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.”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.
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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.So here's a question -- why care so much about HGH?
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!!!
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.Go Ephs!!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
A hidden utility of sports globalization?
Dani Rodrik posts about the migration of talented African
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.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.
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.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.
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.
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.
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....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.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."
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.
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.
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.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??
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.
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."
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
In honor of Tom Glavine
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."
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Pinch-hitting for Seth Mnookin....
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.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.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.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;
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.
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.
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.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.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.
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.None of these sports will eclipse soccer -- but that doesn't mean that they are globally unpopular.
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.
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.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.(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.
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....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.
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.
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.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.
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.UPDATE: For a play-by-play description of Daisuke's first game, you would be hard-pessed to beat Bill Simmons.
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.Let the season begin!!
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.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.
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....FINAL UPDATE: Schilling responds:
The only response I have to the Curly Haired Boyfriend is this.
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.
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.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.
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
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.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
We all have our passions... and side-hobbies to those passions
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!!
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.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.
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.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
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.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.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
A reluctant tip of the cap to Brian Cashman
[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.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.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.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.
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.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.
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.
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.”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.”
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.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?
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.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.
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.
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.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.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
A sportswriting tic that drives me nuts
Less than two weeks after the All-Star break, the Red Sox suddenly appear to be in desperate need of a collective breather.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.
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.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?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?
Before Wednesday night’s game, Guillen acknowledged that his use of the word might have offended some.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.Eric Wilbur thinks Mariotti is being too kind to Boston beat writers.
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.
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
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!!!
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Will Bono please be quiet, please?
Music from U2 is also used in the campaign from Wieden + Kennedy, which carries the theme, "One game changes everything."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.
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....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....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.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.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.
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.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.
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.I think I might just have to order myself a hat.
Monday, March 20, 2006
I always suspected this was true
As theWell, 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.]
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: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.
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?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?