Archive | MLB RSS feed for this section

NFL16 Cherry Picks W8: Poise’n in the Pocket, Philip Rivers Just Keeps Rollin’

27 Oct

Live-wire.

Fully charged.

Gung-ho, go-getter.

The Decatur Dynamo.

Jay Cutler’s bizarro-world opposite (Sorry JC, it‘s not you, it’s ‘dem (‘da Bears)).

All tags that hang well on San Diego Chargers sanguine quarterback, Philip Rivers. Some seem tailor-made, given that Rivers (‘04) has been signal-calling for over a decade on a team nicknamed, the Bolts.

rivers-1-12-14-wc-j-beall-2mIn the football vernacular, Phil Rivers is best described as such: Prototype pro-set pocket passer, aka, PPPP. And with all those peas it’s no wonder Phil’s “bursting with country fresh (goodness) (ahem).”

Why the fawning over a signal-caller with a career playoff mark of 4-5? Because in all sport there are men, top-tier players, who 1) Seem destined to toil on teams that are incapable of fully utilizing their talents (under-staffed), 2) happen to join a club just after the cork-popping has ceased (Lafontaine (NYI) / Murcer (NYY)), or 3) get traded the same season it all comes together, his former acquiring what’s supposed to’ve been the missing piece to a championship puzzle.

In baseball, such a soul would be Ernie Banks, though, you could just as well throw in Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins.

Then there’s Akron’s first great NBA power-player, HOF center Nate Thurmond (d.2016) who for thirteen San Fran seasons battled the best big men in history, then got shipped to Chicago (C. Ray) the year the Warriors got title #2 (‘74-75).

In the NHL it’s current superskate Alex Ovechkin (DC) and past greats Gilbert Perreault, Marcel Dionne, Rod Gilbert and Peter Stastny to name a few.

It’s always a somewhat tenuous claim that one particular player could’ve won titles on a better club or should be held largely blameless for their current team’s struggles, no matter the stat-line and pollyannaish persona he may possess.

chargers-cheer-wc-1-2m-dirk-9-4-9The dynamic of team sport is a complicated creature.

Who knows then if Rivers would’ve gone deeper into the playoffs and made a Super had the Chargers opted to keep Drew Brees on board (30-28) and chosen to jettison Phil instead to New Orleans? You just can’t know.

What you can know are the numbers.

Here then are the numbers Phil has compiled in his 10+ at Chargers’ helm: 98-76, 65C%, 43K+ pass, 294-139 TD-ratio and 25 GWDs. If he keeps matriculating as he has PR’s gonna’ have his #17 retired and join that Cantonese sect like former Bolts’ quarterback great, Dan Fouts (’93 (#14)).

Interesting to note is the steady rise in the Bolts QB-sack totals.

In the Decatur Dynamo’s first 4 years as a starter, Chargers averaged just under 25 sacks per (24.75), whereas, since 2010 that number’s risen to 37+, a figure the 2016 Chargers’ offense is on pace to match (17). And though not privy to numbers on quarterback-hurries, common sense would say they’ve increased at a like rate.

So what’s in store for the Chargers the rest of 2016?

Standing at 3-4 in the AFC West and the NFL in the full throes of parity, Bolts are still very much in the thick of the playoff hunt. But if there’s a team more plagued by injuries than San Diego, I know not who they be. I count 21 in SD sick-bay.

mccoy-wc-8-28-13-tl-fenney-usn-471kHead coach Mike McCoy is in his fourth season with a win-loss mark of 25-30.

An undrafted QB out of Utah – LBS (b. SF ‘72) and having brief stints in both NFLE and CFL, Mike’s signal-caller savvy was expected to be the tonic to turn Phil’s game up a notch and the Chargers into Super Bowl contenders.

Things looked promising early on as San Diego went 9-7 in 2013, made the post-season, beat the Cincinnati Bengals convincingly in the wild-card (27-10) and then played eventual AFC titlist the Denver Broncos close in the Divisional, falling 24-17.

But since then, progress has stalled.

Going 9-7 again in 2014, the Bolts missed the PS and then stumbled badly to 4-12 last season. Inconsistency has marked the 2016 campaign, not helped by all those hurts, but nevertheless playing every Sunday to win, their four (4) loses, three on the road (@ KC, IND & OAK), having happened by a total of just 14 points.

Encouraging as well are the team ranks: In yard gained per game (ygpg), Bolts come in at a respectable #13 (365.3 (#1 ATL 433.6)) and hold down the vaunted #2 spot in points scored (pspg (29.4)), then defeating the #1 in the Falcons (32) in OT last weekend on the road in Atlanta. A-1 confidence booster.

On the defense side is where SD’s injuries have taken their biggest toll as the Bolts rank a pedestrian 21st in yards allowed per game (yapg) and are trending trouble at 24th in points allowed per (papg). Ugh.

rivers-k-allison-wc-10-1-06-1-5m-baltimoreSchedule-wise, the Chargers have to be hopeful.

A challenging game at Sports Authority (DEN) awaits in W8, but the Bolts’ bye comes at an opportune time (W11) while the rest of the slate is not too imposing, meaning, most opponents wouldn’t frighten a Girl Scout troop on Halloween. Boo!

With a steady offensive attack that can recall & retain what seems a lost art of pass-protection, a tightened-up D, especially late, a little luck from the sporting gods (injuries) and San Diego should slip into the playoff party, by the backdoor, but in. Then, as any sport fan worth their units in amperes knows, anything can happen.

For Philip, a man who appears iron-laden in not having missed a start in ten-plus campaigns (See Also: D.Brees), he could have 3-to-4 productive seasons left in those limbs, if those offensive sack totals start trending the other way (down).

So while most in the sporting biz are preoccupied with the movements of Colin Kaepernick, the musings of Tom Brady and the whereabouts (bench or under-center) of hotter than a West Texas sidewalk in July, Rayne Dakota Prescott, Phil Rivers will just keep playing and lighting up that scoreboard.

cherries-hispalois-7-2-12-caceres-spain-wc-4-4mCherry Picks W8: Even Steven

DC (4-3) v. CIN (3-4): 10.30 Fox 9:30a (L): Cincy wins
Chiefs (4-2) @ Colts (3-4): CBS 1:00: Kansas City wins
Cardinals (3-3-1) @ Carolina (1-5): Fox 1:00: Cards win
Oakland Raiders (5-2) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3): CBS 1:00: TB wins
Seattle Seahawks (4-2) @ New Orleans Saints (2-4): Fox 1:00: Saints win
Detroit Lions (4-3) @ Houston Texans (4-3): Fox 1:00: Houston wins
New England Pats (6-1) @ Buffalo Bills (4-3): CBS 1:00: Buffalo wins
San Diego Bolts (3-4) @ Denver Broncos (5-2): CBS 4:05: Chargers win
Green Bay Packers (4-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (4-3): Fox 4:25: Falcons win
Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-1): NBC 8:30: Eagles win

Record: 35 – 35 – 1
Chargers (LA – SD (b.1960)): 424 – 424 – 11

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Chargers-wordmark, wc.cca, sportslogos, 8.25.15; P.Rivers, wc, 1.12.14, J.Beall; Chargers-cheer, wc, 9.4.9, Dirk; M.McCoy, wc, TL.Fenney, 8.28.13; Rivers, wc, K.Allison, 10.1.06; cherries, wc, Hispalois, Spain, 7.2.12; NFL-symbol, wikproject
Posted: 10.26.16 @ 11:14pm EST, edit 10.28 @ 11:15am; Copyright © 2016
References: Pelletier’s greatesthockeylegends.com; (PFR).com; Wikipedia

Advertisements

MLB16 Chin Music: The Last Iconic, Hack’s 191 Endures As Ueber-Think Thrives

24 Aug

The Ueber Code: No $tone Unturned

Evanston, Illinois: That’s the birthplace.

It aught tell the reader, onto which of Windy City’s two major league ball-clubs I pin my hopes n’ dreams for World Series glory. It aught.

Not familiar with Chicagoland, beyond sports, its famous residents (Prez Obama, Ray Kroc (McDonald‘s), Carl Sandburg (“Big Shoulders”), Oprah Winfrey, Bill Murray) and the legends (Mrs. O‘Leary, Al Capone, Harry Caray)?

...........Hack.Wilson.smile.faceNo map-app? No problem. Some clues: I think Hank O’Day had moxie to burn while bribe-taking Joe Jackson, human as we all are, has no place in the Hall, ever.

Still in the dark? Hmmm, okay, let’s see…oh, oh, I’ve got it, this should flip the switch: My team was the first dynasty of professional baseball, winning the flag (6) or taking 2nd (3) nine of MLB’s first 15 years (1876 – 90) and today can make a strong case in claim of title to our nation’s most beloved sports franchise, i.e., America’s Team. A claim.

That‘s right, you got it, I’m a Chicago Cubs fan.

And like any Bruins backer worth their weight in beehive bounty, I accept the White Sox as a necessity to Chicago’s baseball gestalt, appreciating their one-half part in helping make that rare state, a metropolis supporting two major league teams (NYC, SF Bay, LA metro). Were they members of rival operations, i.e., a Federal, Players or American Association, that’d be even the better (quality & cost controls), but the Courts and compliant media don’t see it that way and most fans, even with $20 nachos, aren’t squawkin.’ Buuurp!

..........Comiskey.wc.thm.1910.BPLI’d appreciate South Siders even more had they chosen to keep “Old Roman” Charles Comiskey’s (1859-31) name for their new digs (1991-02), one that drips with cachet, first gaining national prominence in late 1880s as key cog in those great St. Louis Browns clubs (AA) and then of course as founder of Chicago’s entrant into the new rival American League, rather than cave to corporate shill, i.e., US Cellular, a tag with about as much cachet as a corn-dog n’ cola. Buuurp!

Nevertheless, I do hold the Pale Hose in higher regard than HFCS, most TV and fellow Evanstonian Peter Ueberroth who as Commissioner in ‘84 PS gave Cubs playoff chances, their first in 40 years (25 more than Padres existed), the short shrift in awarding the Garvey – Gwynn Padres home-field (SD 3-2), even as San Diego was five up in the loss column over the Sandburg – Sutcliffe North-siders, then strong-armed the Cubs into installing lights in the friendly confines.

Not very nice, Peter.

And not all too bright either, given that this baseball version of America’s Team was likely the favored opponent of neutralites around baseball nation who were eagerly anticipating the match-up with Sparky’s roaring Tigers (DET 4-1 SD).

But that sort of play was $OP for Pete in his two Directorships, the first selling the summer semi-Olympics in Los Angeles (Commies stay home after Corporates boycott Moscow (80)), then in steering MLB operations (Oct.1984-89), a procedure that would change the business of sport management forever.

..........Ueberroth.wc.USGov.thm.WrigleyWhile his baseball reign was a cup o’ coffee in Commissioner time, his directives have had staying power, becoming the template for sport leaders from coast to coast in both professional and semi-pro (NCAA) ranks.

The Ueber Principle: Maximization of profit potential (MPP). Nothing’s sacred, nothing’s off the table. Everything in the sport is either a billboard or bargaining chip in a profit scheme. If it doesn’t turn a buck, it’s out with the recyclables, Dude. Continuity, style, history, reflection, ‘Where’s the consumerism in those, Loser?’ Oy vey.

In a real sense, Pete’s tack was an outgrowth from Earl Butz’ game-plan for US farm families in the 70s, President Nixon & Ford’s landscape-changing Secretary of Agriculture: ‘Get big or get out!’ Sans the subsidies (anti-trust?), but ballparks no small contributor to the push on high-fructose corn syrup consumption.

And it’s not just greedy owners and media minions who push the UP, union rank n’ file (& Retainers) are at the front of the profit parade. When it comes to money in sport the enemies (owners) of my enemies (players) are friends. Cha-ching!

Ueberroth’s predecessor Bowie Kuhn (1969-84) was no Ernie Banks (“Let’s play two!”) and had his critics in owners (Finley / Steinbrenner) and players both (Flood / Mays & Mantle (casino ties)). But the Maryland native and former NL lawyer did exude a sporting spirit in maintaining a competitive field, backed the induction of Negro League greats into the Hall as their BoD resisted and had an awares of the corrupting influence that some forms of profiteering can have on a game‘s integrity (fantasy gamble, etc.). Cufflink with a conscience?

.....Kuhn.wc.MLB.1982.thmToday, those kind of views will make you a sauropod, flagged straight into the tar-pits. Gulp!

The games are no longer pastimes but merely vehicles for money-makers with smallest of pretense given to quaint notions of reflection & trust. No surprise then that most players now live by the Machiavellian (or Orson Wellesian (The War of the Worlds (radio ‘38))) credo: ‘Ends ($$) justify the means (PEDs),’ or, in present verbage, ‘Cheat if you can get away with it (smirk), even if you don’t (See: Lance, Braun, A-Rod, Lochte, Al-Jazeera 4, etc.) because you’ll get a Disney gig either way. Honk!

And the passengers taken for a ride in the vehicle? Young consumers, of course, the most malleable market who slurp celebrity n’ selling-points the media’s all too eager to pour (Goodell’s grim, rule change needed, officiating awful, etc.).

Hoping for Hatchlings

With the 2016 Cubs cruising to a Central crown, a 2nd straight post-season and most people’s pick to win their first Pennant in over 70 years, you might think I’d be giddy with good vibrations. And then you’d probably be new to sports.

.........Wrigley.wc.Jblesage.5.28.08.thmIf there’s one thing a well-weathered Wrigleyite is not, it is a chicken-counter, as in before those proverbial eggs get hatched. Hatchlings here being the necessary deeds & titles (playoff ticket punched, NLDS win, NLCS, etc) that must be in-hand for residence in Champion City.

The caution comes from generations of fan disappointment, starting with every Cubs contender post-1918, from Hippo Vaughn’s hopefuls, who had a higher BA (.210 v .186), scored more total runs (Red Sox’ Ruth top RBI man (2))) and lower ERA (2.18 v 2.30) than their ‘victorious’ Boston opponents, to last season’s NLCS fellows of fizzle (0-4 NYM) and 11 other post-season busts in between.

Wilson Watch: The New 61

But there is an achievement so impressive, so weighty that Bruins’ backers can, around late-August of every season, reflect upon with pride and satisfaction, one that’s not likely to be eclipsed anytime soon if ever, and that is Hall of Famer Hack Wilson’s eye-popping 1930 single-season tally of 191 RBIs.

This season, that satisfaction came earlier as the only challenges to the 191 were mounted by Ed Encarnacion (TOR) and Nolan Arenado (COL) who just hit the 100 RBI mark last week. With five weeks to go it’s safe to say, “forget about it.”

........Hack-wilson_bat.thmHack’s record will likely stand for another winter and is so frozen in place it’s gonna’ take a serious bump-up in greenhouse gas emissions and disappearance of at least one polar cap to melt the icy wall of invincibility that seems to surround the mark.

There are many tremendous single-season records in MLB’s annals that’ve been achieved, challenged and sometimes bested since it‘s first opening day in 1876.

A short list of some unique and still standing notables:

· Boston Beaneater Hugh Duffy bats .440, wins NL Triple Crown in 1894;
· Same season, Phillies’ Billy Hamilton crosses home plate 198 times;
· Christy Mathewson wins 31 (1.27) and tosses 3 CG-SOs in 1905 Series;
· Ed Walsh wins 40 in ‘08 (1.42 / 464 IN / 42 CG) as Sox team bats .224;
· Ruth’s 1921: 177r, .378ba, 16tp, .846slg, 17sb, 145bb, 59hr and 171rbi;
· Indians’ Joe Sewell strikes out a mere four times in 608 at-bats in 1925;
· Rogers Hornsby wins 2nd Triple Crown in 1925 batting .403 (.401 ‘22);
· AL Leader in HR, R, SLG & OB%, Ted Williams hits .406 in style (41);
· Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson breaks MLB color barrier, wins ROY in ‘47;
· A’s Bill Fischer pitches 84.1 straight innings w/out issuing a walk in ‘62;
· B. Gibson (22-9 / 1.12) & D. McLain (31-6 / 28 CG) go pitch crazy in 1968;
· O. Hershiser throws 59 scoreless innings en route to ‘88 Series win (A’s).

Some sportologists try to sell the theory that the ‘streak’ is baseball’s grandest feat for its high stress and unassailability. And to that I say, poppycock, Doc.

.......Barrow.Ruth.Frazee.McInnis.wc.1918.TSN.282kSuch marks may prove invincible once sanctioned but anything subject to official scoring (Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio’s 56) or personal discretion (Cal Ripken’s 2632) will, upon closer inspection, reveal weak-links in their chains of greatness.

Ever since Yankees’ GM Ed Barrow snatched the Babe from Beantown (‘19), fans have thrilled at power-ball. Goodbye spitters, dead-ball hitters and “Hit ‘em where they ain‘t” (Keeler),..hello lively ball, home run call and “Holy cow, he did it (Rizzuto)!”

In supplanting Ruth’s 60 single-season homer mark (‘27) in 1961, Maris’ number became the biggest jewel in the crown of baseball exploits and holy grail every big bopper in the game wanted to grasp. If the stars aligned, both homer marks did invite serious challenges: Foxx (58 / ‘32); Wilson (56 / ‘30); Greenberg (58 / ’38); Kiner (54 / ‘49); Griffey (56 / ‘97).

But it was the possibility which made them enticing and then easy prey for the performance-enhancing slugs.

Juicers blew by the iconic 61 like it suddenly didn’t exist, as fans & media went ga-ga over Mark & Sammy (’98). The hypocrites could fill every park in the land.

.......Sisler.Ruth.Cobb.10.4.24.wc.929k.LoCSome of the great bat marks felled in recent years:

Maris’ 61, SS – HR (‘61), bested by Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa (‘98), then Barry Bonds’ 73 (‘01);
Hank Aaron’s 755 career HR (‘76), overtaken by San Francisco Giants Bonds’ 762 total in 2007;
George Sisler’s SS – 257 hits (‘20), surpassed by Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki in 2004 with 262 safeties.

Baseball’s governors have a sticky-wicket on their manicured hands: What does Elias Sports Bureau do about Bonds tainted tallies (73 / 762)? Does Ichiro get a pass? Not bold-decision makers and, as noted, focused on coin rather than history, Manfred & Co. will likely continue on the ‘do-nothing’ path and leave the mess for future generations to resolve. Guardians of the game? Ugh.

What the major league game clearly needs is an injection of some Kenesaw Mountain Landisonium to give baseball back its courage and clarity, in play, ownership, management, media coverage and record-keeping, a bedrock component since 1876 . Get Pfizer on that one, STAT.

As such, Roger’s fabled 61 will never regain its former luster, leaving one, last, great, untouched single-season, power mark, free from the grimy fingerprints left by drug-cheats, calling-cards ignored by baseball’s cops on the beat (MLB & collectors in media) who seem only interested in making their pension.

......Hack.Wilson.Goudey.wc.1933.thmWilson’s gargantuan RBI record has stood the test of time (86 years) and serves as testament to what a man on a team stamped Good Dugout Seal-of-Approval can achieve w/out body armor, cortisone, PEDs and $30M-a-year (K).

The 191 is the new standard for power prowess, benchmark for immortality. It’s the new 61. But you won’t hear that on Disney (ESPN) or MLB Network.

Had Hack painted his masterpiece with a New York brush (NYG 1923-25) instead of Chicago, epicenter of trains, Great Lakes traffic, commodities & Midwest flair, Gotham City scribes would’ve immortalized Wilson’s fantastic feat in poetry & prose (See; Franklin Pierce Adams). As it stands, the media mecca of America will never pay homage to a record set by a Second City sultan.

Another reason Hack’s 191 is marginalized: So few have challenged it.

There were Gehrig (184 / ‘31), Greenberg (183 / ‘37) & Foxx (175 / ‘38), but even with today’s advantages in armor, medicine, nite n’ lites, travel-zip, more games, AL-DH, Denver and lower mound, 153 (T. Davis / ’62) and 165 (M. Ramirez / ’99) are closest anyone’s gotten in over 60y. Tigers Miguel Cabrera stood at 130 with five weeks+ left in the 2012 season and finished with a thud (139).

RBIs need three things: Base-runners, a team-mentality and general health.

......MeetingGods.wc.1630.Poelenburch.RPG-Mauritshuis.3mRuth ushered in homer-ball but Depression era players were frugal fellows, never forgetting the purpose behind batting: Score runs, win games! Today’s Home Run Derby mindset sneers at OBP and then, when the table is set, too many batters ( & Mgrs) fixate on the long ball.

Maybe the Sporting Gods guard the 191 as an emblem to an era. Good riddance to segregation and the fixola (1919) which was embedding but honoring the days free of nightly walk-off bunny-hop hysteria, Gatorade® drench, shave cream pie-in-the-face routine, drag pants, body armor, late-game World Series snooze (Zzzz), drug cheats (PEDs), tinker-bells (in rule change), sabrmetrics nor hanger-ons who hope for Hall call. Only records most 30s guys cared about spun on a Victrola.

And maybe Cubs finally take the Pennant again this season, maybe they don’t.

What’s certain now and likely to remain certain for the foreseeable future is that practically no one remembers who won the Pennants or World Series two years ago but nearly every baseball fan worth their weight in salted peanuts n’ franks knows the name of the man who holds major league baseball’s single-season runs-batted-in mark. “Hackidu” it’s you! That aught tell you something about the sacrosanct status of records, Mr. Manfred. So get crackin!’

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo Credit: H.Wilson-R.Hornsby, Chicago Cubs; H.Wilson; C.Comiskey, BPL, 1910, wc.cca; P.Ueberroth, wc, Wrigley, US.Gov; B.Kuhn, wc, 1982, MLB; Wrigley.Field, Jblesage, wc, 5.28.8; H.Wilson; E.Barrow, B.Ruth, H.Frazee, S.McInnis, wc, 1918, TSN; G.Sisler, B.Ruth, T.Cobb, LoC, wc, 10.4.24; Wilson, Goudey, wc, 1933; Meeting.Gods, wc, 1630, Poelenburch, RPG-Mauritshuis; Canned-corn
Posted: 8.24.16 @ 2:17pm EST; Copyright © 2016

MLB16: Troutonics and the Return of Hamiltonianism

14 Mar

In a time when numerology has become the method by which every editor and marketing director in the land shapes their sport media product, a use that borders on the obsessive and snoozerific, this primordial statistic has somehow become the Rodney Dangerfield (“I don’t get no respect”) of all mathematical rods by which batsmen are measured in 2016: Runs scored.

This, even as runs account for one-half of that most basic of baseball equations: Runs scored in excess (>) of your opponent’s tally = victory. Sport simple.

But simple just won’t cut it today, so the sellers would have us believe.

.......Trout.wc.7.24.11.thm.MD.K.AllisonSuccinctness will neither get your sportswriter résumé read nor keep you in that job that requires a wherewithal for the number schemes. The more complicated the better appears the mandate.

A selling strategy that seems to prefer keeping fans mentally-barefoot and in the kitchen-of-confusion, so to speak. Tsk-tsk.

Convoluted calculations will serve the sportician – mortician by separating themselves from we of the unwashed masses, serving as a sort of secret, cliquy code. A club as it were. Whether it truly helps or not in appreciation of players and strategy or prognostication of contests is beside the point. A niche has been carved out. So the consumer overlords see it.

Do sabrmetrics actually help one to master the fantasy game? They certainly haven’t made much of an impact in the general managing profession, not if you aim for pennants (See; B.Beane (OAK ‘98-present))?

They may help one believe they’re an aid and that’s all that matters to make the register ring, cha-ching! Kind of like the philosophy of that great New Yorker, “George Costanza” of Seinfeld lore: “If you believe it’s true then it’s not a lie.”

......Beane&DePodesta.090911.GabboT.thumbWhere the deep delve into digits can assist the fantasy fan in tangible result lies in simple fact that in crunching all of the calculations it’s just as likely that helpful patterns gleaned from performance stats will have been gotten from elementary totals (runs scored, ERA, etc.) and breakdowns (home / away, lefty v. righty) as from the trendy new acronyms. Unless you sequester your survey from the primes, who’s to say it wasn’t the traditionals that didn’t shape the mind?

And try telling that to a sabrhead. Oh, brother.

Because of this modern numbers myth, the easily discernable, key figures that served box-score connoisseurs and graced the backs of cards for decades in W-L, ERA, home runs, OB%, hits, RBIs, BA, steals, etcetera, are today relegated to the nether regions of TV graphics and sporting prose or neglected altogether, to make room for the new brood of cryptic acronyms (WAR, OPS%, QBR (NFL)) that befall & befuddle most fans every spring and pompously portend to’ve finally quantified the best calculations. Sure, Simon, whatever you say.

One exception where an elementary element is still accorded respect: The home run. Think of it as the Vin Scully of statistics: Resilient and revered.

......Trout.7.22.11.thm.K.Allison.wcSince the Bambino began knocking ‘em out with a passion (1919) the round-tripper, the dinger or in former Brewers’ batsman George Scott lexicon, the “tater,” has continued to capture the national attention. And Bud Selig’s Family Fun Show & All-Star Home Run Derby Jamboree week in July has made sure it stays captured.

But there’s a new style of play on the ball diamond.

A man who upon making the major league scene in 2011 showed himself to be a throwback who knows the equation and keeps his eye on the prize: Score runs on the base-path and prevent them with the glove. His name: Mike Trout, centerfielder for the California Angels. I’m a throwback, too.

Trout is what’s known as a Hamiltonian, a rare breed in 2016.

That’s not to be confused with that early American political party named after it’s chief proponent in Alexander Hamilton, born of British West Indies who would become an aid-de-camp to General George Washington, a co-author of the Federalist Papers, our fledgling nation’s first Treasury Secretary and dueling casualty (d.1804) of then Vice President, Aaron Burr.

.....Hamilton.LoC.Goodwin.B.Edwards.1887.wc.thmAlternatively known as Federalism, a view which promoted strong central government in opposition to the Jeffersonians who were anti-elitist, pro-States and individual rights. Oh yeah, tomatoes, too. Tom also touted that lycopene-rich fruit that changed the world (See; cooking & “Michael Dorsey”).

He’s not that kind of Hamiltonian, at least not to my knowledge.

Having led the Junior Circuit in runs for three of his four full seasons in the majors, Trout is on pace to be in league with that greatest of all plate-crossers, the incomparable Billy “Sliding” Hamilton (1888 – 1901) who finished with 1697 total in just 14 seasons, bested the 140 mark six times and still holds the single-season tally of 198 runs scored.

The great Rickey Henderson (1979 – 03) bested Billy by 600 runs, compiling that figure in 25 seasons with his highest season total being 146 (‘85 (143g)).

The percheron-necked slugger from the Garden State, winner of the 2014 AL – MVP, has scored 477 runs in just four full campaigns in Anaheim and the cup of coffee (20g) he had in his first taste. That consistently high run production is even more impressive alongside a strong RBI output (397 (4y)) and nice power stroke where Mike has averaged 33 homers per and topped at 41 in 2015.

.....Trout.wc.7.23.11.K.Allison.thmTrout’s Achilles heel is lack of bat control in the S-zone.

Attitude today on batter strikeouts is essentially ‘pay no mind,’ even as opportunities are forsaken, as long as RBIs and BA run respectable. On that trend the New Jersey juggernaut runs with the pack, averaging 150+ whiffs per season. He’s in good company as Senior Circuit’s 2015 MVP and runs champ Bryce Harper (131 (118r)) and ROY Kris Bryant (199! (87r)) are free-swingers alike.

Trout: 5yrs: 2448 AB; 647 SO; .304 BA
Hamilton: 14yrs: 6283 AB; 362 SO; .344 BA

You might say, ‘It’s too different a game today to fairly compare.’ Not on making contact, it isn’t. Teams in 2016 who put the ball in play with greater regularity are more likely to win games and titles just as they were in 1894.

The world champion Kansas City Royals were ranked AL tops in fewest team SOs (973 (#1)), 2d in hits (1497 (#2)) and sixth in runs scored (724 (#6)). You need to satisfy other half of that equation (pitch) but KC computed fine there too.

....Pujols_041412_LAA_M.O'Leary.thmMike’s anchoring a Los Angeles Angels’ batting lineup short on big names, one of the few being a game but aging superstar in Albert Pujols (36). But Trout is looking to keep his season strikeout trend on downward direction (158 (‘15) / 184 (‘14)), slugging percentage strong (.590 (#1 AL)) and a fielding display that at times is downright thrilling and nearly flawless in routine (428 PO / 7A / 0E (1.000)).

If Mr. Rock Steady can avoid those career-altering injuries and keep his nose pointed to home-plate, when all is said & done he may get fans to take notice of runs again and then find himself in amongst the best of company, the GAT in career runs-scored, including Misters Henderson, Cobb, Aaron, Rose, Hamilton and his teenage sports idol, Derek Jeter. Not ♫ bad company ♫ at all.

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: M.Trout-cap, wc.cca, 7.23.11, MD, K.Allison; Trout-fan, wc, K.Allison, 7.24.11, MD; B.Beane-DePodesta, wc, 9.9.11, GabboT; Trout, 7.22.11, wc, MD, K.Allison; B.Hamilton, LoC, B.Edwards, Goodwin, 1887, wc; Trout-gloves, 7.23.11, wc, Allison, MD; A.Pujols, wc, 4.14.12, M.O’Leary; Canned-corn.
Posted: 3.14.16 @ 2:35pm, edit 6:50 Eastern Standard Time; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: Barry Bonds, Elections & Lies-by-Right

4 Mar

‘You knew but what’d ya’ll do?’

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” Marmion, by Walter Scott (1808)

Webmaster Barry Bonds rejoined his “fraternity” last month to serve as hitting coach for the Miami Marlins as baseball‘s spring training got underway in the Cactus (AZ) and Grapefruit (FL) Leagues. As expected the official home run king was queried by reporters on the Cooperstown topic and his failure to win election. Bonds’ response: “God knows I’m a Hall of Famer.”

......Bonds.J.Accordino.wc.1993.thmbNearly everyone, excepting, if I recall right, Tom Boswell at Washington Post who speculated on steroid use in the late 80s, looked away, cheered wildly while Bonds and his brothers in bash appeared to be juicing with reckless abandon, some afraid of player backlash, some in hero-worship and others defending memorabilia cachets.

That fact poses a cultural conundrum: What do you, the BBWAA, do with a Cooperstown candidate whom you, and the majority, believe tainted himself, his marks and MLB by engaging in a PED-plan during his career while you sat on your pens? Leave Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and their ilk, some proven, some admitted, others strongly suspected PED‘ers, off of your ballots, even as you gave tacit approval, seems the answer.

Barry is the official, if not, publicly sanctioned holder of the two most cherished marks in the annals of baseball: Single-season (73) and career home run totals (762), yet, he pays a price for what appears to’ve been a career fueled by performance enhancers. His arrogant persona doesn’t help his case, though, younger voters seem to find it fascinating.

And what price do we the fans pay for letting the players, their union, formerly an agent for equity, embed steroids, HGH and the other cheat-drugs into our sports, at all levels, causing a cancer we have still not engaged with aggressive treatment (In pro ball “115 failed drug tests…since January 2015 (“Jenrry Mejia’s Free-fall” / 2.12 / SI / Verducci)”)?

......McGwire.wc.6.29.11.6m.K.Allison.thmAs Big Mac and Sammy were barreling over Maris’ mark (61) in ‘98, some of us were neither fooled nor pleased. One apologist at the time engaged me on the topic and made this sorry claim in their defense: ‘Even if they are using, steriods don’t improve performance.’ Yeah, that’s why they juiced, ‘cause they didn’t help. Like sticky-gloves (NFL), they wear ‘em ‘cause they look good, right? Oy vey.

Besides providing an unfair, unnatural aid in play, i.e., cheating, and, if used outside the supervision of a medical pro who administers in open practice, causing a slew of serious, long-term side effects, PEDs do add muscle mass which increases swing velocity and power. It‘s pretty simple.

That public complacency, along with the window of opportunity remaining open for PED cheats by an absence of mandated in-season blood draws for every MLB rosteree, are the 10,000 lbs elephants in the room everyone ignores.

And it is that complacency which is Barry’s best argument to persuade voters to back his enshrinement. Even in a mental state of deceit, how can one be said to be cheating if near everyone, though suspecting skullduggery, does not make serious statement to prevent the behavior until years later? Arguably, it‘s not.

.....Coperstown.Sign.7.26.8.O.Yamamoto.thm“To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men (Ella Wheeler Wilcox (JFK (‘91))).” If a tree falls in the forest to send campers dodging for cover who claim they did not see it crash, did it actually topple, did it make a sound and can we still use it for firewood? Hmmm.

Additionally, while steroids were banned by baseball in 1991, testing didn’t begin until 2003, then a ramped-up Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in 2006, one year before Mr. Bonds’ final year and spring blood draws finally instituted in 2014. That fact that it’s taken so long to even get to this point in the fight (and window of opportunity still ajar) must go to the issue of wrongfulness on Bonds’ part.

Barry & Co. would add that he never tested positive for steroids. But that’s not the hand he really wants to play. When you and your union (MLBPA) stave off for decades the best method to detect illicit drug use, i.e., timely blood draws, a player crowing that he never tested positive is a poor defense, indeed.

Martha Knows

But employing the complacency defense would of course require Barry come clean, admit to a knowing, intentional use of PEDs. Words toxic to his psyche.

Everyone already believes he juiced. The grotesque ballooning of his head alone is pretty persuasive sign. Now, he’s just seen by most as a stubborn, somewhat frightened man. Life can be scary, oh, boy, can it, but choosing the truth can help.

“One brave thing.”

That’s what Joseph Cotton (“Holly”) opted for as events came to a head in the great film, The Third Man (’49) set in post-war Vienna.

It might invite the feds back into his life stemming from the BALCO matter (2003-15) if not precluded by double jeopardy. His lawyers would give him the skinny on how the feds might proceed.

.....Stewart.wc.thm.D.Shankbone.9.21.9I’m not one but I can’t imagine such a show of courage would be met with anything less than a forward-thinking response by prosecutors (those that bungled the case), something to maintain perjury precedent and negotiate agreements on fines and maybe even a brief jail stay. Barry could do that standing on his head, even today’s smaller version.

