Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Gun Lobby = my mind is blown

You've probably heard that a pro-gun pundit, Alex Jones, wants Piers Morgan thrown out of the USA, for committing the unforgivable sin of... advocating gun control. What you probably didn't know, but suspected, is that this guy can go from tepid calm to a Hulk-like rage with frothy, boiling anger, and does so with no prodding whatsoever. You can see that here. (CNN calls it a "debate", but it's really just several minutes of Jones screaming at Morgan.)

In case you're not interested in all of that, though, there's this awesome bit of inadvertent comic gold. Because it's not only Brits who are the enemy. It's also the nerds. Because, y'see, nerds know how to use their brains.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The sad case of Ryan Freel, and what players like Brett Lawrie should learn from it

When I wrote about the Toronto Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie last summer - suggesting that, in cases like his, 'playing hard' could easily be a bad thing - I compared him to Eric Byrnes, a late-peaking player who burned bright for a few years (the 67th most valuable hitter from 2004-2007) before suddenly fizzling. But I might have just as easily compared Lawrie to Ryan Freel.

The 36 year-old Freel, who hadn't played Major League Baseball since 2009, died last week, after shooting himself in the head. According to his family, baseball-related concussions - he suffered somewhere between 10 and 20 of them - were almost certainly to blame. According to his ex-wife,
“I don’t know how many times he would talk about sliding into second or third base and blacking out or seeing stars. I cringed that that’s who he was – all-out, full throttle. It was very hard to watch.”

I've actually known about Ryan Freel since he debuted, given that he came up with the Blue Jays in 2001. It's a somewhat vague memory, at this point, but I remember really liking him - he was small and overly serious. He was also quite good, and Freel's career and performance (the 62nd most valuable hitter from 2004-2006) was shockingly similar to that of Byrnes. And, like Byrnes, a lot of that value came from doing the little things that aren't easily appreciated - running the bases well, stealing bases, playing strong defense.

Freel was not highly-valued or considered to be incredibly talented (unlike Lawrie, in this regard) but was considered hard-nosed and gutsy, sacrificing his body at every turn and chasing after every ball within a couple hundred feet of him. And, like Byrnes, in his early 30s he quickly went from being a tremendously useful, and above-average, everyday player to a poor-hitting scrub. Again, like Byrnes, the injuries eventually became too much to play through, too much of an impediment and detriment.

Freel and Byrne were only useful so long as they could run hard and crash hard - be it into walls, into the stands, into opposing players, or even, occasionally, their own teammates. (A collision with a teammate is often cited as the concussion that finally ended Freel's career.) And when they could no longer do those things, their below-average skills couldn't keep them employed.

Lawrie is a better athlete, and probably a better player, than either Freel or Byrne. But one would hope that players like these can take something away from Freel's story.