The #StackhouseEra on Life Support in Tuscaloosa

Following the departure after the 2015-16 season of the longest-tenured coach in its program’s history, Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt’s men’s basketball team turned for his replacement to a celebrated former player.

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Always Will/Never Cut His Jam

Following the losses in recent weeks of Christine McVie, Jeff Beck, and Robbie Knievel, yesterday announced the departure of David Crosby. The founding contributor to The Byrds; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, his own solo career, and other affiliated ensembles remained an active creator until his death at the age of eighty-one.

Collaborator Stephen Stills offered:

I read a quote in this morning’s paper attributed to composer Gustav Mahler that stopped me for a moment: “Death has, on placid cat’s paws, entered the room.” I shoulda known something was up. David and I butted heads a lot over time, but they were mostly glancing blows, yet still left us numb skulls. I was happy to be at peace with him. He was without question a giant of a musician, and his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius. The glue that held us together as our vocals soared, like Icarus, towards the sun. I am deeply saddened at his passing and shall miss him beyond measure.

Crosby’s “juvenile” anthem, undertaken quite maturely in 1974 by CSNY is this week’s Jam:

Although it at times seems as though this site has become something of a necrology, these are significant passings that merit note.

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Previously
Stadium Jam

The Detroit Lions and the 2022-23 NFL playoffs

The 2022 Detroit Lions came pretty close to securing the team’s first playoff berth in six years and, had they made it in, seemed as primed as ever to claim a playoff win for the first time in over thirty years. In coming up short of those benchmarks, they nevertheless delivered the most exciting Lions season in quite some time.

The Lions played eight of the fourteen playoff teams during the regular season, including two games against the Minnesota Vikings. Detroit lost more of those games than they won, but, in the aggregate, they outscored those teams:

What seems to be the actual good news this week is that the team avoided what could have been a Kyle Shanahan-Atlanta Falcons scenario by ponying up to keep offensive coordinator Ben Johnson in that position rather than lose him to a head-coaching opportunity elsewhere. I was critical of Johnson when the Lions surrendered what should have been a Thanksgiving-Day win against the Buffalo Bills, but Detroit’s overall high offensive production and 8-2 record to finish the season counsel maintaining the status quo in that regard.

Today in ALDLAND History: Two football coaches reveal the sports industry’s inner workings; the NFL media probes regional stereotypes; and a blockbuster MLB free-agent signing

Now that ALDLAND has been up and running for more than a decade, we’ve amassed a meaty body of sports stories, data, and observations we can mine for memories and reengagement.

And speaking of meaty bodies, eleven years ago today, we brought you the stories of Steve Spurrier, then coaching at South Carolina, who volunteered that he did not want to hire “fat, sloppy guys” as assistant coaches, among other preferences, and Todd Haley, who believed the Kansas City Chiefs still were tapping his cell phone a month after he’d been fired from the head coaching job there. Read more in The sports profession: Where not everybody’s working for the weekend.

Spurrier spent four more seasons in Columbia before resigning in the middle of the 2015 season. His next head-coaching job came in 2019 with the Alliance of American Football’s Orlando Apollos.

Haley next worked as an offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Riverview (Sarasota) High School before returning as a head coach for the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits and Memphis Showboats.

Continuing the football time traveling, ten years ago today, we already knew the matchups for the NFL playoff conference championships, and the coverage of the NFC’s pairing of Atlanta and San Francisco was anything but imaginative. Read more in Stereotyping the NFC Championship Game.

The Falcons would fall to the 49ers, helping set up the Harbowl.

From postseason to offseason, eight years ago today we brought you the breaking story of Max Scherzer’s departure from the Detroit Tigers and signing with the Washington Nationals for $210 million over seven years. Read more in Mr. Scherzer goes to Washington.

During those seven seasons in Washington, Scherzer was a six-time All-Star, a two-time Cy-Young winner, and a World-Series champion. I, on the other hand, did not win any awards during those seven years for my conclusion at the time of Scherzer’s Nationals deal that “it wouldn’t be prudent to commit the amount of money he’s due to another long-term contract for another player on the old side of thirty.”

Thanks for re-reading.

Officially Confirmed: The 2022 Monday Night Football season was the worst ever

Well, it is finally official: The 2022 Monday Night Football season was the worst season of Monday Night Football in the recorded history of Monday Night Football. We here at ALDLAND were on this early, and, in a report published on December 6, 2022, disclosed the preliminary and then-conclusive findings derived from our proprietary MNF Index: “This has been the worst slate of Monday-night games in NFL history….Monday Night Football never has been less worthy of its billing than in 2022.” Today, ALDLAND updates and confirms that conclusive conclusion conclusively for the now-completed 2022 NFL season.

As a reminder:

Unlike Monday Night Football’s ascendant sibling, Sunday Night Football, or its soon-to-be-terminated cousin, SEC on CBS, all MNF matchups must be chosen well before the season starts. This means that the NFL and its media partners have to make significant, long-range predictions based on minimal data when they are setting all of the pairings for their premier weekly showcase. How well do they do this?

To answer this question, the MNF Index evaluates the quality of Monday Night Football games immediately prior to kickoff to present a quality score illustrating the schedule-makers’ degree of success at presenting enticing games likely to live up to the expectations of a nationally televised, Monday-night event. The MNF Index therefore does not consider any in-game performance data.

Looking ahead from that early December vantage point, we wondered whether the three remaining Monday-night games– Rams at Packers, Chargers at Colts, and Bills at Bengals– might offer a meaningful chance at redemption. They did not. Indeed, Rams-Packers (Week 15) was, according to the ALDLAND MNF Index, the worst MNF game of the season. And although the no-doubt quality matchup between the Bills and Bengals (Week 17) would have been the best MNF game ever, the game (a) correctly was canceled due to Damar Hamlin’s frightening, serious injury and (b) would not remotely have altered the ultimate conclusion that there has been no worse season of Monday Night Football than the just-completed 2022 season of Monday Night Football had it been played.

Some good news: Not only does ALDLAND’s MNF Index generate results, but it also gets results. Beginning in the 2023 NFL season, Monday Night Football will be subject to flex scheduling. This option should allow ESPN to buoy the quality of its flagging showcase and, if executed effectively on an ongoing basis, could cement the 2022 MNF season as the worst-ever MNF season ever.

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Related
Is this the worst-ever season for Monday Night Football? Our MNF Index says yes
Like football, like bourbon: The real reason for the NFL’s popularity

Is this the worst-ever season for Monday Night Football? Our MNF Index says yes

Even though Roger Goodell has insisted on watering down the league’s overall product, Monday Night Football still carries a special cachet. It’s been a rough run for MNF this year, though, with some real stinkers for what’s supposed to be the NFL’s special weekly feature. In fact, according to ALDLAND’s proprietary MNF Index, this has been the worst slate of Monday-night games in NFL history.

Unlike Monday Night Football’s ascendant sibling, Sunday Night Football, or its soon-to-be-terminated cousin, SEC on CBS, all MNF matchups must be chosen well before the season starts. This means that the NFL and its media partners have to make significant, long-range predictions based on minimal data when they are setting all of the pairings for their premier weekly showcase. How well do they do this?

To answer this question, the MNF Index evaluates the quality of Monday Night Football games immediately prior to kickoff to present a quality score illustrating the schedule-makers’ degree of success at presenting enticing games likely to live up to the expectations of a nationally televised, Monday-night event. The MNF Index therefore does not consider any in-game performance data.

The results, shown below through the current week, unambiguously support a clear conclusion: Monday Night Football never has been less worthy of its billing than in 2022. While a look into the deep numbers also reveals that the decline began in 2021, MNF’s quality has fallen off a cliff this season.

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Long Way To Go Home: When the Zen Master Wasn’t Zen

In June of 1993, the Chicago Bulls stood as back-to-back NBA champions looking to complete the first threepeat since the 1960s Boston Celtics. After finals series wins over the Los Angeles Lakers in 1991 and Portland Trailblazers in 1992, the Bulls faced Charles Barkley’s Phoenix Suns in the 1993 NBA finals.

Phoenix, winner of sixty-two games during the regular season, held home-court advantage over the fifty-seven-win Bulls in a two-three-two finals series format. The Bulls won the first two games on the road, and the teams then split the first two games in Chicago. Holding a 3-1 series lead following their home win in game four on June 16, the Bulls had one opportunity to close out the series at home– game five on June 18– before the series would return to Phoenix for possible games six and seven.

Bulls forward Horace Grant was worried about the possibility of a summer return to Arizona, and Phil Jackson, Chicago’s cerebral coach dubbed the “Zen Master,” was especially interested in wrapping things up at home in game five, including for personal reasons: he had a concert to attend.

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2022 Detroit Tigers Midseason Pitching Report

It’s ugly out there. This was supposed to be the arrival year for the next great Detroit Tigers pitching staff. Instead, Tucker Barnhart, Kody Clemens, and Harold Castro each have pitched more innings than Spencer Turnbull, who still is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and, combined, those three position players have pitched nearly as many innings (7.0) as has Matt Manning (8.0), who hasn’t pitched since mid-April due to various injuries. Casey Mize also couldn’t make it out of April, throwing just ten innings before injuries knocked him out and eventually required him to take the Tommy John medicine. Alex Faedo survived all the way to July before discovering he’d inherited one of Matt Kemp‘s hips. Elvin Rodriguez, who came to the Tigers organization as the player to be named later in the Justin Upton trade, has made five scattered starts, because why not? (His rotation-worst 13.19 ERA is why not.) The two veteran workhorses signed in the offseason, Eduardo Rodriguez and Michael Pineda, have not been good in the rare moments they’ve been on the field, and while Pineda recently returned (to serve live batting practice), the team literally doesn’t know where Rodriquez is and apparently hasn’t for some time. Tarik Skubal stood amidst the carnage and looked ready to thrive, but he fell apart sometime in mid-June and has not yet commenced the reassembly process. (Skubal’s pitching as I write, so maybe this will serve as a reverse jinx.)

This leaves Beau Brieske as the first-half star of the Detroit rotation, just as everyone predicted. He shouldered more innings than every Tigers starter other than Skubal and, since June 1, he leads those starters in ERA (3.35), FIP (3.64), and fWAR (0.8). All of this of course made today’s injury announcement even more predictable. The twenty-seventh-round draft pick out of CSU-Pueblo will be out until at least August with a sore throwing arm. Considering the 91.2 innings he’s pitched for Detroit and Toledo in about three months nearly match the 106.2 innings he threw in a full season of minor-league ball in 2021 (and far exceed the 20.1 professional innings tossed in 2019), he probably was due for some soreness.

On the other side, Tigers fans have been fawning over the bullpen’s first-half performance. Only the Astros’ and Yankees’ bullpens posted lower ERAs in the first half. That’s neat, especially for a Detroit franchise with a recent history of notable struggles in that department. Maybe don’t look much further than that, though, because there’s good reason to expect the relief corps to collapse down the stretch as well. As a consequence of the severe rotation problems, the Detroit bullpen was highly taxed, and that fatigue, which very possibly will be further exacerbated in the next two weeks by trade departures, should start to manifest itself in terms of in-game results. Independent of that, an expected return to ordinary home-run/fly-ball fluctuations– the gap between the bullpen’s 3.31 FIP and 4.06 xFIP suggests a good deal of good luck in this regard– also would bring this group back to Earth.

Manager A.J. Hinch has the unenviable task of patching together enough functioning arms to cover the roughly 630 innings remaining in this season. His navigation of that obstacle course alone may make this second half worth watching.

MLB.TV.PSA

Readers of this website know that this author is among the last people on Earth who would go out of his way to promote an MLBAM business decision, but here you are, reading a post by me notifying you that MLB.tv is on sale today for a loosely speaking fair-ish price.

