Week of October 16, 2020

Kershahahahahaw. Mr. May does it again!


How Cal Football is Coping With Covid A few weeks ago we wrote about the first installment from the New York Times reports from one football program’s efforts to deal with COVID-19. The second installment hit this week. The football program happens to be Cal, but you do not need to be a Cal fan to enjoy this story.  This week’s story comes as Cal begins camp, fresh off the announcement that the Pac-12 season will begin on November 7. It covers how players, coaches, and staff deal with daily testing; how they manage to get ready for practice without access to the locker room; how they manage position meetings when they can’t be indoors in their normal facilities. I could honestly quote you 75% of this story because it is so well-written. It is concise and compelling, and I cannot recommend it enough.  But if I had to choose one quote to get you to click the link below, it’s this one from Cal’s director of football operations, Andrew McGraw, himself a COVID-19 survivor:

“They’re seeing examples, week in and week out, as you look around the country, of just how fragile this all is,” McGraw said. “It’s unbelievably delicate, this entire situation. It’s as if the whole building is being held together with one screw. This thing could fall apart if just one part gives.”

 

-TOB

Source: At Cal, a Covid Survivor Keeps Watch Over Football’s Return,” John Breech, New York Times (10/14/2020)


Hell of a Debut

We all know this year’s MLB playoffs is unlike any other. Satellite stadium sites, no fans, expanded field, and expanded rosters. If you try not to think about it, you can almost forget the stadiums are (mostly) empty. The games have been fun, but it’s like a good piece of turkey with none of the sides on Thanksgiving.  One cool result of pandemic baseball is MLB debuts taking place in the playoffs. Prior to this year, only two players have made their MLB debut in the postseason; this year, three dudes have made it to the show on the biggest stage: Twins outfielder Alex Kirilloff, Tampa pitcher Shane McClanahan, and San Diego’s Ryan Weathers.  Weathers is big ol’ lefty, just 20 years old, and has never pitched higher than A ball. Unlike previous years, where a player would get the call while playing in some small minor league town and catch a flight to wherever the big league team was heading, this year – with no minor league seasons – all of the prospects are training at a single team site.  His version of “getting the call” is, well, so 2020. Per Joe Lemire: 

…Weathers was standing next to the club’s general manager, A.J. Preller, in the team’s hotel while waiting to grab a swab for the team’s daily Covid-19 tests when Preller posed a question: Which test was for the minor leaguers and which was for the big leaguers? Weathers said he didn’t know there was a difference, to which Preller replied, “Grab one from the big-league side today because you’re on the roster” for the playoffs. Hours later, Weathers appeared in relief during Game 1 of the Padres’ National League division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers…

Weathers held his own against the high-powered Dodgers, and it might have something to do with how teams have prospects from all levels training together at one site, where young guys can go compete against AAA level talent and stay in top form after a usual minor league season would have ended. It also helps there are no off days in the playoffs this year, which can be a big factor for pitchers like Weathers. 

Craziest of all, Weathers and the others will not get service time credit for playoff rosters spots this year. As far as that goes, they haven’t yet made it.  So three guys this year alone, but what about the other two that made their debut in the playoffs? For Adalberto Modesi (Kansas City), and Mark Kiger (A’s), it’s two sides of the coin. 

Although Mondesi has become the Royals’ everyday shortstop, Oakland’s Kiger never played in the big leagues again. Kiger — whose first bit of fame came in the 2003 book “Moneyball,” in which he appeared on a list of eight players that the A’s executive Billy Beane was determined to draft — entered as a defensive replacement in two 2006 A.L.C.S. games. He recorded a putout while playing second base, but never batted. He completed three more minor league seasons, but never returned to the majors.

Damn.  As for this year’s crop, for as cool as it would be to make it to the bigs, and even cooler to debut in a playoffs, it has to be a letdown for that dream-come-true moment to be in an empty stadium. – PAL 

Source: Welcome to the Majors. Your Season Is on the Line.”, Joe Lemire, The New York Times (10/14/2020)

TOB: I’ve thought about that last line a lot this whole season. As badly as you want to make the majors, it must have been a little bittersweet for all the players who made their big league debut this year, but did so to an empty stadium. Not even their parents could watch. That just ain’t right.


The Lakers Won, BUH, But At What Cost?

I love a good lede:

ORLANDO, Fla. —  Lakers guard Danny Green bounced down the hallway that led to the team’s locker room, the start of a long night of partying after the team won the 2020 NBA championship Sunday. “Free. We’re free,” he said, his voice echoing off the walls. “Freedom. I’m f— free.” The NBA leaves the bubble behind, the experience a major success. The league has finished its season, helping satisfy its obligations to television partners. It has finished its season, crowning a champion without losing a single game to a COVID-19 outbreak. And it’s provided players the opportunity to try to better the world by speaking out about injustice. So if the pandemic continues to cause problems, if safety cannot be guaranteed anywhere else, the league could end up back here sometime in the future, right? “No way,” one NBA veteran said. While the NBA hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to a bubble environment for the 2020-21 season, it’s an obvious last resort because of the effects it had on players.

Ok ok, but an unnamed vet and Danny Freaking Green whining is one thing. What about the stars? What about the guy whose legacy was most burnished by the results of these bubble playoffs?

“It’s probably been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done as far as a professional, as far as committing to something and actually making it through,” Lakers star LeBron James said before the NBA Finals. “But I knew when I was coming what we were coming here for. I would be lying if I sat up here and knew that everything inside the bubble, the toll that it would take on your mind and your body and everything else, because it’s been extremely tough.”

Dang! And remember – this is a guy who won a title in CLEVELAND, saying this is the most challenging thing he’s ever done. This makes sense of course. I would not choose to be away from my family for two or three months at a time with nothing to do but my job, even if my job was basketball -and this is coming from someone who misses playing basketball so much he goes down to the nearby courts once every two weeks or so just to shoot at rimless backboards! Me, sorta: What I find most interesting about this is how little it was discussed in the moment. At one point, as he struggled, Paul George discussed his mental health struggles in the bubble. But otherwise the story was not covered much. Many of us struggled in the first few months of the pandemic. Trying to balance working from home, some with kids to take care of. But at least most of us had our families. What these people went through is honestly unfathomable to me. Hats off to ‘em. -TOB

Source: Even the Champion Lakers Felt Strains of Life in the NBA Bubble,” Dan Woike, L.A. Times (10/14/2020)


Sabermetrics, Circa 1910

Found this relic on Medium. Pretty interesting read from a story posted in 1910 (!) about the “science of baseball”. Pretty incredible, because – aside from some funny terminology –  this doesn’t sound all that dated. Hugh Fullerton (everybody remembers ol’ Hugh) does a deep dive on the math behind how 9 men can cover so much ground on a baseball diamond, and team adjustments made to tip the odds in your favor. 

“Inside baseball” is merely the art of getting the hits that “he couldn’t have got anyhow.” Now watch this play closely. See whether or not you can discover what is going on. “Pat” Moran stoops behind the batter and hides his right hand back of his mitt. Ed Reulbach, pitcher, shakes his head affirmatively. Johnny Evers stoops, pats his hand in the dust, touches it to his knee and rests it upon his hip. Jimmy Sheckard trots twenty feet across left field angling in toward the diamond. Steinfeldt creeps slowly to his left: Tinker moves toward second base and Evers takes four or five steps back and edges toward Chance, who has backed up five feet. Reulbach pitches a fast ball high and on the out corner of the plate. Mike Mitchell hits it. The crowd yells in sudden apprehension. The ball seems a sure hit — going fast toward right field. Evers runs easily over, stops the ball, tosses it to Chance and Mitchell is out.
You saw all that. The ball was hit in “the groove” directly at the 7–1/2-foot gap the geometrician will say is vacant, yet Evers fielded it. Now this is what happened: When Moran knelt down he put the index finger of his right hand straight down, then held it horizontally on the top of his mitt. Evers saw that Moran had signaled Reulbach to pitch a fast ball high and outside the plate. He rubbed his hand in the dirt, signaling Tinker, who patted his right hand upon his glove, replying he understood. Then Evers rested his hand upon his hip, signaling Sheckard, the outfield captain, what ball was to be pitched. Sheckard crept toward the spot where Mitchell would hit that kind of a ball 95 out of 100 times. While Reulbach was “winding up,” swinging his arm to throw the ball, Evers called sharply to Chance (whose good ear is toward him), and Tinker called to Steinfeldt. While Reulbach’s arm was swinging every man in the team was moving automatically toward right field, in full motion before Mitchell hit the ball. The gaps at first base, between first base and second, over second base and between third and short, were closed hermetically, while the gap between Steinfeldt and the third base line was opened up 22 feet. The ball, if hit on the ground, had no place to go except into some infielder’s hands, unless Reulbach blundered and Mitchell “pulled” the ball down the third base gap. Every man on the team knew if Reulbach pitched high, fast and outside, Mitchell would hit toward right field. The only chance Mitchell had to hit safe was to drive the ball over the head of the outfielders, or hit it on a line over 7 feet and less than 15 feet above the ground. If Reulbach had been ordered to pitch low and over the plate, or low and inside, or a slow ball, the team would have shifted exactly in the opposite way.

And how about these charts:

 

The article also goes in depth on defensive alignments and how plays like hit & runs widens the slots for low balls to get through the infield. Stuff we knew and was commonplace growing up, but – again – this is from 1910. It’s long, but to read this knowing its from 120 years ago is a pretty cool experience. People have been looking at this game mathematically for a long, long time. – PAL 

Source: “The Inside Game”, Hugh Fullerton, ℅ John Thorn, Our Game MLB Blog (10/13/2020)


In An Otherwise Unremarkable Story, a Lesson on Success

I love baseball, yes. But during a season I almost exclusively only watch Giants games. I am not up till 1am watching the Mariners and Rangers play. I am not sneaking peeks at my phone during a July Rays/Yankees game. Sure, I watch as many playoff games as I can, but that’s different, ya know?

But I did click on this story about former Rays and current Dodgers executive Andrew Friedman’s fingerprints on the 2020 ALCS and NLCS: his current team, the Dodgers, are in the NLCS (down 3-1, ahem), his former team the Rays are in the ALCS (up 3-2), and his former assistants’ Braves and Astros are in the NLCS (up 3-1, AHEM), and the ALCS (down 3-2). NOT BAD. The story was mostly unremarkable, aside from these very cool quotes from former Blue Jays exec and current Braves exec Alex Anthopoplous, who in between those two jobs worked at the Dodgers under Friedman, and (current Giants exec) Farhan Zaidi: 

“I felt like going to L.A. was like going to grad school,” Anthopoulos said, citing the chance to learn from Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, now president of baseball operations for the San Francisco Giants. “When you’re exposed to the best in the industry, you’re going to get better, right?” Anthopoulos said. “It’s like Warren Buffett and a lot of other people say: Surround yourself with people that are better than you are. Andrew and Farhan made me better.” “I think, because both Andrew and Farhan came from small market clubs, they were relentless in trying to make players better,” Anthopoulos said. “My attitude may have been, ‘OK, a guy is scuffling, you may need to find him a new home, make a trade.’ They came from organizations where they just couldn’t do that. You had to make do with what you had. By necessity, it made them better. They brought those characteristics there. “That’s why you’ve seen them have so much success in player development. They will exhaust all avenues, and they will not quit on players. They will work with you and try to find a way to make you better. It’s great for players to know that and see that. That’s why you’ve seen a lot of players discarded by other organizations — and you’re seeing it with the Giants now too. They go there, and they get better. It starts at the top.”

And if you think I did all this simply to give my guy Farhan some props, well, ya got me.

Jul 12, 2018; San Diego, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi talks on the phone before a game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

#FarhanGuy -TOB

Source: Andrew Friedman’s Handprints Are Evidence on All Four Tems in MLB Playoffs,” Bill Shaikin, L.A. Times (10/10/2020)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week Jason Isbell – “Speed Trap Town”


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“I know that patience and loyalty are good, and virtuous traits. But sometimes I just think you need to grow a pair.”

-Angela Martin

Week of October 9, 2020

Hoping to see a LOT of this next week.


You Don’t Know Earl Campbell’s Story 

This week, I’ve got two stories about revered legends: Udonis Haslem and Earl Campbell. Their journeys couldn’t be much more different, but – man – they are loved.  

Of course I knew of Earl Cambell. He’s before my time, sure, but I’d seen the highlights of him giving more punishment as a running back than he ever took. I didn’t know many details. I just  knew he was a legend, and I knew the game had all but destroyed his body, leaving him as a cautionary tale for today’s players. It’s no wonder when you watch him run: 

 

I was wrong. While I’m sure the game exacted a toll on Campbell, there was something else at play that had caused his deterioration. Even Campbell didn’t know it until long after retirement that he’d had spinal stenosis his entire life – a condition that, in ESPN’s Dave Wilson’s words, “causes a narrowing of the space inside the spine, leading to pressure on nerves, and causes pain, weakness or numbness.” How painful does that sound?

According to his last back surgeon, Dr. Stan Jones, Campbell was lucky to have avoided any “catastrophes” in all those collisions on the field due to the stenosis. What followed the initial diagnosis were several back surgeries that left loose screws in his spine and pain pills for recovery. It wasn’t long before Cambell was self-medicating.

“I never took pills. I never smoked a joint. I never had experience with cocaine,” Campbell said. “Now, I know a little bit about Budweiser and tequila. But this doctor (PAL Note: Not Dr. Jones) started me and I don’t know, hell, it just happened so fast with the surgeries. I mean I’ve gotten cut in my throat. I never dreamed about all this s— about my spine, and cutting bone spurs the size of your thumb off my back. They were giving me pain medication and doctorin’ on me and next thing I know I’m hooked.”

You watch Campbell in those highlights – the almost unbelievable athleticism and power – and then you’ve seen him confined to a wheelchair at the Heisman events, and when you put those details together to draw a conclusion. But you miss a much bigger story. In many ways, a much more common, relatable, and inspiring of a legend humbled.

I also loved hearing the tales about the manchild from a tiny town in Texas who Barry Switzer described as the only high school player that could’ve jumped straight to the NFL. Solid read. – PAL 

Source:Earl Campbell got up: Inside the second act of a Texas Longhorns legend”, Dave Wilson, ESPN (10/8/20)


Ten Years After the Greatest Sports Performance I Ever Saw

Many times over the years, including just two weeks ago, I have mentioned on this blog Tim Lincecum’s performance in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS. 9 innings, 2 hits, 14 Ks. Pure dominance. I was at that game, and it was incredible. God, I loved being there.  Even if we had awful seats. But we didn’t care where we sat. We were at a playoff game in the most beautiful ballpark in the most beautiful setting, and our guy was on the mound, dealing. Those Ks on the right field wall kept piling up, and the tension was palpable as the Giants won 1-0. Grant Brisbee does an excellent job capturing the feeling:

The crowd was bananas throughout. You can keep your Game 1 World Series crowds, when it’s possible to recoup the cost of an entire season by selling the tickets and the seats are filled with people who love exclusive events more than baseball. Give me the first game of a postseason for a team that’s trying to win its first World Series in a half-century. The nerves were frayed after the leadoff double. They were still tingling with each three-ball count in the first and they were raw by the final pitch of a 1-0 game. But every flailing Braves hitter forced the fans to become more and more raucous. There was no other choice. Watch the whole game here on MLB’s global account, which isn’t embeddable for some reason, and you’ll hear what I mean. In the top of the sixth, the crowd gets behind a “POSEY’S BETTER” chant while Jason Heyward is at the plate, the kind of petty, extremely niche jab that makes sense only to people who are a little too into baseball. San Francisco fans got a reputation for being a little quiet and soft in the post-Candlestick years, as if the extra 25,000 people at the ballpark somehow negated the 10,000 to 15,000 who were there the whole time, but this was a crowd that knew what it was doing. They were exhorting one of the most popular athletes the Bay Area had ever seen — will ever see — because he was giving them an entirely new feeling.

Grant is right – the crowd was incredible. And that chat was fantastic. It continued after the game, as we excitedly wound our way down the ramps, high fiving strangers, marveling that we were just 10 wins away from a friggin World Series title. God damn, what a feeling.  It was October 7, 2010 – ten years ago yesterday, as I write this. It’s hard to believe it has been that long. So much has changed, both in my life (I was 28!), and as a Giants fan. Those 10 more wins I was dreaming about? They happened, of course, and the Giants won the World Series. Two more titles followed in short order. But it was that game, that night, that feeling that really sticks out as the best of the bunch. -TOB

Source: Ten Years Ago, Tim Lincecum Dominated the Braves and Started Something Beautiful,” Grant Brisbee, The Athletic (10/07/2020)

PAL: Great story. This part really landed with me: “Hope is what was wrested from the arms of Giants fans and used to bludgeon them, time and time again. It was a feeling of rational hope that was new. A feeling that maybe this year was different because, well, just look at this guy.”

Well, the first line, anyway. And the second part of this – the idea rational hope – that captures the real power of an absolute ace. 


Udonis Haslem’s Leadership Odyssey 

By the time you read this, the Lakers may have very have eliminated the Heat for the NBA title, so it might feel a bit odd that I’m sharing a profile of an over-the-hill Miami Heat bench player. Yet, here’s the Udonis Haslem story you really should read, whether you think you might be interested or not. I assure you, it’s a great read.  The angle, as described by its author, Andrew Sharp:

The vast majority of sports legends are so successful that their place in history is almost self-explanatory. There are others, though, who resonate for reasons that are harder to articulate. They’re known less for what they did than how they did it. These athletes generally won’t make the Hall of Fame, but they’re remembered forever by anyone who happened to be paying attention. Udonis Haslem is in that second category. 

There are incredible stories about the superstars in sports – from LeBron’s origin story to the tale of a troubled kid from Baltimore named George who went on to ‘build’ Yankee Stadium, but the stories about role players finding a way, fighting their way to make it are just as inspiring, if not moreso.  Haslem, or ‘UD’ to everyone who knows him, was always a very good player on very good teams. His high school team in Liberty City rattled off state titles. His Florida Gators made it to the Final Four. He was a key player on those teams – a leader who would set the tone for the team, but that skill set did not stand out, partially because he was a bit out of shape, and – for a big guy – didn’t do a lot of rebounding.  So, how did that guy turn into what Miami Heat Coach Eric Spoelstra describes as the following:

“Years on from here, when we’ll say, ‘What’s the Miami Heat culture?’ We can describe it and say, ‘Hardest working team, most professional, best conditioned, and so forth.’ Or we can just pull up a picture of Udonis Haslem.”

Not only was Haslem undrafted, he wasn’t even asked to work out for a number of team. His only real option was to play overseas. 

Haslem had spent much of the previous year in Chalon-sur-Saône, a small city in eastern France, where he averaged 16.1 points and 9.4 rebounds playing for a team called Élan Chalon. His season was a success, but that didn’t mean Haslem enjoyed it. “I gave myself one night to feel sorry for myself,” he says. “I had a one-night pity party. I had a bottle of Hennessy and I sat on my back porch. ‘Why am I here? I did everything right.’ Some of the guys that got drafted, I’d done really well against. I really didn’t understand. So I just gave myself one night.” But even that night, his mindset began to change. “Part of my pity party was, ‘What can I do differently?’ It’s so easy to blame the NBA, blame the coaches. It’s easy to say they made a mistake. But in the end, I don’t think that gets you anywhere. So for me, part of that bottle of Hennessy was, ‘What do I need to do?’”

I love every word of that anecdote. Even in his self-described pity party, he’s asking himself what he needs to do to change his situation. That’s a huge life lesson (or a reminder).  From there, he catches on with the Heat after being so competitive and dominant in workouts that thy shut him down before he hurt somebody. He’s been with his hometown team ever since. He won a title with the Wade-Shaq version of the team, setting the tone by holding Shaq accountable when few others could. Later, when LeBron and Chris Bosh joined Wade to create the super team, it appeared UD’s time was up with the Heat. 

Haslem was a 30-year-old free agent. Both the Mavericks and Nuggets were reportedly offering five-year deals worth about $34 million. Meanwhile, the entire sports world had just watched Miami use all its cap space on three superstars. “Plus,” says Riley, “we made a deal with Mike Miller. In order to get Mike, we had to get rid of Michael Beasley. There wasn’t any more room.” So a few days after that welcome party, Haslem called Wade to tell him that he loved him, but he had to leave. “I hung up,” Haslem says, “and I’m taking the exit to head downtown to meet with Pat to tell him the same thing: ‘Thank you for the opportunity, Coach. Nobody ever gave me a chance but you. I love you guys. But I’m moving on.’” Five minutes later, Haslem’s agent, the late Henry Thomas, told him to wait on a meeting with Riley. Thomas also represented Wade, and the latter was organizing an emergency conference call with his new teammates. Within hours, the Miami superstars agreed to sacrifice portions of their max salary to free up enough room for Haslem. The deal he accepted in Miami—five years, $20 million—was $14 million less than what he’d been offered elsewhere, but that was fine with Haslem. “Dwyane taking less,” he says. “LeBron taking less. Chris taking less. Everybody was sacrificing for a common goal.”

While – yes – the super team would need to fill out the rest of the roster with some player, I do think – as it’s told here – that story a lot about what other guys think of UD. 

Still…$14MM? 

Great success story of a hometown kid done good, both on the court and off. I’ll never tire of these kinds of profiles.- PAL

Source: The Legend of Udonis Haslem”, Andrew Sharp, The Ringer (09/29/20)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week – Florence + The Machine – “Not Fade Away” (Buddy Holly cover)


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How do you tell somebody that you care about deeply, “I told you so.” Gently with a rose? In a funny way, like it’s a hilarious joke? Or do you just let it go, because saying it would just make things worse? Probably the funny way.

-Michael Scott

Week of October 2, 2020


17 18 

My Minnesota Twins made the postseason again this year. And again, they lost. Not the series. Every game. My Minnesota Twins have lost 18 playoff games in a row, good for the longest in American sports history (the Blackhawks used to hold the record at 16 games, followed by the Red Sox back in the 80s). Worse, the Twins were swept by the team everyone hates – the Houston Astros. I couldn’t help but chuckle…in between cursing my team out and firing off expletive-laden texts. 

This iteration of the Twins homered their way to 100+ wins last year, and the all-or-nothing approach at the plate carried them into this year’s expanded playoff. But just as was the case last year, the playoffs revealed the Twins to be frauds when it mattered most. A lineup stacked with hitters that put up big power numbers in the regular season go silent in the playoffs (except for Nelson Cruz). A team built to bludgeon opponents found itself in low-scoring games, and was unable to manufacture a run when they needed it most. Errors, base-running blunders, bullpen letdowns…this team doesn’t know how to gut out a win. The Giants World Series’ teams were everything the Twins are not. 

In previous years, the mighty Yankees beat the Twins an incredible 10 straight games in the playoffs, but this year the Twins lost to a sub-.500 team with mediocre pitching at best. 

The streak is at a point where I swear the fan cynicism feeds into it, which is the absolute worst. Every text is an expectation for something bad to happen. I’ve always been a fan that hopes and expects a good thing to happen – blame it on the ‘91 Twins – but this year I found myself waiting for the bad to happen.  

In other words, us Twins fans have officially willingly entered the lowest rung of fandom – we are feeding off of the failure. It’s become a part of our identity, and – man – that really, really sucks. All the proof you need can be found in the comments section of Twins articles: 

Why do we even watch anymore? It’s OUR fault for thinking things could be different this time. 

Tanner W.

Sep 29, 10:40pm

2 likes

So true 

Chris G.

Sep 29, 10:05pm

2 likes

Sounds about right. 

Josh K.

Sep 29, 10:05pm

12 likes

Life is pain 

Will R.

Sep 29, 10:05pm

24 likes

I’m not even sure what to say… no clutch hitting, bad fielding, inconsistent bullpen. I’m just glad that we can at least hang our hat on the longest postseason losing streak! 

Cal K.

Sep 29, 10:11pm

8 likes

Historically good or biblically bad, in that order. 

Christopher H.

The next time Rosario runs a ball out will be the first time Rosario runs a ball out. 

Glen S.

Sep 29, 10:06pm

6 likes

Explain to me how the team with record HR’s can’t hit when it matters? Also, Romo closing? Cmon man! 

Shane K.

Sep 29, 11:00pm

4 likes

Because they only seem to try to hit home runs. It seems like they have no concept of situational hitting. 

Justin B.

Sep 30, 12:02am

2 likes

Sano can only strike out and smash HRs 

Michael T.

Sep 29, 10:07pm

🤣🤣🤣 

Andrew M.

Sep 29, 10:07pm

14 likes

Why Austudillo 

Shane K.

Sep 29, 11:04pm

2 likes

Yes, why???? 

Justin M.

