Week of September 21, 2015


On This Strange and Mournful Day

Earlier this month, the A’s called up Barry Zito from the minors. Zito was drafted and began his career with the A’s, winning a Cy Young and earning a giant free agent contract from the Giants. His time with the Giants was mostly poor, but they likely do not win the 2012 World Series without his great performance in the NLCS, so Giants fans can forgive the other mediocre (and worse) seasons he had while with the team. A’s fans, of course, look back on Barry’s time in Oakland fondly, as he was a member of the Big Three – Hudson, Mulder, and Zito, that led the early-aughts A’s to a number of division titles. Zito took 2014 off, and then signed with the A’s, surprisingly accepting an assignment to AAA and spending the entire season there. When the news of Zito’s call-up broke, excited A’s and Giants fans looked at the schedule and noticed that former A/current Giant Hudson was scheduled to start for San Francisco in Oakland on September 26. Fans began to clamor for the A’s to start Zito, for a Big Three reunion, of sorts. Immediately, the A’s squashed it. But, a couple weeks later, it is on. Hudson vs. Zito, in Oakland, this Saturday. Mulder will be in attendance (and all three will throw out the first pitch on Sunday). Jonah Keri takes some time to look back at the Big Three – how they came together and where they went – in advance of this throwback game. -TOB

Source: “Baseball’s Big Three: “A Look Back at Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito in Oakland”, Jonah Keri, Grantland (09/23/2015)

PAL: It’s cool how each of the guys were so distinct while all having sustained success. The undersized southern bulldog in Hudson (most impressive), the Golden Boy in Mulder (oh yeah, he was really good for a while), the guitar-strumming California boy in Zito (most compelling). Keri also brings up a great point – how are none of these guys even mentioned in Moneyball when they were integral to that team’s success? With regards to Zito – this dude’s all right by me, despite the contract with the Giants. He showed up big-time in ‘12 for the Giants – “In two combined starts between the NLCS and World Series, Zito fired 13.1 innings and allowed just a single run, winning both games…”and by all account he never bickered, always worked hard, and was a solid teammate for the entirety of what was considered a horrible contract. It didn’t work out how it was supposed to, but he never appeared to lean into it. This Hudson – Zito matchup is a fitting punctuation to the trio’s story.

A Full Life: Yogi Berra (5/12/1925 – 9/22/2015)

Yogi Berra’s pop culture persona overshadowed the fact that he was a fantastic player. A legit all-timer. While he was portrayed as an idiot savant, that wasn’t close to the truth. As Robert Lipsyte wrote in 1963, “He has continued to allow people to regard him as an amiable clown because it brings him quick acceptance, despite ample proof, on field and off, that he is intelligent, shrewd and opportunistic.” And how about this – the man appeared in 21 World Series as a player, coach, or manager. You read that correctly. 10 World Series championships as a player. The 8th grade dropout from St. Louis also took a break from baseball to serve in the Navy, was at Omaha Beach in Normandy. Add to all of this that he and his wife had a 60+ year marriage. We reach to make the connections – I know – but while reading about Berra I kept thinking of my grandpa – the limited formal education, the WWII service, the marriage…a remarkable life. Collier’s magazine may have described Berra as someone who “could pass easily as a member of the Neanderthal A.C.”, but in the end the ledger shows he was a winner in every way that counts. Make sure to check out the slideshow for incredible photos covering Yogi’s career. – PAL

Source: Yogi Berra, Yankee Who Built His Stardom 90 Percent on Skill and Half on Wit, Dies at 90”, Bruce Weber, The New York Times (9/23/15)

TOB: As a baseball fan, I didn’t realize how much Yogi Berra had seeped into American pop culture. I know he did those GEICO commercials over the last few years, but I figured many non-baseball fans had no idea who he is, other than a memorable name they had heard a few times. And then he died. Wednesday, my mom sent me not one but two articles she read about Yogi. That evening, Yogi’s death was mentioned on TV and my wife exclaimed, “Yogi Berra died!? I liked him.” I didn’t even realize she knew who he was, but Yogi was that famous. Though, as Will Leitch notes here, Yogi was a real human being, not just a witticism juke box. By all accounts, he was kind and wise, a great person. The world could use a lot more people like Yogi.

Ragnar Might Have Overestimated Negotiation Position

A part of me wants to agree with KNBR’s Kate Scott’s theory that perhaps some Viking employee leaked Joe Juranitch was seeking a $20K/game (up from $1,500/game) over 10 years (over $2M if you include pre-season games). Yet, if it wasn’t true why wouldn’t Juranitch dispute it publicly now that it’s over? Here’s what I want to know: Who was in his ear saying, “Come on, Joe! You’re freakin’ Ragnar! You’re worth 10x what they’re paying you, man!” Bottom line – you’re an unofficial mascot, Joe. Take the field level pass, ride your Hog onto the field in front of 60,000 berserk fans, and drink it in. There are a lot of Norseman in Minnesota with beards and bikes who will jump at the chance taking your place for half the price. Lastly, it chaps my ass that an AP writer penned a story for the St. Paul paper about the local football mascot! Times are indeed tough for the Pioneer Press. – PAL

Source: Ragnar no longer Vikings mascot after contract dispute”, Jon Krawczynski, St. Paul Pioneer Press (9/22/15)

TOB: That pic up top of this post? That was posted by Ragnar during the Vikings’ home opener, with the caption: “It doesn’t feel right sitting at home. This is not by my choice…I don’t make those decisions..At this point it was made for me. I miss all my fans and your support …let’s all stay positive as we move forward. I gotta say: I like his gusto. Asking $20k per game to ride a friggin motorcycle onto the field pre-game? Blaming others for not paying you that $20k? That takes brass.

Bing Crosby: Baseball Hero

Kinda, anyways. I found this article, published 5 years ago this week, on my Facebook Memories feature. I shared it on Facebook back then, and it’s just as cool of a story today. Decades after Bing Crosby’s death, the only known recording of Game 7 of the 1960 Yankees/Pirates World Series was found in Crosby’s wine cellar in his Hillsborough, California home. Bing was part-owner of the Pirates and was extremely superstitious. He was afraid to watch the game live, because he thought he might jinx the team. So he and his wife flew to Paris (rough life) and ol’ Bing listened to the game on the radio. But, he knew he’d want to watch the game later, so he had someone record the game on a kinescope, and kept the recording all these years. The discovery of the recording has allowed the game to be seen for the first time since the broadcast – the networks discarded game recordings immediately after airing until the 1970s. But thanks to Bing, and a lucky discovery in 2010, MLB now has the recording and in 2010 put together a retrospective on what many consider to be the best game ever played. -TOB

Source: In Bing Crosby’s Wine Cellar, Vintage Baseball”, Richard Sandomir, New York Times (09/23/2010)

Video of the Week

PAL Song of the Week: Baby Huey & The  Baby Sitters – “Running”

Check out our all of our picks here. This playlist will make you more attractive to the attractive people.

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“Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.”

-Pedro Cerrano


Week of September 14, 2015


It’s Just a Sweet, Sweet Fantasy, Baby…

If you watch sports on TV, you have lately been inundated with commercials for “Daily Fantasy” sports. The Daily Fantasy commercials feature excited people receiving oversized, seven figure checks (longtime 1-2-3 readers may recall this story about a guy making $1M/year in fantasy sports that we featured in one of our very first posts). It all sounds great, and on Monday night, I thought, “Well maybe I should try it.” This, despite the fact that I am a terrible fantasy football player. I am glad that I instead found this story on Tuesday, which made me realize that I would merely be throwing my money away. To wit: “Analysis from Rotogrinders conducted for Bloomberg shows that the top 100 ranked players enter 330 winning lineups per day, and the top 10 players combine to win an average of 873 times daily. The remaining field of approximately 20,000 players tracked by Rotogrinders wins just 13 times per day, on average…Only the top 1.3 percent of players finished in the green during the three months measured by the Sport Business Journal.” Those odds are awful. Don’t get suckered in. Don’t play Daily Fantasy. -TOB

