This isn't even criticism. I just thought it was funny. This guy Murray Chass wrote another article for some newspaper, and I'm not totally sure about this, but I think he might be old. Like really old. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm just saying.
This the title of his column:
Heavens to Murgatroyd: Mets Are Hurting
Already don't know what he's talking about? I don't really blame you. "Heavens to Murgatroyd" is one of Snagglepuss's catch phrases. That's right. Snagglepuss, the animated anthropomorphic pink mountain lion created in 1959. Some may argue that Snagglepuss is an evergreen character (Bugs Bunny is like twenty years older), but honestly, when was the last time you and your buddies threw around a "Heavens to Murgatroyd" while watching the game?
Better still, I'm 90% sure Chass is actually referring to the original use of "Heavens to Murgatroyd" -- you know what I'm about to say ... Bert Lahr, Meet the People, 1944. A movie you'd have to be over 70 to have seen in the theaters.
So that's the title. Maybe he gets fresher in the actual article? I bet he'll break out a T.I. lyric or something. “What a revoltin’ development,” Jimmy Durante used to say.
First line. Jimmy Durante. Birthdate: February 10, 1893. 1893. “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into, Stanley,” Oliver Hardy used to say to his partner, Stan Laurel.
Very next line. Laurel and Hardy. Birthdates: June 16, 1890 and January 18, 1892.
Phenomenal. Murray's perfectly within his rights to write about 1920's pop culture. And of course, I know who Snagglepuss, Jimmy Durante, and Laurel and Hardy are. But taken all together, one right after the other ... it's simply magical. It's just never been clearer that he's a billion years old.
And then there's this: Correction: Sept. 30, 2006
The On Baseball column yesterday about the Mets’ postseason chances without pitcher Pedro Martínez misattributed the quotation, “What a revoltin’ development.” It was Chester A. Riley’s catchphrase in “The Life of Riley,” a sitcom in the 1950’s, not Jimmy Durante’s.
Murray Chass is so old he can't keep his 50-year-old references straight. And re-read that paragraph again. What the hell is a reference to Chester A. Riley in "The Life of Riley" doing in an article about Pedro Martinez and the Mets in 2006?!
Buzzmaster: We're getting Joe right now. Send in those questions!
Ken Tremendous: It's hard for me to believe that people still follow the Buzzmaster's advice. Because: what's in it for them?
Kelly (Saint Cloud, MN): Joe, with no clear front-runner for AL MVP, who is your pick?
Joe Morgan: Well, I'm going to have to wait until the season's over. But a lot of things can change. I think it does have an impact of David Ortiz hits 61 or 62 home runs. That would have an impact.
KT: It would have an impact, definitely, if David Ortiz hit eight meaningless home runs in six days. The impact would be: cool! That's a lot of home runs! In a short amount of time!
A lot people say he's a DH, but how can Santana be included if he's a pitcher with only 30 starts or so? But I'd say right now Jeter is up there, along with Morneau.
KT: If you go by VORP, it's Hafner, then Ortiz, then Jeter. If you go by Win Shares, it's Jeter, pretty much. (He has 31 right now, I think.) If you go by a VORP/Win Shares combo, it's Jeter. If you go by Guy Who Plays On A Winning Team And Calms His Wild-Horse Teammates With Nothing More Than His Piercing Eyes and Somehow Has the Reputation of the Ultimate "Team Guy" Even Though He Clearly Hates his Third Baseman and Constantly Throws Said Third Baseman Under a Bus in Interviews and Has A Gorgeous Soul and a Handsomeness Not Often Seen in this Dimension and a Natural Je Ne Sais Quoi that Just Makes Sportswriters Absolutely Melt into Little Pools of Giggling Goo, it's Mark Grudzielanek. (JK, you guys! It's Jeter!)
If I had a vote, I'd vote Hafner, because he is awesome. Then Ortiz, because his VORP is higher, and I personally don't care about the fact that he's a DH. But Jeter is going to win, because the Sox are terrible, and so are the Indians, and Jeter is more famous than Morneau or Mauer, and Jeter has never won, and the national Jeter-related erection, which has existed for far longer than the four hours they warn you about on ED pill commercials, needs to be...taken care of. And although it kills me to say it, it's not a bad choice. It's probably even the correct choice, based on the position Jeter plays, the contribution he has made, and the fact that for better or worse, people tend to care about the MVP's team's performance.
What were we talking about? Oh yeah. Joe's chatting.
James NJ: Joe, how do you think Sheff has looked at first?
Joe Morgan: I haven't seen him play first base, but I've seen him swing the bat in highlights. Another week of swinging the bat, he'll hit. I think he'll play first base adequately. Remember he was a shortstop when he first came up.
KT: The classic "I haven't seen him play" comment here augurs a really nice run of Ignorance Pleas from Joe. How many can you spot? (Answer at the end of the chat.)
Jeff (Iowa): Joe, any way the Twins can beat the Yanks in a first round matchup?
Joe Morgan: Definitely there's a chance. They will have Santana go maybe twice. Inbetween that, the Yankees can win with their lineup. But with the Twins playing so well, they could beat them.
KT: "Hey Joe -- can the Twins win?" "Yes. Yes. No. Yes."
Jamal (Oakland): Joe, how has the Girardi situation in Florida affected the players? Will it spill over into next year when Girardi is gone?
Joe Morgan: I don't think it effects young players as much as it would a veteran team. They played well as a team until they were overwhelmed down the stretch. I don't think it will effect them next year if he's fired. But I'm not sure that's going to happen next year that he will be fired.
Jim Grelpington, President, Society for the Preservation of the English Language: Those last two sentences just made me vomit.
Ross (Detroit): Jim Leyland for manager of the year?
Joe Morgan: I think Jim Leyland will win because of the magnitude of the change he made in Detroit. I think Ken Mocha in Oakland's done a great job.
KT: Ken Mocha's a good choice. As are Joe Latte, Terry Vanilla, and Mike Half-Caf Soy Chai.
KT's Super Ego: Dude. Starbucks jokes? Seriously?
KT: Leave me alone. It's been a long year.
Eric (Chicago): Do you really think that the White Sox lost because they were worn out from the grind of the postseason last year??? Is that even a valid excuse???
Joe Morgan: No, I don't think that's a valid reason, but it is one of the things that happen. It's very difficult to repeat. One thing that gets overlooked, when you go to the World Series, your pitching staff pitches more games and gets more starts. They get a lot of extra starts. You can say the same thing and say the Astros are not going to make it. Their pitching staff was not able to pitch as well. One thing that people forget is they play a lot of extra games and that puts more innings on your pitching staff. I think that happened to the Braves over the course of their years. Smoltz, Maddux, Glavine, pitched the equivalent of an extra season in those years.
KT: Yes, that must be the reason the Braves only won 37 consecutive division titles. Their pitchers were tired. And the reason the White Sox will miss the playoffs this year has nothing to do with the fact that some of their pitchers are relatively low-strikeout guys like Buehrle and Garland whose performances year-to-year (and start-to-start) are likely to vary widely based on situational karma. It couldn't have anything to do with hitting a .330 OBP guy leadoff all year, ahead of a lot of awesome power guys. It's in no way related to the random vicissitudes of a long baseball season. It's because of the three extra starts their pitchers made last year in the playoffs.
Robert (Brentwood): Joe, what do you think it means to someone to be a "true Yankee?" Is Derek Jeter a good example?
