“They need to outscore their opponents to win”

I love Charles Barkley for his no-shits given attitude on TV, his ability to make fun of himself, and his gift for antagonizing Shaq. HOWEVER, the man can also reeeeaaally get under my skin, like when he goes off on one of his patented anti-Warriors rants where he maintains that a jump-shooting team can’t win a championship and cites last season’s Finals collapse as proof, conveniently ignoring the fact that Golden State won the title literally the year before. Unfortunately, this outdated and downright idiotic line of thinking has become contagious in sports media, leading to national pundits making a living off espousing painfully unnuanced and ill-informed commentary.

You get blowhards like Colin Cowherd saying things about Steph Curry like “when his shot fades, he doesn’t offer much does he?” Or he offers, you know, some of the best ball-handling and finishing skills of all time. You get headlines like ESPN’s after the Warriors’ recent two-game losing streak, that say they “can’t handle ice-cold shooting.” Really, a talented team can lose when it’s not shooting well? You don’t say!

This isn’t an NBA specific problem either but an epidemic throughout sports media, where it seems to me that there is an anti-analytics pushback from guys who just want to talk about their antiquated traditions, old-timey stats, and mind-numbingly common sense observations. I’ve railed against this idiocy before but it bears repeating: the nerds have won the war for the soul of sports and we are smarter because of it. Get the hell out of here with your “clutch gene.”

Fantasy Time!

Speaking of nerds, it’s that special time of year again. Fantasy baseball season is almost upon us! You can trust me on advice, I won my league last year and it’s just a known fact that fantasy sports are 100% skill without a hint of luck. Take these pointers my young acolytes, and ride them to glory: If you play anything other than H2H Categories, you’re not worth my time. This isn’t fantasy football; no, auction drafts are not inherently better, and using them makes you smarter in the same way that driving a Prius makes you an environmental activist; if Mike Trout isn’t your top pick because you have a gut feeling about Mookie or Altuve, maybe make an appointment with your gastroenterologist; don’t reach on pitchers, not even for the top dogs, because I guarantee you can find plenty of guys to rack up wins and Ks in the later rounds; if you want a great-value catcher likely to finish top five at his position, look no further than the Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal.

Don’t forget how much of a five-tool beast A.J. Pollock was in 2015 just because he sat out last year with a fluke injury; I know shortstop is stacked nowadays, but you can nab rising star Didi Gregorius with pretty much your last pick, and the guy is worth way more than that; ignore positional runs where everyone just starts taking the next best person at a given position and stick to the “best player on the board” (that your roster needs) strategy.

Trea Turner is the real deal and I don’t actually think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that he’s a more valuable fantasy player than Bryce Harper this year; there’s nothing wrong with rolling the dice on speed demon Billy Hamilton in the middle rounds, because if the guy ever even gets a league-average bat, he might be a top 20 player; if you’re actually serious about competing, go in with as little real-life bias as possible, even if it means selecting a Red Sox player; and lastly, make sure you have fun! Just kidding, this is war. There is no fun.