FIRE JOE MORGAN: Roy S. Johnson Gets Paid To Write About Baseball

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

 

Roy S. Johnson Gets Paid To Write About Baseball

More specifically, things like this. Thanks to FJM reader Joel for the tip. Let's dive in.

Maury Wills, Lou Brock, Vince Coleman, Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson ... Scott Podsednik. You were probably with me up until ... Scott Podsednik. You recognized a list of baseball's all-time thieves (in the best sense of the word) until ... Scott Podsednik.

>>What? No, I was with you all the way. I am a fan of baseball. I like to read about baseball and look at the numbers associated with baseball and whatnot. Therefore, I am very familiar with Scott Podsednik, and the fact that he steals a lot of bases. I am more than comfortable with you putting him in the same sentence as Tim Raines and Vince Coleman. Pretty much everyone with a passing interest in baseball could tell you that Scott Podsednik is one of the most prolific base stealers in the game today. But keep going, asshole.

And now, you're most likely either scratching your head, rolling about with belly laughter or wondering whether the recent East Coast heat wave sapped my senses.

>>I don't even...what? Does this guy think he's dug deep into the back pages of baseball's forgotten stars or something? Found a name that no one but he will recognize? WE ALL KNOW THAT SCOTT PODSEDNIK STEALS A LOT OF BASES. Jesus.

Base-stealing is a lost art, and the first five names represent some of the game's greatest practitioners of the craft. They were all-around players, certainly. One (Brock) is a Hall of Famer, and another (Henderson) certainly will be. The rest were respected pros who contributed to their teams with skill and leadership.

>>Let's take this nice and slow.

1) Base-stealing is a lost art.
>>No. People still steal bases, and some believe that the art of stealing bases has only evolved since the days of Rickey Henderson. League leaders don't regularly steal 100+ bases a year, but that doesn't mean that (a) anybody's forgotton about SBs, or (b) it's become any less artful.

2) They were all-around players, certainly.
>>Certainly? Vince Coleman had 28 career homers. His career OPS+ was 83. He was a base-stealing specialist, and little more. He was far from an all-around player. Wills, similarly, had 20 career taters and a career OPS+ of 88. (By the way, you know where Maury Wills ranks on the all-time Stolen Bases list? EIGHTEENTH.) To round out the list, very quickly, Brock was a good all-around player, Raines was very good (OPS+ 123) and Henderson is one of the best players ever. Ty Cobb, unlike Coleman and Wills, was an all-around player who could steal (4th all time).

3) The rest were respected pros who contributed to their team with skill and leadership.
>>Hey dude -- remember how they called Tim Raines "Rock"? Yeah. See, that was because he was addicted to rock cocaine. He used to slide head-first so he wouldn't break the vials of coke that were in his back pocket. Class act.

Time was when every team had at least one base-stealing threat, and the best clubs had at least two. Now, all of baseball has only ... Scott Podsednik.

>>This is just not true. I'm sure Roy S. Johnson wants to think that dudes stole tons of bases back in the day. But let's take a closer look. Here are the league leaders in SBs, back in the "glory days" -- the year Henderson set the all-time record -- and last year.

AL LEADERS -- 1982
Henderson-OAK 130
Garcia-TOR 54
Cruz-SEA 46
Molitor-MIL 41
Wilson-KCR 37

NL LEADERS -- 2004
Podsednik-MIL 70
Pierre-FLA 45
Abreu-PHI 40
Freel-CIN 37
Roberts-LAD 33

Once we get past the league leader, it's really not that different at all, if you consider that Rickey Henderson was basically a freak of nature.

And. We only have Scott Podsednik? What of Carl Crawford? Juan Pierre? Ichiro? These guys aren't necessarily good at stealing bases, but they steal a lot.

(Incidentally, did you know that Lou Brock was only successful 75.3% of the time? Not that great at all -- most of us would agree that at that rate, it's not even worth trying to steal. Wills checks in at 73.8%.)

Anyway, keep going, Roy!

Baseball, sadly, is at a standstill. A generation ago, Podsednik's MLB-leading stolen-base total (70) wouldn't have even been among the league leaders behind Coleman's 110.

>>Now, this is amazing. Again, I don't know if Roy S. Johnson wants these things to be true so badly that he doesn't bother looking them up. I don't know if he's too lazy to go through the numbers. Maybe he thinks Billy Beane murdered his dad or something. I don't know why he's not capable of doing the same very simple research that I'm about to do.

But he's wrong.

Coleman stole 110 bases in 1985. Podsednik's league-leading total from last year, 70, would have placed him -- ready? -- tied for third. He would have been tied for second in the NL with Rock Raines. Tied for third overall behind Coleman and Henderson. And way better than Willie McGee and Gary Pettis (56 each) who came in tied for 4th that year. So I ask you, Roy S. Johnson, what the shit are you writing about?

Mookie Wilson, the Mets' former speed threat (No. 12 on baseball's all-time list) who now manages the franchise's Class A Brooklyn Cyclones, calls today's speed-deprived game "boring baseball." I thought for a moment that my cell phone had hit a dead zone after I asked him to name today's top base stealers. "Ten years ago," he finally said, "you could name 10 or 15 guys off the top of your head. Now, you have to think about it."

>>Maybe Mookie Wilson had a problem naming the top 10 base stealers because he's in Class A Brooklyn, and not playing in the major leagues. I'll try quickly to write the names of 10 guys who steal a lot of bases in today's game:

Jose Reyes; Ichiro; Pierre; Beltran (though not this year); Figgins; Podsednik; Abreu; Crawford; Brian Roberts; Jody Gathwright (sp?) -- when he's playing; Raffy Furcal; Ryan Freel; Julio Lugo.

A tip for Mookie: it helps to play fantasy baseball. I did that off the top of my head, and it's not perfect. But it's really not that hard to come up with a list "off the top of my head." I'm sure you could do the same.

As far as the game being boring, well, I like great pitching and taters. I like doubles and walks. I've never been excited by stolen bases.

Okay, back to Roy! Remember: He is employed by si.com to write stuff like this:

Base-stealing is a risk. Baseball's stat geeks will give you a headache with talk of the "run value" of a stolen base (.22, according to stat whiz Pete Palmer of the Baseball Encyclopedia) relative to a player being caught stealing (-.38), which must also be mixed with on-base percentages, plate appearances, walks, a little oregano and who knows what else to determine whether the stolen base is an effective weapon.

>>.22!! -.38!! NUMBERS?! MY BRAIN HURTS!

Why work so hard to move a runner into scoring position when he had just as good a chance of being able to sashay over the plate ahead of some guy who just smashed the ball into a concession stand across the street?

>>Wait, are you being sarcastic?

I know, you see the name and look at the guy (yes, he's white) and you're probably laughing again.

>>Does anyone believe that you can tell how fast a guy is by looking at his name? What kind of insanity is this?

But speed is not even the most essential skill for base stealers.

>>Okay. I'm just gonna quietly disagree.

posted by dak  # 4:56 AM
Comments:
Also, in re: "The rest were respected pros who contributed to their team with skill and leadership."

Remember when Vince Coleman threw a lit firecracker into a crowd of kids?
 
Spelling Jerk Man says, "It's Joey Gathright."
 
"I know, you see the name and look at the guy (yes, he's white) and you're probably laughing again."

This is incredibly racist. He is suggesting, literally, that the color of a man's skin can be used to "guess" at whether he is fast. How do his editors let this go by? This is straight-up racism, and amazingly, it offends blacks *and* whites.

I thought dak was over the line for lazily calling this guy an asshole, but now I'm on board.
 
In relation to Roy S. Johnson's implication that people either don't know or don't respect Scott Podsednik: for this year's All-Star Game, Podsednik was voted onto the AL roster ahead of, among others, Derek Jeter, The Face of Baseball.
 
Thanks very much to reader Mike for this P.S. to this whole debacle:

"Please note that in Johnson's article on the 'lost art of the stolen base', he refers to Mookie Wilson as #11 on the all-time stolen base leader list. Unfortunately, Mookie is much closer to #111 all-time. Willie Wilson is actually 11th."
 
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