FIRE JOE MORGAN: redux redux


Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

FJM has gone dark for the foreseeable future. Sorry folks. We may post once in a while, but it's pretty much over. You can still e-mail dak, Ken Tremendous, Junior, Matthew Murbles, or Coach.

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Monday, June 27, 2005


redux redux

All right MFers. Sorry for the lack of posts -- I've been out of the country for a while. Also, I don't know why the site is f'd up here at the top. I'm trying to fix it; we might have to switch to a new template if the problem persists.

Regardless, I love the point that Ken Tremendous makes in the "Redux" thread about white guys being called "throwback" players. I'd like to add a little, because it drives me freaking crazy.

I forget who made the following point about Paul O'Neill, but it's a fantastic one. Paul is a no-doubt cry-baby. A whiner. I know we've talked about how much a DVD of nothing but Paul O'Neill being called out on strike 3 would sell for in Red Sox Nation. Yet Paul O'Neill was always labeled a "gamer," a "fiery competitor," a "great teammate." We've all seen athletes of color bark at umps the same way that O'Neill did, and they were usually called borderline head cases. NO ONE in the history of major league baseball has benefitted from being white as much as Paul O'Neill. Look it up.

Here's a comparison to think about: Miguel Tejada and Cal Ripken. Remember, Miguel Tejada has played in more than 800 games in a row. He is credited with raising the level of play of his teammates (I'm not saying it's true, just saying that's what peope say about him), he plays pretty hard (though again, it's hard to think of that many players who don't play hard), and he can flat out rake. What terms do people use to describe Cal Ripken? "Mr. Baseball," "a class act," "saved the sport," "Iron Man," "Ambassador of the Game," "Mr. Whitefolks." What words do people use to describe Miguel Tejada? "Electric," "sparkplug," "quickminded."

When was the last time you heard the word "lunchpail" used to refer to a player who wasn't white? In any sport? What makes Trot Nixon, Brett Favre and Dan Majerle more "lunchpail" than Moises Alou, Byron Leftwich and B.J. Armstrong? Do you have to look like a stereotypical American blue-collar worker to embody the spirit of a "blue-collar athlete"?

I wish I had more evidence to point to -- apologies for the anecdotal-ness.

posted by dak  # 3:39 PM
Welcome back, dak!

Though I've never read it or heard it, I always thought of Popeye Jones as a lunchpail player.
A.C. Green?
Right, sure, AC Green...but for a black guy, he's pretty "white," isn't he? You know what I mean.
It's time for today's official ESPN Sportsnation poll, brought to you this afternoon by David Sunflower seeds.

The question:
When he says "white," what does dak mean?

A) Religious
B) Gay
C) In possession of an embarrassingly small and/or malformed penis
D) Scrappy
I think I may have made that point about O'Neill. In any case, Bill Simmons, who should really be cited on this blog more, not for stupidity but for general asinineness, made a pretty good point recently hen he noted that you neer see white players and black players compared to each other. If a white basketball player is good, he is compared to Larry Bird or Vlade Divac, and corresponding black players are compared to Jordan, Pippen, Magic, etc. This is silly, in 2005. Can't we all just agree that, say, Daunte Culpepper and Troy Aikman are similar QBs, minus the SB rings? Why can't someone say that Raffy Palmeiro's swing reminds him/her of Ken Griffey's? Et cetera. Also, welcome back, DAK, and yes, The Rick did need to come back, because people don't hate Boston sports fans enough right now.
None of you guys remind me of Ralph Wiley or Scoop Jackson.
Junior's comments remind me of a young Haruki Murakami.
I agree completely (and I LOVE this blog) with the general gist of the post. That said, Cal Ripken and Miguel Tejada are only similar players superficially (both Baltimore shortstops who have played a bunch of games in a row). Ripken was head and shoulders above Tejada as a ballplayer. Its not even close both offensively and defensively.

I know that wasn't the point of the post, but I felt it necessary to say.
Oh, I'll take this bait.

mattymatty wrote:
"That said, Cal Ripken and Miguel Tejada are only similar players superficially (both Baltimore shortstops who have played a bunch of games in a row). Ripken was head and shoulders above Tejada as a ballplayer. Its not even close both offensively and defensively."

To begin with, Cal Ripken and Miguel Tejada have the following in common:
1) MVPs
2) Offensive and "clubhouse" leaders of their team
3) Shortstops for the Baltimore Orioles
4) 2 of the 3 longest consecutive games played streaks of the last 35 years (Garvey)

Is that really "superficial"? I don't think so. But if you still do, well, this is where it gets good.

It'd be foolish to compare all of Ripken's career to Tejada's so how similar are they up to this point in Tejada's career? Well, Tejada was 28 before the season started. Here's a chart of the most similar batters in Major League Baseball history, to Miguel Tejada, through age 28:

Guess who's #2? That's right: Cal Ripken. What that means is that IN THE HISTORY OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ONLY ONE PLAYER WAS CLOSER TO MIGUEL TEJADA IN OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION THAN CAL RIPKEN. By the way, the same is true the other way -- Tejada is the second most similar batter to 28-year-old Ripken. (link:

Is this not similar enough to you? "Superficial"? They're a Vern Stephens away from being identical offensive twins.

If you want to look at career averages (up through last night's game for Tejada):
OBP: Ripken: 340; Tejada: 338
SLG: Ripken: 447; Tejada: 480
AVG: Ripken: 276; Tejada: 279

Yes, Ripken played in a less offensive time, but Tejada's spent most of his career in that canyon of a ballpark in Oakland.

As far as defense goes, I don't have great numbers available, but career range factors: Ripken 4.62 (as SS); Tejada 4. 65.

In summation, I think you're wrong.
Dear mattymatty and dak,

My first impulse was to say that no, Cal Ripken was not in fact head and shoulders above Miguel Tejada, at the very least offensively. This reaction was likely based in a) my belief that Tejada is pretty damn great and b) my belief that Cal Ripken gets ball-washed quite a bit, and perhaps is a tiny bit overrated.

But -- and I think you'll appreciate this, dak -- let's really look at the numbers. dak's done some of the work for us, but as he admits, Ripken played in a vastly different offensive era. How will that factor compete with Tejada's "canyon of a ballpark" in Oakland?

Fortunately, we don't have to make hand-waving arguments either way. OPS+ is both era- and park-adjusted. I took Tejada's first seven full seasons and Ripken's first seven full seasons and came up with the following:

Tejada OPS+: 109
Ripken OPS+: 126

What can we draw from this? Up to this point in their respective careers, Cal Ripken was significantly better on offense than Miguel Tejada relative to his peers. Surprising, at least to me.

As a point of comparison, Ripken's average OPS+ over this period is coincidentally equal to Tejada's during the 2004 season, when he was a monster. Tejada's, meanwhile, is close to Juan Uribe's 2004 season, which was very good (an OPS+ of 107; he hit 23 homers and batted .283). But Juan Uribe was no Miguel Tejada last year.

As a side note, I'm pretty suspicious of the Similar Batters lists. The metric they use was developed by Bill James, but if you look carefully at what it constitutes, it is NOT era- or park-adjusted. Meaning Tejada's inflated batting average and power totals (due to this recent hitters' era) are compared directly to Ripken's numbers during a much lower-scoring period. So the Similar Batters lists are interesting, but not exactly rigorous.

Which is not to say that it's not the best, quickest, and dirtiest method we have. I'm certainly never going to develop a better way of comparing players across eras because I am too lazy and stupid.

In sum, from what we know so far, Ripken was clearly the better hitter than Tejada through this point in their careers. Head and shoulders better? Maybe. Could Tejada do some things over the next few years that might change how these two stack up? Definitely.

But his numbers will have to be really insane if all the other major league baseball players continue to hit as they have.
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