Back in September, I wrote that one of the major difficulties with the job that Roger Goodell has developed for himself was that he had to be “The Disciplinarian”. In that piece, I argued that the role of disciplinarian does not mesh well at all with the more fundamental responsibilities of a commissioner:
A. Grow the league revenues
B. Maintain labor peace
C. Maintain and enhance the league’s public image and standing
I also suggested there that the best way to deal with discipline would be to “outsource it” to an arbitration staff paid for by both the NFL and the NFLPA such that there would be no suspicion of pulling fiscal strings behind the scenes. Well, last week, the NFL and the NFLPA took a first step exactly that path. They agreed to hire an outside arbitrator to handle the appeal that Ray Rice and his attorneys have filed. This is a big deal. The NFL and the NFLPA have agreed on a single person to handle this matter and both sides have agreed to live with the consequences of that person’s decision here. That may seem very normal – even mundane – for us “ordinary citizens” but that has never been the case for the league and the union.
Former US District Court judge, Barbara Jones, will be the arbitrator. For one, I hope that her handling of this matter is so exemplary that both sides come to the decision that hiring a small outside staff that will do nothing except handle disciplinary matters is a positive direction for both organizations.
Greg Cote posed an interesting rhetorical question in the Miami Herald yesterday:
“Question: How does A’s general manager Billy ‘Moneyball’ Beane get to keep being a genius when this was the 17th consecutive season his team failed to reach the World Series, let alone win?”
I think the answer to that question is that the baseball poets and Michael Lewis have anointed him as a genius and no one wants to be the fart in church to suggest otherwise. I never believed Moneyball to be a faithful rendition of history from the time I read it. I am not one who resists new analytical stats – although I do believe some of the “advanced metrics” are a tad arcane – but I also believe firmly in the “Eyeball Test”.
Now for a retrospective view of why the Oakland A’s were so successful around the turn of the millennium that you would not get just from reading/seeing/reading Moneyball:
The A’s had three young pitchers (Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito) who all blossomed around the same time. No analytical process predicted that would be the case nor did any such process make it happen.
The A’s at that time had a roster with more than a couple of players who have since been associated with PED use.
Now, that leads to a retrospective on this year’s big trades for Jeff Samardzija and John Lester near the trade deadline. For whatever reason, the A’s cratered after that trade; the team was 66-41 when the trade went down; the A’s went 22-23 after the trade. It is difficult to look at those numbers and say the trade was a “success” for the A’s but that is exactly what Billy Beane keeps trying to say. In fact, the SF Chronicle reported that he said the A’s might not have made the playoffs had he not made that deal.
There is no advanced analytical stat that measures “team chemistry” or whatever you want to call that concept. However, if the SF Chronicle report is accurate and I have no reason to doubt it, how might the 20 or so players in the A’s clubhouse feel about the way team management views their value. They were 25 games over .500; they had the best record in MLB at the time; management says they would have missed the playoffs without a couple of additions to the roster. Billy Beane likes to dismiss any discussion of things like “team chemistry” and the “Eyeball Test” as irrelevant. In this case, he had better be correct…
[Aside: Every time someone asks me what I mean by the “Eyeball Test”, I use this example if the person is more than 35 years old. In football, the career quarterback ratings say that Chad Pennington, Duante Culpepper and Jeff Garcia were all better quarterbacks than John Elway. That does not pass the “Eyeball Test”.]
Here is another item from Greg Cote’s column in the Miami Herald yesterday:
“Saw a headline that LeBron already has mastered new Cavs coach David Blatt’s offense. Figures. The offense may be summarized as, ‘Give the ball to LeBron!’ “
That snarky remark got me thinking about the Miami Heat for the upcoming season and leads me to ask:
How long will it be until folks begin to question if Erik Spoelstra is actually a good NBA coach or is he just a guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time to be on the bench with LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh?
The Heat will not be nearly as dominant this year as they have been for the last four years. The reason for that will be that LeBron James is in Cleveland and not in Miami. Nonetheless, Spoelstra will take some heat.
Finally, since I have used two of Greg Cote’s items from yesterday’s Miami Herald, let me close by using a third. It needs no amplification:
“Johnny Manziel says he might offer to counsel Jameis Winston. No, seriously.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………