Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Ben K. on Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Words of uh, wisdom from the Yankee fan

So this blog—or our little project, as I like to think of it—has started to take off. Wait, you might say, aren't there supposed to be four people here and not just three overly biased and bitter Red Sox fans? Yes indeed there are, and today, after a busy vacation that took me to San Francisco, Phoenix, Disneyland, and back, it's finally time for me, the one Yankee fan, to share my “um, wisdom.” And let me tell you, despite what many may consider to be a misguided fan allegiance to the Bronx Bombers, I have plenty of wisdom to share and very little love for our ridiculous leader King George, but more on him later.

For my first entry, I would like to discuss what I see as the role of a person commentating and writing about baseball. Baseball analysis these days has seemingly become fairly polarized. With the development of Bill James' Win Share ideas and the emphasis that Baseball Prospectus and numerous young GMs have put on statisticals, more and more writers are focusing on the statistics of the sport. Numbers are great for predicting the nastiness that will come out of the Anaheim outfield next season, but numbers never tell the whole story in baseball. Numbers don't show who made the incredible diving catch to save three runs with the game on the line in the bottom of the 8th; numbers don't really show which teams executed the hit and run at the most opportune moments; numbers don't even begin to show how well Josh Beckett pitched during game 6 of the World Series on baseball's greatest stage. Numbers also can't begin to express how stupid Tim McCraver is. Actually, nothing anywhere can begin to express my hatred for Tim McCarver. And as an aside, I was incredibly shock and disappointed to find Joe Buck announcing NFL Postseason games. I don't get what FOX sees in those guys, but that's for a post during the season.

Back to writing about baseball. Truly great baseball writers tell a story and weave the statistics into their writing. We can expound on the statistical virtues of Pete Rose's playing career, but do the stats tell about his negative effect on the game? Maybe we can use dollar signs and booking fees for that, but those are statistics you won't next to Pete Rose's Win Shares or Adjusted Batting Average. Writers at the peak of their field, such as ESPN's MLB columnists Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, and Rob Neyer, seamlessly meld statistics into storytelling. One day, you can read about how bad Bud Selig is, and the next day Gammons will write an ode to Bill James' ongoing statistical evolutions. I mention these three because of their national promince. Across the country, in daily newspapers and weekly magazines, many baseball writers have achieved this balance, and as I glance at the bookcase in my room, I see a book I've only begun to read called Baseball: A Literary Anthology. This book features some of the best baseball writing in the country, and before I forget, it features some of the most poetic sports prose ever writing. In particular, I think of the words of Roger Angell, a New Yorker writing and baseball poet.

In my mind, no other sports writing, whether it be Kinsella's fiction or Angell's analyses, comes close to the art form that has sprun out of America's Pastime. So now that I've waxed poetic on the art of baseball writing, where does that leave the four of us as we attempt to make our voices heard in the online world of baseball blogs? A look down the list at Aaron Gleeman's site shows that we're hardly alone in the world of baseball fans opining on the Internet. I think I can safetly speak for Dave, Mike, and Jon, and say that we're going to write and develop our style in a way reminicent of the best baseball writers. Now, you might say, isn't that just rhetoric? What writer doesn't try to improve over time? But as you, dear reader, return to read our blog over the coming months and (hopefully) years, you'll learn a little about the four of us, and you'll discover our unique perspective on the baseball world. But you'll also see that unlike most of the blogs out there, we won't throw the same opinion at you day after day. Instead, you'll see different takes on the same thing and different takes on different topics. Hopefully, when hot-button issues arise, the four of us will coordinate enough to develop a Writer's Bloc type debate (see ESPN's Page 2 to see what I'm talking about).

So that's my little introduction from me to everyone out there, finally. I will indeed be joining the regular rotation now that I've settled back in to something resembling a routine. Now on to a mini-post for now about Roger Clemens' signing with the Astros...

Last year was supposed to Clemens' fairwell year. He won his 300th game; he got his 4000th strike out; in fact, he even struck out the last batter he faced in the World Series, no less. With the picture-perfect ending to a Hall of Fame career, Roger Clemens retired. That was in October; now in January, Roger has unretired. He'll pitch for the Astros, mainly at home, for the tune of $5 million a year. Apparently, it was his good friend Andy Pettitte who convinced him to unretire. That, and the Power of Living.

At the end of the season, the Yankees though the Rocket was intent on retiring. They gave him a gas-guzzling H2 Hummer and didn't even offer him salary arbitration so that they could possibly pursue him in the off season. They traded in the money Clemens earned last year along with headcase Jeff Weaver for a slightly younger and more injury prone Kevin Brown. So all is good, right?

Wrong. Clemens decides to come out of retirement, basically showing how little class he truly has. He says he wants to go in the Hall as a Yankee because he won a Cy Young when he didn't deserve and finally got those elusive World Series rings, a few of them in fact. So much for loyalty.

George Steinbrenner had this to say, "Roger Clemens was a great warrior for the Yankees - a teacher and a leader. He told the world he was retiring and we had no choice but to believe him." Basically, that's George's way of flipping off Clemens, and everyone knows it. George's words in fact show a level of sophisticated humor that Steinbrenner rarely exhibits.

Now, in this case, I have no respect for Clemens. When he steps up to bat in the NL and pitchers start throwing at him, above him, under him, and behind him, he'll deserve it. He had no loyalty to Boston (who didn't have any loyalty to him), and he is one of the most self-centered players around. But George and his baseball team don't get off free. They shouldn't have been so naïve. They should have offered Clemens arbitration in the off chance that he wasn't going to stay retired. They could have at least tried to out-bid the Astros, and if they failed to lure Roger, so be it. But they were played, and badly.

Maybe later on, I'll write about how the Astros still won't win the NL, but for now, enjoy Talking Baseball.

### So what do you think? We want to know. | | E-mail us ###