Week of September 23, 2022

San Francisco awaits, your Honor.

The Starting Pitcher, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo

If you’ve been a baseball fan longer than 10 years, you’ve seen a major evolution in the way teams handle starting pitchers. The starter used to be the star – innings eaters who sold tickets and won games. And they really won them, going deep into games, week after week, year after year. But now that’s all changed. The complete game is nearly extinct. In 1980, 20.3% of starters finished the game they started. This season, that number is down to 0.6%, with just 30 out of 4,470 starts resulting in a complete game.  In 2022, MLB starters average 5.15 innings per start. As Passan notes, in 2022, “only one pitcher, Miami’s Sandy Alcantara, posts more than seven innings a start. Just 20 pitchers are above six. Alcantara and Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes are the lone two who log at least 100 pitches per game. Alcantara is at 101, Burnes at 100.” 

In this article, Jeff Passan asks why, and focuses on Toronto’s Alek Manoah (big fan of this guy), a dying breed. Manoah hasn’t pitched a complete game this year. He’s young and big and an innings eater, but he’s still wrestling with his team over load management. Here’s Passan:

“The story of the disappearing starter is one in which analytics beat aesthetics. A confluence of factors — small-market teams clawing for survival among their moneyed brethren, the broken youth baseball apparatus, the industry’s general ignorance about arm health — served as accelerants, but at the heart were numbers too compelling for teams to deny.”

Passan is referring here to the “times-through-the-order-penalty” – the more times a batter sees a pitcher, the better he performs. The theory was popularized in a November 5, 2013 article on Baseball Prospectus by Michael Lichtman, who noted that “over the previous 40 years, hitters gained an average of 27 on-base-plus-slugging points between their first and second plate appearances against a starter and 24 more between the second and third.” 

This knowledge has changed the game. As Passan noted:

“Soon after Lichtman’s piece, innings-per-start numbers tumbled, from 5.97 in 2014 to 5.81 to 5.65 to 5.51 to 5.36 to 5.18 in the last season before the COVID-19 pandemic. The figures ran inverse to average fastball velocity, which had continued its steady climb from under 89 mph at the turn of the 21st century to 93 mph by 2019. Teams were pivoting away from pitchers who could pitch deep into games and focusing on other skills: velocity, strength and pitch design. Ultimately, that philosophy birthed a cottage industry that inside pitch labs created a new strain of swing-and-miss pitches.” 

And, some argue, the effects are not good for fans. Here’s former Red Sox and Cubs president Theo Epstein:

“It’s math. It’s real. If you’re looking to just optimize for one game, of course you’d rather have a fresh reliever than a starter third time through. But when every team takes that approach there’s a real cost to the industry. We lose the identity of the starting pitcher as a prominent character in the drama day in and day out.”

Epstein notes, though, that despite fewer innings and fewer pitches we are not seeing fewer pitcher injuries. Why? Here’s Passan:

“Fewer innings leads inevitably to more max-effort pitches, which arm experts agree create more injuries. Teams remain at the mercy of a self-created beast; max effort is more effective, and the system — from youth baseball onward — prioritizes little else. No one seems inclined to interrupt the faulty feedback loop. The average minor league start this season lasts 4.23 innings. Only six of the 120 teams in the minor leagues use their starters for more than five innings per start. One team, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Single-A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga, leaves its starters in for an average of 2.9 innings. A minor league pitcher reaching 100 pitches is blue lobster rare.”

Epstein sees dire consequences for baseball if the trend continues and suggests limiting pitchers on a roster to 11 and force a team to lose its DH when it pulls its starting pitcher. It’s not a bad idea. -TOB

Source: ‘It’s a Dying Breed. And It Sucks’: The Decline of the Starting Pitcher — and What It Means for Baseball’s Future,” Jeff Passan, ESPN (07/06/2022)

PAL: For “the nerds” to be ignored for so long, to this: one article from Baseball Prospectus, and the starting pitcher is on the outs. This story made me wonder if we’re in the un-fun phase of baseball’s evolution, and yet I had a very unsettled reaction when I heard about the shift rules going into play next year, thereby limiting or diverting a trend.

Also, as a Twins fan I am contractually mandated to bring up Jack Morris’ 10-inning, 1-0 shutout in a game 7 of the friggin’ World Series. You want drama, Theo? That was dramatic. Where does that performance land on a list of things we will never, ever, ever see again?

What is Judge Chasing?

Aaron Judge tied Babe Ruth when he hit his 60th home run the other night. It is not a record-breaking home run; hell, he hasn’t even broken the team record (yet), but 60 still matters, somehow, and that’s what Barry Petchesky lays out with such sharp writing. 

The game’s greatest treasure is its history, and it rarely feels more vital than when that history comes alive again. A slugger putting up an absurd number 95 entire years ago doesn’t feel so distant when a slugger wearing the same uniform chases it down now. The present informs the past, makes it real in a way newsreels and ledgers can’t quite. 

And later, he addresses the fact that, as incredible as Judge’s season has been (a 60+ homer triple crown season is bonkers), he’s not breaking the home run record (14 homers in 12 games isn’t happening). So why are we treating this like a chase?

But I have a theory about 61, and it’s that a home run chase is so much fun that there’s a collective if unspoken agreement to accept that Judge is currently engaged in one. It requires a little targeted forgetfulness, and the making of strange bedfellows with those freaks still hung up on the steroid thing, but it’s worth it. 1998 was a special thing. I genuinely pity people not old enough to remember it. 

We can’t relive the supernova summer of 1998, but with every Judge highlight, every live look-in for his at-bats, every astonishing statistic, we can enjoy something of its reflected warmth. A home run chase is a good time, and it reminds one of previous home run chases, and of a slightly more naive era of fandom (or maybe just of my own life) when it was easy and good to feel things so strongly. So if Judge is not going to chase down Barry Bonds—if a chase for the true home run record is simply not in the cards until and unless the game fundamentally changes—where’s the harm in acting like or believing that 61 is still a mark worth chasing? I promise you it’s more fun to be here counting dingers than to be too savvy to.

Also, not a bad year for Judge to do this. Remember, he said no to the 7 years, $213MM extension that the Yankees offered at Spring Training. Come the offseason, he’ll fetch a hell of a lot more as a free agent. I know the Twins won’t pay the kind of money he’ll get, so I hope the Giants go all-in for Judge.

Petchesky has his heater going on this one. – PAL 

Source: The Chase Is The Thing,” Barry Petchesky, Defector (09/21/22) 

TOB: This is interesting and similar to a thought I had this week. I saw a Tweet wondering if Bonds would have hit 73 in 2011 if not for 9/11 – and it’s a fascinating question on two levels. 

First, Bonds hit 61, 62, and 63 in the same night! On 9/9/2001! He does that on a Sunday, has Monday off, and then on Tuesday two airplanes hit the World Trade Center. And then Bonds, like the rest of the league, got a week off, during which he no doubt rested and recuperated. 

Second, after he hit 63, the nation and world’s attention was elsewhere, obviously, and so maybe there was less pressure. There was certainly less coverage in 2001 and than McGwire and Sosa got in 1998. I had always attributed that to Home Run Chase Fatigue™ and the fact that the media did not like Bonds as much as they liked McGwire and Sosa (at the time). would have been under more pressure in 2001 if not for 9/11. But in response to that tweet about Bonds and 9/11, I added another thought that touches on what Barry says here.

I wondered if, once Bonds passed 60, the pressure was off. Heck, he hit two more that same day! But 61 had been the magic number for 40 years, and 61 for decades before that. 70 was the number for just three. I think for so many people 60/61 is still a magic number – it still means something to baseball fans, no matter their opinion of Bonds or 73 or the steroid era. 62 is gonna be cool, and I am rooting hard for Aaron Judge.

In fact, like Barry Bonds himself, I’m rooting for him to a baker’s dozen more and get to 73, or higher (despite Phil’s rational thought that it isn’t happening) and then sign this offseason with his childhood team, the San Francisco Giants. That way, as a Bonds fan, I can enjoy the memories of 73 in peace, without someone whining about the Cream or the Clear or BALCO. Go Judge!

1975 San Francisco: SFPD vs a Gay Bar Softball Game

This is a cool, photo-forward story by the SF Chronicle on a softball series, played in the 1970s, between the SFPD and a softball team from the Pendulum, a Castro District gay bar. If this lede doesn’t compel you to click the link and read this story, I don’t know what will.

Because I am in. And I’m not the only one. The game was attended by George Moscone, Willie Brown, and Dianne Feinstein. Check out this crowd, part of 5,000 fans (a number larger than the reported attendance at more than a few Giants games that year):

The article tells as great story, and has some great action shots, too. Like this one. NO, JOE. That ball is too damn high!

Check out the story for how the game ended, and the sad reason the series ended just a few years later. They should really bring this back. -TOB

Source: A 1970s Rivalry Between a Gay Bar and and the SFPD Reached Epic Heights (Then Crashed),” Peter Hartlaub, SF Chronicle (09/02/2022)

PAL: This story catches such a fascinating moment in time. There’s so much hope and community in these photos. That it goes away so soon after, and the reason why, is heartbreaking.

Video(s) of the Week

Look, I’ve been busy. I got a lot of videos saved up. So buckle up:

PAL: LET ME GET IN HERE! Give me every GD angle of this turd hitting the rope and whining.

Tweet(s) of the Week

Song of the Week

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“I gotta focus. I’m shifting into soup mode.”

-George Costanza

Week of September 17, 2022

“Fun, not funny.”

By now, you’ve likely enjoyed the great work of Jomboy. We regularly post breakdown videos from its founder, Jimmy O’Brien (sadly, no relation to TOB). The most famous one – the video that is credited for turning something O’Brien did in his spare time while working as a wedding videographer to a company with 64 employees and a latest funding round of $5M – was the Astros cheating scandal. You know, the garbage bins. 

O’Brien’s unique skillset is on full display in the video. He wasn’t breaking news – The Athletic had the story before Jomboy…and Jmboy isn’t a sports news website anyway…it still doesn’t even have a website! – but he walked the viewer through it so they could see it with their own eyes instead of imagining the cheating while reading along. In the video, O’Brien is funny and extremely insightful, but he never even has a whiff of that self-aggrandizement that seems so common in sports talk tv and radio (the hot take). 

It’s the tone that has come to define the company. In his own words, “Fun, not funny.” 

Per Zach Schonbrun:

O’Brien says, “The easiest way to get laughs sometimes is to knock other people down or go negative. That isn’t really our vibe.”

This can be construed as an attempt at virtuousness, but he insists it is nothing out of character for them. He and Storiale just generally don’t like confrontation.

“We’ve both been diagnosed as conflict averse because we have older sisters who fought their moms,” O’Brien joked. “We were the peacemakers.”

It’s also likely a big reason why Jomboy has been welcomed by MLB. Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Haap hosts a weekly podcast for Jomboy, and the company recently signed a partnership with the YES Network to produce content and simulcast shows. 

As Schonbrun’s story lays out, “Fun, not funny” is also a pretty savvy place to plant a flag in this current landscape of sport content.

Joe Favorito, a sports industry analyst and lecturer in Columbia University’s sports management program, contrasted Jomboy’s goofier, more inviting approach to the path forged by Barstool Sports, the insurgent media group now worth more than half a billion dollars.

“They’re the less edgy premise of what Barstool is overall,” Favorito said. “They’ve taken that unique, irreverent position while also being respectful of baseball — with some really good insight.”

Jomboy’s escape from the toxicity and polarization on social media is what attracted some big-name investors, including Alexis Ohanian of Reddit and Seven Seven Six, who joined in its latest funding round.

“The pendulum has swung back,” Ohanian wrote in an email. “People crave the good vibes.”

TOB and I started this hobby of 1-2-3 while sitting at a bar on the corner of Geary and Masonic in San Francisco, and it sounds like Jomboy was started in the same spirit of a regular dude who just loves sports. It’s really cool to see Jomboy take off like it has. O’Brien had a clear niche, he executes it perfectly, and I love it. – PAL 

Source:A Sports Media Empire Runs on ‘Good Vibes Only’”, Zach Schonbrun, The New York Times (09/14/22) 

R.I.P. Jonathan Tjarks

Tjarks, a basketball writer for The Ringer, died this week after a long battle with cancer. I was not a big follower of his work, but I wanted to re-post a story he wrote after learning the first round of chemotherapy didn’t take, and his mindset shifted. It’s an incredible, beautiful piece of writing. 

I have already told some of my friends: When I see you in heaven, there’s only one thing I’m going to ask—Were you good to my son and my wife? Were you there for them? Does my son know you? 

Read it. – PAL

Source: Does My Son Know You?” Jonathan Tjarks, The Ringer (03.10.22)

Video of the Week

Anyone who’s a fan of Russ…boy, I don’t know.

Song of the Week

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 If Relationship George walks through this door, he will kill Independent George! A George, divided
against itself, cannot stand!

George Costanza

Week of August 26, 2022

It’s that time of year again…the tears flow in Williamsport.

The New Professional Athlete

The New York Times has a fascinating series going on right now. It’s an examination of sports and fame in today’s world. One of the stories really stuck out to me: Jamad Fiin. She’s a fascinating example of a trend in sports. As Andrew Keh describes it, Fiin is one of the growing number of influencers who are  “professional athletes without competing in professional sports.”

Fiin is a Somali American and Muslim who lives in the Boston area. She wears a hijab, and she balls. Something that combination connected with the masses, and a clip of her finishing with a buttery smooth left amongst a bunch of boys on a playground court went viral. 

The followers grew— including Drake — and so did the opportunities.

Per Keh: 

Today, she has more Instagram followers than all but two Celtics players.

“Kids now, their top career choice is not rock star, athlete or actor,” said Dan Levitt, the founder of Long Haul Management, which represents Fiin and other sports influencers. “It’s digital creator on one of these platforms.”

Levitt is one of many people waiting to see what Fiin does next. Fiin said her managers had gently prodded her to make more content. They have other clients making seven figures a year, monetizing their personal brands with advertisements, sponsorships and merchandise.

So what is Fiin doing with this? She’s almost finished up grad school (M.B.A). She’s playing on the Somali national team, and she’s also putting on basketball camps for Somali and Muslim girls. Reading that made me happy. Not that I begrudge anyone for making the most out of an opportunity and earning off of your name, but it’s cool that she wants to give back, too. 

Before this — before the fame, before the camps, before Drake — Fiin had to fight to play the game. Other parents in the Boston Somali community used to call her mother and ask why her daughter was playing sports and running with boys. It was not until the eighth grade that her mother let her play on a team.

That old tension is what propels everything today. Fiin is shy by nature, but she wants to be more famous, wants even more eyeballs on her, because she wants to embody something she never saw as a child.

She wants people to keep being surprised by her — until the sight of a girl in a hijab swishing a step-back 3 isn’t surprising anymore.

That’s the good stuff. – PAL

Source: “What Will Jamad Fiin Do With Her Influence?Andrew Keh, The New York Times (08/17/22)

Baserunning Wins

Loved this article from the legend Peter Gammons on the importance of base running and the nutjobs in baseball who obsess over it (Moises Alou, the Alomar family, Mookie Betts, Ron Washington, Terry Francona. Think baserunning isn’t’ a big deal? Consider this gem from Gammons: 

In the 2022 season, through August 20, 22.2 percent of nine-inning major league games were decided by one run, and another 8.5 percent were decided in extra innings, which means around 30 percent were essentially one-run games. “How many of those games can be decided by running down the line on a groundball at sprint speed?” asks Sandy Alomar Jr., who Francona has in charge of the Guardians’ baserunning.

I am shocked by that number. 30 percent! Are you shocked? That’s about 48 games in a 162-game season. Maybe I’m crazy, but I can’t get over that stat. 

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts describes baserunning as “the measure of a great teammate.” Of course he would, considering his 2004 moment. 

Or, Giants fans, consider this from Gammons:

There are Royals people who believe that when Alex Gordon hit that fateful line drive off Madison Bumgarner with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series — the single that went past Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco and rolled to the fence, allowing Gordon to reach third — that Gordon might have tried for an inside-the-parker if it hadn’t been for the presence of shortstop Brandon Crawford. Crawford is one of the best infielders at relays because he worked so hard at the craft and once said “I love practicing relays” — a reason he was so good at the art. All that practice might have kept the Royals from tying that Game 7 and secured the championship for the Giants.

This was a refreshing story about a part of the game that gets overlooked. Hopefully we are moving out of the darkness that is the three true outcomes in baseball (homers, strikeouts, walks). – PAL 

Source: Mookie Betts’ baserunning helped win a World Series; why don’t more teams stress it?Peter Gammons, The Athletic (08/25/22)

Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week

Song of the Week

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Nobody was laughing out loud that day in Grenada! But many people were saying OMG. Me, I was saying TTYL to my innocence.


Week of July 23, 2022

Who Gets A Statue?

TOB and I were walking past Oracle Park with our families just last week. As we passed the Gaylor Perry statue near the left field entrance, I asked TOB, a lifelong Giants fan, what the qualifications were for a statue outside the park. For the Giants, any player that goes into the Hall of Fame as a San Francisco Giant (sorry old players from NY) gets a statue. 

Perry played for the Giants for a decade and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, but TOB was pretty insistent that he shouldn’t have a statue outside the park. His main reason: Perry played for seven other teams after his time for the Giants. 

Tyler Kepner must’ve been within earshot, because his story is about just that: who gets a statue and who doesn’t. Nearly every Hall of Fame member has a statue somewhere. As Kepner points out, Dave Winfield, a no-doubter Hall-of-Famer, doesn’t have a statue, and his fellow Hall members don’t let him forget it. 

Because statue isn’t just about greatness. Winfield played for too many teams, splitting his best years with the Padres and Angels, winning a World Series with the Blue Jays before collecting his 3,000 hit and 400th home run with his hometown MN Twins. 

To George Brett, a teammate of Winfield’s on eight American League All-Star teams in the 1980s, that only stands to reason. Brett has a statue on the outfield concourse in Kansas City, where he played for 21 seasons and is synonymous with the Royals franchise.

