The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet


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Los Angeles racism bites Milton Bradley in the ass

That’s how I imagine he’d like to spin his recent arrest and subsequent release on $50k bail, allegedly for violating California penal code section 422, dealing with "any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person."

Now, first of all, yeah, that law is pretty nuts. So I can sympathise with Milton there. A year in jail and $50k bail for telling somebody you’re going to break his face off? I’ve violated that law like six times already today. And, just in case you’re thinking it wouldn’t apply to me, since I was only kidding in 65% of those cases, it applies to any threat "even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out." So there’s basically no burden of proof. If the dude you allegedly threatened was scared, boom. A year in prison. Fuck your first amendment, pinko.

On the other hand, though… Milton, Milton, Milton. Are you ever going to learn to keep your crazy face shut?

And, on the gripping hand, lol@Mariners.


January 19th, 2011 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

State of the Wood

When I was new to the workforce lo these many years since, I was given to significant reliability problems. By which I mean I used to call out of work a lot. Pretty much whenever I didn’t feel like going to work, in fact. Which was all the damn time. I never bothered making convincing excuses, either; I’d do that bit we all learned from Ferris Bueller where you make your voice all feeble and shaky, and I’d tell my boss I have a dire case of Monkey Pox and I’m far too sick to fold boxes on the assembly line, but I’m sure it’ll be better tomorrow so don’t bother finding coverage. Then I’d go back to playing Dragon Warrior 7 like I’d been doing all day.

This changed for two reasons. Reason one is that I finally learned that work is not school. See, I got a job right out of college, and I’d never had a job before except bullshit campus jobs where I worked like three hours a week and nobody cared what I did. So I was thinking of this whole "work" thing like it was the New Game+ mode of school. I never went to school if I had a pressing appointment with the Nintendo, so why go to work? It was a few years before I finally got to grips with the fact that, although skipping school is 100% upside, skipping work carries the nontrivial disadvantage of they don’t pay you. And if they don’t pay you, not only can you not buy any new video games, but you cannot in fact even pay the rent. And if you don’t pay the rent, you’ll quickly find yourself devoid of any place to plug the N64 in. So eventually I realised that, while I could spend more time playing Mischief Makers today, eventually I’d find myself on the street selling pencils out of a cup to raise money for my Game Boy battery fund. The other reason is because I finished Dragon Warrior 7 and sometimes I can’t tell if anything worth playing has come out since then.

By which I mean Bioshock Infinite’s out. You played that? I haven’t. The original Bioshock was way too infinite for me as it was. The world’s most rudimentary shooter mechanics stretched around a completely meatwitted plot. Also there is Pipe Dream. But don’t worry: I hear Bioshock Infinite is about racism! I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to come up with a theoretical reality in which that ends well. As for me, hey, if I wanted to play an utterly derivative, repetitive game with a cutesy visual style while simultaneously being lectured about what out-of-touch game developers consider deep social issues, I still have a copy of Braid.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is out too. It might be fun. I don’t really know, though; I played about ten minutes of it, after which my wife seized the 3DS and ran off with it. As I write this, she’s huddled up in the corner chanting about it in weird languages. So either she likes it or else the preorder bonus was an actual real ghost. I’ll update this post either way when I figure out this encounter’s gimmick.


April 3rd, 2013 Posted by | Games | no comments

I am not a racialist! But!

Over at Baseball: Past and Present, they did a thing. Isn’t that interesting? But wait, there’s more! Said thing was a project to collect the best potential sandlot team of players of all time. A few hundred votes were solicited from ballplayers, sports bloggers, and interested onlookers, and they were tallied, and the results are here, complete with pretty pictures and nice little blurbs. Interesting stuff; you should check it out.

But that’s as may be. What I’m here to talk about is racism, or, as they call it on the internet: RACISM!!! If you’re a bit sharp — and if you actually read the thing back when I told you to — you’ve likely noticed the long sad-sack rant entitled "a note on the absence of black players." Long story short: eight of the nine players chosen are white, this is because all of us fuckhead voters are racist assholes, and so they asked the president of the Negro League Museum to please forgive us for being such horrible people. Let’s talk about why this is stupid.

First off, here’s the all-time dream team, as selected by a bunch of awful racists like me:

P — Walter Johnson
C — Johnny Bench
1B — Lou Gehrig
2B — Rogers Hornsby
3B — Mike Schmidt
SS — Honus Wagner
LF — Ted Williams
CF — Willie Mays
RF — Babe Ruth

You’ll forgive me if I fail to see which of these horrible white guys is hopelessly out of place on this list. And that’s the rub, innit? You can’t say that this list should have more black players without saying it should have fewer white players. No black player deserves to be on this list unless one of those white players doesn’t. So which one is it? Let’s take a look, shall we?

First of all, I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any great black catchers or third basemen. Well, okay, Roy Campanella was pretty good, but had half of Johnny Bench’s career rWAR — 36.2 to 71.3. Not really in the same category of "greatness," and that’s even before you consider the many ways in which Johnny Bench changed the way his position is played. Which I guess you really shouldn’t for a list like this. So never mind that part.

Here’s a list from Fangraphs of all catchers ever, sorted by career fWAR. Whose name is on top? Oh. Is it particularly close? Oh. Does the top of that list look very heavy on black players? I guess not, huh. How did the balloting turn out, I hear you wondering? Johnny Bench’s closest competitor was Josh Gibson, who got 123 votes, beat out Yogi Berra and Mike Piazza, and never ever actually played in the Majors. That’s right, food friends: a Negro League catcher finished second in balloting, and we’re all racist fucks because a white guy who actually played in the Majors beat him.

Okay, so never mind catcher. What about my rash claim that there aren’t many great black third basemen? Knock yourself out. You have to go all the way down to, what, Adrian Beltre to find a black player? And he’s from the Dominican Republic, and we all know what Torii Hunter thinks about those people. For pity’s sake, there weren’t even any black players on the list we picked from during balloting. So maybe we can get a pass on third base too.

What about pitchers? Surely there have been some great black pitchers. What about Pedro Martinez? I mean, he finished third in the balloting. Or Bob Gibson? He finished fourth. Hell, Satchel Paige made the top ten, and he only pitched 476 innings in his entire career! All three of these men finished higher than Roger Clemens, Warren Spahn, Christy Matthewson, and even Jack Morris (thank you so much, troll who wrote Morris in).

At first base, honestly, Gehrig and Pujols are so great that they got almost all the votes between just the two of them. Is that where we went wrong? Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas, and Hank Greenberg are all obviously better players than, um, Albert Pujols and Lou Gehrig, and we just didn’t pick them because we’re shitheads? By fWAR:

Lou Gehrig: 125.9
Albert Pujols: 87.7 (not retired or killed yet)
Willie McCovey: 75.8
Frank Thomas: 76.2
Hank Greenberg: 68.2

The injustice is what now? We should have ignored the huge difference in value and voted for the black guy? Hmm.

Second base is where you have the best shot at claiming funny business. Not because Rogers Hornsby wasn’t all-time great — because he was — but because one Joseph Leonard Morgan was also made of liquid brilliance. Fangraphs gives a big lead to Hornsby, though, with 134.9 career fWAR to Morgan’s 108. BR has a smaller gap, but still puts Hornsby in front. Bill James picked Morgan over Hornsby. The point is: they’re both great. And, to be sure, they finished 1-2 at the top of the pack. Where’s the racism? It’s not like Morgan finished behind Darwin Barney.

Shortstops. Let’s get this out of the way: the best black shortstop of all time is Derek Jeter. Sorry, fans of not being fans of Derek Jeter; it’s just the case. But even Captain Baseball has a problem, which is: the unreasonable complete dominance of the game of baseball exhibited by Honus Wagner. Jeter is in the "best shortstops ever" discussion, no problem. But Wagner makes the list of "best three or four baseball players ever, at all, ever." He has 149.8 fWAR. That’s a silly, cartoon number. It is, thanks to God having a sense of humour even as regards His son Derek, exactly twice Derek Jeter’s career fWAR. So if you platooned a second Derek Jeter right next to the first one — maybe like a mirror image, so that one could get stuff to his left — you’d have Honus Wagner. But think how black he would be!

Yeah, okay, you can make an argument for Barry Bonds over Ted Williams. I agree. I’d probably even agree with you (I voted for Bonds). Fangraphs has Bonds ahead of Williams by almost thirty WAR — 168.2 to 139.8. So: racism, then? Or can you think of some other reason why Barry Bonds might miss out on votes? Hmm. Hmmmmm. Further research: Roger Clemens got only 23 votes. I’m assuming that’s because he was black also.

Right field: you’re having a laugh. Yes, I agree, Hank Aaron was crazy great. But you’re still having a laugh.

So where is the racial prejudice, then? Which of those selections is a horrible injustice? You can’t just say we need more black people on the list without excluding some of those white players who, based on objective data, appear to be better. Oh, and, incidentally? Ty Cobb beats Willie Mays in both fWAR and rWAR. What do you suppose the reaction would be if I wrote an article complaining that only racism could explain why this list isn’t 100% white guys?

This knee-jerk calling of racism is not only intellectually lazy, it’s also exactly in opposition to what we profess to believe in when we claim to be in support of statistical analysis. Given all the time we spend telling people that, no, Brandon Inge’s hustle and determination are not enough — Miguel Cabrera is the better player, how can we just turn around and say, hey, clearly this whole policy of evaluating results dispassionately is bullshit since it didn’t put the players on top who we wanted to see on top? That’s awful. Awful thinking. The fact is, to the best of our ability to judge, reality has refused to conform to the politically-correct narrative. It just so happens that the very very best players at each position have, to date, predominantly been white. To refuse to recognise that because it doesn’t fit our prearranged conclusion is to betray the entire sabermetric ideal, and also pretty goddamn racist itself if you think about it for ten goddamn seconds.

I have enough respect for the 600-or-so voters on this project that I won’t just assume they all looked at these lists and said GET THESE GODDAMN DARKIES OUT OF MY BASEBALL ALREADY! Does the guy who wrote this really not agree? He really thinks we all just hate black people, and that’s why we think Babe Ruth is good? We need to get beyond this insane collectivist fantasy. You can’t say this list was influenced by racism without saying that the people who voted made their judgments based on race. They are joined at the hip. Another way in which collectivism has ruined your brain: if you assume that there should be equal representation of whites and blacks on this list, you’re mad. Baseball is not played by collectivist abstractions; it’s played by individuals with different skillsets. There’s no reason to believe that, in such a tiny, tiny sample, you’ll have some type of racial homogeneity, especially when you consider how we actually evaluate players.

All sophisticated methods of player evaluation evaluate players relative to their peers. So when we say that Babe Ruth was worth 177.7 wins above replacement, what is "replacement?" Replacement is, in this context, the value contributed by the player Ruth would have been replaced with if he suddenly got eaten by a terrifying bog monster. In a modern context, that would mean the average value of a AAA player at the proper position; in the olden days, the structure was less formal, but the concept holds. So what are we not saying? We’re not saying that if Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds were both suddenly sucked out of time and forced to play a one-on-one game against each other (assuming there were such a thing), Ruth would be the clear winner. We don’t know that. Can’t know that.
There’s no way to separate their achievements from context.

Why does this matter? Because baseball has grown substantially. We now know a lot more about how to become a good baseball player, and about how to select good baseball players for teams. Major League teams are no longer full of dudes who were picked up playing on sandlots in Iowa and then handed a ball and told to go start the game. In other words: the playing field is a lot more level these days, which means — and this is important! — it is much harder to be way, way better than your peers than it was a hundred years ago. So it should be no surprise that the majority of the best numbers come from ancient times, when the average level of play was much lower than it is now.

And no black players were allowed in the league back then. So no black players had the chance to put up the same kind of gaudy numbers relative to such a low standard. This doesn’t require either analysts or math to be horribly racist and awful; it’s just the logical consequence of what actually happened in history. Trying to pretend it is otherwise doesn’t make you look like a really with-it, racially-tolerant dude; it makes you look like a complete goofball.

Oh, and. I’m not finished yet. Is it to anybody’s credit to perpetuate this stupid, simplistic, white-black view of race? Honus Wagner wasn’t called the Dutchman because he wasn’t Dutch, after all. Lou Gehrig was the son of German immigrants. But they’re just exactly the same, right? And so are all the others? And this is progress. I see.


April 18th, 2012 Posted by | Baseball, Bullshit | no comments

That boy ain’t right

Alex Remington is a pretty smart guy. Knows a lot about baseball numbers. Unfortunately for the world, he would rather write endless cloying articles about how unjust baseball is — and that’s socially unjust, which, as most people who don’t know anything about anything will tell you, is the worst kind. Here’s the new polemic, in which Alex utterly fails to see the forest for one big fucking tree. Let’s take a closer look!

Milton Bradley and the "Race Card"

Do you see what I put myself through for you people? You better appreciate this.

"In 1987, on deck in Boston, and I was called an Alabama porch monkey… I’d like to be able to say yes [to the question of whether racism has declined], but my mail and my telephone calls suggest otherwise."
– White Sox GM and former White Sox center fielder Kenny Williams, September 22, 2009

Kenny Williams is an idiot and I don’t care what he thinks, but it’s worth noting that this quote adds nothing to the article no matter how many doubts you give him the benefit of. Fans of the opposing team trying to get under a hitter’s skin and distract him? Say not so, Kenneth! Oh, and it was in 1987. Topical. Current.

"I was a prisoner in my own home."
– Milton Bradley, March 9, 2010

Somehow I don’t think there were gangs of white supremacists hanging out in Milton’s neighborhood and forcing him to stay indoors. I mean, I guess maybe there were.

Milton Bradley was a complicated man. The usual word was "controversial"; it accompanied stories about him as often as the phrase "race card."

The usual word, actually, was "asshole." It’s just something that gets edited out of print articles is all, Alex.

Bradley was rarely happy and always seemed to mention race, appearing time and again in stories in which he criticized people for making racially inappropriate remarks.

Let’s see if we can unpack an important truth from this statement. So Bradley always mentions race. Bradley is frequently cited accusing other people of racism. Hmm. Nope, nothing yet. Let’s hold on to this for later.

I think that the frequency of these stories tended to dilute their impact.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be particularly impacted by any alleged adult whining about other dudes being mean to him.

Many people found it hard to take Bradley seriously — he was frequently awful, and it was easy to believe that he was just blaming other people for his problems.

But how could that be? If there’s one thing I learned from The Curious Case of Luis Castillo, it’s that black people never suck at baseball. The only reason our stupid white data thinks they do is because it’s fucking racist.

But with Bradley, it was never just about baseball. "Me being an African-American is the most important thing to me — more important than baseball," he told USA Today in 2005, during an interview in which he said his teammate Jeff Kent "doesn’t know how to deal with African-American people." Most people viewed this episode as yet another example of Bradley sounding off.

Another bit of info for our file: Milton Bradley considered being black more important than playing baseball. Milton Bradley also said that his problems with Jeff Kent weren’t caused by Jeff Kent not liking him, but by Jeff Kent having a problem with all black people.

But that may have been unfair to Bradley. Kent was disliked by many of his teammates, and in 2001, Salon’s Joan Walsh asked why Jeff Kent received more favorable media coverage than teammate Barry Bonds, despite the fact that both were rather famous for being jerks.

Hmm. Why steroids would the media be less favourable to Barry steroids Bonds than Jeff porn mustache Kent? I have no steroids idea. Must be steroids racism, then.

"The two crucial differences between Bonds and Kent: One is that while Kent may not chat up fans and kids or make nice with his teammates, he always talks to the media," wrote Walsh. "The other key difference is that Kent is white and Bonds is black."

Hmm. Hmmmmmm. Now, I realise I’m white, and therefore automatically racist, but doesn’t it seem like one of these differences is perhaps more key than the other?

There are two crucial differences between the Core i7 and the 80088. One is that the Core i7 is much, much better at everything that’s actually germane to this discussion. The other is that the 80088 has more 8s in its name. So clearly tech writers are all 8ists. QED

Later in the interview about Kent, Bradley expressed the belief that many people refuse to see racial tension before their eyes: "White people never want to see race — with anything."

Don’t capitalise after a colon, Alex.

Sorry, sorry. I know. More to the point: Alex Remington is white, and he wants to see race with everything. And he ain’t the only one. But we’re men of science, here — what about data? What does the data we’ve been collecting throughout this article tell us? It tells me that Milton Bradley is fucking obsessed with race. You really think racism is the only possible explanation for not getting along with legendary clubhouse dickhead Jeff Kent, Milton? Wow.

Also, not to stir the pot, but when Milton Bradley makes these blanket statements about how "white people" do this and this and that… that’s not racism? Did words start meaning different things sometime in the middle of this article?

While he was in Chicago, Milton Bradley spoke of being taunted with racial epithets from the stands and on the street, and of receiving racist hate mail — and, because former Cubs Jacque Jones and Latroy Hawkins made similar claims, as has White Sox GM Kenny Williams, in the quote I gave at the beginning of this article.

VERB WANTED. Apply within.

Bradley’s mother, Charlena Rector, said that Bradley’s three-year old son had also faced vicious abuse: "Parents, teachers and their kids called him the n-word."

Not saying she’s lying or nuthin’, but I think the definition of "vicious" might be suffering from mission creep here.

Yet Bradley’s claims of facing racism have often been taken with a grain of salt.

So have Bradley’s claims of nearly everything else. He’s a bullshit artist, and people are sick of his act.

When Bradley made his comments to the Chicago Sun-Times about the racism he had faced, team officials told ESPN’s Bruce Levine that they were "incensed" by the story

Because — which you omit from your pithy summary, which is: naughty naughty — Milton Bradley accused an unnamed person in the Cubs organisation of writing him race-baiting letters. As in: he smeared the team. Baselessly. No copies of these letters were produced. So, yeah, they were pretty pissed about that.

columnist David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune belittled him for his claims: "Poor Milton Bradley whined again to ESPN about how hard Wrigley Field can be for black players," and compared Bradley unfavorably to Derrek Lee, whom he called "one of the most popular modern Cubs of any race."

Yeah, that article was sort of shitheaded. That’s what sports opinion writers are paid to do, though: fan the flames.

Perhaps Haugh didn’t intend it to sound this way, but that sentence implies that African-American players aren’t normally popular, and that it’s therefore out of the ordinary that a player like Derrek Lee could be beloved in the city.

What? No it fucking doesn’t, Alex. That’s insane. Did anybody — anybody at all! — reading this article honestly read that sentence and think that the deeper meaning is clearly that Cubs fans hate black people?

Another columnist, Joey Baskerville of the Freeport, Illinois Journal-Standard, suggested that few people took Bradley seriously, writing:

I may be in the minority, but I actually believe Bradley’s accusations that some Cubs fans crossed the line of heckling and shouted racial slurs at him while he played in Chicago.

What "line" of heckling? There is no such fucking "line." What planet do you people come from? Here on planet Internets, trolling does not follow your Victorian-nouveau ideas of taste and appropriateness. The whole point of trolling is to piss people off. If a dude has clearly indicated that he’s easily pissed off by a certain line of attack, people will use it.

That said: I’m sure some people did race-bait Bradley. Is that a sign that baseball is hopelessly racist? I’m thinking it’s more a sign that Bradley is super fucking touchy about race, so people harp on it when they want to wind him up. The very fact that people did not race-bait Derrek Lee seems, to my mind, to prove that they are not anti-black, but rather anti-Milton Bradley.

Now remember what an asshole Milton Bradley was the whole time he was with the team.

In 2004, with the Dodgers, he got fed up with answering questions by L.A. Times reporter Jason Reid, and called Reid an "Uncle Tom."

But not in a racist way, you understand.

Adande noted that Bradley hypocritically appeared to expect that African-American journalists would give him more favorable coverage despite the fact that he could be prickly to them.

Also not racist.

This was one of the great tragedies of Milton Bradley’s career: he viewed the world through the lens of racism, and correctly perceived that a lot of people viewed him negatively — and then he contributed to that self-fulfilling prophecy.

Aha! So now you’re going to rewrite this article and take out all the bullshit hand-wringing, right?

There is no question that Milton Bradley received racial abuse.

There is also no question that Milton Bradley has given racial abuse. So your point is… ?

He reacted badly to the abuse, but it is hard to react well to hate mail, and much of the disapprobation heaped on Bradley — chiding him for admitting that he has been the target of racism — amounts to blaming the victim.

What? Fuck right off. Bradley is the victim of his own self-destructive assholery and nothing else. In the real world — where apparently millionaire athletes and professional sportswriters don’t live — people will say mean things to you. How you deal with that shows what kind of person you are. If you prate about what a big damn victim you are, even while going on record dishing out exactly the same type of abuse, people will think you’re a shithead. Get your head right out of the gutter of collectivism and start thinking about Bradley not as a statistic on your "black baseball players" roster and as an individual man with individual actions and responses, and all your fake-o anguish melts right away.

"Some people" did not like Milton Bradley. "Some people" maybe even didn’t like him because he’s black, though they were oddly silent on the subjects of Derrek Lee, Andre Dawson, and Fergie Jenkins. Does this mean that "Cubs fans" are racist? Or that "Baseball" is racist? No it goddamn doesn’t. Cubs fans are not a homogeneous collective that can be sensibly smeared en masse. "Chicago" is not an incarnate being with motives and desires and thoughts and actions. You are a goddamn moron if you can’t wrap your head around this simple concept.

Milton Bradley is quite right when he says that many people simply don’t want to see racism. That desire not to see is exactly what has fueled the skepticism over Bradley’s claims over the years. W.E.B. Du Bois correctly predicted that the color line would be the problem of the twentieth century. Though Jim Crow is gone, our discomfort with race remains. Flawed as he was, Milton Bradley deserved better than he got.

Oh please. Spare me your simpering. Milton Bradley got what he deserved, and he tried very hard to get it. "Our" discomfort with race does not remain, on account of you have not been approved to speak on behalf of this nonexistent collective "us." I don’t give two shits if Milton Bradley is black or white or Mexican, or even a slant like that Fukudome kid.

Insisting on sorting people into categories based on their skin colour is probably the most pervasive form of racism that ever was, Alex. Think about that.


May 12th, 2011 Posted by | Baseball | one comment

March Madness

I’m going to level with you: baseball season hasn’t started yet. Sorry to come at you right out of the blue like that, but that’s the type of hard-hitting journalism we’re known for here at perfectlydarien.com, world-famous armpit of the internet.

I’m going to assume that’s the reason, you know, for the absolute drivel pouring out of sportswriters right now. Seems like it was just the other day I was lambasting a pair of jackoffs for their looney-tunes conclusion that the only reason any team would release an expensive old replacement-level player with a notoriously sour attitude is racism (fun fact: after the Phillies picked Castillo off the heap, he blew off his first scheduled start). And today? Today we have perfectlydarien.com fan favourite Jeff Passan, who says the Mets are doomed because — ah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Don’t want to spoil the comedy reveal before the comedy reveal!

Mets’ problems go beyond Castillo, Perez

That’s true. Their rotation is still chock full of J. Niese and M. Pelfrey and things of that ilk. Which is what you’re going to talk about, I assume. Right, Jeff?

The New York Mets set their chum slick this week. Deep in their pocket, they always held Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, and the notion that whacking either – or, as they chose, both – would cause embarrassed devotees to pop their heads out of the water and feast on long-decayed meat. And they did. This was no Irish wake.

