Saturday, August 30, 2008

So It Is Written

Sports reporting, for the most part, is silly. You read it and then take what you've read with a grain of salt. And for the most part, you get used to the schmoes who blast you with anger and overstatements—you mostly get used to it. However, the one thing you don't get used to is when the overstatement mixes with the smug and lazy thinking and silly rationalizations. Here's an example.

John Harper and Mike Lupica (in fact all almost all of the Daily News writers) have been pounding Brian Cashman all week for not making the Johan Santana trade. That's the trade of Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana. They imply this season could have been saved if Johan, and Johan alone would have been a Yankee. They imply he would have fixed all the Yankees problems.

And yes, while Hughes and Kennedy haven't performed all that well, it's way too early to be giving up on these kids. Hughes, for instance was only in six games, for a total of 22 innings before he broke a rib. Kennedy has pitched 39 innings this season, and a total of 59 for his career. Johan Santana, the guy everyone at the Daily News revere had a 6.49 after his first 86 innings. In fact, Santana didn't become "Santana" until his third season in the league.

But more than the famous Yankees impatience—or rather New York City impatience—is the lack of vision regarding Santana itself. Namely, there are signs he's slipping. Now, a look at his numbers show that, yes, he's not "Barry Zito" slipping, but there are definite signs. First of all, his strikeouts are way down, from a 9.7 (K/9) last year to a 7.5 this year. And his walks and WHIP are up. In fact, his WHIP has climbed steadily every year since 2004.

There were already signs Santana was slipping last year. His ERA and WHIP both jumped significantly. And in the second half last year, his ERA climbed north of 4.00, including a 4.94 ERA in September. This year, in the much easier National League, in the cushy confines of spacious Shea Stadium, Santana still has the highest WHIP of his career since his first year as a starter and the highest walk rate nice that same year. Consider LaTroy Hawkins, who with the Yankees had a 5.71 ERA has with the Astros, has earned a 0.00 ERA in 9 innings and has 15 Ks. Santana should have had a dominating year in the National league and in Shea Stadium. He was set up to rule. And while he has a had a nice year, it wasn't the mega year he should have had.

But don't tell that to the media. Heck, if only the Yankees had gotten Santana, all would be well. According to them, he'd have gotten the Cy Young in the more hitter friendly Yankee Stadium (the 4th highest hitter-friendly rating as opposed to 23rd rated Shea Stadium) while pitching in the American League. And the Yankees, with Giambi batting .250 and Cano slumping the first half and Posada injured and Matsui injured and Wang injured and Bruney injured...Santana would have cured all of that. Because he would have magically pitched in his 2004 form and not the trend he seemed to be going.

While the above paragraph is sarcastic, let me be honest. Santana is a superb pitcher, no doubt. However, what irks is the overstatement, the hyperbole—the eagerness to blame somebody for something, despite the fact that your "cure" might not have been the cure at all. And in the New York papers, the belief is, if you repeat something enough, it becomes true. So not getting Santana ruined the Yankees season. So it is written, so it is true.

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