Monday, June 22, 2009

When you think of it that way...

I was reading this Bill Simmons column on the "purest" era of baseball, and while his thoughts were arbitrary, somewhat conflicting and based on little of anything that would make sense to any real baseball fan, it got me thinking.

Maybe the whole idea of purity in baseball is moot. Maybe we don't want purity in baseball.

Part of what makes baseball so great is the ridiculousness of the players. Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden almost ruining their careers with over-the-top partying, Graig Nettles "juicing" his bat with 6 superballs, Jason Grimsley crawling through an air vent to the umpires locker to swap out Albert Belle's confiscated corked bat. That kind of stuff is awesome.

It's like a bad episode of Salute Your Shorts over and over again. Except with everyone making millions of dollars and occasionally taking a break from off-the-wall camper antics to play a baseball game.

(See more crazy ways to cheat here.)

You can't tell me that every time a bat splits down the middle like it was struck by lightning that you don't honestly hope to see cork inside it.

And given the history of cheating that's surrounded the national pastime, maybe we shouldn't be in such shock and awe that the most recent generation of players has pumped themselves full of more steroids than farm cattle. Is that really any worse than swinging by the Dollar Tree, stocking up on rubber bouncy balls and stuffing them in your Louisville Slugger? It's certainly not as FUNNY, but when that's the precedent maybe it's only natural that the players have veered closer and closer to a look that's straight out of WWE. After all, weren't the rainbow metallic Ric Flair and Hulkamaniac stickers in the 25-cent vending machine right next to the Super Balls?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hershey Bears pull my all-time hockey pet peeve

In last night's Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals, the Hershey Bears lost 3-2 to the Manitoba Moose. The Bears still hold a 3-2 series lead, but they'll have to win one of two in Winnipeg if they are going to hoist their 10th Calder Cup.

The thing about this game that really irks me is the way the score got to 3-2.

The Moose led 2-1 late in the game, and the Bears pulled goalie Michal Neuvirth with about a minute and a half left to play. Manitoba scored almost immediately, making it 3-1 with 1:21 left. Game over. That's it. You've just shortened the game by 81 seconds.

Bears defenseman John Carlson added a goal with 31 seconds left to make it 3-2, but it was meaningless at that point.

This situation is the perfect example of why I am so against pulling the goalie -- or at least pulling the goalie until it's truly a last ditch effort.

I'm not saying Carlson's goal ties it if they don't pull Neuvirth, because there's no telling how the events really would have unfolded if the Moose don't score that 3rd goal. In all likelihood, it would have just ended 2-1 instead of 3-2. But you give yourself a much better chance of tying the score if you don't allow the game to basically be cut 81 seconds short.

Down one goal late in the game, time was the Bears' most precious resource, and they gave a bunch of it away.

I get that pulling the goalie gives you the best chance to score a goal, but it also gives the other team a FAR better chance to score and all but end the game. Given the odds that the other team pots one in your yawning net, pulling the goalie should really be a last resort. With 1:30 left in a one-goal game, is it really last resort time yet? There's plenty of time to generate a few good chances 5-on-5 in that span.

I wish some NHL coach would just say, "You know what? I'm never going to pull the goalie for the extra attacker." Just to see how his team's comebacks in the final 90 seconds stack up against other teams.

I'd be willing to bet he'd fare better than teams that pull the goalie all the time, because for every game a team ties with their goalie pulled, there are probably at least five where they get scored on with 30+ seconds left on the clock, killing any comeback hopes.

The cons just outweigh the pros when it comes to pulling the goalie when down one goal.

Now why won't anyone believe me?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cause for concern? Wieters batting .143 through 6 games

So the hype has died down as the Orioles travel the West Coast, and with the dust settling one might be wondering if all the expectations on rookie catcher Matt Wieters were a little outlandish.

Through six games, Wieters is 3-for-21 with 1 walk, 1 run, 0 RBIs and 5 strikeouts. He has managed a double and a triple (in the same game), but that's still only good enough for a .143 average, .182 on-base percentage and .468 OPS. Not exactly Hall-worthy just yet.

But to be fair, Nick Markakis was hitting .182 a MONTH into his rookie campaign in 2006 before raking his way up to a .291 average at season's end. And since then, Markakis has become the second best player in the Majors, only trailing Matt Wieters.

So don't pack up your Matt Wieters Facts t-shirts just yet. There's no reason to think that he's just another Billy Rowell, Jeff Fiorentino, Adam Loewen, Val Majewski, Mike Fontenot, Beau Hale, Tripper Johnson, Mike Paradis, Larry Bigbie, Keith Reed, Chris Richard, Mamon Tucker, Darnell McDonald, Sean Douglass, Matt Riley, Eugene Kingsale, Ivanon Coffey, Alex Ochoa, Jayson Werth, Rick Krivda, Rocky Coppinger, Ryan Minor......