Saturday, May 09, 2009

An Allegory

A construction foreman is making plans to build a new house and he learns that one of his best workers will not be available for the job. The foreman is disappointed, since the guy is a really good mason, but he understands. He proceeds to fill out his crew and commences work on the house.

But just as he's getting started, his former employee comes into his office and wants his old job back. He's changed his mind and wants the work.

What is the foreman supposed to do? Should he fire one of his new hires? That doesn't seem right since it would it deprive the new guys of their jobs--jobs they pursued when the foreman was filling out his crew. Moreover, the request puts the foreman in a tough spot because he's invested resources in training a new workforce and has tailored his plans to their particular strengths and experience. He's purchased new equipment and spent a lot of time drawing up his plans. So the foreman tells the guy sorry, but no.

Spurned and upset, the mason looks for work elsewhere. Indeed, he has a lead on a job with the zoning commission that would allow him to tie up the construction project in hearings and paperwork for years, effectively killing the work the foreman is trying to complete. There is nothing really wrong with the project--the foreman has gone through all the proper channels and the public very much supports it--but local governments being what they are, the mason's new role would still enable him to stall the project.

What is the foreman supposed to do now? Maybe there's nothing that he can do--people are free to work wherever they want, right? But suppose the foreman knows of something he could tell the zoning commission that would keep the mason from getting the job. Could you really blame him for doing so?

Attentive readers will no doubt have gotten the point of all this by now. The foreman in this story is Green Bay Packers' GM Ted Thompson and the mason is Brett Favre.

Favre apparently wants to come back and play for the Vikings so that he can stick it to Thompson. But it is entirely unclear to me what Thompson did that merits having it stuck to him (or whatever). Favre may just not like Thompson and he may be upset at not having his every whim indulged. That's fine. He doesn't have to like him. And since there is now nothing that Thompson can do to prevent Favre from deliberately trying to "wreck his house," Favre is free to do that too. But what he can't do, it seems to me, is try to claim the moral high ground.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Brett Favre, Redux

Brett Favre got his release from the Jets this week and now there are rumblings that he wants to come out of "retirement" again to play for the Vikings. That's fine. He can do what he wants (though even the greatest Favre apologists have to admit that he's now made a thorough mockery of himself and that you can't believe anything that happens to fly out of his mouth).

But Favre should know that Packer fans are loyal to one thing: the Green Bay Packers. And so he shouldn't be surprised the first time Aaron Kampman drives him into the Frozen Tundra and the Lambeau faithful cheer wildly as Favre slowly makes his way back to his feet. I'm not saying it's right. But if #4 shows up in Viking gear, I guarantee it's going to happen.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kinda Sorta How I Thought

Technically, I was right about the way The Masters played out. The top three players after three rounds held their grip on those spots and the winning score was lower, relative to par, than the leading score on Saturday night. The gamers I predicted would hold on to the lead did exactly that. And anyone who shoots under par while in the hunt in a major--to say nothing of having the best player ever breathing down your neck--deserves his props.

That said, I admit to being surprised at the charge that Tiger and Phil put into the proceedings. When Phil turned in 30, all the energy was with their pairing. No one in the lead had done anything of note and you felt that something unbelievable just might be possible. But then Phil, inexcusably, put it in the water on 12 and the game was pretty much over. The leaders withstood the charge and by the time they made it to 13, the storyline was once again all about them.

It may not have been what the masses would have hoped for. But it was a fun ride and Cabrera is a worthy Masters champion.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sunday Shootout

You probably have to be a pretty serious golf fan to appreciate the leaderboard at The Masters heading into tomorrow's final round. Tiger and Phil are both 7 shots back and if those guys aren't in the mix, many casual observers don't really care. But while the final two groups may lack something in star power, they are full of some fairly grizzled veterans and for that reason, I expect a pretty exciting finish. In fact, I'll be surprised if the winner comes from somewhere outside the last two pairings.

Kenny Perry is 48 and playing the best golf of his life. What does he have to lose? Angel Cabrera stared down Tiger a few years ago to win the U.S. Open. You don't do that if you can't handle the pressure. Jim Furyk has repeatedly shown that he can close the deal when he gets in the hunt. And no one with a swing like that makes a career in golf without some guts. And while Chad Campbell may not have quite the resume of the other three, he made his way from junior college to UNLV to the Hooters Tour to the Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour and Ryder Cup team. Guy can grind it out.

None of them looks the part. But every one of them falls into the category of "last guy you'd want to play for the last $50 in your pocket." Who needs Tiger or Phil when you can have storylines like this?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Brewers Forecast 2009

It's a bit late to do anything that can be called a Brewers season preview. Alas, the season started yesterday with a 10-6 loss in San Francisco. And in any case, I don't really have much to add to the consensus assessment of Milwaukee's prospects for the year.

In short, it all depends on pitching (mostly of the starting variety). If Yovani Gallardo can deliver on his tremendous promise, if Manny Parra can pitch a complete season, if Dave Bush can maintain his level of last season, and if Jeff Suppan and/or Braden Looper can give them anything--anything at all--then the rotation may be just serviceable enough to contend. Those are all big ifs.

A less prominent theme, but one I'll be watching as the season unfolds, is how the young Brewer hitters mature at the plate. Corey Hart needs a good measure of discipline; Rickie Weeks needs to hit for some average; Ryan Braun needs to cut down his strikeouts; and it would help for Prince Fielder to maintain a more consistent power stroke. Those were all weaknesses through the latter part of last season and it will be interesting to see how things go this year.

None of this is news to any of you Brewer fans out there. Still, I feel like I have to get on the record with some thoughts.

I'm not much of a prognosticator (as anyone who was in my NCAA tourney pool can tell you). But if you put a gun to my head, I'd say the Brewers will finish behind the Cubs and Cardinals in what will be a very good NL Central. And I will be very surprised if they surpass last season's 90 win total. Of course, I rather like surprises.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Disingenuous You Know Whats

Watching tonight's Frontline (available online here) made me so angry I wanted to gouge out my eyes. It tells the story of the Bush administration's disastrous economic policies--it's mindless commitment to tax cuts coupled with unrestrained spending that has, in large part, led to the budget problems that our nation now faces.

A brief memo to all the Republicans who are now railing against the spending plans that the Obama administration has laid out to clean up your mess:

You have less than zero credibility on this issue. If you cared so much about fiscal responsibility, you had eight years to excercise it while you had a congressional majority. And now that President Obama has to clean up your steaming pile of shit by spending money we don't have, you want to express your righteous indignation?! I'm pretty sure you know what you can do with that indignation . . .

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

You Never Took Statistics, Did You?

Every year around NCAA tournament time, some sportswriter seems to make an argument so bad that it really makes me wonder how he has a job. Last year it was Dennis Dodd saying that Tim Floyd was the best coach in the Midwest region. At the time, I noted how insane that view was and, sure enough, Floyd's USC team lost in the first round to Kansas St. (who then lost to my Badgers).

Now, apparently, it's Gregg Doyel's turn. His contention is that the NCAA should stop awarding games closer to home for the tournament's higher seeds. A perfectly legitimate view and one worth exploring.

What's problematic--and I'd say baffling--is the argument. Doyel points out that since 1999, teams playing de facto home games are 71-8, making them almost sure winners. Okay, I'm listening. But then he drops this beauty: "In the first two rounds, "home" teams are 60-5 (.909). That number is skewed by the number of high seeds who get those "home" games--but then again, it's all related."

Very good, Gregg, it is all related.

Indeed, the only relevant question--and one he never addresses--is whether "home" teams of comparable seedings have a significantly higher winning percentage than those who have to travel greater distances. With that information, one has the basis for an interesting argument. Without that information, all Doyel has shown is that a certain subset of higher seeded teams win more games, which is pretty much what we'd expect, isn't it? What we're left with, then, is a mildly interesting opinion supported by irrelevant evidence.

Must be nice to have a job with such a low bar of success.