Five Links: May 29, 2015

Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • On Their Game: Randy Johnson and Geddy Lee (MLB.com) – Yeah, Johnson pitched for the enemy, but I’m a huge Rush dork. Alex Lifeson is the reason I picked up a guitar 30 years ago, and Rush’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2013 is one of only two Hall of Fame inductions I’ve ever attended (Tony Gwynn’s was the other). Rush frontman Geddy Lee is obsessed with baseball: “Being a nerd that I am, I couldn’t avoid the love of stats. I learned how to score the games and basically became a nut for the game.” Although Lee’s favorite team is the Blue Jays, he also appreciates the sport’s rich history, having donated more than 200 autographed balls to the Negro Leagues Museum back in 2008.
  • Military tributes at baseball games: True honors or hollow gestures? (Washington Post) – As Adam Kilgore reminds us, the Padres started the “God Bless America” tradition that continues to infest MLB ballparks. Also, millions of taxpayer dollars are reportedly being used to pay teams to stage military tributes. Perhaps there are better ways to pay tribute, e.g., by pausing to remember those who have served. Or, as former Army Ranger Rory Fanning suggests: “The way you support our soldiers is by asking them questions about what happened when they’re overseas and to talk to them about what they did. I don’t think sporting events is a proper place for that. There’s very little critical discussion.” [h/t Gaslamp Ball]
  • Player’s View: Kill the Win? (FanGraphs) – Former Padres pitchers Craig Breslow, Mark Langston, and Mike Maddux are among those David Laurila asked about one of the game’s older and less useful statistics. Breslow nails it: “I don’t think you can make a good argument for killing a statistic for not telling the whole story. You just to have to explain it doesn’t give a comprehensive evaluation of the performance of a pitcher.” Speaking of which, Joe Posnanski demonstrates why it is one of the game’s less useful statistics. [h/t reader Didi]
  • Re-Examining WAR’s Defensive Spectrum (Hardball Times) – Jeff Zimmerman wonders whether certain assumptions we’re making about defense based on old data still hold true. Verdict: not exactly. This is well worth reading, as is our own Dustin’s latest examination of Derek Norris’ skills behind the dish. And hey, Ben Lindbergh uses many words to remind us that the Padres outfield is still terrible.
  • How Bud Selig Almost Ruined Baseball (Daily Beast) – Reader Keith points us to William O’Connor’s review of Jon Pessah’s new book, The Game, which focuses on how Selig, George Steinbrenner, and Donald Fehr shaped baseball during what we now know as the “Steroid Era.” As O’Connor notes, “Pessah shines a harsh and unforgiving light on the contentious tenure of Selig, and at various points comes just shy of calling him outright corrupt.” I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s on my short list. One that I have read and can heartily recommend is Conscience of the Game, by Larry Moffi (reviews here and here), which discusses how the role of commissioner has changed since its inception and includes interviews with several former commissioners, including Selig.

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  • Pat

    I thought it was the Yankees who started the God Bless America thing post 9-11?

    • Shaqapopolis

      I concur with Pat.