Great Moments in Hypocrisy: Jim Rice Edition

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There is nothing sadder — in any walk of life, not just baseball — than hearing older people claim that the kids today just don’t do things the right way and how back in my day it was better and all of that jazz.

Such a stance simultaneously suggests narcissism, arrogance, ignorance and pessimism. “Only I and my friends did things properly,” such people are saying. They’re also saying, however, that they pay no attention to new developments in the world and that, inevitably, things will always grow worse over time rather than better, which runs directly counter to most developments in human history.  And more than anything, such statements always — always — reflect more poorly on the person uttering them than they reflect on those whom he or she is deriding.

With that in mind, I give you Jim Rice:

“The game is still the same (but) the players have changed. There are no fundamentals in the game anymore.  That’s why I really enjoyed the game was because of the fundamentals. We had to do fundamentals. If you didn’t know the fundamentals, you weren’t playing … I don’t want to [get back in the dugout] because guys are not subject to change.  If you went back to giving guys one- or two-year contracts, it’s a different story. When you give guys five-, six-, seven-, 10-year contracts, they don’t have to change. Their money is in the bank. And if the thing doesn’t go right, who do they blame?”

Just so you know, Jim Rice (a) is sixth all-time in grounding into double plays, having led his league four straight years in his prime; (b) was a poor defensive player; and (c) most damningly to his above comments, once signed a seven-year contract, making him the highest-paid player with the longest contract in all of the game at the time.

Why the interviewer for that article didn’t ask Jim why it was OK for him to have poor fundamentals and receive long-term contracts but it’s not OK for players today to do so is beyond me. For that matter, I’m baffled why he didn’t even ask Rice to offer some evidence regarding how fundamentals are lacking in today’s players.  To the contrary, I suspect that if we were able to quantify such things, today’s players would be found to be far more athletic and fundamentally-sound than players of the 70s.

Not that I’d expect Rice to realize how foolish he sounds.  He’s just the latest person to claim that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket.  Funny how it never seems to actually get there.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.