Thursday, May 04, 2006

This Post is About A-Rod

Make no mistake, the main point of this post is that A-Rod is a great player. Remember that, while I quickly recap the Yankee victory against Tampa in lightning style.

1. Wright wasn't great, but I'll take that kind of start from him anytime.
2. Carl Crawford is FAST!!!
3. Tampa is going to get MUCH better when Huff and Baldelli come back.
4. Torre used the bullpen intelligently for the 1st time this season.
5. Matsui looked good at the plate for the 1st time in 3 weeks.
6. Farnsworth's right hand finishes in a funny hook around his left leg.
7. Professional athletes get swept up in nonsense like everyone else.

There, my quick game notes. #7 helps me get on with my intended point about A-Rod. Michael Kay announced that Sports Illustrated conducted a poll of players around Major League Baseball asking which players are most "overrated". Clearly an unscientific poll in that there's no way to ACTUALLY determine how a player is "rated" to know whether they are overrated or underrated. It's a kind of bar room game that's only purpose is to find out which guys are the easiest targets for jealousy, bitterness, and probably deep-seeded intimidation. You know. The guys we love to hate.

The results came back in this order:

1. Derek Jeter
2. Carlos Beltran
3. Alex Rodriguez

What do they all have in common? Big contracts and New York teams. People love to hate those who have what they don't, so the money factor isn't surprising. New York is a magnet for spite and anger, so that's also easy to figure. Now, as for the first two, I'll try to be brief. A-Rod is the main point of this post, as I've said several times already. Paying attention?

Derek Jeter is overrated? I know people think highly of him. He's been called Captain Intangible, which doesn't sell well with the sabermetrics crowd. His fan appeal, calming influence in the clubhouse, quiet professionalism, and knack for flashy plays at crucial moments has vaulted him into the forefront of baseball consciousness and has earned him the captaincy of the sports' most storied franchise. He won 4 titles and has been to the Series 6 times in 10 seasons. Jeter will soon post his 2000th hit in less than 11 seasons of work. That means he averages close to 200 hits a year. He has a career average of .315, and an OBP of almost .390. About the only thing he doesn't do is hit for big power. In the world of SportCenter that's what counts though, and that's why the 1990's was such an explosive television era for baseball. The same tabloid craze that makes Jeter an idol for his dating prowess, also makes him an easy target for haters. Add in a salary that ranks among the highest in history and you get jealousy. He's a lock Hall of Famer. He dove head first into the stands of a regular season game against the Red Sox. Hasn't he earned a little respect?

Carlos Beltran is a terrific ballplayer. About the only thing that prevents him from going 30-30 every year is tender hammies. His batting average could be a bit higher to help his case, but he produces. If he had come out in his first year in a Met uniform and continued his 2004 season, no one would call him overrated. No chance. The guy would be the darling of every sports commentator in America, and his peers would stop what they were doing to watch his at bats. He's the victim of a big payday and the New York spotlight. When he was a Royal everyone loved him. When he was blazing hot with the Astros, he was a King. Now, he's a Met and there's a bullseye on his forehead. Even bitter and jaded Met fans boo him, after watching some of the worst baseball in recent Queens memory for the last several years. Give him a break. If he drops off significantly from here on out, I'll give it to you, but calling him overrated at this point is just silly.

Now to A-Rod. I don't need to get into the historical case for A-Rod too much because it has been done far better than I could hope to do by Bronx Banter co-author, Cliff Corcoran. A-Rod, according to Cliff's research, can be considered the 2nd greatest shortstop in baseball history behind only Honus Wagner. He will also finish somewhere between the 5th and 8th greatest third baseman of all time, with only about half a career at the hot corner. Tell me another player of his caliber who shifted positions mid-career the way A-Rod did. He gave up the marquee position in the modern game....the equivalent of Mickey Mantle's centerfield in the 1960's....and he still won the MVP.

People have jumped on the "clutch" argument against A-Rod since he put on pinstripes and it makes me sick. First, what the hell is "clutch" and how do you measure it? When the experts have crunched the numbers, it's apparent that most of the big names in baseball are on the short end of "clutch". You can look more closely at this Page 2 article from ESPN's review of the Baseball Prospectus Book "Baseball Between the Numbers". He had the game winning hit in the top of the 10th inning in today's game against Tampa, which probably qualifies as "clutch".

No one is worth $250,000,000, and that's the crux of A-Rod's cross to bear. He will never live up to that money, not that anyone else could either. You'd have to hit .600 and break the home run record every year. He's probably not as good as Pujols, and needs to continue his dominance for at least 10 more years before people put him in Bonds league. At least he's doing it clean. He's #20 on the career OPS list, and was the youngest player to hit 300 and 400 home runs. He's going to finish this season around #25 on the career list at the age of 31. If he's overrated, what else does he have to do to live up to his "proper rating"?

