NFL Playoff Picks Wild Card Round Jan 2013
 
Well, we’ve arrived at the NFL Wild Card Round for Jan 2013.

Eagles Chuck Bednarik Penn Grad and last of the Sixty Minute Men levels Frank Gifford in November of 1960 on the Eagles path to an NFL Championship win over the Green Bay Packers.  The hit occurred fifty years ago this past November, and this was the fiftieth anniversary of the Eagles championship this past December.


Chuck Bednarik – A Short Documentary with Footage of the Famous Hit on Frank Gifford of the NY Giants.  The Eagles-Giants rivalry is the oldest in the NFL dating back to 1933.
 
By the way, there is no National Hockey League action, so if you want to watch real hockey, I suggest you make the trek up to University of New Hampshire (UNH) or Hahvahd or U Minnesota or some real hockey college (or go see the American Hockey League, featuring the New Haven Nighthawks).   Or just rent “SlapShot”, Paul Newman’s finest cinematic work. 

SLAPSHOT (1977) DIRECTED BY GEORGE ROY HILL STARRING PAUL NEWMAN – THE HANSON BROTHERS ARRIVE IN JOHNSTOWN


JOE WILLIE NAMATH THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL WITH HIS DAUGHTER JESSICA NAMATH AT THE PREMIERE OF THE HBO DOCUMENTARY “NAMATH” ABOUT AFL FOOTBALL THE PRECURSOR TO THE PASS-HAPPY LEAGUE WE NOW CALL THE NFL (WHICH USED TO BE RUNNING AND DEFENSE LEAGUE).


 
Making football playoffs all the more important, since the NBA (National BigMan Association) playoffs will not start until we are all at the beach and don’t care anymore about hoops.  Also, this year, in a novel approach, the NBA has decided it might be a good idea if the Los Angeles Lakers, who play in a city which has no water, let alone any natural lakes, actually stunk and let some of the other teams get to the Finals.   I mean, last night, the Sixers marched into the Staples Center and WHUPPED the Lakers.  And it wasn’t close.  The entire payroll of the Sixers wouldn’t pay for even one of Kobe’s regular sushi meals.

By Eric Pincus

January 2, 2013, 12:00 p.m.
The Lakers lost Tuesday night to the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-99, at Staples Center.
Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday was a difficult cover for the Lakers all night, finishing with 26 points and 10 assists in 39 minutes of play.
The 22-year old point guard from UCLA is midway through his fourth season, averaging 18.9 points and 8.9 assists for the Sixers.
Lakers guard Steve Nash said Holiday’s play gave the Sixers a big lift.
“Obviously they’re a different team with him. We beat them at their place by 20 without him,” Nash said (the margin was actually 13 points in the December meeting, 111-98). “I think he gives them obviously a very talented players but he also makes guys around him better.  He makes it more difficult for you to guard [Evan] Turner[Jason] Richardson and the other guys on the perimeter.”
The Lakers were within four points with about 32 seconds left when Metta World Peace missed a three-point shot.  Holiday took it right to the rack with a thunderous dunk to put the Sixers up 103-97, all but extinguishing the Lakers’ chances.
“He’s a terrific player,” Nash said.  “He’s an All-Star this year.”

Steve Nash and Jrue Holiday chase the ball yesterday, courtesy Lakers Now cited supra.



For some reason, the NBA now includes Oklahoma City, which by all accounts is the 505th largest metropolitan area in the United States, but has one of the 30 odd NBA franchises.  
 
This makes as much sense as when Bob Irsay moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in the middle of the night, as highlighted in a recent ESPN 30-30 documentary. 
 
Ok, so here are the matchups and here are the picks:

Wild Card Round:  

Saturday Jan 5th, 2013:  Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) v. Houston Texans (12-4) 4:30 pm.  PICK: BENGALS.  Close match but Bengals finished very strong, Texans didn’t.   This is probably a very tight matchup and could go either way, but the Bengals defeated three good teams down the stretch while the Texans wilted away the #1 seed down the stretch.
 
Saturday Jan 5th, 2013:  Minnesota Vikings (10-6) v. Green Bay Packers (11-5) 8:00 pm.  PICK:  PACKERS.  The teams split the two regulars season meetings, but the Pack is back and is much stronger than their record indicates.  It will be a hard fought game but one has to like the Packers’ superior offensive capabilities and QB Aaron Rodgers, a proven winner, over the wonderful Adrian Peterson, who assaulted Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing mark this past season.  However, if the Vikings are down by ten points or more, then their running game will not prove useful, and they will need to go to the air.  Neither team has a very tight defense, so it’s hard to see the Vikings containing the Pack.  Only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan had higher QBRs than Aaron Rodgers this year with the Packers.  Rodgers still holds the all-time QBR mark.  However, Rodgers led the NFL in Passer Rating in 2012.  
 
Sunday, Jan 6th, 2013:  Indianapolis Colts (11-5) v. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) 1:00 pm.  PICK:RAVENS. Everyone loves Bruce Arians, but am I the only person who remembers that he once was the head coach of Temple Football, where he was 21-45 over six seasons from 1983-88?  including 1986, when Temple went 6-5, but was later forced to forfeit all six of its wins due to the use of Paul Palmer, a fantastic RB who later was shown to have signed with a player agent, and was thus ineligible to play (see, the NCAA will take away wins from any university playing football in Pennsylvania).    At any rate, the Colts are the luckiest 11-5 team in the history of the NFL–they gave up 387 points while scoring 357 points.  The Ravens look more normal–their defense is still good, though they gave up more points than usual.  Joe Flacco won’t thrill anyone, but he gets the job done.  Andrew Luck–well, he’ll need it against the likes of Ray Lewis, who had 44 tackles in just six games.  Not everyday you have to look into the eyes of a middle linebacker who has done hard time for felony murder conspiracy, knowing that fellow is hell-bent on coming after YOU.  And sending your receivers across midfield into his path.  Good LUCK.  I pick the Ravens.  
 
Sunday Jan 6th, 2013:  Seattle Seahawks (11-5) v. Washington DC Redskins (10-6) 4:30 pm.  PICK:  SEAHAWKS.  The most underrated coach in the league has to be Pete Carroll of Seattle, who not only snuck into the playoffs two years ago with a 7-9 team, but then proceeded to win the mother of all upsets by upending the Super Bowl champion Saints in the Wild Card round and then proceeded to give the Bears a contest before falling in the second round.  This year, the Seahawks allowed only 245 points–one of the very lowest totals in the NFL–while scoring 412 points.  The Redskins by contrast allowed 388 points while scoring 436 points.  Among the tough teams the Seahawks beat this year were the Cowboys, the Packers, the Patriots, the Vikings, the Bears and the 49ers, and they didn’t give a whole lot of points in beating those teams either.  The total allowed in those six games was 92 points–or @15.33 points per game to six of the highest scoring opponents with some of the best running backs and QBs in the NFL.  In fact, based on point differentials, the Seahawks should have gone 13-3, while the Redskins should have gone 9-7.  And while many enthuse over the inestimable talents of Robert Griffin III, the QB rating of Russell Wilson of Seattle was right behind RG3–Wilson had a rating of 100, RG3 102.4, Peyton Manning 105.6, and Aaron Rodgers topped out the NFL at 108.  So RG3 is the third best QB in the league, but Russell Wilson is the fourth best QB in the league–so it’s a wash there.  Marshawn Lynch ran for more than 1500 yards for Seattle and Wilson added nearly 500 yards to that total.  Not only do I pick Seattle, but the game will not actually be close.  Seattle will win comfortably, and Pete Carroll will be revealed as the genius he is.  It’s worth noting also, that while Mike Shanahan does have two Super Bowl wins, his overall record with QBs not named John Elway is 112-87 in the regular season; Shanahan has had four one and done playoff runs, including three since he last had John Elway as his QB; that Shanahan has only won one playoff game in his coaching career since the 1997 and 1998 Super Bowl runs with Elway and Elway’s retirement, that sole playoff win coming way back in 2005 with Jake “the Snake” Plummer against the powerful NE Patriots, but at home in Denver, and possessing a powerful Denver defense that year.  Denver in 2006 got off to a powerful 7-2 start, then cratered with a 2-5 finished to end up 9-7 and out of the playoffs; Mike Shanahan never got back to the playoffs again with Denver, and it took him three years to get back to the playoffs with the Redskins, and seven years overall since 2005 to get back to the promised land.   Shanahan’s playoff record post-Elway is one and done, 2000, one and done 2003, one and done, 2004, won one and lost one, 2005, and out of the money, 2006-08, and 2010-11, five seasons.  Except for the one win against the Pats in 2005, Shanahan has not won a playoff game of any importance since 1999 and 1998 with John Elway in the two Super Bowl runs.  Whereas by contrast, Pete Carroll won a critical playoff game in the face of derision, skepticism and outright ridicule, on the road, against the NFL’s premier offense, against the New Orleans Saints, in 2010, and two years later, has his team not only in the hunt, but with one of the NFL’s premier defenses, and best young offenses.  While it’s true Shanahan gets some credit for developing RG3, were their roles reversed and Carroll had RG3 and Shanahan had Wilson, I’d bet at least a gold eagle from the 1880s that Carroll would have won 14 games with RG3, while Shanahan would have missed the dance altogether with Wilson.  Based on their track records, it seems to me that it’s Carroll, not Shanahan that is the superior QB developer and teacher of young men—Shanahan has never been able to really develop a QB since Elway, which means, essentially, unless the QB is already a great QB, Shanahan can’t develop one.  RG3 is already great—Shanahan has not been the key to his development.  RG3 is like another Elway–a truly great QB who thrives in spite of, and not because of, Shanahan.  My pick is the Seahawks.
–art kyriazis, philly

Last night we witnessed the triumph of existentialism, or should I say, Instantiation, in modern baseball, because the alleged two run home run hit by Alex Rodriguez NEVER ACTUALLY OCCURRED.

To understand this, first we must review the Home Run Rule in modern baseball, which was first defined in 1885, and was subsequently amended in 1892, 1914, 1920, 1926, 1931, 1950 and 1955.

The key concept of the home run rule is most plainly expressed in the 1892 rule which has not been changed very much since 1892:

A FAIR BATTED BALL THAT GOES OVER THE FENCE SHALL ENTITLE THE BATTER TO A HOME RUN…

The key concepts here are that

1) the ball has to be fair; and
2) the ball has to go “over the fence.”

The 1892 rule adds that “A distinctive line is to be marked on the fence showing the required point.” Meaning, if the ball goes over the fence above the line, it goes “over the fence.”

However, and this is the key point, the ball still has to go OVER the fence, not just ABOVE the line.

Last nite’s alleged home run by Alex Rodriquez, as a careful examination of the Rules of Baseball in this blog will demonstrate, was not a home run, but a Ground Rule Double.

It was a Ground Rule Double, because the ball never went OVER the Fence, as require plainly by the Rules of Baseball, but merely hit an object, which was in the field of play, above the line, but still in the field of play.

As to whether the ball would have, could have, or should have gone over the fence, but for the object, which was a TV camera, that is an interesting philosophical debate (which is the same as conceiving of unicorns, trolls, a planet without war and the tooth fairy), but the result is still the same: the home run remains an abstraction, something INSTANTIATED and given EXISTENCE only in the collective minds of the umpires.

You see the replay plainly on Fox TV. At no time did the ball go OVER the Fence. Moreover, the camera was jutting a good five to ten feet into the field. Even if the camera wasn’t there, the downward arc of the ball meant that the ball might have gone over the fence, or it might have continued its downward slope and hit the fence at a point BELOW the line of the fence.

Now, as a careful examination of the rules will show, similar disputes such as balls getting caught in the wiring of the ivy fences at Wrigley have always been rules as ground rule doubles. At no time have such balls ever been rules home runs, not in World Series and never on instant replay, because there has never been instant replay in the World Series or at any time in baseball.

I’m certainly pleased to see that baseball, not content with attempting to stop the Phillies from winning the World Series last year by calling a rain delay halt for the first time in World Series History when Cole Hamels was pitching a brilliant game in game five, this year, for the first time in World Series history called a fake home rum and foiled Cole Hamels again from winning.

Up to the point of the fake homer call, Hamels was pitching a no-hitter. It was obvious that Hamels was furious with the call. And rightly so. The call was utter and total BS, and proves that Bud Selig and Organized Baseball are determined to see that the Yankees win the World Series at all costs. The Umpiring crew rules so quickly that they must have been told by Selig how to rule. They didn’t have time to deliberate.

This is reminiscent of 1950, when the Yankees used their connections with the US Government to have Curt Simmons, a blazing lefthander with Sandy Koufax stuff, a twenty game winner, on the Phillies, get his draft notice in mid-September 1950, two weeks before the World Series was coming up with the Yanks. At the time, the Phils had Robin Roberts, now in the Hall of Fame, and Curt Simmons, a blazing lefthander, on their staff. The two pitchers had combined for more than fifty wins. The two pitchers could each have won two games in the series and blown out the Yanks, much like Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson won the 2001 Series for Arizona back a few years. But with Curt Simmons in the Army, the Phillies barely won the Pennant, and were eradicated by the Yanks in four games.

The Yankees always need to cheat to win.

Ok, so here are the Home Run Rules:

1885 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence at a distance less than 210 feet from home base shall entitle the batsmen to two bases. A distinctive line shall be marked on the fence at this point.

My comment: At this point, a ball “over the fence” is not a homer at all, it’s a ground rule double. Weird.

1892 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence shall entitle the batter to a home run; except that should it go over the fence at a distance less than 235 feeet from home base, the batter is entitled to only two bases. A distinctive line is to be marked on the fence showing the required point.

My comment: This is essentially the modern rule. The ball has to go “over” the “fence” to be a home run. And it has to go “over” the “distinctive line” of the “fence”. Not above, but over.

I think we all understand the difference between going near, above and around a line painted on a fence, and going over a fence. It’s the difference between a hurdler stumbling on the hurdle, and a hurdler clearing the hurdle entirely.

Rodriquez’ ball last nite, in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series, is not a home run under the Home Run Rule. It did not go “over the fence” or over the “distinctive line”, because in three dimensional space, it hit the camera before it crossed the plane of the line, and was knocked back into the field. Therefore, it never went over the line, never went over the wall, and never went over the fence.

Consequently, it was not a home run under the 1892 rule.

Are there any changes in the rules SINCE 1892 that could make it a home run? The answer is no, but let’s go through them all and see.

Note that this is not a “judgment call” by the umpires. The ball has to go “over the fence” and be a “fair ball” to be a home run. End of story. An umpire or group of umpires cannot make a ball that might have been or should have been a home run except that it hit something, into a home run by philosophical instantiation, or abstractive analysis.

In short, there are no unicorns, trolls or other imaginary beings just because we think there are; and there are no imaginary home runs. C.f. Occam’s razor—we don’t create a multiplicity of abstract universal beings just because we name them, think of them or create them in our minds. If we create now a class of abstract home runs, home runs that might have been, should have been and so forth, we now introduce into baseball a series of abstract balls, strikes, stolen bases, catches, hits and so forth and soon there will be entire parallel universes of baseball realities creeping into games, abstract realities which have nothing to do with what’s going on down at the field level, or, more pertinently, in the empirical world or in the rulebook. Everything will come down to what the umpires say and we’ll have a courtroom, not a ballgame.

1914 – Should an errant thrown ball remain in the meshes of a wire screen protecting the spectators, the runner or runners shall be entitled to two bases. The umpire in awarding such bases shall be governed by the position of the runner or runners at the time the throw is made.

My comment – this is the first indication that hitting a camera should be a ground rule double. Here the rule says if an errant thrown ball gets caught in wire screen mesh, the runner gets two bases and two bases only. It doesn’t matter if the ball is over the fence in fair ground, it’s still only two bases.

1920 – Home Run/Game-Ending – If a batsman, in the last half of the final inning of any game, hits a home run over the fence or into a stand, all runners on the bases at the time, as well as the batsman, shall be entitled to score, and in such event all bases must be touched in order, and the final score of the game shall be the total number of runs made.

My comment – this is the famous “walk off homer” rule change. Prior to 1920, if someone hit a walk off homer with one, two or three men on that won the game, the only runs that counted were the ones that won the game, e.g. if the score were 9-8 the road team, and you hit a grand slam, you got two runs, the score ended 10-9 home team, and you were credited with either a single or a double, usually a single. Not a grand slam. But under the walk-off rule, the score ended 12-9, the batter got credit for a homer, a grand slam and 4 RBI.

Note again that the rule says “over the fence” and “into the stand”. Rodriquez’ alleged homer last night meets neither of these key tests.

1926 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence or into a stand shall entitle the batsman to a home run, unless it should pass out of the ground or into a stand at a distance less than 250 feet from the home base, in which case the batsman shall be entitled to two bases only. In either event the batsman must touch the bases in regular order. The point at which a fence or stand is less than 250 feet from the home base shall be plainly indicated by a white or black sign or mark for the umpire’s guidance.

My comment – again, the rule says “over the fence” or “into a stand” in order for a ball to be a home run. This changes the 1892 rule by making the minimum fence distance 250 feet for a home run instead of 235 feet in order not to have “cheap” home runs, although even 250 feet would be a pretty short distance. Of course, Yankee Stadium had a 297 foot right field porch for years for their left handed sluggers, another example of the Yankees “cheating”, and then they would have an all-lefthanded staff to keep the other team from stacking up lefties against them, c.f. Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Andy Pettite, Ron Guidry and so forth. This unfair advantage has been wiped out with the new Yankee Stadium, although allegedly there remains a slightly easier job of hitting to right field.

1931 – Batter/Awarded Bases – A fair hit ball that bounds into a stand or over a fence shall be a two-base hit. Note: There is no reference to distance in this rule and any fair hit ball bounding over the fence or into the stand is a two-base hit.

My comment: This is the modern ground-rule double rule. It hasn’t changed at all. Most importantly, READ what it says. “A FAIR HIT BALL THAT BOUNDS INTO A STAND OR OVER A FENCE SHALL BE A TWO-BASE HIT.” That means that if the ball bounces off a camera and then over the fence, it’s a two base hit. If the ball bounces off a fan and over the fence, it’s a two base hit. If it bounces off the top of the Astrodome, and back into the field of play, as happened to Mike Schmidt in 1974, it’s a two base hit; but if it went off the top of the Astrodome and then over the fence, it would be a ground rule double according to the rule.

According to the plain language of the ground rule double rule of 1931, the ball A Rod hit last nite in game 3 of the World Series was a double. Not subject to review, not subject to judgment call. A ground rule double. It went off a camera and bounded over the fence and then back into the field. It was in play. It’s a ground rule double in that case.

In 1950 the rulebook was entirely recodified and rewritten, refined and clarified:

1950: Batter/Awarded Bases: Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability of being put out, advance to home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes over the field fence in flight and he touch [sic] all bases legally; of if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have cleared the field fence in flight, is deflected by the act of a defensive player in throwing his glove, cap or any article of his apparel, the runner shall be awarded a home run.

My comment – to be a home run, the ball must go over the fence “in flight”. The only case where an umpire may exercise judgment and rule on whether a ball “would have cleared the field fence in flight” is solely and exclusively the case of when the ball is “deflected by the act of a defensive player in throwing his glove, cap or any article of his apparel”. This is the one and only situation where an umpire may exercise abstract judgment and award a hypothetical or abstract home run under the rules of baseball; where a fielder attempts to block the ball by throwing his glove, cap or article of his clothing at the ball.

This was not the case with A Rod’s home run last night. Jayson Werth did not throw his cap, his glove or any article of his clothing at the ball last night. Consequently, the ball would have had to clear the fence “in flight” to be a home run. Since the ball never cleared the fence “in flight”, it was not a home run under the 1950 rule, as amended.

More 1950 changes:

The batter becomes a baserunner when a fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands or passes through or under a fence or through or under shrubbery or vines on the field, in which case the batter and the baserunners shall be entitled to advance two bases.

The batter becomes a baserunner when any fair ball which, either before or striking the ground, passes through or under a fence or through or under a scoreboard or through or any opening in the fence or scoreboard or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the baserunners shall be entitled to two bases.
The batter becomes a baserunner when any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands or over or under a fence on fair or foul ground, in which case the batter and all baserunners shall be entitled to advance two bases.

The batter becomes a baserunner when any fair fly ball is defelected by the fielder into the stands or over the fence into foul territory, in which case the batter shall be entitled to advance to second base; but if deflected into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run.

My comment – the first three rules make clear that deflections by the fielder and interference with the ball by objects on the field, such as vines, fences and shrubbery, are always ground rule doubles. The only case where a ball is NOT a ground rule double is when there is a deflection by the fielder, and for this to be a home run, there are four requirements;
1) a fair fly ball in fair territory;
2) deflected by a fielder;
3) into the stands; or
4) over the fence.

Note that even if argued analogically to last nites hit by A Rod, the 1950 rule does him no good. First, the camera deflected the ball back into the field. Second, the deflection was by a camera, not by a fielder. Third, the deflection was not “into the stands.” Fourth, the deflection was not “over the fence.”

Consequently, it’s really, really, really crystal clear that what we have is a ground rule double, under the remaining provisions of the 1950 and 1932 ground rule double rules. A Rod and the Yankees were only entitled to a ground rule double last nite in game 3 of the World Series.

1955 Rule Change

The 1955 rule change is very, very minor, it just provides that if a hitter hits a homer and has an accident while running the bases and time is called, he can have a runner come in and pinch run for him and run out the homer run and score it. It has no effect whatsoever on the discussion at hand.

Ok, through 1995, that’s all the rule changes I have from the source J. Thorn, P. Palmer, M. Gershman, D. Pietruskza, Total Baseball V: The Official Encyclopaedia of Major League Baseball (Viking NY 1997), c.f. D. Bingham & T. Heitz, “Rules and Scoring,” at pp. 2376-2432.

Now let’s hit the Net.

The rules as they exist through 1955 continue to exist and are codified in Official Rules of Baseball at Rule 6.09, exactly as they were enacted in 1950, see for yourself:

6.09 The batter becomes a runner when—
(a) He hits a fair ball;
(b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out;
Rule 6.09(b) Comment: A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.
(c) A fair ball, after having passed a fielder other than the pitcher, or after having been touched by a fielder, including the pitcher, shall touch an umpire or runner on fair territory;
(d) A fair ball passes over a fence or into the stands at a distance from home base of 250 feet or more. Such hit entitles the batter to a home run when he shall have touched all bases legally. A fair fly ball that passes out of the playing field at a point less than 250 feet from home base shall entitle the batter to advance to second base only;
(e) A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;
(f) Any fair ball which, either before or after touching the ground, passes through or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through any opening in the fence or scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, or which sticks in a fence or scoreboard, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to two bases;
(g) Any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;
(h) Any fair fly ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over the fence into foul territory, in which case the batter shall be entitled to advance to second base; but if deflected into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run. However, should such a fair fly be deflected at a point less than 250 feet from home plate, the batter shall be entitled to two bases only.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/06_the_batter.pdf

the deflection by the fielder rule is also exactly the same as adopted in 1950 and has not been changed, and is codified in Rule 7.05(a);

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—
(a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel;

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/07_the_runner.pdf

See? It’s exactly the same. The only way an upire can judge if the fair ball would have left the stadium and gone out of the playing field in flight, is if it was deflected by the act of a fielder under Rule 7.05(a).

The umpire can’t make a judgment call under any other of the rules of baseball.

All the rules of baseball, incidentally, are on line and available for you all to read for yourselves at;

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/foreword.jsp

see also these websites:

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/rulemenu.shtml

http://www.rulesofbaseball.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball_rules

There IS however, a rule which pertains to interference by media, and that is rule 3.15, which I hereby quote now:

3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/03_game_preliminaries.pdf

NOTE WHAT RULE 3.15 SAYS ABOUT INTERFERENCE WITH A BALL BY NEWSPHOTOGRAPHERS WHO ARE AUTHORIZED TO BE ON THE FIELD OF PLAY: In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play.

Since A-Rod’s ball was UNINTENTIONALLY INTERFERED WITH BY A PRESS CAMERA, RULE 3.15 COMES INTO PLAY EXPRESSLY AND THE BALL IS IN PLAY. It’s not a case of fan interference where the umpires are allowed to make a judgment call to nullify the fan interference and create a home run abstractly.

To the contrary, the rule is clear and express- “the ball is in play” says the rule. Since the ball did not go over the fence or into the stands or over the fence in flight, but back to the field, and since Werth relayed it back, the Yankees runners were stuck at 2d and 3d.

There was no interference, and if there were a ground rule here, it was at best a ground rule double. See discussion above, supra.

NOTE THAT THIS IS AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SITUATION THAN IF A FAN HAD INTERFERED WITH THE BALL.

The Umps and all of major league baseball got the rules wrong last night.

The ball was alive and in play last night and/or was a ground rule double, under the ground rule double rules and also under official Rule 3.15.

The Umps had no interference discretion under rules 3.15 or 3.16 because NO FAN touched the ball—instead, an authorized member of the press touched the ball.

The camera was an authorized photographer.

Consequently, the ball was in play.

Note the difference if a spectator had touched the ball:

3.16 When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

Rule 3.16 Comment: There is a difference between a ball which has been thrown or batted into the stands, touching a spectator thereby being out of play even though it rebounds onto the field and a spectator going onto the field or reaching over, under or through a barrier and touching a ball in play or touching or otherwise interfering with a player. In the latter case it is clearly intentional and shall be dealt with as intentional interference as in Rule 3.15. Batter and runners shall be placed where in the umpire’s judgment they would have been had the interference not occurred.
No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference.
Example: Runner on third base, one out and a batter hits a fly ball deep to the outfield (fair or foul). Spectator clearly interferes with the outfielder attempting to catch the fly ball. Umpire calls the batter out for spectator interference. Ball is dead at the time of the call. Umpire decides that because of the distance the ball was hit, the runner on third base would have scored after the catch if the fielder had caught the ball which was interfered with, therefore, the runner is permitted to score. This might not be the case if such fly ball was interfered with a short distance from home plate.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/03_game_preliminaries.pdf

The ground rules for ground rule doubles are exactly the same as the 1950 and 1932 rules discussed above, and are codified at the official rules of baseball 7.05;

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—
(a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel;
(b) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril;
(c) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a fair ball. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril.
(d) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a thrown ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play;
(e) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a thrown ball. The ball is in play;
Rule 7.05(b) through 7.05(e) Comment: In applying (b-c-d-e) the umpire must rule that the thrown glove or detached cap or mask has touched the ball. There is no penalty if the ball is not touched.
Under (c-e) this penalty shall not be invoked against a fielder whose glove is carried off his hand by the force of a batted or thrown ball, or when his glove flies off his hand as he makes an obvious effort to make a legitimate catch.

