Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Drew Brees, MVP?

I think it's very nice and great and everything that Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's record last night for passing yards in a season.

I'm not enthused because football records don't get me like baseball records do.  If someone is threatening DiMaggio's hitting streak, or flirting with .400, or going after 30 wins in a season -- I'll be going nuts every single game.

But to NFL records:  eh.  I didn't care when running backs started breaking the "most TDs in a season" mark, from Emmitt Smith to Marshall Faulk to Priest Holmes to Shaun Alexander to LaDainian Tomlinson.

This is very nice for Drew Brees, though, and he makes a terrifically easy guy to root for.  The argument that this now makes Brees

By the way...

Tom Brady is 187 yards behind Marino's single-season mark.  If Brees hadn't broken the record, Brady would've done it this Sunday.  And considering that Brady is 190 yards away from Brees, a big game for the Pats quarterback and something strange happening to the Saints could mean that Tom Brady ends the year with the most passing yards in a single NFL season.

All of this in an "off" year for Brady (because a bad Patriots defense and undistinguished performances from receivers not named Welker or Gronkowski has overshadowed him).

Who's your MVP then?

Uh, let's go with Aaron Rodgers.  Even though he only has 4,643 passing yards this year, and not 5,000.

*

By the way, when Marino set the record in 1984, there were only three quarterbacks in the league with at least 4,000 passing yards.  This year, there are seven already and three others within 150 yards of topping the mark.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday Mishmash

First things first:  This was TNT's NBA opening video yesterday, and it is fantastic.

I'm a LeBron hater (and a Tebow hater, and a Yankees hater...), but man did the Heat look good yesterday.   As a Wizards fan, this is going to be a long season.

On the bright side, there's a host of fun teams to watch -- off the top of my head, I'd tune in to the Thunder, Clippers, Kings, Nuggets, Warriors, and Timberwolves just for the sheer entertainment value of the way they each play basketball.  I'm a simple man.  I like teams that are running and blocking and dunking and generally getting up and down the court in a hurry.

Yes, the Heat do that too, but I'm a hater (who thinks they'll win the title this year).

*

Bob Nightengale reports that the A's are likely moving to San Jose.  If this means more fans, a better stadium, and a higher payroll, it works for me.  With the Twins in their beautiful new ballpark and the Marlins opening up their new digs next year, this means we're getting closer to having every team in MLB in a good situation.

Now if we only could do something for the poor, mighty Tampa Bay Rays.

*

Terrible trade for the Reds in dealing for Sean Marshall.  Maybe he'll help out their bullpen, but they gave up proven starter Travis Wood and diminutive talents Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes.

No exaggeration:  Torreyes was the best opposing player I saw in person this past year.  He influenced virtually every game that his Dayton Dragons played and led the Midwest League in batting in the second half.

*

Saturday was NFL, Sunday was NBA, today is NHL.

I'm perfectly happy about that.

Happy 6th day of Chanukah!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dreidel days

I have never been shy in letting folks know that I'm Jewish, and perhaps that's because I'm generally the minority in the room.  There's something strengthening to your identity to know you've got something that not everybody else has.

I'm speaking, of course, of the ability to spin a dreidel upside down.  I'm a master.

So far for Chanukah (which can be spelled any way you'd like), I've received a shirt/tie, a sweater, and a 2012 Onion tearaway calendar.  Solid.

This is an American Jewish tradition to receive gifts each night of Chanukah.  My siblings and I were threatened as kids with an Israeli Chanukah when, nearing the holiday, we misbehaved or disobeyed our father -- and we'd leap to behave properly!  An Israeli Chanukah meant no gifts, and no one wanted that.

I've got my chanukiyah in the kitchen, set up on aluminum foil for maximum safety.  After singing the blessings (I sing Hebrew so much better than I sing in English), it's family tradition to go through a medley of Chanukah songs before reaching for a gift.

Since I'm celebrating -- or rather, "observing" the holiday -- away from my family, I returned from a Thanksgiving visit to Maryland with my presents all with me.  It's been my choice which one to open each night.  That's easily one of the best parts of Chanukah, going through the presents and picking the perfect one out each night.  Shaking is totally allowed; I'm very big on trying to guess what the gift is before opening it up.

A quick note:  Jewish days all start in the evening and continue through the following day.  Last night was the third night, for example, and today is the third day.  This gets confusing for some people, but look:  Christmas Eve is December 24th and Christmas is December 25th.  Simple.

And now a clip from our traditional family movie for the holiday season:  Happy Chanukah!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On Yu Darvish and false scoops

Last week it was reported that the Toronto Blue Jays posted the highest posting bid to negotiate with Japanese ace Yu Darvish.  Here's the initial NY Post story, and the sort of follow-up that came about next.

