Happy Thanksgiving from ALDLAND


Happy Thanksgiving, ALDLAND readers. Without presuming that you need any help entertaining yourselves today, here are a few suggestions to enhance your holiday festivities:

We are thankful for everyone– over six thousand of you in 2015 alone– who stumbled by this virtual space in the past year. Have a wonderful day, and get off the dang computer!

The Braves are failing on their own terms


It’s no mystery that I’m not crazy about the business decisions made by the Atlanta Braves’ leadership in the last few years. When I arrived in Atlanta, the Braves were a playoff team. Three years later, they’re a fourth-place team in their own division, nearly unrecognizable both in terms of record and roster. So many familiar faces are gone (only five players on Atlanta’s 2013 40-man roster remain, and the best of that bunch, Freddie Freeman, is the subject of daily trade rumors, while three of them might not belong on any major-league roster), and the team’s new, suburban stadium project, which was wrong-headed from day one, isn’t looking any better at last check.

I’m willing to concede that reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of the Braves’ recent management decisions, though. The problem for proponents of the Braves’ plan to put a winner on the new field in 2017, all other attendant circumstances be damned, however, is that they aren’t even doing that right:

The Braves are set to move into a new, publicly funded stadium in Cobb County in 2017, and even if the rebuild goes smoothly, they seem unlikely to be in a position to win by then. There’s an unwritten rule to the art of stadium-building that says if you’re going to use the public’s money to fund shiny new digs (and you bet the Braves are), you at least have to make a good-faith effort to put a solid product on the field. The Braves are trending in the opposite direction, cutting payroll and trading off cornerstone players while construction crews are turning the $672 million SunTrust Park from blueprint to reality.

On average, a team’s payroll increased 21 percent the year it moved into a new stadium, and it jumped a staggering 57 percent during the four-year span prior to Opening Day in the new park—there’s some plain ol’ inflation mixed in there, but much of the increase is due to owners willing to shell out big contracts in exchange for the discount on a franchise-altering stadium deal.

It typically costs money to build winning baseball teams, and spend money is what teams usually do when they want to have a winning team playing its home games in their new stadium. Atlanta, by contrast, has been reducing payroll in all of its recent transactions. In other words, they aren’t doing the thing other teams do when they’re doing the thing the Braves say they’re doing.


New Braves stadium project continues to falter
Georgia Supreme Court Upholds Cobb’s Braves Stadium Bond Deal
Braves Break Ground on Baseball Boondoggle
The yard sale at Upton Abbey continues
From Barves to Burbs: What’s happening to baseball in Atlanta?

Lose money playing DraftKings or FanDuel? File a lawsuit.

Want to skip the silly personal story and get to the details? Click here.

Back in April, I deposited $10 into a new DraftKings account. I already knew I wasn’t good at sports gambling, as my record on free wagering games like ESPN’s Streak for the Cash attests, but I gave the money to DraftKings because it got me a year’s subscription to BaseballProspectus.com, something that ordinarily costs $30. I’d already won!

Having secured the benefit of my bargain, I decided to try to win my money back (in reality, a windfall) by playing some DraftKings baseball contests. I needed to turn my $10 into at least $20, that being the site’s minimum cash-out amount. (So risk-adverse am I, I didn’t want to try depositing an additional $10 to see if that would do the trick.)

Early results, like my undisciplined “strategy,” were mixed, but mostly negative, as you know because I did not appear on any commercials this fall holding a Publishers Clearing House check.

In August, FanGraphs began hosting something called SaberSim, a daily analysis of all baseball players driven by matchups and sabermetrics, all stated in terms of projected value based on the way DraftKings and FanDuel each award fantasy points. I decided to use the remainder of the MLB season to put SaberSim to the test. I’d strictly adhere to its optimized lineup, even if its counsel conflicted with my (demonstrably feeble) intuition.

