Political street theater, the hilarity of science, the coming robotic takeover of orchestras, cleaning Minnesota's water, and signs you're spending too much time on the computer.
If you ever want to see the difference between the sports universe of the northeast and the Midwest, look no further than Boston where the Red Sox manager is reportedly out as manager of the team that blew a big lead in the wild card race in the American League East and lost a ballgame and a season this week.
Officially, Terry Francona will resign or decline an option to continue with the squad. Unofficially, someone has to pay when a team goes belly up at the wrong time.
Francona probably knew he was already finished when he had an extraordinary news conference yesterday and, basically, called his players jerks.
That would coincide with what Boston Globe writer Chad Finn had to say about the squad, in an article that makes Twin Cities sportswriters look like paid members of the teams they cover:
Talented, richly compensated players did not perform, starting with Lackey, who simply cannot return to this team or this city next year. Not only is he coming off the worst season a Red Sox starting pitcher has ever submitted, but he's a miserable, dim, finger-pointing, unaccountable wretch of a teammate, and those may be his good qualities. That the Red Sox were apparently considering acquiring lefthanded mediocrity Bruce Chen to pitch a one-game playoff if necessary tells you all you need to know about Lackey's status with the team. Pack up the sneer and the sacks of unearned cash and just go away.
Meanwhile, Ron Gardenhire, one season removed from going to the playoffs and losing -- again -- to the Yankees, will be back next year if the Twins' ownership has anything to say about it.
Gardenhire, considered last year one of the best managers in baseball, didn't get any dumber in the off-season, and yet there he sits in the record books with 99 losses.
Similarly, Francona wasn't any worse a manager than the guy who has won fewer than 90 games only twice (and won two World Series) in his stint as manager.
But Boston fans and the ownership don't cotton much to losing, no matter how many games you win. They hate the notion of jerks in the clubhouse right up until they win a World Series, and then it doesn't matter. Nothing but winning matters.
That's the difference.
There's a danger, of course, in trying to be all "northeasty" here in Minnesota. We tried firing a coach once, in the middle of a season that followed a first-place finish and a loss in the playoffs. The Minnesota Timberwolves haven't won more than 29 games in a season since.(5 Comments)
Baseball purists tend to lament the over-reliance on statistics that have moved the enjoyment of the game from a sporting endeavor to a mathematical equation. While the baseball researchers have - correctly -- educated us about the weakness of judging a player by his batting average, they have also continued to introduce new statistical measurements that push the envelope of absurdity.
Can math prove racism? A study by researchers at Southern Methodist University is sure to ignite a debate over whether the race of players influences those statistics.
Researchers there have issued a paper that says white umpires call more strikes for white pitchers than non-whites.
Johan Sulaeman, a financial economist, at Southern Methodist University, analyzed 3.5 million pitches from 2004 to 2008 and found -- claimed -- that "minority pitchers scale back their performance to overcome racial/ethnic favoritism toward whites by MLB home plate umpires."
In other words: Because they weren't getting their pitches called strikes by the white umpires, minority pitchers had little choice but to throw more pitches "down the middle," giving them a distinct disadvantage when measured against white pitchers.
Among the researchers' findings, according to an SMU news release:
-- From the starting pitcher's perspective, a racial match with the umpire helped his statistics by yielding fewer earned runs, fewer hits and fewer home runs.
-- Because the majority of umpires are white, teams with minority pitchers have a distinct disadvantage in non-monitored parks.
-- There is no evidence that visiting managers adjusted their pitching lineups to minimize exposure of their minority pitchers to the subjective bias of a white umpire.
-- In parks where baseball hasn't installed cameras to monitor an umpire's ability, pitchers of the same race threw pitches that allowed umpires the most discretion, apparently to maximize their advantage stemming from the umpires' favoritism.
-- A batter who swings is less likely to get a hit when the umpire and pitcher match.
The researchers claimed that because their performance was undermined by white umpires, minority pitchers earn between $50,000 and $400,000 a year less than white pitchers.
It's comforting that the study found major league managers haven't adjusted their pitching rotations to favor white pitchers. But it's also possible that the reason they haven't is because they don't know about the study.
The next logical step in research to further prove an allegation of racism by umpires, is to examine the ball/strike calls based on the race of the batter.
In the meantime, it's important to remember there's a fair number of conclusions in the study that are based on assumptions.
(h/t: Chris Dall)(11 Comments)
There's no better way to end a week of news than the face of joy.
This was Sloan Churman's big news story this week. After 29 years of living in silence -- she was born deaf -- she heard her own voice this week, after getting a hearing implant.
Her husband was doing the filming here and Ms. Churman said she wished he had kept the camera going longer, but he was crying.(12 Comments)