Don't forget to tune in tonight at 8 on ESPN as clutch actor Michael Chiklis unveils the Pepsi Clutchamacalit or whatever team. Yadier Molina is prominently featured in the promotional video clip on their website, so I assume he will be crowned Mr. Clutch 2006.
I'm personally much more excited about the Shasta Choker Awards and the RC Cola Players Who Performed Pretty Much Like They Always Do In Virtually All Situations, With Some Variations Due to Random Chance Awards, which will, as always, be given to each and every player in major league baseball.
New England (6-1) more than doubled Minnesota's average of allowing 15.8 points per game, setting the tone for an easy victory with an opening drive on which Brady completed all six of his throws for 94 yards.
New England won 31-7.
So...what's going on over at the Arizona Fall League these days?
On Wednesday, July 26, we reported that Harold Reynolds may have taken a female intern out to dinner at Outback Steakhouse. Reynolds now explains, in lawsuit form, that the dinner in fact took place at Boston Market.
We wish to deliver our sincerest apologies to Mr. Reynolds. To allege that he would dine at Outback was a false and malicious attack on his character. Mr. Reynolds clearly enjoys the finer things in life, and never again shall his affinity for delicious double marinated rotisserie chicken be overlooked by this site.
It's been several days since America's Favorite Little Scamp singlehandedly beat the Tigers for the World Series title, not only going 23-22 (he tripled twice in a single at-bat in Game Two) with sixteen doubles, but also throwing three consecutive no-hitters in Games 3-5, despite staying at the stadium late every night to help the concessions crew clean up the grandstands and tutoring his little brother in pre-calc.
In case any of you are wondering, we here at FJM do not hate David Eckstein. What we hate is bad sports journalism, and there has been a lot of it recently. Apparently, nothing brings out the cliche machines faster than a small man who plays sports.
David Eckstein started the World Series 0-11. Did anyone hear anything about how bad Eck was in the clutch? No. No one heard that. If Alex Rodriguez had an 0-11 slump in three playoff games, the hand-wringing and typewriter pounding would have been deafening. How do I know this? Because ARod did do that, and that did happen.
The point is, ARod is a large human, who makes a lot of money. Eck is a small human, who makes less money. Their career performances during the regular season and during the playoffs indicate beyond a shadow of a fraction of a smidgeon of a blorgtion of a flernson of a doubt that Alex Rodriguez is the better player by like eleven standard deviations. And yet: no one writes anything good about ARod these days, and everyone writes good things about Eckstein.
Does no one in the world remember the 2000 ALCS, when ARod was 9-22 with 2HR and put up this line: .409/.480/.773? Does anyone realize that in the last 2 series Eck played in before the NLCS he put up a scrappy little 6-35 with 6 singles? Does anyone care?
Well, we do. Because people love to attack big rich guys, and love to praise small little scrappy guys, no matter what the actual facts of their performances tell us. To wit, here's a quote from former Eckstein coach Joe Maddon, from yet another paean to a little man's big heart. Read the last sentence of the quote like seven times in a row, and try to figure out how this is possible.
"I've always said David was the smartest guy on the field every night, and that included both coaching staffs," Maddon said Friday. "And I've never seen the guy have a bad day. Even if he goes 0-for-4 and makes three errors, he helps you."
I don't trust that you all read that seven times in a row, so:
Even if he goes 0-for-4 and makes three errors, he helps you. Even if he goes 0-for-4 and makes three errors, he helps you. Even if he goes 0-for-4 and makes three errors, he helps you. Even if he goes 0-for-4 and makes three errors, he helps you. Even if he goes 0-for-4 and makes three errors, he helps you. Even if he goes 0-for-4 and makes three errors, he helps you. Even if he goes 0-for-4 and makes three errors, he helps you.
No. No he does not. He does not help you. He hurts you. Anyone who does this in a game hurts you, no matter whether he is 5'7" 165, or 6'4" 230.
I'm sure David Eckstein is an awesome dude. I actually do admire his ability to hang in a league where everyone is bigger than he is. I get the human interest angle. I get it. I really do. Nice work, Eck.
The baseball season is over, now, and although we have a Hot Stove to look forward to, we here at FJM always lament the final days of October, because it's just not as much fun to post dumb things that Michael Irvin says about the Packers, or make jokes about Barry Melrose's mullet. So, we'll keep posting whenever we can, but as a final WS/Eckstein round-up, and to celebrate the end of a great year, here are my favorite responses to the Eckstein Height and Weight Contest. Thanks to all of you who wrote in -- more than 500 of you -- and thanks for being the snarkiest and most consistently amusing reader base a bunch of nerds could ever ask for.
Again, the questions:
1. How tall is David Eckstein? 2. How much does he weigh?
1. How tall is David Eckstein? Nelson De La Rosa plus two inches.
2. How much does he weigh? Trick question, David Eckstein does not weight anything. He is composed completely of toughness and grittiness and those have zero weight.
All I *know* for sure is that he plays like he's 7'8" and 425 lbs.
170 cm, 75kg! metric! boo-yeah! i have nothing better to do!
Weight: As big as a 15 year old high school chess club president with the arm strength of the president's 9-year-old sister, but the minute you begin to doubt him, you're already out.
Height: Shorter than a pesky annoying toddler, but as soon as you look at Eckstein as an easy out he somehow makes contact with the ball and uses his peskiness to get the centerfielder to trip on wet grass, letting the ball land for a double.
Now, if you'll excuse me I need to get back to my math homework, whereby I calculate everything using only measurements of heart and soul combined with a little hustle. I have an F so far in the class, but that's because the teacher is a geek who thinks numbers are important.
He was only 3'8'' and weighed 49 lbs when he was drafted by the Red Sox, but through grit, hustle, heart, scrappiness, and white-man blue-collar work ethic, he outhustled and outgrinded his genetic code and grew to the height of 5'7'' and the weight of 165 lbs. Sadly, no amount of grit and hustle could undo his terrible skin condition.
Height: Why the fuck does it matter? The bastard's got GRIT IN HIS FUCKING DNA. Weight: Who fucking cares? He's the toughest player I've ever seen in uniform. THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS.
1. How tall is David Eckstein? Scraptastic!!!
2. How much does he weigh? Translucent!
1. 6'5" 2. 270
I may be confusing him with Frank Thomas. But how many World Series MVPs does the Big Hurt have? Exactly.
David Eckstein's height is: Clutch His weight is: Hustle
How tall is Eckstein? As tall as his heart is invaluable to the success of all teams everywhere. How much does he weigh? He’s too feisty to get onto a scale.
His hustle is 11 feet tall, and his heart weighs 2,461 lbs.
Also, this year his GORP (Grit over replacement player) was an astounding 193.8!
1. Doesn't matter 2. Doesn't matter
When you want to know the size of his heart, then we'll talk.
1. How tall is David Eckstein? 2. How much does he weigh?
The first 10,000 correct responses to these impossible-to-find-answers-to questions will receive a congratulatory e-mail from me, Ken Tremendous, winner of the 2006 David Eckstein Award for Excellence in Underappreciation. E-mail me with the link above. And good luck! Again, there's very little chance you'll be able to find the answers.
We accidentally missed the Eckstein article in one of the most venerable newspapers in human history. Us-a culpa.
Everyfuckingbody finally familiar with the smallness of David Eckstein, and the way he hustles down the line like almost every other major league baseball player? No?
Here are the Cliffs' Notes:
pocket shortstop rosary beads ignited little player who does big things neither was a flashy play workmanlike things that help teams win core player "He's the toughest guy I've ever seen in a uniform" (proving to be the most irresistable quote of 2006 for sportswriters) 5 feet 7 inches baby faced looks like he wandered into the lineup from an American Legion tournament scrappers feisty broke his bat two-out roller "our club responds to how hard he plays" walk-on at the University of Florida puttering along Granderson slipped
Here's a guy from San Diego who's really shaking thing's up a little. How? By writing a story about David Eckstein.
built like the batboy little league lightweight throws a baseball as if he were heaving a javelin certified shrimp sawed-off leadoff man pestering presence nothing fancy maximum effort enviable efficiency gritty little gamer inspiration more ambition than aptitude University of Florida walk-on "man of iron" no one would ever mistake Eckstein for a superstar small ball continues to crowd the plate despite accumulated bruises seafood motif
I would have thought this point I'm about to make to be self-evident, but judging from the e-mails we're getting, it may not be. Here goes:
We have nothing against David Eckstein. I don't know if he's a good dude or not; people generally seem to think he's a ruling dude. And hey, I hope he is. I hope he and his wife are very happy and have like 30 dogs and children someday.
This is not about David Eckstien. This is about sportswriters across the country who have all chosen to write the exact same story. This is about bad journalism, and laziness, in the news sources that you pay for. The opportunity cost, if you will, of other great stories from the World Series that we're not reading about, is becoming staggering.
This may not be enjoyable for anyone other than ourselves. I guess, sorry?
And now, onto more Eckshit. This time from Ben Walker of the AP. Eck Time!
biggest little man 5-foot-7 and all banged up true spirit (spirit = "Yankee") "club responds to how hard he plays" little things fairy tale and 5-7 is being generous enthusiasm "guts" extra inches odds have been against Eckstein ever since he was in youth ball "toughest guy I've ever seen in a uniform" hugging
An Examination of the Three Key Senate Races that Could Decide Control of Congress
Just kidding. It's another Eckstein article.
