My blog buddy Christian Ruzich, the Cub Reporter, has a great piece on -perhaps inadvertently-blatant subjectivity under the guise of journalistic integrity on the part of the ever-mediocre professional sportswriting world, specifically, Phil Rogers' ESPN Hot Stove Heater on his beloved Cubbies. Some may quibble that he is preaching to the choir when it comes to the blog-reading world, but all I can say is, "Testify, brother!"
Christian excoriates Rogers, and rightly so, for relying on that old chestnut, "chemistry", for dissing Sammy and the boys:
Volumes have been written about how people get along in the clubhouse over the years, and I've never seen proof that a good or bad clubhouse has any effect on how a team does on the field. I remember hearing about The Bronx Zoo when I was a kid -- they all hated each other there, Reggie and Billy and Thurman and Nettles and Steinbrenner, and they won three straight pennants. Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent got into a fight in the dugout this summer, and went on to almost win the world series. Meanwhile, every year there are stories about how well this team or that team gets along, and how they all go out to dinner together when they're on the road, and invariably those teams finish fourth. Rogers needs to look no further than his own city to see how this worked. For years, people talked about how Michael Jordan did whatever he wanted. He and Scottie Pippen supposedly hated each other. Rogers' colleague Sam Smith wrote a best-selling book called 'The Jordan Rules,' and the Bulls won six titles in eight years...
[T]he bottom line is that I don't have a problem with the way he acts in the clubhouse. I don't care if he blares salsa music and doesn't hang with his teammates. What I do care about is what he does on the field, and what he's done on the field has been pretty impressive.
Christian goes on to illustrate the fallacy of Roger's argument that "Sosa took a step backward after a terrific 2001 season, showing signs of age for the first time." As Christian correctly points out a slight dropoff from historic offensive production to just very, very good is not a sign of age but rather of just being human.
To buttress that argument, I would say that Sosa's 2002 performance was in no way out of line with the level he has been playing at since 1998. Over that period, his seasonal OPS has been 60%, 41%, 69%, 101%, and (in 2002) 60% better than the league- and park-adjusted average. He did drop off from a lofty high just below God Barry Bonds in 2001 to being just one of the best players in the NL in 2002. Oh, horrors! Offensive production was down all over baseball last year. Is that Sammy Sosa's fault? He was, after all, just 2 points behind media fav Vlad Guerrero, the man most of the media inexplicably believe is a better player than Bonds whenever they blue-sky such topics. And he led the league in home runs and runs and was among the league leaders in a slew of other categories.
I have never been a big Sosa fan. It took me at least a year or two to admit that he had become-had altered himself into-a great player. But I have to give Sammy his props. He is truly a great player now and has been one for going on five years. What has baseball reportage come to if we are going to vilify a player for a season like Sosa's 2002?
Rogers further points to Sosa's limitations as a general manager in pushing the Cubs to sign Moises Alou before last season. This is, at best, a specious argument and at worst an excuse to dog-pile on the Sosa. If Chicago is allowing players, even their best ones, to determine their offseason approach they have bigger problems than player performance on the field.
Christian further points out that Fred McGriff was far from the disappointment that Rogers paints him to have been: "McGriff, in his dotage, managed to put up the sixth 30 HR/100 RBI season of his career, and slugged over .500 for the 10th time." Of course, his superior season is underscored by the down season that 2002 was for first baseman. I, for one, have been anticipating the demise of McGriff for more than a few years and have been amazed at his Methuselahic longevity. Again, this is an instance where Rogers refracts the facts to fit his personal opinion.
The piece ends with a nice little nod to yours truly among others:
I didn't actually plan this column to be a couple thousand words ripping Phil Rogers. But, I'm not sorry that it is. One of the best things about the current wave of baseball bloggers is that it gives people interested in baseball more opportunities to read and write about baseball the way they want to. We no longer have to listen only to the Gammos and Muskats of the world when people like Jamey Newberg, Will Carroll, Mikearminati, and most of the crazy kids at Baseball Primer continue to use the Web as their bully pulpit.
Bully Pulpit could be taken two ways, but I will bear it with pride when contrasted with the execrable Peter Gammons. Thanks, Christian. I'm fill-it-to-the-rim-with-brimming with pride. I only hope my scribblings and bibblings live up to the honor while remaining chock-full of Spinal Tap and Scarface references.
Oh, and nice reference, Christian, to an all-time funny movie, The Jerk, with the title He Hates These Cans!. Navin would be prouder than when the new phonebooks came out.