The root of the Michael Kay Show freakout about Mike Francesa

Broadcasting, Uncategorized

LaGreca

The Michael Kay Show’s simmering anger at Mike Francesa’s return to New York radio on WFAN finally boiled over with an unhinged rant from Don La Greca.

Francesa’s return is one thing; but they were deprived of the chance to beat him – which they were never going to do – and when they won, they were basically a transitional title holder like Ivan Koloff or the Iron Shiek so the champ could get a break making his return and immediate knockout all the more embarrassing. That is the true source of the anger.

La Greca’s response is comparable in its foundation to the scene in Rocky II when Apollo Creed, over the emphatic objections of his trainer, demands a rematch with Rocky Balboa exclaiming, “Man, I won, but I didn’t beat him!”

Some don’t care as long as they win; others want to beat the best to earn the title. There are arguments for both. When Francesa’s return was announced, the Kay show talked tough, but it was hollow. Presumably even they were self-aware enough to know they would lose, but for it to happen so effortlessly was particularly galling.

During Francesa’s interminable “retirement tour,” there was a somewhat understandable expectation – amid reasonable dubiousness that Francesa was really retiring – that Kay and his show were the heir apparent to winning the afternoon sports talk radio battle, such as it is. Winning by process of elimination diminishes the victory, but a win is a win. La Greca’s rant was visceral as if he and, by extension, Kay are angry not because they lost and they’re being mocked for Francesa simply showing up and taking his title back by snapping his fingers and making their short-lived ratings victory disappear like he’s a Diet Coke-swilling Thanos, but that Francesa took away something they felt they were entitled to.

In the interim of Francesa’s departure, signs were clear that Francesa’s return was not just possible, but likely and then imminent. First, when Craig Carton was arrested and subsequently fired from the WFAN morning show, Francesa, in a faux act of benevolence, made clear that he would be willing to remain, ostensibly to “save” the station from ruin. It never came to pass and WFAN moved on with Francesa’s placeholder show Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott.

Kay beat that show in the ratings, but considering how spectacularly awful it is, had he not won in that ratings book, then it would really be time to find another vocation. In fact, it would have been a fireable offense.

Francesa had to do nothing more than simply return to the radio to immediately regain all the listeners who begrudgingly tuned to Kay. This went beyond a ratings period and the analysis of it. Think about how professionally castrating it is to be so irrelevant that even those who were indifferent to Francesa and flipped to Kay didn’t even think about it before switching back.

It transcends debates about the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers. It has nothing to do with Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Mickey Callaway, Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Sam Darnold and Eli Manning. It’s more fundamental with who puts on a compelling show where, like him or not, Francesa still has the “What would Mike say about this?” allure and the cocksure attitude to blunt the “Who the hell are you to be saying this?” retort.

Very few have that. The Kay show definitely doesn’t.

If La Greca isn’t screaming like a lunatic, nobody pays attention to what he says because nobody cares.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Francesa if he didn’t make some preposterous face-saving statements and maneuvers of his own. The supposed opportunities he expected once he left radio failed to materialize. Undoubtedly, he had offers, but either they were financially insufficient, were not big enough to suit his ego, or both.

So, he returned. Is Francesa having a private laugh about so easily regaining his title and the Kay show’s reaction to it? Of course. But at the end of the clip linked above, when Francesa was asked about it, his reply was predictable in its dismissiveness. The Kay show was always beneath his notice if he noticed it at all. He won’t punch down because all that does is give validation to any perceived competition where there isn’t one.

The anger stems not from losing to Francesa (they should be used to that); not from the perception that they cannot beat the top dog in the ratings (they can’t); but from their belief that they were the next in the line of succession as if by sheer existence as the only moderately listenable afternoon sports talk radio show in New York, they should therefore have been anointed the top spot. That is not the case and the Kay show staff knows it. La Greca screaming until he turns purple is the illustration of that point and its inherent frustration knowing there’s nothing they can do to change it.

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In case you were wondering who Britt McHenry is…

Media, Television

In a bizarre and embarrassing rant that went viral, ESPN personality Britt McHenry verbally abused a woman who was working at the office of a towing company in Arlington, Virginia. When I ask who McHenry is, I’m not asking in a tone wondering, “Who does she think she is talking to people like this?” It’s a legitimate question as to who she is, because I don’t know. I’m going to presume you’re like me in that you had no idea who Britt McHenry was before this and wouldn’t have known had this not happened.

You can watch it below.

According to McHenry, her vehicle was towed from an Arlington, Virginia parking lot for no reason. If that’s true and was done just because the municipality and towing company are trying to make money from unsuspecting and innocent people, then she had the right to be livid. She might even have had the right to walk into the office of the towing company and vent. Had she gone into a cursing rant as to why they took her bleeping car when there was no reason for them to do so, then no one would have said a word. In fact, many might have agreed with her. Instead, she decided to go beyond justified anger and comment negatively on the appearance of the woman sitting behind the desk of the towing company office while arrogantly insinuating that she was a superior human being because she’s “in the news” and has a college degree. In truth, she’s in the news now because her story is newsworthy. Prior to that, she was an employee at a sports network that does break news and has reporters that do excellent work, but she is neither a newsbreaker nor a reporter. She’s a personality.

