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Brief chronicles of our sporting times.

Sports Broadcasters Criticize Paternity Leave in MLB



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Radio broadcaster Mike Mike Francesa at New York City’s WFAN is not happy that Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy took a few days off to be with his wife and their newborn son. Via the New York Daily News:

Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy missed his second straight game Wednesday night to be with his wife and newborn child, taking advantage of his collectively bargained paternity leave.

But his absence didn’t sit well with some of New York’s sports talk radio hosts, who took the second baseman to task for not “getting his ass back to the team.”

“One day I understand. And in the old days they didn’t do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help,” WFAN afternoon host Mike Francesa said on Wednesday.

Murphy left the Mets on Monday to be with his wife, Tori, who gave birth to their son, Noah, in Florida. The Mets were off Tuesday and called up Wilmer Flores on Wednesday to play second base.

Murphy, who is allowed 1-3 days off for paternity leave that was put into MLBPA’s collective bargaining agreement in 2011, is expected to be back in the lineup for Thursday’s afternoon game against the Nationals. That isn’t soon enough for Francesa, who says all dads should follow his example.

“What are you going to do? I mean you are going to sit there and look at your wife in a hospital bed for two days?” he mocked. “Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple of days; you know that you’re not doing much the first couple days with the baby that was just born.”

And Francesa wasn’t alone:

Boomer Esiason, on WFAN’s morning show, took it even a step further, saying Murphy should have insisted his wife “have a C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day, I’m sorry.”

His partner, Craig Carton agreed: “Assuming the birth went well, the wife is fine, the baby is fine, 24 hours and then you get your ass back to your team and you play baseball.”

Really Boomer? After all Esiason has gone through with his son, I’d expect that he’d at least understand the importance to a father being with his wife and child at his child’s birth.

Tags: MLB

President Selfie Update: Ortiz Photo Was Staged by Samsung



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So now the President of the United States is nothing more than a prop in a marketing campaign? 

Staged selfies might be the name of the game.

It started at the Oscars with Ellen DeGeneres’s epic picture of celebrities and now it appears David Ortiz himself may be in on the action.

Samsung confirmed that it had helped Ortiz take Tuesday’s selfie with President Obama. The mobile provider then promoted the picture on Twitter to the company’s 5.2 million followers.

Trade publication Sports Business Journal reported on Monday that Ortiz had inked a new endorsement deal with the cellphone provider.

Samsung Mobile promoted the Obama-Ortiz selfie on Twitter after the Red Sox appeared at the White House, and it had been retweeted 34,000 times as of Tuesday evening. As Twitter users weighed in, Samsung Mobile smartly responded to individual users asking about the picture. “This photo was taken with a #GalaxyNote3,’’ Samsung Mobile US tweeted.

The rest here.

Tags: MLB

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President Selfie Strikes Again



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This time with David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox:

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Tags: MLB

Tiger Backs Out of Masters



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I’ve long been in the middle ground re Tiger Woods, neither a hater nor a big admirer (although I do approve of his commitment to our military, which is a consistent theme for him). But this – this is sad. A Masters without Tiger Woods, which will occur this year for the first time since 1994, is a much poorer Masters. I don’t think I’ve ever actually rooted for Woods to win a major; I don’t celebrate when he loses, but his demeanor doesn’t fit my ideals. Still, I want him in the field. He makes almost every tournament more exciting. He provides a great storyline, every time. And his performances sometimes are so otherworldly as to be absolutely riveting. (His most recent major victory, the 2008 U.S. Open on a fractured leg, was a wonder to behold and a testament to his skill and grit.)

More than that, no matter what one thinks of his personal life or his occasional lack of graciousness, Woods certainly has had a run of bad luck with injuries. Calf, knee, ankles, leg, wrist, and back: This is a guy who has suffered a lot, physically, at what for a golfer is still a rather young age (if not young for major victories, at least young for the number of injuries he has had). It is a shame to see a fierce competitor sidelined like this.

Moreover, this is just awful for the Masters and for CBS. With the exception of a stunningly entertaining match-play championship, this golf season (post New Year’s) already has been a dud, from the standpoint of the casual fan. Neither Woods nor Phil Mickelson has come close to winning. Nor has Sergio Garcia, at least not in the United States. Rory McIlroy hasn’t won. Adam Scott hasn’t won. Ernie Els hasn’t won. Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose: nada. Even some of the more identifiable rising stars — Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker — have been largely AWOL.

Even the mid-level golf fan, before the season started, probably couldn’t identify half of the following from a photo lineup: Stephen Bowditch, Matt Every, Chesson Hadley, Patrick Reed, Scott Stallings, or maybe even Russell Henley. Yet all have been winners since New Year’s, and often without a lot of serious drama. It’s good for young players to emerge — but it’s usually good when they do so in a mix with established stars, rather than all at once, in a parade of unfamiliarity for most fans.

