Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sports Rant, Part 1

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to comment on sports and miscellaneous, so with the beginning of the New Year, now might be a good time. As it turns out as I was writing this I have a lot to get off my chest, so this will come in several installments. Some of these issues go quite a ways back.

It appears as if Brett Favre will be able to end his career without being suspended, although based on Jen Sterger’s attorney’s comments I would not be surprised to see a lawsuit come down the pike shortly. Apparently while Favre was not cooperative with the NFL the “forensic evidence” could not prove that the photos of the hoo-ha that Sterger had on her phone were from Favre. The biggest problem with this decision for the NFL is that Roger Goodell has now said, “if you don’t want to cooperate with our investigations you don’t have to. You can lie to us and be obstructionist, and the worst that will happen to you is that you will be fined.” That is not a great example to set up. Officially the case for the NFL is now closed.

Of course the NFL also said they were done with the Jets and the sideline tripping incident against the Dolphins, but have now stepped in and leveled a $100,000 fine. (Does anyone know where the fine money goes? I hope it is to a charity.) So I think it’s also possible that after Favre officially retires for the 50th time that the NFL might step in and do something so that it actually does not impact his playing career. Although Gregg Easterbrook notes in his column this week that in 7 or Favre’s last 10 years his last play has been an interception, fumble or sack. Not good stats.

Felix Hernandez won this year's American League Cy Young Award despite only having a record of 13-12. Now there is little doubt that King Felix is a great pitcher and that he pitched for a terrible team. There is also little question that I would love to have him pitching for the Yankees as he destroys us every time we see him. But doesn't winning mean anything anymore? I understand sabermetrics and what they bring to the game, but what about the simple fact that sports is about winning and losing?

Now many writers and fans said the win-loss record is overblown because he had such a historically bad team behind him and so they were not going to use that against them. But, by the same argument they were willing to say that what CC Sabathia and David Price did was not as impressive because they had good teams behind them. You cannot have it both ways. You can't hold a good team against a pitcher if you are not going to hold a bad team against him.

We certainly are not going to do the same thing for a manager. Don Wakamatsu was not considered for manager of the year. Instead he was fired before the season ended. Many people have said, "Imagine how bad their record would have been if Hernandez hadn't won them those 13 games." Well, maybe Wakamatsu, who was dealing with the same incredibly bad team, also contributed 13 more wins then they might otherwise have had. We still aren't going to name him manager of the year. Why? Because winning is important and it means something.

Now the other thing is that you cannot say the caliber of the teams or the pressure to perform were anywhere close to the same for these three pitchers. CC Sabathia and David Price both pitch in the toughest division in baseball. I believe the five teams in the American League East could be in contention for the title in every other division in baseball, and in most divisions they would win. That means that the competition they face on a day-to-day basis is much better than what Hernandez faced, which helps him with his other numbers.

CC also pitches is a hitter friendly park, and both Sabathia and Price were pitching in the heart of a pennant race. Pitching when your team's season is on the line is a lot harder to do then pitching when nothing is on the line, which is how Hernandez pitched most of the year. Like I said, Hernandez is a great pitcher, easily in the top five, and he destroys the Yankees when he faces them, but winning has to account for something. Is it a travesty that he won the Cy Young? No, and the world won't end, but reporters need to begin to swing the pendulum back away from the extreme end of sabermetrics and begin looking at what is actually happening on the field again.

As just one more example that winning is important. This year the San Diego Chargers are ranked first in the league in defense, and second in the league in offense. You would think this would get them a long way, but last week they were eliminated from the playoffs. The best the will finish is 9-7, and for a while when they were first in both categories they were under .500.

If it was only about stats, which is what fantasy sports has emphasized, then we should go ahead and award them the Lombardi trophy, which normally goes to the Super Bowl winner, name Norv Turner the coach of the year and name Philip Rivers MVP. We are not going to do that, however, because we realize that winning is important and if all we focus on is stats then we are truly creating a fantasy, it is not reality.

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