Workmanlike Efforts and Slave Auctions

Justin April 3, 2010 0

Today we start a new weekly feature on the ol’ Crackle. I am a subscriber to Sports Illustrated. I read it religiously, half of the articles on Thursday and half on Friday. You may not be. Perhaps you don’t think its worth the money, or you don’t feel like you have enough time to sit down and read an entire magazine.  I’m here to help.

Every Saturday from now until whenever I stop doing this, SportsCracklePop will feature a complete review of the week’s issue of SI.

I’m starting this week for 2 reasons. The first is that I just had the idea yesterday morning. But more importantly, this week’s issue is the magazine’s annual baseball preview, which is one of my two favorite issues of the year (the other being the NBA preview.)

And so without further ado, let’s review Sports Illustrated: April 5th, 2010

Roy Halladay, Baseball, Philadelphia Phillies

PREGAME:

This is what we will call the section of the magazine which comes before the articles. It includes Letters to the Editor, Leading off, Scorecard, Faces in the Crowd and the Inside.. sections. I don’t think there’s any reason to get into each feature specifically, so we’ll just give a brief overview. That way you know whether or not it’s worth spending any on it.

And this week, I say go ahead and skim. The letters section is short, the pictures in the leading off are somewhat cool and Peter King’s short piece on Roger Goodell is nothing special. This week’s sign of the apocolypse doesn’t make me laugh all that much, and the “They Said It” quote from coach K isn’t worth your trouble. I always enjoy the “Go Figure” sidebar. My favorite number this week is 17 million:1, which are the chances of 2 people in the same foursome acing the same hole during the same round. It happened last week in San Diego.  If you care about Tim Tebow or UFC, there are short mini-articles about both of those.

Dan Patrick is not funny in print. I tend to dislike his page every week, because it’s full of bad joke. This week is a bit different though. The interview with Phil Jackson, transcribed from his radio show, is somewhat enlightening. There are also interesting comments from Bruce Pearl and Caron Butler.

As for the “Inside..” section, I am not totally pleased with the sports selection this week. NBA focuses on rookie point guards, which is interesting, and college hockey provides an interesting look at an undercovered sport. But neither college football nor Nascar are of much interest to me.

ON TO THE ARTICLES:

-Endgame by Tim Layden

Much like the teams in this year’s final four, this article about them lacks anything spectacular, but ultimately gets the job done. Layden profiles the four squads without getting caught up in flowery language or rhetorical flourish. It is also very long. Too long, in my opinion. Instead of providing tradition previews, the sidebars focus on how to beat each of the four teams. I am not a college basketball coach nor do I advise any. Just tell me who is going to win each game. The last sidebar is an article about how Tom Izzo uses computers. Great. I also use a computer.

-What Makes Roy Run by Tom Verducci

This article kicks off the baseball preview section of the magazine. Tom Verducci is usually one of my favorite writers. He is incredibly creative and original and tends to come at stories from very interesting angles. In this profile of Phillies ace Roy Halladay, however, he missed completely. The goal of the piece is to paint Halladay as the rare All Star who works harder than everyone else instead of relying solely on his extraordinary talent. Instead, it makes him seem like a simpleton who’s so mentally maleable that he buys into whatever pitching dogma is placed in front of him at the moment. Also, at this point in my sports journalism consumption, it has become clear to me that every single All Star who will ever be profiled in any major magazine is the an All Star who works harder than everyone else instead of relying solely on his extraordinary talent.  So, it’s not all that rare. Roy Halladay wakes up early to work out? Well, that’s his job. That’s what he’s supposed to do.

-War Stories

I did not live in the deep south in the 1830’s, nor have I ever purchased slaves. However, this article seems to me to be the closest thing to a brochure from a slave auction that I’ve ever seen. It lists players by their relative value at each position. This is the best first baseman for less than a million, this is the best shortstop for between 5 and 7 million bucks, etc. It stops short of including information about strong shoulders or wide hips, but still, sort of a little too slave-y for me.

-The Virtues of Patience by Joe Posnanski

The internet loves Joe Posnanski. I love Joe Posnanski. His piece about the winter meetings in Vegas last year was one of the great magazine articles I’ve ever read. His blog is fantastic.  He allows readers into his life in a way that few other sports writers do.  And herein lies the problem for me as I read this article about players learning how to work the count.  Joe Posnanski is from Kansas City. This article, which mainly focuses on Denard Span, includes quotes from Kansas City Royals pitcher Brian Bannister, who Posnanski consistently calls one of his favorite players ever. It includes a quote from Red Sox special assistant Allard Baird, a former Royals GM with whom Posnanski has said he had a great relationship.  It includes quotes from George Brett, the greatest Royal of all time. Perhaps Joe Posnanski’s transparency with his readers has inadvertently revealed something else about. He didn’t really work too hard on this article, talking mostly to people he would have been talking to anyway.

-Scouting Reports

It makes no sense to go through all 30 of these here, but we can discuss the general format. What I especially like this season is that there’s a one page preview of each division included before the teams are broken down one at a time. It gives a good feel for what led the writers to reach their predictions for the upcoming baseball season.  As for the team-by-team scouting reports, the classic elements are still in place. The lineup and pitching rotations, complete with stats, are easily read. The modest proposal and key stat sections are fine. My only complaint is with the main body of each report. It’s fine to focus on one player as the key to the team’s success, but only if you expand out from that player. In most cases, that works. But, to use the Minnesota Twins as an example, the scouting report sometimes falls short. Orlando Hudson is identified as the Twins’ player to watch. That’s fine. Except, the article focuses so much on him that other players aren’t even mentioned. Namely, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. There’s no Francisco Liriano, no Michael Cuddyer and no Scott Baker.  In other words, none of the Twins best players warrant mention in a preview of their season.

THE VAULT

A Brief excerpt of SI’s 1979 article about the Larry/Magic NCAA tournament final that CHANGED THE ENTIRE WORLD.  Sure, why not?

POINT AFTER by Chris Ballard

Ballard is my favorite of the three SI columnists who rotate on the back page. And he has once again picked an interesting topic. I love the NBA, but even I didn’t realize that Don Nelson is just short of Lenny Wilkens all time record for wins by a coach. My only complaint: Mugsy Bogues’ name is spelled wrong. One G, Chris.

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