(f) Two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines; or if it goes through or under a field fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence; or if it sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines;
(g) Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field), or over or under or through a field fence, or on a slanting part of the screen above the backstop, or remains in the meshes of a wire screen protecting spectators. The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made;
APPROVED RULING: If all runners, including the batter-runner, have advanced at least one base when an infielder makes a wild throw on the first play after the pitch, the award shall be governed by the position of the runners when the wild throw was made.
Rule 7.05(g) Comment: In certain circumstances it is impossible to award a runner two bases. Example: Runner on first. Batter hits fly to short right. Runner holds up between first and second and batter comes around first and pulls up behind him. Ball falls safely. Outfielder, in throwing to first, throws ball into stand.
APPROVED RULING: Since no runner, when the ball is dead, may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled, the runner originally on first base goes to third base and the batter is held at second base.
The term “when the wild throw was made” means when the throw actually left the player’s hand and not when the thrown ball hit the ground, passes a receiving fielder or goes out of play into the stands.
The position of the batter-runner at the time the wild throw left the thrower’s hand is the key in deciding the award of bases. If the batter-runner has not reached first base, the award is two bases at the time the pitch was made for all runners. The decision as to whether the batter-runner has reached first base before the throw is a judgment call.
If an unusual play arises where a first throw by an infielder goes into stands or dugout but the batter did not become a runner (such as catcher throwing ball into stands in attempt to get runner from third trying to score on passed ball or wild pitch) award of two bases shall be from the position of the runners at the time of the throw. (For the purpose of Rule 7.05 (g) a catcher is considered an infielder.)
PLAY. Runner on first base, batter hits a ball to the shortstop, who throws to second base too late to get runner at second, and second baseman throws toward first base after batter has crossed first base. Ruling—Runner at second scores. (On this play, only if batter-runner is past first base when throw is made is he awarded third base.)
(h) One base, if a ball, pitched to the batter, or thrown by the pitcher from his position on the pitcher’s plate to a base to catch a runner, goes into a stand or a bench, or over or through a field fence or backstop. The ball is dead;

APPROVED RULING: When a wild pitch or passed ball goes through or by the catcher, or deflects off the catcher, and goes directly into the dugout, stands, above the break, or any area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be one base. One base shall also be awarded if the pitcher while in contact with the rubber, throws to a base, and the throw goes directly into the stands or into any area where the ball is dead.
If, however, the pitched or thrown ball goes through or by the catcher or through the fielder, and remains on the playing field, and is subsequently kicked or deflected into the dugout, stands or other area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be two bases from position of runners at the time of the pitch or throw.
(i) One base, if the batter becomes a runner on Ball Four or Strike Three, when the pitch passes the catcher and lodges in the umpire’s mask or paraphernalia.
If the batter becomes a runner on a wild pitch which entitles the runners to advance one base, the batter-runner shall be entitled to first base only.

Rule 7.05(i) Comment: The fact a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the base he is awarded and all intervening bases. For example: batter hits a ground ball which an infielder throws into the stands but the batter-runner missed first base. He may be called out on appeal for missing first base after the ball is put in play even though he was “awarded” second base.
If a runner is forced to return to a base after a catch, he must retouch his original base even though, because of some ground rule or other rule, he is awarded additional bases. He may retouch while the ball is dead and the award is then made from his original base.
(j) One base, if a fielder deliberately touches a pitched ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play, and the award is made from the position of the runner at the time the ball was touched

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/07_the_runner.pdf

as you can plainly see, nothing has changed in the ground rules at all.

Consequently, A-Rod’s hit was either a ground rule double under rule 7.05, or it was a ball in play since it hit a media camera which was authorized to be in the field of play under rule 3.15. What it was not was a home run under either rule 6.09(d) or rule 7.05(a) or any other rule of baseball.

I’ve looked exhaustively and so have my sabrmetric friends, and there isn’t a rule in the book supporting what happened last night.

What happened also violates the laws of logic and violates the laws of physics. It violates the laws of logic, because the home run was created by an act of particular instantiation—abstract thought created a thing from a concept—what we in philosophy call a “unicorn”—which would make my old professor of logic at Harvard turn over twice—and violates Occam’s razor—that you don’t create needless entities through nominalism.

Instead, empiricism and realism dictate that a home run is a home run when we SEE and WITNESS that the ball goes over the fence—not that we imagine or suppose that it MIGHT have gone over the fence.

The problem with the umpires’ supposition last night is that it is what we call in philosophy a “modal” proposition, an “if….then” statement, that is conditional.

“If the camera were not there, then the ball would have flown over the fence.”

This can readily be recognized as a categorical statement of conditional form—namely, if there were no camera “x”, the trajectory of flight of the ball would have been different in form “y”.

The problem, as anyone knows, is that without an actual observation of same, there are a plethora of possible universes of possible “y’s”.

All we know is that the ball may or might have gone over the wall—or it may or might have bounced below the line and back onto the field. All we have is a possibility that it might have gone over the wall.

All conditionals are like this.

Moreover, accepting conditionals as true introduces a host of problems.

The medieval philosophers didn’t like conditionals, and neither should we.

It’s true that rule 9.03c states that

Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/09_the_umpire.pdf

however, in this case, the A-Rod double IS covered specifically by the baseball rules. There is no room for discretion or authority to rule.

Here’s what actually occurred before game 3 of the World Series according to the umpiring crew:

Indeed, umpire crew chief Gerry Davis said that his crew explored every inch of Citizens Bank Park prior to Game 3, spending time reviewing areas unique to the park. The right-field camera was one of the aspects they discussed.
“We tour the field during the series whenever we go to a new ballpark, and discuss specific ground rules and potential trouble areas just like that,” Davis said. “Because we cannot control what the cameraman does with the camera, one of the specific ground rules is when the ball hits the camera, [it’s a] home run.”
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091031&content_id=7586236&vkey=news_mlb

So, the umpiring crew themselves MADE UP THEIR OWN GROUND RULE that the camera, if it was hit, would be a home run.

That would be fine, except that it’s in direct violation of Baseball Rule 3.15, as cited above, supra, that a media photographic camera, if a ball strikes it, the ball is in play and NOT a home run.

The Umpires don’t have discretion to make a ground rule about that.

The statement made by Umpire Davis is totally and completely WRONG. The rules cover the situation of when a ball strikes a camera held by a camera man.

Let’s see the rule again:

3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/03_game_preliminaries.pdf

Ok, then, cameramen, news photographers who unintentionally interfere with the ball, and the interference is unintentionall, the “ball is alive and in play.”

It’s not up to Davis and his crew to make up a ground rule there. It’s up to Davis and his crew to follow Rule 3.15. Rule 3.15 trumps Article 9 and the umpire discretion rules.

Now let’s discuss the instant replay rule.

Here’s the story on the instant replay rule adopted in September of 2008:

5. Instant replay
Main article: Instant replay
In November 2007, the general managers of Major League Baseball voted in favor of implementing instant replay reviews on boundary home run calls. [19] The proposal limited the use of instant replay to determining whether a boundary home run call is:
• A fair (home run) or foul ball
• A live ball (ball hit fence and rebounded onto the field), ground rule double (ball hit fence before leaving the field), or home run (ball hit some object beyond the fence while in flight)
• Spectator interference or home run (spectator touched ball after it broke the plane of the fence).
On August 28, 2008, instant replay review became available in MLB for reviewing calls in accordance with the above proposal. It was first utilized on September 3, 2008 in a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. [20] Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees hit what appeared to be a home run, but the ball hit a catwalk behind the foul pole. It was at first called a home run, until Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon argued the call, and the umpires decided to review the play. After 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the umpires came back and ruled it a home run.
About two weeks later, on September 19, also at Tropicana Field, a boundary call was overturned for the first time. In this case, Carlos Peña of the Rays was given a ground rule double in a game against the Minnesota Twins after an umpire believed a fan reached into the field of play to catch a fly ball in right field. The umpires reviewed the play, determined the fan did not reach over the fence, and reversed the call, awarding Peña a home run.
Aside from the two aforementioned reviews at Tampa Bay, replay was used four more times in the 2008 MLB regular season: twice at Houston, once at Seattle, and once at San Francisco. The San Francisco incident is perhaps the most unusual. Bengie Molina, the Giants’ Catcher, hit what was first called a double. Molina then was replaced in the game by a pinch-runner before the umpires re-evaluated the call and ruled it a home run. In this instance though, Molina was not allowed to return to the game to complete the run, as he had already been replaced. Molina was credited with the home run, and two RBIs, but not for the run scored which went to the pinch-runner instead.
On October 31, 2009, in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the World Series, Alex Rodriguez hit a long fly ball that appeared to hit a camera protruding over the wall and into the field of play in deep left field. The ball ricocheted off the camera and re-entered the field, initially ruled a double. However, after the umpires consulted with each other after watching the instant replay, the hit was ruled a home run, marking the first time an instant replay home run was hit in a playoff game. [21]
Source:

http://wapedia.mobi/en/Home_run?t=3.

Citing to

• ESPN – GMs vote 25-5 to use replay to aid home run decisions – MLB
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20080903&content_id=3412731&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=nyy
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091031&content_id=7586236&vkey=news_mlb

Now, let’s parse all this.

What instant replay boils down to is this.

A lawyer sits in Bud Selig’s offices in NYC and HE reviews the play and decides how it should be called.

The head of the umpiring crew calls NYC and asks the lawyer how the play should be ruled.

Then they decide.

Uh, what’s wrong with this picture if the NEW YORK YANKEES are one of the teams in the playoffs?

Let’s see, a NEW YORK LAWYER making the call? Against a PHILLY team?

Oh right, that would be really fair, impartial and just.

Incidentally, let’s review the rule again:

The proposal limited the use of instant replay to determining whether a boundary home run call is:
• A fair (home run) or foul ball
• A live ball (ball hit fence and rebounded onto the field), ground rule double (ball hit fence before leaving the field), or home run (ball hit some object beyond the fence while in flight)
• Spectator interference or home run (spectator touched ball after it broke the plane of the fence).
Id, supra.

Note that the ball has to hit an object BEYOND the fence while in flight.

Not in front of the fence, but BEYOND the fence.

This is completely consistent with Rules 6.09 and 7.05(a) which define a home run as one hit “over the fence in flight”.

The camera, in this case, was jutting out over the fence by a good five to ten feet.

So it was not beyond the fence, but on the field of play.

Second, because it was on the field of play, it was therefore a photographic interference under Rule 3.15, and should have been considered an unintentional interference, and a live ball in play under Rule 3.15.

Third, if not a live ball in play, then the ground rule double rule of 7.05 (b) et seq. comes into play.

What’s wrong with this picture?

THERE WAS NEVER ANY JURISDICTION FOR HOME RUN REVIEW UNDER THE HOME RUN INSTANT REPLAY RULE BECAUSE THE BALL HIT BY A ROD NEVER WENT OVER THE FENCE IN FLIGHT OR BEYOND THE FENCE.

Let’s review the criteria for instant replay;

1) is it fair or foul? Well, it was a fair ball. No need for instant replay.
2) Is it a live ball that hit the fence and bounced back to the field? No. No need for instant replay.

Was it a live ball that hit some object beyond the fence while in flight?

No. It never went beyond the fence. So no instant replay was required.

Well, it hit the camera==part of which was behind the fence, but the part of the camera the ball hit was NOT beyond the fence.

This is not a semantic issue, but a real rules issue, because if you start saying that balls that don’t go over the fence in flight are home runs, just because the umpires make up ground rules before the game to make them eligible for instant review, doesn’t make it so.

I think the key here is to parse the fact that the umpiring crew made a mistake before the game establishing false ground rules, by making a camera that jutted INTO the field, a candidate for HOME RUN instant replay.

That wasn’t their call to make.

Under the instant replay rule, the camera has to be entirely beyond the fence for them to make that decision, end of story.

Remember, the rule is to decide the boundary issue of when a ball has hit an object BEYOND the fence–not an object within the ballfield.

The Umps exceeded their rulemaking authority. Also, see #3, below, because there’s actually a different rule that applies to cameras that are in the field of play and not beyond the field of play, in which case the ball is either a ground rule double or in play. In either case the result is the same; arod at 2d, texeira at 3d.

3) There was not spectator interference, but rather, photographer interference under rule 3.15, which made it a live ball under the rules, and on the field of play.

Consequently, there was no jurisdiction for an instant reply. Rather, the umpires AGGREGATED and SEIZED inappropriately the jurisdiction for home run instant replay because they forgot their own rule book and the rules of baseball.

They got the call all wrong.

It’s an insult to our collective intelligence and our common sense to say that a ball that fell short of the wall, and never went over the wall, is a “fair ball” that “went over the fence in flight” or that after instant replay, was shown to have struct an object “beyond the fence” in flight. None of these things occured on arod’s hit.

And messed up a 25 year old kids’ no hitter in the processs.

Did they purposefully do it?

Did the NY Offices of baseball reverse the call to obstruct the Phillies from repeating?

I don’t know—go ask the Atlanta Braves. No one in Bud Selig’s office was happy when they went up 2-0 on the Yankees in 1996 either.

The Commissioner’s office basically wants LA or NY to win the series because that’s good for TV ratings.

They like to ignore Philly and Atlanta even though we’re much more rabid about baseball than New Yorkers, most of whom are too poor to afford to go to a game, whereas in Philly or Atlanta, it’s mostly the middle class who attend.

And if we have to cheat and violate the rules to make the Yankees winners, what the hay?

Just remember Curt Simmons’ draft notice, and Bud Selig’s ridiculous rain delay call in last year’s Game Five in Philly.

Definitely be sure there’s bias against the Phillies in NYC.

And of course, let’s not forget they used a single New York Lawyer as the judging panel for instant replay of a World Series play involving….

The New York Yankees.

Like that’s really fair.

This is the Second World Series in a row where Bud Selig has personally messed around with our ace, Cole Hamels, in a World Series game.

First was Game Five in World Series 2008, in which Cole Hamels was shutting the door down on Tampa Bay. Selig allowed the game to proceed in the rain, then let Tampa Bay score a cheap run in rain soaked conditions against Hamels, a cheap run in conditions not fit to play in, and then Selig announced the game would be suspended—a first in Series history—which infuriated not only the Phillies, but Hamels, who had pitched well enough to win. Last year the story line was supposed to be tampa bay to win, cindarella, last place to world champions. New york didn’t want philly winning.

Conspiracy theorists, you are right if you think Selig hates Hamels.

And now this year, Selig sends Davis and an experienced umpiring crew out, and they set up illegal ground rules, and use the first chance they get, to award a two run instant replay home run—an existential, instantiated home run—an abstraction if you will, because nothing ever left the park or ever went over the fence in flight—for the sole purpose of screwing up Cole Hamels’ game in game 3, the pivotal game of the 2009 world series.

I need not point out how furious Hamels must have been with all this BS; for the second year in a row, he’s been messed with, not by the opposing lineup, but by lawyers and umpires and the commissioners’ office. They just won’t let him do his job.

I understand why he might have hung a few curves the next inning to Swisher and Damon.

