Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Boz is a dreamer, and Kasten is a crazy man

Dispatches from a couple of correspondents out to lunch in outer space:

---> Boz sees "no reason why [the wild card qualifier] couldn't be the Nats," assuming for the sake of argument they make it out of Atlanta alive:

As for Robinson and Bowden, they sometimes sound as if they've been reading "The Power of Negative Thinking." However, if the Nats grasp two central facts -- that their foes aren't very good and that (except for Houston) everybody faces incredibly difficult schedules -- then the Nats are perfectly capable of joining the rest of this Futile Five in a
September pennant-race frolic.


That's a rather weighty parenthetical Mr. Boswell tossed out there, but we'll get to that in a second. As for the rest of the "Futile Five":

Right now, the Nats think they have it bad. But they should look around. On Sunday, all five wild-card contenders lost.

One of said contenders lost at home; that would be the Nats, who just completed a 2-4 homestand. But should we mention that? Nah, there's no time.

Before anyone disparages the chances of the
humble Nats, read on. The Marlins, Phillies and Mets are probably already dead. They just don't know it yet.


If that's the case, DON'T TELL 'EM, BOZ! (You'll only angry up their blood.)

Florida's previous 24 games were against teams
with records of .500 or below. Now, all 31 games left on the Marlins' schedule are against currently winning teams. That's nuts. Has anybody ever heard of playing 24 straight losers followed immediately by 31 straight
winners?


I don't really know; have you?

If Florida was going to make a move, it should
have done it by now. It didn't. Soon, the floundering Fish will feel as if they've been tossed on dry land.


I'm a bit dubious as to this "floundering Fish" comment. I looked it up, and they went 13-11 in those 24 games. That's not great, certainly, but it's not horrid. Further, if Boz wanted to toss a "floundering" pun, then way back on August 8 was the opportune time. The Marlins were swept at Colorado, unbelievably, in a doubleheader. (Boz, no doubt: Oh yeah? The Nats swept the Rockies!!!) The Marlins took 12 of the final 19 games from the losing-record chuckleheads, before falling to the Cardinals yesterday in St. Louis (Game One of the Grueling Home Stretch).

I'm not saying that the Marlins don't have a tough road the rest of the way, but I'm not sure how a 12-8 stretch is evidence the team is floundering yet.

Regarding the Mets (admittedly, out of order a bit), Boz writes:

They've been coasting in a soft schedule since
the all-star break -- only two of 12 series against currently winning teams. The Mets, like the Marlins, should have made a move. Instead, they just stayed in the pack.


Boz is completely oblivious that the Mets have made a move! Remember, Boz is portraying the wild card race as it was on Saturday and Sunday, as a race to the bottom. Then keep this in mind:

The Mets have won seven out of their last ten games, 10 out of 15, and 12 out of 20. If only the Nats had won 12 out of their last 20 games, Boz!

I frankly don't get it. The Mets lost Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco; however, prior to those two losses, the Mets had won five in a row (including a complete FUBAR job on the Diamondbacks), seven of eight (taking two in a weekend series against the Nats that Boz presumably attended), and nine of eleven.

As for the Mets' schedule:

What the Mets face may be just as bad. Their
next 28 games are against teams with winning records, including 10 against the Braves and Cards! Most are also on the road. New York closes with four games at home against the pathetic Rockies. But will the Mets still be breathing by then?


Who knows? But I think Boz is minimizing the importance of FINISHING THE SEASON WITH THREE AT HOME WITH THE COLORADO ROCKIES!!!

And then we get to the Phillies:

The Phillies are in the same predicament. Like the Mets, their schedule has been friendly since July 19th -- two of 12 series against teams currently above .500. But did they build
a wild-card lead? No, they have merely stuck their nose ahead briefly.


I'm not quite sure what to say here. The Phillies have played .600 ball (15-10) in August so far. That they didn't "build a wild-card lead" is a testament to:

a) the fact that they were coming from something of a deficit (first against the Nats, then against the Astros); and,
b) the possibility---just the possibility---that the other NL East teams haven't floundered or squandered to the extent Boz is portraying.

Quite simply, Boz is projecting two days' worth of bad play onto all teams. Why? He's rationalizing a 2-4 homestand that needed to be 4-2 or 3-3, at worst.

Alright, now we're getting to the good stuff. This NL East junk is just the undercard. Remember back when Boz said there's no reason why the Nats couldn't be the wild card entrant in the postseason? You know, back earlier in the same column? We get to the curious case of the Houston Astros:

Everybody in this wild-card cluster has already started buckling, gagging, choking, bickering and spitting the bit. Nobody's happy. Nobody's confident or truly believes they're good. Almost everybody is utterly terrified of their schedule.

Follow the progression: "[e]verybody"; "[n]obody"; "[n]obody"; "[a]lmost everybody." Ah, it looks like a hedge! The parenthetical returns! Careful, children: it may take on different shapes!

