Monday, June 7, 2010

Mass Destruction

Another Mass-ively disappointing output by A. J. Mass, one of ESPN's fantasy baseball columnists. I give Mass a little credit for taking an analytical approach to his work, but only a little, because as an analyst, he just is not very good. His most recent article "The True Value of FIP" evidences this.

The True Value of FIP

Lost in all the hoopla of Jim Joyce's call at first base during Armando Galarraga's attempt at perfection was the fact the Detroit Tigers pitcher was lucky to still have been in a position to make history. If not for Austin Jackson making a spectacular grab on Mark Grudzielanek's fly ball, the Indians would have had their first hit a couple of batters sooner, and with zero controversy.

A quick aside (this paragraph has little to do with the article, so it's a good spot for an aside): I, like everybody else, watched the non-perfect-perfect-game-play, ad nauseam. So far, I am the only person I know (except for my friend's wife) who thinks it was not such a bad call. It is really hard to tell, even in super slow motion, when the pitcher has control of the ball. The runner was probably out, and given the circumstances it is pretty weak that the ump did not give the pitcher the benefit of the call, but I do not think it is the huge travesty that everybody else seems to think it is. OK, back to the article.

Pitchers, in fact, have very little control over what happens once balls get put into play. Bad hops, bounced throws, balls that fall into the stands just out of the reach of an outstretched glove -- there's nothing a pitcher can do about any of those things, except shrug his shoulders and forge on. Through the sabermetric work of Voros McCracken, Tom Tango and others, it became very clear that in order to truly measure the impact on the result of a game made by an individual pitcher, you had to take defense out of the equation. And thus, a new stat, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) was born.

Nice. I am a fan of FIP (though I prefer xFIP), so I like this so far.

What is FIP? It's a measure of how successfully a pitcher takes matters into his own hands, for better or for worse. Combining home runs allowed, walks and strikeouts -- none of which the defense can do anything about -- FIP creates a single number that attempts to be a better predictor of a pitcher's future ERA than his ERA itself.

It is after this paragraph that an astute reader can tell that the rest of the article is likely to be bad, as Mass already shows a lack of understanding of FIP. FIP is not a measure of "how successfully a pitcher takes matters into his own hands, for better or for worse." FIP, like ERA, is a measure of how effective a pitcher is. A low FIP means good pitching, a high one means bad pitching. Unlike ERA, it is calculated using only stats that the pitcher has almost sole control of. We can think of FIP as measuring a pitcher's performance "in a vacuum" and of ERA as measuring a pitcher's performance "on the diamond". That's a much better description of FIP than what Mass gives, because it is actually accurate.

A Basic FIP Formula: FIP = [(13*HR) + (3*BB) - (2*K)]/IP + 3.10

Proponents of FIP would have us believe that if a pitcher's ERA is far lower than his FIP, we should expect a regression the following season. Similarly, if a pitcher has a higher ERA than FIP, then he was probably more unlucky than anything else, and due for a bounce-back campaign. So how does that play so far in 2010? Let's go to the leaderboard and see:

2010 ERA Leaders
Through June 4

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Something's Not Quite Right Here

Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune handicaps the Bears' wide receiver race. There are six receivers expected to make the roster, and he gives odds for each to be in "the top three". Here's the breakdown, with the odds also converted to a rounded percentage:

Devin Hester - 4 to 5 (56%)
Johnny Knox - Even (50%)
Devin Aromashodu - 3 to 1 (25%)
Earl Bennett - 10 to 1 (9%)
Juaquin Iglesias - 30 to 1 (3%)
Rashied Davis - 40 to 1 (2%)

Notice anything? Six receivers, three spots, you would expect the percentages to average out to about 50%, right? It looks like Dan expects there to be about a receiver and a half in the Bears' top three. Are they going to line up with a lot of 10-man empty slot formations this fall?

(Feel free to mock my pedantry, but hey, there hasn't been a new post in awhile, and I thought this was at least mildly amusing.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

No Mexicans Allowed

I came across a piece that actually rivals anything that David Fleming has ever written for the title of "Stupidest Sports Article Ever". Now the comparison may be a little unfair - Flem writes for one of the most well-known sports media outlets in the world, and this piece, by Edgar Zuniga, appears on Yanks Abroad, a soccer site that few people have probably heard of. But still, this was too good to resist:

Wait...what is Mexico doing in the middle of the United States?

Dunno, trying to stay away from Arizona?

A quick geography lesson for ya: The official name of our neighbor to the south is Estados Unidos Mexicanos. This is ironic, considering how much Mexican soccer fans despise los Estados Unidos.

Yes, two neighboring countries are named similarly, yet despise each other's soccer teams. This is about as ironic as the cat being caught by the very person who was trying to catch him.

If you were to ask any Mexican how they feel about sharing a border with the US, they will attest that being located next to the US is both a blessing and a curse.

I bet you'd get a few differing opinions.

The politics of US-Mexico relations fuel alot [sic] of the hatred involved in the soccer rivalry. However, you have to remember that there always exists a thin line between love and hate.

OK, I'll keep that in mind.

And, when you start talking dollars, Mexicans change their tone. They love our dollars.

Take note, this theme runs bizarrely through the article, but it never becomes clear exactly what Edgar's point is.

Hold on, we're not talking politics here.

Good, "they love our dollars" doesn't really strike me as a political statement. Thanks for clarifying, though.

This is about a topic that has been simmering for quite a few years and is beginning to reach the boiling point as more US soccer fans become educated about the game and start paying attention to how other nations deal with their arch-rivals.

By hiring goon-squads to take them out, presumably.

As you read this, Mexico is looking forward to playing several World Cup warm-up games on American soil.

I'm shocked!

Having already played games against Bolivia, New Zealand and Iceland in various American cities, Mexico also has games booked against Ecuador (Meadowlands), Senegal (Chicago) and an opponent yet to be determined (Houston).

Wherever you live in the US, sooner or later, during 2010, the Mexican team will play somewhere near you.

I wonder who they're playing in Anchorage.

While it's interesting to see Mexico try to pull off their insane pre-World Cup schedule (which includes games in Europe) without crashing and burning out in the process, can you guess how many, out of 12 games, they're going to be playing at home?

Six? Four? How about two? Yes, two.

In fact, while Mexico scheduled only two games at home, they're slyly making themselves a home away from home in the US, playing six to seven matches.

Why won't Mexico play international opponents in the filth and smog of Azteca? Maybe those other teams realized what a dump it is and rejected the offer.

I'm guessing Edgar has never been to Azteca, because it's quite a beautiful stadium, and there's nothing filthy about it. I'll concede that the air quality is probably a concern for prospective visitors, but it's not nearly as bad as the stereotype.

But what about the many other suitable stadiums across Mexico? There are a couple of really nice stadiums in Pachuca and Guadalajara.

But you know what? It really has nothing to do with the stadiums.

What do Mexicans love most about the US? In the words of Wu-Tang Clan's Method Man, "Cash rules everything around me. C.R.E.A.M. Get the money. Dollar dollar bill y'all."

That's right, it all boils down to money.

Well, for Mexico maybe it does. For opponents logistics are probably important as well. Most flights from anywhere in the Eastern Hemisphere to Mexico go through the US anyway, it's probably easier to find decent training grounds in the US, security isn't as much of a concern, and so on.

Why the hell is Mexico, our arch-rival, allowed to play wherever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want and rake in dollar bills to benefit the Mexican Football Federation (FMF)?

It's a free country, as long as your papers are in order.

The FMF knows that there are millions of Mexicans living in the US and so, depending on where they play, they'll attract large crowds and be pulling in dollars instead of pesos.

