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Bill Simmons is Boring

August 4, 2010

Bill Simmons wrote a column last week. It sucked. I’ve been wrestling with this for a bit now. Simmons was one of my favorite sports writers for awhile, and I was not alone. I used to print out his articles and read them during my Medieval Philosophy class in college. He has, however, become insufferable over the past couple of years.

Don’t get me wrong, his 30 for 30 project has been a resounding success, and I rarely listen to his podcasts, so they could be really awesome. I don’t know. But his columns, well, they’ve suffered. If it’s not some nichey NBA article for the 1,000th time in a row, then it’s a self-congratulating mailbag with questions tailor made by his self-styled readers. In short, it’s a tired, old, and boring schtick he’s got going.

Anyway, last week was the tipping point for me. It’s taken me a bit to get to this for two reasons: 1.) I really did struggle with criticizing the guy after so many good times trying to stifle laughter while my professor droned on about Anselm. 2.) It’s like 6,000 freaking words. Don’t worry, I won’t reprint them all here.

On Tuesday night in Anaheim, with a teetering Red Sox season threatening to crumble, J.D. Drew saved Boston fans from another episode of “Papelbon, P.U.” by walloping a timely double. The ball bounced off the right-field wall toward Bobby Abreu, who reacted to the carom like a ghost was clubbing him from behind with a two-by-four. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! (Didn’t we create the DH position for guys like Abreu? I’m almost positive we did.) Two runs scored, Boston’s eighth-inning lead expanded to three and when the TV crew cut to the obligatory shot of Drew pumping his fist at second base …

Oh, wait …

I forgot. J.D. Drew never does things like that.

First things first, yeah, Abreu really shouldn’t be in the outfield, but I mean, not every team has the perfect roster. In fact, most teams do not. That’s obvious right?

Here comes the beginning of a truly worthless argument, just brace yourselves. J.D. Drew is not a charismatic guy. So what? He’s good at baseball. I, for one, think it would really suck if every professional athlete pranced and preened like Chad Ochocinco.

He stood there impassively, handsome as always, looking the same way he always does, like the guy whose at-bat music should be Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” If NESN launched a game show called “Guess What J.D. Just Did?” in which contestants guessed based off his expressions — did Drew just hit a game-saving double, take a called third strike, hit into a double play, win the lottery or find out he was going to jail? — nobody would ever win.

Really, he’s the perfect player for the post-2007 Red Sox regime: someone who plays hard, looks good statistically, does everything either “pretty well” or better and leaves you cold. He used to have me screaming obscenities every time he took a called third strike in a big moment. Now I get him. There are no big moments for Drew. He approaches every game, every inning and every at-bat exactly the same. Expecting him to own that Anaheim moment just wasn’t realistic.

Isn’t this what we want from baseball players? Being “clutch” is all but a mythical thing, but treating every at-bat, every play the same (assuming you do it well) is the next best thing. It’s actually what “clutch” really. It’s a good player staying good in a pressure moment. Yeah, Drew doesn’t show a ton of emotion. So what? He gets the job done. (Also, like the first two pages of a google image search for J.D. Drew show him pumping his fist, so…)

Let’s not lose sight of that among the jokes and potential TV shows thrown in there so that we forget that the argument is that Drew is boring, and that it’s somehow bad for baseball. It’s not bad for baseball. Drew plays baseball well, and that is good.

Quite simply, he’s a boring player on a boring team during a fairly boring season.

I’m not sure how Simmons decided that this was a boring season. I mean, we are seeing some really excellent pitching. Almost all of the divisional races are extremely tight. The Wild Card race is even closer. Miguel Cabrera is still very much in the running for the Triple Crown here in the first week of August. We’re witnessing perhaps the best rookie class ever (certainly within recent memory). Stephen Strasburg made his debut and dazzled us all despite the media’s collective orgasm. Et cetera.

What I think Simmons really means here is that the Red Sox aren’t that good this year.

It’s the first Red Sox team without a truly compelling player since 1993 — when we went 80-82 — and even then, we had a young Mo Vaughn (29 homers, .915 OPS) and Roger Clemens launching his loathsome “I just got paid, I’m gonna start puttin’ on weight, I haven’t been introduced to performance-enhancing drugs yet and this will all culminate with me pitchin’ hard for three months three years from now, signin’ with Toronto, ‘roided up (allegedly) and winnin’ two straight Cy Youngs, then joinin’ the Yankees so I can win myself some cheap rings” stretch in which he was realizing himself as a selfish (word I can’t print), only nobody wanted to admit it yet.

That’s a really long sentence…plus, that little rant was taken straight from one of those T-shirt everyone used to wear in the early nineties for playing basketball, except it had “donut eatin’ loser” somewhere in there.

Really, you have to go back to 1981 (pre-Wade Boggs, post-Fred Lynn, post-Carlton Fisk) for a Red Sox team with less pizzazz than the 2010 crew.

OK, the 2010 Red Sox lack pizzazz. Boo hoo.

On Wednesday, both Boston papers carried front-page stories about Sports Business Journal’s report that NESN’s Red Sox ratings had plummeted 36 percent. (The Boston Globe also reported that WEEI’s ratings were down 16.5 percent, and that male listeners between the ages of 25 and 54 had dwindled by 28 percent.) One morning earlier, my father and I had been on the phone trying to make sense of SBJ’s story. Neither of us was surprised, more curious. What caused it? Was there a single reason? Five reasons? Ten reasons? Was it a fluke or a sign of something more substantial?

Fluke. Although, it’s a sign of the something more substantial if you mean that the Red Sox are in third place in a division with the two best teams in baseball. I think Simmons overestimated the die-hardness of Red Sox fans. They have an incredibly slim chance of making the playoffs this year, and so viewership is down. Whatever, it happens in every city. This isn’t really a knock on Boston baseball fans.

“I don’t think there’s any one reason,” Dad said. “Don’t do the thing where you write a column and try to figure it out. There’s no one thing to figure out. This is too complicated.”

Bill, you shoulda listened to Old Man Simmons.

But Dad, that’s what I do! I love figuring things out that can’t be fully figured out!

Simmons is so predictable. Like J.D. Drew except in an annoying way. Get

Hey! Stop smiling, Drew. Bill Simmons says you don't get excited.

ready for some random reasons accompanied by random percentages and supported by random facts. Simmons will then expect you take them as scientific evidence that the Red Sox and baseball are suddenly boring.

Let’s say we assigned a percentage pie of blame for dwindling Red Sox interest in 2010. My pie would look like this:

INJURIES: 10 PERCENT

—SNIP—

I’m not going to go through all his injuries here. Simmons is right on with this one. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez, and others have gone down with injuries. That does affect fan interest. In fact, if I was doing a “scientific” study on the situation like Simmons is doing, I would put this at more like 50 percent. When all your stars go down with injuries, it hurts interest.

• Mike Cameron missed five weeks with an abdomen injury, then struggled upon his return. Or, he might just be really old. Or both. […] Like all Sox fans, I watched Cameron play outfield in April thinking, “Wait a second, I thought this guy was supposed to be good?” and feeling like I’d been duped. (And yes, advanced metrics back this up: According to FanGraphs, he’s been one of the league’s worst starting center fielders in baseball with a UZR of -8.0 in 2010.) […] The good news: Well, I can’t think of anything right now.

Yep. Cameron’s been bad. But I’ll tell you what the good news is: He’s not Jason Bay. Bay, the other potential option for the Sox coming into the season, is doing just as badly, if not worse, and he costs A LOT more money. That’s the good news.

Oh, and God forbid that the Red Sox have a bad player!

(Note: This one hurts because every baseball fan instinct I had told me this past winter, “We should sign Johnny Damon. I don’t care if he’s an oil spill in the outfield. He’ll hit, he’ll get on base, he’ll give us 650 ABs and he knows how to handle Boston.” Then new Sabermetric Me shouted down Old-School Me, and force-fed Cameron’s UZR down my throat, even though my friends who rooted for him in Seattle and New York steadily maintained that they’d rather see a waterlogged corpse batting in a big spot than Cameron. What’s weird is that the only stat that ultimately mattered was “37.” So be it. At least we didn’t sign him for next season, too.)

OK, “new Sabermetric Bill” should know that UZR does not give a reliable reading until about three seasons are taken into account. It means basically nothing over half a season. That said, Cameron really could be doing bad. And he is at the plate, but he’s doing all right in the field, I think. Whatever, doesn’t really matter.

(What? We did?)

($&@*#&#%#%#%!!!!!!!!)

Oh stop. The Red Sox have a boatload of money, they’ll get someone in the offseason. That’s one of the reasons Boston signed Cameron, because he was a cheap, reasonable replacement for Jason Bay in what the Red Sox viewed as a weak outfielder market. That’s good baseball. It might be boring, but it’s good baseball.

—SNIP–

• Through Wednesday’s games, Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall had a combined 422 at-bats for Boston. Throw in Daniel Nava (91), Eric Patterson (50) and Cash (47), and we’re over 600. Add Jeremy Hermida (155 ABs, .617 OPS), poor Mike Lowell (80 ABs, .658 OPS) and Brown/Molina/Reilly, and that’s 850 at-bats that should have happened for bottom feeders like the Royals, Pirates, Astros, Orioles or Diamondbacks, not a big-market team with $150 million to spend every season.

I feel soooo bad for Simmons. The Red Sox and their fans should not have to suffer the indignity of having bad players on their team. And again, it’s not like these guys are there because the front office wanted to be there, they’ve had injuries. It happens.

Which brings us to our next factor …

FRONT-OFFICE PARALYSIS/INADEQUACIES: 5 PERCENT

This number was arrived at using only the best and most advanced research…from a rant on a place called Boston Dirt Dogs.

A few days ago, the following rant appeared on the Boston Dirt Dogs site:

” … can’t believe the front office just fiddled this summer while Rome burned and we flushed an entire season and $150M down the toilet by thinking we could tread water with Bill Hall playing second and Kevin Cash catching and David Ortiz batting third against lefties and J.D. Drew playing every day against lefties and Eric Patterson and Daniel Nava and Dusty Brown, et al. It was so [expletive] obvious when the Laser Show and V-Mart got hurt that we had to go get a real bat, Jason Werth level, who would still start when we got healthy, but instead we did [expletive] nothing and buried ourselves. It was like we had no front office, the Jack Hannahan blockbuster notwithstanding.” — An understandably apoplectic Kevin H. on the lost season

My friend Daniel recognized the venom immediately: It sounded just like our crazy friend Hench, who had been griping about Theo Epstein in our e-mail circle for the past few weeks. Daniel e-mailed us the rant with the subject heading “Hench, is this you?”

Yup. It was Hench. I couldn’t disagree.

See! Simmons and all of his 40-something frat-boy friends are angry. Baseball must be going down the tubes.

The bigger issue: For all their bluster about building a monster farm system, the Red Sox aren’t exactly teeming with can’t-miss prospects. Yeah, they suffered a horrible blow when Ryan Westmoreland, their best hitting prospect, underwent life-threatening brain surgery. But take it from a guy in an obsessive, ultradorky AL-only keeper league with a 25-pick minor league draft and a full farm system: Boston’s pool of minor leaguers, while deep with yeah-he-might-make-it guys (Ryan Kalish, Stolmy Pimentel, Anthony Rizzo and Julio Iglesias, to name four), has only one certified stud, pitcher Casey Kelly (although he’s not on the uber-stud level of Tampa’s Jeremy Hellickson or Texas’ Martin Perez).

Fantasy baseball players > Theo Epstein

Only one Boston prospect made the 2010 Futures Game (Pimentel), and only Kelly cracked Baseball America’s midseason top 50. For a franchise that devoted so much money and energy these past few years toward invigorating its farm system — and struck oil with the Pedroia/Ellsbury/Papelbon/Bard/Lester class a few years ago — the 2010 results have been sobering so far.

Well, that’s five pretty good players right there. That’s pretty good. I mean it would be nice to instantly have All-Star caliber players again in your farm system, but, my God man. Calm down.

(Note: ESPN’s Keith Law had Boston ranked as his No. 2 farm system in February. When I e-mailed him for a July update, he wrote back that many of its top guys were underperforming and added, “They’re not No. 2 anymore. Definitely still top-10.” I’m not pumping my fist.)

You only have a top-ten farm system? What will the poor Red Sox do? Lots of teams (like 20) would kill to have a top-ten farm system. Quit your bitching. Oh, also, the Red Sox had a pretty stellar draft this year.

—Small Snip–

Just like you can’t open a blockbuster movie without a star, you can’t expect a nine-figure baseball team to capture the daily imagination of a big market without a player who passes the Remote Control Test (when you don’t flip channels because you know Player X is coming up) or the We Can’t Go Get Food Yet Test (when you don’t make a food/drink run at a game because Player X is coming up) or even the Every Five Nights, I Know What I’m Doing Test (when you have a transcendent pitcher who keeps you in front of the television every five days).

I like Pedroia. I like Kevin Youkilis. Clay Buchholz has been a revelation this year. I really, really like Lester, my favorite current player (and someone quietly enjoying a monster season) mainly for everything he’s been through. But none of them passes the above tests. I went to a Philly-Boston game in June in which we shelled Jamie Moyer for something like 30 runs in the first two innings. Philly pulled Ryan Howard in the third. We were crushed. Dammit! We only got to see Howard hit once! The 2010 Red Sox don’t have a pitcher or hitter who generates that reaction. It’s true.

1.) Youkilis is better than Howard at just about everything. 2.) And if you can’t get excited about Lester, a guy who beat freaking cancer and came back to pitch a no-hitter and is now one of the dominant players in the game, well, I think that’s your fault…and perhaps you have a faulty remote control.

The languishing expression of the bored.

THE HANGOVER: 15 PERCENT

It’s been the elephant in the room for three years. Do I care as much as I did? I think about this question constantly. The short answer? No. It can’t mean as much. It will never mean as much. Before 2004, rooting for the Red Sox wasn’t about just sports. It was about mortality. It was about a ticking clock that only we could hear. It was about exchanges like this:

“Jimmy’s dad died last weekend.”
“That’s terrible! How old was he?”
“Sixty-five.”

