Friday, September 25, 2009

2 comments Friday Bad Sportswriting Musings

I have bad news for everyone today. You will have to deal with me and my epic drivel today, you don't have any of Fred's more exciting columns to read today. He is probably driving his brand new Camaro around town right now avoiding the cops and running red lights...though the Smokey and the Bandit reference he made yesterday caught me a little off guard because I thought that was just a Southern thing (even though I have never seen any of the movies). Regardless, I have small tidbits of journalistic non-excellence for today which will shock and awe you with their non-excellence.

I am going to try and top Jim Rice taking one look at one start Zack Greinke made and then pronounce him not that impressive, but I will try. Joe Posnanski got the article sent to him by many people, including by Chris W, and it seemed like he was going to take a shot at the article that Fred took on yesterday and it eventually led to this posting, which isn't a tearing apart of the Jim Rice article but a discussion on why statistics are useful and observation is not always as useful. Leave to Joe Posnanski when given the opportunity to rail Jim Rice for his ignorance he uses a calmer and eventually more persuasive tone that gets his point across better. I wish I could teach him a lesson in writing run-on sentences with curse words that eventually negates the original point with it's angry tone, but I think he likes how he writes just fine.

The Jim Rice article even got to NBCSports but Fred didn't get a hat-tip there unfortunately, which I really wouldn't expect him to anyway. This is the only way we are going to be able to defeat the ignorance of baseball guys like Joe Morgan and Jim Rice who use observation to make assumptions and conclusions about today's players, and that way is to use actual facts and reality to point out when they are wrong. Judging players on observation isn't near as useful as guys like Joe Morgan and Jim Rice would have you believe. In this non-official war against observational judging of players articles like Jim Rice are reason #1 I think watching one game a player is in and giving an opinion on that player is journalistic malpractice.

This is your weekly reminder to put your College Football Picks in before noon on Saturday and to update your Fantasy Football rosters.

-Those who read this blog regularly know that I hate lists which list "breakout stars" and "surprise players" for the upcoming or current season because these lists usually involve players who have already broken out or are just late bloomers. This list by Peter King BFF Donnie (Brasco) Banks is no exception.

Nothing against Mark Sanchez, because New York's rookie quarterback has been everything the Jets hoped for and more, but when you go fifth overall in the draft, the bar of expectation is set ridiculously high.

Great, we are starting this column off with a premise I can agree with Donnie Banks on. This is wonderful news...but we know I would never cover this article if our bliss lasted. Unexpected impact players should NOT count players taken in the 1st 3 rounds of the NFL Draft. You draft players that high because you think they can make an impact, so any impact they make should not be a surprise. That's my stance and it seems to be a semi-stance Donnie Banks takes too. Except he doesn't...his cut off for "impact players" is apparently the #5 pick in the draft. Anyone after that point can be a surprise impact player in his opinion.

The more intriguing story through the first two weeks of the NFL's 2009 season is how much early impact teams are getting from the most unlikely of sources.

Cue him now making a list that includes 1st round draft picks...

3. Cincinnati defensive end Antwan Odom

He was drafted in the second round and had 11 sacks over the last two years. Did no one expect him to get 5 sacks this past weekend? Of course not, but he was drafted in the second round and he wasn't exactly a scrub over the last couple seasons for the Tennessee Titans. There is a reason, beyond the fact pass rushers are a premium in the NFL, he got a $20+ million dollar contract this offseason and that reason is he has potential.

4. Oakland safety Michael Huff

He was drafted #7 in the 2006 NFL Draft. He is a surprise impact player because he has sucked the first couple years of his career. I don't see how it should work that he set the bar so low, when he is finally coming close to the expectations of where he was drafted he gets credit for achieving anything.

So if Mark Sanchez was drafted too high to put on this list, how the hell was Huff not drafted too high to be on this list?

Just because he has previously stunk doesn't mean the point when he stops stinking should make him a surprise impact player. He should be excluded from this list just because he stunk his first couple of years in the #7 in the draft you should be an impact player from Year 1 or at least Year 2 and it should be expected.

This year? Completely different story, and a different player so far. Through two games, Huff has been a play-making machine for Oakland, picking off an NFL-leading three passes and recovering a fumble.

Another bone I have to pick is that it has been two whole games since the season started. I know it is fun to make lists based on small sample sizes but couldn't we wait until Week 4 at least to talk about impact players? That way we get a larger sample size of what these impact players have done instead of basing their impact on 12.5% of the season being played.

7. St. Louis middle linebacker James Laurinaitis

He was a 2nd round pick in the 2009 draft. How the hell does the guy who is a 2nd round pick in the 2009 draft and a 3 times All-American in college count as impact player? There was talk he could have been a Top 10 pick before his senior year at Ohio State. Players drafted in the top half of the draft should be impact players, especially when they are drafted by a team like the Rams who frankly are so horrible pretty much anyone could make an impact with that team.

It took about 30 seconds for Laurinaitis to win the starting middle linebacker job in training camp, and the second-round pick from Ohio State has taken charge ever since.

So it is a surprise he is making such an impact because he has pretty much held the position down the entire training camp? I don't think a player who outright wins a position on a team as a rookie in training camp can necessarily be considered a surprise in any fashion. If he didn't win the job and then played well in the regular season, then maybe...but Laurinaitis is still a 2nd round pick and he won the starting middle linebacker job because he is a good's not a surprise he is making an impact.

8. Seattle defensive end Lawrence Jackson

This must be the same Lawrence Jackson who was a first round pick in 2008. Again, as a first round pick in his second year I don't really know how he can count as a surprise impact player.

Jackson is healthy after a preseason shoulder injury, and like a lot of young defensive linemen, is seen as a potential late bloomer whose second season might look nothing like his first (Houston defensive end Mario Williams being a prime example).

So a lot of young defensive lineman improve a lot in their second season? Again, how is Jackson's improvement a surprise then if it was expected that he could improve in his second season? What a good way to sort of undermine the purpose of the article by pointing out second year defensive lineman sometimes have much better years in their second season than their first. I don't give a shit if he didn't make an impact last year (though he did play in every game), he is a first round pick, he should be making an impact on the team.

9. Minnesota outside linebacker Chad Greenway

Hey look! Another first round draft pick "surprise." I feel like this list has been full of these. I thought Don Banks said Mark Sanchez didn't count because he was a first round draft pick...or does he not count because he is Mark Sanchez and we all knew he would be the second coming off Joe Montana, just dreamier? Chad Greenway is an egregious example on this list because he has had two good seasons prior to this one.

This surprise player had a stat line that looks like this:

2007: 105 tackles and 2 INTs

2008: 115 tackles and 5.5 sacks

What a (non) shocking guy to play well this year. Considering he currently has 8 tackles and 2 INTs he is actually behind his usual pace to match those tackles numbers. He was a good linebacker the past two years, so besides being a first round pick, I don't know how he is a surprise impact player this year.

10. New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan

The guy helped run one of the best defenses in the NFL over the past couple of seasons. He was hired as a head coach in the NFL. I am pretty sure the Jets were hoping for this type of impact from it has only been two games and other teams haven't been able to scout his team's tendencies yet. Give it some time before we crown his ass.

I hate articles like this, they always drive me crazy. You can't have 1st and 2nd round picks be surprise impact players.

-Mark Kriegel who writes a column called "On the Mark" (Get it?????????) is ironically off the mark here. He thinks the Patriots are D-O-N-E. It's over Patriots fans, your dynasty has ended because you haven't blown teams out in 2 straight games.

The Jets beat the Patriots in the second week of the season, and all of a sudden everybody in New York has them penciled in for the Super Bowl.

How absurd! Who would overreact to the first two games of the NFL season enough to say the Jets are going to make the Super Bowl? That's just dumb to assume the Jets are going to be good. Who would be so dumb as to think they can predict a team's entire season based on two games? Certainly not the guy who is writing an article writing off the Patriots after two games into the NFL season, that's who.

Yeah, I know. They have a new coach, a new defense, a new quarterback. They look good. They may even be good. But until further notice, they're the same old Jets, which is to say, prematurely praised.

Using this exact same logic, then we could say the Patriots are being prematurely buried. I can't help but wonder how Mark Kriegel can't think of the inherent contradiction in complaining the Jets are overpraised because they have looked good in two games of this year but usually choke at the end of the year and then saying the Patriots are done because they looked bad in two games of this year, even though they have a recent history of making the playoffs by the end of the year. It has to occur to him this doesn't make sense.