But with an Asian twist: this is from the Taiwanese Taipei Times.
Yes. Our little friend with the big gritty sub-10 VORP has penetrated the hearts of our brothers and sisters half a world away.
Read the article, or read my fun word snipets below. Either way, ni hao, Taipei Times! Huān yíng guāng lín!
Let me tell you about David Eckstein "He had done everything that a lead-off man should do." "He had gotten on base." "He stole second base." "He slid into third on a passed ball by the Braves catcher." "He hit a double." Davy Little All 170cm of him (That metric twist is my favorite part.) Overlook "What he lacks in height, he makes up for with pure ?" "I'm not even sure of the word for it. Heart?" Gumption? Incredible will? Sprint for first base Diving [for a ground ball] Shortstop who never quits Very large shoes Unlikely Unexpected Completely underestimated Faith
I'm Going to Keep Doing This Until Someone Tells Me to Stop
Send your "Stop Doing This" requests to:
Stop Doing This c/o Ken Tremendous FJM Headquarters/Secret Air Force Nerve Gas Project Area 54 Utah, USA
It will take weeks for them to get to our underground government bunker. And in that time, I will link to, and snip words from, thousands of identical articles about David Eckstein, like this one.
Either click the link and read Tom Verducci's version of the same exact thoughts and feelings that every other sportswriter in the free world has expressed in the last few days, or just read my list of words that are taken from said article, below. That will save some time, and I swear you can get the whole meaning of the article from just reading the word list.
David Goliath Faith Imagination Heart Soul 5-foot-7 165 pounds Clean-scrubbed Cub Scout "barely qualifies for a razor" "one of the most clutch players I've ever seen" "Tigers centerfielder Curtis Granderson turned a routine out -- by that pest Eckstein, of course -- into a rally-starting double when he flat out fell in centerfield" (Isn't it amazing how Eckstein continues to receive credit for that, even when the writer of the article always notes how Granderson just flat-out fell down? How is this because of Eckstein being a "pest?") Size [does not matter] Magnitude [of a person's heart] Little dude Little man Role model Good little player Good player Idol Not...big enough to make it Idol Small Stature Very big man
Spirit Overachieving Diminutive Hero "The definition of a clutch player" 5-foot-7 165-pound [He] even contributed to the Tigers' bad luck. (Note: ???) "You can't watch Eckstein play and not smile." Enthusiasm Infectious "...embodies the word undaunted." "...he still looks as if he would be better placed at the American Legion World Series than here. Youthful looks "He may look like a puppy but he plays like a big dog." Toughest "all heart" "His throwing motion is a little odd" Rally starter "the pest" Tenacious "Eckstein fought off good pitches and hit a foul-ball "home run" before finally getting on base with a swinging bunt." Dinker "... fly ball that went for a double when Granderson fell in the seventh." "at his best when it matters the most." Joy
Billy Ray Cyrus' Wikipedia page, on the rivalry between Cyrus and Travis Tritt:
Cyrus and Tritt's rivalry was noted by Tupac Shakur, who saw that the feud elevated the fame of both persons, even the perceived one-hit wonder Cyrus. Shakur was inspired by this to turn on his friend Biggie Smalls---for commercial, not personal success.
Fatigue could be a factor in Verlander's decline (a 3.01 ERA pre-All Star Break; 4.54 post-ASB). Before this year, he threw 113, 116.1, and 105.2 innings in college and then 130 between the minors and majors last year.
This year, he's thrown 186 innings in the regular season and 15.2 in the playoffs.
But of course, McCarver would have us believe it's youth and inexperience alone.
Player A loves the bright lights of the playoffs. He thrives in the spotlight. He lives for the big moment. He is clutch personified. Player A starts raking as soon as his team makes the postseason. In two playoff series (eight games total), he goes .471/.514/.529 with 5 R and 4 RBI. He's so big-time and fearless he wins the Championship Series MVP award.
Player B shrinks under the bright lights. He gets nervous in the batter's box. He looks tentative. Maybe he needs more playoff experience. In the World Series, Player B embarrasses himself by going 0-15 when his team needs him most. Player B may be the biggest choker mankind has ever known.
In the next comment ... the M. Night Shyamalan twist ending to this riveting tale!
Theory: "Jeff Weaver" is David Eckstein inside Jeff Weaver's corpse. Eckstein murdered Weaver before the game and is wearing his hollowed-out body as a costume in the top half of innings, then quickly changing in a phone booth he had them install on the field.
TINY LITTLE ECKSTEIN ACTUALLY BIG AND GRITTY Small Eck Comes Up Big Vs. Tigers Diminutive Star Big at Heart
by Ken Tremendous
Picture it: Joel Zumaya, the Detroit Tigers’ flamethrowing righty, stands on the mound. He is capable of throwing a baseball 120 miles per hour with wicked movement.
Sixty feet away, gritty and determined David Eckstein, all 5-foot, 7-inches and 165 pounds of him, stands at the plate. Or, rather, he buzzes around the plate, like a gnat around a pitcher’s head.
“He’s the grittiest player I have ever seen,” says Everyone. “You think he’s too small, you think his arm is too weak, you think he is not that good at baseball, you think he is a small, small boy who is very small, you think he can’t hurt you. And you are right. But god damn, is that small boy gritty and determined.”
And gritty. In college – the same age at which Angels’ first baseman Darin Erstad was busy being a hard-nosed punter -- David Eckstein was told that he was just too small. So instead of riding the roller coaster at the amusement park where someone told him that, he tried out for the baseball team. The 5-foot 5-inch 128 pound Eckstein quickly demonstrated that he belonged.
Also, he is tough. The 5-foot 1-inch, 102 pound Eckstein – this year alone – has broken three fingers, shattered an elbow, slammed his other fingers in a door, dislocated his shoulder, had his eyes gouged when one of the older boys took his lunchbox, stuck a knife into his side on a dare, broke his own neck intentionally, ate his own ankle, and allowed teammate Jeff Suppan to open the top of his head with a corkscrew. That’s a lot of abuse for one 4-foot 2-inch frame to take.
But did he miss even one game in 2006? Yes. He missed 39, actually. But holy fuck, is he tough.
And did these injuries affect his performance? I don’t think so, friend.
He hit like .350 and always came up clutch every single time and tore it up all through the playoffs and basically out-hustled everyone to the tune of 50 doubles and like a thousand runs. I haven’t checked to make sure that stuff is true, but I don’t need to. Because even if Eck didn’t do any of that, he at least was always gritty, which is what counts more than anything in baseball. Also there are home runs.
“The thing that makes David Eckstein so great,” says a person with a computer, “is nothing. His offense is worth 9 more runs over the course of the entire season than the average AAA call-up. So. That’s…something, I guess.”
Something indeed. Something gritty, determined, and detertty – a word I just made up that means determined/gritty.
So when David Eckstein -- 2-foot-1 in bare feet, topping the scales at barely 40 pounds soaking wet, and appearing in the game only thanks to an MLB Outreach Program to give malnourished young mole people a chance to fulfill a dream of playing in the big leagues – stands in against 8-foot-11 Joel Zumaya, who can throw a weighted leather exercise ball 200 MPH with his penis, you might think Zumaya has the advantage.
But he didn’t count on the heart, or the determinittyness, or the sheer heartitude, or the gnatosity, or the dirtheart, or the toughgrit, or the dirtdirtdirt, of an 11-inch tall, 2-pound foetus named Dirtid Gritstein.
Eckstein hit a soft liner to left that Craig Monroe kind of misplayed on a wet track, and it fell in for a double.
So, yeah, he’s kind of the best ever.
Ken Tremendous is about six feet tall, relatively big at heart, and mildly gritty.
And Now, For Some Substance (Still Eckstein-Related!)
Let's take a quick look back at that last Eckstein article, the one from the Philadelphia Daily News. The author, a guy named Sam Donnellon, actually attributes some tangible baseball quality to Eck -- he equates "grittiness" to the ability to extend at bats and force the pitcher to throw more pitches:
Here's what else is: Eckstein's approach. He entered last night's game more bubbly about a .154 World Series average than any major leaguer has a right to be. Why? Because Eckstein knew he was playing his role, watching and wasting pitches at the top of the order.
Right. He wasn't getting hits, but at least he was super-good at tiring pitchers out. Wasn't he? He had to be, he's gritty and tough. But wait: we don't have to just believe this is true on faith -- we can check and make sure because people actually count the number of pitches each player takes, write down that information, and input it into computers for posterity. From a very cursory glance at this ESPN.com page about Cardinals hitters, we can see that in the playoffs, of players who have hit in nine or more games, David Eckstein ranks sixth in pitches per plate appearance on his own team. Still convinced he was doing a good job "playing his role"?
His gritty and lengthy at-bats all postseason, even when they ended as outs and not doubles, have stamped a personality on a Cardinals team that survived its way into the postseason.
Yes, apparently you are. Well, let's look at the regular season, since the postseason is a stupidly small sample anyway. Here's a list of the top 40 MLB hitters in P/PA. Eckstein's sitting pretty, isn't he? No, he's not there. Hmm, that's odd. Well, here's numbers 40-80. Eckstein? Eck? Are you there?
