I had hoped against all hope that Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout wouldnt be this, but it was. New Math vs. Old Math. New People vs. Old People. New School vs. Old School.It had to be, because what we have learned about the debate is this: Its about arguing at people you like to make fun of. Its fourth grade gone to the big kids.And its going to be this way as long as stupid is more important than smart.Look, heres what happened Thursday. Twenty-eight people wrestled with the meaning of the word valuable. It wasnt math. It was semantics. And semantics cannot be quantified.Oh, there were some slackjawed dullards who wanted to take the easy way out and frame it as numbers vs. better numbers, or nerds vs. dippers. There were a lot of folks who needed an easy column, essay or blog, and only had to stereotype the extremists on the other side. A monkey could have done it. And monkeys did.REWIND: Tigers' Cabrera named MVPBut the argument misses a more salient point. Most of the 28 people who actually voted use new AND old numbers. They dont distrust the advancements in analysis, and they dont dismiss history as unimportant. In fact, the most compelling argument for Cabrera over Trout wasnt the triple crown, but the triple crown plus the fact that Cabrera was a better hitter down the stretch than Trout.Which was true.And which brings us back to how people define valuable. And the biggest tiebreaker in valuable has always been how your team finished the year and how much you had to do with it.The hidebound quantifiers want valuable to mean best. As in, This was the best player, and I have the paperwork to prove it. But valuable is a nebulous term that includes other things, an eye-of-the-beholder thing that makes quantifiers crazy and non-quantifiers joyous.And when you shake the argument to its core, what this really is about is which side thinks it understands baseball better. And I say this with complete confidence and even metaphysical certitude.Youre all idiots. Youre both right but would rather spend your time screaming that the other guy is wrong. If that isnt idiocy, then Fernando Rodney is the AL Cy Young winner.Baseball is all these things, and more. Its what makes baseball a great game its ability to be all things to all people. Even the stupid ones. The San Francisco Giants have won two World Series in three years because they have both trained eyes and numbers-crunchers, and Brian Sabean combines their wisdom into a plan that, for the most part, works.And if they get it, why shouldnt you?Well, maybe its because you think bitching about people who dont see the world your way is an easy essay. Or maybe because youre an old Civil War soldier complaining about the Civil War soldier in the next chair who fought for the other side., Maybe you need the fight more than the wisdom.Or maybe its just the convenience of dumbassery.But the truth is this. The word valuable is the crux of the disagreement here. A word, not a number. Old school people ought to enjoy that distinction. And so should new school people, because they use words too. The similarities between the two sides are so much greater than their points of dispute, but they need the shrieking mindless inflexible arguing as though they want to live in a world of ESPN morning television.And if that isnt the tenth circle of hell for everyone involved, I cant imagine what would be. Let that rattle around in your barbed-wire-encased heads while you consider what you want your future as a baseball fan and analyst to be.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com
Dusty Baker’s face tells a lot of different stories, but there is only one it tells in October.
Disappointment. Deflating, soul-crushing, hopeless disappointment.
With Thursday night’s National League Division Series defeat to the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals have reinforced their place in the panoply of the capital’s legacy of failure.
But Baker’s agonies extend far further. His 3,500 games rank him 15th all-time, and only one manager above him, Gene Mauch, is not in the Hall of Fame. His 105 postseason games ranks seventh all-time, and his nine postseason appearances ranks sixth.
But his postseason record of 44-61 and no World Series titles curse him. He has been on the mailed backhand of eight series losses in 11 tries (plus a play-in game loss in 2013), and been marked by the media-ocracy as an old-school players’ manager who doesn’t wrap himself in the comforting embrace of statistical analysis.
He is now Marv Levy and Don Nelson – the good manager who can’t win the big one.
Only Levy and Nelson are in their respective halls of fame, and Baker probably won’t be. Having no World Series titles (his bullpen dying in 2002 being as close as he ever got) dooms him as it has doomed Mauch, although Mauch made his reputation as a brilliant tactician with bad teams.
But even if you take Baker’s worst metric – the postseason record – he still ranks in the 90th percentile of the 699 managers in the game’s history, though even then there’s the caveat of the 200 some-odd interim managers who you may choose not to count.
This is not to claim he should be in the Hall of Fame. This is to claim he should be discussed, if only to determine if reputations in the postseason are the only way managers are allowed to be evaluated. Because if that’s the case, Dusty Baker’s world-weary October face makes that conversation a very short one.
So Bruce Arena resigned as the U.S. National soccer team coach Friday. Big damned deal.
Oh, it is to him. He probably liked the job, and might have wanted to keep getting paid.
But whether he’s there or isn’t doesn’t matter. In fact, whether the people who hired him are there or not doesn’t matter either. U.S. Soccer is the definition of sporadic interest and patriotism-fueled frontrunning, of imbedded self-interest and general indolence, all born of inexcusable arrogance.
Bruce Arena didn’t bring that to the job, nor does he remove it by leaving. He’s just another head on a spike, like Jurgen Klinsmann was before him, and Bob Bradley before him.
But that would also be true if the head of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, quit or was fired too. Even the people bleating that the U.S. shamed itself by losing to Trinidad and Tobago display the same kind of blinkered ignorance and arrogance that dogs this sport in America.
Being in CONCACAF is a gift from the heavens, and the U.S. has decided as a national collective to replace that with actual achievement. Beating Germany in friendly is proof of long-term worth. The fact is, we don’t know how to evaluate America’s place in the soccer world except as an audience, let alone how much massive structural change is required to change that.
And change must be massive, and can’t be evaluated by the next cheap win or the next galling loss, or television ratings. America is good at watching soccer, good enough to catch on the actual chasm between its national team and development structure.
But that’s where it ends, because knowing what’s bad because you just watched it, or what is actually good (like, say, a UEFA or CONMEBOL qualifier) is light years from knowing how to fix a system built on the flawed concepts of work rate without creativity and money as a solution to crippling organizational problems.
So Bruce Arena does the decent thing given the circumstances, falling on a sword that should actually be a kebab skewer. But it makes no difference. The American soccer structure needs to get what it needs before it can get what it wants, and there are no more shortcuts to take in a short-attention-span world.