Monday, November 19, 2007

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others

I usually don't like arbitrarily constructed lists about sports. The classic example is the ever-present "power rankings" columns that permeate every major sports website. Other than providing hilarious user comments sections on a weekly basis (seriously, check them out sometime if you haven't before. ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS... doesn't really matter), those couldn't possibly be a bigger waste of time.

But I have to admit, some topics are best discussed in list format.'s Jeff Gordon (no, not THAT Jeff Gordon! LOL! NASSSCCCCCAAARRRRRRRR!!!!!!11111) has assembled a kind of sort of interesting one. For your reading pleasure, he has listed what he considers to be the 10 best free agent signings in baseball history. And I have to concede that this is one of those rare topics that works better as a list. So take a look at his selections, and see if you can figure out why I'm blogging about his column right now instead of just silently nodding in approval and moving on to something else.

David Ortiz, Red Sox, 2002
Andre Dawson, Cubs, 1986
Reggie Jackson, Yankees, 1976
Greg Maddux, Braves, 1992
Roberto Alomar, Indians, 1998
Barry Bonds, Giants, 1993
Roger Clemens, Blue Jays, 1996
Kevin Brown, Marlins, 1995
Ichiro, Mariners, 2000
David Eckstein, Cardinals, 2004

Did you catch it? Go look again. In order, we have (all stats were acquired by candidates while playing for the new teams they signed with):

-A guy who has hit 241 HRs in 5 years
-A guy who won an MVP and OPS+ed 130 or better 3 out of 6 years
-A slam-dunk hall of famer who hit 144 HRs in 5 years
-One of the greatest pitchers ever and winner of 3 straight Cy Youngs
-A guy who in 3 years with his new team OPS+ed 139, 114, and 150 while playing unbelievable defense at a premium position
-One of the greatest hitters ever and winner of 4 straight MVPs (5 total with new team, 7 overall)
-One of the greatest pitchers ever and winner of 2 straight Cy Youngs (7 overall)
-A guy who recorded ERA+es of 216 and 150 in 2 years with his new team
-A guy with 7 straight seasons of 200+ hits, who may one day reach 3,000 despite not entering the league until age 27
-A guy who in 3 seasons with his new team OPS+ed 99, 81, and 93, and who plays bad defense at the most important defensive position on the field

Is it any clearer now? Let's let Gordon defend that final inclusion in his own words:

When he signed his three-year, $10.25 million free-agent deal after the 2004 season, some experts ripped the Cardinals for giving him too much money and too many years.

They were right.

After all, Eckstein was really a second baseman playing shortstop. He didn't possess great fielding range and his arm strength was famously poor.

Like I said, those critics were right.

He was a decent hitter,

He had just put up back to back OPS+es of 75 and 79. So, no. He was not. (Although it's fair to note that in context with those numbers from 2003 and 2004 in Anaheim, Eckstein's had a huge resurgence in St. Louis!)

but he had no power and little speed on the basepaths.

Absolutely right. All this for the low, low, low introductory rate of 10 million over 3 seasons.

But Eckstein was the perfect fit in St. Louis, where he moved into the lead-off spot.

Where he did not belong.

He earned two trips to the All-Star Game

Proving to fans everywhere that the All-Star selection process is a joke.

and became the MVP of the 2006 World Series, on the strength of his three doubles in Game 4 against Detroit.

He certainly had a great game 4 of the 2006 World Series. Can't take that away from him. He also went 0 for 5 in game 1 and 0 for 4 in game 2. He was also a complete anchor for the Cards that year overall, OPSing .696 in more than 550 plate appearances from the leadoff spot. It's a minor miracle St. Louis managed to limp into the playoffs at all considering what a shitbomb of a season he had. His 2005 and 2007 campaigns, although worth nowhere near what he was paid for posting them, were positively Bondsesque/Ruthian by comparison. Oh, did I mention he plays bad defense and the most important defensive position on the field? That's right, after all this, you're looking at what Jeff deems to be one of the 10 greatest free agent signings ever.

In many ways, he is the anti-A-Rod —a low-budget, low-glamour signing that produced maximum results.

Given this statement, I have to wonder what Gordon would consider "maximum results" from things or events in his everyday life. Say he told you he recently bought a used car, and was getting "maximum results" out of it. Would you be surprised if it didn't have an engine? Or wheels? What if he went on a date and came home reporting it ended with "maximum results." You couldn't really assume anything from that description other than that the girl didn't punch him in the face. "Maximum results" from a new appliance in Jeff's kitchen? As long as his house hadn't yet burned to the ground, that's probably how he would describe the situation.

David Eckstein. "Produced" "maximum" "results." Wow. The lunchpail alert is now at red. Bright, vibrant, red.

Look at what was left off so Gordon could squeeze Eckstein onto this list. Randy Johnson to the Diamondbacks in 1998? Overrated. Vlad Guerrero to the Angels in 2003? Yawn. You want to talk about truly great free agent signings? Look no further than America's favorite 4'7" white guy and his amazing ability to sprint from home to first on a ground ball.


pnoles said...

LOLOLOLOLOLOL actually needed to go to the article to make sure you weren't joking LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Jones said...

Also, Andre Dawson played for the Expos in 1986.

Also, Dawson was a huge stretch for MVP in '87 anyway.

larry b said...

Jones, all those dates listed are for the year they signed, not their first year with their new team. And even if he was a stretch for MVP, he was a fucking badass. Eckstein was and is not.

Jones said...

The dates are sort of pointless and confusing, then. Were they in Gordon's original piece? Bonds first year for the Giants was indeed 1993, for example, but Dawson, again, was 1987 for the Cubs.

"even if he was a stretch for MVP, he was a fucking badass."

As badass as an ass can be with a .328 OBP. I know what OPS+ says, but this was definitely one of those years that points out how unbalanced of a stat OPS can be.

If you're a Hawk fan, my apologies and I don't mean to belittle the man; he was the thinking man's Dave Parker, after all. And he did have a very, very fine year.

But about five guys got jobbed that year so that Dawson could win. Have you seen Strawerry's numbers in 87, for example? They're lurid, especially considering era.

This has nothing to do with David Shitstain, who is comparable to shiny turd.

jones said...

Because I'm a dick, and I can't let things go (which is probably why I read this site, come to think):

1987 OPS+ NL

Clark-STL 176
Strawberry-NYM 162
Gwynn-SDP 158
Murphy-ATL 157
Davis-CIN 155
Guerrero-LAD 154
Clark-SFG 152
Raines-MON 149
Schmidt-PHI 142
Kruk-SDP 140

Notice the conspicuous lack of anyone named "Dawson" in this category.

Kruk didn't get a single vote for MVP, btw, despite doing
.313/.406/.488 in almost 550 PA.

Also John Kruk stole 18 bases in 1987. That big fat tub of fat gasping lard. Doesn't that just blow your freaking mind?

pnoles said...

Andre Dawson, 1987 EqA: .290
Andre Dawson, 1987 WARP1: 6.7

I'm going to have side with "jones" here in re: Dawson = badass?

The case of Dawson's 1987 season is a major arguing point for the flaw of OPS (and OPS+, for that matter) as a stat because of how much it overstates SLG (.568) as opposed to OBP (.328).

He did hit 49 HR though, that was sick (and it's a major outlier on his career HR line). This was way before sabermetrics (or even OBP for that matter) even had a tiny foothold in the MVP discussion, so I kind of don't blame the 1987 voters for picking Dawson.

larry b said...

Jones- Your points are well taken. I'm always up for a dumb argument. I was only 3 when the 1987 season took place so my memory of it is a little foggy. Definitely looks like you're right. Are you a Cardinals fan? Maybe a Brewers fan? To answer your question re: the same, I'm no Cubs fan. (GOOOOOO ROCKIES!!!! YAYYYYYYYY) Just wanted to point out how ridiculous that list was.

jones said...

No, I'm a Dodger fan. Feel free to cast rocks. I will repel them my magical LasordaCo Rock and Other Thrown Particle Item Invisible God is a Dodger Shield.

Jarrett said...

Just in case you didn't catch it, Jeff Gordon writes here in St. Louis for the Post Dispatch.

larry b said...

Sorry for crapping on your guy, Jarrett. (Eckstein, not Gordon. I'm not sorry about Gordon at all.) I have to admit, he's got two more World Series rings than every single guy on my favorite team.