FIRE JOE MORGAN: Hey Everyone! Here's Something Interesting!


Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Hey Everyone! Here's Something Interesting!

Darin Erstad was a punter at the University of Nebraska! And besides that, he plays baseball really hard!

Did you know that? No? I guess that means you never read this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or any other of the 2.7 million articles that have been written about how Darin Erstad used to be a punter and plays baseball "hard."

On the off-chance that you have never in your life read any articles that talk about how Darin Erstad used to be a punter at the University of Nebraska and now plays baseball really hard, which would mean that you have never read anything in your life -- because the fact that Darin Erstad used to be a punter and currently plays baseball "hard" can be found in every single piece of literature ever printed, including The Bible, John Grisham's The Rainmaker, J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, The Secret, and the novelization of Down Periscope -- here is one more article about how Darin Erstad used to be a punter and also plays baseball really hard, courtesy of the must-be-a-joke-named Carol Slezak.

Husker & Hustler
Going all out | Ex-Nebraska football player Erstad plays with intensity, abandon

If outfield walls could talk, they'd have harsh words for Darin Erstad, who has crashed into dozens during his career.

If baseball analysts could talk, they would gently remind Ms. Sleestack that Darin Erstad isn't that good at baseball. Because, the baseball analyst might correctly surmise, any article that begins this way is bound to turn into a massive fawning cockstroke of a guy who has a career .270 EqA and hasn't had a WARP3 above 5.3 since 2002.

If grass and artificial turf had a voice, they would ask Erstad to stop crushing them while diving for balls. If infield dirt had feelings, it would beg Erstad for mercy. And in response, he would shrug, as if to say, ''Hey, I'm just playing baseball.''

A lot of people dive for balls. A lot of people slide hard, and run hard, and play hard. In fact, like 90% of all professional baseball players play hard. And many of them are better at the actual skills of baseball than Darin Erstad. Where are these articles for Grady Sizemore and Johnny Damon and Carl Crawford and Ivan Rodriguez and Torii Hunter?

Unfortunately for the things that get in his way, Erstad knows only one way to play baseball. Fortunately for the White Sox, after 10 years in Anaheim, he has come to Chicago this season.

How is this fortunate for the White Sox? He has a .258 EqA this year. He's hitting .275/.326/.359 with 2HR. As for fielding, he's 10th out of 12 AL CF in Range Factor, though he is fourth in Zone Rating. Who knows, with fielding stats, really. But anecdotally, he seems to take weird routes to balls and has let a few line-drives sail over his head.

Although, to be clear, Erstad doesn't really get why people make a fuss about his style of play.

Finally, someone who is baffled by all these articles about Darin Erstad: Darin Erstad.

Imagine an entire roster of Erstads.

Okay. Such a squad would score 4.27 runs per game. For comparison, a roster of Carlos Beltrans would score 7.53 runs per game. Nine Torii Hunters would score 6.79 runs per game. Nine Curtis Grandersons would score 7.09 runs per game. The good news: the Flyin' Erstads would defeat the Fleet-of-Foot Juan Pierres, 4.27 to 3.36. So they've got that going for them.

Guys who sacrifice their bodies to make a catch. Guys who run out every ground ball, even a soft tap back to the pitcher, as if they were legging out a triple. Guys who always slide hard to break up double plays. Guys who prepare for each game as if it were Game 7 of the World Series.

This describes a lot of players. Who are better at baseball. Than Darin Erstad.

"I wouldn't want to have a bunch of me's,'' Erstad said with a laugh.

You and every thinking GM in baseball.

''That would be pretty annoying. You can't have 25 guys beating their heads against the wall and playing the way I do. It takes all kinds to make a team work. You have to have different personalities, different styles of play, to make things work."

You also need guys who can hit. That is another thing that you need.

If Erstad, who turns 33 next month, seems to play baseball with the mentality of a football or hockey player,

Yes, he does seem to do so. Do you have any idea why? Because I have never read anything in my entire life and cannot fathom why this might be.

it's likely because both sports have played big roles in his life. Although he went to Nebraska to play baseball, he also played football in 1994, joining the team as a kicker and punter (and also kicking field goals from outside 40 yards).

Da-whaaaaa?! You are joking with me when you say this! This cannot be a true fact. I simply cannot for one tiny second believe that Darin Erstad once played football for Nebraska. My brain is aflood with confusion because I have learned this interesting fact about Darin Erstad re: Nebraska/punting. Please continue informing me of information.

Legendary Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne had found himself in need of a kicker that season and knew that Erstad had kicked in high school. After watching video of Erstad, Osborne asked him to join the team. Talk about great timing -- Nebraska won the national championship that year.

Because Darin Erstad punted a touchdown with two seconds left? Because he baseball-tackled an opposing player inches from the goal line? Because he inspired his team at halftime with a display of punting that rallied their spirits? No, friends. They won the national championship...just befuckingcause he was on the team!!!!

For a kid who wore his dad's softball shoes, jock strap, gloves and jersey ''since Day 1, even before I can remember,'' Erstad's decision to pursue baseball would seem obvious. But for Erstad, who played forward on his high school hockey team, the choice wasn't so clear.

Here's Sleestack: "Hey Ken Tremendous -- Darin Erstad was a punter at Nebraska." Here's me: "You're kidding. That is without question the single most interesting and relevant and important fact that has ever been discovered." Here's Sleestack: "Yes. But check it: he was a hockey player, too." Here's me: "My brain is exploded."

''I was a good hockey player, but to get to the NHL in hockey you have to be a different breed. They are special players.''

You have to be good at baseball to play baseball, I'm pretty sure.

''I've been an admirer of Darin's style of play for a long time,'' said general manager Ken Williams..."I readily admit that last year's club missed a little bit of that edge. That recklessness and all-out style. So I sought to correct that this offseason and bring a little bit of that back to us. I think overall it will serve us well. It already has and will continue to as the season goes on because it's infectious. He's not shy about his desire to win. And that fits into what we're about.''

The White Sox are 14th out of 14 teams in the AL in runs scored. Whatever you're doing, there, Kenny, it ain't working. (And yes, I know Thome has been hurt. Relax. They have a .312 team OBP. Thome can't change that all by himself.)

So, there you have it, for the millionth time: Darin Erstad was a punter, and a hockey player, and is currently a mediocre baseball player. Rejoice!

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