Friday, December 17, 2010

FTC picks for your Christmas wishlist

1. Game 7 of the 1960 World Series
This DVD is the hottest baseball release of the year. The original prints were thought to have been lost until recently, when they were found in the basement of Bing Crosby (where else?). Not only does this feature the greatest home run in World Series history, but the game itself is fantastic. Look for Yogi Berra playing left field, no strikeouts (only WS game without a K), and a young Roberto Clemente in right. Bob Prince's radio track is included as an option.

2. Tickets to Cleveland Stadium, January 2, 2011
A loss to Buffalo helped, but the Browns need to get mashed by the lowly Bungles and evil Ravens for fan interest to lower the price on these seats. Otherwise, we're banking on fierce Lake Erie weather and some help from Santa to get into this one. It's not Winter Classic hopeless, so keep it on the list for now.

3. iPod Shuffle
Infrequent-reader Mel tells us that this is a great product. Ask for it in Black & Gold for best results.

4. Penn Brewery gift certificate
Says: I know you like beer and this is classier than me giving you cash.

5. Big Ben's Beef Jerky

This has reached the status of collector's item.

6. Steelers' snuggie
Wish it was made entirely out of Terrible Towels, but then again, fleece is warmer than terrycloth.

7. a baseball-reference.com sponsorship
Don't want to be bothered by a bunch of Nicaraguan farmers sending you postcards about how great the heifer is? Still want your friends to give to a good cause in your name? Have them take out a year-long sponsorship of some horrible Pirate alum, and post on the page that he was your favorite. Recommendations: Jason Christiansen ($10); Emil Brown ($10); the entire 1998 roster ($15).

8. Hasbro Nerf N Sports VORTEX
It's nine bucks, there is no shame in asking anyone in your life to get you one of these for Christmas. Also: it whistles.

9. Tickets to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Canton is like an hour away from Pittsburgh, the tickets are $20 or so, and it's high time you paid your respects to the game's greats. Get someone you want to go with to give you a pair. Then take Nils.

10. Cleats
Kickball is right around the corner, people. And this isn't going to be another summer of chunkity ass failure. FUCKING WIN.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shoot the Puck!


Should Crosby and Malkin be linemates?


How many shots on goal does Sidney Crosby have in the past two games since Geno came back and took took a spot on his wing? If you said zero, you are correct! We all know that Crosby is a passer first and a shooter second. It doesn't matter that he made an effort to shoot more last year and ended up scoring 51 goals. He will always be a passer first and a shooter second. Does he defer to highly skilled linemates too much, or is this just a coincidence? After all, it's just two games. Let's take a look at the number of shot-less games for Sid by season:

05-06 1
06-07 4 (including 3 in a row)
07-08 2 (in 53 games)
08-09 8 (including 2 in a row)
09-10 3
10-11 2 (33 games, 2 in a row)

This doesn't really tell us much except that Sid was probably due for a shot-less game sometime soon, and that he may go through little streaks where he doesn't shoot much. The only time Sid's had an "elite winger" on his line consistently was the 07-08 playoffs, when he was flanked by Marian Hossa. He had at least one shot in all 20 playoff games, and more than one shot in 18 of those. So it's probably nothing.

It's interesting to think about though: maybe Sid performs better with guys like Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis than he does with a high scoring winger. Or maybe adding an elite winger to his line doesn't add as much production as we think it might. Perhaps that's why Ray Shero never goes after a high priced goal scorer in the off-season. Kunitz should be back for the next game, and I'm guessing Dan Bylsma will split up the two-headed monster, so we may never know for sure.


Sid Needs to Stop Whining

Here's what Crosby had to say about the goal the Pens had waived off due to goalie interference last night:

"It was close. Whether or not it affected the goalie making the save is a decision the referee had to make in a split-second. He made the call, but besides that we still could have done a better job in the third, and we paid for it."

What a baby.


Looking Ahead


We haven't gotten a Jordan Staal update in a little while, which is a bit worrisome. Assuming he gets back fairly soon, what will the lines look like? Here are my ideal lines:

Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis
Malkin-Staal-Cooke
Conner-Letestu-Kennedy
Rupp-Adams-Talbot

Of course this assumes everyone else stays healthy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bounties? Don't talk to me about bounties!

"They’re really good pass rushers. You want to keep them away from Joe. It doesn’t matter if it’s Woodley and Harrison or anybody else.”
-RT Marshal Yanda

“Woodley and Harrison, they’re two great players. Just those two guys alone, just taking care of those two guys, you’ve got to play lights out.”
-LT Michael Oher

“They’re usually pretty good football plays. [Harrison]’s a good football player. He’s a vicious football player, and that’s what this game is about. It’s about being mean and getting after people, and that’s what he does.”
-QB Joe Flacco

“Dick LeBeau is one of the most, if not the most respected defensive innovators in football. He had a lot to do with the fire zone package, and they still run it as well as anybody. His players really respond to and like him. He’s a guy that personally I’ve always had tremendous respect for. He’s a Hall of Fame coach, player and he’s highly respected.”
-Head Coach Jim Harbaugh

"I didn't know there was a barometer with pre-game handshakes. That's good to know. I need to work on that. I'll take it as constructive criticism. It'll be an opportunity to improve my pre-game decorum and courteousness with players. I have a lot of respect for Hines Ward, obviously. I'll be looking forward to seeing him before the game now. I'll try to do better."
-Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, responding to news that Hines Ward had accused him of giving a fake handshake in the past

"We know he's going to play. This is championship football. We're expecting to see 7-Up."
-LB Terrell Suggs, on Ben Roethlisberger's injury status

“[Mike Wallace is] the fastest receiver in the league. Of course, Randy Moss is up there. Wallace is kind of deceptively fast because he gets on you later because of his long strides. His speed is definitely his biggest asset, but he’s been doing a very good job of catching the ball as well. He’s making his catches count, so we’ve got to contain him.”
-CB Chris Carr

"I think they are looking at [James Harrison] more closely than they are everybody else in the league. In the referee world, they kind of red-flagged him."
-LB Terrell Suggs

“I didn’t mean to cut you off, but I learned from my own leader on this team - and that’s Ray Lewis - the power of respect is to never disrespect. That’s first and foremost about playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. We respect them. That’s what the rivalry has all been about.”
-RB Ray Rice

“Both sides know each other very well, and I think if you do get into all of that (talking) it’s because there’s a common respect from both sides. We respect them because we know what type of game they’re going to bring, and they respect us because they know what type of game we’re going to bring. So here we go again, one of those classic battles where everything is on the line.”
-LB Ray Lewis

...and from our side...

“I don’t hate anybody. That’s a very harsh word.”
-QB Ben Roethlisberger, asked if he hates the Ravens

Friday, December 3, 2010

Some kind of backhanded eulogy for Ron Santo

Anyone who knows me, knows I don't love the Cubs. That said, there's no denying what they mean to the league, and what their history means to Chicago. I tip my hat to 'Duk over at Yahoo! Sports for being too moved by the passing of Ron Santo to adequately post.

However, upon first reading the headline about Hall of Fame worthiness, I had somewhat of a gag reflex. Ron Santo is a prime example of a borderline candidate who gets into the Hall because he died and the Veterans' Committee can't cope with death.

But then I dug a little bit deeper, and here are my findings:

Ron Santo's 'Similarity Scores' are completely misleading, and taint his HoF candidacy by association. Baseball-reference.com has his list of similar batters as:
1. Dale Murphy (875)
2. Ken Boyer (874)
3. Gary Gaetti (873)
4. Ruben Sierra (865)
5. Chili Davis (865)
6. Bobby Bonilla (863)
7. Brian Downing (861)
8. Graig Nettles (860)
9. Ron Cey (853)
10. Robin Ventura (852)

Note: none of these players are currently in the Hall of Fame, nor should they be. They're also not very much like Ron Santo. Aside from Murphy, Boyer and Cey, all of these guys had journeyman careers, bouncing around from club to club. Of those three guys, only Boyer and Cey were third basemen like Santo. Boyer was his direct contemporary, and they each drew MVP votes away from each other throughout their careers (Boyer winning the award in 1964 thanks to his lead in RBI).

Where things get interesting is when we adjust our comparisons for park factors. Sure, Boyer and Cey put up similar numbers to Santo, but he wins when we put it in context.

Boyer - .810 career OPS / 116 OPS+
Cey - .799 career OPS / 121 OPS+
Santo - .826 career OPS / 125 OPS+

Is this definitive, conclusive, decisive? Far from it. I still think Ron Santo is a borderline Hall candidate, even if he's slightly better than other guys who are pretty borderline.

But let's make one more case for him.

Maybe he's the kind of guy, like a Kirby Puckett, a Craig Biggio, an Alan Trammel... who wasn't just very excellent at his job, but was a franchise face. Someone who gave his team the sort of foundation to build around.

Perhaps, if anyone, he's comparable to Yogi Berra. I know, I know, that's pretty insane sounding, but humor me.

Yogi Berra - .830 OPS / 125 OPS+, 61.9 WAR
Ron Santo - .826 OPS / 125 OPS+, 66.4 WAR

Not once do we consider Yogi to be a fringe candidate for the Hall of Fame. In fact, Bill James has him rated as the number 1 catcher of all time. What did he do that Santo didn't? 1) played catcher, 2) played for the Yankees during the most dominant of their many dominant stretches.

The second point is junk. Ron Santo never chose to not have Mickey Mantle as his center fielder. Not his fault that he played for losers.

First point is up for a ton of debate. Yogi didn't win any games for the Yankees with his defense, but he may have with his ability to handle pitchers. He also certainly didn't lose games because of his defense, and I think we can all agree that a defensively-neutral backstop that can hit is worth more than a defensively-neutral third baseman that can hit.

Back to the point.

Is it enough of a boost to Santo's case that he was very good and also a face of a franchise? I would say yes, except that the franchise icon of that period wasn't him; it was the guy to his left, Mr. Cub. Yet another similar career arch and producer, does Ernie Banks sap any of Santo's HoF mojo?

The answer: I really don't care, and neither should you.

Ron Santo had a very good career, and any discussion about his Hall of Fame credentials is going to get circular and relative and wishy-washy. With no insult to what he did as a ballplayer, he is Mr. Fringe, and a Veterans' Committee induction will say as much.

Rest in peace, Ron.