Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Afternoon Linkdown

Yesterday was International Penguin Day. Here are some fun facts on the fat, feathered fackers that you might not have been aware of.

On to our regularly scheduled linkification:
Happy 93rd birthday to the oldest living former Yankee, Virgil Trucks.

The numbers say that Andy Pettitte is off to the best start of his career.

Ryan Howard just got PAID to the tune of 5 years, $125M. The deal also contains a $23M option for 2017 with a $10M(!!) buyout. It's questionable whether Howard will be worth what he's making this year, let alone five or six years from now. But don't worry, Jon Heyman thinks it's a good deal. That sound you are hearing? Albert Puljos' stock entering the mesosphere.

Javier Vazquez ≠ Chien-Ming Wang. And making that comparison shows that you have an astonishingly short memory or a stunning lack of perspective. After three games in 2009, Chien-Ming Wang had given up 23 runs in 6 innings and had an ERA of 34.50. Opponents were hitting .622/.667/.1026 off of him. By contrast, through four starts, Vazquez has given up 20 runs in 20 innings and an opponents line of .309/.398/.580. Granted, that's pretty terrible, but it's not in the same multiverse of suckitude as Wang was last year.

EJ from TYU took a look at Yanks prospect Graham Stoneburner and attempted to establish some standard criteria by which we can evaluate minor league pitchers.

Christian Garcia underwent Tommy John Surgery and will be attempting to recover from it for the second time. As Matt said when the news of Garcia's injury first broke, the could be the final blow to his career, but if all goes well he should be back on the mound next May.

The Hardball Times started up a new Twitter feed for the sole purpose of linking to interesting baseball writing all over the web. I'm guessing it will be pretty similar to kind of stuff you can find in these link dumps.

Joe Posnanski wrote a characteristically thorough and interesting take on why it's easy for people to hate A-Rod.

Richard Sandomir writes explores the history of the theme songs of the Mets and the Yankees, Meet the Mets and Empire State of Mind. Oh, I'm sorry, is that not the Yankees official song?

This has been linked far and wide, but for posterity's sake, here is Flip Flop Fly Ball's graphical interpretation on A-Rod's spat with Dallas Braden.

A few current and former players have weighed the War of Rodriguez & Braden. Tim Hudson and Chipper Jones called it "silly" and "childish" while David Wells went in the opposite direction, calling A-Rod full of shit. Bronson Arroyo (of all people) said he "wouldn't think twice" about A-Rod running over the mound and Morgan Ensberg called Braden's tantrum a "full blown loss of mind". (h/t to Lisa for some of the links)

Speaking of Mr. Ensberg, he and Tom Tango had an interesting conversation about players' arbitration clocks and some of the differences between the way the NHL and MLB handle contract buyouts and service time (among other topics).

The Wall Street Journal used some of Larry's data and ganked his idea without linking back to him, but they did make the sweet graphic above, averaging the Yankees' home run trot times.

They're a bit outdated by now, but Kevin Dame at THT created some visuals illustrating the performance of the rotations of the AL East teams.

Consternation from Red Sox Nation. Is there a more enjoyable combination?

Harvey Araton wrote a piece for the NYT about the "elegance" of Marino Rivera that has no business being in the sports section because it focuses mostly on his role as a male model for Canali.

If you spent a good amount of the weekend listening to Gang Starr, you might want to check out the piece that Guru's brother - who happens to be a drama professor at Stanford - wrote about him for the Boston Globe. D.J. Premier also made a mix in memory of the man.

In addition to penning his L.A. Times obit and a piece that aired on NPR embedded below (click through if you are reading via RSS), Oliver Wang from Soul Sides put together an appreciation of Guru's work on his blog. Even if you aren't a fan, checking out any of these pieces should give you a healthy respect for the man's work.

That's it for us today. Catch you folks in the morning.

The Ethics Of Adderall

Last night on 60 Minutes, they had a segment about the amphetamine Adderall. It's a drug that is typically prescribed for people with ADHD or other attention disorders but is commonly used by college students to study and do schoolwork along with other people looking to keep themselves focused on any number of tasks. The reason I mention it here is that the debate about it is incredibly similar to the one about performance enhancing drugs in sports.

