In Praise of Mike Singletary

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm an unhinged Bay Area sports fan; Brian Sabean would lump me into a group he, without a hint of affection, once referred to as the "lunatic fringe".  I believe the issue at that point was signing Vlad Guerrero. The lunatics wanted Vlad; Sabean wisely realized that JT Snow and a half dozen guys named Vizcaino was a more appealing package.

I do not care for much of the way in which my chosen teams have been run over the past several years; there's a doctrinal divide in much of sports between those who have embraced what is stastically understood  (you know, facts) and those who rely primarily on wisdom handed down through the generations by ancient men named Skeeter and Red (you know, crap). 

The Moneyball fight shifts shape throughout the culture - Inherit the Wind posited that the death blow to epistemology primarily based on stories was in a Dayton, Tennessee courtroom over 80 years ago, but this century saw the rise of truthiness - Stephen Colbert's coined word meaning that how things felt, in one's gut, carried a veneer of truth that made actual facts irrelevant.  Facts had a "liberal bias", was the punchline to another joke, and when Ron Suskind quoted a Bush Administration official as saying the problem with newspapers like the New York Times was that its journalists and readers lived in the "reality based community" that "tell your statistics to shut up" mentality had gone far beyond the locker room.

But it's really only the locker room that I care about.  My Kingdom for one World Series and whatnot.  Unfortunately, the teams which have my allegiance are the sports equivalent of Sean Hannity and Karl Rove; I would argue that the inability of SFG to win a world title despite 3 decades of service from the two greatest players in National League history is a crime against humanity driven not by dumb luck (no, Dusty shouldn't have handed the ball back to Ortiz {and if you don't know what that means you can probably safely stop reading this post} - and no, I shouldn't have then moved location; I had been watching the entire game upstairs on my small bedroom television for no good reason other than it my the right thing to do - and then took the opportunity of the pitching change to go down to the living room - chaos immediately ensued and it began raining Thunderstick fury all over my ass - but neither of us really jinxed SFG that night.  Right?  Right?  Help a brother out.) but instead by a disinclination to put even replacement level talent next to them.  It is my contention that the hundreds of plate appearances given to the Family Alou (particularly Jesus and Zeppo) were the proximate cause of our losing out on at least a couple of 1960s era chips - and Brian Sabean's oft stated disinterest in on base percentage (all conceivable metric wisdom to the contrary) has manifested itself time and time again in our choosing "character" guys with mythical leadership properties over guys who could, what's the word, play baseball.

Just today, right now, comes this.  The Giants have re-signed Freddy Sanchez to a 2 year, 12 million dollar deal.

Freddy Sanchez's SFG line: .284/.295/.324.

A guy comes over in a deadline deal for a highly rated prospect, puts up a sub .300 OBP (unmentioned in this story, btw) and we're grateful to get him back. What a great guy he is! Professional hitter! Good in the clubhouse! Plays the game the right way - the Giants way!  (Note, I love Mike Krukow, as all good people do; and I specifically seek out the games on the baseball package I purchase every year to hear he and Kuip do the broadcasts - but he's done a healthy amount of damage as a spreader of the "we heart small ball; lets get some productive outs" wisdom; I don't want to start a blog entitled Fire Mike Krukow but I'd understand the sentiment if someone did).

This is everything that's wrong with the Giants. This is why we've never won a WS. A 32 year old sub .300 OBP second baseman and we hungrily say "please give us two years more of that."

By the way, he's not good with the glove, seventeen runs below position for his career at second base. In 2010 his career year will be four years in the rear view. But he's good in the clubhouse, just like Aaron Rowand, and when we continue not to win we'll wonder why (or find a way to blame Barry Bonds) and then go out and sign another past his prime guy who can't get on base. We are a dumb organization. I have given my baseball fan life to SFG and we never, ever learn.

Mike Singletary would not be my choice as head coach of my football team.  Too much Oklahoma Drill mentality in that dude.  And that giant "you never know when I'll have to stake a Vamp" cross that hangs around his neck during games is a bit of a barrier to those who don't have any version of magical thinking.  But in the second half of our game against the Texans last week - he essentially recognized that our 1950s offense was not working; he put in Alex Smith and spent 30 minutes throwing the ball around the field. 

Now - it could be that we go back to running the ball into the line all game long Sunday, and the Sunday after that, and the Sunday after that - consigning ourselves to, at the very, very, very ceiling, going 9-7 one year and losing in the playoffs to a team that takes advantage of every single rule of modern football (if you haven't noticed, the NFL begs you to throw the ball - the rules prohibiting contact with receivers downfield, types of striking and tackling of receivers, and the limits on any contact with the quarterback have led to an amazing 21st century inflation of passing statistics - teams that don't take advantage of it just aren't paying attention). 

It could be the Niners will effectively just keep re-signing versions of Freddy Sanchez (don't get me started on GSW, firing Mitch Richmond via text message; fortunately when I was 7 I chose USC as my college program of choice instead of Berkeley) my dark nightmare remains that we'll draft Tim Tebow (proven winner!) and ride that righteousness into oblivion for another half dozen years (but all the lower income boys in Santa Clara will be circumcised).

But right now I've decided to view the future through rose colored glasses.  We'll spend the back half of this NFL season throwing the football.  Seeing what we have with Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree.  That we'll take whatever results come and draft the best offensive linemen possible in 2010.  That whereas the Giants will presumably just keep signing guys who can't get on base and the Warriors will bench Anthony Randolph, the Niners will build a team that can compete in the 21st century. 

So - provisionally - thank you Mike Singletary.  The Colts are going to smack us around Sunday.  That's okay.  Just throw the football.

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