Friday, October 27, 2006

"That Olde Tyme Feeling"

or, "A Night In Maroon", in which our intrepid chronicler of all things trivial and pedantic in sports discusses the best Hokie win in two years, in prose form.

The game began, as most games do, with the tailgate, that ancient ritual stemming from the Middle Ages when spectators of jousting competitions would gather together beforehand in order to eat fire-roasted meats and drink mead before proceeding to the arena in which they would watch one knight brain another with a pointy stick.

Tailgates have come a long way since then (how those people managed to enjoy themselves without "Cottoneyed Joe" blaring in the background is difficult to comprehend) but the essential idea remains the same. One addition to the modern tailgate that would have been unthinkable in the year 1253 - Jello shots. According to wikipedia, jello is not, despite popular misconception, created from horse hooves and bull horns. It is actually derived from boiled cattle bones and pig skins. Well that's a weight off of my mind. In any case, these particular jello shots are encased in plastic ketchup containers (for easy transport both to the venue and away from the venue ie. into the stadium). They are, it should be said, fairly disgusting - someone on the recipe end has gotten their wires totally crossed, either accidentally or on purpose, and made the alcohol taste not only noticeable but overwhelming, which sort of defeats the purpose of the jello shot (being an alcohol vector meant for gigantic vaginas who don't actually like drinking alcohol, like me). In classic jello fashion, they come in three flavors - green, red and orange. The green ones are filled with Southern Comfort, so us squares avoid them like the plague. By the time the tailgate was packed up I had downed about 4 of these alcohol bombs and had a pocket filled with 3 more. Two were consumed on the way to the stadium, the third safely stored in my pocket for consumption while standing at my seat. Hokies don't sit in their seats. Hokies don't stand in front of their seats. Hokies stand on their seats, a concept which very clearly demonstrates the pitfalls of, and futility in arguing with, group behavior. While consuming my last jello shot along with my compatriots we were asked by the girls in front of us where we had obtained said jello shots, in response to which I replied that they were giving them out at the gate. This witticism, naturally, left me giggling like a schoolgirl - most likely, these ladies turned away in disgust, but I was too busy enjoying my own drollery to notice. Plus I was half in the bag - did I mention that those jello shots had a lot of alcohol in them? Well, I'll mention it again.

The Hokies, despite my fears, did not unveil the mismatched sleeve look against the Tigers, and one can only hope that that style has quietly been mothballed. They went with a style I have never seen them in - fully maroon. Now some may complain about this, and I understand that, but I for one thought they looked pretty damn good. The orange over white socks breaks up the monotony of the color scheme, and some players were wearing long white sleeved shirts under their jerseys which also helped add some color contrast. I would not be sorry to see this combo again.

The game began in classic 2006 Hokie fashion - with Clemson driving down the field to score a touchdown to make the score 7-0. Shockingly though, this was followed by a long Hokie drive which also resulted in a TD, and tied the score at 7.

A quick aside if I might, on a common gameday ritual - lifting a person up and bench pressing them a number of times which reflect the current home team score. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with this ritual - if you are a lady (although, considering the rare-but-all-too-real phenomenon of groping anything that can't fight back by certain less-developed members of the male half of the species, you would think most women would think twice). However, if you are a male, and you ask your friends to lift you up, you are a tool of the highest order (a circular saw?). This is unacceptable behavior that would be punished, in my America, by nothing less than surgical castration. Don't worry, you won't need 'em, trust me.

In any case, the next four Clemson possessions resulted in punt, punt, punt, fumble. Nevermind the fact that the Hokies only managed a single field goal in the intervening period of time - this was a good Clemson offense that wasn't getting anything going against the Hokies. The score was 10-7 going into halftime, with most of us feeling cautiously optimistic.

The halftime show was a welcome departure from the usual entertainment (the Marching Virginian bandgeeks forming unrecognizable geometric shapes and occasionally dancing, poorly, in ways that only the sort of person who defines themself by their status amongst other social outcasts who think playing "Iron Man" on traditional marching band instruments is the height of cool can do). The Highty-Tighties (the Corps of Cadets marching band) took the field and played, I don't know, a bunch of stuff by John Phillip Sousa. I can never hear the band anyway, but I'm pretty sure that's what they said it was. Now the truth may be that the Highty-Tighties are composed of the same sort of band geeks that the civilian band is, but they're also trained to kill, so they're automatically cooler, or at the very least less likely to be made fun of by a person who has been described as "ass-kickable".

The second half began with a 3-and-out by the Hokies, a familiar motif. But the subsequent Clemson drive would prove to be the backbreaker for the Tigers - 2 stops near the line of scrimmage and then a pass that found the waiting arms of Hokie linebacker Xavier Adibi. The Hokies had the ball on the Clemson 35, the crowd was in a frenzy, and 5 straight Branden Ore rushes put the ball in the endzone and the Hokies in complete control of the momentum.

Clemson desperately needed a big play to take the home crowd out of the game, if only temporarily, but they never managed it. Will Procter was an unmitigated disaster during the second half, completing 4 of 14 passes and leading the Tigers to a single first down. By the time the Hokies scored their final touchdown, with 2:07 left in the 3rd quarter, the Clemson fans had already begun to file out.

It seemed like a good time for a dinner break (all that alcohol was starting to sit poorly, so what better way to fix that than a heaping supply of cholesterol wrapped in rendered fat and, hopefully, some meat). Of course there was only one reasonable choice on a night like last night - the signature food of Lane Stadium (and, really, Blacksburg in general); a giant smoked turkey leg.

