Pitchers and Poets contributor Ben Lyon, a lawyer in Chicago, pipes up this week with a look back in time, to several of the great debates that have shaped the course of history.
These are heady times for the sports military industrial complex—the ground is littered with forgotten college basketball teams, the opening filibusters over who will get the #8 seeds in the NBA and NHL playoffs are slowly emerging, and best of all, labor strife in the NFL and the NBA is propelling the insurgent LaCrosse, Wisconsin Assessor candidacy of Mike Golic. Faux-outrage is at its zenith in early March.
But what of the pointless sports debates of previous generations? In our rush to find the next menial debate to fill the final 90 seconds of Around the Horn we fail as citizens if we don’t recognize when a seemingly endless debate is finally settled. Will America ever agree that Bobby Jackson deserved to be NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2002-2003?
Doubtful, as too much blood has been spilled, and the wound on our body politic remains too fresh.
And of course who amongst us can forget the fateful summer of ‘92: Young Cleveland Indian second baseman Carlos Baerga has been selected to the All-Star team as a last-minute injury replacement. The upstart Baerga is selected over avuncular Detroit Tiger first baseman Cecil Fielder. Despair commences in certain quarters, with ESPN Analyst Peter Gammons channeling his best John C. Calhoun impersonation when he says, “Baseball is trying to attract fans! And a lot more people would prefer to watch Fielder than Baerga!!”
(If emoticons had been invented at this point, Gammons would have used the following: “ :< ”)
So who did deserve to be in this All-Star game? Thankfully, the Baseball Writers Association of America is here to serve as our philosopher-king and settle this issue. At first glance, it appears that Gammons was wrong. Baerga (pinch hitting for Roberto Alomar Jr.) went 1-1 in the game; using Moneyball Sabermetics, we can calculate that at this pace, Baerga would have gotten a hit every time for an average of 1.000! Fielder did finish 9th to Baerga’s 11th in the 1992 MVP vote; however, they both finished behind Mike Devereaux, thus invalidating this as an argument.
Fast-forward to this winter, when the wise heads at BBWAA finally ended all debate. Carlos Baerga—he of 3 All-Star games, a league leading 444 Assists in 1995, and six triples in 1993 (good for 9th in the AL)—received 0 Hall of Fame votes. In 2004, Cecil Fielder received 1 Hall of Fame vote. By this indisputable math, the career of Fielder is infinity times better than that of Baerga. It therefore goes without saying that a player who is infinity times better than another deserves to make it into the 1992 All-Star game as an injury replacement.
In 1992, a grave injustice was committed. In the winter of 2011, this injustice was definitively rebuked–well for all except Jay Bell who hit only .264 in 1992 but somehow got 2 HOF votes!