It occurs to me that I knock TMQ for second guessing and nitpicking head coaches and I have an entire blog that sometimes nitpicks sportswriters. Maybe he embraces the contradiction like I do...somehow I believe it just doesn't occur to him.

Rather, what happened Sunday at the Meadowlands says less about the Jets than the Patriots, who were lucky to get by the Buffalo Bills on the first Monday night of the season.

So the Patriots are not that good and the Jets look good because they played the Patriots. The Jets started off the year beating the Houston Texans and last week Houston went to Tennessee and beat the Tennessee Titans. I don't want to say the Jets are going to win the Super Bowl, but they beat the Texans who beat the Titans, who had the best record in the AFC last year. Not that this should mean much, but it at least gives us an indication the Jets may be a good team.

Therefore I would use this information to say the Jets are a good team, so the Patriots lost to a good team and may not be a bad team. We will know more, you know, as more games are actually freaking played this season. Even though no one seems to want to wait for the rest of the year to finish before all conclusions about how good every team is have been made. If it were up to sportswriters all of the postseason accolades like NFC/AFC Offensive/Defensive Rookie of the Year and MVP would be voted on after a couple games into the season and the Super Bowl would happen after Week 4. It sure seems that sportswriters would like this because they love to jump to conclusions very early in the year.

Bill Belichick -- as evidenced by his hilariously rude inability to acknowledge rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez after the game -- will only get meaner.

Being mean has absolutely nothing to do with winning football games. The Patriots do not win football games at an inverse rate with how mean Bill Belichick can be to others.

And barring cataclysmic injuries, his Patriots will get better. But they'll never be what they were.

This is just a dumb premise. "What they once were" is the best team of the 2000's, so they will never be the best team of this decade (I don't like judging things like this by the way) again. Will they be Super Bowl Champs ever again? I think it is a bit early to say no. So the Patriots very well could be what they once were again, which is Super Bowl champs. I hate defending the Patriots since they have broken my heart in the past but the truth is the truth.

Maybe now you know why Belichick ran off the field with a second still on the clock against the Giants in Arizona. I'd say he already understood what's taken everybody else so long to comprehend, that the 2007 Patriots would go down as the best team never to win a Super Bowl.

At that point I don't think Belichick cared if the Patriots were 10-6 during the season. They had made the Super Bowl and lost it in heartbreaking fashion. I would think that would be foremost on his mind at that point.

In fact, Ryan's defense looks to be doing wonders for the Jets and their self-esteem. But it's not as if Brady and the Patriots had never seen it before. But they had not seen the Ryan defense with the personnel the Jets have. In the 12th game of their undefeated regular season, the Patriots went on the road to play the Baltimore Ravens, its defense also coached by Ryan. To that point, it was New England's toughest test of the season, as Brady had to come from behind to win, throwing his 41st touchdown of the season to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left.

Way to completely undermine your original point that the Patriots were on a decline by mentioning the best team the Patriots ever fielded during the regular season had the same problem with the Rex Ryan defense the 2009 Patriots saw on Sunday. If the 18-1 2007 Patriots had trouble with the Rex Ryan defense then it may not be a sign of trouble the 2009 Patriot team lost to a Rex Ryan defense.

Sanchez was 11-for-17 with a touchdown in the second half. Brady threw 24 incompletions, more than the Jets attempted the entire game.

Statistics that are meaningless are fun to quote!

On offense, they're relying on old guys at the skill positions. Sammy Morris is 32. Kevin Faulk is 33. Fred Taylor will be 34 in January. Joey Galloway turns 38 in November. Their best days are behind them.

This may very well be true, but not for the reasons Mark Kriegel just cited and not because they are 1-1 right now and don't look impressive. Apparently Tom Brady doesn't get a period of struggling to get back in the flow of the game as he gets back from having major knee surgery.

Knees that are torn up like that sometimes take 2 whole years to completely recover from, could that be the case here...or are the Patriots really old and on the decline? From a 18-1 season they really nowhere to go but down, but I don't think the evidence for the decline is a bad game against the Jets.

If you want another article that argues poorly that the Patriots, and mostly Tom Brady, are done, check out this article that was linked by Go in the comments yesterday.

