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2024 Red Sox and Dodgers, most disruptive player in baseball history, the meaning of MVP

Saturday 12/23/23

Yesterday I saw where a Red Sox fan said they were optimistic about the team for 2024 and going forward for a number of reasons, and then enumerated them.


I think that almost everything I see from people is wrong. Whether it pertains to the Beatles, writing, or sports. Anything. Very rarely do I find that anyone is close to the truth.


I looked at this guy's ten reasons and thought, wrong, wrong, highly unlikely, unfounded, wrong, wrong, etc. Of course, 100,000 people couldn't have agreed with him more.


For instance, he said that he thought there was a great chance that Triston Casas will be a perennial MVP candidate.


Perennial MVP candidate. So, Triston Casas is going to be who? Frank Robinson? Who is a perennial MVP candidate? Mickey Mantle? Albert Pujols for the first half of his career?


With Casas, you should hope you get two or three seasons with 30 homers and 100 RBI and a nice on base percentage.


Do you know how difficult it is to do that? To have like three or four star-level years? It's a low percentage of players. Virtually no one in the game's history is an annual MVP candidate. It's the inner circle Hall guys.


Then he opined that the defense should be pretty strong, with the great Trevor Story anchoring that defense at shortstop like we got Luis Aparicio over here.


Who is going to play short after Story gets hurt? And why would you assume that his arm will be what it needs to be or will hold up?


Next it was the bullpen, and how it will be "even better" this year. Why? Chris Martin had a career year last year. He's not going to duplicate that. It was a one-off. Further, this will be his age thirty-eight season. (People almost never factor in age with their sports "takes," like they have no clue that it exists and if you were whatever at twenty-five you'll be the exact same thing at forty.) He has a career WAR total of 7.6. 3.2 of that came last year in what was a wild aberration of a year. Sure, he can be still be good. But he is highly unlikely to be near last year's level.


Then he talked about the untapped potential and the high ceiling of Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock. I have no reason to think Houck will ever be better than worse than average and Whitlock middling and plagued with injury issues. Why would anyone have any rational reason to think anything else? What indicates otherwise?


I wouldn't worry about the Dodgers. That sounds glib. But they have a better chance of being knocked out in the Division Series than they do of winning the thing. Yes, they are the new face of baseball gluttony, a current day Evil Empire in the Yankees' former roll. Lot of pressure on that team. I don't think they'll win some historic total like 115 games. First of all, you have no idea how a pitcher from Japan is going to do. Who is the best Japanese pitcher ever, in terms of MLB success? You're stuck, right? Hideo Nomo?


The thing with the Dodgers is that they just have so many great players that none of them need to be outstanding or as outstanding as they can be and they'll still win a lot of games. A number of those guys could even have down years and they Dodgers would still be able to be good.


As for Ohtani: He's not that good. You can't say that! You have sinned, Fleming! I'll break this down more later. But he's a limited offensive player--he's a home run hitter primarily. Okay, he can definitely win a title or two as a piece. He probably will. But I don't think you have some dynasty about to happen here. You might even end up seeing what becomes a cautionary tale that someone writes a book about later.


I will say this, for what it's worth: Attempting to purchase a championship--which is essentially what the Dodgers are shooting for with their roster--rarely works in baseball. Or any sport. The 2002 Detroit Red Wings are the exception. The turn of the century Yankees paid huge dollars, but the most important guys were their guys to begin with. Sure, they had to resign them and if it were another team they would have likely moved because they'd have bigger offers. I get that it's an individual sport compared to hockey, but a baseball team still has a personality, it's still a group that needs a kind of cohesiveness between the lines.


Was reading a discussion about Rickey Henderson, with several people maintaining that he wasn't considered a Hall of Fame lock until sometime in the 1990s and didn't get discussed as this huge star in the 1980s.


This is false. He was always considered a huge star and it didn't take long before he was regularly referenced as the best leadoff hitter in the game's history. During the 1980s, Henderson's reputation was something like that of Grant Fuhr. The consensus was that Fuhr was the best goalie in the world, never mind his high GAA relative to the league leaders. He was viewed as an amazing athlete with a unique skill set and different means were necessary to evaluate just how great he was.


Henderson was this way. You couldn't go by home runs, RBI, and batting average, which were the big metrics at the time. His athleticism was seen--rightly--as virtuosically disruptive. Henderson, Jackie Robinson, and Ty Cobb were the most offensively disruptive players the game has known. They raised the opponent's stress level in various ways. As soon as one of them got on base, the stress meter went up, even when they didn't steal--it was by dint of being there, and what they might do, what it seemed like they were about to do, were threatening to do, and then often did do.


All of that energy on the base paths. The stopping, the starting, the leads. Helped out the batter in the at the plate, too. More likely to see a fat one. Or get walked. Or that the pitcher would uncork a wild pitch. Helped the batter, helped the team. Henderson made pitchers more uncomfortable in the aggregate of his career than arguably anyone ever. Perhaps more than Babe Ruth, who was terrifying at the dish, but at least it ended there.


People also cared about steals in the 1980s, and that was probably enough all by itself to get Henderson into the Hall of Fame in most people's eyes. He was a huge, flashy (not the least because of how he played; talk about attitude and swagger) star before he won his MVP. Also, there was no one like him in the game at the time, or really ever.


Vince Coleman, for a time, was a very poor man's Henderson, with none of the other skills besides the base stealing. I saw where someone said Coleman was to steals as Dave Kingman was to home runs. I get the point, but it's not a very sound analogy. Coleman had a few years of high volume stolen base production. Kingman hit home runs for a long time.


I don't think there are many instances where the player who gets the MVP in baseball really had no viable case for it. You can not have a good case but still a sort of "kind of" case. I understand why Kirk Gibson was the MVP in 1988, because the award went to the most valuable player--which is not always the same as best (it often is not)--and there wasn't an abundance of worthy candidates.


But Dwight Gooden not winning the MVP in 1985 (Willie McGee got it that year) really stands out to me. He had the best season of any pitcher of my lifetime. Yes, better than Pedro Martinez in 2000 because Gooden gave you more and was out there longer. Take him off those Mets and they weren't knocking on the door. (If the something akin to the current playoff format existed at the time, I could have seen the Mets winning it all that year, which means they'd be unlikely to the following year and who knows, the Red Sox might have beat the Astros in the 1986 World Series.)


Clemens in 1986 wasn't as good as Gooden was in 1985, but I believe he was more valuable to his team yet. Clemens set the tone early for that year and got everyone believing a pennant was there to be had. Lot of good ballplayers on that Red Sox team, but Clemens made them go in 1986 and opened up other possibilities. You don't often see a starting pitcher be a momentum source for an entire season, but Clemens was. MVP has to do with context, not just WAR, which is all anyone thinks it's about now. No one pays any mind whatsoever to the adjective and its qualifier in the name of the award.



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