Saturday, March 31, 2007

Opening Day Predictions

Because I can't do better than the thoughtful and well-written baseball previews elsewhere on these interwebs, I'll give you three sets of my predictions. First, my entry in Baseball Prospectus's Predictatron contest (win totals for each team plus a "lock" in each league, with playoff results). Second, my entry in BP's HACKING MASS contest (choosing the players who will suck the most without getting benched). Third, what I would wager on, were I in Las Vegas looking up at the big board.


Note: '<--' denotes division winner, '<~' denotes wild card winner, '***' denotes mortal lock pick

American League East
New York Yankees 94 - 68 <--
Boston Red Sox 93 - 69 <~
Toronto Blue Jays 84 - 78
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 80 - 82
Baltimore Orioles 75 - 87

American League Central

Cleveland Indians 89 - 73 <--
Minnesota Twins 86 - 76
Detroit Tigers 84 - 78
Chicago White Sox 81 - 81
Kansas City Royals 69 - 93

American League West

Anaheim Angels 92 - 70 <--
Oakland Athletics 82 - 80
Texas Rangers 73 - 89
Seattle Mariners 72 - 90 ***

National League East

New York Mets 90 - 72 <--
Philadelphia Phillies 87 - 75 <~
Atlanta Braves 84 - 78
Florida Marlins 80 - 82
Washington Nationals 61 - 101

National League Central

St. Louis Cardinals 87 - 75 <--
Chicago Cubs 85 - 77
Milwaukee Brewers 80 - 82
Cincinnati Reds 76 - 86
Houston Astros 72 - 90 ***
Pittsburgh Pirates 68 - 94

National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks 90 - 72 <--
San Diego Padres 84 - 78
Los Angeles Dodgers 83 - 79
San Francisco Giants 75 - 87
Colorado Rockies 74 - 88

PLAYOFFS American League Division Series:
Anaheim Angels over Boston Red Sox in 5 games
New York Yankees over Cleveland Indians in 3 games

National League Division Series:
New York Mets over St. Louis Cardinals in 4 games
Arizona Diamondbacks over Philadelphia Phillies in 4 games

American League Championship Series:
Anaheim Angels over New York Yankees in 5 games

National League Championship Series:
New York Mets over Arizona Diamondbacks in 6 games

World Series:
New York Mets over Anaheim Angels in 6 games (¡Vamos Los Mets!)


Catcher - Brad Ausmus (Astros)
First Base - Scott Thorman (Braves)
Second Base - Placido Polanco (Tigers)
Third Base - Nick Punto (Twins)
Shortstop - Tony Pena (Royals)
Left Field - Scott Podsednik (White Sox)
Center Field - Willy Tavares (Rockies)
Right Field - Randy Winn (Giants)
Pitcher 1 - Eric Milton (Reds)
Pitcher 2 - Gil Meche (Royals)

Hypothetical Wagering Opportunities

Team Win Totals
Diamondbacks over 80.5 wins (-135)
Mariners under 78.5 wins (-110)
Dodgers under 87.5 wins (even)
White Sox under 86 wins (-115)
Devil Rays over 67.5 wins (-115)

Player Props
Takashi Saito under 35.5 saves (-125)
Mariano Rivera under 37 saves (-115)
Trevor Hoffman under 37.5 saves (-120)
Johnny Damon under 177.5 hits (-115)
Ichiro Suzuki under 215.5 hits (-115)
Jim Thome under 33.5 home runs (-115)
Alex Rodriguez under 38.5 home runs (+110)
Todd Helton to lead MLB in home runs (200-1)
Nick Swisher to lead MLB in home runs (100-1)
Jason Bay to lead MLB in home runs (100-1)
Chase Utley to lead MLB in home runs (100-1)

Good luck!

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Simmons Plan

Now that Bill Simmons has published his 8-step plan on how to "fix" Holy Cross men's basketball, it's worth noting that the item most likely to have an impact on the program is one I overlooked in my Daulerioesque handicapping of The Simmons Plan: Money.

Simmons wrote, "Make me an official 'friend of the program' ... I want to be a booster. I want to break rules. I want to make a difference."

