This Stuff Happened — 2/16/12

Get in Line.

Individual game seats for Phillies games went on sale today.  There was some mild camping out overnight down at the park.  There’s really no reason to camp out for tickets other than to have the experience.  You can buy them online, but I suppose that is less hardcore.  Before the sale started the Phils had about 700,000 tickets left for the 2012 season, so plenty of good options were still available.  Of course, they’ve already sold over 3 million tickets and select dates are either unavailable or will soon be sold out.  Running the ticket office for the Phillies has to be one of the easiest jobs out there right now, the worst thing you have to do is probably turn some people away.  In more exciting Phillies news, the team remains “in” on Jorge Soler (the other Cuban) a 19-year old outfielder.   At this point I feel like a guy who went to an auction and there’s only one lot left up for bid.  What the hell, right?

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Amanda Knox, the American exchange student who was eventually acquitted of murder charges in Italy, has sold her memoir to Harper Collins for 4 million dollars.  And they say the book business is dead.  This story will be coming to a Kindle near you sometime in 2013.  Knox, who kept journals while imprisoned, will work with a “collaborator” according to the WSJ piece.  Considering Knox has been mum on her ordeal and the book is promising a full and vivid account, I’d expect sales to be considerable.  Memoirs are king.  No one reads novels anymore.

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Allen Iverson might end up in the D-League.  Iverson has been in the news recently for his financial situation.  There was a lawsuit over a high six-figure jewelry bill and speculation that Iverson is broke.  Willingness to play in Puerto Rico or in the D-League isn’t exactly a strong sign for Iverson’s financials, and considering he hasn’t played in the NBA since the 09/10 season I can’t imagine there will be much interest in giving A.I. another chance.  It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Iverson’s odd return to Philadelphia.  How things have changed for him and the franchise.  The sell-out on Iverson’s first night was a high-point of a dark season.  The Sixers are now not reduced to such gimmicks to draw a decent crowd, but Iverson still needs a home.  A local radio station calculated that A.I. would have had to spend 18,000 dollars a day to burn through his after-tax basketball income (endorsements not included).  The guy could score and blow through cash.  You’ve got to give him that.

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Worst Slam Dunk Contest Ever.  Personally, I would have played one or two less back-to-backs and just cancelled the All-Star weekend, but that’s reason #1 why I’m not David Stern.  The NBA’s insistence on holding the dunk contest is admirable, even when the line-up is: Chase Budinger (white), Paul George (who?), Iman Shumpert (quien es?), and Derrick Williams (rookie).  I’m sure all four of these guys can throw down.  But, people don’t want to see players they don’t know dunking.  You might as well have gymnasts flying around off mini-tramps.  They’re always changing the rules for this thing.  Props/No Props.  Passes/No Passes.  Multiple rounds, multiple misses allowed, a time limit.  It’s a hot mess.  The question is, do you want to watch and then attempt to recreate the dunks on a Nerf hoop in your living room? If the answer is no, the dunk contest is dead.

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This is totally random, but you know what is a little annoying for me:  Hearing about In-N-Out Burgers.  I’m sure they’re great and all, but I have a slightly hard time believing they are the pinnacle of burgers.  It is just a burger after all, and don’t we think there’s a little Pat’s/Geno’s/Jim’s phenomenon going on here?  Clearly those aren’t the best places to actually get a cheesesteak.  If there’s even a discussion that a Five Guys burger might be better than an In-N-Out Burger then I can’t get too excited about it.  Again, Five Guys is a good time, but try not to get so overstimulated.  And, part of this is all my fault because I pay attention to dipsh*t social network things where every time someone gets within 100 miles of an In-N-Out they start blabbering away about Double-Doubles.  I don’t go for that secret menu and vocab crap either.  I don’t think I’ll ever have an In-N-Out burger at this point.  There’s no way it could live up to expectations.

Spring Advice for Phillies Fans:

Keep It Old School.

As the days tick by here we’re starting to see some baseball stories with substance.  You have to understand these writers have been sitting on their Spring Training Previews for a couple of months now, waiting impatiently to unleash them.  In the meantime, there’s been a lot of  “Jim Thome’s a Nice Guy,” and “Shane Victorino is on Hawaii Five-O” stories floating around.  Well, all of that is either coming to and end or has already ended.  No more fluff.  Pretty soon it’s going to be, “What Kind of Team Do We Have Here?”  My advice is, if you want to remain in good spirits, if you want to enjoy the ride a little bit this year instead of wrapping yourself into a taut ball of expectation–I’d be careful what stories you digest.  I have a feeling the national media, the SABR guys and pretty much everyone with access to Baseball Prospectus is going to be a bit down on your Philadelphia Phillies.

This is a team that is built more on names than numbers right now.  There’s not a single Phillies position player in the top-30 Fantasy projection at ESPN.  A few years back there would have been three or four Phillies manning spots in the early rounds of mock drafts.  Now, the highest regarded everyday Phillie is Hunter Pence.  Not even a member of that famous core (Utley, Rollins, Howard) that made up perhaps the best Phillies offense ever.  No, the Phillies have too many veterans, have too many guys battling injuries to rate highly in fantasy circles.  When you feed all those ages into a computer, 33, 32, 31, 35, it’s almost impossible to come up with a positive trend.

Last week there was an article at FanGraphs titled, Is the Phillies Offense Good Enough?  It’s an interesting article.  It’s one that supports my belief that the Phillies had a solid offense long before they were true contenders.  Now, there’s a lot of stats on the page, plenty of numbers you won’t see on the back of an old baseball card, but the overall theme seems to be that the Phillies offense has been getting worse for some time, and that is only going to continue.  Among the advanced metric guys you hear a lot about the stat, “Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP).”  It’s one of the metrics that is used to measure “luck,” and therefore is one of favorites.  I love the quantification of luck.

Every player has an “expected” number for the BABIP and an actual number.  If you’re expected number is .305 and your actual is .340 you are considered to be on an incredibly lucky streak and a slump is right around the corner.  Hunter Pence hit .360 on balls in play last year.  This is considered an unsustainable number, but it was also considered an unsustainable number at the trade deadline last year and then Pence came to Philadelphia and performed even better.

BABIP is not always right as you can see, but it’s a good indication of how unbiased modern projections and stats can be.  You don’t get any bonus points for being Chase Utley.  A player is reduced down to a point where their name no longer exists, and it’s just their numbers.  My stance is, the Phillies could use the benefit of some name recognition.  In the coming weeks there will be more stories like the one at FanGraphs.  I imagine the Phillies preview written by the stat-heads at Grantland will be quite ominous.  I expect the Braves and Marlins (maybe even the Nationals) to be trendy upset picks in the NL East.  Of course, that was partially the case last year and the Phillies still slugged out 102 wins.

This is a team in dire need of an old-school, nostalgia prone sportswriter.  Of course, the Phillies writer that fits that description resigned in a cloud of shame, disgrace and controversy, so I’m not sure there is a true source for the type of story I’m talking about.  Will anyone predict a bounce back season for Chase Utley simply because he at one point was Chase Bleepin’ Utley?  Will anyone treat us to a glorious lede like, “Call me crazy, but I think the Phillies invited Ponce de Leon to camp this Spring.”  This Phillies is team is good mostly because they just are and have been.  How do I know they’re going to win games?  Because that’s what they do.  They win games.  Just don’t go looking for too many numbers to prove it.