Thursday, April 19, 2012

3 comments How Did I Miss This Jonah Keri/Bill Simmons Conversation?

When I posted this Bill Simmons-Michael Schur conversation recently, Arjun mentioned in the comments there was also a Jonah Keri-Bill Simmons conversation about Desmond Jennings that took place last August. I probably just scanned past this conversation last August because the idea of Bill going back and forth in an email conversation making inside jokes with his friends doesn't appeal to me in the least. Well, it turns out Jonah Keri made good points and Bill Simmons did his usual "In hindsight here is what should have happened, hey look here's a joke I threw out there in the hopes no one would notice I'm over my head in this discussion." You know, if I would have known it was gonna be that kind of party...

I'm not ashamed to be late to the party, so I wanted to cover this conversation. So this is Jonah Keri and Bill Simmons discussing Desmond Jennings. Bill takes the position the Rays should have called Jennings up earlier (this exchange occurred on August 30, 2011) in the baseball season and Jonah Keri becomes frustrated at having to swat Bill's poorly thought-through logic down. It's not like Keri can be mean to his boss, so he has to swat the poorly thought-through logic down politely. It's just clear Bill isn't keeping up or presenting his argument in a convincing fashion, so I don't know why "The Sports Guy" even set this conversation up. That's what so ironic about the moniker "The Sports Guy." It's not true. He is the "Pop culture with a little bit of Boston-related and overall sports knowledge, but mostly knows the NBA Guy." There's nothing wrong with that. He simply shouldn't set up these type of conversation/debates, because they expose his knowledge about some sports (especially baseball) in some ways.


Jonah, I need you to climb off Andrew Friedman’s lap for a few minutes, stop feeding him grapes and answer the following question: Why did Tampa wait nearly four months to promote Desmond Jennings from Triple-A?

Easy answer(s):

1. The Rays wanted to prolong Jennings service time in the majors before he reached arbitration, so they waited to call him up.

2. Jennings had sort of a "ugly injury-filled" year in Triple-A during 2010. Why call up a guy who didn't really look great in Triple-A and start his service time clock? It doesn't make sense. Not every team has enough money to call up their prospects the very instant they MAY be ready to be called up.

Jennings hit .278/.362/.393 during 2010 with only three home runs during 2010. So he was probably close to ready, but the lack of power (injuries aside) had to be a bit concerning to the Rays. I can see why they wanted him to sit in the minors for a few more months to ensure he showed more power and he could stay healthy.

Sometime over the next week, Jennings could pass Carl Crawford in steals, homers and walks while also having a higher slugging percentage than Crawford’s OPS … which, by the way, makes me want to sit on a pitchfork.

Because the Red Sox should have given Desmond Jennings a $100+ million contract instead of giving this contract to Crawford? I always dislike it when the Red Sox sign a free agent who doesn't have an All-Star performance with the team. Bill never lets us hear the end how of an underachieving player is holding the Red Sox back. Of course, we never hear the end of it from Bill even when a player who pretty much achieves what is expected of him (J.D. Drew) isn't an All-Star.

Normally I would be delighted that Tampa screwed up this badly and played the likes of Sam Fuld and Justin Ruggiano ahead of Willie Mays 2.0. But I have Jennings on my League of Dorks team.

League of Dorks=Bill's Fantasy team

You may ask why Bill's fantasy team has a specific name when he could just say "my fantasy team." Well, it is because Bill's wife called his fantasy league the "League of Dorks" one time and Bill wants his fantasy league to have an official nickname to make it seem more important than your fantasy league.

You may also ask why Bill is telling us about his fantasy team all the time and few people care about other people's fantasy teams. Bill tells us because he feels his fantasy team (or pretty much anything he does) is very interesting, so of course you care about HIS fantasy team.

We were counting him on this season, but by the time Tampa called him up, our season was already in shambles.

Bill's poor fantasy baseball roster management is purely Desmond Jennings' and the Rays fault and is not a reflection of Bill's ability to play fantasy sports.

Hench, and I couldn’t figure out — for the life of us — why they wouldn’t call Jennings up. So they could delay his free agency for another year? He’s already 24 years old! By the time he hits free agency, he’ll be in his 30s!!!!!

Exactly. You just answered your own question. I do realize Bill is unable to see past what the Red Sox may do, but other teams can't/won't simply call up players because they seem ready. The Rays have future budgetary concerns to worry about.

And it’s not like the 2011 Rays were in rebuilding mode — they were a borderline playoff team

I'm not going to use hindsight to criticize some of the things Bill says here. If I did, I would be just as bad as Bill Simmons...but I do find it ironic Bill calls them a "borderline playoff team" and we all know how the season ended. It's almost like the Rays know what they are doing.

Here’s where you say, “They never thought Jennings would be this good.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! We knew Jennings was going to be good! Keith Law ranked him as the 20th-best prospect in baseball in the preseason … one spot ahead of Michael Pineda.

No matter where a prospect is ranked, we don't know that player will be good. So it is pure bullshit for Bill to say "We knew Jennings would be good!" when a prospect's ranking doesn't guarantee success. Prospect rankings are simply rankings and don't indicate a player will definitely be a great MLB player. Jonah Keri will illustrate this point in a minute. Again, these are the type of statements Bill gets away with on a regular basis when he doesn't allow comments on his columns and no one can call him on his statements.

You know, the guy who made Seattle say in late-March, “Screw the free agency thing, this guy is ready, we’re bringing him up.” At what point can you get TOO cute?

The Rays had Manny Ramirez at the beginning of the season and had Sam Fuld to back him up. They aren't All-Stars, but the team believed they could still win games with them in left field...which they did. This is just such limited thinking on Bill's part by saying "Prospect X is ranked #21 and is in the majors, so Prospect Y ranked #20 should also be in the majors." It actually hurts my head.

Congratulations, Tampa, you delayed Desmond’s free agency for an extra year … and ruined your own season and my fantasy season in the process.

No comment needed about the Rays having ruined their own season.


In related news … it's five weeks.

From July 4 to August 11, 1990, Yankees rookie Kevin Maas hit 13 homers in 30 games, and slugged .704.

From July 25 to August 25, 1987, Red Sox rookie Sam Horn hit .346/.418/.741.

Horn's biggest claim to fame is that his name now adorns one of the best fan forums on the web. Maas is now an assistant fry cook at a McDonald's in Hoboken.

Uh-oh. Time for Bill to divert and try to focus away from his overreacting to Jennings' start. In fact, Jennings did hit .160/.258/.245 in September of 2011. So Jonah Keri has a pretty good point and it is clear Bill was WAY overreacting to Jennings' start.

Anyway...Bill has to divert quickly...umm...make a joke!


That’s not fair! You didn’t have to bring Sam Horn into this! NOT FAIR! I’m still trying to unload his rookie cards on eBay. Only 2,000 more to go.

Whew, that was close. Hopefully Keri forgot about everything Bill said previously.


Taking nothing away from Keith Law (who obviously knows his stuff), you cite Jennings' no. 20 ranking as if that automatically makes him the next Musial. Here are some of Baseball America's no. 20 prospects:
    2003 Jeremy Bonderman
    2004 Josh Barfield
    2005 Jeff Niemann
    2006 Carlos Quentin
    2007 Mike Pelfrey
    2008 Fernando Martinez
    2009 Gordon Beckham
Well shit, Jonah Keri didn't forget the whole "He was ranked #20 in Keith Law's rankings, so why wasn't he immediately fast-tracked to the majors?" comment. Bill misses the days when he could throw those comments out there and no one would refute him.

What is Bill's reaction to his point being proven wrong, or at the very least being guilty of using a minimal amount of thought to make a point?


And Gordon Beckham was one of the guys who destroyed my 2011 League of Dorks season. Even worse, we protected him for an extra two years, so going into next season, either we have to keep him at 15 dollars, or waive him and lose $8 at the 2012 auction. People have had easier times getting rid of STDs.

(rolling on the floor laughing) Boy I've forgotten everything we were discussing! Tell me more about this League of Dorks!


Back to Jennings.

Dammit, Jonah Keri. Can't you just let it drop and listen to Bill's jokes? They are killer-funny. He used to write for Jimmy Kimmel's show you know? How impressive is that? Bill didn't bring you into this conversation to make good points or prove him wrong. He wants you to listen to him crack jokes, tell him how funny he is and not slap away his weak attempts at proving a point.

He played in 109 games last year at Triple-A. You know how many homers he hit? Three...But if you're going to be a starting corner outfielder on an AL East team that fancies itself a contender, walks and defense and speed aren't enough. The Rays needed to see evidence that Jennings could turn on a fastball and do something with it.


So when Manny got pinched, they had to decide if a prospect coming off a punchless, injury-plagued season was ready to become an everyday player, while also restarting his service time clock. It was hardly a sure thing.

Jonah, Bill is sort of your boss. You don't want to get fired. Smooth his ego a bit.

Still, I don't totally disagree with you. Sam Fuld went nuts in April (not that the Rays should have expected that), so they were more than covered.

Which the Rays wouldn't have known he would do at the time. Don't back away from your point to make Bill feel better about himself.

I still think they should have brought up Brandon Guyer, the other outfielder they got in the Garza deal who's a prospect but not as good as Jennings … and even then, they got too cute. Both in 2008 and 2010 they had a chance to make a deadline deal for an impact player who might have put them over the top.

What is interesting is Jonah Keri is sort of agreeing with Bill Simmons for the next paragraph. This is interesting because he just disagreed with Bill Simmons on the issue of when Desmond Jennings should have been called up to the majors. In a minute, Jonah Keri will then go back to making good points that disagree with Bill. None of what Keri says here really goes to prove any of Bill's previous points or gives them any more credibility. I do find it interesting Keri makes really good points about why Jennings wasn't called up, backs off them a bit to agree with Bill, and then goes back to making his good points that disagree with Bill.

So yes, once Jennings proved he could hit, I'd have liked to have him come up. But they waited because of service time (since Deezy was up last September — July, not June, was the Super 2 cut-off) and because of the finger injury, and likely cost themselves a couple of games in the standings.

The Rays called up Jennings on July 23. So they called him up just after he the date he could be called up without being a Super 2.

It's unfortunate, but it wouldn't have been enough to catch the loaded Red Sox and Yankees this year anyway.

I'm sorry Red Sox fans for including this comment. I'm a Braves fan though! We blew a lead last year and this year we just blow. Does that make you feel better?


Sorry, I’m not buying that “wouldn’t have been enough to catch the loaded Red Sox and Yankees this year anyway” spin.

How many more times will Tampa get the gift of a 2-10 Red Sox start, or the Red Sox’s spending one-third of their payroll on the likes of Lackey/Drew/Crawford/Cameron/Jenks?

Apparently one more time during the 2011 season.

How many more times will Tampa get the gift of the Yankees being stuck in a transition year between “our guys for the next generation and our guys from the last one,” or mangling their pitching situation to the point that Ivan Nova might start Game 2 of a playoff series?

So Bill disagrees because if the Rays just had the benefit of complete hindsight, they would have known this was the year to call up Desmond Jennings in April? If only the Rays had enough money in the payroll to buy a time machine or could predict the future so they would know the Red Sox would start 2-10 or the Yankees pitching situation would end up mangled.


OK, first if all, do you know what the Rays' record was on the day that Manny bailed? 0-6. You can talk about a 2-10 start or Boston’s pissing away money on unproductive players all you want, Bill. The bottom line is that at that time, the Rays had reason to believe that a season projected to be merely pretty good might in fact be mediocre or worse.

I bet Bill hates it when facts get in the way of his argument that is based entirely on hindsight.

As for the Yankees, they were seen as having rotation issues, yes...But they've also gotten disappointing seasons out of A-Rod, Burnett, and others. They had flaws, but they were still an excellent team coming into the season, and they are one now.

That's my main problem with Bill's argument here (and other arguments he has made in the past as well). They usually center around the statement saying something like, "Well, because X, Y, and Z were going to happen they could have easily done A, B, or C." For a team to have done A, B or C, they would have had to already known X, Y, Z were going to happen. Outside of visiting a very accurate sports psychic, this just isn't possible at the beginning of the season for the Rays.

It doesn't work that way. The Rays can't look at the Red Sox roster and base their personnel moves on bold predictions like "Lackey and Crawford will struggle." They didn't know this for sure. So calling up Desmond Jennings in April because the AL East was up for grabs or wide open just didn't make sense in April 2011. The Yankees and Red Sox both looked very formidable at the beginning of April 2011.


I don’t understand why you’re callously dismissing their admittedly slim playoff hopes,

Bill was right to not understand this.

I mean, Jennings finished with nearly 1,000 Triple-A at-bats, which was great news if Tampa’s goal was to eventually inspire Bull Durham II.

Movie reference!

Please, you act like this was such a disastrous Tampa season. Good luck getting 700 innings, a 3.20 ERA and 600 Ks out of Hellickson, Price and Shields again … not to mention 27 shocking, decent starts (and counting) from Jeff Niemann and Alex Cobb, or even a ridiculously competent closer year from the one and only Kyle Farnsworth, or everything Matt Joyce and Casey Kotchman did, or Ben Zobrist’s second sneaky-ridiculous saber season. I’m not buying it.

Interesting point. Now tell me exactly how in April 2011 Andrew Friedman is supposed to know this is the production he would be getting from these players? How was he supposed to know Ben Zobrist would have a second "sneaky-ridiculous saber season?" How the hell is he supposed to know Farnsworth would be as good as he was or any of the other players would play like they did? Sure, he hopes for this, but he can't know this. So to claim Desmond Jennings should have been called up in April 2011 because of how the Rays played up until September 2011 is just poor use of reasoning.


I think we just fundamentally disagree on the meaning of those 35 games for Jennings. You say ".290/.370/.490 with 45 steals and some sterling defense in left field" like it's a snap. That's an elite player given where league-wide offense is right now and the pitcher's park he plays in. Manny retired on April 8. Based on what Jennings had shown to that point, there was no way in hell anyone could reasonably project anything close to that kind of dominance by Jennings at that point.

Don't stop Bill from throwing out unreasonable numbers that also just happen to help prove his point. Your really messing him up by questioning the assumptions that prove him right.

But this assumes that all baseball decisions are linear, with one neat and clean answer to every question. Maybe that's the way it is if you're a Sox or Yanks fan. But it just isn't that way for the Rays.


(Oh, here we go. Lemme get my violin. Hold on …)

Get your violin ready, that's fine. Bill's inability to see how other teams deal with payroll is quite clear here. Bill is used to seeing a team think "Move X is the best way to win a World Series this year, but we'll worry about the effect it has in five years four years from now." That's not how the Rays management is able to run the team. They have to make smart moves for the team to compete now and in the future. They can't go all-in every single year.

If I’m Jennings and I’m looking at a FOURTH straight year in Triple-A, and I’m looking at the box score and seeing the likes of Ruggiano and Fuld playing ahead of me, here’s my mind-set: “I hate the Tampa Bay Rays.” That mind-set would affect my day-to-day approach, my spirits, my feelings about remaining in Tampa for as long as possible, you name it.

It wasn't going to be four straight years in Triple-A. Jennings played 32 games in Triple-A in 2009, 109 games in 2010, and 89 games in 2011. He didn't even play two full consecutive years at Triple-A ball. This is another type of comment that Bill would get away with in a typical column that he doesn't get away with during this conversation with Jonah Keri.

Not to mention, that mindset Bill would have in this hypothetical situation as Desmond Jennings is completely stupid. Why would Jennings sabotage himself, before he got paid big bucks and had even gotten called up to the majors, by pouting? It would serve absolutely no purpose for him to do this. If Jennings had altered his approach because he was mad at the Rays the only person that would have suffered would be him and his checkbook. So Desmond Jennings has no reason to pout and let it affect his performance.

And why risk pissing off your small base of fans who are already pissed off that they’re rooting for a team that spends one-fourth as much money as two other teams in its division?

Not every fan base wants their team to spend a lot of money on players if that team is successful. The Rays are successful without spending a lot of money. Also, the Red Sox and Yankees spend a ton of money on their payroll, so while the Rays are spending one-fourth as much as the Red Sox/Yankees do, it probably isn't the best overall comparison...especially since the Rays compete at the current payroll amount.

Yeah, you get an “extra year of Desmond Jennings” … but that “extra year” could have been this season, so it’s all relative.

Not really. Jennings would be eligible for arbitration a year earlier, which could cost the Rays money down the road. So it really all isn't relative.


You're exaggerating Jennings' Triple-A time. He'd played a total of 140 games there coming into this season.

But this wasn't exactly the biggest miscarriage of justice in human history, either. He hit three homers last year, Bill. You're basing your argument on after-the-fact assumptions. You say good luck getting 700 killer innings out of Price, Shields and Hellickson, a great season from Farnsworth, etc. But they had no way of knowing, on April 8, that all that would occur.

Exactly. I'm glad someone is around to challenge Bill's faulty assumptions that serve the purpose of showing his readers how smart he believes himself to be. It's nice to see.

And you've said yourself that Jennings at the very high end might have been worth three or four more wins than other left fielders (on top of his current contributions) if they'd played him all season (which, again, is an extremely optimistic scenario, but OK). Even after all those post-hoc analyses and perfect-world scenarios, they're still four or five back of New York in the loss column with a month to play.

Uh-oh, the math doesn't support Bill. To his credit (or detriment), he goes right back on the attack.


But Jonah, you keep skipping over the part that there was blood in the water in April! The Red Sox flopped out of the gate. The Yankees were dealing with Phil Hughes’ dead arm, the Posada/Jeter aging issues and the disturbing fact that they were relying so heavily on Bartolo’s new and improved stem cells. On the morning of April 16, New York was 7-5, Tampa was 5-8 and Boston was 2-10.

So the natural solution for the Rays would be to immediately call up Desmond Jennings and screw any long-term plan financial plan they had for him. The Red Sox are struggling! Now's the time to attack, because over a 162 game schedule NOTHING ever changes.

On the morning of May 7, New York was 18-12, Tampa was 18-14 and Boston was 14-18. Even on the morning of June 2, right after Sam Fuld’s historic 28-game stretch from April 28 through May 31 in which he finished .135/.164/.217 over 112 plate appearances, New York was 31-23, Boston was 30-26 and Tampa was 29-26. How does Jennings not get called up at that point?

So when exactly did Bill Simmons want Desmond Jennings to be called up? The beginning of April? The beginning of May? The beginning of June? Why call him up in June rather than wait a month until July when he won't be a Super Two? At that point in June the Rays have had a hole in left field and still managed to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees.

By the way, we’re ignoring the bigger issue: Any rule that discourages playoff contenders from promoting exciting rookies in Triple-A needs to be changed as fast as humanly possible.

Knowing he has no point, Bill does a quick change of subject at the end of this statement.


That's seven weeks of extra Jennings. Even in a superoptimistic scenario, you're getting two more wins from him vs. other left fielders over seven weeks.

Which still wasn't enough to catch the Red Sox and Yankees at this point in the season. The math simply isn't on Bill's side. The impact Jennings would have would not have made enough of a difference to reach the conclusion Bill reaches for calling Jennings up.

It'd be wonderful to be able to go balls-out every year, doing everything you can to win the division. But baseball isn't set up that way. Least of all for AL East teams outside New York and Boston. You pick your spots, then go for it.

This is what happens when a semi-educated fan (Simmons) talks with an educated baseball writer (Keri). Bill's hyperbole, "what-if" statements, and exaggerations don't fly and he gets called on it.


You must be a blast at the poker tables. We’ll never agree on this Jennings thing.

Because despite evidence that you are wrong and Jonah Keri refuting any "good points" you have made, you will never admit that you are wrong. There's no need to agree. The readers know who is right. Well, SimmonsClones probably think Bill got the best of the discussion, but their opinion can't be trusted.


You're the guy who goes all-in with rags. I'm the guy who lets the game come to him.

Watch it now! Bill considers himself to be an expert gambler because he's been to Vegas a lot. He also is an expert because he makes up fake rules that are supposed to govern how you gamble on sporting events. Much like Bill's expertise on sports, he is an expert in gambling based on his own determination that he is an expert.

I can't wait for the next "conversation" with an expert participates in. If Bill is smart, he will stop and go back to writing articles where no one can refute his wild theories and half-assed contentions.


Anonymous said...

There is no greater gap in the size of a sh*t given bewteen someone discussing their fantasy team - and everyone else.

Keep up the good work BotB

Justin Zeth said...

Fantasy teams are like religions; people who want to tell you about their fantasy team almost never want you to tell them about yours.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, exactly. There is a time and place to discuss your fantasy team. That time is "anytime you feel like it" and the place is "on your league's message board."

Justin, that's a pretty good comparison. I'm pretty sure Bill wouldn't care about my fantasy team if I saw him in public and struck up a conversation about it.