Every time I think that the bulk of baseball fans and commentators has moved on from the dark ages of batting average and RBI meaning everything and into at least the Renaissance period that was the early-“Moneyball Days,” something odd happens to make me realize that, nope, not as many people have moved on as I thought.
This year it’s Joey Votto and the treatment he has received from the media and some fans. And actually, “media” is too broad a term. The treatment has mostly been from Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who has taken it upon himself to cut down Votto for his alleged inability to drive in runs. Daugherty has paired this with pumping up Brandon Phillips as the Reds’ MVP due to his high RBI totals (despite his worst offensive season in a while) and by waging war against “stat geeks” making simplistic and overly-broad arguments. Worth noting that the geeks and those arguments are almost certainly an invention of Daugherty’s imagination, as he attributes to them the most straw-like of straw man tendencies. It’s been a hoot, actually.
Obviously most of us don’t need to entertain these arguments seriously. Daugherty either knows or is too dense to know that RBI is a function of opportunity and that Phillips has had way more opportunities to drive in runs than Votto. Mostly because Votto is always on base. Daugherty either knows or is too dense to know that Votto has had an astoundingly good season despite his low RBI totals. We certainly need not engage in a point-by-point rebuttal to Daugherty because he’s either, as I said, too dense for it to be worthwhile or because, in reality, he’s just trying to throw bombs and grandstand to get attention.
Sadly, though, Joey Votto has been reduced to having to defend himself in print. He does so in Hal McCoy’s column at Fox Sports Ohio where he says, really guys, he’s a good player:
“Pitchers can be kind of picky when they face me,” Votto said. “I strike out a lot (106) walk a lot and that leads to a lot of balls not put into play. But I’m hitting for a high average (.316) … I’m in the top five in batting average om the top five in slugging. I just have to be more efficient with it because I get less opportunities, but that’s OK. All I want to do is do what I can.”
You’re doing just fine, Joey. Ignore the ignoramuses. Make as few outs as you can and drive the ball when you have a ball you can drive. That’s your job. That’s the job of every hitter in baseball. If someone is saying differently — if someone is saying that there’s a better measure of a hitter than out-avoidance — they’re failing to understand the game.
As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.
The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.
Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.
Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.
The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.
Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.
Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.
Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.