Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Down goes Frazier

That's Sports Tzu on the ground.

Welp, Google/Picasa decided to dump all web albums for the site without telling me or asking me if I'd like to, you know, keep one or two pictures for fucks and giggles (or to have a functional product).

So for now, Sports Tzu is going to be temporarily shut down while I kick and scream (and try to recover those lost images to restore the site to it's pre-nuclear-holocaust state).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

John Jaso is really good (no, really!)

I have a huge baseball crush on Seattle Mariners catcher John Jaso. Aside from his prolific beard (see above), his ridiculous stats with runners in scoring position, his tendency to shaving-cream-pie teammates during postgame interviews, and the number of game-winning hits notched into his belt this season, Jaso continues to push himself into statistically-rare territory. Not only does he lead the Mariners in pretty much every offensive rate statistic (including a whopping .901 OPS), which, granted, isn't that hard to do, he's also in lofty company in one particular area of his game.

This season, John Jaso has 43 walks and 38 strikeouts. It's pretty uncommon in this day and age to find a player with more walks than strikeouts, so I decided to scour through the statistics of every Major League team and see just what kind of company that put Jaso in. Out of qualified hitters, the only other players in MLB with more walks than strikeouts are:

David Ortiz. Prince Fielder. Joe Mauer. Chipper Jones. Joey Votto. And Carlos Lee.

And John Jaso?! What the f#$@!

Turns out Jaso did the same thing 404 plate appearances in 2010, but stumbled a bit last year (25BB/36Ks) before Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik traded for the backup catcher during the offseason. A dramatic swing change and a legitimate role in the lineup seems to have unleashed the bearded beast within. He's solidified a spot in the clubhouse and in the lineup, and Jaso was even behind the plate for Felix Hernandez's perfect game on August 15, drawing the praise of both players and pundits for the game he called (Felix, who normally calls all of his own pitches, only shook off Jaso a handful of times and applauded his catcher's calls after the game).

Even after Zduriencik traded for Yankees catcher Jesus Montero last offseason and drafted Florida catcher and NCAA player of the year Mike Zunino in this year's amateur draft, John Jaso continues to make himself invaluable to the Mariners lineup. And, no matter what happens with Montero and Zunino in the next couple years, it's going to be really hard for manager Eric Wedge to take Jaso out of the middle of the order. Unless, of course, Zduriencik and company decide to take on Miguel Olivo's $3M club option next season so they can run out a catcher who can't hit OR catch. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In response to the Mariners' new arena traffic concerns

Two old white guys in suits being grouchy? It must be Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong!

The Seattle Mariners made it known far and wide that they were wary of a new Sodo arena. The building, proposed by Chris Hansen to serve both an NBA and NHL franchise for the city of Seattle in the near future (fingers crossed), was greeted with pure, unbridled excitement by nearly everyone in the city: Other than the Mariners.

The Mariners' biggest concern was one of traffic (or so the out-of-touch front office claimed). They postulated that the increased attendance of fans for NHL/NBA games at night would throw Seattle's gnarly, ridiculous traffic even further into the dredges. These are for games starting at 7 p.m. or so, mind you. And sure, the letter from Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln was probably a bit of a wake-up call for Hansen and his team that dropping an arena in that area was going to be harder than expected, even if it did come across as petty and underhanded from a baseball franchise struggling to attract fans, but now that there's some space between the date the letter was written and today, I think I have a little more perspective to put this silly Mariners traffic issue to bed.

Currently, the Seattle Mariners are 10th in the American League in attendance. They routinely have less than 15,000 fans attending each home game, in a stadium built to hold ~45,000 people. When the Mariners were successful, even when they're not, Safeco Field can hold 20,000-30,000 more fans than are currently attending. It's not a pretty sight at Safeco these days. So, from a logical perspective (from their own logical perspective, nonetheless), the Mariners' concerns about traffic should extend to their own franchise, right? If the Mariners start playing better and drawing more fans, can't we, the angry commuters of Seattle, assume that traffic will also be thrown into utter chaos, based on their letter to Hansen and the city of Seattle? Should the Mariners reduce the available seats in Safeco Field to ensure traffic sanctity in the downtown area?

