Monday, September 30, 2013

MLB season recap: Gloating & Awards - Part one

MLB season recap: Gloating & Awards - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (9-30-13)

So the MLB season is in the books and its been a fun and wild ride. I feel its appropriate to dredge up the past a bit and remind you of our World Series predictions we made way back during the first week of January. This will be fun, mostly for me!

You predicted, and I quote: "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will be back in the series on the backs of their loaded lineup and sterling pitching to face the Cincinnati Reds."

The Reds are in the playoffs, but how do you feel about your picks? You had the Angels winning in six games. I'm sorry, well no I'm not, but that pick looks really really bad in hindsight. You also stuck by the Angles in May and picked them to make the playoffs instead of the Dodgers, when both teams were stinking it up.

Now for my own prediction. "I'd say the Braves face the Rays in the World Series. The team with the healthiest pitching wins... Atlanta."

Well, well, both teams are in the playoffs (as of today the Rays are in the playoff play-in game so close enough for now). Win for me! I also nailed the Dodgers bouncing back and the Indians being this season's Pirates. We were both way off on the Red Sox, but who cares. Enough of my gloating, let's lay down some season awards.

If I could take a team's record out of the equation, then I would give the AL MVP to Mike Trout, but I can't. Miguel Cabrera wins it, with Detroit winning their division yet again. As for the AL Cy Young award... its goes to Max Scherzer because someone has to win it.

The National League weaves a very different web. The NL MVP has no clear cut winner in my book, so I'm leaning towards Jay Bruce with the Reds in the playoffs. I'm also going Kershaw for Cy Young winner. That one's a pretty easy pick.

What do you got?


Well, I do still like the Reds. They have one of the strongest teams, top to bottom, in the league. As for the Angels selection, I can only assume that I was aiming for some sort of reverse jinx to remove one of the Yankees' top competitors...and it worked like a charm! You're welcome. The Angels pitching was horrid all year and their big bats flamed out masterfully, with the exception of your boy Mike Trout.

As for the Dodgers, I'm still not sure how they finished the year so well. I guess their two-man rotation got a huge lift from Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was amazing all year. Forget Yasiel Puig; Ryu was probably the Dodgers best rookie this season. And the bullpen was good even though Brandon League threw over 50 innings while sporting a 5.40 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. The lineup, on the other hand, is pretty inexplicable. Three, count em, three of the Dodgers four best hitters (according to offensive WAR) had comeback seasons for the ages. Hanley Ramirez was their best batter, by a lot, and the majority of fans thought his career was over. The same goes for Adrian Gonzalez. And Andre Either somehow brought himself from a future fourth or fifth outfielder to a three-win player who hit 30 doubles and was serviceable everyday.

Overall, this team's success still doesn't make sense. Matt Kemp had fewer than 300 at-bats; Hanley had barely over 300 ABs and still accumulated more than 5 wins above replacement. Hell, Zack Greinke was ninth on the team in offensive WAR. Yes, OFFENSIVE WAR, starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who had all of 56 at-bats this season. It's astonishing.

All that being said, I see the Dodgers as the most likely team to lose their first round series but we'll get to playoff predictions later in the week. As for regular season awards:

I think you have it backwards in the AL. I think Mike Trout should, and does, take home the MVP this season. He could have gotten it last year, and would have if Cabrera fell short in one of the triple crown categories. Well, this year Cabrera has been outstanding but he's been banged up much of the month of September. And really, the way these things work, how can the voters disregard Trout two years in a row with the seasons he's had? He is just as good of a hitter as Cabrera in nearly ever category, with the exception of the home run power, but blows Miggy away on the base paths and on defense. Everyone knows team success should not factor into MVP voting. I love Cabrera. Actually, this is funny how this worked out since Trout is your guy and Miggy is mine but I think Trout gets the award.

I actually agree with you on AL Cy Young; it's going to be Max Scherzer. Chris Sale had been the best pitcher in the American League all year, and he still does lead the league in WAR. But his peripheral stats are not that much better than Scherzer's. And Max hits all the number thresholds: 20+ wins, ERA under 3, WHIP under 1, well over 200 strikeouts. He gets it.

In the NL, you are right again with the Cy Young; it is Clayton Kershaw and it's not even close.

As for MVP, way to be wrong on both accounts. First, Jay Bruce is a ludicrous pick. He's not even the best hitter on his own team. That would be Joey Votto. But you are also wrong with there being no clear-cut winner because that man is Andrew McCutchen. He is near the top five of pretty much every offensive category in existence. His team had its best season in decades. He runs. He plays defense. He does it all. McCutchen may not be a brand name yet but that doesn't mean he's not the easy MVP pick.

Playoff predictions.... playoff predictions. Do I stick with my New Years' picks or clean slate and re-evaluate after a full season of games? Once the play-in game for the final American League wild card spot, along with the two single elimination wild card games are in the books, we can make some real playoff predictions. I still like my Braves.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Statistics, steroids & What exactly is Cheating - Part four

Statistics, steroids & What exactly is Cheating - Part four
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (9-27-13)

[Part one - Steroids, PEDs & Sports. Oh my]
[Part two - PEDs & the Children]
[Part three - Destroying legacies & the Steroid witch hunt]

Players cannot pick and choose which rules they want to obey. That's not how sports work. Perhaps certain players think they should be able to wear barbed wire on their boxing gloves and the rule against it is stupid. Or, less severely, what if a baseball player thinks batters should get four strikes before they strike out. Does that allow them to play by different rules? Rules are rules, whether they are good or not. Bad rules get changed eventually but the athletes must follow them until they are changed.

