The Last Night of the Tigers Dynasty That Wasn’t (via Baseball Prospectus)

Over the next several seasons, we’ll see the Tigers get worse before they get better. The veterans who remain will be traded or allowed to walk. Mildly youngish players like Daniel Norris and Nick Castellanos will be given more time to showcase why they should or shouldn’t be part of the future. And general manager Al Avila will likely hoard prospects as he looks to restock a bottom-10 farm system.

This doesn’t look like a Yankees rebuild-on-the-fly situation. It looks like the Tigers might be the new Reds, Phillies, or Braves. It looks like Tigers might be in the basement for a while. Memories of yesteryear rarely dull the pain of today. But still, the baseball world owes it to the Tigers to remember those early 2010s teams one more time before a new Dark Ages of Tigers baseball begins. Because dear lord, they were a lot of fun.

None of this is meant to dig up old wounds for Tigers fans. In fact, the goal is here is quite to the contrary; to remind people that the early 2010s Tigers weren’t also-rans or lucky bastards or frauds. They were really good. Good enough to win it all, if another bounce or two went their way. Good enough to win it all more than once if a half-dozen bounces went their way.

Over the next few seasons, as we watch Mikie Mahtook struggle in center field and Matt Boyd struggle on the mound and countless other journeymen, misfits, and youngens flock to Detroit, try to remember the good ole days. Remember how scary it was seeing “Cabrera, Fielder, Martinez” in the heart of a lineup. How exciting the prospect of “Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez” was in 2013. How easily the Tigers could bash you into a pulp or marginalize your best hitters. And how Dombrowski made “mystery team” mean something.

They say the journey is more important than the destination. That feels less true than ever in an era where every pitch, error, swing, and call is dissected on Twitter, debated on TV, and picked apart in online columns. But for the 2011-2014 Tigers, it has to be true. History will not remember them as winners, but we should not forget them as entertainers and craftsmen, as teams built to thrill and wow and dazzle.

That all ended officially on August 31, 2017, though we’d seen it coming for years. Justin Verlander is in Houston, Detroit is rebuilding, and time marches on. The Tigers’ watch has ended, but they are not forgotten. … Read More

(via Baseball Prospectus)

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When your favorite group plays poorly in the wrong venue

When the Tap’s fans wanted to express their displeasure with the debut of Spinal Tap Mark II and “Jazz Odyssey” at Themeland, there’s only one way to do it:

spinal tap thumbs down

The same goes for Rays fans expressing their displeasure with a losing performance against the New York Yankees in a game relocated to Citi Field (the home of the New York Mets) due to Hurricane Irma:

The treasonous NCAA is an enemy of the state and must be treated as such

KHOU:

University of Houston basketball coach Kelvin Sampson scored through Twitter.

The coach asked peers to send new shoes and shirts for Houston Harvey victims, and thousands donated. However, NCAA rules stand in the way.

Non-profits loaded boxes of brand new sneakers in U-Haul trucks outside the university athletics and alumni center.

Still, Sampson showed KHOU 11 News rooms barely touched. Nearly 15,000 donations from Providence High, Iowa State University and beyond.

Sampson’s week-old viral tweet asked fellow coaches: college, pro, high school to send 20 school t-shirts and 10 pairs of shoes for storm victims.

Some just sent letters and everything they had.

“Some (letters) made you cry too,” Sampson said. “We have a letter from a high school that said we only had four pairs of shoes we could send you. Come on now, you think about that.”

NCAA rules, though, stand between donations and kids in need.

“They don’t want us sending all this nice gear to the top recruit in Houston,” said Lauren Dubois, senior associate athletics director for UH. “But, obviously that is not our intention at all.”

Dubois said the program risks punishment if they give anything to potential recruits, their parents or youth leagues.

So, the university first offered everything to the Red Cross, Star of Hope and Hurricane Harvey relief. All had different needs.

The school is now asking legitimate charities to step in, take donations and give them away as those organizations see fit.

It is a challenge Sampson accepts even if he wishes rules made things easier.

“When you do something out of the goodness of your heart, when you have so many people around you helping, it’s not hard,” he said.

