Sunday, October 19, 2008

Baseball Journalism 101

Right now, the outlines of the same two, completely contradictory articles are be being polished off by every baseball writer in America. The result of tonight's game will determine which will appear in tomorrow's paper. The theme of the first article is that the Red Sox won because they are battle tested and the Rays are a bunch of shook tenderfoots. The other asserts that the Rays won because were just too damn young to understand the magnitude of a Game 7. There will be just as much steam wafting off either journalistic turd, depending on which rolls off the presses tomorrow morning.

End of the Post Drought

Over the next week, I will discuss what the Yanks and Mets need to do this offseason. Right now I feel the urge to grouse.
  • I would like to clog my toilet with rhino shit, two packs of used Big League Chew, and Cher's hair circa 1972. Then I would call over Joe the Plumber to fix it. Then I would stiff him on the bill when he was done, in order to keep him out of the highest tax bracket.
  • "Almost Famous" was "Forrest Gump '00". Both films feature retarded protagonists that improbably find themselves in culturally significant situations in the 70s. Both films have troubled sluts as unrequited love interests. Both films are overly precious and life-affirming. And most importantly, both films were highly regarded when they were released, but become exponentially more embarrassing with every additional viewing. The fact that I ever enjoyed either of these movies makes 1994 through 2000 an embarrassing chapter in my life.
  • The Hawaiian use of the word "aloha" to mean both hello and goodbye is often portayed as a charming cultural quirk. But honestly, utilizing such a common word to mean completely opposite things is really smart. By smart, of course, I mean stupid.

Free Joba

Joba was busted for DUI, speeding, and driving with an open container in his native Nebraska. It's a bad move for the state on three counts.

  1. If we are gonna start calling out Indians for drunk driving, we shouldn't give them licenses in the first place.
  2. He's driving in Nebraska for god's sake. What could possibly happen? He runs over a prairie dog.
  3. Joba is the only thing going for the whole state. The Huskers are mediocre, Conor Oberst is a queer, and the world has had enough of Larry the Cable Guy.

Like a ref on a borderline call in a big spot, the Nebraska cops should have swallowed the whistle on this one.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

When the East is in the House, You Should Come Equipped

I doubt anyone will put up even a token argument (mostly because nobody is reading this) when I state that the AL East is the best division in baseball. However, the degree to which this division dominates the sport is understated. I contend that the AL East has the best team in baseball, the top second best team, to go along with the best third and fourth place teams in the sport. Oh and they had the second best bottom-feeder in the league.

The Red Sox are the defending champions and the favorites to win the World Series. Most analysts would probably agree that they are the best team in baseball. And they didn't even win their own division.

If the Rays are, indeed, the second best team in the AL East, they are obviously the best second best team in any division in baseball. They won 97 games and are one of the four remaining teams in the playoffs.

The Yankees are so self-evidently the best third place team in baseball that it isn't worth my time building my case.

Steven Goldman and Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus recently argued that the '08 Blue Jays were probably the best 4th place team since the start of the divisional era of baseball. Thus they were definitely the greatest of this season.

The first four were slam dunks. If I wanted to be slightly disengenuous I would make the argument that the Orioles were the best last place team in baseball. They won 68 games, more than any other last place team besides the Tigers, who won 74. I could argue that the relative strength of schedules (O's play half of their games vs. the BoSox, Yanks, Rays, and Jays) account for the 6 win difference between the Orioles and Tigers. I guess I just made a strong case, but I don't honestly believe it.

(Tremont, grow a pair! The people want provocative opinions. You completely took the edge off of this article by not making the argument for the Orioles. Pussy!!! Also, nobody gets your stupid Jeru the Damaja reference in the headline.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

LCS Picks (with special guest)

When my lady friend realized that I only went 2-2 with my Divisional Series picks, she said "Oh my God honey! I bet I can make ballbase picks better than you." Yes, she actually thinks the sport is called ballbase.

So I challenged her to try to predict the League Championship Series results. She said she would do it if I let her use my blog to complain about me, make catty remarks about celebrities, and talk shopping. I couldn't think of another guy doing anything remotely similar to this on the internet, so I reluctantly agreed.

