March 21, 2013
Byron Scott, Stan Van Gundy, and Expected Wins

Across the course of my entire life, I’ve only been able to convince my dad of one thing when it comes to sports: Byron Scott is not a very good coach. Therefore, after nearly every Cavs’ game, we have some spirited discussion via email that Scott should be fired at the end of the season and replaced by my hero, Stan Van Gundy, who is absolutely brilliant on “The Dan Le Batard Show” every Wednesday.

It’s hard to find public data on coaches. I’m sure teams and gamblers have it, but as far as I know the usual sites only keep track of the basics, like winning percentage. Therefore, I’ve gone on a search to find data to support my belief that Scott is an old school coach who has watched unwittingly as a league and a franchise growing more and more focused on statistics passed him by.

Last night, after the Cavs lost to the Heat, I decided that one possible way to quantify the impact of a coach would be to measure a team’s expected win-loss record (based on point differential) versus its actual win-loss record… my theory being that the gap between the two - whether a team won or lost more games than it “should” have - could be attributed, in part, to coaching.

This afternoon I added up some numbers comparing Scott to Van Gundy. Here’s what I found: 

Counting partial seasons, including the current campaign and the two years in which Scott was fired by the Nets and the Hornets, respectively, his teams have won 2 more games than expected, based on their point differential. 

Counting the partial season in which he was replaced by Pat Riley in Miami, Van Gundy’s teams have lost 9 more games than expected, based on their point differential. 

Hard to say what this proves, if anything. It certainly suggests that Scott’s teams perform better in close games than Van Gundy’s - although how much credit the coach should get for that is debatable. Interestingly enough Rick Carlisle’s teams have won 13 more games than expected over the course of his career in Detroit, Indiana, and Dallas…

For what it’s worth. 

December 6, 2011
The Browns Tell You It’s OK To Suck Forever As Long As You Never Quit

The Browns posted the above article on their Facebook page today. I was going to comment on the post there, but I thought, “What the hell?” why not write a blurb for Mesa instead.

Here then are my thoughts —

LOL at the organization that has gotten knocked down about 42K times since reforming in 1999, only been to the playoffs once, and generally shown little to no improvement from year to year emphasizing “getting up after each fall.” 

Last time I checked, based on the fact that the team is still an operational business that is part of the National Football League they are contractually obligated to “get up after each fall.”

Congratulations, Browns. You were scheduled to play 16 games this year. Therefore, you must “bounce back” against the Steelers.

And don’t worry: No matter what, your fan base will stay loyal.

February 8, 2011
Pause

No Mesa post tonight. Tim and I have been discussing how to proceed, given the lack of relevant conversation starters on the Cleveland sports scene at the moment. We seem torn between a new post-when-it’s-called-for schedule or a complete overhaul that incorporates a fresh, high concept idea. 

Tim or I will update with more information ASAP. 

Thanks, as always, for caring. 

Mike.

On Speculation

Yesterday, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote a column in which he made out offseason report cards for every team in the AL Central. The Indians placed last in Crasnick’s list, with a ‘D’ grade. His reasoning was simple: Chris Antonetti made no moves other than signing Austin Kearns—not exactly an impact contract—whereas every other team in the division made at least one banner-headline trade or signing.

These grades are the sports journalism equivalent of white bread—completely empty calories that satisfy hunger for only the minimum possible time period.

And yet, I can’t even be upset about them because I am one of the hordes of people who is demanding to be fed at staggering pace.

Let me explain.

With rare exceptions, writers making grandiose statements about the future of entire teams based on current moves (or lack thereof) are all but useless. Yes, occasionally, someone like Peter King will correctly predict the Super Bowl match-up in the pre-season, but for every one of those hits there is a colossal collection of misses.

For another quick home-town example, consider that Mel Kiper Jr did a column a few weeks ago in which he regraded every NFL team’s 2010 draft. In that column, most teams’ choices ended up looking considerably better or much worse to Kiper after the rookies in question actually played a full season than they did when they’d just put on a hat with their new team’s logo. (The Browns, for instance, were raised from a C to a B+.)

This shouldn’t be surprising, with hindsight being 20/20 and all that. Almost inevitably, the writers who compile these columns will admit that they’re barely ever right. (King, to his credit, has repeatedly made the point that his correct Super Bowl prediction was possibly a once-in-a-career anomaly.) In many cases the preseason picks become recurring sources of good-natured ridicule among writers’ colleagues and fans.

All of this begs the question: Why do they write these columns in the first place?

Easy: because there’s demand for information, and the writers have to fill space.

