Category Archives: Sports

Day Eight: Read me on The Classical!

So instead of reading me here tonight, head on over to The Classical, where I wrote an essay on Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, a young midfielder from England (by way of Jamaica) and one of the most promising young footballers in the world.

He’s one of my favorite players right now, but he also has a problematic history of violence against women which makes watching him play an internal struggle between right and wrong. I’m proud of the piece and I think it’s important insofar that the conversation I’m trying to have about Raheem Sterling is relevant to guys like Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Jameis Winston, Adrian Peterson and so many other disgraceful but supremely talented athletes.

I hope you enjoy it.

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Day Five: A Simple Flow Chart for Hall of Fame qualifications.

Here’s a quick flow chart for all of the criteria one needs to vote for the Hall of Fame:

Screenshot 2015-01-04 19.37.33

That’s it. That’s all you need. I don’t give a shit if the player in question was a dick to the press, or if someone thinks they took something illegal (even if they have no proof). Was the player, within the context of his era, great at playing baseball? If yes, he’s a Hall of Famer; if no, he’s not. It’s pretty simple. Self-aggrandizing assholes don’t need to be complicating this.

Anyway, here’s how I’d vote if there were no restrictions on how many players one could vote for: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Kent, Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, McGwire, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Sheffield, Smoltz, Sosa, Trammell, Walker.

That’s a lot of players, and unfortunately you can only vote for ten. If I had a hypothetical ballot, I’d likely go the same route as Twitter-pal-with-an-actual-vote, Mike Berardino, who voted strategically and left off Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson (who were essentially guaranteed entry to the Hall) and used his vote on players in danger of falling off of the ballot.

All of that said, this is probably how I’d vote if I had the privilege of doing so: Bagwell, Biggio, Edgar, Moose, Piazza, Raines, Trammell, Walker (like Mike) and then McGwire and Sosa over Schilling and Smoltz, mostly because Schill will stay on the ballot and eventually get in and Smoltz is getting in this year (why he’s in over Moose and Schilling I’ll never understand), while Sosa and McGwire are in serious danger of falling off the ballot.

Just for good measure, in a world that makes sense, one where I wouldn’t have to game the system, my actual ten-man ballot would be: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Edgar, Pedro, Moose, Piazza, Raines. (Moose over Schilling simply because of preference; I consider them equals.)

And, just to make a prediction, I’m guessing Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio all make it. Mike Piazza and Tim Raines will both be close, and (I hope, otherwise Jonah will kill everyone) they’ll get in next year.

Okay, now that that’s done, I’m gonna go ahead and mute all Twitter discussion of the Hall of Fame after the announcement on Tuesday.

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On Walter White, Alex Rodriguez, and appreciating an antihero.

Never give up control; live life on your own terms. – Walter White

If there’s anything that the Golden Era of modern television has taught us, it’s that America loves an antihero. The most important television characters of the past decade all fit this description: Tony Soprano, Stringer Bell, Omar Little, Don Draper, and Walter White are all iconic modern antiheroic protagonists. Walter White more than any of those other men, however, best embodies someone who isn’t just defined by his moral shortcomings (depending on your own personal moral and ethical philosophy), but consumed by them.

Over the past five seasons we’ve watched Walter White evolve (devolve?) from the underachieving, cancer-stricken, high school chemistry teacher hoping to provide for his family, to the methamphetamine cooking sociopath with an insatiable greed – I’m in the empire business.

He has murdered, plotted to murder, been an associate to the murder of a child, poisoned a child, cooked and sold drugs, and sexually assaulted his boss, and yet he seems to be far more likeable than Breaking Bad’s central moral figure, that being his wife, Skyler, who has essentially become Walt’s hostage.*

*There’s a strange backlash towards TV wives – Skyler White, Carmela Soprano, etc. – which may be steeped in misogyny, but also in the fact that these women represent the only people potentially capable of stopping their husbands from committing the crimes we love watching them commit on a weekly basis. Whatever your thoughts are of Skyler as a woman who cheated on her husband (or as a woman who slept with her boss), in her marriage, she’s the only one truly looking out for the best interests of her family. As Vince Gilligan told Vulture, “She’s telling him not to be a murderer and a guy who cooks drugs for kids. How could you have a problem with that?”

