Friday, August 27, 2004

Gymnastics, Bias & Lies

I didn’t watch the men’s gymnastics. I don’t care about men’s gymanstics. But I do feel somewhat bad for Paul Hamm.

For those of you not aware, he is being pressured to give his gold medal to a Korean competitor (non-communist variety) because of judging error.

The Korean’s high bar routine had a baseline score of 10.0 but they mistakenly put it at 9.9. That extra .10 of a point would have been enough to land him the gold.

But he lands the gold only if you make a lot of assumptions.

First, the high bar was on the second of six events. The scores for those first two events certainly had an effect on the strategies, mindset, and routines of all the competitors. The rest of the event didn’t happen in a vacuum.

It’s sort of like saying a missed field goal in the first quarter caused you to lose a football game because you end up losing by two points. That would be true if you missed it in the last seconds, but not early in the contest. The whole dynamic of the event will change depending on the actions and results that start the contest.

Secondly, because the gymnastic results are subjective in the first place, it’s possible the judges would be less lenient with a routine that starts with a 10.0 baseline. It’s quite likely that the judges not only take off deductions for technical reasons, but also give scores in relation to how well the other competitors scored. For example, the judge may give gymnast A a 9.8. He thought gymnast B was better so he gave him a 9.825.

It's also likely the judges knew what position each competitor was in going into the last rotation. They knew what Paul Hamm needed to win. If they thought he was the best overall gymnast, they would give him score high enough to win.

The bottom line is that there is no way you can say with any certainty that the Korean deserved a gold medal. And I think it’s insane that the International Gymnastics Federation would send a letter to Paul Hamm asking him to give up his gold.

But then I start to think that maybe I’m biased. If I was on the other side would I demand he turn over the gold?

Which brings me to another topic that has nothing to do with the Olympics. The most popular story on the blogosphere. The Kerry Christmas in Cambodia story.

You probably already know the basic outline. First, the Kerry camp has backed off the original story since Nixon wasn’t even in office at the time Kerry said he remembered sitting there taking enemy fire while the president denied any American troops were there. This has been followed by many numerous other explanations such as:

He was near the border.
He went there a couple of times on covert missions.
He went over the border one time.
John O’Neill was in Cambodia. (I don’t know what this has to do with anything)

Given that none of these scenarios have anything to do with the memory Kerry had “seared” in him, or no one has backed up his claim of being in Cambodia, and he has been avoiding the press ever since the charges came out, I can’t help but think he lied about the whole thing.

Again, am I biased? A lot of reputable liberals say of course he was there. The whole controversy is made up. He might have gotten the date wrong, that’s all.

But I don’t think I’m biased. If the shoe was on the other foot I don’t think I would argue otherwise. I’m sure I would argue the whole thing was unimportant, as many moderates have, but I wouldn’t disparage the accusers or call them liars. It’s a discredit to the many liberal bloggers out there that they have done exactly that.

Team Play

I'm pretty tired of columnists writing about the soft side of sports. You know, team play, emotions, chemistry.

Morrissey writes in his column today that the Sox struggle because they don't know how to play like a team.

Please. I'm not buying it.

First, there is not much team play in baseball. Most situations call for individual effort by players. And nothing I have seen suggests to me that players are trying to pad their stats instead of winning ballgames.

While this group has underachieved, but they haven't has a losing record since 1999. The reason they haven't done better has nothing to do with teamwork, or lack of offense, but some bad luck and less than stellar pitching.

Morrissey also thinks that the Sox need to become more like the Twins. While it would be great to have some of the talent that the Twins do in the farm system, the last thing they need to do is become more like the Twins. I mean for crying out loud, the Twins about to win their division and they trade away one of their veterans for a minor leaguer. You think they would try and get some people to help them in the playoffs. Their conservative tendencies have given them the Central crown the last three years, but has left them behind other contenders like NY, Boston, Oakland and Anaheim.

The bottom line is that this season would have been much different if Maggs and Frank didn't go down with injuries. But those are the breaks. I don't want to make excuses, but I don't see how you can blame their struggles on a lack of team play while ignoring the effect of these injuries.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Aaron Rowand, Sox MVP

With injuries to their two best players, Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez, it's not suprising that the White Sox have fallen off the pace in the AL Cebtral. What is suprising is that in their absence Aaron Rowand has emerged as the team's best hitter.

After his second two homer game in the last week, Rowand is now hitting .309 with 27 doubles, 18 homers, a .358 OBP and .565 slugging %.

How did this happen? How did Aaron Rowand go from 4th outfielder on the White Sox to arguably the top all-around ball player in the AL Central? Consider that:

Rowand's .565 slugging % is 7th best in the AL.

He has stolen 13 bases while only being caught twice.

He has the best zone rating among all AL centerfielders.

His only weakness this year has been his lack of plate discipline as he only has 20 walks and a .358 OBP. That's certainly not an awful on base percentage, but it is the only area preventing him from becoming one of the top hitters in the game.

He actually started out slow this year and was being platooned with Willie Harris in center until he turned things around in June. His ave/obp/slug splits by month are:

Apr 225/268/453
May 283/338/483
Jun 375/420/641
Jul 337/387/547
Aug 295/348/689

And for those of you who think he might only be taking advantage of hitter friendly Cellular field, his road numbers are better than his home numbers:

H 284/345/543
A 333/372/586

The Chicago papers have finally noticed the great season that Rowand is having and the Trib just featured him in a front page article. It should only be a matter of time before the national media begins to take notice.

I'm not completely sold that we can expect Rowand to put up these numbers on a yearly basis. But he's only 26 and this might be the first of many special seasons Rowand has on the south side.

UPDATE: The Cheat's Chisox Blog beat me to the punch and wrote about Rowand the other day. However, I disagree with the Cheat's criticism of Rowand's hitting with men in scoring position which I don't think is anythong more than luck. It's interesting to look back on but does little to predict future performance.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Village

After watching another Sox loss I have the urge to write about something other than baseball. So I decided to give a movie review.

I was actually able to get to theater for the first time this year. The baby slept at grandmas (thank you Grandma Nance and Papa Marv) and my wife and I were able to go see The Village.

Anyone who has seen a commercial knows the basic plot of the movie. The village is surrounded by a forest inhabited by some type of monster/animal/whatever. The villagers have a truce with these creatures by which they are not to enter the forest and the creatures will not enter the village.

I thought the movie did a nice job of portraying village life and showing the constant fear with which these villagers lived. Joaquin Phoenix plays the main character of the movie and requests to leave the village in order to get supplies from one of the towns beyond the forest. He is also involved in a love triangle with Williams Hurt's two daughters, one who is in love with him while he is in love with other. I guess that's about all the plot I can tell you before giving too much away.

The only trouble I had following the plot was when why my wife kept asking me if one girl was the Chief's daughter. Since there was no Chief, I assumed she meant William Hurt who seemed to be the village leader. It wasn't until the middle of the movie when she kept asking about the Chief that I figured out she meant Brendan Gleeson who we saw in the movie, The General, which she mistakenly remembered as The Chief. I hope by bringing this to your attention you don't experience the same problem.

M. Night Shyamalan has been criticized for being a one trick pony by trying to force plot twists on all his movies, but I think that criticism is unwarranted. While this movie certainly has plot twists, I never got the feeling that he was trying to pull on over on the audience as he did in the Sixth Sense. The plot simply unfolds and the full story is revealed to the audience.

This movie does have some holes, and will leave you asking "why would aliens invade a planet 2/3rds water if it kills them" type questions. But I enjoyed the movie and thought it was better than both Signs and Unbreakable. It's never boring and has a great cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody playing the town idiot, Brendan Gleeson, William Hurt and Bryce Howard.

This is definitely the best movie I saw in a theater this year. I also watched two movies on video this week, The Triplets of Belleville and Along Came Polly. If the Sox keep losing I might give a couple more reviews.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A New Myth Begins

Twice in the last two weeks, Minnesota bloggers have stated something to the effect that the Sox have gone into their annual fade. Now this came as a surprise to me since I followed the Sox closely the past few years and could have sworn they were a better second half team. It’s not the finishes that have killed them but rather their poor starts.

So I went ahead and took a look at their monthly splits going back to the 2000 division championship team. Below are the records for the Sox for games after August 1 with their overall record in parentheses.

2000 31-26 (95-67)
2001 32-26 (83-79)
2002 30-24 (81-81)
2003 29-24 (86-76)

For the past 4 years, the Sox have had a winning record over the last two months of the season. The only year in which their winning percentage over the last two months was worse than their overall percentage occurred during the 2000 division championship season.

The only year in which you could argue they faded was last year when they lost 2 out of 7 against the Twins in September. But overall, they went 41-27 after the All-Star break and it would be hard for me to characterize that as “fading”.

SethSpeaks goes as far as saying the Sox choked which implies that they should have won and were facing an inferior team. I wholeheartedly agree but am surprised to hear that from a Twins fan.

So to recap, this annual Sox fade only exists in the minds of Twins fans who seem oddly obsessed with what happens on the South Side of Chicago. I say oddly, because even though they pay attention they can’t get simple some facts straight.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Keep Hope Alive

There’s a fine line between hope and despair. It seems I’ve found that line at five games back.

The Sox spent most of the last week six games behind the Twins. And this team, without Frank and Maggs, sure didn’t seem capable of gaining six games on the Twins in the standings.

I pretty much stopped worrying about how many games behind the Sox had fallen. Not that I stopped caring. It was still painful watching the Sox blow a 5-3 9th inning lead against the Tribe. But I didn’t go to bed thinking about another wasted opportunity to gain a game on the Twins.

But now the Sox actually managed to win their last two series and gained two games on the Twins in the process. Sitting 4 games back, I’m again plotting all the scenarios by which the Sox can gain ground on the Twins, and now also the Indians.

So hope is alive. The Sox need to play good baseball for a twenty game stretch and they’ll back in the mix. I’m not sure they’re capable but I can at least ponder the possibility.

Given that the Sox haven’t been able to manage any long win streaks this year, the Sox will most likely need help from both the Twins and Indians. So go Yanks, go Rangers and go White Sox.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Bad Contracts

I know the White Sox have signed some bad long term contracts in the past. But I had no idea that we were still paying a 52 year old $1.65 million this year.

Answer: 34,3,2

Question: How many bases, respectively, have Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, and Sammy Sosa stolen over the last four years?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Classy Move

The Atlanta Braves showed that they are class organiztion by taking out a full page ad in the Tribune congratulating Greg Maddux on his 300th win.

Do you think the BoSox will take out a full page ad congratulating Nomar on winning the World Series?

It's really amazing how much trash has come out of Boston since the Nomar giveaway. But I guess when you get your ass handed to you in a trade you need to justify it anyway you can.

Monday, August 09, 2004

The New Jose

The Contreras for Loaiza trade has paid immediate dividends for the Sox after Contreras' second consecutive strong start. Yesterday, he only gave up 2 hits through 7 innings before running into some minor problems in the 8th. He gave up 3 more hits but only one run as he was helped out of a jam by some bad Cleveland baseruning.

It’s only two starts (14 IP, 10 hits, 3ER, 2BB, 12K) but it looks like Contreras has some wicked stuff. I guess we’ll get a better idea of what we have when he faces off against Boston at Fenway on Friday night. His lack of success against Boston is the only reason he's pitching for us right now.

At the time of the trade, Loiaza had an ERA .80 lower than Contreras. As of now, that difference is down to .20 (4.97 compare to 5.17). I predict that Contreras will in fact end the year with a better ERA than Loaiza and that Contreras will get his below 5.00 while Loaiza will end up above it.

It's been a disappointing two weeks, but getting Contreras for what remains of Loaiza might be the best thing that happens this season.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Sox Pick Up Alomar

Is this some sort of sick joke? We traded for Roberto Alomar? Again?

I've never been more embarassed to be a Sox fan. Kenny Williams has made some bad trades, but this is beyond explanation.

One, we have very little chance of making the playoffs. We are currently 5.5 games behind the Twins in the division and 4.5 games behind the A's in the wildcard. Without Frank and Magglio it's not very likely we'll play much better than .500 ball down the stretch. I'm not saying we should give up on the season. But it would be silly to waste any prospects trying to add a veteran for the stretch run.

So we give up cash and a player for the Roberto Alomar? Roberto F***ing Alomar?

Two, we already have two second baseman who can put up the same, if not better, numbers than Alomar. Has Kenny boy looked at Roberto's stats over the last three years? F***ing pathetic.

I actually was starting to give Kenny a bit of credit for making the trade for Contreras. It improved the Sox in the future while still letting them compete now.

But this trade, along with overpaying for Garcia, shows that Kenny Williams has no f***ing clue.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Good Trade

As usual, much of the reaction of the blogosphere has come down against the White Sox. But I think Kenny Williams made a nice little trade sending Loaiza to Ney York for Jose Contreras and cash.

I've read more than one Yankee commentator call it a steal. But the numbers hardly bear that out. Loaiza has actually been pretty mediocre this year and downright awful the past couple months. Take a look at his ERA splits:

April 3.71
May 3.68
June 5.35
July 6.89

Even worse, take a look at his opponents batting average splits:

April .228
May .259
June .306
July .333

At this rate, hitters will be flirting with .400 against Loaiza by September.

Contreras hasn't been pitching well this year either. But his problems stem mainly from a lack of control. I would say Contreras is more likely to turn things around.

The bottom line is that I don't think that the Sox are any worse off this year for making this trade and definitely improved their ballclub beyond 2004.

As for the future, the Sox now have four starting pitchers signed for the 2005. Garcia and Buerhle are both good, Garland is consistently mediocre, and Contreras may have the best talent of all four. It's definitely not as good as the pitching talent assembled on the North Side, but it should be the top rotation in the AL Central for the next few years.