What I don’t understand is why the Phillies don’t aggressively move

1) for Bud Selig’s immediate ouster as Commissioner of Baseball; and
2) an immediate amendment of the baseball instant replay rule requiring that the review of plays always be done in a neutral city by an impartial panel of three arbitrators, not lawyers, with one chosen by each team and the third chosen by the other two.
3) And the umpiring crew and ground rules be reviewed two weeks in advance of the World Series by the front office of each team, and by the teams attorneys, to be sure there are no conflicts with the Rules of Baseball.

Even my 80 year old mother in law, who just had eye surgery, who watched the game last night, and used to be a Brooklyn Dodger fan from Brooklyn, saw the play last night and she knew that the A-Rod hit wasn’t a home run.

“it didn’t go out of the park” she said. “how could it be a home run?”

Exactly. To be a home run, under rule 7.05(a), and in the common sense of every fan, a home run must go over the fence in flight.

And to be a home run for instant replay purposes, it has to go over the fence in flight and THEN hit some object.

Not hit some object which inteferes with the ball from going over the fence in flight. That’s a ground rule double or a ball live in play, as we have seen from our discussion, at length, of the rules.

The difference last night was two runs.

But the difference, from our perspective, is the lawlessness of the Bud Selig regime.

A regime which bars Pete Rose from the Hall of Fame, but tolerates steroid use by the likes of A-Rod and David Ortiz, and turns a blind eye to the income inequalities between teams like the Yankees and the Twins that keep baseball from truly being competitive.

A regime which makes arbitrary and capricious decisions each and every year about rain delays, rain suspensions, instant replay home runs in the World Series, and which plays games of law and fate which affect a man’s life and career in the case of Cole Hamels, who is a truly great pitcher along the lines of a Steve Carlton.

In fact, if you study Hamels stats, you will see that his 2009 is to his 2008, as Carlton’s 1973 was to Carlton’s Cy Young 1972.

I expect Cole Hamels to have a very bright future.

And he will not take much more of this abuse from Bud Selig and his cronies.

And neither should we philly fans.

And New York Yankee fans, you are cheating to win.

And to think I actually shed tears for you guys on 9/11.

And by the way, your NY Giants got rolled by the Eagles. At least the NFL runs a fair league. Thank you Pete Rozelle Paul Tagliabue and your successors.

Guess those memories of Joe Namath are starting to fade, eh?

–art kyriazis, philly
home of the world champion phillies, 2008 world champions
2008, 2009 National League pennant champs

With great fanfare, the organizers of the new MLS Soccer Franchise for Philadelphia unveiled their team logo on Monday of this week, an event which was duly reported in the various sports pages of the local newspapers.

The organization which is promoting the new soccer franchise appears to be a group of overweight, entirely male surburban white men, who have absolutely nothing to do, and who have organized themselves into an organization for the promotion of professional soccer in the Delaware Valley/Philadelphia/South Jersey area, known as the “Sons of Ben.”

I only mention this parenthetically, because as it well known, most people who attend soccer games are world/ethnic—they are Latino, Italian, Greek, Caribe’, whatever—anything but white suburbanites.

If these fat white suburban guys driving SUVs buy season tickets to professional soccer, I’d be greatly surprised—and if they do show up, they’ll find a league composed almost entirely of foreign players, for the most part, with a few Americans sprinkled in for show.

Not to mention a stadium full of ethnic segments waving various flags of different countries for their favorite players from those countries, whether it’s Brazil, Germany, Greece, Holland or wherever.

It won’t be the U.S. Flag, I know that.

The Beckham experiment in LA is pretty much par for the course, except that it proved that MLS soccer is so far below the standards of English Premier League, that a guy like Beckham isn’t worth having on your team—it’s like playing Alex Rodriguez in sandlot ball. He doesn’t really help you because people just pitch around him, since all your other players are awful.

Let’s get to the awful LATIN. The logo for the new team is as follows:

PHILADELPHIA UNION
(Picture of Snake)
Jungite aut Perite

see also, the team’s new website,

http://www.philadelphiaunion.com/

which also displays the mistaken latin phrase “Jungite et Perite.”

The organizers assured the press conference that the snake and the latin phrase “Jungite aut Perite” were taken directly from the Newspapers of Benjamin Franklin, and that the phrase means “Join or Die,” and the snake represents the Join or Die emblem employed during the times of the American Revolution.

Ok, except for one huge problem. As Henry Beard, author of “Latin for Even More Occasions” (Villard Books, NY, 1991), states at p. 111 of his very humorous book,

“CONSONANTS….”

“J, W AND Y don’t exist in Latin.”

Beard, Id. at p. 111.

There is no letter “J” in the Latin language.

I believe what the Sons of Ben meant to say was the following:

“IUNGITE AUT PERITE.”

Latin for All Occasions by Henry Beard

Latin for All Occasions by Henry Beard

As is well known to those of us who have either studied the arcana of the Latin language for several years (I won the Latin Prize at Haverford School) (twice, actually) (now I’m just showing off) (thanks to Steve Dall, by the way, a great Latin teacher), or have gone to Catholic School and been forced to take Latin,

THERE IS NO J W OR Y in the Latin alphabet.

The letter J is approximated by the vowel combination “IU” as in “Iuno,” “Iuvenal,” and so forth.

Thus, there actually was no “Julius Caesar.” His name was “Caius Iulius Caii filius Caii nepos Caesar Imperator” (see wikipedia article on “Julius Caesar”) meaning “Gaius Julius Caesar, son of Gaius, grandson of Gaius, Imperator”. See? No “J”.

Gaius Iuilius Caesar

Gaius Iuilius Caesar

Thus, in Latin, there would be no “Dr. J”, only a Dr. “Iulius”

And you couldn’t jam the ball, you could only “iuam” the ball.

anyway, I think you get the fundamental point–there is no “j” in latin, either in the alphabet or in the everyday usage of the language. All of the “J”s you see in modern day latin (as when you see “Julius Caesar”) are added as approximations to the ancient lation usage of “Iu” for “J” which is the proper latin.

Now let’s see if the “Sons of Ben” (none of whom claim any actual lineage from Ben Franklin) actually know their Latin:

Iungite, “Join!”, is the plural imperative form of iungo, with principal parts iungere, iunxi, iunctum, “I join” (from which we get many english cognate words such as “conjunction” or “injunction”). The imperatives are “iunge”, join!, singular, addressed to one person, and “iungite”, join!, addressed to two or more persons. (See J. Wohlberb, 201 Latin Verbs, Barrons, NY, 1964, at pp. 94 & 63, the verbs “iungo” and “eo”) (see infra).

See? No “J” in “Iungite”. “Jungite” is just plain WRONG. The proper word is “IUNGITE”. That would be RIGHT.

Are these guys morons or what? Maybe they should try speaking latin in a Latin American soccer league! (I shudder to think what their spanish or italian is like).

Clearly, no matter how much money the Sons of Ben spent on their advertising, logo and presentation budget, it wasn’t enough.

I, along with numerous others like Victor Davis Hanson, have been lamenting the deconstruction and utter loss of the classics, e.g. the loss of the required learning of Latin and Greek for many years now; here is a pertinent example of WHY everyone should known Latin and Greek.

End of Sparta by Victor Davis Hanson

End of Sparta by Victor Davis Hanson

It is completely embarrassing that a major sports team should hold a press conference, insert a logo on their press team that draws from the Latin language, and then GET IT WRONG, when simple fact checking with a high school latin teacher could have straightened them out.

Here was an opportunity to show lots of schoolchildren that latin still matters–but the growups get it wrong. how embarassing.

On the rest of the slogan, they’re ok—aut means “or,” and “perite” is the plural imperative of “per-eo”—I kill—the root verb being “eo, ire, ii or ivi, itum,” with imperatives “I and ite” singular and plural—you just add per- in front of those to get “per-ite.” (201 Latin Verbs, id., cited supra, p. 63).

I guess I conclude here with a translation of the title of this piece, which was supplied by Mr. Beard—”avaritia bona est” can roughly be translated as “greed is good.” (The slogan from “Wall Street”, 1980s, Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas). (see Beard, id. at p. 14).

Here some other great latin sayings from Beard (id. at p. 24):

Tu, rattus turpis! –
You dirty rat! (Jimmy Cagney)

Ei fer condicionem quam non potest repudiare –
Make him an offer he can’t refuse – Vito Corleone, the Godfather (Marlon Brando)

Age. Fac ut gaudeam. –
Go ahead. Make my day. Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood).

Fuit mulier quae me potare egit. Nunquam steti gradum ad ei gratias agendas. –
It was a woman who drove me to drink. I never stopped to thank her. (W.C. Fields).

Fasciculum nicotianum fumificum meum quoque amo, sed aliquando eum de ore extraho. –
I like my cigar too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while. (Groucho Marx).

See you all in remedial Latin class!

Art Kyriazis, philly/south jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

In the Phil’s home opener, the boobirds waited all of half an hour to get on Brett Myer’s case just because he gave up a couple (ok, three) home runs early to Atlanta. In this case, those runs held up as Derek Lowe, formerly of the Boston Red Sox and the LA Dodgers, and acquired by the Braves as an off-season free agent, did his thing and limited the Phils to just one run.

However, I am extremely curious as to why it is that Derek Lowe is suddenly such an effective pitcher at 36 years of age, an age when most pitchers are usually either washed up or on the way down. He’s known for throwing a hard sinker, and right away, looking at him pitch and throwing that sinker, it really looks like a doctored pitch, either a spitter, a scuffball, an emery ball, or something put on the ball to make it dive.

The question then is, since there are two sides to every question, is there any evidence that Derek Lowe suddenly got better in the middle of his career when it looked like he wasn’t going anywhere fast? One hint is given in Rob Neyer’s Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (Simon & Schuster, NY, 2004), where it states about Derek Lowe that he is six foot six, weighs 214 pounds, and throws “1. Hard Sinker 2. Curve 3. Change 4. Cut Fastball Note: The Cut Fastball was added or refined in 2002, when Lowe went from relieving to starting.” Id. at p. 285. Well, so Lowe added a “cut fastball.” Really.

In 2001, out of the bullpen, Lowe allowed 103 hits in 91 and 2/3 innings, gave up 7 homers, 39 runs and 36 earned runs, and walked 29 batters, while striking out 82, with an ERA of 3.53 and a park adjusted ERC of 4.31, according to the Bill James Handbook for 2009, id. at p. 172. He won five games, and lost ten, and had 24 saves in 30 opportunities.

The next year, 2002, when he started and “learned the cut fastball,” his numbers were dramatically better. Lowe won 21 and lost just 8, with an ERA of 2.58, an adjusted ERC of 2.13, pitching 219 2/3 innings, giving up only 166 hits, only 65 runs and 63 earned runs, allowing 17 homers, walking only 72 and striking out 127 batters.

The question becomes, how did Lowe get so much better?

The answer should be pretty obvious from the fact that the year before, in 2001, striking out 82 batters in 103 innings, Lowe wasn’t effective, while in 2002, striking out 127 batters in 220 innings, Lowe was terrific. LOWE COMMITTED TO THE SINKER, OR ELSE LEARNED HOW TO THROW THE SPITTER. Since Lowe is 6’6” tall, coming with a good fastball, curve and change, a spitter/scuff ball/doctored pitch that drops off the table in necessary situations is a great out pitch for him, especially since he was pitching in Fenway Park.

Alternatively, Lowe may just have started juicing. After all, it worked for A-Rod.

After that dramatic success, Lowe had another good year in 2003, winning 17 and losing 7, but in 2004 although he won 14 and lost only 12, his ERA ballooned up to 5.42 with a park-adjusted ERC of 5.31. Lowe was now 31 years old. Lowe led the AL in runs allowed in 2004 with 138. It was reasonable for the Red Sox to think he was beginning to embark on an age-related decline. So off to the LA Dodgers went Derek Lowe.

From 2005 through 2007, Lowe had almost identical seasons statistically, with ERAs around 3.60 and park adjusted ERCs between 3.50 and 3.70; in 2006 he led the NL in wins with 16, going 16 and 8 on the year. Every year he pitched around 210 innings, allowed around 100 runs, 90 earned runs, 15 homers, and struck out around 125 to 140 batters while only giving up 55 walks. He was like a machine.

In 2008, Lowe broke out of this pattern, and actually had a BETTER year—211 innings pitched, 194 hits, 84 runs allowed, 76 earned runs, 14 homers, 45 walks, 147 strikeouts, 14 wins and 11 losses, an ERA of 3.24 and a park adjusted ERC of 2.72. 2008 was Lowe’s best season since 2002, and this at age 35.

And now Derek Lowe comes out of the gate in the first ballgame of 2009, and twirls a masterpiece against the Phillies, a team that scored the third highest number of runs in the National League in 2008, and a lineup that is packed with lefthanded power bats.

Which brings me round to the topic sentences—is Derek Lowe throwing the spitball? Or is he just juicing? Because a 36 year old pitcher just can’t be this good. He’s BETTER now than he was two years ago, and pitching BETTER now than he did at any time in his career, except for his breakout year in 2002, which was a year when almost everyone in baseball was juicing.

I’m sorry for accusing a ballplayer of cheating, but we live in awful times, and I just don’t believe Derek Lowe is that good. The next question is, does Derek Lowe’s pitching profile resemble that of other spitballers? The answer is clearly, yes.

Ed Walsh of the White Sox threw a spitball, a fastball, a change and a curve. Don Drysdale of the Dodgers, also a 6 foot five inch right hander, very similar to Derek Lowe in almost every way, and who relied on the Vaseline ball, threw a fastball, a curve, a change, a slider and a spitter. Senator Jim Bunning of the Phillies and Tigers, also a spitball/Vaseline ball artist, and also a tall righthander, threw a slider, a fastball, a curve, a change and a spitter, usually a doctored Vaseline ball. Bunning threw a no-hitter and a perfect game in his hall of fame career.

Hugh Casey is another famous tall righthander who supposedly threw the spitball, although it’s claimed his out pitch was the sinker, supplemented by a slider, fastball and a curve. According to Neyer, Hugh Casey was pitching on the mound and threw a spitter to Mickey Owen in the 1941 World Series; that was the famous passed ball that led to the Dodgers losing the Series. Id. at p. 57.

Then you have Gaylord Perry, who was also a tall righthander, six foot four, 205 pounds in his prime, heavier later, a great spitballer, who also threw the slider, the fastball, the curve, the forkball/splitter and the change. Perry also claimed his spitter was a sinker, although after he retired he admitted it really was a spitball after all.

So comparing Derek Lowe to many of the famous spitballers, and their pitching repetoires, it would seem that there is a pretty good match. Derek Lowe is the same build as Don Drysdale and Gaylord Perry, and uses approximately the same pitches as they did. In sum, the circumstantial evidence against him is pretty strong that Derek Lowe probably is using a spitball, and not really throwing a sinker at all. Finally, you have the fact that pitchers like Gaylord Perry lasted long past their points of decline–Perry was winning twenty games at ages like 35 and 40–further evidence Lowe is greasing the ball.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion Philadelphia Phillies

1) The Bill James Handbook for 2009 is out and now I can make some predictions based on statistical facts.

The Bill James Handbook 2009. ACTA Sports, Publisher, Baseball Info Solutions & Bill James (Skokie, IL, November 2008). This is an essential reference guide for anyone seriously interested in the sport of baseball. As the back cover states, quoting the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. [Bill] James, the statistical oracle.” My good friend (and Mather House Harvard buddy) David Pinto is thanked and accredited by the writers of the book, and I highly recommend Dave Pinto’s excellent blog/website http://www.baseballmusings.com, which is a GREAT baseball website with link outs to virtually all things baseball. Dave used to do all the stat work for ESPN for like 15 years and he is about the smartest guy I know when it comes to baseball statistics, and he used to write the Bill James Handbook for many years. The Bill James Handbook is @$24.00 and is all the money you’ll need to spend on a baseball statbook. If you’re in a fantasy league, first, I suggest you go to rehab and quit this huge waste of time and get back into your marriage and kids, but second, if you’re devoted to the hobby, you will not do better than this book as far as predicting who will do what in 2009 statistically. Finally, this is a fan’s dream of a book. It really settles almost all arguments the right way—with the facts, ma’m, just the facts, to quote Sergeant Joe Friday from Dragnet.

2) The Phillies will repeat in 2009.

The Phillies are a dynasty, with an offensive core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, with Shane Victorino providing speed, power and glovework in centerfield; Cole Hamels is the best lefthanded starter in the National League, and Brad Lidge is the best closer in the National League. It’s all in the numbers.

3) The Phillies have great pitching and great offense.

The Phillies were second in runs scored last year in the NL with 799 (the Cubs scored 855) and third in the NL in runs and earned runs allowed with 680 runs allowed and 625 earned runs allowed (only the Dodgers and Cubs were better).

4) The Phillies have great defense.

Jimmy Rollins is the best shortstop in the National League, and under the Plus/Minus system, Rollins is the second best defensive shortstop in all of baseball from 2006-2008. Chase Utley is among the top three second basement in the National League. Under the Plus/Minus system, Utley is the top defensive second basement in all of baseball 2006-2008. Pedro Feliz is in the top ten defensively in all of baseball at third base, Shane Victorino is in the top ten in all of baseball at centerfield. Under the Plus/Minus system, Victorino was the 7th best centerfielder in all of baseball in 2008. Under the Plus/Minus system, Feliz is the second best defensive third basemen in all of baseball from 2006-2008. Jayson Werth is a good defensive right fielder, and Raul Ibanez, the new leftfielder, is an upgrade from Pat Burrell; Burrell, according to the Plus/Minus system, was the worst left fielder defensively in baseball from 2006-2008. Carlos Ruiz at catcher has a great throwing arm. By the way, Bobby Abreu scores poorly defensively under the Plus/Minus system, 2d worst defensive right fielder in all of baseball for 2008. That was addition by subtraction, that trade.

5) The Mets Are Not Serious Challengers in the NL East.

The Mets will choke again. Specifically, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado are a year older, and may start to show signs of age related decline. Johan Santana already shows signs that he is injured, while Pedro Martinez was never quite right. Billy Wagner was hurt for substantial portions of last year. They’ve brought in a couple of new guys for the bullpen, but Rodriguez et al. aren’t just filling holes, they’re the life raft for a sinking ship—the Mets’ bullpen last year was awful and coughed up many leads. It’s true that Pelfrey, Maine et al. are some good starters, but without Santana being as good as Hamels, the truth is the Phillies have the better starting staff, starting with Meyers, then Moyer, then Blanton, and whoever they throw as the fifth starter, probably J.A. Happ. What you need to recognize is that Meyers and Blanton are strikeout pitchers, and even Happ and Park can strike out betters. Moyer is just fiendish on the mound when he’s got it going on, as we saw in the postseason. Even though Jose Reyes and David Wright are brilliant young stars, and Beltran and Delgado are aging superstars, the rest of the lineup has holes while the Phillies’ lineup is solid top to bottom. Also, the Phillies have a much better bench than the Mets.

6) No Else is a Serious Rival Except for the Dodgers

The only team I see possibly challenging for the NL Pennant are the LA Dodgers under Joe Torre. They have Manny for an entire year, they have terrific pitching, excellent young talent like Loney, combined with experienced players on the bench and in the field, and Torre manages the clubhouse the way he managed the Yankees, with a winning attitude. I see the Cubs slipping back this year and may the Cards or Rockies or Astros (hi to L. Gray here) coming back up. In the AL, the Yankees will make some noise as will the Red Sox; the Rays are in the toughest division in baseball, while the Angels, As, Twins, Indians (hello to Chris M), etc. all will have tough sledding, along with teams just below like the Tigers. Even if the Phils repeat as NL East Division winners, they will have to beat the Dodgers again, and even if they win the NL Pennant, to become champs, they will have a tough world series against the AL. So nothing is going to be easy.

7) Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick were Dreadful Fifth Starters Last Year Yet the Phillies Won Anyway

The Phillies will improve this year substantially in the pitching department. In 2008, Adam Eaton threw 107 innings with an adjusted ERA of 6.07. Kyle Kendrick threw 156 innings with an adjusted ERA of 6.05. That’s together, 263 innings pitched with an adjusted ERA of @6.06. The Phillies team adjusted ERA was 3.88, so you can see that Eaton and Kendrick were almost double the team ERA. There’s a vast canyon for improving team ERA by bringing in a better fifth starter there. The Phillies as a whole only three 1450 innings last year; that means 18%, or nearly one-fifth of the Phillies innings last year were thrown by Eaton and Kendrick, the horrible fifth starters. Simple math suggests that replacing these guys will lower the team ERA substantially—in fact, the Phillies will probably lead the NL in ERA this year.

8) Chan Ho Park or JA Happ Will be Substantial Upgrades at Fifth Starting Pitcher over Adam Eaton & Kyle Kendrick

The fifth starter this year will either be Chan Ho Park or J.A. Happ. Park in 2008 threw 95 innings, allowing 97 hits, 12 homers, 36 walks and striking out 79, with an adjusted ERA of 4.34; if he throws 190 innings, that would adjust to 194 hits allowed, 24 homers, 72 walks and 158 batters struckout. Happ threw much less, only 33 innings pitched, but striking out 26, only 28 hits given up, 14 walks, 3 homers and an adjusted ERA of 3.55. Moreover, Happ’s minor league stats (he’s a six-foot six lefty) suggest that’s he’s a power pitcher who can strike out hitters; in Las Vegas AAA in 2008 he struck out 151 batters in 135 innings innings pitched. In Ottawa AAA in 2007 he whiffed 117 batters in 118 innings pitched. Happ started 24 games in Ottawa and 23 games in Las Vegas, and he’s not going to turn 27 until October 2009, so he can definitely throw starter innings. Bottom line: between Happ and Park, the fifth starter ERA for at least the back end of 250 innings of Phillies pitching should be much, much better than last year.

9) Kyle Kendrick is a Nice Guy, but He’s Strictly AAA Material

The only way this can get derailed is if the Phillies give Kyle Kendrick another shot as fifth starter. This would be a mistake. Even though Kendrick won a lot of games, he was one of the least effective starters in the National League according to the Bill James Handbook 2009 number crunchers. The basic problems with Kendrick are that 1) he’s just not a strikeout pitcher and 2) he gives up too many hits and homers. Here’s his line for 2008; 156 innings pitched, 194 hits given up (I’m not making that number up), 23 homers, 14 hit batters (very wild), 57 walks (again, wild), only 68 batters struck out, an official 5.49 ERA and an adjusted ERA of 6.05. When you look at Kendrick’s line, it’s obvious that he’s very wild—57 walks in 156 innings pitched, plus 194 hits given up, plus 14 hit batsmen. Now, you can walk a lot of batters and be successful—Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller both did it—but you’d better not be giving up many hits and you’d better be striking out the side, as Ryan and Feller used to do. But if you’re giving up walks, AND giving up lots of hits AND hitting batters and you can’t get strikeouts, well, you probably just can’t pitch in the major leagues. Kendrick is a nice guy, and maybe he can retool and become a middle innings relief guy, if he develops a change-up or a sinker as an out pitch. But from here, based on those numbers, Kendrick needs a season in triple A to refine his approach and then come back to the big team later on. Meanwhile, J.A. Happ is the guy I’d be looking at if I were the Phillies.

10) Who in the World is Carlos Carrasco?

The Phillies should not be auditioning Carlos Carrasco seriously as a fifth starter for 2009. They’re a world champion about to repeat. They don’t need a rookie starting. Carrasco should start out in Triple A and later come onboard and help in the bullpen, maybe, or spot start later in the year if someone gets hurt.

11) Phils – Best in Baseball at Stealing and Taking the Extra Base The Phillies are the best in baseball at baserunning. The Bill James Handbook for 2009 built up a chart of which teams did the best job in moving first to third, second to home, first to home, and guess which team was the best in baseball in seizing those opportunities? If you said the Philadelphia Phillies, you would be correct. The Phils move first to third 55 of 195 chances, second to home 98 of 163 chances, and first to home 29 of 55 chances, taking 142 total bases, while being doubled off only 18 times, and making only 36 base-running outs, one of the lowest out totals in baseball, and grounding into only 108 doubleplays, again, one of the lowest GIDP totals in baseball. The net gains for the Phils from baserunning and from stolen bases (Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley all stole 20 or more bases, Rollins and Victorino 30 or more), was a net gain of 114 bases, the largest such advantage in baseball. Those were extra bases the Phillies took on the basepaths without the benefit of a hit just by good baserunning. The fact is that the Phillies have one of the fastest and best running lineups in baseball, with Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley in the lineup. All four of these guys can steal, take the extra base, and go first to home on any extra base hit. These guys more than make up for Howard, Feliz or Ruiz being slower. In addition, guys like Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley make the opposing pitchers nervous and cause them to make extra throws to first base. Finally, because the Phillies were so successful stealing, taking the extra base, etc., they had very few situations where they could ground into the double play. About the only time they wouldn’t run was when Ryan Howard was up with a man or men on first, and even then sometimes Charlie Manuel would run, just to confuse opposing managers. This chart is at page 320 of the BJH for 2009.

12) Phils – the Best Bullpen in Baseball

The Phillies have by far the best bullpen in baseball. The only guys who weren’t any good last year were Tom Gordon, who is gone, Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick and it’s doubtful we’ll see Eaton or Kendrick in the bullpen. Lidge and Madsen were money, and it remains to be seen if the Met’s new additions will be as good as Lidge or Madsen. Losing Clay Condrey is not good, but J.C. Romero will be back after his suspension, and he pitched very well last year. Chad Durbin was outstanding for the Phils last year.

13) Charlie Manuel – the Best Manager in Baseball

Charlie Manuel has now established that he is one of the best managers in baseball. He’s now logged seven seasons as a manager with the Indians and Phillies, and the results don’t lie. He won 90 and 91 games in two of his three seasons with the Indians, made the playoffs, and had only one bad season with them, in 2002. With the Phillies, he has won 88, 85, 89 and 92 games, and made the playoffs last year and won the World Series this year. Compare this to so-called brilliant Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who from 1997-2000 inclusive, with Curt Schilling, Bobby Abreu and Scott Rolen in the lineup, managed to win 68, 75, 77 and 65 games for the Phillies. Manuel as Phillies Manager last year beat Joe Torre and the Dodgers in the NLCS to win the pennant, and Torre is arguably, along with Bobby Cox, the greatest manager of our day. Then Manuel encountered not the Boston Red Sox but the Tampa Bay Rays and Joe Maddon in the World Series, which in many ways was a challenge. Then the Commissioner of Baseball and the Networks conspired to create the famous rain-shortened delayed Game Five, which effectively neutralized the Cole Hamels pitching advantage the Phillies had in that Game. Two days later, Manuel came up with managing brilliancy after managing brilliancy, handling his pinch-hitters and bullpen brilliantly and completely out-managing his opponents Tampa Bay and Maddon to win the world championship in a suspended game five that will live forever in Philadelphia sports history. Charlie Manuel’s average record after seven years of managing is 88-74, not including playoff wins, a .543 winning percentage, and that’s better than lifetime managing winning percentage of such so-called brilliant managers as: Lou Piniella, Jimmy Leyland, Manager Jack McKeon, Tony LaRussa, Felipe Alou, Buddy Bell, Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, Bruce Bochy, Joe Maddon, Jerry Manuel, Phil Garner, Joe Girardi, Ozzie Guillen, Mike Hargrove, Clint Hurdle, Bob Melvin, Willie Randolph, Buck Schowalter and Jim Tracy. In fact the only managers with a HIGHER lifetime winning percentage than Charlie Manuel currently are Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Ken Macha, Grady Little and Mike Scioscia. As we know, Torre, Manuel, Cox and Scioscia have all won World Series championships, but only Torre has one more than one World Championship in that grouping. If Charlie Manuel repeats this year with the Phillies, he not only stands a chance to gain in career winning percentage on these all-time great managers, but also he will join Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Terry Francona as the only multi-World Series winning managers. Of this grouping, only Manuel will have been a consistent winner in his entire managerial career, since we know that Torre had some bad years earlier in his career managing in the National League. Consequently, if Manuel were to repeat this year, he would have a legitimate claim at the Hall of Fame as a Manager inductee; in fact, his credentials for the Hall of Fame even if he just wins the division or makes it as a wild card a couple of more times seem guaranteed. There is little question that Charlie Manuel has been the greatest manager in the entire history of the Phillies’ organization, and I mean going back to 1883 when the club was a minor league outfit which had just arrived in Philadelphia struggling to survive a move from Worcester, Massachusetts.