Well, no.

The Texas Rangers posted the highest bid.

This is all well and good for the Rangers, and I harbor them no will.

I do, however, harbor ill will toward all reporters who report wrongly without repercussions.  I don't need something like this, but I do think there needs to be a running tally of media members who get their scoops wrong.  Let us know who's trustworthy, the same way Amazon.com lets us know how reliable their sellers are.

Currently, it's all about the speed of the scoop.  That's not good enough.  We need accuracy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tales from the Winter Meetings: SABR

First, your Tim Tebow mention of the day.

He took a 29-yard sack yesterday.

That is all.

*

I joined the Society of American Baseball Research at the Baseball Winter Meetings.

The Society, in my mind, whether this is true or not, is baseball's version of MENSA... except that they'll admit anyone, high IQ or not.  They're very forgiving in this way.

SABR has become connected with baseball analytics, though it is much more than that.  It's about baseball research and a search for greater knowledge, especially with regard to little-known history.

(One of the top articles right now is the "20 Greatest Blunders of the Deadball Era.")

Frankly, going through the website, I am already intimidated.  There are specialists in the 19th century, in specific cities and states, and in specific areas such as mathematical analytics.  I'm not really much of a researcher nor a mathematician.

But that's all right.

I'm a reader.

They can all do their great research projects and I'm going to read them, and then I'll share what I think on the broadcast airwaves and on this blog.  There's treasure everywhere, as Bill Watterson once wrote.

From the greatest blunders article, there's this wonderful gem, derived from the years when ballplayers would ghostwrite columns in the local paper.  It's a little tiff between diametrically opposite Hall of Fame pitching teammates...


When Marquard grooved one for Baker. 


In Game 2 of the 1911 World Series, Frank Baker’s two-run home run off Rube Marquard broke a 1-1 tie, and the Athletics beat the Giants, 3-1. 


When Matty grooved one for Baker. 


In Game 3 of the 1911 World Series, Frank Baker’s ninth inning home run off Christy Mathewson tied the game at 1-1 and sent it into extra innings. The Athletics won in eleven innings, 3-1.


The wording “grooved one” suggests that the pitchers served up “fat” pitches. Mathewson’s (ghost-written) column of the morning after game two was critical of Marquard’s serving up Baker’s blow: “Baker’s home run was due to Rube’s carelessness.” Continuing, “Marquard was told just what not to pitch to Frank. Well, Rube pitched just what Baker likes.” Ironically, the very day that column appeared, Mathewson served up a home run to Baker, too. Marquard (his ghost) then wrote, “Just what happened, Matty?” (Fred Lieb, The Story of the World Series.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

You're the normal one

I like to watch NBA preseason.

I know.  It's totally, mindlessly forgettable, but I enjoy it.  I'm a basketball fan.  I stayed up last night to watch the first half of Golden State/Sacramento to see what Jimmer Fredette could offer.  (He was excellent.)

I did not watch Saturday Night Live, though I did catch the best sketch of the night this morning:  Tim Tebow and Jesus.  (Pray to Matt Prater!)

Everyone is entitled to enjoy unpopular aspects of life, it seems to me, while disdaining several popular aspects of life -- hey, I don't like the beach or coffee or fireworks.  I don't care for Halloween or Thanksgiving or draft day in any sport.  I don't own an iPhone or a Blu-Ray player or even a microwave.

Meanwhile, I greatly enjoy wintry days, several previews before my movie, pro rugby, pro soccer, and All-Star Games in any sport (except football).  And, I admit, I enjoy the casual rhythm of preseason basketball, same as I love exhibition baseball.

I just can't stand NBA refereeing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tales from the Winter Meetings: Jack Lazorko

If you've never seen this before from This Week in Baseball, seriously, just watch.

It was at the New Era Cap booth at the Trade Show... and I had the thrill of shaking hands with the inimitable Jack Lazorko.  (I raved to him about the TWIB spot and everything.)

I still have his rookie card, too.

Tales from the Winter Meetings: Bobby Valentine

The Baseball Winter Meetings were held in Dallas last week, and I attended -- where I promptly became sick with a seven-day cold.  And now here I am, finally getting around to writing about it.

For those who've never been to a Meetings, everyone in baseball is there.  Everyone.  It's astonishing.  I flew in on a Sunday, flew out on a Thursday, and jammed a wealth of experiences and conversations in between.

Since there's too much to tell all in one spot, I'll break it down a series of anecdotes.  Today, the new manager of the Red Sox.

*

I shook Bobby Valentine's hand and congratulated him on his recent hire.