In short, there is no obvious, galvanizing storyline leading into Augusta this year. Indeed, there’s not even a semi-obvious one. It’s the most unsettled, aimless season leading into the Masters that I’ve ever seen. 

And now, to take away Tiger Woods . . . well, that just is a huge buzz-kill. 

Here’s hoping the magic of Augusta transcends the lack of buzz leading in. And here’s wishing for a speedy recovery for Woods, even if one hopes he never surpasses the Major victory record of Jack Nicklaus.

Tags: Golf

The Highlight of Opening Day



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Neil Walker’s first career walk-off home run off of Rollie Fingers Carlos Villanueva in the tenth inning of what had been a scoreless affair between the Cubs and Pirates is the no-doubt highlight of Opening Day:

More here, courtesy of Bucs Dugout’s Charlie Wilmoth.

Tags: MLB

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My 2014 Picks (Whaddaya Think?)



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Below you will find my MLB predictions for the 2014. (For a hearty chuckle, check out my prognostications from 2012 and 2013.)

Sure, snow was falling in Washington, D.C., only a few hours before I submitted this post; nonetheless, the regular season in North America got underway earlier this evening in San Diego, where the Padres were hosting the 2–0 Dodgers on ESPN. 

So what should we expect from the 30 clubs in the months to come?

American League East
Tampa Bay, Boston, New York, Toronto, Baltimore

WHAT TO FANCY: The Rays get one more season out of David Price and he won’t disappoint. Every baseball fan in New England is excited about shortstop phenom Xander Bogaerts. Masahiro Tanaka ought to put up excellent peripherals in the Bronx, and even Michael Piñeda looks poised for a solid season. Colby Rasmus quietly slugged over .500 in Toronto last season and there’s no reason why he can’t repeat that feat. At one year and $8 million, Nelson Cruz was an absolute bargain pickup for the Orioles.

WHAT TO FEAR: Now that Tampa Bay re-signed James Loney, he needs to show that he can replicate last season’s .339 wOBA. Even if Bogaerts excels, don’t expect this year’s Red Sox lineup to equal the performance of the 2013 version. (Every starter last season, save third baseman Will Middlebrooks, either met or exceeded career norms.) No Yankee taking the field tomorrow will be under 30 years old. The Jays pitching looks to be better but two of its starters are returning from major injuries. Manny Machado’s injured knee remains a concern for the Orioles.

BOTTOM LINE: The division remains reasonably competitive from top to bottom, but the Rays have the fewest holes and finish with 95 wins, just ahead of the Sox, who pick up a wild-card berth.

AL Central
Detroit, Kansas City, Chicago, Cleveland, Minnesota

WHAT TO FANCY: Prince Fielder doesn’t get dealt away and Miguel Cabrera moves back to first base if the Tigers don’t think Nick Castellanos is the third baseman of the future. While salivating over Yordano Ventura’s 101-mph fastball, don’t forget that the offseason trade for Aoki and the signing of free agent Omar Infante might prove to be among the best Royals transactions since they stole Amos Otis from the Mets . . . after the 1969 season. Speaking of acquisitions, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn deserves major props for picking up Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks and for signing Cuban power-hitting first baseman Jose Abreu. Having Carlos Santana man third base at Progressive Field is a risky move but with considerable upside. With their two top prospects out with injuries, Twins fans can take heart that the 2015 season is only a year away.

WHAT TO FEAR: Playing half of his games in Comerica Park will take its toll on Ian Kinsler’s offense. At what point does Kansas City give up on Mike Moustakas and his career .296 OBP? There is little depth on the South Side. Danny Salazar may have Cy Young potential, but Cleveland asks way too much of him and the talented but erratic Trevor Bauer. With their two top prospects out with injuries, Twins fans can be depressed that the 2015 season is a full year away.

BOTTOM LINE: The Tigers fend off a charge from the Royals, while a young White Sox team takes a sizeable step forward.

AL West
Los AngelesOakland, Texas, Seattle, Houston

WHAT TO FANCY: Albert Pujols is no longer Albert Pujols, but his good health entering the season means that a .900 OPS is a reasonable expectation. Now with the Rangers, Fielder will slug 45 home runs this season . . . at home. (I kid. Kind of.) In Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson, the A’s may have the best — and criminally underrated – left side of the infield in the majors. When signing the mega-deal with Seattle, Robinson Cano was well aware that Safeco Field is no longer considered a pitcher’s paradise. Top Astros prospect George Springer will get called up well before the All-Star break, reminding Astros fans that there is a flicker of light at the end of the long tunnel.

WHAT TO FEAR: Josh Hamilton is no longer Josh Hamilton and, unless he can stop his frequent swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, bad things will continue to happen. Aside from more raw sewage seeping into the O.Co Colisuem clubhouses, there’s this: a healthy portion of Oakland’s 94 starts in 2013 that went to Bartolo Colon (now with the Mets) and A. J. Griffin (injured and out indefinitely) and Jarrod Parker (injured and out for the season), who need to be replaced. The injury bug plagues the Rangers as well, with four-fifths of their rotation on the shelf to start the season. If Cano’s career in the Pacific Northwest gets off to a slow start, when do the boo birds make their presence known? With all of its division rivals perched near, at, or above .500, what are the odds that Houston doesn’t lose over 100 games for the fourth consecutive season?

BOTTOM LINE: Albert and the Halos pitching staff remain reasonably healthy, leading the Angels to a division title. The A’s capture the second wild card.

National League East
WashingtonAtlanta, New York, Miami, Philadelphia

WHAT TO FANCY: This is the year that Bryce Harper earns his superstar status with a near-.600 SLG. Any offensive improvement for defensive stalwart Andrelton Simmons, however marginal, will be a boon for the Braves. A healthy Jenrry Mejia in Queens this season may post peripherals that are ace-like. Surely, Giancarlo Stanton can’t have two disappointing seasons in a row? If the Phillies do finish behind the Fish, there’s a better than 50–50 chance ownership will look for a new general manager, granting legions of Phillies fans their No. 1 wish.

WHAT TO FEAR:​ With all due respect to Adam LaRoche and his career year in 2012, the sooner Ryan Zimmerman moves to first base and Anthony Rendon shifts to third, the better. With two-fifths of their rotation on the shelf this season, Braves fans have reason to worry if Ervin Santana is deemed the ace of the staff. Even if offseason additions Curtis Granderson and Colon perform well for the Mets, at most they’re merely replacing the 2013 production of departed Marlon Byrd and injured Matt Harvey. Casey McGehee and Rafael Furcal are the Marlins’ starting third baseman and second baseman, respectively. (Nuff said.) Other than Cliff Lee and perhaps A. J. Burnett, is there anyone on the Phillies roster who’s a decent bet for a solid season? Even Cole Hamels is a question mark, given the concerns about his sore shoulder.

BOTTOM LINE: What was supposed to happen in 2013 will happen this season. The Nationals run away with the division, but the Braves do just enough to qualify for a wild-card spot. 

NL Central
St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee

WHAT TO FANCY: Youngsters Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha have thrilled fans at Busch Stadium with their electric stuff, but Adam Wainwright still anchors the Cardinals rotation. When prospect Gregory Polanco receives the inevitable call-up later this spring, the Pirates will boast the most athletic outfield in the bigs. Speedster Billy Hamilton may steal over 100 bases for Cincinnati, provided he can reach first base safely more than 30 percent of the time. With his vision problems reportedly a thing of the past, the Cubs’ Mike Olt may finally live up to the hype that surrounded him while in the Rangers organization. The Brewers won’t be giving Yuniesky Betancourt (now plying his trade in Japan) playing time at first base this season.

WHAT TO FEAR: St. Louis has few holes, but losing David Freese to a trade and Carlos Beltran to free agency drains some of the power from the lineup. While Pittsburgh will benefit from a full season of Gerrit Cole on the mound, Burnett’s departure hurts while Francisco Liriano will have a difficult time replicating last year’s sparkling numbers. Injuries have ravaged the Reds’ top bullpen arms. The Cubs may sport one of the most talent-rich farm systems, but for a third season in a row there’s little depth at the big-league level. This year’s first-base tandem of Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds may lead more than a few Milwaukee fans to long for the good ol’ Yunieksy days.

BOTTOM LINE: If any MLB franchise reaches the three-digit win total, it will be the Cards, who enjoy both a formidable roster and weak division rivals.

NL West
Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Arizona, Colorado

WHAT TO FANCY: Boasting MLB’s highest payroll ($216+ million) doesn’t mean the Dodgers are free of worries, but there’s enough talent to win the division and go deep into the postseason. Three of San Francisco’s four infielders are in their prime, and the fourth, second baseman Marco Scutaro, remains an above-average threat at the plate. Counting on success from the Padres’ Opening Day starter Andrew Cashner looks increasingly like a good bet. Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo ought to hit more than enough long balls in Chase Field to keep the fans in the left-field seats happy. Carlos Gonzalez (center field) and Troy Tulowitzki (shortstop) are the best offensive threats at their positions. 

WHAT TO FEAR
You’d think LA riches could haves bought a little more talent to start the season than a Dee Gordon–Justin Turner platoon at second base. The Giants’ starting rotation looks considerably more mortal than the ones that won rings in 2010 and 2012, although the addition of Tim Hudson helps. Counting on an injury-free season from Josh Johnson is a mug’s game, yet the Padres are the latest team to roll the dice. CarGo and Tulo are injury-prone; if they don’t play full seasons, a 100-loss season in Denver is a real possibility.

