Two players. Same team. Very different public opinion.
Player A: 15 seasons, .793 OPS, 193 HR, 943 RBI, 1,413 R, 367 SB
Player B: 15 seasons, .845 OPS, 213 HR, 1,024 RBI, 1,497 R, 285 SB
A few other notes:
-Both players' postseason OPS is almost identical to their respective regular season OPS.
-Player B won 3 Gold Gloves while Player A never won one, even though all of the statistical data points to Player A being an average to slightly above average fielder, while Player B is rated below average in virtually every category (fielding pct., range factor, etc.).
-Player B makes over $8 million per year MORE than Player A.
Player A is Johnny Damon. Player B is Derek Jeter. The career numbers are eerily similar, and yes, the nod still goes to Jeter, but the separation of public opinion simply doesn't match the separation of talent. Damon won a title without Jeter and vice versa. Damon seems to be well liked in the clubhouse, as is Jeter. Somehow, though, Jeter has obtained this God-like status from much of the media and fans alike.
I understand that similar offensive numbers from a shortstop are much more valuable than when they come from an outfielder, but when that shortstop plays below average defense, it diminishes the return slightly. This post isn't to bash Derek Jeter - he is obviously a very good player. The point is that maybe Johnny Damon deserves a little more love, while at the same time we should calm down on Jeter's instant ticket to the Hall of Fame. Take the names away and they are comparable players, so let's treat them as such.
Before Jeter-lovers attack me with shouts of "leadership," "hustle," and other words that attempt to boost one's value without backing, remember that baseball is, for the most part, a personal game, and cheerleading doesn't go far in the professional game. Don't throw the "clutch" card out, either, because I already pointed out the both players perform the same in the playoffs as they do in the regular season. That's not a knock on Jeter, but rather a testament to both players (and all players) that in general, professional athletes are typically trying their hardest at all times and therefore succeed at a level consistent with their ability. My argument is that Damon's ability is similar to Jeter's, so let's start acting that way.
Will Zack Greinke ever cool down? His numbers so far, after yet another complete game last night (his fifth of the year): 75 IP, 8-1, 81K, 0.88 WHIP, 0.84 ERA. That's only SEVEN earned runs all year so far! Even though he's not even a third of the way into the season, Greinke's current stats allow for a little slippage and can still land him into some special company. Some perspective:
Since 1950, the best ERA in the AL for pitchers eligible for the ERA title was Luis Tiant's 1.60, way back in 1968. The most recent season of AL pitching dominance was Pedro Martinez in 2000, posting a measly 1.74 ERA. More impressive was Ron Guidry's 1.74 ERA in 1978 because "Louisiana Lightning" pitched over 273 innings, went 25-3, and completed 16 games, 9 of them shutouts. If Greinke can keep the ERA under 1.00 with 100+ IP, this might be a special season for the right hander.
June is creeping up, and 2009 has seemed like one of the streakier seasons in recent memory. With only 40-something games played for each team, 17 teams have at least one winning or losing streak of 6 games or more. Here's where it gets crazy: it's only May 26, and FOUR teams already have winning AND losing streaks of at least 6 games.
Florida: W7, L7
Kansas City: W6, L6
San Diego: W10 (and counting), L6 (twice!)
Seattle: W6, L6
-Boston has the longest streak so far, winning 11 straight games, although the Padres are at 10 and counting.
-The Chicago Cubs have currently lost 8 in a row.
-Washington already has two 7-game losing streaks under its belt.
Finally, baseball is starting to figure out its audience and not try for the short term quick buck. Beginning this year, many postseason games on Fox (TBS is expected to follow suit) will be starting 40 minutes earlier at approximately 7pm Central. No, your little ones still won't be able to endure the end of a 3-hour plus World Series game, but at least you can spend a little couch time with your son before you both doze off!
San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit another home run last night, giving him a home run in five consecutive games. Just turning 27 last week, Gonzalez is one of the best kept secrets in baseball. Playing in cavernous PETCO Park hasn't slowed Gonzalez, amassing 36 HR and 119 RBI last year and on pace for much better numbers this year. Keep your eye on Gonzalez: I expect him to be atop the league leaders for years to come.
Despite losing two straight, Toronto still has the best record in the AL. Can they keep it up and win the AL East? I'm impressed, but I say "no." Five decent starts by Romero and Cecil are nice, but they will falter a little down the road. Scutaro and Aaron Hill can't possibly keep up their offensive production, and don't forget what division they play in.
If the Jays can finish 85-77, I could still consider it a successful season with reason to be optimistic about the future. Anything in excess of 85 wins would be an unexpected bonus for Toronto fans.
Maybe because it started early in the season when thoughts are still on the NFL draft, NBA and NHL playoffs, and vacation planning, but Ryan Zimmerman is putting together the quietest 29-game hitting streak in the history of MLB. Just last night, Zimmerman extended the streak with an eye-popping 4 for 5 night which included 2 HR and 4 RBI. Yet I'm looking at the MLB page on ESPN.com at noon today, and among 10 top headlines on the right side, one top story (a "nothing" piece of Roger Clemens' rehashed interview from Mike & Mike in the Morning where Clemens reiterated his earlier stances of complete innocence), 12 top stories below that, 5 blogs, columnist's headlines, etc., there is NO mention of Zimmerman at all. The only place his name can be seen on the page is on league leaders and fantasy leader entries because it's there by default of his success.
That's a good thing for Zimmerman. If he can keep this thing quiet for another 10 or 11 games, the Nationals' third baseman would be sitting on a 40-game hitting streak with little fanfare and would only have to endure about 2-1/2 weeks of media frenzy to catch Joe DiMaggio. With nothing else going right in Washington, here's hoping Zimmerman can keep it going.
So I'm looking at some baseball cards with my son last night, and in the same pack are two pitchers who both started their MLB careers in 2003 and have very similar stats with one MAJOR difference.
Career stats from 2003 - 2008:
Player A: 3.23 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 9K/9IP, 67% Win Pct.
Player B: 3.24 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.3K/9IP, 58% Win Pct.
Player A is Rich Harden and Player B is Brandon Webb. Taking into account the fact that most of Harden's numbers came while pitching in the American League, it's obvious that the two pitchers are very comparable, but the nod in performance goes to Harden. Ask any GM who they'd rather have, however, and 10 out of 10 will choose Webb.
Why? The numbers I didn't show are innings pitched. Harden has thrown only 612 2/3 innings over the six year span while Webb has pitched more than TWICE as many innings (1,315 2/3). Webb also has more than twice as many wins (87 vs. 41), so while Harden is extremely talented, talent is only good to a team when it's on the field, giving Webb the overwhelming edge. It just goes to show how different two careers can be with similar abilities, and why health trumps talent in the long run.
Ironically, it is Brandon Webb who is currently on the DL for a while and Rich Harden who is still in Chicago's rotation. It's only May, though, and baseball fans know how things have a habit of returning to the norm.
Manny took some drugs. He got caught. He got penalized. Big time. Finally, the system seems to be working. It could always be better, but at least MLB is headed in the right direction. In the latest Hot Corner, The Commish tells you his opinion on today's punishments in baseball and what he thinks the perfect suspension would be for first time offenders.
Rick Ankiel made an incredible play in last night's game, going full speed toward the wall in left center. After making the catch, Ankiel couldn't right himself quickly enough and went face first into the wall. Remaining conscious, Ankiel was still taken away on a stretcher, spending the night in the hospital. Not to make light of the situation, but St. Louis' GM John Mozeliak made this awkward comment after hearing the doctors evaluation:
"He was never knocked out," Mozeliak said. "He never lost consciousness. My understanding was that he had some discomfort in the face area, obviously, from hitting the wall. But for the most part right now, we're encouraged based on Dr. Paletta's first [evaluation], just getting to see him on the field." (source: MLB.com)
Discomfort in the FACE area?? After hitting a wall at full speed with your face? Mozeliak gets the early nomination for most obvious comment award of the year. Here's hoping Ankiel recovers and we can all laugh about it later.
Carl Crawford stole SIX bases yesterday, going 4 for 4 in a Rays victory. Yes, the feat is impressive and ties a modern day record, but when I start seeing news stories suggesting it is up there with some other unbreakable records, I want to say "slooowwww down!"
Anything that can be accomplished in one day (6 stolen bases, 4 home runs, 20 strikeouts, etc.) doesn't belong on the unbreakable list because it only involves the unlikely to occur for one day. You want unbreakable? How about Cy Young's 511 career wins? Unless a 20-year-old knuckleballer comes along and can average about 20 wins per year into his late 40s, those are the kind of records that will stand.