2010 Red Sox Offseason Predictions

As a Wisconsin-ite possessing the odd combination of a love for baseball and having a passionate dislike of winter, the final out of the World Series is always a bitter-sweet moment for me. It means that winter is on the very near horizon (or in some years, has already arrived) but it also means that one of my favorite in-door seasons comes with it: Baseball’s Hot Stove Off-Season.

Surprisingly, given that they typically have many positions already locked up annually with big names, the Red Sox head into this year’s Hot Stove season with more question marks (along with the ammunition and will to address them) than any other club. After an odd, injury-plagued, 2010 season the fans of the Olde Town Team will be in for quite the ride.

Rumors abound this time of year and it seems like virtually every big market team is connected to every available name at some point. Without further adieu, here is my prediction for how the Red Sox address their various needs this off-season.

Red Sox captain Jason Varitek (and this past year, Victor Martinez) have made it a long time since Boston has needed to address their catching situation heading into an off-season. With both of the aforementioned catchers heading into free agency, the only catcher left on the Sox’ roster is one-time prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia. His bat has always been his primary tool, however Salty’s OPS has gone down every season since his 2007 debut. He’s still just 26 and cathers are notorious late bloomers with the bat, which could mean that Saltalamacchia is ready to break out if given the chance. However, it’s extremely unlikely that Boston puts it’s faith in Salty as their primary option going into 2011. My guess is that Boston takes advantage of Saltalamacchia’s split contract and lets him get reps and at-bats in Pawtucket, which could help him. Throughout his career, Saly’s only had 374 AAA at-bats. It seems thus far to be a fait accompli Boston won’t pay Victor Martinez’ open market price. Former Royal John Buck seems to be the rumor mill favorite to head to the Sox as part of a catching rotation, which makes sense if the price is right. Buck has been trending upward with the bat in both 2009 and 2010 (his age 28 and 29 seasons, respectively). Throughout his career, Buck has crushed left-handed pitching (hitting to a 1.116 OPS vs. LHP in 2010), something that is increasingly important in the AL East.

Prediction: Boston signs John Buck and brings back Jason Varitek for a final season of backup duties, allowing Saltalamacchia to re-develop at Pawtucket. In allowing Martinez to walk, Boston will receive two draft picks due to his Type-A status. Buck, a Type-B free agent, wouldn’t cost the Sox a draft pick to sign and will come much cheaper than V-Mart, giving the Sox both salary relief and draft pick compensation for the swap, the latter of which being something not to be taken lightly given Boston’s drafting success under Epstein. Bringing back Varitek on a club-friendly deal allows the captain to retire as a Red Sox without too much uncovered risk given Salatalamacchia is just a call-up away.

Third Base
Adrian Beltre was a steal on a one-year contract in 2010. He has officially declined his player option for 2011 and, being far and away the top third baseman available, will wind up with a hefty payday somewhere other than Boston this off-season. The Sox have plenty of options here. Kevin Youkilis came up as a third baseman and the resurgent Jed Lowrie can also man the hot corner, if he can stay healthy. After Beltre, there isn’t much at the position available on the free agent market, so expect to see the club address this hole internally. Kevin Youkilis has said that he is going into this off-season preparing to play third.

Prediction: The Sox shift Youk back to third base. Finding a first baseman is an infinitely easier task than filling a hole at third.

