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June 30, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

It hasn't been pretty, it hasn't been against good teams, but a seven game winning streak is no mean feat.

Jeff Weaver finally got hit lucky, as only 2 of 19 BIP fell in for hits, and the Yankees hit three home runs in the third to negate a rough first inning. Hideki Matsui hit HR number nine, his overall numbers are finally looking respectable, he's 16th in the AL in EqRuns, and in the middle of the pack among LFs in EqA, but more importantly, since the last game in Cincinnati, he's been as good a player as anyone in baseball. He might bring home the AL Player of the Month next week, and is the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year. Which will of course lead to the whole "Japanese players shouldn't win the ROY!" argument, but I'll write about that in October, when the mediots jump on that bandwagon.

Speaking of mediots, my local newspaper features Bob Matthews. Matthews writes a semi-daily column where he shoots off his opinions about happenings in the world of sports. It's an opinion column, and as someone who tries to maintain a weblog daily, I can understand how it's difficult to find something fresh and interesting to talk about, particularly something that you have a well thought out opinion about.

The problem is, Bob Matthews doesn't seem to have well thought out opinions about anything. He just writes, and doesn't do any type of research to see if his opinions have any connection to the reality of the situations he writes about. Usually, if I'm not too tired, I'll check out my opinions to see if the facts support them, or at least don't refute them, and many times I've deleted entire paragraphs before posting just because what I wrote was more of a free write than a serious analysis, and isn't supported by the facts. That's not to say that I don't publish opinions that are unsupported, but I try to avoid it, and most importantly, I'm not getting paid to present myself as an expert on sports.

Bob Matthews is getting paid to do that--although most of the people in the area have figured out he's an idiot by now. That doesn't excuse him, though.

The strongest example of Matthews' idiocy is when he wrote after the Super Bowl last year that the NFL has it all over MLB because the 27th lowest paid team (the Patriots) won the championship. "Darryl Strawberry has a better chance of making another comeback with the Yankees than the 27th lowest paid team in baseball winning the World Series." I pointed out to him that the A's were the 27th lowest paid team in baseball, he said that they hadn't won the World Series, totally missing the point.

Now, today, Bob wrote about the current playoff system and Barry Bonds. About the playoffs, he wrote:
One thing Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s many critics can’t knock him for is the expanded playoff system.

It has worked to perfection.

The potential for six division races plus battles for a wild-card playoff berth in each league makes for exciting competition in the final weeks of the regular season.

Of course, there seldom are tight races in all six divisions and there probably won’t be this season, but there figure to be plenty of meaningful games in September thanks to the expanded playoffs.
Actually, there figure to be plenty of meaningless games in September thanks to system in place. The reason is that, while more teams contend for playoff spots, there are fewer pennant races. Five times since the system was implemented, two teams finished within five games of each other for first, but the second place team won the Wild Card handily. The 6-division/Wild Card system has put more teams in postseason contention, but it's also rendered September fairly meaningless and ruined some great pennant races. It's easy to bash Selig for this one.

Also, Matthews writes:
AL WEST -- Seattle might be the most balanced team in baseball and figures to hold off Oakland for the division title. The A’s should be fighting it out with two teams from the AL East for the league’s wild-card berth.
The A's are 6 games back today. One year ago today they were also six games back. They finished 10 games ahead of Seattle. Aside from the fact that Miguel Tejada is playing at well below his established level, Billy Beane has always been able to make key trades that help the A's in the second half. Even if he doesn't, the team if fully capable of being in first place by the end of July, but he almost certainly will. Does that mean the A's will win the division? No, but it's WAY too early to being saying that Seattle "figures to hold off Oakland". They have a good shot to do it, but that's about as far as you can go.

The main subject of the column was Barry Bonds' 500/500 achievement. Bob writes:
Being the only member of the 500-500 and 400-400 Clubs stamps Barry Bonds as a great and extremely gifted player, but it doesn’t mean he is the “All-Time Best All-Around Offensive Baseball Player”. That’s still Willie Mays in my book. Had Mays not lost two full seasons in military service and had he played two-thirds of his career in a different era in a cozier home stadium than Candlestick Park, he might have been baseball’s only 800-600 Man.
And if Robert E. Lee had a Panzer division, he might have won at Gettysburg.

Barry Bonds played a couple of games in Candlestick himself, and PacBell ain't exactly a hitters' paradise. Besides, who knows how Mays would have done in a different era? Maybe he would hit 100 HRs a year now, maybe he would hit 15. We don't know. All we know, all we can measure him by, is by what he did do.

Barry Bonds' lifetime Park Adjusted OPS+ through 2002 is 177. Mays was 156. Barry's five best seasons *OPS+: 275, 262, 206, 205, 191. Mays: 185, 176, 175, 175, 173.

If you're trying to find the best All-Time Best All-Around Offensive Baseball Player, you have to look at how many runs he creates for his teams, not how he does it. Home Runs and walks are vastly more important than steals. If you weigh the ability to steal bases equally with power and discipline, you have ot weigh other stuff, like going first to third, and sliding, and tagging up equally, too. They're all skills on offense. Perhaps if he had phrased it, "Most Multi-Talented Offensive Baseball Player of All Time", he'd have a case with Mays, but Bonds has been a better offensive player than the Say Hey Kid. As an all-around player, Mays is possibly better than Bonds, though. Both played fantastic defense, but Mays played the much more difficult position.

And, of course, neither is the All-Time Best All-Around Offensive Baseball Player, anyway. 207 Career *OPS+, 255, 239, 239, 227, 226 five best seasons. Babe Ruth was one bad mother-shut your mouth!