Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Outside the Aviary: "We've Become What We Hate."

The phrase, “the casual fan” used to be a term that absolutely infuriated me. Aren’t most fans “casual fans?” Shouldn’t people without insider status be considered the majority without being less informed? Sports are simple enough to avoid anything other than unilateral thought, right? I realized, with this baseball off-season, the difference is quite simple.

In 2001, I became a baseball superfan. I wanted to know everything. I read numerous books, discovered internet chat rooms and began hunting the perfect stats. Since this time, I have become more than a casual fan. Nothing refines your understanding more than trying to understand the ridiculous nature of Red Sox baseball. The fans are rabid, the players are constantly maligned, and the Front Office is under the microscope like viruses—honest to God infections. Meticulous and morose, the superfan must take each signing with a grain of salt, each personnel move with a casual fan’s indifference but the mentality of a possessed and still-infatuated girlfriend. Who is this new scout? Where did you meet HIM?

The true test is to ignore media typecasting and see each signing, trade or decision long-term and wait out the usual period of malaise (especially pertinent to the off-season since the superfan must wait for the season with a the awkward gait of a runner finishing a marathon—attention to other sports just seems so forced). For example, it was hard seeing Pedro Martinez go. The casual fan in me screamed “NOOOOOOOOO” while collapsing on the sidewalk in the middle of a rainstorm. The superfan took a few weeks, examined the value of the draft picks, considered Pedro’s proclivity for future injuries and decided it was the smart move to let someone else pay millions for him to hang out on IR. Smarts wins again. The same went for Bill Mueller (one of my personal favorite batting champions of all time), Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe (well, maybe not), Trot Nixon (another favorite) and the same would go for Manny Ramirez if they are stupid enough to let him go without getting at least Sheffield value out of him.

Point of fact, last night was a ridiculous test of my objections to casual fandom. With the announcements of Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew (and the possibility of “Mr. Injured Reserve” Eric Gagne), I was forced to evaluate two players I completely detested as players. As recently as last week I read three articles maligning Drew especially, and my dislike of Lugo was simply his seemingly sub-par efficiency at both the field and the plate (remember: casual fan only takes into focus seeing Lugo play for the Rays and against the Sox, a team altogether owned by the Sox for the most part). So, before going to bed, I enveloped both moves. I saw altered Fenway-specific stats and projections, recommendations, message board inquiries, player interviews and other superfan reactions to these signings.

I’ve decided to take into account both voices in regarding these signings. Drew’s is up now. Lugo’s will come later. Here, in effect, is J.D. Drew from the casual fan and superfan takes:

J.D. Drew:
Here’s the way I see it. Having looked at his numbers and taken into account he will be relieved by Wily Mo Pena more than a few times in the coming season, I’m projecting some stats (completely from me after having seen other projections and taking into account I watch enough baseball to try this out):

Without Manny Ramirez:
130 73 21 83 60 6 3 .265 .365 .459 20.1*

With Manny Ramirez:
130 88 25 93 71 6 3 .285 .388 .485 21.1*

*- I know what Value over Replacement Player is, what it means, and why it is important, but not how to calculate it. I stole this as a composite number of some other blogs' calculations. Such is life. Also, the Stolen Bases and Caught Stealing stats are contingent upon my belief that Drew will try and steal around 10 bases, you know, for shits and giggles.

OK. Those are projections after reading numerous attempts at seeing how Fenway will affect his psyche; abilities and taking into account his injury-prone nature.

Boston Media Take: Another in a long line of mistakes made to cover old mistakes (in this case losing Arroyo for unproven Wily Mo). He must shed his “soft” image for fans to like him. Overpaid, and not likely worth his market value. Generally, aligned with the venomous horde that is Red Sox writers.

Casual Fan’s Take: I liked Trot Nixon. Seems to me, we’re paying double the money for a decent improvement over already poor power numbers. Why not take the fan favorite, hard-working, already oft-injured, original “dirt dog” over Drew? Why give up on a guy that has put his heart and soul into the team and the fans? I don’t like this move at all. I can see him being a softer version of Nixon and playing 110 games. I just don’t see the money working out. Boras wins again.

Superfan’s Take: The numbers aren’t exactly $14 million-worthy, but he’s got the seal of approval from Bull Mueller: “the way J.D. is, he goes about business the way I do. Usually when people have that kind of personality, they do fine because they go out there and play their hearts out.” That’s coming from one of my favorites from an era that redefined the way I watch sports. The more I dissect this move—the market being what it was—a payment nightmare—and what we had on the field last year, this is a smart move to upgrade from a statistical aberration last year. Nixon was great, but Drew is more of a potential breakout player—Trot had his time to develop his power back to larger umbers behind a fantastic set of hitters, and never reproduced his efforts from earlier in his Sox career. I support the move, though not wholeheartedly.

Immediate Judgment: I’m in favor of J.D. Drew. I can’t believe I wrote that. Christ. What have I become? Ugh. I’m going to drink a bottle of 4 dollar wine tonight.

Note: I can't post this without giving a shoutout to Jon Lester who beat fucking CANCER. All sports talk aside, that's some major shit. He deserves hall of fame consideration for this. Cancer altered his very young existence, but he was lucky and brave enough to earn a clean bill of health. Congrats to Jon and the Lester family.


Anonymous said...

I like your take on the casual fan v. superfan take, but you completely lost me on the Manny Ramirez-related stat comparison (partly because it isn't alligned properly). Were you measuring Drew with and without Manny's presence in the lineup? I think so.

Honestly, I think anyone in favor of the JD Drew signing is missing a screw. It is clearly one of the most idiotic signings in baseball history. Drew has played nine seasons, and only once has he reached at least 500 at-bats in a season. Think about that. He's missed 50 or more games in a season four times. If Sox fans were worried about Pedro's health, they have no idea what's coming to them now.

Drew's career 162 Game Average Season numbers are: .286/.396/.512 27 homers 86 ribs.

The OPS is great, yes, but when you consider that homeboy only plays 2/3 of a season, those numbers are greatly devalued.

$14 million a year for five years? I would have much preferred Moises Alou as a one-year rental for $6 million less. Want a lefty? Fine. I'd take Geoff Jenkins over Drew at a discount.

The Sox have come undone. I question whether anyone over there knows what the fuck they're doing. $9 million for Julio Lugo? Next they're going to get Armando Benitez to close.

Nice blog.

Business or Leisure? said...

Thanks, friend. I cmopletely agree with you, in all seriousness. I'm still essentially a casual fan at heart, and the gut instinct is: fuck JD Drew and fuck the Red Sox number crunching that has brought us roughly 903785690234i9078954213879546 shortstops in the past four years. I was just trying to justify the fact that I want them to succeed.

I'll try to clear up the manny v. no manny argument.