Darin Erstad, the veteran. His first year in Houston...led the majors in hits and runs scored back in 2000, but his numbers have started to drift off in recent years.
"The Big Bopper's health has started to drift off in recent years."
"Dinosaurs haven't been quite as living as they used to be up until quite recently."
Darin Erstad has been regularly taking his ABs without a physical bat for years now, or at least that's what his numbers would indicate.
Then: was this Candy Maldonado's voice? It's gravelly, and it likes Darin Erstad. I really like this signing right here, because here's a guy who can come off the bench. He can spell Berkman a little bit at first base, a very schooled first baseman. Can play the corner outfield, even center field on short notice...
I really want to support what you're saying, man. Erstad at the very least is a versatile defensive replacement, although I'm not sure how his legs are holding up in the outfield these days after all of those years of grinding and punting and shaving with a two-guard razor. As long as that's all you're saying. As long as you don't mention --
...and can swing a mad stick still.
... ... ...
Here we go. Erstad hasn't hit since 2000. His stick has been mad to the tune of 4, 0, 7, 7, 4, 10, and 9 home runs the last seven seasons. He hasn't OPS+ed over 100 since the pre-9/11 world.
The disappearance of Darin Erstad's maddening stickiness predates the War on Terror, motherfuckers!
And yet the plaudits still come his way. This guy should run for President of the Multiverse on the platform "I am LaserBulletproof."
9:56 p.m., from Peter Gammons • If Darin Erstad doesn't find a job that suits him, there is word that he could return to the University of Nebraska, his alma mater, and be an assistant coach for the football team. A punter in college, Erstad was part of the Cornhuskers' 1994 national championship squad and remains one of Tom Osborne's favorite players.
First of all, did anyone know Erstad was a punter?!
Second, when Nebraska's reporters write about his coaching, are they going to say that he brings a certain "baseball intelligence" to his profession, and talk about how he used to be a baseball player?
Prediction: Darin Erstad becomes the first baseball player-slash-football assistant coach. Every time he does a correct thing, like throw to the right base or run off the field after three outs are recorded, commentators will nod gravely and say things like, "Erstad once again making the right play. He's not just like having a coach on the field. Unlike most players, he is literally a coach. Of football. So he's tough and smart."
The University of Nebraska also transitions its way to an all-punting offense.
Full disclosure: I posted this article eleven minutes after KT without having seen his post. Embarrassing, exhilarating, sad, and wonderful all at once.
Jimbo directs us to an MLB.com article about potential ROY. Here's what they say about Reggie Willits:
OF Reggie Willits, Angels: The Halos were floundering, unable to get over the loss of Juan Rivera to a Winter League mishap, until Willits became a regular and a regular thorn in the sides of opponents. With bat control to wear out pitchers, speed to unnerve defenses and a daredevil attitude on defense, he has become, at its most basic, the _________ of this Angels team.
Now, keeping in mind that Willits is small, white, "pesky," "full of grit" and "hustle" and plays for the Angels, guess to whom the comparison is made. Is it...
A. Alex Rodriguez B. Three-Finger Brown C. David Eckstein D. Darin Erstad
If you answered C...
They compared him to Erstad.
The comparison to Eckstein is not very apt, in that Willits is much faster and gets on base more. But Erstad?
Actually, I suppose the .338 SLG Willits has laid down this year actually makes him more like Erstad than a lot of other people.
From a Jerry Crasnick article about top outfield arms:
Few outfielders play their position with the self-assurance of Francoeur, who brings an aggressive, football mentality to the field each day. That's no surprise, given that he was bound for Clemson as a defensive back when Atlanta offered him $2.2 million to play baseball.
Erstad Nobly Sacrifices Self For White Sox, Will Receive Purple Heart
would have been a better headline. Instead, the Chicago Tribune went with
Erstad adds to Sox's misery
By OBPing 28 points lower and slugging 83 points lower than league average, sure. Miserable. Right? Right, guys?
One of few bright spots out for at least 2 weeks
Ohhhh ... oh. I see. You're one of those guys. Funny/weird/sad thing is, the White Sox have been so bad, Erstad almost qualifies as a bright spot. The Fighting South Side Ozzies are smartballin' it to the tune of a .309 OBP, good for dead goddamn last in the major leagues. So Ersto's .311 OBP, while terrible, is downright above average on that squad. (His .341 SLG, though, really really isn't helping anybody.)
Hey, just a little heads up -- in the next paragraph, the writer will take a page out of Joe Morgan's book and use the word "consistent" in a questionable manner.
Erstad, one of the Sox's few consistent offensive players, will be lost for at least two weeks after suffering ligament damage in a 2-0 loss at Toronto.
Technically somewhat accurate. Mr. Consistency:
April OPS: .688 (terrible) May OPS: .619 (even terribler)
Second heads up -- Ozzie Guillen's about to abuse "consistent."
"He's one of my best players," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "This guy is a smart player. The way he was playing, he was playing great. He has been consistent all year long, offensively and defensively.
White Sox players who are more "best" than Darin Erstad:
Jim Thome Paul Konerko Jermaine Dye A.J. Pierzynski Tadahito Iguchi
Joe Crede Juan Uribe Rob Mackowiak
Those guys aren't really any good, but it's sort of a tossup between them and Erstad. So yes, Darin Erstad is one of your 8 or 9 best players, Ozzie. Also: he's consistent, except when he gets hurt, which is every year.
Erstad, who turns 33 Monday, suffered the injury while swinging at and missing a 2-1 pitch from Toronto starter Roy Halladay in the sixth inning. Erstad immediately went down in pain, and teammates feared the worst.
"If it wasn't that big of a deal he would have stayed in there, because he's a gamer," losing pitcher Mark Buehrle added. "But it's not good."
When J.D. Drew got hurt in 2005, Mark Buehrle called him a pussy and kicked sand in his eyes. Just kidding. It was Jon Garland.
Erstad's contributions run deeper than his .295 batting average from the leadoff spot.
Seriously, dude? Fuck that. I was just having some fun with you before, but that is a fucking blatant misuse of statistics, and I won't fucking stand for that shit. You say: Darin Erstad batted .295 in the leadoff spot. I say: Darin Erstad went 7 for 43 not hitting leadoff, and those at bats still count. 7 for 43 makes for a batting average of 0.162790698.
"He has been our spark plug," Buehrle said. "Since Pods went down, Erstad has been at the top of the lineup, getting on base, breaking up double plays and special for the starting pitchers playing center field.
Is Darin Erstad on the verge of replacing David Eckstein as FJM's favorite dead horse? Yes. Yes he is. Because he has the singular power to make people call him gamer-y and sparky and pluggy. And when he gets hurt, people talk about him in hushed tones like he's a war hero or Christopher Reeve. Don't get me started on Reeve's EqA in Superman III.
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!
That's the subject heading of reader Karl's e-mail to me about this piece, and I see no reason to change it on this blog.
Erstad, playing regularly and without pain for the first time since 2005, has been exactly what Williams had hoped he would be. He is not one of the White Sox's offensive problems, batting .375 since April 20, and doing all the smart and gritty things that make him valuable. "Love him," Williams said. "Every day, the epitome of the grinder comes out to win a ballgame."
Erstad in 93 AB so far: .258/.307/.366. EqA of .256, or slightly below league average. So, as Karl pointed out, yes, that is probably exactly what Williams had hoped Erstad would be. (Ersty's EqA is above his 90th percentile PECOTA projection, so don't worry, it will probably go down.
Also, if you're from the NE, like me, this is the epitome of the grinder:
Tribe-ChiSox. 8th inning. One-run game. Darin Erstad just bunted a guy over to second. Take it away, Hawk Harrelson and the other guy (Darrin Jackson?).
Hawk: He [Erstad] just does a lot of things good on the baseball field. Other Guy: Well, again, mentioned it earlier. It's because he's practiced. And taken pride in the practice. Just keep doing things right and they pay off for you. Hawk: The term is becoming more popular with players, you didn't hear it too much in the past, but...he's just a baseball player. And that is a tremendous compliment. Because there are some guys who play in the big leagues who are really not baseball players. They're just either hitters, o -- or, you know, good defensive guys. But they're just not baseball players. They don't have real good instincts. [Konerko steps into the box.] So here's Paulie. And I think that probably the "instincts" is the key word in being named a "baseball player." Other guy: I'd agree and also, I'll take it -- I'll add to that, in the fact that I look at a guy when I sit there and say "He's just a baseball player," it's just somebody that can do everything out there. Just everything. Bunt, get dirty, hustle at all times, kind of "heads and above" the others that are out there. Not that they're not baseball players, but when you see Erstad, or anybody else -- like, if David Eckstein, you know? Giving everything they have on the field, you just say, "Man, there's a baseball player!"
Hawk: Roberto Alomar. Go right to the top. Other Guy: Oh yeah.
Hawk: Didn't have to tell him anything.
Other Guy: There's more distractions for players in today's baseball than with past players, when you were playing. There were a whole bunch of baseball players.
Hawk: Oh no no no. There were a bunch of guys [laughing], back in those days too, who were not baseball players.
Other Guy: Really.
Hawk: The only thing they could do was hit. The only thing they could do was field, you know.
Other Guy: Yeah. [beat] I just saw the highlights.
(Sabathia gets out of the inning.)
So, to sum up.
In order to be a baseball player, you have to do everything. Which is:
Bunt, get dirty, hustle at all times. And be "kind of 'heads and above' [sic]" other non-baseball players.
Some examples of baseball players (and their career OPS+) : Darin Erstad (96), David Eckstein (88), Robby Alomar (116 -- and he's probably a HOFer, so they've got me there).
If we get any more information on the actual occupation of the other people we assumed were baseball players, due to their employment by professional baseball teams, we will let you know.
We've just reverse-jinxed you into a two-run homer in your first at bat as a White Sox! This is all the more remarkable when you consider that this scruffy-bearded tough sonofabitch has only gone yard 18 times in the last four seasons combined.
That's not stopping guys like Dave van Dyck from writing amazing paragraphs like these about Erstad:
With Darin Erstad, what you see is literally what you get: Toughened scruffy-growth-of-beard exterior, jaw-jutting determined look, forward-slant walk and all-out run.
You literally get a guy with a beard. You literally get a guy with a serious look. This guy literally runs. He leans forward when he walks. Literally.
He literally has had an above-average EqA once in the last six years.
Just like Jim Thome, the major White Sox lineup addition of 2006, Darin Erstad is a Midwest work-ethic, lunch-pail, down-to-earth guy. And one coming off an injury-plagued year with something to prove.
Good Christ, it's like Dave van Dyck has been reading this site and punched in every cliche we've made fun of over the last two years.
scruffy-growth-of-beard jaw-jutting determined look forward-slant walk all-out run Midwest work-ethic lunch-pail down-to-earth
You forgot "blue-collar." Also: "white."
Let's compare Jim Thome to Darin Erstad anonymously and EqA-ly, since 2001:
Yep, pretty much the same guy. Both guys worked hard (said in the same tone of voice Rasheed Wallace uses when he says "Both teams played hard.") "I think Darin Erstad is going to make a lot of difference in this ballclub, just the way he goes about his business," manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Then he is everything Guillen thought after watching him for years with the Angels?
"Oh, my God, yes," he said. "I know the way he played. I didn't know his body would be in that great of condition to perform the way he has. He went through every drill, played every game without complaining.
Whenever he is asked to perform a basic fielding drill, Jermaine Dye always cries and pulls out an actual baby's pacifier, screaming "Dye no field today!" in a histrionic whine. This goes on for about forty-five minutes or until Dye falls asleep on the field.
"I'd like to prove to myself I can stay healthy and play the way I want to play and all that good stuff. The internal motivation is not lacking."
No one ever has doubted that of the tough kid who grew up in North Dakota.
Darin Erstad: good at baseball because he grew up on the mean streets of North Dakota. Once you've experienced the living nightmare that is Jamestown, ND, you're just thankful to wake up without an AK pointed down your throat.
In a move that paves the way for Tadahito Iguchi to drop down in the batting order, manager Ozzie Guillen said Sunday he plans to bat Darin Erstad second against right-handed starters.
Here are some numbers for you to look at. Each one represents Darin Erstad's OBP, in one of the last six years.
.279 .325 .346 .309 .313 .331
Those are bad numbers!
Here are two other numbers: Tad Iguchi's OBP's for the last two years.
Not wonderful. But better than Erstad's.
What's truly crazy about this, is that Iguchi hits righties well. Last year he was .298/.363/.438, so he got on base more effectively against righties than lefties. Slugged better against 'em, too. And yet, because Darin Erstad is left handed -- which, as we all know, means that regardless of what the factual numbers say, he hits righties better than someone who is right-handed, like Tad Iguchi -- he will hit second.
"[Scott Podsednik] is a better leadoff guy, and [Erstad] handles the bat better than Pods in hit-and-run situations," Guillen said. "We can play games even though Pods is our leadoff guy."
Let's break this down.
"Scott Podsednik is a better leadoff guy"
Than who? Iguchi? No. There are millions of pieces of evidence that prove differently. Than Darin Erstad? Maybe. But Erstad played hockey and punted footballs. So fuck you, stat nerds.
"[Erstad] handles the bat better than Pods in hit-and-run situations."
Oh my God. Ozzie Guillen is planning on winning games by playing hit-and-run with Darin Erstad and Scott Podsednik. Prediction: the White Sox score 150 runs this year.
"We can play games even though Pods is our leadoff guy."
True. One game you might try playing is baseball. One good way to play baseball effectively is to put men who get on base a lot in front of men who hit HR a lot. You have chosen to play a different game: RunIntoOutsBall, which is played by hitting Darin Erstad second in your line-up and hitting and running a lot. Another game you are playing is: OutsBall, (also called "SmartBall") which is played by hitting Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad 1-2 in your line-up. The goal is to make as many outs as possible at the top of your line-up. The ChiSox are getting 1-8 odds to win the World Series of Outs this year. Even so, I have bet everything I own on them.
Over the previous three seasons with the Angels, Erstad has a higher batting average from the second spot (.277) than the leadoff spot (.259).
First of all, this difference in averages is barely anything. Second, they are both terrible. Third, Erstad is terrible. Fourth, hitting him second is a terrible idea. Fifth, Erstad = terrible. Sixth, terrible. Seventherrible. Eterrible. Terriblenth. And tenth, you are a terrible manager, Ozzie Guillen.
And finally, here's this nugget:
Podsednik has batted leadoff since becoming a full-time player with Milwaukee in 2003, and his quick recovery from a Jan. 23 sports hernia operation has fueled Guillen's faith in him from the leadoff spot after a poor 2006 season.
I'll translate this for you: Scott Podsednik has been not good for the last three years. Then he had a gruesome injury and is just now recovering from it. So... he'll be awesome!
Podsednik went 0-for-7 Sunday with a stolen base in a minor-league game against Colorado in Tucson.
Originally a joke in this post just read: "The goal [of OutsBall] is to make as many outs as possible." I have changed it to "...at the top of your line-up." Why? Because of this e-mail from a wonderfully literal- (and like-) minded reader named Tony:
The winner of OutsBall would be the team that has the highest total (1) home games in which the team was not ahead after 8.5 innings + (2) total extra innings played. Based on these two factors, it would seem to me that the team that has the largest difference between average runs scored and average runs allowed (assuming constant variance for simplicity) would be the anticipated winner. The more you get outscored by, the more often you are behind after any number of innings, and the more you get outscored by, the less likely you are to be tied at the end of nine innings. Although there is a good amount of random chance involved in how many extra innings you play, it's intuitive that the more likely you are to be outscored, the less likely you can keep up after nine innings. However, since intuition causes so much trouble in baseball, I will do some research based on the past few seasons
This is getting complicated (notice I change my fundamental conclusion)
The winner of OutsBall would be the team that has the highest total: (1) 3 x Home Losses + (2) Outs used in last inning of Home Wins in Last At-bat + (3) 3 x Total Extra Innings Played - (4) 3 x Extra Inning Home Wins. Based on these factors, it would seem tough to predict the team that ends up with the most outs.
Teams with largely negative run differentials (scores 1 run per game, gives up 5) would lead category (1). However, teams with run differentials close to zero (scores 3 per game, gives up 3), would be most likely to play extra innings or have to bat in the ninth at home. Also, the extra innings categories are affected by a good amount of chance.
Some research will hopefully clear up what teams (large negative run-diff or near-zero run-diff end up at the top of the list.
Did I mention I loved our readers? Here's David on Tony's OutsBall formula. Things is gettin' nerdy, folks!
Tony made 2 mistakes that jump out at me: 1) He forgot to subtract outs not played in rain-shortened games. Since that's completely luck, though, it does make sense to leave it out from his plan for calculating what sort of team is most likely to win OutsBall. 2) His subtraction in part 4 is wrong, it should be deleted. Part 2 correctly addresses the final inning of all home walk-off wins, extra innings or not, so I'll ignore that. In extra innings home wins, he seems to think it makes sense to subtract out the 3 outs that would be expected if that last inning were totally completed. The problem is, he's forgetting about the addition of the bottom of the 9th in those games.
Part 1 accounts for the addition of the bottom of the 9th in extra innings home losses, when combined with part 3. He thought part 3 would overcount the last inning in extra innings home wins, but in fact it does not. In an extra innings loss, the number of innings is 9+extras. For a home win, we only expect 8 innings, so the extra innings count as above expected number of outs and the number of (full) innings in such games is 8+extras.
So the formula for innings should be:
81*9 [minimum away innings] + 81*8 [minimum home innings] + HL [home losses] + E [extra innings, even in home wins] - R [loss of innings due to rain].
Multiply that by 3, add in the last inning outs in walk-off wins (note that this includes all home extra innings wins) to get the total number of outs for the team in the year.
We've known for years that players like Darin Erstad and David Eckstein provide an extra five to ten wins a year to their teams regardless of how they perform on the field. Finally, though, Kenny Williams has given this phenomenon a name:
"Aaron Rowand gave us an edge two years ago," general manager Kenny Williams said. "That grinder effect, if you will. We missed it last year. I've always thought that Aaron Rowand and Darin Erstad were the poster children for that style of play."
Wondering if your team will benefit from the grinder effect this season? Here is a handy list of G.E.P.s (grinder effect producers) for the 2007 season:
Darin Erstad Aaron Rowand David Eckstein Trot Nixon Scott Podsednik Adam Everett Craig Counsell Adam Kennedy Mark Lemke (retired, will confer his G.E.P. to the Braves regardless)
And here is a summary of players who will not provide any G.E.:
If I were a shitty version of George Carlin, I might do a routine about grinders that went something like this:
"Kenny Williams calls Darin Erstad a grinder because he thinks he's a hero. Well, I agree that Darin Erstad is a grinder, but only because I think he's really a sub."
This two-sentence "routine" plays on the little quirk of our language that there are several different regional names for a sandwich made on a long piece of bread.
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 MLB.com. 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: a) WHO CARES b) INCORRECT USE OF STATISTICS c) ALREADY STOPPED READING ARTICLE, NOW REFRESHING CUTE OVERLOAD, LOOK, PUPPIES
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.
(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.
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.
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.
It's Like He Didn't Even Know This Guy Was A Hockey Star In High School
Writers, please. If you compose a gushing Darin Erstad piece, do not neglect the fact that he played hockey in high school. Don't you know hockey players are tough?
Erstad connects with his new club Ex-Angel likes Sox's chances, happy to play center field
The way he's been hitting, he should be happy to play anywhere, honestly.
Experience is a cherished commodity in every clubhouse.
Cherished, maybe. Overrated, certainly.
Few players are bringing more of it to a new team this spring than Darin Erstad did when he arrived at the White Sox camp almost three weeks ago, typically running early.
In Erstad, the Sox signed a guy only 12 years removed from playing football
(as a punter)
for a college powerhouse.
(that he punted for)
They also have the first guy selected in the 1995 draft, a player picked ahead of Carlos Beltran, Todd Helton, Roy Halladay and Kerry Wood, among others.
This matters not one bit. The thing to take away from this is that whoever drated Erstad (the Angels) made a pretty big mistake not taking Carlos Beltran or Todd Helton or Roy Halladay (Wood, not so much). By the way, here are some gentlemen taken ahead of Beltran in that draft: Ben Davis, Ariel Prieto, Mike Drumright, Ryan Jaroncyk, Mike Pasqualicchio, and Mark Bellhorn.
Other than Bellhorn, you'd rather have Beltran than those guys, am I right?
The point is, Phil Rogers, who cares when Darin Erstad was drafted 12 years ago? That was dumb to bring up.
During his decade with the Angels, Erstad had some seasons when he felt like he couldn't get comfortable at the plate.
2006, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2001, 1999 ...
The nominee for "Most Charitable Way Of Describing A Guy Sucking" goes to ... Phil Rogers for "Some Seasons When He Felt Like He Couldn't Get Comfortable At The Plate"! At first glance, it seems Sox general manager Ken Williams is asking for too much in looking for Erstad to improve the uncertain outlook in center field. He hasn't played more than 66 games in the outfield since 2002 and spent the winter recovering from surgery on his right ankle. But Erstad is a man on a mission and you wouldn't be advised to stand in his way.
He might punt you with his college football-playing punting foot if you don't get out of his damn way.
Witness his first at-bat in a Sox uniform during an intrasquad game—going down to rip a Jose Contreras fastball onto the warning track in left-center and then steaming around second base and into third when Pablo Ozuna mishandled the hop off the chain-link fence. He hardly looked like a veteran on his last legs.
"That's the way he always has played," manager Ozzie Guillen said about Erstad's all-out approach on the back field. "That's the type of player we want, we need."
A player who hasn't slugged over .400 since 2000. Is the kind of player you need.
Assuming his body doesn't fail him, Erstad seems likely to get 400-plus at-bats for the Sox
YIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKES. Guillen pictures him batting second, which would allow Tadahito Iguchi to slide into the sixth or seventh spot, or possibly even leadoff when Podsednik is not in the lineup.
Look, Tadahito Iguchi's not going to win any awards for OBP. Last year he posted a .352. Darin Erstad has not exceeded that since 2000, when he was 26.
Don't be surprised if Erstad's play is bigger than the headlines given his signing.
At this point, he basically has to have an MVP season for that to be true.
It's been awhile, but nothing gets the blood going like some Ozzie Guillen and some Darin Erstad -- now in one convenient South Side package!
First up, Ozziesmartball Smallballguillen, the professor of wrong, has commenced 2007 by continuing to be totally misguided about baseball things and is already being praised for it.
Ozzie: The appetite's back
Four words in, and you know the article's going to be a gem.
Sox skipper 'hungry' to make up for '06, starting with bunts
So problematic it's almost a parody of itself. The White Sox manager, a man who will play zero minutes of baseball this year, will singlehandedly "make up" for the last season (which he also managed) solely because he is "hungry" and he will do this by bunting, generally a poor strategy.
Guys, this is so crazy it just might work. I think we can blow this asteroid up with a crackerjack team of the world's best drillers. Come Saturday, Ozzie Guillen returns to his comfort zone.
That means White Sox pitchers and catchers report to ''Camp Ozzie 2007'' prepared to hear four-letter expletives and one-liners from their fiery manager. But jokes won't be the only thing Guillen is cracking this spring.
Throw in a whip this time around.
Throw in an iron maiden. Throw in a medieval torture rack. Draw and quarter Joe Crede in center field. It won't matter. 2006 wasn't about guys not being hungry. It was about pitching.
Your pitching wasn't as flukily good as it was in 2005. Got it?
Fact is, Guillen's offseason, which began as disappointment when the regular season ended and the Sox failed to defend their 2005 World Series title, turned to embarrassment by the holidays.
Because of the pitching. This is not hard to understand.
2005 White Sox ERA: 3.61 (3rd in baseball) 2006 White Sox ERA: 4.61 (21st in baseball)
In 2005 tons of guys had career years and the staff was extraordinarily healthy. You weren't so lucky in 2006. The end.
Now, Guillen says, it's hunger.
Good luck parlaying your metaphorical hunger into another set of Neal Cotts and Cliff Polittes. By the way, how much of Ozzie Guillen's managing genius can be attributed to these two randomly fluctuating middle relievers?
Neal Cotts 2005: ERA 1.94, WHIP 1.11 Neal Cotts 2006: ERA 5.17, WHIP 1.63
Cliff Politte 2005: ERA 2.00, WHIP 0.94 Cliff Politte 2006: ERA 8.70, WHIP 2.07
SO UNHUNGRY IN 2006.
'They got a little taste of the success and winning the World Series, and you want to get it back,'' he said recently of his players. ''They are mad because we didn't win it last year. They are hungry to do it again.''
Good. Great. Neal, Cliff, give me your hungry 2005 stats again. Oh wait. You're not even on the team anymore.
That's also when the phone calls to bench coach and good friend Joey Cora became more frequent. Cora has been Guillen's right-hand man the last three seasons and is in charge of putting together the Sox' spring-training program.
The continued message to Cora was, ''Let's get back to small ball.'' Far too often in 2006, Sox hitters failed to move the runner or get the bunt down in key situations.
Yee-ha! Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. I cannot believe that anyone believes that the problem with the 2006 White Sox was a lack of smallball -- and yet the only person whose opinion matters believes just that. Bunting? The team ERA went up an entire run and we're talking about bunting?
Plus, Jesus, just take one second and look at this:
2005 White Sox Runs Scored: 741 (13th in baseball) 2006 White Sox Runs Scored: 868 (3rd in baseball)
I guess what I'm saying is your offense made a quantum leap forward in 2006. Your offense was the only reason you weren't 15 games out of the playoff race. At the Tucson, Ariz., training facility, Cora has designated a special field that will be used for ''Bunting 101,'' and only a few Sox players have a pass.
The good ones. "Everyone has to go through it besides [Jermaine] Dye, [Paul] Konerko and [Jim] Thome."
''We have a different way. We're going to play games -- give bunt situations, give pointers, the way they used to teach. We're going to make it fun, but they're not going to [expletive] around. I'll be in charge on that field because we have to do stuff better.''
Not saying this stuff is going to hurt the team -- okay, it might -- but seriously, this seems like a misuse of time and resources. The team was third in runs scored last year. Thome and Dye should be worse than last year, so there's that, but the answer to a problem that doesn't exist is not bunting. It's not.
I would also say that in a certain way, practicing bunting over and over again sort of is [expletive] around. Guillen also will play mad scientist this spring, moving the top and bottom of the lineup around regularly in hopes of finding a solid formula.
Guillen will play mad scientist with a lineup that scored the third most runs in baseball to the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians. My guess? Erstad hits 2nd, 6th, and 8th and OPSes a hungry .590 in 1800 at bats.
While Guillen has a hands-off mentality regarding the pitching staff, he and pitching coach Don Cooper do have a message for the entire staff, as well as the minor-leaguers.
That message is: magically rekindle the improbable run of health and quality you experienced in 2005 that made people think Ozzie Guillen knew what the hell he was doing.
And now, Part 2, wherein we once again encounter the notion that the White Sox' offense and its lack of smallness was the reason for their non-championship-winning ways. Plus, Erstad.
TUCSON, Ariz. – Darin Erstad and the White Sox. Now there’s a match made in OzzieBall heaven.
Now there's a giant turd of a lede.
