22 November 2002

Rainy Joe Morgan Chat Day Woman #12 & 35(sorry Mike)

Every once in a while, an idea comes along that is so brilliant in its simplicity, a creation so ingenious in its blatancy, that you kick yourself for not having thought of it first yourself.
The Bag-Clip.

Air Bags.

Edible Underwear.

OK, so the jury's still out on airbags.

My ranting colleague, Mike Carminati, had one such idea: Joe Morgan Chat Day. Throughout the baseball season, every week, ESPN hosts an Internet chat session with the Best Secondbaseman In History (apologies to Rogers Hornsby, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Alomar), which is a great honor for anyone whose question gets answered by Joe. However, he also happens also to be, arguably, the Worst Baseball Analyst In History, which means that....

A) Rarely do you even get the question you asked answered appropriately, if at all. This is a sign of both politicians and idiots. I'll let you make the call. Example:

Clint (Danbury, CT): You were one of baseballs best alltime hitters. What young pitcher today do you think that you would have the most problems hitting against?

: Probably, being left-handed, Randy Johnson. Other than him I can't think of anyone who could be that difficult…

What other baseball commentator can be asked to name a "young pitcher," respond with [39-year old] "Randy Johnson," and be allowed to keep his job? Of course, Joe's pushing 60 himself, so maybe The Old Unit seems young to him.


2) When he does answer your question, more often than not, he's wrong. Especially about statistics. Example:

Denis (Dover, NH): How valuable is a great base stealer to a ballclub? Statistically, a player needs to be around 70% successful not to hurt his club, but what about the effects on the opposing pitcher? …

: Stats can't be used to measure the effect of a base stealer because he changes the defense and the pitching patterns. A great base stealer should steal 80 percent or more, I think. Seventy percent is a good number, but that's not how you measure his effect. You measure the intangibles of what he brings to an offense.

Ahh, the old "measurement of the intangibles". My favorite. Right up there with the old "definition of 'God', including two examples".

Mike's happening upon the idea of a weekly proof that Joe Morgan is something less than Albert Einstein, or at least Eddie Epstein, is, as they say in France, a great blessing. Because Joe really proves this himself every week in these chat sessions, and Mike's job is simply to point the instances out. It's a sportswriter's (or a blogger's) dream! If Mike were, say, Rush Limbaugh, it would be like Al Gore going on the radio or TV every week, addressing the Nation, and making an ass out of himself by recounting conversations with people he's never met and memories of places he's never been! What? Oh, he did that? Well, there you go!

And I must kick myself because now the man who provides fodder for baseball bloggers' troughs as though he somewhere has a storage silo labeled "Stupid Things To Say On Internet Today", the man who sometimes says things so asinine that you have to ask yourself whether Morgan and Carminati have some sorta scam going to keep Mike's Baseball Rants in business, the man who, in spite of decades worth of research and evidence to the contrary, still thinks that wins/losses, and Runs/RBI are THE definitive statistics for measuring baseball players, this man of such staunch, ridiculous and unsupportable convictions, is taken. He is off the market. Sure, I can make fun of him sometimes. I can call him funny names and draw attentiontion to dumb things he says and writes (Stupid Morgan Tricks, anyone?), but by and large, I cannot make a regular practice out of this without being labeled a copycat, a fake or a RedSox Fan.

So I must find other material, an original source for my musings, preferably one who makes sufficiently egregious errors that I will have a somewhat steady flow of quotes to pick apart. Thankfully, there are enough bad sportswriters out there that you could probably wrap all of your Christmas (Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Whatever) gifts in a week's worth of their columns and have enough left over to line the hampster cage. I, however, have chosen someone whom I actually think a rather decent writer: Jayson Stark. Mr. Stark writes a column for ESPN and acts as an anchor on Baseball Tonight sometimes. If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I've taken issue with things Stark has written in the past. And if you haven't been reading, well, a pox on you! But now I will try to make a more or less regular occurrence of such writings, if only to establish some semblance of consistency in your feeble, aimless, woebegone life. And also so I won't have to peruse every stinkin' baseball writer's columns to find something to gripe about every week.

As I mentioned, I actually think that Stark is a decent baseball writer, so my posts likely will not be as harsh as Mike's often are, but Jayson does have some shortcomings. One of these is his use of statistics, not that he doesn't take seriously the work done by Bill James, Rob Neyer, Baseball Prospectus and the like. His use of stats ranges from inaccuracy to blowing certain, nitpicky coincidences completely out of proportion. In addition, Stark, just like everyone else from Philadelphia, shows a Philadelphia bias, which sometimes gets him into journalistic trouble. Or at least it will by the time I'm through with him, since I don't really like Philly, especially its fans, players and writers, with a few exceptions. His Philly bias is not a terrible vice, though, as everyone has some bias, and hey, at least he's not Bill Conlin.

I doubt that I will ever have the kind of material from Jayson that Mike gets from Joe Morgan, but like dentists with any kind of integrity, Mike and I will both labor on in the hopes that someday, somehow, our efforts will eventually lead the people who keep us in business to stop doing the things that keep us in business,and that we will be forced to find someone else on whom to pick. (Get it? "Pick"? Dentists? Oh, never mind.) So, I will begin (next week) by reviewing some of Stark's recent work, and commenting on its shortcomings as well as lauding its accomplishments. And then I will make attempts to do the same at least once a week with his columns. And we'll just see how it goes.

Now I hafta be able to come up with clever names for the posts...Any ideas?

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