Week of October 6, 2014

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We’ve all been there.


The Flood Gates of Free Agency

Even if you are a huge sports fan, you may not have not heard of Curt Flood. But more than perhaps any athlete since Jackie Robinson, Curt Flood changed the landscape of American sports. Two words: free agency. Flood sat out the 1970 season to sue MLB over the ‘Reserve Clause’. In plain speak – after a player’s contract with a team expired, team owners could unilaterally renew those contracts for one year at a time, in perpetuity. While he lost the case (and would go on to only play 10 more games in his career), MLB players were granted free agency by 1975. In the coming years, the other major sports would follow suit. Now, when a player becomes a free agent and is able to sell his services to the highest bidder, he should thank Curt Flood. There’s also an accompanying video that must be watched. -TOB

Source: “The Athlete Who Made Lebron James Possible”, Clyde Haberman, New York Times (10/05/14)

PAL: What a great piece of multimedia (the accompanying doc short is on par with a 30 for 30 piece). I knew of Curt Flood’s importance, but only in the way you know the answer to a trivia question. There’s much more to the story than the advent of free agency and the flawed man who demanded it. One detail stands out in particular: “After his death in 1997 — in January, during the off-season — no active players could bring themselves to go to his funeral, though they were all beneficiaries of his legacy.”


The Inexact Science of Breaking World Records

“At the very edges of human capacity, fewer and fewer things can turn out less than perfect and keep a record attempt intact.” While this story focuses on how far we are from witnessing a 2:00:00 marathon, its draw comes from the axis of science, physiology, and environment. Clearly, the main ingredient is an athlete that is what Malcom Gladwell termed an “outlier” (see: Usain Bolt). However, there are so many other seemingly minute factors that come into play when the difference between a 2:02:57 marathon (current record) and a 2:00:00 marathon is 6 seconds per mile. Physiological makeup, the route, the pace, the natural instinct to beat the field rather than the clock – hell – even the prize money comes into account (as a disincentive, if you can believe that). Once you’ve considered all of this, ask a friend who’s run a marathon what kind of difference 6 seconds per mile feels like, and they’ll tell you it’s a huge chunk of time. Whether or not you’re a runner, this is a great read. -PAL

Source: “How Close Are We To A Two-Hour Marathon”, Kyle Wagner, Regressing (10/3/14)


Goodell Hoisted By His Own Petard

Deadspin’s Drew Magary with an excellent explanation of how the NFL, under Roger Goodell, unwisely tried to become a shining beacon for American society and how the decision to portray the league as such has blown up in Goodell’s face. -TOB

Source: “The NFL Is Having Its Steroid Moment”, Drew Magary, Deadspin (10/02/14)

PAL:  The parallels between the NFL’s handling of domestic abuse and MLB’s handling of steroids are right on. “Football cannot be anything more than what it is, which is cheap and disposable entertainment for the masses. The second you try to seize the moral high ground, you have lost it. Baseball still hasn’t quite figured that out, and it doesn’t look like the NFL will either.”


What The Hell Is Going On With Adrian Peterson?

By now you’ve heard Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been charged with felony child abuse. As of Thursday, it’s being reported that paperwork has been filed for his bail to be revoked after Peterson told a drug tester he has “smoked a little weed,” which is a violation of the terms of his bail. There are also reports citing problematic financial discrepancies surrounding his charity. Currently, a man in Sioux Falls, SD is charged and pending trial for second degree murder (amongst other charges) in the death of Peterson’s 2 year-old song. I’m in no place to say Peterson is guilty or innocent of anything; I’m just looking at the bullet-points here, and I’m reminded again and again that we have idea for whom we cheer. Seinfeld was right; we’re cheering for laundry. Here’s a breakdown of Adrian Peterson’s timeline of issues, dating back to his college days at Oklahoma. – PAL

Source: “Behind Peterson’s perfect image lay an imperfect human being”, by Mike Kaszuba, Rochelle Olson, and Paul McEnroe; Star Tribune (10/7/2014)

TOB: This story just keeps getting weirder. But, as a silver lining, the guy who had Peterson in my fantasy league released him in protest of his actions,. I scooped him up and will stash him on my bench. It’s a keeper league, so I was pretty pumped. I’m awful.


Video of the Week:

Quote of the Week:

“I think we can agree that all wine tastes the same and if you spend any more than 5 dollars on wine, you are very stupid.”

