FIRE JOE MORGAN: Selfish Home Runs Are Ruining Baseball


Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Sunday, August 19, 2007


Selfish Home Runs Are Ruining Baseball

It's a cloudy, muggy Sunday afternoon here in Partridge, KS., getting up to 88 later, and it looks like it might pour any second. Normally, this would be fine with me, as I would just sit in my den and watch baseball for ten hours. Except: today, Fremulon Ins., Inc. has called me into the office.

Emergency restructuring of the pension plans, thanks to ripples sent through our investment portfolio due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Booooo-ring. After a couple hours of research, I think to myself I think, "What am I doing working so hard? It's Sunday, for land's sake!" So I open my FJM e-mail, and voila: the perfect distraction. I find a little piece of heaven linked from reader Matthew. It's by a delightfully spry old cooter named Jerry Green, from the Detroit News, who has a bone to pick. Jerry wants to know:

What ever happened to hitting homers for the team?

A quick search of the ol' memory banks, and the baseball rules contained therein, will remind us that the points, or "runs," that are granted to the team of a player who hits a home run out of selfishness, egotism, and Ayn Randian self-interest will exactly equal the points his team gets if he goes deep, like, altruistically. So, already a bit confused, let's read on to see what has Jerry's panties in a bunch.

The digital clock over the TV is pushing toward 11 in the p.m., ticking toward bedtime, and on the color screen there goes another shot. Deep, deep, going gone.

I am not usually one to make fun of older people. But in this, the very first paragraph of an article on baseball in the year 2007, Jerry sees fit to specifically mention that his clock is digital, and his television has a "color" screen. When was the last time anyone regularly watched non-color TV? The only reason one might go out of one's way to mention that one's screen is colorized is if, subconsciously, this fact is still kind of a big deal. (And what are you doing watching baseball highlights at 11:00 anyway, Jerry? The Steve Allen Show is on soon.)

"He went yard," shouts the announcer, using for the 15th time in the last 10 minutes ESPN's favorite network-contrived cliché for the old-fashioned home run.

I yawn. Again.

It is the fifth time I have seen this same home run, er, yard shot, in the last 23 minutes.

Too bad Michigan law mandates that you have to keep watching it.

Alas, I am too dazed to push that little silver escape button, the off gizmo, and retire to my current book.

Again. I have nothing against old people. Many of my best friends are old people. My college roommate was an old person. But when you overexplain, in print, what a "remote control" is, and refer to it as a "gizmo," you (a) are playing up how old and crotchety you are as a badge of honor, (b) are just too old to remember where the "delete" key is on your keyboard, or (c) are Andy Rooney.

I am part of the vast captive audience. There is no escape. There is no mercy.

...There is "changing the channel," isn't there?

My ankles are locked, my eyelids are drooping, but I can barely drag myself to the sack.

These things happen. Calcium chews and multivitamins will help.

I am victim of our pop sports culture.

ESPN believes that it invented the home run.

We have been fed this summer a steady dose of milestones.

Sammy Sosa's 600th home run.

Alex Rodriguez's 500th home run.

Barry Bond's 754th, 755th, 756th, 758th, and onward, home runs.

One might argue that we haven't been "fed" these things, so much as they have "happened." And are "of interest." To people who "like sports."

Over and over, while we remain prisoners.

The other night, honest, Karl Ravech, the moderator of ESPN's Baseball Tonight show, had a segment: "The best three things and the worst three things that happened since Bonds' 754th home run." This followed: "The Minnesota Twins are 6 and 2 since Bonds' 754th home run."

This a day after Bonds surpassed Henry Aaron's home-run record with No. 756.

I am no fan of ESPN these days. They do a lot of incredibly stupid segments that have nothing to do with sports coverage, like "Who's Now?" and "Getttin' Heavy" and "NASCAR Hip-Hop Thunder!" and "Which Sandwich?" But after months of research I have devised a way to avoid these irritants: don't watch them.

E -- Embarrassing!

S -- Silly!

P -- Puerile!

N -- Nonsensical!