As for baseball gaining credibility back...are they? This whole situation seems to be souring people's opinions of the sport. We are on the precipice of the playoffs and have more great, young players in the league than at any point in my lifetime and yet, all people talk about are the guys getting suspended or the guys cheating. How is that improving public respect?

Whether this is Selig's fault or not, baseball is now, officially all-in on the steroid chase. You really think once he retires, the sport can move on and become like the other sports, because I don't. For whatever reason, MLB will have to fight this forever...until the rules are changed somehow. Baseball has numbers to protect, its history is vast and more important than that of the other sports, and its fans are more concerned with the past than the present. Tainted numbers will continue to be an issue whether Bud is around or not.

It just strikes me as funny that baseball fans are so passionate about their statistics (and I include myself in that group) but fans of the other leagues just don't care. I guess they have already accepted that different eras will supply different numbers. Passing/receiving totals in the NFL are ludicrous these days because of rule changes over the years. Everybody knows this and accepts that Tony Romo is not better than Troy Aikman even though all his numbers are. I am curious if we will ever get to that point with baseball. If, say, HGH is found to be safe and it is legalized, will fans eventually just adjust their frame of reference for what the numbers mean? That seems like a simpler solution than testing, finding and banning all the "cheaters." And once we get there, however many years it takes, we will know that Derek Jeter Junior is not better than Derek Jeter even though all his numbers are.

First of all, I agree that you need to follow the rules of your sport, no matter how moronic. But I'm going to caveat this by saying that this generally is limited to the game on the field and that the majority of athletes learn from the very beginning that if the referee does not see it, then it did not happen. You can't have it both ways, expecting players to follow the rules and then teaching them to break them without getting caught. Two easy examples are grabbing a guys shorts in soccer, or holding in football. Its not a penalty unless its called, so most players do it and find their own grey area. I'd also like to throw in sucker punches to a man's genitalia in football. This was all too common by at least some lineman when it was obvious the opponent was not wearing his cup.

Now we move off the field of play and you expect the players to have a higher sense of altruism, when they were already taught to try and get away with things during the game? It can't possibly work that way. Hence the steroids problem.

I'll jump right back into the Major League Baseball discussion now. You proclaimed yourself as a MLB fan who's passionate about his statistics. I do see the fun in comparing the 1920's greats to today's greats, but its a baseless comparison. No one in their right mind thinks players back then were as strong or gifted athletes as today's players. This has nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with medicine, science and simple evolution. So what do you do with your statistics? What do you gain from them?

My favorite baseball stats include the Yankees 27 World Championships and the fact that up until this season they had made the playoffs in 17 of 18 years, all but one season of the wild card era. Those are awesome stats. They hold weight, validity and substance no matter what decade they took place in. The fact that the Yankees have more money is an advantage, but its been proven season after season that having strong management is what ultimately matters, not just money. Hell, the Royals have a better record than the Yankees right now.

The reason I pegged Selig's retirement as the day baseball moves on and lets go of the steroids witch hunt is because they MUST move on at some point. That day seems like the perfect opportunity to let go, move forward and decide that just like the NFL and NBA, Major League Baseball will also live in the present and honor its statistics but not be led blindly by them. The unwritten rules are some of the most fun and stupid things about baseball, but stats are just numbers. They will always change, always fluctuate and never mean the same thing generation to generation. One dollar today is not the same as one dollar in 1950, so why should 30 home runs be the same? Its not. Get over it.

True sentiments; let's just move on. But before we go, I have to burst your bubble on one more thing. You realize the Yankees making the playoffs 17 of 18 years in this era is also not comparable to the past, right? There used to be just one team from each league who made the "playoffs" and the playoffs consisted of just the World Series matchup. You had to win the pennant to get in. Your stats don't hold up either. Sucker!

Damn it! But I think this proves my own point regardless. Stats are valuable to the individual who values them, but don't necessarily hold up in general conversation, let alone analysis. So why loft them on a pedestal? I think the stats are just fine, regardless of how well they hold up over time. You can't take anything away from Barry Bonds for annihilating the baseball over 70 times in a single season. That was pretty awesome. And so was Roger Maris hitting 61. If Bonds cheated to get his record, then an asterisk is appropriate. The Olympics strips medals, but you can't actually change history. Let's just all admit we loved it and move on.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Destroying legacies & the Steroid witch hunt - Part three

Destroying legacies & the Steroid witch hunt - Part three
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (9-23-13)

[Part one - Steroids, PEDs & Sports. Oh my]
[Part two - PEDs & the Children]

I'd like to think you asked a fun follow on question, but you're asking me to tarnish the memory of one of my favorite athletes of all time. If either of my two favorite athletes growing up were big time steroid users I'd be very sad. Those two players are Marshall Faulk and Charles Barkley.

I LOVED Faulk on the Colts and his time with the Rams was icing on the cake. Barkley was and still is amazing. I'm not sure how I'd feel if I found out they took steroids, but their greatness would be tarnished. My memories of awe and delight would not be as sweet. I'm past the age of glorifying athletes, so I don't have a current player I'd be bothered by. I REALLY hope Mike Trout is clean, mainly because he is an unbelievable talent and has trashed users, but if he was a user I'd still be okay.

I'm classifying users as steroid users. I'm not bothered by HGH or supplements nearly as much. Steroids and the needle in the butt crosses a line for me. But you're correct on my apathy towards how Manning and Peterson successfully rehabbed injury. As for Derrick Rose, I'm equally as apathetic mainly because he still go paid. Manning had to rehab as quick as possible to ensure he had a job. So did Peterson really, since roster turnover in the NFL is week to week and no one trusts a guy who's been out for over a year. Things are different in the NBA and Rose was guaranteed to come back to cheers and a starting spot no matter when it happened. Plus he got paid to rehab, knowing full well his team was probably not going to beat Miami. Rehabbing naturally was fine for him, mainly because he's in the top ten talent of the NBA. But if he isn't at 100% today and HGH will get him there, he should take it. Its medicine. Take it.

