May 24, 2013
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Keith Law is a smart cookie, and today on his personal blog, he made a pretty sharp observation in connection with being admitted to the BBWAA:
I am still unclear on why, exactly, I might need to be a member; after conversations with probably a dozen current members, I think the opposite is true - the BBRAA needed people like me, Rob, etc. as members, to try to boost their credibility as an organization in a time when they receive so much criticism for the backwardness and outright hostility towards intelligent analysis (statistical or scouting) displayed in so much mainstream writing, to say nothing of the RBI/wins fetish in BBRAA voting.
I think that's right. I also think that doing the right thing for cynical reasons still counts as doing the right thing, so let's call it a wash.
Paul Daugherty has written the kind of column for which I have absolutely no use:
Baseball has never been more disconnected.
Because ballplayers are technically paid "salaries," certain people will always draw unfavorable comparisons between what a ballplayer makes and what an auto worker makes. In a practical sense, however, ballplayers are not truly salaried employees. They're private contractors or suppliers on par with steel companies and the petroleum industry: suppliers of essential manufacturing components without which the entire enterprise is impossible. Quick: is anyone criticizing an iron ore mine for not having "perspective"?
But Daugherty is no dummy. He understands baseball economics, and he understands that comparing a left fielder to a normal American worker makes no sense, and that's what makes this an exercise in transparent populism.
I hate it when my day job interferes with my social life. Joe Torre seems to be taking it better:
For the last 13 years or so, Torre has visited this gambling mecca in early December to play golf and craps and to bet on the horses with his own modern-day Rat Pack.
Hey! Me too!
And directly on the heels of writing that mondo-long post about silly BBWAA voting, four people who would never employ dumbass reasoning like that are granted admittance to the tribe: Rob Neyer and Keith Law of ESPN.com and Will Carroll and Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus have all been asked to join the BBWAA's ranks.
Congratulations to Rob, Keith, Will, and Christina! They are all smart, capable people whose work and philosophy can form the basis for the future of an organization that spends too much time looking backwards.
Now the big question: do they accept?
'Tis the season for ill-conceived Hall of Fame columns, and today the San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins wrote a classic of the genre. Basically, Jenkins goes with the I-like-the-cut-of-his-jib approach, eschewing statistics except in those cases when they support the guys whose jibs he likes in the first place:
In a glowing tribute to the recently retired Greg Maddux, Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci noted that his comments, "not by accident, made no mention of any career statistic - no more than you would cite records sold to describe the voice of Sinatra."
Whatever. We've heard all of this before, and on some level I don't care anymore. Bert Blyleven numbers are irrelevant because he didn't feel like a Hall of Famer at the time, but Jack Morris' 133 complete games are a key consideration. Jim Rice was feared. Tim Raines wasn't Rickey Henderson. These are common arguments so it's not necessarily worth singling out Jenkins. He managed to put so many of these old chestnuts into a single column, however, that it would be a shame for his hard work to go unnoticed:
Jim Rice: Though his defenders call him the most dominant player of his time, that does a disservice to Reggie Jackson, Eddie Murray and George Brett. Rice might have been the most feared, though.
I'm pretty sure it was one of the Boston writers who came up with the "feared" meme, but when were the talking points on this officially released?
Jack Morris: Defined the type of toughness lacking in so many starting pitchers today. He would have laughed at pitch counts, had they existed. Big winner who finished games (133 times) and was especially good in the postseason. Yes. And I'd love to see a "no" voter try to look Morris in the eye.
Really? The fact that Morris might intimidate a sportswriter is a reason to vote for him? Oy.
Mark McGwire: Yes. I've never wavered on McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Sammy Sosa. They were legends of their era. They were juiced, like so many of their contemporaries, but baseball had no hard-and-fast legislation nor drug testing to stop them. Forget the numbers. In fact, when it comes to this era, my theory works better than ever. As always, take the players who truly made a difference.
Let's give Jenkins some props here: most of the guys who adopt the cut-of-his-jib reasoning decide that McGwire's jib is fatally flawed. If you're going to go big picture/gut feeling like Jenkins does, I don't see how you can carve out these big famous guys. If you're going to penalize for steroids, you had better make a fact-based argument. Indeed, if anyone is ever going to make a convincing case for keeping out the steroid users (or alleged steroid users) it will probably be a stathead who has (a) gained access to some reliable steroid data; and (b) figured out how to quantify the unfairness of a given players' juiced accomplishments.
Tim Raines: No. Did a lot of great things, but in every single category, he was a level down from Henderson.
The same could be said for Ted Williams when compared to Babe Ruth. What's your point?
Bert Blyleven: If you were around at the time, following the game daily all season, you weren't likely to peg Blyleven for Cooperstown. Too many of his contemporaries had better reputations, and more presence. He did throw the best curveball of his day. But no.
Usually they knock Blyleven for the win totals and Cy Young votes. This is the first time I've seen reputation and presence cited. Probably worth wondering why this doesn't cut against Morris too, because there wasn't anyone talking about his reputation and presence back in the day either. Really, has one game ever made such a difference for a player's Hall candidacy?
Don Mattingly: Yes, if only to make a point. Mattingly has no chance, because of the persistent back injuries that essentially had wrecked his career by the age of 28. But he was the epitome of greatness in the late 1980s, the very essence of "ballplayer." He needs some votes, just to know that people remember.
If you admit that the man is not worthy of the Hall of Fame, you should have your privileges revoked if you later vote for him.
Dave Parker: Ask anyone who saw Parker in his prime: tape-measure homers, rocket throws, exceptional speed for a big man. Ask his A's teammates from the Tony La Russa years. A man among men, and clutch. Yes.Another instance where we should give Jenkins at least some credit for consistency. Many of the guys who are pro-Rice are anti-Parker, and can't cite any reason for their position other than the fear factor. I wouldn't vote for Dave Parker, but if Jenkins wants a big Hall of good-but-not-great corner outfielders, he's more than entitled to vote that way.
Andre Dawson: Confession: I've never been able to make a definitive call on this guy. He does look great in retrospect. Hell, he looked great at the time. It's just that from the very start, in the Montreal outfield with Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie, he was short on full-blown recognition. A reluctant no.
I don't get this. For starters, if you're going all-in with Rice and Parker, it seems like you may as well have Dawson as well. More of a mystery is that line about Cromartie and Valentine. Is he saying that those guys carried Andre to some degree and thus he doesn't deserve it? Is he saying that Andre doesn't deserve it because no one paid attention to Warren Cromartie (and if so, I beg to differ!)? If that's the case, wasn't it Jenkins' job as a writer to make people pay attention? And where does Ron LeFlore fit into all of this?
Mark Grace and Alan Trammell: Rock solid. Like granite. Just too much stiff competition at their respective positions. No.
Maybe that's true about Grace -- the falloff from elite first basemen to Grace is pretty dramatic -- but not Trammell. You got, what, Wagner, Vaughn, Banks (for a while), Yount (for a while) Ripken, Smith, Jeter, A-Rod, Larkin, and that's pretty much it, isn't it? While he's no Wagner, I think Trammell fits in pretty well with that group.
As usual, that gets us nowhere. I just need to go off on one or two of these things each year to get it out of my system.
We've all made jokes about the Angels' name, but I didn't realize that someone was suing over it:
The legal fight over the Angels' name went into overtime on Tuesday, when a state appellate court said it would delay a scheduled ruling for as long as three weeks . . .
Assuming that the article isn't cherry-picking the relevant contract clauses, the suit sounds near frivolous. "Include the name 'Anaheim' therein" is pretty straightforward. No matter what we may think of the name, Arte Moreno has clearly included the name "Anaheim" therein. It's not his fault that the city of Anaheim did not have the foresight to realize that someone might break away from the standard city-mascot naming convention. While there is an obligation to perform one's contractual duties in good faith, there is no obligation to avoid taking advantage of the open and obvious loopholes created by the drafters. If he had wanted to, Moreno could have changed the team name to the "Los Angeles Angels, And By The Way, Anaheim Sucks."
Well, that may have been closer to bad faith, but you get my point.
Jeez, you take two hours to write up a legal brief, and the whole world goes and gets itself in a hurry:
CC Sabathia is not going to play on the West Coast. He is not going to play in the National League. CC Sabathia is going to be a Yankee, The Post has learned exclusively.
Robo is saying that it's seven years and upwards of $160M. That'll buy a lot of hours on a fractionally-owned executive jet for Mrs. Sabathia to go back and forth from her California home.
I guess I'm sort of deflated. Not because the Yankees got him per se -- it's been years since the prospect of the Yankees buying players made me despair about the competitive balance of baseball -- but because no one else did. Sabathia the Brewer, Sabathia the Giant, Sabathia the Angel, or Sabathia the Dodger would have at least been interesting. With Sabathia the Yankee, the stories for 2009 can practically be pre-written.
If CC starts slow like he did last year, there will be exaggerated shock and worry. If he carries the team down the stretch like he did the Brewers last season, there will be exaggerated awe and hero-making. If he pitches well yet the Yankees still falter because of the offense -- which I feel is the most likely scenario -- people will wonder why the Yankees were so hot for CC in the first place instead of going after Texeira or something.
In other words, despite the tens of thousands of words people will write about this signing in the coming days, it stands to be the most boring transaction of the year.
So I decide to go out for some cocktails after work last night. I'm at the Tip Top, gettin' my drink on, when in walks this gorgeous brunette. I won't bore you with the details, but we hit it off. And I mean really hit it off. Flash forward to 8PM: I'm booking home, trying to get my story straight about getting stuck at work, and I think I have created some real plausible deniability. I give my rebop to Mrs. Shyster who, while skeptical, seems to be buying it. Then, wouldn't you know it, in walks Ken Freakin' Rosenthal, who throws cold water all over my lie. And not only does he debunk the story, he explains to my wife that it never made sense in the first place because there's no way I could have gotten lipstick on my collar working late on the Peterson case.
Damn you Rosenthal!
There are so many things wrong with FOX's baseball broadcasts, but at least now there will be one less wrong thing:
The Fox network is considering dropping its Saturday pregame show before Major League Baseball broadcasts next season.
Novel concept: "Hello again everybody! This is John Play-by-Play, with my partner, Joe Color. Today it's the Home Nationals vs. the Road Nationals! Lineups and the first pitch right after this short break." [a baseball game then commences].
Paul Lukas links to an image of a new alternate Red Sox cap that is supposed to be unveiled tomorrow.
Pretty sweet if you ask me.