Wednesday, October 04, 2006

When words mean exactly nothing

For the most part, I am a happy man these days. I have picked an excellent time to be unemployed, as there is baseball on at 10 a.m. these days. There is something magical about watching baseball while working off a hangover, instead of inducing one.

However, there are things that can ruin my baseball-in-the-morning buzz. Joe Morgan interviews on the ESPN pre-game show, for instance, have a way of making me instantly sorry that I am a fan of baseball, which is obviously the only sport that could ever hire someone as stupid as Joe Morgan to be the game's premier color commentator. Except for football, which has Joe Theismann. But Joe was surprisingly docile yesterday morning, perhaps because he was dreaming of a half-naked Tony Perez laying waste to a post-game spread after another 20-0 Reds victory back when baseball was not as mediocre as it is today. Or something.

But, alas, our good friend Ron Gardenhire did not allow me to progress much further into the day without hearing something dumb. During his insipid dugout interview (a phenomenon so incredibly stupid and unedifying that it may deserve a post of its own one of these mornings), he justified his team's willingness to let an erratic Barry Zito escape in the first inning by saying his team was just "being aggressive," and he saw no reason for them to stop being as such.

These are the kinds of comments that make me wish I could scald Ron Gardenhire's testes with a cafe doppio.

Mr. Gardenhire seems to define aggressive baseball as swinging at first pitches out of the strike zone, getting thrown out at second on a steal attempt with one of the AL's best hitters in the on-deck circle, and generally playing baseball with batshit desperation.

So, here's the question: Why exactly do people consider low-percentage plays to be the hallmark of an "aggressive" team? Why are sacrifice-bunting free-swingers who will attempt to steal uneccessary bases in the first innings of scoreless games considered "aggressive?" I think these people are stupid, because we have reams of evidence that every time you do something that causes an out, you cost your team 1/27th of a game, which means 1/27th of a chance to score. Yet those teams who draw a lot of walks, are patient, don't cause themselves uneccessary outs and try to hit home runs are considered "plodders," or teams that "wait for the three-run home run." I think these people are smart, because they very often score more runs than other teams, and very rarely play themselves out of scoring situations.

I mean, isn't scoring more runs by it's very nature more aggressive?

Please, someone, anyone! tell me where I am erring in this line of thought.


St said...

I didn't see that game or interview, but I heard the same line of reasoning in the Tigers/Yanks pregame: "The Tigers need to be unorthodox and aggressive to increase their chances!"

Um ... wouldn't being conservative increase their chances? Doesn't "being aggressive" -- stealing a lot, hitting-and-running, swinging at everything -- actually decrease their odds of success? Isn't it actually just skewing the risk/reward so that if they luck out, the reward is larger?

I have no idea. I can almost understand the reasoning behind it when talking about the Tigers, who are overmatched. But with Santana on the hill? Against Zito? At home?

It's settled -- we need to be announcers.

Diesel said...

Isn't it actually just skewing the risk/reward so that if they luck out, the reward is larger?

I'm not quite sure if there's an actual increase in potential rewards by being stereotypically "aggressive." I do know what a team that plays that way stands to gain, however: Plaudits from announcers who will rave over how the team is playing. And, honestly, I'm starting to believe it's for that reason that teams are still playing that way.