Unbeknownst to the entire baseball community, ESPN’s Peter Gammons has been hard at work at developing a revolutionary new statistic. I know, I know – like baseball needs a new statistic. VORP, WARP1, WARP3, OPS, EqA. When will it all end?
The good news is that Gammons’ new statistic is different from all the others in that it is completely subjective, unquantifiable, and open to intense debate. It is based on nothing but perception and, potentially, bias. Sounds great!
Without further ado, I present to you the Desire To Be Great Index (DTBGI for short).
To be serious for a moment, I have to come clean and reveal that the main impetus behind this post is an asinine swipe at a current Yankee pitcher. In the column, Gammons talks about Roger Clemens’ famous drive, work ethic, devotion to his craft, etc. Fine. But then he just starts randomly mentioning current pitchers and subsequently assesses their respective DTBGIs. I guess that’s okay, even though it is superduperextremelyhypersubjective. Then he says:
“Pedro Martinez always wanted to be great, but Mike Mussina, who is a borderline Cooperstown candidate, never did.”
Gammons has apparently used his sophisticated and advanced mathematical methods and determined that Mike Mussina’s DTBGI is low. If only Mussina had wanted, prayed, yearned a little more to be great, then he would have been a better pitcher. If only he had exchanged the time spent practicing his crazy multitude of pitches, getting in good shape, and maximizing his talent for a few more moments of serious inner contemplation, then Mussina would be better at playing baseball.
I think you get my point. I agree with Gammons that there are players in baseball – and every sport – who are obviously less devoted than others. Ricky Williams in football (marijuana), Carl Pavano in baseball (lack of penis), even Shaq (questionable physical fitness) in basketball. But let’s not get carried away here, Gammons. Mussina has put up a 125 ERA+, 3.63 ERA, 2572/719 BB/K, and 239 W (for those of you who like that stat) in his career. He’s a really good pitcher.
Gammons, in this instance, attributes the difference between Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina to the Desire To Be Great. It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with talent. Pedro Martinez is a better pitcher than Mike Mussina. Period. One is superb, and the other is very good, end of story. Neither one would have had this much success if they didn’t want to be great at their profession. Gammons’ statement makes Mussina sound like a indifferent slacker, and Pedro like a man of destiny. They just have different levels of talent.
“He sees the fire that’s driven Daisuke Matsuzaka since he was in high school. He sees it in Josh Beckett, embarrassed by a 5.01 ERA as he works on his changeup to move hitters’ feet and his two-seamer to alter eye level. Farrell sees it in Jonathan Papelbon, and believes Jon Lester may have the greatest drive of them all.”
He’s just trying to piss me off here. Apparently Matsuzaka, Beckett, Papelbon, and Lester all have DTBGIs that are incalculably high. Despite the fact that Matsuzaka has never pitched in MLB, Beckett has never had one full good season, Papelbon has never started full-time, and Lester is coming off cancer treatment (and was awful before his diagnosis), they all have DTBGIs higher than Mussina (who has had two below average years in his healthy, durable 16 year career). Mussina is such a slacker.
This entire column is incredibly subjective. I’m just going to stop writing now.