MOTHER. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution I plan to keep! NURSE. Ma’am, that’s a birth certificate. MOTHER. Oh, whoops. Have erasers been invented yet? NURSE. No. MOTHER. Well, what do you do if you need to erase something? NURSE. You contract smallpox. MOTHER. What? NURSE. [doffs stovepipe hat, rides away on penny-farthing bicycle]
In the front offices of major league clubs, the statistics-vs.-scouts debate ended long ago. No club today could imagine winning without tapping the resources of the increasingly sophisticated statistical tools available as well as the experience of scouts trained to look at a kid today and project his tomorrows.
Yet that debate was very much alive in 2003, sparked by the book “Moneyball,” and by author Michael Lewis’ portrayal of how Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane and assistant Paul DePodesta challenged the hegemony of the scouting community.
“Billy had his own idea about where to find future major league baseball players: inside Paul’s computer,” Lewis wrote. “He’d flirted with the idea of firing all the scouts and just drafting the kids straight from Paul’s laptop.”
The response from some owners was all too predictable. The A’s won, at less cost, with fewer scouts. In the winter following the publication of “Moneyball,” 103 scouts lost their jobs, according to veteran baseball executive Roland Hemond.
There was some small consolation in the timing. Hemond was among several baseball lifers concerned about how the sport treated scouts — the talent seekers living in chain hotels and eating fast food all summer, for wages so low that a savings account might be an extravagance.
When I published this classic in The Armchair Book of Baseball in 1985, I prefaced it by writing:
This classic assault on sense and syntax is generally associated with Abbott and Costello, who, having performed it in the 1945 film Naughty Nineties, are presumed to have written it. They didn’t. Who did? Naturally.
I went on to say that the skit was of anonymous authorship, as were some 2,000 other stock burlesque bits in Abbott and Costello’s repertoire. Afterwards, however, I learned that they aired “Who’s on First?” as far back as 1938, when they performed it on Kate Smith’s radio show, and that the skit had an author: Irving Gordon (1915-96), a versatile fellow who also wrote Nat King Cole’s 1951 hit song, “Unforgettable,” as well as “Prelude to a Kiss” for Duke Ellington, “What Can I Tell My Heart?” for Bing Crosby, “Throw Mama from the Train” for Patti Page and—in a song title for Billie Holiday that puts one in mind of “Who’s on First?”—the strangely populated “Me, Myself and I.”
I think I know now how Bilbo Baggins must have felt in Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” My companions and I have set out on our own mountainous journey to try to attain a treasure.
The treasure in our case is not a pile of gold guarded by a dragon, but rather the gratification that comes with reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Instead of facing trolls and fighting goblins, we are battling steep climbs and the fatigue that accompanies seven- to eight-hour hikes. Furthermore, I’m not sure of the height of the Lonely Mountain, but I’m pretty sure I don’t remember reading about Bilbo’s having to worry about acclimatization and altitude sickness as he ascended the mountainside.
Our party is two days into the climb, and we have reached an altitude of 11,300 feet.
As long as he’s been on the ballot, I’ve been voting for JACK MORRIS, and in fact I’ve often tried to vote for him twice…
Perhaps now is the right point to mention my write-in vote for CARL YATREMSKY. Every year I look for his name on the ballot, and it’s never there, and it’s just not right!... Heck, he’s so famous, they even named my great-granddaughter’s birth control pills after him. If that doesn’t count for integrity, I don’t know what does…
LARRY WALKER. Come on, now. Walks are in his name! Automatic no. Won’t even consider it.
Next is the Whopper himself, MARK MCGWIRE. I’m so tempted to vote for McGwire and his 583 round-robins, but, oh, that batting average… And it’s also a no for his brother, FRED MCGWIRE… it comes down to sacrifice hits, and Fred only had two of ‘em, his entire career. What kind of sportsmanship is that? What kind of on-field performance? I can’t ignore the evidence. I can only try my best to understand it and make good judgments. So for Fred, it is a no vote, no dote. Hey, that rhymes. Wait, isn’t there a silent ‘b’ in there somewhere? Vobte? Never mind. I should take another one of my amphetamine pills. Okay, here we go.
RUBEN SIERRA is out because I don’t vote for sandwiches, and TIM SALMON for the same reason (what– you don’t like your salmon in a sandwich???). A bunch of the other guys had names that were too long for me to remember, so I was left with two options: JAVY LOPEZ or PHIL NEVIN. Javy Lopez — or, Davey Lopes, as he used spell his name before all this political correctness — was quite a player. Phil Nevin played almost every position. So of course I wanted to vote for Nevin. But then I forgot, and submitted my ballot without his name on it. Oh well, who cares, I’m old.
WAR: This has two different pronunciations, depending on which version of WAR you’re referring to. FanGraphs’ WAR is pronounced like the Franco-Prussian War, while the Baseball Reference version is like the War of 1812. See the difference? Neither does anyone else.
FIP: Remember that pointy weapon from the X-Files? You know, the one they used to stab aliens in the back of the neck, because that’s the only way to kill an alien? The sound that thing makes when it’s unsheathed is how you say “FIP.”...
ISO: The cliché of the Japanese character always saying, “Ah, so!” dates back to the end of World War II, when Emperor Hirohito met with ordinary Japanese citizens for the first time at the insistence of General MacArthur. When the emperor’s awed subjects told him about their lives he would meekly reply, “Ah, so” or “I see, I see.” This has nothing to do with the pronunciation of ISO, I just wanted to remind our Belgian readers that we destroyed the nation of Japan and we can do the same thing to your country, no problem. That would be no problem for us at all.
BABiP: Just say “batting average on balls in play,” unless you want to be alone for the rest of your life. God, you’re a nerd. No wonder girls won’t talk to you.
And here I thought Richard Meltzer and Zoo World had folded up their giant DuPont plastic circus tent.
David Roth: I wish William Friedkin would make a gritty, rainy-looking movie about the greenie-soaked MLB clubhouses of the 1970s. Gene Hackman wearing a hat and a cheap suit with Sanka stains on it. Interrogating Bake McBride about something.
David Raposa: To Live and Die in Three Rivers Stadium.
David Roth: Roy Schneider is miscast as John Candelaria, but does his best.
David Raposa: John Cazale would be a brilliant Kent Tekulve.
David Roth: Doomed, vulnerable, wearing sunglasses in the shower. It is good casting. There’d be a dangerous-seeming chase scene with bullpen golf carts. And in the end Dave Kingman somehow gets away with it, because that’s the way it works in the big city.
David Raposa: I like movies that make you think while making you side against Dave Kingman. And it’s a good thing you picked Billy Friedkin; imagine the budget if Cimino was behind the camera? While I’d love to see a Russian Roulette sequence featuring Bert Blyleven in his “I [HEART] TO FART” tee, I would also like to not cause a double-dip recession in the process.
David Roth: Harmon Killebrew yelling things at him in Vietnamese. It would be harrowing, but not as harrowing as photos of Michael Cimino himself. He looks like Linda Hunt playing David Bowie.
For the final days of 2011, a look at some of the best (creative commons licensed) photos on Flickr.
Today’s photo is of a rocket (not sure of what, probably a satellite) going through the sky during a early March night… and visible from the spring training stadium of the Washington Nationals. Talk about local color.
There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will the ballot be stuffed up?
Edgar Martinez – Called ‘gar’ after the fish that has lurked in reed lined waters still and waiting since there were fish and waters and lesser animals condemned to a perdition life of preydom and chased by higher forms make thinbodied and needleteethed by time or Godhand and touched with the breath of life. Called that by the denizens of a rain-soaked city not because he was thin but because his bat would hold still and then lash out at the rotating sphere of cowhide and twine stitched by women in Costa Rica who will hear tonight the low call of the yigüirro and catch sight: a shift of red-gray holding briefly the last rays of light coming through the canopy above.
Dave Parker – And you are?
And you have been on the ballot –?
And your career was—?
Up and down. Undone by cocaine.
And you have been on the ballot—?
And you are?
Major league owners are famously reluctant to release franchise-specific financial information. However, Forbes estimates that the value of the Red Sox has climbed from about $500 million in 2002 to $900 million in 2011 — an impressive 7% annual growth.
Companies seeking to revitalize seemingly stagnant businesses can take three lessons from the Red Sox success:
1. Question orthodoxy. Of course you can’t put people on top of the Green Monster. Or host a hockey game in Fenway. Or can you?
2. Systematically evaluate business model options. A business model describes how an organization creates, captures, and delivers value. Consider all of the different levers at your disposal to create growth.
3. Look to the peripheries. Cable broadcasting and fan clubs aren’t obvious places to look for growth. Growth often comes from carefully examining the edges of your current business.
Just because a business is mature doesn’t mean there isn’t room for growth. If the Red Sox can find growth in an almost 100-year-old stadium, surely corporations can find growth in products and services that seem to have leveled off.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s top investigative reporter, Nancy Phillips, has written a story containing what we’re told are allegations of child molestation against sportswriter Bill Conlin, a longtime columnist at the rival Daily News. Conlin resigned just moments ago, according to a source at the Daily News.
Conlin, who turns 78 this May, won the Ford C. Frick Award last May. The story supposedly will drop soon (the newspapers publish under a joint-operating agreement, sharing some resources and a website but otherwise competing for the same readers). Conlin has hired an attorney to defend himself against the piece. We’ll have more details on this. For now, we can tell you that Conlin is at his condo in Largo, Fla.
Of course, the picture is complicated. The heavy hitting of the late-nineties has since been attributed to performance enhancing drugs and the first decade of the new century has seen a marked decrease in offensive output. Then again, drug testing began in 2003, and the strike zone was effectively expanded in 2001—both also important factors affecting batters.
In a perverse sense, warmer and wetter climates are performance enhancers brought on by man’s interference in the climate. Donner pointed to National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun’s recent positive drug test, which is shaking confidence in the integrity of the sport. “It’s interesting that the test that determines whether the additional testosterone in a human body is natural looks at isotopes of carbon, which is the same way we show that carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere are man-made,” he said.
But what climate change gives, it might also take away. Baseball parks are likely to have more rainouts, says Richard Stuebi, managing director of Early Stage Partners, who wrote about global warming and sports for the Cleantech Blog. “We may need more stadiums with roofs.”
In a blog post entitled “Sports and Climate Change,” Stuebi celebrates the fact that global warming is bringing greens and sports fans together. “When NASCAR dads and NFL junkies start really caring about climate change, real public sector action…can’t be far behind,” he said.
Last January, I became moderately obsessed with North Korea, thanks to this book, this graphic novel, and these photos. North Korea is both terrible and completely bizarre—in this day of hyper-connectedness, it’s hard to wrap my head around the idea that a country actually exists where millions of people have no light, not to mention no internet, phones, or non-programmed radios and TVs.
Illustrating North Korea’s strangeness is its official website, which is down today, the day that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il has also ceased to exist. Though it’s North Korea’s official website, it’s a very simple page with early-90s cyberspace graphics. It links to a CafePress shop, which is still up and where you can buy such items as an official North Korea baseball tee:
‘I pulled out of the entrance (of his neighborhood) and I saw this car upside down and smoking. I kind of saw a hand pulling at the window,’’ he said.
“I looked at my wife and my wife’s like, ‘Go help! Just go!’’
Buck ran to the overturned car and went to work with two other Good Samaritans.
Buck and a bus driver who stopped to give assistance were able to help the car’s driver crawl out of a window of the upside-down car. Buck and another man pulled the passenger out.
Buck also called 911, but at the scene he said. “I didn’t do a whole lot of talking — everybody was speaking Spanish around me.’’
It didn’t take long for police and paramedics to arrive. Buck said the injuries to the two elderly women did not look life-threatening. He said he thinks the passenger might have suffered a broken leg; the driver didn’t appear to be physically hurt too much.
“It wasn’t that serious,’’ he said. “But the car upside down and the way it landed, the two older ladies were pretty lucky.’’
Buck didn’t stick around too long – he was on his way to pick up his son from school.
“I pulled them out, then the police came, I gave my report and was like, ‘Guess my job’s over.’ So I took off.’’
According to Spencer Fordin of MLB.com, Legendary Pictures announced yesterday that Harrison Ford will play Hall of Fame Dodgers’ executive Branch Rickey in a biopic about Jackie Robinson.
Many prominent actors have been mentioned for the role of Rickey over the years, including Robert Redford this past April, but Ford was apparently their top choice. His work in “Cowboys and Aliens” probably put him over the top.
As for Robinson, he’ll be played by the relatively unknown Chadwick Boseman. The 27-year-old has appeared in television shows such as “Lincoln Heights” and NBC’s “Persons Unknown.”
The film, which is appropriated titled “42,” is being written and directed by Brian Helgeland of “L.A. Confidential” and “Mystic River” renown.
Shia LaBeouf will play Branch Rickey’s son who takes over the movie for no reason.
Carlos Tevez: A ticket out of Manchester Wayne Rooney: To be known from here on out as “Tintin” instead of “Shrek” Harry Redknapp: An acquittal Andre Villas-Boas To still be employed come Christmas Portsmouth Fans: For their club to still exist come Christmas Me: West Ham United, Championship leaders come Christmas Shooty: Any Spurs gear from the years 1964-1982
With 11 million iPads recently sold, according to Apple’s financial report, app developers are scrambling to get the attention of young professional athletes who are accustomed to Apple products.
One of those developers, Bloomberg Sports, decided to give iPads to professional baseball players so they could review its newly developed app, “Pitch Review,” created exclusively for professional baseball players.
“We didn’t have to,” said Bill Squadron with Bloomberg Sports. “Because every player had an iPad.”
The front office management of 19 out of 30 baseball clubs have adopted apps like Pitch Review, which features statistics, averages and video clips that can be customized.
The National Hockey League is also utilizing mobile technology, allowing its live games to be broadcast through paid subscriptions to NHL GameCenter Live on mobile devices including tablets.
But not everyone in professional sports has immediately embraced the technology.
“Our dinosaurs have been our coaches,” said Dominik. “(They) are older and used to the more traditional way of doing things.”
There’s an argument to be made that Mariners righty Michael Pineda pitched better than Hellickson this year. Pineda had a huge advantage in strikeout rate (9.1 K/9 to Hellickson’s 5.6) as well as a superior walk rate (2.9 to 3.4). Both allowed home runs and hits at comparable rates, but because he walked men less often, Pineda had a better WHIP (1.10 to 1.15), and Hellickson derived far more benefit from his defense and/or luck.
...In fact, Pineda may not even finish second given that the Yankees’ Ivan Nova (16-4, 3.70) had superficially superior traditional stats and even less luck on balls in play (.284 BABIP) while pitching in a hitter’s park in Hellickson’s division.
Hellickson was the preseason favorite for this award and while he didn’t pitch quite as well as expected, he will still be a deserving winner.
5. You got to take a pace-car ride prior to last Sunday’s race. What was that experience like for you?
Rhodes: I know [pace-car driver] Brett Bodine. I know he’s been a Cup driver and he’s been driving a long time, so I trusted him. But I’ll tell you right now: the right side of my head was stuck to the window [during the ride]. My stomach hurt. My back hurt. I tried to force myself to come back to the middle of the seat—but he was driving so fast through some of those turns, I was stuck to the window and couldn’t do it.
6. So you were a little out of your element, but how do you think some of us could do if we faced you in the batting cage?
Rhodes: My first thought is that if we go in the batting cage right now and I throw it 95 [miles per hour], I don’t think you would ever touch the ball.