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”

Santana Deal Reflects a New Market

You know, probably the best thing about teams wising up and locking away their desirable players before they hit the open market in free agency is that it’s truly brought the Hot Stove League back.

In recent years, the blockbuster trade seemed to be facing extinction, and the off-season was filled with tales not of bargaining to find the swap that would make the headlines, but of budgets and contract negotiations. The off-season of 2007-08 turned that around.

In this off-season, big names were moved via trade. Those names included Miguel Cabrera, Erik Bedard, Johan Santana, Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Miguel Tejada, Scott Rolen, Troy Glaus and Jim Edmonds. Top prospects like Delmon Young, Adam Jones, and Cameron Maybin also found new homes. That’s a lot of movement of big time players.

Perhaps the most interesting saga of all of these was the Johan Santana deal. The talks about Santana dragged on for months, and for a long time it seemed that the Yankees and Red Sox were the only two serious suitors.

Yet in the end, it was the Mets that came out with him, and for a package that was clearly inferior to that which their respective teams got for Haren and Bedard, the other two top-tier starters who were traded.Continue reading “Santana Deal Reflects a New Market”

No Substance to Allegations Against Clemens

In one way, the Roger Clemens PED controversy has outstripped even Barry Bonds. That is in the amount of ugly bulls**t being strewn around it.

Once the Mitchell Report (man I hate that name) hit, there was no doubt Clemens would be in the center of a maelstrom. He was the only really big name in it, other than those who were already deeply implicated in the steroid scandal, like Bonds.

Since then, both Clemens’ and his accuser, Brian McNamee’s legal teams have turned the whole thing into a traveling circus, featuring the clowns in the House Oversight Committee, who apparently think that with the country’s economy collapsing,

American troops getting killed for no good reason in Iraq and a presidential campaign underway they have nothing better to do than determine whether Clemens or McNamee is telling the truth.

After a 60 Minutes appearance and a completely surreal press conference by Clemens did nothing to dissuade an almost universal consensus in the media that he was guilty, Clemens’ team issued a 45-page report purporting to show, via statistics, that Clemens was not guilty.

It didn’t work, and it never had a shot to.

Clemens did, in fact, have an amazing renaissance at an advanced age, one that is nearly unprecedented in baseball history. Showing that other pitchers have performed exceptionally well into their forties doesn’t really address that. But it’s a public relations war, and phony statistics are the theme of the day. There is no shortage of such on the anti-Clemens side, not by a long shot, as we’ll examine shortly.

So I can forgive Clemens this brazen attempt at manipulation. What really amazes me is the certainty with which most of the media is framing Clemens’ “guilt.” All the articles are about why Clemens is lying, how he can’t be believed, how he should just come clean.Continue reading “No Substance to Allegations Against Clemens”

Not Missing Shockey

It’s a good day to be a Giants fan. There’s really nothing quite like it when your team is appropriately an underdog and they win anyway.

The Giants have come together at the best possible time, and whatever happens in Green Bay this Sunday, it’s been a very successful season and a very nice post-season run.

There was a number of Giants who did not get to partake in the fun in Dallas this past Sunday. One who was not missed in the slightest was tight end Jeremy Shockey.

The Giants have not missed a beat since Shockey went down with a broken leg in week 15. In fact, they’ve gotten better since his departure. That improvement is probably coincidence, but it is not coincidence that the team hasn’t missed its alleged star end.Continue reading “Not Missing Shockey”