Tampa Bay Rays (16 days until pitchers and catchers report)
One our regular commenters, is starting to expand his horizons with a contributing piece at The Baseball Analysts. We were tempted to dedicate an entire post entitled “Why The Devil Rays Commenters Suck: Bob Rittner”, but were afraid nobody would get the joke.

The piece at The Baseball Analysts is an excellent read on a point we have been screaming about for a long time, in regards to Hall of Fame voting. That is, why is there such a deep divide between the statisticians and the traditionalists? For example, why can’t we consider both a players OPS+ and the perception that he was a feared hitter? Certainly people will weigh the measures differently, but why should either side ignore the other?

When an issue like the Hall of Fame elections arises, the problem is magnified because for statistically minded analysts there are objective criteria from which to begin the discussion. But to many traditionalists, the key word in the discussion is “Fame” as in who do people know, who had an impact on the story.

Jack Morris exemplified qualities that suggest he is a Hall of Fame character; Bert Blyleven did not. Jim Rice dominated because that is the story line, and for anyone who lived in his era, it makes perfect sense. It does not matter to those who are now voting if the statistics belie the claim.* When I watched a Yankee game and Rice came to the plate, I was scared. I was not as worried when Dwight Evans was at bat. I may have been wrong, but Rice felt like a star and Evans a supporting player. To say the journalists are wrong does nothing to advance the discussion because these players are first and foremost literary figures to them. You and I may know that Watson and Crick were far greater men than Alexander the Great and Napoleon, but in the pantheon of human heroes, you can bet Alexander will get in first, and nobody is going to identify Crick as Crick the Great.

The example we like to bring up is Derek Jeter. We wonder what the argument would be for Jeter if he suffered a career-ending injury before the start of the 2008 season. He has a solid if not spectacular career OPS+ of 122 (33rd among active players, min. 1000 at bats), but to look at traditional stats, he does not even have 2,500 hits, or 200 home runs or 1,000 RBI. His .317 batting average is strong, but most now look at Jeter as a defensive liability at the most important defensive position, despite three gold gloves.

Is Derek Jeter a Hall of Famer? Few people would argue that he is not. But what if Jeter had played his entire career in Kansas City on a last place team? Most importantly, what if Jeter was not as handsome and played his entire career away from the lights of Broadway and did not win four world series in five years? Would he still be a Hall of Famer?

My point is not to say that we should be debating the merits of Derek Jeter as a hall of famer. My point is that we cannot ignore the half of the package. Derek Jeter is a hall of famer. He might have been anyway, but he is a lock because he performed on the biggest stage. So in part, Derek Jeter is a hall of famer because he was lucky. Lucky to be drafted by the New York Yankees. Lucky that the Yankees needed a shortstop when he was ready. Lucky he never suffered a career-ending injury. Lucky the Yankees spent so much on payroll. He was lucky the Yankees had Joe Torre and lucky they had all the great starting pitching. And he was especially lucky that the Yankees had Mariano Rivera.

Should we hold that against Jeter? No. Just like we can’t go back and look at Tony Conigliaro’s career and say he should be in the Hall of Fame because he was unlucky. Some players are good. Some are great. But just as importantly, some players are lucky and some are unlucky.

Sometimes…to get into the Hall of Fame, a player can compensate their lack of greatness with some luck. I’m OK with that. Are you?

I’m OK, You’re OK [The Baseball Analysts]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • Baseball Musings takes a look at the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays offense. Using a statistical tool straight out of a nuclear physicists handbook, the Rays project to score between 5.21 and 5.54 runs per game in 2008. That would be a considerable jump from their 2007 rate of 4.83 runs per game. A rate of 5.21 rpg would give the Rays 844 runs in 2008, which would have been good enough for 4th in the AL in 2007. [Baseball Musings]
  • Yet another blogger believes that baseball can never succeed in the bay area. This time Sports Business News latches on to Matt Silverman’s recent comments that the Rays lost money last year. While we question the validity of the statement and wonder out loud why it was said (excuse to trade big salaries, leverage for new stadium, etc.) this has absolutely zero bearing on whether or not a team can survive and turn a profit in the Tampa Bay area. While the author acknowledges Vince Naimoli’s “Reign of Terror”, he does little to separate that ownership group with the current. Nobody expected miracles from the new front office immediately. They have a plan and so far it appears to be working. When the team begins to win more games, then and only then will we see if a team can survive in the area. Of course the author’s lack of knowledge on the subject is clear when he states, “Namoli (sic) has been, and continues to be, the face of the franchise, which may not be a good thing”. Once we read that we couldn’t stomach it to read any further. So if anybody does read the entire piece and finds any thing close to a cogent argument, please let us know in the comments. [Sports Business News]
  • In The Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2008, one of the four analysts list Evan Longoria as the top hitting prospect, while the other three have him listed behind Jay Bruce. [Fake Teams]
  • in their latest installment of a “A Tale of Two Erics”, Rays Anatomy picks apart Carl Crawford. [Rays Anatomy]
  • Rays of Light takes a look at the Rays projected opening day lineup and compares that to the opening day lineup for the Devil Rays in each of the last five seasons. [Rays of Light]
  • Rays of Light also takes a look at the projected rotation and compares that to the rotation’s throughout the history of the franchise. [Rays of Light]
  • DRays Bay interviews Rays’ pitching prospect Mike Wlodarczyk. Wlodarczyk has spent the last three seasons in the shadow of teammates Jake McGee and Wade Davis, but has posted an impressive resume for himself. [DRays Bay]
 
 

6 Comments

  1. Robert Rittner says:

    Thanks for the plug, and I think your Jeter example is very apt. No comment on the next post regarding the announcement of tryouts for the Rays. You can probably write my response yourself at this point. (I do think it is legitimate baseball news, of course.)

  2. Devil Ray Guevara says:

    more pros and cons for Jeter, even just using “traditionalists” tools.

    PROS
    7-time all-star
    perception as a “Clutch” post-season hitter/performer

    CONS
    Never won an MVP and only twice finished in the top-5.
    Post season numbers are actually a little below his career regular season numbers.

  3. The Professor says:

    just curious. why do you think it is newsworthy?

  4. Robert Rittner says:

    For the same reason I think it would be if there was a call out for a new mascot. The cheerleaders and mascots and announcers are part of the entertainment (theoretically; frankly I’d be just as happy without them.). If the team is looking to find new ones or fill spots it is news, just as if they are looking for a new manager or GM.

    Naturally it is not anywhere near as important, but it is part of the show and telling people that there are auditions is a service to fans. It’s not as if he is advertising for cashiers or secretaries for the executives. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Dallas papers announced tryouts for the Cowboy cheerleaders, for example.

    In any case, highlighting it seems to me another example of desperately trying to find something to criticize. (That’s the part I figured you could write for me.) You know the phenomenon. Mary doesn’t like Sue so she points out to her friends that Sue has a spot on her dress and tut tuts that she would come to school looking so shabby.

    I know in this case you do have a larger issue in mind-the potential conflict of interest for the paper due to its special relationship to the team. And that is very significant. But to demonstrate that requires a far more careful analysis of editorial policy and story slants. And since on that score I do not think you can make a case, these pieces of minutae cannot substitute. Standing alone they do not add up to anything. And if you can make the case the right way, then this minutae just distracts from the legitimacy of your point.

    Sort of like saying you are going to prove Hitler was an evil man but rather than mention mass murder, aggressive war-mongering and totalitarian practices, you spend time discussing his table manners.

  5. The Professor says:

    i guess I just don’t think it is anymore newsworthy than advertising that the team needs beer vendors which to me are more important than this “entertainment” (BTW, I am with you. Too many sideshows at games anymore. I understand the need, but could live without).

    And even if it is deemed newsworthy. Topkin could have just reported that the team was looking for them and announced the audition place/time and maybe a phone number. This is a news item that probably should have been a note at the end of a bigger piece. Instead, to present it the way it was presented, sounded and read more like he was doing the recruiting.

    Chastain ran the same story. But with him i understand.

    And I am not sure why, but the Emcee announcement today didnt bother me. That seems more newsworthy.

  6. Robert Rittner says:

    Well, it is an editorial judgment is my guess, and hardly a significant one-one way or the other. Just as you do not consider it newsworthy for the paper, I do not consider it newsworthy in a blog. It appears to me like a kind of piling on criticism just for the sake of criticism itself, not to illuminate anything.

    The fact is the cheerleaders are part of the public entertainment on the field and so like the emcee their position must have seemed worth some space on a slow news day for the Rays. I just see nothing more significant than that, nor does it bother me that the paper had exactly what you suggested was ok in the sidebar today.

    The really important question is the one you have raised about potential conflict of interest and possibly biased coverage. And on that score, I simply do not see evidence of it. Over the past year, many columns have been harshly critical of the Rays’ play. If recent columns have been far more positive, surely that can be explained by recent activity.

    But the best test case has to be the stadium proposal. And on that score, the paper has been anything but friendly to the Rays. Articles have often emphasized the opposition, the obstacles and the serious questions about the benefits a stadium would bring. The published letters have been overwhelmingly negative. I do not think the editorials have dealt with it yet, but even should they come out in favor, that would hardly be proof of anything since the coverage has not tilted towards a pro view.

    Given all that, raising an issue of a brief article about tryouts for cheerleaders seems to focus on the innocuous.

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