Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Book Review: The Yankee Years

Posted by silentarchimedes on April 29, 2009

The Yankee Years

Authors: Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

yankeeyearThere was a lot of pre-release chatter for this book. The snippets that were released led people to believe that Joe Torre, the Yankees manager during their 1996-2007 dynasty, was bitter about being let go by the Yankees and the book was his way of getting back at the team. There was also chatter of Torre breaking the unwritten code of leaving what happens in the locker room behind the scenes instead of revealing them to the public. The release of the book seemed untimely considering that Torre is still managing and most of the players he discussed in the book are still playing. Torre, in his defense, said he isn’t the only author of the book, and the book is actually written in third person. He also mentions that there’s really nothing new mentioned in the book that’s not already out there, especially about Alex Rodriguez.

As a big time Yankees fan, all the above reasons, in addition to wanting some insider analysis of the dynasty years, were enough to check this book out of the local library and give it a read.

THE REVIEW

This book is loooong. Considering that Torre says it doesn’t reveal anything new, at 477 pages, there is a lot of regurgitation of obvious in-game details. Maybe it’s because I came in wanting to read about things fans don’t get to read about in the papers, especially about what happens in the locker room and what does not. I was not interested in reading, “Chuck Knoblauch hit the first pitch of the game for a home run. Jeter doubled. O’Neill doubled. After a brief pause on a strikeout by Williams, Martinez singled. Darryl Strawberry hit a home run. After Tim Raines grounded out, Jorge Posada hit a home run.” (pp.46-7). I watched the game, I read about it in the newspapers and internet when it happened. I sure don’t need to read it again in a book. This type of detail was plentiful throughout the book. After awhile I started scanning those sections.

So what else is in the book, besides in game details? Let’s just say, the book makes Torre look like the most righteous guy in the world. His encounters with players always resulted in his favor. And there are plenty of little stories that demonstrated how adept Torre was at handling The Boss Steinbrenner. Now it’s very possible that all those stories are true, but it’s hard to fathom that there weren’t other stories that resulted in Torre being wrong. None were talked about in the book. Most bothersome was that all the stories do support the notion that Torre does have an inner circle of players he has an affinity to and everyone not really in this inner circle has issues. He definitely throws people under the bus. He talks about players (by name) crying. (I’m sure Roger Clemens was happy that this book revealed how he “cried uncontrollably” aftter the Mike Piazza bat throwing incident in the playoffs in 2000.) And this is where I think is over the line and breaking the unwritten rules. He analyzes players’ personalities as if he is an expert. It’s fine to talk about Kevin Brown punching a wall after a rough outing because it did happen and it’s a fact. But to really talk about how he was weak as a person, to me was unnecessary. He talks about how this player had these issues, or how this player is mentally weak. There are definitely some pretty mean things he says in there about players that couldn’t hack it in New York. And it always seemed like it was their fault and not Torre’s. Then he talks ever so glowingly about the dynasty years. The players that were in his inner circle. Of course, Derek Jeter. And Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams and David Cone. Finally, I’m surprised how often Torre curses, especially the F-bomb, in the book.

The problem with reading a book that has two contrasting authors is that it is hard to separate what parts of the book are Verducci’s and what parts are Torre’s. Since most of the book features Torre as the prominent character, it’s hard not to associate all comments and analysis to Torre. That might be unfair but there’s no other way.

Joe Torre

Joe Torre

After Torre talks about the 2000 World Series, the book becomes a slow explanation of the demise of the Yankees dynasty, from the management, the scouting, the players and the rise of the Red Sox and other statistics conscious money-managing teams. It’s not that fun to read as a Yankees fan, but it is worth reading once to really realize that the Yankees have become a very misdirected team for the past eight seasons or so. Once you get past the game details, the already public ribbing (especially about A-Rod, Clemens and Knoblauch) and the throwing of some players and people to the wolves, there are some interesting new information about this book. There are details about Clemens and Randy Johnson that the fans didn’t really know about. It was also nice to see the players and people that contributed quotes and information to the book. David Cone is frequently quoted in the chapters surrounding the dynasty years. Even Theo Epstein offers insight of the rivalry and the rise of the Sox.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed about the book. I wished that Torre was not an author of book because there seems to be a lot of self-serving stories in there. The writing of the book is also not as smooth as I’d expect from Verducci. A lot of quotes seem blunt, too direct and fake. I’m not sure if they are really a word for word quote of what happened. And Torre is right, there really aren’t that many new interesting mind-blowing things in there that aren’t already known. The whole chapter on steroids really seems like a collection of information from the Mitchell Report, Clemens-McNamee Congression hearing and other media stories.

However, as disappointing as the book is, it’s hard to argue that Torre was not a great manager. His personality and ability to handle Steinbrenner and troubled players were perfect for a baseball dynasty. That plus the combination of completely team-oriented win at all cost players like O’Neill, Jeter, Bernie, Brosius, Tino, Rivera, Cone, Pettitte, Posada and other bit players resulted in a 6 year span of baseball success that would be hard to duplicate in the coming years.

The Yanke Years: 6 stars

The Yankee Years: 6 stars

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Can Alex Rodriguez jump like Cody Ransom? 60in vertical landing jump!

Posted by silentarchimedes on March 14, 2009

I must say this short YouTube video of Alex Rodriguez’s replacement while he’s out with an injury, Cody Ransom is pretty impressive. The guy is 32 years old this year and still has major ups. He IS 6’2″ so he might get thru as a small point guard in the NBA, but still… They should make the vertical landing jump a measurement in addition to the traditional vertical jump in the combines, not that it correlates well in a real football game.

