The Santana Hypocrisy
February 4, 2008 9 Comments
Before getting into the article I wanted to mention that my personal website, www.ericjseidman.com is now back up and running. The site holds information for all of my endeavors, including sabermetrics, magic, and my professional screenwriting.
DISCLAIMER: This will not truly be a statistical piece but rather more along the lines of psychology and opinion. And yes – the title sounds like a Matt Damon movie title.
I was watching Freaks and Geeks the other day and an incident in the episode sparked a metaphor in my mind. In the show, Sam really liked Cindy Sanders, a girl who was dating a jock and only wanted to be his friend. At dinner Sam told his mother about Cindy’s lack of interest. His mother, trying to keep her son optimistic, told him she was making a mistake/dumb decision and that it would be “her loss.”
I wondered, though, would Sam’s mother have been as “down” on Cindy if Sam came home with news that Cindy did like him?
As in, is it okay to “diss” or find flaws in something not yours if you would be ecstatic if said thing was yours?
Even though I would love to continue talking about one of my favorite television shows the purpose of this post is to direct the above question towards the recent trade of Johan Santana.
Unequivocally, I am a die-hard Phillies fan. Though I seem to adopting the Rays as a second team the Phillies are the sole owners of the baseball-area in my heart. Even though they are my favorite team, and the Mets are in their division, I am really excited about the Johan trade.
Yes, a Phillies fan excited that the Mets improved their team.
Johan has been a favorite of mine since 2002 when, via the MLB digital cable package, I watched him routinely make relief appearances. I always noted how “cool” or “funky” his windup and delivery were and loved watching him on the mound. He has also been the only non-Greg Maddux player that I like to exclusively follow.
Now he is in the same division as the team I root for and I cannot wait to see these games. I cannot wait to see a Hamels/Santana battle of the changeups, or Santana facing off against Jimmy Rollins in the 8th inning of a (hopefully) meaningful September game. I am greatly anticipating a Santana/Peavy Sunday Night Baseball matchup or even just simply watching the guy bat!
Unfortunately, I am mostly alone in my thoughts when it comes to non-NYM NL East fans. You see, a stark contrast exists between the definitions of “die-hard fans” and that is the main reason I am mostly alone in my thoughts. There are fans whose personal lives are so effected by sports that it borders on sick obsession, and there are fans like me, fans who give so much of their heart and mind to the game but can continue their regular lives when the game ends.
I am a die-hard Phillies fan but, when the Mets landed Johan, I did not cry, pop pills, seek therapy, or curse on message boards. I grinned. I grinned as if to say – “Oh, you rascal Metropolitans!” I grinned because this is going to be a very exciting season.
In an initial reactive conversation with my brother Corey, though, he caught me doing the same thing I had been complaining about to him – falling into The Santana Hypocrisy.
THE HYPOCRISY ITSELF
I made a comment to him along the lines of – “I mean, honestly, how many games is he going to personally improve?”
Corey called me on it and I admitted fault. After all, this is such an easy hypocrisy to fall victim to but it becomes a problem when fans become so entrenched in it that they lose touch with reality.
DISCLAIMER 2: This is not means to bash any fan of any team, so Mets, Phillies, Braves, and Twins fans, please do not scream down my throat. I am merely investigating the human nature and seemingly programmed response that falls into this hypocrisy.
I have read a plethora of reactions on this trade and, while most are valid or provide some semblance of a reasonal response, some are ridiculous in their hypocritical nature. The hypocrisy does not stem from the reactions, themselves, but rather the fact that these reactions would be completely reversed if the circumstances were different (IE – if Santana was on their team).
The reactions to this trade seem to come in three forms – excited, disappointed, and angered. You’ll never guess which bunch are excited.
The disappointed department houses some Twins fans, Phillies fans, Braves fans, Manny Acta and Felipe Lopez, 12 of the 32 Marlins fans, some Red Sox/Yankees fans, and one Royals fan (Joe Posnanski). The angered department holds the rest of the Twins fans and some very opinionated Phillies and Braves fans.
Some of those in the angered department have lost some sense of reality. I have read so many posts that point out flaw after flaw after flaw about Johan, be it his home run total of last year, his decline in W-L record (useless stat), his high ERA (yeah, 3.33 in the AL is ridiculously high, right?), his potential arm troubles, how “overrated” he is, or anything else along those lines. These fans are finding everything they can to serve the dual roles of –
- Raining on the parade of Mets fans
- Making themselves feel better about not acquiring Johan
There is no way in hell these fans would search for these flaws if their teams landed Santana. If the Twins signed Johan to an extension he would have a great year and would be applauded for staying. If the Phillies got him then it would seem very likely that a team with the NL’s best offense, the MLB’s best pitcher, and arguably the best young pitcher would perform VERY well. If the Braves were able to line him up alongside Smoltz and Hudson, something tells me that his “flaws” would be forgotten more quickly than Mark Lemke’s pitching career.
Why do we all allow ourselves to criticize someone we would shower with love if in our presence? It is jealousy? Fear? Ignorance? Probably all three.
THE MAN NAMED JOHAN
Johan is the best pitcher in baseball and makes a significant difference on any team he plays for. He did not single-handedly will the Twins to the playoffs during his tenure there but I would love to see how many of those Twins teams would have made the playoffs without his services.
To not acknowledge the difference he makes is to be an ignorant baseball fan.
To go as far as to say he is not that great, has a ton of flaws, or is overrated is to be a fan completely detached from reality. I can guarantee that every other pitcher on the teams that these fans root for has many more flaws than Johan.
There are reasons this guy has finished either #1 or in the top five in Wins, ERA, ERA+, WHIP, K, K:BB, SHO, GS, and IP over the last four years. The primary of those reasons is that he is extremely dominant and talented. In my SP Effectiveness System, where you need a +50 or higher to be considered a #1 SP, Johan has averaged a +71.3 in in the last four years. That is clearly the most from 2004-2007 and the only four-year spans since 2000 that were higher were the 2000-2003 seasons of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, both of whom are at the end of their careers now.
He has made 134 starts since 2004, and 97 of them have been AQS, which is 72 %, more than anyone else in that span.
Looking even further, if we want to use W-L records as a barometer, we are going to use my Adjusted W-L. Johan has gone a recorded 70-32 in the last four years (an average of 18-8 per season), but by my calculations, his Adjusted W-L would be 78-24 (an average of 20-6 per season).
I have no problem with people being upset that Johan now plays for the Mets. I have no problem with people not personally liking Johan Santana. I have no problem with people not personally liking the Mets (hey, I don’t like them!). I also have no problem with fans questioning the opinions of other fans.
I do, however, have a problem with no middle ground of opinion existing.
It seems that Mets fans believe they have already won the world series and, based on numerous message boards I have read, Phillies and Braves fans think Johan stinks. The Mets fans overexaggerate and the other fans have to do the polar opposite to compensate. There are very few people, relative to those who express opinions, who can be fans of other teams effected by the trade and be able to acknowledge that the Mets did something positive by gaining a great player. It’s either Johan is the messiah or Johan is overrated.
If a player, who when on your team, would increase a bulge in your pants worthy of Ron Burgundy’s thumbs-up, there is absolutely no justifiable reason to legitimately criticize said player and point out his flaws just because he is on another team. It is equivalent to really wanting a toy truck and, when you find out you can’t have it, calling that truck stupid or pretending like you don’t want it. In other words, it’s very childish.