August 16, 2012

What I learned today, August 16

For all the noise he makes about the Nets, Jay-Z's stake in the team is 0.067%. (It looks to have been a million-dollar buy-in.) He also has 0.2% ownership of the new Barclays Arena.

December 8, 2011

Baseball stat of the day

The Los Angeles Angels have agreed to pay Albert Pujols $254 million over the next 10 years.

Just eight years ago owner Arte Moreno bought the Angels (the entire team, that is) for $184 million.

November 4, 2011

Another good guy (you didn't notice?)

The news was released with little fanfare on a Monday evening: the Yankees came to terms on a contract extension with ace CC Sabathia, averting a crisis and a major free agency story.

The basic news wasn't all that noteworthy, as Sabathia is a) handsomely paid, b) happy as a Yankee, and c) receiving another twenty-five million dollars to weigh 290 pounds and throw around a baseball. Sabathia, after all, will be receiving $122 million over the next five years--not too shabby.

But subtly, the signing reveals that Sabatha is one of baseball's good guys, the players that do what's best for them personally and professionally, and not just financially.

He didn't force the hand. Sabathia had an opt-out clause in his contract that would have allowed him to seek unmentioned riches on the free-agent market rather than honor the four years remaining in his existing deal. He used this as leverage to get the extension he sought. What he did not do, though, was actually opt out of his contract: he remained with the Yankees, didn't play competing offers off one another, didn't push his employer to the brink. He and his agent and the Yankees' general manager instead said, "Okay, what's the equitable way to address the situation?" Fine-tuning the existing deal turned out to be the best answer.

He didn't seek excess. As a free agent, Sabathia could have hunted for longer deals or more money than he ultimately received. Of course, he's extremely well paid, by the wealthiest team in baseball; but that doesn't preclude one of the other wealthy or big-spending or splashy teams in the sport giving him even more money to land a prized asset and stick it to the Yanks. But Sabathia didn't play that hand at all. The value of the additional year on his deal is in line with the ones already in place, and it pays him handsomely, without the free-agency dancing that could have landed him a few million dollars more.

He kept it quiet. The public heard next to nothing about Sabathia's contract, not from him, at least: lots of media speculation, near-certainty that he'd opt out, then, at deadline, an announcement that a deal was done. Credit goes to the Yankees on this one as well (unlike their handling of the Jeter affair last year) for playing it cool. Ultimately, though, Sabathia looked at his situation, figured it couldn't get much better, and made a deal that was rational for both sides, and to fans.

This also speaks kindly about agent Brian Peters, who certainly did right by his client, securing him another $25 million while maintaining a positive relationship with the ball club.

Sabathia's extra year is still great money, and it's not quite Jered Weaver spurning free agency (and his very powerful agent) to re-sign with the home team below market value. But in some ways it's not far off. Kudos to Sabathia for admitting his comfort and sticking around.

September 7, 2010

Now this is how to blog

Bill Simmons' latest column on ESPN quasi-Rickrolls readers deep in football mode into watching Hulk Hogan defeat the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden. Which, in turn, gets said reader's mind into nostalgia mode, whereupon one quickly discovers all kinds of great Hulk Hogan nuggets--he was huge in Japan!--and then to the real "who knew?" moment, unearthing this thorough list of pro wrestling terms on (where else?) Wikipedia.

A worked screwjob, is part of the storyline and the match is intended to end controversially. A shoot screwjob is extremely rare and occurs when a change is made without one of the participants knowing, creating an outcome that is contrary to what was supposedly planned for the storyline by the participants. The most famous example of a screwjob of this type is the Montreal Screwjob.
Behond, the wondrous serendipity that is the Internet. And those 23" pythons.

June 4, 2010

What I learned today, June 3

The typical modern soccer ball, with its black-on-white pentagons, looks the way it does because for the 1970 World Cup FIFA had Adidas design a ball that was easy to see on television.

March 3, 2010

On baseball strategy

Terrific analysis of pitcher-hitter mindgames by Joe Posnanski.

So, when you see a guy who gets a lot of curveballs -- say Aaron Rowand -- that is not because he can't hit a good curveball. It's because pitchers believe he can't hit a mediocre curveball. It's a great game. The pitcher knows Rowand isn't very good on breaking stuff. Rowand knows the pitcher knows this and comes to the plate expecting to see breaking stuff. The pitcher knows that Rowand knows that the pitcher knows, so he is on alert that if he throws a hanging curveball, Rowand might just crush it. But Rowand knows this, so he might be overanxious if he sees the hanging curveball and hit it nine miles foul. Or he might be thinking curveball so much that he promises himself to not wing, and the pitcher might cross him up and throw fastball -- even Aaron Rowand got more than 50% fastballs last year -- and Rowand is so screwed up in his head that he just watches it go by for strike three and ... yeah, it's a great game.

Yeah, it is.

November 12, 2009

Plus, there'd be butts strewn in the grass

A history of baseball and chewing tobacco in Slate. How things change (emphasis added):

The sudden decline of former batting champion and career .308 hitter Michael "King" Kelly--he hit just .189 in 1892 and was only able to play 78 games--was attributed to his longtime habit of smoking while patrolling the outfield.

Never mind the chaw. Can you imagine Johnny Damon, chilling out in left field, with a cigarette dangling from his lip? How does a guy shag flies while smoking?

December 24, 2008

On being the bully (and a solution)

I was never much of a physical force growing up. Slowest in the 440 at school, always a few pounds overweight, I was more of a thinker, and made my way by being clever and omniscient, not all-powerful.

Which is why sometimes it's hard for me to root for the New York Yankees. I get tired of seeing them outspend the league, overspend on players, and basically pummel the free agent market into submission every winter. Defending my team's actions is tiresome, particularly since I don't always agree with the maneuvers, despite being a loyal fan for 30 years.

More importantly, where has it gotten them? The most-expensive-ever Yankees of this season are the first in 13 years to miss the playoffs. The Yanks of the late 1990s achieved four World Series championships in five years with a foundation of homegrown talent. Since then the Yankees have proved (like the Orioles did a decade earlier) that a team can't simply buy a championship.

The Yanks are determined to try, which is fine. But what particularly galls me is the level of disparity. Their 2008 payroll was 51% higher than the second-highest team and 140% more than the league average. I don't exactly dislike the Yanees' ability to spend, but come on. The system is surely broken that their budget can be $209 million when the average team is spending $90 million.

Major League Baseball needs to reconcile the Yankees' payroll in a way that simultaneously appeases the players' association and other owners. So the Yanks paid $26 million in revenue-sharing: that's barely 12% of payroll, and didn't slow them at all. At the same time, MLB must also continue to address parity; the Florida Marlins' $22 million payroll, at 10% of the Yankees', is equally embarrassing.

In lieu of a hard salary cap, which will be too hard to fit into baseball's current economic model, perhaps a tether is in order. What if the maximum spend were set at, say, 200% of the previous year's median? That would give wealthier teams room to pay, while preserving a realistic upper limit. It would allow the less wealthy teams to spend less, as is their wont. It might also realign teams' responsibilities--the Yankees would suddenly have tens of millions of dollars of their own money freed up for other things. Like paying for their new stadium without begging for more public funds.

Last year's median spend was approximately $80 million (between the Brewers' $81 million and the Indians' $79 million). If the tether were in place, the cap for the 2009 season would be $160 million. That's more than $21 million higher than the payroll of every other team in baseball, but a good $40 million below the Yankees' expectations. It would have allowed them to sign CC Sabathia or Mark Teixeira or A.J. Burnett but probably not all three. Which in turn would put, say, Teixeira in Washington, boosting the Nationals' payroll by $20 million, which raises the median price, bumping the 2010 tether, and so on.

This is just one of many ideas, and it may not get noticed beyond this blog. But it would sure be nice to do something about this imbalance. Because like the bully in many a Hollywood tale, the Yankees keep proving that might does not make right. A little fiscal restraint might do them, and the rest of baseball, some good.

September 21, 2008

Last and first

Fan familyMy infatuation with the New York Yankees, and by extension Yankee Stadium, dates to my first game in 1978. I was five. My parents brought me--I believe with friends who had a son near my age--and someone (I like to pretend it was Reggie Jackson) hit a foul ball within a row or two of our seats. This being 1978, the stadium wasn't all that full, and my parents encouraged me to chase the ball. I was too shy to do it. But I was amazed that I could be that close to the action, and I came home with a WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS 1977 pennant that hung on my wall for the next 15 years.

I've been a Yankee fan ever since. And I've been to scores of Yankee games, many during the Yankee dynasty of the late 1990s. I've chanted Roll Call from the bleachers, sung "New York, New York" more times than I can count, and even gotten thrown out of a game once.

In recent years, I hadn't been to Yankee Stadium all that much, maybe one or two games a season, as priorities shifted and life intervened. Still, I remained a Yankee fan in full, soaking up multiple articles daily in the New York Times and following every trade, promotion and signing.

I'm a sentimental guy, so the closing of the stadium saddens me. The intentional destruction of such a historic location is a shame. I've had a heavy heart in recent weeks as my beloved Yankees stumbled toward a third-place finish and a quiet end to Yankee Stadium.

But I was surprised by just how much I wanted to be there. To soak up the atmosphere. To look at the scenery. To see the 4 train in the gap in right field. To feel the weight and pride of the Stadium as I did when I was five, and 25, again as a 35-year-old. So I got tickets to a game, once with my family, then again with a friend. But still I needed more.

And so it was that Saturday found me on the 4 train, my son, Nathan, in a carrier on my shoulders, him in a batting-practice onesie, me in my away jersey. My wife, Amy, packed the diaper bag and wore my cap as we headed to Yankee Stadium for one last game. A day game, the last one, on the final weekend of games, for Nathan to see for himself.

Nate was all of 115 days old as of yesterday, and his memories of the day will be slight, at best. But I can tell him we were there, enjoying a Yankee victory on a glorious September afternoon. How we had great seats in the lower level, just to the third-base side of home plate--"I think the best I've ever sat in," said Amy--for a fast-paced 1-0 game, won on a Robinson Cano single in the bottom of the ninth. How we took lots of photos, and strolled close to home plate, and rode the 4 train like true New York fans. And how my little boy enjoyed it all: happily taking in the sights and sounds the first four innings, making new friends everywhere we walked, gamely braving crowds, sleeping on the subway. He even ate lunch at the game, just like Mom and Dad. It was terrific.

And Amy, bless her heart, indulging me and Nathan both, gamely changing his diaper in a stadium ladies' room, feeding him in the mayhem of the ninth inning, lingering long past the final pitch to take pictures and soak up the moment: a more accommodating, loving wife and mother would be hard to find. I've lost track of the number of times I have thanked her this weekend. Yet the joy in my eyes tells her more than I could say.

The outing has made for an extremely emotional weekend. I hadn't fully grasped just how important my Yankee allegiance is to me, or how much I revered the ballpark. Sharing that with my son, however silly it may be at his age, was truly special.

"Someday," I've been telling people, "Nathan is going to thank me for bringing him to the old Yankee Stadium." But that's only part of the story. I owe him my thanks, for being such a good, fun little kid, for making our trip a success, and for being here for me to share with him.

I became a father on May 28, but on Saturday, I became a dad.

October 19, 2007

Bye, Joe

Torre turns down offer to return as Yanks' skipper. Not much of a surprise that Joe Torre is leaving the Yankees, although the style raised my eyebrows. The Yankees' not-really offer of a one-third reduction in base pay was, quite obviously, designed to shuffle Torre out the door without their saying he wasn't wanted.

At the same time, though, this is a business, and Torre did not meet the Yankees' business goals. For seven straight seasons he has been (over)paid to repeat his performance from 1996-2000, and the Yanks have a string of tough and not-so-tough playoff defeats to show for it. Tough-love Yankee fans will cite Torre's overreliance on too few pitchers and some questionable decisions down the stretch, and they wouldn't be wrong. Example: this season's decision to play Chien-Ming Wang on short rest in their last game instead of the prepared Mike Mussina. Mussina had won his last three starts while Wang had been allowing nearly a run per inning, but Torre's confidence outweighed the statistics. Result: Cleveland is battling Boston for the American League title instead of New York. Anyone making bad decisions like that at an ordinary job might be subject to far worse than a pay cut to $5 million.

So, like most fans, and probably the Yankees organization itself, I am both sad to see Torre go and in agreement that it's a pretty fair decision. Many other intriguing decisions await this team.

As an aside, I found the online commentary interesting when reading about this news. SportsFilter has a remarkably well-considered dialog running, while the ESPN article linked above has, as of this writing, 1702 comments in the "conversation" area. Seventeen hundred comments in 12 hours! Is that a "conversation?" More like a cacophony, and interesting to note. I'd expect a community area might suffer under such mass but people just keep posting.

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3 parts observation
2 parts introspection
1 part links
1 part creativity
1 part stinging wit
dash of sarcasm

The history
The Ideapad debuted on November 1, 1998 and has been through numerous incarnations through the years. It is now a weblog and personal journal.
Once upon a time I wrote Usability: The Site Speaks for Itself (Publisher's page /
Once in a whenever I consult as User Savvy (dormant)
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