How Can You Not Laugh?

What now Jonathan?

Actually, I’m pointing and laughing.

The AL East hatred of the Yankees and Red Sox almost goes hand in hand. If you don’t live in either city, it’s likely that you have developed a passion for rooting against these two perennial powerhouse teams. Every year it’s like having The Joker and Two Face separately wreak havoc on the dreams of the 28 other Major League teams.

This is arguably the most epic collapse in the history of Major League Baseball. I say with immense pleasure that it was a treat to watch it unfold before my eyes.

It’s not sadistic. It’s only natural. I would even go as far to say that it would be wrong to sympathize with the Red Sox as well as the city of Boston.

If it isn’t the big payroll, it’s the snail’s pace, toolish looking closer, the powerhouse roster or the Boston fan that pisses you off even though you can’t quite figure out why. There are an endless amount of reasons to get satisfaction out of a Boston Red Sox collapse.

Why stop at the baseball team though?

I don’t just hate the Boston Red Sox. I’m jealous of the city.

It’s difficult to sympathize with a city that has as many championship teams as Boston has. Every single one of their teams has won a championship in the last 5 years. I, much like many of you, have gone my entire life without witnessing a championship from one of my hometown teams.

*Note: I was 1 and 2 years old at the time of the Toronto Blue Jays championships, which I hardly think counts.

At the same time, I have to say that I am stoked to see the Rays pull it out, especially in the fashion of a walk-off dinger. They deserve it. They deserve it because of all the personnel that they lost in the off-season. They deserve it because they don’t need $200 million to create a winning team.

Hopefully, for his sake, Carl Crawford can take solace in his many millions of dollars.

Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Gonzalez, Crawford, Lester, Papelbon, Bucholz. Flat out, that’s not fair.

The manner in which the Red Sox lost their final chance at redemption makes it that much sweeter, like a hot fudge sundae on a hot summers day. It doesn’t get much better than a big BS for a pitcher who could probably use a punch in the face every now and then. Well, at least a nice little bitch slap.

My disgust of the Red Sox reached its height earlier in the season when Jonathan Papelbon closed out a game against the Blue Jays at his incredibly, excessive, monumental, tortoise-like pace. His breathing, open mouth and all around douchebaggery pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t take it anymore. All seemed to be lost though with the Red Sox holding a 9 game lead with only 26 games left in the regular season.

I guess it ain’t over til the Red Sox closer chokes eh?

Not a problem though, Boston fans can now turn to their beloved Patriots and Mr. GQ extraordinaire. Another winning season and possible Super Bowl run can cure what ails the Bostonian sports fan.

Opportunity doesn’t come knocking at your door every day. For me, I have to take this chance to snicker at the temporary sadness of a baseball team that will probably finish up next year battling it out for another post-season spot yet again.

You should too.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Brendan Shanahan — It’s About Time

Where was this all along?

For over a decade fans and players have had to deal with the fingernails on the chalkboard inconsistency and spinelessness of Colin Campbell as NHL’s principal disciplinarian.

Not anymore. The saviour is here and his name is Brendan Shanahan.

Following James Wisniewski’s excessively late hit on Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck, Brendan Shanahan suspended Wisniewski for the remainder of the pre-season and 8 regular season games. Let me repeat that, 8, yes 8, regular season games! Yeah, that deserves an exclamation point. Brendan Shanahan explains his decision in this video on NHL.com.

Through 3 separate incidents, Brendan Shanahan has done more for the safety of NHL players than Colin Campbell did throughout his entire tenure.

Colin Campbell exerted about as much authority as a High School hall monitor as Sheriff of the NHL. Campbell’s stepping down, due to “ethical reasons,” during the off-season was long overdue. The NHL needed a new Sheriff in town.

10 games for Jody Shelley and five games for Calgary Flames’ forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond for similar looking hits from behind. Now, James Wisniewski.

It’s a revelation!

The last couple of years of hockey have been defined by an overabundance of dirty hits dished out from players with varying but mostly minimal consequences. On top of that has been the ever increasing knowledge of the long-term effects of head trauma and concussions.

Colin Campbell was supposed to step up to the plate and do something about it. Instead, he struck out. Golden Sombrero and all. Every opportunity was given to Colin Campbell to make a statement to the players yet he chose not to embrace it. Colin Campbell made a seemingly easy task, very difficult.

