Dropping the bomb 

Theo Epstein has decided to leave the Boston Red Sox, one day after several outlets broke the news that he had accepted a three-year contract extension.

According to this article in the Boston Herald, Epstein was upset by an article in Sunday's Boston Globe that aired some of the dirty laundry between himself and Larry Lucchino, one of the managing partners of the Sox. Shaughnessy sounded like he was chiding Epstein for not being sufficiently deferential towards his mentor. Of course, for all I know, the Herald could just be taking a potshot at the Globe here, whose parent company, the New York Times, also owns part of the Sox. The author basically accused Dan Shaughnessy of being a management shill.

And people wonder why Boston hadn't won the World Series in 86 years. There's no curse, just a hell of a lot of talented people leaving or being pushed out, hard feelings and acrimony.

Contrast this with Tedy Bruschi's return to the Patriots, eight months after suffering a stroke. ESPN's Suzy Kolber asked Patriots owner Robert Kraft why he didn't force Bruschi to sign a waiver of liability. Kraft explained that Bruschi sought the medical opinion of several doctors, all of whom cleared him to play. That was enough to satisfy him. Kraft ended with this quip: "I like lawyers, but you can't let them run your life."


Stanford sux 

UCLA football has pulled off so many ridiculous comebacks this season. When they go down 3 touchdowns to USC at halftime, the coaches can say "everything is going according to plan. We got them right where we want them."


Hilarious ultimate frisbee video of the week (or month, or whatever) 

This is why you should never, ever throw a backhand to the forehand side of the field.


Bank and ATM horror stories 

Redtape on MSNBC.com has a piece on ATM denial fees.

If you live in the Boston area, I highly recommend Cambridge Savings Bank. Never ever had a problem with them, and they're not likely to be acquired by Bank of America anytime soon.


Signs of the apocalypse 

St. John was probably laughing at all of us when he wrote Revelation. Wars, famine, pestilence, earthquakes -- doesn't exactly point to a specific time in human history.

But when the Red Sox, and now the White Sox, win the World Series...


Statistical generalizations != racism 

The AP makes a pathetic attempt to stir up controversy by printing these comments from Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry:

He said Air Force needed to recruit faster players. "We were looking at things, like you don't see many minority athletes in our program," DeBerry told The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

When questioned about the remarks during his weekly luncheon Tuesday, the coach didn't hesitate to elaborate.

"It just seems to be that way, that Afro-American kids can run very, very well. That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me they run extremely well," DeBerry said in remarks first broadcast Tuesday night by KWGN-TV in Denver.

Fisher DeBerry is certainly not the most prestigious person to have ever made such observations -- UCLA physiologist and Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond and Roger Bannister have said as much in the past.

One of the scientists quoted in one of these articles tries to downplay the findings by claiming that the athletes in question are statistical aberrations. I don't buy it. The phenomenon can be observed on the football and basketball teams of large high schools, and I'd say that such athletes represent perhaps the top 10% or 5% of the population. That's still statistically significant.


Sports Guy returns to LA 

Got my copy of the book signed this evening. I was going to accost Simmons about his list of top colleges in New England area -- he managed to include Northeastern, Tufts and Wesleyan. You know, schools that are just as good as Ivy League schools because they charge comparable tuition. For some reaon, he left out MIT. I thought better of bugging him about it, though, because (1) he looked exhausted, (2) the line was getting long, and (3) I'd probably end up in one of his columns.

He's actually pretty mild-mannered and soft-spoken in person, but probably not shy. He's also signing at Sonny McLean's in Santa Monica tomorrow -- I might wander over, just to see what he's like when he's been drinking.


MLB blows it again 

The lousy umpiring is really leaving a stain on this year's baseball playoffs.

This time, Jermaine Dye was awarded first base on a HBP ruling, despite the fact that the pitch in question nicked off the handle of his bat and never touched his person, as replays showed conclusively. Dye never acted as if he were hit, and catcher Brad Ausmus attempted to persuade home plate umpire Jeff Nelson to check with another of the umpires, at least one of whom would surely have seen that the pitch never hit Dye. Nelson never allowed any of the other umpires to overrule him, and the next batter, Paul Konerko, hit a pivotal grand slam.

And please, let's stop lavishing praise on the White Sox for "making the most of their opportunities". They've played well enough on their own -- no need to laud them for making the most of opportunities that they don't deserve but are being given to them by the umpires.

Cause and effect 

In this article on the rising prison population, "The Sentencing Project" and "The Justice Policy Institute" have this to say:

The Sentencing Project said the continued rise in prisoners despite falling crime rates raises questions about the country's imprisonment system. The group said the incarceration rate -- 724 per 100,000 -- is 25 percent higher than that of any other nation.

"Policymakers would be wise to reconsider the wisdom of current sentencing and drug policies, both to avoid expensive incarceration costs and to invest in more productive prevention and treatment approaches to crime," Marc Mauer, the group's executive director, said in a statement.

Another group, the Justice Policy Institute in Washington, said the statistics show little relationship between prison population growth and the crime rate, which has been falling in recent years.

"The nation does not have to lock more people up to have safer communities," said Jason Ziedenberg, the institute's executive director.

Regarding the war on drugs -- I wouldn't mind loosening the laws on marijuana possession, but doing the same for crack, heroin and other significantly more dangerous drugs would be disastrous. I suspect that weed users make up a rather slight fraction of people incarcerated for using substances, though I could be wrong.

Regarding the relation between prison population and crime -- I can't think of a more effective and efficient way to reduce crime than by taking criminals off the streets. (Other than redefining crime, that is.) Messrs. Mauer and Ziedenberg, please enlighten me.


Fooled by randomness 

In NLCS game 4, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa gets tossed from the game. People wonder if this is (a) him attempting to get his team fired up, or (b) indicative of a loss of team focus and eventual meltdown. After Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds gets tossed for arguing balls and strikes, Albert Pujols blunders into an out at home, and the Astros win game 4 to go up 3-1, people conclude (b).

In Game 5, Pujols hits a go-ahead 3-run HR off Astros closer Brad Lidge to win the game. No doubt people will wonder if this moment will propel St. Louis to a sweep of the remaining two games.

Sometimes teams go on winning streaks. Fans and writers are always trying to find some structure in the pattern of wins and losses of an exciting playoff series, and it's usually explained in terms of psychological momentum. More likely, it's the case that a series has two excellent teams playing hard, and the team that wins a given game is the one that randomly happened to play better that day.


Off-handed backhands suck 

Throwing off-hand, cross-legged backhands for short-range throws (e.g. dumps and quick throws on give-and-goes and weaves) seems to be all the rage in club Ultimate.

Good lord. Doesn't anybody practice a 5-yard flick anymore?


MLB blows it 

Josh Paul definitely caught that last strike cleanly, and Doug Eddings clearly punched him out(right hand moving horizontally) and rang him up for a strike (clenched fist held out in front). I have no idea why he habitually makes the two motions in the wrong order, but whatever. You can watch the replay on ESPN.com, and it's exactly the same motion as when Jermaine Dye strikes out swinging to end the bottom of the 5th. This is what Kelvim Escobar saw, and if he thought differently, he would have scrambled to pick up the ball and throw ouy Pierzynski at first.

If I were an Angels fan, the thing that would infuriate me the most would be the fact that the umpires are being completely unrepentant about it -- the post-game press conference was pretty awful. Eddings is completely unpersuasive (in addition to being wrong) about claiming that he never rang up the strikeout, and all the officials are lying through their teeth if they claim that the ball hit the dirt. They could just say that the ump blew the call and that he's in the outfield or benched for the next couple games to prevent things from going crazy in Anaheim, and a lot of people would be placated, I think.

Now why exactly isn't there instant replay for these sorts of calls? (Not ball-and-strike calls, but check-swing and dropped third strike calls, as well as fan-interference and a few other assorted items.) Isn't it much better to spend 5 minutes reviewing the tape and getting the call right than to spend 5 minutes listening to the opposing manager ream out the umpire? Is anybody against this?

EDIT: Via Tacitus, here's a stop-action montage of the third strike. Ok, I'll grant that this sequence of photos makes the call look inconclusive. I'd need a side-view shot to tell if the ball bounces off the dirt or off the bottom of the glove. In the fourth shot, you can see the ball bouncing around in the glove. Between the third and fourth shots, it's not completely clear if the ball hits the dirt, but my guess is that it didn't.

EDIT: Yes, the umpire never actually said "you're out". But neither did he say "no catch." The official baseball rules don't really say much about how an umpire's decisions are to be communicated, but distinct calls are supposed to be communicated in ways that are as clearly distinct as possible, and that didn't happen.

Would it really kill MLB to establish a universal set of signals for these calls?


Is blogging hazardous to your health? 

Daniel Drezner recently got whacked.

I generally don't post about research mathematics on this blog. But if I start hearing whispers from other mathematicians that I spend too much time on the Red Sox, U2, ultimate frisbee, or inane political kerfluffles...

Rupert Murdoch's media empire 

I'm sometimes confused by Rupert Murdoch's plans to control the entire universe.

He owns Fox. Fox News, depending on your point of view, is either a right-wing propaganda machine or a right-wing propaganda machine which is badly needed to correct the overwhelming liberal bias in US television media.

He owns the Sky network. Sky News, as far as I can tell, is a fairly respected news program in the UK/Europe.

He owns the New York Post, whose front cover today was this:


Always look on the bright side of life 

Only 131 days until spring training.


Top relievers are allowed to pitch when their team is tied or behind 

I've criticized Joe Torre before for not having his best relief pitchers ready to go late in games when the Yankees are tied or behind with the other team mounting a threat.

After Game 2 of the Yankees-Angels ALDS, in which Torre allowed Chien-Ming Wang to turn a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 deficit in the 7th inning, Rob Neyer agrees with me.

Since subscription walls suck, here's a clipping from the article:

Here's what I think happens, inside Torre's mind: He recognizes the urgency of the situation but he doesn't understand it, and he worries that if he uses his best reliever and the Yankees aren't ahead, later he'll wind up losing with somebody like Tanyon Sturtze on the mound. And boy, will that look bad. So in road games, he holds Rivera in reserve for that magical save situation, ignoring the distinct possibility that the magical save situation will never make its magical appearance.

The flip side of the argument is that managers mindlessly bring in their closers in the 9th inning to protect a 3-run lead with nobody on base just because it's a "save situation". Sure, have him ready to go in case the other team gets a run or puts a couple guys on base. But if not, it's an easy situation that doesn't require your best reliever.

Terry Francona knows what's up. His decision to bring Keith Foulke in during the 7th inning of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS when down 4-3 saved the season.


Enough already 

Even though the Red Sox won the World Series last year, it's nice to know that sportswriters and announcers still aren't going to let Bill Buckner off the hook.

To David Wells's credit, he refused to blame Tony Graffanino for the ensuing 3-run HR.

Boston still has a good chance to come back at Fenway with Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling. If they take two at home, it sets up a deciding Game 5 with either Matt Clement or Bronson Arroyo on the mound. I will now give myself a root canal.


Another awful algebraic geometry joke 

Q: Why is baseball not a proper sport?

A: Because it's not invariant under base change.


If you ever needed conclusive proof that radio sucks 

I saw this meme floating around: Fetch the top 100 list from the year of your graduation from high school (mine is 1995) and highlight the songs that wouldn't make you change the radio station if you heard them now.

I was going to do this, but then I looked through the list and it became way too depressing of a task. The songs on that list that are currently the most listenable (at least to me) are by Hootie and the Blowfish.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?