Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Now, I don't share Aaron's dislike of Olney. I've seen him on ESPNews and he's always struck me as being an intelligent guy and writes well (I read a little of his book, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, and was pretty impressed), but unlike Peter Gammons (my favorite baseball writer these days) he hasn't really embraced the numbers revolution. Olney's decision to rank the Phillies fifteenth of 30 teams in the MLB preseason rankings makes me want to join in:
-Olney is seduced by the Yankees payroll and annoints them No. 1 ... Okay, I disagree but reasonable minds can differ. (Or so one of my law professors told me, before explaining why something he disagreed with was wrong.)
-I agree with Olney that the Marlins are the team to beat in the NL East. But the Mets are No. 10? Huh? They have a lot of holes. I'm not seduced by the Mets decision to sign a pitcher on the decline (Pedro), a busted ace who never played to his potential (Benson) and a single, talented player (Beltran) to their roster. The Rangers were awful with A-Rod. One player does not reverse a team's descent into mediocrity. And their pitching is going to be much worse than advertised. Again, $ does not = wins.
-The A's are 17th and the Angels are 5th? Huh? The A's were more than just the Big Three in 2004. They have a lot of talent, especially on the mound, and nobody really thinks that they didn't improve at the plate with Kendall. The Angels regressed. They are still a good team, but they look like they've lost a step. I don't see how any reasonable person can think there is that much of a gap between the two.
So let's give Olney the benefit of the doubt and look at his capsule review of the Phillies. I actually agree with him that Burrell is the biggest X-factor the Phillies have to figure out, but I snorted at his dismissal of Cory Lidle and Jon Lieber as "not [to] be confused as an impact-type pitcher..." Lidle pitched very well coming over to the Phillies from the Reds, and Lieber is a tremendous pitcher. He won 20 games with the Cubs in 2002. Not an "impact-type pitcher" my eye.
Now that I've attacked Olney I can count on that job at ESPN goodbye, but I have a lot of respect for the work done at ESPN and I don't think Olney is a bad writer. I think he needs to make better use of stats than he does. (e.g., click here for Hardball Times brutal analysis of his "Productive Outs" article.) I won't mock silly things like getting a player's age wrong because I do things like that all of the time, but Olney falls into the rut of assuming that free agency and money can improve teams more than developing talent and wise spending.
Tomorrow. All hail Peter Gammons...
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