I thought this was the low point for Steve Phillips, I really did. At the time, it seemed impossible for someone to say something dumber than, basically, “a center fielder that is hitting .370/.467/.584 is hurting his team.” But I think I’ve finally learned to never, ever underestimate Phillips’ singular and unparalleled penchant for stupidity. Because today, Phillips said he would trade Stephen Strasburg for Roy Oswalt if he were running the Washington Nationals. If you are already as avid a baseball fan as I am, then I don’t need to explain to you why this ludicrous. But if you aren’t, I’ll explain it to you, because I’m your buddy.
Unfortunately, today’s segment with Jerry Manuel on WFAN wasn’t nearly as fruitful as the one on April 15th. There were no admissions of choosing Demonstrably Inferior Player A over Potentially Average Player B solely because of the former’s “experience.” No delusions of grandeur about an offense that has an upper limit of average. Nothing. The segment was strikingly bereft of incompetence.
In fact, when asked to diagnose the Mets and their current state, Manuel was downright sensible. He continually stressed that the key to the Mets’ season is their starting pitching, which is totally accurate. Of course, Manuel wasn’t perfect. He claimed Jonathon Niese was on the cusp of “being a force to be reckoned with for a long time.” He tacitly agreed with Mike Francesa that David Wright (.229/.439/.458) is struggling. Manuel was also fortunate that Francesa didn’t bring up Rod Barajas and his .200/.191/.356 line, although that’s probably mostly because Francesa joined Manuel in the Barajas lovefest this winter and doesn’t want to remind us of it. But all in all, Manuel didn’t say anything particularly incompetent or delusional, which was a huge disappointment.
But since you are no doubt relying on me to complain about something, I will bring up Manuel’s overly respectful and fearful description of the Chicago Cubs’ offense:
“They got good hitters. I mean, those are good hitters. [Aramis] Ramirez is a historically good hitter. Derrek Lee, obviously, is a good hitter. [Alfonso] Soriano, you know, has got some power. Xavier Nady. [Jeff] Baker, you know, all those guys. [Marlon] Byrd looks like he’s improved as a hitter. So they’ve got some dangerous, dangerous right-handed hitters.”
I’m pretty sure Manuel just named every Cubs hitter he could think of in 10 seconds, because this list includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ramirez is fine. He’s gotten off to a terrible start, but he’s 31 and has an excellent track record, so his inclusion on the list of “good hitters on the Cubs” is acceptable. Lee has also been an excellent hitter over the last few years. Those are the “good.”
Byrd is only good if you like shiny stupid stats like batting average and RBI, because he hit .283 and drove in 89 runs in 2009, numbers that suckered the Cubs into signing him as a free agent. You would also have to ignore Byrd’s .285/.322/.419 line away from the Rangers’ hitting-friendly ballpark in order to think Byrd is good or “has improved as a hitter.” Soriano is a disaster because, for the 11th year running, he cannot lay off breaking balls away. His OBP last year was .303, and even with the best of luck, it won’t top .320 this year. Nady is fine as long as he’s facing a lefty, but he’s below-average against righties. He’s 31 and that isn’t going to change at this point. Those are the “bad.”
The “ugly” is Jeff Baker, but his inclusion is more comical and inexplicable than anything else. In 27 plate appearances in 2010, the 28-year-old has hit .240/.296/.480 (.269/.325/.456 career) with two homers and three RBI. I mention the RBI because it’s not like Manuel was perusing the Cubs’ hitters and saw Baker had an outlandish RBI total, thereby deciding that he’s an offensive threat. Baker has three RBI and is hitting .240, numbers that would make even a traditionalist groan, so I really lack any sort of explanation as to why Manuel thinks Baker is a dangerous right-handed hitter.
That’s really it for this edition of The Dysfunctional Mets. Hopefully Manuel and Francesa will get into a discussion about Rod Barajas’ entirely predictable unfortunate struggles next time.
I have to admit that, in a totally self-indulgent bit of schadenfreude, I’ve been following the New York Mets since spring training. I don’t watch many of their games; I have too much respect for myself to do that. But I’ve been examining their box scores and, more relevantly, following what the people in and around the Mets organization are saying about the team. In general, I think it’s fascinating to hear people discuss themselves or their work. And when “their work” equals “the 2010 New York Mets,” the urge to lend an ear is irresistible.
I’ve found that the best source for these sorts of discussions is WFAN‘s Mike Francesa. Francesa frequently has Mets manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya on his show to talk about the team’s performance. This started in spring training, and has been enormously entertaining since day one. This is because the Mets organization has replaced the New York Knicks as the most delusional and incompetent franchise in American professional sports today. Some franchises are more delusional than the Mets. Some franchises are more incompetent than the Mets. But none combines those qualities as stunningly as the Mets do. Francesa’s interviews with Manuel and Minaya continually illustrate that fact.
So, in that spirit, I’ve decided to start a recurring theme called The Dysfunctional Mets. The idea is simple: I listen to the most recent WFAN interview with Manuel or Minaya, take down the most delusional or revealing of incompetence utterances, and present them to you with sobering remarks. I suppose this feature is a risky proposition, since it’s wholly reliant on the Mets continuing to stink. If they turn it around (as Manuel and Minaya insist they will do), I’m going to look like a fool. Luckily, I have some experience looking like that, so it’s worth the risk. I hope you enjoy this feature as much as I suspect I will enjoy writing it. Read the rest of this entry »
One of my most endearing characteristics is my total willingness to latch on to an assessment that I think is erroneous or unfounded and doggedly attempt to disprove it, even if it means jeopardizing my friends’ desire to discuss sports with me. Perhaps you have noticed this trait in perusing this blog. If so, you and my friends will have something to talk about should your paths ever cross. Anyway, since I take a somewhat masochistic pleasure in being insatiably cranky, you can imagine my excitement for the simultaneous events of one o’clock this afternoon: Mike Francesa’s radio show and Chad Ford’s chat. Two of my favorite vignettes – Francesa’s Joba-to-the-bullpen meme and Ford’s curious aspersions against Terrence Williams – were about to develop further.
As of 3:03 PM, Francesa has predictably engaged in nothing but the relentless application of qualifiers to Joba’s recent performance. His caveats vary in type but are uniform in stupidity:
- Joba pitched “okay,” but not “great” last night. Of course, he said this minutes after proclaiming Jeremy Sowers’ 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 3 K performance “good.”
- This “okay” pitching performance came against the Cleveland Indians, a “last place team” (true) that “can’t hit” (false).
- Joba has pitched better as a reliever than as a starting pitcher. Other pitchers that would have lower ERAs as a reliever include: CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, and every other good starting pitcher.
- Jorge Posada thinks Joba should be a reliever, and because Posada has won World Series before, he knows what he’s talking about. Unfortunately for Francesa, Posada admitted he was wrong seven months later and – as far as we know – believes Joba should be a starter.
- Joba has to have “six or seven straight eight-inning performances” to justify the Yankees’ choice. As far as I can tell, the last pitcher to have done this was Roy Halladay from August 14th-September 10th, 2007. So, the developing, 23-year-old Chamberlain must do something that only arguably the best pitcher in baseball did two years ago for the decision to be a good one. That makes sense.
Ford’s chat was equally disappointing, to whatever extent the realization of a totally expected outcome can be labeled as such. Once again, I asked him to elaborate specifically on Terrence Williams’ off-court problems. This time, however, I asked quite firmly and without the self-deprecating “maybe I missed something” (that’ll show him!) My question was ignored.
Like a jilted lover, I ran to Basketball Prospectus’ Kevin Pelton, who was holding a chat of his own. Beleaguered and defeated, I asked Pelton a version of the same question I’ve been asking Ford for weeks. I was pleasantly surprised when Pelton chose to respond:
Kevin (New York, NY): I keep seeing certain draft experts citing Terrence Williams’ off-court issues as a major reason for GMs avoiding him on draft day. Do you have any idea what these issues are? I can’t think of a damn thing.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No clue. He’s both a Seattle guy and apparently following me on Twitter (@kpelton), so I’m totally positive on Williams.
Unless Ford has an incredibly low tolerance for what constitutes off-court problems and believes Twitter usage warrants public consternation, Terrence Williams’ off-court problems remain a mystery even to Ford’s peers. Really, at this point, I can report no change in my feelings towards Ford and his apparent disregard for his journalistic obligations. It’s just a shame that Williams’ name is being dragged through the mud – however subtly – while his accuser exercises complete control over the process by which the public can hold him accountable for his reporting.
Just kidding. But wow, what a catch:
Great game for Joba: 8 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, and 15 groundouts against a very good offense. Not only did he pitch the pivotal 8th inning, but he got through the previous and less important seven as well. I will be listening to Mike Francesa with great interest this afternoon.
I thought long and hard about posting this clip of Mike Francesa’s meltdown from Wednesday’s show. On one hand, I want Fan Interference to be a place free of vacuous mockery. There’s a place for such things on the Internet, but I just don’t want it to be here. On the other hand, I am human, which makes me capable of finding both humor and lessons in high-profile meltdowns.
Ultimately, I decided to post the video because I think it’s a good example of what sports analysis should not be. It should not be two people screaming at each other, equating volume with validity and forcefulness with finality. It should not be hysterical, haughty, and hyperbolic. Most of all, it should not be done with total ignorance of the facts. Different interpretations of facts are expected and necessary for intelligent discussion, but a total failure to acknowledge the facts themselves dooms an argument to a fate like the one seen below.
My feelings on Joba Chamberlain’s role have been well-chronicled, so obviously I disagree with Francesa on this matter. But for now, my focus isn’t about which side of the argument is right or wrong. Instead, I want to call attention to the perversion of the rules of engagement. When two sides approach an argument in this way – without even the pretense of respect, patience, or consideration – they produce nothing but poisonous animosity. This isn’t limited to sports debates either; it’s no less deleterious when arguing with friends, family, and significant others. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m convinced that making progress and screaming at each other are mutually exclusive undertakings. And that belief is not up for debate.
What does one call Mike Francesa’s radio show now that Chris Russo is gone? “The Mike Francesa Show”? I have no idea. Regardless, I caught a five minute segment of it today, during which Francesa methodically and monotonously compared CC Sabathia and Johan Santana’s numbers over the last five years. His tone indicated that he was trying to prove Santana is better than Sabathia. I will not argue against this, because it is true. Furthermore, I suspect his greater point was that the Yankees could have had Santana last year, and their decision not to trade for him led to huge spending for Sabathia. He is, of course, conveniently ignoring that the Yankees would have had to give up young players for Santana, while acquiring Sabathia cost only money. But that is not what I am posting about.
Eventually, Francesa put a caller on the air, who then tried to argue that the gap between the two pitchers is not that significant. Francesa would have none of it (paraphrasing):
“Santana is an elite pitcher. I don’t use that word often. He is an elite pitcher. Your best argument for Sabathia is that he’s gotten better the last couple years. But let’s be honest – he’s not elite. He doesn’t even average a strikeout an inning!”
As a knowledgeable baseball fan, I am aware that it is extraordinarily difficult to average a strikeout an inning for one season, much less for a career. So, I was pretty sure Francesa was knocking Sabathia for not doing something incredibly rare. I checked Baseball-Reference.com, and I urge you to guess how many pitchers have averaged a strikeout an inning for their career.
Six pitchers have averaged a strikeout an inning for their career. They are Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and…Johan Santana.
There you have it. CC Sabathia sucks for not being a top five performer in a particularly difficult pitching measurement.