I was referred to your latest blog by a friend. And I found it reasonable and insightful. I appreciate the way you framed the debate, as opposed to the way some people have been interpreting it.
I’ve never claimed Andruw was now an inferior centerfielder, or a below-average centerfielder. And I certainly have never said he’s some broken-down stumblebum, as Scott (Boras) has been insinuating. But it seems to me that we both agree with the premise that he has regressed somewhat since his peak — at least until this year, when he happened to get back in tremendous shape in what was (coincidentally, I’m sure) a major contract year. Even if he has regressed 52 putouts a year, that’s still two balls a week he’s no longer getting to that he used to. And the fact was, I didn’t only use his best year as a comparison. Even his second-best year, in 2001, represented nearly 100 more putouts than last year, in only two more games played.
Did I break this down as closely as you did? Obviously, I didn’t. But there HAD been a definite decline no matter how you break it down. Basically, we’re only debating how much of a decline. Am I correct?
And I didn’t just use stats as my guide here. As I said in the email I sent Dave O’Brien, Scott would be shocked by what scouts and GMs and other club executives have been saying about Andruw over the last few years. THEY think he has declined. I know that. And I still hear that. In fact, after I wrote in that email that I would still take Andruw over Torii Hunter, one scout who read it called me and said, “You’re wrong. In that series in Minnesota last week, Andruw was the second-best centerfielder on the field – by far.”
It would be tempting to pass along some of the even more harsh assessments i’ve heard. But I have no desire to do that because I’ve been consciously trying NOT to bash Andruw, who I still think (and say repeatedly) is a tremendous player in many respects, and highly employable, obviously.
I also wanted to make the point that when I first started talking about Andruw, this was not all about defense. Andruw’s offensive issues are readily apparent. And as I wrote in the book, even his 50-homer season was misleading in some ways, because all the Sabermetric indicators rate it as the least productive 50-homer season of all time. But I’ve found that the conversations and interviews have evolved away from the offensive part of the topic and gotten us stuck in a debate over Andruw’s defense. That was never my original intent. But especially in these interviews, there’s limited time to get into everything.
So all I really attempted to say in that chapter was that here we have a guy who burst onto the scene in the ’96 World Series, was so good so young he had his GM invoking Hank Aaron as a comparison, and he hasn’t really been all that we expected. Now maybe we expected too much. But that’s a separate debate.
The other part of this argument is that we have this impression now of Andruw as this 50-home-run-hitting, nine-0time Gold Glove winner — and when you hear that, you’d think he was Willie Mays reincarnate. In fact, Scott loves to drop Willie Mays into all the Andruw conversations. But the fact is, THAT impression is misleading and over-inflated. And THAT’S where Andruw is overrated.
This book is about perception, and performance relative to that perception. And what’s been lost in this is that THAT’S what I wrote. People have been focusing way too much on defense, and this chapter was really more about the big picture. So I want you to know that your blog has helped remind me to readjust the focus of this conversation, so that future discussions ARE about the big picture and not just on how we interpret defensive numbers.
I’m a reasonable guy, just trying to raise reasonable issues. But people’s emotions have caused this debate to veer into a whole different sphere. So if you could do your part to help redirect us back into an arena where normal people can agree to disagree and debate in a more relaxed, this-is-what-baseball-fans do kind of climate, I’d be greatly appreciative.
Thanks for hearing me out.
After discussing this a bit further with Jayson, it seems that we agree on what type of player Andruw is, but we differ on how the general public perceives him. And Stark may have the edge in gaging this perception, because most of what I hear from Braves fans is how he is responsible for all Braves losses…and possibly the Iraq War. Thus, Stark thinks he is overrated, and I don’t.