Man. You really went for it here, didn't you, Jerry. I bet you wish you could take this back. I mean, you put each one of these things on a different line, and punctuated with exclamations. You have a lot of confidence in this humor trope.

And I remain in captivity, addicted to the pre-dreamtime baseball scores and TV images.

Reading is an option. The internet also provides sports information. Did you read Tim Page's first-person account of Asberger's Syndrome in the New Yorker this week? Fascinating, I thought.

I have become immune to the season's most imaginative newspaper headline: "Bonds homers; Giants lose."

Again. And again.

Bonds! Sosa! A-Rod!

What does it mean?

Riddle me this -- in this whacky, over-hyped world of sound bytes and yard shots, what has any one of them ever won in Major League Baseball?

Buckle up, people. Things are about to get crotchety.

With all their home runs, with their vast millions in salary, with their adoring fans, at least in their home ballparks, when has any one of them ever helped a team win a pennant or a World Series championship?

Allow me, quickly, to remind Jerry of a few things.

1. There are eight position players, five starting pitchers (usually) and several relievers on a baseball team. They play 162 games per year, then between one and three playoff series in an attempt to win the World Series. Teams have vastly different payroll thresholds, and every year they contend with injuries, fluctuations in performance, and the relative strength of the other teams in their division. One man, no matter how good, cannot single-handedly win a championship in a team sport.

Bonds played on one pennant winner in his 21-plus seasons. The Giants lost that World Series. But Bonds hit four home runs -- for the loser.

What a bad baseball player he is. He would be better if he had hit zero home runs for the winner. Logic!

His Pirates and Giants went 2-7 in various postseason ventures. Barry Bonds has hit more home runs than any other athlete in 131 years of Major League Baseball. But he is tied with thousands and thousands of lesser athletes in total World Series victories: 0. Zero, zilch.

He is also tied with Ernie Banks and Ted Williams. Frank Thomas won a World Series with the ChiSox in 2005, despite having only 105 AB during the season and not even being on the postseason roster. Does that make him superior to Barry Bonds in some way? It's a team sport, dumbass. And some people play for shitty teams.

Sosa has never played for a pennant winner nor a World Series team in 18 big league seasons. He appeared in the postseason twice. The Cubs went 1-2 in three series. They almost won a pennant one recent October, but perpetuated their series of failures since 1945.

Sosa's fault. All Sosa's fault. The nerve of Sammy Sosa to have prevented/never helped the Cubs win a World Series since 1908. If I am not mistaken -- and I don't believe I am -- it was Sosa who interfered with the foul pop that Alou might have caught in that NLCS game in Wrigley in 2003. I believe it was also Sosa who botched that easy grounder later in the inning. (I've always wondered -- why was he playing SS? Alex Gonzalez was a gold glover!!!) And why did Sosa pitch so terribly in Game 7 when Kerry Wood was rested and ready to go? If I were a Cubs' fan, I would hate Sammy Sosa, because he never single-handedly won a World Series.

A-Rod has been a dismal flop in his ventures into the postseason in his previous 13 seasons with the Mariners, Rangers and Yankees.

Frequent readers of this web-log might remember that I have a particular bee in my bonnet in re: people claiming ARod is an Untrue Yankee because he has "failed" in the postseason where far superior players like Chad Curtis and Scott Brosius have succeeded. But now, now we have a whole new ballgame.

Jerry is claiming, and I quote, that "A-Rod has been a dismal flop in his ventures into the postseason in his previous 13 seasons with the Mariners, Rangers and Yankees." If you will please excuse my language: Fuck the heck are you talking about?

I will first point out that the Rangers did not make the postseason while he was there. A point you might have made to help strengthen your flaccid argument, if you'd spent less time fidgeting with doo-dads and whatnots and focussed more on checking information to see if your wild and idiotic claims had any veracity.

Second. Here's what ARod did as a Mariner in 13 postseason game (not counting 1995, when he had 1 AB each in 2 games):

3 BB
3 2b
3 HR

That's a .352/.388/.588 line. That's a .976 OPS. That's a dismal flop.

