Saturday, February 28, 2009

Requiem For A Restaurant


The absolute best part of living in Manhattan is the preponderance of awesome things within walking distance from your apartment. I have accounts with two different banks, both of whom have a location within two blocks from my place. We have two grocery stores within the same distance. I can walk to work in just about the time it takes to listen to Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts I & II, and Central Park is under 5 minutes away. I've mentioned the Beacon and Fairway, both of which I wouldn't swap for another theater/grocery store.

Another thing that makes the location of our apartment so perfect is (was) Westside Brewing Co. When we first moved down here, we used to go there every Sunday night in addition to the impromptu visits during the week. If I had anyone came into town, it was the first place I thought to bring them.

I would place their wings in my top five of all time, with some serious consideration for the #1 spot. I'm probably biased, but trust me, these were not your ordinary orangey, fake-looking, limp dick wings you get at TGIFriday's. The sauce wasn't sweet like a BBQ and didn't really have a buffalo twang. They never detailed any of the ingredients on the menu, and I'm not much of a gourmand, so if you've never had the pleasure, you are going to have to use your imagination a little bit. They were a deep maroon color, subtly smoky, hot, but not lingering, and... did I mention they were fucking amazing?

Westside stopped brewing their own beer long before I moved down to the city, but they kept a rotating selection of ten taps to make up for that fact. They centered on local brews like Captain Lawrence, Chelsea and Blue Point, but also drew from across and the country and world. Last time I was there, they had Green Flash Le Freak on tap and around Easter-time last year they had an incredible Rauchbier (smoked beer) from Germany.

The had a pretty fervent staff turnover, but managed to keep a cute girl hostessing with remarkable consistency. One time Sampson and I walked in, and were making some offhand comment about work, and the cutest of the hostesses smiles and says "Are you guys in the movie industry?" Sampson immediately goes "Yeah, I'm a director and he is a producer". Her eyes light right up, so we had to let her down gently. She's was like, "Oh, it seems like everyone is in the movie business around here". After we sat down, I went to Sampson, "They aren't really in the movie business sweetie, they just want to have sex with you".

The place wasn't without it's faults. For one, it was closed for strange reasons way too often. Too many times someone came into town and wanted a fairly cheap, relaxed meal, I couldn't wait to take them to WSBC. I would hype up the wings and promise I could pick them out a great beer, only to roll up to the place and see a note scrawled on the door explaining some strange circumstance which precluding them from being open.

About a year and a half ago construction began on The Harrison, which took up most of the block between 76th and 77th & Amsterdam and Broadway. It was well boarded off, but through the slats, you could catch a glimpse of the cavernous void that claimed Amsterdam Billiards.

One night I walked in to the bathroom and in the corner underneath the urinal there was a gigantic hole, looking right down into a 25 foot deep rubble-filled pit. That must have violated the health code, because two nights later they embarked a a little hiatus for a month or two.

In the three years we've been going there, they never changed their menu. It's not like it diverted us from stopping by, but as a place that had a pretty large regular customer base, you'd think they'd have wanted to switch it up a little bit.

It is also extremely close to The Beacon and it gets a lot of spillover, which can be annoying if you want to get a seat at the bar. They occasionally even play the music of the act that is on that night. One night Kelly Clarkston was in town and we got sat down right next to a table full of pre-teen girls who knew the words to every single song, and weren't afraid to sing along at full roar.

Sometime last year, our friend Ian was around and we popped into Westside to grab some food. We got the wings (as always) I ordered a Hawaiian pizza, Sampson got a burger and Ian got the tuna melt. The pizza always takes longer to begin with, but at one point I glanced over my shoulder and happen to spot the our waitress and my pizza in mid-air headed towards an inevitable demise.

She didn't think we saw it happen and about two minutes later, after the mess had been cleaned up, she came over and said "Sorry guys, your food will be up in like 5 minutes. Want another beer?" We didn't feel like correcting her just yet, and let it slide.

She eventually brought us over the food and as she's sliding the pizza in front of me, I go, "Round two on this one, huh?" She stopped for a second and goes, "Yeah, I was kinda hoping you guys didn't see that". She was cute and we laughed it off. When Ian got terrible food poisoning an hour later, he wasn't laughing. There's not way of telling, but I'm pretty sure the 20 minutes that tuna melt spent under the lamps didn't help. That didn't stop us from going back either.

The allure was obviously the beers, for me personally. It was always crowded, so I don't think I'm alone in that respect. They absolutely always had a high quality Double IPA on tap, whose hoppy character was an unlikely match for the wings. Ten beers every week allows for some pretty serious breadth and they did a pretty good job of managing the selection.

I really don't go out to dinner than much because we have a grill and SeamlessWeb (and I have no money), so I'm probably the last person who is going to get sentimental about an eatery closing it's doors. Evelyn Lounge... now that was a tragedy. But wow, this sucks a fucking lot. I was moving my car the other night, saw the papered up windows and went out of my typical loop so I could email Sampson a picture with the caption "RIP Westside Brew Co." from my iPhone.

It's not all doom and gloom though. I was trawling the message boards over at Beer Advocate and found this little gem:
I have an infallible source telling me this place will be re-opened under new management in a few weeks. And by new management, I mean guys who know how to run an outstanding beer bar. UWSers should be psyched. More to follow.
It's a message board, so I'm not going to get my hopes up, but please, please, please almighty Beer Gods, get something in there soon. It's not fair. I'm dying inside.


----

I just went out to take the daytime pictures above and as I was standing there, a guy with one of those chest baby pouch/carriers and his wife walk up. The dude was probably in his 30's and with a forlorn look on his face he said "It's like, closed, man."

Friday, February 27, 2009

5 x 81 = 405

I know lots of people were up in arms about the obstructed view bleacher seats at The New Yankee Stadium when they were still being sold for full price. Now they are $5, and I really can't think of a better value in all of sports, and possibly all of life.

Here is a short list of other things that cost $5:
  1. Half of a shitty beer at the New Stadium
  2. A pint of shitty light beer elsewhere in the city
  3. Two slices at Freddie & Pepper's (one cheese and one white slice with broccoli, zucchini and ricotta on whole wheat crust or a buffalo chicken with cross-checked bleu cheese)
  4. A foot-long sandwich from Subway
  5. Two Olde English 40oz (paper bags included)
  6. Roughly 12 cigarettes
  7. A 10 block cab ride with tip (estimated)
  8. A shoe shine (plus tip)
  9. 2 1/2 subway rides
  10. A small frozen yogurt at Pinkberry with three toppings
  11. The Sunday NYT
  12. One share of GE stock, 2 shares of GM, or 3 1/3 of CitiGroup
  13. 2 pairs of socks at a street fair
  14. One Titleist Pro-V1
  15. A NYS Lottery Win For Life scratch-off
  16. A program at the Saratoga Race Track
  17. One pound of sirloin at Fairway
  18. A shot of Jameson

I'd rather have a ticket to a Yankee game at the New Stadium than any three of those, regardless of how bad the view is. Well, depending on how the scratch-off turned out, I might have to take that plus two shots of Jameson.

Last year, our Saturday Package was about $330, for Tier Reserved Section 7 Row M. That put us between home and first, with a view of the whole field, but pretty far up there. Not exactly a location that was going to impress anyone, but there was a bathroom and a beer dispensary right at the entrance to our section. That's only 13 games, though.

Yes, the seats are obstructed view, but unlike the Old Stadium, you aren't sequestered like you are in a leper colony in out centerfield. You have access to the rest of the park, and although you can't take beers back to your seat, you can certainly drink them walking around.

It's basically a Standing Room Only ticket. Back when the Beacon Theater wasn't owned by MSG/Cablevision and diabolically corporatized, they used to have SRO tix for the mezzanine level. The sound was 100 times better than the balcony, and who cares if you don't have your own seat? Sitting down at a concert in not in my playbook.

Granted, standing for an entire baseball game would kind of suck, but if that picture above is anywhere near accurate you'll be able to see everything except left-center and over. I can live with that. Plus, you can always watch on the monitors on the side of the sports bar. It's better than your couch, right? Hell, you can just go in the sports bar.

After the initial rush of everyone wanting to get out to the Stadium for the first time, you are going to be able to spot some empties in the upper deck and park it there for a while too. And of course, I'll try to sneak into better seats than that and document the escapades for this here cyberblogsite.

I don't know how gestapo-like the security is going to be at The Structure That Mariano Rivera Erected, but the concourses are supposed to be more open and have better views of the field. I wouldn't mind crusing around, sipping on a really expensive beer (or ginger ale I spiked with my flask of Johnny Red) and taking in the different vantage points. I can understand if you wouldn't do it because are older or have kids, that sounds like a pretty fantastic deal to me.

Just to recap, you could (theoretically) get full season tickets for the New Yankee Stadium for $75 more than we paid for our Saturday package last year. If I wanted to wait on hold for an hour and then be told to go fuck myself, I'd look into this right now.

All I wanna know is... Who's coming with me?





Jan, thank you Jan!


[Sorry, but that abomination was the only version I could find. God, I don't know why the fuck that person felt the need to remix, edit and thereby bastardize such a brilliant cinematic moment, but I'll bet you anything Jim Bruer would like to stub his joint out in their eye]

Countdown To Opening Day: #37

Sorry, I got decked with something unexpected that isn't my responsibility and I'd reaaaally rather not do this morning at work. I have a post in the works, but it could be a little while. Here are some Casey Stengel Spring Training pictures to hold you over.



And now the action shots!

Talking about balance, maybe?
Or possibly just wasted


He just punted the rosin bag in those one, apparently


The Yankees also learned ballroom dancing at Spring Training

(You may notice that I took the header for the site from another shot from this sequence.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Joba to De-Virginize New Yankee Stadium?

Based on the rotation that Joe Girardi has set forth...
  1. Sabathia
  2. Burnett
  3. Wang
  4. Pettitte
  5. Chamberlain

...and the Yankees schedule, New York Post genius George King has penciled Joba in as the starter for the Opener of the New Yankee Stadium (by the way, how long will this Yankee Stadium be called "New"?).

Says King:

Since Chamberlain would work on April 11, he would be in line to start April 16 against the Indians at the Stadium.

"I don't want to give that to you yet because there is a lot of things that can change in spring training," Girardi said of which pitcher will draw the prestigious Stadium opener.
I'm not sure that I buy King's hypothesis. Given the many off-days in the beginning of the season (both scheduled and as a result of Mother Nature being a bitch in the Northeast at this time of the year), a few guys will be skipped, as is ordinarily the case. The prime skip candidate is Joba himself, whose 2009 innings need to be limited to around 150-160 given his total of 100 1/3 IP last year.

Given that Joba will probably be skipped, Andy Pettitte, Sabathia or Burnett are the prime candidates for the Opener.

Thanks for the blog content, George!

Huggins-Stengel Field

[Ed. Note: Sorry folks, the content is going to be somewhat fluffy today, as I've got a lot of (actual) work to do.]

Here are some pictures from Huggins-Stengel Field in St. Petersburg, the site of Yankees Spring Training from 1925-1942, 1946-1950, and 1952-1961. After the Yankees vacated the site, it was used by the Mets from 1961 to 1988, then by the Orioles and the (at the time Devil) Rays in the 90's.



Legend has it that the reason the Yankees moved to St. Pete from New Orleans after the 1924 season was to eliminate the temptation for the Babe to carouse around Bourbon Street. The Babe was said to have lofted a blast into the alligator infested Crescent Lake some 500 feet from home plate, as was Dave Kingman.

The park was first known as Crescent Lake Field but was changed to Miller Huggins Field in 1931. The name was altered to honor Casey Stengel as well in 1963.

The book Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends and Unexplained Events, by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon details some of the supposedly supernatural occurrences at the field, if you are into that sort of thing. They say, sometimes, when it's just you and a couple other equally irrational/superstitious people, you can still smell Miller Huggins' cigar smoke.

Here is a picture taken last October from an article in USA Today.

You can also check out a really cool slideshow here.

