Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hold the Obituaries...(Updated)

Back on July 20th, I advised that it was too early to write off the Phillies' season.  I said that we need to re-evaluate once we got to August 15th....To wit:
In about 3-4 weeks - August 15th, to be precise - I will update this with a further reflection.  By that point, there will be just a little over one quarter of the season to go.  The trading deadline will have passed by that time, and we will re-evaluate whether the rumors of the Phillies' demise were premature.
When the Phillies were in what we have been calling 'Slumpmas' (about May 20-June 30), I had mentally noted that if the Phillies were down double digits by August 15th, we could more or less declare the season a failure and begin the E-A-G-L-E-S chants.  

So where are we?  The Phillies have yet to play tonight against the Mets, but as of this writing, instead of being six games out of the division and three out of the Wild Card, they have a chance to cut the lead to two games and pull even in the Wild Card.  How did that happen?  

For starters, the pitching has improved - Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and new acquisition Roy Oswalt have all stepped up their game.  Hamels, unfortunately, has been victim to back to back 1-0 shutouts - as unlucky as you can get.  Otherwise, the rest of the staff has gotten the job done.

Raul Ibanez has remembered how to hit, and Jayson Werth seemed to have broken his slump.  Surprise showing has been from Carlos Ruiz.  Considering that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are on the disabled list, Ibanez and Werth needed to step up or else the Phillies would have that double digit deficit.  The Phillies are 65-51 now - 17-7 since July 20.  So I will say, the rumors of the Phillies' demise has been greatly exaggerated.

Who Do You Write Like?

I write like
Ursula K. Le Guin
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I find this interesting because I just read The Dispossessed and one of her short stories ("The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas") for the summer seminar in which I took part, as well as having read A Wizard of Earthsea when I was a freshman in high school.  Le Guin is a good storyteller, even though The Dispossessed was about as confusing a book as I have ever read.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Because No One Gives A Damn....

The University of Southern California apparently has something called the 'Center for Feminist Research' that releases studies every 5 years demonstrating that television has been treating women's sports 'unfairly' and that the poor showing of female athletes on television is 'intolerable'.  Is it, though?

In my estimation, no.  Why?  Because no one cares.  Christina Hoff Sommers wrote a column explaining the issue of the market for women's sports, especially professional sports - it's virtually non-existent.  She makes the point that women prefer to watch men's sports as well - a fact that should open eyes, but probably won't for the ideologically driven.  

I like women's sports at the amateur level - high school, college, and the Olympics.  That liking and interest completely stops once it gets to the professional level.  Women's pro softball?  Rare.  Women's soccer?  Nope.  WNBA?  HELL NO!  I just don't want to watch.  It's not personal, but it's also not compelling in any way.  The closest thing may be some pro tennis, and then, it's only the majors (Wimbledon, US, French, and Aussie Opens).  

Sommers alludes to another issue - resentment.  I share it, for the same reason that the soccer folks irritate me: we keep being told that 'this (fill in the blank) is the next big thing' - whether it's soccer, the WNBA, and that I ought to watch for that reason.  I don't have to watch anything, and I choose not to watch those things.  If other people want to watch, that's great!  

So I guess that all the women who don't watch women's pro sports are sexist too!  The insulting part of all of this is the fact that women's pro sports are effectively subsidized enterprises that still lose money.  I suppose the folks that wrote the USC study will want a Title IX for pro sports too.  Pro sports affirmative action!  Make ESPN cover women's sports for 52% of every Sportscenter episode!  I joke about this now, but sadly, it will be mentioned as a possibility eventually.  

Sports viewership should still be a bastion of free-market principles - if a product sucks or doesn't get the audience, let it go away.  No forced viewership and for God's sake, drop the guilt over what sports we want to watch.  Women's pro sports don't succeed for one reason and one reason only...

No one gives a damn. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Baseball Instant Replay - A Pandora's Box

It was fair at this point in flight
There was quite a lot of griping going on in the bottom of the 9th inning in Miami over a foul ball called by umpire Bob Davidson during the Thursday night game between the Phillies and the Marlins.  

Was it foul or fair?

The answer is that we will never know, but according to the hysterics of people like the Marlins' announcing crew, it was obviously a fair ball and the Marlins would have won the game 5-4 at that particular point.

But was it so obvious?  I don't think it was.  Let's get one thing straight, and this is the point Davidson (Balkin' Bob, as he is derisively called) rightfully made: it is completely irrelevant where the ball lands after it has already touched the ground.  When you see the replay, it hits the foul line in the infield - at that point, it is a fair ball, but the question then becomes - did it pass over the third base bag?  If the answer is yes, then it's a fair ball and Davidson blew the call.  If it did not, then it is a foul ball, no matter where it lands in the outfield (and for the record, it was in fair territory in the outfield).  However, the replay as to whether it went over the base or not is ultimately inconclusive.  It will be debated for some time.

This brings me to the notion of replay.  Interestingly enough, about one year ago, I wrote a post complaining that lazy umpiring was making it harder for people like me to oppose a comprehensive instant replay system in baseball.  Today on ESPN's website, Jayson Stark advocates that any fair/foul call should be subjected to replay.  I think that position is misguided and would cause more problems than it solves.  Why?

The first question to come up, especially when any ball is initially called foul but under review is called fair, is what to do about baserunners.  Take Thursday's game, for example.  If the hit by Gaby Sanchez is overturned and ruled fair - do the umpires actually award the Marlins the run (Hanley Ramirez was on 2nd)?  Do they award Sanchez a double?  Normally (under pristine laboratory conditions) a hit like that would result in a double and a run scored, but baseball is a funny game.  Sometimes people slip or trip over the third base bag or sometimes they miss the base altogether.  How can we know that the runner would score?  Mind you that this is different than a ground rule double; we are talking about a play that is essentially aborted as soon as the umpire yells 'Foul Ball!' - and thus have no measurable way of indicating where the runners and the hitter should and would be.

It is easier to overturn a call of fair to foul - all you have to do is return the hitter to the box with a resumed count and the baserunners to their previous positions.  However, if there is one form of replay (reviewing fair balls that should be foul), there is going to have to be the other (foul to fair), for consistency's sake.  Fans and the media complain already enough that there are too many judgment calls in baseball.  Allowing replay like this just opens the door to even more judgment calls.  Sure, the ball that was called foul may have been fair, but what do we do with the hitter and runners?  There are only two ways to solve this problem.

1) Award everyone a single base - the Marlins would not like this one either, because it still would not have plated the winning run.  They would have had 1st and 3rd with one out, but that's no guarantee to score, just witness the Phillies' baserunning errors in the top of that same 9th inning on Thursday.  Awarding a single base would be an established ground rule for any non-home run foul ball that is ruled to be fair upon review, regardless of what it might have been or could have been.  There is just too much speculation involved to justify going beyond one base.

2) Keep replay for what it is - home run/not and fair/foul on homers.  I am not a fan of MLB adopting an NFL style 'coaches challenge' replay system.  Baseball is a much different game and as much as people complain, umpiring is part of the game as well.  Yes, they need to get the calls right as often as possible.  I don't like using the 'human element' defense, but any human endeavor is by design going to be flawed; some mistakes are going to be made and no amount of replay, or any technology will ever fix that.  Why?  Because man designs the technology and replay as well.  

So what will it be?