News, Notes and Quotes (July 22, 2005)

The Greatest Thing Ever

Looking for the most brilliant thing ever created? Here it is. Seriously, if you can’t see the genius in that, I don’t think we can be friends. For those of you interested in an NCAA tournament-style office pool, here’s the complete “The Road From Bristol” bracket in PDF form.

I like three of the #1 seeds (Chris Berman, Stephen A. Smith, and Stuart Scott) to advance to the Final Four, although Scott has a tough second-round matchup with John Kruk, who someone managed only a #8 seed (his RPI rating was much higher). I think the other #1 seed, Dick Vitale, is going to have a tough time getting past the winner of the Jay Mariotti/Buster Olney 5/12 matchup in the third round.

Playing To Win

It’s still relatively early, and a lot could happen between now and December 31, but the leader in the clubhouse for sports’ Most Despicable Person of 2005 has got to be this guy:

A T-ball coach allegedly paid one of his players $25 to hurt an 8-year-old mentally disabled teammate so he wouldn’t have to put the boy in the game, police said Friday.

Mark R. Downs Jr., 27, of Dunbar, is accused of offering one of his players the money to hit the boy in the head with a baseball, police said. Witnesses told police Downs didn’t want the boy to play in the game because of his disability.

But wait, here’s the kicker:

“The coach was very competitive,” state police Trooper Thomas B. Broadwater said. “He wanted to win.”

Remember, we’re talking about a co-ed T-ball league here, and according to the article, each player is only required to play three innings per game. Of course, it’s not like paying someone to injure a mentally disabled player on, say, a high school team would be any less deplorable. Also, whatever happened to just sticking someone in left field?

Yeah, but this time it counted!

Here are three All-Star game-related headlines that I wasn’t exactly shocked to see:

- All-Star ratings hit new low for second straight year

- Fox deceives millions during national pastime

- Fox crew disses Harwell

Just for the record, I’d rather listen to Ernie Harwell read the phone book than listen to Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, and Jeanne Zelasko announce the All-Star game. And it wouldn’t even have to be a new phone book.

Sue Bird and I, together at last

Here’s a nice profile on ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer from the Portland Tribune. As I’ve written a few times, I feel about Neyer the same way a lot of people feel about Bill James, in that he was a big part of how I became the type of baseball fan I am today. I am too young to have grown up on James’ Baseball Abstracts; the last one was published when I was five years old. Instead I grew up reading Neyer’s ESPN.com columns. In fact, I was introduced to the greatness of James’ work through reading Neyer.

I bring all of this up because 82Games.com’s Kevin Pelton wrote an excellent article last week on the role of statistical analysis in basketball. In discussing ESPN.com’s basketball stat-head, John Hollinger, Pelton expressed a similar feeling about Neyer’s work:

While a generation of analytical-minded sports fans grew up on baseball Bill James, the generation now finishing college and entering the workforce, myself included, came of age after James had already stopped writing his annual Abstracts. Our introduction to sabermetric thinking, in many cases, came not from James but instead ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer. Hollinger can do the same for basketball.

And as if that weren’t enough, Pelton fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine last week when he mentioned me in an article on the WNBA’s official website. I can now die a happy man.

Details, Details

My favorite thing about this time of year is the constant trade rumors circulating around baseball. And my favorite thing about the constant trade rumors circulating around baseball is that you can never quite believe what you read. For example, here’s a note about a potential Twins-Red Sox trade from yesterday’s Boston Herald:

According to sources, the Twins aren’t as willing to part with [Joe] Mays as they are Kyle Lohse.

A perfectly reasonable piece of information, of course. Basically, if the Twins are going to deal a starting pitcher, they’d rather it be Kyle Lohse and not Joe Mays. But wait, here’s a note about the exact same trade, between the exact same two teams, in yesterday’s Boston Globe:

While the Marlins like [Bronson] Arroyo, they supposedly would prefer Twins starter Kyle Lohse to Mays, and the Twins aren’t interested in moving Lohse.

So, if the Twins “aren’t as willing to part with Mays as they are Kyle Lohse” and they also “aren’t interested in moving Lohse,” where exactly does that leave them?

If only there was a way to record what was on TV …

I am one of the world’s biggest Bill Simmons fans, but I have to admit that I often find myself cringing when he tries his hand at baseball analysis. For instance, in a recent column arguing against Rafael Palmeiro‘s place in the Hall of Fame, Simmons writes:

Elias needs to create a formula that waters down every power number from 1993 to 2004. There has to be a way to determine the performance fluctuation of someone’s power numbers compared with the average power hitter of that season.

There are, of course, a number of stats that do precisely what Simmons is looking for. For instance, Lee Sinins‘ wonderful Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia tells us that, prior to this season, Palmeiro had hit 267 more home runs than the average hitter during his career, and 136 more home runs than the average first baseman. The funny thing is that those are exactly the sort of stats Simmons loves to mock.

Quick Notes …

  • When an old article from Sports Illustrated on the “finest group of shortstops since World War II” features Alex Gonzalez and Rey Ordonez and that’s not even the funny part, you know you’ve got comedy gold. Sort of brings those Derek Jeter/Alex Rodriguez jokes to a new level, doesn’t it?
  • Remember last week, when I named Travis Lee to the Bizarro World All-Star team and talked about how amazing it was that “a last-place team going absolutely nowhere continues to give him regular at-bats”? Well, I had a good laugh when I saw this headline in the St. Petersburg Times yesterday: “Lou wants more punch than Lee is providing.” And it only took him four months to realize it, too!
  • Quote of the Week, from Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons on Orlando Hudson‘s defense at second base: “He saves you a bunch of runs. You add the amount of runs he saves you onto his RBIs at the end of the year, he’s the MVP of the league.” Yes, but which league, exactly?
  • Scott Podsednik is apparently not a big fan of the boys over at Baseball Prospectus:

    I don’t need any motivation from some guy who sits behind a desk and probably doesn’t know a thing about how to steal bases or play the game.

    In fairness, with the advent of laptops and wireless internet hookups, there’s a decent chance whoever wrote the thing that pissed Podsednik off wasn’t even sitting behind a desk.

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