When tasked with writing about sports in a dead zone like the MLB offseason, you’re forced to manufacture stories. Aside from minor deals like Vlad Guerrero signing with the Orioles last week, the “breaking news” portion of MLB offseason activity is over. Spring training hasn’t started yet. And it’ll take til at least July before anyone really has any idea which teams are legitimately good and which aren’t. 

As Mike noted yesterday, this is true of a certain period in all sports. Right now is almost indisputably the worst segment of the sports calendar year. The only major league working is the NBA, and they haven’t even entered into the stretch playoff run yet. (Not that it will make much of a difference if you’re a Cavs fan.)

This entire situation is made worse by the fact that there’s a high probability that both the NFL and NBA will go through lock-outs in 2011. If that happens, we’re all going to be seeing speculative sports journalism taken to a whole new level between now and 2012.

I don’t begrudge any writers this—it’s the machine that we as sports fans/consumers have created. Every day we log onto various sites demanding new information to help us whittle away time. The writers need to say SOMETHING, so they create predictions, then re-evaluate those predictions mid-season, then re-re-evaluate them at the end of the season. If they don’t, websites go dead, TV shows go dark, and people lose jobs. It’s self-preservation, really.

In fact, this post itself is a perfect example. What the hell is going on in the world of Cleveland sports that REALLY needs to be discussed right now? Not much, as far as I can tell. And based on his comments from yesterday, Mike agrees with me. So for the purpose of creating a post, I dug out an article about the Tribe just so I could spend time writing about how useless the article was because, in theory, there are people who are going to come to this website at some point today looking for content. Ironic, right?

It will be an interesting experiment to see if there’s actually a lower quantity of sports news out there if a double-lock-out happens. My guess is that there won’t be. There’s too much demand for information, at least from the major providers, for them to just allow the cycle to lapse. So my guess is we’re all going to have to get used to the idea that a greater and greater quantity of the stories available to readers will be based on rumors and predictions rather than actual facts or performance. And I as a writer am going to have to get used to the idea that the same will be true of the “stories” I generate.

In short, Jerry Crasnick, I ain’t mad at you. We’re all playing the same game.

-T

February 7, 2011
What Does It All Mean?

This past week we saw the Cavaliers lose their record 24th straight game…

We saw the Orlando Magic lose to the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat… 

And we just saw the Pittsburgh Steelers lose Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers. 

What does it all mean? 

I honestly have very little idea. 

(When was the last time you saw a sports columnist admit that?)

Truth be told, my interest in professional sports is sagging. This is natural. Like all of us, I only have a limited amount of free time. The Cleveland teams - those that my dad raised me on, and that became something for me, him, and my brother to bond over once we became adults - are, at the moment, uninteresting.

The Browns’ season is over. I’m not going to analyze the draft. The Cavs are pathetic enough that I’m considering writing a new post every day on how awful Antawn Jamison is at defense. Free agency, for the Indians, is non-existent. Spring training is not that far off … and also not that compelling. 

The Browns, the Cavs, and the Indians have always been my gateway to the rest of the NFL, NBA, and MLB, respectively. Therefore, I haven’t been following the leagues in general very closely. So I’m not comfortable writing posts about why LeBron’s advanced stats are down this year, or, theoretically, why I think Aaron Rodgers is a better quarterback than Ben Roethlisberger. 

When we started this website, our intention was to supply fans of Cleveland sports with an outsider’s perspective, one that wasn’t hopelessly tied to a “woe is me” attitude. We all like to feel special. Making yourself out to be the king of losing is one way to do that. Clevelanders, in my opinion, do this spectacularly. 

It does not make me fond of them. 

Not “them” per se, but rather, their pervading attitude. At Mesa, we’ve tried to be realists since the beginning. I think we’ve done that. Has it mattered? I don’t know. Have we made an impact?

As much as I’d like to say otherwise, I don’t think we have. 

Why is this? 

Realism isn’t commercially appealing. I know this because I work in the movie business. Narratives that sell to mass audiences aren’t based on what we know is true but rather on what we want to believe is true (and I’m paraphrasing William Goldman when I say that). Moreover, these stories need to be wrapped in tight little packages with just enough of a twist so that they feel different - but can still be consumed in a familiar fashion. 

What I’m saying, essentially, in this admittedly somewhat rambling post, is that Mesa is an indie movie screening for a city full of people who were hoping to see TRANSFORMERS 3. 

What does it all mean? 

I have a few ideas … but if anyone else is out there, I’d be curious to hear what you think.