Week of March 2, 2018

Sports Wife for the Win

You may have never heard of Zack Cozart, but he’s a very good Major League shortstop. He’s a decent hitter for a shortstop, too. As a Red, he started as a bad hitter but a good shortstop, but in recent years he changed his approach – “try to hit the ball hard instead of trying to hit the ball” is how Pedro Moura puts it, which I like.  

Before this offseason got all wonky for free agents (market correction or collusion?), Cozart was about to sign a 3-year, $38MM deal with the Angels (again, you may very well have never heard of this dude! That’s a lot of guacamole, as Michael Gary Scott would say. The one challenge would be that Cozart’s position would change to second base, as the Angels already have one of the best defensive shortstops I’ve ever seen in Andrelton Simmons:

While he’d never played the position before, Cozart was still a middle infielder, and his bat still had some value at a defensive position.

Just before he was about to take his physical and finalize the deal, the GM called. Angels signed 2B Ian Kinsler. Would Cozart consider playing 3B? Now that is a different prospect all together. Not only are the defensive angles and the approach to third base different than that of middle infield, but third base is traditionally a power position, meaning teams look to fill it with better offensive players than Cozart.

Luckily, his wife stepped in. “Quit being a baby. Do you want to go play for the Reds, or do you want to play for the Angels? One team’s trying to win.”

What’s more, teams are shifting defensively more than ever. With lefties up, he’d essentially be playing shortstop 30% of the time anyway.

And it’s very likely that Cozart’s flexibility on his position earned him millions.  He signed his 3-year deal in December. Since then, the market has been very slow to get going. Players of comparable skill, e.g. Todd Frazier, are signing shorter deals for less money (In February Frazier signed a 2-year, $17MM contract with the Mets) .

Short version of the story, Zack Cozart’s wife deserves an expensive present. – PAL  

Source: “Zack Cozart wasn’t going to miss his chance to win again, even if it meant playing third base”, Pedro Moura, The Athletic (2/25/18)

TOB: This is a nice story about an athlete who treats his wife with respect and values her opinion, and comes in stark contrast to the news this week about fired University of Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez. RichRod was fired recently after his former assistant alleged he repeatedly sexually harassed her. In the litigation, Rodriguez’s 2015 “Hideaway Book” that he gave to staff was released. Here’s how RichRod sees the role of his and his coaching staff’s wives:

I’m sure his wife was tickled to hear she was one of his most important assets, and especially enjoyed how he “controlled her talk”. What a romantic, that RichRod. You will be unsurprised to learn RichRod cheated on his wife. As Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzjia pointed out this week, what is it about football that attracts such neanderthals in the coaching and front office ranks?

The Best Plays of Jordan and LeBron’s Careers

Last week, The Ringer had “Jordan vs. LeBron Week”, for no apparent reason, because that’s just the sorta weird thing Bill Simmons thinks is a great idea. There were a couple interesting articles, but nothing worth mentioning – except for these two companion pieces. Writers listed and discussed their favorite plays from Jordan’s and LeBron’s careers. It was a fun walk down memory lane, and I highly recommend you read both. There are a lot of great moments, including LeBron’s block on Igoudala in the 2016 Finals:

Or Jordan’s midair switch in the 1991 Finals:

I have two other nominations, though. For LeBron, it was this ill-fated pass to Donyell Marshall in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals.

What I’ve always loved about LeBron is that he almost always makes the right play, even if it’s not the play other people expect a superstar to make. That is, LeBron is willing to give up the ball to an open teammate, even when the game is on the line. LeBron was roasted for passing that ball, which was stupid then and is stupid now. It’s not his fault Donyell Marshall missed the shot.

For Jordan, there are so many moments, but of those not on the Ringer’s list, for me it has to be The Shrug.

It was 1992, and Jordan had long been the best basketball player on the planet, but the only knock against him was that he couldn’t shoot threes. And then, in the first half of Game 1, Jordan hit six three-pointers. On the sixth, Jordan looked over at Magic Johnson, calling the game for NBC, and shrugged as if to say, “Yeah, I don’t know what’s happening either.” The series ended up going six games, but it sure seemed over right then and there. -TOB

Source: Our Favorite Plays of Jordan’s Career”, “Our Favorite Plays of LeBron’s Career”, Ringer Staff (02/23/2018)

PAL: Are we really doing this. Jordan vs. LeBron? Please. The Ringer must be thirsty for clicks. 

How about a little love for his dunk over Ewing? That and the layup over the Lakers stand out to me.

LeBron: The Block. End of conversation.

Boeheim’s Issue: Coaches Getting Hands Dirty

While I don’t think it’s that controversial, I’ll come right out and say it: most big-time college basketball programs are dirty. In a high revenue game where only 10 players are on the court, 1 bluechip can make a huge difference. 2 just might win you a title. They’re all dirty – from Calipari at Kentucky to the unassailable Coach K at Duke. And I don’t think it’s limited to the historic programs either. As TOB pointed out, both Minnesota and Cal -two below average programs have had issues in our lifetimes. The Gophers vacated a Final Four appearance, and Cal was put on probation for paying a player in the 90s.

Let’s set aside the bigger debate – should payment to players be pulled out of the black market and into the free market – and cherish Jim Boeheim’s nuanced response when asked about it:

The thing that ruins everything for me is when coaches get involved in this. There’s just no understanding of that. I think it goes back to the old thing ‘Well, somebody’s going to do it, so I’ll do it.’ I hope that isn’t the case. I don’t think it is. The problem with this case and when that happens, then everybody’s doing it. ….The thing that’s been surprising this year is, obviously, the assistant coaches being involved.

To Boeheim, the problem isn’t that players are getting paid, it’s that coaches are getting involved. My god, man.

Of all the individuals that benefit most from the current “system” of NCAA basketball and football, the coaches are on top of the heap. Nick Saban makes $11MM a year as Alabama’s football coach (and worth every penny). Coach K makes $7MM at Duke! If anything, the coaches should be involved in paying these kids. Hell, the players’ payroll should come out of the coaches’ salaries. -PAL

Source: “Jim Boeheim addresses FBI’s college basketball probe by blasting coaches involved with agents”, Scott Gleeson, USA Today (2/27/18)

TOB: Though I think college basketball and football players should be paid, I get Boeheim’s point. Agents have no reason not to pay players in hopes of getting them as clients later. The NCAA has no jurisdiction over them. As coaches, it can be tough to police that. But this week, ESPN reported that the FBI recorded a phone call between Arizona basketball head coach Sean Miller and an agent’s runner, wherein Miller discussed a $100,000 payment for current Arizona star DeAndre Ayton. Miller vehemently denies the report, and ESPN’s story has juuuuuust enough issues to raise questions about its validity. But if the report is true, and the head coach is arranging for payment to a player, then that is much more direct cheating than a player taking some cash from an agent.

Warriors Pricing Out Their Loyal Fans

Eighteen months from now, the Warriors begin play in San Francisco, at their brand new, privately financed Chase Center.

It’s about a ten minute drive from my house, without traffic, and I’m pretty excited about that. Right now, I only go to 1-2 games per year, and a big reason for that is how hard it is to get to Oakland right after work, and how late I get back. But another reason is the fact that Warriors ticket prices, both on the primary and secondary markets, have skyrocketed over the last few years as the team has become a juggernaut.

Unsurprisingly, the move to San Francisco is not expected to slow the rise in prices. This week, word began to leak about what this will mean for Warriors season ticket holders, even ones who have stuck it out for decades of bad basketball. And it is not good for all but a small fraction of the fanbase.

One of those fans is David Smith. Smith is not poor. He’s the CEO and founder of Mediasmith, a media buying agency. Smith has been a season ticket holder for 45 years. Forty five. He has two very good seats, presently paying $370 per seat, per game – for about $32,000 total. For his decades of loyalty, he is getting a discount there. If he bought those new this year, it’d cost him $515 per seat, per game, for a total of $45,000.

But this week, Smith went to a sales pitch for current season ticket holders to buy season tickets at the Chase Center. Smith came away with sticker shock. Not only was he losing his loyalty discount, but he would now be a few rows farther back, and his tickets would now cost $600 per seat, per game, or about $53,000 for the season. FIFTY THREE THOUSAND. As Smith said, he’ll be paying $1,200 to see the Warriors play the lowly Suns, and that’s insane.

But $1,200 is not all he’ll pay, folks. The Warriors are also requiring him and others to pay a per seat license fee. Smith’s is $35,000. Per seat. What makes this fee slightly more digestible than most seat licensing fees is that the Warriors promise to pay it back in thirty years, with no interest. So generous of them. Oh, and he loses his VIP parking pass.

Smith decided enough was enough, and he left deciding to give up his tickets. Although the Warriors claim most are electing to sign up, Smith can’t be the only one walking out that door. And that begs a few questions:

  • Are the Warriors hurting themselves by charging as much as they are just because they can because there really are that many people with that much disposable income in the Bay Area right now?
    • I say perhaps a little, though the fanbase has already changed considerably over the last five or so years as the team has gotten good, and most of the diehard fans have already been priced out. So this will probably not make much of a difference compared to what we’re already seeing.
  • Should I care?
    • I’m not a Warriors fan, though I enjoy watching them play, so I don’t really care. I do feel bad for the people who have put the time and money in for years, though, only to be priced out when the team gets good.
    • Moreover, the Warriors are privately financing this, just like the Giants did, and so frankly I think they can charge whatever the hell they want. The fans who utilize stadiums and arenas should pay for them through ticket revenue, instead of being financed by general taxpayers.
  • Wouldn’t Smith be wise to just get the tickets and sell off half or more at a profit to recoup a lot of this cost? And can’t he expect to make even more back if he sells off half or so of the playoff games?
    • Probably. But it’s always a gamble, especially at these prices, and that $35,000 license fee per seat is a tough pill to swallow.
  • What the hell happens when the team gets bad??
    • And they will get bad. I know Lacob thinks they have solved the game, but they haven’t. They got lucky with Curry – lucky that he fell to them, lucky that he blossomed, lucky that he got over early injury troubles. But this team will not last as a championship contender for too much longer. The window almost always closes sooner than you think it will (exception: the Tim Duncan Spurs). And they have now put tickets so high that they are going to have a very hard time selling tickets when this team ages out or breaks up. No one is paying that kind of cash to see a rebuilding team, and teams are loathe to reduce ticket prices by any significant margin. Should be interesting to see what happens.
  • Finally, is there any way I’ll ever get to take my kids to a game at the Chase Center and sit in the lower bowl?

Fair, fair.

Source: Warriors’ New Arena Gives Some Season-Ticket Holders Sticker Shock“, Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle (03/01/2018)

Video(s) of the Week: 

-I know the between Thompon’s legs part was not intentional, but still. My god.

PAL Song of the Week: Steely Dan – “Dirty Work”

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Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

I did not go to business school. You know who else didn’t go to business school? LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant. They went right from high school to the NBA so…So, it’s not the same thing at all.

-M. Scott

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