And now it’s time a semi-regular look at local media statements that hurt my soul by making it harder to keep the braying dolts at bay. It’s Dumbing Down The Discourse…
Bob Elliott – Toronto Sun – Blue Jays Could Have Had Cardinals Rookie Michael Wacha
It’s not entirely unfair for a reporter to point out when it turns out that the club he covers passed over a player in the draft who turned out to be really good. It’s just mostly unfair. And it’s especially pukeworthy when we’re talking about baseball, where more time is needed than any other sport to assess how a draft shook out, and when that draft was just a shade over a year ago, aaand when we’re talking about a couple of mid-first-rounders like they’re already Sam Bowie and Michael effing Jordan.
Maybe it’s not Bob Elliott’s job to handhold his readers through the differences between the MLB draft and ones in other sports, where there’s a far greater expectation of immediate impact. And I suppose it’s certainly newsworthy to point out, as Elliott did in a Toronto Sun column over the weekend, that Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha– who currently sports a 0.64 ERA in the playoffs, having given up just one run over 14 innings, while striking out 17– was taken two spots after the Jays selected D.J. Davis in the 2012 draft.
But isn’t doing this, without proper qualifiers, just red meat for morons? Because I’m sure this bit is:
“Davis wouldn’t want to go through his career being lumped with another player the way Jays lefty Ricky Romero was linked to Colorado Rockies all-star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.”
Sure, he’s stopping short of calling Davis a “Romero” just yet, but still… ugh.
I mean, yeah, Wacha has had a storybook start to his career, but let’s maybe not get the engravers up in Cooperstown on the line just yet. The league has barely seen him, he was striking batters at a better rate at the end of the regular season in the big leagues than he was in Triple-A, and he entered the playoffs with only just over 170 innings as a pro, having logged most of his innings last year prior to being drafted out of Texas A&M. He’s also mostly just a two pitch pitcher– in the regular season he threw his fastball or changeup all but 7% of the time.
In Game Two of the NLCS, according to Brooks Baseball he threw a curve on 13 of his 108 pitches, so maybe he’s getting more comfortable with that pitch. Maybe he’s better, even, than it was believed at the time he was drafted. St. Louis certainly does a tremendous job scouting college players, so that wouldn’t be surprising. But the fact of the matter is, Wacha came to the pros very polished– he pitched just 13 innings below Double-A. Nobody could say that he was supposed to be here, but it’s not completely absurd, either.
What is absurd? Hanging this sort of comparison on D.J. Davis, who is the very, very opposite of polished. And that’s OK.
He’s also not due to turn 20 until the end of next July– at which point Wacha will have been 23 for nearly a month. That’s OK, too. That’s kind of how MLB’s draft works. And Davis is doing just fine. You may recall, two weeks ago Davis was highlighted in our post about Baseball America’s league-by-league top 20 lists, where it was said that “he has first division regular potential as a center fielder that is able to impact the game in all phases.”
That’s fine. He’s still a long, long way from getting close to reaching anything close to his ceiling, but… uh… yeah, we tried drafting college players who were close to the Majors for a long time around here. Remember? Anyone? It didn’t work out so well.
And as for the Romero-Tulowitzki stuff, Tulo was in the big leagues getting MVP votes at age 22 in 2007, while Romero was getting the second of what would end up being three stints of 18+ starts at Double-A, walking 51 in 88 innings and posting a WHIP of 1.69 and an ERA barely under five. There is zero comparison yet– not on Wacha’s end, not on Davis’s.
So do we really need to empower the negative suckholes like this? Do I really need to fume during a JaysTalk call three months from now when some tool starts shit-talking the club about it like he has the slightest fucking clue?
No. No, I don’t.
Scott MacArthur – TSN.ca – Blue Jays Have Long Way To Go To Contend
Scott MacArthur does great work and brings genuine baseball credibility to the land of hockey pucks and hedgehog haircuts, so on one hand I hesitate to shit on his stuff. On the other, though, everybody has to be fair game or this little recurring feature isn’t going to be much fun– unless you like seeing the same old trolls picked apart over and over and over again. Which… actually that would be kinda fun, but I’ll be fair and try to pick on everyone.
And, lucky for me– and unlucky for the rest of us– over the long weekend at TSN.ca, MacArthur wrote a paean to the magical elixir that is clubhouse chemistry, taking a shot in the process at those of us who refuse to pointlessly engage in the quantifying warm and fuzzy feelings:
“This statistics-obsessed culture places zero value on cohesion, preferring to individualize each player and position as if he and it work mutually exclusive to all else. It’s strange because when you talk to players who’ve won, in some cases won often, they preach about the importance of accountability and sacrifice for one another.”
For me, a statement like this qualifies as dumbing down the discourse for a couple of reasons. First, it assumes that there isn’t a reason worth stating why anybody who is specifically interested in quantifying value would ignore an unquantifiable thing like “cohesion.” These silly stat boys are choosing to individualize each player, apparently, rather than having no choice but to not leave room for apparitions. Shit, they probably just have no concept of what human interaction is all about anyway, what with spending most of their time in basements with their calculators, amiright?
It also assumes that there must be value in this nebulous idea of cohesion– or chemistry, or whatever we’re calling it today– as though the concept itself, as we generally understand it, isn’t little more than a collection of well worn platitudes regurgitated by people– generally players– deeply entrenched in the orthdoxy of its religion. It’s like asking hockey players about getting rid of staged fighting. What the hell do you expect them to say, considering they’re asked– and peer pressured– to buy into the concept, and have friends on the club who wouldn’t have jobs if not for the unwavering faith that this thing does more good than any shred of evidence could possibly show?
Obviously the fact that you can’t quantify something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but scoffing at people who don’t want to swallow whole hog the existence of a phenomenon that can’t be proven, that shows huge marks of confirmation bias (i.e. winning teams look like they have winning chemistry and vice versa), and that can only be elucidated by thoroughly unreliable sources?
It’s taking the conversation backwards, not breaking down tired old narratives that make the impact of this kind of stuff seem far more pronounced than there is any real reason to believe. I mean, isn’t it odd that we’re not hearing how guys from the Fried Chicken And Beer Club, and a core comprised of many of the same faces as the supposedly poisonous clubhouse atmosphere in Boston two years ago– when Terry Francona, who is now back to being a wizard in Cleveland, was run out of town (while John Farrell was showing no signs of magic in Toronto)– still remain with this suddenly harmonious Red Sox team?
There’s a conversation to be had about this stuff as long as teams continue to either pay lip service to it, or actually take it seriously enough to pay money for it, or to try to find ways to better quantify it– as we know that they’re trying to, thanks in part to an excellent ESPN.com article on it from Sam Miller. In it he quotes former player, and current Rays consultant, Gabe Kapler, who says, “What I can tell you unequivocally is that GMs and front offices are actively studying and trying to find ways to quantify clubhouse chemistry.” (Russell Carleton often writes about this for Baseball Prospectus, and had another interesting and informative take on it last week.)
Problem is, fans are well removed from even that limited level of knowledge, and so what needs to happen before the pointless sneering between the opposing sides of this issue can stop is that a certain set of us needs to open our minds– and it’s not, believe it or not, the ones who tend to seem close-minded and dismissive of the magical power of clubhouse cohesion. The fans who need to change their mindset on the subject are the ones who will rest on the sorts of assumptions fed to them in countless articles and chat segments like this one– which affirm all kinds of narratives entrenched through years of pre-modern sportswriting and amateur motivational philosophy– and countless breathless recitations of the glory of chemistry from guys whose financial interests align with the propping up of the notion.
Scoffing (which, admittedly, MacArthur barely did) at the people insisting that we don’t really know anything, and subverting their arguments to make it easier to roll eyes and play the cement-headed “didn’t play the game” card? Yeah… no.