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Q&A on the baseball steroids scandal (FAQ)

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 13, 2009

1. What are steroids?

IUPAC recommended ring (left) and atom numbering (right) of the steroid skeleton. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

IUPAC recommended ring (left) and atom numbering (right) of the steroid skeleton. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are many types of steroids, and most of them are natural and required by animals, plants and fungi to survive. The scientific definition is a terpenoid lipid characterized by a carbon skeleton with four fused rings, generally arranged in a 6-6-6-5 fashion. Common steroids include estrogen, testosterone, and cholesterol. Technically, cholesterol is a sterol, which is a combination of steroids and alcohol. The former two are in a category called steroid hormones. These steroids include the sex hormones, corticosteroids (topical steroids are used for skin rashes, etc), and anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are the ones used by athletes because their main purpose is to increase muscle and bone synthesis. Because they are related to the testosterone sex hormone, they also have effects of maintaining masculine characteristics, such as growth of  vocal chords and body hair. Anabolic steroids were first identified and synthesized in the 1930s.

2. What is the legal status of anabolic steroids?

Most countries classify steroids as controlled substances, which means that they are illegal to produce, distribute, possess and use without written prescriptions from authorized medical officials. These countries include the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands (NL), and the United Kingdom (UK). However, they are readily available over the counter in Thailand and Mexico. Hence the underground availability of them in the U.S.

However, the status of anabolic steroids is recent considering its 1930s identification. They had no legal status prior to the 1980s and were common in many sports, including football and bodybuilding. It was not until the Ben Johnson controversial Olympic victory that they were placed under the Controlled Substances Act in the United States.

3. When were steroids banned in Major League Baseball?

1991. There is a huge misconception that steroids were not illegal in Major League Baseball (MLB) before 2004. This is completely false. The truth is that they were officially banned in 1991 when Commissioner Fay Vincent sent a memo to all teams and players that illegal drugs, including steroids are illegal. [1][2]

This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids or prescription drugs…

The exact same memo was resent by the MLB office in 1997. [3] The reason 2004 is used as the official year was because the rule was not enforced from 1991 until the pressures of Congress forced testing to become official in 2004.

4. Who is responsible for allowing steroids to become a problem from 1991 to 2004?

MLB Commissioner during the Steroid Era

MLB Commissioner during the Steroid Era

This is the ultimate question. Although guilty players have gotten most of the blame for the problem, logically they were only the end result of the problem. The commissioner and owners turned the other way because the lockout of 1994 had caused baseball to drop precipitously in popularity. An historic home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa seemed the perfect antidote for low ratings. The players’ union, in trying to protect their players’ privacy and rights, instead seemed like they were protecting cheaters instead of looking out for the interests of innocent players. The players who used were at fault because they cheated and lowered the integrity of the game. However, it is unfair to fully blame players who felt pressured to take PEDs after seeing a culture that created unnatural stars. It seems, at least for the moment, that Arod fell into this camp. Innocent players should also shoulder some of the the blame because almost all chose the silent route when questioned if their was a problem in the game. Instead of looking out for the interests of the game, they chose to stick to union lines and protect cheating players that indirectly hurt themselves. It’s hard to fault fans that wanted to see more offense, especially home runs, simply because baseball without all the hits and runs can be construed as boring. Finally, testing for steroids and especially HGH was simply not at a point yet that MLB was comfortable with.

5. What notable players have been tainted by steroids, HGH or other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)?

Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettitte, Benito Santiago, Gary Sheffield, Lenny Dykstra, Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice, Mo Vaughn, Ken Caminiti, Matt Williams.

This is only a list of notable players. Tens of second tier players have also been outed by the Mitchell Report. Another 103 are on the list of 104 anonymous players who tested positive in MLB’s steroids survey in 2003. Alex Rodriguez is the first name to be leaked from that list.

6. Should players tainted by steroids allegations be allowed into the Hall of Fame?

This question won’t be answered for at least a decade. There’s a reason why retired players have to wait five years before becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame. This is to allow any attachments and emotions to the player to subside before making a more objective decision. However, the criteria for entering the HOF has always changed with the times and generations. As much as people question the statistics of the Steroid Era, baseball has always allowed questionable players into the HOF. Until the whole steroids influence is fully understood, statistics of all players who played during this era cannot be fully appreciated. At this point, the steroids players are simply the ones that have been caught. To assume someone is clean because they haven’t been caught is naive. It is getting to a point that either all players are treated equally in the Steroid Era (whether they were caught or not or were clean) or that no one gets into the HOF. However, this question won’t be answered for a decade and perceptions may change through the years.

7. What paths have players accused of steroids and PEDs taken when ‘outed’?

Ranging from complete silence or denial to complete admittance and regret, players have had a wide range of reactions when cornered by PEDs allegations. The ones that have been most apologetic have had most success in resuming their playing careers, even if it meant a tainted legacy. Those that have shown completely no remorse or have put the blame on non-believable entities have been vilified by the public. The paths taken by the most notable players include, from strongest denial to strongest admittance:

Complete denial and knowledge of taking steroids, even when confronted by overwhelming evidence and federal investigations, continue to stick to their stance (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens)

Complete silence and avoidance of issue (Mark McGwire)

Complete denial then silence when overwhelming evidence surfaced (Ralphael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa)

Vague admittance and apology when caught (Jason Giambi)

Full admittance and regret but with excuses such as injury or peer-pressure (Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez)

Full admittance and then assisted officials with information about steroids, suppliers and other players (Jose Canseco, Jason Grimsley)

—–

Notes: This Q&A is not official and is simply my personal interpretation and understanding of the steroids scandal. I will add more questions and answers as they come up. If you would like to see a Q&A added on here, please add it in the comments section and I will gladly update the post.

Posted in Ethics, Health and Fitness, Science and Math, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Bud Selig – Baseball’s incompetent commissioner

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 9, 2009

On the same vein as my previous article, an argument that greed is the root of the steroids scandal in baseball, the current economic crisis and global warming, there is one other commonality among the three problems, a void of  leadership.  One can even argue that greed becomes rampant only at the behest  or ignorance of the leadership. In the three problems stated, a lack of leadership for years is what has led to the current situations. Let’s look at the steroids scandal in particular.

BUD SELIG – BASEBALL’S INCOMPETENT COMMISSIONER

There is something special about baseball. Through all its scandals (Black Sox, race, recreational drugs, Pete Rose and gambling) it has always ended up doing the right thing and upholding the integrity of the game, even if it meant banning its all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, or several of its top players (Black Sox scandal – Shoeless Joe Jackson) for life. No player or players were above the game, and the commissioners knew this. The commissioners also knew they were not above the game and although they existed at the whim of the owners, they were supposed to put the interests of the game at the top.

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

Well, something happened in 1992. An owner (Milwaukee Brewers), Bud Selig, was unanimously picked by the owners to become the ninth commissioner of baseball. Since 1992, he has allowed baseball to fall into a steroid scandal by ignoring the ramifications of performance enhanced statistics on the game. Any stories about players juicing were swept under the rug because of increasing television ratings and attendance due to historical records falling every year. Instead of looking out for the interest and integrity of the game, Selig exchanged it for higher revenues. Even in the past 7 to 8 years when everyone knew of the oncoming collapse, he acted in a very condescending way, as if the problem was not bigger than the game.  (This sounds just like our past  president and administration on the Iraq War and the current economic crisis?) Consider these players that have now been tainted by performance enhancing drugs:

1. All-time leader in home runs in career and in a season, Barry Bonds
2. Expected future all-time leader in home runs and one of the greatest players in history, Alex Rodriguez
3. Considered best pitcher in the past 25 years, Roger Clemens
4. First to break Roger Maris’ decades long single-season home run record, Mark McGwire
5. Most seasons with 60+ home runs, Sammy Sosa
6. Other 400+ home runs, Jose Canseco, Ralphael Palmeiro, Garry Sheffield

The leader always sets the trail for others to follow...

The leader always sets the trail for others to follow...

That list is too remarkable to ignore. The leader must be held accountable. Selig has been commissioner or acting commissioner since 1992, about the time hints began about steroids usage. Although he might not be the cause of the problem, he allowed it to fester and grow and grow.  Players that would not have used steroids were eventually compelled to use it due to lesser skilled players on par with them now because of PEDs. This is simply human nature. It is now a scandal that won’t go away. As much as the players need to be held accountable for their actions, the leader also needs to be responsible for his lack of action.In any other institution where people are held accountable, the leaders are replaced by the board. The board of the United States, the citizens, overwhelmingly voted the Republicans out of office in the past elections. Even in corporations, strong board of directors have been known to push incompetent CEOs out. However, similarly to baseball, when the board is closely tied to the leader, this almost occurs too late. In baseball, when the owners overwhelmingly approve of an incompetent commissioner that was once an owner himself, then the checks and balance system fails. In my previous article, Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past, the popularity of baseball has decreased more and more as society’s attention has shortened. To compensate for such pressures, Selig’s actions were always for short-term gain (ie interleague play) at the expense of long-term interests.

Rickey Henderson

Rickey Henderson

It is time baseball cleaned itself by removing its commissioner and the players that have cheated. It is apparent that without the pressures of Congress, Selig would not have voluntarily instituted stringent drug testing. Even to this day he acts as if nothing is wrong and that history will view him as a good commissioner that brought baseball back from its dark lockout days (Sound familiar?) As a big baseball fan, until there is strong leadership that is interested in cleaning up the game, then the game itself has lost its allure, the allure that I used to have as a kid in the 1980s watching Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield…

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The need for greed. And they all fall. What Arod, recession and global warming have in common.

Posted by silentarchimedes on February 7, 2009

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

What is going on with the world today? Many of the institutions and systems we grew up with and believed in have crumbled faster than a crumb cake in front of Santa Claus. This morning sports fans were shockingly (or not) met with news that one of the few remaining baseball superstars to not be tainted by the steroids scandal, Alex Rodriguez, failed an MLB steroids test in 2003. Considering that this news was corroborated by four independent sources, and based on past evidence of such news, this story likely has meat behind it. As the Barry Bonds’, baseball’s all-time home run king, steroids perjury trial heads to court, we wonder if there is anything sacred anymore in sportsmanship and fair play. The list now includes Bonds, Arod, Marc McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Raphael Palmeiro. All were heroes and idols to millions and millions of kids and sports fans.

Bear Stearns

Bear Stearns

Sports is nothing, however, compared to the deepening economic crisis affecting the country. But, then again we need to ask ourselves how did this country fall into such a dire situation in the first place? With news of unemployment reaching 7.6%, worst since 1982, most Americans are sensing a pessimism in the country and its leadership they have never felt before. Corporations that have long been stalwarts have wilted after years of trustworthy service. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG, just to name a few. Even General Electric has fallen on tough times due to untrustworthy leadership expectations and financial exposure. Then there are the frauds of individuals, such Bernie Madoff, and corporations, such as Enron and Global Crossing.

Polar bear cub

Polar bear cub

Then there is the global warming and energy crises. Due to the  irresponsible and rampant use of oil and other natural resources, and the irresponsible output of chemicals into the air, river and ground, the natural balance of Earth has come under question. Dire predictions of sea levels, global temperatures, forestation, glacial coverage, droughts and diseases have left us wondering is there any hope left? Will there exist a viable Earth in 100 to 200 years?

It is truly amazing that all three of these problems have one major thing in common. Greed. Greed. Greed. What is most disturbing is that the situations did not become problems until the ultimate greed kicked in. Arod was already a once in a generation baseball player back in high school. It is fair to say that he did not do steroids as a teenager as his body structure was simply too small. Bonds was a skinny player with the Pirates but was already a five tool player on the path to the Hall of Fame. McGwire  was an amazingly talented rookie with the Oakland Athletics. Why did they feel the need to use steroids and become even better than they already were? Why risk already amazing career trajectories with such greed?

Similarly, the financial companies that have gone bankrupt or bought up were very viable and successful companies (some for over a hundred years) before the ARMs and hedge funds became en vogue. Why the greed to do such risky investments in order to raise the bottom line and stock price?  Was it all due to increasing stock compensation packages of executives? Was it all worth it? To dupe millions of unknowing citizens just for more personal money? What about Madoff? An already well-respected and wealthy investor; what caused him to risk everyone’s money (including hundreds of other wealthy individuals and companies), just to make more money for his firm?

Finally, the earth has remained relatively stable ever since the existence of man. However, since the Industrial Revolution and especially since the widespread use of combustible engines, there has been this disregard for the side effects of using such resources. Coupled with research in biochemistry and synthetic compounds, the effects of pesticides, mercury, lead and carbons have led to a precarious global balance. Millions of animal species extinct or on the brink of survival.

Progress?

Progress?

Are humans, the supposedly most “intelligent” species with opposable thumbs, in fact, the dumbest species ever? Just imagine outsiders writing about the history of man and what they would write about, especially the past 150 years. Just imagine what they would write about western civilization. Just imagine what they would say about the population numbers. Or about technology and medical research? Is this the final goal of evolution? We have reached the ultimate in special survival… our only enemy is ourselves? The whole purpose of natural selection is the survival of the strong. However, part of natural selection is natural balance. A species never wants to become too powerful because then their food sources and natural enemies would disappear. Humans have, in essence, overcome both these natural laws. Through natural selection (our brains and opposable thumbs) we are far and beyond the most powerful species. In a relatively short time, our population and power increased beyond control. Humans have no more natural enemies. The machines we have created are unmatched and only destructible amongst ourselves. So what does this all mean?

The human world does not have a checks and balance system. Nature and other species have always acted as the equalizers. The closest thing that comes to that is the United Nations, and everyone knows how ineffective it is. Additionally, idealistic political systems such as communism and socialism have proven futile. Even checks and balance systems, such as the one in the United States, has a limited efficacy, as witnessed by the politics, lobbyism and other issues. Nature is having a difficult time balancing the effects of human greed and power. Diseases and natural disasters are becoming minimal in damage due to medical research and better disaster predictions. Without any natural enemies, we are left to govern ourselves and our future. As exciting of a possibility that is, the track record of that has been phenomenally pathetic.

Posted in Economics, Ethics, Health and Fitness, Opinion, Politics, Science and Math, Sports, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Being a sports fan in New York City. What team combinations have had the most success the past 25 years?

Posted by silentarchimedes on January 1, 2009

rangersI was listening to Benigno and Roberts on WFAN on my 3 hour drive from New Jersey to Connecticut on Saturday afternoon. Joe and Evan, both Mets and Jets fans, were ranting with other Mets-Jets fans how that combination of sports teams to be fans of in New York City was probably the worst. Especially with the current Jets collapse after starting out 8-3 and the Mets’ two consecutive late season collapses, the heartbreaking is at an all-timemets high. Well, as a Giants and Yankees fan, it’s been the complete opposite for me. The Yankees made the playoffs 13 years in a row (and winning four championships), while the Giants just came off a stellar Super Bowl dream season, not to mention the 2000 run and this year’s 12-4 season. This led me to do a quick analysis of the different combination of teams of the four major sports that fans can follow in NYC, and which ones have the best happiness and least happiness. First, I will quickly review each team’s success the past 25 years (I chose 25 because I first became a sports fan of a NY team in 1984 with the Yankees, and it’s a nice round number for recent success). Then I will rank the combinations in order of success.

Success will be defined as follows:

ACCOMPLISHMENT POINTS/OCCURRENCE
Winning season 2
Division winner 3
Playoff season 3
Playoff round won 5
Conference championship 15
Championship 20

Points explanation: To be clear, the team accrues points every time one of the accomplishments occur. For example, if the Giants win the Super Bowl this year, they would get points for every single accomplishment, not just the 20 points for winning the championship. That means a championship year for a football division winner would net the team 2+3+3+5(3)+15+20 = 58 points! That also means not all four sports championships are created equal, but they are pretty close, The reason for this is because the excitement and level of accompjetslishment increases up to the championship game. Usually when a team wins a championship, the fans are  relatively satisfied for the next few seasons. A division-winning playoff season coupled with a loss in the first playoff round would net the team 2+3+3 = 8 points. In essence, a championship is loosely equal to seven playoff seasons. Ties in football and the old ties in hockey are counted as non-games when calculating winning percentages.

So, here are the results of the nine New York City metro area sports teams and their successes the past 25 finished seasons. I will update this when the football, basketball and hockey seasons are finished with their 2008 seasons. That means I do not include the Giants accomplishments or the Jets collapse for this season in my analysis.

NEW YORK CITY METRO AREA SPORTS TEAM PROFILES
TEAM RECORD WIN PCT. WIN YRS DIV WIN
PLY YRS
PLY RECORD PLY RNDS RECORD CONF CHMP
CHAMP SUCCESS POINTS
Yankees 2235-1741 .562 21 10 13 78-50 17-9 6 4 366
Mets 2087-1892 .525 16 3 5 30-24 6-4 2 1 136
Giants 215-182 .542 13 7 12 15-9 15-9 4 3 278
Jets 180-218 .452 10 2 8 4-8 4-8 0 0 70
Knicks 1005-1013 .498 13 4 16 89-86 18-16 2 0 206
Nets 882-1136 .437 10 4 13 52-59 10-13 2 0 151
Rangers 863-807 .517 12 3 15 70-76 14-14 1 1 183
Islanders 788-898 .467 10 2 12 41-62 8-15 1 0 117
Devils 918-752 .550 18 7 18 118-98 22-15 4 3 341

WIN YRS – years above .500, DIV WIN – years team won division, PLY YRS – years team made playoffs, PLY RECORD – playoff record, PLY RNDS RECORD – how many playoff rounds team won and lost, CONF CHMP – conference champions, CHAMP – championships

It’s not surprising the Yankees have had the most success the past 25 years. The Devils championship success in the 1990s make them a close second. Although the Mets had 16 winning seasons, they only made the playoffs five of those years because their records were probably closer to .500 than .600. The Jets by far are the worst team. They are the only ones to not even have a conference championship. Conference championships are a major key to a fan’s happiness. All fans hope for is their team to make it to the final round… to the World Series, Super Bowl, or Championship.

new-york-giants-superbowlHowever, the success points by themselves don’t mean much because we can’t compare teams across sports. We need to calculate the total possible points for each team and each sport. In our six points categories, the maximum is 25 (example: 25 possible playoff seasons) except the possible playoff rounds won. The only sport in which playoff rounds won is dependent on the team is football, where there is the extra wild card round. If the team was involved in a wild-card game, then that’s another possible playoff round to be won. In non-playoff seasons, total possible playoff rounds is 3, discounting the wild-card round. From the total possible points each team could have accrued in the past 25 years, we can calculate a success percentage for each team.

The success percentage of the NYC sports teams in the past 25 years, from best to worst:

TEAM RANKINGS
RANK TEAM POINTS TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS
SUCCESS PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees 366 1355 .270
2 Devils 341 1575 .217
3 Giants 278 1490 (8) .187
4 Knicks 206 1575 .131
5 Rangers 183 1575 .116
6 Mets 136 1355 .100
7 Nets 151 1575 .096
8 Islanders 117 1575 .074
9 Jets 70 1485 (7) .047

devilsThe ordering stayed the same when we used success points except the Mets jumped ahead of the Nets because there are less total points in baseball than basketball (mostly due to playoff rounds). The Yankees effectively led all categories except the number of playoff seasons and playoff rounds won. However, unlike the other three sports, baseball is the hardest to get into the playoffs, even after the wild cards were introduced in 1995. The futility of the bottom four teams coincidentally have a team in each sport. That means a fan of the Mets, Nets, Islanders and Jets have been wallowing in the most misery for the past 25 years. The top four teams are also one in each sport. A fan of the Yankees, Devils, Giants and Knicks would be the happiest four-team fan in the area.

knicks2Now that we have a success percentage associated with each team, the fun part begins. We want to find the team combinations that give fans the most happiness. However, to be realistic, we realize that many fans are not hardcore or even big fans of all four sports. I know a lot of fans that are only into baseball and football, but not the other two. Or they are fans of other cities and teams (traitors) for some of the sports. To allow for combinations that don’t include all four teams, we will simply take the average success percentage of the teams involved.

Before giving the results of a lot of the possible combinations, let’s highlight the very popular baseball-football fans:

NYC HAPPY FAN RANKINGS FOR BASEBALL-FOOTBALL FANS
RANK TEAMS HAPPY FAN PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees, Giants
.229
2 Yankees, Jets
.159
3 Mets, Giants
.144
4 Mets, Jets .074

yankeesWow! If you are a Yankees-Giants fan you have been three-times happier than Mets-Jets fans the past 25 years. The funny thing is that if you are a Yankees-Jets fan or a Mets-Giants fan, the Jets and Mets pull down your overall fan happiness. Being a Jets fan pulls your Yankees fan happiness down by 41%, and being a Mets fan pulls your Giants fan happiness down by 23%. Or to be an optimist, the Yankees and Giants pull up the happiness of Jets and Mets fans. Hehe…

Here are the results of most of the possible combinations of being a NYC metro sports fan. There are too many total possible combinations to list, from 1-team fans up to 4-team fans, so I will make some assumptions in order to remove unpopular combinations. I will assume that multi-sport fans have to be at least a baseball AND a football fan. That means we will only allow combinations in which each must contain a baseball and a football team.

NYC HAPPY FAN RANKINGS
RANK BASEBALL FOOTBALL BASKETBALL HOCKEY HAPPY FAN PERCENTAGE
1 Yankees .270
2 Yankees Giants .229
3 Yankees
Giants Devils .225
4
Devils
.217
5 Yankees
Giants Knicks Devils .201
6 Yankees
Giants Knicks .196
7 Yankees
Giants Nets Devils .193
8 Yankees
Giants Rangers .191
9
Giants .187
10 Yankees
Giants Nets .184
11 Yankees
Jets Devils .178
12 Yankees
Giants Islanders .177
13
Yankees
Giants Knicks Rangers .176
14 Mets
Giants Devils .168
15 Yankees
Giants Nets Rangers .167
16t Yankees
Giants Knicks Islanders .166
16t Yankees
Jets Knicks Devils .166
18t Yankees Jets .159
18t Mets
Giants Knicks Devils .159
20 Yankees
Jets Nets Devils .158
21 Yankees
Giants Nets Islanders .157
22 Mets
Giants Nets Devils .150
23 Yankees
Jets Knicks .149
24t Mets Giants .144
24t Yankees
Jets Rangers .144
26 Yankees
Jets Knicks Rangers .141
27 Mets
Giants Knicks .139
28
Yankees
Jets Nets .138
29t Mets
Giants Knicks Rangers .134
29t Mets
Giants Rangers .134
31 Yankees
Jets Nets Rangers .132
32t Yankees
Jets Knicks Islanders .131
32t
Knicks .131
34 Yankees
Jets Islanders .130
35 Mets
Giants Nets .128
36 Mets
Giants Nets Rangers .125
37 Mets
Jets Knicks Devils .124
38 Mets
Giants Knicks Islanders .123
39 Yankees
Jets Nets Islanders .122
40 Mets
Jets Devils .121
41 Mets
Giants Islanders .120
42 Rangers .116
43 Mets
Jets Nets Devils .115
44 Mets
Giants Nets Islanders .114
45
Mets .100
46 Mets
Jets Knicks Rangers .099
47
Nets .096
48 Mets
Jets Knicks .093
49 Mets
Jets Nets Rangers .090
50 Mets
Jets Knicks Islanders .089
51 Mets
Jets Rangers .088
52 Mets
Jets Nets .081
53 Mets
Jets Nets Islanders .079
54t Mets
Jets Islanders .074
54t
Islanders .074
54t Mets Jets .074
57
Jets .047

islandersBy far, a pure Yankees fan has had the most happiness the past 25 years in NYC. This is followed by the Yankees-Giants fans not interested in basketball or hockey. Throw in the Devils hockey fans with that combination and you are just as happy. The best four-team combo, unsurprisingly, is the top four successful teams, the Yankees, Giants, Knicks, and Devils. My combination of the YGKR is ranked 13th in happiness. If I had been an Islanders fan and not a Knicks+Rangers fan, I would’ve just been as happy. At first glance, this might not make sense since the Islanders success percentage is much lower than the Knicks or Rangers, but because I would not be invested in a fourth sport and team (hockey), the success of the Yankees and Giants keep me very happy even with the Islanders lack of success. The Knicks and Rangers haven’t had enough success to override that extra sport disadvantage. Interesting…

netsOn the flip side, the Mets and Jets dominate the bottom half of the rankings. Their city rivals’ (Yankees and Giants) success coupled with the fact that you can’t be a Mets-Yankees or a Jets-Giants fan (those that are should be forced to move to a one-team city) give their fans plenty to be sad about. If you are solely a Jets fan, you have it worst; being only  happy 4.7% of the time the past 25 years. And for Joe and Evan of WFAN, well, you two have the second worst team combo.

Anyways, hope you enjoyed this little exercise. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave a comment below (You will be anonymous). Or leave a comment on what team combo you are. Sorry I couldn’t put all the possible combinations on a chart. There are too many to list. And frankly, how many Nets-Rangers fans are there (without being fans of baseball and football)?

To finish up, please vote for the teams you are fans of below. Of course, you can pick multiple teams.

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Why Andy Pettitte owes the Yankees. Just look at Plaxico Burress.

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 4, 2008

Plaxico Burress in a Yankees cap

Plaxico Burress in a Yankees cap

Let me get this straight. Both Andy Pettitte and Plaxico Burress hurt themselves. Albeit one with drugs and the other with a gun. And yes, they hurt their teammates (Pettitte’s might be arguable) and the integrity of their respective games. But physically, they only hurt themselves. The Giants proceeded to suspend Burress for four games and put him on the non-injured reserve list; essentially ending his season. The suspension obviously resulted in major financial repercussions for Burress. The Yankees, meanwhile, welcomed Pettitte back with open arms for the guaranteed $16 million. Even with the Mitchell Report coming out just 10-days after Pettitte exercised his $16 million option.

Now comparing Pettitte and Burress is like comparing apples to oranges. Pettitte has always been a model citizen and family man, whereas Burress has been a headcase of suspensions, fines and showmanship for the Steelers and Giants. You could also bring up the fact that Pettitte used HGH to help recover faster to help his team. Not much moral support for Burress being late to a bazillion team meetings or shooting himself in a club.

However, Pettitte still hurt the integrity of the game of baseball. To all those fans that don’t care if players use steroids or HGH, imagine a game without integrity. Full of gambling and drugs. The game would become a farce, much like wrestling is now. So as much as fans are tired of hearing about performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in baseball, it’s a necessary fight. Although Pettitte apologized, you can see how differently fans treat PED-using players based on their remorse. Pettitte and Giambi? Back in good grace. Clemens and McGwire? Who are they?

Which brings me to my point. Pettitte is very very lucky the Yankees welcomed him back and fully supported him. The news conference with Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi sitting to his sides as he apologized and answered questions must have been tough to watch for some hardcore baseball traditionalists. There was no compromise regarding salary. The whole contract was honored and fans even cheered for him because he owned up to his mistake. He proceeded to go 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA and a team high 204 innings. However, he battled shoulder problems all year and closed the season with a 2-7 record.

Remember this apology? (Getty Images)

Remember this, Andy? (Robert Browman, Getty Images)

Now Pettitte is a free agent. He owes the Yankees. The Yankees would like to bring him back for $10 million. Pettitte does not want to take a pay cut from his $16 million. His agents are shopping him around, especially to Joe Torre and the Dodgers. Although Pettitte has been saying all year that he wants to pitch in the new Yankee stadium (even jokingly picking a locker in the new locker room on  a tour there), when asked if he would take a pay cut to stay with the Yankees, he dodged the topic and deferred to his agents. One, Pettitte will be 37 next season. Two, Pettitte is no where worthy of a top of line $16 million contract. Three, the Yankees saved his career this past season by welcoming him back. Four, the Yankees saved his reputation by allowing him to show complete remorse and prove himself on the field. Five, he owes all the Yankee fans who supported him this past year.

Is he really going to argue over $6 million in pay? I’m sure he doesn’t need the extra money after earning tens of millions in his career. If it’s about getting what he’s worth, well, he’s not worth $16 million. He needs to give a nice Christmas present to the Yankees and their fans. Stop being business-like, show some gratitude towards the team that saved you and the fans that stood by you.

I’m one of them.

RELEVANT LINKS

NY Times – Agents work to avoid a pay cut for Pettitte
Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past
The disappointing 2008 Yankees Season – Stick a fork in it, the Yankees are done
Analysis: New York Yankees at the half

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Baseball as America’s Pastime continues to fall further into the past

Posted by silentarchimedes on November 19, 2008

Baseball is not a sport built for parity. It is not like the NFL where parity in a 16-game season promotes excitement and competition. It’s not like the NFL where each team has a strong base of hardcore fans and where most fans are fans of watching football as a sport. Football is more exciting to watch than baseball. The biggest complaint from casual sports fans about watching baseball is that it’s boring. This is apparent when we look at the popularity of college football versus that of college baseball or even the MLB minor leagues. Baseball’s lengthy 162-game season and similarly lengthy best-of five or seven game playoffs series are not conducive to small market teams like the Tampa Rays and Florida Marlins capturing the attention and excitement of casual fans around the country.