Of course, this occasion mostly serves as a reminder of MLB’s callous media-distribution practices. Six years ago, the league settled an antitrust lawsuit attacking things like its telecast blackout policy and centralized MLB.tv product by agreeing to make pricing and offering concessions to fans. Specifically, the seasonal price of the full MLB.tv package at that time would drop from $129.99 to $109.99, and the league would create a new, single-team package at a seasonal price of $84.99. These prices were to remain fixed for five years (i.e., through the 2020 season), subject to annual increases only up to the higher of three percent or the rate of inflation.

Now, that settlement agreement has expired, and MLB is seizing the opportunity to undo its effects. Most obviously, across-the-board pricing is up, doubly insulting as the league simultaneously excludes games from the full MLB.tv package for the benefit of its new partnerships with NBC and Apple.

Perhaps even more underhanded, however, is the soft killing of the single-team MLB.tv package. When first offered, the single-team option was priced at seventy-seven-percent of the full package price, then a twenty-five-dollar difference. MLB now has aggressively closed that gap. At today’s sale pricing, for example, the cost of the single-team option has jumped to eighty-six-percent of the full package price, just a ten-dollar difference. Stated otherwise, someone considering a single-team package can receive a thirty-fold increase in programming for just ten additional dollars. “Even you dummies know that’s a good deal,” fans hear Rob Manfred saying in their heads, even as they wonder why it doesn’t quite feel like a deal. The move to neutralize the single-team package feels like a purely spiteful move designed to achieve the functional undoing of one of the settlement agreement’s most visible achievements without any meaningful cost savings to MLB.

As I have been writing here for years, the message should be a simple one: “Rather than changing the game he wants people to watch . . . Manfred ought to change the way people can watch the game, obviously by making it easier for them to do so.” For how much longer can Manfred continue to squeeze baseball’s fans– including, as a recent example, Padres fans required to purchase yet another streaming service to watch this morning’s Peacock-exclusive game against the Atlanta Braves beginning at 8:35 am San Diego time– remains to be seen.

Miguel Cabrera’s 3,000th Hit Put Him in Exclusive Company (via FanGraphs)

Miguel Cabrera had to wait a couple of extra days to make history, thanks to a hitless afternoon capped by a controversial managerial decision and then a rainout. Nonetheless, on Saturday afternoon he collected his 3,000th career hit with a single off the Rockies’ Antonio Senzatela. In doing so, he joined some elite company as not only the 33rd player to reach 3,000 hits, but also the seventh to do so as a member of the 500-homer club and the third to reach both of those round numbers with a career batting average of .300 or better. The other two? Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. You may have heard of them, and even if you don’t put much stock in batting average, you have to admit that’s about as cool as company gets.

What’s more, Cabrera actually owns the highest batting average and on-base percentage of the seven players who have both milestones, with a wRC+ that trails only Mays and Aaron[.]

For all of his struggles over the past half-decade, Cabrera would still have to go 0-for-352 to drop his batting average to .299. Even with those struggles and his lack of defensive value (he’s 102 runs below average in terms of Defensive Runs Saved, including 11 below in just 847.1 innings at first base since 2018), he ranks 11th in JAWS among first basemen (68.8/44.8/56.8), in no danger of slipping below Palmeiro (13th at 71.9/38.9/55.4) or Murray (16th at 68.7/39.2/53.9). And while he may be the last to reach 3,000 hits for some time given the dearth of candidates (Dan Szymborski put Jose Altuve, who has 1,783 hits, at 34% and Freddie Freeman, who has 1,723 hits, at 28% last September), he’s hardly the least.

Cabrera joined Ty Cobb and Al Kaline as the other players to reach 3,000 hits as Tigers. As ESPN’s Marly Rivera pointed out, he’s the first Venezuelan to reach 3,000 hits and the seventh Latino, after Roberto Clemente, Rod Carew, Palmeiro, Rodriguez, Adrián Beltré, and Pujols. … Read More

(via FanGraphs)