Friday, January 9, 2009

A Recruiting Scoop?

I just came home from dinner at South Quad, where I briefly saw Michigan's courtship with
LA outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo. Young Mr. Mingo, his mother (presumably) and his aunt/grandmother/family friend(?) were eating dinner with Brandon Graham, Fred Jackson, Calvin Magee, and some hyper-gregarious lackey far too white and chunky to actually be a communicative member of the proceedings. Let's call him Preston.

That was the scene as I entered South Quad. (There is another, smaller dining room in
South Quad only accessible by the entrance closest to Blimpy Burger; that room was where
their group was eating.) I didn't stop to watch them eat, because that would probably be
peculiar and off-putting to Barkevious and the Mingo Bunch, and I wanted to harm
Michigan's recruiting efforts as little as possible.

I was lucky enough to run into them again after dinner as I left, where I was able to
witness a more substantive interaction without gawking and jeopardizing Mingo's comfort

Mom and Other Woman stayed behind with Coaches Jackson and Magee while Barkevious,
Graham, and Preston stepped outside. Preston zealously asked Mingo if he wanted him to
bring the car around to return to the hotel; Barkevious declined, as Graham had a mini
campus tour planned for him. Mingo basically told Preston to go away and leave him alone.
If Preston is a university employee, I would consider looking for some new talent.

Graham gestured toward West Quad and told Mingo he would be living there for his first
two years. Graham had no problem with the accommodations and according to him the RA
ensures that nobody harasses the athletes while living on-campus.

As I turned downhill away from the duo, someone in West Quad shouted to them out of his
open window about playing XBox. Graham obviously knew the person because he responded in
the affirmative and they headed towards the dorm.

Though I, as an unpursued individual, am unqualified to gauge the success or sincerity of
someone's recruitment, I must say in my capacity as a dude that I saw nothing but
friendliness and candor from Graham and that Mingo, as a dude, could not have been
anything but impressed. I think Graham genuinely wants Mingo to come to Ann Arbor and
that has to reflect well upon the football program. I couldn't tell what the coaches
talked about with Mingo's family, but it was visible that Fred Jackson is a suave and
silk-tongued Dapper Dan Man. The Mingo ladies simply ate him up. If this is recruiting
SOP for the new coaching regime, I don't care how many decommits we have during
Rodriguez's tenure--this is the right way to recruit kids to Michigan.

The only other observations I had were of Mingo himself. Rivals lists him at 6-5, 209.
This is false. I am 6-2 with shoes on and about 165 pounds and Mingo was barely taller than me. Also, it's possible that he has 70-pound legs, but I have a hard time believing this gentleman
actually cracks 200 pounds. His arms are shockingly thin. Nothing to worry about in our
new Republic of Barwis, but still worth a mention. And finally, Mingo put on a varsity
jacket to go outside, but instead of "West Monroe" or something akin, the back said
"Mingo" in old Redskins font and was encrusted with some type of stone. So we know a low
profile is of the utmost importance to him.

Previous reports indicate that Mingo favors hometown LSU, but...who knows?

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I've been beaten to the punch by both Rob Neyer and Buster Olney of ESPN I think, but that's not going to stop me from commenting on Rickey Henderson not being a unanimous Hall of Famer.

Writer Corky Simpson (really?) recently wrote in his column about his selections for the 2009 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the most prestigious honor that can be bestowed upon an individual in baseball and perhaps in all of American Sports. Now he made some ridiculous picks (which I'll cover) but the most absurd was the pick he didn't make: Simpson completely omitted The Great Rickey.

Rickey Henderson is a Hall of Famer.

That is perhaps the understatement of the century. As revolutionary statistician Bill James once put it "If you split [Henderson] in two, you'd have two Hall of Famers." Henderson was a 10-time all-star, the 1989 ALCS MVP (stealing 8 bases in the series, still the record for most SBs in a post season series), the 1990 MVP, a Gold Glover winner in 1981, a 3-time Silver Slugger award winner, and a generally cool cat ("But today, I'm the greatest of all time"). Statistically, Rickey was also the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time. Don't believe me? Henderson has a career OBP of .401. He's first in career runs scored. He has 3055 career hits. He's second all-time in walks. According to he's 10th all-time in runs created. Oh and he's got those stolen bases (His 1406 steals are a full 468 more than Lou Brock, the number 2 all-time, that's over 50% more). Henderson led off a game with a homerun 81 times, a staggering number. Perhaps just as staggering was that he led off an inning with a walk an astronomical 796 times. Some guys don't walk that much in their entire careers, let alone to lead off an inning. As Joe Posnanski put it, "He walked more times just leading off in an inning than Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Luis Aparicio, Ernie Banks, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg, and more than 50 other Hall of Famers walked in their entire careers." If one thinks about the ramifications of having any man lead off an inning with a walk, and then considers that Henderson was also the all-time stolen bases leader, that statistic shows how great an influence Rickey had.

The great sportswriter Tom Verducci put it best when he wrote "Baseball is designed to be an egalitarian sort of game in which one player among the 18 is not supposed to dominate... Yet in the past quarter century Henderson and Barry Bonds have come closest to dominating a baseball game the way Michael Jordan could a basketball game."

Now I don't know if Corky Simpson is one of those idiots who believes that nobody should be a unanimous selection (a load of crap, if you ask me, which by coming to this website and reading this you have), or he's just an idiot period.

Well actually, we do know that he's an idiot. Here are some other highlights from his piece.

  • He wants Tim Raines in the Hall of Fame. Now I agree with putting Rock in. But Rock Raines is what Bill James was referring to: half of Rickey. And to think, I was nearly involved in the death-by-yellow-VW-Beetle of Rock at a minor league baseball game...
  • He wants Tommy John inducted. Now from a statistical standpoint, one could make an argument for Mr. John, perhaps not a very strong one, but a moderately valid one. But Simpson's reasoning for his inclusion mentions Tommy John surgery. While this is certainly an achievement, using it as a criteria for Hall of Fame admission is like saying that Lou Gehrig belongs because he had Lou Gehrig's Disease. Really, if Gehrig belongs in for something extraneous like that, it's that his nickname (other than the Iron Horse) was Biscuit Pants.
  • He wants Matt Williams inducted. Here is his reasoning: "Matt Williams, my first Hall of Fame vote for an Arizona Diamondback player. Matty played 17 seasons for the Giants, Indians and Diamondbacks. Nobody ever played the game with more intensity, nor with more reverence for the sport. He was the inspirational leader of the 2001 World Series champion D’backs." Now that does sound like a nice player...but a Hall of Famer? Anything to say about his actual performance on the field, Corky? Saying he played for a long time with intensity and reverence for the sport and being the inspirational leader for a team would be like saying Mark "Mad Dog" Madsen belongs in the basketball Hall of Fame. What Corky just described could be nothing more than a glorified cheerleader who over-stayed his welcome. Now in actuality, Williams was a very solid player who had a career that could be envied by most (including one of the all-time "what-ifs" for his homerun total during the 1994 season). But is he a Hall of Famer? No. If Albert Belle isn't a Hall of Famer, Matt Williams certainly isn't.
In addition, Corky says he can't vote for Mark McGwire because of the unsure nature of his chemical enhancement. Well, it's pretty established that McGwire was using something. But regardless of that, you'd vote for Matt Williams but not McGwire? Matt Williams was named in the Mitchell Report as a player who had purchased steroids. So you'd vote for a steroid user who still wasn't as good as another steroid user because he "played the right way"? What the hell is the right way?

This brings me to a larger point about the sanctimonious nature of the sports fan, specifically the baseball fan. Baseball is a game steeped in tradition. Few sports, or any American institution for that matter, are so ingrained in our culture and history. Football may be more popular, but what kind of hats do the players wear on the sidelines? Baseball hats. No sport has as rich a tradition as baseball does, well over 100 years of professionalism strong. But too many are lost in tradition. I, like many, think its important to honor the past, but not at the expense of the present or the future. People remember the good old days in baseball and talk about how players only do it for the money now. Please. The good old days? What when black players were scared for their lives because they were black? When players had to have a second job in the offseason to pay their bills? Guys played for the money back then too...if you're good at a game and someone will pay you for it, why wouldn't you do that? If the players of yore really played for the love of the game, they'd do it for free. When Sandy Koufax (who old school guys love) and Don Drysdale threatened to sit out the 1966 season, they weren't doing because they loved the game...they wanted to get paid. And what about the right way? Does that mean scrappy? Ty Cobb was scrappy. But he also was a huge prick who would spike the opposition any chance he got and once fought an armless man who was heckling him. Does that mean they put their head down and just play and forego the flashiness? Rafael Palmeiro was considered the consummate professional; nice guy, worked hard, no glitz, and now he's vilified for taking performance enhancers. The thing is not that the game or the players have changed, it's that the fan has changed. The fan has changed what they're bitching about. But really, all we are doing is holding these men to absurd standards. If you could get paid to do something you're really good at that you've always considered leisure, wouldn't you? If you could take a pill that would make you better at your job with little chance of consequence, wouldn't you?

My long, rambling, convoluted point is that folks like Corky Simpson need to get off their high horse. They need to simply look at objective barometers for success and worry about upholding the tradition of excellence that sports' most hallowed club holds: on-field achievement. Rickey Henderson should be in the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame. Matt Williams shouldn't be (although I wouldn't worry about that happening).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gay-tham for Statham

We all knew that Jason Statham was the man. (See below)

But now Patton Oswalt, of KFC Famous Bowls fame, has put a definitive marker on just how awesome the man is.

Here is the greatness that is Statham.