The Problem With Last Year’s Bulls, New Illini Basketball Schedule, the Blind Side, United Stock Scare, and Exception to Idiots-Out-Walking-Around – Land-o-Links for 9/10/2008

As both White Sox and Cubs fans watch their respective teams plummet, here are some links to take your mind off of Chicago baseball:

(1) Knowing is Only Half the Battle in Chicago (Wages of Wins Journal) – The always fascinating Wages of Wins Journal takes an in-depth look at why there was such a drop-off in wins for the Bulls from 2006-07 to 2007-08.  Through statistical analysis, the problem was simple to identify – offensive shooting efficiency was way down last year.  Of course, improving upon this is another matter.  As one of the commenters to the post noted and anyone who watched the Bulls regularly last season noticed, the team appeared to have a significant increase in the number of attempted jumpshots as opposed to shots in the paint.  I think this is a result of the Bulls’ previously weak-to-average post presence in P.J. Brown leaving for Boston, which left the team with no post presence whatsoever.  The key to Derrick Rose turning this team around over time is setting up those high percentage shots from the floor for his teammates.  I have been high on Rose since he was a high schooler and think that he’s up to the challenge, but Wages of Wins correctly notes that the immediate impact that he’ll have next season will be up in the air considering that you have to expect lower performance from a rookie (no matter how talented he might be).

(2) 2008-09 Illini Basketball Schedule Announced (Illini Basketball Fans Blog) – The test will be to see how the Illinois can get through the non-conference schedule in November and December without the services of Alex Legion.  For the team’s sake (but not for the sake of fan interest), the non-conference slate is a bit easier than last season.  Interesting games to note include a road game at Vanderbilt in the third game of the year on November 20th, Clemson at the Assembly Hall in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on December 2nd, Georgia at the United Center a few days later on December 6th, and the Braggin’ Rights Game against Missouri in St. Louis being moved to the Tuesday right before Christmas on December 23rd.

(3) NFL Salaries: Believe in the Blind Side (New York Times: Freakonomics Blog) – Here’s a look at the average salaries at each position in the NFL, which reinforces what well-informed football fans know already: after the quarterback, the next highest-paid position in football is the left tackle.  As the referenced Michael Lewis book “The Blind Side” noted, this makes logical sense since the left tackle protects the blind side of the right-handed quarterback (if a quarterback is left-handed like me, it’s the right tackle that becomes the key offensive lineman), so it’s essentially an insurance policy to protect the most valuable player on the team.  (By the way, Lewis is one of my favorite writers on business and sports.  His first-hand account of being a bond trader in the 1980s in “Liar’s Poker” is a classic and entertaining read regardless of whether you’re interested in finance.)  Even more interesting is how little most running backs are paid considering how much they handle the ball.  This actually makes a lot of sense to me – while there are a handful of running backs today such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson that are truly unique talents, the success of most RBs is almost entirely dependent on the offensive line.  Hence, teams such as Pittsburgh and Denver that have historically had strong offensive lines have been able to plug in a number of running backs over the years yet continue to get great production.

(4) Google, Tribune Co. At Odds Over Spread of United Story (Chicago Tribune) – Speaking of financial matters, United Airlines stock plunged on Monday when a report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel came across the newswires that the company was filing for bankruptcy.  It was later discovered that the report was a copy of the original Chicago Tribune story that was posted on the Sun-Sentinel website from when UAL filed for bankruptcy back in 2002.  Drive and Dish goes through a great analysis of how all news organizations and websites need to take greater care in getting accurate facts.

More disturbing, though, is a follow-up today about a squabble between Google and the Tribune Company (which owns both the Tribune and the Sun-Sentinel), where it appears that the Google News engine put Monday’s date on the old Sun-Sentinel story.  Thus, this shock to the markets appears to have been caused by a news aggregator putting a wrong date on a link.  If you’re an investor like me, the speed with which the market reacted to what turned out to be an old news story is absolutely frightening.  It’s clear that there are journalistic standards that news organizations need to stand by in terms of getting stories accurately reported.  However, what obligation do news aggregators, who are in essence posting links from those news organizations, have in terms of ensuring that the date and time stamps to those links are correct?  The United scenario that played out on Monday has probably just opened up a whole new area of the securities litigation – shareholders that saw their stock dive as a result of wrong date and time stamps might have some ammunition against Google and other news aggregators.  Whether those shareholders could actually prove that Google and other news aggregators have some type of legal duty to the general public with respect to checking these date and time stamps, though, is another matter that can’t be answered at this time.

And finally…

(5) Black Heart Gold Pants – Once you get past the initial shock of discovering the existence of literate Iowa graduates, this college football blog devoted to the Hawkeyes and, by extension, the rest of the Big Ten will vault to the top of your must-read list.  Even the occasional/frequent thrashings of the Illini are entertaining enough that all is forgiven (and the blog’s love of all things J Leman has become legendary on the interweb).

Parlay picks for this weekend are coming over the next couple of days.  Until then, let’s hope that the White Sox can stem the tide of awfulness that is taking them over.

(Image from Arbiter Online)