The Santana Hypocrisy

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.
MY REACTION
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.

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9 Responses to The Santana Hypocrisy

  1. Pizza Cutter says:

    If y’all do need a decent therapist…

  2. That’s pretty much on point there Eric. I’ve got to agree with you.
    As a Mets fan, I tend to stand alone in my own category as well. I was leaning more toward keeping the talent the Mets traded away, and giving their all to land him via free agency next year. It would keep the farm strong, and provide the major league squad with a lot of depth in case of injury. And if those kids turn out to be what I believe them to be, the Mets would be in great shape for many many years.
    But, as we all know, that didn’t happen. The trade for the best pitcher in baseball went through, just like I thought it would. I believe Johan had made his intentions of being traded to the Mets known from the very beginning. His agent somewhat verified that line of thinking when he stated that the Mets were his first choice from the start.
    So would it be too far out of the realm of possibility that Johan enacted his no trade clause, yet allowed the Twins to try to pry as much talent away from the Mets by involving the Yankees and Red Sox- even though they we never in the picture? I don’t think it’s far fetched at all.
    What the acquisition does is it simplifies every other pitcher’s role. In actuality, it simplifies every single teammate’s role. This is a team that had lead the division for 90% of the season only to have fallen short of the playoffs by one game without the likes of a Johan Santana, or even more than a few weeks worth of Pedro Martinez. Now this amazing team has those two to begin the year, and are expected to play for the entire season at the highest of levels. So the thought that this team will most likely win it all is not without merit, logic, or reason.
    At the same time, it is not guaranteed. Nothing is. The Cardinals proved that theory, much to my own misery. I still haven’t gotten over the fact that after the Endy Chavez catch, and a bases loaded situation with our money player at the plate, and a hit away from making it to the World Series, the Mets still lost the game.
    There are plenty of reasons for their shortcomings, and adding the better players in the game don’t necessarily translate into championships. That falls to management and execution.
    In relation to the great match ups out two favorite teams will have, I look forward to them as well. There is so much more confidence, and belief in your team when they beat the best pitcher of the opposing team’s staff. Or when one position player does better than his counterpart. This move just makes baseball more fun to watch (especially for Mets fans).
    I wish you well in the up coming season…just not as much as my team 🙂

  3. Ken says:

    Wow Eric, I must applaud you..my perception of phillies fans was that of ignorance or stupidity..but you have proved me wrong..thank you, at least i know theres some people out there sane enough to know there is some middle ground…like you said, if people had santana on their team…hes not overrated…thats like a mets fan saying ryan howard is overrated…psh..ive seen the man bat, hes hit a hr everytime ive watched the phillies play..and that was at least 4 times…im scared of the guy…i wish the mets had him…but im not gonna go off and say hes overrated cuz he kills my team..thats just pure ignorance and in which i applaude you again for…there can be some middle ground like you said when it comes to other teams you arent so fond of aquiring great players.
    Btw, i gota disagree on the phils having the best offense…i think the mets will do better this year..but we’ll just have to wait and see…and im not one to say we’ll make the WS..but i smell a division championship in Queens 🙂

  4. Ken, thanks for the kind words. The biggest problem that Philadelphia and NY have with each other’s fans is really thanks to a small sample size of, as you put it, ignorance and stupidity.
    I attended a Phillies/Mets game in 2006, when Pedro got bombed and left with an injury and, while there, I witnessed a group of 25-30 drunk Mets fans absolutely berate a happy group of 12-year old Phillies fans. The Mets fans were escorted out, but those 12-year olds were incredibly upset.
    Things like that give Mets fans a bad name and unfortunately seem to erase the large bulk of fans like you, Kevin, and Jessica. The same can be said for Phillies fans. The ignorant/stupid ones are SO ignorant/stupid that it seemingly shadows people like me.

  5. BJ says:

    Yeah, I see your point, but I am not sure that the lines that you draw (Mets fans vs. rivals fans) are precise. I know for a fact that if he were traded to the Yanks for the Hughes package, there would have been the prospect enthusiasts who would be making the same arguments in criticizing the trade. Yes, they would have accepted him as a player and might not necessarily believe in the criticisms, but they would still cite the second half ERA as well as the increase in HRs allowed. I believe this happens because on some level we see the numbers as cold incontrovertible fact, so when we are making an argument that is really based on emotion, we cling to whatever “facts” we can to legitimize our argument and not expose the actual, somewhat irrational basis.
    For example, it makes a lot more sense to say “You are giving up too much for a one year rental and the privilege of paying 157 million to a guy that has shown the aforementioned signs of decline and may be a risk for injury” than it does to say “I watched Phil Hughes and these other guys develop into the players they are and I buy into their potential despite the fact that it may just be hype and even if legit would have to overcome many hurdles just to come close to give a similar contribution as the indisputable best pitcher in baseball, and even if its a bad baseball decision I’ll keep my guys thank you very much.”
    A similar mindset of a fan of a rival team would be that admitting Santana is who he is would be tantamount to conceding the season to the Mets, and getting mad at them for that would be the same as what the media did when Plaxico Burress predicted a 17-14 victory and said that his guys were as good as if not better than the Patriots’. You can’t expect them to just say yeah, we will be dominated for the next 6 years by this guy, we got no shot. They quote the numbers not because they actually believe in them but because they need to. Sure, they are just hiding behind the carefully selected and editorialized “facts”, but sometimes that sure thing doesn’t pan out, and the emotional, deluded fan is suddenly the guy who found a way to believe when no one else did.

  6. BJ, the whole point is to not criticize what you would shower with love. You do not need to concede being dominated in order to admit a rival team made a great move. As I mentioned, I am a die-hard Phillies fan, but when the Mets acquired Johan, I was able to admit they made a move I wished the Phillies could make, without conceding anything. I hate projections, which seems odd since I’m a sabermetrician, and I would much rather wait until the season starts to see what happens.
    The editorialized facts and selective statistical usage is used to make people feel better about themselves since they are seemingly in denial that a rival team improved.
    I feel that deep down, the reason most of these fans call into play these statistics specialized for their arguments is mainly that they know something good happened to a team they dislike but either do not know how to properly express it or cannot come grips.
    What you described in the last sentence is the type of fan I hate – the one who makes a prediction early on out of emotion, with no real basis, and then when it HAPPENS to come true (totally out of luck and with no pre-cognitive ability of the predictor) boasts about how he “knew it all along.”

  7. digglahhh says:

    The reason you were able to appreciate the trade for what it was, as opposed to being myopically driven to a disingenuous knee-jerk, is that you are a real fan. I happen to root for the Mets. The way I explain it to people is that baseball is the genus, Mets is the species. Baseball as an entity is always a, if the not the paramount concern. As such, I was certainly not obligated to root for my Amazin’s to collapse last season, but I was explicitly aware of the historical stature of such an event in its own right.
    The way people judge fandom is wholly ironic in that sense. I have a taste for jerseys and the like (long before it came and went as a hip hop fad), many of my Mets fan friends look at me like a Judas when I throw on the powder blue Schmidt joint. That’s not my lack of principles; it’s your putting the cart before the horse that’s issue here. The issue is that I am, in fact, the ultimate fan, while you are just a signifier to my signified…
    You might say, Digs, how pedantic you are. But, really, I’m just overcompensating because your first point made me want to reference to American Idol, but I couldn’t lead with that, this being my first post and all. The picking of nits, or the Freaks and Geeks moment happen all the time on American Idol. When some talentless wannabe debutante puts a Mengele on a Whitney Houston classic and the judges tell her how awful she is, she will routinely go into her, “They don’t know nothing” melodramatic rant. Of course said source of opinion would be incredibly valid if the opinion was that she was awesome!

  8. Diglahh, the American Idol comparison is definitely correct. Here’s an interesting story –
    Last year, while at Penn State, I was walking to class while wearing my Greg Maddux Braves jersey. I went to enter a class building and the person in front of me saw me and knowingly did not hold the door open. As I climbed the steps and went to the next level, again he saw me and did not hold the door open. This happened one more time as we both reached the top floor. He wasn’t just NOT holding the door open – it seemed like he was helping it close.
    Now, I normally would not care but THREE times in a row of showing no class or courtesy caused me to say “What’s your problem?”
    He replied, “I hate the Braves,” and walked away. This person had no idea who I was, what team I root for, or why I wore the jersey, but felt it appropriate to be a complete (expletive deleted) to me because he did not like the team on the jersey I was wearing.

  9. Corey Seidman says:

    Great stuff. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Watching Johan pitch against the Phillies will be extremely exciting. Knowing the Phillies they’ll rock him and then get shut out the next night by Mike Pelfrey, or Kip Wells, or … Sean Hayesss.
    But the real thing I wanted to say is let’s get serious. The reason nobody remembers Mark Lemke’s pitching career is because his work with the lumber was so stellar!

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