This Is One Of The Creepiest Things I’ve Ever Read

2012 March 2

Recently, I’ve been going through “The Only Game in Town,” an sports essay collection from The New Yorker, and unsurprisingly, it’s usually great. I highly recommend it. But this disturbing pair of sentences thoroughly grossed me out:

The camera loves Tara [Lipinski] for some of the same reasons that the camera loved JonBenet Ramsey. That particular combination of woman and child is something you don’t see every day.

Maybe it creeps me out because it’s hard to argue against. Even though JonBenet Ramsey was six years old, that goddamn fucking awful child beauty pageant shit did its best to make her look like a fully-grown woman.

I feel like this is the type of minutia Tumblr is meant for. So, in an attempt to length this blog post a bit, let it be known that Haruki Murakami’s piece in the collection about his personal experience with running makes me never want to read any of his books. It’s probably the translation, but the prose and tone was equivalent to an 8th-grader’s autobiography.

The Shallows and What The Internet Is Doing To My Brain

2012 February 8

I recently finished Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, a book I picked up and read over a few stints at Barnes & Noble because the topic caught my eye and it was only 225 pages long. I have to imagine anyone who has spent countless hours on the internet (most likely anyone reading this) would be interested in how their neural circuity has been rewired to handle a bunch of meaningless shit. This book puts forth the conclusion — with plenty of studies to back it up — that the constant distraction of the internet isn’t conducive to long-term memory or particularly deep thinking. There’s even a study mentioned that attempts to quantity the effects on memory of a quiet country setting as opposed to the busy, loud streets of a city — basically the real-world equivalents of reading a book and browsing the internet.

The idea of our brains being rewired to acclimate to the internet probably isn’t a surprise to anyone who can’t go a few minutes without checking their e-mail or Twitter or Facebook or forum of choice. We (I say “we” since I’m one of these people) want everything as quickly as possible and without that constant flow of information we feel disconnected from the world. Even while reading this book, I probably checked my iPod Touch at an average rate of two times a chapter. (Yes, I carry around my iPod Touch because I’m too poor to want to pay $90/mo for an iPhone and I live in the city now and there’s always a hotspot nearby even if I’m not on campus.)

I had already read about a study cited in this book that revealed students did better on a reading comprehension quiz of a short essay when they were given a plain text version (or a paper version, I forget) as opposed to a version filled with hyperlinks. Clicking on a hyperlink has the effect of breaking your concentration and not allowing your brain to absorb the information in its entirety, even if it seems like you’re learning more by reading the content of the hyperlinks. The reason posited for this phenomenon is the limit of the brain for working memory. Possible long-term memory is practically infinite, but such retention is only attained after memories are allowed to be stored in the hippocampus for the required amount of time, which can apparently range from an a few minutes to years.

I was probably most intrigued when Carr went through history and talked about the effects of other technological advances on the workings of the mind. He writes about the invention of the book, the printing press, the clock, the phonograph, etc., citing reactions from prominent scientists and thinkers, and detailing where they were right and where they were wrong. It’s almost strange to think that a transition from handwriting to typewriters could have an effect on the content, tone, and structure of someone’s writing, but there are a few anecdotes mentioned that seem to suggest otherwise; one being that the flow of cursive lends itself to more meandering sentences compared to the staccato of a typewriter.

A theme running through all this discussion of technology and its effects on humanity as a whole and on an individual level is that there’s never any turning back (unless we bomb ourselves to hell, I guess). The internet is only becoming increasingly prominent in our lives and the trend in all likelihood will not reverse. When new forms of media were created, others were never done away with entirely. Newspapers didn’t kill books. Television didn’t kill the radio. The internet hasn’t killed anything yet, but it is the first technology that has been able to absorb and provide practically every form of communication the human race has created. And it has greatly affected every other form of media. Many magazines are now laid out more like webpages and there are television shows like Tosh.0 that live off YouTube clips.

But maybe it’s bullshit to worry about the internet-ization of our brains. It’s not like reading is an activity the human brain is particularly evolved for; a person needs to develop a love of reading, which in turn leads the brain to crave more of a similar stimulus. I feel as if I’ve had to work to get back into reading at length, or even watching full movies at home, but I like to think I’m almost there. And it does feel more satisfying to finish a book or watch a great film than it does to jump around reading blogs or watching 20 minute television show episodes. But is it efficient? When Carr posed this question to some very intelligent people, a number of them said they don’t even read books anymore because it’s just not worth the time and effort when the internet is so easily searchable — just Wikipedia it! Well, you probably indirectly Wikipedia it by googling it first.

I mean Google because there’s an entire chapter of this book dedicated to the search giant. The search giant that has attempted to get its fingers into every inch of the internet and subsequently our lives. They want to know everything and they want everything to be searchable. The ideas of Sergey Brin mentioned in The Shallows point to the idea of a massive internet cloud singularity in the future of humanity. Perhaps this is inevitable, considering the march of technological progress and the willingness of people to upload as much as possible. Just thinking about such a possibility reminds me of “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov, one of the favorite short stories. Try to read it without being distracted by the rest of the internet.