He’d run over your mother to catch a flyball, and he just might run over his own mother if she tried to block home plate.
He just might punt your mother in the tits because when this guy punts he punts to win and he sometimes thinks breasts are footballs.
His body is beaten up, not from his days as a college football player
at Nebraska or a high school hockey star in North Dakota
Holy. Shitfuck. Add that to the Darin Erstad resume, quick. Opens up a whole new world of toughness metaphors and similies. "Darin Erstad plays baseball like he plays football. And he plays football like he plays hockey. With a stick that he uses to hit people with."
From now on, The Punter shall be referred to as The Highschoolhockeystar.
When healthy, Erstad is similar to Aaron Rowand, the popular, fence-crashing center fielder who was the classic “grinder” for the ’05 Sox. Except Erstad is faster and stronger.
And he parlays that speed and strength into hitting really, really atrociously. Like scary bad. Pokey Reese shit. I'm exaggerating. But here are Erstad's post-2000 EqA seasons: .252, .256, .241, .274, .259, .219.
“The fans of Chicago,” Guillen said, “will appreciate the way this kid plays.”
I bet they will. Dirty-hat type guy. Still: .252, .256, .241, .274, .259, .219.
Yes, the White Sox lost their way and relied too much on home runs last season, but they hit a lot of homers in 2005, too.
Here we go again. They lost their way to the tune of 127 additional runs. Adding a crazy-good Jim Thome will do that.
The difference? In ’05, they were aggressive on the bases. They bunted. They hit behind runners. They broke up double plays. They risked bodily harm to make sensational catches. They constantly put pressure on opponents.
They scored 127 fewer runs. They rode a scintillating pitching staff to unwarranted acclaim. They subjected us to way too much Ozzie Guillen.
They were 13th in runs scored. They scored fewer runs than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They on-based worse than the Cubs and the Orioles and the same as the Nationals and the Astros and the Pirates.
Offensively, they weren't that good. And now we have to hear about how Ozzie Guillen is revamping his far better 2006 offense to be more like the shittier, less effective, decidedly mediocre 2005 version.
Punter. Sweet, so would I: Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing. Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
A player on your favorite baseball team is leaving today. What would you say about him if you knew the following: in 2003, your team signed this player to a four-year, $32 million deal, and he rewarded you with seasons of the following EqAs:
.241 .276 .259 .219
I sense your ire rising. But wait -- what would you say if I told you his games played totals looked like this for those four years:
67 125 153 32
Easy, there. Don't go kicking a homeless person just yet. One more thing: this guy punted footballs in college. Now whaddya say?
"He's almost the last real gamer we have," Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke said.
Ah, Ersty, you old dog. People love you, don't they? No matter what you do on the field, the love affair never truly ends. You had one remarkable year -- one! -- and that's the one they still talk about. The Angels lost another link to their 2002 World Series team and a big chunk of their heart and soul Tuesday when Darin Erstad agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Chicago White Sox that includes an option for 2008.
Big, big chunk. It's sad, really. Look for the Angels to completely tank 2007. I'm thinking four, five wins tops. All because they didn't want to resign their heart and soul. The deal, which is pending a physical this week, ends an 11-year Angels career marked by highlight-reel defensive plays, a spectacular 2000 season, several years of injury and frustration, and an endless reservoir of grit and determination.
Endless Reservoir, the new David Lynch film, will tackle the issues of identity, reality, and the human memory in his inimitable visual style. I'm becoming convinced that at the L.A. Times they must post a giant sign over everyone's computer that says "WAX MORE POETIC." This guy makes Bill Plaschke's articles read like economics textbooks.
Also: try to visualize an endless reservoir of grit. Does that phrase really work, Times Staff Writer Mike DiGiovanna?
Over the last four years, Darin Erstad has played 86 fewer games than heartless, soulless, gritless, undetermined J.D. Drew, who has never watched or heard of American football. During that span of time, he earned $3.3 million more than Drew. No one likes J.D. Drew.
"I don't mean the other guys aren't gamers, but Darin is the old-school type, like David Eckstein and Adam Kennedy.
You don't say. He's like Eckstein. And Kennedy. Gamers. Not like fucking lazy-ass Chone Figgins, always jogging to first like some sixty-year-old Jewish woman.
Hmmm, "old-school," you say. I wonder what kinds of players played baseball in the olden times? I mean, seriously. What did they look like? I want to know.
He's probably the biggest gamer I've been around as a coach. He really doesn't play for personal success. He plays to win the game."
I think it's pretty clear he hasn't played for personal success in a long time. Last season he managed to clog up at bats in 40 games with a sweet .605 OPS. But that's a personal number. He doesn't play for that. "Even when he wasn't healthy, he was still valuable because of his presence," Roenicke said of Erstad. "He doesn't say much, but everyone watches him and sees how he plays and acts. I guess you could find someone to replace that part of the team … but I doubt it."
This is the power of personality and perception in sports. With virtually any other guy, you get hurt as much as Erstad did and play as poorly as Erstad did with that fat contract and you get absolutely crucified. You're stealing money from the club! You've got no heart! You're a bum!
But with the Punter, guys'll bend over backwards to say good things. Hey, he wasn't playing well, but he wasn't healthy -- and he's a leader in the clubhouse. Well, no, no he didn't really say much, but he didn't need to. He just lived the part. He was just there. Living. Breathing. Looking tough. Having stubble. Dirty hat-ting it. Smelling like sweat, like only a football player could.
I guess we could find someone to replace his smell ... but I doubt it.
