Week of October 25, 2019

Karma Once Again at Work as the Astros Fall Behind 0-2 in World Series

In 2017, the Houston Astros were the feel good story of the baseball season. Just a few years removed from an absolute tank job, they stormed through the postseason and beat the Dodgers in an epic seven game World Series.

Two years later, they might be one of the most disliked teams in my lifetime. Not the players, mind you. As far as those things go, they are a very likable team: Altuve – awesome. Bregman – beast. Correa – talented as hell. Springer – incredible. Cole and Verlander – studs.

But a team is more than the players on their roster, and the Houston Astros front office over the last 16 months have proven to be incredibly tone deaf and insensitive.

It all started last summer. The Blue Jays’ All-Star closer, Roberto Osuna, was arrested and charged with domestic violence. The charges were later dropped because the victim returned to Mexico and refused to go back to Canada to testify. MLB apparently saw enough evidence to suspend him, though, and he was banned for 75 games.

A few weeks later, the Astros traded for Osuna in exchange for a modest package of players. People were rightly upset. A player being charged and suspended for domestic violence is not a market inefficiency to exploit. What’s worse, the Astros took advantage of a loophole in the suspension rules that allowed Osuna to participate in the 2018 playoffs, despite the fact he had not finished serving his 75-game suspension. It was gross and indefensible. They didn’t need to put him on the postseason roster, even if they were allowed to. But they decided having Osuna, and winning, was worth the PR hit of having a player technically suspended for domestic violence on the roster. Fittingly, Osuna gave up 5 runs in 3.2 innings in the ALCS, a 12.27 ERA, as the Astros lost to the Red Sox in 5 innings. Karma.

Now, a year later, the Astros were hoping people would forget about Osuna’s history, and how the team acquired him. People did not. Osuna is routinely booed when he enters games on the road, and people on Twitter celebrate his failures, including when he almost cost the Astros their eventual ALCS clinching Game 6 win by giving up 2 runs in the top of the 9th (the Astros would go on to win in the bottom of the 9th).

The story would have ended there, but the Astros front office continued to show its true colors. The controversy began Sunday, the day after they clinched the AL pennant, when Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein reported that an hour after the game:

[A]ssistant general manager Brandon Taubman turned to a group of three female reporters, including one wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet, and yelled, half a dozen times, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna!”

The outburst was offensive and frightening enough that another Houston staffer apologized. The Astros declined to comment. They also declined to make Taubman available for an interview.

As Apstein pointed out, the outburst was odd because as I mentioned Osuna almost blew the game. Additionally, there have been reports that one of the female reporters Taubman yelled at routinely criticizes the team for its acquisition of Osuna, and often tweets a domestic violence hotline number whenever Osuna enters the game. In that context, Taubman’s motive is clear – an attempt both to intimidate and to gloat on the team’s heavily criticized move.

Within an hour of Apstein’s report, the Astros released a statement. Did they announce Taubman’s firing? No. Did they apologize? No. Here’s the statement, in full:

“The story posted by Sports Illustrated is misleading and completely irresponsible. An Astros player was being asked questions about a difficult outing. Our executive was supporting the player during a difficult time. His comments had everything to do about the game situation that just occurred and nothing else – they were also not directed toward any specific reporters. We are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated’s attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist.”

Hoo, boy. If you release a statement like that, you better be right. Unfortunately for the Astros, they were not right. Immediately, multiple reporters who were present tweeted confirmation of Apstein’s story. A Houston Chronicle sportswriter, Hunter Atkins, said: “The Astros called [Stephanie Apsteine’s] report misleading. It is not. I was there. Saw it. And I should’ve said something sooner.” Others present made similar statements. Again – if you’re going to go all Trump and call a reporter a liar, you better be right. The Astros were not. 

This story picked up steam as the World Series began on Tuesday, distracting from what promised to be a great series. The Astros released two more statements before Game 1 on Tuesday. The first was from Taubman, and it was incredibly insufficient. It apologized for “foul language” but Taubman stood by his story that he was “showing exuberance” for a player and only apologized if his actions offended anyone. in effect Taubman stood by the denial that his outburst was related to negative coverage of Osuna. It threw in a “I’m a loving and committed father and husband” as if that has anything to do with it.

The second statement was from team owner Jim Crane who also did not apologize and touted his team’s raising of money for domestic violence prevention, as if throwing money at something makes all other actions excusable.

So, would karma get the Astros? Oh yeah, baby. They lost a tight Game 1, as Gerrit Cole, the latest Not Bumgarner, got knocked around. They then got smoked late in Game 2, wasting a good start from Justin Verlander, a former Not Bumgarner, falling 12-3. The Nationals head home with a commanding 2-0 lead. Karma. Do bad things, deserve bad things back.

It should be noted that on Thursday the Astros announced they had fired Taubman. But it was too little, too late. To make matters worse, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow appeared at a press conference Thursday. The following occurred:

Terrible. Get swept, Houston! -TOB

PAL: A bit of free advice to businesses of all types: don’t protect the dickheads. They ain’t worth it.

Relevant NFL Experience: High School Coach

Turns out, coaching high school football might be the best preparation for today’s NFL Coach. That’s Kevin Clark’s thesis from his piece on The this week.

The Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy and Eagles heach coach Doug Pederson are considered master schemers in today’s NFL. Not so long ago, both of them were high school head coaches. Add to them Jon Kitna (Dallas QB Coach) and Jess Simpson (D-Line coach, Falcons), and you have four NFL coaches who were coaching in high school within the last 12 years. 

Let’s set aside the obvious point: Kitna and Pederson are former NFL players. So they aren’t the same as a guy like Simpson (22 very successful high school seasons in Georgia). That said, what’s most interesting about this story is how some mandatory skills for a good high school coach – flexibility and teaching – are becoming incredibly valuable skills in the NFL. 

From a creativity standpoint,” Simpson says, “high school coaches start with: If you aren’t willing to do it all, you probably won’t be very good.” High school coaches, Simpson means, must have a command of every possible scheme: wide-open spread offense, pure option football, the jet motion, or the run-pass option. The talent disparity can be so great, and personnel turns over so quickly from year to year that high school coaches need to be able to change everything about their team based on their talent—or lack thereof.

And from later in the story: 

The emphasis on adaptability is important for a few reasons. Trends now appear seemingly out of nowhere (more on that in a second). Players are much less experienced than they were in years past, both because the league has gotten younger, and there is dramatically less practice time since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. These factors create favorable conditions for flexible schemes that can be run very simply and require an emphasis on instruction and teaching. High school coaches can do that.

Less practice, younger players, and a thing called YouTube makes every wild idea and offense variation accessible to every coach at every level. Good ideas can truly come from anywhere – high school, college, or the pros. The increased value on teaching also makes sense, which highlights another really interesting point: high school coaches are teachers. Kitna taught math while coaching, and said it helped him as a coach. 

The better teacher you are, the better coach you’re going to be. You’ve got to be able to communicate. It’s one thing to have knowledge. It’s another thing to convey knowledge. That’s what I learned from high school.

