Love: Stephen Strasburg

June 9, 2010

Okay. We’re one start in. It’s a bit early to be declaring love for a player, right?

Of course. But so what?

This kid is a fucking star.

Perhaps we should back up a moment. I love baseball. I’m from Boston and have been a Red Sox fan all my life, but if I were to be honest, I would say that I love the game itself more than any one team. Likewise, I love fantasy baseball and tend to look for up and coming young talent on the horizon, particularly in one of my deep prospect leagues. So two years ago I started hearing rumblings about a kid who looks absolutely fantastic down in San Diego State. He shows remarkable control and just filthy break on all his pitches. He continues to move along and mow folks down that season. He becomes the absolute-lock number 1 pick. Scouts pour into see him, weary of the hype, and then become converts after about an hour. He is just that good. The Washington Nationals select him #1 overall and begin to pimp him out as the next coming of whatever, the Lebron of Baseball. This is merely as a matter of economics, as they’re struggling and want people to be excited about the team. He gets to spring training and everyone agrees, he’s the real deal and could probably start for them now. Understandably cautious, they relegate him to AA, where he dominates after several starts. So they move him up to AAA. He dominates. So they target a june call up date (which was really the target date all along) and he proceeds to give them no reason not to.

His Minor league stats: 7-2 – 1.30 ERA – 65 Ks – .79 whip! – 13 walks. ( )

He’s ready. June 8th he will be called up.

The start gets national attention. The Nationals sell out the game in 2 hours. Some folks already herald him as the next great pitcher. Some folks are cautious and don’t believe the hype. The town of Strasburg VA thinks about changing their name to Stephen Strasburg VA just for the day. Curt Schilling comes out on ESPN and says that Strasburg could be the best pitcher in the league as soon as he’s called up. Fellow baseball analysts laugh him out of the room, somehow failing to recognize that Schilling was an absurdly cerebral pitcher and thus he might know more about pitching than anyone other than like 3 other dudes on the planet (maddux, smoltz for example). ESPN runs a pre-show three hours before the start time of the game explaining to everyone why this is such a big deal. Even if you don’t have an opinion, you’re at least curious.

For all the talk, Strasburg finally gets a chance to go out there and show what he’s got…

And what he’s got is unreal:

7 IP. 4 hits. 2 Earned runs. 14 Ks. Zero Walks.

Believe it or not, these stats are actually somewhat misleading. I watched the whole game and I can tell you he was even MORE dominating than that stat line. He still had a sub-100 pitch count so he could have gone into the 8th easy, but they’re being cautious. Three of the four hits were scattered-barely-there-opposite-field hits that only-professionals-can-make. The home run was off a mistake pitch, but not really on his part. Pudge called a really bad pitch on a 3-2 count to Delvy Young. He called for the change-up which is easily his weakest pitch and wanted it low and inside. Young had a beautiful piece of hitting and muscled it over the fence. The pitch wasn’t horrible, but Pudge had no business asking for it in that full count situation. It’s big leagues, they can hit your worst pitch even if it’s actually decent. Especially when they know their swinging. Besides that change-up isn’t a strike out pitch yet it’s a foul pitch. The 14 Ks, however, were simply ridiculous. He K’d seven batters in a row… Twice. He struck out every hitter in their lineup. He struck out the last 7 batters he faced. On one of them in the seventh inning he hit 103 mph on the park’s gun. THE SEVENTH INNING. Just electric stuff: His 4 seem fastball moves left or right. His 1 seam sinker works just like a hybrid of Rivera’s cut fastball mixed with a traditional downward movement of a split… only he can throw it 95-97 mph. His slurve is just stupid in terms of break and he can target it on either side. His change-up is weakest, but it’s still a totally viable major league pitch.

And most important is that last stat on his line… He didn’t walk anyone.

That is the thing about about young pitchers. They have great stuff, but can’t command the strike zone. The walk people. This was King Felix’s problem. Lirano’s problem. Dontre Willis’s problem. Jon Lester’s problem. It’s a standard problem really, and the good ones learn to overcome it in due time… But Strasburg didn’t walk anyone. And he barely walked anyone in the minors.

He’s the complete package. Here. Now. At 21.


Here’s every strike out from the 14 K performance:

Naturally, this is real life so things could fizzle out at any second. He could blow his arm out or get hit by a bus. But unlike guys with control problems, or mental problems, or maturity problems, or physical problems, Strasburg shows us no reason not to believe in him. So, why not believe in him?

Here’s hoping he stays healthy.

It’s going to be a lot of fun for all of us if he does.

Like, Best of the Decade (Sports): The 2004 ALCS

January 5, 2010

The best sports events of the decade in some order… Please keep in mind I have no interest in (or feeling of some authority for) doing a list of sports events that is anything but  a matter of personal taste…  Meaning yeah, they’re all pretty much Boston sports related.

1. The 2004 ALCS – The Red Sox always let you down. This was common knowledge. There is some debate among sports fans about what kind of dynamic is worse, when the team you love is a constant bottom dweller who can’t muster together a payroll or any substantial interest, OR when a team you love constantly gives you hope then always (and in heartbreaking fashion) ends up letting you down and playing second banana. I’m really not sure. But for 86 years the 2nd banana routine of the Boston Red Sox really sucked. Sure I was only around for like 22 of those crappy years, but still, no one ever let you forget. It permeated everything. Way-too-angry and bitter dads would coach you into thinking a ball going between your legs was the most unforgivable thing in the universe. I watch grown men chew little children out over this on more than one occaision (the underreported aspect of the Buckner fallout). Bostone was defined by this kind of losing and anger. Seriously. The most happy go lucky player could come into town and within weeks, the attitude seeped into them. Everything thinks we can’t win when it matter. They’re here. They’re cheering. The love us. But they hate us too. The don’t think we can’t win. It was a disease of expectation. The Red Sox always let you down.

So what has to happens to reverse all that? To literally turn around the fortunes of an entire city?

How about the greatest comeback of all time? This may seem to be hyperbole at first glance, but I am fairly confident that this is an unquestionable fact. In the history of American sports there has only been two teams who have come back from 3-0 to win a seven game series. One of them was the Boston Red Sox in 2004 (the other occured in professional hockey with the 1975 New York Islanders). What’s more significant is that it was done against the perennial franchise enemy and part of the most popular rivalary in all of professional sports. The comeback was executed in the most spectacular fashion possible with two games all-time great games (game 4 and 5) and two excellent games to finish the series. Most of these single game comebacks were made against the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, and those who think he bested him in his twilight years it was 5 years ago and he just had another dominant performance this last season. The series made an absolute star out of David Ortiz and it cemented the Red Sox as a nationally beloved team for the next several years on. It was one of those truly great sports moments not just of the decade, but in the history of sports. And it was defined not by a singular blink-and-you’ll-miss-it occurence within the game, but a story of micro-evolotion over the course of a week or so. It was long but graceful pendulum swing of a series, defined by a fulcrum moment in which Dave Roberts executed a hair-line must steal to turn the tide of game 4. It’s a singulary small moment that encapsulates a change in flow. Everything that happened after was purely a result of that successful steal. Somehow, everyone seemed to understand it at the time. There’s something innate and palpable in the air. An energy. Everyone instinictively understood what this meant. And it would be echoed in the years that followed. We were the red sox “and then Dave Roberts stole second”…  I watched every single second of this series (even ducking out of much-anticipated concert to see game 6), and it was truly an experience.

It will forever define my love of sports.

2. The 2002 Superbowl (for 2001 season): remember when the Patriots were the good guys? The scrappy underdog who bested the Greatest Show on Turf with an absolutely improbable win? The team that symbolically represented the country (e.g. “Patriots”) in the wake of the greatet modern national tragedy in 9/11? Remember that team? Seems like a long time ago. But it should be noted that this win was far more significant for Boston than it often gets credit for. It sort of gets lumped in with the other two super bowl wins and Adam’s other great winning kicks, but for Boston sports fans of a certain age (late 20’s, like me), it defined the first championship moment of our lives. We were very young for the Celtics champtionships, too young to fully understand them. I was fully cognizant for the team’s waning years, when they was ailing and injured and simply too old to win it all. So for all intents and purposes, 01-02 Patriots suberbowl win was my first real championship. It was pure elation. I had no idea what to do with the feeling, so I just went nuts and ran around my college dorm a lot… which is exactly the reason that so many people love sports. It gives normally level-headed and carefully constructed people the ability to get outside themselves and participate in a completely unfiltered moment of total joy. And there’s nothing better than that.

3. Pedro Martinez in 2000 – This would technically include his 1999 year as well, but watching Pedro during these two years will go down as the sing most exhilarating individual performance I have ever seen from an athlete. Unreal. JUST UNREAL. Look at those seasons. A 1.74 ERA and a .71 whip IN THE STEROID ERA. And the guy is, like, my size. I’ve detailed my love for him a bunch of times on this blog, but all of it is deserved. For a few years he was doing something no one else could do on the planet. And everyone knew it. Before the days of the non-stop sell-outs getting tickets for a Pedro game was the thing to do in Boston. It was the best example I can ever give where watching sports felt like an actual privledge. Unfortunately, everyone knew it couldn’t last. Pedro’s frame was never meant to handle that kind of torque and absurd arm positions (try throwing a curveball like he does with any kind of effectiveness. I’m convinced it’s impossible for anyone else). No matter what, I will always remember Pedro’s years of dominance as the greatest singular performance of the decade.

4. The 07-08 Celtics Part I: The Kevin Garnett Cavaclade – Basketball has maybe become my favorite sport. (I’m really surprised how much PED scandals have diminished my ability to enjoy the Baseball. I did think it would matter. Turns out it did. Likewise with sabremetrics. They were fascinating at first, but have gotten so accurate and telling in their analysis that they have literally come to define the game for all intents and purposes… it sort of ruins the fun. Think I’m joking? The NBA changed the hand-check rules because of it and viewership instantly shot up as a result). But oh yeah basketball. I loved it as a kid and teen, but fell out of love with it post-jordan as the league’s young superstars got paid too much too soon, and defensive dominance became the standard of the league (note: you want defense to the be the hallmark of a few teams, not the entire league. Play and functionality suffer in that scenario). The fact that the Celtics continued to be unfathomably terrible just helped ensure my growing disinterest. Anywho, fast-forward to 2007 and I begin watching basketball again as the arrival of foreign players made it terribly exciting, the suns were fun as all hell, and I get to watch Kobe operate in total dysfunction. To boot, the atrocious celtics were finally in the running for kevin durant sweepstakes (I never understood the Oden love. Even then. Durant was always going to be THE GREAT one of the two. Why it was even a debate was beyond me).  So the warriors have an amazing upset over the mavs, we’re treated to some excellent textbook basketball from the spurs, and ping pong balls go and the celts don’t get a shot at durant. So they put their chips all in and manage to aquire ray allen and Kevin Garnett. Well now then… The great thing abouts sports is we get to talk about intangibles and how important they are to impossible legnths (watch espn. 90% of what they’re talking about is completely circumstantial and prognostication and it’s still pretty fun). So getting to see Kevin Garnett bring a host of intangibles to a team of veterans and young guys was just exhilerating. The buzzwords used were “he changed the culture.” It went beyond that. He changed how his teammates played the game. He changed their focus. He changed the reasons WHY they even played. It it brought the team just an excellent championship. I’ve maintained that certian hallmark teams of a sport should always be good. Not necessiarly win it all, but should always be good. The Yankees should always be good. The Canadians should always be good. The Steelers should always be good. They’re institutions of the sport and should always be represented as such. They’re there to be beaten. To be an obstacle. To be the standard bearer. And for nearly two decades on of the NBA signature fanchises was a complete and total joke. No one felt good about it… Until Kevin Garnett changed it all just by showing up and being himself.

5. The 07-08 Celtics Part II: The Pierce/Lebron Duel – Part of the 2008 playoff run. Game 7 of the 2nd round. The game came down to who would outperform who down the stretch. These are just the best part of basketball. And Pierce, one of the great underrated scorers of all time (not that he’s known as being under-rated but that he’s under-rated for his relative offensive greatness) had his moment to show that he was one of the NBA’s elite. He would carry it into the finals to earn Final’s MVP. Watching him toil on those shitty Celtics teams then get his moment to shine was just a joy.

Best non-Boston sports moments:

-2001 world series – Diamondbacks beating the yankees. Symbollically one one level it sort of sucks: a flash in the pan midwestern expansion team beats the standard-bearer of the sport… On the other hand, it proved great pitching truly does win in the post season. It won two all time great starters their first ring. And it overthew a dominant team from a recent string of titles. A great series. (I was obviously less-happy w/ the marlins result… though it did get the Red Sox as shot at Josh Beckett.)

-Warriors and their round one upset of the Mavricks 2007 playoffs – perfect storm of nellie-ball, beards, and uncalled-for MVPs.

-Texas/USC, 2006 Rose Bowl – I was in LA for this one. What a doozy.

… There’s a bunch of others I’m going to leave off this list, because they will be mentioned below and I don’t want to double up on anything.

The Best Athletes I loved watching:

1.Watching Pedro Martinez in 2000 – Mentioned above.

2. Watching Peyton Manning/Tom Brady (tie) – I fully admit that over the last four years the story has changed on this one. It used to be that manning was the great performer who couldn’t win the big one and Brady was his foil. Now it’s seemingly the opposite. They two are still the greatest quarterbacks of our era and part of a wonderful, intrinsic rivalry. Even though he’d still be one superbowl shy, if Manning wins this year he will be the greatest quarterback of all time.  His performance and value is immersurable.

3. Watching Allen Iverson – Wait, what? Iverson? Yeah. Iverson. Why him? Because he was the most exciting offensive player to watch this decade. LeBron is a better all-around player. I’d rather have KG on my team. But when it comes to watching from a non-fan distance, nobody had more insane and jaw-dropping moments then AI. He was a 6’1 skinny pitbull of ferociousness. Yes he took a lot of shots, but he also never had a supporting cast (people seem to forget how good Pippen was because of his 2nd banana status. Some people argue he was the 2nd best player of the Dream Team). Well AI made it to a finals when he was the only good guy on the team. Good for him. He had a crazy persona sure, but a lot of antiquated folks had a problem with his thug style first and foremost. He about the fact that he wasjust  exhilerating to watch.?

4. Watching Roger Federer – wait, WHAT? Tennis? Yeah. Tennis. I don’t really watch it. But when I do, I stop to watch Federer. He’s nearing the waning days, but for a good solid run he was the best there was and maybe the best there ever will be (considering his ability to stay healthy in a converse relationship to modern tennis). Check out this amazing DFW article on him.

5. Watching Manny Pacquiao – There hasn’t been a boxer this exciting since young Tyson. I’ll stand by that. De La Hoya was (and Mayweather is) a wonderful technical fighter, but none of them can match paq man’s sheer ferocity, spirit, and determination. The guy is an animal. But unlike most bruisers, he (like Tyson) can focus into a singluar moments of sublime combat. And unlike Tyson, he has speed, durability, vitality, endurance, and a rocky-like sense of invincibility and hard headed-ness. Yikes… Go back and watch him in the Cotto fight. Every significant Cotto punch was countered not just with an excellent shot, but an almost taunting-like resolve from paq man egging him on.  Can’t wait for Paq/Mayweather.

6. Watching Kobe in 2009 – This is by far kobe’s best season. Why? Cause he finally gets that basketball dominance is about taking over only when you really need to. Congrats to Kobe. The best player in the league in 2009. There I said it.

7. Watching Usain Bolt – Usain scares the shit out of me. Why? Because he hasn’t started trying yet. Really. I have yet to see him finish one of his world record setting runs  IN FULL SPRINT AT THE END. He trails off cause he’s already dominating. It’s ridiculous. True, I’ve often been quick to downplay his achievements as world records in olympic events get broken constantly. His records won’t last too long and it’s part of an evolution, but that’s all just in the grand scheme of things. The fact of the matter is that he’s breaking by such alarming margins and not even really trying yet… frightening.

8. Watching Tiger Woods – Sure he’s the most dominant and amazing athelete of the decade. He should be at the top of this list… I’m just not crazy about watching golf. I like golf. I like playing golf. I like watching him play. I just can’t sit there and watch him play all day long. Hence, he’s lower than the rest of these guys. Which is more a function of my enjoyment of TV golf and not Tiger.

-And not watching Lance Armstrong… good for him and all, I just can’t get into cycling.

Love: Pedro Martinez

November 4, 2009

Pedro Martinez is my favorite player of all-time.

This is an obviously biased opinion; he did after all reach his dominance at a time during my most fervent fandom of baseball(1) and happened to be pitching for the Red Sox. But it is also a completely and wholly valid choice for a favorite player on a more objective level. He was perhaps the best pitcher in the steroid era. He had a Koufax-like streak of a few years where he put up insane numbers. Years where he made the best hitters in game look stupid. His 1997-2000 for example:

1997 25 MON NL 17 8 .680 1.90 31 31 0 13 4 0 241.1 158 65 51 16 67 5 305 9 1 3 947 219 0.932 5.9 0.6 2.5 11.4 4.55 AS,CYA-1,MVP-16
1998 26 BOS AL 19 7 .731 2.89 33 33 0 3 2 0 233.2 188 82 75 26 67 3 251 8 0 9 951 163 1.091 7.2 1.0 2.6 9.7 3.75 AS,CYA-2,MVP-21
1999 27 BOS AL 23 4 .852 2.07 31 29 1 5 1 0 213.1 160 56 49 9 37 1 313 9 0 6 835 243 0.923 6.8 0.4 1.6 13.2 8.46 AS,CYA-1,MVP-2
2000 28 BOS AL 18 6 .750 1.74 29 29 0 7 4 0 217.0 128 44 42 17 32 0 284 14 0 1 817 291 0.737 5.3 0.7 1.3 11.8 8.88 AS,CYA-1,MVP-5

Holy Crap!

Keep in mind he’s 5-11. For years he was doubted as being a starting pitcher because of his slight frame. but he made up for it with control and a contortionist-like movement and grace with his freakishly weird hands (2). He could unleash a mid-90s fastball in his heyday but didn’t have the ability to throw it 85 percent of the time like most power pitchers. Instead he relied on his world famous change-up. Yes world famous. A pitch that looked the exact same as his fastball until you already swung. And if you were lucky enough to time it right you’d still miss cause the thing had so much movement it was stupid. It traveled in and down on righties and he could catch the inside edge on lefties. It is easily in the top 5 pitches of any pitcher ever. Up there with Ryan’s electric fastball, Clemens’s splitter, Randy Johnson’s slider, and Koufax’s curveball. Oh yeah, and Pedro had the ability to break up the rotation of those two pitches, with his reserve curveball, which he threw from THE SAME EXACT arm slot. This is insane for a pitcher throwing at that 3/4 angle and he had to use the weirdest grip possible to make it work. With every other pitcher that curveball drops straight down 12 to 6, but Pedro could make that puppy hook out and down. He still throws it as a looper and it’s STILL nasty. The best part of that curveball was it could easily be most guys #1 pitch, but with him it was his #3.

And now he’s definitely in the twilight of his career. His fastball is 85-88. He’s just gassed. Hampered by injuries (which were definitely real and inherent to a guy of his size putting that much strain on his body), he’s had to go the finesse route, but he’s still startlingly effective. He’s not striking guys out, but he’s scraping for every ground ball, pop fly, and sly K he can get.  Even this year people thought he was done and then Charlie Manuel trots him out against the Dodgers and he just owns them. Even in his Yanks start he pitched pretty great, out-thinking guys, like with his awesome “quick pitch” in his last start against Jeter.

Look, calling someone a “gamer” is as banal and mundane as it can get, but nobody fits that description more than Pedro. A fierce, prideful guy who’s always going to go out and think he’s the best player on the field.

And that’s why I’m looking forward to his next start tonight. Some highlights from his conference yesterday: (via boston globe)

Pedro Martinez is in the interview room now at Yankee Stadium. His comments are too good not to share with you in (nearly) real time:

On Red Sox fans: “I know they don’t like the Yankees to win, not even in Nintendo games.”