You aren't, because Davidgrit Gritstein ranked 82nd in pitches per plate appearance during the 2006 season. Behind Tony Graffanino, Willy Taveras, Reed Johnson, Todd Walker and Jack Wilson. G. David Eckstein (the G. stands for Grit) ranked 71 places behind much-maligned strikeoutaholic Adam Dunn.
So you can say he's small. You can say he's a good person because he's playing through injuries. You can say he's inspirational and he helps the team win through increased morale like some sort of transluscent mascot. Just don't say his at bats are lengthy. Because they're almost exactly as lengthy as Nick Punto's or Adrian Beltre's.
Look. Even I'm sort of almost getting sick of writing about Eckstein. But he just hasn't been that good, either in the regular season or the playoffs. It's weird and frightening and fascinating to me that after he has one good game, the floodgates open up and everyone publishes the Eckstein piece it seems like they already had completely written and saved as a Word doc on their computers. This was his line in the playoffs before Game 4:
.185/.290/.259, 1 XBH
I mean, yikes. I'm not honestly suggesting that people should have been printing Eckstein is a Playoff Choker articles, but hey -- where were the Eckstein is a Playoff Choker articles?
Maybe I should stop being so angry and just start living by the credo everyone else seems to be following: if you're little and you're nice, people will like you and that's that.
Seriously. These are two more articles. Different ones, by different writers -- yet the same. Here's the first.
lifeblood easy to underestimate and even easier to overlook five-foot-nothing heart and soul fundamentally sound 110 (percent) give it all you've got defensive-minded 5-foot-7, 165 pounds (with lead-soled platform shoes on) fingers mashed during a bunt attempt shoulder strained in a dive "Toughest guy I've ever seen in uniform," (same La Russa quote) "He's the definition of a clutch player." (ditto) like a gnat – annoyingly persistent and impossible to deter buzzing around your head the honest-faced Eckstein looks more like your paperboy catalyst of the then-Anaheim Angels' 2002 championship team the grit and soul of this team
small in stature, but comes up big again David Eckstein puts everything he has into it every muscle, every fiber, every boney little bone The man is 5-7 and 165 pounds bubbly Eckstein knew he was playing his role gritty "He's the definition of a clutch player," (La Russa quote again) No ego everything he had into it - every muscle, every fiber, every boney little bone (the guy actually wrote this out again in case we forgot his awesome first paragraph)
Just in case anyone is wondering whether we are being too harsh on people who praise poor little gritty determined banged-up heart-of-a-champion little-things-doer David ScrapHeart Eckstein, O.B.E., here is some decidedly ungritty data for them to gnaw on:
EQA: .251 (21st among all SS) WARP1: 2.5 VORP: 9.2
9.2 VORP. 9.2.
That is 217th in MLB.
He was tied with Tony Graffanino and his own teammate John Rodriguez, who is predominantly a pinch hitter.
Kaz Matsui is only 5'10", and he's terrible, and his VORP was over 12.
Note, too, that in both of the articles linked in the posts sub, the work "overlooked" is used many times. In what possible freaking way is this guy overlooked? He is the most-looked player ever, in terms of how much his talent deserves to be "looked".
Here are some words and phrases that appear in that article:
Small Frail Innocent-looking Gritting [his teeth] Aches Pains Tough "When Eckstein went 0-for-11 to begin the World Series, you had to wonder." Biggest hearts 5-foot, 7-inch 165-pound Big and imposing vs. small and scrappy "He's not the fastest guy in the world" "He doesn't have much power" "You can list all the things he can't do." "You realize he always gets it done no matter what." "Eckstein made a statement in his first plate appearance against Jeremy Bonderman, digging out of an 0-2 hole and capping a nine-pitch at-bat with an infield single." All-Smurf "Between the both of them, I don't think they get to six feet tall" Little guys Little swing "put our bats [on it]" Inspirational Sacrifice his body Scuffed up "He's the kind of guy you want when the game is on the line." "He doesn't get enough praise in this league." " Tony La Russa...has called Eckstein 'the toughest guy I've ever seen in uniform' more than once in recent weeks."
Here are some words and phrases that appear in that article:
Gritty Little 5-feet-7 Grit 165 pounds Determination Overlooked Overlook Grinding Clutch Toughest [I've ever seen in uniform] Banged up Knocked around Beaten down "...he did fall into a 1-for-20 slump running from Game 5 in the NLCS through Game 3 of the World Series -- but he has come roaring back." Suicide squeeze artist "isn't known for his muscle" Darin Erstad Grinds out every at-bat "ain't the biggest guy" "or the strongest" Makes things happen "He fights you tooth and nail" "People talk about him not having enough arm" "People talk about him not having enough range" "People talk about him not having enough size" "That's what's most impressive."
Last night, ESPN Radio. I wish I knew who it was -- someone doing post-game commentary with Dave Campbell.
"If you scrapped the rosters for these two teams [Cards and Tigers], and started over by holding a draft between two managers, there are a bunch of guys who would be drafted ahead of David Eckstein. But if you ask the same managers: 'which player do you think is most likely to be on the winning team?', then David Eckstein will be the first name on that list."
Okay…not the best choice anymore. Hafner seems like the best choice so far, maybe. Or Ortiz. But let’s keep going. Because I love Derek Jeter, and I really want to believe that he was the best offensive player in the league this year.
IsoP, AL, 2006
1. Hafner .350 2. Ortiz .349 3. Thome .310 4. Dye .306 5. Giambi .305 Then there's a really long run of dudes who stink, like Kevin Millar and stuff, and then... 50. Pierzynski .141 51. Iguchi .141 52. Jeter .140
Huh. Now I'm definitely iffy on Derek Jeter being the best offensive player in the AL this year. Let's keep going.
SecA, AL, 2006
(This takes into account Jeter's SB, remember)
1. Hafner .570 2. Ortiz .565 3. Giambi .556 4. Thome, .529 5. Ramirez (Bos.) .519 (Then there's a long list of dudes, including Johnny Damon and Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez and, yes, Kevin Millar again, and then we get...) 28. Millar .302 29. Jeter .297
Ugh. This is looking more and more like Derek Jeter didn't deserve this award. Sorry I put in the thing about how Millar was in the long list of dudes who came before Jeter and then also wrote in Millar's place on the list right above Jeter, but I really wanted to hammer home the insane fact that Kevin Millar had a higher SecA than Derek Jeter in 2006.
Well, at least Jeter led the league in OPS. Check that -- he was 15th. Hafner was first.
No matter. I'm sure he was at the very least the best offensive player on his own team. Oops -- hang on. Giambi was way better in every single stat except BA and SB. And ARod was 13th in OPS. (Surprising -- I thought that guy sucked, based on what people who are professional sportswriters have told me.)
Well, okay, fine, whatever -- Jeter was definitely the very very best offensive SS in the AL. Except arguably Carlos Guillen, who had a higher OPS, more HR, more 2B, and more walks, in 80 fewer AB.
But look, everyone -- Jeter was second in VORP in the AL. So he's not a bad choice.
Of course, Hafner was first in VORP in the AL.
Travis Hafner is a better hitter than Derek Jeter. So are lots of other people. Jeter might deserve the MVP, because he put up his very very good stats from the SS position, which makes those stats very very valuable. But the Hank Aaron Award is not the MVP.
So there you have it, folks. Derek Jeter. Winner of the Hank Aaron Award for being the first-or-second-best-hitting SS in the AL, and probably like the third- or fourth-best hitter on his own team.
There have been some very angry blog-o-types -- my favorite kind, as I myself am an angry blog-o-type -- who have chastised me for using SecA and IsoP in the same breath as VORP, EqA, etc. Just to clarify: I am not equating these stats. The umbrella stats -- VORP, EqA, etc. -- tell the big picture story, and the smaller, more specific stats -- SecA, OPS, IsoP -- tell the details of the story. And the story is: Travis Hafner -- and probably Ortiz, Thome, and a few other dudes -- all had better offensive years than Derek Jeter.
Michael (New York) : What Tigers hitters do you see breaking out during the next few games in St. Louis?
SportsNation Joe Morgan: I'm surprised that Pudge Rodriguez is 0 for his last 16 or 17 or whwatever, because he's such a good hitter. Part of the reason he's struggling is because he's a catcher and he's worn down. With the week off, I thought he'd be rejuvenated. So he's the guy I'd pick to break out and they need him!
As of right this second, Pudge is now 0 for his last 23, the longest hitless streak of his career. His last hit came in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the ALCS ... fifteen days ago.
This is his line for the playoffs:
5-40, .125/.182/.225, OPS of .407, 3 BB, 9 K
If Alex Rodriguez does that in next year's playoffs, he will be drawn and quartered and then they will tar and feather his quarters.
Once again, this is what Holiday Inn claims to be recognizing: Behind every great team on the diamond, lurking in the shadow of baseball superstars, live the role players who sacrifice for their team in often unrecognized effort. Which of these role players' best deserves recognition for their contributions as the Holiday Inn Look Again Player of the Year?
Well, the guy who's running away with this thing has his own fucking cereal. How's that for a lifetime of unrecognized lurking in the shadows? It's about damn time we give this two-time All-Star and final Babe Ruth Award winner a little well-deserved recognition.
Since we last checked in, little Eck has extended his share from 30% to 31%. It's just like in real life -- the ball's already over the fence, but Eck's still sprinting home.
P.S. If you'd like to buy some Ecks O's, go here. They're eleven dollars and they increase your susceptibility to skin cancer by 300%. Pregnant or nursing mothers should avoid Ecks O's as they are known to cause birth defects such as dwarfism and Too Much Hustle disorder (TMH).
In this episode of JoeChat, Joe reveals his innermost feelings on cheating and a shocking twist is unveiled: sometimes, Joe can be right about things. Can you feel the excitement?
Buzzmaster: Joe is here to answer your questions!
I'm here to flippantly answer his answers! No one asked me to do this!
Maryville Tennesssee: What do you think about Kenny Rodgers and what was on his hand?
SportsNation Joe Morgan: Whatever was on his hand was illegal. Let's start with that. I know it wasn't dirt. You can't have a foreign substance on your hand, that's the rule. Obviously, he took it off after the first inning and you wouldn't think he was doing anything illegal.
Well, we got that shocking twist out of the way fast. I think Joe's right on here. Kenny Rogers had pine tar on his hand and that's illegal. That's pretty much the end of the story, except for the weird fact that Tony La Russa decided to screw his own team over and not get rid of a guy who had pitched, at that point, 16 consecutive scoreless innings. Congratulations, Joe, on your third correct answer of the season! Kevin (New Hyde Park, NY): Hey Joe, can MLB take any actions against Kenny Rogers if there are enough complaints from other teams? It is a foreign substance and he should be suspended. Isn't that the rules despite the umpire's discretion?
SportsNation Joe Morgan: That is definitely the rules. That you're suspended and kicked out of the game immediately. Not only on your hand, but your body, like a nail file. I don't know if they can take action now because they didn't go to the mound to look at his hand. We're only seeing a TV replay and therefore they can't because they didn't inspect him. Without that, they can't suspend him.
SportsNation Joe Morgan: La Russa let him off and I think Tony's reasoning was he didn't want to hurt the image of the World Series and baseball at that point.
Wow. I'm speechless. Joe sort of scores again. He's vaguely right for almost the entirety of his answer. Look, Kevin in New Hyde Park, major league baseball is not going to go back and retroactively suspend a guy when their own umpires let him off the hook after choosing not to inspect his clearly pine tarred pitching hand. That [sic] is definitely the rules.
Michael (New York) : What Tigers hitters do you see breaking out during the next few games in St. Louis?
SportsNation Joe Morgan: I'm surprised that Pudge Rodriguez is 0 for his last 16 or 17 or whwatever, because he's such a good hitter. Part of the reason he's struggling is because he's a catcher and he's worn down. With the week off, I thought he'd be rejuvenated. So he's the guy I'd pick to break out and they need him!
I'm surprised Stumpy One Leg Carrigan is 0 for his last 16 or 17 races or whatever, because he's such a good sprinter. Part of the reason he's struggling is because he lost his leg in a giant Venus fly trap accident. With his new fake leg, I thought he'd be rejuvenated even though he's proven since he got the new leg that he's not. So he's still the guy I'm picking to break out and Team Physical Deformity needs him!
Marquette Michigan: Are the Tigers still the favorite?
SportsNation Joe Morgan: I don't think so anymore. I thought they had the edge because they had home-field, but that's gone now. No one has home-field now. There's 3 in St. Louis and 2 in Detroit now, so I think the edge switches to St. Louis. Again, a lot depends on who steps up in this series. Detroit has a lot of ways to score runs and wins. The Cardinals basically revolve around Pujols and Rolen right now, so that's the way it is. Those two guys can lead you to victory, but the Tigers have an overall better chance of scoring runs that St. Louis at this time.
Thank god. Always Wrong Joe is back. I don't think so anymore. I thought they had the edge because they had home-field, but that's gone now.
That's wrong. They had the edge because they were the better team, with vastly better pitching and arguably better hitting, as well. They won twelve more games in a considerably better league. Twelve.
No one has home-field now.
What? No. That's wrong. St. Louis has home field advatange. Anyone with a game schedule and the ability to count to two and then three can see that this is wrong.
There's 3 in St. Louis and 2 in Detroit now, so I think the edge switches to St. Louis.
But -- but you just said no one has home field. Which is it? The way this reads, it also seems like Joe only "thinks" three is a larger number than two. (Two has a lot of upside and intangibles that sometimes can make it larger than three.)
Again, a lot depends on who steps up in this series.
Sometimes, two steps up, and then who's larger, huh, three? This sentence is akin to saying: "a lot depends on who wins more of the remaining games."
Detroit has a lot of ways to score runs and wins.
Instead of this being a typo, I'm going to believe that Joe regularly uses the phrase "let's go out there and score some wins, boys." And he's talking to himself as he silently plays a fortieth game of the Solitaire that comes with Windows. The Cardinals basically revolve around Pujols and Rolen right now, so that's the way it is. Those two guys can lead you to victory, but the Tigers have an overall better chance of scoring runs that St. Louis at this time.
A syntactic and semantic mess. I missed you, Always Wrong Joe. Good to have you back.
Utek (LA): Since Rogers pitched 6 shutout innings without the gunk on his hand, are we making too big a deal about this? I'd rather games were won and lost on the field and not over disputes in the rule book.
SportsNation Joe Morgan: Are you saying you'd like to play without a rulebook? If not, the bases aren't 90 feet apart and the mound isn't 60'6" away. Rules are there to make sure the game is played fairly. The umpires role is to make sure the game is played fairly, not just to call balls and strikes like many think. If the pine tar wasn't there to help him, then why was it there. You can't ignore the rules. If you didn't have laws, we'd have chaos, and the same applies to baseball.
I'm siding with Joe on this one, but more than that, I'm very much enjoying Pissy, Supermelodramatic Joe, who makes a strong showing in this response. "If you didn't have laws, we'd have chaos!!!" We're talking about poop on a guy's hand. I'm going to set up Joe to write the next Michael Bay movie.
Soren (LA): So Joe, if you were in Tony LaRussa's situation what would you have done?
SportsNation Joe Morgan: Let's not put me in Tony's situation, but if I'm the manager I just say go check him. Tony didn't want to hurt the image of the World Series. I don't want to hurt the image of the game itself. But he's a manager and I'm a broadcaster.
Joe. Joe. Soren (LA) doesn't have the ability to Judge Reinhold you into Tony La Russa's body. Cool out, man. I like the last sentence, in which Joe reminds us what he and Tony do for a living. This in no way helps us reconcile their difference of opinion on Poopgate. Bobby (Wilmington): I respect LaRussa for what he's trying to do for the integrity of the Series.. but don't you think that in this age of people labeling cheaters, that the uncertainty of 'dirtgate' will forever be associated with this year?
SportsNation Joe Morgan: I agree with you, but I'm trying to give Tony's side of the story. I understand what he was thinking, but if I was in that position I would try to expose it. It doesn't mean I'm wrong and that Tony's wrong. It's just what I would do.
SportsNation Joe Morgan: I just hate cheating.
SportsNation Joe Morgan: I never looked off anybody's paper on a test. That's cheating and I hate that.
I like to imagine Joe furiously leaning over his Apple IIe and typing this answer while loosening his tie and wiping his forehead with a dirty rag. Between responses one and two, steam comes out of his ears. Between responses two and three, a cartoon devil appears on his shoulder and shrikes in his ear, "But what about the time you copied off of Bobby Bakersville in second grade, Joe? What about that?" And then Joe screams out his answer in anguish and also enters it into the chat field by mistake.
And can we talk about "It doesn't mean I'm wrong and that Tony's wrong"? Of course it doesn't. That's logistically impossible.
Jeff (Cleveland): Hey Joe...what was your favorite ballpark that you played in (besides Riverfront)?
SportsNation Joe Morgan: That's a tough one. Probably Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium.
SportsNation Joe Morgan: I just hate cheating.
SportsNation Joe Morgan: I never looked off anybody's paper on a test. That's cheating and I hate that.
I added those last two answers. But you believed Joe typed that again, didn't you?
The David Eckstein Memorial Eckstein of the Year Award
Finally, they did it. Major League Baseball and Holiday Inn proudly bring you the David Eckstein Memorial Ecksteiniest Eckstein of the Year Eck-ward, also known as the Holiday Inn Look Again Player of the Year. What does this steaming dump of a horse load award commemorate?
Behind every great team on the diamond, lurking in the shadow of baseball superstars, live the role players who sacrifice for their team in often unrecognized effort. Which of these role players' best deserves recognition for their contributions as the Holiday Inn Look Again Player of the Year?
The apostrophe behind the second "role players" is sic. Here's my translation from adver-marketing bullshit-speak into English:
Behind all the great colored and Latino or whatever the fuck players who are actually good at baseball, in the deep dark shadow-realm of guys who only make $3 to 8 million dollars a year, live the role players whose jobs are so torturous and awful that other grown humans pay to see them and applaud when they walk into their offices. White, tiny, albino, and white, these Ecksteins, proto-Ecksteins, and mega-Ecksteins need more love from crappy budget-priced motel chains and you, the paying fan. Which of these Ecksteins is the Eckiest? The answer: David Eckstein.
Here is David Eckstein's name and the names of the guys who will lose to David Eckstein:
American League Angels: Robb Quinlan Athletics: Mark Kotsay Blue Jays: Reed Johnson Devil Rays: Ty Wiggingon Indians: Jake Westbrook Mariners: Jake Woods Orioles: Brian Roberts Rangers: Mark DeRosa Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis Royals: Mark Grudzielanek Tigers: Brandon Inge Twins: Jason Tyner White Sox: Joe Crede Yankees: Scott Proctor
National League Astros: Chris Burke Braves: Brian McCann Brewers: Brian Shouse Cardinals: David Eckstein Cubs: John Mabry Diamondbacks: Eric Byrnes Dodgers: Andre Ethier Giants: Mark Sweeney Marlins: Wes Helms Mets: Jose Valentin Nationals: Nick Johnson Padres: Woody Williams Phillies: Shane Victorino Pirates: John Grabow Reds: Ryan Freel Rockies: Garrett Atkins
Notice anything? Yep, two non-whiteys. White people: role players who are always sacrificing for the glory of the non-whites.
Also, how the fuck does Erstad get left off this list? I'm hopping mad over this. Here's my "Holiday Inn Look Again, Look Again Award Nomination Committee" Official List of Snubs:
Darin Erstad Trot Nixon Scott Podsednik Paul Lo Duca Derek Jeter Instead of nominating John Grabow for the Pirates, they should have just nominated Eckstein again
I'm sort of torn over who to vote for here. It's such an odd mix of guys who had legitimately great seasons (Crede, DeRosa, McCann), startlingly mediocre starters (Jakes Woods and Westbrook), and absolutely irrelevant middle relievers (Brian Shouse???). A large part of me wants to throw the thing for the absolute worst player on the list. Is it Shouse, with his 34.0 innings of 1.50 WHIP ball? How about Grabow, with 69.2 IP and a 1.43 WHIP? No, wait. Of course it's John Mabry: dude posted a .205/.283/.324 (EqA of .214)! He scored 16 runs in 107 games. Wow. John Mabry.
Who am I fucking kidding? I'm voting for Eckstein.
Right. This list is NHL-level white, not just MLB-level white. Which is defensible if there is some set of relatively objective criteria -- for instance, in recent years, it seems like white guys are underrepresented in the MVP voting. But I'm pretty sure that's due to actual things that have actually happened on a baseball field.
This award is based on made-up things in people's imaginations.
Eckstein is absolutely dominating this thing, with 30% of the NL vote. Pity actual no-names Brian Shouse, Wes Helms and Jake Woods, so overlooked as to only garner 1% of the vote in a contest to see who the most overlooked player is.
Anyway, does anyone believe Rogers' explanation for that brown, shit-like shit on his hand? "It was a big clump of dirt," Rogers said after the game. "I didn't know it was there. They told me about [sic], but it was no big deal."
First off, it didn't look like dirt. I wish I had a screencap on hand.
** EDIT **
Within seconds, I was sent a couple of different shots. Here's one:
Actually, it's pretty hard to tell what it is. Whatever it is, it's poopy-looking.
** END EDIT **
Second, you didn't know it was there? You didn't realize the hand you use to pitch the baseball was covered in dirt? Listen, Kenny, I wasn't born on a strawberry farm like you were.
When asked how he could have a big clump of dirt on his hand, Rogers replied, "It was dirt and rosin put together. That's what happens when you rub it up. … I just went and wiped if off. I didn't think it was an issue. After the first inning, it was fine. I felt I was pretty comfortable after that."
Tomorrow, I'm buying a big bag of rosin and a big bag of dirt, mixing them up together, rubbing the resulting mixture on my left hand, putting on a full Tigers uniform and photographing my left hand as I simulate a changeup. Then we'll see if that's what happens when you rub it up!
How much do you think a bag of dirt costs?
After the substance was noticed, ESPN reviewed tapes of Rogers' pitching performances earlier in the postseason. The tapes revealed that, in starts against both the Yankees and Athletics, a similar-looking brown substance was spotted on Rogers' hand.
You're kidding. Do you think maybe you could show us those pictures, ESPN? No, you're good? Okay, cool. You just go on ahead there and keeping worldwidely leading sports worldwide.
** SECOND EDIT **
And they've added pictures! Congratulations. Karl Ravech is still sticking with MLB's story that it was dirt on SportsCenter right now.
I think we may have underestimated the Cardinals' pitching staff because it's been patchmeal.
2. Even I'm tired of typing the words "small sample size." But it seems the likeliest explanation for how notorious playoff choker Kenny Rogers is now clutch playoff hero Kenny Rogers. Up until this year, Kenny had been horrendous in the playoffs -- for exactly 20 and 1/3 innings. So we all knew he couldn't get it done under the bright lights of the postseason. Until now, right after he puts together a crazy 23-inning scoreless streak. Here's something, though -- the aggregate of the two Kennys? A total playoff ERA of 4.15. Kenny's career regular season ERA? 4.19.
3. Small sample size, part 2: We're still awfully close to having an 83-win team be crowned the best in all of baseball. The Cardinals finished the year with the 13th most victories in the majors, and that doesn't take into account the difference in quality between the AL and the NL. Five teams with a better record didn't even make the playoffs. This is our country.
I'm not a huge fan of making predictions about who's going to win a given series, or the whole postseason, or what have you. I very much enjoy talking about who has a better chance of winning, and for what reasons, et cetera. But I see little reason in saying anything like "I'm picking Twins in 6." I guess maybe it's fun? (Not a big fan of fun things.)
So generally speaking, I don't really care what people's predictions are.
And that, I kind of feel like, is worth pointing out.
I know what you're thinking: what are the chances that this could happen, assuming even that the ESPN analysts have monkey-throwing-raisins-at-a-dartboard level of guessing ability? And by "this," I mean 19 picks for World Series champs not even making the World Series.
Well, the chances that any given ("random") playoff team makes the World Series is 1 out of 4. In this case, 19 people missed what would have been a 1 out of 4 chance, if they had just simply "guessed" (at random). To measure the probability of this, we have to think in these terms: 19 people in a row "hit" a 3 out of 4 chance. What are the chances of that? .75^19 = .00423, or .42%
In other words, the anlaysts could have thrown all of their baseball knowledge out the third floor window of the Bristol megaplex, picked a random team to win the World Series...and there would have been less than a 1 in 200 chance that zero of their picks would get to the World Series. (Which, just to remind everyone, is exactly what happened.)
But wait! It gets better.
Looking further at these picks -- and I'm sure someone pointed this out before -- not one single person picked the Tigers to even get out of the ALDS. And only one person picked the Cards to beat the Padres in the NLDS.
Which means (stay with me) in the combined series of: Yanks / Tigers ALDS, Padres / Cards NLDS, ALCS, NLCS, and WS, the 19 ESPN experts went a total of 1 for 95. ONE FOR NINETY-FUCKING-FIVE.
If you let 10,000 teams of 19 monkeys randomly pick winners in those series, those monkey-picking-teams would average 30.9 out of 95. (.5 for 38 DS picks + .25 for 38 CS picks + .125 for 19 WS picks)
Congratulations to Enrique Rojas, the only person who picked either the World Series bound Tigers or Cardinals to win even one series. He also picked El Duque as the WS MVP in a victory over the Twins.
EDIT: I'd like to take a second to address two categories of e-mails I'm getting from a lot of readers.
Category 1 is best summed up by e-mailer CJ: "You're giving them too much credit. Each of nineteen guys failed to connect on TWO one in four chances. If everyone picked at random, the probability that any one guy would fail to pick either wold series team is (.75 * .75) = .5625. Raise that to the 19th power and you get 0.0000178, or 1 in 55933."
On its own, this is true. And "more" impressive. As for accusations that I was wrong, however (which were often made), I stand by my original numbers. I was looking at the chances of a different phenomenon. ("And by 'this,' I mean 19 picks for World Series champs not even making the World Series.")
So, dudes who wrote -- excellent point. The chances of going 0-38 in CS Champs picks are even more astronomically difficult than going 0-19 in WS Champs picks not even making the WS. But I was right also. Sweet.
On to Category 2 now, as written by the beautifully named Alessio, who is probably a dude but in my imagination is a gorgeous 23-year-old woman from like Monaco who loves baseball and statistical analysis. I quote him (her? please?) at length because it's easier than writing this all out myself:
I'm no statistician, but I think you made an analytical error in your post on "picks". The chances of what happened are not nearly as distant as you calculate. In fact, you're far more likely to get such results from intelligent decision makers than from random chance.
The fact that human beings are picking will tend to "bunch" the picks a lot more than random chance. For example, let's say the Yankees are better than the Tigers, and everybody recognizes that. Everybody will pick the Yankees, so the picks could rationally be 19-0 even though their actual chances of winning might be something like 55%. When the Tigers beat those odds, all of a sudden you have 19 wrong picks, although there's only one upset in the series.
Now, when you have three or four series upsets (nothing unusual there), all of a sudden you have a whole lot more than 19 wrong picks.
When you have a consensus on the various team strengths, combined with just a few upsets, you get the seemingly anomolous result of a bunch of prognosticators going 1-for-95. A random picking system would almost never be that bad; but on the other hand, it would almost always be around 50%. The humans could just as easily have been around 90% if those series had gone the other way. Alessio. My sweet, innocent Alessio. Alesssssio, my princess of Monaco... [daydreaming now: playing with Alessio's hair; engaging in conversation about VORP vs. WARP3 over mussels and wine...now realizing instead that Alessio is almost certainly a 45-year-old dude from Canton, Ohio or something, and on top of that, feeling the obligation to publicly apoligize to girlfriend about the whole Alessio-fantasy situation]...sorry, what now?