UH asked the NCAA for what’s called a legislative relief waiver, which would relax the rules so Sampson can give donations away faster. The NCAA has yet to make a decision.

U.S. Constitution, Article III, § 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.

18 U.S.C. § 2381:

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is one of this nation’s most corrupt bodies. It has a track record of crossing legal lines and violating the rights of American citizens. In denying relief to the victims of hurricane Harvey, however, the NCAA has gone too far. Any effort to encumber the efforts of the University of Houston and its agents to help members of their community, who continue to suffer as a result of the violent and offensive acts of that hurricane, which remains a clear and present danger to this nation, constitutes adhering to an enemy of this country and giving it aid and comfort.

It is time for the NCAA to be permanently dismantled and for its leaders to face punishment as provided by law and the courts of this country.

___________________________________________________________________

Previously
The NCAA still wants you to believe its rules carry the force of law
The Atlantic reveals the history of the NCAA and the true genesis of the “student athlete”
The NCAA Who Stole Christmas
Why is Roger Goodell carrying water for the NCAA?

Sports Law Roundup – 9/8/2017

aslr

I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Athlete advisor fraud: In February, Brian J. Ourand, who worked as a financial advisor to athletes, including Mike Tyson and Glen Rice, admitted stealing over $1 million from his clients and pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges. On Wednesday, a federal trial judge sentenced Ourand to thirty-three months in prison, less than the thirty-seven months federal prosecutors requested, but more than the year (plus some home confinement) Ourand sought.
  • Radio host ticket fraud: Earlier on Wednesday, FBI agents arrested Craig Carton, who cohosts WFAN’s (New York City) morning sports talk program with former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, on fraud charges based on allegations that Carton was operating an event-ticket scam. According to federal prosecutors, Carton induced investors to fund a concert ticket resale venture by claiming that he had special access to purchase the tickets when, in fact, he did not. Carton and an associate instead used the investors’ money for themselves, including to repay casino debts and some initial investors in a Ponzi-style arrangement.
  • Rockets sold: Tilman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets on Tuesday for $2.2 billion. Fertitta, a Houstonian, is the owner of Landry’s, Inc., a corporation that owns restaurants and other commercial properties including Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, the Golden Nugget casino, and multiple aquariums in Texas, Colorado, and Tennessee, among many other things. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer set the previous record for the purchase price of an NBA franchise when he bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion.
  • NFL sanction standards: In light of the ongoing Ezekiel Elliot saga, PFT’s Mike Florio (who, people forget, is a lawyer) penned an essay on the NFL’s low standard of proof used in determining violations of its personal conduct policy, which concludes: “As long as the league has the power to impose discipline based on the very lowest legal standard of proof, any player who finds himself under scrutiny had better be able to show that there is no credible evidence of any kind that could be viewed in any way as suggesting that he has any responsibility for anything that happened.”

Sports court is in recess.

Saving Detroit: Keystone Light

Ian Kinsler’s 2017 isn’t going that well, particularly at the plate, where the Detroit Tigers second baseman is having, by a wide margin, the worst season of his career. To quickly look at two measures of offensive production, he’s running an 87 wRC+ (100 is league average, and he’s never finished a season below 100) and a .237 TAv (.260 is league average, and he’s only once finished a season below .260 (.256 in 2014)). (Without digging too deep, low power and BABIP numbers may be immediate culprits and evidence of aging.)

As the Tigers look to the future, one of their most pressing decisions will involve how they part ways with Kinsler, who has been a solid performer and veteran leader since he joined the team in 2014. This week, a few additional details have emerged about Kinsler’s contract that may affect both his future trade value and how the Tigers deploy him in the meantime.

Right now, 2017 is the last guaranteed season of Kinsler’s contract. If the season ended today, the Tigers would have the option to keep Kinsler for one more year, in which they would owe him $10 million, or pay him a $5 million buyout and part ways. That “if” comes with a significant caveat, however: should Kinsler make 600 plate appearances this season, the 2018 option would vest, guaranteeing his 2018 contract year. And, if he wins a gold glove award this year, that guaranteed 2018 year would be at an $11 million salary.

