Remembering Tom Seaver

As the month of August gave way to September, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history fell victim to a combination of Lewy body dementia and Covid-19.

Tom Seaver was likely the best pitcher it was ever my privilege to watch. His fastball, powered by the bets use of powerful legs of any pitcher ever, was dominant, and he threw it with such consistency and accuracy that a hitter who wasn’t aggressive at the plate against him would find himself in an 0–2 hole very quickly.

But try and gear up for that fastball, and he’d throw a slider that looked for all the world like a mistake pitch right down the middle until it seemed to dive into the dirt. Seaver also had an outstanding 12-to-6 curveball that forced hitters to bend the knee, and something sort of like a knuckle curve, a slow and deceptive pitch that seemed to tease its way past a hitter.

There’s a reason Tom Seaver struck out 3,640 hitters and led the league in strikeouts five times.Continue reading “Remembering Tom Seaver”

NFL, Giants Show They Don’t Care About Domestic Violence

Being a football fan and a feminist may not be mutually exclusive, but the two don’t go easily together. American Football is as testosterone-driven a sport as there is. While watching the games, whether at stadiums or sports bars, one can often see some of the worst excesses of male behavior.

Few are naïve enough to think that the National Football League is ever going to honestly give a damn about the domestic violence that has plagued it. Every time the issue has come up, it has been all about covering it up and, failing that, doing damage control. I don’t expect that to change.Continue reading “NFL, Giants Show They Don’t Care About Domestic Violence”

JETS WIN! JETS WIN!

Make no mistake about it, kids. The Jets won big time, and Darrelle Revis is unlikely to be burned as badly as he has been in his holdout by any NFL receiver for a long time to come.

It’s frankly pathetic to read the bloggers at ESPN’s web site talking about how the Jets “recognized” that they needed to Revis, one even going so far as to say the Jets were an 8-8 team without him, but with him have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl. Rich Cimini, at least, got it right.

Revis
Revis Island, ravaged, Darrelle burnt and pillaged

What utter nonsense. No cornerback (and Revis is, indeed, the best) can make that big a difference. No one player outside a quarterback can, and even there, it’s got less to do with how good the player is than how big the gulf between him and his backup is.

Without Revis, the jets still had a formidable backfield. Last year they lost the guy everyone thought was their best defensive player. Anyone recall how that worked out?

But the really sad part is that these guys seem unable to do simple math.

We’re not even talking fractions, here, just basic addition, subtraction and a little division. Let’s break it down.

Coming into camp, Revis was upset that he would make only $1 million this year. But his contract had three years left in it and the Jets would obviously have picked up his option, guaranteeing the rest of the money, which was $20 million. That’s $21 million guaranteed over three years, or $ 7 million per year.
Continue reading “JETS WIN! JETS WIN!”

Is Darrelle Revis really being underpaid?

I live far enough away from New York that I can only occasionally receive the broadcasts of WFAN, and have to make some effort to check out the local media buzz about sports. From what I’ve been able to suss out, though, it seems the majority opinion is that the Jets are being too hardline with Darrelle Revis and really should give him what he wants.

Some say that the Jets have a legit shot at a Super Bowl with Revis, but not really without him. I disagree, but I’ll let their fans debate that one. But others contend that Revis’ demands are reasonable, that he’s the best corner in the league, that he’s “outplayed his contract” and that he deserves to be paid at least as much as Nnamdi Asomugha.

I beg to differ. Not with all of those points, only with the conclusion.

Darrelle Revis

Is Revis being reasonable? That depends on how one analyzes the situation, of course, and is a matter of opinion.

Is he the best corner in the league? Some might argue the point, but I say yes, he is.

Has Revis outplayed his contract? Yes.

But does that mean the Jets should be expected to give him a long-term deal commensurate with Asomugha’s? Keeping in mind that the Raiders were widely viewed to have overpaid Asomugha, let’s use him as a benchmark.

Thanks to my brother who did some research to find these numbers (source: USA Today’s salary database), we can look at what Asomugha made in his first six years. Revis has played three.

Year 1 $3,575,000 (2003)

Year 2 $470,100

Year 3 $560,720

Year 4 $650,280

Year 5 $1,240,760

Year 6 (Opted out of contract and was franchised.  Jets can’t franchise Revis)

Got $9,765,000

Total:  $16,351,860
Now, let’s look at what Revis has made and would be due on the remainder of his contract.

Year 1 $5,319,000 (2007)

Year 2 $2,670,000

Year 3 $6,260,000

Year 4 $1,000,000

Year 5 $5,000,000

Year 6 $15,000,000

Total: $35,249,000

Continue reading “Is Darrelle Revis really being underpaid?”

Where’s the case against Clemens?

Roger Clemens, in terms of greatness and longevity is not only the best pitcher I’ve ever seen, he has a strong case for having been the best ever. Barry Bonds is the all-time home run king, as a hitter can only be discussed with Babe Ruth and Ted Williams and as an all-around player, only with Ruth.

Bonds has clearly fallen from grace and his accomplishments have been tainted in everyone’s minds. Now, Clemens faces a similar fate.

But for the life of me, I don’t understand why.

Roger Clemens swearing in

I’m not going to contend that Clemens is telling the truth and never took HGH or steroids. I have no idea whether he did or didn’t. But that’s really the point—I have no idea. And I can’t see how anyone outside of Clemens, Brian McNamee and anyone who might have actually seen McNamee inject Clemens with something they knew beyond a doubt was a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) can claim to either.

I’m not surprised that most fans have already convicted Clemens. He’s an unappealing figure, the whole steroids era has seriously bruised baseball fans, and the media have spent over a decade now whipping up a self-righteous frenzy over the issue to such an extent that any accusation of use is immediately treated as conclusive proof that the player used.

What I do find so puzzling, though, is that not only does the government seem to think they have a strong case for perjury against Clemens, the legal experts who are weighing in on the issue are giving Clemens only a tiny chance of beating the rap.

I’m not a lawyer, so I can only assume I’m missing something here, but whatever it is must be gargantuan and I wish one of these lawyers would explain what it is.Continue reading “Where’s the case against Clemens?”

Interesting Teams: 2008 AL

A few years ago, that master of anti-marketing his own product, Bud Selig, made the absurd statement that in any given year, fans of more than half of the teams in MLB don’t have any “hope and faith” due to the imbalanced market.

The statement was false on its face. In all of baseball history, no era has come close to matching the competitive balance that has existed in baseball since the free agent era began. Facile evidence supporting Selig’s claim at the time was available in the Yankees’ string of world championships from 1996-2000 (like that hadn’t happened before), missing a beat only in 1997. But since the Yankee run ended, only one team has more than one world championship and they hadn’t won since 1918. Plenty of teams on tight budgets have won and made the playoffs in the past 20 years.

That said, there is some serious bifurcation in MLB on 2008. The disparity between the vastly superior American League and the weaker Senior Circuit remains very pronounced. And while the NL, in part due to its overall mediocrity, is a pretty wide open affair, the AL has five teams who seem likely to contend for the four playoff spots, and really only two or three others who could possibly edge into the race with big years and some help from injuries or surprising collapses from the Big Five. Those five would be the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Tigers and Angels. Continue reading “Interesting Teams: 2008 AL”

A Surprising Winner This Off-Season: The Oakland A’s

As the Hot Stove League season winds down and gives way to the annual rebirth that is spring training, writers start to assess who the winners and losers were in the off-season. I’m not going to do that, but if I were to, I think I’d be putting a team in the winner’s column with a bullet that most others would rank as losers. That team is the Oakland Athletics.

But wait, you say, the A’s traded their best pitcher and their best position player for a bunch of guys we’ve never heard of. How can that be a win for the A’s? It can be and it was, but to understand it, you have to step back and do a sober analysis of A's GM Billy Beanewhere the A’s were at the end of 2007.

Coming off their first ever playoff victory in 2006, the ’07 A’s rolled the dice with a lot of iffy and unhealthy players and it came up snake eyes, a 76-86 record, a third place finish and the first losing season for the franchise since 1998. In and of itself, that’s no reason to panic. Teams have down years where the injury bug and a few problems dog them down.

But this team had no future. Several players who were supposed to form the core of the A’s franchise for years had faltered. Eric Chavez’s back problems have led to spiraling production three years in a row and it doesn’t look like he is physically capable of being the player he once promised to be, or even once was. Rich Harden had the best stuff of any pitcher the A’s have developed in recent years, but after three years of constant injury, it is clear he cannot be relied on. Bobby Crosby has proven not only to be unhealthy, but also not to be anywhere near the player, offensively or defensively, that the A”s thought he would be when they let Miguel Tejada walk.

