FIRE JOE MORGAN: 4-for-4? More like 0-for-4,000,000-Good-Baseball-Writing-Opportunities!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

 

4-for-4? More like 0-for-4,000,000-Good-Baseball-Writing-Opportunities!

Apparently, (future) Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg has a column on Yahoo! Sports called 4-for-4. The hook?

"Yahoo! Sports' MLB analyst Ryne Sandberg gives four answers to four pressing questions in the major leagues."

Will the answers be in any way satisfactory or well thought out? Sadly, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Does the correct answer in the previous sentence make me 1-1 for today's post? No, I choose not to frame my writing in a nugget-sized, at-bat-style format.

Most of Ryno's analysis is banal or self-evident. (Example: "The Yankees just got back to .500 and that's always the first sign for a team on the rise. Once you get to .500, you can make a move.") But there's one question that Sandberg fumbles particularly egregiously.

3. Is Manny Ramirez a Hall of Famer?

Here's what Sandberg has to say:

I think the Boston Red Sox outfielder has taken advantage of Fenway Park. He's very comfortable there hitting balls off the Green Monster, and he's been very constant in what he contributes year in and year out with his run production.

At this point of his career, Ramirez reminds me of Jim Rice and Andre Dawson. Both of them hit over 400 home runs in their careers, but they're not in the Hall of Fame yet. Ramirez could have six or seven years left and wind up with 500-plus home runs. At that point, you could talk about Manny as a Hall of Famer. But not now.

As far as I can tell, the first paragraph helps Manny’s cause. He hits well at home? Fantastic. He’s consistent with run production? Great. If Sandberg is trying to argue that Manny’s numbers are inflated because Fenway is a good hitter’s park, he certainly doesn’t present any evidence to suggest that that’s the case. I don’t have Manny’s Boston home and away splits in front of me, but why don’t we look at his years in Cleveland years just to do a quick and dirty check of whether Ramirez is actually a product of Fenway’s Green Monster? The following are Manny’s OPS+’s from the years 1995-2000, when he was a Cleveland Indian: 148, 145, 143, 146, 174, 185. In all five of those years, he was in the top ten in all of baseball in OPS+. In 1999 and 2000, he led the major leagues in OPS.

So I'm not sure what Ryne is trying to say there.

Then Sandberg compares Manny to Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, great players both, but really, how similar to Manny Ramirez are they? Off the top of my head, I would say not very. Let’s go to the numbers, the only tangible record of how all three hitters actually performed. Manny (without a real decline phase yet, of course) has a career OPS+ of 156, extraordinarily high. Willie Mays’ career OPS+ is 156. (With about a season and a half of serious decline at ages 41 and 42. Amazingly, Willie had an OPS+ of 160 when he was 40!) Rice and Dawson check in at 128 and 119, respectively. And I’m not just poaching OPS+ because it’s convenient and it proves my point. Dawson is a clearly inferior hitter who had power but generally did not draw walks and managed to play for a long time. Rice is closer, and he won the 1978 AL MVP, but outside of that one phenomenal year, you know how many other seasons he surpassed Ramirez’s average OPS+ of 156? Zero. Manny’s been above it the last six years and counting, including one crazy year of 190.

So what is Ryno’s point? That, like he says very clearly, Rice, Dawson, and Manny all have 400 homers and Rice and Dawson still aren’t in? This doesn’t make any sense. Manny is 32, and he’s still hitting very effectively. Why not compare Alex Rodriguez with all the guys who’ve hit 380 home runs in their whole careers even though he’s clearly better than all of them?

The point is, comparing home run totals for a player who is still in his prime to the totals of guys who are done with their careers really doesn’t help us all that much. To take it to an extreme, if a guy came in and hit 122 homers in one year, then retired, would he make the Hall of Fame? You certainly wouldn’t say, “Well, Jeff Blauser hit exactly 122 homers in his whole career, too, and he sure ain’t in the Hall.” You would measure how much better this god-like player was than the rest of the field for that one season, and weigh it against the fact that he only contributed that single season to his resume. And then you would decide.

Thanks for not answering the question of Manny Ramirez's Hall-worthiness at all, Ryne Sandberg.

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posted by Junior  # 8:13 PM
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