Monday, June 11, 2012

2 comments Terence Moore Loves a Potentially Non-Existent Past

Terence Moore used to write for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That's where I first caught wind of him. He's been featured on this blog a few times. I remember him mostly as the guy who suggested the Atlanta Braves re-sign/sign the following players during the 2009 offseason.

Rafael Furcal
John Smoltz
Ken Griffey Jr.
Mike Hampton
Andruw Jones
A.J. Burnett
Jake Peavy

Remember, I wasn't talking about the 2005 offseason, but the 2009 offseason. He wanted the Braves to go after these players, even though in 2009 none of these players were very good options in terms of salary and age. Terence Moore seems to enjoy the past. Terence Moore also loves himself some Dusty Baker. He has already written one article on Baker in the last couple of months, I covered another article here that he wrote in 2010 about Baker and I am sure another one will be due soon. Moore recently wrote an entire column about how trying to buy a World Series never works, followed by a column about how the Reds are making smart moves by spending big money on their own players. I guess spending big money on your own players doesn't count as buying a World Series.

Today, Terence Moore wonders why baseball players have become such huge wimps. Current baseball players are huge wimps because they don't have long streaks of consecutive games played. Moore cherry picks some of the longest consecutive games streaks in MLB history and then uses these streaks as a basis for comparison to show today's players take too many games off.

What in the "iron man" names of Cal Ripken Jr., Lou Gehrig and Everett Scott is going on with baseball these days?

I know! Why isn't every modern player anywhere close to playing in 1000 games in a row? Sure, older players couldn't come close to these three players' consecutive games streaks and that's why they have the three longest consecutive games streaks over the last 100 years, but let's ignore any evidence Terence Moore may have no point. It seems baseball players have always had trouble playing in 162 games in a season over four or more seasons. It's not easy to play every game in a season over multiple seasons due to the tight scheduling of games and the need for players to take a day off. I didn't know this until I looked it up, but guess in your head what the 10th longest games-played streak in baseball history is. I guessed 1200 games. This seems reasonable considering this record has been tracked for 100 years now and I thought over 100 years at least 10 players had played 8 seasons without missing a game. I would be wrong.

Here is the link for the answer.

That's right. 822 games is the 10th longest games-played streak in baseball history. Granted that's over 5 seasons worth of not missing a game (which is still impressive), but I personally would have thought the number would have been larger than that. It's pretty clear the consecutive game records set by Gehrig, Ripken, Scott, Garvey, and the other players in the top 10 are difficult to achieve. Terence Moore wants to make it seem like 20-30 players in baseball history have played 1000 games consecutively and this isn't true. Terence Moore just doesn't have a good perspective on the situation and how even playing two seasons of games isn't easy. Only 15 players in the history of baseball have consecutive games streaks of 700 games (equivalent to over four seasons) or more. After all, MLB teams usually play at least 27 games in a month and unless a player is considered elite he probably isn't going to be penciled into the lineup on a daily basis instead of being given a chance to rest. 162 games in a span of 6 months (or about 183 days). That's a lot of games in a short time and some rest is required.

Streaks for consecutive games played once were measured in years.

Now, we're talking about months and weeks.

If that.

Certain consecutive games played streaks were measured in years, but most of the consecutive games played streaks throughout the age of baseball have been measured in months and weeks. Modern players aren't weak, Terence Moore just doesn't care to do research, so he just assumes is correct when it isn't. MLB played 154 games in a season from 1904-1961 and has played 162 games in a season every year since 1962. This is just a note as I compare some Hall of Fame players to modern players who will eventually be in the Hall of Fame as it relates to the number of games they played in a season. Modern players have more games scheduled in less time. Even knowing this, some great Hall of Fame players weren't quite the "iron men" that Terence Moore probably thinks they were.

Mickey Mantle never played a full 154 game season.

Ted Williams played over 150 games in a season twice in his career.

Joe Morgan played over 150 games only four times in his career.

Joe DiMaggio played in over 150 games only three times in his career.

Babe Ruth played in 154 games in a season just once and played in over 150 games in six seasons.

Willie Mays played in over 150 games thirteen times in his career.

Albert Pujols has played in over 150 games eight times in his career.

Derek Jeter has played in over 150 games twelve times in his career.

Jeff Bagwell played in over 150 games ten times in his career.

David Ortiz (okay, he may not be a Hall of Famer) has played in over 150 games four times in his career.

