Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Thursday, October 11, 2007


Let's Pun It Up!

Those of you who know me well -- dak, Junior, John Rocker, Cloris Leachman, et al. -- know that I love nothing more than puns. Ex-pecially in headlines of articles advocating team-killing roster moves.

KT, meet Gordon Wittenmyer!

Jacque-full of intangibles

Despite Jones' limitations, GORDON WITTENMYER thinks Cubs would be smart to keep him around

Let's do our normal FJM due diligence here. (I'm going to write it as if it is a Playbill bio from a Broadway show.)

Jacque Jones (mediocre outfielder) is a mediocre outfielder for the Chicago Cubs. In 2007, at the age of 32, he went .285/.335/.400 (OPS+ of 87), with a below-league-average EqA of .255. In 453 at bats, Jones hit an astonishing five home runs, and walked 34 times, which is very not good for an outfielder. Jones has previously appeared in Equus, Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, and the 1999-2005 Minnesota Twins, for which he won no prestigious awards.
Assuming the blank checks are as elusive for the Cubs this winter as a done deal on the sale of the team -- which assumes no A-Rod sweepstakes and no $15 million free agents of any ilk -- the top of the Cubs' offseason list of priorities in 2008 becomes pretty simple.

No. 1 on that list: Don't trade Jacque Jones.

That strikes me as the stage name a gay porn star might choose. Okay. Now back to the article, if you're still somehow reading this.

Heavily criticized, regularly booed and on the trading block for much of his two seasons with the Cubs,

Sign him! Lock him up!

the outfielder who nearly was traded to the Florida Marlins in June should be considered a must-keep player going into next season.

Actual "Must-Keep" Players on the Cubs:

That's it, I think.

The most immediate reason is the Cubs don't have a better center-field option going into next season -- again, assuming they won't be in the market for high-priced free agents such as Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand or Andruw Jones.

Why wouldn't they be? Jones makes like $5.something next year. Someone will take him.

Felix Pie? Forget it. He has speed and a strong arm, but he's not a major-league hitter, and it's questionable whether he ever will be. In fact, the Cubs would be better off trading Pie now, while his perceived value is high enough to get serious return for him. It was obvious by the end of the season -- and after a .216 batting average during his three shots at the starting center-field job -- that manager Lou Piniella isn't convinced the reality matches the hype with Pie.

Pie is 22 and has a total of 177 AB in his life. Now is probably not the time to give up on him. In 1952, at the age of 21, Willie Mays had 127 AB and hit .236. Am I saying Felix Pie will turn out to be as good as Willie Mays? Yes. In fact, I am guaranteeing it. If Felix Pie does not turn out to be as good as Willie Mays, I will give everyone who reads this blog one hundred dollars.

Keep Pie if you want. Give him a shot in center next spring, even. But Jones had better be around to take over when it doesn't work.

You are extremely certain that Felix Pie is going to fail, considering that the man has had 177 AB and is 22. In 1967, Reggie Jackson was 21 and had 118 AB. He hit .178/.269/.305. Now, am I saying that Felix Pie will end up being as good as Reggie Jackson? Absolutely. In fact, if Felix Pie retires with fewer home runs than Reggie's 563, I will get a tattoo of Joe Morgan's face over my entire face and I will name my first son Timothy McCarver Is Tremendous and I will give everyone who reads this blog one hundred thousand dollars. Book it.

And that's just the small-picture, immediate reason for keeping Jones in the final season of his contract, which calls for him to made a modest $5 million in 2008.

The bigger reason is that he's one of the few guys on the roster -- particularly among the veterans -- who exemplifies the culture change this team talks about making.

Just quickly to reiterate: the small reason to keep him is that he's like "eh" at baseball. The big reason to keep him is: he exemplifies the culture change this team talks about making. Which equates to wins: nebulously.

Jones' critics can scoff all they want, but as bad as he might look at times on a throw from the outfield or chasing an outside pitch in the dirt, he plays the game the way the Arizona Diamondbacks do.

Nowitzki: Mark, listen. Hear me out. Yes, he stinks. He can't throw, he can't hit, and if you throw him a breaking pitch he swings with his eyes closed like a 4th-grade girl playing tee-ball in gym who just wants to strike out so she can go talk to her friends. But: Jacque Jones plays like a D-Back!

Cuban: You're fired.

Nowitzki: Fine. I don't really even like this game anyway. (grabs basketball; heads to door)

Cuban: No -- you're fired from the Mavs. Because you're too valuable as an assistant GM! Sign Jacque Jones to a lifetime deal! And tell him to being that Diamondbacks mentality to our team! I am assuming it was their mentality and not luck that led to their success!

Nowitzki: (hits fadeaway three)

And the success he has had -- and that his teams have had during his career -- has as much do with that approach as the D-backs' approach had in sweeping the Cubs out of the playoffs.

Take note, people who don't know how to process information or separate cause and effect:

Jacque Jones -- responsible for Twins' and Cubs' recent success

General Mentality of Diamondbacks, Which Bears Some Kind of Similarity to Jacque Jones' Mentality -- responsible for Diamondbacks' recent success

No. 1, the guy can hit in the major leagues.

5% worse than the average baseball player last year.

Jones strikes out a lot, but he also is a career .280 hitter -- .285 this season, including a team-leading .332 average after the All-Star break. Strikeouts aren't ideal, but they don't keep you from winning consistently or from winning in the playoffs. The D-backs struck out more than the Cubs during the season, then struck out an astounding 35 times in three games and still swept the Cubs.

Yes, strikeouts do not keep you from winning consistently. That is correct. If you are Ryan Howard or Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez and you are walking a lot and hitting a lot, striking out isn't a big deal at all. But if you are Jacque Jones, and your career K/BB ratio is more than 3:1, and you hit for very little power, then you are not a very valuable hitter.

Jones also can hit for power. His career-low five homers in 2007 were an aberration that might have been caused as much by his early-season turmoil as anything.

Jones can play the guitar. The fact that we just watched him try to play the guitar for six months and he clearly cannot should be attributed to psychological factors.

Although he probably won't admit it, clubhouse insiders said Jones lost more than 10 pounds during that stressful period when the Cubs benched him, traded him, then called off the trade, and it's not a reach to think that affected his power when he started hitting again in July.

Either way, what he went through should make him that much better and stronger entering next season (not to mention it's a contract year).

Jones was bad last year at age 32. He should be much better this year, at age 33.

But this is the biggest reason to keep Jones: The next time he takes a play off will be the first. Criticize him for his arm or for some of the baserunning gaffes that got him booed in 2006,

In other words, criticize him for being bad at baseball...

but he runs out every grounder and pop-up,

A trait he shares with nearly every major- and minor- and Babe Ruth- and Little League baseball payer in the world.

and even his harshest critics must admit he's the rare outfielder on this team willing to go into the ivy to catch a ball.

For what it's worth -- and as always we should point out that it might not be worth all that much -- BP has Jones as a decent fielder (46 FRAA career). Also, cold hard stats have him as a guy with a career .329 OBP.

The Cubs have players making three times his salary who give up on catchable fly balls, who make early U-turns to the dugout on popups (if they get 30 feet out of the box at all), who too often gaze at balls off the wall and who spend too much time getting angry when their immense talent fails that they forget to finish the play or keep their head in the rest of the inning.

I'm looking at you, Jason Kendall. Yes, your immense talent and hitting prowess amazes critics and children alike, but that does not entitle you to phone it in. (I assume he's actually talking about Ramirez or Soriano, to which I can only reply: those guys are way better than Jacque Jones.)

That's far more damaging to a team's chances of winning than an honest, aggressive effort by a good player that falls short.

Sorry, I don't think that's true. I'll take the slacker weirdo who hits home runs over the earnest hustler who does not.

Just ask anybody who has played with A.J. Pierzynski, whose personality issues never have caused anybody to question his effort or fire on the field -- and who happens to come from the same heralded Minnesota Twins organization as Jones.

This is terrible journalism. What does Pierzynski have to do with the Jones/anti-Jones binary system you have been describing? The point you were making was: I would rather have a guy who tries hard all the time and isn't very good at baseball, than a guy who is great at baseball but half-asses it sometimes. Then you cited Pierzynski. Pierzynski, by all accounts, is a complete dick who is sort of fine at baseball, and seems to try all the time. It's not the same thing. And the fact that they both played for the Twins is: immaterial.

If the Cubs want to be competitive again next season and want that culture change to continue moving in the right direction, then they will start by --

Signing ARod? Going after Johan? Luring Posada away from the Yankees? Going after Mike Lowell?

-- keeping Jones.

Ah. Of course. Lock up the 33 year-old OF with the career 100 OPS+.

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posted by Anonymous  # 1:39 AM
Thanks to Ben for the tip.
Just want to point out...

In 2005, at the age of 20, Pie made the "toughest transition in the minors" by hitting .304/.349/.554 in 262 AA plate appearances. Last season, at 22, Pie hit .362/.410/.563 in 251 AAA plate appearances. Last year's Pecota projects him to hit .290/.346/.492 in 2008, with a 30% chance of being a "star" or better, and a 20% chance of being a "superstar." And he was born in 1985. AND, he will cost approximately 7% of what Jaques Jones will cost next season.

My suggestion: trade Jones to Pittsburg for Domaso Marte. They might just be dumb enough to do it.
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