Defending Carlos Beltran from the Steve Phillips screwdriver
One of my favorite things when I was a kid was watching the oddsmaker
And finally, there were "intangibles." Even as a kid, I loved the irony of Jimmy the Greek giving one team an edge in "intangibles." To me, it was like a grownup version of "cooties" -- this girl has more cooties than that girl. But Jimmy would do it all right, and he would explain those intangibles, too. He would say that this team was playing better so they had an edge in intangibles, or that team wasn't very good on the road so they had a disadvantage in intangibles, and it was all quite enjoyable.
As I got older, though, I started to realize that there is something troubling about intangibles ... people tend to use them whenever they want to make a point that makes no tangible sense. I worked in a factory for a while, and there was this guy in there that everybody liked. He had a good sense of humor, and he always made sure to say hello to everyone, and he buttered up the boss, and he would always offer to buy the person next to him a can of Coke when he went to the break room. Good guy. But he didn't do squat. I mean, he didn't do ANYTHING. Trucks would come with boxes, and he was nowhere to be found. Barrels needed to be moved, and he was nowhere to be found. Then, you'd run into him, and he'd say he was doing something, and he'd tell you a joke and offer to buy you a Coke, and life went on. THAT guy had intangibles. He also was virtually worthless.
I bring this up because Sunday night, ESPN announcer
Beltran has also been the best base runner in the game for the last seven or eight years. He has faltered a touch this year, but he has been a +32 base runner every year since 2002 -- that's 32 more bases than the average base runner every single year (going first to third, second to home, first to home on a double, stolen bases, etc.)
My point is not to say that Carlos Beltran is above criticism. My point is to say that ... well, yeah, at the moment, Carlos Beltran is above criticism. Are you kidding me? A brilliant defensive center fielder who hits, hits with power, steals bases, runs the bases, draws walks ... and this year, so far, he's hitting .367. Is he perfect? Of course not. But if you want to judge him by certain criteria ... well, hey, wait a minute, here's some criteria right here, courtesy of Steve Phillips himself (quotes from
Sure. Lots of teams have good defenders and good base runners who get the hit when you need the hit and drive in the run when you need the run and always seem to be in the right position and lead and also are flawless. Absolutely. Can't have a team without one of those guys.
So, who would fit all that?
Well, how about
Good base runner: Yeah, he's good. But that check mark goes to Beltran.
Good defender: Pujols is an excellent first baseman. Beltran is a world-class center fielder. Check mark to Beltran.
Doesn't give up at-bats: Check mark to Pujols, though Beltran is on-basing .466 at the moment.
Gets the hit when you need the hit/drives in the run when you need the run: Check mark to Pujols, but Beltran is no slouch in the clutch. There are some pretty decent playoff numbers that prove the point.
Always seems to be in the right position: And here we have the bull hockey -- the intangibles. What is this supposed to mean? No, really, what? Carlos Beltran has driven in 100 runs and scored 100 runs eight times in his career. Seems to me, that's where he's supposed to be.
Flawless? Leader?: No idea. Check mark to Jimmy the Greek.
Well, it sure looks like Beltran holds his own. You want to put him up against
Chipper Jones is a better hitter -- he's a GREAT hitter -- but he has not played even 140 games in a season since 2003, which would make it difficult to give him the "Always in the right place" check mark.
Dustin Pedroia has had one good year and he put up a 122 OPS+ in that year.
Kevin Youkilis has had one good year and he's a barely average runner, at best.
My point is not to knock those guys. They're great players. They do some things better than Beltran. And there are other things they don't do as well. If you want to have a fair fight and compare what they do, how they play the game, fine. But saying stuff like this drives me mad:
See? Here we go. Even though Beltran puts up "some numbers" his game is "inconsistent."
Some numbers = tangible.
Inconsistent = intangible.
Carlos Beltran is actually quite consistent. He's a great center fielder year after year. That takes consistency. He is the best percentage base stealer in baseball history. That takes consistency. He has, as mentioned, scored 100 runs, driven in 100 runs eight times. That takes consistency. He has only once in the last seven years hit fewer than 25 homers, driven in fewer than 100 runs, put up an OPS+ of less than 126. If anything, Beltran is TOO consistent, and that consistency has left knuckleheads demanding that he be greater than great ... you know, by improving his intangibles.*
One more Phillips gem:
Yep, those players who don't play the game or make plays, those are the worst kinds of players in the world. You want a player who plays the game, makes plays, a player who makes game plays, the plays gamers play to make, a player who makes plays for plays that playmakers make.
And, man, I really hate the "while he has great talent" line ... especially for a 32-year-old player that has been as good as Carlos Beltran. That to me is a slap in the face -- you know, lots of people have great talent. Steve Phillips may have had great talent ... he was drafted in the fifth round by the Mets and he had enough speed to steal 39 bases in Class A ball one year. Like I say, lots of people have talent.
But here are the number of 32-year-old players who had already hit 250 homers and stolen 250 bases: four.*
And here are the number of players who have scored 100 runs and driven in 100 runs eight times before they turned 32: 15.
Of those, five are eligible for the Hall of Fame, five are in the Hall of Fame.*
And, oh yeah, let's remember again: Beltran is off to his best season so far.
Steve Phillips went on some convoluted rant about how Beltran doesn't get a hit every single time up, didn't slide once at home plate and overthrows his cutoff man by a mile. Yes, intangibles. Maybe these are true things ... Beltran has his flaws. But I would like to point out that I have seen Albert Pujols strike out with runners in scoring position, and I saw
The alien also would probably be a better announcer than Steve Phillips.