Baseball post-mortem

I was glad to see that the Washington Nationals’ Davey Johnson won the National League’s manager of the year.  He also won the award for the American League back in 1997 when he managed  the Baltimore Orioles.  On the same day that reward was announced for getting the Orioles into the post-season for the first time in decades, he got fired.  That won’t happen this time, as the 70-year-old agreed to come back to Washington for one more year before he retires for good.  He took a bad, hapless, hopeless team and turned it, virtually overnight, into the winningness team in baseball.

And, along that line, going from old to young, the National’s Bryce Harper won Rookie of the Year.  He was 19 for most of the season and his infectious energy, as well as his penchant for getting on base and then stealing them, contributed greatly to the team’s successful season.

I was hoping for a trifecta for the Nationals, the home team I’m now following in my new home, but the team’s ace, Gio Gonzalez (not Stephen Strasburg, great young pitcher that he is) finished third in the NL Cy Young.  Usually winning more games than anyone, going 21-8, having 207 strikeouts, and a 2.89 ERA is enough to get you a Cy Young, but this year’s award went to the Met’s kuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who went 20-6.  Since the Mets were a losing team, I can see that this was a greater feat.   race despite having

Gonzalez led the Major Leagues with 21 victories, led the team in strikeouts with 207 and had a 2.89 ERA in 32 games. However, Dickey, who went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, led the NL in starts, complete games, shutouts and innings pitched. The Dodger’s Clayton Kershaw came in second, despite his lowlier 14-9 record, because he came out so well in the sophisticated number crunching of sabremetrics.

 

Trash talk

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler illustrates why talking trash against an opponent is not wise.  Before his team played the Packers, he preened, he bragged, he taunted.  And then he got sacked 7 times and threw 4 interceptions:

When you talk trash to the opposing team before the game, and then throw a bunch of even more odiferous garbage around the field in a loss … well, you have what amounted to a very bad week for quarterback Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears. Not to mention, the other team has every right to talk right back at you.

Packers defensive back Charles Woodson put it best after the game. “Same old Jay. We don’t need luck — we just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball.”

Clay Matthews spent more time in Chicago’s backfield than Matt Forte did. (Getty Images)It started on Tuesday, when Cutler, fresh off an impressive Sunday outing against the Indianapolis Colts, stirred things up by saying that the Packers’ defense could bring whatever it wanted.

“Good luck,” Cutler said to his future tormentors. “Our speed guys are going to get around them and our big guys are going to throw and go … We invite press coverage. We invite man. And if we get in that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us.”

“It’s all about matchups,” receiver Brandon Marshall said on the same day. “I’m 6-5, 230 pounds and there’s not too many DB’s walking around that big. If they want to get physical, I do welcome that.”

The Bears did not make plays, nor did they win any matchups, in a 23-10 disaster that was nowhere near as competitive as the score indicated — the Bears had zero net yards at the end of the first quarter, and Cutler was 7 of 18 for 70 yards and two interceptions after three quarters were done. He finished the game with 11 completions in 27 attempts for 126 yards, one touchdown, and four picks.

via Jay Cutler talks trash, throws picks, gets sacked in embarrassing loss to Packers | Shutdown Corner – Yahoo! Sports.

Here is the lesson in life, boys and girls and student athletes:  If you diminish your opponent, that diminishes your victory if you win.  And if you lose, you look oh, so foolish and pathetic.

Far better, even if you are playing a weak team, is to build them up and say how good they are and how you hardly have a chance.  Then if you beat them, you come across not only as a good sport but as a team that has accomplished something significant.  And if you lose, well, that’s understandable.

Also, you wouldn’t have fired up your opposing team and inspired them to wipe you off the field.

Lance Armstrong and two kinds of evidence

Which do you think is the stronger evidence for guilt or innocence?  Eyewitness accounts or scientific forensic evidence?  The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripped cycling great Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him from the sport for life on the basis of eye-witness accounts, even though he never failed a drug test.  Tracee Hamilton thinks this is wrong:

Armstrong never failed a drug test. He was tested in competition, out of competition. He was tested at the Olympics, at the Tour de France, at dozens if not hundreds of other events. And he never failed a test. We know this because if he had, Travis T. Tygart, the head of USADA, would have personally delivered the results to every home in America, like a grim little Santa Claus.

Instead, Tygart gathered a group of people who swear they saw Armstrong doping. There has been no trial, no due process, but in the minds of many, that testimony outweighs the results of hundreds of drug tests.

People lie. Blood and urine usually don’t. And if they do, they don’t lie 500 times. People do. Some lie that many times in a week. But okay. Let’s assume these people really are witnesses, let’s assume they’re telling the truth, and then let’s assume that their testimony is the new standard, outweighing all drug test results.

Then what in the world is the point of drug testing? In any sport, by any group, at any level of competition? If the results can be discarded in favor of testimony, then let’s go right to the testimony phase and quit horsing around with blood and urine. The cheaters are always ahead of USADA and its brethren anyway. They have deeper pockets and better doctors. So let’s toss out the baby with the blood and urine bath water and just call in witnesses who will recount all the bad things they saw their fellow competitors do. What in the world could possibly be wrong with that system?

I don’t know if Armstrong did the things he’s accused of doing, and neither do you. I don’t know if these witnesses are telling the truth, and neither do you. I do know two things: First, he passed all his tests. And second, if he had failed a drug test, and brought in 10 people to testify that they were with him every minute of every day leading up to the test and he never ingested anything, never injected anything, never doped his blood, would we be having this debate today? No, because he would have failed a drug test, and all the testimony in the world wouldn’t matter.

It can’t work both ways. Either a drug test is the standard, or it isn’t. A lot of athletes must be wondering the point of going through testing if they can be taken down anyway, regardless of the results, even years after the fact.

via Lance Armstrong vs. USADA: What are we to believe? – The Washington Post.

 

Olympics post-mortem

The Olympics are over.  The United States took the most medals (104), including the most golds (46).  China came in second, with 87, 38 being golds.  The television ratings were huge.  I resisted at first, but every time I would surf by, I would be drawn in.  What were the high points?  What were the low points?  Any other observations about the games and their significance?

Pride vs. Gratitude

When Gabby Douglas won the gold medal for individual women’s gymnastics, the first thing she did was shift the glory:

“Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” These are the first words 16-year-old gymnast Gabrielle Douglas tweeted after she won the all around gold medal at the London Olympics yesterday. On the stadium floor, Douglas also told a reporter that ”the glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”

via Gabby Douglas Wins Gold, Gives Glory to God | Urban Faith.

It seems to me that this is not saying God made me win, as some athletes seem to, but a perfectly appropriate expression of faith at a moment of great personal joy that could easily be a celebration of one’s self.  That strikes me as a valuable spiritual discipline, the ability to do that.   When a person achieves something great–in sports, in a profession, in life–it is possible to respond with pride or one with gratitude.

HT:  Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Losing on purpose at the Olympics

Badminton players from China, South Korea, and Indonesia, were expelled from the Olympics for intentionally losing–they just hit the birdie into the net over and over–so that they would draw easier opponents and avoid competing against another national team in the tournament:

Eight badminton players at the London Olympics were kicked out of competition Wednesday for trying to lose — a display that drew outrage from fans and organizers who said the women had violated the most sacred stage in sports.

After an unexpected loss by a powerful Chinese doubles team, the eight women appeared to play poorly on purpose to secure a more favorable position in the next phase of the event.

The feeble play was obvious to fans who attended the matches Tuesday night at Wembley Arena — they chanted, “Off! Off! Off!” — and to incredulous television broadcasters and viewers watching around the world.

“They’re serving fault and fault! They are just hitting the ball into the net!” the BBC’s David Mercer said in disbelief. “They are both trying to lose, and that is unforgivable. This is the Olympic Games.”

The eight doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were cited by the Badminton World Federation for “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”

[+] EnlargeBadminton

AP Photo/Andres LeightonReferee Torsten Berg, second from right, talks to South Korean coach Sung Han-kook, right, after Berg issued a black card to the players in the women’s doubles match between South Korea and Indonesia.

The players are world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents, Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na, along with South Korea’s Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia’s Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. They were disqualified from competition but allowed to stay at the Games — a step lighter than expulsion, the penalty for positive drug tests.

“We have to be clear: There has been a problem here and we have to take that problem very seriously,” BWF secretary general Thomas Lund said. “There are things we can improve on and look at after this competition.”

Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. The round-robin format can allow results to be manipulated to earn an easier matchup in the knockout round.

The Chinese players tried to rig the draw after China’s second-seeded pair unexpectedly lost to a Danish team in the morning. That placed the No. 2 pair on course for a semifinal meeting with Wang and Yu, instead of the final.

Wang and Yu then deliberately set out to lose so they would go into the bottom half of the draw. They hardly exerted themselves, and neither did the South Koreans, drawing jeers of derision from the crowd and warnings from the umpire and tournament referee Torsten Berg. Wang and Yu eventually got what they wanted by losing.

After the match, Yu said his team was only trying to save energy for the knockout rounds, which start Wednesday.

Later, Yu said he was quitting the sport.

A comment on a verified account for Yu on the Tencent microblogging service late Wednesday read: “This is my last game. Farewell Badminton World Federation. Farewell my dear badminton.”

An hour later, the South Korean team of Ha and Kim took to the court and decided also to try to lose to the Indonesians to avoid meeting Wang and Yu in the quarterfinals. Early on, all four players were warned by the umpire for not trying hard, and Berg returned and produced black cards to disqualify both pairs, but the cards were rescinded on a promise of better play.

In the third game, Berg reappeared to urge them to finish, and the Indonesians ended up being better at losing than Ha and Kim, who fell into the playoff they didn’t want with the world champions.

South Korea and Indonesia appealed the disqualification, but the BWF rejected the South Korean appeal and Indonesia’s challenge was withdrawn. China had accepted the federation’s earlier decision.

via 2012 London Olympics — Eight badminton players disqualified for trying to lose matches – ESPN.


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