Week of June 22, 2015

What’s missing?


Blowback on a Whistleblower

This article made me sad, but it’s a good read. We have covered the Jackie Robinson West (JRW) Little League team a couple times now – first during their run to the U.S. title last summer, and subsequently when that title was stripped after an investigation revealed the team had used players outside their league’s boundaries. JRW’s run had inspired many, as a team comprised entirely of black kids from Chicago proved that baseball is not dead in the inner-cities, so people were understandably upset when their title was stripped. Much of that ire was directed at Chris Janes, a coach from a rival Little League from suburban Chicago, who was the person that alerted Little League officials to JRW’s use of ineligible players. The fallout was not pretty. Janes was accused of racism and received death threats, and at the height of his stress became involved in an unrelated but bizarre, drunken incident. Janes seems like a good guy, and he says after all he’s been through, he’d be the whistleblower again. I find it sad that he had to go through all that. It’s shameful that adults would have broken the rules, which only hurt these kids (and the teams they beat along the way) to begin with. And it’s even more shameful that the whistleblower is blamed by adults who should know better. -TOB

Source: Little League, Big Trouble: Jackie Robinson West Whistleblower Chris Janes Pays the Price”, David Mendell, SB Nation (06/24/2015)

PAL: A must read. “A handful of JRW players had received public congratulations from a congresswoman, a suburban mayor and others who hailed from outside JRW’s boundaries, with each specifically noting that players lived or went to school in their locales, outside the area served by JRW.” Through the first quarter of this story, I thought it was pretty clear. The Jackie Robinson West team broke the rules by bringing in ringers to excel in competition at a 12 year-old level. Pathetic. Although nothing changes that fact, the story does a great job presenting the other factors at play. This is a strange mix of politics, race, alcohol, whistleblowers, and Little League; Dave Mendell does a great job telling this story, but what would I give to read Hunter S. Thompson take a swing at this one in his prime.

Consider this: At a time when roughly 8% of Major League Baseball players are black (down from 19% in 1986), we had an all-black Little League team from the inner city winning the most feel-good, apple pie, American sporting event – the U.S. championship of Little League World Series. Remember, JRW’s run in Williamsport coincided with Mo’ne Davis taking the public by storm in becoming the first girl to pitch a shutout in the LLWS. We had feel good stories at the feel good event of the summer.

There’s no getting around it – the Jackie Robinson West team shamelessly broke a clear rule. They brought ringers in from outside of the boundaries. That’s weak. But the youth team’s rise and downfall unleashed emotions about issues far more complex than Little League.


Don’t Give In To Pete Rose

Most hits in MLB history. Fantastic player by all accounts. A competitive, team player. World Series titles. His play merits an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is littered with racists, drug abusers, misogynists, and all around despicable people. After all, it’s a museum, not a hall of community leaders. So he bet on baseball. Who cares? Put him in with an asterisk and tell the old man to shut up already.

I care. I’m surprised by how much I care, actually. He broke a rule fundamental to the legitimacy of the sport I love the most. When players determining the outcome of the game gamble on the game, then how far away are we from wrestling? Fittingly, Rose appeared on WrestleMania between 1998-2000. More than the rule he broke, his brazen style of lying for decades really sticks in my craw. He infamously set up shop during induction weekend across the street from the Hall of Fame and sign copies of the Dowd Report (the investigation finding Rose to have bet on baseball as a manager for the Reds).

He continued to gamble. Then he cashed in on his lies and came clean in an autobiography… only he didn’t come clean! He lied in his admission. Oh, and by the way, Pete Rose voluntarily accepted his place on the permanently ineligible list. The Hall of Fame and managing are the two things in his baseball life that he’s wanted and has been told “no.” He’s not in prison (although he did do a stint for tax evasion). By multiple accounts he makes millions in appearance fees and memorabilia signings. So that’s the punishment. Rose doesn’t get what he wants just because he really wants it. -PAL

Source: “Pete Rose still belongs in the Hall of Fame”, Jayson Stark, ESPN (6/23/15)

TOB: Please read Jayson Stark’s article to get my position on this subject. But it basically boils down to: How can you have a Baseball Hall of Fame without some of the greatest players who played? This goes for Bonds and Clemens, too. I understand Phil’s anger, I guess. But I feel bad for Pete Rose. I do. Yes, he’s made millions signing autographs (though that would not have changed had he been reinstated). And yes, he’s not a likeable guy (though that would not make him unique in the baseball Hall of Fame). And yes, he accepted his punishment (though he was always eligible to be reinstated). But come on, how can you not feel for a guy who lost everything he cared about because he couldn’t stop gambling? Presumably, he has a disease, a gambling addiction for which he has paid a terrible price. He’s old. I doubt he has 10 years left. It’s time to let the guy into the Hall of Fame. It’s BASEBALL. It’s a SPORT. It’s a HALL OF FAME. It should be fun, and it should not be taken this seriously. The guy never hurt anyone. He bet on baseball games (there is zero evidence or even accusations that he ever bet against his team or that he threw a game). I understand the need to punish him, so that his crimes are not committed by others. But it’s been 25 years! It’s time. Put Pete Rose in the Hall, write on his plaque that he gambled on baseball and was banned for 25 years, and end this guy’s pain.


When Two Douchebags Fight, We All Win

On Monday afternoon, Sean Combs aka P.Diddy aka Puff Daddy went to the UCLA football offices to talk to strength coach Sal Alosi. An argument ensued, and during the argument Diddy picked up a kettlebell and allegedly swung it at somebody (Diddy claims he merely picked up the kettlebell and held it up in self-defense). Diddy’s son Justin is on the UCLA football team, though he does not get much playing time. Diddy’s camp is now claiming that Alosi had picked on and bullied Justin for years, culminating in Alosi sending Justin home on Monday, and telling him not to return until the end of the summer. This prompted Diddy to go to UCLA to talk to Alosi, and ended in Diddy’s arrest.

Undoubtedly, Diddy is an entitled jackass, but I don’t doubt for one second that Sal Alosi is a jerk and a bully. He’s a strength coach, which is a job notorious for employing meatheads of the highest order. On top of that, Alosi gained national notoriety a few years ago, when as a coach for the Jets, he intentionally tripped a Dolphins player during a punt return. When I realized who this coach was, and then heard the Diddy-camp’s claims that Alosi had bullied Justin, it did not surprise me in the least.

Amidst all the coverage of this story, I found this great tidbit from former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who recruited Justin Comb to UCLA:

“I took them on their campus tour. A half-hour into it, (Diddy) asked me who I was. He said, ‘Tell me what you do, Rick.’ I said, ‘I’m the head football coach here.’ He said, ‘You’re giving us the tour?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, this is my school. This is where I went. I want to give you a feel of what it’s like to be a student.’ …”When you’re weighing the assets of what a youngster can do for your program, there’s no question (being Diddy’s son) had something to do with it for me. Justin is a great kid. His problem was his size. He’s not big enough to be a dominant player. Could he be productive? Yes. The fact his father was an influential guy played into my decision to go ahead and offer him.”

The decision to use a scholarship on Diddy for his dad’s fame is such an L.A. thing to do. And Diddy being on a tour with Rick Neuheisel, a fairly famous college coach, for a half hour and not knowing who he is, is also an incredibly L.A. thing. Everyone looks bad in this story – UCLA, Neuheisel, Diddy, Alosi, and current UCLA coach Jim Mora, Jr. Accordingly, I enjoyed it thoroughly. -TOB

Source: Rick Neuheisel: Diddy Combs’ Celebrity Led to Son’s UCLA Offer”, Mike Huguenin, NFL.com (06/24/2015)

PAL: I heard this all stems from Ma$e’s son jumping Diddy’s son on the depth chart.