As one of the people I was with commented, it seems at least a little strange that our signature food has us, essentially, eating our mascot. I doubt Clemson serves tiger steaks at their home games. Or that Florida State serves up the dismembered, grilled corpses of Injuns for the consumption of their fans. But at Tech, we gnaw on the smoked remains of the Hokie bird. Which is, it should be said, mighty tasty. However, there is no way you can look cool when you are ripping chunks of bird flesh with your teeth. You invariably end up feeling, and most likely smelling, like Henry VIII, and while that may seem cool to the sort of guy who likes to grope coeds being hoisted up after the Hokies score, it's not so cool to the rest of us. In fact, I'd say it puts the idea of eating meat in its proper place - as something that's kind of horrifying. I read a book a couple years ago about Robert Falcon Scott's doomed trip to the South Pole, and one of the things I remember vividly from the book is the almost perverse pleasure the members of the expedition take in the new and unique animals they ate. Or 'et, as they say. Penguins, seals, albatross - if it could be caught and clubbed to death, they 'et it. Now that expedition did a lot of scientific work in Antarctica (as opposed to Roald Amundsen's, which basically dashed to the Pole and dashed back) but they also left the corpses of native animals behind because, god love 'em, a penguin is a tasty looking son of a bitch. And gnawing on the bone of a turkey, it's hard to honestly say that I (or any other meat eater) is really any better than some early-20th century explorer whose mindset when they see a fascinating new sort of creature is, "Let's eat it!" Anyway, I nursed the leg for much of the 4th quarter, and the Hokies finished off the Tigers in what looked like an easier fashion than me and my leg, trying to pick meat from tendon.

The Hokies never got rattled. They fed off the crowd in ways that vintage, good Hokie teams used to do. The running game and the defense carried the day, partially because they have do, but mostly because that is the formula for success that the Hokies have usually relied on. Even when Michael Vick was taking the snaps, the passing game was used sparingly, mostly for big gains that either brought the crowd noise to a fever pitch (at home) or quieted them down (on the road). To say that this was the best Hokie win of the year is not only incredibly obvious, but also an understatement. This win suggests that, yes, there is some life left in this team after all. Miami looms, but right now that almost seems like a good thing.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Of course the biggest problem with the MLB awards is the voters. Check out just how backward the BBWAA really is (are?) - here's their official website. It must be one of the first things Al Gore set up.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Marketing Baseball, Pt. I

In which Faster Than A Shark attempts to address some of the disadvantages Selig and friends have given themselves in competing with the other major sports. We'll start with a minor quibble, but one that is a significant PR mistake.

Every year, a good deal of in-season sportswriting and fan interest is devoted to the major annual awards, specifically the MVP, Cy Young, and in good years, rookie and batting races. These debates, while generating a whole lot of badly written articles, are a definate positive for the game, offering friendly regional rivalry between contenders, and the amplifying the constant struggle to understand the meaning and significance of statistics.
This year's AL MVP race, for example, provided fans with a healthy regional debate between Boston, New York, Minnesota, and Chicago, whose contending players also each represented a different point in the perception of player value. Should the winner be the home run and RBI leader, David Ortiz, or a player with superior rate stats in Derek Jeter, or the batting champion and player at the most important defensive position, Joe Mauer? Several candidates with more balanced cases also figured into the discussion, most prominently Justin Morneau and Jermaine Dye. Such an array of diverse MVP candidates stimulates much discussion and is a good thing for baseball in general. Even a clear-cut race, such as the one for this year's AL Cy Young, has its benefits, creating an easily recognizable moniker for an already star player: Johan Santana, the best pitcher in Major League Baseball.
The problem here is the timing. The award encompasses only the regular season, is voted on after the regular season, and is one of the biggest topics of the regular season, so why isn't it announced at the end of the regular season? By waiting until after the playoffs, MLB diffuses all of the budding interest in the award and turns it into an afterthought. It also misses the possibility of increased attention and improved storylines on award winners during important playoff games. In the speech of announcers and sportswriters last year, "Steve Nash" disappeared. Every assist, every pull-up jump shot, these were the actions of a new, improved version of the man, "MVP Steve Nash". Consider the amplification of pressure (and thus, fan interest and sportswriter hyperbole) on Alex Rodriguez, if, during his infamous 2-15 0 RBI performance in the 2005 ALDS, he was constantly being refered to as the MVP.

The announcements now come sometime in November, headlined on but pushed to the side by ESPN and the other news outlets, and for good reason. MLB releases the winners of its most prestigious honor at the exact moment during the year when the average fan's interest level in baseball is at its lowest. In November, baseball is an afterthought: football is in full swing, basketball and the college sports are just starting - even the major events of the offseason are weeks and months away. The spirited midseason debate and interest in this awards has long since disipated by the time they are currently announced. However, if made public just between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, this debate would continue and carry on through what should be the game's showcase month. New focus would be placed on the performance of award winners in the playoffs, and whether they could 'live up' to their newly adorned titles. Sportswriter and fan interest in award winners is extra publicity for a sport that has problems drawing out of market fans for playoff broadcasts.
It's just a small example, just one little thing that could be improved. The commissioner's mandate is to act in the best interest of baseball. This pretty clearly qualifies.

A sheepish return

Man, it's been a long time since I posted. Let's see, excuses....excuses.....well, I was sick for the last several days. And I've been catching up with my new favorite show what has all the spaceships and such on DVD. So, yeah, that's all I've got.

College football vs. pro football, in a nutshell: My football teams - the Virginia Tech Hokies and Washington Redskins, sport the reverse record of each other; 5-2 and 2-5, respectively. I feel the exact same way about the prospects of each team this year - crappy. The Skins are in a hole that is probably too deep to climb out of, and will most likely find themselves "playing for the future" (ie. playing this young black thing instead of this old white thing who, incidentally, really digs this even older white thing a whole hell of a lot) real soon. Now, I've been following the Redskins since the time they went from a great team to a league laughingstock - literally, my first season as a fan was the single Richie Petitbon year when the team went 4-12 and let me tell you, the Redskins never play for the future. Sure they pretend for a few games, even a half season maybe, but the lure of the high-profile free agent or forgotten veteran who looks, fleetingly, better than the hotshot draft pick is always too tempting to pass up. I'm already steeling myself for another decade of 8-8 finishes.

The Hokies, meanwhile, should be in a theoretically better position at 5-2 overall and 3rd in the ACC Coastal division, right behind a rapidly-imploding Hurricanes team. The problem is that the team in front of the Hurricanes, the Yellow Jackets, has already beaten the Hokies and only has one conference loss, which means the Hokies would have to win out their conference schedule and the Jackets would have to lose to two of the following teams: Miami, NC State, UNC or Duke, in order for the Hokies to be in the ACC title game. So you've got a combination of 1) a universally-regarded-as-sucky ACC and 2) a Hokie team that likely won't even get a chance to play for the title of King of the Dipshits, and Hokie fans have already written off what will likely be at least an 8-win season as a "rebuilding year". Of course, we're all focused on the day that Ike Whitaker takes the reigns of the offense from the Gummo-ish Sean Glennon - the buzz that he has yet to learn the playbook shouldn't be allowed to detract from the anticipation of that magical day.

