Friday, July 31, 2009

Revenge for '93 Series Loss?

Quick thoughts on the deadline deals -

Winner: Phillies
Cliff Lee will probably have the biggest playoff impact of any player added near the deadline. No, he's not as great as Roy Halladay, but he's roughly 90% as good, costs less money, and probably cost a lot less in prospects. Lee makes the Phills a much tougher team in the playoffs and the clear favorites in the NL East next year. And the organization didn't have to part with any of their 3 top prospects (according to Baseball America). Great move.

Loser: Blue Jays
It's always hard to know how much to believe about all the rumored deals, but it seems like the Blue Jays overplayed their hand in the Halladay negotiations. The Indians were probably right to start rebuilding, but there's a reasonable argument that they should've kept Lee & Martinez and made a run in a weak division next season. On the other hand, there's no reason to think the Blue Jays can compete in the toughest division in baseball next year (the last year of Halladay's contract). They may still be able to pull off a better deal in the offseason, but for now, it seems that they blew their chance to start building for the future.

Winner: A's
Brett Wallace was the only prospect in Baseball America's recent top 25 included in any of the deadline deals. It's impressive that the A's got him in exchange for two months of a player having a mediocre season. The A's pretty much had to deal Holliday (it might've been risky to offer him arbitration) and didn't seem to have a lot of takers, but still managed to get a very good package in return. I still think it was a mistake for the A's to acquire Holliday in the first place, but Billy Beane still managed to do okay in the end.

Winner: White Sox
Special props to Ken Williams, who always seems to pull off surprising trades. Jake Peavy may not pitch again this year, but he's a great pickup for the next 2-3 years of his contract and there's a decent chance he'll return in September. Peavy may not improve Chicago's odds of reaching the playoffs, but if they do make it (probably a 30% chance right now), he could be a big help.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


American sports fans find it bewildering that soccer matches can end in a penalty shootout. What to make of skipping a game entirely and proceeding straight to a bowling contest in cricket, then? Essentially it's the equivalent of a baseball game being decided by giving pitchers from each team 10 pitches at a batter-less home plate; whichever team throws more strikes out of 10 wins.

This week featured the quarterfinals of England's Twenty20 Cup, the shortest version of cricket. Heavy rain twice forced postponement of the match between the Lancashire Lightning and the Somerset Sabres. Both teams are scheduled to compete in other matches this weekend. Rather than postpone the game to a later date, after all the semi-finals aren't scheduled until August 15th, the two teams took part in a bowl-off behind closed doors at an indoor practice facility.

Each team got ten chances to hit the stumps, Somerset prevailed 5-1. Succinctly summing up the situation, Lancashire's captain Mark Chilton said, "It’s a naff way to go out of a competition."

Here is the "thrilling" video of the bowl out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Beer to Have When You're Having More Than One

President Obama will soon be hosting Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of Harvard and Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley for beers at the White House to discuss Gates' controversial arrest.

The New York Post comes throo with the important question, what beer will they sip on?

We've already seen, at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, that Obama knows how to dress to appeal to the average American, so will he go with a kiss of the hops? Or the beer to have when you're having more than one?

I ask you, readers and fellow boozehounds, what should they drink? And how many beers before they're blasting The Boss' "Glory Days," scarfing pizza, sharing cigs and hugging each other?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The House that David Dinkins Built

Jimmy C. and John Got Theirs Back in the Dizzay.

I love tennis. But, like many other tennis fans, I only watch the Grand Slams, save for cherished memories of seeing Monica Seles in her prime as a young lovelorn lad at the Virginia Slims at MSG. Marketing the non-slams is a thankless job.

This week sees start of the L.A. Tennis Open, an event in its 83rd year that can boast past champions such as Pancho Gonzales, "Hot" Rod Laver, Stan "You can do anything but lay off my ill white kicks" Smith, Jimmy "Chris Evert? Yeah, I hit that" Connors, John "Tatum used to be a prime P.O.A. back in the dizay, eh?" McEnroe, Arthur "Tite 'fro, tighter shorts" Ashe, Michael "Fuck You Ivan" Chang, "Dead Yo Shit" Edberg, Andre "Advantage:" Agassi, Boris "Gurl, I'll freak you in the restaurant's broom closet" Becker, Jim "The Great Ginger Hope" Courier, and Pete "Yawn" Sampras.

This year the tourney doesn't feature one player from the Top 10. Can't be e-z trying to sell L.A. on seeing the Bryan "aren't they just zany??" Bros., Mardy "Go" Fish, Sam "Nobody Asked" Querrey, and Tommy "We Must Protect Zis" Haas. At least they got a little Legends tourney going with Sampras, Chang, Dedberg, Courier and Marat "Nobody pays to see me hit a backhand or move around the court" Safin.

Speaking of Safin and tuff sells, his sister headlines the upcoming L.A. Women's Tennis Championships. Now rankings mean something in men's tennis, but in the women's game today, the rankings mean absolutely nothing. The Williams sisters don't play the minor tourneys so their rankings suffer, but then they show up at the Slams and rip shit up. Now Dinara Safina may be the world's #1, on paper, and it's fine to play up her appearance at the tourney. But it takes some set of balls, and complete ignorance, to have your ad read "Better than Serena, Better than Venus, Better than anyone in the world!!!!" when Safina lost in the French Open final, 6-4, 6-2, and got absolutely annihilated by Venus in the Wimbledon Semi-final 6-1, 6-0. So how can their ad read that Safina is better than Venus? The worst part is, this kind of tournament only appeals to hardcore tennis fans, the kind of fans who know very well that Venus absolutely beat down Safina, why insult your loyal fan base's intelligence with an ad like this?

Back when the U.S.T.A. was threatening to pull the U.S. Open out of N.Y.C. unless a new stadium to replace Louis Armstrong was built, part of the argument was that rotating the host city for the Open would bolster grass-roots tennis in our country. I can partly see the point. Then again, on the flip side,if being able to see the stars in person inspires kids to pick up a racket, shouldn't the NYC area have produced more stars than just McEnroe? In any event, David Dinkins stepped to keep the action in Queens, leaving tennis with the situation it has today where cities like L.A. get the impossible-to-market scraps.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Reminder to all Tabloid Writers & Columnists

Make what you will of Omar Minaya's broadside shot at Adam Rubin and the Daily News, but never forget the muckdruggery of Dick Young -yup, at the News- that drove Tom Seaver out of the city in 1977 amidst speculation, scuttlebutt and innuendo. I'm certain Mr. Rubin has his facts, but what is he hiding? A bad experience -did Tony Bernazard overhear?- whilst speaking to Jeff Wilpon about a job in the organization probably gave him several axes to grind. Granted, some reporters are unapologetic about burning bridges -Larry Brooks and Peter Vecsey to name two- but I don't think they've filed for jobs with any local sporting club.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tony Tony Tony

Many Mets bloggers have opined on the Tony Bernazard situation, and we have been asked to do the same. I'm hesitant to do so; let me explain why. Over the last few years, I've read some negative things about Bernazard. I've never read anything positive about him. Based on my limited knowledge about Tony Bernazard's job performance, I'd say he should be fired. But, I have to acknowledge that my knowledge is very limited, and very small in comparison to the knowledge that the Wilpons and Omar Minaya have about Tony B. I blog about baseball and express opinions, but I try to limit my opinions to topics I have some knowledge about. When I criticize a trade, I do it based on information, even though I probably have a little bit less information than the Mets' front office. I don't have detailed scouting reports on Jeff Francoeur, but I do have access to data - Jeff Francoeur had played in over 630 Major League games at the time of the trade and there is extensive data available about how he has performed in those 630 games. I can see that he has performed very poorly, and based on the available data about every other player in MLB history, I know that it is extremely unlikely that a player who has performed as poorly as Francoeur over such a long period of time will suddenly perform well. Therefore, I'm willing to criticize the trade despite the small deficit in information.

With the Bernazard situation, I suffer from a huge deficit in information. Omar Minaya interacts with Bernazard on a regular basis and (I assume) has a much, much clearer idea of what exactly Bernazard's responsibilities are and how well he performs them. I have a few second-hand anecdotes and opinions. It seems to me that Bernazard brings little to the table, but it's possible that if I had a frank discussion with Minaya about it, he could quickly rattle off a list of valuable contributions Bernazard has made to the organization, as well as explanations for why the seemingly sorry state of the farm system isn't Bernazard's fault. And he might be able to tell me that what happened in Binghamton didn't go exactly as it's been portrayed in the Daily News.

I'll also note that it often seems that the Wilpons are overly concerned with how the media portrays the organization. Firing Bernazard would be portrayed positively by the press and give the organization a chance to publicly show that they're shaking things up. I think that's a stupid reason to fire him. If Bernazard has done a bad job, he should be fired. If his presence in the organization is destructive, he should be fired. It seems to me that he has done a bad job and is a destructive presence in the organization, but I'm basing my opinion on very limited information, so there's a decent chance I'm wrong.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

When the Man Comes Around

Knowledge Body....Wisdom Godd.
The O.G. Masterpiece for the O.G.
This weekend, the Hall of Fame welcomes one of the greatest.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

From Doghouse to Pentouse

Congratulations to Mark Buehrle for twirling his second career no-hitter and first perfect game, and to his battery mate Ramon 'Blastro' Castro. I'm very happy for Ramon, who went from occupying Jerry Manuel's doghouse earlier in the season to playing for a contending team on the South Side. Ryan Church, another player Jerry had it in for, also got a promotion to a suddenly surging Braves squad. I hope Jerry has a great time managing his preferred team of no-talent hacks into oblivion. Keep up the Red Foxx routine!

Of Weis and Men

The recent hullabaloo over LeBron getting yammed on reminds me of prolly the greatest yamming of all time, Vinsanity's international incident yam over Frederic "Daddy, if I had nuts on my chin would those be chin nuts?" Weis.

While doing a little digging on the Frenchman the Knicks chose over Johnnie and hometown hero Ron Artest, came across this pic, good to see, all these years later, that Weis still stays steady stuffed. Remember 'bocker-backers, twasn't all Isiah's fault.

All that dig-dugging , and Ball Don't Lie's dope-dunk roundup got me into peeping other fantastic slams.

Oh, ha ha, he has a lot of kids and got fat. Disrespectful. Someday in the future, post-apocalyptic scientists picking through the detritus of our forgotten society will find this video, and marvel at man's onetime ability to transcend the limitations of his own body, to transcend time and space itself so that all mankind could exult in his beauty. They will particularly be in awe of dunk #5, where Chris Gatling, appropriately enuff, "catches the gat"; but is respectful enuff to exchange love with the man-child reign man.
Divac shook off this extreme sunning with a post-game spread of kalamata olives, smoked mackerel, feta cheese, raw onions and a pack of Marlboro reds. An innocent A.C. Green was once Magic Johnson's roommate so you would think he's seen his share of scary scenes, but here he looks more frightened than the creditors of Charles Oakley's Bronx car wash.
The beauty of the NBA is that while, yeah, doofy 7'++ stiffs get paid millions to clog the key and warm benches and wave towels their main purpose is to get posterized. To be sunns. The way every decent slammer salivated whenever Shawn Bradley came to town. The All-Star Dunk Contest could be so much doper if they let them jam over chumps like Brian Scalabrine and Andrew Bynum.

What do you think is more fun? To hit a World-Series winning bazonga for all of Canada off a closer who calls himself "Wild Thing"? To catch a pass in the corner of the end zone, while keeping only one foot in bounds, to win the Super Bowl? Or is it to smack an awkward Romanian in the face while violently slamming in a ball a good 12 feet above the earth while Starbury and White Chocolate stare slack-jawed?

Props to Jamd and Sports Illustrated's killer archives for the photos save the Webber-Mureson shot, from my personal stash of late 90's Slam Magazines.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How Worried Should We Be About Johan?

As I mentioned in our last post, Johan Santana has an acceptable 4.24 ERA over his last 9 starts, but very poor peripherals. During this span, Johan has struck out 4.9 batters per 9 innings and walked 3.0. The walk rate is a little high, but I'm more alarmed by the strikeout rate. Just to make things a little more precise, Johan has struck out 12.8% of the batters he's faced in his last 9 starts; over his career, his rate is 25.2%, almost twice as high.

This seems like a pretty bad stretch, but maybe it's not uncommon. Maybe Johan has had bad stretches like this before and bounced back. I was curious, so I made a spreadsheet of every career start since Johan permanently became a starting pitcher in 2003. Until this season, his worst 9-game stretch in K% was 17.0%, which came during a July-August stretch last season (before that, it was 17.2% during July-August 2005). His lowest K/9 was 6.4. So, a K% of 12.8% and a K/9 of 4.9 is easily the worst 9-game stretch of his career.

As I mentioned, his walk rate has been poor, too. Put the two together, and you have a weak 1.6 K/BB ratio over the last 9 games. Before 2009, Johan's worst 9-game stretch was a 2.4 K/BB during the 2008 lull (he's had a couple other dips to 2.6 during his career). Again, the current stretch is significantly worse than any prior stretch of his career.

Maybe I'm being too selective by focusing on 9 games. So, I looked at his worst 5-game stretches. During this current stretch, his worst 5-game numbers are a 10.7 K% and a 1.1 K/BB. His previous lows were 14.4 K% and 1.9 K/BB (different seasons). His current 5-game lows are a lot lower than any previous ones. Even his current 9-game lows are worse than any prior 5-game stretch.

I don't really have an answer to my original question. I'm not sure how worried we should be, but it's clear from the numbers that Johan's going through the worst stretch of his career.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coupon & Cannatar on THE END

Cannatar -
Bad: Winter arrives 5 months early - it's July 21 and the Mets' season is pretty much over. The Mets are in 4th place, 9 games out of first. They're tied for 8th in the Wild Card hunt, 6.5 games behind the leader.

Good: Most of this lousy season can be blamed on injuries (Reyes, Beltran, Delgado), as opposed to poor performances. So, maybe things will be better in 2010.

Bad: Carlos Beltran is one of the most important players on the team and his injury prognosis looks bad. He's probably going to need knee surgery, which could mess with his ability to play centerfield effectively.

Bad: The two healthy stars on the team have both provided good overall production (.874 OPS for Wright, 2.92 ERA for Johan), but there's still reason to worry about serious performance declines. Wright is hitting far fewer homers than he ever has before (5 so far after averaging 30 per season over the last 3 years) and is also striking out way more often. Wright's K rate per season: 19.7%, 19.4%, 19.0%, 18.8%, 26.5%! Over his last 9 starts, Johan has 4.9 Ks per 9 innings along with 3.0 walks. His ERA over that span is 4.24.