14) A Brief History of the Phillies

This is the finest era of Phillies baseball in the history of the franchise. There have only been a few great eras of Phillies baseball. One was the 1890s, when the outfield was led by Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty, and the club consistently finished 2d, 3d or in the upper half of the league. While they didn’t win pennants, they were winners for about ten years, and since they were the only baseball club in Philadelphia, attendance was very good. The next good period for the Phillies was the 1910s, when the club was led by Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander (the only pitcher named for one president, Grover Cleveland, and played by another in a movie, Ronald Reagan) (by the way, a great flick), the best pitcher in all of baseball, Dave “Beauty” Bancroft at short and other great players. That 1910s team won only one NL pennant in 1915, but was upper division for several years, and had there been a Cy Young Award, Alexander would have won about five in a row. But the A’s were the Philadelphia team that the city loved from 1901-1953, pretty much, as they won multiple pennants and world series, especially from 1905-1914, and again from 1929-1931, and did very well other years. The Phillies did not have a good squad again until the “whiz kids” of 1950 led by Hall of Famers Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn et al. While they won only one pennant, and the team has been disparaged for not breaking the color line, they were a good team that played fine seasons, and they finally broke the dominance of the As and attracted the hearts of Philly fans. The next good team was the 1964 Phils team led by Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, and could have been Hall of Famer Dick Allen, who had one of the greatest rookie years in baseball history in 1964. The September collapse of the 1964 Phils we will skip over, except to say, they were a great team, and deserved to win one or more pennants. Dick Allen returned in 1976 to play first base for the beginning of a Phils dynasty led by Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt, and outstanding players like Bob Boone at catcher, Larry Bowa at shortstop, later joined by Pete Rose and Joe Morgan along the way, a dynasty that won multiple division titles, pennants, playoff games, a World Series, and threatened to repeat only to lose the 1983 world series, a dynasty that would last from 1976-1983. The dynasty might have gone further had the Phillies not made a couple of bad trades in the winter of 1983. They had three second basemen in their farm system—Juan Samuel, Ryne Sandberg and Julio Franco. The Phillies made an error and decided to trade two of these players, instead of keeping all three and converting them to other positions, like shortstop or first base. All of them could have hit enough for any infield position. Sandberg was traded with Larry Bowa for a shortstop whose name I can’t even remember, and the Cubs won the NL East Division in 1984 as a result. Franco and four other Phillies were traded for Von Hayes, a five tool lefthanded outfielder who put up some good numbers for about five years, but then went into a premature age-related decline. Franco, as we all know, retired just last year, I think, at age 50. I’m pretty sure he’s still playing somewhere in Mexico, and still hitting .300 and slugging homers. I really liked Julio Franco because for a long time, as long as he was a pro, there was someone older than me playing in the big leagues. Ryne Sandberg has retired and is already in the Hall of Fame. It’s a shame to think how good the phillies might have been with Sandberg and Schmidt for a few years there—Schmidt won the MVP in 1986 or 1987—batting third and fourth—but that goes in the category of what-if. The next great phils team was the Dykstra-Kruk-Schilling bad boys team of 1993, which was really a great team, but a one-year wonder, last to first, and back to last again the next year. A lot of pitchers on that team had their greatest seasons ever that one year, guys like Tommy Greene and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, and then never were able to throw effectively again. You’d have to say they gave it all. After than, the core dissipated, and started winning in other cities—Hollins went to Minnesota and won, Dalton went to Florida and won, Schilling went to the Red Sox and won, Rolen went to St. Louis and won—it seemed there was a lot of magic to the 93’ phillies that was infectious, the team knew how to win, but couldn’t put it back together again in Philadelphia. Now we have another juggernaut here in Philly, and these Phillies are a lot like the 1976-83 Phillies team, a dynasty, except only better. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard together are equal to Mike Schmidt—and Cole Hamels is just as good right now as Steve Carlton was back in the day, though it remains to be seen if Hamels can pitch twenty five years like Carlton did. Lidge is better than Tug McGraw was in his best seasons, and you’d have to say the rest of the club and starters and bullpen are actually better than the Phillies of 1976-83.

15) Bring Back Pete Rose and Ban the Steroid Guys Instead.

One thing we don’t have is a player like Pete Rose, he was a true Hall of Famer, even if baseball wants to bar the doors, there isn’t a player in the Hall of Fame as good as Pete Rose, and I include Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, because no one wanted to win as badly or was willing to do so many things to win a ballgame, as Pete “Charlie Hustle” Rose was willing to do each and every day on the ballfield. He lived to win, and he won because that’s what he lived for. I’ll always think of him fondly because he brought us the 1980 World Series Championship, and because he lit a fire under Mike Schmidt, and because he looked right with a Phillies cap on, and because he was the third Hall of Famer on that 1980 team (I’d probably add Bob Boone, by the way), and I don’t really care if he bet on baseball. I’d sentence him to time served and welcome him back if I was the Commissioner. Heck, with all the disgraced steroid users in the game, Pete Rose would be a shot in the arm for baseball right now. HE PLAYED THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY, HE DIDN’T CHEAT. So what if he bet on the ponies? I’m sure half of all the accountants, lawyers, investment bankers and other important people on Wall Street have bookies and keep them plenty busy, even in this horrible economy. No one is banning them from their livelihoods. There’s no commissioner to supervise CEOs from going to the Kentucky Derby, in fact, if you go to the Kentucky Derby or Saratoga Racetrack in August, you’ll see nothing but CEOs with young girls, gambling their money away or worse, wasting it on their own horses. How is this any different from what Pete Rose did? And no one is banning Alex Rodriguez from baseball, even though what he did using steroids is more disrespectful to the integrity of the game than betting on baseball. Pete Rose is about 1/1000ths as guilty of corrupting baseball as Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Conseco and the whole lot of those steroid users. Bring back Pete Rose! We need guys like Pete Rose, guys who would go to Geno’s, eat a cheesesteak, sign about a thousand autographs, maybe pick up the local waitress, and then go out the ballpark and PLAY BASEBALL THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE PLAYED. Pete Rose used to RUN to first on walks. He’d slide on every play. If the play was close at home, he’d try and destroy the catcher. He always went all out on ever fly ball, every grounder, every single foul ball. He backed up other fielders just in case, which is how he caught that foul ball that fell out of bob Boone’s glove in the World Series for out two in the ninth. He ALWAYS was running hard to get the extra base. If he hit a single that wasn’t right at the left or right fielder, Rose was gone to second, stretching it to a double. No matter where the ball was hit, if he was on second, he was taking a big lead and was going to try and score, and test your arm doing it. He always knew the situation; how many outs, what the score was, who was playing where. If you needed a ball to the right side of the infield, he gave you one. If you needed a bunt, he gave you one. If you needed a home run, he’d jack one out of the park, because he could do that when he needed to also. He did whatever was required to win. At age 40, Pete Rose was ten times the player that most guys would ever be at age 25. He was the best I ever saw, bar none, and I include many great players in that list, guys like Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Ken Griffey Jr., and so forth. Pete did more with less natural ability than anyone who ever played the game. He could switch hit, he could run, he could field almost every position (he played second base, third base, first base, left field in his career) and he played major league baseball long enough to collect more than 4,000 hits. I say if Pete Rose played in Joe Jackson’s era, he’d of been better than Joe Jackson, and if Joe Jackson had played in Pete Rose’s era, Joe Jackson couldn’t have touched Pete Rose. If Pete Rose had played against Babe Ruth in the 1920s, and Pete Rose had decided to hit homers for a year, Pete Rose could have hit 70 of them I believe. I think Pete Rose could have been better than any ballplayer in any era at any time. That’s how good I think he was, how good I think he is, and Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball, is wrong to bar Pete Rose from the game, while allowing known perjurers liars and convicts to populate the clubhouses in the form of these steroid users. It’s a double and triple standard of justice that I can’t get on board with, and neither should you. I support the players union but I don’t support what’s going on. Let’s ban all the cheaters and let’s rehabilitate a man who stood for decency and fair play on the field, and let him apologize, and let’s forgive him his trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Let’s forgive Pete Rose.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
March 10, 2009

The Sixers stood pat at the trade deadline and promptly came out of the all-star break looking awful, dropping five of six. Meanwhile, Miami, which is in a position to catch Atlanta for the #4 see in the NBA east playoffs (the Sixers are 6th, Miami is 5th, and Atlanta is 4th), made a major move, obtaining Jermaine O’Neal from Toronto, though they had to give up some talent to get him. O’Neal always give the Sixers problems because he’s a good big man who’s mobile and can outplay Dalembert one on one. He will likely give Atlanta problems as well in the playoffs, incidentally.

In the meantime, looking from a distance, the Sixers have not really capitalized on the big event of the season, which is the decline and fall of the Detroit Pistons. While Orlando has risen up to join Cleveland and Boston as division leaders, the Pistons now have a worse record than the Sixers, and this was a Detroit team that last year was the #2 seed playing the Sixers and defeating them at the #7 seed. Right now
Detroit is the #7 seed BEHIND philly and fading out of the playoffs.

When a major team like this is out of the playoff picture, your GM should be approaching them about obtaining one of their players at the trade deadline, like a Rasheed Wallace, who can hit the three and rebound, and doesn’t have that much time left on his contract. He could have helped the Sixers. Or even Allen Iverson, who while obviously in the decline phase of his career, could have helped the Sixers coming off the bench, or playing the two guard, a position that has been a problem for the Sixers this year. Iverson could have helped the Sixers playing alongside Andre Miller, with Iguodala up front and Dalembert and either Young or Speights playing the power forward.

Even if AI only played 20 minutes a game, he’d help.

But the Sixers have done nothing. They instead committed everything to a gigantic blunder by signing Elton Brand, who is hurt, injured and will never be better, I predict. Even if he comes back, this is starting to look like the Jeff Ruland situation all over again. A hurt player who will never play like he did pre-injury. Or Glenn Robinson. Or Chris Webber. Or any of ten other guys that have come to this ballclub hurt and making a bundle. The guys who can play and never get hurt, like Barkeley and AI, we seem to give away for nothing.

Or Brad Doughery or Moses Malone.

How about this team?

Brad Dougherty, Moses Malone, AI, Charles Barkeley, Wilt Chamberlain.

You think you could win a few championships with that team?

That’s the five greatest sixers in history traded for virtually nothing.

For those five NBA hall of famers, the Sixers received; Roy Hinson, Jeff Ruland, Andre Miller, Jeff Hornacek, Darrell Imhoff and some other throw in players.

Those are five ok players, but not hall of famers.

Malone, Barkley and Chamberlain are 3 of the top 10 all time NBA rebounders of all time, incidentally, while if you add AI, you’ve got four of the top 25 scorers in NBA history as well. Dougherty, though he was finished early by his back, was a stud every year he was in the league, 20 ppg and 10 rebounds or more. The Sixers could have had Dougherty AND Barkeley for ten years straight. They would have won five championships in all likelihood with that combination. Even against Michael Jordan that combo wins.

The late Timmy Ling, my dear prep school classmate and friend, used to make fun of the Sixers’ drafts when we were in high school. During those years, the Sixers took some #1 draft picks as follows;

1969 – Bud Ogden
1970 – Al Henry
1971 – Dana Lewis
1972 – Freddie Boyd

Ling was relentless making fun of Ogden, Henry, Lewis and Boyd, and justifiably so. While other teams were drafting some of the greatest players in history in these years (Kareem Abdul Jabbar, for example) the Sixers basically decided, we aren’t going to get into a bidding war with the ABA, so we’ll just draft nobodies and pay nothing to no one. It was horrible, and got worse when Billy Cunningham walked to the ABA in 1973. The franchise hit bottom when they won only 9 games in the 73 season, still an NBA record for futility. Shortly thereafter, came George McGuiness and Dr. J and the big turnaround, but it was a bad stretch.

They got it right in 1973 with Doug Collins, but in 1974 the Sixers drafted Marvin Barnes, who I think is dead or in rehab now, but anyway, Barnes was about 7 foot, but had a drug and rap sheet as long as could be, and he ended up in the ABA and in jail much more than on the court. In 1975 the sixers drafted Darryl Dawkins #1 right out of high school.

Dawkins in today’s NBA would have been a star. In the condensed NBA of the 70s, he was only ok. He wasn’t as good as the best centers, and consequently was underrated at the time. Today, he’d be a star in the expanded NBA.

In 76 and 77 the Sixers drafted #1 Terry Furlow and Glenn Moseley, non-entities, but in 1978 they picked Mo Cheeks, a legend. 1979 was a miss, but 1980 got them Andrew Toney with the #1, and Andrew Toney became the Boston Strangler. Though his career was shortened by injury, Toney would have become a Hall of Famer with longevity.

And, of course, 1984, #1 pick was Charles Barkeley, who was the quintessential hall of famer and probably the Sixers’ best player since Wilt and before AI.

Even though Sir Charles is a DWI man, and spit on girls while he was here, and is overly fond of guns, we still like him because he’s a bit of a buffoon, and a bit of a thinking man’s man. Also, he lived to rebound and score, and he rebounded and scored because that’s what he lived for. 20 ppg and 10 rebounds pg were his calling card, and he punched those in every season like clockwork.

and no one his size (as short as he was) ever led the league in rebounding once, let alone several times.

When he played alongside moses malone, who was basically the same kind of player as Sir Charles, the two were an unstoppable force.

But the Sixers broke them up with trades, and also traded away Dougherty; Dougherty, Malone and Barkeley would have been the core of an unstoppable basketball team. You’re talking three guys who clocked 10-15 win shares every year routinely.

And we wonder why the Sixers never win championships or make the playoffs like they used to. For a while they wanted to trade Dr. J too.

Getting back to the now, Eddie Stefanski has watched and done nothing while Atlanta, a horrible team, passed the Sixers by this past year. He made noise about signing Josh Smith of Atlanta, but never got serious. Instead, Atlanta got him back, signed Bibby from Sacramento and added both a point guard and three point threat and made the playoffs last year; this year they are the fourth seed and playing much like the sixers, a young, running team, except that Atlanta are better at it than the Sixers because they can shoot the three. If I’m sitting down comparing Atlanta to the Sixers, I’m saying Atlanta has the better squad right now, up and down the lineup. It’s not close.

And because it’s not close, and because you want the 4th seed if you can’t have a LeBron, a Howard, a Garnett like Cleveland, Orlando or Boston, you have to compare what you do have to what the competition has, and try and get better at the trade deadline. Miami did this but Philly did not. I see this as weakness from the GM and a refusal to invest in the team. Furthermore, weakness caused by commitment to Elton Brand.

I had a lot of comments in the AI post, below, about what’s wrong with Elton Brand and why the salary cap dump of the AI trade was botched by the Brand sigining. In a word, the Sixers moved too quickly to lock up their salary cap room with the wrong guy. they should have waited for someone better and waited another year if necessary.

It wasn’t necessary to fire mo cheeks. Cheeks’ record was mainly due to Brand playing a poor brand of basketball; once he was pulled from the lineup, the team played better automatically. While Tony DiLeo gets some credit, the fact is the team played better because subtracting Brand was addition by subtraction.

Cheeks is the guy who got them to the playoffs last year. It remains to be seen if DiLeo has the necessary skills to get the Sixers to the playoffs and actually win two games if he gets there. I doubt that he does.

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

IS THIS THE END FOR AI?

March 4, 2009

John Smallwood in yesterday’s Philly Daily News (tuesday march 3 2009) p. 62 writes in his column “Firing on Fewer Pistons: Aging Iverson Becoming Shell of His Former Dynamic Self”, basically, that Allen Iverson, the Answer, AI, is done and should retire and get on with his life.

In support of this thesis Smallwood cites three basic arguments:

1) Detroit has been 22-28 with Iverson, 3-1 when Iverson doesn’t start and 6-0 when AI doesn’t play.

2) Denver and Philly got the better of the last two Iverson trades.

3) AI is posting the worst numbers of his career this year, below 20 ppg and only 5.1 assists per game.

As you know, here at the Sophist, we think there are two sides to every question, and so we’re going to examine the other side of this argument. Is AI really done? Should we put a fork in him? Is he old? Should we start mailing the NBA pension checks to his mansion?

Well, we don’t think so, and here’s why.

Let me start by addressing the last argument first. It’s true that Allen Iverson is posting the worst numbers of Allen Iverson’s career. Allen Iverson, career, is a 27.1 ppg scorer, and career has averaged 6.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 3.6 turnovers. This year with Detroit, he has averaged 18.0 points, 5.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.5 turnovers.

This is where we point out something that Bill James and all the other statheads in the world have been saying for years. THE DECLINE PHASE OF A GREAT PLAYERS CAREER WILL BE GREATER THAN THE DECLINE PHASE OF AN AVERAGE PLAYER’S CAREER. Allen Iverson, even in decline, is still a great NBA player.

Let’s look at the 76ers. Andre Iguodala, who is in his prime as a player, is averaging only 18.0 ppg. Iguodala is 25 years old. Iverson is 34 years old, and averaging also 18 ppg. What is a terrible season for Iverson, is the very best that Iguodala can do.

Think about that for a second. Why did Wilt Chamberlain play until he was 40? Why did Elgin Baylor play until he was 40? Why did Jerry West play until he was 40? Why did Hal Greer play so many years?

It’s because great scorers like Allen Iverson, like Hal Greer, like Elgin Baylor, like Dr. J, even in their decline phase of their careers, are still more effective than the very best players in the NBA who are very gifted.

Looking at win shares, Iverson has 2.7 win shares this year for Detroit, but last year he had 12.6 win shares for Denver. The top two guys for the Sixers, Iguodala and Miller, have 6.5 and 7.1 win shares each, and that’s about as good as they get. Neither of them will get 12 win shares in a good year. On the Pistons, no one has more than 4.3 win shares, and that’s Tayshoun Prince. the win shares on Detroit are very evenly distributed because Prince, Wallace, Hamilton, McDyess, AI, Stuckey, Maxiell and Johnson all have 2 or more win shares, and they all score, rebound, hand out assists or play a lot of defense. They have a team concept in Detroit.

AI’s numbers in Detroit, therefore, reflect an ADAPTATION to the game as played in Detroit, which is a defensive game, low offensive production, a much slower pace and team play.

Next, AI has played by far the most minutes of any of the Pistons, except for Tayshoun Prince; Prince has played 2214 minutes, while Iverson has played 1913 minutes; Wallace has played 1831 minutes, while Stuckey has played 1785 minutes, and Hamilton 1702 minutes.

It’s obvious that the coach in Detroit has not played his players evenly. He’s taken two hundred minutes away from Stuckey and Hamilton and given them to Iverson, even though Stuckey is younger and Hamilton is taller and can play better defense.

Part of the problem here is that Iverson, Stuckey and Hamilton all play the 2 guard; Stuckey can play the point, and should play the point, but even then Hamilton and Iverson both play the 2 guard.

If I was coaching the team, I’d start Hamilton and bring Iverson in with the second unit, because Iverson against the second unit of the other team would cause chaos and destruction, and also the three guard set up with Stuckey, Hamilton and Iverson can run with some opposing lineups and wear them down.

But clearly, the detroit coach has run Iverson into the ground by playing him too many minutes.

The result has been injuries to Iverson, and at 34, he is no longer indestructible, which is why he is being evaluated for back injuries this late in the season.

If I had an Iverson, I’d have played him less in the regular season and saved him for the playoffs, where we know he excels.

Furthermore, if Iverson has been hurt, and we know he plays hurt quite often, that would explain some of the decline in his numbers. He’s had some dreadful nites this year–and perhaps he’s been tired, hurt and not able to be AI. When he’s been rested, ready and healthy, he’s had some great nights this year for Detroit. He’s dropped 25 or more points on the Lakers and on many other qualify opponents in key wins during this year. And frankly, he’s looked at times much like the AI of old.

I’d say, rest him, keep his minutes down, and you’ll have AI of old always.

Per 36 minutes, Iverson is scoring 17.2 points, which is very productive. But Hamilton is scoring 18.9 points per 36 minutes, which suggest that Hamilton is the more efficient two guard.

Detroit needs to move one of them, and since Iverson’s contract is up, AI probably should go.

The Sixers should pick up AI (and Rasheed Wallace if possible) and make their run at the Eastern Division Crown, and dump Elton Brand. AI is the short term Answer to the Sixers 3 point and scoring issues in close games.

Also, in close games, AI can be the go-to guy with under a minute left. Finally, if AI teamed up with Andre Miller, they’d be fantastic. Andre Miller would be the best point guard AI ever played with, and Andre would get AI the ball where he could work with it, especially out on the break. I think Iguodala and AI would both be scorers in this system, while Dalembert, Young and Speights would all play defense and work the boards.

If Wallace could be added, he could play defence, work the board, and shoot the three. Then I think the Sixers could even keep Elton Brand and see if they had a monster team.

Turning to whether Denver got the better of the Billups-Iverson deal, at the time the deal was made, it looked even steven.

In 2007-08, Iverson earned 12.6 win shares for Denver, and had a monster season for them. Billups led the Pistons in 2007-08 with 12.8 win shares, while Hamilton Wallace and Prince each had 7.3, 7.2 and 7.1 win shares each. But there’s one other issue here, and that’s Billups salary–he was earning like 60 million over several years, while AI was only getting about 15-20 million for one more season.

So basically, the trade was even in terms of talent and win shares, but Detroit unloaded a boatload of cap room.

Let’s say hypothetically that Detroit wants to sign a big free agent in 2009-2010 or thereabouts–they would want AI and/or Wallace got–older players, along with Billups, who is also an older player–and want the cap room gone.

In that event, they could sign a LeBron James, a Kobe Bryant, or whoever is a big free agent to turn the franchise into a premier franchise for the long haul.

While it looks as if currently denver is getting the long end of the stick, Detroit will eventually get the better of this trade.

Some side points on Denver: Carmelo Anthony isn’t what he’s cracked up to be. Billups is leading the team with 7.7 win shares. Nene is second with 7.3 win shares. Then comes Chris Anderson with 3.6 WS, and Kenyon Martin with 3.5 WS, and guess who’s 5th most valuable player with only 3.1 win shares?

That’s right, Carmelo Anthony. By the way, AI got .2 win shares for Denver while he was there, so adding that to the 2.7 he has for Detroit, AI has 2.9 win shares for the season.

So AI has 2.9 win shares, while Carmelo has 3.1. Carmelo is 25 years old averaging about 21 ppg (last year it was 25 ppg) and yet he’s having about the same season, statistically, as Allen Iverson, 34 years old, who Smallwood of the Daily News says is washed up.

But last year, playing with AI, Carmelo had 8.9 win shares, and the Denver Nuggets played a beautiful uptempo offense, where AI and Carmelo played really well together–and Carmelo had a great season, averaging nearly 26 ppg and more than 7 rebounds a game, and more than 3 assists a game.

the fact is that Carmelo doesn’t fit with Chauncey Billups at all, whereas Iverson and Carmelo were a match made in heaven. Together, Carmelo and Iverson had 12.6 and 8.9, or 21.5 win shares together.

this year, Billups and Carmelo have 7.7 and 3.1 win shares together, or 10.4. The real reason Denver is winning is 1) Billups is scoring a lot 19 ppg and 2) Nene is scoring 14 ppg and 3) nene is playing defense and rebounding inside. Also, Smith, Martin and Kleiza are all scoring because Billups is getting them the ball.

Now let’s look at the last issue, did the Sixers get better by getting Andre Miller?

The Sixers had Allen Iverson ten years, from 1996-2006. During that time, AI was the #1 road draw in the NBA, had the world’s most popular sneaker, led the NBA in scoring four times, and the Sixers made the playoffs six of the ten years that he was here. Moreover, the Sixers advanced past the first round of the playoffs three of those years, and got to the NBA finals one of those years.

You’d have to say, that was pretty darn good for a guy that was 5 foot 9 dripping wet.

Oh, and he scored about 20,000 points or so while he was here.

AI was MVP of the league, All Star MVP twice, led the league in minutes played twice, and kept the stands filled in Philly.

He led the league in free throw attempts twice, and is on the career list there. He’s on the career list for a lot of things, including minutes played, free throws attempted, and points scored, and he’s third alltime in ppg during the playoffs.

we sat and watched him drop 50 ppg more than once during the playoffs. Spike Lee would have given anything to see this guy play for the Knicks, right?

I know that the other day was the 100th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points at Hershey, PA in March of 1962 against the New York Knicks. The Big Dipper averaged 50 points, 25 rebounds and more than 48 points a game that year for the Philadelphia Warriors and Eddie Gotlieb.

I met Wilt in LA at the Bar Marmont in LA with some friends in the VIP section. There were a lot of important types there like Rick Rubin and some SNL actors, but I only wanted to meet Wilt. My mom had been a teacher of his back in the 50s at Overbrook HS as a trainee when she first started in the school system, and always told me how tall he was, and how nice he was.

Well, Wilt was extremely nice. He was much taller than 7 foot 1, more like 7 foot 5, and he had two girls with him and a couple of lawyer types. I’m sure he really did sleep with 20,000 women, and that circular house of his is famous, it was in a brian dipalma film once. Wilt lived the life of riley, he hung out at the playboy mansion, slept with any girl he wanted, and was noted for being a conservative and careful stock investor. He was very wealthy when he died, a bachelor to the end. He was frugal, intelligent and careful with his money.

I mention Wilt because we never thought we’d see a scorer like Wilt again, and then there was AI, who dazzled this town for ten years with his exploits. On any given night, AI could put up 50, 60 points. He wasn’t Wilt, but he had Wilt’s attitude that no one could stop him, and he ATTACKED the basket like Wilt used to do. AI was a lot like Wit–he existed to score, and scoring was his reason for existence.

I thought for a while that AI might score a hundred points in a game. On February 12, 2005, he lit up Orlando for 60 points. I mention this because that was barely four years ago. And he only made two three pointers in that game. 17 field goals and 24 free throws–Wilt made 28 free throws and 36 field goals in the 100 point game. It’s hard to believe that the Sixers could have traded AI just a year and a half after this incredible performance–the greatest single game performance by a 30+ athlete in the NBA in my humble opinion, and I remember watching the game on cable–but there you go.

So Smallwood thinks the Sixers did better getting Andre Miller? Well, let’s see. Since the trade, the Sixers have made the playoffs once in three years. they missed the year they traded Iverson, 06-07, they made it the next year, 07-08, and they may make it this year.

Iverson, on the other hand, made the playoffs immediately with Denver his first year there, 2006-07, made it the next year 2007-8, while having a spectacular comeback season (as did Carmelo Anthony, see above), and this year, even having an offyear with Detroit, will probably make the playoffs with the Pistons as the #7 or #8 seed. The way the Sixers are going the second half, the Pistons will probably pass them and reach the #6 or #5 seed, actually, so the Sixers are not even a lock for the playoffs.

On December 5, 2007, playing for Denver, Iverson dropped 51 on the Lakers. Iverson was now 32 years old. What a performance. It was on national TV, of course.

On December 23, 2005, Iverson dropped 53 on Atlanta in Atlanta, surely pleasing all the rappers in attendance down there. He was 30 years old.

None of this, of course, sounds like a guy who was, is or will be washed up at age 34, 35 or whatever.

Let’s look at AI this year.

On December 19, 2008, AI dropped 38 on Utah at home in Detroit for the Pistons.

On February 19, 2009, not a week ago, AI dropped 31 on the San Antonio Spurs, his second best game of the year.

On November 11, 2008, AI dropped 30 on the Sacramento Kings.

AI has had 17 games of 20 or more points for the Pistons this year. In only five games did he fail to score in double figures. He is now 33 years of age.

Getting back to Andre Miller, Miller’s win shares for Denver had declined from 9.1 to 7.2 to 6.4 in the three seasons leading up to the Miller for Iverson trade. In short, Miller looked to be declining in an age-related fashion.

AI had gone 9.4, 10.9, 6.5 Win Shares the same three seasons. It was not clear that he was in age-related decline at all. What we do know about Iverson is that his win shares and seasons follow no predictable pattern, that he has off years followed by great ones;

1996-97 4.3 WS
1997-98 9.0 WS
1998-99 7.2 WS
2000-01 6.9 WS
2001-02 11.7 WS (MVP)
2002-03 6.8 WS
2003-04 9.2 WS
2004-05 2.7 WS (injured, played 48 G)
2005-06 10.6 WS
2006-07 6.5 WS (Phila, Denver)
2007-08 12.6 WS
2008-09 2.9 WS (Denver, Detroit)
Total 100.1 WS

What you see here is a great player, because seasons over ten win shares are MVP seasons. Iverson has had several of these, and the MVP voting has reflected this.

Also, you can see he needs a season to adjust to a new team before he can come back. His second season in Denver, he was brilliant. If he has a second season in Detroit, he should be better. When he was injured in Philly, he came back and had a monster year.

Also, we see that the Sixers must be idiots, because they traded him the year after he had a monster year, 2005-06, 10.6 win shares. So there was no logic in trading him, he was not only a good player, but a great one.

Basically, the sixers were looking to clear salary cap room, and that’s all.

The next season, after the trade, 2007-08, AI had 12.6 win shares, as we know from above.

Miller has had 8.1 and 7.1 win shares with the Sixers the last two season, so he’ll probably end up with around 8 win shares this year. He’s by far the most valuable Sixer. And yet the Sixers have not signed a contract with Miller and seem to want to let him leave.

As for the salary cap room, the Sixers wasted it on Elton Brand.

Elton Brand is 30 years old. He had 10.3, 15 and 11.4 win shares for the Clippers in 2004-05, 05-06 and 06-07, but the last two years, he’s played 8 games and 29 games due to injury, last year with an ACL and this year with a torn labrum and bad shoulder.

The last time Elton Brand scored 30 or more more points in a game was April 12, 2007 for the Clippers.

The last time Elton Brand scored 40 or more points in a game was February 10, 2006 for the Clippers.

The guy who’s become a “shell of his former dynamic self” is not Allen Iverson, but Elton Brand.

After earning 11.4 win shares in 2006-2007, Brand earned .4 win shares in 2007-2008, and then the Sixers paid him all of the cap room they had (a gazillion dollars) even though he was hurt and damaged goods, and old and shot, and no evidence he could come back from injury (i’d have given him a one year deal), and he promptly came out, played badly, got hurt and is back on the shelf.

Brand earned 1.1 win share this year.

AI is 300% better than that this year, and AI is having a bad year for AI. Last year, we know that AI had 12.6 win shares, while Brand had hardly any.

So did the Sixers make out better with the Miller for AI trade? I think not. While Miller fits the team better because they needed a point guard, the Sixers could have found a point guard other than Miller.

First, they should never have traded Eric Snow so early.

Second, they could have worked out a deal for Delonte West, who is making money feeding the ball to LeBron James.

Third, Bibby was on the market and Atlanta got him.

Fourth, Jason Kidd was on the market, and is now at Dallas. He’s still on the market.

Fifth, there’s always point guards of quality available. The key is, AI is not a point guard, he’s a two guard.

So this is not the end for AI.

I know one team that would covet AI, and that’s the Knicks. They need an exciting presence there.

If they signed Andre Miller and AI, they’d have a team right away with the young players they’ve developed this past year.

The sixers have to be careful. The people they don’t sign will go to their competition in the NBA East, and they will regret their non-moves.

AI should retire in a Sixers Jersey. It’s appropriate to bring him home.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion philadelphia phillies

Indifference to death is the supreme claim of a successful moral theory. Mortality, the biblical threescore and ten years we are given on this earth, is and was the human condition for the ancients and the moderns. Transcendence of mortality therefore becomes a categorical imperative for any moral theory to attain success.

At a recent alumni dinner where there were a number of attorneys, i asked some of my colleagues around the table if they had given any thought to the afterlife. Most of the people at the table looked at me as if I had landed from another planet. I pressed the point, and asked, you get ready for trials, but what about the ultimate trial, the final trial, the final judgment in the life to come? Don’t you want to be ready for that? Again, blank faces and almost no thought given to the concept in the slightest. I found this interesting, and wanted to give it some thought. This essay was the result.

Maybe this is what is wrong with the legal profession today. Lots of ethics courses, but no courses as to the essence of ethical thought–the soul and its salvation. And yet Plato and Aristotle, especially Plato, write about the soul, about lawyers and the salvation of the soul in the life to come, and about ethics, almost to the exclusion of all else. And of course, Christianity absorbs Plato through neo-Platonism, and a lot of Aristotle too. So have we forgotten everything we learned back at the dawn of Western thought? Have we forgotten that you can’t take it with you, to paraphrase a famous play we used to read in prep school? That a rich man will find it harder to get into heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle? That Lazarus will be by God’s side while the rich man will be burning from thirst in hell? Have we forgotten all of this in our search for worldly rewards?

I assume we all agree here that Bernie Madoff is definitely going to hell, but we’re not sure what level of Dante’s Inferno he’s being assigned at present.

So here are a few comments on four ethical systems that have given plenty of thought on this matter, and incidentally, most every lawyer in the greco-roman world was at the very least, a stoic or a christian.

Characteristically convergent in the three moral systems of Stoicism, Spartanism and Samurai/Bushido is the conquest of death through roughly parallel means. Christianity in its neo-platonic formulation through the Hellenistic church fathers, starting with Clement of Alexandria and running through the Greek Church Fathers, St. Basil of Caesarea, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. John Chrystostomos, and finding its eventual final expression in St. Augustine, a much later Latin church father, also conquers death as well.

As St. John Chrystostomos so memorably puts it, “Death, Where is Thy Sting?” However, Christian eschatology and cosmology sharply distinguish it from the Stoic, Spartan and Samurai traditions. There will be a second coming, and a second judgment, a final judgment, but so long as the Christian adheres to the seven sacraments and worships through the Church, his salvation is ordained, and he or she will be saved in the life to come. Here, we are speaking of the early Eastern Christian church, 100 AD – 1000 AD, as opposed to the later Western church, 1000 AD – present, which was split by the east-west schism, the Albigensian Crusade, the 4th Crusade, the Crusades in general, the Protestant movements, and so on. The early Church, by contrast, was relatively unified (setting aside the Arian, Manichean and Nestorian and other heresies, which are not material here) and was constituted by its seven ecumenical councils as a unified and generic whole. Even as to the schismatic churches of the Near East, the churches of Nestorianism and so forth, which had millions of adherents up through around 1400 AD in Syria, Iran, China and many other areas where the majority religion was either Muslim or other, the message was the same, that death could be overcome by salvation through the Church.

By Stoicism we refer to the ancient Greek philosophy which emerged in Athens at the stoa, which is best known by the work of greek philosophers such as Epictetus, and follow it to its most perfect expression in the Roman philosophies of such writers as Cicero and Marcus Aurelius. The Roman/Latin followers of stoicism, of whom there were many, were comfortable with stoicism, since it was perfectly suited to a milititaristic society ruled by capricious and arbitrary imperial factions which could change suddenly and without warning, often with drastic policy implications. Because conditions were constantly volatile at the micro level, even though there was an overall “pax Romana,” stoicism was an ideal philophy.

We note in this introduction the essentially dual character of stoicism, as both a military and an ethical philosophy, one ideally suited to the greek or roman warrior or pacific citizen alike. The warrior at peace in stoic tranquility could perform his military assignments with a minimum of moral concern either for his enemy’s or his own death; likewise the citizen going about his tasks was also able to work hard, indifferent to illness, suffering or the exigencies of mortality, and to the machinations of politics and the state.

Turning to the Spartan way of life, which was essentially a philosophy and ethical system, again we see a military and ethical system in place. First, we define the Spartan system as that system in place in Ancient Sparta from roughly 700 BC to approximately 350 BC, when the Spartan State began to lose its military supremacy to Thebes, and lost its martial character and started to blend shortly thereafter into the larger Hellenistic World created by Alexander the Great and his Successors.

During their time of glory, the Spartan method of training and educating their men and women was legendary throughout the ancient world, and it has come down to us even in the present day. The very word “spartan” connotes sparse, spare, lean and other similar adjectival synonyms. That a spartan soldier would fight to the death was a given; that he was happier to die gloriously in battle than to die and old man in his village was well-known. Thus even Pericles was known to quote the Spartans in saying that a good death in battle could wipe out a lifetime of evil deeds. But the Spartans virtue was a sort of corporate virtue, not the individual Achaean virtue or heroism of Achilles or Ajax; Spartans fought as a team. Their methods were legendary; their morality their code.

Finally we have the samurai, who lived by the code of bushido. In this moral code, elaborated on many occasions by learned samurai, the samurai warrior, who was always a learned man fluent in poetry, calligraphy and the arts, as well as the martial arts and the sword, was to consider himself at all times as if he was already dead. This core, bedrock principle of bushido, along with the zen Buddhist principles of “no mind” or “empty mind”, encapsulate bushido’s essential qualities—the clear-minded warrior, ready to strike, unafraid of death because in his mind, he has already died, and thus is already prepared for death. Such an adversary must have been dangerous indeed.

That there are parallels between these three systems with regards to their attitudes towards death and mortality is self-evident from our brief discussion. A longer exegesis would examine all of these systems in greater detail, but this brief review suffices to carry across the general motive and ethical points.

Art Kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

My father’s serviette ring,

silver incised with a design

of Scotch thistles, the central medallion

uninitialed, a blank oval.

The two massive

German kitchen knives, pre-1914, not-stainless steel,

which my mother carefully scoured with Vim

after each use.

My daily use

of these and other such things

links me to hands long gone.

Medieval con-men disgust and amuse us;

we think we’d never have fallen

for such crude deceptions-unholy

animal bones, nails from any old barn,

splinters enough from the Cross to fill

a whole lumber-yard.

But can we

with decency mock the gullible

for desiring these things?

Who doesn’t want

to hold what hands belov’d or venerated

were accustomed to hold?-You? I?

Who wouldn’t want

to put their lips to the true chalice?

Time Magazine just did a cover story on stem cell research, which is commendable. They also entitled the story “The Quest Resumes,” which is commendable, focusing on the fact that the Federal Government, under the Obama Administration, may finally allow (this may already have been approved by executive order) federal funds for stem-cell research at federally funded research institutions.

However, the subtitle of the article is “After eight years of political ostracism, stem-cell scientists like Harvard’s Douglas Melton are coming back into the light—and making discoveries that may soon bring lifesaving breakthroughs.” Time Feb 9, 2009 at p. 36.

Now, let’s examine that for a second—In Massachusetts, where Prof. Melton plies his craft, the Commonwealth and State of Massachusetts, like the State of California, has voted state support of stem-cell research at institutions of higher education. Therefore in Massachusetts, like California a bastion of biotechnology, the biotech lobby was able to secure state support for stem-cell research during the eight-year long federal ban on such research. So compared to the other 48 states, Prof. Melton was actually at an advantage because his lab was in Massachusetts.

Because of the federal funds ban, a great deal of stem cell-research has begun to spring up in places like Southeast Asia, as the Time Magazine article correctly notes, and as it well-known in the biotech industry. But a lot of it is also staying put in Cali and Mass due to those states putting up seed money for biotech research that is stem cell oriented.

Next, Prof. Melton works as co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), which Harvard has committed substantial resources to supporting over the past eight years and well into the future. According to their 2008 report, their annual spending has grown in the past two years from just over $5 million to over $16 million in fiscal year 2008, most of that culled from private and corporate donations. HSCI currently has no less than eight ongoing challenge grant research projects sponsored for $75,000 each, all of them stem cell oriented.

Now I am a powerful supporter of stem-cell research, and I strongly advocate that the federal government support stem cell research. The question I have for Time Magazine is, and maybe perhaps for the Federal Government, is HSCI the most needy recipient for federal funds for stem cell research? The article omits that HSCI is well-funded by private donors, and omits that Massachusetts provides state support (it is not clear if HSCI accepts Massachusetts money) and therefore the article in Time is somewhat misleading.

The argument for funding HSCI federally has to be this; we, e.g. HSCI, made a good faith effort to get the ball rolling the past three years through private financing, we have already a lab in motion with research projects, so if you fund us, we will be three years closer to getting results than any other academic lab you choose to fun. Consequently, their NIH grant requests will carry a certain heft.

On the other hand, they are not as dramatically in need of the money as some other labs who don’t have any private funding at all.

A more useful article would have been to depict the overall situation in the rest of the United States, and some of the labs outside CA & MA.

This is an interesting issue and one on which arguments on both sides would and could be marshalled.

It should be pointed out that I strongly support the work of Prof. Melton and the work of HSCI. Those initiatives were put into place by then President Lawrence Summers, along with the Broad Institute initiative, a few years back, and clearly they have had the effect of putting Harvard back on the map in terms of genetics and molecular biology research.

The good news about the Time article is that the words “Stem Cells” made the cover, along with a nice bio-photo. If nothing else, Americans this week can forget about the economy and the war for a moment and realize that stem cell research is an answer to many of our problems that don’t involve boundaries and account balances and fumes spewing out of our cars.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies