Tuesday, May 28, 2013

3 comments Writers Says What Makes Jeter Great Can't Be Found in the Box Score; Chokes to Death on Own Hyperbole

We all love the Yankees' Core 4. Well not everyone loves them, but the sports media certainly does seem to greatly enjoy discussing the Core 4's (I hate using that term, it annoys me) wonderful virtues and I am very surprised there hasn't been a comic book series featuring Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera as superheroes. Fuck G.I. Joe, these four guys are the real American heroes. Derek Jeter is probably the biggest source of the media's love and whenever the media talks about him we always get to hear about his intangibles and leadership. The hyperbole is often too much for one person to bear. The Jeter gets the hyperbole treatment today from Howard Bryant and then later Wallace Matthews turns a non-story into why Joba Chamberlain is not like Mariano Rivera. Wallace clears up that Joba and Rivera aren't similar just in case anyone was getting the two pitchers confused.

But first, it is hyperbole galore involving another sportswriter who refuses to let Jeter's achievements speak for themselves. There has to be hyperbole when describing The Jeter. If there is no hyperbole or a listing of The Jeter's intangibles then how would we all know how great he is? Sportswriters must continuously tell us about The Jeter's leadership abilities or intangibles or else they think we will all forget.

THE MAGIC OF baseball will always live in the storytelling -- the grandeur of Ruth, the Midwestern identification with Musial, the unbreakable Robinson and the complex defiance and moral ambiguity of Bonds.

Actually, the magic of baseball will also always live in the exciting baseball games that are played. What am I talking about? We all know sportswriters only care about the stories surrounding a game, not the game itself. It's like they insist on turning a sport into a sports soap opera. Also, what the fuck is up with all these writers (Terence Moore does it too) talking about "magic" in reference to baseball? 

It's what gives life to the statistics.

A player's performance on the field relevant to other players' performance on the field is actually what gives life to statistics. The storytelling gives life to made up bullshit used to tell anecdotal stories about a player, while the statistics give the story on how one player compared to other players.

Unfortunately, in the age of Moneyball and fantasy leagues, the numbers have been detached from, and become more important than, the players.

This doesn't make sense. How can the numbers have become detached from the players and yet still used by "Moneyball" (and screw you for using that generic term for anything related to advanced statistics) and fantasy leagues to evaluate players? Isn't the criticism of advanced statistics that the numbers often are TOO attached to a player, to where his leadership and other intangibles aren't taken into account? Not to mention, if Howard Bryant knows how to run a fantasy league without numbers and statistics I would love to hear this idea. The very idea he is criticizing fantasy leagues for only taking numbers into account is ridiculous. Numbers are what defines a fantasy league. Without these numbers you have no way of playing in the fantasy league or determining who is winning the fantasy league.

The Yankees' Derek Jeter has defied the impact of the two most influential elements of his time: the institutional shift toward quantitative analysis and the cynical lust for home runs, fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.

That's the narrative, even though it isn't entirely true. Jeter didn't defy quantitative analysis. He always had a high OBP and he tended to walk a lot. His fielding wasn't always the talk of Sabermetricians, but as a batter Jeter didn't really defy much qualitative analysis. As far as talking about a cynical lust for home runs, Jeter didn't defy this lust, he simply didn't hit a lot of home runs. There are plenty of quality players during the Steroid Era who didn't hit a lot of home runs. It feels like Howard Bryant is trying to give unique characteristics to The Jeter that really weren't exactly unique to The Jeter.

But with Jeter, the visual has always been better than the numerical -- and there's never been a better time to appreciate that than in his absence,

The perfect time to appreciate Jeter visually is when he isn't on the field to be visualized? I'm not sure how that can be a true statement because you can't visualize his greatness when he isn't on the field. Of course, maybe Bryant is giving The Jeter credit for being injured and his not playing at all shows exactly how great he is...which is actually what it seems like Bryant is doing. Now Jeter is getting credit for not doing anything at all. Must be nice.

which only underscores his longevity.

The fact Derek Jeter is injured gives us a better chance to appreciate how great he is. Just visualize it! He gets credit for being on the field and credit for being injured. Not talking about how great The Jeter is only underscores how great he is. When Derek Jeter hits into a double play, it is just a reminder of how clutch he has been. When Jeter wrecks his car and kills a pedestrian, it only reminds us of how good he is at driving a car usually and not killing pedestrians while doing so.

