You should love the Cardinals because they uphold “strong values”

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The one thing that sorta sucks about the playoffs is how much downtime there is between games. And with downtime people kill time. And a big way to kill time in the playoffs is for fans of one team to hate on fans of another team and all of that garbage.  We see it every year.

The Braves were the early object of hate, but the Cardinals are clearly out front now. Which is not a new phenomenon. Hating on the Cardinals and their fans rarely goes too far out of style thanks to (a) their ubiquity in the playoffs in recent years; (b) the whole “Best Fans in Baseball” thing; and (c) the recent “we play the game the right way, Yasiel Puig is unprofessional” thing currently sweeping the baseball nation.

There are laughs to be had with all of that stuff and we have had our share of laughs. But it’s all kinda meaningless. It’s bad enough when people judge themselves or others by how good the team they root for is. Judging yourself or others based on your team’s fans is a step further into lunacy. News flash: someone, somewhere, hates your team and thinks it’s dumb. And maybe thinks you’re dumb for rooting for them. It’s just part of sports even if it is, well, dumb. Fact is, if someone hates you or your team it’s more likely than not because your team has done well at some point recently, so rather than get bent out of shape about it, just own it like Cartman owned Scott Tenorman’s tears.

Yet, to some folks, it’s still jarring that anyone could possibly dislike their team. Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist is a Cardinals fan. And she’s shocked, frankly:

When I told him I’m a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, the mood shifted. “I loathe the Cardinals,” he said. “That’s impossible,” I replied. Nobody hates the Cardinals. We’re a well-run organization with strong values. Our fans are the best in baseball. Hating the Cardinals is like punching your mother. Even if you were tempted, you just wouldn’t do it … In a world with O.J. Simpson and Aaron Hernandez, it may be harder to uphold sports as an outgrowth of American values. But just because there’s been a breakdown in some places doesn’t mean that ball clubs that at least try to uphold values should be loathed.

Go read the whole thing. She really and truly wants to tell you why something that is inherently irrational (i.e. sports fandom and the biases it fosters) is irrational. You are wrong to hate the Cardinals, you see. She’ll explain it to you in terms of the Cardinals’ values.

Which, if you didn’t hate the Cardinals and their fans before you read that, you sure as hell do now.

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.