Monday, October 31, 2011

9 comments Tim Keown Is Tired of All These Foreigners Taking Our Jobs

Tim Keown has had enough. American-born players have a ton of opportunities to be developed and play the game of baseball as they are growing up, yet Hispanic players are prevalent in the majors. What can be done to combat this? At least I think that's what he is saying...or maybe he isn't. It is an interesting dynamic put forth here. Tim Keown says American-born players are "bred" to play baseball and given many opportunities to excel, but then complains foreign-born players are surpassing many American-born baseball players in terms of skill.

You would think the problem would be reversed, at least I would think this. I would think the American-born players populate MLB rosters because they are given more opportunities, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Then, Tim Keown comes to the conclusion America isn't going to stand for this much longer and will want to deport (I assume that is what would happen) foreign-born players. This article is quite the rollercoaster and I am still trying to get my mind around it. I'm not sure if it is racist, calling for quotas in MLB, or highlighting a potential social issue.

A question occurred Monday around the time Juan Cruz was pitching to Nelson Cruz, which was a half-inning after Alexi Ogando got the Rangers out of a seventh-inning jam and one inning before Neftali Feliz came in to close out the Rays.

Is this before or after Josh Hamilton hit a home run off Matt Moore and drove in Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli, at which point the Rays then brought Kyle Farnsworth in the game as a relief pitcher?

The question was this: Do young American baseball players understand what they're up against?

Up against? I've always felt MLB was one of the most diverse sports and it was made better for it. I don't know where the hell all the players from my favorite team are from and frankly I don't really care. It doesn't matter to me because in baseball it is a matter of the best players being on the team without having to be recognized as a white, black, Dominican, Japanese or American baseball player. So this "up against" crap doesn't really cut it for me because I don't see it as an American v. Foreigner (not the band) issue simply because MLB is fortunate to be so global.

American baseball players probably have the financial advantage over many foreign-born players, so I am not concerned foreign-born players end up surpassing some American-born players in terms of skill.

Every year, hundreds of American college and high school players sign contracts and head out to go to work in the minor leagues. They show up and find the world doesn't look quite the same. Amateur baseball in this country -- especially college baseball -- could be mistaken for a country-club sport.

Foreigners are taking our jobs! They took 'er jobs!

So let me get this straight. I'm supposed to feel bad for the American-born players who suddenly have to be mixed with foreign-born players in the minor leagues? It is a bad thing there are talented players not born in the United States? I don't understand the issue here. Yes, the American amateur baseball circuit probably doesn't contain as much diversity as the minor league systems do. Is this a call for more diversity at the amateur level in America or is this a call for less diversity in the minors?

America is an incredibly diverse country so I would imagine the presence of Hispanic-born players wouldn't shock the American-born players all that much. Even if it did, the idea Hispanic-born players have superior skills doesn't make me worry about these American-born players losing their jobs. If you can play, you can play.

There are shockingly few minorities and not even much in the way of socio-economic diversity. It's an upper-middle-class world, fueled by expensive travel teams, private coaches and the best suburban high schools.

So do these people don't know they will later be up against minorities from a lower-to-middle-class world without the budget for the best baseball-related amenities? I am supposed to worry about this?

In 2006, there were just 24 black players in the SEC, a conference that includes eight states with a black population of more than 25 percent.

I thought we were talking about foreign-born players coming into the minors, not minority players from the United States? Tim Keown does realize the 24 black players in the SEC are not all foreign-born I would hope. I would also really hope an American-born player wouldn’t be thrown off by having a black teammate once he reaches the minors.

I think you can see my confusion about what this article is supposed to be discussing. The title is about Hispanic baseball players and now we are discussing African-American baseball players...but only briefly and then immediately stop discussing this topic and move on to illegal immigration in Arizona and Alabama.

Baseball has become less enticing to African-Americans, a fact attributable either to diminished opportunity (expense/infrastructure/support/coaching) or the allure of other pursuits (basketball/football). College baseball is by far America's most underrated and under-covered sport, but the racial makeup of participants is no different from women's soccer. Players are often groomed more than developed.

What’s weird about this sudden diversion into the discussion of African-Americans in the majors is this is the last we hear of it in this column. It just sort of gets thrown out there and then disappears again, never to be discussed again.

Kids from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela -- to name two countries whose players are exempt from the amateur draft -- show up in droves with little cultural assimilation but a ton of baseball savvy.

So these American-born players are being bred to play the game of baseball and then are being surpassed by a group that have less money and less opportunity to develop their baseball skills, yet have a ton of baseball savvy? Clearly, this needs to change. Those foreign-born players need to go back home so MLB and the minor leagues can cater to those American-born players who have had greater opportunities to develop their skills don’t have to compete on a level playing field for a chance to get a starting spot on a team.

Major league teams have invested heavily in player development in the DR and other Latin countries, and you can watch that investment pay off in the postseason. It's no coincidence that organizations with some of the best Latin scouting and development systems (Rangers, Yankees, Diamondbacks) are still playing.

Yes, it would make logical sense for the teams that look for talent in a wider pool of talent would have better teams.

This season, 27 percent of major league players and more than 42 percent (conservatively) of minor league players are Hispanic. Which raises an uncomfortable but inevitable question:

Does this really matter?

Is baseball too Hispanic?

How is this an inevitable question? Is the NBA too African-American? Is the NHL too white and foreign-born? I just don’t get how this is an inevitable question at all or why baseball being too Hispanic really matters.

It's a sentiment that occupies a quiet but steady undercurrent throughout the game. How else to explain radioman Tony Bruno's decision to use Twitter -- a technology that sits poised and ready to ruin careers -- to call Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez an "illegal alien" after Ramirez sparked an August fight with the Phillies by hitting Shane Victorino?

You could also explain it by saying Tony Bruno was an idiot for saying this. I don’t know if this one action proves an undercurrent of thought that baseball is too Hispanic.

