Hey gang, I’ve written a new chapter of my long-neglected story. You can get to it by following that link, in case you don’t know how the internets work.
And this guy apparently called Les Carpenter knows the solution: just start hitting way, way more home runs. Damn, Ichiro, why didn’t you think of this?
Ichiro Suzuki has been in a slump most of the season. This, in itself, is not unique; Ichiro has been in slumps before. He is no more immune from imperfection than anyone else. But in the past Ichiro’s slides were brief and usually followed by such a ferocious cluster of line-drive singles that everyone forgot the slump ever happened.
In the past, Ichiro was not 37 years old. There’s at least a decent chance that this isn’t a "slump" that he can voodoo his way out of. See also Pope Derek I.
But this season the slump has been prolonged, lasting well into June, with only a splurge of base hits coming the last few days. From May 19 to June 9 he hit .149, which is not like Ichiro.
I just checked: that stretch is only 87 AB. Lots of weird things can happen over 87 AB, Les. Especially when a hitter is looking at a .171 BABIP over that same period, which is awful. His season total is .302, which is bad for Ichiro, but come on. You’ve clearly cherry-picked a hard-luck stretch.
So much of his game is built on slapping singles to left field and beating out ground balls to shortstop, but he’s 37 now and doesn’t seem as fast as he once was.
Now, we all know that science is about our feelings, but let’s get crazy and look at some actual data instead of spending the whole damn evening trading in "seems" and "feels." Fangraphs has Ichiro’s speed as 6.4, which is considerably better than he’s been since 2008 and about bang-on career average. Detailed breakdown on BR concurs: Ichiro is stealing more bases and at a better rate than he has since 2008, and is taking the extra base on a hit more often, too. So I guess this is why we should ignore numbers: they don’t tell us that our feelings are important.
On Tuesday night in a game against the Washington Nationals, he grounded into a double play. It was his fourth double play this year. Once second basemen rushed throws to first on routine grounders, afraid they would be too late to catch him. Now infielders are turning double plays on him at a greater rate than ever in his career.
That’s ridiculously melodramatic. It’s four GIDP! Four. Project that out for the rest of the season, and he gets up to nine — which is, yes, just barely the most he’s ever had in a season. By one. But for fuck’s sake, it’s still only nine. This guy’s had nine already. This guy’s had ten. This guy? Sixteen. Seventeen for this one. And these are all super awesome players. You’re worried about four GIDP? Damn. Get a grip.
He has always appeared ageless with his lithe frame stretched to perfection, a rubber band that would never break. Many are beginning to wonder if his speed is finally leaving him.
And then the Mayor used math to prove that it isn’t, and you never wrote this awful article and we all got pie. Right?
And if it has, why doesn’t he use the one weapon he has consistently refused to employ? His power.
Ichiro Suzuki, career ISO: .097
Anyone who arrives at the ballpark early is dazzled by the amazing sight of the tiny, slender Japanese left-handed hitter in the batting cage, swirling with that awkward but beautiful swing and smashing baseballs deep into the right-field bleachers. It’s a display as awesome as any of the great sluggers who made batting practice a show, like Mark McGwire, Darryl Strawberry and Albert Pujols. But these are giants, men whose arms ripple with muscle. Their games were built around home runs.
It’s batting practice! They don’t throw nice, easy meatballs in live games, dum-dum. Carlos Zambrano is notorious for putting on big power shows during BP. Maybe that guy needs to sack up and stop forgetting to hit homers, too.
As soon as batting practice is over, Ichiro returns to trying to outrace the throw from shortstop.
Two possibilities come to mind:
A) Ichiro can’t hit actual Major League pitching into the bleachers as easily as he can BP meatballs.
B) Ichiro’s a inscrutable, crafty Asian genius, and not hitting home runs is all part of his Secret Baseball Plan.
I know which one I’m choosing.
Ichiro’s power is not a secret. He hit more than 12 home runs in each of his seven full seasons in Japan before coming to the United States in 2001. Once he hit 25. And Japan’s seasons are some 30 games shorter than those here.
He averages nine homers/year in the States. That ain’t too far off twelve, man. Also, you know who hit 55 home runs in a season once in Japan? This guy. Career home runs in MLB: 13. So can we just please stop assuming his Japanese numbers mean dick?
Those who have coached or managed him are certain he is capable of hitting 30 home runs in a season.
They’re fooling themselves. Eighteen players in all of MLB hit thirty homers last year. Not on that list: V. Guerrero, D. Wright, A. Beltre (career year!), M. Holliday, T. Tulowitzki, J. Werth. But it’s an absolute certainty that 5’11”, 170 lb., 37-year-old I. Suzuki would join that club if he just tried? Uh-huh.
John McLaren, a coach and later a manager with the Mariners for large parts of Ichiro’s career in Seattle remembers how he looked overmatched when he first came to the team, lining foul balls over the third base dugout. One day Mariners manager Lou Piniella came up to Ichiro as they were walking onto the field.
"Do you ever try to turn on the ball (and pull it)?" Piniella asked.
In the first inning of that day’s spring training game, Ichrio did indeed turn, crushing a long home run to right field that could best be described as jaw dropping. When Ichrio returned to the dugout, he looked at Pinella and said in his then-awkward English: "Is that turn enough, Lou?"
Oddly precise quoting on that ten-year-old anecdote. Never mind. Here are the takeaways:
• Spring training
• Smallest possible sample size
• Much younger Ichiro
Also, for whatever it’s worth, this page — which really, really hasn’t been updated since 2001 — says Ichiro hit a whacking great 2 HR during spring training that year. So either he was being a complete dick or else he got lucky.
He does not discuss his power much and has granted few interviews this season, even to the large contingent of Japanese media who cover every Mariners game. His most famous answer about the subject came in the news conference after he was named MVP of the 2007 All-Star game when he said: "If I’m allowed to hit .220 I could probably hit 40, but nobody wants that."
Five players hit forty home runs in 2007. Their names are A. Rodriguez, P. Fielder, R. Howard, C. Peña, and A. Dunn. Ichiro? He hit six. I’m sorry, but there’s no evidence his claim is true, and I’m not believing a dude could go from six homers to forty just based on his say-so.
"When he says that he’s not lying," said Mariners hitting coach Chris Chambliss, who is in his first year with the team.
He may still be wrong, however. Also, perhaps a first-year coach who’s only seen the guy while he’s in a huge slump doesn’t count as an authority.
"Guys like Ichiro can do anything with the bat. There is a way he can hit for more power but his focus is on being consistent, too."
Ah, I see we attended the Joe Morgan School Of What The Hell Do Words Mean Anyhow. If he hit a shitload of home runs year-in year-out, that would be consistent too, dummy. "Consistent" does not mean "batting average."
Through 72 games in 2011 Ichiro is batting .279. He’s a career .329 hitter and has never hit below .303 in any of his 10 full major league seasons.
Ichiro has had 301 AB this year. If he’d had just eight more hits all year long to this point, his batting average would be .305 and what the shit would the purpose of your article be then? Eight, Les. This tells you two things:
1) Batting average is something you do not understand
2) You are a nitwit who should stick to covering rock-paper-scissors tournaments. He lost on scissors! Scissors is a choker with no championship mettle!
Oh, also? His BABIP was a ludicrous .171 for 87 of those PA. Fluke.
Those who know him say Ichiro will never change his approach, that he was taught years ago to keep hitting singles, to get his 200 hits a year and steal bases.
And his offense has been worth about four WAR every year, which is pretty good.
It is an older style of game. One from a long-ago era, revived at times in the 1960s and 1980s, in which hitters were valued for getting lots of base hits and trying to disrupt pitchers by threatening to steal. In the modern era, where statistical analysis has replaced gut instinct, a bigger value is placed on doubles and home runs. Things like 200 hits and a .320 batting average aren’t perceived as helpful if the hits are only singles.
What? No, that’s wrong. I just replaced your guts with statistical analysis, and it said that Ichiro’s averaged slightly over four oWAR per year. Did you miss that part? It’s, like, right above this bit, though there’s no sense scrolling up to read it, since you just made me goddamn repeat it anyway. God, Les. Pay attention.
Also, aren’t you the one saying that Ichiro needs to stop everything he’s doing and swing for the fences instead? Yeah, I just checked: you, Les Carpenter, are the man making that argument, and you’re making it based entirely on your gut feelings and like tea-readings and séances with the ghost of Lou Piniella and shit.
For clarity: getting a lot of base hits is valuable so long as you get a lot of base hits, and then don’t piss them away by running into outs. Ichiro is good at these things, so he’s been valuable. Juan Pierre is not, on the other hand, so he has not been valuable. Do you see?
As time has gone on, Ichiro has been called selfish for his approach. And now that he doesn’t beat out as many ground balls or hit as many line drives into left field – the last week aside – those criticisms have grown louder. Isn’t it time for him to adapt?
No, because you’re making all this shit up.
"He’s like Wade Boggs, he does what he does best, he’s superstitious," McLaren said. He did not say this as a criticism, but rather as the frank assessment of a baseball man who has been around Ichiro as much as anybody in the major leagues.
I’d like to repeat part of this for you, so you can marvel at the insanity:
He did not say this as a criticism
Now once more:
He did not say this as a criticism
Now in Haitian Creole:
Li pa t ‘di sa a kòm yon kritik
And what is it that the man said that wasn’t intended as a yon kritik?
He’s like Wade Boggs
Les felt the need to explain to us that comparing Ichiro to Wade Boggs shouldn’t be taken as a criticism. Wade Boggs. Who is in the Hall of Fame. For hitting a shitload of singles.
Thanks for clearing that up, Les.
Ichiro is Ichiro.
And even if he is in a slump he will not change.
You know, I can only think of one player who went from being a slap-hitting speedster to a hulking power hitter at a late age. His name? I think you know perfectly well what it is. Is that your recommendation, then, Les Carpenter?
He always had more power than Ichiro anyhow.
That’s the kind of title that really grabs ’em, I say. Yep, I still got it!
You played The Witcher 2? I have. Or, well, some of it. It’s pretty fun and all, but that’s not really what I came here tonight to talk to you about. I came to talk about sex.
As you may recall if you’re the type of person who listens to me, the first Witcher shipped censored, and I was pretty annoyed about that (a later "director’s cut" patch was issued that removed the censors). The second one sure isn’t — or at least not as severely — so you won’t hear me whining about that this time. Which, of course, means it’s time to whine about something else instead. The rest of this post shall henceforth be known as NSFW, so don’t follow the jump if you’ll get in trouble for it. Also don’t follow the jump if you’re offended by the female body for whatever reason. You know who you are.
You remember Jim Bowden. He’s the former Nationals GM who is most famous for getting ridiculously roaring glass-eyed drunk, signing Cristian Guzman to a $34 million contract, and then driving really fast. Well, now he’s blogging at ESPN, and he’s helping us the home viewers to understand the logical processes that helped him transition from a career as a general manager in Major League Baseball to a career as a blogger at ESPN. Let’s see if we can catch him while he’s still sober enough to type.
Simple stats to evaluate teams, players
I think a bit of definition of terms is in order here:
1: free from guile : innocent
2a : free from vanity : modest
b : free from ostentation or display <a simple outfit>
3: of humble origin or modest position <a simple farmer>
4a : lacking in knowledge or expertise <a simple amateur of the arts>
b (1) : stupid (2) : mentally retarded
c : not socially or culturally sophisticated : naive; also : credulous
I’d like to thank Merriam-Webster for calling Jim Bowden names so I don’t have to.
I get some flack for this from time to time, so, as Ubaldo Jimenez would say, let me be clear: if you want to head out to the ballpark with your buddies and have a few beers and race-bait Milton Bradley and you don’t give a great goddamn what his WAR is or how his BABIP might be impacting his WPA, that’s cool with me. I find that understanding how the game of baseball works improves my enjoyment of it; if you don’t care, I have no beef with that. There’s room for both of us to do our things.
However. If one happens to be a former general manager of a baseball team — and here I’m talking about a real professional team, and not like in MLB Front Office Manager — and one is currently employed by an outfit that declares itself the "worldwide leader in sports" to write about one’s experience generally managing a professional baseball team, and if one’s article includes this:
Baseball also has a simple to side to it. I get asked all the time which two or three common statistics I would pick to evaluate a team or players. My quick answer would be the following:
1. For a team: Run differential
2. For a hitter: OPS + RBIs, or OPSBIs
3. For a pitcher: ERA, WHIP, SO
Then one should expect to have the shit ridiculed out of onesself on my blog.
Now, before I get accused of unfairness, I’ll admit that Bowden starts out pretty strong. Run differential is pretty much the right stat to use to do a quick-and-dirty evaluation of a team. Though he does crap it up in the calculations by doing it as Runs Scored – Earned Runs Allowed. What the eff, Jimbo? Do unearned runs not go up on the scoreboard these days? I know OBP doesn’t. The best thing about the way Bowden calculates run diff is that it will result in the league having a positive run differential against itself, which is one of those existential paradoxes that only Commander Data can solve.
So, yeah, that’s the good part. Let’s move right along into the next bit, where Bowden says:
2. For a hitter: OPS + RBIs, or OPSBIs
I had to quote that again so you could absorb the full impact of the ridiculous junk stat Bowden has just told you he relied on when making decisions as a GM. What the shit? Seriously, Jim Bowden. My goodness.
Okay, I’m coherent again. Let’s step through this. OPS + RBIs, huh? "OPSBIs" is a horrible neologism that doesn’t even parse properly; "on-base plus slugging batted in" indeed. But is it any good as a statistic? Pretend I haven’t already called it junk, and we’ll find out!
Well, it starts with OPS. OPS is not a very good statistic. I mean, it’s not very bad — if you’re just looking for a quick-and-dirty way to tell if a player sucks, it fits the bill. But it has the non-trivial flaw of weighting OBP and SLG equally, and OBP is way more important. If you’re a GM, and you use OPS to evaluate players, you’re liable to do things like give Juan Uribe 3/$21M, not realising that his career OBP of .299 will absolutely murder your offense. And only a fool would do that!
RBIs, unlike OPS, is a very bad statistic. Why? Well, you tell me. Which one of these players is the best?
Player X: 50 RBIs
Player Y: 44 RBIs
Player Z: 30 RBIs
Player F: 10 RBIs
Clearly it’s Player X, right? Good, we agree. Now let’s flesh them out a bit more:
Player X: 50 RBIs, 293 PA, .262 / .314 / .461, 109 OPS+, 1.4 oWAR. Had a total of 203 baserunners while at the plate.
Player Y: 44 RBIs, 278 PA, .332 / .486 / .678, 218 OPS+, 4.5 oWAR. Had a total of 176 baserunners while at the plate.
Player Z: 30 RBIs, 226 PA, .315 / .389 / .523, 133 OPS+, 1.2 oWAR. Had a total of 139 baserunners while at the plate.
Player F: 10 RBIs, 225 PA, .301 / .409 / .419, 124 OPS+, 1.2 oWAR. Had a total of 93 baserunners while at the plate.
Oh. So actually Player X is kind of shitty — he’s just had a ton of PA and a lot of inherited runners. Player Z has been almost as valuable to his team, and only has 77% as many PA, while Player F never ever inherits any runners to drive in. And Player Y is the best player in baseball. This is why RBIs are crap. They are too team-dependent.
So what happens when you add RBIs and OPS together, then? You get shit soup is what happens. So we’re not here all day, I’ll pass on another histrionic demonstration and just mention that the league average OPS is .710, while the league average RBIs is, who knows, something like 25. So, if you’ll excuse the presumption, Mr. Bowden: what the fuck is the fucking point? Why not just use OPS? He even makes this point for me, though he seems to be too drunk to figure it out, when he adds the ridiculous chart. Is it sorted by OPS or by "OPSBIs?" you tell me — the order’s the same either way.
But wait! Bowden isn’t done being dense about this:
The key for me is breaking down the RBIs to differentiate the ones that came against pitchers who throw with the most velocity, change in velocity, late-breaking action, change in planes or deceptive deliveries.
Which you didn’t do. You just, like, added RBIs — a counting stat — to OPS — a rate stat.
How often do the RBIs occur in one-run games against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning as opposed to a 12-0 blowout in the fourth inning against a mopup reliever. It is essential to break this down in detail.
