Posts Tagged ‘Selig’

Welcome to 2013!  I’m happy you made it but PLEASE don’t read into it.  Nothing bothers me more than those elaborate 2012 reviews that casually ignore significant sports stories like Lebron James being unclutch, to Lebron the champion, to Lebron putting up 30-9-7 and no one is shocked.  They always seem to miss how bountygate became a story about Commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspensions and Saints brass seems to have gotten a total pass about the bounty system THEY started and were warned about by…the Commissioner’s office.  Oh and how about the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year being Michael Phelps; I understand the temptation to give it to an Olympian but to not give it to Usain Bolt is pretty egregious (USA bias?).  All of those things are best left to professionals.  I can only offer you two of my favorite things: the 2012 Commissioner of the Year award and an updated assessment of the ALL Sports Defensive Team.

2012 Commish of the Year

It’s been a busy year for the fearless leaders of the Big Four professional sports leagues in North America.  I give the Commissioner of the Year honor out to recognize the best of the most hated people in sports.  No one gives people greater angst than Tim Tebow professional sports commissioners but we should always stop and realize that they do oversee the things we love despite the fact that fans think they could do a better job with greater ease.  It should also be noted that you (yes YOU) probably cannot come close to doing their jobs because they work for the owners and you hate the owners.

This year was much harder than last year because lockouts really helped to cut down the pool by two people.  2011 saw Alan Selig storm to victory late in the year past Gary Bettman (gasp!) primarily because Selig and the MLBPA peacefully sat down and passed a collective bargaining agreement which got no media attentions because it wasn’t confrontational.  Furthermore, the deal that passed made the game more entertaining with the added wild card play in game.  Yes, instant replay is a problem and yes MLB does have the strongest players union but credit goes to the guy who provided stability and excellent playoff baseball to the views.

With that said, the final standings are:

4) Gary Bettman

Locked out again after an amazing hockey run.  Any bit of momentum created by this league is thrown away with an ease second only to the XFL.  No one respect Bettman and players have a viable alternative to hockey (though not viable in the long term).  Bettman does seem to do a good job with owners as not playing is more cost effective than playing but fielding no product is just not good enough.

3) Roger Goodell (2010 Winner)

For all my issues with how Bountygate has been misled it still has been a black eye on the commissioner’s office.  Anyone that does Adderall is apparently exempt from punishment for cheating because it’s not like football has a steroids issue. (Seriously have you seen these players?!  Don’t bother me about steroids in baseball if the NFL is loaded with muscular freaks) Oh the replacement referee debacle all falls on him and although ratings did not suffer, it’s never good business to allow less than your best to be on display.

2) Alan Selig

Not much to report other than baseball STILL has not adopted instant replay because old man Selig is old.  The changes to the playoff format, while great, were rushed through leaving glaring holes on what to do (re: one-game playoff rosters allowing for expanded slots for more pitching changes than Tony La Russa could think of).  Not a bad season just not good enough for high honors.

1)      David Stern

Started the NBA season better than anyone could’ve imagined.  For all his shortcomings (namely his world class personality), he totally embraced the bad guy role this year.  Check out the beginning of the NBA draft amid a healthy set of boos. “Woah…thank you for that warm welcome…” and the hand to the ear at the :49 second mark is stuff of pure gold.  Great season after a rough start in the lockout era and most importantly pushed through his grand idea of a “World Cup of Basketball.”  Congrats on this awards and announcing his retirement.

ALL II Defensive Squad Update

As many of you know, I defend a ton of people for pretty good reasons.  Often times these people get no credit or respect because their narrative is totally miscast by the broader media/fans.  Can’t pull a fast one by me.  It’s time to update the defensive team by sport: who’s in, who’s out, and a brief (I promise) explanation how we got here.

The National Basketball Association Wing (aka The Dirk Wing)

CURRENTLY IN: Russell Westbrook, Vinny Del Negro, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams (Suspended for sucking)

OUT: Chris Bosh, Erik Spolestra

Won a title and Bosh’s absence made things much harder for Los Heat to do it.  Value on display.  Second best player that playoffs for the Heat.  Spo won the chip and revolutionized line ups.

In: Mike Brown, my father Avery Johnson, Brook Lopez

Brown: Fired after five games without getting his entire healthy team on the court.  Kobe wanted the Princeton Offense.  Can’t fix being old as s**t.

Johnson: Won coach of the month the same day he was axed.  In the mist of a bad run led by an injured Lopez and career low shooting from Williams.  Got kiss of death from Williams.  Honestly a .500 team on pace to finish above .500 (by a game but still).

Lopez: underappreciated as an offensive force.  Team loses when injured.  Team wins when healthy.  Needs to get totally healthy but team is undeniably better when he is active and on the court.

The Major League Baseball Wing (aka Playing without Steroids Wing)

CURRENT: Ichiro, Carl Crawford

CHIKA CAN NEVER TALK ABOUT BASEBALL AGAIN AFTER ICHIRO’s PLATOON SPLITS WITH THE YANKEES LOOKED GREAT.

OUT: n/a

IN: Mike Scioscia, Justin Upton, Mike Trout

Scioscia is going to be under extreme pressure to win immediately after their loaded line-up missed the playoffs last year.  Smart manager.  Proven winner.  Thin ice.

Upton is the cause of great concern with his numbers regressing last season.  Many outlets are reporting that Arizona is looking to deal him (again) after signing Cody Ross.  Still like the talent that is in Upton; pure athlete that can put it together for a solid career though a jump to the American League may stunt that growth.

Trout should’ve won the MVP by MILES.  Best all-around player.  People don’t understand that defense is part of the game.  Do better.

The National Football Association Wing (aka Nate Kaeding Wing)

CURRENT: Alex Smith, Roger Goodell, Anthony “Tony” Romo, Joe Flacco

OUT: Pete Carroll, Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush

IN: Mark Sanchez

Romo is easily a top ten quarterback.  Over his career he consistently throws for 4300-4600 yards completing 65% of his passes with a 2:1 TD/INT ratio.  Yes he makes some poor decisions in huge moments but it’s not like his defense is helping him.  Winning late to make it into playoff contention should also mean something.  If Dallas thinks jettisoning Romo is going to make them better then they are bound to fail for the next five years.

Sanchez plays with no one talented.  Get that man a talented person at a skill position and then bother me.  (He is also here for comedic relief)

SO thats it.  Expect me to rant about how no one will be admitted in the Hall of Fame and I will reveal my clear cut NFL MVP which I declared in week 14.

ALL II

A late Cycle can be explained by preparation for Qualifying Exams.  The good thing is that anyone would take a Cycle at any point in their career so get over it or die.  Pujols out of his slump and I am hitting my stride.  Four stories that caught my eye over the last week in Major League Baseball

Single: Interleague Play: The End of an Era.

Not exactly. Interleague play in bloc format will be ending after a proud sixteen year tradition that brought compelling rivalries to the forefront: Yankees/Mets, Cubs/White Sox, Mariners/Padres (?), and Tigers/Pirates (?).  The natural rivalries versus the “what do we do with the other teams” issue will be addressed by expanding interleague play to at least one game per night with up to two week (or weekends) of specific interleague play.  I find these changes to be  quite refreshing given the dominance of the American League, the imbalance of scheduling games against the same number of quality opponents (i.e. Jason Stark’s point that “the Braves have to play the Yankees six times. But how many times will the Marlins and Phillies play the Yankees? Zero, of course.”), and outdated league formats.

In 2013, the American and National League will have equal numbers of teams in divisions and throughout the league creating more balanced play between both leagues.  The American League will most certainly continue to dominate interleague play because, like basketball, good offense still outperforms good defense.  The designated hitter – an impediment for eliminating leagues all together for year round unbiased baseball – shifts the balance to hitting even in the pitching revival post-Steroids era.  Sports Illustrated writers Cliff Corcoran’s “Five Cuts” column lists the best and worst teams since the inceptions of interleague play in 1997:

Rank Team Intra WPct. Inter WPct. Diff
1 Tigers .451 .532 .081
2 White Sox .511 .580 .069
3 Twins .496 .561 .065
4 Marlins .477 .536 .059
5 Mariners .492 .545 .053
26 Diamondbacks .502 .455 -.048
27 Padres .490 .438 -.052
28 Astros .518 .465 -.053
29 Phillies .530 .460 -.070
30 Dodgers .531 .456 -.075

We should take pleasure in the rivalries and chance to see pitchers embarrass themselves at the plate.  Interleague play is fun and this positive first step to correcting a long-term flaw in baseball scheduling should be applauded.  Let the old system die and the return of AL managers butchering the double-switch begin.

Double: Walking Across the Stage

Discussions of graduation rates and sports usually focus on baseball and football, America’s most popular collegiate and professional sports.  Without fail these thematic conversations come with a racialized lens as sports becomes an outlet for urban males to succeed while simultaneously disproportionately ignoring their academic enrichment.  Baseball, a sport incredibly diverse despite its low percentage of black players, also lacks high college graduation rates but it doesn’t seem to get the same attention.  Yahoo Sports’ Ben Maller exposed the startling statistics: 39 total players (of the 917 that appeared in games this season) have four-year college degrees.  4.3%.  To be fair, may Major League players do come from other countries or are drafted from high school to a major league team/farm system for development which suppresses numbers but 39 total players is still shocking.

For better or worse, however, this does not bother me at all because I thought baseball – at the expense of more money – has the best amateur to professional pathway in major American sports.  The creation and legitimacy of the minor league system provides a clear lifestyle for development into a baseball player, pegging players to leagues based on talent and outside the delusions of grandeur in the “student-athlete” dichotomy of NCAA sports.  This does not mean that success in the big leagues cannot be acquired through college as several players do attend and get to the pros.  It does mean that if you want to play baseball, you can commit all of your time and energy into that game without fear of external repercussion.   Anytime your sport is a long term endeavor (more than 16 regular season games) fan interest will wane because the perception of significance is reduced.  Without the tournament, college basketball is niche audiences and not moving the meter.  Minor league baseball is the same way with scouts following players and players maturing both physically and mentally before reaching the top.  Most professional athletes emerged by deciding to enter the minor leagues and reach the top and saved college spots for players who are good at baseball but will also get an education.  What is there not to like about explicitly defining the terms?

(Addendum: It also helps that baseball offers the best retirement packages and least damage to the body.  This avoids narratives of players wasting their millions earned because of ignorance and “the game” using the disadvantaged to their physical detriment.  It all matters because when those conversations are not taking place, people do not think of educational shortcomings, and the 43.3% of MLB teams without a college graduate on their roster is a non-story).

Triple: You’re Fired.

13 year Major League Baseball arbitrator Shyam Das was fired nearly two weeks ago by Major League Baseball’s upper echelon.  It should be stated that the Collective Bargaining Agreement states that either MLB or the Players Association can at any point dismiss the arbitrator for – it appears – any reason it likes.  Obviously this creates a very interesting political balance on two fronts.  First, the arbitrator is only as useful as his/her objectivity.  The person must be unbiased to please both sides because occupying the role results in some level of balance.  Secondly, the MLB and players association in the event of firing can be incredibly powerful in selecting the next arbitrator.  If the MLB fires the person, the players association can make it incredibly taxing on management to pick another fair or “fair” replacement.

Without extensive knowledge of the firing, it DOES appear that Das’ ruling on the Ryan Braun case sealed his fate from league offices.  This firing should not be sold as simply a consequence of ruling against MLB like the firings of Peter Seitz and Tom Roberts after their separate rulings against baseball.  Das controversially reduced suspensions of John Rocker (for his loving words) and Kenny Rogers’ skirmish with cameramen.  This firing is because Das ruled against a system built to solve baseball’s biggest problem, steroids.  Das was the longest arbitrator in league history mostly because stability in rulings is invaluable knowledge when leveling penalties.  You know how far you can go and whether to push the envelope on some issues versus others.  MLB is clear about steroids: no room to negotiate.  Their system came under fire and an attempt to take down someone who tested positively in the face of science vanished.  Das ruled properly and firmly on the biggest issue and it cost him his job.

Aside: He is also the arbitrator for the New Orleans Saints bounty case.  What is he doing in two leagues?  Are there really no other arbitrators good enough to handle things individually?

Home Run: Injury Bug – Good, Bad, and the Ugly

Good: Carlos Beltran

Beltran has returned to form since returning to health at 35 years old.  He is playing supremely and can be argued to be the best player in the National League.  Tim Kurkjian’s ESPN The Magazine piece is quality reading on a player dismissed and marginalized for the Mets, now revitalized on the Cardinals.

Bad: Kerry Wood

Wood retired during the crosstown classic ending what was certainly meant to be the next Nolan Ryan.  The 1998 Rookie of the Year’s 20 strike out game is his most memorable moment, joining Randy Johnson and Roger Clemons as the only people to get 20 Ks in a 9 inning performance.  Wood reached 1000 strikeouts in fewer games (134) and fewer innings (853) than any player in baseball.  A series of injuries destroyed his career, ruining the greatest talent of 1990s.  Amazing to think of what could’ve been and how a Tommy John Surgery in 1999 really signaled the end.

Ugly: Joe Mauer

Despite being healthy, the man formally known for “Mauer-Power” continues to toil to the high expectations he established in 2009.  While healthy this season, Mauer has only two home runs and a slugging percentage that still draws the ire of Twins fans.  The ugly involves the Minnesota Twins fans who have lost all patience for their $23 million catcher.  Unlike the big city mentality of Yankees fans who are patient with Mark Teixeira and his annual poor starts and poor finishes, Twins fans still embody the small market mentality.  Paying Mauer all the money for little production will not be tolerated regardless of how tough the catcher’s position in baseball is on the body.  I doubt Mauer will regain the necessarily lower body strength to match his incredibly calm and fast hands through the hitting zone.  This accounts for the incredibly high ground ball rate for Mauer, a career high at nearly 60%.  (Courtesy of Twins Daily blogger Nick Nelson).   All of those features remain secondary to the astronomical rise and fall of Mauer with fans.  Every time a Head and Shoulders advertisement appears in Minnesota it will only remind them that one amazing year cost the team millions while Mauer profits in popularity and contractual obligations.  Mauer isn’t a bad guy but home runs will silence the boos from the home crowd, an ugly display for a tragic figure whose body is failing him when it matters most.

Sports Illustrated closed out 2011 by naming Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summit and Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski co-Sportswoman (Sportsman) of the year.  Few people make me appreciate sports and winning than Pat Summit, recently diagnosed with the early stages of dementia while few illicit more hate than anything Duke, especially the head master.  Both coaches enjoy historic success but both did not win a national championship or do anything extraordinarily special – to my eye – to earn the award.  Of course, 2012 will be special as Coach K will lead the US Men’s Team in the Olympics and Pat Summit will be coaching during the 40th anniversary of Title IX so save it for next year.  Too much happened for the fine folks at SI to botch this one.  Below are my finalists for Sportsman of the Year and who I would’ve picked for the award.

Aaron Rodgers

At the time of the selection, Rodgers did not lose a game in the 2011 calendar year.  Pardon him for only losing one game, winning the Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP, and moving the Packers to America’s team by popular opinion polling.  Rodgers, it mustn’t be forgotten, was known as a guy who could not get it done.  In many ways he represented the virtues of hard work, patience, and focus.  Not known to be featured in the limelight like other two-time AFC title game losing quarterbacks but he overcame the “cannot close the game” narrative established in the previous two seasons to do it all.  His 2011-12 campaign will certainly give him MVP honors which makes his calendar year the best stretch of quarterback play I have ever seen.  SI’s Tim Layden made the case here.

Bud Selig

Sound the alarm for me representing a commissioner in sports.  I cannot understand why the people in charge of the activity/entertainment never seem to get credit for supervising said entertainment.  Maybe it is because they represent “suits,” make bad decisions, appear outdated, and embody the 1%.  What Selig did prior to 2011 is irrelevant because he oversaw one of the best seasons in recent memory with late season collapses, historic pitching performances, yet another season where money does not win titles, and an epic World Series.  Though Selig cannot be credited with everything, he is responsible for labor peace and probably the best labor situation in American sports.  While the NFL and NBA sought to ruin their treasure chest, MLB improved their sport with expanded replay, a one game playoff among wild card winners, and revenue related competitive balance measures.  Even better for the labor inclined, the players get more money, greater head safety with better helmets, and improved benefits for rookies and retired players.  Selig made it happened and that is more than enough for Sportsman of the Year especially if Peter King thinks Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith deserved a recommendation.

Note: As much as I love cycling (Cadel Evans), Soccer (Messi), and other sports/interest stories, a compelling Sportsman of the Year story excludes most other major story lines and sports.  Sad but true.

My 2011 Sportsman of the Year: Dirk Nowitzki

WORLD CHAMPION.  Not only did he overcome the over-exaggerated evil of the big three led by Lebron James and stayed loyal to his team while free agency crippled fan bases, Nowitzki did something almost impossible in both sports and life.  The 2011 Playoffs allowed Dirk whose reputation was set in stone the ability to change from a softy that could not be clutch to a machine that dominated from start to finish.  His ability to win with a team that did not boast multiple stars and change his place in history while punctuating arguably the most talented playoffs in the past twenty years.  No one expected Dallas to win it all and everyone questioned Dirk’s ability in the clutch.  The non-American came, saw, and conquered delivered through it all.  Still underrated but much more respected!  Here is Ian Thomsen’s case for Dirk…a man who redefined himself when so many this late in their careers cannot.

There is something more endearing about baseball players and their lack of labor dispute in passing a Collective Bargaining Agreement that fundamentally changes baseball forever.  Among many notable details, HGH testing will be added, a second wild card will be added with both wild card teams playing a one game playoff, changes to the draft that caps buying power of smaller markets, and extended replay!

The one thing that separates the basketball dispute from the baseball lack of dispute is the involvement of the players in the details of the negotiations.  I link this to the long road to getting to the Majors compared to the relatively straight forward path to greatness or failure in basketball.  NBA players play in high school, maybe spend a year or two in college, and enter the pros or disappear.  In baseball, most players go to college and enter the minor leagues where making the pros maybe a multiyear experience without the exploitation of “student-athlete” rules.  Understanding the grind and work incumbent in making it to the Major League matters in ways that the NBA players do not seem to grasp.  Perhaps it is why the MLB features the strongest players Union, most money accumulated in the long term, and by-far the best pension plan in American Professional Sports.

Check out the Major League Baseball proposal here.  Not sure what to make of this but maybe Bud Selig sees an opportunity to sneak into Best Commissioner in American Sports for 2011.