Friday, November 30, 2007

The Knicks are Awful; Milledge is Traded

The major crisis with the New York Knicks, at this point, is that the fans and commentators are running out of bad things to say about them, but the team keeps on getting worse. Everyone has been going on for years about how awful the Knicks are, but the Knicks, undeterred, find ways to sink to new lows. I wish we hadn’t been that hard on them before: that way it might be possible to put games like last night’s in some kind of sane perspective.

I like that Nate Robinson hit a three-pointer in the last second of the game to bring the score to 59, one point above the Knicks’ franchise all-time low. That is the best you can say about the Knicks right now: certain players (Nate among them) are not as insanely horrible as one might have expected based on last year.

According to The Post, Milledge just got dealt to the Nationals for Catcher Brian Schneider and Left Fielder Brian Church. I swear on Casey Stengle’s grave that the following conversation happened:
Phoenix Park Bar, during the Met’s pen-ultimate game. I had left work to catch what I hoped were going to be the last frame’s of John Maine’s no hitter. The no-hit bid was still going on at the time, and another Mets fan and I were having good thoughts.

Mets Fan: And this guy on the Nationals guaranteed a sweep of the Phillies.
(we both know the Nats lost the first game)
Sam: That’s awesome. The Met’s should trade for the guy who said that. Who was he?
Mets Fan: Ryan Church.
Sam: The Mets should totally get him. What position does he play?
Mets Fan: Outfield.
Sam: huh. I guess that could be a problem…

I’m intrigued. I guess I think that pitching is a more important upgrade than whatever they hope to accomplish with this deal, but Church and Schneider both seem like good guys to have around, and I’m not sure what they really could expect from Milledge. I could see him going on a tear and putting up near all-star numbers, but mainly because stuff like that happens to the Mets. I can also envision him turning into a fairly average big-league outfielder. I will be intrigued to see the first time he plays against the Mets, particularly if he gets to bat against Billy Wagner.

John Maine and Oliver Perez: a long day’s journey into VORP

On Baseball Prospectus, if you go to the Team Audits, you can find hitters listed by VORP. VORP is a stat that is used to try and figure out how much a player contributed to in relation to a fictitious “replacement player,” and the stat tells you how many more runs the team scored because a particular player, and not a typical minor-league call up, was at that position. David Wright lead the Mets with 81.1 runs more than a hypothetical minor-league third baseman, followed by Carlos Beltran who was responsible for 51.1 more runs than a hypothetical center fielder; unfortunately for the Mets, the hypothetical minor-league center fielder was unavailable, and they had to call up Carlos Gomez, who was last on the team with a VORP of -4.4.

The stat can be calculated to figure out the effectiveness of pitchers as pitchers—which is useful. In the following discussion I am considering the offense of pitchers, and so my comments have to be taken less as referring to what the stat says about the players and more as what the players say about the stat. Of the Mets hitters John Maine ranked an even zero, which is to say that the average minor league pitcher should have provided exactly as much offense as John Maine: not a shock since it is widely acknowledged that John Maine is a bad hitter even as pitchers go. Tom Glavine (5.2), Jorge Sosa (2.5), El Duque (.8) and Brian Lawrence (.8) all provided slightly more offense than the potential minor-league replacement. Oliver Perez had the worst VORP as a hitter of any Mets pitcher with -1.4, which I found interesting, because, while Perez’ swing is ugly, he does occasionally get his hits and the announcers talk benignly about his efforts at the plate, even going so far as alluding to using him as a pinch-hitter in extreme situations. Perez, indeed, particularly seems like a good hitter compared to Maine, who is, as I mentioned, known as a particularly bad hitting pitcher.

The table on baseball prospectus also lists the player’s batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage (total bases over at bats, used to get an idea of a hitter’s power). For Perez, all of these numbers are .161, which means he did not hit a lot, never walked, and only hit singles. Maine’s numbers are .109/.194/.164, which means that while he hit less frequently than Perez, he walked occasionally, and hit for a little bit of power; specifically, he walked five times and hit one homer.