Sep 29, 10:07pm

22 likes

Least surprising and most predictable thing to happen. Guess it’s not the Yankees, huh? Just a crap run by another brutally inept MN sports franchise. Anyone think they won’t make it 18 in a row? This team is punchless & the manager deserves to finally take criticism for awful substitutions and pinch hitting decisions. What an embarrassment. 

Michael C.

Sep 29, 11:31pm

3 likes

@Justin M. Agree with the pinch hitting call. Garver? Are you f’ng kidding me? 

Michael C.

Sep 29, 11:34pm

5 likes

Why call up Kirilloff then? Anyone would have been better than Garver.

And this, from Jim Souhan, longtime MN columnist: 

Do not let the oddities of this short, strange season distract you from the fact that this was the most embarrassing loss of this record-breaking streak.

They did not have to play in Yankee Stadium. They did not have to face a superior team. They did not need to solve an ace.

They managed two runs in 18 innings against a mediocre Houston pitching staff and gave up big hits to a group of hitters who have shrunk before our eyes since they were caught cheating.

In 18 innings, no Twin not named Nelson Cruz produced an extra-base hit or an RBI. Their Home Run Robe became a K Cape.

Time to clean house. Trade everyone not named Cruz and Kenta (especially Rosario and Sano). Rocco has to go, and so does the front office. Start fresh. Power numbers might be the most value, best approach over the long haul of a season, but there has to be a balance to a team, and – caution, old guy take alert – there is something to having some grinders on a team. What I don’t need are a bunch of dudes that act like the spoiled kid on the Little League team at the first sign of trouble.

Rosario didn’t like the 3-1 call, which was close enough to be called a strike. What’s more troubling is his complaining about the 3-1 pitch made him even more useless than normal on the 3-2 pitch. Of course he swings through it, because that’s what Eddie Rosario does in any at-bat of any significance, and then gets tossed for arguing a borderline pitch in a elimination game that’s tied going into the late innings. I don’t want that dude on my team. Don’t care how many meaningless homers he hits in a regular season.

It was terrible, again, but the Twins – the players and fans – all felt it coming. They braced for the streak to continue instead of saying, ‘the hell with that,” and making something happen, starting with some optimism. The real loss is if we allow ourselves to become one of those self-loathing fanbases. They are the worst. Worse than losing 18-straight playoff games. – PAL

Sources: “Twins implode in ninth as playoff losing streak hits 17 games: Discuss”, Zack Pierce, The Athletic (09/30/20); “Rocco Baldelli’s quick hook for starters leads to Twins’ quick exit from playoffs“, Jim Souhan, Star Tribune (10/1/20)

TOB: Eighteen straight playoff losses is unfathomable – it’s more games than the Giants played in any of their three World Series runs – 2014 (17), 2012 (16), and 2010 (15). 

A Gluttonous and Historical Day of Playoff Baseball

Adding insult to the Twins’ 18-game postseason losing streak is that they were relegated to the morning games on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Why does that add insult? Well, this season saw the introduction of best-of-3 series in the first round. With 8 series to play, MLB scheduled the 4 AL series to open Tuesday, and then all 8 games played Wednesday. The Twins playing the early games meant their postseason ended before many teams’ postseasons began. Hell, it was over before October began. 

But Phil’s pain aside (and god it was a painful 18 innings to watch, even as someone who adopted the Twins for the postseason), Wednesday was cool as hell. A record EIGHT playoff games in one day. On Tuesday night I checked the start times and it was staggering. It began at 9am PDT with the Reds/Braves, with subsequent games starting at 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm. 

I was working so I was trying to follow along by checking scores periodically and it was insane. It was so much fun! That Reds/Braves game went scoreless into the 13th (the Braves won 1-0)! The Yankees/Indians game was BANANAS, with so many swings of momentum I had to finally put it on in the background to keep up (the Yankees eventually won, 10-9 to eliminate Cleveland).  

As an aside: the Reds set a record by opening (and closing) their postseason with TWENTY TWO scoreless innings. Wild. 

Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri did an excellent job capturing the madness with a running diary. This entry, in the early morning hours, sums it all up well:

12:43 a.m.: The Yankees have loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth, I am bordering on delirium, the world does not exist outside of my television, I love baseball, I want to die.

So of course I had to ask myself: is the expanded playoffs good or bad? Do we want this in the future? And I gotta tell you I am torn. Keeping more teams in “it” until the end of the season is good. But teams with losing records making the playoffs? NOT GREAT!  Especially with a best-of-three series. A 60-game season coming down to a best of three seems fine. A 162 game season coming down to a best of three, though? That seems unfair?

The more we expand the playoffs, the funkier results we will see. Houston could end up in the World Series and finish the year, as in after the World Series, with a losing record! Their two-game “sweep” put them at .500. All it would take is a 3-2 ALDS win, a 4-3 ALCS, win, and then a 4 or 5-game loss in the World Series, and your AL Pennant winner would finish with a losing record. That’s wild.

So, while I appreciated the intensity of the Giants’ final weekend (I mean, sorta, it was fun to care again but it also paralyzing and stressful), and while I loved Wednesday’s baseball bonanza, I think this is *too* much. -TOB

Source: A Diary of MLB’s Never-Ending Day of Playoffs,” Emma Baccellieri, Sports Illustrated (10/2/2020)

Landon Donovan Stands Up to Rid Soccer of Bigotry

Former U.S. Soccer star Landon Donovan is now the coach of the San Diego Loyal of the USL. Donovan’s team was winning 3-1 this week when a player on another team used a gay slur to refer to a player on Donovan’s team. That player happens to be openly gay. The player’s teammates stood up for him, and the referee initially sent the player off. But the ref changed his mind, apparently deciding that he was not sure the slur (“bitch boy”) was actually a gay slur. Donovan told the ref if he did not stand by his initial decision, he’d pull his team off the field.

First, that ref is in way over his head. Second, the other coach sucks. But most importantly, I have a lot of respect for Donovan standing up for what’s right, and standing up for his player, in the way he did. We need more of this in sports, and life. Here’s what Donovan said:

“Our guys said we will not stand for this and they were very clear in that moment that we are giving up all hopes of making the play-offs. They are beating one of the best teams in the league but they said it doesn’t matter and there are more things important in life and we have to stick up for what we believe in.

“They made the decision to walk off and I have tremendous pride in this group and I am really proud of this organisation and that I get to be a part of it.”

Good for them. -TOB

Source: San Diego Loyal Manager ‘Proud’ of Walk-off Over Alleged Homophobic Abuse,” the Guardian (10/1/2020)

Video of the Week:


Song the Week: Patsy Cline – “I Fall To Pieces”


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Sometimes you have to take a break from being the kind of boss that’s always trying to teach people things. Sometimes you have to just be the boss of dancing.

-Michael Scott

Week of September 25, 2020

Take my money. Send Bomba Robe.


Nostalgia & Inclusions

Near the beginning of the pandemic (a little over six months ago), Joe Posnanski counted down the 100 greatest baseball players of all-time, complete with an essay about each one. It was a gigantic undertaking, and one that this little digest greatly enjoyed. Posnanki’s back with his follow-up: greatest moments in baseball history. A perfect appetizer to the playoffs, which as of this exact moment, has the Twins facing the Astros, i.e. NOT THE YANKEES, in the first round of the playoffs. 

Posnanki’s number two moment might surprise you (and delight Giants fans): 

Duane Kuiper hits his one and only home run

Aug. 29, 1977

Huh?

Do I really believe that Kuiper hitting a meaningless home run for Cleveland, which was terrible in 1977, is a greater baseball moment than Ruth’s called shot or Puckett’s Game 6 homer?

Of course I do. Because I grew up in Cleveland in the 1970s. If I had grown up in New York in the 1930s, I’d have the Ruth homer on there. If I were Garrison Keillor or Steve Rushin, I’d have the Puckett homer on there. The greatest moment in baseball history is your moment, that instant when — among the thousands of baseball games that happen every year — everything comes together just so and a tiny instant of perfection happens.

Interesting that – in describing what makes a moment great, Posnanski uses my greatest baseball moment  – Puckett’s Game 6 homer in the 11th – within his argument about how great baseball moments have to be personal. Of course Puckett’s home run has more historical significance than Duane Kuiper’s single big league home run, but that didn’t even enter a 10 year-old Posnanski’s mind. It’s worth noting I was about the same age for Puckett’s moment as Posnanski was for Kuip’s ‘bomb’. That age is not coincidence. 

Of course, Posnanski is absolutely right about the weave between sports greatness and each of our biographies. I regularly tell people that Puckett’s moment is the highest purity of joy I’ve felt to date. Before you jump on me – of course my wedding day was a happier moment. I have many moments of greater joy, but an ‘instant of perfection’, to use Posnanski’s phrase, must also be about purity. It must include an absence of flaws. 

As we move on down the line, we accrue more inclusions, to borrow a diamond term. We are the diamond, and the moments are the light shining through us. What we bring to a moment when we’re 10 is likely to be purer than what we bring to a moment when we’re 38, and that impacts how the light of a moment reflects through us. Just as is the case for Posnanski and Kuiper, Puckett’s home run was pure because I was pure. 

What an unending comfort to recall as I go on collecting more inclusions along the way, each one making Puckett bounding around the bases pumping his fist more brilliant by comparison. 

With that in mind, what’s your perfect baseball moment, TOB? – PAL

Source: 60 Moments: No. 2, Duane Kuiper’s singular home run”, Joe Posnanski, The Athletic (09/21/2020)

TOB: The Giants provided a lot of pure joy over the last decade, including Tim Lincecum coming out for the 9th in his and my first playoff game, as he finished off a 14 K, 1-hit, 1-0 complete game shutout; three pennant wins, three World Series wins, and lots of crazy moments in between. But to go back a bit farther, I go back to July 25, 1996.

I was visiting my grandparents in Orange County, and my grandpa took me to an Angels game. The Brewers led most of the way, and tacked on an insurance run in the top of the 9th to make it 4-1. My grandpa was not a huge baseball fan and wanted to go home because the game was basically over and he wanted to beat the traffic. Baseball Reference indeed shows Milwaukee with a 97% chance of winning. In fact, while trying to find video of the game, I found this from a look back at the game: “The Brewers added one in the ninth and down 4-1, we can imagine that some of the 16,000+ in attendance were headed to the exits early.” But I said, “No, they’re going to make a comeback.”

In the bottom of the 9th, future Giants fan favorite J.T. Snow led off with a dinger to make it 4-2. After a couple singles and a couple outs, Angels shortstop Gary Disarcina came to the plate and hit a home run down the left field line that just stayed fair – it was one of only 28 home runs in Disarcina’s nearly 4,000 career at bats. 5-4, Angels won. I gloated to my grandpa all the way home.


Badass Women In Sports: Maya Gabeira 

The NY Times multi-media projects alone are worth the subscription. The full-screen video with text overlay pulls you in from the jump. José Sarmento Matos’ photography makes you pause, and Adam Skolnick’s reporting is multifaceted. Just a cool team effort all around. 

On the surface, this is a story about a woman, Maya Gabeira, recording the biggest wave surfed this year – 73.5 feet – off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal. There’s so much more to unpack than a record ride.

Of her ride, Gaeira said, “I had never been so close to such a powerful explosion. I had never felt that energy and that noise. It felt really terrifying.” 

I bet. 

 

It’s cool that a woman caught the biggest wave this year, and that Gabeira and a few women are charging right along with the men of big wave surfing. Seven years ago, Gabeira barely escaped death on the same break. 

In 2013, Gabeira wiped out on a 50-foot wave and was held underwater for several minutes. She was barely conscious when she grabbed a dangling tow rope, only to be dragged toward shore facedown, getting pulled from the water without a pulse. CPR saved her life, but she had snapped her right fibula and herniated a disk in her lower back.

Her recovery took four years and three back surgeries. She lost all of her sponsors, dealt with an anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and was scolded publicly and warned privately by legends of her sport, including Laird Hamilton, who publicly criticized her after her 2013 accident.

What did Gabeira do? She doubled-down, moved to Nazaré, trained like a beast and got back out there and rode monsters by any measure. I have a hard time imagining the amount of drive it takes to paddle back out there after an experience like that. 

But how do experts look at that wall of water and calculate, down to the half foot, its size?

“It’s an imperfect science,” the big wave surfer Greg Long said, “and when we’re talking world records it’s imperative that you bring in a more scientific and specific means.”

Michal Pieszka, a surf scientist at Kelly Slater’s wave pool, led the study in collaboration with researchers. They examined the tides, light and shadows, which can affect perception and size in a photograph, and the objects in each picture. They analyzed both camera angles and the camera lenses involved in capturing Gabeira’s and Dupont’s waves.

I was just talking to my brother, Matt. Our nephew, Anthony Rabeni, made his varsity golf team as a freshman (way to go, Anthony!). Matt and I were remarking how there’s no gray zone in golf, and what a refreshing that quality is in a sport. Golf and surfing…feels odd to lump them together, but it’s correct. No excuses. No restrictions. Not your age, gender, size, race – either you ride it or you don’t. You count your strokes. Simple as that. Hardly the first time this idea has been made, but one worth repeating every now and again.  

Maya Gabeira: badass lady on display in the word, video, design, and photography of this feature. – PAL 

Source: The Biggest Wave Surfed This Year”, Adam Skolnick, The New York Times (09/22/20) 


Is It Fair to Use Tests to Get College Football Players on the Field?

Yesterday the Pac-12 announced it will play a 7-game season, starting November 6. I mentioned in recent weeks that this was a strong possibility after the conference secured rapid testing for each of the 12 campuses.

The business of college football is troubling and layered and problematic as it is; but conducting that business during a pandemic, when kids can’t go to school and many businesses cannot open, and these players are still not being paid is beyond problematic.

As a fan, I’m excited. I know that many of the players want to play, and I don’t want to try to tell them how they should feel, so I’m also happy for them. But as a society there are questions that must be answered.

First, should college sports be played on campuses where students are not allowed to attend class?

I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m ok with that. I think we should be opening what we can, when we can. We can’t safely let 50,000 people back on the Berkeley campus. But we can let 150. So why not do that?

Second, should the schools be using financial resources to pay for this testing? Again, I say yes. As I noted a few weeks back, the school and the athletic department are basically separate entities. Schools even charge the athletic department tuition for players on athletic scholarship. Especially for athletic departments that are in the black, I see no problem with them using their revenue to pay for testing in order to ensure continued revenue.

But my final question is should the testing resources themselves (not the money, but the testing machines and materials used in the tests) be used to get college football players on the field? Is this taking tests away from other places that need it? I have no idea, but the San Jose Mercury News’ Jon Wilner set out to answer that question after his a wife asked, “Why is the Pac-12 getting those tests? Why aren’t they going to teachers and other essential workers?” So he called the CEO of Quidel, the company the Pac-12 purchased the rapid testing machines from.

During a 30-minute conversation, Quidel CEO Doug Bryant told the Hotline that he “worried a lot about the perception” that his company’s rapid-result antigen tests, which have the potential to change the battle lines with coronavirus, were being deployed to 12 college athletic departments.

“I’ve said all along that our company would do the right thing,’’ he told me.

The deal with the Pac-12, he added, will help Quidel do exactly that.

“How so?” I asked.

“It was bit of a perfect storm,’’ he said. “Larry and the universities needed our tests, and we needed their data.”

Quidel had been providing testing to first responders and nursing homes since May, and they were collecting data that they say will help fight COVID-19, especially as to asymptomatic cases. But they wanted to expand to a younger population.

In order to provide the most effective antigen test for all age groups, Bryant explained, Quidel needs data points. Hundreds of thousands of data points.

All the shipments to nursing homes and first responders have enable the company to refine the tests for adults and symptomatic cases.

But it needs more data … cardiac data … serological data … on children and young adults. Specifically, Bryant said, it needs data on asymptomatic young adults.

“For a greater understanding of performance,” Bryant said, “we have to figure out the right algorithms.

“We wanted a generation of asymptomatic data to give the public confidence that it worked.

Now, keep in mind this is the CEO, and part of his job is to spin the PR on what his company has just done. But I believe him when he says this will help. Of course, want to believe it, too. But these are all hard questions without easy answers, and we all do our best to answer them. -TOB

Source: “Quidel’s Antigen Tests Saved Pac-12 Football: A Deep Dive Into the Origin of Their Relationship,” Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury News (09/23/2020)


Video of the Week:


Tweet of the Week


Song the Week: Little Willie John – “You Hurt Me”


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Well, you know what, Jim, it is not my fault that you bought a house to impress Pam. That is why carnations exist.

-M.G.S.

Week of September 18, 2020


Dodgers Giveth, Whine Like Little Babies When They Take

I am on the record that I love when baseball players talk trash, pimp home runs, scream when they strike a guy out, etc.. What I don’t like is hypocrites who are happy to do those things when they do something well, but whine and cry when someone does those things to them (ahem, MadBum).

Which brings me to the Dodgers. They are in a (surprisingly) tight race for the NL West with the Padres (who look like they’re going to be a headache for the next decade). In a close game this week, the Padres’ Trent Grisham crushed a dong off Clayton Kershaw. When he hit it, he turned to his bench and yelled, “Let’s go!” Although you can’t hear it, I think someone on the Dodgers then yelled at him because he suddenly turns toward either Kershaw or the Dodger bench and smirks. He then gets very animated as he rounds the bases. Let’s let 1-2-3 favorite Jomboy break it all down:

I’m not even mad about the Dodgers yelling, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” That’s hilarious. What really bugs me are the comments after the game by Dave Roberts and other Dodgers, because they are such friggin hypocrites. Do I need to remind you of the time when Max Muncy hit a bomb off Bumgarner, told Bumgarner to go get it out of the ocean (again, we’ll ignore Muncy’s misunderstanding of simple geography), and then half the Dodgers team made and wore “Get It Out of the Ocean” shirts!? Including Muncy himself:

And honestly I thought that was all REALLY funny. But tell me, Dave, why was that ok and what Grisham did not? Take your team’s advice: STFU. -TOB

PAL: I dig the young, talented, cocky Padres leaning into this role.


I’ve Discovered TOB’s Second Career: Spotter

We’ve all had that moment watching a game when we make an observation, only to have the color commentary echo the statement the next second. It will impress the significant other on the couch, and – let’s all cop to it – it’s a nice little moment of validation, that we’re seeing what the expert sees, at least that’s what I thought until reading this story from Bryan Curtis. 

For decades, TV has peddled a vision of the booth as a pair of announcers gazing over the field. This is pure illusion. “It’s a working kitchen at a diner back there,” said Joe Buck. Every announcer in Fox’s “A” booth—Buck, Aikman, even Mike Pereira—has an extra football brain within arm’s reach. Additionally, Buck has a spotter, Bill Garrity, and a statistician, Ed Sfida, stationed at his left; a stage manager, a camera operator, and a makeup artist stand behind the announcers. All told, there are usually 11 people in the Fox booth. NBC’s Sunday Night Football booth has more than 20.

When it’s laid out like that, I’m not shocked, but I just never really thought about it. And now when I do think about it, of course these analysts aren’t processing and articulating every nugget in real time. Enter  David Moulton – the guy behind the guy, just off camera. 

Moulton in action:

 

Before the pandemic and need for social distancing in relatively small booths at the stadiums, Moulton would be right next to the analyst (Troy Aikman for NFL, Gary Danielson SEC), in the ear piece, writing nuggets on notecards, a real-time “spell check” of sorts as Joe Buck puts it. 

Some of Moulton’s value is practical. At the two-minute warning, he reminds Buck and Aikman how many timeouts each team has. But the spotter’s job has an emotional component, too. Danielson said that being an announcer can feel like a comedian telling jokes to an empty room. Danielson can look at Moulton and see a fist pump or a shake of the head. “It’s someone having an audience,” he said.

Another key distinction is that Moulton has to think like his guy. While he compares his role to that of caddieing for a world-class golfer –  “You know that the golfer is going to be Top 3 in the world without you” – he has to see the game and offer notes to his guy in a way that resonates with Aikman’s voice. It’s not enough for something to be interesting to Moulton; rather, he has to think about what’s compelling to the audience as told by Aikman.  In that way, his role reminds of a joke writer more than a caddie: he needs to understand his analysts voice and sensibilities. 

Excellent read on a topic that’s completely fresh to me. Also, I genuinely believe TOB could be a guy-behind-the-guy for basketball and college football. – PAL 

Source: Meet the Man Who Makes Your Favorite Announcer Sound Smarter”, Bryan Curtis, The Ringer (09/14/2

TOB: Haaaaaaa. I’m not going to argue – I would love this. You nailed that moment of validation when your partner is impressed when you say something right before the announcers. And let me tell you – it’s now happening with the kids and their minds are BLOWN.

Also, I did know this job existed. I’ve definitely heard a few announcers mention their spotter by name, and in either Little Big League or Major League there is someone handing the announcer funny and obscure stats. 


College Football TV $ Is More Important Than My Niece’s College Education 

Up until recently, I was a (wavering) holdout wanting to believe in the idea of a student-athlete. I clung to theidea that a free education is absolutely worth something. But the recent reversal from the Big 10 is the last bit. It’s time to officially call it: college football and basketball players are not student athletes; rather, they are an unpaid workforce. 

The other day, the Big 10 unanimously voted to play the fall football season, just six weeks after voting 11-3 not to hold a fall sports season. Nothing has really changed in that time in terms of treatment or scientific breakthroughs. What’s changed is a handful of extremely rich and powerful football programs saw that the SEC, Big 12, and ACC were not going to follow suit and delay/cancel the season, and money was going to be left on the table. 

Per Berry Svrluga of The Washington Post:

‘The coronavirus pandemic has completely laid bare the contemptible nature of college athletics. The Big Ten’s decision to reverse course and try to stage a football season made it as crisp and clear as a Saturday afternoon in the fall: Athletic departments do not exist to afford opportunities to compete for thousands of “student-athletes.”’

Think about the disparity here. The conference, at its expense, will provide coronavirus tests every single day to a junior economics major if he happens to play football and a sophomore sociology major who excels at soccer and not to the kids who sit alongside them in class — virtually or in person — but don’t play sports.

That pisses me right off. These institutions of higher learning – these schools that are collecting FULL tuition from tens of thousands of students/parents for remote learning in many cases, these nostalgia receptacles that love to wax poetic on code, honor, and values are prioritizing money over the wellbeing of its non-athlete students and staff. 

Put simply, physics majors don’t generate money for their schools. Quarterbacks do. But more than that: The schools that make up the Big Ten are institutions of higher learning. The Big Ten itself is a massive business that stages athletic competitions and creates content for its media partners. The objectives of those two entities don’t always align.

Nevermind the irony we all know – that it’s the goddamn physics major who will bail us all out one day, not the all-conference QB. 

And while I’m rolling, it’s absurd that the football team will receive daily tests while the rest of the student population is signing into a 500th Zoom. Unconscionable. And it’s absurd that one goddamn cent is being dedicated to something other than first figuring out a safe way (including rapid response testing, like the ones the almighty football team receives) to get young kids back in elementary and middle school. And it’s infuriating that people will prioritize exercising  their personal freedoms to not wear a mask over getting kids and teachers back in schools in the safest possible environment (which, really, are you fucking kidding me? Is a mask such an intolerable inconvenience)? But – hey – let’s make sure Big 10 football has games. 

What is going on?

The amateurism argument is officially settled. 

And a general memo: stop referring to college students as ‘kids’ when you need something from them and ‘young adults’ when you want to blame them for something.

Hold steady, Pac 12. If you really think it’s dangerous, then lead and don’t play until  every student has access to the same testing as the football team. Stick to your convictions. – PAL 

Source: The Big Ten might save its football season, but the myth of college sports has been shattered”, Barry Svrluga, The Washington Post (09/17/20)

TOB: I have bad news for you regarding the Pac-12…news broke this week that they are expected to start as soon as late October.

In the bigger picture, though, while you are correct to see that the “student-athlete” concept, as applied to college football and men’s basketball, is a myth, you’ve got to take it a step further. The money being spent by these colleges to test football players is NOT money being taken away from the education of the general student population, like your niece. Major college football programs make money for their schools. The football (and to a lesser extent men’s basketball) money goes to pay for the other sports that take a loss. In fact, the athletic departments pay the school the tuition for each athlete on scholarship. A college athletic department is, essentially, an outside business licensing a college’s trademarks. When you look at it like that, to me, the effort to put college football on the field while other students are remote looks less ridiculous. 

Last point: I don’t believe the daily tests for football players is taking away resources from general populations. The testing machines, as I understand it, will be on each campus, paid for by the conference/the schools. It’s not like the early days of baseball’s return where they were mailing tests to a lab in Utah and utilizing that lab’s resources.

Which is all to say – I’m happy you’re on the side that recognizes that major college football and basketball players are not “student athletes” – but I’m also ok with those teams deciding to play this Fall.


Video of the Week:

I think we all had a George Kittle on a team growing up. 

Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week: Wynton Marsalis (feat. Joe Farnsworth, Russell Hall, Isaiah J. Thompson & Jerry Weldon) (Jazz Arrangement) – “Daily Battles”


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What is it like being single? I like it! I like starting each day with a sense of possibility. And I’m optimistic, because everyday I get a little more desperate. And desperate situations yield the quickest results.

-Michael Scott

 

 

Week of September 11, 2020

 


A Great Idea, Dr. Crutchfield

It’s Thursday night here as I write this. Today got the best of me, folks. Beat down my optimism, and that doesn’t happen too often. The fires continue, and the ash is falling like a first dusting of snow – I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures. Add the apocalyptic skies and AQI acronym to the oncoming ugly brawl that will be the election in November, the pandemic that feels like it will not end here in CA, and a summer that made it impossible to ignore that we have a deep, deep racism problem in all sorts of places in this country. 

I needed a little light of good, and I got it from a dermatologist back in Minnesota. Per Jennifer Brooks: 

In summer 2020, as Minnesota burned and its people suffered and died in a pandemic, a Twin Cities doctor turned to Minnie and Paul again as a source of unity.

What if, said Dr. Charles Crutchfield III, the Twins logo looked a little bit more like its players and fans?

Crutchfield, the team’s consulting dermatologist, darkened the skin tone of one of the ballplayers on the logo. Suddenly, instead of just Minnie and Paul, he saw Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek, grinning with their arms thrown around each other. Suddenly, he saw himself.

Minnie and Paul, glowing in neon 46 feet tall, watch over every home game from center field, ready to mark home runs with a firm handshake. Crutchfield showed his updated logo to a few of the players.

You get the paint, they told him with a laugh, we’ll hold the ladder.

This is such a great idea. Simple, powerful, positive statement. Hell, would it even be expensive! How this could offend people (obviously some morons took to social media to be cowards of the comment section) is beyond me, and if the Twins were to take two seconds to think about this, they’d have the shading of gigantic neon logo over center field changed within the week. That tweak on a classic, beautiful logo could become a genuine symbol for Twin Cities. I wish the Twins don’t over-analyze this one – just make the obvious decision, and do it now. 

Nice work, Dr. Crutchfield! Thank you! Now come on, Twins. Don’t workshop this. Don’t focus group this. Just look at the idea, see that it’s only positive. Show some love. – PAL

Source: Twins Team Doctor Dreams of a Logo That Looks More Like the Team and its Fans”, Jennifer Brooks, Star Tribune (09/10/2020)


The Mahomes Contract Origin Story

I’ll admit it from the jump: contract stories are hit and miss. I usually don’t find them particularly interesting, but this breakdown of Patrick Mahomes’ 10 years, $503MM contract with the Kansas City Chiefs is a pretty fresh examination of a mega-deal. 

First of all, there is just about zero chance the Chiefs pay Mahomes the full $503MM. In order for that to happen and for every kicker to count, the team would have to win 11-straight Super Bowls (counting last year) and Mahomes would have to win 10 MVPs in a row. As SI’s Greg Bishop reminds us, with NFL contracts, “nothing is as it appears, beyond guaranteed cash.”

The idea Mahomes signed a huge contract isn’t all that thought-provoking on its own. To most of us, there’s no difference between $20MM and $500MM. The details, NFL quirks, and inspirations that led to deal being structured as it is – that’s a puzzle worth putting together. 

His agents, Lee Steinberg and Chris Cabott, knew it would be a record-breaking contract. The foundation of their strategy seemingly started with the question short-term or long-term.

They wanted to lay out for the superstar what they considered the two most important factors in any deal: whether he would reset the quarterback market in a short-term sense or a long-term one, and how either option would work in tandem with the Chiefs’ salary-cap dynamics, both for overall philosophy and available cash.

A short-term deal would be all guaranteed for a player like Mahomes, and it would allow him to be a free agent and get market value in four or five years at a point when the salary cap no doubt will be higher, thus allowing him to command a higher number without completely jacking up the Chiefs(or another team) from putting a good team around him (hard salary cap in the NFL.) However – and I’d never heard of this – all guaranteed money from a team must be sent to the NFL immediately when the contract is signed. So let’s say Mahomes signed for 4 years, $200MM guaranteed – the NFL holds the money until it’s paid to the player. This is not the case in the NBA and MLB. You can see why guaranteed money over a long term deal could become problematic for a team. 

A long-term deal would give the team breathing room to build around the cornerstone, but would of course not have the same proportional amount guaranteed. 

For Mahomes, Steinberg and Cabott looked to outside-the-box contracts (some of which they negotiated). Bobby Bonilla’s Mets contract is one: 25-year, 1.17MM per (he’ll receive his last payment from the Mets when he’s 72). Mike Trout’s 12/$426MM. They also looked at the pros and cons of LeBron’s single year approach in Cleveland. 

Most relevant, perhaps, was their assessment of the first set of $100MM QB contracts from the early 2000s (Brett Farve, Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick). Each were long on years, very few paid in full, and they made a very important balance very precarious: QBs were becoming mandatory in order to win in a pass-happy league, but the salaries in relation to the hard cap was making it hard to put a good team out there with the QB studs. 

So here’s where it all ended up with Mahomes and the Chiefs:

The first five years—and roughly $140 million—of Mahomes’s deal are guaranteed against injury. But for each year that he remains on the Chiefs’ roster, significant, eight-figure chunks—at least $21.7 million (’21) and as much as $49.4 million (’27)—become guaranteed. There are buyout opportunities, but those very guarantees make releasing Mahomes in any one season prohibitively expensive, which to his reps means that Mahomes basically signed a guaranteed contract, without the Chiefs needing to lay out over $400 million up front. In the improbable event he is let go, he would then hit the open market.

Pretty much guaranteed money, but with the flexibility needed to keep a great team around Mahomes. 

Because those contracts are long and can be adjusted, if Kansas City is strapped for cash, it can rework the deal in any one season to funnel money earmarked for Mahomes to key teammates or prized free agents. If the Chiefs are flush with dollars in another campaign, they could dump more into Mahomes’s coffers with similar but opposite tweaks, an exercise in balancing two enormous scales. Where pro baseball teams can spend over luxury tax thresholds to hoard talent, NFL franchises are capped in total dollars ($198.2 million in 2020), making this exact kind of flexibility more important for any team to consistently contend.

But none of this even touches on the best part of the Mahomes contract story, which is how it broke. For that, you have to read Bishop’s full story. Trust me, it’s worth it. – PAL 

Source: What the Mahomes Contract Really Means”, Greg Bishop, SI.com (09/09/20)


The Machismo Shit in Sports is Fading Away, Slowly, But Finally

This week, I saw an unremarkable tweet about Nelson Cruz, the ageless wonder slugger, now crushing dingers for YOUR Minnesota Twins (presently leading the AL in World Series odds, per Fangraphs. Get your hankies ready!).

When I saw the tweet, I thought, “Well, this is an odd story. A nap? Who cares?” But if you google Nelson Cruz Nap, you’ll see this story has fascinated reporters for YEARS. But, fine, I thought. The Twins are in a friggin tight pennant race and we could be writing about things other than naps, but sure. 

And then I saw this tweet by Trevor Plouffe, former Twin, former Ron Popeil, current retired baseball player and excellent Twitter follow. 

And I realize why the first tweet was significant – sports culture has been so toxic that if you take a friggin NAP, you’re a goddamn pussy. SLEEP IS FOR PANSIES, BRO. I mean, this is wild to me.

And this all would have escaped my brain forever, until something far more significant happened Thursday. The day before, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott revealed that his brother’s offseason death was a result of suicide. Prescott said the following about his brother’s death, and how he dealt with that and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:

“I mean, obviously tears and tears and tears,” Dak Prescott said of his initial reaction. “I mean, I sat there and tried to gather what had happened, and wanted to ask why for so many reasons. It was like this sense of all these emotions coming off of my back.”

“All throughout this quarantine and this offseason, I started experiencing emotions I’ve never felt before,” Prescott said. “Anxiety for the main one. And then, honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I would say I started experiencing depression. And to the point of, I didn’t want to work out anymore. I didn’t know necessarily what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn’t been sleeping at all.”

Ugh. That is so sad. Any human being with a heart would read that and empathize with Dak. They’d read that and relate to troubling times in their own life. They’d commend him for being open about his struggles. And then there’s Human Garbage Skip Bayless. Here’s what Bayless said instead:

If I understand this right, Bayless thinks that because Dak is supposed to be a leader of his team, he cannot show vulnerabilities. Skip, you are a piece of shit. More than that, you’re dead ass wrong. 

But this isn’t about Skip. We’ve known he sucks for years. Re-read that title up there – this is about how things are changing, finally. Remember the story I told at the start about Nelson Cruz and naps? Trevor Plouffe says that just five years ago, a player trying to take a nap would get laughed at. Now teams have special nap rooms. If you google Skip Bayless today, you’ll see a torrent of stories denouncing him, including a statement by his employer. 20 years ago, I think most people would have publicly agreed with him. But not anymore. What Dak did was courageous – it shows that he is a leader, despite what idiots like Skip might think. Also, naps rule and I wish I could take them more often. -TOB 


Pitching Ninja: An Excellent Twitter Follow

Pitching Ninja is one of the best twitter follows, and if you like baseball, you should do so. My favorite Pitching Ninja thing is when he overlays two pitches by the same pitcher, usually in the same at bat, to show how different pitches move, how late they move, and ultimately how freaking difficult it is to be a hitter in baseball these days. Here’s a recent overlay that blew my friggin mind:

LOLLLLLLLLLLLL. Imagine trying to hit that. A few years ago, we wrote about a new pitching trend called Tunneling, where pitchers try to keep their various pitches in the same “tunnel” until the latest possible moment. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a better tunnel, with a later break and more drastic end points, than that overlay of the Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen. It’s absolutely ridiculous. 

And just for fun, here are two more of my all-time favorite overlays:

 

Ok one more that really made me laugh.

LOL. Hitting is hard. -TOB


Video(s) of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week

Pink Floyd – “Breathe (In the Air)”


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Toby is the instruction card you throw away. 

-Michael Scott

Week of September 4, 2020


R.I.P. Tom Seaver

One of the more rewarding parts of putting together this weekly digest w/ TOB is finding your own experiences in the stories we post, and I definitely found that in T.J. Quinn’s eulogy of Tom Seaver, who died this week. The story is about our first sports hero. For me – as you all know by now – it was Kirby Puckett. For Quinn, it was Seaver.

The best pitcher in the game was on my team, had my name, wore the same cap I had. He would certainly understand why I took a black felt-tip pen and, with great deliberation, consecrated the back of my pinstriped Mets shirt with a ragged “41.”

I never forgave my parents for leaving New York City to move to Iowa (long story), but even in that foreign land, when I traced my finger over the raised orange stitches of the “NY” on my cap, the same as his cap, with “Tom Seaver” scrawled under the brim in black felt-tip pen, I knew he was out there. Until an 8-year-old learned about the oblivious cruelty of the adult world through a trade to the Reds. My parents had Walter O’Malley and I had M. Donald Grant.

Even while he was in Cincinnati, Tom Seaver was mine, and I knew that if he could leave, that meant he could come back. He did come back to the Mets in 1983, and then I learned the agony that comes with wanting something to be the way it was. Seaver was 9-14 that season. It wasn’t such a great year for my parents, either; they split up for good.

We can’t fathom it at the time, but we put so much on our first sports heroes. Innocence, home, belonging, faith, optimism – maybe that’s what a hero is to a kid – a personification of all those ideas we can’t yet articulate and don’t yet realize are limited. 

T.J. Quinn’s first sports hero became a real person to him. Someone he could call and get updates on Seaver’s vineyard grapes or hear a funny story about his wife. To me Kirby remained the first sports hero; rather, my bookmark to a photoshopped memory of the time in my life when I felt pure joy and belief. So when Puckett had his fall from the pedestal before he died young, it shook something deep down, even knowing that – yeah – these guys are not who we’ve built up in our fantasy world. A lot of sports heroes fall. 

In fact, Quinn was mortified this would happen with Seaver. He’d heard the stories from cynical old writers about other legends. 

One of the first things I learned as a young baseball writer was that you’d better be prepared to hear some awful things about the men you admired as a boy. That knowing laugh you’d get from the older writers when you asked if this or that Hall of Famer was a “good guy.” Eventually you stop asking.

So when I was covering the Mets in 1999 and it was announced that Tom Seaver was returning to the club as an announcer and instructor, I had the scars of almost three decades to gird me for one more disappointment, what I knew would be the most painful of all.

Tom Terrific arrived in Port St. Lucie late, and he toured the camp in a chauffeured golf cart as though he were riding in a chariot. He reveled and waved the way Roman gods do and he was clearly pleased that he was Tom Seaver. At the end of the day, we newspaper writers waited in the dugout for our audience. He was late for that, too. I turned to Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post, who shared my age and Mets breeding, and I said, “I don’t care who he is, I’m going to rip him.” Vac nodded.

When Seaver did finally take his seat on the dugout bench, he apologized. He was engaging and charming, but I knew with the insight of a now-jaded 29-year-old sportswriter that this was just the act that legends trot out for those on the outside.

I wish I remembered what I said, but at one point I cracked a little joke and Tom Seaver broke up. Fully and loudly. I blushed. Vac leaned over and whispered, “That was awesome.” I whispered back, “I know.”

No other living person could have made me feel that way. Batman could not have made me feel that way. The 8-year-old who had cried over a baseball trade was still there and couldn’t wait to get to a phone to tell his parents, even if I had to make separate calls to do it.

Tom Seaver thought I was funny. Tom Seaver would come to know my name. 

Quinn’s story is about as heartfelt as you’ll find. I knew Seaver was a great pitcher for the Mets before reading this, but now I care. – PAL Source: Tom Seaver and Why Sometimes You Really Should Meet Your Heroes”, T.J. Quinn, ESPN (09/03/2020)


College Football in 2020: An Interesting Story Just Got…Interestinger

On Wednesday,  the New York Times introduced an upcoming series of stories like so:

In the coming weeks and months, The New York Times will be inside Cal athletics, virtually and on campus — in Zoom meetings, budget discussions and team workouts. The goal is to provide an inside-out view of the unprecedented challenges facing one university — but, really, all of them.

Whoa. Now, that would pique my interest no matter the college, but of course did so 10x because it’s at Cal. I highly recommend you read the first installment because as you might imagine an inside look at a college athletic department trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, and the problems, both individual and systemic, that have arisen at a place like Cal Athletics is nothing short of dizzying. Reading this I did not envy the people tasked with figuring this out. And I was all set to write about the Pac-12’s decision to cancel/suspend the football season, and the implications for so many people from that decision. And then Thursday happened.

Thursday, the Pac-12 announced a deal that made national headlines. 

The Pac-12 announced a partnership with a testing company that allows schools to test their athletes daily for coronavirus. And those rapid tests could potentially lead to earlier start dates for football, basketball and other sports.

The conference said that it had partnered with Quidel for on-site rapid testing at each of its 12 member schools. The schools will be able to get test results back in 15 minutes.

WHOA! The Pac-12 (and Big-10) canceled/postponed the fall football season, while the other major conferences refused to do so, even as positive COVID-19 tests in their athletic programs continued to rise. But suddenly, the Pac-12 has the opportunity to play – safely. 

Now,  the Pac-12 is not promising a fall season. But reading the tea leaves, it seems these testing protocols could be in place by October 1, allowing teams to begin practicing by that date and playing games by late October. Pac-12 teams could fit 8 games through December, and potentially be part of any playoff. And on top of all that, the NYT series just got infinitely more interesting, going forward.

I had been annoyed that the Pac-12 canceled their season at a time that seemed premature. They could have kept postponing the start. Following the cancellation, Cal had at least a couple seniors transfer to conferences who plan to play this fall. So while I think that sucks, I am also happy that it seems like they are going to try to play the right way. And as problematic as college football is, god damnit that’s exciting. Go Bears! -TOB

Source: Solving a Pandemic Puzzle: Inside the Return of Sports to a Power 5 Program,” NY Times, John Branch (09/02/2020); “Pac-12 Announces Rapid COVID-19 Testing Partnership, Says It’s Exploring Timelines to Start Football Season,” Nick Bromberg, Yahoo! Sports (09/03/2020)

PAL: Just last night, Natalie and I took an evening walk in the Berkeley hills right behind Memorial Stadium. Perfect fall evening. Beautiful. To state the obvious, it’s downright odd to be essentially on campus of a large state school and have it feel that empty. I hope the testing partnership works out, and we can get these athletes back to competing in a safe environment as soon as possible. Any story about progress in terms of testing makes me a bit lighter. 

As we left and drove back, passing by the frat houses, we saw four dudes playing a drinking game in the front yard. It was a welcome sight, one immediately followed by concern. That’s a pretty common swing of emotions these days – a semblance of normal followed immediately by a dousing of concern. 


Alternative Sites in an Alternative Year

You might know that, given the pandemic, the 2020 Minor League Baseball season was canceled. But teams didn’t want to let their best prospects be idle for a year, so they each organized one “Alternate Site,” at one of their minor league complexes. Each Alternate Site only gets between 24-30 players per day, which makes it difficult to train. But exactly how these Alternate Sites have existed has been a bit of a mystery, until this great article by Keith Law. 

Law interviews a number of MLB team executives to discuss how the Alternate Sites are operating. The answers are intriguing, revealing what teams value and don’t value. Many teams dotted their Alternate Site slots with top prospects who are not anywhere near helping the big league team. But there’s a reason for that, as the Giants illustrate:

The Giants also have a number of very young hitting prospects at their alternate site, including Marco Luciano, Alex Canario and Luis Toribio…“It’s a huge growth opportunity for them as they see the difference between rookie ball and major-league players. We have a more aggressive weightlifting program for them as well. They don’t need to be ready for the ML tomorrow, so we don’t have to worry about overwork, and we can do more one-on-one instruction and early work for guys who are less in the ‘stay ready’ category.”

Really smart. There are a lot of other interesting anecdotes – I highly recommend the article! -TOB

Source: Law: A Look Inside Life at Baseball’s ‘Alternate Sites’,” Keith Law, The Athletic (08/19/2020)


Video(s) of the Week

And the obligatory:


Tweet of the Week

The Giants scored 23 runs on Tuesday. Here’s the radio call of all of ‘em. At the same time.


Song of the Week

Chris Stapleton – “Starting Over”


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“Who is Kafkaesque? I never – I don’t know him.”

-Michael Scott

Week of August 28, 2020

Swaggy since high school.


Going D-I

As fall and winter college sports begin to be cancelled or postponed, a lot of attention has been spent on the big-time football conferences and teams (Ohio State, USC, Texas, Clemson, etc.). Top prospects sitting out or missing the season, what the playoffs will look like (if any), and whether this is the moment when the major conferences officially break from the NCAA and start their own thing. We’ll be talking about blue blood basketball programs, the NCAA tourney, and the game’s top college prospects next. Billions of dollars, a public health crisis, and the very idea of amateurism – these are a few factors at play. 

That’s one end of the spectrum, but there’s a high stakes game on the other end of the D-I spectrum: schools trying to break into the D-I ranks (a four-year process). Replace Ohio State, USC, Texas, and Clemson with UC San Diego, Bellarmine, Dixie State, and Tarleton State. There’s also been talk at my alma mater – Augustana, a tiny school with 1,700 students – about jumping from D-II up to D-I. 

The first step in the process is for the schools to pay the NCAA 1.7MM for a D-I application. That’s a pricey bit of paperwork! What follows is an odyssey: booking non-conference games with known schools to raise the visibility of the new programs and earn some revenue in those early seasons; recruiting kids to take a chance on a program and school for which they never dream of playing, constantly trying to raise money and sweetalking rich alumni. 

For example, UC San Diego was scheduled to play TOB’s Cal in its first game as a D-I basketball program. Cal would’ve paid for the privilege of beating up on the Tritons, and UCSD would’ve used the game as a centerpiece of a weeklong celebration for donors, not to mention making it a recruiting bonanza. With non-conference schedules being the first part of the schedule to go in the pandemic, the revenue, marketing, and recruiting goes with it. 

Per Brian Bennett:

COVID-19 has already wreaked havoc on guarantee games, which most low-major teams vitally need. The typical going rate for those contests has been anywhere from $85,000 to $100,000, and playing a handful of them can fund an entire athletic department. Especially with no football this fall — Dixie State was supposed to enter its first year as an FCS independent before postponing — the school hoped to make money on basketball games, most notably its road trip to BYU. 

Those guarantee games also provide a crucial and one of the only major sources of revenue during this transition. And make no mistake: Moving to Division I isn’t cheap.

The NCAA charges schools $1.7 million simply to file the application for Division I membership. Dixie State and Tarleton State used fundraising efforts to pay for part of that tab.

Required facilities upgrades, required expanded coaching staffs…

UC San Diego helped fund its move with an increase in student fees. In a May 2016 referendum, students who voted approved the fees hike by a 70 percent majority. Ever since, the students have been paying $480 more per year in fees to underwrite Division I sports while waiting for an actual higher-level game they could attend on campus. Total fees over a four-year period run close to $3,500 per student.

All of that for the privilege to get whooped by Cal? What’s the point? The point can be found at the end of a long play, and that point – as it usually is – is money. 

Teams new to Division I must go through a four-year transition period during which they are not eligible to compete for NCAA championships. They also don’t get any money from the NCAA Tournament or other NCAA revenue streams until the transition is complete. It is up to them to balance budgets for four years until that spigot is turned on.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to grab a slice of that juicy NCAA Tournament pie. The tournament reaped a reported $933 million in revenue in 2019, and the NCAA distributes money from that pool to conferences based on performance. These are divvied up into “units,” which is how the NCAA defines wins and at-large bids in the tournament field. One tournament unit — which would be what a one-bid league whose representative loses in the first round would earn — was scheduled to be worth $282,100 in the 2020 bracket that never was. Teams that advance deep into the tournament can earn millions more for their conferences.

Most leagues, like the WAC, hand out that tournament cash equally among member schools. According to a 2019 study by the Associated Press, the SWAC earned the minimum amount from the NCAA’s basketball fund and received $25 million in payments from 1997 to 2018. The Big Ten brought in $340 million over that same period.

The prospect of all that dough is tantalizing, and it has led to an explosion of growth in Division I men’s basketball. 

Those are big numbers. That’s why the number of D-I schools has ballooned to nearly 350, that’s why I wouldn’t count out the NCAA basketball tourney just yet, and that’s why the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 football teams are making a go of it this fall. That’s a ton of money established programs and conferences are used to pocketing. It reaches all corners of the universities and the surrounding communities. And if someone is of the mind that this pandemic is being blown out of proportion to begin with (I am certainly not one of them), then it’s not that far of a leap to push for games being played. 

No matter what, a big loser in all of this will be these schools just beginning their journey towards D-I relevance and revenue. This will be a tough academic year for them to keep afloat. This was an excellent read about a part of college sports we don’t usually hear much about. – PAL 

Source: Transitioning in these trying times a challenge for four new Division I programs”, Brian Bennett, The Athletic (08/24/20)


In Appreciation of Yaz

The MLB trade deadline is Monday, and the Giants find themselves in a tougher spot than last year in answering the question: hold ‘em or fold ‘em? Last year they were just outside the WIld Card at the trade deadline and decided to split the baby – holding Bumgarner and Will Smith, moving Melancon, Dyson, and Pomeranz, for prospects. After a monster July got them into the playoff picture, they tanked in August and September and fell way out. Still, it’s hard to say they were wrong for keeping Bumgarner and Smith: first, we don’t know what offers they had on the table; second, they got compensatory picks in the June draft which gave them both more picks and more signing bonus money to spread around.

So, what do they do this year? Like last year, they approach the trade deadline on an upswing – before Thursday’s brutal double header loss to the Dodgers, the Giants were winners of seven straight. Plus, in the four games prior to those seven wins, the team had blown three wins in the 9th, two of them to the A’s, one of the best teams in baseball, and the two leads blown to the A’s were BIG leads. And all three blown wins were at the feet of the same pitcher – Trevor Gott. If Gott doesn’t go all 2001 World Series Byung-Hyun Kim, the GIants would  have entered Thursday tied for 3rd in the NL.So there is reason to think this team, suddenly in line for a playoff spot, might actually be good.

Meanwhile, the Giants traded for Mike Yastremzki last Spring for basically a can of beans. Yaz, the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastremzki, had never broken through to the majors after many years in the Orioles’ organization. The Giants acquired him and he made his big league debut when he was almost 29, very late for a baseball player. But Yaz has turned into a star. After a very good 2019, he is out of his mind this season. I will admit the sample size is still a little small, JIFF,  but he’s putting up MVP, literally! MVP!, numbers. 

All of this begs the question: what should the Giants do with Yaz? He’s now 30. His stock has never been higher. The fanbase loves him – he looks like JT Snow but puts up numbers like peak Jeff Kent, and plays the outfield like Jim Edmonds. For weeks, I’ve been wondering what the Giants might do with him. I would understand why they’d move a 30-year old late bloomer for a top prospect, but also…the team is in this thing! And the fans love Yaz. I was starting to get nervous, and then I read this from Roger Munter:

History tells us that prospect-for-veteran trades invariably favor the team acquiring the vets — even though our dumb lizard brains remember the ones that favor the team getting the future star. They’re all John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander, right? The vast majority of prospects moved in deals turn into trivia answers (“Man, you remember who they got Yaz for?”), not stars.

So have I set the stage appropriately for why this can’t and shouldn’t happen? The risk involved in moving Yaz is too much to bear. End of story. The Giants front office has a bonafide win in hand — they turned career minor leaguer Tyler Herb into a Star, Capital “S.” Once you’ve traded your broken down milk cow for magic beans and the beans led you to the goose that lays the golden egg….what exactly could another milk cow have to offer to tempt you into trading the goose for it?

Maybe I wanted the above to be true but I have to give it to Munter – he brought me back to the light. Yaz is 30, true, but he still has a few good years left, and because he’s a late bloomer, he’s cheap. If he’s a star, he can absolutely help the next good Giants team. And, as we’ve seen (Dubon, Davis), trading for a highly regarded prospect doesn’t always work out. At this point I’d rather have a star like Yaz for 3 years, than the chance someone like Dubon, who is struggling, turns into a star. Plus, being a fan favorite matters. 

The Giants have a lot of choices once again as the trade deadline approaches. I hope they keep the guys who are helping them win now, and can also do so in the future. -TOB

Source: Let’s Make a Deal: Mike Yastrzemski,” Roger Munter, There R Giants (08/26/2020)


The Ultimate Bartender

Every morning starts the same. After I get my coffee and breakfast ready, I open up the laptop and start with the same three tabs: The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Being a St. Paul family, the Langs were historically a Pioneer Press bunch, I must say, but the non-digital subscription got to the point where even my parents switched.  

Most of the sports stories from the Star Tribune and The Chronicle could more or less be interchangeable if some team names swapped: you have your recap of the in-season sport, the 365 days a year obsession with the NFL, some homer columnist heaping unearned praise on nearest university, and a profile of some high school prodigy once a month or so. 

Sometimes I’m in danger of forgetting what sports page I’m reading, but every now and again a story like this one comes along – a story so utterly St. Paul that I nod along as a I read. 

Tim Tschida is about as St. Paul as one can get. If the name sounds familiar, then you were likely a hardcore baseball fan, because Tschida was an MLB umpire for 27 years. He got in early – he umpired his first MLB game at the age of 25 –  and got out early. He was far from an old fogie when he called it quits in 2012. So he traded his umpire uniform for a hawiian shirt and went back to the job he’d work to make some extra dollars while a minor league ump: bartender.

He started bartending at the legendary Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul (damn good steak) and at Giggles Campfire at the State Fair (never heard of it). 

As Pat Ruesse puts it: 

A man constantly on the road as an umpire for 32 years, he’s been single since 2012, lives in a duplex near West Seventh, works for the Mancinis and Giggles; meaning at 60, Timothy Joseph Tschida is back to being as thoroughly St. Paul as when he was a bat boy for a Jack Morris-led baseball team.

That Jack Morris reference is perfect, because when you think about it, who would have better bartender stories than a guy who umpired in the bigs for nearly 30 years? Seriously, can you imagine the tales? I mean, here’s just a taste:

The one dearest to Minnesotans would be his involvement as the plate umpire on Aug. 3, 1987, when Twins starter Joe Niekro was suspected of trying to make baseballs less aerodynamically predictable for hitters.

“Joe wasn’t exactly suspected,” Tschida said. “We knew what he was doing. We also knew scuffing the baseball was absolutely out of control that season.

“I finally had to go out there. I said, ‘Joe, I want to see your glove and your hands.’ He turned a whiter shade, stammered a little, and then put his hands in his back pockets.

“As it turned out, he had a hunk of sandpaper trimmed and glued to the palm of his left hand. It was touched up to look like flesh. And when he wanted the extra movement, he would take off the glove and rub the baseball as if he was trying to improve the grip.

“He had his left hand in that pocket, trying to work the sandpaper off his palm while making more of an act out of going into his right pocket. He took out a small photo of his son Lance, maybe 11 or 12 then — great kid, by the way — and tried to sound defiant, saying, ‘I have a picture of my son, OK?’

“Davey Phillips said, ‘Dig a little deeper, Joe,’ and out came the emery board. That’s what most people remember, but I wouldn’t have thrown him out for the emery board. I would have just said, ‘Keep that in the dugout.’

“What happened is the piece of sandpaper fell out of the other pocket. Joe wound up getting a 10-game suspension and the appearance on Letterman.”

Tschida paused with a smile and said:

“Best quote of the night came from Gene Mauch, managing the Angels. He said, ‘Those baseballs weren’t scuffed; they were mutilated.’ ”

My post-pandemic to-do list is growing, but I think TOB and I need to make a trip to Minnesota next summer and throw back a few local brews at Mancini’s when Tchida’s working and report back to the readers. – PAL 

Source: Brew chief: Former MLB ump and St. Paul native Tim Tschida goes from behind the plate to behind the bar”, Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune (08/25/20)


Video of the Week:


Tweet of the Week: 


Song of the Week: Bon Ever – “AUATC”


In Italy, you must always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. This is considered to be polite.

-Michael Scott

Week of August 14, 2020

When Laureano gets beaned (again), he offers up tips on how to throw a slider.


A Major Designation

Sometimes it pays off to procrastinate on a 1-2-3 post. Found this thought-provoking story from one of our favorite writers, Ben Lindbergh. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues. In addition to many celebrations and commemorations planned, MLB is considering retroactively designating the Negro Leagues a Major League. That means all the stats are added to the MLB record books and all of those players denied a chance to play at the highest level (before and after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947) would finally be big leaguers. Pretty incredible. 

There are not just two leagues recognized as ‘Major League’ – it’s not just the National League (1876)  and the American League (1901). There are four other leagues categorized, and counted in the record books, as a major league, per the definition put forth by 1968 commissioner’s committee put together to create The Baseball Encyclopedia: American Association (1882-1891), Union Association (1884), Players’ League (1890), and Federal League (1914-1915).

The story goes into how, back in ‘68, this committee decided on what leagues made it and what did not. According to those around the committee at the time (all the committee members are now dead), the notion of including the Negro Leagues didn’t even come up. It wasn’t about stat-keeping (as one committee member would retroactively justify years later) or quality of competition; the Negro League was never even brought up in the discussion!

“The one thing that I am absolutely certain about is that there never was any SBRC discussion about treating the Negro Leagues as major leagues,” says David Neft, who oversaw the assembly of the Encyclopedia. 

Which begs the point, what if they had been given proper consideration? What then?

If the Negro Leagues had been brought up by the SBRC, they would have had to satisfy several of the committee’s criteria. Neft says that in addition to scheduling irregularities such as varying lengths, frequent unofficial games, uncompleted campaigns, and inconsistent playoff formats (sound familiar?) “the factors that were used in discussing the other leagues included the populations of their cities, the media coverage of their teams relative to the NL, AL, and the 1880s American Association, the capacity of the stadiums, the level of play, and the number of proven major league players who ‘jumped’ to these leagues.” 

In most of those categories, of course, the Negro Leagues are at a disadvantage relative to white leagues precisely because of the racism and segregation that forced Black ballplayers to create a separate (and in some respects, unequal) place to play. Negro Leagues clubs were owned by Black businesspeople who were cut off from capital and didn’t own their home parks. Their financial circumstances were precarious, and they were forced to barnstorm and play local exhibitions to survive. It would be harsh to hold that against them. Gary Gillette, coeditor of the The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia and many other sports reference books, says that if you denigrate the Negro League’s credentials on the grounds of erratic conditions and schedules, “What you’re saying is ‘We would like to undo the discrimination and isn’t it a crying shame that they were discriminated against. But we can’t undo it because they were discriminated against and their records aren’t that good.’ And I think that’s a horseshit argument.”

Populations? Media coverage? Stadium capacity? Number of players that ‘jumped to these leagues’…setting aside the racism, who the hell came up with this list of categories? 

More important, the record. Black teams played Major League clubs quite frequently over the course of the first half of the 1900s. Over 600 games, actually. Their record against those Major League teams: 315-282-20. Over roughly the same time period (1900-1950), Major League teams went 1690-677 against minor league teams. 

Legendary statistician Bill James sums it up this way: 

“My argument has always been that it is impossible for a league to produce that many players of that quality in that period of time, unless the quality of play in that league was not only equal to the white leagues, but probably superior to it. You just can’t reach that level of excellence while playing against minor league competition. So … designate it as major league.” 

And to bring this all the way back to 2020, one of the most commons ‘concerns’  over including Negro League stats alongside MLB stats is an inconsistency of schedule. Josh Gibson hit .466 in 69 games in 1943. Does that jump past Ted Williams .406 in 1941 (143 games)? Well, MLB currently recognizes Ross Barnes’ .429 batting average over a 70-game season from 1876, so there goes that. 

Or, for that matter, some similar statistical outlier from MLB’s current small-sample season, which will be treated the same as any other season’s despite the many compromises that the pandemic has imposed. “The last remaining plausible objections to not including the Negro Leagues as major leagues have been eliminated with the 60-game season,” says Gillette, who adds, “If there ever was a season more erratic than 2020, I’d like to see it. … There’s no moral justification for excluding the Negro Leagues, and the last rational arguments you could even advance have been destroyed.”

This is such an excellent read about correcting history. Not re-writing it, but correcting it, and this moment – this centennial year of the Negro League, as the BLM movement gains recognition and support, as MLB sells us a 60-game season, is the exact time to do it. – PAL

Source: “As it Celebrates the Centennial of the Negro Leagues, MLB May Undo a “Major” Mistake”, Ben Lindbergh, The Ringer (08/14/20)


Sports Are Good, Exhibit #137: Atalanta 

There have been a lot of stories written about sports in the pandemic, and this one might be my favorite so far. 

Atalanta, a small market soccer team by comparison to the big hitters that compete in the Champions League tournament (Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, etc), made quite a deep run in the tournament this year. Considered the “Queen of the provincial clubs” – which is a backhanded compliment if I’ve ever heard one, Atalanta’s success this year would be like a AAA baseball team making a deep playoff run against the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, and other big market teams. 

The team’s unlikely run was more special this year, because Atalanta’s home base is Bergamo, Italy – right in the heart of the madness when COVID ripped through northern Italy.

One of the club’s greatest moments came on February 19, 2020. With seemingly the entire town transported on charters to Milan to watch, the club put up four goals on its way to it’s first ever Champions League quarterfinal. 

The match would remain meaningful, but for much different reasons. Per Rory Smith: 

The next day, the mayor was in his office in the center of Bergamo when news started to emerge that a patient in an emergency room in Codogno, a town southeast of Milan and about an hour’s drive away, had tested positive for the coronavirus. The next day, a second case was confirmed in Alzano Lombardo, only a few minutes outside Bergamo.

In those long, harrowing days in late February, the coronavirus crisis seemed to bubble around the people of Bergamo, gathering force until it consumed them, too. The city shut down, the silence filled with sirens. The hospitals were overwhelmed. The local newspaper filled with the names of the dead. The army was called in to remove the bodies. Quickly, memories of that night in San Siro seemed to drift and fade, as if it had happened in another world.

“It was the last day of total ignorance,” Gori said. He had stopped smiling. “It was the last day when we did not worry.”

This great moment happens, then – wham – something that few had even considered now dominated every thought in the city. That match in Milan filled with 40,000 fans from northern Italy would later be described as a ‘biological bomb’ by the chief pneumologist in the area. 

What followed was a group of fans utilizing the community built around the soccer team to help out. They raised money for the hospital, helped the military build a field hospital, coordinated and commissioned an artist to design a special jersey that thanked first responders. 

In other words, as Smith puts it, “The team is an expression of, and an outlet for, a broader civic identity.”

And when the team returned to the pitch in June, they kept the unlikely run alive. They rattled off 6 wins, and a tie against the much larger Juventes before the run finally ended against Paris St.-Germain (perhaps the richest club in the world). 

The director general of the local hospital summed it all up perfectly when she said, “The suffering of the people mourning for their families cannot be relieved. Sport cannot overcome that grief. But for the city as a whole, a city that has suffered a lot, it offers hope.”

Excellent stuff from Smith. – PAL

Source: “The Dark Fairy Tale of Atalanta”, Rory Smith, The New York Times (08/11/20)


Video of the Week

Song of the Week  – Western Centuries – ‘Sarah and Charlie’


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“I am the bait. Men find me desirable.”

-Dwight Schrute

Week of August 7, 2020

Arnie and His Army at the 1963 San Francisco International Open.


Is College Football On the Brink?

The world is crazy right now, this country especially. Professional sports are back and none of us know if this is good or not – I am enjoying the hell out of baseball, but I don’t know if I should, as the players and employees risk their lives and those of their loved ones so I can sit here on a Wednesday night, watching a 21-year old pitcher on my fantasy team make his MLB debut and throw 99 MPH in front of a stadium peppered with cardboard cutouts of Padres fans, and Padres fans’ dogs. I can assuage my guilt by reminding myself that professional players are paid a lot of money to play, and they are being tested every other day to help ensure safety (the use of test and testing facility resources in order to play these sports is another discussion for another day).

And there is college football. Last week, a group of Pac-12 football players published a list of demands that they say must be met or they will sit out the season. They claim to have hundreds of Pac-12 players on board, which would end the Pac-12 season. The demands are wide-ranging with varying levels of feasibility in both the short and long terms, including 50/50 revenue sharing, extended health care, and COVID-19 protections. The last one is probably the most pressing because as the Ringer’s Rodger Sherman puts it:

[T]here appears to be no discernible plan at all. The players will not compete in a contained bubble, the approach used by the NBA, WNBA, NHL, NWSL, and MLS. There are no uniform testing procedures; some schools had dozens of players test positive for COVID-19 and kept practicing, while some schools aren’t even testing players at all. … During a pandemic, thousands of unpaid athletes, who are predominantly Black, are being asked to risk their health to make money for their coaches and administrators, who overwhelmingly are white. When you say it out loud, it’s bad.

College football has torn me apart inside for quite some time. On the one hand, I freaking love it. I love heading to Berkeley six or seven Saturdays a year, having a beer at the Faculty Club, and dragging my entire family up the hill to the stadium to cheer on the Bears. But over the last decade, as we’ve learned more and more about the danger football poses to athletes’ brain health, and I consider the fact that I don’t think I could possibly let my own kids play the sport… college football also feels really, really wrong. When you add to that the fact players aren’t paid anything other than a free education and room and board, man. It’s bad. And now we want them to play during a pandemic, without any of the safety protocol in place in professional sports? How can we do this?

Many of the arguments against paying players center on how hard it’d be to do (e.g., there are Title IX implications (colleges have to fund men’s and women’s sports equally…how can they do that if they start paying football players; college football and men’s basketball revenue funds every other sport, men and women, so what happens to those sports if football and basketball players are paid from that revenue). 

But so what if it’s hard. Players must be paid. Players need to be paid and colleges/Congress need to find a way around Title IX in doing so. The NFL should also foot some of the bill – they’ve enjoyed their free minor league long enough (plus, money from the NFL could conceivably be paid directly to players, skirting Title IX implications). 

I hope college football survives, but if it does it needs to change. Just because something was done a certain way for 150 years doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it. Yes, Cal might lose football. And that would suck. I would be extremely sad. But I can’t put my happiness twelve Saturdays a year over the well-being of approximately 13,000 FBS football players all over the country, risking their health and well-being in exchange for nothing more than an education. If they get paid, I think it flips the balance enough for me. Whatever changes happens to college football in exchange for doing the right thing, I’ll live with that. -TOB

Source: College Football Needs to Change. The Pac-12’s Players Are Making That Happen,” Rodger Sherman, The Ringer (08/04/2020)

PAL: There’s so much to love about college football until you stop to think about it. The only reason we’re talking about the potential for college football this fall is money. That’s it. This is only about money, and that money depends on college players showing up to work. 

I hope the players step up to this moment. They have the stage and real leverage. This is the time to pressure the NCAA to move faster than the bare minimum. Yes, it will cost many of them dearly in the form of scholarshipsand a football future cast in doubt. But if they want to really force a change and make a generational impact, now is the time. 


What’s In A Name

By the time you’re reading this, we’re well into the first major sporting event in the COVID era: The PGA Championship is being played in San Francisco, and it’s being played at a municipal course, no less, which is pretty cool. It’s not everyday that hacks like myself have every opportunity to play the same course the best of the best play – many major tournaments are played on private courses or resort courses. 

Harding Park has an especially interesting backstory, and is connected to a president who famously died in San Francisco. 

Juuuuuuust going to plop this down here: 

The golf course being constructed seven miles from the president’s deathbed 97 years ago was soon christened Harding Park, during a bygone era when naming things for presidents was done with little debate or consideration. 

That this most somber of summers should be linked, even tenuously, to Harding and the strangeness of 1923 feels about right.

Harding, a former Republican senator from Ohio, had little in the way of a platform when he ran for the White House in 1920 other than a “return to normalcy.” He was viewed as a tax-cutting, anti-immigrant nationalist who, in the wake of World War I, did not want the United States to be part of the postwar League of Nations. He was rumored to have had affairs (and at least one out-of-wedlock child) and was soon surrounded by scandal throughout his administration. (Curious? Start by Googling “Teapot Dome.”) He was not considered a deep thinker and was prone to rambling. He liked to play golf.

Time is a circle. 

Anyway, While I’ve never played the course, it’s cool that Harding ($65 if you’re a SF resident) is smack dab in the middle of a bunch of super prestigious private clubs, and the muni is considered the best plot of land of them all. After some real low times – budget cuts and lack of love left the once legendary course in such disrepair that its fairways were used as a parking lot for the 1998 U.S. Open held across the street at Olympic Club. Much like its namesake, the course was all but forgotten. 

But the bones of a great course remained, and they brought it back to its oceanside, cypress tree glory for the tournament. – PAL 

Source: A Memorable Golf Course Honors A Forgotten President”, John Branch, The New York Times (08/05/2020)

TOB: My neighbor, Paul, has one of the resident cards and has been bugging me to get one so that we can go. My game is so so so bad that I just can’t stomach the thought of hacking my way up the fairways at such a nice course. But reading this article had me reconsidering. 

Another interesting wrinkle to the pandemic is the utter lack of fanfare around the tournament. Or, being mostly stuck in my house, as far as I know anyways. When the U.S. Open was across the street at the Olympic a few years back, you could not miss it. The logos were everywhere. People were excited. Now, I had no idea the tournament was being held this week until a Sportscenter preview on Wednesday night. “Oh yeah.” Weird.


Big In Japan: Prospect Gamble Pays Off In Pandemic

Last year, Carter Stewart made a bold decision. After being selected 8th overall in the 2018 MLB draft and turning down $2M from the Braves, the 6’ 6” right-handed pitcher decided to not re-enter the draft in 2019. Instead, he signed a 6-year, $7M deal to play professionally in Japan. At the time, it was an unprecedented decision in baseball (we’ve seen basketball prospects go overseas recently instead of playing college ball). Per Joon Lee of ESPN: 

Not signing with an MLB team was a risk, but it gave Stewart an opportunity to prove himself in Japan, skip the years of low pay and uncertainty in the minor leagues, and set up a potential return to the United States on a lucrative free-agent deal.

Things are a bit different these days. Or, as Michael Scott puts it, ‘how the turn tables.’ 

Now, with the minor league season cancelled due to the pandemic, Stewart is competing in Japan, where the virus is much more under control (just over 1,000 total deaths for a population of 125MM people). He’s getting paid a fair wage to play in actual games, work on his game. That would not be the case if he’d signed with a MLB team. 

Also, not for nothing – but he’s a young guy getting exposed to a new culture, learning a new language, picking up cooking, all while learning how to be a professional. Seems like a lot of positives. While I can understand it might get lonely for a young kid that far from home and his family not being able to visit, his dad sums it up pretty well: 

“It’s amazing all these kids that normally would be at school are here or they’re all working at Home Depot and Domino’s,” Pat says. “And I mean not just the baseball kids. I’m talking about all the college kids. But yeah, I mean I think it truly is a blessing that he’s where he is right now, because he could literally be sitting here twiddling his thumbs.”

More money, more baseball experience, more life experience. Win-win-win. – PAL

Source: “Carter Stewart Ditched the MLB Draft to Pitch in Japan; Then Came the Coronavirus”, Joon Lee, ESPN (08/06/2020)

TOB: How long have Phil and I have been doing this damn thing? So long that we have forgotten the stories we have written about. We were chatting on the phone Thursday night and he told me he was writing about this story. “Wow, interesting idea by this kid,” I said. Then after a few more seconds of it tumbling around in my brain I said, “Wait, didn’t we write about this kid when he first decided to skip the draft?” “I don’t think so,” Phil replied. But after we hung up I checked the archives, and here it is: May 24, 2019 – “Smash the Draftiarchy!” (An inspired title, to pat myself on the back). My take at the time, “If he’s good, he’ll be ready to make big bucks. If he’s not, well he made an extra $3 million and got to experience the world. Plus, he doesn’t spend the next few years riding around the country on a bus. Win-win-win!” Phil’s take: “That’s just a big kettle of hoppy common sense.”

The cool thing here is that this week’s article is a follow-up. Carter’s gamble has paid off, big time. To paraphrase the band Pain: He bet on himself and he’s making a killing.

Basketball’s 3-Point Chess Match

Sports innovations always come in waves, with offenses innovating and defenses adapting. The rise of the 3-point shot has completely changed the way the NBA is played: 

In 13 years, from 2000-01 to 2013-14, the NBA’s average 3-point rate (the percentage of total field goal attempts that were 3s) rose 8.9 percentage points, from 17.0 to 25.9. The next season Curry won his first MVP. In six seasons since, the NBA’s average 3-point rate has jumped from 26.8 to 38.2. That’s an 11.4-percentage-point increase in nearly half as much time.

Defenses responded by attempting to make shooters uncomfortable – closing out on shooters aggressively, trying to run them off the 3-point line and force them to take a long-two or a mid-range shot. 

Recently, offenses threw their counterpunch: the one dribble 3-pointer. 

The mentality manifests in a snippet of NBA parlance that coaches, skill trainers, and a growing number of players abide by: Keep a 3 a 3. Rather than drive into the paint or pull up from midrange, it’s better to evade the defender’s closeout or shot contest with one dribble, stay behind the arc, and let it fly. The shot isn’t simple or easy. It has to be launched in a nanosecond against determined opponents with long arms who are keen to invade personal space. Before they close in, the shooter must recapture a rhythm that was momentarily lost.

The numbers back this up, as the Ringer’s Michael Pina notes:

  • Six seasons ago, all 30 teams launched two or fewer one-dribble 3s per game. This season, every single team averaged more.
  • During the 2017-18 seasons, 18 teams took one-dribble 3s as 3 percent or less of their overall shot distribution.
  • Two seasons ago, five players averaged at least one one-dribble 3 per game. That number has ballooned to 20 this season.
  • The Golden State Warriors led the league at 2.7 percent of their shot distribution when they won it all in 2015. Five years later, 2.7 percent would rank no. 29 in the league.

Interesting article. -TOB

Source: The Rise of the One-Dribble 3-Pointer,” Michael Pina, The Ringer (08/05/2020)

PAL: Great example of the tweaks we as fans don’t immediately recognize, where the game is actually changing. This endless battle between offense and defense, right now is separated by a single dribble. Fun to think if it in that way. I think this is the first I’ve read from Pina. Good writer.


Pujols Was a Man Among Boys

I came across a funny stat this week: Albert Pujols’ numbers as a high school senior. Pujols, of course, was a phenom the moment he hit the majors as a 21-year old, finishing fourth in that year’s MVP voting. A few years prior, Pujols and his family moved to Missouri when he was 16 Unsurprisingly, Albert wrecked the league. 

He hit eight home runs in just 33-at bats and had FIFTY-FIVE intentional walks. Fifty five intentional walks against just 33 official at-bats!? That is outrageous. One of my favorite things about sports is imagining the prodigies just destroying the local high school kids, on their way to the pros. Pujols’ numbers may be the funniest yet. -TOB

PAL: The sight of him holding an aluminum bat is terrifying. Imagine playing 3B when he stepped into the box. No thank you.


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week

Billy Strings – “Enough To Leave”


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“It seems awfully mean. But sometimes the ends justify the mean.”

Michael Scott