Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ratcheting Up The Rhetoric

  • Small skirmishes are breaking out:

Once I start getting a few of the smarter and more reasonable stat inclined to listen to me and slowly incorporate them into my way of thinking, we're really going to start to see some movement.

Like a healthy dose of fiber (some would say I'm about as subtle as a high-colonic) it's for your own good. It sometimes takes a little extra effort to make headway, but I seem to be getting somewhere. I'm not talking about conversion----I'm talking about others listening without obnoxious eye-rolling and the smug condescension that you see when the debate degenerates into that which you often see in the comments section of a linked posting on Baseball Think Factory.

Yesterday, a friend from Twitter (a Braves fan no less!) Ben Duronio linked me in his posting regarding the chasm between the stat zombies and old-school thinkers----The Bravesologist.

We're never going to see eye-to-eye on numbers and how much weight to put on results that are seen as quantifiable vs the innate feeling an experienced observer gets from his scouting eye, but that shouldn't inhibit discussion and an agreement to disagree while still respecting the viewpoint of the other.

Many----on both sides----are entrenched so deeply and have so much invested in their side being "right" that it's no longer about an attempt to reach a greater understanding or consensus; it's about "winning" a "revolution".

Like most revolutions, the code of ideals that began the insurrection has become bastardized with the passage of time. Separating into impenetrable factions, neither side is willing to give ground; nor will they hear what the opposition is saying. When behaving in such an obstinate and self-serving fashion, how can there be a debate? Without willingness to listen, how can one combat the argument or take what's asserted and alter their own viewpoint to become more well-rounded in their viewpoints?

I have to think of a new term for people like Ben who actually listen to what the old-school advocates have to say because they're not "stat zombies". A zombie implies the unconscious, unthinking mind and it simply doesn't fit in some cases----in the cases of people I can deal with.

Having the reasonable, though stat-inclined engaging isn't the strategy to winning.


It's when the hard core stat zombie with the larger forums begin paying attention to me (and I start making them blow a gasket due to the combination of apoplexy and frustration) that the skirmishes are going to erupt into full blown firefights. This is in the process of happening. I've got them right where I want them. There's no saving those that are so enslaved by the numbers and their profound lack of a clue to baseball nuance. They're unsalvageable and hopeless to the point that eradication is the only option.

The zombie world has been infiltrated; and I have something special on the way for the intractable among their number. Something really special.

I'm a man of my word...

  • So, now the Mets aren't a laughingstock?!?

Because they're the Mets and because any success has to be tempered with the reality of being...well, being the Mets and that at any moment, the wheels could fall off along with their legs, and feet, and spleen, and head, we must take caution before going over the edge.

They are playing well; they are coming together as a unit; and exhibiting a fire that appears to stem from a quiet anger permeating the entire organization after the way a disastrous 2009 season decimated by injuries was transformed into an indictment of anyone and everyone involved with the club in any capacity. The decried minor league system is producing some impressive prospects; the veterans are doing their jobs for the most part; and there's a good feeling about this team that hasn't been apparent since 2006.

That doesn't mean they're out of the woods or guaranteed to continue playing as well as they have. One of the reasons I've been reluctant to gloat about my pre-season prediction for a Mets renaissance (and a Phillies stumble) is that it's still only June and the day-by-day altering of predictions is exactly why there's such a misplaced sense of importance from one game to the next. It's a long season. We'll see what happens.

What is most aggravating is the way the media was so immersed in attacking the Mets and treating them as a punching bag throughout the entire winter; how players wanted nothing to do with the supposed nightmare taking place on and off the diamond at Citi Field; and how fans for and against the Mets haven't put forth the pretense of altering their tunes slowly to save some form of face----and they've all done a complete 180. It's in fact worse than the abuse that barraged the team for the past three years.

Now the Mets are contenders?

Now they have some prospects that have somewhat validated GM Omar Minaya's minor league system?

Now Roy Oswalt would approve a trade to the Mets?

What's worse is the New York media who are now in full-blown revisionist history mode trying to somehow maintain a level of credibility by any means necessary.

There was talent on this roster before the season; there was talent on the roster while they were struggling; there's talent on the roster now that they're no longer a running joke.

Two of the main culprits (among the many) are Joel Sherman of the New York Post and Peter Gammons of MLB.com.

First Gammons on MLB.com wrote this piece about the Mets. Here's the relevant clip:

Look, the Mets' season turned into a nightmare last year as they lost 92 games. Then, for two winter months, they had a public-relations issue, after an offseason of signing Jason Bay and not signing a veteran pitcher or big-name catcher. The season opened, and there were the pitching melodramas of Oliver Perez and John Maine. Then, Jose Reyes' thyroid trouble, which was coupled with Carlos Beltran's operation, rehabilitation and communication issues.

Since the middle of the 2009 season, when the Tony Bernazard situation singed much of the organization, it seems most of the conversation about the Mets has been about who should get dismissed and when. General manager Omar Minaya has been on the media's firing line since the fiasco of the post-Bernazard press conference. Last summer, Minaya's ill-advised tiff with a journalist hurt his media standing.

No one is suggesting that this is a 100-win team, but it is not the 1962 Mets, as some suggested. The farm system isn't the best, but it isn't a laughingstock, and there have been limited resources due to ownership's loyalty to the Draft-slotting system. Yet there are more prospects on the way: Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is hitting .284 at Double-A Binghamton, and second baseman Jordanny Valdespin is hitting .309 at Class A St. Lucie.

If they are going to be competitive, then Mets ownership needs to learn that when things go wrong, do not listen to the talk shows or read the back pages. Stick with the people you hired, the people with whom you share decisions. When the Mets win, there are general managers and scouts across the game who cheer for Minaya, who in turn only wants due respect for "the scouting and development people who have worked their tails off and deserve respect."

People up and down the Mets' organization are fiercely loyal to Minaya, because he accepts the heat and deflects it from those who work for him. The blame game is the first sign of dysfunctional leadership. Loyalty is a sign of real leadership, and as the Mets woke up a game in front of the Phillies this weekend, it, not all the injuries that devastated last summer, is a reflection of the core reality of Omar Minaya's organization.

Is Gammons serious?

Too often, Gammons is resting on his affability and respect in the industry----that he's a Hall of Famer. But as he's grown older and lost his fastball, he's increasingly become one of "them"; someone who is incapable of seeing any further than the opinion of the last person he spoke to. Wasn't it Gammons who was decrying the lack of leadership in the Mets organization? The same Gammons who's now using "leadership" as a lever to justify the Mets recent run of good play?

Either get your head together or retire.

Then we get to Sherman as he offered this little backpedaling nugget in his 3-Up-3 Down Blog:

At this time last year, the Mets were just two games worse in the standings (33-30) than they are now (35-28). Those Mets also were in second place, just three games out of first. But Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes were already on the DL, and Carlos Beltran was going to follow soon. The 2009 Mets were losing players and confidence rapidly.

The 2010 Mets are currently in a different position. They got Jonathon Niese back recently and he is elevating the rotation. As my pal Mike Vaccaro reported in this column Sunday, Beltran is feeling better and believes he will soon be a helpful Met.

And, right now, the Mets are building that “why not us?” belief. Obviously, that is fueled in part by the sustained, poor play of the Phillies. If the expected NL East kingpins are going to struggle then it is going to open up hope all over the divisional landscape – even to a Nationals team now strutting with Stephen Strasburg.

But the Mets’ confidence is not merely fueled by what the Phillies aren’t doing, but what they are doing. They are playing with zeal and without the cascade of on-field indifference and mistakes that marked the 2009 club as much as the injuries.

That is just one of the reason that the Subway Series over the weekend will be fascinating, to see how the Mets’ rising confidence withstands a trip to the Bronx.

How nice.

The same Joel Sherman who's made a cottage industry of bashing the Mets for years, tried relentlessly to get Omar Minaya fired (and replaced by the stat zombie likes of Billy Beane or Sandy Alderson) is now crediting the Mets for their confidence and declaring them as contenders? Did he think people were going to forget the twisted garbage in which he engaged on a daily basis to advance his agenda?

Are these people thinking that those of use who----as Mets fans----had to endure this trash for years are really going to forget?

What makes it worse is the widespread laughter, ridicule and allegations of bias I had to parry when I picked the Mets to win the NL East. I don't know what's going to happen----things could fall apart at any day as we've seen before with the Mets and others----but I don't hear anyone laughing now. In fact, they're retreating so quickly they don't see that they're about to plunge over a cliff.

And they're not getting any danger warnings from me. In fact, if they manage to stop before the fatal plunge, I'm pushing the thing over the embankment. Without remorse.

  • Speaking of Sherman and the stat zombies:

From that same blog linked above, Sherman adds another bit of brilliance about Moneyball and patience at the plate:

To further drive home the point of better development of young arms, an NL personnel man said: “I think that teams’ increased emphasis on signing more high school pitchers some years back has begun to take root. Plus more care is taken in the development of such young arms and that has many prepped for the big leagues at an earlier age.”

And a veteran pitching coach said this to me: “The Moneyball philosophy took over and that has meant many more hitters taking pitches. Now we see scouting reports and we will see two or three hitters per lineup where it says something like ‘has only swung at three of last 50 first pitches.’ So more than ever, we are telling our pitchers: ‘take your fastball and throw strike one.’ I think you are seeing more pitchers working ahead than in recent years.”

The drafting of high school pitchers taking root? Wasn't it Michael Lewis in his selfish and ridiculous narrative of Moneyball itself who equated drafting high school pitchers as defying logic and reason? That drafting a high school pitcher automatically made any executive a fool? That Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta were card-counters who'd found a way to beat the draft?

Now drafting high school pitchers was a good idea?

The idiocy regarding the hitters being reluctant to swing at the first pitch is taken so far out of context that I refuse to believe that Sherman truly doesn't know what he wrote.

One of the viable theories in Moneyball was the idea that, early in the count, a hitter should zone in for a pitch that he can handle and if it's not the pitch nor the location he's looking for, to let it go. Simply taking the pitch is not the point. The point is using the early count to try and get ahead or find a pitch to drive.

This is what I've been saying the Mets should do with Jeff Francoeur----not take away his aggressiveness, which is an imperative part of his personality and all-around talent----but to rein him in and try to get him to look for a first pitch he can hit as if it's a pure hitter's count like 2-0 or 3-1.

Does Sherman not comprehend this?

Sherman, who bought into the Moneyball myth so thoroughly and had his head so firmly entrenched in Billy Beane's backside that he gets the YES Network up there and had a pizzeria on speed dial and they knew the route to Beane's lower intestine with their eyes closed, didn't get this concept? Seriously?

I'm truly hoping that people are paying attention. Those who get that admitting when one is wrong is an attribute; that not adjusting one's opinion based on the time of day and convenience is not a credible voice from whom to gather information. It's just like the belief that calculating numbers begets an expert. Only it's worse.

These non-experts with a forum combine the worst parts of revisionist history and idiocy into one lump of disingenuousness and floating principles. It goes on and on. Unabated and unchallenged. It's enough.

  • Viewer Mail 6.15.2010:

Joe writes RE the Red Sox defense:

The Red Sox are sixth in Defensive Efficiency, and sixth in UZR, in all of baseball. How is that mediocre?

Much like Joel Sherman, I refuse to believe you're this obtuse that you don't understand what I'm saying. Statistically, you're probably right----I'm not bothering to check; but do you consider a team with Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez behind the plate; with Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall playing center field; with Marco Scutaro committing as many errors as he does any better than mediocre?

Until you look past your almighty numbers, you're truly never going to get it Joe. It's not about the percentages; it's about context; and in context, the Red Sox defense is mediocre. Wasn't it UZR that insisted that Jason Bay was an atrocious defender to the point that it was accepted as fact until everyone watching him with the Mets realized that he's not bad; he's not average; he's actually pretty good? That the UZR formula was adjusted early in the year and suddenly, Bay wasn't that statistically bad either?

You must unlearn what you have learned.

  • The Prince on the Podcasts:

I have a podcast appearance scheduled for Thursday with Sal at SportsFan Buzz; and the appearance from Saturday with Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State should be up in a day or two.

Dig my voice. If you dare. 2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

Tell your men they work for me now...


Jeff said...

Much of being an "inside expert" these days is about being able to bullshit one's way through anything while exuding confidence and sounding like one knows exactly what he/she is talking about. Some just get paid more than others. I agree that Gammons has fallen off his game... he's gone the way of your boy Rosenthal. It's unfortunate.

Joe said...

Actually, Scutaro has been solid in the field, despite the errors. Beltre is good, Drew is good, Youk is good, Pedroia is good. There are five solid defenders of the eight, aside from the pitcher. The defense has been better than mediocre. But I guess you would know otherwise, as you DO watch all of the Red Sox games in addition to all of the Mets games, and all of the other teams in baseball as well.

She-Fan said...

I want to leave an intelligent comment but the Yanks and Phillies are playing, so can I just go watch CC and Halladay? Thanks. :)

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

I don't have a problem when people do 180's as long as they revisit their original position. Being a FLIPPER is fine but just be up-front about it. That's my beef with them; Never having to admit being completely wrong. Like you alluded...it's like hoping people forget. They have By-lines. We have blogs. I guess we make the best of it.