Alabama Man Wins $1 Million in MLB 2K10 Perfect Game Contest

May 5, 2010 Comments off

When I heard 2K Sports was giving away $1 million to the first fan to pitch a perfect game in MLB 2K10 this year, it seemed like one of those things that would be almost impossible to win, particularly given the extensive rules about how the perfect game needed to be recorded.


Turns out I was very wrong and a perfect game was actually pitched in the first 24 hours of the contest. Never underestimate the determination of the gaming population at large.

2K Sports announced today that 24-year-old Wade McGilberry of Semmes, Alabama has won an unprecedented cash prize in the amount of $1,000,000 by being the first person to throw a verified perfect game in Major League Baseball® 2K10, the latest iteration of the popular Major League Baseball® 2K series.

According to Eric Fisher from SportsBusiness Journal, McGilberry used Braves pitcher Kenshin Kawakami (pictured above) to pitch his perfect game. (This is a real head-scratcher because real-life is 0-5 this season with a 5.47 ERA. I’ll be eager to hear why he picked this particular pitcher.)

If I’m reading Darren Rovell’s story correctly on CNBC, it only took McGilberry six tries to land his perfect game. Another fun note from Rovell’s piece: 2K Sports didn’t take out any insurance on this contest because companies couldn’t come up with odds. That can’t be good for the bottom line of a gaming company that has narrowed its offerings in the last few years.

MLB: America’s Pastimes: Baseball, Apple Pie and Political Flame Wars

May 5, 2010 Comments off

Remember back during the Congressional hearings for baseball, when elected official spent their time, and therefore hard-earned taxpayer money, talking aboutbaseball, of all things? Baseball and politics…whodathunkit?

Now, we can’t seem to get away from it. The New York Daily Newshad a story – albeit under their News section and not Sports – focusing on a group called the Working Families Party, which has drafted a letter to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Mets owner Fred Wilpon asking the two New York teams to boycott the 2011 MLB All-Star game in Arizona if the state doesn’t repeal its new immigration law.

“Will Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera have to show ID to take the mound next year?” asked Working Families Party director Dan Cantor in a letter to the labor-backed party’s 130,000 supporters.Arizona’s new law will require cops to ask for immigration documents from anyone suspected of entering the country illegally. Critics say it could lead to racial profiling, and opponents across the country have urged MLB to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Phoenix.

“If New York’s baseball teams say they won’t go, they could become leaders in a national push to move the All-Star Game out of Arizona,” Cantor wrote.

Hugging Harold Reynolds profiled the article this morning and made the point most of us are probably thinking: “please, leave your politics out of my baseball.” But at this point, that’s nearly impossible. The comment from HHR even came a paragraph after pointing out that moving the All-Star game could cost the region “approximately $60 million” in revenue, much of which, the post asserts, would be going to the same undocumented workers the law was put in place to eradicate.

“Please leave your politics out of my baseball.” Maybe that should end with a question mark. In reading the NYDN story on the push for a boycott, the right side bar had a link to an opinion piece by S.E. Cupp with the headline, “Starting in left field, Keith Olbermann: He’s embraced by MLB and the NFL while Limbaugh was shunned.”

If you click through to Cupp’s byline you’ll see an error message as this is, presumably, the first article the bespectacled pundit has written for the paper. At the end of the slam piece, Cupp’s personal web address appears, and when clicking through, you are linked to a book she wrote called Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity. So, is Cupp upset with Olbermann because he’s “liberal media” or is she upset because he’s a Yankees fan?

Look, I’m no fan of Olbermann’s heavy-handed style of broadcasting – no matter how much I agree or disagree with his politics – but holy cow talk about taking yourself too seriously. This is too fantastic not to quote:

Nothing says “America” like our national pastime. For a few yawning hours, chronological time becomes primordial time, and within those walls of sacred stadiums, space becomes holy. And the Boys of Summer do what they’ve been doing for nearly two centuries. They play ball.But over the years, nefarious characters have threatened to sully baseball’s good name. Chick Gandil persuaded the Chicago White Sox to throw a few games back in 1919. Peter Edward Rose had a bit of a gambling problem. And, of course, there’s everyone’s favorite recovering opportunist – Jose Canseco, the Danny Bonaduce of baseball – and the long line of performance-enhancing abusers from Mark McGwire to you-know-who.

Now there’s another menace lurking in the shadows of the dugout, someone so ugly, so vindictive, so polarizing that with every word he utters he is bastardizing whatever sanctity remains of the game.

His name is Keith Olbermann.