Maine had a total of 6 hits, to Perez’ 9, but broke exactly even with the hypothetical minor leaguer—compared to whom Perez cost the Mets 1.4 runs (a hypothetical minor league pitcher, of course, would have allowed way more runs, 24 to be exact, than Ollie did, so the 1.4 runs that he didn’t hit don’t really matter). In the end this is just another illustration of the general point that on-base and slugging are, according to the new metrics, the major ways in which hitters can help an offense, as opposed to hitting for average. It also, I guess, makes a point about the particular ways in which hitters get to be overvalued based on average. A casual fan would have had a 30 percent better chance of seeing Oliver Perez get a hit of any sort than John Maine; indeed, if they had seen Maine’s lone homer, they probably would have developed an even worse opinion of him, since the event was so wildly celebrated in a way that made a point about its extreme unusualness. Of course, the fans were right to celebrate it: it was good for the fifty-odd points of slugging percentage that propelled Maine’s VORP to zero.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kevin Mitchell and the Case for Chemistry

I recently read The Bad Guys Won which is an extremely light-weight chronicle of the 1986 Mets. Not surprisingly, its model of baseball is quite different from the statistical model of the sport that I have been paying attention to lately, and it is full of stuff about how the Mets success was related to their in-your-face attitude and particularly strong performances were triggered by vendettas or special showings of character. It views the raucousness and looseness of the clubhouse as a primary factor in the team’s success, and one could get the impression that the pitching and hitting were incidental. Another view would be to say that they were a group of very good players, who happened to spend most of a championship season boozing and skirt chasing—and consider the boozing and skirt chasing, not as a reason that they won a championship, but as a factor in their not having won more. Although, as The Bad Guy’s Won points out, the major factor in the Mets having not repeated was that team was quickly disassembled after 1986.

One of the guys who comes out well in that book is Kevin Mitchell. Mitchell was a versatile rookie and valuable contributor on the 1986 Mets; he was also a former gang member with gold-teeth and scars form gunshot wounds. In the early ‘80s, when they were both prospects, he tried to murder Daryl Strawberry over a game of pick-up basketball and he was a central participant in most of the brawls that the ’86 team were involved in. (a future post will discuss the change in standards for troubled, African-American rookies and will be called “Kevin Mitchell Makes Lastings Milledge Look Like a Punck”)

In a move that has to be recognized as an exceptional piece of baseball jack-assery, even from the franchise whose history includes the Midnight Massacre, Mitchell was traded for Kevin McRynolds after the championship season. The logic behind this move was awful: management perceived Mitchell as a corrupting influence on Strawberry and Gooden and wanted him away. As far as it is possible to tell about these things, that seems not to have been the case at all: Mitchell seems not to have had much to do with Strawberry and Gooden off of the field, and indeed, to have mainly put his troubled past behind him. The author of The Bad Guy’s Won sees the move as a fiasco because Mitchell was a beloved clubhouse presence and a “gamer.” They see the loss of a well-liked player, who was the unofficial club-house barber and always “played hard” and “wanted to be there” as indicative of a trend that would rob the team of its character and leadership and prevent it from winning further championships; they mention in passing that Mitchell would go on to win an MVP. McRynolds, who they obtained in exchange for Mitchell, performed well but not exceptionally over the next couple of years.

I would venture to say that the reason not to have traded Mitchell was because he was a rookie with a 124 OPS+, who could play every single infield and outfield position. That is a really valuable player. If 1986 Kevin Mitchell were available in 2007, and the Mets were able to get him in a package for Pelfry and Gomez I would be extremely happy. I think it is easy to be a good clubhouse presence when you OBP .344 as a rookie and hit 22 doubles to go along with twelve dingers; one wonders if the Mets were more hurt by the loss of their unofficial barber or the loss of an extremely versatile defensive player, showing all the signs of developing into a dangerous big-league hitter.

Mitchell’s stats from 1986 show a likely future MVP candidate; stories about his volatility and past show a player whose latter years might indeed be marred by “an indifferent attitude as well as other distractions.” However, while Mitchell would eventually win an MVP and latter sport an attitude that took away from his play, all the evidence is that he fit in very will with the Mets of 1986. Teammates from ’86 still speak of him fondly, and The Bad Guys Won contains much evidence that he had found a comfortable place on the club. Mitchell was a key part of the rally that ended in the grounder through Billy Buckner’s legs, and one wonders if his latter “bad attitude” had its origins in his “gangster past” or in his rejection by the club for which he had performed well and fit in with his teammates and coaches. One gets the feeling that once the Mets shipped him off as a bad influence, Mitchell was treated as such by all of the clubs that he eventually played for, until their perceptions eventually came to match the reality. Indeed, the case for chemistry is resurrected somewhat when one considers that if Mitchell had stayed a Met, he might have gone on to be even better. It is really too bad that the Mets let him go in a trade that they came up with out of racism and stupidity.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not that sorry to lose Tom Glavine (and now I kind of hate him)

Ok, it is not as if they are easily going to find anyone to pitch those 200 innings any better than Toothless Tom did, but that has more to do with the thinness of the pitching market than Glavine himself.

A silver lining is that now we won’t have to deal with knowing that the ace of the staff (probably the ace for practical purposes, certainly for publicity ones) will certainly go into the Hall of Fame wearing the cap of the Atlanta fucking Braves.

I would feel a lot more sympathetic towards Glavine if he had not been obviously willing to go back to the Braves after last season. The only reason that he didn’t was because the Braves did not extend him an offer—if they had, he would have won his 300th for Atlanta.

It is idiotic to blame the Mets collapse on Glavine; his performance in the last game was the least of many, many problems, and should never even have been an issue. However, they had a realistic enough chance to force that one game playoff until half way through the first inning. They were still in the race until Glavine delivered the worst game of his entire career.

It is not as if he was sort of bad in that last game, giving up seven runs over three innings. He gave up seven runs, and recorded ONE out. He made Jose Lima look like Nolan Ryan. And it’s not as if, after that horrendous performance, he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Tom Glavine, you personally hammered the last nail into the coffin of the 2007 Mets and then promptly went and signed in with the Atlanta Braves…screw you, man.

I just hope he’s saved the actual worst game of his career for the first time that he faces the Mets.

....thanks for the memories, though.

"You gotta have a catcher...

or else you'll end up with a lot of passed balls."
-Casey Stengel

Minaya said on the call that Castro "could be an everyday guy," prompting a spontaneous, tongue-in-cheek remark from Castro's agent Seth Levinson, also on the call. "You should have told us that before we negotiated a contract."

Good Bit on Bonds

The fact that this was one of the first things that I got when I googled “Barry Bonds,” which I guess means that people have been reading it, is one of the first things in a long while that gives me some sort of vague sense of hope. I really couldn’t have done better myself. She even gets points for blithely working in a reference to a semi-obscure gangster movie: “The feds have made Bonds into Al Capone, when he's more like Pookie than Nino Brown.”

Saturday, November 17, 2007


“David Eckstein is 4'10" and appears to suffer from borderline albinism. Despite this, he is a mediocre MLB shortstop. After he throws the ball to first base, it looks like he needs to lie down from exhaustion. He also runs hard to first base, as most baseball players do.Baseball analysts have interpreted this data to be somehow indicative of something more powerful than mere "tangible" baseball skills, perhaps residing somewhere deep in the (non-human?) DNA of David Eckstein.”
-Fire Joe Morgan.

You should go here and read everything that they have to say about Eckstein. I used to find it quite funny, until I learned that the Mets want him to play 2B. Now it just scares me.

The fact that the Mets want this guy, the fact that Comrade-Coach Randolph is “an admirer of Eckstein's spunk” opens up levels of disgust with people in power that would probably be new to me if I hadn’t come of age in Bush’s America.

So far the ’08 team is looking horrible. Good thing you didn’t pursue A-Rod, you assholes…

[In fairness they want Eckstein for 2B, which makes a little more sense than shortstop. He still is 1) not good and 2) way worse that Castillo. Please, please, please, Omar, don’t get Eckstein. Re-sign Valentin. Call up Anderson Hernandez, try Gotay out full time, anything]

A Quiz! What Fun!

In honor of the massive downgrade at backstop that is Yorvit Torrealba, can you match the Mets catcher with the career OBP and crime?

1) Garry Carter
2) Paul Lo Duca
3) Mike Di Filice
4) Ramon Castro
5) Mike Piazza

a) .287/Arrested for trying to set a woman’s ass on fire with a cigarette lighter in a nightclub, and then punching a parking lot attendant in the face.
b) .338/ Problems with gambling and younger women. Never arrested, thus a “good citizen.”
c) .310/ Plead “no contest” to a charge of misdemeanor indecent assault, spent a year on probation.
d) .377 (holly crap, was this guy good)/ No criminal or unsavory activities. Did have a “Belle and Sebastian” song named after him, which is, for a professional athlete, sort of worse.
e) .335/ Fined $200 for littering after he left 4,000 Chick Tracts on Darryl Strawberry’s lawn.