In less than 2 weeks, Brendan Shanahan has confirmed what many of us have suspected all along.

Sending a clear, concise message is not complicated.

Since birth we are taught through reward and punishment. You do something good and you get a treat. You do something bad and you get sent to your room for a 10 minute timeout. No one likes timeout, not even adults. We all want to play.

What happens when a 10 minute timeout isn’t enough? You stay up in your room for 30 minutes. If that isn’t enough then maybe no TV for a week. Does everyone get the idea?

Bottom line, you get punished and you don’t do it again. If you do it again, the punishment becomes more severe. It’s as simple as that. Colin Campbell made that look really hard. As a father himself you would think that he would understand the basic principles of discipline.

It isn’t an understatement to say that Brendan Shanahan could be the saviour for the National Hockey League. In the closing years of the Colin Campbell era, the game was being threatened by the increasing risk of its star players being forced to spend significant amounts of time in the press box rather than on the ice. Sidney Crosby is exhibit A.

As I said in February, selfishly the NHL should be thinking of protecting its players for the good of the league. Hockey, like all sports, is part of the entertainment industry and without its biggest stars the value of the product diminishes exponentially.

With this immediate hard stance that Shanahan has taken, he is undoubtedly saving the current and future stars of the NHL. Not to mention saving countless careers and ensuring the quality of player lives after leaving the game of hockey. The threat is no longer a code red.

Brendan Shanahan understands the straightforward concept that stern yet fair punishment is the only way to stop these players from ruthlessly gunning for opposing players heads.

Moreover, it is sure a breath of fresh air to hear Brendan Shanahan mention in his explanation of James Wisniewski’s suspension that it didn’t matter that Cal Clutterbuck was unharmed on the play.

Halle-FREAKING-lujah!

My blood boiled after reading that part of the reason for Aaron Rome’s suspension in the Stanley Cup Finals was partly based on the fact that his hit “caused a significant injury.” The reasoning makes no sense. I can’t stress enough that the action should define the penalty and not the result.

Brendan Shanahan gets this. This is the type of thing that can make you fall for a guy. I might already be in love.

He also gets that the prior history of discipline should be taken into account when deciding on the appropriate time for a suspension. Watch out Matt Cooke.

Is this guy for real?

If I could create a head disciplinary figure for NHL ’12, I don’t think I could make one as good as Brendan Shanahan appears to be.

Looking back in time, the suspension of James Wisniewski will officially represent the turning point in the NHL’s handling of these goons. But the real turning point should be when the NHL made what looks to be their best decision in 5 years, which is the hiring of Brendan Shanahan as Vice President of Hockey and Business Development and, most importantly, head disciplinarian.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Finding a Balance Between Sabermetrics and Purity

Moneyball is out today. Sabermetrician’s rejoice!

Now, the simplest of baseball fans can learn all about what makes the science of baseball the only way to look at baseball. Logic and reason. There is no other way, right?

Wrong.

We need to find a balance to combine the views of the sabermetricians and baseball purists of the world. Neither is necessarily wrong but neither is necessarily right either. However, both sides are too stubborn to give in to each other.

The sabermetricians are ruining the game and the purists are backward thinking Neanderthals.

The debate is never-ending.

I like to think of it this way:

The sabermetrician’s are the atheist’s of our world. There is no reasoning with them. They contend that it is impossible to argue with logic and reason yet it is impossible to reason with them.

The baseball purists are the religious fanatics. They are stuck in their ways, unwilling to adapt to the changing times and the piles of evidence staring them in the face.

There is no give and take from either side. Only give. What both parties fail to realize is that they are more similar to each other than they could ever imagine. Putting aside the contrasting views, their stubborn and narrow-minded nature is very much the same. If they could just realize how similar they are, maybe a happy medium could be found.

Alas, this is a dream that, unlike Martin Luther King’s, will probably never come to fruition.

If things keep going the way they are then the die-hard sabermetrician’s could ruin the game of the baseball for the rest of us. It’s not simply taking the fun out of the game like Jason Whitlock suggested recently. Although, that is part of it.

Like a good Jehovah’s Witness, the sabermetrician must spread the word of the WAR to anyone and everyone, whether they want to hear it or not. Moneyball is perfect because it’s like knocking on the entire countries door.

Free promotion anyone?

The problem with sabermetrician’s, on top of taking the art out of baseball, is that their science is hardly flawless. Despite being a science that has been developed in the last decade, their word is law. WAR is the end all and tell all of statistics. It doesn’t matter what we see with our eyes because they have their WAR, OBP, OPS, wOPA and BABIP’s.

It’s nice to have these stats but we have to take them with a grain of salt. The sabermetricians don’t.

Unlike the baseball purists, I feel that these stats do add a lot to the game. They give us another dimension and a better understanding of the game. We can’t discount the fact that these formulas should have merit.

The purists are right to a certain extent though in saying that we need to keep the artful and subjective aspect of baseball intact. Not everything can be quantified contrary to the script of the sabermetrician’s bible.

The little nuances of the game only to be seen with human eyes that are thrown out the window when it comes to sabermetrics, can’t be ignored. The thing I’ve found in life is that the atheists can’t get pleasure out of the little things in life. Sabremetric diehards are the same. They don’t get as much pleasure out of the subjectiveness of life and sports because in their eyes it isn’t logical. Everything must be filled with reason. Not what you see with your eyes, but what you see on paper. Something that can be quantified.

Not everything can be calculated

Using fun as the sole reason for discounting advanced statistics is just giving more ammunition to the sabermetrician’s argument. It may be true, but when used alone it is a bit of a juvenile and unintelligent argument. The logical and reasonable sabermetrician will jump all over it.

And we can’t have that now, can we?

Personally, it is hard for me to believe that we can put a single number on a player and say that he is so many wins better than another. The sabermetrician’s think so. But what happens in a decade or 25 years if and when a new, possibly better method for measuring players comes out? The fact that we already have two websites (Baseball Reference and Fan Graphs) giving us two different formula’s for statistics like WAR should already be a flashing yellow light that indicates proceed with caution.

It’s not as simple as the statistics that they are giving us.

Jose Bautista is not the American League MVP this season. Dustin Parkes, one of my two favourite Blue Jay writers, is all over the debate. However, he is one of those atheists. There’s no arguing with him. In fact, he took down Jason Whitlock’s article yesterday.

Jose Bautista isn’t the American League MVP for the reason that a baseball purist would give. He plays on a losing team, that shouldn’t matter. He barely has over 100 RBI’s, that shouldn’t matter.

The reason should be that Jose Bautista has been abysmal in the second half. At least, comparatively to his fabulous April and May.

On paper, Jose Bautista’s WAR, OBP and OPS for the entire season are off the charts. His current .301/.444/1.056 line combined with an 8.3 wins above replacement have made everyone around the league take notice.

His .249/.408/.880 line post-all star break isn’t quite as impressive.

But something that can’t be quantified but should have been noticed by even the most casual fan is the difference in the pitches Jose Bautista has seen since his beast mode setting has been disabled. Compared to April and May, when Bautista wasn’t getting a thing thrown his way, pitchers have been willing to challenge him.

The thing is, post all-star break, Bautista hasn’t connected at a rate that has scared pitchers in nearly the same way. Bautista’s plus .400 OBP hasn’t been a product of his play but rather more a product of his good eye and his inability to connect on pitches in the strike zone, thus allowing him to see more pitches at the plate. Pitchers are still cautious but they aren’t assuming the fetal position like they did when Jose Bautista stepped in the batter’s box during the first two months of the season.

BABIP can’t tell me how hard Jose Bautista is hitting the ball. WAR can’t tell me that Jose Bautista hasn’t looked like an MVP since the end of May. The inflated numbers that he produced prior to the all-star break have skewed his 162 game totals. His value has no doubt still been immense to his team but it hasn’t been MVP worthy by any means.

The short is, sabermetrics do not tell the whole story. No matter what the sabermetrician’s try to tell us.

Sports, much like life, are subjective. In life, the money, the job, the family, the status, all the things that we can measure, never give us the entire picture.

As I said above though, advanced statistics can and are helping us. My eyes have been opened over the last year to the value that these stats offer. Yours should be too.

For both the sabermetrician’s and purists, it’s time for the blinders to come off. You don’t have to be friends but try to get along at least.

It may be a fools dream but it is a dream that, if fulfilled, would change the world of baseball for the better.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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