Archive: December 30th, 2006

Gamer: Follow Up

Since I have nothing better to do in this post-Zito Hot Stove season, I’ve researched some previous World Champions and identified the “gamers” on those clubs.

If you read this blog frequently, you know I’m not much for analyzing Win Shares, ZiPS projections, PECOTA cards, and other hard-core baseball stats. MetsGeek covers that stuff in fine detail — and they do a wonderful job at that.

Being more of an “old school” baseball guy, I tend to look at intangibles and other immeasurables (though the statheads have interesting points as well).

Maybe it’s because I hate math, or am too lazy to try and understand SABRmetrics. It’s all too concrete and final … I like opinions that have arguments attached. Makes for a more interesting offseason.

As mentioned in the earlier post, a “gamer” is a guy who plays with extreme passion, and visibly does everything he has to do to win the game. In many cases, he is an overachiever, but is occasionally a star. Often he’s called “pesky”, or a “scrapper”, and opponents may hate him. He’s usually vocal — both in the clubhouse and with opponents — and may sometimes get in trouble for his mouth. He plays the game hard: gets dirty, plays hurt, fights, crawls, scratches, runs into walls, and takes out the DP pivotman. He is also almost always fundamentally sound in all areas of the game, including bunting and/or hit-and-run, is a solid if not excellent fielder, and runs the bases well regardless of speed. He’s willing to give himself up for the team, such as playing out of position or poking a grounder to the right side to move the runner from second to third. He’s the guy you have faith in to execute a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the ninth, and to somehow come up with the big hit in the World Series. He’s the guy whose heart you’d never question, not for a second.

The Mets have some great athletes on their team, but maybe not enough gamers. Carlos Beltran is a fine example of a near superstar who might not be considered a gamer. Have you ever seen him crash into a wall for a ball (the Cameron accident doesn’t count)? Seen blood on his pants? Would you trust him to bunt a guy over?

Carlos Delgado might be there, especially after coming up big in the postseason. David Wright is getting there, but his flop in the postseason sent him backward in the gamer class. Shawn Green used to be there, when he was younger, but his skills are not what they used to be. Jose Reyes? Another fine talent, not really a gamer … but maybe someday. Paul LoDuca, and, to a degree, Endy Chavez, are the only legitimate, down and dirty gamers the Mets play on a regular basis. They could use at least one, if not more, of these type of players, if they want to go to a World Series.

Herewith are examples of “gamers” from previous World Series Champions … with the hopes that the Mets can find one or two more of these gritty types to fill their roster in 2007.

2006 Cardinals
David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen. To a degree, Scott Spiezio, So Taguchi.

2005 White Sox
Joe Crede, AJ Pierzynski, Aaron Rowand. Maybe Tadahito Iguchi.

2004 Red Sox
Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn.

2003 Marlins
Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Lowell. Maybe you throw Juan Pierre or Luis Castillo in there.

2002 Angels
Bengie Molina, David Eckstein, Darin Erstad, Adam Kennedy, Scott Spiezio.

2001 Diamondbacks
Mark Grace, Jay Bell, Steve Finley, Matt Williams.

2000 Yankees
Scott Brosius, Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, Chuck Knoblauch

1986 Mets
Ray Knight, Lenny Dykstra, Wally Backman. You could also put Mookie Wilson, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter in there.

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates
Tim Foli, Phil Garner, Willie Stargell. Dave Parker, Lee Lacy, and Ed Ott were close.

1978 Yankees
Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella. To a lesser degree, Brian Doyle.

1976 Reds
Pete Rose, Johnny Bench

1973 A’s
Sal Bando, Gene Tenace. To a lesser degree, Joe Rudi and Bert Campaneris.

1969 Mets
Buddy Harrelson, Tommie Agee, Jerry Grote.

Now, surely there have been World Champions that didn’t have a David Eckstein, Scott Brosius, or Ray Knight — but those teams seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

And while it’s true that pitching wins, consider the ’79 Pirates, who did not have a 15-game winner on their staff (John Candelaria led the team with 14 wins). That may not seem like a big deal today, but back in the late 70s, it was routine for a first-place team to have at least one 20-game winner, if not two. The 1976 Reds were similar, with only one 15-game winner — but they also had an unbelievable offense headed by Bench, Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and George Foster.

The 2007 Mets will have a strong offense, though not one that compares with the Big Red Machine. In fact, it’s more similar to the ’79 Pirates — a mix of of hard-hitting veterans with good speed, adequate defense, and strong fundamentals.
Those Pirates won 98 games before beating a strong Orioles club. They had the “We are Family” thing going on, led by Pops Stargell, and reinforced by the scrappy play of the likes of Garner and Foli. The Mets could have similar success in 2007, but rather than giving up the farm for a frontline pitcher, maybe all they need is to find an inexpensive, overachieving second baseman or outfielder with unquestionable heart. Though a less glamorous move, in the end it might be more impactful.

Maybe I’m nuts, but perhaps the Mets should have made an under-the-radar run for Craig Counsell, Darin Erstad, or someone else of that ilk, while everyone was focused on Barry Zito.

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