But maybe not so essential that he actually did it. Because he didn’t. Also not essential: caring about how many runners a hitter inherited.
Statistics can be misleading unless you blend them with the scouting aspect of baseball.
Statistics are more likely to be misleading if they’re garbage to begin with.
When you get to October, hitters need to hit Jon Lester, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum, so you need to have hitters who can hit the best pitchers in the game rather than hitters who put up good numbers against mediocre or below-average pitching.
Do you have any evidence for the existence of this fabled hitter who absolutely murders R.A. Dickey and Randy Wolf but is awful against Lincecum and Halladay? Of course you don’t, because there’s no such hitter. You might as well say that what’s important is getting hitters who can teleport so they don’t make outs on the basepaths.
Look. I get the emotional appeal of "clutch." I remember when Sammy Sosa hit a ninth-inning, two-out, two-strike pitch out into Waveland Avenue in game 1 of the 2003 NLCS to tie it up at the last possible moment. That was awesome. But "clutch hitting" simply is not a repeatable phenomenon. It is not a skill. It is a product of luck. David Ortiz is probably the most famous clutch hitter ever, right? Go here. Look at his WPA. See how it’s up-and-down? Now look at his "Clutch." Positive, negative, positive, negative. No year-over-year correlation at all. This is because it is mostly luck. You cannot get players who will be "clutch" in the future by going after players who were "clutch" in the past, or by any other means besides plain, ordinary luck.
The fact that you don’t understand this — and that you choose to define "clutch" as "RBIs in a blindingly arbitrary set of situations" — is terribly, terribly funny.
Still, OPS + RBIs gives me a general feel for the level of player.
Only about 7% worse than OPS by itself, even.
So what remedy do I suggest? What stat is best for evaluating a hitter at a glance? Well, Bowden makes a big stink about "simple" stats, so I’m assuming I can’t use something mildly esoteric like oWAR. In that case, I’d go with OPS+ — it’s like OPS, but it’s normalised for park effect and differences among eras, and the context is built-in, so you don’t have to try to guess at what the average is (it’s always 100).
(Of course, with leadoff hitters, OBP+R+SB would be a better barometer, so you have to know the type of hitter your looking at).
I… or, yeah, I guess you could do that. Just a quick question: since OBP already correlates to runs better than any other basic stat, is it really helpful to add runs? I mean, even assuming that adding a counting stat to a rate stat made sense to begin with. Which, by the way, it doesn’t. And are you sure you don’t want to control for caught stealing at all? Don’t even want to throw in a -CS for the sake of form, as though the 8 or 11 or whatever will be discernable against the 350 or so points of OBP you’re randomly adding it to?
Also, sorry, but: [sic]
Bowden doesn’t really say much about pitching. He says this:
3. For a pitcher: ERA, WHIP, SO
And he gives leaderboards for those three stats, but he doesn’t do anything as comical as create a whole new garbage statistic and then write three paragraphs making excuses for it. All he says is:
These are my three favorite quick-look pitching statistics. Combined, they give me a snapshot of their abilities and talent, although statistics are best analyzed in concert with video and scouting reports in a complex system.
Now, for being so short, it’s amazing how wrong that is. Why?
Well, ERA don’t tell you much about a player’s ability or talent, because it’s polluted by external influences and bullshit judged outcomes, and it’s not even adjusted for park factor, for fuck’s sake. WHIP is a bit better, but it still gets fouled by defense and judgment calls. As for strikeouts (which is what Bowden means by SO, even though most people — though, notably, not baseball-reference — use K for that and SO for shutouts): just, like, raw strikeouts? Not even going to consider the number of batters faced?
If you had to pick three simple stats to get a good idea of a pitcher’s true level of ability, the correct stats to choose are K/9, BB/9, and HR/9. These stats correlate well with themselves over time, have been shown to be a better predictor of future ERA than ERA itself is, and have been shown to be the only things a pitcher actually controls anyhow. Pretty much all advanced pitching statistics are built on those three.
Not that I’m saying scouting isn’t valuable, but, come on. perhaps you wouldn’t find statistics so "misleading" if you were bright enough to figure out which ones are worth using. And perhaps you wouldn’t be a professional blogger at this point in your life.
No points for guessing.
I’ve never bought into the (idea) that I should have a baseball guy to watch my baseball guy and his baseball guys. Then what do you get — a baseball guy to watch the baseball guy who’s watching your baseball guys?
That’s Tom Ricketts showing his gummy bear-like intellect. Yes, Tom, that is what you get in that situation! So congratulations on that. And also on using the phrase "baseball guy" six times in two sentences.
Let’s recap the awful LeBron James-related sportswriting of the last few days, shall we? Here’s the plot synopsis: the Miami Heat, who were massive favourites to win not only the NBA championship but the Super Bowl and Wimbledon also, only got as far as winning two games in the Finals. Rational, intelligent people are aware that teams that make the Finals and win two games are probably pretty goddamn good. There does not, however, tend to be much overlap between that set and the set of sportswriters.
To wit, here’s Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo sports, who manages to get just about halfway through his article about Dirk Nowitzki before suddenly jumping aboard the LeBron hate train:
Once again, James was an uncertain, uneven star with a championship on the line. He didn’t play well in these Finals, and worst in the moments that the Heat needed him most. He didn’t want the ball in the fourth quarter, passing it away as fast as it had come to him.
Wait, you’re hating on him for passing a lot? Since when is that a bad thing? NBA superstars are constantly slammed for being ball-hogs. Along comes one who can work with his team, and you’re complaining about it?
Oh, right. Because the rest of his team was even worse in that game.
James will win championships, but he’ll never enjoy a moment so singularly pure as Nowitzki did.
I defy any of you to tell me that means anything.
He’ll never have this connection to a franchise and a fandom, a communion of shared struggle and pursuit and angst.
Sure seems to me like LeBron James has a deep, lasting connection to a community of angst.
This is still Dwyane Wade’s town, and probably Wade’s team. One Eastern Conference star said, "Right now all he’s doing is helping D-Wade get his second ring."
Far be it from me to argue with "one Eastern Conference star" — which is to say, a source you made up — but I’m fairly sure that if the Heat wins, LeBron gets a ring too.
Dwayne Wade, game 6: 6/16 FG (.375), 0/4 3P (.000), 5 TO, 3 PF.
Choker. Head-case. Didn’t come through in the big moments. And while we’re on the subject:
Dirk Nowitzki, MVP, game 6: 9/27 FG (.333), 1/7 3P (.143), 2 TO, 4 PF.
To hear James suggest that the world will have to return to its sad, little ordinary lives and he’ll still get to be LeBron James late Sunday night was a window into his warped, fragile psyche. It was sad, and portends to how disconnected to the world he truly is.
Sportswriters love to psychoanalyse athletes. Nobody ever just has a bad game; he’s haunted by demons from deep within his psyche, and they made him lose. Nobody ever just snaps at reporters who are being assholes; he’s out of touch with reality and probably should go on zoloft.
There’s nothing real about James’ world, and never has been. He’s a prisoner of a life that his sycophants and enablers and our sporting culture has created for him. He’s rich and talented and something of a tortured soul. He’s the flawed superstar for these flawed times. He’s a creation of a basketball breeding ground full of such twisted priorities and warped principles.
Wow, you sure know a lot about LeBron James. Metaphysically.
Dirk doesn’t do endorsements and doesn’t do self-promotion. He doesn’t care. He never wanted to be a brand. He wanted to be an NBA champion.
Yeah, we all know that people who do endorsements and promote themselves are never any good at sports. Real champions only care about the purity of essence of our precious sporting events.
The NBA has seen behind the curtain, removed the mask. For all of their nine-figure contracts, for all of their All-Star appearances, MVP trophies and off-the-wall athleticism, the Heat are beatable. Not by a collection of stars or a group of gifted me-first players. But by a team.
Oh lord. I don’t think I’m ready for this. I guess I can just muscle up enough energy to point out that the highest paid player in the Finals was all-world heart-and-soul plays-the-game-the-right-way purity-of-essence champion and God’s own choice for MVP Dirk Nowitzki, at $17.28M. None of James, Wade, or Bosh cracked $15M.
No one is going to debate whether the Mavericks are more talented than Miami.
Why not? The Mavs are a great fucking team. Sure, I’d say Miami is better, but come on — Dallas is hardly a team full of unknowns and nobodies.
Their superstar has taken countless public floggings for a presumed soft game and failure to come up big in the clutch.
Oh, shit, hadn’t thought of that. Well, your air-tight argument has convinced me — Miami clearly hasn’t had to deal with adversity like that. I don’t think anybody’s written any articles lately talking about how any superstars on the Heat are soft and never come through in the clurtch!
Dallas can’t win a street-ball tournament. But the Mavs can win an NBA championship. They can because they have 15 players who trust each other, trust the coach, trust the system. They have 15 players willing to mold their games to fit what the team needs. They sacrifice when they need to, step up when others cannot.
Okay, sure. Also you might want to mention that their center is over seven feet tall and led the entire NBA in True Shooting % and Offensive Rating. Or maybe that their forward scored 582 goddamn points in the playoffs, making 175 / 186 free throws. Which is, like, a lot. Or, sure, maybe it’s because they trust the system. Whatever that means.
The self-styled King began the biggest game of his career 4-for-4, finished 9-for-15 and spent too many minutes looking disengaged in between.
9-for-15 is better than Wade or Nowitski in that game, as I believe I’ve already mentioned. Oh, but, shucks! He looked disengaged while he was doing it! And that is not the look of a champion!
"Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don’t," was James’ answer to questions about his performance after the game.
And James was correct. Sometimes even the best player in the world has a bad game.
Too often, Miami abandoned any semblance of a team game in favor of selfish, one-on-one play.
As evidenced by the fact that L. James kept goddamn passing instead of hogging the ball like a true team player.
Unquestionably, the Heat made significant strides in their first year as an NBA superpower. They shook off a 9-8 start, blocked out the media firestorm that waited for them in every city and breezed through the Eastern Conference playoffs with startling ease.
Yeah, the Heat were the best team in basketball. Which is why they made the Finals. Do you see?
But any coach will tell you the road to being good is smoother than the one to being great, a path Miami now finds itself traveling.
No, the Heat are already great. Eighth in points scored, sixth in points allowed. That adds up to an xW/L that puts them in first place in the league. Did I mention they made the Finals? Easily?
What we do know is that there are heavyweights lurking in both conferences that aren’t afraid of the big, bad Heat. Chicago won 62 games with its baby-faced roster and now has the experience of a conference finals appearance under its belt.
Chicago had the league MVP and played arguably the best defense in the league. Their xW/L actually ties the Heat at 61-21. They lost to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Yeah, they’re a great team. But this is a surprise?
Boston will be back, and Kevin Garnett and Co. circle games against Miami on their calendar. New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta have had their moments against the Heat, too.
In the Western Conference, Dallas can coax another few years out of its aging roster. The Lakers expect to rebound from this season’s ugly finish. Oklahoma City has a frighteningly deep and talented team that is still years away from hitting its prime.
Okay, you just named eight teams. Actually, you know what you did? You just named the teams that made the semifinals. So what you’re saying is that all the teams that made the semifinals are good? Thanks for that sparkling insight, jackass.
There’s a reason the Thunder are on a steady rise. During summers, Kevin Durant organizes workouts in Oklahoma City that have near-perfect attendance.
Here, I’ll fix that for you:
There’s a reason the Thunder are on a steady rise. Kevin Durant.
The Heat spent few days together before the start of training camp this season, a decision that may have ultimately been costly.
The Miami Heat made the fucking Finals! They made the Finals. They made the Finals where they got squeezed out by the Mavs in six games. I do not think it makes sense, sir, to declare this an abject failure and a result of not going to Applebee’s together enough times during camp.
The NBA season starts in July, not October, a lesson this Big Three would be wise to learn.
Yeah, I think they know that. Since they were the July champions. Of basketball.
Okay, that guy’s an idiot. Isn’t there somebody smarter I could deal with? Oh. No. No there is not.
I have very few rules in life, but this is one of them: Any time a team chokes away the NBA Finals 11 months after throwing a "Welcome Party" for itself, and it happens on the same night that Matt Stone and Trey Parker win 35 Tony Awards, I have to wake up at 5 a.m. the next morning and write a retro diary to figure out what in God’s name happened.
I have very few rules in life, but this is one of them: any time Bill Simmons writes an introduction so lazy that his only pop culture joke is exaggerating the number of Tony awards a musical won, I have to take a giant shot of 151 before I continue explaining why the world’s most popular, most wrongest sportswriter doesn’t know his ass from a hole in his face.
Did I mention that this fucking Bill Simmons livejournal is annotated? I’m serious. You all owe me a thousand dollars for this.
Quick reminder: With Dallas leading Miami by two (53-51) at halftime of Game 6, Vegas favored Miami by 4½ points in the second half. You know what that means?
Yes. It means that Miami was arguably the better team, and that a two point lead is effectively a tie.
To the bitter end, even after evidence mounted that LeBron James wasn’t ready for this level of scrutiny or that Miami was a modern-day version of Mike Tyson (the big, bad bully who morphed into an exceedingly beatable bully as soon as you stood your ground and socked them in the mouth), a majority of people still believed they were going to figure it out.
Oh, it was the scrutiny? Correct me if I’m wrong, but Bill Simmons has just alleged that the reason LeBron James is a choking chokemaster isn’t because he gets nervous about playing in the Finals — like fucking everybody else is saying — but because he’s too scared that Bill Simmons will write an article about him.
Also, for fuck’s sake. Tyson went 50-6 with 44 (!) knockouts. And almost all of those losses came at the very end of his career; he was 41-1 when he went to prison. And this is the standard of "beatable" Bill Simmons is holding up? A great many people "held their ground and socked Mike Tyson in the mouth" and then got goddamn KO’d in the first round.
Also, seriously, Bill, Mike Tyson is one person. Why are you calling him "them?"
11:48 remaining, third quarter: After a 1-for-12 first half, Dirk swishes a jumper to put Dallas up by 4.
Did you spot the important part? It’s the part that begins with "1-for-12 first half" and ends with "Dirk." You know. The part that points out that Dirk Nowitzki sucked on ice for the first half of the game. The game Bill Simmons is holding up as proof that LeBron James just can’t hack it.
Is anybody wondering why Bill glosses over the first half entirely?
You can’t forget the historical stakes for Dirk here: Had he completely gakked this game (something like 6-for-27, only without the crunch-time heroics) and then Dallas blown the title, a sobbing Karl Malone would have been waiting for him after Game 7 with the Historical Heimlich belt. Here, you take it, it’s yours now.
And there we have it: the difference between a "choker" and a guy who "comes through in the clutch" is whose teammates play better. Bill Simmons just said that. If Dirk Nowitzki did exactly what he did in this game, but Dallas lost, he’d be the goat. As it stands, he’s the hero. Anybody else see a problem with this?
Oh, also, Bill? Don’t use words if you don’t know what they mean.
Tyson Chandler misses a layup, grabs the board and puts it back in. He was tougher than any Miami frontcourt guy this series, bringing us to a rarely seen double irony: Oklahoma City nearly traded for him in February 2009, then voided the deal after giving him a physical (and lost to Chandler’s team in the conference finals 28 months later); and Michael Jordan gave him to Dallas last summer for Erick Dampier’s waivable contract, inadvertently giving Dallas the missing piece it needed to beat LeBron James in the Finals … you know, the guy everyone keeps saying is the next Michael Jordan. MJ really is the greatest.
He was tougher than any Miami frontcourt guy this series, bringing us to a rarely seen double irony: Oklahoma City nearly traded for him in February 2009, then voided the deal after giving him a physical (and lost to Chandler’s team in the conference finals 28 months later); and Michael Jordan gave him to Dallas last summer for Erick Dampier’s waivable contract, inadvertently giving Dallas the missing piece it needed to beat LeBron James in the Finals … you know, the guy everyone keeps saying is the next Michael Jordan.
is all one sentence.
Dirk nails a jumper (Miami by 5), then Wade misses a 3 that bounces over the backboard. Remember, LeBron and Wade were never good long-range shooters, only they cruised to the Finals partly because LeBron was nailing some exceptionally tough 3s.
Wade and LeBron were never good long-range shooters. Except for LeBron. Ergo: LeBron sucks. That makes sense to me.
