Chess With Priest (Again)

My latest for SportsWorld reunites me with Priest Holmes, star running back, eccentric and fantasy football legend. Back when Holmes was scoring touchdowns at will for the Kansas City Chiefs, I was columnist there. And many Fridays, before games, we would play chess.

You can learn a lot about someone by playing chess against them. You can learn a lot about yourself too. What I learned about myself was that I’m a pretty good attacking player who, inevitably and inescapably, will make one horrendous and comical mistake that dooms me. I think this was why Priest so enjoyed playing me. Our games tended to be interesting because I almost always took control early. He would have to make several escapes. But he knew — HE KNEW — that sooner or later I would make the mistake.
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Heyward and Stanton

So, let’s look at some of the similarities between Jason Heyward and Giancarlo Stanton.

1. They were born three months apart — Heyward was born in August of 1989, Stanton in November that same year.

2. They are football-sized young men — Heyward is 6-foot-5, 245 and Stanton is 6-foot-6, 240. Stanton played football in high school (he was considered a major college prospect) but Heyward was all baseball, all-the time from the time he was 11.
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Hitting the Links

Wrote a couple of pieces up at SportsWorld this week, hoping you caught them.

Wrote today about Buck O’Neil. 

Wrote earlier in the week about Richard Petty.

Very excited about where SportsWorld is going. Check out Aceball Stats piece on Mike Trout too and some of the video content. I think as it builds up, SportsWorld will become pretty great.

The PosCast Episode 9 — Pie Fight

It goes without saying that the PosCasts are pointless. But I’m pretty sure Michael Schur and I topped ourselves this week. We talk vaguely about the Royals (I mistakenly say that Lorenzo Cain had three homers when he had five) and offense being down and the designated hitter.

Then we draft fruit.

I think I can say, without fear of disagreement, that it’s our most personal and controversial draft yet.

Talking Pitching and Defense

OK, let’s begin by going over some well-known baseball history. When the game was first played professionally, not long after the Civil War*, pitching was simply a trigger to get the play started. 

*Or as my daughter’s seventh-grade history teacher calls it: “The War of Northern Aggression.”

Pitchers stood just 50 feet from home plate and were required to pitch the ball underhand like horseshoes (which is why they are still called pitchers). In those early days, the rules were often adjusted to keep pitchers from doing anything cunning or illusory to trick hitters. It took NINE called balls for a walk then — pitchers were just supposed to get the action started.
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The AL Cy Young Vote

Both of my daughters still love that game when you are given two pictures, and you have to find five things that are different about them. When the girls were little, the pictures were a lot simpler and the differences were pretty easy to find — one picture had a giant gorilla rampaging on top of the building while the other one had a chicken playing a violin — but as they got older things started to get more nuanced, differences started becoming more and more subtle until, finally, they all but disappeared.

We will spend a ridiculous amount of time now trying to figure out the differences between two pictures that are, really, exactly the same — “Wait, is her fingernail chipped on that one on the right? Oh, no, I think that page is just slightly discolored.”

Yeah, this year’s Cy Young voting was like that. There was no way at all to find the differences between Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez in the Cy Young voting this year.
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Fielding Bible and Gold Gloves

Eight years ago, John Dewan and the good folks over at BIS video approached me about becoming a voter for a new award they were calling the “Fielding Bible Awards.” The name wasn’t very catchy but the idea was interesting. The idea, loosely, was that baseball defense deserved a more thoughtful award than the Gold Gloves.

Rawlings has been giving out the Gold Gloves out since 1957 — and there is no doubt that it has been a terrific award for baseball.The Gold Gloves have shined a light on many of the greatest fielders in baseball history: Mays; Maz; Clemente, Kaline; Bench; Brooksie; Ozzie and so on.

At the same time, though, the award has tended to slip a bit when not crowning an OBVIOUSLY great defender. It’s easy to know subjectively AND objectively that Ozzie Smith was a world class defender. 
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Sending Gordon

I’ve got a bigger piece on the World Series on SportsWorld here … but let’s take a minute to tackle the Alex Gordon hold. There has been a lot of talk about the Royals holding up Gordon with two outs in the ninth inning after the Giants chased and booted the ball around for a while. That’s what you do when a team comes so close. You argue about stuff like holding Alex Gordon at third on a two-base error.

There’s this thing about hindsight, and it probably has a scientific name that I should know but I don’t. When looking back at something that didn’t work— anything that didn’t work — you can eliminate one of the possibilities because, well, you KNOW that didn’t work.
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