A Cubs Fan Finally Gets His Championship Ring – And I’m Fine With It!

The Chicago Cubs are giving Steve Bartman a World Series ring this week for all the hell he's been through since that ill fated night in Wrigley Field 14 years ago. Bartman has led a sheltered and very secluded life after the death threats he received in the wake of the Cubs 2003 National League Championship Series loss. Cubs fans hit the radio waves to express discontent for the man they believed caused the team to never reach their destiny. A man who had to be escorted from the stadium after reaching for a foul ball.

Among many sports fans a debate has raged about whether the Cubs are breaking an unwritten rule of professional athletics by handing out a ring. Questions like Bartman didn't play with the team so why give him a ring? Or does doing this cheapen the accomplishment of the 2016 champs? What if the other clubs decided to just hand out rings to whomever? Should Bartman even accept the gesture in the first place?

For all the questions, the answers aren't as clear as one might think. No one can truly say but Bartman whether he should take the offer from the club. He is the one who has had to separate himself from the team he loved so dearly. Can you imagine your team winning after 107 years and not being able to be at the game to celebrate? Much less having the ability to show your face in public all because people thought you were the reason a team lost?

Teams can do whatever they want with their rings. If New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft can give one of his Super Bowl rings to Russian president Vladimir Putin how can we criticize a team giving one to a fan? A ring from a championship is merely a symbol of a win, something that most players simply lock up and put away in a safe only to come out at special events. A championship win by players builds bonds and families within a locker room that no piece of jewelry or banner can match. How is it any different than any other memorabilia that is sold after the playoffs? In fact, players sell them all the time.

I'm not sure if there is a team that doesn't do what it wants when it comes to victories. In 2016, the Denver Broncos took the Lombardi Trophy to a late fan's funeral. The 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers gave rings to janitors and food vendors. Why is everyone getting so excited about the Cubs? Give Bartman some peace finally, he's been through hell.

Auston Matthews and Humanity

Auston Matthews.

Auston Matthews.

Auston Matthews.

Auston Matthews.

Four goals in a debut NHL game.  No rookie in NHL history has every done it before.  The second goal looked like Matthews was playing a video game.  Swiping the puck from a defender and skating in on the wing and shooting.

Come on kid.  Give the league a chance.

Auston Matthews.

Get used to it.  He’s finally in Maple Leaf blue and white.  The Gardens don’t buzz anymore and Foster Hewitt doesn’t broadcast from the gondola but the Maple Leafs are forever.

I wonder what went through his mind after the game?

Did he stop and look around at his teammates and think “I did something these guys couldn’t?”

Is he like that?

Or did he stop and say, “I couldn’t do it without these guys?”

I hope that he’s not one of those guys who felt like he’s the man.

“Just put it all on my shoulders I’m gonna save this team.”

But isn’t that the kind of superstar the world loves?  The fiery, ambitious young man who longs for the spotlight?  The one who calls out his teammates in press conferences and interviews because they don’t play at his level?

Is that the nature of sport?

What is it that we want from superstar athletes?  To celebrate their talent?  Or to stroke their ego?  Or do they both go hand in hand?

When we see a superstar athlete in the street do we stop and stare?  If you saw Austin Matthews would you stop and ask for an autograph?

Okay.  Maybe you might not know his face.  Yet.

But if you saw Wayne Gretzky would you stop and stare?  Maybe get an autograph?  A picture?

Or what if you had a seizure while waiting for that star?  Like the man waiting for Tim Tebow?  Imagine if the star actually helped the man.  Do you think all the stars would do it?

The same Tebow the New York Mets took so much flak for signing because critics called it a “publicity stunt.”

Sure.  Aren’t most players signed for some kind of publicity?  Michael Jordan wasn’t Babe Ruth on the diamond for the Birmingham Bulls.  If I came out the stands, the Chicago White Sox organization would not sign me to a contract.  It was because it was Jordan of course.

Tebow, because he CARES about people, stayed with the fan until help could arrive becuase he knows life is bigger than the game.  Whatever his religious beliefs, he truly believes in the wellbeing of people and at some point everyone needs to adopt that belief.

I wonder if Auston Matthews stopped in the locker room and questioned the gravity of the situation.  Did it all fly by in the blink of an eye?  After everyone left, did he look around and wonder what he just accomplished?  Or did he just leave?

Just another day at the office for him?

Some players have talked about that life changing moment going by without them soaking it in.  No time to look around.  Next thing they know they are retired and looking back on a championship or a record or a key victory with regret.

Time.

Every day we talk about it.

“What time is it?”

“I can’t wait til the weekend.”

“Time heals all.”

“Wait til next year.”

“When we all look back on it.”

Why?

All it does is remind us that time saps us of our energy, our youth, our strength and our talents.

While we look to the future we lose sight of the present.  This game, this inning, this shift sometimes we forget that one builds for the next.  Or even this day.  We get so caught up looking forward to the next.  One sun-up leads to the next sun-down and the next thing we know it’s the start of another season.  Ten seasons later we don’t know the players.  We don’t know where it all went.  There’s a 19 year-old Auston Matthews scoring four goals and a warm-hearted player dwelling in instructional league baseball that cares about people that is criticized for his intentions.  Is that the nature of sports or the nature of humanity or do those lines cross?  Maybe that’s why we like sports so much?

The Value Of An Athlete’s Outburst – Or Why Josh Donaldson Was Right

Even though the Toronto Blue Jays are leading the American League East with 69 wins and 52 losses, the Boston Red Sox (67-52) and Baltimore Orioles (66-53) are nipping on their heels.  The Jays have needed to play some fantastic baseball to keep themselves ahead of their competition in a year that many analysts are picking the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series.

Three time all-star third baseman and thirty year old Josh Donaldson is one of Toronto’s favorite baseball players these days.  The “Bringer of Rain” (Twitter handle @BringerOfRain20) has torched pitching from the right side of the plate for the blue birds for the past one and a half seasons earning the $28.65 million for 2 years contract he signed for 2016 and 2017.

His numbers on paper prove that his MVP season of 2015 was no fluke. Through 8 /17, he has 450 at bats, .289 batting average, 96 Runs (tied for league lead), 130 hits, 26 doubles, 5 triples, 28 home runs (8th in the league), 80 runs batted in and 6 stolen bases to go along with a .390 on-base percentage as well as a .556 slugging percentage.

With the pressure on the club and on Donaldson to keep up the wins and numbers it’s only natural that someone is going to snap at some point. Whether it’s a frustration with a call or getting upset with a play that he makes – athletes are human.

Thursday, August 17th, 2016 – Josh Donaldson showed he was human at Yankee Stadium. Donaldson went 1-4 with two strikeouts and as he was walking back to the Jays dugout he slammed his bat down.  Unfortunately, Donaldson’s bat was close to the dugout – dangerously close.  Jays Manager John Gibbons turned and approached Donaldson as he put away his equipment in the bat rack.

Donaldson was clearly agitated with HIMSELF and didn’t want to talk about it but he screamed back at Gibbons.  Jays star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki stepped in between the two hot heads and separated them between anymore damage could be done – a la Reggie Jackson-Billy Martin in the Fenway Park dugout.  Although I think Gibbons could hold his own, he’s also had his fair share of confrontations with players too.

Afterward Donaldson tried to soothe the situation by saying after the game to the assembled media that “Gibby” wanted to know what kind of cologne he was wearing and it’s “this new Tom Ford.”  Donaldson told him to back up and he’d give him some after the game.  Donaldson even went so far as to take pictures of it and Tweet it out.  Gibbons for his part said the argument was over bat selection.

Some websites have taken to calling Donaldson a “cry baby” for his anticts.  Insisting that an all-star baseball player should never act like that.

