Thursday, September 17, 2009

6 comments Random Thoughts: Thursday Edition

I haven't done some random thoughts in a while so I figured I may as well go ahead and do some today. As always, hang on tight because my thoughts are going to be all over the map. There will be a little bit less dissection of articles today so feel free to jump in with any opinions you may have. I know no one here is shy.

Don't forget to update your College Football Pick' Em before Friday when the first game is played between Boise State and Fresno State. I am going to do my best to be in first place after this week, I am still recovering from my tough first week. Also, don't forget to put your lineups in for the NFL Fantasy Football League either. Just a hint, I wouldn't start Jake Del-Whom?.

-I could not find a link but those who subscribe to the latest Sports Illustrated may have read the article by Joe Posnanski about how the American League is widely considered a better league than the National League. I don't think I really want to dispute that point because I feel like in the long term the National League is an inferior league in some respects to the American League. In the World Series pretty much anything can happen, so I don't know if I believe World Series victories can be proven to show which league is superior.

An example Posnanski used was John Smoltz going from the Atlanta Braves to the Boston Red Sox and then to the St. Louis Cardinals this year. He stunk in the American League but pitched well in the National League. Really, his success in the NL can be explained because he went from the AL East, a strong division, to the NL Central which in my opinion is a weak division. I do realize he pitched against some bad teams with the Red Sox as well, but he was coming off shoulder surgery and is in his 40's. I would guess he wasn't 100% when pitching for the Red Sox. I think there were more factors than the change in leagues that caused his ineffectiveness with the Red Sox.

Examples like Smoltz this year are always used, especially for pitchers who make the change between leagues, and I am not exactly sure what to think. Some pitchers like Josh Beckett and Johan Santana have dominated in both leagues, while other pitchers, like Derek Lowe, have been above average in both leagues. Another example that is commonly used for the difference in leagues is C.C. Sabathia and how he dominated with Milwaukee last year. Again, he went to the NL Central, which I think is a weak division, plus he also dominated a certain amount in Cleveland before being traded.

What made me scratch my head in Posnanski's article is he used an example of an AL pitcher who has spent most of his career in the NL (and I can't remember who it was) and he was getting batted around by the Kansas City Royals. Posnanski used examples of players like Mike Jacobs, Willie Bloomquist, and Miguel Olivo as guys who teed off on him...inferring these are AL hitters who are batting around an NL pitcher. What sort of confuses me is that Jacobs has spent his entire career, until this year, in the National League and Olivo has bounced around between the two leagues. It's not like they were "American League" hitters who were hitting well against this inferior pitcher. These were guys who have extensive time spent in the National League, they didn't just become better hitters because they play for an American League team now.

What I am saying is what confuses me the most about the NL v. AL pitcher debate is that in this day in age players tend to play in both leagues, so whereas the AL may overall be a stronger league, there are many NL-experienced players hitting these pitchers hard as well. Mike Jacobs isn't a better hitter in Kansas City than he was in Florida, he may have better players around him (not in Kansas City of course). That's the only thing about the NL v. AL debate that misses the mark for me.

Javier Vasquez has pitched better in the National League generally in his career, but how do you explain the fact he gave up 1 run to the Red Sox this year (in the game I went to, which is how I remember it) and has pitched well against the Phillies which have an American League lineup? Sure it was only a couple of games and that is a VERY small sample size but players and sometimes I think the differences in the leagues can be overstated. I am not arguing the difference in the talent of the leagues overall, because I do believe the AL is stronger top to bottom, but I don't see how players who come from the NL to the AL become better hitters. Maybe I am missing something. Maybe I am rambling. Am I wrong in thinking the difference is overstated a little bit?

-I have had this article bookmarked for a long time. It's by Sean Deveney and I am really not criticizing it but just wondering how bad it must be to be a Knicks fan.

It has been a summer of utter frustration for the Knicks. And fans of the team should be very happy about that.

But team president Donnie Walsh entered this summer with a clear idea of what he wanted to accomplish. He wanted to be set up to get through the winter of 2009-10 without screwing up his prospects for the summer of 2010.

So basically what he is saying is the Knicks can't be trusted to sign the right players so it's a good thing no one wants to play for them because they would sign the wrong players and ruin the spending frenzy that will be the 2010 free agent class. Again, the Knicks should be glad no one wants to play for them because they will choose the wrong players anyway. I don't even know if this registers as a backhanded compliment or what it is.

It seems like every team is trying to line up for a big spending summer next summer. I know the Knicks are lining up to be a player in that, but I can't help but wonder if the draw of playing in New York is a little bit overrated...or maybe it is overrated when the Knicks don't have a good team.

The Knicks are certainly counting on combining cap space and a big-market vibe to lure free agents. Back in 2000, the Bulls found that doesn’t always work, when they were spurned by Tracy McGrady and wound up with, ahem, Ron Mercer.

I am not saying it won't happen, but I find it bizarre that Jason Kidd spurned the Knicks this off season because he doesn't want to play for them but they seem to think somehow they can lure an even bigger free agent next summer. Actually if they play their cards right, they probably could, but I just find it interesting Deveney thinks it is great the Knicks didn't sign anyone because Donnie Walsh is stupid and would only end up screwing up the team for the 2010 year. I don't necessarily see how a free agent wouldn't want to play for the Knicks this off season but next off season they would. Maybe money is the difference.

-Gregg Doyel, who I am not ashamed to admit I am beginning to start to like, thinks football is the easiest sport to learn to play. Or at least the easiest sport to take a break and then come back to play.

It must be. How else could Greg Paulus, as good as he was in high school, take four years off from football and be able to return this season as a starter in Division I college football? And he isn't merely doing it in a BCS league, which the Big East allegedly is, but at the most demanding position on the field -- which quarterback most definitely is.

I can see where Doyel is coming from here. Paulus did take four years off and then start to play football again, but he did it for Syracuse which is a program in full rebuilding mode. Would he start for 80 other D-I or even 20 Division I-AA (which is what I will still call teams like Appalachian State and Richmond) teams? Probably not. Paulus is playing pretty well this year for Syracuse but he isn't setting the world on fire, and Paulus used to be quite a good football player so it's not like he just picked the football up and learned quickly.

Chris Weinke spent six years in the minors, then came back to Florida State -- when Florida State was the top program in the country -- and won a Heisman Trophy. Josh Booty spent five years in the Florida Marlins' organization, then quit and won the starting quarterback job at LSU. Quincy Carter played professional baseball before going to Georgia and eventually making it to the NFL. Drew Henson played professional baseball after playing football at Michigan, sucked at it, then returned to football and was good enough to make a start in the NFL.

Michael Jordan was an excellent basketball player and he tried to play baseball and failed. He is an elite athlete who couldn't make the switch to baseball. Part of the reason Weinke, Booty, Carter and Henson came back to football was because they were no good at baseball. Baseball just happens to have a minor league system so guys can hang out for quite a while there, which means guys like Booty, Henson, Weinke and Carter were older and more mature (in theory) when they started in college. Maturity helps a person's chances of succeeding at the quarterback position in college.

These guys did all make it to the NFL, but they also weren't very good quarterbacks in the NFL. I would argue possibly that being a COLLEGE quarterback can be pretty easy to come back to if you have the right skill set and some experience beforehand, but to be an NFL quarterback is not an easy thing to do. It's the difference in being able to build a deck on the weekend and say that construction is the easiest job in the world and then building an entire house and finding it easy at that point. Sure, it may be easy to make the transition on the lower levels but at the higher levels it is near impossible to take time off and then be good enough. I don't know if I am confident enough to say football is the easiest sport to just pick up and play. Many football players were also basketball players and could have some measure of success again if they just stepped back on the court.

Kansas point guard Sherron Collins was a dynamic receiver in high school. Adam Dunn, sloppy as he looks, was a stud quarterback recruited by the Texas Longhorns. Dunn's teammate with the Nationals, Elijah Dukes, would have played linebacker for the North Carolina State football team if it weren't for off-field issues.

Darin Erstad was a punter for Nebraska! Does anyone know this? He has a punter's mentality!

So again, Gregg is right and he is not right. He's right that on the lower levels football is easier to pick up if a person hasn't played the sport in a while, but it can be harder on more upper levels, like the NFL. I don't know if there is an easiest sport to leave for a while and then come back and play. If I had to choose I would almost say basketball simply because tall people who are athletic enough to play another sport and have previous basketball experience can pick the game back up pretty easily I would think.

-Ok, I just want to prepare Pats fans. Don't hate me, but Peter King drives me crazy when he fawns over the Patriots and Bill Belichick.

He wrote that article after the Monday Night Football win over the Bills. I am not going to dissect it, because it not exactly bad journalism, but was there ever any doubt Peter King had a "Tom Brady is back" article ready to go? I realize it was a nationally televised game, and it was an exciting nationally televised game, but I KNEW Peter King would write an article about Tom Brady and the Patriots after the first game. Again, I don't care if they are his favorite team, I really don't and it is fine. Just don't deny it angrily in a mailbag and on Twitter, like he has done in the past, because then it just seems disingenuous.

The same Sports Illustrated that had the Joe Posnanski article in it about the National League being weaker than the American League also featured a sidebar story about Bill Belichick, by guess who...Peter King, where he fawned over Bill Belichick and the personnel moves he has made recently to get draft picks. The story was mostly focused on the Richard Seymour trade, and Belichick HAS made some shrewd moves to help the Patriots team in the draft, but this level of fawning and attention on the genius of Belichick by Peter King is bordering on Brett Favreian levels at times.

-Jay Mariotti, the original hack writer's hack, thinks that Serena Williams' legacy is forever marred.

Turns out the angel has fangs. Can we ever look at her the same way again? With one malicious, threatening, swaggering, finger-pointing, racket-waving, f-bombing tantrum, Serena Williams took a sword to her legacy and did irretrievable damage.

Serena was out of line, there is no doubt about that, but how many times has John McEnroe or Jimmy Connors pitched a fit on the tennis court? Their legacy was in some ways enhanced by these tantrums. Serena was scary but really the line judge should never have made that call in my mind.

Tennis is not baseball. It's a dignified game that allows officials to be questioned but never exposed to hostile words, not that any referee in any sport ever should be. John McEnroe suffered a permanent smudge on his legacy because he acted like a boor on the court, but even he never said he'd like to "kill" a linesman.

A permanent smudge being that he is considered one of the best tennis players of his era, gets endorsements because of his legacy of having a temper and now is the lead analyst for nearly every major tennis tournament? A lot of players wish they had that smudge.

Also, I am 90% sure Serena never threated to "kill" the linesman. Let's just make things up shall we?

It's difficult to determine on the TV replay if she used he word "kill," but officials and fans within earshot at Arthur Ashe Stadium said she indeed did.

I wasn't there and didn't hear what Serena said, but witnesses and many other people have claimed to see Bigfoot, aliens and many other fictional/non-fictional characters. That doesn't mean they are necessarily real. Witnesses are reliably unreliable.

Rarely have we seen a premier athlete crash and burn so quickly, so shockingly.

Let's use some hyperbole why don't we? It's very rare for a premier athlete to ever crash and burn quickly, so I guess in some way this sentence is correct. Serena had a major blowup in a crucial point of a Semi-Finals match for the right to make the US Open Finals...when the linesman made a completely borderline foot fault call to bring the match to Match Point. As I said earlier this week, I would be beyond livid if this were called against me.

People think I am crazy because I don't like Roger Federer and I don't like Serena Williams. I think they both, in their own way, can be bad sports and refuse to give their competitors the proper credit that person deserves. In this case, I don't condone what Serena did, but I can actually understand what would make her that angry. Most of all, here legacy is not forever marred.

Serena's backers say we'd be giving breaks to male players who've thrown tirades, from McEnroe's screaming rants to Jimmy Connors' wagging finger to Andre Agassi firing a serve at a Wimbledon lineswoman and wondering about her sex life. Did any of them threaten to kill a line judge?