The arguments that people use to belittle Alex Rodriguez' accomplishments are all based on the feeling that $250 million requires him to be Babe Ruth reincarnate. He needs to be so much better than anyone ever has been that it's impossible for him NOT to be overrated. That's not fair. Baseball Reference has a feature that allows us to determine the closest comparable players statistically to one another. Let's look at the list of 10 players most similar to A-Rod through the same age, in this case 29:

1. Ken Griffey, Jr.
2. Mel Ott
3. Mickey Mantle
4. Hank Aaron
5. Frank Robinson
6. Eddie Mathews
7. Jimmie Foxx
8. Rogers Hornsby
9. Vladimir Guerrero
10. Al Kaline

Tell me what else the guy has to do to be "rated properly"? He's categorically in the same league as household name Hall of Famers, and additionally promises to finish in the same league as guys like Mays, Dimaggio, Ruth, Williams, and Bonds. A-Rod's main rival in this argument has been David Ortiz who, as good as he's been for two seasons, has career comparisons to guys like Mo Vaughn, Richie Sexson, Ryan Klesko, Danny Tartabull, Giambi, Delgado, and Tino. Fine players, but until he has the body of work that Rodriguez has, and plays more in the field, it seems like a stupid Red Sox Nation joke. Hate if you will, but I plan to be there at the end of his Yankee career ready to say, "I told you so." Go get 'em Alex.


Matchosan said...

No getting paid $25o mil. should make him a team leader, but the proven looser (Seattle=nothing;Texas=nothing;New York=personal pride with no ring) then the first two teams played better immediately after he left might say something about his attitude toward his fellow players.

A-Rod is good, but not a winner. He just enjoys himself too much to be a team player.

Enjoy the drought until he retires. Now no other team can afford him.

Mike Plugh said...

That's absolute bullshit matchosan. It makes absolutely no sense.

Alex Rodriguez's teams have posted a .517 winning percentage over his career. Hank Aaron's winning percentage was about .535.

A-Rod was on a very good team in Seattle that won the division a couple of times. He was on a Texas team that featured a pitching lineup of guys like Kenny Rogers, Can Ho Park, Doug Davis, Ismael Valdez, Rick Helling, John Thomson, and so on. The 2003 Rangers, for example, scored 826 runs and gave up a whopping 929!

How the hell is that A-Rod's fault?

Saying a guy in baseball is "not a winner" shows a basic lack of understanding of how things work. I guess Hank Aaron was also "not a winner" because he only went to the World Series twice in his career despite 755 home runs.

How you say he "enjoys himself" is beyond me too. Can you imagine how difficult it is to be Alex Rodriguez? Yeah he has money, but guys like you crucify him for "not being a winner" and for "enjoying himself too much to be a team player". He gave up being the greatest shortstop in the history of baseball to play third base on the Yankees. He's ONE HOME RUN shy of being the all time home run leader for shortstops, but he may never get the chance to break it.

How much more of a team player does a guy have to be? I boggles the mind.

Matchosan said...

Some numbers


.451; .444; .438; .549

And with the Yankees it is still to be determined.

So you have a man crush on A-Rod, so be it. But the guy has no T.V. spots. Does that tell you something about the personality. The man plays in New York. Where is he?

The other teams he was on have said the same things. Nice guy, quiet, to himself, never goes out with his teammates. Even on the road. Likes to stay in his hotel room studying about the game.

Yes the guy is an awesome ballplayer. Maybe, if he doesn't get into some freak accident, A-Rod will be considered the greatest.

And after the trade wasn't Derek going to move to second because the Yankees didn't have one to replace Soriano. Mr. Wilson with that frying pan for a glove. Remember him.

I was just saying the man will never win the WS, or most likely never get there.

You live in Japan, so you do know how a man can be in love with himself.

I really don't care that much. Just so long as the man produces for my fantasy teams.

Kind of a run on, and I'm sorry. And I guess this won't make any sense either. I apologize in advance for having 90 degree angles.

Mike Plugh said...

With all due respect matchosan, you sound like a hater. If you had any kind of statistical argument to back up your dislike for Rodriguez, I'd bow to your genius.

Instead, all you talk about is all anyone else talks about when whining about him. He's not likable. He's got no TV spots. He won't go to the World Series? That one is about as delusional as I can possibly imagine.

The Yankees will spend enough money to start a small nation, just to get back to the Series. It may or may not have anything to do with Alex, but neither does the failure of his other teams.

I appreciate you chiming in matchosan, but it doesn't sound like you have any understanding of how the game of baseball works. How teams are built, and how hitters impact their teams' fortunes. If A-Rod or anyone else could hit their way to a title, they'd be worth even more than $250,000,000. It's all about the pitching. No pitching, and you're the Texas Rangers. Good pitching and you're the Yankees, 2004 Red Sox, and 2004 White Sox. A-Rod or no A-Rod.

It's okay. I'll enjoy watching him play and you can stew in your juices about why you hate him so much.

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