Penalty - horsecollar tackle

Penalty in football - horse-collar tackle

The drama of baseball takes too long to unfold in this day and age of “keep me interested right nowmentality. Baseball is about rivalries and story lines and history. It is about statistics and tradition. It can be agonizingly slow and frustrating. It’s not like football where all it takes is three hours to resolve the pent up competitive juices. Words you hear about in football are war, in the trenches, cold, frozen tundra, swirling winds, etc etc. Penalties include grabbing the facemask, unsportsmanlike conduct, taunting and horse-collar tackles. Imagine if any of those words are ever used near baseball. Baseball is too slow for this new era of extreme sports. This is why mixed martial arts is gaining popularity over its more traditional and more boring sport, boxing. Since when is boxing considered boring? This is why a sport like soccer continues to have difficulty gaining popularity in America. The sport takes too long to achieve satisfaction. Even a violent sport like hockey has had to transform itself after a period of low scoring games due to the NJ Devils’ inspired zone trap defense. The game now requires faster, younger athletes with more room to show their speed and skills. It was a matter of survival for the NHL, and baseball might be headed that way as well.

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

MLB Commish - Bud Selig

To make matters worse, two factors have had very negative effects on baseball. The steroid era has pushed baseball into a precipitice decline in popularity. The skepticism surrounding the genuity of sacred baseball records being broken during the steroid era has removed two of the main attractions I mentioned earlier, history and statistics. It has removed the excitement of slow journeys toward hallowed records and the respect given to such players. Remember the awe and respect of Cal Ripken when he broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak or when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled to break Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Of course, the second record is now seen with skepticism and is considered one of the defining moments of the steroid era. The fact that players have seemed unwilling to address the problem of the past ten years is disturbing. The feeling that the players rather protect their cheating teammates than the integrity of the sport leaves many traditional baseball fans disgusted. The second factor is directly related to the steroid era. Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, has been a  complete travesty to baseball. Although he is good for the owners, fans see him as boring, slow,  biased and ineffective. He continues to brush over the steroid era and had to be fully pushed by even Congress before taking action. His decision to leave the All-Star Game a tie was horrible. And although his decision to add interleague play initially seemed a huge success, it has proven to be a hassle and distraction to fans. He seems unwilling to confront the problems of baseball and his biased views are shown in a somewhat condescending tone when pushed by the media or fans.

So what is baseball to do? For one thing, it needs a new commissioner. One that is younger and understands that baseball requires changes that appeal to younger fans but keeps the traditionalists happy. One that realizes that the steroid era can potentially destroy baseball forever unless a level of happiness is reached among all groups involved, including but not limited to owners, players, former players, Congress, traditionalists and new generation of fans. However, there are things about baseball that are at the roots of its tradition and changing them would prove good and bad. The Rays-Phillies World Series was a disaster. Television ratings have never been lower. However, baseball cannot change the playoffs to one game takes all because the lengthy journey of 162 games culminating in one 9-inning game seems unfair. Although why not? I bet if the World Series was one game, more people would definitely tune in to see who wins. If I’m a Yankees fan, why would I tune in to a best of seven between the Rays and Phillies? Especially when football is on or I can watch DVDs or do something else. However, if it was a 3 hour event, like the Super Bowl, I’d be willing to watch it and even make a social event out of it. Baseball has to be willing to face the problem of why it is declining in popularity. It has to be open to innovation and the possibility of changing tradition for the better of the sport. It has to also lean on the teams that make it a popular sport, like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cardinals. Just like the NBA, which always does much better when popular teams like the Knicks and Celtics do well. With the Knicks in a multi-year doom and gloom, NBA has lost a lot of its luster.

Kids and video games

Kids and video games

However, I believe it will be difficult for baseball to regain its name as America’s pastime. It’s a sport that has lost its appeal, most likely for good. Children have more interest playing football, basketball and even soccer than baseball. Inner city kids almost exclusively play basketball now. Nowhere is stickball or other variants of baseball being played in city streets and playgrounds. Additionally, there are too many other things to keep kids occupied nowadays. Video games, internet and hi-def television are far more intriguing options than watching baseball or even rounding up atleast 10 of his or her friends to play a game.

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Ten reasons Mike Mussina should keep playing

Posted by silentarchimedes on November 15, 2008

Mike Mussina is stupid if he retires. Here’s why:

Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina

1. He won twenty games (20-9) for the first time in his career. Before 2008, he was a borderline Hall of Famer. With the twenty game season, he is still borderline, but definitely much stronger. Another season would help his chances, even if he doesn’t win 20 again.

2. His career record is 270-153. It’s an excellent win-loss ratio, but the 300-win magic number would make him a shoe-win to the HOF, especially with his new 20-win season. Why stop when so close? It’s definitely possible for him to play two more years and average 15 wins a season.

3. He reinvented himself in 2008. He went from a power control pitcher to a finesse control pitcher along the molds of Jamie Moyer. Mussina is 39, Moyer is 45. Moyer’s record the past six years? 82-60. Moyer’s record the past four years? 54-40. I think Mussina is a better pitcher than Moyer and can be better in that age range also. Imagine if Mussina added 82-60 or even 54-40 to his current record? That’s 352-213. A definite sure fire invitation to the HOF.

4. The new Yankee Stadium opens up in 2009. It’s pretty exciting to want to be a part of that. Andy Pettitte has already voiced his desire to rejoin the team to be a part of that.

5. The Steinbrenners’ are set on fielding the most expensive and best team on the field in the inaugural season. If the Yankees add CC Sabathia and Derek Lowe or AJ Burnett to Chieng-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, and hopefully Andy Pettitte, that’s as dominant as a team can get. Why wouldn’t Mussina want a piece of that action? There would be no pressure on him to be the team ace or even in the top 4 pitchers. Enjoy the next season or two.

Yankees World Series Championships

Yankees World Series Championships

5. One thing still missing in Mussina’s career? A World Series ring. He joined the Yankees in 2001, the year after the Yankees last championship. Next year seems like it has the potential for the Yankees to get back to championship ways if personnel moves go according to plan. Additionally, it seems unlikely that Tampa repeats next year. And Boston is on the decline in several key positions.

6. Mussina is the Yankees player representative. The current CBA expires in 2011, but that means discussions for the a new deal begin in 2010, and maybe earlier. Doesn’t Mussina want to make some final influences before he leaves the game to the next generation?