Hoo boy, I’m in trouble already. This ain’t Finnegans Wake either, Jeff, so maybe now’d be a good time to start writing coherently.

Yet the joy in Perez and Castillo finally shedding Mets uniforms gave way to a truer reality, and one far harsher than the bad contracts, lackadaisical play and general apathy surrounding the franchise: The Wilpon family and Saul Katz still own the team.

Ohhhhhh burn! Megaburn. You’re right: they do. And they’ll continue to make dumb decisions and generally run their expensive team into the ground. That’s what you’re saying, right, Jeff? Right?

They just happen to be accused of profiting off the biggest financial fraud in the history of the modern world, which – considering all the con men, swindlers and crooks who have come to pass – is quite the achievement.

Wait… what? You’re not talking about baseball at all, are you, Jeff.

Oh lordy. Jeff’s on his soapbox again. Repent ye baseball mans lest ye be found wanting!

As much as the Wilpons try to distance the Mets from Bernie Madoff, their worlds bleed into one another more by the day.

And there it is, for all to see: the big problem with the Mets is that they didn’t get burned by Bernie Madoff. I swear to god sportswriters live in some alternate damn dimension. A dimension in which one can, with a straight face, describe Madoff’s swindle as "the biggest financial fraud in the history of the modern world" and somehow still think you’re writing a goddamn baseball article.

Bernie Madoff, unfunded liabilities: $65 billion
Social Security, unfunded liabilities: $17.9 trillion

On the press-release portion of the Mets’ website, sandwiched in between statements concerning the releases of Perez and Castillo, are two harshly worded attacks against their nemesis, Irving Picard, who is in charge of reclaiming money for victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and is pursuing $1 billion from Katz and Fred Wilpon.

Some fucking vulture tries to extort a billion dollars out of me, he’ll be lucky if harsh words are all he gets.

The most recent is particularly captivating: a 12-bullet-point anthem of innocence in which they call Picard a liar without acknowledging him by name. He is, in their parlance, the Trustee, nebulous- and nefarious-sounding.

Hey Jeff, have you ever read like a legal document? Even the EULA you had to accept before you could use your MacBook Pro? That’s how they read. For complicated legal reasons that, much like your article, have nothing whatsoever to do with goddamn baseball.

Wilpon, Katz and their spinmeisters have it wrong: Picard, to the common man, is the hero, working on behalf of those fleeced, and his doggedness in chasing Mets ownership brands them forever.

No, Jeff, you have it wrong: the common man doesn’t give two shits about this. Picard is somebody with a comedy name who gave us another chuckle at the Mets’ expense and that’s about it, really. The "common" man in the real world — as opposed to the world that exists only inside your head and Das Kapital — doesn’t cheer for forced redistribution of wealth unless it’s being redistributed to him. Do you see?

They may well be innocent of what Picard alleges – that they knew, or should have known, about the Madoff scheme because of a longstanding personal relationship with him, and that they ignored warnings that something was amiss with the return on investment. That no longer matters.

You say this weird shit all the time, Jeff — so often that I’m beginning to think you really believe it, whereas before I was just assuming you weren’t reading it over to see what you’d just said.

Last year: "his case lends credence to a belief among some black baseball players that should frighten MLB: They’re treated differently. True or not, it doesn’t matter."

This year: "They may well be innocent of what Picard alleges… That no longer matters."

No, Jeff, no: whether or not they actually did the thing they’re accused of sure fucking does matter, you insane crazy person.

The fashion in which Wilpon and Katz continue to defend themselves – the public proclamations, the terse language, the sheer vehemence of it all – is terribly off-putting.

Well, I say! How positively uncouth. Really, chaps, perhaps ‘twould be more proper to defend yourselves a spot less vehemently, rather? Pip pip!

To see business owners so misjudge their audience is solar-eclipse-black humor.

Let’s ignore the nonsense-words at the end of that sentence and really get down, as they say, to the heart of the matter: business owners, contrary to your odd idea, do not have an "audience." Or, well, they do, but it’s pretty much just you and me, man. And I think it’s funny and you’ll take any chance you get to act like a giant hipster doofus and talk about shit like "the common man." Seriously, just say "proles" next time — you won’t seem any more faggy or obnoxious.

The actual Mets fans? They’ll come back as soon as the team starts winning games, no matter what the owners are accused of. Mark my words.

Even the rich Mets fans, for whom the team built Citi Field, can’t stand by this pyramid of incompetence.

What about that sentence of incompetence? Can they stand by it, Jeff? I need to know!

It’s one thing to alienate blue-collar supporters, as both the Mets and Yankees did with their new stadiums. At least the Yankees still win.

mlb.com will sell me Mets tickets right now for, like, $12. But, oh, those poor blue-collar workers who can’t afford that steep price! The tragedy of the common man! O blue-collar man, weepeth not thou neither pineth for yon New York Mets!

The Mets have stunk two years running; collapsed the two years prior; kept Omar Minaya as general manager too long; botched the firing of manager Willie Randolph; mishandled Jason Bay’s concussion; watched Perez, Castillo and Carlos Beltran skip a team visit to wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center; spent minimally internationally, even less in the draft; and fostered an inconceivable amount of ill will considering their resources.

Yeah, but who cares about that? That’s just baseball stuff. Real fans only care about financial scandals the team owner is implicated in, and baseless accusations of racism.

Not so awful that it catches Bud Selig’s wrath, of course.

Fucking Bud. Why don’t you fix it?? Get on your baseball hotline to baseball NATO and start bombing baseball Libya. Then all evil everywhere will be vanquished!

Now MLB is vetting potential Mets investors – not majority, of course, because the accusations levied against Wilpon and Katz seem not to bother MLB nearly as much as McCourt’s, whose domestic toxicity spilled over into business.

Well, see, Jeff, what the Mets are dealing with is unproven accusations from a nutbar. The McCourts actually failed to pay the bills. Those are not at all the same thing, and your ham-fisted gloss isn’t fooling anybody. The problem facing the McCourts isn’t accusations of anything.

Never mind the hypocrisy in it all. MLB is a $7 billion industry. Wilpon is a Selig loyalist. And this is what fealty buys: a hall pass for intertwining the business Selig runs with Bernie Madoff.

Who was, at the time the Mets were doing business with him, not known to be running a ponzi scheme. Nice ex post facto moralising, Jeff, but it hasn’t been demonstrated that the Mets did anything wrong. Perhaps that has something to do with why they haven’t been punished for it!

Then there are like thirteen more paragraphs where he just says the same things over and over again. Unlike Jeff, my patience for endless repetition is limited, so, hey, welcome to the part of the article where I skip that! Let’s pick out the only thing about baseball he says in the entire rest of the piece.

GM Sandy Alderson, another Selig stalwart, will turn the franchise around if given the proper resources. After eating nearly $20 million in Perez and Castillo’s salaries, that is far from a given.

Whose decision was it to eat those salaries? Why, none other than GM Sandy Alderson’s! He’ll turn that shit around if only he stops denying himself all the resources. Which list apparently includes -0.1 WAR 2B and -1.5 WAR SP.

That’s really it for this article. Angst angst angst isn’t there some central authority somewhere that can banish all evil from the world angst angst. You know something? I’ve been critiquing bad sportswriting on the internet for thirty-four years next month, and the weird fantasy world sportswriters live in still amazes me. You’d think I’d be inured to this shit after so many teams-only-win-because-of-magic articles, but Jeff’s found a new stunner for me in his allegation that fans only watch because they believe in the spiritual purity of the team’s owner.


March 23rd, 2011 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

There’s no crying in baseball!

Unless you mean "crying" as in "crying racism." Of that, holy shit does baseball have more than its share.