Bad: Even when a team is having a terrible year, you can usually find one or two bright spots, something that gives fans a little bit of hope for the following year. Is there a single player on the Mets who we feel better about going into 2010 than we did coming into 2009? All I can think of is Pedro Feliciano, which is pretty slim pickings. Coming into 2009, our corner outfielders were Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy. Church was never a star, but at least we had an expectation of average production. Murphy gave a lot of fans (and front office members) hope that he'd be a .300 hitter. Now, Church is gone and it's clear Murphy's 2008 performance was a fluke. What's our outfield in 2010? Sheffield will be 41. Francouer is worthless. So, add RF and LF to our list of holes for 2010.

Conclusion: It's really, really hard to put any kind of positive spin on the team's current situation.

Fred Coupon -
The worst part about this particular lost season is that there aren't even that many pieces to peddle in trades for prospects. As a lefty specialist, Pedro Feliciano will be in demand (I predict White Sox), and both Gary Sheffield and Brian Schneider could be useful for some contenders, but that's it. One question is, will Omar even make these trades possibly knowing he could be fired at the end of the season? It seems unlikely now, but how will the Wilpons respond to empty seats in August -save for the 1969 reunion game- and September and total indifference from the media?

And if Omar is canned, do we have any confidence the Wilpons will hire the right type of general manager? Someone with an appreciation for sabermetrics and a broader vision than Omar's which involved patching up one hole at a time in the organizational dyke? On that note, almost every employee in the organization needs to go, from every scout, instructor, doctor, to even the people who run the ballpark. Of course, a complete reboot -including ownership- would be best, but that's not happening. I don't even know what to make of this offseason. As you've stated there are several voids all over the field, and judging by the success of Omar's recent callups, the prospects in low-A ball don't look promising at all.

Cannatar -
You're right - there's pretty much nothing for the Mets to trade right now. Maybe a B-level prospect for Sheffield. Or Feliciano, but he could still be a useful part of the 2010 bullpen. Unless there are really bad injury situations with the stars, I think the offseason will be about filling holes to make another run at the division. If the Mets can spend enough money to put average players at 1B, LF, RF, then they probably have enough support for Johan/Beltran/Reyes/Wright/K-Rod. It's not a surefire solution, but it seems much more likely than just imploding the team.

And no, I have absolutely no confidence in the Wilpons. If they fire Omar, they'll probably just promote some incompetent like Tony Bernazard instead of bringing in someone who would actually shake things up. They really need to bring someone in with experience from a better front office.

This is one of those moments when I question why I even root for the team anymore. Am I really going to spend the rest of my life rooting for a team owned by the Wilpons?

Fred Coupon -
Now I've poked fun at the Wilpons' judgment in the past, but if they promote Bernazard, I'm going to make it my life's mission to oust them. I actually do feel some guilt ripping into a family that probably means well, but just has no foresight or common sense. They seem to strive to be the 'anti-Yankees' in that they will not relentlessly (and sometimes recklessly) spend money to get the best available talent, in both the major league and developmental levels. It is very proper they cling to the Brooklyn Dodgers, because they embody the spirit of a second-rate team in a big city.

As far as rebuilding the team goes, you just ask for average players at 1B, LF and RF. That's going to require some draft picks. So sad no one from the minors can earn an everyday job or barely keep up a platoon role. Fernando Martinez should've been dealt before his latest injury, because he's just another name on the Met outfield bust list (Murphy, Milledge, Escobar, Jefferies, etc).

Cannatar -
The draft pick issue is a bit less of a concern this year because the Mets will most likely be among the top 15 teams in the draft next year, which will mean that they can't lose their first pick.

I think it's a little early to add F-Mart to the bust list. He's still only 20! He's the youngest position player in all of MLB. He's 2 years younger than top outfield rookies Colby Rasmus, Dexter Fowler, and Andrew McCutchen. I'm not promising results, but it's way too early to write him off.

Maybe the worst post-Omar scenario is that Jeff Wilpon takes more control of personnel decisions and they go back to the committee approach of the Jim Duquette year.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Who are these guys?"

(sung to Don McLean's "American Pie")

Oh, and when we went down to Citi
Wanted Mets what a pity,
Got a shrine to Jackie,
Where’s Nails and Mookie?
And while Louie’s drop was a disgrace,
Ryan Church missed third base,
And Murphy fell flat on his face.
The day the season died.

I started bloggin’
Hey hey, who are these guys?
From Cora, Murphy and now Frenchy,
And Frenchy’s got no eye.
Those good players were stuck in the MRI
And singin’ I could get that RBI.
I could get that RBI.


Cricket's fiercest and oldest international rivalry, England v. Australia, resumes this summer. The two sides first fought in 1877, and now meet every two years or so to compete for "The Ashes." The two sides battle through a five-test series (each test lasts a maximum of five days) with England's final partnership stoically holding out at the death for a dramatic draw in the first test last week in Cardiff, Wales. (with a little help from a pleasantly-plump physio).

And just today, England defeated Australia at the famous Lord's Cricket Ground in London for the first time since 1934 to put them up 1-0 with three to play. I recently read a history of this ground, "Lord's: The Cathedral of Cricket" by Stephen Green and have scanned in some images of historical note:

Graham Gooch in 1993.
The pavilion at Lord's.
An aerial view of Lord's, Regent's Park and London.

Love the smirk of Mohinder Amarnath in this shot taken after India's 1983 Cricket World Cup victory. (One-Day Format)
A sport so genteel it may be played in a top hat and bow tie.

Terrific action shot from the 2nd Centenary Test in 1980.
The touring Aussie team of 1878 looking like, well, ummm, convicts.

A typical cap worn by the England team during the 1930s. Baseball teams also wore short-brimmed caps in the early days. Cricketeers, such as current Aussie captain Ricky Ponting, still rock the short-brims today.
The suave Pakistani team of 1954. Or an ad for the many uses of Brylcreem.
The snazzy looking Australian team of 1921, well, save for the porker in the upper left.
The M.C.C. touring team of 1926, featuring the future Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home.
Baseball was played at Lord's in 1917 during the First World War.
This is W.G. Grace in a painting from 1890, who played from 1865 until 1908 and is considered one of the all-time greats. Grace dominated with both the bat and the ball as did Babe Ruth in this early career. Save for the beard a helmet and a sponsor's logo on the shirt, he would not look out of place in the crease today.
By 1880, the county cricket clubs around England had developed their own distinct identities, as seen in this drawing from 1880.
Here is an early drawing of one of the first All-England teams from the 1830's. From the start the sport was played in all-whites, a tradition that continues only in Test cricket today.
Here we see the interlocking letters of the Marylebone Cricket Club, in their "bacon-and-egg" colors. The club was responsible for codifying the laws of cricket and are the original inhabitants of Lord's and the keeper of the Ashes.

The three remaining tests may be followed by reading the over-by-over report at the Guardian, listening to BBC Radio, or viewing live streams through various shady web sites. American cricket is covered well at, and has done a bang-up job covering the Ashes through posts and podcasts.

Friday, July 17, 2009

King Felix

Felix Hernandez received a lot of hype when he first arrived in the majors, but it seemed that he never quite lived up to the lofty expectations. Until now. So far in 2009, he's sporting a 2.53 ERA, a 9-3 record, and a K/BB ratio of over 3-to-1. He's behind only Greinke and Halladay in the Cy Young conversation.

The thing about Felix that's very easy to forget is that he's still really young. He turned 23 shortly after Opening Day. He'd almost been written him off as a disappointing, merely good pitcher before many people his age had even started their big league careers. Felix has pitched 791 innings in the majors, with a fairly impressive 3.60 ERA. He's a few months older than Phil Hughes. He's younger than Joba Chamberlain, David Price, and Clay Buchholz. He's two years younger than Jon Lester; two-and-a-half years younger than Edwin Jackson. He's younger than rookie-of-the-year candidates Ricky Romero, J.A. Happ, and Brad Bergesen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

'86 Mets

1. Funny segment from the Daily Show about Lenny Dykstra's financial acumen.

2. Good article in the New York Observer about Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling.

3. Gary Carter has a blog and is an idiot. For his mid-season awards, he gives the NL Cy Young to Trevor Hoffman. Trevor Hoffman!?! I'm not expecting Carter to do any advanced analysis, but could he have taken 5 minutes to take a look at the league leaders before making his absurd decision? Both Dan Haren (2.01 ERA, with a shot at the first ERA under 2 since Clemens in '05) and Tim Lincecum (2.33, 10-2, 149 Ks) are worthy candidates. Hoffman hasn't even been the best closer in the league. Heath Bell, Ryan Franklin, and Francisco Cordero all have more saves, less blown saves, and lower ERAs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Can't Wear Skinny Jeans Cuz....

Awhile back, an out-of-touch Hov declared his disdain for skinny jeans on the blaze (no thanks to him) banger "Swagger Like Us."

At last nite's All-Star Game, we learned that the Big O aka The Leader of the Free World shares the Marcy Maestro's hate.

Take a gander at his ghastly ensemble. Saggy, shapeless Levis that descend shamefully down his lengthy gams only to end abruptly above his ankles. But of course! All the better to showcase those crispy white kicks. And that crease!!!! Does he iron his jeans? Are his jeans....pleated?????

It''s all too Seinfeld-ian.

And if he was going for the common man look he should have gone with Lee's. In fact, he should have just rocked Jorts.

Many others have picked up on the Obama-Seinfeld parallel, including the Huffington Post and the NY Times. He wears his suits fairly baggy as well. Which makes sense, considering he came of age amidst the shoulder-padded excess of the 80's. But does the change he stands for stop at his wardrobe?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Followup on Competitive Imbalance

Just to be clear - I wasn't after any particular conclusions about how we should feel about payroll imbalance. I just thought it was worth looking at the numbers to see the impact of disparate payrolls.

In the comments to the post, Coachie made a list of franchises that have had some success over the last 10 years and whose fans should be happy, including "Mets(debatable)." I think that he and I (and most fans) consider recent Mets history to be somewhat disappointing reflects how much we already take competitive imbalance into account.

Granted, the last 2 seasons have been very frustrating for Mets fans, but by most objective measures, the Mets have been successful over the last decade: 84 wins per season, 3 playoff appearances, 3 NLCS appearances, 1 World Series appearance.

A big part of the reason Mets fans are frustrated is that we realize that with the payroll the team has, they should be doing even better. My rough formula indicates that a team with the Mets payroll should've won 87 games per season and had 4.6 playoff appearances over the last 10 seasons.

Here's a spreadsheet listing all 30 teams, their actual wins per season & playoff appearances over the last 10 years, and their expected wins & playoff appearances based only on payroll. I think the list jibes pretty well with general opinions about which franchises are run well and which are run poorly.

Here's the top and bottom 5 in Actual Wins minus Expected Wins (per season):
OAK 14
PIT -5
TBR -6
KCR -8
DET -9
BAL -10

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Competitive Imbalance

Last week, Cleveland Frowns wrote in defense of the Tribe's manager and GM based on the extra hurdles small-market teams face in MLB. Both THT's Shysterball and my colleague Coachie Ballgames (I hope they'll both excuse this over-simplification of their arguments) responded with evidence that competitive balance in MLB is comparable to the NBA and the NFL. I think that's a bit beside the point. It may or may not be easier to build a dynasty in other sports, but the issue is whether those dynasties are the result of inherent unfairness resulting from the league's rules (or lack of rules). I think the payroll disparity in MLB speaks for itself - unless we think all these teams are getting no value for their money, it's obvious that certain teams have a large advantage. Shysterball and Coachie both also pointed out the obvious examples of small-market teams who have had recent success, but just because teams like the A's and Rays have had success doesn't mean that we should ignore the disadvantage that they and all the other poor teams are fighting against.

Let's imagine for a second an alternative universe where MLB pools all revenues and has a hard salary cap. Bizarro MLB realizes that they make a lot more money on games played in New York than on games played in Tampa Bay. So, they decide that all the big market teams will play 100 games at home and all the small market teams will play 60 games at home (and let's assume that there'd be some kind of similar breakdown in the playoffs). Obviously, this would give the big market teams an advantage because home teams win about 55% of the time in baseball. But some small market teams would still succeed because the advantage wouldn't be huge - assuming that 55% rate, big market teams would win an average of 83 games and small market teams would win 79 games. Even though the edge would be small, we'd all recognize the basic unfairness.

How does that compare to what currently goes on in MLB? Here's my attempt at figuring out how big an edge the rich teams have had - I collected three pieces of data for each franchise for the last 10 years: payroll, wins, and playoff appearances. The 10 highest payroll teams have averaged 86.6 wins per season and 4.5 playoff appearances over the last 10 seasons. The 10 middle payroll teams have averaged 80.7 wins and 2.1 playoff appearances. The bottom 10 payroll teams (which include the very successful A's and Twins) averaged 75.8 wins and 1.4 playoff appearances. Each of the top 10 teams has at least one playoff appearance (Texas is the only one without two) and 8 of the 10 have winning records (Texas and the Cubs are the exceptions). 4 of the bottom 10 teams have failed to make the playoffs at all, while another 3 have only one appearance each. Three of the teams have averaged less than 70 wins a season; only 3 have more wins than the Rangers, the worst of the rich teams.
I don't think there's any way to look at this data and conclude that payroll doesn't make a significant difference in teams' ability to compete.

{For stats nerds - for this sample, the the coeffiecient of determination (r-squared) for payroll and wins is .47, which means that 47% of winning percentage can be predicted by payroll; for playoff appearances, it's 50%.}
Image above courtesy of Coachie Ballgames.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mad Dog "Unleashed"

Deadspin comes throo with coverage of Mad Dog's inevitable on-air meltdown.

We all knew when the Francesa-Mad Dog breakup went down who the winner would be. Francesa floats on, with the #1 sports talk show in the #1 spors market in the country. Mad Dog wallows in the numbing obscurity of satellite radio, joining my once-beloved Howard Stern in the great beyond. Notice how the whole Artie Lange bruhaha on Joe Buck's HBO show was pretty much the only Stern-related story we've heard in the mainstream since Stern fled terrestial?

At least Stern had legit reasons for fleeing, what with the FCC on its fine-inducing witchhunt. But Mad Dog, well, he broke up Hall & Oates, he broke up Sipowicz & Kelly, he broke up Lennon & McCartney, he broke up Turner & Hooch, Cloak & Dagger, he broke up Ike & Tina, well, you get the picture.

You know what they say, he who laffs last dines on Veal Francese with a Diet Coke.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Omar Minaya: “This had nothing to do with not liking Ryan Church, but, one thing we like about Francoeur is the amount of games he plays.”

I hope that amount will be zero.

Image swiped from Talking Chop.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Ballgames Are Expensive?

For some reason, one of my pet peeves is news stories about how expensive MLB games are. The AP published such an article today. The author quotes a Florida woman whose two boys are fans of the Rays:

"You go to the ballpark and get a hot dog and a Coke and the tickets and maybe a little souvenir and it’s prohibitively expensive,” she said. “Taking the kids to an old-fashioned ballgame is a major vacation.”

Look, I don't know what this woman's monthly budget is and it's probably none of my business, but the author of the article is implying that it is in fact expensive to take your family to a Rays game. Why couldn't the author follow up this quote with the actual cost for a budget-conscious family to attend a game?

A quick glance at the Rays website reveals that tickets for this Sunday's game are available for $11.50, including service charge. Kids will receive a Carl Crawford bobblehead doll and will be able to run the bases after the game, which is a pretty awesome double promotion. According to the Rays website, the team allows fans to bring their own food and water. Parking for Rays games is $15, but the fee is waived if the car holds 4 or more people. So, a family of 4 can attend a Sunday afternoon Rays game for $46 plus the cost of making some bologna sandwiches at home and bringing some bottles of water. A single parent and lone child wouldn't be able to take advantage of the parking deal and would have to pay a total of $38 for tickets and parking. This whole thing took my about 15 minutes to research. Surely, the AP has some interns who could conduct similar research for the other 29 ballparks.

I should probably end there, but the article also has a truly ridiculous quote from Reds fan Clarence Eckstein: “Tickets, gas, food, it’s a few hundred dollars.” I don't know how many miles Mr. Eckstein is driving in a gas guzzler and I don't know how many hot dogs he consumes, so I guess it's possible that it actually costs him that much to attend a game. But, I can easily check how much it costs to attend a Reds game. There are $5 tickets available for next Friday's game. With service charge, they're $6.51. There will be a free fireworks show after the game. Baseball & fireworks for $6.51 sounds like a great deal to me. The Reds allow fans to bring their own food and soft drinks. Parking is $10.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Everybody Loves Parnell

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Mets balked at trading Bobby Parnell for Scott Hairston. Omar Minaya's not alone in his love for Parnell - 83% of MetsBlog readers wouldn't have made the trade, either.

I don't understand the infatuation with Parnell. OK, he throws really hard. That's nice. But, he's almost 25 years old and the results are lacking. Parnell has a 4.88 ERA this season. He has 26 Ks and 16 BBs in 31 innings. He has a GB/FB ratio of less than 1. All of these numbers are below average. His minor league track record isn't great, either. The last time he had an ERA under 4 for a whole season was for the Cyclones in 2005. I know he throws really hard, but what's the upside? Solid middle reliever. That's what we're clinging to?

Scott Hairston is not a superstar, but he's pretty useful as a cheap everyday player. He has an .894 OPS this season and is a strong defensive player. But, this isn't about Hairston. If Omar's getting a lot of inquiries about Parnell and thinks he can get someone better, that's fine with me. My fear is that the Mets are missing out on an opportunity to trade him while his value is at its highest. Once Parnell has a full year of crappy results under his belt, will the offers still be coming?

Props to Coachie for the images.

"Evidence of Participation"

Who is this mysterious Gator QB? And does he have a hot virtual girlfriend?

Props to former college QB Sam Keller for leading a class-action lawsuit against Electronic Arts and the N.C.A.A. for using the likenesses of college players in video games without compensation.

The N.Y. Times article quotes a Christine Plonsky, Women's Athletics Director at Texas with a hilarious defense of the practice, "[we]don’t view uses of their imagery as exploitative, but mere evidence of participation.”

Not quite sure what that even means, but considering that the games don't use the player's real names it doesn't strike me as much evidence. And if all the games are is just proof that these guys play college ball, then don't take money from EA Sports.

Would a college collect and publish for profit the most promising short stories from a freshman creative writing class, change the names of the authors, maybe use a thesaurus and change a few adjectives or two without compensating the students or crediting their "participation" by name?

Would a college put out a CD featuring the best songs from the students in its Theatre Department and change the names of the singers and musicians (maybe name the cellist 'Cellist # 7)?

Of course, the NCAA says the suit is without merit. No attack on the glorious NCAA ever has any merit. We can just continue pretending that these student-athletes are akin to the glorious Olympic philosopher-athletes of ancient Greece while pulling in dumb-dumb dollars from any source possible. And old men in the media can continue to defend the NCAA, saying that our young footballers and hoopsters need the education, need those formative years on a college campus while turning a blind eye to the borderline high-school graduates that make up the vast majority of the players in Major League Baseball, National League Hockey, professional Tennis and many Olympic sports.

Whatever Happened to Peace, Love and What's Happening?

Came across this unfortunateness in San Fran this past weekend. Heiro, were never into being gangsters. Who would peep a Heiro hoodie then kill a man to jack it? It's like shooting someone for a Grateful Dead tie-dye. Heiro is as close to hippie as hip-hop gets this side of De La Soul. Hard to get violent pumping this in your headphones.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fool for the Cit-ay.

The Sticks.
The City.
Yesterday, Frownie raised a justifiable concern that competitive imbalance in baseball may lead to increased antipathy toward the sport. His concern centered only on championships, pointing out that mainly large markets (a difficult term to concretely define) have gotten that ring. Using the list "media markets," let's take a look at the history of the big markets, using only the criteria of championships.

1. New York:
The Yankees. Duh. But none this millenium! The Curse of Boonitez is upon them!
The Mets. 2 championships in 47 years, the most recent being 1986.
2. L.A.:
The Dodgers Usually competitive ever since the franchise swapped coasts in 1958. But their last title was in 1988.
The Angels. Lumped in with the greater L.A. area although the O.C. is its own beast. Usually competitive over its history. 1 title, won in 2002.
3. Chicago:
The Cubs. Ha.
The White Sox. Won in 2005 for the first time since 1917, which is basically winning it for the first time.
4. Philly:
The Phightins won it all last year, giving the phranchise a phat total of 2 in their entire phlengthy existence.
5. Dallas: 0-0.
6. San Fran/Oakland:
The Giants have never won a World Series in San Fran, with their last title coming back in 1954 when they were still raising hell up in Harlem. Dipset.
The A's have had a better go of it, having won 4 titles since moving to the Yay Area while usually fielding a competitive squadron.
(This is also probably the weirdest and most disparate metro area in the country. San Fran has 809, 000 people. Oakland has 397,000. Around them are numerous towns of various wealth and size, but separated by massive bays, mountains, ports, amazing burrito production and deserted beaches. Lumped together as a metro area, the Yay area lands in at 6, but it sure doesn't feel like a common metro area like the other areas on this list.)
7. Boston. A title in 2004 and a title in 2007. I forget when their last title before 2004 was.
8. Atlanta. 1 title in 1995, their only title in the Dungeon Family's home, having won in 1957 in Milwaukee and 1914 in Boston.
9. Washington. 1 title in 1924. Although not technically included in D.C.'s 'media market,' Baltimore has, until this decade, been a competitive team, last winning it all in 1983.
10. Houston. 0-1. Didn't put up much of a fight in their lone appearance in 2005.

So outside the Yanks and A's, and recently the BoSox, not much of a impressive showing for the 15 teams that comprise this top 10 media markets list. Of course, the Yanks skew everything in baseball history. But outside the Yanks, none of these teams can be said to be title hogs.

Moreover, Oakland and Dallas provide good examples of why it is hard to classify cities as big or small market. For example, Montreal would rank 5th in population if it was an American city, yet the 'Spos were never thought of as a big market.

Outside the many periods of Yankee dominance, baseball can be proud of its championship distribution. The 1980's saw a different team win every year save for the Dodgers winning twice. The 00's are shaping up similarly. Moreover, while no champ in the 00's can be said to be truly from a small media market, it would be hard to say dollars won the day with any of the champs this decade save for the Yanks, and perhaps the 04 BoSawx and 01 Dbacks.

All of this is not to say that there is not financial imbalance in baseball. However, market size is not the major indicator of success. And anyways, if championship are to be the be-all and end-all in the context of competitive balance, I think it's important to look at the amount of different champions each sport produces aka Which sport has had the most fans bases sip the sizurp?

Baseball players won the right to outright free agency in December, 1975. Since then baseball has had 32 World Serieses, producing 19 different winners. 7 teams have never won a World Series in their current city.(the Tampa Bay Rays, the Seattle Mariners, the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros, the Colorodo Rockies, the San Diego Padres, and the San Francisco Giants). Of the remaining 23 teams, three are suffering from droughts longer than a current young man/fan's experience (30 years), the Cubs (1908), the Indians (1948) and the Senators (1924).

For comparison, there have been 34 Super Bowls since December 1975, producing 14 different winners. 12 of the NFL's 32 teams have never won an NFL championship (Super Bowl or Pre) in their current city. (the Seattle Seahawks, the San Diego Chargers, the Arizona Cardinals, the Houston Texans, the New Orleans Saints, the Tennessee Titans, the Atlanta Falcons, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Carolina Panthers, the Cincy Bengals, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Buffalo Bills). Of the remaining 20 teams, 5 are suffering from droughts longer than a current young man/fan's experience, the Kansas City Chiefs (1969), the Detroit Lions (1957), the Cleveland Browns (1964), the New York Jets (1968), and the Philly Eagles (1960).

There have been 34 NBA championships since December 1975, producing 11 different winners. 17 of the NBA's 30 teams have NEVER won a NBA championship in their current city. (the Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Phoenix Suns, the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets, the Dallas Mavericks, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Indiana Pacers, the Memphis Grizzlies, the New Orleans Hornets, the Orlando Magic, the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors, and the New Jersey Nets). 5 of the 14 remaining teams, the Warriors 1975), the Blazers (1977), the Knicks (1973), the Wiz (1978), and the Bucks (1971), are working on some pretty serious "Mary Tyler Moore was the hottest dime in the game" droughts.

As with steroids, baseball as a sport catches flak where other sports don't.