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8.18.2008

The vagaries of gymnastics scoring, part the second 

After examining these articles from SI and from USA gymnastics, and taking a look at an official gymnastics scoresheet, I am forced to conclude that gymnastics officials are completely innumerate.

As you may know by now, a gymnastics score for a given routine is given by adding the difficulty score to an execution score. The difficulty score is determined by one offical scorer, while the execution score is obtained by a panel of six judges. Each judge submits a score, and the middle four of the six scores are averaged to yield the official execution score.

However, since scoring resolution only goes down to 1/40ths of a point, ties are bound to come up now and then. For the individual event finals, gymnastics has put together a completely arbitrary and unnecessarily complicated scheme for breaking ties.

The first tiebreaker goes to whoever has the higher average execution score. Kind of arbitrary, but simple enough.

The second tiebreaker goes to whoever has the lower average deduction among the four relevant execution judges. However, as far as I can tell from looking at the official scoresheet, execution score is defined to be 10.0 minus deductions, so this second criterion is completely redundant.

(EDIT: This article from AP also seems to subsume the first two criteria into one; it seems more likely now that only one of these two equivalent criteria is actually written into the rules.)

The third tiebreaker is determined by taking the lowest three deductions among the four relevant execution judges and giving the tiebreaker to whoever has the lower average deduction. Given that the first tiebreaker is in effect, this is equivalent to simply tossing out the fifth-highest execution score.

Clearly, this tiebreaking scheme is wholly unnatural and arbitrary (why eliminate the fifth-highest score instead of the second-highest?) If one isn't overly worried about corrupt or incompetent judges, then averaging all six execution scores makes more sense (which would actually give He the gold). But given that the high and low execution scores are discarded and the average of the remaining four execution scores is the same, awarding two gold medals makes more sense than awarding a tiebreaker based on discarding additional information about the scores in an arbitrary manner.

The vagaries of gymnastics scoring 

If the landing comprises approximately 30% of the work of vaulting and only 5-10% of the work of an uneven bars or balance beam routine, a botched landing on vault probably should be penalized more harshly than a botched landing in one of the other events.

As it is, Alicia Sacralicious Sacramone finished 4th in the vault finals, behind a Chinese girl who landed one of her vaults on her knees and a 30-year-old German man. So rigged.

8.10.2008

Buzzkill 

The photo below has by now been widely circulated on teh Internets.



Unfortunately, the story behind it is rather disappointing:


Bush knuckled off a couple of lobs, but defending gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh gave the chief executive some pointers. Then after a good play, in the tradition of female volleyballers, May-Treanor turned, bent over slightly and offered her bikinied rear-end for the 43rd president to slap.

"Mr. President," she said, "want to?"

Want to has nothing to do with it in public life.

As the son of a president, a husband of nearly 37 years, the father of two daughters, the subject of some attempted tabloid exposes and a seasoned political veteran, who is not a female athlete but knows that every camera for a half-mile is trained on him, Bush wisely chose instead to brush his hand across the small of May-Treanor's back.

The Olympics are okay. NBC sucks 

If NBC does a piece on how the pandas in China have been waking up at 5:30 every morning to go to the gym to train and staying up until 1:00 to finish their schoolwork, I will put a gun to my mouth.

8.03.2008

Finally, a writer talks some sense about Manny Ramirez 

Over at Slate, Charles Pierce offers his two cents on the Manny Ramirez deal.

The treatment Ramirez has been receiving in the Boston and national media (the Globe, the Herald, ESPN and FOX) has generally ranged from biased to appalling. Certainly Manny has behaved poorly over the last weeks, but the Red Sox front office have acted very unwisely and from the outset.

Coming into the season, Ramirez was in the last year of his 8-year, $160 million contract that he had signed at the beginning of 2001, but the Red Sox held options to extend his contract for 2009 and 2010 for $20 million per year.

Normally the Red Sox don't hold contract negotiations with players in the last year of a contract until after the season, and normally you wouldn't blame them for keeping their options on a somewhat gimpy 36-year-old player open, but when Ramirez hired Scott Boras as his agent, that was a pretty clear sign that he was angling to a new multi-year deal. (Since Ramirez's agent had negotiated his current contract, Boras stood to make exactly $0 if the Red Sox picked up Ramirez's options.) In fact, Ramirez showed up for spring training in the best shape of his life and declared that he wanted to play for another four to six years. Furthermore, the Red Sox already had firsthand experience with Nomar Garciaparra in 2004 with how horribly wrong things can go with contract negotiations if they are allowed to fester during the season

Apparently the Red Sox thought the "four to six years" comment was a throwaway comment, because they pretty much stuck to their guns for the next four months -- that they'd reevaluate things after the season -- and appeared not to have any significant contact with Boras during that time. Eventually Ramirez got frustrated to the point where he popped off with the "I want no more shit where they tell you one thing and behind your back they do another thing" comment.

In retrospect, it seems that the Red Sox had made up their mind then and there that they were getting rid of Ramirez, because that's when the stories started popping up in the media. Rumors circulated that Manny was faking an injury. Peter Gammons claimed that Manny sits out against hard-throwing pitchers. Theo Epstein told Joe Buck and Tim McCarver during a weekend series against the Yankees that he was open to trading Ramirez, and they relayed the announcement on national TV. Eventually the chorus line becomes "Manny's quitting on the team." (Manny only hit .347/.473/.587 during Boston's horrendous July. What a fraud.) The same pattern of hit-pieces popped up in the media before Garciaparra was traded in 2004 and before Theo Epstein (temporarily) resigned in 2005. Apparently Larry Lucchino and others think that it is absolutely necessary to grease the skids when it's time to let a popular star go. By the time July 31 rolled around, the Red Sox front office had completely poisoned the well, and the relevant question became exactly how many cents on the dollar they could get back in exchange for one of the greatest hitters of all time. (Jason Bay's a pretty good hitter in his own right and definitely a better defender than Ramirez, so all hope is not lost.)

To recap, the Red Sox' mistakes were threefold:

- They never touched base with Manny and Boras in any meaningful way before the season.

- When Ramirez expressed frustration about the contract negotiations, or lack thereof, the Sox stubbornly stuck to their guns when they could easily have made a decision on his 2009 option (either decision would be, at the very worst, a small mistake) or discreetly explored the possibility of trading him;

- Apparently feeling that they had been shown up by Ramirez's comments about his contract, they employed scorched-earth tactics in their effort to run him out of town, painting him as the scapegoat for the team's miserable month of July.

So long, Manny, and thanks for the memories. (Most of the images below appear on SoSH.















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