... and I use it to bludgeon him to death.
Look, the column
is no good. Boring, stale, rehashed -- and the big revelation is an allegation by an anonymous source that gasp! the Red Sox wanted to keep Daisuke Matsuzaka away from the Yankees.
Well, no shit.
My issue is with this paragraph, which appears in an odd little below-the-dot addendum at the end of the piece:
Varitek was speaking before the Red Sox abandoned their plan to make Jonathan Papelbon a starter and restored him to the closer role he filled so capably for most of last season. But his exit from the starting rotation presumably weakens it. It now has two 40-year-olds, one of whom, Tim Wakefield, had a losing record last season that might have made the difference between the Red Sox making and not making the playoffs.
Read that last sentence again. According to Murray Chass, Tim Wakefield was (okay, "might have" been) the reason the Red Sox didn't make the playoffs last year. This is sort of like blaming Azerbaijan for fucking up the war in Iraq, except a million times more egregious and important and serious.
Mr. Chass, let me explain to you how you go about not writing a sentence like that. I know you don't cotton to VORP
or WARP or people who believe, as I do, that the game of baseball is played by animatronic numbers swinging bats and fielding balls. Unfortunately, this method involves a computer, which you may have to purchase, and the Internet, which you may have to look up in a dictionary and then dismiss as a fad.
Alternatively, you could probably find this information at the library with your knowledge of card catalogs and the Dewey Decimal Classification System. It would only take several more hours and ten times the work.
First, find last year's baseball standings
. You will discover that the Red Sox finished eleven games behind the AL East champion Yankees and nine games behind the Wild Card Tigers. So we'll go with nine games as the ground the Sox needed to make up to reach the playoffs.
Now look up Tim Wakefield
. Yahoo (don't worry about what that is) provides a record of all of the games he pitched in last year. Huh. Look at that. In 23 games started by Wakefield, the Red Sox went 11-12.
Your claim, remember, is that "Tim Wakefield had a losing record last season that might have made the difference between the Red Sox making and not making the playoffs."
11-12. Nine games out. So Tim Wakefield would've had to have willed his team to go 20-3 in his games he started in order for them to even pull into a tie with the Tigers.
I think it's pretty fair to blame him for that.
I'm jumping all over Chass for a minor mistake in a minor piece written before the season has even started. But I think it's a minor mistake that reflects either carelessness (if you're willing to be charitable) or a fundamental misunderstanding of very basic statistics and player value. It's like Chass saw on a piece of paper that Wakefield went 7-11 and decided he had a terrible year because hey, that's losing and losing is bad. The year before he went 16-12. That's winning! There you have it: Tim Wakefield, 2006 goat.
Here's the thing: Wakefield may have finished 16-12, but in games Wakefield started in 2005, the Red Sox went 17-16. That's basically .500. Which is basically what they did in his starts in 2006. Because that's what Tim Wakefield gives you -- league-average ERA and hopefully, lots of innings. (His last three ERA+ years have looked like this: 100, 106, 100.)
Wakefield did miss starts last year, and that hurt the Red Sox, but keep in mind that that's not what Chass is saying. No: he is saying that 7-11 (losing!) somehow damned the Red Sox to that ignominious third place finish.
See, being afraid of numbers and resistant to change and unwilling to learn new things doesn't just make you look like a sad, anachronistic old kook. It can actually hurt your writing in concrete, demonstrable ways. It can make you assert things that with an ounce of research can be shown to be patently ridiculous.
I am beginning to think that Murray Chass could improve as a sportswriter.
Labels: murray chass, red sox, tim wakefield