Joe Morgan: People invent words or cliches. It's like Celtic Pride for the Boston Celtics.
KT: Ouch. I think he's on to his Mass.-based detractors.
I remember when they were playing the Lakers once and saying that and Kareem said, well the Lakers have pride too. And they won the series. People want to heighten someone's status. I think maybe they mean the best of the Yankees. The best they've put forth over the years. I think Jeter fits that mold, but I wouldn't use that term, because I don't know what it means. You could use it and say, a true Red or a true Red Sox.
KT: I have to give it up a little, here. Nicely done, Joey.
Andrew (WI): Hey Joe. Do you think Omar Vizquel should get elected to the Hall of Fame. Some say he was as good as Ozzie Smith in the field and better at the plate. Thanks.
KT: Dave Concepcion.
Joe Morgan: I think he has an excellent chance when you talk about how long he's played how well he's played.
KT: Dave Concepcion.
If you rate the position the way you're supposed to, shortstop is a defensive position and anything offensive is extra.
KT: Dave Concepcion.
But for a while there you had A-Rod hitting 50 home runs, Miguel Tejada driving in 150 runs. Nomar. That was the norm for shortstops for a while.
KT: Dave Concepcion.
But using the defensive criteria, I think he has a shot.
KT: Dave Concepcion.
But I think Davey Concepcion who played with me and had a lot of Gold Gloves should be in the Hall as well.
KT: There it is.
Luke (Chicago): What if the Twins and Tigers tie for the division? Are they forced to play an extra game (while other teams rest) just to determine the seedings?
Joe Morgan: I'm not sure, but I think it would go on what they did within the division. What they did head to head. I think those are a couple of the tiebreakers. I think if they're tied, they should play an extra game. In fact, I think that will happen. I did a game once when the Dodgers and Padres both clinched a playoff spot and they played. But that game becomes meaningless, because you're not going to pitch your best pitcher for that game. But if there were a couple of days inbetween, I would prefer they play a game.
KT: [dizzy] [falls down]
Nora (St. Louis): I have hope that you can be the voice of reason in the NL MVP debate--a guy who strikes out as much as Ryan Howard can't be the MVP over Pujols, can he?
Joe Morgan: you're missing the point. He can not be as a good a player, but you're not talking about the best player, you're talking the most valuable player. How good would the Phillies be without Howard? And take that further and ask where the Cards would be without Pujols? But in this new environment for a guy to hit 60 HRs and lead the league in RBI is something historic. I'm probably the biggest Pujols supporter, but Howard is doing something historic. But I agree with you, striking out 175-180 times doesn't help the team.
KT: Nora? And Joe? Listen to me. In many many cases, striking out is the same as popping up, flying out, grounding out, fouling out, lining out, or swinging and hitting the ball twice, or having the ball roll down the first baseline and making contact with the ball in fair territory and being called out. These things are all "outs." They are usually the same. Sometimes it would be better for one's team to hit the ball in certain places in order to advance runners. But some other times it is actually better to strike out, so as to avoid double plays.
Ryan Howard is hitting .316/.422/.668 with a .345 EqA. He has a .422 OBP. He doesn't make outs a fantastic 42% of the time. That makes him one of the best players in the league at not making outs, which is very very important. If he is not making outs 42% of the time -- see if you can follow this logic -- who the fark cares how he makes his outs? Would you rather have a guy with only 41 strikeouts and a .350 OBP, who is legendarily good at "moving runners over?" Because you can have him. I'll take Howard, please.
Cody (Minneapolis): Its possible that the Twins could have the AL Cy Young winner, the AL batting champ and the AL MVP. Has that ever happened before?
Joe Morgan: That's a great question. I'm not sure if it's ever happened before. It would be a great accomplishment. I'm not sure if it ever happened before, but it could have happened a different way with a pitcher winning the Cy Young and MVP with a batting title, but I'm not sure about three different players. That would be quite an accomplishment.
What Joe Morgan Wishes He Could Have Written: First of all, Cody, save this bullshit for Kurkjian. Second, I don't know if it happened. But I'll tell you one thing -- it should have. 1975 Reds. Morgan -- MVP. Most Valuable MotherHumping Player. Of All Time. Don Gullett -- Cy Young. Davey Goddamn Conception -- Batting Champ. Ever Heard of Pete Rose? Silver Slugger Award, or something. Sparky Anderson -- MacArthur Genius Grant. Gary Nolan -- Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winner for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." And one Mr. Ken Griffey? President of the United States of America.
Tj (Omaha): Joe, do you think the Twins want the wild card over the division because they'd match up better against the Yankees in a best-of-5 series as opposed to a best-of-7 series?
Joe Morgan: Well, the first round is always, as they say, where the underdog has a shot at winning because of the short series. But if the Twins can beat them in five, they can beat them in seven, because Santana might be able to pitch three games instead of two. That's an interesting way to think about it.
KT: I like that Joe pauses mid-answer to praise himself for his interesting ways of thinking about things.
But you want to win the division if you can, because somewhere it will come in handy with home field advantage.
KT: I don't know how many times we have to point out that the '04 Sox, '03 Marlins, and '02 Angels were all WC teams. Eleven more times? Okay.
Jake (oregon): With the bullpen of the yankees being there weak point. Who in the bullpen do you see stepping up in the playoffs?
Joe Morgan: When the playoffs start, that's going to be a question mark. But a lot of teams have question marks. But in a short period of time, your weaknesses can turn into strengths and your strengths become weaknesses. But I think you're going to have to beat the Yankees to make it to the World Series.
KT: So..............which bullpen guy will step up, again?...................Not going to answer?.......................Okay. Thanks.
Aaron (Cincy): While Santana is automatic vs. most teams how do you see him stacking up against the Yankee lineup?
KT: Joe, you're an analyst. Remember that. Think about Santana, and about the Yankees' combination of left-handed and right-handed hitters. Think about his K rates, and the K rates of the Yankee hitters. Think about Giambi's recent injury, or Santana's success at keeping runners from stealing. Think about Santana not having lost at home since last August, or think about how Sheff and Matsui are rusty. Think about any or all of these things, and then answer the question in a specific and thoughtful manner.
Joe Morgan: It will be a test because the Yankees have a powerful lineup. He's capable of doing it and he can do it again. It's a good matchup for both teams.
KT: Or...do that, I guess.
John (Omaha): Joe, where does Bonds play next year?
Joe Morgan: I have no idea where he'll play. I have no idea.
KT: We also would have accepted: San Francisco.
luke (Oakland): Joe, how bout some west coast love? Dodgers, Oakland.
Joe Morgan: I like Oakland's chances. They're a very good team that plays well. The Dodgers are inconsistent. You never know which is the actual Dodgers. I know the A's are good, I just don't know how good the Dodgers are.
KT: Thankfully, you are not paid to voice your opinion on such things, because otherwise this would be embarrassing.
David (Boston): Joe: Do you think the Red Sox are more likely to take a step backward next year as they did this year or will they retool enough to make it back to the playoffs?
Joe Morgan: They have a chance to do both. It's a matter of what they decide to do. They didn't help themselves at the trading deadline this year and that's why they fell off.
KT: Yes. That's why. Had nothing to do with Varitek, Crisp, Manny, Nixon, Clement, Wakefield, Schilling, Papelbon, and Pena getting injured. Or Jon Lester getting cancer. Or Beckett wildly underperforming. It was not picking up, like, Tony Graffanino at the deadline.
