Thursday, November 18, 2004

Olney an Idiot Could Write Such Things

I just don't get this fellow. Buster Olney, last blasting the bad Mets trades of 2004 for all of the wrong reasons, is back at missing the point more often than Mets hitters miss the ball. Buster naysays the Sosa dealings -- and again, people, I am a Sosa-basher -- for all of the wrong reasons. This guy could make an present-day argument that the world is round and use a rationale that'd make me contest his stance.

His headline-pun reason that this deal is bad news is that Sammy Sosa, in his current strikeout-prone, defensively-challenged slugger state, is reminiscent of Dave Kingman circa 1982. That'd be Dave "Kong" Kingman, last referenced in this space as a favorite Met for ridiculous feats both good and bad. He was a prodigious slugger who knocked in 37 homers whilst whiffing 156 times in '82 as the lowly Mets finished 27 games out, good for last place in the NL East. Olney notes the similarities and finishes his thought: "you don't win with Dave Kingmans."

First of all, quit knocking Sky King Kingman. The man rocketed 442 home runs in his time, many of them of the tape-measure variety; of his peers, only Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, and Dave Winfield hit more. In his first full season in the bigs, at age 23 with the Giants, he had the .225/29/83 beginnings of the pattern. In his final year, 1986 across the Bay in Oakland, he registered .210/35/94 numbers, which wasn't exactly petering out, I might add. He played fewer than five full seasons with the Mets and is still entrenched at 4th on their all-time HR list -- and nobody's likely to pass him by any time soon, even in this rabbit-ball era. His mammoth swings missed more often than hit, but this guy was as entertaining as they come, giving the fans a little something for their money to boot. And if Buster is trying to blame the 1982 debacle on Dave Kingman, dear lord, he needs to re-think it.

Your 1982 New York Mets (65-97)

Take a quick look -- this is a franchise four years from winning the World Series, but you'd never, ever, ever know it. Only Wally, Mookie, and Messy Jesse were there four years later. (Frank Cashen, Baseball Einstein.) Kong had 37 taters, the team had 97. (The World Series Brewers of Thomas, Oglivie, Cooper, et al had 216.) The rotation was Charlie Puleo, Pete Falcone, Craig Swan, Pat Zachry, and a pre-splitter Mike Scott. Neil Allen, famous only as the trade bait in the Keith Hernandez deal, was the closer. They had several future managers/execs on the club in the likes of Ron Gardenhire, Bruce Bochy, John Stearns, Ed Lynch, Mike Jorgensen, and of course, Wally Backman, just not many people who could hit, throw, or catch a ball all that well. So don't say, "You don't win with Dave Kingmans," say "You don't win with Dave Kingman and a roster full of ineptitude." Just lay off.

But yeah, Kong struck out a lot and was a defensive liability. And the Mets' lineup really needs no more free-swingers. And the Shea outfield is harder to patrol than Wrigley's. And yes, Sosa's offensive numbers are eroding while his glove skills are lacking, but he's hardly in Kingman-land yet. His average hasn't dipped below .250 since 1991, while Kingman rarely topped that mark. Just as importantly, what Olney fails to pick up on is that the Mets are trading Cliff Floyd for Sosa. (Floyd is mentioned in the first paragraph and then ignored completely.) Clifford Floyd is a solid ballplayer and is considered a good teammate, but when the mere mention of the word "hobbled" brings his name to mind at least as much as Kathy Bates', that's not good. He's toughed out a number of injuries and still spent a ton of time on the Disabled List. And when he's played? He's been no Sammy Sosa. His 22 at-bats per homer last year didn't approach Sosa's 13.7, his 0.46 BB/K ratio was nearly the same as Sammy's 0.42, and his .814 OPS falls short of Sammy's .849. Meanwhile, his LF play was just as ugly as the RF play Olney describes from Sosa, except that Sosa's fielding numbers were better.

Cliff Floyd's upside is far from Sosa territory, too. He's hit 31 home runs once, and driven in 100 once. He's a .280 lifetime hitter, while Sammy's a .277 guy. Sammy's fallen off, but Clifford Floyd has never neared what displayed pre-Mets. Floyd makes a third of what Sosa makes, but (a) he's under contract for an extra year, (b) he's talked openly about retiring because of his injuries, and (c) the Cubs are reportedly going to throw some cash into the deal. And those factors, added to the comparison of these two players, makes this an appealing trade. Perhaps both of these guys jusy need a new home, and it's worth a shot to find out. Again: Sammy Sosa would only be under contract for one season. How much damage could he do in a worst-case scenario? "Disaster" is used far too often in the aforementioned article without clearly labeling the last two seasons as such.

The personality issue is worth discussing. The evolution of Sammy Sosa's image currently has him out of "co-savior of baseball, the Dominican Republic's greatest product, and Cubbies legend" territory and in the area of "total prick." He's come across as selfish, arrogant, money-hungry, cheating, misguided, and aloof in the last year or two. With Jose Guillen also being discussed as a winter acquisition, Willie Randolph might have his hands full. But if Randolph is worth his salt, he's learned from his mentor that you can take otherwise abrasive personalities like Roger Clemens, Ruben Sierra, David Wells, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Nelson, Kenny Lofton, and Darryl Strawberry and find a way to maximize their output while minimizing their outbursts en route to 100 wins. (While simply avoiding guys like Jose Canseco, of course.) Sure, as Olney points out, Sosa "could be an utter disaster of Ed Whitson-like proportions playing in New York." But who couldn't??? If Rey "F-ing" Ordonez (moniker applied by Rob Russell last year) can fit that description, can't anyone? If Johnny Franco and Al Leiter can go from beloved to besmirched in a short period of time, who's immune to the wrath of New York? Sammy may enter with two strikes against and a target on his back, but he only needs to shut his mouth and open the season well to gain favor in this town. It gets back to my last post. If you're going to play scared and take no chances this winter, we'll have the most harmonious, loveable spring training ever. And by August, when the Mets are 23 games out again, we'll have more formerly esteemed New York Mets sniping in the press and having potshots administered by the Buster Olneys of the sportswriting world.

What Olney really wanted to write was "I hate Sammy Sosa and Dave Kingman sucked." Which is fine, just don't obscure it with 1,200 words of garbage surrounding it.

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