Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jonah Keri + Rob Dibble = "What?"


Jonah Keri takes on the question of "Are the Red Sox a dynasty"?

It's a too-wordy article, but it does ask a good question. Basically, Keri compares the current Red Sox to two groups: teams that were actual dynasties (like the Big Red Machine) vs. teams that approached dynasty level (like the '86 Mets).

Now, I have a number of qualms about his method for classifying "approaching dynasty" teams - he highlights five one-year wonderteams (like the 1990 Reds, who didn't make the playoffs for any of the three years before or after their WS title, which, I think, precludes them from dynasty consideration. I might've chosen the late-80s A's as potential dynasties. Actually, it's a crime that he makes no mention of the late-80s and early-90s Blue Jays, who won four division titles and two WS in a five-year span.

Here's some stuff in here that merits mention:

"There's too much movement now," former Reds reliever Rob Dibble says. "Chemistry is a big deal. You need to come up with the same guys, stay with them, get to know their tendencies and their inside jokes. Otherwise, it doesn't work."

I suggest that Reds' GM Wayne Krivsky immediately telephone Rob Dibble and hire him as an inside-joke consultant. Obviously, the Reds' recent lack of success comes from an extreme dearth of tendency-knowing and inside-joke playing. Man, I loved Rob Dibble growing up, but he's an idiot.

Dibble knows something about the challenge of building a dynasty.

No, he doesn't. You are a moron, Jonah Keri. Rob Dibble knows something about injuring innocent first-grade teachers while throwing a public temper tantrum. The Reds' GM in 1990 (Bob Quinn) knows a lot about that challenge. Jonah, why didn't you interview him? You interviewed Rob Dibble. That's what I call "bad journalism".

In 1990, he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds team that won the World Series. Joined by Randy Myers and Norm Charlton, Dibble helped form the Nasty Boys bullpen, a collection of hard-throwing young relievers who -- along with Barry Larkin, Jose Rijo, Eric Davis and other young stars -- figured to form the nucleus of a Reds team that could reel off multiple championships. It didn't happen. Injuries and bad luck conspired against the team, and management soon took it apart.

Well, we could also consider that it was a team that really wasn't that good at all. In fact, Keri did a series of other articles on failed dynasties where he concludes (correctly) that:

Nearly two decades later, it's clear what the Reds' shortfall was: They just weren't all that good. Larkin is a player who deserves a spot in Cooperstown one day, but Davis was the poster boy for those teams, a player with all the talent in the world whose inability to stay healthy eventually sapped his ability. Players such as Duncan, Sabo and Armstrong had career or near-career years in 1990, then soon fell off the map.

And that's where Keri's article turns into a real stretch. There's no real comparison between the 2003-7 Red Sox and the 1990 Reds - because the Red Sox have sustained their success over a span of multiple years. They're not built solely on a few guys having career years. I'm not sure the '03-07 Sox are a dynasty, but they're getting pretty close.

"Once you break a link in the chain, it's never as strong as it once was," Dibble says. "Free agency has ruined the game."

What, Rob? You mean the advent of free agency (circa the 1970s) ruined the game? Yeah, you would know. You were playing in the sandbox when free agency was ruining the game.

Forgive Dibble if he sounds like the lords of the realm who still keep Marvin Miller out of the Hall of Fame.

I won't. It's stupid for Rob to long for a baseball past he never experienced.

It's not that he begrudges players the opportunity to choose their employer and make a healthy living. It's that, as a fan of the game, he misses those Mount Rushmore-level teams of the past, the ones you either respected or hated, but could never ignore.

Here's where Jonah Keri is an idiot. Not seven years ago, the Yankees won four titles in five seasons. That's a dynasty by any definition. In the same article, Keri mentions ten distinct baseball dynasties - over one hundred years, that's about a dynasty a decade. Major-league baseball, though experiencing some degree of parity, is not struggling from a lack of dynasty. Say what you want (and this the fault of your employer, Jonah), there are teams that we can't ignore in baseball today. They're the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Although teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets pull in and spend more money than their lower-revenue counterparts, bigger dollars haven't translated into the kind of juggernauts that once littered baseball's landscape, teams such as Casey Stengel's Yankees, Branch Rickey's Cardinals and John McGraw's Giants.

The 1996-2000 Yankees did that. The current Red Sox are doing that. Still - he's full of shit when he claims that those teams "littered baseball's landscape" - the three teams he cites are separated by 50 years!

Actually, Dibble was born in 1964, too young to remember any of those teams, barely in middle school when the Big Red Machine was winding down. He might pine for the powerhouse teams of the past, but more because of what he has read and heard than what he has seen with his own eyes.

Finally, some sense.
From 2000 to 2006, Major League Baseball crowned seven different champions: the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins, Red Sox, White Sox and Cardinals.

How many times have I heard that stat? 2397812

Buzz past the Yankees' run to 1995,

Why? Because it disproves your point - that dynasties don't exist in contemporary baseball?

and you find a similar mishmash of teams in the winner's circle -- East Coast, West Coast and in between; big markets and small; expansion teams and old-time clubs. Bud Selig's oft-repeated mantra has come to fruition, for long-suffering White Sox fans, short-suffering Marlins fans and many of moderate suffering. "The most important part of our sport are the two words that I use at owners' meetings," Selig told a University of Wisconsin crowd last year. "Our job is to provide hope and faith -- hope and faith that your team has a chance to win."

Is that his job? Maybe so. If "acting in the best interest of the game" means "trying to make baseball a totally even playing field", I guess he is doing his job. Maybe, in order to accomplish this job, he could just hire Shane Stant to whack all the Red Sox' knees.

I think the job of providing hope and faith falls to the team's ownership. Yes, Orioles fans, unless Bud implements the Tonya Harding approach, you're screwed for the forseeable future.
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For the record, I think baseball's level of parity is just about right. The dynasty-frequency doesn't seem to have changed. Maybe the luxury tax is the best way to go about limiting the absolute power of big-market teams and giving small-market teams a small leg up. It seems better, to me, than a salary cap system, which, to be honest is just too Communist for the American pastime.


25 comments:

Anonymous said...

How do 2 titles in 4 years qualify you to be debated as a dynasty? If that happened in football would anyone talk about them as a dynasty? Its not even like they got to the world series and lost in between. The Spurs aren't even a unanimous dynasty and they've won 4 titles in 9 years.

Chris W said...

so he's talking about near-miss dynasties of the late 80's early 90's, and the team that most exemplifies the "near-miss dynasty of the late 80's, early 90's" for him is....

The Cincinnati Reds?

....what's wrong with this picture?

Chris W said...

But Danbob--to be fair, though Free Agency technically existed in the 70's, it didn't exist in earnest till the late 80's due to mass collusion.

pnoles said...

anon - Teh Sawks get consideration for dynasty-like status because they have drafted incredibly well and are lined up to have very good teams for years to come to go along with their recent successes. As dan-bob said, he doesn't think the '03-07 Sox are a dynasty just yet. They are, however, getting there.

BTW -- that evil PECOTA computer thinks the Yanks will beat teh Sawks in teh AL East this year.

Tonus said...

It might've been better to see some sort of analysis of the 1970s and 1980s and how the advent of free agency may have affected team dynasties. The 70s saw the Oakland A's, the the Reds, then the Yankees go to three straight WS. Then things sort of settled down until the late 80s-early90s (A's and Blue Jays). And just a few years after that, the Yankees won 4 titles in 5 years.

As for the need for chemistry, I'd point to those same A's and Yankees teams and ask if that is the kind of "chemistry" that Dibble had in mind.

I am sure that Rob Dibble misses those powerhouse teams of the past, where the reserve clause allowed them to build mighty dynasties while the players made relatively little money. According to baseball-reference.com, Dibble earned more than $7.6 million over the course of his short career. How much of that would he give back
for another two or three championships?

Ah well, too bad that the Yankees' deep pockets didn't "translate into the kind of juggernauts that once littered baseball's landscape". Otherwise they might've won a bunch of division titles and some world series over a 12-year span. Crazy, I know!

Bengoodfella said...

I am admittedly a huge homer but would the Atlanta Braves not be considered a dynasty or near miss of a dynasty in the 90's. Over the Reds? Maybe the only player who would talk to him was Rob Dibble so he just went with the Reds...

Anytime a professional league has one team not win the title for a few years, columnists have to trot out the "are there any dynasties left" article and annoy us all with it. I think it is pathetic to use the Reds simply because they won the World Series one year, but that does not make them a near-miss dynasty, regardless of injuries or anything.

Chris W said...

teams from the late 80's, early 90's time period that are much better examples of "dynasties" or "near miss dynasties" than the 1990 Reds:

1987-1990 A's

1991-1992 Blue Jays

1990's Braves

Bengoodfella said...

Chris W, I agree with you. Honestly, and this may sound stupid, but I think the biggest "near miss dynasty" was the Montreal Expos during the mid-90's. If they had kept all those ball players and not traded them away, they would have been pretty, pretty good.

Of course, it never happened, which is my whole complaint about the article...that and the fact it is stupid.

dan-bob said...

Actually, Keri mentions some of those other teams (like the 90s Braves and 90s Injuns), but for some reason he didn't examine them in depth. I don't know why he spent time examining the 1990 Reds, who were a collection of one-year wonders.

Bengoodfella said...

I guess if I had read the actual article I would know that. That is just a little odd he focused on the Reds then. Also, they were considerable underdogs in the World Series, so it is not as if the world was looking at them as a possible dynasty.

I know very little, but it seems like they were not really on the highway to a dynasty (which would be a good name for a band or something). I agree they were one year wonders though.

Anonymous said...

tonus,

yeah, i find it funny that Dibble talks about chemistry, because, if I'm not mistaken, those A's teams in the 70's were not exactly team players. I remember hearing about how there used to be brawls in the clubhouse during that period.

Anonymous said...

where's the red sox hate? the fifty-thousand word column spewing vitriol so acidic it burns straight through the green monster?

frankly, i'm disappointed in you guys. i come here because nowhere else can i get that sweet, sweet draught of animosity against THE MUTHERFAWKIN SAWX FAWK YAH.

i expect at least one anti-sports guy column from you by the end of the week or i will be very, very disappointed.

Andy said...

Barring Jose Mesa, I'd call the mid-to-late 90's Indians a near miss. Perhaps I'm just as much of a homer as Bengoodfella, but for a different team.

blanco said...

Usually I'm a mellow guy and let you guys do all the complaints. However, nothing gets me more pissed than EVERYONE suddenly lowering their standards for what makes dynasties. Growing up it seemed the definition of a dynasty was a minimun of 3 championships in a row. The beauty of it was that it was one group of guys (with maybe a few free agents coming and going) who dominated a league for a period of time.

Now all a sudden we are bringing up dynasties with teams who won 2 championships in 4 years, teams that won a ton of division titles but only one the big one once, one hit wonder teams like the Reds.

1.) it's not the same group of guys who are on these teams anymore. The 2008 Red Sox have like 4 guys who were on the 2004 team.
2.) It's not an era of dominance if other teams are sharing in the glory. (Like when the Lakers had their own Dynasty in the middle of the Spurs "dynasty.")

So let's just go back to basics and say if you can't win 3 in a row, you aren't a dynasty. Hell I'd even say 3 in 4 years, but this nonsense has to stop. Why not just call the Florida Marlins a dynasty? I understand we are in a free agent era, but that doesn't mean we need to go lowering standards because people know it can be done. The yankees won from 98-00, there's your 3 years. You want to throw in 96? fine, now that's 4 in 5 years.

I know I sound like Simmons here, but this essentially should be the test: 20 years from now when you are telling your kids about baseball from this decade are you going to be saying "boy, that team was great?" In the case of the Red Sox no, because you can't even say "that team." You have to say "those teams" simply because they just aren't the same group of guys. The braves? How does being very good, but barely ever the best team in baseball get you in this conversation?

If anything, the biggest problem with the free agent era is not that you can't have teams that put together a string of championships, but that the teams change so much year to year, they really aren't the same team. Sure they wear the same uniform and play in the same city, but that's about it.

I don't know, maybe my standards are just higher and we need to invent a new word for the type of dominance i'm describing if we are going to through around Dynasty so much.

Jonah Keri said...

I agree that the Reds ended up being a bit of a stretch for the article. Three other teams looked at in depth were probably better: The Expos of the 80s (they were called the team of the 80s at the start of the decade and everyone loved them), the Mets of the mid-to-late 80s (Gooden, Strawberry etc), and the Mariners of the mid-to-late 90s (Unit, Jr, Edgar and ARod, not even one World Series berth) were probably better examples.

As for the Braves of 91-05, Indians of the 90s and the 89-93 Jays, you could argue any of those teams either way. If you win 14 division titles and 1 World Series in 15 years, you could easily be called a dynasty--or not, if World Series is your end-all criterion. The Indians were unbelievable in the 90s, but of course they never won it all.

The Jays of the early 90s are an interesting case. Back-to-back World Series is a really tough task in the modern era. At the same time, while the core players on those teams were very good, you could argue that they won largely thanks to contributions from guys like Jack Morris, Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor--go-for-it acquisitions who were added hoping to get 1-2 more good years out of them before they faded away. So the Jays weren't likely to keep winning after that second World Series, but they weren't exactly a failed dynasty either. They did what they set out to do, basically, which was pretty great in its own right.

Anyway, the intro with the Dibble quotes (and you can read between the lines on my opinion about Dibble's comments re: chemistry et al) was really just a way to get into the more in-depth looks at the other 5 teams. I agree that the Reds ended up not being all that good in the end. But the other teams have some interesting stories to tell.

Thanks for the constructive criticism, appreciate the feedback.

Bengoodfella said...

I am not sure it was constructive criticism in the comments posted and the article. I am not really known for being constructive in my criticism. Mostly I just bitch about things. Was that really Jonah Keri or someone pathetically claiming to be him?

Jonah Keri said...

The real McCoy.

Chris W said...

Or the return of Pearlman?

anyway, J.K., I'm still wondering about the "almost-dynasty" or "actual dynasty" or the late 80's Oakland A's, who made the WS 3 times, winning once...

Chris W said...

oops I guess I missed it

"The 1988-1992 Oakland A's probably fall into this murky area too. If a team wins four division titles in five years and makes the World Series three years in a row but wins it all only once, is it a dynasty?"

I feel like a big dum dum.

I just happen to love Jose Canseco. That's all.

Tonus said...

This blog is almost legit now!

BTW, I tend to consider a team a dynasty if it wins 3 or more championships in a very small time frame. As far as I can tell, the article was discussing teams that fell short of dynastic status. A team that wins several division titles over a short period of time would fall into that category IMO.

The Braves of the 90s/00s are in a category of their own, a very painful one at that. But they did win a title, so they can thumb their noses at the Buffalo Bills. They just wouldn't be too overt.

Bengoodfella said...

I would think the 1988-1992 A's are a dynasty. I personally always had a thing for Carney Lansford and could never get enough of Terry Steinbach. Those were my favorite A's. Actually not, but it is pretty awesome, and I think this should count towards the dynasty argument, that Steinbach was put on the All Star team in one of those years (89?) and everyone complained about how he was not good enough to make it. Which he wasn't, but then he hit a HR in the game. Ok, maybe that should not go towards the dynasty argument but having a 3B named Carney Lansford should, right?

Bengoodfella said...

Thank you Tonus! I always need some Braves love from other people. I am still scarred from those years by the way, and I am afraid they have gotten all their division titles out of their system for the next 20 years now. I still remember asking my dad at the end of the 1991 World Series if we would ever make it again and he said, "probably not." There is a Full House moment for you.

I think 3 or more championships in a small time frame (6-7 years) would count. I would count the Spurs as a dynasty.

Anonymous said...

i think one thing to keep in mind is the performance in between championships, if you're not talking back-to-back (to back etc). for example, the red sox get dinged a lot as a 'dynasty' in my opinion because of their 2006 season when they missed the playoffs entirely. if you wish to be considered a dynasty over a period of time, i really don't think you can fall totally out of the playoffs during that time. that's why a team like the spurs works better as a dynasty. not only have the won 4 titles since '99, but they've been one of the nba's best teams the entire time, having never missed the playoffs in that span.

larry b said...

Ben, I have to admit- before Colorado had a baseball team, I was a huuuuuuge Braves fan because they were on TBS every night. My favorite player was Steve Avery! He really ended up having just as good a career as Glavine and Smoltz, huh? I was just a little tot back then, but I remember the '91 and '92 Serieses very well. God fucking dammit, Braves. Of course they go and actually win one as soon as I switch to the Rockies.

And they are unquestionably the best second-tier/fake dynasty of the past few decades. How many division titles in a row? 13? That's ridiculous.

Bengoodfella said...

Actually, I think it was 14 in a row...but who is counting? Steve Avery I believe ended up having some arm trouble that really derailed his career. I am just upset because they are not going to be on TBS that often this year. It is the end of an era. I think they are a great example of a fake dynasty.

I was so happy when they got to the World Series in 1991, my goldfish Dale Murphy no longer seemed relevant but at least I had him around to prove I was not a fair weather fan....that and my coach pitch "baseball card" that said David Justice was my favorite player.