Fantastic News

Fack Youk has been picked up by ESPN:



Despite of all the Widget bashing, erroneous Simmons hating, and Nate Silver questioning, we are now part of the ESPN family. They've specifically requested more incoherent rants from Big Willie Style.

[Ed. Note: That's not a photoshop, just a random Internet Explorer glitch.]

Jerry Reese, I Am Available

The Sporting News has a rather earth-shattering revelation, via the Cincinnati Enquirer:
Wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh of the Bengals is the top free agent on the New York Giants' wish list, according to The Sporting News.

>8

While Houshmandzadeh is a reliable receiver, TSN noted, "there is no way to find a comparable replacement to Plaxico Burress, as 6-5 receivers with speed and a huge wingspan are almost impossible to find. Burress faces a serious legal battle and possible jail time as a result of illegal gun charges."

If you were one of the six people reading this blog a month and a half ago you may recall this post. No? Perhaps this one from a week later.

I threw out the possibility of TJ Houshmandzadeh, who is going to be a free agent, because the Giants won't have to give anything up besides money and cap space. Up until this season, Housh has taken a backseat to the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson. TJ caught 905 of the 2672 yards thrown for by Bengals QBs in 2008, and has had more touchdowns than Ocho in each of the past three years. But he's 6'1", 199, and 31 years old.

Come on Jerry Reese, you know you need a guy with no experience in professional sports and a sometimes vulgar sports blog on your staff. You can find my email address on the left side of the site. I look forward to hearing from you.

/pats self on back

//toots own horn

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spike Lee Plays D

I don't know who would be penalized, but I'm fairly sure this is against the rules.

With the Knicks down by two and under a minute to go, Spike Lee decided to get his lean on and help Al Harrington force the Magic to spend their last timeout. Well played, sir.

Spike is trying to be fairly discreet, but unfortunately, the guy in the suit next to him looks like he's about to piss himself.

Dueling Projections


I have taken considerable heat for my post on Nate Silver's A-Rod projections in our comment section and elsewhere. As always, here at Fack Youk, we subscribe to Benjamin Disraeli's quote "It is easier to be critical than right". As the result of some goading from a commenter named Fridas Boss at Baseball Think Factory, I have used some cutting edge statistical techniques to develop my own projection for how many home runs Alex Rodriguez will amass over the course of his career.

First, for the record, here are Nate's projections again (with A-Rod's past two years).


One thing I didn't notice before was that Silver's projection lasts two years beyond A-Rod's current contract. I'm going to go out on a limb here, but if A-Rod hits four home runs in 2017 and is at 726 total, I don't think the Yankees, or any team for that matter, are going to sign him.


-----


My method was extremely complex and exhaustive. Here are the steps I took.
  1. Used the later years of Frank Robinson, Eddie Murray, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Babe Ruth to see, in total, how some of the greatest home run hitters of all-time have produced during their decline phases. I excluded Barry Bonds because of his atypical middle aged physical metamorphosis, despite the fact that he a A-Rod are both alleged PED users.


  2. Combined that and A-Rod's previous totals to develop a trend line for doubles.


  3. And for slugging percentage, factoring in his declining speed and the negative impact it will have on his SLG%.

  4. Combined those three lines into a conglomerate trend line I called his Projected Power Index (PPI)


  5. Estimated the ballpark effects of the New Yankee Stadium based on the prevailing weather patterns in April through September and the way it the diamond now faces.

  6. Used all of these in conjunction with his previous home run numbers, taking into account his steroid use in Texas (increased production minus park effects) to create his Projected Home Runs (PHRs).


  7. Decided all of that that would be way too difficult and possibly counterproductive, and instead picked the number "792" which would ensure that if he breaks the record, I will be closer than Nate by a couple of HRs. I then back-filled the numbers making sure there wasn't a drop off every single year since that was something I took issue with.


  8. Behold:

One of the things I said in the last post, but probably should have emphasized more was:

I realize that the most reliable way to predict future outcomes is by analyzing past events. However, the flaw in using this methodology is that it becomes impossible to predict when someone will do unprecedented things. Simply put, how is analyzing 20 guys, none of whom is the career home run leader, ever going to result in the simulation predicting A-Rod will break the all-time record?

Commenter scatterbrian nailed it:

It seems futile to attempt projecting a career that is an outlier. Rodriguez had 91 extra-base hits in his age-20 season, so we're dealing with a pretty rare player as it is. (DiMaggio and Pujols each had 89 in their age-21 seasons.) Using guys like Grich, Caminiti and Sandberg as comps doesn't seem fair to Rodriguez. Combined those three have only four seasons with 30+ homers. Rodriguez has hit less that 35 just one time.
The point of an individual projection, at least to me, is not to produce a seemingly exhaustive and all-encompassing methodology. The objective is to be right.

PETCOA is obviously more complex and accurate overall than anything I could ever hope to construct. However, the point of the previous post was to call into question a method that is only going to produce one result: A-Rod falling short of the all-time home run record.

Silver's projection serves to remind us that A-Rod breaking Hank Aa-- er, Barry Bonds' record is far from a foregone conclusion based on pretty much every career path that has taken shape in the history of baseball. I just don't think A-Rod fits that mold.

Only time will tell.

-----

Oh and by the way, I made a similar projection for his home run totals this year, based on his performance in Spring Training. You probably won't believe it, but he is currently on pace for 162 HRs in 2009: A-Rod homers in first spring game [ESPN]

The Stolen Base: Fallen From Grace

With the advent of the Juiced Era and an emphasis on sabermetrics by front offices around MLB, the stolen base has declined in use around the game.

One of the most telling disadvantages of stealing bases is measured by the run expectation stat. Below is the run expectation chart for the 2003 MLB season (thanks to writer Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus).


Based on this chart, a runner on first with no one out is worth .9116 runs. A successful steal of second base with no one out would bump that to 1.1811 runs, a gain of .2695 expected runs. However, in the unfortunate event that a runner is caught stealing second base, the run expectation stat drops to .2783. This is a loss of nearly 2/3 of a run (2.3 times more than the gain).

Why would managers risk this chance for a run and give up one of 27 precious outs? Unless it is late in the game and there is a need for a tying run, the batter is a ground into double play threat, or there is next to little chance that the batter at the plate cannot drive the runner in from first (i.e. low slugging percentage), it is stupid.

Horrible times to steal bases include early in the game, when you need multiple runs (baserunners are important) and when a big slugger is at the plate.

In his article, Sheehan points out that the belief that running distracts defenses is misplaced or exaggerated. Sheehan correctly states that "a runner on first is more disruptive to a defense, with the first baseman holding and the second baseman cheating towards second for a double play, than a runner on second." He also points out the distraction that running has on the batter. How many times have we seen a batter give up an out by flailing at pitches in the dirt so that the runner can advance? If the batter strikes out and the runner is thrown out, the run expectation goes from .9100 to .1083 in an instant.

Sheehan concludes that break even rate for a stolen base is a 75% success rate. Thus, players with less than a 75% success rate should not even attempt to steal. In fact, if your speed is your only asset and you have less than or barely a 75% success rate, you shouldn't even be on a roster (ahem, Scott Podsednik).

Stealing bases also presents injury risks. Why risk the injury of high-salaried slugger such as an A-Rod, Vladimir Guerrero or Alfonso Soriano? The benefit that these players provide at the dish is immensely higher than their base stealing benefits.

With the decline in Performance Enhancing Drugs and subsequently the decline in the number of home runs, it will be interesting to see if the number of stolen bases returns to 1980s levels when Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman and Rock Raines ran wild. Having a few .390+ OBP/85+% SB guys can make a team lethal so long as they are in front of a few power hitters. However, as evidenced by the teams mentioned in Sheehan's article, teams shouldn't run just to run.

Better Beer: Beer Advocate's Extreme Beer Festival [Part II]

(Be sure to check out Part I reporting on the Night of the Barrels)

So Jay and I decided after the Night of the Barrels that we were going to head to my lady friend Rachel's house, as it was her roommate's birthday, and a gathering had formed. While cloudiness on the evening certainly exists, I'm almost certain that the whole time we were there we played a game they called "Flong", a combo of Flip Cup and Beer Pong. Rather than get into the rules, I just Googled it, and here was my first result if you are at all interested (I'm yet to stop chuckling at the fact that they call Flip Cup, Flippy Cup). This one game lasted about 2 hours - leading to unnecessary mass consumption of Miller Lite and Jay passing out on the back staircase (naturally).

The plan WAS to take it easy after NotB so we could feel refreshed and ready for 1 pm the next day. Welp, both us awoke pretty groggy and beat. But we showered and rallied, met my friend Watts on the 57, and headed back to the church of brews.

The glassed ceiling of Cyclorama, home to the festival.

I love day drinking. Nothing like throwing a few back with the sun beating down on your face. Thus when any beer festivals hit, I'm always sure to take the afternoon session. The weather warmed from the frigid 15 degrees with wind the night prior, to a comfortable windless 40-something. This session was done up much more than the night prior, as breweries had their posters and t-shirts hanging behind their booths.

The Three Floyd's station had by far the most bad ass promo garb. Unfortunately this poster was not for sale - though I just found it online, and likely will be purchasing it and dropping a few tabs of acid.

There were so many bad ass beers on Saturday (over 100), that Watts and I planned ahead and made a Excel spreadsheet of 50 or so that we wanted to get to. In the end we probably had sampled just about 30-35 brews, which we figured would be the likely target. My favorites were as follows..

You're not going to get to try this beer unless you visit the brewery just outside of the city of champions. This brew was divine, brewed with honey, Gewurztraminer and voignier grapes, and then aged in chardonnay barrels. It certainly had a big wine flavor, but replacing the acidity was the mellow, creamy greatness of an English barleywine.

The Bruery - White Oak
You may have remembered me creaming myself yesterday as I mentioned The Bruery stealing the show for me. My absolute favorite beer of the two days was the White Oak - so brand new that there is no link on the interweb out there for it. White Oak is their new wheat wine, fermented with a Belgian yeast strain, and then aged in bourbon barrels. So smooth, so rich, perfect sweetness, perfect smell. I wrote down on the piece of paper where I was marking my likes and dislikes, "Sooooooo good". Really the only way to put it.

~

Overall the weekend's festival was great. Granted, Sunday somewhat was a disaster as Jay lost his keys, but stupid shit like that is expected after consuming massive amounts of extreme beer. It's Wednesday now, and I'd say I'm finally now feeling normal and detoxed. That said, The Bruery lands in my favorite beer store tonight - so it's time to jump back on the horse!

Yesterday

(Benjamin Molina with Yadier pictured above)

Peter Abraham has a story about the passing of Jose Molina's father in LoHud this morning.
Despite having three sons in the major leagues, Benjamin Molina continued to work at a factory on an assembly line. Only after his death did the brothers learn that he intended to retire in December to spend more time with their mother.

"He used to say he worked to get the health insurance for my mom," Molina said. "We told him we would take care of that, but he loved to work. I could tell you hours and hours of stories like that. There was nothing bad about him."

There is no way a father can have three sons at the same position in the major leagues without knowing a whole lot about baseball, teaching and hard work.

I lost my dad a while back and although I never played baseball, my dad was a lot like Mr. Molina. When I was six years old he started taking me to the driving range and eventually let me play in from the 150 yard markers. I owe a lot of my golf skills to the fact that my dad wasn't afraid to push me to try harder.

He'd get up at 5AM during the week and bust his ass at SOFCO during the day but would usually stop by The Edison Club on the way home to pound some balls and could always be found at sunset on the putting green.

You have to hang in 'til the end, but this song will hit home if you've lost your father.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Have Nothing To Add To This

"The only thing left to answer about this case, for now, is what kind of wacko attempts to seduce porn stars by posing as a career .248 utility player?" [Deadspin]

He Also Picked Mickey Rourke...

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but Nate Silver's projections of A-Rod's home run totals just don't look right. Here is his description of his methodology:
I took Rodriguez's top 20 PECOTA-comparable players and averaged their performances over each remaining season of their careers. Actually, the process was a little more complicated than that (each comparable's performance was adjusted for his park and league context, as well as his previous track record, and we had to make an accommodation for guys like Manny Ramirez who made A-Rod's comparables list but have yet to conclude their own careers). But the basic idea is simple: Comparables like Frank Robinson, who aged well, have a favorable effect on Rodriguez's forecast, and players like Caminini [sic] just the opposite one.
And here are the projections (I've added A-Rod's two previous seasons in white):

There are three glaring problems to me.
  1. Silver predicts a near-linear decline, with each total being 2-6HR lower than the preceding year. This, of course, is the result you are going to get when you take his "top 20 PETCOA-comparable players" like Silver did. If you take any 20 players and average their careers, the total number of home runs is almost always going to decline with age. Increase the sample size and it will always decline. The only problem is, over that ten year period it is extremely unlikely that any individual player is going to have that consistent of a downward slide. I will bet anyone reading $100 that this doesn't happen to A-Rod. First one to take the bet in the comments is on, we can iron out the details later.

  2. A-Rod is going to be able to DH at some point. Common knowledge would suggest that playing regularly in the field puts wear and tear on a body, draining energy in individual games and effectively shortening careers. Many of his comparables didn't have that luxury and were driven out of the league because they were no longer well-rounded players, not just because they could no longer be effective at the plate and hit home runs.

  3. The problem with being on pace to be the greatest home run hitter of all time is that you aren't going to have too many people similar to you.

Here are Alex's 20 comparables (and their career HR totals):

  1. Sammy Sosa (609)
  2. Bobby Grich (224)
  3. Dave Winfield (465)
  4. Ken Caminiti (239)
  5. Ryne Sandberg (282)
  6. Frank Robinson (586)
  7. Dwight Evans (385)
  8. Jeff Bagwell (449)
  9. George Brett (317)
  10. Reggie Jackson (563)
  11. Hank Aaron (755)
  12. Greg Luzinski (307)
  13. Albert Belle (381)
  14. Reggie Smith (314)
  15. Manny Ramirez (527, Inc.)
  16. Carlos Delgado (469, Inc.)
  17. Dick Allen (351)
  18. Doug DeCinces (237)
  19. Larry Walker (383)
  20. Tony Perez (379)

Granted, PETCOA's comparables are based on a ton of things besides home runs, but the problem with this list is that A-Rod already has more HRs than 16 of the guys on it. He has twice as many as his second and fourth closest matches and his career isn't over. I know Nate is going to lean on his own projection system for a variety of reasons, but it would probably have made more sense to look at the top 20 career HR leaders. We are, after all, trying to predict how many home runs he is going to hit and he's already #12 on the list.

I realize that the most reliable way to predict future outcomes is by analyzing past events. However, the flaw in using this methodology is that it becomes impossible to predict when someone will do unprecedented things. Simply put, how is analyzing 20 guys, none of whom is the career home run leader, ever going to result in the simulation predicting A-Rod will break the all-time record?

Look what happens when you line up A-Rod's projections with Hammerin' Hank's:


For one thing, last year, A-Rod played in only 138 games. If he played 156 games, he was on pace for almost exactly 43 HRs, right in line with a 32 year old Aaron.

Where the big differentials come in, are from ages 35-39. As A-Rod enters his steady plunge into oblivion (98HR, 19.6/year), Hank checks in with 203 round-trippers (40.6 per year) including the highest single season total of his career (47 at age 37).

There's no guarantee that A-Rod will hit even one more home run. He could get struck by lightning tomorrow. I just don't think that Alex is going to take the field on a consistent basis and gradually slide off into oblivion like PETCOA projects. The truly eye opening part of Silver's projection is that he'll would still only be 33 HRs away from the all-time record even if he is as bad as the simulation predicts.

-----

Before you leave a comment telling me how much of a moron I am, I've posted my own projections here.

I Stand Corrected

Earlier today, I wrote a post detailing The Sports Guy's on-air complaints about ESPN's policy regarding what radio shows he was allowed to appear on. I was wrong about what he was referring to in his cloaked bitching to ESPN management.


Awful Announcing
now has the audio:



I thought ESPN didn't want him to go on with Max Kellerman in favor of Colin Cowherd's National show. He has never been on The Herd, in no small part due to the feud that I brought up in the previous post.

I did some more in-depth research and here is an except from one of Simmons' chats:

Kevin (Chappaqua, NY): Bill, with the Mike and the Maddog show no longer on the airways and the classic radio 1, 2 combo having gone their separate ways, What do you think there interactions will be at their first Super Bowl apart? I'm sure they will be fighting for guests, giving evil snickers and stares across radio row, while Mike sips on his Diet Coke and Dog fidgets uncontrollably in his chair. My questionthough is if you were asked to go on both shows and only had time for one, who you going with?

Bill Simmons: I would go on Mike's show. There's a 85% chance that Dog has never read a single thing I've written. Mike and I have a love-hate relationship (mostly love) but at least he reads me... the last time I was on, they grabbed me on Media Row and I was sick... I want a second chance... sadly it can never happen because I am not allowed to go on non-ESPN shows ... even though the show that goes against Mike's (Michael Kay) has never asked me to come on. Yup, this is my company.

So as commenter JJV first pointed out, the show that he was talking about wanting to appear on was Mike Francesa's (Mike'd Up) and the show that hadn't invited him on was the Michael Kay Show on 1050, which is up against Mike'd Up.

I think my overall point still stands. Simmons is a bit of a drama queen and never misses an opportunity to publicly slam ESPN for any policy that he disagrees with. I find it hard to believe he's really that upset about not being ask to go on Michael Kay's show.

As The Big Lead pointed out, it's not a great match, seeing that Michael Kay is predominantly a Yankees guy and bringing Simmons on wouldn't really appeal to his audience. Has there been a good reason to bring him on? It's not like TSG has been promoting anything recently.

I would tend to think that Simmons is just bitching because he can't go on Francesa's show and is just using the fact that Michael Kay hasn't asked him to come on (without any incentive to do so) as an excuse to whine about ESPN management (again).