I didn't cherry pick these names, instead I just chose the first names that came to my mind. My point is players have always taken a day off to recover from injuries or just rest. Terence Moore believes he has a point because he is writing this article based on anecdotal evidence and comparing modern day players' games played streaks to some of the longest games played streaks in baseball history. This is a very poor way to make his point.

Blame the usual suspects.

You mean the history of how baseball has been played? The usual suspect for this modern phenomenon is that it isn't a modern phenomenon.

You have teams such as the New York Mets wishing to protect guys for the long run while playing a slew of games in a row.

Which is something that has happened throughout the history of baseball. Even players in the 50's, 60's and 70's took a day off.

You have big money zapping away the desire of some players to spend long stretches in the lineup (you know, no matter what).

Or is it the players who make big money are better protected by management since so much money is invested in them?

Whatever the reason, players are sitting or being sat more on a regular basis -- to the detriment of playing streaks.

It would be incredibly awesome if Terence Moore provided any proof what he is stating is indeed correct. Unfortunately, I don't think he has provided any proof other than assuming what he is claiming is indeed correct. It appears he is using his own opinion as proof. I don't believe players are sitting or being sat on a more significantly regular basis modern day when compared to teams from the past.

Look at the 1927 Yankees. Only Lou Gehrig played in every game.

Look at the 1975 and 1976 Cincinnati Reds teams. Only Pete Rose played in every single game both years. That team had quite a few elite players on it. Besides, baseball isn't about playing streaks or playing in as many games as possible. Baseball is about playing in as many games possible, while being as productive and effective as possible in those games. MLB players have always needed a day off due to injury or fatigue.

Prior to Wednesday night's game at Turner Field against the Florida Marlins, Michael Bourn had played not only in every game for the Atlanta Braves this season but in every inning. He is a high-energy guy, with an efficient bat, swift feet and solid glove.

Part of the reason for Bourn not missing any innings is the Braves really have no other viable centerfielder option. They have Jason Heyward and that's about it. So that factors in to Bourn playing everyday as well. He isn't an elite player, but he plays everyday because there is no solid replacement for him at the top of the lineup and in centerfield. He plays everyday out of necessity.

Not only that, the word "slump" hasn't been part of Bourn's vocabulary since the early part of the season. Bourn was benched by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.

As much as it pains me to defend Fredi Gonzalez, Bourn needed a day off. In fact, Bourn has never played more than 158 games in a season. So Bourn tends to get days off, contrary to Terence Moore's belief. Wasn't the point of this article that modern day players take too many days off? Now Terence Moore has found a modern day exception to his newly found rule.

"You have to rest [players] every once in a while, because you can't run these guys into the ground." said Gonzalez, shrugging in the Braves' dugout while explaining his reasoning,

Then Fredi Gonzalez proceeded to have the pitcher bat second because "he is a better at bunting" and refused to use his best relief pitchers in any game where the Braves were losing, even by one run.

That sounded like Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who decided it wasn't good this week that outfielder Michael Cuddyer hadn't left the lineup since way back in ... late April.

Guys get a day off. That's just how it is. Michael Cuddyer is not a bad baseball player, but why would the Rockies want to run him out there everyday just so they can say he played in every game? Why does Terence Moore think consecutive games streaks are more important than productive baseball players?

Then there is Mets manager Terry Collins, who huddles with his coaching staff to plot in advance which players will get which games off for a given series on the Mets' schedule -- especially during grueling stretches such as their current one of 20 days in a row with a game.

I think it makes sense to plot the games that players are taking off in advance. I know Terence Moore isn't ignorant enough to believe a streak of 20 games in a row doesn't merit a game or two of rest for certain players.

Which begs a question: If Hall of Famer Billy Williams were in his prime today, would he come close to doing what he did for the Chicago Cubs from Sept. 22, 1963, to Sept. 2, 1970?

Billy Williams was a Hall of Fame hitter. Of course the Cubs wanted him in the lineup everyday. Michael Cuddyer and Michael Bourn are not Billy Williams, so they get a day off from time-to-time. All things being equal, elite players will generally get fewer days off than players who not elite players. The Cubs needed Williams' bat in the lineup as much as possible and he was able to stay injury-free enough to play at a high level. He is the exception to the rule, not the rule.

In fact, I would argue a consecutive games played streak can be counterproductive because a player may want to keep the streak alive by playing in a game and can negatively affect his team if he isn't able to be an effective player.

