Category Archives: Bad Journalism

Wallace Matthews: “I don’t understand inning limits”

Things have been going pretty well for the Yankees lately and this season in general.  One bright spot has been the pitching of Joba Chamberlain.  Sure, he’s had some frustrating outings, but considering his age, he’s showing that he has the ability to be a front-end starter.  So what’s the problem you ask?  Well, according the Wallace Matthews, the Yankees “coddling of Joba is out of control.”  With a headline like that, surely they must have shut Joba down for the rest of the year.  Wait – they’re only pushing back his last couple of starts by a few days?  Is this really worthy of outrage?

Let’s look at some low-points:

[…] and right now, it sure looks like the only thing that can stop them [the Yankees] is injuries.

But no one can stop injuries, not even the Yankees, despite their silly plan to restrict Chamberlain’s total regular-season innings to 160, which means from here on, he will pitch once a week, or less.

So – only injuries can stop the Yankees now, but they shouldn’t be cautious regarding injuries. Brilliant.

Absolutely injuries can be prevented. Why do you think players wear helmets? Sure, innings limits aren’t quite as obvious a form of protection as a helmet is, but same idea.

The logic is quite simple. Say that I decide I want to start throwing a baseball and I want to be able to go outside and throw it 100 times and not wake up sore the next day – and mind you I haven’t thrown a baseball consistently in years. What should I probably do? Go out and throw it like 10 times. Then next time out? A little bit more. Isn’t this obvious? And are innings-limits that much different? You don’t want a pitcher to throw an obscene amount more than he did the previous year.

Matthews then sites a bunch of pitchers who have had high workloads early in their careers and turned out fine – which is really the equivalent of me saying “well my grandfather smoked cigarettes for 60 years and was fine so obviously they can’t hurt you.” (Interesting though that he lists Justin Verlander, whose terrible year last year was almost certainly a product of his overuse. And what about his teammate Jeremy Bonderman? I could go on, but you get the point.)

Perhaps my favorite line though:

So much for scientific “studies.” If a guy is going to get hurt, he’s going to get hurt, and no amount of coddling is going to prevent it, because at some point, they all have to go out on the field and play.

I love how studies gets the scare quotes, like these studies aren’t real. Listen – people who are much smarter than you have conducted these studies and there is a tremendous amount of money on the line.

And since when did baseball turn into Greek tragedy, where a player cannot avoid his divine fate? Hey, ya know what, I’m going to hop in my car and drive 120 mph down the highway without wearing a seat-belt. And I’m gonna remove all my mirrors first. I mean, come on, if I’m gonna get injured in a car accident, it’s going to happen no matter what I do.

So this article is obviously stupid enough, but you know what it’s lacking? An older baseball player who can be outraged about “numbers” and “science” changing the game. Oh, thanks Bob Klapisch and Tom Seaver.

I don’t care enough about what Tom Seaver says to go through this article extensively, but it does provide this gem:

Seaver says Chamberlain will never acquire a warrior-ethos if he’s coddled in his early years.

The Yankees inadvertently are teaching Joba to fear innings, which will only make him soft in the future.

How will Joba succeed if he never acquires his warrior-ethos? If he doesn’t become a warrior, he’ll never be able to properly wield his +5 battle axe and lead his army to victory. Oh wait, wrong game. So what the hell is a warrior-ethos? Oh, right – nothing.

And speaking of nothing – let’s not teach Joba to fear “innings.” He’ll just sit in the dugout, quivering, refusing to take the mound. “I can’t go out there – that’s an inning! I’m terrified of innings!”

How about we worry about him being afraid of real things? Like throwing the ball over the plate for strike 1, which seems to be the only real thing holding him back right now from being an elite starter.

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Perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever read

I’ve been sitting on this article for awhile and I could honestly rant for a couple thousand words about how stupid it is. But let’s just take a quick look at the stupidity of what might be the worst article I’ve ever read – and that’s saying something.  This one is from the Boston Herald’s Gerry Callahan and exemplifies everything I hate about Boston sports culture (okay, maybe not everything – the article doesn’t read with a ridiculous Boston accent – but close).

