January 15, 2009

Link-O-Rama

  • As those of you who've inexplicably continued to check the Fat-O-Meter despite no change in months have no doubt noticed, I'm back on the weight-loss plan. Again. This is my third attempt to restart the weight-loss process since dropping 92.5 pounds several years ago only to gain most of it right back, so the odds are clearly against things working any better this time. We'll see. There are two problems when it comes to starting up another weight-loss effort after losing and then gaining back 92.5 pounds.

    The first is that being fat, losing a huge amount of weight, and becoming fat again is significantly more depressing than simply being fat and remaining that way the entire time. The other is that previously having lost 92.5 pounds makes me all too aware of just how long it will take to do it again. However, the signs are all pointing to me needing to drop some pounds again even if being successful means losing Hall of Fame eligibility.

  • Even the combined power of Erin Andrews, Buzz Bissinger, Chris Berman, and a pantsless Mike Singletary can't match the magic of Baby Mangino. Seriously.
  • Just penning lyrics like "get me on the court and I'm trouble, last week f***ed around and got a triple double" and "I had the brew she had the chronic, the Lakers beat the Supersonics" makes it obvious that Ice Cube is a musical genius, but seeing "It Was A Good Day" presented in the form of a flow chart hammers that point home and then some.
  • Not only did the new Mariners front office create a "statistical research and analysis department" run by SABR member Tony Blengino and bring on friend of AG.com Tom Tango as a consultant, they use The Hardball Times' defensive stats. On a related note, during a KFAN radio appearance last month my comment that the Twins are one of the increasingly rare MLB teams without any sort of department focused on statistical analysis apparently drew the ire of the front office.

    Assistant general manager Rob Antony brought up my comment on the air a few days later while being interviewed by LaVelle E. Neal III and noted that the Twins do in fact use stats in their decision-making. However, my suggestion was never that the Twins completely ignore stats, because that would be silly. Rather, my point was that for better or worse they don't employ the more advanced statistical tools that have become available recently and are now in fairly wide use among other teams (like the Mariners).

    In other words, my point was about things like PitchFX and Zone Ratings rather than home-road splits and fielding percentages. There's a big difference, so in an effort to clear the air I sent Antony an e-mail. To his credit he responded with an explanation of the Twins' stance on the issue, but also confirmed that they indeed "do not have a department devoted to statistical analysis" and are not using the type of advanced tools I was talking about. Whether that's good or bad is up for debate, but it's definitely true.

  • On another related note, the Red Sox hired Diamond-Mind creator and longtime SABR member Tom Tippett as their director of baseball information services, but that's really nothing new for a team that's employed Bill James and various statistical analysts for years. In other words, you can be assured they aren't sitting around pouring over home-road splits.
  • Speaking of LEN3, he reports that the Twins "have inquired about" Eric Gagne, who was one of four relievers suggested as low-cost targets in this space two months ago. Here's my write-up from then:
    Eric Gagne was baseball's best closer from 2002-2004, posting a 1.97 ERA with 365 strikeouts in 247 innings while converting 152-of-158 save chances (96.2 percent, including 55-of-55 in 2003). Tommy John elbow surgery followed and Gagne pitched just 15 innings over the next two years before signing with Texas in 2007. He converted 16-of-17 save chances with a 2.16 ERA for the Rangers, but fell apart after a midseason trade to the Red Sox and continued to struggle for the Brewers this year.

    Gagne is coming off the worst year of his career and has an ugly 5.82 ERA in 65 innings dating back to the trade to Boston, which along with the injuries and inclusion in the Mitchell Report makes him a big risk. However, it also means that he'll be cheap and Gagne quietly had a 20-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio from July 1 on while allowing zero runs in 24 of 30 games. He's a shell of his old self, but look closely and he still has more upside than anyone in his price range.

    At the time my suggestion was that the Twins should offer Gagne a one-year contract worth $3 million plus incentives, but given how the non-closer reliever market has played out since then that's probably more than they'd need to spend. Gagne is far from a sure thing, but there's a decent shot that he has 60 innings of a 3.50 ERA in him and the Twins are in obvious need of another capable option to bridge the gap from the starters to Joe Nathan.

  • Part of my job at Rotoworld involves reading the baseball coverage at nearly every major newspaper in the country on a daily basis, so I've become extremely familiar with the various newspaper websites. Most of them are more or less the same in terms of quality, but a handful stand out as either really bad or really good. For instance, the St. Paul Pioneer Press' website is among the worst, which is a shame given the good work that Phil Miller does covering the Twins.

    Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website is among the best when it comes to content, layout, and innovation. All of which is why online managing editor Will Tacy resigning may quietly be the most significant of the newspaper's growing number of departures. Most of the Star Tribune's audience has surely never heard of Tacy and just about everyone is understandably far more concerned about what's happening with the columnists they read than the guy who puts the website together.

    However, in the midst of steadily declining print circulation and a rapidly changing industry landscape the Star Tribune has made tremendous strides with its online presence recently. I'm certainly not in a position to say how much impact Tacy has had or predict what his loss means to the newspaper, but there's zero doubt that the massive gap in quality between the Star Tribune's website and the Pioneer Press' website has shaped my reading habits, and that's more than can be said for any single writer.

  • Meanwhile, the Star Tribune has officially filed for bankruptcy despite ranking among the nation's top newspapers in terms of both print circulation and website readership.
  • The latest batch of new television shows has been so incredibly disappointing and unwatchable that I've resorted to devouring ridiculous amounts of Homicide: Life on the Street and West Wing reruns, but Alan Sepinwall offers some good news on a pair of returning favorites.

    UPDATE: Even better news from Sepinwall: Stringer Bell and Michael Scott, together on The Office. As a wise man once said: "Giggity, giggity."

  • From John Madden with Brett Favre, Tim McCarver with Derek Jeter, and Dick Bremer with Nick Punto we're all used to announcers fawning over certain players to the point that it becomes tough to stomach, but world-class blowhard Thom Brennaman took it to a whole different level with Tim Tebow during the BCS title game. Tebow is an excellent college football player and by all accounts one helluva guy, but Brennaman's never-ending hero worship was embarrassing and took away from the game.
  • My MinnPost colleague David Brauer recently had an interesting note about what Patrick Reusse's new morning radio gig means for his Star Tribune column:
    He cut back to half-time at the Star Tribune, but will still write Thursday and Sunday columns. ... Reusse originally wanted out of newspapering; he asked to be part of the Strib's recent buyout, but was turned down. Sportswriters weren't eligible, so half-time was the compromise.

    [...]

    Reusse doesn't deny that the Strib's precarious economics were a factor in taking on more radio work, but there were other reasons. "I don't want to get on a plane and go do stuff anymore," he says. "Travel is a pain in the ass. And frankly, I wasn't sure if what I do is what my [newspaper] bosses were looking for."

    Reusse's odd rants against bloggers annoy me and his storytelling has always been much better than his attempts at analysis, but he also clearly stands above the rest of the Twin Cities' barren wasteland of sports columnists. It's ironic that someone who rails against bloggers has cut back on a newspaper column in part because he doesn't want to travel or report as much, but more than that it'll be a shame if Reusse lessening his workload simply clears even more space for Sid Hartman and Jim Souhan.

  • One of my pet peeves when it comes to mainstream baseball writers is how often they try to pass off ignorance and anti-intellectualism as a form of analysis. King Kaufman of Salon.com agrees:
    In what other profession do practitioners brag about their ignorance regarding current events and developments? In what other area of journalism is lack of awareness a mark of distinction? Cut it out, fellow writers. Do your job. Engage with your material. Stay current. Learn about things you don't understand. Ignorance isn't a virtue. It's not something to brag about. It's something to fix.

    Earlier this week Jim Rice was inducted into the Hall of Fame by receiving almost as many votes as Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines combined, and the dozens of columns explaining why were filled with so much of the anti-intellectualism Kaufman described that it can't be a shock that Rickey Henderson was left completely off the ballot by 28 of those same voters.

  • She's certainly gone through plenty of ups and downs before, but sadly it appears as though former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Elisha Cuthbert is no longer even trying.
  • Jay Mariotti has found an online home at the newly redesigned AOL Fanhouse after being let go by the Chicago Sun-Times following two decades as a columnist. While a blog-driven site hiring a veteran newspaper columnist is somewhat novel, it's also disappointing. Mariotti has long eschewed analysis and informed opinion for forced controversy and knee jerk criticism, and it's a shame that one of the top places for online sports coverage has decided that he's worth adding to the team.

    I'm sure that hiring Mariotti will bring more eyeballs to AOL Fanhouse because he's always been able to drum up an audience. However, sports fans getting fed up with guys like Mariotti in newspapers is a big part of why people flocked to blogs in the first place and now that online media has gained some serious footing in the marketplace it's unfortunate to see him land a job simply for being a controversial figure with a recognizable byline. Let the newspapers have him, because we don't need him. Oh well.

  • Not that we really needed any more evidence that the train has left the station, but the Dallas Morning News and Forth Worth Star-Telegram announced this week that they'll begin sharing sports coverage next month, with one newspaper covering the Rangers and one newspaper covering the Mavericks. As Barry Horn of the Morning News explained: "It's all about cost-cutting economics in this troubled time for newspapers." And he wrote that on his blog, of course.
  • One of the most rewarding aspects of having an audience is being able to send my readers to other sites. Obviously much of that comes from Link-O-Rama entries, but it never ceases to amaze me how many of you arrive at other sites by way of the sidebar links here. For instance, AG.com is currently the No. 2 referrer for Wicked Chops Poker and finished 2008 as the No. 5 referrer for Tao of Poker, which is fairly astounding given that neither site is linked to or mentioned much here beyond the sidebar.

    All of which is a long way of saying thanks for not only reading AG.com, but for checking out the various other sites that I've plugged on the sidebar. I've intentionally kept the number of sidebar links small, so you can be certain that any site found there is legitimately part of my daily reading routine and definitely worth reading. That makes me some enemies at sites not found on the sidebar, but the alternative is flooding the page with dozens of links and that seems silly if I'm not even reading them.

  • Craig Monroe is the latest in a depressingly long line of washed-up veterans to go from getting paid millions by the Twins one year to managing only a minor-league contract with another team the next.
  • Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Gladys Knight & the Pips doing a live version of "Midnight Train To Georgia":


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