Friday, January 11, 2008

Philosophical question of the week

If we're coming off the "Steroid Era," or "Doping Era," for many sports - baseball, track and field, cycling - are we entering the "Litigation/Judicial Era"? Consider - All of the following have either been in court or in front of Congress sometime in the last five years for either criminal or civil reasons, much of which has had an impact on how the athlete and his/her career is being perceived

Michael Vick
Pacman Jones
At least 11 players on the Bengals
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Marion Jones
Lance Armstrong
Floyd Landis
Mark McGwire
Rafael Palmeiro
Chris Webber
The Knicks
Ron Artest
Sammy Sosa
Allen Iverson

Those are just the ones that came to me quickly.

What will the name of the "new" era be?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

An Exercise in the Absurd

There is no rhyme nor reason among voters for the Hall of Fame.

For 14 years enough voters for one reason or another have kept Jim Rice out of the Hall. Some claim that he wasn't as good as his numbers because of Fenway (yet the same didn't apply for Ted Williams? Carl Yasterzemski?), others claim that he just didn't do enough, and his numbers don't stand up against those of others in the Hall.

Let's take a look at what those baseball writers really know about Rice...

From 1975 until 1986 (12 of his total 16 seasons) Rice was the single most dominant offensive force in the game, leading the league in 12 offensive categories including runs, homers, RBIs and slugging percentage. At the time of his retirement Rice was 36th on the all-time RBI list - only 35 players over the course of the (approximately) century's worth of baseball before Rice's retirement knocked in more.

But, according to detractors, those numbers are inflated by Fenway Park. The last time I checked, that shallow left field takes away just as many hits as it grants - that little flare into left field that gives you a hit in Yankee Stadium is an out in Fenway. The ball hit into the left field gap that goes to the wall in Veteran's Stadium and clears the bases sees runners hold up at third in the shallow confines of Fenway. That low linedrive that clears the left field fence in Detroit is a single in Fenway. So, I don't buy the idea that Fenway inflated his numbers.

Let's address the idea that his numbers just aren't good enough. Here are James Edward Rice's career numbers (in regards to the statistics that voters tend to look at) compared to other Hall of Famers...

Jim Rice 1974-89 (16 seasons)__2089__8225_1249_2452_382_1451_.298_.352_.502_128

Billy Williams 1959-74 (16 Seas)_2213__8479_1306_2510_392_1353_.296_.364_.503_135
Orlando Cepeda 1958-1974(17 )_2124__7927_1131__2351_379_1365_.297_.350_.499_133
Duke Snider 1947-63 (17 Sesn)__2052_6994_1243__2081_403_1316_.298_.382_.545_141
Al Kaline 1953-71 (19 Seasons)__2490_8970_1465__2695_366_1442_.300_.380_.488_137
Tony Perez 1964-78 (15 Seasn)__2030_7429_1022__2106_310_1284_.283_.346_.477_128
Ernie Banks 1953-67 (15 Seasn)__2112_7999_1145__2232_442_1397_.279 _.336 _.510_126

And my personal favorite inducted in 2001, since their careers overlap so much...

Dave Winfield 1973-88 (16 Seas)_2269__8421_1314__2421_357_1438_.287_.357_.481_135

Sure, Winfield brought home the defensive hardware, but was considerably less productive - in 180 more games he produced fewer at bats per game (3.7 for Winfield to Rice's 3.9), batted .012 lower, hit 25 fewer home runs (Rice hit one per every 21.5 at bats, to one every 23.6 for Winfield), and Rice had 13 more RBI's in those 180 fewer games or 0.69 RBI's per game to Winfield's 0.63.

Rice missed the Hall this year by 16 votes yet somehow Harold Baines received 28 (384 home runs and only 178 more RBI's over the course of 22 seasons), and players like David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, and Todd Stottlemeyer all received one vote. Todd-freakin-Stottlemeyer of the 138 wins over 14 seasons with a 4+ ERA. That writer needs to be ferreted out and beaten.

Hell, Mark McGwire received 128 votes and many say that if it weren't for the steroid issues he would have been a first ballot HoFer, in spite of the fact that Big Mac trails rice significantly in almost every major offensive category other than home runs.

How the writers apply their standards for voting is beyond me.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Fuzzy Logic

Fuzzy logic seems to be in abundance these days.