– April Ludgate

 

 

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Week of July 21, 2014

It’s a baseball-heavy week, folks. You’ll survive.

The answer isn’t (just) steroids/PEDs: Barry Bonds was better than anybody at hitting a baseball.

This is 28-point list of Barry Bonds hitting stats that are hard to imagine, yet it happened. I’m trying to think of a music corollary here to demonstrate how nuts this list is, and the best I can come up with would be a Beatles-Michael Jackson combo. Do yourself a favor, read this over beers at a bar with a friend. It’s just effing bonkers. -PAL

Source: “Barry Bonds Was An Alien God Who Destroyed Space-Time To Bring Us Joy”, Tim Marchman, Regressing (7/23/14)


Is Illegal Defense Coming to MLB?

Across MLB, on base percentage is at its lowest since 1973 – when the American League introduced the DH. In the past nine years alone, left-handed hitters have lost eighty five points on their batting average on balls in play to the right field side (this stats takes home runs out of the equation). A contributing factor to this is the increasingly implemented defensive shift, especially against left-handed hitters. Tom Verducci explores a growing call for a ban on the defensive shift as a way to promote scoring across the league. -TOB

Source: “As Shifts Suppress Offense, the Time Has Come to Consider a Change”, Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated (07/22/14)

Note: I have a crazy idea – hit the ball the where the defense isn’t. Baseball – no – sport – no – LIFE is about adjustments and evolution. Hitters, make a goddamn adjustment. This is the worst idea I’ve come across in a long time. – PAL


I want to have drinks with Dan Jenkins, and I don’t even like golf.

Dan Jenkins is 84. Until last weekend’s Open Championship (The British one), he’s covered every golf major for 45 years (that’s 179 majors). Health reasons kept him in Fort Worth, TX this year, but the consolation prize is this story from his daughter, Sally Jenkins (not a bad sports writer herself). Word for word, this is the best writing I’ve come across since we started 1-2-3 SPORTS! Funny, heartfelt, dry where it needs to be dry. Whether you like golf or not, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this short read.

Source: “After attending every British Open for 45 years, Dan Jenkins deserves some barbecue”, Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post (7/18/14)


Hey, Timmy. Take a Seat. We Kept it Warm For You.

It seemed like it happened overnight. I remember sitting in AT&T Park with my friend Ryan for Tim Lincecum’s first home start of 2012. He had been rocked in his first two starts of the season, both on the road, to the tune of a nearly 13.00 ERA. We remained defiantly optimistic. Small sample size, and all. We had reason to be optimistic: Lincecum broke into the league and went on an unprecedented run – two Cy Young Awards in his first two full seasons in 2008 and 2009. 2010 and 2011 were also very good. But there were signs. His fastball velocity had dropped considerably, and his walk rate had gone up a bit more than a tick. However, no one saw this coming. And then he got rocked. Again. He gave up four runs in the first inning on a seemingly endless run of line drives. He was getting hit hard. Ryan and I exchanged nervous glances – and then watched over the next two seasons as our hero completely fell apart. Lincecum was one of the worst starters in baseball in 2012 and 2013. This past offseason, the Giants gave him a 2-year, $35M deal, anyways – in part out of loyalty, in part out of a lack of other options, and in part because they held out hope, as all Giants fans did, that Timmy would return.  This season began, and nothing had changed. Lincecum finished April with an ERA of 5.96. I was finally ready to give up believing he’d ever find that spark again. And then he did. Aside from one bad start, Lincecum has been really damn good since the end of April. Consistent. Dependable. Sometimes even electric – punctuated by his second no-hitter in less than a year. Is he back? Somewhat surprisingly, advanced statistics suggest that he is. Maybe he is not the Timmy of 2008-09, but he might be the Timmy of 2010-11 – finally learning to care for his body and actually pitch, even as his velocity remains diminished. – TOB

Source: “Don’t Call it a Lincecomeback”, Ben Lindbergh, Grantland (07/24/14)

Note: This is a sabermetrics-heavy story, but worth the read. Timmy’s career is fascinating at first blush, yet when I think about it, why am I surprised that a dude my size (short, but skinnier) has lost velocity on his fastball as he enters his 30s? It’s a novel-worthy story: what does the hero do when he can’t rely on his talent anymore? He learns the craft. -PAL


Video of the Week: 


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“That’s all I meant by ‘relationship.’ You want me to grab a dictionary?

– Max Fischer