For years, most stats guys never liked him as much as his All-Star rivals at shortstop: Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada.

I think Bryant is using "for years" a bit too liberally here. Alex Rodriguez was a better player than Derek Jeter, but a blanket statement like this really means nothing. Saying "for years" may be overstating what a generalized group of people think. The stats crowd never liked Jeter's defense, his fans who calling him "Captain Clutch" and the hyperbolic bullshit written about him. Basically the stats crowd don't like things like this Howard Bryant article that praises Jeter effusively while over-using hyperbole.

Jeter most clearly defined his essence on separate occasions in the 2001 ALDS against the A's.

He "defined his essence." You can't make these things up when talking about The Jeter, you just have to realize these are the types of phrases that sportswriters will use when discussing him. It's always a pleasure to read another sportswriter giving Derek Jeter a tongue bath.

Blame Jeremy Giambi for not sliding or Oakland's bats for not getting that big hit; credit Mike Mussina for keeping the A's scoreless. But while the scorebook registers Jeter's play as simply an out -- albeit one that was 9-to-6-to-2 -- it demoralized the A's.

This play didn't demoralize the A's any more than the fact they couldn't score off Mike Mussina at any other point during this game I guess. It must be a wonderful feeling to be inside the head of professional athletes and always know their inner most thoughts. I will have to ask Bill Simmons or Howard Bryant how this must feel. They KNOW what emotions teams are experiencing in their heads. Howard Bryant isn't speculating just so it will make the point he wants to prove look better, not at all, he knows the A's were demoralized by Jeter's play.

The second defining moment came two nights later, with the A's spent, wondering as the noise cascaded on them just how they were here playing a deciding Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, how they had let the series slip away. Terrence Long hit a foul ball along the third base line that Jeter chased and caught, spilling into the stands. It was, again, just another out, F6, but on the field it was a referendum of championship toughness. The Yankees had it. The A's didn't.

Unfortunately the Yankees didn't have enough championship toughness to actually win a championship. They lost in seven games to the Arizona Diamondbacks. These were two great plays by Jeter though, I can't pretend they weren't.

That intangibles notion is murky, of course, and complicated.

Most likely because intangibles are intangible and there is no one way to measure them, so anytime a writer says a player has "intangibles off the charts" or "he leads the league in intangibles" it is just bullshit. There is no chart because you can't measure intangibles and there is no leaderboard for intangibles because there is no way to accurately track them. Intangibles are essentially a great excuse for a writer to explain an athlete's success. Russell Wilson/Tim Tebow have a ton of intangibles, Cam Newton/Jay Cutler do not. Derek Jeter displays leadership qualities through the example he sets and has all of the intangibles a team wants in the face of a franchise. Adrian Gonzalez is too quiet to be a leader and he didn't have the intangibles to succeed in Boston.

Jeter played in an era when everyone was suspected of PED use. For those choosing to believe the shortstop that he was, is and always has been a clean ballplayer, the monument to his fidelity and greatness lies in his old-school bona fides. Jeter, along with possibly Ken Griffey Jr., is the only player in the modern game whose iconic moments were generated by all five tools

I would argue this isn't true, but then that would lead to a discussion about Jeter's defense and that would be a losing argument. You can't make an error on a ground ball that you can't get to. I will say that. In typical "giving Jeter a tongue bath" fashion Howard Bryant is too caught up in worshiping Jeter to pay attention to the fact he is wrong here. Where are the iconic moments brought on by Jeter's base-running or throwing arm? Those are the other parts of being a five-tool player.

-- not just by standing in the batter's box and hitting another home run in a game that encouraged nothing but.

Yeah, home runs are bad! Derek Jeter was the kind of five-tool player who hit for power, but didn't hit home runs. He gets credit for hitting for power, but also gets credit for not having too much power. Because we all know a player who uses PED's could never hit between 15-20 home runs in a season. PED's always make a player hit 50 home runs or more. No matter what, The Jeter wins. He didn't hit too many of those dreaded home runs and that's a good thing. Albert Pujols is an asshole for standing in the batter's box and hitting a home run, just like he was encouraged to do.

