Friday, January 26, 2007

Scrubbed Mission

The Beltway Boys has an interview with Nats.com beat writer Bill Ladson. When you ignore his thin-skinned comments and paranoia, there's actually some interesting stuff in there. He covered the LA Kings!?

But, as is usually the case when it comes to evaluating players, Bill is off base. Rather than rehashing it, I'll point to a few of those other evil, malevolant, overly personal, Satan-worshiping bloggers.

Banks takes on Ladson's endorsement of Nook -- an argument I made a few days ago. And OMG takes on the tripe about "heart" being the most important thing in baseball.

I'm reminded of one of Bill James' essay about Reggie Jackson -- a player, incidentally, that I'm pretty sure that Ladson has spoken approvingly of. James took issue with Reggie's continued assertions that his success was because of his strong character and his will, instead of his natural God-given talents. For sure, some players let those things to to waste, and certainly some border-line talents can work their asses off to improve. But in the end, who succeeds and who fails isn't so much a question of character; it's a question of talent.

For all I know, Jason Bergmann could be the nicest guy on the face of the earth and the kind of player who shows up three hours early and leaves three hours late. But he just doesn't have the talent to be a star on the Major League level. No amount of talent is going to give his fastball the hop, or him the control he needs with his breaking pitches.

Conversely, take Ryan Church. I'm not in the clubhouse, so all I have to go by is the reports from Ladson and others. From those, we can divine that Church probably isn't the hardest worker, or at least he's not the most intense player out there (A charge similarly thrown at a number of California players -- Jim Edmonds comes to mind.) What I'm left with, though, is a statistical record of actual results that show that Church is a decent major league outfielder. Sure, if he had more 'heart', if he had the 'fire in the belly' he might be able to better harness his talents and turn into Jim Edmonds. But that doesn't negate the value that he provides. It's been a repeated refrain about this team's management, extending to players beyond just Church, but they need to focus on what they have, and not what they WISH they had if only there was more heart.

Character is important. But so are the numbers.

Distinguished Senators has a look at the interview from a different perspective that probably won't interest 89% of you, and won't fully make sense to even more than that.