Black and Blue and Red All Over
Hockey’s plus/minus statistic is a Jockbeat favorite, and among the most useful numbers in sport, displaying as it does just who is getting it done on the ice and who is skating through quicksand.
Back in January, we thought we’d apply plus/minus to the basketball Knicks. It turns out that NBA teams track the stat, but for reasons known only in the paranoid minds of Jeff Van Gundy, Pat Riley, and David Stern, the figures are kept secret. So we decided to crunch the numbers ourselves. It was no easy task—taking the number of points scored for the ‘Bockers when a particular player is on the floor and subtracting the number of points scored by the other team when that player is on the floor—especially in a quick-scoring game like hoops.
In January, the Knicks were coming off the season’s longest home stand¡one in which they played their best ball of the year (4-1 record, with impressive thumpings of Portland and San Antonio), and their plus/minus numbers reflected that fact (see Jockbeat, January 30, 2001). Well, now that the Knicks have come back from a West Coast swing that turned out to be the bloodiest road trip since Bonnie met Clyde (Van Gundy’s road worriers lost three of five, including a 21-point blowout defeat to the toothless Vancouver Grizzlies), we thought we’d look at the plus/minus numbers yet again. Here’s what we found from that trip:
Proof positive that the 36-year-old Jackson is too slow on defense (and that Ward deserves to start over him), Houston’s body is once again wearing down late in the season, and Van Gundy needs to find more minutes for the sharpshooting Rice? Or merely an indictment of room-service food, hotel mattresses, and a schedule maker who thinks that jet lag is a figment of one’s imagination? Evidence that splinter-butt reserves Knight, Postell, and Spencer deserve more PT? Or that gar-bage time is not the moment to do serious evaluation of your deep-bench scrubs? Or perhaps, merely the sign that, as Sprewell goes, so go the Knicks?
Money for Nothing
So just how disappointing were the Rangers this year? Jockbeat dusted off its slide rule and calculated, in terms of player salary, what a regular-season standings point cost each NHL team this year. The gap between the Rangers and the rest of the league should be enough to make Glen Sather bite through his cigar. (Salary totals compiled from National Hockey League Players Association figures for on-roster players. An asterisk indicates that a team made the playoffs.)
It’s also worth noting that playoff-bound teams have a slightly lower average point cost ($387,894) than eliminated teams ($390,386).
Take heart, Jeff Van Gundy—Tiger Woods did not thank God for his Masters win on Sunday. Separation of church and stroke? More likely, it’s just plain modesty. Exhibit A: Earl Woods calling his son “the Chosen One.” Exhibit B: the popular country-club joke about Jesus and Moses playing golf. The punch line: As Jesus walks on the water hazard to retrieve yet another ball, Moses deadpans to the next foresome, “He is Jesus Christ. The problem is that he thinks he’s Tiger Woods.” Exhibit C: www.tigerwoodsisgod.com, where the Eighth Commandment reminds you, “Thou shalt not take the name Eldrick, unless in vain.” Amen. . . . * Of the 15,000 runners taking part in next Monday’s Boston Marathon, none could surpass the dedication of concert pianist Ronald Kmiec, who will run the 26.2-mile race for the 28th consecutive year. Kmiec even made it to the starting line when “my grandmother was buried on Boston Marathon Monday.” Kmiec explains that he had been to the wake, so . . . “I did Boston instead.” And, says the Carlisle, Massachusetts, resident, “Even with a broken leg, I think I’d run Boston, or limp along.” Kmiec has, in fact, run every single day since November 28, 1975, even when “a former neighbor attacked me one day and I ended up lying in a pool of blood and got 54 stitches in my head and a broken rib and facial bones from being clubbed.” The next day’s run, he says, “was very painful.” No doubt. But he got in a mile run anyway. Notes Kmiec, “It’s sort of obsessive-compulsive in a way.” Yah.
Contributors: Jeff Ryan, Brian Parks, Christiane Riera Salomon, Allen St. John, Peter Gambaccini
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman