Baker’s firing comes as a surprise, but maybe the Reds needed a new voice

October 6, 2013

Immediately following the Reds’ Wild Card Game loss to the Pirates, general manager Walt Jocketty gave every indication that manager Dusty Baker would be back for the 2014 season. Three days later, Baker was out of a job.

As a Reds fan, I’ve got mixed feelings about the news. Baker has never been a favorite of the new school stats crowd, which I tend to lean toward. But he won at least 90 games and made the playoffs three times in the last four years. That should count for something. And the players always seemed to respect him and respond to him (at least until the last couple of weeks of the season). That was evident in their reactions Friday, particularly from Jay Bruce:

“I understand that it’s a business and when teams don’t accomplish what’s expected of them there are changes, but any way you slice it, Dusty was an integral part of turning the organization around,” Bruce wrote in an email. “The Cincinnati Reds became relevant again with Dusty at the helm, and that’s something people should never forget. From a personal standpoint, I’m thankful to have had Dusty there with me from the time I was 21 years old. He taught me so many valuable things about the game of baseball, things that have helped me become the player I am today, and I’m very appreciative of that. Aside from the on field aspect, he took an interest in myself and the other players on a personal level that far exceeded that requirements of a manager.”

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Let Joey Votto be Joey Votto

September 28, 2013

With the MLB regular season coming to an end this weekend, SI.com’s Joe Lemire picked an unsung hero for each of the 30 teams. His choice for the Cincinnati Reds was Joey Votto.

You read that correctly – Joey Votto. The 2010 NL MVP. A four-time All-Star. A player who starts a 10-year, $225 million contract extension next season.

As a Reds fan and an unabashed Votto supporter, I’m not exactly impartial on this subject, but he shouldn’t be an unsung hero. His name should be coming up in MVP discussions. (Admittedly, he shouldn’t win it this year, but he’s easily a top 10 candidate.) Yet it’s hard to disagree with Lemire’s classification given the narrative that’s developed around Votto this year.

There’s been an actual discussion in Cincinnati over whether he or Brandon Phillips should be the team‘s MVP. Here’s how their season stats stacked up through Thursday:

AVG OBP SLG OPS R HR RBI WAR
Votto .304 .434 .492 .926 100 24 73 6.2
Phillips .260 .310 .397 .707 79 18 102 1.5

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Great Moments in Chutzpah: NFL.com writes about MLB’s concussion issue

September 15, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, the NFL reached a tentative $765 million settlement with thousands of retired players over concussion-related brain injuries. Growing medical research is showing that these injuries are causing serious long-term health issues to former players. A high-profile documentary is coming in October on the league’s “concussion crisis.”

So it was refreshing on Friday to see the NFL’s official website directly addressing the issue of concussions — in Major League Baseball.

From NFL.com contributing editor Bill Bradley:

USA Today looked at the rise in head injuries among catchers in baseball, showing the trend has been increasing for the past two years.

Teams have put players on the disabled list due to concussions or head injuries 18 times this year, five more than all of last season and seven more than in 2011, when the seven-day concussion DL was implemented. In 10 of those 18 instances, the players were catchers, including the Boston Red Sox’s David Ross twice.

The article, which is essentially a rewrite of the USA Today piece, isn’t wrong about baseball’s issues with head injuries and the need to address them. But the problem in football is orders of magnitude bigger. To put this in its proper context, 10 players were listed with concussions on the NFL’s injury report just in Week 1 of this season.

This little bit of misdirection would be roughly equivalent to MLB.com writing about the use of performance enhancing drugs by NFL players while making only passing reference to its own Steroid Era. And the NFL.com article did make only passing reference to its concussion problems with this single sentence:

Plus, it appears MLB is dealing with the same concussion culture that the NFL has been trying to change.

Perhaps the NFL should get its own house in order before talking about other sports.


A March Tradition Unlike Any Other: Hating Duke

March 16, 2012


Now that March Madness is upon us, The Washington Post has found a way to combine two of America’s favorite pastimes – filling out brackets and hating the Duke Blue Devils. With apologies to my Duke friends, presenting March Mad-ness:

This is about finding the most reviled school in college hoops. We asked Post readers for the teams they just can’t root for, and you sent in more than 200 comments. After tallying the recommendations, we’ve arrived at an eight-team field. Check out the bracket (and let your blood begin to boil). Also, take a look at the eight teams and read why they made the cut.

