Injury Was Inevitable for Noah Syndergaard (via New York)

Baseball is incentivizing an activity that is tearing its young pitchers’ arms apart. Believe it or not, this is almost by design.

About 15 years ago, NFL general managers started to realize that running backs, long one of the celebrity skill positions in the sport, were both injury-prone and replaceable; rather than building an offense around a franchise back, they ran their players into the ground and then discarded them. We haven’t yet seen a cultural shift in the status of starting pitchers in baseball, but one might be just around the corner. Because here’s another factoid to keep in mind about those 12 pitchers who throw harder than anyone else in the documented history of the sport: Most of them haven’t made it to a payday in free agency.

Oh, sure, they made a few years’ salary, often at the Major League Baseball minimum, now $535,000 — obviously not too shabby. But in the context of baseball economics it is mere pennies. The best-paid player in baseball, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, earns $35.6 million a year, and some believe Bryce Harper, when he becomes a free agent in 2018, could sign a multi-year contract worth $400 million.

In the world of baseball, as in most sports, young talent is always more valuable to the team than old. This is not just because young players’ skills and athleticism haven’t atrophied yet; it’s because they’re cheap. A player doesn’t reach true free agency until he has spent six years in the majors, and earns only the league minimum until his third season, when he reaches “arbitration,” a process of generating small, graduated raises that is infamously management-friendly. A team — and this is key — also has total control over a player for the first six seasons of his career; if you draft a guy or sign him from another country, you own the rights to his services for his first six full seasons. After that, he can, for the first time, at last test the free market for his skills. Which means that any team — but especially those that can’t afford to compete for big-ticket free agents — has an incentive to get whatever value out of its young players it can in those first six years. No matter the long-term consequences.

The result is a system where ball clubs are encouraged — are essentially commanded — to squeeze every last bit of life out of their young pitchers, until their arms are ruined … conveniently, right around the time they’re due to hit the open market. … Read More

(via New York)

The (Walking) Death of Sports on Earth

soe

Last month, in a story that was poorly reported to the then-staff of the site Sports on Earth, to say nothing of the general public, it snuck out that, in some order, USA Today had pulled out of its partnership with MLB that supported the site and ninety-five percent of the site’s staff had been let go. The soldiering-on of “senior writer” Will Leitch (which is far from nothing) aside, SoE exists today at best as a sort of undead shell of the vibrant self Leitch and its former staff had built in what I called an important “second chapter” of the site’s history.

As David Roth, Keith Olbermann, and even Leitch himself have commented, the whole thing came as a surprise even to the writers, many of whom found out about the great “unwinding” for the first time on Twitter.

We have tracked the rise of Sports on Earth since its birth, and we’ve highlighted plenty of their many well-done stories in the past. From a technical standpoint, SoE was designed for optimal reading on a tablet, and, for me, it held the position of go-to breakfast-table reading for a long time.

I was just a reader. For The Classical’s David Roth, the whole thing was more personal, as he was friends and colleagues of many of the dispatched writers, many of whom also had written for The Classical. I learned about Sports on Earth’s demise from Roth’s extended obituary, which also expounds upon the challenges of sustaining and supporting interesting sports writing in today’s media landscape.   Continue reading

Tony Stewart and Our Need to Know (via Sports On Earth)

tonystewartWe have become a culture that is obsessed with knowing. Our age, with the technology we have at our disposal, is supposed to be different than the ones that came before. There is a sense that all the mysteries of the past can be solved, that gaps in our knowledge are the result of insufficient resources and incurious, casual minds. If there’s anything the information age has brought us, it is the implicit understanding that information, because it is everywhere, can thus tell us everything.

This is the single organizing principle of our age: The sense that there is an inalienable truth, and that we can find it. DNA evidence. Targeted micro-marketing. Cognitive profiling. Data journalism. Instant replay. An undocumented incident that might have been dismissed as folklore or happenstance in the past is pored over for clues now. A meteor appears out of nowhere? Dozens of Russians have dashboard cameras to document it. A plane falls from the sky and lands in the Hudson River? Photos of it are loaded to Twitter before 95 percent of the country even knows what Twitter is. A couple doesn’t give a foul ball to kid who wants it and they’re excoriated on the Today show the next day. Not knowing is not acceptable. We can access our collective power to find out what happened, and why.

And a nightmarish accident happens on a dirt racetrack on Saturday night. A man — a boy, really — dies. Someone captures it with a cellphone. This has to provide us answers. This has to give us some truth. This has to give us some justice. … Read More

(via Sports On Earth)

The Birth of Instant Replay (via Sports on Earth)

almostperfectFour years later — to the day — it’s still nearly impossible for me to listen to Jim Joyce’s postgame interview after missing the call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga his perfect game.

Go ahead. Give it a try.

Jim Joyce, on the day that call was made, had been a major league umpire for 21 years. He had umped two All-Star Games, two World Series and 14 postseason series. An ESPN Magazine poll of players named him the best umpire in baseball by a rather wide margin. He was at the absolute top of his profession.

And then he made the biggest mistake an umpire could make, at the worst possible time, calling Jason Donald of the Indians safe on a close play at first base, when it was clear to everyone else that Galarraga had beaten him to the bag. … Read More

(via Sports on Earth)

Don’t drag me into this Richard Sherman thing

Knowing roughly how the internet works, I had a pretty good idea that Richard Sherman’s postgame interview with Erin Andrews would elicit a substantial amount of “discussion” as I watched it on Sunday night. I also had a reasonable suspicion that that discussion would become a discussion about the discussion. That’s because, as I wrote here the next morning, Sherman’s interview was not all that remarkable when compared with other works in the same genre.

In the immediate aftermath of his comments, a lot of people said racist things about him, including labeling him a “thug.” The new online sports media critics (shorthand: Deadspin), collectively about which I’ve attempted to write before, preemptively steeled themselves against charges of racism by 1) labeling Sherman’s critics racists and 2) wholly endorsing Sherman’s comments.

It’s important to take the nation’s temperature on race issues periodically, but the race element of this discussion isn’t particularly interesting or nuanced, even though it does come with an Ivy-League-esque twist. However bluntly they did so, Deadspin et al. are right to stand up against racist tendencies in our discourse. Does that mean they need to go all-in with Sherman, though? No.

Continue reading

Take Me Out to the Brew Game: The Summer of Beer and Whiskey

If there is one constant in the world of baseball, from its invention in the 19th century to the present, it must be its inextricable link with beer. The connection is almost Pavlovian: When I watch a baseball game, my mouth tells me it wants a beer. (For someone who watches baseball professionally, this can raise quite the occupational hazard.) I’m not sure what about the game inspires such a yearning. Maybe it’s the spring air, the smell of cut grass, all that Ken Burns business. Maybe it’s the dirt and dust. Maybe it’s the fact that half the stadiums are named after brands of beer. Now that I think about it, it’s probably that.

The connection is no accident, as historian Edward Achorn makes clear in “The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s Game.” The book documents the creation of the American Association, a league of ballplayers ostensibly founded to rival the National League but in fact brought into existence almost entirely as a way to evade Puritan liquor laws in order to sell beer. That guy in the bleacher with the T-shirt that says baseball is his favorite beer delivery system? He’s more right than he knows.

The essential founder of the American Association was a man named Chris Von der Ahe, a German grocer and beer-hall owner who lived in St. Louis. He didn’t really understand baseball—though he did love the game—but desperately wanted a way to move product on Sunday afternoons. The National League, led by a persnickety Chicago moralist named William Hulbert, was renowned for banning Sunday baseball, limiting alcohol consumption, keeping ruffian players from its ranks and booting owners who didn’t get on board, even if they owned teams in major cities like New York and Philadelphia. Von der Ahe and his fellow American Association owners (many of whom were beer barons themselves) took advantage of this. Their league would be the ribald troublemaking alternative. … Read More

(via WSJ)

(HT: Mitch)

Bay of Cigs: April in the D

As briefly mentioned at the end of the last post, ALDLAND will have a presence in Detroit this weekend, where the Tigers will host the Atlanta Braves for three games, beginning tonight.

After twenty games, the Tigers can’t seem to get themselves above .500, and the early ride has been bumpy.

Yesterday afternoon’s game was particularly rough. After allowing just one earned run, starter Justin Verlander left the game with a lead on the scoreboard and a sore throwing-hand thumb. Rookie reliever Bruce Rondon, making his first major-league appearance, promptly gave up that lead, and then the ball. Phil Coke entered and, through a series of walks of varying intentionalities, put Detroit behind. Darin Downs relieved Coke and immediately gave up a grand slam. The supposedly hard-hitting Tigers, who have a way of not scoring late, plated no runs from the fifth inning on through the tenth, when they lost.

As anyone reading Upton Abbey knows, the Braves are red-hot. The consensus best team in baseball, Atlanta is off to a 15-6 start, and they’re hitting home runs like crazy. I haven’t taken a close look at their runs/inning distribution, but it sure seems like they can hit for power both early and late.  Keep reading…

The second chapter of Sports on Earth

Back in August, I noted the launch of what then appeared to be a new heavy hitter in the high-end online sportswriting market: Sports on Earth, helmed by the well-known (for varying reasons) Joe Posnanski. After working out expected opening-day kinks, the site was getting off the ground nicely, and SoE has found a good niche providing current, day-to-day content in digestible bites by good writers. With those good writers and the backing of USA Today and Major League Baseball, the site seemed to be in a good place.

After just five months, though, Posnanski left without explanation, which had the effects of calling the site’s future viability into question and bolstering Posnanski’s reputation as a drifter. (His immediate destination was not a mystery, though: he joined NBC Sports to “writ[e] long-form stories” and a weekly column on Fridays called “The Big Read,” which seems like a painfully obvious play on “The Big Lead,” a popular, all-purpose sports site USA Today– Posnanski’s most recent former employer– bought a year ago. Weird.)

SoE lumbered on through the winter without a formal leader, and, really, seemed no worse for the wear. Spring arrived last week, Easter is this weekend, and yesterday, former “contributing writer” Will Leitch issued this announcement:

I am pleased to announce that next month, I will be joining the staff of Sports On Earth full-time, as a lead writer for the site. I’ve been writing for the site part-time since it launched last fall, but now I’m going to be there every day. It’s going to be my home.

My columns up to this point have been mostly media columns, but this is a more expansive role: I’m basically gonna be writing about everything, traveling all over the place, serving as the face (or one of the faces, anyway) of the site. I will also be hosting a daily podcast and will occasionally contribute for MLB.com, and certain columns will also be running in USA Today. Basically: I’m gonna be all over the place there.

Will’s writing voice has some built-in modesty to it, but the circumstances (including the fact that he is leaving his full-time position at New York magazine) make it clear to me that he has claimed Posnanski’s vacant seat as the head and face of Sports on Earth.

I think this is great news. Leitch remains a fresh voice in the media and sports realm, and he combines that with the experience that comes from operating very successfully and with perspective online. Will seems to have retooled and stretched out a bit since leaving Deadspin, and I think we’re at the point where we’re all going to benefit from his taking an in-earnest plunge back into the sports world.

Leitch’s first day in his new role is April 15.

______________________________________________

Related
The Weekend Interview: Charlie Warzel

Previously
And then there were four: Joe Posnanski’s Sports on Earth joins the fray

The Weekend Interview: Charlie Warzel

deadspin strippers daulerio leitch

The subject of the 2013 debut of the Weekend Interview is Charlie Warzel. After we featured his recent piece for Adweek’s Sports Issue, “Deadspin: An Oral History: How an irreverent sports site made the big leagues” earlier this week, Charlie graciously agreed to share his behind-the-scenes experiences and thoughts regarding the article and the state of online sports media.

Be sure to read the article, which opens with, “It all goes back to Ron Mexico,” and closes with, “Strip Club photos: courtesy of Deadspin.” Then check out our conversation, below.

Continue reading

Deadspin: An Oral History: How an irreverent sports site made the big leagues (via Adweek)

It all goes back to Ron Mexico.

In 2005, The Smoking Gun broke the story of a legal complaint about a prominent athlete who “knowingly failed to advise” a partner that he was infected with a sexually transmitted disease. The athlete, then-phenom Michael Vick, was reported to have used the alias Ron Mexico during herpes testing, a story that quickly spread across the nascent blog culture of the Internet.

Will Leitch, an early, struggling blogger, got the idea for Deadspin after taking note of what he believed to be a failure in mainstream sports media: It wasn’t covering or even mentioning stories like the tale of Ron Mexico—stories that sports fans were eating up. Partnering with Nick Denton’s Gawker Media, Leitch launched a site that would talk to the average sports fan like a real average sports fan, eschewing, as the site’s motto goes, “access, favor and discretion.”

Over the last seven years, Deadspin has grown from a one-man operation run out of a bedroom into a formidable counterweight to the sports media industrial complex of Sports Illustrated, ESPN and other players. Along the way, Leitch and successive editors have exposed star athletes and top media personalities, offended countless readers and managed to make over the culture of sports journalism, all from the outside.

On Jan. 16, the site was the first news outlet to report that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s girlfriend, whose “death” was the basis of one of the more inspiring stories of the past year, was a complete hoax. The story would explode and cement Deadspin’s place at the head table of the sports media world—and the mainstream media’s worst nightmare. … Keep Reading

(via Adweek)