Tremont's Picks

  • Red Sox over the Rays in 5
  • Phillies over the Dodgers in 7
Tremont's Gal's Picks (with commentary)

You know what really sucks? Sports. Guys watch way too much sports. I tell Tremont all the time "I wanna watch Lifetime". He's all "No way! The big game is on." Also, he never picks up his socks. I think I'm gonna leave him.

You know who is a total bitch? Angelina Jolie. I know she adopts lots of babies and stuff, but hello(!), she stole Jennifer Anniston's man. That's just not right. Also she looks like a fish. Take that, slut!

You know what I love to do the most? Go shopping. Especially for shoes. I could shop all day for shoes. I already have like 70 pairs, but I still want more. Tremont just doesn't understand this.

Well here are my picks for the ballbase thingys.
  • Dodgers over Phillies in 3
  • Rays over Red Sox in 10

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No Formula for Playoff Success

Everybody knows that teams that succeed in the playoffs play small ball, have post season experience, and are built around pitching and defense. Whoopsy!

All of the conventional wisdom about postseason success is being thrown out of the window in 2008. The Cubs, with their superior pitching staff and a better defensive personnel, were swept by the Dodgers. The small ball playing Angels were knocked off by the patient and powerful Red Sox. The inexperienced Rays took out the veteran Chi Sox.

The fact is that luck is the biggest factor in determining which of two relatively equal teams wins a short series. It makes for boring analysis, but it's true.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Princeton Offense

(Note: If you are already familiar with the principles of the Princeton offense, feel free to skip the next paragraph. However do not
skip the entire article. It's not about what you think it is.)

The Princeton offense is a basketball philosophy that slows the game down in order to allow teams with inferior ability to compete with more talented opponents. The offense involves a great deal of organized movement without the ball. Players set screens for one another and pass the ball around the floor. They are very conservative, being sure not to take ill- advised shots or turn the ball over. Eventually someone finds himself with an easy back door layup on the weak side of the court.

My buddy Nocedog has brilliantly used the term "Princeton offense" as a metaphor to describe a courtship strategy.*

Chances are you have run the Princeton offense on a gal yourself. Here is the situation. You have relatively consistent contact with a chick that you dig, but always in a non-intimate setting. Perhaps you see her on a regular basis at work or at school. Perhaps you are loosely connected in your social network. The important thing is that you do not have a whole lot of private, one-on-one conversations with her.

You ambiguously flirt with this girl over the course of weeks, months, and in some cases years. You use your friends and co-workers (teammates, for the sake of the analogy) to gradually get yourself closer to the girl (or the hole...Grow up, perverts! I'm talking basketball). You remain extremely cautious, making sure never to put your feelings (the ball) out there. You explore every possible angle (move without the ball) until you find yourself undefended next to the hole, ready to lay the biscuit in.

There is one mitigating factor that makes the Princeton offense more effective in basketball than it is in flirtation. In basketball, the system prevents the more athletic competition from getting free and running some Magic-era showtime shit on you. Unfortunately the relationship-based Princeton offense does nothing to slow the progress of cooler, richer, and better looking opponents. These guys can still attack your hole, with the reckless abandon of Lebron James on the break.

I was recently burned by playing too much Princeton and not taking a shot. While I was busy dilly-dallying, she found another gentleman. You gotta know when the shot clock is about to expire.

(* I know the whole "my buddy so-and-so" has been beaten to death by the Sports Guy. I will use it as sparingly as possible, but in this case I wanted to give proper attribution.)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Comments Section Update

As if you care (or even exist) non-registered readers can now post in the comments section.

Early Onset Curmudgeonry

  • Cubs fans are making themselves far less sympathetic. Last night Wrigley Field sounded like one continuous "boo" for the entire game.
  • Does anyone have a barber who does a decent job removing clipped hair from their head? I have never found one. Every time I leave the barber shop, I have to wash off my forehead, the back of my neck, and ears before I can go anywhere else. If I hire a company to clear a wooded area in my backyard, I don't want the trees sawed down and left where they fell.
  • I have nothing against David Blaine. Yeah he's sort of a douche, but he has pulled off some remarkable stunts. Fair play to him for being the heir to Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, etc. What bothers me is that he also seems to be this generation's Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, and Neil Armstrong. We no longer celebrate men whose accomplishments benefit humanity. We can't name a single active astronaut, but we will watch a guy hang upside for the sole purpose of proving he can hang upside down. (I'm as guilty as anyone else)

Om and Jerry

The Mets have resigned Omar Minaya through 2012. The Minaya era has been much like the facts of life; You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have it. Last offseason captured Omar's reign in microcosm . He surrendered next to nothing to acquire the world's best pitcher. But he also gave up one of the most impressive youngsters in the sport for a platoon left fielder and an aging backup catcher. In sum, I don't think I would have brought Omar back, but I won't argue too passionately against his return.

Apparently the Mets want to bring back Jerry Manuel, but only for a two year deal. Jerry Manuel is holding out for an extra year. Now I understand that a two year contract really only guarantees him one year at the helm. If the Mets tank again next season, Jerry would clearly get the ax. So I can understand his reservations. But here's a little unsolicited advice for Jerry Manuel; Sign that contract NOW! As much as I hope I'm wrong, the Mets will probably make the playoffs next season. They will add a couple of quality pieces and avoid some of the horrendous luck they had this year. Right or wrong, Manuel would get the lion's share of the credit for turning the Mets around and receive the contract extension he desires.

If Jerry insists on playing hardball, the great Bobby Valentine is waiting in the wings. He's a bit of a scumbag for undermining Manuel's negotiations, by expressing his interest in the Mets managerial position. But Bobby V is a winner. Last season I even argued that the Yankees should hire him over Girardi or Mattingly.

In the absence of a better conclusion, I would like to count the ways in which the headline of this post is terrible...

  1. All puns stink

  2. Nobody abbreviates Minaya's (or any other fella named Omar) name "Om"

  3. Even if Omar was routinely abbreviated "Om", it would undoubtedly rhyme with "home", not "Tom".

If you can think of any others, let me know.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

North Chicago Pity Party

Date: 10/1
Time: 9PM Central-??? (seriously this could last a century)

What Went Wrong: The Bullpen

This is the conclusion of the lackluster trilogy of posts that explain what went wrong with the Mets. My first two episodes are here and here.

Now I finally address the bullpen. I couldn't accurately label the bullpen's failure as either predictable or unpredictable, so I created a third category. Bullpens are, by nature, the most mercurial units in all of sports. The Met pen was dreadful in August and September (in part because of Billy Wagner's injury). Though to be fair, I certainly wouldn't have been floored if Jerry Manuel would have cobbled together an effective pen down the stretch. That being said, Minaya probably should have added a reliable arm by the waiver deadline.

I won't even criticize Omar for passing on Huston Street or Brian Fuentes. I'll trust his word that their respective organizations asked far too much in return for their services. But you don't have to make the splashy acquistion to upgrade. What would the chronically underrated David Weathers have cost the Mets in terms of talent? Probably not too much. He is 39 years old and plays for a team that won't realistically compete until 2010. Weathers would have been a clear improvement over Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman. Unlike Weathers, I wasn't hearing Ron Mahay's name in trade rumors this year. However he is to the Royals, what Weathers is to the Reds. He's another aging "win now" player on a "wait 'til next year" team. I'm sure Dayton Moore wouldn't have hung up the phone if Omar called about him.

Omar should have done more to address this area of need. But nobody could have reasonably expected the Mets bullpen to be so inept.

Caution: Borderline Political Statement

I have taken two college courses in Economics and one in Finance. I have never worked on the money end of any business. My father set me up with about $2,000 in a mutual fund years ago, (I have no clue which one) but that money is an IRA. My only association with banks is a checking account and one student loan. In sum, I understand very little about our country's current economic crisis.

What I do know is that the media is peddling the ridiculous notion that this crisis is about "Wall Street vs. Main Street", as if such a dichotomy exists. While the phrase has a nice ring to it, the two factions are inextricably linked. It's probably easier for the folks from Main Street, USA to point the finger at a bunch of New York Jews and WASPy elites than blame their own dopey friends and neighbors for this recession.

Of course the financial institutions conducted themselves miserably. But there wouldn't be carnies, if there weren't any rubes. And I don't have much sympathy for the sap that is talked into a mortgage that he can't afford.

With Minimal Conviction

Here are my picks for the ALDS and NLDS...

Angels over BoSox in 5
Rays over ChiSox in 4
Cubs over Dodgers in 4
Phillies over Brewers in 4

...which raises an interesting question. Which is the greater blogging sin; blandly picking all of the favorites or dishonestly picking underdogs, in whom you don't believe, for the sake of being provocative?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MLB Execs Go to Jupiter to Get More Stupider

Is there a dumber way of determining the home field advantage of a play-in game than a coin flip? Either strength of schedule or head-to-head records would make a lot more sense. However I have a more innovative proposal. I suggest both teams do a water displacement test with their genitals. The 40 man roster with the greatest aggregate volume of manhood would get home field. At least it's a criteria of some sort, instead of dumb luck.

Cashman Returns

Thank goodness. Brian Cashman will remain the Yankees GM through 2011. This is more than a mere formality, as I feared that he would consider fleeing the Bronx pressure cooker for a more relaxed rebuilding gig (perhaps Washington or Seattle). Despite holding his position for 11 seasons, Cashman is arguably the sport's most difficult general manager to fairly evaluate. Other parties within the Yankee organization have been so influential in baseball operations that it is nearly impossible to determine who was responsible for any given transaction.

Count me among those who give Cashman the benefit of the doubt. Wrestling fans would refer to me as a Cashman "mark". In the absense of inside information, I assume Cashman deserves credit for every smart move and assign blame to the Tampa faction for every poor organizational decision. Yes, this is foolish. But until proven otherwise, I remain a true believer.

A Victim of Base 10

The case against Mike Mussina's Hall of Fame candidacy has primarily boiled down to an irrational fascination with round numbers in base 10 mathematics. Until Sunday, Mussina had never won 20 games. That wins are dopey statistic to use to judge a pitcher is an argument for another day. Since his lack of 20 win seasons is (or was) the knock on Mike Mussina, I'll pretend for a moment that wins are the be-all and end-all of a pitcher's value. I will also, for the sake of this argument, subscribe to the ridiculous notion that all benchmark numbers must begin with a non-zero digit, followed by a succession of zeros. I'll make believe that 20 win seasons, 300 career wins, 100 RBI seasons, 500 career home runs, 200 hit seasons, and 3,000 career hits are the only stats with which the Hall of Fame voter should concern himself.

I make all of these concessions to convential wisdom and all I ask in return is that you analyze Mussina's counting stats in base 9. Humanity's use of base 10 mathematics (ten digits in our numeral system) is probably a function of the fact that most people have ten fingers. Therefore it was the most convenient method of counting for our ancestors. Had Antonio Alfonseca been the first man to gain knowledge of mathematics, we would use base 12. Were it Mordecai Brown who made the discovery, 8 would be our base of choice. Incredibly, the fact that we have ten fingers threatens to keep a Moose head from enshrinement in Cooperstown.

It so happens that 20 in base 9 is equal to 18 in base 10. Let us look then at how many 20 win seasons Mussina has had in base 9.

  • 1992- Base 9 wins: 20 (Base 10 wins: 18)

  • 1995- Base 9 wins: 21 (Base 10 wins: 19)

  • 1996- Base 9 wins: 21 (Base 10 wins: 19)

  • 1999- Base 9 wins: 20 (Base 10 wins: 18)

  • 2002-Base 9 wins: 20 (Base 10 wins: 18)

  • 2008-Base 9 wins: 22 (Base 10 wins: 20)

Moose has six 20 win seasons in base 9.

By way of comparison, here is a non-comprehensive* list of Hall of Fame pitchers with fewer 20 win seasons in base 9 than Mike Mussina.

Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, and Nolan Ryan. A Hall of Fame without any of these men is a complete farce. One without Mussina would be one as well.

(*Laziness prevents me from researching Hall of Famers inducted prior to 1972. And poor observational skills might have caused me to overlook some players elected after that date.)

