The Mets Are A Mess…

At the end of last season, the Mets fired their manager, Terry Collins.  The Mets were disappointing in 2017 and reports said that some of the players were at odds with Collins; it is always easier to fire a manager than it is to change out a bunch of players so that is what the Mets did.  In early April, the Mets’ braintrust looked like Nobel Laureates; the Mets started the 2018 season 11-1.  No one thought that sort of performance would obtain for the rest of the season; similarly, no one thought at the time that how the Mets have performed since early April was going to happen.

As of this morning, the Mets’ record stands at 33-48; that puts them all of 1 game ahead of the Miami Marlins who have the worst record in the National League.  Since their torrid start, the Mets are 22-47.  Their new manager, Mickey Callaway, seems to be learning on the job; this is his first managerial assignment.

Just as it was incorrect for the Mets – and their fans – to blame Collins last year for the team’s disappointing result, it would be wrong to put all of this failure on Callaway.  The problem is the roster itself.  The Mets have two excellent starting pitchers and not a whole lot else.  No one is batting over .280; only 2 of their 8 starting position players is younger than 31.  As a team, the Mets are hitting .231 (second worst in the NL); they are also second worst in the NL in runs scored and they are dead last in the NL in Total Bases.  The roster is a mess.

And I have not even gotten started on the contract that the Mets gave to Yoenis Cespedes in 2016.  They signed him to a 4-year deal worth $110M even though Cespedes had shown very clearly that his play and his approach to the game was lackadaisical-at-best before he got that big fat contract.  Lots of players have exhibited what I call “Fat Wallet Syndrome” after getting a huge contract; Cespedes was doing everything except posting billboards saying

  • I Can’t Wait To Show You What Fat Wallet Syndrome REALLY Means!

The Mets have Cespedes through the 2020 season.  He makes $29M this year; he will make $29M next year; he will make $29.5M in 2020.  Who thought that was a good idea?

The Marlins are in a full-blown “tear down and rebuild” situation.  To get there, they unloaded their best players and Giancarlo Stanton brought them a bunch of prospects.  If the Mets were to try to take a similar course and to trade away Cespedes, I doubt that he would bring much in a trade.  [Aside: It will be doubly difficult to trade Cespedes because in addition to the $110M in the contract, there is also a FULL no-trade clause in there too.]  Oh, and just to put icing on the cake, Cespedes is hurt and has missed the last 40 games or so.  Unsurprisingly, there is no timetable for his return…

Speaking obliquely about baseball managers and winning baseball games, I am already getting tired of the worshipping at the altar of Advanced Analytics by so many of the young managers today.  I understand the concepts of probability theory and I am relatively facile with mathematics.  Nonetheless, analytics – – even Advanced Analytics – – are not mandatory for guiding MLB teams to victory.

  • There is no evidence to show that Connie Mack was a mathematical genius.  He somehow found a way to win 3,731 games as a manger.
  • John McGraw was never nominated for the Nobel Prize in Mathematics [Aside: I know that there is no such prize; this is hyperbole.]  He was on the bench 2,763 times when his team won the game.
  • Joe McCarthy was never spotted in a dugout wearing out a slide rule and yet he managed to win 2,125 games in MLB AND he is the only manager in baseball history to win 1,000 games or more and to have a winning percentage over .600.

In case you have not been keeping track, New Jersey has been taking bets on sporting events for the last month or so and the integrity of MLB, the NBA and the NFL has not come crashing down.  Call this situation Doomsday Postponed.

In a similar vein, the NCAA shockingly came down on the correct side of what could have been a hugely hypocritical position for them.  I am hard-pressed to recall the last time this institution did so, but I will refrain from calling this a “first”.  Here is what happened:

  • As professional leagues try to extort money from casinos by asking for “integrity fees” that nominally would cover the leagues’ costs to monitor the integrity of their games now that gambling on them can be done on a coast-to-coast basis, the NCAA announced that it would not do that.
  • Take a deep breath here; the NCAA shut off the possibility of a revenue stream.
  • Of course, the reality is that the NCAA does not do anything that is very effective when it comes to protecting the integrity of its games.  Previous point-shaving scandals have come to light when casinos and law enforcement officials have gotten wind of something and then let the NCAA in on it ex post facto.
  • Basically, the NCAA just got a lot more sportsbook people involved with their games meaning there are extra sets of eyes out there looking to see if anyone is trying to score a betting coup.  And, mane no mistake, the sportsbook folks have a keen interest in preventing such occurrences.

It is not common in these parts to hand out kudos to the NCAA for much of anything other than their presentation of March Madness.  However, the NCAA deserves credit for this decision.  They did the right thing here.

Before I give then an unvarnished A+ on this matter however, I should note that the NCAA did leave the door ajar just a sliver here.  While it will not seek any “integrity fees” from casinos, it did say that member schools may pursue such fees from casinos in their states if the schools choose to do so.

Finally, here is a reassuring note from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“News flash: Barkley, 15 others to appear in ESPN the Magazine’s 10th annual Body Issue.

“Relax, folks — it’s Saquon, not Charles.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



LeBron Is A Laker

LeBron James performed a massive public service over the weekend.  Instead of dragging out his decision – – The Decision Redux? – – as to where he would be “taking his talents” beginning with the next NBA season.  LeBron will play for the Lakers and has signed a 4-year deal worth $154M.  Please ignore all of the self-serving commentary you will hear from LeBron and the Lakers in the next 72 hours; please ignore the bazillion NBA commentary/essays that will appear in the next 72 hours purporting to “clarify for you” what this signing means and signifies.  Such statements and commentaries are pure blather.

Dwight Howard got traded again.  Reports say that the Hornets shipped him off to the Nets for Timofey Mozgov and a second-round pick.  Howard was a certified stud when he was playing for the Magic; he led the league in rebounding 4 times and in blocked shots 2 times in his 8 seasons there.  That ended in 2012 when Howard “took his talents” to LA to play for the Lakers; since then he has become a vagabond.  If/when he reports to the Nets – or any other NBA team in October 2018, it will be Dwight Howard’s 5th team since 2012 and four teams in the last four years.  Yikes!  Howard’s contract calls for him to earn $23.8M next year and then for him to be an unrestricted free agent.

Switching over to NFL news, Jameis Winston has been suspended for 3 games at the start of the 2018 season for a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy.  A female Uber driver has accused him of grabbing her by the crotch while she was taking him from Point A to Point B.  Winston has said that he had been drinking and cannot recall the details of that evening.

I am not interested in trying to litigate the allegations here so let me get a couple of things out of the way without any equivocation:

  1. No woman should ever be “grabbed by the crotch” unwillingly.  Period.  End of message.  There are no “mitigating circumstances”.
  2. This is not the first time that a woman has made allegations against Jameis Winston that involve unwanted or forced actions of a “sexual nature”.
  3. The presumption of innocence – guaranteed in the US Constitution – demands that we all declare that Jameis Winston has never been proven to be a sexual predator in a court of law.

With all of that out of the way, the NFL’s action and posture in this matter is befuddling.  After the blunder that followed the “Ray Rice Incident” – wherein Ray Rice got a 2-game suspension for knocking his future wife to her knees on an elevator captured on video – the NFL adopted a Personal Conduct Policy that set the bar at a 6-game suspension for actions involving domestic violence.  Recall that in 2017, Ezekiel Elliott got a 6-game suspension for that same sort of violation.

So … the current question open for analysis is:

  • Why/How did Jameis Winston get a suspension that is half as long as what the NFL’s policy demands and is half as long as what Ezekiel Elliott got just last year?

In order to try and understand all of this, I thought that the best way would be to look at what the NFL itself said about all of this in the announcement of the punishment and the closure of the matter.  The NFL said in its statement that Jameis Winston touched an Uber driver:

“… in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.”

The NFL statement also included this comment:

“In addition, a future violation of the Personal Conduct Policy will result in more substantial discipline, including a potential ban from the NFL.”

OK, so now that you know what the NFL has to say about handing down a suspension that is half of what the league policy calls for and half of what Ezekiel Elliott got last year, can you give me a logical explanation?  If this is the best logical explanation, then the NFL and its so-called Personal Conduct Policy should be exposed for what it is:

  • An arbitrary and capricious use of authority granted to the Commissioner by the NFLPA in the last round of labor negotiations in exchange for more revenue being devoted to the salary cap.

This is off the top of my head and so there may be other “precedents” involved here.  It does seem to me that the 6-game suspension rule is not followed in more than a few cases.  Nonetheless, consider:

  • Josh Brown got a 1-game suspension for a domestic violence incident.
  • Junior Galette got a 2-game suspension for a domestic violence incident.  (This is the “Ray Rice punishment” after the fact and after the announcement of a new policy standard.)
  • Joseph Randle got a 4-game suspension for an incident that involved domestic violence plus a firearm.

[Aside:  Randle’s 4-game suspension was the same punishment handed down to Tom Brady for a charge not yet proven conclusively related to under-inflated footballs.  I must be missing something here regarding the severity of the potential/alleged violations of NFL rules/policies here.]

If you get the idea here that I think the NFL is bending over backwards not to drop the hammer on a young Black QB who continues to show that his maturity level and his self-control mechanisms are inadequate, you would be most correct.  Nonetheless, I feel in good company because this is what Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had to say about this matter:

“Suggestion for the lawyers and agents of Jameis Winston: When you release a statement on Winston’s Facebook account, listen to how he talks and try to make the statement sound like him. Not: ‘In the past two years my life has been filled with experiences, opportunities and events that have helped me grow, mature and learn.’ Is that his valedictory speech?

“Apparently one of those growth opportunities was the groping of a female Uber driver.”

Finally, since I invoked the name and the commentary of Scott Ostler just above, let me close today with another of his observations regarding the NFL and its rules and policies:

“If you want to see an NFL owner sweat, ask him what will happen if Marshawn Lynch continues to sit out the national anthem. The owners are hoping and praying that their new anthem rule will make that sticky situation go away, and Lynch could be the wild card. Good luck, owners, on getting a feel for what Lynch might be thinking. He sits out the anthem, on the Raiders’ bench, surrounded by team staffers trying to hide him. Lynch never explains why he’s sitting. And he doesn’t like being told what to do. And the Raiders don’t want to punish Lynch and risk alienating Oakland fans. Tick, tick …”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………