Friday, July 30, 2010

Miscellaneous Me

This month's Miscellaneous Me, the last before the start of NFL training camps, takes a look back at the month that was.

- During the X Games is a sneaky fun weekend to watch television.

- Even with all the craziness, there are at least 20 other MLB fan bases who wish George Steinbrenner had been their team's owner.
- With a caveat of 'if there is a god' and 'if there is a heaven' and all that jazz, wouldn't it be fun if, when you got to heaven, god actually did sound like Bob Sheppard?

- I wouldn't go see The Expendables if tickets were free.

- In a Harris interactive poll done last month, Tiger Woods finished in a tie for first as America's favorite athlete.
- He tied Kobe Bryant.
- Americans apparently love cheating and rape (allegedly).
- Finishing last, for the sixth consecutive year, was the dog from Eddie.

- The only episode of Seinfeld that feels dated is the Keith Hernandez episode. No one has cared about a Mets player since 2001.

- MLB people are happily awaiting 2011 when both the NFL and NBA will be locked out.

- Yogurtland is the greatest ice cream/frozen yogurt value money can buy.
- It puts Cold Stone to shame.
- Don't even get me started on Ben & Jerry's.

- I would rather watch The Decision again than hear any more news about Brett Favre between now and Week 1.

- MLB Tonight Live on the MLB Network is the greatest thing since muffins became available in mini form.
- Prime Nine, also on the MLB Network, is a close second.

- Mark Reynolds is the only batter in MLB history who has struck out at least 200 times in a season.
- He's done it twice.
- 2010 will make it three times.
- In 1918, Babe Ruth led the league in strikeouts, with 58.

- Whats the big deal with Shark Week? Wouldn't Cheetah Week or Gila Monster Week be cooler?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making The Leap

The NFL is unlike any other American sport when it comes to parity. Each season sees at least one team, who finished last in their division the year prior, make a run to the playoffs. This is almost a guarantee it happens so regularly. The key is to figure out who it is going to be. Finding 'that team' is rather tricky and almost entirely luck. Popular 'that teams' of the past season or two include Jacksonville, Kansas City, San Francisco, and Houston. The Texans are assured of being selected as someone's sleeper team this season. That is even more of a sure thing than having a 'that team.' However, Houston does not fit my qualifications. After all, they went 9-7 last year; they were too good.

To be a true sleeper pick, a team had to have finished last in their division the prior season, or won fewer than 5 games. This had to be a baaad team. So everyone who likes the Bears as their sneaky 2010 team, forget it. They weren't bad enough last season. Go out on a limb for once.

Before we find out The sleeper team of 2010, let's take a look back at how we got here. In 2005, the Philadelphia Eagles finished last in the NFC East with a record of 6-10. Just a year later, they leapfrogged everyone and finished first at 10-6. 2005 also saw the New Orleans Saints at a putrid 3-13. Yet, just a year later, they too jumped from last to first and won their division going 10-6.

In 2006, both Washington and Tampa Bay finished last in their respective divisions. The Redskins won 5 games and the Bucs only 4. The next season, each team went 9-7 and made the playoffs. Oddly enough, 2006 to 2007 also saw the Cleveland Browns make a huge jump in the standings going from last place at 4-12 to 10-6 the following season. Yet, because of a stiff year of competition, 10-6 wasn't quite good enough for a playoff spot.

2007 was the start of perhaps our two best jumps in recent years. The Atlanta Falcons held a record of 4-12, which was good enough for last place in their division. (Are you noticing a pattern?) The next season, the Falcons leaped to 11-5 and secured a wild card berth. In the same time frame, the Miami Dolphins topped those Falcons. In 2007, the Dolphins had the worst record in the league, 1-15. However, just one year later, they topped the AFC East and made the playoffs, going 11-5 in the process.

Now during 2008, the Cincinnati Bengals finished just half a game out of the basement, going 4-11-1. In 2009 though, they topped their fellow AFC North rivals, winning the division at 10-6. In a feat of feats, the Saints make this list again, this time in more grand fashion. 2008 saw them finish last in the NFC South, yet at a respectable 8-8. However, as we all know, last year they jumped to the best record in the conference at 13-3, and went on to win the Super Bowl.

And now we arrive at this season. We have a handful of possible sleepers to choose from for the upcoming campaign. These are our choices, and the only choices. Anyone not on this list does not qualify. If you choose a team not on this list to do well, and they do, no one will care and you will be ridiculed for pretending you actually took a chance on picking something risky. Here are the nominees with their 2009 record, and finish in their division: the Redskins (4-12, last) the Lions (2-14, last) the Buccaneers (3-13, last) the Rams (1-15, last). As for the AFC: the Bills (6-10, last) the Browns (5-11, last) the Jaguars (7-9, last) and the Chiefs (4-12, last). No team qualifies that did not finish last in their division. The Raiders and Seahawks each won 5 games, barely missing the cut.

As you may have noticed, in each of the previous four instances, there have actually been at least two teams that fit the mold of 'that team' status. 2005 to 2006 would have seen three, except the Browns managed to miss the playoffs at 10-6. So remember the rules: a team must go from last in their division, or having won fewer than 5 games, to making the playoffs the following year. Let's break down the choices from least likely to most likely.

St. Louis Rams - Not a chance. Can you even name a single player on their defense? A rookie quarterback with no wide receivers is not a recipe for success. Feel free to draft Steven Jackson in fantasy though. I know I will.

Buffalo Bills - Come on. Literally their best offensive player is a slightly disappointing bust. Lee Evans is a good player, but because of the team he's been on, you have to consider him a bust of a pick. He has never been able to put together back to back 1,000 yard seasons. Nor has he ever caught double digit touchdowns. Yet I find it hard to believe he is not just as good as breakout stars DeSean Jackson and Sidney Rice. The only thing holding him back is the name on the front of his jersey.

Detroit Lions - Get serious. They have a couple really talented, young players, but not much besides that. And really talented does not immediately translate to really successful.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - You have to be happy that Josh Freeman got so many reps last season. What would make Bucs fans happier though, is if Josh Freeman wasn't their starting quarterback. I figure the defense will be closer to old form this season than they were in '09 however.

Cleveland Browns - Josh Cribbs alone puts this team ahead of Tampa Bay. What puts them behind all the remaining teams is the rest of their roster. Joe Thomas is really good. So, umm, there's that. Shaun Rogers was really good about six years ago.

Jacksonville Jaguars - This will be a popular team to pick as making the leap in 2010. However, they are a popular pick every year, and frankly, it seems they are getting worse. I thought David Garrard, after his stellar 2007 campaign, would start taking next steps, yet he has seemed to just level off. The defense has been disappointing as well. Long gone are the days of Henderson and Stroud dominating the middle of the trenches.

Washington Redskins - I assume this will be the most likely choice for those analysts out there. Obviously bringing in a star like McNabb will do that. However, I never really thought quarterback was their biggest problem. Jason Campbell always seemed serviceable to me. And although serviceable quarterbacks aren't winning titles, they can make the playoffs if the rest of the team is good. The fact is, the Redskins don't have a running back on their team in his prime. They don't have a wide receiver in his prime either. It is very likely that Chris Cooley is their most reliable offensive weapon. The defense is good. There is no denying that. However, I don't see them making the worst to first jump in the NFC East. The rest of those teams are just too good.

And that leaves my choice, nay THE choice, for sleeper team of 2010: the Kansas City Chiefs. They were a popular pick a few years back to make some noise and it never materialized. However, now that everyone is counting them out, it will be their time to shine. This team isn't great. Obviously. If they were, they wouldn't be on this list or have gone 4-12 last season. Yet I can see some signs. They were pretty good last year at running the ball, ranking 11th in the NFL in yards/game, and they should be even better this year. With the addition of Thomas Jones, and just having Jamaal Charles know he'll get lots of carries for once, will definitely propel this team into the top 10 in the NFL in rushing. Their real problem last year was passing and, maybe it's just me, but I still think Matt Cassel can be good. Of course he'll need Dwayne Bowe to get his act together, but Cassel may finally have enough experience. As for the defense, it certainly was not a strength in '09, yet they have some players out there, most notably is Tamba Hali. And as 'people' will tell you, the most important position on a defense is a rush end. So check that off.

I see the Chiefs going 10-6 this season, and making the playoffs for the first time in four years. Feel free to disagree, yet be prepared to be wrong, because I have found and unearthed 'That Team.'

(Image taken from

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pinching pennies

When a trade occurs in the world of sports, it can only be classified in one of three camps. The first type of trade is an "even" trade. Of course this is rarely the case looking back on deals years later, but there are often deals that seem to help both sides when they are first made. "Even" deals are also referred to as "not pissing off your fans" deals. Some even deals of recent memory include the Champ Bailey for Clinton Portis trade, Mark Teixeira for Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, and when the Clippers traded Zach Randolph's body for Quentin Richardson's. As you can see, not all even deals end up even. Mark Teixeira wasn't a member of the Braves long enough to make up for the two youngsters that were given away. And for some still unexplained reason, Zach Randolph ended up being an all-star last year after getting dealt away in what some described as trading a locker room cancer for a pile of bones.

The important thing to note about an even trade is the fact that it only needs to be even when it is first made. The fans forget about trades within months of them occurring. No one even remembered who the Rangers got in that Teixeira deal until Andrus and Feliz both made the all-star team this month and the story kept being brought up. If fans see a trade as being even when it is made, then they will be happy. In the long haul, for public relations, this is actually more valuable than the alternative. Not making a seemingly even trade at the time, even if the GM was later proved correct, usually results in much less fan credit given. Yankees fans were leaving flaming bags outside GM Brian Cashman's house a few years ago when he refused to pull the trigger on dealing prospect Phil Hughes for proven star Johan Santana. Now, it seems Cashman may have made the right choice to hang on to Hughes, but no one cares to give him credit for this. Yankees fans just remember when we disagreed with him and he sucked for it.

The second type of trade that occurs is a "steal." This is when one side appears to heist the other, getting back way more than they should for a certain player or package. Again, the end result is pretty much irrelevant. If a "steal" ends up being an almost even deal, fans won't remember. They will just remember rejoicing when their GM robbed their opponent blind. As you probably deduced, a "steal" for one side means another team must have been the person getting mugged. Steals are very uncommon because, despite popular belief, most general managers in sports are not idiots. They may have different goals in mind than their fans at certain points of the season, resulting in disagreements, but usually they have some sort of plan in place. Being a part of a steal of a trade is different than one team benefiting from another trying to limit payroll.

Make sure you see the difference between a steal resulting in a team getting mugged and our third type of trade possibility: the salary dump. This is the most popular type of trade done in modern sports. Since sports are a business, and lots of teams fail every year, it makes sense that they will be trying to save money in the process. 98% of all NBA trades are salary dumps. This has to do with the detailed and sometimes screwy rules as far as the salary cap, player contracts, and collective bargaining agreement are concerned. In fact, go ahead and try to think of a trade that isn't. At first you may have thought the Pau Gasol to the Lakers trade was definitely a steal, but it was clearly a salary dump. This current off-season has seen close to a dozen salary dump trades already, and it isn't even August. With Chris Paul clambering to split town, we may be in store for one more.

In the NFL, since contracts are not guaranteed, rather than teams participating in a salary dump deal, veteran players are routinely just cut. Therefore, most NFL trades fall into one of our first two camps. Major League Baseball, on the other hand, has its fair share of all three types. There are plenty of even trades made where one team may want a pitcher and another a hitter. There are steals committed as well, such as a team getting weak prospects back for a star player. Just this evening, a salary dump trade occurred. Dan Haren was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels for so-so prospects and a below average major league starter. I have to figure they could have waited for a better offer, but they wanted to shed Haren's contract, and did so. In our current economic climate, salary dump trades in the MLB are becoming commonplace.

Now my question is about how fans react to a salary dump trade by their team. Obviously we know the proper reaction after an "even" trade or "steal" occurs. And, as I stated, this is short-lived and details of many trades are forgotten before the current season even ends. Fans only remember how they felt about a deal going down, not what the outcome was six years later. But with a salary dump, there is no positive reaction. Fans see it as their team's owner symbolically throwing in the towel. Yet, at the same time, most salary dump trades are either necessary or savvy. I'm sure fans know this, yet do they care? Obviously, a Dbacks fan would have preferred to get some big name back for Haren, but since they are clearly not making the playoffs in 2010, do they acknowledge the trade made sense? Do they see the smart business of it?

My problem is that I have never experienced rooting for a salary dumping team. As I said, NFL teams rarely resort to this technique, and I have no favorite NBA franchise. I am a basketball fan drifter. As for baseball, I am a Yankees fan. So...yeah. With the caveat being that salary dumps could border on being even trades, do fans, even if they don't like the state of their franchise, at least appreciate the importance of a salary dump deal? Last year the San Diego Padres salary dumped Jake Peavy. This allowed them to fill in their roster with pieces who ended up being ridiculously good. The Padres are in first place. If they had not dumped Peavy's salary, they could not have filled out their roster and would probably be battling the Diamondbacks for last place right now. The salary dump can work. Now I'm not saying Arizona is necessarily as smart, or if there will even be moves available to help them next off-season, but they weren't going anywhere with Haren. Why not save the cash now and try to make that worst to first move in the standings next year?

In fantasy sports, the equivalent of a salary dump is made without hesitation, because there is no one to ridicule you afterwards. If your fantasy team, in a keeper league, has no shot at making the playoffs or finishing in the money, it makes perfect sense to trade an expensive player for a more valuable keeper or draft pick. So shouldn't this translate? If the deal in and of itself makes perfect sense in a business and strategy world, why should it not make sense just because a team has people following it? If your fantasy team, for some bizarre reason, had thousands of fans who watched every move you made, wouldn't you still have to make that "salary dump" to prepare for next season? It would be stupid not to. Now obviously there are not people paying to follow your fantasy team, but if there were, would they appreciate the importance of the move?

I guess my ultimate question is how business savvy is the average fan? Or, if they can all realize and recognize the move, how much do people care about that? If your team's owner loses millions in 2010 and is forced to cut spending in 2011, not bringing in that big name free agent, do the fans see the connection or will they just see him as a penny pincher?

(Image taken from

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hall of ehh, yeah he's alright

A new batch of former major leaguers get inducted into the baseball hall of fame this weekend. I know the names but I didn't really see them play/manage. Andre Dawson's career numbers are okay. He played a long time but really only had three great years based on the numbers. However, numbers aren't everything. I was alive, but barely, so I don't ever remember watching Dawson play. Apparently he was intimidating at the plate and that's good enough. Whatever. What is interesting is this next batch of players on the ballot in the coming years. I know these guys; I watched them play growing up and remember them. Roberto Alomar, on this year's ballot but didn't get the votes necessary, is also a guy I remember. He seems like a hall of fame player to me and will probably get in next year or the year after. Yet there are many big names who just seem like all numbers and no sizzle. And as Andre Dawson just proved, numbers aren't everything.

Up for election in 2011 is Rafael Palmeiro. Obviously and without argument his career deserves a plaque in Cooperstown. Yet almost as obvious is the fact that he will not get in next year. He might never get in. I'm not sure how this will play out. But I don't wish to delve into whether he should or shouldn't, whether Bonds should (he should) or any of these steroid suspects should get in the Hall. I am more interested in the guys with no dirt, big names and big numbers, who I watched play and I just don't see it.

Let's take Jeff Bagwell, up for election next season. Sure, he's a fine player. His numbers are great: 449 career home runs, over 1500 RBI's, won a league MVP with two other top three finishes, won a Rookie of the Year award, and has a career line of .297 .408 .540. For the uninitiated, those three figures are his career batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. All three are tremendous. His career OPS ranks in the top 25 all-time. Yes all-time. His numbers are Hall-worthy. There's no doubt. But it's Jeff Bagwell. Sure, I rooted for an AL club in the 90's, (the Yankees) and Bagwell played his whole career in the NL, but I never recall a time where I was afraid of Jeff Bagwell coming to the plate. I guess his MVP season, pitchers tried to avoid him, yet he still doesn't remind me as an intimidating player. He's no Andre Dawson in this case. If his numbers get him in, then good for him. Yet I don't see it. I never thought of Jeff Bagwell, at any point of his career, as a Hall of Fame player.

Larry Walker is up in 2011 as well. Now you're saying to yourself, "Larry Walker is not getting in the hall of fame." I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly just remembering him play, but then I looked up his stats. Walker has over 350 home runs, 230 steals, over 450 doubles and also won a league MVP. Remember Bagwell's line? Well Walker's actually beats it. With a career .313 .400 .565, Walker ranks 16th in history in career OPS. Those numbers are epic, dare I say, historic. Maybe we can discount him a little for playing in Coors Field all those years. Or maybe we can discount him for being Larry Walker. Weren't teams more afraid of Todd Helton anyway?

Maybe I am being unfair but I just can't picture these guys in such historic context. They don't pass my 'eye test.' When I picture Bagwell or Walker or Mike Mussina or Andy Pettitte, I don't see a hall of fame talent. These guys were all really good. On occasion, they were near the top of the world. But should a handful of great seasons, mixed with longevity really get someone into Cooperstown?

Perhaps that is the formula and maybe my problem is I am too critical. These things can only go one of two ways. You either treat the players you watched growing up with too much respect or with not enough. I believe most people think more highly of players they watched as kids. You idolize some guys, think all these guys are heroes and stars. At the end, years later, you think back and only recall how awesome they seemed. Or it can go the other way, my way. I watched these guys growing up. They were good. Some were great. Yet they don't live up to the 'legends.' I mean none of these guys were as good as someone like the immortal Harmon Killebrew. There is no way. Then you look up Killebrew's stats. He was a home run machine. He was also a .256 career hitter. He didn't bat over .300 in any full season of his career. In today's scrutiny, he'd be thought of as an all or nothing hitter, a rich man's Jack Cust. (a very rich version, but still.) Ryan Howard obviously hasn't played long enough but his current numbers far outweigh Killebrew's. If Howard plays another ten years, his career will look like a better version of Harmon's. And that just shouldn't be the case, right? I mean, Ryan Howard is certainly no Harmon Killebrew!

So this brings me back to my dilemma. Do I romanticize the heroes of the past too much? Do I hold too much against the current stars? Or maybe the numbers aren't everything. Maybe it is as simple as that. Obviously, during certain eras, certain numbers have been inflated. There is nothing we can do about this, except change our estimation of what makes a hall-of-famer. Does 500 home runs automatically do it anymore? I would have to say no.

Bagwell and Walker will be followed by Craig Biggio, Javy Lopez, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Mike Piazza, Manny Ramirez, etc. Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, and so forth are coming up as well. Clearly some of these gentlemen will get in the Hall, and deservedly so. Yet so many of them seem ordinary to me. I never skipped school or sneaked to a television set past my bedtime to watch a Frank Thomas at-bat. In 10 or 12 years, I can see myself looking at the crop of recently inducted hall-of-famers and just think "Yeah, he was alright. Did he really get into the Hall of Fame??"

(Image taken from

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Facts Shmacks

"Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true. Facts, Shmacks." -Homer Simpson

As a wise man once described, facts (or more accurately, statistics) can be used to prove anything you want really. I, as a writer, can skew numbers in many ways to get the resulting conclusion that I desire the reader to come away with. This is done anytime you read a fantasy sports article. It is not always devious, yet the author will always describe the numbers that prove their point, and leave out the numbers that hurt it. They are still telling the truth, listing numbers that are completely true, yet leaving out the rest.

I am a numbers guy. I love statistics. I love finding that Ichiro Suzuki has a higher career batting average than Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial. Yet a number doesn't tell the full story. Nick Swisher has a higher career OPS than Rod Carew or Roger Maris. Now that sounds impressive. Good for Nick. However, Carew wasn't much of a power hitter and Maris was a poor on-base guy, meaning each player's OPS will be lower than you'd figure. Hence, Swisher is still nothing special. All three of them fall outside of the top 250 players.

Let's take a look at some other stats that are completely, 100% true and have some fun with numbers. Obviously baseball is the best sport for statistics, so let us start there.

Player X has had a 30 point drop in his on-base percentage from last year to this year. His slugging percentage has dropped 84 points and his OPS is down a staggering 114 points! Pretty bad year for this guy, right? Well the part I left out was that Player X led the league in all three categories in 2009 and still made the all-star team in 2010. Player X is Albert Pujols.

Okay, the new Player X is on pace to lose more games this season than he has in any season of his career. He has his lowest win percentage in half a dozen years. Yet this player also made the 2010 all-star team. When comparing a star's numbers to previous seasons, it is easy to make them seem worse than the situation merits, just because they have been so good in the past. In this case, Player X is Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay. If the Phillies weren't in such a funk, perhaps his win-loss record would better reflect his season. Heck, he already has two games where he pitched nine innings and did not get a victory.

Of course, this technique also works in reverse. Player X is having a career year. He has his lowest ERA and WHIP of any season, and the best winning percentage of his career. In 2010 he is also sporting his best home runs allowed per 9 innings ratio and is only two hundredths of a point behind his career best mark in strikeouts to walks ratio. However, these 'bests' are easy to reach when the rest of your career has been such crap. Player X, R.A. Dickey, has a record of 28 and 32 with a 5.02 career ERA. He is only 6-4 so far in 2010, yet it seems like he should be up for a Cy Young based on the stats given.

Now, as many of the prominent fantasy articles out on the web propose, who would you rather have between Player X and Player Y? Player X, with two months still to go in the season, is only two home runs behind his season total of last year. He is on pace for his highest RBI total since the turn of the century, and for his career, he has walked more times than he has struck out.

Player Y, on the other hand, is on pace to hit 20 fewer home runs this season than he hit in 2009. His batting average is down over 60 points from last year and his OPS is down 235 points! In 2010, he is on pace to strike out more times than any prior season of his career.

Obviously, based on the information given, anyone would choose Player X. Let me go through the exact same statistics now, but this time I'll divulge a little more detail. Player X has hit zero home runs on the season. He ended last year with a total of two. He has 33 RBI so far this season and hasn't knocked in more than 58 in any season since 2000. This player does walk more than he strikes out, yet he has only drawn more than 60 walks in a season once. He rarely strikes out, give him that.

Player Y has only had one season where he hit more than 13 home runs. That happened to be last year. In 2009 he also led the league with a .365 batting average and an OPS of 1.031. Player Y also has walked more than he's struck out in his career. His highest strike out total for any season is only 64.

Now who would you choose? Both instances describe the exact same players and give the exact same facts, just delivered slightly differently. In case you were wondering, Player X is Jason Kendall and Player Y is Joe Mauer. Aren't statistics fun?

With the NFL season starting next month, I'll give you two players to avoid for all your fantasy drafts. The first player to avoid is a running back, Player X. He has seen his yards/carry drop every season since his rookie year. He has only one career receiving touchdown. He has 39 career starts and 20 career fumbles. In fact, Player X rushed for more yards in a season in college than he ever has during an NFL season, even though the college football season is three games shorter.

The other player to avoid, Player Y, is also a running back. He recorded his lowest ever touchdown total last season even though he started 15 games. He finished with zero receiving touchdowns and his lowest yards/reception ever. His yards/carry in a season has never been within six tenths of the mark he put up his rookie year. And Player Y also rushed for more yards during a college football season than he ever has during an NFL campaign, even though he was playing in three fewer games.

Player X is three-time pro bowler Adrian Peterson and Player Y is two-time pro bowler Steven Jackson and that's a fact.

(Image taken from

Monday, July 19, 2010

A mic in my hand

When I was little, more than a decade ago, I would watch all the sports talk television. I do not recall the specific titles of these shows, but they were the PTI's, the Around the Horns, the Herds of the 90's. One show I do remember was The Sports Reporters. It was on every Sunday morning (and still might be.) I would watch every week before leaving for Sunday School. They were great. I loved sports so I loved hearing people talk about sports. I didn't know any better.

I still love sports. In fact, I think I like them more, or appreciate them more than when I was just a lad. However, I hate sports talk television. Some people, as they grow up, learn that athletes are not role models. They either have a favorite player or a hero that they look up to, but that person does something wrong, or just with so many players making human mistakes, they learn to not idolize these guys. I had/have favorite players, but I never had this problem. I never came to the realization that athletes weren't heroes because I don't ever recall feeling that. They were super famous, super talented, tv stars, but so was Drew Carey. (I know I used super talented very liberally in that analogy.) When I started being older than some of the players I was watching, it was just one of those things. David Price is the same age as me. Would I expect myself to perform at the stage that he does every night? No. But I expect it from him; that's what he does. His age doesn't really factor in it for me. So I never encountered that mental downfall, yet I did with sports talk television.

Sometime during college, or perhaps late in high school, I started getting annoyed when these 'people' spouted their opinions off like it was common knowledge. When I was younger, I actually thought it was common knowledge. They were reporting what everyone thought to me, the viewer, who didn't know any better. Now I realize none of these people are any smarter than me. The only thing that separates a sports fan like me from a talking head on First Take is inside knowledge. They can speak with the athletes, the reporters, team employees and get more info than I ever could. They use this to mask the fact that they aren't any more qualified for their job than I would be.

Here is a normal give and take when I watch these shows: Talking head #1 says something obvious. The host agrees with them. Talking head #2 says something stupid because he's an idiot. Talking head #1 sees their point but reiterates their very obvious first point. The host again agrees with them.

The best example of a television personality pissing me off occurs when a story happens in a sport they aren't very familiar with. The show host has to talk about it, yet it comes off as forced, like if someone demanded I write a blog post about America's Cup. The most recent example of this happened earlier this month, right before the MLB all-star game. Colin Cowherd, who is known for making odd arguments, I assume to just create controversy, is a football guy. He never talks about baseball because it doesn't push the ratings. However, Joey Votto had been left off the NL all-star roster and Colin decided to defend this. At the time, Votto was probably the favorite to win league MVP. He was a no-brainer to make the team, and eventually got on, yet Cowherd wanted to argue he didn't deserve the spot. The argument was something along the lines of Votto wasn't a top notch player; he hadn't had the past success of a Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols; he wasn't a brand name, and we shouldn't use a couple months of hot hitting to mark him as an all-star. That was Colin Cowherd's argument. Since he doesn't know anything about baseball, maybe I should have given him a pass. But since he's on tv, talking like this makes sense and isn't dumb, I got upset. The fact is that someone's all-star candidacy is literally based on the exact opposite of everything he was saying. Whether someone should or shouldn't make the 2010 all-star roster is entirely based on the first half of the season and past success has absolutely no relevancy to the discussion. When I was a little kid, I might have listened to this misinformed, misguided man, and actually believed Joey Votto didn't deserve to be on the team. After all, Colin was a man with a microphone, with a platform to talk. He must know what he's talking about. How naive I was.

Another popular ploy of the sports show host is to make an outlandish, yet defend-able argument, yet never bring up the obvious point that refutes it. Since on most of these shows they control call-in or email responses, the anchor is free to blabber on. Just this morning Michael Jordan released a statement bad mouthing LeBron a bit, explaining how he would never have wanted to play with Magic and Larry Bird. So the people with a mic decided that Jordan was being too high and mighty (even though many others said literally the same thing as Jordan did last week.) 'Michael wasn't being fair, he got to play with Scottie Pippen and how can he compare the guys LeBron is playing with to Magic and Larry?' The guest host on The Herd was making this argument. These are fair points, yet Jordan's viewpoint still stands and still makes sense because what the host decided not to bring up was that Dwyane Wade won a championship and is the third best player in the NBA. Doesn't that fit the billing of Magic or Bird? Sure Wade might not be historically as good as either of those hall-of-famers, but other than Kobe, there isn't any other player in the league at his level. This seemed like an important factor in the discussion that he decided not to mention.

Of course the worst part of sports talk television is when a big story occurs. See: Tiger or anything related to Brett Favre. It becomes unbearable. The same story is digested and regurgitated over and over one show after another for weeks at a time. I have actually come to hate Brett Favre. I actually truly dislike him as a person, and I'm not sure it's actually his own fault. He likes the attention and likes the media around him, but he doesn't control it. It is ESPN's fault I hate Brett Favre. After hearing six people tell me whether they think he'll return, I don't really need a seventh and an eighth and...

The people I do enjoy hearing talk are the actual sports reporters of the world. The show Sports Reporters does not, ironically, fit this billing. That show provides the viewer with reporters, but they aren't reporting news. They are yapping opinions like all the others. The people I like are the Tim Kurkjians, Buster Olneys, John Claytons. These men report news they hear or stories they are told are in the works and tell us. That is what I want from my sports talk television. Tell me something I wouldn't have any way of knowing otherwise, because I don't talk with people in the know. Tell me when one team is looking to move a player or this team is searching for a new GM. Sports talk television should inform viewers of things a normal sports fan wouldn't already know.

In the end, of course I still watch the shows I have come to despise. But it's more like being a smoker. I hate myself afterwards and know it's probably bad for me, but I can not help it. And I certainly can't stop cold turkey.

(Image taken from

Friday, July 16, 2010

The business of loyalty

I had to give it a week. It needed to settle, to stew and ferment in my mind. At this point I have heard every point of view possible and the conclusion is simple yet complex. The end result is completely understandable yet shockingly surprising. If it were me, I would have gone to Chicago but I get it. I get bringing his talents to South Beach. LeBron James just wants to have fun.

This is not about the LeBronathon documentary variety show that aired. To tell you the truth, I did not actually get to see it even though I totally would have watched the entire thing. My information is all from the response it got and the parodies it spurred. But my opinions here are not going to be based on 'The Decision.' They are simply going to be based on his decision.

I would have chosen Chicago. He would seem to 'fit' better with that team, but that is really the only reason I would have chosen the Bulls. My second choice would have then been the Heat. Those two teams give him the best chance to win a title. Yet on the Heat, he gets to play with his friends, play in the city of Miami, and play for Pat Riley. So I get it. It is definitely a sound business and sports decision. It seems to me, the dumbest decision he could have made would've been returning to Cleveland.

Aren't sports a business? Where is loyalty rewarded in sports? Why SHOULD it be? Loyalty is bad for business. And if you think I'm being sarcastic here, I am not. In a few months, the Yankees, my favorite baseball team, are going to pay Derek Jeter a lot of money to stay a few more years and retire as a Yankee. They have to. If they don't, the city will riot. People will burn Wall Street and knock down the Brooklyn Bridge. Children will be used as ammunition in an attack on the United Nations building. Mothers and fathers will use their life savings to purchase grenades to launch at oncoming traffic. It will get ugly. My problem is I don't understand why it will get ugly. Sure Jeter is a great player for a great franchise, but why do I care if he plays for someone else? Isn't that up to him? If HE decides to spurn the Yankees and sign elsewhere, why should I be any more loyal? I don't get the fascination fans have with specific players. I wrote about this in a previous column a couple months ago. Aren't players just assets your favorite team buys to try to win titles for your city? The Yankees are an organization, a well run business, that purchases contracts of workers to reach their goal for the end of the fiscal year, which in this case is in October (sometimes November.) There is not a single player on any of "my" teams that I would want to keep over someone who is more talented.

The discrepancy is that fans are hypocrites. Loyalty only exists in the minds of fans when the player in question is really, ridiculously good. No one was burning jerseys or lining the streets in San Antonio to protest when Richard Jefferson opted out of his current deal. They were actually happy to see him go. Where's the loyalty there? He opted out in the attempt to get more money over more years, and if he could return to the Spurs, then fine. Neither side was bent out of shape about him leaving because it was a business move, but more because he isn't an all-star player. Fan loyalty is more condition dependent than a health insurance policy.

Johnny Damon left the Red Sox to join the Yankees after helping Boston to a World Series title. He disgraced the city and all the fans. Or the Red Sox disgraced the city and the fans by low-balling their offer to Damon and forcing him to move on. It was one of those. Or maybe it actually was common sense where the Sox felt Damon wasn't worth the contract he desired because he was getting old, and the Yankees wanted to take the chance on him, feeling the money involved was worth the risk. When Damon left Oakland as a free agent after getting dealt the year before from the Royals, he decided to join the Red Sox. No one cared. There was no loyalty oath broken from either organization since Damon was no MVP candidate and neither club was in contention. Perhaps he went to the Sox for money, but people decided it was also allowed because he would have a better chance to win there. Yet LeBron didn't get the same allowance.

LeBron, whether it turns out true or not, chose winning over money. Technically returning to the city of Cleveland would have been choosing money over winning: the ultimate no-no in sports fandom. Whatever an athlete does, whether it be drunk driving, eliciting a prostitute, or gambling away charity money playing craps, fans always forgive or forget. But when an athlete chooses to take the most money rather than go to a team with a better chance to win the title, fans are revolted. Yet this is the decision LeBron James made. He took less money to go to Miami, a more talented team with a much better chance to win the NBA championship.

How fickle fans have become. I think I understand though. I think I'm finally getting sports loyalty. It's convenience loyalty. Sure I'll stand up for a friend, if he's fighting someone smaller than me. Sure I'll pay for your lunch since you forgot your wallet, if it's less than $20. Sure you can borrow my car, if I have previously driven with you and know you aren't insane on the road. We have the same convenience loyalty rules in the 'real world.' The difference is, there are not others viewing our decisions, with the outcomes being judged and ridiculed.

LeBron James chose to leave one place for a much, much better place with better weather, more friends, a better team, better leader, and a much better chance to win. Put another way, he made the choice that all of us would have also made. What a selfish jerk. Doesn't he have any loyalty? Oh yeah though, I almost forgot, if in six years, he's gained 55 pounds and torn both knee ligaments, the Heat better release him. You can't be loyal to a bad player. It isn't good for business.

(Image taken from

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The year of the...

The second half of the 2010 MLB season starts tonight. There is not a division leader who has more than a 4.5 game lead. There is not a single major award with a run away favorite. The national league won the all-star game for the first time since 1996. The home run derby is looking more and more like the slam dunk contest in that none of the stars want to participate. I'm in first place in both of my fantasy baseball leagues. But none of these things is the story line of the 2010 season.

Perhaps 2010 will be remembered as the year of the rookie. Jason Heyward and Austin Jackson got us started. They were followed by much-hyped fellow batters Carlos Santana, Justin Smoak, Ike Davis, Mike Stanton, and Buster Posey. Strasburg led the rookie pitchers discussion, and as always, there were a few surprise rookies making waves, including Brennan Boesch, Mike Leake, and Gaby Sanchez. However, besides Heyward, all of these men were overlooked for the all-star game because they didn't have enough stats accumulated or there simply was not room for them. Unless some of these guys get on a torrid pace and challenge for post season awards, I don't think we can claim this the year of the rookie. But there is no doubt the league is getting younger, and frankly, better.

The fact is, I am in agreement with many others in saying this is a year for pitchers. The all-star game was a showcase of one 98 mph thrower after another. The evidence was in the final score. The AL scored once: an unearned run on a sac fly. The NL scored all their runs on a single base hit, a bases clearing double. The year of the pitcher evidence is also in the numbers. Only one player has more than 22 home runs on the season, meaning it is quite possible that not a single player will hit 40 home runs this season. Furthermore, there are EIGHTEEN pitchers with an ERA under 3 right now. To show how much that has trended upwards we must take a look back. Four years ago, only two pitchers finished the season with such a number. The next year, there was only one. 2008 then saw eight such pitchers, and last year had 11 pitchers finish with an ERA under 3. 2010 is definitely on pace to continue that trend.

The real evidence though is in the pitchers themselves. I can never remember a year where I "trusted" more pitchers than I do this season. By that I mean, in fantasy terms or not, that I would feel comfortable if my team threw this guy out to pitch. There are always tons and tons of borderline pitchers. You never know what they will give you. A complete game 4 hitter is completely reasonable, as is giving up 9 earned in 2.1 innings. See: A.J. Burnett or Edwin Jackson. But the list of pitchers that I would trust to throw a quality start each and every time is extraordinary. There are at least a dozen.

Specifically speaking, there are roughly four or five pitchers in each league still doing battle for the Cy Young award. Of those players, a few are having historic seasons. At the top of the list is Ubaldo Jimenez. He is 15-1 at the break. His other numbers are epic as well, yet 15-1 is almost unfathomable. The reason I say that is because last year's NL Cy Young award winner, Tim Lincecum, finished the year with 15 wins! Wins aren't the best measure of a pitcher's talent and skill, yet winning 15 decisions and only losing one is a ratio that cannot be ignored.

Oddly enough, at 15-1 Jimenez has not clinched any award victory. Roy Halladay is a man that can never be counted out. Not only does he have similarly sparkling ERA and WHIP figures as Jimenez, he too has double digit victories and is on pace for over 200 strikeouts. The thing that separates Halladay from others is his durability though. He leads the league in innings pitched and complete games. In fact, not counting his own Phillies team, he has more complete games than 27 of the 29 remaining teams. That would be combining every pitcher on each staff and comparing their numbers to Roy by himself.

Yet he too is not necessarily having the best season for an NL pitcher. Josh Johnson pitches for a bad team. He has somehow made that not matter. Johnson is 9-3 on the season with more strikeouts than innings pitched and leads all of baseball in both ERA and WHIP. His ERA is under 2. His WHIP is under 1. That means an average 9 inning performance for Johnson would include allowing fewer than 9 base runners all game and giving up either 1 or 2 runs. Obviously no starter receives reasonable run support or bullpen help every time out there, yet Johnson's no decisions and losses actually make up quite a solid season too. He has allowed 3 runs or less every game this season except one, where he allowed 4 earned and took the loss. In his other two losses Josh went 7 innings, allowing 1 unearned run and 8 innings allowing 2 earned respectively. Counting his six no-decisions, Johnson has pitched 57 innings and given up 17 earned runs in games that he did NOT get the victory. That averages out to an ERA of 2.68. Imagine if he was on a contending team. Ubaldo's 15-1 might have some competition.

So the national league has its share of pitchers handling their business, yet the american league is no slouch. Just take a look at Cliff Lee. He missed the beginning of the season because of injury, just got traded mid-season because his team was so bad, yet he has still managed some historic figures. He is 8-4 with 6 complete games in only 14 starts. Yet that does not begin to tell the story. Cliff Lee has struck out 91 batters on the year, and walked a total of 6 men. Six. Usually, a Cy Young type season will see a K/BB ratio of about 4/1. 200 K's and 50 walks is a very good year. Lee has a ratio right now just over 15/1. He strikes out 15 batters for every one he walks. That would go down as the greatest single-season number of all-time, and by a lot. If Lee continues at this pace, he will break Bret Saberhagen's 1994 season record of an 11/1 strikeout to walk ratio. And Lee didn't even get the start in the all-star game.

David Price did. Price leads the AL in wins and ERA. Yet there are a number of other AL East guys hot on his tail, including Andy Pettitte and Jon Lester. Lester is a fun examination since he didn't get his first win until his last start in April. After taking two no-decisions and two losses in his first four outings, Lester has since gone 11-1 and dropped his ERA a full two runs since the beginning of May.

Other than these stars however, there are even a few previous 'no-names' having stellar seasons. Jamie Garcia and Mat Latos are both in the top 10 in the league in earned run average. Jeff Niemann and Trevor Cahill are also members of the group of players with an ERA under 3. None of these four made the all-star team, and in fact, even with all of the injury replacements there were still 6 men out of these 18 with a sparkling ERA that did not make the all-star rosters. That just goes to show how great a year so many pitchers are having.

I don't usually like venturing out on limbs and making predictions. The reason is, predictions usually turn into random, wild guesses since so much of sports is unpredictable and ever-changing. Yet here are my picks for the 2010 Cy Young winners, in this, the year of the pitcher: AL - Jon Lester. NL - Ubaldo Jimenez.

(Image taken from

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

San Diego reality

I'm Ron Burgundy?

Everyone knows San Diego is the easiest city in which to be a weather man. It isn't hard to predict 74 degrees and sunny. What was hard to predict is the first half of the season the San Diego Padres are having.

Every major league team has played at least half their schedule. The all-star break is fast approaching and teams are taking stock in where they are and what moves need to be made. Everyone assumed, three weeks before the trade deadline, the Padres would be looking to deal Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell. After all, these are two of the very few players on the Padres with any value, and why hold on to players when your team is absolute crap? You deal these guys for prospects and have the team develop as a whole.

In actuality, for still some unexplained reason, the Padres have the best record in the national league and are anything but sellers at the deadline. San Diego is not only home to the team with their league's best record, but also the team with the best ERA and WHIP in all of baseball. Pitching in spacious Petco Park doesn't hurt, but it doesn't help them score more runs than their opponents either. The Padres are tied for the most shutouts in baseball, have struck out the second most batters, and have one filthy bullpen.

Led by all-star Heath Bell, the Padres pen sports four pitchers who average over 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Put in some perspective, current NL strikeout leader Adam Wainwright only K's around 8 per nine innings pitched. All four of those gentlemen also have ERA's under 2.50 and all but Heath Bell have a WHIP under 1.00. That means, on average, when one of the Padres relievers comes in to pitch an inning, they strike out at least one batter and don't allow anyone to reach base. This is also referred to, in technical terms, as a 'manager's best friend.'

Also in love with the bullpen's success is the starting rotation. Led by all-star snub Mat Latos, (let's hope he at least gets the call as an injury replacement) San Diego's starting five is really a patchwork group of overachievers and no-names. Latos, a second-year player, has only started 26 career games. If he continues to progress, there is no reason he can't be the ace of an NL West champion team. Well, let me rephrase that. If he continues to progress, it will be no fault of Mat Latos when the Padres fail to win the NL West.

When the discussion of the Padres comes up on highlight shows, the analysts all say the same thing. 'No one saw this team coming, but watch out, they are for real!' And my question is what are they basing that opinion on? This team is not a talented team. They aren't full of winners. They don't have any type of indiscernible quality to them. In fact, I would be very surprised if this San Diego Padres team doesn't go from having the best record at the half way point to finishing third in their own division. They will not make the playoffs and, frankly, they will be only slightly better than what we thought they'd be.

The reasons seem pretty obvious. Their offense is anemic. They rank in the bottom third of baseball in all the major offensive categories. There are only three teams with a worse team OPS than these Padres. They don't have a single regular who is batting over .300. Other than Adrian Gonzalez, not one player on their roster has double digit home runs. To be honest, other than Gonzalez, not a single hitter on the Padres would scare an opponent coming up to bat in a big spot. On his way to back to back 100 walk seasons, there is really no reason to pitch to Adrian in any situation. He leads the team in batting average, home runs, RBI's, hits, OBP, and pretty much any other stat other than steals. A lineup of just one man cannot be expected to have much success. And really, they haven't even been very successful to this point. San Diego has gotten where they are on pitching alone.

And this brings me to the main reason they won't win the NL West. Have you seen this pitching staff? Mat Latos might become a star. It's possible. He is too young to know. Wade LeBlanc and Clayton Richard have been pretty good as well, yet they are just a combined 10-10 on the year and have barely more major league experience than Latos. Kevin Correia started the year 4-1 but has gone 1-5 since and has only completed 7 innings in one start this season. Meanwhile the veteran pitcher on this staff, Jon Garland, has already walked over 40 batters and has never been more than simply a serviceable starter at any prior point of his career. Garland is by no means someone to lead a young, young staff to the playoffs.

After sifting through all the numbers, the bullpen is really the only thing that can be considered a strength of this team. Since middle relievers are so up and down year to year anyways, there is no reason to doubt their 2010 success continuing, yet can a bullpen carry a team? I can't think of any case where a team won its division on the strength of its pen. Sure, a bullpen can push a team over the top to post-season stardom, but without an offense and with no reliable starting pitchers that I would trust to beat the Rockies in mid-September, it is just not enough.

In the end, this is nothing more than a nice story. Every year in the NFL there is one team that surprises everyone. Teams can go from last to first rather easily in football. Just look at the Saints. However, this is not as common an occurrence in baseball. The season is just too damn long to have teams sneak up on their opponents. The Rays in 2008 could be thrown into this group of success stories. However, with blinding speed all over their lineup, one top prospect after another hitting the big leagues, a defense that was historically good, and a pitching staff that was made up of innings eaters, I would not put this Padres team on the same level. Sure, everyone thought the Rays would fall off at some point in 2008 and they were wrong. Perhaps San Diego's story will follow a similar script. I just wouldn't count on it.

(Image taken from

Monday, July 5, 2010

No wonder the AL always wins

It's that time of year again: the time where the public proves once and for all they are a bunch of morons, although with a little twist this go around. Having fans vote for the starters for the MLB all-star game has to rank up there with grading your own tests in school. Oh, everyone gave themselves A's again? The odd thing is, the teams seem to encourage stupidity. Each club runs advertisements and things in the ballpark and online pressing fans to vote for their players. The Washington Nationals had ads encouraging fans to vote 25 times online for Cristian Guzman and Roger Bernadina. That's not a joke. Fortunately for all of us, their campaign failed. But every team does the same thing. And it really seems like they shouldn't. Yeah I get that the Yankees want Nick Swisher to make the team. That would be neat for him. But, if they're trying to secure home field advantage for the american league in the World Series, wouldn't you rather have Kevin Youkilis on the roster? I mean bias should only go so far.

The juxtaposition of the game itself exists because the offices of the commissioner want the game to count for something but want it to be for the fans too. The problem is, you can't have both. Either it counts and people in the know vote for all players involved or it doesn't and the fans put in whomever they want to see. Either it counts and the manager for the game plays to win or it doesn't and they try to get every guy at least an inning or at-bat. Either it counts and we play with normal baseball rules or it doesn't and you can bring players back in after being removed in case of injury or unforeseen circumstances.

I realize this same argument is made every single year. The end battle is always between whether the fans should vote for the starters or not. The odd thing is, this year, it seems the fans were smarter than the players. The public votes for all position starters, then the players vote for most of the pitchers and benches. Lastly, each manager adds in a few guys to fill out the roster followed by the fans voting in the last player for each side. It's a screwy system that doesn't seem to work very well. Usually it is because fans vote for players they like/root for, whether they are having good seasons or not. Mark Teixeira was in the running to start at first base for the AL up until a day or so before voting ended. Luckily, he did not get rewarded for having the worst half a season of his career. Actually take a look at the entire american league starting lineup. There isn't a mistake in the bunch. Sure, I would have voted for Miguel Cabrera over Justin Morneau, but they were both making the team anyway. I might not have started Ichiro in the outfield, but it is not a grievous error by any means.

I can't tell what the reason was the AL roster was littered with so few mistakes. Even counting the benches and pitchers, I would have gotten Youkilis and Alex Rios on there somewhere, but neither necessarily deserved it over someone else. Jered Weaver should have made it simply because the game is in his home city. He's having a great year and that should have put him over the top. But, for the most part, the AL is a pretty solid roster. Perhaps this is because the public is getting smarter. Fans are very knowledgeable nowadays; they can find any stats and numbers they want online while voting. They don't necessarily go to more games, yet they see more games on tv, with highlights online and on Sportscenter. There are no hidden players anymore. Everyone is aware of the year Josh Hamilton is having even if they haven't seen a Rangers game yet this season.

Or, perhaps this was a coincidence of sorts. Perhaps this was a random occurrence of seemingly intelligent fans. Usually fans are biased and annoying and do not make decisions with much thought. Perhaps, at least in the AL, all the decisions were made for them this season. There was only one choice to start at catcher. There were only two choices to start at 1B and both were going to make the team regardless. There was only one choice for 2B and SS. Third was really only down to two players as well. Besides the crowded outfield, there was really no where for the public to mess up.

Now I thought the same thing about the national league when I was entering my votes last week, yet for some reason, the NL is dumber. I guess this is why they always lose the all-star game. And it's not just their fans. Their players are dumber as well. I guess adding to these lack of decisions, lack of position players having a good year, is all the pitchers having tremendous years. So we can live with some pitchers being left out in the cold. But really NL, what are you doing? At catcher there was really no one deserving yet it came down to two guys. Brian McCann or Miguel Olivo were the only two guys having any resemblance of a good season. The fans picked neither one. First base is a given. 2B actually only came down to one player. There was no one else having close to the season of Martin Prado. The fans didn't pick him either. In the outfield, there is always a cluster of players to choose from. Really the only thing the fans could have done wrong was vote in an undeserving player because of name recognition, like Jason Heyward. Well they did exactly that. Jason's .250 average and injury are on their way to Los Angeles.

However, it could be argued the national league fans are off the hook because of how poorly the players and manager chose the rest of the roster. Why is Jose Reyes on the team over Rafael Furcal? Why is Matt Capps on the team over Billy Wagner? Why is Omar Infante on the team at all? The biggest mistake of course is leaving off Joey Votto. When filling out my rosters in June I actually put Votto in the starting lineup over Albert Pujols but figured it didn't really matter since both were shoe-ins. Here is the Votto summary from a Jayson Stark article up on ESPN which seems to agree with me: "Votto leads the league in OPS. He's second in on-base percentage and slugging. He's in the top five in all three Triple Crown categories. He's arguably the MVP in the whole league. How can he not be on this team?" My thoughts exactly.

The funny thing is, Votto was probably booted by Adrian Gonzalez because 1B is too deep in the NL. Okay, Ryan Howard made it. I wouldn't have had him, but if you include Howard, that means Gonzalez gets chosen over Votto because the Padres have no other representatives. The team in first place in the league has only one representative. Of course if Padres pitcher Mat Latos got added instead of Chris Carpenter or Tim Lincecum, like he should have been, then they wouldn't have been forced to choose Gonzalez over Votto. It actually seems like the players may have become less informed than the fans. They just chose these guys by their name; it's like the voting for the Gold Glove award. 'I haven't played the Padres yet this season. I've heard they lead the league in ERA yet I haven't faced Mat Latos yet. I better just give the nod to one of these big names having an off year instead.'

Of course the game itself is kind of random. Even though the national league didn't add all their players having the best seasons, there's no way to say that Yadier Molina won't have a big hit in the game. Well actually, I will say that. Yadier Molina won't do a thing to help this team win. He's the worst hitter to ever make an all-star team. He is batting under .230. No joke.

But the NL could win. It is not out of the question. They have tons of good players. Look at that ridiculous pitching staff. However if the AL does win again, for the 14th straight year, maybe it isn't coincidence. Maybe it is explained as simply as they are smarter than their non-DH using counterparts.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Time Travel

On the eve of the anniversary our country was adopted by the Indians, or something like that, I am going to examine one of the most American ideas around: wishing and imagining what it would be like if you had a super power, in this case, the ability to travel through time.

Now invisibility, super strength, these types of powers are all fine but they don't teach us anything. You cannot use super strength to learn who really killed Kennedy. You can't use the ability to breathe under water to find out what happened to the dinosaurs. Time travel, on the other hand, is seemingly all-powerful. Ideally, once mastered, you could travel into the immediate past to change any thing ever done in error. You could also zip into the future and change the situation for yourself in the current once you go back. Time travel sounds pretty sweet. There is a problem with it however. It has too many holes; it's not feasible. Invisibility is a feasible super power if you were naked. It doesn't make sense that anything you come in contact with would also turn invisible, but the baseline power is understandable. Time travel gets too confusing.

Think about any television show, movie or book involving characters traveling through time. Some say that any change in the past, no matter how slight, can alter the future in ways unimaginable. Back to the Future was the perfect example of this. Steps taken in the past led Marty McFly to unborn himself. This is where things start to get sketchy. If Marty became unborn, meaning he never existed, how could he possibly exist in the future to travel back in time to unborn himself? It's just stupid logic. It cannot work that way.

On the other hand, these mediums occasionally make the point that the past is the past and nothing the time traveler does can alter it since these events already happened. This makes more sense logically, yet still seems utterly ridiculous. If I go back in time and stab Bart Starr through the chest, there is really no way he is going on to win Super Bowls one and two. I guess the logic would be there would always be actions that prevented me from going through with the stabbing, but it just seems so unrealistic.

From either view point it seems impossible to have time travel make sense, even in shows or movies. Stephen Hawking has written thousands of words on the topic of time travel, most of which I have never read. But he writes about worm holes being a possibility for traveling through time, and mentions the important factor that people might be able to travel forward but no one will ever be able to travel backward through time. The movement into the future is described using black holes and the slow down of time near large amounts of mass. The closest I can get to explaining it is that if you were to travel near a black hole (obviously with some powerful space ship that wouldn't get sucked in and result in your death) for, say, a year, time would move slower where you were traveling relative to the outside world. Once the year was up and you left the orbit of the black hole somehow, more than a year would have passed in the amount of time you were gone, hence you traveled into the future. That's as much of it as I understand. However, the fact remains that traveling into the future is really the sucky part of time travel. The cool part is traveling into the past. Hawking goes on to make the point that traveling into the past is not, and never will be, possible. If it was, we would already know. Someone would have already traveled back to a point in the past where humans existed. Even if the ability to travel into the past isn't perfected for another 3,000 years, the result would be that people from the future would show up, and that just isn't the case (to my knowledge.)

So not only is time travel an impossibility, but it also doesn't make sense in practice. There are too many paradoxes. Could you go back in time to six minutes before you traveled through time and kill yourself before you left? If so, what happens to the current 'you' who is now dead and never traveled through time in the first place? Could you go back and kill a parent or grandparent, resulting in you never being born, or even less dramatic, simply travel back to a time before you were born? I was born in 1986. It's not possible that I could exist in 1980. These are all simple, yet unexplainable, paradoxes.

I am actually tired of entertainment mediums using time travel as a plot device. It never works. It is impossible to fully explain and get away with without screwing yourself up and damaging the show, therefore, why use it? The most recent show I've watched using the time travel device is Heroes. I talked about this in my Heroes season one post, but simply enough, there is a character, actually more than one, who can travel back and forth through time. For some reason they are able to go back and change certain events that happened but cannot change others. There was no explanation as to which events fit which category. Nice writing guys.

In the end, I guess my point is on this Independence Day eve, as Americans, we should stop wishing we could travel back in time. Just move on. Forget about it. It ain't happening, nor should you want it to happen. As a nation, I suggest we move on to wishing for a different super power and permanently retire time travel. Next time someone asks you about having a super power, say you wish you had the one ring from Lord of the Rings to rule over all humanity. That should make said person leave you alone.