Friday, September 30, 2005

Sports Guy on Personal Awards

In Wait, who won again?, he makes the case that we usually forget who wins awards like the MVP anyway. I think it depends on the circumstances. For example, he writes:

Mo Vaughn won in 1995. Since Big Mo played for my favorite team, I should probably have remembered this, right? It's not that I never knew about Mo's award. Surely I cared at the time. I guess I just chose to stop thinking about it. And when not one situation in the past five or six years triggered the memory, eventually it just disappeared.
I sure as heck remembered Mo Vaugh winning it that year, because Albert Belle got screwed because he was a jerk who no one really liked. Belle was the best player on far and away the best team in baseball that year. He hit .317 with 126 RBIs, fifty homers, and fifty-two doubles, becoming the first player in major league history with over 100 extra base hits in a single season. He had a respectable .981 fielding percentage playing every day in left field. Plus he was Ray Lewis scary. There was no way Vaughn should have beat out Belle that year.

I'm also still mad that Rashaan Salaam beat out Ki-Jana Carter for the Heisman in 1994. And I think it's pretty annoying that A Beautiful Mind beat out Fellowship of the Ring and Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan.

The point is that Simmons is mostly correct, but I would add that we tend remember the awards that aggravate us the most. No matter what he says, I bet he'll hang on to the memory of A-Rod beating David Ortiz, if it happens.


Paul said...

Cleveland, best team in baseball in 1995???
Braves beat them soundly in 6 games in the world series. Totally shut down their hitters.

What criteria were you using to judge them the best team in baseball?

Paul said...

I agree with you on the oscars, though.

Paul said...

How about Eric Crouch beating out Rex Grossman for the 2001 Heisman?

Tom said...

Are you kidding? Seriously, you have to be kidding. For one thing, the MVP is selected based on the regular season, and then it is not even all that close (considering that the Braves and Indians were two of the best teams in baseball):

I won't get into all the details, but check the stats. The Indians blow away the Braves on every batting statistic, and considering the fact that the Braves pitchers got to pitch to other pitchers, the pitching stats are remarkably close, too (Team ERA: Braves 3.44, Indians 3.83). (And, yes, I understand that Braves batting stats are hurt by pitchers hitting, but that doesn't come close to accounting for the difference.)

Then, of course, there is the only stat that matters: Indians 100-44, Braves 90-54. (There is something called the "Pythagorean W-L that is supposed to account for luck based on runs scored and runs given up: Indians 93-51, Braves 84-60.) So based on the regular season, when the MVPs are chosen, the Indians were far and away the best team in baseball.

The Braves did beat them in the World Series, no denying that, but to use "soundly" to describe that beating is ridiculous. That World Series was as close as it gets--5 of the 6 games were decided by 1 run. And I would be happy to watch the tape with anyone and have them try to explain the strike zones Maddux, Glavine, and Avery enjoyed in that Series. I think the fact that anything Javy Lopez managed to get a glove on was called a strike more than accounts for the shutting down of Indians' hitters. It was so ridiculous that the Indians knew they wouldn't get any calls, so in game five against Maddux, Albert Belle hit a home run in the first inning on a pitch that was probably six inches off the plate. It was so far outside it was like he hit it with a pool cue, and it went over the right field fence right by the foul pole. But, hey, don't believe me, Major League Baseball only changed its rules to account for the wide strike zones for pitchers like Maddux and Glavine (I say that as someone who believes that Maddux gives Roger Clemens a real run for his money as the greatest pitcher of this era).

The only reason Indians fans didn't burn down the country was because we were so sure that team would be back. We are much more emotional in retrospect, as you can see. That said, that Indians team was as dominating in baseball as any team I have ever seen in any sport.

2001 was one of those crappy years for the Heisman--Crouch was as good as any of them. I will add that Rocket Ismail should have beat Ty Detmer and Marshall Faulk might have been a wee bit better than Gino Toretta.

Paul said...

W-L, the only stat that matters?

So, I guess we throw out all the World Series titles ever won and just judge teams on stats? Give the title to the Yankees in '03 (because they were so much better than the Marlins in W-L) and the Mariners won 116 games in '01. Go ahead and take that title away from the Diamondbacks and give it to the Mariners. Why even have a World Series if that's the case? Just give the crown to the team with the best record in baseball at the end of September, and we'll skip the most exciting part of the season.

So many factors play into who wins the title that W-L is almost arbitrary. The Padres will get in the playoffs this year and, believe me, I will be thoroughly pissed if they knock off the Braves. But I will bear it because if you can't beat a team head to head, you're simply not better than them. (I realize luck, crowds, freak plays, clutch hitting, weather, off-field issues, etc. play a huge role too.)

I have never understood why people complained about the 'Braves' strike zone.' Every team in the majors could have benefitted from the umpires' (notice the plural, so I guess it was an MLB conspiracy) liberal strike zones if they could have hit their spots like Maddux and Glavine in the 90s. Sour grapes. But, I guess being a Cleveland fan isn't easy. What with Jordan, Elway and Glavine ruining your postseasons?

Have you checked Grossman's stats from 2001? I'm a Seminole fan and I even thought he should have won it.

BTW, I love sports arguments and I hope these debates continue here.

Today, my colleagues and I were discussing FSU playing Miami first game of the year. I'm of the opinion that you need to get your loss out the way early so you can recover and move up the polls. It's hard to go undefeated, so get your loss in early. Steve Spurrier, when he was at UF, never wanted to play a tough team early for some strange reason. My colleagues agreed with him and it drove me nuts. What do you think?

Tom said...

We'll go in circles on the Indians-Braves thing, but let me repeat that for the purposes of the MVP voting, i.e.: before the playoffs, the Indians were far and away the best team in baseball in 1995. As far as the World Series goes, I completely respect the control of Maddux and Glavine. Despite that World Series, Maddux is my favorite pitcher in my lifetime. But there is a difference between giving a great pitcher a few inches on the edges when he is consistent, and calling strikes on pitches that are 6 or 8 or even 10 inches off the plate. It really was absurd, and I would like to say that a great team can get around it, but I just don't see how--given that Belle had to hit a home run on a ball six inches off the plate. You just can't do that consistently. Call it whatever you want, but find a tape of that World Series and tell me I'm wrong.

I really like Grossman, and I feel terrible for his bad luck so far in the pros, but from the perspective of someone outside of Florida, he did not stand out enough (like a Ricky Williams or Charlie Ward) to make him a no-doubter.

The loss early in the year thing is a great question, because Big Ten teams get screwed on it all the time because their late season schedule tends to be tougher. It seems like Florida teams have an easier time getting back in the running for national championships after early losses than other schools. It will be interesting to see if Ohio State can run the table the rest of the year. If so, and if there is only one major undefeated team, I think the Buckeyes should be in the National Championship. What would be really interesting is if USC goes undefeated, Ohio State runs the table, and Texas loses one game late. I have a feeling then OSU would jump Texas, which would be unfair, because Texas beat OSU (even though OSU should have run away with it after those three takeaways). The point is that it is better to lose early.

Paul said...

Totally in agreement about the NCAA fb thing. In 2000, Miami beat FSU, in Miami, early in the season, by 3 points. Both teams ended up with 1 loss and ultimately, FSU lost to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. I have taken crap from bitter Miami fans since. Now, if FSU beats Oklahoma or plays better than they did the question of 'who should have been there' is moot. Just like last year when Oklahoma got stomped by USC, the Auburn fans were up in arms. If Oklahoma shows up, there is no debate.

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