Friday, July 27, 2012

Things we learned tonight

1) The Houston Astros are terrible. I wish the Pirates could play them every night.
2) Michael McKenry, who dropped a "Major League" reference during the post-game interview, needs to play every day. He has solid power, a good walk rate, and he's quite adept at catching the baseball and throwing it back to the pitcher. In these ways -- the ones that actually matter -- he is literally a better baseball catcher than Rod Barajas, who is bad.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I'm talking to you, Greg Brown

Everyone needs to calm down about Starling Marte.

One pitch into his career and he's gone from "top prospect" to Haile Selassie II. We need to go back for just a minute and think, people. I don't know who started the trend of calling him a blue chip talent, but it's entirely the result of sportspeople knowing NOTHING and the Pirates having an emaciated farm system.

Starling Marte is a 23 year old who has played 6 seasons in the minors. In that time he's struck out almost 4 times as often as he's walked (bad) and walked in only 5% of his plate appearances (also bad). He's apparently fast, which leads to above average success on balls in play. It also means he's existentially obliged to attempt stealing bases (72% success rate in 181 attempts; not detrimental to his team, but far less useful than some sportspeople would think). He's got a bit of HR power, and is pretty good at hitting minor league pitching, despite having a weak command of the strike zone.

How does he compare to other dudes?

Andrew McCutchen was a toolsy dude who produced similar minor league numbers. However, Cutch had a walk rate of almost 10% and a 1.6 K:BB. He also stole bases at a 75% success rate, but again-- not that important.

Jose Tabata was a highly touted, blue chip prospect who put up totally pedestrian minor league numbers and then sucked in the majors. He was highly touted because someone in Central America told a lie and Neal Huntington had nothing else to talk about in those days. Starling Marte is probably better than Jose Tabata.

Alex Presley and Drew Sutton are garbage. Starling Marte is probably better than them.

Garrett Jones could be a much more useful role player if he went back to his career norms in swing/take splits. As it is, he's a stupid asshole. Starling Marte is probably his brethren.

Nate McLouth is wondering if he could crash on your couch this weekend. Starling Marte won't ask that of you for another seven years.

In conclusion: Starling Marte is a capable minor leaguer with a weak approach. This hole in his game will hinder him at the major league level, but a fascination will persist among sportspeople due to his straight-line speed and occasional power.

Tonight Marte showed that power by belting the first pitch of his career for a HR. While Greg Brown is sure he's the next Barry Bonds, I'm pretty sure Dallas Keuchel is just about the worst pitcher in baseball. He's certainly up there.

In his 29 major league innings before tonight, D-Keuch has struck out a whopping 11 batters. He's walked 17 and he's given up 4 dingers. The ERA doesn't reflect it yet, but those are Kipwellian numbers.

Anyway. I hate to always dump on these guys. I fear I'm turning into a more valid, statistically oriented version of Bob Smizik. I really shouldn't complain when we're teeing off on a guy. It's just frustrating to hear wiener broadcasters so off base. Someone has to call it as it actually is.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn State Football: Too Big to Fail

So we're half an hour away from "unprecedented" sanctions - which are being reported as the same sanctions everyone gets for giving recruits money, plus the taking away of money - and someone was quoted on ESPN radio this morning as being against any football punishments. This former player (I honestly didn't catch which one) was saying that, if the NCAA were to take away football, that would be bad, because it would punish the entire community of State College, which, in his words "revolves around Saturday gameday." Chuck Klosterman on Bill Simmons said that there will be no deterrent from this. That a child molester wouldn't stop because of the "death penalty" to a school. 

I am not sure I am in favor of whatever punishment is going to come out, because something in me is fundamentally uneasy with anything that tacitly equates giving Reggie Bush's family a house with covering up decades of systemic child rape. I think punishing the football program with scholarships and bowl bans makes this too small in a way.


That former player's point is EXACTLY the reason some punishment is needed against football. And Klosterman is completely wrong if he thinks the people you are trying to change with sanctions are pederasts.

The entire situation was allowed to occur because football was so big everyone from the administration to the police couldn't have a world where even the most heinous of offenses could bring it down. It is that mentality - of football as too big to fail - that needs to change, in State College, and elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Important memo to our readers

You may notice something different when you visit us on the world wide web. While our URL has remained the same, the banner at the top of the page has been altered for the week of July 16 - July 21. This is part of our bid to land the sponsorship rights to the Paterno family's independent investigation into the Penn State scandal.

With any luck, you'll be reading about JoePa's innocence in the Report!

p.s. It's also part of our bid strategy that we'll be making disparaging remarks about Louis Freeh, not that you have to go too far with the man who allowed 9/11 to happen under his nose.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Freeh report

This is what I wrote in November of 2011.

About 99 percent of this jives with everything we found out today when former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his findings in a 260-something-page report that should make Joe Paterno apologists feel lucky the coach isn't still alive.

If he was, he'd be the target of a criminal investigation -- at the least, for lying to the grand jury about what he knew and when he knew it, and at the most for enabling, if not tacitly allowing a predatory pedophile to use access to the football program as a means to abuse children for over a decade.

In November, I wrote that everyone was dirty and nobody was clean with regard to this scandal, and that Penn State needs to completely start over. The university's board of trustees appears to have taken these developments with the appropriate degree of seriousness, but has not by any means begun to earn anything resembling the benefit of doubt.

During the board's press conference this afternoon, Penn State President Rod Erickson mentioned student athletics as a separate, enriching compliment to academic goals and achievements. That's true, they certainly can be. But nowhere in any of the university administrators' or trustees' statements did anyone say anything about the future of Penn State's football program. And that stands to reason -- they want to keep football. 

They shouldn't be allowed to. 

Now, the NCAA is waiting for Penn State's answers to a series of questions that will likely serve as the framework of the investigation that will determine what if any athletic penalties Penn State should incur for such gross institutional corruption.

This could really only go one of two ways:

1. The NCAA does nothing, or almost nothing. 
This is the argument being championed by pseudo-intellectuals like the PG's Ron Cook and CBS's Gregg Doyel says that the NCAA can't impose any penalty on Penn State because it has no jurisdiction over criminal matters, and that the judicial system will play out accordingly with regard to former PSU President Graham Spanier and officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.

2. The NCAA revokes Penn State's right to field a football team for at least one full year, after which the school may begin to rebuild its program under the close, watchful eye of outside authority, without scholarships and without post-season eligibility -- at least for five years. One of the only crimes for which the NCAA will impose the so-called "death penalty" on a program is lack of institutional control. If the board of trustees was as ignorant of what Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz were covering up as Freeh's report says they were, is there any doubt that Penn State is an institution that completely lost control of its football program? Has a tail ever so blatantly wagged its dog?

"Whoa," cry the apologists, "this is an isolated incident, and Penn State is a first-time offender!"

The NCAA imposed the death penalty on both Morehouse College's soccer team and MacMurray College's men's tennis team, even though both schools were first-time offenders. Are ineligible players, recruiting violations and illegal scholarships worse crimes for athletic program administrators to commit than covering up years of systematic child rape?

Even more mind-numbing and offensive are the apologists who say, "This has nothing to do with football," and "It's not fair to punish the current students and student-athletes for these wrongdoings."

Sure, if you count backwards, divide by pi and set up the mirrors at just the right angles, that's what it looks like the NCAA would be doing by imposing effectively killing Penn State football. But students can go to school wherever they want, and athletes can transfer -- which I bet many of them would be allowed to do without sitting out for the year the NCAA typically requires. Anyone who says this has nothing to do with football should be hospitalized. Freeh's findings display concrete evidence that Paterno, the football coach, knew as far back as 1998 that Sandusky was engaging in criminal behavior, and using the football program to do it. Paterno could have stomped this out back then. If he'd gone against Spanier, Curley and Schultz and turned Sandusky in, he'd have been hailed as a hero, and the program would be even stronger for it. But he didn't do that. He ducked and covered to preserve power, to save face. The only just punishment in this instance is to burn this program to the ground and force Penn State to rebuild it from scratch. 

I don't think the NCAA will do anything. In fact, I'll be shocked if Penn State incurs any discipline or penalties as a result of this scandal, and they'll point to the aforementioned jurisdiction argument. That's unequivocally the wrong path. The NCAA has the clear evidence of the kind of misconduct for which it hands out the death penalty, and it has the ability to doll it out. Everything they need  to begin to help right a wrong is there, and Penn State is never going to penalize itself. But the NCAA probably won't pull the trigger. They should.

For years, Penn State has preached "success with honor." Let's give them a chance to finally make good on that.

The last time someone was as bad as Clint Barmes...

No one wore gloves.

Baseball was two separate words.

And you could catch a ball off the first bounce for the out.

There was also a big fucking tree out in right field.

p.s. These are photos I took last weekend at Lakewood Park in Cleveland, Ohio. Part of the Vintage Base Ball Association's free exhibition schedule. Absolutely encourage you to check these guys out if you get the chance.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Know Your Buccos!

Which historical figure would you most like to meet?

Alex Presley: George Washington

Pedro Alvarez: Probably Alexander the Great.

Rod Barajas: Jesus.

Jason Grilli: That Ghengis Khan fella. He had some major sack.  

Garrett Jones: Oh, man. My wife. Definitely my wife.

Jeff Karstens: George Jeffreys, 1st Earl of Jeffreys, Lord Chancellor and Chief Justice of the King's Bench at the Court of St. James. He was responsible for exposing that muddlesome Titus Oates for sedition and buggery under the Sedition and Buggery Act of 1533, and for breaking the Shrewsbury Pickle Blockade following the Glourious Reformation in Compton-upon-Drastonbury and Drastonbury-upon-Hackleford. He was also my great-great grandfather on my mother's side, and my great-great-great grandfather on my father's.

Brad Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln. I don't think we're related or anything, but we have the same last name. Isn't that wild?

Chris Resop: Daniel Moskos.

Neil Walker: Franco Harris. I mean, being from Pittsburgh, you can't underestimate the importance of Franco Harris. There's a statue of him out at the airport! Isn't that crazy? You guys know I'm from here, right?

Michael McKenry: Either Malcolm X or Jesus. Probably Malcolm X, because without Malcolm, we don't have Jackie Robinson.

Casey McGehee: Jesus.

Andrew McCutchen: Toussaint Louverture. Black Jacobins, man.

Juan Cruz: Charlotte Corday. Au cours de la droite de la Terreur, de nombreux membres de ma famille ont été tués. Elle se leva à la tyrannie.

Erik Bedard: Jesus.

A.J. Burnett: Jeremiah Johnson. That guy could kill and eat anything. Did you ever see that flick?

Josh Harrison: Historical? Haha! Oh, man. Um...I don't know, man.

Joel Hanrahan: Kent Tekulve, but only so I could punch him in the face.

Jared Hughes: Jesus. Definitely.

Clint Barmes: Jesus

Tony Watson: Margaret Thatcher. It's all about the powerful women.

James McDonald: Lando Calrissian. I know he and Han were buddies, so that had to have been tough to play both sides like that, especially since he's the only black guy in the galaxy. I'm sure he caught a lot of shit when that war was over.

Monday, July 9, 2012

ST: TNG review #2

Just watched episode 24 of season 6: Second Chances. I figured this one would be a stinker, just judging from its romance novel title. Bingo. The only thing worse is watching Jose Tabata on the bases.

The premise is that they discover a duplicate Riker created by a transporter accident. Then it's 35 minutes of Riker and duplicate-Riker not liking each other. The split screen cinematography is on par with all the Lore episodes (read: bad), but Jonathan Frakes is no Brent Spiner and that's where this episode suffers. Really, the only thing worse is watching Jose Tabata's fielding.

I don't know who wrote the dialogue, but chances are high they're the child of a gay divorce. Spoiler alert: nothing at all happens in this episode!! Duplicate-Riker is like "Hey regular-Riker, you might be in the friendzone with Spacetits, but I'm still a playa!" And Riker is like "Fuck you so much!" And Spacetits is like "I know I'm going to regret this." Then a bridge collapses and Riker grabs Duplicate-Riker so he doesn't fall to his death. Then they're friends.

Here's the lasting image from this shitshow:

Almost as awful as this:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Franco's review of Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Power Play"

Just for you, our One Asshole Reader:

Really, really good episode.  I'd put it in the TNG genre of mind-control thriller.  Similar to The Game andConspiracy.  (Maybe the subgenre of possessed-Data, but that's a wide ranging thing.)

The episode starts off slow and awful.  Pained bridge looks between Riker and Picard; awful Troi dialogue; cheesy planet surface special effects.  Then things kick into high gear with almost no warning!  The violent bridge takeover, the siege of Ten Forward, the total brutality of it all... holy crap it's intense!  In fact, I would say this level of intensity is rarely, if ever matched in other TNG episodes.  It's so tight with action and suspense that there's no room for stupid glances or meaningless fades to commercial.  

The other thing Power Play has going for it is the mystery element.  What happened to the away team?  Who are these entities?  Are they really the crew of the Essex?  What's their ultimate plot?  What trick does Picard have up his sleeve?  A+ work there.

And of course, the rule of escalation is followed immaculately.  Every solution the crew tries backfires, until they run up against the last possible idea (and that entails a point of no return).

Anyway, hadn't seen this episode in roughly 20 years until tonight.  Thought I'd go on the record about it.

A hearty "fuck you" to our readers

Here at FTC, we love getting feedback. Unfortunately, that never happens. But a little over a week ago, someone left this anonymous comment on our fair blog:
I remember when this blog used to provide semi-regular and semi-insightful baseball commentary. Unfortunately, you now all seem to be too pleased with your wit and resort to writing smarmy bullshit. I will probably drop it from my rotation of Pirate sources. You probably won't care. I'm not even sure if you want readers, or if this page is just a circle-jerk for wanna-be sportswriters. Either way, my unsolicited advice is to get back to what made this a good blog. 
Excuse me, Internet, as I speak directly to this self-important, entitled coward:

Look, son. We don't give a shit. We never have. We don't write regularly -- we write what we feel like writing, when we feel like writing. We're cheeky and lazy like that, but when we write, we're spot-on, and proud of the writing we do here. We're also real people with shit to do. I know I've made this clear in previous posts dating back to when we started this in 2007, but we absolutely don't do this for you. We do this for us. We're just a couple of guys who love baseball, and this is where we come to rant at the Internet. And I don't know what blog you were reading, but we've never been anything other than smarmy assholes. So where you get off thinking that the Internet in general or FTC specifically owes you something, I have no idea. I do know that you're clearly a miserable asshole and a terrible person. Drop us from you blogroll. Boo-fucking-hoo. I'm sorry we were taking up all that valuable unlimited internet space. Now, please enjoy a series of completely irrelevant posts that have no reason to do with anything.