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The Riff, ep 33: “#TeamNow or #TeamLater”

13 Feb

Brandon and Tony deliver a spirited round of hoops/Wolves talk. Topics include Jeremy Lin, defending LeBron for the wrong reasons, Pekovic, Webster, DWill, Wolves game recaps, J.R Smith and trade targets.


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The Riff, ep 28: “Fun With Small Sample Sizes”

3 Jan

Your prayers have been answered: it’s another NBA-centric installment of The Riff. Brandon and Tony talk power polls, sucker bets, crybabies, player grades, potential Wolves trades, “Name that Drug” and of course, about an hour straight of drooling over Rubio. Press play and allow our velvety tenors to envelop your soul. Or something.

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The silver lining of the Matt Capps signing?

5 Dec

It’s just a one-year commitment? He’s still ostensibly in his prime? We baby our closers so much he’ll be given a good shot at success? A 1.2 WHIP isn’t terrible? A career 3.46 K/BB ratio is pretty solid? A .726 OPS-Against is totally not bad? He can’t *possibly* do worse than a 63% save percentage?

He’s got decent control? He’s realized that having the league’s straightest fastball isn’t exactly a hallmark quality and will work on movement? He could possibly relocate the magic touch he had in the NL? We could trade him at the deadline?

Whoever replaced him may have been worse? Adding a decent reliever to the roster in need isn’t the worst thing in the world? Rebuilding with draft picks isn’t a guaranteed path to success? Considering recent history, the draft pick we sacrificed probably would have sucked anyway?

Ah forget it. I tried. This deal’s a turd, friends.

Yet another reason I’m excited the NBA is back

29 Nov

I haven’t posted anything yet about my unbridled excitement over the return of the NBA (still splicing together clips of me weeping with joy wearing just my Rubio jersey with highlights of my best dunks on an 8-foot-rim soundtracked by “Walking on Sunshine”) but in the interim I thought I’d pass along this write-up over at Grantland of the writers noting what they’re most looking forward to this season. Grantland’s content bums me out on a near-daily basis, and even this article had a ton of bloat, but tell me THIS isn’t both dead-on and wonderfully written:

If I’m being honest, the core of my relationship with the NBA revolves around a deep hatred of one man: Kevin Garnett. There’s nobody like him in sports. He’s the epic, quintessential, biblical son of a bitch. Garnett is a great player, but he’s an even better performer. He’s mastered the theater of basketball intimidation, and his stylized Kabuki-technique perfectly casts him as the villain in any Celtics game. Most sane NBA fans probably don’t buy into the shtick — or see him simply as an aging cog on a successful Eastern Conference team — but I’m convinced that Garnett is locked into the role, like some kind of method actor who long ago forgot he was on stage. And the first time I leap in fury from my couch on Christmas Day, shouting, “Shut the fuck up, Garnett!” I’ll be grateful. Grateful in my sad, angry, lonely American way.

Yes times a million.

Let’s not speak or write about Tebow unless we can do better than this

21 Nov

This Tebow polarization has been…well, what’s the exact opposite of surprising? It’s totally been that, times a million. And for my money, far and away the best thing written about the Tebow phenomenon is this essay at The Classical:

Last night, Brad Nessler dropped the word “magical” at least twice to describe Tebow’s ability to scramble for 10 yards in a multi-option package that stretched the defense horizontally and created holes for him. The implication wasn’t even subtle: you could practically hear him yearning to say “miraculous” to describe the way Tebow kept resurrecting the 1st Down marker. You can hardly imagine it — perhaps because he so frequently doesn’t — but he executed some routine plays as if they were routine and, once relieved of having to act like an NFL-quality passer, unleashed fullback-ian havoc on a couple of bruising runs.

The whole thing is pretty great. And I’m sorry to play the role of fun-hater, but as much fun as it’s been to watch Tebow’s absurd variety of success*, I can’t help but notice the similarities between Tebow this season and Vince Young’s 2006 campaign, down to the low passing totals, crazy running skills, surprising W-L percentage and number of fourth-quarter comebacks. It’s downright eerie, and yet I fully remember Young being damned for his poor throwing ability and (presciently) written off as a flash-in-the-pan by the same type of people who are kissing Tebow’s feet every time he makes a remotely professional-looking play. It’s…strange? Let’s go with strange for now, with a fair bit of “sad” thrown in as well. And like I said, I’m not pumped about playing the race card but it seems pretty unavoidable at this point. Too bad.

*I’m on Team Tebow as much as I am any running QB; I guess it’s probably more accurate to say I’m on Team Positional Innovation.

Bigger choke artist: Buckner or Cruz?

28 Oct

All respect to the Cardinals and instant lifelong WS hero David Freese, but none of that comeback would have been possible if not for the alligator-armed effort in right field from one Nelson Cruz on the sorta-deep flyball that would have won the Rangers the Series if caught.

For reasons that are 10% valid and 90% unfair, Bill Buckner continues to hold the torch as the biggest choker in Series history, but it seems to me that Cruz’s was the more egregious collapse. Three reasons:


It’s not easy to argue that Nelson’s blunder had a larger effect on the game’s outcome, mostly because Buckner’s error directly resulted in the end of the game, whereas after Cruz’s miscue, the Rangers still had a shot (a few of them actually) to win.

