Monday, January 30, 2006

The Rocket


I'm sure this will be the only post I ever make about Tennis, but I think it's worthwhile to make this point. There's been a lot written and said (and deservedly so) about Roger Federer and his assault on the all time Grand Slam wins record. The record is 14 and is currently held by Pete Sampras who many have called the greatest men's player ever. Federer now has 7 career grand slam titles and is the current challenger to Pete's claim as the best ever. While you can argue the merits of these two men as the best ever, the person that is somehow overlooked in this conversation and by all rights should be holder of that title is Rod laver. Rod Laver has 11 Grand Slam titles and is the last man to win the slam, and the only one to ever win it twice.

Clearly it would be foolish to argue that Rod Laver is the physical match of the players of today. In his prime, I'm not sure if he ever cleared 150 pounds, but you can only judge players across different eras by comparing what each did in his own era. Laver was an amateur when he won the slam in '62, he was a professional when he won it in '69. The rules of the game were different back then. Professionals were not allowed to compete in the Grand Slam tournaments until '68. Laver turned professional after winning his first slam and so he was not allowed to compete for another one until '68. He dominated the professional tour winning their "Major" in three of the five years that he was denied the chance to compete for the other majors. He also won Wimbeldon in the first year of the open era of tennis (1968). Some will say that he has "only" won 11 majors, but he shouldn't be penalized for wanting to earn a living.

So basically what we have is someone who was denied the opportunity to compete in 20 Grand Slam tournaments during the peak of his athletic ability. Given his domination of the years on either side of that ban, I believe it is more than conceivable that he could have won perhaps 2 a year at the very least. That would give him 21 Grand Slam titles. If we are more conservative and only allow for one title for each of those 5 years, that would give him 16. Even with those conservative estimates, he would have put the record beyond the reach of Sampras.

He also won on every surface. Sampras never won the French Open (in fact never got to a final) and Federer has yet to win there. I understand the sentiment that says that todays players are bigger and faster and therefore better, but if you look at what each of the players did in the major tounaments against the best competition of their eras, there is only one conclusion. Rod Laver (The Rocket) is the greatest player ever. Maybe it's because he's from Australia, or maybe it's because he's lefthanded, or maybe it's because he's a redhead (redheaded step-child syndrome), or maybe it's because he came along before Tennis was a major TV sport, or maybe people just have short memories, but his double slam is simply not mentioned among the pantheon of great sporting achievements. And it should be.

The Rocket is the best tennis player ever. The record says so. It's just a shame most people watching Tennis today have no idea who he is.

If you'd like to read more about Rod Laver, here's a link: http://www.tennisfame.com/enshrinees/rod_laver.html

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Friday, January 27, 2006

What's OPS?

I ran across this nugget of wisdom from Phil Rogers on ESPN.com today:

"The Yankees haven't had a real instigator at the top of their lineup in years. Damon can make a difference, especially in October."

Now I expect this sort of unsubstantiated crap from Lupica, but not from a writer on the ESPN.com baseball site. Please people, look at the numbers before you start typing on your computers. Of course he does use the term "instigator". I'm not exactly sure what he means by that, but as I stated in a previous article, perhaps he also means "not as good as Derek Jeter".

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

The road to hell

ESPN has finally done it. They brought together two of my favorites (Simmons and Schilling) for a five page interview today. Simmons does everything but genuflect and perform sexual favors.
Here's a typical overblown statement that perfectly illustrates my point about this column:

"But the fact remains, after staying alive over 26 innings and two nights at Fenway, your team had nobody to start Game 6 at Yankee Stadium: It was either you or Gabe Kapler."

That's funny because I remember the last time that a team sent a position player out to start a league championship game. That would be, um, ah, let me see, NEVER!! What kind of idiotic statement is that, but what do I know? I'm just a bitter Yankees fan. Why does he get to do this??? Is everyone in the country so in love with the teams from New England that they need some fawning fluff piece every other day?? It's shameful. ESPN, you should know better. Please stop the insanity!!!

I understand that coverage is skewed to the teams in the bigger cities, but this is too much. Perhaps a page for Bill Murry to talk about how he loves whatever Chicago team is doing well in a particular year. Why not have George Bush write about the Texas Longhorns (he's not even from Texas) every other day? I think the only thing missing from the article today was Simmons asking Schilling if he remembered his first blow job. I'm sure they would still be laughing (kissing and hugging as well) about that one.

(Here's another fantastic quote. Simmons is commenting on Schilling's statement that he's going to have a much better year, "Lemme translate that last paragraph for everyone: "You're an idiot if you don't spend $30-35 on me for your 2006 AL-only roto team." Done and done. I already had you in my "Poised for a comeback year" category, now I'm moving you to the top of the list.")

Oh and while I'm doing that can I put my hands down your pants, or perhaps you'd like to put your hands down mine. By the way, If Simmons keeps this up he'll make Lupica mad. Schilling is clearly his girlfriend. If I hear Lupica write about what a warrior Schilling is one more time, I swear I may just throw up in my mouth on the spot. Wait a second, I just did. The thought of it is that nauseating.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I Love Lamp


Why won't Curt Schilling shut the hell up about topics outside of baseball? Am I supposed to trust that a Junior College dropout knows whats best for me and the country? Where did he get his expertise on world politics? Am I asking too many questions? Anyway, the next time I want his opinion about troop deployments, elections, or what color socks to wear, I'll have Manny Ramirez beat it out of him.