Source: You Aren’t Good Enough to Win Money Playing Daily Fantasy Sports”, Joshua Brustein and Ira Boudway, Bloomberg Businessweek (09/10/2015)

PAL: Hey, my college buddy and sportswriter posted the perfect companion piece! Whereas Brustein and Boudway’s take underscores the odds of winning playing DFL (I will only refer to it as DFL from here on out), Opatz takes a crack at the effect DFL has on how we experience games. In addition to learning about DFL camps in Vegas (for cryin out loud), he nails it when he writes, “Watching sports for fantasy takes the poetry out of it, reducing the subtleties and nuance of sports to simple accounting in a ledger. It turns an epic novel into a spreadsheet. But that didn’t stop me from drafting a fantasy football team this year.”

Source: Fantasy Factory”, Louie Opatz, Litchfield Independent Review (09/10/2015)

Baby, I’ve Got Your Money

If you enjoy college sports, the idea to allow schools to pay players directly is troubling. In a free market system, an already stratified sport would only become worse, and the games would become a farce. Inevitably, many schools who are barely breaking even as is would be forced to cut football. At other schools, profits from football pay for non-revenue sports, including women’s sports. If college football players begin getting paid, available profits for smaller sports will shrink. The Title IX implications are also significant – it is likely that, at least at some schools, every non-revenue male sport would have to be axed in order to comply with Title IX. It seems like a horrible mess and the death of college sports. However, inspired by a Nike commercial tribute to Animal House featuring great Oregon Duck football players of the past, Andrew Sharp proposes a system to pay college football players, without the payments coming directly from the schools themselves. His suggestion: Allow private companies to pay them. Nike, UnderArmour, local car dealers, etc. Just let players trade off their fame. It hurts no one. Hell, it even helps college football. If Johnny Manziel could have traded off his likeness for $10M/year for two more years of college, he’d be a lot better off, and so would college football fans who got to watch him, than he is being battered in the NFL. This idea is not without flaws, as schools like Oregon, with strong ties to Nike will have a strong advantage over other schools. But it’s better than the alternative, and at least the players are getting paid. -TOB

Source: The Pac-12 and the Smartest Way to Pay College Athletes”, Andrew Sharp, Grantland (09/16/2015)

I’ll Give You Summer Teeth. Some’r Here, Some’r There.

As a non-hockey fan, I do enjoy a good hockey fight. I was actually a big hockey fan in the early to mid-90’s, but when you get older you have to prioritize. I watch way less sports in general than I did when I was a kid, and hockey is one of those sports that did not make the cut. One of my favorite things about hockey fights is “jerseying” – when the players fighting attempt to pull their opponents’ jersey over their head. I had no idea, though, that this practice was effectively banned by the NHL in the late-90’s, which is a bummer – it’s such a classic move. This light-hearted article takes a look back at the history of Jerseying with some excellent examples, including an appearance by Terry O’Reilly, who was immortalized in the opening moments of Happy Gilmore. -TOB

Source: It Made Sense at the Time: The Art of Jerseying”, Sean McIndoe, Grantland (09/16/2015)

Discussing the Writing of the Unwritten Rules of Baseball

This is hilarious. First, watch this video:


Ok, who was wrong here? I think it’s Seager. What a punk. For a more thorough and hilarious breakdown, please read Grant Brisbee’s article. -TOB

Source: The Unwritten Rules of Kyle Seager Calling for Time the Wrong Way”, Grant Bisbee, SB Nation (09/17/2015)

Alabama Weak Sauce

By now everyone has heard how nuts Alabama football fans are about their team. They are proud to be certifiable when it comes to the Crimson Tide, so I have to call them out on this weak ass crap. Every year before the home opener, people come together for the “Bear Bryant Namesake Reunion”. I know what you’re thinking – whoa, that’s nuts! Everyone named after Paul “Bear” Bryant come together to celebrate his or her father’s obsession with football that swirled out of control to the point where he named his child after a football coach. Here’s the deal – the rules for being a namesake are weak. Bryant Lambert, Andrew Bryant Madaris, William Bryceton Wooters, Paula Harrison – although technical namesakes, these folks are getting pretty loose with it. Only one kid featured here had the obvious, most bad-ass name: BEAR. That’s commitment to the insanity which should be at the heart of this bonkers tradition. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two people who should get the invite next year: Bear Bryant’s son (Paul, Jr.), and 7 year-old Bear Zeiden. – PAL