I agree that becoming a role model is a responsibility these guys have to deal with, whether they like it or not. But I have a hard time believing they are any more suited for it than those worrisome musicians or politicians you mentioned. After all, you just painted Derrick Rose as some sort of egotistical monster. You say he would cheat at the drop of a hat, but the only reason he's not is because he is selfish and greedy beyond belief. If he didn't have millions of dollars and a starting job waiting (if he had to play his way back to them), he would have cheated in a second. That's the impression you just laid on one of the NBA "good guys." Yeesh.

I'm also having a hard time with your distinction between steroids and HGH and supplements. If something is against the league rules, it is cheating. Why is one form of cheating worse than the other? It sounds like you're only concerned with the cheating that is harmful to the users in the long term; is that fair?

And if that is the case, would you be equally as sad if you found out Faulk or Barkley were some of the first HGH users? They would have cheated before it was cool! But apart from the time frame, just assuming growth hormone was around and in use in the early 90's (it might have been; I don't really know), you would be fine with finding out those guys cheated with HGH but crushed if they were using harmful steroids? I'm going to be honest here. It sounds like you are still stuck on those petty children. You don't have any problem with players actually cheating/breaking the rules. You just have a problem if they take something that would harm teens who also took it.

I don't exactly know what to make of this so I am going to move on.

Why does it seem like Major League Baseball is so much more concerned with this epidemic than the other sports? It has to be equally as prevalent in football and basketball; there's no doubt in my mind. So why does the MLB care and the others don't? Should they care less...should the NFL and NBA do more? Supposedly, during the Biogenesis scandal, there was information to be passed on about players in those other sports, as well as the NCAA. When investigators went to these leagues and told them, the leagues decided to pass; they didn't care and didn't want the info. This is both hilarious and disturbing at the same time. But it also makes Bud Selig and baseball look like kooky nuts who are on a witch hunt...even if those witches exist in droves.

I didn't say that Derrick Rose would cheat at the drop of a hat. I was simply saying that it didn't matter to me if he 'cheated' to get healthy or did it naturally and that it DEFINITELY didn't matter to Derrick which way he rehabbed. The only scenario in which Rose benefits from rehabbing by 'cheating' is if he couldn't get completely healthy the natural way. Otherwise, let it take its time and do it naturally because unlike Manning and Peterson, he did not have incentive to speed things up.

I'm bothered by the 'cheating' that hurts the player's health, yes. But its practically impossible for me to say protein powder or a muscle builder from GNC is acceptable (not cheating because its not against league rules), while a low level steroid is unacceptable (cheating because its against league rules). Both are supplementing the bodies natural levels of whatever and both are helping build muscle faster and stronger. The only reason one is cheating and the other is not is because of the all so holy league rules. We don't arbitrarily agree with the NCAA rules about how student athletes are suppose to act, so why arbitrarily agree to this one about which drugs are 'good' and which are 'bad.'

For me it comes down to what hurts your body and what is unnatural. I don't see HGH as unnatural, but shooting up juice into your veins is definitely not natural. So yeah, I wouldn't care if Barkley or Faulk took HGH. Its not in the 'cheating' category for me. I don't hold it against Andy Pettitte either. But if they took the roids I'd be a little sad. They were GREAT without it, as far as I know. They didn't need it, as far as I know. I want to keep it that way!

I wish I had a mind-blowing answer for you on MLB and its steroids witch hunt, but I'm going to have to disappoint you and our audience with simply a best guess. Major League Baseball is WAY more concerned than the NFL and NBA and NHL about steroids and PEDs. I'd harken to bet that it has a significantly smaller problem with it than either of those other sports, yet its blown it so far out of proportion that you would never know it. Its unsurprising that the other sports passed on the Biogenesis information. Why ruin careers with second hand information? If a player fails a league test, he gets punished. Otherwise its don't ask, don't tell for the NFL and NBA. They have nothing to gain from chasing witches like the MLB.

Here goes; I'll make a guess at why MLB has gone on a steroids witch hunt. They actually do have something to gain from all this. They can reclaim public respect and credibility. Don't forget how much MLB was completely embarrassed by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. Like pie in the face, pull your pants down and spank your naked behind in front of a 1000 people embarrassed. This did not happen to the other leagues. And more importantly, this happened to Bud Selig himself. So before he retires, I think he would like to close the door on this mess, pin it all on a few bad apples and show the public he's cleaned things up. Once he retires the witch hunt ends. Or once Alex Rodriguez retires, whichever comes first.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

PEDs & the Children - Part two

PEDs & the Children - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (9-20-13)

[Part one - Steroids, PEDs & Sports. Oh my]

Professional sports leagues should allow players to take anything they want, but everyone will know about it. That's the notion Malcolm Gladwell presents and its a fascinating idea that I am all for. Obviously there are numerous pitfalls, as with anything. But now the court of public opinion can be set rather effortlessly. It will be up to us if we put more stock in an aided 60 home run season or a clean 42 home run season. And owners/general managers can make the same determination. The same thing is happening now but the public isn't aware of it.

What do you think of his idea? This may have severe consequences, such as every player deciding to take drugs since they are legalized or clean players who perform less than their peers getting pushed out of the league but it is an interesting take nonetheless.

I'm against cheating, let me make that clear, but I'd hold the same opinion on PEDs if I competed at a higher level of sports. Like all jobs, you can come to your position and success honestly or not. You are ultimately accountable to yourself and have to live with the choices you make. I'm sure I've lost jobs over the last five years to people who "cheated" their way ahead of me. But it wasn't really cheating, they used whatever advantage they had to beat me out for a job. The same goes for those competing for college and professional sports jobs as athletes. You can pursue a less honest means to the job, taking steroids to boost your performance in the short term while sacrificing your long term health, or you can simply kick your workout into higher gear and be a little less strong in a more natural manor. The best player and person will win out. No hard feelings. Its up to you how bad you want something.

Most professional athletes want to compete at the highest level more than anything in the world. I don't agree with sacrificing the later years of my life to be stronger in my 20s, but I never wanted to be a professional athlete either. I can relate to the passion, however, but the idea that testing for everything but banning nothing will solve some problem is ignoring the bigger picture.

The main issue here is high school athletes taking muscle builders, growth hormones and PEDs during the years of their life when the body is still developing, the mind is impressionable and the child doesn't know any better. Adults can and will make their own decisions, but the kids will emulate their elders. Consequently, we have to punish the adults for actions otherwise okay. We as adults try to shield the youth from the reality of life for as long as possible. We don't want them to know that the CEO gets paid the most for doing the least work. We also don't want them to know how hard that CEO had to work, and who he had to step on, to earn his cushy job in the first place. And we DEFINITELY don't want them to know what the CEO did to step on people. That action in sports is the PED.

PEDs are banned for the sake of the kids. PED usage is punished for the sake of the kids. So testing for them, but then doing nothing is the worst possible solution. Its like telling a kid that we are going to put cameras in the class room so we know if you cheat on an exam. We are watching your eyes from every angle. But if we catch you cheating on the test, that's okay. I realize I brought in the word "cheating", but its still a good analogy. The only way to set a proper example and keep kids off drugs they should not be using until they turn 25 (I picked 25 because you should be finished growing by then) is to ban them for the adults. They are illegal outside of the doctor's office because its the doctor's job to understand the drug and administer it. Not your coach.

This is you; this is what you sound like:

Now I'm no monster. I understand the well-being of children is important. But remind me why it is the job of essentially random, young adults who can jump high to be the role models for kids. If you agree that professional athletes are going to do all they can to succeed at their job, depending on "how bad you want something" as you put it, why is it on them to also be examples for young people and do the right thing? Aren't those two mutually exclusive?

I actually agree with the school exam analogy to a point. That is a fair assessment...if the point of the testing was to find the kid who was best at taking tests and then have him or her be that school's test taker in order to show the optimum results on nationwide standards. But that isn't the point of school, at least not in good neighborhoods. Sports are a business run for entertainment and to find the humans who are best at it. Where does being a good role model fit into other lines of work? And why is Alex Rodriguez more important to a child's maturation than parents or guardians, teachers or coaches?

This isn't where I expected this conversation to go, which is not a bad thing, but I do want to steer it back towards the professional ranks if I may. Keeping the children out of it for the time being, since you made it clear that you can understand and are relatively okay with adults trying to get an edge, is there any player, active or retired, that you would be disappointed if you found out took PEDs? Framed another way, if you found out ____ took steroids, your opinion of him would change.

I already gather you would be fine with finding out Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson did. You already said, and I wholeheartedly agree, that taking something to help you recover from injury sounds rather logical. So then, to piggyback myself, would it change your opinion somehow negatively to find out someone like Derrick Rose 'didn't bother' to take PEDs? In essence, Rose took so long to recover because he 'didn't want it bad enough' to cheat.

One final point on your killer jab at me via The Simpsons and the iconic Mrs. Lovejoy. Being a professional athlete is a special kind of job. There is only one other job that is akin to being a professional athlete and that's being an A-list Actor. I excluded politicians because we all know better than to look up them. Same goes for Musicians, who sing about such racy material that most people know better. All other jobs are not in the spotlight, more or less. Only Professional Athletes and A-list Actors and Actresses are both in the spotlight and presented to the world as something other than themselves. Kids and Adults alike look up them. They are role models. You don't get to choose this or not. If you choose to be on that level, then you are by default a role model. And there is one simple reason; you get paid in the multi millions of dollars. The money comes with responsibility. So wanting something so badly that you'd do anything is one thing, but getting it and dealing with the consequences of how it changes your life is another.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Steroids, PEDs & Sports. Oh My - Part one

Steroids, PEDs & Sports. Oh My - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (9-16-13)

Has any phrase had a bigger decline in emotional response than "HGH?" Saying those three letters now, in the company of a common sports fan, will elicit disgust and dismay almost immediately. But didn't human growth hormone used to be pretty benign? In fact, wasn't it kind of innocuous? It used to be something doctors gave the elderly to help sooth their many ailments. If you weren't a doctor or old, I don't think you were even aware of what HGH was. And now...?

HGH implies conniving, cheating and lying. It makes us angry. I guess these responses are warranted. Professional athletes who take performance enhancers are blatantly trying to increase their talents beyond what is natural. If you consider human growth hormone not natural. You know, unlike tendon replacement and cortisone shots. Those are cool.

With this very leading preamble, my question to you is as follows: do you have a problem with professional athletes taking PEDs? If those enhancers have no known downside or physical side effects, does that change your answer? Or if the athlete is taking said substance to simply recover from an injury and not to increase his day-to-day performance, does it change your answer? And seriously, what phrase has taken a bigger dip in popularity than HGH? That has to top the list.

First of all, I don't have a negative connotation associated with HGH. I guess I'm in the minority here, but HGH is something found naturally in the body and has been used for years by doctors to help cure the sick, elderly, you name it. It is exactly what it sounds like. Human Growth Hormone aids the body in a multitude of ways and I think its foolish to ignore its applications in medicine. Its not illegal for doctors to utilize HGH, but doctors get to utilize traditional steroids as well. I understand there's a difference here when it comes to sports.

My perspective on this issue is one of a former high school athlete, a former varsity football player. I played some rugby in college, but my football career ended with high school. Let me tell you, more than half my high school football team was taking some kind of supplement. Only a few people took actual steroids, but Creatine was super popular and everyone loved protein powder etc. I'm proud to say I took none of it and was by far the biggest and strongest player on the team. But taking stuff was a part of football in high school, so its only a larger part in college and an even bigger part in the pros. What does any of this have to do with PEDs? I'm not going to single out HGH here. Performance enhancing substances is a huge umbrella term, but for me it includes protein powder and that ilk as well. It all helps to beef up your body.

It comes down to this. Athletes at all levels of all sports are going to take things. Attempting to label some fair and others illegal is a fools errand and will never, ever result in anything less than confusion. I could care less if the guy next to me, or the player on the other team, was taking steroids. I never once felt inferior and took pride in being "clean." I have two main feelings on the whole PED issue.

When it comes to injury and recovery from injury, players should be able to get whatever treatment they can get. I don't care if Adrian Peterson took HGH to heel his knee. I'd rather him come back at 100% in six months than at 90% in twelve months. Let's not ignore modern medicine for the sake of old statistics and records.

As for players taking drugs to make them stronger, this is a tricky subject. I don't see it as cheating. They are not breaking the rules of the game itself, just the rules of the governing league. Cheating is doctoring your bat or baseball, or putting metal plating on your shoulder pads. Cheating is what every running back does when he tosses the football five yards up field after getting tackled. He's hoping the referee is unclear where he landed and gives him a more favorable spot. He's trying to steal a yard. Cheating is not making yourself stronger. You have the option of doing that regardless of whether you are taking drugs, protein, or raw eggs to help things out (Disclaimer - I don't think raw eggs do a damn thing). My assumption is that many players in the NFL and NBA are taking things you'd rather not hear about. We get to find out when it comes to MLB, which kind of stinks. If you allow players to take a regulated dosage of a drug, or PED, then at least it would be safe. Some players would get extra on the side, but it would level the playing field. And its still the individuals choice to make, to take it or not.

It is actually quite refreshing to hear your take on this. However, your point of view may have changed had you played a sport at the division one, college level or professionally. What if some guy taking a PED was also trying to take your job? Would that change your opinion, or is it all in the game?

Letting players take a regulated dosage of things is interesting but would obviously be corrupted rather quickly. It does bring up an out-of-the-box point though, kind of piggy backing on your point of taking stuff to recover from injuries. Acclaimed author Malcolm Gladwell is a pretty big sports fan with some great theories. Everyone knows his famous 10,000 hours theory about practicing. He also has a radical take on steroids in sports. I'm paraphrasing but Gladwell thinks we should test for everything and ban nothing.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fan Focus: Storming the Court - Part two

Fan Focus: Storming the Court - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (9-13-13)

[Part one - Fan Etiquette on the Road]

Let's start with a few safe assumptions for court storming. First off, the game must be over. Secondly, your team must have won the game. I'm calling these assumptions, because if either of those two don't apply then the court storming party is being an ass.

Rules for storming the court:

1 - You are under the age of 30.

Storming the court should be strictly limited to the young crowd. Its not proper for a sixty year old man to rush the field. But a group of college kids at the game? Hell yes!

2 - Your team has just executed a significant victory.

Significant is defined as playoff clinching, a playoff victory, championship victory, or major regular season upset. Major is defined as an unranked team defeating a ranked opponent.

Did you enjoy my analytical approach? I was going to add in a rule about being drunk, but no need to exclude the crazy sober crowd. I think if you're ranked, in the top 25, then its not a major victory to defeat the top team. Its big, but not court storming big. Since this act is almost exclusive to college sports (its illegal in the pros or something), we need to make sure it counts. Otherwise the fans would storm after every victory in order to turn the game into a giant party.

Obviously I have no problem with your assumptions or your first rule. Your team has to have won, no question; and this is indeed a young man's game. No elderly.

Number two is where things get sketchy. You tried to map out what entails a significant victory but you did not cover nearly enough. And you also ventured into the wrong territory. Playoff and championship wins are rarely, if ever, played on someone's home court anymore. So that's one problem. And if the favorite wins a playoff game, should their fans rush the playing field? I say no.

Really the only allowable rushing occurs at regular season, big wins. Now you defined this as an unranked team defeating a ranked team. But this is pretty baseless. Should a top 40 program really rush the field if they take down the 25th ranked team in the country? That would be ludicrous. And even if your program is down on its luck, should the fans really rush the court if they beat a highly-ranked but lowly university, like say if Auburn football beat TCU? Sure TCU is a much better team these days but whose program would you really rather be a part of? Auburn wins that war and its fans should rush nothing. They have a recent national championship for heaven's sake!

It is hard to cover every example and situation with a blanket rule because there will always be exceptions. But a court-storming has to have a few factors:

- The team has to be the underdog
- They have to be under appreciated in some way, either historically or in that specific matchup (i.e. NC State vs. UNC basketball)
- They cannot have won a title, national or conference, in the last 7 years
- They cannot be ranked in any poll
- The vanquished squad has to be either very highly ranked now or historically highly thought of

If one of these factors is missing, don't do it kids. It makes your school look petty and childish, like you don't have any sense of where your team sits nationally. Take pride in your university; don't embarrass yourselves.

