Back in the early eighties when I was catching bullpen sessions for Charleston in the Sally League, I came across a young hot shot from Missouri who lit up radar guns and hurt my receiving hand with a fastball harder than a hammer. I knew right away he was going to be a successful Major Leaguer. And sure enough, he went on to win 194 games in the big leagues. That kid’s name was David Cone.
194 wins is great and everything, but unfortunately for Cone, he lost focus late in his career and ruined any chance he had of becoming a Hall of Famer. With a stronger mental game, Cone could’ve been one of the all-time greats and won even more World Series rings.
Even more unfortunately, it seems that the weak mind that plagued his later playing days has continued to affect him after his playing career came to an end. In a recent interview with the New Yorker that I was told about, Cone admits that his favourite website is FanCharts and that he likes to evaluate players based on graphs, charts and numbers.
No wonder he was fired by the YES Network.
You can tell a lot about a website by it’s name. FanCharts mentions two things in its title alone that don’t know a lick about baseball: fans and charts.
As I mentioned in my last newsletter entry, the only analysis worthwhile is that which comes from someone who has actually played the game. FanCharts employs no such person. As for the other half of its moniker, you can’t tell me anything about the game of baseball in a chart. You need to watch the actual game and base your judgments on what you see. Otherwise, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
After all, where did stats ever get the Oakland A’s?
I’ll even go a step further and suggest that websites like FanCharts are nothing but modern day snake oil salesmen. The so called stats revolution is all a big scheme perpetrated by poindexters who never made their high school baseball teams, but still wanted a say in what that team does.
Can a chart measure swagger? Can it measure momentum? What about hunger?
No. No. And no. Therefore, it doesn’t measure the three biggest factors affecting baseball teams.
It’s unfortunate that someone like Cone, who obviously has a lot of experience in the game would align himself with a bunch of calculator jockeys, who know nothing of the game they write about, but I suppose you can’t expect much from a player who lacked the mental fortitude to get to 200 wins, let alone have a shot at 300.
Show me a baseball player who cares at all about anything more than batting average, runs batted in, errors and wins, and I’ll show you that you’re actually showing me a player who overthinks and probably hasn’t reached his potential because he’s incapable of getting timely hits.
In all my years in the game, I’ve learned to go by my gut and nothing else. I remember back when I was playing for the Jacksonville Braves in the early seventies, we had a spread prepared for us between double header games that included tuna fish sandwiches.
I was a couple hours late to the spread because I had met a school teacher in the crowd that day who later went on to become my second ex-wife. I was expected to play in the second game of the set and so I knew I’d need to restore my energy after spending time with her. However, all the sandwiches had mayonnaise in them and had been left out.
The clubhouse attendant, who was a science major at Florida State College at Jacksonville, told me that it took at least three hours for mayonnaise to go bad, so I’d be safe to eat as many as I pleased. My gut told me to eat something else, but instead, I trusted the attendant. Boy, was that a mistake. I had to leave the game in the third inning with “flu-like symptoms” if you know what I mean.
That was the last time I ever trusted science. And I believe my career in the game speaks for itself. You don’t last as long as I have without knowing how to ignore the other stuff and listen to your gut.
Hunter Roscoe is a former Minor League Baseball player and coach. You can follow him on Twitter.