First Base
Moving Kevin Youkilis from first base to third base opens plenty of avenues that Boston will explore. Both San Diego and Milwaukee have stated a willingness to listen on Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder and the Sox will explore each. Fielder is a future DH with a body type that does not age well (see Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Greg Vaughn) which will limit his value significantly. I doubt Milwaukee finds value in the trade market and holds on to him for draft picks after next season. Gonzalez, however is more in the Mark Teixeira mold with a plus bat and glove. Boston’s interest in him is no secret, the question is whether Jed Hoyer’s asking price will be something the Sox will be willing to stomach. I don’t think the Sox will be willing to part with the likes of Casey Kelly, Jose Iglesias, Anthony Ranaudo, or Jacoby Ellsbury. If a package of Jed Lowrie, Ryan Kalish, and Felix Doubront don’t get it done (which I don’t think it will), the Sox will move on to plan B – Adam Dunn. Dunn has been the model of consistency at the plate his entire career (his 38 homers in 2010 was the first season in which he didn’t hit exactly 40 since 2004 when he hit 46), his problem has been his lack of a defensive position, however his best position has been first base (where he surprisingly has been about league average in terms of both fielding percentage and Range Factor). Dunn fits the Epstein mold – he’s an On Base machine with power in a market that has seemingly under-valued him. A long-term deal with Boston allows Dunn to play in the field in 2011 (his stated preference) ad a stop-gap first baseman, and to transition to DH after Ortiz’ tenure with the club ends (likely after 2010). The transition to DH once again frees up the first base spot for the Sox next off-season, an off-season where Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, and Albert Pujols could all be potential free agents (plus the Sox will have another year to develop and project the futures of 1B prospects Lars Anderson and Anthony Rizzo).

Projection: Boston signs Adam Dunn to play 1B in 2010, transitioning him to DH for 2012 and either a run at Adrian Gonzalez or promotion of Anderson/Rizzo.

The healthy return of Jacoby Ellsbury will help solidify the outfield picture and the top of the batting order. JD Drew will man right in the final year of his contract. His decline in OPS in 2010 was due in large part to a 25% drop off in walks. For someone who has had a keen eye throughout his career it seems odd that impatience at the plate would suddenly manifest itself. Expect at least a marginal return to his career levels in 2011. Expect the Sox to go hard after Carl Crawford to man left field. With Ellsbury filling the leadoff slot in the order, Boston can legitimately offer Crawford the #3 hole, something that he has expressed a desire to do at this point in his career. The fourth outfielder slot will be given to either Ryan Kalish or Josh Reddick, depending on whether one of them is moved in a package for Gonzalez or not.

Prediction: Sox sign Carl Crawford to play left with Ellsbury and Drew back for center and right, respectively.

Starting Rotation
Heading into 2010, the starting rotation was supposed to be a position that Boston would not have to worry about for several years. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholtz certainly delivered that standard, however Josh Beckett, Jon Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka were all let downs of various sorts. Beckett and Lackey will certainly be back and one can only assume that, given their career track records, they will have a measure of improvement. That leaves the question of what to do with Dice-K. There have been trade rumors and if the Sox want to move him there will be a market. The question is whether anyone else available would be an improvement as a #5 starter. The Sox will kick the tires on Cliff Lee, only to help drive up the price on the Yankees (although Texas may accomplish that for them). Beyond Lee, the starting pitching available on the free agent market is pretty thin (especially given Carl Pavano’s east coast struggles). My guess is that the Sox simply hold on to Dice-K and see if new pitching coach Curt Young can improve his consistency (and reduce the amount of antacid sold throughout New England).

Prediction: No change – Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz, Dice-K.

The bullpen fell apart entirely in 2010. Papelbon and Bard will both be back, I believe Epstein when he says he has no intentions of moving Papelbon. The value is simply not there after an off-season for the closer, plus beyond that pair there is no semblance of stability in the Sox’ ‘pen. Boston will not go after any of the Type-A relievers that get offered arbitration, relief pitching is simply too volatile to give up anything of that much value to acquire. I’m guessing, however, that Tampa will not offer arbitration to both Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour, either of whom would instantly become a very attractive middle relief option. Boston simply must address their LHP out of the bullpen. It’s pretty clear that quality left-handers are essential when playing in Yankee Stadium and the Sox simply don’t have any in their bullpen. Expect the Sox to be in on virtually every Type B free agent reliever – Kerry Wood, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Octavio Dotel, Jesse Crain, etc.

Prediction: Sox rebuild their middle-innings bullpen, adding at least two leftys (Randy Choate and Hisanori Takahashi) and one righty (Dotel, Rauch, Wood, or one of the Rays’ if not offered arbitration).

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Election 2010 Theme Song

I decided that we needed a theme song for the 2010 Election Day.  So far I just have the chorus.

Sung to the tune of Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger”

Goodbye liberals it’s been real, now it’s time to repeal
Hopey Changey point of view, but no logic’s nothing new
Goodbye Fiengold, goodby Reid, you are not who we need
Need no Boxer, need no Hall, you have all dropped the ball
Sweet Election (Goodbye Fiengold), Left’s not for me (Goodbye Reid)
Give me a ballot(You are not), and set me free (Who we need)
Washington D.C (Need no Boxer), far away (Need no Hall)
The ones you’d chosen (You have all), Go away (Dropped the ball)
So goodbye Fiengold (Goodbye Fiengold), Goodbye Reid (Goodbye Reid)
You are not (You are not) Who we need (Who we need)

Published in: on November 2, 2010 at 9:44 am  Leave a Comment  

My NFL Draft Wish List

As most folks know, baseball is my primary form of sports fan psychosis. Being a Red Sox fan these days, I get a lot of flak from people who think I’m one of those bandwagon fans. It was really almost better before 2004… at least then the only people dumb enough to jump on a bandwagon were those with some sort of self-loathing complex. The only thing worse than being called a bandwagon fan is having to actually talk to one of them. My stock test for anyone I meet wearing any sort of Red Sox paraphenalia or claiming to be a Sox fan is to name 4 members of the Red Sox starting lineup from 1999. This quickly seperates the wheat from the shaff. Now, to my point: anyone who knows me knows that I can’t possibly be a bandwagon fan because of the simple fact that my NFL alligance lies with the Kansas City Chiefs.

It’s a sad lowly existance, to be honest. When your interest in the NFL season ends before your baseball team is done playing, you know things are rough. As a Chiefs fan, the highlight of my NFL season is typically those couple months leading up to the NFL Draft. Baseball ends, the Chiefs are invariably only contending for a high draft pick, and I turn my attention to the promise of that mid-April weekend.

In the Carl Peterson era, it was sort of a bittersweet enthusiasm. You knew that the draft was coming, but you also knew that there was about an 85% chance he would draft a bunch of louts who would be ot of the league in three years, and a 100% chance that his first round pick wouldn’t get signed until about week 2, efffectivy rendering his rookie season utterly lost.

As a Red Sox fan I saw my fellow fans bask in the Patriots franchise turnaround. They went from the kicking post of the league, to a slight resurgance under The Tuna, back to kicking posts, and then to the model NFL franchise. It was hard. I had to resist the urge to jump ship on many occasions. But I didn’t want to be one of THOSE. So I endured.

It was with great excitement that I read the news of King Carl’s ouster from The Hunt Palace, and even greater excitement that I read that Pats guru Scott Pioli would be given the reigns of my beleaguered franchise. Then they added Cards OC Todd Haley as the head coach and I was rejuvenated… then came the 2009 draft. A draft that left me feeling every bit as kicked in the junk as so many Carl Peterson drafts before them. But I was determined to give Pioli and Haley the benefit of the doubt.

One year later and one more NFL season in which the only thing keeping me watching football beyond week three being my fantasy football team, I find myself in the same spot. The Chiefs have re-energized me, for the offseason at least, with the addition of Charlie Wiess as offensive coordinator and Romeo Crennel as defensive coordinator. The Patrioits of the AFC West are continuing to take shape.

So once again I find myself cautiously optimistic that the Chiefs will find someone, anyone, worthwhile in yet another NFL Draft.

So, without further adiu, I give you my 2010 Wish List for the Chiefs this NFL Draft.

1st Round (#5 overall)
S – Eric Berry, TEN or
OT – Russell Okung, OKL ST

Both the secondary and offensive line has been downright porous the past few years. It’s especially hard watching this having grown up watching teams built on a strong defense and offensive line (nevermind those teams had worse passing attacks than the Timbuktu Fighting Hellen Kellers). In Eric Berry the Chiefs find themselves falling into the perfect storm of being able to select the best defensive player in the draft (outside of the two big DTs) and filling a major position of need. Both starting safeties from last season should be replaced and how better to start on that path than to select a guy often compared to Ed Reed? If Okung is somehow still there, he should probably be the pick. He also fills a position of need and is the most complete and NFL-ready tackle in the draft, giving KC a nice bookend tandem along with Branden Albert.

2nd Round (#36 overall)
WR – Golden Tate, ND

The Chiefs need to determine whether or not Matt Cassel is the answer at QB sooner rather than later. In order to find out, they need to surround him with weapons in the passing game. In Golden Tate, the Chiefs not only nab one of the slickest names in the draft, but also score a proven producer in a pro-style offense. And of course it doesn’t hurt tha the pro-style offense in which he produced was the one run by new Chiefs OC Charlie Wies. Along with Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers, Tate would give the Chiefs an excellent receiving corps to pair with their two-headed running game of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.

2nd Round (#50 overall, from ATL)
Trade for Ravens T Jared Gaither
TE – Rob Gronkowski, Arizona

If Okung is off the board when the Chiefs select at #5 then they should seriously consider sending their second selection in the second round to Baltimore in exchange for restricted free agent tackle Jared Gaither. Gaither is still young and is proven at the NFL level, a rare find for just the second round pick the Ravens are said to be seeking. Truth be told I would rather see KC opt for Berry and go this route to shore up the tackle poition even if Okung is available at #5. Should a trade not be able to be worked out with the Ravens, the options at tackle are pretty slim here. The Chiefs should instead switch gears and grab high-ceiling TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski missed most of 2009 with a back injury, but if healthy he is a complete four-down tight end. The Chiefs leading TE last season was journeyman Sean Ryan who has since signed elsewhere. The options left on the roster won’t make Chiefs fans Roget about Tony Gonzalez any time soon.

3rd Round (#68 overall)
LB – Brandon Spikes, FLA

The Chiefs linebacking corps has vastly underproduced for their talent level for the past several years. Former top pick Derrick Johnson has been a dissapointment, last season’s finale against Denver not withstanding. Furthermore, none of the linebackers on the roster really fit the Chiefs new 3-4 defensive scheme. At one point, Spikes was considered a first round talent. He has a high motor, an aggressive nose for the ball and an NFL pedigree (his cousin is long-time NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes). The Chiefs defense needs playmakers and in this scenarios the Chiefs have added two ball hawks on Spikes and Berry by the end of the second day.

4th Round (#102 overall)
S – Myron Rolle, FSU

We’ve already mentioned the Chiefs need to upgrade both starting safeties. In Berry they’ve added a big time playmaker and with this addition of FSU star and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle the Chiefs add a leadership-type guy to a secondary in dire need of it. Rolle has seen his stock plummet due to the absurd notion that he’s too smart… yes, it is as absurd as it sounds. Rolle is a charecter guy, a leadership guy, and fills yet another position of need in this draft for KC. Selecting him isn’t rocket science.

5th Round (#136 overall)
QB – John Skelton, Fordham

Kansas City doenst have much in the way of projectable quarterbacks should Cassel either get injured or proove to not be “The Guy.” Croyle has shown an inability to stay healthy and beyond him the outlook is bleak after the trade of 2008 fantasy star Tyler Thigpen to the Dolphins last year. Skelton is a guy that may not be available this late. He comes from a small school, but he has the cannon arm and the size (he’s 6’6″) scouts and coaches love and he has shown ball protection awareness and accuracy throughout his colligiate career. I would love to see Wies get the chance to develop him.

5th Round (#142 overall, from MIA)
LB – Mike McLaughlin, Boston College

McLaughlin is a player who could come in and help right away on special teams and potentially challenge for a spot in a weak LB corps. He had a productive career at Boston College and has shown a pretty good knack for being around the ball. Cornerback and defensive tackle are also options here.

5th Round (#144 overall, from CAR)
OT – Vladimir Ducasse, Mass.

Should the Chiefs miss out on Okung and Gaither, you would think they will have to address OT here in some manner. The Chiefs don’t have a sixth or seventh round pick so they need to fill posiitional need here. Ducasse is big and he’s still learning the position. If the Chiefs nabbed a tackle earlier they should look for a DT that fits their 3-4 scheme.

Years of Chiefs drafts should have taught me not to get my hopes up, but like Charlie Brown lining up to kick the field goal I keep thinking maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time we don’t end up flat on our backs after the draft, staring up at the sky wondering how we could have been so foolish. The next three days will tell, yet somehow I think after all is said and done this weekend I’ll be left once again with nothing but a bruised tailbone and the hope for an extended Red Sox season.

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Boston-New York Marathons

A constant topic of discussion in the MLB Commissioner’s Office it seems is trying to divine ways to “speed up the game” of baseball.  Every off-season new rules get put in place to help shorten games.  However never is the discussion held in such media spotlight as after (or during) a Red Sox – Yankees series.

A new blog post by one of my favorite baseball writers, Joe Posnanski, dives in and looks at the numbers surrounding the length of Major League games.  Not surprisingly, Red Sox-Yankees games were the longest lasting games in the Majors in 2009 – running an average of 3:39.  Compared to second place Yankees-Blue Jays games at 3:19, this is quite a difference.  There are a multitude of reasons why Sox-Yankees games average so much more time and they all compound one another:

  • Most of them are nationally televised.  as such, the commercial breaks and lead-in times between innings are all longer.
  • The Sox and Yankees both preach plate discipline throughout their systems and see more pitches per plate appearance than most other teams.
  • Hand in hand with the above, both teams preach OBP and tend to send more batters to the plate per game because of it.
  • Each year these two teams outspend nearly every other team specifically to one-up the other in the standings.

After examining the numbers, Posnanski decides that if the Red Sox and Yankees fans like their games that long, then who should tell them differently.

Another one of my favorite baseball writers, ESPN’s Rob Neyer  (also a Joe Pos fan himself), today blogged his opinion that Sox-Yankees games do need to be sped up.  His reasoning was that because the Sox and Yankees are industry leaders, their players, coaches, and front office members eventually move on to run/influence other teams and in doing so, he argues that the games for other teams will, over time, slow as well.

Personally, I think both writers are missing a large question in the equation: Why is speeding the game up important? This notion has never appealed to me… in fact, I’ve never truly understood the point.  Baseball is not designed to be a fast-paced game.  Baseball is not basketball, and thank God for that.  As a baseball fan, I would love it if every game had the drama and excitement of a Red Sox-Yankees game, four hours or not.  Now, obviously it’s not going to be the case that every game in baseball is going to be a three and a half hour affair – many teams just aren’t built that way.

I saw a shirt once that sort of sums up my personal feeling on the moment to speed up the game, it said “Baseball isn’t slow, you are.”  On the whole, baseball is a cerebral game; I would argue much more so than any other major sport.  Baseball is an athletic contest that places far greater emphasis on precision and coordination than it does on pure athleticism.  Yogi Berra famously said about the baseball “90% of the game is half mental.”  While humorous in Yogi’s trademark fashion, its essence is a truism about the nature of the sport.  Only a buffoon would argue that Michael Jordan was not a simply phenomenal athlete, only that same buffoon would argue that he was a phenomenal baseball player.

Not all sports will fit into the same cookie-cutter mold, nor should they.  Let baseball be what it is and always has been – a cerebral game of precision.  If you are looking for non-stop action, that in my opinion couldn’t be more boring, the NBA is looking for fans… don’t let the turnstile hit you on the way out.

Published in: on April 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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Turnabout is Foul Play

I work for a prominent e-commerce company.  This company runs the webstores for almost 100 major retailers, manufacturers, sports organizations, and more.  We operate a pretty slick turnkey operation.  Companies looking to add or expand their online presence come to us and we do it all for them – we create their web store, we run the warehouse, we contract with dropship vendors, we provide their customers with everything from the billing,  to the order fulfillment, to customer service.

I am a supervisor for this company, which in a nutshell means that I get to deal with all of the problem customers.  In industry jargon they are called “escalated customers.”  I’m fairly sure that they only started referring to them as “escalated customers” because if they called them “pissed off customers who usually have good reason to be pissed off because something that should have been simple was probably poorly handled by one of the front line phone zombies” then nobody in their right mind would apply for my job.

As with any call center, when a customer calls in regarding their order they speak with one of the front line phone zombies (FLPZs).  Now, you have to realize that most call centers are not bastions of academic prowess.  FLPZs tend to be pretty much anyone with a warm body who can figure out how to put a headset on… or failing that, someone who wouldn’t involuntarily drool on the headset off if it was strapped on for them.  Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the front line phone agents are excellent – they are energetic, thoughtful, and can actually put a sentence together.  It’s just that usually these people aren’t front line floor agents for very long.  I’d say a good 75% of the escalated calls I take in a given day are the direct result of either the cluelessness or shiftlessness of an FLPZ.

When a customer gets fed up with trying to get their point across to the front line phone zombie, they usually ask (although a more accurate work would be  demand) to speak to a supervisor.  This is where I come in.  The zombie puts the customer on hold and calls me up and tells me what is going on and then hands the call off to me.  Typically, these folks have a pretty understandable reason to be ticked (see the alternate definition of “escalated customer” that we covered above).   I do a lot of empathizing in a normal day.  Luckily, most of the problems are things that can be solved quickly with either a little thought, a little logic, or a little creativity.

Well, tonight I got to experience the joy of dealing with a FLPZ from the customer point of view.  As I mentioned, some of the websites we run sell sports items and we get a pretty good employee discount – it’s not Best Buy good, but it’s definitely not bad.  I had been looking for a good way to display my burgeoning autographed baseball collection (it currently includes Carlton Fisk, both Ken Griffeys, Frank Thomas, “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, Clay Buchholz, Cliff Lee).  I found a pretty classy-looking 30 baseball wall display with a nice MLB logo etching on it.  So I ordered it and had been eagerly awaiting its arrival.

It arrived today and as I started opening the box, thoughts of the irate customers I’ve talked to slowly crept into my head.  Like Poe’s slow thump-thump, I tried to force the thoughts from my mind.  But alas, it was too late.  I had jinxed myself entirely.  After opening the box and taking out all the packaging I discovered that the front door of the case was broken and had come completely unhinged, not unlike Howard Dean.  I involuntarily shuddered at the thought of having to call in to my own front line phone zombies.

As soon they answer you can pretty much tell if the voice on the other end of the phone belongs to someone who can actually help you or if it belongs to one of the dreaded call center undead.  Of course, I got the latter.  I informed her that I had received my item damaged and needed to return it, gave her all of the pertinent information and then she dully said that she would send me a prepaid return label and asked me if I wanted to reorder.  When I told her that I did indeed want to reorder, the phone went silent.  I knew that she was looking to see if we had the item in stock, but I figured I’d help her avoid getting written up for dead air on a call so I told her that I was a supervisor there and asked her if she worked in the office that I work in.  She grunted in orcish acknowledgment and then told me that they had my item in-stock and that the price was $180-something.  I stopped her and said, “Well, as I just mentioned, I’m a supervisor there and had the employee discount on my original order so the price should be $123 like it was on this previous order.”  She mumbled something unintelligible and then put me on hold.

After a few minutes she came back on the line and told me that she had spoken to her supervisor and, since there was no way they could verify that I was an employee, they couldn’t do anything.  At this point I knew she had just put me on hold for a while while she cleaned out her zombie drool tray and had never actually talked to a supervisor.  I pointed out that the order that I was returning not only had the employee discount price, but that it also shows right in the order screen in our system that the item is discounted because I’m an employee.  Her only response was that I’d have to fix this at the office tomorrow.  She then thanked me for calling and hung up.

I have half a mind to take this gigantic box and just drop it on her desk tomorrow when I get to work and say, “See, I’m an employee… now do your damned job.”  At the very least, I think tomorrow I’m going to suggest a new training activity for all new supervisors.  It would just be calling our own customer support line and trying to talk to one of the FLPZs just to see what customers have dealt with before actually getting to talk with us.  Although, I’m sure it would never get approved.  They probably have some rule about subjecting employees to torture.

Published in: on January 26, 2010 at 10:28 pm  Comments (2)  

A Hall of a Vote

The election results for the 2010 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame were announced today and only one man made the cut this year, outfielder Andre Dawson.  I became a baseball fan while growing up in the late 80’s – the prime of Dawson’s career.  My grandpa loved baseball and passed that love of the game on to me.  In the 80’s about the only team you could watch with any sort of consistency if you didn’t live in any MLB team’s local broadcast area was the Cubs because of their WGN ties, and so my grandpa watched a ton of Cubs games – which meant I watched a ton of Cubs games.

There is one thing I can say about watching Andre Dawson through those years with my grandpa – he definitely had a swing that looked like it could produce a career .323 on-base percentage.  I just don’t understand how Andre Dawson is a Hall of Famer.  Don’t get me wrong, he was a fine ball player and played at a nice level for a long time.  But the Hall of Fame should be about more than being merely good stretched out across 21 seasons.

In 1987, his first season with the Cubs after spending his first 11 with Montreal, Dawson had a magical year and won the National League MVP.  He hit 49 homers (back when 49 homers was still an accomplishment), drove in 137 runs, and had an .896 OPS.  The problem is that Dawson never came close to repeating those numbers in any of his other 20 big league seasons.  Throw out the 1987 outlier and Dawson’s best home run season was 32 in 1983.  In fact, he only topped 30 homers in a season three times in his career.  He only topped the arbitrarily magical 100 RBI mark four times.

I’ve already mentioned Dawson’s career .323 OBP.  Well that number sets the pyrite standard for the lowest career OBP of any outfielder in the Hall, and it’s not close.  The former low man was Lou Brock who came in a full 20 points higher at .343, but at least Lou Brock had the decency to reach 3,000 hits and hold the career record for stolen bases at the time of his Hall induction.  In fact, Dawson’s career OPS is only .806 – staggeringly low for a middle-of-the-order, Hall of Fame bat.  By comparison, 2009 HOF inductee Jim Rice had a career OPS of .854 and it took him 15 years of eligibility before being elected to the Hall amid questions of whether he was a good enough power hitter to be Hall of Fame worthy.

Yes, Dawson has 8 Gold Glove awards sitting on his shelf, which he won each year from 1980 through 1988 (save for 1986).  And to be fair, he probably deserved them in ’81 and ’82.  But in all honesty, the Gold Glove award is baseball’s RuPaul – it masquerades as a defensive award, but everyone knows the truth.

Perhaps even more staggering to me than Andre Dawson’s election was the fact that Roberto Alomar was not.  Yes, this was Alomar’s first season of Hall eligibility and yes it is a given that he will make it in eventually, but that said Roberto Alomar has to be included in any conversation about the top 10 second basemen ever.  Lets just look at a few career numbers –

Player A Player B
Seasons 21 17
Games 2627 2379
Avg .273 .300
OBP .323 .371
OPS .806 .814
HR 438 210
RBI 1591 1134
Runs 1373 1508
SB 314 474
Gold Gloves 8 10

Obviously, Player A is Dawson and Player B is Alomar.