Joe Morgan: A final thought is there's a lot of talk about the balls that Pete Rose signed. I don't think it's something that should have been done. But no matter what your thoughts on Rose, he is a good person. Even though some of the things he's done we might not agree with, he's still a good person.
KT: Yikes. This just makes me feel sad. For everyone involved.
Talk to you next week.
KT: When you do, think about these things that you said today:
Well, I'm going to have to wait until the season's over.
I haven't seen him play first base…
I don't know what the city needs
I'm not sure that's going to happen next year
I'm not sure how much he's going to want or how many years
I'm not sure if it's ever happened before.
I'm not sure if it ever happened before
I'm not sure about three different players.
I have no idea where he'll play. I have no idea.
I know the A's are good, I just don't know how good the Dodgers are.
About a million people wrote in to tell me that Jeter is ahead of Ortiz in VORP now, by about one or so. When I started writing the JoeChat Ortiz was very slightly ahead according to BP. So, I apologize, you adorable stat goons.
Others wrote in to complain that Jeter is a bad choice because his line-up is way better than Morneau's or Ortiz's or something. I tend to agree, to a point, but the fact of the matter is, if you believe in things like VORP and Win Shares and stuff, you have to admit that the guy has had a great offensive year, playing a position from which a great offensive year is extremely valuable to his team. When Sheffield went down, the Yankees pretty easily found another offensive force in RF. All they needed was two warm bodies and about $50m over two years, once luxury taxes kick in. If Jeter had gone down, replacing his offense from that position would be very hard. And yes, I know the team went like 26-11 a few years ago when Ken Huckaby kneed his shoulder off, (totally accidentally -- a point that was lost to Admiral Leadership Nice-Guy Jones when Huck tried to apologize and Jeter iced him), but that to my mind shouldn't change the fact that Calm-Eyed Deke is at .340/.414/.483 with an 11.1 WARP3 and a .320 EqA+, playing above average defense from the SS position.
Live by the sword, die by the sword, fellow sabermetricians. Jeter's a good choice for MVP. You can make compelling cases for Morneau, Mauer, Hafner, and Ortiz -- and many will in the coming month, and they will not be "wrong." Any of those guys makes a good choice, I think, depending on which criteria one uses. But in terms of "value," on an individual basis, it's hard to make a compelling argument against Jeter, other than that his power numbers aren't great.
Morneau, for example, is .323/.378/.566, and blows Jeter out of thte water in traditional power #s. So does Ortiz, and obviously Hafner. But Morneau's WARP3 is only 8.4, so Jeter has been worth almost 3 whole wins more to the Yankees than Morneau has to the Twinkies. Jeter's SB-CS are 32-5, Morneau's are 3-3. Jeter has walked more, and has more hits, and plays a tougher position, etc.
In other words: it's tough to believe in what I believe in, and still say that Morneau is more valuable than Jeter. Such an argument would be partly based on who else is in these two line-ups -- a bunch of HOFers for Jeter, Mauer and no one for Morneau -- but I'm not sure that should be a big consideration, frankly. We have advanced statistical ways of measuring a player's value independent of his teammates' values, and I think we should use them.
Got my FJM t-shirt today. ("The McCarver.") Certainly no problems with the printing. It has none of that decal-y look, and, well, it just looks like a real t-shirt. I'm pretty happy with this particular one, and now feel fine about endorsing these FJM shirts for your own wear...ing. Here's the link again.
A couple of notes: (1) The shirts seem to run a bit large; and by that I mean the medium I ordered seemed sort of on its way to being a large. These could shrink a little, though. (2) It's one of them tagless Hanes shirts which is nice. (3) I'd feel free to "customize" if you'd like a smaller logo, or a grey t-shirt or whatever. Seems like this place has their shit down pretty tight.
And now I feel like I've written more than a grown man should about one particular t-shirt.
Derek Jeter is a good baseball player who brings out the worst in baseball writers. Take this guy:
His name is Richard Griffin and he writes for the Toronto Star. Now, when I pick up and read the Toronto Star, as I do every day, I expect nothing but the finest, most objective, cold-blooded, rationalest, numbery-est baseball analysis out there. I was appalled to find the following article polluting the pages of my beloved Star:
Jeter's MVP on all levels Huge contributions on and off the field
Off the field, Jeter is a way better baseball player than anyone can imagine. Did you know he leads the AL with 46 off the field home runs and is second in off the field steals with 53? Off the field, Derek Jeter slays giant centipedes while riding an iron pegasus.
Yankee captain Derek Jeter looked bad in his first three at-bats against the Jays in last night's series opener. Then, in the seventh, with a runner on second, he drove a 3-0 A.J. Burnett offering into the centre-field stands for a lead the Yankees never gave back. Performance when it counts.
I checked the box score for this game. Jeter's home run put the Yankees ahead 4-3 in a game they eventually won 7-6. Great. A-Rod also hit a two-run homer in this one, but since it was one inning earlier, it didn't help the Yankees at all. I don't think they even keep score for the first six innings, right?
"It just gets us closer to where we want to be," Jeter said of the impact of his home run.
The key word is "we." There is no question that, despite what Red Sox' slugger David Ortiz argues, the AL MVP this year should be Jeter.
MVP Criterion #1: MVP must, at some point in the year, offer a quote that correctly refers to his team, a group of people to whom he belongs, with the plural pronoun "we."
Sure, the Yankee captain doesn't have the raw offensive numbers to match Big Papi, Justin Morneau or Jermaine Dye, but his contributions to winning go far beyond the numbers.
This needs a lot of explanation. Jeter sits with a .340 average — 14 homers and 95 RBIs — nice but not monstrous power numbers. Beyond that, he is a calming extension on the field and in the clubhouse in much the same way as his manager Joe Torre.
Oh, right. The Calm Eyes Effect.
MVP Criterion #2: MVP must be a "calming extension" on the field and in the clubhouse.
Derek Jeter gives his teammates free massages.
The classy way Jeter handled last week's Ortiz diatribe against his MVP candidacy was typical Jeter, pointing out that, as a Yankee, team goals are more important and then, on the weekend, interacting with Ortiz on the field at Yankee Stadium like a friend. End of controversy.
MVP Criterion #3: Classiness.
There is no jealousy emanating from Jeter with regard to any of his teammates. And if any of the baser emotions are hinted at by the media reporting on the Bombers, issues are quickly defused by Torre and/or his clubhouse equivalent, Jeter.
There is something supremely confident about a Yankee clubhouse. They arrived in the wee, wee hours of Sunday, exhausted after back-to-back doubleheaders against the Red Sox, bloodied from three losses, but unbowed. You wouldn't know it.
Maybe because they're like 50 games up and they knew they would clinch the AL East even if they lost all of the rest of their games. Or, alternatively, the explanation is Jeter.
The Yankees have had 14 players on the DL, led by outfielders Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui. Second baseman Robinson Cano missed 40 games. A-Rod has slumped badly at times and Randy Johnson has recorded 17 wins despite a 4.93 ERA.
They also have perhaps the best collection of offensive talent of any team in baseball history ever, including at least three players who have been on average more valuable than Derek Jeter over the course of their careers.
Yet here they sit, about to clinch the AL East for the 10th time in 11 seasons, with the other result being a wild card and a '97 World Series win.
No and no. It's the 11th time in 12 seasons. (CORRECTION: I'm wrong. He's right. It's 10 in 11. But he's still wrong about the next thing.) In 1997, the Florida Marlins won the World Series. Shouldn't you know that? Or barring you knowing it, shouldn't you have at least checked it out before writing it down to be published in a baseball bible like the Toronto Star?
Barring injury, the 32-year-old Jeter, five years after he retires, is headed to the hall of fame. He has a World Series and an All-Star MVP, but never the regular-season hardware. This should be Jeter's time.
MVP Criterion #5: It's the MVP's time.
His campaign talking points are simple. A normal-looking guy doing normal-looking things — only better. It would be a great response to baseball's distressing steroid scandals.
MVP Criterion #6: Be normal-looking. No uglies.
I was a Yankee hater until the late-'90s World Series. The easiest thing to hate was that they always seemed to be buying their stairway to heaven.
Oh Jesus. Really? "Buying their stairway to heaven"?
Voters may resent the Yankees believing they buy greatness, but just remember that Jeter is homegrown.
Besides, my daughter Kelly in her room at university has four pictures of Jeter and only one of me. If I'm going to be trumped, let it be by an AL MVP.
MVP Criterion #7 (Most Important): MVP must have four (4) pictures of him hanging in Richard Griffin’s daughter Kelly’s room at university. The number of pictures is non-negotiable.
Real quick, now, take a look at this guy one more time.
Notice that the top of his head is cut off. Could there be a fedora up there?
“This will certainly have carryover,” Dodgers Manager Grady Little said.
On September 19th: Pirates 10, Dodgers 6. Asked if the Dodgers had a letdown after their dramatic rally in an 11-10, 10-inning victory over the Padres on Monday, Los Angeles manager Grady Little said, "The results appeared that way, but it was the same situation -- we haven't been able to stop the bleeding late."
Basically, if they win the next day, it's carryover. If they lose, it's a letdown. I think I get it now.
Joe Morgan is 63 today. And what better way to celebrate by purchasing your very own FJM t-shirt. Our "storefront" is here, at a site whose name is so fruitcake I can't even write it out. Click on either of the designs and, if you're cool with a 6.1 ounce white t-shirt, just choose a size. You can also do a little bit of customization but I wouldn't recommend it.
PLEASE NOTE: These designs have just been put up, and as of yet we have not had a chance to order samples. So if you order now, consider yourself part of the "Beta" t-shirt program. I see no reason why these things would get fucked up, but there's no real way to know what they're going to look like until one actually sees them up close. So if you want to wait for some feedback and possible modifications, then, well, just wait.
I want to thank our friend Dustin who put these designs together. The real shame is that he made a bunch of other ones, which we can't put up yet, or at all, for various reasons.
You'll see that these are just "FJM" designs and not "Fire Joe Morgan" designs. Now, I'd be lying if I said that legal reasons weren't involved, but also, we're starting to feel pretty weird about the whole Joe Morgan thing. (And yes, I did start this post by sarcastically wishing him a happy birthday.)
Point is, we're not crazy about the idea of even like 12 people wearing shirts that call for the termination of a 63-year-old grandfather's employment. FJM just feels a little better -- and we might eventually change the name of the site itself. Who knows.
So, anyway. Happy birthday Joe. I feel kind of bad about making you even nominally the target of this site, but I still think someone should fire you.
And Ty Cobb, and Ted Williams, and Wilt Chamberlain ...
No sabermetric rant here. Would like to just make note of some ordinary, run-of-the-mill shoddy research in a major metropolitan newspaper, The Boston Globe. Thanks to reader Lori, who did the legwork:
The article purports to compare Red Sox rookie OF David Murphy to his youthful peers. Murphy was drafted in 2003. In a hilarious/pathetic attempt to put the young man in context, Cafardo offers up this one:
“The '03 draft produced Rocco Baldelli, Mark Teixeira, Jose Reyes, Joe Mauer, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana, Travis Haffner [sic], Hanley Ramirez, Rich Harden, Lastings Milledge, Brandon Wood, Nick Markakis, Chad Cordero, and Rickey [sic] Weeks.”
He forgot Clemens, Pujols, and Bonds.
The truth, thanks to maybe 3 minutes of mouse-clicking:
Baldelli – 2000 draft
Teixeira – 2001 draft
Reyes – signed as amateur free agent, 1999
Mauer – 2001 draft
Cabrera – signed as amateur free agent, 1999
Morneau – 1999 draft
Santana – signed as amateur free agent in 1995
Hafner – signed in 1997
Ramirez – signed as undrafted free agent in 2000 (by the team Cafardo covers EVERY DAY)
Harden – 2000 draft
You'll notice that they've since fixed the online version, but Rickie Weeks' name remains misspelled. Cafardo, did you really have to do all that to make David Murphy look bad?
EDIT: Plus, he follows up that crazy inaccurate list with
When one thinks of it in that context, Murphy hasn't measured up, but the journey isn't over.
Well, yeah, when you think of almost anyone in that completely made up list of arbitrarily-selected superplayers, they won't measure up. Not to mention that Weeks, Milledge and Markakis were all already off the board when Murphy was drafted.
I think I should start reading The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Roger Brown more, because our taste in sports broadcasters line up almost perfectly. Look at what he wrote today.
As the baseball season winds down, here's our list of the best and worst baseball analysts in 2006:
Joe Morgan (ESPN): The no-nonsense Morgan remains the gold standard for baseball game analysts - he's insightful, informative and, at times, controversial.
John Kruk (ESPN): The "Baseball Tonight" studio personality clearly does his homework - he has an impressive ability to dissect each team's strengths and weakness.
Tim McCarver (Fox): There's no denying McCarver's ability to combine baseball wisdom and wit - even if he's often guilty of talking too much.
Steve Phillips (ESPN): A former New York Mets general manager, Phillips is blunt and opinionated.
Lists are fun, aren't they? Here's my list of the best and worst judges of baseball analysts for 2006:
Me (FJM): I am awesome.
Roger Brown (Cleveland Plain Dealer): Thinks John Kruk does "homework." Thinks Tim McCarver is full of "wit." Has a sentient alien spaceworm living in his brain situated in the exact configuration that would cause someone to write unspeakable untruths about sports broadcasting (conjecture).
Are people of sick of entire posts devoted to readers' emails yet? Too bad. I just got two that are too good to relegate to the comments section ghetto.
The first is about Mike Schmidt's Howard-Bonds comparison. And as reader Robert acknowledges, it reflects a frightening willingness to pour minutes upon minutes of research into refuting Schmidt's totally offhand comment.
I just spent the last 40 minutes or so manipulating data in Excel to give you a touch more unnecessary fodder. I analyzed every two week period of Barry Bonds' 2002 and 2003 seasons (I couldn't find game by game data for 2001, but it won't matter) and Ryan Howard's 2006 season. If we can all agree that a serviceable way to measure a players' "Good" level at this moment in time, or "Dangerous" level at this moment in time is that players' OPS in any two week period, then I have some fun results:
The best two week period Howard has had this season was from 8/3 to 8/17, when he OPS'd a fantastic *1.713(!)*. The next few best periods were (the date given is the start date of the two week period):
DATE OPS Aug. 31 1.674 Aug. 7 1.665 Aug. 30 1.655 Aug. 4 1.631 Aug. 25 1.619 Aug. 24 1.552 Aug. 22 1.500
Mr Bonds is better. His best from 2002:
DATE OPS Aug. 23 2.220 Aug. 27 2.167 Aug. 24 2.164 Aug. 25 2.117 Aug. 26 2.083 Aug. 22 2.000 Aug. 20 1.803
DATE OPS Jun. 7 1.958 Aug. 12 1.858 Jun. 6 1.856 Aug. 10 1.852 Jul. 17 1.793 Jul. 11 1.782 Jul. 7 1.774 Jul. 12 1.767
In fact, between those 2 years, there have been at least 25 individual two week periods where Bonds has been better than Howard at Howard's prime. This doesn't even include 2001 data (or any other year). Got a link to game-by-game data for Bonds in 2001? If you get it to me I will go farther with this colossal waste of time.