What Went Wrong: The Unpredictable

Nobody could have predicted the following problems:

  • The Mets abominable performance in the clutch: Let me start by saying that I do not put much stock in the idea that certain players are inherently good or bad in "clutch" situations. This, mostly imagined, personality trait. Performance in big spots, both individual and organization-wide, can fluctuate wildly from year to year. I'll conservatively guesstimate that such variations are 75 percent luck. That said, the Mets were remarkly unlucky in important situations this season.
  • The main piece in Minaya's horrendous Millidge trade, Ryan Church started the season brilliantly, making his acquisition looking slightly less ill-advised. Then a couple of concussions turned him into New York's most high profile mush head since Wayne Chrebet. He missed much of the season and never returned to his April form, when he did play.

Some time tomorrow, I will address the bullpen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Went Wrong: The Predictable

I'll break down the Mets' failure into three parts; the predictable, the unpredictable, and the bullpen (which doesn't fit perfectly into either of the former categories). I start with the predictable. These are the flaws in the team's design that were foreseeable last offseason.

  • The continued physical breakdowns of Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, and El Duque: Old, injury-prone players never get younger and healthier. To be fair, I was all for resigning Moises Alou. He was the '57 Chevy that looked awesome around town but spent a lot of time in the shop. This was the year the engine completely crapped out. Disappointing for the Met fan, but certainly not shocking.
  • The unreliability of their 2nd thru 5th starters: After Johan, this is how the rotation looked going into this season. Pedro hadn't been healthy since 2005. We already vintage Pedro was long gone. El Duque is well into his seventies and had alternated between injury and mediocrity for years. Ollie had been awful in 2.5 of the previous three seasons. Maine had been maddeningly inconsistent, particularly down the stretch last season. Pelfrey appeared to be a semi-bust in his Major League stints, coming into the season.

  • The general lack of production out of second base and catcher: The Luis Castillo signing was perhaps the most inexcusable transaction of Omar Minaya's Met career. When completely healthy, he has been your bog-standard second baseman.* So Omar locks him up for four years on the downside of his career, as his gams rapidly become more suited for murderball than baseball. Brian Schneider simply should not be a starter in the Major Leagues. He can't hit a lick and he is only average defensively. Perhaps he had a reputation as a good handler of a pitching staff, but the Expos/Nats pitchers hadn't had a whole lot of success over the course of his career.

The blame for these problems fall directly on Omar Minaya's shoulders.

(*I'm an anglophilic douche. Bog-standard is a British phrase I nicked from a Ricky Gervais podcast. It means "run of the mill")

Timing is Nothing

The advent of this blog has all the timing of a Herm Edwards offense in a two-minute drill.* My focus is New York baseball and neither the Yankees or Mets will play another game for more than six months. I'm a week late to write my lukewarm ode to Yankee Stadium and another good riddance to Shea would just be overkill. Since the Yanks have been dead since August, the only topical issue to discuss is the Mets second consecutive collapse.

Full disclosure: I am a Yankee fan, who despises the Mets nearly as much as I love my own team. Nothing made me happier than seeing Met after bassless-voiced Met (Elias is reporting that no team since the '44 St. Louis Browns has had a greater collection of players with pre-pubescent voices) try to explain this one to the beat writers in the postgame show.** However I feel that I have a great ability to put aside my hatred for the club and fairly analyze the club.

Later tonight I will offer my thoughts on what happened to them. But first a few things that were not part of the problem:

  • Team chemistry
  • Lack of leadership
  • A bunch of choke artists
  • Bad karma

These sorts of non-explanations are almost always a cop-out for lazy analysts.

(* Good job Tremont! Your first reference on a NY baseball blog, is the Kansas City Chiefs head coach

** That clunker of a sentence couldn't fit comfortably in the backseat of a Town Car)


It is tiresome cliche that sports bloggers are overweight failures, who live in their mother's basements. I have frequently found such characterizations misleading. However in my case, they are only off by two floors.

Does this mean my opinions should be taken less seriously? I don't think so. Judge me not on my place of residence, but on the weakness of my arguments and the shakiness of my sentence structure. Surely this post would have been equally as insipid, had it been written from a penthouse overlooking Central Park, instead of the spare bedroom in my parent's house.

This blog's primary aim is to cover New York baseball, in a manner both irreverent and sabermetrically savvy. It will contain the odd bit of foul language and deliberately offensive material. Other sports, pop culture, politics, and general observations are all on the table as well. Feel free to skip any posts you don't like, but I really have no interest in engaging in discussions with people who tell me to "stick to the sports".