Great Moments in Easy Cheap Shots: T.J. Simers Edition

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We should probably just call this the T.J. Simers award. But I’m feeling charitable right now and I’m mostly just happy that he’s apparently not lost a single step despite a health scare in spring training. Maybe we’ll name it after him when he retires and gets a little cottage in Misanthropic Acres or wherever he decides to live.

In any event, he takes on Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire today, choosing the most insightful angle possible:

I had never met Mark McGwire before Tuesday night, but I knew of his reputation and the fact he has struck out so far as the Dodgers’ hitting coach. So given the Dodgers’ lack of power, I asked, “Is it time to introduce the players to steroids?” … I remember how much fun it was when Sammy Sosa and McGwire were hitting a lot of home runs. I thanked McGwire for providing those thrills and asked if he could still score some steroids.

I assume some sportswriters will laud Simers for his bravery for that, because the only apparent problem with cheap, low-rent questions among that group is when one doesn’t ask them in person. So good on ya, T.J. Next:

The Dodgers rank third to last in the major leagues in home runs and RBIs, and yet they have a guy who hit 70 home runs as their hitting instructor.

The Tigers lead baseball in offense and Lloyd McClendon is their hitting coach. The Orioles are second with Jim Presley in that job. The Rockies lead the NL and their hitting coach is Dante Bichette. The Reds are second in the NL with Brook Jacoby in charge of the bats. You know, it’s almost as if the hitting coach’s playing career is not a suitable proxy for his success as a coach.

There are interesting insights to be made about the Dodgers’ offensive struggles. Too bad there aren’t any sportswriters in Los Angeles interested in making them.

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.