The Tigers likely aren’t too worried about either of these two things, because a) they almost certainly would exercise their option to keep Kinsler for 2018 and b) $11 million probably is a fair (leaning team-friendly) price for Kinsler on a one-year contract that shouldn’t adversely affect his trade value.

Still, I’m interested to watch how the Tigers manage him down the stretch. Unless they move him to designated hitter for the remainder of the season, they probably can’t alter his chances of winning a gold glove (he currently leads all second basemen in UZR), but they can ration his plate appearances.

When news of these additional contract details broke on Wednesday, Kinsler had made 522 plate appearances and Detroit had twenty-four games remaining. If he played in every remaining game, he would need to average 3.25 plate appearances per game to hit 600 PA, a reasonable task for a seemingly healthy leadoff hitter. He made four plate appearances that night before being pulled for Andrew Romine on the losing side of a 13-2 game. Assuming he plays in each of the remaining games, Kinsler now needs to average just 3.22 PA/G to make it to 600.

This almost certainly is much ado about nothing, but it’s something to watch as this season winds down that isn’t the scoreboard (or the win-loss columns).

______________________________________________

Previously
An updated look at 2018 (and a quick check on 2006) – 9/1
It’s Over
– 9/1
Upton There – 8/31

A bad time for a bad season – 8/29
Jordan Zimmermann takes tennis lessons – 8/20
Tigers Notes, 8/8/17
 – 8/8
Decoding the Upton Myth
 – 8/2
Even the umpires just wanna go home
 – 7/21

Yo, a J.D. Martinez trade comp – 7/19
Martinez trade triggers premature referendum on Avila – 7/19
Michael Fulmer has righted the ship
 – 6/27

Tigers in Retrograde – 6/19
Fixing Justin Upton
 – 5/31

Soft in the Middle Now – 5/30
Reliever Relief, Part 2 – 5/11
Reliever Relief – 5/8

Waive that flag: The NFL returns with zebras on parade

nfl flag

The NFL’s back, and oh man is it boring. Last night’s Chiefs-Patriots game, the first of the 2017 regular season, should have been exciting. Kansas City hung close with the defending champions in Foxboro until they pulled away later in the fourth quarter. What should have been a compelling contest instead dragged. The third quarter alone took nearly an hour. Even if the NFL has eliminated the touchdown-commercial-PAT-commercial-kickoff-commercial sequence, the penalty flags literally are getting out of hand too often.

The last five minutes of the third quarter was comprised of fifteen plays from scrimmage. Officials threw flags on seven of them.

KC NE 09072017 3Q

If it seems to you like penalty flags are on the rise, you aren’t wrong. From the NFL Penalty Tracker, a website I just found:

nfl penalty flag data 9-8-17

The 2017 data comes from one game, of course, but the referees were significantly more active last night as compared to an average game last season.

Another interesting point in that penalty-flag data is the jump in total flags beginning in 2014. It isn’t immediately obvious to me why that happened (here‘s a list of rule changes heading into that season), so I’ll just quote from my Super Bowl XLVII preview post:

Call it the Efficient Breach Bowl. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle defense is so successful against the pass, in part, because they just don’t care about being penalized for pass interference. They know that officials won’t call PI on every single play (and the number of penalties called in the playoffs is significantly lower than during the regular season), so they take their lumps with a few flags over the course of a game, disrupting receiver routes all the while. In a follow-up article in advance of the Super Bowl, the Journal suggests that Denver may look to combat Seattle’s aggressive secondary through so-called “pick plays,” in which receivers run routes designed to shed defenders by drawing them into collisions with another player. Though subject to recent controversy following a play in the AFC Championship game that resulted in a game-ending injury for New England corner Aqib Talib, picks or “rub routes” are not necessarily against the rules. As The MMQB’s Greg Bedard explained, the key question is whether the offensive player initiated the contact or whether the contact was incidental: “within one yard of the line of scrimmage, anything goes . . . but beyond that one-yard buffer it is illegal for an offensive player to initiate contact with a defender.”

