Archive for the ‘ALL II’ Category

Single: Yankees Limping into the Playoffs

*I enlisted the help of the Editor-in-Chief to diagnose the growing worries of this NY Yankees franchise losing its comfortable lead in the AL East*

A Rod hurt. Tex hurt. CC was hurt. Ivan Nova hurt. Mariano Rivera hurt. My beloved New York Yankees are entering the one part of the schedule, I tell every one I care about: September.  Unfortunately, the Yankees, despite leading the AL East, are nothing to write home about right now. They are showing their age. I’m not ready to write them off as yet, but I never thought at this point, the Yankees would be relying on the bat of the 38-year old Captain, Derek Jeter. (They just lost a series to the Toronto Blue Jays.

What’s truly cause for concern is the pitching rotation. Other than Kuroda and Sabathia, the Yankees haven’t found a foursome they can rely on consistently. Despite Nova’s double digit win total, he sporting a sexy 4.92 ERA. Yankee fans have to be excited for their projected Game 3 starter right? Not only does he have an ERA near 5, he’s injured! Then there’s Phil Hughes. The guy Cashman keeps giving a chance. He’s a roulette wheel. Pitch by pitch, fans don’t know what they’re going to get. It’ll make for one heart-wrenching playoffs.

Luckily for the Yankees, Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez are playing as well as they’ve played their entire careers. Who needs A-Rod and Tex (but seriously though).  I need Girardi to pull out that infamous notebook and work it out with this team. Although their ERA is 4th in the AL, that’s probably good enough to get the Yankees 4th in the AL which is not good enough. Their window is closing. The Captain isn’t going to be around much longer. Both A-Rod and Tex’s contracts are catching up with the Bronx Bombers and the boss ain’t walking through that door.

Double: Awards Previews – AL Cy Young Race

Grantland’s Shane Ryan inspired this idea.  The MLB season is full of awards story lines late in the year.  For the next month I hope to rank these compelling races but mainly discuss the best one of the season: the best pitcher in the American League.  This year’s selection combines all the controversial factors we have come to love in these races: win/loss record, pitching for a team headed to the playoffs, owning other statistics beyond win/loss record, and riding previous reputation.  As I see it there are five contenders: Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, David Price, and Jared Weaver.  Here is how I see it today:

1)      David Price

2)      King Felix

3)      Justin Verlander

4)      Jered Weaver

5)      Chris Sale

Sale is probably going to be dropped from this list given his poor start in Baltimore and the fact that his durability will take games away to amass glamor stats (strikeouts) and wins.  He probably does not to hit the 20 win plateau to be a real contender but it doesn’t diminish anything from his amazing performance thus far.  Jered Weaver is certainly the most disrespected player on this list but this is probably the 2012 case for wins not mattering.  Unlike Sale, Weaver will probably get the glamor stats of wins but his advanced stats (especially average innings pitched per start) will cost him compared to others.  Verlander at three is simply a matter of people not wanting to give him another award in two straight years.  Also was hammered earlier this week.  Felix Hernandez has the Verlander stats and finally has a record to appeal to the older generation.  5CG/5 shutouts.  It’s a powerful case and has been absolutely dominant with little run support against contending teams.  Price is one for me (leading to awkward “Price is Right headlines”) because external factors favor his case.  He is on a contender and one that will catch the Yankees in the final month of the season.  Plays in a tough offensive division.  Has the win totals and ERA to please the people and I think he will be a stable ace down the stretch as the schedule gets tougher.  The Rays exposure will also help his case over Felix Hernandez.  Obviously, these are subject to change but I love this race and you should too.  Much better than AL Rookie of the Year or MVP.

Triple: Red Sox/Dodgers Trade – An Analysis

The trade of the sports world happened in baseball last week with the Boston Red Sox trading Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto and a cool $11 million for James Loney, Ivan De Jesus Jr., Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, and the rising star Allen Webster.  In this post trade deadline move, the Red Sox effectively dumped more than $250 million in salaries through the 2018 season – a Massachusetts sized mulligan for seemingly poor decisions involving ungodly amounts of money locked into a handful of players (namely Gonzalez and Crawford).  The Dodgers upgraded their team in the now to make a run at the NL West, at the very least showed their fans and baseball at large that new ownership is serious about winning, and effectively completed the power shift in baseball from the east to the west.  That’s just the tip of the ice berg on this one.  I’ve waited all week to write on it (namely because I was moving) but here are several other thoughts from the deal.

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers are spending unprecedented amounts of money and that should scare the hell out of everyone in baseball.  Including the New York Yankees.  Jonah Keri wrote a fantastically long piece analyzing this deal and proving backstory to the teams along with player analysis.  No team has ever traded for two players who each are owed over $100 million.  The deal speaks to the gradual revolution in sports franchise financing based on external broadcast revenue.  Originally popularized in college football with Notre Dame’s NBC contract and large deals throughout each major conference, baseball is slowing picking up the same approach which, by and large, separated the Yankees from the pack.  The YES Network in New York is an unprecedented marketing power that literally prints money when needed which is why the luxury tax system is a bunch of bologna.  The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California within the United States of America both signed fairly significant deals but with projections of a Dodgers deal at nearly $4 billion, any notion of upper thresholds are immediately put on hold.  Absurd.  That type of financial relief was unthinkable and I expect these types of all in gambles to be the norm of the upper management era.  Sure, teams will still maximize smart scouting and some “Moneyball” tendencies but as long as the Yankees, Phillies, and Rangers keep making it to the World Series, teams will seek out extra financial resources to keep up the chase.  Sorry small markets.

 

  • While the Dodgers’ upgrades look fantastic, the bigger winner in this deal (I guess) is the Boston Red Sox.  They rid themselves of major money to spend going forward though it is not absolutely clear that the new money will be spent wisely.  It’s the exact same issue I have when people demand that a coach be fired: Who is going to replace him/her?  Well, who is going to be running this team?  GM Ben Cherington, it has been alleged, hasn’t been given full control of personnel decisions since he came aboard.  MLB insiders suggest ownership (read: Larry Lucchino) insisted on signing big name free agents and hiring the bigger named manager Bobby Valentine.  With this blockbuster move, it appears that Cherington has earned more power as the big names are beginning to leave and the talent department earning major kudos with De La Rosa and top Dodgers pitching prospect Allen Webster.  Red Sox faithful should be satisfied with a return to “Theo-ball” with talent being the chief determinant of player value.

 

  • Oh and then there is Bobby V!  When I picked myself up off the floor, I immediately thought about the ramifications for Valentine, a man who is blamed for more stuff  that he cannot control than any other person in America.  Except Barack Obama.  It appears, to me, that the Red Sox decided to get rid of the players rather than the traditional move to keep the high paid players and fire (scapegoat) the manager.  On my radio show ALL Sports –before the deal- I said the Red Sox would probably keep Valentine as he is ownership’s pick for the job and rarely does the head man want to be viewed as wrong.  For the power ceded to Cherington, I feel even more confident that Valentine stays for at least the start of next season.  While Crawford’s injuries seem fluky, Gonzalez (text message to ownership) and Beckett (beer and chicken sponsored by Ludacris) were central pieces in the major controversies befalling the Red Sox during their losing run.  I hate advocating anyone to lose his or her job but it drives me nuts when management just brazenly fires coaches/managers as if they were responsible for injuries, the sudden ineptitude of starting pitching, or significant declines in offensive productivity.  Not sure how long Bobby V will last but the decision to shed the huge player deals should put Lackey (disaster), Lester (probably will bounce back in 2013), and Pedroia on notice.

 

  • Why do teams quickly sour on their deals to sign players to $75 million +, 4 year + deals?  The question begs to be asked as the Red Sox join an ever growing list of teams compelled to sign players to unworldly contracts and immediately feel bad about it.  This isn’t how the Angles will feel about Albert Pujols in three years or how the Yankees feel about Alex Rodriguez now.  This is how the Phillies feel about Ryan Howard after dropping major bank on him to struggle and be unhealthy.  The most reasonable answer was given by Keith Law on the Baseball Today podcast: you learn more about a player when he is in your organization and it darn well matters how he fits in your organization.  You move from “imperfect information to more perfect information on a player.” (Law, Aug 28, 2012)
  • Chika and I have been engaged in a huge battle over the Carl Crawford contract.  (By the way, many of you may not know who Chika is because he is usually not around to share his thoughts and opinions.  He is the third blogger on this blog and yes, he is still alive.)  Looking at the Crawford tenure, Chika contends that the deal is awful and the Red Sox should regret it.  In this argument and others, I always suggest that we cannot look exclusively on results (especially when there are more years left) and think about the circumstances a team was in with the free agent; I don’t believe the contract was a bad deal considering Crawford’s production to that point.  I also think it will be good when he is healthy and he can positively contribute to his team.  Still, the Red Sox didn’t see the type of production they (and other teams) will always OVERPAY for and they flipped out.  It’s the classic “baseball market sets the price” scenario but that does not mean giving in on initial unlucky (injury) or inconsistent (Gonzalez decline) performance.
  • The last point is whether there is a winner or a loser in this deal.  I can assure you that the Red Sox won this deal in the short and long term.  They rid themselves of tons of money to (hopefully) be spent wisely on future players and reset the clubhouse culture by eliminating lightning rod players.  With the race to get below the luxury tax now on, Boston puts themselves in position to rebuild competitively in the future.  The Dodgers are winners now but have not guaranteed themselves anything special as it pertains to catching and passing the Giants in the NL West.  In several years they will probably regret this move but if at any point they win World Series then the deal is a success.  That’s the ultimate point here: the goal is about winning a World Series and if it comes at the expense of hundreds of millions then so be it.  Cubs haven’t seen one in over 100 years; you break the bank to get it and cherish it forever.

Home Run: The End

No seriously, that’s it.  I had a long piece on Adrian Beltre’s power surge (including hitting for the cycle last week) but unlike the Dodgers there are limits on me and I’m about 1600 words beyond mine.  Sad.

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Frank Schleck

Alessandro Petacchi

Alejandro Valverde

Tyler Hamilton

Tom Boonen

Floyd Landis

Alexandre Vinokourov

Ivan Basso

Alberto Contador

Jan Ullrich

These cyclists are a handful of the hundreds involved with major doping scandals in the perpetually corrupt world of international cycling.  What separates many of them from one Lance Armstrong is they tested positive for a banned substance, admitted usage of a banned substance, or did their best to be missing during testing time (up to four different tests).  Lance Armstrong has never –NEVER- (as in it has not happened) positively tested for a performance enhancing drug.  Two incidents stand out in the Lance Armstrong resume.  One occurred in 1999 where Armstrong’s urine test showed more than trace amounts of corticoids.  Armstrong said the results came from a cream used to treat saddle sores and gave the International Cycling Union (UCI) the cream to test.  He was cleared of any foul play.  The second incident was in 2005 when French newspapers accused Armstrong of cheating in 1999 and allegedly had tests to prove it.  UCI independent lawyer Emile Vrijman concluded that Armstrong should be cleared of all allegations as the lab used in the newspaper story used questionable procedures and lacked possession accountability.  Read the report for yourself here.  Point is there has never been a test saying Armstrong has doped.  So that’s the framework.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency declared it will strip Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France titles and ban him from cycling for life.  The ruling came after Armstrong decided to end his legal battle against the USADA, a decision that sports cynics and USADA leadership is taking as an admission of guilt.  Because…no evidence is good evidence.  Armstrong’s statement asserts he dropped his fight because the system was stacked against him from the beginning.  And he was sick and tired of fighting the same unfounded mess.  (Aside: It is natural to be suspicious of any one in cycling especially someone who won all the time amid a field of cheaters.  It’s founded in the same way that Derek Jeter maybe questioned in baseball.  It’s all a disaster)  Of course in typical USA fashion – after constantly being warned by the International Cycling Union to back off this investigation – there is a jurisdiction issue.  Thanks to Dan Wade for linking me to the article that addressed my immediate concern, the USADA does NOT have authority on this vacating of Tour de France titles.  That is the job of the International Cycling Union.  The same UCI that tried to prevent the USADA from pursuing the case due to the quid pro quo nature of the witnesses giving up Lance Armstrong to reduce their own suspensions.  You know the same UCI that blatantly stated that jurisdiction for international races belongs to the international body.  So USADA can suck it right now.

The bigger issue is the destruction (or attempted destruction) of another American sports legend and more broadly an American hero.  With more media more often, many outlets specifically seek out opportunities to tear down the greats.  This does not excuse the actions of the corrupted (re: Joe Paterno) but it does raise a question about if someone can be successful and everyone be OK with that person’s success.  Armstrong, by all accounts, is a jerk.  He fits the mold of all-time greats being absolutely insufferable.  But he has not yet to be associated with a positive test for a banned substance.  Not one time.  Of course his decision not to challenge this does raise questions.  He has fought all these years, why stop now?  All he has is his reputation and name and that should be something one always defends.  Legally, it seems, preventing a trip to arbitration means keeping the massive evidence compiled by the USADA under wraps which would be undoubtedly be bad for Armstrongs brand through we cannot validate the truth.  Anytime person A is only willing to come forward with information on person B is when person A is in trouble, I am always skeptical.  Add a reduction in the punishment?  Oh I am very unnerved.

Still, the testing has caught all nearly half of cycling.  All of the great cyclists.  Winners of previous stages in all the major cycling races and previous winners.  Years and years of testing and still not a single urine, blood, or hair sample can be identified.  We know that the French in particular tried their best to find any inkling of foul play as they resented the brash American’s dominance.  Overall, they found nothing.  And with every successful test speculation grew.  Lance is tired because he could only provide the truth and it didn’t change a thing positively.  It was all ignored while the cynics grew louder.  So now he loses because he knew the game was rigged in the first place.  Maybe this is the larger catch-22 beyond the USADA’s procedures to handle performance enhancers.  If you are successful, you get skepticism.  If you are not successful, you get nothing.  If you cheat and get caught, your legacy is sullied forever.  Lance Armstrong has no evidence connecting him to drug violations.  Just Tour de France titles and the spectre of being in the most drugged sport in the world.  That’s good enough for most but not me.  Since the beginning Lance someone I always believed and I will continue to believe him.  Maybe I am just naïve to one day look stunned after decades of denial (re: Pete Rose).  Until then, show me a positive test like everyone else has who has been banned from the sport.  Lance and I will be waiting because thus far he has not lost yet.

I’m just bein’ prolific, right now don’t need no Mrs./ I got a rack of Trojans, no ring, my Lane Kiffin. – Wale, “Barry Sanders”

Aside from being the best sports song in many years, this line about Lane Kiffin is hilarious.  Kiffin, entering his third season with the USC Trojans, has been embroiled with controversy this offseason, a near constant state of affairs for the boisterous young talent throughout his young career. Most recently Kiffin took heat for apparently lying about his voting habits (this is an election year) regarding the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.  When asked about Rich Rodriguez voting USC number one, Kiffin responded “I would not vote USC No. 1, I can tell you that.”

At this point, the story gets murky depending on who you ask and how much you weigh history.  Not to break any major stories here, but Lane Kiffin is a jerk.  He likes to poke the bear and shoot off at the mouth.  Fans of his (translated to mean fans of the team he is coaching at the time) find it refreshing to see someone not kowtow to the greats and to speak his mind like…well…a fan.  Others describe it as youthful ignorance; understandably so as Kiffin (37 years old) was the youngest coach in NFL history and currently the youngest coach of any BCS team.  Remember when he was introduced at Tennessee after going 5-15 over 20 games with the Oakland Raiders?  People absolutely hated him taking a shot at Florida.  Everyone except Volunteers fans and people sick of the great Urban Meyer.  I loved it!  Can’t stand Florida, Tebow, and Meyer, so he was a welcomed relief.  The flipside is him leaving for University of Southern California kind of makes him look like an awful guy.  I’d argue not as awful as this guy, or this guy, or this guy, but still awful nonetheless.

Back to August 2012 and Lane Kiffin’s admission of what he would not do.  Well, the USA Today decided to publish Kiffin’s vote.  Usually, USA Today’s Coach’s Poll votes are kept confidential until the final vote of the season but Kiffin’s “volunteer[ing] false or misleading information” gave then the initiative to refute his statement.  To protect the poll’s integrity.  HAHAHAHA.  (Aside: The poll is a joke and will be forever because coaches dictate their own future…do better.)  By the way, Kiffin voted USC number one.  Which is fine because they have a good team but looks bad when you said you would not do it.

Kiffin explained that if he was in “RichRod’s” position, he would not vote USC number one due to their lack of scholarships compared to other programs.  Now, given that Lane Kiffin is shady and a jerk people immediately called into question his integrity.  If you look at his history, especially his propensity to take shots at others, I think he genuinely meant that if he was in another person’s shoes he would act differently.  The immediacy of the reaction is Exhibit A for your reputation staining what you do going forward.

Still, Kiffin is always the brunt of criticism.  While everyone excitedly waited to pursue Penn State recruits following NCAA sanctions, Kiffin landed the top prize only to be met with snide criticism from, everyone.  Cue up Deadspin and the New York Times to ridicule Kiffin’s poaching to talent.  Does one need to remind everyone that Kiffin was not the Head Coach or in a real meaningful position during the time USC violated rules?  Is he not supposed to improve his team if he could despite its past transgressions?

Ehhh, I like Lane Kiffin because he does bring a certain brashness that is reserved for “winners” despite not being a career “winner.”  He is the youth movement: arrogant, direct, and often times controversial.  I liked Kiffin before he coached my favorite team and love him even more now.  And he is winning which is an added bonus. (Who could win with the Raiders and Volunteers in the mid-late 2000s?  Exactly!)  All I ask is give the guy the same type of treatment reserved for others before defaulting to disliking him because he is a jerk.  Please and Thank You.

While watching the gold medal basketball game with friend and master chef Tony, we engaged in a very amusing argument over the best basketball celebration.  I think this began after seeing a highlight of Tyson Chandler blocking someone and doing something lame afterwards.  We both agreed that Dikembe Mutombo’s finger wag was awesome.  Top tier quality.  But that is for now number four behind the two options vying for second.

(If you are wondering what is first, then you need to look no further than Allen Iverson’s “Step Over” of Tyronn Lue.  First of all, it will never happen that often because people usually don’t fall in a place to be stepped over.  Second, AI hitting the shot stunned Lue long enough that AI could just step over him and do NOTHING about it.  Third, AI looked at him like he was the scum of the Earth.  Anytime you can walk over someone, it’s great.  Take my favorite Scottie Pippen highlight for instance.  You step over someone and you can walk around like a BOSS because, well, you are for that 15 second period.  Usually, though, it can be an issue.  AI doing it was just too good)

Tony believes the best celebration is Sam Cassell’s “big balls” routine after hitting a clutch basket.  Originally created by the movie Major League II, the big balls celebration represents everything people want from an over the top celebration.  It looks goofy.  You only do it at the end of games.  You will get fined from it.  Everyone knows what it is but the analysts can’t say what it is because it is somewhat crude.  Although I cannot find video of Sam Cassell actually doing this, I did find Kobe (dare I say) whipping it out against the Spurs.  It’s fantastic.  Eddie House doing it too.

Naturally I disagree with Tony and suggest that the only celebration worthy of the top spot should be Shawn Kemp’s finger pointing particularly after he crushed a dunk over Alton Lister.  It is as brash and in your face as you possibly could be without getting into a fight.  You just devastate someone with a dunk.  They are down and embarrassed and your face lights up while you emphatically point to the person on the ground, as if everyone isn’t looking at that person already.  It’s bold and hilarious.  And it can happen at any time you crush dunks on people.  It only helps that the camera guy sees Kemp pointing and immediately looks to the ground to see a shell-shocked Lister.  If I can point and yell at someone then I am all in.

You decide which is better: big balls or emphatic pointing in someone’s face?

With the baseball-less Olympics in the rear view mirror, I can return to some real athletic competition with four stories that caught my eye over the last week in baseball.  That’s “The Cycle.”

Single: Baseball Voted Out The Olympics and Is Not Coming Back In 2016 Either

Perhaps I am quite sensitive about Olympic events because tennis is also under fire as a sport that should be eliminated from the purist athletic competition in the world, but baseball’s absence is truly remarkable.  Consider that baseball was eliminated as an Olympic contest on a vote that took place in 2005, making it the first sport to be voted out since polo’s abrupt exit in 1936 (it began consistently as a Olympic sport in 1984 in Los Angeles – surprisingly, not).  Simply put: if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decides you are a sport (or more accurately termed an event), you stay an event.  Lest you are baseball.  So what did them in?  A 2008 interview with current IOC leader Jacques Rogge, who allegedly led the charge against removing baseball, softball, and the modern pentathlon, suggested baseball had work to do to return to the games: “You need to have a sport with a following, you need to have the best players and you need to be in strict compliance with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). And these are the qualifications that have to be met. When you have all that, you have to win hearts.”

This quote raises several noteworthy points that should be taken into context of an overwhelming reality that baseball and softball are quintessentially American sports.  Yes, baseball is incredibly popular in the Caribbean and Asia but at its core it screams American.  North American.  First, baseball does have a following but that following is not throughout Europe, where most of the IOC members represent.  This is something that cannot be pupu-ed and  is a genuine problem for the International Baseball Federation  to overcome.  Over 300 athletes could not compete from 16 different teams base on 2008 figures but the teams that routinely medal are Cuba, USA, Japan, and South Korea.  No European nations.  Big issue and one that isn’t going to be solved soon I imagine.  The reasonable counter argument is the nations that do play baseball bring massive audiences with North America and Asian nations representing a healthy part of the viewing audience.  Also, most of the current Olympic events don’t exactly attract huge audiences (fencing, trampoline, any shooting or rowing event, or synchronized anything to name a view).

Second, Rogge wants the best players in the world.  That means professionals.  That means MLB players and that’s a huge issue as the Olympics happens right in the middle of the MLB season.  Now this is quite the quandary since the NBA is attempting to scale back participation of huge stars in favor of under 23 year olds (like soccer where the Men didn’t qualify).  The Editor-in-Chief of this blog would be more amenable to supporting tennis as a sport if they had amateurs.  It seems hard for the IOC to be concerned when the multi-millionaires play against amateurs but want MLB players need to be involved to get a sport to return.  For what it’s worth, the MLB season can be shortened but an interruption every four years to compete for your country should be acceptable.  The dirty little secret in this mess is Bud Selig’s World Baseball Classic and under no circumstances does he believe playing for gold should compete with his questionably successful offseason tournament.  It’s exactly what David Stern wants to do with his World Cup of Basketball (which, for the record, would also be successful).  I doubt owners or MLB will get on board to get talent to the Olympics which will hurt the bid.  Counter: use amateurs in the spirit of the Olympics.  It was fine before and will be fine going forward.

Third is this crap about complying with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).  I don’t think anyone is moved by the WADA standards because they clearly are doing a great job preventing doping in sports.  How is that working in cycling?  Oh I hear its doing fantastic with track and field.  That’s a crock.

The only thing worse than that mess is the final point about winning the hearts.  I don’t know what the hell that means but since it came from the IOC, I imagine it means absolutely nothing than something sinister.  Don’t you dare tell me that the triple jump wins the hearts of people.  It sounds like forking over some extra money and proceeds to the IOC.  Not to be cynical but I rather hang with the integrity of Lane Kiffin, Alex Rodriguez, and Lance Armstrong than anyone with the IOC.

Oh for kicks, the IOC replaced the gulf created by baseball and softball with golf and rugby.  If anything, adding golf and rugby should deflate any argument for kicking out tennis.  Golf majors are more important than a gold.  Rugby has a widely popular World Cup  like soccer.  Baseball/softball’s next opportunity is in 2020 but there appears to be one spot left for a new sport.  The competition? Karate, wakeboarding, and wushu.  I’ve never heard of wushu.  But that’s what they are fighting against.  Sadly, it doesn’t look good.

Double: How Much More Evidence Do You Need Of League Bias On Stats?

Two case studies need to be examined to highlight for the billionth time that the league one performs in matters and that blind comparisons across leagues is ignorant.  First is former Yankees disappointment A.J. Burnett who recorded above 4 ERAs in all of his Yankees seasons including two of three seasons giving up over five runs a game.  Not good enough.  Doesn’t help that he pitched in a league with superior (SUPERIOR) offensive talent.  Rangers, Red Sox (ahhh, the Red Sox), White Sox, consistent hitting from the Blue Jays, Tigers, and Angels.  You need to bring it every night.  He couldn’t bring it in his demotion to AAA in 2012.  In his first season in Pittsburgh, Burnett is 14-4 with an 3.32 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.  Significantly lower and leading a team with a firm chance to reach the playoffs.  In the National League.  Pitching against a Votto-less Cincinnati, Houston, and Chicago Cubs will help any struggling pitcher get their confidence up.  Burnett, confidence brewing, went 2-0 against the Tigers this year during interleague play but also got the luxury to face the Royals and Indians.  Point being that his retreat back to the National League comes with some softer competition and increased statistical output.  No one should be second guessing themselves in New York.

Conversely, Ryan Dempster has been exposed as someone feasting on National League hitting despite pitching in a hitter friendly park.  Dempster’s no earned runs allowed from June 5 – July 14 buoyed him to the top of pitching prospect available at the trade deadline.  Unfortunately, the Texas Rangers jumped into the fold to pick him up and 1) moved him to another hitter friendly park inside the 2) American League.  In his three AL starts thus far, he surrendered eight earned runs twice (against the Angels and Yankees), and six hits over six inning against the Red Sox.  Defenders counter that he faced the top offenses of the American League and will not always be going against them to conclude the year.  Uhhh, that’s cute but the Rangers didn’t get Dempster to win meaningless games in September.  He was brought in to stabilize a starting rotation looking to go back to the World Series and he WILL be going against superior offenses in the playoffs.  Certainly the Yankees.  Probably the Tigers and/or Angels.  Good luck.

Lesson for the day: If you are not an all-time great pitcher who can perform in any league, then AL à NL = Stats Up and NL à AL = Stats Down.

Triple: Strasburg Being Shut Down Is Good…I Think…

It’s been around two years since Stephen Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery and the Washington Nationals don’t plan to deviate from its plan to protect their players by shutting them down regardless of the external pressure to win now.  Nationals management ended Jordan Zimmerman’s season in 2011 after 161 innings following his Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2009 season.  This year, Zimmerman 2.35 ERA makes him an anchor for a an elite pitching staff cruising to a NL East title and legitimately contending for a World Series berth.  It’s easy to shut down Zimmerman last season when your team is fighting for third place.  It’s a different question all together when your main ace on your historically good pitching staff is being protected without much sign of current injury.  The Nationals pitching staff is tops in baseball in win percentage, ERA (3.19), WHIP, and opponents OPS according to the fine folks at ESPN Stats and Info.  Clearly there is more to this team than Strasburg but no one can deny that losing him is disastrously bad.

The complicated part of this business comes in the differing positions between the medical community, anecdotal evidence by looking at comparable cases (re: Kerry Wood), and the athlete mentality to show up big when it matters the most.  I won’t pretend to be a MLB insider because that would be disingenuous and Fareed Zakaria is owning that right now.  I encourage everyone to check out Jayson Stark’s Commentary piece on Strasburg which covers all three storylines.  Of note is the strong support the Nationals are getting from the medical community despite no formalized evidence showing that shutting him down is the right move to make.  Stark accurately acknowledges that we can never know if shutting him down “worked” given that half of all pitchers end up on the disabled list and innings differ from each other.

