BEATING THE YANKEES; ABE POLLIN AND ARENAS

January 31, 2010

Ron Borges, of the Boston Herald, seems to believe that it’s more important to Theo Epstein to beat the Yankees than anything else. “With the opening of
spring training less than three weeks away it would appear the retooling of the Red Sox is complete, at least for now. So what has general manager Theo
Epstein wrought?
Beats me, which is unimportant. Beats the Yankees? I don’t think so.
If an array of new fielding metrics you need a Ph.D. to understand are to be believed, the Red Sox will have to travel with two planes this year. The first for the players, the second for their Gold Gloves.
According to Epstein, the Red Sox will be competitive through the use of kung fu baseball, the art of winning without scoring. They will be so flawless in the field that opponents will simply forfeit, their inability to penetrate the Steel Curtain Defense so frustrating that the other side simply resigns. Sort of like playing Bobby Fischer in chess.
While teams created by Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies or Brian Cashman of the Yankees cling hopelessly to National League and American League pennants and a misplaced faith in the old order represented by stats like batting average, fielding average and RBI, teams of the new millennium like the Red Sox believe those are insignificant relics of a bygone era, the buggy whips of baseball. They have been replaced by faith in OBP, OPS, UZR (I thought those were the initials of a former Russian state only to learn it means Ultimate Zone Rating), DRS (defensive runs saved) and PMR (probabilistic model of range). Based on crunching numbers into these new formulas, one expert in baseball metrics, John Dewan, has written that the addition of Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron in the field will add nine more victories to the Sox’ bottom line.
Lo and behold, we just won the pennant! Who knew?
A year ago, the Sox won 95 games despite apparently stumbling around in the field like a half-drunken softball team in a Wednesday night league. Somehow they miraculously finished only eight games behind the Yankees without being able to catch a cold standing naked in the Alaskan wilderness. Fortunately, those Sox have been replaced by guys whose gloves are more valuable than Michael Jackson’s.
Together, Cameron, Scutaro and Beltre hit eight home runs more than Jason Bay but, as we now know, home runs are meaningless. Fortunately Sox fans, so are RBI because Bay had 119, which was 49 more than Cameron, 59 more than Scutaro and please don’t ask how many more than Beltre (all right, 75 if you must know but compare his DVD to Bay’s CD and divide by BVD and see what you get – a pennant, of course).
Some might argue that pitching in Fenway Park  is not exactly like pitching in Yosemite Park, but Sox’ management has discovered that despite mistaken
evidence to the contrary, scoring runs is no longer essential to winning games. Interesting concept.
Throw the ball, catch it and trade a walk for a homer and just like that you’ve got nine more wins and a pennant. Or so they want you to believe over on
Yawkey Way.
Owner John Henry recently reminded his paying customers that the Sox won 95 games a year ago. Only problem is the Yankees won 103 and the World
Series, to which John Henry would reply, “Yeah, but what’s their ATM?”
Moneyball, which became defined as the love of sabermetrics over old-school stats like HR and RBI, has led Billy Beane, the godfather of this con job, to build an economic Oakland A’s team that hasn’t won a pennant in 20 years or a World Series in 21, but did manage to have a best-selling book written about the concept. The A’s did win division titles in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2006, but what they have actually won during the Moneyball era is nothing. No sequel is planned.
Now it seems the Sox have headed down the same road of quantum baseball over your grandad’s version, which was mistakenly centered on foolishness like hitting and scoring runs.
This has gone so far that Dewan has come up with a new type of struck ball. While he factors ground balls, fly balls and line drives in his fielding metrics, he also has created “fliners.”
If mastery of fliners beats the Yankees, I’m all for it, but my lying eyes have told me it takes live arms and live bats. Gloves only beat the Yankees when Jason Varitek  is stuffing one up the nose of Alex Rodriguez.
As the days dwindle toward the start of another spring of hope, let’s pray that’s no longer the case, because if all this talk of OBP, OPS, UZR, DRS and
PMR was really only about ATM that’s going to end up BAD for US.”

Mark Heisler writes for The LA Times about the NBA and had this to say about the late Abe Pollin. “There goes a great Bullet, er, Wizard.

Even if the whole world abandoned Gilbert Arenas, who had the misfortune to become perfectly inconvenient and vulnerable at the same time, there was one man who would have remembered all he meant to the Washington Wizards and the “legacy of Abe Pollin” the late owner’s family keeps talking about.

That man, of course, was Abe Pollin.

If Pollin was different, it wasn’t for being wildly successful as an NBA owner, because he wasn’t.

It was for his generosity that was expressed in everything he did, including his day-to-day operation, such as clinging to General Manager Wes Unseld, whom he loved, long after Unseld had become inconvenient.

President Obama marked Pollin’s passing in November, noting, “Abe believed in Washington, D.C., when many others didn’t, putting his own fortune on the
line to help revitalize the city he loved.”

Pollin’s death made the op-ed Page of the New York Times, where sharp-tongued Maureen Dowd wrote:

“I’ve seen some people who were fierce in the face of mortification and death. But none as fierce as Abe Pollin.”

As if to prove it, mortification reappeared within weeks in the form of a nationwide scandal, and no one was fierce in its face.

Only Arenas could have pulled this off, taking childish behavior all the way to a level that was criminal, but I can’t see Abe doing that “I’m shocked, shocked!” number from “Casablanca.”

Abe knew Gilbert, it was what he did.

Nor can I imagine it occurring to Pollin to use this to void Arenas’ $111-million deal –which Abe gave him, despite Gilbert’s year off following knee surgery and the challenges he posed for the coaches.

Now Pollin is gone and his heirs care only about keeping this from splashing on their patriarch . . . who would have waded in up to his neck.

Arenas, the wild and crazy guy they adored, is now an un-Wizard.

As steadfast a defender as the Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon put the Wizards’ fall on this incident, writing:

“The events of the last month have killed what was and what might have been . . . Eddie Jordan coaching Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler,
Brendan Haywood.

“But it’s over now.”

Actually, it keeled over before that. The Wizards were 8-17 before the incident, already looking for takers for their big contracts, starting with Gilbert’s.

Arenas’ contract is part of a bigger, seamier picture as the Pollins negotiate the sale of the team, insisting for the first time that it can go to anyone, not just minority owner Ted Leonsis.

At this point, we may be leaving the area of farce and moving into cosmic joke.

Shorn of the furor after the erroneous New York Post report that the players drew on each other in the locker room, this was what remained of the story on the “SportsCenter” crawl:

“Arenas and Crittenton suspended for season for bringing guns to Verizon Center.”

Arenas, suspended for 50 games, and Crittenton, for 38 are now in Major Outlaw company, Nos. 3 and 4 on the all-time list with:

1. Ron Artest — 73 games for starting the Auburn Hills melee, wading in the stands to punch (the wrong) fan.

2. Latrell Sprewell — 68 for choking Coach P.J. Carlesimo.

5. Stephen Jackson — 30 for following Artest into the stands and flailing away.

6. Kermit Washington — 26 for the punch that caved in Rudy Tomjanovich’s face.

In the precedent the Wizards would have to explain away, Jackson, then an Indiana Pacer, fired a handgun in the air — four or five times, he told police — to break up a fight outside a strip club in 2006.

Still on probation for his actions in Auburn Hills, Jackson pleaded guilty to felony recklessness . . . and was suspended by the NBA for seven games.

It was clear all along Stern had a problem, with all the furor created by a report that didn’t turn out to be true.

Gilbert being Gilbert, he made it easy, or made up Stern’s mind, with his pregame skit, pretending to shoot his laughing teammates.

This can’t go on any further, can it?

Oh, it can?

With collective bargaining 18 months out and the NBA seeking givebacks, the atmosphere remains cordial. Union head Billy Hunter even appeared with Stern at last season’s All-Star game, agreeing the players had to do their part in hard economic times.

Cordiality will go out the window the moment the Wizards void Arenas’ deal as players wonder how ironclad their contracts are if they’re pulled over during a bad season.

Oh, and the Wizards probably would lose. Even league people say there’s a high legal bar to surmount.

Of course, everyone has been mad at everyone else before. On the other hand, after several years of pleasant developments, the NBA is nearing a tipping point.

After years of West domination and yawner Finals, the conferences are balanced with a Lakers-Celtics revival and an emerging Lakers-Cavaliers rivalry, not to mention Cavaliers vs. Celtics vs. Magic.

On the other hand, the Celtics might not last long and who knows where LeBron James and the other big free agents will be in a year?

And, of course, wouldn’t it be fun to have a real lockout in 2011?

So, just in case this saga turns into a black hole and sucks everyone in, everyone will have had it coming.”

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