I respect what Simmons does, but ESPN pays him close to $1M, and I don't think anyone held a gun to his head when he agreed to the terms of the contract. He has a job that every blogger would trade for in a second, even if you had to take his annoying nasally voice and were consigned to writing 90% of your columns about Boston teams for the rest of your career. I just get the feeling that no matter what happens, he's going to be a malcontent.

Still, I was wrong, and thought the record should be set straight. An anonymous commenter on the last post really summed it up, though:
Anonymous said...
Yeah dont be a dipshit, the show he wants to go on is Mike'd Up on WFAN (Formerly Mike and the Mad Dog)but he is not allowed by ESPN and he is not invited on the ESPN--1050 Michael Kay Show. Dont just spill diarhea [sic] from your mouth.
Buzz Bissinger, is that you? I believe in this case the "diarhea" would have been flowing from the tips of my fingers since these are the interwebnets and I actually had to type all of that up. Also, apostrophes are your friends, don't be afraid to use them. Thanks for your input, though. Feel free to share your sage and flawlessly written insights anytime, whoever the fuck you are.

Better Beer: Beer Advocate's Extreme Beer Festival [Part I]


As you likely already know by now, our fearless leader Jay and I went spent this past weekend in a domed room full of brews that were showcasing the limitless ways that beer can and will hopefully go. BeerAdvocate.com, by far my favorite website and brew-mag, hosted I believe their 4th Extreme Beer Festival this past weekend. We decided to attend the Friday night special barrel aged section as well as the first main session the following day, a mere 15.5 hours after our last pour from the night prior.

I took some messy notes, and through a two part hazy recollection of events, tastes, and smells - I'll fill you in on some of my favorites, as I hope to get you to reach for something other than a Coors Light (Fack Youk cares about your taste buds).

Night of the Barrels (link)
Friday night's session was basically a beer festival for the people in the industry. All beers were poured by volunteers, with a good portion of attendance comprised of the brewers from the various operations that had brought their tasty treats to the festival. The theme for the night was for beers to be aged in wooden barrels. Many of these barrels used to house bourbon or wines, creating aromas and tastes one normally wouldn't associate with hop and malt elixirs. Some of the beers were brewed specially for the event, while others were aged spins on regular offerings. I will not hesitate to fetch any of the following off the shelf should I ever cross paths with them:

I was most excited this weekend about trying Three Floyd's brews. They are located in Indiana, and unfortunately do not distribute to the Boston area. I had about four samples of this, as I couldn't help but come back to it. Hvedegoop is a wheat wine, which is a full flavored strong ale, with tastes pushed by the use of wheat malt. This brew brought a lot of butter and toffee flavors - and was just tasted very balanced. If you clicked on the link above and read any of the reviews, you'll see that many have found it too boozy. The cure for cutting down on a brew's alcoholic flavor is to age it in your basement or in a wooden barrel - as was the case for my experience.

I am super excited that The Bruery of Orange County, California is starting to distribute out to the Northeast. They were by far my favorite brewery of the fest, and you'll hear more about them in part II of this review. The Melange #3 was a blend of three of their beers - Papier (old ale), Partridge in a Pear Tree (quad), and White Oak (wheat wine) - all aged in bourbon barrels. The brew clocked in at an intimidating 15% ABV, but was incredibly drinkable. The body was dark as night, and the flavors were an orgasmic blend of the old ale's caramel, the quad's dark dark fruit, and the wheat wines bready backbone. Summer Roberts is no longer the only reason I want to move to the O.C.


I was trying to figure out why this beer was at the festival, as J.W. Lees is a British Brewery, and I don't think any of their reps were there. That said, I wasn't complaining, as I've always eyed these $10+ 12 oz. bottles at the stores. I can justify spending $10-$15 on a 22oz or 750ml bottle of beer, as that size is the equivalent of wine bottle. But I'm not spending more than that on something I've never had. Well friends, I will likely be picking up some of these incredibly flavorful barley wines. Lots of honey, dark fruits, and sweet bread shine through. Wish I had a chance to try it again, or the 2005 vintage.

I am not a huge fan of stouts and it generally takes a lot for me to be wowed by them, as there are just so many solid ones out there. I was really looking forward to sampling Bell's, again as they don't ship their beers to Boston. I was not let down by this offering. This was incredibly milky but not overly sweet, with notes of maple and vanilla.

-----

With the price of admission, we also received food prepared by the Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston. Jay and I both had their Arrogant Bastard sauced Steak Chili. It was phenomenal, packing a ton of flavor and bringing some serious heat.

Perhaps our one complaint about the Night of the Barrels was the excessive bourbon aged offerings. Don't get me wrong, love the smells and tastes of bourbon - it just felt like every beer was bringing a lot of the same things to the table. Other than that, it was a great time.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II, as I review session I from Saturday.

Bill Simmons: Kind Of A Drama Queen?


[Ed. note - 1:57PM: It has been brought to my attention that some of the assumptions I made in this post were wrong and I've corrected them in this post. However, I stand by the title and general premise of the article.]

Yesterday during the Max Kellerman Show on 1050 ESPN Radio in New York, the Sports Fella popped on. They two are excellent foils to each other as both have unique perspectives and represent New York and Boston, respectively. They would make a fantastic radio combo, but ESPN would never put them together. Simmons anti-establishment position has been well-documented, and Kellerman has clashed with executives at ESPN, as well as FOX.

So, yesterday it took Simmons all of thirty seconds to start complaining about ESPN and their restrictive policies as to which radio shows he can or can not appear on.

[Ed. Note: I had to edit out some of Kellerman's excessive verbal tics, but other than that, the transcript is basically word for word]
[around the 0:40 mark (open that link in a new window)]

Max Kellerman
: ...then I was mentioning, like, how you have a standing invite to come onto this show and you have invited me onto your podcast and everything, but is it kind of like... you have a friend that you are friendly with and everything, but you are like "Come over" or "Yeah, we'll see you" but you don't really mean it...? Is that what it's like with us?

Bill Simmons: No. No, what I said was... You know, we have the rule that ESPN talent can only go on ESPN shows, which is fine, but, you know, there are some shows that I'd like to go on, and I'm not allowed to go on, but then the show that's going against that show, has never invited me on.

Max Kellerman: I see...

Bill Simmons: So, basically I'm just banned from whatever that time slot is...

Max Kellerman: Oh I see, I see, I see what you are saying...

Bill Simmons: Yeah, without getting into details...
The show that he'd "like to go on" is obviously the Max Kellerman Show, but he's obviously "allowed to go on", considering he was on it right then. The show airs from 10:00AM to 1:00PM on the New York affiliate. The show on opposite that on the national stream? The Herd with Colin Cowherd (who has never invited Simmons on). If you'll recall, there was a dust up between Simmons and Cowherd about a year and a half ago:

While we're here, my ESPN colleague Colin Cowherd mocked my seven trade scenarios for Kobe on the radio last week without reading the entire column or even attempting to understand its premise, namely, that the trade options for Kobe were limited because (A) he needed to go to a big market for a team that could contend right away, and (B) nobody pays 100 cents on the dollar for a team looking to unload an unhappy superstar.

And if that wasn't bad enough, Cowherd embarrassed himself by not understanding basic NBA trading principles like "it would be valuable for L.A. to swap Vlad Radmanovic's contract for Bobby Sura's expiring contract in a T-Mac/Kobe deal because Sura's contract expires in 2008, which would buy them some cap space down the road."

Look, I know the radio business lends itself to hosts lazily skimming other people's columns and blogs ... but seriously, Colin, in the words of Mark Jackson, you're better than that. Your show's on for three hours a day and you get four giant commercial breaks per hour. That leaves you plenty of time to research your segments so you don't come off as misinformed. No offense.

Those are all fair points, but dumping "No offense" after saying someone "embarrassed himself" and using the word "lazily" in reference to their professional work ethic is like taking a shit on their pillow and then putting a mint on top. Cowherd later retorted that his show was actually on for four hours a day (from 6-7 Pacific time is his "mysterious West Coast hour") and that Simmons was in fact the uninformed one.

It never went any further than that and both ESPNers have publicly laid the conflict to rest.

But here is the weird thing. After Simmons calls out ESPN for not letting him go on Kellerman's show, this appears on the front page of ESPN.com.

If ESPN didn't want Simmons to go on Kellerman's show, why would they give it such a prominent billing that same day? (It's still up as of 8:00AM on Tuesday). Is this just Simmons and his blogging alter ego, (still complete with a picture of Tim Robbins at his breaking point in Shawshank) whining about ESPN's policies, again?

Would ESPN put that up knowing that the podcast leads off with Simmons' trademark ESPN bashing? The segment was about 18 minutes long and Simmons congratulates Kellerman at the end for running long.
Simmons: You know what, I love the fact that you fought the man and stayed on past that 8/40, 20/20 break.

Kellerman: I'm not playing around, I'm not playing games. Let me tell you something, it was 35 break, not 40. How do you like that?

Is Simmons just being a baby or constructing this talent vs. executive conflict in his own mind? He was clearly allowed to appear on the show and it was given as high profile a link as a random radio spot ever gets. I like Simmons, but I think I have to side with ESPN on this one; he's being a drama queen.

The other outstanding issue: It would be very unESPNlike to feature something on their front page with this kind of outright anti-management rhetoric. I thought the whole segment was fantastic and perhaps the editors just thought it was good enough to feature anyway.

Your thoughts?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad



[Ed. Note: I flipped the format here a little bit so you can listen to the song and read the post at the same time.]

A few of you actually inquired as to how I made it back to New York yesterday, so just to tie up the loose ends and acknowledge those who helped me overcome my absent-minded idiocy, here is a picture recap/synopsis of how it went down.

I was packed up and ready to leave Boston Bren's place at about 9:00am when I was unable to locate my keys. I searched for about forty five minutes myself, canvassing every obvious place, emptying my bag and backpack and cursing under my breath non-stop. The car was unlocked, so I was able to check and see if they were in there, or if there was a spare key kicking around. No dice. I woke Brendan up, he woke his roommates up, and after another hour or so of intense searching, we were at quite the impasse.

Believe it or not, Googling "Hotwire 1999 Mercury Sable" doesn't really turn up anything useful. It was Sunday, so the service department at Clark & White wasn't open. I called AAA, but the girl literally laughed at me when I asked if there was anything they could do. Thanks.

The only two sets of spare keys were at my mom's house upstate. My sister was headed down to the city because she was flying from JFK to Turks & Caicos the next morning. As a result, the wheels started turning, and by saving the train fare from Albany to NYC, there was actually a mild incentive for them to meet me halfway down the Mass Pike. I have family in the Boston area, and my cousin Brendan and his girlfriend were cool enough to drive me the other half.

To add insult to injury there was a pretty serious storm moving through covering the Berkshires in snow and Boston in rain.

We met in Wilbraham, which happens to be the home to the headquarters of Friendly's. There is one right off the exit and we chose that as a rendezvous point. Since this was apparently a flagship location of sorts, they had some interesting wall hangings.

There were a bunch of pictures of their HQ and the top one says "Public Safety Complex".

What really stole the show, however, were the pictures with items that you can order at a Friendly's inserted into them.

It is obscured by the lighting, but that appears to be a coffee flavored ice cream sundae ambling down a path towards the beach. There were others including a similar one with the sundae next to a lighthouse and one with a Ruben peeking around the corner of a barn. Dazzling. If they weren't gigantic and glued to the wall I would have tried to take one.

From there we went back to Brendan's house, spare keys in hand, and picked up the car. We got on the road at about 4 and headed back to NYC. There was a healthy wintry mix until about New Haven but it didn't really slow the process down too much.

So... we made it back to the city at about 8:00PM, and in a somewhat ironic twist of "too little, too late" I got a parking spot right on my street, about 50 feet from my building.

The point of this wasn't to bore you with the details of my shitty day, but rather to point out that I'm pretty lucky to have six different people who didn't mind ruining their day to bail me out. Thanks guys, I owe you one.

Countdown To Opening Day: #41

The Yankees have a long history of getting great players just as they are exiting their prime and their 2005 aquisition of Randy Johnson was a perfect example.

