The Greatest World Series Ever

With Spring Training underway, baseball is back in the news!. One of the many things we’re pondering (Will Mike Trout ever get another MVP award? Are the Rays and Marlins really trying to lose?) is the eternal question: Who is going to win the World Series this year? It’s a teeny bit too early for predictions – so I won’t make any.

Instead, I’ll note that we’ve had some really great series recently. Exciting games, teams ending championship droughts, classic matchups, the works. It leads one to ponder – just which WS was the most exciting of them all?

Seems like one cannot quantify “excitement” in that manner. Surely, it’s an objective matter. But hold on a minute. The huge body of statistical records in baseball, with details down to individual pitch counts, makes it a bit easier than one would expect. There’s something called “Win Probability” which, as it suggests, gives a team’s chance of winning a game at any specific point in any given game. Atfer a play, the difference in Win Probability becomes “Win Probability Added” (WPA). The bigger and more important a play, the greater the WPA. (more on WPA in this post ) In a World Series or other playoff game, one can calculate the odds of a Championship Probability – the chance a team has of winning the actual series – for each situation. The Championship Probability Added (cWPA) is therefore how important a given play was in determining the outcome of a series.

Naturally, people have done this to figure out the biggest and most important plays in World Series history. Over at The Baseball Gauge, Dan Hirsch has crunched all the numbers and made the database.

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Overrated – Underrated 2

Movie Presidents

Every so often, around Presidents’ Day, you’ll see lists of “Best Movie Presidents”. Well, if you look in the right places, you might. Dramas at the level of the federal government serve us in place of tales of palace intrigue (without a king or nobility, we have to have something), and have served Hollywood well when it comes to story ideas.

Glossing over the fact that the realities of government do not make for good cinema, there have still been plenty of movies – both good and bad – in the genre. And when anyone starts making lists or doing rankings, there are going to be some that are overrated and underrated as a matter of course.

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Going it Alone in Pyeongchang

Once again, it’s time for people in the United States to give cursory attention to winter sports. In about a week, the 2018 Winter Olympics being in Pyeongchang, South Korea. As always, the hubbub over scandals and costs swamps the news in the run up to the Games, knocking the actual athletes off even the back pages of the sports sections.

Even with normal coverage, it’s easy for an individual athlete to get overlooked. Over a thousand athletes in attendance, the big powerhouses of winter sports getting all the glory…. How must it feel to be your country’s only representative?

Here they are (asterisks indicate a country’s first appearance in the Winter Games):

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The Hall of Fame Class of 2018

The Baseball Writers Association of America has announced their choices for induction into the Hall of Fame. Add their four choices to the two selected by the Veterans Committee, and there’s a total of six players going in this year. That’s a huge crowd! You can easily look up their stats, and the Hall itself produces and publishes “highlight” films for each of them.

Rather than reiterate all that, I thought I’d post a Fun Fact about each.

Note that I’m not going to make a distinction between those voted in by the writers and those chosen by the committee. The plaques in the actual room don’t care; neither should you.

VLADIMIR GUERRERO

His older brother Wilton had an eight-year MLB career; the two played together on the Expos for three and a half years.

TREVOR HOFFMAN

When he was six weeks old, he had a kidney removed because of an arterial blockage.

CHIPPER JONES

Finished his career with more walks (1512) than strikeouts (1409). On a per-season basis, he did that in 12 of his 19 seasons. Only about 30 players have more seasons doing that over their entire career.

JACK MORRIS

Was on the winning side in three World Series, for three different teams. Only four other players can make that claim (John Lackey, Stuffy McInnis, Wally Schang, and Lonnie Smith).

JIM THOME

His aunt, Carolyn Thome Hart, is in the National Softball Hall of Fame.

ALAN TRAMMEL

Inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Managed the Arizona Diamondbacks for three games in 2014; went 1-2.

Bond vs Bond vs Bond vs Bond vs Bond vs Bond

A fan going under the name of “TolkienEditor” merged and recut the three Hobbit films into one single movie. A different movie buff combined the Star Wars prequels, cutting out all the boring stuff, and came up with a surprisingly coherent – and entertaining – movie.

Now Team Spyral has taken all the James Bond movies, and done the same:

Read more about this here:

http://teamspyral.wordpress.com/

If you ever asked the question, “Which ‘Bond’ was the best?”, this should give you an answer.

The Other Hall of Famers

With the announcement of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame inductees less than two weeks away, the discussion in the various media has switched from “Who should get inducted” to “Who will (probably) get inducted”. So we’re not seeing much more in the way of JAWS scores or career Wins Above Replacement anymore.

But there are entire groups of people who don’t have any of those numbers who still deserve to belong in any Baseball Hall of Fame you could create. Just because they never played the game shouldn’t disqualify them. There are plenty of non-players who are already enshrined.

So, as an exercise to my handful of readers, if you were starting with a clean slate, which people who never wore a uniform would you have in your Hall of Fame?

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2017 in Review

So, what is there to say about my fourth year of blogging?

I count 54 posts. Less than previous years, but still pretty good.

There were a total of 1,383 page views from 652 visitors (and 25 “Likes”). 239 of those views came in November, which set a record for most in a month. You know, I have to wonder – do my own page views count in that total?

The Top Ten Most Viewed Posts in 2017:

10. A Walking Tour of Lower Manhattan

Pay attention to where you are putting your feet. See those long strips with names and dates on them? You are in the Canyon of Heroes, the route taken by New York City’s ticker tape parades. Each strip marks a parade, and there’s some on each side of the street.

9. A Chinese Ghost Story (movie review)

Usually, when someone tells you a movie “has everything”, they are either lying or the movie tries to “have everything”, but it fails utterly at putting them together in a rational and balanced manner. A Chinese Ghost Story (literally: “The Ethereal Spirit of a Beauty“) has romance, action, horror, and comedy – and actually does integrate all of them successfully.

8. On the Electoral College – Part 2

There are two things to keep in mind when contemplating a reform of the system. First, changing it would require a Constitutional Amendment. You’re just not going to get enough small states (the ones that benefit from the current system) to go along and voluntarily give up influence.

Secondly, though, nowhere in the Constitution does it say how a state must choose its electors. So if one wants to try to reform the Electoral College, the way to do it is in the selection process in the individual states.

7. On Confederate Memorials

NOTE: No matter how much you may want to take it down yourself, leave that to the professionals. Vandalism is never to be condoned. If you absolutely cannot leave the statue alone, try something non-damaging. Stick a white “surrender” flag in its hand. Hang a sign saying “I’m a Loser” on it. Be creative! Just don’t damage it.

6. Russian Ark (movie review)

As I was watching the credits scroll by, I couldn’t help but notice that there were dozens upon dozens of gaffers listed. Gaffers are the electrical and lighting technicians, and they had a hell of a job to do here. Not only do you have to have all your lighting equipment set up in each and every room, you have to place it where it gives the required lighting without being seen as the camera moves and turns! Nor can you let a single foot of cable be seen!

5. Indiana Jones and the “Top Men”

Sorry, Dr. Jones, but I’ve got to side with the government on this one. The Ark is too dangerous to be kept out in the open. Better to stash it away in a secure warehouse somewhere. Then, if you absolutely need to, you can get it – but no one else can.

4. A Trip to Philadelphia – Part 2

The big one, the “keystone” if you will of the Parkway’s “Museum Row”, is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Thanks to Sylvester Stallone, you’ll likely see several people doing a workout as they run up the steps like Rocky. There’s even a statue of Stallone as Rocky in a nice shaded grove off to the side at the bottom of the steps (Nothing about Chuck Wepner as far as I could tell). Be ready to wait in line if you want to take a photo with it.

3. The Hall of Fame and the Keltner List

The Keltner List was developed by Bill James (who, by the way, *needs* to be in the Hall of Fame himself) in 1985…. The fifteen questions on the list are intended to help people better evaluate players in a consistent and relatively unbiased manner. But as James himself said, “You can’t total up the score and say that everybody who is at eight or above should be in, or anything like that.” Which, I might add, should also apply to all those other supposedly objective methods like JAWS.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the questions. And for fun, let’s apply them to a couple of players on the ballot this year: Jim Thome, Mike Mussina, and from the Veterans Committee, Jack Morris.

