27 September 2002

Decisions, Decisions...

So much about which to write, so little time. The Angels are in the playoffs, officially, which may have been a surprise six months ago, but hasn't been for the last month, so no real excitement there. Just congratulations. Also they're For Sale.

Randy Johnson continues to do amazing things on a pitchers' mound, but I'll get to that in another post.

In a continuing effort to make sure that this season in Milwaukee is remembered for something other than the Worst Finish in Franchise History, field manager Jerry Royster is telling anyone who will listen that he doesn't know what he's going to do with Jose "Can you see yourself in the Record Books?" Hernandez. That is, he is as yet undecided as to whether or not he will play "K"ernandez this final weekend of the season, given that he is on the cusp of tying the numerously aforementioned single season strikeout record, held by the illustrious Bobby Bonds, whose otherwise most significant contribution to MLB is that he sired Barry Bonds.

Tim Kurkjian, whose work I am beginning to appreciate less and less, has a column of fluff on ESPN that suimultaneously laments the "strikeout epidemic" and says that Hernandez should not be mocked because so many other players strikeout so often. He says that strikeouts have become more accepted because people like Rob Deer and Bo Jackson showed that you could be productive while striking out a lot, but then discusses how ashamed certain players were of their own strikeouts. He compares the stats of people like Tony Gwynn with people like Preston Wilson. Hey, Tim, why don't you just compare the stats of Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman? They both play basketball, right? This is my favorite quote from the article:

"The Yankees are the best offensive team in the game, and they likely will have eight 100-strikeout guys on their team this year. The Yankees didn't have eight 100-strikeout men from 1900-1960. Through Wednesday, 60 different players had struck out at least 100 times. Another 10 were on the cusp, meaning, for yet another year, there will be more 100-strikeout men in one season than there were in the first 60 seasons of the 20th century."

Two points, whichh seem to me to make themselves, but I will make them explicit for Tim's sake:

1) The Yankees ARE the best offensive team in the game this year, so obviously the K's aren't all that harmful, are they?

2) The game has obviously changed since 1960 or so, even before that. It isn't fair or appropriate to compare.

Royster himself, showing approximately the same prowess for public relations that he has for managing a baseball team, was attributed these wonderful quotes in the ESPN story debating whether or not Hernandez will play again:

"If we need him, he will play"

"The publicity he's getting for (the strikeouts) is overshadowing the kind of season he's having.''

"For me, I don't have a problem with what he does.''

No, no, Jerry. The publicity you're giving him is overshadowing the season he's having. You do need him, as evidenced by the fact that you sat him against the Giants last weekend and managed only to muster three (total!) runs in three games. If you're trying to keep him out of the record books, then you obviously do have a problem with what he's doing. Hernandez, to his credit, does not seem to care. Brian Kingman, the last person to lose 20 games in a season, actually roots against any annual contender for this distinction (Tanyon Sturtze, eat your heart out), as he knows that it will remove his name from the conversation, and he will therefore sink even further into oblivion than he already has, considering that it took me half an hour to find out what the heck his name was. If Royster had just bemaoned the rudeness of the Milwaukee fans when they jeered his horrendous team's second best player last week and then let him play, he'd have broken the record last Friday or Saturday and this whole issue would already be a fading memory.

Instead, reporters are wasting their time trying to figure out whether or not he'll play, whether or not he'll strike out, etc. Royster is making this story a distraction, not Hernandez, who will gladly play, and whom the Brewers desperately need to spare themselves from further shame. Not the media, whose job it is to report on the stories out there, not to create them. Royster's turned this whole issue into an episode of Point-Counterpoint, when it could have been dealt with in an episode of The Late Chris Farley Show:

Chris Farley's Ghost: [Nervously] Umm...we're here with Jose Hernandez, umm...one of the greatest shortstops...umm...ever.

Jose Hernandez: Thanks, Chris.

Farley: Umm...you remember that time...umm...when you struck out a lot? 'member?

Jose: Yeah...

Farley: Umm..well...that was great....
Jose: [Looks awkward] Thanks.

Farley: I'm sorry, that was a dumb question. Stupid! Stupid! [Tries to smack himself in forehead but misses because he's a ghost and doesn't have one. Falls off chair.]

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