Walter White’s transformation began with the realization that, if he were to die, his family would be left with close to nothing. Walt’s decision to “break bad” was made with the intention of providing for his family – $737,000, that’s what I need – and yet, through a series of poor decisions, bad luck and pure ego, he was never satisfied with his returns, despite making more money than he would ever need.

What was once an endeavor justified through his own utilitarianism, cooking methamphetamine became an obsession, an obsession fueled by pride, and one which, it would seem, will lead to his demise.

One of my favorite scenes from Breaking Bad is from the season five episode, “Fifty-One,” after Skyler’s “suicide attempt,” as she laments what happened with Ted Beneke (the failed-attempt to get him to pay off his IRS debts, not the affair):

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Some picks for the 2013 season, just because.

I’m only doing this because I like having this kind of stuff on the record. (Keep in mind that the awards are picks and not predictions.)

AL Rookie of the Year:

  1. Jackie Bradley, Jr.
  2. Wil Myers
  3. Leonys Martin

NL Rookie of the Year:

  1. Julio Teheran
  2. Oscar Taveras
  3. Adam Eaton

If I had to guess, I would say that the writers would vote for Myers over JBJ simply because I believe Tampa will make it to the playoffs and the Red Sox won’t. I also don’t think they’ll properly value what Bradley brings to the table defensively (see: Trout, Mike). I would have chosen Adam Eaton in the National League if it wasn’t for his injury. Teheran will have a full season, with great run support, an excellent outfield defense, and a full-season of Andrelton Simmons playing shortstop will probably save him a handful of runs – this will also give him a nice win total, which we know the BBWAA loves.

AL Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. Yu Darvish
  3. David Price

NL Cy Young:

  1. Stephen Strasburg
  2. Clayton Kershaw
  3. Adam Wainwright

I would have voted for Verlander in 2012, and I can’t envision any scenario in which he doesn’t get hurt and doesn’t finish in the top two. Darvish is just a hunch that he’s going to break out in a big way. In the NL, Strasburg and Kershaw might as well be 1 and 1A – I could see them going 1-2 for the foreseeable future. Wainwright is going to earn his new contract in a big way this season.

AL MVP:

  1. Jose Bautista
  2. Mike Trout
  3. Miguel Cabrera

NL MVP:

  1. Jason Heyward
  2. Bryce Harper
  3. Joey Votto

Honestly, I could put all six of those guys in any order and be confident in the pick. I’m willing to bet that Harper wins it over Heyward because he’ll bat third (while Heyward bats 2nd) and will have more RBI opportunities. As for the American League, it just feels too predictable to go for Trout or Cabrera, and I think the Toronto offense is gonna put up some huge numbers this season, and Jose Bautista will be the beneficiary.

AL East:

  1. Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Tampa Bay Rays*
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles

AL Central:

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Minnesota Twins

AL West:

  1. Oakland Athletics
  2. Texas Rangers*
  3. Anaheim Angels
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Houston Astros

I can’t picture the Yankees finishing higher than 3rd place in the American League East – too much has to go perfectly right that the odds are heavily against them making the playoffs. I think it’s possible all five AL East teams finish over .500. And maybe I’m crazy, but I’m not as high on the Texas Rangers as many others – their rotation (other than Yu Darvish) is fairly unspectacular, and they lost quite a few arms in the bullpen. That’s all without mentioning that their outfield isn’t great (Nelson Cruz is trending in the wrong direction), and that they plan on having Lance Berkman bat 3rd. Despite all of that, I’m still picking them to win the second Wild Card spot, if only because I believe Anaheim’s pitching is that bad. It’s also entirely possible that Cleveland (not Kansas City) pulls a Baltimore and makes a run towards the Wild Card, and Kansas City’s poor record will lead to Dayton Moore and Ned Yost losing their jobs. I also don’t see Houston being nearly as bad as everyone thinks – they’ll be the worst team in baseball, but it won’t be historic.

NL East:

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Atlanta Braves*
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. New York Mets
  5. Miami Marlins

NL Central:

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Cincinnati Reds*
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Chicago Cubs

NL West:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Colorado Rockies

The National League is absolutely stacked this year. It’s incredibly difficult to leave San Francisco out of the playoffs, and I had high hopes for Arizona until all of their injuries this spring. The Milwaukee Brewers were sneakily the senior circuit’s best offense last year, and I get the feeling they’ll only get better in 2013 – I could see them or Arizona making a run. The Phillies will probably end up trading Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay and they’ll still finish with a better record than the Mets and Marlins.

World Series:

St. Louis Cardinals over Tampa Bay Rays in seven games.

I’m not sure why more people aren’t as bullish on the St. Louis Cardinals as I am. Their lineup is loaded, they have a strong rotation with a bonafide ace, and their bullpen is filled with a nice mix of flamethrowers and junkballers who get hitters out in a myriad of ways. They also have the best farm system in baseball, and young guys like Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams, Michael Wacha, Kolten Wong and Joe Kelly are all going to make significant contributions. It’s also because of this system, and because of the versatility of guys like Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig, that, if any of their regulars are injured mid-season, the team won’t miss a beat. These are all the same reasons why I chose Tampa Bay in the American League. What puts St. Louis over the top will be their ability to absorb some salary – if the Indians fall out of contention, we’ll probably be seeing Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop sometime this summer, and there’s an outside chance they could even pull off a blockbuster for Troy Tulowitzki (they’re the only team who can). Even without making a deal for a stud, the Cardinals’ organizational depth is what will separate them from the pack during this marathon of a season.

Happy baseball, folks.

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It’s not you, it’s us.

(Note: I apologize for the fact that the jump-links for the footnotes don’t seem to work. It was my first time trying it out and I, clearly, failed. Hopefully I can fix them soon.)

In 1989, the Oakland Athletics swept the San Francisco Giants in four games to win the World Series. It was a series which, historically, is best remembered for the earthquake which struck just prior to Game 3. It was also a series, though, in which the A’s thoroughly dominated their competition. They not only swept the Giants, but they also outscored them 32-14, and, amazingly, had not trailed at any single point in the series.

That A’s team, led by Tony La Russa, was one which was comprised of an excellent pitching staff – they featured four starters with at least 17 wins (Dave Stewart, Mike Moore, Bob Welch, Storm Davis), the best closer in baseball (Dennis Eckersley), and one of the deepest bullpens in the league. Its offense was led by Rickey Henderson, but also by two young sluggers – 25 year-old first baseman Mark McGwire, who batted only .231 but with 33 home runs and 95 RBI, and by 24 year-old Jose Canseco, who, in only 65 games, slugged 17 home runs. This was a great team. Revisionist history, however, tells us that this may be the most notorious team of the last few generations.

Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco have, of course, admitted to using steroids and performance-enhancing drugs throughout their careers. Canseco even considers himself the sort of patient zero of PED users in Major League Baseball. It’s because of this that many people consider those late-80’s Oakland A’s teams as the epicenter of the modern “steroid era” of baseball. The truth, though, is that the so-called “steroid era” began long, long before McGwire and Canseco wore an Oakland uniform – before they were born, even.

One hundred and twenty-four years ago, in 1889, a pitcher by the name of James Francis “Pud” Galvin[1] went 23-16 for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the National League. Pud Galvin was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1965, but he’s best known, in baseball circles, as the first professional baseball player to openly use (what he believed to be) performance-enhancing drugs. Galvin drank what he called his “magic elixir,” which, in actuality, was the Brown-Sequard elixir – a mixture which contains monkey testosterone – which some scientists (in 1889) believed could “increase the strength of the human organism,” while others said that experiments with the elixir were “repugnant to true science.” After further research, it was found that the Brown-Sequard elixir had no positive effects on human recovery or strength.

Usage of the Brown-Sequard elixir was purely experimental, much in the same way that many of the PEDs used today are experimental. Very little is, truly, known about their effects on the human body in recovery, strength, and/or, even, harmful side effects. The point, though, is that one hundred years before the “steroid era” began, professional athletes were experimenting with drugs and cocktails which they had believed – or, at the very least, hoped – would enhance their performance on the field; for over a century, players have been looking for that proverbial “edge.” The steroid era, then – for all intents and purposes – began in 1889, not 1989, as we’ve been led to believe.

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