Category Archives: Sports

The best lacrosse writers in the world… and me


I announced back in August that I was joining In Lax We Trust as a writer, and ended up as co-manager and editor as well. I enjoyed my time at ILWT and wrote lots of articles. A few of them got lots of attention: one on lacrosse players’ salaries from November is still getting talked about. Some I really liked and had fun writing: a satirical one about what the “future” of the NLL might have looked like in 2002, an imagined conversation among GMs at the entry draft, and some fictional movies about lacrosse.

In December I made the decision to strike out on my own, and created my own lacrosse blog, nllchatter.com. Around that time, I jokingly asked Teddy Jenner if they were hiring at ILIndoor.com, which is part of Inside Lacrosse magazine, and is pretty much the premiere indoor lacrosse blog anywhere. Rather than the expected “yeah, right”, Teddy told me to email Bob Chavez. I don’t know if Teddy was saying “That’s a great idea! Email Bob!” or if it was Teddy’s way of getting Bob to say “no” rather than doing it himself. I thought “what the hell, the worst they can do is say no”, and emailed him. He got back to me with a proposal, and now I can announce that I will be joining the staff at ILIndoor.com and will be writing a weekly column called The Moneyballers this season. My column will run every Monday starting on January 16.

ILIndoor.com has some of best-known names in indoor lacrosse, including the aforementioned Teddy Jenner, a former player and current blogger, radio show host, and in-game announcer for the Washington Stealth; Ty Pilson, sports editor for the Calgary Sun and former Tom Borrelli winner (that’s the NLL’s award for the best writer of the year); Brian Shanahan, another former NLL player who has done colour for many lacrosse TV broadcasts (and yes, he’s Brendan’s brother); Marty O’Neill, the former GM of the Minnesota Swarm; and other great writers like Bob Chavez, Stephen Stamp and Casey Vock.

The Moneyballers will be a weekly look at the clutch players in the league from a statistical point of view. We have a system that assigns points to players for goals and assists that either tie a game or put their team ahead. Goals later in the game count for more than goals earlier, and OT goals count the most. Each week, I will tally up the points for that week’s games, and keep track of the league leaders as the season goes on. Here’s a link to last year’s season-ending article.

I am very excited about this opportunity, but very nervous as well. The Moneyballers is a series that has been on ILIndoor.com for a few years, and up to this year, was written by another legendary lacrosse writer, Paul Tutka. Tutka won three straight Tom Borrelli awards, so that’s a pretty tough act to follow. However, I am up to the challenge. But if you call me on a Sunday evening during NLL season, don’t expect me to answer the phone.

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Three and one from the Jays game


Quick post about the Blue Jays game I went to with my dad the other day. Three weird things and one complaint – a complaint about complaints.

Weird thing #1: At one point, the Angels had back-to-back doubles, with no outs or stupid baserunning plays in between, and nobody scored. How do you hit a double with a guy on second and not drive him in? Glad you asked. The second double was a popup a mile high to the right side, so the runner on second had to wait to see if it would be caught. The batter, of course, just kept running. When it fell in front of Bautista and behind Lind and Johnson, the runner on second only had time to make it to third but the batter made it to second. Nobody blew the play so it wasn’t an error, so the scorer had no choice but to credit the batter with a double. I’m sure it’s not unique in the world of baseball, but with your standard double, you can usually assume that all the runners will move up at least two bases, and a baserunner scoring from first on a double is not unusual at all.

Weird thing #2: During Eric Thames’ third at-bat, the scoreboard showed that he’d flied out to LF in his first at-bat then flied out to CF in his second at-bat, so my dad and I decided that he should hit it to RF this time. I said “Put it over the right field fence!”. Thames hit the very next pitch over the right field fence.

Weird thing #3: “Batting ninth, the designated hitter, David Cooper.” The DH hitting 9th? Does someone not understand the concept of the DH? Yes I know: end of the season, the team is out of the playoffs, give the young kids some at-bats, and all that. Still weird.

