04 September 2003

The Gammons People Play

Peter Gammons' ESPN column from last week is full of the head-scratching, incoherent babbling that we've all come to know and love from 'Ole Pete. Like this:

"People win championships," said Joe Torre, and so it is that through all the Yankees have faced -- serious injuries (Jeter, Williams, Nick Johnson and Mariano Rivera), bullpen roulette, public spats with Raul Mondesi, David Wells and Jeff Weaver, the unraveling of Jose Contreras -- they came out of the Labor Day Weekend series in Boston with not only a safe six-game lead in the loss column but the final family reunion of Roger Clemens, who effectively buried the Red Sox's chances of catching the Yankees as he exchanged a figurative hug with New Englanders that reminded one and all how much they meant to one another."

Wow. That’s one sentence. 107 words, one sentence. Gammons sometimes writes as though preparing for when the Commies take over the world and make periods illegal.

I've already written about the Yankees bullpen in another column, so I won't go into that again.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that Contreras has “unraveled”. He’s been injured, like a lot of guys, but he’s actually pitched pretty well when they’ve used him as a starter. It’s only when they tried to get him to do long relief that he’s sucked. As a starter he’s 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA, 20 hits and 30 strikeouts in 31 innings. On the other hand (where I have four fingers and a thumb) the teams he’s beaten don’t exactly scream “Clutch October workhorse”: Detroit (37-102), Cincinnati (60-79), Toronto (69-70) and Baltimore (63-76).

Gammons also wrote:

"We know what we have to do," Giambi said. "[...]You learn to fight through it all."

Including Pedro Martinez. On Saturday, Martinez was still weak from his bout with a flu bug and threw one pitch above 89 mph, but the Yankees forced him into an early exhaustion with their patience.

Listen, Peter: The word "but" is what's called a logical connector, which serves to establish a contrast between what follows it and what preceeded it. For example:

"I was going to go wax my bronze statue of myself in the portico, BUT I decided that I would rather stay inside and practice looking menacing to opposing basestealers."

In this sentence [extra points if you can name the speaker!] used the word 'but' to show that one activity was excluded by the other. It was different from what had been expected.

In your sentence, (paraphrasing) "Pedro was still weak...couldn't throw hard..." shows that he should have been easier to beat than usual, which means that when the Yankees wore him out early, it was not unexpected, and so the logical connector 'but' does not belong. 'And', 'so', or 'therefore' would all have been better choices. Now, I'm going to have to start charging you for these grammar lessons if you don't start improving.

"Over the entire weekend, there were few obscenities, few of the "Yankees (----)" that usually litter the city. It was as if Red Sox's fans were getting over Roger, appreciating what it means to watch Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter play their hearts out with dignity, understanding that even when Pedro doesn't win he leaves his soul on the mound and that, indeed, these guys named Williams and Giambi, Jeter, Posada, Johnson, Pettitte, Mussina and Rivera will never stop trying to overcome all the shrapnel that surrounds them."

How exactly does one "overcome shrapnel"? Don't you just duck and hope for the best? Oh, and Pete's getting better: That sentence only contained 89 words.

Gammons' next segment:

Marlins get tougher with Conine

Tougher? Maybe. Better, probably not much.

"We felt," said Beinfest, "that we've come this far, so we owe it to our fans and to the players to do whatever we can do to win."

"But then we decided to trade two of our best prospects for Jeff Conine instead." Right? Look, Conine's not the worst player around, and there's something to be said for versatility, but Jeff's only had one season in the last seven when he was worth more than 3.5 wins more than a replacement level guy at his position. Which means that, even in the midst of a decent season (for him) he's not likely to be worth more than half a win over the last month of the season. But with the wild-card race as close as it is in the NL, it might just come down to that. I guess we'll see.

Conine is actually having a pretty decent year, right around his career average, and the Marlins needed something when they lost Mike Lowell, but don't make it out like they got some kind of steal in giving up two good pitching prospects for an aging, overpaid mediocrity. They were hard-pressed to make something happen and they did the best they could in a bad situation. Kudos for that, no more.

Regarding NL Manager of the Year candidates, Gammons had this to say:

"But has anyone faced more adversity than Felipe Alou? While holding a significant lead in the NL West, Alou has had to use more than 100 lineups and employ 13 starting pitchers. The Giants moved their two innings horses, Russ Ortiz and Livan Hernandez. They lost Rob Nen. Kirk Rueter has been injured. They've had J.T. Snow, Rich Aurilia, Benito Santiago and Ray Durham on the DL, and seen Edgardo Alfonso struggle at times."

The Giants have had their issues, and Alou may very well deserve the Managers' highest honor, but the fact that he has had an enormous lead with which to work is an advantage. Sure, there's pressure to stave off those chassing you, but nobody's been closer than about five games since the middle of July. Give him credit for patching together a winning lineup in spite of the persistent inneptitude of J.T. Snow and Neifi Perez at the plate, the surprising struggles of Alfonzo and Rich Aurilia, and Barry Bonds' personal distractions. Heck, you can even give him credit for winning despite having only one pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title (Jason Schmidt) and patching a rotation together with untested rookies, but don't tell us that he had this huge lead and present it as though it somehow worked against him.

And finally, Peter Gammons' trademarked...

News and notes

One NL executive suggests that if the Cubs could find one more starter to go with Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano and Clement, that Kerry Wood could be their answer to Eric Gagne and John Smoltz.

This is my absolute favorite item from this particular column. Gammons doesn't really comment on it, but the fact that he included the statement without ridiculing it outright is perhaps an indication that he actually finds the possibility intriguing. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why anyone who runs a baseball team with Kerry Wood on it would be interested in making him a closer.

I thought that this was something of a curious statement from a man who seems to understand as much about baseball as Peter Gammons does, but then I did a search of some of his previous columns and found the following:

"One State Department Official suggests that if the President could find one more Cabinet Member to go with Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, that Condoleezza Rice could play a mean mariacci guitar at state department picnics."

"One Hollywood executive suggests that if the Universal Studios could have found one more actor to go with Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton and Ed Harris, that Tom Hanks could have been a great "LEM Controller White" in Apollo 13."

"One baseball historian suggests that if the '27 Yankees could find one more outfielder to go with Bob Muesel and Earle Combs, that Babe Ruth could have been one heck of a pinch hitter."

So maybe Peter's viewpoints are a little skewed.

Here you've got a pitcher who's had some injury issues, yes, but who has been pretty healthy for the last two years, can pitch 200+ innings per year when healthy, and strikes out more than 10 batters per nine innings and allows only about 7 hits in that span. Why the hell would you want to relegate such a talent to pitching only 65 innings per year? So he can make some impressive looking stat lines? 120 strikeouts in 70 innings looks nice in the history books, but it doesn't help win games like starting 34 times and mowing them down the way Wood can when he's on. The fact that he's yet to win more than 13 gemes in a season is more a function of his team not providing run support than it is an indictment of his abilities as a starter.

The problem is that pitchers like Eric Gagne and John Smoltz and Mariano Rivera were once starters who have become great closers, but people forget that they were bad starters. Or often-injured starters. Or superfluous to the starting rotation. You'd be hard pressed to pick up another pitcher somewhere who would be good enough to relegate Kerry Wood to a relief role. Besides, what the heck is wrong with Borowski?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: