1-2-3 Sports! Week of July 20, 2015

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There’s more where this came from at http://straightouttacooperstown.tumblr.com


Can You Spare An All-Star: Why Loaning MLB Players Is An Interesting, Stupid Idea

Deadspin fairly well rebutted this article here, but I wanted to write something anyways. This idea, by Grantland’s Bill Barnwell, sounds sensible at first. Sure, why not allow a bad team to simply loan out a star player to a good team for player compensation, instead of outright trading him. But could you imagine how much this would suck for fans of bad teams? Take for example the case of Tim Lincecum. In 2008 and 2009, Lincecum won the Cy Young Award on bad and ok Giants teams that 72 and 88 wins, respectively. But those two seasons by Tim Lincecum, and to a lesser extent 2010, made Timmy a fan favorite and gave hundreds of thousands of fans a reason to come to the ballpark on days he pitched. Every start was “Tim Lincecum Day” – and every Tim Lincecum Day brought the promise of something special in an otherwise forgettable season. Had the Giants loaned out Lincecum to, say, the Phillies for a couple prospects, that would have been so terrible for Giants fans. Deadspin’s Tom Let puts it well in the article I linked above:

The fan experience isn’t the only thing that matters in sports, but it is the central thing, and sportswriting starts to get cockeyed when fan experience is waved off—purposefully or otherwise—as subsidiary to the questions of how to best maximize projected returns on investments and how best to turn assets into still more assets. Those are means; the end is people having a good time watching sports.” – TOB

Source: Trading Places: MLB Needs a Player Loan System”, Bill Barnwell, Grantland (07/14/2015)

PAL: In a word, dumb. I wish I could add more to this, but Let’s quote pretty much sums it up for me. It is, however, an interesting idea to ponder. I’m curious to hear a soccer fan’s take on this. Fernando Estrada – I’m looking at you. Weigh in on this, dude.


Stop Making Sense: The 2015 Minnesota Twins

It would be one thing to post a story about the surprising success of the Twins (who got mopped by the A’s last weekend when Tommy and I went to watch them, but I’m not chapped about it…not at all), but one Louie Opatz wrote this story. Lou is the Sports Editor for the Litchfield Times back in Minnesota. He is also one of my closest buddies from college and a damn good lefty for our Augustana Viking team back the day. How does Opatz describe the Twins 2015 season (51-44)? With a music reference to the Talking Heads documentary, of course. It’s a wonder we get along. Call it cluster luck, or call it clutch, but the Twins have many more wins than the advanced stats suggest they should. As Opatz points out, all that luck is already in the bank. Luck doesn’t run out. Those games are won, and it makes the chances of a playoff run legit, as they currently hold the second Wild Card spot. -PAL

Source: 2015 Twins Have Stopped Making Sense”, Louie Opatz, Banished To The Pen (7/19/15)

TOB: I’m not terribly interested in the Twins, but it is a testament to this article that I read the whole thing, and I was entertained the whole way. My favorite passage: “…Danny Santana, who’s to fielding what a three-year-old is to painting. Ervin Santana is back from his suspension, which he incurred due to an accidental anabolic steroids binge (it can happen to anyone)…” That’s really good. Also, as Phil mentioned – we went to the A’s/Twins game last Sunday and I got my first ever foul ball! And it was off the bat of Twins’ Centerfielder Aaron Hicks, for whom I shall forever have a soft spot.


Korean Basketball League ISO: Tall Men

Unlike most international basketball leagues that use free agency to distribute American players to its teams, the Korean Basketball League holds an American player draft every year. Players then sign one year contracts, and all American players re-enter the draft each season. The draft takes place in Las Vegas, and it is quirky, to say the least. For example, if you don’t attend the draft, you are not eligible to play in the league that year, even if spots open up during the season. Once players arrive in Korea, the coaches are demanding. But the draft, and the KBL, remain quite popular with American players because it pays well – a few hundred thousand a year, and the paychecks always arrive on time. This is a fascinating look into a strange process in a familiar game, featuring a cameo appearance by former Cal Bear/international rap video star/famed NBDL blogger Rod “Boom Tho” Benson. -TOB

Source: “What Happens In Vegas…the Strange World of the Korean Basketball League Draft”, Les Carpenter, The Guardian (07/23/2015)

PAL: “Starting this year each team must take one player 6ft 4in or under.” So you’re saying there’s a chance. In all seriousness, it still is a bit jarring when I remember that the majority of professional sports are not the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, and big-time soccer. I could ask what the draw is to watch less than the best sports teams, but then I think about college sports, high school sports, and – hey – a minor league baseball game is a pretty good time. This story also highlights the financial crapshoot that is a lot of professional teams when it comes to, you know, paying your employees. This is not the case in the KBL, which is why these dudes jump through absurd hoops. Good find, O’Brien!


