kottke.org posts about Joe Posnanski

What if baseball moved to a 16-game season?Nov 04 2013

Joe Posnanski thinks about how baseball would change if MLB moved to a 16-game schedule like the the NFL. I love stuff like this.

4. Baseball would become dramatically more violent.

I'm not 100% certain of this, of course. But I am probably 75% certain. Right now, we don't tend to think of baseball as a contact sport. There IS contact -- plays at the plate, double-play meetings at second base, the occasional hit-by pitch and ensuing bench-clear -- but it's mostly tangential to the game. Football, meanwhile, is violent at its core. Or anyway, that's what we think now.

Except -- baseball was extremely violent in its early days. And I think that if the game was played just once a week, if you faced each team only once or twice a season, if every game was critical, there would be a lot more violence in baseball. Collisions at the plate would be intensified. Nobody would concede the double play without really taking out the fielder. Pitchers would be much more likely to send message pitches. And I think you would probably find violence where there is none right now.

(via mr)

The Big FundamentalJun 03 2013

Lovely piece by Joe Posnanski about Tim Duncan, who at the age of 37 and in his 16th NBA season, finds himself in the Finals again seeking his fifth NBA championship.

Duncan almost certainly would have been the first pick in the draft after his sophomore year, but he came back to Wake Forest. He would have been the first pick in the draft after his junior year, for sure -- and just about everyone thought he would go out -- but once more he went back to Wake Forest to complete his senior year. Odom says that they were in the car after Duncan's junior year and heading to the airport for the Wooden Award ceremony (Duncan did not win it until his senior year). He told Duncan, "You will get a lot of questions there about why you're coming back to Wake Forest."

Duncan, typically, looked out the window and did not say anything.

"No, Tim, this is important," Odom said. "Let's pretend I'm one of those reporters? Was it a hard decision to come back to Wake Forest?"

Duncan kept looking out the window, but he said: "No. It wasn't hard."

Odom: "It wasn't? You didn't agonize over leaving millions of dollars on the table?"

Duncan said: "I didn't agonize. I just thought, why should I try to do today what I will be better prepared to do a year from now."

Odom looked over at the best player he would ever coach, and he wondered: "What kind of college junior thinks like that? Who has that sort of confidence, that sort of patience, that sort of inner peace? And then Duncan said the words that Odom thinks about almost every day."

He said: "You know something coach? The NBA can do a lot for me. It really can. But there's one thing it can't do. The NBA can never make me 20 years old again."

In 2003, Duncan was 27 years old and the MVP of the NBA and the Spurs won their second championship. Ten years later, at 37, his statistics (per 36 minutes) are remarkably similar:

2002-2003: 21.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.7 blocks, 0.6 steals.
2012-2013: 21.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.2 blocks, 0.9 steals.

Which sport's athletes are the best?Jan 30 2013

Sports fans are always looking for new ways to argue about sports. This, from Jeff Ely, is a pretty fun game: which sport's athletes are better at their sport than other athletes are at their sports?

The thought experiment is to compare players across sports. I.e., are basketball players better at basketball than, say, snooker players are at playing snooker?

Unless you count being tall as one of the things NBA basketball players "do" I would say on the contrary that NBA basketball players must be among the worst at what they do in all of professional sports. The reason is simple: because height is so important in basketball, the NBA is drawing the top talent among a highly selected sub-population: those that are exceptionally tall. The skill distribution of the overall population, focusing on those skills that make a great basketball player like coordination, quickness, agility, accuracy; certainly dominate the distribution of the subpopulation from which the NBA draws its players.

Here's Ely's lists of such sports: table tennis, soccer, tennis, golf, and chess. This question is similar to another I asked awhile back: which athlete is better at their sport than almost anyone else is at anything at some point in the past 5-6 years?

Off the top of my head, possible candidates include Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Lindsey Vonn, Tiger Woods, Marta, Shaun White, Jimmie Johnson, and Annika Sörenstam.

There is also Joe Posnanski's question about which athlete you'd choose to play for your soul.

The question Posnanski is essentially asking is: who is the most dominant athlete of all time across any sport? But not quite that question...Babe Ruth was quite the slugger in his day, but he might not fare so well against modern pitching. Same with Wilt, Jim Thorpe, Babe Didrikson, or even Gretzky. The game played is a factor as well. Aside from variants such as speed chess and Chess960, chess is chess and the board is the board...home field, wind, and teammates aren't really a factor. (Is chess a sport though? If so, I might take Kasparov against anyone.)

Love this stuff. (via marginal revolution)

One athlete plays for your soulFeb 07 2012

A fun question from Joe Posnanski: if you had to choose one athlete to play on your behalf for your soul, who would you choose?

So, here's the game: The Jon Lovitz Devil has consigned you to an eternity of being stuck in traffic in a wheezing Ford Escort without air conditioning, and the only radio station plays Michael Bolton 24 hours a day. But you have one chance to escape your fate. You get to choose one athlete, at his or her peak, and one sport. Ever. And if that athlete wins, you get a whole different eternity, with chocolate-covered strawberries, DirecTV and a deck that overlooks the ocean.

Ah, but there is one catch. You get to pick the athlete and sport. But the Jon Lovitz Devil gets to pick the terms.

In other words, you might choose Tiger Woods circa 2000 and golf. That's fine. But the JLD can then choose Ben Hogan and say that the match will be played at Merion with a U.S. Open setup.

You might choose Mike Tyson in his overpowering youth. But the JLD can then choose a young and almost unhittable Ali and a big ring.

You might choose John Elway and one final football drive. But the JLD can then say he has to drive 80 yards in three minutes against the 1985 Chicago Bears defense in the Soldier Field wind.

The question Posnanski is essentially asking is: who is the most dominant athlete of all time across any sport? But not quite that question...Babe Ruth was quite the slugger in his day, but he might not fare so well against modern pitching. Same with Wilt, Jim Thorpe, Babe Didrikson, or even Gretzky. The game played is a factor as well. Aside from variants such as speed chess and Chess960, chess is chess and the board is the board...home field, wind, and teammates aren't really a factor. (Is chess a sport though? If so, I might take Kasparov against anyone.)

But the answer is probably someone not from one of the major sports and certainly not from a team sport. The comments of the article mention wrestler Aleksandr Karelin, wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer, and Secretariat. And I know that there are athletes in other sports who are equally as dominant. Even so, I might go with 2009 World Championships Usain Bolt in the 100 meter dash. He's the fastest ever by a wide margin, he's current, and it's an individual sport. Of course, under the current one-and-done disqualification rules, he might be in trouble. Or if you could choose Jordan specifically playing 1-on-1...he would beat anyone -- Wade, Kobe, LeBron -- on any crappy hoop or shitty playing surface anywhere. (via ★djacobs)

Update: I knew I'd covered some of this same territory before but just couldn't find it. From back in August:

Speaking of sports, Grantland, and Federer, Bill Simmons said of Lionel Messi earlier this year that "he's better at soccer than anyone else is at anything". That's a pretty short list but got me wondering, if you expanded the criteria slightly, who else might join Messi on the "better at their sport than almost anyone else is at anything at some point in the past 5-6 years". Off the top of my head, possible candidates include Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Lindsey Vonn, Tiger Woods, Marta, Shaun White, Jimmie Johnson, and Annika Sörenstam. I don't know much about hockey, but maybe Alex Ovechkin? No basketball, baseball, or football players on that list; Michael Jordan and Barry Bonds are the most recent candidates in basketball and baseball (please, don't give me any of that LeBron crap) and I can't think of any football player over the past 20 years who might fit the bill. Barry Sanders maybe? His team never won a lot of games and didn't win championships, but man he was a genius runner.

I received several suggestions from readers about additions to that list, among them were surfer Kelly Slater, rally driver Sébastien Loeb, motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi, and cricketer Don Bradman.

Tags related to Joe Posnanski:
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