Today In Poorly Formed Thoughts

I really like baseball a lot. I like playing it, watching it and talking about it. In all three of those capacities I want the very best. I want to play with the very best players available. I want to see the best games. And I want baseball discussions to take place at the highest possible level.

Lately, I’ve seen some really encouraging signs with regard to how people are talking about the game. At the Getting Booked event we held at the end of January, I couldn’t get over the level of discourse among the 40 relative strangers who gathered to talk about Moneyball. And even before that, there was a lot of intelligent discussion leading up to Bert Blyleven getting elected into the Hall of Fame. And before that we saw something similar happening around the same time that Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young Award.

People are thinking critically about the game of baseball and discussing it in a manner that isn’t accepting of the hokum we hear from commentators or read from some of the more ridiculous elements of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America.

As a baseball fan, you see all this and you feel good about the sport. You feel good about the direction that it’s taking. And you feel good that you get to be a part of that, that you get to be along for the ride as new ways of thinking about baseball become more and more prevalent.

And then you come across an article by Steve Dillbeck in the Los Angeles Times and all those happy thoughts disappear with the suddenness of a sneeze erupting.

And then there are the Dodgers, who were bad last season and completely devoid of anything resembling a leader in their clubhouse. It’s not like an absolute requirement, but most winning teams have a leader, a dominant presence in the clubhouse.

I’m sure Dillbeck is a nice guy, and I know he’s covered the Dodgers for a long time, but not only is there no possible correlation between having what he would consider “a leader in the clubhouse” and winning, it’s such a hopelessly subjective title that you could never measure it even if the world worked in a way that one cause always equaled one effect.

You could just as easily suggest that there was no one in the Dodgers clubhouse praying to Jobu last summer and they were bad because of that.  In terms of logic and reason it makes just about as much sense.

It further amazes me that Dillbeck could claim to know exactly how all 25 players on the Dodgers respond psychologically to the qualities he believes would make a good leader, let alone what’s happening in the locker rooms of “most winning teams” around the league.

Last season, the team lacked a genuine clubhouse leader, which you could argue, was a definite factor in their spiral.

I’d be very interested in reading that argument.  It’s bound to be more interesting than the same assumption being made over and over again using different words.  Maybe a quote from Dodgers GM Ned Colletti would support that idea.

It’s hard to go through tough times without a leader. It takes far more of a collective effort. I think we have players who will respond very well to it, and maybe somebody can come out of the pack to be it. But I think when you talk about guys like [Jamey] Carroll and [Casey] Blake, [Doug] Mientkiewicz when he was here, [Rafael] Furcal — they get it. Are they free and easy to voice an opinion, to capture a room and the attention of everybody? Maybe here and there. It’s not necessarily their style. In the past, they were really our extra guys — [Brad] Ausmus, [Mark] Loretta.

So, the team does have leaders.  They’re just not the vocal kind of leader.  They’re the type of leader that doesn’t really ever say anything.  And in the past, the leaders were the “extra guys” on the team, so they don’t necessarily lead by example either.  Hmm.  I did notice that five of the six guys that Colletti mentions happen to be white, so that’s kind of interesting.  Basically, from this description, a leader is someone who’s usually a white guy that doesn’t say or do anything.

It’s more difficult for a role player to be a leader, or a starting pitcher (Ted Lilly, Clayton Kershaw) who plays once every five days.

But didn’t Ned Colletti just say that in the past, the leaders were the role players?  I’m getting so confused I think I need a leader just to get me through this article.  I’m glad that Dillbeck lets us know that Lilly and Kershaw aren’t leaders because even though they’re both white, they’re also starting pitchers, which I’m beginning to learn must cancel them out in the leadership race.

It’s not like the Dodgers can suddenly put their troops in an ROTC class. They have what they have, but growth is needed not just on the field, but in the clubhouse.

Yeah, because the military works so well together, especially when they’re degrading Iraqis.

As one of those guys who is far more inclined to look at past statistics as an indicator of future performance rather than what I imagine the player’s mood to be, I’ll admit that there are some among us who completely dismiss the idea of intangibles.  I would never suggest that intangibles don’t exist, just that they are absolutely impossible to measure, and so to write about them in a quantitative way or to suggest that you understand what effect a particular action will have on all 25 members of an active roster is both insulting to your readership and foolishly arrogant.

There’s no 1+1=2 with intangibles.  They’re intangibles.  I have no doubt that a player’s focus will waver over the course of a 162 game season, he’s a human being.  However, he’s not going to suddenly start to make his at bats “really count” because one of his teammates stood up and told everyone to play hard today.  He may be human, but he’s also an elite professional.  If a professional baseball player were that flimsy mentally, I would be shocked to learn that they had made it to the Major Leagues at all.

As I said in the opening, when it comes to discussions about baseball, I want the very best.  Talking about the unmeasurable as though it’s tangible and pretending as though you understand the motivations of others is not the very best.  It’s falling back into the ridiculous hokum that we’re all hoping to eliminate.  That’s why I’ll maintain that the Dodgers could use more power hitting far more than they could use Steve Dillibeck’s definition of a leader.