7. A veteran presence like Mussina and Pettitte for the young pitchers on the Yankees, like Wang, Philip Hughes, Joba and others can be very rewarding for a veteran. It’s like a power trip.

8. Money, money, money. Yes, Mussina already has a lot of it, but you can never have too much, especially when you are lucky enough to play a child’s game as a career. With the Yankees spending like crazy for the inaugural seasons in the new stadium, Mussina would get a generous 1-year, plus another year option on performance clauses. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you have to play baseball to get it. Mussina plays baseball. Get it.

Money doesn't grow on trees

Money doesn't grow on trees

9. Mussina is already old, in terms of pitching time lines. It’s not like if he retires he’s making a statement by going out on top. He might regret retiring a couple years early when he looks back on his life. As he gets older, he starts looking at his legacy and if he doesn’t make the HOF, he might regret not getting the 300 wins.

10. One other key statistical milestone is within range in the next year or two. Mussina has 2813 strikeouts. He had 150 this year. Getting 187 is possible next year, but most likely would require a second season. A 3000 strikeout career definitely helps his HOF chances.

And a bonus reason for him to keep playing? The Yankee fans want him too.

My other post on Mussina “Should the Yankees re-sign Mike Mussina for 2009?” returned a resounding “YES” from my readers. My unscientific poll returned 23 YAYs, and only 1 NAY.

My new poll asks if you think he will retire:

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Interesting 2008 baseball regular season comes to a close

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 28, 2008

As the 2008 baseball season comes to a close for many teams today, there have been some interesting firsts, same storylines, and sad endings.

FIRSTS

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays

1. Tampa Bay Rays makes playoffs for first time in franchise history – Not only that, it was the first time they had a winning record. It was the first time they had over 70 wins, 80 wins, and 90 wins. It was the first time they had the best home record in the majors. It was the first time they finished first in the vaunted AL East over the Red Sox and Yankees. Could it have been due to removing the “Devil” from their name in the offseason? 🙂

2. Francisco Rodriguez shatters saves record – Rodriguez shatters Bobby Thigpen’s single season saves record of 57 from 17 years ago. His 62 saves is the first time a reliever broke 60 saves in one season. Both were 26 years old. However, Rodriguez had 7 blown saves this season (compared to Mariano Rivera’s one). He could have had close to 70 saves had he been more consistent.

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki

3. Ichiro and A-Rod reach baseball milestones – Ichiro Suzuki became the first player in over a century to have eight consecutive 200-hit seasons. Meanwhile, A-Rod became the first player to record at least 35 homers in a season for 11 straight years. He also tied Babe Ruth with 12 career seasons of having over 35 homers.

4. Instant replay – Near the end of the season, MLB decided to install instant replay for questionable home run calls. It has been used several times since, and has been involved in overturning calls on the field.

SAME STORYLINES

1. Joe Torre makes playoffs for the 13th consecutive year – After leading the Yankees to 12 straight postseason appearances in 12 years as their manager from 1996-2007, Torre was let go and signed with the Dodgers. He led them to the NL West Title in September.

2. Yankees continue winning ways – Although the Yankees did not make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, some of their winning streaks continued. They now have 17 consecutive seasons with over 75+ wins (for strike shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons a winning percentage of .460 was used) and 16 consecutive seasons with a winning record; both major league bests.

3. Red Sox continue winning ways – Although the Red Sox haven’t been as prolific and consistent at making the playoffs due to the dominance of their division rival Yankees, they have put up consistently winning seasons. They are second to the Yankees in consecutive winning seasons with 75+ wins (16) and a winning record (11).

Can this be reused for 2008?

Can this be reused for 2008?

4. Mets continue their late-season futility – Although the Mets have had success the past 9 years, they continually show futility at the most important times of each season. Besides losing the Subway Series to their crosstown rival Yankees in 2000, they also lost in the playoffs in 2006. However, the past two seasons have been most depressing. In 2007, the  Mets had a 7 game NL East division lead with 17 games left to play. They proceeded to lose 12 of their final 17 games to lose the title to the Phillies and miss the playoffs. By some measures, it is considered the second worst collapse in baseball history. The 2008 season is seeing a smaller collapse. Having a 3.5 game lead against the Phillies for the division title again with 17 games to go, the Mets won only 7 of their next 17, while the Phils won 12 of their next 15. The Phillies clinched the division once again. To make matters worse, the Mets lost their final game while the Brewers win their last one  to grab the wild-card and leave the Mets out of the playoffs once again.

5. Small market teams continue losing ways – Besides the Rays, most small market teams continued their non-playoff appearances. The Montreal Expos – Washington Nationals have a major league leading 27 consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance. The Brewers in second with 25 consecutive seasons ended that drought with a win today and a Mets loss to grab the wild card berth. The Royals (23), Pirates (16), Blue Jays (15), Reds (13) and Orioles (11) all continue their futility.

6. Another season, another surprise team or two – This year the Tampa Rays and Brewers have been the surprise teams. 2007 saw the Indians and Diamondbacks. 2006 were the Twins and Athletics. 2005 were the White Sox and Braves. 2004 was the Dodgers. 2003 was the Marlins. And 2002 saw the Expos do relatively well.

ENDINGS

The old and new Yankee Stadiums

The old and new Yankee Stadiums

1. Yankees miss the playoffs for first time in 13 years – Ever since the Yankees became the first AL wild card team to make the playoffs in 1995, they have not missed it until this year. In those 13 years of postseason play, they won 4 World Championships, 6 AL Pennants, 10 AL East titles and 3 Wild Card berths. They had a combined record of 1252 – 832; a MLB best .594 winning percentage. They had 3 no-hitters, of which 2 were perfect games. They had one Rookie of the Year, two Manager of the Year, one Cy Young, one Comeback Player of the Year, and two Most Valuable Player of the Year awards in that time span.

2. Two stadiums come to a close – Both the Yankees and Mets will be playing in new stadiums to start the 2009 season. Although most people are happy Shea Stadium is being torn down, the demise of Yankee Stadium and its rich history is more symbolic.

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