Jeff Kent lost 22 pounds on “Survivor” and had a torn MCL the entire time

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Every Thursday morning for the past eight weeks I’ve been recapping Jeff Kent’s adventures on “Survivor,” which came to an end this week when he was voted out in ninth place during an episode filled with weirdness and culminating in the former MVP going off on a pretty memorable rant:

You know what pisses me off? I think I’ve made about 60 million dollars playing baseball and I want this frickin’ million dollars in this game. And it’s not even a million bucks, it’s 600 grand by the time Obama takes it. I’m a Game 7 World Series loser. You know, I played in the biggest games in the world and the worst games in the world, and this just sucks.

CBS’ cameras stayed with Kent after the actual episode was finished, following him to the “Ponderosa” where voted-out players stay until the entire show is over:

Some of the video highlights:

– Kent is met by R.C., the 10th-place finisher, and immediately apologizes to her for getting her voted out. He then repeatedly complains to her that “no one wanted to play” and that’s what led to his exit. Then, after eating dinner together, Kent tells the camera: “R.C. likes to talk a lot, but she’s a good girl.”

– Kent sees himself in the mirror for the first time in a month and seems shocked, saying: “This is the longest my hair has ever been. I look like a cave man.” His hair is not at all long in any sort of common usage of the word “long” and he doesn’t even have a particularly full beard. But whatever.

– He immediately shaves his beard, but leaves his famous porn-star mustache.

– They weigh him and find that he lost 22 pounds, going from 212 to 190. “I hadn’t weighed 190 pounds since high school.”

– Minutes into the first episode Kent injured his knee literally getting off the boat and guessed that it was a torn MCL. Sure enough, a doctor examines him and diagnoses him with a torn MCL, which he’d been walking and running and swimming and winning challenges with for 25 days.

Some equal time for the Rays defenders

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Yesterday I came out pretty sharply against the Rays recent moves. I stand by all of those comments, but I think it’s worth giving equal time to dissenting views.

Each of those posts contain analytically-based looks at each move and, for the most part, defends them on their baseball merits. I’ll let them stand on their own on their specific merits and not go in with point-by-point rebuttals (a) because that’s tedious; and (b) because I’m not the best-suited person to rebut analytical points.

There’s a (c) here, though, which is more important in my mind: no matter how many good points those articles make — and they do make many — it’s sort of beside the point. Because it seems to me that those of us slamming the Rays and those of us defending the Rays are talking past one another.

Sullivan, Drays Bay and others are arguing that the Rays front office was able to make some good moves. And they make those arguments pretty well in a vacuum. What they don’t address — and what I’m mostly concerned with — is the assumption that they HAD to make those moves. From where I’m sitting — and the credulousness some have for front office spin notwithstanding — Rays transactions in recent years, and certainly lately, seem to be pretty clearly mandated by ownership in order to either cut payroll or to keep it from growing and to shed arbitration-eligible dudes. That the GM and his team have made decent lemonade out of those lemons does not vindicate ownership’s mandate to cut payroll and shed arbitration-eligible dudes.

What’s more, such arguments — “hey, here’s the x, y, z of why trading away the face of the franchise is good!” — do not address the largest issue facing Tampa Bay Rays baseball, now and for the club’s entire history: fan apathy. Yes, they do relatively well in the TV ratings and their stadium and its location are a big hurdle to overcome, but the fact of the matter is that the Rays, as an organization, have rarely if ever done things which can be best explained in terms of giving the fans an entertaining product on the field. They have had some excellent teams, but they have, more than most clubs, let their baseball decision making be determined by the bottom line rather than making baseball decisions aimed at creating a consistently-winning and entertaining product.

A much simpler way to look at this is from the perspective of casual fans, families and the sorts of people who are not hardcore statistically-inclined diehards. What have the Rays done to attract these people? How does a 12-year-old kid get excited about the fact that they traded away Evan Longoria for payroll purposes and cut Corey Dickerson, an All-Star last year, because his 115 wRC+ far outpaced his projected 103 wRC+? That’s a consideration that a diehard fan who has, through big-time immersion, come to appreciate as a second-level thing, but it’s not how anywhere close to a majority of fans enjoy and experience the game. They like stars and familiar names and they want to believe that, if they go to a game, the team has a good chance to win it and that it’s fun in the process.

I’m not seeing any appreciation from the Rays’ defenders for that dynamic. I’m not seeing any acknowledgement that the Rays moves are making the team less familiar and less enjoyable for a casual fan and how that, when you take away some of your team’s better players and replace them with guys who might be better at some point down the road, there’s a good chance that the team will take a step back in the short term and how that that may turn off a lot of fans.

There’s an argument in the DRays Bay piece that those of us criticizing the Rays are doing so from some sort of pre-Moneyball, luddite perspective. This is ridiculous. Most of the folks who are leveling this criticism — and Drays Bay links our articles on this in their piece if you want to read them — are well-versed in team building theory. Many of us were deeply immersed in sabermetric reading and writing before the Rays even existed as a franchise. We’re well-aware of what motivations and incentives exist for general managers and the manner in which one builds a team for sustained competitiveness.

The point is that most people do not root for general managers. They do not care about long-term, sabermetrically-sound theories of team building. They want an entertaining team in which they can, over time, invest some loyalty and forge an emotional connection. If a club cannot serve those fans — which are, again, most fans — while also building their team for sustained competition, they need to explain why they can’t, given how many teams are able to do this. They are not entitled to the deference they and their defenders expect as a matter of course.