Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The All Star Game Drama

Photo courtesy of cleveland.com

On Friday, Major League Baseball released a statement that they had moved the 2021 All-Star Game and MLB Draft from Atlanta due to the recently enacted changes in Georgia election laws. These laws which restrict voting access were put into place as a reaction to a record voter turnout overall and especially from Black Georgians. Here's a much better breakdown than I can give about the mechanics of the laws. On its face it may not seem like a big deal, but these changes have to be viewed within the context of a party which is constantly attempting to restrict voting as much as possible to maintain power, and a state and country in which innocuous-seeming Jim Crow laws have kept and continue to Black people from voting.

For the MLB to make this statement is to show that they care to put public pressure on Georgia to overturn these laws. This is the same thing that the NBA and NCAA did a few years ago by removing the All Star Game and college postseason games from North Carolina in response to the anti-trans HB2. There's a precedent for the actions that the league took in this scenario. It's unclear how direct of an impact those actions had on the state backtracking on the bill a year later, but we do know that it didn't necessarily hurt. 

Good for the MLB, I guess. In a vacuum, it's great that the league took a stand against these racist laws. However, I'm more convinced that this is a case of good public relations than out of Rob Manfred wanting to take a stance against these laws. If he did, then the league would throw financial backing behind the grassroots organizers who will be fighting to increase voter access in Black communities. We're in an era where sports leagues are trying harder than ever to win brownie points by positioning themselves as supporters or even drivers of social justice. It's a disingenuous suggestion and I will not be patting the MLB on the back for doing in this case the bare minimum. In fact, given Georgia's blatant disregard for COVID safety over the past year, and the well known disproportionate impact that the pandemic has on communities of color, the All-Star Game should have been moved from Atlanta a long time ago.

After seeing this initial statement, I was ready to move on with my day. 


Then the Atlanta Braves came off the top rope with potentially the worst statement I've ever had the misfortune of reading. 

Upon reading this for the first time, I had an involuntary, audible reaction: "oh fuck off." This statement made me so angry, that I was driven to end my nearly five year writing hiatus. 

To lie like this about businesses, employees, fans, unity, and community—which in Atlanta is implied to be heavily Black—on letterhead featuring a racist caricature of Indigenous people takes such an elite level of cognitive dissonance that I have to be impressed. The franchise who had Chief Noc-A-Homa living in a teepee in the outfield well into the 1980s and continues to pump the tomahawk chop music into the stadium roughly 16 times per inning is not allowed to grandstand as the victim in a discussion about racism. 

In order to really understand the inanity of this statement, you first must be aware of where the Braves actually play. Their home stadium is in Cobb County, about 15 miles from Downtown Atlanta in an area known for its heavy traffic. Having been to Truist Park, I can say from personal experience that the trek to the stadium from most places in Atlanta is...not short. Immediately surrounding the park is a mall which is simultaneously aimed at making your gameday experience better as well as trapping you in suburbia as long as possible. The "businesses" who will be so devastated by the loss of this major event are Wahlburgers and the Omni Hotel. This is a team who left Atlanta for Cobb County because they saw the opportunity for their stadium to be subsidized by government money, and the ability to move closer to their white, suburban fans. Yet here they are virtue signaling on behalf of the city of Atlanta, when they actively removed themselves and gameday related revenue from the city only four years ago. We watched that happen. 

Atlanta, the city that perfected white flight, cannot be vaunted as a "uniter" in "divided times." Atlanta is a beautiful city known for a lot of things. Incredible music, culture, food, activists, organizers, and leaders? Yes. Unity? Nah. The divided times in question is the general conservative codeword for the problem caused by their ideology which does not value the humanity of vulnerable populations. In this specific instance, the dividing event is a set of laws which make voting a much more difficult process for millions of people. An All Star Game was never going to mend that bridge. If the Braves really cared about their community, they would take a stand against these laws and focus on joining the MLB in this public pressure campaign to get them overturned instead of taking this not-so-Brave position.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Business is Business

Photo courtesy of Sporting News
After unimaginable amounts of cash being thrown at uninspiring players left and right, with guys like Tyler Johnson, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, and Kent Bazemore signing deals worth more than Steph Curry's current contract. After the Magic decided to overcrowd their frontcourt in a manner that will unintentionally hinder Aaron Gordon's development. After the Knicks put together the greatest "what could you have done for me four years ago" team ever assembled. After Harrison Barnes actually got a max contract. After the Warriors showed no regard for humanity. After all of the events of the past week in the NBA, it's time for a breather. It's time to sit back, relax, and watch the Summer League while players officially sign their contracts and their teams fill out their roster with low level free agents. After all this time, it is unequivocally baseball season--oh wait Dwyane Wade is no longer on the Heat.

