Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Aikman Awards For Sports-Journalistic Incompetence

This is probably a post that could be written daily, but as you watch and listen to sports, read about it, and listen to sports-talk, you stumble across spectacularly stupid people.  And I'm not talking about Troy Aikman's command of the English language.  Well, I am.  But not only that.

--Listening to local L.A. guys on ESPN radio on Sunday just before Cliff Lee took the mound for the Phillies against the Dodgers in Game 3 of their NLCS in Philadelphia, they were all arguing the same point that the Dodgers may actually have an advantage over the Phillies in the fact that they do not have an ace.  The argument was that if you reply on an ace and he loses, it is a great psychological blow.  But if you have no ace, you can't ever experience that let-down.

This is a ground-breaking concept that can be applied universally!  Why keep your body in good condition?  Rather, we should all get a little pudgy and try to eat fatty foods so that if we have a heart attack someday, we will not be disappointed because we knew it was likely.  Don't study or work hard because if you do not reach a career goal, you will have seen it coming. 

So GM's out there: don't go after the best players possible.  Sure guys like Cliff Lee will win 18-20 games a year and keep their ERA's under 3.0.  But think of the psychological impact in those 4-5 games a year that they don't win!  Always aim for mediocrity so you won't be surprised when you get it.

Incidentally, Lee threw 8 shutout innings and allowed 3 hits and no walks in that game.  The Phillies won 11-0.  The Dodgers threw two non-"ace" starters onto the mound that night and they combined to allow 8 earned runs in 4.2 innings.  What's the psychological impact of that?

--These same radio guys went on to debate what has wrong with Manny Ramirez since he had "returned."  They delicately avoided the elephant in the room, deciding that his problem was one of three things:
1) He is not confident in his game plan.  Despite his aloof image, Manny had always been a well-studied hitter and always had a plan when he stepped into the box.  "Something" has affected his belief that his plan will work.
2) He has lost his swagger.  "Something" has made it so pitchers are not intimidated by him anymore.  They are attacking him more.
3) He is getting fooled.  "Something" has changed and he is no longer guessing right on pitches.  He is often not getting the pitches he expects in certain spots.

Not once did they mention what it was that he had returned from - a performance enhancing drug suspension.  Not once did they even mention performance enhancing drugs at all.  Manny is the poster-child for what happens after you stop using.  It is one thing to be a fan of a team and be blind to your heroes' faults.  But these guys are journalists.  You can be a fan and a journalist, but when you are working, put down the foam finger and tell it like it is!  As they say, "no cheering from the pressbox!"

--I heard earlier this week that Sasha Vujacic cut his hair short and had an interesting, non-fashion-related reason.  Vujacic believes that as a rookie (with short hair), he did not get calls from refs because he was too baby-faced.  So he grew his hair longer and grew out some stubble for a few seasons so that he would look a little older.  Now that he is a more established player, he feels that he will get more calls even if he is still pretty baby-faced with his new short-haircut. 

There is some logic in that.  Vujacic did look older with his grubby-look and does look very young again now.  The problem is that he is failing to see that the reason that refs may have treated him like a rookie was that he was one.  And the reason that he will likely get some veteran treatment by refs now is because he is one.  All that hair really did as make him look like an idiot for a couple of years. 

--When the Phillies beat the Dodgers on a walk-off triple in Game 4, Chip Caray gave a great "exciting-game-ending-play-at-the-plate" call.  The trouble was, there was no play and Caray was basically just reading from a script.  Jimmy Rollins hit the ball to the game and Carey went right into the script including the obligatory "Ruiz rounds third; here's the throw to the's not in time!  Phillies win!"  There was no throw.  The ball was cut off and Rafael Furcal was actually shown carrying it with him off the field. 

This is just a week after Caray blew the biggest call in the Twins-Tigers playoff game.  Bottom of the 10th inning, 1 out, runners on first and third.  Here is Caray's call: "Line drive, base hit...caught out there.  Runner tags; here he comes.  Throw to the plate...on target and in tiiiiiime. A double play ends the 10th.  Rayburn evens the ledger."

Here's what happened: Nick Punto lined out to left fielder Ryan Rayburn.  And it wasn't a diving play or anything.  Rayburn just kinda stood there and the ball was hit right to him.  The runner from third tagged up and Rayburn threw home.  The throw was way right, but the catcher caught it and dove back at the plate to get the out at home.

So the call was dead on except that it wasn't a base hit (which, by definition, couldn't have been caught anyway), the throw wasn't close to the target, and Rayburn didn't "even the ledger" because the game was already tied. 

So he's blown the call on the biggest moment of two of the last 10 games he's worked.  Not to mention a million other gaffs along the way.  He gives incorrect stats.  He calls line-drive outs "base hits" somewhat regularly.  He is a chronic exaggerator.  He seems surprised and impressed by the most obvious common knowledge "trivia."  He makes factual and game-play errors constantly.  And if I have to hear him say again that Sandy Alomar, Sr. used to say that you don't "watch" the game, you should "observe" it, I am going to lose it.  He says it every game, usually out of context.  In Game 4 of the NLCS he said it after Ron Darling pointed out that pitchers in the bullpen way out in center field have a hard time seeing the exact edges of an ump's strike zone. 

From USA Today:
"This was heard from Caray during [a] Twins-New York Yankees American League Division Series game: 'A quality at-bat for (Minnesota shortstop) Orlando Cabrera.'
"But Cabrera struck out with two men on, his team down 6-2 to end the top of the seventh inning and batting champion Joe Mauer on deck."
So not only is he incompetent, but he is he a grown man who wants people to call him "Chip" even though his name is Harry.  But I'm sure he's paid really well and has lots of people who tell him how good he is.  (There was a fantastic fake-Chip Caray account on Twitter that got taken down after being highlighted in a post on Deadspin.  So you can't see the Twitter anymore, but see some highlights here.)

Perhaps this post should be the Aikman-Caray Awards?

--And finally, I am not sure if I blame ESPN and Joe Schad for reporting this story, or if I blame the high school coach for being a moron more.  But Terrelle Pryor's high school football coach thinks Jim Tressel isn't using Pryor properly.  I'm sure Tressel (and most Div. I college coaches) love taking strategic advice from high school coaches.  I'm sure Tressel will take it to heart and change his system because a guy who used on know one of his players thinks he's doing it wrong.  Pryor's kindergarten teacher reportedly thinks he should be allowed to nap during defensive series because Pryor often looks cranky on the sidelines.

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