I definitely support the idea of stretching out starts and providing tons of rest to prolong him reaching the innings ceiling but pitching later into the season.  At this point it seems a bit too late to begin that regimen without fear of negative consequences in attempts to get Strasburg’s arm back up to speed in time for a start spread out between 15 days.  Stark’s piece also addresses this and the good job the White Sox are doing with Chris Sale.  It’s certainly a tough decision.  Understandably, Nationals teammates are not happy with the decision to cap innings and it should be stated that this is GM Mike Rizzo’s decision alone.  It is his reputation on the line and he wouldn’t do it if he didn’t feel it was right.

A consequence of my baseball fandom was considering things in the long-term.  I am always a big proponent of looking at a large sample size and balancing the short term with plans for the future (oh, and I am not a fan of MY Dallas Mavericks excess cap space with no team upgrades).  Nothing is guaranteed with going to the playoffs, let alone having a historically great pitching staff allowing you to reach a Worlds Series.  With that in mind, sacrificing on the front end may yield more chances in the future and that is something I cannot pass up.  Yes, it will be awkward to see Stephen Strasburg on the bench carefully cheering on his team as to not rip any more ligaments but it may help the team win multiple pennants in the future.  Kudos for doing what is best for the player and team despite the skeptics.

Home Run: Boston Red Sox Crap

I was in the middle of outlining a defense of Lane Kiffin before I saw Jeff Passan’s Yahoo! Sports story on Red Sox players complaining and trying to get manager Bobby Valentine fired.  As you know, I am very cautious about ripping coaches and managers because most of their job comes during the hours outside of the primetime cameras.  Bobby Valentine was brought in because ownership believed Terry Francona lost the team with their epic collapse following the 2011 season.  They were probably right that Francona’s player friendly approach softened the clubhouse and didn’t help the lack of leadership evident through the season.  Valentine is not player friendly.  He is an enforcer of rules and often times too smart for his own good.  What he isn’t, however, is a scapegoat for this crap.  What got lost during the epic BoSox collapse was the hitting, while not up to their season figures, was still competent.  Their pitching staff stunk up the joint.  No one could stop the bleeding.  Everyone getting lit up.  That is the primary reason they did not make the playoffs last season.  Pitching.

Fast-forward to this season.  Over $170 million payroll.  Top flight offense – though riddled by injuries.  New leadership.  What do the Red Sox do?  Roll out there and stink it up all season long.  Eating the Yankees exhaust like it’s the late 90s again.  Hell, the Baltimore Orioles come into town and whip em like rented mules.  Pathetic.  What is true of last year is true this year.  While the Boston Red Sox offense is NOT producing like it should (Deadspin’s Jack Dickey points to Pedroia’s WAR going from 7.8 to 2.2 and Adrian Gonzalez’s WAR going from 6.7 to 2.6) they still remain in the top ten in many offensive categories including third in runs, sixth in batting average, and fourth in slugging percentage.  Pitching?  Abominable.  Bottom 10 in ERA, quality starts, and 17th in WHIP.  Beckett and Lester?  ERAs over five.  Pathetic.  Not good enough.

Managers need to manage rosters and oversee good decisions with the players on the roster.  If all the pitchers, it seems, cannot pitch then the manager is pretty screwed.  If the star hitters…can’t hit…there is not much you can do to solve that.  Of course it was Gonzalez and Pedroia leading this meeting about Valentine.  Happily, not all the Red Sox players participated in the traditional throwing the manager under the bus tour but that does not excuse the fact that Valentine’s quirks only feed into player’s unwillingness to look in the mirror.  More importantly, look at that pitching staff.  What in the hell are you spending over $170 million USD on?  Not to be a fluttering .500 team wacked by the Orioles, Mariners, and just about everyone else.  This entire team is corrupted and if the management changed in the clubhouse the next move is to change the players, particularly the inept pitching staff.  Most of this “Bobby V is the problem” ends when the winning begins but that will not happen if the Red Sox continue to grasp for pitching that is not coming through at all.  When will the BoSox learn…

Everyone knows I am a huge NASCAR fan but due to the higher ups at the blog, I usually get shot down from writing on the sport.  Yes, it is a sport.  By any and all definitions of sport.  Symptomatic of the Olympics, lots of people look at auto racing thinking “oh I can drive a car so they are just driving a car faster than everyone else…in a circle.  Not hard at all.”  Driving a car at the speeds they are going is as physically demanding as most any sport.  G-Forces on the body are crippling.  Technical skill is very high.  Teamwork with crew chiefs and pit members changing four tires plus two cans of fuel in 13 seconds.  Oh hell yes it is a sport.  The other misconception is that every now and then (twice a year in fact), the drivers of the Sprint Cup Series run on road courses with the results being very entertaining.

Sunday, I give you the closing lap at Watkins Glen International.  The scene: Watkins Glen is a seven turn road course in upstate New York.  The leader is Kyle Busch in the #18 M&Ms car.  He had a very good car all day but something is clearly amiss going into the final lap.  In second is Brad Kesolowski in the #2 Miller Light Dodge (aka “The Blue Deuce).  In third is NASCAR’s only Tasmanian driver and defending race winner from one year ago Marcos Ambrose in the #9 Stanley Steamer Ford sporting the black and yellow which probably makes him Wiz Khalifa’s favorite driver after Jeff Gordon.

The other piece of this clip that is important is some genius blew and an engine and leaked oil all throughout the track.  Oil on the track + tires with no treads  + time to win a race = a spectacular finish to an exciting race.  Hope you enjoy and appreciate the driving skill on display.

 

Generally viral videos of “cute” things do not move my meter.  Little kids playing with dogs, cats startled by shadows, or people helping others across the street don’t make my heart melt into a puddle of rainbows and honey.  I suppose this is why people think I don’t like animals or any type of happiness.  I do like it but I am not moved by seeing it…2 million times on YouTube.  All of that ended when I saw a video from Arizona Cardinals training camp – a brief but meaningful meeting between linebacker Sam Acho and Camrynn, a five year old (or so) girl waiting with her family to meet players.  Training camp is a very unique and special environment where established players can share meaningful moments with the fans that adore them, furthering the narrative that players are motivated by money and the cheering spectators.  Or at least that is what I want to think.

Anyway, this video really got brought me in touch with my softer side.  Maybe it was Acho’s willingness to come over and spend so much time with one person.  Talking to Camrynn, taking a picture, and signing the ball without feeling rushed to get to other fans.  Maybe it was Camrynn herself too young to know that Sam Acho is a “big deal” relative to other people but not yet cynical to the narratives surrounding “selfish” athletes.  Maybe it was the relative joy on both their faces coming from two different backgrounds able to share a moment of commonality amid the brutish nature of the sport that everyone came to take in.  Maybe it is trying to figure out what Camrynn could have been contemplating at the :45 second mark where she was eagerly reviewing the autographs (scribbling?) on the football only to come up with the magical words.  “I love you, Sam.”  Maybe that is what love at first sight means in sports.  Not said seductively but with a heart of uncorrupted by double meanings, social expectations, and divisions across every –ism imaginable.

Maybe it was the fact that Camrynn could say “I love you” to someone of a different race now when in many places at any age that statement would immediately be met with punishment for both parties involved.  Maybe it was Sam’s genuine response (“I love you too Camrynn…You just made my day”) absorbed with laughter but still informally punished by death in less progressive parts of America that live, breathe, eat, and sleep football.  Maybe it is special because the only thing Camrynn said that her parents didn’t prompt her to say was “I love you, Sam.”

Maybe all these things are on my mind but it shouldn’t shock anyone that of the millions of “cute” videos on the internet, the one that I finally appreciate happens in sports.

With baseball out of the Olympic Games primarily because London could not accommodate antiquated diamonds, “The Cycle” is off for a couple of weeks in favor for lazily composed thoughts from the Games.  Without further ado, I give you some thoughts from the first week of the Olympics.

Am I A Bad American?

One of my favorite parts of the Olympics is the possibility to become an “ugly” American.  I am a huge fan of this country but I never get a real chance to demonstrate that without concern of being called narrow-minded, insecure, and insensitive.  Usually people compare the USA to others in terms of education, health care, poverty, etc.  Never mind that comparing a country with the third largest population with the eighty sixth seems like apples and oranges but I needed to maintain my composure.  Not anymore.  Stars and stripes all day.  I can wear that novelty American flag tie without the accompanying “are you a Republican” joke.  I can go to the gym wearing red, white, and blue and people would totally understand what is happening.  Does not matter what the event is, I am rooting hard for the Americans.  Oh and I can cheer “USA, USA, USA” and people will actually join me instead of frowning up at my patriotism.  Politics be damned, my nation is in competition and I am going to support them 110%.

This works until I get to Olympic tennis.  My favorite tennis player is Roger Federer of Switzerland (not Sweden).  I only root for the Fed Express.  It is an individual sport and he is my individual of choice.  I had zero interest in watching let alone rooting for Mardy Fish, Ryan Harrison, John Isner (a Federer victim in route to his silver medal), Donald Young (who had absolutely NO business on the USA Men’s Squad), or the grizzled Andy Roddick.  If the stars and stripes faced the Swiss Maestro, I would be in the Swiss camp every single time.  A statement like this would most certainly cost me an election if I was a candidate but at a simpler level, is this a bad thing?  It certainly is awkward to consider how the Olympics shift the lens of fandom from individual to country.  This may speak to the wide range of popularity of tennis or the decline in American men’s tennis.  Should I blindly follow the flag for any athlete?  I most certainly do not blindly support teams from the city I am from but I am the first to recognize that to be unusual.  Maybe it’s good I am not willing to sacrifice my loyalties for one entity (country) for another (player).  Just an interesting thought experiment as I saw Federer become the only member of the “Big Three” to medal, despite its silver constitution.

While we are here, should tennis be an Olympic event?

Yes.  The counterarguments usually begin with the Olympics not being a major event in the sport.  Tennis players already get the opportunity to play the finest players in the World at any ATP 1000 tour event, let alone the four majors throughout the year.  Other Olympic events represent the culmination of a life’s work whereas it is an extra event in amid a packed season.  Secondary reasons include packing an already packed schedule and the lack of amateurism in the event as compared to others like basketball, soccer, or handball.  See one out of three!  These arguments don’t really speak to the pride athletes feel for their country and a chance for their individual accomplishments to be related to their nation.  Nadal was heartbroken  he could not defend his medal and compete under the Spanish flag.  Federer openly raved in 2005 when learning of the Olympics in London to compete for his athletically deprived nation at the holiest of grounds.  Djokovic is a proud Serbian.  Andy Murray, the 2012 gold medalist, playing in his home nation: no doubt about it.  This is one of the few occasions where their accomplishments can be shared by the nation and that matters a great deal.  Consider the seriousness that the players are taking the Olympics?  Two Games ago, most of the major players would never consider interrupting their schedule for the contest.  Now most every player recognizes the value of a medal and appreciate the opportunity to carry their flag in ways that are not possible in normal tournament play.  Tennis should be around to stay and I cannot think of why the IOC would want to eliminate it from their illustrious slate of contests.

Jordyn Wieber’s Outside Looking In

Wieber, the current world champion in women’s all-around gymnastics, did not qualify for the finals because IOC rules state that only the top two competitors from a country may qualify for the finals.  This rule is pretty stupid.  Of course this does not dismiss the fact that the USA’s team was amazingly strong, that Gabby Douglas’ strong performance in the American Cup was not fluke, and that you have to be at your best at all times to be an all-time great.  Still, in a field of over twenty competitors, Wieber was fourth overall and had NO shot to defend her title.  If the Olympics is about displays of the best athletes in the World, it is always good not to cap the best part.  That’s just me.  Shameful that she wasn’t good enough to make it to the final round and divide the country between all sorts of lines (challenger/champion; black/white; “it girl” vs. big smile).  Maybe it was better this way…

Heartbreak City: Fencing Stage

It’s not over until the clock strikes 0:00.  South Korean fencer Shin A Lam knew this but with only one second remaining, the impossible seemed impossible.  And in actuality it probably was unless some time rip or human error.  With one second remaining, the match resumed except the clock did not move.  One second had elapsed but due to a timing error Lam’s opponent had more than one second, enough time for her to score a point and lose.  Of course officials had no protocol in the event of a timing error (not the first time these amateur sports encountered amateur officiating) but the South Koreans filed an appeal which was denied.  Not sure why either.  These types of things should be avoided and what on earth was so confusing about the match resuming and Shin’s opponent scoring after one second elapsed.  Not sure but that is a shameful display of most everything.  It didn’t help that Lam had to wait on the piste for the decision, an agonizing process left over from fencing’s more antiquated days.  Do better.

On Tyler Clary and Michael Phelps…

Remember when Tyler Clary made headlines for calling our Phelps for his lackluster work ethic?  Remember how when Phelps didn’t win his first event everyone flipped out and suggested he shouldn’t have come back?  Phelps redeemed himself and earned more gold medals, outperformed the brash Ryan Lochte, and put Clary back in place and perspective: in the rear view mirror.

When in doubt, cheat (or bend the rules)!

Resident badminton expert and Editor-in-Chief, Bunk covered the atrocity of negotiating the draw and the ire many teams drew from Olympics officials. If manipulating the draw is seen as cheating and wrong, how in the hell can Olympics officials be ok with purposely crashing when on the verge of losing a race?  If you crash early in team sprint, you are granted a restart.  That’s all you really need to know but I’m sure you are saying: “I can see how someone may manipulate this rule if they get a bad start but how could you know they crashed on purpose?”  Well, if the cyclist tells me that would help.  A British cyclist admitted to doing the exact thing after getting a poor start and of course the IOC and cycling officials allowed the ruling to stand.  The ruling is pretty silly, the rule itself is silly but I will not stand here and get mad at a team for using a loophole to their advantage.  It’s not as if other teams would try to do the same thing and get punished…unless it’s in badminton.

