June 6, 2007
YOU MEAN CANO ISN'T CAREW?
Faith in Yankee Mystique Behind Bad Predictions (TIM MARCHMAN, June 6, 2007, NY Sun)
Easy as it is right now to kick the Yankees, there's someone else who deserves a boot in the ribs — this columnist. [...]
March 30 was an early date of shame for me, as I claimed in The New York Sun's season preview that "the Yankees should be, by far, the best team in baseball this year." Why? Among other reasons, I pointed out that at worst Mike Mussina, who currently has a 6.25 ERA, would be a league average pitcher; that Mariano Rivera, currently at 5.03, would do what he's done every year for a decade; that Johnny Damon would put up another solid year on his way to a possible Hall of Fame plaque; that Bobby Abreu, he of the .322 slugging average, would be an excellent hitter, and that Jason Giambi would be as good as Manny Ramirez. I actually got the last one right — there's not a hair's worth of difference between the way Giambi was hitting before he went down with a foot injury and the way the famed manchild is hitting for the Red Sox — but all the other predictions were way off. [...]
In proclaiming the Yankees a great baseball power, I ignored the fact that an old team will often be less than the sum of its parts, because having a lot of old players increases your odds that some of them will prove less reliable than they have in the past. Score one for Father Time, and one against both me and the Yanks.
While March 30 was moderately bad, April 30 was truly a cruel day. Making like the unfortunate former Iraqi Minister of Information, I claimed to be "highly impressed overall by the way the Yankees have played" and denounced the fretting of nervous Yankees fans as a "ridiculous spectacle," pointing out that while the Yankees ended the month 6.5 games out of first place, they'd done as badly in 2005 and nearly as badly in 2004 and still managed to win the division both years. I also implied that the Yanks looked on course for 98 wins.
What was wrong with this? Two things. First, in resisting panic, I probably descended into mere contrarianism. It's one thing to say a team has played well given a lot of injuries, another to say that you're "highly impressed" by a team with a losing record. Second, I succumbed to the logical fallacy that because the Yankees had done something unlikely in the past, they were likely to do so again. If anything, you'd figure that in 2005 the Yankees used their get out of jail free card, and that with an older, wearier team, this year's club would finally take the fall they'd avoided in the past.
All of this, I would hope, is nothing that would land me in the stocks. Claiming, as I did May 7, that signing Roger Clemens gave the Yankees "an advantage over the Red Sox roughly comparable to the Sox's lead in the standings" due to the difference between Clemens and the chumps he will eventually replace might be stock worthy, a triumph of mathematics over common sense — but at least Mike and the Mad Dog aren't playing that one 40 times a day.
If there's a lesson here, it's probably just that the fabled Yankee mystique and aura really do hold some power. If you look at the common thread between my big errors, it comes down to assuming that the players, and the team as a whole, would do this year more or less what they've done in the past.
Give a Yankee fan a hug and tell him you understand that he's not to blame for the nonsense he's spewing. Posted by Orrin Judd at June 6, 2007 10:35 AM