As written about by Carr, a move toward such a future would be scarier than the idea of our brains just being overloaded with too much data and not developing enough deep knowledge, as it would basically end all individuality. Although the two are linked — if you’re not forming individual thoughts through personal reading and writing, then it’s all external, which basically means the internet going forward. Already, people on the internet group together around similar interests, e.g., politics or sabermetrics, developing thoughts and worldviews alongside each other virtually. Sure, have a predilection for such behavior, but the internet only exacerbates the narrowing of experience. Imagine such an echo chamber effect across the entire human race. Or maybe just watch episode 2 of the British television series Black Mirror.

I’m Too Lazy to Write a Coherent and Focused Blog Post

2012 February 4

Ok, maybe I can manage coherent. I just can’t think of a good title for a post that will consist of me writing about my non-existent New Year’s resolutions and whether or not I am succeeding in carrying them out. And also writing about random other thoughts that seem to have to do with being a better person or not — maybe not even “better,” just more functional.


I was thinking before New Year’s Eve that perhaps I should cut down on the drinking in 2012. Then when I woke up the next morning to a text from my good friend saying I should probably apologize to his long-time girlfriend for calling her a “cunt” multiple times, I really thought it would be a good time to take a break. Important note: this is only because she’s awesome; if she were really a cunt, I wouldn’t have felt bad.

Of course, at 10pm the next day my roommate busts into the apartment and tells me to put some pants on (I had pajamas on, ok?) because “we’re fucking going out.” I wish I could say he wasn’t going to take no for an answer, but it was just me displaying my total lack of willpower. Insecurity tends to leave one susceptible to peer pressure. Luckily, since I got such a late start, I was able to contain myself fairly well. The next Sunday was a different story.

Holding a football party for a game that starts at 1pm is dangerous. By 6:30 or so (after everyone had left), I was all ready to stop drinking. Then my roommate and his girlfriend went into his bedroom to partake in an activity I haven’t experienced in a while. Thus, it was time to go to Village Pourhouse to meet up with some of our earlier guests. Would I have heard them fucking if I stayed in the apartment with the Steelers-Broncos game blasting? Probably not. Have I heard them before? Plenty of times. But I wasn’t going to watch Tebow Time alone when I could be watching it in a bar among massive alcoholics — and I mean massive in both drinking quantity and physical size.

My plan was to grab something to eat immediately after the end of the Steelers-Broncos game. As it turned out, I was abandoned by four girls who had walked up into my general area right before the Tebow Miracle. In my despondence, I was sucked into stepping foot in another bar. Minutes later, the 35-year-old, 6’5″ Russian alcoholic I was hosting a couple of hours earlier ordered 10 tequila shots for three people. One of these three people was a 40-year-old woman (estimating) who didn’t want to drink any of the shots. As a result, I ended up downing three or four of the tequila shots.

After reaching a transcendent level of drunkenness, I figured it’d be a good idea to harass the cute bartender who had just gotten off her shift. I even tried to make light of the incessant drunken wooing she must encounter every day she works. It seemed to work, because I do remember talking to her for a significant amount of time. What I don’t remember is anything after she plugged her phone number into my phone. It was as if my brain decided to turn off the second it knew it had done its job. “Welp, you got an attractive female’s number? Time to shut down for the night.” I later arrived at my apartment unable to open the locks with my keys and cursing out the door for not letting me in and then screaming like a possessed person while I lay in bed.

The bartender never responded to my later text.


I’m not sure how much I need to expand on this topic, considering the initial section of this blog post. I did get the number of another bartender on Monday night, though. Unfortunately, it ended up being the wrong number. I figured this would happen after I asked the girl for her number, I typed it into my phone knowing it was wrong, asked her if the last four digits I had typed into my phone were right, she said they were wrong, and I typed them in half-heartedly knowing they were wrong yet again but didn’t want to ask a third time. Fuck. Me.

I also have replaced one unhealthy online obsession (which existed in the real world for a short period of time) with another unhealthy online obsession. Is this progress?


I took a three month break between posts. It has been about an additional month’s wait for another post. This is obviously unacceptable. And while I haven’t made much progress on this individual blog front, I have created a baseball blog at Second Squad Sorrows. I credit former Roto Hardball colleague and fellow long-distance relationship sufferer @scottskillings with pushing me to create the blog. Mets and White Sox fans together to wallow in the patheticness of their respective teams. Wonderful.


I want to spend less time on the internet; I assume most people nowadays feel the same way. I have not improved at all since the calendar flipped over to 2012. I feel comfortable in assuming this is the case for most people who try to cut internet social interaction out of their lives. I know one person on NeoGAF who has just replaced his NeoGAF forum time with tweets and YouTube comments. YOUTUBE COMMENTS. It doesn’t get any more desperate than commenting on YouTube. That is like when Josh Hamilton took whatever painkillers he could to simulate his Oxycodane addiction (note: I have no idea how accurate this is).


