Monday, March 07, 2005

Team Chemistry

David Pinto at Baseball Musings posted this morning about team "chemistry". He was also kind enough to post about and link to the BG. It's much appreciated. On to the topic of chemistry. This is a prime example of what I was talking about in my intro when I said that if something wasn't quantifiable by numbers, it doesn't exist. To expound on what David said, I think that chemistry is no more than an excuse used by teams that chronically underachieve. Case in point: the 2004 Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs were supposed to go to the World Series. Instead, they failed and missed the playoffs entirely. This can be attributed to a number of things, but the two sharing the top spot on the list have to be Manager Dusty Baker and not getting on base. Baker's favoritism for inept, unproductive players like Ramon Martinez and Jose Macias coupled with his poor handling of great young arms like Prior and Wood lead to injuries and poor play all-around. The Cubs also have one chronic problem - they can't seem to get to first base. Baseball Prospectus details this excellently in their new book, but the gist of the story is that the Cubs, though they hit a lot of long balls, fail to score runs due to the fact that no one is on base when said long balls are hit. This again is attributable to Dusty, for such great decisions as to hit Corey Patterson lead-off. More so, though, it is the fault of Jim Hendry for not acquiring players who can get on base at a decent level.

Now what do the Cubs do after the expectations of greatness came crashing down on their season? Of course, they fire Dusty Baker! Wait, no they don't, they trade Sammy Sosa - an aging, yet still quite productive offensive player - because he had become a "cancer" in the clubhouse (they replaced him with Coors-inflated ex-Brewer Jeromy Burnitz). The Cubs also agreed to pay most of his salary as part of the trade, which netted the team Jerry Hairston. The fact of the matter about baseball is that it is, when broken down, truly an individual sport pitting batter vs. pitcher. The myth of team chemistry is an excuse used by big-spending, big-market teams which feature incompetent people in high places that fail to reach their overzealous fans' lofty expectations.

Once again, thanks to Baseball Musings.

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