Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Other sports stuff

I don’t hate the Yankees the way most Mets fans do. Because I’m typically drawn to the underdog and the Yankees are never that, I rarely root for them, but I don’t surround myself with the type of Yankees fans who make it difficult to like Yankees fans. I owe a lot of that to the two Yankees fans with whom I most frequently chat online these days, Tom Boorstein and Alex Belth, both of whom are generally reasonable and not at all entitled.

That said, I am partial to Alex Rodriguez in part because he’s great and hilarious and in part because of the way the worst Yankee fans seem to hate him so much despite how great and hilarious he is.

My favorite Yankee ever, though, is easily Rickey Henderson. And I know Rickey spent way more time with the A’s and later played for the Mets, but he was a Yankee when I first became conscious of baseball. Henderson was, in fact, the man on the first baseball card I ever got for myself, at card show at the Holiday Inn in Rockville Centre before the 1987 season. There was a lottery at the show, where for a couple of bucks you could pick from a pile of envelopes featuring nine cards apiece, each envelope containing a different team’s starting lineup. My brother got the Brewers. I got the Yankees, with Rickey in front. (I also took home the grand prize from that same lottery, by the way: A coveted Kevin Seitzer rookie card.) I suspect I would have ultimately liked Rickey anyway, because Rickey.

I rarely watch them. I’ve got nothing against college football and if I’m someplace where people are watching, I’ll tune in and enjoy all the particulars of football at that level that don’t exist in the NFL. I’ve always loved offensive strategy in football, dating back to afternoons spent drawing up formations and plays with my friend Bill in perhaps the nerdiest jock activity ever. So I like watching the replays of successful plays and trying to figure out how everything worked and why it worked, identifying who made key blocks, and which players who probably aren’t getting credit for the play on the broadcast that will definitely get credit for the play in the team’s film review.

But I’ve never had any rooting interest in a college football team, and since I spend so many of my waking hours watching baseball, the NFL and college basketball, I rarely feel the desire to take on new sports at this point. I’ve watched a lot more NBA this season than I have in the past, but I still prefer the college game even if the players are clearly nowhere near as good.

Pretty sure it’s the media. Sad thing is, I’m not even kidding. And that’s not to diminish Tebow’s desire or anything.

Ben! Don’t let Ben’s humble egg-avatar fool you, he’s as triumphant a guitar shredder as you’re ever going to play in a band with for several years, provided you are me. No joke: One time I went to see him play at Carnegie Hall only to be turned away because it was sold out.

Also, that’s awesome. I claim no exclusive dominion over fake mustaches, and Blake Griffin wears his well. I’d ask for context, but I think I prefer to dream on it.

A-Rod denies existence of ‘Minotaur’ painting

No, I do not have a painting of my upper body on a Minotaur. I don’t know where they get that stuff.

Alex Rodriguez.

Well, yeah, but no one ever accused him of having a painting of his upper body on a minotaur. Minotaurs have the head of a bull with the body of a man, so replacing the head of a minotaur with Alex Rodriguez’s would just make it a painting of Alex Rodriguez.

A-Rod was accused of having a painting of his upper body on a centaur, an entirely different type of Greek mythological manimal. And I really, really hope he knows the distinction, the above quote is misdirection meant to imply that he doesn’t, and a portrait of A-Rod as a centaur still hangs proudly somewhere in his apartment near the original Warhols and Basquiats.

Also, and not to be too cynical about A-Rod’s interest in art — he’s on one of the ads outside the Met, after all — but is it a coincidence that the two famous artists A-Rod owns are the same two referenced by Jay-Z on a song from Watch the Throne?


Things to know about Max Scherzer

“He was born with them,” said Jan Scherzer, Max’s mother. “Then he was 4 months old. I looked down at my baby, and he had a blue and green eye. Very clearly. I have pictures and everything. I took him to the pediatrician shortly after that, and he said, `They may go back and forth. They may change again this year.’ As the year went on, the blue eye got bluer, and the green eye changed to brown.

“And it was amazing. That night, on Johnny Carson, the actress Jane Seymour was on. She had different-colored eyes. It was just such a coincidence. She was talking about all the flak she’d taken growing up. She’s a beautiful woman. She did OK. We always made a big deal to Max that he was special, that it wasn’t something wrong.”

In grade school, when Max drew a cat or dog or giraffe, he always chose dissimilar colors for their eyes. On parent-teacher night, Brad and Jan could immediately tell which drawing hanging on the wall was their son’s.

Jeff Passan, Kansas City Star, March 4, 2005.