Brotherly Brawls

The Buffalo News ran a long feature on Rex Ryan this week. It’s a great read. During the 49ers coaching “search” this offseason (I say “search” because they clearly had no intention of ever hiring anyone but in-house guy Jim Tomsula), I campaigned openly for them to go after Rex. Mostly because he is a very good coach. But also because he is fun. This is a perfect example, a story of the time Rex and his twin brother Rob got into a fist fight because Rex wouldn’t join Rob on a double date:

They were students at Southwestern Oklahoma State. Rob wanted to take a lady on a date and needed Rex to be his wingman. Rex wasn’t down for the mission because he’d already met Micki, the woman he would marry.

Rob: “I was a solo rider and had a babe on the line. But she had a friend. I said, ‘You know, come on. Be a team player.’ ”

Rex: “I said, ‘Dude, I’m staying at home today.’ ”

Rob: “So after a few hundred beers I said, ‘You need to help out.’ He didn’t, so I was pissed and got in a wrestling match with him. I think he was a lot more sober than I was.”

Rex: “I was bigger and was just going to throw his ass down. But he reversed me and got on top. So we went at it. We ended up outside, and here he comes.”

Rob: “I ran after him, and he had a right hand waiting for me. I never saw it coming. Still haven’t seen it.”

Rex: “I got him good, and it was over. I felt terrible. I couldn’t believe I hit my brother like that.”

Rex was furious and, as keeper of the car key, drove off to clear his head. Tatters of a bloody shirt hung off him.

“I get pulled over by a cop. He sees me and doesn’t know what he’s got,” Rex said with a gleaming-white smile. “I said, ‘I just got in a fight with my brother. You can take me back there, and he’ll explain it.’

“They take me to jail and then called my brother. He said, ‘Nah, leave him in there.’ ”

Rob’s ankle was broken during the wrestling portion of the match, and his nose broken during the boxing portion. When they arrived in New Orleans for Super Bowl week, Rob’s ankle was in a cast. “We both had black eyes,” Rob said. Buddy wasn’t amused.

Is it too late to hire Rex? Damn. -TOB

Source: The Wild Early Years and the Football Family That Shaped Bills Coach Rex Ryan”, Tim Graham, Buffalo News (06/22/2015)


Video of the Week

Might be my favorite video we’ve ever featured. -TOB


PAL Song of the week: Roger Miller – “Oo-De-Lally” . Check out all of our weekly picks here (they’re super good).


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“Just remember. It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

– G. Costanza

 

 

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Week of January 5, 2015


Ownage: Mickey Morandini > Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz

Who? That’s the point. Second baseman Mickey Morandini hit .352 off of Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz over his career (Smoltz and Pedro were voted into the Hall of Fame this week). I’m not talking about 10 ABs either. He faced these two over 100 times in his career. While a .344 average against Smoltz is impressive, let’s focus on the real feat: the “dandy little gloveman” hit .370 against Pedro. Can you imagine what Smoltz and Pedro must’ve been thinking when this guy walked up to the plate? I’d bet money it included Joe Pesci’s preferred adjective ending in -ing, bookended by “this” and “guy”. This is a fun read that highlights the seemingly illogical nature of 1-on-1 matchups in baseball that’s hard to imagine in other sports. It doesn’t exactly translate, but can you fathom Jared Dudley owning LeBron James 1-on-1? And, yes, Pedro was as good of a pitcher as LeBron James is a basketball player. – PAL

Source: “Aces’ Obstacle on Way to Hall: A Modest Hitter”, Tyler Kepner, The New York Times (1/5/14)

TOB: As Phil notes, this article reminds me of why baseball is so weird. I checked – here are some other big name pitchers that Morandini killed: Maddux (.361), Andy Benes (.424), Tom Glavine (.293), Dwight Gooden (.359), Roger Clemens (.667 – but just 3 at bats). Wild. I also like wondering how the reporter stumbled upon this story – did someone tip him off to it? Is it some weird bit of trivia he came across years ago, and held onto for this day, when Smoltz and Pedro would be elected to the Hall? Or was he simply perusing baseball-reference.com for hitters who did well against the three electees when he noticed Morandini’s name at the top of two of the lists?


