Monday, June 30, 2008

Mr. October, candy bars, 'Phews' and hundreds of other anecdotes

Curt Schilling is near the end of his career. His Hall candidacy will be much-talked about until 2013-14, mainly because he's not a "stat" guy as much he was a "big game" guy.

Robert Moyer, at my beloved, is a "big game" guy guy.

Stats are great.

I love stats. At times in my life I have literally lived them, and better ones are being developed constantly.

Me too! Wanna have a beer sometime and talk about Robinson Cano's BABIP or Roy Oswalt's FB/HR ratio?

But let’s not get lost in them, folks. With the power at our hands today it’s all too easy to do so.

Invitation rescinded.

Phil Melita’s recent article on Curt Schilling’s potential Cooperstown worthiness made a number of great points and elicited a stream of terrific responses ... However, the impact of a player on the Game is more, and sometimes less, than the sum of his statistics.

Best part of that paragraph, capilization of the Game. Like the Game is more important than You Are.

An area where Schilling most certainly does merit consideration, whether he adds a single W to his career total, is his personal impact on the sport – and that is indeed an intangible. Did he entertain people? Enthrall them, at least at some sustained peak? Was he a “character” that added to the color of the game? Did he rise above it when the spotlight was on him?

I don't care, none of that matters, it's impossible to determine, blah blah blah...

Seriously, "a 'character' that added to the color of the game?" Like Jon Papelbon? Is someone who is weird more Hall worthy than someone who is "normal?" Who decides who is a "character?" Is Carl "Dinosaurs Are Fake" Everett slightly more HOF worthy because he was a nut job? Couldn't one argue that everyone is a character, somehow? Is there a star in baseball who's personality-less (Pujols, maybe?)? I could ask a billion more questions, but they all come down to...

Who the hell cares.

All these things more rightfully enhance a player’s chances of reaching Cooperstown. Oppositely, no matter the quality of their statistics, deficiency in any or all of them shaves their prospects – just as stratospheric numeric performance can and does compensate for otherwise blandish presence.

Let me break it down, MC Hammer-style:

Awesome stats, cool dude = increased chance for Hall

Awesome stats, boring dude = slightly less chance

Really awesome stats, boring dude = push

Reggie Jackson and Rafael Palmeiro ... had “relatively” similar careers

Except Jackson had like twice the Ks, less hits, slightly worse: OBP/SLG/RBI/2B. Similar enough I suppose.

But what fan who watched both players in their primes would begin to argue that Palmeiro had a fraction of the electrifying impact Jackson had on the game, especially when the pressure was greatest and spotlight brightest?

I guess no one - Mr. October, straw that stirs the drink and such. But what does it matter again?

Jackson was a first-ballot Hall of Famer who earned fully 94% of baseball writers’ votes in spite of a middling .262 career BA and record shattering 2,597 whiffs.

And - assuming no one cares about roids, which effs up this comparison anyway - Palmeiro should be 100% first ballot. Benchmarks are lame, but 3,000 hits and 500 homers is pretty nuts. Plus, dude won a gold glove when he played like 1/2 a season. That's gotta be worth something.

Reggie didn’t get the nickname “Mr. October” by accident. And it wasn’t an accident that he had a candy bar named after him and created waves of headlines and ripples in the crowd wherever he appeared. Opposing fans always knew when he would come to bat; they would time their beer runs and bathroom breaks to make sure they wouldn’t miss his titanic swings. Entire stadiums sat on the edge of their seats and let out collective “Phews!” when he fanned with a game on the line, or crossed their fingers and mumbled prayers to their Almighty that he get a chance to tie one when they were down. They would scan their scorecards and beg for walks, hit batsmen, anything, ahead of him just to get him into the batter’s box.

I have nothing to say about this anecdote avalanche, just wanted to get it out there. Buzz Bissinger better watch his ass, this guy is a pro(se).

There are no statistics for these things, but fans know them, respect them and employ them as their own measures of Hall of Fame worthiness,

Which is ridiculous because people have crappy, false memories.

every bit as much as numbers, awards, and the opinions of baseball Talking Heads.

Funny thing is, talking heads love the anecdote explosion you just dropped earlier. Much more than stats and junk.

Oh, and:

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself - "Well...How did I get here?"

Letting the days go by/Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/Water flowing underground
Into the blue again/After the money's gone
Once in a lifetime/Water flowing underground.

We must not lose sight of intangibles as our data-mining tools become more powerful and contributors and readers alike grow ever more agile in their use. These tools leave us richer in numbers, but if we aren’t careful about how we use them, they can make us poorer in context.

I understand what is being said here. Being a big, memorable character should increase your Hall worthiness ever so slightly. But to say that two guys with almost identical numbers - one is an attention hog, the other, a quiet guy - should have a disparity between their Halliness, is patently dumb.

If David Ortiz gets in on the back of his game winning bombs and "clutch" hits when he's done (assuming he doesn't go Bonds on us), I will scream and crown Robert Moyer king of all that is anecdotal and right with the Hall.

Schilling’s stats may be borderline for Cooperstown – may be. Are his contributions between them – his swagger, sweat, bloody sock and promises made and promises kept – enough to push him over the top?

If I were a betting man, I would bet that Schilling gets in at some point.

Note to all borderline HOFers: start a crazy blog, call out Kobe Bryant, put ketchup on your sock during the playoffs and start a video game studio.

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