And one more thing Curt, If you believe so much in the war in Iraq, why don't you join up and go fight? Follow Pat Tillman's lead. You're an able bodied male. I'm sure they would be happy to have someone of your intelligence and fitness level in the armed forces. Oh, that's right, you have much more important things to do back here at home, like run your mouth about things that you know absolutely nothing about.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Better Living Through Science or How to Build a Better Tomato


Barry Bonds. What can I say about Barry Bonds that hasn't been said already. He is clearly one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He's an incredible physical specimen, who can do practically anything on the field. He is the definition of a five tool player. Of course I'm talking about the Barry Bonds who played in the 90's. The guy who plays now bears little similarity to the player who was arguably the best hitter of the 90's (The argument I guess would be between Griffey, Bonds, and Gwynn).

Here are the average numbers for Barry Bonds for the 5 years previous to 2000 (ages 30-34):
AVG - .292 , HRs 37, Slg % - .600

Here are the average numbers for Barry Bonds for the 5 years starting in 2000 (ages 35-39):
AVG - .341 , HRs 52, Slg % - .782

(Barry Bonds now holds the single season records for walks, Home Runs, Slugging Percentage, On Base Percentage and OPS, all of which he set after turning 35. The only other player who put up a mark in the top 10 in any of those categories after turning 35 was Ted Williams and he is probably the greatest hitter who ever lived. He also only had one season (at age 38) that was record setting after turning 35. At this point, all 5 of Barry's seasons have led to a place in the top 5 in one or more of the previously mentioned categories.)

Just as a mark for comparison as to just how unbelievable those numbers are, his average slugging % over the past 5 years would rank as the 6th highest single season % in history. The only players with a higher single season % are Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds. He now owns 3 of the 5 greatest Slugging % numbers of all time. Prior to the 2001 season Bonds' best single season slugging % ranks 56th all time and he achieved that when he was 28.

The only real comparison for someone making that kind of leap after the age of 35 is Hank Aaron. His improvement in HR output is easily explainable by his move from Milwaukee to Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta which was nicknamed "The Launching Pad". In fact it's really a shame that he played in such a tough home run park for the majority of his career. He might have hit about 850 hrs if he played in a park that was more favorable for a right handed power hitter. He improved his average HR output by about 4 a year from the ages of 35-39 which is pretty remarkable and unprecedented at that time. Barry Bonds has somehow managed to increase his home run output by an average of 15 HR's a year over the same time period! While he did move into a new ballpark (He left Candlestick for Pac-Bell, or whatever it's called now), it is by no means considered a hitter friendly park. However he regularly deposits home runs in the bay and in fact has hit about 90% of the balls that have reached the water. Not only does he hit more home runs, but he hits them almost as far as Mark McGwire used to.

In my mind there are three viable theories to explain this sudden surge in ability, 1) Either he wasted his unlimited talent during his athletic peak (20-34) and is only now realizing his full potential or 2) He is the greatest athlete in the history of sports and the one person in history of spots who has been able to make a quantam leap in ability at the age of 35 or 3) He is the finest example of the amazing difference that performance enhancing drugs can produce.

Now everyone will have to make their own decision on this one. I'm simply stating the facts. I would hope that there would be a real explaination for this one beside the Flaxseed oil (which he later "found out" was actually a steroid called the Cream) that he claims his trainer gave him. In my mind, if weight lifting and Flaxseed oil could make such a differene in performance, wouldn't every athlete in the world be flocking to Bonds to find out exactly what his off season routine was? Does Bonds really think that his workout method alone has resulted in him absolutely destroying the effects of time? Is he trying to convince us of that or himself?

Barry Bonds is about to break the most hallowed record in all of sport and I think it deserves a little closer look before we all jump on the Barry bandwagon. I think we owe it to Baseball and we certainly owe it to Hank Aaron. All Mr. Aaron did was stare down a million death threats, constant racism and a color barrier to break what was thought to be an unbreakable record. And I'm sure that there was no Flaxseed oil to be found.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

The New England Guy

Bill Simmons' article in ESPN magazine actually started with the words, "When my beloved Pats..." Who the hell is he kidding? He knows that only beloved teams in Boston are the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins (in that order). The way you can tell that people actually care about those teams is that they are quick to express disgust in those teams when things go wrong. The funny thing is that I seldom hear him mention those teams. Perhaps if we were in the middle of the Larry Bird years or the Bobby Orr era, he would find time to mention the other "beloved" New England teams.

I'm sure it's been fun being a Patriots fan during this spectacular run, but "beloved"??? I don't think so. And I'm sure that 5 years ago he would have never even have conceived of mentioning those words except in jest. Did I ever mention how much I love the Chicago White Sox? I mean I know they're not in NY, but they're close enough and I just love how irreverent their manager is. They're just so, I don't know, what't the word I'm looking for...Oh that's right "Beloved".

