Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The NCAA’s Terrible Black Market – The Levels of Blame

When you outlaw something that people want, people will still get it. It could be birthday cake or heroin, it really doesn’t matter. The important thing to understand is that black markets exist without the normal rules and regulations, and most importantly, without a civilized way to resolve disputes.

The NCAA really is an evil organization. It doesn’t care about the fate of the student-athletes it is supposed to be protecting. It actively exploits them for millions of dollars. It punishes them for activities that are not only perfectly legal for every other member of society, but also perfectly legal for all other personnel involved in NCAA sports (coaches, assistants, admins, etc.).

It allegedly does this in the name of “amateurism” and anachronistic concept from a time when it was considered gauche for a gentleman to accept payment for sport (or for anything else other than old family money). In reality it does this because it makes a bunch of people rich.

So Ohio State got busted doing what almost every Division 1 program does, and the activity itself is something I have no problem with (that is, taking money from boosters/trading memorabilia for tattoos, etc.). And I’ve been poking some fun at them this week on Twitter I realize that it easily could have been my school. So is it fair to make fun of a program that gets busted, especially if the system is evil and corrupt? I look at it like this:

Blame Level One: The NCAA.

It’s evil for all of the previously stated reasons (and a thousand more), and it creates a system where everyone is competing to be as criminal as possible without getting caught.

Blame Level Two: The Coach/AD/Athletic Staff.

The reason I think it’s fair to pick on the program that got caught is because in a black market, the “winner” is generally the most corrupt, most aggressive player. The biggest crime boss, if you will. You get the best players because you game the system better than anyone else, and really, it’s as simple as that.

Blame Level 3: The University Administration.

They turn a blind eye, even though they know what’s going on.

Blame Level 4: The Player.

They’re mostly just victims of a needlessly complicated overly restrictive system and it’s illegal for them to even get advice on how to best handle their careers. On Mike and Mike this morning Golic said that he blames the players first. That’s ridiculous. The NCAA is ruled by a bunch of old, smart businessmen who know perfectly well what they’re doing. Jim Tressel is a grown man, perfectly aware of the rules, who knew exactly what he was doing. The players are stupid kids (note: when you are 19-22, you’re a stupid kid) who are expressly forbidden from making any extra money. I’m fairly sure that if I was in their position I would happily take a few extra bucks on the side, because it’s not wrong. In general if something isn’t wrong I have no problem doing it.

And if the players want to play in the NFL they have no other choice. If you’re a baseball player or a hockey player with professional aspirations, you have a few options besides college. (This is becoming truer for basketball as well.) If you want to play football, they’ve got you.

Some people I’ve talked to seem to think that you can’t blame anyone if you think the system is corrupt and you should blame the players if you believe the system is just. That’s silly. The system and all of its active participants are corrupt to different degrees. We should put blame where it is appropriate.

Friday, May 20, 2011

You know what sucks?

• It's supposed to be an NL Central-versus-AL East year. But the only AL East teams the Cubs get to play are (lucky them) the Red Sox and Yankees. Meanwhile, the Cardinals play every AL East team EXCEPT the Red Sox and Yankees.

• And guess which three AL East teams the Brewers get to play? Just the three nobody would want to play -- the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.

- Jayson Stark

Monday, May 16, 2011

The MLB Blackout Policy

Apparently the Brewer game this Saturday against the Rockies, which starts at 6:10 CST (7:10 EST) will be blacked out because Fox is moving several National games into the Saturday prime time slot, and they have exclusive rights to broadcast games. At least, that's what I read here, via here.

That's pretty annoying. I'm not even sure what the national game is, but if you're a Brewer fan I'm sure you don't care what it is if the Brewers are playing at the same time.

I have a question for Fox and for MLB. This is your blackout policy, quoted directly from the FAQ portion of MLB.com. I have emphasized some important language:

Due to Major League Baseball exclusivities, live games occurring each Saturday with a scheduled start time after 1:10 PM ET or before 7:05 PM ET and each Sunday with a scheduled start time after 5:00 PM ET, will be blacked out in the United States (including the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In addition, in the event of extraordinary circumstances that produce a programming conflict, the above blackout windows may be subject to change. If you are an MLB.TV Premium subscriber outside of the United States, each of these games will be available as an archived game as soon as possible after the conclusion of the applicable game. If you are an MLB.TV Premium subscriber within the United States or an MLB.TV subscriber in any territory, each of these games will be available as an archived game approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the applicable game. Archived games are not available through MLB.com Gameday Audio.

7:05 EST is 6:05 CST. The Brewer game on Saturday starts at 7:10 EST/6:10 CST. In my admittedly crude understanding of space/time, 7:10 EST is later than 7:05 EST. Therefore, given the language above, MLB would only be justified in blacking out this game in the event of "extraordinary circumstances."

I am not of the opinion that Fox wanting a few prime time games = extraordinary circumstances.

So MLB, I would like for you to explain to the good people of Milwaukee why exactly they will not be able to watch their team play on TV on Saturday. (And if that blackout extends to MLB.tv, I'd like you to explain to me why I cannot watch my favorite team play on Saturday.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Aggressive Approach"

Few words strike as much baseball fear into me as "new aggressive approach," but to be honest I didn't expect it too have too much impact. The first thing that comes to mind is just more stolen base attempts/caught stealings/wasted outs. That's stupid and sucks, but in the grand scheme of things it's not that bad and lots of teams do it.

The Brewers though, seem to be taking a more aggressive approach in a much more damaging facet of the game: at the plate. Last year the Brewers were 5th in the NL in walks. They were patient, they got guys on (4th in OBP), and they drove them in with power (3rd in slugging).

This season the Brewers are 3rd LAST in walks. In fact, the bottom 3 teams in the NL in walks all reside in the NL central. See below:

NL Central BBs -

STL - 123
Cin - 121
Pit - 120
Mil - 91
Chi - 87
Hou - 83

Note the giant dropoff from 3-4.

The Brewers aren't hitting for quite as much power, but there is not the marked dropoff there (still 6th in slugging). And it will probably also surprise many of you to learn that this team barely ever strikes out (only 3 teams strike out less frequently).

No, this team is swinging at ton, and mostly at bad pitches. They are putting weak balls into play on a regular basis. There's no reason to throw strikes to anyone on the team because most of them will swing at anything.

Some of this you expect with guys like Yuni ad Gomez getting regular time, and Ron Roenicke did himself no favors by batting either player higher than 7th at any point, but it's not just those 2. You don't drop 10 spots in walks based on two people (especially considering that Gomez was on the team last year, and Yuni replaced a free-swinging Alcides Escobar).

It looks to me as if the strategy on the team has fundamentally changed. No longer do they work counts to get a good pitch. I do not believe I have seen a Brewer take a pitch on a 3-1 count this tear. It's probably happened, but I have yet to witness it, and I watch a lot of games.

This team needs to get patient, and they need to do it now. I hate the idea that "aggressive" is something to aspire to in baseball. That it's some manly attribute that helps you win games and that players are all namby-pamby wusses that need coaxing into aggressiveness.

Aggressiveness is easy. It's the default. Going up there and taking hacks is what guys do naturally.

Patience is difficult, and patience is what they need.

This is also just one problem. They also appear to be stupid and bad at defense, but I'm not sure they can fix that. They CAN take a different approach. Keep an eye on their walk total. If they're not in the top 5 by the end of the year, they'll be bringing up the rear of the NL central.