Sunday, December 26, 2004

I am split. I can't decide if I like Beltran or not.

The boy in me wants us to sign him at any cost. Did you see the playoffs? Did you see him hit eight homers in 12 games? Did you see him make that AMAZING diving catch against the Cardinals? Beltran is the best player the Astros have EVER seen, and we'd be the dumbest team in HISTORY not to sign him when we have the chance.

But the cynic in me is skeptical. Yeah, he had a great postseason... I'll give him that. But his numbers aren't that great. Career OBP? .353. Career slugging? .490. Just... not... the Baseball God everyone's made him out to be.

And so, the omnipresent baseball conundrum: statistics versus intangibles. The long run versus the typical day. A game played on paper versus a game played on a diamond. Moneyball versus our National Pasttime.

A part of me hates Moneyball. A part of me hates Billy Beane and the way he treats his managers and coaches and scouts and PLAYERS like dirt. Like he's the only one who knows how to win at baseball. Like they are the insignificant pawns to protect him, the almighty King.

Rememer Miguel Tejada, circa 2002? The utterly indescribable spectacle that he alone put on in the Summer of '02, winning game after game on walk-off hits? The stunning, spine-tingling stupefaction you felt when you saw him raise his hands to the sky in pure ecstasy and jump atop the mob of bobbing Athletics as they celebrated their 18th.. no, 19th... no, TWENTIETH!!!! WIN!!!! IN A ROW!!!!

Well, old Billy Beane didn't give a shit. Not about the streak. Not about Miguel Tejada. Not about how his team won games so long as they DID. Tejada he calls "Mr. Swing-at-Everything." Which he does. Billy Beane hates Tejada because he can't draw walks. Because he doesn't "fit in" to Oakland's "system." Of course, he can drive in the most RBI in the American League with Baltimore.

The point I'm getting at is this: Baseball is not a numbers game. As much as you want to think it's ALL about statistics... as much as you try to break the game down into segments of information and data... as much as you convince yourself that pitchers and batters and defenders are all just the representation of pre-ordained percentages of consequence... as much as you think you have the game all figured out to the slightest infinitesimal decimal... you are wrong.

Go to a game. Buy a hot dog. I don't care, watch it on t.v. You will see something you have never seen before. You will see something no one could have predicted or rationalized or even imagined. Most importantly, you will not see numbers running around on the field, turning an impossible double-play or picking off a man at first or narrowly avoiding a tag at home. These are something numbers cannot predict.

Playoffs, as we all know, leave statistics in the dust. Adam Kennedy CAN hit three homers in a game to win the win the ALCS. Ramon Hernandez CAN drop down a bunt to win a game (Do you think Billy Beane even watched that one?). Brandon Backe CAN pitch one-hit ball for eight innings against St. Louis. But the playoffs are just a microchosm for the regular season. These games happen ALL THE TIME. One hundred and sixty-two of them by each team. And no matter what the statistcis say, circumstance will always prevail. The Devil Rays CAN win 100 games. Impossible is nothing.

Rant over.

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