This story presented a fresh idea about coaching in the NFL that made me think about the game and strategy differently. Excellent read. – PAL 

Source: “The Trailblazing Coaches Who Went From Friday Night Lights to the NFL”, Kevin Clark, The Ringer (10/23/2019)

TOB: Really good read. Here’s my favorite point:

There are about 20 times more high school athletic programs in the state of Florida than there are teams in the NFL, so it stands to reason, due to sheer probability, that there are many high school coaches who might be better equipped than those currently coaching in the NFL. Essentially, the NFL has been closed off from the lower levels of football. There’s no law that says NFL coaches must have the smartest schemes—far from it—and opening the sport up to minds from lower levels can help foster innovation in the professional ranks.

Especially when you are talking coordinators whose main job is to strategize (as opposed to position coaches you need helping with technique), limiting your pool of coaches to former NFL players is crazy. There are thousands of football coaches across the country, and any smart coach would expand his search to include them, in order to find the best.

Umpires Favor American-Born Players; Bring on RoboUmps!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am ready for RoboUmps. In Wednesday night’s Game 2, I saw the game affected by some bad calls at the plate. The ump, who was being picked up on a mic all game, was not picking up pitches at the bottom of the strike zone. Pitchers for both teams were painting the lower edge, and the ump was missing them. The game turned into a 12-3 laugher late, but it was 2-2 after 6, and every pitch was important. Why are we still doing this, I thought?

And then after the game I saw this tweet.


If true, this is bad. Umpires are, likely subconsciously, biased against players not born in the U.S. and adjusting the strike zone accordingly, with an effect about half that as exists for home teams vs. away teams. I found this article, from way back in 2013, suggesting that the home team advantage is 2.5% but that it increases in high leverage situations (late and close games). So, figure it’s about a 1.5% bias in favor of American-born players and against foreign-born players. That’s not huge, but it’s too much, and I’d love to see the data by umpire; I am guessing there are a few bad apples. But again I thought: why are we still doing this?

Please, give me RoboUmps. -TOB

PAL: What’s the goal here? I’m assuming TOB’s is to achieve 100% accuracy in the calling balls and strikes and to remove any type of bias (subconscious or otherwise) from the calling of balls and strikes. Does this then extend to all calls related to the game? 

The human umpire adds a dimension to a hobby that makes it more compelling in my view. However, we still ought to seek improvement, and to do so we should examine all variables in this equation. Chris Long mentions the variable of country of birth of the batter, of the pitcher (no impact on calls), and I think you call out an important component – examining umpire variables to see any patterns or trends in the guys actually calling the balls and strikes.  

TOB: The issue is the perception of bias is there, and that’s a problem. Your comment that this is a “hobby” is wrong. It’s not a hobby. It’s a multi-billion dollar per year business and they should ensure they get things right. The entire business rests on the perception that the game is fair – that’s why they take player gambling so seriously. If fans lose faith in the integrity of the game, they stop paying to watch.

So, yes – I want to get things 100% correct, if possible. And if we can’t, I want to improve where we can. The umpire will still be there, making the calls. He’ll just have a signal of what to call on balls and strikes alone. Frankly, I don’t get the resistance. Doing something one way because that’s the way we’ve always done it is not a good enough reason. The game was invented nearly 200 years ago and the roots are deeper than that. It was invented before airplanes. And automobiles. Phones, even. The world has changed a lot. If they had the technology back then, they’d have used it. We do now, and we should. 

PAL: Don’t know what to tell you, other than baseball is a hobby of mine. I don’t know how one can argue the contrary. And the multi-billion dollar per year business is dependent upon its entertainment value to me and millions of other people who like to watch baseball as a hobby.  To watch a game with umpires relaying automated calls would sterilize the experience. Room for interpretation is great for entertainment and lore. Mistakes make for better stories. Sure, sometimes those stories might make for painful memories, but the stories are no doubt more compelling and better long-term for the game. 

TOB: I can’t say you’re wrong – but I can say I suspect it would not take you and others long to get used to it. We use instant replay in all major sports now, and that’s much more of a disruption to the game than this would be. For the most part, people like instant replay – they want to get the calls right, and they accept that disruption, and the removal of human error. I think the same would quickly happen with balls and strikes.

PAL: To borrow a phrase from Dan Patrick, it’s not called instant replay any more – just replay. Most people like instant replay? For real? Seems like a complete c.f. in football, and they still don’t get it right. I can’t stand it in baseball.

TOB: Take away instant replay and see what fans think. People would freak out.

Once, Twice, Three Times a Moron

Seriously, what bizarro world are we living in? The World Series (you may have heard that baseball is a hobby of mine) is in full swing and I’m posting two – two – NFL articles. This one simply had to be shared.

The Patriots embarrassed the Jets on Monday night, 330-0. I mean, 33-0. There was one moment in the snoozefest that rewarded the five people still in the stands and the 9 people still watching on TV. 

The Pats lined up to punt from the Jets 33 yard-line on a fourth & two with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. In order to give his punter a bit more space to work with, Belichick took a delay of game, which also ran down the game clock down. Jets psychopath coach Adam Gase, not knowing when to just curl up in a ball, cover the head, and take the beating, declined the delay of game penalty. 

The play clock – and the game clock – started again. Again the Pats let the clock run down, and with two seconds left on the play clock, they intentionally jumped for a false start penalty. Gase declines again. Play clock resets. Game clock counts down. In all, the Pats killed about 70 seconds, helped preserve a shutout, and reminded everyone that Belichik has inspected every particle of football dust. – PAL 

Source: Bill Belichick Delights In Tormenting The Hapless Jets”, Chris Thompson, Deadspin (10/22/19)

One of the Funniest Things I’ve Read in a While

I can’t stop reading this, and I can’t stop laughing.

Yes, that is Cy Young, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, attempting a bit of a comeback, at age 67, playing with and against a bunch of teenagers. And that is Cy Young getting run off the mound because they realized the old man could no longer bend over to field a bunt. So those god damn kids bunted right at him, over and over, until Cy Friggin Young had to be yanked from the game. Perfection. *muah* -TOB

PAL: Is this real?  You missed the best part: Cy Young was sent to the showers by “[t]he freckle-faced 14-year-old manager”. Hilarious.

Video of the Week

Three videos from the Wide World of Sports:

Tweets of the Week

Song of the Week: J.S. Ondara – “Lebanon”, C/O Jamie Morganstern

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Mr. Scott, who is this other woman, Ryan, who you refer to as “just as hot as Jan, but in a different way”?

-Diane Kelly, Esq.

Week of October 18, 2019

How the 1989 Earthquake Made the Bay Area Safer

30 years ago this week, at 5:04pm, the Lome Prieta earthquake struck, just minutes before the start of the Game 3 of the World Series at Candlestick Park. 

In the stadium that day were an unusually large number of structural engineers: one of them had a buddy with a ticket hookup, and so a bunch of the engineers at Degenkolb Engineers were there, including in the upper deck as it shook and swayed hundreds of feet off the ground, as told by Evan Reis, one of those engineers:

“In my career, there have been a lot of earthquakes in the larger Bay Area, and that was certainly the most intense,” Reis said. “Being cantilevered out in the upper deck of the stadium — it amplified everything. If I had been on the ground, that would’ve been one thing. But we were leaning out and bouncing up and down. That was unique.”

The next day, the engineers at Degenkolb’s office were buzzing. What if the earthquake had lasted another 30 seconds? A minute? What if it had originated closer to the ballpark?

“Those upper decks could’ve easily collapsed,” Reis said. “If it had been a repeat of the 1906 earthquake, things would’ve been a whole lot different.”

Experiencing the earthquake, and seeing first hand the destruction it wrought, confirmed for the young engineer that he had chosen the right profession:

“I had only been working for one year when that happened,” Reis said. “It really showed me, ‘OK, what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my career is going to make an impact. I’m going to design buildings that don’t do this. Buildings that are going to be safe.’”

In 2016, Reis founded the U.S. Resiliency Council — a non-profit dedicated to establishing and implementing rating systems that evaluate a building’s performance through an earthquake, and how it can be improved. The USRC has since developed rating systems to evaluate building resistance against other natural disasters as well.

And Reis says that it all starts with Loma Prieta.

“You spend all this time studying earthquakes in school, but they’re fairly rare,” Reis said. “Engineers can go their entire careers designing for earthquakes and never actually ever experience one.

“To see what they can do, and have physically been in a stadium that could’ve collapsed because of an earthquake, cemented this idea that I can really make a difference doing what I’m doing. And that has not ever left.”

Jim Malley, another engineer in attendance on October 17, 1989, was asked years later to peer review another stadium being built – the Giants’ soon-to-be built Pacific Bell Park – now Oracle Park. Just a few years after it opened, a 5.3 earthquake struck during a game. The stadium was engineered so well the players didn’t even realize there had been an earthquake. 

What a cool story. And for a great oral history of that crazy World Series, check out this old oral history from Grantland, published back in 2013. -TOB

Source: Meet the 1989 Earthquake World Series Attendees Who are Making San Francisco Safer, 30 Years Later”, Alex Coffey, The Athletic (10/17/2019)

Imagine Being So Dumb You Criticize an Athlete for Missing a Game to Be With His Wife and Newborn Child

Yes, it’s the year 2019, and we are still living amongst cavemen who criticize dads who choose to be with their partner and newborn child instead instead of going to work. Sigh.

This time it was Nationals’ pitcher Daniel Hudson who faced criticism from some vile corners of society. Hudson’s wife went into labor, and so Hudson left the team and missed Game 1 to be with his wife and baby. One prominent critic was this dumbass:

Unfortunately, that dumbass is former Miami Marlins President David Samson. Somehow, 344 people saw that tweet and said to themselves, “Yes, I agree, and would like to publicly state my support.”

Luckily, though, most voices drowned out Hudson’s critics. My favorite was his teammate, Sean Dolittle:

Amen. -TOB

The Unlikeliest of NHL Scouts: Former Dodger GM Ned Colletti


“Ned Colletti might be the only person in professional sports history to have traded for Manny Ramirez and scouted the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ power play.” 

That’s one hell of an opening line from Greg Wyshynski.

Ned Colletti made a career as a baseball front office guy for over 30 years, the last of those years were as the General Manager of a little underachieving baseball team in LA (you’re absolutely right; I need to be more specific: the Dodgers). Colletti is now a hockey scout for the San Jose Sharks. 

You read that right.

How does a baseball lifer simply switch sports in what he calls his “back nine” of life? It’s not all that surprising when you consider Colletti’s full journey. He grew up a rink rat in Chicago, became a sportswriter covering the Flyers, and then – when two newspapers folded in Philly – he turned to media relations for the Cubs. From there, you can fill in the blanks to GM of the Dodgers, but you also see that Colletti was a hockey guy before he was a basell guy.  

When in LA, Colletti met the coaches and front office for the Kings and Ducks. Aside from being neighbors, Colletti and the hockey guys were able to connect in a way that was impossible within their respective sports. 

As Colletti puts it: 

I couldn’t call another baseball GM. We were competing against each other. It would have been like, ‘Hey, I have a managerial problem.’ ‘Well, good for you! I hope it never ends!'”

That’s all fine, but it sure doesn’t seem to add up to Colletti scouting prospective NHL players. It’s one thing to commiserate and learn from hockey executives, but it’s entirely another to assess talent in a different sport.

Colletti would tell you it’s not all that different. While a fascinating notion, I still find it hard to believe. With that in mind, here are Colletti’s pillars to evaluating whether or not talent is ready, be it the NHL or MLB: 

  • Can I trust a player?
  • What’s inside the jersey?
  • Money can corrupt
  • There’s a reason bad signings happen
  • Analytics as a validation  

I love the idea of Colletti being down to try something new in the twilight of his career, and I love that a hockey guy gave it a shot. – PAL 

Source: Ned Colletti’s baseball lessons for NHL scouting”, Greg Wyshynski, ESPN (10/16/2019)

Professional Golfer Scores 127 in Senior LPGA Round

I’ve had my share of dreadful, never-ending rounds of golf in my time – especially at Como – but I don’t think I’ve ever logged a 127 over 18 holes. That happened this week. In a professional tournament. Get this: the same professional golfer tallied a 90 in the very next round of a LPGA event. 

Not a flat shot on that gd Como course.

Lee Ann Walker, who last played a LPGA event in 2008, entered a Senior LPGA event in French Lick, Indiana most because she wanted to visit some friends, which says something about the exclusivity of the Senior LPGA (just sayin’). In the time she’s been away from the game, there’s been some rule changes, especially around what is and isn’t OK when putting. More specifically, one rule states that “Caddies no longer can stand behind players as they prepare to hit a shot unless players back away after the caddie is no longer behind them.”

Walker didn’t get the memo until mostly through her second round. Set aside the fact that her two playing partners on day one are kind of suspect for not telling her, this oversight cost her 58 friggin’ strokes!

Each violation was good for two penalty strokes, and as the AP’s Doug Fergusoon points out, it’s incredible that Walker could remember each violation, which tallied up to 21 occurrences in round one and eight in round two. 29 x 2 strokes = 58. 

For her part, Walker didn’t seem to lose much sleep over it. “I’m glad I went. I got to see a lot of great friends, it was a great golf course, great event. Everything was great except for my penalties.”

Also, a Bleacher Seat Brewing beer to any of our readers who’ve attended a Senior LPGA event. – PAL 

Source: Pro Golfer Lee Ann Walker Has 58 Penalty strokes Added to Score After Rules Mess-up”, Doug Ferguson, Star Tribune (10/17/2019)

TOB: I saw this story on the ESPN ticker the other night and couldn’t stop laughing. I’m glad she has a good sense of humor about it.

When a Record is Not a Record
Last weekend, a human being ran the first ever sub-2 hour marathon. Specifically, Eliud Kipchoge finished a 26.2 mile run in 1:59:20. An incredible human achievement. But Kipchoge’s run will not be considered an official record. Why? Because it didn’t occur in an official marathon race. In fact, the event was termed an “exhibition marathon”:

The planning that went into the event was a fantasy of perfectionism. The organizers scouted out a six-mile circuit along the Danube River that was flat, straight, and close to sea level. Parts of the road were marked with the fastest possible route, and a car guided the runners by projecting its own disco-like laser in front of them to show the correct pace. The pacesetters, a murderers’ row of Olympians and other distance stars, ran seven-at-a-time in a wind-blocking formation devised by an expert of aerodynamics. (Imagine the Mighty Ducks’ “flying V,” but reversed.)

Kipchoge himself came equipped with an updated, still-unreleased version of Nike’s controversial Vaporfly shoes, which, research appears to confirm, lower marathoners’ times. He had unfettered access to his favorite carbohydrate-rich drink, courtesy of a cyclist who rode alongside the group. And the event’s start time was scheduled within an eight-day window to ensure the best possible weather. The whole thing was as close as you can get to a mobile marathon spa treatment—if going to a spa were paired with the worst discomfort of your life.