Wow, way to crap on the party. By your logic, Duke should never storm the court after any victory, ever. You're completely wrong on this! If Duke goes undefeated in the regular season, hell yes the fans should storm the court. If they win the ACC title or National Championship, hell yes they should storm the court. In those last two scenarios the fans would be out of town, so even better. Trash someone else's arena!

This brings up a fun counterpoint. Is it okay to storm the court after victory has been snatched from your fingertips? Storming in anger that is. I had winning as an assumption, but its worth asking. Or is it okay to storm after someone on the team sets a national record?

I've never had the pleasure of storming a court. But it seems to me like anything goes. I'm envisioning the tiny Asian girl getting pushed around, or having to climb on her friend's shoulders so as not to get swallowed by the mob.

Give me your best/worst experience as a fan on the road. Tie this topic up in a nice pretty bow.

You are correct; Duke fans should never storm the court, ever. But Duke students know this is the deal. They are smart students; smart, jerky, asshole students.

And in what scenario would a cluster of Duke fans storm the court for a National Championship that's being played in, say, Atlanta? Not only would they not be allowed on the court (college sports do have security and police, but they let it go if the ENTIRE arena charges them, not for a group of 30 kids), but it would look foolish even if they did. Storming the court is only cool if the court is flooded with members of the crowd, not spattered with them.

And really? Storming the court after a loss?? No. Victory was your first assumption and its a good one. Storming in anger is not cool and does not happen and storming for a player accomplishment would never happen either. The game would probably be stopped for a moment as it happened if it was that big of a deal, but nothing afterwards seems warranted.

I have stormed the playing surface before, both at basketball and football. It is a joyous time...for the first six or seven minutes. After those few minutes pass, it seems awkward and you are wondering when everyone is going to leave. So it's definitely an overrated action, but that only backs up why it should be saved for proper occasions. If you attend Duke, this occasion will not come up, and really, you chose Duke out of any school in the country?? How douchey of you.

As for being a fan on the road, I have never had the opportunity that I can recall. I am sure I've seen the Yankees play in some stadium other than their own, but nothing happened. It was so uneventful I cannot even remember it happening. That's baseball for you.

I have seen my alma mater football and basketball squads in neutral sites though, for whatever that's worth. What happens at neutral site games is that local sports fans end up snatching cheap tickets prior to the event and just are obnoxious to anyone rooting for either team actually playing. This happened when I saw Virginia Tech play in the Orange Bowl a few years back. The locals from Miami just got on us whenever something went against the Hokies. They didn't even care who won. It was bizarre.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fan Focus: Etiquette on the Road - Part one

Fan Focus: Etiquette on the Road - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (9-9-13)

With the height of baseball season colliding perfectly with the start of the NFL calendar, let's take a long hard look at the fans for a moment. Fan Focus, telling you how not to be an ass for over ten years (length of time may be embellished).

Today I want to talk about stadium / ball park / arena etiquette. And not for the home crowd. They basically get to do whatever the hell they want. Its their team, their turf and their rules. I'm talking about watching your team play on the road, in the enemies backyard. Their are rules people and things to avoid so as not to get stabbed.

Do you have much experience with seeing your teams on the road? I've been watching the Yankees play the Angels out here in Anaheim for eight years running. Its an incredibly delightful experience and nothing like when I went to watch my New York Jets play the Patriots in Foxboro. I've seen the Celtics here in Los Angeles play the Clippers as well. Each sport is slightly different, but the rules don't change.

I'll start with rule number one and you can call me an idiot for bringing this up and give me rule number two.

First rule of fandom on the road; sit on the visiting side of the field. For baseball this is pretty easy to do, but with football its much greyer. My experience watching the Jets in New England brought me face to face with the roudy drunk Masshole Pats fan. I was in the upper deck, around plenty of Jets fans, but far outnumbered none the less. I wore a Jets hat, but nothing else. I felt that was respectful. Gotta show team spirit, but no need to rub it in on the road. But when I cheered on my team I found myself all too close to several fights, with beer thrown in my general direction. It was cold outside, bitter cold, too cold to tell if the beer actually hit me. Stupid bleeping Patriots fans.

Road fan etiquette, as you hinted at, has almost nothing to do with the actions of the specific road fan. It has everything to do with the home environment the actions are taking place in. As you said, you got heckled and harassed just for wearing a Jets hat in Gillette Stadium. We hear stories of fans getting beaten up and sent to the hospital seemingly every season just for being fans of the opposing team. Perhaps those certain people were rowdy and inciting anger from the home crowd, but that is still no reason to cripple someone. I think no matter the actions, it is dangerous to be an opposing fan in certain locales. That is just the sad state of present sports fandom.

So first rule of road fan etiquette altered: only be an opposing fan in weak home parks, i.e. Atlanta basketball, Jacksonville football, etc. This way, not only will the crowd as a whole be sparse, but the likelihood of home fans rallying up enough to cause you fear or harm is limited.

The ironic part is these types of crowds are considered bad fan bases. You glossed over home crowd responsibility, but I want to go back to that. Home crowds have some etiquette of their own. The obvious ones exist:

- Don't cheer loudly at a home football game when your team is on offense
- Don't start a wave at a baseball game; it makes your fans look disinterested and childish
- Don't yell randomly when your basketball team is shooting free throws

These are the easy ones. The grey area that most often comes up for home crowds though, for collegiate sports at least, is when to charge the field/court. When is it okay to leap from the stands onto the playing field after a victory? If you topple the number one team in the country, this seems warranted. But what if you are the number eight team in the country? Does it not then seem a bit silly?