Apparently writing off the Patriots is the cool thing to do this week if you are a journalist. Last week the cool thing was to make fun of Jake Delhomme and you haven't seen a whole lot of articles talking about him since he played decently Sunday. The same thing could very happen this week if the Patriots beat the Falcons. Sportswriters tend to shut up once they have been even semi-proven incorrect.

-It disgusts me what is happening with me and my opinion of Gregg Doyel. I actually am starting to believe he is making some good points in 1 out of the 4 articles he writes every week...and this is the one for this week.

I don't want to copy everything I agree with but here is the premise for the article:

Cal was unranked. The Trojans were No. 3. That was the first of six losses to unranked Pac-10 teams the Trojans have suffered under Carroll, a trend that continued Saturday when No. 3 USC lost to Washington. Given how good USC has been under Carroll, that's a staggering number of losses to unranked teams.

Still, Carroll usually gets a pass from critics. He's a great coach. Almost everyone says so.

Meanwhile, at Ohio State, Tressel gets no such free pass. His teams mangle the teams they're supposed to mangle, but the Buckeyes have lost six consecutive games to opponents ranked in the top five, and the country laughs while the locals cry. Just last week, after Tressel's Buckeyes lost to Carroll's top five Trojans, OSU fans dumped their misery into Tressel's e-mail account, causing Tressel to mock them as being "already miserable ... there's no way they're happy."

He is saying that Jim Tressel is a better head coach because he beats the teams he is supposed to beat, while Pete Carroll's teams don't always do that. He thinks Tressel maximizes the talent he has, while Pete Carroll doesn't. This comes awful close to saying Pete Carroll has underachieved at USC (which is what dumbass Mike Lupica said), but it doesn't quite go there. It just recognizes the difference in the talent levels of each roster and what each coach is able to do with that talent level on his roster.

I think the two coaches are so close there is an argument to be made both ways, but it make sense to me to argue Tressel is a better head coach than Pete Carroll using this logic. Read the article and see if you disagree.

It boils down to which characteristic would you rather have in your favorite college football team...would you rather have your favorite team lose to unranked opponents on the road and win the bigger games or lose the bigger games and beat all the teams they are supposed to beat? I think Jim Tressel is getting a lot of crap for losing games when he shouldn't be. I know it is frustrating for OSU fans because OSU plays well and then loses big games. Pete Carroll does get taken off the hook a little bit. Most people have blamed Aaron Corp for the loss to Washington this past weekend and not blamed Carroll for not having his team ready to play.

-There was a college football pollster who ranked the teams in his weekly Top 25 based on what they had actually done so far this year so far. I actually really like that idea. The preseason rankings are plain bull crap because those voting are just guessing at what they think the teams will do this year. It can be hard to rank these teams fairly but if the sportswriters can't think of a better system than the one they have now for preseason rankings, and they don't like the idea of actually voting for teams based on what they actually have done during the college football season, then I think Top 25 voting should start in Week 5 when we actually know how good the teams are. I think the same should go for college basketball. Preseason Top 25 lists are pretty much guesses that don't really serve a purpose other than to let a school's fans brag about how high that school is in the rankings. Why rank teams when you don't know how good they really are?

For example, Ol' Miss finally played a good team last night on the road.........and they lost. How the hell were they the #4 team in the country? If we ranked teams on what they have actually done or at least wait a couple of weeks to rank the teams then I think it would be slightly more fair and teams will be ranked based on their performance and not a sportswriter's perception of how good that team should be before the season.

Maybe Bill Simmons will write something super controversial today...either way, I am catching up with him in my own personal Pick 'Em war with him. He is currently blowing me away.


KentAllard said...

King & Simmons have pushed me in the anti-Belichick direction, but articles about how Belichik snubbed this player, cut the post-game handshake short, etc. are just galling. Maybe he is the biggest dick in the history of the universe, but why would the Patriots care? They pay him to win games, and he's done a good job of that. The Lions coach last year was, I'm told, a nice guy, and look what that got him.

Bengoodfella said...

I don't care how nice Belichick is or who he is friends with and the Patriots shouldn't really care either. Obviously he is a dick to everyone but as long as the team continues winning there shouldn't be a problem.

If he is burning bridges among other guys in the NFL, that's his deal. You can't be completely nice and still succeed in the NFL.