"I'm not sure," Williams said, pausing over the phone from his home in the Chicago area, recalling how he went through that stretch playing in 1,117 consecutive games, which was the National League record. "Could I do that now? I'm really not sure."

Billy Williams set the National League record for games played. He is clearly the outlier, not the rule. I feel like Terence Moore is taking a MLB record and trying to set it as the standard for the modern day player. This is like asking, "Why can't more hitters hit 50 home runs in a season?" while suggesting modern players aren't as strong as players from a previous generation and then interviewing Hank Aaron as proof of how weak the modern player is. We are talking about the Billy Williams that set a record for games played in a row. His streak isn't the norm.

In case you're wondering, Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder entered Friday's action with the current longest streak for games played in the Major Leagues, at 219.

Two-hundred and nineteen? That's nothing -- well, if you join us in the old-school wing of baseball.

Absolutely not true. Now let's allow Terence Moore to submarine his own point.

Still, Kemp's 399 compared to Williams' 1,117? We won't even mention Scott's 1,307 consecutive games played, or Gehrig's 2,130, which stood as the gold standard for 56 years.

Gehrig's consecutive games played streak stood for 56 years. For 56 years no baseball player could play more than 2130 games in a row. It strikes me as funny that Terence Moore is talking about how modern baseball players don't play enough games in a row, yet many "old school" baseball players couldn't beat Gehrig's record for 56 years. It took a modern day player to break that record.

In fact, Everett Scott is currently third all-time on the consecutive games played list. He set the record in 1925. 1925. That is 87 years ago when he set this record. How come all these "iron men" during the 1930's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's couldn't break his record and come in second on the consecutive games played list behind Gehrig? Even if we pretend modern baseball players aren't very tough and take too many games off, why did it take over 60 years for someone to even get to #2 on the consecutive games played list? Perhaps this is because Everett Scott's 1307 consecutive games isn't representative how many games in a row players are able to play. Everett's consecutive games streak is a remarkable feat and not something players can easily duplicate.

Those days of longevity have gone the way of teams traveling from city to city via the rails instead of the sky.

It's kind of hard to play Sunday afternoon in Washington, DC and be in Los Angeles for a 7:00pm PST game if you take a train to get there.

"Unlike today, we didn't have to play 20-something days in a row like some of these teams.

"The traveling, the scheduling, the length of the games, all of the media that you have to deal with nowadays -- it's different, and it starts pushing you [to need more rest] as a player."

This is Billy Williams speaking and he is exactly right. Williams sometimes didn't need Monday off because it was a travel day in the schedule and he had it off already.

It's just that you had a bunch of things unique to Williams' era that players overcame to stay in the lineup more often than not.

Not true. This is very broad anecdotal evidence that doesn't really serve to prove anything. Terence Moore is generalizing about thousands of players and the injuries they suffered, while also generalizing whether they chose to/not to fight through these injuries. There's no way to make such a broad statement and even come close to it being accurate.

Those slew of doubleheaders;

Oh yeah, "those" slew of doubleheaders.

the epidemic of artificial-surface stadiums during the 1970s; spikes-high opponents sliding into bases; folks who threw real knockdown pitches and dared you to say something about it.

Oh, "folks who threw REAL knockdown pitches," as opposed to these 50 mile an hour pitches that pass for knockdown pitches these days.

"I can think of a couple of times when I had colds and stuff, and I didn't feel like playing, and I dragged myself to the ballpark," Williams said.

I'm pretty sure there are modern players who play through a cold.

"Once, I hit a ball off the top of my foot. I stayed in the game, though, and I hit a home run a couple of innings after that, but I could hardly run the bases.

"One time, I didn't feel very good before a game. In my first at-bat I hit the baseball so hard it flew out of the stadium. I ran out between innings, retrieved the baseball, saved a man from having a heart attack, and then came back to play defense and had three put-outs in one inning. This one anecdote proves all current baseball players are flower-in-their-hair-wearing pussies."

"You also had just eight teams in the American League and eight teams in the National League at one point, and you had a bunch of good players down in Triple-A waiting to take your job. Therefore, whenever they threatened to take you out of the lineup back then, everybody would start to call you Wally Pipp. It made you want to stay in the lineup even more, because you didn't want to have that name."

And now, with no minor league system in baseball there is no one who can take a player's job. Baseball teams have no competition for a starting position anymore.

In addition to Gehrig's streak -- and those of Ripken, Scott and Williams, there was Steve Garvey eventually setting the NL record with 1,207 consecutive games played through July 1983.

So far as proof for his reasoning that current baseball players are lazy and won't play through injuries, Terence Moore has cited four of the top six players on MLB's all-time consecutive games list. Of course, these are consecutive games streaks no other MLB players over the past 100 years have been able to surpass, but let's definitely use them as the basis to compare modern players to. That sounds fair.

Pete Rose operated as fearlessly as anybody in baseball history. He sprinted to first base after walks, slid headfirst into bases and dove for fly balls and ground balls. Even so, he played in 745 straight games through August 1983 while in his 40s.

Rose is 12th on the all-time consecutive games played list.

Ernie Banks, Stan Musial, Nellie Fox -- they all joined Rose, Williams and the others with playing streaks of 700 games or more. In fact, out of the top 15 such streaks in baseball history, eight of those players are in Cooperstown.

So if Terence Moore actually put thought into this column, and that's a big "if," he would understand the players who play the most games in a row are usually the elite players whose presence in the lineup can not be missed by their team. So comparing Michael Cuddyer and Michael Bourn to these players isn't a fair comparison because Cuddyer and Bourn aren't Hall of Fame-type players who have an elite skill set which is required in the lineup everyday without rest. Bourn plays a position where the Braves have no backup, so that's why he has played as much as he has. He would probably take more days off if the Braves had a competent backup. Does that make him not an "iron man?" Maybe, but it also would make him just like thousands of other players over the history of baseball.

Said Williams, speaking for himself and most of his peers, "I stayed in the lineup, not because I had to, I wanted to."

Oh, the good old days.

Those good old days that didn't exist. Elite players tend to play more games than non-elite players. Teams play more games in a row under the 162 game schedule than they did under the 154 game schedule, so managers want to give some of these players a day off. Terence Moore misses a group of "iron men" that probably didn't exist to the extent he believes they did.


rich said...

You have teams such as the New York Mets wishing to protect guys for the long run while playing a slew of games in a row.

That he says "teams such as the NY Mets" instead of "every team in baseball" is interesting to me.

Cal Ripken played hurt, many times to the detriment to the team and on occasion kept him hurting longer.

If you're paying a guy 10-20M a year and you can sit him for a week and have him back at 100% you do that when the other option is having him at 50% for four days, 75% for another week and 90% for another week.

The other thing is that this is, as you pointed out, not unique to our time period. It's just that the greater investment in players makes it more worthwhile to put the health of the player above "streaks."

Furthermore, baseball teams play 162 games. If you need your star player to sit 10-20 of those, it's not a huge deal.

That sounded like Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who decided it wasn't good this week that outfielder Michael Cuddyer hadn't left the lineup since way back in ... late April.

That's a full month. Baseball players don't get weekends off and sometimes go two-three weeks with a single day off, a day they typically travel on.

Yes, players also traveled in the past, but we have more teams in baseball now, which means more extended roadtrips.

Even more, we all talk about how much bigger, stronger and faster players are now. Part of that is that players now have stricter workout regime. So you're not just playing games anymore, you're also lifting before or after games. So players are putting their bodies through more.

20 days in a row with a game.

Only three weeks straight of working a physical job in the dead of summer? Pussies.

Seriously, I go to the gym three days in a row and I feel terrible the fourth. I can't imagine:

Red Eye flight
Red Eye flight

so on so forth. It's nuts.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, that's part of the issue here. Teams have so much money tied into these players if they are slightly hurt it makes more sense to sit that player for a day and get some rest rather than throw him back out there. I know there were stories about how Ripken's streak was actually a detriment to the Orioles sometimes because he would play hurt. While that's noble, it isn't always in the best interests of the team.

I did enjoy how Terence Moore used an example of a player who took an entire month off, as if this were happening frequently. It's just the perception that players play fewer games in a row now. I'm not sure it is entirely true.

That's the part of it Terence Moore somehow misses. He even states teams used to get a few days off between games b/c it was harder to travel between cities. So there would be a built-in day off for players when there wasn't a game.

These players do have a strict workout regiment. It is their job to stay in good shape, while we all go to the gym after our daily job or school or whatever. Having said that, it is still very tiring to play 5-6 straight games, especially since a player's physical regiment doesn't simply consist of playing baseball. Terence Moore misses a time that doesn't exist. Most players in the past haven't been iron men like he wants to believe.