Have we done too many Pedro stories? I don’t care.

As he awaits entry into the Hall this weekend, here’s a great story of a writer trying to interview Pedro in the Dominican Republic back in 2004 after Martinez was traded to the Mets. It was supposed to be a 24-hour trip. 4 days later, writer Juliet Macur is playing percussion in a band with Moises Alou in tow. – PAL

Source: “Recalling a Few Strikeouts in Pursuit of Pedro Martinez”, Juliet Macur, The New York Times (7/23/15)

TOB: Being a sportswriter does not seem all that fun – and chasing down an interview for four days is one such reason. But if you have to do it, being in the Dominican Republic on someone else’s dime doesn’t seem half bad.


Video of the Week: 

We present to you: Radball.


PAL’s Song of the Week: John Prine, Iris DeMent – “In Spite of Ourselves

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


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“I just want my brother to envy my money, but he’s got that hair. Why can’t I have hair and money, and him nothing?”

– George Bluth

 

 

 

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Week of February 23, 2015

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Who wore it best: Madison Bumgarner or Duane Kuiper?


The NFL Combine is Pro Sports At Its Absurdist Extreme

Whenever Matt Taibbi writes for Grantland, it is a treat. The guy has made a living writing on some of the biggest and most important stories of our time – he is smart, funny, and has a way of drawing out the absurdity of every situation. This time, that task was pretty easy, as we were blessed with Taibbi’s take on the NFL Draft Combine. He absolutely laid waste to this ridiculous spectacle that has somehow become a TV ratings boon for the NFL Network. Every year, millions turn on their TV during the middle of the day (or watch the re-airing that night) and watch college aged kids run, jump, and lift weights. It is absolutely absurd. As Taibbi writes: “As live television, the combine is a marathon effort at extracting something out of not too much of anything. It’s 45 hours of watching guys the casual fan has never heard of run wind sprints. You have to be brain-damaged to love it, but millions, including myself, do.” -TOB

Source: “America’s Second-Greatest Reality Show: A Visit to the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis”, Matt Taibbi, Grantland (02/24/2015)

PAL: I’m trying to understand why so many people watch the combine and the draft. The best I can come up with is this: There are phases of fandom over the course of any sport’s season, but these phases are condensed because football is a short season. Whereas in baseball a team can start off 6-15 and you’re still invested as a fan, you more than likely know the outcome of your football team’s year if they start 0-3. There needs to be time for hope, potential, and futures with franchise quarterbacks. The combine and the draft create that time, venue, and show to feed the ignorant bliss central to fandom. Of course, all of this is ludicrous, which is why Matt Taibbi – a writer way above this story – is the perfect guy to pen this piece.


Jocks vs. Nerds, Exhibit No. 782

Here’s a fresh perspective on the analytics “debate” in sports. On February 10, Charles Barkley (now a part of the media), laid into a NBA General Manager, calling him an “idiot who believes in analytics…it (analytics) is just some crap some people who are really smart made up to try to get in the game because they had no talent.” I hope we can agree applying more specific analysis when it comes to quantifying athletic performance isn’t idiotic. In this article, Bryan Curtis offers up this take on what the debate might actually be about: “This clash doesn’t pit a blogger versus a newspaperman in a debate over the value of PER. It pits media versus athletes in a battle over who gets to tell the story of basketball.” That makes a lot of sense, especially since we have more and more former athletes transitioning into the media. Additionally, this story makes me wonder, as fans, what experience we want with our teams. Do we find comfort in the metaphysical, the data, or some combination of the two? -PAL

Source: “Moneyball II: Charles Barkley, the Sports Media, and the Second Statistical War”, Bryan Curtis, Grantland (02/26/2015)