Photo courtesy of Know Your Meme
This NBA summer just got even weirder.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Bittersweet Homecoming

Photo courtesy of the NY Post
In the wake of massive offensive woes, the Mets needed to make some changes. They started by calling up Matt Reynolds and Ty Kelly, which has worked out well in the case of Reynolds, but Kelly's first stint in the major leagues landed him right back in Las Vegas. Next, the acquisitions of James Loney, and a player the Mets should have re-signed in the offseason, Kelly Johnson. Both players have been very nice pieces in New York, but without David Wright, Lucas Duda, and Juan Lagares, combined with the nagging injuries hindering Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker, and the complete disappearance of Michael Conforto since the beginning of May, the Mets needed more help. On June 25th, they made two important moves that greatly affect the present and future of the franchise. I will talk about the decision to replace Conforto with Brandon Nimmo later on, but this next stream of consciousness will be dedicated to the returning Jose Reyes.

The Jose Reyes who signed with the Mets at the end of June 2016 is a lot different than the Jose Reyes who first joined the Mets organization in 1999, or the Jose Reyes who took his batting title and departed Flushing after the 2011 season.This man is coming off the worst full season of his career. He is in his age 33 season, which means he is past his prime, as evidenced by his decreased speed and diminishing power. Most importantly for Reyes as a man, outside of baseball, he got a late start to his season after serving a suspension as a result of being charged for domestic violence during the offseason. With that news that Reyes will be called up to the big club today, it's time I give my opinion on the move. 

As much as I and everyone else wants to think of this move from a solely business standpoint, that's impossible to do. The elephant in the room is of course, the domestic violence case. Even in this day and age, emotional and physical abuse by men directed at women is far too common and a sign that misogyny is still prevalent in our society. Despite the fact that it was, as far as we know, a one time act, and his wife's forgiveness, Reyes will not be excused for his actions.

However, Reyes was then given a pretty fair punishment by the MLB and served his suspension. I feel the same way about Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice in the NFL, that one off the field incident should not end someone's playing career. If the player receives a sufficient punishment that impacts them, their wallet, and their career in a non-insignificant way, they should be allowed to resume their career afterwards. That doesn't mean we have to like the person under the uniform, because athletes have never existed for us to like the person, but rather for us to enjoy the player.

So let's talk about that player, because that's what Reyes was brought to New York to be. The narrative of a hopeless and broken player who hopes to regain his skill by returning home is extremely overblown. Last season wasn't good, at all, but it wasn't quite disastrous. Overall he slashed .274/.310/.378, with the worst of it coming after arriving in Colorado, where he was clearly unhappy. Even playing at Coors Field, he was only able to muster a very uninspired .259/.291/.368. Let's call that a down year. Obviously, at down year at the age of 32 is cause for concern, but it comes just after a productive 2014 season where he hit to a .726 OPS while swiping 30 bags and only being caught twice. At the time, it was his worst full, professional season since 2005, but he was still a legitimate leadoff hitter.

I'm confident that he can return to at least that level, and possibly surpass it through the end of the year with the Mets. He's not even guaranteed to play everyday, which would not only reduce the probability of injury, but maximize his skill set. I even noticed an interesting trend when looking at his splits that may allow the Mets to place him in the absolute perfect role.

If you look closely, you'l notice that since 2008 (with the small sample size of his injury-riddled 2009 notwithstanding), he has been a significantly better hitter from the left side of the plate. Because this particular trend has a large sample, it's fair to assume that it will continue this year. The reason why this piqued my interest is because with Reyes, the Mets have quite a few guys who can play across the infield, with Reynolds, Johnson, Wilmer Flores, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. Reyes's success against righties would complement Flores very well at a third base platoon, since Wilmer tends to struggle against right handed pitching. Coincidentally, switch hitters Cabrera and Walker are each doing much better from the right side of the plate this year. While neither's history suggests that this will certainly continue, it is possible, and Reyes can help counteract the potential dip in performance when a right handed pitcher is on the mound.

Outside of his splits, what Reyes does best is make plays with his legs, which he can still do even at this age. While his raw stolen base numbers have been in decline, along with his foot speed, his stolen base percentage remains high, meaning that he picks his spots well, and is usually successful whenever he decides to take off. The Mets don't have a guy who can do that. Reyes immediately becomes the team's fastest player (he's still probably faster than Juan Lagares) and adds another dimension to the team's offense.