Post guesses in the comments section. I’ll put up answers latter in the week

Disappearance Explained:

Poor guy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Recent Activities of Starbury

Reading over the previous post, I realize that I failed to place Stephon Marbury’s mysterious departure from the Knicks in any kind of context and that someone relatively oblivious to Knicks basketball might have gathered the impression that this was just some relatively normal guy who decided to go AWOL. Let me assure you that this is not the case, and offer a brief review of things that Steph has been up to in only the last six months:

THE STARBURY 1’s: Stephon released a line of inexpensive ($15-20) basketball shoes. He spent a lot of the time promoting the line over the summer. The idea was to provide a good looking shoe, which underprivileged fans (mostly kids) could reasonably afford. This is actually a very good project—most great NBA players spend a lot of time selling ultra expensive shoes, to relatively poor people, with commercials that make it seem as if owning a $100+ pair of sneakers is part of some journey to self discovery. Doubters point out that Stephon Marbury shoes would never move at Air Jordan prices, and some people have said that they are very cheaply made, but I actually give Steph a lot of points for this one. While a lot of basketball players make a big deal about having come from strained circumstances, Stephon is very unique in having actually attached his name to a product designed for underprivileged fans.

PROMISED TO MOVE TO ITALY: Stephon and family went to Italy and had a great time. Steph said that once his contract with the Knicks was up, in two years, he would move to Italy and play in the basketball league over there—he said that he absolutely was going to do this and compared himself to David Beckham.

SAID THE KNICKS WERE ON THE VERGE OF A CHAMPIONSHIP: When he was asked if he would follow through with his Italy plan even if it seemed as if the Knicks were on the verge of a championship he said, “I think we’re on the verge of a championship now.” That is the craziest thing on this list.

CAME OUT IN MILD SUPORT OF MICHAEL VICK: Steph bucked the sports establishment party line, and introduced the possibility that Michael Vick’s dog fighting activities did not necessarily mean that Vick was the son of Satan. He pointed out that other behaviors that are not overly kind to animals (he mentioned deer hunting) are more or less accepted in our society, and suggested that the revulsion to dog fighting had to do with its association with hip-hop culture. I don’t support Michael Vick at all, but you have to see Steph’s point. The outrage over Vick seems kind of odd, when you consider that over the last winter the vice-president of the god-damn country, while probably drunk, went out to shoot some birds that had been bread in captivity for the express purpose of being released right in front of a group of probably drunk white-men with guns. Of course, the vice-president actually shot an old man by mistake and Stephon got mercilessly blasted by the media for having said anything non-condemning about Vick.

HAD TO TESTIFY IN COURT ABOUT FUCKING A KNICKS INTERN IN HIS TRUCK: The fact that this was part of a lawsuit by a different woman brought against Isaiah Thomas made me speculate on Thomas’ innocence, since the Marbury/truck/intern episode seemed more scandalous than relevant. The intern had previously been dating Marbury’s cousin. The truck was parked outside of a strip-club.


UPDATE: Looking over my Starbury list, one might get the impression that African-American athletes who try to break the mold (sell cheap shoes or point out that Michael Vick doesn’t have a monopoly on animal cruelty) are subjected to a myriad of degradations (like having to testify about intern/truck sex) and forced into a lot of weird ideological positions (like becoming Christian/Italian) as part of an effort to reconcile themselves with their public and their consciousness of the world—although these efforts are likely to cause the athlete to appear even more absurd and further their alienation. Then I was going to say something sarcastic about how this is obviously not the case and I’m sorry for misleading you, but fuck it, here is the un-ironic truth: the racial situation in this country is a god damn travesty, and all of us, every mother’s son, should be FUCKING ASHAMED.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I guess, in times like these, we Mets fans need to stick together. So if you see famous Met fan Stephon Marbury wandering around the city with a kind of a dazed look on his face, you should probably say something supportive (“At least you’re a better husband than Jason Kidd…well probably”) and offer him directions back to the Garden.

According to the Post, with whom Stephon actually has a surprisingly decent relationship, the Knick’s point guard got on a plane out of Phoenix (where the poor Knickerbockers are going to get just brutalized by the Suns in a little while) and headed back to New York—for reasons that are unclear. Now, in sports, it is kind of a big deal that the guys on the team are supposed to travel with the team and hang out with the team unless some very emergency/life-or-death stuff is happening; this is so much the case that when Roger Clemens signed a deal that allowed him to miss road-trips with the Yankees to spend time with his family, certain people started talking about the collapse of Western civilization. The logic with Clemens was that the guy was so damn good that he could make his own rules (he turned out not to be…but that joke was on the Yankees, good times); Starbery is not Roger Clemens (this is actually the great tragedy of the man’s life) and likely to be in a lot of trouble/not a Knick any more.

Steph is simply not as good at basketball as he thought he was—and just how crazy this relatively simple revelation has made him is an interesting commentary on the state of our athletic culture. Stephon entered the NBA in 1996, and ever since then has been making a specious argument that he is one of the very elite players in the game. He simply isn’t. His numbers aren’t that great, and teams always improve their record after he leaves. It is ok to be worse at basketball than Michael Jordan—Stephon Marbury is a good basketball player, perhaps even above average in the NBA. But he never seems to have quite gotten his head around the idea that there is no shame in not being the absolute best—in being a good (not great) pass-first point guard, playing limited minutes, or, in certain situations, coming off of the bench. Stephon could obviously have been an amazing role-player on a great team; but the philosophy of motivational posters has very little to offer role-players, and very little encouragement for those players who need to make terms with their mediocrity to succeed.

In 05-06, when Steph was in the process of getting Larry Brown run out of New York, he came through with the claim that he was the best point guard in the NBA. This claim was ridiculed at the time, and Marbury, whose play has deteriorated while other guard’s play has maintained and even improved, has to wish that he’d kept his mouth shut. Tonight, Marbury’s Knicks will get eaten alive by Steve Nash’s Suns, and the fact that Nash has been considered (by manny) the best player in the NBA, let alone point guard, since approximately the time of Steph’s comments, might have something to do with Marbury’s absence.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Jose Reyes: a statistical reflection

According to the Moneyball/Sabermetric school of thought, the single most important statistic for a leadoff hitter is their On Base Percentage, also known as “not making an out.” The “not-making-an-out” percentage is, in fact, considered the most significant aspect of any hitter, but it takes on an even more extreme importance for the leadoff man, for the simple reason that they come to bat most often, and are presented with the most outs that they can try and not make. The knock on Jose Reyes at the start of his career was that he didn’t get on base enough; stat-guys hated early Jose Reyes, because they knew his speed would continue to entice managers to leave him in the lead-off spot, while his low OBP would continue to hurt his team; the silencing of Reyes critics had almost entirely to do with his raising his On Base Percentage.

Fun fact: in 2006, in which Reyes was very good, and in 2007, which Reyes started very well and ended kind of horrifically, he put up exactly the same OBP of .354; the average OBP for NL shortstops in 2007 was .337, David Ortiz led the majors at .445 and David Wright came in eight in the major leagues at .416. In 2007, Reyes got three fewer hits in 34 more at-bats—his OBP stayed the same because he drew 24 more walks. In September, when he got about six to ten fewer hits than he had in any other month, he still managed to walk eleven times; it was his second lowest walk total (he walked only 9 times in July), but he never got higher then 14 walks in any given month. Thus, I think Mets fans have reason to be significantly encouraged by the fact that Reyes was able to keep his walks-totals relatively consistent, even in the depths of a bad hitting slump.

Perhaps even more encouraging than the walk totals were the developments in the penultimate game, which was marred by a near brawl that resulted from the Marlin’s player’s perception that Reyes was acting showing them up and acting like a jack-ass. Do you know what else increases a hitter’s OBP? Getting hit by a pitch. It is now becoming apparent that Reyes’ season long habit of celebrating with teammates on the dugout steps was, in fact, the result of a deep Sabermetric understanding of the game.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Coaches vs. Managers

The start of the NBA season has provided the opportunity for certain reflections on the differences between the role of baseball manager and basketball coach, which, when considered practically, cause recent happenings amongst the management of various New York teams to be appear bizarre.