Couple those things with several poor drafts which left the A’s once-envied minor league system with only a few prospects who had any sort of major-league future, and you start to see what Billy Beane saw. Sure, with guys like Nick Swisher, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Huston Street, Travis Buck and Daric Barton they had the core of a decent team, and a few shrewd moves and lucky breaks could put them on the outside track for wild card contention for a few years.

But the simple fact was they had no chance to put together a team that was a legitimate contender within the next few years. Most GMs would flail about, finding a few players to plug in who could help boost the team above .500. And, if the A’s played in the National League, where the best teams are not nearly as good as the best of the AL, Beane might have done that. But if he had, that would have been because he would have had sufficient resources to field a team that could have challenged the best in the league. Continue reading “A Surprising Winner This Off-Season: The Oakland A’s”

Joba Rules, But Remember A Guy Phil?

Eli Manning may not have been the only New York sports figure to have found himself in the post-season of 2007. In a less dramatic and certainly less impactful way, it’s just possible that Yankee pitcher Philip Hughes did so as well.

I’ve found it interesting to see the change in the view of Hughes since Joba Chamberlain hit the scene. Hughes was once regarded by some as the top pitching prospect in all of baseball. He didn’t make the immediate impact Chamberlain did, and now it’s Chamberlain who is the next big thing.

That may not be such a bad thing. In Spring Training last year, Hughes seemed to be feeling the pressure and pitched poorly. This resulted in his starting the year back in the minors. When he was called up in late April, he pitched two games before getting hurt and staying out until August. In his second May start, he pitched 6 1/3 innings of no-hit ball, striking out six and walking three before leaving with a hamstring injury.

When Hughes returned it took a while for him to find his legs again. But in September, he appeared to right the ship and made it on to the Yankees’ post-season roster. It was here that we finally saw again what we had seen in that second start, as he looked every bit as advertised against Cleveland. In two relief appearances in the ALDS, Hughes tossed 5 2/3 innings, surrendering one run on a solo homer, striking out six and not walking a batter. If this was his arrival, we’ll know it soon enough of course.

I think I’m higher on Hughes than most. But what strikes me is how many of those writing in sports media and the blogosphere have revised their view of Hughes.Continue reading “Joba Rules, But Remember A Guy Phil?”

Moments, Glorious Moments

I am an analyst by profession, and I bring that into my sports fandom. Analysis of baseball and football is a major part of how I follow, study and think about the games. In the baseball realm, I’m inclined toward what people called statistical analysis, Bill James, Baseball Prospectus and the like. Football, despite the efforts of people like the good folks at Football Outsiders, is not given to such quantification (a limitation the guys at FO are still struggling to get some perspective on), but even there, serious thought, challenging conventional wisdom and, yes, even some limited number crunching, is part of what I do as a fan.

That stuff is fun. It helps my understanding and appreciation of the games. But in the end, it’s the heart that is the center of sports fandom. There are moments in sports that explain why I get so emotionally attached to the games, why I growl in frustration when Kyle Farnsworth is brought into a tight situation and blows a lead, why I pound the table when Amani Toomer drops a key third down pass that hits him square in the chest. There are magical moments that make it all worthwhile.

Sometimes, those moments can come even when it’s not my team. Kirk Gibson’s game-winning homerun off of Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series was one of those. The gimpy slugger, forced to generate the power in his swing just from his arms, wins the game against the best reliever of his era. That’s a moment for poetry, not analysis. And it’s the beauty of baseball. Analysis can capture the value of a player’s season or career. But in a given moment, in one at-bat, or one play from scrimmage, anything can happen.

Of course, it’s better when it’s your team overcoming obstacles and long odds. But those moments can also be created by mediocre players. The 1978 season saw a near-miraculous comeback by the Yankees, overcoming a 14-game deficit to a very good Boston Red Sox team. But when all of that seemed like it might be for naught, it was weak-hitting Bucky Dent who creamed a three-run homer off Mike Torrez to bring the proper flourish to the Yankees’ season.

But moments are at their sweetest when your team is the underdog. The ’78 Yankees were a great team and the defending world champions. For the most part, even the greatest moments are somewhat dampened for Yankee fans. The Bronx Bombers are the greatest dynasty in sports. When they win, it is merely a promise fulfilled. It is when your team is clearly the inferior one, but wins anyway that sports find their potential for their greatest moments.Continue reading “Moments, Glorious Moments”