Edgar seems really hung up on this dollar vs. peso distinction. Now, I'm sure the FMF has to transact much of its business in dollars, and that it's pretty useful to have dollars on hand. But does Edgar realize that one currency can be exchanged for another at these advanced institutions called banks? Sure the bank takes a small cut, but the real issue here is the value of the money generated, not the particular currency that's taken in. If there happened to be 12 million Mexicans living in Guatemala, I'm sure the FMF would gladly stage matches there, pull in the quetzales, and exchange them for dollars or pesos.

It's interesting to note that the peso was the first currency in the world to use the "$" sign, which the US dollar later adopted for its own use when the US adopted the peso as currency during the period before adopting the dollar.

It's interesting that you decided to straight up plagiarize a sentence from a Wikipedia page, but didn't even pick one that made sense. The US dollar adopted the symbol for its use before the US adopted the dollar?

There's some sick irony in all this.

Like rain on your wedding day...

History lessons aside, all this makes you wonder about the relationship between the US Soccer Federation (USSF) and the FMF and why they're letting the Mexican team have the run of the land.

Yes, and maybe your column would useful if you explored those reasons, rather than just ranting about what a travesty it is.

If you call yourself a US soccer fan and have a pulse, by this point, you should be visibly upset. Seriously, you should be angry.

I guess there's something wrong with my emotional compass.

How much is the USSF making out of this arrangement? What's their cut?

See the comment before last.

Do you think that the English FA would ever allow the German National Team to play friendlies all over England? What if Argentina's AFA let Brazil do the same?

Probably so, if the arrangements were beneficial in some way to England or Argentina respectively. But the point is moot, of course, as there aren't 12 million Germans living in England, nor do the logistical issues I mentioned earlier apply.

For those new to soccer, this is unconceivable.

It's "unconceivable" because Germany has no reason to play its friendlies in England, not because of any burning hatred.

Mexico playing friendlies in the US is equivalent to Ohio State University playing most of their football games in Michigan Stadium or the San Francisco Giants playing their home games at Dodger Stadium. That just doesn't happen.

No, really it's not. Going hundreds miles away from your fan base when you have a perfectly serviceable stadium right near home makes no sense. However, Mexico has a large fan base in the US. And it's not like they're playing in US Soccer's home stadium, as US Soccer doesn't have a home stadium. Finally, we're talking about exhibitions, and not meaningful games.

If it does, it's a clear sign that the Apocalypse is upon us.

When the hell has the US ever played an exhibition game in Mexico against someone other than Mexico for the purpose of making some pesos? Never!

Since we don't do X because it makes no sense for us to do X, Mexico shouldn't do X when it makes perfect sense for them to do X!

Not only would the Mexican fans be furious but they'd make the US feel as unwelcome as possible. You can be sure that Mexican fans would bash the FMF and question their actions.

Mexican fans certainly make the US feel unwelcome when it is in their interests to do so, ie. when the US is playing Mexico. But honestly I think the reaction to a US/third-party friendly in Mexico would be more like bemused indifference.

It's also sad that the Mexican team is playing more games on American soil than the US. While Mexico enjoys their farewell tour, the US has just one more game scheduled at home before the World Cup.

No, we have games scheduled against Turkey and the Czech Republic.

Now, I can already hear the arguments in support of letting Mexico play in the US. Do they sell out the stadiums? Not entirely, but they draw more fans than the US does (which is embarrassing).

Do their fans bring in alot of revenue to the stadiums and surrounding businesses? For the most part, yes.

Is seeing Mexico play this much on American soil giving Team USA an opportunity to scout Mexico? Yeah, you can say that.

As noted by many of the commentators to the article, the Mexican friendlies are promoted by Soccer United Marketing, which also happens to be marketing division of MLS. The USSF certainly has an interest in the promotion and success of MLS, so it's good that SUM gets a cut from these friendlies. I would imagine it's possible that the USSF directly gets a share of the proceeds in exchange for it's permission, but I won't look it up, because I don't want to do all of Edgar's work for him.

