Week of August 18, 2014

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But How Old Are They In Dog Years?

A follow-up to the 30 for 30 short on Almonte. This is a must-read, if for no other reason that it introduced me to this amazing video, of Tom Verducci confronting Miguel Tejada with his real birth certificate, revealing that he was two years older than thought. -TOB
Source: “After Almonte: Sports and the Age Fraud Menace“,  Katie Baker, Grantland (08/15/14)

Note: I know this makes very little sense, but I like a good fake birth certificate story (at least the ones when they are doctoring their age to make them younger). The chances of a MLB player playing long enough for a 2-year discrepancy to matter is slim. So Miguel Tejada earned more money on his second or third contract. He also grew up in extreme poverty, and every single one of us would do the same if we were put in similar circumstances. However, misrepresenting an age to make an athlete appear older (see: China’s gymnastics team) is different. Putting a 13 year-old on a stage like the Olympics is messed up. Love Katie Baker’s story. – PAL


Mo’ne is Money

There’s a lot to love about Mo’ne Davis. In case you missed it, she is the first girl to be the winning pitcher in a Little League World Series (it was a shutout, too). It’s nice to read a genuinely feel-good story. The best part of the story is how she seems to be handling it. There are some folks out there who have been critical of SI putting her on the cover, but I’m not one of them. While I think putting her story in the context of the unrest in Ferguson, MO is a stretch, Davis is far and away the best sports story going at time when football (NFL and college football) hasn’t begun, MLB is not quite into the playoff push, and NBA and the NHL aren’t playing. Let’s all just agree that she’s a badass and enjoy. -PAL
Source: “Mo’ne Davis’ success works ‘to uplift us at a time of great sorrow'”, John Timpane, Philly.com (8/20/14)

Note: I was bummed to see Mo’ne get knocked around a bit on Wednesday, and then eliminated on Thursday. It was fun to watch, especially coming off the heels of an argument my dad and I had with my wife and my mom a couple weeks back, about whether it is appropriate/realistic or inappropriate/sexist to teach my son (currently just 8 weeks old) how to not “throw like a girl” when he gets older. If he throws like Mo’ne, I’m ok with that. I also enjoyed this read about how/whether Mo’ne should monetize her popularity right now, as well as this article about how interesting it is that she pitches as well as she does. -TOB


Rule 4.12 (a) (3)

On June 16, 1986 the Pittsburgh Pirates won a protest of a MLB game. The next time it happened: August 19, 2014. In other words, protests are never won, until the San Francisco Giants did it this week. Why does this matter? The Giants are in the thick of a division race, and with a second Wild Card team added to each league, a game can make all of the difference. The best part of the story is why the grounds crew at Wrigley might of had issues – “Sources said the Cubs ordered grounds-crew staffing reductions this week to cover recent ‘overages’ in hours by the crew.” Some manager just gambled on a safe bet (there’s not going to be rain tonight) and lost big. – PAL
Source: “Staffing issue may have been responsible for Cubs ‘tarp gate’”, Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun-Times (8/20/14)

Note: As we now know, the Giants ended up losing this game on Thursday, after another rain delay. They nearly pulled it off, but did not. That’s ok, though. I might be crazy, but I feel a different mojo with the team already. I am hoping the Giants (presently just two games back in the loss column) use this quirky occurrence to rally together and streak to the division title. Also, I like the implication in this story, that there was no malfunction and that the Giants, the Cubs, and MLB worked to find a way to resume the game. A little shenanigans may have been at play. Why would the Cubs cooperate? The Giants are in the Wild Card race with the Cubs’ division rival Cardinals. It’s always fun to screw over a rival. If only they’d coughed up the game, too. -TOB


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“O God, ease our suffering in this, our moment of great despair. Yea, admit this kind and decent woman into thy arms of thine heavenly area, up there. And Moab, he lay us upon the band of the Canaanites, and yea, though the Hindus speak of karma, I implore you: give her a break.”

– Clark W. Griswold
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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


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

– Max Fischer

 

Week of May 11, 2014

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Where Have All the Aces Gone? Gone to Dr. James Andrews, Every One. Source: Michael Baumann, An Elbow Injury for Jose Fernandez, and Surgery for Baseball Fans’ Broken Hearts; Grantland (05/13/14); Earlier this week, news broke that the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez would likely undergo Tommy John surgery, and is thus unlikely to return to pitching until 2016. That is so far away that, by that point, flying cars and hover boards will be ubiquitous. Fernandez joins a long list of young, exciting pitchers who have been lost to Tommy John surgery since the start of 2013. What the hell is going on? -TOB

Further Reading: Tom Ley, “Jose Fernandez Is Hurt, And We Aren’t Allowed to Love Anymore,” Deadspin.com (05/13/14); Tom Verducci, “As Fernandez Goes Down, Here’s a Solution to Arm Injury Epidemic” (05/13/14); Tom Verducci, “How Tiny Tim Became a Pitching Giants,” Sports Illustrated (07/07/08).

PAL Note: Grantland needs to pump its breaks on the metaphors –  “…[C]omposed variations on the ‘slow, with late break’ theme the way Mozart might have written a suite for a woodwind quartet…” Easy, fellas. 


Was Mark Jackson Fired Because of His Race? Yes. And No. Source: Marcus Thompson, “Warriors, Mark Jackson, and the Question of Race”; San Jose Mercury News (05/08/14); The SJ Merc’s Marcus Thompson explores the reasons that the Warriors fired Mark Jackson. Was race involved? Kinda. -TOB

Further Reading: David Aldridge, “Split Between Jackson, Warriors a Complicated, Messy Affair”; NBA.com (05/12/14)

PAL Note: The Tom Thibodeau comp is the most intriguing (Thibs – great defense + suspect offense = great coach; Jackson – great shooters + improved defense = motivator).


Yasiel Puig’s defection from Cuba is way more incredible than his arm. Source: Jesse Katz,“Escape from Cuba: Yasiel Puig’s Untold Journey to the Dodger”; Los Angeles Magazine (4/13/13); Murder, informants, drug cartels, and a whole lot of dirty money at stake. Defecting from Cuba doesn’t end when someone like Yasiel Puig puts on an MLB uniform. Whether you love him or hate him, his story is extraordinary. – PAL


The World Cup in Brazil could prove to be a really, really bad idea. Source: James Masters, “World Cup 2014: Can the FBI help stop Brazil’s World Cup protesters?; CNN (5/13/14) For all we know this could be your typical, “there will be some real problems” story like the ones we saw leading up to  Sochi or the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. However, there is ongoing unrest throughout Brazil, and large-scale protests have turned violent over the government spending billions of dollars in the midst of a very fragile economic period. The Confederations Cup (essentially a warm-up tournament for the World Cup) was a mess with protests, and let’s not forget where the 2016 Summer Olympics will be held. -PAL

TOB Note: A good roundup of the potential issues in Brazil this summer, with some truly great/haunting images. Also, this terrifying warning from police.


Like the Goonies, The Spurs Will Never Die Source: Louisa Thomas, “Pop Culture: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Spurs”; Grantland (05/12/14) In the early aughts, the Spurs were boring. It seemed like their run had finally ended in 2011, when the #1 seed Spurs were destroyed by the #8 seed Grizzlies in 6 games. But then a funny thing happened: The Spurs kept their core, replaced the spare pieces, and got…better. In 2013, they came about as close as you can to winning a title without doing so. This year, I am rooting for them. They are once again the West’s #1 seed. They just destroyed the Trailblazers, with an average margin of victory of nearly 20 points, and look primed for a return to the Finals. The Spurs will not die. Long live the Spurs. – TOB


QUICK HIT: LeBron Putting Michael Jordan Into Perspective Source: Tim McGarry, USA Today (05/13/14)

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“Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself.”

 

– Eric Matthews/Plays With Squirrels