-----

When the Yankees got The Big Unit, I couldn't have been more excited. I got a call from my roommate Kevin and we were both downright giddy. We had known him as an ageless wonder who had just hit his stride at age 35 and taken down four straight Cy Young awards.

At a time when the rest of the Yankees' rotation was Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, it looked like a move that should have pushed them over the top. The Red Sox had just won the World Series and it seemed like sending Javier Vasquez, Brad Hallsey, Dioner Navarro and $9M to the Diamondbacks was going to right the baseball universe once again.

In retrospect, there were a ton of warning signs, land mines, red flags and caution tape that Yankee fans probably should have noticed.
  1. He was 41 years old
  2. He had spent his last six seasons in the National League West
  3. After pitching 244 or more innings in 5 consecutive seasons, he was hurt in 2003 and started only 18 games at a 4.26 ERA
  4. He was making $16M a year
  5. His K/9 had been declining for 4 years
  6. Being 6'10" is as much of a liability as it is an asset
I don't put much stock in whether people in the New York media think a player can "handle the New York media", but that scuffle with a cameraman on the way to his Yankee physical certainly wasn't a good omen.

After posting ERAs 2.64 or below in 5 out of his 6 years in Arizona the Big Unit threw 225 2/3 innings of 3.79 ball for the Yanks in 2005. Mostly attributed to his "hanging sliders", he gave up 32 home runs and 207 hits, the highest totals of his career. It was a respectable season overall, but it fell far short of even the most conservative expectations of Yankees fans, players and executives. The prevailing thought at the time was that Johnson would rebound the following year and return to his dominant form.

The result was quite the opposite, in fact. He started 33 games but threw only 205 innings, an average of under 6 1/3 innings per outing, the lowest of his career. His K/BB ratio fell from 4.48 to 2.86 (also the worst of his career). For the first time since his rookie season in 1989 and only time since, he posted an ERA worse than league average.

Late in the season it was revealed that Johnson was pitching with a herniated disc. He received treatments and ended up starting Game 3 of the ALDS against Detroit. It was his last game in Pinstripes and he gave up 5 runs in a contest the Yanks went on to lose 6-0.

The Yanks ended up trading Johnson back to the D-Backs for Luiz Visciano, Ross Olendorf, Alberto Gonzalez and Stephen Jackson. It was a pretty fair haul for a 43 year old pitcher with a bad back coming off what was easily the worst full season of his career.

-----

After getting it right (for the most part) with guys like David Cone, David Wells, El Duque and Roger Clemens during the last 90's and Mike Mussina in 2001, the aughts have been filled with a minefield of pitching acquisitions that just didn't work out.

In addition to Johnson and Vasquez: Kevin Brown, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Jon Lieber, Jose Contreras, Esteban Loaiza, Jeff Weaver...

If the Yanks are going to return to the promised land this year, they need two big double-initialed additions to the rotation buck that trend.

Kevin Youkilis: Human Being Or Catfish?

You Decide:

Taking It To The Felt


Via PeteAbe, Joe Girardi cancelled the team's workout today and arranged an 8-ball tournament at at local pool hall.
To me, this is a great idea. Right out of the Tom Coughlin playbook. The Yankees are out of here, off to play pool. They’re going to be partnered up with a teammate and play some 8 Ball.

“It’s a team day away from the field. We’re going to have a little tournament and try to enjoy the day,” Girardi said.

Coughlin, as you may remember, took the Giants bowling during training camp in 2007. Next thing you know, they won the Super Bowl. Was there a connection? Maybe not a direct one; but building relationships is an important aspect of success.
When Eric Mangini was fired, I recommended that Girardi take a look at the way the Jets and Giants were run and decide which of the coaches he wanted to follow. I think he's headed in the right direction.

Nothing Like Home

It took 11 hours, four separate car rides, and the combined efforts of five friends/family members, but I finally made it back to NYC last night. I've got some pictures documenting the journey back which may or may not make their way up on the site after work.

The mythical music post obviously didn't make it up this weekend due to the unforseen circumstances discussed above and Brendan still has to weigh in with his Extreme Beer Fest recap, so the non-sports content is going to bleed into the week a little bit. Hope y'all folks don't mind.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Some Friendly Advice


There is never a good time to lose your car keys, but when you are a solid four hour drive from home and quite hungover, misplacing them will make you want to slit your wrists with a broken bottle.

The good news? There are plenty of bottles to choose from.

Characters [EBF Session One]

As you can see, Michael Phelps has really let himself go...

Jim Koch isn't the only one who feels the need to snort his beer.

No, there is no mirror in this photo. The guy on the right is Dan from Maahty's, and the other gentleman was from The Lost Abbey. I'm assuming they share a stylist.

A perfect specimen of the Geekus brewicus. Beard (check), glasses (check), tasting glass (check), intently reading the program (check). I know there are only about 4 people who are going to get this joke but... I didn't know Frank and my sister had a kid together...

A velvet paisley blazer and camo pants. Yeah. Guess what this guy does for a living. I'll give you a hint: He's not in finance. Check out the looks on the Sixpoint guys' faces.

Jeffrey Ross's younger brother in the house. That guy on the right in the Sawx hat is wearing a South African Rugby shirt. Nice choice my friend, I have one as well.

"Roger that, can you grab me a waffle?" (Waffle Cabin is the goods)

Working "security" at this shindig has to be the easiest paying gig available. It wasn't exactly Lollapalooza.

I nominate this guy for Beer Advocate's unofficial mascot.

I didn't actually talk to this guy, but from what I could tell he invented his own dialect which was limited to only four words: "Dude", "Brah", "Chill(in')" and "Brews".

A special thanks to whoever rose this guy from the dead an hour before the event started. That's the kind of extreme beer gut you get from attending too many Extreme Beer Festivals.

So many ways to go with this one. Is visor guy:
  1. Saying that the BA Select was overrated and anyone who disagrees with him doesn't know shit about beer
  2. Informing the guy in the green that dark skin is a curse from God
  3. Explaining how to build your own dwelling and become self-sufficient in the wilderness
  4. Miming a beer pong toss
  5. Certifiably insane
  6. All of the above