“A lot of these guys played in so many cities,” Brett said. “Who’s going to have a statue of Winfield? He played on eight different teams.”

Six, actually, but that raises an interesting point: Teams are more active now in celebrating their pasts, but many great players, especially over the last few decades, were only passing through on their way to better contracts elsewhere.

Kepner notes that the baseball statue boom is also due to most every team playing in a baseball-only stadium, creating space outside the park to celebrate the team’s history. Older fields like Wrigley and Dodger Stadium have made renovations outside the stadium to create nicer gathering places and plazas. That’s where you’ll find Fergie Jenkins’ statute (Cubs) and Sandy Koufax rocking back (Dodgers)

Kepner also has a cool tangent with sculptor William Behrends about how the surrounding space can dictate dimensions to the sculpture.  

Fellow Minnesotan, Kent Hrbek wasn’t the player Winfield was. In fact, he’s only received 5 Hall of Fame votes the only time he showed up on the ballot, but he’s got a great statue outside Target field, as he should, and right there is the intangible quality that is fun to think about when it comes to which players deserve a sculpture. While Tim Lincecum was freakishly great for only a few seasons for the Giants, TOB didn’t miss a beat to say yes  when I asked Timmy should have one. 

Says Hrbek: 

My daughter will go to the ballpark and take her friends or her children or her cousins and say, ‘That’s Dad; that was his favorite part of playing the game, winning the world championship, catching the ball and jumping off first base. Hopefully that memory will go on for a long time — and give the pigeons someplace to sit for a while and let them do their thing.

Classic Hrbek. Fun read! – PAL 

Source: “You Might Be a Hall of Famer, but Do You Have a Statue?Tyler Kepner, The New York Times (07/22/22)

Let Ratto Eat

There are few writers out there who savor calling bullshit as much as Ray Ratto. He takes his time, tucks that napkin into his shirt, chooses his phrases carefully, and cleans his plate with a cynical panache. A couple weeks ago, his meal of choice was Tiger Woods’ take on the LIV golf tour – the Saudi-backed competitor to the PGA. 

First, here’s what Woods, who had been silent on the topic, said before the (British) Open last week.

What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice? What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt? You’re just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes. They’re playing blaring music and have all these atmospheres that are different.

And here’s Ratto just getting started. 

He sounds like just the kind of middle-aged scold every extraordinary cultural figure becomes when the audience has moved on and abandoned him or her to the dustbin of their parents’ history. In a moment where he could explode the LIV tour as doing business with dirty money in defense of even more untrammeled greed that they already exhibit, he goes for the politically safer yet far less compelling argument that successful golfers should be more grateful to the tired old boys than hyper-acquisitive and ethically indifferent in service to the morally compromised new ones.

And Later:

One suspects that he (Woods) would be in equally staunch opposition if the Saudi billionaires were replaced by the guys who gave us the raucous Waste Management Open, which means that while he may be on the right side on the human decency, he’s doing it mostly because he hates change.

You don’t need to read too deeply into this to find Woods’ ultimate incentive. Spoiler alert: it’s not about the young guys going “out there and earn[ing] it in the dirt”. To him, this is about his legacy, because it’s only ever about his legacy. His singular obsession to be the greatest golfer makes him utterly uninteresting when he doesn’t have a club in his hands (or when he’s not being chased by someone with a club in their hands). Calling out changes to the game, changes that make it easier for future generations of golfers to win, which could then makes it even the smallest bit easier for some golf-obsessed fan in 2122 to forget the greatness of Tiger Woods. And in that way, as Ratto points out, Woods is like every other aging sports icon that’s come before him. 

While Woods’ best golf is decades in the rearview, he is still the skeleton key for golf to the mainstream, at least for another year or so. He still matters more than all of the young guys who’ve surpassed his game. His last Masters win had the casual sports fan tuning in to watch his back nine. As incredible as Cam Smith’s back nine at the Open (12 putts on the back nine on a Sunday of a major), the mulleted Aussie is not sending a casual golf fan to the TV. Which is to say, if Tiger did leave the PGA for the LIV, it would be far and away the biggest blow to the PGA. 

But I don’t think the PGA has to worry about that. Not yet, at least. I can’t imagine the amount of money that would sway Tiger Woods to dilute the organization that’s woven into the infrastructure of his greatness. Maybe I am yet again failing to appreciate that every single person has a price, even a billionaire who’s built his entire empire on winning golf tournaments while playing in the PGA Tour.

Because above it all, even Woods, is the money and our ability to digest what lies beneath our viewing entertainment. As Ratto so perfectly calls it, “gradations of manic greed”. 

That there’s prize money as defined by corporate sponsors, there’s obscene prize money as defined by objectionable corporate sponsors, and there’s dirty obscene prize money as defined by governments who are comfortable with attitude adjusters like murder and oppression. You know, tiny subtleties you normal folk could pilot a cruise ship through sideways while irretrievably drunk.

Classic Ratto.  – PAL

Source: Tiger Woods Lit Up The Saudi Golf League For All The Wrong Reasons,” Ray Ratto, Defector (July 12, 2022) 

Video of the Week

Tweet of the Week

Song of the Week

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I don’t care if Ryan murdered his entire family. He’s like a son to me.

Michael Scott

Week of July 8,2022

We all remember mullet Agassi at Wimbledon, but let’s not forget to appreciate the goatee + bald-anna Agassi at Wimbledon.

We took a few weeks off. But in the words of Pat O’Brien and the O’Briens, we’re back you motherf…

Let’s go!

Brittney Griner Story Cheat Sheet

Who is she?

Griner is one of the most well-known female basketball players in the world. A high school phenom out of Houston, she’s also the first openly gay athlete endorsed by Nike (2013). She won an NCAA championship at Baylor and two Olympic gold medals. 

Why does she play basketball in Russia?

She’s played for UMMC Ekaterinburg, which is a team located in a town 1,100 miles east of Moscow. A lot of the best American women hoopers play overseas during the offseason. The pay is much better than what they earn in the WNBA. According to her wife, Griner makes $1M a season overseas, compared to $220K she makes playing for Phoenix. 

What did she do?

According to Griner when she entered a guilty plea, she was in a hurry to pack for her return to Russia, and forgot about .7g of cannabis oil in her bag. Vape cartridges. She’s been detained since early March. 

What is Cannabis oil?

Cannabis oil is legal in 45 states. Griner had vape cartridges containing it in her bag. THC and CBD are found in hemp and cannabis plants. There’s more THC in cannabis, and more CBD in hemp. Sounds like Griner had some vape cartridges with cannabis oil.

How much is .7g

.02 ounces…so not a lot. Based on the size, we’re talking 1 or 2 vape cartridges. Russian officials categorized it as “traces”.

What kind of punishment is Griner looking at? 

She’s facing up to 10 years in a Russian prison in what’s called a penal colony. That sounds ominous, especially for a gay person in a country that does not take too kindly to the L.G.B.T.Q community, and it’s not like she would’ve had a fair shake in a Russian court. Griner pleaded guilty, which makes sense. By way of Defector,  the Associated Press reported that fewer than 1 percent of Russian criminal cases result in acquittals. They aren’t super lenient to foreigners who break laws, especially considering the climate between the U.S. and Russia, and the war in Ukraine. 

Experts think that what’s really at stake here is more than likely an attempt by Russia for a prisoner exchange with the United States, and the reports are that Russia has its eye on one person in particular.

Per the NY Times:

With a guilty verdict an all but a foregone conclusion in a Russian legal system that heavily favors the prosecution, her best hope, experts say, is that the Biden administration secure her freedom by releasing a Russian held in the United States. The name of one prisoner in particular has emerged: Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison sentence. 

As Defector’s Laura Wagner points out, it is worth noting reports that Bout had clients other than U.S. enemies. In fact, one of Bout’s customers was the U.S. military. 

But even a prisoner swap could take years, and the optics sure don’t look great for Biden if we were to trade Griner for an arms dealer with the nickname “The Merchant of Death“ with Russia as it wages war on Ukraine and faces widespread sanctions. A previous prisoner swap, a former U.S. Marine named Trevor Reed, took more than two years after the original arrest.

Per NY Times:

Griner’s detention comes at the most dangerous moment in U.S.-Russia relations since the Cuban missile crisis, as the Biden administration leads dozens of nations in imposing crushing sanctions on Russia’s economy and its political elites. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Saturday that the sanctions were “akin to a declaration of war” against his country.

A vape cartridge. This all starts with a vape cartridge. I can’t imagine how scared Griner must be right now. And if you’re wondering how big of a story this is, then consider the following: The NY Times byline names three journalists. Small stories don’t have three names in a byline. – PAL


Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges in Russian Court,” Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Tania Ganguli, The New York Times (07/07/22); “Swapping Brittney Griner For Viktor Bout Should Be An Easy Call,” Laura Wagner, Defector (06/28/22)

The Death of the Pac-12 Portends the Death of College Football

Last week, news broke that USC and UCLA were leaving the Pac-12 conference and headed (in 2024) for the Big-10. Geographically, this makes little sense. Historically, this makes little sense. But financially? It makes sense. And so the move was made.