Moving him away from shortstop was a great call by the Mets, since his defensive value there has been virtually nonexistent for years. He almost certainly won't be a plus defender at third base, but he could be average, which is perfectly acceptable. At any other position, he should be fine, since shortstop is the hardest defensive position in baseball outside of the battery.

This was a great move by Sandy Alderson, especially because of a reason I've yet to cover: the cost. Reyes will be getting the prorated league minimum, meaning that if I am entirely wrong and he rolls into Citi Field and subsequently shows that he can't play baseball anymore, the Mets can cut ties with him at almost no cost. That albatross of a deal he signed with the Marlins has been wiped away, and what's left is a reclamation project. If it works out, fantastic. If not, it will not be hard at all to move on. No matter how he performs, the Mets just added a former star who is only one season removed from solid productivity to an offense that is missing exactly what he is best at, for just the prorated league minimum.

Regardless of your opinion of Reyes as a person, he has a chance to help the Mets in their pursuit of their second consecutive pennant, and hopefully a championship this time around. A low risk flier on a former star is never a bad idea, even when there may be questions off the field. I'll continue to have mixed feelings about Reyes as a whole, but this is about baseball, and with that in mind, I say: welcome back Jose...now go get on base.

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

NFL Picks: Super Bowl

Photo courtesy of SB Nation
It is time. the Conference Championship Games feel like a lifetime ago, which is probably a testament to how excited I am for this game. Usually, the two weeks feel kind of long, but this year was quite bad. It may be because this is the first time in a while that I gave absolutely no effort to even glance at the Pro Bowl for a second, meaning I've been entirely deprived of football since the Panthers destroyed the Cardinals. And it's not because I was thinking about it all the time, but moreso because I was waiting for the day to come, and the day seemingly never game.

But, today is the day.

Let's get on with it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

NFL Picks: Championship Round

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated
This week, the motto "keep it simple, stupid" really comes into play when picking these games this week.

UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

NFL Picks: Divisional Round

Photo courtesy of SB Nation
Long story short, my picks sucked last week. I was hoping to go 11-0 in the playoffs this year, but, alas.

UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

NFL Picks: Wild Card Round and Playoff Preview

Photo courtesy of Sporting News
So, I didn't do preseason predictions this year. I meant to, and thanks to poor planning and the obviously hectic nature of my first few weeks in college, I was left with not enough time to complete thorough projections for every team in the league. Based on my general thoughts from summer, some of this season's results have been surprising, such as the Panthers morphing into a powerhouse with no thanks owed to their receiving corps, Peyton Manning becoming a shell of a shell of his former self, Green Bay's descent to complete and utter mortality, and Kirk You Like That Cousins's ascent to glory. Still, I was right about quite a few things, such as Arizona being a very good team, the Pats obviously continuing their run of dominance in the AFC, and the Vikings taking quite a few people by surprise.

Of course, all this reflection can only mean one thing: it's playoff time. One of the best months of the year is ahead, which will culminate in the crowning of a new Super Bowl Champion at Levi's Stadium. This season has been pretty weird overall, especially considering that Brian Hoyer, A.J. McCarron, and the aforementioned Cousins are starting home games this weekend. Despite this, my picks have not suffered, going 128-120-7 on the season. Of course, the one issue with that is that there are 256 games in a season, yet I've only accounted for 255. Small error that I don't quite have the time to deal with right now because I'm flying back to campus soon, but I will fix. Either way, this was a lot better than my dismal record from last season.

After my picks for this week, I'll continue with my predictions for the rest of the postseason. Let's get on with the show!

UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS.

Chiefs (-3) over TEXANS.

The Chiefs are the hottest team in the NFL, seeing as they just reeled off ten straight wins to propel themselves into the playoffs. They went from a 1-5 team on the verge of their season suffering a cruel death, to a sexy pick by some smart people to possibly challenge the Patriots in the AFC playoffs. I'm one of those people. I'm all in on these Chiefs, led by their rejuvenated defense, and their sudden discovery of a legitimate passing game.

The Texans on the other hand, are a pretty dangerous team in their own right. Despite playing like trash to begin the year, to the point that I continued to bash them week after week as they stayed alive in the AFC South race because no one else wanted to win the division, they can cause the Chiefs, or any team in the playoffs trouble. J.J. Watt's presence on defense continues to be an underrated force, and DeAndre Hopkins is easily one of the best receivers in the league, and impossible to cover for four quarters. Playing at home, they're going to be a tough out.

