Archive for January, 2011

Extry, Extry: Rob Neyer Leaving ESPN

One of these people is definitely Rob Neyer.

Friend of the blog and all-around ubermensch Rob Neyer is leaving his SweetSpot blog and ESPN, entirely.

From his most recent (and last) post for same:

A Quick Programming Note …

Fifteen years ago, I moved to Seattle to work for a company called Starwave. The company did a lot of things, but I was hired — and this might surprise you — mostly to edit fantasy-related content for a website called; a few years later, we became the that everyone knows and loves so well.

Frankly, it’s a minor miracle that I’ve been here ever since. I was the new guy, didn’t know how I was supposed to behave, and somewhat routinely ran afoul of my bosses and their bosses. I owe a great deal to their good graces, and I’m sorry I can’t thank everyone who’s allowed me to do what I love for so long. I will toss extra hosannas to Geoff Reiss, David Schoenfield, and David Kull, for reasons they know only too well. Collectively, they’re No. 2 on the all-time list.

You’re No. 1.

Whether you’ve been reading my ramblings since 1996 or just since last week, you have my profound, impossible-to-express-in-words gratitude. There is not a working writer on Earth who’s more grateful than I for his readers. Without you, I would have nothing.

Today, I hand off this space to whoever’s next. I don’t know yet who is next, but I’m highly confident that this blog and the SweetSpot Network will soon be in excellent hands.

Meanwhile, I’ll be around. The kids tell me it’s all about search these days. You won’t have to search real hard to find me, if you want.

Happy trails, until we meet again.

Perhaps I, personally, will include some thoughts on Neyer’s departure in this space laters on today.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to include your own Neyer-related stories in the comments.

Notes From The Selig Distinguished Lecture Series

One of the perks of attending such a fine educational institution as the University of Wisconsin-Madison are the fantastic lectures open to the public, such as Thursday’s first annual entry in the Allan H. Selig Distinguished Lecture Series. The series, funded by Commissioner Selig – an American History major at UW – looks to explore the history of sports and specifically the history of sports with respect to society. Bud Selig was present at the lecture as well – about four rows in front of me.

The lecturer on Thursday was University of Illinois professor Adrian Burgos (pictured), a SABR member who authored the 2007 book Playing America’s Game as well as the 2011 book (coming in April) titled Cuban Star, about Negro League owner Alex Pompez, the subject of Thursday’s lecture.

Despite the limited fanfare around the name Alex Pompez, the lecture shed light on him as a very influential figure in the game throughout the middle of the past century. Pompez was the son of a Latino father and an African-American mother, and his inclusion in the societies of both races shows in his involvement in the game of baseball. Not only did Pompez own the Cuban Stars of the Negro Leagues, but he also worked as an international scout, signing the first players to play professionally out of Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

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Highlights of the Bill James Player Rater, 1995 Edition

Our exercise in plagiarism continues today, as we enjoy together some choice passages from the 1995 edition of the Bill James Player Ratings Book.

The reader will notice that, in what follows, I’ve employed two changes from past versions of this same stealing-type post. First, the phrase “notable quotable” has replaced “notable thing.” This is because (a) I’ve opted for more direct quotes in this edition and also (b) my grandparents gifted me Reader’s Digest for Christmas every year of my life from, like, age 6 to age 15.

Second, while the highlights of the 1993 and ’94 editions included only five notable things, this edition includes 10! Using math, we find that this post is five better than previous ones.


Player: Bobby Bonilla, New York (NL)
Notable Quotable: “Surrounded by good players, he’d look like a great player. Surrounded by New York Mets, he looks like a good New York Met.” Zen koan, that is.

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Brian Wilson’s Cavalcade of Sex Metaphors

Internet computers everywhere are no doubt aware of Brian Wilson’s championship appearance on something called “Lopez Tonight,” but we’d be remiss if we didn’t post it anyway. As you’ll soon see, some redundancies are worth redundancy …

The “veteran purveyor of processed faux-tilapia logs” look is a winning one, to be sure. And the second hat and Finding Nemo socks are also worth the price of admission. Bonus: If you were short on thinly veiled references to coitus, then consider your quota now met and exceeded. As you might anticipate, Mr. Wilson is now a board-certified dirty birdie! Oh, and thanks to Lil’ Pat Burrell for showing up.

As for Mr. Wilson’s offseason travels, which have presumably made him into a kind of walking Zagat guide to the Thai sex trade, at this point we are duty-bound to summon Murray Head to the podium …

(Curtsy: Pretty much all of you.)

Neil Walker: The Kinda Bad Face

This is a picture of Pirate second baseman Neil Walker from the online edition of Pittsburgh’s organizational top-10 list from BA’s 2006 prospect handbook.

The notable thing about the photo — in case, for some reason, you’re not using your eyes to look at it — is the look of pure disgust on Walker’s face. Is he about to perform a revenge killing? Has he just performed a revenge killing? These are the things one is forced to wonder.

The plot is further thickened when paired with this passage from Walker’s profile in same prospect handbook (bold mine):

Walker was the first Pittsburgh-area player ever selected in the first round by the Pirates after hitting .657-13-42 in his senior season at Pine-Richland High, and his charismatic nature has enabled him to handle the attention with aplomb.

“Who is Neil Walker?” is surely something you’re now thinking. Unless, of course, you are Neil Walker, in which case you’re probably en route to performing some kind of revenge killing.

Happy 50th, Strat-O-Matic

Strat-O-Matic Founder’s Edition box. Drool.

Thanks to this article in USA Today, I recently learned that 2011 is the 50th anniversary of Strat-O-Matic baseball. I also learned that Hal Richman, inventor of the game, located his motivation in a traumatic childhood:

“At the age of 6, I was told I would never make the majors. I couldn’t even make my high school basketball team that was winless. I loved sports, but I wasn’t that good. So I made my own game.”

Who tells a 6 year old they’ll never make the majors? Yikes.

Also, if you’re in New York on February 12th and have the time/inclination/self-assuredness to do so, you can celebrate Strat-O-Matic’s half-century of blissful distraction at a free party in midtown. It looks like you do need to register if you plan to attend. Wielder of 1,000 velvet pens Doug Glanville will be there!

Available for special preorder and pickup at the anniversary event is something called “Strat-O-Matic Baseball Founder’s Edition:”

“Strat-O-Matic Baseball Founder’s Edition is an exact replica of the first ever published, original Strat-O-Matic Baseball game that was originally produced in 1961. It contains all 80 player cards from the 1960 season, game parts and identically designed game box.”

I have never played Strat-O-Matic, but I’ve long wanted to. This Founder’s Edition set might be the perfect place to start.

A Pretty Excellent Definition of “Stardom”

Literally anything could happen next.

Top of the Order, edited by Sean Manning, is an anthology full of 25 brief paeans — each written by a notable author — to said authors’ favorite baseball players.

As is almost the rule for an anthology, the quality of the work is uneven. That said, Steve Almond — author of Candyfreak and Not That You Asked — delivers this pretty excellent definition of stardom while discussing Rickey Henderson.

Blockquotation (bold mine):

[Henderson] went two for four in his debut, with a stolen base. I listened to that game on my trusty Panasonic radio. I saw him for the first time a few days later, during one of Oakland’s rare televised contests. I was instantly and violently transfixed. It wasn’t just the crazy stance or the preening manner or the freakish marriage of bulk and speed, but the powerful sense that you had to watch Rickey, because if you didn’t you were going to miss something unprecedented.

This is the first and final signifier of stardom: that your presence on the field suggests possibility. Because possibility — some new miracle carved from air, some abrupt confrontation between grace and peril — is the reason we watch sports. Michael Jordan had it. Wayne Gretzky. Barry Sanders. The British football Paul Gascoigne. And Rickey — the stuff came off him like sparks.

True Facts: Five Unborn Baseballers

The city of Akron, 2013.

As the most Jamaican of NotGraphs contributors has already noted here, SB Nation author Jon Bois’ founded this week the very official Baseball Player Name Hall Of Fame. I believe I’m saying what the reader is thinking when I say that Bois’ effort is one that deserves to be filed under “Community Service.” Chicken Wolf, Mysterious Walker, Ugly Dickshot, Wonderful Terrific Monds III, Greg Legg: these are very clearly names that must be preserved for our children’s children’s children.

Were I to offer one criticism of Bois’ work, though, it’s that it shows no regard for any of the more colorful names from baseball’s future. Obviously, we can’t entirely know what will be; however, that said, the Investigative Reporting Investigation Team here at NotGraphs does have some sources which transcend not only geography but also time.

Will these be the most interesting names? I can’t say for sure. But they certainly provide delicious, delicious food for thought.

Humbert Humbert Berkowitz
Humbert Humbert is the future son of Daniel Berkowitz and Lisa Olstein — two will-be-someday undergraduates of Brandeis University who first meet in a Nabokov seminar. It’s in commemoration of this that they name their first son Humbert Humbert after the protagonist in Nabokov’s Lolita.

Berkowitz, while not particularly distinguished during his playing career, does indeed go on to become a wicked ahtsy pedophile.

Clownpenis Dot Fart
This is the last name left in the future.

Barry Moises Alomar-Alou-Bonds-Boone, Jr.
It was, of course, only a matter of time before baseball’s four great families joined in union. In a medical first, Barry Moises Alomar-Alou-Bonds-Boone is born, very literally, with a bat in his hand

He goes on to post a 183 wRC+ as a six-year-old and a career WAR of 1722, breaking the record of 1383 set by his father, Barry Moises Alomar-Alou-Bonds-Boone.

Tremendous Cistulli
This is the name of my own unborn son, who, I can assure you, will become a baseballing great — whether he wants to or not.

Bob Smith
For reasons I’m not at liberty to explain, this is actually the most rare name in the year 2074.

Tim Lincecum: True American Hero

This is a couple of months old (then again, so am I), but it absolutely merits a mention.

Tim Lincecum, who is awesome in a bounty of ways, already has a pair of Cy Young awards placed carefully atop his custom-made oaken mantle — a mantle from the Prestige Collection, no doubt — a World Series ring on his finger and, I assume, a championship belt around his waist. Now comes the most impressive laurel of all. Lincecum, because of his alleged zeal for sweet, sweet herb, has been named Top Celeb Stoner by, fittingly, Please behold the last two paragraphs of the announcement:

Known as “The Freak,” for his long black hair and wiry 5-11, 170-poind build, Lincecum is a phenomenon – a gifted athlete who chooses to use marijuana (except for when he’s getting drug tested).

Fun Facts: Lincecum has a French Bulldog named Cy. His mother is Filipino. He’s single.

“If God didn’t want us to smoke doobage,” Lincecum said upon receiving the award, “then he wouldn’t have invented Foghat and detached garages.”

Actually, Lincecum didn’t say that. James Madison said that.

More Teams Taking To Song

Now you’ve seen Barry Larkin rap.

The video above could serve as a cultural artifact for future anthropologists, for sure. Wonder how American men dressed in the late eighties? What sort of music was popular? Facial hair? It’s all in there.

But what’s also in there, once you take your snark pants off (NOT your real ones, please), is worth something to us, now. Here are the World Champion Cincinnati Reds, having fun for your pleasure. The song isn’t great, the singing voices often atrocious, and the fashions just kinda goofy, but they were willing to horse around in a studio for no good reason.

Shouldn’t there be more of this? Well, actually, there is.

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