RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Friday (Britt McHenry and the always-rolling camera) edition: Wha' Happened

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 17th at 10:47am 300285201

policeThursday’s big story involved footage of a woman used to being on camera — ESPN reporter Britt McHenry — having those very devices work against her. Cameras caught footage from a confrontation with a woman working for a towing company after McHenry’s vehicle was towed. Among the printable things McHenry said to her:

So I could be a college dropout and do the same thing?

and

Lose some weight, baby girl.

It was like a script from Mean Girls 2. It cost McHenry a one-week suspension, while the story earned Deadspin more than a million page views (language warning on that link, which has the video).

It also opens up a lot of questions to think about.

Without a video, this incident isn’t a story. If this video captures someone who isn’t in the public sphere berating an employee, it isn’t a story. But the combination of the video and the public figure turns a private situation not related to McHenry’s job into a story that impacts her career.

This is the confluence of two very powerful things: our move toward greater transparency, whereby surveillance video is everywhere and pretty much anyone with a phone can shoot video; and a society eager to shame wrongdoers.

The notion of whether we act as the best version of ourselves when we know we are being (or could be) watched, or whether we act tentatively and are afraid to be ourselves is one that has been explored in literature and pop culture countless times (including David Eggers’ recent work, “The Circle,” which is particularly relevant to the McHenry incident and in 2015 in general).

We’ve all behaved badly to varying degrees, whether it’s something as innocuous as sneaking through a red light at 2 a.m. when there’s not another car in sight or something more serious. Part of me wonders if we’re so eager to shame others because in the backs of our minds we’re secretly thankful we weren’t the ones caught.

Maybe the McHenry incident is different because 1) she looked at the camera at one point and clearly knew she was being recorded but still continued with her awful ranting and 2) the nature of her words was so particularly ugly that she loses any benefit of the doubt. Nobody should act that way, publicly or privately, and if that’s the attitude and mindset she carries through life it clearly needs an adjustment.

Should it affect her job, though? That’s still an interesting question. While personally humbling/humiliating to behave that way, and indirectly damaging to the ESPN brand, the incident was in no way work related and in no way is related to job performance.

It’s safe to say a lot of people more famous than McHenry have done far worse and simply haven’t been caught. Maybe it’s good that she was. Maybe we will welcome a day in the future when every move everyone makes is recorded and able to be judged. Or maybe we should be careful what we wish for and careful how harshly we judge.

TFD: Two Knicks fans get $600 in free food on Fan Appreciation Night

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 16th at 5:59pm 300184541

The Knicks gave free food to fans who had to endure their terrible season. Two SB Nation writers took full advantage with a hilarious account that included this conclusion:

Like the opponents who crushed the stripped-down Knicks this season, we tramped over ground that mustered no defense. As the Knicks lost by design for the 65th time this year, their home did the equivalent with its foods, thereby denying us the glory of revolution, if not the pleasure.

One cannot conquer the adversary who invites conquering. All one can do is delight in its snacks.

Please do read their full adventure here.

Adrian Peterson reinstated; should the Vikings want him back?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 18th at 1:37am 300146081

tobypetersonAdrian Peterson’s reinstatement by the NFL, assumed to be a formality, has become a reality. He was eligible to be reinstated Wednesday; the team announced it received word Thursday that he has, in fact, been reinstated.

There has been a lot of chatter about whether Peterson wants to play for the Vikings, but let’s get to the heart of the matter: unless Peterson wants to hold out, which I can’t imagine he does after missing almost a full season last year, the Vikings hold the power. He’s under contract. The Vikings can keep him or trade him. It’s as simple as that.

So the bigger question is: should the Vikings want him back? On that end, there are a few things to consider:

*He is 30 years old and has a cap hit of $15.4 million in 2015. That’s over $6 million more than the cap number of any other running back in the NFL. That doesn’t mean much as long as the Vikings can handle his number and salary, but it is still prudent to ask if a team in the midst of a rebuild should be devoting that much time, energy and money to a veteran running back.

*Fans: There is a segment of the fan base that was done with Peterson the minute it became known how he disciplined his 4-year-old son. Another segment of the fan base has lost interest or faith in Peterson as this process has continued. That’s not to say minds can’t change, but it is reasonable to think a good chunk of Vikings fans simply don’t ever want to see him in purple again. Maybe that won’t matter to decision-makers, and maybe it shouldn’t. But it’s there.

*Team identity: In the absence of Peterson last year, rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater was asked to take on a “face of the franchise” role. He embraced it and handled it beautifully. After playing a year without Peterson, should Teddy and co. be asked to drift back into the shadows, even just a little, if Peterson resumes a larger role?

These are questions for the Vikings to answer, not me. But make no mistake: Peterson’s return was never going to be as simple as being reinstated. Really, this is just the beginning.

Thursday (Good start from Gibson, but more needed) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 16th at 12:01pm 300091661

gibsonQuality starts, as a baseball statistic, is flawed. Most people agree on this, yet most reasonable people also recognize that the reasoning behind it is at least somewhat useful. If a pitcher throws at least six innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs, it is deemed a “quality start.” Doing the bare minimum would result in a 4.50 ERA, which would not be a quality season. But within the context of a single game, the idea of a starter going 6 and giving up 3, with the way modern bullpens are constructed, reasonably gives way to the idea that the starting pitcher at least gave his team a chance to win.

In 2014, the Twins received just 66 such starts out of 162. It’s another way of saying their starting pitching was awful, since that quality start number ranked 29th of 30 MLB teams, but it is still useful. As a percentage, that works out to 40.7 percent of starts were quality for the Twins last year — two of every five, a handy number since there are five pitchers in a rotation. A full 22 teams had at least 81 quality starts — half their games or more.

So far this year, the Twins have received exactly three quality starts: one very good one from Tommy Milone, one pretty good one from Kyle Gibson last night and one of the 6/3 minimums from Phil Hughes. That’s 3 of 8, or 37.5 percent — an exceedingly small sample size, but the best explanation for why this team is 2-6. The Twins’ only wins came in the starts by Milone and Gibson, proving once again that baseball becomes so much easier with good starting pitching.

Last year’s Twins, plagued by bad pitching for most of the year, were also plagued by inconsistency — the inability to string together even a handful of decent starts to get on any kind of sustained roll. Gibson — one of many noted RandBall lookalikes —  was a chief culprit in that; he had a 1.42 ERA in his 13 wins and an 11.04 ERA in his 12 losses, an astounding split. This year, of course, he was bombed in his first outing and solid last night.

Long story short: last night was a good sign — a good start. But nobody can be excited about pitching (or Gibson) until we see a lot more of it.

TFD: A modest proposal to fix the NBA draft lottery system

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 16th at 12:52pm 299925921

markmadsenWe talk about tanking in sports. Most teams deny they do it because it’s not polite or competitive to say you are trying to lose. Rather, they just do everything in their power not to win — like, say, go with a youth movement, rest veterans and, when particularly desperate, make sure scads of good players are ultra-cautious when dealing with injuries. Don’t come back to soon, fellas. Take your time.

We talk about tanking as it relates to the draft. We talk about it in the NFL, though in that case it’s harder to prove — and harder to improve by leaps and bounds with just one good player. Tanking might be an issue there, but unless you end up drafting a once-a-decade quarterback, it probably won’t do you a ton of good to pick No. 1 instead of, say, No. 3.

We talk about tanking in the NHL and MLB a little, but in both of those sports prospects often take so long to develop that it’s hard to say there are sure things at the end of the losing rainbow.

The league in which tanking really seems to be a problem — be it in perception, reality or both — is the NBA. It’s a sport where one star player can completely transform a franchise (see: Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and maybe, just maybe, Andrew Wiggins, all number one picks). It’s a sport of finely tuned athletes, guaranteed contracts, tendinitis, sprains, strains and pulls. It’s easy to hide guys on the bench and invent injuries. It’s easy to go young. It’s easy to lose.

Almost too easy.

And the incentive, as noted above, can be great. Now, the lottery ensures that teams don’t just get to draft players in the reverse order of their finish (unlike the NFL and MLB, which do go that route), but it’s not enough of a disincentive to keep teams from at least giving the appearance that they are intentionally losing. The Timberwolves, as long as they lose tonight, will pick no lower than No. 4 in the draft as the team with the worst record in the NBA. They will have the best chance at landing the best prospect, and regardless they will get a great prospect.

Giving the worst teams the best new players is a very fair notion. If college teams did this, the top recruits would go to the worst teams in the Big Ten and so forth. College sports have no such competitive balance. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and it takes a special set of circumstances to break decades of history.

But while I love the idea of the lottery helping teams get better, I hate the idea that there is an incentive for losing. As such, I had an immediate distaste for Five Thirty Eight’s proposal for changing the NBA draft lottery formula:

Here’s how it works. Take each team’s number of losses. Subtract 41 (41-41 represents a breakeven record in the NBA). Then square the result. That’s how many ping pong balls a team gets. (OK, one more provision: A team gets a minimum of 10 lottery balls, including if it has a winning record).

Once you get past the math (which really isn’t that hard), the intent is to keep teams from trying to get the worst record by making the difference between one win or loss in the standings not that meaningful. It works this year because the Wolves, Knicks and 76ers are so close together.

In general, though, it still offers incentive to lose. In fact, it offers greater incentive to lose. The year that Charlotte was 7-59 (the labor-shortened year of 2011-12), it would have had nearly a 40 percent chance of getting the top pick under this system. So you’re saying to teams: don’t just lose. LOSE MORE. Tankers would go all out. You might have teams winning 7-10 games a season as the norm. This solves nothing. It only makes things worse by increasing the lottery odds of the really bad teams and decreasing the odds of the marginally bad teams who might actually be trying to make the playoffs and win.

As such, I have a different proposal. It’s one I’ve thought about for way too long. It’s also probably crazy, but it’s time. Here is what I would do to try to eliminate tanking:

16 teams make the NBA playoffs, and 14 do not. At the end of the regular season, the 14 teams who didn’t make the playoffs engage in a series of one-game loser playoffs to determine lottery order. Here’s how it works:

Each conference is seeded 1-7, with the No. 1 seed being the team with the worst record in the conference and No. 7 being the best.

Each No. 1 seed gets a bye. The 7 plays the 6, the 5 plays the 4 and the 2 plays the 3 (going against tradition in which the best would play the weakest in order to keep like teams grouped together in this case and not give an undue edge to the best of the worst).

Then the winner of 2 vs. 3 plays the 1; the 7 vs. 6 winner plays the 5 vs. 4 winner. Then those winners face off. Then the conference winners face off to determine the losers’ champion.

All of these are one game, single elimination. Assuming arena availability would be there, all of the games are on the home court of the higher-seeded team (the one with the worse record). All of it is solely to determine lottery order, not draft order, and the current breakdown of odds would essentially remain in place.

The tournament champion gets the most ping pong balls (25 percent). The runner-up gets the second-most (19.9 percent). Those who lost in the finals in each conference split the difference of the third and fourth best odds (13.8 percent each). The four teams who lost in the conference semifinals — by virtue of getting a bye the teams with the worst records in each conference would at least get this far — would split the existing odds of the 5-8 spots in the lottery (5.5 percent each); and the six teams who lost in the first round would split the existing 9-14 odds (0.9 percent each).

For order purposes, the teams knocked out at each stage would still be slotted from worst to best record (for example: the 9-14 teams, if none got lucky and jumped into the top 3 of the draft during the lottery, would pick in order of worst record to best record; the worst would pick 9th and the best would pick 14th).

Advantages: It’s no longer cool to lose. It’s cool to try to make the playoffs, and if you miss the playoffs, it’s still cool to win. There would only be a marginal incentive to be the worst team (the bye and guarantee of no worse than a 5.5 percent chance of getting the top pick, while also picking no worse than 8th since the 5-8 teams would be slotted in reverse order of finish if none won the lottery and a team can only fall three spots from its lottery position).

Basically, the 3 or 4 worst teams would still likely pick in the 5-9 range even if they didn’t win a game in the loser playoffs or get lucky in the lottery. But they wouldn’t be guaranteed the higher picks they are now. As such, they could still improve but they wouldn’t have the incentive to stink.

It also would make it more possible for fringe playoff contenders to improve. Wolves coach/President Flip Saunders recently said, “In this league, you either have to be real good or real bad. If you’re in the middle, it’s tough to improve.”

He’s absolutely right, and that’s absolutely unfair. But if you miss the playoffs by a game, steamroll the losers’ bracket and suddenly have a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a guarantee of picking no lower than fourth … that can change your fortunes in a hurry. (And no, a team wouldn’t tank to barely miss the playoffs in order to get a high pick. If you have a chance to make the postseason, you go for it because anything can happen once you’re in).

It would make it slightly harder for teams that are legitimately bad to improve, though it wouldn’t make it impossible. Lottery odds guarantee nothing (just ask the Wolves). Maybe it’s asking a lot of teams to play as many four games after an 82-game season, particularly if your roster is comprised of impending free agents who don’t care about your future . But: 1) how much fun would those games be? and 2) If you’re in the real playoffs, you might play 20-plus extra games.

Maybe it’s a lot of work just to determine lottery order. But if this was happening this year, the Wolves would get a first-round bye in the West and then have a conference semifinal matchup against the winner of the 2 vs. 3 game (Lakers vs. Kings) at Target Center. And outside of KG’s return and maybe Wiggins’ debut, that game would be the single most-anticipated Wolves game at Target Center this season.

It would be far better than any game in the past month, when the Wolves were (sadly) better off losing.

Bottom line: If you wanted to get better, you would be best-served trying to win. That is, after all, what it’s all about.

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Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 1 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 7
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: A. Caminero 2
NY Yankees - LP: C. Sabathia 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: A. Simon 2
Cincinnati - WP: A. DeSclafani 6 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 1
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Robertson 4
Minnesota - LP: K. Gibson 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: E. Volquez 7
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 14 FINAL
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 3
Oakland - WP: D. Otero 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: M. Shoemaker 3
Houston - WP: T. Sipp 7 FINAL
Seattle - LP: D. Farquhar 5
Milwaukee 82 FINAL
Chicago 91
New Orleans 87 FINAL
Golden State 97
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Minnesota 3
Anaheim 5 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 4

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