But by 7:30, they will be out.

Chiefs 21, Texans 17.

BENGALS (+1.5) over Steelers.

Injuries on both sides will affect the gameplans of these teams heavily. Without Andy Dalton, the Bengals will rely on a more run heavy attack than usual, as well as having the receivers run shorter routes to protect A.J. McCarron, only in his fourth career start.

On the Pittsburgh sideline, the loss of DeAngelo Williams will prove to be important, but possibly not deadly. The well balanced attack boasted by the Steelers all year will not be as prevalent with Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman in the backfield.

Both teams can stay afloat without Dalton or Williams, but the real story here is on defense. Pittsburgh's defense, to be blunt, isn't very good. The days of the Steel Curtain are long gone, and this team has a much different identity. Cincy, on the other hand, has a strong defense that will give Roethlisberger and Co. lots of trouble.

Most importantly, McCarron isn't that bad. He can be a highly effective game manager, even when facing off against a high powered offense. The Bengals are equipped with more than enough weapons for someone like him to match the Steelers' scoring.

Bengals 30, Steelers 27

Seahawks (-4) over VIKINGS.

Plain and simple, the Seahawks are a much better version of the Vikings. These two teams are built similarly, with a great running game, an athletic quarterback who is capable of making big throws when needed, and of course, defense. Despite Marshawn Lynch being ruled out of this game, the problem for Minnesota lies in the fact that Russell Wilson is light years better than Teddy Bridgewater. Wilson's scrambling ability extends plays well beyond their expiration, and leads to positive gains on broken plays. Bridgewater tries to do this, but just isn't as skilled. Seattle's going to minimize Peterson's impact, as much as any team actually can, and force the Vikings the win the game in the air. I believe in Teddy, but not that much.

Seahawks 31, Vikings 17.


You like that?

The power of Kirk Cousins should be enough of an explanation, but if that's not enough, add in the fact that the Packers are simply not the same team this year. Their offense has been shockingly mediocre, and their defense hasn't played incredibly well. They backed their way into the postseason thanks to the Lions melting down and a ridiculous Hail Mary play that would be completed 1 out of 1,000 tries.

Washington on the other hand, thanks in part to their famous rallying cry, has been playing very well recently as they almost coasted to an NFC East title in December. 

Washington 24, Packers 20

Based on these results, here are my picks for the rest of the playoffs 

Divisional Round
PATRIOTS over Bengals. 
Chiefs over BRONCOS. 
PANTHERS over Seahawks. 
CARDINALS over Washington Professional Football Team. 

Championship Round 
Chiefs over PATRIOTS. 
Cardinals over PANTHERS. 

Super Bowl 
Cardinals over Chiefs. 

Enjoy round one, folks. 

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 128-120-7

Sunday, January 3, 2016

NFL Picks: Week 17

Photo courtesy of Slate
There were no early week games this week of course, as is normal for the final week of the season, so let's just get on with the show.

UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

NFL Picks: Week 16

Photo courtesy of Sporting News
Week 15 was great, and secured myself a good record this year. I'm going to see if I can improve on that record down the home stretch, but I just have to remain afloat for the next two weeks.

I rode that momentum straight into the Black Hole on Thursday night, as the Raiders failed to cover a 5 point spread, that I thought would have been easy for them, instead coming away with a 3 point overtime victory. I must say, the game was a lot better than I ever could have anticipated.

But it's okay, because on Saturday night:

Winner, winner, you like that chicken dinner?

UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

NFL Picks: Week 15

Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report
Week 14 was my first very good week in a while, and all but secured a decent record for the full season, barring a complete catastrophe, which has only happened once to me this year, during my disastrous 3-10-1 Week 8.

There have already been two games played this week, and I won neither game, but the Jets won one of them, so that's what really matters in the end. First of all, the Buccaneers lost the first annual Condiment Bowl, giving me a loss because I keep backing Tampa during the wrong weeks.

Either way, I look forward to the continuing of this tradition. You could say that we were treated with two of these games this week, as the Relish Jets played the Saurkraut Cowboys in JerryWorld.

Despite comical quarterback play from Matt Cassel leading to him benching, and the NFL debut of Kellen Moore, the Jets were only able to come out of the game with a push. That's more a little bit concerning, but a win is a win. Time to root against the Chiefs and Steelers.

UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS.