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Just The Sports: 2006-05-21

Just The Sports

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Kitty Genovese, Anyone?

Some people may look at the death of a 34-year-old British mountaineer on Mount Everest while other climbers largely ignored him as simply tragic or view the events as a modern-day Kitty Genovese story, I look at it as another reason to not attempt to climb Mount Everest if you do not know what the hell you are doing. The tourists who frequent Mount Everest and hire guides to help them reach the summit have commercialized the event so much as to make it almost boring.

Why are there still people, inexperienced at climbing, who want to risk death to stand at the top of a mountain? They are not the first ones to do it. Nor are they the 17th. Nor are they the 168th. Fifteen hundred people have made the climb before them. Instead, these are the people who are so unimaginative they cannot think of any other way to spend their time than to do something, which has been done many times over, and only gives them the illusion of accomplishment. Note to inexperienced climbers everywhere: as the following quote suggests, more experienced climbers have moved on, leaving you with your less shiny and less respected mountain.

"We've been seeing things like this for a very long time," said Thomas Sjogren, a Swedish mountaineer who helps run ExplorersWeb, a Web site widely read by climbers. "The real high-altitude mountaineers, the top people in the world who are doing new peaks and going to mountains you don't know much about, most of these people have become completely disgusted by Everest."

Hopefully the more inexperienced climbers will move on too, to activities that will be less likely to result in someone's death.

A Letter To Tiger Woods

Dear Tiger,

Please stop using your father's death as an excuse for why you are not playing golf. I know, I know. Your publicist told you to say these things and made you do that ridiculous 60 Minutes interview in an attempt to make you seem human. I get that. I also get that you are taking advantage of media outlets who report anything that comes off news wires dutifully and robotically, without taking a few seconds to actually see if the information is accurate. More power to you on that one. I would probably go the same route if I had plans on making myself more marketable to those whose Pavlovian response to hearing your name is to think robot.

However, is it so wrong to give the true reason for why you're not playing in the Memorial Tournament? Just admit that you are becoming bored with golf, that all the media-created rivalries between you and the it player of the week are becoming tiresome because you know in your heart that you are a hundred times better than anyone else, that you have a beautiful wife to go home to and are no longer interested in playing in the lesser tournaments, or even that you are just tired of answering questions from the sports media. Don't be ashamed of the truth, Tiger. It will set you free.

Oh, and another word of advice. If you are going to release a statement as to why you are not going to be playing in a tournament and it relates to the grief you are experiencing as a result of your father's death, then it is probably best that you not be caught on camera celebrating Derek Jeter's 2,000th career hit at Yankee Stadium. Or when you claim to be taking time off from golf to spend it with your ailing father, do not then be seen conquering New Zealand's highest bungee jump or winning a celebrity stock care race. Just don't do those things if you want your statements to be believed, that's all.



Thursday, May 25, 2006

Was David Cone Too Busy?

Yesterday, the New York Mets completed a trade to acquire Orlando Hernandez from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for relief pitcher Jorge Julio. Ostensibly, the trade was made to shore up the Mets pitching staff, which has been ravaged by injury of late, with Victor Zambrano suffering a season-ending elbow injury and Brian Bannister still working his way back from a hamstring injury.

While the trade is questionable on many levels (why trade for a 40 year old starting pitcher with a history of injuries?), what is even more bizarre is the rationale being used by the New York Mets GM Omar Minaya to justify making such a trade. They obviously enjoy laughing in the face of logical thinking.

One look at Minaya's quotes demonstrates just how much he enjoys it.

"We're happy to have El Duque," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "We needed starting pitching. The thing I liked a lot is he has pitched in New York. He's happy to be coming back to New York, a place he knows and a place that knows him."

If the only qualification for a trade for a player is whether or not he has pitched in New York before, maybe Minaya could have called Jeff Weaver or Al Leiter or Fernando Valenzuela. But if Minaya wanted to trade for a pitcher who could provide a modicum of success, maybe he should not have traded for one who has not made more than twenty-two starts since 2001, whose OPS-against has been increasing every year since 2002, whose ERA+ was 87 last year, thirteen percent below the league-average, and whose pitches per start is the lowest of his career.

Also, Minaya should be less hasty in saying Hernandez is happy to be coming back to New York.

"I'm happy, and I'm not happy. It's 50-50. I like New York. I like Arizona," he (Orlando Hernandez) said.

That sounds more like ambivalence to me.

"In his last start Monday, he gave up one run and six hits and struck out nine against Pittsburgh. Minaya watched the outing and became convinced that Hernandez could help the Mets, who have struggled to find fourth and fifth starters."

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but when a pitcher dominates a team with the 24th-best OPS in the major leagues, it is nothing to get excited about. One can only imagine what Minaya would have done had Hernandez pitched well against the Florida Marlins. Perhaps he would have inducted El Duque into the Mets Hall of Fame.

"He helps you when he's pitching and when he's not pitching," Minaya said.

That would be a pretty impressive assessment of a player if, you know, it was not a blatant misrepresentation of the truth. A pitcher who is not pitching has very little if any impact on the game. Still, having Hernandez in the rotation is better than trotting out Jose Lima every five days.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Western Conference Playoff Breakdown (Phoenix vs. Dallas)

Phoenix (2) vs. Dallas (4)

After a couple of years of bashing their heads against the proverbial wall that is the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks finally knocked the Spurs from their perch atop the Western Conference. And it only took them seven games to do it. Now popular opinion seems to be that Dallas will roll over the Phoenix Suns en route to an NBA Final berth. But will they?

The Phoenix Suns will certainly have something to say about it. They are coming off a game seven win of their own, and if the regular season series where the teams split their four match-ups is any indicator, there is little chance Phoenix will just roll over and concede defeat.

Still, little information can be garnered by looking solely at a regular season series so we will look a little deeper into this match-up.

First, how efficiently a team plays is one of the biggest keys in deciding which team is better. Since teams play at different tempos, the best way to look at a team's performance is to look at how they do per 100 possessions.

Dallas Offense: 112 points per 100 possessions
Phoenix Defense: 106 points per 100 possessions

Phoenix Offense: 112 points per 100 possessions
Dallas Defense: 105 points per 100 possessions

Both teams have a reputation for being prolific stories teams, but they also play very good defense relative to how many points they score. The difference between the two teams amounts to 1 point per 100 possessions, a difference so marginal as to not matter.

Now, we will look at how each team scores to see if there is a clear advantage in favor of one team over the other.

Dallas Jump Shot Offense: 49.5 points
Phoenix Jump Shot Defense: 52.1 points

Dallas Close Offense: 21.1 points
Phoenix Close Defense: 25.3 points

Dallas Dunk Offense: 4.8 points
Phoenix Dunk Defense: 6.7 points

Dallas Tip Offense: 1.7 points
Phoenix Tip Defense: 1.3 points

The Phoenix Suns give up more points than Dallas even averages so the Mavericks should have a field day with the Suns' defense and put up exorbitant offensive numbers. For the most part, the Mavericks can run their offense exactly as they did during the regular season and see success.

Phoenix Jump Shot Offense: 62.8 points
Dallas Jump Shot Defense: 43.2 points

Phoenix Close Offense: 23.3 points
Dallas Close Defense: 23.1 points

Phoenix Dunk Offense: 6.7 points
Dallas Dunk Defense: 5.4 points

Phoenix Tip Offense: 1.2 points
Dallas Tip Defense: 1.7 points

Like the Dallas Mavericks, the Phoenix Suns are very much in love with the jump shot, but unlike the Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks actually play good perimeter defense. This raises a red flag for the Suns because if they are unable to score off of jump shots, their offense will fall apart.

Dallas has the edge over Phoenix in terms of being able to take away what the Suns love to do, something the Suns do not seem prepared to do to the Mavericks.

Another important factor into predicting a seven-game series winner is to look at the production each team gets from the five positions. To do this, I will be using net PER, a statistic developed by John Hollinger.

Point Guard: Having Steve Nash on the team certainly helps a team win the point guard production battle. Advantage: Phoenix (+6.6 to +0.9)

Shooting Guard: At this position, Jason Terry goes a long way in giving Dallas the edge over Phoenix. Phoenix, on the other hand, gets worse production from this position than their opponents' shooting guards do. Advantage: Dallas (+3.6 to +0.5)

Small Forward: Neither team has a small forward to write home about, but Dallas's small forward produce more than Phoenix's. Advantage: Dallas (+0.3 to -2.8)

Power Forward: Dallas has a significant advantage when it comes to production out of the power forward position. If you had Dirk Nowitzki on your team, you'd have a significant advantage, too. Advantage: Dallas (+8.6 to +3.4)

Center: Phoenix manages to establish its production dominance when it comes to the battle of the centers. But not by much. Advantage: Phoenix (+2.2 to +0.4)

Overall Net PER: Dallas has the overall advantage over Phoenix in PER by +4.9, a significant enough advantage that Phoenix should be very worried.

Prediction: Dallas wins the series in six games.

Stats courtesy of

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Eastern Conference Playoff Breakdown (Detroit vs. Miami)

A brief playoff prediction recap. I went 4 for 4 in my conference semifinal predictions, bringing my playoff predictions to a sparkling 11-1. Now I will type the rest of this breakdown with one hand since I tore my rotator cuff while patting myself on the back.

Detroit (1) vs. Miami (2)

While Miami won a relatively easy series against the overrated New Jersey Nets, the Detroit Pistons struggled against a team in the Cleveland Cavaliers they should have been able to dispatch with ease, giving rise to an important distinction between the playoffs and the regular season (and perhaps calling into question the way I do this breakdown). Unlike in the regular season where teams face a new opponent every couple of days, a seven-game playoff series allows teams to focus solely on the offensive and defensive habits of their opponents. Not only does facing the same team repeatedly give an advantage to the better team, but it is also benefits the team with the better coach. The more Detroit struggled against Cleveland and the more Flip Saunders refused to make adjustments, the more apparent it became there was a reason why his Minnesota teams struggled to make it out of the first round all thos years.

However, it remains to be seen whether the fact Pat Riley is a better coach than Flip Saunders will be the difference in who wins this series. Or if one team has enough of an advantage over the other that the coaching will be rendered a moot point. Let's see if one does.

Detroit Offense: 111 points per 100 possessions
Miami Defense: 105 points per 100 possessions

Miami Offense: 109 points per 100 possessions
Detroit Defense: 103 points per 100 possessions

The Detroit Pistons have a significant edge over the Miami Heat in terms of efficiency of play. This should come as no surprise that the team that led the NBA in wins also ranks among the top when it comes down to avoiding wasted possessions.

Still, just knowing how efficiently a team plays does not provide us with enough information to be able to predict which team will win so let's look at where each time likes to score and where they hate to play defense.

Detroit Jump Shot Offense: 52.1 points
Miami Jump Shot Defense: 47.4 points

Detroit Close Offense: 17.5 points
Miami Close Defense: 20.2 points

Detroit Dunk Offense: 8.5 points
Miami Dunk Defense: 7.3 points

Detroit Tip Offense: 1.6 points
Miami Tip Defense: 1.1 points

By now, it is no secret how porous Miami's perimeter defense is, but people may not realize just how well Detroit's offense matches up against Miami's defense. Detroit's offensive strength happens to be where Miami's defensive weakness is and vice versa. In other words, it is imperative the Heat make enough defensive adjustments to reduce Saunders's brilliant offensive schemes to those of mere mortals. Or they could just copy what Cleveland did to the Pistons.

Miami Jump Shot Offense: 40.9 points
Detroit Jump Shot Defense: 39.7 points

Miami Close Offense: 25.9 points
Detroit Close Offense: 26.3 points

Miami Dunk Offense: 12.2 points
Detroit Dunk Offense: 7.5 points

Miami Tip Offense: 1.3 points
Detroit Tip Offense: 1.7 points

The only disparity in this match-up comes in terms of how many dunks Miami scores and how many Detroit allows. Therefore, establishing their big men early and late, whether it be Shaquille O'Neal or Alonzo Mourning, is necessary to Miami's success in this series. Also important will be making sure Dwyane Wade has a clear driving lane to the basket where he can finish with some of his patented thunderous dunks, and hopefully avoid injury in the process.

As important as how a team scores is how much production a team can get from each of the five position. To gauge how the teams will be producing, I will be using net PER, a statistic developed by John Hollinger.

Point Guard: With the likes of over-the-hill Gary Payton and spectacular-but-inconsistent Jason Williams, it is no surprise that Detroit has the advantage when it comes to production from this position. And it certainly does not hurt the Pistons having the best point guard on their team. Advantage: Detroit (+9.2 to -2.4)

Shooting Guard: From this position, Detroit barely gets more than their opponents get from their shooting guards. It certainly calls into question whether or not Richard Hamilton is overrated as a complete player. Dwyane Wade is not overrated though. Advantage: Miami (+7.7 to +0.2)

Small Forward: Detroit also has an edge over Miami in terms of small forward production, thanks in large part to Tayshaun Prince. Advantage: Detroit (+2.7 to -5.0)

Power Forward: Neither team has power forwards worth writing home about, but Detroit gets more production from their power forwards than does Miami. Advantage: Detroit (+1.1 to -0.6)

Center: When your center contributes very little offensively, like Detroit's Ben Wallace, and you are matched up against a team which sports Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning, don't expect to win the position production battle. Advantage: Miami (+9.0 to +2.3)

Overall PER: Detroit has a clear advantage as Miami cannot count on consistent contributions from three of the five positions.

Prediction: Detroit has an advantage over Miami in terms of playing efficiency and net PER. Miami can win the low-post battle if they are able to establish their big men early and keep them out of foul trouble, but they will not win the war. Detroit wins this series in seven games.

Worth Every Penny

Tennessee women's basketball head coach Pat Summitt is finally getting the financial recognition she so greatly deserves. It is only fitting that Summitt would be the pioneer among women's college basketball head coaches in terms of salary compensation because she was the pioneer for the sport as a whole. When she took over the Tennessee program at the age of 22, women's college basketball was even more of an afterthought than it is today.

To put the state of women's college basketball into perspective, at the time of Summitt's hiring there was no NCAA tournament for the women as there was for men's college basketball . It would not be until 1982 when the inaugural NCAA women's tournament was held. Instead, women's college basketball's champion was crowned by the Conference on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (1969-71), the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (1972-82), and the Women's National Invitation Tournament (1969-present), three tournaments which, needless to say, did not garner the attention that an NCAA-sponsored tournament would.

Since its infancy, women's college basketball has evolved in many ways. Parity, while still not great, is starting to take hold as evidenced by Maryland winning the 2006 NCAA Tournament and Baylor winning the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Also, with the advent of the WNBA in 1996, women's college basketball is no longer a dead-end for the players' stateside careers. Now, instead of only having international basketball careers as an option, women's players can use their playing experience as a jumping-off point to a professional career in the United States.

Still, through all the changes, there has been one constant in terms of success. Pat Summitt. During her 32 seasons at the helm, she has amassed 913 wins with an .838 winning percentage, led her teams to 12 SEC tournament titles out of 27, 16 Final Fours, 6 NCAA titles, and has been NCAA Coach of the Year 7 times. Not to mention all the money she has made for the University of Tennessee with all the success of her teams. If there are any numbers worth $1 million, these are the ones. It is only a shame it took this long for the this type of pay raise to occur.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Peter King The Prude

Add prude to the list of adjectives you can use to describe Peter King, along with idiot, imbecile, chauvinist, and misogynist.

4. I think, Billy McMullen, the message is pretty simple. When you're traded for a rookie free agent, a kid who wasn't even drafted -- which Philadelphia did with Minnesota the other day -- it's clear that the Eagles think you're hopeless. And you've got a Minnesota training camp to prove them wrong.

Or maybe Brad Childress, head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and former offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, is enamored with McMullen's talent and would prefer to have a receiver in training camp who always knows the playbook as opposed to a rookie free agent who will have to learn it from scratch. Just a thought.

a. I am not a Will and Grace fan, but my wife was watching the final episode last Thursday. I was actually cleaning the basement. (What a man!) I came upstairs and plopped down for the last 15 of the show. During that time, I heard an old woman say, "Suck it, bitch.'' I heard the words "d------ bag'' and "balls,'' meaning "testicles.'' Call me the prude of the week, but are you serious? Does my new employer, NBC, actually condone that language in prime time at any time? I must be incredibly old, but that to me is such a pathetic grab at the young audience that I'm thrilled this show is going off the air. That language should be on HBO at 9:50 p.m., not NBC. I don't know why that bothers me so much, but it really ticks me off. I'm all for the freedom of Howard Stern in the right place, but really, think about it. I'm sure there are many 13-year-old girls who like that show. I know they've heard worse on the playground, but that's not the point. The point is that language is absolutely inappropriate at that time on network TV.

Heaven forbid 13-year-old girls hear the words balls/testicles (thanks for clearing that one up for me, Peter) and actually know where to find them on the male body. Or that profanity be heard on network television since we all know how morally conscious the network's programming is.

Oh, but boys, don't worry about them hearing the same words. Bad words don't affect boys. Only our innocent little girls.

d. By the time the NBA season is over, NBA training camps will have begun.

Hahahahahahahaha. Throw your computer out of the window. No, seriously. Throw it out.

p. Re Barry Bonds' 714th home run: I don't care. It is totally devalued to me. Meaningless. Never even saw the replay and I'm fine with that.

Here's a fun game: count how many lies you can find in what Peter just said. I counted five. How many did you find?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Captain Idiot

Just because something works doesn't make it a good idea.

Yankees vs Mets, top of the 8th inning, score 4-2, zero outs, runners on first and second, and Derek Jeter is striding up to the plate. Yankee fans are excited because their golden boy is coming up to bat. And Jeter squares around to bunt?! What the fuck? Up to that point in the game, Jeter was 2 for 4. For the season, Jeter is batting .331/.413/.488 against right handed pitchers, numbers that make sacrifice bunting a ridiculous plan of action. By bunting, Jeter was basically gift-wrapping the Mets an out while lowering his team's run expectancy. Not to mention the Yankees needed two runs and not one so that made Jeter's decision even worse. Luckily, Jeter was able to successfully bunt for a base hit since Duaner Sanchez was unable to catch his bunt attempt. But still, it was an idiot move by whoever signed off on that bunt.

However, I cannot say I'm too surprised by Jeter's questionable decision since he has a notorious habit of being selfish to the point of hurting the Yankees. Sort of like how he wouldn't change positions when the team acquired a better offensive and defensive shortstop than he in Alex Rodriguez. While laying down a sacrifice bunt may seem like the "team" thing to do, in actuality, it is pretty selfish since all it does is place the onus to get a base hit on his other teammates, setting them up to be the goat while Jeter still looks good. He did the same thing in the 2004 ALCS, and just like tonight, Alex Rodriguez ended up taking the fall.

By the way, laying down a sacrifice bunt is really only prudent when the team needs one run and the game is in the late innings. Or when the player up at bat is an especially weak hitter.

David Wells Is Not Impressed

Apparently, someone thought David Wells was still relevant enough to ask him his opinion on Bonds's 714th home run and he was kind enough to respond. In case you were wondering Barry, Well is not impressed with the number of home runs you have hit. Of course, his response should come as no surprise given his history. It is not small secret that Wells idolizes Ruth, a man he has never met. In 1997, Wells requested to wear #3 for the Yankees, the number Ruth wore during his career, and was denied. On another occasion, Wells attempted to get away with wearing a baseball cap that was a replica of the one worn by Ruth in the 1920 and 30s. He was told to take it off. However, Wells has tried to match the Babe in indulging in excess alcohol and food and has been largely successful judging from his ill-fitting jerseys and ever-expanding wasteline.

Barry Bonds will probably never respond to the remarks made by Wells, but if he did, I'm sure he would say that he is not impressed with Wells's lone start this season. You know, the one where he gave up seven runs in four innings.

The Truth About Ruth

Yesterday, Barry Bonds hit his 714th career home run, tying him with Babe Ruth for second place on the career home run list and unleasing yet another wave of Ruth-is-the-greatest-human-to-ever-live talk. However, Dayn Perry cautions fans against becoming overly sentimental about Ruth and hopefully prevent these fans from Oedipus'ing their eyes when Ruth's name is pushed down another spot on the home run list. Again. For those of you whose eyes glaze over after reading more than two hundred words straight, here are a few nuggets Perry provides in his article.

Among other things, Ruth spent his career in a park that catered to left-handed hitters and inflated his home run totals, his friendship with journalists kept many of his foibles out of the papers, the journalists of Ruth's era were not greatly interested in discovering the truth anyway, he was an alcoholic, his infidelities were more than just a casual pasttime, and he was grossly out of shape for much of his career.

Oh, and for all of you who think Ruth's love for baseball superceded all else, here is an anecdote (not in article) surrounding the real circumstances behind Ruth's trade from the Red Sox to the Yankees. Ruth signed a three year-contract in 1918 for $10,000. After his 1919 season where he posted an OPS+ 119 percent higher than league average, Ruth threatened to hold out if his salary was not increased to $20,000 (T.O. anyone?). This threat came in the face of middling park attendance for the Red Sox franchise so the decision was made by then-owner Harry Frazee to trade Ruth away. However, the decision to trade Ruth had more to do with his personality and the fact the Red Sox were tired of his behavior and his lack of self-discipline than his greed.

What a great guy to worship.