Monday, October 19, 2009

Dave Kaplan Thinks I'm Stupid

So the other day I went to Dave Kaplan's blog and read his take on Rudy Jaramillo potentially/probably coming to the Cubs:

"GM Jim Hendry has been super aggressive since Jaramillo made it known that he would be leaving the Rangers and most baseball executives expect Jaramillo to choose the Cubs. Look for the Cubs to land him and to sign him to a multi-year deal worth at least $750,000 per season, which would make him the highest paid hitting coach in the game."

Personally, if you are going to make a change to address what the Cubs are lacking, and pay that person the equivalent of a managers' salary for many teams, I'd like to be pretty sure this guy is going to actually make a difference.  I made the comment that the signing of Jaramillo didn't seem to address what the Cubs need in the hitting department:

"Soooo... 'The Rangers want to see improvement in on-base percentage, in two-strike approaches and in pitch recognition' so they are making a change.

The Cubs need to improve their on-base percentage, two-strike approaches and pitch recognition so they are going to hire Jaramillo.

Makes perfect sense."

Seemed like a reasonable concern, though admittedly raised with my own personal brand of snark.  Kaplan responded with:

"Jaramillo is considered the best hitting coach in baseball. If the Rangers didn't like him why did they offer him a contract for next season and why has he been there for 15 seasons?"

I mistook his asking of a question for his desire for me to answer that question, so I foolishly responded:

"Steroids made a lot of hitting coaches look good. Plus, they play in a ballpark the size of my closet. He may be better than what we had, but when Mark DeRosa and Michael Young are your two best non-steroid projects, I think the reputation is overblown.

The comments from Rangers fans in that story leave me with the impression that not monay folks are really all that upset with him leaving.

But, if you really liked the 'See fastball, hit fastball' approach of the Dusty years, this is a great move. The Cubs half of the innings will go quicker, that's for sure."

Aside from my inexplicable misspelling of the word "many," I tried to explain why I have reservations about his resume when I have been given nothing other than Kaplan's assurances that he is "the best."  Nevertheless, I did throw out the steroids quip in a willy-nilly, pell mell sort of way. I do get angry at journalists for stating assumptions as facts, so I decided I would check and see if there was anything that might support my concern that steroids might have helped in overblowing Jaramillo's reputation as a hitting guru (anyone remember when Jeff Pentland was a genius?). So I looked up some Rangers team hitting rankings and posted:

"I threw out the steroids comment without anything to back it up, but lest you think I am just a bitter contrarian, I looked up the Rangers rankings in the AL during Jaramillo's tenure.

Top 5 rankings in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
1995-2002: 22 (6 BA, 4 OBP, 6 SLG, 6 OPS)
2003-2009: 11 (1 BA, 1 OBP, 5 SLG, 4 OPS)

The top 5 finish in BA and OBP came in 2008 when Josh Hamilton was out of his head. With Hamilton returning to earth in 2009, the offense sagged back to an offense that didn't do anything but hit homeruns.

I find the clear disparity in performance between the steroid era years and the testing years to be highly coincidental, and I find nothing to support that Jaramillo is the 'best in the business.'"

Kaplan did not respond to this and later another commenter posted a link to, "Rudy Jaramillo's 5 Simple Steps" Training DVD, to which I could not help posting:

Step 1 - Buy steroids.
Step 2 - Buy syringes.
Step 3 - Fill syringes with steroids.
Step 4 - Inject steroids with syringes.
Step 5 - Repeat as necessary."

My obsessive need to insert humor into this very serious debate apparently rubbed at least one of Kaplan's six other readers the wrong way.  Someone going by the very original moniker, "Fan" decided to get personal:

"Aisle 424, no wonder you sit so far up in the upper deck, too stupid to be able to afford better seats.
Just a plain stupid post on your part."

I thought about pointing out that if intelligence is measured by proximity to the field, then I'm smarter than all of the media who sit above me in the press box, including Fan's hero, Mr. Kaplan.  I also refrained from mentioning Fan's apparent lack of any imagination in picking out a screen name, or ability to address the issue at hand, which is why Jaramillo is considered the best in the business.  Instead, I figured I would just give up on finding any polite discourse and bow out with:

"Fan, constructive criticism is always nice. Thank you for putting me in my place."

