What I thought was interesting was the reaction to the Cubs’ end of the deal.
Tuesday night, I heard Betsy Ross praise the swap on SportsCenter, lauding the addition of Lofton’s veteran
leadership. She mentioned that the Cubs hadn’t been to the
postseason since 1998, which I supposed might have had some relevance in a
world where Marvin Miller was elected to public office in 1964 instead of
getting into baseball.
That kind of “analysis” trickles down. Yesterday afternoon, my good
friend Matt called from Boston to ask what his beloved Sawks might be doing in
the trade market. In the course of the conversation, he more or less repeated
the line about Lofton’s impact on the Cubs’ clubhouse.
I think the idea that the Cubs need veteran leadership is a crock. Take a look
at their lineup. On most days, they start old people at four positions,
including two players with World Series rings (Moises Alou
and Damian Miller) and another, Sammy Sosa,
who has some occasional experience in dealing with baseball-related pressure.
Was Eric Karros sitting around wetting himself over the idea
that he might not be able to perform in August and September, desperately
hoping the Cubs would acquire someone who could teach him?
OK, so it might not have been the most controversial thing he’s said this month–even our intrepid Derek Zumsteg didn’t dare sweat out this Dusty Baker gem. But the Cubbie manager also made the claim that older players fare better in the second half.
Dusty’s claim has at least some grounding in his own experience–under his management, the veteran-laden Giants were markedly better in the second half in both 2002 and 2000, and marginally better in 2001. (Over the course of his entire tenure, the record is far more ambiguous: in Dusty’s 10 seasons at the helm, the Giants played .535 ball before the first of July, and .546 after it). While the Cubs’ second half didn’t get off to a great start with the injuries to Corey Patterson and Mark Prior, it’d sure be nice to see them still in the race come September. The acquisitions of Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton have the Wrigley faithful in a frenzy; will Baker prove to be a sage or a charlatan?
Not to ruin the fun or anything, but this is a testable claim. By comparing the first and second half performances of players of various ages, we can see which ones really perform best down the stretch.
There seems to be some sort of cosmic injury analysis karma at work some weeks; when I write a ton one night, I usually get a slow day later in the week. For every burst of writing that surrounds a flurry of injuries, there are slow nights where I can sit around watching baseball rather than staring at my phone, waiting for someone to call and give me bad news. I have a dream that one day, there are a complete complement of games and not a single injury. I don’t think that anywhere in the geometry and art of baseball there can be a way to completely avoid traumatic injuries, but my dream day is possible. It will take great medical staffs throughout baseball, well-conditioned players, a lot of education, and a bit of luck, but it’s possible.
The Diamondbacks’ Brandon Webb offers another data point in the case for home run-preventing minor league pitchers succeeding in the majors. Royals staff ace Darrell May continues the success he had in Japan. The Phillies’ Rheal Cormier was the best reliever in the National League in the first half…for rheal. These and other news and notes out of Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
You’ve heard it all before: “We’re comfortable with our team,” “We’re going to go to battle with what we have,” or the best one of ’em all, “We don’t want to tamper with success.”
No matter how you slice it, though, each one of those phrases translates into the same thing: “Yes, we know we’ve got some gaping holes, but we don’t want to make a trade because we’re cheap, or we don’t think we’ll make it to the playoffs anyway.”