Sportswriters love telling people how unbiased sportswriters are, and a big part of that is rooting for stories, not individual teams. That’s pretty obvious. It’s much easier and much more fun to write about an unusual defensive play, or a no-hitter, or a walk-off hit, than it is to write about an arduous 12-5 yawner that stopped being close after the third inning.
And it’s not just writers who do this. Even without the professional self-interest, fans want to see the underdog overachieve. They want to see the unusual, the exciting, and they want the drama and uncertainty to last as long as possible.
So in the spirit of lasting drama, everyone ought to be rooting as hard as they can against the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers are kind of old news, with two consecutive division titles in their pockets. They rely heavily on slow guys who walk and hit home runs (and if you’re going to do that, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are two pretty good slow guys to have), and they’ve got a starting rotation that might be better than all the other rotations in the division. To balance those strengths come two glaring weaknesses. First, the bullpen has been quite good so far this year but is built on a foundation of quicksand. Second, they have the kind of defense one might expect when a lineup has a lot of slow guys who walk and hit home runs.
Now, none of this makes the Tigers particularly objectionable. The reason you should root against them is that they’re by far the best team in baseball’s worst division, and they’re starting to pull away in the standings.
The Cleveland Indians agreed to a four-year, $48 million contract with Michael Bourn, marking the second big-ticket outfielder signing of the offseason for the Tribe, and a clever recognition of a distorted market.
The deal marks a sizable discount from Bourn's reported asking price of five years, $75 million — even if the vesting option on the contract kicks in and lifts the total value to five years, $60 million. And that's what this deal comes down to: grabbing value, and working out the rest later.
Cleveland won just 68 games last season, thanks largely to a league-high 845 runs allowed and a brutal 5.25 ERA for the team's starting rotation. The Indians made multiple moves this winter to try and upgrade the roster. They traded one year of Shin-Soo Choo plus spare parts for Trevor Bauer and Drew Stubbs, giving the team six years of control on a supremely talented young starter, plus another outfield option. They nabbed Mark Reynolds on a one-year deal, adding power on the cheap. They gave out two more one-year deals to Brett Myers and Daisuke Matsuzaka, hoping to add useful if unspectacular innings to the rotation. They picked up Jason Giambi and Mike Aviles to fortify the bench. And with their other big signing, they lured Nick Swisher to town on a four-year, $56 million deal.
In case you were busy fixating on that piece of popcorn stuck between your molars, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The San Antonio Spurs took down the Bulls in Chicago, 103-89, despite missing their trio of future Hall of Famers, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. When asked about the challenge his team faced, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, "It doesn't matter; I could wring 40 wins in the NBA out of the San Antonio Silver Stars. Seriously, I started some French guy named Nando de Colo at the point today. None of our scouts had ever heard of him. Apparently, he's a friend of Tony's. They met at a Parisian falafel stand last winter, debated the nature of existence until 6 in the morning over a pack of Gauloises and three bottles of Malbec, before deciding that we're just shadows of an unforgiving god who vomited our spirits into this hellhole we call Earth. Whatever. Tony tells me to sign him up; guy's never even heard of basketball before, but apparently he's a hell of a freestyle walker, and in our system, he gets seven assists in his first start." Popovich then offered to play any of the reporters in the room at small forward against the Cavaliers to prove his point, but there were no takers.
The Charlotte Bobcats ended the Boston Celtics' seven-game winning streak with a 94-91 home win. Byron Mullens powered the Bobcats' upset with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Celtics forward Kevin Garnett was apoplectic after the game, saying, "Who let Nowitzki come down to Charlotte and wear some Mullens jersey so he could clown on KG? Y'all know I got the best sense of smell on this team, and something here was stinking to the high heavens." Garnett then broke into the Bobcats' locker room and started yelling "Sprechen sie Deutsch" at Mullens in a hapless effort to secure some sort of confession.
On a day with trade rumors swirling around the team, the Brooklyn Nets got a huge conference road win over Indiana in overtime, 89-84. "Everyone was a little on edge with all the speculation, but for some reason, I'm kind of used to it," said Nets forward Kris Humphries, who was ineffective in limited minutes and is rumored to be included in proposed deals with Atlanta and Charlotte. "Relatively speaking, this media attention seems pretty nice."
Marquette fell at Georgetown in a battle of soon-to-be Catholic 7 rivals. The game was decided late when all the players huddled at midcourt and deemed Georgetown the most prepared to be a communicative vessel for God. The referees then released a could of white smoke into the Verizon Center, which activated the sprinkler system and caused the game to be called with a final score of 63-55.
Kansas ended its three-game skid with an 83-62 win over in-state rival Kansas State. Ben McLemore had 30 points for the Jayhawks, and center Jeff Withey broke Greg Ostertag's school record for career blocks. "I view Greg as a bit of an idol," Withey said after the game. "I, too, wish to one day play center in the NBA, establish myself as a bona fide quality defensive player, sign a massive contract, and immediately stop trying. Also, I fully expect Glenn Robinson III to do something like this to me in the tournament this year."
Michael Vick renegotiated his deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, and will join new head coach Chip Kelly as the Eagles attempt to bounce back from a disappointing four-win season. Philadelphia fan Burt Gortowski reacted with uncharacteristic calm to the news, as he decided to only throw one rock through Kelly's window as a show of support for the new coach. "I think that Vick's game could work coming out of Kelly's blur offense," Gortowski said as he picked through the "throwing pile" of empty Yuengling bottles and rocks that he keeps in his backyard, "but just in case he doesn't, I don't want to be the one guy who didn't throw a rock through Chip's window. How would I be able to show my face around the Wawa?"
Liverpool squandered a number of scoring opportunities, including a Steven Gerrard penalty, before conceding twice to fall to West Bromwich Albion, 2-0, at Anfield. West Brom keeper Ben Foster, who had seven saves in the win, said after the match, "Liverpool is one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League, and a real threat to get back into the Champions League, so you know you have to bring your top game …" before collapsing in a heap of laughter. "Oh man," Foster continued, "I almost kept it together for that one. No, but seriously, Stewart Downing wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, so I did have to try almost all match long."
Kobe Bryant took to Twitter to admonish one of his fans (@PacSmoove) for calling a fellow Lakers fan "gay." Kobe went on to say, "If you really want to hurt someone with words, you can't be homophobic. I learned that lesson the hard way; it's wrong and only makes you look ignorant. What you have to do is get personal, learn about your foe, what they care about, and what they're ashamed of. Then you'll be ready to hurt people the way your high school girlfriend Michelle hurt you when she made out with your best friend on the way to junior prom. The way it hurt you when your dog Patches got real sick and died after you accidentally let it eat a piece of your birthday cake and you cried and cried and cried. The way it hurt you when your mom said your sister Kelly was her favorite kid, and that you'd never amount to anything. Then and only then will you, @PacSmoove, or should I say, 17-year-old Michael McFarlane, be ready to play with the Mamba."
The final prize on the MLB free agent market, All-Star center fielder Michael Bourn signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Cleveland Indians. Bourn, a client of super-agent Scott Boras, said he chose the Indians because of "the wonderful town of Cleveland? Are you kidding me? It was the money! No one else was going over $30 million in this market. Do you know what you can buy with $18 million? Art, you dumbass. This painting by Gerhard Richter. Look at it! I own that now. Best $16 million I've ever spent. Plus, I'll still have two million "Boras dollars" left over to get this work by Richard Serra installed next to my hedge maze. Yeah, I have a hedge maze."
The holidays saw several more deals go through, ranging from the Royals signing 38-year-old Miguel Tejada in the hopes he'll provide actual value for the first time in four years to moves that actually have a hope in hell of panning out. The most intriguing news actually happened off the field.
FOX Sports Media Group recently bought SportsTime Ohio for $235 million from the Cleveland Indians. With a new network to carry its games, the Tribe could now see their annual TV rights fees climb to $40 million a year. Which would be swell, except for this: That's only $10 million a year more than the team's making under its current deal. It's possible that the relatively small bump in Indians rights fees is an aberration in the red-hot trend that's supercharged the industry, with teams like the Rangers and Angels, even the Padres and Astros reaping big financial gains from new TV contracts.
But as Maury Brown writes, the Indians' new TV deal might signal something different altogether: an early sign that the TV rights bubble might be about to burst.