Perhaps the Sports Guy fancies himself the next Phil Knight, who has donated over $100 million to his alma mater Oregon, $40 million of which went toward renovating the team's football stadium. It's worth noting that Knight recently gave another $105 million to Stanford Business School, where he got his MBA, for entirely academic purposes.

A commenter to the original post acknowledged the Sports Guy's hubris (Knight is worth $7.9 billion and Simmons is not) but also wrote that TSG has a legitimate beef because Holy Cross basketball should aim higher than winning its league each year. Fair enough. We know Simmons doesn't have Knight's wallet - Forbes Magazine says only 69 people in the world do - but as long as Simmons is The Sports Guy, he has his Page 2 bully pulpit.

Simmons wants to make a difference? He should link to the Holy Cross Athletic Fund at the bottom of his next column, asking his readers to donate specifically to the men's basketball program. We've seen Simmons publicly trash Time Warner Cable for screwing up his HDTV for a weekend; let's see whether he'll now put his influence to more philanthropic (if still self-centered) use.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

¡Vamos Los Mets!

Moore's Law does not apply to the grand game of baseball. That's easy to prove because the national pastime does not deal in circuits etched onto silicon. But even metaphorically, the doubling of MLB innovation moves far slower than once every 18 months.

The most pioneering franchise since 1900 would have to be the Dodgers. They incorporated Branch Rickey's use of affiliated minor league teams (which he begun with the Cardinals), established the first full-time spring training facility in Florida, broke the color barrier with Jackie Robinson, and moved from Brooklyn to become the only major-league team on the West coast.

The past twenty years has seen a stadium construction binge, the birth of interleague play, terrible television deals, and MLBAM, but these changes were directed from 245 Park Avenue rather than by any individual franchise. Still, we must not overlook how the Texas Rangers were often ahead of their time. They had:
And on May 5, 2006, the Rangers debuted their Los Rangers de Texas jerseys. It was a Cinco de Mayo promotion for the 35% of Texans that speak Spanish and, of course, merchandising - where the real money is made. It was not unlike the green jerseys teams have been pulling out on St. Patrick's Day, except that these were used in a regular-season game.

What really shocked me is that the New York Mets, who already have a great Spanish-language website - - didn't think of this first. Omar Minaya, the team's GM, has introduced plenty of Hispanic flourishes to Shea Stadium, including special Fiesta Latina and Merengue nights, P.A. announcements in Spanish and the between-inning entertainment of "Profesor Reyes."

I've had the same Bill Pulsipher Mets jersey since 1995, and though I've considered replacing the name across the back with TNSTAAPP, I've never bought a new one. Until, I hope, this year. Can fans request a specific promotion? I'm not looking for Dwight Gooden/Howard Johnson Audit Day, just an opportunity to proudly purchase a #7 Reyes Los Mets replica. Omar, are you paying attention?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Château Sprewell

The "Private Properties" column in today's WSJ contains the following tidbit:

"Former basketball star Latrell Sprewell is asking just under $5 million for his house in Westchester County, N.Y. -- even though his former girlfriend is still living there, according to her lawyer." [My bold.]

[Latrell Spreewell]Aside from misspelling Sprewell's name in the caption below his pixellated photo, the WSJ goes on to say that Sprewell's former girlfriend (and mother of his four children) is suing him for violating their cohabitation agreement and assaulting her. No word on whether Sprewell used his signature finishing move, "The Carlesimo."

As a public service, here's the listing on Sotheby's International Realty in case you'd like to make a bid. Be advised that the sound recording equipment in the basement and the two chandeliers are excluded from the purchase price.

The vital stats?
  • 13 rooms
  • 7 bedrooms
  • 6 full baths
  • 3 half baths
  • 9,278 square feet
  • $75,061 in taxes every year!
See below for additional photos -- consider it a quickie episode of MTV Cribs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Handicapping Simmons' Holy Cross Project

The arc of Bill Simmons' sportswriting career has forcefully intersected with the ascendant exponential function of bloggers. Many believe the Sports Guy has discarded his outsider status (hobnobbing with Anna K in Miami?), run out of material (so now he's a college basketball fan?), and generally lost his touch (his mailbags lately consist of letters from readers who agree with him). Simmons has always said he's not going to hang around Page 2 forever, but it's clear some feel he should already have moved on.

Few, if any, of those people fail to acknowledge Simmons' contribution to the kind of unconventional sports coverage that bloggers now engage in regularly: Writing somthing sportive in connection with television/music/movies/cars ... Posting diaries of live events ... Criticism of tv sportscasters. It's fair to say that blogging has unleashed the vast talent on the internet (and me - $1, Sheehan) to in effect out-Simmons the Sports Guy.

ESPN has allowed TSG to branch out from writing columns. They've sent him to the Super Bowl and various league all-star games. He's provided color commentary for a couple of minor college hoops games, and now he's formally blogging (Can one "formally" blog?). His latest basketball post listed the following as a dislike from the NCAA tourney:

"Holy Cross hoops: Honestly? I'm embarrassed. That was a disgrace. The Cross is now going on 30 years without an NCAA win. And you know what? I've had enough. Somebody needs to save our basketball program and it's going to have to be me. Details to come this spring."

The Sports Guy is foreshadowing this Holy Cross project on his Page 2 blog, thus it's likely he has the blessing of the Worldwide Leader to "fix" the 'Cross and write about it for ESPN. So, with apologies to The Cultural Oddsmaker and The Balls, AJ Daulerio...

I'm clicking over to Page 2, affecting my best Boston accent, and placing odds on exactly how Bill Simmons will save the Holy Cross men's basketball program.

Suiting up for the team: 25/1

Simmons is always writing about that one time, back in college, when he set a pick and then rolled to the basket while his teammate passed him the ball for an easy layup!!!!! Holy Cross is a "mid-major" school that plays in the Patriot League alongside noted basketball powers Colgate and American. The only Patriot League school ever to make a Final Four are your Holy Cross Crusaders, back in 1947. Simmons could easily make the varsity squad and contribute to a "whitewash" starting five. He could even borrow the #10 jersey of graduating senior Keith Simmons. The Sports Guy still has years of NCAA eligibility left, and you know he's been rehabbing his back for this very reason.

Writing for the Holy Cross student newspaper: 7/2

Don't call it "slumming." TSG would tell you himself, since he's started writing the ESPN column he's witnessed Patriots and Red Sox world championships. The collective karma of his thousands of readers rooting for Holy Cross would undoubtedly boost his alma mater's chances to bust everybody's 2008 NCAA bracket. Simmons himself admits that when he "started writing for the Crusader, everything fell into place..."

Becoming Holy Cross Athletic Director: 3-1

If Simmons has said it once, he's said it a thousand times: The Sports Guy would be one of the best general managers in the entire NBA, right now. And everybody knows college basketball is easier than the pros. He's even won the NBA Celebrity Fantasy League. You think he can't do better than Richard M. Regan, Jr.?

STFU: Even money

The Sports Guy adopted an EPL soccer team and has since written once about soccer, because he doesn't know jack about soccer. He has season tickets to the Clippers but only mentions the team to advise us that his farting friend Blueboy could repair the team's poor chemistry. When the first Holy Cross column appears on Page 2 later this Spring, expect perhaps one follow-up column and then radio silence, because Holy Cross does not need to be fixed, certainly not by Bill Simmons.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BP Hope and Faith versus Deadspin Snark

My two favorite sites are both posting daily MLB team previews. Baseball Prospectus titled its series "Hope and Faith" with the caption How Your Team Can Win The World Series. Deadspin turned the podium over to a different guest blogger for each team, so while you wouldn't expect a recurring theme, it seems that nearly everybody writing needs a refill on the ol' Xanax prescription. We're still a few weeks from Opening Day so not all the previews are up, but I think you'll see what I mean. Have a look:

Baltimore Orioles:
BP - "It is still early in spring, but so far Markakis is hitting .440 and Huff is right behind him at .409. The pitchers are doing great, the Red Sox can't figure out who their closer is, and Igawa and Matsuzaka have both been knocked around. It's all coming together, Oriole fans."
Deadspin - "Another item on my distressingly long list of reasons I know I'm getting old is that it is harder and harder every year to remember when I would get excited for an Orioles season ...As things stand, this is an utterly forgettable franchise. When is the NFL draft?"