I’ve tired over the years of us calling athletes “cry babies” or “whiners” because they strike out and throw their bat or snap it over their knee.  But when non-athletes act out in anger and throw something we don’t have millions of people showing up at our job or our house yelling at us and posting tweets calling us cry babies.   Some will say that it comes with being paid millions of dollars to play a game, but not all athletes are being paid millions of dollars and no one deserves to be abused.

Everyone has emotions and they can’t always contain those emotions no matter how hard and how long they try. Sometimes those emotions are going to bubble out.  When pitchers strike out someone and scream into their glove why do we not call them out?

I understand that Donaldson could have hurt someone and that’s the unfortunate thing about the situation.  To call him out for throwing a bat in disgust at striking out however is ridiculous.  This is a proud man who puts a tremendous amount of pressure on himself to compete and succeed.  It’s not just him but athletes in all sports.  We have to start recognizing that they are all humans and they all have feelings and emotions.  The moment we put them on pedestals and strip away the human element we turn them into robots that have no heart and no soul.  Athletes bleed and athletes hurt.  We see it on their faces and we see it when they get injured so why can’t we get past calling them childish names like cry babies when they do something we can’t do?  So he threw a bat?   Haven’t you thrown something in disgust?  Haven’t you said something in disgust?  Let’s magnify your life and put it on television for a day.  Tweet it, Instagram it, Facebook it and stream it around the world.  Now – you tell me – can you respect Josh Donaldson just a little bit more?   Let him get it out he’s only human.

Would You Quit Professional Baseball For Your Child?

On March 15, Adam LaRoche walked away from the Chicago White Sox on principle.  He walked away from the game he loved because upper management informed him that no longer could he bring his 14-year-old son to the White Sox clubhouse as often as he wanted.  White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams informed him that he had to limit the amount of time his home-schooled son Drake had to the club’s spring training activities.

As it turns out, Drake had been coming to his dad’s spring training back to his days with the Washington Nationals some five years ago without any issues with coaches, players or management having issues.  All that changed when Williams brought Drake’s presence in the clubhouse to the forefront as an issue.

So LaRoche made a decision that certainly doesn’t come easy for an athlete.  Choose the team and the pursuit of a championship or choose your family?

LaRoche chose his son and on March 18, 2016 White Sox pitcher Chris Sale walked to his locker room to find autographed Adam and Drake LaRoche jerseys hanging at Sale’s locker.

Adam decided to walk away but not before leaving his ace pitcher and supportive teammate a note – “Thanks for everything.  I’ll never forget you.”

For his part, Drake was just as gracious – “Chris, thank you for taking care of me.”

Sale took his case to Williams on behalf of LaRoche, because they felt that it was unfair, even taking it so far as to say Drake was part of team referencing his maturity and his appearance on the field during drills.

Adam doesn’t seem like the guy that wanted to cause a stir in the clubhouse however on March 18, he released a statement on Twitter where he talked about his retirement:

Over the last five years, with both the Nationals and the White Sox, I have been given the opportunity to have my son with me in the clubhouse. It is a privilege I have greatly valued. I have never taken it for granted, and I feel an enormous amount of gratitude toward both of those organizations.

Though I clearly indicated to both teams the importance of having my son with me, I also made clear that if there was ever a moment when a teammate, coach or manager was made to feel uncomfortable, then I would immediately address it. I realize that this is their office and their career, and it would not be fair to the team if anybody in the clubhouse was unhappy with the situation. Fortunately, that problem never developed. I’m not going to speak about my son Drake’s behavior, his manners, and the quality of person that he is, because everyone knows that I am biased. All of the statements from my teammates, past and present, should say enough. Those comments from all of the people who have interacted with Drake are a testimony to how he carries himself.

Prior to signing with the White Sox, my first question to the club concerned my son’s ability to be a part of the team. After some due diligence on the club’s part, we reached an agreement. The 2015 season presented no problems as far as Drake was concerned. (My bat and our record are another story!)

