Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Uggla

The cover story in this week's NY Times is, FOR DEREK JETER, ON HIS 37th BIRTHDAY, an excellent article by a good writer, Michael Sokolove. (
Although he writes it in a nice way, basically he writes that Jeter is through and the people who run the Damn Yankees were idiots to pay him so much money for the next three years for so little production. Consider these two paragraphs: "Derek Jeter signed a three-year contract in December that will pay him $17 million a year through the season he turns 39. The talks beforehand were contentious, and Jeter made no secret of the fact that he was angry about how they went and was particularly upset that the Yankees invited him to test the free-agent market to see if some other team would meet his demands. “It was an uncomfortable position that I felt I was in,” he told reporters after the deal was signed. “It was not an enjoyable experience.”

Not enjoyable? Jeter’s rare burst of public candor seemed to betray a sense of entitlement and a worldview formed within a bubble shared by other highly paid athletes and celebrities. Lots of regular people, after all, would happily endure being mildly affronted before getting a guaranteed $51 million."

Speaking of a "sense of entitlement" there is this about another highly paid old Yankee: "In mid-May, Jeter’s close friend Jorge Posada, 39 years old and hitting a paltry .165 at the time, took umbrage at being slotted ninth in the batting order and refused to play one evening, even though he was not injured and the nationally televised game was against the Boston Red Sox. But he felt insulted to be hitting so low in the order. Any fan would know that a guy with that average is lucky to be in the lineup at all. But Jeter came to Posada’s defense when reporters approached him for comment. “I ain’t lying to you,” the Yankee captain said. “If I thought he did something wrong, I would tell him.”

It was a strange statement, and one that Yankees management did not appreciate. Jeter had to participate in a conference call the next morning with the team brass that included one of the owners, the general partner Hal Steinbrenner."

Sokolove compares the Jeter of today to the player in his prime a decade ago and he also compares Jeter to other middle-infielders from the past at the same age. It is not pretty. But then, was Jeter ever all that good? IWhat I mean is that, since he played in what is now considered to be the 'steroids era' he, like everyone else who played during the time of the ragin' roids is suspect. Because he plays in New York, and is known as 'The Captain', Jeter has always been over-rated. Consider this by Sokolove concerning Jeter's fielding skills: "New baseball statistics have proliferated in recent years, yielding a more nuanced view of performance than traditional numbers like batting average, runs batted in and earned-run average do. (The difference between the old and the new statistics is akin to that between an X-ray and an M.R.I. — the new ones give more information, although sometimes more than you want or need.) New fielding statistics that have come into vogue indicate that Jeter has never been as good defensively as many fans presume — that he has fielded a high percentage of his chances cleanly but hasn’t reached as many balls as the best players at his position. With age, his “range factor” has declined further from a not-so-impressive starting point; as of mid-June, he was dead last this season in both that category and another, “zone range,” among starting major-league shortstops."
What do the Yankee brain trust think about their 'O Captain, My Captain'? Sokolove writes about the Yankee General Manager: "When we talked late last month, I asked Cashman if it was based more on what Jeter had accomplished or on what the team expected he would produce in the future. “People can look at it and come to their own conclusions,” he said. “The contract got done, with Derek remaining a Yankee, and hopefully we’ll win more world championships with him at shortstop.”

Cashman repeated a comment he had recently made on the radio — that he still considered Jeter in the top half of major-league shortstops. “He’s not the same player he used to be,” Cashman said. “But I think he’s above average at that position, despite his age.”

Yeah, right. The GM is delusional. And I love it, because I HATE THE DAMN YANKEES!!!
To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, "Age makes cowards of us all." The sabermetricians, baseball 'stat-heads', ( who study these things have proven conclusively that the demarcation line for a baseball player, when it comes to time spent on the disabled list, is between 29 and 30. Years ago it was thought that the prime years were between 28 & 30, but now it is known that prime is between 26 & 28. The ages of 25 & 29 would be right behind, as a general rule. Once a player turns 30 he is on the down hill side of 'prime'. That does not mean that an individula player may not have his best year at, say, 22, or even 32. But when ALL players who have ever played the game are considered, prime is late 20's.
I am, and have been since they moved to my home town in 1966, a fan of the Atlanta Braves. I am incredulous at what I am seeing this year. Consider the new second baseman, Dan Uggla. He was born in the city in which I now reside, Louisville, Kentucky, on March 11, 1980, which makes him 31. The Braves played their 81st game last night, which is half-way through the season. Dan's traditional stats are, to say the least, ugly. While watching the College World Series Monday night, this cam over the scrawl at the bottom of the screen: Uggla .177 AVG .244 OBP Last in MLB.
At the half-way point his traditional stats are: .177/.247/.341, which is pitiful. He has always been a below average fielder and has keep the pace this year, unfortunately. One of the 'new' stats is WAR, which stands for 'Wins Above Replacement'. Read all about it at: if you are so inclined. Basically it shows how many wins the player is worth to his team above what a replacement player would be worth. For example, if you have a team full of exactly average players they should go 81-81. If you add a star player worth say, 8 games, then the team should go, theoretically, 89-73. Dan Uggla's WAR this year is -1.0, meaning he will, if he continues to perform at the same rate, cost the Braves 2 games this year. There are 584 players listed by War and Uggla is number 581. ( If the Braves were to bring in a replacement player now, they would be much better off. Why would the Braves continue to player this over-the-hill loser? Because the new manager, Freddie Gonzalez managed him at Florida and wanted to bring him to Atlanta. The General Manager, Frank Wren, signed Uggla to one of those multi-year deals worth multi-millions of dollars. To sit him down, or, better yet, cut him loose, would mean they made a terrible mistake. The LA Dodgers have just filed for bankruptcy and still owe Manny Ramirez multi-millions of dollars. Even worse, they still owe former Brave, Andruw Jones millions and he's playing for the Damn Yankees!
One of the hardest things for any chess player to learn is when to admit a mistake. Far too many times a player will make a poor move and then try to come up with a plan trying to make it work, to his detriment, in lieu of admitting the move was bad and trying to correct it. Would somebody please tell it to Frank & Freddie before it's too late?

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