Talking Mets-Phillies with SNY.tv

I took a few minutes to chat about the upcoming Mets and Phillies series with Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) of SNY.tv. We briefly talked about some injuries, the Phillies’ offensive decline, and the great pitching staff. (Now with more Worley!)

You can listen here:

Consider that a taste of what you can get every Tuesday at 3 PM ET and Wednesday at 2 PM ET on WOGL 98.1 HD-4 with the “Stathead” show.

Be sure to check out the series preview with Joe Janish. Click here for his answers to my questions, and click here for my answers to his questions.

“Stathead” Airs @ 3 PM ET Today on 98.1 WOGL HD-4

Just a reminder, in case “Stathead” isn’t a part of your routine yet. The new statistically-focused show “Stathead”, with myself and Jeff Sottolano, airs today at 3 PM ET on 98.1 WOGL HD-4. We’ll talk about the best and worst plays of the first nine games, what we think about the offense, the surprising starts from some unexpected sources, and Cole Hamels’ first two starts.

Here’s the original post with a bunch of information relevant to the show, and here is the program schedule. The show will re-air tomorrow at 2 PM ET in case you can’t catch it today. If you listen, I’d love to hear your feedback — positive and negative — here in the comments, on Twitter, or via e-mail.

Announcement: Phillies 24/7 HD Radio

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve heard me hint about an announcement for a while now, and I can finally spill the beans. I’ve been asked to contribute to a new HD radio station with WOGL that will have Phillies content 24/7. My show is called Stathead and will air Tuesdays from 3-4 PM ET. Jeff Sottolano will co-host the show with me.

Below is the official press release and information about the shows on the Phillies 24/7 HD radio station.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES PARTNER WITH CBS RADIO’S WOGL ON DEDICATED HD RADIO STATION

PHILLIES 24/7 TO FEATURE LIVE PLAY-BY-PLAY OF EVERY PHILLIES GAME

PLUS GAME RE-BROADCASTS EVERY MORNING AT 9AM

Philadelphia, March 31st, 2011 – The Philadelphia Phillies and CBS RADIO’s WOGL today announced the launch of Phillies 24/7, the first ever HD Radio multicast station exclusively dedicated to a Major League Baseball team.  Phillies 24/7 will air continuously throughout the year and feature live play-by-play of every regular season Phillies game on-air at 98.1 WOGL HD4, plus game re-broadcasts the following morning at 9am.  The channel will launch on Friday, April 1 when the Phillies take on the Houston Astros in their home opener (1:05pm).

CBS RADIO’s WPHT serves as the Phillies radio broadcast flagship, a position they’ve held since 2005 after previously holding that title from 1982-2001.

In addition to game coverage, Phillies 24/7 will broadcast a full schedule of unique daily and weekly programs centered on the team, as well as provide behind the scenes access at Citizens Bank Park, and archived audio content including classic game replays.  Phillies fans can expect to hear new shows heard only on Phillies 24/7, including Phillies Today – a daily look at all things Phillies on the field and off, Phillies Phorum – a weekly opportunity for fans to ask questions via email, Facebook, and Twitter, and Phillies Playlist – a look at what’s playing on a different Phillies’ mp3 player each week.

Marc Rayfield, Senior Vice President of CBS RADIO Philadelphia had this to say about the partnership, “We are thrilled to embark upon this new endeavor with the Phillies. There is an insatiable appetite for this team, and CBS RADIO’s HD platform allows us to use new technology to bring Phillies related content to their fans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And the best part is it’s free!”

“Creating this channel for our fans is a natural way to give them even more access to the team. We are excited to partner with CBS RADIO on this unique and exciting project,“ Phillies Senior Vice President of Marketing and Advertising Sales David Buck added.

HD Radio™ Technology is fueling the digital evolution of AM/FM radio in the US and elsewhere. It allows broadcasters to offer new digital channels through multicasting, crystal-clear sound, and advanced data services – all free, with no subscription fee. HD Radio Technology is available nationwide with more than 2,000 digital stations on-air and an additional 1,300 HD2/HD3/HD4 digital-only channels that broadcast fresh new content that can only be heard with an HD Radio receiver. These receivers are available in retail stores and online from major electronics brands, as well as in new vehicles from 17 automotive brands. For more information, visit hdradio.com.

