Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Joe Morgan Syndrome

  • The Joe Morgan Syndrome (j môrgn sndrm ), adj.---The principles under which a former great player transfers said accomplishments into a long-standing career in broadcasting while exhibiting little of the skills and ferocious self-belief that led to his Hall of Fame status. Symptoms include a thickheaded and impregnable absence of forward-thinking; ability to contradict oneself an infinite number of times in a finite time-frame; and rampant dunderheadedness.

We've gone over Joe Morgan's faults as a broadcaster before. He was a wonderful player and is a rotten broadcaster. Not due to any personality issues, Morgan's content is the problem. Unlike Michael Kay, Joe Buck and Chris Berman, he's not disliked because he's obnoxious; it's the stupid things he says that grate on fans who have little choice but to tune into ESPN baseball coverage.

With Morgan, I don't sense any vitriol in that which he says; he simply refuses to maintain any sense of consistency or acknowledge the fact that different strategies hold a place in baseball. There are various ways to build a team; to strategize, organize and win from the top of an organization on down.

On Sunday night (in between Jon Miller's atrocious and pre-planned call of "Somebody call a cop---Cano got robbed!!!), Morgan went into a diatribe about the Red Sox in which he suggested that----once the injuries began to mount----they should have made a drastic trade to improve their offense at mid-season.

Is he right in theory? In practice? Does he have any ground to stand on when considering the way the Red Sox run their operation and the actual reasons for their fall from contention?

No on all counts.

The fact that the Red Sox have been able to maintain some semblance of status as a contender at all is a testimony to the way they run their organization; that they've done it in a division with two powerhouses in the Yankees and Rays makes their accomplishment even more amazing.

Implying that scoring was the Red Sox problem after Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia went down is horribly inaccurate, but that's what Morgan suggests. Scoring hasn't been the problem this season despite a patchwork quilt outfield; reliance on the likes of journeymen Bill Hall and Darnell McDonald; youngsters like Ryan Kalish; and foundlings like Daniel Nava.

The Red Sox are missing the playoffs because of (in no particular order): the Yankees and Rays; inconsistency in the starting rotation; shakiness in the bullpen; a mediocre record against the Indians, Royals, Athletics and Orioles.

What could've been done about this? Could they have acquired someone to bolster the pitching staff? And would it have been worth it?

The Red Sox have the prospects to go after a Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt, but two things preclude this suggestion.

One, under Theo Epstein, the Red Sox rarely if ever gut their system for any player----Epstein still laments the trade of Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell even after a 2007 championship; the trade was consummated while Epstein was in "time-out" from his job as Red Sox GM during a power struggle with Larry Lucchino.

Two, they haven't added immense amounts of money for rentals at mid-season. Every big deal the Red Sox have made----specifically the ones that got Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez out of Boston----have brought back players who were either locked up contractually (Jason Bay) or pending free agents they weren't going to pressured to keep (Orlando Cabrera). When they have made moves that were designed to bolster the bullpen, they've been hit or miss. They didn't give up much for Billy Wagner, but they got bounced in the playoffs through no fault of Wagner; they did give up some useful pieces (though nothing earth-shattering) for Eric Gagne and Gagne was awful.

You can understand their reluctance to do anything drastic and compromise the future to fill a hole that shouldn't have been so gaping. They had the personnel to pitch well enough to win; these pitchers----specifically Jonathan Papelbon, John Lackey and Josh Beckett----didn't come through. The bigger failures lie with the pitchers in between the starters and Papelbon. Changing on the fly and dispatching the struggling Ramon Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen didn't help.

What could they have done? The offensive pieces available----Prince Fielder for example----would have helped, but he wouldn't have addressed the fundamental problems elucidated above. It would've been splashy and expensive; while a big name acquisition does have more of an affect on a team in a myriad of ways not limited to on-field performance, the Red Sox are not such a team that would've been jolted in a meaningful way by getting Fielder.

The one bat that was available who might have been palatable for the Red Sox on all fronts----financials/prospect cost and game attributes----was Jayson Werth. Shane Victorino's injury and the Phillies' need for Werth to stay and play center field took him off the market, but the Red Sox might have made a move on Werth with an eye on "now and the future" (in Epstein terms) because Boston is a landing spot for him as a free agent this winter; plus he wouldn't have been that costly in terms of prospects. But Victorino got hurt and the Phillies kept Werth----good thing for them as it turned out.

Trading for Lee or Oswalt would've helped, but the cost was heavy. There's no guarantee that Oswalt would've okayed a deal to Boston and front office machinations between the Astros and Phillies steered him to Philadelphia; trading for Lee would've essentially forced the Red Sox to shell out the money to keep him----they're loathe to have their hands forced into doing things they don't want to do.

The point is that acquiring pitching wasn't what Morgan was suggesting! He wanted them to go for offense when offense was not the problem. With someone like Buck, Kay or Tim McCarver, I'd say this was a matter of parachuting in and saying "stuff" without doing the required research; with Morgan, even if he did the research he probably wouldn't have understood what he was reading, nor would he have cared. He'd have said it anyway. Just because.

Another symptom of the Joe Morgan Syndrome----the penchant for saying "stuff" without basis or background knowledge and then rapidly contradicting it as if the patient never said it in the first place.

Unfortunately, it's incurable.

  • Viewer Mail 9.29.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Ichiro Suzuki:

Wow. All this about Ichiro. I bet he'd be flattered.

I get the idea he's a bit of an egomaniac, so he'd probably be angry that anyone dare question his hitting style----again, part of the problem.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Ichiro:


Looks like Anonymousville is BURNING! Bwahahahahahaha!

And don't worry. Ichiro's English is good enough. ;-)

HAHAHAHAHA!!!! I told you he speaks English!!!

Anonymous (AKA Mr. Foer) writes three separate comments RE me:

This is Mr. "Foer" writing to you, oh silly spelling cop. Yes, one's fingers fly across the keyboard and-oooo, so sorry!-one makes an error! (I thought proving one's superiority in thought because one noticed a spelling error went out long ago.)

But I digress.

Here, kiddo, let's make comparisons you-yes, even you-should understand. Ichiro is far better at baseball than you are at baseball analysis, indeed, far better than you are at THINKING IN GENERAL. Got that, kiddo?

One thing more: You have never even played baseball in the major leagues. What the hell do you know about baseball other than some history and basic rules? Nothing. Nada. I spit on your book and banish your blog from my sight.

You wrote: "Two, I've been----benevolently----editing typographical mistakes (which are understandable); and misuse of words such as "your/you're" (which are not understandable); I'm not doing that anymore."

Replace "not understandable" with "unacceptable". Why so? Because you certainly understood that which was "not understandable".

See? You play Mr. Smarty Pants and you wind up getting taught a lesson in clarity of thought and expression. ;-P

You need to use the word "hopefully" correctly. You wrote, "The thing we can all agree on (hopefully) is that no matter what approach Ichrio takes...". Check with an English professor on the correct use of the word.

I hope we can agree that proper use of language is important if one wishes to clearly convey one's thoughts in writing to someone else...Mr. Smarty Pants!

I'm no kid, so lose the "kiddo". You can take that to whichever other blog you grace with your presence.

You can read my writing; not read my writing; scour every utterance ever emitted by yours truly; buy my books; not buy my books----here's a flash that may not have registered yet: I don't care!!!!

Based on your profound (il)logic, almost every GM in baseball is unqualified to do his job because they never played in the big leagues; this includes the best and worst since----apart from Billy Beane, Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ken Williams----none played in the big leagues. Your specious pre-requisite for the job would eliminate 27 of the 30 GMs in baseball. In addition to that any and all analysts/essayists from Bill James to Bill Madden to Roger Angell would also have been tossed from your template for credibility.

On that basis, there'd be nobody left!!!!

I re-read and edit my postings before publishing for both content, errors and aesthetics; even I miss something occasionally. I take suggestions from credible people----which you are not----under protest. I'm fine with my product as it is.

I published your comments and am responding because you were amusing for a short while. Anonymous or not, hopefully you realize how complete a job you're doing at embarrassing yourself.

Your story has become tiresome.

Comment on my postings if you have something to say and I'll respond; but my entertaining your egotistical attempts to drag me into your idiocy are ended.

Jeff and Mike: if this guy starts in again, he's yours. Go to town.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE Anonymous:

Anonymous, your slip is showing.

That may be more true than any of us know. Or want to know.

Kimberly writes RE me:

First of all, it's a testament to your unbiased writing that one of the posters assumed you were a Red Sox fan. It is what I have always loved the most about you--you are fair and even-handed with all of your analysis of teams.

Secondly, it is offensive that you were accused of some anti-Japanese sentiment but not particularly unexpected. The amount of comments about your Ichiro post (and the fact that these posters have clearly not read your excellent rebuttals) had me expecting the prejudice accusation long ago. Even so, it is ridiculous that you cannot make a reasoned argument about player without being called racist.

Actually, I think you may be discriminatory against big naked white fellas because you brutalize Michael Kay every single day. Yep, I'm mad now.

If you check the Twitter lists I'm on, a vast number of people think I'm a Yankee fan as well.

You hit it right on the button Kimberly: they're responding in anger without reading what I actually wrote. They can't beat me with facts; nor can they compete with me in writing ability, so they resort to absurd accusations.

And yes, men make me sick in general----especially naked white fellas who would be well-advised to steer clear of me.

Matt writes RE Ted Williams:

Yesterday being the 50th anniversary of Ted Williams' last game, I was, of course, rereading Updike's classic essay and saw this passage which reminded me of this Ichiro thing going on here. Thought I'd pass it along.
"...the Williams Shift—the maneuver, custom-built by
Lou Boudreau, of the Cleveland Indians, whereby three infielders were concentrated on the right side of the infield, where a left-handed pull hitter like Williams generally hits the ball. Williams could easily have learned to punch singles through the vacancy on his left and fattened his average hugely. This was what Ty Cobb, the Einstein of average, told him to do. But the game had changed since Cobb; Williams believed that his value to the club and to the game was as a slugger, so he went on pulling the ball, trying to blast it through three men, and paid the price of perhaps fifteen points of lifetime average. Like Ruth before him, he bought the occasional home run at the cost of many directed singles—a calculated sacrifice certainly not, in the case of a hitter as average-minded as Williams, entirely selfish.

Matt is a good man.

John Seal (West Coast Spiritual Advisor) writes RE Ichiro and me:

I thought people in Seattle were cosmopolitan and well-educated? All the anonimouse Ichiro defenders suggest this stereotype is false. As for your well-known anti-Asian bias, well, that's been obvious for years. Oh by the way...thanks for pointing out how good Hisanori Takahashi was BEFORE THE SEASON STARTED. I drafted him in my fantasy league to guffaws, and I'm now sitting in 2nd place with less than a week to go. I drafted Andrew McCutchen, too. Prince, you're a prince!

I think these individuals are popping up from all across the world. Another epidemic.

My prejudices are coming to light after so many years of hiding them, John. I need a re-education program as to the dangers of such biased views. Help me please.

I nail some of my picks and miss on others----Jake Peavy, anyone?----but I do nail 'em once in awhile.

Given my control of the Dark Side, I'm dangerous enough as a single entity; when you add my troops from above? I'm unstoppable.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

I'm scheduled to appear with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Monday talking about the playoffs and, presumably, Ichiro; among other things.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and 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.

I will cease promoting it on Sunday!!!


She-Fan said...

No, the Red Sox certainly didn't offense, so I don't know what Joe Morgan was talking about. The fact that they hung around as long as they did, given their injuries, is a testament to their offense. And while Lackey wasn't as lights out as expected, Buchholz really stepped up.

Gabriel said...

I find it amusing that, given the focus of the season for Boston was "pitching and defense", the pitching faltered. I wonder if they're engineering offers for Lee...

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's me, the real "Annonymous". Anyhow, I'm here to let you know that your analysis is missing some details:

The offense was affected. Look at the runs per game from April through July, then compare it to the runs per game in August and September (when they started to fade). I'm pretty sure there was a big decrease. And when you were losing as many 1-2 run games at the Red Sox were, that could mean many wins in the standings.

Or really, just look at these OBP's (I won't list some very awful SLG from various players - in the name of space):

Lowell - .295
Kalish - .300
Patterson - .309
Reddick - .228
Navarro - .189

I was reading someone yesterday that showed what an eye-pooping amount of 1-2 run games the Red Sox played in. Like I said, the offense became an issue.

The other issue that everyone forgets is that they never got the defense part of "pitching and defense". Which, in turn, affects the pitching. A healthy Red Sox team would have had an excellent defense (minus let's say catcher), where this banged-up Red Sox team was very poor defensively. How many extra pitches did they have to throw? Or how many extra outs did the Lackeys and the Beckett's or the bullpen have to get?

The biggest things, for me, were the injuries and that god-awful bullpen. And in regards to the bullpen, when do we start looking at the pitching coach? Was there one guy, except Bard, who you would say had a good to great year? Everyone seemed worse than their career norms. But, like I said, some small percentage of that came from that poor defense.

It really would have been nice to see what a healthy Red Sox team would have been like. My guess is that we'd be looking at the best team in baseball. Heck, I think this current team, with all their flaws, could beat the Rays and/or Yankees in a playoff series. If anything, if they were just a little more competitive, the final 3 games against the Yankees, would have been epic. As baseball fans, we all miss out.

Jeff said...

Thanks for reiterating what I thought to be true in regards to Jon Miller's call of that Cano non-HR.

I used to like Miller, but he's going down the same path so many other broadcasters have gone: HACK Alley. Whatever happened to just calling it as you see it? The pre-written lines, the gimmicks (John Sterling), all that... enough.

Ernie and Jack are rolling over in their graves hearing this crap.