Viewer Mail 5.7.2011

Books, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Rather than take random shots at me and drastically alter the context and tone of what I’ve written based on convenience as the commenters on my linking on Baseball Think Factory, The Score, and Twitter did (and then ran), some actually had the intestinal fortitude and self-respect to do something unique: confront me directly.

Let’s have a look…

Vlad writes RE Rob Neyer and Derek Jeter:

“There’s a meanness that emanates from some stat people like Neyer and Keith Law that’s off-putting; perhaps it’s from never having played the game of baseball; perhaps it’s a bitterness that comes from writing about an activity and longing so desperately to have their way seen as correct; or maybe they’re just obnoxious jerks.”

It’s a reaction to all the undeserved coverage and accolades Jeter has received over the years. He’s been a very good player, but even so, the frothy, excessive praise he receives at every turn can be very off-putting for people who don’t live inside the NY bubble.

For example, Jeter is on the whole a subpar fielder, with a significant inability to reach ground balls hit to his left. He didn’t deserve to win even one Gold Glove – yet he has five of them on his shelf at home.

Similarly, Jeter’s reputation as a clutch God in the postseason is largely undeserved. He’s been a good postseason hitter (.309/.377/.472)… but not nearly as good as A-Rod (.290/.396/.528), who’s routinely criticized and portrayed as a Mr. May-style postseason stiff.

Even your post displays a few of these tendencies. Why do you assume that Jeter “has played clean”? Absence of evidence is not the same thing as evidence of absence, and yet it doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that Jeter might have used. If guys like Hank Aaron and Mike Schmidt have gone on the record as having tried to gain a chemical edge through the use of illegal substances, who’s to say that Jeter didn’t, too?

“Regarding Jeter, isn’t the point of stat-based theory supposed to look at the player’s career history and come to a conclusion based on a bit more than 100 at bats?”

As you may or may not be aware, Jeter’s hitting slipped badly in the second half last year. Over the last 365 days, a time period encompassing 736 PA, he’s put up a .260/.335/.334 batting line, with below-average defense. That’s not a very good performance. When you combine it with the fact that he’s 37, things don’t look good for him.

“What are they supposed to do after benching him?”

Hope that he retires, I would assume. That way, they wouldn’t be on the hook for the rest of his ill-advised contract extension, and could feel free to pursue someone like Reyes as a replacement.

The entire Gold Glove Award process is a disaster; for years I’ve lamented the decision to present the award to outfielders as an entity rather than by position with sometimes three center fielders winning the award; there’s no viable reason for many of the winners apart from, “oh, I know him; he’s pretty good” based on nothing; and Jeter’s not the only one to benefit from it; Rafael Palmeiro winning the award in 1999 after playing 28 games at first base was about as nonsensical as it gets…actually no, MLB defending it was more absurd.

The post-season “clutchness” emanates more from his overall success and winning—A-Rod’s numbers were boosted by the massive post-season he had in 2009; the negativity was, in part, because of Joe Torre‘s self-serving, “grumpy old man” decision to humiliate A-Rod by batting him eighth in the 2006 ALDS vs the Tigers; A-Rod is and always will be a better player in all facets than Derek Jeter.

The media has been kind to Jeter for the access to his life that they need and his reputation for freezing out those who cross him; never once have I bought into the “Jeter is God” mystique; it’s a mutually beneficial relationship; Jeter gets the accolades from the media and answers their questions.

You make a fair point regarding his perceived cleanliness, but as I’ve said before, the pitfalls for Jeter were voluminous especially for a young, handsome, talented star who was dating Mariah Carey as a rookie; we’ve seen New York swallow up so many young talents—greater talents than Jeter like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden—and he avoided those pitfalls. He does deserve praise for that.

No, I don’t know that he’s clean. I’m naturally cynical about such matters. But I do believe that Jeter is smart enough to refrain from anything that might even proffer the mere hint of impropriety to tarnish his legacy.

I don’t see one poor calendar year—after fifteen years of sustained excellence—as a fair sample to judge someone.

Regarding Reyes, I had a similar debate on Facebook. If you’d like to run the risk of hoping Reyes is available to the Yankees and give an injury-prone player $140+ million to come across town while totally alienating Jeter by openly telling him he’s gone after 2011, be my guest, but that is a massive amount of money and grand risk; Brian Cashman won’t be able to use the “abused by the Mets” excuse that deservedly placed him on the spit rod after Pedro Feliciano got hurt either.

Linus writes RE Rob Neyer:

Rob Neyer is a sweet-natured and classy guy, and he certainly doesn’t stoop to broad generalizations like the ones in this article, which are dim, silly, and sad.

Own any mirrors, Mr Lebowitz?

Sweet nature and classiness aside, where are my broad generalizations?

You deftly stickhandle your way around the issues I raise by coming at me with your own brand of silliness like asking me if I own any mirrors. I own plenty of mirrors; one of my favorite activities is gazing into mine own eyes and wallowing in narcissism.

The genesis of my posting wasn’t a capricious attack on Neyer. I’m asking a question as to what his alternative to signing Jeter was. What should the Yankees do rather than write his name in the lineup? And why say something like the horse-shooting foolishness?

Do you have a solution?

Perhaps you’d like to interpret what it was Neyer was trying to say in his tweet.

My judgment is based on a long litany of work that has gradually and then precipitously declined into a self-serving agenda on the part of Neyer to put forth his theory of stats above all else; it’s become angry and he clearly lashes out without basis for much of what he says. A prime example is the ripping into the book, The Beauty of Short-Hops without having the decency to read it to provide a review.

I haven’t read the book either; judging from the accounts of the tale, it sounds ridiculous and presumably would be simple for someone of Neyer’s experience and baseball knowledge to tear to shreds.

So why hasn’t he read it to review it? Was it beneath him? Was it easier to write a snide posting and bail out?

His ESPN work had become so mistake-laden and tinged with an aura of “I’m doing you a favor by writing this” that his departure was only lamented by those who treated it as if it was some horrific gaffe by ESPN to let him leave.

“Sweet-natured and classy”? What’s that got to do with anything? Should Jeter’s charity-work be then accounted for because he does nice things? There’s no connection between personality and work in assessing it. That’s supposed to be the detached nature of stats; I’m simply telling a truth you don’t want to acknowledge.

You can call me dim, silly and sad; I couldn’t care less; but at the very least, people who read me know they’re getting actual work, research, care and accountability for what I say. Can Rob Neyer say the same? Can you?

Nick writes RE Mike Francesa and the Yankees:

I listened to the shows where he made both comments you are referring to. First, he’s absolutely right about the Yanks having a huge financial advantage largely from the multibillion dollar beast that is the YES Network. The Yanks of the 60′s you are referring to in comparison of a possible pending downfall is just stupid. What happened to the Yanks then has zero comparison to the change in finances and dynamics of today. Yes more teams are signing young players to long contracts but most of them only buy out a year or two of free agency so the idea the Yanks won’t have a shot at them or that teams won’t make them available in trades is delusional. In fact these contracts could FORCE teams to trade them before the deal expires if a team isn’t doing well financially since they would likely have been paying less if they went to arbitration. Talk about Mike…man your article is weak at worst and misleading at best. I don’t feel like typing anymore or I would continue. Good luck with that book.

Nick is referring to my posting on Mike Francesa’s delusions, ego and prevarications—A Diet Coke Sitz Bath, 4.28.2011.

There’s obviously a disconnect between either your reading comprehension or stuff between the lines that I neither said nor implied.

Where precisely did I say the Yankees don’t have a financial advantage over the rest of baseball?

Oh, wait….I didn’t.

They do have a financial advantage that didn’t do them any good whatsoever in the one player around whom they built their entire 2010-2011 winter strategy—Cliff Lee. Because Lee didn’t want to come to the Yankees; because Lee felt that the Yankees, with their age, issues and rough division didn’t have as great a chance to win as the Phillies did.

Whether or not that will be proven as prescient remains to be seen.

Yes, the Yankees will be able to get the veteran player making big money as clubs try to dump them; but the ability to make the Curtis Granderson-style trade for a youngish player because clubs are looking to slash salary is rapidly disappearing.

Will the Yankees get a Tim Lincecum in his prime? While he’s healthy and pitching well?

If he’s available and they overpay him as they did for CC Sabathia to leave his preferred West Coast? Yes.

The entire point of what I said is that I don’t believe he will be because of teams increased penchant for locking up their own young stars long term.

The Yankees will always have the ability to trade for or sign a Chris Carpenter because he’s older and wants his last paycheck or the Cardinals are looking to clear the salary and get a few prospects for a pitcher who isn’t going to do them much good on the field one way or the other.

Did I mention finances as the reason for the Yankees downfall in the 60s-70s?

Um…no. I didn’t do that either.

That club’s downfall was due, in part, to the dilapidation of the farm system and the advent of the amateur draft which limited the number of players whom the Yankees could coax to sign with them because of their history as “winners” and the “greatest organization in sports”; everyone had a fair shot at all the amateurs because of the draft; the Yankees drafted, developed and traded terribly; prospects didn’t pan out; injuries ruined the few stars they had and they collapsed as a result of these factors.

Do your research before coming at me. Or know what you’re talking about. Or take off the Yankees hat.

I’d thank you for the good luck wishes with my book, but for some reason, I doubt you’re being sincere.

I’ll muddle through.

Mike Luna in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Pedro Feliz and the Rangers:

Here’s what I do with Feliz: Give him the ball. Tell him he’s starting.

That’s it. We’re done here.

If he still needs incentive, explain to him that his number 1 pitch (100 mph FB) will one day give out on him and likely render him useless as a closer. Better to learn to start now and become more a pitcher than a thrower.

Feliz supposedly backtracked on the comments.

They should at least try him as a starter before relegating him to the back of the bullpen for the rest of his career; he’s 23; they can explain it to him in pure financial terms (or his representatives can) that he’ll make more money if he’s a decent starter than a very good reliever.

I don’t know what they’re going to do with him, but I can tell you this: the Rangers will put a very small amount of weight on what Feliz desires. If any at all.

Mike, The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Jeter:

He should get his 3,000 hits and retire with his .300 lifetime batting average in tact. Why ruin it? Eventually the Yankees will drop him in the line-up if he keeps this up. And along the line he’ll be asked to switch positions. It’s just me talking…but I’d rather see him go out on top than to have to watch an unattractive decline.

I’m not prepared to say Jeter is finished based on one year of struggles.

He should be moved down in the lineup and this is one place where his reaction should be totally irrelevant. Manager Joe Girardi has a job to do and doesn’t have to explain to any player—even “the captain”—why he’s doing what he does. Jeter would be the first one to say publicly, “I don’t write the lineup” if he’s penciled in 7th rather than 1st. And that’s what Girardi should do.

He’s not getting his 3000th hit and retiring. One thing that grates on me is that he’s treated as if he’s hitting .220 for over a year. He’s not. He can still be a productive player and the Yankees have the bats to carry him even if he’s only a bit better than he is now.

I believe he’s got something left in the tank. The critics are piling onto the struggling animal now and will have much to apologize for when he starts hitting.

Will they? You tell me.

40 oz Liz writes RE Jeter:

They can have Jeter sell drinks, topless. Yes please!

Wearing Ken Rosenthal’s bowtie?

Then he’d earn the $50 million. But the critics would still be unswayed.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Neyer, Jeter and Broxton:

I’m just glad Neyer didn’t use the horse analogy on Jeet. No order of protection could save him if he did that.

Now that would be willy nilly overreaction based on a short sample size; sort of like benching Jeter; or shooting Broxton; or similar to the reactions to a reasonable question as to what to do with Jeter or stating a writer’s disinterest in providing quality content to his fans….oh, wait….

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I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic. Check it out.

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