Friday, January 20, 2017

How Do Bagwell's All-Star Appearances Stack Up?

Jeff Bagwell was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, and it's a well-deserved honor. 
Reading about Bagwell's election reminded me of his remarkable consistency and his delightful bent-legged batting stance. Bagwell was a bit underappreciated in his time, and that continued into his seven years on the Hall ballot. Here's what The Ringer's Michael Baumann wrote in his excellent piece on Bagwell and fellow inductees Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez:
[T]he electorate has long skewed toward a set of writers who are pro-tradition, puritanically anti-PED, and limited in their willingness and/or ability to grapple with sabermetrics. 
That made Bagwell’s case hard from the start, because even as a power-hitting first baseman, he doesn’t have a traditional Hall of Fame profile. Bagwell’s 15-year career isn’t that long by Hall of Fame standards, so he wound up short of the traditional milestones with only 2,314 hits and 449 home runs, and his .297 career batting average is just below that nice round number. Bagwell never led the league in home runs and only led the league in RBIs once — in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Bagwell also never played in New York, Boston, or Los Angeles, never won a World Series, and only won a pennant in his last season, when an arthritic shoulder limited him to 39 games. Chris Burke had more memorable playoff moments as an Astro than Bagwell did.
One thing I didn't see mentioned in the slew of articles about Bagwell is the fact that he only appeared in four All-Star Games. If you count up all the seasons in which he played in at least 60 games, Bagwell was an All-Star about 28 percent of the time. That seems low, right?  

I figure a quick historical comparison is in order. How do Bagwell's All-Star appearances compare to his Hall of Fame peers?

How Mathematical Are These MLB Names?

Baseball has been commandeered by numbers geeks over the past couple decades, with every front office boasting brainpower from MIT and the Ivy Leagues.

Let's examine, then, the intersection of math and baseball through the lens of some of the sport's most distinct names. (And yes, if you plotted this article as a point, it might fall on the plane labeled Whocares.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

How Awesome Is a Child's Perspective?

My wife and I welcomed our second boy into the world last week. It was, and is, a truly awesome experience. Since Peter's birth, I've been thinking a little about an essay I submitted for publication about our first son during the fall. The piece was rejected Mutombo-style, but I'd still like to share it here. Anyways, the message still holds true: a little bit of wonder and awe goes a long way in this world. I hope you like it.

"Oh, Wow!": An Ode to the Truly Awesome

My grandfather hated the word “awesome.” I could never definitively figure out why, but I suspect it had something to do with a get-off-my-lawn attitude sometimes adopted by old guys. He'd often playfully mock us when we imitated the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and called something “awesome.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How Effective Was Mr. Turner's Teaching?

Who's the coolest fictional teacher ever? Is it Jack Black's Dewey Finn, with his devil-may care attitude and his rock-n'-roll? Or maybe it's Ms. Frizzle, who takes her students on some fantastic field trips aboard the Magic School Bus. Some people -- probably those who've actually seen the movie -- might even argue for Cameron Diaz or Jason Segel in Bad Teacher.

To me, though, the answer is easy: Jonathan Turner. Mr. Turner wore many hats on Boy Meets World during his three seasons on the show. He was a wisecracking subordinate to George Feeny, a mentor to Shawn Hunter, and a bedfellow to dozens of hot women. Most of all, though, he was the coolest teacher ever.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

How Many Jokes Has Jason Pierre-Paul Handed to Us?

My wife produced the quote of the year today, about this photo of JPP in Thursday's New York Post:



Kerry: "Is he flashing a gang sign?"


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Saturday, November 19, 2016

How Much Should We Appreciate Roger Angell?

In the barrage of Cubs stories after their historic World Series win -- covering everything from the 108-year-old who died soon after the Game 7 victory to absurd parade crowd estimates -- the source of my favorite article was unsurprising. Ninety-six-year-old Roger Angell's story "At Last" should be recopied onto beautiful parchment paper in the style of medieval scribes as a way for future sports fans to learn about one of the greatest games in baseball history.

Via thenewyorker.com
Just as former Cub Moises Alou* came from a long line of big leaguers, Angell was born into a writing family. His mother was a New Yorker editor and writer from 1925-60, and his stepfather was the famous author E.B. White. Like Alou, Angell surely owes some of his success to his genes but most of it to tremendous work ethic and decades of experience.

*Insert Steve Bartman joke here.

Regardless of how hard I worked, I'm sure I could never replicate even 1/1,000th of Angell's performance in print. However, that doesn't stop me from appreciating the crap out of the legendary writer's annual World Series wrap. Here, then, are the 10 best things about that story:

Monday, November 7, 2016

How Do You Lose a Writing Contest? (I Just Learned How)

A few days ago, The Writing Cooperative published a story I sent them about writing in my classroom. Sure, the article was an entry in a contest that someone else won, but still. As Michelangelo would say, I've gotta keep practicing. Anyways, thanks to those guys for publishing my work!


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