Abolish the Infield Fly Rule

Two years ago, while wondering why the dropped third strike rule exists in baseball, I wrote the following:

Baseball has some weird rules, but you can usually figure out why the rule exists by playing the alternative out to its extreme conclusion: It’s usually trying to prevent something from happening that people decided was unfair. For example, the infield fly rule exists because defenders intentionally let routine fly balls drop to the ground in order to get a double play, instead of taking the out.

I stick by that descriptive statement but I stand before you now to say this: the infield fly rule sucks. It’s TERRIBLE. It needs to go. As I said in that paragraph – baseball has some weird rules, and most of them were not in existence when the game began. Instead those rules were created as a reaction to ways in which players subverted the blank spaces of the rules to their advantage. 

But there are problems with the infield fly rule – first, it’s both hyper-specific and non-specific.  On the hyper-specific end of the spectrum, the rule is only invoked when there are runners at first and second or the bases are loaded, and less than two outs. Speaking from experience, this gives umpires something extra to think about before a pitch on top of the umpire’s other duties. You have to know when the rule is in play based on those guidelines or you won’t have time to realize it after the ball is hit. On the non-specific end of the spectrum, the ball must be a “fly ball” but specifically not a line drive (which is absolutely getting into a wide swath of gray area) that “can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort.” And what the hell that means is really open to interpretation. As the comment to the MLB rule states:

The umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder-not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder.

Yes, the infield fly rule can be invoked when the ball is hit into the outfield. It can also be called when an outfielder in fact makes the play. And what the heck constitutes “ordinary effort”? Worst of all, if I am reading this right, the infield fly rule can be invoked when the ball is foul (“not by some arbitrary limitation such as … the base lines.” WHAT!? That isn’t even consistent with the reason for the rule!). What a mess.

The aftermath of the play is the most confusing. “When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk.” What does this mean in this context? Can a runner tag up and go as soon as the umpire calls the batter out, the same they would after the ball is caught? Or, if the rule is invoked can a runner advance before the infielder catches it? And if they advance before the infielder catches it and then the infielder catches it, can the runner be thrown out for leaving early? I think I know, but the rule is not clear, which seems problematic.

The infield fly rule has always bugged me for these reasons. But it gnawed its way through my brain this week as I read How to Watch Basketball Like a Genius, by Anthony Greene. In the book’s opening chapters, Greene dives into the 13 original rules of basketball, as written by Dr. James Naismith, and how players worked within the rules to innovate the game to make it better. Here’s Greene, quoting NYU professor and game designer Eric Zimmerman:

“You can tell that Naismith was thinking about exceptions,” Zimmerman says of the first set of rules. “Trying to figure out the loopholes players will try to exploit.” But the exploitation of rules is vital to a game’s evolution. Essentially everything related to basketball that isn’t contained within its original thirteen rules developed because some player somewhere at sometime fudged with them.”

Remember what I said up there about baseball? Baseball’s weird rules were created to “prevent something from happening that people decided was unfair.” But Greene makes the compelling case that this is wrong. The thirteen original rules of basketball prevent “running with the ball,” but permit “throwing” and “batting” the ball “in any direction.” The rules, as written, expected players to be stationary. But it did not take long for some Ivy League boys to find the blank space in the rules – dribbling. Did Naismith find this innovation cheating? Did he try to stop it? Nope. Instead he called it, “one of the most spectacular and exciting maneuvers in basketball.” And he’s right. Again, from Greene’s book:

“It is a subversion,” Dr. Shawn Klein, a philosophy lecturer at Arizona State University, tells me. Klein specializes in the ethics of sport, and I reached out to him to better understand the moral (or amoral) underpinnings of dribbling. “That’s probably the best word for it. They were adhering to the rules, but they were subverting the expectations of how those rules would be followed.”

Reading this angered me more than ever about the infield fly rule – the first player to intentionally drop a fly ball was a genius. Incredible creativity! And that play is exciting as hell. Early in his book Greene speaks to another game designer, Colleen Macklin. 

[Says Macklin} “A lot of game rules are modified or changed based on what the player wants. Basketball rules are modified in order to make the game more interesting to the spectator.” When she watches basketball she sees players both following and exploiting rules for the benefit of us fans. The result, she says, is “one of the most beautiful things you can see.”  

Macklin loves Hickey’s example of the Dr. J behind-the-backboard layup, as it alludes to the kinds of decisions game designers must make. “When it happened, she says, “everyone was like ‘Oh my God, we’ve never seen such a graceful move before.’ And so you have a choice there. The NBA could either say it’s not allowed, or they could be like, ‘Yeah, let’s let that happen.’ The right choice is obviously, ‘let’s let that happen.’” 

The infield fly rule is terrible for this reason – it is, by umpire fiat, a blown dead play. Yes, the runners can advance but they would be stupid to do so. Imagine an infield fly without the rule – if a player decides he wants to try and get a double play, he runs a great deal of risk – if he turns down the sure out, there’s a chance the ball bounces away from him and he gets no outs. Or maybe he does it perfectly. Either way, that is entertainment. And you don’t have to use your imagination to know how exciting that would be – in recent years I have seen players (particularly Javy Baez) do this on line drives. For example:

That is such an exciting play, in a HUGE moment of the NLCS. And not only was it exciting, it did almost backfire – instead of first and second with two outs, Baez almost ended the play with first and third with two outs. Now imagine that skips by him when it hits the outfield grass – chaos. Each time something like that happens, everyone watching agrees – wow that was a heads up play and wow that was fun. 

Which is why MLB flat out got the infield fly rule wrong. Players subverted the rules in an entertaining way and baseball decided to litigate that fun out of the game. It’s not too late to fix it though. Let’s abolish that stupid rule forever. I’m looking at you, Theo.

Happy Opening Day, everyone! -TOB


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Week of March 12, 2021

*this is a COVID-19-Shutdown-Anniversary-Free Zone*


*my heart!*


Snack Shack Queen 

Snack shack food is some of my favorite food on the planet. Burgers, brats, even frozen Snickers. You can do a lot worse at plenty of places. There’s something about eating that kind of food outside that’s perfection. 

I found this story about Carletta Brown. She runs the Hill House (on top of a hill, yes) – Lake Chabot’s version of the snack shack. While the course is rough around the edges, Carletta’s grilling is the very best part of golfing there. 

As a purveyor of great burgers in the area (Tempest still holds it for me, but 4505 on Divis is no joke, either), and as someone who recently wrote a story that features some randos really, really enjoying their round at Chabot, I am ashamed to say I have not had the Carletta Burger at Chabot. Time to step my game up. 

Brown is every bit as positive as she is portrayed in this story from Grant Marek. What Marek fails to mention is she can (and does) make an f-bomb sounds downright chipper. And the Packers love is real. She finds joy in her work, takes pride in it, and loves interacting with people. In other words, Brown is the kind of employee that makes a place special. About that burger:

 What you’re getting is an ungodly combination of a 1/3-pound of burger, lettuce, tomato, onion, two types of cheese (both doused with barbecue sauce), a split hot link (also cooked with barbecue sauce bled into it, with the cheese tucked into the link) and four pieces of bacon. According to Brown, in total, there’s roughly “a pound of barbecue sauce.”
…Carlotta’s burger has reached the kind of lore that there are stories of some locals who hike all the way up the first few fairways to get one of her burgers … even when they’re not golfing.

TOB – I think we must play a round in order to properly review the burger (you can have a sausage) for our audience. – PAL 

Source: This is the Story of Carlotta Brown: The Woman Behind One of the Bay Area’s Most Loved Burgers”, Grant Marek, SF Gate (03/04/21)

TOB: Maaaaaaaaaaaan, the Snack Shack. The absolute greatest. Nachos. Pizza. Slush Puppies. Discovering the no flavor Slush Puppies (this might sound gross but the Slush Puppy base was basically simple syrup, so “Plain” became the hot shit at my little league). Big League Chew. Bubble Tape. Chili dogs. Warheads. I could go on. 

There it is, from Google Street View. The South Tahoe Little League Snack Shack. It’s had a paint job, for sure, but it’s still the same ol’ Snack Shack. The thing about the Snack Shack is the snacks were great, but the other thing about the Snack Shack is that it was a central place for a big chunk of my young life. There are few joys more pure than chasing and getting a foul ball and then sprinting to return it to the Snack Shack for a free Slush Puppy. This is not hyperbole – when I think of being a kid, and how fun being a kid was, I almost always first think of long Saturdays at the Little League field – especially when I had an 8 or 9am game, and got to hang out all day after, running around like a hooligan with my friends. My dad umpired a lot and my mom was league president and then co-Snack Shack coordinator – so, from basically 3rd grade until 8th grade we were at the field all Saturday, all spring from morning until dusk. 

And, friends, let me tell you – there are few powers available to a 12-year old greater than having a mom who runs the Snack Shack. Long line? Psh, walk into the side door, and grab a slice of pizza, and tell whoever was working to put it on your parents’ tab (thanks mom and dad!). That is real power. 

Now, I live in the city – and one of my great reservations about doing so is that my kids will not know the joy of the Snack Shack. This problem is one of the few things that makes me consider moving to the suburbs. The city is just too big – the fields are scattered across the city, and each is a single field. There’s no central location with four fields, like I grew up with, to see and be seen and to snack. Instead, people just show up for their game and then go home. There is no shack. There are no snacks. What a shame.


A Prospect to Build a Dream On

You know that Louis Armstrong song, A Kiss to Build a Dream On? That song plays on loop in my head every March, as I scour Spring Training box scores and scroll Twitter and tune into sports talk radio, looking for those little nuggets of hope that an unheralded prospect will turn into my team’s next difference maker. 

21-year old Heliot Ramos has been in the Giants’ system since he was 17, and he’s very much making his presence known this Spring Training, hitting mammoth blasts all over the field (3 big home runs and a double off the top of the wall in his last two games). Do not get me wrong, I am so excited about Heliot that I am thinking aloud of starting a food cart outside Giants Sunday games called Heliot’s Elote y Helado (alternatively: Heliote y Heliado), and tweeting things like this on a Sunday afternoon:

But Heliot was a known quantity coming into this Spring, and I’m here instead to talk about Jason Vosler. 

I know, who? Well, Vosler was a former late round pick by the Chicago Cubs, out of Northeastern – not exactly a baseball hotbed. In the minors, Vosler always showed good plate discipline and a good sense of the strike zone, but never much power. And then he made a swing change. I’ll let Giants fan Roger Munter explain:

So it was time for a checkup with the swing doctors. I don’t play a swing doctor even on TV, but the term that has followed Vosler around much of his career is that he suffered from an overly “rotational” swing. I don’t want to get into the whole “rotational” versus “linear” swing debate (though I promise you a quick google search will produce a mountain of information for you to wade through), but I read Ted Williams’ Science of Hitting when I was young, and The Kid was the progenitor and original advocate of “rotational” hitting, so I think it’s probably a good thing. Rotating around a single axis, Ted believed, brought the large muscles of one’s core into one’s swing as a power-generating force, rather than relying on just the strength of one’s hands and wrists. The general visual analogy used is that a rotational swing uses the power of a pendulum, while a linear swing creates whip-like power snapping the bat on a more direct path to the ball.

Here’s a short video explaining what this is, but the short of it is that Vosler was over-rotating, causing his swing to be too long, which made him slower to the ball and cost him power. So, he fixed it. From Munter, here is Vosler in college on the left and in 2019 on the right:

The impact was immediate. Vosler began to hit bombs – 21 in AA in 2018, the second most in his league. He hit at least twenty the next two years, too, after having hit just 17 combined in the three years before his swing change.  But Vosler was blocked at third base in the Cubs system, by Kris Bryant, so they dealt him to San Diego after 2019. He’s blocked there, too, of course, but had a great Spring in 2020:

In March of 2020, the now-26-year-old did something he’d no doubt been dreaming about for more than a decade — he reported to major league camp as a non-roster invitee for a talented and deep San Diego Padres team. And, mixing it up with Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Manny Machado, Vosler was the talk of camp, going 9-for-20 (.450) with a homer, three doubles, three walks and two strikeouts. Dude knows how to light up Arizona! Manager Jayce Tingler said that Vosler was having “as good of at-bats as any of our guys” before spring training was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the impression he’d made garnered Vosler an invitation in July to Summer Camp and he’d spend the year at the Padres Alternate Site, waiting for an opportunity that didn’t come. He was, again, buried on a depth chart behind guys like Machado and Rookie of the Year 2nd place finalist Jake Cronenworth

So the Giants signed him to a major league deal, which surprised some people. After all, Vosler has never had an appearance in the bigs. As Munter notes, though, Vosler checks all the Giants boxes – he is a Yaz profile come to life, per Munter:

  • Overlooked because he didn’t pop on traditional scouting grades.
  • Long history of patience, walks, and good swing decisions
  • Swing change unlocking power
  • Approach geared to swinging only when maximum damage can be generated

Vosler has not disappointed this month. His numbers: 

.500 BA/ .500 OBP/ .813 SLG/ 1.313 OPS

Pretty friggin good. Will Vosler be the next Yaz for the Giants? Man, I don’t know. But that’s why I love Spring Training, and that’s why I loved this story by Munter – it’s a story, and those are numbers, to build a dream on. 

P.S. I wrote this on Monday morning. Since, Vosler has gone 0 for 8 with 5 strikeouts and one walk. LOLLLLL *shrug* -TOB

Source: Should Jason Vosler Excite You?Roger Munter (03/10/21)

PAL: “P.S. I wrote this on Monday morning. Since, Vosler has gone 0-8.” What a perfect end to a spring training prospect story.

I liked the rhythm of this paragraph: 

So who is Jason Vosler, exactly? Well there are several answers to that question. Vosler is a cold weather guy. He’s a swing change guy. Not surprisingly, he’s a “good swing decisions” guy. And he’s frequently been a “victim of numbers” guy. But most importantly, he’s a serious “overcoming the odds” guy — Vosler has never been high on anybody’s scouting card, prospect list, or dynasty team. Step by step, he’s walked a long, lonely Cinderella path, well away from the limelight for many years, until suddenly finding himself in that most incredible of positions, the precipice of a dream come true.

You know what else is so great…or maybe the worst about the story? It keeps some delusional dream alive for a bunch of guys not half as good as Vosler on his worst day. The fantasy is given new life: that scouts really were focusing on the wrong numbers, that all it took was a person to see things differently in order for a guy like Vosler to get a shot. That one tweak to the swing was the difference between 14 home runs in three seasons and 20 homers in one season.


Former College Baseball Player Explains Some Hitting Shop Talk

Some people hate Twitter, because of the Discourse. But I still think it’s great because you get to curate what you see. I don’t need to see the toxic stuff. I get juuuuuust enough politics to stay informed, and then so much baseball and basketball. This week I stumbled upon this amazing and confusing conversation between former major leaguer Trevor Plouffe and current major leaguer/former MVP Josh Donaldson, delving into the depths of hitting mechanics. 

And, I won’t lie, a lot of it was so far over my head. So I asked our boy here to translate. I don’t know if you know, but Phil played college baseball – there are stats online to prove it and everything. So, Phil, what’s going on here? Please translate. -TOB

PAL: Very pedestrian stat lines. This is going to take a minute. I think I caught about 75% of what Plouffe and Donaldson are talking about. I’ll do my best here to translate key points. Of course, there’s a chance I am wrong on a lot of this. One thing I’m sure of – my buddies back at Augie will let me know. 

Hand slot: Slot = start of hand path to the ball. Where his hands start indicates the line his hands take to the ball. Think of it in 3D. Not just an uppercut, downward path, or straight line, but do his hands push away from his body (common for guys who hit the ball opposite field a lot or pull in towards his body (more of a pull hitter). 

Clicks in the zone: Yeah, no idea what Plouffe is talking about. 

TOB: If I may jump in here – I believe he means frames/clicks as he reviews the video. Three clicks in the zone means the bat is in the zone for 3 clicks/frames of the film, which is good. If a bat is in the zone for 1 click/frame, that’s too short and hard to hit – the more time the bat is in the zone the better the chance to make contact. Back to Phil…

Yes Yes No Hitter: This connects to the intent to swing idea. Every pitch, the hitter should have the same approach in terms of physical movements. Every pitch – swing or take – should be 90% the same. That last millisecond of recognition is when good hitters decide to take a pitch. Every pitch, as the ball is in flight: yes (I’m going to swing, recognizing pitch), yes (I’m going to swing, recognizing location), and then they decide whether or not to swing. Great hitters do everything the same every swing until that last moment of recognition. 

More forward lower half and upper staying back: This is hard to do, and so a lot of hitters (myself included) would either overcompensate and stay back to the point where I had no momentum going through the ball, or I would get out front with my entire body.  You have to come through the ball by getting your lower body moving towards the ball, but the trick is to keep your hands back and your front shoulder on the ball. That’s where the quickness comes from, and that combined with the big strength from the big muscles in the legs, butt, and core is where power comes from. 

General: Donaldson always rubbed me the wrong way. No reason, really. Ok; fine, maybe it was the hair! But this made me really like him. I’d like him even more if he stays healthy and mashes for the Twinkies. 

TOB: re Donaldson. My favorite tweet was at the end when he tells Plouffe, who had a few nice years there with the Twins, what was wrong with his swing and why his career sputtered out. It was brutally honest and kudos to Plouffe for accepting the way-too-late diagnosis. But – how disturbed is Josh Donaldson that he either (a) knew off the top of his head from having played against Plouffe what was wrong with his balance, or (b) took the time to check his swing during this conversation? Either way, it’s some real grinder shit.


Minor League Experimental Rule Changes? UGH! Wait, Actually…

I don’t like significant rule changes in baseball. I like baseball just how it is. But while I am a traditionalist in that sense, I am at odds with those traditionalists who want to curtail innovation. See, The Shift. In my opinion a team should be able to position its defense however it would like, because there is no rule saying otherwise. Moreover, as we have covered here before, the shift is not new – teams have been doing it for decades – they are just shifting more often now as data not previously available instructs. Not only that, but deep dives into statistics show that the shift is basically neutral in its impact. 

With that said, here are rules MLB is implementing across the minors this year, which are experimental and could be coming to MLB soon:

Skip the larger bases rule in AAA and go right to the shift rule in AA. Despite what I said above, I am ok with the rule that the infielders must be, ya know, on the infield. Over the last few years we’ve seen guys thrown out at first after hitting a 100 MPH laser 100 feet past the infield, because the shortstop has not only shifted, but is essentially playing at a softball rover depth. Baseball is entertainment, and it should be fun – watching a team scoop up a weak grounder that can’t dribble through what would have been a hole is one thing; watching a team play with a cheat code and take away a line drive by playing half way between the infield and the outfielder is another. 

While we’re here, I also love the high-A pickoff rule. Pickoff attempts are legitimately boring and almost always fail, while stolen base attempts are fun as hell. This rule will make it harder for pitchers to pick guys off, and easier to read when they are and aren’t. Sight unseen, I’m a big fan. I’m less thrilled at the low-A pickoff rule. Once you put a limit, and once a pitcher hits his limit, it’s going to allow runners to absolutely tee off on the bases. Stealing bases is fun, but runners taking off with impunity is not.  -TOB


Video of the Week

Yes, more Jomboy.


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week  Cannonball Adderley – Autumn Leaves (feat. Miles Davis) 


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Feels like an Arby’s night.”

-David Puddy

Week of February 19, 2021

 

TOB and PAL after bringing the heat each and every week.


What is the *Point* of College Sports?

For decades, athletics were seen as an integral part of most college campuses. Sure, there were outliers – like one-time Big 10 football powerhouse University of Chicago deemphasizing athletics and dropping football in 1939. But for the most part, college sports have had a good run. 

Sometime around the 1980s, though, college football and men’s basketball went from big money to stupid big money. Around the same time, public colleges started to lose public funding as a share of their overall revenue. Tuition went up. Competition for admissions went way up. And over the last few years we have found ourselves in this perfect political storm: football and men’s basketball generating a lot of money, which subsidizes the other sports, while football players and men’s basketball players don’t get paid. As it happens, most football and men’s basketball players are persons of color, and most players from most of the other teams are white (especially in the so-called country club sports). 

But that’s not all, because while football and men’s basketball subsidize the country club sports, so does the campus at large. Public funding and student tuition covers the deficit that most college athletic programs run each year. This has led colleges to cut smaller sports, especially smaller men’s sports, in order to reduce budget deficits. But it hasn’t been enough at most schools.

Then, in 2019, the USC/Stanford college admissions scandals brought to light an ugly truth that had been a poorly kept secret: upper-middle to upper-class, mostly white parents have been gaming the admissions systems for decades by guaranteeing their children admission to top colleges, and at least partial scholarships, by having them compete in low-participation sports. Like fencing. And crew. And field hockey. And lacrosse. And synchronized swimming.  Nowhere was this more prevalent than California. The top 4 colleges by Olympic medals are: USC, Stanford, UCLA, Cal. 

Sure, these Olympic medal winning athletes are world-class athletes who come from all across the world to further their training while getting an education. But there are also the kids who fill out those rosters, not with any realistic aspiration for Olympic glory, but to get into a top school and enjoy the perks of a scholarship.

Stanford, in particular, has dominated the country club sport circuit, having won the 25 out of 26 Directors Cup awards since its inception in 1994. The Directors Cup is an annual award given to the college “with the most success in collegiate athletics,” as determined by a points system “based on order of finish in various championships.” After finishing second in the first year it was given, Stanford has won the Directors Cup every single year – 25 times in a row. A large part of their success are the Olympics sports, yes. But it’s also the fact that Stanford has subsidized a massive athletic department – not just in terms of world-class facilities, which they of course have, but also in terms of sheer size – 36 athletic programs, as far as I know by far the most in the country (Cal is way up there at 27; most schools have around 20).

With all that backstory in mind, this article about Stanford’s decision to cut 11 programs and the uproar that has ensued is fascinating. The news was released last summer. After this year, Stanford will cut men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling. “The 11 sports represent roughly one-third of the school’s 36 sponsored athletic programs, account for 240 athletes and include programs that have produced 20 national titles and 27 Olympic medals.” 

This almost happened about a decade ago at Cal – most notably to baseball. But Cal Baseball raised $10M and saved itself, at least for now. Stanford’s sports tried to do the same – raising enough money to endow the sport in perpetuity. And some have succeeded at raising that money:

In a six-month-old fundraising effort, team leaders have raised pledges of $40 million to fund the 11 discontinued squads, and at least three of the teams have raised enough to self-endow, fully covering their operating expenses permanently.

Wow, hey, nice job. So now those sports are reinstated, just like Cal baseball was, right? Well, uh:

Presented with this information, university leaders are steadfastly committed to their decision, showing no signs of restoring the teams.

Oh. Stanford claims a budget crisis – a $12M deficit, to be specific, and also claims cutting these eleven sports will save it $8M annually. But if the sports self-fund, doesn’t that solve the budget issue? Nope.

Using the university’s own financial figures, 36 Sports Strong generated a study to show that the elimination of the 11 sports is only a minimal budgetary impact and attributes the department’s deficit to an 84% increase in salary and benefits over the last decade, much of it tied to football and men’s basketball. On Tuesday, leaders of the group presented their financial findings to Stanford provost Persis Drell during a 35-minute Zoom call, where they also pitched a proposal: Reinstate the 11 sports and give them a five-year runway to self-endow, not just their own programs but also all 34 nonrevenue sports at Stanford. “It was like we were talking to an empty suit,” says Kathy Levinson, a former three-sport athlete at Stanford in the 1970s who is leading the 36 Sports Strong movement and was part of Tuesday’s meeting. “I would say she was immovable.”

So what’s going on here, then? I know that at Cal, the land that sports facilities are on is valuable and takes up a lot of space that could go to more academic buildings or student housing, an especially important concern in Berkeley, where the housing market remains spiked. But have you ever been to Stanford? There’s room there. A lot of it. They don’t need the land. There’s another theory, though:

Many members of 36 Sports Strong theorize that the university, in part, eliminated sports to create admission flexibility. Stanford is one of the few colleges in the U.S. at capacity academically. In this theory, the university would now have the freedom to fill classroom spots occupied by athletes with those who may generate more tuition or carry a higher academic acumen. Stanford’s athlete population was one of the highest in the nation at 12%, or one in every seven students. “Maybe there was concern that 12% of the campus population was too much,” says Andy Schwarz, an antitrust economist based in California and a Stanford graduate himself. “The university admission process is trying to custom-craft a campus community.”

Aha. Stanford denies that allegation. But I don’t think I believe them – do you? Because now we come full circle. Is Stanford embarrassed by the admissions scandal and the ugly truths it revealed about how many of Stanford’s 36 sports are used to leverage admission for kids who are not otherwise qualified? Is Stanford trying to pull a 1930s University of Chicago and de-emphasize athletics? Are athletics still important to a college campus? What about when the sport is lucky to get a handful of spectators per game? Because if this isn’t about that, then why would Stanford deny reinstatement for these sports, especially the three that have already raised enough money to self-endow forever? 

Now, I get why the alumni of these sports and the current athletes and their families are upset. But that $8,000,000 they are saving, conceivably though not actually, could be redirected to the revenue generating athletes at an average of about $90,000 per year. Or it could be used to reduce Stanford’s outrageous tuition. Or fund important research. Or do so many important things besides guarantee admission to a top university to someone whose parents have the money to get them into fencing at a young age. I mean, look at that photograph of the Stanford men’s crew team at the top – do those look like world class athletes to you!? 

I don’t know, Stanford’s decision seems like a step in the right direction, if you ask me.

Also, Go Bears! -TOB

Source: “‘This Is for the Next Generation’: Inside the Fight, at Stanford and Beyond, to Save Olympic Sports,” Ross Dellenger, Sports Illustrated (02/12/2021)


Wherever You Can Find Ice

Saw this story in the NY Times, and I wondered if this would’ve even made it into the St. Paul or Minneapolis local section of paper. Still, I’m a sucker for a back-to-basics story. 

The premise: a lot of ice arenas are closed in the New York area, so people are finding other places to play hockey. These backyard rinks run the gamut: some cost a couple hundred bucks, while other folks go all out. 

Per Kevin Armstrong:

First-timers learned to negotiate inconsistent thaws and freezes, and anxious hosts added umbrella insurance on top of homeowners insurance in case injured visitors filed lawsuits. Like-minded neighbors knocked down fences to share space for rinks, while others complained about noise created by pucks crashing against wooden boards. With ice time at a premium, backyard rink owners were flooded with requests for open skating times.

One person who was in the perfect position for the unexpected D-I-Y rink boon: 24 year-old Dylan Gatsel. He developed a prototype backyard rink kit a couple years ago. EZ ICE Rinks sales are through the roof.

These outdoor rinks in backyards have been a longstanding tradition in Minnesota. I skated on backyard rinks all the time growing up. Three of my five siblings build rinks and make ice every year. 

I wondered this fall if the pandemic couldn’t have been a once-in-a-lifetime nostalgia marketing opportunity. High school hockey is huge in Minnesota, with over 100K fans attending the 4-day state tournament in the Xcel Center in downtown St. Paul. I’m guessing that’s a no-go this year. They should’ve brought it back to the basics this year and had all high school hockey games on outdoor rinks, including the state tournament. The documentary all but shoots itself (you can already see ESPN sending SportsCenter there), the merch sales would’ve been insane, and it would’ve celebrated everything Minnesotans like to identify as. 

That could’ve been sweet. – PAL 

Source: With Indoor Rinks Closed, Players Turn to ‘Speakeasy Hockey’, Kevin Armstrong, The New York Times (02/15/2021)


A Good Headline Matters

I have no strong feelings on Blake Griffin. He was possibly the last truly great men’s college basketball player (for me, only Trae Young comes close). He had good dunks and he was funny-for-an-athlete. He sneakily evolved as a player, and I thought his series against the Warriors in 2014, when the Clippers beat the budding Warriors dynasty in 7 games in the first round, literally in the midst of the Donald Sterling scandal, was really good. 

I say this because the Pistons announced this week they’d be sitting Blake while they try to find somewhere to trade him. The dude is only 31, but when so much of your game is built on athleticism and you suffer a series of lower body injuries, 31 suddenly seems very old. And when I first heard the news I shrugged. He was traded to Detroit just over three years ago. January 2018! And I had basically not thought of him since.

Ordinarily, I would have never read more than a tweet-length message about this story. But as I said at the top, a good headline matters. And when this news hit, I saw a really good headline:

Well, that piqued my interest. And damn if the article wasn’t thought-provoking. It was interesting to read a Detroit native’s perspective on Griffin’s 2+ seasons in Detroit:

If Griffin ends up in the Hall of Fame — and I think he will — he’ll be remembered as a Clipper. However, in Detroit, I think it’s safe to say the people saw him as one of them. Griffin arrived in the Motor City with a “Hollywood” label. There were the commercials, the comedy and the high-flying antics. They disguised the fact that he’s a Midwesterner from Oklahoma. When Griffin was on the floor for the Pistons, he truly embodied the grit that the city loves to see from its athletes. He played through injuries and pain. He dove for loose balls. He got in opponents’ faces. When there was very little to be thankful for in regards to basketball in Detroit, Griffin swooped in and gave the best version of himself to a franchise that didn’t always deserve it. Griffin gave everything he could to Detroit when he was able to. That shouldn’t be forgotten.

It’s a nice tribute, and a nice piece of writing. -TOB

Source: How Should Blake Griffin Be Remembered in Detroit?James Edwards III, The Athletic (02/15/2021)

PAL: Dude, thank you for calling out the headline. A good headline can absolutely make me stop, and I feel like a lot of sites gave up trying a long time ago. Agreed on the quality of writing. I liked the angle, too. 


NBA Janitors

TOB’s take on the importance of a headline was in my head as I perused this AM and came upon this story about former NBA first-round draft picks trying to get back to the league and the perspective shift that requires. Excellent read. 

The idea is that these dudes drafted in the mid-to-late first round are super talented players with skill sets centered on being focal points on a team. When that doesn’t happen, for whatever reason (bad play or bad luck), and they find themselves out of the league, a shift likely needs to take place in their game in order to make it back. It’s not necessarily about putting up huge numbers in the G League or elsewhere. As Laker Alex Caruso (undrafted) put it, it’s about understanding the job you’re interviewing for. 

Per Jordan Teicher:

Lakers guard Alex Caruso went undrafted in 2016, but in a November appearance on The Old Man and the Three podcast, the former G Leaguer explained the lesson non-stars need to learn in order to fit in: “They don’t realize the position they’re trying out for. It’s like going to a job interview thinking you’re going to be the CFO of the company and they’re looking for someone to clean the bathrooms.”

Caruso represents an interesting wrinkle to this story. The expectations connected to an undrafted vs. first round draftee that didn’t make it on the first go-round. 

Again, from Teicher: 

The likes of Danny Green, Jeremy Lin, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Seth Curry improved in the G League before sticking in the NBA. However, those success stories are usually about undrafted players or second-round picks, not people who enter the NBA with a first-round pedigree.

“There is a stigma attached with a guy who didn’t make it the first go-around,” said Jim Clibanoff, director of scouting for the Denver Nuggets. “It’s such a recalibration for some of these kids. … How does the kid respond to it? We talk about hunger and desire, and that manifests itself in how you react to adversity.”

Good read. – PAL 

Source: Getting to the NBA Is Hard, but Getting Back May Be Even Harder”, Jordan Teicher, The Ringer (02/16/2021)


4,560

With fatherhood less than a trimester away, I find myself thinking about my dad’s hall-of-fame run as a sports dad and the kind of sports dad I hope to be. Check it out here to see my rudimentary math skills on full display. Here’s a taste:

Parents are like driving instructors when it comes to their kids’ emotions around sports. They ride shotgun while the kiddos take the wheel. The kids try their best to navigate the highs and lows of the wins and losses, to get the feel for triumphs and slights, all the while mom or dad are ready to take control, slow down, and get everything pointed back in the right direction if things get out of hand. 

Game in, game out. Every drive home maneuvering around every bad call, success, substitution; every interaction and how it proved so-and-so really did think such-and-such. 

The more I think about it, maybe the teenage years are the emotional equivalent of teaching the kid to drive a stick shift. 

Full story here. -PAL 


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week Durand Jones & The Indications – “Giving Up”


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“I wanted to eat a pig-in-a-blanket in a blanket.”

-Kevin Malone

Week of February 5, 2021

R.I.P. Wayne Terwilliger at 96. 2x World Series champ with the Twins, managed well into his 80s., and recipient of the most MN retirement gift ever. Photo: Marlin Levinson, Star Tribune


Please Just Read This Story This week, ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote about the incredible story of the San Francisco Giants’ Drew Robinson, a fringe major league baseball player, pictured above. Last April, Drew decided to end his life. Here’s Passan:

His thoughts crashed into one another — about what it would look like and whom it would affect and who would find him. He was alone, alone until the end. At about 8 p.m., in one uninterrupted motion, he leaned to the side, reached out to the coffee table, lifted the gun, pressed it against his right temple and pulled the trigger. That was supposed to be the end of Drew Robinson’s story. Over the next 20 hours, he would come to realize it was the beginning of another.

I cannot recommend this story enough – it’s long, but it grabs you from the very start and compels you to keep reading. I also recommend the quasi-companion story from The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly, who wrote about Drew’s story from the Giants’ perspective, and it’s also quite the read. -TOB

Source: San Francisco Giants Outfielder Drew Robinson’s Remarkable Second Act,” Jeff Passan, ESPN (02/02/2021); How the Giants Stepped in to Help Drew Robinson After His Suicide Attempt,” Andrew Baggarly, The Athletic (02/02/2021)

PAL: “The companion’s voice was unrelenting.” That’s a line that stuck with me after reading this. How exhausting it must be to constantly having that voice telling you that any positive thoughts are b.s., and that all your worst thoughts are the truth. I can understand the hopelessness inside the endless rounds of that mental boxing match. 

And then, add to the hopper the constant up-and-downs between the majors and minors, and the absolute head games that must come with that – being so close to reaching the goal, but then being sent back down the mountain a bit, over and over. It’s mentally difficult for someone not suffering from a mental illness, but something like that could add even more weight to the “companion voice”. 

I was also blown away by the notion Robinson could play again. First thing I thought – no depth perception…no way he could hit. So I found this section fascinating: 

Myint, the eye surgeon, says that the binocular vision two eyes provide matters for up-close depth perception. But hitters typically decide to swing when the ball is about 45 feet from home plate, where depth-perception issues, Myint says, would not necessarily manifest themselves. And because, as a baseball player, Robinson’s brain has already exhibited a unique ability to track high-speed movement, the aptitude he had been showing in all these batting-practice sessions, Myint says, could be very real.

After thinking about it for a second, this makes total sense. All the calculation our brain does to decide whether or not to swing and – if so – where to swing, takes place so fast and so early. It makes total sense that depth perception and that level and speed might not be so important. 

Either way, Robinson has a lot of people pulling for him to do the unthinkable and make it back to the bigs, and who knows how many of those folk who read this have struggled themselves? We need to hear more of these stories in order to destigmatize mental health. 


Super Bowl Time Capsules

Drew Magary nailed this one. Basic premise is that he can remember where he was for most every super bowl, and that memory serves as a dog-ear to who he was. He then proceeds to run through them all. I love it.  Magary has the chops to get an audible laugh out of me. One such moment: 

1990 Drew ALSO loved the Gulf War. I remember reading about all the other wars throughout history and being like, “Hey man, when do WE get a war?” And then Bush 41 invaded Iraq at the start of 1991 and I was excited. Genuinely excited. When the news broke, I rushed around school to tell people, like I was a fucking newsboy. When Whitney sang the anthem, I cried for all the wrong reasons.

That’s the good stuff. Perfect.  Many of Magary’s memories land with me. I can smell that dorm room with spitters all over. I know the feeling of rooting against a team for no reason but a gut feeling. You remember the Super Bowls, regardless of the teams playing, and I’m not sure there’s another sporting event for which that’s true. 

But this is why the Super Bowl is a holiday. It’s not always a happy one.  But it IS always a signpost in life. As with birthdays and Christmases, you can look back in your Super Bowl Sunday archive and catch glimpses of where you were. WHO you were. 

Excellent stuff. – PAL  Source:  “Life Is Measured In Super Bowls”, Drew Magary, Defector (02/04/2021)


The Nolan Arenado Trade and “The Epidemic of Not Trying”

I don’t know if Marc Carig coined that term, The Epidemic of Not Trying, but it’s a great turn of phrase to describe the widespread tanking across the sports world lately. The Epidemic of Not Trying hit a new low this week, as the Colorado Rockies traded away Nolan Arenado, their franchise player, for…not much. Carig’s article is an expert level takedown of the Rockies’ braintrust – GM Jeff Brdich and owner Dick Monfort.

Most of the scorn is directed at Brdich, and rightfully so. The team signed Arenado to a massive extension just two years ago and then, as Carig put it, “behaved as if this was good enough.” Almost immediately after, Arenado seemed to understand that the team felt that way, that they wouldn’t spend more to improve the team, and the relationship between Arenado and Brdich soured. Brdich seems to think this is perfectly normal, saying, “There are relationships in our human existence that do last forever. But we are human beings in a business where sometimes relationships don’t last forever, and commitments don’t last forever.” As Carig points out, it’s part of Brdich’s job to ensure that his relationship with the team’s star in fact does last, well, not forever, but for as long as that star remains a star, at the very least.  Carig also gives us some insight into Brdich as a person, using Brdich’s own words to show that Brdich is a friggin snob. 

Bridich seemingly fancies himself as something of a misunderstood genius. He once boasted that he was “personally blessed with a capacity to not really care what is said about me all that much.” He was referring to the media, whom he deemed unworthy of leveling criticism because, as he explained, “the reality is — and this is going to sound petty and bad — if you just objectively look at the people who are evaluating us every day, you know they’ve never come close to doing this job and all the work that goes into it.” He’s right. I’ll never understand all the work that goes into alienating a franchise player, engaging him in a protracted pissing match, and then packaging him along with $50 million for the privilege of trading him away.

Man, Carig just crushed him. Imagine being stuck with an egomaniac prick like that for your team’s GM. The worst part about this trade for Rockies’ fans is that this is not an A’s or Rays type of trade – trading a top player and getting lots of great prospects back to build for the future. Those fans don’t like those either, but they can at least rationalize it by what you get in return. Here, by all accounts, what the Rockies got back is pitiful – and they still had to pay $50M of Arenado’s remaining salary, as Carig mentioned. Here’s former GM Jeff Bowden’s summary of what the Rockies got:

This trade is a complete disaster for the Rockies outside of the fact they’re saving $184 million of their future payroll obligations. However, they’re also paying $50 million of Arenado’s future earnings with the Cardinals. In return, they only got one of their top 10 prospects in Montero — and he comes with a lot of risk. Gomber was the only sure major-leaguer in the deal for the Rockies and he will help the staff in whatever role they put him in. The other three players in the deal — Locey, Sommers and Gil — are all fringe major-leaguers at best. Not the type of return you’d expect for a superstar. They got nothing close to what the Red Sox got for Mookie Betts, the Indians got for Francisco Lindor or even what the Rays got for Blake Snell. Very disappointing that they decided to dump him just two years after signing him to an eight-year contract. Huge mistake for the Rockies and a horrible return for Arenado.

Imagine being a Rockies fan and reading that. Not only did your team’s best, most fun to watch, homegrown MVP-level player get traded, but you got nothing in return to give you hope for the future. Unlike the Rays, the Rockies aren’t building for the future. They’re just clearing their books. They are Not Trying. If I’m a Rockies fan, I’d be out.  I’m a Giants fan, though, and so while I am not sad to see the Giants’ Video Game Boss, as Grant Brisbee put it, leave the division, it sure will make games against the Rockies less interesting. I mean, I watched this live on TV and howled in disgust before shaking my head in reluctant admiration:

That’s friggin incredible. He could have turned to that crowd like Russell Crowe in Gladiator: 

Well, damn, yeah. Hell yeah. When Arenado came to town, I always was. -TOB

Source: The Rockies are Oblivious to Organizational Failure,” Marc Carig, The Athletic (02/02/2021); “Grading the Nolan Arenado trade for the Rockies and Cardinals,” Jeff Bowden, The Athletic (02/02/2021); Giants Fans Should Miss Nolan Arenado, Even if He Made Their Lives Miserable,” Grant Brisbee, The Athletic (02/01/2021); 

PAL: My favorite player to watch live at Giants games, no doubt. The Epidemic of Not Trying sucks so bad. I love baseball so much, and I know there’s always been the haves and have-nots, but the last few years marks the first time I can remember feeling like a lot of teams weren’t even giving it a go. Why watch a game if one team (or both) doesn’t care if it wins? 

I was listening to Jeff Passan (the writer of the incredible Drew Robinson story) on a podcast, and one issue he called out was the need for a new collective bargaining agreement that, in part, addresses two critical issues in baseball: 

  1. Free agency needs to start earlier in a player’s MLB service time so that they are paid for when they are great, not after they have been great. Colorado (Arenado), Cleveland (Lindor), Boston (Betts) paid so little for the prime years, then let them go when it was time to pony-up (In Colorado’s case, a couple years later…which is why this one is even crazier…as TOB notes, 50M more for him not to be there!)
  2. Punishment for franchises losing a lot for multiple years. Don’t know if that comes in the form of lower draft picks or a reduced percentage of revenue sharing. 

Absolutely. Baseball needs a major restructuring. Hell, I’ve long been baseball obsessed, and I didn’t watch much baseball at all last year. The casual fan is gone until the World Series, but now the game is starting to lose lifers, and that’s a deathblow to the sport. 

Since we’re on the topic, here are 20 defensive highlights from Arenado. Maybe I’ve watched more than once. Man, he’s good.


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week After Fred Van Vleet broke the Raptors’ single game scoring record, previously held by former teammate DeMar DeRozan:


Song of the Week Jerry Jeff Walker – “Sangria Wine (Live)”


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“The IT tech guy and me…did not get off to a great start.”

-Michael Scott

Week of December 11, 2020


Mucking 

I didn’t know what ‘mucking’ meant prior to reading this great story. I know what muck is, but I’d never heard this verb use case. Now that I do, I think this story presents such a hopeful version of the idea. Per Scott Ostler, the concept of mucking was a practice of POWs in North Korea during the Korean conflict. 

The allied POWs were dying in misery and despair, it was every man for himself, much like prison life can be. Then one group of POWs began practicing what they called “mucking.” The men paired off, each man was challenged to do whatever it took to help his buddy. If he is starving, you gave him your food. You muck for him. Morale shot up. Survival became possible.

The inmates at Soledad State Prison learned about this idea by way of a program in which students at nearby Palma School read and discuss books with them. The idea of mucking in prison camps resonated with some of the inmates, and so a couple of them came up with an idea: they wanted to muck for a Palma student in need. 

As the Soledad inmates and Palma students discussed the story, Ted Gray turned to fellow inmate Jason Bryant and said, “We need to start a scholarship and help a young man who doesn’t have the ability to go to Palma.” The two men set their goal at $30,000, to be given to one student. “Instead of spreading our donation an inch deep and a mile wide,” said Bryant, “we wanted to go an inch wide and a mile deep, and have a fundamental impact on one young man’s life, change the trajectory of his entire life.”

And that’s where Syon Green enters this story. At the time, ‘Sy’ was a sophomore at Palma. His parents stretched to send him to the private school, and health issues were about to make his continued enrollment a challenge.  You can see where the two roads intersect here, but it’s such an uplifting story to savor. I will say this, the inmates, who, after four years, pooled $32,000 for Sy (at $0.11/hr), didn’t just cut the check and move on; they wanted to get to know Sy. They wanted to make sure he had a vision for his life. They held him accountable. 

Green’s parents let the inmates know that he had issues with procrastination and helping around the house. “Did we call him out? Absolutely,” Bryant said. “We had some difficult conversations. We had him chart out a whole list, his duties as a son, as a student, his vision as an athlete. ‘In light of those duties you’ve identified, how important is playing video games? How important is spending a bunch of time on YouTube?’ We were having conversations most of us never had with our parents or big brothers.”

Click the link below to hear how Sy, Ted Gray, and Jason Bryant are doing five years later. You won’t be disappointed. – PAL 

Source: ‘Couldn’t Believe It’: Why Inmates Raised $32,000 to Pay a Bay Area Teen’s Tuition,” Scott Ostler, The San Francisco Chronicle (12/06/2020)


A Modern Day Treasure Hunt I missed this story over the last few years, but it’s an interesting one. Forrest Fenn, some rich old guy from New Mexico wrote an autobiography, wherein he claimed he left a vast treasure worth $2 million…somewhere. He offered only a poem, filled with cryptic clues:

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.  
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.  
From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.  
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.  
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.  
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.

Over the years, Fenn offered more clues – some helpful (it’s in the Rocky Mountains, above 5,000 feet above sea level), and other less so (he drove a sedan to get there). People were obsessed. A guy died trying to find the treasure. He died! Actually, quite a few died. Others wasted years of their lives obsessing over it. Some believed it was a hoax. But it was not! This week, the hunt ended. Jack Stuef, a 32-year old medical student from Michigan, found the treasure.

 

Actually, the hunt ended when Stuef found the treasure last summer. But Stuef kept his discovery a secret, until Fenn’s family (Fenn died in September), recently revealed the discovery, and Mr. Stuef’s identity. Stuef has actually been sued – an attorney from Chicago claims she had spent years deciphering the clues, and that someone hacked her cell phone and stole the information, which lead them to the treasure. Which, LOL. Not sports, but competition. Sports-adjacent, we’ll call it. And a very fascinating read, at that. -TOB

Source: Man Who Found Hidden Treasure in the Rocky Mountains Is Revealed,” Neil Vigdor, New York Times (12/07/2020); see also On the Hunt, ‘Where Warm Waters Halt,’ for a $2 Million Treasure,” Fernanda Santos, New York Times (07/05/2016)

PAL: So that’s how you market self-published memoirs. Hiding a treasure sounds like a really fun to pass the time during retirement. Seriously. I love this idea. 

Wouldn’t it suck if you tried to copy Fenn’s idea, and someone found the treasure in a day?


How 2020 Will Affect a Generation of Baseball Talent

2020 has of course mostly sucked, and its suckiness will have long term ramifications for many, many people. Some of those ramifications we can make educated guesses about, others we can’t foresee. One group for which the latter is true is an entire generation of minor league baseball players.  Unlike most professional sports, the life of most professional baseball players involves years of professional, adult development before players reach their sport’s highest league. For baseball players,  it’s all about reps – play so much baseball against competition at your level, or perhaps a little better, in order to make yourself better so that you can, hopefully, advance. So what happens when, for most minor league players, an entire season is lost?

The Athletic’s Melissa Lockhard, Brittany Ghiroli, and Eno Sarris explored what players lost, how they will be affected, and how teams are planning to make up for the lost time. They also explore the inequities in the game – both in how smarter teams with more resources did more to minimize the impact of the lost season on its prospects, and how prospects in certain parts of the country had a huge advantage on prospects in other parts of the country, or those abroad.  It’s a fascinating look at how some very smart people who are used to doing things a certain way are trying to adapt to fight unknown future effects. -TOB

Source: “‘Everyone Lost’: The Minor League’s Canceled Season Will Reverberate for Years,” Brittany Ghiroli, Melissa Lockhard, Eno Sarris, The Athletic (12/08/2020)


Jim Thorpe 

I think most of us have some idea of who Jim Thorpe was, but this story revealed a good chunk of info about the guy the NY Times described as “probably the greatest natural athlete the world had seen in modern times” in his obit. I knew the Native American was an Olympic legend, and I knew he was a football legend, but I really didn’t know much more than that. 

This story is about people trying to correct the past and preserve stories of Native American achievement. After it was revealed that Thorpe made about $25 a week playing baseball a couple years prior to the 1912 Olympics, they stripped him of two gold medals (decathlon, pentathlon). The golds went to a dude from Sweden and a guy from Norway. In 1982, the IOC re-awarded Thorpe’s family the gold medals. Thorpe was considered a co-winner, which doesn’t make sense, but who would draw the short straw to go to the families of the Swede and Norwegian and ask for the medals back. In an odd twist, there’s no risk of that scenario. Both of the other gold medals are gone – one lost and one stolen.

Equally as shocking to me is this: I had no idea Jim Thorpe played baseball…for 6 years until the age of 32!  He played for the NY Giants, Red, and Braves and then became an all-time great in football. I must have missed his SportsCentury episode. This story got me thinking it might be time for a Jim Thorpe biography. Any recommendations? – PAL

Source: The 100-Year Dispute for Jim Thorpe’s Olympic Golds”, Victor Mather, The New York Times (12/9/2020)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week SNL – Christmas Candle 


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“I don’t know. It was a weird day. I accidentally cross-dressed.”

-Michael Scott

Week of November 28, 2020

Me and the boys at our last game of pickup before COVID hit, roughly 120 years ago.


RIP: Diego Maradona Diego Maradona died this week. Maradona was, in my opinion, one of the two greatest soccer players ever (along with his countryman, Leonel Messi). But in ways Messi has not and never will approach, Maradona captured the attention of soccer fans all over the world. His career mostly preceded my sports awareness (he peaked in the mid-to-late 1980s, when I was no older than 7). Still, I’ve seen clips. I’ve seen highlights. I watched the HBO documentary last year. The reason he was so beloved is not just his play. It’s his panache. His gravity. His Fuck You attitude. Just watch him warm up before the 1989 UEFA Semi-Finals. 

A master, at the top of his game, unbothered by anything else.  I will always love watching the way this very small man (around 5’5”) always seemed like the biggest person on the field. The Ringer’s Brian Phillips really captured it this week:

Many athletes bring joy to people, of course, and many athletes lead chaotic lives, and many athletes die too early, because many people do. But Diego was something else. I don’t know why anyone cares what a person can do with a ball; I only know that Maradona was able to do things with one that, when you saw them, made you feel like the universe was telling you a secret. The sight of him with the ball at his feet, this little guy with his hair streaming back, all chest and thighs and churning elbows, had a power that is given to very few people in any generation, the power to make a large part of the world hold its breath.

Every sports fan knows about The Hand of God goal in the 1986 World Cup. It is probably in the first paragraph of many of his obituaries.  He punched that thing in for the first goal of the game. It’s so blatant. It’s in the open. This tiny guy got up so high, extended his arm, and punched in a goal. And he got away with it. That’s pretty wild. But my favorite part? That incredible nickname, the Hand of God, was coined by Maradona himself, right after the game. He was asked if it was a handball and he said it was, “a little with my head, and a little with the hand of God”. I mean, that’s so funny. And it takes some brass ones. And there are levels to it – he kinda calls himself God there, doesn’t he? And, well, in Argentina at least, he was. Because minutes after the Hand of God, he sealed the World Cup victory with what was later called the Goal of the Century (and is certainly accompanied by the broadcasting call of the century!).

That goal is incredible – the skill, the poise, the creativity. The stakes. And those stakes cannot be overstated. This was no ordinary World Cup Quarterfinal. This was Argentina vs. England, just four years after the two countries engaged in a bitter if short war over the Falkland Islands, a small group of islands off Argentina’s southern Atlantic Coast. Nearly 40 years later, Argentina is still very angry about that war – you can imagine what that game meant to the Argentine people a mere four years after:  So when you hear that announcer lose control of his emotions, all that history is in there. An entire country of 30 million people screaming in catharsis. In 1986, and again this week. -TOB

PAL: I remarked about his passing to Natalie. She had no idea who Maradona was. I tried to explain, but then I just showed her The Goal of The Century instead. She was captivated. For someone who had no idea who he was or how much that goal meant, she got the draw of him in one clip. All the words we try to describe the greats, they fall short of whatever is transferred in the experience of seeing them be great. 


Is the NFL Hiding Positive COVID Tests In Order to Play Games? We’ll get to the NFL – I promise. But first, as I’ve written many times here, college football is problematic – and my head knows that. But my heart loves it, and I just wish it could be made better. That was tested early this month when, after waiting months for Cal’s first game of the 2020 season, word came two days before the game that a single player had tested positive for COVID-19. As a result of players being isolated based on contract tracing, the rest of the entire defensive line was wiped out, despite testing negative numerous times. The game was canceled under the Pac-12’s policy allowing a team to cancel (and not forfeit) if they have less than 53 scholarship players, or 1 scholarship QB, or five scholarship offensive lineman, or four scholarship defensive lineman. The latter two categories are an issue of safety – you can’t run a bunch of undersized kids against an experienced offensive line, for example. But I was PISSED. One god dang positive test canceled a whole game!? And worse, it was Cal’s first positive test all camp. And worse than that, the following week’s game was in serious jeopardy because the players, who again never tested positive, had to isolate for 14 days. So, the first game was canceled. The second was in jeopardy but ultimately played, sorta. As it turned out, the 14th day was the following Sunday. However, Cal’s second opponent, ASU, suffered a large outbreak. So that game got canceled (as did ASU’s next two games after that), and Cal played a Sunday morning game against UCLA, in the Rose Bowl, on thirty six hours notice (UCLA’s original opponent, Utah, also had a COVID outbreak). EXHALE. But as this all unfolded, and college games get canceled left and right, I have been wondering: how in the heck has the NFL avoided this? I keep hearing news that NFL players test positive during the week, but it never seems to wipe out an entire position group. And the NFL hasn’t missed a single game. How? And players test positive during the week but somehow play on Sunday? And how come we seem to never read about last minute Sunday positive tests?  This had been bugging me, in light of what happened to Cal, and then I saw this interesting article from Defector’s Kelsey McKinney. Here, check this chart she put together (as she explains, the NFL began the season NOT testing on game days, but changed that policy beginning October 12, so she limits her data after that date): Uhh. You know that scene in Revenge of the Nerds when Stan wants to know why the Lambdas are selling so many pies? And then Ogre gets one of the pies, it’s just whipped cream? And then he eats it and it’s good but not great, and they wonder again why the Lambdas are selling so many damn pies? And then Ogre gets to the bottom of the pie and he sees the Lambdas have lined the pie tins with naked photos of the Pis (photos that were VERY ILLEGALLY taken, I might add), and then Ogre looks up and says – well, just watch (um, the last five seconds are NSFW):

That’s how I felt when I saw Kelsey’s chart. This why. Uh oh. But even that figure of four positive tests on Sunday is higher than the real numbers, as McKinney explains:

Two of the four players placed on the list on a Sunday were not playing that day. Dru Samia (OL) was placed on the list on Sunday, Nov. 15. The Vikings that week played on Monday. Baker Mayfield (QB) was placed on the list on Sunday, Nov. 8. The Browns were on a bye week. When I looked more closely, I only found two players in my research across all game days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday) who were been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on a day his own team played.

I mean, wow. McKinney reached out to the NFL who claimed to have not known of this disparity, but explaining that the Monday announcements are based on tests on Sunday, because results aren’t available by game time. But as McKinney points out this means that, somehow, there have been just TWO Saturday positive tests for players playing on Sunday. Or perhaps better said, by McKinney:

Somehow, every week, players are taking COVID-19 tests on Saturday and not being placed on the list (be it for positive tests or close contact) on Sunday. By Monday, they need to be on the list. Someone with a conspiratorial mind might take that as evidence that the league is pulling some number of strings to make sure that the Saturday tests are being administered in some way so as to ensure their results won’t endanger the next day’s games. It’s perhaps more damning for the league, however, if the protocols are actually being strictly followed and everything is being reported above board. In that case, these results reveal just how little repeated testing can actually tell us about who has COVID-19 on any given day, and further demonstrate how inaccurate the NFL’s elaborate testing apparatus really is. If all these protocols are meant to prevent infected players from being around their teammates and participating in NFL games—and the numbers tell us that is clearly not happening, unless you believe all those Ravens players somehow caught the virus and tested positive for it just hours after the conclusion of Sunday’s game—then what is the point of the protocols?

The NFL sure is selling a lot of pies, though, eh?

Source: What Can The Distribution Of Positive COVID-19 Results Tell Us About The NFL’s Testing Program?Kelsey McKinney, Defector (11/24/2020)


Answering a Question Being Asked: Is It Ethical To Use A Fantasy Football Loophole To Start A Player Out Of Position? Yes. -TOB

Source: Is It Ethical To Use A Fantasy Football Loophole To Start A Player Out Of Position?Dan McQuade, Defector (11/24/2020)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week


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Week of October 30, 2020

46 years ago this week.


Charles Adams is How

Over the past half year, I’ve wondered many times how the hell we turn this around. ‘This’ could be any number of challenges in 2020: the pandemic, the police violence, the looting, embarrassing politics, an environmental crisis, hell – even being productive on another Monday while working from the second bedroom. It’s still a new feeling to me – that haunting notion that – no – everything’s not just going to turn out OK. It doesn’t just happen by way of karma or divine justice. 

For all the good fortune in my life – and there’s more than I could ever rightly ask for – I’ve worried and wondered over and over this year – how the hell do we turn this around?

Of course, the answer isn’t all at once, but part of the answer can be found in this story about a Black Minneapolis police officer and high school football coach: Charles Adams. 

This story comes by way of The New York Times, so I’m trusting my MN readers to set me straight if the local papers have already told Adams’ story. This is a 5-star story from Kurt Streeter, with incredible photography from Tim Gruber. You must read it.  To summarize Adams’ impact, consider this description: “His work is a parable, testimony in troubled times to the power of everyday people who provide steadfast care to struggling communities.”

Adams grew up in North Minneapolis, which is a very tough neighborhood. He attended Minneapolis North, followed the path his dad helped forge as a Black officer in the 60s and 70s, took over coaching his high school football team and had a zero-win team winning the small school state championship within five years.  He was protecting his neighborhood and he was making the local football team a source of extreme pride.

As an officer, he used his smile to disarm many situations. His former squad car partner Todd Kurth described Adams as, “[C]ool as a cucumber in every situation. He could be firm when he needed to, no doubt, but he also had this ability to win people over and defuse tough situations. He had a need to help.”

As a coach, he cares for his players always. Through high and lows – wearing medals or bracelets – he always shows love. That’s the only way he thinks it can be done with kids, many of whom come from very difficult situations.  In the words of a local pastor, Adams is, “one of the rocks of this community.”

And Adams knew everything would change after watching the video of George Floyd being killed by an officer Adams knew. The city would, as Streeter described it, “convulse”.  

With what you know now, picture Adams, suited up in his riot gear, Zooming his players before heading out into the chaos that night.

“I got to see your faces before I go up in here,” he told them. “I have to see you guys.” Coach, you’re going to be OK, they said, voices cracking with emotion. Everything is going to be all right. It was their way of boosting him up, as he had always done for them. “Before I hit the streets, I have to tell you guys something,” Adams replied. “Just know that I care. I’m not sure what is going to happen tonight. I’m not sure if I am going to make it back and see you again.” He needed them that night, more than ever. It made sense. “Along with my family, the kids I help, they give me a higher purpose,” Adams told me. “There’s a way that they help save me, and that night showed it.” They needed him, too. “We just wanted to hear from him,” said Zach Yeager, the team’s quarterback. “He sets the path and gives us so much. When everything was going crazy in this town, it was good to have his back.”

And later:

The fallout from Floyd’s death was immediate in Minneapolis. It hit Adams directly. His day job as North’s in-house police officer had been as important to him as coaching the football team. He was inside the school each day, more counselor and calming uncle than a cop. He ate lunch with the students and didn’t carry his gun. Instead of a uniform, he wore khakis and a polo shirt. In June, the city’s school board voted to end its contract with the Police Department. Adams could remain as the football coach but no longer work inside the school as an officer. The move struck many at North as wrongheaded. Mauri Friestleben, the school’s principal, publicly criticized the ruling. On Facebook, she called Adams a life changer who “stands for what is good within my school, what is good within the Police Department, and what is good within Minneapolis.”

This story has a pretty crazy left turn at the end, but rest assured that Adams is still coaching his high school team. An inspiring read. – PAL 

Source: As a Coach and a Cop in Minneapolis, Where Would He Draw the Line?”, Kurt Streeter, photography by Tim Gruber, The New York Times (10/26/2020)


We’ll Always Have Game 4

The Dodgers won the World Series in this shortened, weird season. I’m mostly annoyed that I can’t make jokes every year like, “The last time the Dodgers won the World Series, I was as old as my son is now: 6.” Or, “The last time the Dodgers won the World Series, I was still asking my parents when the heck Back to the Future II was coming out!” When they won, I had almost the exact same reaction as Grant Brisbee.

So, ya know, like the rest of 2020, that sucked.

But what didn’t suck was one glorious night – World Series, Game 4 – when all was right with the world. The Dodgers were one strike from taking a commanding 3-1 lead. The Rays had two men on, facing Kenly Jansen, the Dodgers’ longtime and though once dominant, now shaky, closer. The runner on second led off the inning with a bloop single that Dodgers’ second baseman Kike Hernandez came about as close to catching as you can without the ball hitting your gloves.  The Rays’ hitter was Brett Phillips, who is probably the last person they would have picked for that at bat (indeed he was the last hitter on the Rays’ bench). Phillips is a career .202 hitter, with a career OPS+ of 69, which is VERY bad. Phillips hadn’t had a plate appearance in 17 days. So of course, on a 1-2 pitch, he does this (starting at 2:34).

That hit should have tied the game, at best, for the Rays. How does Randy Arozarena get all the way around to score from first on a soft single to right center? A comedy of errors, not all of which are clear on the first broadcast view. First, Dodger centerfielder Chris Taylor absolutely boots an easy play. It seems impossible for a major leaguer to do this. But in the biggest moment of his career, Taylor did. Then, in his haste to make up for his mistake, his throw is off-line. So Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy cut it off and threw home. But his throw was to the wrong side of catcher Will Smith’s body. Smith had to wait for it on his right side and then come back to the other side to try to make a tag. Smith knew he had to hurry. Except, unbeknownst to him, he actually did not. This is because Arozarena stumbled and did a full somersault about 30 feet from home. He tried to get up and get back to third. If the Dodgers had realized he fell, he would have been easily out, and the game would have gone to extra innings.  In fact, let’s get back to Muncy because I can’t stand Muncy, and I think he makes the biggest screw-up on the whole play, even worse than his bad throw. Check out this still frame. This is right after Muncy catches the ball.

Watch this in full (starting at 4:19).

Arozarena is literally on his back, Muncy has the ball, and he turns his head toward home. He probably could have run over and tagged Arozarena himself! But he panicked and made that awful throw. Also, what in the world is Jansen doing standing where he is?

But let’s get back to Smith, who thought he had to hurry, not knowing he had all the time in the world. But he hurried too much, and the ball glanced off his glove, hit the umpire, and rolled away. Arozarena noticed the ball slip by, reversed course back toward home, and made the coolest awkward slide in baseball history, slamming home plate repeatedly for emphasis. Series tied 2-2.

I experienced this amazing moment in a way that is likely familiar to other parents reading: belatedly. I had watched much of what had already been an incredible, back and forth game quietly on my phone while my kids enjoyed a movie night, cuddling with me on the chair. But finally it was time to put them to bed and I had to put the game on pause. As I read Harry Potter (nearing the end of Book 7!) to the boys and they drifted off to sleep, I kept dreading an MLB.com notification about a Dodgers win, or a slew of texts from my buddies all saying more or less, “God damnit.” But the notification didn’t come. The texts didn’t come. I started trying to estimate in my head where the game might be, as I had turned it off around the 7th. At the earliest possible moment I kissed the boys goodnight and dashed downstairs. As I ran down the stairs, I got two texts. I turned on the TV in time to see the following 5 seconds (starting at 5:14):

PURE JOY. Arozarena slamming home. Dave Roberts spitting in disgust. I know it’s good but WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?!?!?! Is it over or tied? I tried to rewind but we are staying at my parents’ house and I had forgotten to record the game on their DVR. AGONY. I start texting.

I finally remembered I can get my YouTube TV on my parents’ TV and I watched the whole inning from the start. I watched and watched and watched – and I howled with laughter. I stayed up way too late, watching every angle, reading funny tweets, and harassing my Dodger fan buddy with a GIF of Roberts spitting. 

I listened to seven different radio calls of the play (for my money, Fox Deportes’ call is the best: “NO HAY NADIE!”).

I also found this amazing video, shot by Giants pitcher Tyler Beede, who was at the game in person. 

LOLLL. “LET’S GO! LET’S GO! SUCK IT!!!” So funny. I may have a new favorite Giant.  So, even though the Dodgers won the World Series, Game 4 was like Cinco de Mayo. A battle was won, though the war was ultimately lost. But that battle was so glorious, so…perfectly baseball. I will remember that feeling and that game forever. For one night, it seemed like the Dodgers were going to get to year 33, and life was good. Baseball Gods willing, it’ll be another 32 years before they win another one. I’ll be 70. Amen. -TOB P.S. Lots of great things were written about Game 4. My favorite was Emma Baccellieri’s story, “How to Write the Perfect Ending to a Baseball Game in Seven Steps,” filed in the middle of the night, just hours after the game ended. I highly recommend it.

PAL: I still can’t believe how many things MLB baseball players do poorly on that play:

  • The boot by Taylor in center is so bad
  • A very offline through by Taylor – from shallow center field – into the cutoff man, Muncy
  • Catcher Will Smith for some moving away from the plate to back up the throw to Muncy, which has him then moving back towards home while trying to receive the relay throw
  • Randy Arozarena falling at the single worst moment he could fall
  • Poor relay throw from Muncy to Smith, from about 40 feet away
  • Smith not catching the relay (while, yes, the throw was up the first base line a bit, and yes, Smith thinks he has a bang-bang play coming…you still need to catch the ball first)

Video of the Week The rare four-banger:


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week: Sturgill Simpson – ‘All Around You’ (Live from the 59th Grammys)


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I am trying to be more…optimistic in life. I’ve got, what – 20, 30 more years left – and my family history says I have less. Now the old Stanley Hudson would’ve found something to complain about with this actress. But that’s no way to live life! Look at this healthy, sexy, pretty, strong young woman. Come on, people! She…is…hot.

-Stanley Hudson

Week of October 16, 2020

Kershahahahahaw. Mr. May does it again!


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

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

 

-TOB

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


Hell of a Debut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Lakers Won, BUH, But At What Cost?

I love a good lede:

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

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

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

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

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


Sabermetrics, Circa 1910

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

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

And how about these charts:

 

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

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


In An Otherwise Unremarkable Story, a Lesson on Success

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

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

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

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

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

#FarhanGuy -TOB

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


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


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


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

-Angela Martin

Week of October 9, 2020

Hoping to see a LOT of this next week.


You Don’t Know Earl Campbell’s Story 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ten Years After the Greatest Sports Performance I Ever Saw

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

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

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

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

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

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


Udonis Haslem’s Leadership Odyssey 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still…$14MM? 

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

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


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


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


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

-Michael Scott

Week of October 2, 2020


17 18 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanner W.

Sep 29, 10:40pm

2 likes

So true 

Chris G.

Sep 29, 10:05pm

2 likes

Sounds about right. 

Josh K.

Sep 29, 10:05pm

12 likes

Life is pain 

Will R.

Sep 29, 10:05pm

24 likes

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

Cal K.

Sep 29, 10:11pm

8 likes

Historically good or biblically bad, in that order. 

Christopher H.

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

Glen S.

Sep 29, 10:06pm

6 likes

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

Shane K.

Sep 29, 11:00pm

4 likes

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

Justin B.

Sep 30, 12:02am

2 likes

Sano can only strike out and smash HRs 

Michael T.

Sep 29, 10:07pm

🤣🤣🤣 

Andrew M.

Sep 29, 10:07pm

14 likes

Why Austudillo 

Shane K.

Sep 29, 11:04pm

2 likes

Yes, why???? 

Justin M.

Sep 29, 10:07pm

22 likes

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

Michael C.

Sep 29, 11:31pm

3 likes

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

Michael C.

Sep 29, 11:34pm

5 likes

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

And this, from Jim Souhan, longtime MN columnist: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Gluttonous and Historical Day of Playoff Baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landon Donovan Stands Up to Rid Soccer of Bigotry

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

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

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

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

Good for them. -TOB

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

Video of the Week:


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


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

-Michael Scott