Wade made 29 percent for his career, 28 percent in the first three rounds, and 26 percent in the Finals; he never got going. LeBron made 32.9 percent for his career, but in Miami’s eight Boston/Chicago victories plus Game 1 of the Finals, he made an improbable 20 of 39 3s. It couldn’t last. He missed 18 of his 23 in the last five Finals games.
Wade missed every single 3 in game six. Every one. LeBron shot .400, which is above his career average, and actually pretty good. But nobody cares, because, really, Bill, do you know what "sample size" is? Also: nice data searching. Does game one of the Finals not count? Is it just a skirmish? Oh, no, actually it looks like you searched it out because LeBron was fucking awesome in that game, which kind of ruins your "LeBron can’t handle the Finals because I write articles about it" theory.
LeBron averaged 3.5 3s and 8.4 FT attempts during the regular season. In Rounds 2 and 3, he averaged 4.1 3s and 8.6 FT attempts. In the Finals, that flipped: 4.7 3s, 3.3 FT attempts. He stopped getting to the rim.
Okay, that seems like a reasonable conclusion. He’s making more long-range shots, which indicates that he’s getting close less often. Now what data do you have to support this?
You could say Dallas figured out how to defend him (to a degree, true), that the zone screwed him up (I guess), that Shawn Marion got into his head (possible), but really, he was afraid to attack the rim for whatever reason.
I love this. I really, honestly love this. Oh, sure, you could try to find a flaw in his game and correct it. But let’s just assume it’s terror. About, you know, whatever. We’re doing science now, right?
Will we ever figure out what happened to this guy in the Finals?
Sure. Here it is:
Game 1: James is awesome. Heat wins.
Game 2: James is decent. Heat loses by 2, which is tossup range.
Game 3: James is lousy. Heat wins by 2.
Game 4: James is completely fucking awful. Heat loses.
Game 5: James is decent again. Heat loses.
Game 6: James is decent yet again. Heat loses.
So what "happened" to this guy is: he had one bad game and one awful game. His team won the "bad" game anyhow, because there are other players on the team. Such as Dwayne Wade, who sucked harder than James in game six by a good margin. Players do have bad games, Bill, and it doesn’t always have a deeper meaning.
Allow me to offer two dopey theories for what happened, and only because I believe everything HAS to be explained and can’t accept a world in which things don’t have an answer …
Oh. Or you can do that.
Remember when Wade tore into LeBron with three-plus minutes remaining in Game 3? When he yelled at him for eight solid seconds? When there was genuine anger in his eyes? When he did it right on the court, right in front of the other players, right in front of 20,000 fans and 10 million TV viewers?
LeBron was never the same after that.
At least you said upfront that these theories were dopey, because: please.
LeBron James, game 2: 8/15 FG (.533), 2/7 3P (.286), 2/4 FT (.500), 8 TRB, 5 TO, 4 PF. 20 pts
LeBron James, game 6: 9/15 FG (.600), 2/5 3P (.400), 1/4 FT (.250), 4 TRB, 6 TO, 2 PF. 21 pts
Never the same!
I believe every basketball champion needs a pecking order of sorts; that’s just what the history of the league told us. Miami tried to cheat this concept by putting two of the league’s best three players on the same team. It worked for 8½ months; LeBron and Wade ran the team together and deferred to one another depending on the moment. Then the Finals rolled around, Wade kicked it up another gear, LeBron didn’t do the same, Wade called him out … and the team was NEVER the same. These are the facts.
What. The fuck. Are you talking about.
Those are not "facts," Bill Simmons. Those are ravings that percolated out of your reptilian brain-like appendage. It has never happened before that two of the best players in basketball were on the same team? What about the eight fucking years that Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neill both played for the Lakers? The Lakers, in fact, won the Finals three straight years during this period.
Also, your idea that Wade "kicked it up another gear" in the Finals is insulting. To Dwayne Wade, I mean. It is exactly analogous to saying that Dwayne Wade was phoning it in until then. Oh, sure, he had another, better "gear" he could have been using, but he elected to loaf instead. This is a favourite fantasy of yours, Bill, but it’s utterly wrong.
Even in the postgame presser, when he should have been devastated the same way Magic Johnson was distraught after coming up small in the 1984 Finals, LeBron was doing the Frank Drebin "Nothing to see here, please disperse" routine, bristling at the notion that he choked and taking shots at anyone who rooted against him.
Bill Simmons, you are an asshole. There is no other word to use for an ostensibly grown man who has just said — in print, for God and everybody to see — that he wanted to see another man cry.
That’s what you do when you’re surrounded by enablers — you blame everyone else, and you never look within.
Okay, nice story. One problem, though: that is not what LeBron James did. His exact quote (given by one of these other peddlers of drivel) was "sometimes you got it, sometimes you don’t." That’s not blaming other people. That’s an admission that he did not have his best game that night.
I can’t go through any more of this shit. I’m already getting to the point where I’m not really making jokes so much as just swearing. Suffice to say, Simmons goes on and on in this vein for several thousand more words, includes a chart of goddamn fourth-quarter finals stats — because we needed more evidence that Bill Simmons has the mathematical understanding of a wallaby — and then curiously ends by declaring that Chris Bosh is in trouble because the team needs a scapegoat, and it "won’t be LeBron or Wade."
I guess I missed the part where LeBron won’t be the scapegoat through the endless fog of assholes making LeBron the scapegoat. Assholes like you, Bill Simmons.
I promise I’ll get back on the LeBron-train tomorrow, but this article’s too boneheaded and too time-sensitive to let go by. It’s by some guy called Chris Ruddick, and it’s called
Jeter watch is officially on
Thank god we had Chris to make it official. I was starting to worry that all this Jeter-watching was unapproved.
Let’s be honest, it’s not going to be the same if Derek Jeter gets his 3,000th hit anywhere other than Yankee Stadium.
Thank you, Chris Ruddick, for that hard truth that absolutely nobody has been willing to admit. We appreciate your honesty.
That is the situation we find ourselves with, as the Yankee captain sits seven hits shy of the magical milestone with just four games left in the Bronx before a six-game interleague trip.
An interleague trip? Are you kidding me?
Eye kay arr, broski! Fucking Bud. I can’t believe he’s fucking up this moment like that.
You can make the argument that this is going to be the most celebrated milestone of all-time.
You can make that argument, but you won’t be notorious for winning it. Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record (Bonds’ less so, for reasons I believe we’re all familiar with), Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record (Bonds’ less so, for reasons I… wait…), Cal Ripken’s games played streak. Those are three milestones I am willing to guarantee were more celebrated than Jeter getting his 3000th hit. You get back to me when Jeter collects his 4257th hit and we’ll talk.
For one, it’s the Yankees. They do everything big. If you don’t believe me why don’t you relive some of the events leading up to Jeter passing Lou Gehrig for the franchise lead in hits.
Okay. Hit me with some of them. I’m prepared to be blown away by the enormity of Derek Jeter getting within 1256 hits of the all-time record by reliving his exciting chase of Lou Gherig’s franchise record. Which I had, in truth, honestly forgotten about until you brought it up.
So I’m ready. What do you have?
Can you even name other teams’ all-time hits leaders?
What, is that it? That’s an "event" you want me to relive? Strong argument. Well, off the top of my head, I can name the Cubs, Rockies, Mariners, Orioles, Reds, and maybe Marlins and Red Sox. Do I get a prize?
(I looked this up after I wrote this, and I was right about all of them except the Marlins. And almost definitely could have done like eight more if I’d thought about it longer.)
By the time you are done with the video tributes, endless De-rek Je-ter chants, the Yankees will have you thinking he is the only to ever get to 3,000 hits not just the first player in their amazing history to do it, and believe me you’ll hear that little nugget ad nauseam as well.
Well, like Lieutenant Commander Kunta Kinte says, I don’t have to take your word for it. I have already heard that nugget ad nauseam. You’ve told me like fourteen times yourself, and I have a ways to go yet.
This just won’t be a Yankee celebration, though. Major League Baseball will make a big deal about this. He is the face of baseball. He has been since he entered the league on a regular basis in 1996.
No, Cal Ripken Jr. — remember him? He’s the Orioles’ all-time hits leader — was the face of baseball in 1996. Jetes didn’t take over until the early 2000s. Also, MLB made a pretty big deal about A-Rod’s 600th homer last year too, and he ain’t the face of anything. Except a centaur.
You can call him overrated. You can say he was just at the right place at the right time. You can say whatever you want. But 3,000 hits is 3,000 hits. That is one of those numbers that just catapults you to Cooperstown, kind of like 500 home runs used to.
Jeter probably punched his Hall of Fame ticket a long time ago, but this will serve as validation.
Gosh, you think he’ll get in? I’m not sure!
Yea he’s never won an MVP, or a batting title, has been labeled the worst defensive shortstop in the game by some, and consistently appears on baseball’s overrated lists year in and year out.
Derek Jeter got jobbed in 1999 and arguably again in 2006. He should have at least one MVP. Nobody cares about batting titles — I mean, seriously? I remember 2009. You’re telling me that if Joe Mauer had gone 0-for-whatever on the last day of the season, that would improve Jeter’s Hall of Fame case? That’s looney-tunes.
Derek Jeter is stunningly overrated, and this not unrelated to his having five gold gloves while being the worst defensive shortstop in baseball by literally every single metric.
I am not the biggest Jeter guy. Never have been, but even I have to laugh at the overrated thing. I mean really? Are you paying attention at all? Perhaps it’s jealousy. Maybe it’s all the winning or the attention that comes with it, or perhaps it’s the girls he’s been rumored to be with.
Nah. Defense. But thanks anyhow for the weird aspersions cast on the characters of thousands of people you don’t know.
Let’s face it. It’s probably pretty cool being Derek Jeter.
Sure. Rich, famous, idol of millions. One of the best shortstops ever. Is he still boning Minka Kelly? That’s not bad either.
And here we are faced with the fact that Jeter could reach this milestone on the road. In Wrigley Field of all places where the Yankees head for the first leg of the six-game trip that will wind down with three games in Cincinnati, the city that the team named him their 11th captain back in 2003.
Did you just have a seizure? What the hell did you just type?
Is it possible for Jeter to get seven hits in four games.
Is it possible for you to use the correct punctuation at the end of your sentences. Also: seven hits in four games? Possible, sure. He’ll get probably 18 PA or so. But Jeter’s averaging just over one hit per game this year, so it’s not the way to bet.
But I’m sorry. I’m sure you were just about to say that, yes?
Sure. He’s done it countless times throughout his career. He actually had seven hits in a three- game series against Texas earlier in the year. Now he has to do it again.
Oh. Or you could say… that. By the way, as I’m writing this, Derek Jeter has just been pulled from tonight’s game with "an apparent leg injury." Not clear to me what that means, but I’ll bet it impacts his chances of duplicating the legendary seven-hits-in-three-games feat he once performed.
If I had to place money on this happening before the Yanks leave town, I’d bet on Jeter.
I would take that bet. I mean, even if he hadn’t been hurt. His hits/game this year is so far below what he needs to make the cutoff that I’d almost certainly end up one your-money richer.
Why? Because there hasn’t been a player who has embraced the big moment and has been aware of it more than Jeter in my time following baseball.
My friend, you are the kind of man bookies live for. Also, what about this "Big David Papi Ortiz" fellow I’ve heard so much about? I thought "big moments" were supposedly a specialty of his.
The biggest reason I think he’s going to do it, though, is because he always comes through.
Derek Jeter’s 2011 WPA: -1.1. Derek Jeter has cost the Yankees more than one win by not coming through in big situations this year.
That’s why he is such a big deal, because he always seems to deliver in the biggest spots possible.
In the 2001 World Series, Derek Jeter went .148 / .179 / .259 / .438. In game seven, Jeter struck out, flew out, grounded out, and singled. The Yankees lost.
Jeter homered in his first game as a regular, he hit the Jeffrey Maier home run, he became Mr. November when New York as a city was at its lowest point, heck he even passed Gehrig on the eight-year anniversary of 9/11.
No, when New York was "at its lowest point," he did that stuff I mentioned in the last paragraph. But, yes, he does have multiple home runs in his career.
I’m quite sure he is more aware of the fact that the Yanks hit the road for six games after these next four games than you may think.
What? Here’s an article from yesterday — the day before you wrote your… thing — in some obscure regional paper that I expect is from the Japanese city of Usa in which Derek Jeter talks all about how he wants to get his 3000th hit at home. You’re not stumbling on some unknown psychological insight here, clown.
It’s funny that a player whose sole inevitable enshrinement to the Hall of Fame is based mostly on intangibles and team accomplishments, is now going to be celebrated for a statistical achievement.
No, I’m serious: what?
Derek Jeter is one of the best shortstops of all time. This is not based on his "intangibles," or on what his teammates have done, but on the fact that Derek Jeter has been very, very good at baseball for a very long time. Do you know where he ranks among position players in WAR all-time? 55th, which is very good. Do you know how many active players are above him? Four: Thome, Chipper, Pujols, and A-Rod. Do you know how many are shortstops? Six: Arky Vaughan, Bill Dahlen, Robin Yount (for half his career), Cal Ripken Jr., George Davis, and Honus Wagner. Derek Jeter is the seventh-best shortstop of all time, and his career isn’t over — he could still plausibly pass Vaughan, Dahlen, and Yount. No, Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame case is absolutely built on statistics, because he’s been fucking incredible for a pretty long time. Where are you getting this?
(He’s 25th all-time in offensive WAR, and miles ahead of all other shortstops except Wagner. Derek Jeter is a phenomenal hitter. His poor defense has bitten him in the ass to some extent.)
The ridiculous talk will soon begin of where he belongs among the all-time Yankee greats. I personally don’t put him anywhere near the top. A Hall of Fame player for sure, but he is not even the best Yankee of this generation. That is a spot saved for the great Mariano Rivera, who is not only the best Yankee of this generation, I argue he may be the best player period of this generation. That is a different argument for a different day.
No, let’s have it now.
Mariano Rivera, career WAR: 54.1
Derek Jeter, career WAR: 70
Alex Rodriguez, career WAR: 104.4
Mariano Rivera has been amazing. Best relief pitcher of all time, bar none. But still: he’s a relief pitcher. Jeter and A-Rod have been vastly more valuable than Mo, and Barry Bonds (this will blow your mind) was as valuable as Derek Jeter and A-Rod put together:
Barrold Lamar Bonds, career WAR: 171.8
I mean, sure, you can argue that being the "greatest Yankee" or even the "greatest player" of your generation is not about what you actually do while playing baseball, but, rather, that it’s about your heart, and your intestines, and how much you "mean" to the team and your amazing "moments," such as how Mariano Rivera singlehandedly lost the 2001 World Series to the Diamondbacks, and exploded two nights in a row in the 2004 ALCS to give the Red Sox a pass to their first championship in 86 years. But if you do, I get to call you a lug nut.
You lug nut.
No offense to Jeter, but when it comes to the all-time Yankee greats, he is sitting at the children’s table, while Babe Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra dine in style.
Babe Ruth, career WAR: 190 (1st all-time)
Lou Gherig, career WAR: 118.4 (16th)
Joe DiMaggio, career WAR: 83.6 (49th)
Mickey Mantle, career WAR: 120.2 (15th)
Yogi Berra, career WAR: 61.9 (140th)
And, once again:
Derek Jeter, career WAR: 70 (82nd)
He doesn’t belong in that group? I’m glad it’s not up to me to be the gatekeeper of the official Yankee Greats Clubhouse, because the criteria don’t make any fucking sense at all.
Either way I want the moment. Cal Ripken passing Gehrig was a big deal. Barry Bonds surpassing Hank Aaron should have been a big deal. It turned out to be a sham. This one is going to be nuts, even though it is something that has happened 27 other times.
That might be the dumbest paragraph in your whole article. Petulant, contentless, badly written.
Okay, no. The best one is still the one where you just typed some random nonsense words about Wrigley Field and Cincinnati and captains.
Selfishly I am hoping he either goes crazy and gets it in the next two days or goes into a major slump until about June 23rd, because more than likely I am going to be on a cruise somewhere in the Eastern Caribbean at the time he finally gets it.
Uh. Okay. Have fun on your trip! Don’t think too hard.
It probably serves me right. While I respect everything he’s done, I’ve just never been a big Jeter guy. Although, my kids have about five Jeter shirts and jerseys. So, it’s probably fitting that baseball gods seem to have gotten together in order for me to miss this.
Thankfully there is DVR.
Why are we talking about this? Nobody cares.
But like it won’t be the same if he gets it anywhere other than Yankee Stadium, it won’t be the same watching it however many days after it has already happened.
I see now that the life of a true Yankees fan is a difficult one.
You seen the Wii U promo video from E3? That’s not really what I came here to talk about. What I came to talk about is this oddball bit at the very beginning, where this kid’s playing Mario and his dad’s like "hey, time for baseball" and just like shuts the game off, and then they watch this hilariously fake baseball game:
I sure hope the Whites beat the Blues! But never mind that. Do you see anything in this picture that seems off at all? I mean, other than the general half-assedness of the whole thing. Anything in particular? Here, I’ve circled the bit I’m talking about:
Fruit & Fruit? Fuck the heck? And what about that typeface? And the logo style? Have we seen this somewhere before? If only I could remember where…
Oh. I see. Naughty, naughty, Nintendo! Either you’re trying to sell gay sex toys to the innocent children of America, or else you’re making insensitive jokes about gay people and sex toys. And if there’s one thing I learned while I was in Uganda, it’s that being gay is bad, but lying is worse. So admit it, Nintendo!
Hate to break up LeBrongate 2.0 for a baseball post, but Kevin Kaduk absolutely loves the idea of divisional realignment in baseball. Loves it. Loves it so much he’s even willing to make up nonsense reasons why it would be great. Such as:
Best realignment possibility? Astros and Rangers sharing a division
Yeah, that’ll be exciting. All twelve of their fans would be thrilled.
ESPN’s Buster Olney stirred things up a bit over the weekend, reporting that Major League Baseball is considering a realignment that would leave each league with an even 15 teams and completely wipe out the divisions. The top five teams would make the postseason and, with an odd number of teams in each league, interleague play would be a constant on the schedule.
I still think that’s pointless and short-sighted, but it’s nice to see somebody finally noticing that two fifteen-team leagues would have to play a ton of interleague games. Even if it is just Olney.
The Houston Astros would be the one team calling the figurative moving vans as it’s presumed they’d be plucked from the six-team NL Central and placed into the now-skimpy AL West (which currently only hosts four teams).
That would be a weird choice, especially since, you know, once they’ve wiped out the divisions there’d be no need to thin the NL Central or pad the AL West, right? Am I the only one who’s noticed this?
Initial positive reaction: Evening out the leagues is a great and necessary idea, though MLB’s schedule-makers are probably already waking up in a cold sweat over the mere thought of reconfiguring the standard road trip.
People love to make this claim. Evening out the leagues is great and necessary why? So the moribund Cubs can be in fifth place in a five-team division instead of a six-team division? Oh, wait, but we’re getting rid of divisions, huh. So it’s really for Great Justice; what we’d be accomplishing is saving the Astros from the indignity of finishing in sixteenth place by moving them into a different league so they can be in fifteenth place instead. Which is obviously more fair. How do you baseball fucks live with yourselves knowing that you’re unfairly depriving the Astros of this privilege?
And as Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi writes, the Astros are the only logical candidate to switch stripes, even if their fans and players say they prefer to stay in the NL.
What? No, that’s wrong. Arlington — where the Rangers play — is only FF miles from Houston. That puts two teams in the same league very near each other and leaves no teams in the other league in or even very near Texas. Milwaukee is the obvious choice (they were in the AL until rather recently, in fact). Though, frankly, if the fans and players really do prefer that they stay in the NL, why don’t we do that instead of smoothing out the aesthetics to suit journalists?
(The one point where I sympathize with their gripe is the time zone conundrum: Those games in Oakland, Anaheim and Seattle will start awful late, though fans of the Texas Rangers have been doing it for years.)
Kevin. Listen to me slowly. This plan involves getting rid of divisions. The Astros would not be playing more games on the west coast, because dummy sportswriters care more about the theoretical unfairness of the unbalanced schedule than about what fans or teams want. That is the whole point of the arbitrary rebuild. Please try to pay attention.
Initial negative reaction: Hate, hate, HATE the idea of nuking the divisions.
Oh. I see. So you like everything about this plan, except for the plan itself. That’s good. Good thinkin’.
While Rob Neyer thinks we’ll soldier on just fine with a "first division" of five teams, I will submit that there’s nothing quite like saying you’re on your way to watch a first-place team. Why would baseball eliminate six races for first and opt for two races for fifth instead? No matter what you think about the value of a division title, we can all agree that no one is going to raise a flag saying they finished fifth one year.
This. This exactly. Fans do not care about the (actually very tiny) element of unfairness in the divisional system. They do care — a lot — about their team being in first or second place as opposed to fifth or seventh place. It’s more fun. Gets people more interested in the game. Rockies fans can be interested in the team — they’ve had a rough start, but, hell, they’re still in third! Only five games out, right? In the "divisionless" NL, they’d be eleventh. And everyone would stop paying attention.
At any rate, combine both of those takes above and we’re left with my ideal situation and a very underrated dynamic that would be created by placing both Texas teams in the AL West.
Oh. I see. So your "ideal situation" would be to get the NL the hell out of Texas, mash the Astros into a league they don’t want to be in, make their fans stay up really late because most of their games would start two hours later, eliminate the Astros-Cubs and Astros-Cardinals rivalries entirely and just hope Astros-Mariners would catch on, and the payoff would be… what, actually? Cui bono?
Think about this for a second: By pairing the Astros and Rangers, baseball will finally create a great regional rivalry in that gaping hole between St. Louis and the West Coast.
Kansas City: 94°58’W
Pretty sure Kevin Kaduk just gave a big f-you to the Royals right there.
The two teams are located about 250 miles apart from each other and handcuffing them together would give the Lone Star State — long considered an outpost by the rest of the league — an increased relevance and focus.
To the American League, maybe. It would close it off from the National League altogether.
Dedicated baseball fans in Texas often don’t get enough credit,
They have a hard time getting credit these days given how often they’ve wrecked the truck and then defaulted on Jimbo’s loan.
but a close race between the teams would give them a bigger spotlight, plus an opportunity to needle opposing fans in the flesh. That’s just something that doesn’t happen right now with both teams being the geographical anomaly in their current divisions.
2011 Texas rangers: 36 – 31, 1st place
2011 Houston Astros: 24 – 42, 6th place
That’s something that wouldn’t happen right now regardless.
Nothing. But as a close second I’d pick Dan Wetzel’s juvenile LeBron James article. And since I’ve spent the last four solid days making fun of nothing, I suppose I should move on.
LeBron’s failure warms Cleveland’s heart
You stay classy, Dan.
Late Sunday night, a crowd of Clevelanders gathered here to watch their onetime hero turned all-time traitor, and with each disinterested LeBron offensive possession, each failed LeBron chase down of Jason Terry, each embarrassing LeBron crunch-time turnover, the prevailing emotion was simple.
Disinterested! Embarrassing! Traitor! These are all technical basketball terms that mean "A-Rod."
They weren’t hating LeBron here. They were laughing at him.
But why were they laughing at him? Was it because he was wearing a red foam-rubber nose and spraying Dirk Nowitzki in the face with seltzer during free-throw attempts? Or perhaps because, like Ron Artest, he’s doing a stand-up comedy tour?
Oh, wait, no. They were laughing at him because they hate him, huh. They hate him because he left their pissant little town and moved to Miami, where he was such a gutless choker that he only managed to get his team to the Finals, where they only won two games. And how good was LeBron James? Please. He only barely led the entire NBA in win shares. And in playoff win shares. But he came up small when it counted, climaxing in a dramatic game six in which he was only the second-best player on his own team. Seriously, did Dwayne Wade even show up for that game? Where are the "Wade is a giant choker" articles?
(Meanwhile, the LeBron-less Cavs were a conference-worst 19-63. Good riddance, L-Rod!)
LeBron started it, of course, laughing at Cleveland nearly a year ago when he took himself to a Boys and Girls Club in Connecticut of all places to announce on national television that he was taking his talents to South Beach.
That was pretty weird, I agree. What I don’t think it was: a deliberate, calculated fuck-you to Cleveland.
That South Beach has about a million nightclubs and technically no basketball arena said it all.
Personally, I’d say that the Cavs going 19-63 and the Heat making the Finals says more.
All over Flannery’s and places like it across Ohio, they cracked oft-told jokes. ("I asked LeBron for a dollar, he gave me 75 cents back. He doesn’t have a fourth quarter.")
I asked A-Rod for a dollar. He grounded into a double play instead. Suck it, A-Rod! Ya burnt!
"They showed pictures on their cell phones mocking LeBron for a quitter."
"For" a quitter? Shouldn’t a professional writer not write like he’s ten years old? Wait, no, better question: shouldn’t you have an editor?
Bartenders rang bells and shouted things like, "Last call for LeBron."
I’m pretty sure that, just like A-Rod, he’ll get tossed out of the league for not quite winning a championship single-handedly in a team sport in a year in which he led the league in, like, everything.
They mostly reveled in the beauty of a night right out of their wildest dreams, LeBron coming up small on the biggest of stages, standing around as lesser talents on the Dallas Mavericks blocked his shortcut to a NBA title, winning the game 105-95, the series 4-2.
Yeah, fuck you, LeBron. Choker. You think you’re such a big shit? That new team of yours is good? Well, here’s a hard dose of reality for you: your supposedly "great" team only won two games in the Finals. Meanwhile, the gritty, gutsy, hard-playing no-nonsense types you left behind for your team that never got any closer than 78.3% likely to win the championship won nineteen games! And did they choke in the playoffs? No they did not. So really, fuck you, LeBron. Or, as my new friends the Ugandans would say: hasa diga LeBron!
This was the girlfriend that dumped you getting dumped herself – only live in HD while an entire city toasted her comeuppance.
No hatred here.
"He can’t blame the supporting cast," Cavs fan Keith Clapacs said. "He can’t blame Mike Brown. There’s no excuses. Ball’s in your hand and you didn’t do it. It’s your elimination game, and Jason Kidd is diving on the floor for loose balls? You’re losing the hustle plays, committing turnovers?"
Dwayne Wade committed almost as many turnovers in game six as LeBron — five to six — while posting miserable field goal (.375) and three-point (.000!) rates, and one more personal foul (3 to 2). Offensively, LeBron was way, way more valuable than Wade. Can he blame Wade, then?
"It’s the whole too-cool-to-care thing. He was too cool to care."
Caring about the Finals is uncool, so LeBron didn’t bother. That’s the theory here. Clearly it’s not uncool to care about the regular-season, where LeBron led the entire NBA in win shares and win shares/48 minutes. Or the playoffs, either, which he led in win shares regardless of his kind of smelly Finals. No, the only thing that’s uncool is caring about game six of the Finals — and since we established through logic and science that all LeBron cares about is going out to clubs, that coolness matters to him. Finally winning a championship would seem positively gauche.
From Miami, LeBron would later send his message to them, to the folks enjoying his failure.
"At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail – at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today," James said. "They have the same personal problems they had today …
"They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point."
Kind of weirdly melodramatic, but the dude’s taking a lot of thoughtless flak from assholes like Dan Wetzel lately.
A sentiment to which Ryan Smith, an insulation installer from Mentor, Ohio, with a Jameson on the rocks in front of him, offered this simple response:
"[Expletive] LeBron James."
Does Ryan Smith from Mentor, Ohio choke in pressure situations? Fuck no. Once, while installing some insulation, Larry dropped the caulking gun. And did Ryan choke? No sir — he manned up, picked up that caulking gun, and closed the book on that fibreglass sheet. Like a boss.
Also, Dan, since you clearly know you can’t swear in print, maybe try finding quotes for your article that include stuff other than swear words. When you redact the whole thing like that you kind of look like a boob.
Perhaps there’s no greater example of the life of a Cleveland sports fan than watching a series not involving your team so you can root for someone to lose.
I for one have never just rooted for the Fat Louis Fatinals to lose. Nor do I know any Red Sox fans who have ever rooted against the Yankees. Nor any Patriots fans rooting against the Colts. And I certainly don’t know a Chargers fan who hates the Patriots with every fibre of his being. You’re 100% on the money, Dan Wetzel — rooting against a team you hate is a phenomenon exclusive to Cleveland.
No city has lost like this one, not a single major professional sports championship since 1964, when the Browns won a pre-Super Bowl NFL title.
My city doesn’t even have a team. So, while we certainly haven’t been losing, we ain’t exactly won neither. And I can’t go to any games, even if it is just to bitch and whine that my team only makes the ALCS every five years or so.
You want collapses? The 1997 World Series is as bad as anything the Cubs or Red Sox ever dealt with. It’s just this city doesn’t have the media poets to chronicle it like Chicago or Boston.
Bullshit. Bull fucking shit, Dan Wetzel. The Indians didn’t "collapse" in the 1997 World Series — they won games 2, 4, and 6. That’s what we call "going back and forth." Or do you mean game seven? Not much of a collapse either — they lost 3-2 in extras on a two-out, bases-loaded Edgar Renteria single. Do you know what "collapse" means? Because, really, that ain’t it.
A collapse is what happened to the 2003 Cubs, who were up 3-1 in the NLCS before pissing it away. And in the pivotal game six, brought a 3-1 lead into the eighth, got five outs from the World Series, and then allowed the Marlins (coincidentally) to spin a costly error on a routine double play ball and fan interference on a shallow fly into a seven-run inning.
Or how about the Red Sox that same year? When they also pulled up to five outs from the pennant before Grady Little reckoned it was smart to put a wiped-out Pedro Martinez back on the mound in the eighth to rack up 123 pitches, and he gave up three runs? And then Aaron Boone — he of the 9.5 career WAR — chunked a Tim Wakefield knuckler (the first pitch of the half) into the stands to complete the kill?
Or what about the Yankees in 2004? Now that was a collapse.
And then there was this, LeBron James, the local kid from Akron, the one who claimed he understood your heartache, the one you defended for years, the one that was finally going to deliver sporting glory. He bails for some fair-weather sports town and an arena full of white-covered chairs with pretty people who can’t even be bothered to watch the game while it’s going on.
Did I mention that the Cavs won nineteen games this year? Perhaps LeBron bailed because he was sick of wasting his prime years on a franchise that wouldn’t or couldn’t get any other good players.
Yet LeBron’s take, the same one that too often has been bandied about nationally, doesn’t begin to understand the emotions in Cleveland.
NOBODY UNDERSTANDS MY PAIN
It’s too trite and small to view Cleveland as some bottomed-out, post-industrial postcard to the past.
That’s true. It’s better to view Cleveland as yet another mid-sized city being devoured by its own government.
These aren’t all people trapped in awful times or terrible circumstances or living small lives in jealousy of LeBron’s big one.
Not all of them, no. Just all the ones Dan Wetzel wants to talk about.
There’s money here. There is success in Cleveland. There is contentment. As sure as there are poor in Miami, as sure as the VIP area of the Mansion Nightclub isn’t the full reality of South Florida, neither is some boarded-up East Cleveland warehouse the story here.
There are doctors and lawyers and entrepreneurs and financial planners and artists and teachers and dreamers and, yes, insulation installers. ("In the column can you mention the company, Pure Seal Inc.?")
There are happy families and neighborhoods and the American Dream in full view. There are plenty of people who don’t have any personal problems who are quite content to keep their talents in Cleveland, a place they love just the way it is.
What the hell is this? You aren’t writing the Great American Sports Column, Dan Wetzel. Get back to whinging about how much LeBron James offended your head.
The Cavs drew people together, city and suburb, white and black, rich and poor. They also connected family and friends. They gave reason to send a text message to someone you had drifted away from. They provided a reason to share an experience with your parents or your children or both. They offered an excuse to catch a game with a high school buddy.
Also they gave LeBron James like literally no supporting cast at all. Maybe if the Cavs were more serious about building a good franchise rather than just milking their local superstar for all he’s worth, he’d have been more keen to stay.
LeBron James had the right to leave. And Cleveland has the right to laugh.
Didn’t you just get through maudlining a long-winded rant at me about how Clevelanders aren’t all the same and don’t all fit into the hackneyed stereotypes lazy journalists like to write? And then this. Well, you have the right to be a hack and a hypocrite. And I have the right to make fun of you for it.