Friday, August 11, 2006

Paul Ladewski: Every Day, Normal Idiot

A number of things piss me off when it comes to sportswriting. The first is one-sentence paragraphs, the Bill Plaschke specialty. Another is prevalent in the following article: shtick. If you're not funny, please do not waste my time with your attempts. Making pedestrian similes with an attempt at humor is a waste of words, and should be punished with termination if used frequently.

What follows is one of the most biased articles I've read. Yes, we all have a level of bias when it comes to our favorite sports team. But as a columnist, Mr. Ladewski is supposed to transcend that bias at appropriate times, providing us with objective analysis and insight; he fails in both regards here.

In lieu of pointing out every instance of shtick here on, I'm going to note the egregious offenders with italics.

In this corner, QuesTec out on strikes
Or: A stupid title for a stupid column

By Paul Ladewski, as printed in the Daily Southtown

[GET TO THE RIPPING!]White Sox general manager Ken Williams would rather kiss a pig on the lips than talk about it.

Off to a great start, Paul. I'm on the edge of my seat, anxiously pondering exactly what “it” is, and why “it” is so bad that Williams would rather smooch Babe than talk about “it.”

"I prefer not to get into it," K-Will said while his team prepared to square off against the New York Yankee$ at The Cell earlier this week.

More suspense! Oh, I'm just dying here. C'mon, c'mon, what is it? Oh, by the way, spelling “Yankees” with a dollar sign? Fucking brilliant. Get this guy a pulitzer.

Check that. Ken Williams wants to make a public issue of it the way he wants malaria.

What better way to follow up a cliffhanger than with more shtick! And if you’re counting at home, we have three paragraphs so far, all of which are one sentence, two of which provide inane idioms, and one of which is an unrevealing quote. Hats off, Paul. Hats off.

"You do want to me talk about it, don't you?" he said.

Well, uh ...

Say it, Paul. You want to know. You want to know bad, as badly as the public wants to know what the Bush administration is really up to. You see what I did there, Paul? I made a statement, and then succeeded it by making a stupid and irrelevant comparison. Man, I must be a great sportswriter.

"Excuse me," K-Will said. "I think I'll watch batting practice now."

I have ditched women for less teasing than this. And what the women were teasing was much more enticing than a Paul Ladewski column.

In that case, as a public service, at the risk of strangulation, allow me to reveal the dirty little secret around The Cell these days. As much as they rather not say so publicly, the Sox believe they haven't gotten a fair shake from the umpires this season. Specifically, that goes for their rotation, whose combined ERA is nearly one full run more than a year ago.

So it’s okay for the White Sox pitchers to benefit from a wider strike zone, but when the zone is tightened and they can’t react, it’s the umps’ fault? I assert that if Garland, Buehrle, and Garcia need a liberal strike zone to succeed, they aren’t necessarily good pitchers. (I’m watching the Yankees-Sox game right now. For the record, the ump is calling strikes plenty low.)

"No," pitching coach Don Cooper said flatly when asked if the team was afforded the same respect of a World Series ago. "No, we're not."

If I was the White Sox PR guy, that's not what I'd have Cooper say to the press. Rather, I think a more appropriate statement would be, “Yes, we're getting a fair shake from the umps. It's just that our pitchers all had exceptional years last year, and they're just on the other side of the mean right now. It's a shame, but that's baseball for you.” While that’s not the best way to describe your pitchers to the press, it’s a ton fucking better than sounding like a little bitch.

Cooper will talk about it — even if it makes him about as comfortable as a wool turtleneck in the summertime.

I can't even begin to point out how stupid this simile is. Did Ladewski stay up all night thinking of that one? (Nah, got to bed at 2, 2:30).

"We don't make excuses," Cooper said. "We get what we get. It is what it is. We have to be like the Marines — adapt and overcome — because (the umpires) won't adjust to us."

You know what I want to do to Don Cooper right now? I want to open a dictionary to the page containing the word “contradiction” and beat him over the head with it. You don't make excuses, Don? Didn't you just make an excuse, that the umps are being unfair to you? Oh, I think you did.

This also makes me want to take a shit in Coop's mouth. Not in a kinky, sexual, Cleveland Steamer kinda way, but in a, “you are a piece of shit, so it's high time you ate a piece of shit,” kinda way.

