn’t much different than the sparking stats he put up while a member of the bottom-dwelling Texas Rangers.
Explain to me what he is supposed to do differently than what he has done. How can he make his team any better than he is making it? Seriously, man. Explain this. I defy you to explain this. Should he have pitched for Chan Ho Park? Should be be the Yankees' 8th-inning bridge guy to Rivera? What do you want him to do?
When he has been on good teams, like the 2000 Mariners and the Yankees the past two years, he has put up fantastic numbers. When he has been on crappy teams, like this year's Yankees, he has put up fantastic numbers. What do you want him to do?
Don’t forget 2006. There was no salary drive. And there were indeed playoff hopes. A-Rod responded with still-admirable numbers for most players — .290 average, 35 homers, 121 RBI — but hardly $35 million-per-year mega-superstar numbers.
You are calling ARod out for having that season. Really. Really. His WARP3 that year was 7.3, and if he had been playing SS, instead of adjusting to third because Captain Selfless refused to move, it might have been in the 10's. And there was no salary drive in 2005, either, by the way, or 2004, 2003, or 2002, or 2001, and in those five years he was worth 63 wins to his teams.
He was much shakier in last year’s playoffs, with just one hit in 14 at-bats. In the 2005 postseason, he was only slightly better: two hits in 15 at-bats.So. Just so I understand you.
Yes. And that definitely affected his play this year. He's at .284/.314/.339, with zero home runs. Oh no wait -- that's Juan Pierre. ARod is murdering the baseball every single day and has more than twice as many home runs as anyone else on his team.
It’s courageous for anybody to seek counseling while going through depression or difficult times. Yet he seems to be a completely different person this year. Unless he had a remarkable breakthrough after a visit to Jiffy Shrink, what that tells me is that the promise of money and stature keeps him focused, whereas the traditionally foremost reason to motivate an athlete — winning a championship — is a distant second or third.
Now, this might seem like a wild and completely unfounded accusation, but remember: Michael Ventre is a licensed psychologist. He got his MD/PhD from Stanford in 1996, and has been a practicing Clinical Psychologist in the New York area ever since. He is also the author of several books on athletes and their psychological motivations, including: Money or Success? The Athletic Mind in the 21st Century and Running in Place: The Scourge of Large Contracts and the Quest to Keep Athletes Motivated for Team Success. So he knows exactly what is motivating ARod.
I realize it takes an entire team, not one man, to win a title.
Do you? Honestly -- do you?
Pitching is more important than hitting. But after this, his 14th major league season, he never will have played in a World Series, let alone won one.
In the 2000 ALCS against the Yankees he went 9-22 with 2 HR. What a choking asshole. (I cannot believe how many times I have had to write a version of this sentence on this blog.)
Maybe it is because he just hasn’t been on a team that had enough talent.
Huh. There's a thought.
Or maybe it’s because he has been, but he didn’t infuse his team with the kind of leadership qualities that picks everybody up and keeps them moving forward determinedly through good times and bad.
Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God Oh my God oh my God
Any team that signs A-Rod should also have extra room in the cargo hold for his baggage. If it isn’t a “Stray-Rod” front page with a stripper, it might be a gentle feud with a teammate (in the past two years it was Derek Jeter; at A-Rod’s next stop, who knows?), or another obscene message on his wife’s shirt, or fending off criticism when he does stuff perceived as Little Leaguesque like trying to knock the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in 2004, or yelling to distract an opponent like he did this season against Toronto.
He's done some stupid stuff. He's also hit 495 HR and he's 31.
He isn’t a bum. He’s arguably the best player in baseball. He’s worth the money he’s making. But is he worth a lot more than that? Is he worth $35 million per season, or more?
He'll be making $32m regardless, in a couple years. So, by definition, he is.
I don’t want to say the Astros are just happy to be here. But on some level, they’re content. They’re satisfied.
You don't want to say they're happy to be here. You want to say they're content, a synonym for happy to be here.
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