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November 2, 2004

Prospectus Matchups

Venting

by Jim Baker

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The Election

I get to be the BP guy with the column appearing on Election Day, so let me take this opportunity to ask: is it any wonder so many people distrust sabermetrics and statistics in general? If you want to hear statistics abused and thrown about with no possible hope of real verification, there's no better place for it than a Presidential election. Lord, what a crock. Be done with it, I say!

I'm not going to tell you which guy to vote for. Neither am I going to say in a friendly, non-partisan way: "it doesn't matter who you vote for, just vote!" If you need me to tell you to vote, you probably shouldn't be voting. That goes for the whole "get out the vote" nonsense. If people have to be cajoled into it, then do we really want them having a say in things? If they're not engaged enough to register and get their asses to a poll by any means necessary, do we really want them as part of the process?

The Bill James Factor

In the wake of the Red Sox winning it all, there has been precious little mention of Bill James and his role in their success, even as Theo Epstein is getting plenty of credit. Why is this? As my friend Tim Walker says, "It doesn't fit the story line." The whole "idiots" thing is far more intriguing to the typical media outlet than the intelligence invested in piecing together the Red Sox.

This is extremely disappointing to me because it bespeaks an anti-intellectualism that permeates our culture. Yes, the players had to execute--as is always the case--but attention must be paid to the braintrust that gathered them there and did things like limiting the team to 12 sacrifice bunts. One of two things is happening: either the media doesn't understand the extent to which James contributed, or they do and can't bear the thought of it.

The Schedule Makers

You can accuse me of some bias on the previous item since I used to work for Bill. I think I'm being objective, though, when I point out he isn't getting much ink. On the other hand, you can definitely accuse me of bias--justified, I think--on this next statement: It's a shame that that Major League Baseball has replaced Henry and Holly Stephenson as their schedule makers, effective for the 2005 season.

Back when I worked for the original Major Indoor Soccer League, Henry and Holly did our schedule in addition to that of MLB (2004 was their 23rd year with baseball). Part of my job was to act as liaison between them and the teams. I would gather the prospective dates from the teams and relay them to Henry and Holly. They'd do a draft of the schedule and I would give it to the teams. I helped soothe ruffled feathers when teams thought they weren't getting prime dates, that kind of thing. We'd do a couple more passes until it was finalized. With just a fraction of the dates as MLB, it wasn't quite as complicated. In some cases, the teams involved were the second and even third tenants in their buildings, a problem very few big-league baseball teams have anymore.

The Stephensons are wonderful people and I always found them to be low-key and easy to deal with. I thought the scheduling process fascinating and they were very patient with me when I asked them dozens of questions about their experiences with MLB.

As has happened at MLB, there were always people approaching the MISL with a "better" way to do the schedule. One such group gave a presentation at the owner's meeting, claiming they could get the league better air fares and more prime dates with their computer program. When they were done presenting, Al Miller, the Cleveland GM, turned to me and said, "You work with the schedule. What do you think?" I told the owners: "There's no way they can do a better job than the Stephensons." I'm not implying the owners acted on my say-so, but the league did keep the Stephensons up until its demise. I bring up that incident 14 years later because I think it needs to be said again: there is no way the group that will now be scheduling MLB will do a better job than the Stephensons.

Owing to the incredibly convoluted nature of the current schedule, it is, perhaps, the single-most bizarre and complicated puzzle ever concocted by man. So what if there are a few anomalies? How could there not be? With MLB's continued insistence that interleague play prevail and the great discrepancies in the number of intra- and inter-division games, it is the Gordian Knot of sports. Henry and Holly did well by it and should still be doing so.

World Series Commercials - Final Thoughts

Allow me one or two more rants about the Series. Actually, they're not about the Series but about television commercials that aired during the Series.

My first rant is about Subway and that reformed circus freak Jared. My question is this: when did Subway become a health-food outlet? Have you ever been in a Subway? If you have, then you'll understand what a load of hippo droppings that concept is.

  1. They have a rack of potato chips at the end of the serving line. Potato chips. Yes, some of them are baked. BFD.

  2. Some of the franchises have display cases brimming with delicious-looking cookies. They're filled with big chunks of chocolate. They all but scream, "eat me."

  3. In some parts of the country, they utilize self-serve soda machines. Do you know how much damage you can do to yourself with a self-serve soda machine? You can ingest 500 calories of processed sugar without even trying.

I'm no food crusader. I haven't even seen "Super Size Me" yet and will probably never get around to reading Fast Food Nation, but I know hypocrisy when I see it. Subway: so what if your sandwiches have less fat than a quarter-pounder? Your accessories are pure dietary evil. McDonald's might be guiltier, but at least they're not hypocrites about it.

The other ad pisses me off so much I want to get some C-4 and topple the relay towers of the company responsible for it. Have you seen the Verizon ads where the loving father gets cell phones for his two teenage daughters so they can stay in touch? The spoiled little brats look at him as if he just spit up a mackerel until he points out they can call their friends, too. Then they're interested. Both of them--and their mother--blow off generous dad once they have their phones in hand. His last moment on screen is a pathetic little request that they call him.

Verizon: you suck. First of all, you make an actor portraying one of your customers look extremely stupid and sad. Is this really the message you want to be sending? (Or are you targeting the parasitic family demographic to petition the wage-earning portion of the family to buy your product?) Second, what are you saying about fathers who care? That they don't amount to anything, that's what. In a country where fathers are often marginalized by the courts and "deadbeat dads" are seen as something worse than serial killers, this is the exact opposite message you should be sending. Get smart, Verizon, and pull those ads. Tonight.

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