Early results under the SaberSim test remained mixed but were far more positive than before. I soon climbed close– so close!– to that $20 mark. DraftKings’ transaction history log makes it difficult to track these things with precision, but at one point in late August I hit $19.40 (or so). I had one month of regular-season MLB games left to earn less than $1. I did not achieve my revised goal.

After reaching that high-water mark, results, while still mixed, turned decidedly negative, and I finished the season with $0.80, too little to enter another contest without depositing more money, something I have no intention of doing.

When I discovered SaberSim, I had visions of writing a fun post here on how best to use the new tool to make a little money in daily fantasy sports. Instead, all you get is this piddling tale.

Something you also get is a link to my latest post at TechGraphs, an overview of two new lawsuits filed against DraftKings and FanDuel by a person who lost money on both sites.

The full post is available here.

On a Northbound Train: ALDLAND Goes Live to Green Bay for Lions-Packers

The Detroit Lions currently own the longest road losing streak by any team against a single opponent in NFL history, having lost twenty-four games across twenty-three years to the Packers in Green Bay. That streak is on the line again this Sunday, when the Lions play at Lambeau Field, and we will be on the ground to take in the full experience.

Breaking this losing streak will be an uphill climb for these Lions. Their 1-7 record obviously compares unfavorably to the Packers’ 6-2 mark, and there is little reason to believe those records significantly misrepresent the true talent of these teams, at least in a comparative sense.

Still, there are reasons for the Honolulu blue crew to be hopeful this week. The Packers, after starting 5-0, have lost two straight games, both away, dropping their road record this season to 2-2. Their home in Lambeau is the NFL’s original Frozen Tundra, but this November Sunday is shaping up to be a balmy one by Upper Midwestern standards, at least reminiscent of Denver and Carolina’s outdoor stadia, where the Packers just lost, if not quite the Lions’ current temperature-controlled den.

The Packers do have weaknesses. For example, no NFL team has a worse three-and-out rate in 2015, something that should offer the Detroit defense an opportunity to slow down Aaron Rodgers & co. And Rodgers’ company is in flux this season. Top receiver Jordy Nelson is out for the year due to a preseason injury, and Green Bay has yet to find consistency in the run game. This week, they demoted starter Eddie Lacy in favor of his backup, James Starks, although indications are that both backs will see action Sunday. On defense, the Packers’ recent losses also have some believing that the team is susceptible to a deep passing attack.

With an offense that continues to feature Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, a deep passing attack is exactly what the Lions should be emphasizing. Following the major shakeups in the coaching staff and front office in the last two weeks, it looks like this is precisely Detroit’s plan. New offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has been playing to his side’s strengths so far, and while Johnson has been limited in practice this week due to an ankle injury, there’s no indication that he’ll be unavailable Sunday.

On paper, things don’t look too good for the Lions this week, but then again, they almost never have. And besides, this game will be played on a not-so-chilly patch of Wisconsin greengrass, not paper. Anything could happen. We’ll be there to watch what happens happen. If you won’t, keep it tuned here and on twitter (@ALDLANDia) for crucial updates live from Green Bay.

Aftershocks: What is Matthew Stafford’s future with the reorganizing Lions?

marthaOne week after Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell elevated Jim Bob Cooter to offensive coordinator, dispatching former OC Joe Lombardi in the process, team owner Martha Ford brought the real thunder yesterday, terminating general manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand. Other front-office employees may have been fired as well, but available reports have been unclear on further details.

This is precisely the move the Lions needed to make, and while it probably should have happened years ago, Martha Ford has signaled that, under her watch, her family no longer is willing to accept losing and will take an active approach to building a winner. The biggest question now is how the team will go about hiring its new GM, and the experts already are suggesting possible successors.

