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November 22, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

The Thankless

by Jim Baker

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You know, Thanksgiving is a pretty nice holiday. It's open to everyone, really. It can be religious if you want it to be, or not so if you don't. It's a time to count your blessings if you want to label them as blessings, or your lucky breaks if you want to call them that. Thanksgiving is a time for people to be at peace with what they have in life.

For most, anyway. See, there is one group it excludes, and for them, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to step up the kvetching to a new level. This column then is dedicated to them, the people disenfranchised by this national holiday: the Thankless.

In their honor, here is some Thankless whining:

Why is there no award for the player who makes the most outs in a season?

Why do all awards have to have a positive slant? Can't we call attention to something that isn't so great? Contemplate this number for a moment: 529. Imagine watching 529 outs being made by a single player. If you saw every Mets game in 2005, that's just what you would have seen Jose Reyes do. That's more than Bobby Richardson in his prime and matches out-making great Omar Moreno's second-best "output" ever. The American League out-making champ in '05 was Hank Blalock. His out-making feat is pretty impressive in that he spent three-quarters of the season batting cleanup. The rest of the leaders--Reyes, Juan Pierre, Jimmy Rollins and Ichiro Suzuki--are all leadoff men.

If you were one of the four voters who thought Scott Podsednik was one of the ten most valuable players in the American League, how in the hell do you get paid to write about baseball?

There, I've said it. Unless you owe the guy money and think this is a better way to pay him back than actually giving him cash, this is an illustration of a complete incomprehension of what it takes to win baseball games. Two voters even placed him fifth and sixth respectively. Not only was Scott Podsednik not one of the ten most valuable players in the league, a case can be made that he barely qualifies as one of the ten most valuable at his position. You can definitely make a case that he wasn't one of the ten most valuable men on the White Sox.

A vote for Podsednik can also be justified on these extremely abstract grounds: his presence on the payroll was less of a burden on the team than had the Sox still had Carlos Lee. This freed them up to make other moves that helped them win the division. Even if that were provable, it doesn't really fit the voting criteria, however. Seriously, you four--turn in your credentials.

How, exactly, does the luxury tax matter, anyway?

The Rivalry Tax--which it should be named since it only affects the teams in the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry--what is it doing for the game? Is it making the two teams it impacts less competitive? Is it making anyone more so? Just wondering.

Aren't you glad you're not paying Scott Eyre out of your own pocket?

The trick has always been to be there when the door opens, regardless of what your walk in life may be. If you can just manage to stay near the bank, maybe one day, you'll be able to slip into the vault when the door eases open a crack. Scott Eyre got to the majors when he was 25 and failed as a starter for two seasons. He spent another three seasons pitching mostly in the minors and not showing well in big-league call-ups. Finally, in 2002, he had a season that was passable enough to earn him a shot the next year without having to go to the minors first.

Last year, at the age of 33, he had his best year ever, registering only the second positive STF number of his career. For this, he gets a three-year deal worth $11 million. Remember that this is the first time he's ever managed a WHIP below 1.33. Beware the free agent coming off his best season, especially if he's 34 years old. This is just the first falling leaf in a season of similar seemingly silly deals. There's so much foolishness to come that the Eyre deal won't even register as a footnote by Opening Day.

Why aren't baseball games distributed better?

There are way too many games on during the season and not enough during the offseason. In August, there are sometimes 10 games going simultaneously on the Extra Innings package. That's just too many choices and it is sometimes impossible to figure out which ones to watch. Now, in November, there are no games on at all! How about some balance?

How hard was it, really, to figure out the most award-worthy pitcher in the American League?

This isn't a sabermetrics vs. traditional-thinking thing. The statistics by which Johan Santana outclassed Bartolo Colon are all part of the standard lines that appear in the newspapers that employ the voters. This is not a case of old thinking versus new but a simple exercise in common sense. Voters, so that semi-informed 12-year-old boys aren't snickering at you, do yourselves a favor: stop looking at won-loss records as a gauge of individual performance. Come on people, this isn't rocket science.

Who decided rocket science was the threshold of complexity anyway?

Launcher. Powder. Shaped projectile. Basic rocket science is pretty simple stuff. The British had rockets in the War of 1812, for Pete's sake. They weren't very accurate, but they were rockets and those rockets had the effect of freaking out the enemy, not to mention the rocketeers. Of course, the Chinese had rockets 700 years before that. Super-orbital rocket science? Yes, that's a lot more complicated, but nobody ever gets that specific when using the discipline to make a point, do they? Clearly, we need to come up with something that supercedes this now-clichéd dismissal of the ease of an endeavor. Can you come up with a better one?

Come on people, this isn't sabermetrics.

Related Content:  Scott Podsednik

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