Keown uses this incident as proof of the undercurrent of thought and doesn’t think about how Bruno called Ramirez an “illegal alien” for hitting a player who isn’t even your typical American-born player. Victorino is from Hawaii, but he has Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese descent as well. His last name is Portuguese and I would bet if you didn't know Victorino's background you would have trouble knowing he was American-born. So Bruno wasn’t really defending your typical American-born player and was mostly just being an asshole.

Bruno's quickly deleted tweet is a byproduct of a small-minded mentality that good old American ballplayers are getting squeezed out by Latin players.

I am not sure if the fans really feel this way. Maybe I’m wrong. I am not sure baseball fans truly care if American ballplayers are getting squeezed out by Hispanic (or Latin as Tim calls them here) players. Maybe there is a small undercurrent angry about how foreign-born players are taking American-born players jobs. It's a small undercurrent and doesn't reflect reality or the majority.

Let’s also ignore that the words “Hispanic” and “Latin” really can’t accurately be used interchangeably.

I was sitting at a high school baseball summer event a couple of months ago when one dad -- a former big leaguer -- waved his hand toward the field and said, "You watch a big league game, see all the Latins and wonder, 'Do any of these kids have a chance?'"

So does Tim Keown just randomly show up at high school baseball games he isn’t responsible for covering for ESPN?

someone else half-jokingly suggested that MLB might want to adopt a limited-foreigner rule similar to those in European professional basketball leagues.

I can understand the frustration of having your child squeezed out in the minor leagues by a superior player who didn’t spend a ton of money on traveling baseball teams, but that’s life. I’m not sure I could support a limited-foreigner rule in MLB. It seems contradictory to the world-wide view I prefer to see the sport take.

The stories of the kids who arrive from the Dominican after playing years with a milk-carton glove and a tree-branch bat are dissolving into folklore. They might start out that way, but, as soon as they show promise, they're funneled into academies that are run like schools and funded by agents, scouts and coaches.

Why is this necessarily a bad thing if the kid wants to play baseball professionally? How is this incredibly different from American-born players on the amateur circut? Because these foreign-born players may be poor and they may not eventually achieve their dream of playing in the majors? This same potential for failure goes for the American-born players on the amateur circuit. America has a way of cultivating amateur players and so does the Dominican. Does Tim think these players are being taken advantage of? Couldn't the argument be the American-born players in the amateur circuit are the ones being taken advantage of by their parents and are not being properly prepared for competition as the skill level of the competition increases? I say this because, as Tim has stated in this very column, foreign-born players are increasing in number in the majors.

I guess I don’t see why the academies are a bad thing. Wasn’t Tim just saying American-born players are on teams and travel around the country playing baseball to cultivate their skills? I don’t see why Hispanic players can’t join academies and do the same. Like everything else in the world, I am sure there is dirty business that goes on, but this really has very little to do with the topic at hand…which if you don’t recall is, “Are there too many Hispanic players in baseball?”

There is an emphasis on training and instruction, but very few (if any) games.

Well clearly they aren’t getting their money’s worth out of these free academies if they are only receiving training and instruction.

The most funhouse-mirror example of the phenomenon came in 2008, when 16-year-old, 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher Michael Ynoa signed with the A's for a $4.25 million signing bonus. Ynoa had all the qualities scouts covet -- size, projectability, a plus-90 fastball -- but the most eye-popping aspect of Ynoa's signing wasn't the money or even Ynoa's age. It was this: A product of the academy system, Ynoa had never thrown a pitch in a game.

It is a bit weird he had not pitched in a game yet, but he is 16 years old and if the A’s were convinced enough by watching him pitch, then learning to pitch is the next step for him.

(So far, the A's have gotten just three minor league starts out of Ynoa, who had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2011 season. He's still only 20.)

This a very passive-aggressive way of saying the A’s didn’t spend their money wisely. There is a part Tim Keown leaves out. In those three minor league starts these are Ynoa’s statistics:

9 innings pitched, 6 hits, 5 runs, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts, 3 wild pitches, 1 hit batter, WHIP 1.111, and an ERA of 5.00.

I’m not a huge fan of projectability or rating a pitcher completely on potential, but Ynoa clearly has a very good arm waiting to be harnessed by the A’s and their system. He is wild and can’t control his pitches, but he also appears to be able to strike out batters and you can work on a pitcher’s control as he develops. So I won’t say Ynoa has been a success, but there appears to be a lot to work with. Even for a guy who never pitched to batters until reaching rookie league ball.

Latin ballplayers are so ingrained in the culture of baseball that it's wild to think it's a problem, but there are indications -- anecdotal and otherwise -- suggesting a chillier climate.

By itself, the Arizona immigration law seemed alarmist, a reactionary one-off. Now, though, comes the Alabama immigration law, raising the possibility of a trend.

I think I’m confused. So Tim starts this column off by asking if there are too many Hispanics in MLB, says there are others who feel this way, and then uses immigration laws created by two states as proof even more people feel this way. So the topic of this article should not be, “Are there too many Hispanic players in baseball,” but instead should be “Are the Hispanic players in baseball going to experience a backlash of negativity because they are so prevalent in the sport?”

Basically, I am not sure a trend towards negativity concerning illegal immigration from two states means there are too many Hispanic players in baseball. There may be some resentment towards foreign-born players, but most people who are sports fans understand baseball players have a unique skill set and the players with the best skill set are the ones that will receive the best opportunities at the major league level.

The talking points are similar: jobs, opportunities, benefits.

The difference, at least in my mind, is the skill set that baseball players possess which makes them different. It seems like a short-sighted comparison to make between regular American workers having their jobs taken away by foreign competition (or competition from foreigners who live in the United States) and American athletes who don't get an opportunity to start because of foreign-born players with a better skill set.

And if we've learned anything from every baseball book we've read or documentary we've seen, it's this: Baseball can't help but mirror society.

Yeah sort of. Baseball mirrors society in some ways, but I can't help but think many times the media wants sports (including baseball) to mirror society more closely than it really does for the purposes of putting forth a narrative. Possibly I am naive, but I am not sure the many foreign-born MLB players are going to find their experience playing baseball in the United States as a negative because two states are cracking down on illegal immigration.