I can also hear some people out there saying that this whole argument against Mexico is adolescent and are probably asking what the big deal is with letting them play here. It's just business, right?

I think I'd use "infantile" rather than "adolescent".


I can only speak for myself when I say that there is no way I'm accepting money from my worst enemy to let him come into my house and use it to throw a party with all of his best friends and make a profit out of it.

That just ain't right, folks.

The US and Mexican national teams are enemies on the pitch, but have many common off-field interests. Aside from the monetary benefits that SUM and possibly the USSF receive from allowing these friendlies, we also have an interest in the Mexican squad improving. They are our frequent sparring partner, and the way to get better is play good teams. Furthermore it's good for us if CONCACAF shows well at the World Cup and other tournaments, as it could possibly increase the allotment for CONCACAF teams in future World Cups. And not being petty dicks to the Mexicans allows for things like this.

It's time for US fans to stop being so gosh darn nice and become more vocal about these sort of things.

We're not talking about some insane rebellion with torches and pitchforks in front of USSF headquarters (located on Prairie Avenue, in Chicago), but there needs to be an uprising.

Note the Flemingesque tendency to insert random irrelevant facts. Or was the location given here as a dog-whistle? Does Edgar really want us to take to Prairie Avenue in protest? But then why didn't he tell us the street number? Plausible deniability? Or does he want us to march up and down the street with our torches and pitchforks until we find the USSF headquarters?

Fans need to let the USSF know how they feel about the Federation allowing Mexico to play "home" games on our soil and tread on our fields like they were theirs. It simply isn't acceptable!

And, in case you need a rallying cry, just remember the motto of our national team.

Don't Tread On Me.

Or rather, Don't Tread Anywhere Near Me.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gambler's Fallacy Fallacy?

I was intrigued by the title of this article by AJ Mass, but it turns out to not be very good. Mass correctly defines gambler's fallacy, and his large point -- that a hot or cold streak tells us little about a baseball player's future performance -- is a good one. However, he seems to be under the impression that gambler's fallacy means that all future outcomes are of equal likelihood, which is generally not the case at all. Despite his casino experience, he also does not seem to have a firm grasp on the law of large numbers. You often can predict a player's batting statistics with reasonable accuracy over long stretches of a season (and when you cannot, it usually has nothing to do with gambler's fallacy).

Mass also fails to point out the obvious concerning a recent Cincinnati Reds victory over Roy Oswalt, who was 23-1 in his last 24 decisions against them before the loss. Oswalt used to be an amazing pitcher on good Astros teams playing mediocre or bad Reds teams, and now Oswalt is a decent pitcher on a terrible Astros team playing a decent Reds team. It is not a fallacy on my part to say another loss to the Reds was likely.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hopeful Change

Good to see that the NFL changed the overtime rule for postseason games. The rule is still less than ideal, but it's a step in the right direction. And the reaction was good for a little blog fodder, courtesy of Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, who scores a great point against proponents of the change:

The new system would mandate that if the team that wins the coin flip kicks a field goal on the first possession of overtime, it would be forced to kick off.

Of course, no one backing this plan mentions that earlier in the playoffs the Packers lost on the opening possession in overtime after Aaron Rodgers fumbled and the Cardinals' Karlos Dansby returned it for a touchdown.

Right, backers of the plan frequently cite the statistic that the receiving team has won 60% of overtime games since kickoffs were move back in 1994, and believe that to be an unacceptable advantage. They also think that teams playing exclusively for a field goal detracts from the excitement of the game. Mentioning that the kicking team managed to win with a touchdown once really blows a huge hole in both of those arguments.

Then he convincingly argues that the change would be a disaster for the Bears:

All the Bears need to do is examine their own recent history to realize they should vote against any change. For starters, the Bears are 11-3 in the last 10 seasons in overtime and 8-1 under Lovie Smith, including an overtime victory over the Seahawks in the divisional round of the 2006 playoffs.

