11.29.10

Buffalo’s Butterfingered WR To God : What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Posted in Gridiron, twitter twatter at 10:40 am by

I cannot vouch for the veracity of the above Twitter account, though others are pretty sure it is the handiwork of Bills receiver Steve Johnson.   “The ball hit me in the wrong part of the hands” would’ve  easily fit under a 140 character limit, Steve, and probably wouldn’t have resulted in so much extra attention.

11.28.10

Human Beings : Surplus To Requirements For The Modern Sports Section

Posted in Basketball, Sports Journalism, Technical Difficulties, The Internet at 11:50 pm by

(former Mets skipper Davey Johnson, graciously submitting to an interview with an aspiring sportswriter)

A few years from now, might we look back on, say, The Bleacher Report, and feel nostalgic for the site’s brand of insightful analysis?  Not bloody likely, but that’s the first thing that came to mind when reading of StatSheet’s “Robot Army” and the Durham, NC firm’s plans to provide college basketball content entirely composed by a computer.  From the New York Times’ Randall Stross :

StatSheet’s software is imbued with the smarts to flatter each particular team. The same statistics, documenting the same game, produce an entirely different write-up and headline at the opposing team™s page.

A team like No. 1-ranked Duke ” whose StatSheet Network Web site is at BlueDevilDaily.com ” does not lack for attention from human sports writers. But StatSheet expects that the sports programs of smaller schools will appreciate the advent of robot journalism.

œThere are at least 200 Division I schools that the large sports media companies give no attention to, says Mr. Allen at StatSheet. œOnce we have the algorithm in place, there™s no cost to adding the Lamars and Elons to the Dukes and U.N.C.™s.

Small schools are less likely to have large alumni bases and to draw significant traffic, Mr. Allen said, so he is knocking on their doors to explore licensing partnerships.

Mr. Allen explains that his story-writing software does not perform linguistic analysis; it just uses template sentences and a database of phrases that numbers about 5,000 for now.

œMy goal was that 80 percent of readers wouldn™t question that the content was written by a human, he says, œand now that we™ve launched, I think the percentage is higher.

Taking Flight With WFMU’s Ken Freedman

Posted in Radio at 8:02 pm by

A fantastic fund-raising stunt by WFMU‘s station manager has me hoping — pretty much in the face of reality — that we’ll someday hear the words, “listener-supported WFAN”.  I realize it would take far more balloons to send a certain serial abuser of Diet Coke aloft, but I also suspect that’s the sort of fund-raising premium every right thinking person would shell out for.

Popper : Barring A Blockbuster, Trading Reyes Is The Wrong Move

Posted in Baseball at 5:40 pm by

Does Jose Reyes’ unique combination of speed, power and importance as a table-setter for the likes of David Wright and Carlos Beltran outweigh his occasional lapses in concentration?  I’ve argued the affirmative more times than I care to count, but the shortstop’s inability to stay healthy in recent years has been a key component in the Mets’ struggles.  With at least one recent rumor floating concerning Arizona’s alleged interest in Reyes, the Bergen Record’s Steve Popper warns, “if the Mets move him, I think the last long shot chance of seeing anything good out of 2010 at Citi Field will be gone.”

Even in a season that never seemed to get on track, Reyes still ranked in the top half of shortstops in the league in most statistical measures, not to mention ahead of Derek Jeter in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) while Jeter lobbies for a long-term, high-priced deal. But for the Mets to have any hope they have to count on Reyes returning to form.

Reyes is the one player who can be exceptional. His performance can rank above the average shortstop, making it acceptable that the Mets have a first baseman who doesn™t hit 40 homers or a catcher who might not hit 10. And there is some intangible in Reyes that will confound any sabermetric formula “ not grittiness, but a danger that helps hitters behind him and in front of him.

For the Mets to contend again Reyes has to be in the lineup and has to be at his best. While he might be the only player outside of David Wright who could bring back a roster-changing package, Reyes is the only one who you could search for years and not find a talent to match his ability.

“Maybe it™s some subtle racism that has depicted Reyes as some sort of malingerer,” considers Popper, though I’m sure there’s been much subtle about it. Certainly if Reyes were a more effusive public speaker in English, the New York media might hold him in nearly as high esteem as R.A. Dickey.  On the other hand, if Jose was a sound byte machine, he’d probably have indicted the Mets’ medical staff on more than one occasion.

Mushnick To Benigno-Gazingo : My Colleagues Are Dull On Purpose

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism, Sports Radio at 5:16 pm by

“WFAN’s Joe Benigno is one of these radio guys who is 99- to 100-percent reliant on newspapers,” observes the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick, “yet only bites those hands that do his work for him.” Not only that, but no one has pointed out that we’ve yet to see Joe (above) and Wally Backman in the same room

After last week’s Mets news conference to introduce Terry Collins , Benigno swiped at sportswriters for asking, as part of a group, dull, non-provocative questions. Well, no kidding. Why would local beat writers, in the most public of forums — and with radio and TV in the house — ask their best questions, the answers to which can be lifted and replayed long before the writers can write? Why would they ask in the wide open what they can later ask Collins in a one-on-one?

In essence, Benigno complained on WFAN that local sportswriters had failed to do his work for him.

11.27.10

Backman : Mets Picked The Wrong Guy

Posted in Baseball at 6:49 pm by

(since retiring as a player, Wally has obtained plenty of experience being fucked over in the majors)

“When somebody needs an ass-chewing, I’ll do it, but I take a lot of things into consideration when I do it.” That’s how Brooklyn Cyclones skipper Wally Backman — passed over last week when the Mets opted for Terry Collins as their new manager — describes his hothead reputation. Given that Backman is awaiting his 2010 Mets minor league assignment (“I was hired by the Diamondbacks out of ‘A’ ball, so I don’t think the level really matters,”), perhaps the following quotes, served up by the New York Daily News’ John Harper, should not be framed as an ass-chewing of GM Sandy Alderson?

“I really thought I won them over,” Backman said by phone Friday from his home in Oregon. “I came out of each interview thinking it had gone better than the one with the Diamondbacks when I got the job there (in 2004).

“I knew what was being said (in the media), that the other guys were the favorites, but I kept looking at it, thinking I could make them see that I was the best guy for the job. I guess I didn’t convince them.”

In any case, Backman doesn’t agree that major league experience should have been a significant factor in the decision, as Alderson asserted.

“I didn’t think experience should have been a factor,” Backman said. “Managing a game is managing a game, and I don’t think it’s different dealing with players whether it’s the majors or the minors.

“It’s all about motivating in different ways. You have 25 different personalities and you have to be a psychologist. If you’re a people person, it’s not that hard. I really enjoy that part of the job, and my players respond to it.

“And the whole New York thing, the media, I would think that would have been the least of their worries. I played there, I know what it’s about. I know it can be good and bad, but that’s part of the excitement of New York.”

Though I’d have preferred to see Backman get the gig ahead of Collins — if for no other reason than continued cheap shots at the Mets’ former 2B are much, much easier than coming up with original ideas —- there’s something a little weird about his citing his 4 day tenure as Arizona manager as any sort of criteria for what the rebuilding Mets should consider. Indeed, the Diamondbacks hired Wally despite a rather modest tenure managing MLB-affiliated minor league clubs.  We all know how well that worked out.  Now that Backman has put in all of one entire season in the NY-Penn League, he feels deserving, if not entitled to a big league managerial position. But if Backman’s paid his dues, where does that leave Gary Carter, Ryne Sandberg, or to look within the Mets’ own organization, Tim Teufel or  Ken Oberkfell?

Stephon Marbury : Wearing Out His Welcome In Yet Another Continent

Posted in Basketball at 5:48 pm by

Perhaps lost amidst the coverage of Allan Iverson’s recent debut in Istanbul, the status of NBA veteran Stephon Marbury’s playing career in China has been largely ignored of late. That is, until Jon Pastuzek of NIUBBall reported that Marbury’s negotiations with Shanxi Zhongyu — with whom the Coney Island product reportedly signed a 3-year deal over the summer — had fallen apart.  Badly.

When Marbury returned to the States, he sent back another contract filled with other clauses, including one stipulating that the team must re-sign Maurice Taylor, who played with Marbury on Shanxi last year, for another year. Adding to that, Marbury also requested that the two be put up in a five-star hotel in Taiyuan, as well as an apartment complete with a private chef and maids, all at the team™s expense.  The two sides met up again in Las Vegas in October while the team was training, but were unable to come to an agreement.

After Shanxi management returned to China, there was hope from the team that something would eventually be worked out, and they put in the business cooperation clause into the official contract as a sign of good faith.  However, when they sent over the new version to Marbury in America, he came out with even more requests: a $30,000 insurance policy for both his wife and child and roundtrip plane tickets for everyone.

Scared that negotiations would break down completely while the two were apart, Shanxi paid for Marbury™s plane ticket and met with him in Taiyuan, along with the team™s main sponsor, Shanxi Fenjiu, and the Shanxi provincial sports bureau.  After talking, the four pronged discussions ended with Shanxi deciding to give up their pursuit of Marbury.

Elsewhere in the article, Shanxi GM Zhang Aijun raises the specter of  Marbury’s fitness — physical, that is. Though if U-Stream isn’t blocked by Chinese authorities, there might’ve been additional questions.