He was standing, talking with a friend near the front lobby, and I said -- why not?  To be honest, I considered the question of "Why not?" for nearly ten minutes, standing frozen around a corner, and then made my approach when another man stepped up to talk with his friend.

The conversation was brief.  I said, professionally and politely, "Excuse me" and "Congratulations" and he said "Thank you," and then I walked away.

It was worth it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sports Talking Points That Need to be Rewritten

"The NFL is a quarterback league."

Except when Tim Tebow can win a game with only two completions and the 49ers can win nine of their first 10 games with Alex Smith under center.  Right now there are, perhaps, 9-12 teams with a competent quarterback -- the Cowboys, Giants, Packers, Lions, Saints, Falcons, Patriots, Ravens, Steelers... and maybe the Bengals, Chargers or Raiders.  There are 20+ teams with stiffs at QB.

(Speaking as a Redskins fan, my team has had the choice between Rex Grossman and John Beck this year.  They both stink, one worse than the other... and the Skins have the same record as Phil Rivers' San Diego Chargers.  It's a bad year for the NFL.)


"Defense wins championships" (in the NFL).

Except the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl two years ago thanks to a brilliant offense -- and the 20th best defense in the league.  Two years before that, the champion Giants were #17 (and topped the 4th-ranked Patriots).  The champion Indianapolis Colts were #23 in the NFL in 2006.

Does it help to have a great defense?  Hey, it can't hurt.  Still, the top team in the NFL right now is the undefeated Green Bay Packers, who have the 30th-ranked defense in the league.  Meanwhile, the AFC-favorite New England Patriots have the worst defense in the league.  (ESPN's team defense chart)


"Great pitching beats great hitting."

Except that the Texas Rangers had a blast disposing of this one in the 2011 postseason.

Texas was shut down by Rays rookie Matt Moore in the first game of the ALDS before beating Jamie Shields, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson in succession despite - statistically - having the better offense but the worse opposing starter.  Team ERA:  4.25.  They won.

In the ALCS, the Rangers' offense again carried the load and the relievers provided all four victories against the Detroit Tigers.  The starting pitching was negligible.  A Texas starting pitcher made it through six innings exactly once in the six games.  Team ERA:  4.02.  They won.

In the World Series, the Rangers pitched to a 4.65 ERA... but they held the Cardinals to a .243 batting average and .396 slugging percentage while hitting .254 and slugging .419.  Naturally, they lost.  The Cardinals' Series-winning ERA was a mediocre 3.86.  On the bright side, it was a classic series.

The easiest way to crush this talking point, though, is just to note that arguably the greatest pitching staff in baseball history -- the 1990s Atlanta Braves -- won only one World Series amid their 14 consecutive division titles.  Except for one season, 1995, the Braves' great pitching was annually outdone.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The ballot is out...

The 2012 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot has been released.

The nominees are...

(cue the cutting and pasting)

Jeff Bagwell, Jeromy Burnitz, Vinny Castilla, Juan Gonzalez, Brian Jordan, Barry Larkin, Javy Lopez, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Bill Mueller, Terry Mulholland, Dale Murphy, Phil Nevin, Rafael Palmeiro, Brad Radke, Tim Raines, Tim Salmon, Ruben Sierra, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, Bernie Williams, Tony Womack, Eric Young

I'm conflicted about steroid guys.

On the one hand, MLB owners and management implicitly approved the use of PEDs, rewarding such players with huge contracts and promoting the game around them... and then immediately scapegoated them when the truth was discovered.

On the other hand, PEDs were/are illegal in this country.  That's not up for debate.  I am of the opinion that it's the rare enhanced player who would have made the Hall of Fame without the need of a PED -- Roger Clemens, for instance, or Barry Bonds.  It's a hypothetical argument, but that's my contention.  Without steroids, Rafael Palmeiro is Will Clark, and Will the Thrill's not a Hall of Famer.

In other words, I'd vote Clemens and Bonds into the Hall while keeping one-dimensional sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa out.

As for the rest of the field:

Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell are among the top 10 greatest shortstops to ever play the game.  Tim Raines is among the top three or four greatest leadoff hitters to ever play the game.  Jeff Bagwell ranks with the great slugging first basemen of the 1920s and 1930s.  I like Edgar Martinez on the basis of his late start and tremendous offensive production.  (I'd rather vote for a great-hitting DH than a good-bat/bad-glove player like Bernie Williams.)

Lee Smith puzzles me; I'll leave him out for now.  Jack Morris was a very good pitcher, but not Hall-worthy.  Dale Murphy makes a compelling pre-steroid case, but I'm not convinced.

Also, Jeromy Burnitz and I share the same birthday.

There you are:  Five guys from this class for me.