Email Exchange: College Football Is BACK

coach

Today’s article: “Just Give Todd Gurley the Damn Ball: Your Weekly College Football Wrap,” Matt Hinton, Grantland

Michael Rosen:

Hey, welcome back! It’s been a little touch-and-go with school starting for me, but we’re going to try and establish a routine going forward, so you all can stop sending me emails asking when we’re coming back. Anyways, we’re just going to jump right into it, with some college football talk.

Cam, football! Just the sight of it on my television screen — even an unwatchable Arizona-UNLV faceoff — brings joy to my heart. On Saturday I woke up with butterflies in my stomach I was so excited for the day.

Cameron Seib:

Senior year of high school, as I was deciding which schools to apply to, I looked for two things. One, a good academic reputation, and two, big-time sports programs. When my aunts or uncles or old family friends would ask where I wanted to go, I told them exactly that: anywhere I could feel good about the education I was getting, and that prioritized tailgating on Saturdays.

Once they realized I wasn’t actually hoping to play DI football, they’d kinda laugh at my search criteria. Like, ha, stupid Cameron, making a big life decision based on silly old sports.

Four years later, I’m going to say that was the one time in my life I showed any wisdom. College football is the best, and I really can’t imagine what my undergraduate experience would’ve been like without Pac-12 games to attend each fall weekend. Oh wait, I can: it would’ve been miserable. Thanks to all those worried elders that tried steering me in another direction, but I’ll save Saturday poetry reading sessions for my geriatric years.

But yeah, let’s talk Pac-12, Mike. My Dawgs barely squeaked out a victory in an absolutely atrocious beginning to the Chris Petersen era. Meanwhile, and as painful as this is to admit, your Bears might’ve had the best showing of any team in the conference. How was the trip to Northwestern and the subsequent upset?

MR:

I’ve also gone to a Pac-12 school for four years, and although I haven’t personally been able to participate in the tailgate scene outside of California Memorial Stadium, it’s safe to say it’s not a particularly rollicking one. I have the pleasure of walking through frat row on the way to every Cal home game, and I’ll let you know it’s pretty casual — some terrible music playing, but not too loudly, and usually a beer pong game or two on any given frat lawn.

So I’d say it’s not necessarily that you chose a big conference school, but you chose one, thankfully, with a great football/tailgating culture. Cal is, uh, not that. At the game, I sat next to a Northwestern student in the press box, and at one point we started to debate over which fan base is worse. For my money, Stanford takes home the gold medal in that department, but in terms of big school fanbases, Cal’s gotta be among the lamest.

I wrote something like 1400 words Saturday on the game so I’m all talked out of Cal football, but I’d be glad to talk about everything surrounding the experience. The upset was welcome, because it definitely lifted the mood and spirit of everyone working for the team, which made the horrible and miserable traveling experience a little less terrible. Being in Chicago was really cool, although the humidity was fucking impossible, but the experience of watching football in person is always a special one. The eighteen total hours on buses and planes on Thursday and Saturday wasn’t the most fun, though.

In terms of Pac-12 football, I didn’t really expect my perception of most teams to change much. Usually, teams are facing cupcakes, and take care of business pretty convincingly. I pegged your squad as a dark horse North contender, but a one-point win over Hawaii…that’s ugly. I think I texted you last week saying I expected it to be over by halftime. If I remember correctly, Hawaii was actually ahead at half. I didn’t get a chance to watch the game — was the poor showing just a product of Jeff Lindquist, or were there other foreboding signs? I’ve seen people on Cal Twitter saying they see the Dawgs game as a winnable one now — you think that’s a classic Week 1 overreaction, or a realistic assessment of the state of the conference?

Anyway, in other Pac-12 matters, I said that I didn’t expect my perception of teams to change much, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Maybe it’s just my myopia but the Pac-12 seems to be the wackiest conference in the country, with UCLA struggling against UVA, Oregon State doing so against Norfolk State, and Colorado losing to Colorado State. These are all results that point to another season full of upsets. I can’t wait.

CS:

Yeah, maybe “Power 5 Conference” and “fun sports scene” aren’t always synonymous. I visited you in Berkeley last September, with a few of our other friends, and we happened to be there for the Cal-Ohio St. game. You had to cover the game, so the four of us indeed traveled to frat row, thinking that’s where the action would be. It wasn’t. One house was playing “I Love It” on repeat — and I mean repeat — but, yeah, not so loud that they couldn’t hear us making fun of them. At another place, some of the guys had invited their dads over to tailgate, in what I can only assume was a desperate attempt to feign a happening pregame.

So I guess I can’t be too unhappy with your guys’ win. I wouldn’t wish a lacking college football culture on the worst of my enemies (save 75% of our graduating class at Capital), and shitty fans and shitty team and all — that was your first win against an FBS opponent since October 2012 — even Cal deserves a big upset every now and then.

On to Dawg talk. You actually are remembering incorrectly, as UW went scoreless after halftime, but I don’t blame you for assuming Hawaii led after the first two quarters. The Warriors outgained the Huskies on offense by nearly 100 yards during the game, and considering the expectations leading into the contest, it really felt as if the Dawgs were behind all along. I was at the Mariners game for most of the action and only caught the 4th quarter on TV, but it certainly looked like the flop had a lot to do with Lindquist. At least, I really, really hope it did. He started off pretty well, going 7-10 for 131 yards and a TD in the first half, and his team entered the locker room with a not-pathetic 17-10 lead. But after that, man. He just couldn’t complete anything. I don’t know if it was the nerves from making his first collegiate start, or the UW offensive line not performing up to expectations, but Lindquist couldn’t complete anything down the stretch. Every pass was either tipped at the line or five yards out of the receiver’s reach.

Of course, no, Cal still has no chance come our October 11 meeting. The Huskies’ defense remains a huge strength, featuring the best defensive lineman (Danny Shelton), linebacker (Shaq Thompson), and defensive back (Marcus Peters) in the conference. Our o-line returns essentially six starters from the 2013 season. And if Kasen Williams recovers to full strength, him and speedster John Ross could form the most dangerous wideout duo in the Pac-12. I’m a homer and a half, but I really think the Dawgs have the talent to compete with anyone on their schedule. We just need Cyler Miles back. Badly. And for him to stop punching people.

UW’s shitting of the bed really couldn’t compare to the diarrhetic mess that was UCLA’s game vs. UVA, though. That Bruin o-line is miserable. I know it’s classic fanboy of me to say my school’s loss didn’t mean anything, while UCLA’s meant everything, but at least we had the excuse of starting our backup QB. The Bruins, on the other hand, kinda just realized that their o-line is more a huge glaring hole than a minor weakness on an otherwise strong squad.

What games did you watch outside the Pac?

MR:

To be fair, “I Love It” is a fucking great song. Outside of a few glances at those trashy Thursday and Friday night games, I didn’t actually get to watch any games in full. Our buses left the hotels right when the 9:00 PST games were starting, so I pretty much got to watch some College Gameday and the last few plays of that Penn State-UCF game in Ireland. Luckily there were some TVs on the plane back so I did get to see portions of the Wisconsin-LSU game, but I was so tired at that point I couldn’t tell football from Fox News. To be honest, non Pac-12 college football just doesn’t do it as much for me anymore. I know so much more about the Pac-12 than any other conference, so watching other conferences just isn’t as riveting.

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Email Exchange: Pete Rose Had a Gambling Problem, and That’s Not a Problem

pete rose

Today’s article: “Pete Rose’s Reckless Gamble,” Ryan Rodenberg, The Atlantic

Cameron Seib:

At Garfield Elementary School, where Mike and I spent our fledgling years, we had this thing called the Life Skills Program. It enlisted us to strive after certain qualities, or “life skills,” that our teachers and administrators found important — basic things like honesty, sense of humor, and courage.

Near the end of each month, we’d have a school-wide Life Skills assembly, where certain students were nominated and recognized for exhibiting a Life Skill. In third grade, I was honored in front of the school for showing “common sense.” I don’t remember what I did to earn the praise, but I do remember afterwards asking Mrs. Edwards, my teacher, why common sense was a Life Skill in the first place. As eight-year-old me saw it, a kid who had common sense shouldn’t be lauded for the fact; it should’ve been an expected virtue, and those who lacked it should’ve been condemned. I now see why I won the common sense award.

That specific anecdote has nothing to do with today’s article, but the Life Skills Program, and another personal story about it, actually does!

On one of the first days of fourth grade, Mrs. Reynolds gave each student a small person-shaped cutout and asked us to decorate the figures in a way that somehow represented ourselves. She’d brought in loads of scrap cloths, but the only one I thought fit paper-me was a piece that’d ostensibly come from an old Cincinnati Reds blanket. So I did my best to cut a mini t-shirt from the material (definitely fucked it up), and glued it onto my figure. I finished outfitting the guy with some grey pants, so he’d look like a baseball player. To finalize my masterpiece, though, I had to tattoo the cutout with a Life Skill. Arrogant old me found a slip of paper that said “Integrity,” and I glued it across Small Cameron’s chest.

A peachy-skinned Reds player, my paper figure was visually reminiscent of Pete Rose. Morally, though, it was anything but. As Ryan Rodenberg’s piece in The Atlantic reminds us today, Rose did NOT show integrity on the field.

If you were born yesterday, you can’t read, but here’s a quick primer on the history of Rose’s scandal for when you can. After a record-breaking career as a player for Cincinnati, Rose became the Reds’ manager in the mid-80s. He proceeded to bet on his team to win certain games. The MLB, after learning of this, in turn proceeded to ban Rose for life, because gambling is a big no-no for league employees. Most notably as a result, Rose remains outside the halls of Cooperstown, despite holding the all-time record for hits and generally being considered one of the best players ever.

Whether Rose deserves a plaque in the Hall of Fame has been an ongoing debate for years now, with many proponents specifically using Rose’s transgressions as a defense in his favor. I, at least before this morning, was in that group. Why was Rose ever punished, much less to such a great extent, simply for believing in his team?

As Rodenberg, an assistant professor of sports law at Florida State University, explains, Rose’s gambling really wasn’t so harmless. Aside from betting of any form violating the expressly written bylaws of the MLB, the big thing for Rodenberg is that Rose didn’t bet on every Reds game he managed. And that, Rodenberg argues, could’ve compromised the integrity of each Cincinnati game during Rose’s managerial career. For one, Rose’s decision to not bet on the Reds in certain games may’ve signaled something to his bookies, who then might’ve been inclined to put money on the opposition. Of course, Rose wouldn’t want to piss off his bookies, because they could’ve outed him to the MLB at any time, so he might’ve been weary of managing his team to victory when he knew doing so would cost those guys big bucks.

Second, and really more importantly, it seems certain that Rose would’ve managed in a way that allowed for the Reds to be at full-strength for the games on which he’d wagered. Maybe he burned the bullpen arms when money was on the line, even knowing it could limit Cincy’s ability to win their next game. Or maybe he sat his best players in games he hadn’t bet on, letting them rest up for match-ups that had the potential to bring back money.

Taking anytime at all to consider the implications of a manager betting on his team’s games, it’s hard to say it’s not a pretty damning act. Certainly, and I don’t mean to be hyperbolic, if the MLB allowed coaches to gamble on games, even just on their teams winning, the sport would collapse. No longer, as John Dowd wrote in his investigation of Rose’s betting, would winners “be determined by the best efforts of each player on the field.”

All that sentimental purist shit aside, I still think Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. No question. I don’t care how immoral you convince me his behavior was. Cooperstown is not a place to enshrine good guys that also happened to be able to swing the bat. It’s where we honor the players who were the best on the field, nothing more. Ty Cobb was a proud racist, and as Al Stump claims in his biography on the Tiger, once beat a man to death. Tony La Russa hates immigrants, loves Glenn Beck, and was arrested for driving drunk. Both Cobb and La Russa were no-doubt selections into the Hall.

Maybe you come back and say, “Well, that’s just an argument that Cobb and La Russa shouldn’t be in, either.” Okay, theoretical dude, let’s take out all the guys who screwed up at some point in their life and erase tear down their plaques. Sound like a good idea? Of course it doesn’t, because when you follow that logic to the end, you realize the Hall really isn’t about only accepting real-life saints, or else it’d be near-empty.

Pete Rose fucked up. Big time. As did many of his peers, before and after. They are in Cooperstown. He is not. Change that, I say.

Mike, how bad do you think Rose’s gambling really was? And do you think he should be in the Hall of Fame?

Michael Rosen:

Seems you mostly covered it all, Cam. While we were discussing this topic in our Gchat right after you started writing, I wanted to check in where you fell on this issue to see if my response would be similar in any way. Turns out, your take is pretty much exactly in line with what I planned on writing.

I did once fall in line with the hypothetical student’s line of thought in Rodenberg’s piece. I, too, was guilty of thinking that betting on your team to win games doesn’t seem like a conflict of interest in any way. Obviously, you’re trying to win every game you manage — what’s the big deal here? But Rodenberg’s piece did get me thinking about the counterargument to that sentiment in a more nuanced way than before, and his points do make sense.

I disagree slightly with the counterfactuals proposed by Rodenberg — unless there’s concrete evidence of Rose committing the hypothetical acts he proposes Rose may have committed in the piece, then they remain hypotheticals. It might have been as simple as Rose betting on the days his ace pitched. But that’s an argument I’m not comfortable taking very far, so I’ll leave it alone. Like you said, Pete Rose definitely fucked up.

But I come down pretty strong on “the Hall of Fame is a museum to commemorate the best players” side of things. Again, like you said, Ty Cobb and countless others in the Hall today are gigantic pieces of shit douchebags. It is not the Hall of Morality, nor the Hall of Character Judgment. And that doesn’t even get into the idea that these are baseball writers making these “moral” calls — professional baseball writers, so obviously among the great moral arbiters of our universe, passing down their judgements on these baseball players. Fact of the matter is Pete Rose is one of the best 25 or 30 or 50 players of baseball of all-time, and therefore deserves a shrine in the museum that ostensibly honors, uh, baseball playing.

To be honest, and maybe I’ll come off sounding like a dipshit, but my gut instinct is to think Rose’s gambling didn’t really affect the outcomes of games all that much. I can see the slippery slope argument about allowing one type of gambling and then that leading to more serious types of gambling, etc. And I can see how it potentially could lead to grave consequences for the game in general. But in a vacuum, I don’t think what Rose did was all that bad. /ducks

CS:

They remain hypotheticals, but the conclusions drawn are sound. If you bet on one game but not another, it stands to reason that you’ll care more about winning the game that’ll bring in money. Because people, Americans especially, are selfish and ALWAYS put their own interests before others’. If Thomas Jefferson had to rewrite the Declaration of Independence to reflect the sentiment of today’s citizens, it’d read “We hold this truth to be self-evident: I got mine, and don’t give a fuck about you.” So, even if it would require an explicit confession to prove that Rose managed his team to be at full-strength for the games on which he’d wagered, we can still safely assume he actually did so, because, how could he have not? Even if he didn’t realize it, or denied the idea to himself, Rose was going to be inclined to go all-in when there was a potential reward awaiting. Because humans want to better themselves no matter the cost, Rose is a human, and Rose stood to better himself by tanking in certain games.

I guess that’s all a way of saying that even if you can’t prove what Rodenberg suggests, his arguments don’t lose weight for it. You can never prove a person at fault unless there’s recorded evidence of the act, or the person in question admits guilt, but when all the evidence points in one direction, we don’t let those constraints hold us back. That Rose compromised his team’s ability to win some games isn’t empirical fact, but it’s the sad truth.

Still, who cares? Baseball came down so hard on Rose that his example is not likely to ever be replicated. The lesson was learned, so put him in the Hall of Fame.

Email Exchange: The Definitive Johnny Football Conversation

johnny

Today’s article: “Johnny Manziel Is Number One,” Barry Petchesky, Deadspin

MR:

No long, drawn-out intro today, readers, we’re going to get straight into it. Our topic: the ever-controversial Johnny Manziel. In the span of just a couple of years, Manziel’s skyrocketed from an unknown quarterbacking recruit out of a random Texas high school to one of the most famous athletes in America, partially because of his talent but predominantly because of his antics. And his antics seem to split the line between his supporters and his detractors.

Last night brought the latest transgression, or if you’re keen on not viewing Manziel as the symbol for Everything Wrong With This Generation, last night brought his latest amusing action (you can probably guess which side I fall on). On a Monday night preseason game against the Redskins, Manziel flipped a middle finger to the Washington bench, later admitting their incessant shit-talking had gotten under his skin and he’d lost his composure.

One can probably predict how some reacted to this egregious act of disrespect. Joe Theismann tweeted some bullshit, Skip Bayless gleefully rubbed his hands together in excitement, and Manziel’s own coach gave the whole “disappointed” speech.

Aspects of Deadspin’s piece pretty much sums up my reaction: who the fuck cares? The dude threw up a middle finger, unfortunately on national television. Cool. I do that multiple times a day (not on national television). And yet, Theismann, for example, reacted like Manziel had been caught driving under the influence.

There’s a whole conversation here, about how some sports takes themselves too damn seriously. Baseball is obviously the biggest offender with all of its bullshit unwritten rules, but football can be just as bad. We’ve ragged on Roger Goodell often in this space, and this is another arena where his idea of this sanitized image of the NFL permeates every crevice of the league’s output. When one person DARES to challenge the status quo, they freak the fuck out.

And it’s not like Manziel is harmful in any way. He’s just fun as shit, and doing exactly what he wants. He behaves exactly how I’d imagine I’d behave if I was an extremely talented quarterback with a fucking Heisman Trophy to my name. He’s hilarious to watch, and I don’t understand how anyone can see something like this video, for example, and instead of being amused, use it as another talking point to call Manziel “immature.”

That brings me to my other point: I’m not sure how controversial Manziel really is. Cam, do you know anyone our age that doesn’t like Manziel? That finds him irritating and disrespectful? Perhaps the media outrage cycle belies the fact that Manziel actually is a fairly popular character, and ESPN personalities are disproportionally represented in mainstream media. Or maybe it’s just an older generation thing. Either way, I think there’s some sense of unanimity among people our age in our fandom of Manziel. Perhaps it’s just the league that has a vested interest in sanitizing everyone’s image, and journalists like Peter King are eager to blare out the party line to anyone who’s interested.

Cameron Seib:

I know a few people our age who dislike Manziel. Seems like most also dislike things like partying, pot, and rap music. It’s the group of kids who, for whatever reason, look down on popular forms of entertainment — whether that be a football player or drink — and deem it “immature.” Maybe they’re just pretentious. Maybe they’ve always been outcasts of sorts and feel the need to justify their sad lives by hating on everything that brings joy to their more socially affluent peers. Whatever the reason, these guys won’t miss a chance to tell you that Manziel is an attention whore whose behavior is stupid and vulgar, just like your favorite Eminem song.

You’re right, though, almost everyone our age is a Johnny Football fan. I am too, a pretty big one. Not that I ever invested myself in Texas A&M, or will care too much about how Cleveland does this year, but Manziel cracks me up and I like seeing him succeed. The humor in his antics hardly needs explanation. There’s not wit or punchline to floating down a river on an inflatable swan while chugging liquor, but you’re lying if you say you wouldn’t crack the fuck up at the sight of your own friend doing the same. And while sacrificing a day of lessons from Peyton Manning for a night of heavy drinking is admittedly pretty narrow-sighted, it’s hard not to chuckle at the thought of Manziel being so intent on having a good night that he kind of forgot he was supposed to be at football camp the next day. Manziel’s rowdiness is a reminder that life isn’t as serious as all of us non-Johnnys would like to think, and that thought makes me smile.

But I also want Manziel to be more than a source of laughs, I want him to continue dominating football games. For one, it’ll silence clowns like Theismann and Bayless, and hopefully force them to get heated about NFL players whose behavior is actually damaging to the league (like running backs who beat their wives). If Manziel can rise above the “immaturity” that leads to bird-flipping and bottoms-up’ing, and competently lead the Browns, his detractors will have to acknowledge they’ve been focusing on petty shit all along. But more than anything, I just want Manziel throw touchdowns and win games for humanity’s sake. That sounds like an overstatement, and it is, but my point’s merely that seeing him succeed will be at least one break in a stupid notion our culture often advances: that having fun and accomplishing meaningful things are mutually exclusive.

Give me your more detailed take on Manziel. Why do you find him funny, and are you going to be cheering him on this season? What pisses you off most about the people who rag on him?

MR:

I think that narrow-mindedness is why I find Johnny Manziel such a likable character. Sometimes, it feels like these athletes in the brightest of spotlights — Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, etc. — are no more than football automatons, robots built specifically for the purpose of throwing footballs accurately. Russell Wilson’s one of my favorite athletes, but there’s nothing relatable about him. He’s boringly perfect. Manziel, on the other hand, makes the same stupid mistakes I make in my own life, and continues to do so despite intense scrutiny from the national media of a country of 300,000,000 people.

And yes, that’s why I am desperately rooting for Manziel to succeed. I don’t have much to add to your point about how his success is a middle finger (ha) to all of the people who think Manziel’s propensity for fun excludes him from contributing meaningfully to a football team. Yeah, it’s hyperbole to say that he’s winning games for humanity’s sake, but I don’t think it’s too strong to say that his success/failure will change the conversation on how we view athletes who have an outsized personality. And that’s kind of a big deal, in terms of how the league wants to market itself going forward.

What pisses me off the most about the people who rag on him…that’s a question that could make me sound like a jerk, so I’ll refrain from answering too extensively. Let’s just say I don’t think they’re having the most fun.

CS:

A successful season from Manziel would also be a kind of confidence boost to all of us out there who lack the diligence of someone like Wilson. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up from a night of drinking, even if it followed a heavy week of reading and writing, only to think, “Russ wouldn’t have done that.” I’m half-joking, but only half, because, again, our people love pushing the narrative of the laser-focused athlete/academic/businessman/etc. On any post-party morning, it’s hard to think that I compromised my chances at success by treating myself to some fun. And so I think Johnny Football, sill as this may sound, really could become a sort of personal inspiration to younger adults. We’ll see a Manziel touchdown pass and think, you know, even if I do get inflatable-swan drunk sometimes, I’ll be okay.

I guess I’ll answer my own question about why I can’t stand the Bayless-esque takes on Manziel. You put it pretty plainly and true in your first email: obnoxious as Manziel might sometimes be, it’s not as if he’s harming anyone. Yeah, middle fingers are a poor way to deal with your anger, acting like you’re so rich you talk on a phone made of money is douchey, and failing to handle your responsibilities because you’re too hungover is regrettable. But why the fuck does the media care what victimless mistakes Manziel’s making on his own time? If he really does become too consumed by the fast life to handle quarterbacking duties, only he and the Browns organization will be worse for it. I have a really hard time believing that Skip Bayless gives even one fuck about either Manziel’s or his team’s well-being, so why’s he getting red in the face over Manziel making the “right” choices?

And let’s not forget about the Colin Cowherd herd, the ones who see their criticism of raucous behavior as a duty done “for the kids.” We better blast Johnny Football’s every off-field action, lest we want to raise a generation whose preferred method of diplomacy is a double bird! Fuck that. Let me tell you, if your kid sees Manziel flip someone off and immediately thinks “hey, that’s cool,” the bad role model is not the athlete, but you, the parent.

Email Exchange: WE’RE BACK (and Talking about the NFL)

speed

Today’s article: “Need for Speed,” Bill Barnwell, Grantland

Michael Rosen:

Woah, hey, we’re back! It’s been a bit of a hiatus, Cam — almost two weeks since we last published anything on the veritably hallowed pixels of Why Oh Why? A (Kinda) Mariners Blog. Outside Lands vacuumed the energy right out of both of us, and this last week’s been a recuperation period of sorts, but now, after a full week to recover, I’d say I’m back to full strength, 100%, ready to kill the game. The people have been clamoring, no doubt, and today, we’re here to channel Jalen and Jacoby (and whoever wrote that song) in GIVING THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.

(With an Email Exchange.)

That intro paragraph up there sounds pretty caffeinated, but I promise you I am still really tired, so I’m going to go make some tea really quick…

Okay, back. So into the exchange. Over these past two weeks, the sports content schedule has shifted from the absolute dog days of summer — i.e, only baseball to write about — to the slow approach of fall, which means…football!!!!!!

Today kicks off our coverage of the football season, which I think we can all agree to be pretty happy about. Baseball is certainly my favorite sport, but it’s nice to have some diversity in the articles up there on the interwebs to “exchange” about, and so this has been a lot of text that hasn’t once mentioned the article we’re going to talk about today, which is Barnwell’s piece on speed in the NFL.

So there are two main sections to this piece, and each respective section poses a different question. The first half of the piece is Barnwell attempting to measure the respective cumulative speeds of each NFL team, albeit with a hilariously flawed method (which he acknowledges). The second half highlights a way that this may be more accurately measurable, via a system reminiscent of the SportVU cameras recently receiving a revolution of their own in the NBA.

Barnwell nods his head to these metrics in the conclusion of the piece, when he quotes Doc Rivers upon hearing that Rajon Rondo runs 10 MPH on the court: “I don’t know the fuck that does.”

So what Barnwell seems to be getting at here is that speed may not be too meaningful, even if it was measurable to an extent. The teams listed at the top of his (somewhat arbitrary) chart aren’t really that great of teams, and the Rivers quote points at the idea that even if we could measure it to an extent, what value would that have analytically?

Personally, I value speed, likely because 1) I’m a pretty amateur NFL fan and 2) I played a lot of Madden growing up. The fastest players on Madden doubled as the most effective, at least from my perspective. Who can forget Michael Vick on Madden 2004, scrambling for 10 yards on every single drop back? Those formative moments of playing Madden likely skewed my perspective of speed — for example, when the Eagles signed (I think) Jeremy Bloom, an Olympic athlete, as a kick returner a few years back, I was sure his speed would make him the best in the game.

Now, I understand better that vision, patience, etc. play a larger role than how fast someone goes when mashing the right trigger button on a controller, but intuitively, it doesn’t make sense that speed makes zero difference in the NFL. And maybe it doesn’t, but the extent to which it does matter is probably greatly overestimated by the common fan.

My question to you: does that even matter? What are the implications of the casual fan overestimating the importance of speed?

Cameron Seib:

Feels good to be back, Mike. Between driving to and from San Francisco, all the hype and delirium that surrounds a Kanye set, and getting sufficiently drunk for a Tom Petty concert (hint: you’re never sufficiently drunk), my mind’s been in recovery mode lately. But after a week of mental hibernation, I, too, am ready to GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.

Watch out, world, because Why Oh Why? is about to go on a run of production the likes of which the amateur blogosphere has never seen.

Barnwell’s article is pretty silly. Speed in the NFL is a fun topic that has, can, and will be discussed forever, but this piece doesn’t ever amount to saying much. Its conclusion is, like, hey, there’s no correlation between a team’s six fastest offensive players and its overall offensive production. Craaaaazy.

But, yeah, Barnwell acknowledges it’s nothing of much weight, so no use in treating it as such. Let’s just thank Bill for launching today’s discussion and leave it at that.

When Barnwell ranks teams by offense, he uses Football Outsiders’s “offensive DVOA” stat (defensive-adjusted value over average). More interesting to me than the teams that don’t necessarily rate well by this metric (the fast ones), were the ones that do. I headed over to Football Outsiders myself and checked the offensive DVOA numbers for 2013. The top five teams in the NFL last season were the Broncos, Chargers, Eagles, Patriots, and Saints.

After I saw that, I looked at quarterback numbers. The website uses DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) to assess QB performance. In 2013, each of the top-five overall offensive teams by DVOA had a top-six QB by DYAR (Atlanta’s Matt Ryan snuck in at number four). Maybe the NFL’s best offenses aren’t made via speed, but via great QB play. Craaaaazy.

I did like what Barnwell got to in the second part of his post, at least how he used Doc Rivers’s philosophizing to illuminate his point. Football purists will buzzword you into oblivion about how “intangibles” are the really important measures of a player, not quantifiable things like speed, strength, etc. And while that’s complete bullshit, there is, quite obviously, more to a good football player than raw physical ability. Richard Sherman looks slow as shit compared to some corners, yet he’s better than any in the game. Which brings me back to the Rivers quote. Even if we had perfect speed-capturing statistics, I don’t think they’d be of much use to NFL teams, because a player’s fleetness seems to be such a minor factor in their overall success in the league.

Why some organizations continue to covet speed, then, is a bit of a mystery. Obviously, some of it has to do with owners and general managers who think they’re smarter than the numbers and fuck nerds they don’t know football and speed kills. But I think another possible answer is in what you brought up, about casual fans overvaluing speed. A fast player is fucking fun to watch. When Devin Hester was in his prime, I would tune into Chicago games specifically for his kick returns, to watch him torch other special teams players. A wildly fast player can put the proverbial butts in proverbial seats, and I’m sure NFL front offices are aware of this. So maybe fans’ love of speed is in someway responsible for the employment of guys like Bethel Johnson.

I don’t really know what other questions I have on this matter, so I guess just spit what you please, Mike. As far as other topics are concerned, though, why is tea your caffeinated beverage of choice?

MR:

Yeah, three days of a music festival and the requisite partying are enough to make you swear off drinking for a while. Of course, that doesn’t last more than a couple of days, but oh well. Luckily, we have enough #throwbackthursday material for the next month or so. That’s no Watershed, but it’s pretty significant.

I’ve liked what you’ve teased out of this Barnwell piece, though. That’s something I hadn’t though of: that the employment of these super-fast players may simply be for the enjoyment of their fanbase. It’s a little bit “out there” of a theory, since it seems like every single roster spot on an NFL team (at least according to the kind of insane Seahawks blogosphere) is of the greatest importance of all-time, so it’s hard to see an NFL GM sacrificing one of his precious spots to appease the ownership. Then again, the ownership is the only ultimately calling the shots.

Wow, Bethel Johnson, that is a throwback. That’s probably (hopefully?) the last time I hear that name for the rest of my life.

Yeah, I don’t have much more to say here, so I’ll get to the most important thing to address here today: the tea vs. coffee (vs. caffeine powder?) debate. Part of this is just a personal preference issue. I find myself being pretty sensitive to caffeine, so if I drink even a cup of coffee, I feel like I’m on hard drugs for about an hour and then crash like a popped balloon. It’s certainly interesting, but not sustainable on the day-to-day level. Tea has a low enough caffeine content to not make me trip caffeine balls, but it’s enough to wake me up and get me focused. Objectively, though, the taste of nice earl grey tea is so much better than coffee. I can’t drink coffee without filling half the cup up with milk, and I don’t put a drop of sweetener in my tea. Fuck the people who say coffee is an “acquired taste,” that just means it tastes like shit and people tolerate it because they’re addicts.

CS:

Wait, you drank at Outside Lands? I was sure you’d sworn off alcohol before the festival started.

NFL time was fun, but the matter of caffeine really is today’s most pressing. This will be a two-part rant, which I will begin by arguing for caffeine’s sublime effects, and then finish by selling coffee’s superiority the best I can.

It almost seems like arguing for the benefits of caffeine is an unnecessary endeavor. Americans love coffee, for one. Have you ever played the game “How long will it take me to get from one Starbucks to the next?” If it’s more than five seconds, you live in North Dakota.

That said, I’ve always felt that our society subtly pushes the notion that caffeine is bad for you. When we were growing up, companies had to put the caffeine content on their soda cans. But not anymore, and why would a company try to conceal that information, unless they thought high caffeine content would scare away consumers? That’s just one silly example, but I think it’s representative of a population in which nearly everyone who depends on caffeine laments it as a necessary evil.

Fuck all that. Caffeine is a wonder drug. Proof: this New York Times article. It references on a study in which coffee-drinkers lived longer, and others which reported a link between drinking coffee and lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes, numerous types of cancer, and Alzheimer’s. People contribute millions of dollars each year to cancer research, and it’s like, dudes, just open a few Starbucks in areas that are without.

And don’t listen to those dissenters who warn of caffeine’s hidden horrors. Anything they tell you is bullshit. Let’s go item by item through Wikipedia’s list of caffeine’s “negative effects.” None of them stand up to scrutiny.

 

Caffeine can increase blood pressure in non-habitual consumers.

Solution: become a habitual consumer.

Caffeine may reduce control of fine motor movements (e.g. producing shaky hands).

Again, become a habitual user and develop some fucking tolerance, and this won’t happen.

Caffeine can increase cortisol secretion.

Oh no!!!

Caffeine can contribute to increased insomnia and sleep latency.

Uh oh! Looks like one of the benefits slipped into the negatives list. Stupid Wikipedia, so many errors.

Caffeine is addictive. Caffeine withdrawal can produce headache, fatigue and decreased alertness.

Solution: continue fighting diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc. and don’t let withdrawal happen.

High doses of caffeine (300 mg or higher) can cause anxiety.

Solution: don’t drink coffee like water.

High caffeine consumption accelerates bone loss at the spine in elderly postmenopausal women.

Solution: worry about it when you get to that stage in life.

 

So right there I’ve given a fairly exhaustive argument for why caffeine is a natural wonder and all that’s left now is showing why coffee is the best way to consume said miracle. In the end, it just isn’t burdened by drawbacks like other caffeinated substances are. It’s funny that you make fun of coffee’s taste, Mike, because as much as it is an acquired taste, it still beats tea, which has no taste. It’s essentially just hot water. As far as energy drinks go, you can’t bring a Monster into the office every morning unless you organize monster truck rallies. And as for caffeine pills, good luck telling people you take them without those people assuming you also deal crack.

 

Email Exchange: Josh Gordon’s NFL Problem

Cleveland Browns v Jacksonville Jaguars 12-1-2013

Today’s article: “Josh Gordon and the NFL’s Drug Problem,” Andrew Sharp, Grantland

Michael Rosen:

Usually you and I will read a piece and then gather questions that speak to the larger issues the story addresses. Thankfully (or unthankfully), Andrew Sharp’s already done the dirty work for us, sticking a giant pile of rhetorical questions midway through his piece about Josh Gordon’s drug suspension:

“But once you look at the details of the case, the questions get bigger than whether a wide receiver smoked weed. For instance: Why does this sport need to test people using a standard along the same lines as the U.S. military’s? Why is Josh Gordon treated like a paroled criminal for his entire career after testing positive twice? Do they really test him 10 times a month? Does it make sense to treat marijuana users the same way we treat PED users? Is there anyone at the NFL who saw the positive test and thought it might be too inconclusive to publicly ban a star player for an entire year? Does it make sense for the NFL to be testing players for marijuana at all? What does the league gain from prosecuting people like this?”

Woah! That’s a lot to unpack, and I think we can probably spend the rest of the exchange answering these questions. Thanks, Andrew!

The meat of the issue is probably in that last question, or at least that last question feels the most complex of all of the question Sharp proposes. He takes it on himself, positing essentially that it’s the owners’ desire to exercise some degree of control over their employees. I’ve been thinking about this for a few minutes, and I honestly can’t think of a better answer than that. There are innumerable negative economic effects of suspending star players like Gordon for such extensive spans of time. It sullies the NFL’s image. And if that is the case — that the owners want to effective have their employees, the players, scared and on a leash at all times — then the implications of that are, uh, a little scary and a lot backwards.

The question in there that initially came to my attention was the fact that the NFL’s policies for suspending their players for marijuana aren’t just stricter than the military’s, but significantly so. That is insane. There is absolutely no reason for that to be the case. I have no more complex thoughts than that.

One last thing before I hand it off to you: the NFL is a really evil institution. Sharp reminds us of all the times they’ve “insulted our intelligence” in the recent past: “the Ray Rice suspension last week, the psychotic uniform fines we see every year, the refusal to change the Redskins’ name, the annual crackdown on touchdown celebrations, the grandstanding with the Saints bounty scandal, downplaying concussions for the better part of the last 50 years.” My Big Question: will there ever come a point for you when the NFL’s ethical issues force you from watching the NFL?

Cameron Seib:

Just to clear up any confusion over all the military talk (no, Gordon isn’t thinking about enlisting): Sharp was using the U.S. military’s drug policy to show just how ludicrous the NFL’s is. To explain, the NFL’s threshold for a positive marijuana test is a THC concentration of 15 nanograms per millimeter. Meanwhile, the military’s is 50 ng/ml. Gordon, in the test that is now threatening to take away his season, recorded 16 ng/ml. In other words, he could’ve smoked three times as much as he purportedly did, and still would’ve had the full blessing of federal law to do a tour in Iraq. Instead, he’ll head to a court room to argue that, despite the weed, he’s qualified to step onto a football field in front of thousands of blacked out fans.

Why Gordon’s league insists on these standards is, as Sharp says, genuinely confusing. Generally speaking, we’re apt to think that big, omnipresent corporations like the NFL have two goals: making money and maintaining a positive public image. (And, often, these are one in the same — look good to the fans, and they’ll be more willing to put down dollars on your product.) But potentially suspending Gordon for an entire season because he had a little weed in his system is itself neither profitable nor commendable. Remove the league’s leading receiver from play and some fans are going to tune out, even if it is a relatively small number of them. This might be worthwhile were said suspension to earn the NFL a bunch of media attention for doing the moral thing, but taking away Gordon’s year for such a small infraction won’t achieve anything of the sorts. Never mind that the majority of the public is now in favor of marijuana legalization, because even those who don’t support the drug to that extent know it’s quite harmless. So everyone, pro-weed or not, is kind of left looking at this impending punishment at thinking, why the fuck doesn’t the NFL focus on its more pressing problems? You know, like the racist brand name and wife-beaters. When someone makes an “Arrests Database” for your company, most would agree it’s time to stop worrying about the employees who enjoy their free time with a side of munchies and South Park.

I really fail to see how the NFL’s policy on marijuana can, by itself, earn the league money or respect. So I’m left thinking that the owners must see strict punishment of pot use as serving some overall net benefit in those realms, which brings me back to Sharp’s point about controlling player behavior. A player caught burning trees doesn’t sully the NFL’s image (and thus bottom line), but a wide receiver caught messing around with heroin probably would. And maybe the league’s administrators think that by being strict about marijuana use, they’ll prevent more damaging incidents from every occurring. It gets back to the classic marijuana-as-gateway-drug argument. The owners probably believe that by scaring their players away from marijuana, they’re removing those players from situations in which more serious shit could go down. I guess I agree with Sharp in the sense that the NFL’s pot policy allows owners to control their employees’ behavior, at least to an extent. But I don’t think owners seek this power simply because “that kind of authority matters to [them]”; I just think they subscribe to outdated notions about joints begetting needles begetting AK-47s.

To your last question, no. Because, as a fan, I’m never supporting the league or its executives, I’m there for my team and its players. If all the NFL’s players and coaches decided to quit on their current franchises, and then created their own league, that league would be exactly the same to me. Which, I guess, is all to say, I don’t associate Roger Goodell and Daniel Snyder with the Richard Sherman picks and Pete Carroll fist-pumps I see during a Seahawks game. It’s an unfortunate fact that by purchasing a Sherm jersey, I’m also supporting the livelihoods and evil practices of Goodell and crew, but it’s also a guilt that pales in comparison to my love of professional football.

MR:

Yeah, sorry for my lack of clarity on the whole military business in my initial dispatch, I was a bit tired while writing.

To your theory that the owners might subscribe to the “marijuana-as-gateway-drug argument”: I’ll admit that the idea plays into my assumptions about who the owners are and how they think. I don’t care enough to look this up for sure, but I’m fairly certain that the overwhelming majority of NFL owners (and sports team owners writ large) are rich white men above the age of 50. My thought is that extremely rich, white men of that age often share similar political views and worldviews, and I don’t think that it’s too much of a stretch that many of them likely don’t view their players in the most favorable of ways.

I think I’m becoming increasingly conflicted in my ability to ignore the league’s obvious moral iffiness. The drug stuff is whatever, for the most part, and I chalk most of it up to rules just generally being inflexible. But the way that the league handled the PR of the Ray Rice case really disgusted me. You can’t chalk that up to bureaucracy. And the whole concussion business…this could be its own separate discussion, but I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that football REALLY, invariably, fucks people up in terrible terrible ways, and it’s becoming slowly more difficult to compartmentalize. You’re totally right that you don’t associate Goodell/Snyder with, say, a massive Kam Chancellor hit, but you sure as hell associate concussions with it.

CS:

The thing is, I don’t think the NFL could ever collapse from the outside in. That is, it will remain alive and profitable so long as the people who keep it running — the players — continue to suit up. Because if games continue to be played, I can’t imagine fans ever giving up interest. No matter how permissive of domestic violence the league might seem to be, how medieval its drug policies are, or how much money it brings in from discriminatory brand names, individuals will look past an organization of moral transgressions to remain part of a community they savor. Like, sure, it’s not all that honorable of me to prop up an NFL run by oligarchs who treat the rest of the country as their profit-earning pawns. But fuck if I’m thinking about that when a couple buddies invite me over to watch a game, when there’s fantasy football to be played, when a Super Bowl has been won and there are couches to be burned.

