Previously I took a look at who the surprising teams - good and bad - had been in baseball this year from a gambler's perspective. Let's see how things have changed now that we are at the all star break, and I have nothing to gamble on until I perfect my WNBA engine (or, you know, kill myself - whichever comes first.) (Please let it be death.)
Okay! First, let's see how the quarter-pole teams are doing
1. Baltimore (+1082) -> 7 (+534) 2. NY Mets (+961) -> 2 (+1107) 3. LA Dodgers (+858) -> 12 (-64) 4. Oakland (+699) -> 3 (+1034) 5. Tampa Bay (+505) -> 13 (-67)
3 out of the 5 teams listed, to use a technical term, have sucked balls since then. In fact, since I posted my original list on May 23, LA, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore are the 2, 6, and 7 WORST teams to have bet on. In total, if you had started betting on all 5 of these teams on May 23, you are now DOWN a total of $1670 based on a standard bet size of $100 (or, if you prefer, down 16.7 betting units). Betting AGAINST these 5 teams was +919 over the same period.
In that spirit, here are the new top 5.
1. Pittsburgh (+1537) 2. NY Mets (+1107) 3. Oakland (+1034) 4. Kansas City (+682) 5. Chi. White sox (+621)
Now let's look at the flip side. How have our 5 worst teams fared since the quarter-pole? (Remember that these are the values if you had bet AGAINST these teams every game)
The Angels and Yankees are the #1 and #3 teams to have bet on since the previous update, while Philly has been... oh god, they have been terrible. Let's do the same exercise we did for the top 5: if you had bet against each of these 5 teams since May 23, you would have lost $2,426 with a standard $100 bet. Betting on them, on the other hand, nets $1213 over the same period.
Here's the new bottom 5.
1. Philadelphia (+1673) 2. Colorado (+1495) 3. Miami (+538) 4. St. Louis (+512) 5. San Diego (+482)
Now, am I advocating that betting ON the bottom 5 and betting AGAINST the top 5 will be a winning strategy? Err... maybe I am? At the very least I am curious, and will back with an update in 6 weeks. Stay tuned.
Baseball gambling (and hockey gambling, but who cares) has a wrinkle that sets it apart from basketball and football. This is called the run line.
You'll surely recall that the money line dictates how much a winning bet on a particular side will earn, and will be seen as such:
Pirates +130 Phillies -140
(A quick reminder on money lines. The above lines indicates that a $100 winning bet on the Pirates nets $130 in winnings, and a winning bet on the Phillies nets $71.4. Ideally, this line means that 35% of the action is on the Pirates, and 65% of the action is on the Phillies. In the event of a Pirates win, Vegas pays out $45.50 of very $100 bet. In the event of a Phillies win, Vegas pays out...$45.50 of very $100 bet. The space between $50 (an even split) and $45.50 is the money that goes to Vegas. Although, as we have discussed, Vegas bookmakers are themselves gamblers, and therefore aren't afraid to take a side every now and then.)
A run line for this same game would look like this:
Pirates +1.5 -165 Phillies -1.5 +145
This means that, if the Pirates win OR lose by only 1 run, then that bet wins, and pays out $60 per $100 bet. On the other hand, if the Phillies win by 2 or more runs, then that bet wins and pays out $145 per $100 bet.
Now, I said that this idea is unique to baseball (and hockey, but seriously, who gives a fuck) but that's not entirely true. Football line makers do this all the time. One book will have the Patriots -7, and another will have them at -6.5 (-115). You get a line that's a half-line lower, but it pays out slightly less. You'll also sometimes have the opportunity to "buy" points on a line by paying extra juice. This is all part of the same idea I discuss below.
It is probably helpful to nobody but myself to imagine each contest as a bell curve of possible outcomes. Construction of a bell curve requires the definition of two variables, a mean and a standard deviation. The mean tells you where to center your bell curve, and the standard deviation tells you how wide or skinny the bell should be.
Let's consider the possible outcomes of this Pirates/Phillies contest as such from Vegas' perspective. The lines tell us that Vegas expects Philly to win 65% of the time. The lines also tell us that Vegas expects Philly to win by 2 or more runs only 29.5% of the time. These two variables can be used to solve for the mean and standard deviation. This is illustrated in the chart below.
The easiest way to understand this chart is to look at the point where the Pittsburgh run differential is equal to zero. This happens when the cumulative odds are at 65%. In words, this says "the odds that Pittsburgh's run differential will be less than or equal to zero, i.e. negative, i.e. a loss, is 65%". Similarly, we can look at the run line value of -2 and see that this crosses at 29.5%. "The odds that Pittsburgh's run differential will be less than or equal to -2, i.e. a loss by 2 or more runs, is 29.5%".
When we think about money lines, all we care about is how my odds of this line crossing zero might be different from what Vegas thinks. Let's say I think the odds of a Philly win are much higher - say, 82%. Since I don't care what the standard deviation is, I'll just use the same one. Our graphs look like this.
But can I bet on the run line based on this as well? I could certainly try it, assuming that Vegas has the right standard deviation. But why do that when I could just increase my bet on the side, since that is where I feel I have an informational advantage? Betting on the run line without knowing the standard deviation is betting in the dark.
Let's look at a different case. What if I think that the mean outcome Vegas has identified is correct, but I think their standard deviation is off? That might look like this.
If I was just betting the money line, I wouldn't see much opportunity for value here. However, at -2, Vegas assumes the odds are 29%, but I think they are more like 38%. Now we have identified an opportunity for a value play where one did not exist when we only considered the mean outcome.
Most people don't think in terms of means and standard deviations, I realize. You'll more typically hear a gambler say something like "8 of their last 10 losses have been by 2 or more runs." This is what they are getting at. I prefer a more structured statistical analysis. For either approach, having the right information is the key.
Baseball is the only sport where a key player changes every day. While injuries and trades happen, by and large a football team has the same quarterback every week. Hockey doesn't rotate goalies. Basketball teams have the same starting five night after night. Only in baseball do we have a key player rotating night after night.
The starting pitcher can make a huge difference in the moneyline. In their 45 games this season, the Detroit Tigers average moneyline has been -108. When Justin Verlander starts, however, that line jumps to -177.
What to make of this? The offense is the same. The defense is the same. The bullpen is the same. But the starting pitcher drastically swings the line. What is a bettor to do?
To take a crack at this question, I've assembled a list of what I would call baseball's elite pitchers. Elite in this case, is not based on a sabermetric analysis of VORP or xFIP, but instead is grounded in public perception, because it is public perception, and not any intrinsic, actual value, that will move a betting line. I culled this list from the top 10 finishers for the AL and NL Cy Young award for the last two years (after removing the relievers). I also removed a couple of pitchers like Cliff Lee that changed teams over my analysis period, because it made my analysis harder and I didn't feel like dealing with it right now, okay? Here's the list, presented in a completely random order:
Clay Buchholz Ian Kennedy Justin Verlander Clayton Kershaw Trevor Cahill David Price Felix Hernandez CC Sabathia Ubaldo Jimenez Jered Weaver Ricky Romero Bronson Arroyo Josh Beckett Matt Cain Tim Hudson James Shields Josh Johnson Cole Hamels Francisco Liriano Yovani Gallardo Roy Halladay Jon Lester Adam Wainwright Mat Latos Dan Haren Tim Lincecum
The table below presents four values. First, to take the long view of their performance, I've assessed their performance from a gambling perspective from the start of the 2010 season through today, as well as the performance of their team. I've assessed the average value per start for each pitcher based on a standard $10 bet. Then, I compared their average value against the average value of betting on their team over that same time period, to see if the variation can be credited to the pitcher or if the team's overall performance was surprising to bettors. I look at their game value for this season only. The last one is the average runs allowed in games started by that pitcher. Here's the ranking:
As a whole, this group of pitchers has averaged a whopping $0.09/start, or a rate of return of 0.9%. Over this season they are even worse, averaging -$0.52/start. As a comparison, this season I have averaged $1.01 per $10 bet, or a 10.1% rate of return. In general, these pitchers have outperformed the teams as a whole, although not by a sufficient margin to make betting on them a winning prospect.
When trying to find value, the starting pitcher seems like it would be an obvious place. However, finding value doesn't just mean "bet on Justin Verlander." That worked last year, but the market has caught up this year.
So who hasn't the market caught up to yet? I did a simple test: I checked the ERA and strikeout leaders for this year and applied the "who?" test to the names. If I had to double check the spelling OR it sounded like their name was created by a video game name generator, even better. Here's what I found.
$6.47 per start
These 9 "who?" pitchers are all exceeding the betting numbers put up by almost every one of the big stars in the table above, precisely because of their "who?" factor. I'm going to track these 9 pitchers for the next month, assuming they aren't pitching against each other, and report my findings. Is 1/3rd of a season long enough to establish a track record? We're going to find out.
[Note: I am tweeting my baseball gambling picks every day from @obscuresports99 on Twitter. As of this writing, I am +14.4 betting units on the season, although I have been predictably lackluster since making my picks public.]
Gambling on baseball is a bit different from gambling on football. In football, betting is usually discussed based on point spreads: if I bet the Giants +3.5 in the Super Bowl against the Patriots, then that means that the winner for gambling purposes is determined by adding 3.5 points to the Giants final score and seeing who has more points.
Every year, there are some surprises - a team doing better than they were expected to. In gambling circles, you'll hear about a team's ATS, or against the spread, record. If I team goes 11-5 ATS, that means that betting on them all year was a winning proposition. Since Vegas doesn't like when you have winning propositions, they want every team to finish 8-8 ATS, meaning that they make money.
In baseball, we have to talk about surprising teams a little differently because we bet the moneyline. Today, for example, the Yankees moneyline to beat the Royals is -210. That means that, to win $1.00 on the Yankees, you have to risk $2.10. Conversely, the Royals are +185. Risking $1.00 on the Royals will win you $1.85.
To talk about the surprising teams to bet on in baseball, we'll talk about what I'm calling their bet on and bet off value (real gamblers may have a word for this, but I don't know what it is). Bet on value is defined as the amount of money you would win if you bet on a team every game. Bet off value is defined as the amount of money you would win if you bet against a team every game. First, here are the top 5 bet on teams so far this year.
1. Baltimore (+1082) 2. NY Mets (+961) 3. LA Dodgers (+858) 4. Oakland (+699) 5. Tampa Bay (+505)
What do these teams have in common? In the case of Baltimore and the Mets, they were supposed to stink but have surprised everybody this year by contending in their divisions. Baltimore especially has exceeded expectations, leading the competitive AL East. This is also true of Oakland, who are only .500 but were supposed to be much worse. The Dodgers and Tampa Bay were expected to be good, but not necessarily this good. The Dodgers, in particular, sport the best record in baseball. In other words, making this list isn't necessarily just formerly bad teams being good. It's more a matter of expectations vs. reality. I was personally surprised to not see Washington on this list. They were bad last year, and good this year. But because that was widely expected, Vegas has them more accurately priced.
Here are the top 5 bet off teams:
1. Colorado (+1392) 2. LA Angels (+883) 3. NY Yankees (+765) 4. Philadelphia (+622) 5. Milwaukee (+546)
Oof. I especially feel the pain of Philadelphia, since I have personally overvalued them this year (even though the Yankees are my team, I have actually had positive outcomes wagering on them if gambling were legal). The Angels are obviously a direct result of expectations vs. reality of Albert Pujols in particular. They were supposed to be a juggernaut, but instead sit in last place in their division, 6 games below .500.
If you are curious, here are the top 5 teams I have made money on this year if gambling were legal:
1. Kansas City (by a country mile, I might add) 2. NY Mets 3. NY Yankees 4. Arizona 5. Seattle
And here are the 5 that have given me the most heartburn
1. Philadelphia (and again, not even close to #2) 2. Milwaukee 3. Texas 4. Pittsburgh 5. San Diego
"I don't want to be there if it's political," La Russa said.
How could anyone possibly think that attending a rally organized by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin with the stated goal of 'reclaiming the civil rights movement' [for white people] might be political? Also thanks to St Louis today for describing it as 'potentially politically charged'. Fair and balanced!
This has got to be it, right? This postseason has to be the straw that breaks Bud Selig's immovability on the subject. His sport is becoming a fraud. After spending the first two rounds of the playoffs talking as much about the blown calls by the umps as the game on the field, last night was another umpiring apocalypse.
Blown call #1: The Yankees have runners on first and second with one out. Johnny Damon hits a liner down the first base line. Philly 1st baseman Ryan Howard snags the ball thisclose to the ground. Jorge Posada, who was on first, has advanced to second. After the grab, Howard immediately throws down wide of second base. Jimmy Rollins tracks it down and, while Posada stands and claps on 2nd base, he is tagged. Double play. What happened? The 1st base umpire ruled that the ball was caught on the fly, and Damon was out. Also, that means Posada needed to tag up, so he was called out. A potential back breaking rally was snuffed out.
It was also the wrong call. Daytrader, who I was on the phone with at the time because we are like 12 year old girls when sports are on, immediately called that it was a trap instead of a catch. But even more damning evidence were the actions of Howard. Why was he even throwing to second base? If he had caught it, he would have just trotted over to first and tagged the base to double up Posada. He threw down to second trying to start a double play, because he knew he trapped the ball.
This highlighted portion is important, because umpire apologists will say that, if we had instant replay, we wouldn't have known where to put the runner. In fact, Buck Showalter tried to make this case on SportsCenter last night after the game. I don't have an exact quote, but it went something like this: "If we go back in the replay and find that the wrong call was made, we still have to decide where to put the runners. Since the play might have unfolded differently if a different call was made on the field, then our best choice is to stick with the demonstrably wrong result of an inning-ending double play."
Buck, there is a reason that two teams have won the World Series immediately after you left: you are a fucking moron. Howard reacted exactly as if the ball was not caught by throwing to second. If he had attempted to pretend he caught it and doubled Posada up, then you would have a decision to make. This is not what happened.
And even if it had, maybe we wouldn't have gotten the perfect result, but we wouldn't have gotten a definitely, awfully wrong result. STUPID STUPID BUCK SHOWALTER.
But it happened, and the Phillies came up to bat, which resulted in...
Blown call #2: Mariano Rivera is pitching to Chase Utley with runners on 1st and 2nd with one out. Utley grounds a ball to Yankees 2nd baseman Cano, who spins and throws to Jeter for the out and second. Jeter then fires the ball down to Teixeira at first for an inning ending 4-6-3 double play. Except...
...yup, you guessed it, Utley beat the throw down the line by half a step, as clearly visible on instant replay. Which leads to the 2nd stupid defense of no instant replay: the makeup call.
See, the umps fixed it! They made it fair for everybody by screwing up twice. Hear that kids? Two wrongs make a right! Now go punch your sister because she just spilled your juice.
The only defense left about keeping instant replay out is that sucky umpires are somehow "part of the game." You know what else was part of the game? Not letting black people play was part of the game. That's right, I'm playing the race card. If you don't want instant replay in baseball, then YOU ARE A RACIST. You don't want to be a racist, do you?