Consider billionairess Martha Stewart. Today the Super Chef is groovin.’ She’s in a better place now than before she landed in the clink.

Coming clean would sway the court of public opinion, cloak Barry in garb of leadership and grant him bully-pulpit to argue for more stringent PED-prevention. Big dog Bonds could become a bridge between former users and guardians of the game in discussing a solution to how exactly baseball’s Elias record book might be revised.

What I fear is that younger voters who will soon be majority block of BBWAA, an age that watched in awe as Barry piled-up MVPs and they filled-up boxes of memorabilia, elect him before a progressive catharsis could ever take place.

In 2016 Bonds received roughly 44% of votes (75%), up considerably from the 35% he’d been receiving his first 3-years of eligibility. Barry and Roger Clemens both (45%) are now well positioned for future gains though they could just as easily get mired in the 40s.

Winning election to the Hall of Fame, however, will change little for Barry.

....Bonds.8.25.06.thm.K.Rushforth.wcWithout a doubt, taking up residence in Cooperstown validates one’s career and all appurtenant to it, i.e., titles, awards and records, like a wave from the magic wand of wonderful. Ting! Barry, however, he’s a special case.

The distrust that his name inspires among most fans, sustained by his aloofness which includes his failure to admit an apparent PED protocol, will keep that dark cloud stationary over head and probably Cooperstown as well if elected. And though he has his supporters, their children aren’t likely to carry Dad’s passion forward: Do the different is how it usually works in generational ways.

Coming clean presents a great opportunity for Bonds.

Yes, it’s an outrageous act that comes with risks, some dread. Great acts don’t come easy nor their results cheap. But when you admit to something most already believe to be true the effect can be cleansing, open up avenues to progress & pride that living the lie will never do, even with a bronze plaque.

Public ridicule, even hatred would intensify for a time, giving fodder to trogs who think through their digestive tracts. You prepare for that. In time, truth and the courage it took to express it become a bastion for baseball fans and the brave.

“A rose is rose is a rose”

And Barry best beware of those who’d dissuade by comparison to Rose’s mea culpas that won him no new fans nor a lift of his lifetime ban.

Firstly, most of us aren’t really sure Pete’s come completely clean anyway, and then don’t really care to know anymore.

....Rose.K.Junstorm.1.11.08.thm.LV.wcSecond, while druggies cheat the game like gamblers and both make themselves subject to blackmail by associates, the motives can be quite different. Roid-heads at least seek to enhance their play, win the game. Gamblers on the other hand, they use the game, sometimes in loss, to fuel their real motive, the chance habit.

Besides that, Rose violated a code well known since Black Sox (1920), entered a contract (‘89), waited too long to make public admission and even then left doubt as to veracity when he finally did, i.e., maybe playing to lose.

A concern for Barry comes from the same supporters who may soon elect him to the Hall. They might advise against any revelation of wrong-doing. Barry’s likely lie is their lie, too. Overnight they’d turn his harshest critics. Officially establish PED use through admission and Bonds’ collectible stock drops like a rock.

Giambi and McGwire came clean though Mark passed on his initial opportunity, coining one of the queerest quips ever uttered in testimony before Congress: “I’m not here to talk about the past (‘05).” ¡Ay, caramba! But in 2010, likely at urging of Cardinals’ brass, Big Mac confessed to using steriods in his MLB career though he took shelter in the now all too common recovery-from-injury excuse rather than performance boost.

Then there’s Canseco, Mark’s brother-in-bash during their salad days as A’s.

....Canseco.wc.5.14.11.B.Horowitz.thm.WorJose’s opted for cartoon figure, afraid to embrace his iconic status as a game-changing whistleblower. Some in his profession call him a rat. Like Count Dracula, cheats hate the light of day. The revelations (claims) made in his book “Juiced (‘05)” slapped us wise on the rampant use of PEDs in MLB and gave impetus to the on-going reclamation project with no end in sight.

But Barry’s the big dog. He holds, by hook, crook or natural talent, records and MVPs. His admission, full and heart-felt, would carry weight in the war on drugs.

That shouldn’t, however, punch his ticket to immortality (HoF).

MLB banned steroids in 1991. The honor-system (test-free), but a rule is a rule and PEDs do enhance production, substantially. That makes his marks unlikely the stuff of Ruth, Mays, Mathewson and Roberto.

A solution might be a separate wing for PED’ers, proven and suspected. A stigma would attach, a neo-segregation, of sorts, this one integrity-based. But it would offer a much needed compromise to a festering problem we all helped forge that works a black mark on our era that we must accept, must embrace: Recognize achievements but chances forgone and a cowardly greed that tarnished our time.

Bonds & Clemens side would say they never failed / tested positive for PEDs nor can be tied to reliable evidence of having engaged in doping behavior. And that statement could be compromised with credible information.

While both did as federal defendants essentially prevail in their trials, evidence did come to light that could lead a neutral-minded person to form the reasonable belief that both men did engage in the use of PEDs during their careers.

....Clemens.wc.thm.K.Allison.6.27.07Brian McNamee had been a personal trainer to Roger and did give what could be deemed compelling testimony and provided physical exhibits (syringe) he claimed to’ve used on Clemens, while federal prosecutors obtained BALCO files that included a set of linking documents on Bonds from November 2000. On one, Bonds’ name with a number that corresponded to the other containing the name “Barry B.” and positive test results for two anabolic steriods.

Bonds claims to have not knowingly taken PEDs.

You can choose to believe Barry but it’s not unreasonable to disbelieve, given his corresponding super surge in power numbers with the time feds claimed he was using enhancements, together with his BALCO association, known to’ve provided and administered the regimen. If it walks, quacks like a duck.

Even if you think neither baseball star can be tied to unethical supplementation when contemplating your imaginary ballot, strong suspicion can be sufficient to form a reasonable belief that both Bonds and Clemens cheated the game with PEDs based on their physical appearance and on-field performance patterns.

Your own standard of review need not conform to those required in a court venue where civil (C&C / PoE) or criminal (BRD) matters are adjudicated. Always Shepardize, so to speak, but no one’s liberty nor property are at issue when voting on a Cooperstown plaque.

Captain’s Courageous?

What is the best voting standard?

Informed, free of bias and prejudice, of course, and if a claim of wrong-doing may attach to a candidate, a standard analogous to that by which a magistrate would base issuance of a search warrant seems apropos: Reasonable suspicion.

As noted, MLBPA forestalled blood draws for years, the preferred method, only agreeing to a spring test in 2014. To argue on one hand ‘I never tested positive’ while on the other having collectively prevented yourself from being tested or only in the most cursory fashion (urine) during your career is a faulty premise.

...blood-test.wc.Vegasjon.9.11.14.thmHad a player been outspoken about instituting high-level or any testing in early days of PED signing (90s), that man should receive a consideration. But I don’t recall any such man having taken that stand (some White Sox in spring 2005 took a position, briefly (union)), certainly not Misters Bonds nor Clemens.

As it stands, Bonds the batter and Clemens the pitcher are symbols, PED sign-posts to two destinations: 1) Big boost in production, longevity & moolah ($), and 2) the state of disgrace if pulled over for violation or waving red flags.

A likely third destination for riders on the PED junket: Related health concerns in the immediate or future states such as a compromised immunity, candida and as serious as heart disease and stroke. The younger one begins, the greater the risk.

Enshrine Barry and Roger and the symbolism is destroyed.

Message to kids or anyone balancing risk vs gain on the PED call would tilt gain, given the financial rewards, MLB’s on-going promotion of power (HRD), pretty fair chance you won’t get busted with the window that remains open and that the ultimate accolade in Cooperstown can stay on the table.

Why then should Bonds come clean? Because it’s the right thing to do.

That reads kinda’ corny today. Bravery as cultural norm stopped being cool long ago. The lie is almost hip today. Fibs & fraud are hardly new, it’s been going on since we were fishes? How does a fish lie? Flat in the pan but that’s not the issue (♫ da-boom chh! ♫). Difference today is lies are done with impunity, obviousness, almost a taunt.

...Gandhi.wc.thm.pre1942In coming clean Barry would find tremendous satisfaction he’d never regret. It could also aid his health, everyone’s, as truth-telling is a stress reducing and a major contributor to maladies of the heart (See; “The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology,” Basic Health Pub., 2007). Over time his favorability rating would rise.

Remember what Gandhi said: “Even if minority of one, the truth is the truth.” Substance does not need quantity. “The truth cannot be destroyed (O’Dea, Johnny Belinda (‘48)).” It can be hidden, Barryied from public eyes but it will always exist in some state, known by someone, somewhere.

