Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What made me laugh today

If you read much about baseball on the web, you soon discover that Kansas City Star beat writer Joe Posnanski is someone who's worth reading.

Posnanski proves this today in a hysterically funny tirade against those who worship at the feet of Derek Jeter -- not Jeter himself, but rather those who deify him. In fact, he invents a word for it:

Jeterate (verb) meaning “to praise someone for something of which he or she is entirely unworthy of praise.”

Example: “The father could not but jeterate his daughter for coloring on the wall because she looked so cute.”....

See, the thing is Derek Jeter is such a good baseball player — I mean, we are talking about a no-doubt, first ballot Hall of Famer here — that people don’t need to jeterate him for his fielding. The guy sucks as a defensive shortstop, OK? He’s brutal out there. Every detailed defensive number shows it. He’s back near the bottom again in zone rating and range factor and, I’m sure, the Dewan plus/minus. Plus every scout who pays attention knows he can’t go two steps to his left and his arm is subpar. It’s OK! Really! He doesn’t have to be Mark Belanger. He’s a great hitter! He plays every day! He’s makes up for some of his flaws with his awareness and mental stamina! I wouldn’t be bothered by his defensive liabilities, I really wouldn’t, except, well, you know, so many people don’t think he HAS defensive liabilities. They give him freaking gold gloves. They knight him Sir Derek of Defensive Wizardry because 238 years ago he tagged Jeremy Giambi and jumped into the crowd on a foul ball.

This is not the part that made me laugh (well, OK, I'm enough of a Sox fan to admit to a cackle or two here). No, you'll have to click on the post and read Posnanski's imagined dialogue between the minds of Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, and A-Rod to understand why I was laughing out loud.

Hat tip: David Pinto.

posted by Dan at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm behind on my shameless self-promotion

Last week's conference, combined with the start of Passover, has caused me to get behind in the self-promotion department.

My latest commentary for Marketplace was last Friday, and discussed the Oakland A's and Billy Beane five years after the publication of Moneyball:

The popularization of sabermetrics has left Beane with less of an advantage -- it's harder to find diamonds in the rough when everyone else is mining the same territory. The A's are not struggling because of "Moneyball"'s failure -- they are struggling because of its success.
Listen to the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 03:03 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, February 4, 2008

A good year for Connecticut sports fans

It's not easy being raised in a comfortable suburb of central Connecticut. It creates confused sports loyalties that cannot be explained to others. The past two weeks, I've had to explain to friends and neighbors how I can simultaneously root for the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants.

Well, after last night's game, I'm not thinking it's that difficult a burden. Despite some sloppiness in the middle quarters, the Giants wrecked the Patriots' perfect season. They didn't wreck it through luck, but through superior line play and intelligent play calling. So much for the shock and awe of an unbeaten season.

There were no wardrobe malfunctions. The announcing team was confident. The commercials were mostly mediocre, but not abysmal. For once, it was just about the game -- with an awesome fourth quarter.

One last thought -- for all the hand-wringing about "what the children will think" about Spygate or steroids or what have you, this football season finally contained a positive parable for the children. Despite the fact that the last regular-season game against the Patriots was a meaningless one for the Giants, they put maximum effort on the field. Even though they lost that game 38-35, their effort was rewarded. That game gave the Giants the confidence to win three straight playoff games on the road, and then pull off a shocker in the Super Bowl.

In professional sports, it's not only about talent -- effort still matters. And that's a great moral for the children.

posted by Dan at 07:56 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Open Mitchell report thread

Comment away on the imminent arrival of the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball here.

As a Red Sox fan, I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I don't want to see any players from the 2004 and 2007 World Series teams implicated in the report. No matter how you slice it, the inclusion of key names wipes some of the luster off of those victories.

On the other hand, as a baseball fan, I have to hope that at some Red Sox name shows up on the list. Why? Howard Bryant's pre-release critique of Mitchell's techniques at ESPN.com already highlights one line of attack:

Tapping Mitchell, a Red Sox director, to lead the investigation furthered suspicions around baseball that the Red Sox might be treated more favorably in his report than the other clubs. That issue came to the forefront when word leaked just before the pivotal Game 6 of October's ALCS between Cleveland and Boston, won by the Red Sox, that Indians pitcher Paul Byrd had purchased human growth hormone. A day later, Mitchell released a statement denying any involvement in the Byrd leak.

"It doesn't make a difference what they say," an American League source said regarding Mitchell. "He's one of them."

Now, I think this is a horses#$t allegation (and to his credit, Bryant later writes: "It didn't come from Mitchell," a league source said of the Byrd leak. "It's ridiculous. Does anybody think that George Mitchell would risk everything he's built over his career just to help the Red Sox win a game?") but if a sufficient number of Red Sox are named, that criticism will be defused -- which would be good for baseball.

Comment away.

UPDATE: Due to a lovely four-hour commute to travel less than 10 miles, I wound up listening to both George Mitchell and Bud Selig's press conferences. Mitchell sounded pretty good; Selig sounded like a complete ass.

Here's a link to the report itself.

As for my concern regarding the Red Sox -- hoo, boy. There were no current Red Sox players named -- but Eric Gagne got on the list! As Seth Mnookin concludes:

It turns out that the biggest favor Gagne may have done Boston is sucking ass for the second half of the season–now, at least, no one can point to him as one of the reason’s for the team’s success.
ANOTHER UPDATE: From the report itself:
A number of studies have shown that use of human growth hormone does not increase muscle strength in healthy subjects or well-trained athletes. Athletes who have tried human growth hormone as a training aid have reached the same conclusion. The author of one book targeted at steroid abusers observed that "[t]he most curious aspect of the whole situation is that I've never encountered any athlete using HGH to benefit from it, and all the athletes who admit to having used it will usually agree: it didn't/doesn't work for them.

The primary attraction of human growth hormone for athletes seeking performance enhancing effects appears to be that it is not detectable in any currently available drug test. In addition, because human growth hormone stimulates growth in most body tissues, athletes use it to promote tissue repair and to recover from injury.

So here's a question -- why care so much about HGH?

posted by Dan at 11:55 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, December 3, 2007

We could be facing.... a profanity gap

Mark Lamster has a fascinating post up at YFSF on 19th century efforts to eliminate profanity from baseball. As he observes, "it's amazing how 'fresh' this language seems today, more than a century later."

Click over to the post and read -- indeed, it provides a sharp contrast to this brilliant Conan O'Brien riff on earlier 19th century baseball from a few years ago -- which I believe to be completely historically accurate:

While it's fascinating to read that profanity hasn't changed that much in 110 years, it's also a little disturbing. We're supposed to be the most innovative country in the world -- too innovative, if you believe Paul Krugman. Despite this supposed strength, however, it appears that Americans have yet to improve on "You c$%#-s&^%ing son-of-a-b@#!$!!!"

Should this be a source of concern?

UPDATE: In honor of this post, response to this report, I'm afraid I have only one response: Bob Watson is a pr***-eating bastard!!!

posted by Dan at 01:06 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Weston Field hits the big time

ESPN's College Gameday is going to your humble blogger's alma mater, Williams College, for tomorrow's broadcast. This reason is the 122nd playing of the Williams-Amherst football game.

To celebrate, ESPN.com has two stories on the rivalry. One tidbit from Chris Fowler:

Some of the early games reportedly were just glorified brawls between students. In the infamous 1928 edition, Amherst coaches dressed one of their own in a Williams uniform and sent him onto the field to confuse their rivals. Officials detected the ruse and forced the player to strip off his uni in full view of the amused fans.
Lauren Reynolds' story, however, has the better anecdotes about off-the-field stunts:
The rivalry is not confined to the players and coaches, however. In the long history of the rivalry, some of the most memorable moments have taken place off the field. Amherst students have accused their Williams counterparts of stealing back the books Moore took with him nearly two centuries ago; a few years ago, Williams' band presented Lord Jeffs supporters with a bill for $1.6 million in late fees for those same books.

Hixon, an Amherst alumnus, said the rivalry has inspired its fair share of pranks between the schools. "Back in the mid-'80s, we had a comic group on campus, an underground group, called Rubber Chicken. And Rubber Chicken was this comic group that pulled all sorts of bits," he explained. "And how they did it, I don't know, but they got into the Williams equipment room and stole all of the Williams home jerseys on the Monday before the [game on] Saturday. And as the Williams equipment manager went to lay them out, he found out that they didn't have them.

"So all hell broke loose, as you might imagine. They didn't really know who it was, and now it looked like Williams was going to have to play at Williams on their homecoming in their away jerseys. It just couldn't happen.

"Rubber Chicken took a picture of themselves -- about 12 guys -- with the jerseys on, but the shirts over their heads, covering their faces. And they sent it to Williams, and the fun began. And on that Thursday afternoon, [Williams'] security office and our security office met halfway up the Mohawk Trail to deliver the jerseys."

The Rubber Chicken incident is hardly the only prank to be pulled; in fact, Williams students are the reason Amherst's mascot, Lord Jeff, no longer carries a sword to games. (It seems the mascot might have been a little too eager to joust when an Ephs supporter stole his hat at a basketball game.)

"There's a lot of fun and folklore; the stories get a little bit better each year," said Hixon, whose basketball team is all too familiar with the rivalry. This season, Amherst captured its first Division III NCAA men's basketball championship, finishing the season with a sparkling 30-2 record. The two losses? One came at the hands of Williams, of course.

Although the students are entrenched in the rivalry from the moment they step on campus, it does not end at commencement.

"One of the things that really fuels the fire is the professional world. That's where it really becomes heated -- when you're sitting across from a guy, or your boss is a Williams guy or the guy underneath you is an Amherst guy, and there's little wagers or whatever," Mills said. "It's an amazing thing. It's a small school, but it seems to have veins everywhere in the country, and the post-grad stuff is really what keeps the flame burning."

Go Ephs!!

posted by Dan at 02:38 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A hidden utility of sports globalization?

Dani Rodrik posts about the migration of talented African football soccer players to European club teams. Here's how he tallies up the costs and benefits:

Consider that soccer fans have loyalties not only towards individual clubs but also to their national teams. So one question is what has the presence of foreign players in Europe done to the quality of the national teams. Following the disappointments of the English national team in recent games, some have suggested that the culprit is the dominance of foreign players in the Premier League and have recommended reintroducing quotas.

Or consider the quality of domestic leagues in Africa proper. The complaint that the exodus of players has hurt these leagues has been around since the 1970s. But I do not know of any serious evidence on this, and I would love to know.

In any case, it is likely that the globalization of the industry has (a) increased the quality of African national teams relative to European national teams; and (b) reduced the quality of domestic leagues in African leagues relative to club play in Europe. So how do we evaluate these outcomes in terms of what ultimately counts: the enjoyment of the fans?

If we're really thinking about the fans, then I think Rodrik is omitting a missing utility. Clearly, the migration has improved the quality of the play of European club teams. Furthermore, for most fans, the consumption of sports is a nonrival good -- i.e., I don't lose any utility from others watching or listening to a game. If African fans value high-quality play, then the decline in African domestic leagues can be offset by paying more attention to the European leagues, much like Rodrik himself.

This certainly happened with baseball, as the importation of players like Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Daisuke Matsuzaka have caused Japanese baseball fans to pay more attention to American baseball.

Admittedly, an improvement in the quality of a foreign sports league is not a perfect substitute for a domestic sports league. African soccer fans are much less likely to be able to attend a UEFA game than one from their local league. However, for those not actually attending the game, it's not clear to me that the consumption process is affected by where the good games are played. Indeed, the globalization of consumption suggests that the fans do not suffer as much from a decline in local sports leagues as Rodrik suggests.

Of course, I don't know if Africans actually have paid more attention to the European leagues, and this is an important data point. I hereby request all African readers of danieldrezner.com to submit comments about whether their athletic attention has migrated, along with their players, to northern latitudes.

posted by Dan at 08:56 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why 2007 is different from 2004

Daisuke Matsuzaka: $103 million.

J.D. Drew: $70 million.

Julio Lugo: $36 million.

Eric Gagné: two decent young players, a couple of million dollars, and at least two months from my life expectancy.

Hideki Okajima, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Kielty, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester et al: Combined, much less than any of the aforementioned players on this list, but more than I have in my bank account.

Waking up your son and seeing him punch the air with his fist and say "YESSSS!!!" when Papelbon struck out his last batter of the season: priceless.

Congratulations to the Colorado Rockies, for an incredible run to get to the World Series, and for making the last three games much more nail-biting than the term "sweep" would suggest.

UPDATE: In Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan writes about the difference between information and experience when it comes to thinking about baseball:

After tonight, however, I know what cannot be quantified: being able to claim the word “champion” for your own, to scream at the top of your lungs that you’re the best, and get no argument. To dance on a field with your teammates—no, your work family—and embrace and have, for that moment, the knowledge that no one is better than you are.

Tonight, for the first time, I saw that moment up close, and I have no good way of relaying it to you in Prospectus terms. There’s no Value Over Replacement Feeling, no Equivalent Emotion, no Smile Shares. There’s just the look on a man’s face when he’s wearing the entire Cooperstown Collection, fresh off the factory floor, soaked in cheap champagne and cheaper beer, sporting the “What Not to Wear” miniseries combination of goggles and a baseball cap. There’s no measure for that; you have to see it to appreciate it, and even then you can’t really understand it.

Men play professional baseball for any number of reasons, and we pick those apart at our leisure to fill column space, to generate mouse clicks and revenue and make a name for ourselves. Make no mistake, though: however much these men enjoy the playing, the adulation, the paychecks and the power, they live for this.

We should all have this feeling at some time in our lives. We should all set a goal, work towards it, achieve it and celebrate ourselves when we accomplish it. I envy these Boston Red Sox, who played baseball in 2007 better than any team did, and will forever be known as champions for it.

It's interesting to remember that only a decade ago, the dysfunctionally managed Red Sox made headlines for their internecine warfare, while the Yankees exuded professionalism. The roles have certainly been reversed.... in Red Sox Nation, there's not even going to be a controversy about the final ball.

posted by Dan at 09:08 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My productivity will be down this week

The World Series starts tonight. In a choice between the hottest team in baseball and the best team in baseball, most of the prognosticators have picked the latter. But we know the value of expert prognosticators here at danieldrezner.com.

What about the statheads? They have spoken too.

Diamond Mind simulations ran the series a thousand times and had the Red Sox winning over 70% of the time.

Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds give the Red Sox a 59% chance of winning.

In other words, to a longtime Red Sox fan (as opposed to the more secure post-2004 variety of fan), this seems eerily like a reverse mortal lock -- i.e., if the Rockies beat Josh Beckett in Game 1, look out.

Of course, I have changed since 2004, so although I will never be able to eliminate the fear of imminent collapse by the Olde Towne Team, I have managed to reduce that fear to a tolerable nervousness.

Still, contra the Steinbrenner clan, I do believe that the journey is just as valuable as the final quest in baseball. Therefore, I heartily encourage all Sox fans to click on the video below to remember this past season.

And if the Sox win the World Series, all the better.

posted by Dan at 05:42 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 22, 2007

The metamorphosis of Red Sox Nation

With the Red Sox in the World Series for the second time in four years, one fan ponders the change in the team.... and Red Sox Nation:

The 2007 version of the Boston Red Sox -- with just 28 percent of the team held over from three years ago -- may be scrappy, and they might be a tad scruffy, but they're not underdogs. Not with that payroll, not with that record, and most certainly not with that air of confidence we saw on display the last three games....

Perhaps the biggest change is simply the attitude among Boston's ever-expanding fanbase. I think that's something to regret. Three years ago, a World Series title was an elusive dream. Now it's a realistic expectation. The innocence, the unblemished joy is gone, replaced by the knowledge that the unreachable is no longer so.

Yet who would rather it be different?

As Art Martone reports in the Providence Journal's SoxBlog, however, Red Sox fans are also displaying a maturity that I don't remember existing before 2004:
As the Indians' players made their way from their clubhouse to the team bus, which was parked in right field, they found themselves being honored by an unlikely group of people.

Red Sox fans who had stayed behind at Fenway Park for the post-clinching celebration stood to the sides and created an alley for the players to walk through. And as they passed, the fans applauded, making comments like, ''Good series,'' and ''Good luck next year.''

Ex-Sox right fielder Trot Nixon was the first to pass, and he seemed surprised by the ovation. The other Cleveland players passed stoically, but Travis Hafner had a smile on his face.

It all occured at around 1 a.m.

UPDATE: Of course, it's worth pointing out that the Red Sox are merely one prong of a sports town that's become an emerging hegemonic power (Patriots, Celtics, Boston College, etc.). This apparently has New York sports fans in a bit of a lather:
Being a New Yorker, I'm still getting used to this strange new world. I wake up in the hotel, turn on the TV, and there's Belichick, the cheater. "We had a lot of trouble with Miami," he says. "They're a good team."

Sure, the Dolphins with quarterback Cleo Lemon would prove a regular juggernaut. It's a wonder they held Tom Brady to fewer than seven touchdown passes. Apparently, the fans in Miami broke into a chant: "Let's go Red Sox. Let's go Red Sox."

I don't like Belichick, the lying dog, so I turned off the TV and read the paper. There was a whole section on row boating, which is huge here.

Let's go Red Sox. Let's go Red Sox. These beery kids in the bars outside Fenway chant through the night. Whatever happened to Boston's lovable losers? And the intelligentsia who glorified them? Where's Tip O'Neill? Everything is upside down. Even Ben Affleck has given up acting in bad movies to direct good ones.

Let's go Red Sox. The kids keep on chanting until their Red Bull highs subside.

The horror. For a New Yorker, it's like being in a Stephen King movie.

posted by Dan at 11:22 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, October 8, 2007

I almost feel bad for Kevin Drum. Almost.

For this Stanford graduate and Red Sox fan, I must confess that Kevin Drum's horrible sports weekend is pretty awesome for the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com.

posted by Dan at 12:52 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gonna be a stress-free weekend


On the same night, the Red Sox and the Cubs clinch division titles.... and the earth is still rotating.

As for Mets fans, I can only suggest clicking here and taking some solace from Adam Smith.

posted by Dan at 09:23 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

There's spying and then there's, you know, spying

New England Patriots Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, and the Patriots were fined $250,000 and some draft picks for spying on the New York Jets defensive signals during last week's game.

What's interesting about this is that it's not even close to the biggest sports fine levied yesterday. No, for that we have to go to Formula One racing. The New York Times' Brad Spurgeon explains:

McLaren Mercedes, the leading team in the Formula One championship, was fined $100 million Thursday and excluded from the constructor’s title in connection with the spying scandal that has plagued the sport all season.

The International Automobile Federation, the sport’s governing body, found McLaren guilty of cheating by using data obtained from Ferrari, its main rival, to improve its own car, the federation said in a statement issued following a hearing in Paris....

It was the harshest punishment given to a team in the 57-year history of the sport.

The federation, known as F.I.A., said it had stripped McLaren of all its constructor’s points in the Formula One world championship, and the team can score no points for the remainder of the season.

F.I.A. added that the team would not share in the sport’s revenue this season, either....

The spying scandal broke in early July, when Ferrari accused McLaren of using data given by a Ferrari employee to a McLaren employee to improve the quality of its racing car. The police had found documents regarding the Ferrari car at the home of Mike Coughlan, McLaren’s technical director, in England. Ferrari said it thought its former employee, Nigel Stepney, who had been frustrated by organizational changes at Ferrari this season, had provided the information to Coughlan.

A question to the three people in the known universe who are acolytes of both Formula One racing and the National Football League: While even I can determine that McLaren's actions were more egregious than Belichick's, were they 200 times as egregious??

posted by Dan at 11:44 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

NESN's greatest moment.... ever

It might be impossible for me to ever watch this video clip from last year without laughing. In honor of its one-year anniversary, here it is:

"Braveheart my ass!"

Hat tip: ESPN.com's Jonah Keri.

[You're just trying to distract attention from the fact that since you incurred the wrath of the baseball gods, the Yankees have lopped seven and a half games off of Boston's lead!!--ed. Feh. As Bryan Tsao points out, the Red Sox are sitting a lot prettier than Red Sox Nation realizes.

posted by Dan at 01:53 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Mike Lowell is a wise man

Clearly, I'm not the biggest Barry Bonds fan in the world. That said, Gordon Edes transcribes Red Sox third baseman' Mike Lowell's reaction to Barry Bonds breaking the home run record, and it's worth quoting in full:

"I watched it when they put it up on the Jumbotron," he said. "The thing I keep thinking about is the Duke lacrosse thing. If it hadn't turned out the way it did, maybe I'd feel differently. But the media and the whole country thought those lacrosse players were guilty as sin, and they weren't."

The Duke players were accused of raping a young woman in their fraternity house, charges that were later dropped, and the district attorney was later disbarred. "When the coach resigned," Lowell said, "I thought to myself, 'Wow, this thing is going to be something really deep,' and it didn't come close to being true. So they reinstated the eligibility of some of those players, but their whole lives were changed. And the seniors, they can never get that year back.

"That's why I think the best thing is, until we know more, until there are charges or they find pictures or something, that we recognize this as a legitimate record and hold to the belief that in this country, you're innocent until proven guilty.

"Do I believe [performance-enhancing substances] can help someone who is already in the big leagues do better? Yes, I believe that. But do I put Bonds in that category? Everybody has tried to get something on him, and yet he still hasn't been charged with anything. They indicted Michael Vick in 20 minutes because there was something there. But I'm also willing to reserve judgment in the Michael Vick thing."

Lowell said he didn't understand why commissioner Bud Selig raised the steroids controversy when Bonds tied Hank Aaron's record Saturday in San Diego. "We all know how [Selig] feels," Lowell said, "so why not just leave it at baseball? If he's wrong, then he's going to look like an [expletive]. If he's right, he can tell us all, 'I told you so.'

"But the number is unreal. I'm close to 200 home runs, and that's a number I'm not even dreaming about. People say [Bonds] was a great player already; this just takes him to another level."

posted by Dan at 11:32 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

In honor of Tom Glavine

While I was away for the weekend, Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron's home run record, and Tom Glavine won his 300th game.

In honor of these accomplishments, it seems appropriate to resurrect the this Nike commercial from a decade ago, featuring Glavine, Greg Maddux, Heather Locklear, and a somewhat tarnished slugger:

Seen in retrospect, the commercial is ironic for two reasons.

First, does anyone doubt that Glavine (and Maddux) will be held in higher esteem from here on out?

Second, as Jack Wilkinson wrote in this SI.com story, Glavine was actually quite accomplished at the plate -- just not in the same way as Bonds:

"Tommy goes beyond pitching, though," said [Atlanta Bravers manager Bobby] Cox. "He's always been the best bunter. You can squeeze [bunt] with him with two strikes, which we did dozens of times. And he's a great fielder and an all-around guy. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, too."

posted by Dan at 12:10 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Pinch-hitting for Seth Mnookin....

One of Seth Mnookin's favorite pastimes is beating up on the New York Times' Murray Chass (click here for one example).

Seth appears to be MIA today, so for the general good of Red Sox Nation, let's have some fun at Chass' expense.

Three weeks ago, Chass projected the following in his column:

[H]ere is one projection that could actually have some potential as a barometer. Even better, it could create some fun: At the rate at which the Yankees are slashing into Boston's lead in the American League East, they will pass the Red Sox in the standings by July 4.

If that happens, can you imagine the fireworks in the Red Sox' front office, their dugout, their clubhouse, at Fenway Park? Fenway would become a pyrotechnic pit. Fenway fans, burned once more, might torch their season tickets.