BOTTOM LINE: Thanks to a weak division, the Dodgers should coast to their second consecutive title. The Giants get just enough quality pitching to earn the other wild card.

* * *

AL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Tampa Bay over Boston

NL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
St. Louis over Washington

WORLD SERIES
St. Louis over Tampa Bay

* * *

As for the hardware:

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Robinson Cano (AL), Bryce Harper (NL)

CY YOUNG AWARD
David Price (AL), Adam Wainwright (NL)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Xander Bogaerts (AL), Mike Olt (NL)

Your comments, thoughtful or otherwise, are always appreciated.

Tags: MLB

Miggy’s Unexplainable Contract Extension



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The franchise that apparently could no longer afford Doug Fister’s $4 million salary (an absolute bargain considering his peripheral statistics) for the next two seasons has agreed to supplement Miguel Cabrera’s existing contract ($44 million over two years) with an eight-year deal totaling a mind-blowing $248 million. From the average annual value of his contract, the Tigers’ soon-to-be 31-year-old first baseman becomes the highest paid player in the game.

Why didn’t Detroit wait another year before talking extension with Cabrera? Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe suspects that the inability of general manager Dave Dombrowski to lock up Max Scherzer may have been a key factor:

[O]ne can’t help but feel that the Tigers are overcompensating at a time when they need a PR boost. With Cabrera two years away from free agency, there shouldn’t have been any real urgency to wrap this up now, and yet the team has chosen to strike when he’s at the absolute peak of his career, with nowhere to go but down.

After going back and forth on the pros and cons of the move, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs comes down on the Tigers like a ton of bricks:

Point: This contract is a ridiculous overpay.

The point of a pre-free agent extension is that a team gets a discount in exchange for taking away the player’s risk of injury before he gets a chance to land a big contract in free agency. By giving Cabrera the equivalent of 10/$292M when he was two years away from free agency, the Tigers are implicitly arguing that his open market value this winter would have been something more along the lines of $325 to $350 million.

There’s no reasonable justification for that valuation, not when Robinson Cano topped at $240 million and only had a single bidder over $175M. One can rationally prefer Cabrera to Cano, but there’s no way that Cabrera is 30% to 40% more valuable. Or, to put things into the Tigers own valuation formula, there’s no reasonable argument that Cabrera is twice as valuable as Max Scherzer, even though their final offer to him was less than half of what they have now committed to Cabrera. If the Tigers are lucky, they’ll end up paying something like $9 million per win over the life of Cabrera’s deal, and that’s including the two years that they already had under control. If they really wanted to throw this kind of money around, they simply could have done better than signing up for Cabrera’s entire decline phase.

Counter Point: There isn’t one. This deal is a ridiculous overpay.

I understand why the Tigers wanted to keep Miguel Cabrera around for the rest of his career. He’s going to go into the Hall of Fame as a Tiger, and he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever wear the Detroit uniform. It’s hard to let those guys leave. The Cardinals are pretty happy they let Albert Pujols go, though, and in a few years, the Tigers will wish they had let Cabrera go too.

Two autumns ago, I distinctly recall, Peter Gammons swore up and down on the MLB Network that big-league front offices had sobered up and those Pujols-esque monster contracts were a thing of the past.

Au contraire, it’s quite evident that happy hour has been extended indefinitely.

Tags: MLB

More on the Potential Tax Implications of the NLRB Decision and the NCAA



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Via ESPN (And the Keith Olbermann interview isn’t bad):

Northwestern football players won the right to unionize on Wednesday, but the potential tax implications alone could immediately kill the idea.

Much of what was argued in the National Labor Relations Board testimony is in direct opposition to why scholarships aren’t being taxed today.

“It appears like the case brought forward by the players focused on things other than the potential tax implications,” said Garrett Higgins, a partner at O’Connor Davies in the firm’s Exempt Organization Tax and Advisory Services group. “The fact that the players were not considered employees in the past is essentially the reason why their scholarship or parts of it weren’t taxed before. The IRS may be able to make the argument that the scholarship is really payment for services, and therefore compensation, and is now taxable to the athlete.”

Taxable income has been defined in the courts, and by the IRS, as compensation received through services that resulted in a time commitment that required a certain number of hours per week. Higgins said the time commitment put forth by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, and backed by the National College Players Association, that resulted in the NLRB qualifying the Northwestern players as employees could serve to be the exact reason that the IRS would say the players must pay taxes if they unionize.

NLRB: Northwestern’s Football Team Can Form a Union



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I can’t wait to see the union rules on when a coach can bench a starter. Via the Chicago Tribune:

Northwestern University football players are employees of the school and are therefore entitled to a union election, Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, said in a ruling released Wednesday afternoon.

The stunning decision has the potential to alter dramatically the world of big-time college sports in which the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the universities strike the deals and set the rules, exerting control over the activities of the players known as “student athletes.” 

But now they are employees, too, according to the NLRB decision, which will be appealed.      