Ah, yes, the Monsters of Overtime, sample size be damned. Also, never mind the fact that exactly two current Bears - Urlacher and Kretuz - were even on the team 10 years ago. (Hell, there are only three offensive starters from the 2006 NFC champs still with the team.) It's obvious that the Chicago Bears as an organization have adapted to overtime, as well as to cold weather.

Then, if they're still in doubt, they need to consider that with the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history, they would be foolish to vote for any system that limits the possible outcome[sic] Robbie Gould can have on a game.

Dropping the ironicalism for a moment, I'll admit the point about Gould is a fair one. Having a awesome kicker is more of a boost under the current rules, although not nearly so much as having an offense that can get the ball into field goal position, and a defense that can keep the opponents from moving the ball. But I guess it's beyond Biggs to string two convincing sentences together:

In the last decade, the Bears are 4-1 in games ending with a field goal on the first possession of overtime.

Which proves absolutely fuck all without knowing how many of those 13 games the Bears had the ball first. I think a reasonably intelligent 7 year-old would be able to grasp that point. Too much for your average sportswriter, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There's No Defense (for this garbage article by David Fleming)

David Fleming, senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, and frequent contributor to Page 2, once again proves that, with regards to sports, you can basically say whatever you want, no matter how insipid, no matter how unreasoned, no matter how wrong, and have it pass as legitimate writing. Nobody will call you out, except possibly a blogger with a readership in the single digits. To this end, I give you the masterpiece below. As usual, the bold comments are mine.

Five Reasons Why NFL Defenses Stink
By David Fleming

Suppose you are a slightly smarter-than-average 8th grader writing an essay with the above title for English class. Wouldn't you immediately think to provide proof, or at least some semblance of justification, that NFL defenses really do stink? You'd recognize the importance of this, right? After all, if NFL defenses don't stink then the whole exercise of providing five reasons why they stink is pretty much pointless, right? Just keep that in mind as you read.

I have always thought of Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham as one of those cool, leathery, old-school guys with great stories; a perpetually hoarse, gravelly voice; and tremendous passion for the game. But after railing against the sad state of defense in the NFL in a recent story by Tom Kowalski, Cunningham is starting to sound more like an angry, confused old guy in plaid slacks yelling at you to stay off his grass.

"Throughout the league, I've never seen offensive statistics as good, or defenses as bad," Cunningham said.

By now, Gunny should be an expert on horrific defenses. His 2-9 Lions team is ranked dead last in defense the NFL. To be fair, Detroit has been decimated by a decade of bad drafts and a rash of injuries. But this is the worst defense I've seen since, maybe, Cunningham's 2008 squad in Kansas City, which finished 31st out of 32 teams.

Wouldn't the team that finished 32nd be even worse? Just askin'.

Not that any of this is Cunningham's fault, mind you. "There's a real problem for the defensive side of the ball, and NCAA started all of this, as far as I'm concerned," Cunningham said. "I study this game and wonder why all of these things are happening, and that's my personal opinion. It's arguable, but I'd love to argue it."

OK, I'm game.

All in all, this is actually a decent start for Flem. He's calling out Cunningham for being a lousy defensive coordinator and a gibberish-talking curmudgeon, both of which seem valid. Unfortunately, the article doesn't end here.

Apparently, Gunny doesn't like all the newfangled, fancy, super spread offenses -- which is a really bad sign for Lions fans, given that he's in a profession based on change, speed and adaptability. As I wrote a year ago in an extensive cover story for ESPN The Magazine about the evolution of offense, the NFL's future doesn't belong to mammoth tackles, statuesque quarterbacks or crabby old-school coaches. It belongs to the next generation of fast-thinking thrill-seekers weaned on the Web, iPods and "Madden."

Fleming writes cover stories?! See, you can say anything and it qualifies as legitimate writing. Never mind the fact that the average weight of an NFL tackle is 318 lbs., up 13% from the late '80s. Never mind the fact that out of the top 10 quarterbacks currently in the NFL at least four of them are "statuesque" by any reasonable interpretation of the word (Manning, Brady, Favre, Warner), and two others don't move so great either (Roethlisberger and Rivers). And never mind the fact that the last sentence of the paragraph is little more than a meaningless compilation of buzz words.

Incredibly, Cunningham blames most of this mess on the fact that the NCAA allows athletes to practice for only 20 hours a week -- forcing the 99 percent of college players who will never make the NFL to do stupid stuff like, you know, study and work toward a degree.

The truth of the matter is, the NFL has no one to blame but itself for the sad state of defenses.

And here's why:

Before Fleming gets into why something is true, he really should verify that, in fact, it is true. How could one verify that NFL defenses are in a sad state? Well, one idea would be to demonstrate a rise in scoring over the years. I'll do this for Fleming.

I've consider the current year (2009), last year (2008), then 2005, then 2000, then 1995, and so on, all the way to 1960. The
average team score per game in these years: 21.5, 22.0, 20.6, 20.7, 21.5, 20.1, 21.5, 20.5, 20.6, 19.3, 23.1, 21.6. Yep, defenses are so sad today that they are only doing as well as they did in 1995 and 1985, and only doing slightly better than they did in 1965. Now let's look at average yardage totals per game in these years: 336.3, 327.2, 315.9, 319.4, 328.9, 308.6, 329.4, 323.5, 308.3, 281.8, 304.5, 303.8. There is a little more variance here than with points, and there might be a small uptick after 1975, but basically the same after that.

There is absolutely no indication that defenses are any worse now than they were at any other given moment in the last fifty years, with respect to scoring, and the last thirty years, with respect to yardage. So, just using the Internet, and about 15 minutes of time, I've basically destroyed the entire premise for this article. Again, the author writes cover stories for a reputable sports publication.

Let's keep going anyway.

1. The tenets of tackling have not changed in the last 75 years. Seriously -- you can pick up a football-fundamentals book from 1933 and put it next to one published this year, and the section on tackling is nearly identical. Tackling technique has not kept pace with the rest of the game.

Sure, football players learn how to tackle from studying football-fundamental books -- peer reviewed literature, I assume.

2. One of the NFL's dirty little secrets is that, after training camp, defenders do not practice tackling ball carriers all the way down to the ground. Seriously. With worries about injuries and depth and the salary cap, there is no tackling practice in the NFL from September to February. Imagine if quarterbacks didn't practice throwing, or if receivers didn't practice catching.

That naughty NFL.

3. In 1978, the league made it illegal for defenders to "bump" receivers after they've traveled five yards downfield, clearing the way for all the underneath crossing routes that are the backbone of the West Coast offense. That same year, the league also basically legalized holding by allowing linemen to extend their arms and open their hands without being flagged. The NFL regularly legislates advantages for offenses because -- duh -- passing and scoring sell. And these two rule changes made a huge impact on the game.

And these legislated advantages have increased scoring by approximately 0.0 points on average. Seriously, why wouldn't you just do a modicum of research before you write this drivel. This is your job! This is what you do all day. For God's sake, look some shit up!

4. With respect to size and speed, linebackers have not kept up with tight ends. In 2008, the average Pro Bowl tight end had three inches and 15 pounds on the average Pro Bowl linebacker. Assuming similar speed, that's a significant momentum advantage for tight ends.

Wow, did he look at all four pro bowl tight ends in this analysis or just one conference?

5. The popularity of the Cover 2. This defense relies on outside run support from cornerbacks, the smallest guys on the field. It also uses "leveraged" tackling -- a technique in which tacklers take angles that, if they miss, funnel the ball toward the strength of the defense. It sounds good, in theory. But it actually has tacklers thinking about missing before they even attack.