Impossible, you say? There's no way the Yankees could catch the Red Sox in the next three months, let alone the next three weeks? Curb your skepticism and look at the facts: Only 10 days ago, the Red Sox led the Yankees by 13 1/2 games; today, their lead is 9 1/2.

As July 4th is tomorrow, it's clear that Chass' projection ain't happening. To his credit, Chass is aware of this fact, and devotes today's column to explaining why he was wrong: "If They Had Done Their Job, the Yankees Could Have Led":
The target date arrives tomorrow, and the easy explanation for why the lead change will not happen is that the Yankees didn’t maintain their rate of the first half of June. Had they done their job properly, the Yankees could have given their employer the best birthday present ever. But happy birthday anyway, George, and many more healthy ones.

Even a tie would have been a welcomed gift, but the Yankees couldn’t manage that either....

In the past two weeks, the Red Sox have done their part to make the July 4 projection a reality, but the Yankees have failed to do theirs.

Let's crunch some numbers here. Consider the following:
1) When Chass wrote his first column, the Red Sox had a 9-1/2 game lead.

2) In the 19 games since Chass wrote that column, the Red Sox have gone 10-9. Let's be generous to Chass and say that the Sox lose tonight's game against the Devil Rays, leaving them a mediocre 10-10 record in the three weeks prior to July 4th.

3) So, what would the Yankees have had to do in order to catch the Sox in the standings? Not much... they just would have had to win all 19 games they had played in the past three weeks.

Far be it for me to defend the New York Yankees, but expecting any team to reel off 19 wins in a row borders on the delusional.

[But what if the Yankees had "maintain[ed] their rate of the first half of June"?--ed. The Yankees did go 8-2 in their first 10 games of June. Had they maintained that pace... they would have gone 16-4 and remained 3 games back.]

Consider that, even after the fact, Chass thinks a 19-0 run was feasible. This indicates one of three possibilities:

1) Chass is really, really bad at math;

2) Chass is a worse sports columnist than Dan Shaughnessy;

3) All of the above.

posted by Dan at 01:20 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, June 29, 2007

The most intriguing sentence I read today
[P]artisans of both stripes tend to take their baseball more seriously than do political independents.
From Christopher Zorn and Jeff Gill, "The Etiology of Public Support for the Designated Hitter Rule.Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2:189-203.

Hat tip: the Political Science Weblog.

posted by Dan at 09:35 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Not your father's Yankees... or your older brother's, for that matter

At last night's Yankees-Blue Jays game, Alex Rodroguez, on the basepaths, may or may not have yelled "Mine!" during a routine pop-up, leading to an error.

More amusing than whether A-Rod bent the unwritten rules is the reaction of Yankee fans. Exhibit A:

Look, I wish I could offer more lofty sentiments, but let’s be honest. At this point in the Yankees’ season, if getting an actual win requires A-Rod to screw thirteen transvestite prostitutes, on a pile of corked bats, in front of Babe Ruth’s plaque in Monument Park? Fine.

posted by Dan at 01:25 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, May 28, 2007

That's right, I'm risking the wrath of the baseball gods

I've been holding off on the baseball posting for the first two months of the season, because, well, it's the first two months of the season. With Memorial Day weekend, however, comes a quick glance at the standings, and hey, what do you know, the Red Sox have an 11 1/2 game lead in the AL East and a 12 1/2 game lead over the Yankees.

Longtime Red Sox fans will recall 1978, in which the Red Sox frittered away an even larger cushion. However, over at Baseball Busings, David Pinto thinks history is unlikely to repeat itself:

Sure, nothing is set yet, but a big difference between now and 1978 is that New York was a lot of games back, but they were still a winning team. Today, the Yankees are much closer to Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Texas than they are to either Boston or wild card leader Detroit.
I'm a tad more wary than David: if you look at runs scored and runs against, the Yankees should have a better record than they do (UPDATE: In a later post, David re-evaluates his own position). And, for the record, the Red Sox ain't a .700 team either. With the wild card, the Yankees still have a fair-to-middlin' chance of making the playoffs (just like the Red Sox in 2004). The difference is that the Yankees can't experience another stretch like the past two weeks, or their season is done.

Fortunately for the Olde Towne Team, many of the intangibles have been going in the Red Sox direction:

1) Yankee manager Joe Torre has lost his magic touch at right around the same time that Terry Francona acquired greater quantities of management acumen. Now a lot of this is luck, but some of it is Francona managing the bullpen better than Torre.

2) Opposing players are ripping Yankee fans and praising Red Sox fans (to be fair, the player in question used to play for the Red Sox). This rant provides some supporting evidence.

3) Red Sox Nation is expanding into China.

4) Seven words: back to back to back to back.

5) For a savior, Roger Clemens is taking his own sweet time getting back to the majors. It now apeears that he is going to miss the Sox-Yankees series later this week. With only six games remaining between the two teams after this week, one wonders just how much of an impact he can have.

6) In sharp contrast, the Red Sox "savior" is a 22-year old cancer survivor who, in the span of six months, has gone from undergoing chemotherapy to throwing curveballs. When he returns to the team, he's slotted as the fifth starter.

Those last two points highlight the real reason the Red Sox are doing so well -- they have a more good, young pitching at their disposal and in the pipeline.

The best long-term news, however, is contained in this AP story:

Despite constant speculation about manager Joe Torre's job, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner says someone else also needs to deliver as the team looks to reverse its floundering start: general manager Brian Cashman.

"He's on a big hook," a spirited Steinbrenner told The Associated Press in a rare interview from this Tampa office. "He wanted sole authority. He got it. Now he's got to deliver."....

"The boss is the boss,'' Cashman said before Friday night's game against the Los Angeles Angels. "There are no surprises here. He's said this to me privately."

Cashman agreed with Steinbrenner's assessment.

"I'm on the hook. You can't describe it any better than that," Cashman said. "It's my job to figure it out.

Please, please, pretty please with sugar on top, let George fire Cashman. He's made some short-term mistakes as GM (I believe Cashman is officially the only person in the known universe who believed that Carl Pavano would be healthy all season -- and this includes Pavano). Long-term, however, he's started to restock the farm system and shed grumpy old ballplayers. The best thing that could happen to the long-term plans of the Red Sox is if Steinbrenner fires Cashman in favor of a Steinbrenner toady. At that point, I bet you that the new GM would trade Philip Hughes, Jose Tabata, and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana.

In which case, there will be seven fat years for the Sox, and seven lean years for the Yankees.

posted by Dan at 09:27 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The globalization of American sports

A theme of Michael Mandelbaum's The Meaning of Sports is that American sports don't travel well beyond our borders. Indeed, David Samuels brought up this very question in his Atlantic profile of Condoleezza Rice.

I'm increasingly wondering if this still holds up. To be sure, soccer/football remains the most popular global sport. However, the second most popular sport is basketball -- invented in the U.S.A. The globalization of baseball -- through imports like Daisuke Matsuzaka and exports like the World Baseball Classic -- is also proceeding apace.

The claim that American sports aren't followed outside of the U.S. rests primarily on American football, which is generally viewed by non-Americans as only slightly less offensive than dwarf-tossing.

Again, if this AP report is correct, I'm no longer sure if this holds:

The first regular season NFL game outside North America is shaping up as a hot ticket.

The first 40,000 tickets for the Oct. 28 game between the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants at the new Wembley Stadium sold in 90 minutes Wednesday.

"The speed in which such a large number of tickets were snapped up ... demonstrates the great excitement and appetite for the game in this country," said Alistair Kirkwood, managing director of NFL UK. "We know that the last few tickets available in this first batch will be gone very soon."

None of these sports will eclipse soccer -- but that doesn't mean that they are globally unpopular.

posted by Dan at 10:46 PM | Comments (26) | Trackbacks (1)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

In honor of David Halberstam...

Despite baseball's long literary tradition, reading about the sport never interested me... until I read David Halberstam's Summer of 49. Despite Halberstam's admitted pro-Yankee sympathies, the book was a gripping read.

In honor of his passing -- and his unique ability to move from engaging books about serious geopolitics to serious books about engaging sports -- this blog post will discuss both baseball and geopolitics.

First, the New York Times' Michael Shmidt reports that Major League Baseball might take the lead in normalizing relations with Cuba:

Fidel Castro, 80, has experienced serious health problems in recent years, and his brother Raúl is Cuba’s interim president, a situation that has prompted speculation about the country’s future. Baseball officials began discussions a year and a half ago about how to approach the possibility of normalizing relations with Cuba.

Baseball is contemplating a strategy for teams to sign Cuban players in an effort to create an orderly system for acquiring talent from the island, according to three baseball officials and a scholar who was briefed on the plans.

“There may not be any significant changes with our relationship with Cuba in the near term, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about these things,” Joe Garagiola Jr., the senior vice president for baseball operations, said in a telephone interview. “We are thinking about them, and that is probably the extent of what we can say at this point.”

Garagiola, a former general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is coordinating baseball’s discussions on Cuba.

Baseball is also considering moving a minor league team to Cuba and building training academies similar to those that nearly all teams have in the Dominican Republic, according to a report earlier this month by Fortune magazine.

Major League Baseball has stepped up its efforts to expand internationally in the past year. In March 2005, baseball and the players union organized the first World Baseball Classic, a 16-team international tournament designed to broaden interest in the sport. Baseball began expansion initiatives in Asia and Africa this past off-season.

If you ask me, MLB should be even more aggressive in establishing cooperative baseball relations with Cuba. If ping-pong can thaw Sino-American relations, why not baseball for Cuba?

Meanwhile, it appears that the import of Daisuke Matsuzaka has increased demand for advertising for a lot of major league teams. The Boston Globe's Keith Reed explains:

If you watched the Red Sox play the Texas Rangers earlier this month and couldn't read the Japanese-language ads behind home plate, don't worry. Those were meant for fans watching overseas, not you.

The Rangers are among several Major League Baseball teams capitalizing on the Sox's $103 million investment in Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka by selling ballpark advertising to Japanese companies. Those firms, which include a chain of men's day spas, are trying to get their message across to fans watching broadcasts of Major League Baseball games back in Japan. The Rangers and Kansas City Royals have already sold ad space worth hundreds of thousands of dollars inside their own stadiums, though neither team has a Japanese baseball star. Several other teams have also gotten inquiries from Japanese firms about advertising when the Red Sox are playing.

"Teams like the Kansas City Royals are benefiting from the Red Sox," said Sam Kennedy , Sox vice president of sales and marketing.

The Sox, though, won't see much new revenue from Japanese sponsors at Fenway Park because most of the advertising space was sold long ago to American companies. It's also far more expensive to advertise at Fenway compared to other baseball venues.

Kennedy said the Sox have talked with an advertising agency in Japan that represented several companies with ads at other American stadiums, "but they weren't willing to pay our rates to be here."

(hat tip to David Pinto for the link).

Finally, check out Baseball Prospectus' Jim Baker on why, in almost every way possible, baseball today is better than when you were a kid. It's pretty convincing.

posted by Dan at 12:42 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Just a typical Patriot's Day game at Fenway

A little comedy to cope with yesterday's tragedy. The following incident occurred at the Patriot's Day game between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels of Aneheim:

This clip has been in rotation on ESPN for the past day. But kudos to the Boston Herald's John Tomase, who actually tracked down those involved to get at the root causes of the incident:
Jason Sole just wanted to catch a foul ball. Matt Madore was merely trying to eat some pizza....

It turns out Sole had given them grief about having a large pizza in the stands just moments before the at-bat. He wanted to know where they got it.

“He turned around and said something like, ‘Your mother,’ ” Sole said.

“No,” interjected [Sole's girlfriend, Anya] Ho. “He said, ‘The pizzeria.’ ”

Either way, all parties were annoyed.

“They had been giving us (expletive) about it,” Madore said. “Next thing I know, there’s a fly ball to left field and it goes foul and my buddy says, ‘You want some pizza now?’ And he hits him right in the face. Hey, the guy wasn’t paying attention. When you’re in the stands you’ve got to be ready for anything - a foul ball, a flying slice of pizza, everything.”

[Madore's buddy Danny] Kelly, sporting a Patriots jacket, was tossed.

“It was just a stupid thing,” he said. “It’s not something to be proud of. It was just stupidity all around.”

Madore and Sole began jawing - “He has a little bit of a temper,” Ho said - and Madore got the boot, as well.

By the time the eighth inning rolled around, however, most involved couldn’t stop laughing. Sole fielded nonstop calls from friends telling him he was on NESN, which named him “Fan of the Game.” (emphasis added)

Note to self: when taking son to Red Sox game, bring special pizza-protective clothing.

It should be noted that the Boston Globe abjectly failed to cover this pizza incident. [UPDATE: Drezner gets results from the Boston Globe's baseball blog!!!]

The Boston Herald -- politics, sports, and random pizza-throwing incidents. It's all there.

posted by Dan at 09:16 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What would Jackie Robinson think?

The title of this post have been a running theme of sports columnists over the past few months. As we approach the 60th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color line in the major leagues, columnists and players are bemoaning the declining percentage of African-American players in Major League Baseball.

Michael Wilbon's Washington Post column is one of the more nuanced examples of this argument:

The 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson integrating baseball is tomorrow, and African American participation in what was once American's pastime has dropped to a stunning low. Only 8 percent of Major League Baseball players are African American. Historically black colleges and universities field teams that are often one-third to one-half white and Hispanic because African American children have no interest in playing the sport their fathers and grandfathers would play from sunup to sundown from the time slavery ended until the mid-1970s.
The reason Wilbon's argument is nuanced is that he recognizes that this decline is due to individual choice rather than any implicit barrier:
[T]his problem, if it is one, too frequently is being laid at the feet of Major League Baseball. But this isn't a chicken-or-egg conundrum. We know which came first: Black kids stopped playing baseball, to some degree of their own free will. Nobody forced them out, or even nudged them. They fell out of love with baseball, probably at about the time Michael Jordan became America's No. 1 sporting icon, and have had a basketball obsession since the mid-1980s. Football, with its 85 scholarships per Division I school, vs. baseball, with an average of 11.7 scholarships per school, became firmly entrenched as the No. 2 sport in blackworld.

"If I'm a parent whose child needs a scholarship," [MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations Jimmie Lee] Solomon said, "I'm going to point him to football, where there's a full ride, not to baseball, where there might be one-half scholarship available, or one-third or one-fourth. Most black kids can't go to school like that."

Beyond college benefits, there are powerful financial incentives for poor kids to choose football or basketball over baseball. Because of baseball's minor league "apprentice" system, young players in baseball face a few years in bus leagues before earning a crack at The Show. In their first contract, potential stars will earn far more money between age 18-25 in basketball or football (though star baseball players have longer careers than players in other sports). Furthermore, star athletes from the first two sports receive far more in commercial endorsements -- especially basketball -- in the early stages of their career (as Wilbon points out, LeBron James had a $90 million endorsement deal from Nike before he played a single game in the NBA).

Is this system a cause for concern? Would it make Jackie Robinson sad? The answer depends on whether you believe that baseball remains the first among equals as the sport of significance. Although football and basketball are now equally popular, the cultural and literary traditions of baseball are very powerful in this country. For Americans of a certain age and political persuasion, there is a strong desire to see baseball as the mirror reflecting the way America should be.

I'm a baseball fan, but I'm an even bigger fan of expanded opportunities. So I can't get worked up about it.

UPDATE: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Terrence Moore thinks that commentators are exaggerating the declining interest in baseball among African-Americans. And ESPN's Eric Neel looks at one urban youth academy for baseball.

posted by Dan at 09:25 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

How unusual is Daisuke Matsuzaka?

There's going to be an orgy of coverage about Dice-K's stellar pitching debut for the Red Sox today, and of course it is foolish to extrapolate from one start. That said, I can't resist quoting from Tom Singer's mlb.com postmortem on the start:

"His ball moves funny. To me, it was like working a knuckleball pitcher," said Jeff Nelson, the plate umpire who spent the day looking over catcher Jason Varitek's shoulders.

"His ball definitely moves differently. It will break every which way, like I haven't seen out of anyone else's hand. You just don't know. That's why I liken it to knuckleball pitchers."

UPDATE: For a play-by-play description of Daisuke's first game, you would be hard-pessed to beat Bill Simmons.

posted by Dan at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Put me in coach, I'm ready to blog.....

Baseball season starts today!! As Paul at the Yanksfan Vs. Soxfan blog pointed out, "We are officially in that golden time where all things are possible and nothing is sure. Soak it up. This is one of the best weekends of the year." Indeed -- this Saturday and Sunday, it's still possible to envisage the Kansas City Royals wining the World Series.

The Red Sox season starts tomorrow -- along with Passover. Prior to 2004, of course, this confluence of events would be freighted with more symbolic meaning. Now, it's just going to cause me to whisper "Next October in Fenway Park" at the end of the seder.

Two years ago, I was confident about the future of the Red Sox and gleeful at the anticipated downward trajectory of the Yankees. This offseason, on the other hand, has sobered me up. For all the talk about parity, the scariest thing facing Major League Baseball is a Yankee franchise that actually knows how to develop, trade, and inculcate top prospects.

Just about every reasonable projection I've seen has the Yankees winning the pennant again this year. I am not so foolhardy as to make predictions, but I do have several reasons for optimism regarding the Red Sox chances this year:

1) Neither Randy Johnson nor Ted Lilly is pitching in the Al East. As mediocre as their years were in 2006, these guys were always able to manhandle the Red Sox. That's a lot more competitive games against AL East rivals than in the past.

2) Spring training was light on casualties. With the exception of Mike Timlin, none of the Red Sox regulars had any major injuries. This includes hothouse players like J.D. Drew and Josh Beckett. The Yankees were not as fortunate, though they should be healthy by the end of the month. An interesting question this season will be which duo will spend more time on the DL -- Andy Pettite and Mike Mussina, or Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield.

3) Josh Beckett has apparently located his Spootenator.

4) The Shaughnessy-Schilling dustup has settled down to a low hum -- which will hopefully allow Schilling to focus on the season.

5) Steve Phillips predicts the Red Sox will go 82-80. 'Nuff said.

Let the season begin!!

posted by Dan at 03:39 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dan Shaughnessy has blog envy

As predicted in this space, Curt Schilling has taken to the blog format as quickly as Britney Spears checks out of rehab clinics. Schilling reported on his blog that Jonathan Papelbon would be the Red Sox's closer before the Red Sox officially announced it. A few of the local papers' have quoted from the blog for their stories. Others have referred to Schilling's prodigious output of blog posts in the two weeks since Schilling started 38 Pitches (and we can all breathe easier knowing that fellow blogger Mark Cuban is cool with it).

Now, however, comes the first crucial test of whether Schilling can balance his blog and his day job. Today, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy takes on Schilling's blog. Here's how he opens the column:

Getting a little tired and bored here in the final week of the Grapefruit League circuit so I thought I'd take the day off and let Curt Schilling do the work. Schill started writing his own blog a few weeks ago, so today he fills the space with his latest Q & A session with fellow bloggers.

(Note: This is an abridged text. Because of space limitations, we are unable to reprint the entire posting, which was approximately the same length as Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals.")

You'll have to read the column to see where he goes from there. It's safe to say he's not a fan (though he really detests Schilling's blog commenters).

Why the blog envy? Last week Schilling told Alex Belth on SI.com that he started the blog in part so he could articulate his public statements in a way that would be hard to misinterpret. There was also this passage:

There is the potential to change the way people get their news. Fast-forward this to Opening Day. It's a 2 p.m. game, hopefully I'll pitch great and we'll win. Sometime around 7 or 8 o'clock that night I'll sit down -- I'm on the road, I'm by myself -- I'll blog out the game, pitch-by-pitch in some instances, inning-by-inning, I'll go into minutia ... By 9 o'clock that night I'll have a post up. I'll give you numbers. In the seven days my blog's been up, I've had 398,156 viewers. Those people will know about things they could never read about [in the newspapers], 12 hours before the newspapers ever come out.
If blogs can beat newspapers to the punch in reporting inside information, what is their comparative advantage? Three possibilities: 1) better analysis; 2) better writing; and 3) better controversy.

I've read enough of Shaughnessy's baseball analysis to know that's not his strength (Rob Bradford demonstrates more baseball knowledge in a single story than Shaughnessy does in an entire season). He's an OK writer, but there are plenty of Red Sox beat writers and bloggers who are better (note to Globe sports editor: give Amalie Benjamin her own full-time Sox blog). No, Shaughnessy's specialty is using his acid pen to ignite public feuds with Shaughnessy.

Which leads me back to Schilling, and some free advice from a Red Sox fan. Curt, as someone who's been involved in more than one blog feud in my day, a word to the wise -- don't swallow the bait. Pissing matches like these are little more than a massive time suck and an occupational hazard for daily bloggers. For those of us who do our day jobs out of the public glare, that can be aggravating but not debilitating. Your day job commands a little more attention, and you don't have the luxury of being distracted. The blogger in me might want to grab the popcorn and watch the carnage of a full-on online feud between the lead sports columnist and the ace of the pitching staff. The baseball fan in me fears this more than a Ted Lilly start against the Red Sox.

You want to respond? Flick off a few short rhetorical jabs and walk away. Don't escalate, and for God's sake don't forget Shaughnessy's motivation.

UPDATE: At least one Red Sox blogger liked the column. Another sports blogger does not.

My favorite take, however, is this from a blog devoted exclusively to critiquing Shaugnessy's column:

One sarcastic joke repeated six times. Dan will never be confused with Mark Twain....

Just know this: If you are interested in how Curt's changeup is going along, or any other aspect of Curt's pitching, you are a sycophantic, loser who lives in your Mom's basement. To be more successful, be like Dan. Give up any particular interest in the little things that make baseball great and just worry about which player to irrationally bash in order to coverup your increasing irrelevancy.

FINAL UPDATE: Schilling responds:
The only response I have to the Curly Haired Boyfriend is this.

“First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win”

Putting his inherent ’toolness’ on display for all the world to see did far more than I could ever hope to do by trying to explain what a dope he is.

posted by Dan at 08:44 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

That's one way to get the ballcaps

From the Boston Herald's Clubhouse Insider blog, Jeff Horrigan details the extent to which ESPN's Dick Vitale will go to get a baseball cap:

ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale just threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to this afternoon’s game between the Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. His appearance in a Pirates cap and jersey reminds me of the time a few years back in Sarasota, where the local resident (he lives in Bradenton now) was visiting Ed Smith Stadium for a Cincinnati Reds spring game. Naturally, Vitale was wearing a Reds cap that day, telling everyone that he’s a lifelong Reds fan (just like he’s telling everyone today he’s a lifelong Pirates fan). Well, some of us happened to walk by his car in the players parking lot and noticed five or six different caps in his car for teams that play on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Since then, I have heard him tell fans and media at Devil Rays, Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox game that he (wearing the appropriate hat each time) has been a long-time fan of that home team.

posted by Dan at 09:12 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 9, 2007

Born to blog

The Opening Day starter for the Boston Red Sox, Curt Schilling, now has a blog. In his first week, he's already moved down the learning curve, following David Pinto's advice and introducing much-needed line breaks into his posts.

Sports fans love or hate Schilling. To the haters, he's an egomaniac who cannot and will not shut up -- particularly if he's talking about himself. To the admirers, Schilling has always walked the walk (see: sock, bloody) in pressure situations, a very rare commodity in professional sports. Perusing his posts to date, I would advise non-sports fans and even casual sports fans to ignore it. However, for baseball fanatics, there's lots of good stuff.

From his first post, I have a hunch that Schilling intuitively gets the blog thing:

I’ve never been a yes/no kind of guy, which probably hasn’t been received well by some. I don’t know that I’ll be changing my style, but I do know that getting ripped for something I say here will be getting ripped for something I actually said–with the entire contents of my comments included.

