The week in baseball: 5/29/20

From the Increasingly Nocturnal Department:

  • I haven’t found it productive to follow each new return-to-play proposal for the 2020 MLB season in any detail, but public comments this week, especially from players including Max Scherzer and Trevor Bauer, point to the very real possibility that the entire season will be lost due to the inability of the owners and players union to reach final agreement on compensation arrangements for the year in a timely fashion. Although the calendar has not yet turned to June, keep in mind that any start date will need to allow a few weeks of lead time for pitchers to stretch out, undoubtedly among other logistical considerations. The viability of opening the season on or around July 4 therefore depends on what the sides can accomplish over the next couple of days. Of all the things Rob Manfred has screwed up in his brief tenure as MLB commissioner, the complete absence of baseball in America should other professional sports leagues find a workable way to resume action would be one of the most memorable.
  • Meanwhile, the 2020 Minor League Baseball season effectively ended this week following the announcement that teams are expected to begin releasing large numbers of players shortly. Some big-league veterans, including  Shin-Soo Choo and David Price, have responded by personally paying all of the monthly stipends of all of the minor-league players in their respective teams’ farm systems.
  • The CPBL and KBO seasons are rolling on, though a recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in South Korea has delayed the expected return of fans to KBO stadiums. ESPN is continuing live telecasts of KBO games, often with replays on ESPN2 later in the afternoon.
  • The KBO appears to have earned itself a celebrity fan in Adam Eget, trusty sidekick of Norm Macdonald and manager of the world-famous Comedy Store, who said as much on a recent episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast. He and Rogan also discussed cults and Charles Manson, so listen at your own risk.
  • Japan’s professional baseball league, NPB, announced it will begin an abridged season on June 19. The prevalent view among those who follow foreign baseball leagues is that the NPB is the league that comes closest to MLB in terms of talent and competition levels.
  • Facing the prospect of the complete absence of MLB games this year, I’ve begun posting daily baseball landmarks that occurred on that day on ALDLAND’s twitter account. Some from the past week in baseball history, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:
    • 1904 – Dan McGann steals 5 bases in a game, a feat not matched until 1974 (Davey Lopes) or bested until 1991 (Otis Nixon, 6)
    • 1922 – Supreme Court rules baseball not subject to antitrust laws, interstate commerce regulations
    • 1925 – Ty Cobb becomes 1st major leaguer with 1,000 career extra-base hits
    • 1946 – 1st night game at Yankee Stadium
    • 1951 – Willie Mays gets his first hit, a home run off Warren Spahn
    • 1952 – Hank Aaron, then of the Indianapolis Clowns, signs with the Boston Braves
    • 1959 – Harvey Haddix pitches 12 perfect innings before an error in the 13th (“there has been never been anything like it” = more from Tim Kurkjian here)
    • 1968 – NL announces expansion to Montreal, San Diego
    • 1969 – Aaron becomes the 3rd major leaguer with 500 HR + 500 2B
    • 1976 – Pitcher Joe Niekro, batting against his brother, Phil, hit his only career home run
    • 1990 – Rickey Henderson breaks Cobb’s AL stolen-base record
    • 2004 – Mariano Rivera earns his 300th save
    • 2006 – Barry Bonds hits 715th home run
    • 2008 – Pedro Martinez, making a Single-A rehab start for the St. Lucie Mets, faces off against then-recent top pick David Price, then of the Vero Beach Devil Rays. (Price and the Rays win 2-0.) Price would make his major-league debut that September and his World-Series debut the following month.
    • 2010 – Roy Halladay pitches perfect game (ESPN is airing a program on Halladay’s career and too-short life tonight at 7:00 pm)
  • Whatever happens with baseball this year, Jersey City brewery Departed Soles wants to make sure we don’t forget what happened in the recent past, and therefore has released its newest beer, Trash Can Banger, a session IPA with a can styled after the Houston Astros’ classic 1970s uniforms. For now, the beer only is available in New Jersey.
  • Did the Astros cheat? They did. Did their cheating help? Running counter both to fan intuition and the public statements on the subject by professional pitchers, the latest look at that question, like some others before it, concludes that it didn’t make much of a difference. This analysis also set out to test Commissioner Manfred’s assertion that the Astros didn’t cheat in 2019 but was unable to reach a conclusion on that question.

Sports Law Roundup – 7/21/2017

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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:

  • Tennis match fixing: The Tennis Integrity Unit, an organization dedicated to investigating cheating in tennis, is investigating cheating in tennis. More specifically, the TIU is investigating four matches– three at Wimbledon and one at the French Open– for potential match fixing. Suspicious betting patterns triggered the investigation into these matches, for which additional information is not yet available to the public. While allegations of match fixing in major tournament matches are rare, tennis is particularly susceptible, given that it is an individual sport, and that most matches involve low-earning players and are not tracked by the general public. Three years ago, FiveThirtyEight’s Carl Bialik wrote an illuminating feature on the data-driven rise in tennis gambling, later cautioning that betting patterns alone were not conclusive evidence of match fixing.
  • Hou-Hugh Feud: One week after Houston Nutt sued his former employer, Ole Miss, for breach of his severance agreement for disparaging statements by school officials, including head football coach Hugh Freeze, Freeze has resigned. Athletic Director Ross Bjork, whose statements also appear in Nutt’s complaint, referred to Freeze’s unacceptable “pattern of personal misconduct” in connection with Freeze’s resignation and said that the school would have fired Freeze, who will receive no buyout on his $5 million annual contract, had Freeze not resigned. While the litany of alleged NCAA violations have been public for some time, the catalyst for Freeze’s sudden departure just a week after he represented Ole Miss at SEC Media Days appears to be new evidence that, on one occasion, Freeze used his university-issued cellphone to contact a Detroit-based escort. Freeze’s call records are under scrutiny as a result of the Nutt complaint, which cites those records in detail but contained no mention of the escort call. (And a note to those who see an opening for Lane Kiffin to return to the SEC in a head-coaching role, Paul doesn’t see it happening for Kiffin in Oxford, so you can bet it won’t.)
  • Simpson paroled: After serving nine years in prison for his role in a Las Vegas robbery, O.J. Simpson received a unanimous grant of parole from the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners and could be out of prison as early as October. This week’s parole decision hardly could have come at a more perfect time: Norm Macdonald Live returns to the digital airwaves for a new season on Tuesday.

Sports court is in recess.

World Series Game 7 in two tweets

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Last night’s World Series finale had everything, and it was amazing to watch. You’ll find plenty to read about it across the web today. For now, anyway, my contribution to that plenty will be, like the bulk of what you usually find here, minimal, derivative, and frivolous.

The game had numerous memorable moments, and one of the most memorable was Rajai Davis’ game-tying home run off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning. You can see on the graph above right where it happened, and, if you want an even more graphical recollection, the video is here. As the above starkly illustrates, the Cubs were, more or less, cruising by this point. Sure, Chicago manager Joe Maddon was doing his best to keep the game interesting by mismanaging his pitching staff, but the Cubs’ lead appeared as solid as a lead reasonably can appear late in a game-seven setting. Roughly an hour before Davis’ world-inverting homer, though, when things seemed relatively quiet on the eastern front, came this tweet:

Then, a moment before Davis came to the plate, a second tweet arrived:

And then the rains came. What a night.

The Final Countdown

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The final episode of The Late Show with David Letterman is tonight. We don’t write too much about television here, but I’ve enjoyed Letterman since before I ever saw his show by way of digging through the Web 1.0’s trove of top-ten lists when I was a kid. He hasn’t changed my life or been a special inspiration for me, as it appears he has for many others. The purpose of this post is to share the above photograph, which I did not take.

As a bonus, here’s a link to Norm’s final appearance on the Late Show a few days ago.

The only surprising part of Will Ferrell’s tour de baseball

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Everybody had a good time with Will Ferrell’s Major League Baseball debut last week, and that’s no surprise. Will Ferrell is funny and good at making people laugh, and, it’s always seemed with him, the bigger the stage, the bigger the laughs. Ferrell started Thursday as an undrafted amateur free agent signee of the Oakland Athletics, and he finished the day as a San Diego Padre. In between, he appeared in games as a member of eight other teams and played every position, including designated hitter (pictured above). He even has his own Baseball-Reference page!

All of this feels like it belongs within Ferrell’s entertaining wheelhouse. Close examination of his B-R page reveals a little surprise, however:

wfb-rWho knew Cincinnati held Norm’s rights to begin with? Maybe it has something to do with the Marge Schott joke he made on Weekend Update nineteen years ago, forever “preserved” on this broken NBC.com video? Baseball, like Norm, proves to be a continually unfolding mystery of the most enjoyable variety.

Who’s conflicted about sports? World Series of Poker edition

While the idea of writing about the cartographic results of ESPN SportsNation polls long has percolated in my mind, it (obviously to you, erstwhile ALDLAND reader) never took off. In part I suspect this is because there’s little categorical variety in the types of conclusions we ordinarily draw from these maps, those being 1) the one state associated with the obvious minority view holds out, probably irrationally, against the weight of a nationwide majority and 2) shoot, there really aren’t too many people with internet connections in Mississippi are there? After a very short time, this would become boring to read and write.