Baseball mirrors society, but sometimes there are different rules for sports. Monopolistic business is not allowed in the United States, but I think it would be fair to say the NFL has a monopoly in the United States and is protected in some ways from receiving fair competition. So sports can mirror society, but this isn't a hard-and-fast rule. I think this is one of those situations. I'm not sure American fans are going to be upset there are too many Hispanic players in the majors.

So why should this be any different?

It should be different because I would guess 95% of people don't care what nationality their shortstop is. Possibly I am in the minority on this opinion, but I believe baseball fans in general don't care about the nationality of the players on their team. It's been widely accepted by serious baseball fans the sport is a national sport so the large amount of Hispanics in baseball is taken as less of an issue to fixed and is seen more as a sign of the inclusive worldwide sport baseball wants to be.

Friday, October 28, 2011

9 comments Bill Simmons Decides Since This NBA Lockout is Really About Him Anyway, He May As Well Go Ahead and Fix it

Bill Simmons has had enough of this NBA lockout. It has gone on way too long in his opinion. So he has decided since every little thing in the world revolves around him and he can fix pretty much anything, he'll just go ahead and fix the lockout. It can't be that hard, can it? After all, everyone involved with the process is an idiot and Bill is a genius. Before he fixes the NBA lockout, Bill wants us to know he has bought L.A. Kings season tickets...or his Grantland credit card has bought them. Same thing, I guess.

I think Bill wants us to believe he may never watch the NBA again or that in some way the NHL will take the place of the NBA. I don't believe this of course because writers don't often give up cold turkey the topic they are the absolute best at discussing. Let's be honest. We don't want Bill Simmons columns about baseball, college basketball or hockey on an in-depth level. The Boston Sports Guy is much better at talking NBA basketball than all other sports combined. So we'd prefer he stick to the NBA and he would prefer talking about the NBA. So this column about the NHL hockey tickets really will be irrelevant once the NBA comes back.

During the NBA's latest "crucial" labor meeting in New York City yesterday, I was attending the home opener for the Los Angeles Kings 3,000 miles away. How were these two events related?

These two events aren't related at all. Now, in Bill Simmons' world they are related because everything revolves around him. So the labor meeting had increased meaning because Bill was attending a hockey game at that time. In essence, I think Bill believes his action of buying hockey tickets was a direct blow to the NBA's pride.

They are now in direct competition for my Amex card.

As we will learn later, Bill plans on sending Grantland employees to the game. The odds of Bill using his personal credit card and not writing this off as a business expense is approximately -45.4%. So there really isn't a direct competition for Bill's personal Amex card, but it sounds really dramatic to write that.

The Kings have either seven, eight or nine months to win me over.

Well in that case I would expect the Kings to have at least 2-3 "Bill Simmons bobblehead nights" during the season and direct their entire marketing budget towards keeping him as a fan. He's very important you know. He knows Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Carolla and several other D-list Hollywood stars. If you would like an entire list of the celebrities Bill knows, he will be glad to provide that to you.

I realized something during last night's Kings-Blues game: I have never not enjoyed myself at an NHL game. I mean, what's not to love?

To summarize:

The Boston Bruins aren't very good. This means Bill Simmons is a hockey widow.

The Boston are very good and win the Stanley Cup. Bill has never not enjoyed himself at a hockey game, those hockey games he attends when he isn't too busy not paying attention to the sport.

It's a sport with the best in-game format (long period, long break, long period, long break, long period, go home), best regular-season in-game wrinkle (the shootout),

I'm not a big hockey fan, but the shootout is an abomination. I would submit most true hockey fans feel this way. I don't like the shootout, so it is the worst in-game wrinkle next to the singing of any Neil Diamond songs by a crowd of people.

and highest percentage of "true fans in attendance" of the four major sports (indisputable).

Quite disputable actually. I would argue the NFL has this title, but then again if I argued this it would mean Bill Simmons has drawn me into another argument based on an unprovable theory. I would like to add, the percentage of "true fans in attendance" at a hockey game is declining now that Bill Simmons has season tickets.

I bought tickets because I like hockey, but also, because I want to learn more about the sport. I want to hang out with some Kings and see if the "hockey players are the best dudes in professional sports" theory is actually true.

And to think there are people who think I am wrong when I say Bill Simmons is infatuated with being famous and has no interest in writing if it doesn't help him meet famous people. Bill Simmons is basically saying here,

"L.A. Kings marketing department. I am Bill Simmons, owner/proprietor of and have Kings season tickets. Please allow me to meet some of your hockey players so I can write about them and get to know them on a personal level. Then one day I will see one of them at a restaurant and talk to them in public which will make me feel like I am important."

Really, this is Bill Simmons essentially dropping a hint that he wants to go meet some hockey players. Bill is essentially asking without asking for this to happen.

I want to send Grantland staffers to games and make them write about what they witnessed.

Hence, the cost for these tickets aren't on Bill's personal Amex card since he is using it for a business expense. The upside of Bill sending Grantland staffers to games is there may actually be a few columns about sports in general, rather than what sports mean in the context of something else.

For example, there is an article on Grantland right now titled, "Tim Tebow, Converter of the Passes" which is subtitled, "What can a sloppily thrown 15-yard out pattern tell us about God and country?"

On Grantland's front page right now (Tuesday evening) there is also a review of the Lou Reed/Metallica album, an article that is essentially a preview of the "30 for 30" shown on Tuesday night, two B.S. Reports, the Bad Quarterback League results, and a recap of "The Walking Dead." I can't ever accuse Grantland of not having variety I guess.

(Hence, our "Behind the Pipes" series; our seats are only a couple of rows behind one of the nets.)

Bill's seats are located a couple of rows behind one of the nets. Hint, hint for anyone who wants to go to a hockey game and make Bill feel important by going up and speaking to him while everyone around him notices he is someone famous. Who am I kidding? Bill has incredible disdain for his readers and only sees them as verification he is truly as creative and interesting as he imagines himself to be.

Another reason he reveals the location of the seats is just in case anyone wants to snap a picture of Bill at the game and post it on a widely read site. I think Bill's dream is to be accosted at least once by TMZ.