There was nothing particularly savvy or skillful about it, of course. They were dealing with Scott Boras, so they knew that honor and integrity would play no part in the process.

Dealing with Scott Boras takes a considerable amount of savvy and skill. Plain and simple.

Just money. Lots and lots of money.

In other words, it was a New York Yankees kind of deal right from the start, a chance for them to buy the biggest house on the block and act like they built it with their bare hands.

Unlike a Boston Red Sox kind of deal. They pay their players in grit, determination, and heart. Their players love the game so much they play for no money at all.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn’t even have to travel to Mark Teixiera’s home to grovel. All he had to do was sit back, checkbook in hand, and let Boras do his thing. In the end, the slimy superagent did not let him down.

Boras used the Orioles and Nationals and Angels until he used them up, as Bill Withers would say, and then he played your Boston Red Sox [team stats] like they were his new Guitar Hero game. The Sox desperately wanted to bring Teixeira to Boston, and for a while, actually thought they had a shot at the switch-hitting first baseman. Even though they already had a pretty good first baseman and third baseman, the Sox didn’t try to hide their affection for the best free agent on the market. They pounced on Teixeira like Brian Williams on Barack Obama. They made a bold offer of about $170 million over eight years.

Well, at least, Theo Epstein thought it was an offer. In truth, it was a signal from Boras to Cashman, who might as well have been sitting outside in a white van. Their scheme was coming together. Those rubes up in Boston played their part and drove up the price. Now it was time for the Yanks to pony up and close the deal.

Cashman did as he was told. He topped the Sox by a sizable margin. Final number: $180 million over eight years with a full no-trade clause.

This isn’t even remotely accurate. Do you think Cashman and Boras work together? Do Boras clients only go to the Yankees? Last time I checked, the Red Sox had JD Drew and Dice-K. Cashman didn’t do “what he was told.” He lobbied to sign Teixeira. He also didn’t just hand Boras a blank check – after all, Boras claimed he wanted 10 years and over $200 million for Tex.

The Red Sox offered $176 million. You can’t tell me that $4 million was going to make or break this deal. Nor can you complain about Boston being trumped financially, because clearly their offers were in the same ballpark. So how did Cashman get it done? Oh right, savvy and skill.

Recession? What recession? The taxpayers of New York helped the Yankees build their new revenue-generating palace, and the Yanks turned around and shared the wealth with Teixeira.

And had Tex decided to take Boston’s money, they would have been sharing the wealth they’d acquired from adding monster seats and coming up with 17 alternate jerseys for fans to buy. Same deal.

It is easy to say the Red Sox should have known better, but after lavishing outrageous contracts on other Boras clients, including J.D. Drew and Daisuke Matsuzaka, maybe the Sox thought Boras would give them a fair shake. They thought wrong, and they got burned. The Red Sox ended up with a miffed Mike Lowell, which hasn’t been a problem for them, while New York ended up with one of the best all-around players in the American League, which, as it turns out, has been a big, big problem for the Sox.

What big, big problem do you mean? That the Yankees will be competitive in the AL East like they have been EVERY YEAR since the early 90’s? And in what world did Boras NOT give the Red Sox a “fair shake”? You can’t say that Boras is all about the money and then say the Red Sox never had a “fair shake.” They wouldn’t trump the Yankees offer. If we’re both at an auction and I have $500 in my pocket and you have $450 and you bid $100 on something and I bid $101, I should win right? You had a fair shake. You could have bid more and chose not to.

We don’t know yet if the Yankees finally bought themselves a World Series, but we know this: As they take the field against the Red Sox tonight, the Yankees bought themselves first place (or a piece of it, at least), and they did it primarily with one move. After years of foolish free agent signings from Kevin Brown to Carl Pavano to Jason Giambi to Kei Igawa, Cashman and the Yankees got one very right this year.

Bought themselves first place? Unlike the Red Sox I assume, who’ve been winning with old farmhands like Manny Ramirez, JD Drew, Julio Lugo, Dice-K, etc.

Callahan then goes on to speculate about the future of Jason Bay and whether the Red Sox will have a “fair shot” at signing him. Well, let’s say this right now for the record: the Boston Red Sox have an extreme financial advantage over the majority of MLB teams and have the means to sign any free agent they want. Yes, even free agents the Yankees want.

Boston sports writers and whoever else can continue to pretend that the Red Sox are the small market underdogs, but that really couldn’t be farther from the truth. But hey, keep believing that – I’m pretty sure the Sox just came out with another alternate jersey they’d like you to buy.

Outrage and Self-righteousness over steroids

I’ve been sitting on this article for a couple days now, but here’s the idea: Kurt Streeter is angry that more fans aren’t outraged over Manny’s steroid use like he is.  Needless to say, I don’t share his outrage.

Am I out of touch? Am I too angry, too outraged about Manny Ramirez and his dope-induced exile to baseball purgatory?

Yes, you certainly are.

In the last few days, talking to fans during Dodgers games and perusing my e-mail inbox, it’s been striking how many people feel that angry indignation is uncouth, unrealistic and absurd. Striking how many are willing to treat their favorite player as if he’s just gone off on a nice holiday. All will be forgiven, as long as No. 99 comes back swinging a fat bat.

First off, Dodger fans aren’t really too concerned about anything. Win or lose, it’s nice outside where they are, so whatever.

Secondly, how ridiculous would it be for them to hold some kind of grudge against a player who plays for their favorite team? It’s in the best interest of the Dodgers, who are paying him big money, for Manny to come back and hit so therefore it is in the best interest of fans that he do so. Fans root for the laundry. That’s how it works. Who should be angry at Manny? Other players. Manny got $45 million in a recession where some players couldn’t get a contract. Was that because he took steroids? Maybe. Does that effect a fan in any tangible way? Absolutely not.

“Hey, he cheated, everyone has their crutch, it’s not that big a deal,” said Mike Calame, 45, sitting near the left-field foul pole at Dodgers Stadium the other day. He shrugged a shrug I’d end up seeing time and again. “All I know is that he’ll be back, and he’ll be rested. That’ll be great for the Dodgers. . . . I can’t wait.”
[…]
“Save the moral panic,” read another. “Most of your readers under the age of 70 have done the same long ago. . . . Is taking steroids cheating? Sure, maybe.”

Sure, maybe? Ho-hum, la-di-da , who cares . . .

How sad.

How sad? Those are some rational fans. They realize it’s stupid to pass self-righteous moral judgment on someone who plays a game to entertain them and who’s infraction they don’t really understand.

So, sitting here in the press box during the Dodgers’ Saturday win against the Giants, the question comes. Am I, along with the other journalists who are breathing fire about this sordid story, simply out of touch with a huge slice of our audience, the who-cares-who-takes-what crowd?

You bet I’m out of touch, and that’s the very reason it’s important everyone in the media keep laying the wood to the rule-breakers and ne’er-do-wells. Someone has to draw the line. Someone has to keep hold of standards. Someone has to give voice to those who know there’s more to life than winning. How you win, how you prepare, the ethics you bring to the ballpark and yes, to life . . . guess what? That matters.

Wow. Get over yourself. You write about sports for a living – you’re not out saving lives. There is more to life than winning; there are family and friends and holidays and crisp autumn days. But for a baseball fan watching their favorite team? There is only entertainment, a gigantic portion of which is dictated by winning and ability.

It’s when we lose track of this, when we as a society are willing to cut too much slack, when we in the press stop drawing a hard line, that deep trouble comes. You get the last eight years, probably longer: a fool’s paradise, not just in sports and entertainment, but in politics and the economy.

Right. Because if only we had stopped these damn steroid users we wouldn’t be in a recession. We wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. Heck, we could have eradicated AIDS, hunger, and war as well. We’d be unstoppable.

The past eight years? That’s an obvious George W. Bush reference, but what does he have to do with this? Part of what made W’s presidency so troublesome is he spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get Americans worried about things that didn’t matter. Prime example number 1? Steroids. Or have you already forgotten Bush giving a long lecture on steroids during his state of the union address? And everyone being flummoxed afterwards because steroids are so insignificant considering the troubles of the world? And surely you don’t forget all the time and money congress wasted talking to blowhards like Palmeiro and Schilling right?

I know the arguments. Who cares what Ramirez or Barry Bonds or A-Rod put in their bodies? So long as my team is on top, so long as I get to drive around with a “World Champs” bumper sticker, it doesn’t really matter.

Really? My wife teaches third grade at a school a mile from Dodger Stadium. Is this what she should tell her kids, a group that has adored Ramirez since he arrived in town? “Kids, it doesn’t matter if you cheat.”

I teach kids, too. Here’s what you tell them: baseball is a great game to watch. It’s 162 games. There are ups and downs; it’s a great drama that keeps you guessing. You cheer for your team when they win and even when times are bad you remember the good times your team gave you.

How baseball players train doesn’t come into the equation. You tell kids that they should be concerned with their health and know what they put in their body. We, as educators, don’t even understand how steroids affect baseball players. We don’t know how much it helps them, if at all, or how it could hurt them, if at all. So why would we even attempt to enter such judgment into what it means to be a baseball fan?

I’m not going to quote anymore of this absurd article, but Streeter does go on to quote some doctor saying taking steroids is like smoking four packs of cigarettes a day, which is not even remotely true.

Please, just stick to covering baseball – you know, on the field where they actually play it. And if you want to be a life-saver, choose another profession.

George King’s passion

George King won’t quit. He has one burning desire in life, the one thing that keeps him awake at night and motivates him to continue his charitable work educating others through his articles in the NYPost. What is that thing you ask?

Getting Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen.

You know that Joba you remember, blowing people away with his 96 mph fastball and crazy array of offspeed pitches? Okay, well first forget the fact that he did that as both a starter and a reliever last season. Now, prepare for bad news:

The Yankees right-hander blew away the best hitters in the majors, and made them look ill against a slider with fangs.

Remember that heat? Good. Because memories are all you have, since Chamberlain isn’t going to be able to consistently fire 96- to 98-mph aspirins as a starter.

Oh no! What happened? Is he hurt?

“I think as we get into the summer, we might see some of that,” manager Joe Girardi said yesterday of Chamberlain reaching 98 mph with the fastball.

“But you are not going to see it [consistently], because he has to throw his fastball more than 12 times an inning or 10 times or eight times. That’s pretty much true for all relievers. Starters who go to relievers jump a few miles an hour.”

Wait, wait, wait… so what exactly are you suggesting here George?

So if Chamberlain, who entered professional baseball as a starter, can dominate hitters with high-octane heat in the eighth inning and won’t be able to sustain that through six or seven frames, why is he the fifth starter instead of setting up Mariano Rivera?

Oh, right – the bullpen thing. Let’s quickly discuss why you’re wrong: Joba threw 96 as a starter last year, and from what I remember that was plenty of “octane” to dominate. Especially since as a starter, Joba had all 4 of his pitches at his disposal. And if Joba is effective as a starter he should be one, right George?

(Random aside – That reminds me of a recent conversation I had. Let me paraphrase:

Them: “I really think Joba should be in the bullpen to set up Rivera.”

Me: “Yeah that is such an important role. I don’t think they should trust it to Joba though; I think they should use CC Sabathia there.”

Them: “Really? Doesn’t that seem like a waste?”

Me:  <Sigh>)

Oh, one other point George: It’s SPRING TRAINING! Yes, Joba has been clocked around 90 early in the spring. He’s building arm strength. We know from last season he can pitch late into a game and continue throwing 96. And that’s plenty. So maybe you should just calm down, champ.

I can’t wait for that A-Rod guy to get back so you guys will have something else to write about.

Dick Vitale is so predictable

Just watched Dick Vitale’s final four picks on SportsCenter.  I immediately said to myself – “he’ll have all 4 #1s in the Final Four and he’ll have North Carolina winning.”  And guess what?  I was right.

I mean, seriously?  The guy picks all the #1 seeds (with an occasional #2 if it’s Duke or UNC) every single year.  He knows nothing about basketball.  He only knows coaches’ names.  That’s it. 

Check out this video (courtesy of The Big Lead).  Jay Bilas completely embarrasses Vitale, who just isn’t in touch with the college game anymore. 

Take a look at Vitale’s “writing” as well.  This is a journalist being published on the most popular sports website?  Whatever Vitale makes, it’s too much.   

A-Rod bashing reaches new low

Just when I think the efforts to discredit Alex Rodriguez can’t get any worse, there comes this article from Bob Klapisch. In what should be a nice account of how Jason Giambi used Derek Jeter’s support to survive his days in pinstripes, Klapisch cannot avoid the temptation to drag A-Rod into it:

One other factor worked in Giambi’s favor, as well. Unlike A-Rod, who’s had two chances to come clean (and still hasn’t), Giambi called a news conference before the start of spring training in 2005 and confessed. His words were measured — he never used the term “steroids” — but at least there was no blame assigned to a mysterious third party.

I can’t even believe the stupidity of this comment. Just to be clear, during his apology press conference, that happened ONLY after his story got leaked (exactly like A-Rod), Giambi said he was sorry but would not even say WHAT HE WAS APOLOGIZING FOR. Sorry for the caps, but come on. Who in their right mind could say Giambi confessed while A-Rod didn’t? A-Rod named the drug he used, gave an explanation as to how he got it, and gave a time frame (even if he wasn’t willing to go into every specific). Giambi didn’t even say he used steroids! He just said he was sorry!

Both players had good reasons for obscuring certain things. Giambi didn’t want to get his contract voided. A-Rod doesn’t want to get into naming names for legal reasons. I have no problem with either apology.

I am just stunned however, that Giambi “confessed” while A-Rod didn’t. Chalk another one up on the “A-Rod can’t win” tally count.

Apparently teams can’t choose who they sign

This from Peter Gammons (via Boston.com):

For instance, I know Derek Lowe feels very strongly that if A.J. Burnett is making $16 million a year, why am I not making a year? But this is not arbitration, this is the market, and the fact is there’s no market [for him] at $16 million. Now, there could have been. He could have gotten four-times-$15 million from the Yankees, but A.J. Burnett’s agents stopped Scott Boras [who is Lowe’s agent] and beat him to the Yankees. The Yankees wanted Lowe, but A.J. Burnett’s agents did a better job.

How is this even remotely possible? How could Burnett’s agents “stop” Scott Boras? If the Yankees wanted Lowe more than Burnett, wouldn’t they have signed Lowe? Did Burnett’s agents threaten Cashman’s family or something? I mean it’s not like the Yankees don’t have a top notch scouting department. They knew what their options were. The Yankees had to go to a 5th year to keep Burnett away from the Braves. If they thought Lowe was the better sign, they would have offered him that money. They’re the Yankees. They get who they want. You’d think the Sabathia and Teixiera signings would make that obvious.

These comments sound like sour grapes against Scott Boras for screwing over the Red Sox (and Red Sox players) recently (Got Manny out of Boston, cost Varitek money and will likely get him out of Boston, kept Tex from Boston, etc). And he makes the Yankees sound like the naive corporation that just throws money at anything with no plan, which is pretty much what ESPN wants them to be. Of course, an educated fan would know better than that I’d hope.