First, excellent Mighty Ducks reference. Second…huh. Hm. I get why this doesn’t count as a “record” in the official sense; everyone racing in official marathons after this should not be required to chase this time. Yes, it’s apples and oranges, but to bite a line by my old hoops buddy, you can compare them – they’re both fruit. 

So when I read within this article sports scientist Yannis Pitsiladis called the achievement “meaningless”, I just want to rage. MEANINGLESS? Because it didn’t follow a set of arbitrary rules the sports has agreed upon for competitions? MEANINGLESS? No, man. Hell, no. Did Kipchoge still run 26.2 miles? Did he do that in under 2 hours? Did he ride a motor scooter? No? Ok, then there’s meaning to this – it’s an incredible achievement and it should absolutely be celebrated. What’s more, it gives all elite marathoners the knowledge that the 2-hour barrier is not a barrier at all. I’m guessing someone will break 2 hours, in competition, sooner rather than later. -TOB

Source: The Greatest, Fakest World Record”, Paul Bisceglio, The Atlantic (10/13/2019)

PAL: 100%. Record? No one would argue that. But to say it’s meaningless sure sounds like a troll to me. 01:59:59 is no longer an abstraction, and not quite a reality, but Kipchoge moved it from a mythical concept and into the real world. He was a runner crossing a finish line with 01 still on the clock above him. It matters as much as the first “real” sub-2:00 marathon, because it has given a generation or two of runners a reason and face to believe it’s possible. 

Also – maybe TOB and I should film each other running 13.1 MPH on the treadmill and see how long we can last. 30 seconds? What’s the over-under? 

Elite Pro Athletes Are Complete Lunatics

Carli Lloyd is a very good soccer player. Was and is one of the best in the world. In the 2015 World Cup Final, she scored a hat trick as the U.S. took the title in a laugher over Japan. 

Before this year, she was a big part of the U.S. achieving that World Cup victory, another second-place finish, and two Olympic gold medals. She’s 37 years old now, though, which ahem is young, of course, but a little on the not-so-young side for a professional athlete. At this past summer’s World Cup, Lloyd played in every single game and scored three goals in helping the U.S. win the tournament, but she did so as the team’s first sub off the bench. You might think, “Wow incredible, she’s 37 and still able to perform at such a high level and help her team win the World Cup! She must be thrilled!” You’d be wrong. Here’s Lloyd in a recent interview:

There’s no denying it. I deserved to be on that field that whole World Cup, but I wasn’t. And I think I’ve grown as a person, as a player. It sucked. It absolutely sucked.

It was absolutely the worst time of my life. It affected my relationship with my husband, with friends. It really was rock bottom of my entire career.

Remember: she played in every game. She scored 3 goals. But she didn’t start every game; she didn’t play every single minute, so it was the worst time of her life. That’s crazy, and also suggests an extremely privileged and charmed life. It’s sorta funny, but not all that endearing I can’t imagine her teammates, especially the one who started in front of her, appreciated those comments very much. But, if you’re going to be an elite athlete, you usually have to be a selfish ahole. -TOB

Source: Carli Lloyd On Playing Every Single Match And Winning The World Cup: ‘It Sucked,’Luis Paez-Pumar, Deadspin (10/15/2019)

PAL: Telling note from the article: Lloyd was cut from the U-21 National team. If you don’t think that slight has driven her for the past 16 years, then I direct you to every professional athlete who remember every single player that was drafted ahead of them. Lloyd is the best kind of player – the one who still thinks they have something to prove after proving everything. That can be a grating person to be around, but that attitude cranks up the competition within a team and fuels the idea that everyone needs to earn their time and spot because someone is gunning for her minutes. 

Videos of the Week

Tweets of the Week

Song of the Week: John Prine & Iris Dement – (We’re Not) The Jet Set

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Next Cove, please, Julius!

-Tom Wambsgans


Week of October 11, 2019

Mr. May in agony. Sweet, sweet agony.

The NBA and China: To Paraphrase Tupac: It Isn’t About East and West. It’s About Power and Money. Riders and Chumps. Which Side Are You On?

So, the NBA. What a week, huh? Rockets GM Daryl Morey started an international incident by tweeting support for protesters in Hong Kong. The Rockets owner quickly distanced himself from Morey’s tweet; Morey deleted the tweet and said he made the tweet without understanding the issues; China and Chinese companies have all but banned the Rockets in China, wiping away a history that is long, dating back to 2002, when the team drafted Yao Ming.

To understand all this, we should first understand what the protests are about because it’s important. The protests in Hong Kong began a few months ago in response to a law proposed by the Hong Kong government in response to a gruesome crime: the murder of Poon Hiu-wing allegedly by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai. The murder occurred in Taiwan, where the two Hong Kong residents were visiting. Chan Tong-kai escaped to Hong Kong. Hong Kong does not have an extradition treaty with Taiwan, because China does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty. 

The law would allow Hong Kong authorities to extradite persons wanted in outside countries with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China. Opponents of the proposed law do not want China included, for fear that the Chinese government would use it to quell pro-Democracy political opponents. So, they protested. And the protests have widened into bigger concerns about China’s aims to erode the “one country, two systems” arrangement in place since the United Kingdom handed control of Hong Kong back to China in 1997. 

Ok, back to the Morey story. In the aftermath of the Tweet, the NBA tried and miserably failed to walk a tightrope between supporting its employee’s right to express his opinions and the league’s billions of dollars of interest in China. As Brian Phillips sums up the aftermath:

The Chinese Basketball Association formally suspended its relationship with the Rockets. With the NBA’s preseason Global Games underway—including two games in China this week—Rockets merchandise disappeared from Chinese e-commerce platforms, and Chinese telecom companies stopped showing Rockets games. The NBA released an incoherent response, in English, that said all it wanted to do was bring people together; then a more sternly incoherent version appeared on the league’s Chinese social media account, in Mandarin, that said the NBA was extremely disappointed in Morey’s inappropriate tweet and all it wanted to do was bring people together.

The whole thing is an absolute sh-t show, but I thought this Phillips attacked the NBA’s hypocrisy the best. As the lede says, this story “might look like a complicated story of accidental cultural conflict brought about through deep geopolitical nuance. It isn’t. It’s just another nasty little farce about money and power.” Phillips thesis is more or less as follows:

The Chinese government does not care what Daryl Morey thinks about Hong Kong. I doubt many people in the league office sincerely think Morey’s tweet was morally wrong—as opposed to strategically foolish—or that the protesters are mistaken to be concerned about China’s encroachments on the “one country, two systems” policy by which Hong Kong has been governed since 1997. But it suits the interests of the government to force a popular American sports franchise to performatively legitimize its actions in Hong Kong. And it suits the financial interests of the Rockets and the league to capitulate to the demands of the government, because not capitulating would make it harder for them to fulfill the deepest dream of all sports owners: make enough money to buy a private island, then move to that island and do favors for its authoritarian government in return for tax breaks.

There’s nothing edifying about any of this, except to the extent that it’s a useful reminder of where we are. We’re in a world where global capital feels perfectly comfortable teaming up with communist autocrats against democracy activists, as long as it keeps the cash registers dinging. Generally speaking, the hypocrisy of sports owners feels more depressing than the hypocrisy of other tycoon varietals, because sports owners represent a product that you’d like to believe has a meaning surpassing commerce. This is especially true about the NBA, because the NBA is so proud of its social conscience, or at least it was before its social conscience started threatening to cost it money.

For the most part, though, you’ll never be surprised if you assume that the devotion of sports owners to their own self-interest, and of sports leagues to their owners’ self-interest, is absolute. The NBA wants you to see it as politically progressive to the precise extent that your seeing it as progressive helps the bottom line and no further. Tilman Fertitta, the Rockets’ owner, occasionally goes on CNBC to praise Donald Trump, from whom he bought an Atlantic City casino in 2011, and to say things like “Obamacare does not work.” He has no problem then turning around and declaring that the Rockets are a “non-political organization” to make nice with China, because what he means by “non-political organization” is that he thinks hundred-dollar bills are nice, and also fuck you.

Ooooooooh daaaaaang. Fire.

I also wanted to point out the hypocrisy of new Nets owner Joseph Tsai, a Taiwanese-Canadian. Tsai, who made his fortune as the co-founder of Alibaba Group, posted a long message on Facebook, condemning Morey’s tweet and seemingly attempting to scare any other players or executives from wading into these waters:

What is the problem with people freely expressing their opinion? This freedom is an inherent American value and the NBA has been very progressive in allowing players and other constituents a platform to speak out on issues.

The problem is, there are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities.

Wow. In other words. “Freedom of expression is great… unless it upsets people and possibly costs me money.” Which, of course, is not freedom at all. And as Phillips points out, Tsai’s letter “somehow made the feelings of Hong Kong’s citizens seem less important to the question of Hong Kong’s governance than the feelings of Chinese people outside Hong Kong.”

What seems especially dumb about the NBA is this: first, their attempts to appease the Chinese have failed. So they’ve laid bare their fake commitment to progressivism and letting their employees speak this minds, and they’ve lost money. 

I also think the NBA underestimates its power here. The NBA is wildly popular in China. If the NBA supported Morey and the Chinese government tried to ban the NBA, there would be a few hundred million NBA fans angry they could no longer watch. NBA: Trust your product! Instead, it looks weak, kowtowing to the Chinese government, and losing credibility domestically. Dumb. -TOB

Source: The NBA’s Convenient “Non-political” Stance Comes at a Cost”, Brian Phillips, The Ringer (10/07/2019)

PAL: I appreciated the perspective from Sopan Dep of The NY Times: 

The tweet put the league in a situation familiar to many global companies seeking to do business in a Communist country with 1.4 billion people: Any misstep could mean swiftly losing access to a powerful economy.

China Central Television, the state broadcaster, made clear the risks of challenging Beijing, chiding the league for an earlier expression of support for Morey’s free speech rights.

The NBA knew there were going to be some murky ethical waters in China decades before a friggin’ general manager tweeted, and they knew the Chinese market was massive. Show me a time when a multi-billion dollar business came free of ethical and political dilemmas.

The only thing that changed this week is Morey’s tweet made it so the NBA and the rest of us couldn’t ignore the concessions the NBA made in pursuit of globalization. Things will go back to normal in no time.

The Loneliest Man In Sports

Watching Clayton Kershaw cough up the yet another Dodgers post-season*, I wondered if there’s any lonelier position in sports than a relief pitcher, a guy literally standing on a tiny island with the fate of a season gripped in his hand. Maybe a goalie in a shootout situation (hockey or soccer). How about a gymnast participating in a team all-around competition?

In order for a player to feel lonely, I think they need to be a part of a team sport; a golfer or a swimmer doesn’t feel lonely because he/she is pretty much always alone in competition. 

And then I thought of the kicker on a football team. Is there any position in team sports more segregated from the rest of the team? Hell, the kicker on a football team doesn’t even look like a football player. If he makes the field goal, he’s done his the baseline of his job; if he misses, he’s the reason the team loses. Miss a couple field goals, and the team is looking for anyone – literally anyone – who can kick. Football, Rugby. Soccer. It doesn’t matter.. Can you imagine if a highly recruited QB is replaced after missing 4 throws in a row? 

With all of this in mind, I share Tashan Reed’s in depth look at the Aguayo brothers. First Roberto and now Ricky have been the starting kicker for Florida State since 2013. 

Here’s what I love about this story: 

I’m a sucker for brother stories

To have a brother to share such a lonely experience is incredibly compelling. It’s one thing to confide in your holder, but to be able to call a brother who understands every synapse of your experience. 

The fragility of the position

Miss 5 of 10, and you’re likely out of a job, be it pros or college. In Ricky’s case, go 1 for 5, and the wolves are closing in this season (another kicker was sent in for the field goal in the most recent game, as of publication of this story). Add that to a less than sterling 2018 (11/17), and Ricky’s got a problem, special teams captain or otherwise. 

Kicking isn’t football, but it determines so many outcomes. Or how about the absurd speciality of kicking in relation to the rest of football. The disparity of skill sets between that position and every other on the team is comical. Get this: after Roberto showed some real talent high school, he went to the Kohl’s Professional Camps, a specialty camp for kickers. But it’s a bit more important than just a kicking camp.

Per Reed: 

Soon after, Roberto received an invitation from Kohl’s Professional Camps. Today, 99.2 percent of FBS teams have a kicker, punter or long snapper from Kohl’s Kicking. The coaches who ran the camps told Roberto they believed he could make it to the league one day.

99.2%? This should be the pitch for a Netflix doc about placekickers. 

This part of football is completely sequestered, and yet, how many of the most important games are determined by 3 points or less?

So you have all these factors only reinforcing isolation within a team sport. Hell, kickers only get one – maybe two – of the 16 sessions (whatever the hell a session means in terms of time or reps) within a practice. That means they are on the field with the rest of the team for at best 13% of the time. 

All that time alone on the side fields can leave a man with his thoughts. Left to his own devices, Ricky has developed some of his own tactics, informed by Roberto’s struggles in the NFL: 

As Roberto struggled through his first NFL season, he depended on his parents and his wife, Courtney. But his brother could relate on a different level. The older brother elaborated on what he should’ve done better. He pointed out how an adjustment to his plant foot or his follow-through on kicks could’ve led to fewer misses. The corrections were minuscule, but those talks opened Ricky’s eyes to their importance.

“It made me pay attention to more detail,” Aguayo says. “When he was here, he wasn’t really worried because everything was going good with his kick. It kind of put it into perspective, OK, well, why ain’t I doing this?’ He’s paying attention to that much detail, well, let me do the same thing to try to be better as well.”

Each time he practices, Aguayo videos at least one of his attempts. He also takes three pictures — before he starts his approach, at the point of impact and on his follow-through — and he hangs them on his wall. He looks at them at least five times a day. The purpose of this technique, which he learned from Roberto, is to know exactly what his swing looks like so he can visualize it at any moment.

Visualizing is essential for kickers to perform well in extreme situations. Unlike other positions, where a player can build upon positive experiences throughout the course of a game, kickers get that opportunity far less often and under much more intense focus.

Let’s not forget: more than any other position in football, kickers score points. Every single one of the top 20 point leaders in NFL history are kickers. Sure, a QB who throws a touchdown doesn’t get six points – only the receiver does, but still…you’d think kickers would get a bit more respect when the contribute more points in a game in which, you know, points are used to determine winners and losers. 

A fascinating examination of brotherhood, isolation, and the fleeting nature of sport. – PAL 

Source: “The precarious life of the placekicker: Inside the head of Florida State’s Ricky Aguayo with his career on the line”, Tashan Reed, The Athletic (10/09/19) 

* It’s OK to respect Kershaw and hate the Dodgers at the same time, right?

TOB: Yes, of course, Mr. May should get his due.

The Braves Experience Instant Karma

The first World Series I really remember was 1991 World Series between the Twins and the Braves. It was a notable World Series, because it was a 7-game classic that went to extras in Game 7, but also in part because the two fanbases had a “thing”: Twins fans whipped around those white hankies, and Braves fans did the “Tomahawk Chop” with an accompanying chant. The Tomahawk Chop was new to Braves fans, as some report that it came to the Braves with Deion Sanders, the former Florida State star. FSU fans had been doing the chant/chop since the mid-80s. But it’s not 1991 anymore, and as a society we are moving away, finally, from blatantly offensive things, like the Tomahawk Chop. Unless you’re the Braves.

During this year’s NLDS, the Braves faced the St. Louis Cardinals. Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley is part Cherokee, and during the series he expressed his feeling that the chop is deeply offensive, and he wished the Braves would stop. Halsley is not the first person who has said this over the years. But hearing a player says it got most thinking people to say, “Hm, yeah, this is long overdue.” So, the Braves thought it over and did away with the Tomahawk Chop. What a great story!

I’m kidding, they didn’t do that. They did the opposite. Instead, minutes before the deciding Game 5 in Atlanta, the Braves announced the following: they would “reduce” the Tomahawk Chop by (1) not passing out foam Tomahawks before the game, as they had before Games 1 nd 2; and (2) not use the musical prompt for the Tomahawk Chop when Halsley is on the mound. 

I mean, FFS. Why is this so hard? The team cannot force Braves fans to stop doing the chop, of course. But they could strongly discourage fans from doing it, and they could cease the musical prompt, period. 

Remember, this announcement came just minutes before the start of Game 5. And then the game started, Braves fans starting doing the chop immediately, and here’s the first inning went for them:

10-0 before Atlanta even went to bat. LOLOLOL. I was listening to the whole thing on the Braves radio broadcast, and I felt like Cartman licking Scott Tenorman’s tears. 

Instant karma, baby. Do bad things, bad things happen. -TOB

Sports is Reveling in Your Rival’s Failure

The Dodgers have won the NL West seven straight years. The Dodgers made the World Series the last two years. The Dodgers won 106 games this year (that’s a lot of games). But they will head into 2020 still having not won the World Series since I was 6 years old, in 1988. Glorious.

One of the best things about sports is taking joy in your rival’s failure. No, the Giants didn’t make the playoffs this year (though I believe glory days will return soon), and haven’t since 2016. So my October, for the third straight year, was instead focused on rooting for #AnyoneButDodgers. Luckily, this year, I didn’t have to wait long, as the Nats bounced the Dodgers in the winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday night.

My wife and I went to a concert that night. We stopped for dinner before, and I was able to watch the game at the restaurant. When we had to leave, the Dodgers led 3-1, and former ace Clayton Kershaw had just come in relief for new ace Walker Buehler, with the go ahead run at the plate, and two outs in the 7th inning. Kershaw, whose playoffs struggles are long (and at this point statistically significant – he’s pitched 150+ postseason innings and his postseason ERA is nearly double his regular season ERA, sitting at over 4.50). Kershaw struck out Eaton to end the threat. DAMN.

We got to the Fillmore and as we waited for Ingrid Michaelson to begin, I followed along with my phone. Kershaw came back out for the 8th to face possible NL MVP Anthony Rendon, and Nats’ phenom Juan Soto. How’d it go, Clayton?

Dinger. Dinger. LOLLLLLLLLLL. I laughed and laughed. Of course, the game wasn’t over. It was tied at 3. In the bottom of the 9th, Dodgers catcher Will Smith juuuuuuust missed a game winning home run. But he did miss it. And in the 10th, the Nats loaded the bases with no outs, and Howie Kendrick came up and hit a grand slam to center. WOO!

When we got home, I spent some time on Giants twitter, laughing at all the best burns. Here’s a selection:

Celebrating your team’s win is the best; but second best is laughing at your rival when they repeatedly get hit in the face with a rake.

I can now sleep easy…until October 2020. -TOB

People Can’t Resist Messing Up A Good Thing

If you were ever looking for the steps on how to take an altruistic idea and completely botch it, look no further than the 9th Ward Field of Dreams New Orleans. People are the worst sometimes, and it’s important for good writing to capture that. Good grief.

Long story short: Hurricane Katrina decimated the 9th Ward. Even prior to the disaster, none of the high schools in Desire area of New Orleans had a home football field. A young Teach for America educator, Brian Bordianick, saw that a football field could represent a reinvestment – not only of money but pride – in the community. The grassroots campaign gained momentum. Before long, who’s who of New Orleans were getting involved. 

Per Jeff Duncan, Lee Zurik and Cody Lillich:

The grassroots campaign took off and garnered donations from the likes of Drew Brees, James Carville, Sean Payton and Alyssa Milano. The feel-good story became a symbol for New Orleans’ recovery and attracted nationwide publicity, even earning a mention from President Barack Obama in his 2010 speech to commemorate the 5-year anniversary of the storm.

It’s been six years since city officials conducted the groundbreaking ceremony for the stadium. It’s been four years since officials publicly announced the field would be named in honor of Marshall Faulk, a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back and former Carver standout.

Today, no stadium has been built. An empty grass field sits on the proposed stadium site. And more than $1 million in donations and pledges are gone.

What the hell happened? They had the money. They had a driver in Bordianick, they the donation of services from architectural firms and contractors. They had everything needed to build a stadium, and yet the site remains a parking lot with weeds towering out of asphalt cracks. 

By 2011, they had 1.2MM in donations, plus hundreds of thousands in service donations. Also at that time, there was a push for a charter group to run the school The locals weren’t interested. Divisiveness grew between the school and the community. Bordianick tried to show good faith to the community by adding another board seat to the organization for a community leader. Things began to unfurl from there. At some point the Field of Dreams became multiple things to multiple people.

After years of fundraising and planning with a local architectural firm, complete with some last-minute concessions to come in at budget, Bordianick and the firm had a field plan ready for construction at 1.3MM. They nixed the track, bathrooms, and concessions from phase 1, but they thought a proof of concept would be the best way to convince the public for additional funds to build out the stadium with all the original bells. 

However, members of the board saw it differently: 

Some members of the Field of Dreams board, though, had another plan. They saw vast potential in the stadium project and wanted to expand its scope rather than reduce it. They wanted to manage the stadium and make it a for-profit venture for the community, according to Ripple. Consequently, they proposed a grander project, one that would cost $2.8 million.

Bordainick was fundamentally opposed to delaying the project any further. He thought about the donors he’d pitched and the kids he’d inspired along the way. If construction didn’t begin soon, he worried that the project would stall and never get off the ground. He feared there would be a “lost generation” of local youths with no positive outlets in the community if the stadium were not built as quickly as possible.

It was precisely after reading these to paragraphs when I started shaking my head. Eventually, Bordianick bounced, and Betty Washington was, for some reason, called on to replace him. Not smart. Aside from her felony tax and bankruptcy fraud, her legal licence was suspended. Oh, and she also demanded a 5K per month salary for acting as executive director. Executive Director or what, I do not know. Construction never began. Grants were reallocated. Fundraising all but stopped. 

In the time that Brian Bordianick began this idea in 2008 and 2016, a 50MM+ Carver High School has been built. It sits alongside the site of the 1.5MM dollar athletic field that remains a parking lot. If you didn’t know the backstory, you might think that building a new school before a new field makes sense, but nothing about this story makes sense. It just challenges your faith in people.- PAL 

Source: “What happened to New Orleans Field of Dream and its $1 million in donations?”, Jeff Duncan, Lee Zurik and Cody Lillich, The Athletic w/ WVUE-TV in New Orleans

Video of the Week

Tweet of the Week

Song of the Week – Ringo Starr – “Photograph”

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Dad, go to hell. I’m taller than you!

-Drew Bernard

Week of October 4, 2019

Thanks, Boch

Bruce Bochy managed his last game for the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. I paid a mint to be there. My wife asked why it was so important. I considered it a moment and said, “The man had a large part in a half dozen of the twenty or so happiest moments of my life.” And I thought for a few more moments, and confirmed in my mind what I had just said. In terms of pure, unadulterated joy, he really did. So, I had to be there to say thanks. I brought my oldest boy, because he’s old enough now to remember, and I want him to be able to say, “I went to Bruce Bochy’s last game – he was the last true manager.”

Baseball is changing. Analytics have taken over. Teams are smarter, more ruthless. Teams make decisions on probabilities, not hunches. On the whole, I think it’s made the game better. But an inevitability of that change is that the manager means less. There’s less strategy, more looking at pitch counts and heat maps and splits and spray charts. A computer could manage a ball club at this point, and with some teams, they basically do. But Bruce Bochy proves that teams are wrong to do so. 

On Sunday, dozens of Bochy’s former players showed up, just like I did. After the game ended, they were introduced, team by team, player by player, to the crowd. Names I had forgotten, like Vinnie Chulk, Dan Runzler, and Kevin Correia. Names that made me laugh like Tyler Walker, Brian Wilson, and Pedro Feliz. And names I could never forget, like Coddy MF Ross, Edgar Renteria, and Marco Scutaro. And, of course, Timothy LeRoy Lincecum.

Timmy had not been back to the park in the five years since he left the team, and word has been he had declined invitations to do so. The end of his career is so painful for the fans to whom he gave such joy, and we wanted to say thanks. All week the talk amongst Giants fans was: Is Timmy going to show up? I stayed offline all day Saturday and Sunday, because I figured it’d leak, and I didn’t want to know, either way. During the ceremony, Renel announced the 2010 players, no Tim. Hm. She announced the 2012 players, no Tim. Hm. She announced the 2014 players, no Tim. Hmmm. And then, suddenly,


She didn’t even get through “Fifty Five” and I lost my friggin mind. 42,000+ lost their friggin minds. Tim smiled, and waved, and laughed. I followed him over to Boch, and Boch gave him a bear hug. It took Bochy leaving to get Timmy to come back, and that tells you how much Bochy meant to Tim.

Then the speeches began, and it was great. Man, was it great. Peavy got me legit watery-eyed. When Vogey spoke, I could feel the true gratitude he had in his heart for Bochy, someone who believed in him and helped to revive his career. Earlier, during the game, they played a video message from Panda, and when Panda broke down, I got choked up then, too. But it was when Bochy spoke that I really got emotional, and so did so many people around me. 

His full speech was almost fifteen minutes. It was heartfelt and funny, and I was so glad I got to be there. 

Bruce Bochy may be the last of his tribe – the old school manager; one who does not ignore statistics and probabilities, but one who also understands his players on a deep level, and almost always managed to pull the right strings. He was able to do so because he’s in the trenches. He knows his players. He knows what they need, and what they can give him or can’t give him, each and every game. He didn’t just make lineup decisions and pitching changes. He managed the club. He managed their personalities, their insecurities, and their egos. He managed to maximize their strengths and hide their weaknesses. He took the blame when they failed, and deflected all the praise to them when they succeeded. He was fiercely loyal to his players, and in turn they were fiercely loyal to him. 

I’ve never heard of a manager retirement ceremony like this, where so many former players showed up to pay tribute, and I was very pleased to read this week that Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi walked away from Sunday’s ceremony similarly impressed. As Hank Schulman wrote this week:

As Farhan Zaidi watched Sunday’s farewell ceremony at Oracle Park, he was struck by the affection that five dozen current and former players showed Bruce Bochy.

That scene fortified what he already felt from working with other managers in Oakland and Los Angeles, that the most important trait he can find in Bochy’s replacement is a leader who forges close ties with his players and front-office partners, in that order.

It’s going to be deeply, deeply weird to see another manager leaning on that rail next season, and I will miss Boch something awful. But I am hopeful the next manager will have many of the same qualities. He’s sure got a big hat to fill. -TOB

Bochy Made The Giants Easy To Love

As my Twins set out to try to stop a 13-game playoff losing streak in the Bronx, the ultimate fantasy of any fan has officially come to an end in San Francisco. Bruce Bochy has managed his last game for the Giants, and while it’s been five years since the Giants won the last of three World Series under Bochy, his departure stamps it official. 

I am lucky to have lived in a place when a team goes on an extended run like that. Nothing brings a community together like a postseason run. To hear cheers and expletives from the apartments across the street, or the bar down the block erupt in celebration. It’s the best. No matter where life takes me, I will always think of San Francisco on a warm fall evening with the restaurants and bars, windows open, filled with people watching a Giants playoff game. It’s when the most beautiful city in the world felt most alive. 

The Giants were easy to root for, and Bochy was perhaps the easiest of all to like. Aside from liking him, Claire McNear writes that Boch signals the end of an era: 

But the time for dynastic managers like Bochy has nearly ended. At the start of the 2019 season, just five of 30 managers in Major League Baseball had been leading their teams for more than four seasons. The ability of a manager to wield much decision-making power has shriveled as front offices have taken ever more control over the on-field product. The grounds for firing have likewise grown: The Cubs, for instance, seem all but certain to part ways with Joe Maddon, who led the Northsiders to their first championship in 108 years in 2016 and a playoff berth in each of his first four years with the team, and nearly—OK, kinda—a fifth one this fall. It’s not enough; for most teams now, it’s not clear what could ever be.

And yet the Giants remained Bochy’s for 12 years, through seasons great and dismal, through the lost causes and the should’ve-made-it years alike, through the period when the team’s unofficial slogan was “Giants Baseball: Torture” and through the years that ended with parades. In his hands, baseball felt like something older, less fragile: Sometimes there are crap years and sometimes great ones, and neither will last forever.

Of course winning cures all, but there’s something crucially irrational to the best fan experience. There’s a romance in putting trust in a guy that talks about the baseball gods while not denying the value in some statistics that don’t appear on the back of baseball cards from another century. 

With Bochy, I always got a good feeling, and his teams were made up of dudes that were easy to like – Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Buster were the best of the best, but the characters like Hunter Pence, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo, Javy Lopez, and many more were intensely adored. To a man, their respect and adulation for Bochy has been unwavering. 

A baseball season is a long haul, and you gotta like the team if you’re really going to follow them through all those games. I always liked rooting for the Giants, and I am realizing today that Bruce Bochy had a lot to do that.  -PAL 

Source: Bruce Bochy Bids Farewell”, Claire McNear, The Ringer (09/27/19)

TOB: Great stuff, buddy.


As you may know, Phil’s Minnesota Twins won 101 (!!!) games this season, and set the all-time MLB record for home runs by a team, with 307. This is their first appearance in a division series since 2010. And I’m guessing Phil hasn’t been to a Twins home playoff game since…if not the early 2000s, then…maybe ever?

So last week I texted him about an idea for plans this weekend and he said he can’t, he’ll be in Minnesota. Wow, I think, the sonofagun is really flying home to see the Twins play. Good for him.

So I checked the Twins schedule, and they play in New York Friday and Saturday and host the Yankees Monday. So, I asked when he leaves, and if it’s on Saturday, maybe we can meet up and watch Game 1 Friday:

“Flying Friday, flying back Monday.”

“You’re not going to Game 3!?”

“Got flight before this!”

“Dude CHANGE IT. You have my permission.”

He did not address my demand. Folks, if you have Phil’s phone number or e-mail address, please reach out. Tell him to change his flight to Tuesday, and tell him to enjoy the hell out of that game, in person. -TOB

Belichick Shows Another Side of Patriot Way

Here’s a fun little nugget about Bill Belichick, courtesy of Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. 

For all the attention to detail, dedication, and focus Belichick is known for, the coach apparently thinks the rules don’t apply to him. We’re not talking meaningless, harmless rules, folks. No, we’re talking about the types of rules that, when someone ignores them, the only correct response is ‘OH COME ON, DUDE!”

I just so happen to walk by the hot tub and coach is in the hot tub. Obviously, I came in the room to go in the hot tub. But then we made eye contact and my natural instinct was to turn around like I was gonna leave. But then I saw that he saw that I was in there and then he got up and got out and real, real big party foul by coach. We’re supposed to have shorts on. Supposed to have shorts. But I guess at 11 o’clock, when you’re the GOAT of coaching you go wherever you want, free—free ball. So I had to hide my absolute face of terror after seeing what I saw and sit in the hot tub.

Birthday suit in a hot tub that’s not your own? Not cool, Bill. Can a reporter please, please, please ask him about using a team hot tub in the nude during the next press conference? 

Also, is there anyone that loves anything as much as Julian Edelman loves being on the Patriots and being in the vicinity of Tom Brady? – PAL 

Source: Julian Edelman Tells Detailed Story About an Awkward Encounter With Bill Belichick”, Jimmy Traina, SI.com (10/02/19)

Sports Illustrated, Placed In Trashcan Outside, Waits for Trash Day

Yesterday, 40% of an already depleted staff at SI was laid off. This is not shocking. The iconic magazine had been sold twice in the last two years, and now is in the hands of a company that, per Bryan Curtis of The Ringer, manages the images of dead celebrities like Ali and Marilyn Monroe. 200 contractors will replace the full-time writers and staffers. And that’s the way SI turns this around – by building cheaper, less qualified workforce.

Of course, the goal for its parent company is to wring out, not build up. It will extract whatever drips of value that remain until there’s nothing left, and then SI will I guess be officially classified as waste.

I have little to offer other than a few ideas. You shouldn’t see today’s awfulness as a single event—“the day SI died.” You should see it as the latest in a series of awful events. SI laid off a lot of people in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Spare a thought for the people who lost their jobs back then. They weren’t treated any fairer than the writers who got the sack today.

Of course it was a long time coming. And instead of using this minute of your day to bemoan the death of the newspaper and print (we all saw it coming for 20 years and, at most, we subscribed to a paper, so all of us should not saddle up on the high horse on this one), I only would like to speak to the joy of monoculture (with a hat-tip to Chuck Klosterman). Monoculture wasn’t lost this week either, but this was just a kick to the ribs to make sure it was dead (it is).

Now sports content is a lot about breaking stories and uploading highlights as immediately as possible. It’s takes on takes on takes (talking heads on any of the sports networks). It’s analysts with TelePrompTers showing us the nuance of run-blocking and route-running and super slo-mo instant replay.

The highlight piece of the current sports landscape is incredible – let’s not overlook that. Being told something awesome happened somewhere – anywhere – in the sports world and immediately finding video evidence is so gratifying…and at once tossed into the trash. Onto the next. Always next. Always right now.

There is something lost in binging on sports content. The idea, one SI represented, that something noteworthy happened in sports and world-class writer had a few days to write about it, and then we all read the piece, and then we all talked about it – that part of monoculture is not without value or merit.

Of course, we find ourselves in miniature versions of that place through various art ant entertainment – pretty much everyone I know read Unbroken or a Malcom Gladwell book, and now millions of people (and a good chunk of my friends) listen to the same podcasts as I do.

But finding likeminded folks is very different than an authority like an SI editor telling sports fans what’s worth reading about and who’s words should describe the topics worth our time. It’s important to share experiences with people who don’t see the world – even the sports world – the same way as I do.

And of course the irony of Bryan Curtis writing a column about the death of Sports Illustrated on for a sports and pop culture website run by Bill Simmons is not lost on any of us.

A couple weeks ago I was listening to this interview with a person whose expertise is waste. The economy of waste, the operations of waste, shipping patterns, etc.; in other words, what happens the moment we put the garbage out and never think of it again. It was fascinating, surprisingly complex, and shockingly lucrative (I guess I should’ve learned that lesson from The Sopranos). Reading this story about SI layoffs reminded me of that interview. – PAL

Source Crueler and Dumber by the Day: On ‘Sports Illustrated’ and a Dark Media LandscapeBryan Curtis, The Ringer (10/03/19)

Another NBA Rap Battle

Somehow, Shaq and Dame Lillard got into a rap beef this week. Ok, well, Dame was on a podcast and said Shaq wasn’t a good rapper in his day, but was popular because he was Shaq. Which, fair. But Shaq came out of retirement, and I gotta tell ya – it’s not awful! In fact, it’s pretty good, especially for a guy approaching 50. 

Dame’s retort:

Ok, Dame probably wins, but it’s closer than I’d have thought. The Ringer’s Shaker Samman does a good job breaking it all down. -TOB

Source: Is This a Thing? Dame Lillard and Shaq’s Rap Beef”, Shaker Samman, The Ringer (10/3/2019)

More Bochy Stuff

We read a lot of stuff this week on Bruce Bochy, here are a few of our favorites:

Saying Goodbye to Bruce Bochy and the Golden Era of Giants Baseball”, Grant Brisbee, The Athletic (09/29/2019)

For Tim Lincecum, and So Many Others, the Ultimate Giants Reunion Was a Celebration of Bruce Bochy’s Legacy”, Andrew Baggarly, The Athletic (09/29/2019)

Stop Celebrating Bruce Bochy’s 2,000th Victory”, Ray Ratto, Deadspin (09/19/2019)

Video of the Week

Tweet of the Week

Song of the Week: Kamasi Washington – “Leroy and Lanisha”



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He’s a linebacker. Skill positions only for Donna Meagle. 

-Donna Meagle