The Hokies have a short week this week - a game against Clemson on Thursday follows a Saturday game this past weekend. Sadly, the Tigers won't be able to wear the most hideous non-Oregon uniforms so far this year at Lane Stadium (this monstrosity, which they wore against Georgia Tech), but maybe that's a good thing - it can't be easy to be tough against a team when you can't stop laughing at their clown suits. The Hokies, for their part, have looked sharp this season - most likely, they will break out the mismatched sleeves on Thursday and make me look like an idiot for praising them.

So football season is about halfway over and I'm already looking forward to another year of The Black Presidency. Aw hell, he'll probably disappoint me too, but at least he'll look cool doing it.

Finally, to end this on the completely unrelated note that it so clearly deserves, the last bastion of 80's-reference-based humor that's actually funny and not, you know, incredibly fucking annoying brought up something yesterday that I had completely forgotten about - kids who pronounce the word "crayon" like "crown". Apparently this shit perpetuates into adulthood. How the fuck do you get crown from C-R-A-Y-O-N? I mean, I know kids have some weird speech impediments - I knew a kid who pronounced the word "took" like "cook" which doesn't seem so much like an impediment as it does a kid who's really goddamn confused - but this crown/crayon business should take about 2 seconds to correct. It is imperative on our nation's teachers to indoctrinate kids on the proper way to pronouce crayon, and it's not the same as you would pronounce the name of something that the queen of England wears on her head right before she has another one of her fuck-up kids or their spouses ex-communicated. It's a crayon, and it comes in a big yellow box with a built-in sharpener, unless your family's poor and they buy you some off-brand crayons for which you will be deservedly mocked by the rest of the children in your class.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Belated Game Seven Story.

I spent most of Game Seven stuffed into a Fung Wa bus somewhere between Boston and Chinatown, clutching at a dying ipod and smiling in disbelief at the delightfull chaos of twice-recommended The Master and Margerita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Luckily kept updated by the text messages of a resourceful Duker, I stumbled out onto a deserted midnight street with the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the eighth. Reasoning that a midnight Chinatown was no place to find a sympathetic television, I flew into the subway and half-ran through the rain from Byrant Park to Grand Central, finally locating the game, now in the bottom of ninth, in a bar in the corner of the basement food floor.
I can't imagine what compells a man, or more accurately six drunken, bejerseyed men, to watch the biggest game their team has played in six years in a tiny bar shunted into the corner of the busiest place on the Eastern seaboard. Nor can I imagine what compells the bartender of said establishment to close his place despite a growing crowd outside, looking through the bars at the thankfully visible television. My fellow congregators would surely have been glad to patronize the tiny place. I myself thirsted for a Guinness or some such sturdy refreshment, but settled for sipping out of the waterbottle I'd been nursing since leaving Brandeis.
Apparently the Mets had blown it during my time underground; the score was now 3-1. However, to my surprise, noted non-hitters Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez were on base, with no outs: this had the potential to become a thing. 'What if this is a thing?' I thought, clutching at my backpack and straining to see over shoulders and through the bars encasing the bar. It was evident to me from Cliff Floyd's first swing-and-miss that this rookie closer Adam Wainwright was the real thing, and through with no real rooting interest I quickly compelled and drawn in to what had clearly been a hell of a game (I would not even see the replay of Endy's catch until returning home).
While muttering with my fellow commuters about the excellence of Wainwright's curveball, and the train we were all about to miss, something else became clear to me, namely, how god damn awesome it was to walk into such a scene of frenzied fandom. We who were huddled outside represented a more sober, analytical view of the game, while the six men inside were in the throes of fully drunken prayer. It wasn't just their all-out applause on every taken pitch, or the screams at a strike, or the 'just this once' extorsions to Floyd and later, Reyes, Lo Duca and Beltran. They paced and brayed and stomped around in hopefull terror. Upon Floyd's strikeout, the drunkest of the lot and the most vocal bellowed the insult of insults with a word one hopes to hear only in textbooks and rap songs, then tried to apologise for it but got caught up in starting a 'Jose, Jose!' chant. Even the suited black man standing next to me had to laugh it off, forgetting it moments later anyway: the winning run was at the plate, after all.
I felt that I had witnessed a real New York moment, not the sentimental dreck that was everywhere after September 11th, but something worthy of The French Connection, something that made me a proud denizen, even if only of the suburbs, and a prouder still baseball fan. Where else do they care more, I thought? No Nascar results or Terrell Owens controversy could pierce this scene tonight, this scene of intimate sporting agony. It is impossible to describe the sound a passerby must have heard while Reyes' flare fluttered in the air. Off the bat, it was a game-tying, impossibly joyous double, but it dropped to a shocked, stuttering wail in Edmond's glove. Somewhere else in the city, Will Leitch's insides shot in all directions and he died a little, then broke into a cheer that reminded him he was still alive. Here, Paul Lo Duca was up, and the fear was tangible. I told the man next to me who had just missed his train that a HBP was the best case scenairo here, and we watched more deadly curveballs just miss.
The thing had nearly come to pass, and everyone knew that this was the moment, that impossible bases loaded ninth inning situation of everyone's deepest childhood dreams. We prayed for a hanging curveball, and Beltran hit one foul. It was 0-2 too quickly, maybe Beltran should have stepped out to drag it out a little, hell, maybe he did, but either way no one was ready for it to be 0-2, for the thing's possiblities to stretch so close and so immenently to nothing. It had to be another curveball, almost musically beautiful and destructive, and afterwards I quickly fled to await the next train upstairs, fearing the drunken aftermath of that curveball, frozen and gorgeous, which seemed to travel so slowly that we could see the exact last possible moment for Beltran to swing go by, just perceptable before it was over. The howl went up behind me and I left, stunned and proud and happy, to have seen even the end of such a game.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

..and the Tigers win the pennant.

