Apparently, there was nothing to say about the Yankees today.
The Phillies are built upon old-fashioned scout values, which figures, because general manager Pat Gillick is still an old-fashioned scout, prone to traveling thousands of miles on late notice to see a low-level minor league player or an amateur prospect with his own eyes. He often makes these trips clandestinely, sometimes without telling even some of his colleagues, because he does not want his whereabouts revealed.
Sportswriters love this kind of stuff. See, it’s not exciting if you say, “Gillick spends many hours in front of his computer and talking to his well-paid staff of scouts and consultants, in an effort to decide which players he’ll acquire. Gillick says it’s a good thing he has a comfortable office chair, because he never leaves the fucking thing. And he’s got the sores to prove it.” It is exciting, however, when you romanticize and mythologize the process of scouting and selecting players. People think there’s something to it, that maybe Gillick has a special, bionic eye that will take an x-ray of the 17-year-old pitcher on the bump and measure heart, or gumption, or extrapolate future injuries. But none of that’s true. All Gillick will do is sit in the stands with a radar gun, just like every other scout, and try and figure out a new phrase for “throws hard/shitty curve ball.” And then, he’ll go to a bar, get drunk with all the other scouts, swap new phrases for mundane baseball abilities, and try and commit an act of infidelity with some townie skank.
Here’s my real question, though: If you’re the owner of the Phillies, and you’re paying Gillick millions of dollars, do you really want him clandestinely traveling to rookie ball games in Tacoma? Isn’t this a total waste of time? You’re the fucking G.M. of a major league franchise, one that employs a small army of scouts. You don’t expect the CEO of Home Depot to go slag 2x4s, because it would be inappropriate, and the job of a high-level administrator is to supervise and delegate, not do the fucking work himself. This anecdote alone makes me think that Gillick is in the running for the annual Steve Phillips Memorial Shittiest GM in Sports Award, presented by Rubio’s.
The modern-day trend is for teams to shift more resources into the structure of the bullpen. The Mets, for example, have three excellent left-handed relievers in Billy Wagner, Scott Schoeneweis and Pedro Feliciano, and solid right-handers Duaner Sanchez, Aaron Heilman and Guillermo Mota, with Ambiorix Burgos coming in as a high-ceiling candidate from Kansas City. And the Mets have made a calculated gamble that they can piece together enough starting pitching to consistently get a close game into the hands of that bullpen.
The Phillies, on the other hand, have stacked their rotation, the way teams have been trying to win for, oh, about a century. They have All-Star Brett Myers, star talent Cole Hamels, veterans Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer, and free-agent signee Adam Eaton. They've got Jon Lieber for depth, as well, although it is still possible that Lieber will be traded for offensive help.
On it’s face, I don’t have a problem with what Buster’s written here, except he’s missing a crucial piece of information that provides context to what the Mets are doing versus what the Phillies are doing, and it has to do with resource allocation he glancingly mentions. The starting pitching market is total batshit right now, as proven by the fact that virtual corpse Gil Meche will be making $11 per season. The Mets, who have spent an assload to put together the NL’s most complete and powerful lineup, wisely decided it was better to take $10 million and get three good-to-great bullpen arms than it was to get one mediocre starter. Well, at least I think it’s wise. Others disagree, which is cool. But the point is, it’s not just that the Mets think stacking the bullpen is a better strategy, regardless of the financial concerns. But Buster makes it sound that way, which I have a small problem with.
What I have a big problem with is the absolutely retarded “old-school vs. new school,” shit, because it’s stupid. To think that something done in the 20s is automatically applicable in today’s game is asinine, and intellectually lazy. I realize the Buster’s opening blog entry is supposed to be pithy, but why even bring this shit up if you’re not actually going to explore it? In the two following paragraphs, he mentions something about the number of outs each team expects from the respective units, which is pointless and doesn’t really add anything to the argument. So, all Buster’s done is add a stamp of credibility to what Gillick’s done, because maybe Connie Mack used to feel the same way, back when mounds were five feet off the ground and there used to be memorials in the center fields of certain stadiums.
He also fails to mention, anywhere, that Jamie Moyer once soft-tossed with the Peking Man and that Adam Eaton sucks ass.
And while most teams are relying on on-base percentage, the Phillies have traded some of the crown princes of on-base percentage (Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu), while making a concerted effort to create a lineup of players who score high in intangibles among scouts, like Shane Victorino, Aaron Rowand, Chase Utley, and, of course, NL MVP Ryan Howard. High energy, high intensity, major effort guys in their daily preparation. Wes Helms, who will share time at third base this year, is never going to be confused with Miguel Cabrera in his production, but he is a well-respected professional and of the players with at least 150 plate appearances, he led all major league hitters in average after the All-Star break last season, hitting .385.
I … just … can’t … take … it … anymore. I really thought you were better than this, Buster. You read more on a daily basis than maybe any sportswriter in America. I assumed that, along the way, you would have read enough convincing arguments (like those made by your colleague Rob Neyer) that you would at least quit with the OBP baiting. There isn’t a single, respected baseball mind that really doubts that OBP is the most central statistic to a hitter’s efficacy, the one that you choose if you’re forced to only choose one (if we’re ignoring the more esoteric sabermetric stats, which the readers of this blog are wont to do). The one stat that tells you why both Mark McGwire and Tony Gwynn were awesome and extremely valuable to their teams, even if they looked totally different and had different ancillary stats and hit in different spots in the lineup.
You know why scouts love “intangibles,” folks? Because, since they don’t exist, a scout can then never be wrong. They also have nothing to do with actual quality of play; to say someone “hustles” gives little insight into exactly what one can expect from the player once they’re on the field, outside of knowing that he’s going to bust his ass running out grounders.
But here’s the best part: You mean to tell me Utley and Howard score high in “intangibles?” No shit? Who gives a flying fuck?!?!? Ryan Howard is probably the most-feared hitter in the NL (or second behind Pooholes) and Utley is so far and away the best second baseman in the league, it’s actually kind of silly (especially when you consider that two seasons ago, he was stuck in a R-L platoon). Utley’s intangibles are absolutely, completely irrelevant to any discussion of his value as a baseball player.
As for Victorino, Rowand and Helms? I hope their intangibles involve explaining to Utley and Howard why no one’s ever on base when they’re up to bat. But, more than likely, they’ll be too busy to talk, what with all the goddamn wind sprints they’ll be running in the tunnel.
Gillick sounded optimistic on the phone Tuesday night, liking the makeup of his team, raving about Hamels and what he could do. Once a week in spring training, Gillick said, Moyer -- who has won 216 games in his career because of his understanding of how to change speeds -- will meet with other pitchers on the Phillies' staff to talk about pitching. "If you have a guy like that around, you might as well take advantage of it," Gillick said.
I agree, Moyer was an excellent choice as pitching coach. Hold on … oh, you’re paying him millions of dollars to be an effective starter? Oh. That kind of changes things.