The Indians to their fans: if you you only care about winning baseball, don’t come out to see us play

41 Comments

That’s a paraphrase, of course. The actual quote from team President Mark Shapiro goes like this, reports Bruce Hooley of ESPN Cleveland, which I did not know existed until just now:

“If you base your decision to come to the game on whether we win or lose, don’t come. You’re missing out. You’re missing out on what baseball is all about, and I’m fine with that.”

That is Shapiro’s more full followup to what is apparently some sort of minor controversy in Cleveland following his appearance on a local TV. A fan emailed him to ask why they should renew their season tickets for 2013. Shapiro said then, that if all the guy cared about was winning “don’t come.”

I can see why such a position would be controversial — fans have come to expect the old rah-rah and we’re number one stuff from members of their team — but Shapiro is right. The Indians aren’t likely to win a lot next year. Saying so should not be controversial as long as he can demonstrate that the team wants to win and is trying. Personally I’d rather my team’s brass be realistic about the local nine as long as they aren’t resigned.

But more broadly, it’s a sentiment I have agreed with ever since I fell in love with the 1987 Braves, who stunk on ice. Baseball is awesome. Come out and see baseball if you have the time and the means. It’s a lot more fun when your team wins but, jeez, it’s still a lot of damn fun when they don’t.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.