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Baseball: 30-30 club, decade teams, contextual Acuna, postseason preview, Schwarber/Kingman, Sox tix

Tuesday 10/3/23

There was this period in the 1980s when becoming a member of the 30-30 club in baseball was all the rage. It was hyped and hot at the time. Baseball card prices jumped for the guys who made the club, and then the fad fizzled. It was back this year, and I have to think it was a lot easier to steal bases than it has been in a long time on account of these pizza box-sized bags. Nineteen players had at least 20 homers and 20 steals, and five players reached the 30-30 mark.

I saw this item when Francisco Lindor became a 30-30 man saying he was "only" the fourth Met to do so. Four seems like a lot. Does any other club have more? I suppose it's possible, but that's a big haul for one franchise. The stolen base is overrated (but also cool and useful to a degree and imperative in certain situations). I love Luis Aparicio--he's my second all-time favorite player--and he led the league in stolen bases regularly, but he never scored 100 runs in a season, and he was on some very good ball clubs.

The stolen base is one reason people overvalue Ronald Acuna's season. There's so much hyperbole. First, everyone--or nearly everyone--said that Ohtani is the greatest ballplayer ever having the best season ever. No and no. Not close either way. Then, it's Acuna who has had the best season ever. Also a big no. I've written here that Acuna may well win the NL MVP award unanimously, and I'd have no problem with that. But for some perspective: his WAR was 8.1. People want things both ways, depending on what is most favorable to their argument at the time. They want analytics to serve as the end all be all when that suits their agenda, and they want to ignore analytics when it doesn't.

Rico Petrocelli had a 10 WAR season. Which is what Ohtani had this year. So really Ohtani at his best as a two-way player has never had a better year than Petrocelli had in 1970 (for which he finished all of seventh in the AL MVP voting). Don't get mad at me--that's what the numbers say.

Where would I put Acuna's season historically speaking? Well, if we're counting pitchers, I'd put it in the top 400, perhaps. That's a long way away from best season ever. People know nothing. They don't know that which came before. They don't know history. They see 40-70, and they make some idiotic declaration because that's how life is now. Most people speak and think like life is one big post on Twitter for clicks. It's a "Say whatever the hell you want" world, not a "Try and be intelligent" one. And I'm someone who thinks Acuna should be the runaway MVP. But I also know what I know. Acuna's 40-70 was what Canseco's 40-40 was in 1988, the big buzz generator.

Last night as I was falling asleep I went through the decades trying to determine who had the best single team in baseball for that ten year span. Some decades are easy--the 1920s and the 1927 Yankees, for example. It's the Yankees in a lot of decades. 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1990s. The 1980s make for interesting discussion on this topic. The 1984 Tigers were start-to-finish dominant. They're a contender. You want to include the 1986 Mets, because they had that Edmonton Oilers-like flash to them, but I'm not so sure. If the Red Sox hadn't gagged at the historical level they gagged, the Mets would have lost. They probably should have lost. Then there are the 1989 Athletics. I'd say it's either them or the Tigers.

Speaking of Tigers: Miguel Cabrera's career came to a close over the weekend, and despite his undeniably impressive final totals, I feel like he underachieved. His last good year was his age thirty-three season. That was it, because he was in such bad shape. I don't believe an athlete should get a pass for that. It's part of being an athlete. What would those numbers look like if he trained and ate properly?

The playoffs start today. What a big loss by the Rangers the other day knocking them to a Wild Card spot. I think the celebrating teams do is a joke. There's far too much of it. You should celebrate twice: when you win the pennant and when you win the World Series. The Rangers still had something to play for and obviously much to lose. I can't believe that going into celebration mode doesn't weaken you for the next game or two of the regular season, either physically or in terms of attitude or both. It's a letting up, isn't it? Have higher standards for yourself than clinching a postseason birth. Twelve teams do it. It's not a big deal. Stay focused and hungry.

I suppose I should make some kind of prediction. I would like to see the Dodgers and Braves meet in the NLCS and I guess I'll say I like the Braves to come out of the NL but I am not sold on Spencer Strider. That ERA was high. They scored a lot of runs for him and he struck out a lot of guys but I could care less about strikeouts. The Braves are the team that has had that kind of year, though, sort of like the Red Sox had in 2018. But the Athletics had that kind of year in 1988--the splashy numbers year--and look how that went. I think the Phillies can be dangerous. Nothing would surprise me that much in the AL save the Twins going anywhere. The Astros are always a threat--and it was so Astros-y to take that division right at the end after spending less than thirty days in first or whatever it was on the season. I could see the Orioles advancing to the World Series. Maybe Orioles vs. Braves or Dodgers. The NL is about great teams--or at least very good teams--whereas the AL strikes me as being about who gets hot starting this week.

I saw this postseason preview and it was singing the praises of Kyle Schwarber who hit .197 with 47 home runs this year. Compare how he's talked about with how Dave Kingman was talked about. I am certain that Dave Kingman was not a worse ballplayer than Kyle Schwarber. He hit for a higher average and drove in more runs. He walked less. Neither hit doubles and Schwarber scores more runs. Comparable OPS+. But one guy was reviled and the other is discussed in this wholly different manner and there's just no way he's better.

Saw an interview with the Red Sox' Sam Kennedy, who is human slime so far as I'm concerned. I think he's so disingenuous and is part of the reason why people here don't trust the Red Sox and think they're often up to no good. In this interview he said that there would be a "modest" increase in ticket prices next year, which is the word--you could look it up--he uses at the end of every year to describe what will be happening with the ticket prices the next season. Your team sucks, man. They finish last most years now. And you're raising prices again? It's pretty insulting in my view.


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