And that’s just the start. The NYDN unleashed this woman on Olbermann with the angle that Olbermann is such a hate monger at his day job at MSNBC that MLB, and the NFL if you consider his work on NBC for Football Night in America, should be ashamed to associate with him. And, to the point of the article, how dare they let Olbermann have a sports voice when Rush Limbaugh “can’t even buy his way into the NFL.”

Olbermann, thus far on his Twitter feed, has taken the high road. Here’s another gem from Cupp:

So let’s get this straight. Limbaugh is too conservative for football, evangelical minister the Rev. Franklin Graham is too Christian for the National Day of Prayer, and Islam is too touchy for “South Park.”Meantime, Olbermann’s misogyny, race-baiting and fear-mongering makes him a perfect voice for America’s national pastime?

Take me out to the ballgame…take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks…but you better make sure the person selling them to me doesn’t look like he’s from Mexico or I’m calling the cops.

So we’ll root, root, root for the home team…if they don’t win it’s a shame…but not as much of a shame as a former sportscaster having a blog on MLBlogs that anyone who wants to can create and write about baseball…

For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old…ball…game!

NCAAF: Mitch Mustain shines, Matt Barkley hurt during final spring scrimmage

May 3, 2010 Comments off

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Starting quarterback Barkley injures throwing hand when it strikes a defensive lineman’s helmet. Mustain, his backup, throws for five touchdowns, mostly against the second-team defense. Coach Lane Kiffin is unhappy with the offense in general.

There is no quarterback controversy at USC.


Sophomore Matt Barkley was the starter last season, maintained his status this spring and, barring injury, will no doubt be under center for the Trojans when they open the season Sept. 2 at Hawaii.

But on an afternoon when Barkley suffered a hand injury, senior Mitch Mustain stirred the fan base Saturday by passing for nearly 300 yards and five touchdowns in the Trojans’ final spring scrimmage at the Coliseum.

Mustain has sat behind Mark Sanchez and Barkley since transferring from Arkansas in 2007. He also, at times, was behind Aaron Corp, who transferred to Richmond after last season.

Not one to get overly excited about anything — most of his touchdown passes, after all, came against the second-unit defense — Mustain acknowledged after the scrimmage that he was encouraged by his prospects.

Why?

“One less guy in front of me,” he said, “and [I’m] playing pretty well.”

Mustain, freshman tailback Dillon Baxter, senior fullbackStanley Havili and senior receiver Travon Pattersonwere the other standout playmakers during a 98-play scrimmage.

Asked to assess his team heading into the off-season, first-year Coach Lane Kiffin, as usual, did not mince words.

“Our defense has a chance to be really good,” Kiffin said. “I think our offense has a long, long, long ways to go, especially in the run game.”

USC’s first-team offense irked Kiffin, who doubles as offensive coordinator, by going scoreless in the first half.

“We told the players at halftime, they were going to take their scholarship checks and give them back to the fans that came out today because it was an embarrassing performance,” Kiffin said.

Barkley responded by connecting with Patterson for a 41-yard touchdown early in the third quarter. But defensive tackle Jurrell Casey hit Barkley on the play, the quarterback’s right hand slamming into the defender’s helmet.

“Like throwing your hand full force into a wall,” said Barkley, who completed seven of 16 passes for 87 yards.


Barkley, who had surgery on his right wrist after last season, lay sprawled on the ground for several moments after the play and was examined by doctors on the sideline. He spent the rest of the afternoon with an icepack on the back of his right hand. A school spokesman said Barkley would be reexamined on Monday. Kiffin removed Casey from the scrimmage for knocking down the quarterback.

Baxter rushed for 129 yards in 13 carries and provided the highlight play when he took a handoff, spun twice behind the line of scrimmage and broke free for a 58-yard gain.

Asked whether he had seen that move before, Kiffin said, “Yeah, PlayStation 2. R-2 button.”

Said Baxter: “The second spin came out of nowhere. . . . I was able to make plays after that.”

Havili scored on touchdown pass plays of 28, 33 and 50 yards, all from Mustain, who finished 19 for 29 for 299 yards. Mustain also caught a pass from Baxter.

Kiffin praised Mustain for his work during the spring, but Barkley, who did not have a pass intercepted in four scrimmages, is the starter heading into training camp.

“We think we have two quarterbacks that can really help us win,” Kiffin said.

Kiffin is not as enamored of other parts of the offense. He said the Trojans have “zero depth” at receiver and wants more from the offensive line and running backs.

USC players now begin three months of off-season workouts. Training camp begins in August.