The complaint about complaints involves Vernon Wells. Each time his name was announced, there were both cheers and boos coming from the crowd. The people booing Wells irritated me. Wells played several seasons for the Jays, and in some of those years he was very good and in the rest he was excellent. After one excellent year he was rewarded with a huge contract. Was he worth it? Probably not. But can you blame him for taking it? If someone said to you “We’re going to give you $125 million over the next seven years”, are you going to ask for less because you don’t deserve that much? Not on your life. So he took it and promptly got injured, hitting 20 home runs only once over the next 3 years. Then he returned to form in 2010, hitting .273 with 31 homers. Are these $15-million-a-year numbers? No but again, his inflated salary is not his fault, it’s J.P. Ricciardi’s. Wells was traded solely because his contract was so big. He never asked to be traded (Roger Clemens) never said he didn’t want to play in Toronto (again, Roger Clemens), didn’t sign somewhere else as a free agent (where do I start?) and never admitted to not giving his best during games because he wanted to play somewhere else (Vince Carter). I have even heard the tired old line about “now that he’s got the big contract, he doesn’t have to play hard.” I don’t buy that for a second.

Any player playing at the major league level has likely been playing baseball all his life because he loves the game. To get to the highest level in the sport, he’d have to have worked hard and excelled in Little League, high school, college, and several levels of minor leagues where he was making very little money. His hard work and determination paid off, and he made it to the majors where he continued to work hard and excel. And I’m supposed to believe that when he gets a huge contract that ensures that he can continue playing at the highest level, he suddenly doesn’t bother trying so hard anymore? The previous 20 years have been solely for the unlikely possibility of the huge payday? No. He’s been working his ass off and playing as hard as he can his whole life – he doesn’t know any other way to play. That refers to any professional athlete, not just baseball players, and not just Vernon Wells. Well, I guess it doesn’t apply to Vince Carter.

Hey Vernon, I was clapping for you.

OK, so that wasn’t such a quick post.

Spotlight: Marisa Ingemi


I have no statistics to prove this, but I would guess that there are far fewer women than men seriously interested in professional sports. By “seriously interested”, I’m not talking about those who don’t mind going to see a game once in a while, and can name some of the teams and superstars of whatever league. My wife could probably pick Sidney Crosby out of a lineup, but wouldn’t know Alex Ovechkin from Alex Trebek. No, I’m talking about women who are “real fans”. They know all the players and teams. They can look at a trade and give you an informed opinion about it. They can hear about a player being injured and analyze how it might impact the rest of the team. Before you start to compose your email calling me a misogynist, I’m not saying women can’t do this, I’m just talking about numbers. There are simply far fewer women than men that are interested in sports to that degree.

So when you hear that the host of the only radio show in the United States dedicated to the sport of lacrosse is female, you may raise an eyebrow. [Correction: One of the only lacrosse radio shows – there is at least one other] When you hear that she also runs the only lacrosse blog of the 300+ blogs in SBNation.com, co-hosts a baseball radio show, covers baseball for two different web sites, and covers hockey for another, you would think she’s not only pretty busy, but she knows her sports and is a seasoned sports reporter and writer. But when I tell you that she recently celebrated her 15th birthday, well, you can pick your jaw up from the floor.

Marisa Ingemi is a high school student who lives in the Boston area. Her first interest in sports came in 2007, when she followed her sister’s interest in the Boston Red Sox, and jumped on the bandwagon when they won the World Series. She became hooked on baseball, quickly followed by hockey, football, lacrosse, and basketball. Of course, if you’re going to be a sports fan, Boston ain’t a bad place to be since each of their hockey, baseball, basketball, and football teams have won championships over the last ten years. I live in the Toronto area where other than the Rock, any season your team doesn’t completely suck is considered a success.

After the 2008 MLB season, Marisa decided it would be cool to write her own web site, and began writing news for a fake website at home. She soon created a real website, bestbostonsports.com, which only got a few more hits than her fake one, but it got her started. She started following the NLL during the 2010 season and in an attempt to learn even more about the league, she started looking for lacrosse blogs. She couldn’t find one that contained as much information as she wanted so she created her own, simply called The Lacrosse Blog. A few months later, the blog was moved to SBNation.com, becoming the first lacrosse blog in that group, and she renamed it In Lax We Trust. Over 1000 stories and 50,000 page views later, it is one of the most popular fan-run lacrosse blogs on the internet. [Full disclosure: I am one of the eleven writers on that site.]

But just one blog wasn’t enough for Marisa. She also covers the Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, and Lowell Spinners (all minor-league affiliates of the Boston Red Sox) for both bostonsportsthenandnow.com and minorleagueball.com, and the Boston Bruins for Inside Hockey. She began her radio career in March 2011 with the creation of two different weekly internet radio shows: Lax Live and Beantown Breakdown. Beantown Breakdown features Marisa and a few other local bloggers talking about all aspects of pro sports in the Boston area while Lax Live is covers all types of lacrosse. But Lax Live isn’t just some fan yakking about lacrosse for 20 minutes; she interviews lacrosse reporters, bloggers, players, and coaches. She’s talked to such names as Andrew McKay, Connor Wilson, Teddy Jenner, Graeme Perrow (had to throw that in there), Dave Pym, John Tavares, Lewis Ratcliff, Ryan Benesch, and even NLL Commissioner George Daniel. Very few 15-year-olds even have a career highlight, but Marisa does, and it’s pretty cool: her first-ever interview was lacrosse legend Casey Powell after a Blazers game in 2011.

Considering she’s only been following the NLL for two years, Marisa is surprisingly knowledgeable. Ask her who the top goalie in the NLL is, and she’ll tell you (hint: it won’t be Chris Levis). Ask her who won the recent Brodie Merrill-for-Athan Iannucci trade, and she’ll tell you who and why (hint: she’ll say Edmonton and she’s right). She’s interviewed some big names in lacrosse and doesn’t sound all star-struck (none of this “OMG OMG OMG I’m talking to John Tavares! He’s awesome!!!!!1!”) and asks real questions that show insight. When she interviewed me for Lax Live radio last season, I mentioned that Toronto were having problems on transition, and she asked me if Toronto regretted trading away Ryan Dilks. I had completely forgotten that Dilks came from Toronto, so I was caught off-guard. I managed to sputter out some kind of answer and hopefully didn’t sound too silly. Before the interview, she had given me a list of questions she was going to ask but that wasn’t one of them, which tells me that when I mentioned Toronto’s transition, she thought about the Dilks trade on the fly. Despite being a touch embarrassed (which I know wasn’t her intent), I was impressed.

Marisa’s ultimate goal is to get a degree in journalism and then cover the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPN. There are thousands of people out there who share similar goals, and a good chunk of them likely have created blogs to get some experience and hone their craft. But I suspect the number of them who write for four different blogs, do two radio shows, and have press passes for the NHL, NLL, and minor league baseball years before even finishing high school is much lower.

Perhaps this article will be the first of many to cover this up-and-coming sports reporter. Hopefully she remembers me when she’s rich and famous.

My new gig as a sports writer


No, I’m not leaving the software industry to become an ink-stained wretch, but I will be writing for a bigger audience during the next NLL season. I started writing for the NLL Blog just before last season, and enjoyed being part of that team. Today we are announcing that the NLL Blog staff will be joining In Lax We Trust, one of the most popular lacrosse blogs around. It is run by Marisa Ingemi and features articles on not only the NLL, but the MLL, Canadian summer leagues (MSL, WLA), as well as the new CLax and NALL leagues and some college lacrosse stuff as well. There are now eleven writers for ILWT, myself included.

I will remained focused on the NLL and the Toronto Rock in particular, and I have also decided not to post each lacrosse article here as well. I may post links to the ILWT articles I write, or maybe a weekly digest of my ILWT articles, but for those readers of mine who are not lacrosse fans, fear not. Next winter, you won’t get deluged with lacrosse articles like last year, just my regular drivel compelling reading.

Baseball is awesome too


A while ago I wrote an article listing some awesome things about lacrosse. I love baseball too, so here are some things that make baseball awesome. Some of these are about playing, some are about watching, and some are just about the game in general.

The opposing team has the bases loaded and nobody out and you get out of the inning without giving up any runs.

When playing the outfield, that feeling you get after thinking “Oh crap, I’m not going to get to this fly ball” and then realizing that you can.

Watching one of your favourite players hit a walk-off 3-run home run to left field to win the World Series. (Note: may not be awesome to Phillies fans.)

An outfield assist.

Weird scoring plays. The best are the ones that involve a rundown. Combine this with the outfield assist, and you could have a 7-6-5-4-5-4 double play.

Seeing a ball game in a park you’ve never been to before. Places I’ve seen baseball games: Skydome Rogers Centre, Exhibition Stadium (RIP), Fenway, (New) Comiskey, Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland), The Kingdome (formerly in Seattle – RIP), plus one spring training game in Fort Myers, Florida.

No lead is safe. If you’re down 5-0 with 5 minutes left to play in a hockey game, it’s technically possible that you could come back and win, but I doubt it’s ever happened in the NHL. In baseball, there’s no time limits, so as long as you keep getting on base, you can do it. I’ve seen the Jays come back and win after being down 10-0. The other night I saw them lose 5-4 after going into the bottom of the 9th up 4-0.

Again when playing the outfield, running in on a short pop fly that nobody thinks you can get to, making the catch, and then doubling a runner off. (This has only happened to me a couple of times but is especially awesome since I don’t have a strong throwing arm, so baserunners who test my arm generally win.)

When a pitcher strikes out the last batter of a complete game victory. I love complete games in general, but when the last out is a strikeout, you can tell that the pitcher is still in command after nine innings.

A perfectly executed double steal.

When the ball is hit so sharply to the right fielder that he throws the batter out at first. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this in an MLB game, but it’s happened a couple of times in games I’ve played in.

Watching a milestone happen live. Doesn’t need to be a huge milestone, but when the PA announcer comes on and tells you that you’ve just seen the first-ever <something>, that’s awesome. My wife was in attendance at Dave Steib’s no-hitter in Cleveland, but those kinds of milestones are few and far between. Milestones I have seen live:

  • The Blue Jays’ first triple play in 1977
  • Manny Lee’s first major league hit (a single)
  • Dave Steib’s first one-hitter
  • Pat Hentgen’s last start as a Blue Jay
  • Roger Clemens’ first start as a Blue Jay (and his opening day start the next year too)
  • Cal Ripken’s first game after ending his 17-year streak

Seeing a kid bring his glove to an MLB game. It’s the only sport where nobody thinks twice if they see you bring your own equipment to a game you’re watching. Nobody brings a hockey stick to an NHL game or their own tennis racquet to Wimbledon. I must say I have seen lacrosse sticks at NLL games, but it’s generally young kids bringing little plastic sticks, not adults bringing full-sized ones.

A straight steal of home. You gotta have cojones.

When a batter watches strike three go by and then smiles because he knows it was a great pitch.

Watching the last out of the last game of the World Series. I love watching the players celebrate, even if it’s not my team. Though it’s better if it is.

Did I miss any?

Bleacher Report’s dumbest list ever


The other day I read an article on Bleacher Report by a guy named Shawn McPartlin about the 50 most overrated baseball players of all time. Now, I understand that different people are going to have different opinions on a player’s value and whether he’s overrated or not. People’s definition of “overrated” may also differ. But some of these choices are either misguided or just plain wrong and the whole article ends up as a complete joke.

Some of the choices for this list are a little weird. For example, everyone knows about Brady Anderson’s 50-HR season but nobody thinks that was normal for him, so I wouldn’t call him overrated. Nobody except the most die-hard (and delusional) Yankees or A’s fan thinks of Scott Brosius as anything other than a pretty decent 3rd baseman. McPartlin specifically says that Lou Brock “belongs in the Hall of Fame”, so how can he be overrated? In addition, we all know that Brock is in there primarily because of his outstanding base stealing ability – nobody thinks it was because of the hundreds of home runs he didn’t hit. Who thinks of Omar Vizquel or Ozzie Smith as anything other than excellent defensive shortstops? Joe Carter was a good player, a good hitter, and a good guy who had one outstanding and unforgettable at-bat, but nobody would list him among the greats, so calling him overrated is unfair – and I’m a Blue Jay fan, the most likely to put Carter on a pedestal.

Dave Stewart won 20 games four years in a row (from 1987 to 1990), and then never won more than 12 in a season after that. McPartlin says of Stewart, “Consistency makes you a great player. Glimpses of greatness makes you overrated.” Nonsense. Glimpses of greatness makes you a good player who had, well, glimpses of greatness. If people latch onto those glimpses and think your whole career was like that, that is overrated. Overrated refers to how you are rated, i.e. how people remember you. If people were to think about Dave Stewart as the most dominant pitcher of the 80’s and 90’s, then yes, he would be overrated. He was very good, and maybe one of the most dominant pitchers of those four years, but anything more than that is a stretch. But who thinks of Stewart as anything more than that? Nobody I know.

The listing of Nolan Ryan as the most overrated player of all time is just funny. If you get to 3,000 strikeouts in your career, you’re almost a lock for the hall of fame, and here’s a guy with well over 5,000, almost 1,000 more than second place. He won over 300 games, was an All-Star 8 times, and threw seven no-hitters. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He averaged better than a strikeout per inning over his 27-year career. He struck out 301 batters in 1989 when he was 42 – only three pitchers have beaten that total in the 21 years since (Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson). And McPartlin’s argument that he’s the most overrated player of all time is that he only won 20 games twice? He’s not known for being the best pitcher ever, he’s known for being the best strikeout pitcher ever.

We need to decide what “overrated” really means. The way I think about it is as follows: if you asked someone to list the best baseball players of all time in order of overall greatness and a player that you deem to be around #50 is on their list as #30, they they have overrated that player in your opinion. For a player to be generally considered overrated, he would have to show up on most people’s lists higher than he really deserves. But who decides where he deserves to be? You also need to ask why a particular player is where he is on someone’s list. If someone lists Lou Brock high because he had 3,000 hits and a zillion stolen bases, then the fact that he didn’t hit 500 home runs is irrelevant.

Obviously nobody keeps an ordered list of the best baseball players and there isn’t a canonical list to compare with, so you can’t decide whether someone’s overrated based solely on a numerical comparison. You have to look at how people in general think about a particular player in general and subjective terms. McPartlin says:

Some players reach greatness, while others fall short of the hype.

Some players have mediocre careers, but are talked about for decades because of their postseason exploits. 

Some players were so gifted in one facet of the game that their shortcomings are overlooked.

Whatever the reason is, all sports have these players—the overrated ones.

The first one I completely agree with. The kid who comes up from the majors and is touted as “the next great shortstop / catcher / base stealer / home run hitter” and turns into a decent player but not a star is definitely overrated (or more accurately, was overrated). The second and third cases are more iffy and depend on who you’re talking to and how the player is described. Wade Boggs comes to mind – he was an incredible hitter, one of the best hitters ever to play the game. He was a good defensive third baseman, had a bit of power, and no base speed to speak of, and if everyone remembered him as “one of the best players ever” or even “one of the best third basemen ever”, then yes, he would be overrated. But nobody does. Anyone who saw Boggs play remembers him as one of the best hitters ever. Nobody has ever called him a five-tool player. Does his batting average make up for his lack of power and speed? That’s a matter of opinion, but I think it does.

He also lists a number of players who have tested positive for (or admitted to using) steroids, as if that immediately makes the player overrated. I’m no fan of steroids or steroid users either, but let’s be fair. Would Jose Canseco have hit 40 HRs three times if he had never taken steroids? We’ll never know but assuming he wouldn’t is unfair. Similarly, to simply dismiss Ken Caminiti, Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire as overrated solely because they took PEDs is unfair. And considering this obvious bias, it’s odd that neither Roger Clemens nor Barry Bonds shows up on his list. Perhaps that’s because he decided (correctly) that they were two of the best players in the history of the game and were Hall-of-Famers before they ever touched steroids. The fact that the last number of years of their careers were chemically-enhanced doesn’t take away from the first decade or so when they were clean.

The take-home message, Mr. McPartlin, is that you can’t call someone “overrated” just because he wasn’t a five-tool player. Yes, some players are well known for being great at only one facet of the game, and the other facets weren’t that great. Some players are well known for a single season or even a single event, and the rest of their career wasn’t any big deal. Whether or not they are “overrated” depends on how people remember them. If people thought of Joe Carter as the greatest outfielder the Jays ever had simply because of that one home run, then I’d agree that he’s overrated. But even Jays fans don’t think of him that way – they rate him as a pretty good power-hitting outfielder / 1st baseman who happened to hit the most important home run in Jays history. That doesn’t make him overrated.

Having said all that, I can’t disagree with including Vernon Wells on the list.

And Dustin Pedroia is short


I went with my dad to the Jays/Red Sox game tonight. Four observations:

  1. Clay Buchholz is the slowest pitcher in the history of the world. I’m sure he waited ten or fifteen minutes between pitches.
  2. Rajai Davis doesn’t have anywhere near the outfield range of Vernon Wells. One inning, a ball dropped in front of him and took a high bounce. Davis jumped and cut it off before it went to the wall, keeping the batter to a single instead of at least a double. Pretty nice play, but Wells would have caught it.
  3. Kevin Youkilis has unbelievable bat speed.
  4. Food and beer at Rogers Centre is really expensive. One hot dog and two small Keith’s: $21. Instead of a $5.25 hot dog in the stadium, have a $5 Italian sausage outside the stadium beforehand. Bigger, thicker, tastier, and cheaper.