The Mets cut Luis Castillo today, and Sandy Alderson boneheadedly — but I already said this is the Mets, right? — said that the fans’ dislike of him is part of the reason. Which started every lazy baseball journo’s "easy race-baiting angle" gyro a-copterin’.

In three full seasons with the Mets, Luis Castillo has done this: .270 / .366 / .315 / .691, 85 OPS+, 1.1 WAR, for which he has been paid $18.75 million (plus another $6M they owe him this year even though he won’t be playing). The Mets, as you may recall, collapsed horribly down the stretch in 2008 and haven’t sniffed .500 since. Why do you expect the fans wouldn’t like this guy?

I think it’s racism. Who’s with me?

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News asks if something beyond Castillo’s performance, along with his inability to get or stay healthy and a perceived bad attitude, fed into fans’ apparent dislike for him.

Does Castillo being black and from the Dominican Republic have anything to do with the amount of hate?

Welcome, Andy! No it does not. We’re finished here, right?

I mean, David Ortiz is black. I… think. And he’s from the Dominican Republic too. Do the fans hate him? I’m told (by everyone) that Boston is horribly racist, after all!

Martino credits Castillo for being "one of the toughest and most passionate Mets," yet says fans, like the ones who booed him opening day at Citi Field, saw something else.

Perhaps they saw his $25 million contract and his 85 OPS+. Oh, wait, Mets fans. Perhaps they saw his like fourteen RBIs or whatever, then.

Castillo wouldn’t bite on race after he was asked, but Martino quoted a friend of his:

Props to Castillo for this. No, I’m serious. It shows class to refuse to cry racism even when some dude’s actively baiting you.

Also nice that Castillo’s refusal to play along didn’t stop Martino, who asked his imaginary friend instead.

"Yeah, sometimes that is tough," the friend, a fellow Hispanic in baseball, said about Castillo’s experience.

I’m sure he meant to say "a fellow Hispanic in baseball who is totally a real person and I didn’t at all just make this shit up when Castillo wouldn’t say what I wanted to hear so shut up about that." Damn editors.

"But it’s harder to say that’s the main issue with Castillo, because he hasn’t performed. If you had that same mistreatment of a guy that was performing really well, then it would be more obvious."

Wow. Even the source you made up thinks your theory is bullshit. Maybe that’s a sign, Andy.

Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan have played well as Mets, and have not faced the same anger. People who root for a team value production, above all other qualities, and have unleashed negativity on many white players in the past.

Lies! Stop with your slanderous lies!

But are nonwhite players more vulnerable to being labeled lazy malcontents, and less likely to be called "gamers?" Must they work harder to receive credit for positive contributions to the team?

They don’t call you a "gamer" if you’re a lazy malcontent. They call you a "gamer" if you suck at baseball but sure do get your uniform dirty. And, I’m sorry, but Derek Jeter explodes your whole argument, since he — without at all trying — manages to receive credit for everybody’s positive contributions.

Now it’s time for David Brown to take the crazy train back into the depot:

Martino asks a fascinating question, one that is sure to be disliked about as much as Castillo was in New York.

Castillo hit .235/.337/.267 (a .267 slugging percentage!) in 2010. He was hitting .286 in 28 spring at-bats, but reportedly had played poorly in the field and was even called into new manager Terry Collins’ office and reprimanded for "sullen behavior," whatever that means.

Fascinating! I’m not sure if his dismissal is due to the overwhelming evidence that he was bad at his job and kind of an asshole, or this random allegation of racism a lazy sportswriter thought up because he had no better ideas and his deadline was coming up.

Also, "sullen behaviour" means "moping around like an asshole." You can look things like this up on the internet, Dave.

All of that alone gives fans enough to get upset about.

Yup. So what’s the point again?

Of course, if you ask fans who thoroughly disliked Castillo how much race and ethnicity had to do with it, hardly anyone would admit to being racist.

Yeah, I saw Life of Brian too. I know how this game is played.

So, does Martino’s question do anything other than stir the pot? Probably not.

But try to get your head around this anyway: If the Mets admit that the fans’ perception of Castillo had something to do with the team releasing him, and if you buy that some of the perception is racist in nature, does that make the Mets’ action racist?

Get your head around this: no.

The Mets don’t have some type of sacred charge to evaluate the real hidden motives of their fans before responding to their desires. That’s stupid. If the fans want the Mets to put a good team on the field, and the Mets do, but some of the fans only wanted the Mets to win because they’d bet on the games, does that mean the Mets were betting on baseball? Use your head, Dave. If the fans want OBP up on the scoreboard, but only to make fun of Jeff Francoeur, and the Mets do it, should we think the Mets are making fun of Jeff Francoeur?

Wait, forget that last one.


March 18th, 2011 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

And now: race baiting and paranoia!

Orlando Hudson is calling a whole bunch of racism. Why? Because Gary Sheffield and Jermaine Dye don’t currently have jobs. Jeff Passan, who never can resist a good opportunity for indulging in some white guilt, is on the case.

As Major League Baseball prepares for its annual Jackie Robinson Day on Thursday, one prominent African-American player questioned teams’ commitment to employing black players past their prime years.

Are teams committed to employing white players past their prime years? I dunno; maybe. I’m just saying I kind of hope the Cubs don’t continue to dump salary on dudes once they’re clearly not good at baseball anymore. That’ll give them less money to use overpaying for mid-level talent like Alfonso Soriano.

"You see guys like Jermaine Dye without a job," Minnesota Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson said Monday. "Guy with [27 home runs and 81 RBIs] and can’t get a job. Pretty much sums it up right there, no?"

I really, really want to know what Hudson said that got edited to [27 home runs and 81 RBIs]. I bet it was something outrageous like "a nine-inch cock," because, hey, you know how those people are.

In some seriousness, though, here are Dye’s numbers for the last three years, courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs:

2007: 138 games, .254 / .317 / .468 / .804, 105 OPS+, -21.6 UZR, -0.6 WAR
2008: 154 games, .292 / .344 / .541 / .885, 126 OPS+, -19.4 UZR, 1.8 WAR
2009: 141 games, .250 / .340 / .453 / .793, 103 OPS+, -20 UZR, -0.2 WAR

Jermaine Dye is cooked. He still could potentially see some use as a bench player, but he’s so finished in right field it’s not even funny. You see how in 2007 and 2009 he actually cost his team some wins? Seeing Jermaine Dye without a job means that people are aware of how finished he is, Orlando.

"You’ve got some guys who miss a year who can come back and get $5, $6 million, and a guy like Jermaine Dye can’t get a job. A guy like Gary Sheffield, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can’t get a job."

Gary Sheffield is not a first-ballot anything. I mean, he was good, and I can see a solid argument for his Hall candidacy, but he pissed off way too many people and they’ll make him suffer for it. And, for the record, here’s the Sheff for the last three years:

2007: 133 games, .265 / .378 / .462 / .839, 119 OPS+, 2 UZR, 2.8 WAR
2008: 114 games, .225 / .326 / .400 / .725, 89 OPS+, 0.4 UZR, 0.2 WAR
2009: 100 games, .276 / .372 / .451 / .823, 119 OPS+, -12.7 UZR, 0.3 WAR

Sheff is also pretty done, though a bit less so than Dye. He’s utterly finished in the field, but could see some use as a DH for a team that doesn’t mind its DH sitting out half the year with injuries. And also thinks that picking up one of the most notorious assholes in MLB history is a good tradeoff for gaining one third of a win.

"We both know what it is. You’ll get it right. You’ll figure it out. I’m not gonna say it because then I’ll be in [trouble]."

Yeah, I sure do know what it is: they’re old and broken and pretty much not useful at baseball anymore. Also, I know what you said instead of [trouble].

What Hudson wants to say: He believes there is a racist element to the free-agent market in baseball, and that it’s paralyzing the 36-year-old Dye’s ability to earn what non-blacks with commensurate numbers received in the offseason.