In siding with the union, Ohr said the football players primarily have an economic relationship with the university, which controls and directs their daily activities and compensates them in the form of scholarships.

“The record makes clear that the Employer’s scholarship players are identified and recruited in the first instance because of their football prowess and not because of their academic achievement in high school,” Ohr wrote.

Football players, he said, are subject to special rules and policies that do got govern the general student population. For example, he said, freshmen and sophomore students on scholarships are required to live on campus. Upperclassmen, he added, can live off campus but are required to submit their lease for approval to their coach, Pat Fitzgerald.

“Even the players’ academic lives are controlled as evidenced by the fact that they are required to attend study hall if they fail to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) in their classes,” Ohr wrote.

The rest here.

Tags: NCAA

How to Know When a Rotation Is in Tatters



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With four-fifths of the Rangers’ planned rotation injured, Tanner Scheppers is the planned Opening Day starter next Monday afternoon against the visiting Phillies. And here’s the rub: The 27-year-old Scheppers will be making his first-ever big-league start.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson relays the details:

That duty Monday against Philadelphia falls to right-hander Tanner Scheppers, the primary eighth-inning set-up man last season who will become the first major league pitcher in 33 years to make his first career start in a season opener.

Robbie Ross, another 2013 bullpen hand, will start the Rangers’ third game, following Perez. Fellow lefty Joe Saunders secured the No. 4 spot.

Then there’s Nick Martinez, a right-hander who spent all but one month last season at Class A Myrtle Beach and didn’t make a single Cactus League start. He was the correct answer to Daniels’ single-dollar question.

Right or wrong, the Rangers have their rotation. At least for the first few weeks of the 2014 season. Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and, eventually, Derek Holland will be coming to the rescue.

“I like where our rotation is,” Daniels said. “We have a lot of confidence in that group.

“We have four guys on our pitching staff that won’t be with us Day One. With the exception of Derek, they should all be back in relatively short order. We’ll get that group back and go from there.”

As noted, Ross also has yet to start a game in the majors, whereas Martinez doesn’t even have a spring training start under his belt.

So can you name the last bloke who got the start for the very first time in his club’s first game of the regular season?

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reminds us:

Fernando Valenzuela, in 1981, is the last pitcher to make the first start of his career on opening day. Valenzuela beat Joe Niekro and the defending NL West champion Houston Astros that day and went on to win his first eight starts. It gave rise to mass hysteria over Valenzuela starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a phenomenon that became known as Fernando Mania.

More here and here.

Tags: MLB

Cool, New Footage of the Babe Surfaces



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Tom Shieber of Baseball Researcher posts some silent video of Babe Ruth from the 1925 season that the University of South Carolina, made public a few months back.

According to the university library’s Moving Image Research Collections:

MIRC began in 1980 with the gift of the Fox Movietone News Collection . . .  [which] comprises more than 2000 hours of edited stories, complete newsreels, and associated outtakes from the silent Fox News and sound Fox Movietone News Library. This unique film material dates from 1919–1934 and from 1942–1944.

Shieber comments:

When you think about it, this collection of footage is doubly rare. Certainly, very few people have seen the film today. But, since this footage didn’t make the cut for the original Movietone News reels shot in the 1920s and ’30s, it is likely that few beyond a handful of editors actually saw this footage back in the day.

He found one piece of video particularly fascinating, but not for the reason why it was supposedly shot:

One key to dating early baseball footage is to ask oneself, “For what reason did the news service want to cover what we’re seeing?” Unlike the situation today, where it seems that everyone and everything is captured on video all the time, in these earlier days, a conscious decision was made before sending a cameraman and equipment out on assignment. But what was so special about this June 1, 1925, game that footage would be wanted? Why cover this contest?

For the answer, we need to look back to early March of that year. As was often the case throughout his career, Ruth fell ill during spring training. However, this time his sickness was much worse than usual. The Babe was hospitalized and ultimately required surgery. Rumor had it that the Babe had serious digestive problems, brought upon by overeating, but this was a charge that Ruth himself denied. Nevertheless, sportswriters quickly dubbed the illness “The Bellyache Heard ‘Round the World.” The result was that the Yankees lost their star (and biggest drawing card) for the first month and a half of the season. Given that Ruth was the most dominant player of his day, most anything Ruthian was worth capturing on film. But it was simply a “no brainer” to send a cameraman over to Yankee Stadium in the spring of 1925 to cover Ruth’s first game back after a long, serious illness.

Footage of Babe Ruth’s first game back in 1925 is interesting, but perhaps not worth blogging about. However, it was not this portion of the film that excited me. Instead, it was other footage, shot earlier that same day, that caught my attention. This pre-game footage showed Ruth taking batting practice, tossing the ball around and posing for the camera in front of the Yankees dugout. Here’s are a pair of frames from this section of footage:





Behind Ruth, at far left, is a familiar Yankees player: Lou Gehrig. The previous season, Lou had a breakout year with Hartford of the Eastern League, batting.369 with 37 homers in 134 games. But at the moment we see Lou on the bench behind Ruth, Gehrig had played just 11 games with the 1925 Yankees, posting a meager .174 average while seeing intermittent action as an outfielder and pinch-hitter.

That afternoon, just two innings after the Ruth ground out captured on film, Gehrig was sent to pinch-hit for shortstop Pee Wee Wanninger. Lou flied out to Goose Goslin in left field.  But more importantly, it was the first game in which he had participated in four days. The next day, Gehrig started at first base, went 3-for-5 at the plate, and didn’t take another day off until May 2, 1939.

In short, not only does the footage capture Ruth’s return to the Yanks in 1925, but it also gives us a glimpse of Lou Gehrig on the very day he began his famous streak of 2,130 straight games played, a mark that remained unbroken for well over half a century. In hindsight, some very fortunate footage shot by a very lucky Fox Movietone cameraman.

Just . . . wow.

H/T Repoz at Baseball Think Factory
 

Tags: MLB

Reveille 3/24/14



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Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable:

  • The Dodgers swept the two-game, regular-season opener in Sydney over the weekend, defeating the Diamondbacks, 3–1 and 7–5. Eric Stephen of True Blue LA has the details.
  • “Does an unusually strong March have any predictive power over a player’s performance once the games count?” Neil Paine of the new FiveThirtyEight.com asks readers. “Well, sort of,” he answers:

To raise his expected regular-season wOBA by just a single point, a typical player would need to hit for a wOBA roughly 17 points higher than expected during the spring.

In other words, spring numbers can and should affect our predictions for a player’s regular-season production, but only slightly, and only after a particularly strong or weak performance.

  • It appears that Max Scherzer will dip his toe into the free-agent waters after this season. According to the Detroit News’ Tom Gage via MLB Trade Rumors’ Zach Links, the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner rejected the Tigers’ latest contract-extension offer

  • From Jon Tayler of Sports Illustrated, above you see what Aroldis Chapman’s dome looked like after undergoing surgery for fractured bones in his face, thanks to a batted ball that also gave him a mild concussion, though no brain or eye damage.
  • While acknowledging that the new protective caps that MLB had trumpeted during the offseason wouldn’t have protected Chapman on that particular play, USA Today’s Ben Nightengale wonders why any of the headgear, which the manufacturer says has been approved for use, has yet to be seen on the diamond.
  • Baseball Prospectus ran 50,000 simulations of the 2014 MLB season and the habitual-doormat Astros captured the AL West flag in 0.4 percent of them and secured a wild-card spot 1.3 percent of the time. Sam Miller explains what happened in two of the more bizarre scenarios:

The Most Utopian Timeline: Simulation 33913
What makes it great: Astros win 99 games, the second-best season in franchise history, with a roster that enters the season with three total All-Star appearances (Castro, Altuve, and Crain, one apiece), a combined $35 million in salary, and a combined one Jesus Guzman starting at first base. Fifty-three years of Astros baseball, and this is the roster that wins 99. . . .

The Most Overall WTF Timeline: Simulation 36845
What makes it overall WTF: The Astros win the division. The Cubs win the division. And, with 81 wins, the Marlins win the division. There’s a one-in-eight chance of an Astros/Cubs or Astros/Marlins World Series matchup here. Shoot, the Royals are in there, too, so it’s a one-in-16 chance of a Royals/Marlins matchup. Incidentally, written language is like 5,500 years old, so to find this timeline we had to run seasons for nine times longer than writing has existed, just FYI for your records or whatever.

  • Blame is being unfairly assigned to the Astros for not promoting to the big-league roster George Springer after the top prospect turned down a contract worth $23 million over seven years, says Rob Neyer of Fox Sports: “It’s the Players Association that has always acquiesced in, and even encouraged, a system that seriously underpays young players and seriously overpays old players.”
  • In his Sabermetric Research blog, Phil Birnbaum takes aim at a claim in ESPN The Magazine that researchers have found a way to quantify “clubhouse chemistry.” 

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

Falcons Roddy White Loses Huge Bet Thanks to Duke Loss



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Memo to NFL players: Don’t make bets on a public messaging service if you intend to welch on them:

Who says Twitter can’t bring people together?

After promising a Twitter follower season tickets if Mercer beat Duke in an NCAA Tournament game, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is now in the awkward position of having to follow through on his pledge or publicly default before his 197,000 followers.

The exchange between White and super fan Dylan Hoyt started innocently enough on Tuesday, three days before the game when Hoyt tweeted to White: “Mercer gonna beat em first round!#478.”

White, who attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham, entered the fray, confidently tweeting of the No. 3 vs. No. 12 match-up: “If mercer beat Duke I will give you season tickets 50 yard line first row”.

Mercer beat Duke 78–71.

White has since deleted the tweet and is counter-offering:

“I lost a bet and I will give him tickets to the bears game since he is a bears fan done with this bet.”

So far there’s no response from Hoyt if he’ll accept White’s offer of tickets to one game. Stay tuned.

MLB Falls In Love with Match.com



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Big League Stew’s Jim Lange Mike Oz has the details:

Major League Baseball ushered out a new partnership with dating site Match.com, and thus the MLB team pages had ads urging single baseball fans to search out each other for dates. For instance, Athletics.com had Match.com ads on each side of the page with attractive-looking people (none of them wearing baseball caps or anything). There was an ad that read, “Meet other singles Athletics fans.”

A strip across the top of the page said, “Take them out to the Athletics game,” a call to action that was really the point of this. While MLB and Match.com may earnestly want you to find love, they really want you go on dates to baseball games. 

Twenty-nine of the 30 MLB teams are participating in this and had similar ads on their websites — the Toronto Blue Jays aren’t, because Canada plays by different rules apparently. Maybe they have government-run dating sites? . . .

If you love baseball and you’re looking for love, and you bond with a potential mate over your favorite baseball, who are we to judge? However, The Stew just hopes this doesn’t lead to an MLB partnership with Tinder that urges fans to hook up in stadium bathroom stalls.

More here.

Tags: MLB

Alonzo Mourning’s Wife Blames Republicans for the ‘Tough Times’ Growing Up



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Here’s a blurb from the president’s fundraising stop in Miami last night at the home of former NBA star Alonzo Mourning:

For the second time in two weeks, President Obama was in South Florida, this time to attended a fundraiser for Democratic candidates.

He was greeted at Miami International Airport by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.

The President addressed a crowd of about 75 people at the Pinecrest home of former Miami Heat legend Alonzo Mourning Thursday night.

He spoke in the backyard of the columned mansion after an introduction by Mourning’s wife Tracy, who recounted her modest  upbringing and her cleaning lady mother who often said she “struggled” when Republicans were in office.

“How do we make sure that folks who work hard and are taking responsibility for themselves and have dreams about something better for their kids, how do we make sure that hard work pays off,” the President asked.

I guess this means President Obama is responsible for the tough times people are having now?

NFL Draft: Steelers Won’t Lose a Pick for Tomlin Sideline Incident



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Remember this from last year when Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin interfered with a kickoff return?

The Steelers were at risk of losing a draft pick as punishment, but it looks like that won’t happen. Via CBS Sports:

The Steelers announced Thursday the league has “closed the book” on the incident from that Steelers-Ravens game and that Pittsburgh won’t be docked a draft pick as a result.

I think this is the right call by the NFL, but I would’ve suspended Tomlin for a game (on top of his $100,000 fine). 

 

Dancer Who Lost Her Leg in Boston Bombing Is Dancing Again



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The best thing you’ll read today:

Professional dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who lost her lower left leg in the Boston Marathon bombings, took to the stage Wednesday afternoon to do a short rhumba wearing a prosthetic leg made for her at the MIT Media Lab. Haslet-Davis, who has taught 20 different types of dance at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Boston, performed briefly at a TED Conference in Vancouver, B.C.

Hugh Herr, director of biomechatronics at the Media Lab, was at the conference to explain the design of the leg, which he made with a team of scientists savvy in prosthetics, robotics, and biomechanics. Herr is a double amputee, resulting from a rock climbing accident in 1982. He first met Haslet-Davis at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and thought he could help. The dancer’s husband, Air Force Captain Adam Davis, suffered a cut nerve and artery in his left foot in the bombing and had a skin graft from his right thigh to repair his right foot, which was peppered with shrapnel. He had just returned to Boston two weeks earlier from a deployment in Afghanistan when the couple decided to spend a nice spring day watching the Boston Marathon.

After the TED performance, Haslet-Davis stood alongside dancer Christian Lightner and wiped away tears.

Amazing. From this. . .

. . .to this. . .

Welcome back, Adrianne.

 

Tags: Misc.

Better Bracketology



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The new FiveThirtyEight.com’s Carl Bialik reports on the attempt by a university research professor to give NCAA bracketology some needed flavor:

Mark Glickman, a statistician and research professor of health policy and management at Boston University, has created a very different kind of March Madness competition. Participants won’t merely predict which team will win each game; they’ll specify how sure they are. Entrants will offer a probability for every game that could happen: 2,278 possible matchups.

Glickman’s contest scores entrants by the product of the average probability they gave for each matchup’s winner. The setup is designed to push people to examine their assumptions and balance confidence with caution. If you ever thought you were 100 percent sure about a game — say, between a No. 1 seed and a No. 16 seed — think again: If you’re wrong and a team you gave no chance somehow wins, you will lose a lot of points. Call every game 50-50, and you’ll know your score before the tournament starts. But it won’t be a good one.

More here.

Tags: NCAA

Chuck Todd Analyzes President Obama’s NCAA Bracket



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Who cares? I hereby call for the resignation of any politician, from either party, that makes a big deal out of his or her “picks.”

 

Tags: NCAA

Our Guide to March Madness (And Your Office Bracket)



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One day left to turn in those brackets to the office manager, or your frat brother from college, or Warren Buffett, or whoever’s running your pool. You may have a general idea of how you’re going to make the tough decisions, but having a macro strategy for bracketology is more important. Right Field has the secret rulebook, honed by years and years of couch-surfing across every college basketball channel. These rules are guaranteed to win you your pool.

Or, you know, at least guaranteed that you’ll place higher than the guy who picks according to which mascot would win in a fight (answer: the championship arena loses when the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes meet the Iowa State Cyclones).

Here are the rules – some old, some new.

1. Don’t fall in love with the upset: This is where so many brackets go awry. It’s why Steve from accounting, who watches more college basketball than the rest of your pool combined, loses every year. Steve has watched every quarter of Sun Belt basketball and swears that Louisana-Lafayette is underrated by the so-called “experts” and that the 14-seed is primed to make a run to the Elite Eight.

Fill your bracket from the inside-out. Which top seed do you think is going to win it all? Who are the Final Four teams? Once you’ve figured the important questions out, you can pick a few double-digit seeds to make some early-round upsets. Don’t convince yourself that if Western Michigan (14) can just eke out a win against Syracuse (3), they’ve got smooth sailing for another round or two.

2. Famous coaches are famous for a reason: Maybe their teams underperformed in the regular season, but there’s a reason why Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, and Rick Pitino (among others) are legends in their fields. They coach well, they prepare well, they recruit well. When undecided, check the coaching matchup.

3. Regions matter: The University of Florida plays its first two games in Orlando. Arizona plays its games in San Diego and then Anaheim. Proximity to school location can turn a 50/50 matchup into a 60/40 matchup if a school’s fanbase can make it a de facto home game. On the other hand, Michigan State’s first two rounds will be in Spokane, Wash., before needing to travel (if necessary) to New York City. Travel can take a toll on a team and add or subtract that marginal advantage in close matchups.

4. Super-freshmen are inconsistent: For every team like 2012 Kentucky that wins the title with young NBA-ready talent, there’s 2007 Texas, led by future NBA players Kevin Durant and D. J. Augustine, a 4-seed that flamed out in the second round. Kansas (2), featuring super-freshmen Andrew Wiggins and (possibly, because he’s injured) Joel Embiid, has been inconsistent all year. They’re scary when they put it all together, but tend to have lapses when their stars don’t play well. Duke (3), led by Jabari Parker, is susceptible here as well.

5. Live by the three, die by the three: Three-point shooting is a double-edged sword for bracketologists: Love the low seeds who can shoot the trey, shy away from the high seeds who rely on it. Because the three-pointer is a lower-percentage shot, a string of misses when a team is reliant upon it can put it in a big hole. Michigan (2), Duke (3), Michigan State (4) and Creighton (3) are all high seeds for whom a poor-shooting spell could spell upset.

But on the flip side, lower seeds who can get hot from deep have a good chance of catching a higher seed off guard. A few of these are seeds for whom getting hot from deep won’t matter – Mercer (14) and Eastern Kentucky (15) are both excellent but have unfavorable draws — but don’t sleep on Harvard (12), one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country and a team that pulled an upset last year.

6. Read the matchups: Certain teams play a style so distinctive it’s almost patented. Syracuse runs a team-oriented 2-3 defense that is smothering when it clicks on all cylinders. Wisconsin slows down the pace and milks the clock, hoping to wear down opponents physically and psychologically. Virginia Commonwealth has a name for its chaotic full-court press: HAVOC. These teams are run with brutal efficiency, but this makes them vulnerable to upsets from the right team. Wisconsin has trouble scoring on good defenses, for example, and Syracuse’s zone gets stretched thin by teams with good three-point shooters. Overthinking will doom your bracket — see item #1 above — but picking all chalk is both no fun and won’t win you anything.

7. Beware of West Coast teams: We used this fact last year, and it held true: Only two teams from the Mountain or West time zones in the last 15 years have made the Final Four — Arizona in 2001 and UCLA for a three-year period from 2006–2008. Arizona has a nice draw on its way to the Final Four, but they’re working against history.

8. Everything is wrong: Perfect brackets are impossible. Don’t panic when half your picks go down in the first day. Have fun. We all know the story of that one IT guy who made picks based on which schools had the best computer science programs who won the office pool. But if your objectives are not to embarrass yourself and have a little fun, well . . . most of these rules might work out for you.

— Kevin Glass is the managing editor of Townhall.com.

Tags: March Madness

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