Yeah, well.
Anyway, the question isn't whether or not the Tigers will win the World Series. They will. The real question here is, who do you pick out to come out of the AL Central next year? There's four scary teams there that you'd hate to bet against. The two favorites missed out this year, but they are still strong teams, and as Chicago and others have shown, this perfect blend of team pitching and well used role players is a fleeting thing. Bullpens disappear, starters regress, standouts become problems. Honestly though, the 2007 situation in this division is one of complete chaos. There's a just recently vaulted rotation in Chicago, the promise of a monstrous two-headed rotation in Minnesota, Pronk and his underperforming dwarves in Cleveland, and Jim Leyland's fellows, the latest balanced sportswriter's dream to succeed in October.
(Of course, there's a fifth team in this division, the Kansas City Royals, who will turn out to be the last team to take a series from Detroit in 2006. In fact, their case for contention is not as farfetched as one might think; they did play .500 or so ball in the second half of the season. The Royals finally have a real general manager, and at least some young talent in Teahen and Dejesus. Perhaps '07 is the year that Runelvys puts it all together? Or will Zach Greinke return from his season-long personality crisis exile and suddenly become Greg Maddux? These days teams come completely out of nowhere - can't you see Alex Rodriguez striking out on a sweeping Andy Sisco curveball to finish off the ALDS next year?)

Terror has a new face?

But that is how it has to be now-a-days. We as the educated, cynical segment of the baseball fanbase have to learn to pick out future surprises. So Taguchi hitting a home run? Kenny Rogers just completely inhabiting the 'gritty veteran' moniker? Just today Jeff Suppan hit a home run. We have to start expecting these things, and if that means a Detroit 06 title or a Florida 07 pennant then that's just how it has to be. Abandoning reasoned prediction based on statistics or overall talent has no place in the 21st century. Expect the unexpected? Expect the flabbergasting.

(Edit: Although FJM flogged him for it, Simmons made a similar point today about sleepers, and expectations and things. Not that I'm advocating reading his football columns. They're impossible.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Urban sophisticates and Cardinalis cardinalis

For fairness sake I figured I should do an NLCS preview too. Just like yesterday, I'm grading lineup, rotation, bench, bullpen and defense.


Leading off -
NYM - SS Jose Reyes, .300/.354/.487, 64 SB, 17 CS.
StL - SS David Eckstein, .292/.350/.344, 7 SB, 6 CS.
As everyone knows, Eckstein leads the world in Scrap and Hustle Index (SHI) at a robust 67.4, whereas Reyes's SHI is a fairly pedestrian 28.2. But when it comes to playing actual baseball, Reyes is better. Advantage Mets.

Batting second -
NYM - C Paul LoDuca, .318/.355/.428, 3 SB, 0 CS.
StL - LF Preston Wilson, .263/.307/.423, 12 SB, 2 CS.
The NLCS, if nothing else, will answer for most baseball fans the question "Is Preston Wilson still alive?" Indeed he is. But he sucks. Advantage Mets.

Batting third -
NYM - CF Carlos Beltran, .275/.388/.594, 18 SB, 3 CS.
StL - 1B Albert Pujols, .331/.431/.671, 7 SB, 2 CS.
Sorry Carlos, you're a fine ballplayer but you sir are no Albert Pujols. Advantage Cardinals.

Batting fourth -

NYM - 1B Carlos Delgado, .265/.361/.548, 0 SB, 0 CS.
StL - 3B Scott Rolen, .296, .369/.518, 7 SB, 4 CS.
In 25 years, will people view Carlos Delgado as a man who courageously decided to speak his mind, rather than an anti-American ballplayer who is, therefore, with the terrorists? God I hope so. Oh yeah, he's better than even a 100% healthy Rolen. Advantage Mets.

Batting fifth -
NYM - 3B David Wright, .311/.381/.531, 20 SB, 5 CS.
StL - RF Juan Encarnacion, .278/.317/.443, 6 SB, 5 CS.
It could get really ugly with the hacktastic Encarnacion facing the nibblers on the Mets' staff. Advantage Mets.

Batting sixth -
NYM - LF Cliff Floyd, .244/.324/.407, 6 SB, 0 CS.
StL - CF Jim Edmonds, .257/.350/.471, 4 SB, 0 CS.
This assumes Floyd plays - his replacement would be Endy Chavez who is better, but still not as good as Edmonds. Advantage Cardinals.

Batting seventh -
NYM - RF Shawn Green, .277/.344/.432, 4 SB, 4 CS.
StL - 2B Ronnie Belliard, .271/.322/.402, 0 SB, 3 CS.
Two guys who started the season with other teams. The corpse of Shawn Green continues to collect a major league paycheck and, what's more, hold down a starting spot for a playoff team. Unfortunately for the Cards, he's STILL better than Belliard. Advantage Mets.

Batting eighth -
NYM - 2B Jose Valentin, .271/.330/.490, 6 SB, 2 CS.
StL - C Yadier Molina, .216/.274/.321, 1 SB, 2 CS.
Yadier is Spanish for "Somehow sucks even more than Bengie and Jose". Do you think Tony LaRussa made a deal with the devil that landed him Albert Pujols but ensured he would never have a catcher who could hit his weight? Advantage Mets.

So I have Mets 6, Cardinals 2. The Cards have the best player in the entire series, but the Mets have perhaps the best 1-5 in all of baseball. Obviously, the lineup is a huge advantage for the Mets.

Bench - The Mets have the aforementioned Endy Chavez, World's Oldest Man Julio Franco, Ramon Castro doing the backup catching duties, Chris Woodward and Michael Tucker. The Cardinals bring Chris Duncan (.293/.363/.589 this year), Scott Spiezio, John Rodriguez, Aaron Miles, So Taguchi, and Gary Bennett doing the backup catching duties. The only player on the Mets worth much is Chavez, and he may end up starting. The Cards can throw Duncan, Spiezio and Rodriguez at you. Huge advantage for the Cardinals.

Rotations -
(the numbers here, again, are BB/9, K/9, HR/9, ERA and VORP)
1) NYM - Tom Glavine, 2.82/5.95/1.00/3.82/37.8
StL - Jeff Weaver, 2.46/5.60/1.78/5.76/-2.7
Yes, Jeff Weaver racked up a negative VORP this year. He was, it should be said, somewhat hit unlucky and his peripherals are better than his ERA would indicate. Except for HR/9, which is a disaster for Weaver. Especially against a lineup that eats up right handed pitching. Advantage Mets.

2) NYM - John Maine, 3.30/7.10/1.50/3.60/19.7
StL - Jeff Suppan, 3.27/4.93/0.99, 4.12/26.1
This is not that much of a mismatch - Maine strikes guys out, but gives up homers. Some will give Suppan the edge since he's a veteran - don't believe them, because that is outweighed by the fact that, for the most part, Suppan sucks. No one can be successful with those walk and K numbers. Something has to give there. Advantage Mets.

3) NYM - Steve Trachsel, 4.26/4.32/1.26/4.97/15.8
StL - Chris Carpenter, 1.75/7.47/0.85/3.09/67.2
Much like in the lineup with Pujols, St. Louis features the best pitcher in the series in Chris Carpenter. LaRussa gets him for game 7 if the series goes that far, which could tip the balance. Huge advantage Cardinals.

4) NYM - Oliver Perez, 5.43/8.15/1.50/6.55/-2.3
StL - Jason Marquis, 3.47/4.45/1.62/6.02/-6.8
It's our first two sucky pitcher battle. Compare the pitching in this series to that in the A's/Tigers matchup - except for Carpenter and maybe Glavine there is no one in this series who would be starting for the A's or Tigers. Between these two terrible pitchers, I'll watch football on Sunday night. Draw.

So the scorecard I've got is Mets 2, Cards 1 with one draw. If Carpenter could have gone three times he might have swung the balance, but he can't so I have advantage Mets.

Bullpen -
The Mets are going with Billy Wagner, Pedro Feliciano, Darren Oliver, Aaron Heilman, Chad Bradford, Guillermo Mota, Roberto Hernandez and Royce Ring. The Cards bring Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper, Brad Thompson, Josh Hancock, Josh Kinney, Tyler Johnson and Randy Flores. Even if you consider Oliver and Hernandez frauds, the Mets still have quality pitchers in Wagner, Feliciano, Bradford, Mota and, to some extent, Heilman. The good part of the Cards bullpen is Wainwright, Looper, Thompson and Kinney. The Mets are better at the top and deeper. Advantage Mets.

Defense -
The Mets' Defensive Efficiency is 0.708, good for second in the NL, whereas the Cardinals are at 0.704, 6th in the NL. Statistically there isn't much difference there, so I'll call it a draw.

So I have it as follows:
Lineup: Advantage Mets
Bench: Advantage Cardinals
Rotation: Advantage Mets
Bullpen: Advantage Mets
Defense: Draw

This is, on paper, a huge mismatch favoring the Mets. The Cardinals lack the one thing, left-handed pitching, that can shut down the Mets lineup. The best hope for the Cards is to hang on as long as possible and hope they can get it to game 7, when they can get the ball into Chris Carpenter's hands. I doubt this'll happen. My prediction: Mets in 5.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sporting types and Panthera tigris

Have you had enough of the shrill ARod/Torre/Yankees drama? Do you wish to read about anything else in the world? Do you like hacky, poorly-thought-out articles that everyone and their mother has already done better? Then you've come to the right place. In honor of the actual baseball games being played tomorrow by actual people, I present to you my pedestrian and most likely wrong ALCS Preview.

I am grading 5 things - lineups, rotation, bullpen, bench and defense. For bullpen, bench and defense, I'm looking at overall strength. For rotation, I'm going to compare the pitchers who are scheduled to match up against one another. And for lineup, I'm doing a comparison based on spot in the batting order (with some fudging, so the players match up well) rather than position. I think this is a more informative way to compare - because of it, I won't be using VORP for position players (since it's position dependent). And away we go.

Lineups (numbers are AVG/OBP/SLG, plus stolen bases and caught stealing)

Leading off -
Det - CF Curtis Granderson, .260/.335/.438. 8 SB, 5 CS.
Oak - C Jason Kendall, .295/.367/.342. 11 SB, 5 CS.
I'll take Granderson's power over Kendall's on-base ability - 1 home run is just not cutting it, and that OBP is too batting average dependent. Advantage Detroit.

Hitting second -
Det - 2B Placido Polanco, .295/.329/.364. 1 SB, 2 CS.
Oak - CF Mark Kotsay, .295/.332/.386. 6 SB, 3 CS.
Statistically, there's no difference here. As far as I can tell, these are the exact same person. Draw.

Batting third -
Det - 1B Sean Casey, .273/.336/.388 (season total). 0 SB, 1 CS.
Oak - RF Milton Bradley, .276/.370/.447. 10 SB, 2 CS.
This is an easy pick, especially when you consider the fact that Casey's numbers have gone down since he moved from Pittsburgh to Detroit. Advantage Oakland.

Batting fourth -
Det - RF Magglio Ordonez, .298/.350/.477. 1 SB, 4 CS.
Oak - 3B Eric Chavez, .241/.351/.435. 3 SB, 0 CS.
Another easy choice. Magglio is better pretty much across the board, and he has cooler hair. Advantage Oakland.

Batting fifth -
Det - SS Carlos Guillen, .320/.400/.519. 20 SB, 9 CS.
Oak - DH Frank Thomas, .270/.381/.545. 0 SB, 0 CS.
This was a tough one - Guillen has the advantage in OBP and is obviously better on the basepaths. In the end, I think Thomas's ability to hit the home run outweighs Guillen's advantages, and Thomas is no slouch in the OBP department either. Advantage Oakland.

Batting sixth -
Det - C Ivan Rodriguez, .300/.332/.437. 8 SB, 3 CS.
Oak - LF Jay Payton, .296/.325/.418. 8 SB, 4 CS.
Another easy one. Pudge is better across the board. Advantage Detroit.

Batting seventh -
Det - LF Craig Monroe, .255/.301/.482. 2 SB, 2 CS.
Oak - 1B Nick Swisher, .254/.372/.493. 1 SB, 2 CS.
The battle of low-average, good power guys. Swisher gets on base, Monroe doesn't. Advantage Oakland.

Batting eighth -
Det - DH Marcus Thames, .256/.333/.549. 1 SB, 1 CS.
Oak - SS Marco Scutaro, .266/.350/.397. 5 SB, 1 CS.
Pretty much the same as the leadoff matchup - Scutaro's advantage in OBP is offset by Thames' ability to hit the long ball. Only in this case, the ability blows Scutaro out of the water. Advantage Detroit.

Batting ninth -
Det - 3B Brandon Inge, .253/.313/.463. 7 SB, 4 CS.
Oak - 2B Mark Ellis, .249/.319/.385. 4 SB, 0 CS (note: this will probably be a platoon with Ellis and D'Angelo Jimenez. But Ellis's numbers are more competitive, so I used him.)
Yet ANOTHER low-OBP masher for Detroit vs.....well, in this case, not much of anything for Oakland. Advantage Detroit.

So, my scorecard has 4 for Detroit, 4 for Oakland and one draw. Technically a draw, but I believe that the bottom of Detroit's batting order is so much better than the bottom of Oakland's that they end up coming out ahead. So I'm giving it a slight advantage for Detroit.

Bench - The key players for Detroit are Omar Infante and Vance Wilson, with Alexis Gomez and the awful Neifi Perez and Ramon Santiago also available. Oakland's ace-in-the-hole is Bobby Kielty. Dan Johnson is a decent option, Adam Melhuse is doing the backup catching duties, and D'Angelo Jimenez and Hiram Bocachica are taking up roster space. The difference here is that Infante and Wilson are both good, whereas Oakland only has Kielty. Advantage Detroit.

Rotations (the numbers here are, in order, BB/9, K/9, HR/9, ERA and VORP)

1) Det - Nate Robertson, 2.89/5.91/1.25/3.84/42.0
Oak - Barry Zito, 4.03/6.15/1.10/3.83/51.0
This one is real close. I'm giving the advantage to Zito - he's had control problems but his home run and strikeout numbers are better than Robertson, and I'll give him a slight nudge for his postseason track record. Advantage Oakland.

2) Det - Justin Verlander, 2.90/6.00/1.02/3.63/47.0
Oak - Esteban Loaiza, 2.33/5.64/0.99/4.89/12.7
Don't let Loaiza's ERA fool you - he was tremendously hit-unlucky this year, and his peripherals track well. I'll give Verlander the slight edge, but this is closer than you think. Advantage Detroit.

3) Det - Kenny Rogers, 2.74/4.37/1.01/3.84/39.8
Oak - Danny Haren, 1.82/7.10/1.25/4.12/42.5
Kenny Rogers is a fraud. Haren tracks better in just about every way except ERA (yes, Rogers has better HR/9 numbers). Rogers strikes out less guys and walks more. This matchup definitely leans towards the A's. Advantage Oakland.

4) Det - Jeremy Bonderman, 2.69/8.50/0.76/4.08/39.2
Oak - Rich Harden, 5.01/9.45/0.96/4.24/9.5
This is actually probably the most intriguing matchup, and it's a shame it's the game 4 one. Harden didn't pitch enough this year to make an accurate assessment, but when he did he struck a lot of guys out and walked a lot. Even if he's 100%, Bonderman's peripherals are better - he walked a lot less guys, struck out almost as many, and had obscenely low home run numbers. Advantage Detroit.

This one I have to call a draw. I trust Detroit's rotation more than Oakland's in a long series, and I think that if the matchups were switched around Detroit might have wiped the floor with them. But they're not, and as such I have it 2-2.

Detroit is going with Jason Grilli, Todd Jones, Wilfredo Ledezma, Zach Miner, Fernando Rodney, Jamie Walker and Joel Zumaya. Zumaya's a strikeout machine, but also walks a lot of guys. Jones is his opposite; he doesn't walk anyone, and doesn't strike anyone out. The rest of the guys are a mixed bag, but overall Detroit's bullpen is a low strikeout, low walk type.

Oakland has Kiko Calero, Justin Duchscherer, Chad Gaudin, Joe Kennedy, Kirk Saarloos and Houston Street. Street and Duchscherer are probably the two best relievers in this series. Oakland's bullpen is the opposite of Detroit's - high strikeout, high walk. The difference is that Oakland's bullpen has freakishly low home run rates, whereas Detroit's are just low.

These are two very good bullpens. But Oakland has the two best bullpen pitchers on their side, and are able to dig deeper into their pen for quality pitchers. Advantage Oakland.


Real simple. Detroit had a 0.712 defensive efficiency (the rate at which balls in play are converted to outs), good for 1st in the AL. Oakland's was 0.694, good for 7th in the AL. Oakland has prided itself over the last few years in being a good defensive ballclub, but Detroit is better. Advantage Detroit.

So I have:
Lineup - Slight advantage Detroit.
Bench - Advantage Detroit.
Rotation - Draw.
Bullpen - Advantage Oakland.
Defense - Advantage Detroit.

I came into this thinking Oakland was the better team in terms of talent level, but I have to concede that Detroit is probably better. Oakland's biggest advantage is in the bullpen, and Detroit's is the bottom of the lineup and the bench. The A's best chance to win this series lies in doing the old A's thing of taking a lot of pitches and working their way into the underbelly of the Tigers' bullpen. Detroit is better off jumping on the Oakland starters and getting them for runs early. I thought about picking Detroit in 5 but I'm pussing out and going with Detroit in 6.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Hate.

Still staggered from the 6-0 loss to the Tigers this evening, I'll briefly report on one of the ugliest recurring elements of nationwide Yankee hatred. With the game well out of reach in the eighth, the crowd cheered as a Zumaya fastball soared out of the strike zone and past Alex Rodriguez's head. Rodriguez had already been beaned once in the game, by Rogers, but it is worth noting the cheering of the near miss, something I've seen quite often over his three seasons in the Bronx. It seems that the man is so hated nationwide that not only is he booed before every at-bat but road crowds actively cheer when he is close to being hit.
The game was well over at this point, and Zumaya was clearly not throwing at Rodriguez, not with a six run lead and with no grudge or history between them. He had just come out of the bullpen, and was a little wild with his first 102 mile an hour fastball. Perfectly reasonable. The proper crowd reaction to something like this should be a small gasp, and probably would have been for any other player. No one wants to see a decisive victory by the home team marred a player hit in the head by probably the most dangerous pitch harnessed by anyone in the game. Or at least no one should, but Rodriguez is hated so much that the fans were excited when he came close to a Piazza or even Ray Chapman moment. We've all been watching normal games when suddenly a batter is hit in the head, or a pitcher is hit by a line drive, or two fielders colide on a play. On field baseball injuries are painful and cringe-worthy to watch. Play pauses as the cameras show closeups of concerned players on both teams, and frozen, silenced fans in the stands. Always at the end of one of these injury delays, whether the player is taken off in a stretcher or gamely limps down to first base, he recieves a nice hand from the crowd, home or away. We've all seen this happen during a game. This is what those fans were hoping for when that fastball slipped out of Zumaya's control and toward Alex Rodriguez's head.
People are focused on the reaction Terrell Owens will recieve on Sunday in Philadelphia, but he may not even be the most hated athlete in America. He'll probably be knocked down several times to raucous cheers, but I doubt he'll be exposed to anything as dangerous as the possiblity of a 102 mile an hour fastball to the head. Considering his standing with his own fans, Zumaya's pitch might have been cheered even at Yankee Stadium. Hopefully, Rodriguez will have another chance to improve his image, at least to Yankee fans, over the next two days.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Day at the Playoffs: Tommy Lasorda?