Of course, Duke is the overwhelming favorite.*

This is the third item I’ve come across on a national website this week about loathing the Blue Devils, and it’s not exactly like I’ve gone looking for any of them. NBCSports.com’s College Basketball Talk ran this post today about the post-career life of Christian Laettner, maybe the most hateable Dukie ever. That was tame compared to Slate.com’s “Worse Than Laettner” piece, a six-page chronicle of “the 18 most hateable moments in Duke basketball history.”

I’m not exactly fond of Duke either, but I don’t think I’ve seen so much hating since this.

 

* N.C. State fans may have a difficult choice to make at the end of this. The bracket sets up fairly well for a Duke-UNC final.


Is N.C. State going dancing?

March 10, 2012

The NCAA Tournament picture sure looks a lot better for the Wolfpack than it did at this time yesterday.

Every projection I’ve seen this morning has N.C. State in the Tournament — barely. The consensus seems to be that, as things stand right now, the Pack would be one of the last four teams in and probably playing in the First Four in Dayton on Tuesday.

I’m almost scared to write this, but State feels like a Tournament team after winning against Virginia yesterday. While I recognize that RPI isn’t everything, the Pack now ranks 49th according to Live-RPI.com, three spots ahead of the team they just beat on a neutral floor and with a much better strength of schedule. The Cavaliers are projected as a solid 9 or 10 seed in the Big Dance. If they’re in, then surely State is, too, right?

Things have broken pretty well for State over the last few days, with other bubble teams falling left and right. I know there was some thought that the regular-season sweep over Miami would have looked even better if the Hurricanes hadn’t lost to Florida State last night. But I don’t think the slight boost to the Pack’s RPI was as valuable as watching a team in direct competition for an at-large spot lose.

Still, State’s fate at this point is very much in the hands of the Selection Committee. Despite 22 wins against a tough schedule, the Pack’s only victory against a current Top 50 RPI team* came in November against Texas (who ranks 48th).

Of course, a win against North Carolina today would make the rest of this post moot. And I’d like to think it would be Mark Gottfried’s way of continuing the recent tradition of first-year State coaches making dramatic runs to the ACC Tournament finals.

 

* Virginia (52) and Miami (59) both fell out of the Top 50 yesterday, according to Live-RPI.com.


Red Sox learn the first rule for naming a ballpark in the Internet age

February 22, 2012

The start of Spring Training is one of my favorite times on the sports calendar because a) it means baseball season is right around the corner and b) it helps distract me from things like this.

If you’ve never experienced the Grapefruit or Cactus leagues, I highly recommend it. At some point, I want to go over to Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast to see the Red Sox’ new spring home, a replica of Fenway Park known as JetBlue Park.

You can read all about it at jetbluepark.com.

Go ahead and check it out.

What’s that you say? That link goes to the Yankees’ website?!

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An IoT conversation: A Maddon-ing Exchange

February 15, 2012

What do you see in this picture of Joe Maddon? For one IoTer, it's a two-time AL Manager of the Year. For the other, it's a .500 manager with a losing playoff record.

Jeremy, a Rays fan, was excited to hear Tuesday that reigning AL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon is going to be in Tampa for another three years. Jimmy did not share his enthusiasm, possibly because he’s a Red Sox fan. What follows are the friendly text messages that we exchanged on the subject:

Jeremy: Bad news for you: The Rays are about to sign Maddon to a 3-year extension.

 

Jimmy: Good move. When you’ve got a chance to lock up a guy with an 11-14 career playoff record, you have to do it.

 

Jeremy: If you want to talk playoff record, doesn’t that make the Rays’ win in the ’08 ALCS look worse for the Red Sox?

 

Jimmy: It does. But 2 World Series titles look much better. Let me know when the Rays win something.

 

Jeremy: Remember the 2011 Wild Card? Or how about the 2010 AL East?

 

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