Play It Forward April 24-30: What kind of characters do the Rams, Chargers and Raiders need in this NFL draft?

The NFL tries to class things up by holding its annual college star auction near a famous art museum — Round 1 of the draft is Thursday, 5 p.m. outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. ESPN and the NFL Network have it wall-to-wall.

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon carries the ball during a game in 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

But if art imitates life, a survey released last week by HBO Real Sports and Marist College Center for Sports Communication Poll indicated that fans generally aren’t so happy when their teams draft problem players — either those connected with domestic violence or performance-enhancing drugs. It comes up as topical now because of Oklahoma 20-year-old running back Joe Mixon as the most polarizing player involved in this year’s draft, based on the video still circulating of him hitting a woman in a pizza parlor in 2014. Without that red flag on his resume, some predict he’d be a first-round choice, in the top 20. With it, he’s at best a second-round gamble. The Oakland Raiders Formerly Of Los Angeles, with the No. 24 choice of the first round and No. 56 overall in the second round, apparently need a running back. Who better than them to take on this challenge as they’re already rolling the dice with a pending move to Vegas, with or without Marshawn Lynch signed on.
Your Los Angeles Chargers have the seventh overall choice and could be hooked on Ohio State safety Malik Hooker. Or not. Your Los Angeles Rams have no first-round picks to concern themselves with, giving away the No. 4 slot they earned in this one to Tennessee based on their over-urgent urge to get Jared Goff last season at No. 1 overall. The Rams don’t pick until No. 37 of the second round.
Aside from Mixon, the picks that will create the most noise appear to be whomever decides to grab LSU running back Leonard Fourtnette, Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson or Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
How the rest of the week shapes up with the Clippers-Jazz NBA playoff series, the Ducks starting round two of their NHL playoffs against Edmonton and the Dodgers heading to San Francisco.

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 23: No more need to dumb it down – there’s Law Smart when it comes to new stats

Once upon a time, a “bat rule” was all a kid needed.

In addition to a Q-and-A with Law as part of Sunday’s media column, we have this review:

The book: “Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones that are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball”
The author: Keith Law
The vital statistics: William Morrow/Harper Collins, 304 pages, $27.99, scheduled to come out Tuesday, April 25
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website, or the writers’ website

The pitch: Everyone wants to look and sound smart, or at least smarter, when it comes to baseball knowledge.
So Keith Law waits until Chapter 18, page 261, to drop the hammer.
“If your local writer is still talking about players in terms of pitcher wins, saves or RBI, he’s discussing the role of the homunculus in human reproduction. The battle is over, whether the losers realize it or not.”
Homunculus? My spellcheck just started hyperventilating.
It’s a reference to a very old theory about “a miniature adult” that was once thought to inhabit the germ cell and to produce a mature individual merely by an increase in size.
How mature.
Another translation: An evolutionary process is happening in baseball, so no matter what you want to hang onto for deal life and claim it still matters, you risk being thought of a non-progressive resistance-to-change outcast who needs to get up to speed quickly or get left behind.
That kind of thinking is why you still may have a flip phone, a fax machine and are holding out hope your taxes might be calculated some day in your favor by using a loophole from the 1940s. Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 23: No more need to dumb it down – there’s Law Smart when it comes to new stats” »

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 22: Meet the stories behind swapping meat

The book: “Baseball Meat Market: The Stories Behind the Best and Worst Trades in History”
The author: Shawn Krest
The vital statistics: Page Street Publishing, 240 pages, $22.99, released March 28
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Vromans.com

The pitch: In 2009, writer Doug Decatur developed a way to quantify baseball’s all-time recording of swaps by producing the book, “Traded: Inside the Most Lopsided Trades in Baseball History” (Acta Sports). In it, he lists 306 transactions that really did favor one team over another, as looking back on history could determine.
Many Dodgers fans expect that the team sending future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez to Montreal in 1994 for second baseman Delino DeShields is about as lopsided as it gets, but Decatur not only left that one off the top 10 worst trades in franchise history, but it’s just No. 255 overall.
The Dodgers reportedly weren’t high on Martinez’s durability based on his size (and somewhat ignoring the fact his older brother, Ramon, was built somewhat the same way but was to become a star in his own right). And they really needed a second baseman.
Done deal. Now, move along.
Why revisit it? Because having a book like this hang on its sales ability and credibility based on its author’s promise to thoroughly explain the “best and worst trades” in baseball history will ultimately mean some of us will never be satisfied with the rationale involved picking which deal to include and what to pass over.
Remember, it’s the stories that Krest is after here, not so much developing a ranking that decides how legend will define it.
Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 22: Meet the stories behind swapping meat” »

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It’s Out of the Question: Ignorance is blisters with the Dodgers, Rich Hill, eh?

There’s a learning curve on how to bide one’s time on a disabled list. Rich Hill, thanks to his curveball, is accelerating in this practice at a blistering pace.
Strange, but can anyone put their finger on what exactly is causing this 37-year-old problems continually relying on a high-spin-rate pitch?
When big-league pitchers of a certain age are trying to save their careers, isn’t this where a knuckleball is suggested, not something that will require extra torque and twist – and that’s just Hill trying to stick the landing after he delivers it.
The Dodgers, who remarkably don’t have Dr. Scholl on their payroll or a large tube of Blistex in their medicine cabinent, are apparently asking for any and all remedies.
“I’d love to give him my middle finger,” manager Dave Roberts has said. “There’s a lot of miles left on it.”
Interpret that any way you like.
More from the column linked here…

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30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 21: More pizzazz for Piazza, in a very weird N.Y. holistic sort of way

The book: “Piazza: Catcher, Slugger, Icon, Star”
The author: Greg W. Prince
The vital statistics: Sports Publishing/Skyhorse, 264 pages, $24.99, released March 14
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website, or the writers’ website

The pitch: In Piazza’s 2013 autobiography, “Long Shot,” which became a New York Times best seller by the time he eventually was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016, Mike Piazza explained everything related to Mike Piazza – even if he couldn’t figure out the difference between what was “ironic” and what was a “coincidence.”
Coincidentally, he eventually felt he had to leave the Dodgers (frustrated as well during an ownership change), needed a second chance as a New York Met, shugged off steroid allegations (among other personal accusations) and finally got to look back on is career as one of a successful endeavor.
Curtain call. And another …. OK, done.
The cover of that particular book was careful not to show him wearing any particular team color or logos. It was pensive Mike, pulling the catcher’s mask of in a metaphoric way. Just look into his eyes and see his soul.
So that should, and will be, the definitive Piazza story, unless someone wants to come around in a few years and take a most down-the-middle approach.
This one here isn’t that, not by a long shot.
It starts with the cover shot, Piazza unapologetically in Mets laundry, about the start a home-run trot.
Just look at the subtitles for more clues. We read:
Overdramatic.
Idolization.
Hyperbole.
Cliché-soaked.
Just consider the source.

Continue reading “30 baseball books for April ’17, Day 21: More pizzazz for Piazza, in a very weird N.Y. holistic sort of way” »

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