Saturday, November 21

A Welcome To New York Facepalm

Moving to New York has been quite an experience. Not an a new one entirely as I have moved often over the last decade of my life and both my parents are from New York so I am familiar somewhat with the place. In fact, being originally from the north has led my sports allegiances to lie with teams in the New York/Connecticut (state of my birth) area. The first team I rooted for was the New York Mets. Some would call that a curse but when I was 5 going on 6 my grandfather and I were watching a little roller up a long first....BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER HERE COMES KNIGHT AND THE METS WIN IT! Sorry, I got a little carried away in memory land. The point of the story is that prior to the late 90s I never bothered with the Yankees. I even rooted for them in 1996 to beat the Braves. However in the past ten years I have grown to loathe them, as just about all non-Yankee fans do. This does not affect me too much, I spew Yankee hate and root against them at every turn. Now I live in the heart of Yankee fandom; I realize there are Yankee fans everywhere because they have the biggest bandwagon in the history of sport but now they are an everyday topic when it comes to sports. I thought I could accept this, until I started listeing to sports radio on hour long commute to and from work.

The Yankees fanbase is focusing on the offseason, which certainly is not a bad thing. Just because they have 27 titles (which they never fail to point out) does not mean they should not be thinking about free-agency and what to do with their expiring contracts. Fair enough. Yet all last week about 1 in every 3 Yankee calls (I also heard people out on the street saying this too by the way) were fans crying about Joe Girardi not winning AL Manager of the Year.

They backed their argument with a few reasons. Their first was that they won the World Series. What Joe Howyadoin does not realize is that it is a regular season award, not a post-season one. It just comes after the post-season because back in the old days when baseball was the king of the American sports scene it was a way to prolong baseball in the national landscape. Now that football rules it seems silly to prolong these individual awards but that is how MLB operates nowadays.

Next came the discussion of their record. 103 wins! The most in baseball. Fantastic and worthy of note, but again you consider that the Yankees have assembled a goliath payroll and their swallowing of high-priced free agents last off-season, they were built to win. They won only 6 more than the team that produced the AL MOY, the Angels. Girardi did a good job, but compared to Scioscia who operated with injuries, the death of one of his players, a bad start, and a payroll of $88 million less. With this collection of players, you have to be record-setting in wins to have done an award-winning job. Yet the result was the desired one, the team won the World Series even though Girardi's managing or sometimes overmanaging came into question.

I refer to this title for the Yankees as the Faust Title. The ownership, Cashman, and the fanbase were willing to pay any price to win. This goes beyond the $200 million payroll. The issue of the Yankees spending has been debated ad nausuem and while I agree if the Yanks have it and are willing to spend it, they are entitled. However, snatching up players by dangling suitcases full of cash in front of them is not exactly the highest attainment of sport. Think about the money the Yankees have thrown at players during their 6 year "drought" of championships.

**Before anyone goes up in arms about my Mets fandom I feel the same way about the Mets spending $150 million. Besides the fact that the Mets cannot try to win that way (cough Bobby Bonilla) they usually fail outside of Santana to get production. The way for the Mets to thrive is to develop their young talent (like they did with Wright and Reyes) and add smart if a tiny bit pricey free-agents in their need areas (K-Rod). Of course every now and again spending big market money is necessary (get Halladay please).**

Next this Faustian 27th title was also brought in care of two admitted and proven PED users. I do not pretend to think that any team that has had success in the last 10-25 years in baseball did not have users. However, if you like to take the stance of having a clean team, winning with integrity, and the tradition of all who wore the pin stripes, then do not be a hypocrit. When the steroid scandal broke, how many holier than thou Yankee fans were cursing those that would cast a shadow on the sanctity of the game. Now you have the title with two players that lied about their use and then got caught red-handed and gave pathetic apologies. Petitte never faced any punishment for his use, whether it was league imposed or by the media and public. It was interesting how the public quickly misremembered what Andy did. A-Rod is even worse in my opinion. Here is a man who signed the biggest contract in history and juiced his way to an MVP and a spot on the Yankees. He may have been unfairly unmasked as a juicer, but when he was, he faced no penalty other than in the court of public opinion. No fines levied, no contract money returned, no games missed. He jumped right back into the line-up after his injury and was prancing around the bases with the grace of a centaur.

I have accepted the Yankees have won the title and will win more in the coming years, but what I cannot is the attitude of a contingent of their fanbase. It is amusing hearing from the level-headed portion of their fans. They enjoy their team winning, yet they know that it is not as pure as the driven snow. It is time to put aside the fantasy, you no longer play in the house that Ruth built, and it is a simple game of monopoly and the Yankees have more dark yellow bills than anyone else.

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Tuesday, November 17

Hypothetical Questions about Greatness

There's not much to say about Bill Belichick's decision to not punt on fourth down against the Colts that hasn't already been stated, but let's take a look at a few hypothetical questions that may help provide clarity to the issue. First, by choosing not to punt Coach Belichick was illustrating his belief that Peyton Manning would be able to lead the team down the field in two minutes and score. His belief was not unfounded given that Manning had done so in two of the last three drives (one drive was two minutes and four seconds to be accurate) with both drives covering 79 yards. If we take the average punt of New England's Chris Hanson into account, the Colts would've been looking at approximately a 73 yard drive had the Patriots chosen to punt. I say that just to point that Belichick's belief was not unfounded. It's hard not to get fixated on where on the field the decision took place, but let's take a look at some other sports and other situations to compare and see if the coach would be greeted with as much criticism the following day.

Imagine you were a coach facing the Bulls during the 1997-1998 season and were trailing them by one with forty seconds remaining. You've called a timeout and you're getting ready to go into your huddle knowing that your team can't run the clock out, but also knowing that arguably the greatest clutch shooter in your league's history will have a chance to shoot before the game is over. You also know your defense is tired and hasn't been able to stop him all fourth quarter. Do you as a coach draw up a play for your deadeye shooter to take a three even though your team trails by only one? If you don't and you believe Jordan will hit a shot (if needed) haven't you accepted the one point loss? (The Bulls could certainly choose to go for the win with a three pointer, but Jordan was much less proficient from deep particularly at the end of his career meaning either a) he would play for OT b) he would not be taking the three or of course C) He takes it, makes it and you racked your brain for nothing.)

Another hypothetical from baseball:
You're managing a team playing against the Yankees and leading by a run in the bottom of the 8th inning. They have runners on first and third with no outs. They have put a pinch runner on 1st and the number eight hitter at the plate. Do you as a manager pull your infield in to attempt to stop the tying run, knowing that a ball through the infield could potentially allow the go ahead run to reach third? Before you answer keep in mind that your closer has blown two of his last three saves (why is he still your closer? You have no better options, smarty.) and they have Mariano Rivera warming up. If you believe that your team will lose if that runner on third scores, don't you have to do everything you can to keep him from scoring even if it means that the runner on first has a better chance to score if you bring the infield in?

If Belichick believed Manning would score this was essentially the same scenario he found himself in, but neither would be met with the same criticism because of where his team was on the football field. The bottom line is greatness changes everything. It changes how you have your team play if you've got it and it changes how you coach your team if you're going against it. Belichick believed in his quarterback to get it done and he believed in Manning to get it done. He may have made the wrong decision in the game, but it's hard to argue with Bill on that one.

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Sunday, November 15

We're Not Quite Dead Yet

For those faithful few that read our musings on sports I want to take this chance to say that we are still living, no matter how faint our pulse is. The original intent of the this blog was to serve as a lockbox if you will (please say you will) for the philosophies and ideas Catfish and I had about sports. We took many diverse twists and turns in that endeavor, ranging from the attempt to build succesful media presentations to seeking out our niche in the lucrative writing of posts.

Where we land now is a moment of pause and perhaps a deathknell to what we thought was going to be built. Catfish has immersed himself in the building in Charlotte's premeire sports radio shows while I have left town for a professional opportunity in collegiate athletics. This dedication and pursuit of tangible success has left our blog to suffer and for that I am sorry. Once a period of pause and availibilty to suitably express our views on the sports world around us becomes available, then we will likely return. If we do, rest assured it will be with a resolution to put down exactly what our thoughts are without a filter. That means the Catfish article on Deadspin will not be prevented from posting from my end. There have been a few people out there that have taken a few moments to see what we have to say, and that is all you can ask for nowadays. So if you have not abandoned us completely, please keep checking back in a month or so and hopefully we can provide some insight, provoke thought, and perhaps even induce a chuckle.

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