By In Stuff

Lots of links

Well, uh, sorry. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I can’t even explain why it’s been a crazy couple of weeks; it just seems like there has never been a spare moment. I’ll share some of that with you next week, I hope.

In the meantime, I’ve got a bunch of stories up at NBC SportsWorld:

IDENTITY CRISIS — Ronda Rousey’s heart-wrenching memory of how she felt after her first loss reminded me so completely of the feelings of my friend, Mel Stewart, after he finished fifth at the 1988 Summer Olympics. So I called Mel. His insights were pretty amazing.

PECOTA and ROYALS — Yep, PECOTA once again picks the Royals to be lousy.

AFTER THE FACT — Ken Stabler is the latest to get elected to a Hall of Fame just after he dies. It’s a real shame. I think voters should PRETEND the person they are voting on just died.

BAD to the BONE — Jared Allen was a badass. Jared Allen loved saying “badass.” Here’s a memory of Jared Jared Allen, a badass football player who just rode off into the sunset.

35 Responses to Lots of links

  1. BobDD says:

    Didn’t you say once before that Pecota was weakest on defense and relief pitching, which is KC’s biggest strengths? Because the offense has some pretty big holes, and the starting pitching is a bit murky. So predicting a poor season doesn’t seem beyond the pale. KC has had a great two-year run by exceeding expectations, and now predictions are coming in saying that expectations are most likely to be met. Duh.

    • It does seem like KC is doing it with Smoke & Mirrors. You have to give them credit, though, it’s hard to paint two years in a row as a fluke. They’re doing something right.
      Their regulars out performed expectations, so maybe they are just better than everyone thought. That’s the positive. And maybe their mediocre starting pitching didn’t hurt so much because they were in a weak division. Speculation, I know. I think the biggest question is how long the bullpen can be a “lock down” bullpen. There are other teams that have “shortened the game” with a strong bullpen. It’s just that the transitory nature of relief pitchers…. good one year, bad the next or good one year sign a big contract somewhere else next year…. makes it hard to predict consistency.
      So, contract wise, Wade Davis is signed another year. Madson signed through 2018. Herrera is signed another year. Finnegan is under team control and the have Hochevar still. Morales is a FA. Holland is a FA. It’s just tough to believe they’ll be as good next year. Regression to the mean?
      KC also has Kris Medlen and signed Mike Minor. Two Braves injury castoffs. I liked Medlen, but the ceiling is still pretty low for a double TJ surgery pitcher. Minor has had one good year ever. It’s been injuries lately, but it’s also been confidence issues, inconsistency and too many HRs that have done him in previously. Will Volquez at age 32 still be an ace? Chris Young at age 37 still effective? Lots of questions.
      Outside of a good group of regulars and a solid bullpen, who I think will not be as good this year, you need something that looks like a rotation to get you through 5-6 innings. Maybe Pecota isn’t the best, and maybe it’s underestimating the Royals some, but I don’t see them over performing again. The best thing they have going for them is a weak division that probably gives them a pass into the playoffs.

      • Just Bob says:

        You make a few good points. But it’s hard to really take you seriously when you mention Finnegan and Madson. We traded Finnegan to get Cueto last year. And Madson is wearing a green and yellow hat this season. When did you write this? June of last year?
        Also, you called it a weak division. The AL Central lost the season to the AL East by a 81-84 record. But they won against the West 88-77. And they won in interleague play 51-49. For an overall intra-division record of 220-210. Hmmm…doesn’t seem like a “weak division” to me.

        • Fair enough. I had my talking points and went to BBR to back it up & wasn’t as thorough as I should have been with player movements. I was so over baseball last year that I didn’t watch any postseason at all except the final World Series game. So, sorry for being ignorant on the Royals roster. That was a real brain fart. You were right to call that out.

          But the large point remains the same. Relying on a lock down bullpen to take the place of an actual rotation seems to be a very iffy proposition. It absolutely worked the last two years, and obviously the Royals have done well to keep most of the bullpen intact. Three straight years though? With a worse starting rotation? Seems like they are going to have to make some moves at some point to solidify that rotation & replace any injured or struggling member of the bullpen. It could happen.