ABOUT WOGL

WOGL AND WPHT are owned and operated by CBS RADIO, one of the largest major-market radio operators in the United States.   A division of CBS Corporation, CBS RADIO owns and operates 130 radio stations, the majority of which are in the nation’s top 50 markets.  CBS RADIO also owns and operates KYW-AM, WIP-AM and WYSP in Philadelphia.

The landing page for the station can be found here.

Stat Head (Most Tuesdays at 3pm)

Statistics have always been a big deal in baseball. There are the numbers you know about, the hits, runs and errors. There are other numbers though, deeper numbers. Our resident stat head, Bill Baer of CrashburnAlley.com breaks them down for you and tells you what you might be missing.

Tune into the show and please leave feedback here and on the station’s website/email. This week’s show covers expectations with the starting rotation, choosing between Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras, and what’s left at second base sans Chase Utley. I think the show is unlike anything else you’ll get on the radio — level-headed, objective analysis of the Phillies.

If you’re unfamiliar with HD radio, as I was, check out this page as it explains everything you need to know. To tune in, just find 98.1 WOGL HD-4. You should be able to find HD radios at most electronics stores such as Best Buy and Radio Shack.

Video: Q&A with Lee, Howard, Ibanez, Lidge

Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Brad Lidge took some questions from fans at a Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce event.

The 2011 On Deck with the Phillies Reception, a Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce event sponsored by KPMG and co-sponsored by Pennoni, allowed Chamber Members and Phillies fans to participate in an informal Q & A session with Phillies stars Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Brad Lidge.

Hilarious moment at around the 2:40 mark.

Joe Posnanski’s 32-Best in 2011

Joe Posnanski, the Ted Williams of baseball scribes, offered his list of baseball’s 32-best players in 2011. Why 32?

I have little doubt that the following list is also a mess … but at least I know what I want: I am putting together my prediction for the 32 best players in baseball in 2011. That’s all. I’m not considering seasons beyond. I’m not thinking about who is best to build my team around in 2014. Everything is built around 2011.

Cliff Lee came in at #16, Chase Utley at #12, and Roy Halladay at #2. Three players in the top-32? Not too shabby. I was surprised to see Poz rank Utley between Troy Tulowitzki (#11) and Tim Lincecum (#13) since the list is focused only on the short-term, and Utley’s short-term future is very much unknown. I’m also surprised Cole Hamels didn’t make the list, but Matt Cain did.

I have a few other minor quibbles but generally speaking I think Poz did a fantastic job ranking the top-32. Tango offers a good way to look at these types of lists:

Are his top 5 in my top 10? Are his top 10 in my top 30? Are his top 20 in my top 50? Are his top 30 in my top 80? Are his top 40 in my top 100?
Because that is really how the talent is spread out.

The Phillies’ NL East foes each had one player make the list: Brian McCann (#24) for the Atlanta Braves; David Wright (#21) for the New York Mets; Ryan Zimmerman (#18) for the Washington Nationals; and Hanley Ramirez (#7) for the Florida Marlins.

. . .

Elsewhere, Justin Bopp looked at the infield components for Ultimate Zone Rating from 2006-10, the popular defensive metric created by Mitchel Lichtman, found at FanGraphs. Range runs accounted for 65 percent of all defensive runs saved, while error runs came in at 26 percent and nine percent for double play runs.

Luckily for us, he created an example graphic for an individual player and he just so happened to be a Phillie. Click to view the full-scale version at Beyond the Box Score.

The Worst of Sports Journalism

There’s been a lot of terrible sports journalism lately, but the last few days have reeked of it. Craig Calcaterra commented on T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times, who childishly attacked Marcus Thames‘ integrity. Meanwhile, poor sports journalist standby Jon Heyman has been assassinating the character of Luis Castillo on Twitter for the past few days.

From March 18:

Congrats to ollie p for outlasting Luis Castillo. #mets [Link]

not sure castillo gets a job. backup 2b aren’t in demand, even for the minimum. bad pub doesn’t help either. [Link]

its nothing personal on castillo. i just think hes a crummy player now w/ zero range who looks perpetually put off [Link]

March 20:

sorry, there is some human drama involving castillo and ollie.we all know the outcome of duke, i think. [Link]

via @JSalisburyCSN, #phillies signing Luis Castillo. personally, i think valdez/martinez/barfield are better 2b options [Link]

not a bad guy. no power (as u know), zero range (cant run anymore), exudes mopey-ness. other than that, hes great! [Link, was in response to @HowardEskin]

March 21:

#phillies signing of castillo smacks of 2b desperation. theyve said utley will likely miss opener. do they think he misses yr? [Link]

Ok, amaro just told media castillo signed for 10-day look. I feel better about phils. Tho I’d rather view valdez/barfield/martinez [Link]

Luis Castillo has now annoyed 2 managers in 1 spring over his arrival time. and his 10-day tryout is down to 9. #goodjob [Link]

Heyman also responded to several people who called him out on being overtly biased against Castillo. Even then, he couldn’t help but take unwarranted pot shots at the Phillies’ recent acquisition. Among other comments, he reminds readers that he likes Castillo more than his previous managers (which is to say not much), that Castillo has an “off the charts sense of entitlement”, and that he isn’t “so anxious to play”.

Twitter is a great tool for both journalists and fans of sports teams in that they get up-to-the-second sports news and analysis. When Bryce Harper sprained his ankle, fans knew within seconds and even had photographic evidence to boot. However, the downside of Twitter is that the same journalists who provide these important details can also provide their instant, unfiltered analysis.

Additionally, there’s been a Perez Hilton-ization of sports journalism, it seems. Simers and Heyman aren’t the only ones to openly bash and goad players, nor will they be the last. Recall Mandy Housenick’s completely unwarranted roasting of Jayson Werth as another recent example. Is this their attempt at staying relevant in a crowded sea of national writers, local writers, radio shock jocks, and bloggers?

Sadly, there are plenty of sports journalists who are professional, who keep their biases out of their reporting, and who don’t cast a bad light on their colleagues. We are forced to address the trolls like Simers and Heyman while ignoring the larger percentage of good reporters and writers. As long as these trolls have job security, this will always be the case because they will always have a platform to shout over everyone else.

The Bad and the Ugly on Bleacher Report

*Warning: This post has nothing to do with baseball or the Phillies. You may have ascertained that by the title, but it’s worth mentioning before a 1,400-word essay.*

If you’re one of my followers on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me make and re-tweet snarky comments about Bleacher Report. For the uninitiated, Bleacher Report “provides news and fans’ opinions of sporting events”, per Wikipedia. Essentially, if you have a pulse, know what sports are, and have a computer with an Internet connection, you are qualified to write for Bleacher Report — just as you are with typical blogs.

Regular bloggers and mainstream media types, often in opposition to each other on many other subjects, seem to agree that BR is a travesty and an eyesore. One need only peruse the home page to get a feel for the quality of content provided at BR. Some examples as of this writing:

  • Full Scream Ahead: 10 Teams With the Most Momentum Heading Into 2011
  • Dwight Howard Trade Rumors: 10 Moves Orlando Magic Can Make To Keep Him Happy
  • Penguins Show the NHL Who has the Biggest Johnson

For more examples, check out Dustin Parkes’ list of the “Top Eight Worst Bleacher Report Baseball Posts Of All Time Ever In The World”.

Just a cursory glance at BR provides a window into the authors’ thought processes:

  1. Think of a player, team, or issue that is interesting or in the news (Dwight Howard)
  2. Think of a way to talk about it in list-form (Trade rumors)
  3. Think of things to put in a list (Trade proposals, realistic or not… mostly not)

(And the irony of the above list hits… now.)

BR’s style encourages thoughtless list-making. Anybody can make a list. Anybody can Google “Dwight Howard trade rumors” and find a picture of him on Google Images. One need possess no writing skills and no analytical skills to publish a post at BR. Most people do not have elite writing and analytical skills, so BR is a perfect venue for them to see their name in a byline, unchallenged. That makes BR a content factory.

This is why most bloggers and mainstream writers dislike BR. For the mainstream guys and gals, they (and I speak entirely in generalities here) had to go into debt to earn a college degree in journalism and worked long hours covering high school field hockey for a small-town newspaper before landing their professional baseball/football/hockey/etc. gig. They constantly have to answer to editors and superiors when their work is subpar, and must adhere to strict journalistic standards.

The blogosphere is a meritocracy, as Will Leitch famously said on Costas Now on HBO. For the most part, bloggers with poor writing and/or analytical skills do not succeed because people will end up going to the blogs with better writing and/or analytical skills. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part this holds true. Most bloggers pay money out of their own pockets to purchase a domain name and to acquire server hosting (or otherwise join on with an already-existing blog), spend many hours per week writing and editing multiple posts, and following up with commenters because their writing is a passion.

Bloggers have to earn their keep. Phillies Nation didn’t become the best Phillies blog on the planet (R.I.P. The Fightins) by making top-ten lists of arbitrary names and details. They certainly didn’t start out with over 125,000 Facebook followers. At the start, they were a passionate group of Phillies fans who had to prove themselves to the community, just like everybody else.

What BR provides is a platform of equal significance to the best and worst of the community. Better writing and analysis is not rewarded in the slightest, which means the bad writing and analysis is subsequently rewarded.

Thumb through the biographies for BR authors. On most of them, you will find self-admitted “aspiring writers” looking to break into the sports writing business. They are on BR for fame and notoriety; they are not there out of genuine love of sports and writing about them. In other words, they are leeches feeding on BR’s ability to put them in the spotlight, deserved or not. Are these the people you want to shine a light on and say, “Yeah, this is what we’re all about”?

Furthermore, a requisite of list-making is having a pre-developed idea. This list is titled “10 Current Players Freddie Freeman Could Develop Into” and authored by Will Brown, who is “going to school in hopes of being a sports journalist in the future”.

Why ten players? Why not nine or eleven? Obvious questions, but being beholden to round numbers is the bane of solid analysis. What if there are only seven legitimate players to compare to Freeman? The additional three are thrown on arbitrarily to suit the list format.

What is the criteria for comparison? Flipping through the slideshow yields no answers. The one thing in common is that they mostly play corner infield spots and are well-known players. Most likely, the author went to a leaderboard for MLB players, sorted it by 1B and then 3B, and picked out a few recognizable players haphazardly.

A good analyst would have a defined system for comparison. So if the results yielded James Loney and Daric Barton rather than Michael Young and Ryan Zimmerman, the author’s conclusion isn’t affected since it wasn’t made beforehand, despite that those players aren’t as interesting or noteworthy. Even better, perhaps he learns that his hypothesis is wrong and goes back to the drawing board, rather than publishing a flawed theory.

BR recently hired King Kaufman, a former writer and editor for Salon.com. In his first post from his new home, he talked about BR’s reputation, admitting some of BR’s faults, and change. “My main job here is to try to help improve the overall quality of the writing,” he wrote. Many have poked fun at him for trying to put lipstick on a pig.

I’ve had no contact with Kaufman other than participating in a Scoresheet league with him last year (and I stopped paying attention to my team in May), and he certainly didn’t ask for my thoughts on his project. From what I’ve read of his work, he seems like a smart guy and a great writer — a perfect candidate to tackle an enormous project like this. But if I had to offer some unsolicited suggestions to him, they would be:

  • Lose the slideshow/list format. Entirely. Prove that your community is not comprised of page-view scavengers. Some of them — more than I gave credit to, probably — are in it for “the love of the game”.
  • Do not judge the writing based on page views and comments. They are not great indicators of quality. Remove the page view counters on each article.
  • Hold writers to a standard. Maybe you lose page views from the lack of “WAG” posts featuring pictures of scantily-clad women, but you bring your website up several notches in credibility. And, you know, you lose that whole misogynistic, objectifying women thing. I’m not a businessman, so maybe this idea is foolhardy.
  • Feature writing, not pictures. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with losing the slideshows, but compare BR’s main page to that of Baseball Prospectus. On BR, I am being enticed to read articles for the subject; on BP, I am being enticed to read articles for the content. A subtle distinction, yes, but it does make a difference — especially for a website that wants to foster a community.
  • Reward better writing with better real estate. Have real BR moderators (community-based or hired) read posts and reward the better ones with “featured” status and being listed on the front page. It’s basically the system they have in place now, but with some legitimacy behind it.

Bleacher Report can continue being nothing but a content factory. They can continue to call upon average Joes to be, as Dustin Parkes called them, “boner providers” — luring men to click on more pages and more ads with the allure of scantily-clad women and top-ten lists. If, however, King Kaufman wants Bleacher Report to have any future credibility as a first stop on the Internet highway for quality sports content, then he needs to clean slate and take away the incentives for his content providers to be lazy and incompetent. Or, more accurately, the disincentives for them to be hard-working and competent.

Rob Neyer Is Movin’ On

UPDATE: It’s official: Neyer has signed on with SB Nation.

Rob Neyer announced on his blog today that he is hanging up his blogging spikes.

Today, I hand off this space to whoever’s next. I don’t know yet who is next, but I’m highly confident that this blog and the SweetSpot Network will soon be in excellent hands.

Meanwhile, I’ll be around. The kids tell me it’s all about search these days. You won’t have to search real hard to find me, if you want.

Happy trails, until we meet again.

Reactions to the legendary writer’s announcement were swift and heartfelt. There are too many to link to, and too many good odes would be left by the wayside. Suffice it to say that this writer feels the same way about Neyer — his writing and his contributions to the Sabermetric community.

It meant the world to me when I opened up my Gmail account in late September of 2009 to find Neyer reaching out to me, even going so far as to compliment my work, inviting me to join his SweetSpot blog network. I joined a team of bloggers whose work I had long admired and have watched as others joined the team. There is no doubt in my mind that Neyer bringing me into his blog network also helped bring me the opportunity to write for Baseball Prospectus.

As to what Neyer’s departure means for the SweetSpot network — nothing will change as far as I know. Someone will be given the unenviable task of filling Neyer’s shoes. How the new guy or gal chooses to run the ship remains to be seen but I imagine it will be with the same lax leash that Neyer used. So the content here will remain the same.

I wish the best of luck to Rob in his future endeavors and I sincerely hope he sticks around in the Internet baseball community. Feel free to leave your compliments and well-wishes for Rob in the comments below. I’m sure he’ll take a lap around the blogs before the night is over.

Tango thinks Neyer will be moving onto MLB Network. I’m skeptical, but would nonetheless be thrilled if this were the case. The level of analysis on that channel could use a real pick-me-up and Neyer would provide just that.

On Howard Eskin, Other Media

You have no doubt heard about the Howard Eskin tiff with Roy Halladay by now. The Burger King lookalike criticized the 2010 National League Cy Young award winner’s availability to the media. Patrick Berkery has the details for PhillyBurbs.com:

In the two-and-a-half-minute rant, Eskin condescendingly reminds us that if not for members of the media like himself, fans would have no idea what the players are thinking. He claims that Major League Baseball forced Halladay to speak to the media two days after tossing his NLDS no-hitter against the Reds, failing to mention that Halladay spoke at length to the media immediately after the game.

Eskin says Halladay hasn’t spoken to the media at all since the season ended, giving fans no indication how he feels about pitching in the same rotation with Cliff Lee.

Just about everyone with a Phillies blog has ripped Eskin to shreds already, so I will not beat that dead horse. However, I think this fiasco is yet another example of the growing decay of media in general, sports being one microcosm of the larger picture. Most attempts at editorializing are poorly-disguised attempts to create controversy where none exists. And in the dead of winter when baseball is still weeks away and TV and radio stations are grasping at straws for every extra viewer and listener (and writers struggle to find article fodder), rabble-rousing is the oft-selected route.

As many have pointed out, Eskin isn’t a legitimate voice in the Phillies community the way Mike Missanelli is — especially not in the way that Eskin is with the Eagles. And given Eskin’s history of pot-stirring, it becomes quite easy to deduce his intentions.

To my knowledge, Halladay hasn’t addressed the Eskin issue at all, exactly what you would expect from the stately right-hander. All too often, though, athletes are baited by the media in an attempt to get some free publicity. Then, when athletes don’t make themselves available to the media, the shock jocks and pot-stirrers play the role of the victim and cry foul.

There is no clearer example of this than Barry Bonds. Bonds marched to the beat of his own drum; an aloof fellow, for sure. Bonds didn’t always make himself available for interviews and didn’t provide many exciting sound bites. By not making the writers’ jobs easy, they painted a negative picture of him — sometimes intentionally, but oftentimes subconsciously. And when it came to “innocent before proven guilty” regarding the BALCO scandal, they were all too willing to condemn Bonds before any official verdict was levied.

Even in end-of-season awards and Hall of Fame voting, some writers have used a player’s media availability as one criterion that can be used for and against the player in question.

Now that traditional media is evaporating and blogs (and Tweeters) have popped up like flowers in spring, members of the mainstream media are trying even harder to earn precious viewers, listeners, and click-throughs. Eskin is but one of a vast group of professionals resorting to amateur tactics to maintain relevancy in a very crowded marketplace.

What Eskin did was unprofessional in every way, shape, and form. But we rewarded his behavior by talking about it, by browsing NBC10′s website for the sound bite, and by tuning into 610 WIP during the aftermath. How we punish such unprofessional behavior in the future is by ignoring it. Sometimes you need to actively confront a troll, but Eskin’s reputation as a troll precedes him and he should be shunned into obscurity.

Eskin says, in a pretentious fashion, that the media is the middleman between the fans and the athletes. And he’s right. Fans will be more willing to consume the product (Phillies baseball) if they feel a connection to the players, and that is accomplished primarily (overwhelmingly so, in fact) through the media.

But just as the fans and athletes need each other, the media needs both those fans and the athletes. Let’s say Todd Zolecki has a bad encounter with Shane Victorino and blasts him for it in his next article. (Todd wouldn’t, because he’s one of the best writers around, but humor the hypothetical.) Victorino will be much less willing to take time out of his schedule to talk to Todd, much less provide any juicy factoids that would make for good article fodder. Subsequently, Todd’s articles become boring and repetitive (especially in comparison to his peers, who are getting more unique information), and he loses readers. When Todd loses enough readers, he loses his job. Or, more realistically, Todd will resort to Eskin-like tactics to maintain relevancy and draw in readers before losing his job.

There is no reason why a member of the mainstream media — or a blogger, for that matter — should be bashing players for any reason whatsoever unless there is a 100 percent factual, provable (and relevant) foundation lying underneath.

The funny thing is, Eskin could have handled the Halladay issue privately and without conflict. Eskin thinks Halladay hasn’t been making himself available enough to the media? Send him an e-mail or a text message, or call him on the phone. Say to Halladay, “It’s not a huge deal, but I think you ought to do a couple interviews before you show up in Clearwater. Fans want to know what you think about the Cliff Lee signing, among other things.”

. . .

As the Eskin issue illustrates, January has been very boring in Phillies-land. If there’s anything you’d like to see covered on this blog before spring training starts, feel free to post suggestions in the comments. I’ve already taken suggestions on Twitter and have a couple of ideas permeating, but nothing that I think would turn into good blog fodder yet.

Otherwise, feel free to use this thread to talk about anything Phillies-related, even outside of Eskin/Halladay.

Offseason Smug

Well, you know, the Eagles had a great season and it was really fun to watch them develop and obviously we were all hopeful that they would have moved on, but hopefully the fans can enjoy some baseball here — in another month or so we get into spring training, and we’re excited about it.

(Smug Meter courtesy The Good Phight)