Sunday, March 15, 2009

Now let's see Jon Stewart interview Peter Gammons.

Maybe it's because I work in sports, watch sports in my free time and am generally obsessed with sports, but I couldn't help but see Jon Stewart's interview of CNBC's Jim Cramer through the lens of steroids in baseball. Financial journalists like Cramer were complicit in creating the financial disaster by intentionally disregarding information about criminal activities that would have been zapped like mildew in direct sunlight if only journos hadn't blocked the sun with their own largesse. Similarly, though on a much smaller and far less criminal scale, journalists like Peter Gammons blocked out the steroid story in baseball because they were unwilling to ask the tough questions and report the hard news.

As reporters, both Cramer and Gammons alike are obligated to report the difficult stories, not just the ones that their networks or newspapers can sell. Just like questions about Bear Stearns leveraging at 30-to-1 are legitimate, so are questions about Brady Anderson finding a magical workout and hot streak and hitting 50 home runs at age 32 when his career high was 21 bombs. But as Stewart noted in his interview, the point of journalism isn't to find religion after the fact. It's to ask the tough questions while they're still relevant, and before people begin losing their homes, before people like Ken Caminiti and Lyle Alzado pass away.

We don't demand of reporters that they catch every story, but we do demand that they catch the ones directly in front of their faces.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


When IBM's primacy as the leading computer manufacturer went into doubt -- when other companies began making similar machines with similar specs at similar prices -- IBM did what smart companies do and started IBM Global Services, the business consulting arm of the company. Consulting allowed IBM to leverage its name as the leading technology innovator in the field and open new revenue streams.

Similarly, with a recession promising to cut into the profits of the Colorado Rapids, the club decided to begin offering ESL classes to Denver's sizable Spanish-speaking population. For $200, fans will get six sessions, class materials and tickets to Rapids matches. Rapids players and coaches will also be involved in teaching the course.

The program could provide a valuable public service, while offsetting losses from tickets and merchandise revenues during the recession. Plus, presumably the students will use these courses to find better employment -- if that's possible nowadays -- and the Rapids will have helped some new fans find more affluence. Bravo to the Colorado Rapids.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Get well soon, Johan.

I'm a refugee from a small midwestern town, who's currently stranded in New York, so I don't have any particular affinity for the local ballclubs. In fact, given the fact that roughly 60 percent* of the locals I know are Mets fans, and 70 percent** of that group is insufferable, I think it's fair to say that I downright dislike the Amazin's. In the NL East, I tend to pull for the Marlins and Nationals. Call me a sucker for lost causes.

That said, as a baseball fan, I can't help but be terrified to lose a year of Johan Santana's prime to an elbow injury. Santana has been experiencing recurring soreness and tightness as he trains in Florida. There's talk that he could miss the start of the season because of the injury and, well, we've been down this road so many times before with so many pitchers.

Not Johan, though. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has been largely healthy for the duration of his career -- aside from a surgery to remove bone chips prior to the 2004 season -- and he's arguably the best pitcher in the game. He's the proper heir to Pedro Martinez as the most entertaining pitcher in the Majors.

Santana has seen his fastball decline in velocity from 93.1 MPH in 2006 to 91.2 MPH in 2008, which could be an indication of lingering, or developing, injury. His walk rate has also increased, from 1.81 BB/9 in 2006 to 2.42 BB/9 in 2007 2008. His K/9 has decreased from 9.44 in 2006 to 7.91 in 2008. These dropoffs in stuff could be indicative of an injury, or they could be indicative of Santana getting a bit older and craftier.

Even a diminished -- loose usage of this word -- Santana is still an elite pitcher, and the results remain phenomenal. To wit, his 166 ERA + in 2008 was his highest since he put up a 182 ERA + in 2004.

Still, throwing a baseball is one of the most stressful things you can do to a joint, and every Major League pitcher is a high risk to blow out his elbow. If Santana has developed a serious injury, it would be a shame but not wholly surprising. But hopefully he's just sore, because the only things more intolerable than Mets fans when their club is winning are Mets fans when their club is awful.

* Probably lower.

** Probably higher