Did Serena threaten to kill a line judge? We don't know, so this is pure conjecture at this point. I like how Mariotti separates anyone who disagrees with him into "Serena backers," like it is all black and white. You are with him or not with him. This is what makes him one of the most unpopular writers in America today, his ability to create a "me against the world" attitude.

Serena may have some PR work to do but her legacy is in no way marred by one incident on the court like this. I think her previous accomplishments overshadow this incident.

-I was watching the end of the Angels-Red Sox game last night and I saw the two borderline non-strike calls to Nick Green. The check swing looked like it could have been a strike and I definitely thought the pitch that walked the run in was a strike. There was no doubt in my mind. That being said, I don't like whining.

That left Fuentes wondering aloud whether the umpires were too “timid” or “scared” to go against the sellout crowds at Fenway.

I thought those were two straight bad calls as well. Of course Fuentes would not have had to worry about walking a run in if he had not walked Ortiz and given up two (semi-lucky) infield hits after that. Fuentes was also the guy who gave up the game winning hit after going 0-2 on Alex Gonzalez, so the loss was his fault as well. Bad calls suck, but they do happen. You have to deal with them.

“I’ve heard it from other guys that come in here and say that. That’s either because it’s a mistake, or they’re scared.”

Maybe that's true and maybe it is not. I don't really know. I know there used to be talk the Atlanta Braves pitchers got a few extra inches off either side of the plate, which may or may not have been true. I do find it ironic the most famous "questionable home plate umpire strike zone" involved a situation where the Atlanta Braves were hurt by Eric Gregg in the 1997 NLCS where he gave Livian Hernandez about a foot on either side of the plate as a strike. Yes, it still pisses me off but I am over it now.

My point is this. Maybe the umpires are scared to call strikes, I don't know why they would be, it's not like the crowd will rush the field and murder them. They will just yell expletives like they always do. It doesn't really matter because if Fuentes had gotten either of the three batters before Nick Green out, the Angels would not have lost the game. Blame the umpire all you want for those calls, at least one was a bad call, but blame yourself for being in that situation and not having the guts to get Alex Gonzalez out afterwards. He sabotaged himself at that point. You are a professional and get paid a lot of money, put it behind you and get the next guy out.

I think we are lining up for a Red Sox-Yankees ALCS again this year. The Angels are probably going to meet the Red Sox in the first round and will undoubtedly get swept because they are too busy whining and not focused enough on closing baseball games out.

-There is no excuse for Bill Plaschke's writing. Absolutely none.

Every week he writes a new puff piece. First it was about the old scout who had cancer and couldn't scout very well, then it was Juan Pierre and now it is Joe Torre's bench coach.

I will make you all suffer with some of my favorite samples from the column.

The Dodgers bench coach has been more than just the guy with the fungo bat and stopwatch and sweaty sleeve from throwing a basket of balls.

He has been the guy mowing the grass, spreading the lime, working the hose; the guy with the rake, the shovel, the strain.

He has been the guy taking tickets, selling snacks, peddling advertisements, sweeping the floor, guarding the door.

Thirteen paragraphs into this story, you might still be saying, "Who?"

But not Manager Joe Torre, who often leans into Schaefer's ear and whispers, "How?"

I will pay $50 to anyone who can convince me these last two "paragraphs" are examples of fine journalism. These aren't even paragraphs, they are sentences.

No Dodgers coach is more in the middle of the game. Yet, no Dodgers coach is more of an outsider.

It's only a joke that he's not allowed inside the stadium without ID -- or is it?

"I always keep my field pass with me," he says. "You never know."

Like Torre, he believes in statistics; but he also believes in instincts.

"Statistics are one-dimensional, I also need to look in a guy's eyes," he says. "Around here, we believe that sometimes you can find the answer in a guy's eyes."

I wonder if his instincts tell him Juan Pierre is not a starting outfielder in the major leagues. That could start an argument between him and Plaschke.

Schaefer just shrugs again and smiles, saying nothing, saying everything. The Joe Whisperer.

