On becoming agnostic towards hero worship

I’ve struggled with writing what I’ve been thinking and conceptualizing over the last few years. I’m not particularly philosophical, generally speaking, nor am I smart enough to succinctly capture some of those thoughts.

But the newest Clemens “issue”, has somehow pushed me to try putting words to a slowly growing feeling towards hero worship. So here it is:

I’ve become agnostic towards the Temple Of The Holy Athlete.

I’m not ready to declare myself an athiest since I still want to believe and hope in the best of people, especially my favorite athletes, but I’ve given up worship at the Temple. I still believe in guys like Jeter (not perfect, I know), John Smoltz, Mariano Rivera, Mike Lowell, etc.

I’m not really sure why it’s finally coming to this. There have been horrible, spoiled, frustrating, maddening, revolting athletes for ages. I went to college with Derrick “whoopdedamndoo” Coleman. I owned tickets to watch the mid-90’s Knicks. I watched Strawberry and Steve Howe “blow” their careers. I was disgusted by the way Bonds treated nearly everyone. Mike Vick. The Josh Howard “admission” this week. Shawn Kemp, period. The list goes on and on.

I’m trying not to sound or act with a righteous indignation, but how do I explain to my boys, ages 8 and 5, what Clemens is accused of doing? PED use, alleged adultry, alleged statutory rape, and not to mention (likely) lying to a Congressional Committee. [This is not purely an anti-athlete rant; I harbor the same feelings towards the Spears family, Lindsay Lohan, etc. of the Hollywood circuit. I’ve got to explain how Zoey 101 got pregnant when she’s just 15? puh-lease.]

Where does this come from? The fact that these athletes are treated differently than everyone else as soon as their talents are noticed certainly must play a role. The fact that others with less talent and less initiative try to cling to these people, hoping the crumbs of success fall in their laps also must play a role. The enablers are everywhere, looking to latch onto the comet’s tail.

But, these guys act as if they are better and more deserving of everything than anyone else. That’s what makes it all so difficult. When the slightest bit of humility is almost the sign of the apocolypse, well, I just don’t know…

So now Clemens, at his own behest, has opened the kimono of his personal life. The life of a gifted, yet flawed, superstar athlete. We’re going to see how easy it was for him (and others) to treat women like disposable razors while feigning being an upstanding citizen, husband, son, father, brother. We’re going to see how legions of yes-men enabled a pattern that ultimately led to the unwinding of Hall Of Fame career.

Any wonder why I’ve become agnostic?

Of course I will still root for my favorite teams and players, but the hero worship is long gone. So how do I balance being a fan and instilling fandom in my boys with balancing their young hero worship? They collect jerseys and I try to get them ones of players who represent the “good” in sports but who knows. They each have a Carmello Anthony jersey (thanks for the 2003 NCAA title), even though I know he’s not a saint. But I certainly make an effort to get them players who (I think) represent the good in sports. Nash, Pujols, LeBron, Mo, Jeter, Jordan, etc.

I’m open to suggestions but I’m no longer worshipping at the Temple Of The Holy Athlete.

Continue reading On becoming agnostic towards hero worship

Clemens: Back into the mud

I’ve got to tend to an 8:30am earnings call, but I wanted to leave you with this, courtesy of good friend Shysterball (I will try to get into this more later today, work schedule permitting):

The Daily News is reporting — in major detail — that Roger Clemens had a long term affair with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was [gulp] 15 years old.
…..
There are a thousand different things that could be said about this. Pure snark is one possibility, and I expect to see a lot of that as the blogosphere wakes up. Another tack, which the Daily News focuses on, is to wonder how this could impact Clemens’ lawsuit against McNamee. That’s a legitimate question, and as far as that goes I’ll say (a) the revelation of information which is harmful to one’s reputation is pretty disastrous for someone suing over the sullying of their allegedly good name; and (b) any lawyer that was aware of this kind of thing would basically be committing malpractice by filing a defamation of character lawsuit. This means that either Clemens lied to Hardin when asked whether there was any bad stuff he had to worry about, or that Hardin neglected to ask. Based on what we’ve seen I’m guessing it’s a combination of less-than-probing-questioning and a less-than-truthful answer.

Continue reading Clemens: Back into the mud

Re-examining Wang

After Chien-Ming Wang’s last start, I noted a few of the different trends that were starting to appear that I hadn’t seen before, namely a boost in his K rates at the expense of his GB:FB ratios. Then he had his outing today (which, I didn’t get to see live, sorry).

His line: 113 PC, 7 INN, 4 HA, 2 BBI, 9 K, W, HB

Nine K’s in 7 IP. Who does he think he is, Jake Peavy?

His K-rate jumped from 5.06 to 6.23, well over 1 K/9 IP over his career high of 4.70 he achieved last year. His GB:FB ratio remains at 2.00:1, his most “even” since the 2.68 he posted last year (note: these stats might change as I am not sure if the GB:FB ratio has been updated in ESPN, source for the stats shown in my graph to the right). Still no reason to worry.

Or is there?

Note, too, that he needed 113 pitches to get thru 7 IP. I’m not so concerned with the number of pitches but rather that he needed that many to get thru 7 IP. He’s usually more economical, however, with this newer approach, we’re seeing a shift. The 14.56 avg pitches per inning is also a career high.

Fewer grounders and double plays but more K’s and pitches. And his ERA stands at 3.23, also a career low (after 6 starts). And he’s won 5 games this April and holds a career 51-18 record. Pretty darn impressive, any way you slice it.

Can Wang continue to evolve before our eyes? Not sure but I am watching (well, except for the game yesterday, naturally).

Did you see anything different today? Tell me if I missed something since I didn’t get to see it live.

Related Posts:
Examining Wang

Also see: Wang dominates Indians to cap 5-0 April (at River Ave. Blues, who are also “onto” the new Wang)

Continue reading Re-examining Wang

Pushing the lines of creepy

Maybe it’s me, but I think Ozzie Guillen is getting awfully close to the “creepy” threshold. To wit:

I keep saying the best [Yankees] player who ever happened – bigger than someone else, but I’m not going to say the name here – is Derek Jeter,” Guillen began, perched in the Sox dugout.

He merely was warming up.

Derek Jeter has everything in his life. He’s got money. He’s got rings. He’s got” Guillen paused, because timing means everything in comedy. “He’s not married.”

Wait for the laugh.

At the All-Star Game (where Guillen managed him in 2006), I looked around to see if he has anything I don’t like. No. He’s the perfect man. Too bad I don’t have a daughter.”

So, in other words, Ozzie, you like this Jeter guy, is that what you’re trying to say here?

He’s the best thing ever in the game. He’s got everything he wants. He lives in New York. Even [George] Steinbrenner loves him. Nobody is better than Derek Jeter in the game. Nobody.”

I know most guys would KILL to live Jeter’s life, but isn’t it a tad bit creepy listening to an opposing manager and former player gush like this?
Maybe it’s just me.

Continue reading Pushing the lines of creepy

More Pat Jordan

Following my posting (Productivity buster alert) that featured the Pat Jordan article about Canseco, I found a great roundtable discussion featuring Yanks fan/blogger/author Alex Belth and Jordan. Belth has a book coming out featuring Jordan’s best works over his career: The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan.

Here’s a snippet of the roundtable:

[Interviewer]: Let me start off with you, Alex. On the surface, you and Pat have nothing in common other than your love of baseball and writing. Now that is not insignificant by any means. But, my goodness, how in the heck did a new school, soon-to-be 37-year-old liberal New York Yankees fan and resident of the Bronx hook up on a book with an old school, 67-year-old conservative former minor league pitcher-turned-baseball author from the paradise known as Ft. Lauderdale?

Alex: First, I try to avoid talking politics, not only with Pat but with just about everyone else, you included. So that cuts through our differences to start. Actually, when I started my blog, I wanted to run long interviews with sports writers. I thought it would be a great way to drum up some attention for the site. I had read both of Pat’s memoirs and loved them, so he was on my short list of guys to contact. And when I called him out of the blue, he sounded happy to hear from me and was more than willing to be candid. Now that I know him, he always sounds miserable to hear from me. Where did I go wrong?

Pat: Actually, Alex was thrilled I was still alive when he called. So was I. He said he wanted to interview me for his blog. I said no problem. What the fuck’s a blog? I figured what harm could it do. Blogs, Internet. What do I know? I write on a typewriter. Besides, Alex was one of the few people who read any of my books, and seemed to like them…I must admit for the right reasons. It’s always nice when people know what you tried to do in your books. Alex is my ideal reader. If he doesn’t like something, I have to think three times about it. Most of the times he’s right. Sometimes not, but he has a better batting average than anyone on the Yankees right now. As for his politics, I’m waiting for him to grow up and become a Republican. I bought a new gun just for him.

So I emailed Alex afterwards, commenting about his blog, his work, Jordan and to introduce him to my site here.

Alex was kind enough to send the following back, more links to more Pat Jordan:

Pat’s three round curse a thon at Pos:

Pat’s interview on Playboy’s blog:

Thanks to Alex for the links. Also, Alex’s Bronx Banter blog has been added to the blogroll to the left.

Continue reading More Pat Jordan

Kentucky Derby?

Was reminded today that the Kentucky Derby is 10 days away. So what? Other than it reminds me of a time at the track with my father and his horse-crazy friend. And the fact that few things are more compactly fun than betting on horses, particularly betting on the Kentucky Derby.

So here’s the story about a night at the track:

Evidently my dad’s buddy, Alan, is well-versed in all things equine, from breeding, to tendencies, etc. A real track-rat, or whatever they call it. He knows horses, period. My dad, a numbers wizard, had me meet them in the Meadowlands to watch the horses run one night. It’s typically quiet midweek, so as we settled in to watch the races, a strange thing started happening.

Alan starts by calling off the horses and how he sees them finishing. This is not anything new if you’ve ever been to a track, but he has raised and trained and owned horses, so he’s got the skill to do this. It’d be like watching a ballgame with a professional scout, telling/pointing out things you’d never see or notice. My dad is calling off the odds and he starts matching odds with the horses, getting rather exotic with the bets. This is no simple “$5 on the #3 horse to win” sorta thing. This is multiple exactas and trifectas, designed, on the fly, without paper, to create arbitrage situations where, so long as the picks of the horses are right, they cannot lose money. Now, the horses aren’t always right but that happens. I’m watching this develop and seeing how they have developed this system over a decade or so and I am speechless. They created as complex a trading system as they have on Wall Street, except it’s for horses, not financial instruments.

This goes on, all night, race after race. And they are winning. Big. Expect here’s the rub: The never place a bet with the house. They have a 3rd buddy who never goes with them who acts as the house and they settle up at the end of each season, over dinner. The bets are a few bucks each, up to $20 per race, depending on how many and how complex the bets get. If they actually walked to the window and made these bets, they’d have paid for college for all the kids, and then some. But for them, it’s not about the money (and this is my dad, mind you. Go figure, right?), but rather the challenge to pick the horse and design the perfect bets. As the years have gone by, they have honed their separate skills into a finely-tuned gambling machine.

My parents moved out West a few years back so this has faded into the ether, but it jumped into my head this afternoon, so there ya go.

More baseball tomorrow/tonite. Continue reading Kentucky Derby?

Examining Wang

It’s very hard difficult to craft a title with Chien-Ming Wang’s name in it that’s not a double entendre. That said, watching Wang last night, I noticed he’s becomming a different pitcher. He struggled a bit but hung on for the victory, but that’s not the story. The story is his change in approach and the number of different pitches he’s throwing.

How is this manifesting itself in his performance? Let’s take a closer look:

Repetoire
Wang, the owner of one of the best sinkerballs in the game currently (best: Brandon Webb), is trying to expand his repetoire, adding a slider and split finger to complement his change-up. As noted during Spring Training:

Wang, who has won 19 games the last two seasons relying on his fabled sinker, is not worried, however, and neither is Girardi. “I’m not looking at the stats,” Wang said. “Spring training is the time to tune up. I’m working on pitches.”


Ground ball/Fly ball
Well, if you’re watching, like me, you’ve noticed more fly balls hit than ever before. While this has resulted in just 1 HR surrendered so far, there have been many close calls. He had been one of the more difficult pitchers to homer against, surrendering a mere 21 over 2006-07. That’s pretty darn impressive.

Over his career, since 2005, Wang has been around the 3:1 ground ball to fly ball (GB:FB) ratio. Last year, he was at 2.68 GB:FB. Thus far this year, his ratio has dipped to 2.00:1. Is this reason for concern? Maybe. Maybe he’s evolving as a pitcher. But, I’d expect his HR rate to climb this year if this ratio remains where it is. It’s only logical that if he gives up more FB’s, more will find their way to the seats.

For all of his stats, go here.

K-Rate
The flip-side to the GB:FB ratio is that his K-rate is at a career high at 5.06 per 9 IP. He was at 4.70 last year and 3.14 in 2006. As a result of the higher K-rate and increasing his ability to make bats miss, he’s sporting his lowest BAA (batting avg against) of his career at .248. Hand-in-hand with a higher K-rate is a higher K:BB ratio, currently at 2.00. He’s not walking players at any greater rate than in the past, which is a good sign.

Conclusion
I think that Wang’s still working on developing his expanded repetoire and will face some lumps along the way. However, as he gains a degree of comfort, he should continue to blossom as the Yanks’ ace. He might never be the big K pitcher like Peavy or Santana, but he’s got the ability to keep the Yanks in most games and often goes deep into the game. His ability to “eat innings” further saves the bullpen, which is something the Yanks sorely need as the other young guns are suffering thru their own growing pains.

I’ll keep a close eye on Wang as the season progresses, looking to see if he bails on his development efforts and resorts back to a sinker-heavy approach or if he continues to develop his secondary pitches.

Stay tuned.

Follow up: Re-examining Wang Continue reading Examining Wang