Still, I was hoping to find anyone, even if it wasn't Kaplan, to give me a reason why Jaramillo is considered so good, other than the nebulous group think that Kaplan has referenced as his one and only reason for his support of hiring a hitting instructor for multiple years and multiple millions of dollars that aren't his dollars.  So I refreshed the site one last time before giving up for good.  This is when I saw that Kaplan had indeed weighed back in:

"Well said Fan! Even though we don't always agree you do bring life to the party!"

So, Kaplan has given his approval of the assertion that I am stupid because I sit in the Upper Deck.  Keep in mind, he still has not supported his belief with any additional data or argument.

I'll admit that at this point, I got a bit pissed.  What was entertaining had turned into Kaplan and his minions calling me names for challenging their beliefs, or more accurately, his minions calling me names and Kaplan standing behind them yelling, "Yeah! What he said!"

I was on Twitter (of course) and posted:

"I'm so ashamed. @thekapman thinks I'm stupid because I sit in the upper deck."

So Mr. Kaplan sent me a direct message (by the way, check out WV23 for more fun Kaplan direct messaging) so that it wouldn't show up in other folk's Twitter feeds:

"Not because you sit in the upper deck. Because your analysis of Rudy Jaramillo is ridiculous."

Notice he did not actually mention my analysis of Jaramillo even in passing in his original support of Fan's beliefs of my stupidity.  I thought about responding in the public forum, but instead decided to respond via his preferred method of arguing behind the scenes where no one else can see that he isn't very good at supporting his general declarations of what the consensus believes as stone cold facts.

"'Fan' called me stupid for sitting in the upper deck and you congratulated him on an excellent post."

 And then:

"Also- can you explain why there are 2 distinct levels of performance of Jaramillo's offenses that coincide with the steroid era"
Kaplan has not responded to me directly, but included this in a reply on his blog to a commenter who agreed with him:

"Some of the folks who comment here are always saying how poor the Cubs are at teaching fundamentals and getting productivity from their players. Yet, when the Cubs try to sign the acknowledged best guy in the industry those same 'knowledgeable fans' have to find a way to rip it. Completely ridiculous."

Again, nothing to support the claim that Jaramillo is so good.  No testimony from a player who credits Jaramillo with turning around his swing.  No statistics to show that the Rangers offense excelled in areas where the Cubs are looking to improve outside of the era that featured such Ranger players as Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, and Alex Rodriguez - proven or highly suspected steroid users all.  No explanation of the two distinct levels of performance of Rangers batters that coincides with when testing for steroids began.  Just a vague reference to the baseball industry giving its universal approval.

I guess I thought a journalist with his connections and sources could provide something more substantive to support his claims.  Maybe that's a sign of my stupidity instead of my seat location.

Come by later to see how the direct message sniping spills over into a disagreement about whether we should be upset over Jay Cutler's level of civility (or lack thereof).


Duey23 said...

As a fellow 424 resident, if anyone else has been to our seats, you know that it's a great view of the field and we're right over home, so go figure. Also, lower mezz tickets, I believe, are cheaper than ours but you usually have to deal with POLES! so who is stupid NOW?

"Fan", yeah, like anyone who is a fan of Kappy's is someone I/You'd hang with anyway. Go sit downstairs you jackass.

Aisle 424 said...

No doubt, I love my seat. I'm obviously biased, but I personally agree that the Upper Deck Box seats on the infield are the best seats in Wrigley to actually watch the game.

It is hilarious to me that he used my seat location as an insult. What bugged the shit out of me is that Kaplan, the owner of the blog and supposed expert, jumped right in with him in the mud-slinging. Say what you want about Al Yellon, but he'll at least just ban a commenter he doesn't like instead of stooping to petty name calling.

Duey23 said...

I changed the channel last night watching Bears Post Game Live only because I saw his face (in a promo spot). I turned back in 30 seconds knowing he'd be gone.

It's funny that he doesn't think someone should comment on him because they don't "know" him. But he has to realize that we know what he WRITES and that is the spirit of free speech and what we say about what he WRITES is the same thing!! He has no facts to back up his stuff so yes, he can only resort to name-calling.

Maybe the booting of Steve Stone has all these free on the Cubs buffet-eating reporters nervous. Speak your mind/the truth and you'll get kicked out??

mb21 said...

I posted this in the comments at WV23, but wanted to post it here so we don't litter WV's site with a discussion he may not be interested in:

424, unless you know the true talent level of the Rangers offense in each of those 15 seasons the team totals tell us absolutely nothing about Rudy Jaramillo. Maybe most of those teams had a true talent wOBA of .345 and hit for a .325 wOBA. Maybe they had a true talent level of .330 and they hit for .340. Until you know the true talent level of the hitters on each team in each season you can’t even begin to analyze the hitting coach.

You could do this with a retrosheet database using the simple marcels projection for each player and you could even just use league average for players with minimal experience. That shouldn’t throw the numbers off too much, but you simply cannot look at what the Rangers did and think you found something useful about Jaramillo. It doesn’t work that way. Jaramillo can’t make the players on the team do things they’re incapable of doing just as a pitching coach can’t make a pitcher throw 95 mph and increase his strikeout rate from 6 K/9 to 9 K/9. You have to work with the true talent level and go from there. That’s only a start to what you’re wanting to find.

As for steroids, I think you believe they have more impact than they actually do. Check out the following articles for actual evidence (first link is to a cached article written on MVN that isn’t currently up on the site):

Bringing Home the BACON by Colin Wyers (one of the best sabermetricians around

Changes in home run rates during the retrosheet years by tangotiger, author of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, consultant for the Seattle Mariners

Steroids and Baseball by Eric Walker, author of Winning Baseball (commissioned by Oakland A’s and Sandy Alderson had Walker “indoctrinate” Billy Beane with it)

Make sure you read all of those when you get a chance. All of them should be mandatory reading for all baseball fans.

Aisle 424 said...

MB, thanks for the reading material. I will definitely take a look. I am not a sabermetrician by any stretch of the imagination, and I know my brief look into the numbers was hardly scientific, but my point with Kaplan is that he is just going on about some nebulous "they" that calls him the best and parroting it without question.

Then when someone else presents reasons why he believes differently, he never answers the question and hides behind his readers' name-calling.

I appreciate your take and the the fact that you took the time to outline your own reasoning. Its definitely something to consider. Thanks again.

ccd said...

Kap's a hack.

ccd said...

i had a strange email exchange with thekapman when him and stone were making up trade rumors. he didn't like the fact that i said he did that. it was stranger after that.

what i've come to find out is kap can be a bit sensitive when it comes to criticism of his work. kind of ironic when you think that this guy makes a living criticizing the work of athletes.

Aisle 424 said...

That's the strange thing, CCD. He definitely doesn't like being called out. If you are too benign, he just ignores you. Then if you get his attention and he feels the need to scold you, he takes it offline where people in general can't see him being childish.

He is built for the radio show. Spewing out whatever he believes and having a producer to screen calls. If someone does get through who disagrees, he can just hang up on them and call them ridiculous. He doesn't guite get that blogs and Twitter are mediums where people can't easily be dismissed or ignored. They are mediums of discussion and occasional arguments that don't have to get personal.

Ron said...

Kaplan's sources are always nebulous. He is a sports commentator (and in my opinion, not a very good one), not a journalist.

On a personal note, he's also the reason I can't stand the word ridiculous. He uses it too often and pronounces it like he's trying to drive a stake through your heart.

I switch the radio anytime I hear his voice now. At least Waddle used to keep him a little more honest. Now there's no counterpoint to his inanity.

Aisle 424 said...

Ron, to borrow another overused phrase from Kaplan, your post is Flat. Out. Phenomenal.

Kris said...

Ron - totally agree. I USED TO be a faithful WGN listener. Although I was never a fan of Kaplan, I agree that Waddle kept things a little more interesting. I will listen to WGN for the game broadcast, and then I turn it off. I refuse to listen to Sports Central. It seems to me that Mr. Kaplan has no interest in having a constructive discussion about anything, but prefers to talk AT you rather than with you. He gives his opinion, and if you don't agree you are "ridiculous" and get escorted off the air. I agree with Aisle 424 that Mr. Kaplan does not seem to be able to explain his "opinions". I'm wondering if a favorite expression in the Kaplan household is "because I said so"? Anyway, I think the twitter direct messaging rather than responding in the public forum is pathetic and unfair once you've already been blasted publicly.
Aisle424 - this post was FLAT OUT PHENOMENAL

mb21 said...

I agree with you 100% about people just saying Jaramillo is a good coach. We literally have no idea unless some people inside baseball have done some studies about it. Even then it's not very reliable since the information hasn't been seen by others. Kaplan is an idiot and you're right to challenge him.

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