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?

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.