He also said that he still considers himself a Bostonian and that he treasures his relationship with Red Sox fans. Earlier, he joked with reporters that he “wants his props” now and not when he dies.

Pedro faces Andy Pettitte tomorrow. Their first matchup was in 1998. Now they’ll take the mound in Game 6 of the World Series. It’s a very intriguing matchup.

UPDATE, 5:55 p.m.: More Pedro:

On Red Sox fans: “I’m pretty sure that every Boston fan out there can feel proud that I’m going to try and beat the Yankees and I’m going to give just the same effort I always did for them. They’re special fans and they will always have my respect.”

On Johnny Damon: “He’s a tough out and he’s going to give you a battle and he’s not going to get unraveled for anything. He’s always going to make it fun. J.D. is just a special human being and special player. I’m glad he’s doing well, too. That’s one of the guys I will always root for.”

On his legacy: “I’m pretty sure my name will be mentioned. I don’t know in which way. But maybe after I retire, because normally when you die, people tend to actually give you props about the good things. But that’s after you die. So I’m hoping to get it before I die. I don’t want to die and hear everybody say, ‘Oh, there goes one of the best players ever.’ If you’re going to give me props, just give them to me right now.”

What’s better than that?

He’s the anti-Clemens. A charismatic, thoughtful, brash-but-in-a-good-way, perennial all star, who in the dwindling days of his career reinvented himself as a finesse pitcher who’ll take the ball any time you give it to him. He regards all his fans and the fans of his teams with true respect. He remembers his friends and teammates with fondness. Yes, he once threw an old man on the ground, but the dude was asking for it (3).

And so he finds himself tonight going up against the New York Yankees yet again, with the entire season on the line. He’s going against a tough gamer guy as well in Petite (4), and I love it. I’m still pulling for Pedro. My fandom of him would continue for years no matter what team he played for. He was that much fun to watch.

I wish him way more than luck.


1 – not necessarily my most attuned. that would probably be the last few years. I was just simply my most fervent. I was young and bullish. whereas now I find myself waxing philosophical on the game of games.

2 – seriously, look that shit up

3- come on. it’s funny. no one got hurt… luckily

4- a great stand up guy, but admitted PED user. not going to point out as a bad thing.  just saying if we’re going to compare to pedro, than it should be mentioned.

Don’t Like: The National League

September 4, 2009

AKA “What John Smotlz and Brad Penny have been able to do there.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of the league: having pitchers hit keeps a certain nice symmetry with things. 9 players. 9 Hitters. The games are shorter. That’s good. It’s all very romantic. And if romance is the goal then the AL is certainly “ruining” it with DH rule.

Now. Here’s the problem. American League Teams are simply superior.

This is not to say top flight NL teams can’t win it all.  They both can and have, though not as frequently as AL teams the last fifteen years. It’s just that if you do a complete survey up and down of National League Lineups,you realize that only three of them compare (phillies, dodgers, cards) with top flight AL teams (ny, boston, tampa, white sox, detroit, angels, texas). That’s a difference of 3  to 7. There are also three AL teams with 2nd tier lineups (orioles, minnesota, seattle). I only see one in the NL in the Cubbies (the mets would be but are excempt because of injuries). That leaves the bottom teir  of only four teams in the AL: toronto, cleveland, kansas city, and oakland VS. the following bottom teir lineups of the NL:  braves, marlins, brewers, astros, reds, rockies, giants, dbacks, and padres. And that means the pirates and Nationals have AAA lineups.

There are 11 bottom teir lineups in the NL and only 3 good ones. Any self-respecting analyst would tell you the same thing. You may love your NL team. You may love the NL league. But I’m sorry. That’s the reality. The Orioles would be a good to mid range lineup in the NL.  Unfortunately they play in the AL east and are therefore last.

Now the above rankings do not figure in total team quality w/ account of pitching. The giants, cards, and braves all have decent staffs with some excellent pitchers. But in terms of overall quality hitting, which you need to use for foundation and base indicator for team (because even the best pitchers are inconsistent), then it’s not even a comparison.

… This does not even include the fact that pitchers have to hit in the NL.

You may wonder why I’m so passionate about this.

Easy: Smoltz. Penny. Julio Lugo. Cliff Lee. Matt Holiday.

The first three guys were practically RUN OUT of Boston. They had long enough periods of time to prove that they could indeed play in the AL, but completely crapped out. Suddenly Penny goes to giants and his first time with a new catcher he threw 8 SHUTOUT INNINGS????!!? Against the “best NL lineup” Phillies? Are you serious? This could just be a simple fluke, but I doubt it. I watched him all year. He was throwing the same stuff last night and the Phillies were whiffing consistantly.  Maybe he was just NL familiar, but even that’s a stretch. This was Night and Day. He couldn’t get out of the 5th inning ALL YEAR. It’s absurd. Look at Holliday too. He couldn’t hit anyone in the AL (even the west). But now on the cards he’s destorying. Cliff Lee is suddenly amazing again now that he’s on the Phillies.

If there isn’t a huge difference why are big time pitchers all but demanding (and in some cases actually demanding) to go to the National League in trades? Seriously. Peavy. Halliday. Lee. They all demanded NL (though only one got it). Seriously, why are they only signing in the AL if they get huge money? CC despretly wanted to stay in the NL after he dominated there, but there was no way he could turn down that contract.

It’s not a secret. The NL is not as good. If you’re a hitter. You can do better. If you’re a pitcher you can do MUCH better. And will for the rest of time because every 9 guys is an easy out. Yes the NL is baseball in the “more pure” form… but honestly, AL teams are a lot of fun to watch. These are truly great teams getting to play and it’s especially fun when they play each other and every at bat is dangerous.

Now, this may all be an over reaction and I’m exaggerating the differnces… but it’s just just one of those dumbfounding things. The AL is truly better. People say the league is cyclical and the NL will be better soon, but that won’t happen unless some clubs get some more money and every good pitcher goes to sign there (an actual possibility). But guys will keep getting lured by those big money contracts on top AL teams. Thems the breaks I guess.

Okay hold on. Phone call.

[time passes]

… I just got signed by the Pirates.

Don’t Like: Orlando Magic being up 3-1 in a series they have no business being up 3-1 in… and ensuing deductions you have to make about modern sports as a result

May 27, 2009

Orlando is up 3 to 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

How the hell is this possible? Cleveland was supposed to have a cakewalk to the finals and for good reason, they played fantastic all year long. So how is this happening?

I’m calling it the NY Giants Corollary. A team that was pretty much dismissed as dysfunctional meanders into the playoffs, gets hot at that moment and suddenly becomes a complete different team. It happened again last year with the Arizona Cardinals. They were a joke and suddenly they were in the super bowl. And we’re watching it right now with the Orlando Magic. Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing Dwight Howard come of age right before us. I like underdogs playing above their talent. One of the greatest sports runs I’ve had as a fan was th e2001 Pats playoff run (even including apparent divine intervention and tuck rule discrepancy in Oakland).

But the sports fan in me also hates it with a vehement passion. Because what happens with the minority occurrence becomes the majority occurrence. It robs the moment of any kind of meaning. Every year any team can just “put it together” for a few weeks and contend. I’ve watched this Orlando team all year. They were streaky. They had major problems. Guys wouldn’t show up. Either Howard played well or the rest of the team did. As of Game 6 in the Boston series, they became a radically different team. They were efficient. Their “3 Ball” game suddenly became less reckless and desperate. They found a functional ball movement with Howard. He figured out better ways of getting down low (he still has no post game though). Petruis (Spelling?) suddenly became lights out… or SVG finally just, you know, starting playing him. And speaking of SVG I’m supposed to believe the ultimate headcase has suddenly just become and excellent coach? Cause that’s what he’s been doing this series: coaching the hell out of it. No. That’s not “who he always was.” This guy had shown a complete lack of coherence and confidence his entire career. Now he just “figured it out”? I don’t get it.

It’s a completely different team and we’re just supposed to say they were there all along?

I don’t know. The Cavs have been the best team in the NBA all year long. They’re not just suddenly sucking or anything. Maybe this is the Magic coming of age but part of me believes this is just like the Colorado Rockies in 2007; they’re just getting hot at the right time. Statistically they’re on a whole other level right now. It’s seems to come out of nowhere.

Maybe I’m wrong. Casual and some serious sports fans seem to love it. But that makes no sense to me. I like seeing teams just play at incredibly high levels. I don’t need to see a close game. I need to see great basketball. Great football. Great baseball, etc. When both teams play great? Perfect. But when a team is just playing at its height, dominating a season then coming to the playoffs to take care of business and go toe to toe with rivals? That’s the best. The 90s bulls. The 80s lakers/celtics.  That’s the best basketball. And yes Orlando is playing wonderfully but I just get this sick feeling in my stomach that its inconsistent with who they are.  They haven’t shown even flashes of this ice cold killer instinct they’ve had on display since game 6. I’m less amazed and more bewildered.

In an age where the exception becomes the rule, I’m still trying to be a fan of the rule.

Don’t Like: The Probable Truth of David Ortiz’s Demise

May 5, 2009

I hope I’m wrong… I desperately hope I’m wrong.

But David Ortiz, for all intents and purposes, is done. He won’t be the same. He won’t crush 50 dingers. He won’t be automatic. He won’t be Papi anymore.

We have the evidence. And no, I’m not talking about his terrible start to this season which everyone seems to be think is the smoking gun. People get out to bad starts all the time so that’s not the indicator.  I’m talking about all the other facts. He’s 34 and over-sized (not to mention the fact that a stunning amount Dominican players are 1-2 years older than they are listed). When guys of his similar build get to that age they often shut down (like power forwards in the NBA). It’s just a matter of body type and age. He’s had symptomatic wrist injuries which even the best players simply do not come back from (witness: Ken Griffey Jr, Nomar). It so difficult to swing when your wrist isn’t the same.  But the real kiss of death, is that he’s had 3 straight years of huge drops in statistics.

No one comes back from that. They might rebound slightly, but for all intents and purposes he won’t. Look at his stance. He’s not getting low anymore. He used to crouch and lock in. He’d scowl and be angry. Then he’d jump on a low inside fastball like it was a can of pudding. Now he can’t catch up to a 92 mph fastball right down the middle. It’s sad kind of. He’s choking up on the bat. He’s standing upright and far back. He’s playing catch-up.

How does something like this happen? Rather easily. It happens all the time, but we just hate to admit it. When is a superstar not a superstar anymore?

When does he get moved down in the lineup? Can he still be an effective hitter? Of course. He’s going to have to redefine his game a bit and he’s already been hitting in the other direction to avoid the shift. But with his size he should be richoceting those balls off the monster, not dropping them into bloopy left field. His timing is way off. He can’t get his bat speed up. It’s not looking good.

David Ortiz is probably done being David Ortiz.

I really, really hope I’m wrong.

End note-

-there’s a lot of steroids specualation in all this… which i refrained from because we have absolutely no evidence for. Does he kinda fit the profile? GULP. Yes. This was a guy who was cut by the twins after all. But the way things have shaken out we have no idea. There are no other physical indicators whatsoever. It’s all conjecture. So it gets an endnote and that’s it.

Like: Overblown Opening Day/Week Baseball “Stories”

April 9, 2009


Saying opening day results are prone to hyperbole is like saying I am using a simile right now.

Really,we shouldn’t we be better than this? But hyperbole sells papers and I even seen legit people at least addressing the issue of “well, you want to get off to a good start.” For the fans, yeah sure, whatever. But statistically speaking CC Sabathia has had many awful starts to his seasons. Last year especially and then he got it going on. Texiera is also another notoriously slow starter and yet no one seems to pay attention to these trends.

The fact of the matter is whatever seeming deduction that has come out of the last two days will be supplanted by another one once the week is out. And then another one by the end of the month. Trends will layer themselves and start to define a larger context. That’s baseball. It’s a law of averages, not the recent singular moment. Every guy goes 0-5. Every guy puts together a decent streak. The singular stuff only seems to matter in the post-season.  There’s about 160 games left so let’s wait and see how everyone shapes up.

Just started watching the Red Sox game now. Lester strikes out ANOTHER! CY YOUNG HERE HE COMES!