If the final standings ended as they are now, the Nationals would play an astronomical 100 games this season against winning teams. At least other NL East clubs have had a similar
burden: the Mets would meet 103 winners, Philadelphia 93, Florida 90.
But what about Houston? As matters now stand, the Astros would play only 55 games against winning teams this year. The Mets 103. The Nats 100. The Astros 55. Okay, sure, that's fair. On Mars.

Oh, that's right! The Astros have an easy schedule. Why didn't Boz mention that before? Why does Boz laboriously plow through the schedules of the other teams and just make passing reference to Houston's schedule? Why does he, when he actually do so, characterize Houston's schedule as a pressing moral issue? Why does he whine in the middle of a rough-and-ready, boostrapsy column? Inquiring minds want to know . . .

For the record, I agree that the wild card is an unfair proposition. I can't stand it in principle and as it's applied. But, I'll confess, it's kind of fun this season.

Anyway, after all my posturing here, what does the column really tell us?

a) the NL East teams are going to beat up on each other in September, and at least the Nats are at home; and,
b) the Astros have a relatively easy road home.

In other words, Boz told us nothing we didn't already know. Or, as Spiral Stairs put it at today's Yuda chat:

None of the teams in the wild card chase are
any good, so everyone has an equal chance. [Boswell] at first ignores the Astros in his analysis and then says they have an unfair advantage because their schedule has been so easy. I don’t quite understand why the ease of their schedule means we should discount their chances to win the wild card.


Super.

I'll add at this point that the wild card is still "do-able," as Wilbon put it last week. Then again, the Nats have gone 1-3 since his proclamation. Two of the losses were against the Cardinals, granted, but Boz's point seems to be that we can't pick our schedule. Anyway, it can be done, theoretically. But don't forget that 2.5 games over 32 contests is sometimes the difference between "good" and "excellent" baseball---and, if we're forced to witness "excellent" baseball, then the lack of an offense and a reliance on journeymen and never-weres to fill out the back of the rotation don't inspire confidence.


______________

---> Now, to Stan Kasten, featured by Hal "Kin of Selig" Bodley in today's USA Today. I spent way too much on Boz, as I expected I would, and I only have a chance to add that Kasten---a potential suitor and/or exec for our Nats, by the way---strikes me as not the least bit crazy. He's the type of guy, it would appear, who prefers to enter a negotiation with a strategy to win consisting of:

a) shaking hands with the other side's negotiator;
b) sitting down in a comfy chair;
c) opening his briefcase; and,
d) double-tapping his opponent in the temples with a concealed handgun.

You don't believe me? Read:

Stan Kasten has a dream. The former executive of the Atlanta Braves, NBA Hawks and NHL Thrashers says professional sports would be much better off if player agents were eliminated.
Say what?

"Say what" is right, Hal.

Lest you accept an out-of-context characterization on its face, I'll clarify that Kasten doesn't wish agents to be eliminated in a "mortal" sense---well, at least not publicly. He's more facile, of course:

"It's not agent abuse which is the problem.
It's the highly skilled, highly competent, highly ethical agents; they're really the problem for all of us who love sports."


Stan Kasten, a long-time sports executive, wants to do away with agent-negotiated contracts in baseball because . . . of principle? Heavens no!

It's because the agents are too good. Sports agents are too good. Sports agents are too good for sports owners and front office executives. Sports. I thought the "good" was rewarded in sports . . .

Anyway, Kasten---also a lawyer, mind you---is quite the able hypocrite:

"There are a lot of factors that should determine what a player makes, but not something extraneous by the collective skill of a negotiator," says Kasten, who is part of one of the groups trying to buy the Washington Nationals.

There are a lot of factors that should determine what party wins a trial, but not something extraneous [like] the skill of an attorney . . .

Heck, substitute back in "negotiation," and it still works for lawyers sometimes.

Kasten does redeem himself, though, when he identifies himself as a great guardian of the game:

"If you're a highly skilled, highly ethical
practitioner, your main goal in life is to look out only for the best interest of your one client at a time. Period. Nothing else matters — not the interest of the team, the player's teammates, the community, the franchise or the
sport."


Kasten, who has made a living of representing the interests of professional sports owners, cares. He's a highly skilled, highly ethical practitioner, but the difference is that he represents interests good for the sport. In other words, he's worthy of our trust. I trust him; do you?

Comments:
Regarding Kasten, can someone tell me when the owners undertook the obligation, upon penalty of elimination, to subjugate their selfish desires for the "good of the game"?

This brings up a point by Bouton. He makes clear that the commissioner of baseball represents not the "game", but the financial interests of 30 owners. That's it. He noted that if the commissioner represented the "game", then why do two important stake-holders in the game, players and fans, have no voice in his selection?

Perhaps giving players (via agents or otherwise) a direct say in the governance of the game (i.e. voting on the commissioner), they might think twice about how their selfish interests affect the "game".
 
Come to think of it, is this "tough talk" aimed to impress those deciding who will be the next owners of the Nats?
 
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