Earlier today, my friend and colleague Drew Fairservice tweeted the following:

Sports writing in the 2011 – you either pander, troll, or GO THE [Getting Blanked] HOME.

While I’m normally inclined to agree with whatever Mr. Fairservice suggests through social media and his written work, in this instance I’m forced to disagree. You see, in his statement on the current plight of sports journalism he forgot to include the responders, those that spot the panderers and the trolls, and against their better judgment, feel compelled to write a measured response to the pandering and trolling as though the authors of such feces scribbling concern themselves in the least with the reason or logic that the responder champions.

It’s a role that is often criticized as much as the disingenuous writing that they attack, but I believe them to be of infinitely more value. As someone who takes both writing and sports as seriously as his overriding sense of detached irony allows him, I liken standing by as poorly formed thoughts are pounded into the public’s brains from a large platform to watching a crime being committed and not doing anything to stop it.

Which brings us to Damien Cox, writing, or more accurately, trolling, for the Toronto Star this morning, by bringing his narrow knowledge of baseball to the table so as to compare the St. Louis Cardinals with the Toronto Blue Jays.

See, it’s about trying to win championships.

That’s the objective, which is sometimes lost when trades are made in professional sports and people get carried away with clever calculations of salary cap space, draft picks, prospects and potential.

The objective is to win games and titles, not accumulate first rounders and highly-rated futures that may or may not turn out.

I’m so very glad that Mr. Cox used the plural of the terms championship and title, because on these things we agree. Trades should be about trying to win multiple championships and more than a single title. That should, indeed, be they main objective of such dealing.

However I feel as though Mr. Cox isn’t fully aware that when he writes that the objective is “sometimes lost when trades are made in professional sports and people get carried away,” he’s describing the next dozen paragraphs of his own writing.

So now that the St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series, it’s probably worth taking a second look at the giant three-team transaction swung by Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos that brought multi-talented youngster Colby Rasmus to the shores of Lake Ontario.

Certainly. By all means.

Rasmus has undeniable talent, and when the Cards moved him to the Jays in late July there was a consensus locally and within baseball that Toronto had cleverly plucked a gem from St. Louis, a team wallowing in the National League Central and desperate for short-term help demanded by aging manager Tony La Russa, who didn’t give a fig about the future.

I’m not quite sure that I would’ve used the term “wallowing” to describe being a half game back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central, but at least he doesn’t mention at all what was likely the most important factor in the trade being made: Rasmus’ deteriorating relationship with La Russa.

Well, on Wednesday night, the Cardinals begin the World Series at home against the Texas Rangers, and three of the players acquired from Toronto — relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, and starter Edwin Jackson — are likely to be used in prominent roles.

Two relievers and the team’s fourth starter.

That’s why the Cards did the Rasmus deal. Sure, they were sick of his act and of his father’s, but unlike the Jays they were also trying to get somewhere this season.

Yes. This was the problem with the Toronto Blue Jays this season. They weren’t trying to get somewhere. In fact, they haven’t been trying to get anywhere at all when they traded Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie, when they ditched the Vernon Wells albatross, when they signed Jose Bautista to a multi-year contract, when they had one of the most aggressive drafts in recent memory, when they were in the top 10 in spending for draft bonuses, or when they signed two of the top five international free agents available.

Remember back to Mr. Cox’s very first statement about “it” being about winning championships. Which method do you think more aptly fits that description: building a team for sustainable success from the foundation up, or going all in on a season that would depend just as much on your own success as it would another team’s unlikely collapse to even have a shot at reaching the postseason?

On Aug. 25, sitting 10 ½ games behind the Atlanta Braves for the wild card, it looked like that wasn’t going to happen. But then came a massive September run combined with the collapse of the Braves, and the Cardinals not only won the wild card but then beat the Phillies and the Brewers to get to the World Series.

In the clincher against Milwaukee, it was Rzepczynski, with 2 1/3 terrific innings in the midst of a wild slugfest, who was credited with the victory, his first in a St. Louis uniform. Dotel pitched that game, part of a wildly successful Cards bullpen that earned more outs against the Brewers than did the team’s starting staff, and Jackson started.

You know what, Rzepczynski and Dotel did combine to go three innings and only allow a single earned run, and I suppose that got the job done, but do you really want to mention Jackson’s two inning outing in which he allowed four earned runs as proof that the Cardinals did the right thing in acquiring these players? Really?

You can’t say the ex-Jays have powered the St. Louis drive.

Finally, we agree on something. And Mr. Cox does deserve credit for avoiding the trap that Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi falls into when he calls the trade a “masterstroke” for the Cardinals, simply because Tony La Russa told him:

If that trade had not been made, I believe we probably would have been an under .500 club.

He follows this “evidence” by suggesting that thanks to the trade, the Cardinals had the roster depth to catch the Braves, not only ignoring the fact that we wouldn’t even be talking about this trade had the Braves won and not lost just two more games this season but also conveniently leaving out the lack of contribution that the acquired players, outside of Dotel, gave St. Louis down the stretch.

However, despite Mr. Cox’s ability to avoid Mr. Davidi’s logic chasm, he finds an entirely new one by suggesting:

But they’ve been a part of it, perhaps a big part, and with John Jay easily filling Rasmus’ shoes in centre field and enjoying a very good post-season, getting this far means Cards GM John Mozeliak won’t be regretting the Rasmus trade any time soon.

Ask any general manager in Major League Baseball which slash line, he’d prefer out of these two:

Jon Jay, after July 27th: .277 AVG / .319 OBP / .405 SLG

Colby Rasmus, before July 27th: .246 AVG / .332 OBP / .420 SLG

By suggesting that Mozeliak won’t be regretful of the deal any time soon, I’m assuming Mr. Cox is referring to the time between now and the end of the World Series, because immediately following that day, it’s quite likely that the Cardinals will say goodbye to three quarters of the players sent over to their team for Colby Rasmus.

Mr. Cox then goes on to spend three paragraphs comparing the Rasmus trade to a deal that happened in the NHL in 1988. I’d love to comment, but I’m really not all that well versed in hockey, and so unlike Mr. Cox when it comes to baseball, I’ll decline comment.

I might end up writing something as regrettable as:

It seems clear something clicked with that ballclub after Rasmus left that wasn’t clicking before, and whether that was about a player who was a distraction or a team that had roles that needed filling, the results are there for everyone to see.

Well, let’s look at those results, shall we? Looking at metrics designed to show what impact a player had on actually winning baseball games, Dotel was the only addition from the Toronto Blue Jays that contributed a positive addition to win probability. In high leverage situations down the stretch, Rzepczynski actually did more to cause the team to lose than to win. Corey Patterson, who Mr. Cox conveniently forgets to mention at all, was judged to be worse than a replacement player during his time in St. Louis. And Jackson allowed a whopping 14 runs in three starts against the Brewers in September.

Yes, those results are there for everyone to see, which is quite contrary to the ridiculous assumptions that Rasmus was a distraction or that “roles” needed to be “filled.”

Rasmus may well prove to be the best player. But the Cards didn’t only make the playoffs, they’re in the World Series.

They’d tell you that proves they won this deal. And it would be hard to argue with them.

Agreed. Unless of course you use reason or logic in that argument.

Comments (40)

  1. Nails! Cox is an idiot. How do we lose a trade by getting a highly touted prospect at CF one of the hardest posistions to find a star at, by dealing players who weren’t in the clubs future in a season in which we were not competing for a title? How does this guy get paid??

    • Rasmus isn’t just a prospect either. The guy was one of the best players at his position in his age 23 season (2010). Most of the players in the Hall of Fame consist of guys who play that well at that kind of early age. Sure, not every player who gets off to a hot start winds up being a baseball immortal, but you rarely find a player who has that kind of career who didn’t perform like a star in their early years.

  2. Somebody please tell TLR the Cardinals were 55-49 and 0.5g out of first when they traded Colby.

    • Well, Theriot tried to tell him that the Cards were in first place when he was the starting shortstop.

  3. Actually Cox’s comparison of the Rasmus trade to the 1988 Hull trade isn’t that bad. The Flames like the Cards got some key pieces to a championship run and the Blues like the Jays got a potential star. What Cox ignores is that this is most likely a win-win deal like the NHL trade he referenced.

    Why is it so hard to see it as such? It’s a good trade for both involved if the Cards win the WS and the Jays get a future star. Two different teams in two different situations, but all the writers want to focus on one side or the other.

  4. I honestly think he’s just not a baseball guy, which makes it more bothersome to me that he’s offering an opinion about it than his actual opinion.

    • Richard Griffin is a baseball guy, but that doesn’t make his writing good either.

      • Touche. I don’t necessarily agree with Griff very often, but I wouldn’t call him a bad writer or one who necessarily trolls for reaction more than other writers.

        • I should have said opinions instead of writing. Agreed, Griff is a decent writer with out to lunch opinions. Cox has a definite troll vibe about him, I don’t get that from Griff.

  5. Mr. Cox should stick to poorly covering hockey.

  6. Hey Parkes, given your new access to and around the mainstream media in Toronto… if you were to run into Cox at en event (or perhaps you have already), what do you say to him?
    Or is it unprofessional at this point in your career?

    • I think you’re overestimating my “access.” But I’ve got no problems with him as a person. I just disagree with him a lot when he writes about baseball. And if I was in a discussion with him about baseball, I’d have no difficulty defending my position or refuting his just as if it was with anyone else.

  7. Where is this discussion if not for a historic collapse by the Atlanta Braves? Cards got lucky and they have shown that most teams can win if they get in. An old tired refrain, but we all know they do not make the playoffs in the AL East?

    • Exactly. This is probably what I find most bothersome about the whole “this trade got them to where they are.” It’s all completely dependent on factors outside their control like the Braves collapse. And there are still several more important factors than this trade in which they gave up one of the best young players in baseball – like how about how Yadier Molina played down the stretch. Why is no one mentioning that?

      • It’s the old “but for” test. Would the Cardinals be where they are but for the trade? Almost certainly not. So while other factors obviously contributed (in a greater degree) to their squeaking into the playoffs, I don’t think it is wrong to point to the trade as having made a real difference either.

        Cox is a terrible writer with terribly formed opinions, and this piece is no different. As noted above, the trade has ended up as being a kind of win-win. Roundly (and rightly) panned at the time, the trade was obviously a steal for the Jays, and the Cards GM certainly gave up more value than he was getting. But it’s also like playing pocket twos against aces – the odds may be awful, but if you flop a two you still feel like a winner.

  8. As soon as I saw whom you were referring to I knew it was going to be a total BS job by Cox he has no idea how to build a baseball winner or anything about baseball to be perfectly honest. Sportsnet makes a major #FAIL everytime they have him on PTS to talk baseball. All he can see is the Short term when moves are made for the long term health and success of a team. Stop being so narrowminded Idiot boy Cox, go back to hockey but you are not a good reporter of that either. You troll Twitter all the time and then pawn it off as your own personal comments when they are the Suns comments too

  9. This is why Shi Davidi avoids offering his opinion and just repeats player quotes.

  10. Brilliant. Sincerely hope Cox reads this.

  11. Even though it is wrong, I hope this narrative about the trade continues. Anthopolous was starting to get a reputation as a GM killer with his trades (as I’m sure Tony Reagins will attest to). That kind of reputation only makes future trades more difficult. However Anthopolous, as crazy as it sounds, can now actually point to the Rasmus deal as a balanced deal and not the larceny it was generally considered to be at the time.

    If people in baseball truly want to believe that the Cardinals are in the World Series because of Rzep and Dotel that’s fine by me.

    • Excellent point. When the Jays are sustainably winning in a few years all of this won’t matter. It’s all about process and I assume Anthopoulos doesn’t give a shit what people like Cox have to say, haha.

  12. I get that Cox is a hockey guy and that he’s on PTS because hockey talk drives up the ratings. However what is maddening to me is the number of times he interrupts Bob McCowan mid point with inane chatter that has nothing to do with anything, to the point that McCowan forgets what he was going to say.

    I can’t stress how infuriating this is to me.

  13. And Cox comes back with this ” What’s really sad is erroneously breaking down another person’s work now passes for “journalism.” Pathetic.”

    Somebody’s feelings are hurt.

  14. Cards got what they wanted for this year, Jays are better for down the road. Trade (presuming Rasmus plays to his talent level) works for both sides, based on their needs at the time.

    Damien Cox isn’t much of a baseball writer, but I’d say his rep blew this piece up more than it deserved.

  15. Dead on, Mr. Parkes. The Jays are working toward guaranteed World Series championships, while the stupid Cardinals simply are thinking in the immedate future.

  16. Good work Parkes.
    When it comes to baseball, Damien Cox is a moron now + always.

  17. While I don’t agree with Cox’s position (he’s wrong obviously), I do agree somewhat with his point regarding this form of journalism.

    At what point will this website get tired of posting articles refuting the ridiculousness of others’ work? There’s no reason analytical minds should be reading articles at The Star in the first place, so why highlight them here and tear them apart?

    I just wonder when it will get old to critique the works of “traditional” baseball writers because they don’t understand the game like we do. It’s a pretentious approach that takes baseball talk discussion down a path that parallels religion and politics. This “I’m right and you’re wrong” approach is what has caused the rebellion from the “traditional” types in the first place.

    It’s a shame I have to try and filter through these type of posts to get to occasional good analysis on this site. Drew in particular does great work, but it does strike me as a shortage of writing material to mark up other articles and display to us just how wrong they are…

    • I think writing about this stuff sets up valuable discussion of discourse and leads to more critical thinking. So in that way, I think it’s perfectly valid “journalism”. I don’t think this type of work should stop at baseball or sports either. Critical thinking and being critical of media discourses has unlimited worth in and outside of sports.

      • How valuable has any of the discussion been thus far? Just a bunch of people saying, ‘Swell job, Parkes my old boy!’, and then a myriad of people saying, ‘Well, this does get tired…’. I think that yes, with the influence you guys have (I assume you generate good traffic), that educating people about the value of the deal is a good thing, but these ‘attacks’ on writers bring very little to the table. I read Getting Blanked because I want to read Dustin, Drew etc. talk about baseball, and provide statistical analysis to help broaden my own view of the game, not read them rip inferior baseball analysts about their inferior opinion. The heart of what Parkes was discussing revolved around ‘trolling’, and I think that this is the exact same thing. This thread already has 33 comments, the average article generates roughly ten. Isn’t the definition of trolling to incite reaction (even if Dustin had no intention of trolling, which I’m sure he didn’t, this reads as very troll-y in nature)? I want to read intellectual people write intellectual things, not shit on people who don’t share a sabrmetric (or even logical) worldview.

        /Rant over

        • I totally agree with these two comments. I really love what you guys do here, and the baseball knowledge and attention to detail is awesome (the writing’s good too!). But maybe there should be section of the Score’s site that is devoted to media criticism (a la Toronto Sports Media, the Usual Suspects in the Globe, or the media critic du jour in the Star). I’d be into that. But the baseball blog should be about baseball, not consternation about how stupid everyone else is about baseball. Like others have said, I think the notion of trolling is negated and the score ends up being 0-0 with posts like this.

          Seriously though, start up a sports media section at the Score. It’s obvious that we’re all fascinated about this stuff.

    • It is an interesting point you raise about whether this type of article is actually necessary.

      Having had a back-and-forth with Cox yesterday via Twitter about his suggestion that this is shoddy journalism, only to come to a conclusion that he refuses to address the actual concerns that Parkes raises in this article, seemed completely fruitless. I quickly realized that I was discoursing with ignorance and wondered whether it was, at all, worth my time.

      But I wonder still, even to the slightest degree, when Cox returns to his computer and decides to chime in with another poorly-researched opinion piece that’s just as flimsy as his last, any small hesitation he has to writing it, is attributed to what was discussed yesterday and how so thoroughly he did not want to address the mountain of evidence that went against his opinion.

      Not saying he will eventually learn his lesson but who’s to say that there is no value in rebuking ignorance?

  18. Parkes has “zero” access, but only because I assume he chooses not to. I’m sure the Score could get him a press pass so he could attend Jays games, but then he might actually have to see the likes of Griffin, or Cox, or player he rips with his words, and well, what fun is that?

    Cox is right though: it is pathetic to make a living spending so much time ripping apart some one else’s work. We don’t need Parkes to tell us Cox doesn’t know baseball.

    It’s a cheap and tired way of trolling himself; looking for a reaction and praying for a Twiter war. You know what’s funny? Parkes, like Cox, is just another angry dude who gets off on being a contrarian. Give it a rest, both of you.

  19. I can’t agree with you when you say: “Trades should be about trying to win multiple championships and more than a single title.”

    Ideally, sure, I guess. But not really. Trades are about improving your club. Did the Blue Jays improve their club over the long term? Probably. Did the Cardinals improve their club over the short term? Probably. Why the goodness of this trade is dependent on either club winning multiple championships is beyond me.

    If the Cards win the series, the trade was worth it, simply because the added revenue probably pays for a player in the draft (to replace Colby). For the Blue Jays, they gave up so little for so much potential that anyone arguing they lost it is probably just being a Cox, as you point out.

  20. Though I enjoyed reading the article I do not see the sense in pointing out that he is a hack on a website whose viewers already know he is a hack. It is to bad that the people who should be reading this article (those that take Cox seriously) are never going to.

  21. good posts parkes…. it just seems rather useless. you know what I mean?

    Like trying to teach calculus to a 6 year old, no matter what they aren’t going to get it..

    ignorance doesn’t evolve.

  22. Silly Parkes,

    Don’t you know if you disagree with an article you are suppose to “have the stones” to call up the person you disagree and duel it out like a man. How dare you!

    Don’t you understand that you aren’t a journalist. A journalist doesn’t just write about other people’s work, he get’s quotes from athletes saying things like “we just gotta take it one day at time and keep grinding.” That’s what we the fan’s want, more quotes like that. Less actual thought, and more entertaining quotes. From actual journalists. Not a measly blogger without any “stones.”

    How can you call yourself a journalist. You only write about one sport. A real journalist has opinions on every sport. And posses the questions those without “the stones” are to “stoneless” to ask….

    Silly silly Parkes…

  23. Great article, I was just as angry as you by the time I finished reading. I will definitely be following your pieces more closely now.

  24. I would like to know how many people were blocked by Mr. Cox today. I told him very politely that I did not agree with his article. He then blocked me lol.

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