Despite playing a position historically known for being light-hitting and despite playing in 248 fewer games, Roberto Alomar out-produced Andre Dawson in every career category except for home runs and RBI, the latter being more a function of position in the batting order than anything else.

In fact, Alomar ranks 64th on Bill James’ career win shares list for position players, coming in at 131.9 (right in the same range as guys like Ken Griffey, Jr., Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Roberto Clemente, and Harmon Killebrew).  By comparison, Andre Dawson’s career win shares mark is 27.3

Sometimes the more you think you know, you just never know.

Ted Williams once said “the hardest thing to do in baseball is to hit a round baseball with a round bat, squarely.”  I think trying to quantify, compare, rank, and understand the game, its players, and its observers probably comes in a very close second.

But then, like my grandpa always said, that’s what makes baseball great.

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 9:14 pm  Comments (1)  

Yet Another…

The term “Yet Another” seems to be quite popular these days.  Hackers use it, programmers use it, hipsters use it, writers use it, geeks use it… granted that last category is relatively all-inclusive of the others.   There’s Yet Another Bulletin Board, Yet Another Bittorrent Client, Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, Yet Another Perl Conference… you get the idea.  It seems like there isn’t a unique idea to be had any longer.

Movies, video games, and TV are all a steady stream of re-imaginings, updatings, sequels, prequels, halfquels, and established characters… in short Yet Another.  I went to see the Sherlock Holmes movie the other night (see, I’m really just part of the problem that perpetuates the situation) and there was a preview for the upcoming Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time film.  For those of you who may not know, Prince of Persia is a video game series that goes all the way back to the days of the Apple II, DOS, and the original Nintendo.  In 2003, the game publisher Ubisoft took over the franchise and released Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (sound familiar?).  So we now have a movie, based off a video game – not really a big deal, not withstanding the fact that one of life’s truisms is that movies based off of games, much like games based off of movies, tend to suck.  Except that now there is also a Prince of Persia game coming out based on the Prince of Persia movie that was itself based on a Prince of Persia game.  I’m half-expecting to see movie novelizations come out for The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Yet Another.

I can understand that entertainment is a business.  It makes sense that companies want to put their dollars behind franchises, licenses, and ideas that they know John Q. Public and Joe-Bob SixPack will support.  That part, I get.  What I don’t get is that this mentality of rehashing and regurgitation has spilled over into academia.  As someone who spent the better part of his 20’s on a university campus (and by “better part” I really mean “all of”), it saddens me to see the state of what “higher learning” has become.  Gone are the days of original thought.  Gone are the days of new theories, paradigm shifts, and inquiry.  Today’s university classrooms have sadly become little more than assembly line-esque producers of thoughtless automatons who can do little more than quote a previous scholar’s research.  I’m not saying that knowledge of the recent research and “current scholarly thought” in one’s field isn’t important, it is obviously very important.  However, current academia has gone beyond the point of simply extolling our collective knowledge base, crossing over into dogmatizing it.

It’s ironic that academia, the very institution that purports to usher in an era of open-mindedness and progress, has itself all but closed itself off from those very tenants.  When scholars abandon and discourage inquiry among their students, it is they who have lost their way.  When students are no longer encouraged to find problems with currently accepted theories progress stops.  When we settle on the dogma that the collective academics have chosen for us, knowledge withers. Yet Another wasted opportunity for the advancement of human knowledge.

It makes sense for the entertainment world to show us what we already know.  There is a comfort in seeing something in which we have a sense of familiarity.  There is a commercial comfort in knowing with relative certainty how one’s product will be received.  But the path of the scholar should be one ever filled with uncomfort, for comfort leads to complacency and complacency to stagnation.  It is a scholar’s job to stand on the shoulders of giants and reach for new knowledge.  To simply sit on their shoulders and stare those giants in the eye is slap in the face to those who have come before.  Yet Another.

Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 11:22 am  Comments (2)