There’s a phrase I hang onto from back in the Barrold Bonds days, “We know about Barry but if it turns out A Rod is unclean it’ll be a dark, dark time for baseball.” The author has faded from memory as the line was poignantly delivered around a dark pool table right around whiskey #3. Not many memories endured that night but the line survived.
Here we are, 10 years removed from Barry, Sammy and the wild roid era and our one-time baseball savior is mired in a story that no one can escape from. The fall is well documented and he’s never, ever going to recover from the damage his image has sustained.
This isn’t going to be an Alex Rodriguez defense, he made his own bed for the most part. There are two things I wish to address here however. First, let’s consider what A Rod makes fans confront about their own past.
I grew up in the thick of the steroid era. Sosa’s chase of Maris brought me back to the game I briefly left after the strike. I was young, the results were immediate and visceral and baseball was pretty damn exciting in Chicago during that time. I cheered for those outcomes. I supported his chase.
The years wore on and it became pretty apparent that Sosa had cheated. Now, I don’t care much for the flexibility of the word “cheated” as it applies to Sosa and other users. There’s only so much latitude you can use before you start extending out the reality of the situation beyond the word’s inherent malleability. He cheated. I don’t care that he did and his HOF credentials are worthy of another column entirely but he absolutely cheated.
This left me in an untenable situation. I still haven’t properly resolved this within myself even though I’ve settled into a middle area between the two extreme steroid opinions. Ultimately it’s a position I’d like to reflect on without the specter of #hottakes bearing down on me every day but alas, I’m not afforded that luxury.
Rodriguez lifts an uncomfortable mirror for me. At one point I did see him as the last clean player hope back when I cared about that distinction. This was a long time ago and the parts of me that need and or desire a clean player are long dead. Maybe that makes me a cynic but I know that makes me a realist.
This gets to my second point a bit, Rodriguez isn’t going to go away for a long time. He’s in disgrace now but there’s so much nuance to the A Rod story that there are several storylines we have to clear. He still plays in New York and the media there hates him. We still have his retirement to wade through, the after years, his inevitable HOF snubs and there’s probably a really scathing book in there should anyone have the courage to write it.
We’re going to have to deal with the A Rod circus even if we really don’t want to. Some of it is actually unfair to him-the loathing has reached a level that is well over the top for a baseball player. But again, he played a major part in the circus so it’s difficult to feel much sympathy for the man, if any.
Players and statistical competence
This one has been stewing for a bit, but…
I was a guest on the Wrigleyville Nation podcast last week with Harry Pavlidis. Give it a listen if you want, we talked about pitching stats and got into who the Cubs 5th starter might be (hopefully not Edwin Jackson).
On the show we were asked if players liked knowing the stats. It’s a difficult question to tackle because the answer is so unsatisfying (some guys do, some guys don’t). The level of statistical competency varies from person to person. Some guys, like Kyle Hendricks, survive of the advanced scouting reports. Brian Bannister famously used advanced metrics to gain an edge on the mound so that he could make up for so-so stuff. Other guys do not want to know anything in terms of stats. Starlin Castro got too in his own head over stats in 2013 before returning to a more natural approach in 2014 and he proceeded to have a nice little career rebound. And then there’s a whole gradient in the middle. Some guys like some of the stats but not all of the stats. It’s a bad answer but you have to give it this way.
A couple of weeks ago Charles Barkley said some stupid things about stats that set twitter on fire. Before I continue I want to make one thing very, very clear.
Charles Barkley’s views on advanced statistics are archaic and mostly dumb.
Now, Behind The Ivy wrote this about Barkley’s comments. I agree with some of it, and disagree with some of it but there’s one message that’s important to remember not just with Barkley but with players in general. The only thing you can expect from a former player talking head is that they will bring the former player point of view.
Everything else is extra. CJ Nitkowski and Gabe Kapler provided a ton of insight and they are/were good at their media jobs respectively. But guys like Chuck? He’s there to be Charles Barkley, former player. He’s there to share a funny story and try to make you understand what a player might be thinking in certain situations. The rest of his analysis? Read or listen to it at your own risk.
It’s probably -30 outside as you’re reading this unless you’re in Florida like that jerk Jeff Moore. The theory of baseball is slowly becoming a reality and soon we’ll have all sorts of storylines-both real and fake- to parse. With that in mind here’s what I’m watching for out of Arizona.
Baez – Remember last year when we all had the warm and fuzzies about Baez and there was an endless stream of fans asking for him to break camp with the big club? I remember this vividly. Baez was crushing fastballs and completely missing even the worst curveballs and everyone just chose to ignore that very serious issue, concentrating instead on the visceral outcomes of Javy at bats. Now, I’m still staunchly #TeamJavy but there’s a lot more concern here and perhaps his ultimate ceiling has been clipped by a pretty fair portion. There’s a concept in baseball pitch recognition that ‘s best called The Tunnel. Basically everything looks like a fastball until it doesn’t and for batters the early you can discern that it isn’t a fastball the better. Pitch recognition is a serious concern with Baez, this is no secret. The question I have is whether he can improve his recognition enough to become a usable player.
Kris Bryant – Not much needs to be said here.
The Cubs 4th/5th starters – My gut says that Turner and Hendricks end up with the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation. Wood is most definitely in the mix and as much as we hate it the Cubs have to deal with Edwin Jackson in some manner. The rotation itself will be fascinating to track but I’m watching the 4th and 5th spots intently.
Cole Hamels – No, I’m kidding. I’m not watching for this. I’m done with Cole Hamels opinions, they’re all wrong.
Baseball is coming, kiddos.
Filed under: Target List