The Tim Tebow Press Orgy

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Mike Francesa is the same person who relentlessly defended a ridiculous Bill Parcells decision to have Leon Johnson throw an option pass that was intercepted in the final game of the 1997 season to cost the Jets a playoff spot.

It was in that same game that Parcells did with Neil O’Donnell and Ray Lucas what the Jets are planning to do with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow by interchanging them based on the situation. Then came that idiotic option pass that was picked off.

You can read the game recap here on NYTimes.com from 12/22/1997 and see the boxscore here on Pro-Football Reference.

In the tone of an exasperated defense attorney/advocate, Francesa twisted himself into a pretzel (no small feat) to justify the Parcells decisions with: “He (Parcells) tried something and it didn’t work.”

If anyone else had done that, what would Francesa have said?

The Jets-Lions game was, for all intents and purposes, a playoff game for the Jets and Parcells botched it.

What if it were Rich Kotite? Ray Handley? Barry Switzer? Rex Ryan?

Francesa would’ve spent a month on the subject.

But it wasn’t any of those coaches. It was Parcells and objective reality was of no consequence and non-existent.

His criticisms of the current Jets have been valid, but there’s not even a hint of evenhandedness because: A) he dislikes the organization, its members and how they run things; and B) extended Jets rants help his flagging ratings.

Now it’s Tebow and the press conference that has drawn his ire.

But Tebow’s no ordinary backup.

The press conference was necessary and Tebow handled himself brilliantly.

In baseball, if you want attention you mention Tim Lincecum, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper or Alex Rodriguez; in basketball you mention Jeremy Lin; in football, you mention Tim Tebow.

Were the Jets not supposed to have a press conference?

This typhoon of lunacy is taking over the entire sports world and it doesn’t matter whether Tebow warrants the coverage or is talented enough to be accumulating this amount of press. It’s not about ability in the fame game, it’s about interest. Tebow generates interest and as long as the webhits and ratings come in when he’s the subject of the story, he’ll continue to be the subject of the story.

It’s a media firestorm with segments saying he can’t play; others saying he can. The Jets are being called a laughingstock that continually undermines their starting quarterbacks with desperation. The have a loundmouthed coach; an overmatched GM; and a meddlesome, starstruck, rich kid owner.

Bear in mind that Francesa also regularly defends Jim Dolan. Think about that.

The Jets were savaged for turning their back-to-back appearances (and losses) in AFC Championship Games as validation for their template “working”. It was that success that led to the perception that they were knocking at the door to something special and it was only a matter of time before they kicked it down. That, in part, was what gave Rex Ryan the basis to make his outrageous Super Bowl predictions. He probably would’ve made the same predictions anyway, but that’s irrelevant to the suggestion that because Sanchez won four road playoff games that the Jets shouldn’t have acquired Tebow.

Francesa referred to Tebow as a “competitive assassin” who’s going to want the starting job.

Isn’t that a good thing?

Or is Sanchez’s confidence so demolished that he has to have a clipboard backup who doesn’t want to play for his own ego not to be shattered?

The days of a quarterback being ensconced in his position because of his draft status, name recognition and fleeting success ended 20 years ago. Go up and down the league and find one that’s irreplaceable. Even the Patriots went 11-5 when Tom Brady was lost for the season and they did it with Matt Cassel who didn’t even start in college.

Increasingly, it’s become a system game. Would Joe Montana have become Joe Montana without Bill Walsh?

Tebow needs his Walsh and he needs an opportunity. If it’s not going to be given to him because of his Heisman Trophy and draft status, then he’s clearly going to try and take it.

This should be appreciated and not ridiculed.

No, Tebow currently can’t run a system, but he can do two things well: he can throw the deep ball and he can run. Is that not of any use? When he comes into the game, doesn’t the opposing defense have to prepare for a bomb or some gadget running play? Wouldn’t that make a mess of their defense? And wouldn’t a defensive whiz like Ryan know how hard that is to counteract?

There are armchair GMs, experts, draftniks and capologists on social media and the sports networks opining about every sport. Their opinions are given weight—without accountability— and it’s degenerated into a zero sum game. No matter what the Jets did with Tebow, it would’ve been wrong.

If they didn’t make a move to get him, a segment of the gallery would’ve wondered why.

If they didn’t have a press conference, the media would’ve screamed and shouted that they needed to talk to Tebow.

If the Jets moved forward with Sanchez and he struggled, it wouldn’t matter who the backup was, the fans would’ve called for the backup to get a chance to play.

The Patriots were supposedly considering drafting Tebow and might’ve had interest in him had the Jets and Jaguars not been after him—would that have been a “stupid” move by a “clown” organization? Or would it have been more geniusy geniusness from Bill Belichick for thinking outside the box?

Tebow wouldn’t have been a threat to Tom Brady because he’s Tom Brady.

He’s a threat to Mark Sanchez because he’s Mark Sanchez.

If they don’t want to have a controversy, then Sanchez has to perform.

They didn’t give up much to get Tebow; he’s garnering interest; they’re selling merchandise; and I’m not prepared to say that it’s not going to work because I don’t know. And nor do you.

He’s a backup to Sanchez—a player whom the fans don’t particularly like and is making his name on four road wins in the playoffs. It’s not an unimpeachable megastar that Tebow is competing with and he’s right to think he’s got a shot at the full-time job because Sanchez has never given anyone reason to think otherwise apart from draft status and some negligible success. If he can’t deal with this, then it’s on him and the Jets would probably have to go out and get someone else anyway. Maybe a little of what Tebow has can rub off on Sanchez or at least get him to work harder. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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Ryan “The Hebrew Hammer” Braun Wins by Split-Decision

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You’ll hear both sides debate the Ryan Braun drug test issue like the conservatives who think guilty is guilty regardless of how the evidence is gathered and liberals ranting and raving that the rights of the innocent are protected when the rights of the guilty are upheld.

Did Braun take a substance to help his performance or did he get caught using something else that wasn’t a PED, but was on the list?

It all goes back to the fine print of the rules and the clumsy, self-serving, stupid way this whole case was handled.

You can read it in detail here on NYTimes.com; briefly, here’s what it comes down to:

  • Braun took a urine test.
  • There was no nearby FedEx center open for the test administrator to drop the sample off, so he took it home and stored it in his fridge.
  • He shipped it on the next Monday.
  • There was no evidence of tampering on the sample, nor to the bag in which it had been placed.
  • Braun had elevated levels of testosterone and failed the test.
  • But then, the story was leaked.

The final bulletpoint is the key to the whole thing.

Braun had rights. Those rights were undermined. That fact has made this an important decision to stop the prevalent whispers that come out in what’s supposed to be a confidential process.

Baseball can proclaim that the revelation of the 2003 list of PED failures helped bring about a “cleaning up” of the game; that in the end, something good came out of the failure to adhere to the rights of the players who, in spite of their supposed guilt, shouldn’t have had their failed tests revealed in the first place.

The union should’ve destroyed the list and didn’t, so it’s their own fault.

But everyone—players, agents, union reps, front office people, owners and MLB executives—were either directly involved in the PED use or just let it go for their own ends.

Once the groundswell of protests at records being demolished and dwarfed, they reacted.

It’s pure marketing and pandering to customer desires: they wanted more scoring, they got more scoring; as people got angry at the overt manner of players bulking up and shattering records, baseball outlawed steroids and HGH and started testing for them.

It’s similar to the angry reactions to repeated stories on ESPN and other “sports news” outlets for continually talking about Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin regardless of whether the players warrant that level of coverage—it’s what the paying customers want.

Confronted with a public outcry and governmental intervention at activities that it both tacitly encouraged and turned a blind eye to, baseball enacted testing and levied harsh penalties for using a list of drugs that might or might not have been prototypical “performance enhancers”.

Is there a place for, “Well, he was guilty anyway so what’s the difference?”

In reality, yes, there is a place for that.

But in the legal system where Braun is part of a union and the union and regulating committee have entered into a binding agreement as to how it should be handled and Braun is vehemently voicing his innocence and won’t back down, there was no choice other than to exonerate him.

The rules of the treatment and testing program can be read here on a PDF file.

When would it end if innuendo, speculation and public response were the determinative factors in whether an individual saw his reputation and ability to make a living compromised by something that hadn’t been handled properly? If one link in the chain is corrupted, the whole thing has to be tossed out.

Braun and every player in the MLB Players Association have rights—rights that were negotiated and are legally binding.

He’s the reigning National League MVP and the validity and perception of his entire career up to now hinged on this decision. If there was any doubt as to its accuracy, he had to be found not guilty.

When the union agreed to the testing program in order to keep labor peace and “clean up” the game, there was no provision that a failed test would be out in the media five months in advance of his hearing so the player had to hide in his home and keep silent on an allegation that he denied.

Being innocent until proven guilty is relevant and if baseball is angry at someone, they should be angry at whomever decided it was a good idea to let the media know that Braun failed the test in the first place because since the other procedures—agreed to by the union—had been followed, the tipping point was that the public knew about Braun’s failed test before his appeal had been heard.

If it hadn’t been leaked, Braun would undoubtedly have lost his case.

It isn’t so much that Braun is “innocent”, it’s that people with knowledge need to keep their mouths shut. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s the person who leaked the story to begin with.

Don’t think that these dropped nuggets aren’t intentional and strategic in an attempt to preclude a player from winning a case such as this and it was the overthinking and attempts to be clever on the part of baseball that has again sabotaged their attempts to be aboveboard.

It was a circular circumstance that got Braun off.

It’s appropriate because there are few entities that are as adept at the circular firing squad as Major League Baseball.

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Jeremy Lin, Media Stereotyping and Unfunny Stupidity

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This Jeremy Lin phenomenon has been taking a dark turn with the ridiculous racial undertones that are permeating the reporting. It’s gotten so that people are double and triple checking their statements to make sure that they didn’t unintentionally or inadvertently use the wrong words and be viewed as racist or stereotyping.

The ESPN headline below from Sunday morning was foolish and probably a joke that was not intended to be published. It got someone fired from their job.

Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports said the following on Twitter:

Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.

It’s one thing to say something offensive to get yourself into trouble if it’s at least funny, but the stuff that’s coming out isn’t even remotely funny. They’re pathetic.

And here’s the thing about Lin: Lin is Asian, but he’s also an American.

He’s from Northern California, talks like he’s from Northern California, and went to Harvard. If he was a stereotypical immigrant and behaved like an over-the-top exchange student like Gedde Watanabe as Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles, then there might be something to chuckle about in the cheap humor. That doesn’t mean people wouldn’t get into trouble, but at least it might be worthy of a laugh.

But the repeated references to Lin’s ethnicity are straddling and crossing the line of taste and offensiveness for no reason. It’s said that he’s “Asian-American”, but he’s as American as any other American playing in the NBA. He just happens to have Taiwanese parents.

It’s an unnecessary distraction from a great story and there’s plenty of stupid to go around.

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What Jeremy Lin Can Teach Us

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Everyone’s jumping on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon.

Hey, even I’m doing it and I don’t know anything about basketball and can’t watch the games because of the ongoing dispute between Time Warner and MSG.

If I could, I wouldn’t know what I was watching and wouldn’t claim to.

But there are two pieces in today’s NY Times that are discussing Lin’s rise from obscurity, journeyman status, the Ivy League, bad scouting and possibly a bit of stereotyping because he’s of Asian-American descent (by way of Northern California). He’s not a prototypical basketball player who’s easy to explain with buzzwords. Those buzzwords are phrased in such a way that few are willing to dispute them because they’re so encompassing and easy to use as adjectives whether they’re meaningful or not.

In one piece, Lin’s failure to attract attention as a high school and college player is discussed—link.

In the other, Nate Silver dissects Lin statistically—link.

The mistakes that were made with Lin are common and happen not just in sports but in all endeavors.

The words “can’t” and “never been done before” are limiting and hinder those with the ability to accomplish their goals. They’re exacerbated if the individual is saddled with an absence of self-confidence or determination to keep moving forward in the face of such negativity. Because Lin continued to try and wasn’t looking for the validation of others to let him think he had a chance to succeed, he hung around and when he received his opportunity, ran with it while holding and passing and shooting a basketball—very well by the looks of things.

In baseball this happens all the time as well.

How many times have we seen a player who wasn’t considered a prospect because of ingrained beliefs that were more of a safety net than legitimate analysis?