Barry would keep his money and seasonal accolades (MVP) but forgo the Hall of Good ‘n Plenty and concede to a record book re-do. Sacred stuff, and numbers were never so big if somewhat suffocating (See; sabrmetrics (WAR, etc.)).

I don’t see either star finding the luminosity to shine bright. Self-denial is seen as ‘Un-American Activity’ in Consumer 2016. These guys grab with both hands.

“Greed is good.” America’s motto today. Trump is its face. Don has what McCain, even as hero, could never carry off: Maverickness. That can turn loose cannon. Clinton is sharp as a tack, doesn’t ruffle easy and will take at least 2 debates by her experience. She, however, is the face of appeasement. Strength’s a question. Both flag negatives like snow-belt springs pot-holes in March. We’re not doing well with Chiefs in DC these past 40 years. We are what we eat.

Roger and Barry will win election in the not too distant future. They’ll jump for joy and their rookie cards will rise in value. But over time they’ll fare worse in the court of public opinion, if that’s possible, drawing more resentment for arguably ‘getting away with it’ and helping tarnish the game’s sacrosanct Elias record book.

They’ve a great opportunity, a responsibility, in fact, as did Rose, being key cog in the Big Red Machine, arguably the best all-time. It’s in their hands.

Oh, where o’ where are the “Captain’s Courageous?”

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: B.Bonds, 7.21.07, guano, wc.cca; Bonds, wc, J.Accordino, 1993; M.McGwire, wc, 6.29.11, K.Allison; Cooperston.Signs, wc, 7.26.08, O.Yamamoto; M.Stewart, wc, D.Shankbone, 9.21.9; Bonds, wc, 8.25.06, K.Rushforth; P.Rose, wc, 1.11.08, K.Junstorm, LV; J.Canseco, wc, 5.14.11, B.Horowitz, Worcester; R.Clemens, wc, 6.27.07, K.Allison; blood-test, wc, 9.11.14, Vegasjon; M.Gandhi, wc, pre1942; canned-corn.
Posted: 3.4.16 @ 12:27p, edit (title) 10.22.16 @ 2:28p ET; Copyright © 2016

MLB16 Chin Music: What If Cubs Do Win a World Series, Again?

19 Feb

These are different days in the land of bruins, “big shoulders” and manually-operated scoreboards.

If you’d been pulling a Rip Van Winkle and just awoke from your Washington Irving-like slumber you might not recognize the goings on at Wrigley Field.

.....CubsLogo.1914.Wjmummert.wc.thmOh, the renovations at the century old structure (1914), originally named Weeghman Park and home to the Federal League champion Whales, haven’t changed it a whole lot. It still retains that certain brick & steel-beam charm but with more lights, seats, eats for the adults and bells & whistles for the Xbox® set.

And they best be careful what they do with that playing surface. It’s where Cubs’ great Charlie Grimm (d. 1983) had his ashes spread (Wikipedia). Hallowed ground, indeed.

The new mood amongst the faithful isn’t so much more upbeat as Cubs fans have always been the glass-half full sort, as it is more…expectant, an air of confidence they‘ve not had at the ‘friendly confines’ for quite some time.

...........Epstein.9.8.10.wc.S.Slingsby.thmEven the ivy, what’s left, looks more hopeful, if a bit nervy.

The hirings of wunderkind executive Theo Epstein (2011 (5y)) and then prized manager Joe Maddon (2015) were the table-setters to a hoped-for celebratory feast (WS win), marking the first major investments by the Ricketts family who purchased controlling share of World Cubs in 2009.

Ricketts tugged tight on those purse strings in early going to get team’s financial house in order in wake of Tribune’s economic plight (a prior ownership that had on occasion, like Wrigleys, made serious investments in winning) and some hefty contracts weighing on the books. But they’ve loosened those strings a bit with mind’s eye for pennants and championship banners. At least that’s the notion.

Though off-season signings of Jason Heyward (.268 (RF)) and ringholders Ben Zobrist (.265 (2d)) and moundsmen John Lackey (165-127) showed the Cubs are in a mood for winning now, the cultivation & keeping of young, homegrown (Bryant) or trade-acquired talent (Rondon / Rizzo), as opposed to free agency, seems the tack the Cubs’ braintrust favors.

..........Maddon.wc.4.14.14.MD.K.Allison.thmConfidence wasn’t always such a rare commodity in Chicago’s National League exchange. No sir-ee, Bob.

The Cubs today are butt of the longest running joke on championship futility. But because subject-history has been trampled flat by current trend-setters (See; the Prez, etc.) in favor of math, science, more math (sabrmetrics), most folks have no idea about Chicago’s glory days of yore.

The name Chicago had struck fear into the hearts of foes in the 1880s (White Stockings) when Cap Anson, John Clarkson and King “Hook-Slide” Kelly were busting balls, then again in the early 20th when the greatest pitching staff ever assembled was mowing ‘em down at West Side Park (Grounds) while the fielding exploits of Steinfeldt to “Tinker to Evers to Chance” were driving New Yorkers to despair and alternatively inspiring some to pen poems (F.P. Adams) in honor of the brawny & brainy Bruins.

That’s saying something in an age when players, managers, umpires, bowler-wearing fans, even kid vendors were tough as nails. ‘Put ‘em up, panty-waist!’

.........Chance.wc.1909.ATC.LoC.thmThough their last World Series win (1908), 2d of the 1st back-to-back dynasty in modern history, was over a century ago, collecting pennants is no small achievement. From 1929 to 1945 the Cubs collected Senior circuit banners like nobody‘s business, appearing in 5 and taking Tigers to 7 in their last.

It’s that near 40-year period from 1946 to just before the magical season of 1984 as Ryno, Rick, Jim Frey, Don Zimmer, Harry Caray & Co. finally broke the post-season drought, when the seed for a weeping willow of woe was sown & cultivated by a succession of sorries.

Since that bittersweet ‘84 when Cubs were still ‘day-timers only’ and Ueberroth made the money-call to gave their playoff opponents the Padres (3-2) home-field even as Chicago had the top mark, the Northsiders have made the PS six times, including the NLCS in 2003 (FL 4-3). Not exactly a source for Midwest bragging rights but a far cry from the futility the bear Cubs had suffered for what seemed an eternity. It’s been moving in the right direction, anyway.

........Bryant.4.27.15.MBD.Chicago.thm.wcBut hold off on stocking that celebratory champagne just yet. These Cubs have a few burs in their fur that need attention.

Last season’s team BA (.244 – 13th NL (KC .269 (2d AL)) and strikeout totals (1518 – 15 (KC 973 – 1st)) are unacceptable lines for a championship caliber club. And no off-season acquisitions look likely to change that worrisome state.

Encouraging marks were the OB% (.321 – 5 (KC .322 – 7)) and favorable run production (689 – 6th (KC 724 – 6)) with Rizzo (94), Bryant (87) and Fowler (102), all mainstays who look to have a nose for the plate when they manage to get on base, not made easier with that woeful whiff total.

Some stern instruction in fundamentals seems in order for Chicago’s bat-control and the glove work, another necessity if Chicago seeks a place among MLB elite. Cubs sat in bottom bracket on team fielding (.982 – 12 (KC .985 – 3)) and errors (111 – 12th (KC 88 – 6)). The signing of 3-time gold glover Heyward will help.

.......Arrieta.wc.DSCN0048.thm..6.24.14As for the moundsmen, Bruins have their ace in re-signed 2015 Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (R) while both Jon Lester (L (10)) and newly acquired John Lackey (R (13)) will provide innings and a wealth of craft.

Jon had a disappointing first year in the Senior Circuit, posting 11-12, in opposite of king’s ransom he’d negotiated. Lackey pitched alike his first half-season with the Cards (3-3 / 4.30 (‘14)) and picked-it-up in 2015 (13-10 / 2.77). All three stars gave mixed performances in their post-season outings last October.

Jake’s 2-1 record is misleading. The Missouri native pitched a gem in WC win vs PIT but averaged a hefty 6.50 ERA (1-1) and 4 runs in limited outings vs STL [W] and NYM [L]. Jon, known for his playoff prowess from Beantown days (‘07-13) pitched pedestrian in his two starts (0-2 / 4.50) and served up 3 dingers in 13i.

Fourth starter Jason Hamel, also in his 2d decade, went 10-7 (3.74), faltered in the PS too (2g-7h-7r (3hr)) but figures back in the rotation as Kyle Hendricks (3.95) and Adam Warren (3.29 (NYY-Castro)) may duel for the fifth spot.

.......Wrigley.wc.Jblesage.5.28.08.thmCubs’ closer is Venezuela-born Héctor Rondón (30sv / 1.67). Indians signee at 16 (‘04), Cubs took Rondón in “2012 Rule 5 Draft.” He came with an injury-history, a TJS in 2010 and elbow bang the next year (Wikipedia) but has been tooling along fine for Chicago since 2014. His showing in last season’s PS was mixed as well, shutting the door on STL (NLDS) in G2 & 4 after a shaky outing in G3 and only one hit surrendered in two, non-lead closer stints vs Mets (NLCS (0-4)).

Returning for mid-relief are Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Clayton Richard & Travis Wood who in 2015 provided the bulk of innings for the Northsiders (100ip). “Sweet Trav (Overboard ’87)” was a 2013 All-Star but gave up 11 “tatters (G.Scott)” last year while Grimm posted a nifty 1.99e in just under 50i of work.

But a message to Wrigley regulars: Careful what you wish, you just might get it.

......Inherit.Tracy.wc.1960.UA.thmWith progress comes a cost, a quid pro quo of sorts. When you gain something you also lose something. For the Cubs and their followers, if they do hoist the World Series trophy, that price may be the ‘lovable’ they’ve been serving up since 1945. Spencer Tracy (“Henry Drummond”) spoke to this yin-yang thing in Stanley Kramer’s highly acclaimed Scopes Monkey Trial movie, Inherit the Wind (‘60):

Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it.
Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, ‘All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.
Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. And Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.’”

The faithful, the Ricketts, sports media, all may’ve failed to give enough thought to exactly what it will mean to the Cozy World of Confine if the Cubs actually do get to and then win a World Series, this year or any for that matter.

............whatIf.maryeoriginals.wc.5.4.14.thmRed, white & blue Bruins have built so much out of “nothing” it’s become the “cool(est) hand” in all of sport. Everybody likes the Cubs. The undying love they engender in their fans nationwide is admired on par with Yankees’ prowess. And the nobody’s, who cares what they think? What do titles get you anyway? A run-o-the-mill championship package from Sports Illustrated and higher ticket prices, that’s what.

Cubbies are cool to a ♫ tune ♫ of a $1.8 billion valuation (Forbes). Near chicken-feed to what your friendly neighborhood pharmaceutical draws in a fiscal year but not too shabby for so-called ‘losers,’ eh?

If “Cubs win” in the WS they become just like all the other champions today: Fairly forgettable. Pop Quiz: Who won the Series in 2014? Yeah, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Balderdash.

Fenway faithful understand of what I write, how winning changes things.

Finally breaking the drought (2004 (1918 (v Cubs))) to take a World Series title again can be cathartic for those who still hold the pain from the good chances that got away (‘67, ‘75, ‘86).

....Chicago.MI.Ave.wc.4.9.11.L.Fuss.thmBut it’s a different mood in Boston these days. Success is sweet but it can be a pretty girl with a fickle heart once the winning becomes an expectant: Warm in clover, cold when the chips are down.

And that’s hyperbole. A ticker-tape parade on Michigan Ave. in October, so thick with confetti “The Fugitive” could elude the coppers for days would be a beautiful sight. Even the lordly Cardinals’ fans, those who love the game, might nod in grudging appreciation, as long as it‘s not the Cubs who again bump ‘em from the PS (See; 2015 DS) on their way to the Series. Ouch.

Ready to rain on those parade preparations are other baseball clubs with their own aspirations to glory.

For starters, there’s the reigning champ Royals, newer version of Miami’s “No-name” NFL bunch back in the 70s. Joe got the loot but Ned Yost got the hoot (ring). These guys just might want a dynasty for the KC-side of Missouri.

Then there’s the Giants, winners of three Series the past six seasons, staggered every even-numbered year which means they’re due in 2016.

....FDR.wc.cca.E.Goldensky.1933.thumbAdd in the usual contenders like the Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, new-comers in the Pirates, Astros, Blue Jays and last year’s NL pennant takers the Mets and there are Seven Ways from Sundown (‘60) that could keep the Cubs frustrated.

Progress, like time, marches on. If Cubs don’t win the World Series sometime soon it’s just proof the Sporting Gods are stark, raving lunatics, or they simply know better. That’s why they’re deities.

A man who knew a thing or two about progress was at the Allied controls when the spring Cubs were about to embark on a season that’d take them to what was to be their last fall classic (‘45), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945 (Warm Springs, GA)):

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much (Yankees & Cardinals), but whether we provide enough for those who have too little (Royals (2015) and Cubs (?)).”

Hooray for progress! Play ball!

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: Cubs, wc-cca, 1957-78, Sportslogo; CubsLogo, wc, Wjmummert, 1914; Epstein, wc, 9.8.10, S.Slingsby; Maddon, 4.14.14, wc, K.Allison, MD; Chance, wc, ATC, 1909, LoC; Bryant, 4.27.15, MBD, wc, Chicago; Arrieta, wc, DSCN0048, 6.24.14, Wrigley, wc, Jblesage, 5.28.08; InherittheWind, Tracy, UA, 1960, wc; WhatIf, wc, maryoriginals, 5.4.14; Chicago-street-sign-MI-CHI-Ave, wc, 4.9.11, L.Fuss; FDR-girl, wc, 02-41, top college; FDR, wc, E.Goldensky, 1933; Canned-corn.
Posted: 2.19.16 @ 12:10p, edit (title) 10.22.16 @ 2:34p ET; Copyright © 2016
Stat / bio sources: Baseball-reference, Rotoworld & Wikipedia

NFL16: Putting the ‘Pro’ Back in the Bowl

13 Jan

Athletic exhibitions: They’ve always been a bit fragile. ¿Por qué?

.....ProBowl.Rudolph.2.17.13.USMC.D.CottonAll Star games, Pro Bowls, Harlem Globetrotters, dunk contests, whatever they’re doing in hockey this year, they’re all born of the coupling of profit & play where the action is most often measured with the result, fun as it can be, pure ephemeralia.

The win-loss won’t go towards a championship tally and then the statistics don’t figure in a team or player’s official totals. That’s not all bad if the particular player tends to wilt under the brighter lights.

Baseball’s version has always been the best. Today that’s only by default.

Former Commissioner and Hall of Famer, Allan “Bud” Selig threw it open to the marketing madmen & women who’ve turned it into a kid’s carnival of sorts, where the muscled Home Run Derby, vestige of the high steroid era (1988-2012), has supplanted the exhibition-game itself as the main event of the 5-day affair.

But it’s long history (1933) does shine with some memorable moments.

....ProBowl.2.17.13.DR.Cotton.thm.USMC.FeltonThe most notable All-Star moments being Carl “King” Hubbell’s (NYG) famous set-down (SO) of five consecutive American League stalwarts in 1934’s edition (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons & Cronin), Pete Rose’s home-plate “(collision) heard round the (baseball) world” with off-field friend Ray Fosse in the 1970 classic and Bo Jackson’s all-around MVP performance in the ‘89 July jamboree.

The NFL’s version, the Pro Bowl (1.31.16, Honolulu, ESPN, 3pm EST), while having displayed it’s share of memorable battles and terrific individual outputs over the decades has a somewhat less colorful catalog.

That state was predictable from the get-go in that the game is held post regular season when fans and players alike have had their fill of football and baseball is beginning to warm-up in southern climes.

The contest had muddled along, giving players, coaches and families a fun winter get-away and fans a casual Sunday afternoon of viewing. Expectations real.

....ProBowl.Fargo.Gonzalez.Vitale..2.13.5.USN.McGinley.thmBut that wasn’t enough for today’s non-sporting market executive who will squeeze dimes like Mr. Whipple used to lovingly squeeze Charmin® toilet rolls.

Through the fiddling of NFL office and Player Assoc‘n personnel, the exhibition has devolved into a spiritless, poorly organized walk-through that has little meaning for anybody, except a handful of dime collectors.

If it continues down this dreary pathway where former players (Rice – Irvin) choose up sides like an ego-laden pick-up game, it might just as well die a certain death with a modicum of dignity rather than continue along brain-dead, as it were, on rickety life-support. In its present state, if the Pro Bowl were to vanish tomorrow the news would barely make a ripple in the media pond.

To halt the Pro Bowl‘s steady decline, 3 restoration points are key:

1) Post-Super Bowl play-date

....ProBowl.Samuels.Albright.Keating.USDD.J.Foehl.thm.2.10.8For most of this decade the game has been sandwiched in that 2-week period between Conference championships and the Super Bowl. Doing so of course excludes any reps from the two best teams. This has to change. Fans & marketers both want to celebrate in the champion’s victory and the Pro Bowl is (was) a highlighter.

While neither of the Super squads may include the regular MVP or DPOY, both are certain to be laden with All-Pro players & celebs whose championship status is sorely missed at the big exhibition, making it’s substance ebb lower.

2) Restore official status: AFC v. NFC

As it stood, exhibitions didn’t factor into stat lines or W-L but they were official exhibitions. That’s something. Goes to substance and quality of product.

Now it’s just a muscled sandlot set-up (no conferences) with low loyalty and potential player cliques that fans will unlikely ever warm to. A degree of serious-ness must be restored or the few fans still watching will seriously stop.

3) Restore uniform continuity

Designs by Nike that change with the wind don’t build the NFL brand. Even the kids, their target-market, tire of too much trend while their big brothers and the neighborhoods only snicker at the mindless consumerism.

Logos & uniforms never top the list of League issues, but maybe they should this year, or somewhere near. It’s the merchandise that fans purchase and uniforms identified-with on TV that bind them to their teams and to the sport during and after the season’s play has ended.

.....macroecono.lamcasinoroyal.2011.wcSteven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credit: ProBowl, wc, Rudolph, 1.27.13, USAF, M.Holzworth; ProBowl, Rudolph, wc, 2.17.13, D.Cotton, USMC; ProBowl, wc, Felton, 2.17.13, D.Cotton; ProBowl, wc, Fargo-Gonzalez-Vitale, 2.13.5, USN, McGinley; ProBowl, wc, Samuels-Albright-Keating, J.Foehl, DoD, 2.10.8; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, 2011, wc.cca.
Posted: 1.13.16 @ 2:35pm, edit 4:21 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL15 Cherry Picks W8: Psychology of Winning

31 Oct

In a time when sport stats suddenly went from being a straight-forward standard measure of performance to becoming an endless avalanche of esoteric acronyms that’re the be all and end all for those of the sabrmetric sect, the less tangible measure of emotion in athletics has been given short-shrift by many who vest heavily in analyzing the games.

But just as numbers never tell the whole story, or sometimes speak downright “lies (See; British super PM Ben Disraeli and Mark Twain),” neither does physical skill by itself deserve all the spoils for victory won on the battlefields of tumultuous merriment.

...batman&robin.wc.1966.dadofJGKlein.thmIf you think the Patriots and Packers win lots o’ football games simply because they possess top QBs, innovative staffs and run deep on player talent…well, you‘d get a good mark, I’ll give you that, but overlooking the importance of mental muscle and emotional fortitude in winning would get you big demerits.

Impassioned play, or more broadly stated, the psychology of winning, plays a critical role in determining outcomes of most games. More importantly, it’s the on-going maintenance of that winning attitude and unselfish play that will sustain those who ultimately take possession of the vaunted VLT (Vince Lombardi Trophy).

Just as the noted Russian-American film producer-writer Val Lewton (See; TCM) cultivated the psychology of scary (Cat People (’42), I Walked With a Zombie (’43), The Body Snatcher (’45), The Leopard Man (‘43)), so too do the savvy sideliner (coach) and signal-caller utilize the mind-game mode to it’s fullest.

Belichick and McCarthy are calm & calculating in front of the camera, probably away from it as well, but no doubt they pepper their pronouncements with constant reminders to players and staffers alike on the mental keys that will play big in each week’s upcoming contest.

New England Patriots

The aura of a champion will buoy all spirits but likely requires no small amount of emotional effort to maintain the high standard of play expected by both their fandom and co-workers as well. Nobody wants to be the guy who killed the mojo.

...pumpkin.cat.10.28.12.wc.Silar.thm

Green Bay Packers

Just as winning helps Tom Brady put Deflategate in the back of his mind, so too do Ws help the green & yellow push last January’s playoff collapse versus Seattle (22-28) to the back recesses of their brains in the methodical progression forward to the same goal of returning to the Super Bowl in 2016.

Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions, KC Chiefs, SD Chargers, Dallas Cowboys

Winning breeds winning, so too does losing, especially when unexpected. These five franchises had high hopes for ’15 but find themselves on cusp of catastrophe. Breaking the cycle of loss requires what may be the toughest task of all, that being to plant seeds of hope where there have been precious little to germinate.

Cincinnati Bengals

Most teams anticipate playoffs with a certain glee, but when you’re 0-6 the past decade it’s a different mood: tempered & tight. But like GB, these striped tigers see the past as yesterday’s news and 2016 as a new opportunity. Gulp.

Miami Dolphins, NY Jets, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, STL Rams

For these teams the mentality of winning is a fairly new feeling, being forged one game at a time, one step forward, one back and so on and so forth.

A Better Way

On Wednesday NFL announced it had fined Steelers’ defenseman William Gay $6000 for willfully violating NFL/PA policy that essentially requires a dress code. Gay violated it by wearing a pair of purple cleated shoes, the color to promote the fight against domestic violence and then honor his deceased mother. Bill was a child when his mom was shot to death by the hand of his stepfather who afterwards took his own life.

...Gay.W.wc.E.Owens.thm.2007

Bill’s reported to be active in the anti-DV effort in Pittsburgh metro and made statement on his actions that rings sincere and logical: “I’m not trying to be bad teammate (Steelers-friendly yellow on the shoes (Vikings)) or embarrass the owners, there’s so much pink, on shoes, on gloves, for breast cancer awareness, I think domestic violence awareness is just as important (“William Gay’s Purple” / NFL.com / A.Kinkhabwala / 10.30).

And he’s absolutely right. It’s the 10,000 lbs pink elephant in the room. The anti-breast cancer campaign in which the NFL participates is fighting the good fight, ostensibly (8%), but over-tailored to just one cause, of which there are many.

He’s also absolutely wrong. There’s a better way to bring awareness to important issues apart from rebelling against dress-code, rules that you, through union, signed onto. Such small power-plays, becoming more frequent, make news but are ephemeral and open a Pandora’s Box to less honorable expressions ($).

Using his celebrity bully-pulpit to connect with press and public is just one way William and his brethren in ball can make his noble effort truly impactful.

“Brady, Brady, Brady, Almighty (S. Tracy)!”

As most NFL teams hit the midway marker at weekend‘s close, the eventual recipient of the League’s prestigious MVP award (Feb?) start to take serious shape in the minds of voters.

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbBarring an injury or big fall-off in performance, once that frontrunner gets hold in the psyche, it’s unlikely he’ll be extricated therefrom by any other person short of the most stupendous play down the stretch-run.

To write that it’s a two (Rodgers) or three (Dalton) or four (Newton) horse race would be disingenuous to Mr. Brady. Tom’s out front by a good two lengths, seems to be gaining speed and it’s his hardware to win or lose.

Aaron may close the gap if he shines at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday night (These corporate stadium names are a major drag), while Andy and Cam are the dark horses but unlikely to catch the two thoroughbreds leading the pack. Their best chance: A gopher jumps the track.

One thing that might derail Brady’s near perfect run would be if Sports Illustrated and their cover kids decide to grace their magazine with Tom’s likeness sometime in the next two months. Not hard to imagine.

I put no stock in kooky claims of curse (That billy-goat thing in Chicago is an insult to the “city of the big shoulders”) but SI’s recent run of cover crash has me wondering whether I’ve been too close-minded. TimeInc had the Cardinals as the greatest ever, then Blue Jays best thing since sliced bread and this week it’s the slow-startin’ Mets and “Amazin’ (Dan) Murph.”

But like sage Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And Mets just took G3.

..cherries.on.cloth.thumbCherry Picks Week 8

DET (1-6) @ KC (2-5) (Ldn): 11.1 Fox 9:30: Lions win
Arizona (5-2) @ Cleveland (2-5): Fox 1:00: Cards win
49ers (2-5) @ St. Louis (3-3): Fox 1:00: SF wins
Giants (4-3) @ NO (3-4): Fox 1:00: Saints win
Minnesota Vikings (4-2) @ Chicago (2-4): Fox 1:00: Bears win
San Diego Chargers (2-5) @ Baltimore (1-6): CBS 1:00: Ravens win
Cincinnati (6-0) @ Pittsburgh (4-3): CBS 1:00 (GOTW2): Steelers win
New York Jets (4-2) @ Oakland Raiders (3-3): CBS 4:05: Jets win
Seattle (3-4) @ Dallas Cowboys (2-4): Fox 4:25: Seahawks win
Green Bay (6-0) @ Denver (6-0): 8:30 NBC (GOTW): Broncos win
Indianapolis (3-4) @ Carolina Panthers (6-0): 11.2 ESPN 8:30: Colts win

Record: 32 – 32

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credits: WalterWhite.pumpkin, wc.cca, 2013, A.Barhan; Batman-Robin-Halloween-kids, wc, 1966, father-of-JGKlein; pumpkin-cat, Silar, 10.28.12, wc; W.Gay, wc, 2007, E.Owens; NFL-symbol, Wikiproject; Cherries-on-cloth, wc, picdrome, 2007.
Posted: 10.31.15 @ 2:22pm EST; Copyright © 2015