For lack of a better word this article is crap. I would expect nothing more from Bill Plaschke. There are many unemployed writers in the United States right now and this man is still holding down a job. It's beyond unfair.


AJ said...

The bottom line is who the best team know what the most overrated thing is, people saying one league is better then the other league. Like the Western Con is better then the Easter in the NBA. The AFC better then the NFC...the AL better then the NL...the SEC better then everyone else, including the NFC West.

Remind me again who won the WS last year?

It doesn't matter what league/conferance/divison is the best, all that matters is what team wins in the end.

And I agree, Serena's legacy is not tarnished because of this past US Open...I mean it's already been tarnished. She is a whinny brat who thinks she deserves every single call and thinks she deserves to win every match. She will forever be remembered as a poor sport and not a great champion, and not just because of this past weekend.

Oh....King thinks the Lions will win this weekend, as does eveyrone on the radio around here. Man people are stupid. They think we can contain AP. Ya, just like they contained Brees last week (or Mike Bell...repeat, MIKE BELL). AP will have 400 yards rushing, 8 TD's, and he won't even play the 4th quarter. Lions fans are so funny.

Bengoodfella said...

That is exactly right, it is a sort of stupid argument to make because it doesn't matter in the end. Sure the World Series is a small sample size but it does determine the final winner. I just think in this day in age it is hard to tell if a pitcher struggles because he is in the AL/NL because there are players who have played in both leagues on most teams.

Serena is a whiner and I don't like her that much. I have always thought she is a poor sport because she never gives the competition credit for what they have done to beat her. That being said, I would have probably flipped out too when the line call was made.

I don't know if the Lions win this weekend. That's an easy call for me. I don't know if anyone can stop Peterson. Your numbers are hopefully exaggerated because I am pretty sure I play Peterson in one league this week.

KentAllard said...

In all the examples Doyel gives, as far as I can remember without actually exerting effort to find out, the players came to big name programs that had a hole at quarterback. And Paulus didn't exactly drive a Heisman trophy contender to the bench at Syracuse.

As far as his list of pro athletes who were good at football at an amateur level, I would imagine almost all who have the skill to make it to the top in any pro sport were pretty good at anything else they tried athletically as a kid, even the ones who seem relatively clumsy. Years ago, I remember reading an article somewhere where the writer surveyed some of the weakest hitting pitchers in the majors at the time, and over 90% of them hit cleanup in high school, so pro athletes tend to excel. Kirk Gibson would be an example of a guy who was probably a little more famous as a football player in college, then became a star in MLB.

Bengoodfella said...

That's a good point. Many of those players came to good teams that had NFL caliber talent around the QB. Not that it makes a huge difference but it certainly helps to have an older QB with a team that has good players around him.

I think you are right in that an athlete who made the pros probably had talent at another sport as well. Many guys and girls have to choose a sport at a young age to focus on, which makes guy who can do both more rare. Tim Hudson won some slugger award at Auburn in college and he clearly is a pitcher in the major leagues. I would believe that survey was correct. In regards to football, athletic skill can take you pretty far, though many have problems succeeding in the pros if they haven't focused on football their entire life.

Kirk Gibson is a good example of a player who did that. Really, I don't think football is necessarily any easier to learn, it just happens more guys have gone from baseball to football.

Anonymous said...

Being a NYK fan is worse than being a NYM fan, believe it or not. It's better now that Isiah is gone, I promise you that. Walsh has actually been decent and while I doubt he'll get LeBron or Wade I do think they'll wind up with Bosh. That kinda makes the AZ draft pick this year questionable, especially after Frye a few years back but whatever.

The NYK are the ONE team that can unite NY. When they're good, it's better than any of the other teams having success.

Bengoodfella said...

I can believe being a NYK fan is worse than being a NYM fan. I don't know who they will get this offseason but Bosh will probably be the fallback and I didn't like the Jordan Hill pick at the time and I really don't like it if that happens.

Of course I don't really know why a lot of these NBA teams pick players like they do, so what do I know?