Monday, October 10, 2011

Fire ESPN's Treatment of Hank Williams Jr.

ESPN took Williams Jr.'s words too literally.
ESPN and Hank Williams Jr. have parted ways, ending the latter's 20-year-run as the theme-song voice of Monday Night Football. ESPN pulled the plug on Williams' song "All my Rowdy Friends" after Williams made some comments that ESPN decided were controversial. ESPN is flat wrong in this decision, so we're firing ESPN's firing of Williams.

During an October 3 interview on Fox News, Williams compared House Speaker John Boehner (R) and President Barack Obama (D) meeting on a golf course to Hitler going 18 holes with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

ESPN took immediate action, pulling "All My Rowdy Friends" from the MNF broadcast that night, then announced on October 6 that it would no longer be using the song. Williams has since apologized for the analogy but said he, in fact, chose to end his relationship with ESPN and MNF, not the other way around. 

ESPN overreacted here. Sure, Williams' analogy was clumsy and dumb, but he also didn't say Obama literally = Hitler. If he had, ESPN would have been right to axe the song. Williams Jr. was simply trying to say that Boehner and Obama are diametric opposites, and as is, ESPN looks a bunch of hypersensitive sqaushers of free speech.

There's no question that people throw Hitler's name around way, way too much when discussing politics in modern America, but this instance is one of very few when mentioning him wasn't a big deal. ESPN can't repair its relationship with Williams, but let's hope they don't behave so reactively the next time someone they pay says something dumb.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fire the Idea that the Braves and Red Sox Choked

When two teams blow huge leads in September and end up missing the playoffs, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is "they choked." The problem with that conclusion is it's lazy and ignores facts, especially in the case of the Braves and Red Sox. Here's why those teams definitely did collapse but didn't really choke in September.

Sure their collapse was epic, but was it a choke?
Braves: Atlanta led by 8.5 games over St. Louis in the wild card standings on September 5, then proceeded to lose 13 of their final 18 games, including their last five. That is an epic collapse, but too few people are asking why it happened. There are three reasons, and they're all related: weak offense, injured starting pitchers and an overworked bullpen. The weak offense was a season-long problem that the Braves covered up with great pitching for five months. The Braves finished the season with a .243 team batting average (13th in the NL) and .308 on-base percentage (14th in the NL). They also finished 15th in the NL in doubles, 16th in the NL in triples and 14th in the NL in stolen bases. As a team, they averaged 3.96 runs per game, which put heavy strain on a pitching staff with an ERA of 3.49 (4th in the NL).

Atlanta's pitching was good enough to keep the wins rolling in for five months, until Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens got hurt and missed the entire month of September. No team has enough depth to keep winning without two of its four best starters, and Atlanta's weak offense couldn't support substitute pitchers like Mike Minor (4.14 ERA).

When Hanson and Jurrjens went down, it put added strain on a bullpen that had been spectacular, but was at the point of being overworked even as September approached. Closer Craig Kimbrel appeared in 79 games in 2011, setup man Jonny Venters pitched in 85 games and 7th inning specialist Eric O'Flaherty made 78 appearances. By comparison, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera made just 64 appearances in 2011. The Braves 'pen was tired, and part of the blame for that lies with manager Freddy Gonzalez. He is an extremely conservative manager, who uses his players as the situation calls for on paper. That means he often doesn't take into account that a guy might be tired. His approach helped cost the Braves a playoff spot.    

Red Sox: Boston had similar problems to Atlanta, suffering from injuries to key players at the worst time. The Red Sox had a powerful offense in 2011, but Kevin Youkilis missed most of September with several injuries and finished the season on the 60-day DL. The pitching staff had injuries, too. Josh Beckett sprained his ankle on September 5 and didn't pitch again for 11 days. Erik Bedard had a sore knee and didn't pitch between September 4 and September 20. John Lackey bruised his calf on September 9, but didn't miss any starts. Just like the Braves, the Red Sox simply couldn't compensate for all their injuries.

You can call the HR Department a Braves/Red Sox apologist if you want, but how many people really took the time to examine why the two teams fell apart? It wasn't just abstract things like nerves or cockiness; instead, there are specific reasons why Boston and Atlanta are sitting at home tonight. If more people had looked beyond the sheer shock of the collapses, they would have seen that. Hopefully now you do.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fire MLB Denying Part of the Mets' 9/11 Tribute

Bud boggled another PR move. (Getty)
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is still really bad at PR. Maybe he should hire Dan Snyder's whiz, Tony Wyllie, after it was revealed that the Mets were prevented from wearing NYPD, NYFD and PAPD caps as part of a 9/11 tribute.

Instead, MLB literally grabbed the caps from the Mets' dugout and replaced them with American flag hats that just happen to be on sale at for $36.99. What an amazing coincidence!

This move by MLB is really indefensible and Selig should be ashamed. Hopefully no one will buy those hats out of protest, and fortunately the Mets still had a very nice tribute on Sunday. On some level this ugly greed shows that the American spirit is alive and well and that the terrorists didn't win. Nonetheless, Selig and MLB should most definitely be fired over this classless move.

UPDATE: Bud keeps digging himself in deeper. He's upset the Mets made this cap flap public, which even for him is a new low.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hire the End of Dan Snyder's Lawsuit

Over the weekend, Redskins owner Dan Snyder's cronies announced that Snyder dropped his defamation lawsuit against the Washington City Paper and writer Dave McKenna.

From Snyder's PR whiz kid, Tony Wyllie: “The lawsuit was pursued as a means to correct the public record following several critical factual misstatements in the Washington City Paper article. In the course of the defendants’ recently filed pleadings and statements in this matter, the Washington City Paper and its writer have admitted that certain assertions contained in the article that are the subject of the lawsuit were, in fact, unintended by the defendants to be read literally as true. Therefore, we see nothing further to be gained at this time through continuing the lawsuit."

So Snyder kind of got what he wanted, which is the only negative here. It's worth noting that days before the suit was dropped, Snyder admitted he hadn't actually read the article that offended him so deeply. Everything about this lawsuit was stupid, and while it's a shame McKenna's camp had to admit some wrongdoing, at least this farce is over.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fire Vancouver for Blaming Riots on the NHL

The NHL is not responsible for this.
Governments are really good at many silly things, and in the case of the city of Vancouver, its government is really good at compiling a report on a tragedy, blaming someone else and moving on.

That's exactly what happened when the city released a report that blamed the NHL for the June 15 Stanley Cup riot that led to hundreds of arrests and millions in property damage. In the report, the city said: "In spite of four Stanley Cup riots in the last five years, [the NHL] has no approach, no policy and no apparent strategy to work with host franchises and municipalities on this issue." It is also “unfortunate and regrettable” that the league has no detailed programs to help cities “with the kind of challenge [Vancouver] faced that night.”

The NHL denied the accusation. “[The league] already has successful programs that ensure responsible fan behaviour in all our game venues,” spokesman Frank Brown said in a statement.

It's pretty appalling that Vancouver is blaming the NHL for the way its own citizens behaved during the riot. If Vancouver feels it can't handle having a NHL team, maybe it should ask the league to relocate it. Otherwise, the city needs to police itself. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fire Tiki Barber's 'Flabbergasted' Agent

Tiki was not in demand (Daniel Shapiro).
Who wouldn't want a 36-year-old RB who hasn't played since 2006, whose team won a Super Bowl the year after he left and who only wants to play because he's (probably) desperate for money? No one? Well tell that to Tiki Barber's agent, Mark Lepselter.

Lepselter told "We are flabbergasted that Tiki has not had an opportunity with any team, especially when rosters were at 90 players this year."

Barber had a tryout with the Dolphins, but it didn't lead anywhere and his phone has yet to ring otherwise.

Tiki may be the Giants' career rushing leader, but when they won the Super Bowl in his absence after the 2007 season, that was pretty damning. Barber's desire is also pretty questionable since he walked away from the game near his prime to pursue broadcasting, and is now suddenly interested in football again because, he said, he's depressed. What he didn't say is that he lost his job with NBC thanks to a morality clause in his contract and his wife divorced him because he cheated on her with a NBC intern. Safe to say that the real reason he wants back in the League is money, not love of the game.

Barber has been gone from the game too long, and RBs take such a beating, it seems impossible that he could come back and be effective at 36. The other thing that worked against Barber this year was the short preparation period after the lockout ended. Many teams stuck with players who already knew their system, which put Barber at a big disadvantage. Lepselter probably did his best to find his client a job, but if he's genuinely surprised nobody wanted Tiki, then he doesn't know football very well.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Firings: Jamie Moyer, Redskins Selling McNabb Gear

Every Friday the HR Department fires two or more things from around sports that range from silly to outrageous. Here's what we came up with this week:

Fire a Jamie Moyer Comeback: Former Phillies P Jamie Moyer is attempting to rehab his arm following Tommy John surgery at the Phillies' facility in Florida. At this time, the team is allowing Moyer use of its facilities and staff, but is not expecting to sign him. Moyer went 9-9 with a 4.84 ERA in 2010 before the surgery, which is damn impressive at age 48. But he's just too old for the majors and nobody should take him seriously at this point. If nobody really wants a guy like Pedro Martinez, who is 39, why mess with Moyer?

Fire the Redskins Selling McNabb Souvenirs: It seems there is nothing the Redskins (and owner Dan Snyder) won't do to make a buck. The team is selling jerseys of ex-QB Donovan McNabb for $9.95 and is using McNabb souvenir soda cups at concession stands, which are available for $6. The team and its fans don't want to see McNabb anymore, and the Redskins should just donate this leftover merchandise to charity.