Podcast Advertising

When Apple enabled support for content/ad blockers in iOS 9 it set off a firestorm of thoughts an opinions on whether using an ad blocker is ethical or not. This also sparked some conversation about podcast advertisements and people who skip them. I do skip podcast advertisements, and I’ll explain when and why.

I listen to podcasts a lot. They have been the chosen audio for my commutes for probably 7 years now. Listening on 1.25x speed allows me get through approximately two hours of content per day on my commute. I also mix-in podcast listening at other times, such as mowing the lawn or working out. At this point all of the podcasts I listen to are supported by advertisements, usually “live reads” by the hosts about a product/service. I usually skip these advertisements, but there are exceptions.

For instance, I never skip over an ad for a product or service I haven’t heard of before. The companies that advertise on podcasts are for the most part companies that are not well known and established (part of this is that they are savvy enough to know this is an untapped market, and also because it’s probably cheaper) so it’s more likely that it will be a company I haven’t heard of before. The other reason for skipping known services is that if I am interested in it, I am probably already using it, meaning the affiliate code they provided won’t work for me (since generally the codes only work for new customers), or it’s something I am not interested in because if I was I would be using it already. If I ever decide to use a service that I have heard advertised on a podcast I will go back and find the code so that I can give them some love.

I can only hear the advertisements for Squarespace or Draft Kings/Fan Duel so many times. Squarespace is a great service, but I have been well aware of them for years and it’s not something I am interested in. I am not going to spend 30 seconds listening to an ad for a service I don’t need. Other instances, like Dollar Shave Club, are products I have used in the past and am no longer interested in.

Bill Simmons has had Stamps.com as a sponsor for years. The good news for him is that I checked out their services for the first time ever after hearing him read their copy. The bad news is that I didn’t sign up because it was not something I found worth the money. And here is the catch–22 with podcast advertising. Sponsors base their decisions on whether to re-up with how many sales they make, not how many people hear their ads. So even though I went to Stamps.com and checked out their service, Simmons doesn’t get any credit for that. Just listening to the ad alone does nothing for podcasts. In fact, in most cases, even downloading the podcast doesn’t do a whole lot.

With that in mind, it seems silly to listen to advertisements for products/services I have heard of before that I know I am not interested in. I wish the model was better, so that it was easier to support great shows.

Good Luck Upgrading Over Cutler

There are many Bears fans out there who were happy to see Jay Cutler get injured. They have wanted him gone for a while, although I have never understood who they want to replace him with. Above average quarterbacks are not readily available. It’s not like you can just go grab a Manning, Rodgers, Brady, Luck, Wilson or Rivers out of nowhere.

Yes Jay Cutler was 23rd in QBR in 2014. One of the guys worse than him was Josh McCown, one the guys people thought was a better option than Cutler. Of the 22 guys who finished ahead him, only two switched teams this offseason, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Nick Foles. Foles was traded and the Bears wouldn’t have had the pieces Philly wanted, so Fitzpatrick was the only other possibility. Fitzpatrick is 32, in his 11th season, playing for his 6th team (and 4th in four years). Two of the previous four (Houston and Buffalo) don’t exactly have answers at QB right now. His highest QBR in a given season that he played most of the games was 56.7. Cutler hasn’t been all that much better, but it’s hard to see Fitzpatrick being any sort of major upgrade.

When Cutler went down a couple of weeks ago he was replaced by Jimmy Clausen, a prime example of a “readily available QB” (essentially the kind of guy the Bears could grab at any time). When Tony Romo went down, he was replaced by Brandon Weeden and, then the Cowboys traded for Matt Cassel. Michael Vick came in this week for the Steelers, Matt McGloin played for the Raiders, Luke McCown for the Saints and Kellen Clemens for the Chargers when injuries occurred. Are these the kind of guys Bears fans want instead of Cutler?

For those who think the free agent route is the way to go, there are 28 QBs slated to be free agents at the end of 2015. The aforementioned Fitzpatrick, Clausen, Cassel, Vick, McGloin, Clemens , Luke McCown and Weeden are nine of them. Guys like Kellen Moore, Bruce Gradkowski, David Fales (already on the Bears), Chase Daniel, Dan Orvlovsky and Charlie Whitehurst, Scott Tolzien are career backups. That leaves 13 guys.

Matt Hasselbeck is 40, and probably not close to starting quality anymore. Joe Webb had some brief starting experience with the Vikings a while back. He hasn’t been heard from since. Same for Thaddeus Lewis on the Bills. Both of those guys are on different teams right now that most NFL fans couldn’t accurately name. Tavaris Jackson is still the backup in Seattle, but he is 32 and was unsuccessful is multiple stints as a starter. Matt Schaub couldn’t hold the starting job with the lousy Texans, and is 34.

That leaves 8 guys with even a sliver of chance of upside. Drew Stanton is a backup in Arizona. He is 31, and has played 22 games in 8+ seasons. He showed signs of life last year, and probably wasn’t traded because the Cardinals need a capable backup. Still, he hasn’t been good enough to get a legit chance at starting anywhere. Matt Moore is also 31 and in his 8th season. He has played in 40 games up to this point, and been the full time starter in just one season. He is in year four as the backup in Miami, which is a good indication that he isn’t good enough to go somewhere else and have a shot. The guy Moore tried to replace in Miami was Chad Henne, 30 and also in his 8th season. Henne was actually a starter for like four seasons, but was never really very good in those. He is probably the first guy we have mentioned as a free agent who could possibly start somewhere in the NFL right now.

There are three kind of wild card young guys on the list. One is Austin Davis, who is 26 and in his 4th season. He played in 10 games last season for the Rams and was not terrible. But they dumped him and he is the 3rd string guy in Cleveland right now, none of those things is a good sign. He was replaced on the St. Louis bench by Case Keenum, 27 and also in his 4th season. Keenum played in 10 games over two years for the Texans, but was bumped out there and wasn’t good enough to compete for a job anywhere this offseason. The most interesting name here is Brock Osweiler, who is 24 and in his 4th season as the backup in Denver. There were some who saw him picked as the heir apparent in Denver. He has thrown 30 passes over 10 games in his time there, and has spent all of it watching one of the greatest QBs ever work. The problem is that Manning isn’t going to play that much longer, and if the Broncos think Osweiler is good enough to be a starter, they aren’t letting him go.

That leaves the two guys currently entrenched as starters in the NFL. Sam Bradford and Kirk Cousins. Philadelphia traded for Bradford this offseason. Chip Kelly seems legitimately crazy at this point, so it’s hard to read much into how good Bradford can be. So far he doesn’t look good. He is also fragile as a China doll and that isn’t the kind of QB that has ever worked in Chicago, not that Bradford appears to be any sort of upgrade anyway. Cousins looks solid, but that is also what makes him out of reach. Washington isn’t giving up Cousins at the end of the year if he is a starting caliber QB. Even if he is in the bottom half they (unlike most Bears fans) know that the other options out there are pretty week. So he is either not going to be an upgrade, or staying where he is.

What about trades? The Bears were lucky to get Cutler in a trade but it cost a lot of picks, and judging where the team is now it’s hard to see them giving up a bunch of picks for a QB again. Someone like RG3 might get cut, but he is far from an upgrade.

For those of you who are thinking draft, here is a look at the first round QBs the last three drafts: EJ Manuel, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. The jury is out on these guys, but Bridgewater is the only slam dunk better option from this list. But if you want to look ahead keep an eye on these guys: Cal’s Jared Goff, Michigan St.’s Conor Cook, Ohio St.’s Cardale Jones, Penn St.s Christian Hackenberg and maybe USC’s Cody Kessler.

But realistically know that there is no surefire QB upgrade out there over a veteran guy who is one of the best 15–20 QBs in the league.

Still Love HBO’s Treme

David Simon created The Wire, and came back to HBO a few years later with Treme, a show about post-Katrina New Orleans with an emphasis on the culture, and specifically the music. I hadn’t even seen The Wire yet when I started watching Treme. I was drawn in by the subject matter. Being raised by a music loving father who particular had an affinity for jazz and blues made this show all the more intriguing from the get go. The backdrop of post-Katrina was also pretty great. For most people Treme was a disappointing second act for Simon, but for it was something else completely.

Having watched this show before I had see The Wire for the first time, I didn’t have that point of comparison that many people had. Having see The Wire multiple times now, I decided it was time to see how Treme held up on a second viewing.

This is a great character drama, with a well constructed backdrop of a city recovering from the largest natural disaster in U.S. history. It doesn’t have tons of cliffhangers, or plot hooks to keep people on the edge of their seat. It doesn’t have the great overall arc of something like The Wire, and in many people’s minds that was it’s downfall. But this was a great show about people and music, and the cast is talented enough to make up for whatever supposed “shortcomings” the plot has. In fact, in my mind this show, which ran from 2010 to 2013, was probably just a bit ahead of it’s time. Nowadays it seems like shows with solid characters can thrive a bit better without over the top plot hooks.

The cast is mostly void of big huge stars for the most part, but there are enough recognizable faces to make it interesting. John Goodman is there. A pre-Oscar winning Melissa Leo is married to him. Khandi Alexander is recognizable to some from NewsRadio and which CSI she was on. Everyone has seen Steve Zahn in something before (That Thing You Do would be my personal choice). Rob Brown has been in some major movies (Finding Forrester, Dark Knight Rises). Kim Dickens was on Friday Night Lights and now Fear the Walking Dead. For the The Wire fans, both Bunk (Wendell Pierce) and Lester Freeman (Clark Peters) have prominent roles, while Prez (Jim True Frost) shows up as well. Pre-Game of Thrones Daario Naharis plays a great character, and he and real-life violinist Lucia Micarelli steal the show at times. And last but not least, Chicago PD’s Jon Seda is great as a charismatic Texas businessman trying to capitalize on government handouts for construction work.

With as many people as are mentioned above, it would seem on paper like character overload. I have long lamented the fact that Game of Thrones has too many characters for it’s own good, but somehow that doesn’t feel like a problem with Treme. Maybe it’s because most of the stories don’t have that “dying to see what happens next” feeling to them. But I like to think it’s because the stories/characters on Treme are more evenly balanced. There is no Theon or Bran Stark storylines that take away from the rest of the show, and it’s paced well enough that no one ever really feels shorted.

If you watched The Wire and haven’t figured out by now that David Simon can write the crap out of a TV show, then you missed out. Treme is the same way. It is amazingly put together and structured to a point that it feels almost perfectly constructed. The way the characters cross paths and interact without it feeling the least bit forced is an absolute stroke of genius. There are preset relationships at the start of the series, like Kim Dickens and Steve Zahn’s characters being a couple, but none of the interactions later feel forced, and in most cases it’s so casual it makes it feel almost organic.

The backdrop is just great too. There is so much to be absorbed about New Orleans culture. The food, music, Indians, pride, the aftermath of Katrina, and the music (again because it’s freaking New Orleans!). Of course Mardi Gras is well represented, but not the way it’s portrayed in other TV shows and movies. Simon was able to make The Wire so authentic because that is where he was from and worked. But he spared no details in the Crescent City either. The show was lauded by locals for a fair and accurate portrayal of things. Of course it wouldn’t be a Simon venture if he didn’t take time to lament the poor vs. rich divide, or take shots at (real life) politicians along the way.

Most people gave up on this show early because it was “boring” to them. But Simon set the bar so high with The Wire that people had certain expectations that were probably unreasonable. Does this show get made if the The Wire hadn’t come before it? Probably not. But if it existed in a world where The Wire never existed it would have been more successful than it was. There is no Theon, Bran, AJ Soprano or any of the Brody family to drag this down. This show is definitely not for everyone, but anyone who loved The Wire, and didn’t like Treme is missing out on a great TV show. It’s not in that all-time top tier for me with The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but it’s right there at the top of that second tier of really, really good shows. And I can guarantee this won’t be the last time I watch it.

Facebook Dislike Button

Per Vox, Facebook is going to add a “dislike” button soon, but it won’t be exactly what I thought:

By contrast, Facebook won’t treat a “dislike” as a vote to stop showing the post to other users. Rather, it provides a better option in cases where friends and family paste bad news, like a death in the family or a natural disaster. “What they really want is the ability to express empathy,” wrote Business Insider. “Not every moment is a good moment.”

If it is going to be designed this way then my assumption is that the user will be able to pick whether they want a Like or Dislike button attached to their update. If every post has both, then it will be very confusing it ’s purpose. I have long understood this predicament. If someone posts something “bad” you don’t really “Like” the post, but that is the only way to show support without posting a comment. But there are also times where you don’t agree with something someone has posted and then you are forced to comment. Maybe that is how it should be to not encourage negative comments, I don’t know.

The only thing I do know is that if Facebook adds this future and includes both Like and Dislike on every post, it will not work the way they want it to.

Pygmy Reviews #63 – TV Shows

Girls – Season 4 (HBO)

This show is so constantly hit or miss for me, very much like New Girl, but it has a much lower batting average than New Girl. I enjoyed the first season of Girls. I didn't love it, but I liked it. I continue to feel mostly the same about it. What is difficult for to understand is if I hate it because most of the characters are the kinds of people I loathe. Everything about Marnie, Hannah and Jessa is just awful. Parts of Shoshanna aggravate me, but at the same time her naïveté is a good representation of so many people her age who think the world works the complete opposite of the way it actually does. Ray is the most likeable character on the show but even he is frustrating at times, especially when you remember he is supposed to be about 10 years older than the rest of the ensemble. Adam is enjoyable for his blunt and direct, no-BS approach, but even he is frustrating at times.

It's interesting to see how easy it is to suspend reality for a pure comedy, but in more dramatic shows like this the absence of reality is a put off. Neither Hannah, Marnie, Jessa or Adam appear to have had any sort of income producing jobs in a while. How are they paying rent? How are they paying for all the dinners and drinks out they seem to regularly have? It's difficult for me to justify bashing this show without sounding sexist because I enjoy many other shows with bad people at the center. But this show just doesn't work for me on a regular basis. I have heard Lena Dunham on appearances out of character and I find her charming and intelligent, so I think I would like her in other things, but this is show is so hard to watch sometimes.

The Knick – Season 1 (Cinemax)

One Line Description: A doctor in early 1900s New York battles politics and primitive medicine.

Cinemax is basically the only channel I don't have in my cable package, and it is kind of silly at this point not to just pay for it, but I haven't yet. Because of that I couldn't experience The Knick on it's initial run, and instead had to wait for it to show up for a limited time on HBO GO. At Chris' recommendation I plowed through the season over the course of a couple of weeks, but was left not being all that impressed. I have always enjoyed period pieces, and that aspect of things is just awesome. The show is based at the start of the 1900s and watching medicine being practiced and evolving is definitely a sight to see. But the characters on this show do nothing for me. Contrary to a show like Treme (which I will be writing about again soon) where the story is bland but the characters are great, this show has a nice backdrop, decent story but few compelling characters. I find most of them to be uninteresting at best, and in the case of the main character Dr. Thackery a feel of forced traits/conditions that don't add to the show. Getting to see season 1 definitely won't get me to run out and order Cinemax, and I will be hard pressed to visit season 2 anytime soon.

Mr. Robot – Season 1 (USA)

One Line Description: A computer hacker is recruited by a mysterious man to help take down the world's biggest financial company.

I was “late” to the party on this show, having to play catch up about halfway through the season. I knew it involved hackers in some way, but until other people (Chris and Tom) started making it clear I needed to be watching it, I wasn't even recording the episodes every week. I was hooked almost from the first five minutes. The style of the show, setting and cinematography are different, in a good way. This show definitely doesn't feel like a ripoff of other shows, which is a big achievement these days. It's hard to really say what it feels like without spoiling it too much, but I immediately got the vibe of a specific late '90s movie, and I ended up being right. There are some nice hooks and twists along the way, but at times the show does get a little wacky. I watched the season finale with my wife, who had not seen a single episode, and she gave me an interesting perspective from someone who wasn't watching from the beginning. That perspective is that this show is not for everyone.

It's not as universally good as The Americans, or with top to bottom great performances like Breaking Bad, but it does enough to get you to want to come back each week. Rami Malek is spectacular as the main character, and he can carry this show for a while. The good news is that it will be back for season 2, and from what the showrunner has said, it isn't meant to be just a big mystery to solve a la Lost. That is a good thing because I had concerns about how it was going to maintain momentum. Definitely give the first couple episodes a try if you haven't.

True Detective – Season 2 (HBO)

The first season of True Detective gave people a taste of how good an “anthology” show could be when it only had to think about one season. The second season proved why that can also be a gigantic train wreck. Starting fresh means establishing everything from scratch, like characters, backstories and setting up the main arc of the season. That is a challenge of most shows, and the first couple of episodes of any series can feel a bit rough and awkward. The problem with “anthology” shows is that they must go through this every single season. On top of that an entirely new cast must also try to live up to the previous season's success. All of those factors create a high degree of difficulty, and season 2 of True Detective could not overcome that. The cast was full of movie stars (Colin Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Taylor Kitsch and Rachel McAdams), and the setting was Los Angeles, everyone else was a mystery.

As expected the season started slow, but it never really got past that. The characters are mostly dull, and that is the problem with a one season cast, there isn't time to change the cast or evolve the characters. I loved Tim Riggins, but it's becoming abundantly clear that Taylor Kitsch can't do much beyond that. Colin Ferrell showed everyone why he hasn't been in a good movie for a long time (ever?). I actually enjoyed Vince Vaughn not playing a dope, but no one else did, and it was somewhat clear why he doesn't play more serious roles. Rachel McAdams was probably the best part of the main cast, but she could only do so much with what she had. This season had a couple of cool moments, but for the most part it was junk. And the ending was even enough of a payoff to make up for the time spent. The bar from season 1 was probably unfairly high, but this was so far the other direction that they will have to dig out of this hole for season 3, or this show might be too expensive for HBO to keep making.

I Miss EA Sports NCAA Football

Andrew Sharp of Grantland wrote about missing the NCAA Football video game series and I could not agree more. Although it’s possible I spent more hours playing games from the Call of Duty or Diablo series’ at this point, there is not a gaming franchise I looked forward to more than the yearly installment of NCAA Football. I don’t remember exactly the first version I played of it, maybe the 1999 version at a friend’s house or something? It was the first game I bought, and my main reason for finally getting a video game console in college1.

I spent hours and hours running dynasties. early on when recruiting was less complex I remember getting through like 5 seasons one year. As recruiting would get more complex I would spend hours planning out my recruiting focus and plans, even though I would rarely ever make it deep enough into the franchise to have even that first class of recruits matter.

Every new version on an existing console would be better than the last, and although things like special teams and penalties never reached a point of realism, the game would just keep getting better. Then a new generation of consoles would come out and it would be like starting over. The last version of NCAA Football hit just before the Xbox One was released. It was the best iteration of the game on Xbox 360 by a long shot, and the best overall version of the game in a long time. But thanks to all the lawsuits it would also be the last version of game for the foreseeable future. This is very hard to swallow since I, like many, have moved on to the Xbox One and don’t play games on my 360 anymore.

I don’t think the franchise is dead and buried for good though. One of two things will almost surely happen in the next 5 years or so. Either the NCAA is going to find a way to compensate players to their satisfaction, therefore nullifying any future potential lawsuits. Or EA Sports will work out a deal with the NCAA to make a game with totally random players, so they cannot be accused of any likeness issues2. Would I buy/play a game with everything in it but real rosters? Almost certainly so.

It might even be more interesting, especially if you could generate rosters how you wanted. Let’s say you wanted to take a “power” school like Stanford and make them a spread passing system, you could just set their offense accordingly and then generate rosters and it would generate them with the right kind of players. It might even be cool to change the level of talent. What if you are a Iowa St. alum and wanted to win championships with them without just putting the game on easy mode? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just make them a five-star program from day one? It could be an enticing twist to get people back into the game. But it has to have the schools, uniforms, stadiums, conferences and fight songs that it always had. That is a minimum.

EA is a smart enough company that if they had an easy way around this they would have done it by now, so I am less than optimistic that it is right around the corner. Even still, there is too much demand for this game to just let it die out. I have heard there are people out there who are still maintaining current rosters for the last NCAA game. It makes me want to dust off my Xbox 360 and check it out. After watching football all weekend I sure did miss it.

  1. I had a Nintendo 64 in high school, but that was my first and only console before college []
  2. This will likely be OK with fans as long as they can still trade rosters online because there will always be people willing to go and put the names in []

Bill James 1996 Hall of Fame Predictions

Darren Rovell tweeted about a month ago that 20 years ago Bill James was asked to predict all-stars from 1996–2019. How is he doing?

Year Player Elected In
1996 Pete Rose
Don Sutton 1998
1997 Steve Garvey
Phil Niekro 1997
1998 Gary Carter 2003
Al Oliver
1999 George Brett 1999
Nolan Ryan 1999
2000 Robin Yount 1999
Carlton Fisk 2000
2001 Andre Dawson 2010
Dave Winfield 2001
2002 Eddie Murray 2003
Ozzie Smith 2002
2003 Dave Parker
Jim Kaat
2004 Dennis Eckersley 2004
Ted Simmons
2005 Wade Boggs 2005
Cal Ripken Jr. 2007
2006 Rickey Henderson 2009
Paul Molitor 2004
2007 Tony Gwynn 2007
Roger Clemens
2008 Kirby Puckett 2001
Dale Murphy
2009 Jack Morris
Lee Smith
2010 Tim Raines
Ryne Sandberg 2005
2011 Barry Bonds
Joe Carter
2012 Brett Butler
David Cone
2013 Alan Trammell
Lou Whitaker
2014 Goose Gossage 2008
Don Mattingly
2015 Jack McDowell
Greg Maddux 2014
2016 Fred McGriff
Doc Gooden
2017 Frank Thomas 2014
Ruben Sierra
2018 Ken Griffey Jr. ineligible
Roberto Alomar 2011
2019 Jeff Bagwell
Juan Gonzalez

He listed 48 players, 47 who are eligible as of right now, and was right on 23 being Hall of Famers, just over 50%. Let’s take a look at those 24 he missed on.

Retired in 1996 (9)

Steve Garvey, Al Oliver, Dave Parker, Jim Kaat, Ted Simmons, Dale Murphy, Jack Morris, Lou Whitaker and Don Mattingly were all retired when James made this list. That means that he thought all of these guys were already Hall of Famers at this time. Missing 9 of these guys is pretty remarkable. Looking into these 9 guys it was interesting to see that either a guy in a ballot for one season, or he is on ballots for 10+. Al Oliver, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker were one and done on the ballot. The other six guys hung around for a while but none of them could get over the hump. Jack Morris is a guy who has come close a few times and whom many think should have made it.

Pete Rose, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds (3)

Rose is still banned. Clemens and Bonds are being blackballed for their connection to performance enhancing drugs. Based on on-field performance all three of them should be in the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to punish James for these.

Should Have Been Right (4)

There are four guys he had on his list who would have made the Hall of Fame.

  • Lee Smith – Was the career leader in saves when he retired in 1997. Has gotten votes in 10+ ballot years. His ballot numbers have slipped but he was not a ridiculous choice.
  • Tim Raines – Considered one of the major snubs of the last decade. 5th all-time in stolen bases. Walked a lot before it was cool. 64th all-time in Baseball Reference offensive WAR.
  • Alan Trammell – Trammell like Raines and Morris has long been considered a major snub. He was a great two-way shortstop and as defense becomes more important he will get more and more respect as a good player.
  • Jeff Bagwell – Bagwell was only 27 at the time, so good read by James. Although Bagwell isn’t in the Hall of Fame he deserves to be. He has exceeded 50% on the last four ballots. Bagwell is tangentially punished for playing during the PED era and shouldn’t be. He deserves to be in.

Hindsight is 20/20 (2)

Two of the guys he had were young and looked dominant, but for one reason or the other couldn’t keep it up over a long enough period.

  • Juan Gonzalez – I chuckled when I first saw this, then I looked at Gonzalez’s early ’90s stats. He had over 150 home runs at the end of 1995, and was just 25 years old. He finished with 434 career home runs even though he didn’t play a full season after turning 31. His PED association definitely stung his legacy, but his short career as a full-time player also hurt him. He appeared on two ballots.
  • Jack McDowell – If James had done this list after the 1996 season (not sure when he did it in 1996) he probably would have left McDowell off. McDowell was terrible for the Indians in 1996 and would only pitch in 26 more major league games. Got less than 1% of the vote on his only ballot.

Close, But No Dice (3)

Three guys were fringe Hall of Famers when James made this list, and his assumption was surely that they didn’t need to do a ton to make it, but none of them quite got there. McGriff was probably closest, and Gooden furthest, but these guys still had impressive careers.

  • David Cone – Didn’t retire until 2003, but again it’s hard to see what James was thinking in 1996. Cone didn’t win 200 games (wins don’t mean a lot, but that is a low number). He was coming off dominant seasons in 1994 and 1995, but he was already 32 and was far from a Hall of Fame lock at that point. His high strikeout numbers give him a decent WAR, but he only lasted one ballot.
  • Fred McGriff – McGriff made a lot of sense in 1996. He was one of the preeminent power hitters in baseball at the time and would have a long career. He has appeared on the last six Hall of Fame ballots but hasn’t really been that close. He hit a lot of home runs but also struck out a lot. He probably doesn’t get the respect he deserves because he played the end of his career in the infancy of the PED era.
  • Doc Gooden – James assumption was that Gooden, who had just returned from a year away was about to get his mojo back and have a good second act to his career. Goodness might get to 3000 strikeouts if he could have put together just one or two good seasons after James made this list, so it’s not crazy to put him on there.

W…T…F (3)

I just don’t have words…

  • Joe Carter – Had been in the league 10+ seasons when James listed him. Hard to see what James was thinking unless he thought Carter had a lot more big seasons in him. Only made one Hall of Fame ballot.
  • Ruben Sierra – Sierra literally got zero votes in his only trip to the ballot, and honestly this might be the most perplexing choice on here. Sierra was 30 in 1996, so he was in the decline of his career. He hadn’t hit 30 home runs to this point, wasn’t really a .300 hitter, didn’t steal bases and wasn’t a good defender. This one I don’t understand at all.
  • Brett Butler was 38 at the end of the 1995 season, so he was close enough to being done that this one makes no sense. It’s hard to look at his numbers and figure out what he saw here. Butler was an All-Star just once. He had only 2375 hits. Baseball Reference has him 107th in Offensive WAR for his career, which is actually pretty impressive. He stole 558 bases but he was only successful 68% of the time. To put this into perspective Rickey Henderson was 81%, Tim Raines 85%, Kenny Lofton 80%, heck even Paul Molitor was 79%. He didn’t win Gold Gloves, and wasn’t even a secretly good fielder. This one stumped me.


Bill James is a baseball genius for a reason. His predictions were pretty good, and this list made seem obvious in retrospect, but 20 years ago it wasn’t so obvious. Still interesting to look back and be so right though. Might be fun to try and do the same for the future from now at some point.

Pygmy Reviews #62 – iOS Apps

Park Chicago (Free)

One Line Description: Pay for street parking in Chicago with an app

The app name should indicate that this is an app specifically for parking in Chicago, and specifically for parking at the pay boxes that have replaced meters all over the city. My sister (the city dweller of the family) is the one who turned me on to this and I can’t believe how awesome it is. You simply enter the zone number (on the parking sign near your car) and your license plate number and you can pay for parking. The best part by far is that you don’t have to be near your vehicle to extend the parking time. Meaning you can park once and continue to add time all day no matter where you are in the city. This would enable some thrifty people to park their car in a cheaper zone all day rather than right downtown someplace expensive. The app even sends notifications when the parking is about to expire.

It is not without some downfalls though. A 35-cent convenience fee is added whenever less than two hours of parking are purchased. Generally if you are paying for less than two hours of parking you don’t plan to be far away, so it might be worth it to just pay at the box in this circumstance. Also the app requires you keep money in your account at all times (just like the iPass system does). Some people might find this annoying especially if they don’t use the app that much, and you must remember to close your account and get your money back if you decide to stop using the service. Those two small things aside though, this app adds a ton of convenience to parking in the city, especially if you just want to park once and avoid a garage.

White Noise Lite (Free)

One Line Description: Ambient noise and soundscapes to help you sleep or work distraction free.

Sometimes I need to focus, when I am working on something and I don’t want outside distractions, or when I am trying to fall asleep someone that isn’t my regular bedroom (like a plan). Sometimes this is very hard to do with all the outside noise that is present. Podcasts and music with lyrics can be distracting, so often times just something to drown everything else out is the way to go. White Noise is one of several apps out there that does something like this. It’s free and offers a good selection of free sound loops, as well as a big store of more options. It definitely won’t win any Apple Design Awards, but it serves it’s purpose well and has tons of little features like a clock, sleep timer and even the ability to mix music in with the sounds.

Some of the sound choices are weird, and the actual “white noise” option hurts my ears. I enjoy the ocean waves or rain/storm options the most. Heartbeat and vacuum cleaner are two of my least favorites. Still it more than sufficiently gets the job done when I need it, which truthfully isn’t all that often. I have considered trying it at bedtime before in my own bedroom just to see if it makes any difference but I haven’t yet.

MLB Ballpark App (Free)

One Line Description: Companion app for baseball stadium visits

MLB has several applications, and the Ballpark app has been around for a couple of years now. It is designed for people to use when they are all particular ballparks, and includes the ability to “check in” when at a particular park (this is verified with location services). Checking in often opens us special offers that range from free souvenirs (I got a free bobblehead one time), to food and (future game) ticket discounts.

The application also offers tons of information about a ballpark, which is especially useful for anyone who occasionally visits out of town ballparks they are not familiar with. There are sections of finding a particular food or beer which is cool and impressive (but truthfully I haven’t tried either). There is information about ballpark Wi-Fi, a way to text security, and even video highlights. Of course so much of the usefulness of this app is under the assumption that sufficient data service is available, which often times it is not. Still this app is worth having around for anyone that goes to more than like 5 baseball games a year, and would be pretty amazing for anyone doing a baseball road trip.

USA Today Sports (Free)

One Line Description: USA Today’s dedicated sports app.

This was recommended a while back by someone (not sure who at this point), but it’s not anything special. First of all it just recently was updated for the iPhone 6’s larger size, despite the fact that it was originally released after the iPhone 6. It loads a little slow, and has giant pictures with each story, which means that at most two headlines are visible at any given time. They claim to have the “best scoreboard ever”, but it suffers from the same space issues as the news section, where no more than two scores are visible at a given time. This is counter to my favorite sports app CBS Sports, which lets you see about 6 scores at a time.

The app has some potentially great features that don’t end up going past “potential”, GIFs and “must see videos”. The GIFs don’t come often enough, and are very slow to load even on Wi-Fi. They seem to be posted so infrequently though that it just isn’t that exciting (it looks like there are about one per day). “Must see videos” all seem to be viral internet videos instead of must see sports highlights. This clearly feels like an attempt to grab a different audience than I would think this app is targeting. Bottom line, there are better ways to get sports news out there.

2015 NFL Picks

Team Pick
NFC East Cowboys
NFC North Packers
NFC South Falcons
NFC West Seahawks
NFC Wildcards Vikings

I am very high on the Vikings. I think they will be the surprise team of the season and make the playoffs. I think the Cowboys offense will be good again. The Packers and Seahawks seem like playoff locks.

Team Pick
AFC East Pats
AFC North Steelers
AFC South Colts
AFC West Chargers
AFC Wildcards Ravens

I think I was a year early on the Broncos downfall, but it ends this year and the Charges make the playoffs. I will keep predicting the Dolphins in the playoffs until they make it. Pats and Colts seem like locks. Steelers need to stay healthy but their offense could be very good.

Game Result
NFC Packers over Cowboys
AFC Colts over Steelers
Super Bowl Packers over Colts

Not getting too crazy this year. I think the Colts are going to take a huge leap. I also think it’s time for the Packers to get back to the Super Bowl.

Seven Stupid Predictions

  1. The Bears go 3–13
  2. The Jets have the worst record in the NFL thanks to a league worst offense
  3. Colin Kaepernick is a healthy non-starter for at least one game
  4. Falcons running back Tevin Coleman wins rookie of the year after finally getting some talent blocking for him
  5. Jeff Fisher is the first coach fired after the Rams struggle early
  6. Jameis Winston has a monster season and is in the 2nd tier of QBs by the end of the season
  7. The Colts win the most games in the NFL (14?)

2015 College Football Picks

SEC Champ Texas A&M
Pac 12 Champ Arizona St.
Big 12 Champ Oklahoma St.
ACC Champ Florida St.
Heisman Winner Cody Kessler
Heisman Dark Horse Jared Goff
First Fired Coach Al Golden
Game of the Year Week 2: Michigan St. at Oregon
Four Playoff Teams Ohio St.
Arizona St.
Texas A&M
Oklahoma St.
Playoff Darkhorse See Above
National Champion Ohio St.

SEC Champ

I am always big on finding a team to pick based on schedule because so much is hard to determine this early on. Arkansas has a neutral site game against Arkansas, has a bye week before Alabama and only has to go on the road to Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and LSU. They aren’t the best team talent wise in the SEC, but things might align the right way for them.

Pac 12 Champ

Sticking with that logic, let’s go off the board a bit in the Pac–12 as well. USC is probably the best team talent-wise, but let’s roll with Arizona St. here. They have USC and @UCLA back-to-back, but it’s early. They have a by week before Oregon and get Washington St. the week after. We will know a lot about them after their week one non-conference game against Texas A&M.

Big 12 Champ

Baylor plays probably the best four teams that aren’t them in the last four weeks of the season, which just be too hard to get through. So let’s get crazy again! Oklahoma St.!!!! They get TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma at home! That is amazing luck. They catch Texas on the road earlier enough that they might still have the apprehend.

ACC Champ

I so badly want to pick someone other than Florida St., but it’s just impossible. I don’t see anyone that will really challenge them, and Clemson has let me down far too many times over the years.

Heisman Winner

USC QB Cody Kessler was 10th in QBR last season. So I think I was a little early on picking him. And I am going to roll with him again because I think USC will put up gaudy numbers and be in the Pac–12 hunt for most of the season. He could emerge as one of the best NFL QB prospects by the spring. Ohio St. QB JT Barrett is probably my 1B selection because I think he is going to have a monster year.

Heisman Dark Horse

Way off last year, as Bo Wallace got no votes at all. Cal QB Jared Goff is pretty far down the list of odds according to this site. I think he could have a monster season, and Cal could be a lot better this season.

First Fired Coach

I want Al Golden to succeed at Miami, but he had a rough year last year. The sanctions are over and this team should take a step forward from 6–7. If they don’t stick in the ACC hunt for a while he could be in real trouble.

Game of the Year

Let’s just roll with last year’s copy verbatim:

The SEC will undoubtedly have some epic match-ups in late October/early November, but there are so many teams that could be in it by then, it’s too hard to project. Week 2 sees Michigan St. traveling to Oregon. It’s a huge game for both teams. Michigan St. is trying to show people that they (and the Big Ten) belong with the Big Boys, and even though they won’t win, keeping it close will be a victory for them. Meanwhile Oregon is looking for that signature non-conference win that could keep them in the hunt even if they don’t win the Pac–12.

Everything still applies except this game is in East Lansing. A win for Michigan St. vaults them to one the playoff favorites early.

Four Playoff Teams

This is really about which conference gets left out. I think many years it will be the ACC or Pac–12. If Florida St. isn’t undefeated I think they are left out this year. And I think they lose along the way. So the four teams are Ohio St., Oklahoma St., Arizona St. and Texas A&M.

Playoff Darkhorse

The rule for darkhorse national champion in past years has always been someone outside of the preseason top 10. Two of my playoff teams aren’t even in the top 25. So I feel like I have already gone dark horse, three times over. So let’s skip this.

National Champion

It’s hard to see Ohio St. not winning this but things change in college football so much over the course of the season. By Tuesday morning this could already be wrong, but they deserve the benefit of the doubt. There are tons of good teams in the SEC, but it’s so hard to zero in on a one I just can’t.