We even picked the perfect Kings season — it's their best chance to win the Stanley Cup since Wayne Gretzky's heyday.

This was not a coincidence Bill mentioned the Kings may be good this year. Bill takes any opportunity he can to jump on the bandwagon of something successful.

The NBA owners and players made countless mistakes during these past few months, but over everything else, one stands out: They assumed fans would stick by them through thick and thin. They were wrong. Fans do what's best for themselves.

I agree with this in part. The non-diehard NBA fans will do what is best for themselves. Bill Simmons will come quickly running back to the NBA the second the lockout is over because he is very good at discussing the NBA. It's his forte, outside of discussing Boston sports, so there is no way in hell he will stop following the NBA. His knowledge of the NBA is part of what sets him apart nowadays from other pop culture-spewing sports writers. So some fans will come back to the NBA, but Bill is correct this lockout can't help but hurt league-wide attendance.

Talk to any NBA employee, player or agent off the record and they all say the same thing in one shape or another:

It's the old Peter King, "Go talk to Player/Coach/Manager X and he will tell you this is true. That's right, I forgot, you can't ask them because you don't have access to speak to these people like I do" suggestion to the reading audience. It's a gentle reminder the person writing the sentence is an insider. Another thing I dislike about this suggestion is making a statement like "Go ask Player/Coach/Manager X..." is it provides little evidentiary backing for a statement since there isn't any way for the reader to verify what is being stated.

True story: On Monday, someone from one of the two sides called me to discuss my admittedly hostile Friday column (and my opinions on the lockout in general).

No, this is a true story. Bill will show you the phone records. Someone important called him. HE KNOWS JIMMY KIMMEL TOO YOU KNOW!

A Bill Simmons column is rarely complete without a name-drop of some sort.

realized we both wanted the same thing — an entirely new NBA system — then spent the next 20 minutes wondering why this mutual epiphany hadn't happened for the two sides that caused this lockout.

"Why isn't everyone as smart as we are? Perhaps it is because instead of having two people to hash out an issue, the issue is being decided by multiple millionaires on each side who each have divergent goals they want to accomplish, which is true even among the millionaires on the same side of the issue? Nah, that can't be it. They probably just aren't as smart as we are."

If Bill can't recognize the difference in two people hashing out an issue and 30 people on each side hashing out an issue there isn't much that can be done for him. This is a great example of Bill's ego running amok. He gets a stop sign put up in his neighborhood and then wonders why Congress can't pass a balanced budget as easily as he got the stop sign put up.

"And wouldn't I have looked you in the eye and said, 'Look, you're stuck on your four things, I'm stuck on my four things, but we can both agree that we need to blow up the current system and create something more logical — at some point — that addresses every big-picture problem our league has.

There is more than just one "eye" on each side being looked into by the other side. It is Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter, and the players looking into the eyes of David Stern, Adam Silver and 30 egocentric millionaires, some of whom can't even run their teams effectively. There is a lot more going on than just one person on each side learning to agree.

You want four-year max deals, I want three-year max deals … you get that one, we'll go with four.

What if the NBA players absolutely refuse to do four-year max deals? Say it is a sticking point for them. That's where the problems come in. You can't just start handing out compromises when there are multiple parties discussing an issue and a sub-set one of the parties feels very passionate about an issue.

You want sign-and-trades, I want no sign-and-trades … I get that one, no sign-and-trades. You want a five-year, $30 million max for the midlevel exception, I want a two-year, $3 million max for the midlevel … we'll cap it at four-years, $16 million.

Has Bill Simmons never been in a meeting that involved negotiations from two sides? It isn’t this easy to just compromise. Sure, it is fine to write down how easy it is to come to an agreement, but when you place multiple people with divergent agendas in a room, it isn’t easy to just magically see eye-to-eye. Easy compromises like this are what cause both sides to go home unhappy with the agreement in place. I really struggle to believe that Bill thinks it is this easy to fix the lockout.

"Yes," the other person said. "That's how negotiations usually work."

Notice, “the other person” says that is how negotiations “work.” He/She didn’t say it was that easy to make the negotiations work, but that’s “how” they work. From this I get that Bill is right about how to negotiate, but even “the other person” know it isn’t this easy because there are more than two people negotiating. Sure, both sides have been terrible so far, but David Stern can’t just compromise on something 30% of the owners don’t want. Billy Hunter can’t compromise on something 30% of the players don’t want.

This brings up my whole other issue of who this “other person” is. I know writers have anonymous sources, but the anonymity and the out of the blue phone call to Bill Simmons about this makes me question (a) how close to the negotiations this person really is that he would be wasting some/any time talking to Bill about the negotiations (b) whether Bill is exaggerating the phone call a little bit in regard to how much the person agreed with him. I’m just saying it is convenient an anonymous person called Bill and completely supported his view on how the negotiations should work.

"So why didn't it work that way here?"

Deep breath. And then …

"Because David and Billy are running it."

I agree both sides should come to an agreement and they will eventually. The agreement will probably be something that could have been agreed upon in mid-September, but that’s just how these things work. This doesn’t mean the negotiations are just simple through the use of compromising when neither side currently wants to compromise. It’s easy to point out how simple the negotiations are when you aren’t in the room doing the negotiating.

I think the NBA should look more like Hollywood's movie structure. I think middle-class guys should make half of what they make now, and stars should make even more.

Nearly every fan thinks this same thing. This is why I mock Bill when he “jokingly” wants to be the GM of an NBA team. He doesn’t understand things aren’t this easy. Fine, middle-class guys should make half of what they make now. So what does that mean when Rashard Lewis is 25 years old and becomes a free agent? Does Bill think Rashard believes he is a middle-class guy? Does Bill think Rashard’s agent thinks he is a middle-class guy? Of course not, because both of them want to get as much money out of free agency as possible. So it is easy to say what middle-class, bench guys, and stars should make, but who determines which of these players are stars, middle-class, and bench guys? The market does. One idiot General Manager can screw this all up and then we are at the very point where Rashard Lewis is one of the highest paid players in the league and Gilbert Arenas gets paid star money to be a backup.

