Friday, December 24, 2004

To Critique

Since when is the job of a baseaball writer to criticize a General Manager's job?

In the short life of this blog, I can only recall criticizing a few GM moves: the Jose Mesa contract, the Troy Percival contract, Jim Bowden's money giveaway, and Jim Hendry's failure to accumulate players who will reach base. I've also been puzzled by the amount of money given to some (Omar Vizquel and Jose Valentin come to mind) and pondered openly whether the investment was wise.

Yesterday I wrote, in response to the claim that "Paul DePodesta can't close deals" that he, in fact, has. In the comments, I was told this was a stupid thing to say because those moves were questionable. Wow, insightful. I mean, giving $70 million to Adrian Beltre or trading for a 41-year-old pitcher wouldn't be questionable, right?

When I started this blog, it was because I have a tendency to conduct research to analyze things that happen in baseball, especially with the Dodgers. That analysis and explication is what I enjoy. On the other hand, when a team either makes a move that is curious or fails to make a move that would have helped, I know there are plenty of other people around to jump all over it. All I'd like to do is provide an interpretation of what happens.

If a team signs a player whose skills are overrated, I'd like to talk about why. When a team likes a move, I like to show what effect it will have on a team. Things like roster and lineup construction can, more or less, be done in a vacuum. Things like trades and free agent signings, however, require the alignment of multiple actors. The current chic criticism of Paul DePodesta is he may know how to evaluate talent but he doesn't know how to execute. Well, something tells me that the combination of those two skills eludes almost everyone, so I have no business pretending that I can say what a GM should do when I don't know the limitations and context in which that GM acts.

My job isn't to show I'm smarter than any General Manager, even though that seems to be the expectation of a lot of people. If you want your blogger to tell you what GM's should do, there are more than enough places to find that, and I won't mind if you don't come back around here.

Comments:
To me, the question isn't so much whether DePodesta can close deals as to whether he has conceived them properly in the first place, with all the i's dotted and the t's crossed. That is to say, from the outside looking in -- through an admittedly opaque window into the black box that is a professional baseball club -- it looks like DePodesta makes deals as though he were a roto geek shuffling players. But as you say, nothing in the real world is that simple, and I get the feeling that DePodesta's liable to reduce the complexity of his subsequent actions. Oversimplifying this to "DePodesta can't close deals" is at best naive and at worst disingenuous; he's already clearly shown he can execute, albeit with holes at the fringes.

It's a study that reminds me a lot of Mencken's essay, "Criticism of Criticism of Criticism":


``Here is a novel,'' says the artist. ``Why didn't you write a tract?'' roars the professor -- and down the chute go novel and novelist. ``This girl is pretty,'' says the painter. ``But she has left off her undershirt,'' protests the head-master -- and off goes the poor dauber's head.Is the point of roster analysis to show how moral we are? No. But is it to show that we're smarter than the GM? Well, what other end could it possibly serve when we disagree with the outcome, as will inevitably happen? And how, then, do you justify condemning the same from others?
 
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