Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is Mark Reynolds Garbage? An "Intellectual" Debate

Hello there, nobody that reads BWP any more! I hope you're existing (you're not). Recently, it came to my attention that some people don't think that Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds is a $12.5 million albatross, a horrible player, and overall an impolite and mean guy (unsubstantiated). Thus, we've enlisted the help of BWP friend Brian, a handsome and dapper gentleman if ever there was one (much unlike Mark Reynolds) to defend this $12.5 million lump of hot garbage. Retorts will be from the venerable BWPer that you know as "Rob." Away we go!

*****

MARK REYNOLDS NOT SO BAD: POINT FROM BRIAN


Thanks for putting this together, Rob. I look forward to solving the age-old O’s fan question together: what in the world are we to make of current O’s third baseman Mark Reynolds? I’m taking the pro-Reynolds side, and this is my first installment.
Reynolds may not be an All Star-caliber third baseman, but guess what: over 90% of all third basemen aren’t, either! Despite his obvious flaws (one of which is that he plays third base in a town where the legacy of Brooks Robinson as the greatest defensive third baseman of all time hangs like a Michael Gonzalez breaking ball), he has already proven to me that he is one of the better AL third basemen, one of the best current Oriole hitters, and a huge upgrade from the rotation that held down the position for the Birds last year. The numbers bear this point out well (all figures are through 6/19/2011).
Reynolds ranks third among AL third basemen with a .352 wOBA (for my money the single most important offensive statistic). He also is fourth in OBP (.335), third in SLG (.451), and first in P/PA (4.26). You might counter that these position rankings only include those third basemen who regularly occupy the position; situational players and platoons are not included. I’ll grant you that, but why should we discount Reynolds’s consistency and ability to play in 68 out of 69 games this season for the Orioles?
Still not convinced? Let’s examine his performance compared to the production the team got from third base last year. O’s third basemen in 2010 compiled a .283 wOBA, 16 HR, 71 RBI, and a .668 OPS. Reynolds is on pace to destroy these numbers, projecting to 30.5 HR and 84.5 RBI and exceeding last year’s wOBA mark by .069 and last year’s OPS figure by .118. Unless Rob intends to claim that Ty Wigginton is a Gold Glove-level defensive third baseman, Reynolds is clearly a huge upgrade for the Orioles compared to the gaping hole in the lineup that third base represented last year.
Still not convinced? Wow, Rob said this would be easy. OK, let’s check out how Reynolds stacks up to his current Oriole teammates. So far this year Reynolds ranks second among regulars in wOBA, first in HR with 13, second in RBI with 36, and second in OBP with .335. So if we were to take him out of the lineup tomorrow, the Orioles would lose one of the only relative bright spots in the lineup so far this year.
To sum up: Reynolds is among the best offensive third basemen in the AL, he is among the Oriole team leaders in every offensive category, and he represents a monumental improvement over the third base platoon of last year. Is he perfect? Heck no. I have big qualms about the defense, and the strikeouts and batting average tick me off. But the production is there, and frankly it’s time that the Reynolds-haters come up with some sort of alternative. Every team can’t have Kevin Youkilis; I’m happy that we have Mark Reynolds.

*****

MARK REYNOLDS SUPER SUPER BAD: COUNTER POINT FROM ROB


Brian makes a lot of comparisons to Orioles’ seasons past, even invoking the hallowed name of Ty Wigginton, but that’s a false dilemma. If I gave you the choice between a rotten tuna sandwich and a poop sandwich, you’d pick the rotten tuna sandwich. It doesn’t mean the rotten tuna is delicious. And the Orioles paid $12.5 million for rotten tuna.
Yes, he is an upgrade over trash like Wigginton and whoever else has manned the hot corner in recent years. But garbage is garbage, and Reynolds is garbage.
Mark Reynolds is, by most calculations, a decent-to-good hitter. The problem is that Mark Reynolds plays defense, and Raul Ibanez is the only thing keeping him from being worse at fielding than anyone else in the major leagues. All of that nice, semi-above-average offense is almost completely wiped out by his abortion of a defensive performance.
The stats support what you see on the field: Reynolds is a typical, unspectacular “three true outcomes” player (home run/strikeout/walk) that plays abysmal defense. His WAR (wins above replacement) right now is .3, meaning for the first 68 games of the season, he has generated about three more runs than you’d expect a AAAA-level player to generate. He’s basically Josh Willingham.
He produces enough on offense (20 percent better than the average player), but he’s given away about 14 runs on defense. Basically, he’s a 1.7 WAR player on offense (winning 1.7 more games than a replacement) and a -1.4 WAR player on defense (losing 1.4 games more than a replacement). In the end, he’s a replacement player. Which is to say, replaceable. And for much cheaper than $5 million this year and $7.5 million next year.
Yes, amongst qualifying third basemen in the AL, Reynolds has top-five rankings, or whatever. Until you realize that you’ve cherry-picked a criterion that only eight guys in the universe (third basemen in the AL with at least 225 plate appearances in 2011) actually fall under. If you look at more guys who are playing baseball, you’ll find that about the only time Mark Reynolds is a top-five player is when you’re only looking at five guys.
His high wOBA would be super nice, if baseball were a competition to see who could produce the highest wOBA. Unfortunately, somewhere between 5 and 10,000 other factors go into being a baseball player, and Mark Reynolds is not good at 95 percent of them.
Like I said, he gives you the three true outcomes – he homers (24th in the league), walks (14th) and strikes out (fourth). But he doesn’t really do anything else, and when you combine that with defense that should make women and children avert their eyes, you get a guy who is worth three runs over 68 games.
Comparing him to other Orioles, old and new, is like comparing a banana peel to a pile of used hypodermic needles. One is preferable to the other, but they’re both garbage.

