A stat-savvy player talks about the value of Michael Young, intangibles and clubhouse chemistry

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I and a lot of other sabermetrically-inclined writers have taken our shots at clubhouse chemistry and the lionization of players who are thought to be far better than their numbers suggest due to any number of intangible factors.  I and those same sabermetrically-inclined writers have also developed a fondness for Diambondbacks’ pitcher Brandon McCarthy because he is one of the more stat-savvy players out there (and because he’s active and interactive on social media and the like).

But if you think McCarthy is going to fall in line with our thinking on the clubhouse chemistry and soft/intangible factors thing, you’re wrong. To the contrary, he will tell you straight up that those things matter to players on a team and have value that the so-called smart set usually fail to acknowledge.  I had an offline discussion with McCarthy to this effect a few months ago, and — though it hasn’t stopped me from ripping Michael Young and all of that in my usual ways — did make me appreciate that it’s not just the fanboys of those gritty leader types who think that way.

Now, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic goes on-the-record with McCarthy who explains why he understands how Young got MVP votes and how much clubhouse leaders matter. After explaining some of the little things Michael Young does that most of us don’t see in terms of giving advice to other players, he talks generally about good clubhouse guys:

It doesn’t have to be veterans at the top or guys that everybody regards as good clubhouse guys, but it’s just good people – and the more of them that are around usually the better things will kind of go. I think. It’s one of those things that I think misses in the sabermetric community, especially among the super snarky writers. But it is there. You don’t have to build a team around that, but I’m a big believer in at least having one or two of those guys on every team. Not overpaying him necessarily, but getting him in there. Guys that just have that infectious nature, they get in there – they’re good cancer, they spread everywhere – and guys are like, ‘I love that guy.’”

It’s certainly not anything that is quantifiable and for that reason I am and will continue to be skeptical when baseball writers and awards voters make claims about just how valuable that sort of thing is. And I simply will never buy that that sort of thing comes close to equalling let alone outweighing actual on-the-field production when it comes to helping teams win ballgames.

But I can see where he’s coming from and I can see how these factors can be important to ballplayers. We all want to work in supportive, friendly and collaborative environments and for that reason these things are valuable.

UPDATE: McCarthy makes a clarification:

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.