A more concerning question arose amidst the breaking Mayhew/Lewand news, however, when a reporter covering that story stated that Matthew Stafford’s future with the Lions after the current season “is very much in doubt.” That reporter attempted to elaborate later in the day with remarks that seemed to lack internal logic, claiming, on one hand, that Stafford wasn’t smart enough to understand Lombardi’s offense, while observing, on the other, that he would be one of the top free-agent quarterbacks ever if Detroit released him. Is Stafford good or bad, Mr. Rapoport? Stafford’s teammates have aggressively bitten back against this new narrative, but the initial report gives credence to some recent rumblings about the quarterback’s future in Detroit. Would the Lions really trade or release Stafford? Should they?

This at least appears to be the dawning of a new era for the Lions, so it’s too early to know what options actually will be on the table for the team’s new GM. It is clear, though, that trading or releasing Stafford should not be one of them.    Continue reading

2015 College Football Playoff: Opening Rankings and Conflict Conflicts

Last night, for the first time in the 2015 season, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee released its rankings. The Committee ranks twenty-five teams, and their top ten teams are shown in the images below.

These initial rankings offer plenty to critique about the Committee’s decisions this week and its process in general. Continue reading

Reading the Richter Scale: Week Nine


After entering yet another season with high hopes, the Georgia Bulldogs have limped to a 5-3 start, with all three losses coming against SEC opponents. Like last year, they lost their star running back to serious injury and Florida embarrassed them in Jacksonville. Matching last year’s 10-3 record will require the Dawgs to win out– they’ve already equaled 2014’s loss total. With remaining games against Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia Southern, and Georgia Tech, as well as a presumptive bowl opponent, that’s not an impossible task, but without Nick Chubb or any coherence at quarterback, it is far from guaranteed, especially without a bailout defense. In terms of end-of-season incentives, that bowl-game appearance is all the team has to play for, though, the Florida loss having eliminated UGA from contention for the SEC championship. Before the season started, Georgia’s representation of the SEC East in that game was a foregone conclusion.

Now, a groundswell seems to be building against Richt, with demands for a change coming from across the spectrum: Finebaum callers, the beat writers, and “major” boosters. It’s the last group that really moves the meter in situations like these. Richt is under contract through 2018 thanks to an extension he signed in January. If the school wants him gone before then, a buyout, likely funded with booster money, would be necessary.   Continue reading

The Ghost of Grantland Past


ESPN reports:

Effective immediately we are suspending the publication of Grantland.  After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise.

Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun.  We are grateful to those who made it so.  Bill Simmons was passionately committed to the site and proved to be an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent.  Thanks to all the other writers, editors and staff who worked very hard to create content with an identifiable sensibility and consistent intelligence and quality. We also extend our thanks to Chris Connelly who stepped in to help us maintain the site these past five months as he returns to his prior role.

Despite this change, the legacy of smart long-form sports story-telling and innovative short form video content will continue, finding a home on many of our other ESPN platforms.

Certainly not the Halloween surprise anyone who has enjoyed the talented collection of writing, podcasting, and video production that site has produced since it launched in 2011 wanted to see.

Johnny Cueto vs. Daniel Murphy: World Series, Game 2

Last night, Johnny Cueto returned to the confident, successful form the Kansas City Royals expected when they traded for him earlier this season, allowing just one run and two hits (both soft singles by Lucas Duda) in the course of completing a 122-pitch complete game victory.

Early on, home-plate umpire Mark Carlson seemed to be calling a fairly large strike zone, which appeared to tighten as the game progressed. No Mets hitter looked to be more frustrated by Carlson’s calls than the suddenly homer-starved Daniel Murphy, who struck out twice and walked twice, failing to register a hit (or put the ball in play) for the first time this postseason.

What follows is a quick look at each of Murphy’s four plate appearances last night, with the goal of determining whether he or Cueto received any benefit from Carlson’s as-called strike zone.   Continue reading

MLB fan safety lawsuit update

The latest on Payne v. MLB, about which I previously wrote, is the subject of my most recent post at TechGraphs. The league has moved to dismiss the lawsuit, which seeks increased safety netting at ballparks. Separately, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has made public comments on the subject that suggest that changes may be coming next season.

The full post is available here.