Do you see what I'm getting at here? It's obvious that the Mariners were feeling nervous about the prospect of losing more fans to the returning Sonics or a hot-ticket new NHL team, or perhaps making the team less-favorable to sell because of more immediate competition in the area (perhaps?!?), and that this Sodo arena deal has absolutely nothing to do with traffic. It's really kind of sad and pathetic that they, beneficiaries of public subsidies and funds for their own arena years ago, would be the lone stick in the mud about a "competitor's" arena in the same relative location, just because they're trying to, I don't know, stay marginally-popular during the winter when the NBA and NHL would also be in action?

The problem with that petty buffoonery is that the NBA and NHL seasons hardly overlap with the MLB season, the games are played late at night when the main commute is finished and any maritime freight traffic is already shut down for the night, and traffic is a massive systematic issue throughout the state, not just within a small stretch of the downtown area. So there you have it, with a little logic, the Mariners can rest easy knowing that a new arena won't do anything to Seattle traffic that they hadn't already handled successfully when they were popular.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Quick Takes - Umpires shmumpires!

No! Stay out! It's a trap!

People have been up in arms lately about umpires. Up in arms doesn't actually do it justice, people have been pissed. And, while I normally love a good anti-umpire revolt, this latest one is just way off-base. Frustrated fans have finally pushed the red button and fired their nukes, not realizing what the foggy aftermath is going to be like. We need umpires, and we need them to be human (weird, huh?). Umpires are what actually hold the games together -- we need their consistent-inconsistency -- and I'm going to tell you why.

Umpires, contrary to what the leagues want fans to believe, are not the unbiased, neutral third. Their only purpose isn't to blindly enforce rules, they are more of a facilitator of the sport, of the game, and they make a lot of calls based on the contextual moments within the greater spectrum of the sport. They let their emotions into the game as much as the players do, and they should! Anyone who thinks umpires should be robots is an idiot and doesn't understand the human element of sports. Why not just replace the players with robots too? They'll be far more accurate. Why not get rid of the pitcher and replace him with a pitching machine. Those things throw strikes all the time. The reason why we don't get rid of the players is because we enjoy and appreciate the human element. We enjoy their mistakes as much as their successes, because it's honest and genuine to performing. It adds drama to the games, we get to experience something uniquely human through them, and it should be no different with umpires.

Yes, umpires make mistakes, but there are two kinds of mistakes: Positive and negative. A positive mistake is an umpire contextualizing a moment and figuring out a way to remove himself from the moment and let the players settle it. That happened in 1995 when Randy Johnson threw an iffy strike three to send the Mariners to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. That umpire easily could've called it a ball, but in those moments -- the same way there's an unspoken rule in boxing that you have to knock out the champion to take his belt -- the players should settle the outcome, not referees or judges making arbitrary decisions about play. And they are arbitrary, and no amount of instant replay can fix that.  The same type of thing happened this year when the umpires missed a base-hit off the chalk and called it foul, giving Johan Santana a get out of jail free card which he used toward the first no-hitter in NY Mets history. It doesn't always work in a team's favor, the way that Johnson strikeout did; just look at that blown call from a couple seasons ago when Armando Galarraga was denied a perfect game by a blown call. That was terrible, obviously a "negative mistake," and it adds a lot of credence to the robot umpire cries. But one missed perfect game does not beget destroying sports. And yes, instant replay and all that bullshit would destroy sports.

The common knee-jerk people jump to is to just add more widespread use of instant replay. They're doing it in baseball now, which means baseball is going to take even longer to finish a damn game. But it's a reaction in the wrong direction. There should be no instant replay. Not a little bit. Not even for quick consultation. It's asinine. Instant replay is the opposite of what should happen. The NFL is the court jester when it comes to instant replay, sending an umpire into a 1920s photo booth for five minutes to watch video from a billion angles slowed down beyond speeds that the human eye can even register. What is the point of that? Just make a call and MOVE. FORWARD. That's all you can do.

Instant replay kills momentum, and kills the passion of the fans, rendering them helpless in the stands while a human reviews the same play he just saw and makes a second arbitrary decision with slightly-more evidence (often useless evidence too). It's not worth the fuss. Umpires make bad calls, get over it. They make great calls too, and they don't make calls that a robot or a booth reviewer would've, because sometimes you just have to let the players settle things on their own. All of those ups and downs are part of what make sports great. Yes, umpires should have their "missed calls" reviewed, and yes, the leagues should take punitive action against umpires who consistently perform under the bar, but you don't replace them with pitch-tracking computers and 5 billion frames per second replays because of a few missed calls.

We need umpires. We may not always like them, but we need them. We need their mistakes, we need their emotions and their arbitrary, emotion-fueled calls. These are sports between people, for people, and if we take the human element out of refereeing them, we will muck up sports beyond comprehension. And besides, who enjoys yelling at inanimate objects, when there's a perfectly-acceptable human at the ready?

  • Reason #1 why a lot of sports fans and other professional athletes think golfers are stuffy boners (mmm) who can't handle a little adversity; from the Memorial this past weekend: "It makes it very difficult," Bubba Watson said. "Ever since they made that rule that cellphones are allowed, it's just not fun playing." Oh no! A camera shutter clicked in your back-swing! You poor thing! You should withdraw from the tournament and angrily/ironically text the PGA commissioner during your round to voice your distaste for cell phones! (Watson didn't do that, but Phil Mickelson did, and if Stuffy Boners had a centerfold, I would ... not buy that magazine.)
  • Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee is winless this year, thanks to the Phillies scoring 16 runs over his nine starts (1.78 rpg). I think I just found the Mariners a trade partner for Chone Figgins!
  • The San Francisco Giants aren't happy with Pablo Sandoval's weight. The hefty third-baseman has been told by manager Bruce Bochy that he needs to get in better shape, because if he can't play third base he'll be of no use to the team. I can't help but picture Bruce Bochy hitting warm dumplings at him at third base with a fungo bat.
  • Bruce Bochy: When you focus on baseball, when you concentrate... you stink.
    [Pablo frowns]
    Bruce Bochy: But perhaps that is my fault. I cannot train you the way I have trained the Giants. I now see that the way to get through to you is, with this.
    [pulls out a bowl of dumplings]
    Pablo: Oh great, 'cause I am hungry!
    Bruce Bochy: [laughs and pulls the bowl away] Good. When you have been trained, you may eat.
    [He eats a dumpling]
    Bruce Bochy: Let us begin.
  • The Miami Heat are one game away from missing out on a championship, and the reaction from fans and pundits alike is too much for me to ignore. Listen, I hate the Miami Heat, I hate the way they play and how they've almost single-handedly turned this league into a dog and pony show where players are more concerned with their clothing lines and # of appearances on TMZ than they are winning. I hate it. But, damn, relax everyone. People are calling for the Heat to "blow up" and start over, basically recreating the LeBron James Cavaliers. That didn't seem to work out too well, did it? The point is that the playoffs are hard, they're supposed to be hard! It's the freaking playoffs! Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had to fight and scrap and claw their way through the playoffs every year, as did the Magic Johnson Lakers and every team ever. You know why? Because the playoffs are hard for fuck's sake! The Miami Heat have been extremely successful with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (and Chris Bosh? I guess?) as the focal points of that team. Just because you don't win every championship ever doesn't mean you should blow up the team and start over. This is a team on the brink of a championship. I don't think they'll win it this year, because they have some glaring holes, but they are still two wins away from going to the Finals. This offseason, if they retain their core nucleus and simply add a pass-first PG and an interior presence, they will be as good as anybody else in the league. Where is the goddamn patience in sports? Are people that fickle now that they can't handle not winning a championship every single season? Are the players that stupid to think they're going to pick out a ring like they're shopping at Jared? Just relax.
  • I just read the headline: "Report: Ex-players to combine concussion suits," and was severely disappointed when I opened the link to find that it wasn't about Iron Man, but was, of course, about lawsuits. I am a child.
  • Hey everyone! Get out now and vote for your favorite players for the MLB All-St.....zzzzzzzz....
  • I have to admit, I was a little bit bummed the other night when the Seattle Mariners didn't take high school phenom outfielder Byron Buxton with the third pick in the MLB Draft. They couldn't take him, because the Minnesota Twins picked him second overall, leaving me droopy and pathetic. Until! Until Buxton gave his post-pick interview to the MLBTV crew covering the draft, where he answered a question about whether or not he knew the Twins were interested with, "I don't know, I'm just a Twins now." Ah, yes, just a Twins now. Byron Buxton, all your base are belong to us.
  • In Euro 2012 news, Ukraine manager Oleg Blohkin thinks players on his team were victims of sabotage (I put that in italics because it's basically the coolest thing you can accuse someone of) after 10 players on the national squad suffered food poisoning the day before a 2-0 loss to Turkey in Germany. "It happened in Germany, but it is impossible to establish the causes - all ate different food. It may have been sabotage, I do not know. It cannot be accidental." It was the Germans, in the pub, with the expired sausage!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Quick Takes - Sociopaths at the wheel

My friend Hickey, whom you all surely know from Bathroom Science fame (search in the right-hand navigation if you're new here), and I were discussing a fascinating article from Internet juggernaut The Last Psychiatrist about narcissism and the idolization of ego in the modern world, titled "Why We Love Sociopaths." Hickey and I are, for the sake of this article at least, normally-cisstic and minimally-egotistical folks (no comments, please), so in the context of the article, we are the non-Sociopaths (again, no comments). There's a lot of great stuff discussed in the article, but there's one paragraph about the proverbial "line cutter" that really struck home with me:
He's a different kind of person than you.  He can do things you can't, do women you can't, he sees the world's rules differently, which specifically means he understands that there are no "world's rules," that rules are decided by those with power for their own benefit.  After he cuts in line, he pockets a Milky Way bar because, well, because he got away with it.  My grammar is correct: he can do it since he got away with it.
I have met many people like this, we all have, and I've certainly encountered them throughout the stages of my life (other than larval), but I happened to (nearly) run into one today on the commute to work, and there's no outlet for the rage it induces other than here. So prepare yourself. It's a simple tale, told a thousand times on a thousand drives across our fair land: The long, inchworm line of cars all waiting patiently for their chance to turn, for their number to be called. The single, rogue asshole who decides to forgo the line and drive up to the front, passing 100 cars in the process and darting in at the last moment before the turn to go forward on his merry way.

Having read the aforementioned article recently, I saw him try to dart in front of my car and just wasn't feeling it. I didn't want to reinforce the sociopath, I didn't want to reward the chaos. So, I laid on the horn and sped up to the car in front of me, shutting off the way like Gandalf in the mines of Moria. The car behind me followed suit and closed any gaps that might've opened when I sped up. I continued to sound my horn -- the vocalized threat of a modern primate under duress -- and hugged the bumper of the person in front of me. The asshole continued to turn, despite turning into a lane of opposing traffic, and finally swung in three cars behind me at the last gasp when someone sadly let him in. I was incensed, not because he won, but because everyone let him win. There are no rules. It didn't matter that I stood my ground. He cut off 100 cars to get in, and only had to mildly-tussle with three staunch drivers who weren't willing to let him in. BFD. It was a depressing morning, and a depressing realization that we really do love Sociopaths, and we are powerless against their lawless approach.

Maybe I should start riding a bike to work.

  • The Seattle Mariners have scored 31 runs in their last two games against the Texas Rangers, which is beyond exciting/amazing/unbelievable, but Mariners manager Eric Wedge keeps saying in interviews (paraphrasing), "See, this is what we've been telling these guys to do all year long!" And I keep thinking to myself, well no shit ... It'd be great to score 15 runs a game, and I'm sure you've said something to them about hitting and baseball and such. But to point to recent success and say, "Yup, this is what we told them to do, this is a result of something we did," is the baseball equivalent of Mitt Romney telling reporters that he's going to take credit for the auto industry's revitalization, because he just ... saw it happen from nearby.
  • Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin plans to run with the bulls in Pamplona this summer, despite the risk of having his contract voided and potentially losing his career/life. "It's kind of a rite of passage," Babin said after his first OTA on Wednesday to the Philadelphia Enquirer. "It's a stamp. I guess in my brain I have a figurative man card that's got certain punches that need to be punched out. Everyone thinks it's dangerous and hazardous, but it's not if done correctly and soberly. Bulls can't turn the corner on cobblestone, so as long as you're on the inside you're going to be alright. I broke the tape down like game film." In lieu of a single joke, I will present to you the following series of jokes, because this paragraph is so ridiculous I don't know where to start:
    • Goddammit, is Hillary Clinton distributing man cards again?
    • Any time you start a sentence with "everyone thinks it's dangerous and hazardous, but it's not if ..." you're gonna have a bad time.
    • Up next on Mythbusters, can a bull turn a corner on cobblestone?!?
    • I'm pretty sure Jason Babin just wrote his own eulogy.
    • After "Run with the bulls" gets punched on his man card, does he get a free sandwich?
    • I know where Babin's coming from on this. I feel the same way when I down that big ass fish-oil pill. Exhilarating.
    • The thing that really jumped out to me was "if done correctly and soberly." Those two words are really incongruous, and, to my brain, the real sticking point in Babin's plan. See, just because you are sober, doesn't mean everyone around you is. If I'm driving a car at 20 mph through a school zone or something, there's a good chance I'm going to drive it correctly. But put a bunch of drunk people in the car with me, and stick my Nissan Pathfinder in the middle of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with race cars whizzing past at 200 mph (and all the racecars are now animate and angry and specifically want to run into me), my driving success is surely going to be influenced, right? I might still drive well -- hell, I might even survive -- but the odds are against me.
  • In the NBA, you are now apparently allowed to ninja-kick a defender in the knee who has jumped to block your shot, and the defender will receive a foul and you get to shoot free throws. Good to know.
  • The lead headline on BBC Sport is: "Injured Frank Lampard out of Euro 2012." They spelled "old" wrong.
  • Norwich manager Paul Lambert had his resignation request denied by his current club after rumors swirled linking him to the vacant post at Aston Villa. I smell a sitcom! Some guy tries desperately to get fired (a la George Costanza with the Yankees), but no matter what he does (within reason), no one will accept his resignation. He dresses casual on a Monday (the horror!); he wears ladies clothes but ends up getting featured in a company marketing campaign for LGTB awareness; he cooks fish in the communal kitchen (who does that?!). But despite his frustration, he's too guilty to stay at home and get paid (he's Catholic, hence guilt), so he keeps showing up to work to attempt to resign again. Rinse and Repeat (that's the name of the show). And he's played by Ricky Gervais (Stephen Merchant plays his best friend in a huge stretch role for the lanky Brit). You know, I probably could've just said "played by Ricky Gervais" up front and not bothered to write that horrible, cliche plot (and these unnecessary parentheticals that prompt my friend Steve to send threatening e-mails).
  • (Seinfeld voice) What's the deal with those five-toed running shoes?
  • Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku didn't celebrate the team's puke-inducing Champions League win over frustrations with his own playing time. Lukaku was transferred to Chelsea this past offseason for £20m, but made just four starts all year for the Blues. Lukaku said, "Chelsea really wanted me last summer and paid a lot for me, but after a while I thought, are you just throwing money around?" ... Aw, I don't have the heart to tell him.