The Fall Guy

by on December 17, 2010 · 5 comments

If you haven’t read Tim McKernan’s article with Kyle Lohse on, then I suggest you click here for the goods.  I’d include some quotes, but it’s really worth a read, especially the part where Lohse claims to like Brendan right before he throws him under the team bus with a shot across the professionalism bow.  Admittedly, the level of honesty is quite refreshing, and the thinly-veiled insult probably represents the most vitriol Lohse has put into a pitch in years.  That said, I consider his remarks to be even more unprofessional than anything that Brendan Ryan was ever accused of doing during his time in St. Louis.  In the pantheon of unprofessional acts, badmouthing an ex-teammate is right up there with being the “unnamed source” inside the locker room. 

Of course, Benedict Lohse’s traitorous act isn’t at all a bad move.  It’s sure to garner support from TLR, and he’ll definitely earn some brownie points from Chris Carpenter.  As a matter of fact, Lohse probably just made himself the most popular pitcher in the history of baseball to enter a season coming off a 4-8 year.  Huzzah!  Well done.  Bravo.  Yippee and such.  Personally, I’m thrilled for the guy, and I’m impressed that he was able to single out Brendan’s lack of professionalism in such a huge cluster of lackluster performances.  That’s absolutely what did in the 2010 Cardinals…….or not.

If people are going to be thrown under the team bus, then let’s make sure the correct people are being tossed.  Also, it’s highly important when picking candidates for bus tire tread stamping that the appropriate selection criteria for used.  Make no mistake, Brendan definitely was in the wrong for hitting the batting cage and holding up the game.  Carp was absolutely on-point with his kind-hearted approach to explaining to Brendan the importance of getting to the field on time.  There was no other possible way to handle it and remain a professional about the incident.  Only a true professional could have handled the situation with the grace and dignity that Carp did that day, and I absolutely respect the man all that much more for his bullying skills.  Beyond Brendan (aka The Fall Guy), who else gets to see the underside of the team bus?

Well, why not start with every player who failed miserably at bunting last year?  What about any player who failed to run out every single ground ball or pop-up?  How about players who showed even the slightest visible sign of ambivalence while on the playing field?  What about players who failed to consume their full quota of sunflower seeds?  Can we include players who failed to cheer or clap loudly from the dugout?  How about guys who insisted on playing hurt, even when the team may have benefited from them taking an extra day off?  What about players who may have lied about the extent of their injuries to keep themselves in the lineup?  Can we blame Fredbird for favoring one section over another when launching t-shirts into the crowd?  (Completely irrelevant, but I’m bitter about not catching a t-shirt yet.)

Exactly what is the defining standard for the Cardinals’ version of professionalism?  It’s definitely against the unwritten rules to be too energetic and unfocused, but it’s okay to get ticketed for a DUI in Florida for a blood alcohol content of .093%.  It’s really bad to rub people the wrong way, but it’s alright to fall asleep in an SUV during spring training.  Puh-leaze.  It’s time to admit that the residents are now running the asylum, and the really influential residents just didn’t care to keep him around.  Fine.  Just come out and say it for once.  Man up.  Don’t pass it off on Brendan’s performance, either.  That’s one dog that just won’t hunt.  Check the WAR values for the position players, and you’ll understand why.  (NOTE:  I’ve limited the list to players with WAR values above zero, because it causes me physical pain to see Pedro Feliz‘s WAR of -0.4.)

  1. Albert Pujols – 7.2
  2. Matt Holliday – 5.5
  3. Yadier Molina – 3.1
  4. Colby Rasmus – 2.9
  5. Ryan Ludwick – 2.2
  6. David Freese – 1.7
  7. Brendan Ryan – 0.9
  8. Jon Jay – 0.8
  9. Skip Schumaker – 0.4
  10. Matt Pagnozzi – 0.2
  11. Daniel Descalso – 0.1
  12. Steve Hill – 0.1
  13. Jason LaRue – 0.1

What’s this?  Brendan was actually more valuable than both Jay and Schumaker.  Say it ain’t so!  Of course, that does not excuse his issues with maturity and punctuality.  If he’s as immature and as bad at time management as rumored, then the team probably should have just given him a cot inside the stadium during home stands.  As talented and entertaining as he is on the field, he needs to handle himself better when not on that field.  Since he’s no longer in St. Louis, I hope that a change in scenery will prove to be a turning point for the good. 

I have an idea for what I consider the ideal ending to the Brendan Ryan saga.  Brendan gets to Seattle, keeps his mouth shut and nose to the grindstone, and he has a really good rebound year.  Mo and TLR keep quiet, and they acknowledge internally that publicly whining about a player’s negatives right before trying to trade that player reduces the team’s return.  Lohse eventually realizes that the classy and professional thing to do is to avoid the temptation to provide the juicy soundbite, especially when that soundbite is given at the expense of someone you claim to like.  As for the fans, I hope we can all move on in a positive way and accept that just about everybody (except for us fans) had a hand in botching this one.  When throwing people under a team bus, it’s all or none.  I choose none.

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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Jason December 17, 2010

I’m not a blind TLR supporter, but bringing up someones personal issue (the DUI) — that the man has apologized for and admitted it was a mistake — is really low class to try and make a point.

Dennis December 17, 2010

Jason, I completely understand your sentiment, and I can certainly see how you might see it this way. However, I’m not trying to focus on TLR’s DUI itself as the issue, even though I do think it was the result of a really bad decision. I’m actually more interested in the way the organization responded to it, and that’s where I’m questioning the issue of professionalism. I equate the situation to a business person traveling on company business (in that case, it was spring training). Most companies have professional codes of conduct policies that prohibit something like a DUI. The penalties for violating that policy can be quite severe. Why isn’t that the case for baseball managers/coaches? Keep in mind that I’m not limiting this to TLR, because I made the same argument about the Rangers’ manager Ron Washington as well.

At the end of the day, I just wish that everyone were held to the same standard for “professionalism”. After all, it seems to work pretty well outside the baseball realm.

John December 29, 2010

Brendan Ryan had 163 more PA than Jay last year. To have only 0.1 more WAR, which is influenced by playing time, in that many more PA is not an indication of Ryan’s value. It’s an indication of his lack thereof. The only player w/ a lower WAR on your list that’s relevant is Skip. Ryan was a less-than-1-WAR SS in a game in which an average SS is a 2 WAR player. He’s not even average, overall, as a MLB player.

Dennis December 29, 2010

Thanks for the feedback. My specific mention of Jay is actually a somewhat underhanded tactic of calling out what I perceived as a lack of playing time for someone who obviously had more to contribute. I’ve made the case over and over that TLR relies too heavily on switch hitters, and Jay’s splits (.297 vs RHP, .308 vs LHP) gave him overlooked value in pinch hitting situations. The fact that he generated a 0.8 WAR despite playing subpar defense left me with the impression that he would be a great 2-spot hitter in the lineup.

The fact that Jay generated lower WAR than Ryan is not Jay’s fault, and I place blame elsewhere entirely.

The “average” SS is not actually a 2 WAR player. In the ideal framework of the WAR concept, a starting SS is expected to contribute a WAR value of between 2 and 5 to be considered a viable starting SS. Anything above 5 is considered All-Star level, and 8+ is considered MVP quality. If you averaged all the starting shortstops in the NL, you’d probably find that their average WAR is not actually 2.

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