Dallas Braden and A-Rod: what a difference a week makes

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Braden celebrates.jpgIt was just over two weeks ago when Alex Rodriguez walked over Dallas Braden’s mound — maybe on purpose, maybe not — kicking off a petty little feud in which no one has come off looking particularly classy.

Braden barked about it being “his mound” like he was unhinged. A-Rod looked like a pompous ass making reference to Braden’s “handful of wins” after the game. Braden looked like a low-rent wannabe something or other with his “we don’t do much talking in the 209” rebop last week.  A-Rod continued the pattern of classlessness just this weekend by claiming he didn’t want to comment any further because he didn’t want to extend Braden’s “15 minutes of fame,” clearly implying that Braden wouldn’t have any basis for fame separate and apart from that which A-Rod gave him.

That’s certainly not the case anymore. Braden is part of one of baseball’s most exclusive fraternities, becoming one of the nineteen men in history to throw a perfect game.

A-Rod seems to sense that the narrative has shifted.  Reached by reporters at Fenway Park immediately after the perfect game, Rodriguez said: “Good for him.
He threw a perfect game, and even better, he beat the Rays.”
That’s about the best answer one can give in the situation. He acknowledged the feat and kept it to baseball. The matter, at least from Rodriguez’s perspective, seems to be closed.

For his part, Braden didn’t say anything provocative after the game, holding true to the alleged rep of his home area code and tacitly agreeing with A-Rod to bury the hatchet. That is, unless Rodriguez is going to respond to Braden’s grandmother.  She was at the game and, according to Susan Slusser of San Francisco Chronicle, had this to say the moment someone shoved a microphone into her face: “stick it, A-Rod!”

That’s funny, but ultimately inconsequential, because I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that A-Rod isn’t about to go after Braden’s grandmother.  It’s Mother’s Day. Let her have the last word.

And let us close the book on the Braden-Rodriguez feud. Each got their shots in, each had their bad moments, but it ended with a perfect game on a sparkling Sunday afternoon, and that means baseball wins.

But then again, baseball always wins, doesn’t it?

Report: The Yankee Stadium charity is a secretive, self-dealing boondoggle

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The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.

The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:

  • Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
  • Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
  • There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.

Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.

If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.

Who is the fastest sprinter in baseball?

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We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.

StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.

Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.

That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.