Ugh. The Maloofs Won’t Go Away
Oh, just die already. -TOB
Source: “Former Sacramento Kings Owners Maloofs Looking to Get Back Into Sports Business”, Dale Kasler, San Jose Mercury-News (12/25/14)

PAL: Owning a stake in a team is a great gig if you can get it. Frank McCourt runs the Dodgers into the ground, the team files for bankruptcy, then he sells the team for $2 billion (according to NBC sports, he walked away with $1.278 billion). Owners threaten to move teams if they don’t get state funding to build stadiums (my all-time WTF in sports, see: the Rams, Twins, Vikings, Saints, Marlins, etc.). So now the Maloofs are getting into the NHL as potential minority owners for a Las Vegas hockey team. Let them. Any team in Las Vegas will see a 2-year spike, then die, just like everything does in Las Vegas.


To Quote George Costanza, “You’re Superman,” Tommy Caldwell
This story has everything. Kidnapping by extremists: check. Saw accident: check. Sleeping in a tent on the face of El Capitan: check. I’m getting old. I’ve become drawn to simplicity in the world of sports. I scarfed down Christopher McDougall’s book, Born To Run, which looks to figure out why a forgotten tribe in Mexico is home to some of the best endurance runners the world’s ever known. I’m captivated by free solo climber Alex Honnold (high walls, no ropes). I’m fascinated by the objective of a pursuit being singular, instantly understood, and yet extremely difficult. Climb the wall. Run from here to there as fast as you can. All of this, topped off with a little nudge from Jamie Morganstern, led me to this story about Tommy Caldwell. He’s currently on El Capitan about to do something no one has ever done – solo climb the whole damn thing (ropes, but only to catch you if you fall). Simple objective, right? His route to this day is anything but simple. He lost the top of his finger in a saw. Oh, and he was taken hostage by extremist while climbing in Kyrgyzstan (he and the other climbers escaped by pushing a captor off of a cliff). This guy is fueled by simple, yet incredibly difficult challenges, and I dig that. – PAL

Source: “Abduction. Lost Finger. Now, a Rock Climber’s Tallest Hurdle.”, John Branch, The New York Times (1/7/15)


Long Live the Rex
A look back at the always entertaining Rex Ryan era, as presented by Matt Taibbi, one of the best writers/journalists of our generation. I am really, really hopeful that the 49ers hire Rex. He’s amazing. I’ll never forget this speech he gave on Hard Knocks in 2010 (language NSFW):

That speech was inspiring, ridiculous, and funny as hell. And that was the night before a PRESEASON game. I remember watching the show – first, I laughed at the “9:00 SNACK” on the whiteboard at the beginning. That still kills me. Then my now-wife and I kept rewinding and re-watching the end over and over again, laughing our heads off. “Let’s go and eat a god damn snack!” Man, I really hope he comes to the Niners. -TOB
Source: “Rex’s Last Stand”, Matt Taibbi, Grantland (01/06/15)

PAL: Taibbi can write a hell of a story – no doubt – but I’m confused. Do you want Ryan to be the 49ers coach because he’s entertaining, because he’s a good coach, or even both? He had two winning seasons during his six years as the Jets’ coach. He’s refreshing, especially in the context of Jim Harbaugh, but isn’t he entertaining from distance where we can separate the comedy from, you know, the lack of wins?

TOB: Both. How many wins can anyone get with Mark Sanchez as your QB? Chip Kelly learned all too well this year.


VIDEOS OF THE WEEK

Moms everywhere – do not throw the baseball cards away:

High School Dunk 1:

High School Dunk 2:


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“I don’t care. Anything. I would rather… I would rather watch “Beautician and the Beast”. I would rather listen to Fran Drescher for eight hours than have to listen to Michael McDonald. Nothing against him, but if I hear “Yah Mo B There” one more time, I’m going to “Yah Mo” burn this place to the ground.”

– David