Mitch Williams: “I would rather have chemistry than talent”

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The purpose of this post is not merely to mock that silly statement from Mitch Williams. Lots of people say silly things about team chemistry and we’ve reached the point where pointing and laughing at it brings diminishing-to-the-point-of-non-existant returns.

No, it’s the run-up to that line that is worth considering:

Many people think you can build a team from a stat sheet. I don’t. I believe you have to have guys who fit together and have talent. Hence the success of the Orioles and Athletics. They ain’t even in the ballpark talent-wise with any of these teams who spent big. But none of these big-spending teams come across as having as much fun or trusting in their teammates like the O’s and A’s do.

Given the choice, I would rather have chemistry than talent.

Mitch Williams is paid to analyze baseball by a television network owned and operated by Major League Baseball. And yet he believes that the Orioles and Athletics “ain’t even in the ballpark talent-wise” with many other teams. Think about that for a minute.

Williams’ transgression isn’t his belief in team chemistry. It’s his utter inability, as a paid analyst, to recognize baseball talent in two teams — the A’s and O’s — that are absolutely loaded with it. And his apparent belief that high salaries famous names are the sine qua non of talented players.

It’s Mitch Williams’ job description to explain to MLB Network viewers how and why baseball teams win. To explain to fans who may not realize it that Players A, B and C are better than you think and Players X, Y and Z are not as good anymore as they are famous and why that is. The problem isn’t that Williams chooses to value team chemistry. Indeed, one can totally believe in the power of team chemistry if one chooses and still explain the A, B, C and X, Y Zs of it adequately. But Williams has either lazily or ignorantly chooses to make it an either/or proposition. To wave his hand and attribute success to magic while failing to see or simply choosing to ignore the baseball reasons behind successful teams.

I understand that sports networks like to employ ex-athletes, but what’s the point of having analysts who either can’t or won’t analyze? What end is being served by having a quasi-famous person actively promote ignorance on national television?

Javier Baez, D.J. LeMahieu have disagreement about sign-stealing

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Fellow second basemen Javier Baez of the Cubs and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies got into a disagreement in the top of the third inning of Sunday’s game at Coors Field over sign-stealing.

LeMahieu reached on a fielder’s choice ground out, then advanced to second base on Charlie Blackmon‘s single. While Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were batting, Baez was concerned that LeMahieu was relaying the Cubs’ signs to his teammates. Baez decided to stand in front of LeMahieu to block any information he might have been giving to Arenado and Story. LeMahieu got irritated and the two jawed at each other for a bit. Umpires Vic Carapazza and Greg Gibson had to intervene to tell Baez to knock it off.

There has always been a back-and-forth with alleged sign-stealing. As long as teams aren’t using technology to steal signs, it’s fair game for players to relay information to their teammates about the opposing team’s signs. Last year, MLB determined the Red Sox went against the rules and used technology — an Apple watch in this case — to steal signs from the Yankees. Other teams in the past have been accused of using binoculars from the bullpen to steal signs. In this particular case with Baez and LeMahieu, there was no foul play going on, just Baez trying to make the Rockies cede what he perceived to be their slight competitive advantage.

The Cubs went on to beat the Rockies 9-7 on Sunday.