Friday, January 7, 2011

Playing to the Base (Let's Talk About Feelings)

This should be a happy time for Jays fans. It is a happy time. Roberto Alomar, local folk hero, enshrined in the Hall of Fame! The first to go in as a Blue Jay! Excitement!

Unfortunately the scrutiny maelstrom surrounding Hall of Fame inductions may have shot a few holes into the Roberto Alomar mystique. Calling his defense track record into question and the like. Long suffering Jays fans howl in disbelief, unable to fathom the great second base deity might not be as transcendent as they remember.

It was nearly 20 years ago, after all. People jumping out of their skin to decry the faulty metrics based on observations they made when they were 12. Just like Parkes said in the comment section of his post on the matter, you can't toss aside defensive metrics and meaningless awards when Jeter wins them but use them as to back your Robbie the GBOAT case.

But Robbie Alomar isn't a rational buy for Jays fans of a certain age, he's an emotional one. The iconic home run, taking rueful hot dog Dennis Eckersley deep against all odds, is etched in the minds of those old enough to remember.

Does it matter that Candy Maldonado actually contributed more, in terms of WPA, on that fateful day? Nope, it does not matter one bit. We remember it how we remember it, and we associate so many of those fuzzy feelings with Robbie. Rightfully so.

Robbie clearly has an affinity for Toronto, too. The most deeply cynical among us (hi!) might suggest his loud lobbying to go in as a Blue Jay seeks to exploit that affinity, that he recognizes the value in being "Blue Jays Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar" when it comes to appearances and signings.

Or he just valued his time in Toronto as the best of his career. His ongoing relationship with the team suggests as much. Being heralded as a hero will do that.

What about players who aren't thought of as heroes? As anyone familiar with the self-deprecating stylings of Dirk Hayhurst knows professional athletes — especially those on the talent margins — must cast off the constant fear and self doubt associated with professional inadequacy.

Blogoncé herself wondered "aloud" if I didn't want to @-reply Jesse Litsch on Twitter with a link to the post I wrote earlier this week, expressing my belief that Litsch is unfit for the rotation. I can honestly say I did not.

There is no part of me that wants to put Jesse Litsch on blast, attempting to draw his attention to the uninformed opinion of a no-account blogger like me. Not that he'd put any stock in it in the first place. Either way, the thought of Litsch bristling at the thought that some clown in his parent's basement doesn't think he has what it takes makes me uneasy.

Seriously, who am I to tell Litsch he isn't good enough? In any professional baseball player's eyes, I'm nobody. Could my insignificant words penetrate the iron-clad shell of pro athlete confidence? Hopefully not. But it is surely part of the din.

It's all in the game though. Jesse Litsch knew what he was getting into long ago. A product of the RBI program, he's overcome more than his share of adversity. Here's hoping he stays strong and overcomes a little more, in spite of what clowns like me believe.


  1. I get WPA, and while Candy's WPA is higher than Alomar's, Robbie's WPA+ is tops on the team. If you truly believe that Candy contributed more than Alomar that fateful day, when Roberto went 4-5, 2 runs, a SB, a walk, no strikeouts, and hit the home run when he hit the home run, well, then the numbers mean different things to you and I.

    Robbie clearly has an affinity for Toronto, too. The most deeply cynical among us (hi!) might suggest his loud lobbying to go in as a Blue Jay seeks to exploit that affinity, that he recognizes the value in being "Blue Jays Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar" when it comes to appearances and signings.

    And you might be more cynical than I thought!

  2. Robbie's home run was the single biggest event of the game. I don't believe Candy contributed more, that's just what the numbers say.

    Re: the second part - not saying, just sayin.

  3. Cynicism is healthy, despite what Conan says. Birds are falling out of the sky! The cynics (holed away in bunkers) shall inherit the earth.

    Anyway. Drew won’t actively try and destroy Litsch’s career. He may be cynical, but not as hate-filled as he’d like us to believe. I can’t say I’d be so decent.

    Wondering aloud again. Drew, surely one of the Jays has read one of your posts about them. I’ve seen those blackberry insider videos; they Google themselves on the regular.

    As a blogger and fan, how do you feel about indirectly telling someone they aren’t good enough?

  4. Oh god, no I feel poor. Forget what I said. Think of how happy you may have made Rzep!

  5. A healthy dose of cynicism is healthy. As for the dying birds, there's a perfectly logical explanation. We just don't know it yet.

  6. Sure, Candy Maldonado may have been a more significant contributor on that day, but how many of us remember what Maldonado did? I, for one, had to look, and I remember where I was and what I was doing that day.

    I am firmly behind the use of statistics (as opposed to memories of individual plays) to evaluate players... but there still has to be some context. If Alomar hits that HR in the 3rd inning, his contribution doesn't stand out the way it does in all our memories today.

    And if a player doesn't stand out somehow... where's the "Fame" in "Hall of Fame"?

  7. I don't have a word to describe how hard I laughed at 'Blogoncé'

  8. There's a distinction between cynicism and skepticism.

    Cynicism is easy. Skepticism is good.

  9. Of course Maldonado's contribution pale in comparison to Robbie's big hit, they don't even compare in terms of impact.

    Alomar's WPA for the game is hampered by a lineout in the 10th inning with a man on. Maldonado's single in the 11th moved Derek Bell to third, improving the Jays chances of winning by 24% (33% for Robbie's shot.)

  10. I'm sure Jesse Litsch has had far worse things said to him or about him or thought similar things to himself in regards to his playing ability for decades now. As you mentioned with Hayhurst, any professional athlete is going to have to get past mountains of doubt and fear before they even come close to competing at this level. Even if, as Blogonce so accurately ascertained, they do google themselves and even if you did tweet that to Litsch, it would simply be used as another building block he's going to have to climb his chubby ass over.

    Just think: Maybe Jose Bautista did that very thing and strongly disagreed with your 'September means nothing' post from two years ago. BAM. 50 Home Runs.

    If that doesn't work, consider the following: Maybe Jesse googled it, saw it, got mad, and left it up on the screen. Then, R-Zep came by and had a look and it made his whole day.


  11. and a 3rd thing:

  12. I love the Candy Maldonado talk.

    My memory must be failing a bit, because I didn't remember him playing three seasons with the Jays.

    Also, he put up a 123 OPS+ with the Jays. Which is, oddly enough, the same as Alomar's career OPS+ with the Jays.

  13. It's really hard to believe that Alomar wasn't a great defender. I don't recall a fielder that impressed me as much as he did when I watched him.

  14. I don't disagree Peter, but how old were you when he was at his peak? 15?

    It is easy to be swayed by jump throws and sweet dives at that age.

  15. I'm not saying it's not true, just hard to believe. I mean I thought Tony Fernandez was impressive in 1986 (when I was 11), but my impression of Alomar's defense was that it was a level way beyond that of Fernandez.

  16. I can only assume all the Zooey fans have seen this:

  17. If advanced defensive metrics prove Tony Fernandez to be a fraud, then I fucking quit everything.

  18. Goddamnit, actual stats sure do get in the way of fuzzy feelings. It almost makes me understand why older sports writers seem to cling to their own notions of the intangible greatness of what they "saw", in person, everyday at the ballbark.

    Earlier this week, Dave Perkins was on PTS talking about players he had voted for on this year's ballot. When it came to Jack Morris, a selection that he acknowledged he'd get crushed for, as compared to Bert Blyleven, he said:

    "Well you know, Jack Morris got a lot of complete games too, and ate a lot of innings, and did things, but, I mean, I know the arguments from the people who sit the basement and play with the computers, and they make some good points for a lot of players, but I like to think I was paying attention all those years I was at the games"

    I'm not bringing this up to use it as ammunition to ridicule Perkins. In the context of your post, and the point about Maldonado being statistically superior to Alomar in that signature game, it makes me kind of understand how it would be hard for people that have covered the game for so long to want to believe their own eyes and their own memories. Just like I don't want to believe that Alomar wasn't one of the all-time great defensive second-basemen. It's like the more we know, less we get to feel warm and funny about anything.

    This is not to say that I'm happy about who gets to say what players are Hall of Famers...

  19. I meant warm and fuzzy. But warm and funny would be cool too.

  20. I'm starting a new tumblr called FUCK YEAH JUMP THROWS AND SWEET DIVES!


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