But consider the math. With Freese at the plate, history (via Fangraphs) tells us that the Cards had an 8% chance of winning the game. After Cruz’s misplay? The odds had swung in favor of the Cards to 62%.

On to Buckner. I don’t have the exact details, but it seems that, as noted above, with the score tied and the home team having a runner in scoring position with two outs, that team has a ~60% chance of winning. Buckner’s error caused a 40% swing, but Cruz’s was 54%. Sorry, Buckner as Choke Artist King arguers, you’ve been mathed.


Again, at first blush it seems Buckner is the winner. I don’t think so. I’ve come about as close to being launched in space as I have the major leagues, but I played enough post-high school ball in both RF and 1B to have had to make plays on the exact same hits that Buckner and Cruz flubbed. In my opinion, there’s no obvious choice on the easier play. Cruz had to move back on the ball, but he had plenty of space and, for god’s sake it was a flyball.

Buckner’s was an in-between hop that required lots of lateral movement that couldn’t have been easy considering he had the knees of a 94-year-old at the time. Plus, as has been noted in documentaries and proven by replays, Buckner was using an extremely loose and floppy mitt (so loose in fact he reportedly nicknamed it “Whoopi”)(not true) that folded up on him, which, yes, it was Buckner’s choice to use that leather and ultimately his fault, but still.

In my not-quite-expert opinion, I’m considering Cruz’s just *slightly* more difficult than Buckner’s. However, the overall Choke Artist Champ pendulum swings heavily and eternally in Cruz’s direction when considering…


This one is a no-brainer and is the reason Cruz is by far the bigger choker. Buckner’s error was tragic in its timing and inexcusable in terms of the supposed ease of the play, but Cruz’s was a sin of the effort variety. Much, much less forgivable.

Cruz didn’t miss the ball because it was too difficult a play. He missed it because he didn’t try hard enough.

If he’d gone after the ball as hard as he could – as hard as the moment deserved – with the necessary mindset that he couldn’t give a damn if he hit the wall afterward, he could’ve had the ball in his back pocket. Instead, he pulled up out of either fear of injury or not paying enough attention to his surroundings, and all of a sudden, instead of making a medium-difficult catch that wouldn’t have made the highlight reel in any game beyond high school, the odds swung heavily in the Cardinals’ favor and made a hero out of Freese. Unreal.

Look, I couldn’t care less whether Cruz choked or not, and I hope the media/fan hatred that was heaped on Buckner never happens to anyone again. I hope Cruz isn’t branded as something less of a man the rest of his life just because of one dumb play. My point is just that I’ve watched something like a million baseball games in my life and that was maybe the biggest choke job I’ve ever seen, and we should at least acknowledge that he played a huge part in the outcome of the game (and possibly Series). The end.

A roundabout way of telling you I dislike Chris Carpenter

25 Oct

Probably the biggest fight I ever witnessed in high school happened in the cafeteria over lunch. Mine was a pretty diverse high school, and as is the case in those situations, the races more or less stuck together. This fight was between a bunch of Asian kids and happened a few tables down from me and my buds. I don’t know how it started, but we heard yelling and turned around to see some grappling between a bunch of kids, with lunch trays being flipped over and food flying through the air.

Through the ungraceful shoving and general pandemonium you could tell one kid in particular was getting worked pretty good. A few solid punches had landed and he fell back against a nearby table and half-flipped that over as well.

By the time the kid fell over, a bunch of teachers had rushed in and broken it up, and so when the kid stood up among the food and trays and overturned chairs, he was all by himself. He had a giant knot welling above his eye and his shirt was ripped, and even worse a couple hundred kids were staring at him in full knowledge that he just had his ass handed to him.

The kid then calmly reached down and retrieved his slice of pizza off the ground, and took a bite while walking backward and giving a look of “that didn’t faze me at all, nope, this is exactly how bad-ass I am” as if his eyes WEREN’T watering and his shirt WASN’T torn and his pride HADN’T just been severely punctured.

Most people laughed at his attempt to look tough in the face of all evidence. To me, it was one of the most pathetic and saddest things I ever remember seeing.

(Want to know how big of a pussy I am? I am suuuuuuper bummed out just remembering that story, even though I know the kid was fine, even though he probably doesn’t remember it and if he does probably laughs it off as one of those dumb high school moments we all have, even though he was clearly a willing participant in the fight. Yep, still sad thinking about it. Get it together, Broxey.)

I hadn’t thought about that night in years, until yesterday’s game 5 of the World Series. Specifically, when Chris Carpenter surrendered a 400-foot out to center field to noted neck-beard aficionado Mike Napoli and proceeded to (by the looks of it) scream at Napoli and call him a piece of shit.

Yeah, really. After giving up a towering flyball that would have been home run in any other part of the park, Carpenter chose that moment to talk shit. At a moment when he should have had his tail tucked between his legs as he stiff-walked to the dugout to change his surely soiled pants, he, like my pizza-eating wounded classmate, decided to go in the exact opposite direction at the exact worst moment to play pretend bad-ass. I felt bad for the classmate; he was just a kid and had just gotten his ass kicked.

Carpenter is a grown man and had pretty clearly lucked out. He just comes off as a dim-witted asshole.

In conclusion: go Texas, I guess.