Friday, November 04, 2011
Admire records incidental to an athlete's skill, not those pursued in hopes of immortality as with Ripken, Pete Rose-Neuman
"There is a tendency for players to hang on in the hope of reaching such a number, believing immortality is attached to statistic rather than the player."
- 11/3/11, "Admire Records of Skill, Not Those of Will," Real Clear Sports, Jeff Neuman
"To what extent is Paterno responsible for Penn State's won-lost record today? If he were not a coaching icon chasing a record, would he still have the job?
A record like this perpetuates itself. Because it exists, people will chase it, and by doing so they distort the thing it is supposed to measure.
All records are not alike; some are meaningful, others are just static. The meaningful ones reflect the body of work of an athlete and feel as though they were set in the natural course of events.Mariano Rivera passed Trevor Hoffman in September to take the all-time lead in saves. It is fitting and right that the man who is almost certainly the greatest closer in baseball history should have the record for saves. There was nothing ceremonial about the occasion;
- he came in to finish the game, not to achieve a number.
Contrast this with Pete Rose's pursuit of the all-time hits record. Over the last five years of his career, his triple-slash averages (batting/on-base/slugging) were .261/.348/.315, for an OPS of .662 - as a first baseman. Using baseball-reference.com's Wins Above Replacement numbers, Rose had a WAR from 1982-86 of -2.4; his performance cost his teams nearly two and a half wins compared not to the league average, but to the level of readily available players in AAA.
He averaged nearly 500 plate appearances in those five seasons. His name was written into the lineup - 217 times in his own handwriting - solely so he could break a record. The number 4,256 is a product of that distortion,
- not an accounting of his accomplishments as a useful ballplayer.
The ultimate record of choice is Cal Ripken's mark of 2,632 consecutive games played. Day in, day out, there he was at shortstop and in the meat of the batting order. Am I alone in thinking this record is not only not worth much, but it's not even all that admirable? Might Cal have benefited from a day off every now and then? Might his late-season performances - .748 OPS in regular-season September and October games vs. .796 in the other months - have been better if he'd gotten some rest? Regardless of what you think of the man and his character,
- The Streak is undeniably a record he chose to set....
Derek Jeter is a Hall of Famer whether or not he reached 3,000 hits. Johnny Damon is not, whether or not he hangs around to get there. Five hundred home runs won't get Gary Sheffield into the Hall of Fame. His last two seasons got him past the number, but his negative WAR for the seasons is a better reflection of what he gave his teams.
Is Paterno's mark at this point a record of will or of skill? Of choice, or of accomplishment?
There are many reasons to consider Paterno one of the greatest college football coaches who ever lived. The fact that he won more games than Eddie Robinson or Bear Bryant or Amos Alonzo Stagg (but not John Gagliardi)
- is one of the lesser ones."
Above might help Gossage and Couch but I doubt it. The millions in media publicity leading up to and following accumulations of the 'regular season total save stat' by Eric Gagne (which got him a Cy Young Award), Frankie Rodriguez (who said the record was very important in his country of Venezuela), and Hoffman didn't enrage them. Nor did the fact that 'regular season saves' of these 3 were not in a pennant race, were low difficulty, could be pursued outside the needs of the team, and didn't reflect losses and other matters. The 'regular season total save stat' appears to be something the media use to alternately build up or tear down various players. Without it, what would they talk about a good bit of the time? The point is, Rivera's team never had the luxury of using him to achieve an individual record such as the 'regular season total save stat.' He only got the record because the team needed him to go out and pitch that day. The media couldn't very well ignore that he did it after giving so much hype to other guys. Nonetheless, among the first questions to Joe Girardi in the press room after the game when Rivera got the record was, "Why do you think this should be a big deal for someone who only pitches one inning?" Perhaps the media person mistook Rivera for Frankie Rodriguez who in fact got his "saves" record by never pitching more than one inning. Rivera has never been that guy, has always pitched multiple innings which don't always get reported because they might have been recorded as Wins rather than saves, or may not have been labeled in a game's final outcome. The 6 times he had two saves in one day weren't recorded as "multiple inning appearances" either. The other team has always known that Rivera if needed can come in any time from the 8th inning on. And the majority of his many years of post season appearances have been multiple inning appearances. So this was just someone making himself feel big and important by defaming Rivera in a public venue. In a roomful of people some of whom may have been among those dying to give a Cy Young award--immortality--in 2003 to a pitcher for doing a similar kind of job- a job now miraculously transformed into a joke, something about which to demean Rivera for all the world to hear. (Including Bud Selig, an outspoken supporter of the previous record-holder Mr. Hoffman for whom the save stat meant a great deal.) Rivera had won no prize, nothing. He was going to pitch anyway. Many said the 'regular season save' total is incidental to his career, a nice touch and well deserved, but doesn't begin to tell his story. Which leads me to one conclusion. The incessant, unprofessional, uninformed, and profane vomit from a man now exploiting the same uniform Mariano Rivera still wears as an active player indicates an individual in need of serious emotional help. If the Yankees had a front office or an owner who cared at all about the franchise they would have taken Gossage quietly aside long ago and told him to shut up. And that a poisonous, negative person such as himself is no longer welcome at Yankee spring training. Yankee ownership is obviously not interested in the team, only in making money. Why should fans care if they don't? I'll fill in with more links later. ed.
- Reference: 10/31/11, "Silly Goose: Mariano Rivera and the Myth of the Seven-Out Save," Kevin Baker, Guest at Baseball Prospectus, "Baseball ProGuestUs"