I think if you talk out of your ass long enough, and nobody stops you -- on the contrary, they pay you to do it -- you just keep going. You probably even start to believe it.

That's why NFL defenses stink right now.

And have stunk for the past 50 years, apparently.

It has nothing to do with the NCAA or any other ridiculous conspiracy.

Now, who wants to volunteer to tell Gunther?

Ugh... tripe, pure tripe.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Watching a clip of an old football game, I wondered: where does moving the goal posts to the back of the end zone rank in the annals of no-duh moves in professional sports? It's hard to believe it took over 50 years for the league to realize that giant metal posts protruding from the field of play is not such a great idea.

In baseball news, the MVP and Cy Young award voters did a good job this year. All four winners (Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, Zack Greinke, and Tim Lincecum) were worthy of their awards. Historically voters have been known to overvalue things that are not great indicators of an individual's worth to his team, like team victories, stolen bases, and RBIs for a batter, and wins for a pitcher. This year they got it right, especially with Greinke, who was clearly the best pitcher in baseball last season, despite having just 16 wins (the fewest of any starting pitcher to ever win the AL Cy Young award during a non-strike shortened year).

In other baseball news, in this week's The New Yorker, there is an article chronicling the Yankees World Series-winning season by Roger Angell titled "Daddies Win: can we love the Yankees now?". (I can't find a link on-line. It's in the Nov. 30, 2009 issue.) It's one of the more annoying pieces I have read in a while. It's seven pages of the author performing literary fellatio on the Yankees. (Although, in a periodical named after a person from New York, what does one expect?) The article highlights, glorifies even, everything people outside of the Big Apple hate about the Yankees. Here's an excerpt.

While the roses are going around, we should revisit those free-agent signings of C. C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A. J. Burnett last winter, whose combined contracts cost the Yankees an extra $432.5 million, and accounted for $52 million out of the team's salary total of $201 million for 2009. (The next nearest is the Mets $135 million, and the farthest is the Marlins $36 million.) Cries of unfairness and fresh tropes about the unlevel playing field, so ferocious in March, seemed fainter at the end this time, because each of those multimillionaires so clearly delivered at his job, and because the Yankees won. They will never be populist heroes, but this time it was O.K. to like them.

Huh? Doesn't the fact that their highly paid superstars produced make it less fair? Doesn't this just reinforce the reality that the Yankees have a huge economic advantage over almost every team in baseball? That, in essence, they are just outbidding the other clubs for championships? This seems like more of a reason to dislike them to me.

More from the article.

General Manager Brian Cashman, so often second-guessed by the Tampa front office and badgered at his work by the overbearing but now ancient and ailing George Steinbrenner, was the Michelangelo of this club...

The Michelangelo? Really? Yes, only the mind's eye of a true artist could have foreseen the beauty in adding Sabathia, Teixeira, and Burnett to a roster (not to mention readding A-Rod, for nearly $30 million a season, a year prior). No other GM in the league, nor any semi-coherent baseball fan in the country, could have imagined that bringing these pieces together would result in a good team. Cashman has the gift. Or he's a beneficiary of a broken system in which his team is one of about three or four that can afford to sign the best of the best free agents, and have money left over for quality second tier guys like Burnett. Sadly, this is what MLB has become. It's a league for the rich. There will always be a sprinkling of poorer teams with sharp management or good fortune that have a nice run with a nucleus of young talent, still under team control (late 90s - early 00s A's, '03 Marlins, '07 Rays, current Twins), and there will always be down years for the fatcats ('08 Yankees, '09 Mets), but for the most part it's going to be Yankees et al., year in and year out. That's just the way baseball is right now. That the "cries of unfairness and fresh tropes about the unlevel playing field" seem fainter now is probably because baseball fans are gradually resigning themselves to this fact.