Monday, July 21, 2008

Town's the Fish, People are the Barrel . . . BAM! Fish in a Barrel

I know the guys at FJM have been all over this so far (and let's face it, they do it much better than any of us ever could - that's why he's Mose Schrute and I play a lot of slow pitch), but that Pulitzer-winning curmudgeon and noted hater of VORP, Murray Chass, has a new blog located at his website.

There are multiple problems with this, upon first reading. To start, Chass abhors blogs - his "about" page notes that he one time answered a question on Charlie Steiner's radio program with the succinct and loquatious "I hate blogs." Why on Earth this man would then decide he needs to blog is simply mind-bending, but there it is. Second, for the last few years, Chass has decided to identify himself more and more as an "old school" Baseball Man (R). This means he hates new-fangled statistics, choosing instead to let his ancient eyes tell him who can or cannot play. Now, this is a preference, and I won't fault the preference - but it spills over to actual anger. A lot. No, more than that. This dude is essentially the drunk grandfather we've been trying to forget for years.

Well, in his latest blog update, Chass opines for the halcyon days where any retread former player could be guaranteed a job somewhere in baseball, regardless of his actual ability to coach, manage, fill out the uniform or really do anything beyond cashing a paycheck. The subject of this virtual handjob is Don Baylor - from all reports, a good guy, and a pretty solid player in his own right. Baylor win an MVP award and a handful of Silver Slugger awards, and put up a career 118 OPS+ that puts him at 18% better than league average over the course of his career. He put up solid numbers in an offensively depressed era, and if and when Collin and I open the "Hall of Very Good" just outside Schenectady, I want Don Baylor to cut the faux-velvet ribbon.

What I don't want Don Baylor to do is coach my favorite baseball team. Murray, however, disagrees.

Let's start with the core assertions Chass makes:

  • Baylor is qualified to manage or at least coach
  • Baylor is held back because of his "strong personality"
  • Baylor is held back because pansy ass managers don't want him looking over his shoulder
  • (Insert vague race claims here)
Baylor is "qualified" to coach like I'm qualified to make out with 19 year old sorority girls - that is, his only "qualification" is that he did it twice before, and not to any great success. We're talking about a guy with a career .476 winning percentage, and whose teams finished higher than third exactly one time. Indeed, the 2nd place finish in 1995 was one of only two times in which his teams outperformed their Pythagorean W/L record (the other being his first season), and most of his teams vaguely underperformed relative to their run scoring and run prevention (although the 2002 Cubs finished a woeful 9 games under their Pythag - simply stunning).

In short, there is really no evidence that Baylor's teams benefitted greatly from his presence. Part of that might be Baylor's "strong personality," which Chass notes repeatedly in his don't-call-it-a-blog-post. Often, top-tier athletes do indeed have "strong personalities" - in fact, it is a characteristic that helps define some of the best athletes. For Chass to note it here, then, I can only draw one conclusion: Baylor is an asshole. When I'm hiring a grown man to deal with other grown men (many of whom are also assholes), I'm pretty sure "asshole" isn't on top of my list of desired attributes. I can only imagine people rich enough to own a baseball team agree, or aren't stupid enough to hire people who disagree.

Beyond that, assuming that other managers don't want Baylor looking over their shoulder, ready to pounce and steal their jobs, seems specious at best. It seems just as likely that current managers don't want a hitting coach or bench coach who a.) hasn't really been successful as a coach anywhere and b.) is likely a huge douche bag. For Chass to (pardon) chastise others for passing over Baylor seems like wishcasting more than reporting, analysis or insight.

In short - why? Why are we pining for Don Baylor, Murray? What the fuck is the point? If you'd taken more than 15 minutes to do even a smidge of research, you'd come up with multiple plausible reasons why Don Baylor isn't on anyone's radar, and probably shouldn't be. Dusty Baker destroys young arms, but at least he's gone to the playoffs in the process. I know numbers are frightening, and this whole Internet thing is making you more and more obsolete, but clinging to dinosaurs such as Don Baylor doesn't help in your drive for relevance.

1 comment:

cseguin said...

I don't know if our fellow blogger told you, but I sent an email to Mr. Chass about his blog. In the email, I used the word "Blog" about 15 times, and congratulated him on his new blog.

No response - either he exploded, or he threw his computer out the window and went back to the typewriter.