Sorry those charts are so ugly. I'm not currently interested in fixing that. Instead let's move on to a more personal, humorous email from Brad: Love the FJM Website and read it everyday. Just thought I would let you know that I work at Wrigley Field almost every home game as a security guard and I can say I rarely if ever see Rogers at the ballpark. I find it funny that he insinuates in that paragraph you shared that he spends every waking moment at one of the two ball yards in Chicago.
Let the reader dialogue continue. Reader Anthony has the following:
First of all, you should let the reader who did the Bonds/Howard analysis know about BaseballMusings.com. They have a day-by-day database for all players going back to 1974. I just checked Bonds's two-week OPS figures for his whole career in about ten minutes.
Actually, it's not necessarily two weeks. I just figured out 14-game stretches since I was too lazy to bother accounting for off days and whatnot. I don't think worlds hang on this question, so whatever.
Anyway, Bonds's best stretch was started on 8/11/04. His OPS was 2364. He was 17-for-28 with 8 HR, 25 BB (11 intentional) and 3 K. His batting line? .607/.792/1.571. Oh, and he stole a base, too.
And just for kicks, Bonds's worst stretch was started on 8/26/87. He hit .122/.200/.122 in 41 AB. So yeah.
At this point I'm just staying out of this whole thing, but here we go. Robert has written back:
*That best OPS (2.364) of his career was not 8/11/04, it was 4/11/04 (that's right, I have COMPLETELY geeked out). Maybe he botched it because he only spent 10 minutes. I spent at least 12 minutes (once I was able to use the BaseballMusings data. Great site.) Also, Bonds has had 60 two week periods in his career which have been better than Ryan Howard's best. So now, I need to shove this in Mike Schmidt's face sometime so he can say, "Dude, what are you doin'?" or something.
Let Us Once Again Revisit the Exploits of Sir Barrold Bonds
If you've been reading FJM for awhile, you know all about our unhealthy fascination with the outlandish hitting statistics posted by the Barry Bonds during the hydrocephalic years of approximately 2000 to 2004. Those were heady, undoubtedly drug-addled days for Mr. Bonds, and a large part of his legacy at least to me will be those marvelous, hilarious .600 OBPs and .800 slugging percentages.
It's certainly not a big deal, but Mike Schmidt is now saying that 2006 Ryan Howard is as good as 2001 Barry Bonds at hitting. Don't believe me? It's in cyber-print right here.
"He's every bit as good a hitter as Barry Bonds was in the middle of his 73-home-run season," said Schmidt on Sunday in Miami, standing outside the Phillies' locker room with a small group of reporters. "It'll take the opposition a little longer to be convinced that he is because of Bonds' history of being a great hitter for many, many years."
Well, ah, hm. Hmmm. If we're totally disregarding who was on what pharmaceutical cocktail at what time, as Schmidt seems to be doing, all we can rely on are the results. And the facts show that Schmidt is unequivocally talking out of his ass. Not because of "Bonds' history of being a great hitter" -- I don't care about that at all. Neither do the numbers.
Added Schmidt, "Right at this moment in time, he might be more dangerous than Barry Bonds ever was in his prime. I've never seen anyone in the major leagues who is treating the game almost like an oversized kid in the Little League World Series. He is transcending the game."
Urgh. Let me put it this way: no one outside of Babe Ruth has matched what Barry Bonds did to major league pitchers in the early aughts. And even Ruth never posted a .600 OBP or a ludicrous .450 EqA. Ryan Howard, who right now probably isn't even the best hitter in baseball, would need to get bitten by a radioactive baseball while getting struck by lightning and drinking a secret superplayer serum to even approach the levels Barry Bonds was hitting at in 2000 to 2004.
Isn't it possible that Mike Schmidt is talking about the recent exploits of Ryan Howard rather than the entire season? If you look at the last 10-12 games Howard's OPS is like 2…an absurd number. Now, there is little doubt Barry had runs like this, and it doesn't really make sense for Mike to extrapolate the best two weeks of Howard's life. But the way I read this, the sin is small sample size, not hometown-colored-glasses/forgetting the unbelievable dominance of the past player in our lifetimes.
Schmidt does qualify his second statement with the phrase "right at this moment in time." But he also precedes his initial claim with "he's every bit as good a hitter as Barry Bonds was..." So that seems pretty unambiguous to me.
When I'm writing, I often think to myself, "How can I make this as smug, arrogant and obnoxiously self-righteous as possible?" I think I've found a soulmate in Phil Rogers. You see, Phil doesn't cotton to geek-faced computer-brained statheads telling him how to vote in the MVP races. And he makes that much clear in this passage from his latest ESPN.com column, as snide, supercilious and contemptuous a paragraph as you will ever read:
I vote, and I await the backlash, which annually comes on two fronts: from outraged fans of runner-up players and from statistical analysts whose computers see things those of us in the Baseball Writers Association of America sometimes miss. Perhaps we are too busy at the ballpark covering games.
Am I overreacting? Yes. Too many adjectives in the setup? Definitely. But Phil Rogers is clearly feeling the saber-heat, and boy is he defensive.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to resume my life of watching absolutely no baseball.
Good Lord, HatGuy must be the most consistent idiot in the vast, vastly important world of Internet sports journalism. If for some reason everyone started calling retarded MSNBC.com columns hits instead of retarded MSNBC.com columns, he would have crushed Joe DiMaggio's hit streak like six years ago. Even when he's right, he's wrong. Refresh my memory. Haveweeverwrittenaboutthisguybefore?
Anytime a ballplayer starts arguing his own case for a major award, it means just one thing: He doesn’t think he’s going to win it.
Wrong. It could mean that. It could also mean he thinks he's going to win and he just wants to make sure of it. It could mean he's bored and he decided to answer one question out of a thousand honestly instead of diplomatically. It could mean he's under a lot of stress because Wily Mo stuck a banana in the tailpipe of his GMC Yukon. That’s certainly the case with the Boston Red Sox's David “Big Papi” Ortiz, who spent time Sunday presenting his AL MVP portfolio to ESPN. Everything he said is pretty much right on. He confessed to having the best offensive season in the American League and to be deserving of the award.
Wrong. He's not pretty much right on. Travis Hafner is having the best offensive season in the AL thus far. He probably won't finish with it now that he's hurt, but still. Check this page out. Or this page. You will find that David Ortiz ranks fifth in the AL in VORP and fourth in EqA. Hafner is first in both.
If he doesn’t get it, he went on, three other very worthy candidates would be Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko of the Chicago White sox and Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins.
Or, I don't know, Hafner. Of course he won't get it. He's out with an injury. And his team isn't playoff-bound, so he's automatically not valuable. Papi was my choice for MVP last year, when he carried the Red Sox into the playoffs and was what he is this year — the best clutch hitter in the game.
Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees collected the hardware instead, despite the certain knowledge among Yankees fans that, despite a statistically terrific year, he wasn’t even the MVP of his own team.
You couldn't be more wrong. Who, HatGuy, was the HatGuy Most Valuable Player on the Yankees in 2006? Please, if you're reading this, let us know in your next completely, utterly wrong column. (Last year, Alex Rodriguez posted a .351 (!) EqA.)
Papi argued that if A-Rod could be MVP for a last-place team, he can be MVP of a Boston team that finishes out of the playoffs. There’s nothing wrong with his logic. I disagree with the premise to start with and would never choose a player from a losing team as the most valuable in the league.
Because you, HatGuy, represent everything that's wrong with MVP voting -- again, a thing I shouldn't care about at all but is still fun to get all snippy about. There you go being wrong again.
In my book, to be MVP, you have to be the most important player on a team that wins something, or, at a minimum, comes within a whisker of winning.
A whisker being a baseball term for "a measure of whatever I feel like determining when I put my hat on in the morning." Your book = W is for Wrong (FINALLY A SUE GRAFTON PARODY ON FJM).
I would never have given the award to Ernie Banks when he played for the pathetic Chicago Cubs, if that’s not redundant.
It's not. Your sense of humor is wrong, though. I wouldn’t have given it to A-Rod when he played for the Rangers, either.
Let me think what you would have been that year, then ... oh, right: wrong.
The award isn’t for the best offensive player in the game. It’s for the most valuable player, which is why pitchers get to win it now and then.
No, it's not. It's for the Most Valuable Player on a Team That Wins something, or, at a Minimum, Comes Within a Whisker of Winning. Unless, by your own standards, you're admitting you're wrong.
But the MVP is so poorly defined, that writers have on occasion handed it out to players whose greatest value was helping their team to finish within 35 games of first place instead of 45 games.
How does that contradict the definition of the Most Valuable Player being the most valuable player in the league? If Weird Al Yankovic were writing a song parody about this article, it would be a Sisqo takeoff called "The Wrong Song" (FINALLY A SISQO MENTION ON FJM). This year, it’s a different story. No one other than Ortiz is having the kind of year offensively he had last year.
David Ortiz 2005 EqA: .333 Manny Ramirez 2006 EqA: .345
Jim Thome and Hafner are also up there. Heck, Jeter's at .324.
I happen to think Jeter should get the hardware, but that may be because I see him more often than I see the others.
Wait. Are you saying you watch the Yankees more than any other baseball team? Huh. I'm going to have to revise my assessment of you, HatGuy. Youareblowingmymind. All I know is that the Yankees lost Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield early on for nearly the entire season.
I'd like to think that HatGuy is making a profound statement here. Like seriously, the information in this one sentence is all I know. I don't know how to operate a toaster. I cannot recognize the secondary sexual characteristics of a female human. I don't know the difference between right and wrong.
They had multiple problems with the pitching staff. They lost Robinson Cano for a stretch and have seen Jason Giambi miss time. For long stretches, A-Rod has been all but invisible.
But, but -- I thought all you knew was ... never mind.
And through it all, Jeter has been the glue that’s held it all together, hitting anywhere manager Joe Torre needs him and doing all the little things that add up to winning ballgames.
Doesn't Joe Torre get any glue credit? Certainly Torre is a little gluey. What about Damon? I keep hearing good things about his glueiness.
He won’t lead the league in slugging, but he’s near the top in on-base percentage, may win the batting title, and is one of the best situational hitters in the game.
He also makes every play his team needs in the field.
Except the ones to his right. Is it his right side he can never get to? I forget. Remember that one play where A-Rod came over to make a catch and then Jeter nudged him and neither one of them caught it, and then Jeter gave A-Rod a dirty look? That was a funny dirty look.
I also know that when the Red Sox lost Jason Varitek, their catcher and captain, they collapsed despite Ortiz’s continuing presence in the lineup. To me, that makes Varitek, not Ortiz, Boston’s MVP.
Oh man. I stopped writing the word "wrong" in every response a few paragraphs ago because even I got sick of it, but let me make up for it here:
Correlation is not causation. Jason Varitek, a catcher with an EqA of .257 this year, is not more valuable than David Ortiz, a monster of a man who wins baseball games with the sheer brightness of his smile and controls the weather with his mind.
As I said, I don’t believe in giving the MVP to pitchers, but it’s done.
Great. Is it okay if I retroactively blame you for Pedro Martinez not getting the MVP in 1999? It is? Cool.
I’d give it to Jeter.
I know. You said that already. And crazily, that might be the only thing you're not wrong about in this whole article.
Sometimes I click on this link on ESPN's MLB page that directs me to something called "Short Hops" hoping to find some baseball writing that is either good enough to inform me or bad enough to make fun of. Usually, it's neither, probably because the hops are too short to really tell you anything beyond a fun-factoid-level of information. Today's Short Hops, though, is sort of upsetting. It's called
A player's true value is measured in wins
(excited, hopeful) Yay! You mean wins as in WARP-3 or some such metric related to WARP-3, right?
Ryan Howard had the day off on Monday, so he can't steal the headlines from the rest of the NL's MVP candidates. Howard has been carrying the Phillies, yet the door remains slightly ajar for others. The reason? His team isn't winning at a high enough rate.
Uh oh. (nervous, fearful) You're ... not ... talking ... about WARP-3 ... are you?
The MVP decision may come down to whether or not Philadelphia makes the postseason. If the Phillies fall short, there are plenty of legitimate contenders who could make a good argument that their value is greater. In the end, victories are the ultimate measurement of success.
Short Hops. Oh, Short Hops.
I understand that the MVP is a relatively meaningless award voted on by often clueless beat writers who have in the past shown favoritism toward their home teams in addition to just plain ignorance. There's no point in getting worked up about it. But frothy anger can be so fun, even if it's targeted at low-hanging fruit like Short Hops.
Short Hops, you're telling me that if the Phillies win the wild card, Ryan Howard was THE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in the National League, but if they finish a game out, he was not THE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER? That if Jamie Moyer tosses a total stinker in the last game of the season and they blow their chance, that's why Pujols should take it? Right, because victories are the ultimate measurement of success. You said it yourself. Success. But in the previous sentence, you wrote "there are plenty of legitimate contenders who could make a good argument that their value is greater." Value, not success. Repeat after me. Team success does not equal individual value. Team success does not equal individual value. Team success does not equal individual value. ** BONUS SHORT HOPS DISSECTION **
Short Hops, on Carlos Beltran's MVP candidacy:
Beltran is the best player on the NL's best team and enters the week leading the league in runs scored. He's also the best road player in baseball, entering this week's six-game swing with a .342 batting average, 24 home runs and 75 RBI in 62 road games. That the Mets have been among baseball's best road teams this season has been one of the biggest keys to their success.
Wow, Beltran is the best road player in baseball? Impressive! But wait. Hold on a second. If my mathy nerd brain is working correctly, something tells me there's a dark side to those super special road numbers. Let me check something. Yep. That's a shame. Carlos Beltran is a sort of mediocre hitter at home. He's got a line of .224/.360/.487 for an OPS of .847. That's right. At home, Beltran is tied for the 6th-best OPS on his team. You can't credit Beltran for his amazing road results without discounting him for his relative underperformance at home. That doesn't make any sense. But maybe you would have included that information if the hops were slightly longer.
