Friday, May 27, 2016

Hot Take Gets Away From Blowhards, Beans Math.

I thought the cascade of dumb began this morning on 98.5, when the Toucher and Rich show raised the idea that Red Sox manager John Farrell was responsible for Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 29-game hitting streak ending last night, because Farrell moved Bradley to leadoff in the batting order. I was wrong, When baseball meets mean-spirited idiocy in this town, always bet on Felger and Mazz.

Let's give the two rabble-rousers, or do I mean just rabble, credit for a first guess. They ripped Farrell for the move when the Sox lineup was posted Thursday afternoon before Bradley's 0-fer-4 against the Rockies. Today of course, they were full of specious self-congratulation, while second-string third banana James Stewart recited stats showing how Bradley had been tearing up the old pea patch when he batted seventh, eighth or ninth in the Boston order.

It's pretty hard to have a 29-game hit streak and NOT be compiling gaudy stats, but no matter. The argument, to use a word this idea does not deserve, was twofold. 1. Bradley was mentally thrown off by his promotion to the top of the lineup and 2. You shouldn't change anything when a batter's on a tear.

Proposition one could only come from a long distance from a baseball clubhouse. Unless they are a utility infielder or backup catcher ALL players think they have the goods to hit at the top or middle of any lineup. Without that belief, they would never have made it to the big leagues.

In 1973, highly touted Phillies rookie Mike Schmidt hit a cool .193. I attended the 1974 home opener,, which Schmidt won with a two-run homer batting out of the eighth spot. Driving home afterwards, I heard a postgame radio show where Schmidt said, "I've never thought of myself as a number eight hitter." Neither did the Phillies starting about a week later.

If Bradley Jr. is as good a hitter the rest of 2016 as he's been to date, it would be criminal malfeasance for Farrell to keep him at the bottom of the batting order. To belabor what ought to be obvious but isn't, and as was known by John McGraw and is known to the most advanced sabermetricians, the purpose of the batting order is to maximize a team's chances to score runs. Having the best hitters at its top is how this is done, because the guys at the top get up to bat more often than their brethren batting sixth or lower.

It should also be noted that the leadoff man gets more plate appearances than any other hitter. For a batter with a lengthy hitting streak, this improves his chances of getting one in a game. Farrell was only trying to win a ballgame, but he was also giving Bradley the best possible chance to keep his streak alive.

In the event, two of Bradley's outs were flies to the center and right field walls in Fenway. He wasn't so shaken by his promotion he couldn't make solid contact.

The belief Farrell tampered with a hot streak and thus lost it is pure and simple, no make that just simple, superstition. You can go down to Foxwoods this weekend and watch people lose serious money at craps and roulette following what Felger, Mazz, and God help us, more than one ESPN commentator passed off as insider baseball analysis.

The dumb doesn't bother me. If I had hours of radio time to fill, I'd say plenty of dumb stuff too. What's awful about this rip of Farrell is that it's such a perfect example of the sports talk radio ethos. Something bad happened. So it MUST be somebody's fault, and that person must be brought to account. There's no success. Winners are just the beneficiaries of other people's reprehensible failures.

A lot of hosts around this great land of ours become well-off and well-known espousing that worldview.  But I have to think a steady diet of bile and vinegar is raising hell with their digestive tracts.


At 6:56 AM, Blogger Cape Cod Scott said...

Amen Michael...F and M have become unlistenable...and I was with Felger from the beginning when you couldn't even get the signal from the station he was on. Never been a Mazz fan. But when you can take the negative side unfailingly even in situations where someone did something well, I have to decline. I must admit, I'm enjoying the free time I now have by not listening to the "bile and vinegar" any more. Thanks for continuing to post your thuoghts!


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