29 January 2010
Determined not to be outdone, either in ignorance nor in bombast among the ink stained wretches of Boston Sports Writing, former Globe beclowned scribbler extraordinaire and despiser of all things Belichick, Ron Borges revels in his undeniable ignorance in a column that evokes all that's gloriously awful about Murray Chass, Bill Conlin, Dan Shaughnessy, Bill Plaschke and yes, even, Mike Lupica.
Sports columnist is a cherry of a gig. Apart from being Andy Rooney - and really, who wants those eyebrows of his - no job allows the holder to highlight his or her ignorance as a means of qualification. Curse you empiricists. A pox upon you rational thinkers. We'll have none of your logical approaches to subject matter. That newfangled Socratic Method has nothing on what my lyin' eyes are telling me.
Such is life in the moldy offices of the scribe whose opinions are out-dated relics of a bygone age. Borges finds Theo Epstein's rather reasonable assertion that victory can be had as easily by preventing more runs as it can be by scoring more of them to be a heretical invocation of "quantum baseball."
Cripes, Ron, how many World Series titles have you won? But lest you doubt the veracity of my summation let us gaze upon the the utter feebleness of thinking that is a Ron Borges column. Our mother of blessed Ken Tremendous-esque fisking don't fail me now:
With the opening of spring training less than three weeks away it would appear the retooling of the Red Sox is complete, at least for now. So what has general manager Theo Epstein wrought?I'm not playing Ron, you use wrought, preface it with hath. What hath Theo wraought. Has sounds so modern. Wrought bathes in antiquity. Match your frackin' styles, man.
Beats me, which is unimportant. Beats the Yankees? I donâ€™t think so.Oh I get it. You're being cute. Adopting the slang for I don't know and repeating it with its traditional denotation. I mean, that would have made the folks at the Daily Tar Heel squeal with delight. Anyway, you're expressing your ignorance of the efficacy of the moves, but then you tell us that you don't think it'll beat the Yankees. Or to paraphrase. Caveman no understand fire, fire must not be good.
If an array of new fielding metrics you need a Ph.D. to understand are to be believed, the Red Sox will have to travel with two planes this year. The first for the players, the second for their Gold Gloves.Actually planes come with cargo holds specifically for the purpose of hauling things like luggage, mail, the occasional caged beast, oh and a planeload of gold gloves. You know if they need extra room, Ron, you can catch a train. I mean, who wants to bother with flying, if you don't have a Ph.D to understand the principles of aerodynamics which make air travel possible.
According to Epstein, the Red Sox will be competitive through the use of kung fu baseball, the art of winning without scoring. They will be so flawless in the field that opponents will simply forfeit, their inability to penetrate the Steel Curtain Defense so frustrating that the other side simply resigns. Sort of like playing Bobby Fischer in chess.It's more like baseball jujitsu. Calling it kung fu can get you killed.
While teams created by Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies or Brian Cashman of the Yankees cling hopelessly to National League and American League pennants and a misplaced faith in the old order represented by stats like batting average, fielding average and RBI, teams of the new millennium like the Red Sox believe those are insignificant relics of a bygone era, the buggy whips of baseball.Actually Ron, the Yankees moves this offseason have partially centered around improving their overall fielding. The outfield of Randy Winn, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner is based more on fielding and OBP than the previous version with Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera. It's like you're not paying a bit of attention, Ron.
They have been replaced by faith in OBP, OPS, UZR (I thought those were the initials of a former Russian state only to learn it means Ultimate Zone Rating), DRS (defensive runs saved) and PMR (probabilistic model of range). Based on crunching numbers into these new formulas, one expert in baseball metrics, John Dewan, has written that the addition of Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron in the field will add nine more victories to the Soxâ€™ bottom line. Lo and behold, we just won the pennant! Who knew?Stats geeks, Ron. Those whose opinions you cite, mockingly, understood the Red Sox moves and applauded them as wise allocations of resources.
A year ago, the Sox won 95 games despite apparently stumbling around in the field like a half-drunken softball team in a Wednesday night league. Somehow they miraculously finished only eight games behind the Yankees without being able to catch a cold standing naked in the Alaskan wilderness. Fortunately, those Sox have been replaced by guys whose gloves are more valuable than Michael Jacksonâ€™s.And they promptly got swept by the Angels in the ALDS. The Red Sox pitchers had to work harder to get outs leaving them gassed as the season went on. See how better fielding can pay more dividends? It's like if the starters work less, they can pitch deeper in the game, keeping the pen fresher, meaning the opposing team has less opportunities for success. Run prevention. It's like in football, defense wins championships. Why can't us?
Together, Cameron, Scutaro and Beltre hit eight home runs more than Jason Bay but, as we now know, home runs are meaningless. Fortunately Sox fans, so are RBI because Bay had 119, which was 49 more than Cameron, 59 more than Scutaro and please donâ€™t ask how many more than Beltre (all right, 75 if you must know but compare his DVD to Bayâ€™s CD and divide by BVD and see what you get - a pennant, of course).Okay let's be fair, how many homeruns did Red Sox shortstops hit last year? They hit twelve. Scutaro crashed twelve. So Scutaro represents not just better defense but also better offense than the hodge podge that the Red Sox trotted out at short. Now look at Beltre. Admittedly 2009 was an off year. But over the last three seasons he averaged almost 20 (19.67) homeruns. In that same time span, Mike Lowell averaged 18.33. With Lowell's inability to move in the field, Beltre's fielding is superior with offense that is comparable. So that's an upgrade. Now let's compare Bay to Cameron. Bay's 36 homeruns were a dozen more than Cameron hit in 2009. But if Boston had qualms about bringing back an aging power hitter who has what they think are gimpy knees, then that marginal difference is not nearly as large.
See that stuff above. That's called analyzing the moves. I have no idea what you're doing, Ron.
Some might argue that pitching in Fenway Park is not exactly like pitching in Yosemite Park, but Soxâ€™ management has discovered that despite mistaken evidence to the contrary, scoring runs is no longer essential to winning games. Interesting concept.Now you're just being tedious. I'm going to quote Jason Rosenberg here, since he succinctly makes the point:
Let's quickly get back to the larger issue, Ron. There are only a few things you can do to win a game, which I'll summarize below:I'm glad Jason spelled that out because I don't think Ron grasped that elementary concept.
1. Outscore your opponent
2. Hold your opponent to to fewer runs than you
You might discern that those two things are, in fact, the same damn thing.
Throw the ball, catch it and trade a walk for a homer and just like that youâ€™ve got nine more wins and a pennant. Or so they want you to believe over on Yawkey Way.Such is the goal. Though I can understand Borges' skepticism. If you mailed it in at your job and didn't give a rat's rectum about the quality of the product you produced, you'd naturally assume that's what everybody does too. How does Borges actually hold onto the gig, writing about sports without working to get the new ways of looking at the games. When I was in college and Baseball Prospectus was a new player in baseball analysis, Peter Gammons mentioned them in his Globe column. Gammons so loves the game that he explores novel analysis with an open mind. That's called intellectual curiosity. It pre-supposes that you are not omniscient and demands that you use rigorous examination of contrary thought to ensure your perceptions are valid. That's hard work. It's easier to mail it in.
Owner John Henry recently reminded his paying customers that the Sox won 95 games a year ago. Only problem is the Yankees won 103 and the World Series, to which John Henry would reply, â€śYeah, but whatâ€™s their ATM?â€ťTrue, the Yankees' profligate spending led to a 27th Championship in 2009. But it also required an abundance of breaks such as continued good health among their older players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. They needed Alex Rodriguez to bounce back which was hardly a given in May. They spent and spent like every other year in the decade and they won their second title, bookending the decade. Hurray for them. Not every team plays with their budget. As a result other teams elect to pursue alternative theories of roster construction to assemble comparable talent at a reduced cost. That's called smart, in case you're wondering.
Moneyball, which became defined as the love of sabermetrics over old-school stats like HR and RBI, has led Billy Beane, the godfather of this con job, to build an economic Oakland Aâ€™s team that hasnâ€™t won a pennant in 20 years or a World Series in 21, but did manage to have a best-selling book written about the concept. The Aâ€™s did win division titles in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2006, but what they have actually won during the Moneyball era is nothing. No sequel is planned.Ahhh, the crutch of blame Moneyball. Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball because he was fascinated by the way Beane's teams could compete with one quarter of the Yankees budget. Let's compare. Between 2000 and 2006 (seven seasons) Oakland won 664 games. New York in that span of time won 679. That's a difference of 15 games or just over 2 per year. The Yankees in that time made the playoffs every year compared to five of seven for Oakland. New York won one World Series. Oakland did not win any. New York spent $1,085,717,845 that's more than three times what Oakland in comparison spent - $333,291,092 (all numbers per Cot's Baseball contracts.) Ron, this is why the Athletics operational guidelines are interesting. Their cost per win was $501,944.42 over that seven year span. New York's was $1,598,995.35 To be able to win efficiently is the goal in baseball for 29 teams. Only one gets to take the gloves off and buy all they want and need. Granted the goal is winning, but teams looking to knock off the Yankees without spending the money they do have a choice, they can hope for luck or they can find any edge out there to maximize the chances of winning. So Boston has copied that mold. This is a problem because?
Now it seems the Sox have headed down the same road of quantum baseball over your grandadâ€™s version, which was mistakenly centered on foolishness like hitting and scoring runs.It was also focused on pitching and defense. And frankly, if my grandpa told me they tied onion's to their belts because that was the style of the day, I wouldn't tie an onion to my belt, because times change, Ron.
This has gone so far that Dewan has come up with a new type of struck ball. While he factors ground balls, fly balls and line drives in his fielding metrics, he also has created â€śfliners.â€ťWhich is logical because if it's a little like a liner, but it's a little like a flyball, it's not properly categorized as either. So make a new category and dump it into it. Precision has value.
If mastery of fliners beats the Yankees, Iâ€™m all for it, but my lying eyes have told me it takes live arms and live bats. Gloves only beat the Yankees when Jason Varitek is stuffing one up the nose of Alex Rodriguez.So the Red Sox should play barehanded? They did that in Great Grandpa's time, it was the style of the day then. A few broken carpal bones will impair the hitting acumen of those lumber wielding behemoths.
If mastery of fliners beats the Yankees, Iâ€™m all for it, but my lying eyes have told me it takes live arms and live bats. Gloves only beat the Yankees when Jason Varitek [stats] is stuffing one up the nose of Alex Rodriguez.Ahhhh, so this is one of those, the Red Sox are going to suck because they're so cheap columns. Never mind that their payroll will exceed $175 million. But because they wouldn't pony up a bucket of ducats for Jason Bay they went cheap this year and woe is us, the Yankees are gonna beat us up and take our lunch money. Hey Ron, do us a favor, go back to telling us Belichick sucks and grab a big ole heaping helping of shut the hell up.
Someday, when intellectual incuriosity has been banished from the realm of sportswriting we should construct a sepulchre for thinking as such and paraphrase Shelley to carve the inscription thereon,
"My name is Scriverius - the poison'd pen:
Look on my rants, ye mighty, and despair!
UPDATE: Replaced picture to remove typo.
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