This has been dissected before on other platforms, but I am never quite content with the results. What should be the requirements for when a home, collegiate crowd can rush the court?

Way to skip rule number two and jump right on the home team. But I LOVE that you brought up the wave as a major red flag for home teams. This ties nicely into my second rule.

The second rule for road fans; go watch your team in a fan friendly venue. One of my absolute favorite spots to go watch the Yankees is at Angels' Stadium in Anaheim. Angels' fans are really great, nice, inviting and just positive all around. They have the Rally Monkey and home run fireworks, but aren't dicks about you cheering for the opposition. Plus, when the Yankees are in town the stadium is at least 1/3 full of Yankees fans. Win!

But guess what else happens ALL the TIME in Angels' stadium? The wave! They do the wave a ton in that ballpark. Granted its practically at Disney Land so being childish is not unexpected. But they love the wave and I love visiting that ballpark.

Now to the hard question. What are the rules for rushing the court, storming the field, rushing the mound? I have only two.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Yankees Hope, or simply Smoke? - Part two

Yankees Hope, or simply Smoke? - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (9-6-13)

[Part one - Barring a miracle, the Yankees Stink]

You and I are different. So what if Jeter, Mo and Pettitte all retire at the same time? I just don't understand the mindset. They should all retire if they are all washed up, have nothing left to offer their team, or are tired of playing. Otherwise, the whole coordinated goodbye is stupid. If Jeter is the Yankees' best option at shortstop in 2014 then I want him to come back. There's no nostalgia at stake anywhere for me. Thus, there's no final at-bats or last starts that I'm looking forward to.

Although, I must say, I kind of enjoy Rivera's trip around the country where he receives gifts from the other franchises. I don't know why this occurs. To say thanks for whooping their asses for years? To say good riddance? But it is quirky and funny anyway.

So this leaves me back at square one. The Yankees current mini-run not withstanding (they passed Baltimore for a hot second before falling behind the O's yet again), where are the young guys to root for? Even good teams should be able to bring up young prospects to acclimate into the major league squad. That is what September roster expansion is for. And New York seems to be near the bottom of the league as far as September call-up excitement is concerned. If we're not making the playoffs and we're not rebuilding with young guys, what are we doing?

Mariano's league tour is totally unique and amazing! I can't recall a single player in any sport who got presents from the opposing teams during their final season. Now most players announce retirement after the season, so we don't know its their final year as they play it out. I love that Rivera said it up front, but has the present thing ever taken place before? The only chink in the armor here is Joe Girardi trying to convince him to play one more season. Then what? He's not getting gifts again next year if he comes back. More like tomatoes thrown at him for changing his mind. But you don't like goodbyes, so I'll move on.

We both agree this season has been super challenging, but I'm really proud of this season's Yankees, no matter how they finish. In New York, you're either great or you stink. So if this team misses the playoffs, then they definitely stink. But if they make the playoffs, unlike last season, it would be an accomplishment. We'd still say they stink if they got bounced in the Wildcard round, but whatever. I love the hope and have hope that they will pull this out. Playoffs!

I'm kind of lost on the whole young prospects thing, however. Robinson Cano was our last young stud who came up and dominated. It has been a rare thing for the Yankees over the last decade. So I'm not missing it per se, but I am pining for some glimpse into the future of the franchise. Every time a new guy took the field this season I got excited. None of them seemed to last more than a week or two, but I was still excited. It doesn't leave us in a good spot at all and I'm scared for next season. Last year I was scared for this season and rightfully so, considering how its played out. I'm having a real hard time seeing how next year will be any different, let alone better. If this year's team doesn't go down as a stinker, we are for sure due.

The Yankees stink, is that what's coming? It doesn't feel right and Brian Cashman needs to fix this. You're great with the sports management perspective. Give me two off season moves we can make? Get us some youth. And keep our salary down. Damn we're old and over paid.

Whoa, you threw so many points at me here. First, it's not that I dislike goodbyes; I just don't care that they are occurring. If you tell me Andy Pettitte's last career start is tomorrow, then I'll simply ask who's taking his place in the rotation. For Rivera, the gift trip has been kooky and fun, but all I really care about is who'll be saving games next season if the organization doesn't believe in David Robertson.

I also disagree about the team's level of stink. Sure, missing the playoffs entirely will have a stench to it. But, considering the injuries, a playoff berth should be considered a successful season. Not all Yankees seasons are created equal. The bosses put a salary cap on this year's roster, handcuffing Brian Cashman and co. a bit. And with all the DL stints, Joe Girardi has had one of his best managerial seasons of his career. Making the playoffs would be a solid win for the 2013 club. Losing in the wild card round would put a damper on that of course, since it barely feels like you actually made the playoffs. It is like making the NCAA Tournament in college basketball but losing in the "first round" AKA the play-in games. You technically made it, but not really.

But whether they sneak into the playoffs here or not, next season is definitely starting to smell. The thing to remember though is that there will be no salary concerns. The one year plan was to get under the cap threshold to avoid the constant-cap-breaker clause or whatever it's called. If you get under once, the penalty for going back over is lessened substantially. So keeping the salary down is not an objective anymore. However, more relevantly, there are not many big name free agents hitting the market anyway. Teams are signing younger guys to longer contracts. But here goes, I'll give you a couple moves to improve the Yankees. Likelihood was not a requirement here, correct?

Move Number One: The New York Yankees trade Gary Sanchez, their top minor league prospect, to Tampa Bay for David Price. Everyone knows the Rays are looking to deal Price. He's eligible for arbitration in 2014 and they will not be able to afford whatever long-term deal he desires. Would they trade him inside the division? Probably not. Is Gary Sanchez even thought of as good enough anymore, after his disappointing 2013, to be the centerpiece of this deal? Also probably not. Would this keep our future salary down? Not in the least. Does it make our major league roster younger?...Why yes it does! One for four!