With all of this in mind, we move toward the current situation which arose after White Sox VP Ken Williams recently advised me to significantly scale back the time that my son spent in the clubhouse. Later, I was told not to bring him to the ballpark at all. Obviously, I expressed my displeasure toward this decision to alter the agreement we had reached before I signed with the White Sox. Upon doing so, I had to make a decision. Do I choose my teammates and my career? Or do I choose my family? The decision was easy, but in no way was it a reflection of how I feel about my teammates, manager, general manager or the club’s owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

The White Sox organization is full of people with strong values and solid character. My decision to walk away was simply the result of a fundamental disagreement between myself and Ken Williams.

 

Simply put, LaRoche directs the blame on Williams for breaking the contract AND trust that he came to with Williams and the White Sox.  If his play was suspect, which he no doubt discusses in his explanation, then go to him about that.  But it feels like the attempt was a dirty ploy.

Was this a dirty ploy to get $13 million that he was owed off the books?  Or was this a dirty ploy to get the players to rally together and hate management and play for each other in one of those “rah rah let’s win one for Adam and Drake” things?  If so, both are poorly thought out and really bad ideas.  The Major League Baseball Players Association is now getting involved and that can only bring some sort of bad publicity for the club as well.  One this is for certain, this won’t be good for Williams or club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

I can’t say for sure what I would do if I was in the same position as Adam LaRoche.  I would like to think I would give up my spot on an MLB team for my daughter.  If I was set money-wise like it seems LaRoche is and comfortable with my position in the game’s history.  If the club isn’t going to respect our agreement on bringing her to spring training and letting her be around, what else would they want to cut out of my contract?

Some may say that LaRoche quit on his teammates, but apparently they aren’t seeing how much he means to them.  Or maybe they don’t see the bigger picture, if the club is going to cut out its promises to one player to bring his son to spring training, a teenager who did nothing to disturb the club at all, then what else are they going to cut? Isn’t it like the owner of the Indians in the movie Major League, Rachel Phelps?  Phelps begins cutting luxuries from the Indians (hot water and a private jet for instance) in order to make the club lose so that they are less profitable and she can move them to Miami.  Who wants to play for someone like that?  Maybe Adam LaRoche was right?  If you had the choice what would you choose?

PARCS

While taking a Sabermetrics course through edX, I came up with a new way to look at a pitcher’s game stats and “score” them instead of the Bill James Game Score. My idea is as follows:

PARCS

Power – Strikes swinging divided by hits, the closer to zero the better

Accuracy – Strikes divided by pitches, closer to 1 the better

Respect – Strikeouts minus walks plus hit by pitch divided by accuracy.

Control – Runs divided by homeruns times two plus earned runs times one and a half

Stamina – number of innings divided by batters faced

Examples:

Mike Fiers 8/21 Complete Game no hitter Bill James Game Score 94, PARCS 11.72

9 IP, 30 BF, 80 Strikes, 134 Pitches, 13 StrikesSw, 10 SO, 3 BB, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 R, 0 HBP

Power = 13/0 = 0

Accuracy = 88/134 = .65

Respect = 10- 3/.65 = 10.77

Control = 0/0+0= 0

Stamina = 9/30 = .30

Dallas Keuchel 8/19 2 Earned Run Game Bill James Game Score 59 Parcs 8.57

7 IP, 28 BF, 65 Strikes, 105 Pitches, 6 StrikesSw, 5 SO, 1 BB, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 R, 0 HR, 0HBP