… and how you’d immediately add 1918 plus 65 and realize, “Crap.”

Blah blah blah, “Awl us Red Sawx fans were cuhsed. We were dying. We were mahtahs. Wahship us.” Shut up. If you can go from that to were bored so fast, then you deserved the drought.

Nobody wanted to live a full life, then die, without seeing the Red Sox win a championship. Cubs fans know what I mean. So do Vikings fans, Indians fans, Maple Leafs fans … only the true sufferers know. This wasn’t just about liking sports.

If your team won a championship then you suck. You don’t know what it’s like to live and breath baseball as if it was your life…and then get bored with it five years after you win.

With that said … it’s not life or death. Which opens the door for fickle TV ratings and everything else.

THE BANDWAGON EFFECT: 5 PERCENT

The bandwagoners who showed up post-2004 (the Pink Hat Brigade), coupled with the owners shrewdly turning Fenway (and the blocks surrounding it) into a cash cow on par with Facebook and the Kardashian family, coupled with the experience of attending home games (not the same) … yup, it’s made it a little less fun for die-hards. Just a little.

I really do dislike bandwagoners. But still, they are new fans to the game. You can’t really begrudge them liking baseball, I guess just the way they became fans. The Red Sox are still selling out games.

Living in California now, I had been getting a steady stream of e-mails about the devolving Fenway experience and kept thinking, “Come on, it can’t be that bad.” Then I attended my first home game in two years (the Philly blowout) and was flabbergasted when everyone stopped standing for Boston runs. Apparently the 7-0 lead was good enough; nobody stood for runs 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12. But when they cranked “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth inning? Everyone stood and sang.

Those dirty sons of bitches. Why if people were doing that, I wouldn’t watch my team on TV anymore.

Look, I don’t want to be Grumpy Old Man. I really don’t.

Too late.

But I probably attended 100 Fenway games just from 1998 to 2002; the level of baseball sophistication in the stands was unparalleled.

We were smaht. This is so grumpy old-manish it’s not even funny.

We worked with Pedro like Frick and Frack. He did his job (rolling through lineups); we did ours (standing every time he got two strikes on someone, doing the steady clap to get him fired up, cheering him like a Roman gladiator).

We were RESPONSIBLE fans. We HELPED Pedro win those games. We twirled his jheri curls and whispered encouragement into his ear.

That’s gone now. […] Anyway, bandwagon fans ebb and flow as TV viewers depending on entertainment value, and this season hasn’t been so entertaining. There’s some of your 36 percent.

Sigh. Most of your 36 percent comes from the fact that the Red Sox got swept in Round One of the playoffs last year and are currently in third place behind the two best teams in baseball. It’s not like the good old days of 2007 anymore. Sure, some of it could be bandwagoners, but maybe Murph and Sully just aren’t as die-hard anymore. There’s nothing wrong with not watching every game on TV, just don’t bitch about it.

THE STEROID ERA HANGOVER: 5 PERCENT

The best thing about baseball? How 120 years and six generations intersected. Now our little statistical compass has been shattered like a beer bottle. For the past week, every media outlet has tried to talk us into A-Rod’s 600th homer — as if the moment means something, because, after all, just six other people have done it! — only the nation’s collective indifference was telling. (I tweeted sarcastically Friday, “I’m on pins and steroid needles!”)

Oh wait, that was sarcasm? I see what you did now. Hilarious!

Here’s a sport that hinged partially on numbers, only the numbers from 1988 to 2008 (and maybe earlier) were covered in a maroon flag. Not to sound like the Double Rainbow Guy, but 600 homers … What does it mean? I have no effing clue. And neither do you.

I don’t care as much about the championships teams during this hideous era — everyone had cheaters, and everyone was playing by the same (lack of) rules — but it gets dicey once we’re putting careers in perspective. Whether it’s the legends we almost definitely know (Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, A-Rod, Manny, etc.), the guys we suspect but don’t know for sure (Gagne, Gonzo, Ortiz, Belle and Piazza, to name five) or everyone else who shined during that era (Pujols, “Big Unit,” Griffey, Ripken, etc.), it just feels wrong to compare them to Mays, Aaron, Seaver and the Babe without the caveat, “Well, they DID play in the steroid era.”

I say, get over it. Get in the moment and love the baseball that’s being played…or not. But this tired old song and dance about how steroids stole your innocence has gone on long enough. Well before roids, there was cocaine and greenies. If that’s too much for you, get out, but don’t stand here and preach about it.

So really, my single favorite thing about being a baseball fan other than watching games — comparing new guys to old guys — was brutally murdered.

Not really, the pitcher’s mound used to higher, too, and pitcher’s could throw spitballs and such…so the old-timer hitters were always at a “disadvantage.” Plus, you can still compare those players. Now, the old guys will have the upper hand because they didn’t do steroids, and that plays right into your little nostalgia kick.

—SNIP—

THE DECLINE OF BASEBALL IN GENERAL: 5 PERCENT

Isn’t it amazing that Simmons can tell you that baseball has declined, and also that that “fact” contributes 5 percentage points to why Red Sox TV ratings are down? I find this fascinating.

MLB’s defenders will point to attendance numbers (dropped in 2008, held tight in 2009 and 2010), its history (by far the most significant of the four major sports), its World Series ratings (still better than the NBA Finals) and a new generation of younger-than-25 stars (Strasburg, Heyward, Price, Longoria, Posey, Santana, etc.) who rank among baseball’s biggest talent boons ever.

Those are all good, tangible pieces of evidence. What you got, Simmons?

Troublemakers like me will point to the following things:

• The attendance numbers didn’t keep plummeting only because of discount deals and cheaper tickets.

Really? Where’d you come up with that? Wall Street Journal article? MLB report? Your buddy House?

Shouldn’t baseball worry that the onslaught of new ballparks (20 since the Skydome in 1989) caused an ongoing attendance bump that’s soon coming to an end?

That’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Shouldn’t baseball worry that the onslaught of new and exciting baseball players (thousands since the baseball became a big sport in the 1880s) caused an ongoing attendance bump?

The honeymoon “we have a new park!” stage eventually wore off in Baltimore, Cleveland, Toronto and Houston.

That’s because those teams suck.

Who’s next? When the dust settles, attendance will hinge on the same thing it always did: winning.

Exactly! It’s always hinged on winning. Simmons just refuted himself.

Especially in the 65-Inch HD Plasma/DirecTV Package/”Screw It, I’d Rather Just Stay Home and Flick Channels” Era … which will become THE long-term problem if they don’t solve the time issue (more on this in a second.)

Wait a second, I thought the problem was that people weren’t watching on TV. You’re losing it Simmons. Quick, give me some off the cuff theory you made up in your goofy little head that will distract me from your terrible argument.

And what happens if the big-market/small-market chasm keeps growing?

• There isn’t a single baseball star who could have gotten a 4 rating for switching teams, much less a 9 rating like LeBron did. Right now, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are the only mainstream famous baseball players. That’s the list. And they’re a combined 71 years old.

David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Ichiro, and there are some others. Also, LeBron is now universally regarded as a jackass.

My goofy take on this: The narcissism, chest-pounding and me-first mentality of stars in other sports has, perhaps unfairly, made baseball players seem boring as hell. You respect The Code in baseball. You play the game. You don’t show people up. You win respect by proving you’re about the team.

That’s absolutely right. Let’s not change this. Plus, there was just a rash of retirements from a bunch of the old stars. Baseball just needs a year or two until the new guys become household names.

—SNIP–

Now, it’s all about RESPECTING THE GAME, MAN! Which is fine. And noble. And a better example for my young son. But still, how can you stand out in 2010′s Look At Me Society when you’re competing with stuff like “Do you realize the Bengals have two wide receivers with their own VH1 reality shows?” and “Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are now shopping their documentary about the 2010 free-agency period?” It’s the Look At Me/Instant Gratification/Twitter/Snooki/Lady Gaga generation … and poor baseball fits in about as well as Bud Selig at a Drake concert.

I think baseball probably is better off because of this. It’s different. It’s not full of preening primadonnas.

—SNIP—

THE TIME OF THE GAMES: 55 PERCENT

Here we go. “The largest reason why baseball is boring and that less people watch the Red Sox on NESN how long the games take. There needs to be some place where journalists and people complaining about baseball can just copy and paste a few paragraphs about how baseball games take a long time.

The biggie. The hammer. The killer.

There are two separate issues here. The first: Nobody wants to spend 3½ hours watching anything on television. Not even porn. The second: It’s not that fun to spend 30-45 minutes driving to a game, paying for parking, parking, waiting in line to get in, finding your seat … and then, spend the next three-plus hours watching people play baseball … and then, leave, find your car and drive home. That’s potentially a five-hour commitment. Ludicrous.

This is the dumbest argument ever, and everyone who wants to bash on baseball makes it. Football games take just as long…and there’s less action. Also, it’s not like you’re magically transported straight from your couch to your seats for any other sport. And football on TV is atrocious. The amount of commercials are ridiculous.

By the way, have you ever looked around during a baseball game these days? It’s 35,000 people texting or writing/reading e-mails while they wait for something to happen. BlackBerrys and cell phones were either the best or the worst thing that ever happened to baseball. I can’t decide. When an incoming text is more exciting than a baseball at-bat, something has gone horribly wrong.

Here is another “fact” made up by Simmons. I’ve been to two different baseball games in two different cities in the past week. I didn’t see anyone in my section at either game with a cell phone out. I mean, I’m sure there were people at the game on their phones, but it happens at every sporting event.

—SNIP— (Bill gives some average time of game numbers here, etc. Yep, games are longer than they were in 1975.)

What a nightmare. I’m the same guy who once created the 150-Minute Rule for all movies, sporting events, concerts, even sex — if you edge past 150 minutes for anything, you better have a really good reason.

See! Baseball is breaking an iron-clad rule that’s been followed for centuries ever since Simmons created it a couple of years ago. Really, Bill Simmons doesn’t like things longer than 150 minutes. Therefore, anything that goes longer is bad.

The 2010 Boston Red Sox have played one game in four months that ended in less than 150 minutes.

I’ll write that again: The 2010 Boston Red Sox have played one game in four months that ended in less than 150 minutes.

Thanks for repeating. We all know that the Red Sox have been breaking your arbitrary rule. What an egotistical douche.

—SNIP—

1. We need to dump the DH. Like, right now. It’s stupid, anyway.

Don’t understand how the DH makes baseball boring. Do you like watching bunts and awkward strikeouts better than professional hitters? I mean, I also see the argument for not having the DH, and I’m fine with it. I do like the NL game, but it has nothing to do with speeding up the game.

2. We’re only a few other tweaks away from getting these games to a manageable time. What about giving managers six timeouts during a game in which they can cross the baseline, and that’s it?

Dumb. Sometimes pitchers get shellacked, but even then, managers rarely come out six times a game.

What about a 15-second pitch-clock?

This is so incredibly stupid I almost can’t handle it. Rick Reilly, Simmons hated enemy and my nemesis, brought this up. Did you guys exchange notes during the epic Bill Simmons-Rick Reilly feud? Anyway, as I said, Reilly brought up this exact point,  so you know it’s dumb. Go here to see it and my rebuttal.

What about giving hitters three seconds to leave the batter’s box, or it’s another strike? (Unless you’ve tipped a ball off your foot, caught something in your eye or desperately need to adjust your boys.)

Eh. OK. I’ll compromise.

What about two minutes between half-innings for commercials, then the next hitter has to be standing in the batter’s box at 2:01?

Go talk to your beloved NFL about commercials before you start complaining about them in baseball.

—SNIP—

The most damning fact about these interminably long games? They pushed some die-hard fans toward English Premier League and World Cup games mainly because we knew those games would end in less than two hours. (Yes, you’re reading one of them.)

Yes, you’re reading the one. Baseball fans leaving baseball for soccer in droves did not happen. Simmons and Jack-O and House, and whatever other friend that we’re supposed to want to love and emulate probably had some absolutely hilarious little email chain about this, therefore it was a thing. A nationwide phenomenon.

Sure, soccer gained some popularity thanks to the World Cup, good for them. But I highly doubt that guys who watched baseball before the World Cup have turned baseball off and are now following “transfer” season in the English Premier League. Seriously, it’s not even the season yet.

Like you, I have a lot of crap going on. I have a job (no, really, they pay me for this), I have a wife, I have kids, I have a bunch of things I like to watch at night. Slogging through a 3-hour, 45-minute anything just isn’t entertaining. We have too many choices in 2010. That, over anything else, is why those NESN ratings dropped in 2010.

First of all, every sport takes about three hours, I don’t get the venom for baseball. Well, I do, it’s because the Sox aren’t good this year.

The big question? Will Bud Selig do something about it?

He should do nothing. Most games are actually not all that long. As Simmons even noted, NL games are on average pretty short. It’s really the Yankees and Red Sox games that are long. That’s because they’re huge market teams with a ton of fans (yes, real ones like you and fahking Murph, Simmons. The one’s who remembah Pudge’s hahmmah. Whatever. It’s also because the of the dreaded bandwagon fans, you know, the ones who pump money into the team.) and that brings more advertising and commercials.

He’s the same guy who apparently enjoys this big-market/small-market dichotomy.

The big market/small market thing will not change. Do you think the owners will go for it? Never. Further, this has been beaten to death, and it’s just not a valid argument. Not after the Marlins, Twins, Tampa Bay, Oakland, et al have had success in the last 15 years.

He’s the same guy who looked the other way as his players were growing 26-inch biceps and second jaws.

Yep. Selig and everyone else…David Stern, Paul Tagliabue.

He’s the same guy who doesn’t seem to care that every World Series game ends past the bedtimes of his future paying customers, or that his fans are paying triple figures for all-you-can-watch baseball packages that somehow get blacked out on Saturday afternoons, or that baseball is the only professional sport that doesn’t allow YouTube clips (because God forbid people would want to celebrate the game). So I’m dubious.

Yeah, the YouTube clip blackout is stupid. I’m with ya on this one, Simmons. But the NFL’s blackout policies are just as stringent, and perhaps more so, as the MLB’s.

I do think Selig cares a little;

Of course he cares. Say what you want about Selig (a lot of it would be true), but the guy cares. He just goes about things in the wrong way, often.

if he didn’t, baseball wouldn’t have made such a concerted effort to reduce prices for families. Three facts since the economy went south: 87 percent of MLB clubs now offer tickets for $10 or less; 80 percent of MLB clubs now offer price reductions on merchandise and concessions; and 57 percent of the clubs now offer tickets for $5.50 or less on a regular basis. Team Selig has done a terrific job of keeping fans coming to ballparks.

These are all good things. I’m confused. What’s going on here.

Now it should start worrying about keeping them awake.

And there you have it. 6,000 words later, Simmons’ argument boils down to games being too long and ending too late. (And he lives in the West Coast every game is over by like 10:30.) Maybe he just doesn’t like baseball…which is fine, but don’t go trying to change the game just because you don’t like it. The real reason that Red Sox ratings are down is because they’re in third place. They’ll pick up at some point. It’s certainly not worth changing rules over.

Maybe after all those years of suffering as a Boston fan, and then this glut of success, and now a couple of subpar season, some Red Sox fans are realizing that they liked the distinction of being long-suffering fans more than they liked the sport.

Who knows. One thing I do know is that Bill Simmons is the boring one here. His “arguments” and “facts” are nothing more than: “according to that rule that my buddies and I created while we were ogling strippers in Vegas during out third annual Fantasy Draft, which is also the time we were all telling that hilarious joke about Tedy Bruschi, well that rule says this. Therefore baseball is boring.” Or X is Y. Doesn’t have to be baseball. It’s all the same these days.

Simmons is on auto-pilot. All the mailbags are a bunch of frat-boys from New England trying to sound like Simmons, with your token woman e-mailer to make Simmons feel good because some women like him.

His columns now are all about Kobe being (reluctantly) awesome, but not as great as Jordan, and, oh, have you bought my enormous book on basketball?

It’s sad really. It’s probably a blend of laziness, hubris, and being bored himself, but Bill Simmons is boring. I know this because my toddler son and I did some scientific research. Here’s why Simmons is boring: 10 percent, he’s bored himself; 10 percent, he’s running out of ideas and can only  compare shit to Shawshank Redemption so many times; 80 percent, hubris. Bill’s let the success go to his head. “I think the Red Sox and baseball are boring, and look, TV ratings are down. Let us fix this egregious problem that causes me not to be completely satisfied.”

It’s boring. Same old schtick. Same old formula. Same made up rules and facts that we’re supposed to believe have any sort of bearing on reality, let alone have any real meaning to the game of baseball. That’s boring. Simmons is boring. Not baseball.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2010 3:28 pm

    While I do agree with you that Simmons’ writing has been slipping the past few years, really who in the mainstream media replaces him atop the Entertaining Sport Columnist list? I can’t think of any other columnist I more look forward to reading?

  2. Tom permalink
    August 5, 2010 1:00 pm

    Thank you for writing this. Simmons has become insufferable with his egotistical, monomaniacal attitude. I shouldn’t complain because he was great (and most NBA stuff still is) for a while, but other than things you mentioned, I can’t stand when he quotes his tweets in his columns. They’re not funny (and he’s not a comedian, though he doesn’t know it) and they never add anything to his point. He’s just saying “Here, look at this thing I wrote the other day, it proves the point I am trying to make.”

  3. Jacques Strappe permalink
    August 6, 2010 12:54 am

    “Also, LeBron is now universally regarded as a jackass.”

    Except to the people who will continue to buy his jersey, buy his shoes, buy tickets to his games, watch him on TV when they don’t normally watch basketball, etc. That’ll be a big enough crowd to exclude using the word “universally.” Hell, even Barry Bonds and Kobe Bryant were never “universally” reviled, but they were far closer to it at their low point than LeBron is now.

    I know that really had nothing to do with the point of your post, but since everything else you said was pretty much bang on it was the only part I could nitpick. ;p

    • Tapps permalink*
      August 6, 2010 8:35 am

      Ha! Thanks for picking nits! Really, keeps me honest….about Cameron below, yeah, in a post a few months ago, I wrote that Cameron was probably slightly worse than Bay, but oh so much cheaper, and not really. Turns out they’re both really bad this year.

  4. Jacques Strappe permalink
    August 6, 2010 1:22 am

    I guess I could point out that Bay had a better OPS+ than Cameron, but Cameron’s cheaper which was the point and they’re both injured now anyways so who cares.

  5. Jay permalink
    August 7, 2010 4:18 pm

    Yes, someone needs to get this guy. I think the first time I can remember noticing him was an article comparing the three karate kids, and I remember enjoying it. The context made it even better, appearing on Espn, few niches of the media take themselves as seriously as the sports media. Few niches (other than the political) of the media focus on such unimportant BS, court politics, manufactured storylines and everything else. And the sports media can be the most moralizing and self-righteous of any of them. So someone comparing the three karate kids the way he did was almost subversive.

    However, he is around the bend now. Any doubts you may have had should have been vanguished this week with his fix fantasy sports column.

    First he admonishes others not to bore him with their fantasy stories. Ok, Simmons. You mean like how you constantly tell fantasy stories (including in this same column), conversations with your douchebag friends and family members? Or your buddy trips to Vegas?

    He goes on an extended, sexist, grumpy old man rant about women participating in fantasy sports.

    He promotes his buddy Adam Corrolla’s new book.

    He mentions that a rich friend of his (probably Kimmel?) lost a million dollars betting on fantasy sports because of on one play. Could he be anymore tone-deaf? Recession, foreclosures, unemployment, declining incomes, state government’s going broke… Simmons is talking about his rich buddies pissing away more money in a betting pool than many of his readers will see cumulatively in the next 20 years, if not longer.

    Finally, he demonstrates just how egotistical he has become – asking someone to shoot him in the head if he is still writing his national column published by the biggest player in the sports media. Because Simmons is so much more than that now… he should be hosting a talk show opposite Leno in ten years!

    Fuck this guy.

    • Tapps permalink*
      August 7, 2010 4:36 pm

      Ugh. Yeah, I’ve thought about clicking on it a couple times now and just can’t bring myself to do it. That sounds awful.

      Like really really awful. I just looked at your comment again, and it actually made me mad.

      My how the mighty have fallen (or risen so high that they suck).

      • Jay permalink
        August 7, 2010 8:07 pm

        muhahahaha!

        I hate the last trend for about 656 reasons, but mainly this one: If you asked any guy in 2000 what stereotypical things were unique to us — things we had for ourselves, partly because we liked them and partly because guys just need to do things with other guys sometimes, and that’s just the way it is — they may have mentioned sports, fantasy, strip joints, Vegas, bad action movies, golf trips, urinals and/or long car trips in which one person keeps farting and bumming out everyone else in the car while laughing hysterically. That was the top-eight “Just F—ing Let Us Be Cavemen For Old Times’ Sake” list in some order.

        Well, this turned out to be the decade when we lost Vegas — you’re just as likely to see flocks of female friends moving in packs now, only they’re drunker, louder and clumsier — and lost exclusivity over the fantasy domain as well. Pretty soon, we’re only going to have golf, farting and urinals. (Note: That easily could have been the title for Adam Carolla’s upcoming book; he went with “In Fifty Years, We’ll All Be Chicks” instead.) I just wish we had better delineation. If women want to play fantasy football, fine. Just start your own leagues. Give us that one day or night when we sit around a table for five hours, fart, burp, drink, eat gross food, bust balls and say inappropriate things. Let us give our teams names like “Premature Pitinos” without wondering if we might offend you. Give us four months of e-mail chains in which we rip on each other — and occasionally flip out and get pissed off — without worrying about offending the opposite sex. I swear, we don’t ask for much. And don’t turn it into a freaking discrimination thing. This isn’t discrimination. Not letting you play at Augusta — that’s discrimination. Nobody said you couldn’t start your own league. Knock yourselves out. But let us breathe. Let us bond. Let us have our all-male leagues without giving us crap about it. For the love of God. Or else in 50 years we WILL all be chicks.

        The growing number of fantasy owners also led to another growing number: People who wantonly ignore the memo that “Hey, dicko, the only person interested in the day-to-day goings-on of your fantasy football team is the person who owns that team.”

        Here’s the definition of a boring fantasy story that should conclude with the person being tasered for telling it: “I lost by three points last week. Craziest story — I went into Monday night knowing I needed 11 points from Gates. He has 65 yards with two minutes to go. San Diego is on the 4-yard line, they throw it to him over the middle … TACKLED ON THE 1! Can you believe that?”

        Here’s when I zoned out: right after “I lost by three points last week.”

        (Yes, I know someone who lost a million dollars because of that play.)

        It’s an idea for 2020. Remind me when we get there. Actually, if I’m still writing this column in 2020, shoot me in the forehead.

  6. August 27, 2010 11:27 pm

    Funny that you mentioned Anselm, as Mail Bags are sort of the ontological proof of Simmons’ ‘perfection.’

  7. Pat permalink
    June 23, 2013 11:51 am

    As I was reading this it became obvious that the author was just a pissed off Red Sox fan who was mad at Simmons (still the best sports writer in the country) for being hard on his team. You are a bandwagon reader, you loved Simmons because he was a fan of all your local teams, but as soon as he says something “bad” (although completely true) you jump ship and cry about it. It is people like you that give everyone else in the country the idea that Boston fans are arrogant pieces of nothing.

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