** WARP-3 ADDENDUM **
Reader Kevin did the work for me. Here are the WARP-3's for a bunch of NL dudes.
Ryan Howard 8.5 Carlos Beltran 11.4 Albert Pujols 11.6 Miguel Cabrera 11.7
We got a lot of great emails responding to the last post about Jon Heyman. I thought I'd do a quick rundown of some of the best ones right here.
Proof that Jon Heyman did not read Moneyball:
Heyman wrote, Epstein and Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, another Beane protégé, recently complained that they didn't have enough money to compete with the Yankees, a gripe you'd never hear from Beane and an unwitting admission that Moneyball isn't always the whole answer.
I'm assuming you own Moneyball. If so, flip to page 122. You'll find a box near the top of the page, displaying the text of a slide Billy Beane presented to Bud Selig's Blue Ribbon Panel for blah blah blah. If you don't feel like searching the book (and really, why should you? It's like when you'd ask a teacher what a word meant and she'd make you look it up in the dictionary. Bastard.) here's what it says:
"MAJOR LEAGUE" *Movie about the hapless Cleveland Indians
In order to assemble a losing team, the owner distributes a list of players to be invited to spring training. The baseball executives say that most of these players are way past their prime. Fans see the list in the paper and remark, "I've never even heard of half these guys."
Our situation closely resembles the movie.
And a followup line from Michael Lewis: "[Beane] told the Blue Ribbon Panel that the Oakland A's inability to afford famous stars meant that no matter how well the team performed, the fans stayed away--which was the opposite of the truth."
In other words, Beane complained that they didn't have enough money to compete. Your move, Jon.
** EDIT **
Michael helpfully chimes in with the following backlash feedback feedback:
As a point of clarification, the response from Anthony that you posted in your latest thread (about how Billy Beane himself complained to the Blue Ribbon Commission that he needed more money to compete) is not really in the context provided in the quote. In "Moneyball," it's portrayed as if Billy Beane doesn't really believe any of the things he's showing in that presentation. The author makes it a point to portray the fact that Billy Beane is doing this presentation to mislead Selig and the salary cap determinists into thinking Beane agrees with them when in fact he believes that sound decisions and exploiting market inefficiencies can easily make small market teams competitive because so many around the league are making terrible decisions.
** END EDIT **
From Chris V.: I felt you were more informative than Heyman. One of his comments ("[Beane] learned his baseball as a ballplayer") particularly bothered me. Didn't Beane hate his experience as a ballplayer? In fact, doesn't/didn't a significant amount of his approach come from doing the opposite of what he experienced as a ballplayer?
Now, a different Chris:
I couldn't figure out the Ivy League-sized chip on Heyman's shoulder. Seeing how he went to that bastion of public school populism -- Northwestern. Of course, Heyman, a Long Island native probably made it to Northwestern as a fall-back. We're looking at a sad, 20 year old grudge.
Tony contributes: I love the caption under the picture of Beane as a player: "Billy Beane hit .219 in 301 career at-bats with the Mets, Twins, Tigers and A's. In other words, he wasn't the type of player Billy Beane the GM would pick up."
Setting aside the fact that GM Beane would probably care more about Player Beane's career OBP of .246, not his .219 BA, Heyman conveniently misses that GM Beane did in fact pick up a .219 hitter just this off-season: Frank Thomas (.219 last year in 120+ AB with the White Sox). This happens to be the exact player Heyman's mysterious NL Executive Deep Throat singles out as "maybe" the only A's player "who stands out for talent." "Maybe."
And finally, from Lee:
I'm just curious if anyone is putting together some sort of collection of articles that refer to Theo Epstein as a failure in the very same paragraph that mentions that he won the 2004 World Series.
Thanks, readers! Check back later for more scintillating sports commentary commentary!
Now, I think, is the time for people who rejected and misunderstood Moneyball to come out of the woodwork and start crowing "I told you so." Paul DePodesta's been fired. The old-school baseball man who replaced him is flourishing. J.P. Ricciardi's higher-priced Blue Jays still aren't doing anything. Theo Epstein has seemingly traded away the Red Sox' future while simultaneously casting an injury hex on the guys he still has. Billy Beane's A's ... well, they're still doing pretty good. And so we get articles like this one by SI.com's Jon Heyman. Get ready for an ambitious title:
Beyond Moneyball Why A's Beane succeeds where others have failed
Let me just say right now that I already don't believe Jon Heyman is going to satisfactorily explain why Billy Beane is succeding where others have failed. Especially because by "others," Heyman almost certainly means the three men I've just mentioned, and that it's hard to say definitively that any of those three have actually failed. But I'll try to keep my mind open. It's the man, not the methodology.
I see. You didn't like Moneyball? Moneyball was a superbly written tale,
Oh, okay. You're going to say you liked Moneyball, but deliver it a backhanded compliment by saying it was "superbly written" (read: entertaining but perhaps not true) and a "tale" (in other words, a fantasy).
and while the book got it right in that the stunning achievements of the Oakland A's should indeed be attributed to their great general manager Billy Beane, the Moneyball concept isn't proving to be one that transfers easily. If it really is even a tangible, definable, worthwhile style.
Heyman actually gets close to an interesting point at the end there. "Moneyball" isn't really a style. If he would just read our glossary, he would find out that the book is really about exploiting market inefficiencies and finding baseball-playing value where others are missing it. Again, what Moneyball is not: Finding guys who walk a lot. Finding guys who are fat. Finding guys who hit a lot of home runs. Drafting only college guys.
Since 2000, the A's have logged more victories than anyone except the Yankees (they are only 14 wins behind the so-called "über-team").
This is amazing.
But according to one National League executive, the key to Oakland's startling small-market success has little to do with stats or drafting college players, as Moneyball suggests.
I would argue that's not what Moneyball suggests at all. Maybe that's what Beane was doing five years ago. But there's an overall philosophy here that I think Heyman is missing.
Furthermore, that executive asserted that if other teams try to duplicate the book's blueprint -- and several have -- they are wasting their time.
Okay, sure. That makes complete sense. Because a goddamn book was published about that so-called "blueprint." Of course those high-OBP guys aren't going to be so undervalued anymore. The most popular and influential book about baseball general managing ever published focused on that aspect of the game. So yeah, Kevin Youkilis might be going for market value now. The book, according to that executive, is "somewhat fraudulent" in that Beane's true strength is the same old skill that's basically blown off in the book: the tried-and-true formula of procuring the right players by scouting.
This NL dude certainly has a lot to say about Beane and Moneyball, doesn't he? Here's the real "money"-quote, though (you like how I worked that in? I am a professional):
"Billy Beane has got a way of finding winning players," the executive said. "The A's don't have anyone who stands out for talent, except maybe Frank Thomas. But they have a lot of winning players. Take Nick Swisher, for instance. He knows how to play to win."
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Remember that subhead? Why A's Beane succeeds where others have failed? He "has got a way of finding winning players." There's your story! Fuck Moneyball! Fuck it all to hell!
Also, let's do "take Nick Swisher, for instance." He knows how to play to win? That's what you're going to give me? How about we do some stat nerdery instead? I know I just said that Moneyball's not about OBP, but you can't really ignore the simple fact that last year, Nick Swisher posted an OBP of .322, and this year his OBP is .373. He's also hit 10 more home runs. But would you still like to talk to me about knowing how to play to win? Too bad. I've thrown my phone into the nearest saltwater aquarium and it's been eaten by a shark.