Yeah, there’s that, too: Dye is 36 and Sheffield’s 41. So expecting them to get better is probably pretty stupid. And here’s what happened to free agent position players worth -0.2 WAR in 2009:

Aaron Boone, 3B (white): Retired
Chris Woodward, 2B (white): Signed to a minor-league contract
Greg Norton, LF (white): Retired
Troy Glaus, 1B (white): Signed for 1 year, $1.75M
Josh Anderson, CF (white): Signed to a minor-league contract

Jermaine Dye, RF (black): Refused an offer said to be in the $4M range.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but the alleged size of that offer that Dye refused appears to be greater than the contracts given to all other players of his value combined. Racism? I mean, you make the call, I guess.

"Call it what you want to," Hudson said. "I ain’t fit to say it. After I retire I’ll say it. I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to say after I retire."

Great. I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be like having a second Jose Canseco!

Hudson’s comments came on the heels of Dye turning down a one-year contract offer from the Washington Nationals for less than a quarter of his $11.5 million salary with the Chicago White Sox last season.

All the sources I can find for information about the contract Dye turned down chain back to that one dude on MLB.com who says $4M, which is way more than a quarter of $11.5M. Perhaps Jeff Passan has more accurate information than I do.

After a first half in which he slugged .567 and hit 20 home runs, Dye spent the second half of 2009 in a deep slump from which he never emerged, batting .179 and slugging .297 while playing subpar defense in right field.

Yeah, he sure did, huh. And, as a consequence, cost his team one-fifth of a win.

Hudson believed Dye’s credentials – 164 home runs in the last five years and an OPS 21 percent better than the league average – would buy him the benefit of the doubt.

Hudson lives in a strange fantasy world where Jermaine Dye’s numbers over the last five years consist entirely of home runs and don’t include his awful OBP or his insanely bad fielding.

Dye hoped to play for a contender, and while he understood he would take a pay cut, he expected a deal in the $4 million-plus range. Hudson said he and Dye spoke on the phone this offseason about his status, though they never broached specifics about why the market never materialized above $3.5 million, a number approached or exceeded by a number of players with inferior credentials.

But not, apparently, by all other players with identical credentials combined. Two points about this:

1) If Jermaine Dye doesn’t want to play for a shitbox team like the Washington Nationals, that’s totally his choice, and I have no problem with it. But, I mean, they made him an offer, right? So… not really racism, hey?

2) $3.5M is way more than a quarter of $11.5M.

The Baltimore Orioles guaranteed $4.5 million to first baseman Garrett Atkins, 30, after he hit .226 and slugged .342 in 354 at-bats last season.

That contract was crazy. But… it’s the Orioles. Has anybody ever accused them of knowing how to build a baseball team? Also, Garrett Atkins is only 30 (Dye, recall, is 36) and only two years removed from 2.4 WAR (and three years removed from 6.0 — six!), so there’s some reason to believe he might improve. But, yeah, that contract was crazy. Too bad Jermaine Dye couldn’t get a contract with a serious contender like the Orioles.

Thirty-three-year-old Aubrey Huff’s on-base percentage was 30 points lower than Dye’s and his slugging percentage 69 points lower, yet the San Francisco Giants gave him $3 million.

33-year-old Huff (Dye, again, is 36) had a shitty year, but was awesome in 2008. And the Giants, like the Orioles before them, are pretty stupid.

The Chicago Cubs paid 31-year-old Xavier Nady $3.3 million after an elbow injury limited him to 28 at-bats last season.

Nady also was awesome in 2008, and has a desirable quality for a reserve outfielder: he doesn’t suck in the field. Jermaine Dye does not possess this quality. And is 36 years old.

Whether teams with first base openings didn’t trust Dye’s ability to convert or others with outfield slots preferred different players, his presence on the open market in mid-April is particularly puzzling when coupled with the fates of other black players.

It’s really, really hard not to prefer a different player for an outfield spot, since Dye is so bad you’re almost better off going with just two guys out there.

Second baseman Ray Durham, coming off a 2008 in which he got on base at a .380 clip and slugged .432, couldn’t get anything more than a backup sniff as a 37-year-old. Durham’s case, one source said, is among those being looked at by the MLB players’ association in its potential collusion case against MLB.

Perhaps because he’s shitty in the field and put up these numbers in 2007: .218 / .295 / .343 / .638.

Outfielder Kenny Lofton put up an above-average OPS as a 40-year-old in 2007 and hasn’t been seen since.

Kenny Lofton is 42 years old. 42! And his birthday’s in May, so he’ll be 43 for most of this season. Do you want to take a chance on a 43-year-old CF?

And Sheffield, 41, remains a free agent after slugging .451 with spacious Citi Field as his home stadium.

Gary Sheffield is also the biggest asshole in baseball, and the only player I can think of offhand who has admitted to playing badly on purpose whenever he was mad at his team.

Here are some other black players:

Chone Figgins got four years and $36M from the Mariners.
Milton Bradley got three years and $30M from the Cubs.
Vlad Guerrero, a year younger than Dye and a lot better in the field, got $5M from the Rangers.
Juan Pierre, who is terrible, got five years and $44M from the Dodgers.
Torii Hunter got five years and $90M from the Angels.
Alfonso Soriano got eight years and $136M from the Cubs, and he’s a mediocre hitter and a terrible fielder.
CC Sabathia got seven years and $161M from the Yankees.

Racism? You make the call!

There are other factors, of course. The free-agent market has shifted drastically against older players.

Because of RACISM! Or maybe because older players don’t put up better numbers than rookies and cost a hell of a lot more. One or the other, I’m sure.

The game places a greater emphasis on defense.

Jermaine Dye, career UZR: -95.6

And in the individual cases, Lofton came with a difficult-to-handle reputation, as did Sheffield, who once alluded to possible racism from his manager with the New York Yankees, Joe Torre – an accusation backed up by Lofton.

So they’re old, they’re always hurt, they’re not really that good, and they complain all the damn time. There can be only one reason nobody wants them: RACISM.

Never has Dye been lumped among the malcontents, and his case lends credence to a belief among some black baseball players that should frighten MLB: They’re treated differently. True or not, it doesn’t matter.

What?

Once more, for emphasis: What?

It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s true. Jeff. Really. Fuck the heck are you even talking about?

Perhaps Hudson’s stake is personal. Two years ago, he entered free agency seeking a multiyear deal. He ended up taking an incentive-loaded $3.4 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This season, the 32-year-old hoped for multiple years again. He signed with Minnesota for $5 million over one year.

Perhaps!

Also, Hudson isn’t very good. He’s not bad, mind, but he’s not that much better than average, and he’s always goddamn hurt. That’s the real reason he can’t get a long deal, by the way: hurt. In fact, here we are, one week into the season, and he’s already been injured.

Hudson’s words spoke enough that Dye and his agent, Bob Bry, declined to comment Monday night.

Can anybody make sense of this bit? I can’t. Is Jeff trying to say that Dye and Bry — which would be an awesome name for a Kid ‘N Play cover band — just couldn’t think of anything to say because Hudson said it all already? Alternative hypothesis: they thought it was stupid and juvenile and didn’t want to get involved.

Hudson going public was unique, too, as other players worry it will have a negative effect on the issue.

Totally unique. Except for Gary Sheffield. And Kenny Lofton. Both of whom we’ve already talked about.

While some will accuse Hudson of race baiting and paranoia, the reality is quite the opposite:

Oops.

He is taking public a concern that promotes discussion and forces MLB to be honest with itself about the precipitous drop in African-American players over the last two decades.

So… he’s race baiting, then? My bad. Also, hey Jeff, MLB isn’t making any secret of the fact that there aren’t a lot of black players these days. MLB, in fact, runs a bunch of programs — like the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, for example — specifically designed to increase its appeal to black athletes.

Alternative hypothesis: maybe black athletes choose other sports because sportswriters looking for a lazy target won’t shut up about how MLB hates black people.

While the tremendous influx of black talent in the major leagues in recent years – from Ryan Howard and Carl Crawford to Justin Upton and Jason Heyward – is a positive sign, it doesn’t eliminate the feeling that others have been and continue to be mistreated.

So. What you’re saying is: even though ample evidence exists that demonstrates pretty conclusively that quantity of blackness is way less of an issue than, like, ability to play baseball, this is totally overwhelmed by the fact that a small handful of aging crybabies want to pretend that their skin colour and not their declining baseball skill is the reason they can’t make huge money anymore.

Gary Sheffield made $10,756,171 in 2006. He appeared in 39 games and was average. The only explanation for this: RACISM!

So as players receive their special jerseys this week with the No. 42 on the back and the sport celebrates Robinson breaking the color line, baseball will examine itself again and wonder how it can change a perception that is now six decades old and seems to be going nowhere.

Best answer: track down all the sportswriters who keep writing this article and punch them.

Extra credit: Punch Keith Olbermann twice.


April 13th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Things that bug me about Dragon Age: Origins

Come on. You knew it was coming. Dragon Age: Origins, like all Bioware games, has some really fun stuff and some desperately lame stuff. So here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of the lame stuff.

First, the title. "Dragon Age: Origins" is a lousy title. Yeah, I get that they’re trying to position this as the first game in some epic Dragon Age arc, but still. A title like that will make people think there’s some other game out there called just "Dragon Age" that this is a prequel to, much like with this other game. Probably the better choice for the first game in the series would be just "Dragon Age," which is snappier and what people are calling it anyhow. Or maybe "Dragonage" with no space, so people could be all "whoa, that’s some bitchin’ Dragonage you got there, elfbrah!"

Combat is hilariously bad. I mean really, desperately unfun. It follows the lead of award-winning RPG of the decade Final Fantasy 12 in requiring you to program your henchmen before battle, which is a giant pain in the ass, though at least you don’t have to collect the stupid tactics like you do in FF12. The AI is still, however, bone-stupid, and no amount of fucking with the tactics menu will get your dudes not to stand in AOE damage until they die, even if you explicitly choose a tactics mode that says it moves them out of AOE. The stamina system is also very unfun; it’s very much like the rogue energy mechanic from World of Warcraft, except that the regen rate is hilariously low. So, just like a WOW rogue, you do two attacks and that pretty much empties your meter. But, much unlike a WOW rogue, you then stand around for about a minute before you regen enough energy to attack a third time. Combat sucks so much that I really suggest you just set the game to easy so you can minimise the amount you need to care about it.

No matter what difficulty level you choose, the big seige battle in Redcliffe sucks balls. It goes on way too long, and you spend most of the time really wishing you could taunt the mobs that just showed up so they won’t murder your rogue and all those NPCs, only you can’t, because taunt is on a cooldown way longer than the mob spawn timer and you have no stamina anyhow. It reminded me of nothing so much as the bit in Kingdom Hearts 2 where you have to kill a thousand nobodies (this number, unlike almost all numbers I ever use, is actually literally true: it is one thousand mobs), and it goes on goddamn forever, and you’re thinking "man, will this ever actually be over?" And, no, it never will.

The game’s dialogue doesn’t always appear to agree with what’s happening. The most egregious example would be in Tapster’s Tavern, where you can get a drink from the bartender. She tells you that a mug of ale will cost you three silvers. If you accept, the actual amount you pay is two copper. That’s… a pretty big disconnect there, game. Sure, it would be worse if it were in the other direction, but it’s kind of weird that it happens at all.

It’s weird how, if you’re ever like playfully flirtatious with another party member at any point ever, it sets you on-track for a romance angle with that party member. Which, yes, leads to complications if you flirt with more than one. Ever. This seems very weird to me, because I, in real life, am the biggest flirt of all time. I flirt with everybody, all the time, and I have never had this issue with everybody around falling madly in love with me. Maybe everybody in Dragon Age is just really desperate? Or maybe I’m just oblivious? Or maybe I’m just ugly. Actually, yeah, that’s probably it.

Dragon Age has more sex than Mass Effect did, but the quality of the sex scenes is lower. Apparently, in the realm of Dragon Age, people have sex with their underwear still on, which seems weird to me. Does that make any sense to anybody? I mean, for Mass Effect, they made special sex-scene skins with no underwear and just, like, didn’t point the camera at the AO bits. I guess that was too much work to bother with for Dragon Age, so they left everybody’s underwear on, which combines with the rather badly-done facial expressions to make the scenes a little weird. Hey, why are the facial expressions so wack in this game, Bioware? Everybody’s sad face has like this weird, pinched-together, M-shaped kind of look. It’s just bizarre — kind of looks like a zombie face (!). What was I talking about? Ah yes — the sex. Unlike Mass Effect, there are multiple opportunities per playthrough. And, unlike Neverwinter Nights, you can go to the whorehouse without getting a lecture about women’s lib. Also there’s gay sex if that’s your thing.

Dragon Age has a lot of really, really obvious plot twists. Plot twists even more obvious than those of award-winning bestest plot-twistiest game of the decade Bioshock. There’s a big plot twist in the human noble origin story that I saw coming as soon as the character in question was introduced. There’s another one as Ostagar that went pretty much the same way. Just a hint here that might help you in the future, Bioware: if a character’s going to turn out to be a traitor, probably don’t have him speak in a slimy bad-guy voice. And don’t give him sunken eyes or arching grey eyebrows. Those are like the quintessential warning signs of impending betrayal.

Quest items take up bag space, and you’ll get a damn lot of them. I spent a good portion of the early midgame struggling to fit anything in my bags, since I hadn’t bought so many backpacks yet and I was loaded up with like 20 quest items. That’s a little rough, since there isn’t even any way that I can find to get rid of a quest or its item other than completing it.

I have to hand it to Bioware on this one: so far I haven’t gotten an unprovoked lecture about racism, but I’m assuming there’s one waiting for me in the alienage in Denerim, or possibly in the elfy forest I can’t remember the name of. I have, of course, gotten unprovoked lectures about sexism and ageism, and also a lecture about stereotyping people in general.

Hey, Bioware? If you’re going to base your game on Le Morte d’Arthur, that’s fine — it’s an awesome story that doesn’t really get enough play in video games — but it’s a little bit hacky to name the witch in the woods "Morrigan." And also, hey, let’s call a grail a grail, shall we? "Urn of Sacred Ashes" my aching ass.

Also, here’s a neat thing: remember when Castlevania: Lament of Innocence came out, and there was that business about how it was inspired by Devil May Cry, which was itself a Castlevania ripoff? The same thing happens in Dragon Age, which owes a damn lot to The Witcher, which was itself a Neverwinter Nights knockoff. Good times!

Anybody else get the feeling that Bioware was trying to make some kind of statement with the emphasis on matriarchal culture? Every three steps you take there’s somebody explicitly telling you about how all priests are female, and such-and-such dwarven paragon is a woman, and, hell, even Jesus was a woman in Dragon Age. I just hope she doesn’t turn out to be a demon like the transparent Jesus figure in some other game.

Where I am in the game right now, it actually seems like the church might not be corrupt and evil, which would make this the very first video game ever with an organised church that isn’t. There’s still time, though, and like it keeps telling me: nobody knows where the archdemon of this blight is! Except that I think I know perfectly damn well where the archdemon is, and that location is not: Val Royeaux. But we shall see.


December 2nd, 2009 Posted by | Games | 3 comments

Things that bug me about Mass Effect

It’s been a while since I’ve complained about a video game, and I just finally got around to playing Mass Effect, so, hey, match made in heaven, yeah? Now, don’t get the wrong idea: it’s a decent, albeit overrated, game. It’s a space opera featuring all your favourite Warhammer 40k races and the Dark Eldar, and the human nation is called the Alliance, which: fuck the Horde. But there are a bunch of things about it that just ain’t right.

First off: the Asari. The Asari do not reproduce sexually. It’s not exactly asexual, either; their reproduction is actually via some magical Vulcan mind-meld nonsense. Fine; I mean, it’s a video game. They reproduce through magic thought transfer. I can live with that. But they have both primary and secondary sex characteristics, and are capable of engaging in what we would recognise as sexual intercourse, even though it’s entirely unrelated to their reproduction. How the hell does that evolve? Why would the Asari have a fully-developed set of human-like sexual equipment and a sex drive and absolutely no use for it?

Frogger. Remember when I whined about Bioshock making you play Pipe Dream all the goddamn time? Well, hacking things in Mass Effect means playing Frogger. And there are about as many things to hack as there are in Bioshock, so you end up playing Frogger about as often as you play the actual game. Later in the game at least it’s more viable to use the "omni-gel" to auto-hack things, but early on you just can’t afford that. So get down with the Frogger.

Speaking of items: they’re a pain in the ass. The game dumps huge amounts of loot on you almost constantly, and the inventory limit is a stupidly-small 150, which means the game is constantly throwing up this nag screen about how you have too much loot. It’s a floating text box that sits on-screen for about twenty seconds and covers up a good deal of information you’d probably rather like to read. Getting rid of items is also a pain in the ass; whether you’re melting them into omni-gel or vendoring them, you have to do it one by one.

Making the items even worse is the fact that they don’t have descriptive or meaningful names. There are about a trillion different item "brands," all of which are fairly meaningless names. There are also multiple "levels" of each item, so you’ll get, for example, the Striker III or the Tsunami VII, neither of which means anything. And it’s not always the case that a higher number is better; the Scorpion VI, for example, is better than a whole lot of armours of level VII or VIII. Also, have you spotted another problem? Yep: the game uses roman numerals. Makes it pretty damn hard to spot at a glance if an item is better than something you already have, and contributes to the general sense of item names being meaningless gibberish.

The dune buggy sucks. I’m sorry; it just does. You’ll be rocking the game for a little while, running around on the citadel, solving problems and getting involved in intrigue, and then you finally get access to the galaxy and you’re probably pretty pumped about it. And then what? I’ll tell you goddamn what: you spend hours and hours flying around to featureless bumpy planets and driving the stupid dune buggy. The buggy controls really badly, too, and the gun never seems to aim where it says it’s aimed. And it’s very easy to get stuck somewhere on an enemy fortification. Seriously, Bioware: would it have killed you to add some details to the ten thousand planets in the game? Like some trees, or some architecture, or some critters, or something?

I mean, something other than lava. Because you better goddamn believe there are planets with lava. And there’s a planet where you have to drive up and down this windy path through some lava, and, if you fall down, it’s instant death. The other feature on the planets: giant worms. They take about a billion shots to kill, and if they randomly pop up underneath you? Instant death.

Mass Effect is a Bioware game, so, of course, you’ll have to deal with at least one mob giving you an unprovoked lecture about racism. Seriously, Bioware. We get it. Please chill the hell out.

Also, hey. I’m sick and tired of games where the villain turns out to be a good guy who’s being controlled by an evil monster from space. That’s just about the oldest twist in the book — nearly every Final Fantasy game ever made used it, for fuck’s sake — and it’s sort of lame. Let’s somebody make a game where the villain is actually the villain, hey?


November 14th, 2009 Posted by | Games | 2 comments

Rice Rice Baby

The local free press just covered Jim Rice’s Hall induction, and, as is par for the course with this valueless rag, they took a happy moment and tried to load it up with as much leftist hand-wringing poseur bullshit as they possibly could. Their angle on this story? That Boston is incredibly racist because Jim Rice’s induction celebration wasn’t big enough.

Now, let’s ignore the fact that "OMG Boston is racist" is number four on the Top Ten List of hackneyed bullshit stories that lazy journalists like to write. Their complaint wasn’t that Jim Rice’s Hall induction was ignored. The complaint wasn’t that people were protesting in the streets that a coloured man could be considered good at baseball, clearly the white man’s game. No, the complaint is that the "level of excitement" was not as high as it was when Carlton Fisk was inducted into the Hall in 2000.

This is an important complaint. I checked Carlton Fisk’s Hall of Fame Excitement Level (HoFEL) on Baseball Reference, and it’s an amazing 1.315 (!!). Jim Rice only gets a .835, which is a lot lower than I expected, but it turns out that the formula in fact docks Rice .097 for getting in on his fifteenth ballot, .063 for playing an easy defensive position, and an astonishing .617 for being black. I didn’t believe it either, but there you are, folks: science does not lie, and this completely objective statistical measurement tells the whole story. I’d like to thank high-quality reporter Alan Bisbort for calling our attention to this important and frequently overlooked element of racism. I didn’t even realise how much I hated Jim Rice for being black before I read that article. It seems like just the other day when I was writing about how Jim Rice was my favourite player when I was a kid. Fortunately, through the magic of statistical analysis, I now know that, in fact, I only kind-of sort-of liked him.

The best part of the whole thing, of course, is that, even assuming that this bullshit "level of excitement felt lower" claim is accurate, he goes on to list a some non-trivial reasons why that might be the case which are not "because Jim Rice is black," but then pooh-poohs them in favour of his preordained conclusion. Seriously. He talks about Rice’s embattled relationship with the Boston media, and he mentions that Rice got in on his fifteenth ballot (meaning he retired twenty years ago, meaning a whole lot of people don’t really remember Jim Rice or never got to see him in the first place). But then, out of the blue, he decides that the only answer is racial enmity.

Supporting evidence? Why, he once saw Rice get race-baited by white people! At… an away game. And those white people were Yankees fans. Seriously, dude. The Yankees fans taunting the Red Sox’s top slugger and team captain (yes, jackass, he was the captain of this horribly racist team) are not doing that because they hate black people. They’re doing that because they hate the Red Sox, and they’re trying to get him worked up so he doesn’t goddamn destroy their team in his next at-bat. You don’t think so? Then riddle me this: did they taunt Reggie Jackson the same way? Oh, they didn’t? Weird. ‘Cause, you know, I thought he was black, too. Though I freely admit that I have a documented history of being bad at this. Oh, and while I’m on the subject: how again does the fact that Jim Rice got race-baited by Yankees fans at Memorial Stadium prove that Boston is racist? You do seem to realise that the Yankees are not a Boston team and that Memorial Stadium is not in Boston. Are you sure this anecdote supports the point you’re trying to make, which is that the Boston Red Sox from Boston are racist toward black people in Boston? Next time, pick an anecdote that involves Boston. It will work better, I promise.

And, just to deal with your final straw man: yes, we know the Red Sox were the last team to integrate. Everyone knows this, because people like you will not stop flagellating us with it. What that does not mean is that, fifty years later, that same institutionalised racism that prevented the team from integrating for twelve years prior was responsible for making Jim Rice wait a few years to get into the Hall. Jim Rice, who was, I repeat, the captain of this hopelessly racist organisation in this hopelessly racist city.

No. Jim Rice took fifteen years to get into the Hall because he pissed off a lot of reporters — who are, by the way, the people who decide who gets into the Hall — and because his numbers were very borderline. But he did get into the Hall, and this is almost entirely because the fans — the Boston fans, mind you, because he played his entire career for the racist Boston Red Sox from racist fucking Boston — loved him so much that eventually the BBWAA caved and let him in. If his "level of excitement" was lower than Pudge Fisk’s, it was probably mainly because he retired twenty years before his induction, which Pudge did not.

In conclusion, fuck you. And also in conclusion, here’s a fun fact. You know what specific anecdote people think about when they think of Jim Rice? What one single feat he performed that really sticks in people’s minds? It’s not an awesome catch, or a monster home run, or a silly clubhouse prank. No, people remember the time Jim Rice saved a child’s life through the sheer power of awesome. They think about this. Fuck you we don’t appreciate Jim Rice because we’re racist.


July 28th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Bullshit | no comments