Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Those Selfish Knicks

Take a 26-32 Knicks team, remove scoring leader Jamal Crawford (ankle stress fracture) and rebounding leader David Lee (sprained ankle), and you apparently get a team that can't pass.

Click on the screen capture to the left and you'll see that the Knicks played the entire first half of tonight's game in Boston against the Celtics (14-42) without dishing a single assist!

This shouldn't be too surprising, considering that their point guard, Stephon Marbury, is one of the most notorious "shoot-first, pass-rarely" point guards of all time. He's never averaged 10 assists per game during his decade in the league. His last two Knicks years are far worse than that PG benchmark: 6.4 per game last season and a measly 5.5 per game this year.

Other guards on the Knicks' active roster include Steve Francis (probably out for the season with a bad knee), Mardy Collins, a rookie (picked after the immortal Renaldo Balkman) up from the D-League, and Nate Robinson, a mini-Marbury who is so far in Coach Isiah's doghouse that the Knicks only started one guard against Boston. Thomas-signee Jerome James must have been the two-guard in the lineup - he played exactly one minute in the half.


So we're through the third quarter and the Knicks now have four assists! Their first of the game came from Eddy Curry, and their second and third from Channing "They Go To A Lake Of Fire And" Frye, both of whom average zero-point-eight (0.8) assists per game. Marbury finally got on the assist scoresheet with 0:24 left in the period.

As repulsive as the '06-'07 Knicks have always been, this game is historically fugly. The record for fewest assists by a team in a game is three, last accomplished in 1976. Fewest assists by both teams in a game? Ten, which only happened once, in 1956. The teams have twelve after three quarters - thanks to Celtic Rajon Rondo's six assists - so we're not going to match the record tonight. But hopefully the NBA will add tonight's game to their "NBA Encyclopedia" so we can fondly remember these Knicks and Celtics for all posterity.


The most ridiculous part of this story is that three minutes into the fourth quarter, the Knicks were actually up two points before being outscored by 10 the rest of the way. Say it with me: Fire Isiah!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lotteries Suck

That's the email I got from the Mets today. More than a dozen people I know tried and failed to win the right to buy tickets to any of the *four* games offered in this poor choice of method to allocate tickets. It's like the Mets made a conscious decision to prevent average fans from getting Opening Day tickets except through a scalper.

Think about it this way: With a lottery, you guarantee that eBay sellers and scalpers will sign up for the sole purpose of putting the tickets on the secondary market. Since the lottery signup is online, the barrier to entry is tiny (an internet connection and a credit card to buy tickets if you win the lottery) and there are no geographic hurdles (a reseller in Flushing can register as easily as one in Fargo). Because of the low cost of entering the lottery, resellers will enter many, many, many times, lowering the chance that any single Mets fan will win a chance to purchase tickets.

If, instead, every ticket the Mets wanted to sell for these games was put on the auction block, scalpers could still participate, but there would be little profit opporunity for them. That's because fans who want to go to the games would buy tickets at the "market clearing" price. Scalpers could try to bid $51,111,111 for dugout seats, but would be unable to resell them for more.

Using a lottery begs the question: Are the Mets trying to help out scalpers, or are they just too stupid to realize their mistake?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Saabs and PAPs

We've had some fun around here comparing major league pitchers to some fine automobiles, so let's speculate on the baseball equivalent of this true story.

The guy on the left bought that grey Saab 900 SPG new in 1989 and has recently passed (cue Dr. Evil) one million miles on the odometer. The guy on the right is a Saab executive who rode shotgun as the numbers turned, then announced that this guy - and anybody else who can prove he bought a new Saab and drove it a million miles - gets a free 2007 Saab 9-5 Aero (MSRP $38,735).

When I considered this well-worn Swede (the car was manufactured well before GM bought Saab) my first thought turned to hurlers who'd been asked to throw many thousands of pitches over a long career and how usage patterns have changed over time. The guys at Baseball Prospectus created a system called Pitcher Abuse Points (PAPs) to describe the effects of overuse. Last year, for example, Livan Hernandez and Carlos Zambrano finished 1-2 in PAP, averaging over 100 pitches per start.

Pitchers and cars may be the same in this respect. You don't want to go full-throttle before the engine's had a chance to break itself in (young pitchers shouldn't throw too many high-stress pitches) and you need to perform preventive maintenance (the Oakland A's call it "prehab") throughout the life of the car.

But as I began to type, I realized that here is a car that had not been abused; from its pristine condition (it has the original engine and turbo!) one must admit it's been lovingly maintained. It's no stretch to say that more cars could be driven for six-figure mileage if people took better care of them. It's a similar conclusion to an article at The Hardball Times that suggested GM's should start conditioning their minor league pitchers to throw more pitches than usual.

That being said, I imagine we'll see a return to the 4-man rotation before someone else comes forward to trade his million-mile Saab for the latest model.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Do You Know This Horse?

It's not Barbaro.

If you think the WWL has bombarded you with mentions of John Amaechi's autobiography (published, of course, by ESPN Books), you ain't seen nothing yet.

Today's WSJ (subsciption required) reports on ESPN's efforts to conquer one of the last sports markets it has not already overwhelmed. An editor at ESPN Books says they look for books that will work "for the magazine and for television," confirming (at least in my mind) that, without the marketing muscle of Bristol, many of these books would fail. Sure, the Sports Guy sold 80,000 copies' worth of column reprints, but how many of you remember Billy Bean?

In any event, the horse pictured above is "Ruffian," a racehorse from the 70's that was put down following a one on one sprint against the 1975 Kentucky Derby winner in which it broke a hind leg. Later this year, ESPN books is publishing a racing writer's memoir of his time covering the filly (forgive the pun), complete with an ESPN-produced TV movie to be broadcast on ABC television (and later on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNetc.). Think Man In The Middle crossed with "Hustle." They're hoping the offspring looks like Seabiscuit, but... well, maybe that is Barbaro after all.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Riddle Me This

Q: What do Six Flags, Clinton Portis, and Johnny Rockets have in common?

A: Childlike innocence and Red Zone Capital.

That's the private equity fund owned by Redskins boss Daniel Snyder.

Tickets and You

Wednesday, the New York Times reported on the Mets' plans to make their four platinum priced 2007 games - Opening Day and the 3-game series against the Yankees - available in a lottery. According to the press release:

"The Mets have launched the online ticket registration to provide fans a fair and convenient way to purchase tickets from the limited availability for Opening Day and the Subway Series."

Sure it's convenient to win the right to buy tickets in a lottery - you don't have to stand in line at a ticket window. But whether the lottery is fair depends on your perspective - whether you get lucky and win the lottery, or not. As a public service, here's a quick economics lesson courtesy of Get Untracked.

Fans of all sports now accept variable pricing for tickets, the idea that a Mets game versus the crosstown rival Yankees on a sunny May weekend should cost more than a game on some random Tuesday in September against the 91-loss Nationals. The Mets in fact charge five times as much for an upper deck reserved seat at the former game as compared to the latter ($25 to $5). However, the Mets admit by the act of holding this lottery that they're still not charging enough for those Platinum games. For many fans, the admission price they would be willing to pay for Opening Day or the Subway Series is much greater than that charged by the box office, resulting in a shortage of tickets, more commonly referred to as an event being sold out.

Why do teams underprice their most in-demand tickets? Teams' public relations staff will tell you it's to keep ticket costs low enough that the "average fan" won't get pissed off at a team charging $100 for nosebleed seats at the Subway Series. But that P.R. is B.S. Fans don't feel taken advantage of by scalpers who can get them into a sold-out game. Diehard fans appreciate the ability to pay for tickets to a game they really want to attend, which is why eBay and Stubhub and all the teams' own scalping sites are so successful.

But wait!, you say. Scalping deprives fans of the ability to attend games if they can't afford scalpers' high prices for tickets. Remember, though, there are only about 55,000 seats at Shea Stadium but many more thousands of people who want to go to Opening Day. Even in a world with no scalpers, there will be people who want to attend but cannot. Scalpers make it possible for at least a portion of those people - those who value attendance most highly - to see Opening Day.

The fairest - by which is meant most transparent - way to sell these Platinum tickets would be to hold an auction for each and every one of the seats not already sold to a season ticket holder or otherwise hoarded by the Mets for VIP's. An auction at the start held by the Mets would simply replace an auction at the end held by scalpers, and would ensure that nobody gets "lucky" by winning the lottery and paying face-value for seats that would go for many times as much on the open market. Everybody - not just lottery winners - has the right to buy tickets to the game. That's fair.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Where Is The Magazine Link?

Continuing the recent "sports website redesign" theme, it seems that during the recent redesign of Sports Illustrated's site, the link allowing print subscribers to read certain magazine articles online has disappeared.

Anybody out there on the Interwebs know where the link is hiding or why it went bye-bye?

EDIT: I called SI's magazine customer service, and the rep said "Yes, we see they changed their site and we're taking complaints about it." I said, "Please add me to the list of people who want that access restored."

In other words, they know what they're doing and will see how much we complain about it. The number to call and make your voice heard is: 800-528-5000. Or I suppose you could email the "publicity" department in the hopes that bad media relations forces SI to relent:

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Essence of Blogging

I know Will at Deadspin's been promoting the theory for some time that this year's Indianapolis Colts are similar to the 2006 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. So when the idea showed up at Baseball Prospectus' "Unfiltered" blog, which itself contained an email from Aaron Schatz, head of Football Outsiders, naturally I had to post about it. If that's not what blogs are for, then call me Dee Mirich.