Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Garciaparra Content With His Suckiness This Year

The alternative title was: "Bill Plaschke Makes Sense in His Own Annoying Way"

Bill Plaschke’s latest work is a marathon of one-sentence paragraphs about Nomar Garciaparra’s offensive ineptitude this year. It includes some pretty standard, but difficult to believe, statements from Garciaparra and to Plaschke’s credit he sort of calls him on it. Large portions deleted to maintain your sanity.

Nomar Garciaparra welcomes you to his locker in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon, same nice guy, different nice guy.

His smile is like his swing.

Huge but vacant. His voice is like his power. Once resounding, now soft.

I hate the way you write. Nomar’s power seems to be gone. His voice is soft too? What? Was his voice ever "powerful"? I say no.

In the middle of the strangest of Dodgers seasons, Nomar Garciaparra is the strangest of Dodgers.

He's there, but he's not.

I understand, but I don’t.

"I don't look at my stats, I never look at my stats," he says. "As long as we're winning, that's all I care about, nothing else."

Of course you care about winning, but how do you feel about helping the team win? Because your stats suggest that your team would be better if you were performing at least like an average big leaguer. Currently you sport a .274/.319/.332 line with an OPS+ of SEVENTY-TWO. You have fifteen extra base hits. Two home runs.

"This team is where we need to be right now, and that's all I'm concerned about," he says.

That’s just crazy. Let’s say, for a second, that I was awesome at this blogging thing. Like Firejoemorgan awesome. Lots of people visit the site. People love me (except Joe Morgan, presumably) and I get thousands of visitors a day. I do interviews. I’m in Sports Illustrated and life is sweet.

Then, I get writers block and I start sucking at blogging, like Goodguyatsports. I can’t do anything right, and I’m a shadow of my former self. Every day I get up wondering where it went, and if I still have the talent/skill to deliver like I used to. I should have had like another 4-5 years of solid blogging ahead of me. The other bloggers who I was once compared to (Derek Jeteblog and A-Blog), have won World Series (of blogging) rings or have dominated offensively blogging at historically awesome levels. I’m the guy who was traded for three other so-so bloggers who helped my old blog blog themselves to a blogging championshipblog. Blog.

If that’s me, I’m a little perturbed by that. I went from a potential hall-of-fame blogger to below average.

The Dodgers are in first place, indeed, but they are also in other places.

They are in a quandary if they go into September with a corner infielder who doesn't hit the ball any harder than the slap-hitting center fielder. Yeah, Garciaparra has become Juan Pierre without the speed.

Wow, “Juan Pierre without the speed” is the worst thing you can call a baseball player. Seriously. That’s like saying “he’s as valuable as David Ortiz without the bat” or “Johan Santana with his left arm amputated.”

"Hey, I had a year when I hit 35 homers and we didn't win anything, so how much fun is that?" he said.

Well you won 92 games and made the playoffs. And you remember your stats pretty well don’t you, for a guy who doesn’t pay attention to them (that was nine years ago)? How do you not understand that the team winning has little positive to do with you? You are not doing you’re job very well, and you’re lucky the team is winning in spite of you. That’s like a COO being so bad that they are demoted to mailroom clerk and saying, “it’s cool man, as long as the stock stays up.”

Surely this can't be much fun either.

At least Plaschke calls Nomar out on his thinking.

He doesn't wince when he is moved to third base because the Dodgers needed a stronger hitter at first base in James Loney.

"When I signed my contract, I told them I'd do whatever they needed, and I'm not going to change now," he says.

Okay, they need you to hit, not be so accepting of your suckiness.

He doesn't gripe when he is benched for Wilson Betemit, an occurrence that could become more common as the Dodgers seek more power.

"Whatever is best for the team, I'll do, that's always been how I feel," he says.

Nomar, this good guy attitude is cool, but they really just want you to hit the baseball away from fielders more and not slug .332.

When he's playing well, Garciaparra is the lovably quiet enigma. When he's struggling, he's just an enigma.

So he’s not “lovably quiet” now? But his voice is soft, like you said above? Huh? So he's quiet but not lovable? Never mind.

The Dodgers compute his age, watch his work habits and remain confident he can find himself before September finds him.

Now I know the Dodgers think sabermetrics is sort of hocus pocus, but I figured they were beyond “compute his age” stage in the ballgame. That makes me picture this scene at a Dodgers pre-draft meeting:

Scout: “Well you’re right Ned, that Joe Needlenose looks like a ballplayer.”
Ned Colletti: “Great!”
Scout: “He’s got a winning attitude, a stoney faced presence at the plate, especially with runners on and 2 strikes. The kids got grit.”
Ned Colletti: Puts snakeskin boots up on the table, folds arms behind his head. Let’s draft him, how old is he?”
Scout: “Let me get my calculathingy out and I’ll do an age computation. He’s 2007 minus 1987. That’s……..20."
Ned Colletti: “Perfect.”
Other Scout: “He does have a good attitude, but, well….he hasn’t drawn a walk since little league and all he hits are singles. His slugging and OBP are equal to his batting average, which is only .275.”
Ned Colletti: “Oh really? You don’t say. Well, you’re fired...... numbers boy.”

What they need to do now is face the truth that this player no longer exists.

Maybe his physical changes have finally robbed him of his power.

Maybe his years of fighting injuries have finally stolen some of his reflexes.

Maybe we'll never know.The only thing certain is, whoever this Garciaparra person is, he's gone, and the bewildered Dodgers miss him already.

Plaschke’s right, the demise of Nomar Garciaparra is rather curious. His career path reminds me vaguely of Don Mattingly’s, a player a liked watching growing up. They both had quick starts at the ages of 23-28, and hit an injury bug that seemed to drain their power before tailing off much earlier than expected. Neither walked much, but both were somewhat difficult to K. They both topped out with similar power numbers and had a career OPS+ of 127. They both played for flagship franchises and were supposed to lead them for a long time, but left somewhat prematurely without winning only to have their team win immediately after they left.

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