Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Not Happy with the Guys who Call Nets Games:

So they did this text poll during Wednesday night’s Nets game against Detroit: other than Jason Kidd, who is the best rebounding guard in the history of the NBA? Oscar Robinson won with forty-odd percent of the vote, followed by Magic Johnson with twenty-odd percent, Michel Jordan with just slightly less of the vote than Magic, and Clyde Drexler picking up the remaining votes (not very much). The announcers said they were surprised: they didn’t think that the Big O’s generation would be familiar enough with text messaging to achieve that result.

Now, the answer to that question is clearly Oscar Robinson. Over his first years in the league Robinson averaged a triple double (ten each of rebounds, points and assists), a feat which no one, at any position, has ever even approached. Major League Baseball will probably see another .400 hitter before anyone in the NBA will average a triple double again. The Jason Kidd caveat is irrelevant: when Kidd gets ten rebounds it is a minor occasion and Kidd does it far more frequently than any other guard in the today’s NBA.

Screw the Nets guys for thinking that the Big O’s winning was due to old folks knowing from cell phones, rather than young folks knowing from the history of the NBA. I very rarely (I actually think this is a first) feel the need to stick up for my generation, but I’ll say this for us: we tend to critically examine the numbers generated by sport, and even put those numbers in some kind of historical context. We fucking know that the Big O was the probably the best rebounding guard in the NBA. We aren’t like the previous generations of sports fans who only believe in things that they saw: we understand that a sports team consists of an aggregate of parts that can best be understood by examining statistics. Young basketball fans have straight up used the internet for to do more than watch videos of dunks: we have educated ourselves about the history of the game, and tried to understand today’s game in that context. I am unbelievably insulted that the Nets announcers attributed those poll results to anything else.

Anyway, in light of that Nets game, you heard it here first: Detroit Pistons win the championship. It is delightful to watch anyone do anything as well as the Pistons have played basketball over the years. Although the West is generally regarded as the vastly superior conference, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash, the linchpins of the two least flawed teams, are both a year older and playing with teams that do not seem to have grown in proportion to Detroit. This year, Detroit has wildly improved bench and a great mix of exciting young players coupled with a veteran core that has proved unbelievably consistent over the years: it is hard to think about their team and not imagine big things.

Merry Christmas From Sam’s Met’s Blog

I have extracted the worthwhile passages from Jose Conseco’s Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits and how Baseball got Big, in order to spare my readership from the whole thing. Merry Christmas.

“Mark [McGwire] didn’t like to go out with me because the girls wouldn’t pay attention to him. They would all pay attention to me. That was mostly because of Mark. He was never the best looking guy in the world.”

On being traded from the A’s to the Texas Rangers:
“I also wonder what role the steroid issue might have played in the trade. No one in the A’s organization ever came right out and said it, but by then there were a lot of rumors about me using steroids…
“But the Texas Rangers apparently weren’t worried about that. The managing general partner at that time was George W. Bush, before he was elected governor of Texas. At that time, he was very visible in the role of team owner…Sometimes he’d come down to talk to the great pitcher Nolan Ryan who had the locker over from mine when I first joined the Rangers.
“It was understood by then that teams knew all about steroids in the game. There was no question George W. Bush knew my name was connected with steroids—the story Tom Boswell had written in 1988 wasn’t the last word on the subject—but he decided to make the deal to trade for me anyway.
“And then, not long after I got there, I sat down with Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, and Ivan Rodriguez, and educated them about steroids.
“Soon I was injecting all three of them…Bush and Tom Grieve, the general manager, would have seen all three of those guys getting bigger before their eyes, starting within weeks after I joined the team. But they never made an issue of it, or said anything to me or to any of us about steroids.
“Was I surprised that no one ever brought it up? Come on. You never really get to speak to the owners or the GM on a daily basis. They spend their days off by themselves…I never had any sort of conversation with Bush. I shook his hand and met him once, but that was about it. He was around a lot; you saw him on his way in or out, but always just briefly. We were busy practicing or playing baseball. Bush did gravitate toward Nolan Ryan a bit, probably because he was a legend, and also closer to him in age. He didn’t talk to us Latinos much.”

“I used to use that thing when we would go deep-sea fishing; if we caught a shark, I’d shoot the hell out of it with the Street Sweeper.”

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Knick Fans Have Mainly Lost Their Minds is a site that I like a whole lot since it has a lot of good statistical information along with some sensible explanations of how statistics work, and some opinions about the Knicks that aren’t completely insane. Their recent recap of Isaiah Thomas’ tenure as coach of the Knicks does a much needed job of putting things in some sort of perspective.

The point to be taken from their recap is that the team that Thomas took over was not only awful, but also old. In that situation, one thing to do is let the contracts expire and try and build from the draft, with the hopes of becoming relevant in the future. Had Thomas gone that route four years ago, the Knicks might, right now, be approaching semi-serious contention. Thomas, however, proceeded to make trades with the goal of winning immediately, some of them with draft picks, and assemble what has finally revealed itself as one of the worst rosters known to man.

It’s not as if Thomas’ employers or the Knicks fans would have had much patience for re-building at any point during Thomas’ tenure. Possibly they could have been won over by it, but the temptation of immediate wins and playoff appearances was not something felt by Thomas alone. The people concerned with the Knicks all honestly believed that making the Knicks immediately relevant could and should be attempted.

The route that Thomas went thus involved taking a number of chances, and, unfortunately, none of them paid off. This can, in part, be attributed to bad judgment by Thomas, but one has to keep in mind that, as a GM charged with turning a bad team into a winning team, while suspended over the piranha-tank that is the New York Press, it was pretty much Thomas’ job to take those chances. The Dolans gave him a handful of chips, and we all looked nervously over his shoulder as he walked to the crap table.

Thomas’ first move was the trade for Marbury. Marbury has had serious flashes of brilliance throughout his career, and there was reason to believe that he could carry a team. There was also, even then, a good case to be made that Marubury was bad for teams and threatening to chemistry, but it wasn’t as if there were dozens of super-star point guards for Thomas to choose from. Thomas’ gamble didn’t pay off, but, given the overly ambitious goal of the Knicks, it wasn’t one that Thomas was necessarily unwise in taking. Given the short-term (and ultimately more important) goal of generating buzz around the team, it was practically inevitable.

Only someone with a serious problem with depression could have anticipated how badly the Curry trade worked out. When Thomas got him, Curry was very young and had led the league in field goal percentage one year. He was seven feet tall: it defies reason that someone seven feet tall could be so incapable of rebounding. It was almost impossible not to see potential in Curry and it seems unfair to expect Thomas to have anticipated Curry’s miserablness.

Furthermore, it is not as if the Bulls, who should seem to be on the winning end of the Curry deal, are much better, right now, than the Knicks, but, at the time that Thomas took over the Knicks, the Bulls had a far more interesting and talented young roster than the Knicks have had at any point in recent history. Despite that, the Bulls are so bad this season that they lost a game to the Knicks. The Bulls are so bad that they would probably be better if they had hung on to Eddy Curry.

So why aren’t people assembling with gigantic pink-slips to demand the ousting of the Bulls management? If the Mitchell report has taught me anything, it is to be less hesitant in calling out the sports establishment for ridiculous racism. Thomas was given an extremely difficult task, and he proceeded to do it badly. Looking back over the league’s last few years, it is not exactly as if there were many sure-fire ways of catapulting the Knicks into contention that Thomas passed on. Top notch talent is extremely hard to come by—particularly when you don’t have much to offer in return. With the benefit of hindsight, Thomas’ biggest mistake was probably not mortgaging the farm to get Kevin Garnett from Minnesota—but even that would have been a risk that he would understandably have shied away from. The series of more minor moves that he did undertake worked out badly, but any move that he could have made would have been a gamble with a significant chance of failure. The Knicks roster is a mixture of bad luck and bad judgment, for which Thomas deserves a significant amount of responsibility, but in no way warrants the bitterness of the anti-Isaiah campaigns, which are very revealingly deconstructed by Basketbawful’s Evil Ted.

There is something about successful, outspoken black men who disappoint expectations that brings out an ugly edge of hatred in American sports fans. It makes what happens on the floor at Madison square garden seem relatively pretty.

Monday, December 17, 2007

PEDs Do Nothing for the Prose Muscle

Since the Mitchell Report was largely a vindication of Jose Conseco and his book, Juiced, I decided to pick it up and am now 68 pages into it.

If I injected myself with steroids for every time he uses the phrase “It just goes to show you,” I would be bigger than Hulk fucking Hogan.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Clemmens and Pettitte are Scum

At first, I was pretty excited: I’ve had lots of fun at Paul Lo Duca’s expense in the course of this blog and he just got named in the Mitchell Report. Paulie never hit for much power anyway, and I had a lot of quips planned about him asking for his money back.

The Mitchell report is part of a very strange genre of documents that collect stories and evidence of human foibles and fallibility in the form of official reports. In general, the goal of these documents is to eliminate any poignant or poetic relationship to their material, and deal only with firmly establishing facts, and use these facts to lead to pragmatic, defensible prescriptions. Occasionally, as a result of this essential hostility to a personal reality, documents of this sort offer moments that capture the human condition as poignantly as anything in literature. One such moment happens in the Mitchell report, when they quote notes from a discussion by Dodger’s officials regarding Lo Duca:

“Steroids aren't being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade . . . Florida might have interest.. . . Got off the steroids . . . Took away a lot of hard line drives.. . . Can get comparable value back would consider trading. . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. That's his makeup. Comes to play. Last year of contract, playing for 05.” [italics mine]

I found myself reading that over and over again. There are maybe two or three writers who could do something that good on purpose; create a situation in which two opposing principles were so thoroughly interwoven. It conveys, with beautiful efficiency, Lo Duca’s feistiness and pride, but in a voice that is almost psychopathically clinical. The clinical voice is aware of Lo Duca’s personality and is trying, in its clinical way, to fit him into their clinical plans; Lo Duca’s personality is a factor to be taken into account, either a positive or negative factor in their plans. You realize that, in the eyes of those who control him, Lo Duca is just like the horses that he famously bets on; you get the sense that Lo Duca sees this as well. If I ever saw a passage that strong in a Michael Chabon book, I would assume that he had gotten help from his mommy.

And, in case you missed this, the source here is notes from a meeting of Dodger’s team officials. Anyone who wants to place the blame for steroids on “bad players,” and not the entire managerial and administrative culture of MLB, is completely misinformed.

Except for Clemmens and Pettitte. Fuckers. Cheaters. Hypocrites. Sanctimonious shits. Child-molesters. All-American John Wayne scumbags who were so fucking clean, and so fucking choir boy, and so godamn white and such true Yankees and good guys AND ALL THE TIME THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS WERE CHEATING AS MUCH AS BARRY FUCKING BONDS. Clemmens, who will through a fastball at your head if you look at him funny, was too much of a wimp to inject himself with the ‘roids and had to get someone to do it for him. Yankees. (Clemmens mother died of cancer and it is a big deal for him that he is very sad about…before dieing of cancer she used to turn tricks at a leper colony.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What the Hell is Wrong with People?

According to, John Maine and Oliver Perez attended the Knicks game on Monday, and were booed when they were shown on the Jumbo-tron. Seriously, what the hell?
I am not that happy with the Mets at this moment. On sober reflection, my initial optimism about the Milledge trade was unfounded/insane. They gave away a guy with some up-side, for two guys with zero-upside, who don’t seem to meet any immediate needs (ok, they needed a catcher. But they’re up to the eye-balls in outfielders. And Church is an unfortunate guy to replace Shawn Greene with.)

And the not-signing Santana or some other amazing pitcher thing is pissing me off. And I wish that Schoenwise had been busted for steroids and gotten the 50-game suspension just so we wouldn’t have to watch him for the first chunk of the season.

But, at a Knicks game, there are simply too many other things to boo; and in the context of Madison Square Garden, the Mets franchise is a paradigm of winning, responsibility and success.

The Mets were a huge disappointment and ought to have made the playoffs. I try not to be a mean-spirited fan, but I can understand the urge to hold that fiasco against all the players personally. However, the Knicks are so bad that I like the Met’s chances against them in a game of basketball.

Center: Mike Pelfry—dude is 6’7”
Power Forward: Moises Alou—played hoops in high-school.
Small Forward: Carlos Gomez-- 6’4”, athletic, fast as hell.
Shooting Guard: Jose Wright/David Reyes—young, in good shape, could probably make a lay-up.
Point Guard: El Duque—extremely competitive man; a state-mandated test once revealed that he had the highest basketball IQ in Cuba.

I would bet on that team to beat the Knicks. And if I saw Maine and Perez at Madison Square Garden, I would not boo them: I would try and see if there was an extra jersey lying around and if either of them could make a jump shot.

And of all of the Mets to boo, Maine and Perez are two of the worst. Both of them were pleasant surprises in 2007. Neither was anything like an ace, but neither of them was completely terrible. They both showed tons of upside. They are fun guys to have on a baseball team that you root for, because every game they start has the possibility of being either an amazing performance or minor disaster. The fact that they both over-performed in 2007 was the only reason that the Mets got to go through the worst collapse in sports, as opposed to just spending the season in second place. And, in the face of a non-Santana ’08, they are the closest thing that Mets fans have to a reason for not being completely depressed about the state of the pitching.

Basically, if you feel so strongly about the Mets that you are booing Ollie and Maine on the jumbo-tron, you better be at the Garden because you are waiting to go to Penn Station to catch an Amtrack to Atlanta, where you are going to burn down both Turner Field and Tom Glavine’s house.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quiz Answers

These are the answers to the Catcher Quiz, sorry they’re so late:

Garry “the Kid” Carter (e), the Chick-Track incident was one of many that contributed to the deterioration of the Championship team’s chemistry.

Paul “Captain Red-Ass” Lo Duca: (b), rumors are that Lo Duca might be headed to Toronto, where he will have lots of off days to peruse the racing form as the Jay’s back-up catcher.

Mike Di Felice: (a), trying to set that woman’s ass on fire is the most memorable thing that Di Felice has ever done.

Ramon Castro: (c): An incident in a Pennsylvania Hotel is the only part of this backstop’s career that can be described as “Kobe-esqu”

Mike Piazza: (d), Piazza’s attempts at suing Belle and Sebastian were short-lived, due to complexities of jurisdiction