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Less than the sum of his parts

What the hell is going on in NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's mind? For some reason he decided to take a pot shot at baseball in an article in SI this week by saying,

"Baseball is about as exciting as standing in line at the supermarket. Baseball doesn't test anything but your ability to withstand boredom."

That's really a quite ironic statement because that's exactly what his wife said about having sex with him. I guess perception is everything.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

The Sports Guy????

I'm a big fan of ESPN.com, but why the hell do they devote a dedicated page so that a Red Sox fan can wax poetic about his favorite team. Bill Simmons gets to rant and rave about his beloved team all he wants under the banner of a national website. He gets to promote his book that he wrote about his beloved team. Now don't get me wrong, he is a good writer and has written some funny articles (his father's comments about the NBA draft were particularly amusing). However, I wonder what the response would be if they devoted that much space to someone who was an avowed Yankees fan. I'm sure the tidal wave of emails bemoaning the fact that the Yankees get so much coverage would be overwhelming.

Bill Simmons' commentary is often tounge in cheek and amusing, but it's still not fair that he be given that forum to express his views on a daily basis. Where are the writers who are fans of the Padres? Shouldn't they have a column as well? One of the best Baseball writers they have (Rob Neyer) is a big Royals fan. Perhaps he should devote his columns to the plight of his favorite team. In fact he uses his column to give real baseball fans, real facts.

Simmons' columns are published under the heading of "The Sports Guy". Perhaps they should be published with the title of the "The New England (mainly the Red Sox, but now that the Patriots are good too, I'll claim them) Guy".

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First in line


This post is in response to Lupica's utterly inane comment that the Yankees haven't had a leadoff man since Knoblauch left and that Damon would somehow return that missing dimension to the Yankees offense. Clearly he didn't check the stats which show that Derek Jeter had the highest on base percentage of any leadoff man in baseball last year. If he would have simply looked at the numbers he would have realized how wrong that statement was. Of course he never looks at the numbers. They might actually cause his statements to have some merit.

Johnny Damon has never had a single season OBP that is higher than Jeter's career average of .386.
Damon only has 2 seasons where his batting average was higher than Jeter's career average of .314.
Derek Jeter's career OPS is 63 points higher than Damon's.
Damon has had 200 hits once, Jeter has done it 4 times.
In fact Damon has had over 190 hits only 2 times as compared to 7 times that Jeter has done it.
In almost the exactly same amount of at bats (Damon has 10 more at bats over his career), Jeter actually has 40 more walks than Damon.
While Damon has stolen more bases than Jeter over his career (281-215), they actually have the same steal % (Jeter's is one point higher at 79%).
They have stolen the same number of bases over the last 2 years.
Jeter has also scored 80 more runs over his career than Damon.

Jeter's 162 game average
YEARS G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
9.41 162 655 123 206 33 5 18 81 68 116 23 6 .314 .386 .461 .847
Damon's 162 game average
YEARS G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
9.6 162 644 112 186 34 8 14 73 62 73 29 8 .290 .353 .431 .784

Damon strikes out less than Jeter and steals a couple of more bases on average. Outside of that, Jeter leads in every other measured category.

So I ask you, by what measure is Damon a better lead off man than Derek Jeter. Perhaps there are some other hidden numbers that I don't know about, but it seems pretty clear to me that Jeter is not only a better lead off man, but a significantly better one. Damon may be a more "prototypical" lead off man (whatever that means, perhaps it means not as good) and may only feel comfortable batting leadoff. Jeter on the other hand is comfortable batting in any position.

It would actually work out better for the Yankees lineup with Cano batting 9th, to have Damon bat second and have Jeter leadoff (lefty, righty, lefty). I'm sure that Damon will bat leadoff because he would probably bitch otherwise (like Lofton and Womack before him), but once again, there is no evidence to suggest that he is better suited to that position than Jeter. I'm not sure that it was a mistake to sign Damon (time will tell), but the Yankees needed a centerfielder, not a leadoff man.

Lupica is just wrong again. As usual.

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World Baseball Classic


It seems to me that there is a lot of talk about the validity/usefullness of the WBC. I'm not really sure what all the fuss is about. I'm sure that the pitchers won't be in the best shape of their lives and the position players would probably rather be playing golf, but I'm almost certain that the games will be more compelling than the usual spring training games. I mean would you rather watch Pujols face Brad Lidge with the game on the line in the, or the usual suspects from triple A?

Of course the ideal thing would be to play this in the middle of the season, but that's clearly not going to happen. Hopefully none the pitchers get hurt because going forward, this could become a very big deal. There are going to be some growing pains this year, but next time around it might be seen as an honor to be selected to play rather than a chore.

Just a personal note: Thanks for everything, Dad. I love you and I'll miss you. I guess you felt like your work here was done. Anyway, you deserve a rest. Rest in peace, Anthony Hew.
From your loving son,
Michael

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mike Lupica has much in common with toilet paper

He's white and full of sh*t. You get the idea.

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