Like Jackie Robinson, Jeter is pure baseball

This is the hyperbole that Howard Bryant is choking to death on. He's "pure baseball" you guys. This is as opposed to Alex Rodriguez, who is 57.56% baseball. He's not pure.

He will be remembered for his baserunning (the clever beating of the shift by swiping third base that he made routine).

He will be remembered for the anecdotal evidence of his greatness. The Jeter will be remembered for the times he stole second base and demoralized the opposing team, allowing Alex Rodriguez to hit a dreaded home run. A-Rod didn't hit that home run, Derek Jeter allowed it to happen. Historians will recall how Jeter would provide leadership that made the Yankees pitchers pitch better during the game. He led them to pitch well. Years later we can remember how Jeter's mere presence at shortstop showed us that anything is possible, which inspired Barack Obama to run for President.

He will be equally celebrated for his fielding and throwing. (Even though he doesn't rank anywhere near the top 1,000 in career defensive WAR, you can't deny the Flip, the nailing of Arizona's Danny Bautista at third in the 2001 World Series or the flying leap into the crowd against the Red Sox in the summer of '04.)

Oh yes, those three plays will definitely overshadow his lack of range on hundreds of other plays.

See, this is what we are up against. Idiots like Howard Bryant favor the anecdotal evidence and small memorable sample sizes over the hundreds of other plays that can be used to measure Jeter's ability to play shortstop defensively.

Not that he couldn't power the ball out of the ballpark too -- there was the first-pitch leadoff home run in Game 4 of the 2000 Series when the Mets had won the night before, and the two-out, full-count walk-off home run the following year in Game 4 against Arizona.


Again, Jeter gets credit for not being a home run hitter, but then Howard Bryant offers evidence of Jeter's home run hitting ability as another of his positive attributes. The Jeter does no wrong. He's the exception to the rule unless a sportswriter needs to use anecdotal evidence to show he is a part of the rule.

As if that wasn't enough, there's also the imprint he's had on the Yankees, the first homegrown star to lead the franchise to the World Series since Mickey Mantle. (1977-78 belonged to Reggie, not Munson.)

Somewhere Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Bernie Williams are shaking their heads angrily. I'm pretty sure they were homegrown players too.

He became the signature player for the game's signature team when it returned to power, and in an era of drugs and cynicism and ruined reputations, he never embarrassed the sport, his team or, most important, his family name.

Jeter always banged actresses and models, but ONLY IN THE MOST CLASSY OF WAY!

There is no metric for that. Just a magical story.

There is no metric for measuring how many times this same column discussing Jeter's magical intangibles and leadership abilities has gotten written. Maybe Jeter will stay on the disabled list all year so that way he can further his legacy by being absent from the game of baseball. Jeter doesn't even have to play, the fact he isn't playing and is injured shows us what a great player he is.

Now Wallace Matthews tells Joba Chamberlain that he isn't worthy of wearing the Yankees uniform. He'll never be Mariano Rivera! NEVER!

Sunday morning, some 18 hours after Chamberlain had warned Rivera in full view of reporters and fans about "shushing him," it was Rivera, not Chamberlain, who offered an apology.

Yes, Wallace Matthews is writing an entire column about Joba Chamberlain "shushing" Mariano Rivera. This is news, people!

There's nothing like creating a story where there isn't one.

It was Rivera, not Chamberlain, who assumed the responsibility for defusing the incident.

It was Rivera, not Chamberlain, who expressed true regret that it ever took place.

And it was Rivera, once again, who demonstrated that there is no one quite like him in professional sports.

Rivera is a great closer and a great guy. One baseball player "shushing" another baseball player is not cause for a story. It just isn't. What this is really about is Wallace Matthews wants to perform a tongue bath on Rivera and a hit job on Chamberlain. Two birds with one stone.

In an ugly and embarrassing dugout incident Saturday night, Chamberlain was making it difficult for Rivera to conduct an interview, so Rivera politely asked his teammate to lower his voice.

What Wallace leaves out is Rivera was doing an interview on the topic of how big of a douchebag Joba Chamberlain is. The interview was going to be in a new magazine called "Joba Chamberlain: Asshole," which is a magazine that is going to be about what a huge asshole Joba Chamberlain is. You can sort of see why Joba was asking Rivera to lower his voice.