Concussions, I think, stand as the single biggest threat to the NFL’s longevity. But again, not for reasons regarding fan apprehension. Yeah, it sucks to think that I get all loud and chest-pumpy over a couple guys who’ve mutually agreed to damage each other’s brains. Still, though, I’ll be able to justify it, because I can always tell myself, “Well, these guys know what they’re getting in to.” And I’ll want to justify it, because, well, watching Chancellor annihilate Vernon Davis and high-fiving my friends is a lot more fun that watching it and pointing out, “Hey, don’t you guys think it’s bad to encourage this savagery?”

Email Exchange: Trade Deadline Bonanzaramaclusterfuck

Jack Z

Cameron Seib:

Much like what we eventually hope to see from James Jones, Mike and I are bucking historical trends today. This edition of the Email Exchange comes sans focus article. Because, for the sabermetrically sodomized among us, today is, like, actually Christmas in July. It’s the MLB Trade Deadline!

I want to make this Mariners-focused, but it’d be silly for me to start with anything but the obvious. This morning, A’s GM Billy Beane did what’s become expected of him, in that he made a move no one was expecting. Amid speculation that Jon Lester would land on either the favored Dodgers or dark horse Pirates, Beane humbled industry insiders, acquiring the left-hander for himself. Getting the third-ranked pitcher by WAR, though, was obviously not cheap. Oakland had to send Yoenis Cespedes Boston’s way, he of the .50 caliber arm and Derby-winning power stroke. (The A’s also got Jonny Gomes in the deal, but 0-win players tend to be forgotten when discussing All-Stars.)

Beane has now made the two biggest trades of the season, after bringing in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs earlier this month. Mike, I know you detest conjecture, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess Oakland is going for it all in 2014.

Maybe that’s a good segue into the start of our Mariners talk. At this point (a point which, really, started about three weeks ago), Seattle has no chance of winning the division. They’re 11 games back of the A’s, who probably just got a bit better. And even were the M’s to throw together a miraculous run at the AL West crown, they’d have to leapfrog the Angels as well, who are arguably the league’s second-best team after Oakland. If Seattle makes the postseason, it’s going to be via the second Wild Card slot, and they’ll have to win a one-game playoff to advance to the Division Series.

Which puts the M’s in a bit of a predicament as 1:00 pm PDT nears. This is the most promising season the franchise has had in a long, long time. For once, dreams of October aren’t that ludicrous. And with just that in mind, buying at the deadline — perhaps even heavily — sounds like an okay idea. The fans are as starved for postseason ball as Jesus Montero is for anything semi-edible.

But, yeah, the predicament thing. The M’s need to improve their roster if they want to contend for the playoffs, that much is certain. How much young talent do you give up, though, if, AT BEST, you’re looking at a dicey one-game series with the powerhouse Angels? Exchanging Taijuan Walker for an ALDS birth is fairly easy to stomach. Doing so for a coin-flip opportunity at that birth, maybe not so much.

This has been a lot of summarizing so far, so let’s start talking specific areas of need and actual names. The Mariners pitching is pretty damn good, anchored by what probably remains the best one-two punch of any rotation in the league (fuck LA), a season of literal magic from Chris Young, and a top-three bullpen. James Paxton is also on his way back, and hopefully the aforementioned Walker fixes whatever problems he’s currently experiencing.That’s all to say, the M’s have more room to improve on the offensive side of things. Especially with Samardzija and Lester now gone, any attainable arm probably wouldn’t benefit Seattle as much as an available bat would.

We could really, really use some help in the outfield. By WAR, our OF has ranked 27th in the majors this season. (As have our first basemen, but Jack Z apparently thought imprisoning Kendrys Morales once more would solve that problem.) Shitty thing is, the market’s a bit dry this year, in terms of good OF. Names that have been connected to the M’s: Ben Zobrist, Marlon Byrd, Alex Rios, and as of this morning, sadly, Chris Denorfia.

Mike and I discussed Zobrist in an earlier Exchange. Zorilla is a great player, would be a great fit on this team. Two problems, though. One, the Rays are on an unbelievable hot streak at the moment and may be inclined to try their chances at the postseason, which would mean keeping Zobrist. Second, someone of his caliber would cost a lot, which then raises that question about how much talent you give away to potentially make a one-game playoff.

Byrd has been good this year, and was really good last year, and his price wouldn’t be nearly that of Zobrist. Again, there are problems, though. He’s turning 37 next month, and you can’t help but worry it’s just a matter of a weeks before his old ass stops producing. The M’s have also been told they’d have to pick up Byrd’s option for 2016 if they want him, which makes the whole age concern even more frightening.

As for Rios and Denorfia, neither is very good. Like, not worth any young talent. Please, please, Z, do not try saving your ass with one of these guys.

The guy I think I’d actually like to see the M’s make a run for is Cespedes. As I was writing this, the Red Sox also traded John Lackey away, getting Allen Craig and Joe Kelly in return. So it looks like Boston may just be re-upping for next year, in which case Cespedes wouldn’t be on the block. But if he is, the M’s have the prospects to acquire him, and he’s a pretty appealing option. He’s good at the plate, solid on defense in the outfield corners, and is signed through next year, as well.

Wow, Mike, this has taken absolutely forever to write. I’ll hand it over to you, without any questions to burden. Say what you will, respond to whatever thoughts of mine you’d like, make some predictions, whatever. I took so much change from this rap game, it’s your go.

Michael Rosen:

I’m going to have to agree with you here, Cam — it’s pretty clear the A’s are all-in, like this guy. Hopefully, for them, it works out a little bit better.

Anyway, yeah, Trade Deadline! I love the Trade Deadline so much, even if the last couple years have been a bit underwhelming. So far, as of 10:37 PDT, it’s been decidedly not underwhelming (AKA overwhelming). I woke up to your text, Cam, that said “Cespedes for Lester?!?” My first reaction: no fucking way. My second reaction: shit, I have, like, five other notifications that say that. My third reaction: THIS IS ABOUT TO BE A BANGER OF A TRADE DEADLINE. So, yeah, I’ve been hyped since the moment I woke up.

As nascent bloggers, this deadline’s brought a bit more anxiety than past ones (at least for me), but I thank our lucky stars we’re not counted on to crank out content. It’s 10:30 am, and Fangraphs has published 11 articles, all at least 1,000 or 1,500 words long. That’s, like, wow.

Okay, so since this is our TRADE DEADLINE BONANZARAMACLUSTERFUCK Exchange, hopefully you, our faithful readers, can deal with some disjointed transitions and such, because that’s what’s happening right now. News just broke that David Price is “definitely moving,” and maybe that segues into some Mariners talk. Cameron, you’ve pointed out that the Mariners’ outfield situation is dire, and that is true: watching Endy Chavez and James Jones take daily AB is an extremely painful experience.

But! I subscribe to the general theory, pushed forth often by the man some may call the Godfather of Why Oh Why?, Dave Cameron, that the question teams should be asking isn’t “How can I improve my offense/defense/pitching?” but rather, “How can I improve my team?” And, well, David Price is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Yes, Price cannot play centerfield or hit a curveball, and he won’t improve the Mariners’ run scoring, but he sure as hell will improve their run prevention. The goal of the game is to score more runs than the opponent scores, not to score as many runs as possible. This sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, but it’s something that seems like 99% of people screaming at Ryan Divish on Twitter seem to forget.

And now Jim Bowden is reporting that the Mariners are one of the favorites for David Price (alongside the Dodgers), so this conversation becomes a bit more serious. Let’s look at what the Mariners rotation has right now: Felix (God), Kuma (very, very good), Elias (ehhh), Erasmo/Walker/revolving door (yeah…), and the magician, Chris Young. You referred to his season as literal magic, and it has been, to a certain point. But something changed near July — he started actually striking people the fuck out. His K/9 in July is 8.45, which is peak-Felix. We know that strikeout rate is generally something that can’t be faked too much, so that means Chris Young might actually be…good. Which then means, if the Mariners add Price, a Felix/Price/Kuma/Young rotation may be able to go head-to-head against the A’s, quality-wise. I’m getting excited!

You have to think that Z is going to trade for an outfielder, though, regardless of whether Price is a realistic option. The craziness of the trade deadline will take attention away from last night, but getting shut out on 85 pitches after the offensive drought the Mariners just went through begs Z to do something to appease the mob of screaming fans. I count myself amongst those people that are clamoring for an outfield improvement, just because it’s such an easy place to improve. We joke about Denorfia being, like, the most depressing thing that could happen on the Mariners’ side of things, but he could be almost a 1 to 1.5 win improvement over Jones/Chavez, just by being slightly above replacement level. That’s how bad Jones/Chavez have been. Players that are merely below-average, like Denorfia, can make as much of an impact as a David Price, if they’re replacing players that are really, really below-average, like Jones/Chaves. And Denorfia would be cheap as hell. There’s really no excuse for Z not to trade for an outfielder or two in the next 110 minutes.

More stuff will happen, so I’m gonna turn this over to you, Cam, and do some Twitter scanning.

Oh, one last thing before I go: this seems like a great opportunity to reveal my secret crush on the A’s. I love everything about their organization — their statistical progressiveness, the personality of their players, their small-marketness. They’re like the Bizarro Mariners — stable at the top, results on the field. I guess their owner is kinda shitty, though. But still! It sucks they have to be our division rivals. Anyway, yeah, go for it, Cam.

CS:

Not so fast, Mike! Ten seconds after you sent your email, the M’s got Chris Denorfia! How happy are you right now?

MR:

Weeee! I feel like I’m on drugs! I can’t tell if blogging the trade deadline makes it more fun or less fun. Yeah, Cam, as you pointed out, this broke seconds after I sent that last email to you. Some quick analysis:

As I wrote about five minutes ago, a Chris Denorfia upgrade could be as impactful over the rest of the season as a David Price upgrade. Wow, Mike, you may ask, are you actually on drugs? Surprisingly, no. Think about it this way. Endy Chavez projects as a negative half-win player the rest of the way. Denorfia projects to post half a win. All together, that’s a one-win upgrade for the final two months of the season. Meanwhile, Price projects as a 1.5 win player over the final two months. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that Erasmo/Elias/Paxton (depending on health) would be worth around half a win, so basically, this is an important move to make, even if Denorfia isn’t a world-killer. There are some caveats in that quick and fast analysis (Denorfia will probably platoon, the math isn’t exact), but the basic idea is that, considering the Mariners’ current roster construction, getting an average outfielder can be as impactful as a superstar pitcher.

Onto analysis of Denorfia, the actual player, and not Denorfia, the projection relative to Endy Chavez’s projection. Strangely enough, his play matches up with what you’d expect someone named Chris Denorfia to produce. He’s first and foremost a contact hitter with little power, with a lifetime slugging percentage of .397. Most of his value is accrued defensively, where he’s capable of playing all three outfield positions at an above-average level, or at least has the past two seasons. He’s probably a +1 to +1.5 WAR player over an entire season.

He somehow cobbled together a +4 WAR season last year, combining great defense with strong baserunning and a 108 wRC+, all the while staying healthy and playing 144 games. That’s never going to happen again, as Denorfia is 34 and not going to get any stronger or faster. But what he is is a pretty significant upgrade over Endy Chavez (or James Jones), and while he may not be exciting in any way, he’s decent, I guess. You have any further thoughts, Cam?

MR:

I’d like to add that I’m extremely sad that #JimBowdivGate had to happen on the TRADE DEADLINE BONANZA, because this would provide enough content for enough a week’s worth of Exchanges. #Ralph

CS:

Thanks for making me at least somewhat happy about this Denorfia trade, Mike. Oddly enough, I think I actually watched Denorfia’s first at-bat in the bigs live on TV. I remember that because, at least at the time, Denorfia had a really strange way of gripping the bat. He’d secure his left hand near the knob, just like normal. But he wouldn’t hold on with his right, he’d just kinda let the bat rest against his open palm. And, on top of that, he’d flutter his fingers. Childhood memories, man.

More information on the trade has been coming out the last half hour, and now we know who the M’s are giving up. San Diego will be receiving outfielder Abraham Almonte and reliever Stephen Kolscheen, who were both with Tacoma. Almonte was with the big league club earlier in the year, and sucked. He had a K-rate of 35%. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, that would be the worst number of any hitter in the MLB. There used to be a lot of hype surrounding Almonte, after he killed it in the minors and then held his own in a short stint late last year. But all that excitement is now gone. Anyone who watched him play knows he has the athletic ability to be a decent player, and his minor league track record supports that, but he’s going to have to get a lot, lot better at pitch recognition. It could happen, in which case the M’s probably end up the losers of this deal, but I’m willing to take that risk if Denorfia can improve as much as you think he can.

As far as Koscheen goes, I have no fuckin’ clue. But, generally speaking, relievers are expendable, especially those playing in AAA.

It looks like I’ve done a 180 since my first email. I’m kinda happy with this move, considering all that’s been said above. BUT, that said, it can’t be the only move the M’s make today. Trading for Denorfia means the team is, indeed, going into buy-mode. And if that’s the case, Denorfia alone isn’t enough. He doesn’t improve the team enough on his own to make them as serious contenders as they’d ostensibly like to be. As I type this, there are exactly 49 minutes left until the deadline. Trader Z, where ya at?

CS:

Oh, and just to clarify, when I specified that the M’s could use outfield help in my first email, I didn’t mean to champion the “We need a bat!” line of buzz-thought. What I had in mind was exactly what you hashed out about the Chavez-to-Denorfia improvement. You implicitly equated me to Twitter warriors above, which hurt, but I thank you now for writing out the thoughts I was too lazy to myself.

MR:

Yeah, you’re right, I’d be surprised if this was the only move they make. Gonna write this right now, so it doesn’t look like I’m just projecting this retroactively: the Mariners are going to trade for another outfielder today. It is currently 12:18 PDT, so we’ll see what happens.

Right now, Price to the Mariners still seems like a possibility, but it’s now being rumored the Tigers are the frontrunners, despite being left out of early rumors that mentioned the Dodgers and M’s as likely landing spots. If I learned anything from the NBA free agency bonanza, it’s not to trust any reports that resemble those I’ve just mentioned. So right now, I’m just going to pretend like the Mariners are right there in the race for Price.

One last thought on Denorfia, who I don’t want to dwell on too much. I didn’t mention that Denorfia historically rakes against lefties, posting a career .301/.367/.433 mark against southpaws (h/t Greg Johns). The Mariners are in desperate need for right-handed productivity at the plate against left-handed pitchers, and Denorfia fits that mold. From 2011-2013, Denorfia posted wRC+’s of 152, 150, and 136 against lefties. That’s pretty awesome. (Ignore the fact that he has a 85 wRC+ against them this year).

Okay, now we’re 30 minutes away from the deadline, and things seem to be settling down. Any closing thoughts (before David Price inevitably gets traded)?

CS:

Welp, Price to the Tigers.

(It’s currently 12:51 pm PDT, by the way.)

MR:

God dammit. Mariners might be involved.

CS:

I’m reading that we’re going to get Austin Jackson. He’s having his worst year ever in 2014, but has been pretty damn good in the past. If that is who we’re getting, who do you think we’re giving up? Who would you be okay giving up for someone of Jackson’s caliber?

CS:

Looks like Franklin is being sent to Tampa. Seems like that’s been coming for months.

That’s likely the end to the Mariners Trade Deadline action. Franklin for Jackson is something I think I can get behind. More than anything, though, I’m just glad we did something else besides the Denorfia move.

MR:

Looks like it might just be Franklin. If so, great, great return.

Email Exchange: Stephen A. Tells Women Not to Provoke Anger, Provokes Anger

Stephen-A.-Smith

Today’s article: “Second Take,” Will Leitch, Sports on Earth

Michael Rosen:

So this is a welcome back of sorts for a lot of people within the Why Oh Why? community. First, and most importantly, I’d like to welcome back all of our readers, who’ve sent uncountable quantities of emails into my inbox, begging for the Email Exchange to return. So here we are! Welcome back to our readers, and welcome back to the Email Exchange.

Oh, and I guess welcome back to you, too, Cam. How was Amsterdam? Weirdest thing you saw? Still jet-lagged?

And another question: how plugged into sports media were you? Because some real shit has been going down over the last two weeks, and the most outrage-inducing shitstorm undoubtedly has centered around our favorite television program, First Take. (Editor’s note: not actually our favorite show.) First, town idiot Skip Bayless and town crier Stephen A. Smith attempted to take two sides in the debate over whether it was okay to be distracted by Michael Sam’s sexuality, I think? I was unable to actually watch the video, but Barry Petchesky did a great job breaking down how this insistence on seeing two sides to literally every issue is a destructive notion that reinforces bigotry. So, basically, a run-of-the-mill day on First Take. This didn’t incite too much outrage.

Well, at least compared to Smith’s comments a couple of days later, which near blew Twitter off the face of the Earth. Smith, who wasn’t exactly clear with his words, said essentially that women share some role in their abuse by men. Which, wow, what a fucking piece of shit.

So that brings us to the piece we’re discussing today, where Will Leitch makes his argument for why Michelle Beadle’s stance against her coworker (Smith) on Twitter is one of her great professional achievements.

It seems like quite the claim — that a few 140-character posts can rank among the greatest things you’ve done in a long career in sports media — but I think he’s right: the outrage shitstorm doesn’t reach max capacity without her criticism, and therefore the conversation about Smith’s shitbaggery/First Take’s uselessness/the NFL’s hypocrisy. I know I’m still thinking about it.

Anyway, I’ve done a lot of the background/summary here, so I guess I’ll turn it over to you for some analysis. There are so many layers to this story, it’s hard to address it all. There’s the obvious initial layer of Ray Rice beating the shit out of his fiancé and dragging her unconscious body through a hotel, but then there’s the NFL’s completely underwhelming suspension of Rice, and then the First Take reaction, and so on and so forth.

I have some questions for you: do you think the whole First Take controversy drowning out anger at the NFL is a beneficial thing? As much as Ray Rice has stayed in the news, it feels like less people are pointing out that, uh, Josh Gordon might be suspended 8x as long for smoking pot. I wish the NFL were getting more heat, I guess, especially since it seems nothing will be done about First Take or Stephen A. Smith.

More questions: how do you think ESPN ought to proceed with Smith? How about the NFL with Rice? And, the most pressing question of our time: why the fuck does anyone watch First Take?

Cameron Seib:

I crossed nine time zones in traveling to/from Holland and got back Thursday, which, according to Dr. John P Cunha, means I shouldn’t be over my jet lag for another week to week and a half. But guess what? I already feel over it. Everything we once thought to be true about the human body’s physical capabilities, I’ve proven wrong.

The weirdest thing I saw was teenagers lighting up cigarettes with their parents. Yes, this happens frequently in Amsterdam. I don’t know if Europeans smoke more than Americans, but they certainly don’t attach the same stigma to tobacco that we do. Which means you’ll frequently see Marlboro-induced bonding between young family members and their elders. Timmy Sr. and Timmy Jr. just finished picking up the latter’s school supplies for the year? They’re probably gonna celebrate with a cigarette. Jennifer Jr. craving that post-meal stogy? Just let Jen Sr. pay the bill, then she’ll be there to provide wind protection while Jr. sparks up!

Oh, another weird thing I saw: a city that was safe, economically thriving, and beautiful, DESPITE having legalized weed. Crazy!

Amsterdam was awesome.

Okay, so back to sports. I kept up with all the headlines while abroad, but didn’t read much about what the various sports minds were saying. Which, just now hearing of this First Take debate on Michael Sam, makes me kinda happy. I’m not even going to look up the segment – I had a two-week mental break, I can’t afford anymore deterioration at this time.

There really is a lot to get to with this Stephen A. debacle, and I don’t even know if I’m going to be answering your questions. Personally, what I couldn’t stop thinking about through this all, was just how greasy of a corporation ESPN is. One of their anchors spews ignorant, bigoted, dangerous views on domestic violence, and all the Worldwide Leader does is promote the dude’s next show. And though I agree Beadle’s tweets were courageous, I think they were largely seen so because ESPN usually punishes any employee who so much as jokes about a problem within. Doesn’t matter if you’re promoting a worthy cause with sound logic, as Beadle did: ESPN cares more about saving face than saving women.

I know you have to get going soon, so I’ll throw this back to you. Want to answer any of your own questions?

MR:

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT: So you’re telling me legalizing marijuana…doesn’t turn a country into a chaotic state of immorality, despair, and economic depression?!? I have a really hard time believing that.

I don’t know why, but the image of, like, a 13-year-old puffin’ on a cig with his pops is too goddamn funny. Especially the wind protection part. Do they usually share one cigarette, or does pops just pull out a pack and distribute individual cigs amongst the family? These are burning questions.

The greasiness of ESPN is in no way surprising to me. I knew from the very beginning of this whole story that nothing concrete would actually happen to Smith. When multibillion dollar corporations are faced with the question of making the morally sound decision of cutting ties with an asshole or sticking with him because he’s a main reason for one of your big moneymakers, the answer they’ll come to is so obvious it’s not even worth talking about. First Take is a zombie, in more ways than one.

Ugh, no, I don’t want to answer my own questions, that’s why I sent them to you. I’m a little bit more awake than when I drafted them, though, so I guess I’ll give it a shot. As to why people watch First Take: I have a friend who is a recovering First Take watch-er. To be fair, he was in high school, so I’ll give him a little bit of a break, but I think it’s a show for people who are only capable of taking what people on television say at face value. If you exercise an iota of critical thought toward First Take, it crumbles immediately. It’s clear it’s manufactured bullshit for the lowest common denominator. But if you’re either young or stupid, the artifice is shiny, flawless. And therefore, the banter about these issues is, perhaps, entertaining? If one can accept the premise that arguing over whether LeBron James has the “clutch” gene is an actual thing worth debating, then it follows that one would find the ensuing argument — filled with inane logic and shouting — a pretty sweet deal.

I don’t have enough time to answer whether I think First Take drowning out the NFL’s own controversy is a good thing, so I’ll sidestep it for now. To quick hit the other questions: personally, I think Smith should be fired, and I think Ray Rice should’ve been suspended for the year. But that’s in a world where there’s a moral precedence over all, and such a world only exists in the mind of First Take watchers.

CS:

Hmm, so now I’m going back and trying to remember the ESPNers that have been fired. Harold Reynolds was, and though ESPN didn’t announce an exact reason, rumors suggested “a pattern of sexual harassment.” Sean Salisbury was also fired, and for similar reasons, though his harassment came via soliciting dick pics, whereas Reynolds was the victim of “misinterpreted” hugs. Jay Mariotti was fired amid, what do you know, domestic violence charges. Those are probably the three most high-profile cases, but ESPN has also given the pink slip to former First Take member Rob Parker for questioning RGIII’s “brotherness,” the dude who wrote the “Chink In The Armor” headline for a Jeremy Lin article, and sadly, for budgetary reasons, The Schwab.

Considering these cases makes you wonder why we can feel so certain of Stephen A.’s safety. It seems that ESPN has at least some moral threshold it would allow to be breached, and has specifically shown it has standards regarding domestic violence. And no, Smith didn’t actually hurt his partner, but he essentially offered a free pass to any man that has. So why will he remain employed while someone like Mariotti was (rightly) terminated rather quickly?

I think it’s a matter of money. Surprise, surprise.

Reynolds, Salisbury, and Mariotti were all relatively well-known personalities, but each was mostly a beneficiary of the programming on which he appeared. Reynolds had the network’s flagship baseball program, Salisbury its never-ending NFL coverage, and Mariotti the wildly popular, and admittedly entertaining, Around the Horn. None of the three were ratings-drivers in themselves, they merely boosted the ratings of already popular shows. Compare this to Smith, who is undoubtedly a “destination personality.” Viewers don’t flip to ESPN to watch First Take, per say, they do to listen to Stephen A. and Skip. Remove someone like Reynolds from Baseball Tonight, and he loses all desirability to viewers. But put Smith and Bayless anywhere and they’ll still draw hordes of idiot fans.

Which, relating this to money, is essentially to say ESPN will fire someone for detestable behavior, so long as that person isn’t too important to the company’s bottom line. It’s a simply cost-benefit analysis, I suppose. Reynolds probably boosted ratings to some extent, but he was ultimately a net cost to the network, as his personality didn’t outweigh the detriment of having an accused sex offender on staff. The same can’t be said for Smith. Unless he did something really, really bad – like actually punching his wife and blaming her for provoking the attack – Stephen A. will always be a money-maker for ESPN. Some people will stop watching the network because a backwards-thinker like Smith remains on air. But even more people would stop watching were he to leave ESPN.

I guess ESPN isn’t so much about saving face as saving profits. Kinda disappointed I did all this writing only to arrive at such an obvious conclusion.