Source: Where Bear Meets Bryant, Again and Again“, Mark Tracy, The New York Times (9/14/15)

TOB: This reminds me of a favorite story of mine. In the late-1980s, the father of Isaiah Thomas, the player currently on the Celtics, was a huge Lakers fan. The story goes that his father was friends with a big Pistons fan, and that the two made a bet before the 1989 NBA season. If the Pistons won the title, Thomas’ dad had to name his son Isaiah Thomas, after the Pistons star. The story goes that although Isaiah was born 3 months before the Finals, by that time his dad had warmed to the name and it stuck.

PAL’s Song of the Week: Fleetwood Mac – “What Makes You Think You’re the One”Bullseye Podcast w/ Jesse Thorn

Check out all of our weekly picks here. It’ll make you better looking

Video of the Week

Hitting Cage Bombs with my amigo, Domingo Ayala! If you get a few minutes, check out more of Domingo’s videos. Like this one. And this one.

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“Hi… not you… Hi.”

– Ernie McCracken

Week of September 7, 2015

“Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor.”

Story Update: Tom Brady, Still a Bimbo

Around the Super Bowl last year we brought you a story about Tom Brady and we wondered aloud: Is Tom Brady a bimbo? We answered our own question with a resounding “yes”. This week, fuel was added to our Tom Brady as bimbo fire, as Brady’s locker was spotted with a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” hat. After the photo went viral, people wondered if Brady’s owned the hat seriously. The answer: Another resounding “yes”. In response to the question, Brady said this week that Trump is Brady’s “good friend” and that Trump “has done amazing things.” Once again, 1-2-3 Sports can confirm: Tom Brady is a bimbo. -TOB

Source: Tweet from Michael McCann, @McCannSportsLaw (09/08/2015)

PAL: Trump is the DNC’s secret weapon. Is Billy Clinton still the maestro?

Home Court

No surprise that the NY Times is at the cutting edge of multimedia stories. Here’s yet another example of a clear concept executed to perfection. This story is a series of short, narrated vignettes about the home courts of tennis greats set to the moving images of a typical day. Here is the neighborhood court where Andy Murray, Serena & Venus, Federer, Sharapova, and more first honed their craft. This feature is remarkable in its simplicity, and I love it. – PAL

Source: The Top Tennis Players In The World Started Here”, Catrin Einhorn, Joe Ward and Josh Williams, The New York Times (09/03/2015)

TOB: Really cool. One thing I like about tennis, as opposed to golf, is that while it seems like an upper-crust sport, it does not take a lot of money to play tennis, and so many of the great tennis stars have come from very modest backgrounds. That fact is well illustrated here by NYT.

Finding a Diamond in the Rough

For NFL teams, finding a good quarterback has always been difficult. The speed of the NFL game is so much faster than the college game that many great college quarterbacks have flamed out in the NFL. NFL coaches, though, fear it is getting worse. With the proliferation of spread and hurry-up offenses throughout college football, quarterbacks are not being prepared to face NFL defenses. The idea behind the hurry-up offense is not to fool defenses, but to run simple plays, over and over so that the offense perfectly executes the plays, and to do them quickly, to prevent defenses from having the opportunity to adjust or substitute players. College coaches using these offenses do not concern themselves with preparing their quarterbacks for the NFL – they do not see themselves as a minor league for the NFL. They want to win. Baylor is a perfect example – Bryce Petty entered the NFL this year after two great, record-breaking seasons at Baylor. But when quizzed by NFL coaches prior to the draft, he couldn’t identify even the most basic football concepts that any NFL quarterback should understand. And that’s because no one ever taught him. Understandably, NFL teams are terrified of what this could mean for the future of finding elite quarterbacks and they do not have a plan. I do think college coaches should be wary, though: If high school quarterbacks start to realize that these offenses are not preparing them for the NFL, the recruiting wells could begin to dry up for those schools. -TOB

Source: Why the NFL Has a Quarterback Crisis”, Kevin Clark, Wall Street Journal (09/09/2015)

PAL Note: So you’re telling me that the NFL has to coach its players? On a macro-level, it’s an interesting notion that the premier league (NFL) has to adapt to trends surfacing in what is essentially its farm system (college football).

TOB: But I get it. If you’re going to risk your job and pay millions to a player at the most important position in your sport, you’d hope that they understand the difference between a Cover-2 and a Cover-3, something someone who has played even a little bit of Madden understands, but somehow one of the best college quarterbacks in the country could not do.

PAL: Is Madden a new Settlers of Catan spin-off?

Jarryd Hayne: One of a Kind (?)

Perhaps the one bright spot in what has become an atrocious offseason of historical proportions for the 49ers is Jarryd Hayne. By some, he’s considered the Michael Jordan of the National Rugby League (Australia & New Zealand). Like Jordan, Hayne left his sport in his prime to pursue another sport – the NFL. It’s still unknown whether or not Hayne will make the gameday roster, but he’s shown enough in the preseason to at least start on the practice squad. This story breaks down how Hayne’s rugby talents are unique in their application to football, which are not likely to be followed by other rugby stars. Cool story, and I’m rooting for him. – PAL

Source: “Why Jarryd Hayne will make it in the NFL — and other rugby league players won’t”, James Dator, SB Nation (09/09/2015)

TOB: Very astute question mark in the title there by my main man, Phil. I don’t get why Dator wrote this. He is strongly discouraging other rugby players from even attempting what Hayne is trying to do. But why? Maybe he’s right. Maybe Hayne is unique in the rugby world in his ability to make an NFL roster. So what? If a rugby player attempts and fails to make the NFL, can he not go back? Dator writes as though the player cannot, which is silly. It’s also silly to suggest that there are literally no rugby players from Australia (or elsewhere) that have the skillset/talent to make the NFL. Hayne is half Fijian, a Polynesian country. There have been Polynesian players in the NFL for decades – great ones, too. Players like Troy Polamalu, Haloti Ngata, Mike Iupati, Jesse Sapolu, Mark Tuinei, and of course Junior Seau. Polynesian players in Australia and elsewhere excel in rugby, and there is no reason those same athletes can’t follow in the footsteps of guys like Seau and Polamalu and have an impact in the NFL.

Video of the Week

Our first 1-2-3 Sports Poll. Which wiffle ball catch is more impressive:

PAL’s Song of the Week: The Band – “Don’t Do It

Check out all of our picks on this dynamite playlist here. John Muir said, “It’s the best playlist I’ve ever heard.”

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“What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”

– Rob Gordon


Week of August 31, 2015


‘Tis the season…I call this “The Lion”.

Drink Roger Goodell’s Tears of Unfathomable Sadness

As you’re probably aware, a federal judge ruled against the NFL in the Deflategate/Ballghazi “scandal” this week. If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you know that I despise Roger Goodell, and the news absolutely delighted me. The whole “scandal” was absolutely ludicrous, starting with the fact that the NFL apparently took ball inflation so seriously that instead of paying someone to safeguard the game balls after they were measured before the game, they allowed each team to hold them instead. And when the Colts complained to the league for their AFC title game against the Patriots, the NFL could have reached out to the Patriots and said, “We got this complaint. We are informing you now that we will be periodically checking the game balls throughout the game.” Instead, they decided to try a sting operation. If the Patriots did cheat, then the NFL knowingly allowed the first half of the AFC Championship game to be delegitimized. That is pure stupidity – and the whole thing went downhill from there. This article is a nice little summary of Goodell’s failures, and again – I enjoyed every second of it. -TOB

Source: This is Roger Goodell’s Defining Defeat, and the One He Deserves”, Tom Ley, Deadspin (09/03/2015)

PAL: This ball deflation crap might be the dumbest sports story I can recall (not this article or TOB’s write-up,  but the ongoing story). However, if you remove the who and the what from this, there is something interesting about CBAs between ownership and its…NOPE still the dumbest story. Hey, I tried.