Chamberlain responded by warning Rivera not once, but twice -- in tones that contained a hint of threat -- "Don't ever shush me again."

I couldn't find the audio of this incident, but I do like how Wallace Matthews (and other reporters on the scene) painted it as Rivera being meek and quiet, while Joba Chamberlain was the big, bad bully. Joba was talking with his family by the way. He's an asshole, but Rivera was conducting an interview and Joba was talking to his family. Overall, there's no right or wrong because this is a non-story that the New York media turned into a story because it involved Mariano Rivera.

That one came from Mariano Rivera, who took it upon himself to apologize to the media and the fans, because "unfortunately it happened in front of you guys, and it shouldn't happen. We apologize and we move on."

Rivera is a good guy and this isn't really a story.

Meanwhile, Joba was as sullen and defiant as a teenager caught cutting school, insisting that a 27-year-old middle reliever publicly warning a 43-year-old man, who also happens to be the best who has ever done what he does for a living,

I can picture Joba Chamberlain sitting in the corner of the locker room wearing a Minor Threat t-shirt with a zipped up hoodie over his head while chain-smoking cigarettes and trying to trip his teammates as they walk by. What a picture Wallace is painting.

was "not a big deal," that two professional baseball players arguing in front of fans was "not an issue in the first place," and rebuking media members who had the nerve to be within earshot when he issued his warning, "This is not a story."

And you know what? He's right. It's a non-story. Two teammates got into a little verbal tussle. It happens frequently during the course of a 162 game season.

I wonder if Derek Jeter had asked Rivera to be quiet if the media would be reporting on it breathlessly? They probably would report it, but would say that Jeter asked Rivera "jokingly" and Rivera shot back "in a teasing manner," and then they would chalk it up to two good friends joking around with each other. This is pure speculation obviously, but I can't imagine the media would frame a discussion between Rivera and Jeter in the same way.

and delivered what to the Yankees should be the most chilling line of all, and a fitting epitaph to his Yankees career: "I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't change anything I do in life."

Joba is a moron, but before putting an epitaph on his career with the Yankees don't forget how badly the Yankees fucked up Joba during his Yankee career. They enforced the "Joba rules" and switched him back and forth from a starter to a reliever early in his career. They did the same thing with Phil Hughes and I would bet if you asked any pitcher whether this is easy to go through they would say "no," especially early in a pitcher's career. Then Joba had to have Tommy John surgery too. So Joba is an ass, but his Yankee career isn't entirely his fault in my opinion. He got jerked around a lot.

But for Joba Chamberlain to say he not only would not change what he said Saturday night, but would neither change anything he has done in his life?

Think maybe you are reaching a bit for a story or trying too hard to let Joba's own words make him look like an asshole? So when Rivera retires and says, "I wouldn't change anything" in regard to his career will Wallace Matthews write a column eviscerating Rivera for not wanting to change Game 7 of the 2001 World Series? Of course not. Wallace wants to be offended and upset by what Joba says, so he gets offended and upset by what Joba says.

That is not the kind of person who is fit to succeed Mariano in any way.

I don't think Joba Chamberlain was ever succeeding Rivera and I also don't think there is a morality clause that is part of the requirements that must be met to be the Yankees closer.

In fact, that is not the kind of person fit to represent the New York Yankees, at least not the Yankees typified by Rivera, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte.

Maybe if Chamberlain admits to taking PED's he will be a better person to represent the Yankees. That seemed to work for Andy Pettitte. Pettitte is a great guy worthy of wearing a Yankees jersey, but A-Rod is a huge, mean old cheater, while Joba Chamberlain is an embarrassment to humanity.

I don't like Joba Chamberlain, but I also love how this brief exchange with Rivera has turned into a referendum on Chamberlain as a person.

What Joba Chamberlain showed himself to be is just another of the louts we run into every day in the street, the ones who think their conversations are the only ones that matter, their business the only business that needs attending to, their lives the only lives of any importance.

Again, Wallace is turning this incident into a referendum on Chamberlain as a person. Classy. Here's the best part though...

I was not present at the dugout incident -- I was in the pressbox writing pregame notes -- but I was given a tape-recording of Rivera's interview session.