Tim Kurkjian, you'd been so harmless and so meek for so long, I'd almost forgotten about you. But then you had to go and do this. What's your excuse, Kurkjian? You're not a me-first former player. You're not 100 years old, as far as I can tell. You're not Jim Rome. Why did you --
Baseball is a game of intangibles.
Oh boy. Let's get started.
It is a game that requires doing "the little things," which can mean something as big as barreling over a catcher or as subtle as a whisper in the ear of a teammate after a good or bad at-bat.
Apparently, doing the little things is extremely sexual. Who can forget when Babe Ruth won the 1923 World Series by walking up to teammate Wally Pipp after a strikeout and sultrily whispering "That was a shit at-bat" into his left ear? I never will, that's for sure. The Giants were shocked when the commissioner awarded the Yankees the Series after that dramatic whisper. (By the way, in the 1922 World Series, the Babe went 2-17 with 1 R and 1 RBI, probably because he was a gigantic choker with no Clutch Ability.)
There are players all over the game with these qualities, such as Derek Jeter --
You don't say. Tell me more about this person, who has certainly accomplished many daring exploits on the baseball diamond of which I've never heard tell. -- who is that guy in the pickup basketball game who you look at and say, "We're going to win, he's on our team."
Until you realize he doesn't play defense. Intangible players come in all shapes, sizes and job descriptions. Here are five of many in the major leagues.
But mostly they're Erstad-shaped, Erstad-sized and used to be college football players, like that hard-nosed, no-nonsense roughneck Erstad. Here are five guys who wish they were Erstad. Sandy Alomar Jr., Dodgers
He just turned 40, but you would never know it by the position he plays (catcher), the shape he's in (he lost 20 pounds in the offseason) and the way he can still play.
He's done pretty well in the 54 at bats he's had this year, but I sure could tell he was 39 last year when he OPSed .634 (with half his games in Texas, no less). Sure, he's a backup catcher, and they're not supposed to hit, but that's exactly the point: this dude hasn't played anything close to a full season since 1998 (and even then it was only 117 games). But I guess I'm being an idiot: he's on this list for his whispering.
"He comes to the ballpark like a 20-year-old every day ready to play knowing he's probably not going to play," said Dodgers third base coach Rich Donnelly.
Because he's not good enough. He's bad. He's a 40-year-old who is bad at baseball.
"And with less than two outs and a runner at third, I wouldn't mind having him up there. But mostly, he's a great teacher."
The award for Backhanded Compliment of the Year goes to Dodgers third base coach Rich Donnelly.
Darin Erstad, Angels
His skills have eroded somewhat,
(OBPing .273, BA of .220)
his body has lost some of its life at age 32,
(SLGing .319 (!), OPS of .591) but he remains the fiber that keeps the Angels together.
Fiber that, as of today, has the 2nd worst OPS of any position player in baseball -- or would have, if he qualified, but this tough sonofabitch has missed a bunch of games with an ankle injury (he's missed significant time in three of the past four years). That's right: he has a worse OPS than Juan Pierre. That is clear in all he does, from dutifully switching positions -- center field to first base to center field; not an easy transition -- to steamrolling Braves catcher Johnny Estrada at home plate two years ago ... all in the name of the only thing that matters to him: winning.
Darin Erstad OPSes, last six years:
.691 .702 .642 .746 .696 .591
Seems like if winning mattered that much to him, he's spend a little more time in the batting cage. It's funny. Erstad's last good season was 2000. He signed a huge contract extension in 2002: four years, $32 million. Basically, since then all he's done is hit like Neifi Perez and miss a bunch of games due to injury (two things that could be related). If he's a different guy in a different city, perhaps a different skin color, how reviled does Darin Erstad become? Doesn't he essentially become a bum who got a fat contract and starts phoning it in? Instead, we get another article praising his intangibles to the high heavens. Memo to aspiring young baseball players: learn to punt a football. You'll be bulletproof to the media for the rest of your life.
That toughness comes in part from growing up in the cold and desolation of North Dakota, and in part from his football days in high school and at the University of Nebraska.
Yes, he did play football. Very good, Tim.
It also comes from his selfless approach. When once compared to Kirk Gibson in style and background, Erstad would hear nothing of it, saying that Gibson was an All-America wide receiver and "I was a punter."
Maybe. But the Angels never punt with Erstad in charge.
Good Christ, man. This worship must stop. I can't emphasize this enough: we're talking about one of, if not the worst player in baseball.
Julio Franco, Mets
He will be going back to the playoffs again this year, and that is no coincidence. Franco has become a team leader in so many ways, none more important than the way he takes care of himself, be it bringing his own healthy food to the ballpark or waking up at 3 a.m. to drink a protein shake or getting his sleep -- even if it's a nap on the couch in the clubhouse before the game.
That is hilarious. Kurkjian is basically saying that Julio Franco is so old, he has to take naps in the clubhouse because he can't stay awake for a whole day. INTANGIBLE.
Mike Matheny, Giants
To understand who Matheny is, all you have to do is watch him in the bullpen before the start of a game: He is on his knees --
Um, Tim? Again, sort of sexual.
-- all alone, practicing blocking imaginary pitches in the dirt. Most catchers never practice that; Matheny still does it at age 35.
Might I suggest that like Mr. Erstad, Mr. Matheny might benefit from some extra time in a batting facility? (His OPS is .613. This is a recording.)
No one blocks a ball better than he does, no one calls a better game than he does and no one goes to the mound and calms down -- or jacks up -- a pitcher better than Matheny.
No one? How about, um, Jason Varitek? Or Yadier Molina? Or Pudge? Or how about that guy who's a farmer in Kansas but really, really good at calming pitchers down? Oh, right. He can't hit. Just like Mike Matheny. Mark DeRosa, Rangers
Texas manager Buck Showalter calls DeRosa "an irregular regular," meaning a guy who plays every day but rarely at the same position.
Because he's not good enough.
One day it's second base, the next day right field, the next day third base, and never with a complaint.
Scene: Mark DeRosa's brain. The year is 2005.
Part of Mark DeRosa's brain: Come on, another position change? One day it's second base, the next day right field, now it's third? Why, I oughta go into Buck's office and throw his talking fish on the floor!
Other part of Mark DeRosa's brain: Hold on, other part of the brain. We're making $500,000 this year. Last year we made $725,000. All for playing a damn kids' game. This is, as they say in Brainland, a no-"us"-er. We're not going to complain.
Part of Mark DeRosa's brain: You're right, dude. Let's go back to looking at this crazy porn Teixeira gave us!
And end scene.
Showalter loves DeRosa because he's so smart -- he went to the University of Pennsylvania -- and because of his competitive nature, including his football background. DeRosa played quarterback at Penn after an amazingly successful high school football career in New Jersey.
Just like Erstad!!!
That's what we call "a winner," and you can never have enough winners on a major league team.
In Tim Kurkjian Bizarro World, winners lose to you!
God Disapproves of America's Love Affair with Darin Erstad
Game 3, ALCS, 6:40 pm.
Joe Buck: Here is Darin Erstad, who is 2 for 7 in the postseason, hitting .296. He's never had a postseason where he's hit under .300 and he has sure displayed a terrific glove over at first here in October...
Lou Piniella: Now this guy I like as a player. He comes to the ballpark to play every day. He's serious. He's got tenacity. And he wants to beat you.
JB: He rips one into right, down the line. It's a fair ball, and Erstad will have at least two. Dye digs it out. Erstad is going to try to get to third. Iguchi's throw! That was a no-no. Darin Erstad, trying to do too much, just made the final out at third base with his team down by three. Mike Scioscia with bad marks on that play by Erstad.
Today's "Rome is Burning" was business as usual: atrocious, knee-jerk, lazy, conventional wisdom-based commentary. Enjoy:
The Angels finished the Yankees in five, and it's easy to see how they did it -- with heart, grit and toughness. Effort does matter, and these guys scrap like nobody else.
Are you saying the Yankees weren't putting in any effort? For God's sake, everyone on the field wants to win. Show me a play where a guy didn't want to win. One play. Did Bengie Molina hit three home runs in the series because of grit?
On paper, it should have been a colossal mismatch, especially offensively.
Regular season records: Yankees: 95-67 Angels: 95-67
Not just a mismatch. A colossal mismatch.
Pitching-wise, this was a colossal mismatch in favor of the Angels.
But they don't play it on paper, they play between the lines, where the Angels are gamers.
One sentence, three cliches. Three!
And not just one or two of them, but one through nine. They scratch, they battle, they turn every game into a street fight.
EVERY TIME A TEAM WITH A PRETTY GOOD PITCHING STAFF BUT A BAD OFFENSE WINS, THEY'RE "GAMERS" WHO "SCRATCH" AND "BATTLE." THIS IS STUPID.
They don't make dumb mistakes. They throw to the right base. They get their bunts down. They catch the ball. They pick each other up. They do all those cornball, cliched little baseball things, and it was enough to beat the big, bad, $200 million Yankees.
The Yankees weren't that good this year. A bunch of their guys got hurt. Their pitching staff was a shambles.
The more talented team didn't win, but the better one did.
But wait. It gets much, much worse.
And there is no single guy who epitomizes the toughness of the Angels more than first baseman Darin Erstad.
Here we go.
He's not the best player.
You're right. He's not the best player. He hit seven home runs all year. Seven. 609 AB. Seven home runs. From first base. He's not even the most valuable player on that team.
Good. Vlad Guerrero is. Darin Erstad OBPed .325 and slugged .371. All year. But no one means more to the Angels than Erstad.
You are an unprecedented moron. Actually, I take that back. Many, many people have said this about Darin Erstad. What is it about this guy that makes sports media figures absolutely adore him? Is it his football background? He was a punter. He looks very rugged, I'll give you that.
This guy is the ultimate red ass.
The following players had a higher OPS than Darin Erstad this year:
Russ Adams Craig Counsell Greg Zaun Every Major League First Baseman
That's right: in the major leagues, no regular first baseman had a lower OPS than Darin Erstad.
He is the ultimate gamer and competitor. A guy that will do absolutely anything and everything to win a ball game. He grinds every single at bat like it's the most important at bat of his whole career.
Of major league first basemen, Erstad finished 24th in walks, with 47.
The guy is a freaking nut. He practically left his knee ligaments out near second base sliding into the bag last night.
If Manny Ramirez hurts his knee with that horrible sliding technique, he's the laughingstock of sports media the next day.
The guy is a great tone setter.
He better set a damn good tone for $8.25 million in 2005. By the way, his OPS+ was 89 this year. No one, I mean no one on that team is going to go soft with Ersty around.
I'm glad you're on a cute-nickname-basis with Darin Erstad. Hope that goes well for you.
And I'm not talking about that football mentality that he brings to the diamond, either.
Yes, you are. You love Darin Erstad, and the reason why is because he used to play football and he looks tough. That's it.
He did steal an incredible 10 bases this year.
He's a flat-out whiz with the leather at first base. There aren't five guys in the bigs who make that game-ending play last night.
Doug Mientkiewicz Derrek Lee J.T. Snow John Olerud Travis Lee Todd Helton