2. A Trip to Philadelphia – Part 1

However, I decided to avoid the obvious. I deliberately avoided Independence Hall and the national icon of the Liberty Bell. I’d visited them on a family trip in my childhood. Instead, I went to museums in that neighborhood that hadn’t existed back then.

1. Expanding Major League Baseball – Part 2

So with Portland and Montreal as our two choices for expansion, now it’s time to decide which one goes in the American League and which one goes in the National League, and then set up our four divisions per league. And work on scheduling…..

(The ones in bold were posted in 2017)

I have no idea why my review for “A Chinese Ghost Story still gets so many views. Or my tales of visiting museums in Philadelphia. I suspect that my post on the Keltner list did so well because just after I posted it, I was able to link to it in a comment on a post in another blog about the Baseball Hall of Fame voting. Timing was everything!

As far as the post on expanding major league baseball, I would like to think it’s because in that post, I discussed what the divisions and schedules might look like with sixteen teams in each league. That’s something that rarely gets discussed when people talk about expansion.

After the US, the countries that got me the most visitors were:

Canada – 101
China – 49
United Kingdom – 32
Germany – 21
Australia – 14
Netherlands – 10

So many Brazilians stopped by in 2016 – in 2017 I only got one visitor from there. Maybe it was because the Olympics were over….

Hey, and could you “Like” a couple of posts? Those are candy to my ego….. Thanks!

Yet Another Holiday Message from Our Sponsor

For some reason, this doesn’t come up on the lists of “Best Holiday Commercials”, though the knock-off one by Budweiser with their Clydesdales does. It’s got great simplicity, great visuals, great music, and it isn’t trying to sell you anything. It’s just a one-minute long Christmas card from the Miller Brewing Co. to everyone:

I don’t watch much TV these days, so I haven’t really noticed what’s current in holiday TV ads. But there’s one sort that really gets my goat – those car ads where the husband buys a new car for his wife. The ones where the car has the big ribbon and bow on it.

I know that we shouldn’t expect TV World to be an accurate reflection of reality – but who does this? Who buys a luxury car for someone as a Christmas present? Yeah, there are people who a so stinking rich that they could if they wanted to, but those aren’t the people shown in the ads.

The couples/families in the ads look to be upper middle class. The sorts of people that would not be making a major purchase – like a luxury car – without full knowledge and consultation of everyone. I can picture the wife, when the cameras stop rolling, saying, “Wait a minute. How much did you spend on this? And where did you get that kind of money? What about the monthly payments? Who’s paying the insurance on it? What made you think I would want to have this exact car?” And then snowballs (because it’s always a snowy scene in these ads) and worse being thrown about in anger.

Then there’s the subtle sexism in the ads. You never see a *wife* buying the car, do you. A lot of TV ads have what could be called “reverse sexism” in them. The husband/man tends to be shown as stupid, sloppy, forgetful, and incompetent – the wife/woman is the one who somehow fixes everything. It doesn’t tick me off that much; I figure it’s a sort of payback for all the sexism against women over the decades (or centuries). If you don’t believe that this exists, next time you see a TV ad with a husband and wife, imagine it with the roles reversed….

Anyway, enjoy your holidays. And may you get something that’s actually practical and useful – and doesn’t require any extra payments on your part.

 

On the Holiday Window Displays

Since I was in Manhattan recently, with time to kill, I took the opportunity to stroll up Fifth Avenue and check out the big holiday displays – Lord & Taylor, Saks, Tiffany, Bergdorf Goodman.

L&T had their usual fantasy scenes. I couldn’t get close enough to Saks to see what was in their windows, but they did have their big light and sound show on the facade.

Pro Tip: The best way to see the Rockefeller Center tree? Come at it from Sixth Ave, or one of the side streets. It is practically impossible to approach it from Fifth Avenue, because that’s where the mob of humanity is forced into tight passageways. Approach the tree from another direction, and you can get right up to it!

TIffany featured some nice winter scenes with silver and diamonds. Bergdorf Goodman saluted NYC cultural attractions in their windows.

While I have no problems with any of the displays, I do have some ideas for things I’d like to see…

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