It was shocking to listen to, in several respects.

Wallace didn't even witness this exchange between Joba and Rivera! He listened to the tape and that was enough for him. He knew all he needed to know to make any further assumptions from there.

For one thing, the quietly emotional manner in which Mariano discussed his meeting earlier in the day with the family of a 10-year boy who was crushed to death by a falling airport sign was truly moving.

But the experience was tainted by straining to hear over the sound of Joba Chamberlain nearby, virtually screaming at the top of his lungs, to people in the stands about mundane matters like meeting at the hotel after the game.

That would be Joba's family who he was meeting. So it is not like he was meeting some friends for a drink.

It was all about Joba and what he wanted to do, and Mariano Rivera, or anyone else, be damned.

Did one of Wallace's media friends tell another of Wallace's media friends this is what Joba is like and now Wallace is reporting it?

Afterward, Joba alternately tried to laugh his way out of it, to hide behind his defiance, and to use his young son, Karter, as a shield. ("My son wasn't here and I was a little bothered by that.")

They were all transparent attempts to blame his boorish behavior on something else. That is a direct reflection on his character.

All of this over Rivera "shushing" Joba. Something that probably happens in a lot of locker rooms.

Is that the kind of person the Yankees should want to trust important moments in important games to?

Right, because there have never been really good relief pitchers who are also assholes.

Among the things he would not change, apparently, were his DWI arrest in 2008, his disparaging remarks to the arresting officer about Yogi Berra, his ill-chosen remarks about the manners of New Yorkers, his decision to jump on a trampoline so intensely that he broke his ankle,

WITH HIS SON! He was jumping on the trampoline with his son, which apparently is a disgraceful thing to do.

and his public declaration this spring, in spite of knowing that the Yankees had determined he is a middle reliever, that he would like to be a starter once again.

How dare he have aspirations to do something the Yankees team hasn't determined he should do! John Smoltz told the Braves he wanted to be a starter again in the early 2000's and he wasn't called an asshole.

But on an almost daily basis, we see the worst of him in the Yankees clubhouse: loud, obnoxious, faintly threatening.

Or, pretty much the way he behaved to Mariano Rivera on Saturday night.

After this season, Joba Chamberlain will be a free agent.

Knowing Mariano Rivera as I do, I can almost predict he will try to convince the Yankees that Joba is a soul worth saving and a talent worth keeping.

Rivera is a great guy. We know this. One dispute between Rivera and a teammate is not a story make.

In the same ballpark where Mariano Rivera's Yankees career nearly ended a year ago on the warning track, Joba Chamberlain's Yankees tenure surely did in the dugout, his mouth writing what will soon be the epitaph to a career that turned out to be no more than a broken promise.

This one incident shouldn't be a referendum on Joba's career, but that's where we are at I guess. I would blame injuries, the Yankees and some bad luck on Joba not living up to his promise. I guess Wallace Matthews chalks Chamberlain's Yankee years up to him talking too loud. 


HH said...

there was the first-pitch leadoff home run in Game 4 of the 2000 Series when the Mets had won the night before, and the two-out, full-count walk-off home run the following year in Game 4 against Arizona.

Pretty sure both of those were recorded as statistics.

Terrence Long hit a foul ball along the third base line that Jeter chased and caught, spilling into the stands. It was, again, just another out, F6

Fun fact: statistics notice this. In fact, the more advanced stats give extra bonus points for getting this out that most players wouldn't. Of course, the stats also notice how often Jeter doesn't get to balls up the middle, which one play down the third-base line won't make up for in the long run.

JimA said...

The next time I hear a player who doesn't say "I wouldn't change a thing I did" will be the first time. It's a cliche, said all the time.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, that's true and what is being missed. Jeter's ability to run down a fly ball in the stands counts as an out and is noticed. The fact he can't get to a ball up the middle doesn't get collected in terms of a statistic and is ignored. These writers hate statistics and don't understand how statistics can't encapsulate everything that happens on the field. So that's why advanced statistics are useful. They tell us how good a position player is due to his range.

Jim, no kidding. It's just used here to criticize Joba unnecessarily. Does Wallace really have to stretch to criticize Joba? "I wouldn't change a thing" is stated all the time and isn't meant literally.