FIRE JOE MORGAN: Painting By Numbers

FIRE JOE MORGAN

Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

 

Painting By Numbers

Hey, Bruce? Bruce Miles? It's me, Tom Gerndleman, your editor at the Daily Herald. Listen -- I don't have a lot of time. I need an article about Ryan Theriot, but I have Bulls tickets tonight, and I have to leave in eight minutes. Do me a favor, and just write down every cliché you can think of about sub-par, sort-of fast, white baseball players, and just link them all together so you can file before I head out? Thanks.

...the scrappy Theriot would just as soon tells those statistics to shut up.

Theriot doesn't hate baseball, but the stats-oriented crew probably can't find much love for him.

Theriot is one of those throwback players who'd rather get his uniform dirty than impress the pencil pushers at Baseball Prospectus.

Good start. Now we need something that helps justify why we're writing this article.

The Cubs cite Theriot as a big reason they won the National League Central last year, even though you might be telling a fish story to say his numbers were outstanding.

Great. Now let's show that he's aware of his own limitations.

Even though Theriot may not put all his stock in numbers, he knows what they are and that people are going to analyze them.

"It's getting a lot more numbers oriented, which in some cases is good," he said. "In some cases, it's not. It's easy to get wrapped up in that, too, because it's fact. It's truth. It's right there for you. You can see the numbers. It's easy to explain to somebody.

Nice. Now hit me with something about, you know, the "I" word.

"What's hard to explain, what's hard to show is what you guys see every day: the intangibles. You guys come into the locker room and see how the players interact with each other and interact with others. That's stuff hard to explain to somebody who really doesn't understand."

Perfect. I'm going to assume you made that quote up, because no one in the world -- not even a major league ballplayer -- could be that predictable. But keep going -- this is great. Maybe add something about, you know, how maybe even if he goes 0-4, he still helps his team win by getting his uniform dirty and playing tough D, and how those things don't show up in the stats.

For example, getting one's uniform dirty and saving a run from scoring even though you might have gone 0-for-4 that day?

"You don't put that down in the stats," he said.

...Okay, a little on the head, but fine, it'll do. Now we need an authority figure to weigh in -- something about catching someone's eye with his hard-nosed play.

Lou Piniella had little to go on a year ago, when Theriot caught his eye in spring training. The new Cubs manager liked what he saw and told Theriot to relax, that he had made the team.

Again, you're not changing the clichés at all, really, but I don't care. I'm out the door in T-minus 2 minutes. So let's really cruise, here. Give me a nice thick juicy run of the most trite pablum you can find.

"We always thought the guy was a gamer," Fleita said Saturday. "Mentally tough. He's always been an 'intangibles' guy with great makeup. Those guys, if given an opportunity, usually seize it.

Holy shit, man, that's awesome. "Gamer," "mentally tough," "intangibles," "great makeup," and "seizing the opportunity?" You packed all five into one graph. That's just great work. Give me another one.

"He came to camp last spring with an outfield glove. 'Just put me in, Coach,' and I'll play.' I think that attitude and his character had a lot to do with the success he had. He just wants to be part of the team. He'll drive the bus, if necessary."

This -- this is poetry. "Just put me in, coach?!" Are you kidding me? I haven't seen anyone use that one in years. "Attitude," "character," "part of the team," and "he'd drive the bus?!" This is great. Great stuff. We're almost done. Hit me with his diminutive stature:

Theriot batted .348 in July, but the Cubs say the grind of a long season took its toll. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Theriot played in 148 regular-season games, by far the most of his professional career.

Great. Now a quote from Theriot about how he knows he's not about numbers.

"I'm not about numbers. I'm not a numbers guy at all. You look through my career, and nothing's ever going to jump out at you. I've been lucky to have coaches and management who don't buy into that stuff.

"There's lots you can say about a guy who hits .300 or .320 for that matter. How many runs did he score, how many hits did he get when it was important?"

Okay. Give lip service to the nerds who think this is all a lot of crap, written about a guy who's projected to have a .237 EqA next year.

The analysts have weighed in on Theriot, with Baseball Prospectus projecting a .330 OBP.

Okay, you went OBP. That's fine. Hurry -- I have to leave in 30 seconds. Wrap it up.

So how does Theriot analyze himself?

"I'm going to play hard," he said. "I'm going to give everything I've got. And I'm not afraid to fail. I think I'll do what it takes to do something great and help the team win. I take pride in my defense. Either you've got to drive them in or you've got to save a run.

...

There's no fucking way he said all that, in that order, is there? Really? Wow. That's...that's genius. This thing is writing itself. Let me just look over that graph one more time.

I'm going to play hard

I'm going to give everything I've got.

I'm not afraid to fail.

I think I'll do what it takes to do something great and help the team win.

I take pride in my defense.

Amazing.

Thanks, buddy. I'm out of here. You earned your paycheck today.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 6:19 PM
Comments:
Hat tip: Mike S.

(It turns out that a baby's nap is almost exactly as much time as I need to post an article.)
 
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