If you haven’t noticed by now you certainly will sometime early in tonight’s Game 4 matchup between the Yanks and Tigers: Max Scherzer, the Detroit right-hander aiming to end the Bombers’ season, has heterochromia iridum, a 1-in-500 genetic anomaly that produces two different colored eyes. As Passan’s article notes, it prompted a lot of teasing until he started establishing himself as a pro-caliber athlete, much in the way I assume the name “Keena Turner” did. When you’re striking out more than a batter an inning with a fastball you can dial up to the high 90s, this looks especially awesome:

But that’s hardly the only interesting thing about Scherzer. In college, at the behest of his economics-major younger brother, Scherzer became interested in baseball’s advanced metrics — a Brian Bannister with the stuff to do damage.

In a 2009 article for the Arizona Republic, Nick Piecoro described Scherzer’s understanding of the whims of batting average on balls in play, a knowledge that likely helped him through some adversity in 2012. In front of the Tigers’ LOLtastic defense, Scherzer yielded a .333 BABIP, second highest in the Majors — trailing only teammate Rick Porcello. It’s hard to imagine a Major Leaguer would ever go on record saying as much, but perhaps it’s no coincidence that Scherzer’s strikeout rate spiked and ground-ball percentage dipped the same year the Tigers shifted Miguel Cabrera to third and imported Prince Fielder to play first.

The article notes that Scherzer’s brother occasionally teases him via text message about becoming a four-win (above replacement-level) pitcher. This year, per Fangraphs, he was worth 4.6 wins. By baseball-reference’s version of the same stat, he was worth exactly 4.

It also seems worth noting that Scherzer came to the Tigers along with pitchers Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth and center fielder Austin Jackson in a three-way trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks before the 2010 season. By Fangraphs’ version of WAR, the Diamondbacks’ acquisitions have yielded them about 19.7 wins in the three seasons since — 7.2 of them from Daniel Hudson, acquired in a trade for Jackson in the middle of the 2010 season. Granderson has been worth 13.2 wins to the Yankees.

Scherzer, Jackson, Coke and Schlereth have combined to be worth 26.6 wins to the Tigers since the start of the 2010 season. In that time, they have made, in total, about the same amount of money Granderson did this season alone. And all of them are under team control through arbitration for at least the next two seasons.

Yankees on fire, and not in the good way

I started putting together a post aggregating as many newspaper and blog articles as I could find asserting that Nick Swisher is mentally weak or buckling under pressure or unclutch or a baby for daring to be honest with the press and admit he doesn’t like being booed by his home fans after providing them four years’ worth of admirable-to-very-good production in regular seasons, but there were hundreds of them and I got bored with it. Many of them sounded like they came straight from the mouths of fifth-grade bullies, too, and didn’t seem worthy of the link.

Again: We criticize ballplayers when they give boring, cliched answers to post-game questions, then on the rare occasion they don’t, we spin ’em around and throw them back in their faces. It’s… well, it’s ironic or something. Swisher’s a divisive character, and until this week I can’t say I ever cared for the guy’s brostentatious behavior, but he’s both a human being and a pretty good baseball player and I find it hard to fault him for preferring not to be jeered by them that showed up Sunday.

Next — after some morning meetings — I started parsing through all the ridiculously small samples being used to argue for the benching of good Yankees in favor of less-good Yankees in all those same newspapers and blogs. There are tons of those too, many of them still somehow replete with contempt for the binder of information with which Joe Girardi sometimes makes decisions. Some of them contradict themselves, too, citing Raul Ibanez’s postseason stats where convenient and ignoring his 3-for-29 career line against Justing Verlander while simultaneously pointing to Eric Chavez’s 9-for-25 as evidence that he’s money against the best pitcher in the world.

But you know the song by now, and that’s really all there is to say about any of it. Nearly every postseason line — even Carlos Beltran’s, as much as it hurts me to say — exists in a tiny sample. Derek Jeter, for playing a 16-year career with the Yankees, has about a full season’s worth of postseason experience across which he has performed about exactly as you’d expect him to. He has nearly 200 more postseason plate appearances than any other player in history, and more than twice as many as any other active player.

So I’m left with the last and silliest bit of Yankee news this morning: Alex Rodriguez took time out from his struggles this October to solicit phone numbers from a pair of attractive women sitting behind the Yankees’ dugout on Sunday night. This, naturally, produced many LOLs because A-Rod LOL. If Jeter did it, swoon. Alternately: If Jeter did it, it would never be reported. Alternately, Jeter would never do it because TRUE F-ING YANKEE.

I don’t know why everyone’s just assuming those attractive blondes don’t know about Bill James’ research suggesting consistent clutch-hitting ability to be a myth, and that they weren’t singing the small-sample-size song to comfort A-Rod through his slump.

Also, not for nothing: It’s not like Justin Verlander has never lost and the Yankees have never hit. Sure, he is great and they have recently been pretty awful offensively, but they were among the best offensive teams in baseball this year. Remember?

The playoffs make us something something.

Nobody wants to bro it down with Nick Swisher

It hurts. Sometimes I’m a sensitive guy. Some of the things people say, they get under your skin a little bit but hey, I’ve been lucky to be here for the last four years, and we’re not going to go out like this. I’m one of those guys that you give me a hug and I’ll run through a brick wall for you. Right now it seems like there’s a lot of … I’m trying to find a way to word this the right way, it’s tough. It’s really tough. Because you want to go out there and you want to play for your city, you want to play for your team. Just right now, it’s just really tough.

Nick Swisher.

Oof, poor Nick Swisher. Can someone just pull this guy in for a hearty bro-hug to lift his spirits a bit? Maybe a Red Bull and vodka?

Seriously, though, it does suck that baseball players are expected to speak to the media after every game, but heaven forbid they open up and share their feelings when they’re emotional instead of filling the paper with platitudes, they get crushed by fans and media alike for being spoiled babies or unclutch or not True Yankees or whatever.

Look at the comments on that article. Not a single Yankee fan defends Swisher, who has spent the last four years of his career playing at least 148 games a season and posting a 120 OPS+ for the Bombers. I get that he’s well-compensated for it and that boos come with the territory. But so does he, apparently, and that doesn’t mean they don’t sting when they ring down from the rafters.

Friday Q&A, pt. 1: Baseball stuff

I have some terrible news for you, Jen: The world’s going to end regardless of whether the Mets sign Dickey and Wright. Scientists believe that in about five billion years, our sun will explode into a red giant roughly 250 times its current radius. Briefly, experts thought there was hope that Earth’s orbit would widen enough during the transition to avoid a fiery death, but the current thinking says that a “tidal bulge” caused by the Earth’s own gravitational pull will drag it into the swelling star. Sorry, I know that’s a bummer but the upside is we’ll all be long dead by then.

Hmm. Are we considering contract statuses? I’d probably work like hell to extend David Wright’s deal and then protect him if I could. After Wright, it’d be Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey. If I couldn’t get something completed with Wright in time for the draft, I guess I’d cross my fingers and hope an expansion team wouldn’t want to draft a player only under its control for one more season and add Zack Wheeler to the list.

Oh man, how great are condiments? I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but I had some stomach issues when I was living at home after college and my mom’s friend recommended some new-age feel-good book about how to deal with them. But it turned out the whole book was just this lady lecturing me with her opinions about why everything delicious is bad without providing evidence. And, look: I know Taco Bell is not optimal if you’re having stomach issues, so spare me that. But that’s hardly something you need a book to figure out.

Anyway, I put the book down for good when she started a chapter with, “Americans use too many condiments.” What does that even mean? Do Asians not use too much hoisin and soy sauce and sriracha? Do Europeans not slather their french fries in mayo? Americans use just enough condiments, lady, and if that’s barbecue sauce eating away the lining of my stomach then so be it.

Oh, to answer your question: It’s Sriracha. They already have Cholula, I know, and anyone familiar with the old background photo on TedQuarters knows I go through a lot of Cholula. But I’m hardly a one hot-sauce man, and the prospect of a giant tub of Sriracha with a tap attached has me salivating here in the office. (Note: Cholula is an SNY sponsor, but the Cholula bottles on my desk long pre-dated the sponsorship.)

I have no idea, but I wasn’t looking a gift horse in the mouth or trying to figure out what exactly a gift horse is and why it has its mouth open. I scooped up a few and I’m heading out there with some Orioles-fan friends this afternoon. People: Did you even watch last night’s game? A 1-1 tie through 12 innings in a playoff game? That’s awesome baseball no matter what team you favor. If you have the means and can slip out of work early, I don’t really understand why you wouldn’t head to the stadium tonight. Get on it, though; tickets are already up to $25.

Also, I’ve found it can be great fun to go to a Yankee game and carry on like the worst type of Yankee fan. Boo A-Rod and go absolutely crazy every time Derek Jeter does anything. If you’re subtle enough, no one will even know you’re doing it ironically.