<span class="vcard">Craig Calcaterra</span>

Metal Detector

Shocker: there is no evidence that metal detectors at ballparks will make anyone safer

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Major League Baseball has mandated metal detectors at all ballparks next season. Many have already put them up. As Neil deMause notes over at Vice today, however, they are utterly pointless. There is no evidence whatsoever that metal detectors actually reduce incidents of terrorism/violence/mischief/etc., and some reason to believe that putting them in will actually inspire would-be wrongdoers to get more creative with respect to the havoc they would wreak.

Harvard security expert Bruce Schneier agrees, calling the new MLB directive “security theater” . . . “This is very much a C.Y.A. type of thing,” he says. “‘If something happens, we’re going to be blamed’ . . .This kind of crap is what the terrorists winning looks like.”

No question that this is all just a facade to keep someone from suing should something happen one day or to look like they’re being proactive. Or, possibly, Major League Baseball has cornered the market on plastic flasks and is poised to rake in the dough from people who like having a snort of hooch at a ballgame.

Not that I know anyone like that.

Tired of the Jeter love? Here’a “Derek Jeter is a hypocrite” column for you

derek jeter yankees getty
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Ken Davidoff is normally a pretty reliably good columnist. Especially for a New York columnist. But one has to wonder what the heck is going on with his latest outing, in which he lambastes Derek Jeter as a hypocrite.

Why is he a hypocrite? Because he appeared at a memorabilia event for Steiner Sports yesterday, apparently. Which, fine, Steiner Sports sort of icky in some ways, but it’s not like a ballplayer doing such things is unusual. Jeter has been doing that kind of thing for years. And even if you don’t like Steiner Sports, a lot of fans love that stuff. It certainly doesn’t warrant the comp to “NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his inept, arrogant team of public-relation gurus,” that Davidoff makes.

It makes me wonder if the Post editors told him “hey, do a Jeter hit piece. It will stand out!” Because I’ve been reading Davidoff for years, and never have I seen him miss the forest for such a tiny, unremarkable little sapling like this.

Dan Haren made $10 million last night

Dan Haren
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Actually, he made it over the course of the year, but he crossed over the 180 innings pitched line last night, and that caused his $10 million option to kick in.

It’s a player option, so he can choose to walk away from it if he’d like. Though, honestly, I think he’d be kind of dumb to do that. He has really come on as of late, but overall he had a pretty “meh” year, notching 13 wins despite a 4.03 ERA and a posting his lowest K/9 rate of his career. It was his third straight year with an ERA+ under 90. At this point he’s an innings eater. And there is value in having an innings eater around. Just not multi-year value or possibly even value greater than $10 million.

Haren likes the west coast. He should exercise his option and stick with the Dodgers.

Adam Wainwright won his 20th game last night

Adam Wainwright
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Adam Wainwright shut out the Cubs for seven innings last night and notched his 20th win of the year. He joins Clayton Kershaw in that club. If it wasn’t for Kershaw, Wainwright would probably be picking up a Cy Young award too. Going 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA for a division winning team will do that for you most years.

It seems like Wainwright has had a lot of those years. As Bob Nightengale noted this morning, he is one of the greatest pitchers to never win a Cy Young award. In an era where 20-game winners are a lot more rare than they used to be, Wainwright has won 19 or 20 games in four of his last five seasons. That’s made all the more special given that those seasons wrap around a year lost to Tommy John surgery. No, wins aren’t everything. But when you get enough of them, consistently over time, it does tell you something.

Maybe even more than people who tend to like wins as a stat will even give Wainwright credit for:

I’m sure Ringolsby meant that as praise, but really, that’s a slight to Wainwright when you look at all of the other stats those two have. He’s more like the Dave Stieb of his era. Or Mike Mussina. Like those guys, he may end up as a guy who is widely considered a top ace during his career, only to become somewhat under-appreciated after he retires due to the lack of hardware.

Actually, Wainwright is better than Stieb and probably Mussina too. And his World Series rings and heroics will make up for the lack of hardware. But I do feel like people are going to forget how good Wainwright is when they assess his career after the fact.

John Schuerholz defines “The Braves Way.” And it’s a pretty big pile of crap.

John Scheurholz
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Yesterday, during the press conference announcing the firing of Frank Wren, team president and former GM John Schuerholz made mention of “The Braves Way,” and suggested that the team had gotten away from that in recent years. He was finally asked by someone to define it. Here is what he said:

It’s a special way of identifying young players who you want to become part of your organization with great comfort and expectation that when they put on a Braves uniform, they’ll be taught well, instructed well. Their makeup and their character will allow them to turn into winning championship-caliber players. They’ll fill the pipeline of this organization with highly capable, high-character, young, winning men who help you win many, many championships on a major league level, year after year after year.

If you need to vomit, please do. You’ll feel better afterward.

I am not dismissive of the idea that a team needs an organizing philosophy and that the culture of any institution matters. But it’s just culture. It’s not, as Schuerholz suggests here, the primary organizational criteria or mission statement and it’s not the basis for actually finding talent. The idea is to win a lot of baseball games. Talent is mostly an objective thing. You get smart scouts and analysts to find it, good coaches to develop it and you pay money to sign and retain it. It’s not easy — not by a longshot — but it’s made all the more difficult if you then start making that process subservient to makeup and character.

But I don’t even think the Braves have done that too much, actually. They won with John Rocker and Gary Sheffield and Denny Neagle and all kinds of other jackwagons. The won by drafting and developing players and they won by signing free agent mercenaries. They have won with Bobby Cox managing well and they’ve won with Fredi Gonzalez being nearly unable to get out of his own way. They’re no different than any other baseball team. And they are no more special than any baseball team.

I suspect John Schuerholz truly believes in “The Braves Way.” As the guys at Talking Chop note, there’s probably some healthy nostalgia at work. But there’s also some self-deception at work. Schuerholz sounds a lot like most of us do when we look back at our successes and assign them to our own skill and will and tend to forget the good fortune and sometimes dubious decisions which, against all odds, helped those successes along. Schuerholz and Bobby Cox did a ton to turn the Braves from losers to winners in the late 80s and early 90s. They also had things like the Padres’ 1993 fire sale and Greg Maddux’s aversion to playing in New York work in their favor. Perhaps his memory dwells on the grit and overachievement of Mark Lemke, but paying top dollar for Andres Galarraga and enduring and making excuses for John Rocker helped a whole hell of a lot too.

This “Braves Way” stuff is aimed at getting a certain segment of fan to be OK with losing and to be OK without paying top dollar for talent. To get some people to, more or less, say “Hey, this may not be ideal, but at least we have not sacrificed our 100% invented-on-the-spot principles just to win!” To ignore the fact that the team has played the local populace for a new stadium it didn’t need and to overlook the fact that Liberty Media, the team’s owners, are way, way more interested in the Braves turning a profit than they are in hoisting championship banners.

Maybe that suckers enough fans into being cool with underachievement. It’s Atlanta, after all, and once football season starts people stop caring an awful lot. But for hardcore baseball fans, it’s no substitute for doing everything possible to put the best team on the field and for simply winning. The Braves haven’t always done that lately. They need to start doing that more and start worrying about slogans like “The Braves Way” less.