Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
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2006-02-12 06:53
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Yeah, so we're under a mound of snow here in New York this morning, but Mother Nature can't fool us, there's still only a couple of days left 'til pitchers and catchers. Dump all the snow you want on us you old bag, spring is a-coming.

Two days ago, Emily and I were downtown and we grabbed a bite at an old greasy spoon restaurant on 6th avenue and 12 or 13th street (I forget which). It's a coffee shop on the corner of the street and what makes it stand out is simply the fact that it is still standing. In a neighborhood that is changing all the time it is a comforting to see an old place like that holding its own. They don't sell $15 eggs, they sell it for $2.50. Students, professors, doctors and rent-stablized old timers make up the crowd, and you can tell some folks come in several times a day. It's a real neighborhood place.

After we picked our way through a lousy lunch I chatted up the guy running the place, a 26-year old Greek kid named Chris. His old man opened the shop back in the mid-1970s. I started talking to him because he was wearing a Yankee cap. We bs'd some about the team--I asked him who is favorite players were, and DJ was at the top of the list. When I brought up Alex Rodriguez he told me how much he hated him, and we proceeded to get into the well-worn Alex Rodiguez debate.

"All that money he's taking from them, bro, and the guy can't get a hit in the ninth inning."

I told him he was being too hard on Rodriguez and then listed all of A-Rod's accomplishments--from his home run records, to his playoff performances, all to no avail. Finally, as the conversation was clearly going nowhere, Emily said, "Enough, let's go."

Fair enough. Chris was a nice guy, but it never fails to amaze me how some fans cling to their impressions regardless of the facts. Which is not to say that I think my opinions are the end all be all, but I try to balance my emotional reactions with reality.

Anyhow, I was reminded of "I Know Best" mentality that fans--including myself--often have last night as I was leafing through an old Sports Illustrated magazine (October 7, 1974--Catfish Hunter on the cover). In the "They Said It" quote section toward the front of the issue, I found this bit:

Danny Murtaugh, Pittsburgh Pirates manager: "Why, certainly I'd like to have a fellow who hits a home run every time at bat, who strikes out every opposing batter when he's pitching and who is always thinking about two innings ahead. The only trouble is to get him to put down his cup of beer, come down out of the stands and do those things."

The snow is coming down so hard here in the Bronx that I can't even see clear down to the subway. But my mind is on green fields and warm climates, guys stretching and smiling, shagging fly balls, taking grounders, grabbing their crotches, spitting, and their turn in the cage. It seems like a pipe dream given the conditions up here, but in reality, it's only moments away.

Meanwhile, I'm going to make something delicious to eat and Em and I are going to watch "The Godfather II." Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

Comments
2006-02-12 07:19:33
1.   Levy2020
To be fair to the other guy, I don't A-Rod really does like to hit in the 9th inning. He gets all Ted Williams and takes a 6-pitch walk.

Is there somewhere I could plug in, 9th inning, down by three or fewer runs?

2006-02-12 07:42:54
2.   Dingus
Levy, Eric Van from the Sons of Sam Horn website did some pretty alarming research on just how "clutch" A-Rod and Ortiz were last year. He found it wasn`t that A-Rod was terrible in close and late situations, .938 ops, but in close games all together.

"In the 20 games each of their teams won by six or more runs, A-Rod hit .549, had an OPS of 1.793 and racked up 46 of his 130 RBI (35 percent). Ortiz, on the other hand, batted .277, had an OPS almost 800 points lower than A-Rod's (.999) and drove in only 33 runs (22 percent of his overall total).
But in close games (games that either went to extra innings or were decided by one or two runs in regulation), the numbers look a whole lot different.
In those games — and each team played exactly 65 of them — A-Rod batted only .243, had an OPS of .805 and drove in just 38 runs (29 percent). Ortiz, meanwhile, clearly tapped some mysterious force that made him even better in moments like that — batting .321, running up an OPS of 1.116 and knocking in nearly a run a game (62 — or 42 percent of his overall total)."

I don`t hate A-Rod by any means and I also don`t believe that his performance in those kinds of games is anything more than a fluke, but it is alarming.

2006-02-12 08:12:19
3.   Simone
I can't believe that Eric Van's typical misuse of statistics has even made its way to this blog as if it is a fact. The guy is a like creeping stinky Internet fungus. He is a walking "how not to" for statistical students and scientists everywhere. Yuck. In every single one of his analyses, he goes out to prove that a Yankee player is subpar in some way, shape or form, usually in comparison to a Red Sox player so he carefully selects a biased sample which is usually unrepresentative of a player's overall performance in order to get his desired result. Also, why he is still publishing his flawed statistical analyses on SOSH, I thought he was working for the Red Sox (a good what thing for the Yankees). Shouldn't he be saving that crap for Theo?
2006-02-12 09:32:27
4.   strangeluck
I think Van's confusing cause and effect here. To me it makes more sense that the reality isn't that A-Rod hits better when the Yankees score a lot of runs, but that the Yankees score a lot of runs when A-Rod hits better. A team's performance, after all, is nothing more than the combination of its players performances.

In unrelated news, the Yankees picked up Darrell Rasner off waivers last week, which I think is fantastic. Its not that Rasner is a great prospect (BA ranked him as the National's #8 prospect in '04, but he really projects as a swingman at best), but the fact that they made such an astute move is encouraging.

2006-02-12 09:38:52
5.   sam2175
2

Dingus, Eric Van works for the Red Sox, as Simone said. And all the stats that he dredged up was supposed to seal Ortiz's MVP case. And it is hardly an unbiased case.

The main idea of evaluating a ballplayer is not how much machismo he exhibits on a baseball field, it is how much the guy helps his ballclub win.

Eric Van says that A-Rod has a 1.793 OPS in 20 games where Yankees won by 6 runs or more. What he is silent about is the fact that A-Rod pretty much singlehandedly created those blowouts, thereby killing any chances of close and late games. Instead he is trying to give the impression that A-Rod is "padding his stats" in blowouts, a patently absurd concept. And if given a choice, I would take a player who is more adept at creating blowouts than someone who specializes in late innings heroics. Why? In blowouts, the team coasts, it allows the manager to rest key players, and plan a few games ahead. Surely, winning close games affect the fan emotionally, and that is what they pay to see the game, a close contest, with their favorite team coming on top. But strictly from a POV of a player's contribution to the team, it is as meaningful as the run scored (or prevented) in the second inning which allowed the game to go to the close situation in the first place.

A run scored in the ninth inning is the same as the run scored in the first inning, they add the same amount to the team total. Using arbitrary guidelines to make a case for clutch is just that, arbitrary. And in this case, purposefully designed to mislead and discredit (credit) a ballplayer that the said statistician has an aversion (affinity) for.

Bottomline, there is really nothing to be critical of what Alex Rodriguez does on a baseball field. The problem is that he has unbelievably high standards that he has to live up to. According to what Cliff has established before, we are priviledged to see one of the games all time greatest shortstops (second only to perhaps Honus Wagner, and I dont care where Jeter fields)/all-around player play the game in our lifetime.

2006-02-12 09:48:32
6.   Dingus
Actually Simone, I`m not sure if he did post that on the SOSH forums, I`m saying he`s from the SOSH forums. I found the stats from a Jayson Stark column in which he credited Eric Van. I`m not saying his research isn`t biased, it most likely is, but there were still 65 close games in which A-Rod didn`t exactly do very well.
2006-02-12 09:57:18
7.   Dingus
And again, I`m not saying there is anything wrong with Alex Rodriguez. I`m saying he had a flukey year which gave some fans a reason to discredit A-Rod.
2006-02-12 11:00:56
8.   wsporter
A. How does he factor games that were close at one point (i.e. at the end of 6 innings) that were blown open?

B. The implication seems to be that A-rod only hits when the Yankees are ahead however the data could also be interpreted to mean that when A-rod hits well the Yankees romp.

If an analysis was undertaken that broke down game situations and employed hits and runs whose weighted relevant values were based upon the innings in which they occurred so that they reflected their correlation to the event of winning a ball game then an evaluation of A-rod's performance might have some meaning. I think this was done at BB Think Tank some time last year. The comparison between A-rod and Ortiz was remarkably close and somewhat surprising given the weight of "authority" behind the apparently questionable claim that Ortiz is light years ahead of A-rod in the clutch department. As I recall Ortiz is a better clutch hitter although not by much.

The analysis pointed to tells us nothing about the tightness of the game situation and its effect on A-rod's ability to hit and how that translates into winning. That type of phony, superficial analysis is exactly what Disraeli was referring to when he said "….there are lies, damn lies and statistics".

2006-02-12 11:16:06
9.   Levy2020
I think A-Rod is one of the best players of all time, and I'd take a ninth-inning walk over a ninth-inning out any day of the week.

But, just from the games I saw, he really works for walks in the ninth inning. It was something predictable like Giambi turning away from the first pitch like it was inside - wherever it was - or Sheffield's bat shaking.

I don't buy that "A-Rod chokes" thing, but it seems to me that he is more focused on getting on base than moving the runners. It's possible that my personal sample size is too small. That's why I was asking.

2006-02-12 11:55:50
10.   sam2175
9

Unless it is really a tied game with no outs and a runner on second, why would A-Rod concentrate simply on moving a runner, by which I assume you are talking small ball?

Plus, I can remember at least 2 games (Schilling return at Fenway and HR off of Wickman to tie it at ninth on the road) where he came through with huge hits.

2006-02-12 12:18:32
11.   Rob Gee
First off, I really do like A-Rod seems like a good guy if a bit awkward. He's definitely gotten a lot of grief BUT we also haven't won a title with him. He won't be accepted/loved until we do (compare: Boomer, Rocket, Boggs, vs. Moose, Giambi, Unit).

That said:
Ortiz was defintely more 'clutch' last year (monster masher variety).

Close and late (AB's/Avg/OBP/SLG/OPS):
O - 78 .346 .447 .846 1.293
A - 75 .293 .418 .520 .938

Scoring Posn, 2 out:
O - 57 .368 .507 .719 1.226
A - 86 .302 .429 .512 .941

Men On, 2 out:
O - 95 .316 .454 .642 1.096
A - 130 .292 .399 .577 .976

Compare - Leading Off Inning
O - 116 .310 .375 .569 .944
A - 126 .373 .470 .627 1.097

You what though!? Who cares? Our boy won the MVP and is only going to have even more monster seasons as he gets more comfortable.

By contrast, big guys like Ort don't age well. I look forward to the Sox droping a Mo Vaughn contract on his fat a#& and watching him stink up the joint with injuries. Let's face it, he's not going to get more limber.

That said, Olney dropped in his blog the absurdity of the Sox signing Rocket (for 20mil when they wouldn't spend 12mil foDamon over four years!). And I'm here in New Hampshire (wishing we had 2 feet of POW-dah here!) and last night I saw on the news that Epstein met with Roger in Texas yesterday. No official confirmation but have to admit I could see Rocket going back - he just seems to respect the history of the game and he's a HOF'er with a Sox cap. Damn straight I'll boo his a#& though.

2006-02-12 13:11:26
12.   vockins
I watched "The Killing" - one of Kubrick's first movies. It's no "Barry Lyndon", but not bad by any measure. There's a funny scene when the ringleader is walking out of a pawnshop and the marquee of the strip bar next to the pawnshop says that Lenny Bruce is appearing that week. I don't think they did much synergistic promotion in 1956, so it's seems to be an amsing coincidence.
2006-02-12 13:30:49
13.   Schteeve
The best all around player in the game, plays for the Yankees, and all Yankee fans want to do is talk about how much he sucks. It's fucking surreal.
2006-02-12 13:37:30
14.   joe in boston
Alex, great opening words as usual. My advice - enjoy these days without kids as much as you can ! I miss the snowdays in the city (albeit= Boston's Back Bay - I wish it was NY), and hanging out at either the local greasy spoon, or the local bar, or watching movies.

Here north of Boston, we are snowbound as well. We passed the time juggling kids (3 and 1), shoveling the driveway, and cleaning the cellar. I dug up, and managed to show my 3 year old my old scrapbook. Lots of old Sports Ill. covers, Yanlee articles when I was a kid, ticket stubs: 1975 - Yankee Stadium grandstand seats were $4.00 ! And my Blue Oyster Cult ticket stub: again 1975 for $6.75. (My first concert). As for Arod and the "debate" - my thoughts are simple (as usual) - he's a great player and will prove himself, probably this year. No worries about him on my end.....

Stay warm and dry everyone ! Pitchers and catchers soon !

2006-02-12 13:40:56
15.   Mike A
If you're going to compare A-Rod's stats to Ortiz's, you have to consider the ball park.

A-Rod plays in a stadium that isn't particularly friendly to RH hitters, meanwhile Ortiz plays in a park where routine flies to left turn into doubles, and don't even mention that ridiculously close foul pole in left.

2006-02-12 13:52:23
16.   Dingus
Mike A, with A-Rod`s ridiculously long arms he usually tries to get extension when he swings, his natural power stroke goes to right field. Ortiz on the other hand is a pure pull hitter in a park that has a LH HR factor of well under 90 I believe. Fenway probably gives him a boost in BABIP but he doesn`t often use the wall.
2006-02-12 14:09:32
17.   Zack
Well, here is San Diego it is about 80 degrees, I spent the morning at the local farmer's market getting some fresh veggies and strawberries (our season starts early), and basked in the sun. And yet, i still miss snow, sigh...

Hey, this Arod/Ortiz stuff is never going to go away as long as there are Sox fans and silly media types to fuel it. I'm sure Sox fans would rather have Ortiz, and most sane yankee fans would rather have Arod. Leave it at that. We don't need another fat and slow DH...

2006-02-13 05:08:55
18.   mikeplugh
Two things.

1. I think I know that diner. I used to work on 13th and Broadway and we used to hit that spot for cheap good eats on occasion. There are a bunch of good places to eat around Union Square if you avoid the overpriced trendy spots (which can be good food too, see: Coffee Shop).

2. I vow today that I will not engage in the A-Rod "clutch vs. unclutch" debate even once this season. It's so worn out and devolves into statistical nitpicking. The game of baseball is poetry, at least to some extent, and by statistically deciding everything the enjoyment of the art of baseball fades.

I get into statistical analysis to a point. I draw the line at this whole A-Rod thing. I wasn't in love with bringing in half of the high priced guys on the team. I like to win with a bunch of grinders and "underdogs". I like to proudly lift my head and say that Charlie Hayes caught the WS winning ball in '96. That was our 3rd baseman. Charlie Hayes.

The point is, however, we have had the privilege to watch one of history's greatest players in a Yankee uniform for two years now. We will watch him for the remainder of his career, and I plan to enjoy it. I have plenty of chances to hate Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez and whoever else plays for someone else's team. A-Rod may have some flaws and there may be some statistical argument to be made about how clutch his OBGLHSKBP rating was when taken in comparison to the home field HFNBFRCOK$^& rating that Ortiz put up in a hitter friendly ballpark in games decided by less than "pi", but I plan to enjoy his 40-something soaring home runs whether they come in the bottom of the 99th inning in Game 7 of the World Series, or in a May 300-6 blowout.

The debate for me will be about whether the Yankees pitching can hold up over the course of 162 games, and how well the Red Sox replacement players will perform under new circumstances. Play ball.

2006-02-13 06:30:32
19.   The Mick 536
When I went to law school, I lived on Hudson between Christopher and Grove. Mixed neighborhood at the time, heteros and gays. Gay book store. Lots of cowboys. Street meat. No thank you. The Meth boat at the end of the street. Post Office still handled mail. LiLac chocolate around the corner.

Across the street was a little diner where I had a breakfast special every other morning, alternating with the drug store on Seventh Ave South that became a jazz club. Could it be Sweet Basil. DeNiro and Bette sometimes sat at the counter.

It was before the period before bad cholesterol meant anything to anyone. Eggs, potatoes, two slices of bread with butter, and either sausage or bacon. All the coffee you could drink and all the conversation you could take. Don't know if anyone knew anyone's name.

Two bucks with a tip or I'll owe you if you didn't have any $.

Saved on buying a paper, too. Someone always left one.

Used to eat at the one you ate at Alex, too, when I lived at 11th and Broadway. There was another on University with the same fare, too. Not sure I miss them, but we do have similar places in Addison County.

2006-02-13 06:34:26
20.   The Mick 536
As for the A-Rod debate, this year could be my turning point year for him. Hard to forget the games he lost last year by failing to field or hit. And the games he won, other than the big homer game don't stand out. But I look at the box scores everyday to see how he did and I'm happier when he does well that when he doesn't. He can carry the entire team. But if I had to choose between losing him or Jete, I'd give him up in a Jankee second.
2006-02-13 08:42:00
21.   The Mick 536
Back to the Greeks (is that politically correct).

So the people at the counter would talk baseball, sometimes. Mostly, it was about the war and the fact that the city was going under from debt, dope, and despair. However, the team they talked about was the Mets. 1969-1973 the Mets ruled the roost. The Mick quit. The Mets made the miracle at Shea and then had everyone believin. Georgie hadn't arrived.

Tough to be a Jank fan. Who was your favorite Jank player of the period, eh?

2006-02-14 21:19:32
22.   greenfuzz
The greasy spoon you ate at was Joe Juniors. And there used to be at least one other one on third in the teens, but I'm not sure it's still there.

I also marvel at the continued existence of the place. The Waverly is also still around

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