Archive for January, 2012

Dallas Cowboy Fan Rehabilitation and “The Wire”

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

By: Nate Douglas

The Dallas Cowboys used to be a great franchise. They had Super Bowls to their name, and a rich history of all-time great games, coaches and players.  For my generation, young boys living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area grew up watching the triplets. Their fathers grew up with Landry and Staubach.  The Cowboys had an exciting product and an excellent reputation among what became a rabid fan base.

In week 17 of this past NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys were playing for a berth in the playoffs yet lost in a lackluster effort to their division rival, the New York Giants.  For most other NFL franchises, this defeat would have been one of those frozen sledgehammer-to-the-crotch defeats, but for Cowboy fans, despite the loss, they weren’t singing soprano.  Cowboy fans have been numbed to defeat during the last few weeks of the last sixteen seasons because the Dallas Cowboys hit the fans where it counts every year.

The television show, The Wire, takes place in the city of Baltimore, where the Baltimore Police Department wages a continual war with crime in the city, specifically—the drug war.  The Wire is a gripping series, hailed by many critics as the greatest television show in the last decade. One of the main characters is a drug dealer, Stringer Bell, played by the powerful Idris Elba. His drug product was very successful, sold well, and the West Side kept coming back for more. The drugs had an excellent reputation for giving people a buzz and mellowing out.  Eventually, BPD caught up to Stringer’s operations. In order to stay in front of the police, Stringer’s product quality suffers, and folks on the street stop buying. While all this is happening, in his spare time, Stringer went to business classes at the local college, and consulted the professor on what to do if you have a crummy “product” that people stop buying. The professor said, “Well, one way is you could change the name of the product.”

Change the name.

At the end of the annual crotch-kick, Cowboy fans sullenly sulk back to their homes and silently watch the playoffs without their favorite team.  But the exact same personnel on that Dallas Cowboys team won’t do for the upcoming season.  Something needs to change.  So over the course of the Cowboy’s last sixteen disappointing offseasons, Cowboys GM Jerry Jones fired six head coaches, numerous assistant coaches, built a sexy $1 billion stadium (with a screen so big that fans in the stands are hypnotized and don’t make much noise when the opposing team is on offense), and drafts absolutely horribly. In other words, Jerry keeps trying to change the name of his product.  But you know something is not right with this picture.

Among its several plot lines, The Wire also follows the story of a struggling addict who goes by the name “Bubbles”. Bubbles at different times tries to stop using; sometimes his season of abstinence lasts longer than other seasons, but eventually he reverts back to his old habits. When he notices Stringer’s product is getting worse and no longer packs the punch he needs, he starts freaking out but he won’t buy what Stringer sells, and most of West Baltimore follows suit.  Then something else hits the streets. It has a cool name, and the capsule colors are different.  Bubbles and his buddies load up, get all excited and starts using only to discover…it’s still the same crappy product.  Stringer’s reputation starts taking a hit, but he stubbornly holds on.

Just a few months after the Super Bowl, despite Cowboy fans vowing they will not be so emotionally tied up again with their team, fans start to get excited again.  The NFL draft approaches, then training in Oxnard.  Then, well, “damn the torpedoes!” Cowboy fans say, and rush towards Jerry Jones’ kool-aid-filled igloo likes cows to a fresh bale of coastal hay. Unlike most NFL teams, it doesn’t matter how bad the Cowboys product on the field is, the fans will still show up to games and buy merchandise and go crazy for “America’s Team”. Oh, if only Stringer Bell’s customers were this gullible. See, Cowboy fans are shmucks.  Now I don’t mean to insult anyone, but I see the “addiction”, and I see how crummy the product is, and I look at the axiom (well, more like a poorly constructed theorem) propping up the whole mess and can’t help but shake my head. Cowboy fans are getting played, and it won’t stop until the fans decide to do something.  Jerry Jones takes full advantage of the fact that Cowboy fans keep coming back for more, that’s why he keeps changing the name of the game, but he won’t get rid of the foundation of sand holding the whole thing up—himself. Nobody questions that Jerry doesn’t want to win, he does, but only if he’s in the limelight and he gets all the credit, something he’s never truly received because the Cowboys’ only Super Bowl victories under Jerry’s tenure were achieved by Jimmy Johnson’s football roster craftsmanship. Jerry Jones is an egomaniac, the Dallas Cowboys are his toy, and when it comes down to it, he’ll never give it up, even if it means no more Super Bowls for the Cowboys and their fans. Do you think he’d fire the GM of a team that had sixteen disappointing seasons? He fired six coaches during that time span. He can keep his ownership, but give the reins to someone with brains and a vision, and stay out of their way! Don’t make any trips to figurative (and literal) sideline and interfere. The problem is not coaching, injuries or Tony Romo. As a result from awful drafting and trades, the team just plain sucks, and it’s only one man’s fault.

So I want to use this as a wake-up call for Cowboy fans, because I love many of you, but I see that you’re being taken for a ride. Some of you are just now seeing the light, have yet to see the light, or are past the point of caring. If you want to see your beloved team succeed, then wipe that pink kool aid mustache off your face, knock the igloo over and demand from Jerry Jones that you’re tired of drinking his garbage. Hit him where it hurts—his wallet. It’s time for Cowboy fans to organize in some manner and start boycotting Jerry Jones.  Not the Cowboys. You can still tune in and root for your team.  But abstain from tickets and anything with the Cowboy logo. Use the power of social media, get some #OccupyDallasCowboys action going on Facebook or Twitter. This is rehab, Cowboy fans. If you’re frugal and vocal enough…maybe…hopefully…Jerry will really change.

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife and son (whom he is 17-0 against in living-room wrestling…never mind if his son is a toddlerweight).  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, and he prays daily for those last couple World Series wins for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.  


2012 Hall of Fame Ballot

January 4, 2012 1 comment

By: Aaron Booth

One of my favorite things in sports is a hot debate about an arbitrary topic. That’s why awards and college football rankings are so much fun. Those topics leave a lot to debate, the rules are vague, there’s no clearly defined relationship between component A and component B, the qualifications of the voters are often suspect, and at the end of it we, the fans, have dozens of things to complain about. The baseball Hall of Fame is just such a topic. Five hundred or so baseball writers with almost as many different perspectives and principles vote through a ballot of 20-30 players that had at least 10-year careers and have been retired for at least 5 years. They have almost no guidelines to work with, and even though it’s called the Hall of Fame, the voters really aren’t even measuring fame – they’re measuring greatness – kind of.

The voting method that is most obnoxious to me comes from a small group of voters who refuse to vote for a player on the first ballot. Their rationale? Joe DiMaggio wasn’t elected on the first ballot, current player X isn’t as good as DiMaggio, therefore, player X can’t get a first ballot vote. Thankfully these writers are in the minority. For one thing, their rationale is only sustainable provided the majority of voters do the right thing. Any player that fails to get 5% of the vote falls off the ballot, so if all the voters took this stance, no players would go to the HOF because they would all fall off the ballot after the first year. As if this wasn’t enough, these voters have still more egg on their faces. When they look back on all their HOF votes they will realize that they had no hand in electing the best players in the game. A long time voter that takes this stance had nothing to do with electing Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken or Ricky Henderson. They effectively voted against them because those players were elected on their first ballots. The legacy of these writers is that they are shackled by the mistakes of voters from 40 years ago. They embrace a position on principle even though the institution would die if all voters did the same. They vote against the greatest players in the game and only have a hand in electing the lesser HOFer’s, that is, they chose Gary Carter over George Brett.

Another type of voter that has emerged over the last few years is the guy that wants to manipulate the result. These guys were prevalent in the talk surrounding Roberto Alomar and are still present in the Barry Larkin discussion. These guys think Alomar and Larkin are worthy of being in the hall, but they are not worthy of being “first ballot” Hall of Famers. The HOF makes no distinction for how many elections a player went through for enshrinement; a player is either in or not. Yet these voters have created an arbitrary sub-honor called First Ballot HOFer, which they reserve for those players that meet their personal criteria. This voter, like the last voter, employs a method that is only sustainable provided they are in the minority.

Fortunately, these voters are in the minority. On the whole I think the writers do a good job of voting for HOF, better than any group of fans would do, and leaps and bounds better than a group of players and coaches.

For those who are not familiar with the process, a voter must be a 10-year member of the Baseball Writers Association. The voters receive a ballot and may vote for as many as 10 players, but they do not have to vote for any if they don’t want to. Players that receive 75% of the vote become Hall of Famers. Players that receive less than 5% of the vote are removed from future ballots.

The 2012 HOF ballot is exceptionally thin. The best new candidate is Bernie Williams. Williams should get enough votes to stay on the ballot for several. All the other new candidates will likely fall off, as will second year hold over Juan Gonzalez.

After the first year players and Gonzalez, there are thirteen other players on the ballot. I would not vote for Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Larry Walker, or Alan Trammell. These players get votes from a lot of respected voters, but I’m just not convinced. I am open to being persuaded otherwise, but I haven’t been yet. Mattingly and Murphy had elite seasons – MVP seasons, but their periods of dominance were short and their overall careers were too short. I need more time on Walker. I am just not sure on him, and I’d rather be fully convinced than advocate a questionable candidate. On Trammell, I need to hear the narrative. I don’t think the numbers support him, but he was a shortstop, and I’m open to the idea that there is a case for him as a defender or as a leader, neither of which are reflected by the stats.

That leaves the guys I’m sure belong in the hall, plus Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire. Palmeiro and McGwire both had HOF careers and both have a legacy tainted by performance enhancing drugs. Fox baseball writer Ken Rosenthal once argued that he wasn’t voting for McGwire because McGwire refused to stand up for himself, and if he wouldn’t fight for himself why should he [Rosenthal] fight on his behalf. Perhaps Rosenthal has changed his mind, and if so, that’s fine too. In general I don’t get hung up on the PEDs. I would vote for both of these guys, though I don’t think they’ll be elected anytime soon, and I don’t really feel the need to fight for them. When the ballot is thin, I’ll vote for them. When the ballot is deep, I won’t.

That leaves seven guys I believe should be in the Hall of Fame. Here’s a quick summary of my seven HOFer’s in reverse order of importance:

Fred McGriff: The Crime Dog tends to get overlooked. He wasn’t really a vocal player, but he hit a lot of home runs and has a spotless reputation as far as PEDs are concerned.

Lee Smith: Smith bridges the gap between the original closers, (Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter) and the modern guys like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. That means he didn’t spend his whole career getting 2 and 3 inning saves like the first group, but he also didn’t spend his whole career getting bases empty, 1-inning saves like the modern guys, which means he didn’t compile 600 saves. He was the first to 400 saves, and as a kid I remember having the impression that he was one of the closers the league feared.

Jack Morris: Some voters have become passionate about Morris and I think he will ultimately be elected. Morris was the ace pitcher for 3 World Series champions and the star of one of the greatest postseason games I’ve ever seen – A 10-inning complete game shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

Tim Raines: Raines spent his best years hidden in Montreal. By OPS+, Raines had 3 elite seasons and 8 other all-star level seasons. He’s 5th all-time in stolen bases, and he’s a darling candidate of the sabremetric crowd.

Edgar Martinez: For the sake of full disclosure, I am a Mariner fan and I love Edgar. That said, not only would I vote for Edgar, I believe he will ultimately be elected. Some voters penalize him for being a DH, but this is a dying trend. It is definitely an “old” argument: new voters don’t think this way, middle aged voters are open to change, and the old voters are retiring. By OPS+, Edgar had 13 all-star caliber seasons, 7 of which were truly elite. He’s 22nd all-time in on base percentage – 13th amongst modern era players (post 1920), and 34th all time in OPS (on base + slugging).

Jeff Bagwell: Bagwell has never been implicated for PED’s but he has been penalized by the voters for having giant arms in the steroid era. 13 of Bagwell’s 15 seasons were all-star level, and 8 of those were elite.

Barry Larkin: Larkin will get in this year. The only reason he’s not in now is because of the “he’s a hall of famer, just not a first ballot hall of famer” crowd.

Prediction: Larkin will go in alone. Morris finishes 2nd and is on the path of making it in his last year (2014). Bagwell, Edgar, and Raines, have big gains. The rest of the guys hang on, ranging from 10-40%. The only thing certain about their futures is that they will again be Hall of Fame candidates.

Aaron Booth lives in Monroe, LA with his wife a five children. He makes his living in the real estate world, which gives him the opportunity to listen to a lot of audio, including a fair amount of sports radio and podcasts. Aaron loves his i-devices and 24-hour sports media, but also fondly remembers the days when he calculated his fantasy standings from the newspaper. You can follow him on twitter @da_booth.