One of the members of a panel of students from the University of Kentucky assembled by the show said:
Everybody's trying to get an edge. And I mean, and if you can take a pill that will help you study all night to get that grade you need, I mean, a lotta people don't see why they wouldn't do it.
As was the case when PEDs were first being used by athletes, there is some gray area in regards to their legality (it's much closer to black and white now). Adderall is a legal, but people often obtain the pills from others who have prescriptions, which is not. Alan DeSantis, a communications professor at UK explains:
About four percent of our college campus has, actually, legal prescriptions. But what we have found is that while they may get 30 doses, they very rarely would ever take a dose everyday. Which means, at the end of the month, there is always anywhere from 10 to 20 surplus pills left over. And these are the surplus pills that are doled out.

Baseball might have its own problem with drugs like Ritalin and Adderall. As a result of the Mitchell Report, we know that in 2008, there was a 7.6% increase in the number of players with prescriptions for attention-boosting drugs, which Newsweek attributed to baseball's ban on other amphetamines like greenies. Some of those are likely legitimate cases, but given the sharp increase, it's probable that a significant number of players are taking the drug who do not have diagnoses that would hold up under close scrutiny.

In addition to the possibility of addiction, Adderall carries health risks consistent with other amphetamines, especially when taken in large doses. Like steroids or HGH, those who are unwilling to take those gambles don't reap the benefits drug can provide.

Another one of the students on the panel offered an objection to the use of Adderall similar to what we've heard time and time again from opponents of PED usage in sports:
I feel that it is an unfair advantage. If the person next to me that has the exact same schedule takes an Adderall they can stay up the entire night knowing the material and come in and make a grade better than me.

I mean, it is somewhat tempting but at the same time I'm just so proud that I've come this far and I know when I look at my grades that it is purely by my own ability.
Students aren't in direct competition with each other to the extent that athletes are, but those breaking the law by taking other people's pills (or those bending them by faking symptoms to get their own prescriptions) are certainly gaining an unfair advantage.

As medical technology evolves, we are seeing more and more drugs that can make our minds function more efficiently and our bodies stronger. Like anything else, these carry their own risks and the people willing to mortgage their future health are going to be able to gain and edge and cut corners now. Is that inherently fair? Probably not, but there aren't immediate rewards for taking the high road and it's extremely difficult to prevent people from taking the easy way out.

Setting aside the legalities for a second, is there anything morally wrong with taking a drug that makes your brain more potent? Wouldn't you want the option of taking something that makes you ostensibly smarter? According the the show, Adderall is popular among truck drivers because it helps them stay more alert at the wheel, which could potentially save lives. If people can use it without forming an addiction or even a habit, what's the problem with it?

The ethics of this issue are awfully fuzzy, and they promise to become more complicated as drugs become more effective. I'm somewhat of a Libertarian when it comes to drugs, so I think people should be able to make their own choices in regards to the substances they choose to use. But I'm sure your mileage will vary.

Hail To The Chief, Hail To The Victors

Good morning my fellow Fackers.

It's big day for our team, as they'll spend their off day in our nation's capital. While the big story of the trip will be the feting of the team at the White House's South Portico, or more likely the East Room should the weather forecast prove true, that will be just a small portion of the Yankees' doings during their time in the greater D.C. area this week.

The Yankees' day will begin long before their 3 PM appointment at the White House. Earlier in the day, a host of players, coaches, and front office personnel will bring the World Series trophy on a tour of Walter Reed Medical Center and the Malone House, visiting wounded veterans.

On Tuesday, club officials will bring the trophy on a tour of Washington, including a visit with the Bronx's own Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

At Camden Yards Tuesday evening, the Yankees will host twenty wounded veterans from Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital. The following day, select players will bring the trophy to Bethesda Naval Hospital for a visit. The trophy's tour of D.C. will conclude with a Wednesday lunch at the Pentagon.

Full details are available in the Yankees' official press release.

Thank you. And God bless the Yankee Universe.