Week of July 13, 2015

“How come your dad couldn’t pick you up from practice?”


A Giant Pedigree

1-2-3 favorite Jonah Keri, who inspired me to buy this very cool tie that I am wearing as I write this, wrote about how the Giants managed to put together an all-home grown infield. That infield is presently the best in baseball by WAR: Posey, Belt, Panik, Crawford, and Duffy, three of whom are All-Stars. It’s especially impressive in light of (1) the Giants losing home-grown Pablo Sandoval to free agency in the offseason; and (2) team architect Brian Sabean’s previous reputation as a guy who did not know how to draft and develop position players – a reputation that was pretty well deserved for a long time. When you throw in the fact that the Giants have a possible all home-grown rotation (when everyone is healthy) of Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Heston, and you start to see why the Giants have been so successful over the last half decade. -TOB

Source: Grown at Home: How the Giants Built the Best Infield in Baseball”, Jonah Keri, Grantland (07/15/2015)

PAL: Man, did I pick the right time to move to San Francisco or what! All five infielders and five starting pitchers. Damn, that’s cool. This article really underscores what a huge, unexpected surprise Panik and Duffy are this year. Crawford, Belt, Posey – hey – that’s pretty good. But all five? Again, damn.I love this team like the rest of you – and this story only adds to that love, so let me be the fun sponge for a moment. The starting pitching scares the hell out of me. The word “fumes” comes to mind when I think of all they’ve done over the past 5 years. Cain, Timmy, and Vogelsong might well be on career fumes. One more time, guys!


Media: Please Stop Covering Eldrick Woods.

There’s no story here, just a rant: The British Open began yesterday. It’s at St. Andrew’s, a classic links course. I don’t watch much golf, but St. Andrew’s is my favorite when I do. Tiger Woods has won the Open three times, and twice it was at St. Andrew’s. So there seemed to be some interest in how Tiger might fare there this year. After one day, it is official: Tiger is done. DONE. Can we stop covering him? He hasn’t won a major since 2008. 2008!!!! And yet his weekly failures are reported on ESPN’s frontpage as if it is news. Especially in the Majors. He shot a horrible 76 yesterday, tied with old man Tom Watson for 139th of 156 golfers, eleven strokes behind the leader. And Tiger made the ESPN.com frontpage. Sportscenter did a full 5-minutes on him. Enough! He no longer deserves that status. He should be treated like every other golfer: When he is in contention, cover him. When he’s not, don’t. And it’s time to revoke the nickname Tiger. He’s back to Eldrick. “Tiger” is for closers. -TOB

Source: The 2015 British Open Leaderboard

PAL: “Tiger” is for closers. File that under “Favorite Tommy Lines”. I agree with you, but no one outside of the die hards watches golf. A lot of people have at least a passing interest in Eldrick’s story. While there is a certain group of people who relish this extended comeuppance after his salacious downfall, I think the real draw is the fact that a GOAT at the front end of his prime (for his sport) seems to have lost it. As crazy as this sounds, 49% of me thinks this dude still has 2 majors in him. While they weren’t majors, Woods won 5 tournaments as recently as 2013, and few sports allow a competitor to play at or near the highest level for 20 years. That, and I’m still a bit blinded by his dominance now 10 years in the rearview.

TOB: Quick point: You think Tiger is on the front side of his prime? He turns 40 this December, so the PGA Championship next month will be the last major of his 30’s. Even ignoring all his knee trouble, which has been significant, that is old. The average age of a winner of a major is 32. Guess how often players win a major over 40? Since 1986, when Arnold Palmer famously won the Masters at the ripe “old” age of 46 for his first major since the year he turned 40, only 7 players over the age of 40 have won a major. That is about 5%. Eldrick is done.


You Mess With The Bull…

Joe Distler was an ad man in New York living the regular life. Life was routine. Then he picked up The Swords of Spain in a bookstore. Then he went to San Fermin. Then he ran. He’s been running with the bulls ever since, and he’s considered one of the best to do it. I love how his story is a balance of romance (“I feel I am part of the herd”) and instruction (“Rules of The Run”). If nothing else, give this story a chance just to check out the beautiful photographs. At a more fundamental level, this is a story about a regular guy rediscovering a the passion for life that’s all so often inseparable from fear. – PAL

Source: “How To Run On The Horns In Pamplona”, Joe Distler, Tru.ink (2015)


“Dunk of Death”

Although the name doesn’t stick, most of us know Frédéric Weis. He’s the 7-footer Vince Carter jumped over in the 2000 Olympics. It is one of the most popular – and some would say incredible – dunks of all-time. Prior to the Olympics, The Knicks drafted Weis in the first round. Despite the posterization, things were looking up for the big man from France, but everything changed for the worse shortly after the Prior to the “le dunk de la mort” (Dunk of Death). The professional embarrassment at the hands of Carter had nothing to do with it. Here’s a story about the other guy in the sports highlight. – PAL

Source: For Frédéric Weis, Knick’s Infamous Pick, Boos Began a Greater Struggle“, Sam Borden, The New York Times (7/14/15)

TOB: Reminds me a bit of the story on Craig Ehlo we covered a few weeks back. I knew that Weis was the guy that Vince dunked over, but did not know that he was drafted by the Knicks. An interesting tidbit in there is how Weis was treated by Jeff Van Gundy during his one summer with the Knicks: Not well.


Never Change, Marshawn

This one does not require much explanation: Marshawn Lynch was at his youth camp this week and a reporter saw he had chicken wings. Stored in his sock. When the reporter asked why, Marshawn said: “”My auntie fried up some chicken and I had my hands full, and I don’t have no pockets on my shorts, so I just had to use what I had.” So resourceful. As I said: Never change, Marshawn. -TOB

Source: Why Marshawn Lynch Kept Chicken Wings in His Sock”, Jeff Bercovici, Maxim (07/16/2015)

PAL: Man, this would have been great as an “extra” in the Marshawn Lynch biopic (single tear). Hard not to love Lynch, but – come on – this is disgusting.


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GOAL!!!!! Look at him pulling a Steph Curry, celebrating before it even goes in.


PAL Song of the week: Mike Sempert – “Oceans of Rock and Roll” (great song for a solo drive)

Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re good).


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“There is nothing better than to be shot at and missed.”

– E. Hemingway
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Week of September 22, 2014

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Defending the Indefensible?

Considering Phil and I love sports so much that we spend hours each week creating this sports blog, that we don’t even get paid for, this is a difficult read. It’s hard to argue with most of the points because the amount of public money spent on stadiums is at once staggering and sad. NFL stadiums are used for football around ten times per year. And yet we build them these stadiums, and lease them to the NFL owners at ludicrously low prices. The owners are practically printing their own money at this point. Between player health, public funding, and the general buffoonery of Roger Goodell, it is difficult to defend the decision to watch the NFL. And yet. I still watch. So I won’t try to defend it. It is indefensible. This is an excerpt from Steve Almond’s book, referenced here back on September 1, 2014. -TOB

Source: Why Being a Football Fan is Indefensible”, by Steve Almond, excerpted from his book “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto”, published 08/26/2014

Note: Professional sports teams should build their own stadiums. Franchise valuations are jumping over the the $1 billion mark. I will never vote to support a tax increase for a publicly funded stadium. Here’s the other thing, there aren’t that many cities in the U.S. that can support a professional franchise. Guess how many cities have a population over 600,000? 30. Most of them already have teams, which is why L.A. not having a football team is such a great negotiating chip for current owners. In other words, they need us as much as we want them. So – yeah – they can pay their way. – PAL


How Many Points Did You Score for Stevie Johnson’s Fantasy Workplace Team Today?

In lighter news, this is great. Likely annoyed at fans tweeting him to complain about his fantasy football performance so far this season, Stevie Johnson joked that he had drafted many of “us” for his workplace fantasy team. He asked us not to let him down. The ensuing back and forth with fans is really amusing. -TOB

Source: Stevie Johnson Drafted a Really Great Fantasy You Team”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (09/25/2014)

Note: God, I effing love this so much. Highlights: changing a diaper is worth 10 points in the Fantasy Work League. – PAL


Yeah Jeets!

Derek Jeter played the last home game of his career last night. I watched the first inning. At Yankee Stadium in the Top of the 1st, the crowd chants each player’s name until they acknowledge it. They did every player, and they got to Jeter. As soon as they begin chanting his name, the Orioles Nick Markakis hit a home run. It was hilarious and awkward. Of course, Jeter ended the game with a tie-breaking, walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th. Rather fitting. Good timing, zero power. There has been a lot written about Derek Jeter over the years, and over the last week. I think Jeter is a good player, a Hall of Famer, but I also think that if he hadn’t played for New York, he’d be Craig Biggio. He’s not the greatest Yankee or the greatest shortstop of all-time. And he’s always been a terrible defender, despite what announcers/talking heads might have you believe. But his being overrated by the media doesn’t mean he was not great, either. In the first article, Jonah Keri takes a look at Jeter’s career and attempts to find his place historically. It’s a good read. And if you’re curious about what Jeter, the opaque Brand that he is, is really like, New York Magazine profiles him. Interestingly, he’s so image conscious that he comes off a bit poorly here, if you ask me. -TOB

Sources: Goodbye, Mr. November: Taking Stock of Derek Jeter’s Divisive Legacy, by Jonah Keri, Grantland (09/24/2014); Derek Jeter Opens the Door, by Chris Smith, New York Magazine (09/21/2014)

Note: Who has ever made the argument Derek Jeter is the greatest Yankee? Who has ever called him the greatest shortstop of all-time? Nobody, which is why Keith Olbermann’s rant was so stupid (seriously, who enjoys watching this guy get off on his own pontifications?) He was a very good player on a dynasty that won it all 4 out 5 years in (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000).  Tack on another championship in 2009, and that’s a career worth celebrating. As for the “if he hadn’t played in New York” angle – well, he did play in New York, and we all know that is different. It just is. Of course the Yankees are going to make a big deal about this, and of course it will get overblown; it’s 2014 – the age of hyperbole. He had his shortcoming as a player, and I hated him growing up to be sure, but he gets a thumbs up on this day. To be honest, all I ever wanted was to never hear Tim McCarver announce another baseball game, so it’s all been gravy to me since then. -PAL


Persistence, Personified

13 years, 4,095 games. Guilder Rodriguez played in the minors for 13 years before being called up to the Rangers. He was drafted when I was a freshman in college (2001). It’s a hard and beautiful thing when a guy keeps a dream alive for 13 years before it’s realized. You have a MLB stat line now, Mr. Rodriguez. The stories for this didn’t do it for me, so instead take 5 minutes and check out this guy’s stats on Baseball-Reference. Think about all the things that have happened to you over the last 13 years while keeping in mind he was just plugging along down there. -PAL

Source: Guilder Rodriguez Minor League Stats, Major League Stats


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“I don’t give a frog’s fat ass who went through what. We need money! Hey, Russ, wanna look through Aunt Edna’s purse?”

– Clark W. Griswold

Week of September 8, 2014

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Snot Guilty.


Ray Rice and Domestic Violence

As you can imagine, we read a lot about Ray Rice this week, and the NFL’s horrible handling of this mess from the beginning. A lot. Deadspin, particularly, was all over the NFL – pointing out the hypocrisy, lies, laziness, and general awfulness of how this was handled. There is so much to hate about everything that has happened with this, from the act of violence itself, to the mishandling by the NFL, to idiotic comments that people have made this week (especially those blaming the victim), but the fact that it took this long to release him is what burns me the most. When the video broke and the Ravens released Rice, my initial thought was, “If this is your reaction to seeing the video, then why wasn’t he released months ago? What did you THINK the video would show?” I understand that the visual of the video is jarring, but so was the first video – of Rice dragging an unconscious woman from an elevator like a sack of potatoes. It was disgusting. And Rice told them exactly what was on the video. What did the Ravens do? They stood by Rice and talked about how he’s a great guy who made a mistake. What did the NFL do? As we covered back in July, they brought in the victim and asked her questions with her batterer sitting right next to her, and then essentially said that the event was mutual combat and gave him a FAR lighter suspension than a dude who smoked marijuana. The NFL is despicable. I have disliked Roger Goodell from the very beginning of his tenure as commissioner. He uses the PR-garbage phrase, “Protect the Shield” like it is something noble. Instead of doing the right thing, he is concerned with how things appear. He has handled this mess like an incompetent asshole. Here’s hoping this gets him fired, as Keith Olbermann calls for here. -TOB

Note: Here’s my initial thoughts from our post on July 28: “As for Goodell, he couldn’t have handled this any worse. What about the Baltimore Ravens (the team for which Rice plays)? They could simply make him inactive and impose a larger punishment. They didn’t. Also, you can shove your apology up your ass when you knock out a woman. Don’t tell me, ‘That’s not who I am,’ Ray Rice. It is who you are, because you did it. And here’s what I have to say today: if you take issue with domestic violence, if you have a problem with how the NFL handles domestic violence, if how the perpetrator’s company handled this doesn’t sit well with you, then you can do something very simple: don’t watch the games. I don’t mean this as an insult; I mean it as a call to action. I love sports, and I enjoy watching NFL games, but neither mean enough to me to make this decision a hard one, and – guess what – the NFL doesn’t matter that much to you either. It matters if you post about it on social media. It matters that you talk about it at the water cooler. One more step will make an even bigger difference – take a few weeks off and let the NFL know how BS this whole thing is. If for no other reason, let us remind ourselves that we have a backbone. It’s simple: something is wrong, so don’t support it. Also, let’s hold those who made horse s*&T statements accountable by at least keeping them in check. -PAL


Cespedes for the Rest of Us

On the morning of July 31st, the Oakland A’s were sitting pretty. They had the best record in baseball (66-41) and had just traded for two top of the rotation starters (Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammell). They seemed poised for a deep playoff run. But that day, trade deadline day, Billy Beane decided that he was tired of losing in the playoffs and pushed all his chips to the middle of the table. He dealt fan favorite and back-to-back Home Run Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes (still on a cheap deal through the end of 2015) for Red Sox ace Jon Lester on a 2-month rental. The rest of the AL West was terrified. The Angels were 2 games back, and the Mariners were 10.5 back. But since then, the A’s have sunk like an anchor. Their previous league best offense has been putrid. The A’s are now 81-65 (15-24 since the trade) and trail the Angels by 9.5 games. They are only a half game away from missing the playoffs altogether. Many A’s fans are lamenting the Cespedes trade. But 123 favorite Jonah Keri explains why the losing Cespedes is not the cause of the swoon. -TOB

Source: “A Clockwork Oakland: What the Heck Happened to the Once Great A’s?”, Jonah Keri, Grantland (09/10/14)


Hunter on 9/11 (from 9/12/2001)

Hunter S. Thompson on the ramifications of 9/11, written the day after the attacks. Read it, because it’s important that you do so. 13 years later, and his accuracy is sobering. – PAL

Source: “Fear and Loathing in America“, Hunter S. Thompson, ESPN’s Page 2 (09/12/2001)


Apparently, the NFL Has Some Good People in It, Too 

Devon Still plays for the Bengals. Entering his third year in the league, injuries have hampered his NFL career. His daughter is battling stage 4 pediatric cancer. Instead of cutting him, the Bengals first put him on the practice squad, then moved him up to the 53-man roster. Why does this matter? Health insurance, for one. Not only that, the team is donating all the proceeds from Devon Still jersey sales. There are a bunch of stories about this, but moreover it’s good to know there’s someone in the NFL (with the Bengals) that did the right thing in the week of the Ray Rice debacle. – PAL

Source: “Still Ready to give Bengals his all”, Corley Harvey, ESPN (9/11/14)


VIDEO OF THE WEEK


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“It’s living history, Ellen. But if you’d rather see your cousins. Personally I’d rather see a pile of mud than Eddie.”

– Clark Griswold

 

Week of May 18, 2014

The Western Conference Finals.

 


What Exactly Does a Pitching Coach Do? More Than You Might Think.

I’m a huge baseball fan. But sometimes I wonder, what exactly does a good pitching coach do? What does it mean to be a good pitching coach? Why do some seem to have such good reputations in the media? Doesn’t the staff’s success have more to do with talent, and the organizations ability to discover it? 123 favorite Jonah Keri explores why the Cardinals staff has been so good for so long, no matter the names: the foundation laid by former pitching coach Dave Duncan is the reason why. -TOB

Story Link: “The Duncan Way”, Jonah Keri, Grantland (05/21/14)


“I’ve been waiting 20 years for someone to knock him on his ass.”

Refs might not decide the outcome of a game, but they sure as hell influence it. Part 5/5 of a series examining NBA officiating and its lack of public accountability includes the story of Tim Donaghy–the ref busted for betting on games back in 2007–knocking out Joey Crawford (the bald ref that everyone hates, especially the Spurs). -PAL

Story Link: “Punching out Joey Crawford, and the issues on NBA officiating”, John Canzano, The Oregonian (05/16/14)


When’s the right time to call up a stud baseball prospect? Follow the money.

I’ll admit it; I’ve never completely understood the facts of team control over their baseball draft picks. This article lays it out nicely and explains the possible routes a team can take to promote (or delay) a stud minor leaguer to the bigs. Are teams putting playoff births at risk in the interest of staving off arbitration for one more year? How many divisions or wildcards have been won by a game? -PAL

Story Link: “The Polanco Problem…” Ben Lindburgh, Grantland (05/19/14)


Ever Wish You Had Grown Up Playing Sports With a Future Star? This Guy Actually Did.

Growing up, everyone probably had one or two people they played sports with, or against, that you were sure would be a future star. Usually, it never happens. This is a fun story about how a guy, about to graduate from Georgetown Law School played on a team with Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley. Yes, Beasley was always kind of weird. -TOB

Story Link: “The Lawyer Who Blocked Kevin Durant”, Dave McKenna, Grantland (05/16/14)


Sleeping With the Enemy

When my team is knocked out, I rarely root for a division/conference rival to do well. Did I want Stanford to win the Rose Bowl after my Cal Bears went 1-11 last year? Hell no. Did I cheer when they lost that game to Michigan State? Hell yes. Screw them. But that’s not the case for many Canadian hockey fans, a country that hasn’t seen the Stanley Cup return home to Canada in 21 years. They wrap themselves in the flag and root for their otherwise bitter enemies. -TOB

Story Link:  “Canada First: Why I Root for Teams I Hate”, Eva Holland, Grantland (05/22/14)


Video of the Week:


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“And just remember, fans, in the airport of life, sports is just the baggage.”

-A.C. Slater