I call her a “personality” because I don’t believe the designation of “reporter” should just be handed over by sheer nature of a job title. She’s a sideline person; she does interviews; she’s a good looking woman whom the network hopes will attract some viewers to watch her. There’s nothing wrong with that until the person begins to believe that appearance and aesthetics equates to talent and intelligence.

I can’t say whether or not she’s talented; if she knows anything about sports; if she’s likable; if she’s an asset to the network because before this, I had no idea who she was. The idea that she’s a network personality seems to have given her an inflated sense of self-importance to believe it’s appropriate to treat others as if they’re beneath her.

McHenry is a face. And a replaceable one at that. Walk onto the campus of UCLA, USC, Florida, Florida State, Arizona State – any of the well-known schools where the coeds are generally considered the prettiest in the country – and you can find a replacement for McHenry who could be trained within a few months to seamlessly do the exact same job with no one even remembering her name.

The apology she posted on Twitter was indicative of what it was that made her feel so entitled to say the things she said to that woman to start with. It wasn’t, “I said some terrible, obnoxious, arrogant things to someone I don’t even know. I was angry, but that’s no excuse and I shouldn’t equate another person’s appearance with their self-worth in the same way that I don’t want to be seen as someone who got her job based on little more than the way I look.” That would have been an honest apology. Instead, it wasn’t even an apologetic gesture. It was more of the me-me-me that blew her ego out of control. Translating what she tweeted, it actually said, “I got screwed when my car was towed. I was mad and I threw a tantrum. And, hey, whatever. Sorry I got busted. I have to apologize so I won’t get fired. Y’know. I’ll try to be a better person. Etc.”

There was no mention of the woman she was berating because the woman didn’t exist in McHenry’s world before and she only exists now because McHenry got into trouble for the abusive tirade.

If brainless mannequins are hired and they’ve been trained to equate a person’s worth with appearance, then this is unavoidable when the world doesn’t fall at the brainless mannequin’s feet as they’re supposed to. It’s a testimony to the type of person she is and how insecure she is. “I’m good looking, therefore I’m better than you.”

McHenry was suspended by the network for a week from doing…whatever it is she does. I’m still not sure. Some were saying she should be fired. I don’t believe this was a fireable offense. However, the question about McHenry’s job status isn’t whether or not she should be fired, but what it was about her that got her hired in the first place. Had she been someone who was average-looking, was slightly overweight or plain fat, would ESPN have hired her? They can say they would have. They can claim that their hiring practices are, in part, predicated on the photogenic nature and charm of their employees but the employees must be qualified. But the reality and obviousness of their and every other network’s hiring decisions diametrically opposes any protestation to the contrary stating that they would have hired her regardless of appearance.

She’s proud of her appearance and clearly works hard to maintain it. She’d better. Because once it’s gone, she’s not going to have a job on television since her looks are the only talent she has.

MLB PED Suspensions and Collateral Attacks

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The ESPN.com report saying that Ryan Braun refused to answer questions from Major League Baseball regarding Biogenesis is a non-story as far as I’m concerned. Was anyone expecting Braun or any other player to fall at the feet of the investigators and beg for mercy? This is especially true with a player like Braun, who embarrassed MLB by winning his appeal from his failed test in 2011 and then took the step of maligning the tester and accusing baseball of pursuing him unjustly. With Braun, this the equivalent of the government not being able to get Al Capone for his business practices, but getting him for tax evasion. A sufficiently motivated authority is going to find a way.

MLB must feel sufficiently comfortable with their freedom in the Basic Agreement to suspend players for performance enhancing drug use without a failed test as evidence to move forward and worry about any consequences later. Safe in the knowledge that there might be collateral benefits for the greater good (as they see it), they’ll risk it. While the players will have lawyers and multiple prongs of defense strategies planned, perhaps MLB is willing to gamble on losing a long court battle to have the hammer hanging over other players’ heads saying that even if they don’t fail a test, their associations can lead to them being suspended. That might function as a deterrent.

What has to be answered, however, is if there is a true decision on the part of everyone in positions of power in baseball to stop PED use. MLB can issue suspensions and put forth the pretense of a hardline on drug use, but until teams stop paying players who are caught having used PEDs, these players will still try to circumnavigate the rules to improve their performance and paychecks. If, for example, MLB clubs manage to put it into player contracts that the agreement will be voided if there’s a PED suspension, there might be some movement on player PED use.

The key question will be if players like Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Bartolo Colon and anyone else on the list would accomplish what they did without the drugs. The argument could be made that the drugs were the impetus to them being paid and if the drugs weren’t used, then their performance and paycheck wouldn’t be what they are. Braun’s and A-Rod’s contracts are so massive that a suspension and potential for voiding that contract would stand a greater chance of precluding the drug use than the mere threat of getting caught, negligible suspensions and short-term public floggings they’d take. In the players’ minds, at worst they might not play up to the levels they did with drugs, but at least they’d get paid. The suspensions don’t matter all that much, but the money does. With the money in jeopardy, players will be reluctant to go the PED route.

It may be that MLB is trying to tear at the root of PED use with these suspensions while simultaneously ignoring that it was MLB itself that helped plant it to begin with. They’re trying to cage the monster they created and with the clever manipulation of the rules, they might just do it.