TOB: Good article, but I don’t agree with the premise that this is “Moneyball II”. The war between athletes and media has been going on for as long as the press has covered sports. Even athletes vs. analytics is nothing new. When I first read Chuck’s comments, it reminded me of Joe Morgan’s stubborn and outspoken opposition to baseball analytics, despite the fact that Joe Morgan, a Hall of Famer, is actually seen as underrated by the analytics community. They love him. Joe didn’t care. Chuck isn’t quite so resolute. During a panel discussion at All-Star weekend, Barkley was presented with a Grantland article that showed how advanced stats love him. From the article: “Barkley got a big smile on his face. Analytics were suddenly OK, even helpful, when they confirmed something Barkley already knew: He was great.” The latest flare-up is just Chuck being Chuck, and this “new” battle between media and athletes has been going on since before “Moneyball I” even began.


The NCAA Can’t Get Out Of Its Own Way

The NCAA imposed recruiting restrictions on LSU this week. Last summer, LSU signed a player to a Financial Aid Agreement (FAA), with the intent to enroll him in January (in the parlance, this is known as a “Greyshirt”, and allows a player to delay the start of his eligibility clock). But come January, the player decided to attend Alabama instead. Here’s where it gets screwy: the rules allow a school unlimited contact with a player once an FAA is signed. But the player is not bound to the school, and if the player changes his mind and decides to attend another school, the school is punished – ostensibly for too much contact with the player. This is absolutely illogical and insane and thus the perfect example of an NCAA rule. -TOB

Source: “Hefty LSU Recruiting Sanctions May Be Related to Alabama Signee”, John Taylor, College Football Talk (02/26/2015)

PAL: Remember when you were a kid playing at the park with the rest of the kids from the neighborhood and you made up some game to pass the time and ultimately said made up game would fall apart because there’s always that one kid who starts making up rules in the middle of the game? The NCAA is like that kid who always messes up an otherwise fun game.


Hey, Uh, Vivek: Players Are Not Guinea Pigs

Since taking over the Kings, Vivek Ranadive has floated some insane basketball strategies. One that has gone largely  unnoticed, though, is that the team’s NBDL affiliate, the Reno Bighorns, hired David Arseneault, Jr. to implement the Grinnell System (to middling success – the Bighorns are just 14-21 on the season). Grinnell has intermittently made headlines, most notably in 2012 when Jack Taylor scored 138 points in a single game. It appears that management is evaluating this as a possible strategy for the NBA squad, despite the fact that it would not work in the NBA.

Grinnell’s system is simple: (1) only shoot threes and layups, and shoot them immediately; (2) full-court press on defense and try for steals at every opportunity; (3) if your man beats you, let him score and get back to the offensive end; and (4) everyone but the shooter tries to get offensive rebounds. To keep players fresh, they make full five-man substitutions every 2 minutes, like in hockey. As a result, the Bighorns are averaging 140 points and 50 three-point attempts per game.

But the most interesting aspect of this story is how the Bighorn players, hoping to impress someone and make an NBA team, are being treated like guinea pigs. In the article, the players openly wonder if teams will take their abilities seriously – especially on the defensive end. This charade only serves to hurt the players the Kings employ, and to damage their own credibility. Thanks to 1-2-3 Sports! reader Brett Morris for this story. -TOB

Source: “140 Points – But are the Reno Bighorns a Basketball Experiment Too Far?”, Les Carpenter, The Guardian (02/20/2015)


NBA Inside Stuff (Sans Ahmad Rashad)

What’s it like to guard Tim Duncan and get beat even when you know exactly what he’s going to do? What differentiates Anthony Davis’ shot-blocking from other bigs in the NBA? Why does Pau Gasol draw more fouls than DeMarcus Cousins? NBA vet Tyson Chandler breaks down a list of players who “do certain things better than anyone else in the world.” Chandler is great on these assessments, providing specific insights that dig deeper than a player’s natural abilities. Chess matches take place all over the court throughout the game. 1-1 battles within a team game. Sounds like a baseball article. In fact, Chandlers’ assessment reminds me a bit of a July post we had on what makes Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright so tough to hit. – PAL

Source: “Elite Bigs 101”, Tyson Chandler, The Players’ Tribune (02/18/2015)


Video of the Week

Bonus:


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“Lou, give me a milk…chocolate.”

George McFly