It could be worse: Olympic Boxing.  From the annals of Deadspin, here is video of the shadiest boxing ruling since Pacquiao-Bradley Jr.  Referee not giving the appropriate count.  Judges absolutely with the wrong ruling.  No penalty what so ever for being so egregiously bought off that it’s not even funny.  I am but a lowly baseball fan but while my sport maybe incompetent and slow it is not this corrupt.  It’s not like Barry Bonds went from being thin to suddenly huge and back to thin after his playing days were over.  Just slide the money under the door and you can win any match you want in Olympic boxing.  Sad but true!

*Pardon typos but I felt the need to be authentic with my thoughts so you get them without edits.  I am also a die hard Mariners fan working with a Yankees fan and someone who likes the Cubs…when they are winning.  As usual four stories from the world of baseball…*

Single:  Baseball has no appetite for replay says 160 year old Commissioner

Top of the third in the nationally televised Boston Red Sox vs. Texas Rangers contest on ESPN.  Dustin Pedoria just hit a scorcher down the first base line with chalk flying up 15 feet in front of the bag but umpires, managers, and commentators questioning if the ball flew over the bag to be called fair (the umpire initially called it fair and the call stood).  Certainly instant replay could be used to solve this issue because the speed of the game can corrupt but slowing tings down generally improves accuracy.  We, as sports fans, prefer is things are right versus wrong.  The blatant suggestion is baseball should use some of this newfangled technology to improve the game.  Bud Selig, certified worst Commissioner in sports and certified old fart, disagrees.  While trumpeting baseball’s annual record attendance and willfully ignoring the disastrous ratings despite great play on the field (Chika), Selig proudly stated “the appetite for instant replay is very low.”  He babbled about the game being about pace – you know the slow variety which plagues baseball’s marquee matchup between the Red Sox and Yankees, the five hour ordeal – and after conducting an informal investigation (emails from fans, reading some papers, and talking to other old farts inside baseball) concluded that this instant replay nonsense was not a real issue.  Read the silliness for yourself but I don’t know how much more evidence do we need that 1) he is absolutely out of touch with reality and 2) he needs to retire.

Double: Murder’s Row and Ichiro

The New York Yankees, Major League Baseball’s best team aside from their trip to Oakland, addressed what many people thought was their fatal flaw in route to another AL East title and potential birth in the World Series.  With Brent Gardner’s season ending elbow injury, the Yankees platooned in outfield with Raul Ibanez, Clay Bellinger, and Curtis Granderson – not exactly the type of support you look for defensively and certainly inconsistent at the plate with the wing outfielders.  By signing the slumping and aging Japanese star the Yankees greatly improve their defense over Ibanez (evidence items 1, 2, and 3 provided by Grantland’s Jonah Keri), reestablish speed to balance out their lineup, and get a valuable baseball player who I suspect will perform better finally being on a team that has a chance to play for something meaningful after May 15th.  (More on that below)  Ultimately baseball writers attempted to nitpick the Yankees looking for flaws, namely their overreliance on the home run and questionable pitching.  Without delving too deeply into these concerns, this Yankees team is nearly flawless this year only to get better with the return to form of CC and Andy “backstabbing lawyers for fun” Pettitte.  Ichiro will certainly not be a star on the Bombers but he will have a meaningful and sustained positive impact on their way to a title, something I doubted last week looking at the outfield on display.  Acceptance is a tough thing but this Yankees team is poised to return to baseball’s summit.

Triple: Handling the loss of the Franchise…

Acceptance is particularly difficult given the details of a situation.  When your favorite player in your favorite sport who is also on your favorite team is traded to your least favorite team in all of sports, the natural reaction is going to be strong and more than likely negative.  I can guarantee that is going to be strong and negative.  I knew there would be a day when Ichiro was traded from the Mariners and I knew the team to acquire him would be the New York Yankees.  It is the way this thing works.  Your team has talent.  Your team is not good.  Your talent gets absorbed by the haves and you remain a have not.  I feared this day since 2003 but every year the Mariners organization kept the suitors at bay with Ichiro’s performance starting to wane towards the end of the decade.  Surely I could not imagine the Yankees would take him now so I let me guard down.  I started worrying about King Felix Hernandez, the talented righty out of Venezuela next on the eyes of GMs looking to solidify a playoff caliber pitching staff.  I let my guard down and was exposed for the big right hand to the jaw.  NO, that’s not right.  The trade practically came from thin air with the news leaving me crippled and angry.  If I was Oscar de la Hoya, the Editor-in-Chief and Yankee Nation was Bernard Hopkins flipping in the ring.  I learned about the news while sitting in an IMAX showing of The Dark Knight Rises and I did not return to the theater.  Shocked then angry.  The Franchise was gone.  The rich got richer.  My Mariners got two minor league pitchers in return.  Now the blood is boiling.

Then the wave of emails came in:

  • “Eeecheeerooooo! Linton! Don’t ignore me!! Jeter, icheerroooo. How does my ass taste? 2 former mvps on the same teeaaamm! Linton! How does it feeeeeeel?”
    • “take a chill pill. Ichiro is no longer a good player.”
    • “Eat a fat [one] cubs fan! is he an upgrade raul ibanez? Yes. That’s all. Shut it. He still gets on base and ya know what? He’s not gonna hit 3rd.EeeeeCheeeeRoooooo! Murderers row and eeeeccheeeeroooo! Linton! Contract the mariners! They suck! They’ve got nothing. Raul ibanez, 16th best player on the yanks! “
      • “His production this year has been just as bad as Ibanez. He’ll only have a negligible impact. So, once again, TAKE A CHILL PILL!”
      • “EEEEE CHEEEE ROOOOOOOOOOOOO bite it.”
      • “1 wants to know if you want to go to a Yankee game with us. Ichiro’s playing there, ya know.”
      • “In The Baseball World, Ichiro is now a member of the New York Yankees… Somewhere Allen Louis Linton II is pouting more than usual over his Mariners Terrible Season… GO SOX!”

I suppose you get the idea at this point but one comment really stuck out and it was made by fellow “blogger” Chika: “Why are you angry about this?! Ichiro is no longer a good player (it doesn’t hurt your team) and your favorite (?) baseball player is going to better situation. Feel happy for him and compliment the Mariners for helping him out.”

This comment may or may not have sent me into a two hour verbal tirade and absolutely unprofessional behavior that I am happy was not recorded or seen by anyone except the recipients of said behavior.  Realizing that people may not appreciate losing a Franchise player to another team and that people generally spend too much time commenting about baseball when they have no idea what they are talking about, I suppose it is my duty to explain why I am so upset and stunned.

First and foremost I am not mad at all at Ichiro and in fact am happy he gets a chance to be on a team that is built to win.  Jeff Passan’s foreshadowing piece on Ichiro’s future and relationship with Buck O’Neil covered the possibilities of the Mariners’ aging star with career lows coming up on a new contract.  It was the same situation the Yankees were with Jeter two years ago, career lows and all.  Selfishly I want my favorite player to stay with my team but I recognize that he does not owe the Mariners anything and at some point even the most loyal employees get a right to chase immortality in the form of a championship (re: Steve Nash).  Baseball’s Kevin Garnett went from the Franchise to the best possible chance, the most evil of all enemies.  Good for him.  He requested a trade and the Mariners obliged him by sending him to the largest market.  With this move he will make sacrifices (batting at the bottom, benched on days against power lefties, not wearing 51) but nothing like the years he put up in Seattle with nothing of substance to show for it – namely no real opportunity for ring sizing after his rookie season in 2001.  I fault Ichiro for nothing but that does not balance out the emotion of leaving my favorite team especially when he is traded to my least favorite.  While I am deep down inside happy to see him with a chance to win, the name on the front of the jersey is most important to me and the Franchise lost much of the little substance they had with one sudden move plus pinstripes.

Home Run: Why I was so insufferable over Ichiro…

Anytime a franchise player is moved, it matters.  It makes you assess what is going on with that player, the franchise, or the state of the game.  For me, this put into focus something I also knew for many years – the Mariners franchise is horrific and it pisses me off.  Ichiro’s outward excitement for leaving a team with “the fewest losses to a team with the most” says everything you need to know.  The Mariners absolutely wasted ten great years of baseball and did absolutely nothing to build a team in contention.  Which poor move would you like to address: Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Kevin Millwood, Erik Bedard, the “pitching and defense” strategy leading to the single worst offensive season in Major League Baseball since the inception of the designated hitter, annual last place finishes in any offensive category of record, having an elite starting pitcher with the second highest paid pitcher being Brandon “I live to blow games” League, or the cherry on top: two minor league pitching prospects in return for the hits machine.  Simply put it is angering that Ichiro leaving for a team with some sense of baseball while I remain rooting for a team operating like the late 1800s.  To understand the anger I simply look at our roster with Justin Smoak (the savior) being sent down for batting .189; KEVIN MILLWOOD; Dustin Ackley (savior 2.0) toeing the line at .224.  Historically Ichiro’s departure shines the bright light on the leaders of the franchise who left fans with nothing, left Ichiro with nothing, and Seattle with nothing.  That’s why I am mad.  That coupled with the fear that King Felix – the last remaining gem – will soon be in the pinstripes.  Fate is inevitable.  Inescapable.  Whether you understand the value of Ichiro (who still has substantial value) or not, you can certainly understand realizing garbage when it is thrown in your face.  Seattle Mariners….just garbage but I won’t be leaving you.  And yet I hate you so much per usual.

You know what’s tough about consuming large amounts of sports writing?  It can at once be both gratifying and self-serving while addressing a complicated issue reduced to simple, digestible terms.  Most of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation/rape coverage, which will soon be known as the Joe Paterno rape cover up saga, does not need a second opinion.  Most everyone agrees that Sandusky is a monster, Paterno is a liar, and Pennsylvania State University is not some place that should put the words “honor code” or “integrity” in any promotional publications.  What is complicated for many are the after effects of the massive, criminal cover up – namely what should happen to the school now?  Unfortunately this conversation takes the form of a simple question: Should the Joe Paterno statue remain up?   I personally think they should take it down because: 1) statues are meant to memorialize and honor one’s achievements but the “Grand Experiment” of doing college football the right way appears to be built upon a corrupt lie and 2) someone will go out of his/her way to destroy it over the next months.  There is a cruel, Christopher Nolan sense of humor about the Grand Experiment namely that it worked.  Paterno and Co. did positively inspire their football players and kept the players out of trouble compared to most every major Division I program.  It worked.  It worked because the dirty little secret recently exposed by the Sandusky fiasco remains that college programs only need to discipline students.  Coaches, administrators, and trustee members?  Carte Blanche!

Realistically, however, the statue argument does not move my meter.  Couldn’t give less than a mud hole about the statue.  What should be the real focus is what happens to the school.  Where is the NCAA forever worried about the integrity of the game?  Apparently they are policing schools for “lack of institutional control.”  CalTech got lit up for the iconic ruling when players competed in multiple sports without being fully registered for classes because the first three weeks constitutes a “shopping” period where students can visit a variety of classes before setting their schedules.  Here is the report.  So glad the NCAA is still policing programs for institutional problems like lack of protocol, no inter-departmental communication, and schools focused on graduating kids and not being perennial powerhouses.  What should be done to Penn State is my concern.  Rebranding can be kicked about by other people.  Yes, I agree the students-athletes should be allowed to transfer as Dan Wetzel acknowledges on Yahoo! Sports.  The answer to the penalty question is simple.

DEATH PENALTY.  Swift.  Meaningful.  Impacts everyone.  Sends message.

Something amazing happens when schools become out of control or incredibly disingenuous: people cannot figure out how to penalize the programs because an entire crop of new students would suffer from transgressions committed without their knowledge and before their time.  And it is a complicated issue as it pertains to individuals who broke rules with the assistance of coaches/administrators.  In this case, everyone knew.  CalTech was penalized for, among other things, lack of communication and control.  Penn State, sadly, had too much control.  Head Coach knew.  Assistant coaches knew.  Athletic Director knew.  Trustees knew.  Hell, the President of the University knew.  Everyone knew and seemingly everyone decided to hide it.  And more things started to emerge!  And the more anyone asked, the tighter lipped all parties became about the situation.

People don’t like the death penalty because it seems relatively unfair.  Chuck Klosterman on part one of the BS Report with Bill Simmons used the classic statement of relativity (begin at 40:30): if a mathematics professor molested young boys, it would be ludicrous to shut down the entire department or to dissolve the school.  The secondary argument is equally frustrating: the death penalty will not stop other people in the future from molesting young people.  Both arguments, while valid, are incredibly flawed because they do not apply here because the death penalty directly punishes the football program but tangentially impacts the entire University.  Klosterman’s second argument is too narrow because the worst part of this Sandusky 15-year sexual predation is not that Paterno did not do as much as possible or even the fact that he knew about it as much as all of the important players at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY knew and actively covered it up!  That is what the death penalty would effectively stop: when something massively wrong – criminal – is happening and you actively cover it up you should pay the ultimate price especially when its harm done to minors on your property.  Why?  Money.  Everyone took salvage in hiding a damning situation to protect the golden goose that is college football.  For Paterno, football was his legacy.  For the coaches, football was their livelihood.  For the administration, trustees, and President, football was an unprecedented check and marketing tool second to none.  The money negates Klosterman’s first argument.  The football program, the entity itself, led everyone to sit on their hands and do nothing for over a decade.  The death penalty sends a clear and oddly consistent message from the seemingly random NCAA, historically disengaged from criminal matters: football or any other sport is not more important than legal and moral obligations to protect people from predators.

It would be an unfortunate set of circumstances for the current student athletes (who, again, should be allowed to transfer without restriction), students who enjoy football, and many others.  That is the consequence of not reporting a monster while protecting the greenery between the “white-out” sellout crowds in the Autumn/Winter and the green in the pocketbooks of irresponsible adults.