Boston Red Sox:
BP - "Combined, the offense and pitching in our rosy scenario post a 560 VORP. That would lead to a projected record of 104-58, and while any 100-win team has a legitimate shot at the World Series, those with three dominating starting pitchers do better than those with equivalent-but-deeper total talent. If Schilling, Beckett, and Matsuzaka are humming along, the wait for the next Red Sox World Championship won't be anywhere near as long as the last one. "
Deadspin -

Chicago White Sox:
BP - "[H]elping out the cause is the fact that their main competition is the Tigers, who are about to be a victim of the plexiglass principle, and the Twins, who have a rotation that includes Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz...'nuff said. The Indians will be better, certainly–-but 21 games better? I don't see it.
Deadspin - "Some things still concern me. If Mark Buerhle can't bounce back, I don't think we have a chance at the postseason. Can Scott Podsednik stay healthy, let alone raise his batting average? Will he still be cute? Can this team convince me they're really a team, and don't just wear the same uniform -- despite the back office dealings that become front page news?"

Cleveland Indians:
BP - "Put another way, the upside is that an improved pen, a pitching staff, an offense that replicates their 2006 output, a defense that picks up a couple extra wins, and a little help from lady luck could all combine to put the Indians right back at the 90-95 win level. That should be enough to put them in the hunt come September."
Deadspin - "So yeah, this year's team will be better than the one that played in 1987. They'll be better than the one that disappointed Clevelanders last year, too. The problem? Just like in 1987, the Twins, Tigers and White Sox are still all better than the Tribe. And the Royals won't be pushovers, either."

Detroit Tigers:
BP - "If the Sheffield, Casey, Verlander, and Polanco scenarios come through–-and each of those are fairly plausible--the Tigers are looking at 93-95 wins and a spot in the playoffs. The Tigers rate to be a good secret sauce team, and if they can get into the World Series again, I don’t expect to see Brandon Inge diving around like an Italian soccer player."
Deadspin - "These days, there is no way to be a well-informed fan of most teams and get through the spring without having a cold bucket of calculus-based pessimism poured on your baseball fever... So I guess we just have to be nice to strangers and hope that the karmic wheel will not deal us some sort of cruel, White Sox-like, getting-better-but-not-making-the-playoffs fate." (To be fair, this preview was guardedly optimistic, but it's funny that the Deadspin author is blaming statheads for drowining fans' hopes while the BP crew marshals its resources to present best-case scenarios.)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
BP - "The Angels had the best record in the majors from the first of July through the end of the regular season. After a 35-44 start, the Halos were in last place in the AL West at the end of June--five games out of third, and 7 1/2 behind the front-running Oakland A's. The team then went 54-29 the rest of the way, outpacing even the hard-charging Minnesota Twins (53-31), but they nevertheless fell four games short of first."
Deadspin -

Minnesota Twins:
BP -
Deadspin - "Perhaps that's why, thrilled as I am about another baseball season being right around the corner, I can't seem to muster any great optimism for the Twins this season."

New York Yankees:
BP -
Deadspin - "Sure, we may not make it to the World Series every year. But, like a fantastic shit, being a Yankees fan, overall, is pretty damn satisfying." (More disturbing than depressing.)

Oakland Athletics:
BP - "All of this makes for a certain giddy anticipation--two shots of hope with a perhaps-unavoidable fear chaser. As long as we're on top of a volcano, at least we've got our dancing shoes on. Sure, the roster could go totally Krakatoa on us, but I have faith that this year, we'll wind up enjoying the view from the top."
Deadspin -

Seattle Mariners:
BP - "Both the Athletics and Angels appear to be better teams headed into the season, but not by much. If the players the Mariners believe in to defy the odds all reward the team’s faith in their potential, they’ll easily contend all season long."
Deadspin - "Rooting for the Mariners is futile, draining, and infuriating. It's not easy to document in a blog post; a baseball team this willfully and historically bad needs to be documented and exposed in a book like Fiasco. Thomas Ricks wouldn't even have to change the title."

Tampa Bay Devil Rays:
BP -
Deadspin - "So, 2007 ... the year the Rays come out of the cellar for the second time in their decade long history? Perhaps. The year the Rays win 72 or more games, setting a franchise record? Maybe. Come April 2, Scott Kazmir on the mound at Yankee Stadium against the vaunted Pinstripers, we'll begin what should be, if nothing else, the most fascinating and perhaps exciting season in D-Rays' history."

