Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bring Back Manny?

So Charles P. Pierce has an idea: bring back Manny. He's not kidding, either: let bygones be bygones and get a bargain price for a fantastic hitter who's demonstrated he's got plenty of gas left in the tank, filling a potential lineup hole in the process. While the Sox are at it, they can use a Manny signing to offload Jason Bay while he still has value and acquire...well, I don't really know at this point, since Boston is swimming in replacement-level pitching arms, but something.

Madness, you say. Pure idiocy, you say. Turn in your writing license, says irate commenter GEO, who - ironically enough - spends most of his post violating what I do not doubt would be the terms of a "writing license" with his all-caps assault and atrocious grammar. I was all aboard for Mr. Pierce's head, too, until I realized that his statements have a larger context: his post is a poster child (you like what I did there?) for the war between stats types and trad types.

To review, the modus operandi of a pure stat-head is that anything that cannot measured - things like chemistry, drive, fortitude, and all of the other stuff that Fire Joe Morgan lovingly lumped under the term "intangibles" - is irrelevant to the argument of relative value. Pure trad types, on the other hand, pooh-pooh the idea of using what they see as increasingly obscure measurements that cloud the spontaneous aspects of the game, preferring to give equal credence to a player's leadership abilities as they do to his ability to get hits. Pierce's prose suggests that he sides with the former camp in his views:
Cruising the sports pages the other day, I noticed that there is a free agent out there who’s hitting .314 lifetime with 527 home runs and who, last year, almost singlehandedly lifted a mediocre bunch of Los Angeles Dodgers into the playoffs. He hit 17 home runs down the stretch and knocked in 53 runs in as many games. And, almost unbelievably, he’s on the market. Right now.
In other words: screw the circumstances of Manny's departure; he can do the one thing that teams pay baseball players to do, and he can still do it far better than the average player. Indeed, it sounds like we can take things one step further: to focus on Manny's attitude and his performance off the field (or maybe just away from the plate?) is to blind one's self to the truth that baseball players are all replaceable parts of greater or lesser quality. The Sox can use Manny to construct a winning team...and so they should.