The advent of Sabermetric thinking in baseball has led to many new conclusions, some of them controversial and difficult to accept (such as the non-existence of clutch, and the fact that weather a ball put in play is caught or falls for a hit is a piece of luck that has absolutely nothing to do with the pitcher) and others that are fairly intuitive—in this latter category I would place the revelation that the manager has a minor effect, if any, on the outcome of a baseball season. This is intuitive, because all that a manager in baseball really does is determine the batting order, set the rotation and decide on which relievers to use; occasionally they will put on the hit-and-run, or have a hitter bunt, but these situations come up relatively rarely. Success or failure in baseball has almost entirely to do with the individual battle between pitcher and batter. Having good or bad pitchers or hitters will outweigh good or bad management; there is no statistical evidence that certain managers, by virtue of their presence, leadership, or teaching are able to get their hitters to hit more and their pitchers to throw more strikes. If the Mets were able to obtain Johan Santana at the expense of being managed by the 9th caller on the Mike and the Mad Dog show, they would be idiots not to accept.

The basketball coach, however, would seem to have a more significant role in determining his team’s fortunes. Different coaches employ different scoring and defensive strategies; the coach determines which five players will be on the floor at any given time, and they will occasionally stop play to give their players very specific instructions about where to run, who to guard, and what to do in response to specific, possible actions on the part of the opposing team—and all of these things could have an effect on the outcome of the game that was more or less independent of the skill of the players. Furthermore since basketball involves players working closely together, precisely timing passes, rebounds and shot attempts, it might not be wrong to consider the impact of “intangibles” like “chemistry” and “teamwork”—and again it seems that the coach could have some effect, by either creating or failing to create an environment that leads his players to work well together; in baseball, whenever someone is talking about chemistry or teamwork it is a generally a sign that you can stop paying attention.

As a result, the commotion surrounding Torre’s departure from the Yankees struck people with a serious statistical interest as a little bit weird. Torre had the distinction of being the highest paid guy ever at a job that was fairly irrelevant, so good for him. He had shown himself to be reasonably be good at it and has some ability to deal with Steinbrners and A-Rods and the New York media—all good accomplishments, but perhaps not seven million dollars worth of accomplishments. You can definitely argue that seven million dollars is too much money to pay a guy for a job that is fairly unimportant; you could also argue that the Yankees have all the money in the world, and that there was no good reason to not bring back Torre, since he had clearly shown himself to not be horrible—mainly you can argue that a new manager is WAY less important to the Yankees (and every other baseball team ever) than a new starter and maybe another arm or two out of the bullpen.

However, it is particularly interesting to contemplate the irrelevance of the departed Torre, and contrast it with the possible relevance of the contract-extended Isaiah Thomas. Every year that Torre managed, the Yankees made the playoffs—and even if the manager is irrelevant, it is impossible to say the Torre’s teams were not successful. Thomas has turned the Knicks into a disaster on pretty much every imaginable level—not only has he coached the mediocre players that he himself assembled (and mortgaged the franchises’ future to assemble) to a loosing record last year, but he then managed to drag the franchise name through the mud of a really embarrassing lawsuit.

So, Torre had an unimportant job and was kind of good at it, and got fired/given an offer he had to refuse. And Isaiah Thomas has a job that probably does matter, and is measurably awful at it, and got a contract extension.

Weird, right?

(I actually sort of like Zeke, but that’s just because I know that I wouldn’t find the Knicks more amusing if they won...and because I also don't give a fuck about all those white people)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Oh Fuck It, Let’s Sign A-Rod

This is kind of an apology. As either of my reader’s might remember, I actually started this blog with some scathing words about David Wright saying in spring training that he would be willing to move to accommodate the acquisition of Mr. Rodriguez. My response to this was to question, not only Wright’s intelligence and sanity, but also the ethics of the newspapermen who were willing to feature the headline prominently (“Wright: I’d Move for A-Rod”) at the risk of fatally shocking Mets fans.

At the time that I wrote that first post on this blog, I was by no means a professor of A-rodology, getting most of my information on that person from the back-page of the New York Post. Even that is no excuse, and should, in fact have quickly revealed the flaws in my anti-A-rod thinking: everything said in the Post is either a lie or irrelevant, and frequently both; since the Post’s running implication was that A-rod was somehow to blame for the less than optimal performance of the Bronx Bombers, it should have been instantly, and manifestly, obvious that the only decent thing about the team in the Bronx was, in fact, Alex Rodriguez..

At the time of the first post on this blog, I also had some peculiar notions about clutch hitting (I thought it existed), which contributed to my feeling that Rodriguez would not do any good for the Mets. Particularly, I believed that the October stage would prove too much for A-Rod. I did not in know that A-rod’s career post season numbers are not actually all that bad and that he has only been truly awful in the last handful of post-season series for the Yankees; I had not reflected that the New York media’s perception of A-rod as a choker in the post-season (and post-season stats in general) was based on a ridiculously small sample size-- although if I had I probably would have remembered that small sample sizes are truly awful sources for any sort of information, and my A-Rod conversion would have begun much sooner.

Simply put, A-rod is the best hitter in baseball, by a lot. EqA (Equivalent Average) is an ultra-complicated stat that aspires to measure the total level of a player’s offensive contributions, with corrections for the league’s overall level offensive talent; it takes into account base-running, but not defense. It was designed to look sort of like batting average, in a failed attempt at not scarring off old baseball men. League average is always .260; A-Rod led the AL with an EqA of .340—the only person with a higher EqA in baseball was Barry Bonds, who gets a boost because he gets a walk pretty much every time he bats with runners on base.

VORP (value over replacement player) is the number of runs that a player contributed, over the average offense of someone at their position (again, not adjusted for defense). A-Rod led all of baseball, with a VROP of 96.6. I could go on, or discuss his traditional stats (which aren’t too shabby, either), but my point is that it is pretty much impossible to argue that A-Rod is not the best hitter in baseball. If you choose to believe that the best hitter in baseball becomes psychologically incapable of performing in pressure situations and the playoffs, you are welcome to do so; to me, it seems that his dubious play-off stats are likely the result of a small sample size, and the fluctuations in performance that occur with all baseball players.

Now, just because A-Rod is the best hitter in baseball, it does not follow that the Mets ought to sign him. The Mets are relatively good offensively—their weakness is pitching. If there were any particularly good free-agent pitchers on the market, or if the Mets were particularly strapped for cash, a case for not signing A-rod could easily be made; however, neither of these things are the case. The pitching market is very thin this off-season, and the Mets have a ton of money to burn. In addition to revenues from the network (SNY) and the seats and all the rest of it, they will get $20 million (or 2/3 A-Rods) a year from Citi bank, for playing in Citi Field; also Pedro and Delgado’s expensive contracts will be coming off of the books after 2008 which gives them some long-term flexibility. As it stands, the single best way to make any team better, right now, is to get Alex Rodriguez—the Mets can afford to do so, and almost certainly should give it a shot. And with A-Rod hitting in the middle of the Mets line-up they will score enough runs to be able to use Mota and Showenwise whenever the hell they feel like it; when Alou gets injured, and they are forced to go with Gomez, they won’t really have to worry about the massive drop off in offense; they could think about letting LoDuca go, and signing a defensive catcher.

Unfortunately, just because the Post said that David Wright would be willing to move over for A-rod last spring, that does not mean that there is a particularly logical place for D-Wright to go. The re-signing of Alou (a weird move anyway, because Alou WILL spend half the season injured) bodes really badly for the signing of A-Rod: if they did not have Alou they could think about putting Wright in left field. As it is, the options seem to be either first or second base. I have a feeling that Wright at second would end badly, although I don’t really have a lot of evidence to go on. Unless there is a really compelling reason to think that Delgado will be much better than he was in ’07, putting Wright at first, and getting rid of Delgado, either through a buy-out or a trade, seems like it might be the way to go-- I am very sad to say this, because I really like Delgado, but he was truly awful last year. An infield of Wright, Castillo, Reyes and A-Rod… it makes that Howard-Utly-Rawlins jive that they have going on down in Philly seem sort of quaint.

Moving Reyes to second, and letting A-rod play Shortstop is a rotten idea, because it would be too obviously a slap in the face to Reyes, who fared badly at second (and expressed an overall distaste for the position) after the advent of “Colorado” Kaz Matsui. Of course, if one wanted to run the team with ruthless efficiency, they could sign A-Rod and let him play short, and then try to deal Reyes for someone like Santana, C.C. Sabathia, or Fausto Carmona—but this is a course of action that I do not support in the slightest.

The defensive positioning seems kind of minor, though, compared to what is at stake. A-Rod is ridiculous good, and the best upgrade available—he would pretty much make a place in the playoffs a lock. As I said in the title of the post, fuck it, let’s get this guy. And give David Wright a chest-protector for Christmas.