Additionally, at least two of the key components of Moneyball are just about out the window now, at least in my book.
Your book, Jon Heyman's I Pretend to Like Moneyball But Secretly I Actually Hate It.
One of Moneyball's concepts is that it's better to draft better-prepared college players than high-ceiling high school stars
IF THEY ARE CURRENTLY BEING UNDERVALUED BY THE MARKET. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you not forget about that part.
Beane has gone the other way; lately, he's been drafting undervalued high school players
SOMETHING ACCOUNTED FOR IN AN ACCURATE REPRESENTATION OF WHAT THE MONEYBALL PHILOSOPHY ACTUALLY ENTAILS. Fortuitously for Beane, the prep stars are now the undervalued ones because so many others are following the book's college-first advice.
Right. Exactly. We've gone over this. Thank you. Whew. Another Moneyball notion is the extreme emphasis on stats, particularly walks, on-base percentage and home runs, which were sold as keys to success.
AT THE TIME, BECAUSE THEY WERE UNDERVALUED AAAAARGH.
While that strategy worked especially well in the steroid era, with Jason Giambi and previously Mark McGwire (both kings of homers and OPS)
This is a complete steroid non-sequitir. Steroids have nothing to do with why walks, OBP, home runs, and/or OPS aren't as undervalued as they were before. The market and current GM's ability or willingness to look at those stats determine value.
"Billy Beane is a very bright individual who knows there are many different ways to skin a cat and find a way to be successful," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. "Every year he comes up with a different game plan and finds a new way to win. He's no one-trick pony. The A's ownership and fan base should consider themselves very lucky to have Billy Beane."
I never thought I'd say this, but thank you, Brian Cashman, for being the voice of reason. Seriously. "There are many different ways to skin a cat" may be a cliche, but it's a much better distilliation of what Moneyball actually means than some lockstep adherence to OBP or walks or college players. You try to find value where you think it is as best you can and hope your methods are slightly more accurate than other people's, no matter if it's fielding, plate discipline, power, speed, or intelligence.
While Beane continues to succeed, his very smart, Ivy League-educated, twentysomething Moneyball disciples have faltered lately. Paul DePodesta (Harvard) was out after two years of running the Frank McCourt-owned Dodgers and is now back working under Beane's old boss, Sandy Alderson, in San Diego. Boston GM Theo Epstein (Yale) helped the 2004 Red Sox win in the World Series before a series of unfortunate trades and injuries decimated them this year.
Ha! Did I mention these guys went to Ivy League schools and yet they're failing? Try to study your way out of this one, fellas!
Epstein and Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, another Beane protégé, recently complained that they didn't have enough money to compete with the Yankees, a gripe you'd never hear from Beane and an unwitting admission that Moneyball isn't always the whole answer.
Jesus, whoever said that Moneyball is a "whole answer"? It's just a way to try to compete with the Yankees, who should be the favorites to win the World Series each and every year.
If you think about it, their public remarks put the entire concept on trial.
I've thought about it, and no, they don't. No one ever said "Aha! This newfangled Moneyball will put us on exactly equal footing with the Yankees! Doom unto them!" It's just a philosophy that might help smaller market teams do better than say, the Royals and Pirates and Brewers are doing.
After all, wasn't the main point of Moneyball that you could compete for less?
Yes. Compete. Not dominate. Not win the World Series every year. The point surely wasn't to outspend your competition but to outsmart them, and Beane, an intellect who needs no sheepskin from Harvard or Yale to prove his smarts and who learned his baseball as a ballplayer and a longtime A's advance scout, still does.
As far as I can tell, Billy Beane not only didn't go to Harvard or Yale, he didn't even go to college. How nerdy could he be? He must be a great GM.
Most of the recent World Series winners were built with scouts, not stats, from the 2002 Angels to the '03 Marlins to the '05 White Sox.
I've assembled two lists: Teams People Might Say Were "Built With Stats" Oakland Athletics Boston Red Sox Toronto Blue Jays Los Angeles Dodgers (from February 16, 2004 to October 29, 2005)
Teams That Were "Built With Scouts" All other Major League Baseball teams
So to be honest, the odds are in the "Scouts" teams' favor, no? One out of the last four World Series winners isn't so bad when you look at it this way, is it?
Beane took hits for making no major deadline deals despite the fact that the team was floundering around .500 at the time. "I didn't really think the elixir was out there. That's why we didn't do anything," Beane said. "The key was health. If we got healthy, we'd be all right. If not, we wouldn't."
Pretty simple, huh?
I refer you again to the (possible overstatement of a) subtitle for this article: Why A's Beane succeeds where others have failed.
I'll print the rest of the article here for thoroughness' sake:
With closer Huston Street back last Friday and potential ace Rich Harden starting to throw, the A's might get even better. Beane's A's have never gotten past the Yankees in October, even when they had stars almost to match them (Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder are all gone for greener pastures), and it's hard to imagine them doing it now. However, it's still quite an accomplishment to get as far as they have without any of those stars.
Beane is not perfect (trading Andre Ethier to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley doesn't look good today, and you could argue that he would have been better keeping Tejada long-term rather than Eric Chavez), but his knack is undeniable. Hard as it is to believe, trading Hudson and Mulder has barely cost them. Dan Haren and Kiko Calero, acquired for Mulder, have actually outperformed the ex-A's star, a fact that doesn't please Beane as much as you might think. "I don't necessarily view trades as a zero-sum game. I don't feel so insecure as to root against guys," Beane said. "Mulder's one of my favorites. I just want my team to win."
To that end, no matter the game plan, hardly anybody does it better.
I'm still waiting to find out why Billy Beane succeeded where others have failed. But thanks for the information that he a) has got a way of finding winning players, b) did not go to Harvard or Yale, c) uses scouts, and d) has an "undeniable" "knack" (you didn't really specify for what). I'll keep those things in mind when I hire my next GM.
So far all I've managed to find is that he played college baseball for two years somewhere in Florida. Billy Beane, of course, as several Cardinal alums have pointed out to me, turned down Stanford to play in the minor leagues.
You Would Think That If He Mentioned Something So Specific, He Would Have Looked It Up To Make Sure He Was Right
John Kruk, BBTN 9/3/06
Re: Ryan Howard.
"And, and, 133 RBI's like [Steve Phillips] mentioned. And at the start of the season, the first, what, month / month and a half he was hitting seventh in the line-up for Charlie Manuel." (emphasis not mine)
Ryan Howard, this year, batting 7th in the line-up: Two games played. Seven at bats.
What a month.
Also worth noting that following Kruk's piece of misinformation, Phillips chimed in with a quick, off-camera, "that's right!"
I don't know why, but I hadn't heard anything about this before.
The “Baseball Prospectus” may be different because of its hip, fresh approach to one of America’s favorite pastimes. But it’s also unique for another reason: Its co-author Chris Kahrl has been living openly as a transgendered woman for the past six months.
Something tells me Joe would not be cool with that.
From reader Aaron, an email titled "Joe's Probably Response to Chris Kahrl":
"I haven't gotten a chance to see her in bed, so I really can't comment one way or the other on her. I have heard some things about her, but I need to wait until I get out to Virginia to meet her to tell you how I feel."