Texas Rangers: (Both sites must be in a bidding war to get Jamey Newberg to write the preview.)
BP -
Deadspin -

Toronto Blue Jays:
BP - "Isn’t it just time for the Yanks and Sox to step aside and let the other AL East teams try their hand at representing the division in the playoffs? Neither Baltimore nor Tampa Bay appears poised to take advantage of any slippage that may occur in 2007. In contrast, the Jays already knocked Boston out of the #2 spot in 2006, and New York may just have enough concerns about their pitching for the Jays to succeed in moving past them as well."
Deadspin - "The era when 50,000 people packed the Skydome-slash-Rogers Centre every game are long gone, but we're gonna keep it raucous all summer long in Mr. Rogers' neighbourhood as Doc, B.J., Vernon, Big Hurt and the boys go after a playoff spot. The Blue Jays are back, and we aren't keeping quiet about it." (Canadians are generally more optimistic than Americans.)

Arizona Diamondbacks:
BP - "This Diamondbacks team is returning to relevance, and can win the World Series just by making the right choices for the roster and catching some breaks with a couple of older pitchers in the rotation. They’re closer than you think."
Deadspin -

Atlanta Braves:
BP -
Deadspin -"Thanks to this offseason's most significant Braves news -- the sale of the team from one megalithic media conglomerate to another in some kind of hypercomplex three-card-Monte asset swap -- Atlanta's fans enter the 2007 season realizing that, in corporate terms, their team is as disposable as an extra ketchup packet."

Chicago Cubs: (Even though the Cubs are favored to win the NL Central, nobody really thinks they're going to win the World Series.)
BP -
Deadspin -

Cincinnati Reds:
BP - "While other teams in the division appeared to upgrade their rosters, no team in the NL Central seems strong enough to run away and hide. If the Reds make just a few marginal improvements, they could get their record over .500, giving them a chance to win the NL Central. Once they get there, as the Cardinals showed, anything can happen."
Deadspin - "It's hard not to be optimistic when Bronson Arroyo is one of your two staff aces. Wait, did I just write that? Was Rick Mahler not available anymore? Can we get Jose Rijo back? Arroyo has never won more than 14 games in a season. And while he and Aaron Harang are not a bad one-two punch, you get the feeling both guys would rather be doing back-up vocals for a band at Bonnaroo."

Colorado Rockies:
BP -"We were kind of like that team taking batting practice," [George Brett] said, nodding at the Colorado Rockies. Now, let’s not get carried away. A run like the Royals made–-seven of 10 years in the postseason capped by a world championship in 1985-–is more dream than reality in the everchanging world of major league baseball. There is, however, some validity to Brett’s comparison, and there is definitely a feeling among the Rockies that they have reached a point where it’s time to start winning."
Deadspin - "I can't construct any reasonable argument for anyone to become a Rockies fan. (Neither, apparently, can the team; their business model focuses on selling as many as season tickets as possible to local corporations that mostly won't use them and jacking up the ticket price scale for holidays and series against the Cubs, Mets and, in 2007, the Yankees.)"

Florida Marlins:
BP - "In Willis, they have a Chris Carpenter-like starter with series-dominating potential, and in Cabrera, they have that game-breaking slugger that can make his opponents seem puny. Add in some good choices from Fredi Gonzalez, Beinfest finding a league-average cener fielder, and the talent blossoming, and you've got a team with a shot."
Deadspin -

Houston Astros:
BP - "You, Tim, shall have your ring. This very year. There is no one to stand in our way. Only so much luck to go around for some, so much money for others, but even if he does not come, we have enough. (Looks around.) By god, we have enough." (Will Carroll wrote the Astros' preview as a baseball-themed Waiting For Godot. I don't know what to say about this.)
Deadspin - "We have never won a World Series, and there is little to no chance we will do that this year, so huzzah! Have another inning-ending double play, Adam Everett! Yes, so long as this blessed streak continues, we can go on about our business, secure in the knowledge that God is in his heavens and all is right with the world."