The real reason that we never had instant replay is because the technology was never good enough. But now we have widescreen, hi-def, slo-mo video of every play from 17 angles. We can see the game better than the umps. Even they will admit it. And when the umps admit that they can no longer do their jobs, it is time to make a change.
1. Pedro Martinez vs. WHO'S YOUR DADDY?! *clap* *clap* *clap clap clap*
When the Yankees were getting blown out of the building to cap off the ugliness that was the 2004 ALCS, there was one bright, shining moment during the game, when the stadium once again came alive, and hope was allowed to enter the heart of Yankee nation. That moment was when, late in the game, the outcome all but assured, Pedro Martinez came in from the bullpen. The crowd immediately erupted into the who's your daddy chant, Pedro gave up 3 (ultimately meaningless) runs before being yanked, and there was a flicker of hope and joy.
I guess Charlie Manuel didn't see that game?
2. Alex Rodriguez vs. incredibly impatient Yankee fans
Sure, we wouldn't be in the World Series without you, but what have you done for me lately? After an 0-for-4 that included 3 meek strikeouts, A-Rod is one bad game (and an 0-2 Series hole) away from once again wearing the Chokemaster General's ceremonial vestments. Does it matter that the whole team not named Jeter sucked a big fatty last night? Of course it doesn't.
3. Nick Swisher vs. seriously, this is just getting sad now
It isn't even his fault. If you are at the park, and you are trying to play softball, only some retarded kid comes running onto the field and starts doing laps around the bases while falling down and clapping, its natural to get mad at the kid. But the seventh time he does it, you gotta ask, where is this kid's parents? He obviously can't help himself. Joe Girardi, please get Nick Swisher off the field so he can stop embarrassing himself.
4. Jose Molina vs. Jorge Posada
With the Yankees offense already running on horrible smelling fumes, does Girardi let AJ Burnett have his personal catcher who hits like a little girl wearing a tutu at a tea party for nancies, or does he tell him to suck it up and stop pretending he can tell Hispanic people apart?
5. Phil Hughes vs. the strike zone
Hughes' line from last night: 0.0 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 H, 2 BB, 2 batters faced. For his World Series career, you need to use limit notation to show is ERA. As a matter of fact, here it is:
Starting with the publishing of Michael Lewis' "Moneyball", advanced baseball statistics have, for better or worse, changed the way we talk about baseball. Stats like OBP have become so ubiquitous that they now display them alongside venerable standbys like average and RBIs in a player's statline during ESPN telecasts. Words like VORP and ERA+ that used to be used to make fun of how ridiculous advanced statistics were are now used in serious discussions. These statistics were supposed to explode the old myths and orthodoxies about baseball and allow us to see the sport with new eyes.
Except now that these stats have come into the mainstream for a few years, the old orthodoxies have been replaced with new ones. And chief among these is the immutable statistical truth that Derek Jeter is one of the worst fielding shortstops of all time.
If you are new to this argument, you are probably saying, whaa? But what about his 3 Gold Glove Awards? What about the jump-throw? The Flip? The dive into the stands? Baseball fans don't even need to click on the links. They already know what plays I'm talking about.
Stat nerds will counter with, what else, stats. Range factor. Fielding Win Shares. Fielding Runs. It is practically a rite of passage among baseball statisticians: if you want to be accepted into the fraternity, repeat after me: Derek Jeter sucks.
Except your stats disagree with what you can see with your eyes. Last night, Derek Jeter proved it again. In a one-run game against the Twins, with nobody out and Nick Punto on second base after a double, speedy Denard Span bounced a ball up the middle. Jeter ranged to his left and fielded the ball, but instead of throwing to first, he immediately whirled and fired the ball home. Huh? What?
Here's what happened: Jeter knew he couldn't through Span out because of his speed, but instead of making the throw anyway, or simply putting the ball in his pocket, he threw home. Why? Because of the runner on second. Either he saw out of the corner of his eye, or knew because he is awesome, he realized that Punto might try to take advantage of a throw to first and sneak home. Jeter fired to Posada, who then threw back to A-Rod at third, who tagged Punto out. Punto had indeed ranged too far off of third base.
Instead of first and third with nobody out, it was a man on first with one out. The Yankees went on to win the game. Where's your stat for that play, stat nerds? There isn't one, and there never will be. So stop pretending that you know better, or that your stats can tell us more about the game than we can learn by watching it. There's a reason that they play the games, nerds.
You know what really grinds my gears? TBS Pitch Trax. If you've watched any postseason baseball so far this year, you know what I'm talking about, but in case you haven't: in the bottom right corner of the screen during every at bat, TBS shows this little box that tracks the location of every pitch as it crosses the plate.
Seems innocuous? Then you aren't a baseball fan. Because if you watch baseball, then you know nothing is worse than an umpire whose strike zone you don't agree with. Watching one of my beloved Yankees get punched out on a pitch 6 inches off the plate is aggravating enough without a little box in the corner mocking me and my impotence. Maybe instead of the little box, they could just have someone come over to my house and smack me in the face whenever the ump gets a call wrong. "That's right, Jesse," the little box says, "that pitch WAS outside. And guess what? THERE IS NOTHING ANYBODY CAN DO ABOUT IT! That's right, sit there and stew, motherfucker. Oh, and guess what? That same exact pitch that just saw a Yankee get punched out? Well, now that the Twins are batting, IT IS MAGICALLY A BALL! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"
I'm not suggesting that the box should be used instead of the umpire. Just get rid of the damn box. Stop granting me and my umpire rage the illusion of technologically infallible proof of my superiority over these horrible, horrible umpires who hate me.
1) Because Big Papi and Manny Ramirez were the two best players on two championship baseball teams. Yes, every World Series from the last 20 years, since Canseco and McGwire juiced the A's to a championship, has been tainted. But name another team other than those A's where the best two players, far and away the best two players, were on steroids. Hint: there isn't one.
2) Because the Red Sox after 2004 became the face of baseball, and MLB, ESPN, and every other interested party has tried to preserve that story. That's why ESPN uses Fenway Park as the backdrop for its baseball advertising. That's why the Red Sox will have more nationally broadcasted games on ESPN, TBS, and MLB Network than any other team this year. And that's why MLB hired Red Sox part-owner George Mitchell to "investigate" steroids in baseball. His investigation began and ended with two clubhouse attendants on the two New York teams who were connected to steroids. Meanwhile? This was happening:
Major League Baseball opened an
investigation into performance-enhancing drugs inside the Red Sox
clubhouse at the height of last year's pennant race after two members
of the team's security staff were implicated in steroid use.
men were fired in a case that speaks to both Major League Baseball's
new intolerance for steroids and its inconclusive efforts to
investigate suspicious cases.
security staffers said they were dismissed after what they termed a
cursory inquiry by Major League Baseball, and very limited questioning
by the team - even though one of the guards says he swapped advice
about steroids with David Ortiz's close friend and personal assistant.
Were steroids being used in every clubhouse? Maybe. Probably. Yes. But Mitchell only investigated New York while this guy, Red Sox clubhouse attendant Jared Remy, walked around under his nose:
3) Because when every other name has been released, its been a big deal. A-Rod, Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, on and on and on. Each player measured, judged, debated endlessly. And now that its lovable Big Papi, precious Big Papi, we're supposed to say, "oh, everybody used it, just put an asterisk on the whole thing and be done with it." Well, I say: Fuck that noise.
4) Because steroids made Big Papi's career. Guys like Clemens and Bonds were great players, Hall of Fame players, before they took steroids. Well, Papi was not a great player before steroids. He was a borderline major leaguer.
5) Because I fucking hate him, that's why. I hate him and his douchebag facial hair, and his being an athlete but also fat, and his being on the Red Sox, and all those big home runs that he hit against the Yankees while juiced. His taking steroids has had a direct impact on my quality of life. So don't tell me we can just judge the whole era as tainted and be done with it. Because I'm not done with it. Not by a long shot.
[This is part one of my look back at Moneyball, the era-defining 2002 book on baseball by Michael Lewis. Look for part two tomorrow.]
Moneyball is a gripping, well-written, exciting book about, of all things, baseball statistics. Michael Lewis is perhaps the best non-fiction author working today, and uses his access to Oakland's front office to lay bare the inner workings of one of the most successful franchises of the last 10 years. There's just one problem: Moneyball is more embarrassing to look back on than a high school yearbook.
Sometime since it came out in 2002, Moneyball stopped being a title and instead became an adjective. Moneyball the adjective could be used to describe a team or a player. A Moneyball team employed Moneyball players. A Moneyball player had three important attributes: he drew lots of walks, he saw lots of pitches in an at-bat, and he never stole a base.
It's interesting to revisit this book now for two reasons, the first of which we will examine today. The brief Moneyball era of baseball is coming to an end. To understand why, you need to understand the intertwined effects of Moneyball style baseball and steroids.
Before Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa injected themselves into the record books during the home run race of 1998, there was the home run race of 1961 between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
61 stood as one of the most revered statistics in all of sports: the most home runs anybody had ever hit in a single season. 61* is the story of that 1961 season, when Roger Maris battled Mickey Mantle, the ghost of Babe Ruth, the New York sports media, and baseball commissioner Ford Frick for the title of home run king.
Why haven't you seen it?
Because you don't like the Yankees, and you don't have HBO. Or you don't like baseball. Or maybe you have a problem with golden-hued nostalgia about the days of yore.
Well guess what? The days of yore were awesome. The days of yore were just as filled with drinking and fucking and carousing as the days of today. Maybe even moreso, because you could bring a floozy back to your hotel room and not have TMZ all over your shit the next day.
Before I get too much further, I have to acknowledge that I am violating one of the rules of the Movie Night Movie Project with this pick: it exceeds the 105 minute length restriction by about 20 minutes. Well, guess what? It's my project, so suck on it.
"What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation. [...] While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is
no valid excuse for using such substances, and those who use them have
shamed the game. [...] It is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity. Under our current drug program, if you are caught using steroids and/or
amphetamines, you will be punished. Since 2005, every player who has
tested positive for steroids has been suspended for as much as 50 games."
Bud Selig became the acting commissioner of baseball in 1992, after a vote of no-confidence by the owners forced out former commissioner Fay Vincent. Under Selig's watch, Major League Baseball was unable to come to terms with the player's union during the 1994 season, resulting in a strike that subsequently wiped out that year's World Series.
The following season, attendance and TV ratings plummeted, and stayed low for years. At the same time, strange things were happening on the field. Balls starting flying out of the yard at a ridiculous pace. Here are some statistics:
18 times in a season has a player hit 55 or more home runs in a single season - 12 of them happened since the strike.
The top 12 - twelve - most prolific home run hitting teams of all time played since the 1994 strike.
41 times has a player hit 50 or more home runs in a season - 23 of those seasons were in the last 15 years.
Inexplicable statistical blips showed up on the home run tallies. Brady Anderson hit 50 in 1996, in between seasons of 16 and 18 - he hit 206 in his entire 15 year career. Greg Vaughn hit 355 home runs over a 15 year career, and 50 of them were in the 1998 season, a year after hitting 18. Oh, and then there is this:
Oh, and this.
When Alex Rodriguez says about his steroid use: "Back then it was a different culture," he isn't just making excuses. When you drive to work tomorrow, are you going to strictly obey the speed limit, or are you going to drive as fast as you want? Forget what the rules are, or what the sign says: if everybody is doing it, why can't you do it? If the authorities look the other way, or only one in every 200 people speeding get a ticket, then why not do it?
Alex Rodriguez did steroids because EVERYBODY did steroids. Shit, A-Rod showed restraint by waiting until 2001! And EVERYBODY did steroids because the other players, the coaches, the insufferably holier-than-thou and incredibly full of shit sportswriters, and the administrators of the game looked the other way. They had to look the other way to avoid looking at Barry Bond's enormous forehead. The steroids brought the home runs, and the home runs brought back the fans. So they all looked the other way, because the game needed steroids.
Bud Selig, you were the commissioner of baseball through all of this. You could have done something about it. Forget about the player's union standing in the way of testing - guys were doing steroids in the clubhouses! Don't tell me you couldn't do anything! You. Were. The. Commissioner. YOU COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING. But you looked the other way, because the homers brought people back to the game that you nearly destroyed by allowing the players to strike.
You are a disingenuous asshole. The only one who should be ashamed is you.
While everyone was busy being shocked -SHOCKED! - that Alex Rodriguez used steroids at the height of the Steroids Era in baseball during his tenure on a team that apparently used the same trainer as Ivan Drago in Rocky 5, you may have missed an even more surprising nugget. A-Rod's name was one on a list of 104 players who tested positive for steroids in the not-so-confidential test in 2003. 104 players. One hundred and four. Think about that for a second.
And guess what? It is just a matter of time before that list becomes public. So, rather than spending your nights weeping over the lost innocence of your childhood game, let's try to have some fun here, okay? OKAY? I DON'T HAVE ANYMORE TEARS, BASEBALL.
Let's have a Steroids Pool. Here are the rules (if you've ever participated in a Death Pool, these rules will sound familiar to you).
Submit a list of up to 15 names (send them to me here with the subject line "Steroid Pool").
Once the list is made public, if you correctly identify a player on the list, you get one point.
If nobody else picked that name, then you get three points.
So there will be obvious choices (Bonds, Giambi, uh, A-Rod), but also some incentive to pick a less obvious name.
There is no deadline for this contest, because there is no official deadline for the list to be released. Winners will be announced when the list becomes public. But don't delay - I think that might be sooner rather than later.
Because if there was, I would bet my life savings on "A-Roid".
The Alex Rodriguez steroid story is a Rorschach test. If you don't like him, then you see this as confirmation of everything you already thought. If you are an A-Rod apologist, then you'll find a way to apologize for this to. But the surprise and shock - SHOCK - that a prolific home run hitter from the last 15 years tested positive for steroids at some point in his career is bordering on ridiculous.
Go no further than ESPN. Like a Southern belle suffering from a case of the vapors, Buster Olney declares that Rodriguez, who was supposed to rescue baseball's record books the steroid inflated numbers of Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa, is now hopelessly tainted and will be locked out of the Hall of Fame with the rest of them.
Rodriguez signed with the Rangers in 2001 to the richest contract in baseball history. Texas has previously been home to such confirmed or suspected steroids users as Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, and Ivan Rodriguez. The Rangers were, and perhaps still are, the biggest hotbed for steroids outside of the Bay Area. Surrounded by dopers, under incredible pressure from the contract he signed, and saddled with the desire to please everyone that makes him so incredibly annoying, he experimented with steroids. To what extent, nobody knows but Rodriguez.
Since testing has been instituted in 2004, A-Rod has been tested for steroids along with everybody else and has passed every test. Prior to that season, it isn't just A-Rod that is tainted by steroids. It is every player who hit more than 30 home runs in a season. I find it difficult to pass judgment on A-Rod because we collectively turned a blind eye to the problem of steroids in baseball throughout the previous decade. Steroids were no risk, all reward. We cheered every home run without accountability. How can we be surprised that anyone used them back then? And how can we behave as if we are shocked - SHOCKED - when we find out the truth now?
Okay, rooting may be kind of a strong word. But as a Yankee fan, shouldn't I be rooting for nothing short of utter, humiliating defeat of the Red Sox, followed by the revelation that Big Papi is a steroids user, Josh Beckett is a wife-beater, and then all that followed by a meteor strike that wipes Boston off the face of the earth?
Well, yes. In a way, that's what I am rooting for. See, the Red Sox losing to the Tampa Bay Rays would be fine. But what if the Red Sox got to the World Series... only to lose to Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez, and the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Old school Yankee fans will tell me I can't root for the Dodgers. I'm supposed to hate them too. Well guess what, old school Yankee fans? I was born in 1981. I could care less how many times the Yankees and the Dodgers played in the World Series in the 1950s. I'm over it. Today, I am all about the Dodgers.
"The Yankees stopped playing more than a week ago and yet their season keeps getting worse. "
"The Yanks still might have to deal with this World Series: the Red Sox
vs. the Joe Torre Dodgers. That will make the attack of midges that
helped drive them from the playoffs last year seem like thousands of
kisses. Who do they root for? The team they hate or the man they hate?"
Uh, Joel? I don't hate Joe Torre. I love Joe Torre. I love him as much as, or possibly more than, one heterosexual man should love another heterosexual man. He didn't choose to leave New York. He wanted to stay. The Yankees and Baby Stein forced him out after 4 World Series wins, 6 American League championships, and 12 straight years of playoff appearances. Joe Torre winning the World Series for LA while the Yankees watch at home is exactly the kind of comeuppance New York and its fickle, fickle fans deserve.
And what better way to vicariously enjoy that vengeance than if he takes it against Boston?
But the vengeance of Torre will be minor compared to the howling wail of despair from Boston when Manny Ramirez hits a walk-off, Series ending home run in Boston, and takes the slowest, sweetest jog around the bases in history...
...that takes him straight into free agency and the waiting arms (and wallet) of the New York Yankees. Oh yes. OH YES IT WILL BE GLORIOUS.
So join me, Yankee fans and Boston haters, in rooting for Boston to reach the World Series - where we all hope that Joe Torre, Manny Ramirez, and the greatest vengeance in baseball history await.
"...[W]e are sitting a few rows behind a douchebag in a home Mariano jersey
(with name) and a blue "26 time world champions" hat. Underneath the
jersey he is wearing one of those dark blue t-shirts with "Damon 18"
emblazoned on the back in white."
There are plenty of reasons to not be a Yankee fan. The old stadium, steeped, marinated, and barrel-aged in tradition as it is, is kind of a shithole, and the new stadium will require a credit check to get a hot dog. The inflated (and oft-cited) payroll leaves fans and non-fans alike with unreasonable expectations - success is met with a shrug, and failure is met with a hounding chorus of gleeful haters too busy hating on my team to notice or care about the success of their own.
The best, and sometimes only reason to be a Yankee fan is because of the tradition. The pinstripes, the numbers on the outfield wall and the names on the plaques in Monument Park speak to a legacy that few other teams in sports can match. It's fun to follow a team that feels like a truly professional sporting organization, and has a history of success that you can enjoy and feel good about even when the team on the field isn't showing up. And showing up to a game in a jersey with a name on the back, with a Johnny motherfucking Damon T-shirt on underneath, and a 26 time World Champions hat completely misses the point.
You don't need to put his name on the back, because pinstripes + 42 = Mariano Rivera. You don't need a hat that says 26 time World Champions on it. A blue hat with a white interlocking N-Y says it all. And if you were looking for a player to represent the worst of the modern day mercenary athlete, you couldn't do much better than Johnny Damon.
Jim is not even a Yankee fan, but at least he gets it. What the fuck is your problem?
Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this guy's sartorial crimes, but I think it speaks to the larger problem. Jim continues:
This guy takes
off his jersey and holds it up. He starts seriously headbanging. He
appears on the Jumbotron, achieving his 15 seconds of fame (Warhol got
the units wrong). [...] He [finally] sits, ready to cheer his favorite
Minutes later, Aubrey Huff blasts a solo shot out of the park.
Without hesitation, our subject stands, turns, and exits the stadium. As he passes by, I have but two words: 'Exit Sandman.' "
After 13 straight years of making the playoffs (the longest active stretch in baseball), this year's injury-wracked Yankees team will be watching October baseball from somewhere other than the dugouts. As a spoiled Yankee fan, I'm supposed to be enraged. I'm disappointed, but not enraged. I understand that, $209 million payroll or not, there are 29 other teams vying for a World Championship every year, and only 4 playoff spots in the American League. It was bound to happen eventually. What, did I think that the Yankees were going to make the playoffs every year for the rest of my life?
But this run of success has bloated the Yankee bandwagon to the point where a grown man covers himself head to toe in tacky, overpriced Yankee merchandise just to get noticed, and runs out of the stadium at the first sign of trouble. Because he isn't a real fan.
Listen, douche, wherever you are: if you get to go to Yankee stadium and see the greatest team in professional sports play, and then scurry out of the stadium like a bitch when things go sour, do me a favor next time: make sure you take the millions of other bandwagon fans with you.
7 players who have appeared in All-Star games, and 3 future Hall of Famers changed hands, but that's not what makes it the best trade deadline ever in Major League Baseball.
Only one thing really matters. Yes, the Yankees acquired a Hall of Fame catcher. Yes, the Angels got better and will now win the World Series. Whatever.
The only thing that matters is Manny Ramirez is no longer on the Red Sox. He's gone. Manny being Manny (read: Manny being an immature douche) is over. But more importantly, the utter torment and pain he has inflicted on my precious Yankees has finally ended.
Here is what Manny Ramirez has done against the Yankees for the last 3 years (167 at-bats):
a .407 batting average, a .772 slugging percentage, 17 home runs, 46 RBI, and an on-base percentage of .510. If you project that out to 500 at-bats (a typical season total), that translates into 50 home runs and 140 RBI.
I didn't know those numbers until I looked them up, but I didn't have to. I know from watching the games that ManRam absolutely creams us everytime he plays us, the same way you can tell who is winning a fight without counting punches. One guy looks fine, and the other guy is bleeding from the nose and mouth and part of his ear is missing. The Yankees never came out looking fine.
If I was a Red Sox fan, I would be furious. Manny owns the Yankees so hard, he should change his last name to Steinbrenner. And you gave him away, and along with it any chance to continue to compete with your arch-enemies. Jason Bay? Playa please. He was only an All-Star cause Pittsburgh had to have a representative by rule. You might as well have traded Manny for Pedro's midget.
And now he's gone to the National League, never to be heard from again.
The big weekend in sports that just passed did not go unnoticed here at the new OC headquarters. Some of the highlights:
Everyone is talking about the big Nadal-Federer match, but it seems to me that, in all the rush to declare Nadal the new King of Tennis, everyone is missing the fact that Nadal played the last 3 sets with both hands wrapped around his throat.
- At 0-40 with a chance to break Federer in the 3rd set and put the match away in straights, Federer stormed back for a hold
- At 5-2 in the tiebreak and 2 service points away from the match, Nadal double-faulted to let Federer back in. R-Fed won the tiebreak to force a 5th set.
This match was a couple points away from being the tennis version of the 2004 ALCS. Seems worth mentioning.
Lost in all the hubbub around A-Rod's impending divorce so he can marry an elderly fake Brit (by the way: if Madonna divorces guy Ritchie, who gets custody of her accent?) is the name of his lawyer: Ira M. Elegant.
Madonna's spokesperson, Ursula R. Awesome, was unavailable for comment.
And finally, the MLB All-Star teams were announced. There is always some complaining about who is in and who is out, but this year is a travesty. They need to fix this thing unless they want it to turn into the Pro-Bowl.
- Jason Varitek and his embarrassing .217 average will be there representing the AL. - Miguel "Mitchell Report" Tejada will be there for the NL. - Geovany Soto? Kosuke Fukodome? Doesn't the National League have any real players? No wonder the NL hasn't won an All-Star Game in over 10 years.
But speaking of the Mitchell Report, you know who won't be there unless you vote him in on the Last Man ballot? Jason Giambi. Sure, he's only batting .256, but this isn't about statistics. It's about this.
You've heard of movies that are so bad they're good? This might be the first so-bad-it's-good mustache. Giambi's face is where mustaches go to die. Only this one keeps on going. It's a zombie-stache.
Texas, I'm sorry. I didn't mean the things I said about you the other night. It's just that I was alone in my hotel room, and the TV was really blurry, and there wasn't any regular Law and Order on, only that crappy SVU version (I expect this kind of crap from you, Ice-T, but Richard Belzer? Where are your standards, sir.)
So, I'm here to apologize in the only way I know how: with a t-shirt. Friends?
I needed to get that off my chest, Texas, because there is something much more important to talk about. See, I learned something in the last couple of days. When you have a disagreement with someone, you shouldn't hurt them with your words. Take, for example, Cody Martin and Matt Hill, two Georgia high school baseball players. They understand that the only way to make someone understand your side of a disagreement is to hit them in the face with a baseball.
Baseball has the power to teach us many lessons. For example, when you hit someone in the face with a baseball on the street, it is assault. But between those two magical white lines, its just another way of getting your point across. In this case, the point was "I'm an entitled high school athlete having a hissy fit because of your choice of strike zone."
And sure, the catcher would protest after the game that it was a cross-up; in baseball terms, that mean you expected the pitcher to throw one pitch, and he threw another, rendering him unable to catch it. In fact, he was so surprised that he just dropped to his knees in shock while the ball sailed past him. Cross-ups, of course, do happen. For example, you put down one index finger, which is the sign for a fastball, but the pitcher saw one middle finger, which is the sign to hit the umpire in the face.
The pitcher obviously had a point, though. How could the umpire call that last pitch a ball? He clearly has pinpoint control. Here, let him show you with a baseball in your face.