The Seahawks won that Super Bowl (if you can name the MVP of that game without looking, I’ll send you some ALDLAND merchandise), so it isn’t unreasonable to speculate that other teams would mimic their aggressive defensive approach beginning in the next season, thereby triggering more penalty flags leaguewide, but I haven’t looked at an offensive/defensive breakdown of those numbers in the table above.

For years, people have been predicting that football would end as a result of its potential for dangerous, lasting injury, including brain injury, but we need to consider the possibility that a different and more immediate market force– boredom– might trigger its decline even sooner.

Dispatch from the launch pad

After the Detroit Tigers delivered a lesson in sequencing last night, producing their first in-game lead and first win since trading Justin Verlander and Justin Upton last week (indeed, since JV’s last start for Detroit), Verlander made his first major-league appearance in a non-Tigers uniform when he took the mound for the Astros in Seattle.

Many criticized Houston for declining to make any trades at the non-waiver trade deadline in July. Many more now are praising them for trading for Verlander and are hailing the Astros, once again, as the favorite to represent the American League in the World Series. (Current playoff odds: 100% (BP); 100% (FG); >99% (538, which has them as favored to win each of their remaining games).)

The idea that Houston would be in the hunt this year is not a terribly surprising one. They were in the playoffs in 2015, missed the postseason in 2016 despite winning eighty-four games, and responded this year by opening up a massive lead in their division they’ve never relinquished.

Three years ago, though, when Sports Illustrated declared them the (eventual) winner of the 2017 Word Series, things were different. They won just seventy games that year, fifty-one the year before, and fifty-five in 2012, their first season under highly regarded General Manager Jeff Luhnow. That 2015 playoff berth was the team’s first since 2005, when they represented the National League in a losing World Series effort against the White Sox.

I remember the day I saw that SI cover, probably the magazine’s most memorable in some years. At that time, I didn’t think the prediction was outlandish, having been clued into the significance of the Luhnow hire two years prior and aware of the widely noted Chicago Cubs’ contemporary rebuild under Theo Epstein.

What I also didn’t think at that time, though, was that the Astros’ championship plan might include the acquisition of a veteran star from the team I follow. From Houston’s perspective, the trade makes perfect sense; somehow, though, I never considered I’d be watching them make their run with a player as familiar as Verlander.

verlander astros

I’m still scratching my head too.

With a 13.5-game lead in the AL West in September, Houston is an obvious lock for the playoffs, as those odds cited above indicate. Naturally, their odds to win the World Series also are strong (15.5% (BP); 21.5% (FG); 15% (538)): they’re the favorite according to FanGraphs, while BP and FiveThirtyEight place the Dodgers and Indians slightly higher. To my knowledge, none of these projection systems really account for the addition of Verlander, however (though, as some have pointed out, both the Astros and Verlander have struggled against Cleveland in recent meetings).

Whatever Verlander’s statistical impact on his new team’s championship chances, I know he’ll be a compelling watch in the postseason, even if it looks like he’s wearing a Halloween costume.

Mike Leach: Selling Bigfoot, buying aliens

More specifically, Washington State head football coach Mike Leach doesn’t think Bigfoot is out there, but hopes he is, and “take[s] the biblical” approach when it comes to aliens:

Coach Leach isn’t a big “lightning striking mud” guy, though, whatever that is.

After listening to and watching Leach for years, I think the thing that comes through most for me from moments like these is that it’s clear that he has fairly well-formulated thoughts about a variety of subjects outside of football. Some coaches have a comedic vein and can improvise quips that will garner broader attention. By contrast, Leach rarely appears to be improvising. He isn’t hunting a quick laugh. Instead, he’s sharing his real thoughts on non-football topics, and it’s his ability and willingness to do that– when his peers are incapable of or unwilling to do so– that makes him compelling. He’s someone who’s good at being a football coach, but he seemingly doesn’t require the total life subjection and destruction necessary for most people to get to or near that point. People like that are harder to spot in the football coaching ranks than a sasquatch in the wild.

College football’s officially back.

____________________________________________________

Previously
Mike Leach Prefers Solo Cougars
Mike Leach: Prospective time traveler
Mike Leach officially ushers in the 2015 college football season
Cougar dating tips from Mike Leach
Mike Leach Favors Cougars

Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension appeal reveals important information about NFLPA lawyer

The material facts in this matter are undisputed, and those facts are these:

  1. On August 11, 2017, the NFL suspended Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot for six games due to a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. The specific basis of the suspension was “persuasive” evidence of Elliot’s physical abuse of a former girlfriend on at least three occasions in July 2016.
  2. Elliot has not been charged with a crime in connection with any alleged abuse of his former girlfriend.
  3. On August 15, Elliot appealed the suspension.
  4. On August 31, Elliot joined the NFLPA in suing the NFL, seeking a court order rejecting an anticipated adverse ruling on his suspension appeal and a temporary restraining order preventing the league from imposing the suspension.
  5. On September 5, Harold Henderson, a former NFL executive serving as the league’s appointed arbitrator, denied Elliot’s appeal.

Continue reading

Just in time for the end of the MLB season, the best baseball TV show is live on the internet

starting 9 brian wilson

To be fair, there isn’t a large volume of competition in the daily live MLB television show category. By my count, the established programs are MLB Network’s “MLB Tonight,” FS1’s “MLB Whiparound,” and ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” all of which essentially compete to be the first choice in baseball wallpaper.

Enter “Starting 9,” a Barstool Sports production that debuted last week and already has surpassed all of its major-network competitors in every facet. None of those shows sniffs the “appointment-viewing” descriptor, which applies to “Starting 9.” It’s the perfect show for baseball fans in both content and delivery. The show airs live Sunday through Thursday at just the right time– 11:00 pm on weeknights, right after East-Coast games have ended, and 6:00 pm on Sunday, between the end of the afternoon games and the start of the primetime ESPN game– and runs for just the right length of time, about twenty minutes per episode. Adding to the convenience is the fact that “Starting 9” streams on Facebook Live and Periscope, allowing the audience an easy second-screen viewing setup.

Although it’s a web-based show, “Starting 9” looks like a show you’d see on a big sports television network thanks to shiny graphics (the 1990s Donruss baseball card visual reference is a particularly nice touch) and a license to air MLB game highlights. “Starting 9” isn’t on a big sports television network, though, which means its hosts– Jared Carrabis; former Oakland Athletic and ESPN broadcaster Dallas Braden; and, at least for the first week, former San Francisco Giant Brian Wilson– are uncensored and unfiltered, leading to a much more natural conversation. It’s everything PTI is supposed to be but never can be.

The hosts have an easy rapport that flows from the homonymous podcast Carrabis and Braden began hosting a month ago, which featured the not-shy Wilson as its first guest. Carrabis has been writing about the Boston Red Sox and baseball generally at Barstool for years, and the site hired Braden (who once pitched a perfect game, in case you hadn’t heard) after ESPN cut him loose in their big round of layoffs this spring.

The show’s first week demonstrated an impressive ability to synthesize the day’s baseball stories, some of which happened just moments before the show went live, into a well-rounded blend of on-field highlights, fan interactions, and other news and happenings that ranges from the serious to the silly.

The benefits a live show were on display during last night’s episode, in which Carrabis and Braden were able to discuss J.D. Martinez’s four-homer game, which was happening during the show.

Last night’s episode also was the first without Wilson, whose absence was noted at the opening. It will be a small disappointment if he is not a regular part of the show going forward, as appears to be the case, since he provides a good compliment to Braden, who can be a little too bombastic at times.

One thing that does not seem to be a problem for “Starting 9” is audience size. Facebook Live viewership during the first week hovered between eight hundred and 1,200 at a given moment, and the Periscope numbers were bigger: I saw anywhere 50,000 to over 100,000. The episodes remain archived on Facebook and the Barstool site itself as well, convenient for those who aren’t able to watch live.

Although the 2017 regular season is nearly over, I suspect that “Starting 9” will continue in some capacity during the playoffs, and I look forward to having it as a part of my baseball routine in the future.