It took me about a month, but I finally did some intense exercise in 2012. And it was only due to the insistence of my roommate’s girlfriend. And it was only for 15 effective minutes out of a total 30. It was the P90X Ab Ripper X video and it’s four days later and my hip flexors still hurt. Goddamn it. I better take at least a couple of runs this week or else the indoor soccer game I have next Friday is going to be an unmitigated disaster.

The Best Analysis of Fast Five

2012 January 6

I haven’t posted on here in forever and in an attempt to get me started again, I’m going to let someone else do the writing for me. I read a review — more like an essay, really — in the magazine Film Quarterly about Fast Five, Contagion, and The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In addition to being another source of praise for the last movie, it provided the most ridiculous critique of the final chase scene of the first. I took pictures of the paragraphs, but I’ll write them out here just to feel like I’m writing even though I’m only transcribing.

But what if we have been thinking of this all wrong, and the entire movie is just a pretext for something else altogether? It may be narrative idiocy of the first water — but it is, we must admit, the single best cinematic representation of the global financial crisis yet contrived, immeasurably better than Inside Job or Capitalism: A Love Story.

A weaponized concentration of capital seems to be dragged about by supermen; it is in fact dragging them around, laying waste to the world before it, destroying houses and urban centers and bodies as it races for safety — before recognizing that there is no safety and it should just turn violently on its pursuers in a festival of destruction.

In the textbook definition, capital is generally self-valorizing value; in a crisis it is inverted, and becomes self-annihilating value. The supermoney that seemed to run the world is revealed as “fictitious capital,” unrealized and finally unrealizable, but still in its auto-destruction capable of laying low the world around it. Which explains what would otherwise be the most intolerable plot device. In the end, it turns out that Dom and Brian have been hauling the fake vault through the city, while the actual box is spirited away, loot enclosed. As a scheme, it’s ludricous. As a reading of crisis in the world system, it’s immaculate — as if Hollywood had come to an intimate knowledge of volume 3 of Capital without reading, simply by bathing in the current of world money — and should complete the contemporary genre. I am seriously considering renaming this column “The Marx and the Furious.”

Sure it’s a bit of a stretch and an empty academic exercise, but you have to appreciate such an insane breakdown of the most absurd action sequence of 2011.

Baseball Fans Are The Best

2011 October 6

Warning: This turns into what could definitely pass for a Livejournal post. Just rambling nonsense.

Remember last week? That was pretty cool, huh? I haven’t even been paying all that much attention to the playoffs due to a combination of busyness and the knowledge that nothing will top last Wednesday night. The simultaneous collapses of the Red Sox and Braves, along with the all-but-impossible comeback by the Rays, have been discussed endlessly already, and I feel like most people (other than Red Sox and Braves fans) have moved on. So while the framework of this post will be the events of the end of the regular season, it’s really just about how freaking awesome baseball fans are. I guess “people with the same interests as me are the coolest” could also work.

Baseball lends itself to absolute obsession. Something like football — or even soccer over in Europe, from what I know about the schedule — is more compatible with, you know, having a life. Football allows you to set one day of the week away (and ok, Monday night, too) to turn into a worthless slob on the couch and watch either your local games or the Red Zone channel if you an ADD-addled fantasy player. Baseball is there almost every night you come home from work and on the weekends, too.

Please direct your eyes to the chart on the right. Look at that time commitment. So try to imagine what it’s like if a person is a baseball fan in the sense of attempting to follow all 30 teams — usually for fantasy knowledge purposes. I know that I became a better and more intelligent fan once I delved into fantasy baseball head-first a few years back. The result is being able to talk to any other baseball fan for practically an infinite amount of time. Not that I wasn’t able to do that already, but now I can do it with fans of any team almost as well as with Mets fans. I would joke about the Astros possibly being an exception, but past Tuesday night is evidence against this.

After a Sunday where I had a great time hanging out with fellow Mets fans during a Fangraphs (and River Avenue Blues and Amazin’ Avenue) meetup that turned into a middle school dance where girls and boys were replaced with Yankees and Mets fans, my hunger for real life baseball discussion had been whetted. While our Mets fan contingent did talk a bit about the depressing topic of our chosen team, there was also plenty of discussion about the on-going football games and good television shows. If I truly wanted to immerse myself in baseball, I would have to watch teams that still actually mattered, so Tuesday night on my home after a late class, I decided I should go to Foley’s NY to check out the four games that would help decide whether the Red Sox and Braves would provide schadenfreude for the rest of the country.

I had already been there before and knew that it is baseball fan heaven, with every television showing a baseball game, signed balls lining the walls, and a Don Zimmer fathead in the bathroom watching you piss into the urinals. I sat down at the bar and saw that the four televisions situated along its length were showing the four relevant games. There was probably no place on earth I would have rather been. Oh, I’m sure the MLB FanCave had all the games on, but fuck that place.

The night didn’t get really good until an older Astros fan sat down next to me and started berating the Cardinals fans sitting a few stools down on the other side of me. I just laughed and told him that I was with those “pussy Cardinals fans” for tonight, considering I wanted the Braves to miss the playoffs. From then on, we talked about 1986 (even though I was born during that season), Roger Clemens being an asshole, Nolan Ryan being a steroid user, Carlos Beltran being a clutch player, “Harvard turds” ruining baseball with stats, and how much the Cardinals suck. All right, it was mostly him talking, but it was immensely entertaining. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to turn away at some point to talk more to the attractive girl with an Irish accent who had sat down next to me, but the Texan would not stop talking. He had now moved on to other things, like his brother who had written for SNL and had made some YouTube videos. By the time the siege on my attention had been lifted, it was too late to stick around any longer, unless I wanted to get home on the LIRR as the sun was coming up. I wasn’t upset though, as I was able to have a conversation with a fan of the terrible organization that is the Astros for the sole reason that we shared love for baseball. Sure, his opinions might have been all over the place, but sometimes you have to hear from people outside of the saber-twitter-blogsphere, right?

Sometime during the night, I overheard a girl ask about a Cardinals fan meetup at Foley’s. It explained the Cardinals fans strewn around the bar, and also made me think of God Save The Fan, which I had recently read (and I’ve been meaning to write a review of along with the book I bought it with on Amazon, The Postmortal). In it, Will Leitch talks about finding a bar in Manhattan to watch the 2006 NLCS with other Cardinals fans (this is where I stopped reading the book). I told myself I’d ask him on Twitter whether he was talking about Foley’s. But not before I was at Foley’s again the very next night to watch the same eight teams play four games on the last night of the regular season.

The bar was a bit more packed on Wednesday night, though. When I managed to find a seat at the bar after a little while, it was pretty much in the same spot as before. This time, I was situated next to a Cards fan. This might have had to do with pretty much everyone at the bar being a Cards fan. There were a few Red Sox fans, too. If you magically appeared in the bar, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t have guessed it was in NYC. This Cards fan was surprised that I was rooting for his team, considering 2006; I told him that the Braves were like a sadistic bully that beat on Mets fans for most of their childhood. Comparatively, I still remember thinking the 2006 NLCS would just be a bump in the road. Sigh.

We sat there talking about the state of the Mets, how much money Albert Pujols will get this offseason (and from which team), the young pitching staff of the Rays, the embarrassment that is Carl Crawford, among other things. Meanwhile, the Rays had spotted a huge lead to the Yankees, the Cards had crushed the Astros in the first inning, and the Phillies-Braves and Red Sox-Orioles matchups were tight games. I downed beer and beer, sharing a bucket of bottles with the Cards fan, while watching the drama unfold with hardcore baseball fans all around me. To be a Cards fan out to watch the game in a NYC midtown bar on a weeknight means you are most likely dedicated. And at one point, I turned around to see the very guy who I wanted to ask about his Cards fan NYC bar story.

As Leitch seemed involved with a conversation with a lady, I struck up a conversation with his buddy (who looked vaguely familiar and whose name I cannot remember now). But once I mentioned that I wanted to ask Leitch something, he introduced me as awkwardly as possible to embarrass me. I probably deserved it. The minute I mentioned God Save The Fan, Leitch apologized for it being out-of-date already. Even when I said the only reasons I bought his book were its bargain price and Amazon recommending it when I bought The Postmortal, Leitch was suitably self-deprecating. I guess that should probably be expected from a guy whose first book was titled Life as a Loser. Leitch was also surprised to hear I was rooting for the Cards, but I told him how I want Braves fans to feel my pain. I bet some Braves fans think they’ll be back in the playoffs next year and for years to come (like I felt about the Mets in 2006), but maybe Jason Heyward won’t become a Hall of Famer and maybe Tommy Hanson will have injury issues. Or maybe the Mets will become the best te. . . nevermind.

But once again, I was able to effortlessly strike up a baseball conversation with another person, albeit a much shorter one, before I returned to my seat and my original Cards fan companion for the night. Leitch really did seem like a nice guy (he even offered me a beer!), which makes sense considering the transformation Deadspin has made since he gave up his editing duties. Despite Buzz Bissinger ripping him on Costas Live years ago for lack of integrity, the site has only gotten progressively more grimy under A.J. Daulerio. But I know Leitch and other people support him, so whatever, I won’t make this about how Deadspin was better with Leitch was editor. I mean, it was, but let’s get back on topic. Is there a topic here?