Power = 6/7 = .88

Accuracy = 65/105 = .62

Respect = 5-1/.62 = 6.15

Control = 2/3 = .67

Stamina = 7/28 = .25

Collin McHugh 6/13 8 Run Game Bill James Game Score 8 Parcs -2.01

3 IP, 21 BF, 39 Strikes, 74 Pitches, 6 StrikesSw, 1 SO, 2 BB, 1HBP, 9H, 2HR, 8ER, 8R

Power= 6/9 = .67

Accuracy = 39/74 = .52

Respect = 1-(2+1)/.52 = -3.85

Control = 8/(2*2)+(8*1.5)=.5

Stamina = 3/21 = .14

Max Scherzer 6/14, one of Game Score’s best games 100, Parcs 50.25

9 IP, 29 BF, 86 Str, 119 Pitches, 27 StrikesSw, 16 SO, 1 BB, 1 Hit

Power= 27/1 = 27

Accuracy = 86/119 = .72

Respect = 16-1/.72 = 22.22

Control = 0/0 = 0

Stamina = 9/29 = .31

Kerry Wood 5/6/1998 Game Score’s 105 Parcs 52.93

9IP, 29 BF, 84 Str, 122 Pitches, 24 StrikesSw, 20 SO, 0 BB, 1 Hit, 1 HBP

Power = 24/1 = 24

Accuracy = 84/122 = .68

Respect = 20-(1)/.68=27.94

Control= 0/0

Stamina = 9/29 = .31

Where did Parcs come from?

Watching the Yankees play recently, I was thinking about the pitcher and wondering when the game was over what were the things that I would think about when I described the game.  What things would I really remember?  What things would really matter?  What matters the most when it comes to pitching?

Finding the strike zone, not allowing hits, not allowing walks, not allowing runs or home runs and getting through innings are the core building blocks of Parcs.  I find that you can take a small sample of the pitcher’s box score and drop it into Parcs and you can see what he did fairly accurately in the game.  If you didn’t watch Kerry Wood’s performance in that 27 strike out game you can see that he was able to hit the strike zone 68 % of the time and make batters look absolutely silly because his stuff was “on.”  Hence the number of strike outs and strikes swinging that we take from the box score.  We don’t need to make a huge number of fancy calculations to come to these conclusions and the Parcs score can be done when the game is over.  Parcs is geared toward dominate and accurate pitching meaning that the more strike outs and the more strikes, the better the score.  Also facing less batters and using less pitches affects the score as well.

You can use PARCS for relievers as well:

Brett Cecil 8/23 Relief outing Game Score N/A Parcs 3.35

1 IP 4 BF 11 Strikes, 15 Pitcehes, 1 StrikeSw, 1SO, 0BB, 1 H

Power = 1/1= 1

Accuracy=11/15=.73

Respect=1/.73=1.37

Control = 0

Stamina = 1/4 =.25

It’s a way to study how accurate the pitcher was as well as how much they dominated the game.

The Ghost of Red Grange

The Cardinals Take Their Hacks

It’s said to be true, so true that the FBI is indeed looking into the possibility that the St. Louis Cardinals broke into the system that former employee Jeff Luhnow created as GM of the Houston Astros.  With the Astros, he began assembling baseball minds and throwing all of the ideas and discussions into a giant database and network that they dubbed “Ground Control.”

 

It’s known that teams generally seek out information from other teams as ways to get ahead however they can, be it from scouts or other players or other managers or employees.  Whatever it takes is typically the mantra or motto that is used to get the job done.  I mean it’s all about the “W” right?  You gotta do what it takes right?

 

I keep seeing stories on Deadspin and in sports websites but I am missing the serious-ness of this story, while it may not be that people’s personally identifiable information (PII) got swiped, someone if true, actually hacked into another network on American soul.  Just this past January, President Obama talked about the possibility of putting away computer hackers, granted that was foreign computer hackers but the government is taking this seriously.  I know it’s not the same but look at all the time that Ross Ulbricht got for being convicted of running the Silk Road (life without parole in Federal prison).

 

I don’t know if whoever did this thought this whole thing through.  The process of hacking a computer system while it may sound like a good idea and easy to get away with; it’s not.  The FBI and other federal agencies don’t play around with electronic intrustions and they are going to make an example of whoever did this.  Especially considering this happened in the sports world and there’s never been a documented case of it happening before, so it’s going to pop off even more.

 

This has to be stopped now, or can you imagine teams hiring hackers to send phishing emails to teams to backdoor their ways into rivals’ networks?  The day of the draft other teams would be viewing internal emails and know what they would be able to trade for?  If this is already happening, how do we know it isn’t already happening?  Are we sure?  I mean it is one case here, but how was it found?  We know it’s going on because 10 months ago information was leaked onto Deadspin.  So that means almost a year ago at least a hacker was inside the Houston Astros’ Ground Control” network which I’m guessing is inside the teams’ internal network.

 

We know the espionage has already begun on a national level and in entertainment with Sony but now we are seeing it with sports.  I wouldn’t doubt it that teams have somehow tried to contact hackers on the down low in order to get some sort of extra advantage because you have to get the “W” to get the $.  But where does it end?  If you are good enough to get in and get out quick enough you don’t get caught and no one is the wiser.  It’s an interesting gamble, but in sports isn’t everything?

Is There A Dock-tor In The House?

Browsing through Netflix’s lineup I happened to come across a baseball documentary entitled ” No No: A Dockumentary.”  It is the story of legendary Major League pitcher Dock Ellis who pitched a No Hitter while under the influence of LSD against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970.  

I was talking to one of my colleagues at work and he told me that he had never heard of the story of Dock and the LSD No No, which kinda surprised me.  But then I started thinking about where I had heard about Dock and I can’t think of where that might have been, maybe it was at Cooperstown in one of the special artifact collections.  

Or maybe it was some off the wall trivia answer I picked up somewhere because I seem to pick up these ridiculous trivial pieces of knowledge.  Either way I felt like I owed it to myself to find out more about Dock and the game. 

What I found is that the “Dockumentary” is a bit misleading, because it’s not so much about the game as it is about Dock himself.  It’s about what Dock believed in and the place where Dock grew up, the world that he pitched in, the society that he rebeled against (a society in which the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates questioned his cornrows), the society that didn’t believe in equality and the society that still saw color instead of humanity. 

 Dock was a man who fought for his rights and was a step ahead of the time, he was a smart man who knew how to fight his opponent, maybe he wasn’t the biggest guy in the fight but he was the smarter guy and he used the best weapon to take you down. 

 His comments to the media helped make sure that Sparky Anderson selected him to start against fellow African American pitcher Vida Blue in the 1971 All Star game in Tiger Stadium, something that was a huge thing for the time period.  We tend to take these things for granted now, but Dock helped to break down that color barrier, in fact he was part of the first all minority lineup in Major League history with the Pirates on September 1, 1971.  

He reads a note from fellow color barrier breaker Jackie Robinson in the “Dockumentary” and is moved to tears, it’s extremely powerful.  Dock’s leadership could be quiet but yet he was seen by everyone as someone that you’d want to hang out with and someone that stood up for the injustice.

Unfortunately though the rigors of the  70’s and baseball caught up to Dock, and he used whatever he could to escape the pressure of being on the mound.  He talks about not being able to remember much about certain games or teams and it’s incredibly sad to hear.  At some point the drugs and drinking take over his life to the point that he has to make a choice to go to rehab.

Dock spent the last twenty some years of his life trying to help young players and young people get clean and stay clean.  He knew what could happen to someone who let drugs and alcohol take over their minds and bodies.

 In 2008, Dock’s liver gave out and he passed away, leaving so many to grieve for a many who touched hearts and gave back to people that he didn’t have to give back to but did because that’s the kind of person he was.  His pursuit of equality led him to fight for civil rights, his pursuit for sobriety led him to help others find their own way and his pursuit of perfect helped others see that attaining perfection takes its toll on you.  I wish I would have gotten to meet him, I’m certain there’s so much I could have learned from him.  Dock wasn’t perfect, no one is, but one day for those couple hours he came close to being perfect and there was a Dock-tor in the house.