          As far as the division, averages are misleading & your stats are kind of cherry picked. (OK mine are too). But if you’re telling me that a division with Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota is an awesome display of baseball power, I’m just not buying. Minnesota with 83 wins was your second best team in the division. The point I was making was that 84 wins would get you to the playoffs last year in that division. So, all things being equal, the Royals don’t need to go out and win 90 games to get to the playoffs again. That may, or may not hold true. If you make the playoffs, you’ve got a shot. And if you have an easier road to the playoffs, you have a better shot. That’s where I was going with that line of thought.

      • NevadaMark says:

        Volquez is not an ace now.

  2. Tom Gibbons says:

    True, Ron Santo was voted into the Hall of Fame after he died. But he was not voted in by the writers nor by the veteran’s committee members at large — the two groups that had spurned him — but by a special 16-member Golden Era Committee. So it was not just the same bunch of guys deciding, “Hey, we should have been nicer to Ron.”

    • Peter King had a big column last year after Stabler died about why he felt Stabler was NOT a Hall of Famer. Fast forward to February 6 and King voted for his election. That, right there, is why the Baseball HOF voting is better than the Football HOF voting.

      • Dan says:

        I agree. It’s better to never change one’s mind, and baseball writers never vote No one year and Yes later on.

        Wait, what?

        • The problem is that 46 elite writers in football sit around and debate the merits of all-time greats. What, Peter King and the like have to be educated about Terrell Owens and why he should be a Hall of Famer? “Hey, you vote for my guy this year and I’ll vote for yours next year!” Whereas in baseball, writers do their own research and don’t need to discuss the merits of Ken Griffey, Jr. There is no debate and talking someone out of voting for another candidate.

          • Dan says:

            The fact there is debate need not give one pause about the election process. Nobody has to discuss the merits of Griffey Jr., the same way nobody needs to discuss the merits of Walter Payton. When a no-brainer comes up for NFL consideration, it’s tradition for the presenter to simply say “Brett Favre” or whatever the case might be. It’s the tough cases that merit debate, and it’s good that the NFL selectors engage in it.

            Besides, baseball writers – well, the ones who take HOF voting seriously, anyways – debate and stump for their candidates too. They just don’t do it in a formal setting like the NFL selectors. How many columns has Joe written about Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris? Hint: has 5 pages of results.

            I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts (granted, not such good odds these days) that BBWA selectors vote strategically too. Maybe not in an obviously horse-trading way like you set out above, but you’ll have a hell of a time getting any NFL selector to admit they vote like that either. Buster Olney withheld his ballot because he figured it would actually hurt the chances of some borderline candidates: as I understand it, he wanted them in, couldn’t fit them on the ballot, and so didn’t file a ballot for anyone rather than file one that left them off. Other writers have left off Unit or Pedro because they figure (rightly) they don’t need the extra help and they’d rather give it to a borderliner they support.

            Not saying that the NFL process is great. Just that baseball isn’t much better, if at all.

  3. wogggs says:

    I see no reason to believe the Royals will not be in contention this season (barring injuries). Yes, the starting pitching is mediocre, but the stellar defense corrects for that. Yes, the hitting is mediocre, but speed and putting the ball in play seems to correct for that.

    I also see no reason to believe Ken Stabler was not a hall of famer from the day he retired.

    • Stellar defense corrects mediocre starting pitching? I’m calling BS on that. That starting pitching has to get you into at least the 6th inning & no amount of defense can account for hard hit balls and walks given up by a sub par rotation. Defense helps, but “corrects” implies that it covers all evils. It doesn’t work that way. Especially when their starting pitching is actually worse this year.

  4. Michael Green says:

    This story is apropos. In 1973, Chet Atkins, the great guitarist, had cancer. He beat it, and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The next year, Owen Bradley, a music producer with a great career but best known for producing Patsy Cline, had a heart attack. Chet called and told him he’d be elected because they thought he was going to die. That year, Bradley was elected. So, it isn’t just Ken Stabler.

    Joe’s suggestion that Vin Scully would be the 5th most influential is something well worth developing (I’m actually working on a research project about that!). As for the four listed, the fact that Marvin Miller didn’t go in the Hall of Fame and Bowie Kuhn did actually is worse than suggested. For any thinking person, it eliminated any respect that the electors deserve.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Miller not getting in is, I think, the result of two issues: (1) a lot of the writers apparently don’t think that free agency was a positive contribution to the game; they may not necessarily be against it but don’t think it added to the game itself; and (2) Miller seems to have been a rather unpleasant character from what I gather. But why Kuhn went in is beyond me. Selig deserves it far more than Kuhn, who was an utter clod, IMO.

      What I find rather odd is that I would not have been surprised by this if the vote had stopped in, say, 1978, when there were lots of older, traditional sportswriters who were miffed at Miller for challenging the system. But, even years after, with the advent of younger voters, Miller still didn’t get in and Kuhn did. I just don’t get it.

      • I want to develop the point that the changes Miller made were not positive changes. From a players standpoint, of course Miller made heroic changes. They make silly money these days thanks to Miller. From a team standpoint, obviously the changes he made were not positive. For the fan, however, the changes were also terrible. The teams we grew up rooting for, with players that were mainstays on the team for years, don’t exist any more. Once they go FA, they’re often gone to the highest bidder. So, every year, you have a new team. I personally enjoyed having a team I knew and followed, even teams that weren’t that good. Worse, Miller put the league into a pitched battle that ended up sometimes in strikes. Strikes are absolutely the worst thing that could happen to a fan (and yes I realize the owners played a big part in that too). So, I hated what Miller did, as a fan.
        You can respect a guy for being competent and for representing his clientele well. But, electing a lawyer who represented the players well & didn’t care at all about the fans? I don’t see why anyone considers that a slam dunk. Lawyers are better candidates for “kill all lawyer” jokes than they are for any sports HOF. That should be pretty obvious.

        • Marc, The writers NEVER voted on Miller. He’s always been on the Veteran’s Committee. The writers only vote for eligible players.

          bellweather: I don’t know what team you root for but hasn’t your favorite team ever signed a free agent that you’ve been excited about? And your statement that “every year we have a new team” is just false. No team changes over its entire roster every year (unless you’re rebuilding like this years Brewers or Phillies). You always have players from year to year that you can root for only instead of staying for 10 years, they stay for 7. The romantic notion that players stayed with one team for their whole career and don’t any more is false. There have been many HOF players who retired in the 90s and beyond who were one-team players, just as many as in the early days of the century. See Yount, Brett, Ripken, Gwynn, Jeter, Rivera, Griffey, Biggio, Bagwell, Larkin, Rice, etc.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Sorry for the error. Your point makes it clearer why they did not vote for Miller.

          • FA signings are exciting, but usually become disappointments. Then you have a boat anchor contract that’s very depressing. So I can’t think of too many FA contracts that have really worked out on the teams that I follow. The nature of many FA contracts is that they’re 30+ year old super stars that are a year or two away from decline. To me, the best call in most situations is to avoid these types of deals. Absolutely lock up you young players with long term deals that end in their early 30s. But don’t sign the 30 year old FA. Jason Heyward was an interesting one to me. Since he was so young when he started in the league, he’s signing the monster deal at age 26. Still, that deal runs until he’s 34. So, any way you look at it, eventually this contract is going to be painful, though for maybe only 2-3 years. Most FA deals give you 2-3 good years before the inevitable decline.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          First, I completely disagree with your notion that free agency was bad for the game or for fans. Free agency allows teams-if they desire-to improve the team much quicker than before when they were largely restricted to trades and draft choices. And, interestingly, baseball attendance is much higher now than in pre-free agency days. But we can argue about that. But, regardless of that, the Reserve Clause was fundamentally unfair and, except for some stupid Supreme Court decisions, a violation of antitrust law. I think Miller deserves to be in the HOF because he made baseball more fair for the players. IMO, that’s important and makes it easier for me to be a fan. As for your comment about lawyers, well, that’s your opinion, but it’s not obvious to everyone. The fact is, if the owners hadn’t been exploiting the players for 100 years, there would never have been a need for Marvin Miller.

          As for the stuff about players making “silly” money, it’s not silly, it’s what the market says is fair. If you don’t believe in the free market, that’s fine but I hope you are consistently against it in every walk of life.

        • NevadaMark says:

          Baseball BOOMED after free agency. So of course there were arguments about cutting up the pie. But the fans loved it. The attendance statistics, tv money, and number of new stadiums are a pretty good indication.

      • NevadaMark says:

        Selig? After CANCELLING A WORLD SERIES? That Selig? Bowie Kuhn was terrible and he is no hall of famer but at least he wasn’t an owner that cancelled the World Series.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          I’m not advocating Selig for the Hall, but he probably did more positive for baseball, even with cancelling the WS, than did Bowie Kuhn. But commissioners are largely the tool of the owners anyway.

        • Yes, Selig cancelled the World Series. But what was he supposed to do? THE PLAYERS were on strike. And I’m no fan of Selig but that was a decision that he was forced to make.

    • richiew13 says:

      I am a Vin Scully fan. But I was shocked to see Joe say he was the 5th most influential person. Any theories as to how this could possibly be?

      Yeah, he’s a great announcer. But if Scully had never broadcast baseball games, would baseball be any different today? I don’t think any other announcers really even borrow much from his style. Are there any other one man booths in baseball?

      • I had to think about your comment a bit. I guess the question is what did Joe mean by “influential”. Taken literally, you’re right. It doesn’t seem that Vin has influenced anyone’s style. In fact, we have a lot of vanilla brand announcers out there these days. No play by play announcer that I’m aware of really attempts to be poetic, except for Bob Costas who hasn’t called baseball games for over 15 years. If you’re in LA, of course Vin has always been omnipresent. But influential across baseball? Ehhhhh. And I grew up with Vin listening to him every night in the 60s and 70s. I set my radio and went to sleep with the game on in the background. Still, I have to agree with you.

        • Michael Green says:

          Dick Enberg and Al Michaels clearly demonstrate Scully’s influence on them. I suspect we could point to other broadcasters. But here’s an argument for his influence: Walter O’Malley took a flyer. Would Los Angeles take to major league baseball? It’s easy to look back and say yes, but that’s the beauty of history: we KNOW now. Before the 1958 season? Without a real baseball stadium? With a team that was slipping, but delayed rebuilding because O’Malley and Buzzie Bavasi knew the fans wanted to see Pee Wee and Gil and company?

          Don Drysdale once said the only Dodger who had a good year in 1958 was Vin. There’s a case to be made that without him, baseball might not have become so popular as it became in southern California, and that is an important part of baseball’s expansion. I’m not saying Joe is right; he may be, and he could make a better argument. But Vin’s influence is not limited to other broadcasters.

          And perhaps we could say not Vin but Red Barber, his mentor, who trained him and thus influences us today. Barber was the first baseball broadcaster to prepare in depth, to go into the guts of the game. Also, Roger Kahn, who has grown crankier in recent years for whatever reason, once said that Barber exaggerated when he said that in 1947 he had the “hottest microphone” any baseball broadcaster ever had in describing Jackie Robinson. Kahn may have forgotten how he described Red in The Boys of Summer, but I have no doubt that if Red had gone on the air and said bad things about Robinson, the fans wouldn’t have taken to Jackie as they did in Brooklyn. He was THAT powerful there.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Like most people, as Roger Kahn has gotten older he has become more self-absorbed. On the other hand, he was always pretty self-absorbed.

  5. Dan, for some reason I can’t reply to your message so I’ll respond here.

    Absolutely, the BBWAA selectors vote strategically. However, the writers don’t conspire to keep someone out in order to elect someone else. For example, do you think it’s a coincidence that, after years of being a “Finalist”, that Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown wen into the Hall in successive years? And then this year, Harrison went in before Owens because he “waited longer”. 2 writers broke the Fortress of Solitude and talked about the voting (writers are not supposed to say anything that goes on in that room as though they are discussing state secrets). They both said that Owens’ off-the-field behavior had no bearing and wasn’t discussed. So the writers conspired to elect Harrison over Owens. They didn’t vote on their beliefs, they voted on what the group agreed with. (And make no mistake, Harrison absolutely deserves it and should have been in on the first ballot but the writers thought that Reed and Brown should go in first because they had waited longer).

    As for your opinion that the “tough cases” merit debate, of the 15 “Finalists” in the NFL this year, they all deserve induction. You still haven’t told me what the debate over Owens is. The least qualified “FInalist”, in my opinion, was elected this year in Tony Dungy.

    As for your contention that Joe has 5 pages of results on Blyleven and Morris, that is just putting his opinions out there. The writers still vote on their conscience. If the baseball writers voted like the football writers, Blyleven would have been elected years earlier. Probably Morris too.

    My main criticism of baseball HOF voters is their stand on steroids. They didn’t report on it back in the day so now they feel like they must make the players “pay” by not voting for them for the HOF.

    • Dan says:

      “However, the writers don’t conspire to keep someone out in order to elect someone else.”

      I think, if I may be so bold, that is your main criticism of the NFL voting and point in favour of the BB HOF process. I agree. To the extent it happens, it is a problem. If voters aren’t voting based solely on the criteria they are to use, there’s something wrong.

      So, why are they not voting their conscience? Well, with regards to Carter/Reed/Brown, there can be an overabundance of candidates at a given position sapping votes from each other. If some voters agree “I’ll support your guy this year if you support mine next year” so that multiple deserving candidates can get elected – well, IMO that’s a conspiracy of the most benevolent kind. Is it optimal? Probably not, but it works.

      I think the reason this might not happen in baseball is a function of the voting system: with 10 votes and 15 years on the ballot, there’s no need to horsetrade votes, you know your guy is going to be around for a while and will get the support eventually. But baseball has had similar issues, where two guys at the same position have sapped votes from each other, resulting in neither getting elected for some time, and then one entering right after the other. And right now there is (I would suggest) a backlog of worthy candidates, and they’re not all going to get elected next year.

      With regards to Harrison/Owens – I’m not sure I see the conspiracy. I think Owens is more qualified; the voters differed; does that mean they conspired? This kind of thing happens all the time in baseball.

      I wasn’t aware I’d been asked what the debate over Owens *is*, which explains why I haven’t told you 🙂 I’m sure I have no idea, I wasn’t there. From what I understand, he didn’t get in because enough voters thought he was a jerk and a locker room cancer that they didn’t vote for him. Maybe they’re not supposed to consider “off the field issues”, but I’m sure they managed to twist “locker room cancer” into “guy who hurt his team’s performance on Sunday” in their own minds. Of course, I saw a good piece the other day refuting this, comparing his teams’ records before he got there/while he was there/after he left, and finding they were pretty much all better with him than without.

      I agree, far more of the finalists in the NFL deserved to be elected than actually were. It’s that way every year. It’s the same way in baseball. In both cases, deserving candidates don’t get voted for, and sometimes less deserving candidates who have been waiting for a while get in over more meritorious first-timers.

      • Good post. And you’re right about players from the same position sapping votes from each other. I read somewhere (could even be Joe) that Luis Tiant and Jim Kaat came on the ballot at the wrong time. They came on at the same time that pitchers like Jenkins, Perry, Palmer, Seaver and Carlton were first eligible. Had Tiant and Kaat retired only a couple years earlier, they might have sailed into the Hall like Catfish Hunter did.

  6. Matt says:

    In a baseball world where analytics seem to be right more often than they are wrong, the Royals W/L record seems to displace the logic behind the numbers. Have they figured out something that others don’t know about yet, or are they outperforming their talent…Or is it that the analytics will never be able to prove or predict what a group of determined people can accomplish when they are all pulling in the same direction?? They cannot predict how hard an individual will work in the off season to become a better player, etc…can we predict what the collection of marginal gains will mean to a team’s outcome?

  7. Tim says:

    The Royals, aside from having an excellent bullpen, got a lot of key help from players people didn’t expect much from. Chris Young posting a line of 11-6, 3.06 ERA and 135 ERA+, Edinson Volquez posting a line of 13-9, 3.55 ERA and 117 ERA+. From the hitting side did anyone expect Kendry Morales to hit 22 HRs knock in over 100 and post a slash line of 290/362/485? Moose putting up a nice offensive season certainly helped as well as the late season acquisition of Ben Zobrist. I remember quite clearly Joe criticizing the signing of Kendry, Young and Volquez and they turned into key contributors.

    • BobDD says:

      I sure remember the knocks against Morales, but I thought he praised the Young signing and Volquez was all about injury concerns.

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