Sunday, February 15, 2004

Spin Control

Happy Valentine's Day Red Sox fans -- the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez. As Dan Shaughnessy sits down to write the long-awaited sequel to Curse of the Bambino, Sox fans everywhere are crying in their Kix. And how can you blame them? Frankly, this one hurts. This story is like an aneurysm, it comes out of nowhere, sends my body into shock, and almost makes my brain explode. Larry Lucchino is making the talk show rounds and sounds about as convincing as Dennis Kucinich using the phrase "When I become president...". This is a sad day indeed (doesn't help that the Ninth is at work on a Sunday). Silver linings are hard to find. Jennifer Garner just flirted with the Red Sox for two hours, insisted that she really liked us but wasn't ready for a relationship right now, and then started dating Enrique Iglesias. I mean Enrique Iglesias. Of all people. But here's something to look at. And The Ninth realizes it is the proverbial mole hill compared to the mountain (poor, sad moles), but it warrants mentioning. In Rob Neyer style, here are two player lines:


Player 1 606 104 185 34 45 140 .306 .388 .588 356

Player 2 607 124 181 30 47 118 .298 .396 .600 364

Ok, who is the greatest shortstop who ever lived, and who is the All-Star third baseman that will almost certainly be forgotten by history? Guesses? Stop raising your hand Mr. Kucinich. Player 1 is Phil Nevin, and 2 is ARod. Now this display is somewhat unfair, as we've used only one year from each player (Arod's most recent and Nevin's last injury-free one), and we had to multiply out Nevin a bit to give even at-bats. Also, Phil's last healthy season was by far his best, while Alex's 2003 campaign was somewhat subpar. But the numbers, even with these skews, are pretty revealing. They're pretty similar seasons, hu? ARod is a remarkable shortstop, and deserves every accolade he gets at that position. You move him ten steps to his right however, and things change a bit. The numbers he puts up are wonderful to have, and obviously make a great improvement over Mike Lamb, but he looks a lot more like top a 5 MVP candidate than a top 5 All-time candidate over there. Look, a HUGE part of Alex's value is gold glove ability at the most important position. You move him to the hot corner and not only are you losing the full impact of that glove, but you're moving his offensive production to a position that demands that type of excellence. To hit over 40 HR's as a shortstop is historic, but third baseman do it all the time. Tony Batista, Troy Glaus, Phil Nevin, Vinny Castilla. A nice cocktail party, but pardon me if I don't take a picture. That Polaroid film is expensive. Third baseman are supposed to knock the ball around, shortstops are supposed to pick it up. Because ARod could do both made him a marvel. But to do that at third gets you into the Mike Schmidt/Brooks Robinson debate, not the Willie Mays/Babe Ruth one. Now the Yankees have more money on the left side of their infield than the Pirates do on their entire roster, and they still don't have a guy who can play short. Don't get me wrong, it's emotionally devastating that New York could pull off in two days what it took Boston two months to fail at, but by putting Rodriguez at third, they've turned him into a different level of player. Phil Nevin ain't bad, but he's still Phil Nevin.