Oh, the numbers thing.
Yeah. Well, Alessio, you fat fucking ugly monster of a man, you make what I guess is a good point. I guess my response is: yes, of course. Of course humans will, over the long haul, be better than random-team generators at predicting who wins certain games / series / whatever. I realize why, especially in this case, the experts were especially bad at picking winners. Your point is spot on: a rational human being will pick the 55%-likely-to-win team, and, likewise, so will 19 rational humans. I'm just trying to put a scenario together that sort of points out the whole ridiculousness of "predictions" in general.
Listen: It's a cheat. I cheated. And that's the kind of thing you do when you run a blog devoted to making analysts look silly.
You take advantage of a combination of hindsight, upsets, and odd numbers, and use them in a way to make people silly. And you sort of hope, I guess, that people make their own conclusions about just how much these numbers actually mean.
To me, the overall point is not that we should let monkeys throw raisins at a dartboard instead of letting experts make their predictions. But rather, isn't it kind of silly / interesting / amusing that in this particular case, a team of monkeys would have been almost a sure bet against these so-called experts?
That's all. Interpret at your own risk.
Sorry / Thanks to Alessio, whose appearance and gender remain an absolute, delicious mystery to me.
...to that e-mail that Simmons posted (see Junior's post below).
Dude wrote: "In 1996-2000, it wasn't just that they had great chemistry (which they did), they didn't have nearly as much offensive talent so they were forced to play true October baseball."
Hmm. How much less offensive talent did they really have during that 5-year stretch?
In 2006, the Yankees scored 930 runs.
In the World Series Championship year of 1998, they scored 965.
From 1996-200, they averaged 899.6 runs / year. Compared against the 2006 juggernauts, that's a difference of 30.4 runs, or .19 runs / game.
And this difference in offensive talent (am I measuring it wrong?) is meant to be enough to explain the problem with the 2006 Yankees? At this point, I'm even willing to let go of the far more ridiculous assertion: that the problem is that they had too much talent.
Side note: in the 1998 World Series, the only series for which I currently have the energy to make the following calculations, the Yankees also scored 15 out of 26 of their runs on HRs. Or 54%. Or a percent that would have led MLB any of the years for which I've been able to find data. And yes, you should ignore those numbers because the sample size is tiny.
Not to quibble Jr., but it is worth noting how little the Buck-McCarver team extolled Endy Chavez's catch. We might have seen the single greatest postseason defensive play in the Division Series era (particularly if the Mets end up winning). I guess my point is generally that the pro-Cards bias has been unbelievable this series. Did you catch McCarver trying to spin Pujols's quotes about Glavine the other night? If Delgado had said the same about Carpenter, all we would have heard about all night is how Delgado hates America because he won't stand for the anthem 5 years ago (when the U.S. was using his native land as mortar dump.) McCarver-Buck are not good at their jobs.
They were pretty reserved, you're right! I was only using all caps because it sure is funny that after I blasted Endy and Jose and Paul just hours ago, one of them came through and may have saved the game for the Mets, thus undoubtedly reinforcing Jonathan T.'s confidence in his Role Players Win Games Theory.
Also, the stuff about Endy not hitting well in the playoffs so far is mainly just me crying.
I finally got around to reading the Richard Griffin article that Junior assailed yesterday (see below, 18 Oct.). Here are a few more pieces of evidence Griffin gives that Billy Beane, and not Ken Macha, is at fault for the A's woes:
How could anyone blame Macha for losing to the Tigers? After second baseman Mark Ellis was injured, Beane gave Macha the combo of D'Angelo Jimenez and Mark Kiger. Jimenez may have been the worst starting second baseman in a playoff game this decade, while Kiger was making his MLB debut.
I could be wrong, but wasn't Ellis injured during the playoffs? Apparently, Beane was supposed to fly Robby Cano to Oakland, give him a fake moustache, and have him pretend to be Cobinson Rano: Oakland A's Second Baseman Who Is Totally On the Playoff Roster!
Ellis was also on the DL in early June, but I really believe that Griffin is blaming Beane for the A's not having an awesome backup 2nd baseman instantaneously in October. Now, that's not Macha's fault either. In fact, it's nobody's fault, really -- it's just bad luck. But as Junior's post below shows, there seem to be other things that are, in fact, Macha's fault. Like the fact that everyone on his team hated his guts.
During the regular season, when the A's were in Toronto, catcher Jason Kendall was suspended, so Beane elevated one of his Moneyball legends, overhyped draft choice, roly-poly catcher Jeremy Brown. Macha laughed in the face of a question about how much playing time Brown would get. "None."
Listen to me carefully, Richard Griffin. I have several points to make.
1. The fact that a catcher got suspended means that the GM, in this case Billy Beane, would be doing a huge disservice to his team by not putting another catcher on the team ASAP. So. They had a catcher in the minors, who is on the 40-man roster, who has decent AAA stats (.764 OPS, 13HR in 77 games -- not great, but workable), so he promoted him. What is the problem here?
2. Ken Macha laughing and being snarky about how much playing time a new guy is going to get is a dickish thing to do, and is exactly the kind of thing that got him fired.
3. Jason Kendall was out for four games. Four. So the worst thing that could have happened was that Jeremy Brown would be there for four games. In May.
4. In the last two full seasons, Jason Kendall, who makes $11 million a year, has OPSes of .709 and .666. In the minute sample size of MLB-level experience this year, Jeremy Brown was 3-10 with 2 2Bs. Career, 4-12. That shit ain't bad. Maybe Macha should have played him more. Or maybe he shouldn't've. But he definitely shouldn't have laughed at the question of how much the guy was going to play. What good does that do?
Macha's fault? During the ALCS against the Tigers, Nick Swisher lived up to his name, with five strikeouts in 10 at-bats, while ...another of Beane's prized drafts, Joe Blanton, was relegated to long relief.
In 2005 Joe Blanton made about $327,000 and won 12 games with an ERA of 3.53, giving up 178 hits in 201.1 IP. His OPS-against was .693. In 2006 he regressed terribly, his WHIP soaring to 1.54 (possibly due to some bad luck -- his K/BB stayed roughly the same and he actually gave up fewer HR). But tell me how Billy Beane is at fault for this. Is he the pitching coach too?
And as for Nick Swisher...I guess his .254/.372/.493/.865, 35 HR and 97 BB go right the fuck out the window in the face of three not so good games against the league's best pitching staff. Curse you, Billy Beane!!!!!!
Bill Simmons just printed and heartily endorsed an email I'm not totally on board with. Take a look:
Anyway, out of all the Yankee fans I heard from, the most rational argument came from Jonathan T., who sent along the following post-mortem:
"In 1996-2000, it wasn't just that they had great chemistry (which they did), they didn't have nearly as much offensive talent so they were forced to play true October baseball. The current Yankee lineup isn't built for the postseason. You just can't rely on three-run homers with the great pitching in the playoffs, while you can in much of the regular season (especially playing Tampa and Baltimore 38 times). With a great set of contact hitters and speed guys --Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Melky, Cano -- this team should be hit-and-running, stealing at every opportunity, taking extra bases, bunting, etc. However, with power hitters like Sheffield and A-Rod clogging up the end of the lineup (such as Game 4, when A-Rod hit eighth), they can't. There is actually TOO MUCH talent. Are you honestly going to bunt with runners on first and second and no one out with the 25-million-dollar man up? Of course not. But if former eighth-place-hitter Scott Brosius is up, it's a no-brainer. So it's not just their lack of chemistry but the fact that playoff teams thrive off role players. Even if you take a loaded team like the Mets, they still have guys like Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin and Paul Lo Duca. Baseball front offices, regardless of the payroll, should build their teams like baseball teams, not fantasy baseball teams."
(Note: The Yankees are NOT allowed to hire Jonathan T. as their VP of Common Sense. I'm never handing over his e-mail address. Ever.)
Huh. So Jonathan, your argument is that the Yankees had too much offensive talent. Really.
I'll be charitable and throw out the obvious FJM-bait of "great chemistry" and "true October baseball." Let's examine what's really being put forth here. Jonathan is saying that postseason baseball is qualitatively different from regular season baseball. I'm listening. Why is it different? The only answer Jonathan gives is "great pitching." Okay. I'll accept that the pitching is probably, on average, better in the postseason than in the regular season (today's NLCS Game 7 notwithstanding). So far, so good. Now it gets tricky, though. It's Jonathan's claim that because the pitching is better, it is incumbent on all successful playoff teams to do the following: "hit-and-running, stealing at every opportunity, taking extra bases, bunting, etc." The "etc." stands for Ecksteining. Actually, everything in between the quotation marks stands for Ecksteining.
I'm not buying it. Is there any evidence that shows that the benefits of these strategies are increased against better pitching? That we should replace Alex Rodriguezes and Gary Sheffields with bunting Endy Chavezes and sacrificing Jose Valentins? Think about it. Seriously. If you play these games a hundred times, in what crazy nightmare simulacrum are you voluntarily going to war with Endy and Jose over Alex and Gary?
Basically: do you want shittier hitters because you're facing better pitchers? Because that's what Jonathan is saying.
And let's move from the general to the specific. Did the Yankees lose to the Tigers because dozens of men were left on base, just begging to be sacrificed over? Nope. It was much simpler: they weren't on base enough to begin with. In Game 3, they were held to five hits and two walks the whole game. To win the game in nine innings, they would've had to have gotten every single one of those guys in via the hit-and-run-and-steal-and-bunt method somehow. Game 4 was even worse. Nine innings: six hits, one walk. That's it. Not to mention the fact that by the time the Yankees got on base for the first time, they were already down 7-0. Remember Jeremy Bonderman's five perfect innings to start the game? Remember that, Jonathan? Game 2 was the only game the Yankees lost while getting a decent number of men on base. They lost that one 4-3. But you know why they were so close in that one? A goddamn three-run homer. No wonder they lost -- can't have those in the playoffs.
The Yankees' "greatest lineup in history" wasn't actually the greatest lineup in history for those four games because Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui were still coming back from injuries and Jason Giambi was pretty messed up, too. Joe Torre decided that those guys at 50 or 75% were still better than 100% mediocre Melky Cabrera or 100% terrible Andy Phillips. I think that's a perfectly defensible position. On top of that, for two games, Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman were lights out. Even those awesome hitters weren't getting on base against them.
So it's not just their lack of chemistry but the fact that playoff teams thrive off role players.
That's right: in the playoffs, role players are more important than good players. That's just good ol' common sense.
Even if you take a loaded team like the Mets, they still have guys like Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin and Paul Lo Duca.
How are Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin and Paul Lo Duca that different from Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada? Also, fuck you for suggesting that any of those guys are better than Gary Sheffield or Alex Rodriguez (or, I'm sorry -- more useful in the playoffs against great pitching because teams thrive off of role players in the postseason, like everybody knows). I mean, seriously. I've been civil for like nine hundred words. But that is just fucking ridiculous.
P.S. "Clogging up the end of the lineup"??? You win a goddamn Dusty Baker Award. Wear it with pride, my friend.
P.P.S. Let us never forget that Bill Simmons says this is the "most rational" argument he has heard and suggests that Jonathan would make an excellent "VP of Common Sense" for a baseball team. Never forget.
Anyone else hear him, bottom of the 7th, after Yadier Molina made a terrible throw to 2nd following a pitchout, allowing Michael Tucker to steal 2nd safely?
"By guessing right, they may have guessed wrong."
How is making a bad throw in any way "guessing wrong"? It's like the try-to-make-things-sound-clever part of his brain is eating all the other parts of his brain.
Also I have a fun game to pass along: any time you read a gossip headline about "Macca" and the crazy breastmilk / stabbing / bedpan allegations made by his ex-wife, imagine that it's actually about Tim McCarver and not Paul McCartney.
I'll tell you what -- it made my day about .4% more enjoyable!
EDIT: after reading some e-mail verifications (thanks Kevin -- but it was Yadier, not Bengie), it appears that indeed McCarver, and not I, am the crazy one.
Macha not a true believer A's canned him because he wasn't a Moneyball guy
Those fourteen beautiful words tell the whole story.
On Monday, Ken Macha became the sixth major-league manager fired since Oct. 1. A's GM Billy Beane, in making the announcement, claimed there was a "disconnect on a lot of levels." The disconnect seems to be that the ego-driven Beane cannot find anyone to religiously manage by the book — his book, Moneyball.
If you take the trouble to write a book about baseball, the least your manager can do is try to abide by it.
"There were things that transpired over the course of the year that the players were unhappy about,'' A's center fielder Mark Kotsay said.
How'd that get in there? Ignore that. Back to the real story:
Now, we're getting as tired as anyone else of the baseball term originally coined as the title of a Michael Lewis book on how to compete on a limited budget by going against the grain of traditional baseball thinking.
Amen! Macha had the players' support. It was Beane's megalomania and Moneyball-worship that probably cost the A's the World Series this year.
"I felt like he didn't protect me,'' Zito said. "I know a lot of managers do -- (White Sox first baseman) Paul Konerko told me that Ozzie Guillen would take a bullet for his players. I was upset but Macha was fighting his own battle and he probably couldn't process that kind of pressure, so, OK, I'll wear it.''
Like many other things once new, Moneyball has become old. It doesn't work because now everybody does at least a little outside the box thinking. It's like comparing Ozzy Osbourne of the '70s to Osbourne today. No more edge.
Just like the A's, Ozzy doesn't know how to do the little things anymore. When was the last time you saw Ozzy lay down a sacrifice bunt and give himself up for the team? Not recently enough, if you ask me.
"I know that the one thing any player wants from his manager is to be protected,'' catcher Jason Kendall said. "If there's a bang-bang play at first, even if you're out, if you're arguing you want someone there behind you. If you argue a pitch, even if you're wrong, you want someone joining in. And I'm not sure Macha did that.''
The point about the Beane and Macha lack of chemistry is that Macha never bought into Moneyball and often, with a dry, somewhat quirky sense of humour, would let his true feelings come out in quotes not always flattering to the talents of the players he was given by Beane.
It's the manager's right -- no, his duty -- to tear down his players every chance he gets. That's smallball. The kind of ball we used to play in the good ol' small days. When managers made players feel small.
"When I got injured, I felt disrespected,'' Kotsay said. "The 'puzzling' comment really threw me. My manager didn't have my back, and every manager's first business is to protect his players. That totally lost my trust in that relationship, between us as player and manager.''
When Little was fired in Boston after '03 due to the Yankees playoff debacle, Macha's bench coach Terry Francona (also not a big fan of Moneyball) was hired by the Sox and went on to win the World Series.
Who could forget Terry Francona's two-run walkoff homer to win Game 4 of the ALCS? Or his grand slam in the second inning of Game 7? Everyone will always remember the famous Francona bloody sock game. If there's one thing that's for sure, it's this: Moneyball principles had absolutely nothing to do with the Red Sox winning the World Series. It was the handiwork of one man: Terry Francona.
"The atmosphere wasn't positive, for some reason,'' Chavez said. "That was hard for us to deal with -- here we are, winning the division, we're banged up but we're still doing what we should be doing, and every time he spoke to us, he'd say how much appreciated the effort, but then you'd read things where he was always smashing people. ... This negative cloud was just eating at everybody.''
Clearly, Macha knew what Beane always thought of him. It was only Macha's success of making it to the post-season with a great second-half that kept Beane's wolves at bay.
Ken Fucking Second Half Macha. The only reason the A's were any good, ever. Preach on, brother!
"The fact is, when you have someone leading people, you want them to be a visionary, to forge ahead and be on the front lines,'' Zito said. "We felt like we were on the front lines, and he might have been with us but he didn't have the same conviction or faith. I think it was a fear of failure. He was a little more focused on the pessimistic stuff than on success.''
Beane always blames managers, but the fact is the A's were just not deep enough or good enough to advance to the World Series. Macha is a National League manager, with a love of small-ball. The A's was his first opportunity to manage in the big leagues, so he was willing to take whatever Beane offered, to get his foot in the door. He is better off moving on.
Like Francona before him, the guess here is that Macha, with another managerial job, will earn a World Series chance before Beane ever does.
Not one word of this article is out of place. God bless you, Richard Griffin. God bless you, you brave, brave man.
"Deep down inside, I think he cared about the players, he just didn't have a good way of communicating,'' Chavez said. "He was always asking me about guys, he wanted to know if they were OK, but I was always the one he talked to in his office and I was probably the one who least needed to be in there.''
Thanks to reader Jim for pointing us to this gem from Richard Griffin's past:
Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi along with Oakland's Billy Beane and other new-wavers believe in building offence through patience at the plate and taking no chances on the bases. That's a pre-WWII style of play. Under those criteria, Jackie Robinson could not have played in the majors.
Jackie Robinson. The dude with the .409 lifetime OBP.
I'm having a hard time making up my mind. Dave Newhouse, a writer for Inside Bay Area, just wrote a column called
The right man for A's job: Dusty Baker
This is, to say the least, unconventional thinking. He goes on:
THE OAKLAND A'S need a new manager, but not just any ordinary manager. They need that special someone who can carry them back to the World Series.
There is just such a man, and he is so obviously right for the job, Billy Beane should pick up the phone and hire him on the spot. Call collect, Billy, if necessary.
Dusty Baker is your man.
Remember, Billy Beane is a man who likes to clog up the basepaths. And we believe that Dusty Baker is the man who first disparaged clogging up the basepaths. These people, if I'm correctly identifying them, probably would not get along, especially not as co-workers. If Beane hires Baker, maybe Barry Zito would take a few million less to play for this thoughtful man, who brings food to his players.
Although there's always that. Dusty makes a terrific baked ziti.
I'm thoroughly confused here. Did Dave Newhouse, someone who covers Bay Area baseball for a living, not read Moneyball? Did he read Moneyball and choose to willfully ignore all of the information contained within it? Does he not know who Dusty Baker is?
When I vote in polls, I like to pick what I deem to be the "funniest" answer rather than what I believe to be true. Imagine my surprise when my choice (B) was revealed to be the LEAST popular of the four. Even less than the REAL answer, which is quite obviously (C). And imagine my further surprise when I saw that over 2,000 humans had voted in this poll! Our readers' dedication is a source of constant pride.
9. I think I hate to do this. I really do. We're in Week 6 of the football season, but I have to give some advice to Joe Torre and Brian Cashman right now, because they are decent men, even if they do work for the Evil Empire. Get in a car sometime this month, and drive 3½ hours up I-95 to Foxboro. Visit the Patriots. Or if you're inclined to go a place where you might be more invisible, fly to Chicago, rent a car and drive north to Lake Forest, where the Bears are headquartered. Learn how to build a winning team and how to navigate through the noise that disrupts every big-market team today.
Visit the Patriots. Watch them practice football. Notice how many of their players are football players. Look at the balls they use. Footballs. Notice their bats. They don't have any. Instead of hats, they wear hard metal round bowls that protect their heads. Watch them, and perhaps you will learn how to wear a dirty cutoff sweatshirt in the dugout instead of a uniform.
Because frankly, the fact that you've won 95 games nine out of the last ten years (and the year you didn't, you won the World Series) is embarrassing.
Football isn't baseball, you'll argue. Football is the ultimate team game, and baseball is more of a stars' game.
Football is more like football. Baseball is more like baseball.
But the one thing all good baseball teams have is the one thing all good football teams have --
Oh. Fuck. I thought you were going to say good players.
Guys who don't need the credit and who don't earn the big money.
People don't realize this, but usually when a team loses, the number one culprit is credit hogs. Credit hogs are polluting our sports teams and they must be stopped. Credit hogs are the poison, and there's only one antidote. His name?
In baseball, David Eckstein is a winning player, much the same as Mike Vrabel is.
I've heard this so many times it must be true. I must be wrong. I give up.
You know how after almost any team loses in any sport, someone says in a really annoying voice, "Well, they just didn't want it enough!" Bill Simmons is doing that, but taking it to a whole new level. He's now implying that by overrating a team, the media can trick them into not wanting it enough. Seriously.
Read what he wrote below, and think about how when taken as a whole, everything seems to flow together and make sense.
What happens when a team doesn't have anything to prove?
Look at the Yankees. Everyone handed the World Series to them before the playoffs started, to the point it became a no-win situation, no different from any of the Team USA basketball collapses the past few years. The Yankees were a peculiar mix of All-Stars, washed-up veterans and nobodies who weren't as collectively good as we thought, a team with some fundamental flaws (defense, chemistry and pitching), a team that easily could be taken down by some live bats and a couple of good arms. As soon as they started struggling, they self-imploded and that was that. Everyone was shocked.
But was it really that shocking?
Sounds pretty good. But wait until I take it line by line and nitpick it to death. This will be enjoyable to at least one person. Probably KT.
What happens when a team doesn't have anything to prove?
The Yankees hadn't won a World Series in five years and they're expected to win every year by a crazy boss. They had a lot to prove. Not to mention that the bulk of the team is made up of non-True-Yankee losers whom everyone wants to crucify. Don't you think it would've helped Gary Sheffield or Jason Giambi out reputation-wise to win a championship in New York? How about, um, Alex Rodriguez? I'm pretty sure he had something to prove.
Look at the Yankees. Everyone handed the World Series to them before the playoffs started,
Everyone. Actually, if you follow that link, you'll find that six out of nineteen ESPN experts picked the Yankees to win the Series. Seven picked the Twins. Humorously, only one picked a team that is not already eliminated.
to the point it became a no-win situation,
I think if the Yankees had won the World Series, that would have counted as a "win." They lost, so it was "not a win." I'm being over-literal, but come on. It would have been awesome for those guys to win and prove they were "championship material" guys who don't "choke" and instead "do all the little things" or "whatever it takes" to "get the job done." Being the favorite, which they very marginally were, I think, despite how the ESPN folks voted, does not make your situation a "no-win" one.
no different from any of the Team USA basketball collapses the past few years.
A lot of people were picking Argentina and Spain last time. ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan would not shut up about it.
The Yankees were a peculiar mix of All-Stars, washed-up veterans and nobodies
I think a lot of teams are a mix of All-Stars, washed-up veterans and nobodies -- not sure it's that peculiar. I guess the implication here is that they needed more hungry kids to hungrify them. Also, gritty veterans instead of washed-up veterans. And firebrands.
a team with some fundamental flaws (defense, chemistry and pitching),
I'm going to print these words in sizes of relative importance:
That totally wasn't worth it. Let's move on.
a team that easily could be taken down by some live bats and a couple of good arms.
Again, this is almost every team in baseball history with the possible exception of the '27 Yankees. "Live bats and a couple of good arms" are what make teams good. This is like saying "You know what the 2006 Yankees' kryptonite was? A good fucking team, that's what."
As soon as they started struggling, they self-imploded and that was that.
Uh huh. They self-imploded. They wanted to lose. They quit. Very plausible.
Everyone was shocked.
I was surprised. I thought the Yankees were slightly better. And I still think that if they played the Tigers 100 times, the Yankees would win like 52 of them. Not that interesting.
But was it really that shocking?
No, but not because of your elaborate media-jinxed-them theory. It's because in a five-game series, anything can fucking happen. I can't stress this enough. The Royals swept the Tigers. Is it because the Tigers had nothing to prove or because the media thought they had the best lineup of all time? No. It was because the Tigers had three shitty days in a row. In baseball, that happens.
This particular Yankee team didn't even seem to like one another
DON'T CARE DON'T CARE DON'T CARE
By Game 4, they clearly didn't want to be there anymore. You could see them checking out as the game went on.
What I saw was Jeremy Bonderman with filthy stuff and Jaret Wright with Jaret Wright stuff.
They had no fight in them.
Hindpsycho. This is baseball. The only semblance of "fight" I can think of is maybe taking more pitches than usual? Or what? I don't know, you tell me. Again, Bonderman was throwing darts. How do you fight that?
Did the gushing stream of "greatest lineup ever!" angles soften them in the end?
No, goddammit, it didn't soften them. Is anyone buying this?
Sure seemed like it -- they didn't seem to be like a team that was battling for anything.
Anger subsiding ... indignance waning ... resistance weakening. Jesus. Define battling. This is baseball. Fouling off pitches? Catching and throwing the ball with an angry, serious expression on your face? I bet they were trying to do those things.
As soon as the Tigers pulled a Buster Douglas in Game 2 and punched them in the chops, they were never the same.
You've silenced my arguments with that metaphor. Point, Simmons.
Torre panicked and started switching his lineup around.
This is a tangible fact (well, the switching part is, not the panicking part). I don't believe it was a very big factor at all.
The bats went silent. Guys started screwing up. A-Rod peed on himself against Zumaya. The Tigers smelled the kill and finished them off. And that was that.
Here is my alternative explanation. It doesn't have as much to do with guys' feelings and the media and Hideki Matsui thinking he has nothing to prove.
Game One: the Yankees throw a good pitcher. They win.
Game Two: the Yankees throw a good pitcher but they lose a close one.
Game Three: the Yankees throw Randy Johnson, a pitcher with a 5.00 ERA. Also, Kenny Rogers is genuinely good for a game. They lose.
Game Four: the Yankees throw Jaret Wright, a bad pitcher. They lose.
On the larger issue of whether mercenary All-Star squads with no chemistry can ever win championships, thanks to everyone who's written in and suggested the recent successes of the Detroit Red Wings (2002) and Chelsea of the English Premier League.
Here's what I would like just one person to write:
In the regular season, the Tigers were 95-67. The Yankees were 97-65. Pick-'em.
The Yankees had a great line-up. The Tigers had a very good line-up. Ad: Yankees.
The Tigers had Verlander, Bonderman, Robertson, Zumaya, Rodney, Rogers, Grilli, and Jones. The Yankees had Mussina, Wang, Rivera, and nobody else. Unless you count RJ, who is 43 with a balky back and had a very mediocre year. Ad: Tigers.
The series is best-of-five, which when two teams have nearly identical winning percentages, is the equivalent of a coin-flip.
At the end of the day, their style of play: their lack of speed, their failure to play smallball -- the ability to play smallball -- another season, will that lack of execution or even having that in your hip pocket to pull out from time to time ... will it cost them in the postseason?
Guess which team he's talking about?
I'm going to lean toward the "it's not the lack of smallball, it's the fact that they got 2-hit in Game Three and allowed 5 and 8 runs in Games One and Two, respectively" camp.
I heard this live on the air yesterday, but at the time, it didn't immediately make me think that Steve Lyons believes all Hispanic people are robbers. Or whatever people think he meant. Here's what happened: In the second inning of Friday's game between Detroit and Oakland, Piniella talked about the success light-hitting A's infielder Marco Scutaro had in the first round of the playoffs. Piniella said that slugger Frank Thomas and Eric Chavez needed to contribute, comparing Scutaro's production to finding a "wallet on Friday" and hoping it happened again the next week.
Later, Piniella said the A's needed Thomas to get "en fuego" - hot in Spanish - because he was currently "frio" - or cold. After Brennaman praised Piniella for being bilingual, Lyons spoke up.
Lyons said that Piniella was "hablaing Espanol" - butchering the conjugation for the word "to speak" - and added, "I still can't find my wallet."
"I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit too close to him now," Lyons continued.
That's the official story, but I think this firing has a lot more to do with what happened between Steve and Lou at Outback after the game.