Friday, May 8, 2009

Whitlock addresses the state of sports journalism

My Literature of Latin American independence class that is about to wrap up, but I wanted to pass along this Jason Whitlock column I have been reading to pass the time.

The title is "Time to rethink the role of sports journalists," and it's a worthy read.

It's got some salacious material. 

"My jabs are never personal," Whitlock writes. "As little respect as I have for Lupica, the Barry Bonds of sports writing, I've never shared all that I know about his despicable treatment of the support people he sees as easy-to-replace underlings."

Anyway, if anyone's still reading Chimpanzee Rodeo, take a look and let me know what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How'd I miss this back in March?

Our venerable professor was answered 10 questions on Feb. 26 as part of an interview series on RealClearSports.

The first question hits kind of close to home. 

RCS asks: "What is more enjoyable: shouting at Reali, Paige, Mariotti, Cowlishaw and the rest of the Around the Horn panelists, or shouting at the eager young minds in your classroom?"

Here is the answer from our fearless leader, block quoted for posterity.
Blackistone: I don't think I've shouted at the next generation's sports journalists yet, save for the first time they missed deadline. I gave them the old Dave Smith treatment, my legendary longtime boss in Dallas. The students are still full of the right kind of questions rather than the wrong kind of answers.

But I've really come to enjoy the banter with my ATH comrades. It's as much fun as it appears... I've always been in need of a little levity in my approach to sports journalism.

Beaten by Bill Plaschke in a popularity contest? It's a sad day indeed.

To be fair though, this was before our magical van ride to USA Today. And maybe if Kevin had grabbed a bite at Jason's deli, we could have enjoyed some banter of our own.

Either way, it's nice to get a shoutout for missing deadline. Never again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A winning streak of 1

The Nats are on a winning streak!

That's right, one win for a team that only has five on the season qualifies as a streak.

For the first time all season, a pitcher other than Jordan Zimmerman and Shairon Martis recorded a win. This hurler was Scott Olsen who pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up only one run with 6 SO and 2 BB.

Olsen was not the only player to have a big day though. The bullpen, who has frankly been atrocious thus far this season, held the Phillies scoreless after Olsen left the game.

Similarly, Ryan Zimmerman hit safely in his 18th straight game, a team record and the longest such streak in the majors thus far this year.

The games result, which was preceded by terrible losses, is indicative of the Nats young club. They will lose a devastating game 13-11 one night and come back two days later and look great winning 5-1.

Still, Nats fans should not rejoice once. The team still is not good and this win came when Brett Myers was on the hill for the Phils.

Phillies fans, you know what I'm talking about. He's....not good.

The Great Bat Debate

You thought I would let the Chimpanzee Rodeo die? I didn't find that monkey riding a dog for nothing, folks.
Anyway, I just wanted to pass along this Kansas City Star article (ed. note: Starticle?) comparing the merits of a pair of baseball bat materials.

Ash v. Maple. Let's get it on.

As New Englander and fan of syrup, I was saddened by the results.
Smith said ash likes to grow in a long straight grain, which is fairly easy to see. So if you look at a piece of ash, it’s evident if the grain is parallel to the length of the board.

“That’s what you want to have,” said [Washington State University Sports Science Lab' Lloyd] Smith, who is with the school of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. “That’s where the strength is. If your grain is not parallel then you’ve introduced a weakness in the material.”

However, maple generally does not like to grow in a straight grain. Also, the grain doesn’t have as much contrast, so it doesn’t stand out as much as ash.

This is important, because it makes it easier to detect a crack in an ash bat.

This is a great example of a unique and interesting sports story. And the Star uses the internet to its advantage with a nice graphic to accompany the piece. 

It's too bad the text on the graphic is barely legible, even when the picture is enlarged.

Finally, the article answers the obvious question: If ash is better, why is maple the popular choice among major leaguers.

Blame it on Barry Bonds. Smith estimated that about 5 percent of baseball players used maple bats before Bonds broke the single-season home run record in 2001.

“There’s much more superstition in baseball than there is science,” Smith said, “so people started saying, ‘Aha, here’s the magic formula. It’s not Barry Bonds, it’s maple.’”

Of course, we all know it's not maple. It's the steroids.

Suck Meter: April 29

Surprise! It's a last-second blog so I don't fail. Also, sadly, it is the last Suck Meter reading. So let's see who "won"!

After a hard-fought battle between the Nats and O's this year, the overall loser is... area fans! Congrats everybody, we did it again!

Nationals. After making a serious run at a winless season, the Nats have been on fire lately, going 3-7 in their last 10 games. Jordan Zimmermann is a pitcher who also has a pulse AND can get people out, which is either a late April Fool's joke or a sign of the impending apocalypse.

Bad Clubhouse Guy Adam Dunn has six homers and is OPSing over 1100. And don't look now but Ryan Zimmerman has had a pretty good start to the season too. Unfortunately, even with all this promise, the team is still 4-15. Just imagine what happens if these guys cool off. It's going to be a really long summer full of empty stadiums.

One major reason the Nats are so bad is the bullpen. The only guy who looked like he was going to be able to throw baseballs at major league hitting, Joe Beimel, is hurt. That leaves guys like Saul Rivera (who has given up an abysmal 11 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings), Joel Hanrahan (8 ER in 8 1/3) and Wilfredo Ledezma (6 ER in 5 2/3). Awful, awful, awful.

This is going to be a bad, bad year. We'll see you at Steven Strasburg.

Verdict: Ugh. 1.

Now here's a team that sucks gloriously. Our "loser" for the I-95 Suckfest, the Orioles actually show some promise before blowing games in any number of heartbreaking fashions.

The Orioles certainly have a major league lineup this year. Adam Jones, Aubrey Huff, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis have been tearing it up this year. Too bad there has been absolutely no pitching to speak of, or else this team would be cared about outside of Baltimore.

"Staff Ace" Jeremy Guthrie has a 5.20 ERA in his first 27 2/3 innings, and he's been the bright spot. So far in the young season, only three pitchers on staff have ERAs lower than Koji Uehara's 4.56. Three! That's unconscionable. And those three guys have pitched a combined 23.1 innings. Yikes.

This is going to be a bad, slightly-less-worse-than-the-Nationals year. See you at Matt Wieters.

Verdict: Barf. 1.

Overal Verdict:
Since this is the last post, I've gotta call it for the Nationals. The O's gave a valiant effort to suck as hard, but they've been streaky. Washington fields a team that is consistent in how terrible it is, and for that reason, your 2009 I-95 Suckfest Champion is the Washington Nationals.

Nats stink, but so do a lot of other teams

Things just keep getting worse for the woeful Nats. The day after they scored 11 runs and still lost to the Phillies in their bandbox stadium, supposed Ace John Lannan led the team to yet another victory on the season.

In that 13-11 loss on Monday, the Nats hit five home runs, two by Ryan Zimmerman, who is having an unusually hot start to the season. Last season, the Nats major malfunction was their inability to score runs and hit home runs. Now, with the addition of Adam Dunn and, the health of Nick Johnson, the maturation of Elijah Dukes and the comfort that a new contract has apparently given Zimmerman the team is hitting home runs at a seemingly much higher rate.

Still, as it is often said with teams, such as the Detroit Lions who hold the top picks in the NFL draft, will fixing one problem solve the team's overall issues. In the case of the Nats, obviously not.

The team needs a lead off hitter, three more starters, a closer, a set-up man, the rest of a bullpen. The laundry list is long.

It really should come as no surprise to fans and pundits, however. Everyone knew that this team lost 102 games last year. Do the additions of Dunn, Daniel Cabrera, Josh Wllingham and Scott Olsen really add a significant number of wins to the team? Obviously not.

Perhaps it is the fault of the team and its management, not in the way that people think though. The team seemingly worked overtime to hype their spring training optimism this year. Yeah, they have to sell tickets, but even with the hype they barely sold out opening day after pimping out Nationals Park to Phillies fans. Because of the team's start on the road, they were found out to be awful before home fans even got to see them play in person.

So, the team, its manager, the majority of players, and even the equipment managers seem to be over matched this season. Still, I am completely sick of hearing people make jokes at the Nats expense. Particularly fans of teams like the Orioles, who have not been good for 13 years. Just because you finally have a team to make fun of doesn't mean you should do it. The majority of fans can still make fun of you too.

Cano Answering Doubters

The story had become familiar around the American League. Robinson Cano's batting average dropped from .342 in 2006, to .306 in 2007, and then finally .271 in 2008. His on-base percentages in those years: .365, .353, .305. Those low numbers were due to walk totals of 18, 39 and 26. The word around the division was that Cano had no patience, and there was no reason to throw him good strikes. He didn't seem to get the message no matter how apparent it was to the world that he could not hit a double on a slider six inches off the outside corner.

But this year, Cano's approach has changed, and the early results are very encouraging. He has walked six times in his first 20 games, which puts him on pace for 48 walks this season. While that may not sound like much of an improvement, he has been having better plate appearances. He has been working the count into his favor, fighting off tough pitches and making contact. He has only struck out eight times so far, which is right on par with his career numbers. The kid makes contact. But this year, he is waiting for his pitch to do so.

The results so far are staggering. Cano is hitting .381 with a .418 OBP, and his slugging percentage has jumped from .410 last season to .619 so far this year. If Cano can keep hitting quality strikes, he is one of the most dangerous hitters in the Yankees' offense.

His newfound patience was illustrated last night in an outside-the-boxscore way. He had great at-bats against a dominant Edwin Jackson in the fourth and sixth innings. The first at-bat was a 12-pitch infield single, and the second a 10-pitch strikeout. Neither result was particularly awe-inspiring, but if you can take 22 pitches out of a pitcher's arm on a day when he is shutting your team out, you are doing your job. The Yankees reaped the benefits in the seventh, when they jumped all over the Tigers' bullpen.