TOB: It’s ok, Phil:

The Hitting Concession

Madison Bumgarner is a pitcher who can hit, which is very rare. Why is it so rare? How can someone who’s played baseball his entire life be so bad at hitting? It wasn’t always this way. Jonah Keri puts the question this way: “So, how did we get here? In an analytically driven sport constantly striving for excellence, how did we reach a point where everyone now accepts total incompetence in one out of every nine times at bat?”

The designated hitter has been around my entire life, so I’ve never paused to consider why it’s acceptable for a position player (in the literal sense) to be so bad at one of the fundamentals of the game.  Pitchers – especially starter pitchers – are specialist, yet, unlike a kicker in football or even a goalie in hockey, they are at the center of the action for the majority of the game. The more I think about it, the more I’m shocked there at least one .300 hitting pitcher each year. Just one naturally gifted hitter who happens to pitch.

And then I look up how many .300 hitters are in the 2015 season. Care to guess? Over or under 40.5? The answer (as of Thursday night, 9:24PM PST): 25. That’s less than 1 per team! I guess the reason there aren’t many good hitting pitcher is that there aren’t many good hitters, period.  – PAL

Source: An At-the-Plate Anomaly: Madison Bumgarner and the Rapid Decline of the Hitting Pitcher”, Jonah Keri, Grantland (9/2/15)

TOB: Right. Think about it this way. Hitting a baseball and throwing a baseball have almost no physical connection. There is no overlap in skills. Both are extremely difficult to do at the major league level, and the odds are extremely low that a single person would be naturally gifted at both, and have the time to develop those natural abilities to a level to perform at a high level in the major leagues.

PAL: How about this: “In 1925 — at age 37, no less — Walter Johnson  hit .433/.455/.577 in 107 PA with two HR and 20 RBI.”

Vin Scully May Love the Dodgers, But He Is a National Treasure

The Giants have had a bad week. After losing two games over the weekend to the Cardinals, they went down to L.A. and got swept – losing each game by a single run – to fall 6.5 games behind the Dodgers. I hate pretty much everything about the Dodgers, except Vin Scully, the Dodgers announcer since 66 years and counting. Vin is likely a Dodgers fan, but you might not know it when listening to him call a game. His voice in smooth and soothing, and he tells a story like no other. This video is a great example of why I like Vin, as he narrates two young kids, one a Dodgers fan and one a Giants fan, and projects a narrative explaining their respective behavior. It’s great, and Scully is right – it’s been a bad week for the Giants, but the memory of three World Series wins in five years is still fresh. -TOB

Source: Youngsters Amuse Scully”, MLB.com (09/01/2015)

PAL: Never in my life have I strung together a handful of sentences as elegant and plainspoken has Scully’s vamping in this video. Move over Morgan Freeman; Vin Scully is the narrator in my imaginary movie.

Who’s Got Next?

Grantland put together an amusing article about how American pickup basketball games need to stop counting by 1s and 2s and start counting by 2s and 3s. In a 1s and 2s game, the “3-point shot” is severely overvalued. Of course, as a jump shooter, this is why I love going by 1s and 2s. This is pretty obvious for anyone who ever stopped to think about it – but it’s still fun and the math they use to back it up is illuminating. -TOB

Source: How to Fix Pickup Basketball With Analytics”, Kirk Goldsberry, Grantland (09/02/2015)

Video of the Week

Randy the Sports Dad. Something we all inspire to be.

PAL’s Song of the Week: Ludella Black – “I’ve Just Seen a Face”

Check out all of our picks here. Because you need a break from your tunes.

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“Step 1: We buy into this club. Step 2: We roll over to the club in your Mercedes Benz or my pre-owned Acura Legend. Step 3: I dagger you on the dance floor. Just bounce, bounce. Now all the ladies sayin’ bounce. What do you say, sexy?

Jean Ralphio