*****

MARK REYNOLDS REALLY NOT SO BAD: COUNTER COUNTER POINT FROM BRIAN


Wow, some tough talk from Rob. Mentions of poop, needles, and garbage obviously resonate with all O’s fans, but let’s dig a little deeper into Rob’s response to look at the substance of his argument.
First of all, I’m glad he brought in WAR because WAR is a great statistic that pretty handily summarizes a player’s overall contribution to the success of the team. While Reynolds currently has a WAR of 0.3, it should be noted that as recently as a week ago his WAR was negative. Therefore, his performance is clearly trending in the right direction, as you would expect from someone adjusting to the AL East. I’m also glad Rob brought up WAR because WAR shows that Reynolds is far from the biggest problem on this team. WAR statistics indicate that only three Orioles are playing at a very high level this year: Wieters (1.4), Hardy (1.4), and Jones (1.3). Reynolds – the $5 million man – has thus far produced a higher WAR than Vladimir Guerrero ($8 million, 0.2 WAR) and Derrek Lee ($7.25 million, -0.1 WAR), among others.
The other main point I need to make regards Reynolds’s defense. Rob claims that it is an abortion, and certainly the numbers aren’t pretty at this point. But I feel it is appropriate to moderately discount his defensive statistics for several reasons. First, without wanting to beat a dead horse, defensive statistics are troublesome, frequently misleading, and not as telling as offensive statistics. They need to be taken with a huge grain of salt.
Secondly, third base is not a tremendously important defensive position. The consensus in baseball is that the most important defense position is catcher, followed in some order by the rest of the up-the-middle defense (second base, shortstop, and center field) because these positions face more chances and record more outs. After those four, I would argue that first base is the next most important position. That puts Reynolds at the 4th least important defensive position on the field. Would we like his defense to be better? Sure. But it’s not like he’s playing shortstop or something.
Thirdly, as previously mentioned, Reynolds is just starting to warm up and become comfortable. He is not going to end up with 35 errors (his current pace) and a .901 fielding percentage. In the past two years with the Diamondbacks he has recorded fielding percentages of .951 and .945 while registering 18 and 19 errors. Over a larger 2011 sample size his defensive performance will probably converge to his mean.
Finally, his poor defense is not overwhelming the team as a whole. The Orioles have committed 47 errors so far this season. This total is only 5 worse than the MLB median. Also, the team’s overall fielding percentage is .982. Reynolds must not be dragging that down too far, because the MLB-leading fielding percentage is .988. .Reynolds’s teammates are picking him up sufficiently on the defensive end and he is more than picking up for them on the offensive end.
Before I close up here I need to call Rob out quickly and respectfully on one thing. He went on rhetoric-overload to disparage Reynolds without answering the basic question I posed: who else? Name someone who could realistically be playing third base for the O’s right now and justify to me how he is better than Reynolds. I totally support the time-honored Baltimore tradition of calling O’s players trash (actually, “bum” was the term of choice in my house), but calling Reynolds names is less persuasive than providing an alternative.

*****

The argument will rage on into infinity. Expect more long-winded retorts from both of us as time rolls on, and please make sure to leave your invisible comments (as you, a reader, do not exist) and weigh in on this super-unimportant issue.

DOES MARK REYNOLDS SUCK? The true answer ... we may never find.

Monday, April 25, 2011

USA no longer number 1 at thing that isn't a competition between countries

Rob-bait.

This is a dumb piece on golf from Wojo that assumed two things:

(A) There is some kind of international rivalry system in golf wherein all golf fans are also fans of their country's players to the point where there is a "golf war."

(B) The US has lost the "golf war," which isn't a thing.

The golf war is finished. We -- the USA -- lost.

Ha-ha, get it? It's like "Gulf War." People died.

We're no longer masters of our golf domain. We're No. 1? We're not even No. 3. Four of the top five, 16 of the top 25 and 32 of the top 50 players in the world rankings are non-Americans.

Golf, of course, is the Great American Pastime, invented by George Washington and Ben Franklin in 1764. The duo was drunk off of America's Beer (Heineken).

So it goes without saying we should be bummed that in the great American sport of golf, none of our boys can top current no. 1 Lee Westood. I mean come on, the guy's English. What type of golf tradition does that country have?

Also, way to cherry-pick, Wojo. A solid half of the top 14 golfers in the world are American, including no. 6 Tiger Woods, which is pretty crazy when you think about it.

"The rest of the world of golfers has grown up," said player agent Chubby Chandler, who represents an A-list of international players.

If nothing else, we could always depend on Tiger Woods. He was the surest thing since red shirts on Sundays. But he hasn't won a PGA Tour event since September 2009, hasn't won a major since June 2008 and his five-year reign atop the world rankings ended in October.

Yeah, it's almost like his entire life completely shattered into ten million pieces within a couple short months in addition to his body finally breaking down! Almost.

And guess what? That's OK. It's more than OK. It's actually pretty cool.

Curveball, Wojo style.

I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that, save for the week (or however long) that the Ryder cup is relevant, there is absolutely not one single living soul in this country that attaches one modicum of an element of national pride to fucking golf.

"There needed to be life after Tiger -- and I'm not saying that Tiger's finished," said Chandler, whose clients include new world No. 1 Lee Westwood, No. 7 Rory McIlory, No. 11 Charl Schwartzel, No. 15 Ernie Els and No. 31 Louis Oosthuizen. "But there needs to be a continuation of what goes on in golf. And if that's a different continuation, then good."

Sheesh, McIlroy at 7. You're telling me they play golf in Ireland? I don't want to live in this world.

[..]for only the second time since World War II, Americans have taken an O-fer in the majors. And if you count the supposed fifth major -- next month's Players Championship -- a non-American (South African Tim Clark) is the defending champion there, too.

If you're waiting for a point, please don't hold your breath. The combination of a lack of oxygen to the brain will either kill you or cause you to write going-nowhere stories about the internationalization of golf.

Three of the last four Masters winners are non-Americans. Five of the last seven U.S. Open winners are non-Americans. Three of the last four Open Championship winners are non-Americans. The last three PGA Championship winners are non-Americans. Four of the last five Players winners are non-Americans.

Seriously, he's never going to make this seem relevant, unless you woke up this morning to read columns thinking, "I wonder what Wojo thinks is like, super neat."

By the way, did I mention that Europeans have kidnapped the Ryder Cup? They've won four of the last five, six of the last eight. If the Cup spends any more time overseas, it's going to develop the Stockholm Syndrome.

Boom, another classy reference. Charl Schwartzel totally apharteided the Masters.

"What's happened is that you now have the best young kids from all over the world come to play here," Chandler said. "It's not a European or anything domination. It's just the way that you've got a lot of players around the world that are as good as some Americans. Whereas you used to have a lot of Americans who were very good and kept all the other players off the [PGA] tour, it's not like that anymore."

And then Chandler chided those (hello)

Hi?

who look at a leaderboard and count the number of U.S. players on it.

Seven out of 14 is still pretty good, right?

And, I mean, did anyone like Tiger specifically because he was American? I thought people liked him because he was good at golf. Maybe I'm the idiot.

"You should be focusing on how good the game is right now," Chandler said. "You should forget about this domination. You've got 10 great kids out there."

Wait, the country with half of the world's top 14 all to itself is the one getting dominated?

He's right. The rest of the world was going to catch us one of these days. After all, the world had numbers and time on its side. It drafted us for years and then did a NASCAR bump and run. We lost traction and now we're sucking fumes.

I'm reading this, and I know the words are different, but they process in my brain as "Slow news day. Slow news day slow news day slow news day. After all, slow news day. Slow news day NASCAR slow news day. Slow newsday I suck at writing." Did I get the general gist?

Again, this isn't a bad thing for golf. It's just a bad thing for our USA golf egos.

I move to strike on the basis that "our USA golf egos" are nonsense things that don't exist.

"I think these are all global players now," said George O'Grady, chief executive of the European Tour. "They are just players."

Did this really happen? At some point people watched golf going "USA! USA!"? I just... what? Why? No. This is stupid.

This is a polite way of saying that the world is sitting on our couch, feet up on the ottoman, drinking our beer, petting our dogs and changing the TV remote from Knicks-Celtics to a Manchester United-Newcastle game.

Petting... dogs... ?

Something had to give. Tiger is 35. He broke his life into a thousand pieces

Fun fact: I used almost that exact same wording earlier in this rant before I had even read this part. I don't know how funny that is to anyone but me, but I'd just like to point out that the exact verbiage I used to show how Wojo is a dummy that's writing a bad column appears later in the same column.

and he's trying to weld it back together -- and he will. But his window of majors opportunity has smaller panes of glass than it used to.

Such a shame for Team Golf USA Which Is A Thing.

Same goes for Phil Mickelson. He turns 41 in mid-June.

Same goes for Phil Mickelson?!?!?!? Great editing. "Tiger Woods's life fell apart. Same for Phil Mickelson." SIC SIC SIC SIC SIC.

Mickelson is ranked No. 4. Tiger is No. 6. Fellow American Steve Stricker is No. 9, but he's also 44 years old. Matt Kuchar, ranked 10th in the world, turns 33 in two months. They're not out of their prime, but they're not exactly in the sweet spot of it anymore.

Yes, because golf is certainly not a sport people play until they're a fucking hundred.

USA reinforcements are on their way. Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Gary Woodland have lots of potential, but zero majors among the seven of them.

Remember that time I said that American golfers were getting old? Here's a list of young, up-and-coming American golfers.

Meanwhile, Kaymer and Oosthuizen already have majors and is there anybody who doesn't think Westwood, Luke Donald, McIlroy, Justin Rose, Paul Casey or Ryo Ishikawa isn't going to eventually win one of the Big Four?

Love this argument. He names seven Americans and dismisses them for having not won majors. Then he names six non-Americans who haven't won majors and scoffs that they'll all eventually win a major. I would absolutely love to see odds on this.

Oh, and one other guy: Italian Matteo Manassero, who recently outkicked McIlroy in the final round to win the Maybank Malaysian Open.

Yeah, an Italian who did really well in a round one time! PACK YOUR BAGS, AMERICA. IT'S THE WORLD'S GAME NOW.

And, I mean, on top of everything, he took down Rory McIlroy, world-renowned big-time pressure-situation final-round golf monster.

"You look how good Manassero is," O'Grady said. "He's only 18, by the way. He's certainly got a major championship within him somewhere."

What the living fuck are we talking about any more?

Tiger or no Tiger, this really has the possibility of becoming golf's next golden age. Fifty years after South Africa's Gary Player won the Masters (and was referred to as "a foreigner"),

Wow, how far we've come. People in America would never refer to someone from a foreign country as "a foreigner" nowadays.

the game is borderless. Country flags no longer matter. Or they shouldn't.

They don't. They never did. This column didn't get written. Wojo didn't get hired at ESPN. I did work at my job instead of writing this.

"You've got an absolutely brand new era here," Chandler said.

An era of new names, not nations. It took a while, but it was worth the wait. Really.

A distraught Tiger Woods, captain of Team USA Golf, finishes reading Wojo's column. He looks away as tears form in his eyes. Slowly, he opens his desk and clears out its contents into an old leather suitcase.

He starts toward the door but stops for just a moment, looking around his dusty office at the memorabilia from all those years of Golf World Cups (which is a thing) and international team championships (Which totally happen besides the minuscule amount of time we pretend to care about the Ryder Cup).

He stops specifically at a picture of he and best friend and teammate Phil Mickelson. After a final glance, he sighs and turns out the light, letting the door shut slowly behind him as he walks into this new world.

Fin

Monday, April 4, 2011

So what's going on here?


This is a tag-team from me and Nick (who snapped the video). What the hell is Jim Calhoun tossing onto the court, at the 7-8 second mark? Is it marbles like Amy Poehler in Blades of Glory? Is it holy water? Sure seems to have some bounce. Does he carry three or four super balls in his sleeve for every championship game?

More questions than answers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Yahoo! fantasy baseball writers stupefy....one sentence at a time.

In the interest of fairness, the people writing what I am about to rip may not actually be the Yahoo! fantasy baseball writers. They could just be some dudes whose job it is to right one-sentence blurbs about fantasy baseball match-ups. Frankly, it doesn't matter, because someone is writing them, and that person is an idiot.

Please let me explain.

When I am at work I open and close dozens of websites each day. Some of them kosher, some of them less kosher, some of them not-very kosher at all. Can you guess which category this site falls under? Anyways, while many websites appear and disappear from my screen, there are four which are always open somewhere. Those websites are, Gmail, Facebook (because it is part of my job believe it or not), Pandora, and my fantasy baseball league.

So here I am setting my roster for this afternoon and little did I know that Yahoo! has decided to ratchet up its fantasy baseball information presumably because it wasn't already ridiculously over-the-top and insufferable.

This year they decided to add a five-star system for rating how favorable the match-up is for a certain player and his opponent.

In theory this seems like a good idea. It's intricate details that could be the difference between starting a guy who is going to hit two home runs, or a guy who is going to strikeout four times.

You would assume said match-up blurbs might be things like "Ken Griffey Jr. has a career batting average of .376 in the Kingdome", or "Larry Walker has hit twice as many home runs at Coors Field as he has on the road." or even "Albert Pujols is hot this month and has a career batting average of .415 in 80 at-bats against Yovani Gallardo."

However, if you assumed that Yahoo! was going to bring you pertinent information about your fantasy team, well then you just don't know Yahoo!. Please join me as I try to translate some of the more idiotic blurbs.

Michael Morse (Nationals OF): Four stars against Tommy Hansen

The blurb:

Hansen typically struggles against hitters like Morse

Translation:

Apparently there are statistics out there that show that Hansen normally gets crushed by free-swinging gorillas like Morse. Never mind that Morse has played in the majors for less than a full season. They could have at least included another sentence about what the fuck they meant by "hitters like Morse". You know, something like, "In his career, Tommy Hansen has given up 28 home runs and 4495834 doubles to hitters with biceps large than the size of a grapefruit". It sounds stupid, but it would be better than trying to figure out what the fuck they mean.

Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox 3B): Four stars against Colby Lewis

The blurb:

Youkilis slugged .500 in four at-bats against Lewis

Translation:

While this blurb at least includes numbers, it essentially means Youkilis had one good game against Lewis. Well I checked, and sure enough, Youkilis went 3-4 against Lewis with two doubles on July 16th. Great. I guess that means the match-up is favorable. Or it could mean absolutely nothing because it is an extraordinarily small sample size.

Drew Stubbs (Reds OF): Two stars against Milwaukee

The blurb:

Well-Hit Average of only .179 (27-for-151) against right-handed pitchers in the top-tier since last season.

Translation:

I am pretty sure that this was intended for yesterday's game against Yovani Gallardo -- a game in which Stubbs went 2-5 with a home run and a double...thanks for nothing Yahoo! -- but I have so many questions. What the hell defines a top-tier pitcher? Did they really think Shawn Marcum and his 80-year-old right arm are qualified for "top-tier" status? What the fuck do they count as "Well-Hit"? I am so fucking confused.

J.J. Hardy (Orioles SS): 2 stars against James Shields


The blurb:

Hardy is slugging .231 in 13 ABs against pitchers like Shields since last year

Translation:

I guess the small sample sizes and the vague player comparisons weren't enough for Yahoo!, so they decided to combine the two just to fuck with me. 13 at-bats since last season is not indicative of diddily-shit, and I assume "pitchers like Shields" means J.J. Hardy is petrified of goateed pitchers who like to yell into their glove a lot...so you can bet I am gonna sit him against Josh Beckett too.

Chase Headley: (Padres 3B): Two stars against St. Louis


The blurb:

Headley has a well-hit average of .176 against middle-tier pitchers.

The Translation:

Although I still don't understand any of that, I can easily infer from this that Chase Headley is not very good at baseball. So there's that.

and my personal favorite...

Gordon Beckham (White Sox 3B): Three stars against Cleveland

The blurb:

Match-up data is very neutral, but favors Beckham slightly.

The translation:

Oh now you have really outdone yourself Yahoo!. Not only do you not explain what match-up data you are talking about, you also contradict yourself in back-to-back clauses and leave the users completely and utterly mind-fucked. The data is neutral...but it favors one side slightly...I mean you have to be fucking kidding me with this shit!!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

VCU Belongs! ... and 5,000 other topics crammed into the same column

Hi, I'm something named Paul Daugherty and I wrote a bad column for Sports Illustrated today where I commemorated the NCAA tournament by shoving 68 disjointed different thoughts into the same column and acting like it was cohesive. Can you count them all? Send a list to BWP for a free prize*! Feel the "madness"!

*No prize

Another year, another wild opening weekend in the NCAA tournament

This column is going to literally attempt to recap everything that happened in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

VC-Who?

At least he nailed the opening. VCU? More like greasy boobs! Alright, score one for the D-Man. (The D-Man is Paul Daugherty)

The Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University appeared out of nowhere, straight from the far-right edge of the office pool bracket. Damned if we saw them coming.

Nevermind whatever in the wide, wide world "the far-right edge of the office pool bracket" could possibly mean, but we're going to hammer this entirely original point home: Seriously, who knew VCU could win three games -- one of them even against a good team!

We could go on about the wonderful wackiness of the NCAA tournament's first weekend, but that is a given.

Wait, but -- you -- the headline -- only the third paragraph --

We could ask for a moment of silence for the officiating, which was fatally dreadful in crucial moments. But that's going to happen. The ceremonial bracket-burning took place slightly earlier than usual this year -- thank you very much, Texas -- but that's nothing new. We've been flaming brackets for decades.

I would gripe to a national audience about my bracket, too, if SI paid me. But that's because I'm a bad writer.

Let's just sum up the first weekend by offering some meas and culpas to VCU, superstars of truTV, validators of the First Four and all-around Madness poster-guys.

Is this supposed to come off sarcastic? "Congrats on your basic-cable wins, guys." I mean, I think G'Town was soft, and who gives a shit about USC, but Purdue was a top-10 team this year.

Oh, and in no way was VCU a "validator" (not a word) of the First Four, those games were still stupid and ruined the whole process of filling out the brackets.

The Rams persuasively dismantled a very good Purdue club Sunday to earn a Sweet 16 game with Florida State in San Antonio Friday. Afterward, VCU forward Jamie Skeen declared, "Look at us now.''

We are. We can't look away. It's like a wreck on the highway. The Rams could have us rubbernecking from here to Houston.

Yes, an 11 seed winning two tournament games is exactly like when cars going 70 miles per hour smash into each other on the highway. In every single imaginable way.

What's more, Richmond, the Southwest's No. 12 seed, plays top seed Kansas Friday. If the Spiders do the unlikely, we could have an all-Richmond regional final. The capital of the Confederacy and college basketball? Who knew?

Right, if Richmond does something that has never fucking happened, then there would be an all-Richmond final, provided that VCU can get past the nation's best defense. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to glaze over so we can get to a strange Charlie Daniels reference.

A nod to Charlie Daniels, boys: The South's Gonna Do It Again.

But don't think that this means D-Man thinks The South Is Actually Gonna Do It Again. In a minute, he's going to mention that he's openly rooting for chalk from here on out. He just said that to make an awesome and totally-not-36-year-old reference out of the clear blue sky.

"Anybody can beat anybody,'' said the aptly named VCU coach Shaka Smart, 33, whose name is suddenly on the speed-dial of all athletic directors seeking the Hot Young Coach of the Moment.

His name is smart, and his team won basketball games! SMART.

Smart's right. Four double-digit seeds will play on this week. Butler, an 8 seed, returns. The Big East is suddenly little: Only two of its 11 bids escaped the weekend, though it didn't help that the league cannibalized itself in two games: Marquette beat Syracuse and UConn took out Cincinnati. When four of your teams play each other, casualties are inevitable.

This is where we start getting jumpy. Keep in mind that we're talking about VCU and Richmond, but at the same time D-Man throws in this random, half-thought-out reference to the Big East. Despite staying on this topic for .03 seconds, he still manages to make an ass out of himself: Yes, the Big East did have two games they were bound to lose, but no mention of the obvious: Those two games were the only ones where a Big East team won.

Picking a champion looks to be as easy as picking who's Marcus and who's Markieff. The Morris twins combined for 41 points and 24 rebounds in Kansas' win Sunday over Illinois.

Mk is an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier, and when they're on TV playing basketball they wear different huge numbers on their shirts. Sorry to nitpick but that was such a lame reference used as a sloppy transition to Kansas.

A key to winning when you're not supposed to? Cherish the basketball. VCU beat Purdue when it combined 26 assists with four turnovers. Richmond has nine turnovers in two games. Contrast that with Syracuse, which exited stage early again, partly owing to 18 turnovers

VCU! Richmond! Remember the Big East? Kansas! Don't turn the ball over! I can't feel my face!!!

The elephant at half court is Ohio State. The Buckeyes are filing their nails and saying, "N-e-e-xt.'' They merely demolished George Mason Sunday, 98-66, with a thoroughness that makes them seem the best Shining Moment candidate going.

Whatever.

Their main perspirer, coach Thad Matta, barely offered a drip while watching his team go on a ridiculous, 50-15 run in the last 16 minutes of the first half. George Mason wasn't Kansas. But the eighth-seeded Patriots owned a history of slipper-wearing, having reached the Final Four as an 11th seed in '06.

Don't count them out -- they did really well five years ago! And everyone knows that there's tons of continuity for college basketball teams at the bookends of five-year periods. Like, no way a five-seed in the '06 tournament could have gone 13-19 this year!

Surviving a No. 8 seed isn't a given. Ask Pitt, which did not survive, and Duke, which blew a 15-point lead in the last 10 minutes, before beating Michigan by two. Ohio State has five players who can score, a load in the middle in Jared Sullinger, and coolness at point guard, where freshman Aaron Craft had 15 assists and two turnovers.

Pitt lost! OSU is good! Their point guard is "cool"! TOO MANY TOPICS FOR SNARKBOT3000 101011101010101010101

"If they play like this every day, they're a tough out,'' George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. "But you don't play like this every day. Every game is different. Every opponent is different. The next round, they're probably going to play a team with a little more size and a better matchup, physicality-wise.''

Hey, there's something we could do some analysis on -- could OSU get bothered by Kentucky's super group of freshmen? Or will it be UNC's size? Or will we just forget we even inserted that quote and change gears with no transition?

Physicality speaking, here's a question: When do UConn guard Kemba Walker's legs fall off at the thighs?

Knew it.

A grueling Big East regular season was followed by a grueling Big East tournament was followed by 74 grueling minutes in two games over the weekend. The Huskies and Marquette are all that's left of the Big East's 11 tournament invitees.

I don't blame D-Man for repeating himself; even he can't remember saying the same thing like 20 topics ago.

But, back to lesser-hyped teams that are still around. VCU shot 65.6 percent in the second half and scored 48 points in the paint against a Purdue team known for its defense. The Rams carry the classic boulder on their shoulder into the region.

We're switching topics too fast. I feel like I'm going to throw up.

Clichés are clichés because they're true. Nobody thought VCU would be here now. Certainly not the heathen media, which universally trashed the Rams even getting into the tournament. VCU tiptoed in through the back door, having lost five of its last eight then being shuttled off to Dayton to play in what the NCAA ingloriously termed the First Four.

Sorry, which part of this was a cliche? The media being "heathens"?

Also I have a lot to say in re: VCU getting into the tournament (namely that winning in the tournament doesn't magically make their regular-season profile better and prove they should have been here; I think unequivocally, Harvard, VTech and Colorado had a better case to get into the tournament) but I could literally harp on that all day. Suffice to say: this column is getting stupider exponentially.

The Rams weren't playing Broadway. They played on truTV. Until Tuesday, did anyone know what truTV was?

I don't blame D-Man for implying that the games on lesser channels were somehow less meaningful or important. I blame the NCAA for passing the rule that if you play on TNT or TBS, you have to give 85% effort, and truTV was a whopping 65%. I think it's criminal.

Column's almost over, let's not even pretend we know what transitions are any more!

Florida State is in the Sweet 16, even as the Seminoles' best player, Chris Singleton, lasted only 10 minutes against Notre Dame. Singleton broke his foot Feb. 12. Butler is back, thanks to Matt Howard's look-what-I-found putback against Old Dominion, and a head-shaking foul in the last second against Pitt.

These teams won too! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

By the way, it's nice that the TV can have NCAA supervisor of officials John Adams on for purposes of explanation and clarification. But the guy's not exactly objective when it comes to questionable calls. Over the weekend, egregious followed questionable followed infuriating.

Hard-hitting fact-finding from D-Man: The NCAA's supervisor of officials will tend to be subjective in favor of NCAA officials. Someone get this man a Pulitzer.

The ref in the Arizona-Texas game couldn't count to five. The guy in the Pitt-Butler game decided he'd decide the outcome himself. Washington lost a crucial second of time in its loss to North Carolina. And so on.

Wah wah my bracket's busted too.

But we digress.

A natural pause before we get to the height of this column's flagrant retardery.

At some point, we want the upsets to stop.

Wait, what? We do?

The Little Teams That Could are a fine diversion during the first weekend.

Wow, that's condescending and not at all true.

This week, we really need the big boys to hitch up their pants. Unless, of course, your idea of greatness is Richmond-Butler in a national semifinal.

That would be pretty cool. Better than the same shit we see every year, isn't it?

We don't visit the National Gallery of Art seeking graffiti.

Wow. Just wow. How many mid-majors can D-Man offend at this point?

No disrespect to VCU and Richmond and Charlie Daniels. But this weekend, we'd prefer the classics: Kansas, Ohio State and Duke.

Who the fuck are we? You don't speak for me, jerk. And I like that he spends a little while disrespecting the shit out of teams, calling them "graffiti" in an art museum, and touches it with a finesse "No disrespect."

The Southeast will give us the fly in our soup: Butler, Wisconsin, BYU or Florida. We'd prefer it be BYU, because you can't not root for the audacity of someone who calls himself Jimmer. Let's see Fredette go for 40 against the Brothers Morris.

Mmm, yes, yes. We normally reserve the fourth place in the national semifinal round for a "team of diversity." Let them have their little piece of luxury for once, don't you say? Mmm. Yes. [Adjusts monocle]

Finally, a spadeful of dirt to the No. 16 seeds, who stunk on toast, as usual. They lost to the No. 1s by an average of 28 points. They're now 0-108 all time. We'd call them Charlie Browns, but that'd be an insult to Charlie Brown.

Really?

And the NCAA thought it was necessary to add four teams this year?

Might as well finish with a non sequitur, right?

Oh, yeah. One of those teams was VCU. Never mind.

Yeah. And they don't deserve to win. But their coach is smart. Kansas. Also, the 16 seeds lost. Butler. Richmond and Charlie Daniels. TEXAS GOT BONED. WASHINGTON MICHIGANDUKECAROLINAWISCONSINMONTREAL[head explodes]

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gene Wojciechowski attacks Barry Bonds, ends up looking really stupid

Spring training is in full swing and most baseball writers know what that means. It essentially means trying to find worthwhile information about their beats, in what is essentially a month-long practice, filled with useless information and statistics.

Most writers admirably fill the pages of their newspaper by digging for stories about hot prospects fighting to make the big league club or maybe stories about veterans trying to bounce back from a tough season.

But for everybody’s favorite moral compass, ESPN columnist Gene Wojciechowski, it means piling on Barry Bonds – who left baseball never to return in 2007 – because he was a miserable prick during his time with the Giants.

I would summarize Wojciechowski’s idiocy, but I think I would actually be doing Gene a disservice. So instead I will let him handle the idiocy, and I will cherry-pick his most idiotic parts so that I can make myself feel better.

Giants thriving in post-Barry Bonds era

Do you think it is worth telling Gene that there have been three baseball seasons played since Bonds retired and that the Giants have made the playoffs in just one of those seasons? Nah, let’s just move on.

Barry Bonds helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series last season. And he could help them win it again this season.

Dear Gene,

Barry Bonds doesn’t actually play for the us anymore. In fact, he hasn't played for us since 2007. Our point is that it is more than a little insulting to those of us who actually played in the games that you infer our World Series victory is a direct result of Barry Bonds' absence. Maybe, just maybe, if Bonds had left before last season, you could convince really stupid baseball fans that his departure allowed the Giants to play better baseball. But Bonds retired fucking THREE seasons ago. It also seems kind of counter-intuitive that you are trying to pillory Bonds while simultaneously giving him a completely unreasonable amount of credit for our World Series' victory. We are not happy, but Lincecum got us all stoned and we are too high to come to your mother's basement and kick your ass. Nice glasses. Dick

Love,

Your 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants

When Bonds and his toxic presence was finally removed…

In the interest of nit-picky grammatical fixes, that sentence should read “Bonds and his toxic presence were finally removed…” but I will look past that understandable mistake as long as you proceed to make sound baseball arguments using statistics and facts.

…by the hazmat people after the 2007 season, the Giants began to win more games. Not a lot at first, but enough to realize that Bonds' forced departure was like an emergency tracheotomy on the franchise's windpipe. The Giants could finally breathe again.

You know you are an excellent national columnist when you can barely write three paragraphs without making smart baseball people want to euthanize themselves.

In 2008, the year after Bonds left, the Giants went 72-90. That was one game better than the 71-91 mark the team had posted in Bonds’ last season. For most, that is a completely negligible difference. For Gene, it is “enough to realize that Bonds' forced departure was like an emergency tracheotomy on the franchise's windpipe”.

Another sign you are an excellent national columnist?

Compare a baseball-playing jerk’s retirement to an emergency surgical procedure often performed on people with tumors. No over-dramatization there. Let’s move along.

Lincecum isn't saying that Bonds' exit is partly why the Giants are world champions today; I am.

Boom! That right there is an excellent example of how a national columnist shows he has huge balls of steel while simultaneously telling his readers he knows more about baseball than a guy who plays the sport for a living and even played on the same team as Barry Bonds. Gene clearly brought his A-game.

But he is saying team chemistry matters in ways that can't be quantified from reading a box score. After all, it's hard to win games when you're dragging around a cinder block or two of Bonds-related drama.

Let me summarize Lincecum’s long and rather cliché quote for those who don’t want to read the actual column. “When I first got here, the veterans, led by Barry Bonds, were real dicks. Now the younger guys have been able to open up more. You know, burn down a few doobies, talk about how gross it was when that fat chick can squished bread under her toes on Tosh.O.”

Okay, so I made the last sentence up. But Lincecum isn’t talking about how team chemistry helped them win games. He is just talking about how the locker room isn’t filled with as many assholes. Also I am pretty sure no one else had to drag Bonds’ drama around. I imagine Barry had to do a lot of the dragging himself.

Bonds hit lots of home runs (thank you, flaxseed oil!), but nobody ever voted him teammate of the year.

This is a terrific example of Gene realizing that Bonds was actually super good at baseball, then turning it around on him because Bonds didn’t run around the locker room high-fiving people.

Yes, Bonds hit a lot of home runs, likely while using steroids. But from 2001, he also led the league in on-base percentage every season he played in, never hit less than .270, and never OPS’d less than .999. He won four consecutive MVP awards from 2001 to 2004 and was also worth at least 10 wins more than a replacement level player during that time as well.

In fact, some might say that, even though he was using steroids, there has never been a player in the history of the game who had a better offensive season than Bonds’ had in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Even after injuries and old age slowed him down, he was still reached base nearly half the times he was at-bat and had an OPS+ of 174, 156, and 169 respectively.

Of course, as Nike once taught us, “Chicks (and Gene Wojciechowski) dig the long ball”. Other advanced and telling metrics don’t mean shit because hearing that Barry Bonds had an OBP of .480 in his final season of baseball doesn’t make Gene’s dick hard.

He represented the Giants' old guard -- and the old guard won just 71 games and finished last in the NL West in Bonds' final season in the majors.

Gene would have us believe that the reason the Giants only won 71 games is because Barry Bonds and the rest of the “old guard” were soul-sucking, fun-hating, teammate-beating, assholes.

Proven statistics and calculations would have you believe that the 2007 Giants were among the shittiest of shit teams in all of baseball.

Only one player (Randy Winn) other than Bonds had OPS+ above the league average. Bonds was the only player with an OPS higher than .800. No one in their starting lineup was younger than 32. Their best two starters were Barry Zito and Noah Lowry. Their closer was Brad fucking Hennessey.

I could go on but I think the point has been made. GM Brian Sabean constructed an incredibly shitty team in 2007. Then, as Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez got more experience, and Sabean slowly phased out his oldest and shittiest players in exchange for younger and better plays, the Giants got better.

Hey I got an idea for a column!

A season ago, they won the division on the final day to squeeze into the playoffs, and then overpowered the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies and eventually the Texas Rangers. They did it with power pitching, timely hitting…

Woah! I wasn’t expecting that. I knew that pitching and timely hitting were what helped the Giants win it all, but I thought Gene would talk about how Barry’s evil aura was gone so the Giants could be cool and carefree ag-..

…and a cool, carefree clubhouse vibe that never would have been possible in the Barry era

Fuck.

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We need to have an editorial pause here as I explain what Gene is about to do now. After at least circumstantially discussing actual baseball factoids in the first half of his Bonds’ takedown, Gene decided that wasn’t enough hard evidence.

So Gene decided to take a casual stroll through the Giants’ spring training locker room, spending more than an hour playing “I-Spy”, or as it is more commonly referred to, “National columnist makes first trip to locker room in years and proceeds to wildly overreact and read too far into shit that probably happens in every baseball clubhouse everywhere.”

Let's dive right in.

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Postseason hero Cody Ross happily tell a reporter that he can't walk down a San Francisco block without being recognized. "And that's a good thing,'' the Giants outfielder said.”That's what you want. That's what you dream of as a kid.'' Just then, a teammate walked by and, without breaking stride, began singing, in a surprisingly decent Steven Tyler imitation, "Dream on … Dream on …''

It should also be noted that Gene is so fucking serious about breaking down the reasons Barry Bonds is an asshole that he is using bullet points now.

Here is Gene witnessing ultimate nice guy, Cody Ross, turning into a self-absorbed asshole by reveling in the attention he has received since becoming a star.

Oh I almost forgot! Gene also witnessed an unknown teammate who can walk and sing “surprisingly decent” at the same time.

Can’t you just imagine Gene thinking back to 2007 when Cody Ross wasn’t even on the Giants and the only one allowed to sing Aerosmith and not break stride at the same time was Barry Bonds.

Veteran outfielder Pat Burrell work almost the entire room, cracking wise with a dozen teammates as he collected money in an old bank pouch.

This is an example of citizen journalism trumping national columnizing. Everybody from Philadelphia to Tampa Bay to San Francisco knows that Pat Burrell is a renowned asshole. Girls in Philadelphia and San Francisco all have stories about one of their friends leaving to have sex with Pat “The Bat” and learning that his idea of foreplay is standing in front of a mirror, stark naked, practicing his batting stance.

Gene either willfully ignored all of these stories, or he is completely oblivious to the internet and has never read any of the thousands of sordid stories about Pat Burrell and his sexual escapades.

Just google "Pat Burrell sex" and you get this. These types of stories are EVERYWHERE. But I appreciate Gene's desire to see things for himself...and then make immediate value judgments that lead to retarded theories about why the Giants won the World Series.

Essentially what Gene saw is a douchebag player making jokes with teammates while collecting money for some unknown prostitute gangbang or Roman orgy.

Reliever Brian Wilson, who showed up at the first day of camp in a cop car, search the entire clubhouse for a blank USA Today crossword puzzle.

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the point in the column where Gene realizes he has written a shitty column, but also knows he can’t backtrack and start all over, so he just starts pointing shit out he sees, like Brick in Anchorman.

Most important fact in this bullet point: USA Today is not a popular newspaper in baseball locker rooms.

Second most important fact in this bullet point: Barry Bonds fucking hates crossword puzzles.

Younger and older players squeezed around a table playing cards and dominoes.

Nothing says "Repeat Champs" to Gene quite like a friendly game. I have never visited a professional locker room or been on any team-chartered flight in any sport, so I may be wrong. But I am confident in saying that cards and dominoes are played by pretty much every professional athlete in every sport.

There is a lot of downtime and travel with professional sports, so people play cards. The game is also played by regular kids, regular adults and criminals. In fact criminals might spend more hours playing those games in prison than athletes do.

But you know who hates cards and dominoes? Barry Bonds.

I can’t wait for the next Michael Lewis book about how a national columnist becomes a baseball GM and is fired three years later when his strategy of having team practices replaced by long games of RISK failed to pan out.

Bonds' godfather, Willie Mays, a frequent visitor, hanging out in the clubhouse

Each time I read one of these bullets I thought there was no way he could get any dumber. But then he typed this sentence, and thought it was a salient point.

You know who else visits the Giants’ clubhouse to chat with players and even hang out with Willie Mays? Fucking Barry Bonds!

You know who visited the locker room as recently as last year's playoffs? Fucking Barry Bonds!

Let’s skip Gene’s next sappy story about Aubrey Huff and his budding bromance with a reporter and just skip down some because I am getting bored.

Fun is partly why the Giants won their first World Series since 1954. And fun is partly why they could repeat.

It can be argued that the Giants won their first World Series in a long time because their pitching staff logged 44 innings against the Rangers and only allowed 12 earned runs. It could also be because Edgar Renteria had seven hits in 17 at-bats. It is decidedly NOT because the Giants were having more fun than the Rangers.

There is more stupidity. But I am at work and it’s not worth over-analyzing. Go fuck yourself Wojciechowski.