Quick hits

Linebacker Michael Morgan had seven tackles, linebacker Malcolm Smith six. . . . Cornerback Shareece Wright had five tackles and three pass deflections. . . . Patterson had five catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns. . . . Tailback Allen Bradford rushed for 48 yards in seven carries,Curtis McNeal 44 in eight and Marc Tyler 31 in seven. . . . Freshman receiver Kyle Pratercaught an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback James Boyd.

NCAAB: UK Basketball’s Poor Classroom Marks Mean … Wait, What Do They Mean Again?

May 3, 2010 Comments off

The news popped up over the weekend that Kentucky men’s basketball put up a brick in the classroom during fall semester. The score? An overall GPA of 2.025.

The GPA of 2.025 is the lowest for the program since 2002. It was the worst of nine schools who released information to the Lexington Herald-Leader. It didn’t measure up to other college hoops blue bloods like Duke (3.01), Louisville (3.0) and Kansas (2.95).

This, of course, will bring the John Calipari bashers back out. On the surface, it’d be easy to speculate that such a large contingent of one-and-done players were responsible, but they can only be partially blamed. The Herald-Leader notes that two players had GPAs below 1.8 (1.667 and 1.765) and that players must have a 1.8 or better starting in their second year. (UK released only the individual averages, not the names of players who made the grades.) But it goes beyond those two unnamed players, according to UK senior associate athletic director Sandy Bell:

“It’s not the freshmen,” she said. “It’s not the seniors. It’s not any one group. It’s kind of across the board and for a lot of different reasons.”

On the positive side, GPAs were as high as 3.59. If you saw John Calipari interviewed about John Wall throughout the season, you probably heard him talking about the freshman point guard’s outstanding grades. But somewhere between Wall’s great year in the classroom and a few duds in the freshman class, you’re left with an overall GPA that’s pretty awful. So what does it mean?

Calipari reportedly graduated 19 of 22 players who played four seasons at Memphis. That’s a strong clip, particularly when you consider that many who left early probably did so to head to the NBA, earning more than 99 percent of college grads in their first job. This makes the GPA story a bit of a non-issue. Am I supposed to sit here and huff and puff that someone isn’t interested in a free education? Why bother? A lot of the players joining Calipari at Kentucky (and previously at Memphis) have a pro basketball career on the mind. They’re advancing toward what they believe is their future. I’m not saying I think it’s a good thing to be without fallback options, but unless those GPAs indicate players have somehow run afoul of the rules, why should we, as sports fans, even care whether they’re scoring a 2.0 or a 4.0? As DeMarcus Cousins said prior to the NCAA Tournament game against Cornell, “It’s not a spelling bee.

Random Links

May 3, 2010 Comments off

The dumbest tradition in sports — people wearing hideous hats to the Kentucky Derby — took place this past Saturday. Guysgirl.com has a thorough recap of the best and worst hats along with a look at celebrities who attended the event. Now, the reason I say this is the dumbest tradition in sports is simple: All the attractive celebrities wear those ugly hats with a conservative dress and it makes them look ordinary. Case in point: Marisa Miller. The event that should be covered more in-depthly is the gala that takes place the night before. That’s when the hot celebs, a la Maria Menounos look their best.

Speaking of Celebrities and Sporting Events

The A-listers (and some B-listers) also turned out for the Floyd Mayweather-Sugar Shane Mosley fight in Las Vegas Saturday night.

Who Knew This Was a Hazard of the Job?

First Round Fashion


ASternWarning.com has a round-up of the fashion trends that have dominated the NBA playoffs. The clear winner so far has been cardigans, which seem to be a favorite of Carmelo Anthony.

San Jose sees octopus, raises it with shark eating baby octopus?

the tradition of throwing things onto the ice at hockey games. Well, I don’t know if this will become a tradition, but the stakes have been raised by Sharks fans.

One More Fashion Item

Since fashion has been a big theme of this edition, I feel I should alert you to the brand-new U.S. Men’s National Team 2010 World Cup jersey. Playboy.com has the photos. The link is completely safe for work, but you may want to be careful if you plan on navigating other links on the site

Videos

During the Cavaliers’ 101-93 win against the Celtics Saturday night, point guard Mo Williams threw down a dunk. This left Cleveland coach Mike Brown at a loss for words. Literally.

Let’s see if I can explain this in a PG way without getting in trouble. Here goes… If you’re one of those guys who has trouble unhooking a female undergarment during intimate moments, the task has just got even more difficult thanks to this product.

NCAAB: NCAA Greenlights 68 Teams; What Will It Look Like?

May 1, 2010 Comments off

If you missed the news Thursday afternoon, the NCAA board of directors approved NCAA Tournament expansion to 68 teams, a decision which brings me great joy. The one topic left to be figured out is how the NCAA will deploy those three additional opening round games. (I’ve always been one to call it the play-in game, but with four games now, at least they can pull off the illusion of saying it’s an opening round.)