The Pac-12 can trace its beginnings to the Pacific Coast Conference, founded in 1915, comprised originally of Cal, Washington, Oregon, and Oregon State. Washington State joined in 1916, followed by Stanford in 19818. USC joined in 1922, and UCLA followed in 1928. The conference disbanded and re-formed in the early 1960s, naming itself the Pac-8 in 1968. The Arizona schools joined in 1977, and the conference was renamed the Pac-10. Utah and Colorado were added in the early 2010, and the conference was re-named the Pac-12.

So USC and UCLA’s decision upends 100 years of tradition and rivalry. How much money did it take for them to do so? Well, a lot.

The Pac-12’s TV media rights expire in 2024, and early rumors suggested the total deal would be worth $500M a year. The Pac-12’s teams divide those numbers evenly (reports suggest this had long rankled USC). After conference expenses, the Pac-12 schools could likely expect $35 million or so per year. Not a bad haul.

However, reports are that with the Big-10 expanding with USC and UCLA, Big-10 payouts will be around $100 million. $100M! And this follows the last few years where conference payouts of the SEC and Big-10 dwarfed the Pac-12’s payout (particularly in 2020, when the Pac-12 played a truncated season due to COVID, while the other conferences pressed on).

And, don’t forget, Oklahoma and Texas are leaving the Big-12 for the SEC soon, too.

So, fine. The Pac-12 is dead. The Big-12 likely is, too. Cal desperately wants to follow UCLA and USC to the Big-10. UW and Oregon reportedly applied and were turned down, at least for now. Most speculate that the Big-10 wants to add Notre Dame and three other schools. Many assume that is three out of the four: UW, Oregon, Cal, and Stanford. But no one knows if Notre Dame wants to go, or Stanford, for that matter. No one knows if the Big-10 might look eastward, and try to get UNC or Clemson, or even Miami and Florida State.

But where is this all headed? In the medium term, it seems we are heading toward two super conferences of about 25 teams each. Then, eventually, one pared down premiere league with 40-50 teams. But it’s so short-sighted, it’s hard to fathom these schools don’t see the downside.

Consider this.

The top dogs are accustomed to playing 2-4 tough games per year and then beating up on patsies the rest of the season. What happens when there are no patsies? What will happen when fanbases accustomed to winning ten games or more per year are suddenly faced with .500 seasons, year after year? Will those fans remain engaged?

What is college football if it’s a small group of schools with parity? What about those crazy fall Saturdays when a bunch of top ranked teams are upset by unranked teams? Those days will be gone. At that point, it’s the NFL Lite, isn’t it? The football is worse and more boring?

And what happens to those teams on the outside looking in? Reportedly, UCLA and USC’s defections will halve the per school payout for the remaining Pac-10 schools. Imagine if UW and Oregon go, too. And imagine schools like Cal, Oregon State, and Washington State are left with a choice of getting almost nothing for TV rights by joining the MWC or folding? Are they going to keep playing in what amounts to D-1AA football? Or are they going to make the cost/benefit analysis and determine they can no longer afford football?

Which begs a question: if these left behind teams fold, who is going to watch this new college football? The fans of the 50 teams in the super conferences, sure. But what about the fans of the other 80 current D1 teams? Are they going to adopt new teams? Are they going to care? I think a lot of them won’t. And when the ratings plummet and the TV networks decide that college football isn’t worth paying what they are paying, what happens then?

All of this is to say: college football is cannibalizing itself, taking short term gains and ignoring the long term losses they are running head first into.

The sad thing is, it’s probably too late to save it. -TOB

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Pink Sweat$ – PINK CITY

What’s missing? The turtles. Where are the turtles? Where are the turtles? Where are the turtles! Where are they!

Michael Gary Scott

Week of May 20, 2022

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! 

Last week was a very big week for women’s sports (and, I would argue, sports in general). On Wednesday, the US Soccer Federation announced that, under a new collective bargaining agreement, the men’s and women’s teams would be compensated the same. More than that, both teams agreed to the exact same terms with the federation. Hell yes!

But it’s more impressive than the same salaries. As Claire Watkins breaks down in this story, other national teams are tracking towards equal pay for the men and women. In 2019, the Netherlands agreed to a gradual increase in pay until the women are paid the same in 2023. Same goes for Australia, New Zealand, and Norway. In the agreement reached between teh US Soccer Federation and the men’s and women’s national teams, the pay will be the same immediately. 

The other major factor in this comes by way of FIFA, and its World Cups (incredibly, the 1991 was the first Women’s World Cup…in the 90s people!) …and the prize money that comes with it. For the men, teams divided up $400M in 2018, with $30M going to France for winning it. The women’ purse, although growing, totaled $30M, with $4M going to the victorious U.S. team.

While the World Cup money is increasing for women, the prize money gap is widening. And FIFA, a non-profit that at least on paper exists to grow the sport, doesn’t give a shit about equal pay. Which led to something pretty remarkable from our USNT and USWNT players. 

Per Watkins: 

It should be noted that FIFA, like U.S. Soccer, is a non-profit organization ostensibly dedicated to the growth of the sport of football for everyone. Revenue arguments, as tantalizing as they may be, aren’t relevant to these organizations per their own internal logic. If you have a mission statement that your job is to grow the game in all corners of the world, subsidization comes with the territory until we live in a society of equal opportunity. If your organization isn’t committed to making equal opportunity a reality, then subsidization will be around for a while.

But with FIFA’s financial reluctance towards the women’s game being what it is, U.S. Soccer made it very clear that they could not shoulder the burden of replicating the eight-figure gap, and that the solution had to come from the players themselves. That part of Wednesday’s agreement is truly historic, and progressive in a way that clearly still makes some people uncomfortable.

The men and the women will pool their prize money, meaning that whatever is earned in Qatar in 2022 and Australia in 2023 will become one (hopefully large) sum of money shared equally. Perhaps even more significantly, the same approach applies to the 2026 and 2027 tournaments, the first of which will be hosted in North America,with the hope that the USMNT might make their deepest World Cup run yet.

To see how this is good for everybody takes a little faith and vision, and the USMNT do deserve credit for having both. Rather than focusing on the men giving something up, one has to see this as the financial burden of sexism now equally affecting both teams. With solidarity achieved in writing, further pressure will hopefully be placed squarely on FIFA to address the gap they’ve created, and encourage other federations to take the same step. If everyone gets on board, and the USWNT keeps winning, the men don’t stand to lose much at all.

The solidarity goes both ways, as the USWNT pushed to add paternal leave and other parental privileges into the men’s contract, with the understanding that men deserve non-gendered treatment too. It’s also an important step toward a relationship between the men and women’s teams that has historically been slightly strained, as the men’s failures became cannon fodder for arguments against the federation’s treatment of women.

How badass is that? That’s a reason to be patriotic. Watkins does an excellent job breaking down this landmark moment and all that led up to it. Excellent story – PAL 

Source: Why Equal Pay For Equal Work Finally Became A Reality For The USWNT,” Claire Watkins, Defector (05/19/22)

Where College Sports Stands, One Year into the NIL Era

Last year, in response to a series of lawsuits and court decisions forcing their hand, the NCAA limited its prior restriction on college athletes being compensated for license of their names, images, and likeness (commonly referred to as “NIL”).

The result has been something of a wild west atmosphere – anything goes. It’s hard to know exactly what is going on and how much money players are making. From the information we do know, it seems like there is a small group of elite earners earning the most money: the biggest stars, and shall we say photogenic female athletes. For the rest of the players, word trickles about a few grand here and there, but not huge deals.

The most interesting development has been the formation of so-called “collectives” – program boosters are pooling their money to pay for recruits, retain current players, and lure transfers from other schools (oh yeah – players are now allowed to transfer one time in their career without sitting a year, as before). The collectives are supposed to be divorced from the school – it’s like a Political Action Committee, in that way. The school is not supposed to organize or direct the funds. Yeah, good luck with that.

Well, we are one year in and the fun is really starting to begin.

This week, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, in my opinion the most successful college football coach of all time, spoke at a public event and called out Texas A&M, coached by Saban’s former assistant Jimbo Fisher, for “buying” players on A&M’s way to the #1 ranked recruiting class in the country. Alabama’s class was ranked #2, and Saban claims they bought no recruits. Instead, Saban said Alabama “did it the right way” – with their current players getting paid $3 million based on their accomplishments and popularity.

Now, Jimbo Fisher lost his mind at this, even suggesting Saban has some skeletons in this closet.

“It’s despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way,” Fisher said. “The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen. It’s ridiculous when he’s not on top.”

“Some people think they’re God,” Fisher said. “Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out … a lot of things you don’t want to know. We build him up to be the czar of football. Go dig into his past, or anybody’s that’s ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out, what he does and how he does it. It’s despicable.”

But Jimbo’s reaction suggests to me Jimbo is not very bright. Saban wasn’t accusing Jimbo and A&M of paying recruits directly. He was stating the well known fact that A&M’s booster collective paid those players.