Los Angeles Dodgers: (Dodgers fans are notorious for showing up late.)
BP -
Deadspin -

Milwaukee Brewers:
BP - "The Brewers are the only team in the league which could take an injury at almost every position and still have a solid replacement there the next day (aside from Sheets going down again). There’s no team in the division with the bench depth and versatility. There’s no bullpen in the NL with the combination of role players, power arms, and potential. With all that, the team simply has to do what’s expected. For once in Milwaukee, that’s enough."
Deadspin - "They won't make the playoffs because the 2007 Brewers lack the most important feature necessary for a baseball team to be successful in Milwaukee. They lack the one thing the Brewers teams of the 1980s had in spades. The 2007 Brewers lack mustaches." (Fantastic theory!)

New York Mets:
BP - "To assume that the only team to win 90 games in the league–-first order or actual--is going to come all the way back to the pack is folly. Perhaps a case can be made for the Braves--who underachieved last year–-moving ahead of New York to grab the title, but there is no way that two National League clubs are going to outstrip the Mets this coming season. Therefore, at the very least, then, they will be the wild card team."
Deadspin -

Philadelphia Phillies:
BP - "What is certain is that the Phillies should be right in the thick of things. They haven’t built a great club, but they have a good one, and with an intelligent move or two they’ll be worth watching for more compelling reasons than being the only ballgame on free TV that night."
Deadspin - "But even without the long-gone grit of Vet Stadium, 2007 is one of the more hope-filled years in a decade. This year, there's more polish, more shine, more hope than usual, about a team that's been a giant tease for five years straight -- even though their off season moves resulted in neither a Jim Thome signing or a Billy Wagner trade." (Daulerio's too hopped up on Burrell's 'swordsmanship' to worry about the actual, you know, baseball.)

Pittsburgh Pirates:
BP -
Deadspin - "14 consecutive losing seasons and a total of just seven winning seasons since 1979. This is a franchise that went from 1927-1960 between postseason appearances, so there's some history of long droughts. Although as droughts go, we may be in for the baseball version of 'The Dust Bowl.' "

San Diego Padres:
BP -
Deadspin - "The strategy for the Pads this year is the same as always: assemble a solid pitching staff, view offensive output as purely optional and just count on the Dodgers and Giants to screw the pooch. In recent years, this strategy has been enormously successful." (MJD expects another NL West title.)

San Francisco Giants:
BP - "The Giants are not the favorite to win the NL West, nor should they be, and much less is the chance they get through the 1/8 coin toss that is the postseason. But it doesn’t require the same suspension of disbelief to see them win the division and get a shot at the ring that it does to watch an entire episode of '24.' " (Huckabay damns with faint "hope and faith.")
Deadspin - "I'm not your garden variety Brian Sabean basher; I think he's done more with fewer resources than just about any GM one could name. But like the aging team he's constructed, time is not on his side. As another notable San Francisco character, Robin Williams, once said (and probably stole), 'You had an hourglass figure, but your time is up.' "

St. Louis Cardinals:
BP - "The best part is that it can happen again. I mean, it’s not as though the credulity-straining scenarios I am about to lay out could be more improbable than what actually happened last year, right? After a season like 2006, the fictions come easily. So let's take a look at what needs to happen if the Cardinals—bless you boys—are to repeat in 2007."
Deadspin - (I assume the Royal We is going to preview the World Series champs himself when every other team is done. Or, he'll just retell that story about Leyland's smoking PSA.)

Washington Nationals:
BP - "About the only way this year can create some hope and faith for Nationals fans that involves their getting to a world championship, you pretty much need to start off with positing a full-scale meltdown of the rest of the NL East, and top it off with a deal with the baseball gods thrown in for good measure should you expect them to win the World Series."
Deadspin - "Let's face it: If your team isn't going to win the championship, the next best alternative for any fan is superlative achievement. In the case of the Nats in '07, not simply being the worst team in baseball THIS season, which is just sorry, but maintaining the promise to become the worst team ever to take the field. Crapportunity!" (Shanoff is legit, ladies and gentlemen.)

Perhaps Xanax should sponsor the Nationals this season.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Queue

So I logged in to March Madness On Demand right at noon, only to find 47,254 people already waiting in line. They have a little timer labeled "Next Admission." It counts down from twenty seconds and then resets.

Not knowing how many users are admitted to the live games area each "admission" period, let's assume the worst: only one person leaves the waiting room each time. So that's 1/3 minute * 47,253 people ahead of me = 15,751 minutes until I get to watch a live game.

