Friday, November 16, 2012

A Terminal Whole 42 Letters

Sorry this is posting so late. I'm writing this at 7 a.m. in Logan airport as I kill time before my flight to Milwaukee (of course, routed through Atlanta, because that's not out of the way at all). I'm running on about 3 hours of sleep, half a cup of coffee and a ton of adrenaline, so sorry if my answers are a little loopy. Drunk Nate Silver says there's a 57.3% chance this goes poorly.

Nate Silver is a wizard!

Before we get to the letters, I have something I want to address: some idiot baseball writer gave Fernando Rodney a first place Cy Young vote. Rodney inexplicably set the record for lowest ERA this year (anyone want to take odds that his ERA more than doubles next year?), but that doesn't excuse giving him a first place vote. It's practically impossible for a closer to be better than the top starters in the one-inning save era, and this vote is a joke. Since I assume this was from a Tampa Bay writer, what if this had cost David Price the Cy Young, since this was the closest vote in like 50 years? That's impossibly stupid.

This is not an original angle, but I want to join the call to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE MAKE THESE VOTES PUBLIC. Maybe if enough small blogs join it'll become a movement. All we are saying is give us a chance shame the idiot who gave Rodney a vote and the idiots who voted for Cabrera for MVP (more on this below). 

Your questions:

Last week we saw 4 starting QBs get knocked out of games. Considering that QB is by far the most important position and injuries seem to destroy good teams' chances every season (see the 2011 Bears), shouldn't teams invest more in backup QBs? Or is the issue that there aren't enough competent QBs and that the 50th best QB in the league is always just going to be god awful?

There are, in my mind, three factors weighing on this: salary caps, talent, and reps. First, precisely because quarterbacks are so important to a team's chances even a player like Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to get a big contract. He's not too far removed in talent level and success from a backup player like Chad Henne, but even that mild step up means that he gets paid an almost absurd amount. Since football has a hard cap on team salary, it doesn't make sense to invest that much money in a backup quarterback, especially because if he's good you can trade him for so much value. We saw this with the Eagles when they dealt Kevin Kolb despite being quarterbacked by one of the most injury-prone players in the league. It still made more short-term and long-term economic sense to trade Kolb. Also, Kevin Kolb sucks.

The next two factors, talent and reps, feed into one another. There are only so many players at any time with the requisite talent to play quarterback in the NFL, but there's a massive lower to lower-middle class. Given the opportunity to take first-team reps in practice, these quarterbacks could be mediocre, but they hardly get to play with the first-team. When these backups come in, they don't have timing down with receivers and often have to run a vanilla offense. The system is designed, essentially, to reinforce their failure. Most frequently, backups succeed when they run a different style the defense isn't prepared for (like the mobile Vick when he spelled West Coast offense Kolb). I think teams like the Packers basically gamble on having Rodgers healthy because they can't win the Super Bowl unless they have a top 10 quarterback and they obviously can't afford 2 of them. Better to reinforce the offensive line and keep the guy healthy.

Which looks worse -- James Harden's beard or Mike D'Antoni's mustache? And for all-time ugly sports facial hair, can you think of anything worse than Larry Bird's hick-from-French-Lick mustache?

For starters, I actually love James Harden's beard, and I hope that he keeps it. I know at some point, he's got to get rid of it because it's ridiculous but I like that he's kind of locked into the look thanks to "fear the beard." I want to see how long he can ride this out. The worst facial hair is either Larry Legend's or Adam Morrison's Fischer-Price "My First Mustache."

Drew Gooden's Cracken-on-the-chin look has gotta be up there, too.


We've learned this week that two guys in charge of our nation's security were involved in sexual e-mail correspondences with women who aren't their wives -- apparently over regular ol' non-secured e-mail services. I suddenly feel fundamentally less safe. How about you? 

I've actually done a pretty good job of ignoring this story. I know it involves like 20,000 pages of emails (HOW DO THESE GUYS HAVE TIME. I mean there's horny, and then apparently, there's 20,000 pages of sexy love letter horny), a couple women who seem to hate each other (as is true of all women, I believe), some email hackery, a shirtless FBI agent (no idea where he fits in), a biography called All In (it's funny cuz they boned) and some hot, sweaty counterintelligence sex. I don't know how any of these details fit together because I only know the outline details from jokes on Twitter.

This does sound like the reason James Bond would have to resign if he actually existed in the modern world. That and all the raping the earlier movies not-so-subtly refer to.

Brawling in NASCAR is up. Is this just an attempt to lure bored NHL fans during the lockout, or are the drivers and crews on extreme edge following the Romney-Ryan defeat?

Is brawling up? I had no idea. NASCAR and military sex scandals apparently take up about the same amount of brain space. Which is good, because I need to save some space so I can remember various baseball MVPs from the mid-'90s. JUAN GONZALEZ OVER A-ROD IS STILL A TRAVESTY.

The Obama daughters are going to spend the bulk of their teenage years as White House residents. Any advice on how they can rebel while under the Secret Service's watchful eye -- not to mention Michelle's?

I imagine being the First Children involves getting the Dez Bryant treatment, only less creepily paternalistic. I assume they're just gonna throw baller parties in the White House and bring the party to them. Black Light White House has a nice ring to it.

Cabrera or Trout? Triple Crown vs. Sabremetrics, who you got?

I actually addressed this in an earlier mailbag and my answer, as you know, is obviously Trout, but the second part of this question is what intrigues me. This race shouldn't be a battle line between traditional stats and Sabermetrics because you don't need Sabermetrics to make Trout's case. 

His team won more games. He hit just about exactly as well in a tougher hitters park (in face, had Trout hit 3 more singles, his average would have been higher, Cabrera would not have won the Triple Crown and Trout would be MVP). He ran the bases much better (by itself wiping out whatever advantages Cabrera had in hitting stats) and played much, much better defense. If you want to give Cabrera an award for Best Offensive Player, I wouldn't be totally against it (although I'd still give it to Trout), but if we're judging value maybe we should actually, you know, judge a player's value. There, I didn't mention WAR at all.

Buster Posey, by the way, was the right choice in the National League. It probably would have been closer had Braun not had the PED cloud hanging over him, but Posey posted about the same WOBA while catching every day. He deserves all the accolades.

When will the Lakers start winning and the Knicks stop?

I don't know the answer, but I do know that the first few months of the regular season don't really matter. The Knicks should hope for a top-3 seed so they can avoid Miami until the Conference Finals, at which point they'll get blown out. The Lakers just need to make their team function and get into the playoffs; I think the floated Gasol for Josh Smith and Kyle Korver trade is a good possibility because it would help both teams. The West is much more loaded than we initially thought - Memphis and the Clippers both look great - so the Lakers won't have a cake-walk no matter what seed they get.

The Knicks will face an interesting dilemma when Amare comes back, and I hope that Mike Woodson has the cajones to make him come off the bench. The Lakers I'm already tired of talking about.

Rank the 4 new QBs starting this week (Byron Sandwich, Jason Campbell, Nick Foles, Kaepernick)

With two of them, Leftwich and Campbell, you know exactly what you're getting, and it's not good. With the other two, Foles and Kapernick (ed note: Alex Smith is currently on track to play, but we'll still address the question), there's a bit more of an unknown, but both run different styles than the starting quarterback. 

Only Kapernick, in my mind, has a chance to be really good because the 49ers have pretty good downfield receivers and I could see him doing a Josh Freeman high YPA/low completion percentage style, along with utilizing his mobility. Foles would be last on my list, because if he had any talent he'd have replaced Vick before. I'll give Leftwich the edge just because he has better receivers, but he and Campbell are both the epitome of once slightly better than mediocre quarterbacks who are now probably washed up.

Should Tebow start?

If New York wants to win games? No. For the sheer joy of seeing him fail? Yes.

Jon Hamm is undoubtedly rich.  Do you think he should spend some of his money on underwear?  Google "Jon Hamm package" if you need further clarification.

Yeah, I know about this. Jon Hamm's got a big dick and likes wearing tight pants with no boxers (although he could be a show-er not a grower, who knows). It doesn't surprise me. He's got everything. I guess he's kinda good looking. He's an awesome actor who gets to be the epitome of cool on Mad Men (although I'd rather be Roger). He's also really funny, from his guesting on 30 Rock to hosting SNL (the Scott Brown fantasy sketch and Jon Hamm's John Ham kill me) to appearing on all the coolest podcasts (okay, coolest is a bit of a stretch). And he seems like a chill dude who's obsessed with the Cardinals and Blues; he even got to narrate the 2011 Cardinals championship DVD. Your life is great, Hamm. WE GET IT.

It's conceivable that within your lifetime, humans could set up a colony on Mars.  Would you be interested in going knowing it's probably a one-way trip, and that you'd likely never be able to come back to Earth?

I don't think I'd want to go to Mars on a one-way trip. I'm not really good at seeing the same people a lot without beginning to either dislike them or just be a dick to them. Unless we're talking like massive colony, I don't think there would be enough people to keep me from going postal. Yes it's great to be Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (and the other guy, whose name no one remembers) and be famous across the globe, but that's useless unless you get to enjoy the spoils of being famous. I'd want to be the Lindbergh of my time, sans kidnapping, if I were to go to Mars, meaning I'd have to be able to return.

If you had to hunt for your own food, do you think you could shoot, gut and skin an animal like a deer or rabbit?  How about a bird or fish?  

Basically, if I had Wikipedia I think I would have a 30% chance of surviving in what I assume to be a post-apocalyptic hunter-gatherer society (the only plausible explanation for why I'd be hunting). I highly doubt my shooting/trapping/fishing skills are very good, but I bet I could kill something. Figuring out how to gut/skin/cook it would be difficult, but the internet is a magical place. Without internet, I'd die in a day. I recently re-read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and it made me feel wholly unprepared for the coming rapture. I should head to a shooting range and get prepared.

Do you think Adam Oates was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame just so they could keep using the phrase "Hull and Oates"? 

Nice. Did anyone catch Gary Bettman's speech at the induction, by the way? Icy reception doesn't even begin to describe it. At least David Stern would have welcomed the boos.

That's it for this week. Send letters to Sean next week.

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