On Morgan being stupid

DMZ · October 2, 2004 at 11:51 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Some people have pointed me to Joe Morgan’s latest inanity, where he advocates keeping a different rule book for different season lengths. Which, I suppose, means that we should keep a near-infinite number of rule books, because some teams have games rained out and others don’t. Some years are shortened because of labor problems, or whatever. This is just dumb. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but Dante Bichette holds the record for games played in a 117-game season (with 116).

If we buy into the basic argument here — that different eras should have their own records — we have to get into ridiculous distinctions, like “He had the highest on-base percentage in a year where the average ERA was whatever.”

Baseball changes. Seasons are longer, and travel is both harder and easier than it was then. The equipment is much different. The way the game is played is much different.

Records are records. Ichiro has the most hits of any player in a single season.


12 Responses to “On Morgan being stupid”

  1. Raymond on October 2nd, 2004 1:17 pm

    I only read Joe Morgan’s articles and Chat Wraps on espn.com so I can get a good laugh. He’s amazing at answering a question with a non-answer, contradicting himself in the same sentence, and being an overall moron.

  2. Matt Williams on October 2nd, 2004 1:35 pm

    Does this mean we’ll also have to start counting lengths of careers for everything too? We’ll have the 2,000 hits club, the 2,000 hits club for guys who played 15 years, 14 years, 13 years…

    Joe Morgan’s career numbers were certainly padded by the fact that he played more years than most, maybe we should take him out of the normal hall of fame and start a special one for “long career” players to make it fair to the guys who got lots of hits/home runs/whatever in fewer years.

    Counting stats are counting stats. They’ve always had problems like that.

  3. nick on October 2nd, 2004 1:44 pm

    nice. my favorite example of this is the record for most games played in a single season. i doubt many people know this one, or would guess that it’s not a tie but held by one player- maury wills with 165.

  4. Metz on October 2nd, 2004 4:08 pm

    The only reason I read wht Joe Morgan writes any more is to see what new way he has to expose his stupidity. It’s like watching a train wreck, you don’t want to watch it but you just can’t tear yourself away.

  5. Paul Covert on October 2nd, 2004 5:02 pm

    It surprises me a little that Morgan, who seems to regard himself as the defender of old-school baseball thinking, would be looking down on Ichiro. I would have expected him to tell us about how Ichiro shows us that you can be a great ballplayer without buying into the walk-and-homer philosophy, like Billy Beane’s book Moneyball says everybody should, and to cite a couple of unguarded statements from Joe at BP to prove that these smug numbers-obsessed statheads don’t appreciate what the game’s really about.

    What’s really ironic about Morgan, though, is that in the Historical Abstract (IIRC) Bill James considers the characteristics of a smart ballplayer– high SB%, walk rate, specialized defensive skills like DP turns for a middle infielder– and concludes that Joe Morgan was one of the smartest ballplayers ever, along with Jackie Robinson. Furthermore, as far back as the 1983 Abstract (the second nationally-published one), James wrote that “For years and years, Joe Morgan was the best ballplayer in the National League…. Yes, Morgan did win two MVP awards– after he towered over the league like Babe Ruth in a Babe Ruth league…. And so, for a brief time, the public became dimly aware that Joe Morgan was a great ballplayer, which they quickly and happily forgot as soon as he was no longer the greatest player in the game.” And, for this, all Morgan can do is to take the science that most clearly establishes his career’s value and treat it like the dirt beneath his feet.

    And so it might well be said that “the stupidest analyst in baseball is still as smart as the smartest ballplayer… in fact, they’re the very same person.” (Okay, technically I suppose that’s not true, Kruk gives us even more “nuggets” than Morgan does; but I still think it’s close enough to the truth to be pretty funny.) 🙂

  6. dave paisley on October 2nd, 2004 5:44 pm
  7. Jim Thomsen on October 2nd, 2004 7:47 pm

    John Kruk was also a smart ballplayer … took some walks, generally played within his limitations. Tim McCarver, another doofus, was a decent percentage ballplayer. Wonder what all they hung up when they “hung it up”?

  8. Paul Covert on October 2nd, 2004 9:31 pm

    Re. “what all they hung up”: My best idea there is that on-field execution requires a different kind of intelligence (pardon the psycho-jargon) from strategical analysis. On-field intelligence would of course be a more intuitive thing, would be tied in with good muscle memory, sharp powers of observation, and a accurate sense of risk to tell them when they can try something (swing at a pitch, dive for a grounder, try to steal a base) and succeed at it. Also very importantly, their minds would need to be able to withstand the thousands of repetitions on the practice field and in the cage that they’d need to hone their skills. (One of the most fascinating bits in Moneyball was when Billy Beane was in the minors, not playing up to his potential, decided to experiment with switch-hitting– and immediately went on a hot streak. The interpretation of this is simple: Billy was bored. Only when he was trying something new could he sustain his interest in playing the game. Can you imagine Alex Rodriguez getting bored with taking grounders?)

    But to a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. This of course poses dangers for statheads as well as for insiders; we also run the risk of incorrectly thinking that only the answers provided by our tools are meaningful. But in the case of Morgan, Kruk, and McCarver, what they have that most people don’t is major-league experience. Therefore it’s natural for them to see that as the most important thing in the world, without which, as Kruk says, “you just don’t know.” This needn’t be a purely selfish thing, mind you; it’s likely that they recognize in their fellow major-leaguers the sort of baseball sense that I described above, and find something to be missing in the writings of non-ballplayers that, to them, makes it all sound hollow.

    It also doesn’t surprise me that the mainstream media would (for the most part) sympathize more with the insiders than with the analysts. People like Bob Finnigan don’t get their jobs just at random (tempting though it might be to speculate about that at times); to be a journalist requires a real skill, specifically, the ability to bang out 1000 words or so on a short deadline. And Bob Finnigan can do that much better than I can; if I tried to do that, I’d get all hung up wondering whether the point I was making in the second paragraph was really strictly accurate or worth emphasizing, and then realize that the deadline was 20 minutes away, requiring me to pound out the last 800 words in a meaningless stream of consciousness while ignoring the voice in the back of my head screaming, “THIS IS GARBAGE! THIS IS GARBAGE!”

    In particular, the skill required of journalists is of the same kind as that required of ballplayers, if less obviously unique. Both journalists and ballplayers have to be able to sustain intensity at a repetitive task without getting caught up in what they call “the paralysis of analysis.” Whatever traditional enmities might exist between them are dwarfed by the gulf between their task-execution skills and the reflective-analytical tendencies of sabermetricians, concerning whom they both share the feeling that something just isn’t right.

  9. eponymous coward on October 2nd, 2004 10:00 pm

    Well, let’s see, Earl Weaver, not much of a player, hell of a manager. Ditto Branch Rickey- both of whom were pioneers in melding statistical analysis with the game.

  10. eponymous coward on October 2nd, 2004 10:00 pm

    Well, Rickey was a GM, but you get the idea.

  11. Scraps on October 3rd, 2004 2:02 pm

    I’m not going to pay to attend Joe Morgan’s chats, but I sure wish someone would ask him whether there ought to be two different listings for the career hits record, since Pete Rose had eight more games every year to collect his hits than Ty Cobb did.

  12. James Billliker on October 11th, 2004 1:16 am

    The proof that this record IS important and Ichiro’s breaking it IS significant is the fact that the taditional BU–SH– is coming from the faces-change-but-the-crap-remains-the-same crowd as Maris’ 61 HR season and Aaron’s overtaking the Babe.
    Look, if it was some crappy, nobody-cares stat, then of course NOBODY WOULD BOTHER to argue its significance.

    Frankly, I think some of the Stat guys whom I think a lot of are ticked off (for now, later they’ll love him for it) because a guy like Ichiro throws a monkeywrench into their just barely settling assumptions about the sport and the meaning/importance of the stats they analyse. They want to be experts right now more than they want to understand the game, like Lavosier [?] declaring the simple “impossibility” of meteorites because they couldn’t be reconciled with the model then proposed, and still not well-established.
    People are happy, people are angrily dismissive. Ichiro has done an amazing and significant thing.

    May many more follow, for our enjoyment!