The only time you can truly call ARod a postseason dismal flop was last year in the ALDS against Detroit, when he went 1-14 with nary a double to call his own. Yes. Dismal flop. Second would be the previous year's 2-15 against the Halos, but he was walked six times and thus had a .381 OBP. Which ain't bad. But here's the point:

Joe Dimaggio went 2-18 in the 1949 WS (.111/.238/.278).

Pujols put up an almost identical line in the 2001 NLDS.

In 1950, Phil Rizzuto (RIP) went 2-14, .143/.294/.143.

Should I keep going? Okay.

1922 World Series. Picture it. Giants-Yankees. Roaring Twenties. Jazz! Babe Ruth knocks 2 sweet hits in 17 tries, Sultanly Swatting at the rate of .118/.250/.176. Or how's this: in the 1977 ALCS against Kansas City, Mr. October himself went 2-16 with no extra base hits, non-dismal-flopping his way to a .125/.222/.125 line.

In fact, lets just go ahead and do this:

Mr. October, career, in October: .278/.358/.527. One HR every 15.6 AB
Mr. Dismal-Flop, career, in October: .280/.362/.485. One HR every 22 AB

Jackson's totals are more impressive when you consider he has more than twice the AB, and many more HR, and so on and so forth. But the original comparison is valid, thanks to its very invalidity. What do I mean? I mean that the whole exercise of looking at one (or even two, or three) postseason series is stupid.

They are tiny sample sizes of data, that can be cherry picked at will to make any point you want. That's why Mark Lemke is a postseason legend, but a sub-par overall Major Leaguer, once the number of data points increased and his true talent level shone through. It's why Marty Barrett at one time shared the record for hits in a postseason series. The smaller the number of AB, the higher the possibility that something crazy happens, like ARod going 1-14.

Want to claim ARod is a choker, even just as a member of the Yankees? Cite his last two series, which were bad. I will counter with the 2004 ALDS against the Twinkies, where he went 8-19 with three doubles and a homer, going .421/.476/.737.

(Once again. I hate Alex Rodriguez. And I am spending my entire Sunday looking up Reggie Jackson's postseason hitting stats just to prove that Alex Rodriguez is good. My boss is going to be pissed. I am pissed.)

He has never played for a pennant winner, never has had one at-bat in a World Series. The teams he has played for went 3-6 in postseason series.

All his fault.

That adds up to an astonishing sum of nearly 1,900 home runs among them without a single championship.

But did they go yard a lot! With worthless home runs.

Home runs are never worthless. They are always worth between one and four runs. And without those 1900 home runs, it is fair to say that their teams would have had many fewer postseason games, and thus many fewer chances to reach the World Series.

These three guys are worthy of Hall of Fame selection whenever they turn eligible, Bonds and Sosa accompanied perhaps by asterisks.

For the record, Babe Ruth played for 10 pennant winners and seven World Series winners in 22 seasons. The Babe is unmatched with 15 World Series home runs with the Yankees, and a 3-0 record as a pitcher with the champion Red Sox.

When Babe Ruth played baseball, there were two leagues, and thus two playoff teams. If you won the league, you played in the World Series. And since Babe's team also featured many other Hall of Famers -- both pitchers and position players -- he played in the World Series a lot. And since baseball was segregated, and not international, he did not play against the best possible competition. And so on and so on and so on.

Babe might have been the best hitter ever. His OPS+ is 207. But comparing his WS stats to anyone's from the Divisional Era -- never mind the Wild Card era -- is stupid on stilts.

Ruth, the home-run master, was the consummate winner.

Too bad ESPN was not in business to capture the wondrous exploits as "The Babe went yard," on its Baseball Tonight show.

What are you even complaining about? Babe Ruth was the ultimate showman. He partied harder than anyone. He was all about celebrity. If BBTN were around in the 1920s, Babe would have had his face in front of those cameras 24/7. He would've had his own reality show. He would've been cutting every deal he could to milk extra $$$ out of the MLB $$$ deals with whoever. And he would've had a lot of venereal diseases.

Also for the record, Kirk Gibson contributed immeasurably to victory in two World Series with home runs. He never has been close to enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Because there is no category for "Best Dramatic Performance in the Postseason in the Smallest Possible Sample Size of One AB." I'm pretty sure some memento of that AB (the ball is lost, I think, but Vin Scully's radio call on tape, or something) is in the Hall. Apparently, like Colin Cowherd, you cannot differentiate between permanent enshrinement for career achievement, and enshrinement for famous moments.

Bobby Thomson hit a home run for the New York Giants to win the best pennant race in history, in 1951. He is not in the Hall of Fame. Bill Mazeroski hit a home run to win a World Series for the Pirates. He reached the Hall of Fame belatedly in the veteran's category, based on his fielding skills. Joe Carter won a World Series with a home for the Blue Jays. Joe has no chance ever to reach the Hall of Fame.

Joe Carter's career OPS+ is 104. You think he should be in the Hall of Fame? (I know he's not really saying that, but it's implied.)

But all of them "went yard" when it mattered.

Yes they did. Good for them. Wonderful moments. The rich tapestry of sports, and so on. What are we talking about, again?

The Embarrassing, Silly, Puerile, Nonsensical all-sports (poker? spelling bees?) network has an amazing influence on its captive audience.

True dat.

America has been led to believe that A-Rod is having the best season of any ballplayer currently playing.

...He is. Except for maybe H-Ram, to whom he's second in VORP, though ARod has a higher MLVr. See for yourself.

Therefore, the current hot debate with the Tigers competing in New York this weekend is the American League's most valuable player competition.

A-Rod is being championed as the shoo-in for the MVP. He leads MLB in home runs and RBIs.

Other things ARod is beating Magglio in:

Win Probability Added

Though Magglio has him in EqA, .333 to .332.

There is this bit of news for the great unwashed:

Magglio Ordonez hits home runs that win ball games.

Well, shit. Because ARod hits the kind that cause Peruvian earthquakes and give kids diseases.

He hits singles and doubles that contribute to winning ball games.

Dammit. I had no idea. ARod only hits the kind of singles that earn him, personally, money, which he uses to invest in blood diamond mines in Africa. And ARod's doubles -- besides taking runs off the board from his team -- are converted into energy that powers a rec center for Aryan nation youth gangs.

He hit a home run last October that won a pennant and sent his team into the World Series.

ARod sucks. Because he has never been placed in this exact situation and come through in exactly the same way. Robin Ventura is way better than ARod.

Ordonez happens to be immeasurably more valuable to his team than A-Rod is with all his fluff and flourishes, flubs and superfluous home runs.

There are any number of statistics I could use to prove you wrong, but I will actually just repeat what has been implied, and what is self-evident, if you think long and hard about what you just wrote and published:

You are stupid, sir. This is a stupid thing to say.

They are both extremely valuable to their teams. To imply that ARod is less valuable because he, I guess, hits more home runs, but has never exactly hit a home run that won a pennant for his team...I mean...that is just...farty. That is farty writing. That writing smells like farts.

Okay. Back to work. Hey! It's 7:30! Quittin' time!

Labels: , , , ,

posted by Unknown  # 12:43 PM
Originally in this post I included an obscure inside joke between me and a friend, regarding the idea of one man winning a championships in a team sport, that read:

Even Danny Manning needed Keith Smart.

I just edited it out because it was resulting in too many "A ha! You are a dummy!" emails, even after I had tried to explain that I knew that of course, Danny Manning played for Kansas State, and Keith Smart for UConn.
I also unintentionally imply -- as Jonathan points out -- that the A-Gon who played SS for the Cubbies in 2003 was the slick-fielding one who later played for the Red Sox and now the Reds. That A-Gon was, of course, actually on the Marlins at the time.
Many people wrote in with versions of this sentiment, from Matthew:

"He [Ordonez] hit a home run last October that won a pennant and sent his team into the World Series."

What he probably meant to write was, "He [Ordonez] hit a home run last October that won a pennant and sent his team into the World Series, where he hit .105/.150/.105 with two hits (both singles) in nineteen at-bats as his team lost to a vastly inferior club and possibly the worst World Series winner of all time in the 83 win Cardinals."

For the record:

Ordonez in the playoffs: .194/.265/.387

A-Rod in the playoffs: .280/.362/.485

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