It isn’t impossible that the NCAA will have another idea up its sleeve, but the two prevailing schools of thought go something like this: put the eight lowest-seeded teams in the play-in games or put the eight lowest-seeded at-large teams in games. That second scenario would generally feature teams around the Nos. 9-13 seed line.


As a mid-major alum, I can’t help but hate any scenario that puts the squeeze on the little guy in the NCAA Tournament. On the other hand, no No. 16 or 17 seed will put together a better resume than any No. 9/10/11/12/13, so I can’t see how its right to arbitrarily award them an easier road because they won a few games in March. My thoughts tend to line up with John Gasaway on this topic for many of the same reasons. We both agree that the likelihood of someone in that final at-large group winning a game is greater than a No. 16 or 17 seed. (Well, even if we didn’t agree, the numbers prove it because a No. 16 seed has never won an NCAA Tournament game, let alone made any meaningful run in the tournament.) I hate to say it, but I find my beliefs lining up with Jay Bilas, who often talks about getting the best teams into the field. Yes, a No. 12 vs. No. 13 is more compelling than a No. 16 vs. No. 17, but only marginally so. Is that bit of negligible Tuesday entertainment worth the imbalance created for the No. 4/5 seed that would get to play one of these teams?

More to the point, using the final eight at-larges could be incredibly problematic from a bracket perspective that might make it untenable to begin with. Look at the pool of teams who were the final at-larges this season and the range of seeds they encompassed: No. 12 UTEP, No. 12 Utah State, No. 11 Minnesota, No. 10 Missouri, No. 10 Georgia Tech, No. 10 Florida, No. 9 Florida State, No. 9 Louisville and No. 9 Wake Forest. If you put that range of teams, spanning four seed lines, into four games, where do you eventually seed them? Do you take a No. 9 like FSU, Louisville or Wake and downgrade them all the way to a No. 12 spot if you feed them into that line? While you could make the argument that a No. 5 seed gets an advantage by playing a “tired” team, that scenario would also present an argument that would really steam a lot of No. 5s for having to play a more difficult team that they would’ve otherwise.

Even if the NCAA goes with the more obvious and logical choice to feed the No. 16 vs. No. 17, there will be a scheduling matter to tackle. How committed is the NCAA to keeping its opening round games in Dayton? With the opening round winner traditionally playing a Friday game, the NCAA would face a scenario with none of its No. 1 seeds playing on Thursday. Would this also throw a wrench into how the NCAA gives favorable how venues for top seeds, forcing delays on venues about what days they’ll be hosting games? The simple answer would be to move the opening round games out of Dayton and to the cities where the teams would face No. 1 seeds, possibly playing at a smaller venue. Another venue could create a production nightmare for CBS/Turner, but would it be better than having a larger venue that is empty?

We won’t know the answer until this summer when the NCAA puts its head together to make a decision, but I imagine that unless there is a third option we aren’t thinking about, the only possible conclusion is featuring the No. 16/17 seeds in opening round games.

What is the Value of Value in Sports?

May 1, 2010 Comments off

The news of Ryan Howard’s new contract could have been a blip on the radar of sports news, and for many people outside of baseball or outside of Philadelphia it was likely nothing more than that. But to someone like me, who likens himself as someone with a finger on the pulse of the Philadelphia sports world and, try-as-I-might, someone who keeps abreast of the goings on in baseball, this situation has been the most dominant and polarizing storyline I can ever remember on the Internet. That’s not an exaggeration either, Ryan Howard became the poster player for Stats vs. Eyes, taking a seat in baseball purgatory until 2016, with a club option for 2017.

And no, I’m not going to turn this into another long post about the contract extension that Howard received from the Phillies. It’s honestly not about that. It’s about the concept of value in sports. We linked to a post by Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley who adeptly assessed Howard’s performance on the field to project his level of play at the end of this contract extension and determined that, based on win above replacement, he’ll actually be costing the Phillies a significant amount of money, given the combination of his (projected) production and salary.


I thought about this for a long time. And while you can’t argue with Baer’s logic – the older a player gets, the less productive he is likely to become – he didn’t factor in the other value Howard provides for the team. He’s the mayor of Philadelphia at this point. He’s the city’s official sports ambassador, wearing a Phillies uniform. He’s not an Eagle or a Sixer or a Flyer. He’s a Phillie, and there’s value to that in the city. Howard will fill seats and sell jersey and, perhaps most importantly, keep people tuned in on the television and radio. The Phillies negotiated a deal they felt was fair, based on the value that Howard provides both on and off the field.

Value differs in different sports, too. Look at the NFL, where draft picks are treated like gold, but current players – especially those who command large salaries – are traded for virtually nothing. Santonio Holmes, transgressions included, was traded for a fifth round pick because that’s all he was worth to the rest of the league. The guy was a Super Bowl MVP and is in the prime of his career, but his off-the-field issues made him far less valuable to the Steelers organization. Dumping him, for whatever they could get, was worth more than letting him go for nothing, and clearly more valuable than keeping him.

Ben Roethlisberger, on the other hand, was reportedly being shopped for a top ten pick, despite the fact that his off-the-field value has to be lower at this point than anyone else in the league. Drew Brees, he is not. But Ben provides more value on the field than Holmes did, so the Steelers decided to put a higher premium on his services and keep him if their price wasn’t met.

When the Redskins traded away a second round pick for Donovan McNabb – that trade also comes with a mid-round pick next year based on McNabb’s success – they lost all leverage for a trade of their incumbent quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell’s value was at it’s lowest, and the best they could do was a trade for a fourth-round pick in 2012. Speaking of fourth-round picks, the Cowboys traded their second round pick, 59th overall, to the rival Eagles for the 55th overall pick. The price? A fourth rounder. So, within the same division, theoretically, Jason Campbell is as valuable as moving up four spots in the draft…two years from now? The Cowboys drafted linebacker Sean Lee with the 55th pick, while the Eagles traded the 59th pick for a third and two fifths. Of course, they subsequently traded the third for more picks later in the draft. Clearly, they didn’t see the value in drafting anyone with those picks.

Obviously those are just a few of the many illustrations of value in football where potential – in the form of picks – is almost always more valuable than production. But nothing is as bad as the NBA, which trades in a currency we like to call the Expiring Contract. Jack Kogod shared the best example with me:

On February 19, 2008 Van Horn signed a three-year deal (only the first year guaranteed) with the Mavericks in order to help complete a blockbuster trade that sent Jason Kidd from the New Jersey Nets to the Mavericks and Devin Harris to the Nets. As expected, Van Horn didn’t play at all for the Nets and was waived on October 23rd, 2008.

The guy was traded and he wasn’t even playing anymore, which is just about as bad as a player who is added into a trade and immediately bought out so he can sit out 30 days and re-sign with the team that traded him. Zydrunas Ilgauskas…come on down!

Yes, in the NBA world, cap space to potentially sign players is more valuable than actually having players who will play for you. It’s a wonderful system, really.

And then, of course, there’s soccer, which has the most straight forward system of them all. Give us cash for our talent and you can have them.. The richest transfer in the history of the sport came when Real Madrid shipped more than 93 million euros to Manchester United for the rights to Cristiano Ronaldo. That’s before they paid him his annual salary, by the way. But clearly, Real Madrid felt that spending that much money on the rights to player would pay off in the form of championships…and financial gains. To have one of the best and most popular athletes in the world wear your jersey is a powerful pitch to potential jersey sponsors. Simply put, record transfers or not, they wouldn’t have made the deal if they thought they’d be losing money.

And that’s where I think things fall with the Phillies and Howard. They clearly feel he provides more than just the value on the field. So while his WARP3 may decline in the next five or six years, the team has to feel he provides a different kind of value that, perhaps, you can’t actually measure with advanced stats. David Montgomery, President and CEO of the Phillies, told 610WIP this week that, “The key for a player of Ryan’s stature is the length of the contract. This is a statement to our fans and everyone who follows us that you know who the first basemen is going to be for the next five, or hopefully six years.”

So to the team, stability is pretty valuable. There are many other examples in many other sports. Heck, it works in any kind of business. I got paid to write this post (I know, right, I’m stealing money with this gig, so don’t tell anyone) and the powers that be decided that I provide a certain value to their overall product. Much like the deal for Howard, my bosses determined what is a fair amount to pay me based on what the market dictates, what others before me have earned and balanced that with what they feel is an appropriate value for the amount of traffic my work garners. Much like Howard, it’s my job to deliver on their trust and produce to the level they expect. And no, I’m not making anywhere near $125 million bucks.

Please don’t think I’m saying that I’m the Ryan Howard of sports bloggers, although I do try to knock it out of the park every time I write (thank you, I’ll be here all week, don’t forget to tip your editors). And no, I don’t know my Value Over a Replacement Blogger (VORB). And yes, some of us are working on a way to actually calculate such things. It’ll revolutionize the way bloggers are hired, even if we acknowledge that there’s not always a scientific way to determine someone’s value.