And Saban wasn’t criticizing A&M. Saban also said that Alabama is not going to be “able to sustain [a high level or recruiting] in the future [without paying recruits].” People, like Jimbo, seem to have overlooked that comment, but that’s Saban’s tell. He was not criticizing Jimbo, but instead telling Alabama boosters to form a collective and help him recruit by offering that money to high school players. Notably, Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders (who Saban also singled out for paying a recruit $1 million) did pick up on this, noting in a statement that Saban’s comments were directed at Alabama boosters.

But the coaches do seem, overall, worried about this situation. After all, there is a finite amount of money available from any booster base. If they are paying players, who is going to pay the coaches’ salaries? Who is going to build the lavish facilities? Who is going to donate the money that funds women’s sports and keeps the school in compliance with Title IX?

The first two questions threaten a coach’s comfort. As Jason Gay writes:

Imagine a frustrated college football coach talking to someone in another business.

COACH: I’m so mad.


COACH: We changed the rules so that employees are seeking compensation. If they don’t get it, they might go somewhere else. 

(long pause)

BUSINESS OWNER: You’re kidding, right? 

But the third question is a serious one facing all college athletic programs. If you start to pay football and basketball players, whose efforts rake in cash that the colleges use to fund the revenue-negative sports, what does that mean for women’s college sports? Or for smaller men’s college sports? No one really knows. And that’s pretty interesting. -TOB

Source: Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher and the Comedy of College Football’s ‘Chaos’,” Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal (05/20/2022)

Move Over, Wordle

We’ve all heard it, so let’s start the eyeroll together: the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball. First of all, what a ridiculous statement, Ted Williams. How the hell would you know, Splendid Splinter? If you were comparing it to fishing, or even flying, then I’d listen, as it sounds like you were outstanding in those areas as well. 

But the hardest thing to do in sports? Dunno…playing QB in the NFL looks pretty challenging. Driving a race car has some high stakes. Judging by the amount of times the kids fall skateboarding in the parking lot at the Rockridge BART parking lot, skateboarding seems like a higher fail rate than .300. 

So who knows if hitting baseball is the hardest, but Kathryn Xu shared something this week that helps us regular folks get a taste of how hard it might be to just recognize a big league pitch. Forget hitting it, just identify what pitch is thrown. I can’t stop playing this game. 

Before you give it a go, some insight from Xu: 

Some information is constant: pitch speed, pitch location, etc. But without knowing the pitcher’s repertoire, the variety of different pitch profiles across the league renders creating a firm set of characteristics a futile task. A curveball can have straight 12-to-6 drop, or it can have some horizontal movement, like a slider. A four-seamer is a straight, occasionally rising fastball if you’re a spin warrior, unless it happens to have lateral run—shout out to Brusdar Graterol. A four-seamer can range anywhere from 88-105 mph. On the other hand, some people throw changeups at 88 mph or, in the extreme case of Gerrit Cole freakery last season, throw a 95-mph change immediately following a 102-mph fastball.

You ready? play here

I challenge TOB: 20 pitches. Whoever correctly identifies the more gets a brat and a beer. Readers: share your score with us! – PAL 

Source: By God, I Will Get A Good Grade On Statcast’s Pitch Type Guessing Game,” Kathryn Xu, Defector (05/19/22)

TOB: I got 13 out of 20, and 8 of my last 10 as I got the hang of it. Pretty happy with that score!

PAL: I got a string of sinkers…hard to ID those…I also had one view from behind the plate…didn’t help. 7 out of 20…YIKES.

The Packers’ President’s Fan Mailbag Column is Hilarious

Mark Murphy, president of the Green Bay Packers writes a weekly fan mailbag column, called Murphy Takes 5 (aka MT5). In a recent column, the “question” was a Packer fan complaining that the Packers didn’t draft enough white players. Hooooo boy. The woman then counted all the white players drafted in the first two rounds (11) and claimed it wasn’t enough, and accused the NFL of being racist against whites. Hooooooooooooooooo boy. Murphy’s response, surprisingly, is pointed but polite. Per Anantharaman:

In response, Murphy offered an answer far more polite than Marilyn’s email warranted, assuring her that the Packers make draft decisions based on ability and reminding her that “Vince Lombardi, who was discriminated against because he was Italian, helped change things when he came to Green Bay and built the Packers into a dynasty by focusing on bringing in Black players

What’s interesting here, as Anantharaman points out, is not only that Murphy answers her earnestly but that he answers her at all:

I was curious: If you’re not going to roast the hell out of Marilyn in your answer, why bother accepting this question at all? Marilyn’s seems like precisely the kind of email the MT5 screener makes it three words through before smashing the delete key and moving on to Audrey’s request to “please bring Paul McCartney back to LAMBEAU, it was the best concert ever. Please please please!” At the very least, don’t the team president and people in charge of the team website have some interest in concealing the fans’ true horrible nature?

So Anantharaman dove into the archives and found that Murphy does this often. He answered a question about the Davante Adams trade that began, “What the f… are you and your sidekick doing?” In response, Murphy provided a thoughtful answer. I kinda have to hand it to Murphy – most mail bag columnists are not answering a question that opens with WTF. 

But it’s the other two answers from Murphy, as highlighted by Anantharaman, that I really enjoyed.

A question from Sam, The Real Big Packer Fan

Hey Murphy, why don’t you ever answer me? I think I know the answer to that, you’re a joke you know I’m right. The offense is starting to look good but this defensive unit once again stinks and why? Because every year you pass up really good defensive linemen and inside linebackers in the first round in the draft. Gary was the only player you picked, he’s a decent player but there were plenty of better players still on the board. Two years ago I was excited when I saw you guys moved up in the draft, I was thinking we’re going to get one of the best LBs still on the board, but what did you do? You drafted Love as you can tell we don’t need a QB yet you ass…! Well because of you and Gutekunst our offense is going to have to carry this team once again, pitiful!

Because you never ask questions, Sam. MT5 is based on answering five questions from fans, not responding to five complaints about our team. Thanks for understanding.

A question from Duane

Murphy! Get that jerk Gutekunst to get off his butt and make a play to get Julio Jones on the Packers!

Thanks for the email, Duane. Thanks as well for the 20 previous emails you’ve sent MT5 in recent months. Interestingly, there is not a single question among the 20 emails. 

The answer to Duane continues, but I just love how Murphy is scolding these guys for sending complaints, not questions. Hilarious. -TOB

Source: The Dark Heart Of The NFL Beats Within The Packers Mailbag Column,” Maitreyi Anantharaman, Defector.com (05/13/2022)

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Feels like scientists will study John Daly’s body for decades.

Song of the Week

Arcade Fire – “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)”

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There’s something about the underdog that really inspires the unexceptional.

“Robert California”

Week of May 13, 2022

HBD, Say Hey Kid!

Jomboy Strikes Again

My cousin, Jim O’Brien, aka Jomboy, has turned his ability to read lips into quite the career as a sports media person. That’s not a dig – his lip reading recaps are incredibly entertaining. Here’s a recent one that cracked me up, where Yankees manager Aaron Boone gets thrown out for arguing balls and strikes with the umpire.

I do not have his talent for lip reading, but watching the video you can see he absolutely nails it. It’s really fun to be able to understand the manager/umpire argument, which is a significant portion of the game, but is largely opaque to most of us. -TOB

PAL: The man has a talent for such things.

Hole-In-One Insurance

With a h/t to  Pat O’Brien, we bring you the history of hole-in-one insurance. Not only is this a thing, it’s been a thing since the 1930s. Players were worried about having to pay a fat bar tab (it’s customary to buy drinks for everyone in the bar afterwards). The business faded away for awhile stateside, but flourished in golf-obsessed Japan. 

Per Zachary Crockett:

Though the concept largely faded away in the US, it became a big business in Japan, where golfers who landed a hole-in-one were expected to throw parties “comparable to a small wedding,” including live music, food, drinks, and commemorative tree plantings.

By the 1990s, the hole-in-one insurance industry had a total market value of $220m. An estimated 30% of all Japanese golfers shelled out $50-$70/year to insure themselves against up to $3.5k in expenses.

Crockett then looks to an expert in the field to explain how it works in today’s world. According to Mark Gilmartin, anything with small odds can be insured. Mark Gilmartin has been in the prize indemnity insurance world for 30+ years. He operates out of Reno (of course, Mark). 

The amount of insurance is based on a few factors: the prize value, the yardage of the hole, the number participants, and skill level (obviously, the odds are much higher for a pro to put one in than TOB or I run into a hole-in-one). Hole-In-One insurance is typically purchased by the prize sponsor at an event (“typically a small fee – $200-$1000), e.g. the Mercedes dealership in town. The fee is usually between $200-$1000.

The chances of someone getting a hole-in-one are fairly small (1in 12.5K for scrubs, 1 in 3K for pros), but the number of rounds played is very large, which means a hole-in-one is a daily occurrence.

Then the story goes off the rails a bit. If it’s just an odds game, then Gilmartin just needs to figure out the odds in order to insure. He’s insured some weird shit. Really. It’s called cow patty bingo. Good find, Pat! – PAL 

Source: “The strange business of hole-in-one insurance,” Zachary Crockett, The Hustle (04/29/22)

Seeker: Tom House

I am drawn to stories about seekers, especially old seekers. I wonder if that’s the true fountain of youth.

Tom House, the former MLB pitcher turned throwing guru is a seeker.After his pitching days were over, House’s real career just began. He’s become an expert on the throwing motion, he’s pioneered training methods, and he went back to school for a doctorate in sports psychology. Now, at 75, he’s bringing his expertise to the masses by way of an app called Mustard. An app, by the way, that my college roommate high school baseball swears by. It works like this:

The app’s A.I., built from tens of thousands of three-dimensional models he has compiled over decades of motion-capture studies, analyzes uploaded video and makes recommendations for things like head angle and hip separation. It then feeds the user an assortment of recorded drills, almost all of them executable without the need of a partner, to address whatever issues are identified.

House has helped Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees, just to name a handful. And it’s hard to argue with the results: his tactics allow throwers to throw at an elite level for a very long time. 

How about this anecdote about Nolan Ryan and the impact House had on the Rangers pitching staff while serving as the pitching coach. Per Jason Turbow: 

Over Ryan’s first three years with Texas, during which he was 42, 43 and 44 years old, he went 41-25 with a 3.20 E.R.A. and led the league in strikeouts twice, whiffing three times as many men as he walked — something he had done only once to that point.

It almost defies belief, but five of the Rangers’ nine primary pitchers during Ryan’s first two seasons with the club — the other four being Hough, Rogers, Kevin Brown and Jamie Moyer — played into their 40s. 

Talk about a game-changer. A great read, with so many more great nuggets in there. – PAL

Source: King of Throws,” Jason Turbow, The New York Times (05/09/22) 

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Do you ever just get down on your knees and thank god that you have access to my dementia?

George Costanza

Week of April 30, 2022

Draft Day suits live forever.

Free Run

What I like about this story is right there in the subhead: 

Markelle Taylor started running as an antidote to despair. This week he ran the Boston Marathon as a free man, with a time of 2:52:00.

One of the coolest aspects of a marathon is how the dude running a 5-hour marathon is on the same “field” as the guy who wins the damn thing. A wide spectrum of abilities all gather in the corrals before the starting line, and inside everyone is a story of how they got there. Taylor’s story is unlike any I’ve heard. It includes almost 18 years at San Quentin Prison here in the Bay Area. 

This isn’t just a story about a guy who found running as a way to heal and cope – it’s a story about a guy who found running as a way to heal and cope, and then became incredibly great at it relatively late in his life. 

Brown doesn’t belabor the point on what earned Taylor a 15-life sentence. One paragraph made of two sentences: one details his crimes, which are pretty terrible, and the other details his troubled childhood. 

Being locked up helped him get sober. Another inmate’s suicide, which had followed his fifth denial of parole, inspired Taylor to run. The friend was a part of the running club at San Quentin. Taylor became the fastest runner, earning the nickname “Markelle the Gazelle”. In 2019, he ran a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon, a notoriously difficult race to qualify for, by running 104 and ½ loops around the prison yard. 

Last year, Taylor ran his first sub-three-hour marathon at the Avenue of Giants up northern California, a race I’ve run. Not many people have a sub-three hour marathon in them (his pace at Boston this year: 6:33/mile); again, Taylor is an exceptional distance runner. As the name of the race suggests, the entire route is nestled at the base of redwood trees that have been there for thousands of years. I can’t imagine a setting more different than his 104 and ½ loops around San Quentin. 

Life hasn’t been easy for Taylor since leaving San Quintin – jobs aren’t easy to come by when you have a record like his – and he sees the metaphor in his running.

“Running is humbling,” he said. “Sometimes you have to start from the back, just like I’m doing now with minimum wage. It’s like trying to go up that hill after 18-plus miles — sometimes you can get cramps and stuff like that. That’s like being rejected from a job you want because they asked for fingerprints.”

A story worth reading. – PAL 

Source: He Ran Marathons in Prison. Boston’s Was Easier.Patricia Leigh Brown, The New York Times (04/23/22)

Draymond vs. Jokic

Because our friend, Rowe, is married to a very exceptional and generous woman, I was able to watch game 2 of the Warriors-Nuggets series from absurdly close seats. We’re talking third row. I’ve never had better seats to a playoff game of any kind. 

All of the NBA guys are so tall, so young, and obviously in incredible shape. Even Draymond Green, who can look a little hefty on tv, is far from it; up close, the guy looks like he could run a marathon tomorrow.

Which brings me to the single most impressive take-away from watching that game up close. It wasn’t Steph scoring 34 points in 23 minutes. It wasn’t Nilola Jokic being essentially a 7-foot point guard that did everything for an overmatched Nuggets team. It was Draymond Green. 

Per Steve Kerr: 

What Draymond does, it’s hard to quantify. The stats never do him justice. I just feel like he’s built for the playoffs. This is what he’s all about. … The regular season is kind of hard for him because the games are not as meaningful, and he’s at his best when the games are the most important.

On defensive side, the way he defended Jokic was incredible. Giving up 5 inches and about 50 pounds, Green was up in Jokic. He didn’t stop him; but he made everything hard for the reigning MVP. He had to be; Jokic is not only bigger than Green but also extremely talented. Green was always leaning, always swiping, always with a forearm in Jokic. Joker finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks, but none of it came easy. 

And then on the offensive side, Draymond is the conductor. It’s so clear in person. The passes that look so obvious on TV are anticipated. Like a QB throwing to the open space, Draymond passes guys open. He’s making sure everyone’s in the right position, he’s crashing the boards, he’s initiating the fast break. Watching on TV, sometimes I can get frustrated with his antics, but it’s pretty clear that Green has to play that way. He’s the spiritual leader of this team – that much was plain to see in person. 

So it makes sense when, after it was all done and the Dubs completed the gentleman’s sweep of the undermanned Nuggets (the fact that Jokic dragged this roster to a 6-seed is incredible), Jokic had this to say about the guy he battled for much of the series. 

“I mean, give the guy credit,” Jokic said. “I think, to be honest, he’s stopped much better offensive players than me through his career, through his playing, whatever. I really appreciate whatever he’s doing for them because that’s a tough position. He needs to do everything. He’s really accepting the role and really being the best that he can be in that role. He’s a big part of their rings, their championships. I think that’s really hard to do. … I really, really appreciate our matchup.”

It’s probably for the best that the Timberpups didn’t make it past Memphis after coughing up not one but two games. Draymond might have permanently destroyed Karl-Anthony Towns into retirement. He would’ve dominated the bigger, more talented player physically and mentally. – PAL 

Source: How Warriors’ Draymond Green endured five intense rounds with Nikola Jokic,” C. J. Holmes, San Francisco Chronicle (04/28/22)

TOB: Especially in person, you could see that Draymond fouls Jokic almost every trip. He’s doing the Seahawks Gamble: foul them every time because the refs don’t want to call that many fouls. But it’s not hacking. He’s fouling with his body in smart ways that are less obvious, and easier for a referee to ignore. Jokic was frustrated, and even got ejected in Game 1. So, I saw that Jokic said that, and I thought it was very cool. I also saw Draymond had similar compliments for Jokic:

But, I love Draymond getting this kind of appreciation. I was an early-adopter, to to speak, of Draymond’s game. But two years ago, I thought he was toast. Too many years of pounding bigger guys in the paint and doing the dirty work. Suddenly, he looked old and slow. What a run, I thought! A meteor – bright, but short-lived. Man, was I wrong. Draymond was not toast. He just didn’t want to kill himself for a Warriors team that was without Klay and Steph that went 15-50. For a guy like him, that makes sense.

Perhaps the Most Little League Ending to an MLB Game, Ever

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I don’t associate with people who blame the world for their problems.


Week of April 22, 2022

An Inside Look at an MLB Draft

Andrew Baggarly had an interesting article this week on the Giants’ top pitching prospect, Kyle Harrison. The Giants drafted Harrison in 2020, having seen him pitch only once in his senior season at De La Salle. But they liked what they saw.  

What I like about this article is an inside look at how the MLB Draft works. Harrison had committed to pitch at UCLA. His agent, Scott Boras, made it clear he would not go pro unless he was given a signing bonus of $2.5M. But MLB now has draft slot value. Each draft pick is given a value – and the team holding that pick cannot spend over 5% more on its draft picks in a season than they have slot value to spend. 

(Does that make sense? Here’s a simple example: Pretend a team has the first pick in round 1 and the first pick in round 2, and no other picks. The first pick of round 1 has a $8.5M slot value. The first pick of round 2 has a $2M slot value. That team cannot spend more than $10.5M to sign those two picks. 

This article delves into why Harrison, a first round value, dropped to the third round but signed for first round value.

“They weren’t locked into that plan. If there was an obvious player who slipped to them who would require an over-slot bonus, someone they liked even better, they would’ve taken him. The draft could have unfolded in any number of ways. But in each of their first four selections, the Giants found players they liked who might give them the opportunity to save a little money from their bonus pool. They had to get lucky and hope Harrison would still be there in the third round, too.

They were, and he was.

Harrison had fielded offers from several other clubs on draft day and turned them all down. Still, a team could have bit the bullet and taken him at the back of the first round, or within the first few picks of the second round. Nobody did.

Getting him signed was more like playing Twister. The Giants had a pre-arranged deal with their preferred first-round pick, North Carolina State catcher Patrick Bailey, who signed for $400,000 below his $4.2 million slot value. Their second-rounder, San Diego State third baseman Casey Schmitt, signed for $360,000 under his $1.51 million slot value. The Giants gave back some of their savings with the first of their two supplemental second-round picks when they signed North Carolina State left-hander Nick Swiney for $1.2 million, a bonus that was $223,300 over slot. But their next supplemental-round choice, Dallas Baptist infielder Jimmy Glowenke, was a consensus overdraft who signed for just less than $600,000 and allowed them to set aside $355,600 more. Fourth-rounder R.J. Dabovich, a reliever from Arizona State that they had seen a ton while scouting former first-rounder Hunter Bishop, agreed to a $197,500 bonus that was well below the $507,400 recommendation.”

That’s pretty fascinating. Risky play by the Giants, but it seems to have paid off:

Longtime Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti lives in San Jose and watched plenty of Harrison last season. Asked for an impression, he considered the kid’s competitiveness and his durable frame. And he offered one hell of a comp.

“He’s like a left-handed Matt Cain, for me,” Righetti said.

Yeah, that’ll play. -TOB

Source: Behind the Giants’ Risk to Draft Kyle Harrison, Now Their Best Pitching Prospect Since Madison Bumgarner,” Andrew Baggarly, The Athletic (04/18/2022)

PAL: There’s the slotting element and the strategy around that, but I also found it interesting how scouting can shift. It used to be find a pitcher that can light up the radar gun, and a team will teach him how to pitch. But with Harrison they found a kid who knew how to pitch, and they developed more velocity. The high schooler who threw 87-92 is now topping out a 97.

Per Bags:

The mantra used to be that you couldn’t teach velocity. Now, with new technology and training methods, the velo might be easier to teach than everything else. And because the Giants ascribe so much player value to K/BB ratio, it makes sense that they would be at the forefront of a turn back to command over pure power.

“Pitchability” is what the Giants scouts and execs keep referring to it as in the story. It reminded me about a story about Shane Bieber, Jacob deGrom, and other “edge cases” back in April, 2021 from Michael Baumann. They didn’t throw upper 90s in high school, so they had to learn how to pitch at an earlier age than the Gerrit Coles of the baseball world. They were taught velocity, and experts are now wondering if developing velocity in a prospect is easier than developing feel.

Joe Lacob Just Bugs Me

Photo Cred/#Humblebrag: TOB

Joe Lacob is so weird, man. There’s the time he suggested he did bedroom things with the NBA trophy. There’s…

And then this week. After the Warriors won Game 2 in another blowout over the Nuggets, Lacob was interviewed by Tim Kawakami and I cringed at least twice. 


“The building’s incredible,” Lacob said. “Everyone who comes through here thinks this place is amazing. When I get on the court, that’s what I’m thinking, ‘This place is amazing.’ We’re pretty proud of it, obviously.

Ok, Joe. Look. I know that from your seat your feet technically touch the wood floor that also makes up the court. But uh, you don’t get on the court. You are not a player. 

And maybe I would have let that slide, but earlier in the interview he dropped this one:

“This is the team we paid for,” Lacob said. “We never really had the team together all year. So I’m excited to see them all play together. We never really got to see it. I think it’s exciting to see it.”

This is the team you paid for? Such an off-putting way to say that. There’s something very plantation-y about that. How about, “This is the team we were excited to see all year, and we finally got to.” No, not Joe. He’s gotta say the weirdest thing possible, every time. -TOB

Source: Kawakami: ‘This is the Team We Paid For’ — Joe Lacob on the Warriors’ 2-0 Lead and Chase Center Playoff Debut,” Tim Kawakami, The Athletic (04/19/2022)

Kayvon Thibodeaux and the Different Ways We Compete

Every year, there is at least one NFL Draft prospect who falls because of questions about his character, or his drive, or whether he loves football, or because he’s outspoken. This year’s That Guy is Kavon Thibodeaux, an edge rusher from Oregon. This article delves into Thibodeaux – what the criticisms are, whether they’re fair, and what Thibodeaux thinks about it. 

I thought the most interesting passage was this one:

There’s no Pro Football Focus metric that measures passion. In-game speed tracking can provide a glimpse of a player’s individual effort, but can’t quantify one’s internal drive. That’s where getting to personally know a player and learning what makes them tick is a crucial step for NFL teams during the draft process.

Chad Brown is the CEO and chief strategist of a software and consulting company called Profile. The company provides 20-minute behavioral assessments to players based on the DISC personality test, an exam devised to help enhance communication and team development.

Brown explained that when coaches or scouts say a player doesn’t work hard, full context needs to be considered as to why. That’s where criticism of Thibodeaux’s effort misses the mark.

Last year, the draft community praised now-Jets quarterback Zach Wilson’s hours-long drives from Utah to California to train with former NFL QB John Beck; Thibodeaux at one point made daily 80-mile commutes to high school. Top 2021 prospects such as Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons faced minimal judgment for opting out of the 2020 season; despite having been considered a highly rated prospect for years, Thibodeaux played this past season, and even returned to the field for Oregon after suffering an early-season ankle injury. Before the season started, the biggest concern surrounding Thibodeaux as a prospect was his lack of secondary pass-rush moves. Worries over his inconsistent motor weren’t raised until after the season, a good portion of which he played on a bum ankle. “I’ve always looked at college as a pit stop to kind of set up my life for the future,” Thibodeaux said last June. Even still, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that his effort wasn’t lackluster.

Competitiveness doesn’t manifest itself in the same way for every prospect. “Is competitiveness what we think it is?” Brown posited. “There’s definitely [mentalities of] ‘I want to win in checkers. I want to win in video games. I just want to win all the time.’ But what about people that want to constantly learn and develop? They listen to podcasts, they constantly study film, they’re learning from mentors.

That’s a really interesting point. Generally, when we talk about hyper-competitive players, in any sport, we hear stories about guys Michael Jordan and how we won’t stop playing a game, any game, until he beats you. So, maybe someone like Peyton Manning isn’t a “killer” as we use that term in sports. But those hours he spent in the film room? That’s competitive as hell. He is working hard before the game to beat you during the game. I never really thought of that as competitive, but it is. Good read. -TOB

Source: Kayvon Thibodeaux Is This NFL Draft’s Bad-Discourse Prospect,” Kaelen Jones, The Ringer (04/20/2022)


This is the origin story of the sports bra. While some version of it has been told before – Eva Longoria directed a 10-minute doc about it for ESPN a few years back – this is the real origin story, and that matters. As David Davis points out, “sanitized” and “simplified” stories of female empowerment are too common, and we have a tendency to fluff the real stories that feature more complicated characters and stakes. We should stop doing that.

Per Davis:

In her illuminating new book Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World, author Danielle Friedman detailed how the inventors overcame a “seemingly endless series of challenges” in bringing the sports bra to the marketplace, including the financing, legal and patent hurdles typical for any start-up, as well as the anachronistic attitudes of the male bankers and sporting-goods store owners they dealt with.

But never once did these or other contemporary accounts address what was perhaps the most significant barrier that the entrepreneurs faced: intra-office feuding that nearly undermined their nascent business, with accusations of betrayal and backstabbing that linger to this day. By the time they sold their company in 1990, Lisa Lindahl and Hinda Miller were so fed up with each other that they didn’t speak for more than a decade.

Erasing the strife from the creation story of the Jogbra, as it was called, has sanitized and simplified the narrative. Female empowerment in the post–Title IX era has become the default storyline—why ruin a plucky underdog yarn with dollops of angst and conflict? Why portray complicated, real women and their divergent drives and opinions when you can stick to the facile script and produce what Lisa describes as a “fluffy piece” about three bosom buddies?

It’s hard to overstate the impact of the sports bra – Davis notes Runner’s World said it was the greatest invention in running…ever – and its popularity lines up perfectly with the passage of Title IX in 1972. After struggling to find a design that made sense, co-founders Lisa Lindahl and Polly Palmer Smith had that breakthrough moment, courtesy of a joking ex-husband, calling back to the first seed of the sports bra came from a joke between Lisa and Polly – we need a jockstrap for women.

A second jockstrap reference provided Polly with her lightbulb moment. Lisa’s husband was a bit of a jokester. One day, watching the women despairing over their unsolvable puzzle, Al Lindahl came down the stairs bare-chested, wearing a jockstrap stretched over his torso. 

“Ladies … I present your jock-bra,” he announced to the room.

For Polly, seeing the straps pulled over Al’s shoulders, with the pouch stretched over his chest, provided the visual prompt she was missing. It was the “fateful moment when all the pieces fell into place,” she recalled.

Hinda was sent to the UVM bookstore to buy two jockstraps. Polly cut them up and made a crude prototype. The two pouches served as the cups; the waistbands became a solid rib-band that stretched around the torso; the butt straps were converted into shoulder straps that crossed at the back. 

Hinda was the third co-founder, and perhaps the reason for imbalance that led to so much stress and strife in the years to come. What follows is decades of friendship colliding with landmines that come with growing a booming company. A must-read. – PAL

Source: The Mostly Untold Story Of How The Sports Bra Conquered The World And Tore Its Inventors Apart,David Davis, Defector (April 20, 2022)

Video of the Week

I ask you, who among us has not run across a playing field and tackled an opponent…-TOB

Same vibes:

Tweet of the Week

Song of the Week

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“Say Merry Christmas, goddammit!”

-Eli Gemstone

Week of April 15, 2022

Coaches: Let Athletes Figure It Out

This story tries to do too much, but there’s a specific section of it that’s stuck with me all week. 

As most of you know, Scottie Scheffler won the Masters Sunday. I can’t remember watching the no. 1 golfer in the world ever play, so Sunday afternoon was the first time I noticed there’s something odd about this guy’s swing. 

And after meandering about a bit with a writing style that’s about as heavy-handed as SNL’s take on high school theater performance, Brendan Quinn gets to a key insight: there’s never one way to play a game. Scheffler found a coach that taught him the game, not how to swing. 

He makes it sound easier than it is, but Scheffler was built for this. As a child, his family moved from New Jersey to Dallas, landing Young Scottie under the tutelage of Royal Oaks Country Club legendary pro Randy Smith. An old-school Texan with old-school wit, Smith crafted his teaching style from the likes of Harvey Penick and Lee Trevino. He taught the game to a young boy named Justin Leonard and crafted multiple other kids into tour pros. When it came to Scheffler, Smith found boundless talent and filled it with oxygen.

“He didn’t teach Scottie Scheffler a golf swing,” says University of Texas golf coach John Fields, who recruited Scheffler as a 12-year-old and coached him for four years in Austin. “He taught Scottie the game of golf.”

That footwork? That move? Randy Smith says Scheffler has always had it. It’s intrinsic. He never gave a single thought to coaching Scheffler out of it.


“He’s an athlete,” Smith says. “And athletes play golf differently than robots.”

I wish more coaches took this approach in youth sports. Let athletes be athletic and teach them the game instead of assuming there’s only one “proper” technique. How it looks doesn’t matter as much as the results. If the results stay great – especially when someone is a great athlete – let the kid figure it out. Great work, Randy Smith! – PAL 

Source: On his own two feet, Scottie Scheffler wins the Masters,” Brendan Quinn, The Athletic (04/10/22)

Play Better, I Guess

The Giants and Padres played a wild baseball game on Sunday. The Giants first base coach Antoan Richardson was ejected and later accused the Padres’ third base coach of using racially-charged language; the Giants’ Alyssa Nakken took over first base coach duties, becoming the first female on-field coach in MLB history; the Giants hit two dingers off Padres’ outfielder Wil Myers; and the Giants broke two unwritten rules, enraging the Padres. And despite all the other stuff worthy of discussion, I want to talk about the unwritten rule kerfuffle.

The game was never close. The Giants batted around in the first, and were up 10-1 in the second. They ended up winning 13-2. In the second inning, up 10-1, Giants’ outfielder Steven Duggar stole second. This made the Padres mad. In fact, it’s the event that led to Richardson’s ejection. 

The game was uneventful after that for a while, until the 6th inning. The Padres were down 9, with the score 11-2. The Padres had one of their better pitchers, Dinelson Lamet, in the game. The Giants’ Mauricio Dubon, a player on the roster bubble, came to the plate. And on an 0-1 count, he laid down a bunt. He reached first safely. The Padres dugout went ballistic

Even Kruk and Kuip were lightly chastising Dubon, suggesting Kapler did the same as Dubon came off the field. But, there’s a twist! After the game, Kapler was asked about Dubon’s bunt. Here’s what he had to say, from Andrew Baggarly:

“I said, ‘Great job. Way to try to get a base hit,’” Kapler said. “It was full, 100 percent support. The pitchers are trying to get Mauricio out. Mauricio is trying to get on base. The goal in baseball is to not make an out.”

This does not represent a sudden shift in Kapler’s thinking. Going back to his time managing in Philadelphia, he would express his disdain for the general understanding that teams should coast with a sizable lead. He was adamant during a morning session with reporters in Scottsdale this spring: the Giants would not stop playing the game hard until the final out regardless of score or inning.

“Our goal is not to exclusively win one game in the series,” Kapler said Wednesday night. “It’s to try to win the entire series. So sometimes that means trying to get a little deeper into the opposition’s ‘pen. I understand that many teams don’t love that strategy and I get why. It’s something we talked about as a club before the season and that we were comfortable going forward with that strategy. It’s not to be disrespectful in any way. … It’s the best way to win a series.

“We’re not emotional about it. We’re not trying to hurt anybody. We just want to score as many runs as possible, force the other pitcher to throw as many pitches as possible, and if other clubs decide that they want to do the same thing to us, we’re not gonna have any issue with it.”

Kapler expanded on his thoughts the next day:

Not only do I love thumbing your nose at the unwritten rules, but I really love the logic behind it. I never thought of that – keep hitting, keep attacking because you’ll get deeper into the other team’s bullpen. Also, this made me laugh:

And, as Joc Pederson said after the game: “You don’t like it, play better, I guess.”

Man, yes. Print the t-shirts already! -TOB

Source: “Giants’ Alyssa Nakken makes history; Antoan Richardson says ejection followed comments with ‘undertones of racism’, Andrew Baggarly, the Athletic (04/13/2022)

PAL: It’s professional baseball; all is fair. Who doesn’t like a little added animosity?

If Your Team is Tanking, Don’t Give Them Money

Despite the labor deal, MLB still has a tanking problem. After the lockout ended, the A’s traded away every good player they have. The Reds did the same, including underpaid all-stars, like Jesse Winker. They are trying to rebuild, they’ll tell you. Trust the process. But you shouldn’t.

The Reds team president offered that reminder this week, when asked during an interview why fans should trust the team after all these trades? His response?

“Well, where you gonna go?”

Yeah, man, where you gonna go? This reminds me of a scene from Can’t Hardly Wait:


That’s right, Amanda Beckett. Somebody. When your owner asks: where you gonna go? Be like Amanda Beckett – tell him somewhere. These teams think they can hold you hostage. They think they can treat you like crap – collect your money, pocket it, and put out a terrible product that isn’t even trying to win. So, don’t let them. Go somewhere else. Spend your money elsewhere. -TOB

Source: Reds President And CFO Asks Fans To Consider Whether Maybe This Is Actually All Their Fault,” David Roth, Defector (04/12/2022)

White Men Can’t Jump, at 30

I saw this movie in the theatres, apparently just as I was turning 10, with my dad. And I gotta say – it was wildly inappropriate for a child of that age. But, it’s also a great movie. As the movie turns 30 (and I 40!), I enjoyed this short* oral history of the making of the movie.

But here’s the best part, regarding that final scene when Billy Hoyle finally dunks:

In one of the final scenes of the movie, Billy and Sidney bet on whether Billy can actually dunk. Harrelson claimed he could actually dunk and would do so for the shot.

Johnson: And so the basket was at ten feet. Woody had been walkin’ around with these strength shoes — these strength shoes have, like, a — like, a big, gigantic pad on the ball of your feet, and then nothin’ on the heels. So you’re walkin’ on your calves the whole time. So Woody’s got these strength shoes on. He’s preppin’ to get this dunk down on the ten-foot basket. So we get to that part of the scene he’s got to dunk. And he’s nowhere close.

Snipes: And we had a side bet going on.

Harrelson: Yeah, we had a side bet, which kept growing.

Johnson: Ron Shelton’s like, “We gotta lower this thing, Woody. We don’t have all night.” So Woody’s, like, “No — no, whatever you do, don’t lower the basket. I know I can do it. I’ve done it before. I’ve been workin’ on this for the past couple of months.”

Johnson: Woody leaves and goes to his trailer. So my favorite line is Ron Shelton. It’s, like, “Take that thing down to nine and a half feet, please.” And so — they did, and Woody came out and dunked.

Shelton: I recall, as the bet was being upped, the rim was being lowered.

Harrelson: Then we upped the bet a little bit, and uh, oh my God. I’ll never forget [Snipes’] face when I slammed that.

Snipes: Ron, you were the co-conspirator, man. … You set me up.

Shelton: Yeah, gradually. I was.

Harrelson: I didn’t realize. I thank you for that, by the way.

That’s hilarious. Watch that scene again – look at Harrelson’s face. He really thought he dunked. LOL.

*So many oral histories drag on way too long. I enjoyed how this one got in, told its story, and got out. -TOB

Source: ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ at 30: Sneakers, bets and stories from an all-time sports movie,” Jeremy Willis, ESPN (04/12/2022)

Video of the Week

After having just flown with our baby the other week, this one really nailed it.

Tweets of the Week

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Your art was the prettiest art of all the art.

Roy Anderson