Fuzzy logic comes from fuzzy math...let's start with some fuzzy math - the kind that doesn't add up.

Yesterday Roger Clemens continued his farce with a 17-minute tape of a phone conversation with trainer-turned-informant Brian McNammee. The tape told us absolutely diddly-squat.

Here's the math on this subject -

Clemens' initial denial issued by his lawyer and reported by CNN on December 14...

"Roger Clemens adamantly, vehemently, and whatever other adjectives can be used, denies that he has ever used steroids or ... improper substances," Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, said Thursday.
"He is really, really concerned and upset that he has been named in this report. It's based on the allegations, apparently, of a trainer that he's had in the past. ... That's not a standard someone should be held out in public to have done something as serious as using steroids in baseball."


"Roger has been repeatedly tested for these substances and he has never tested positive," Hardin said in a statement. "There has never been one shred of tangible evidence that he ever used these substances and yet he is being slandered today."
Hardin told reporters that Clemens had not been given the opportunity to defend himself.

Let's start with the last point Hardin makes. Clemens had plenty of opportunity to defend himself when invited to talk to George Mitchell. He chose not to do so. Let's be realistic about this as well - it's not as though Clemens was going to assume Mitchell just wanted to hang out and talk about baseball. He knew what Mitchell was doing, he had to know that Mitchell called him because he had been named. Issue one that doesn't pass the smell test.

Lidocaine is a class VI drug. Class VI drugs require a prescription for use and is administered by a physician - not a physical trainer. Issue two.

Vitam B12 is a professional sports euphemism for the steroid Winstrol, which is what McNamee claims to have injected Clemens with. Don't believe it, just ask Rafael Palmeiro. Issue three.

Here's my favorite, and it comes from an interview with Steve Phillips on ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning - Phillips, for those of you who don't know, played baseball and was at one time the general manager of the New York Mets - "We're talking a strength and conditioning coach. In my twenty years within a major league organization, seven as a player, thirteen in a front office, I have never heard of a strength and conditioning coach giving any legitimate injection to a player. In fact, trainers do not give injections, only physicians give injections."

This was followed up by the former NFL defensive tackle Mike Golic's agreement, "I will say, I was never injected by a trainer...I have never heard of that before." And Buster Olney's statement, "I completely concur with what Steve said. In talking with people around baseball last night, they said they cannot see a situation in which a trainer would be giving injections to players as a matter of routine." Issue four.

From an report -
Asked why McNamee would tell the truth about Pettitte and lie about Clemens,
Clemens said Pettitte's case was "totally separate."

How is it that Mike Wallace didn't follow up on this? How are the cases totally separate? From all accounts, Clemens introduced Pettitte to McNamee. Pettitte confirmed that McNamee was telling the truth in regards to him - why would he then be lying about Clemens? Both sloppy reporting and issue five. He offered no explanation in regards to how Pettitte's case is "totally separate."

I don't buy that the timing of when his lawyers (finally) filed the suit against McNamee as a coincidence either. It came two days after Clemens was asked to appear before Congress along with Pettitte and McNamee. The allows Clemens to, in effect, go in front of the Congressional committee and claim that he can't answer certain questions due to the pending litigation without ever having to take the Fifth. Issue six.

Right now it looks like Clemens is trying to convince the court of public opinion that by adding five and five, you get six.

Fuzzy math part two -

The closer it gets, the funnier the math gets. Somehow, Mercury Morris and his 1972 Dolphin compatriots would have us believe that 17=19. Neat trick, but wrong.

Yes, it would be only the second team in the NFL to go undefeated during a season, but what does that really mean? It means that they had a streak that ran during one season, rather than over the course of two.

The whole discussion always comes back to how hard it is to win 16 in a row. The Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Patriots have done it twice.

Those 17 Dolphin wins included the postseason. The Patriots already have one streak that exceeds that at 21.

The longest regular season winning streak the 'Phins even had was 15 games. The Patriots are owners of both an 18-game and now 19-game regular season winning streaks.

None of this takes into account the fact that the Patriots deal with free-agency, the salary cap, and weighted schedules - all elements of today's game designed to keep the sort of dominance the Patriots have shown from happening.

Sure, the Patriots haven't gone 19-0, and might not, but the self-appointed greatest team to ever play the game would have you believe that 17=19, and that the best the Pats could do is "join us on the mountain top."

Sorry guys. They do it, then they're the king of the mountain.