It is easy as a fan to just say what all middle-class guys should earn, but it doesn't resolve which players middle-class guys, stars or bench players.

I think we should contract/merge several franchises until we settle at 27 teams; I think Seattle should have a team; I think Chicago should have two teams.

Screw you Chicago. Who cares if you don’t want two teams?

I think teams should be able to pay their own stars more money than anyone else, and that it's extremely easy to build in competitive advantages so they can do that.

Agreed. This wouldn’t have fixed the LeBron James/Chris Bosh situation where they joined Wade in Miami. Assuming that is the event we are reacting to by creating this rule, of course. James and Bosh got paid less to go to Miami, so I’m not sure the amount the Raptors/Cavs could pay them really factored into their decision to leave.

We need to create a league in which Jose Juan Barea can't make more than $16 million for four years, and only because that's what a valuable third guard who doesn't sell a single ticket should make.

Agreed. Who is going to tell Jose Juan Barea he is a third guard who doesn’t sell a single ticket? Not his agent. What happens when the Hawks offer Barea four years $36 million to be their starting point guard? He’s a starter now. What should he earn? How do we go about making sure Barea only gets $16 million? Make sure all of the owners use common sense? Good luck with that.

(Also, how does Bill know Barea doesn't sell a single ticket? People don't necessarily buy tickets to sporting events merely to see one player. It definitely occurs, but sometimes fans buy tickets to a game just to see the game.)

The problem is that Bill Simmons can’t enforce his rules on everyone and expect them to obey the rules. The NBA isn’t like his loyal readers. The NBA won’t just accept whatever bullshit rules he offers up as fact and live their life according to those rules. In principle, Bill is right. In reality, Bill is wrong because saying what a third guard should earn is perfectly fine, but what player is going to say, “I’m just a third guard, so I will willingly take less money in order to accept this role imposed upon me.”

The solution is to have fiscally smart ownership and General Managers. Maybe if Bill ruled the NBA he could figure out how to make this happen and then enforce his authoritarian rule on all NBA teams.

Another interesting point of this article by Bill is his overuse of the word “we.” Grantland had a fairly bad article about how the term "we" is the most overused phrase in sports. Wouldn’t you know the day after that article is posted the Editor of Grantland uses the term “we” repeatedly when discussing the NBA even though he isn’t a part of the negotiations. I am sure the rules don’t apply to the Editor in Chief of Grantland though.

we need to convince players that it's not always a good thing to grab as much money as you can possibly get (because nothing turns off fans quite like overpaid and underachieving athletes).

Good luck with that as well. Let’s remember Bill works for ESPN/Disney. It is a company with deep enough pockets to pay him more handsomely for his talents than any other sports site. This statement is quite interesting coming from a guy who started his own website with a company that had the financial backing to support it and still employ Bill if Grantland failed. It is hard to take advice from a columnist at the largest sports site on the Internet about not chasing as much money as you can get. Bill got the best of both worlds, a ton of money to write and his own site. This is the equivalent of a player getting paid very well and still winning championships. It is hard for some players to just turn down a ton of money being offered.

I agree nothing turns off fans like overpaid and underachieving athletes. Nothing turns me off more than a guy lecturing an athlete from taking as much money as possible in free agency, when the person doing the lecturing writes for the sportswriting equivalent of the New York Yankees.

Why won't Stern say when he's leaving? What's his succession plan? Is Adam Silver taking over? And if he is, why isn't he being more empowered right now? From the players' side, who takes over when Billy Hunter retired five years ago? I mean, five years from now? Who will be shaping the league????

Hopefully Bill Simmons will be shaping the league in a few years. Especially since he has all of the answers. Many times questions like “who will shape the league in five years?” takes care of itself over time. Let’s end the lockout and then answer these questions.

You know how you create real change? You seek opinions from outside parties. You have brainstorming meetings with non-basketball thinkers who might have one or two ideas that make sense. You don't hide behind words like "globalization" and "digital" as false evidence that you're big thinkers. You don't embarrass yourself by pooh-poohing contraction and telling people, "Please, David has never lost a team on his watch" while also threatening to cancel an entire season. You don't bitch about teams needing new "state-of-the-art" arenas without spending the requisite amount of time helping franchises figure out what "state of the art" will mean in 2015.

Where's the big-picture leadership here?

I also find it interesting that Bill wants answers for what may happen five years from now and is bemoaning a lack of big-picture leadership in the NBA. Just a few years ago, Bill was advocating David Stern to be President of the United States and writing semi-fawning ESPN The Magazine pieces about him.

My point isn’t to show how Bill is a hypocrite for criticizing Stern now, because he isn’t a hypocrite, but my larger point is to show how things can change over just a few short years. NBA leadership isn’t just going to magically appear, but just a few years ago Bill thought David Stern would make a great President and now he doesn’t seem to have as great of an impression of Stern. It’s easy to write open-ended questions about the future without current answers, but it isn’t as easy to understand opinions and situations change over time and accept this in a time of unrest.

Only the NFL has the luxury of saying, "If we disappeared, our fans would freak out until we came back."

I disagree in part with this. I think the same amount of freaking out would occur in college football and to a lesser extent college basketball. It’s just the collegiate players have zero leverage so we currently don’t have to worry about a college lockout happening, so this isn’t even on many people’s radar as to how the fans would react. Think about how college sports fans would react if there were no football games during the fall and no NCAA Tournament.

Fans adapt. Habits change. People like me say, "Screw it, I'll give hockey a real chance." Suddenly, you're not looking at the same landscape anymore.

Bill Simmons main writing strength is talking about the NBA. I don’t really believe he would give up on the NBA and give hockey a real chance after the NBA comes back. There is a reason the L.A. Kings tickets are for the Grantland writers and not just Bill Simmons’ personal use. Bill has bought the tickets, but I’m sure he will be glad to attend Clippers games once the lockout is over.

Everything broke perfectly. The Lakers and Clippers disappeared. Poof! They're gone. The USC and UCLA football teams are struggling. The McCourts turned the Dodgers into Clippers 2.0. Who's left? Remember, Los Angeles has no memory; it's a place where you're only as good as your last hit, where people latch onto winners and coldly dismiss losers both in sports and show business.

I am sure Bill pictured himself in a large office with a cigar and framed pictures of his face on the cover of magazines layering the walls when making this statement.

Right now? The door has swung wide-open for the Kings. As the clock counted down their 5-0 victory last night, I looked around and noticed that, incredibly, just about every fan had stuck around for the final minute. They chanted "LET'S GO KINGS! LET'S GO KINGS!" until the final horn, then skipped out of Staples Center happily,

From the way the fans left the Staples Center skipping happily it seems every fan at the Kings’ game was a nine year old girl.

Me? I drove home thinking, Maybe I'm not gonna miss basketball as much as I thought.

Yeah, right. When the lockout is over, Bill will slowly move back to the NBA. There’s no way he willingly stops being a fan of the one sport he is very good at covering. With his pop culture schtick running cold and his fair weather coverage of the Red Sox and Patriots in full force, I can’t see how he would give up his best topic for a weekly column. Hockey will last as long as the Bruins stay in first place and the NBA is locked out. Once that’s over, it’s back to what Bill knows he does best. He shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2 comments TMQ: Because You Haven't Gotten Enough Tebow In Your Weekly Diet

Don't worry, I go light on the Tebow talk in this TMQ. I just used the title in an effort to get from seven pageviews to ten pageviews per day. It is a little test I am doing to see the power of Tebow. Ok, not really...I just couldn't think of a catchier title. Anyway...

It doesn't take much for me to get riled up at Gregg Easterbrook. What really irks me is when he somewhat contradicts himself and acts like he hasn't done this. This week's column is a great example. Gregg says Tim Tebow didn't rally to victory alone, which is very true, but the officials and Miami helped the Broncos win the game. Regardless of whether one thinks this is true or not, on October 4 Gregg wrote an entire column about how teams don't blow the lead, but the team that comes back deserves to win the game. It sure doesn't sound like Gregg thinks the Broncos deserved to win the game since he chalks the victory up to blown calls and the Dolphins ineptitude.

Gregg's October 4 column included quotes like:

Comebacks are sheer excitement. But please don't say they happen because the vanquished team "blew the lead." A football game lasts 60 minutes. Who's ahead early, and by how much, is irrelevant to the outcome. All that matters is who's ahead on the final play.

The loser didn't blow the game, the victor won.

Plus bear in mind -- often when a team jumps to a big lead, the opponent has just as much time available to reply.

It is a very thin line Gregg treads because he never actually comes out and say the Dolphins blew the game against the Broncos, but says the Dolphins made bad plays, coached terribly and the title of this TMQ is "Tim Tebow might have won a game, but the hapless Dolphins helped."

So the Dolphins didn't blow the lead, they just lost the game, and I guess blaming the Dolphins for making bad plays in losing the game isn't saying they blew the game. Regardless, Gregg has turned me into a person arguing semantics right now and I don't like him for it.

Attention, Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio: Prepare to receive Tim Tebow's sweatbands from the Denver at Miami game. His admission to the Hall of Fame surely is a mere formality.

But football is a team game. Tebow didn't launch the onside kick or recover the onside kick.

Regardless, he willed these positive things to happen. Haven't you heard? The rest of the Broncos stood around with their thumbs up their butts doing nothing watching Tebow do all the work.

He was just one of many Broncos on the field, yet is receiving all the attention.

So Tebow made a few good plays, but he is the only one getting credit for the good play. So this is sort of like when Gregg credits an undrafted free agent for catching a pass or having a good game as if the passes weren't thrown by a highly drafted quarterback and highly drafted players weren't doing the blocking for the quarterback?

The fan base of the South Florida Dolphins is so dispirited that Sun Life Stadium was half empty when the Denver comeback began.

To be fair to the crowd in Miami, it was the day the Dolphins were honoring the Florida Gators football team. So many of the early departures were Broncos/Gators fans who didn't think the Broncos would win the game. To be even more fair to the crowd in Miami, the Dolphins are terrible and there is no reason to pay money to watch them play.

Tebow staged a comeback against what a military historian would call "light resistance."

Don't criticize the Dolphins for losing the lead, when you should credit the Broncos with winning the game. Remember? Teams don't blow leads.

True, there were some sharp plays. On the all-important deuce try with 25 seconds showing in regulation, the Broncos came out five-wide and Miami took the field in a dime. Tebow noticed nobody behind the defensive linemen on the offensive right and audibled to a quarterback sneak right,

"True, the Broncos may have done something to win the game, but let's not contradict my point of view and pretend this play didn't occur."

But Miami, and the officials, aided the comeback.

Impossible. The Broncos won the game and Miami did nothing to lose the game.

After the first Miami touchdown, Dolphins coach-for-a-few-more-weeks Tony Sparano called timeout to prepare his hands team for an onside kick -- and Denver recovered the onside anyway.

Again, Gregg struggles with the idea an NFL team may know what play is coming but is still not able to stop the play because the other team executes the play exceptionally well. Most teams know when an onside kick is coming, but that doesn't stop them from being executed successfully.

With 25 seconds remaining in regulation, Tebow hit a well-executed throwback screen to tight end Daniel Fells for a touchdown. Zebras cooperated by failing to notice Denver linemen Chris Kuper and Orlando Franklin downfield before the pass.

This is the first blown call of this type in NFL history. It's never happened before.

The fact that Tebow is religious had nothing to do with the outcome.

Untrue. Tebow willed this win to occur, so it did. That's what I am to believe from all the articles I read.

It's just a testament to God. A play like that can't be explained any other way." After Brett Favre made his first start as Minnesota's quarterback against the Packers, he said he prayed to God for victory and the "good Lord answered my prayers."

Then Brett Favre accidentally texted pictures of his penis to God, which did not go over well with Him.

For commentators to imply the presence of supernatural forces in sports flies in the face of not only the unaddresed tragedies of the world, but this unsettling fact specific to sports: The 2011 season is not yet at the halfway mark, and already at least four football players have died as the direct result of high school or college games or practices.