That’s not to say I’ll be preaching from the pulpit–far from it. Being a major league baseball player does not give me keen insight into politics, education, or anything else for that matter. It does give me insight and knowledge about baseball, about being part of a team, about excelling at something not many people can. Beyond that my thoughts and beliefs are my own and for the most part pretty normal.

The truth is, I’ve been wrong as many times, if not more, than I’ve been right in my life. I guess that’s part of the human package, something that makes me every bit as prone to mistakes as anyone. Like every other male on the planet I think I’m well informed on a lot of things, which usually lasts until I run into someone else who thinks he’s well informed but has a different opinion.

Fortunately, I have zero problems being wrong. I don’t intend to make mistakes but it happens, which is part of the learning curve of life. I’m prone to having quick reactions which, in the world of baseball and media coverage–even when you might be right–can make you wrong.

Unless you're willing to be wrong -- really, badly wrong -- you'll never make it as a blogger.

UPDATE: Seth Mnookin also thinks Schilling has the chops to blog.

posted by Dan at 09:57 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

In honor of baseball's Hamlet....

As pitchers and catchers migrate south, baseball watchers are obsessing about where Roger Clemens will pitch this year. It therefore seems fitting to remember the last time I saw Roger Clemens in a Red Sox uniform:

This might also have been the last time I agreed with Keith Olbermann

posted by Dan at 07:31 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Victory is mine!!

Opportunity cost of being in the Red Sox virtual waiting room to get single-game tickets: occasional looks of irritation from my extended family as I repeatedly check my laptop screen.

Monetary cost of four tickets: well over $100.

The knowledge that I was able to get four tickets for a Sunday game against the Yankees: priceless.

posted by Dan at 05:05 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

We all have our passions... and side-hobbies to those passions

Longtime readers of danieldrezner.com the Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere know that your humble omniscient, omnipresent, provider-of-all-that-is-good-and-true blogger is a fan of the Boston Red Sox.

However, that also prompts the occasional side-hobby to fuel that passion. For me, that now includes egging Seth Mnookin on anytime I read something that contradicts Mnookin's excellent reportage in Feeding The Monster.

This is a roundabout way of linking to this Mnookin post to see his response to this Scott Boras interview in the Boston Herald. Let's just say Boras' account of Johnny Damon's departure from the Red Sox conflicts with Mnookin's account.

[Er... does Scott Boras really fit in with the other totalitarian dictators you're blogging about today?--ed] How dare you try to edit the Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere!!

posted by Dan at 10:33 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (2)

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Reflections on the Super Bowl

Super Bowl XLI is in the books, and the Colts won. A few thoughts on the game and broadcast:

1) It's déjà vu in reverse. This game was the mirror image of Super Bowl XXXIV (Rams-Titans). That game had a plodding first half and then an exciting ending. The first quarter of this game was blink-or-you'll-miss-it highlights, followed by the slow grinding of the Bears into inferiority.

2) So I'm thinking the summer blockbuster movies this year are gonna stink. Independence Day. Men In Black. Spider-Man. Hell, even Van Helsing had a preview shown at the Super Bowl. I didn't catch every ad, but the only movies I saw previewed were Hannibal Rising (blech) and Pride. Where are the friggin' previews?

3) The wrong man won the MVP trophy. Manning managed the game well, but Colts center Jeff Saturday managed the line of scrimmage even better. I hadn't seen many teams run up the gut of the Bears as well as the Colts did -- plus the pass protection was excellent. This was the perfect game to award an offensive lineman -- and Saturday was the key guy on that line.

4) Was it just me, or did Prudential's admen screw up? OK, I'm a foreign policy wonk, so maybe it was just me, but did anyone else hear the Prudential ad "What Can A Rock Do?" and think the phrase "a rock" sound like a country in the Middle East currently experiencing some turmoil? Watch the ad with that thought, and, well... it's a wee bit off.

On the other hand, I though this ad was the best of the lot:
Most important -- less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report.

posted by Dan at 11:01 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Friday, February 2, 2007

Worst Super Bowl journamalism yet

Over years, with focus and concentration, I have learned to tune out most of the Super Bowl press coverage. Every once in a while, however, something seeps through, and I must simply stand back and gape at what might be the lowest forms of sports literature known to man.

For exhibit A this week, I give you the following paragraphs from Time's Sean Gregory:

[W]hatever you think of Manning, I would argue that it's best to root against him in the Super Bowl. Yes, even among his fans. It's Manning's quest for that one missing part, that one imperfection, that will sustain our attention. "From a fan's perspective, the joy is in the conversation," says sports sociologist Jay Coakley, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. "Peyton's longing for a Super Bowl keeps the conversation going, and if he wins, that conversation stops." In an age of sports parity, in which seven teams have won World Series titles this decade and about a dozen NFL teams were fighting for playoff spots during the last weeks of the season, we can use a dramatic story line.

Did anyone really want to see Charlie Brown kick that football (thanks for the reflexes, Lucy)? Would Ernie Banks, the smiling Mr. Cub chortling "Let's play two," be as beloved if the Cubs were winners? Is the sports world really a better place since the Boston Red Sox overcame their "curse" and in 2004 finally won the World Series?

To answer his questions: yes, yes, and hell yes.

I'm rooting for a Super Bowl that has a meaningful fourth quarter. But part of me also wants Manning to either win it or lose valiantly in the way John McEnroe lost his first Wimbledon final to Bjorn Borg -- precisely so sports fans do not have to recycle the exact same conversation about Manning that has taken place for the last seven years.

Hat tip: Slate's Tommy Craggs

posted by Dan at 09:03 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

How will the Olympics affect China?

When historians debate what caused the decline and fall of the Soviet Union, there is occasionally a mention of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. As the narrative goes, the Soviets invested enormous sums to turn Moscow into a showcase for the international media -- and bankrupted themselves in the process.

I bring this up because the Economist's Asia.view column reports on how China is, temporarily, changing its laws for the 2008 summer games in Beijing:

China wants to show that its relations with the foreign media are in line with those of other countries that have hosted the games in the past 20 years. It does not want its Olympics marred by the sort of boycotts and tensions that spoilt the 1980 games in Moscow―the only other communist capital to have hosted the event.

The games are of enormous political importance to China. They are designed to show off the country’s economic achievements and to demonstrate its growing pride and confidence. China wants the event to strengthen its ties with the West. It worries that restrictions on foreign media might complicate that task.

The old media rules had changed little, on paper at least, since communist China first allowed Western journalists to open offices in Beijing in the 1970s. For example, if a resident foreign journalist wanted to conduct interviews outside the city where he was based, he had to obtain permission from the relevant provincial government. In recent years most journalists ignored this restriction, and the central government largely turned a blind eye, but local governments did not. A trip to the provinces on a sensitive story could mean a cat-and-mouse game with the local police, who would happily expel the foreigner for “illegal” reporting.

The old rules, though not formally repealed, have been superseded from January 1st by more liberal regulations which remain in force until the games are over. In theory foreign journalists can travel around China pretty much as they please.

And if they highlight some shortcomings in the course of their provincial travels, the central government will probably not be too upset. It wants to bring wayward local governments to heel, as part of its drive to cut corruption and impose more order on the economy. A bit of publicity may be helpful.

Sounds like the 2007 Beijing leadership is savvier than the 1980 Moscow leadership. It will be interesting to see whether the cental government manages to stay ahead of whatever adverse developments emerge over the next 18 months. As the column concludes:
It remains to be seen, however, how local governments respond. They have long been adept at ignoring central directives they dislike. Some have deployed thugs to keep unwanted visitors at bay.

The new rules are meant to signal that China is moving closer to developed countries in the way it handles the media. But unless local governments accept them too, a very different message may be sent: that China is moving rapidly closer to the norm of a developing country where central authority is weakening and disrespect for the law is widespread. Journalists, Chinese and foreign alike, will have to deal with the hazards this trend poses.

posted by Dan at 08:57 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A reluctant tip of the cap to Brian Cashman

Baseball fans who follow the Hot Stove League may be aware that the Red Sox have made some aggressive moves in a bid to improve their performance from the 2006 season.

[Yeah, that'll show the Yankees!!--ed.] Er..... perhaps not. I must duly link and quote this Seth Mnookin post from last week here:

Suddenly, the Yankees are shedding payroll like they’re the Marlins, and [Yankees GM] Brian Cashman looks determined to pick up young prospects and jettison the senior citizens collecting outrageous paychecks.

This doesn’t mean the Red Sox and the Yankees will have anywhere near equal payrolls, but it does seem to indicate that Steinbrenner (and his Tampa-based suckups) are no longer making baseball-related decisions. If that’s true, it’s bad news for Boston (and everyone else). A senior member of the team’s baseball ops staff told me last year that the only reason the Sox had a fighting chance against a team with $80 million more in payroll was because New York made such stupefyingly idiotic moves. If that’s not going to be the case anymore, it means the Yankees and the Sox are going to be operating more and more on the same plane…not because, as some would have you believe, the Red Sox have become the Evil Empire II but because the Yankees are starting to act (and yes, it hurts to say this) intelligently.

Gulp. Two thousand and seven, here we come…

It gets worse, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale:
The Arizona Diamondbacks expect to complete a deal with the New York Yankees by the end of the week to bring back pitcher Randy Johnson, a high-ranking Diamondbacks official familiar with the negotiations told USA TODAY.

The clubs have agreed on the package of players the Diamondbacks will send to the Yankees, according to a club official from each team — two minor league pitchers and a major league reliever.

The deal has not been completed because of money issues, including how much the Yankees will pay toward Johnson's $16 million contract in 2007.

Hat tip to David Pinto, who also makes the Marlins comparison:
[T]he Yankees are just tired of old pitchers trying to stay ahead of a great offense. Depending on the pitchers in this deal, the Yankees will end up picking up quality pitching prospects like the Marlins did last year while still remaining a playoff contender.
I can take some comfort that ESPN's Keith Law thinks the Red Sox had a good offseason as well, and that Boston got the better Japanese import. I can also take some comfort in the fact that, well, the season hasn't started yet, so this is all just so much idle chat. As Peter Gammons notes on his ESPN blog:
What we do know about 2007 is that we don't know much. Hit the rewind button back a year, and tell us you thought the opening matchup of the World Series would pit Anthony Reyes against Justin Verlander, and that the Series would be closed by Adam Wainwright. Or that the Marlins would win one less game than the Braves, or that Chien-Ming Wang would lead the majors in wins, Aaron Harang would lead the National League in wins and strikeouts, Barry Zito would be worth $126 million to the Giants and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be worth $103 million to the Red Sox, and that Jason Marquis could have a 6.02 ERA, lead the NL in losses, runs allowed and gopher balls and be worth $7 million a year to the Cubs.

The game is acted out by humans, not computer programs.

But I can't shake the feeling that over the past six months, Cashman has done as good a job, if not better, than Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. And unlike the last time I compared the two franchises, the Yankees farm system doesn't look so barren now.

Developing.... in a worrisome way.

UPDATE: SI.com's Jon Heyman thinks the Red Sox improved themselves more than the Yankees this offseason, but if Heyman's numbers turn out to be correct, it's not enough for them to catch the Yankees.

Also, given the cost of pitching this offseason, I do like this move by Theo Epstein.

posted by Dan at 11:01 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The globalization of baseball

Like everyone else in New England, I followed Scott Boras' negotiations with the Red Sox over Daisuke Matsuzaka's contract with great interest. The roller coaster nature of the negotiations caused many who questioned the Red Sox strategy earlier this week to now offer hosannas to Theo Epstein and company now. Indeed, just scroll down the Boston Dirt Dogs site just to get a taste of what this week has been like for New England sports fans.

I write this, however, not to denigrate sports columnists and sports bloggers (hell, I even find Dan Shaughnessy amusing today). Rather, as someone with a passing interest in the international relations of sport, it is interesting to note that as big a story as this has been in New England, it's been an even bigger story in Japan. The AP reports that the Japanese Prime Minister was asked to comment on it:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday that he is "so impressed" by Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, after reports that the Boston Red Sox reached a preliminary agreement with the right-hander on a US$52 million, six-year contract.

"I'm so impressed," Abe told a group of reporters at his office Thursday. "(Matsuzaka) is Japan's best pitcher, and his ability was fully evaluated."

"As Japanese national, I feel so happy to see our countrymen do well overseas, like in the Major League," he added.

Matsuzaka's agreement includes US$8 million in incentives based on awards that would bring the total to US$60 million over six years, and also includes award bonuses, the most expensive cultural exchange in Major League Baseball history.

As Bryan Walsh reports for Time.com, this is emblematic of a profound cultural shift among Japanese sports fans:
Most Japanese fans... are celebrating Matsuzaka's signing as further proof that Japan's best players can compete on baseball's premier stage. Japanese players who move to the majors are no longer seen as leaving Japan behind; they are seen as representing their country in the international game. It's a sign that the globalization of sport is finally penetrating this often isolationist country, that many fans here would rather watch an international game with the top players in the world than settle for a lessened domestic product. As one Japanese baseball blog put it: "Finally, all the dream matches will come true in 2007. Matsuzaka vs. Godzilla Matsui, Matsuzaka vs. Genius Ichiro, Matsuzaka vs. Igawa! I wish the MLB 2007 season would start soon." He's not the only one.
Of course, there remain some interesting cultural gaps. From Walsh's report:
Japanese fans may be a little fuzzy on Beantown's traditions, though. Toshiyuki Nagao, a lifelong fan, expressed concern that "there are many academic and white-collar people in Boston, who might not appreciate baseball's earthy passion."
No, Boston sports fans aren't obsessive about the Red Sox at all.....

UPDATE: For those Sox fans who want to know how to cheer on Matsuzaka and curse the Yankees in Japanese, click here.

For those Sox fans who want to know how the Red Sox can profit from the Matzusaka signing from the Japanese market, click here.

posted by Dan at 02:25 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Korean pessimism about the Doha round

But not the Doha round I'm usually talking about. David Pinto explains

UPDATE: While I'm in a linking mood, here's a link that contributes to blog studies.

posted by Dan at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bill Parcells makes me very, very sad

As a New York Giants fan, I'll always harbor a soft spot for Bill Parcells.

However, after Parcells receives the Michael Lewis treatment in this long story for the NYT's new venture, Play Magazine, I feel mostly sadness and disgust for this man:

Right now he is living alone in what amounts to a hotel room in Irving, Tex., whose sole virtue is that it is a 10-minute drive to both the Cowboys’ practice facility and Texas Stadium. It’s just him and whatever it is that keeps him in the game. For the longest time he pretended that he didn’t need it. He walked out of two jobs without having another in hand, and he has played hard-to-get with N.F.L. owners more times than any coach in N.F.L. history. After he quit the Jets, in 1999, he said at a press conference: “I’ve coached my last football game. You can write that on your little chalkboard. This is it. It’s over.” Now, even as his job appears to be making him sick, he has abandoned the pose. “As you get older,” he says, pointing to a screen, where the play is frozen, “your needs diminish. They don’t increase. They diminish. I need less money. I need less sex. But this — this doesn’t change.”

What this is, he can’t — or won’t — specify. But when your life has been defined by the pressure of competition and your response to it, there’s a feeling you get, and it’s hard to shake. You wake up each morning knowing the next game is all that matters. If you fail in it, nothing you’ve done with your life counts. By your very nature you always have to start all over again, fresh. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but it’s nonetheless addictive. Even if you have millions in the bank and everyone around you tells you that you’re a success, you seek out that uncomfortable place.... “It’s a cloistered, narrow existence that I’m not proud of,” says Parcells. “I don’t know what’s going on in the world. And I don’t have time to find out. All I think about is football and winning. But hey — ” He sweeps his hand over his desk and points to the office that scarcely registers his presence. “Who’s got it better than me?”

Note to self: no matter how successful you might be as a blogger, never have Michael Lewis write the following paragraph about you:
Right now he is living alone in what amounts to a hotel room, whose sole virtue is that it houses the ultimate blogging computer. It’s just him and whatever it is that keeps him in the blogging game. For the longest time he pretended that he didn’t need it. He walked out of two group blogs without having another in hand, and he has played hard-to-get with Rupert Murdoch more times than any blogger in history. After he quit Open University, he said at a press conference: “I’ve written my last blog post. You can write that on your little chalkboard. This is it. It’s over.” Now, even as his job appears to be making him sick, he has abandoned the pose. “As you get older,” he says, pointing to a screen, where the text is frozen, “your needs diminish. They don’t increase. They diminish. I need less money. I need less sex. But this — this doesn’t change.”

posted by Dan at 06:46 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sports protectionism in Russia

It would seem that Russian President Vladimir Putin's hostility to certain forms of foreign investment extends to.... soccer. RIA Novosti explains:

The Russian president said Wednesday he was concerned over the large number of foreign nationals playing for Russia's soccer clubs.

Vladimir Putin, speaking at his annual televised question-and-answer session, said: "There are too many of them. We need to restrict their number, because when it comes to composing the national team, we do not have enough players."

Russian national soccer has achieved little success in recent years, in spite of reforms. The national team performed poorly at Euro-2004 in Portugal, and failed to qualify for this summer's World Cup in Germany.

Earlier the President of the Russian Football Union, Vitaly Mutko, said that the clubs in the Russian Premier League would not be allowed more than five foreign players by 2010, compared to the current limit of eight per club.

Mutko also said that as of next year, clubs will have to pay $30,000 to the union for each foreign player....

Soccer is not the only sport in Russia that has a large number of foreign players. Vyacheslav Fetisov, the head of the Russian Federal Agency for Physical Culture and Sport, highlighted the problem in December last year, saying that foreign nationals playing for Russian teams take $250 million in salary and compensation out of the country annually.

He said the excessive number of foreigners in Russian teams is hindering the development of sports in the country, and that the issue should be primarily addressed to regions and teams that pay large sums to foreign players, rather than financing their sports infrastructures.

Now it should be noted that MajorLeague Soccer also has caps on the number of foreign players allowed per team -- though those rules were liberalized recently.

As a general principle, however, this kind of policy strikes me as absurd. Imagine, for a second, imposing caps on the number of Dominican baseball players allowed into Major League Baseball, for example. The best way to have quality American ballplayers is to have them face the toughest competition imaginable. UPDATE: here's a report to back up this assertion.

Question to readers: is there an infant industry logic to protectionism in sports?

posted by Dan at 08:39 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Where's the raggedy edge of Red Sox Nation?

In anticipation of this weekend's five-game series between the Red Sox and Yankees, John Branch has an entertaining article in the New York Times on trying to find the dividing line between Red Sox Nation and Yankee Country in my home state of Connecticut:

The idea for this exercise was simple in design but complicated in application: Plot the length of the border between Red Sox Nation and Yankees Country, a sort of Mason-Dixon Line separating baseball’s fiercest rivals, who will play five games in the next four days in Boston.

The midpoint between Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium is approximately Rocky Hill, Conn., a few miles south of Hartford and east of New Britain. Some adventurers have dared to guess where allegiances are perfectly balanced, usually pointing to a place near Route 91, anywhere from north of Hartford to New Haven in the south.

But few have set out on an expedition — Lewis and Clark meet Rand McNally — to draw baseball’s bitterest border, to learn where it makes landfall along Long Island Sound to where it peters out in complacency in upstate New York, a serpentine span of nearly 200 miles.

“The border’s probably as wide as Connecticut,” Tom Brown, a volunteer firefighter in Old Lyme, Conn., said.

But the point was to narrow the boundary until each adjacent town fell to one side or the other. The border would be a continuous line, allowing no recognized islands of hostility in enemy territory. Such bastions would be viewed as anomalies, like Union sympathizers in Tennessee. True borders, after all, are no wider than a dotted line.

Polling a representative sample of people in every town would be impossible, so the method was simplified: Use a company-issued 2002 Pontiac Grand Am to traverse the highways and back roads of Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. Roll into towns unannounced. Choose a person or group of people — preferably those with a bead on the area, like police officers and firefighters, politicians and postal carriers, bartenders and barbers — to be the proxy for their village. Excuse me, but is this a Yankees town or Red Sox one?

When possible, irrefutable data — a choice of baseball caps, for example, or the sale of team-logo cookies, or an office straw poll — would be used for confirmation.

I do find it interesting that the Times has the border further south than I remember from my childhood, when it ran right through the Farmington Valley. This does make me wonder if the border has shifted southwards in recent years.

posted by Dan at 12:50 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Cheaters are everywhere

Given the many doping scandals in sports like cycling and baseball, the New York Times' Dylan Loeb McClain points out that cheating exists in "mental sports" too:

Accusations of cheating at the largest tournament of the year have the chess world buzzing — and have tournament directors worried about what they may have to do to stop players from trying to cheat in the future.

The cheating is alleged to have occurred at the World Open in Philadelphia over the July 4 weekend and to have involved two players in two sections of the tournament. In each case, the player was suspected of receiving help from computers or from accomplices using computers. Neither player was caught cheating, but one player, Steve Rosenberg, was expelled. The other, Eugene Varshavsky, was allowed to finish the tournament but was searched before each round, then watched closely during games.

Chess has always been considered a gentleman’s game, with an unwritten honor code. But the advent of powerful and inexpensive chess-playing computers and improved wireless technology has made it easier to cheat.

posted by Dan at 08:29 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Sometimes there is no selection bias

After David Ortiz hit his latest walk-off home run, I kept telling myself like a good social scientist, "Yes, we remember these events, but we don't remember the times when he has the opportunity and fails." In other words, much as I love David Ortiz, I was sure that the statistics would demonstrate that his walk-off capabilities were overrated.

Turns out, in this case, that perception is reality. From The Joy of Sox:

Since the end of the 2004 regular season, Ortiz has come to the plate in a walk-off situations 19 times -- and reached base 16 times. He is 11-for-14 (.786), with 7 HR and 20 RBI.

In 2005 and 2006, he is 8-for-9, with 5 HR and 15 RBI!

Hat tip: Gordon Edes.

UPDATE: Bill Simmons has an enertaining column comparng Ortiz to Larry Bird in terms of coming through in the clutch:

Basketball stars have a 45-50 percent chance of coming through in the clutch. In Bird's case, he was a 50 percent shooter and a 90 percent free-throw shooter, so even if he was being double-teamed, 60/40 odds seem reasonable, especially if someone raises his game in those situations. But a star slugger gets on base 40 percent of the time, only Ortiz dials it up to the 60-70 percent range in big moments (as the stats back up). I can't believe I'm saying this, but Big Papi's current three-year stretch tops anything Bird came up with simply because the odds against Ortiz were greater.
Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin has a discussion thread on this very important debate.

posted by Dan at 08:53 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A sportswriting tic that drives me nuts

Yesterday, sports reporter Jeff Horrigan wrote the following in the Boston Herald:

Less than two weeks after the All-Star break, the Red Sox suddenly appear to be in desperate need of a collective breather.

Entering last night’s game against the Oakland Athletics, they found themselves in sole possession of first place in the American League East for the 36th consecutive day. Yet their grip on the top spot - 2 1/2 games over the Yankees and 4 1/2 over Toronto - appeared more precarious with each passing hour.

After losing two of three at Seattle this weekend, the Sox opened a three-game series against the A’s with areas of concern in all major facets of the game.

Now, the Red Sox had just lost two games to the Mariners, and their relef pitching and defense did not perform up to spec. However, Horrigan takes a two-game trend and assumes that will be the new status quo. This leads to the argument that the second-best team in baseball (by winning percentage) is falling apart.

This is a sportswriting tic that drives me nuts -- failing to recognize regression to the mean. If teams go through a mini-slump or reel off a few victories, it's attributed to a fundamental change in the quality of the players. Sometimes, bad things happen to good players and vice versa. Just because the Sox have a few bad games does not mean that things will stay that way.

Baseball writers are far from the worst culprits on this score -- that award has to go to basketball writers. Lest one believe that I'm exaggerating, go back and see what was written about the Heat-Mavericks finals after the Mavs went up 2-0 in the series.

posted by Dan at 08:24 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ozzie Guillen's unique gift of gab

Ozzie Guillen is the manager of the Chicago White Sox, and congenitally incapable of going two days without doing or saying something controversial.

Last week he got into hot water in a game against the Texas Rangers because Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski was hit by pitches twice in the game. Sean Tracey, a White Sox rookie, was in the game with instructions to drill Texas' Hank Blalock. He didn't do it (he tried, but darnit, he got Blalok to ground out). TV cameras showed Guillen screaming at Tracey in the dugout. Tracey apparently broke into tears and was sent to the minors the next day.

That's nothing, however, compared to his latest screw-up. ESPN.com explains:

On Tuesday to reporters, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen referred to Chicago Sun-Times columnist and Around the Horn contributor Jay Mariotti as a derogatory name for a homosexual.

Angry with a recent column by Mariotti critical of Guillen's handling of recently demoted relief pitcher Sean Tracey and upset with Mariotti with columns of the past, Guillen said to reporters when referring to Mariotti before Tuesday's game with the Cardinals, "What a piece of [expletive] he is, [expletive] fag."

Sports columnist Greg Couch of the Chicago Sun-Times puts this latest statement in context -- and then gives Guillen enough rope to hang himself:
The issue is that Guillen said the wrong thing, and he does it often and it never sticks to him. That's just Ozzie, we hear. And the Sox tend to chuckle about this stuff, as if we can just forgive him. Why? Because English is his second language?

Not good enough. Last year in New York, he referred to someone as homosexual and a child molester, equating the two.

He took some heat for that one, briefly. So he should have known.

Guillen is not dumb. Let's not insult him. He knows what he's saying, and he certainly knows that it's not acceptable. He has been in this country for a quarter of a century. This offseason, I went to his swearing-in as a U.S. citizen....

After the game, I told Guillen what I was planning to say here, and I gave him a chance to explain. Here's what he said:

"I don't have anything against those people. In my country, you call someone something like that and it is not the same as it is in this country.''

Guillen said that in Venezuela, that word is not a reference to a person's sexuality, but to his courage. He said he was saying that Mariotti is "not man enough to meet me and talk about [things before writing]."....

He also said that he has gay friends, goes to WNBA games, went to the Madonna concert and plans to attend the Gay Games in Chicago. (emphasis added)

Wait a minute, he attends WNBA games? He gets a pass from me then!!

Seriously, to answer Couch's question -- the reason people tolerate Guillen in Chicago is that his team is winning. The moment that changes, Guillen, like Billy Martin before him, will quickly get frogmarched out of town.

What is it about managers of Chicago baseball teams, anyway?

UPDATE: Ozzie apologizes -- in an Ozzie kind of way:

Before Wednesday night’s game, Guillen acknowledged that his use of the word might have offended some.

“I shouldn’t have mentioned the name that was mentioned, but I’m not going to back off of Jay,” Guillen said, using another profanity to describe Mariotti.

“The word I used, I should have used something different. A lot of people’s feelings were hurt and I didn’t mean it that way.”

Guillen said he had spoken to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf about the incident.

“Jay, I think I made this guy a lot of money and he’s famous. If not for Ozzie Guillen, no one would have heard of him,” Guillen said. “If I hurt anybody with what I called him, I apologize.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mariotti responds in his Thursday column:
I can shrug it off as an occupational hazard, knowing I'm called meaner things at the coffee stand every morning. I also know it places me on an extraordinarily long list of people the Blizzard has dissed or launched into, including Magglio ("Venezuelan [bleep]'') Ordonez, Buck Showalter, Phil Garner, Sean Tracey, the Los Angeles Angels, every American League umpire, the reporter he threatened to rub out last winter and, by not showing up at the White House for a ceremony, the President of the United States.

Ozzie? He makes Mark Cuban seem like Virginia McCaskey.

But I am not the story here in the latest chapter of OzFest, a farce that is averaging two new targets a week and will have another co-star as soon as tonight. The story is Guillen's mouth and the warped diatribes of a man who thinks slurs are an acceptable means of retaliation in American life, like one of his dugout-ordered purpose pitches. Twice in less than a year, Guillen has dropped derogatory homosexual terms in his public dealings as White Sox manager. Last year at Yankee Stadium, he claimed to be greeting a friend warmly when he said, "Hey, everybody, this guy's a homosexual! He's a child molester!'' Two New York-area columnists took offense, as they should have, and so did I -- the only writer in Chicago who did, which is often how it works in a town softer and more politically driven by the sports franchises than a genuinely tough, independent sports media town such as Boston....

The time has come for a two-week suspension, long enough for human sensibility and decency to kick in. It's more important the Sox send a message about what they stand for than what Guillen's absence might mean in a pennant race. Let Ozzie think about life a little. Send him out for some professional sensitivity training, not what is being attempted by unskilled shrinks in the public-relations office. Tell him why it's fine to admonish a media person all he wants -- a critic should accept criticism, naturally -- as long as Guillen doesn't step over the line and slur gay groups. Most importantly, explain what happened to Schott, Al Campanis and Jimmy "The Greek'' Snyder when they made insensitive comments.

Eric Wilbur thinks Mariotti is being too kind to Boston beat writers.

posted by Dan at 10:50 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

You wanna know why America is unilateralist?

After a timid and embarrassing peformance against the Czechs, the United States tied Italy in its World Cup match today, 1-1. In doing so, the US team earned its first point in a World Cup tournament held in Europe.

The outcome of the game also helps to explain the source of the occasional American impulse towatds unilateralism -- when Americans agree to play by the rules, the rules are suddenly changed to stack the deck against the Americans. The U.S. team outplayed Italy in this game, and might have won if the friggin' ref hadn't gotten red-card happy. Apparently the British commentators were even more cheesed off about the bad refereeing in the game than ABC, according to Frank Foer. His comment about the refereeing is on point:

How can we account for his Mickey Mouse performance? What hint of corruption will be turned up? Was this a display of anti-Americanism? Or just sheer incompetence? Clearly, his miscues affected both sides--and clearly they affected one side more than the other.
I implore the referees to announce prior to the U.S.-Ghana game that they will be vigilant and even-handed -- otherwise, I can see either Bruce Arena authorizing a pre-emptive raid against FIFA or George W. Bush authorizing a pre-emptive strike against Ghana.

posted by Dan at 12:23 AM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, June 3, 2006

The Soccer Wars

That's the title of my essay in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section. It bears more than a passing resemblance to this blog post from earlier in the week. The punchline:

Soccer will never bring about peace on its own. The flip side is also true -- by itself, soccer cannot start a war. The World Cup, like the Olympics, suffers from a case of overblown rhetoric. Bono's assurances to the contrary, the passions inspired by the World Cup embody both the best and worst forms of nationalism.
A few citations, beyond those found in the earlier post. Joschka Fischer's quote about the World Cup can be found in Goldman Sachs' The World Cup and Economics 2006

Click here or here to find information about the soccer game that was played during the 1914 Christmas Truce.

Both Sports Illustrated and ESPN discuss Pele's ability to inspire a temporary cease-fires in Biafra. Thanks to commenters who brought up both examples in the prior post.

Here's a link to the Edmans, Garcia, and Norli paper demonstrating the correlation between international soccer losses and poor stock market performance. And here's a link to the 1973 Richard Sipes paper, "War, Sports and Aggression: An Empirical Test of Two Rival Theories" that appeared in American Anthropologist.

For more on the World Cup and international relations, check out Michael Moran's useful and link-rich summary at cfr.org, and Pablo Halkyard's linkfest at PSDblog.

Finally, a thank you to Frank Foer for getting on the phone and chatting with me about Frank Rijkaard spitting on Rudi Voller -- though Frank always enjoys talking about soccer. And let me once again praise Foer's How Soccer Explains the World as a good read regardless of whether you like watching soccer.

And yes, between this and my Newsday op-ed on the World Baseball Classic, I plan on cornering the public intellectual market on sports and international relations. Bwa ha ha ha ha!!!

posted by Dan at 07:21 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Will Bono please be quiet, please?

This is probably a sign that I'm watching too much ESPN, but the channel's ads for the World Cup are driving me nuts. Adweek's Kathleen Sampey describes the ads:

Music from U2 is also used in the campaign from Wieden + Kennedy, which carries the theme, "One game changes everything."

The first spot is voiced by lead singer Bono, and broke last week on ESPN properties. This execution and the other spots will also be in rotation off-channel.

"It's a simple thing. Just a ball and a goal," Bono says in the spot as U2's “City of Blinding Lights” plays throughout. "That simple thing ... closes the schools, closes the shops, closes a city and stops a war."....

ESPN's senior vp of marketing Katie Lacey said in a statement, "Our goal with this campaign is to make World Cup soccer meaningful and relevant to American sports fans. We show the passion that fans around the world have through compelling stories that are set to the music of U2 and narrated by the band members themselves." (emphasis added)

These ads have induced excitement in some quarters, but at the risk of besmirching Bono's reputaion for saintliness, the claim that soccer stops war is just a bit much for me.

The conflict-reducing powers of the World Cup is based in what happened when the Ivory Coast quaified for this year's cup. As Bono explains in another ad:

After three years of civil war, feuding factions talked for the first time in years, and the president called a truce. Because the Ivory Coast qualified for the World Cup for the first time. Because, as everyone knows, a country united makes for better cheerleaders than a country divided.
This sounds great, and indeed, there are tentative signs that the Ivory Coast is trending in a positive direction.

However, in National Geographic, Paul Laity explains the precarious role of soccer in that country's political process:

Over the past six years, the Ivory Coast's southern-based regime has fomented hatred of immigrants and Muslims, yet many of the country's best soccer players are from Muslim and immigrant families, so the national team has become an irresistible symbol of unity. At the end of the Abidjan victory parade [for qualifying], the head of the Ivory Coast Football Federation addressed a plea to President Laurent Gbagbo: "The players have asked me to tell you that what they most want now is for our divided country to become one again. They want this victory to act as a catalyst for peace in Ivory Coast, to put an end to the conflict and to reunite its people. This success must bring us together." The party on the streets lasted another whole day....

Everybody—on both sides of the war—is willing the team to do well in Germany. But the mix of soccer and politics can get ugly. When the Ivoirians lost for the second time to Cameroon in the qualifiers, and it was believed their chance had gone, [striker Didier] Drogba—who had played brilliantly in the match and scored two goals—received threats and menacing messages from fans, and was worried enough to consider not playing for the national team. In 2000 Gen. Robert Guei, who had just engineered the country's first military coup, held the national team in detention for two days as punishment for being knocked out of the African Nations Cup in the first round. He stripped the players of their passports and cell phones, publicly denounced them, and suggested they should learn some barracks discipline. "You should have spared us the shame," he said.

With qualification for the World Cup secured, there is, for the time being, no shame. By itself, soccer will never bring about national reconciliation. (emphasis added)

Furthermore, Human Rights Watch just issued a rather pessimistic report on the country:
Government forces in Côte d’Ivoire, their allied militias and New Forces rebels alike are committing serious abuses against civilians with impunity, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. These abuses and the impunity that fuels them raise serious concerns about the potential for violence in the run-up to the October elections....

Human Rights Watch found that members of the government security forces continue to prey on civilians by extorting, robbing and, at times, beating those they are entrusted to protect. These abuses typically take place under the guise of routine security checks during which police and gendarmes inspect the identity papers of individuals they stop at road blocks, in markets or other public places. Nationals of neighboring states and Ivorians from the north of the country are particularly signaled out for abuse, on the basis of suspicions that they support the northern rebels. Individuals from these groups are targeted and frequently subjected to arbitrary arrests, beatings, torture and sometimes murder, particularly during episodes of heightened political tension.

