FIRE JOE MORGAN: These Poor, Poor Unfamous Men


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Tuesday, March 13, 2007


These Poor, Poor Unfamous Men

Enough with telling us who should and shouldn't be famous. We get it. You want undersized fast gentlemen to get more credit, or at least more ladies when they go out to a bar or something. Big and strong bad. Small and weak good.

The thing is, sometimes you just ruin your own case. Take you, Tom Singer of You wrote an article with this headline (presumably written by your editor, with whom you should have words):

Table setters lack fame but spark runs

And then right under that headline you put a picture (perhaps not you, but the web layout guy, another guy with whom you should look into having a conversation) of this man:

Hey, here's the thing, Tom Singer: that guy is super famous. He is among the most famous of baseball men. If pressed to name any four baseball players, my mother would likely name that guy and then stop altogether. My mother barely speaks English. I would argue that this particular Japanese gentleman possesses fame just about equally as well as he "spark(s) runs." Not even counting Japan, where I believe his likeness can be found on the 1000, 5000, and 10,000-yen notes.

Then the subhead:

Indispensable pests find ways on base without elite power

Like, walking? No, of course you do not mean walking. Guys who walk a lot are already too famous. I am so sick and tired of the damn MTV generation and their infatuation with Brian Giles.

Thirty years ago, Neil Young musically reminded us that "Rust Never Sleeps," and the baseball cognoscenti's spin on that is, "Speed Never Slumps."

Does the phrase "musically reminded us" bother anyone else as much as it's bugging the shit out of me? I'm going to say bad writing on that one. Factor in the totally incorrect cliche, the word "cognoscenti," and you have one terrible sentence. I'm musically reminded of the Godspeed You! Black Emperor song "This Opening Sentence Stinks Like A Stinky Person's Stinky Ass" (warning: song may not actually exist).

In a game that celebrates and dotes on the big guys who clean up, there is still a major role for the little men who land opposing pitchers in a mess to begin with.

No one anywhere is arguing that there is no role for them. If you can get on base and play defense at a major league level, chances are you are playing for a major league team. Congratulations. I'm sorry you're not famous enough for Tom Singer.

Chicks, and the TV highlights, may dig the long ball, but your typical manager is equally fond of the short game of those able to play with nuance, not brawn.

I reject the notion that Kevin Youkilis refusing to swing at a pitch two inches outside is not playing with "nuance." Plus, he's not really even "brawny." He's more "sorta fat."

Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said it all a couple of springs ago, when he dropped the names of Barry Bonds -- the game's most feared slugger -- and Ichiro Suzuki -- its primary skills player -- into the same sentence.

"I'd say they are the two most dangerous hitters in the game," Cooper opined, giving pitchers' perspective.

Now hold on a second. Ichiro is good. I'm not denying that. But he's nowhere near one of the most dangerous hitters in the game unless you're defining dangerous as "only capable of hitting singles." Plus, when Don Cooper said that, it made marginally more sense because Ichiro was coming off a season in which he hit .372, which is especially impressive to people who care about batting average. In the past two years since Cooper's comment, Ichiro has declined precipitously (not to mention what Bonds has done).

So basically: why the fuck are you talking about what Don Cooper said in 2005?

And here's a fun extra thing: in 2004, Ichiro's finest as a hitter in the American big leagues, he had a VORP of 68.7. Barry Bonds' VORP that year was 132.0. No real point there, just: wow, was Steroidy Barry Bonds good!

The Ichiros are the players who, in addition to setting the tables, give the manager something to fall back on when the power is unplugged. Very simple, really: You can't hit a home run at will, but, for those proficient at it, you can bunt and hit to the right side in your sleep.

There's a good reason baseball is called a game of inches, not a game of 400 feet.

Yes, I agree. We should allow the cliche "Baseball is a game of inches" to determine what works and doesn't work in the game. It's fortunate the song "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" includes the lyric "One, two, three strikes you're out at the old ballgame" because if it said four, we would have to change gameplay accordingly.

"A guy hitting 50-60 homers ... that's great, but that still leaves him with 500-some at-bats when he isn't hitting them," reasons Juan Pierre, now with the Dodgers and one of the best contemporary setup hitters. "So the home run is great, but just the chances of it happening aren't that great.

Now we're getting somewhere. How psyched was Juan Pierre to give quotes for this article?

Tom Singer
: Hi, Juan?
Juan Pierre: Yes Tom.
TS: I'd like to write an article basically perpetuating the notion that guys like you -- you know, make a lot of outs, very few extra-base hits, career steal percentage of 73.7 -- are extremely valuable ... just as valuable as, say, Lance Berkman or Paul Konerko!
JP: Of course I will help you. I must thank people like you for a goodly portion of this $45 million I am sleeping on!

As Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller said more than a half-century ago, with a nod toward matinee idol teammate Ralph Kiner, "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs; singles hitters drive Chevys."

I know for a fact that Michael Cuddyer drives a Sebring. Does that affect anything?

But you know what? Those "singles" hitters also drive championship teams. Do you suppose all the people over the years who have echoed Ostermueller's quote, turning it into one of the most legendary in history, ever stopped to think that Kiner's seven Pirates teams were among the worst ever, diving an aggregate total of 193 games under .500?

Pick a response:

Conversely, no National League team with a league homer champ in its lineup has appeared in the World Series since 1983, when the Phillies got in with Mike Schmidt.

I mean, really.

2006 St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols, 49 HR
2005 Houston Astros, Morgan Ensberg, 36 HR
2004 St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols, 46 HR (plus Jim Edmonds, 42 HR)
2003 Florida Marlins, Mike Lowell, 32 HR
2002 San Francisco Giants, Barry Bonds, 46 HR
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, Luis Gonzalez, 57 HR

And that's just this century. These guys hit a lot of home runs. Why in the world would we expect the league homer champ's team to have that huge an advantage over, say, the second-place homer guy's? Or third? It's a difference of a few home runs, and it's totally outweighed by the other eight guys hitting and, um, all of the guys pitching.

This is what makes a two-time World Series hero of David Eckstein, and why there is room for 5-foot-9 Dustin Pedroia among the Boston redwoods.

Ed. note: Tom, per the recent league-wide memo, David Eckstein must be referred to in print as "1-foot-9 bowlegged asthmatic cancer survivor David Eckstein." Please revise accordingly. Thank you.

Says San Diego reliever Cla Meredith, a former Minor League teammate of the new Red Sox second baseman, "Don't sell him short.

Shouldn't "Don't sell them short" have been the title of this article? It's just perfectly awful enough.

If we define a table setter as someone with 500-plus at-bats who does not homer in double-figures, a total of 16 qualified in 2006. They included Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez, whose six homers were the fewest for a batting champ since Tony Gwynn in 1996.

Let me guess: half of your "table setters" are bad.

Besides obvious perennials like Ichiro, Eckstein, Pierre and Cabrera, others included Mark Loretta, Chone Figgins, Omar Vizquel, Willy Taveras, Dave Roberts and Jason Kendall.

Yep. Maybe not bad. Average, I guess. It's weird how specifically filtering out power eliminates almost everyone who is really good. Does anyone really believe that Mark Loretta should be more famous than he is? He is the definition of average and he should stay that way.

In 2002, Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro combined for 100 homers, but Texas finished deep in the AL West basement. Meanwhile, with Darin Erstad and Eckstein combining for 44 steals and 41 sacrifices (bunts and flies), the Angels won the World Series.

Holy fucking atheism. This is so dumb it's not worth dignifying with a response. But I like dignifying. They call me the Dignifier. John F. Q. Z. Dignifier, Esq.

Here goes:

2002 Texas Rangers pitching staff ERA+: 95
2002 Anaheim Angels pitching staff ERA+: 118


(The Angels also had a higher team OPS+ because like seven of their hitters had decent offensive seasons. The Rangers were A-Rod, Raffy, Pudge, and shit.)

(Darin Erstad was the worst hitter on the team not named Bengie Molina. .313 OBP.)

The do-everything guys are doubly dangerous. The implied threat is as effective as the executed play.

Would it be fair to say that Tom Singer's favorite team would be the Portland Implications? Instead of ever getting on base, they could repeatedly fake bunts and then hit sacrifice flies for non-existent base-runners. They might end the year with zero runs but they'd lead the league in threats and plays-the-right-way. In their home ballpark, the Imagination Dome, neither team uses actual baseballs or bats. They just do a wonderful mime of pitching and bunting and stealing and then everyone goes out for ice cream.

Tom Singer: Hey Juan Pierre, hot soup. Tough one. I'm going to ask you, Juan Pierre, how important you think what you (Juan Pierre) do is to a baseball team?

"You're asking the wrong guy, because I think that's very important," Pierre says.

TS: Yes. Please. Expand on your own importance.

"Guys like me do so many different things. When you always got a man on base, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense and maybe gets the pitcher to give that home run hitter a better pitch to hit.

TS: Do you think it's strange I'm asking you to glorify yourself in this manner?

JP: Yes, very. I do like how you keep caressing my hair while we speak. It is very soothing.

TS: Yes, it is. Juan Pierre -- John Peter, can I call you John Peter? Can you provide me with a quote to end my article? Preferably something that insults the average fan.

"Everyone notices the home run. Bam! It's right there," Pierre says. "There's lots of stuff we do that the average fan doesn't see. You've got to know the ins of the game."

I'd say Pierre knows the "outs" of the game! Wink! (Juan Pierre led the league in outs in 2006).

The way this guy talks about home runs, you almost start to forget it's the single most valuable thing you can ever do when you are standing at the plate short of knocking Johan Santana out of the game by hitting him in the face with the ball.

Welcome to baseball outside the box score.

Welcome to a world where these players are everyone's favorite because we don't keep score at all. We just throw the ball up in the air, no one wears uniforms, and everyone on the field just dances. It's a dance party.

Labels: , , , , ,

posted by Junior  # 8:16 PM
In fairness, it should be noted that Junior's mother is Ichiro's mother.
James sent the following. I like the way this guy thinks.

You shouldn't have been surprised that Singer's 500 at-bat, single-digit homer club was, in fact, very average rather than bad. This particular version of cherry-picking -- requiring 500 at-bats -- tends to single-handedly weed out "bad" players.

The more interesting question would be how those players stack up not against all of baseball but against other players with 500 at bats or more. Only 120 guys had 500 at bats. Given that the number of players on a 25-man roster at any given time is 750, which means roughly 450 offensive players, we're already talking about weeding out 2/3 of all MLB at-bats. So, really, if these guys are about average for all of baseball, they are way below average for the 500 at-bat club.

This comment has been removed by the author.
You know what's funny? The people who argue the vehemently-est that stats don't matter and that stats don't tell the whole story are often the people who most egregiously cherry-pick stats to prove their warped points. That's funny.
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