Move Number Two: Sorry, I only have one move. Seriously, things are looking grim. The Yankees have a few outfield prospects people are high on, but they are all at least two years away. Their pitching prospects have fizzled out and their major leaguers are all old and decrepit. Also, take a look at the top free agents coming up this off-season. Matt Garza and Jacoby Ellsbury (both 29) are the youngest guys. I don't see a logical move out there that gets the Yankees younger and better for 2014. I just don't see it.

So you're saying there's hope for next season? ...... One positive, the team can't get more injured.

I will say this, I've grown to love the team this year even if I don't fully recognize it. From a pure logic stand point, I don't see how it can actually get worse. So if 2013 is the season of Rivera and over achieving, I'm thinking 2014 is the season of Jeter and one last title for the captain. We got this!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Barring a miracle, the Yankees Stink - Part one

Barring a miracle, the Yankees Stink - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (9-2-13)

This Yankees season is pretty much over. Barring a miraculous, Tampa Bay-esk comeback or a Red Sox/Braves-like September collapse, New York is not going to be busy come playoff time. They currently sit 8.5 games back in the AL East and 3.5 games back for the second wild card, behind Baltimore, tied with Cleveland and only two games ahead of Kansas City. Being tied or on par with the Indians and Royals is awful. It has not been our year.

Everyone knows about the injuries. Although a valid reason for the disappointment, it is not an excuse. Brian Cashman, the Steinbrenners and company admittedly skimped on the bench and even on the starters in an effort to get under the luxury tax threshold for 2014. Depending on how the Alex Rodriguez saga plays out, this should be accomplished rather effortlessly if A-Rod's $25 million is not paid out.

So while looking ahead to the next year, the Yankees were also trying to compete this season. It was not a rebuild or even a retool. It was a monetary decision accompanying a winning clubhouse. It...didn't work. If everyone had stayed healthy it would have been interesting to see how far this team could have gone with their pitching, but that is partly the point. It was a squad of talented, older players.

This outcome seemed likely back near the All-Star break, when the Yanks were still up near the top of the division but things looked cloudy. At that time, I surmised that they should deal Hiroki Kuroda for a young bat of some kind. Kuroda has been amazing, would have been one of the top starting pitchers on the market and is not a part of the Yankees' future at age 38. It made all the sense in the world, except for the part where the Yankees are sellers at the trade deadline. They could have twisted into a sell-high situation or trading SP depth for a bat. but as the weeks progressed, even the overabundance of starters dwindled as Michael Pineda had yet another setback, Andy Pettitte was terrible and CC Sabathia was down right mortal.

Losing for a better draft pick is not something done in baseball. Finishing with a worse record than Baltimore or Kansas City is not something done in New York. Without fantasy baseball, it is hard to feel excited about the rest of the season. Am I missing something? Is this how Mets fans feel all the time? At least they have two young stud starting pitchers to talk themselves into. Where are the Yankees prospects?

Here's some food for thought; as of today the Yankees have an 11% chance of making the playoffs. For those unclear, eleven percent is basically ten percent which is a one in ten chance of happening. Yet even knowing that blatantly pessimistic statistic, the Yankees are a mere 3.5 games back in the Wildcard race. That is not out of reach by any stretch of the imagination and this season is FAR from over for the New York Yankees.

Saying all of that, the season has been an abomination from a management stand point. Yes, Joe Girardi has been incredible and the old dudes who were added to replace the injured old dudes have performed admirably. One could say they have been outstanding, yet we all knew it wouldn't be enough. It's as if the entire team embodied Mariano Rivera for the season. It's been a swan song of sorts. Flashes of past greatness, with old age ultimately rearing its ugly head. But in the end, this will be Mariano's season no matter what happens. Every game in September will be special because of him. But enough about the good, because there is way too much bad.

I'm with you on Kuroda. Trading him would have been a stellar move. His last three starts have been horrendous. This team isn't winning anything with Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte performing at a AAA level. I liked our chances in July because the pitching was consistent. I knew our hitting would pick up and the addition of Soriano has been tremendous. But I never imagined such a prolonged stretch of starting pitching mediocrity. Its nearly doomed the team. The Yankees are done. I haven't seen enough in the last week to convince me they can rattle off multiple stretches of 9 out of 10 wins. They had one such stretch and will probably grab another, but they need at least two more to be in the hunt. Everyone else is playing at too high of a level. (Note my obvious desire for the exact opposite to happen. Optimism!)

I am excited for the remainder of the year and its because its the end of an era. It will be the last time Mariano Rivera sets foot on the diamond and might even be Derek Jeter's final game as well. It will probably be Andy Pettitte's final game. Imagine, all three of the Yankee's big three ending their careers together. Its not that far fetched right now. I'm excited to see if the team can keep winning, but mainly I'm preparing to say goodbye. The only way the Yankees can be great once again is to let go of the past dynasty and begin a new one. One step at a time.

As for Mets fans, I think they feel infinitely worse. Don't bring us down to their level, its unfair to both fan bases. I believe Matt Harvey's injury may have sealed my argument, but the Mets are annually out of the race by August 1st. That has to hurt. Months of solid baseball rendered meaningless by a poor team. And this season their biggest star in the lineup got injured. David Wright was lost with little left to root for. Leave the Mets alone.

I guess this is the main difference between you and I. You wax poetic about goodbyes and ending eras and I could not care less. I want victories and October baseball, not a stinky team honoring the past.