In other words, 262.5 hours or nearly eleven days until I get to watch the live video.

Update: 14 minutes have passed and I am now number 39,111 in the queue. So it seems 200 people get in every twenty seconds. That means only 79 minutes until I get to watch me some NCAA basketball!

Update #2: I waited only 23 minutes total (plus a 15-second commercial). Perhaps they only let in relatively few people at a time in the beginning, but opened up the floodgates later on. The picture quality is decent in the half-court set, though during fast breaks it's pixelated like vintage 1997 The picture also keeps blacking out. You need to minimize the window and then bring it back up to get the picture back.

Update #3: Every so often, the audio feed switches from the game announcers to the commercials that CBS is broadcasting, maybe for some other game. This is much more annoying than the occassional blackout.

Still, you can't beat free.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Sports Alphabet

Too often I've had to spell out a word to a customer service agent over the phone. Because it's hard to differentiate between sounds like D and T, the military named the letters Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc. I can't remember past Delta and Echo. (Okay, I looked it up - it's Foxtrot. Tell me you know what G is.) That means I'm stuck thinking of words on the fly, which is time-consuming and potentially embarassing if one is not careful. P used indiscriminately is an especially dangerous letter.

To save Get Untracked readers this hassle, I've put together the Sports Alphabet as a public service, providing the most memorable representation for each letter.

B: Bird
C: Charles (Sir Charles to you)
D: Deion (Perhaps Daisuke in a few years)
E: Eli (Excluding the eminently eligible Eckersley, Erving and Ewing, as none of them are excellent E sounds)
F: Federer
G: Gretzky
H: Hakeem Holyfield (In deference to those who remember Olajuwon before he added the H to his first name)
I: Isiah
J: Jordan
K: Kobe (Because most CSR's don't know who Koufax is, and because Kareem is overrated)
L: Lemieux
M: Magic
N: Nicklaus
O: Ozzie (Smith, not Canseco)
P: Payton/Peyton (Edging out Pelé, Pujols, Pedro and Papi)
Q: Quisenberry
R: Reggie (Hall of fame first name of Jackson, Miller, White)
S: Strawberry (Schmidt doesn't work for this purpose)
T: Tiger
U: Urlacher
V: Valenzuela
W: Willie (Mays, Stargell, McCovey and Keeler - also Lanier and Brown)
X: Xavier (The 9-seed, X-man and Professor)
Y: Yastrzemski
Z: Zimmer

Got a more memorable name for a letter? Put it in the comments.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Sandy Alomar Jr. > Brandon Webb?

Here at Get Untracked, we're big believers in The Wisdom of Crowds, a theory described by New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki in his 1994 book of that name. The author wrote that when a large decisionmaking body meets four criteria: (a) variety of opinions, (b) independence of members, (c) decentralization, and (d) an effective means of collecting opinions, the resulting choices will produce better results than those obtained by following the suggestions of the smartest people in the group.

In preparing for my fantasy baseball draft, I use ESPN's live draft results as one of many references. The list "displays the average position players were selected by team owners in ESPN Fantasy Baseball live drafts. Only players that have been drafted in a significant number of leagues will show up on this list." I believed that the thousands of people drafting teams would collectively provide a better ranking of players than any single projection system like PECOTA, CHONE, ZiPS or MARCEL. I was wrong.

The list starts out just fine, ranking Albert Pujols first, followed by Soriano, A-Rod, Reyes, Johan and Ryan Howard. But when you get to picks 51-100 (click screen capture to your right), things get a little screwy. Pick 52? Sandy Alomar, Jr. Pick 56? Eli Marrero. Pick 64? Pedro Feliciano. It's like Omar Minaya was choosing guys for his "all-Latin Early-90's" themed fantasy team.

It's clear that ESPN's fantasy draft results page doesn't meet Surowiecki's conditions to be a "wise crowd." Perhaps there is not sufficient variety of opinion, independence or decentralization. All the players listed above have Mets connections so perhaps only Mets crazies have held their drafts. (Or one Mets crazy has drafted 13,248 times.)

What's more likely, however, is that this ESPN page is not a good method for aggregating opinions. The far right column of the list shows what percentage of fantasy leagues each player is owned in. For the top MLB players, this should be virtually 100%. Sandy Alomar Jr. was selected with the average 51st pick, but he is owned in only 0.5% of leagues. This contradicts ESPN's promise only to list players drafted in enough leagues to make the list helpful.

Somebody needs to tell the WWL about the technical glitch on their fantasy site. (Dare I say ESPN is having a Sportsline Moment?) Too bad their hallowed ombudsman is leaving...

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Rain In Seattle Falls Mainly On The Visitors

Fascinating article by Russell Adams at the WSJ describing teams' concerted efforts to make stadiums more hostile to visiting players. Qwest Field is notorious for elevated levels of crowd noise. But I had no idea that the Seahawks got a weather advantage too:

In addition to contracting engineers to make sure that the wind and rain would disproportionately hit the visitors' sideline, [the stadium's architect] placed the cheapest endzone seats (where, he says, the "crazies" sit) atop steel risers that send thundering noise to the hard surfaces on the overhangs and roof, redirecting it back to the field.

I remember a few years back when an employee of the Metrodome turned on vents to help Twins' fly balls become home runs. And in recent years college football's SEC conference and the NFL have both legislated against artificial noisemakers. The NFL's rulebook even has a section devoted to phrases that may not appear on jumbotrons: "Pump it up" and Let's go crazy" are both prohibited.

We've witnessed an arms race with respect to new football stadium construction. The pink taco has a roll-out natural grass field. The Cowboys' new venue will have a 60-yard-long HD scoreboard. But after the Seahawks' success in their new super-loud digs (29-11 since moving to Qwest Field!), you can expect other teams building new homes to ratchet up the acoustics - and especially the weather - to extend their own home-field advantage to Seattle-like levels.

What can the NFL do about this? Seems like the seahawk has flown the coop.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Sportsline Moment

I'm not one to subscribe to conspiracy theories. They usually presume too much competence. But yesterday's post on the Knicks' pathetic lack of assists combined with this morning's box score could be a diabolical statistical inflation situation. Somebody at the NBA could be going through box scores and giving extra assists though a game's official scorer decided none were deserved. According to the box score for last night's game, the Knicks finished with 22 assists as a team. But the play-by-play information at CBS Sportsline shows the Knicks only had seven, including zero in the first half.

A conspiracy theorist would say this is like the Yankees deciding after a game that when Derek Jeter kicked a grounder then bounced his throw, that was really a hit not an error. But my story is more likely to result from human operator error.

You've heard the phrase "senior moment" used to describe the failing memory of old people? Well, at Get Untracked we coined the phrase "Sportsline Moment" for those times my buddy and I would follow out-of-town NFL games on Sportsline and see them report the impossible. The GameCenter might tell us a negative-65 yard pass was just completed, then a minute later realize the mistake and fix it.

More often, Sportsline would stop updating a game for indeterminate periods because something strange happened and they needed time to explain it (e.g., T.Jones right tackle to CHI 28 for 17 yards (A.Dyson, V.Hobson). FUMBLES (A.Dyson), RECOVERED by NYJ-K.Rhodes at CHI 35. K.Rhodes to CHI 35 for no gain (T.Jones). Play Challenged by CHI and REVERSED. T.Jones right tackle to CHI 28 for 17 yards (A.Dyson, V.Hobson).) The most blatant Sportsline Moment last season was when Sportsline told us a game was FINAL with Team A having won, while we watched live bonus coverage on TV of Team B kicking a game-winning field goal with one second left.

Because Sportsline's "GameCenters" simply pick up the feed from, Sportsline Moments ensure that the play-by-play we read on the screen is the official account from the NFL. My mistake in last night's post was failing to realize that Sportsline has no special agreement with the NBA. I do, however, stand by the spirit of my post: Marbury is an awful point guard, Frye and Curry never pass the ball, and Isiah Thomas should be fired. Who can argue with that? If I had been following the game at, I would have seen play-by-play giving the Knicks nine assists in the first half, not zero.

(Why, you ask, am I following an NBA game online when I could be watching my hometown Knicks on TV? Because I work 14-hour days and am still at the office at 10:00 at night, that's why. I'm a little bitter.)

In any event, now I know that Sportsline is useless for tracking stats of individual players during a live NBA game, and that I should use for that purpose. And knowing is half the battle!