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.