Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Third's a Crowd
2004-02-04 08:18
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

The Yankees are collecting decent-hitting third basemen who aren't any great shakes with the leather like they are going out of style. They have already invited Tyler Houston to spring training and according to the AP, now have a deal in place to land Mike Lamb from the Rangers for minor league pitcher Jose Garcia. Hey, maybe Mattingly can get in a couple of games at the hot corner too.

I've heard it through the grapevine that the Yankees have also invited Joe Girardi to camp too. Evidently, if the 39-year old offensively-challenged catcher doesn't make the team---which is highly likely---he has a job waiting for him the YES Network broadcast booth. I've heard this story from several people (including Rob in the comments section of yesterday's post), but I didn't find any mention of it in the papers this morning. (If anyone comes across a link, let me know.)

Either way, it'll be great to have Joe G back. Built like a hockey puck, Girardi is hardly effete, but he seemed to have an almost maternal presence when he was the starting catcher for the Yankees. (I'll always remember how he protectively pulled David Cone down before the pile-on crashed over them after the final out of Cone's perfect game.) Girardi looks like a distant cousin of Yogi Berra's, but for some reason he reminds me of Chico Marx. Attsa fine.

Meanwhile, in the latest chapter of The Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman addresses Curt Schilling's recent critique of Rob Neyer. Schilling is not alone in thinking that performance analysts like Neyer--who are removed from the daily grind of the clubhouse beat--aren't exactly astute judges of just how good players really are. Goldman thinks this line of thinking is false:

In truth, being a clubhouse scribe does not automatically confer any great wisdom; like any other occupation, the members are a mixed bag. On any trip to the Yankee Stadium locker room, one can observe many writers, some of them quite notable, hustling for interviews, trying to build a rapport with the players, cajoling their reluctant interviewees into giving them something worth passing on to their readers. There is a second, larger group of writers, whose approach to the job seems to be to mill about in the center of the clubhouse hoping that Derek Jeter punches out Alfonso Soriano. Similarly, there are members of the analytical school who have something valuable to say and some who don't.

Schilling complains that Neyer "talks about the numbers as they pertain to future performance almost as if it's an absolute He always inserts the italicized "maybe" and "potentially", but the tone of his writing suggests his belief lies more in what he is writing to be fact, than just trend and probability. I've seen him say things in the past about players, and be so far wrong it's ludicrous, but you do enough projecting of enough people and at some point, you'll be right or near right."

It's the nature of the analytical school that you're going to make your mistakes in public. Neyer writes a great deal about baseball, meaning he goes out on a couple of hundred limbs a year. Every once in a while, a man in his position will swing and miss. This is the risk taken by every columnist whose job is not simply to report the events of the game, but to form cogent explanations of its events.

It seems to me that Neyer is willing to publicly admit when a prediction doesn't come true, or when he is flat-out wrong about something. That he does it in a self-depricating and conversational style makes him all the more appealing. Regardless, it's a lot more than you can say for your average, self-important newspaper columnist.

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