So God doesn't care about sports. If we need further proof of this statement being true, then in Gregg's opinion that proof is shown by the fact bad things happen to players who play sports. Not to get in a theological argument, but couldn't you use this same reasoning to say God doesn't care about the world as a whole because bad things happen to people in the world?

Actually, I'm just kidding about Gregg starting a theological discussion. This wasn't even his intent in writing these two sentences above. It seems Gregg's intent was to write the worst transition sentence ever created in order to delve into the topic of concussions and injuries in high school football. He goes from a a discussion about God's relationship to unaddressed tragedies around the world to injuries in high school football in a matter of two sentences in one paragraph.

(Gregg Easterbrook speaking on television) "Some people question when militants behead American journalists on television whether this does this do more to help the cause the militants are fighting to achieve or the beheadings show the extent to which their barbaric methods are capable of reaching. For Americans to say this helps the militant cause to see a beheading on television flies in the face of common sense, since Americans see visually how far the militants are willing to go to fight for their cause: Speaking of head injuries and faces flying off, how about all those concussions in football?"

There have been deaths from heat stroke, from accumulated brain trauma and, last week, from seemingly routine game contact.

No athletic contest is worth any person's life. Do these deaths mean young people should not play football? See below.

What helmet should football players wear to prevent concussions? Check below where I don't answer this question, but will tell you "Terra Nova" is incredibly unrealistic and CAN YOU BELIEVE THE WRITERS ARE TALKING ABOUT PORTALS TO THE PAST THAT ARE ONLY SHOWN AS ONE-WAY BUT COULD CONCEIVABLY BE USED AS A TWO-WAY PORTAL?

Stats of the Week No. 6: New Orleans possession results against Indianapolis: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, punt with 2:56 remaining.

Shouldn't Gregg be talking about the Saints running up the score on the Colts and how the Football Gods that don't exist when Gregg doesn't want them to exist will be angered by this?

Sour Quarter of the Week: Sometimes you learn a lot about a team when nothing is on the line. With New Orleans leading 41-7 at the end of the third quarter, the Saints pulled Drew Brees and other starters, and did not attempt another pass in the contest. Indianapolis allowed a touchdown drive of six consecutive rushing plays.

I guess not. I am sure in a month after the Saints lose their next four games, Gregg will attribute the losing streak to bad karma caused by running up the score. He will say at that point the Saints should have just kneeled the ball down and punted on every possession.

With the London game scoreless, Mike "What The!" Martz put undrafted fullback Tyler Clutts, a former CFL player, into the game. Clutts split wide; when a fullback splits wide, defenses assume something is up.

This is analysis by Gregg Easterbrook. "Something is up" means "the defense should know their defensive line isn't going to stop the running back and the fullback split wide is going to make a downfield block once the running back evades all of the other defenders and reaches the secondary."

Wilson York of Atlanta writes, "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a section of its website currently dedicated to 'Atlanta's Year in Review.' This has been up since October 18, when there were 73 days remaining in 2011, fully 20 percent of the calendar."

The horror! The site reviews celebrities that died in each month of the 2011 year and which child stars turn 30 in 2011. The year doesn't have to officially be over in order for either of these topics to be relevant.

Included are the "15 hottest toys for 2011 holidays" for a toy-buying season that does not begin for another month.

Because NO ONE buys presents until November 25. I'm pretty sure there is a law against shopping before the "toy-buying season" Gregg has arbitrarily just chosen. So it is ridiculous to have an idea of what toys a child may want at any point before November 25.

How did San Diego finish first in offense and first in defense in 2010, and yet miss the playoffs? The answer is low football IQ.

No. The answer is special teams. I'm guessing Gregg will recognize the importance of special teams around the year 2018. It has taken him twenty years to recognize the importance of the tight end, so it may end up being later than 2018 when realizes how important special teams can be to a team's win-loss record.

Falcons say Suh and teammate Cliff Avril mocked Ryan after he fell to the ground injured, which Suh has denied.

But even though Gregg had no proof this claim was true at the time he wrote this, he'll just go ahead and get on his moral high horse and act as if the claim was true. In the absence of evidence, let's lean towards the story that gives us the better narrative to write.

In football, hitting is admirable; applauding harm is shameful. No person of character mocks an injured man. If the taunting claim is true, why would the city of Detroit want to be associated with the Lions' malicious behavior? Why would any advertiser want a spiteful figure such as Suh associated with its products? Dirty play by Detroit defenders not only should be drawing ejections or suspensions -- it is rapidly eroding any feel-good associated with the Lions' season.

Assuming the claim is true of course, which apparently has already been decided by Gregg.

Green Bay leading 33-27 with 2:37 remaining, the Vikings punted -- and I scarcely need to tell you Minnesota never touched the ball again. So what if it was fourth-and-10?

I talked about this punt in MMQB and it was a tough call. Of course, based on the outcome Gregg will completely ignore the fact this was a tough call and chastise the Vikings because they never got the ball back. What Gregg fails to mention is the Vikings had a rookie quarterback, so while I think the Vikings possibly should have gone for it, I can see kind of see why the Vikings didn't. I think it was a mistake not go for it, but I'm not Gregg Easterbrook and looking to thrash an NFL head coach because a judgment call turned out badly.

Frazier knew that if he went for it on fourth down and failed, he would be blamed for the loss;

What Gregg conveniently leaves out is Frazier also knew he had a rookie quarterback in his first career start being asked to get 10 yards against a tough defense. The decision was at least defensible in that way.

if he ordered a mincing, fraidy-cat punt, the defense would be blamed for failing to get the ball back. Blame-shifting is a huge factor in NFL coaching decisions.

Since Frazier is the head coach and an ex-defensive coordinator he is also getting blame for the loss and the Vikings inability to stop the Packers. Gregg acts as if Frazier has completely avoided any criticism so he can further his narrative that NFL head coaches love to blame-shift. Frazier has gotten a lot of criticism so far this year.

Kolb is becoming a favorite of the Hell's sports bar crowd. In the past five years, he is 4-9 as a starter with more interceptions (21) than touchdown passes (18), yet recently was the subject of a major trade, receiving a huge signing bonus in the process.

Gregg is getting his timeline all screwed up in an effort to mislead his audience. Kolb has accumulated much of that record as a starter, the touchdown passes and interceptions, this year as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. In other words, he has been terrible AFTER he was part of the major trade and received the huge signing bonus. This is like saying JaMarcus Russell threw more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (23), showed up out of shape to training camp, and had a terrible record as a starter (7-18), yet he was the first overall draft pick in 2007 and was made one of the highest paid players in the NFL.

Jacksonville's front seven performed well against the makeshift Baltimore offensive line. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome has a sterling reputation -- how could he have allowed the team's O-line to enter such a state of decay?

The Ravens offensive line has been pretty good so far this year. The Ravens are 4-2 and they just had a horrific game for some reason against Jacksonville. Gregg watches one Ravens game and then claims the Ravens' offensive line is in decay. I think more research is required.

The Jaguars, a Cover 2 (that is, zone) defense, surprised Baltimore by playing man-to-man coverage.

Gregg is wrong about this. Cover 2 is not always a zone defense. A team can play a Cover 2 man defense. I love how he talks down to his audience by specifying the Cover 2 defense is a zone defense, when he is wrong about that. Maybe the Jags play a zone Cover 2, but a Cover 2 isn't specifically a zone-only defense and teams can play man out of it. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have seen the Jags play man-to-man coverage out of the Cover 2 this year, so I'm not even sure this surprised the Ravens if they watched tape of prior Jags games.

The Jaguars had to win, or their season was over. The Ravens knew they could lose, and by December, no one will even remember this game occurred.

If the Ravens miss the playoffs by one game, people will remember that game occurred.

Early in the season, TMQ noted this was a good year to be terrible, as two franchise-quality quarterbacks, Andrew Luck and Landry Jones, will be available in the draft. There's a chance of three franchise quarterbacks,

If Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin III come out into the draft, right?

depending on what transpires with Russell Wilson.

I like Russell Wilson, I really do. He is 5 foot 11 inches and isn't a franchise quarterback. This is the first, and hopefully the last, time I hear Russell Wilson being mentioned as a franchise quarterback. I hate to play the "he's too short" card, but he's too short and probably not a franchise quarterback even if he was a little taller.

The last time quarterbacks went 1, 2, 3 in the NFL draft was 1999.

We all know how well that turned out.

In 1968 alone, 26 high school players died as a direct result of football; last year, the number was two. Table 3 of the report shows the direct fatality rate from high school football peaked at 2.6 deaths per 100,000 players in 1969 and declined steadily to 0.13 deaths per 100,000 in 2010. That means a 1968 high school football player was 20 times more likely to die than a 2010 player. (The main reason for declining deaths was that football helmets were improved to eliminate skull fractures.)

I'm not dismissing the effect of concussions on players, but I think this puts the gnashing of teeth about violence in the NFL in perspective. While Gregg is asking whether the sport is too violent to be played, the incident of direct death from playing football has steadily declined. So the sport is still very violent, but from all indications from the media, the NFL, and even Gregg Easterbrook you would think someone dies every week from playing football. This isn't the case.

These are all rough estimates. Taking them together, a teenager has a one in 1 million chance of dying in an hour behind the wheel, compared to a one in 27 million chance of dying in an hour of football contact.

Clearly everyone needs to wear a helmet while driving or just not drive a car at all.

Other, more common harm, especially accumulated damage to the brain from concussions, is a greater negative to playing, since sports-caused death is very rare but sports-caused brain harm is not.

This is probably a good point and I am bored with Gregg talking about concussions. You probably are as well.

Recently two middle-aged, retired NFL players, Orlando Brown of the Ravens and Kent Hull of the Bills, died before their times -- Brown at age 40 from complications of diabetes, Hull at age 50 from intestinal bleeding. When former pro football players die in middle age, should this be seen as bad luck or as a sign of long-term degenerative harm from football?

Brown died from diabetes and Hull died from intestinal bleeding. I am not a doctor and I don't play one on television, but I'm going to venture to say football was not directly related to either of these deaths. The deaths were a tragedy, but adults aged 40-60 years of age die every single day. So while these deaths are sad, it isn't like non-football playing adults aged 40-60 years of age don't die a premature death.

Basically, the death of two ex-football players over the past month doesn't necessarily say these deaths were caused by football.

Plus, the rule is enforced inconsistently. In the Rams at Dallas contest, Dez Bryant used the ball as a prop to celebrate a touchdown, and there was no yellow. The only way to make enforcement of the celebration rule consistent would be to penalize any show of emotion following a touchdown.

Or the NFL could say, "If you use the football as a prop, it is a penalty" and expect the officials to enforce it. If the officials miss calling a penalty, this should be in their weekly evaluation.

That, of course, would be silly. If consistent enforcement of a rule would be silly, the rule is silly.

Yeah, maybe. It certainly feels like Gregg made up a fake rule to penalize the show of any emotion after a touchdown and then said enforcing his fake rule would be silly in an effort to explain why Dez Bryant was not penalized for using the ball as a prop and blame it on inconsistent enforcement. It would just be easier to say the refs missed calling the penalty.

Trailing 34-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, they could not even be bothered to play for pride. When Brice McCain of Houston intercepted a pass, most Tennessee players didn't chase him; they merely watched as he returned the interception for a touchdown. Tennessee had two speed players on the field on this play, Javon Ringer and Donnie Avery. Ringer chased McCain for a moment, then quit. Avery jogged in the general direction for a moment, then quit.

Check out the video of this interception. It would have taken a guy who runs a 3.3 40-yard dash to have caught McCain. The Titans are guilty of bad tackling but once McCain turned the corner after making the last tackler miss, there was no catching him.

Results of the annual Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year: California of Pennsylvania versus Indiana of Pennsylvania. This year the contest is at historic George P. Miller Stadium in Indiana, Pa. Watch live.

Or I could watch more highly skilled players play the game of football. There's always that option as well.