Oh yeah, despite Evan Longoria going into beast mode, the Rays were still trailing the Yankees; the Phillies-Braves game had gone into extras; and the Red Sox were looking like they were going to win their game against the Orioles. Then the timeline of madness that I can’t remember nor be bothered to look up broke out, starting with the Phillies beating the Braves to knock the latter out of the playoffs, making the Cardinals fans go crazy. Then a little while later, Dan Johnson hit a 9th-inning, game-tying home run with two outs and two strikes. Then a beer later, the Red Sox choked away a 9th-inning lead for the first time all year. Then only a few sips later, Longoria hit another home run to send the Rays to the playoffs and Red Sox home. It was a blurry night of cheers and high-fives by then, as I guess everyone not from Boston was happy to see Red Sox fans suffer again. It’s like order was restored in the baseball universe, and I was in the NYC nexus of it.

The Tragedy of David Wright

2011 September 24
by CajoleJuice

As I watched Ryan Braun hit a 700-foot home run tonight to put the Brewers ahead in the 8th inning of a 1-1 potentially division-clinching game, I couldn’t help thinking of how he had cemented his claim to the MVP award and how he is the type of player the Mets no longer have. Fred Wilpon was right when he said David Wright is “a nice player, not a superstar.” And that depresses the living shit out of me.

This is not a “TRAID DAVID WRONGZ” post, but an honest take on what is a baffling decline that started at the age of 26. Besides, there’s no way the Mets could get enough value in a Wright trade, considering the one-year option they hold on him only applies to their team. Wright is not going anywhere, even if Jose Reyes might be a different story. You could argue that Reyes took the superstar title from Wright this season, but the total derailing of his season in the second half has only created more questions with regards to his durability. Much like Wright last year, he had a MVP first half only to put up middling numbers thereafter. If Reyes manages to still win the batting title, it will be the definition of an empty victory.

I think I mention the following any time I talk about Wright’s fall from the top of baseball, but the great Bill James himself named Wright the player he would choose to build a team around before the 2008 season (but he named Albert Pujols the best player). It’s like this 60 Minutes interview was the kiss of death for both Wright and the Mets. Since then, Mets fans have just become more frustrated and perplexed with the purported face of their franchise. Sure, Wright had one more great season in 2008, but he’s remembered for not coming through in a couple of big spots late in the season by all too many people. Since then, it has become nigh impossible for me to defend him against my father, poker buddies, or that random dude in the bar.

The issue now is not just his clutchness, but his overall level of performance. He’s gone from a hitter you could pencil in for .300/30/100 every year to one whose performance fluctuates immensely from year to year and week to week. One season his power disappears, another he regains his power stroke but consequently strikes out at an alarming rate, and now this year his batting line is the worst it has ever been — despite looking like he had finally gotten it back together after his stint on the DL. Throw in his fielding woes and you have a player that is a shell of his former self and objectively inferior to his contemporaries, Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman (although the latter has struggled with his own throwing yips). There’s also Pablo Sandoval and the already scary-good Brett Lawrie in the young third basemen discussion.

Does all this mean the Mets can’t make the playoffs or (gasp) win a World Series with Wright manning the hot corner? Of course not. But it does mean that expectations might need to be tempered and that the Mets front office needs to embrace the reality of needing to build an actual team, not the real-life equivalent of the fantasy baseball stars-and-scrubs approach. And I’m sure Sandy Alderson and his self-assembled dream team realize this — it’s just going to take a little while to undo the damage wrought by Omar Minaya. By that time, the Mets will need to make a decision on Wright, just like they will have to do with Reyes this offseason.

No one can predict how the next year or two will play out. Perhaps the rumored changes to Citi Field will help Wright get back to his 2006-08 level of play and the Mets will pick up his option while giving him a contract extension (especially if they don’t sign Reyes). Or he can sink further into his personal defensive hell at third base and combine that with slightly above-average performance at the plate so that he’s barely worth the $16 million club option for 2013.

I just know it’s not fun watching teams intentionally walk Angel fucking Pagan to load the bases for David Wright, and then expecting the strikeout that inevitably comes. It’s crushing for any Met fan to bear witness to a player seemingly destined for the Hall of Fame turn into a hitter totally disregarded as a threat at the age of 28. It’s something that would never happen to Evan Longoria or Ryan Braun, and that absolutely destroys me inside. Wright was to be the cornerstone player who, in tandem with Jose Reyes, would lead a Mets dynasty for a decade or more. Now there’s a very real possibility that — without ever reaching a World Series — the latter will be gone, while the Mets are left with half of the former. It’s enough to make a man want to watch football.

Why Mariano Rivera > Derek Jeter

2011 September 22

According to the media, Mariano Rivera “officially” became the greatest closer ever a few days ago when he broke the all-time saves record. The assumption that Rivera needed to save one more game than Trevor Hoffman to be considered the greatest one-inning pitcher in history is laughable, but here we are. But the more heated discussion has been about whether Rivera or Derek Jeter has been more indispensible over the Yankees’ reign of dominance.

Rivera’s 602 saves (wait, the number is already up to 603) have all occurred during the regular season, which might as well be warm-up games for the modern New York Yankees. Since the 1994 strike, they have missed the playoffs just once. The 2008 season notwithstanding, has there really ever been any doubt of the Yankees making the postseason? Their payroll is consistently enormous, and if there’s a chance they might not make the playoffs, Brian Cashman makes sure to reload at the trade deadline. Making the playoffs is as routine for the Yankees as sub-.500 seasons are for the Pirates.*

*This reminds me of when I lashed out against a Yankee fan who said “preseason football > regular season baseball” on Twitter. This is because he prefers football and also because regular season baseball translates to preseason baseball in Yankeeland.

I don’t think it’s disingenuous, then, to focus on postseason performance. But I want to be clear here: there’s a difference between claiming a player has been a brilliant playoff performer and claiming he has been innately clutch (or, in contrast, a choke artist). Does Mariano Rivera’s superhuman performance in the postseason mean he’s going to continue having an ERA under 1? Almost definitely not, but his entire body of work as a closer does make him better suited for the role than anyone else. On the other side of the spectrum, Alex Rodriguez did kinda suck in a few postseasons with the Yankees, but that didn’t make him a “choker,” and he didn’t magically become “clutch” in 2009. This is the distinction between the actual value of past performance and the predictive value of said performance.

Mariano Rivera’s career postseason stats are absolutely disgusting: A 0.77 ERA and 0.766 WHIP, with 42 saves and 5 blown saves.* The number of blown saves might be shocking, but it shouldn’t be surprising that two of them occurred during the most famous collapse in baseball postseason history – the 2004 ALCS.** In fact, the only time the Yankees won a series where Rivera blew only one save was the preceding series against the Twins. The Yankees ended up winning that game anyway, though, because the Twins are fucking worthless against the Yankees in the playoffs. In October, as Rivera goes, so go the Yankees.

*I wish Fangraphs’ postseason shutdown and meltdown stats went back further than 2002. Since then, Rivera has had 19 shutdowns and 2 meltdowns. By comparison: Brad Lidge, 18-4; Jonathan Papelbon, 11-1 (wow); Joe Nathan, 2-5 (lol); Brian Wilson, 6-1.

**One of the blown saves was extremely unfair, as Rivera entered with runners at 1st and 3rd with no out and managed to allow only one run; he actually increased the Yankees’ chance of winning in that outing.

I’m a big proponent of FIP and xFIP, especially when it comes to closers, but the disparity between Rivera’s 0.77 ERA and 2.24 FIP and 3.21 xFIP over 139.2 IP definitely tests my faith in the metrics. Such a large disparity cannot be seen with some of the best individual seasons by other closers, who pitched in only half as many innings. For example, Dennis Eckersley’s 0.61 ERA in 1990 was backed up by a 1.34 FIP. I’m sure you could probably find seasons that disprove my general notion (Eric O’Flaherty this year is a candidate), but I think Rivera’s postseason tERA of 1.86 is probably closer to telling the true story of broken bat grounders, since it incorporates batted-ball data. He has managed to keep his career BABIP at .262, after all. The .216 mark in the postseason is definitely indicative of some luck, but it’s impossible to say how much. I think any way you slice it, it’s tough to envision a closer doing better over 16 seasons of postseason play.
In contrast to Rivera, Jeter’s postseason performance has been unremarkable when compared to his career. His postseason batting line of .309/.377/.472 is nearly identical to his regular season line of .313/.383/.449. It should be noted that these stats are still pretty great for a shortstop. And we’ve all seen the crazy plays he’s made in the field, and his clutch November home runs. He’s basically a great player in every situation. Yet Win Probability Added (WPA) tells me the craziest thing: Derek Jeter has hurt the Yankees overall chances when he’s been at the plate in the postseason (-0.58 WPA). Go ahead, look it up. Look at that clutch rating (-1.14)! Derek Jeter is a “choke artist”! But if you want to take leverage out of the equation with WPA/LI, Jeter manages to get into positive territory (0.56). I guess he’s ok.

I think you know where I’m going with this. Mariano Rivera’s postseason WPA is a whopping 4.86. Even if we strip out leverage (in the form of LI), which is going to heavily favor a closer, his WPA/LI is still 2.73. That’s over five times higher than Jeter’s. But there is an important point here, as WPA and WPA/LI do not factor in defense at all. Jeter playing shortstop is worth something — quite a bit actually. This is evident when you look at both players’ regular season Wins Above Replacement (WAR) total and see how far ahead Jeter is, despite Rivera being slightly ahead in WPA/LI. This is why for any other team I would emphatically say that Jeter is the more important and valuable player. But Rivera has been the perfect man for the perfect time and place in baseball history. He has arguably been better at his position than anyone other player, for the team that needed it most. Rivera has been used basically twice as much in the postseason as in meaningless April-September games.

I’m going to play fast and loose with some metrics here, but looking at the value of Rivera’s ~2.00 FIP seasons, he has probably been worth around 6 WAR in the postseason; Jeter, depending on defensive metrics, has been worth anywhere from 5-6 WAR. But WAR is context-neutral, and, as I’ve tried to show, Rivera has, in the aggregate, outperformed Jeter at the crucial moments. This is not to say that in an alternate universe, Jeter wouldn’t have performed better and Rivera would have seemed more human. Given a choice in 1995, knowing both of their true talent levels going forward and their career regular season performances, you would take Jeter. But looking back, Rivera has been more integral to the Yankees’ postseason success, and for them that’s literally all that matters.

Now watch Rivera blow up this October against the Red Sox.

Drive Is Not As Advertised

2011 September 19

I would be one to wait until the weekend is over to review a film. Have fun either seeing this during the week or forgetting about my thoughts by next weekend and seeing Killer Elite instead.

Drive is not the Fast and Furious-esque action car movie it is portrayed as in most of its marketing. I was even a bit fooled despite reading up a bit on the film; I should have taken heed when I read an interview with Ryan Gosling where he said he wanted to make a “violent Pretty in Pink”. There are a few car chases, and they are shot extremely well without the ubiquitous  shaky-cam, but they are definitely not the focus, nor all that impressive as set-pieces (the first 10 minutes or so are brilliant stuff, though). What’s here is an 80s love story with the requisite soundtrack that turns into a slasher flick with Cronenberg-styled violence. I’ve seen that last point mentioned numerous times, but my friend said it exiting the theater; I’m taking that connection from him, not fellow amateur internet film critics.

This film is not for people who cannot stand silence. There are long pauses that I thought were a bit too much at times, where Gosling’s character (this is all I can refer to him as, since his name is never uttered) comes off too stilted. But I guess he’s so damn handsome that his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) can’t help but fall in love with him. It doesn’t hurt that he’s good with her kid and helps with the groceries, I guess. Oh, and that he’s a badass stunt driver and wears a sweet bomber jacket. What girl with a husband in prison wouldn’t die for a man like that? But obviously, once that husband is released from prison, all hell breaks loose.

The drawn-out silences and patient, long shots make the sudden and brutal violence in the film all that more shocking. There is a great scene where the violent nature under the shy and almost mute veneer of Gosling’s character is hinted at, and once he’s thrown into a situation where he needs to protect his cute neighbor and kid, it’s no-holds-barred retribution. The only previous Nicholas Winding Refn film I had seen was Bronson and that was pretty brutal, but I wasn’t expecting such explicit bursts of blood spatter in every way imaginable. That such violence occurs in what is otherwise an extremely slick and cool film could make it seem indulgent, but it works in the framework of the film. Once the switch in Driver (ok, I’ll just call him that now) is flicked, he turns into some Travis Bickle-type character; now this is the reading that I’ve stolen from other internet film nerds. And it’s not like the film doesn’t acknowledge how crazy the violence is — there’s one amazing scene in particular that cements Driver as a psychopath.

While the film is really all about Driver, the small supporting roles from Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston are both fantastic, and Carey Mulligan is perfect as the prototypical cute neighbor. I would have probably liked to see a bit more of the first two, but Drive is streamlined to a barebones plot where no scene is superfluous. So while some scenes might seem like they drag, there is nothing pointless in the 100-minute running time. There’s no backstory to Driver, the romance between Driver and Irene is set up through a few quiet scenes and a montage scored with a song straight of out the 80s (that’s a bit too cheesy for my taste), and the criminal associations in the film are relayed through brief conversations where there’s almost always something else going on.

Neither is a shot wasted (outside of one bizarre slow-motion, inside-the-car shot — you’ll know what I’m talking about). I’m glad I got to see the film in one of the big theaters in my local multiplex, because Refn, as @MilesTrahan put it, “can shoot the fuck out of a film.” The cinematography alone makes the film worth a watch, but when it’s combined with a character as memorable as Gosling’s despite his paucity of lines, a bunch of great supporting performances, unflinchingly awesome violence, and an atmospheric synthetic soundtrack, you’ve got one of the better films of the year — despite it going against mainstream expectations. Take a date if she can stomach seeing the life get stomped out of a guy’s face.

Thoughts on Twitter

2011 September 18
by CajoleJuice

This post is entitled “Thoughts on Twitter” instead of “Twitter Thoughts” because wouldn’t the latter just consist of tweets? God, I’m such a faggot sometimes — in the Louis C.K. “people from Phoenix are Phoenicians” stand-up sort of way.

- Since I didn’t make a 9/11 post here a week ago, I’ll just mention how I do not give a shit where people were when the planes hit or the towers fell. We were all in class or at work or sleeping, I get it. If you’re going to write something like Rany Jazayerli did, that’s cool, but 140 characters is just garbage in this case.

- It’s pretty amazing how people — on my feed, at least — show up when a sporting event gets really interesting. I like to think Twitter has allowed people to see many more no-hitters, 5-set Grand Slam tennis matches, and overtime Stanley Cup playoff games.

- I don’t understand people who follow a few select people who exclusively tweet about one topic. I follow people I find interesting or amusing, regardless of content. It just so happens I follow a very large percentage of baseball (and Mets) fans because they are the people I come across most. I’m sure this has nothing to do with my own tweeting habits.

- My follower count really wishes I were an attractive girl, or at least played one on the internet.

- Every person I’ve talked to about Keith Law (@keithlaw) thinks he comes across as arrogant (and even Michael Lewis jumped in this week). But he’s still the only ESPN employee (outside of Grantland writers) I follow, due to him being, you know, intelligent.

- I’ve said this before, but I should have quit Twitter after this tweet.

- Does everyone remember when you could see all the tweets from someone who you followed, even the replies to people you didn’t also follow? I definitely remember the uproar when that changed. Can you imagine how much of a disaster your feed would be if that magically changed back?

- Drive has to be garnering the most polarizing movie tweet reviews I’ve ever seen. It’s either “fuck awesome” or “one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.”

- Outside of the previously linked Ayn Rand fatality tweet, I really don’t understand why I come up with my best Twitter material when everyone is asleep. I guess it’s probably because once my head hits my pillow I have to choose between thinking about my life or coming up with humorous tweets; the latter is much less stressful.

Scavenging the Leftovers of a Dying Borders

2011 September 6
by CajoleJuice

You’ve seen the signs at your local mall or shopping center, or you’ve gotten emails in your inbox since you were a Borders Rewards member — either way, you know that Borders is liquidating its supply of books by slowly raising their discounts. Sometime last week, when the entire store hit the 50% to 70% off range, it finally made sense to buy books there rather than Amazon. I bought a few books, but waited as long as possible to pay for a few more, realizing there might not be anything of worth left by the time the discounts got really tasty.

Due to Hurricane Irene, though, my local Borders store lost power this weekend (I don’t know why they lost it 5 days after the hurricane), perhaps saving some quality books from being picked up. It certainly seems that way, judging by the haul I pulled today. The following picture is actually of all the books I’ve bought since the liquidation began, but the eight I bought today are on the top this pile (Free Darko’s Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball up).

Let’s run these down, shall we? I figure I should document this moment, as it might represent my last big physical book haul. By the time I finish my backlog — which includes at least a half-dozen books not pictured — a new Kindle could easily be priced under $99. But I guess I could always rip through a used bookstore at some later point.

Wonder Boys – I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay a year ago or so and absolutely loved it. Borders actually a few copies of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, but I settled on Wonder Boys due to it being an earlier work. I rather move chronologically, since I know I will read YPU eventually. Perhaps I should have bought both?

The Gun Seller – I recall @SpeedinUptoStop saying it was pretty good. And it’s written by Hugh Laurie! I couldn’t help myself.

An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England – This is a random one, but it’s due to having a random conversation with a girl in a dive bar about books. She recommended a few, but she particularly loved this book and I told her I’d read it. Even though I didn’t even ask her for her number and will most likely never see her again, I remain obligated to keep my word. It better not suck.

The Broom of the System – I’ve only read non-fiction from David Foster Wallace. His debut novel is probably a good place to start reading his fiction, right? Infinite Jest scares me.

A Confederacy of Dunces – A classic that someone recently reminded me to read.

The Four Fingers of Death – I remember @BenjaminBirdie going apeshit over its release, and while he’s prone to hyperbole, he usually has good taste (Die Hard > Die Hard with a Vengeance, though). Combine that with a cool cover and a science-fiction classification and I’m there.

Special Topics In Calamity Physics – Go ahead, make fun of me for buying a book somewhat based on its cover. I bought this book because I picked it up thinking it was a non-fiction book related to physics. Then I realized it was a novel and it was a Top Ten New York Times book selection and it was written by a woman (and she looked attractive on the back cover!). Considering I haven’t read many books by female authors, I figured this was a chance to stop being passively sexist. Wait, am I still being sexist by pointing out she’s attractive? Damn it.

The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball – I’ve read the first Free Darko book, which I felt focused too much on style over substance, but the guys can write, and this book appears to have much more actual content.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 – This was a bargain book, so with the 50% off on top of that it was cheaper than a Classic Single at Wendy’s. If there were any other years, I would have bought them. I’ve already ripped through this collection and it was wonderful.

Collapse – I’ve read Guns, Germs, and Steel, which I thought was extremely interesting and enlightening. I thought he drilled his point home over and over, though. Maybe I’m just too quick to accept things I read (I enjoyed The Tipping Point), but the hypotheses he laid out quickly made intuitive sense. Also, the title “Collapse” is timely. Because, you know, the economy.

Soccernomics - I’m not a soccer fan, but maybe this will help me get into it because it’s a scientific look the game across the globe.

The Best of The Best American Science Writing – I’m sure it’s just more of the awesomeness that is 2004 version. Not exactly the same series, but there is sometimes overlap. This series is probably more up my alley, anyway. The one that was science and nature had an article about birds. Fuck that noise.

The Only Game in Town – A collection of the best sportswriting from The New Yorker. Undoubtedly wonderful.

It took me longer to write this post than it took Roger Federer to win his fourth round U.S. Open match. I need to learn how to focus.