To say the least, the Sox are in a tough spot here. In the Williams era, especially since manager Ozzie Guillen took over, the complaint department has been closed for business. This is a team that takes pride in accountability, and we've seen the results. Frankly, I believe the gripe is legit, especially when you consider these are the defending world champions here. But as concerned as they are about it, the Sox come off as whiners or worse if they beef in public.

So the most compelling evidence for believing that the Sox are getting screwed is that they're the defending World Champions? In what world does that logic make sense? Yes, the umps have it out for the White Sox because they won the World Series last year. In fact, they’re always biased against the defending World Series Champions. That's why the Yanks weren't able to string together three straight in the late 90s.

And trust me, the Sox believe this is a big deal given the closeness of the AL wild-card race. So big that they've quietly spent a lot of effort and a lot of time to state their case to the major league honchos, who promised to monitor the situation, if nothing else.

If true, I would think this would be a big deal regardless of the circumstances. But that's just me.

So what's behind the perceived slight? Is it a Guillen backlash? Some sort of Fox Sports conspiracy?
Would you believe QuesTec?

Hear, hear! The machines are taking over. Get your Robot Insurance here.

"The bleepin' camera at the end of the dugout has something to do with it," Cooper said. "When the umpires come here, they know this is a QuesTec park. That's something we have to realize. That's the way it is."

QuesTec is the name of the electronic eyes that Major League Baseball uses to judge its umpires every season. In theory, QuesTec is the best idea since Barry Bonds behind bars. For years, umpires said to heck with the rule book and called balls and strikes as they darn well pleased. QuesTec was supposed to take care of that.

Paul, I agree with you -- in theory. In theory, communism works. In theory.

Trouble is, QuesTec has fewer friends than a former Enron official. From players to coaches to managers, almost nobody likes it. For one, not every ballpark is equipped for the technology at the moment. The system is capable of mistakes itself, as the manufacturer admits. Worse yet, when Big Brother watches, some umps become so defensive their strike zones are tighter than manhole covers, to hear some players and coaches tell it.

Okay, now I get to the meat of the argument. I could have stated this obvious idea at the beginning of the column, but I decided to wait until after the explanation of QuesTec. Laewski has purported that the Sox are getting screwed by the umps, and is now citing QuesTec as a major reason. But what he's implying is far more egregious: the umps are tightening the zone for the Sox, and widening it for their opponents. And that, my friends, is fucking ridonkulous. See, the idea of QuesTec is to grade the umps by creating an objective estimation of the strike zone. So if an umpire was to call balls and strikes differently for each team, he would be immediately outed. And that, in essence, is the greatest benefit of QuesTec. When a manager (or Hawk Harrelson) bitches and whines about the umps, MLB can look at the QuesTec findings and determine if, in fact, the ump was calling balls and strikes differently for each team.

Of course, no one working for the White Sox could ever come to that conclusion. They're too busy worrying about being screwed over, oblivious to the fact that there may be better teams in the American League. Because in baseball, if it's unfair for both sides, it comes out fair. Kinda like multiplying a negative by a negative results in a positive.

Hey, if you knew QuesTec grades determined postseason assignments, how would you react?

I would react by saying, “well, these guys best understand what Major League Baseball wants the strike zone to look like. They can call balls and strikes objectively, without bias towards a certain team.” Because really, all we’re looking for is consistency and a little sense.

"QuesTec is a tighter zone. It's as simple as that," Cooper said. "It sounds like a pitching guy talking, but that's the reality of it for me. It's a factor. How much of a factor, I don't know. What I do know is, the (strike) zone is different this year."

Yet, it's the same for both teams. Unfortunately, that idea is far beyond Cooper's comprehension.

Is QuesTec the reason why the Sox are on a pace to win only 96 games this season? Don't be silly. In fact, Cooper spoke only on the condition his words wouldn't sound like an alibi of some kind. "I don't want you to turn this into an excuse, because we have none," he said.

Wait, wait. You just spent all that time bitching and whining about QuesTec and how it's supposedly screwing your shitty finesse pitchers, and now you're writing it off? What was the fucking point of this column, then? And, as you may note, Cooper has once again contradicted himself. You go from, “it's a factor,” to, “we have none [excuses].” This makes as much sense as Matt Hasselbeck getting flagged for making a tackle. Man, I'm on a roll!

While I’m at it, I might as well bust Ladewski and Cooper for the “wouldn’t sound like an alibi” bit. It’s like the famous saying, “No offense, but you’re an asshole.”

But is QuesTec part of the reason why finesse pitchers Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland have seen their ERAs blow up this season? Could be.

You’re so repetitive that I have to be careful commenting on this statement, for fear of my own repetitiveness. But let's get this straight. The notion that QuesTec is the reason that the White Sox are on pace to win fewer games than last year is silly, but it could very well be the reason Buehrle and Garland have inflated ERAs. That's what you said. Now let's think about it for a second. The White Sox are scoring more runs than last year, so their offense is not the cause of the dropoff. Their defense has had one switch, Brian Anderson for Aaron Rowand, which is a push at worst. So, by that logic, the pitching would be the reason the White Sox are winning at a lesser rate. Get my point? Of course you do. Smart people can make that association. Ladewski? Not so much.

"The umpires are very aware of the zone east and west but not as conscious north and south," Cooper said. "That's what the camera has done. Is it the rule book strike zone? Absolutely not. Is it knees to the letters? Absolutely not."

Bitch, bitch, btich. But remember, he’s not making excuses here.

That's bad news for comparative soft-tossers such as Garland and especially Buehrle, who have to live on the edges in the absences of 90-mph heat. Or to put it another way, when the Greg Maddux Strike Zone is in effect, Buehrle and Garland are very difficult to beat. When it isn't, Home Run Derby has been known to break out sometimes.

Does Ladewski read his columns back to himself before he submits them? Because in case he wasn’t aware, copy editors only correct technical errors, not a writer’s misguided thoughts. What you said about the Greg Maddux Strike Zone reinforces my earlier assertion that if you absolutely need a liberal strike zone to succeed, you are not necessarily a very good pitcher.

Take the key sequence in the seventh inning Monday night. With Buehrle on the mound, the Los Angeles Angels' Tim Salmon got the benefit of not one, not two, not three but four strikes, replays showed. It was almost as if home-plate ump Eric Cooper said, "How do you like QuesTec now, buddy?"

If Buehrle wasn’t getting strikes on certain portions of the plate, he probably shouldn’t have thrown pitches in that locale.

Sure enough, Salmon eventually walked, the Angels scored three times and Buehrle did a slow burn on his way to the showers.

"I mean, I don't know ... " he said the next day. "I'll kind of wait on that and stay out of trouble. But I watched the game and hoped everyone else saw that."

Nothing snarky. Just pointing out that Ladewski is glorifying Buehrle’s whining.

Meanwhile, did you see the game Javier Vazquez pitched in Toronto last week? Wore out the corners for eight innings. Struck out 13. Rogers Centre doesn't have QuesTec, by the way.

Ladewski, you diabolical! You have the whole scheme figured out. Based on one game pitched by Javy Vazquez in a non-QueTec ballpark, you’ve proven beyond a reasonable doubt that QuesTec is the sole source of the White Sox woes. Is it possible to win a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize for the same column? Because if you can, I’d like to introduce the nomination committees to Mr. Paul Ladewski.

And you thought the Yankee$ were the machine that concerned the Sox most these days.

I think he’s referring to the Yankee$ (clever, even the second time around) as a corporate machine. However, the only Yankees machine the White Sox should be worrying about is the juggernaut that is the Yankee offense.

UPDATE: Commenter Ben V. from Sportzilla and the Jabber Jocks puts some numerical analysis to my lashings:

Somehow I doubt Ladewski bothered to look, but just for fun, here are Mark Buerhle's home and road splits:

Home: 4.34 ERA, 89.1 IP, 16 HR, 43/24 K/BB, .254 Opp BA

Away: 5.69 ERA, 61.2 IP, 8 HR, 24/12 K/BB, .329 Opp BA

Could QuesTec be trashing Buerhle? Sure. But why is he worse on the road this year, especially when he has a 3.70 road ERA over the past three seasons? Maybe he's just not pitching well.

Oh and Javy Vasquez walked six and K'd eight yesterday. That had to be the result of QuesTec and not the fact his stuff was likely all over the place.