Sunday, October 31, 2010
But that's not just oversimplifying ... it's wrong. This struck me when talking with a good friend who I would loosely call "anti-stats" or, to be more precise, "dubious about advanced stats." This is the kind of friend who wants the Oakland A's to fail so that the Moneyball people (including me) will shut up. This is the kind of friend who sees letter configurations like xFIP or UZR or WAR and begins to show facial tics. This is the kind of friend who, modern and open-minded as he tries to be, as good a friend as he tries to be, cannot help but believe that many of these blog posts are written from my mother's basement.
But ... but ... but he is ALSO the kind of friend who will quote batting averages with passion, who will get a jolt of excitement when he thinks about how many RBIs Manny Ramirez had in 1999 (165, as he can tell you), who can quote pitcher wins like scripture.
The guy loves baseball stats. He just loves HIS baseball stats.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The NLBM -- that not-so-memorable abbreviation that the museum has long used to identify itself -- was a big part of my life for many years. This was, in large part, because of my friendship with Buck O'Neil. I loved Buck, of course, and because of that I loved the museum in Kansas City that was, in large part, his vision. It was built on the corner of 18th and Vine, that famous corner for the Kansas City jazz scene. Buck wanted people to know about the Negro Leagues. Before Jackie Robinson, before 1947 (and for a few years after), there was no Major League baseball dream for African Americans (or dark skinned Latinos). Baseball was the only grand American team sport then, the true National Pastime, and for black children across the country there was no Major League hope, no New York Yankees daydream, no St. Louis Cardinals wish.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
1. I am balancing on the very cusp of modern technology. A flying car just might be waiting for me in San Francisco to take me to my hotel room.
2. The usual assortment of misspellings, grammatical catastrophes and double double words should be double doubled. It's like a family-size pack of blunders!*
*And let me just mention this: I really don't mind when people put grammatical corrections in the comments ... Helps me correct things. But I could use a little less snide. You know there is a copy-edited version of this blog at joeposnanski.si.com. If you want a cleaner version (cleaner ... Not necessarily clean) go there. This is backstage.
Here is what's coming, though veterans of this blog will know that means "Here is a list of blog posts I will definitely do unless I am sidetracked by work or family or a sandwich or I get bored or whatever."
- 32 greatest NFL defensive players.
- 32 most complete players in baseball history
- 32 best movie endings
- The now laughably late iPad review
- Ron Washington
- Personal heroes
- Darkness on the edge of my life
- The Chrysler Town and Country commercial
- The Golden 32
- The person I miss most at World Series time
- An in depth look at NPR and the political scene in America (no, I'm just joking)
- 32 best stadiums/arenas, all sports
- The overdue 32 sports books
- Lyrics to a song I once wrote and an explanation
- Matt Cain
As always, suggestions are encouraged.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Here's a beautiful thing about baseball: It's probably happened. Whatever you're thinking. It's probably happened. Nine hits in a game? Yep, that happened: Johnny Burnett of the Cleveland Indians smacked nine hits against Philadelphia in an 18-inning game (same game that Jimmie Foxx had six hits, three of them homers, and eight RBIs).*
*Philadelphia's Eddie Rommel had one of the greatest pitching lines in baseball history that day: 17 innings, 29 hits, 14 runs (only 13 earned), 9 walks, 7 strikeouts, 2 wild pitches. And Rommel -- who was 34 at the time and was in the last year of a good career -- was used mostly in one-inning appearances that year.
Reporter: Skip, when did you know it wasn't Eddie's night?
Connie Mack: I thought after the 26th hit he gave up, he started elevating his pitches. But his stuff was still good.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Trouble is ... the Snuggie info-commercial really is a difficult thing to replicate. As I've written a time or two before, what makes the Snuggie brilliant and, in my mind, utterly unique in infoco history, is that here you have a product that:
1. Aims to fix a problem that does not actually exist (blankets don't have sleeves)
2. Does not really fix the problem (Have you tried answering a phone in a Snuggie?).
3. Is still, for almost magical reasons, irresistible to many people.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
-- AP story about James Harrison saying he might retire from football.
* * *
It's all there, I think. The whole NFL issue -- right there in one seemingly incongruous English sentence. You already know that Harrison, the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, had two helmet hits in the game against Cleveland Sunday, one that caused a Joshua Cribbs concussion, the other that caused a Mohammed Massaquoi concussion.
The Massaquoi hit was particularly savage -- savage enough that the NFL fined Harrison $75,000 (though not savage enough to draw an actual penalty during the game). Harrison was so outraged -- and perhaps puzzled -- by this fine that he was excused from practice Wednesday, apparently so he could ponder his future. He had said on the radio that he was not sure he could go on playing in a game that was foreign to him. Those hits, he says, were exactly what he had been TAUGHT to do on a football field. They were clean hits. They were textbook hits. And now, to have those hits referred to as dirty, to be fined for them and perhaps (down the road) to be suspended for these kinds of hits -- as the NFL is now threatening -- well, supposedly Harrison isn't sure he wants to play that game.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Look, sometimes the intentional walk "works." No matter how much I might despise the thing, I cannot deny that basic reality. One job of a manager is to, best of his ability, put his team in position to prevent the other team from scoring runs. And there's no question that walking to avoid the other team's best hitters, or walking a batter with the pitcher coming up, or walking to set up a double play ... these things will often accomplish the goal. I hate the intentional walk so much that I sometimes fail to mention this. So I'll start with it here. Sometimes, the damned thing works.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Costello: Who has it?
Costello: So I pick up the ball and throw it to Naturally.
Abbott: No you don't! You throw the ball to Who.
Abbott: That's different.
Costello: That's what I said!
-- Who's On First
* * *
Mark Teixeira was the first New York hitter to strike out on Monday night at Yankee Stadium against Cliff Lee. Teixeira offered at an 86-mph change-up that was probably two-inches off the outside corner. That was Tom Glavine's pitch, the one he dined on for 22 seasons and 305 career victories -- a change-up just off the corner. There's almost nothing productive a hitter can do with that pitch. The only effective way to deal with it is to let it go, make the pitcher come back to the plate next time, or (if it is really close) just try to spoil it, foul it back. The problem is, the pitch looks so easy to drive. It looks so big and fluffy in the batter's line of sight. It really is the closest thing to the Bugs Bunny's perplexing slow ball. Teixeira had to try and hit it. And he had to miss.
The story about now-Yankees bench coach Tony Pena ran in The Kansas City Star back in 2003. I went to the Dominican Republic with Tony ... and though it may sound goofy to say this, well, for me the experience was almost, spiritual. So this is one of my favorite stories ... and I thought it might be fun to dust it off in anticipation of the Yankees and Rangers playoff game tonight.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
So here's what I was thinking about the other day ... why is it important that a professional sports coach or manager (especially in baseball) be a former player? In baseball, as I have already written here, at least 80% of the managers in baseball played in the big leagues, and just about every player was a star ballplayer at some reasonably high level*.
*Even Buck Showalter, who takes more than his share of heat as a non-player, hit .324 one year in Class AA one year and struck out only 24 times in 615 plate appearances.
In the NBA, by my quick count, 22 of the 30 coaches who ended the season last year with teams played in the NBA. And in basketball, unlike baseball, many of the greatest players ever -- Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Bill Russell, Dan Issel, Bob Lanier, even Wilt Chamberlain briefly while playing -- have tried their hand at coaching. Few of the all-time great baseball players, especially in recent years, have become managers.
In the NHL, I count 21 of the 30 coaches as former NHL players though remarkably some of the best hockey names in coaching -- Guy Boucher, Peter DeBoer, Barry Trotz -- did not play in the NHL. They did play hockey at high levels, though,
You may or may not have noticed -- I probably shouldn't point this out in case you missed it -- but I picked the Minnesota Twins to beat the New York Yankees in the ALDS. I had what seemed to me like solid reasons at the time: I really thought that the Twins would be tough to beat at home, and I thought the Yankees starting pitching problems after C.C. Sabathia would bite them.
More than that, I think I once again underestimated something, something I tend to forget until I see the Yankees play again. Then I remember. That something is this: The Yankees the last couple of years (I think) have put together one of the greatest postseason recipes in baseball history:
The recipe is this:
1 dominant starter
9 or 10 good-to-great hitters to wear down opponents.
1 Mariano Rivera
On the negative side, the ingredients will cost you a lot of money ... you can't even find them at Dean at Deluca. On the positive side, this recipe is so good I'm not even sure you need the dominant starter.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Now, this little tidbit doesn't mean much, but it's a good place to start as we prepare for one of the most exciting pitching matchups in postseason baseball history, Saturday night's game between Philadelphia's Roy Halladay and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum. I cannot begin to tell you how psyched I am for this game. Well, actually, I will tell you quite a bit about that.
But let's start with this bit of obscurity ...
There have only been nine postseason matchups ever between multiple Cy Young Award winners. They are as follows:
A comedian friend told me this once ... I'm paraphrasing: "People think the punch line is the most important part of the joke. But it isn't. The punch line is nothing. If you tell a joke right, you can say 50 different punch lines and all of them will be funny. If you tell a joke right, you can grab a kid out of the crowd and have him come up and give the punch line.
"It isn't the punch line. It's the set-up. Everything is in the set-up. You ever hear about the biggest laugh in the history of television? They say it was Jack Benny ... you remember he was famous for being cheap. Simple gag, a mugger holds up Jack Benny, which already is funny. Then the mugger says 'Your money or your life.' And Jack Benny just stands there. Doesn't say a word. The laughter grows louder and louder and louder. He just holds it, that look on his face, and by the time he gives the punchline -- "I'm thinking" -- everybody's howling. Nobody even HEARD the punch line they were laughing so hard. Why? Jack Benny had been setting up that joke for 40 years. The punch line had nothing to do with it."
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I wrote a piece yesterday about the book Death to the BCS, and this post isn't EXACTLY connected to that. But it is in the same neighborhood. This piece is about the extra round of baseball playoffs. And how, in the larger context, I don't like them.
* * *
I once got in a fairly heated argument with my buddy Vackie on the following subject -- one of the few times we have ever been fiercely opposed in an argument that does not involve Billy Joel. So I am fully aware that many people, perhaps most people, perhaps a vast majority of people not only disagree with what I'm about to write but disagree with a fury. But here it is anyway:
I ... do ... not ... like ... the ... extra ... baseball ... playoffs.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Bill Hancock is executive director of the BCS. I asked him to write a short defense of the BCS.
* * *
College football is flourishing. Eager fans are flocking to stadiums across the country. Folks are watching on television like never before.
The sport is decidedly healthy. There’s no reason to monkey with it.
"You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"
-- Vizzini in "The Princess Bride"
As it turns out, I know all three of the authors of the new book "Death to the BCS," and because I do, I know that none of them is Sicilian. Despite this small inconvenience, I can still say without hesitation you don't want to go in against them when death is on the line.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Got to do something fun Sunday night: Went to Bill James' house to watch The Simpsons. I do realize that under normal circumstances this might not sound especially riveting. But Sunday night, the Simpsons episode was called, "Moneybart," and the plot revolved around the ongoing fight between statistics and tradition in the game. And Bill had a line.
If you have not seen the episode, you should probably be warned that there are all sorts of spoilers below. In fact, this whole thing is kind of a spoiler. Proceed at your own peril.*
*I assume everyone here as either seen The Simpsons or at least knows the basics ... but, as pointless as it feels, I'll put some very quick basics here: Marge and Homer are Mom and Dad. Homer is one of the great television characters ever. Bart, Lisa and Maggie are brother, sister and baby sister, Moe is bartender, Flanders is fussy neighbor and so on.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Also: See poll below.
Game Score is a Bill James invention, a little statistic that gives you a quick and easy, single-number look at how well a pitcher pitched. My sense is that it has always supposed to be little more than a bit of shorthand fun ... but I think it has turned out to be one of Bill's more delightful inventions. The numbers just FEEL right.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
The replay discussion in baseball has grown so ubiquitous, so overbearing, so boring that -- like the revenue/payroll disparity in baseball -- it's simply no fun to talk about anymore. Everybody knows about the problem. The problem never seems to get fixed. After a while, the talk feels as pointless as complaining about the humidity in St. Louis in July.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
A happy 61st birthday to my friend Bill James ... the best baseball writer who ever lived.
For fun, I was wading through the thousands -- yes, thousands -- of emails I have exchanged with Bill over the years and I came across this one I got ... I must have asked Bill to tell me his greatest day in baseball. I don't know if I ever used this or if, like many of my projects, it died on the vine. But I don't think Bill will mind me reprinting it now:
Leo: "Sorry to tell you this but King threw out the monologue."
Alice: "Leo, that monologue was good."
Sy Benson: “Check that. Perfect. I wrote it! This is where Sy Benson draws the line. ... First came the word and the word was funny. The monologue stays or I go."
Benjy: "Sy, maybe we can compromise."
Sy: "No compromise! Sy Benson has his integrity, his pride. King does that monologue word for word or I walk. I walk!"
Sy: "King! About the monologue!"
King Kaiser: "Wait a minute! Sy! Do you smell something? (Sniff) It's coming from the script. ... (Holds script up to nose and sniffs) Ew, it's your monologue. Ugh, what a stinkburger. ... KC, pull!"
(His assistant KC throws the crumpled-up script in the air. King shoots it down. "BOOM!" Sy clutches his heart.)
King: "I hate it. It's not funny. It's out."
Sy: "Hey, babe, we're not married to it."
-- From "My Favorite Year."
Saturday, October 2, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO -- So, a few San Diego players sat in a circle in a happy-but-not-too-happy Padres clubhouse and they went over the possibilities. "No, no, no," Scott Hairston was saying. "If the Braves win tomorrow ..."
"No, I'm saying if the Braves LOSE tomorrow," Oscar Salazar said.
"Wait," Luke Gregerson said. "Are we talking about if they win or if they lose?'
"You know what?" Hairston said. "Let's just win, all right?"