We are living in the post-peak-SportsNation world, though, which means that, if this thing’s going to work at all, we’ve got to try it now, but with a slightly different angle of approach. Instead of focusing on the people who supported a poll choice, we’ll look at those states where the voters were not able to reach consensus.

For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of these voting maps, ESPN assigns colors to each of the poll options and presents each state as the color of the option most popular among that state’s voters. Where there is a tie between leading options, however, the state appears grey. These indecisive states are the focus here.

ESPN (I assume from the existence of this poll and Norm Macdonald’s late-night tweeting) has been televising the World Series of Poker this week, and SportsNation, in a totally happenstance, non-marketing-driven poll, casually asked, “How would you rate your poker game?” Here are the results:

nv-pokerWhile we could postulate that Louisianans spend too much time playing Three-card Monte and Arkansans are just people who picked up the rudiments of poker as a post-hoc character alibi while on the run from an out-of-state murder rap, but we don’t really know any of that for certain, and it’s more– though still, extremely mildly– entertaining to note that Nevada, home to the nation’s largest casinos, has no opinion on the matter.

UPDATE: A plurality of Nevada voters now say they do not play poker at all. Click the map above to see the very latest results.

R.C.M.P.: The Return of Canadian Mounted Podcasts

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I am not a television critic, and I haven’t had anything to say about podcasts not our own in a long time, but ostensibly uncoordinated events this week compel me to again address the field.

As I described at length a few years ago, I was never much for podcasts until I found The Jalen Rose Show. Although I still check in periodically, changes in my daily schedule caused me to fall off the regular listening (and now viewing) train. I did not think I would find another non-ALDLAND Podcast podcast that would entertain me and hold my interest.

Last year, however, I found two. The first was Norm Macdonald Live, a live video podcast with weekly episodes that started in March 2013. My insatiable appetite for Norm‘s material notwithstanding, I do believe the show worked on two levels: i) it had the basic element of funny guests being casually, unscripted-ly funny, and, ii) by its structure, it operated as a deconstruction of the talk-show format. (If I try to write any more than that, they’ll revoke my liberal arts degree and make me turn in my semicolon license.) After about a dozen episodes, the seemingly successful program inexplicably went off the air in the summer of 2013 with no indication that it might ever return.

The summer of 2013 offered new video podcast life, however, in the form of the (re)birth of the Jay and Dan Podcast. Jay and Dan are Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, the lead anchors of Fox Sports 1’s Sportscenter-ish program Fox Sports Live. Before joining FS1, Onrait and O’Toole held the same job at TSN on Canadian Sportscenter. Their podcast existed in some form in Canada, but they reinvented it as a weekly video podcast through Fox, targeted at a more heavily American audience. Like Norm’s, Jay and Dan’s podcast regularly makes me smile and laugh. Also like Norm Macdonald Live, the Jay and Dan Podcast inexplicably disappeared with no indication that it might ever return.

In perhaps the first Canadian comedy and entertainment conspiracy of the internet age, both podcasts made surprise returns to apparently regularly scheduled programming this week. While both were a little rough on reentry, it’s nice to have them back on a weekly basis. Watch for Norm Macdonald Live on Monday nights and the Jay and Dan Podcast on Wednesdays.

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Related
Smackland podcast: The Jalen Rose Show

ALDLAND Podcast

Few things call for a special emergency ALDLAND Podcast, but the US playing Canada in hockey is one of them. Join your two favorite cohosts and a special guest as we run down why the United States of America is the best country ever and why Canada comes up short. For real though, we love Canada and our Canadian readers/listeners. Just not today. Or tomorrow. And you have to give us Neil Young and Rush if we win. Sorry.

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Wrapping up the 2013 Masters

Just over a week ago, Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters, beating Angel Cabrera in a sudden-death playoff to claim the green jacket.  It’s true that such a playoff in a major golf tournament always is exciting, but the way we arrived at this one– Scott holding steady as numerous golfers faded back to (in Cabrera’s case) or below him on the leaderboard– felt a little anticlimactic. Still, among those leaders, Scott did the best job of holding steady while the course conditions did anything but, and after near-misses on his putts all day, he finally sunk them when he needed to on eighteen and the playoff hole.

A big thanks to guest blogger Luke Watson, who stopped by to lend ALDLAND the benefit of his golf acumen and insight as a guest blogger. (His posts are here and here.) Back at his own site, Hotdogs and Golf, he recently published a very thoughtful post-Masters post that’s worth your time.

While Luke’s collaboration with this site was the big media story of the tournament, another story about a broken golf collaboration has received almost no attention anywhere but these very pages. Continue reading