How Did He Get So Good? Why Isn’t He Better?

The B.S. Report: Larry Bird

Ronald Martinez, Jim McIsaac/Getty Images, Marc Piasecki/FilmMagic Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings in goal against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on April 9, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. / Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets in action against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on April 19, 2012 i

What Happened to the Kings, Mets Disaster Watch, and Fake British Accents

All that and more in this week's Bake Shop mailbag!

II both love and hate NHL teams’ injury reports because they’re always so vague. Whereas NFL teams will list their players as Out, Doubtful, Questionable or Probable with the name of the injured body part (head, neck, ankle, etc.), NHL teams just say “Upper Body Injury” or “Lower Body Injury.” It’s just odd to me that a guy could have an “Upper Body Injury” and that could mean anything from a dislocated shoulder to a nasty paper cut (not that a paper cut would ever keep a hockey player from playing, but still). Thoughts?

— Aaron Y.

True, skipping games with paper-cut-grade injuries is more of a baseball thing; just ask Jered Weaver or any of these guys. In hockey, when you’re considered a snake-bitten player it’s because you’ve actually been bitten by a snake.

Still, the injury nebulousness has long been one of the NHL’s quirks. And honestly, you’re lucky if you even get the upper-vs.-lower-body level of granular detail. Coaches ranging from Bruce Boudreau to Claude Julien to Mike Yeo to John Tortorella have refused to elaborate on their players’ conditions, instead informing media that it’s simply “a body injury.” As opposed to a mind wound, I guess? (And that’s when Torts is in a chipper mood. When he’s not, the answer is “none of your business.”)

Earlier this season, Colby Cosh of Maclean’s decided that if hockey teams were going to willfully obfuscate injury reports, then by god, he was just going to assume that every vague “lower body injury” was code for … a crippled penis.

It’s actually a really fun game. Bummer, Ray Whitney! Owwies, Kevin Bieksa! My condolences, James Reimer! (Hey, at least it wasn’t an “upper body injury” that was code for “concussion” like last year.) I can never hear an injury report in quite the same way again.

Some students in England have concluded that David Beckham and Posh Spice have refined their speaking over the years. What do you think of deliberate accent manipulation in order to appear less down market?

— Joey L.

Ah, it seems like only yesterday that the Beckhams were lauded as “the king and queen of the chavs” — with chavs defined as “tough guys, skanks, soccer hooligans, lower-class unsophisticates, and cheesy celebrities.” But I’m actually way more upset that the Daily Mail article describing how “Posh’s speech is definitely getting posher” doesn’t manage to bring up Madonna’s OR Gwynnie’s adopted British accent even once! Enormous oversight, particularly by the Daily Mail, which usually never misses those opportunities. Anyway, the important point is that I’d totally dig a Spice Girls reunion rendition of “The Rain in Spain.”

If you weren’t planning to weigh in on the sorority girl email then just punch yourself in the face right now.

— Diana W.

The sorority girl e-mail! All hail the sorority girl e-mail! If Parker Posey’s character in Dazed and Confused (air raid, bitches!) had a baby and no one ever quite knew whether the father was Ben Affleck’s character from Boiler Room or Jeremy Piven (either as Ari Gold or just himself in general) because they were way too afraid to ask … well, that child would grow up to be sorority girl e-mail evil artiste Rebecca Martinson.

As a total non-confrontational pushover, I have long had a fascination with ladies who, in Rebecca’s own closing words, “really don’t give a fuck.” (Wait, actually, her final words were “Go fuck yourself.”) We all know them: they’re bossy, they’re terrifying, and they’re never not embroiled in drama. They have slapped people and meant it. They probably received their own phone line when they turned 10. Like any good despot, they’re powerful and always surrounded by loyal lackeys, though whether that’s out of fear or respect is forever unclear. There’s an exchange in the movie Bachelorette that I was reminded of while reading the sorority letter. It’s about the bitchy, tyrannical character played by Kirsten Dunst:

Dale: You know how there are like, serial killers … and then there’s Hannibal Lecter?
Trevor: Yeah?
Clyde: There are girls … and then there’s Regan.

And THEN there’s Rebecca Martinson. I was prepared to roll my eyes at her letter, figuring it’d be on par with that bizarre SWUGs article the other week — and instead they were filled with laughter tears. Like, I’m not even mad … that’s amazing. In all my years on the Internet I’ve read many an unhinged rant. And right now the sorority letter is up there with the legendary Continental Seat #29E Complaint Letter, if you ask me.

Michael Shannon’s dramatic reading of the sorority e-mail completely underlines how magnificent the prose is. The segment from 1:30 to 2:45 takes my breath away. This video deserves awards for best actor AND best original screenplay. Viva Rebecca! I am doing so many fucking finger snaps right now.

Is there a more thankless position in sports than a Girl’s Lacrosse Goalie? It seems like the rules are set for close-in One-on-None Penalty Shots more often than not.

— Doug M.

It’s a close call, but I think “handball goalie” might potentiality take the crown. A guy can have the game of his life and still give up like 30 goals.

Who will be this year’s LA Kings? By which I mean team that horribly under-achieved through most of the season but caught fire late. My candidates are LA, Washington, and St. Louis. Your thoughts?

— Ben S.

Those are all good choices. If I had to pick one team from each conference, I’d go with the Kings in the West pretty soundly. The East is a little bit trickier, though.

If we’re comparing teams to last year’s Kings, there are a few distinguishing factors to go by: They (1) had high expectations going into the season; (2) noticeably underperformed; (3) yet weren’t as bad as their record would indicate, given the underlying statistics about their puck possession and overall play; and (4) had a damn good goalie.

The Kings and the Rangers both fit the bill well. (So do the other teams you mentioned, by the way.) Both teams entered the season with high expectations. The Kings had, ya know, won the Stanley Cup pretty decisively and everything; furthermore, they retained nearly all of the championship team. The Rangers had been in the driver’s seat a couple of games into the Eastern Conference finals before succumbing to the Devils. That, combined with the acquisition of Rick Nash, put the Rangers on many radars heading into this short season.

But both teams got off to relatively glum starts. The Rangers had trouble scoring, while the Kings (who had the same problem last season) suffered somewhat from middling goaltending by last year’s Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Quick. Both problems — overly low shot percentages, a goaltender slump — often turn out to be issues of luck rather than skill over the long haul.

The Kings have rebounded nicely from their early-season lows. They led the league in Fenwick Close, an “advanced” statistic that essentially tracks shot differential during tight games. The idea here is that in a typical, say, 3-0 game, the winning team will try to defensively run down the clock while the losing team will be borderline rabid in its pursuit. We’ve all seen it happen. This looks just at game-states in which the two teams are close enough to be playing a full, two-way game.

(You often hear about plus-minus, but as a statistic it’s sloppy: There are so many fewer goals during a game than there are attempted shots that the numbers can wind up hard to read. It’s been found that looking at shot attempts rather than goals correlates much more closely with wins, because over time it essentially becomes a stand-in for overall puck possession.)

Anyway, the Kings lead the league in Fenwick Close, and that is no small feat — check out this great graph that shows the importance of doing well in that regard. The Rangers have pretty decent possession metrics themselves, as well as one of the top goaltenders in the world in Henrik Lundqvist. The Marian Gaborik trade has replaced some of the depth the Rangers lost in acquiring Rick Nash. Both the Kings and the Rangers are better teams than you’d know from looking at their records. (The Rangers’ brutal loss to the Panthers on April 23 was illustrative: They lost 3-2 while absolutely dominating shot attempts.) I would expect them to be tough playoff opponents.

How much money would you pay to see a gallery of Geno Malkin’s snapchats? I would pay at least 73 dollars for this.

— William K.

I’d go as high as like, $150, considering that he’s been injured and probably doing a lot of sitting around, which is prime Snapchatting time. But for my money I’d need a promise that I’d get at least something as good as “russia best,” and that the dolphin photo, the shirtless with dog photo, and the penguin conga line photo would be included in the gallery whether he ever Snapchatted them out or not.

As a proud Wisconsin Badger, it pains me to no end that the NCAA hoops tournament (where we occasionally make the 2nd round) gets all the attention, while the NCAA hockey tournament (where we occasionally win) is all-too-often overlooked. So help me draw some hoops-pucks parallels to educate the masses:

BC is clearly Duke (affluent fan base that is both reviled and envied).
Minnesota and/or North Dakota would be Kansas (proud tradition, biggest thing in a small state, plenty of banners)
Wisconsin would be Louisville (perennial contender, occasionally it all comes together for a championship but often overshadowed by close rivals).
Which leads me to my question…is this Yale run the equivalent of the 1985 Villanova championship? Does that make Andrew Miller the Ed Pinckney?

— Brody R.

Don’t try to distract me with Yale hockey, because I see what you’re up to here. Only a Wisconsin fan would lump Minnesota and North Dakota together like that. This is how wars get started. Those fans are like Bloody Mary. I’m afraid to invoke their names. Do you realize that by even printing this e-mail I’m going to receive 900 angry e-mails and tweets from Gophers and The Artists Formerly Known As The Fighting Sioux, all of them getting huffy about being compared with their most-hated rival?

So let’s compare North Dakota to, say, Kentucky — a team that one of my friends describes as having “the Bama fans of college basketball.” Just as you can’t scroll through any college football comment thread without spotting a rogue “ROLL TIDE!,” it’s impossible to attend a college hockey event that isn’t randomly being attended by proud hordes of green-wearing North Dakota fans. I bet even if I went to some D-III NESCAC regular-season game in November there’d still be a pocket of North Dakotans up in the stands, asking everyone who walks by if they’ve been to Ralph Engelstad Arena. These people are serious.

If BC is Duke, then Jerry York is Mike Krzyzewski. I’ll buy that. (Speaking of Jerry York, only he could turn an article about the Watertown manhunt into whimsy. “I got Bauer hockey sticks all over the house as our last line of defense,” he said.) And Boston University would have to be UNC. (Northeastern is NC State.)

As for Yale hockey, the only problem with that description is that I can’t think of who on Quinnipiac would be the Patrick Ewing figure. Still, this description of the subsequent life of Villanova guard Gary McLain sticks out:

In a March 16, 1987, Sports Illustrated article, Gary McLain, who played starting guard on the championship Villanova team, admitted to using cocaine during the 1985 Final Four tournament and during his team’s visit to the White House to celebrate their victory and meet President Ronald Reagan. McLain, who also confessed to selling drugs while at Villanova, implied that other Villanova players had used drugs, although he wouldn’t name them. McLain entered drug rehab after he was fired from his job on Wall Street for forging a check and company voucher to help support his addiction.

Cocaine, presidents, and Wall Street? It’s like an enhanced version of “that whole Yale thing.” Works for me.

Of all of the burned CD’s (“Party Mix,” “Breakup Mix,” “Study Jams,” etc) that you (inevitably, most likely) threw away, what was the one compilation you wish you could have back?

— George W.

Ooh, I’d have to go with “FISCHY AND BAKES BFF ’00.” (But what are these newfangled “burned CDs” of which you speak? I was all about the cassettes pretty much right up until everyone’s cars stopped accepting them.) FISCHY AND BAKES BFF ’00 kicked off with “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree, transitioned into “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” by Pearl Jam (long novelty song titles are the bane of the mixtape label maker, btw, but my BFF Fischy and I persevered), and also included such hits as “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Ice Cream” — the Mirrorball version; we weren’t monsters — “I Wanna Sex You Up,” “Save Tonight,” and “Long Black Veil.” Oh, and “Meet Virginia.” It obviously had “Meet Virginia.” God, FISCHY AND BAKES BFF ’00 was the best.

Runner-up: the unmarked homemade cassingle I had that was just this one song recorded on repeat:

The prospect of Matt Harvey’s bright future combined with young talent like Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud seems too good to be true, so when will Harvey have his serious injury and subsequent decline in production?

Does it happen this season and leave Mets’ fans wondering about what could have been or is it after we give him a huge contract in a few years, basically throwing the money down the drain? Not sure which one I would rather have, but I just know that it’s happening.

— Kirk M.

I’m not sure what was more depressing about this e-mail: that I found myself nodding grimly while reading it, or that Kirk M.’s school e-mail address made it apparent that he was, by my math, still in diapers the year the Mets last made the World Series. Anyway, this is the type of question that calls for some Expert Input, so I polled a few of my favorite Mets enthusiasts. Their answers may surprise you.

Jason Fry, among many other things one of the men behind the blog Faith and Fear in Flushing, opted to stick with the “faith” part of the equation:

Kirk, man, you’re way too young to be mainlining despair. It’ll be all that’s left to you by your forties, so don’t start now. OK, yeah, the biggest danger to pitchers’ health is pitching, and the Mets have operated under a little black cloud since the last day of 2007. But better days are ahead, I promise. And in the meantime, there will be sunshine and baseball talk and cold beer. (Though not for you just yet.) So enjoy today — particularly if Matt Harvey’s on the hill.

Adam Mirchin, the person whose Twitter account I probably favorite most frequently (and even though I’m pretty slutty with my Twitter favoriting, that really means something), got a little riled up by the question:

As anyone familiar with my Twitter feed knows, I steadfastly maintain that Mets fans are more embarrassing than the Mets organization. It basically goes like this: any fan base that has experienced a semblance of prolonged heartache immediately tries to corner the market on “being so freakin’ unlucky and/or beaten down, man.”

Somehow, it’s worse in New York. These are the fans that are always whining about “what is the plan?” as if it’s actually reasonable to expect the front office to take to the airwaves with 75 detailed bullet points outlining, step-by-step, the exact blueprint … WHERE IS WHEELER? HE’S READY! SURE, I CAN’T PICK HIM OUT OF A POLICE LINEUP, BUT I KNOW: HE’S READY FOR NEW YORK. SANDY ALDERSON IS SUCH AN IDIOT …

(His e-mail went on like that for another four or five paragraphs, in which he somehow managed to touch on both Darrelle Revis and the start times for World Series games, and quite frankly I’m a little worried he might be wandering around Manhattan in a catcher’s mask and fugue state right now.) David Roth of the Classical had a similar take:

New Yorkers have a tendency to exaggerate the magnitude and significance of their experience, which along with totally justified envy of our excellent delicatessens is why so many people dislike us.

All true. Still, my own reaction to the question probably syncs up most closely with Sports on Earth’s Emma Span:

First things first: It’s never what you expect. Something terrible will happen, yes, but never the terrible thing you are prepared for. You don’t get mugged when you’re worried about getting mugged; that’s when you get hit by a car.

I’m embroidering that last line on a pillow. An orange-and-blue pillow, of course. Let’s go Mets!

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes