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.

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