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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Survey of TV... 

As many of you know I'm a helpless devotee of certain TV shows. I actually watch a lot less TV than I used to, a function of how awful programming has become and how little free time I have (work, blogging, house-hunting). I do watch a couple of shows and I'm going to indulge you all with my thoughts on my TV:

Alias - Wednesday / 9:00 / ABC

The fourth season of Alias has been much better than last year's slow, depressing trudge through the horror Sydney's life had become. I give Alias credit for being a show willing to make bold risks in its story-telling. Their decision in season two to destroy the villianous SD-6 upset their story-telling paradigm, as did their decision in season three to have Sydney wake up and find two years of her life had passed by and that her lover Vaughn had married. Bold moves that upset the show's paradigm storytelling, but I give them credit for being willing to make big changes to prevent the show from getting stale.

This year's decision to unite former SD-6 boss Sloane and his former CIA aversaries was a brilliant decision: the renewed tension and hatred between Sydney and Sloane has led to great moments on the show. Naturally we're all left to wonder why Sloane is back in the CIA's good graces. When will he turn evil?

Bolder still was their introduction of Sydney's half-sister as a full-time CIA operative, a decision which we all know will have tremendous repercussions (if I recall, it is prophesized that the two will do battle against one another one day). The interplay between the two is impressive and it has given the show some new story-telling opportunities. Renewed tension, conspiracies galore, this is the Alias we've all grown to know and love.

24 - Monday / 9:00 / FOX

The fourth season of 24 has had some nifty surprises, from the misdirection of the Secretary of Defense's kidnapping to Tony's return to the dissention in the ranks of the terrorist Arnaz family. Like Alias, I felt that year three of 24 had become a sad trudge for the show's characters. The plot was too depressing and it felt like it blocked the show's writers in.

This year's plot is a welcome break from the last two WMD plots. In fact, it has taken some nifty twists that I hadn't anticipated at all. I was happy when season three came to a close because I had lost interest in finding out what the next twist was. I'm really interested in seeing what unfolds this year.

Desperate Housewives - Sunday / 9:00 / ABC

I enjoy Desperate Housewives because the show has captured (with soapy embelishments of course) the lives of middle-class suburbanites. It reminds me of Melrose Place (yes, I'm embarrassed to admit I watched it, but there you go) at the height of its glory. The show has had some nice plot twists, from the murder of Ms. Huber (who saw that coming?) to Gabrielle's affair. Desperate Housewives is entertaining, different and always a topic of conversation at the office watercooler.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Some stats... 

Since ESPN doesn't seem that interested in fielding stats anyone, I was happy when Balls Sticks 'n Stuff's Tom brought Dave Pinto's latest work on defense to my attention. Check it out here at Baseballmusings.com. Dave has been working on some graphs breaking down defensive skills of certain players. He just posted some terrific data on the Cards Eckstein. Scope it out...

The weeks ahead: I'm pleased to announce that I'm going to start posting my 2005 Season Predictions next week (by division) followed by my 2005 Phillies Season previews. (Provided work doesn't get in the way.) As always, Defense shall be first. Enjoy everyone!

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Outrage 

I was busy writing my 2005 preview posts the other day when I noticed that ESPN had taken team fielding and individual comparisons off their stat page. They have left them on their individual team pages.

I'm supremely annoyed, surprised and disappointed to see ESPN remove defensive stats from their main stats page and I hope it is only a temporary situation. Just a few months ago, right here on ESPN.com, Peter Gammons noted that defense was the "Next Big Thing" in baseball. Bloggers have been giving defense a lot of thought and have been applying interesting theories to the problem of rating what is the most "team" aspect of the game. Mike Humphries Defensive Regression Analysis (DRA) and Dave Pinto's Probalistic Model of Range (PMR), both of which came out just this winter, have been two tremendous pieces of work that will be discussed for a long time to come. Defense is on the cutting edge, so it is sad to see defense take a backseat at ESPN.

Sad, and incomprehensable. ESPN.com wants to be the one-stop clearinghouse for all of our stat needs, and I give them tremendous credit for being a terrific repository of information. That said, I rely on stats like ZR and Range Factor to calculate how the Phillies are doing defensively and you pretty much can't get defensive stats anywhere else. This will impact the quality of the information that I disseminate and it will impact how much I rely on ESPN.com for my informational needs. Too bad.

Ah, they did leave their much-maligned section on Productive Outs on the stats page.

Snort.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Gammons Column... 

Peter Gammons had a nice column on Sunday about the new-look 2005 St. Louis Cardinals. They won't win 105 regular season games again, Gammons says, but the '05 version of the team might be better than last year's World Series team. Gammons credits the addition of Mark Mulder to the rotation as well as good replacement of lost players like Tony Womack and Edgar Renteria in their middle infield (enter David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek) and a full season from Larry Walker.

Are Eckstein and Grudzielanek good fielders? They probably are (though I note, in formulating my post, that ESPN has taken team and individual fielding stats off their main stat page while leaving them on the individual pages, so I have no basis of comparison. Grrr...) The Cards were terrific fielders in 2004, ranking first in the NL in DER at .711 (+.016 above the NL average). It helped their vanilla pitching staff turn in a better performance than it did in 2004.

Having Mulder, pre-2004 All-Star Break, will help them there. Potentially, Mulder could make a bigger impact that his Big Three mate in Atlanta, given that Mulder won't have guys like Albert Pujols smashing three-run homers. I personally don't think Mulder is as good as Hudson, but the Cards fielding and offense could cover up his mistakes more. I could see Mulder going 24-4 or something like that, even though he might not pitch as well.

As usual, insightful work from Mr. Gammons.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

A word on ‘Roids… 

I’m sure that it kills the MLB that the dominant issue this offseason wasn’t the Red Sox climactic victory in the World Series. The World Series and ALCS were tremendous moments in baseball history, ones that kept people glued to their TV sets the way baseball had people transfixed in the glory years of the game. I’m sure baseball figured that the jockeying between the Red Sox and Yankees and the Cubs quest to undo their curse would be THE dominant news stories of the 2004-2005 offseason.

Didn’t work out that way.

Thanks to the leaks in the BALCO case and Jose Canseco’s over-hyped, over-senstationalized Juiced, steriods were the dominant topic of conversation this offseason. Forgive Bud Selig if he’s scowling more than usual this season. It really stunk for baseball.

Anyway, I have a few thoughts on the subject:

-Why were the BALCO and Canseco revelations treated as such bombshells? Why are steroids such a big deal to people. Whenever the topic of players using ‘roids comes up I always ask a basic question: why is it wrong for players to use steroids? I’ve asked that of people in the past and they always stammer out a response having something to do with the integrity of the game: does Barry Bonds 73 dingers mean less than Maris’ 61 in '61? Most people would submit yes, especially now that Bonds admitted to using ‘roids. (I submit yes as well, and I further scoff at Bonds “I didn’t know” testimony*, but my bias against Barry Bonds is showing.)

*I'm reminded about what Michael Corleone said to his brother-in-law Carlo in The Godfather, Part I when Carlo tried to deny involvement in Sonny's murder: "It insults my intelligence."

But there is a tremendous flaw with that argument: it is next to impossible to compare baseball in 2005 to baseball in 1955 or even 1985. I was just having a conversation the other day with Tom from Balls Sticks ‘n Stuff about the challenges of evaluating “dead-ball” era baseball when players led the league in home runs with 12. The game changes, from how umps call the strikezones to how high the pitching mound is to how tight the balls are wound. The game is always in flux. Maintaining the integrity of the game is next to impossible. So intregrity is a poor argument.

-Let’s try fairness instead: players try to get all sorts of edges imaginable. An edge merely gives the other team an inside track on victory, but victory isn’t assured without talent and perserverance. But there are things we know go beyond the pale. E.g., sandpaper in the glove goes too far. Suddenly an edge becomes an unfair advantage because the other side has to cheat or have no chance of victory.

I think steroids work that way: the other side fights from a criminally disadvantageous position when competing against … oh, let’s say Barry Bonds. ‘Roids help Bonds swing higher bats with little decrease in speed. That gives Bonds a tremendous edge in hitting those 73 home runs he hit in 2001. Bonds competitve advantage renders the competition unfair and ultimately unsatisfying. Why bother to pay attention to a contest when someone is cheating? You know they’ll triumph anyway. It becomes less a testament to their skill than their chutzpah at thumbing their nose at the game. Probably explains why people treat Maris achievement in 1961 with such reverance, McGwire’s 70 in ’98 with such warriness, and Bonds 73 homers in 2001 with a collective shrug of indifference. We knew in our hearts he was cheating. So why should we care?

-Is Canseco trustworthy? In a word, no. That said, he’s probably telling the truth about most things. I don’t like hearing it from him because he’s the guy who never took responsibility for his life and blames everyone else for his failures. But he’s probably telling the truth about giving steroids to players and injecting each other with them.

I take what he says about McGwire with a grain of salt because he so obviously has a vendetta against him. Believeable? Yes. Trust-worthy? No.

-Is it surprising to hear that ball players take ‘Roids? Please. A normal-looking guy like Ken Caminetti morphing into the Incredible Hulk? Bonds own transformation into Captain America? It insults our collective intelligence when players insist they don’t do steroids.

Who are they foolin’?

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