On this day of awards, Baseball Primer presents the results of its poll for the best baseball writing on the Internet, 2003. The results: Baseball Prospectus wins over ESPN.com as top site. Favorite writer? Rob Neyer. Lots of intersting links, lots of interesting material–including a debate over one of our favorite subjects: the (flawed?) analysis of Derek Jeter’s fielding. Yeah, we have a few qualms (Where’s YFSF?!), and it’s hard to see how a NYT Magazine excerpt of “Moneyball” should qualify for best online article (good as it is). Worth a look.
Sunday, February 29th, 2004
Friday, February 27th, 2004
Gary Sheffield goes on the record saying he’ll gladly submit to steroid testing, but this makes you realize that such a test might not prove a thing. Even worse, it makes you realize what a sham the whole testing system is in the first place. Guys can easily bulk up, cut off the juice, and reap the “rewards” without detection. The integrity of the game is up in the air – something serious ought to be done, and the scandal will rightfully hang over the season until we get some clarity, suspensions, justice.
Sheffield’s volunteerism is hollow, nothing but a PR move.
Thursday, February 26th, 2004
Roadbloggin’ again, and as I work my way up to Providence I began to think about the geographical distribution of Sox fans and Yanks fans. I wish the Census Bureau asked citizens to identify team allegiances – I’d love to know where the fuzzy line is in Connecticut and southwestern Massachusetts that demarcates a shift in team pride. WTIC in Hartford broadcasts Red Sox games, though the reach of NY radio surely can infect mid-Connecticut. Cable networks broadcast nationally these days makes regional affiliation even more tenuous, and therefore the ability to tune in the AM dial to muggy summer broadcasts is, for the most part, a thing of the sentimental past. Cable and satellite television has absolved the radiowaves of their ability to matchmake.
I’ll likely ponder this throughout the coming months, as the Acela hurtles me north, closer to McCoy Stadium and Red Sox territory.
It’s one thing to see the BALCO scandal as an external drag on the sport, it’s entirely another thing to see it begin to fray nerves on the inside. Already, players are beginning to air their thoughts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this spill onto the ballfield.
I don’t even know what to do with this, except laugh. Who’s Steinbrenner kidding? Is he 11 years old? Just when you think it can’t get any more undignified…
“I think they’ve got a great lineup,” he said. “I think Esposito has done a great job for them, like Cashman has done a great job for us. I think they have more stability in their pitching staff. I think we have a few question marks.”
Though a trifle by SABR standards, this piece just made me smile.
Reminds me of the great W.P. Kinsella story (and one of my all-time favorites) “How I got my Nickname”, in this collection.
Alas, where have all the great nicknames gone? Here’s to a new movement, one which actively supports the re-emergence of the memorable moniker.
(edit: Really, will there be any mystery decades down the road when a kid looks in the Baseball Encyclopedia and sees “A-Rod” parenthetically following “Rodriguez, Alex”? It’s kind of sad.)
Sunday, February 22nd, 2004
I can’t emphasize strongly enough that Gordon Edes’ Sunday Boston Globe column should be read on a regular basis. Our cover page links to the Globe, but the Sunday column is usually something larger – he consistently offers sharp insights on most issues, even as he covers a specific team. Peter Gammons’ Sunday Globe column was something of a legend, and as Gammons slides more and more into Page 6 gossip-mongering, Edes has taken up the leftover available journalistic duties with aplomb.
Today’s column touches on an issue that we will surely revisit this year, Questec, and also has a breakdown of the shallow reflexivity with which the national media condemned John Henry’s statement this week. Surf over.
I’m reminded of a scene in the film North Dallas Forty (okay, a football movie, but go with us here). We’re at a team meeting, and head coach B.A. Strothers, who runs every play and player through an IBM for analysis, is none too pleased with his charges. “No one of you is better than that computer,” he barks. We’re not supposed to like B.A., and we don’t: With his heartless mechanical analysis, he’s taken the humanity out of the game.
And so we come to the Yankees shortstop “dilemma,” such as it is. In today’s NYT–in the Week in Review section, of all places–Allen Barra argues that we don’t really have any good method for quantifying defensive ability, as we do for offensive play. We’re not so sure. There are, in fact, plenty of statistics that point to A-Rod’s defensive superiority. Some of these are readily comprehensible and available to the public, others are created by firms that sell their confidential and complex analyses at top dollar.
But the greater point is that to some degree, all statistics–offensive, defensive, otherwise–are subjective. Baseball is not played by the would-be automatons of North Dallas, but by humans with egos and emotions and all of that other stuff that makes people people. Which doesn’t mean we throw all of those stats out the window, because they are of course valid informational tools. But stats don’t necessarily tell the whole story. And this is why Joe Torre–never really a stat man–is such a wonderful manager.
So who should play shortstop? Let’s think back to another film, this one with Abbott & Costello. Who’s on first. What’s on second. At short: I Don’t Give a Darn.
And none too soon. After four months, pitchers and catchers and infielders and outfielders have all (or almost all–wherefor art thou Pedro?) reported to their respective camps, ready to begin anew the annual chase.
We’ve been waiting for this day ever since Jorge Posada lifted Josh Beckett’s final pitch to left and those upstart Floridians flooded onto our hallowed ground. (We were there, it was painful.) There’s been plenty to talk about ever since. A-Rod. Schilling. Balco. Rose. Selig. The Boss and Mr. Henry. Of course these things will still be on our minds–and in our posts–as time tracks on, but at least now we’ll actually have some action on the field to think about.
What might be worth watching this season is the growing clamor of New York fans urging Mike Piazza to make the move to first base. Piazza famously would like to break the record for home runs as a catcher, but his eroding skills behind the plate as well his age-induced fragility from playing the position seem like a ticket to a slower ascent up the overall home run charts. Piazza, even as he works out at first base in the early part of spring training, has indicated that his move to first will come on his own schedule, and that it is a reluctant move at that. Already in New York fans are talking about how this is selfish, how it is more about the individual than the team, about how Piazza may be shortsightedly hampering his own climb up the general home run charts as he attempts to climb up a positional home run chart. This all seems pretty spot-on as criticism. Piazza would serve the team best, in this poster’s opinion, by learning the position in spring training, by playing spot duty there early in the season, and moving to first on a full-time basis when he can play reasonable, if not even average, defense. By no means is Piazza an average defensive catcher at this point (though pitchers seem to like him), and an even mediocre performance at first may help the team because of a more continual presence on offense.
Now – Jeter. Many Yankees and Mets fans (as well as press members) will continue to accuse Piazza of being selfish by staying at the backstop. At this point, many have barely made a peep about one Derek Jeter’s refusal to move to third base though a clearly superior shortstop has freshly arrived in town. In this post, I don’t argue that Jeter is a poor fielder (let’s avoid that sensitive topic altogether), but merely a measurably lesser fielder at the position than one of his teammates. It seems, unless one wants to argue that Jeter would be an even worse third baseman than he is a shortstop, that there is absolutely no sensible baseball logic that would allow him to remain in the 6-spot. As a team player, a leader, a smart guy, Jeter should voluntarily make the move, and if he won’t, he ought to receive the same criticism that Piazza hears, that he’s more about himself than about the collective. One of the few columns addressing this issue of position change that openly calls for Jeter to move is here, and I think it’s worth a read.
For the most part, I am really just curious to see if a double-standard continues to play out for these two players – with Piazza it’s going to be a tough topic for both the press and fans to avoid as the Mets don’t appear to have the wins in them to mask such a controversy. With the Yankees, likely success may create a diversion from this issue; it might go away simply because fans are looking away, or at least at the standings.
This isn’t a really scholarly post, but I had to note, with some feeling of discomfort, the picture on the front of the New York Times sports page today, of Jeff Wilpon chucking a ball around the Mets’ Port St. Lucie complex, clad in an oxford a sweater vest and oh-so-noticeable Gucci loafers. I don’t know exactly why, but it made me feel like these Owners and their spawn aren’t really living in the real world, that these elitists are just playing with their toy boats. A simplistic take, for sure, as the economics of the game are surely far-reaching and have great national impact, but is was my feeling nonetheless.