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Cashman vs. A-Rod: The War To End All Wars

All Star Game, Award Winners, Ballparks, CBA, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MVP, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

The funniest part about Brian Cashman’s statement to the media that injured third baseman Alex Rodriguez needs to “Shut the <bleep> up” is that at the conclusion, it sounded as if he stormed off saying, “I’m gonna call Alex right now,” in a frenzied desire to directly tell his player the same thing he muscularly told the media, then couldn’t get A-Rod on the phone and told him….by email!!!

How’d that go?

Dear Alex,
Shut the <bleep> up.
Love, Brian

Did he then return to the media and declare that he couldn’t get A-Rod on the phone, say that he sent him an email instead and add, “Yeah, well. Maybe I didn’t speak to him directly, but he got the message!!!” jabbing his finger for emphasis?

Since being a GM has become such a prominent role and transformed from a bunch of nameless, faceless men who got the job because they were former players or sycophants to the owners into the corporate, power-suit wearing, catchphrase uttering, recognizable and approachable entities they are now, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a GM tell a player—especially one of A-Rod’s stature—to “shut the <bleep> up.” Not even the most outspoken loose cannons since the GM job has changed like J.P. Ricciardi went that far, and Ricciardi was about as hair trigger as it gets. When Dallas Braden got into his public back-and-forth with, not-so-shockingly, A-Rod, it went on for awhile before A’s boss Billy Beane said he’d speak to the player. He did and it stopped. There was no public, bullying pronouncement from Beane that he called the player onto the carpet and reamed him out.

From the old-school GMs who have been in the game forever to the new age stat thinkers, can you name one—one!!!—who would say such a thing about a player to a media as hungry for a headline as that in New York?

Dave Dombrowski? Brian Sabean? Dan Duquette? Beane? Sandy Alderson?

I’m not even sure Jeff Luhnow uses foul language period, let alone saying something like that about a player before speaking to him and storming off in a huff with a “I’m gonna go call him now!!” and trudging away with the corners of his mouth twisted downward and a fiery look in his eyes like a child sent to time out. (That’s how I envision Cashman anyway.)

Plus, was A-Rod’s tweet this big of a deal? Or is it a big deal because it’s A-Rod?

Cashman’s goal since leveraging full control of the Yankees’ baseball operations has been to be seen on a level with Beane and Theo Epstein as “geniuses” whose vision led their particular organizations to success rather than a checkbook GM who covers up for mistakes by using endless amounts of Yankees cash (it’s like real money, only more cold, corporate and drenched in a self-anointed superiority). Yet the professionalism and CEO-style is lacking. He’s a caricature and a bad one at that. It’s satirical more than evolved.

Cashman’s behavior in the Louise Meanwell scandal was embarrassing to an organization for whom being embarrassed is the last thing they want and he’s still acting like a brat in a mid-life crisis, desperate for credit and the off-field perks that come with a powerful position, but unable to behave in an appropriate fashion when they arrive.

Maybe that’s why A-Rod is such a continuing source of irritation: he embarrasses them. But the solution to A-Rod’s continuous penchant for making headlines isn’t for the GM to make it worse by trumping A-Rod’s headlines with his own. And in this case, what exactly did A-Rod do that was so terrible? The doctor said he was ready to start a rehab assignment and the Yankees haven’t signed off on it. So? All Cashman had to say was, “The doctor who made that call is an outside doctor and the organization’s medical staff will decide when A-Rod’s rehab will begin. It could be next week or it could be next month.” Instead he decided to vent his anger at the easiest target he has in A-Rod and make a new mess simultaneously making the usual villain, A-Rod, look sympathetic.

We can speculate what would have been said if Derek Jeter has made a similar statement and then go into the litany of differences in tone and public perceptions between Jeter and A-Rod, but when digging underneath all of refuse that has piled on during A-Rod’s tenure in pinstripes, it’s not all that different and Cashman most certainly wouldn’t have told Jeter to “shut the <bleep> up.” If anyone needs to follow that advice, it’s the GM whose own tenure is growing more pockmarked by his attitude, statements and behaviors by the day. And he hasn’t done a particularly great job running the team sans the aforementioned “Yankee money” either.

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From North Dallas Forty To Biogenesis

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Major League Baseball’s ham-handed investigation into the Biogenesis Clinic and the players who might have been involved in PEDs after being named as clinic clients is an attempt to appear as if they’re on top of the situation done in a way similar to how the National Football League would’ve done it. Except the way in which MLB is handling it is the way the NFL would’ve handled it in 1970, not 2013.

The tour-de-force account of how the NFL operated back then was the 1979 film North Dallas Forty as the protagonist, Phil Elliot is struggling through injuries and the refusal to “play the game” and the “game” isn’t football—it’s going along to get along, taking shots of painkillers, playing injured (different from playing hurt), being used and willing to be used to fill the masochistic need to play the actual on-field sport.

In the movie, the North Dallas Bulls with their megalomaniacal and exceedingly wealthy owner, iconic and cold-blooded coach, and hard-partying teammates (*wink wink* at the “similarities” to the Dallas Cowboys) prepare for the next week’s game. Early in the film, Elliot experiences a break-in at his home and catches the perpetrator in the act who threatens Elliot with a gun and flees. In the penultimate scene, the break-in was revealed to have actually executed by a private eye who had been hired by the club to get dirt on Elliot with the complicity of the league to catch disposable, independent-minded players like him smoking pot and using an excess of painkillers in order to exploit the violation of league rules not to pay their salaries when they’re dumped as Elliot eventually was. Left out of the equation was that Elliott was smoking pot with the team’s star quarterback, but the club couldn’t very well function without the star quarterback and cutting Elliott filled the dual function of sending a message to the rest of the team that they’d better behave or suffer the same fate of not only being cut, but also having their reputation sullied throughout the league and face a suspension for drug use if they didn’t do as they’re told.

Elliott’s quote regarding his marijuana use, “If you nailed every guy in the league who smoked grass, you wouldn’t have enough players left to field the punt return team,” still resonates today in every sport and with every drug—performance enhancing and otherwise.

MLB is trying the same type of thing sans the illegalities (that we know of) with the Biogenesis case in their over-the-top show of trying to extract information from the head of the clinic Anthony Bosch to the degree that they’re paying him and, according to other potential witnesses, “bullying” with threats and empty promises of help in a legal case if they cooperate. The problem for MLB is this when thinking about the tactics similar to those used in North Dallas Forty: the movie was from 34 years ago and it was adapted from a book published 40 years ago about the way the game was run in the 1960s.

And that’s what MLB is doing. They’re using methods from the 1960s to garner information in 2013.

The problems with the way in which MLB is reportedly running this investigation is manifold and goes far beyond the Cold War-era strategies. Let’s just say, hypothetically, that this Biogenesis clinic was used by players in today’s NFL and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who was at the top of the hill in this new scandal instead of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Would the entire structure be handled differently? Better? More competently?

Selig is essentially seen as a doddering figurehead whose main job descriptions is that of a functionary. It’s not far from the truth. His performance as commissioner has been a byproduct of what is good for the owners’ pockets rather than what is promoted as good for the game. While the PEDs were rampant throughout baseball and were used with the tacit approval of everyone in an effort to draw fans, restore the game’s popularity following the 1994 strike, and accrue money for the owners and players alike, there was Selig with a faraway gaze either clueless as to the reality or willfully ignoring it. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.

Selig’s performance in front of Congress along with the players who showed up that fateful day was humiliating in a myriad of ways. From Rafael Palmeiro’s finger-wagging lies; to Sammy Sosa’s “me no speaka the Inglés”; to Mark McGwire not being there to talk about the past; to Curt Schilling clamming up after his yapping for days before and after the fact, baseball has never acquitted itself well when self-preservation came to the forefront at the expense of stating the facts.

Has baseball improved since then? Has Selig gotten the message? Let’s just compare Selig with his NFL counterpart Goodell. Only people inside baseball’s front office know how alert Selig is to the Biogenesis investigation or anything else. Perhaps it’s a matter of, “Don’t tell me what I don’t want to know so I don’t have to lie about it later.” But this is an indicator that MLB should’ve tossed someone overboard when the entire PED scandal initially broke to send the message that a new sheriff was in town and things weren’t going to be done the old way. And I use old in every conceivable context of the word when discussing Selig. That would’ve meant that Selig had to go a decade ago, and he probably should’ve.

Would Goodell be so disengaged to not know every aspect of what’s going on with an investigation of this magnitude? Would he not take steps to control the message and how it’s framed as politicians—like Goodell and Goodell’s father Charles, a former United States Senator from New York—do and did? This is the fundamental difference between MLB and the NFL. Goodell is smooth, smart, and cagey. He’s available yet insulated; touchable but unknowable; protected and in command. Selig on the other hand is cadaverous and scripted, but unable to follow the script; he’s anything but smooth and the disheveled clothes, $10 haircut and bewildered countenance that was once somewhat charming lost its luster as he had to get to work to restore the game’s validity. What makes it worse when having a figurehead as commissioner is that baseball doesn’t appear to have taken steps to place competent people behind the scenes to pull the levers to keep the machine greased and running well. It’s people charging headlong into each other and having the bruises to prove it.

If Goodell makes the implication that the witnesses will be assisted in a criminal investigation as was alluded to in the ESPN piece linked above, you can bet that the NFL and Goodell himself will have the connections to follow through on the promise.

MLB? What are they going to do about it? Are they even capable of helping anyone? Would they know who to call and would that person even take the call as he would if he heard, “Roger Goodell is on the phone,” instead of “Bud Selig is on the phone,”?

Not much thought was put into any of this going back to allowing of players to get away with PED use and then the about-face due to public outcry, the banning of substances and the potential fallout of doing so. They want to clean up the game, but keep it entertaining to the fans. Did it ever occur to them that the reason that so many man games are being lost due to injury stems from the tendons and ligaments becoming weakened from carrying the extra muscle built through chemical means? That players can’t play 150 games and toss 225 innings and maintain performance without chemicals? That they aren’t going to be able to beat out a dribbler on the infield in August by chugging cups of coffee and cans of Red Bull as they would from their trusted amphetamines (greenies)? That the risk/reward for players like Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera and anyone else whose name was caught up in Biogenesis was such that there was no reason not to do it?

What’s 100 games in comparison to the half a billion dollars in contracts—just for playing baseball alone and not counting endorsements—A-Rod will have made once his career is over? What’s 100 games in exchange for Braun’s MVP and the minute risk (Braun’s just unlucky, arrogant and somewhat stupid) of getting caught? What’s 100 games in exchange for a slightly above-average talent like Cabrera being given a contract for $16 million almost immediately after his humiliating suspension and public lambasting?

Until MLB does something about the laughable penalties, players will keep trying to navigate their way around the tests and punishments because it’s worth it for them to do it given the likelihood that they’ll get away with it.

Attendance and TV ratings are down all around baseball. In large part it’s because the fans who jumped on the bandwagon at the excitement of the home runs have little interest in watching Joe Maddon outmaneuver Joe Girardi with tactical skill. They want homers and if they’re not getting them, they won’t bother to watch. This new “get tough” policy is falling flat not just because of the maladroit manner in which it’s being implemented, but because there’s no integrity behind it. The owners are interested in one thing: the bottom line. Many are as blind as Selig was to the PED use and only came around when the evidence was plunked on their desks with the widespread demand to “do something” about it to “save the game.”

Using the 1960s as a guideline for running the Biogenesis investigation in 2013 forgets that back then, there wasn’t the constant flow of available information with real time stories, opinions and criticisms appearing immediately and going viral. Back then, MLB would’ve been able to get in front of the story using friendly, like-minded reporters who were willing to do the Max Mercy thing from The Natural and “protect” the game. In other words, they would protect the people who owned the game against the ephemeral presence of the players who come and go and who were using drugs to undeservedly place themselves in the stratosphere of legends that was once rightfully limited to Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Bob Feller. Now there are bloggers, reporters and networks gathering information as it comes in. It can’t be controlled.

For MLB to put forth the pretense of being all-in for the Biogenesis investigation is the epitome of wasteful hypocrisy. They can pound on doors, stand on rooftops and proclaim their commitment to stopping PED use. They can threaten, cajole, demand and make empty promises, but that’s not going to alter the reality that the changes to the game have to be foundational and not a self-serving attempt to clean up a game that has been infested from the top to the bottom due in large part to the inaction of MLB itself.

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Brandon McCarthy vs. Keith Law—Live On Twitter

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An entertaining and extended Twitter fight went into the early morning hours (EST) between Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy and ESPN writer Keith Law after Law sent out a tweet decrying the concept of Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera being “locked in” during his three homer night against the Rangers. Cabrera also singled and walked. The Rangers won the game 11-8.

This isn’t about the debate of whether, as Law said, being locked in is a “myth.” Law’s argument centers around there not being any evidence to prove that being “locked in” exists. I don’t agree with the premise. Simply because there’s no study to prove or disprove “its” existence doesn’t mean the “it” doesn’t exist. It’s weak and pompous to suggest that there’s a conclusion one way or the other because there’s no study to footnote. Has anyone even tried to examine the brain-body link when a player is in a “zone” or “locked in” to see if there’s a difference between a hot streak and a slump? Pitchers’ mechanics and hitters’ swings are dissected through attachments of body to computer to spot flaws and correct them, so what about the brain-body link and the possibility of being “locked in”? If it hasn’t been studied, how do you prove it doesn’t exist? And how do you declare it’s a myth?

I feel some semblance of sympathy for Law here. As obnoxious, phony and as much of a created entity as he is, he tweeted one thing and found himself under siege not just by people who dislike him, but by many who actually are fans of his and a big league player who is sabermetrically inclined and cerebral basically telling him he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It was one tweet that ended with a marathon that I’m sure Law wanted no part of after the first fifteen minutes, but couldn’t find a way to extricate himself from the situation while maintaining his unfounded reputation as an “expert.” It went on for hours and will undoubtedly continue throughout the day. Or the week. Or the month. Or the year. That’s how Twitter is.

I believe in the “locked in” idea and it’s not based on some throwaway line. Anyone who’s ever played a sport—or done anything at all on a regular basis—knows that there are times that it just feels “right” and there are instances when it’s not necessary to think about the things that a pitcher or hitter has to think about, sometimes to his detriment. When a hitter or pitcher has his mind on mechanics—where the hands are, where the feet are, where the landing spot is—and then has to deal with the pitches coming at him or the hitters standing at the plate, it makes it exponentially harder to focus on the one moment they need to be focusing on for sustained success. There are times when it all comes together and there’s no need to think about those mechanical necessities because all is in symmetry and it’s automatic.

The “you never played” argument is treated as if it’s irrelevant by those who never played because they can’t combat the assertion. It’s not easy to make it to the Major Leagues whether it’s someone who understands stats like McCarthy or someone for whom stats are an inconvenience like Jeff Francoeur. It is, however, remarkably easy in today’s game to make it to a Major League front office or into the media as an “expert.”

Law’s entire career has been based on an if this/then that premise. He was a writer on statistics and when the Blue Jays hired J.P. Ricciardi out of the Athletics front office as the Moneyball theory was first starting to be known and implemented, he hired Law. Law worked for the Blue Jays, left to take a job at ESPN and suddenly morphed through some inexplicable osmosis from the arrogant and condescending stat guy who Michael Lewis described in Moneyball (and after the Moneyball movie came out and Law panned it, in an entertaining slap fight between the two) into an arrogant and condescending stat and all-knowing scouting guy. In reality, there’s no scouting guy in there. He’s regurgitating stuff he heard. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s no foundation for his status as the ultimate insider and someone who knows both scouting and stats.

Law didn’t pay his dues as a writer meeting deadlines, covering games and trying to get a usable quote from Barry Bonds; he didn’t play; he didn’t work his way up in the front office from getting coffee for people as an intern to a low-level staffer and eventually a baseball executive. I don’t agree with much of what Law’s fellow ESPN “Insider” Jim Bowden says, but at least Bowden was a scout and a GM who made the primordial climb working for George Steinbrenner and Marge Schott. Law just sort of showed up and was anointed as the all-seeing, all-knowing totem of the stat people.

And there’s the fundamental issue with him.

He’s a creation. The ridiculous mock MLB Drafts, smug style and wallowing in objective data as well as his only recently discovered interest in in-the-trenches scouting is similar to the marketing of a boy band. There had to be something there to start with, of course. Law’s obviously intelligent as he constantly tries to show with his “look how smart I am” tweets in Latin, but that doesn’t translate into industry-wide respect that they’re trying to desperately to cultivate. With a boy band, it’s a look and willingness to do what they’re taught, sing the songs they’re given and be happy that they’re making money and have girls screaming their names on a nightly basis. With Law, it’s his circular status as a guy who’s worked in an MLB front office as if that denotes credibility on all things baseball. Those who hate GMs and former GMs who shun many of the new and beloved stats wouldn’t listen to Omar Minaya, Bill Bavasi or Ruben Amaro Jr. if they were given the forum that Law has, so why does Law automatically receive undeserved respect?

Just like veteran baseball front office people and players have to deal with unwanted suggestions and the presence of people they don’t think know anything about how the actual game of baseball is played, so too do the sportswriters—many of whom worked their way up as beat reporters for box lacrosse until they’re in a coveted baseball columnist position—have to look at people like Law and wonder: “Why’s he here?” “Why does anyone listen to him?”

What must make it worse for the real reporters at ESPN like Buster Olney and Jayson Stark is that for the good of ESPN webhits and advertising rates, they have to promote Law’s writing due to organizational needs and orders from above. According to speculation, Law and Olney aren’t exactly buddies. It must burn Olney to have to lead his followers to Law’s mock drafts that Olney is experienced enough as a baseball writer to know are ridiculous.

Because it was McCarthy, a player who understands and utilizes the same stats that Law propounds in practice as a Major League baseball player and not a “me throw ball, me swing bat” player who isn’t aware of the war going on in Syria let alone WAR as a stat, Law couldn’t use the argument of an eyeroll and hand wave with backup from his minions. That, more than the relatively meaningless debate, is probably what stings most of all.

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Halladay’s Shoulder Injury

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Yesterday Roy Halladay looked like Orel Hershiser at the very end of his career in 2000 with the Dodgers: a one-time unstoppable force who had no idea where the ball was going once it left his hand. In Hershiser’s case, he’d run out of bullets. With Halladay, he was hurt and finally admitted as much to the Phillies after the game when he said that his shoulder was bothering him since his start against the Pirates on April 24—ESPN story

He was hammered in his next two starts by the Indians and Marlins and it was in a manner that couldn’t have been much worse if I’d gone out there and pitched. It was either admit something was the matter or continue to look helpless on the mound. Not even the greats like Halladay can bluff their way through when their stuff is diminished to this degree where he has no pop, no movement, and no control.

As much as Halladay is celebrated for being an old-school, “gimme the ball and let me finish the game” throwback, this is a reminder of what also happened to pitchers of 30-40 years ago due to the damage accumulated from gobbled innings. While the Marlins and Indians hitters brutalized the once great Halladay, there had to be some semblance of sadness and wonderment in their dugouts while it was going on. Big league hitters want to win, but they also want the challenge of facing and succeeding against the greats. Beating on Halladay like Larry Holmes assaulted Muhammad Ali in 1980, with Holmes screaming at the referee to stop the fight before he severely injured Ali, could provide no sense of fulfillment as it would have had Halladay been at full strength.

Why was Halladay pitching hurt? Maybe it was due to his reputation as a cold, steely-eyed gunslinger that comes along with the nickname Doc Halladay. Maybe it was because the true greats (in any endeavor) are generally the most insecure, spurring them to work harder and constantly prove themselves in fear of losing their jobs or not being the best. Or maybe he felt that the Phillies were paying him a lot of money to pitch, needed him, and that anyone else they put out there wasn’t going to do much better at 100% than he would at 75% or less.

We may hear the best case scenario that it’s tendinitis or a strain and he’ll be back sometime this season.

We may hear that it’s a torn labrum or a rotator cuff.

We may hear that by altering his delivery to accommodate the pain in the back of his shoulder that sidelined him last season, he managed to create a deficit and injured the front of his shoulder or the whole shoulder. If a great pitcher who’s as regimented as Halladay alters one thing, everything else might come undone all at once and that’s what appears to have happened. It takes years to learn to pitch differently and Halladay was trying to use the same strategies with different weapons in a very short timeframe. For a few games, he managed it, but then the shoulder would no longer cooperate. Now we’ll wait to see the amount of damage and whether he’ll pitch at some point in 2013 or beyond and what he’s going to be when he does get back.

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The Jurickson Profar for Oscar Taveras Trade Talk

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The concept of the Rangers trading top infield prospect Jurickson Profar to the Cardinals for top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras has been heavily discussed recently. The problems are that neither the Rangers nor the Cardinals have talked about it with one another; the GMs, John Mozeliak for the Cardinals and Jon Daniels for the Rangers, have listened politely to the suggestion, given clichéd answers with both basically said they’re not doing it; and it’s a trade that kindasorta makes sense in a “need” and “hole” way, but isn’t going to happen.

So does it count as a trade rumor if it’s a rumor in name only and has no basis in fact? This proposed trade has been prominently pushed by ESPN analyst, SiriusXM radio host and former big league GM Jim Bowden and has taken a wag the dog tone with Bowden constantly ramming it down people’s—including the GMs of the teams—throats as if he’s trying to make it happen by sheer force of creationist will.

Derrick Goold wrote about this “rumor” yesterday and again hammered home the point that neither side is even considering it as anything other than a reply to a “wouldja” question and neither has made the effort to engage the opposite party to discuss such a swap.

The elementary nature in which the dynamics of this trade are presented make it seem so simple. The Rangers need a center fielder and have a young shortstop whose way is blocked; the Cardinals need a shortstop and have a center fielder whose way is blocked. So let’s make a deal. Except it’s not as easy as finding two puzzle pieces that might fit, sticking them together and moving on.

The idea that the Cardinals need to get a shortstop who is a top 5 prospect in the game for the future and should trade another top 5 prospect in the game to get him is absurd. One thing has nothing to do with the other. If the Cardinals were locked in in center field with a Mike Trout-type player, then it would be a reasonable decision to trade from strength to address a weakness. They’re not. Jon Jay is a nice player. He has speed; 10-15 home run pop; is a sound defensive center fielder; and gets on base. He’s not a player for whom any team would say they’re set up at the position for the next decade. He’s 28 and a player you can find on the market. Taveras, by all accounts, is that kind of player and you don’t trade that kind of player for another prospect.

Profar is a shortstop and the Rangers have a shortstop, Elvis Andrus, to whom they just gave a contract extension through 2022 with a 2023 club option. Bowden’s reasoning for the Rangers’ willingness to deal Profar stems from Profar playing shortstop in Triple A when he has no chance of playing that position for the Rangers. Conventional wisdom suggests that if he were going to be a Rangers’ player, he’d be playing second base, center field or wherever they were planning on moving him to get his bat into the lineup. It, like the trade proposition, makes sense before getting into the fact (one Bowden surely knows) that if a guy has the range to play shortstop, you can pretty much put him anywhere on the field and he’ll figure it out. It wouldn’t take an extraordinary amount of time for Profar to grow accustomed to the outfield or more likely second base. The easiest thing to do is to let Profar play short and then decide what to do with him later when they need to come to a final decision as to where he’s going to play or if they want to trade him for a star in his prime.

The “star in his prime” brings up another factor for both teams. A trade of this kind only works if they’re getting a controllable Giancarlo Stanton-type in return or getting a “final piece” in his prime that they figure they’ll have a good chance at signing like David Price. The number of players who fit that profile and are on teams out of contention and willing make that kind of move is limited to the Marlins and Rays. Most players of that magnitude—Andrew McCutchen, Felix Hernandez—are increasingly signing long-term contracts to stay with their current clubs and are not available. Both the Cardinals and the Rangers could use Stanton and Price, so for what possible reason would they trade Profar and Taveras for each other?

They wouldn’t. And they’ve said it. But the story has legs because it’s written about every few days. This is Bowden saying what he’d try to do if he were in charge and given some of the deals he made while he was a GM, I believe him. Unlike a clueless Joel Sherman-type columnist; armchair experts like Keith Law; or some guy or girl with a blog ranting and raving about what he or she would do if they were a GM while simultaneously criticizing people who are actually doing the job and know how hard it is to make this kind of trade, Bowden has an implied credibility for what he says because he’s a two-time Major League GM. That, however, doesn’t mean others think the same way he does, nor does it mean teams will consider what he tosses out there.

Perhaps there’s market research that’s examining the number of webhits that the Profar/Taveras talk is generating. Or maybe Bowden’s found a way to keep himself in the conversation and garner ratings for his show by harping on this with a borderline shrill, “Why aren’t you doing this?!?” More likely, Bowden really believes in the foundation for this trade. But it being logical in a conceptual manner is meaningless if the parties aren’t interested in making the move. The deal is not on the table; it’s not being considered by the people who actually matter in the consummation of trades—the GMs and organizations; and it’s a story that’s only out there because people keep putting it out there. In fantasy baseball, it could happen. In reality it won’t, and it’s reality that counts.

Essays, predictions, player analysis, under the radar fantasy picks, breakout candidates, contract status of all relevant personnel—GMs, managers, players—and anything else you could possibly want to know is in my new book Paul Lebowitz’s 2013 Baseball Guide now available on Amazon.comSmashwordsBN and Lulu. It’s useful all season long. Check it out and read a sample.

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Greinke vs. Quentin: Tale of the Tape

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Zack Greinke

6’2”, 195 pounds

vs.

Carlos Quentin

6’2”, 240 pounds

There were multiple levels of ludicrous actions and comments preceding, during and after the Dodgers-Padres brawl in which Quentin charged the mound after being hit by a pitch from Greinke. The most entertaining/laughable (in a tragicomic sort of way) portion of Quentin’s and Greinke’s altercation is that their fighting styles were similar to two semi-brain damaged rams who decided that running into one another was superior to squaring off and trying to throw a punch.

Let’s look at the participants.

Carlos Quentin

There was an angry and indignant reply to Quentin’s decision to charge the mound. There are players who are babies about being hit by pitches and react badly whenever a pitch is anywhere close to them. Manny Ramirez was like that. For some, it might be in part to try and intimidate the pitcher from throwing inside or it might be due to them not being accustomed to pitchers brushing them back. Regardless, Quentin is not one of those players. In fact, if there’s a worthy heir apparent to Don Baylor in today’s game, it’s Quentin. Baylor would regularly lead the American League in getting hit by pitches because he refused to move when the ball was coming toward him. He took the hit and walked to first base. Quentin can be counted on for 20 or so HBPs per season and has led the Major Leagues in getting hit twice. Last season, he played in 86 games for the Padres and still managed to lead the big leagues in getting hit. There weren’t any brawls involving Quentin in 2012. He usually goes to first base without complaint.

With Greinke, Quentin had been hit by him twice before; there’s a history of glaring and near brawls between the two; and it looked as if Quentin was hesitant before charging the mound and attacked when Greinke cursed at him. It’s pure foolishness from people who never played baseball before to wonder why Quentin charged the mound. Much like a stat guy questioning as to why a hitter swung at a 3-2 pitch just off the plate and struck out rather than taking the walk, it’s total ignorance to the reality of the speed of the game. A hitter has a fraction of a second to decide whether or not to swing the bat, take the pitch, or duck. Of course, he’s not thinking about it. It’s automatic and the same was true for Quentin’s decision to step toward the mound. Once his manhood was involved as Greinke essentially challenged him, what choice did he have? In the macho world of baseball, when the overt invitation was made to fight, Quentin had to fully commit or look like a wimp to the rest of baseball and possibly subject himself to beanballs with impunity for the rest of the season.

Greinke probably wasn’t throwing at Quentin and after tempers cool, I’m sure Quentin would admit that privately, but the situation snowballed after Quentin’s visceral response and by then he had no choice but to go after Greinke.

Zack Greinke

For all of Matt Kemp’s ranting and challenging of Quentin after the game culminating with a confrontation in the clubhouse runway, Greinke is probably more at fault for this than Quentin and Greinke is definitely responsible for breaking his own collarbone.

Greinke is willing to pitch inside and with a one-run lead he more than likely wasn’t trying to hit Quentin, but once Quentin took a step toward the mound, Greinke could’ve just waved him off and perhaps Quentin wouldn’t have charged the mound with such fervor. The situation could’ve been defused, but wasn’t.

As for the fighting “style,” Greinke’s not a small man at 6’2” and 195 pounds, but to willingly run into the 6’2”, 240 pound Quentin and then wonder how he broke his collarbone is idiotic. This was a case of ballplayers not being fighters and not knowing what to do when the amount of time they have to tussle is limited to how long it takes for the rest of the benches to empty and engulf them. Greinke might’ve been better-served to bob and weave with his hands up in a boxing position or sidestep Quentin and try a leg sweep. Anything would’ve been a strategic improvement over running into each other like a pair of lobotomized Neanderthals.

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Rangers Fans’ Anger At Hamilton Is Misplaced

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What was Josh Hamilton supposed to do?

Put yourself in his position and say your contract with the company you worked for had expired and because of personal problems in the recent past and on-field questions, they decided to limit their offer to keep you to far below what you would be worth based on performance and what you felt you could get on the open market. Then a close competitor offers you a deal that dwarfs what your former company was prepared to offer and you accept it knowing that you weren’t going to do better in your former home or anywhere else.

Then imagine having to return to the town you once worked in with your family in tow and not only do you hear taunts about the past personal problems, but your family and young children are subjected to foul mouthed attacks based on a betrayal that wasn’t a betrayal at all. Even if it was, there’s no reason for your family to bear the brunt of the vitriol.

Hamilton returned to Texas to play a series against the Rangers this weekend with his new “company” the Los Angeles Angels. His wife Katie was in the stands with their children and had to call security because nearby fans were getting “ugly” with their comments. Katie Hamilton made some comments of her own when her husband signed with the Angels to the tune of the Rangers let him “date” other people and therefore shouldn’t have been surprised that he left. Katie Hamilton was right. In retrospect, the Rangers are probably relieved that they didn’t have to pay Hamilton $100+ million and wonder whether he was going to start drinking and/or using drugs again. Add in that he’s injury prone and appeared distracted for extended periods in 2012, and it’s not as terrible an on-field loss as is being implied.

The fans feel as if Hamilton defected. Did he defect or did he take an offer from the Angels when he knew that the Rangers were ambivalent about him coming back and weren’t going to come close to matching the offer? And should the fans be offended to the point that they needed to abuse his wife?

It was a business decision and Hamilton had no choice but to take the deal. It wasn’t personal and it wasn’t a shot against Texas or their fans, but it only takes a groundswell of rhetoric to make it seem that way and for the brainless and probably somewhat beered up fans to try and get a rise out of the athlete by attacking him and his family.

Fanbases wonder why there’s no loyalty between the players and their organizations; the media laments the money-hungry athlete; there’s shock as to why players don’t choose to take less money than they can get on the open market to stay in a prior locale; why there’s the perception of being mercenaries and chasing every last dollar. In the end Hamilton didn’t do anything that you or I wouldn’t do and making it necessary for his wife to call security to ward off “fans” who were making inappropriate comments in front of her children certainly isn’t going to make the Hamiltons regret their decision to leave Texas.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2013 Baseball Guide is now available on Amazon.com, Smashwords, BN and Lulu. Check it out and read a sample.

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