People want to keep their jobs and a major part of that for a conventional organization is playing it safe and having an explanation for why they do what they do.

“He had a 100-mph fastball.”

“He’s a 6’3”, 190 pound righty with a clean motion and great upside.”

“He’s a tools guy.”

They’re excuses.

One of the reasons Moneyball struck such a nerve wasn’t that it seemed to work for awhile, but because the players who would’ve been shunned in the past were given an opportunity out of the A’s desperation to find players who could help them at an affordable price. What went wrong was when the concept spun out of control to mean, as a baseline, that rather than looking for players who could play, everyone was supposed to find fat players who took a lot of pitches and drew walks at the expense of other attributes.

The infamous, “not trying to sell jeans” catchphrase became part of the lexicon to explain why a player was taken and it took on the same context of the opposite “reasons” (excuses) listed above.

Old school and new school became interchangeable in stupidity, self-aggrandizement and tribalism.

Suddenly, everyone who could calculate a player’s on base percentage or strikeout rate in the minors was qualified to advise Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre on how to run their teams.

And they did.

And it didn’t go well.

It’s happened repeatedly in baseball that a player like Tim Lincecum was passed over because of his uniqueness of motion, training and diminutive stature, but became a star because there was one team—the Giants—willing to adhere to the rules laid out by Lincecum’s father and judged him by his results rather than that he’s a “freak”.

Lesser known players have benefited from this phenomenon.

Mike Jacobs isn’t a great player, but he was a non-prospect for the Mets and wound up with a decent career because he was called up as an emergency catcher in 1995, batted as a pinch hitter on a Sunday game in which the Mets were losing, hit a home run and had to have Pedro Martinez stand up for him for the Mets to keep him around rather than send him back to the minors. The Mets put him in the lineup at first base and he kept hitting home runs.

Jacobs went from a 38th round pick and “organizational filler” to a big leaguer that was the centerpiece in the Mets acquisition of Carlos Delgado from the Marlins after the 2005 season.

Jacobs hit 100 homers in his big league career and is still hanging around as an extra player who’s been in the big leagues, can hit the ball out of the park once in a while and be a competent bench player who can catch in an emergency. (He’s going to camp with the Diamondbacks on a minor league contract.)

Martinez himself had been misjudged by then-Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and the team doctors as too small and fragile to be a durable and consistent long-term starting pitcher. He was a reliever as a rookie and was traded for Delino DeShields following the 1993 season.

DeShields happened to be a good player, but he was traded for one of the best pitchers in history and that’s not his fault.

The lack of comprehension surrounding Moneyball and its subsequent offshoots isn’t that people didn’t “get” what Michael Lewis was trying to highlight, but that they took it as the new way of running a club at the expense of old-school scouting techniques and gut instincts that have to be part of the game.

Because they had a bunch of players who would be keys to a “Rocky”-style story with “There’s a Place for Us” by Barbra Streisand playing in the background as the group of misfits—one with a clubfoot (Jim Mecir); one throwing slow underarm junk (Chad Bradford); a former star on his way out (David Justice); and a former catcher who couldn’t throw and never had a chance to play (Scott Hatteberg); along with the fat players they drafted—celebrated a championship and shoved it into the faces of the big kids who never let them play.

They never won a championship, but that’s secondary to the perception and salesmanship.

Lin is getting attention now; there are going to be Lin jerseys popping up all over the place and he’s the toast of New York as an inspiration to those who are waiting for their chance and won’t quit.

He’s also going to have a lot of people who bypassed him contacting him to apologize, admit they were wrong, asking for things or hoping for Lin to say, “it’s okay, you’re not an idiot”.

But what if they are idiots? What if they are so dogmatic and invested in safety-first drafting/signing that they ignored what was right in front of their faces and are under siege because of that?

Is there a stat for scouts and executives screwing up and missing on players that could actually play, but weren’t allowed to for one reason or another?

If not, there should be one because there are Jeremy Lins everywhere waiting for someone in power to take a chance on them. There are opportunities to come up big if a team is smart or lucky or both. It all depends on who’s smart enough, gutsy enough or desperate enough to give those players that chance.

It’s random, but it counts all the same.

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