In the northern part of Cote d’Ivoire, Human Rights Watch found that New Forces rebels routinely extort money from civilians through threats, intimidation or outright force. In the zone administered by the New Forces, citizens accused of common crimes are sometimes subject to arbitrary arrest by rebel-administered police officers, and the imposition of custodial “sentences” of questionable legal authority continue to occur with no independent judicial or executive checks.

The report notes how neither the Ivorian authorities, the leadership of the rebel New Forces, nor the international community has taken meaningful steps to bring to justice those responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Côte d’Ivoire. Unless measures are taken now to combat impunity, a repeat of the violence experienced during the 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections could occur. In 2000, political, ethnic and religious violence in the run-up to the elections resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people and injuries to hundreds more.

HRW's history of the conflict says nothing about the World Cup qualifying as a trigger for peace.

[Isn't this a bit curmudgeonly?--ed.] Well, part of it is that ESPN's ads don't mention the other times that soccer affected international conflict:

Tensions [between Honduras and El Salvador] continued to mount during June 1969. The soccer teams of the two nations were engaged that month in a three-game elimination match as a preliminary to the World Cup. Disturbances broke out during the first game in Tegucigalpa, but the situation got considerably worse during the second match in San Salvador. Honduran fans were roughed up, the Honduran flag and national anthem were insulted, and the emotions of both nations became considerably agitated. Actions against Salvadoran residents in Honduras, including several vice consuls, became increasingly violent. An unknown number of Salvadorans were killed or brutalized, and tens of thousands began fleeing the country. The press of both nations contributed to a growing climate of near- hysteria, and on June 27, 1969, Honduras broke diplomatic relations with El Salvador.

Early on the morning of July 14, 1969, concerted military action began in what came to be known as the Soccer War.

There's also the role that soccer played in igniting the Balkan wars of the nineties:
For many Croats, the war began not in June 1991 but on the soccer field on 13 March 1990. That day Red Star Belgrade met Dinamo Zagreb at the Maksimir Stadium, Zagreb to settle a long standing disputed league title. The Red Star Delije were led by Arkan, the notorious warlord and Serbian ultranationalist.

Ozren Podnar reports that the Delije held up signs in the north stands saying "Zagreb is Serbian", and "We'll kill Tudjman" . A reference to Franjo Tudjman, the pro-independence Croatian leader. Even before the match, the Delije were tearing the plastic seats of the Maksimir Satdium and hurling them. They then attacked Dinamo fans with knives, tearing down a fence that separated them from the field and the North stands. The Yugoslavian riot police, who were mostly Serbs stood by and took no action. Incensed by the Delije aggression and the police inaction, thousands of DInamo fans, the Bad Blue Boys took to the field en masse. It was the biggest invasion of football fans in history. They quickly tore down the North stand which buckled under their weight and made after the Red Star fans....

"The game that was never played will be remembered, at least by the soccer fans, as the beginning of the Patriotic War, and almost all of the contemporaries will declare it the key in understanding the Croatian cause," wrote Zagreb daily Vecernji list marking the 15th anniversary of the event. It must be, the historians claim, that the Croats saw in the fans' actions and Boban's intervention a symbol of the resistance against the 70-year long Serbian domination.

If FIFA, ESPN, and U2 want to claim that soccer -- and yes, I know, it's called football everywhere else -- was the cause of peace in the Ivory Coast, then they should also acknowledge it's less savory contributions to world politics.

UPDATE: Some of the reactions to this post presume that I don't like either soccer or the World Cup. Not true -- I, for one, am hoping that Team USA can build on its excellent 2002 performance, when it advanced to the quarterfinals and then lost to Germany despite outplaying them for 80 of the 90 minutes of the game [not that he's bitter about it or anything!!--ed.]. I simply request that the game not be assigned magical properties that it does not possess.

posted by Dan at 08:07 PM | Comments (44) | Trackbacks (1)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Hello, I'm the one-eyed king of my NCAA pool

I'd like to thank the Florida Gators for beating the Villanova Wildcats yesterday. This clinched my victory in my family March Madness pool.

[Uh... aren't there some more games to be played?--ed.] Yes, but because everyone (including myself) had number one seeds like UConn, Duke, or Villanova winning the Final Four games, no one can earn any more points. I didn't do great in my predictions, but as the saying goes, in a land of blind men, the one-eyed man is king.

I do take comfort from the fact that according to ESPN.com, there are very few two-eyed people out there right now:

The Final Four looks nothing like the users of ESPN.com's Tournament Challenge predicted.
More than 1.5 million people participated and of the more than 3 million entries submitted only four -- that's right, four -- picked a Final Four including Florida, George Mason, LSU and UCLA before the tournament started. Over 66 percent of entries had none of the Final Four teams correct and better than 29 percent had exactly two teams correct.

As you probably guessed, George Mason is the team that busted the most brackets. The Patriots were picked in 1,853 entries to make the Final Four, with only 677 putting them in the championship game and only 284 predicting George Mason winning the national championship. UCLA, on the other hand, got the most support -- more than 24 percent of all entries have the Bruins advancing to Indianapolis.

This result also confirms that I know next to nothing about either health care reform or the quadrennial defense review.

UPDATE: It turns out that one of those four correct predictions was an accident -- the person confused George Mason with George Washington.

posted by Dan at 05:55 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The new axis of evil

I refer, of course, to the New York Yankees and trademark lawyers.

ESPN.com's Darren Rovell has an amusing story about one lone financial planner's fight to the death against these forces of evil:

Mike Moorby hates the Yankees. And except for the fact that they haven't won the World Series for five straight seasons (Moorby loves that about them), the Yankees keep giving him reasons to hate them.

Now, they're messing with a little bit of his livelihood.

Moorby, a 38-year-old financial advisor from New Jersey, proudly admits that he feels as good when he sees the Yankees lose as he did when he saw the Red Sox win it all in 2004. In fact, he hates the Yankees so much that he started a side business, creating memorabilia for other pinstripe haters. Inspired by the pain of Aaron Boone's home run that prevented his Red Sox, yet again, from reaching the World Series in 2003, Moorby drew up a logo that features the interlocking letters "YH" (Yankee Hater) with devil horns.

The fledgling enterprise (Moorby's Yankee Hater company is called Rebel Forces LLC) sent a bunch of hats with the YH logo to then-Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar early in 2004; and in April of that year, a Boston Herald photographer shot a picture of the team's new ace, Curt Schilling, wearing one of them at a Boston Bruins' game. It was an immediate credibility boost.

Without a single piece of advertising, Moorby soon was selling hats from his YankeesHater.com Web site to people in all 50 states, and a handful of orders were coming from Europe and Asia. By now, business isn't quite as brisk, but Moorby says he gets at least one order a day.

Not surprisingly, the baseball establishment in New York didn't take kindly to Moorby's Yankee Hater merchandise. He says staying in business has meant tearing up a cease-and-desist letter from Major League Baseball; and he claims he has spent all his profits, appropriately, fighting the Yankees themselves, who opposed his trademark application that used the stylized Yankees "Y" in it. If things stay on schedule, final proceedings concerning the merit of Moorby's trademark will go before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board before the end of the year.

"I'm not going to go out with a whimper," says a defiant Moorby. "Plus, how many times in life do you actually get to play against a team that you hate so much? Who would imagine that [he] would ever go face-to-face with the beast? Well, I am doing that right now."

I think I might just have to order myself a hat.

posted by Dan at 04:45 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 20, 2006

I always suspected this was true
As the bookie commissioner of an illegal gambling operation the TAP March madness pool.... it seems there is an inverse correlation between NCAA clairvoyance and grasping the minutiae of US health care policy.
Well, at least among liberals, anyway. Among conservatives, I suspect there's an inverse correlation between performance in baseball rotisserie leagues and comprehension of the Quadrennial Defense Reviews.

[So how are you doing in your March Madness pool, smart guy?--ed. My correct upset predictions (Montana over Nevada, and Georgetown over Ohio State) have kept me in the running despite some excessive loyalty to the Land of Lincoln (F#$%ing Salukis; should have picked Bradley instead). I'm told that if my prediction of Florida making it to the Final Four comes true, I'll be sitting pretty.]

posted by Dan at 09:24 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

In honor of March Madness....

As the NCAA men's basketball tournament gets under way, I'm glad to see that the Chicago Tribune's Julia Keller brings up a fascinating phenomenon among both sports fans and many of my friends -- an irrational hatred of Duke:

As Duke University begins the 2006 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed -- meaning those pesky Blue Devils stand a fair chance of hanging around as the bracket unravels to the fortunate quartet -- it is time, clearly, to answer the question looming over the college sports world like a freeze-frame of a jump hook:

Why do so many of us hate Duke?

Is it the fact that they've been astonishingly successful, year after year, or that many referees seem curiously reluctant to whistle fouls on Duke personnel?

Is it the fact that Duke is an inarguably fine school with a sterling academic reputation -- enough to turn those of us from less august institutions a sickly shade of pea-green from sheer envy?

Is it the antipathy that seems naturally to accrue to Duke's consonant-enriched Coach Mike Krzyzewski?

For me, it's all of the above -- plus the perennial assumption that Duke players are philosopher-kings and Coach K is a Plato with a pate enhanced by Grecian Formula.

Lest one think this problem only occurs among laymen, sportswriter Bomani Jones confesses, while watching the ACC tourney, "I nearly got an ulcer sitting at that [press] table not rooting against Duke."

Anyone else out there feel this way? UPDATE: Yes, apparently Abu Aardvark does.

posted by Dan at 11:18 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In honor of Baseball Musings

My favorite baseball blogger, David Pinto of Baseball Musings, is celebrating his one year anniversary of being a professional blogger. Click over to make a donation and keep him at Baseball Musings on a full-time basis.

In honor of Pinto's anniversary, I'll raise a contrarian point about the utility of sabermetrics as a management tool that will warm the cockles of Steven Leavitt's heart. In a Baseball America chat about the top 100 prospects, Jim Callis responded to a very interesting question:

Q: Dave from Third Avenue, Manhattan asks: Jim, what is your take on the Moneyball draft, four years out. Swisher and Blanton seem to be doing just fine. Who else bears watching? Jeremy Brown?

A: Jim Callis: ...Given the number of picks the Athletics had in 2002, their Moneyball draft looks pretty average to me. They had seven first-round picks, and they got two solid big leaguers (Swisher, Blanton--both of whom were consensus first-round picks and not Moneyball choices out of the blue, by the way), a fringe regular (Teahen) and four guys who won't do much (McCurdy, Fritz, Brown, Obenchain). After that, there's not much beyond Shane Komine in the ninth round. Don't tell Michael Lewis, but it doesn't look like anyone revolutionized the draft in 2002.
If you re-read Lewis' chapter on the 2002 draft, you could go even further than Callis' assessment. In his chapter on the draft, Lewis recounts how Athletics GM Billy Beane went ballistic because in the previous year, the A's first-round draft pick was.... Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman was the player to be named later in a deal that sent Ted Lilly from the Yankees to the Athletics. My guess is that Beane would be happy to have the current incarnation of that pitcher given his current price tag.

The 2002 Athletics draft should have been an "easy test" of the Moneyball revolution. The Athletics had a large number of draft picks, and no other team had really embraced the sabermetric philosophy to the extent that the A's had. If that draft failed to yield an above-average number of quality MLB players, what does it say about the utility of sabermetrics as a scouting tool?

The one out I can think of for Lewis is that Beane was able to sign those draft picks for way less than normal market value given when they were picked. There's definitely cost-effectiveness, which is really at the heart of the Moneyball argument. Still, that's pretty weak beer given the way Lewis wrote about the potential of that draft.

I'm certainly not suggesting sabermetrics is useless... but might this approach be overrated as a scouting tool?

posted by Dan at 11:45 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)