  • Firstly, I am amused to report that I am enjoying the Lasorda playoff ads. Perhaps it is his slight resemblance, in both voice and stature, to a certain minister of awesome. This runs counter to Lasorda's usual image as an overturned bumbling joke. Or is it because they make fun of Red Sox fans?
  • Macha very riskily left Barry Zito in to finish the eighth with a man on, the batting champion up, and very good setup man and copy-and-paste champion Justin Craig Duchscherer ready in the bullpen. In contrast, Joe Torre pulled Chien-Ming Wang after only 6.2 innings, despite Wang having retired the last nine batters. Erstwhile lefty specialist (the word has a token connotation, like the black guy in a horror movie) Mike Myers promptly gave up a home run to the AL stikeout leader Curtis Granderson, leading to a parade of wonderful shots of worried Yankee fans suffering through a frightening bullpen despite the lead.
  • The once-traded-for-Eric-Milton non-hitter Nick Punto pulled out a crazy leaping stands catch, but McCarver was not around to immortalize it. Scroll down and wait for the horribly annoying Comeback Player ad to finish. It was a hell of a game in Minnesota, and this should be the best of these four series, oddly because neither of the teams can score runs. Oakland has the better starting pitching and should pull it out, even if Frank Thomas is walked every time up from now on.
  • The Cardinals won, sure. Too bad Jeff Weaver's starting tommorrow.
  • Lastly, the Yankees brought Ronan Tynan out of storage to sing about the separation of church and state. Not content with their annual showcase of the man's absurd ears, the Fox broadcast team elected to shoot him entirely from the ground. This is a technique once used to great effect by the late Orson Welles, which under the right curcumstances imparts the power and presence of a dangerous or important man by highlighting his girth and literal mass. Orson shot himself in this way in Citizen Kane, first to show us a larger-than-life man unstoppably on his way up, and then to emphasise the abject failure of an angry undignified husk of a man who has lost everything.
    He uses it again in Touch of Evil, to emphasise the physical as well as moral corruption of his colossal police chief. In Orson's case, this angle adds a sense of power to the character, but it does not fare so well when applied by a Fox camera at the floor of Yankee Stadium. I couldn't find a proper screenshot, but seeing Ronan this way, between a section of grass and part of the upper deck, brings out not the underlying power of the figure but rather a sense of the pudgy ridiculous. The man's ears fly out in opposite cardinal directions, seemingly propelled by the bursting fat curvily lining the inside of his annual greatcoat. He is only a pork chop or two away from a full fledged Irish intestinal explosion. Do not expect him back next year, but do expect last rites over a coffin fit for Barbaro.
Orson, terrifying, corrupt, yet less corpulent than Ronan Tynan.

The Hebrew Leprechaun

Let me start with a simple truth - just about anything that needs to be said about Mitch Albom has already been said. Slate's Bryan Curtis absolutely eviscerated him in an article published this past Thursday. I had absolutely no desire to rehash the same ground that a real, actual writer had just tread, especially since it's likely that Curtis has actually read, or at knows someone who has read, Albom's books, whereas I have not and do not. I was going to write about any other topic in the world. But when I opened up the mailbox on Saturday and pulled out the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly to find Kate Winslet giving me what a team of scientists have decided is the sexiest come-hither look of all time, I was able to pry my eyes away for the 2 seconds that I needed to read the following words in the lower right-hand corner - "Mitch Albom vs. His Critics". Still, I wasn't going to write about Mitch Albom, because really who gives a fuck about Mitch Albom anyway? But then I read the article and I realized, as a service to humanity, certain things in said article needed to be shared with the rest of the world who may not read this pop culture rag.

The background - Mitch Albom is a sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press, who is best known to the general populace for sentimental treacle "Tuesdays with Morrie", "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" and his latest book, "For One More Day", the peddling of which explains his appearance in EW. Besides being a writer of cheap, sentimental crap that delivers easy answers (more on that in a minute), he is also a target because in April of 2005 he turned in a column about a couple of Michigan State alums in the NBA (specifically, Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson) going to watch the Final Four in St. Louis, despite the fact that neither player was at the game - it turned out that they told him they were going to the game but decided not to, and Albom's column, having been written based on the assumption that they would go to the game, was, in essence, a fabrication. After the publication of the article, the Free Press launched a review of Albom's past columns, but was unable to find any evidence of other fabrications.

I couldn't find the entire column (the readily-available archives for the Free Press don't go back that far) but I found the first few paragraphs, which seem to be the source of the controversy:

"In the audience Saturday at the Final Four, among the 46,000 hoop junkies, sales executives, movie producers, parents, contest winners, beer guzzlers, hip-hop stars and lucky locals who knew somebody who knew somebody, there were two former stars for Michigan State, Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson,"

"They sat in the stands, in their MSU clothing, and rooted on their alma mater. They were teammates in the magical 2000 season, when the Spartans won it all. Both now play in the NBA, Richardson for Golden State, Cleaves for Seattle."

"And both made it a point to fly in from wherever they were in their professional schedule just to sit together Saturday. Richardson, who earns millions, flew by private plane. Cleaves, who's on his fourth team in five years, bought a ticket and flew commercial."

The portion of the interview about this scandal in EW went like this:

Q: What about the mini-scandal over your column?.....Were you surprised by how much attention it got?
A: Sure. And the people involved with it all apologized to me afterwards, from the publisher of the paper to the guy who ran Knight Ridder. They said, We never should have made such a big deal out of it, we should've trusted you and taken it for what it was, and not turned it into a big thing.
Q: Are you upset you made the mistake?
A: Well, sure. It was just careless. It was just rushed. But that's all it was. It was just a rush. These guys swore to me that they were gonna be there, and so I said, Well, they're gonna be there, so we'll just write that they were there. You shouldn't do that, you should just write [that] they planned to be there. That's all. It was just missing a word. That's it. Was it a mistake? Yeah. Should you do it? No. Do you apologize for it? Yes. Move on.

Comment: Obviously, EW isn't that interested in rehashing this controversy, but the interviewer feels obligated to at least bring it up. And even with the leading questions he's fed, Albom still manages to sound like an asshole. First, I'd love to see those so-called apologies he received from people who were simply doing due-diligence on a writer who got his hand caught in the cookie jar. Second, there's this statement: "It was just missing a word." Read the excerpt of the article and show me where a single word could be added to fix it. Is it the part where he describes what they're wearing at the game they didn't attend? The part where he tells us specifically how they fly to the game? Finally, and perhaps most douchebaggily, he uses the phrase, "Move on." As if we're all at fault for asking these questions, not him for making the shit up in the first place. Honestly, I think his indiscretion is low on the totem pole - he screwed up by publishing an article that ended up being wrong, got caught and had to apologize. This isn't Stephen Glass territory, and he doesn't deserve to be crucified for it. But when you do get caught doing this, you should be apologetic. You should be humble. You should never stop admitting that you fucked up, and you certainly shouldn't be confrontational to a public that wants to know you aren't going to do it again.

Okay, about that sentimental tripe. Here are a couple of interesting responses from Mr. Albom:

Q: What do you make of critics who call your books too sentimental or sappy?
A: Well, I've always been mystified. Since when did sentimental become a bad thing? Everybody's favorite movie is a sentimental movie - It's a Wonderful Life, or The Wizard of Oz. Nobody's favorite movie is some dark, dysfunctional slasher story. Everybody's favorite song is a sentimental song. So why all of a sudden is it bad to be sentimental in books? Critics have a problem with sentimentality. Readers do not. I write for readers.

Comment: This really needs no commentary, it is so far beyond stupid. It is clear that Mitch Albom has been spending too much of his time with the sort of people who choose to read Mitch Albom books. If someone told Mitch that their favorite movie was Dr. Strangelove and their favorite song was "Love Will Tear Us Apart" would his little tiny head explode?

Q: You don't like critics?
A: I think that sometimes critics feel that if a lot of people like it, it has to be too sentimental: "If the masses can get it, it's not special enough." I don't agree. I like a Beatles song. So do millions of others. So what?

Comment: This is a common Albom defensive posture, that he writes "for the people" instead of for critics.
Dear Mitch,
You are not the Beatles. They had a worldview that allowed for subtlety and nuance. You have a worldview that believes old people are full of trite platitudes, but only after they get cancer. And I doubt you own anything but The Beatles 1 anyway, because you are a middle-aged poseur. But at least you have big forearms, which take attention away from your gigantic ears.

Q: Given what you write about, it's kind of interesting to meet you on the anniversary of 9/11.
A: You know, what I found most resonant about Sept. 11 was the transcripts of phone calls from people who called from the planes or in the buildings, and how many of them were almost identical in their messages. I noticed those people all said, "I called to tell you I love you." That's it! Is there somebody going, "Why are you using such basic words? Can't you find some other way to say it?" No, not at the most real moment of your life! Those are the words you're gonna use. In some ways, maybe I'm more real than my critics are.

Comment: What kind of person over 6 years old believes this? Here's a 911 call from September 11 that is a whole hell of a lot more real than Mitch Albom's fantasyland vision (don't listen to this if you're put off by such things - it doesn't end well): scared to the point of panic, standoffish to the operator taking the call. Not because this man is a dick, but because that's how people act under unimaginable stress. This cuts to the quick of the Mitch Albom universe - he truly believes that people's lives end with a few words of wisdom, a single tear and a fade into black. Death is fucking terrifying. Most people go into it kicking and screaming. But in Mitch Albom's universe, it is simply "the most real moment of your life.", whatever the hell that means.

I was going to wrap this up with a recent Albom column, where he told the heartwarming story of a man confined to a wheelchair who was on his way to some sort of paralympic sporting event when the bus he was in crashed. It was, unsurprisingly, less about this man, and more about how lucky you should feel to not be him (yes Mitch, I can read between the lines). It is, I believe, fairly typical Albom. But the Free Press archive seems to have already taken it down. And besides, this has gone on long enough as it is: in the end, Albom is a lot like American Idol - lots of people love him, but I don't know a single one of them, and I'm not sure I care to. Cheap sentiment may make you a rich man, but it can't buy you respect, and it certainly isn't going to give your books any staying power. So you sleep on your pile of money, because there's one thing it can't buy you - a decent hair cut, apparently.

Guest post by Sanke Polemi

Sanke - Sanke's lucky it's not 8 EST yet, otherwise I'd be nowhere near this computer. As my Yankees ideally pound the Tigers, Sanke is set to sulk among his vegan conclave.

According to some reliable sources, Craig Brewer and Terrence Howard (the power team that brought us "Hustle & Flow") are working on a movie about Charley Pride. Who is Charley Pride, you may ask (if you are me)? Wikipedia answers.
Apparently he was a Negro Leagues (sidenote--is "Leagues" correct? Were there more than one league?) baseball player turned country music star. I know, right? Is this at all a common occurance?
I previously thought that only football players and basketball players turned to careers in music. This seemed like an odd discrepency to me, and then I realized something: There is no longer a Negro League (not one or any).
It's true, you can look it up. A common complaint against the integration of baseball is that many Negro League players found themselves without jobs once it was dissolved. What do you think they all did? Um, duh; they became musicians. In approximately 1951, most people agree that the Negro Leagues disbanded (thank you wikipedia). What wikipedia will not tell you is that "Knuckleball" Jay Hawkins went on to become Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and that Strike Zone Richard just went by Little Richard.
Baseball clubs are, as we know, extremely superstitious. For example: wasn't there like a thing about goats? Realizing what happened to the deposed baseball players, modern players realize that the road to music stardom is one frought with sports failure. And some of them just need to achieve that failure without a record label's help.

Knuckleball Jay demonstrates his unusual pitching motion.

Knuckleball Jay with his Negro League World Series rings.
Knuckleball Jay in action, pitching to Josh Gibson in the second game of a doubleheader against the Homestead Grays on June 14th, 1937. Note the all-white uniforms Negro Leaguers were forced to wear to appease a hostile populace.