I guess I am old school since I feel you always get the best player in any deal. I also think sabermetrics is valuable, but baseball cannot be reduced to a mathematical equation. Justin Upton is clearly the best player in this deal. Tell me which D-backs hitter exactly are pitchers on other teams, especially the Giants and Dodgers, going to worry aboutlate in the game?
Comment by bvillebaron — January 28, 2013 @ 12:59 pm
Feels like the article should be titled “Despite the obvious racism against African-American ballplayers, the DBacks are getting decent players”
Seems like a bit of a straw man argument. I think most FG readers would realize Prado’s a good player, not equal to JU but still pretty good, and I also doubt anyone is trashing the Brandon McCarthy deal.
It’s easy to look at Eaton and say he’s projected to be a valuable player this year thanks to JU’s departure but then how can you overlook sending away Bauer’s “now” value (over whomever their 5th starter is while Hudson recovers?)
The easiest thing to trash about Arizona, by far, is their underhanded attempt to justify the trade by knocking Upton’s qualities as a leader through the media.
As a Braves fan I’ll risk the Dbacks not understanding that having what sounds like is an introverted personality doesn’t mean you don’t care, or don’t play hard, or aren’t “gritty”. I don’t think having those outward personality traits keeps Prado from slumping.
It’s funny how people keep repeating this philosophy, but no one actually believes it in practice. If the Tigers traded Miguel Cabrera for Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmerman, and Ian Desmond, you wouldn’t be lauding the Nationals for making a great trade, even though none of those three players are as good as Cabrera.
There is clearly a balance between quantity and quality. The idea that quality always wins over quantity is silly.
Let me make a fantasy baseball analogy. If I was offered Justin Upton, Trevor Bauer, Stephen Drew, and Chris Young for Martin Prado, Brandon McCarthy, Cody Ross, Cliff Pennington and Didi Gregorius I would bite the other guys hand off.
Of course real baseball and “Intangibles” and grit and running into walls and football mentality……blah, blah, blah.
Great narrative potential for the DBacks. They had a +46 run diff, but only won 81 games. Now, if a few things go their way this year and they win 10 more games, we can read about how it was all the grittiness. Makes you wonder what would have happened if Upton never hurt his thumb, and a few more things broke their way.
I remain unconvinced. I think the D-Backs made two bad trades, since they’re not really in a position where mortgaging the future for the present makes much sense, and in my mind that’s essentially what they’ve done. The fact that they’ve justified these poor long-term decisions by harping on the personalities of the players involved I think is worthy of criticism. This feels like a forced attempt to play Devil’s advocate.
I coach basketball and the commonly used ‘white guy’ words are heady, hard-nosed, tough, gritty, hard worker, fundamental, and has intangibles.
Comment by rauchc3145 — January 28, 2013 @ 1:26 pm
There was a quote going on about players not being afraid to get a concussion, which was the highlight of this stupidity, and especially insulting to the family of Junior Seau.
I also have no idea how a pitcher, let alone Brandon McCarthy, qualifies as “gritty”. McCarthy comes off as extremely intelligent on twitter, and freak skull injury aside, has been especially injury prone his entire career.
There’s also the idea of racism in that African-American players are never considered “gritty grinders”, even when they are, and the even dumber idea that just because a player who is short and white is automatically one. Its funny that having terrible form when you run is what earns that tag, a guy who runs smoothly and effortlessly is still putting in 100%. There’s no difference, every player who plays in a game is 100% focussed 99% of the time.
Look, Pedroia is under no circumstances, a grinder. He’s extremely good at baseball, he won the MVP. You cannot be a grinder and a superstar at the same time. Luis Gonzalez hit 58 HR in a single season, there’s absolutely nothing “grind-y” about that. He has no say in this, but how can you not chuckle that this hypocrisy:
“What we’ve gained now, is a couple of blue collar guys that are going to play the D-back way,”
“But at the same time, this is a business in baseball.”
That’s funny how Luis views the game as a business, yet he wants “blue collar” guys? What does that even mean? Also, calling a millionaire athlete playing a game “blue collar” is massively insulting to America’s REAL blue collar workers. Lastly, really? You are turning to a 24 year old for leadership? What in the heck is the matter with you???
In closing, I now hate the Diamondbacks passionately for how they handled this and am actively rooting for Upton to win the MVP next year. If Upton and Gibson didn’t get along, then just say that. Don’t badmouth players on the way out. Don’t make yourself look like an idiot by saying “Yeah this 24 year old wasn’t a leader”. Just say that he didn’t fit the future and you were looking to sell high for prospects for him. The thing is, AZ sold low on both Upton and Young, who were both African American, and Bauer, who told them specifically if they drafted him, they had to leave him alone in terms of his preparation, which they didn’t do. It looks like AZ are championing antiquated, outdated thoughts on baseball that most of the league has worked hard to get rid of. To me, this is worse than what Loria did this offseason, and Loria got much better value in his trade too.
Comment by Forrest Gumption — January 28, 2013 @ 1:28 pm
I think people mean in terms of star players Dave. The Cabrera/Harper thing wouldn’t be looked at like that since both are such high end players. But in the case where a 4-5 win player is traded for a couple of average solid 2 win guys, people would prefer the 4-5 win guy because your odds of finding guys to give you 2 win seasons are so much more abundant.
What’s shocking about all the criticism toward the Dbacks is that they totally ignored any non-stat related factors. None of us has a clue what goes on in the Diamondbacks clubhouse, or any other clubhouse for that matter. So to act like off the field factors have no bearing on team performance seems incredibly stupid to me. It’s as though “stat guys” think that if you can’t measure something it therefore doesn’t exist.
I’m also surprised at all the heat Kevin Towers is taking. I know that his track record in the amateur draft is terrible but he is one of the best GM’s in baseball when it comes to trades. The mid 2000 Padres teams that had winning records 4 years in a row were basically built on Towers’ trades – and most of them were complete heists. I think he knows what he is doing.
Bauer is literally a mechanical engineer, who viewed himself in the Lincecum mold, who specifically told every team that if they drafted him, they’d have to let him be himself, because he spent years developing his routine and pitches…because he’s an engineer.
AZ heard him say this, drafted him and then immediately told him he had to take on their ancient ways. That’s how their relationship soured. He is smarter than everyone in that organization (pretty funny how quickly they traded Breslow, another near-genius too), and they are clearly not following any logic or taking on modern advances in the game. I’d be furious if I was a fan of that team by their new/old direction.
So yeah, Bauer’s race wasn’t an issue, but his intelligence was.
Comment by Forrest Gumption — January 28, 2013 @ 1:35 pm
Gold star post.
Comment by Forrest Gumption — January 28, 2013 @ 1:36 pm
Its mostly to do with AZ’s front office badmouthing their players on their way out. Just say they didn’t get along with the manager and leave it at that.
Comment by Forrest Gumption — January 28, 2013 @ 1:41 pm
>the Diamondbacks improved their 2013 team this winter, and should be viewed as legitimate contenders in the NL West
Not when the have to compete with Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Comment by The Whole Hog — January 28, 2013 @ 1:43 pm
Yeah, I don’t know why baseball executives want people that are “physical” and look “manly.” After all, there is VERY little actual physical contact in baseball. One in a while the catcher has to block the plate but by and large, the only thing that matters is how well you play. If Mike Trout started wearing makeup, eyeliner, lipstick, and pink clothes, who cares? He’s still awesome and good at baseball.
As a Cleveland Indians fan I will be sending a thank you card to Kevin Towers. If you eliminate the Reds side of the deal (Choo-Stubbs-Gregorius) The Tribe managed to obtain Trevor Bauer (top prospect), Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers (solid relievers) for Tony Sipp (control problems)and Lars Anderson (subsequently DFA’d by the Snakes already).
Chris Young for Pennington? Not Good. I see a bounceback for Young and Pennington falling off an offensive Cliff.
You can’t call subtracting Bauer for McCarthy an Arizona win for 2013. Putting the salaries aside (Arizona actually got a good deal on McCarthy – buts its still league minimum versus 5 million), Bauer is under team control for a long time, McCarthy just had Brain Surgery, McCarthy is a DL regular, Bauer has more upside.
Giving Cody Ross a Big Contract? No Thanks. Although his high sock look is kinda sexy.
Delgado and Prado will make an impact for the Diamondbacks but at the cost of a 25 year old franchise player?
The DBAGS and Towers deserve criticism but the fans can take comfort in the fact that they will compete and are not fans of the Phillies and their murderers row of a lineup (Delmon Young, Michael Young, Yuniesky Betancourt).
It’s as though “stat guys” think that if you can’t measure something it therefore doesn’t exist.
Keith Law responded to this best, I think:
If you don’t know what something’s value is – and drop the word “exactly,” because you can’t even be approximate on this – how do you know what a fair price is for it? What you end up with is a post hoc justification for whatever price you paid.
That’s why its such a massive bummer Fire Joe Morgan stopped existing. We need to educate and let them know that even they don’t understand what they’re saying. If we can make directly racist hate-speech something that isn’t tolerated in our lifetime, why not try and make indirectly racist terms like “gritty grinder” too?
It is actually racist to use those terms, because it never applies to African Americans and teams like AZ are championing it and saying its what theyre looking for. We need to speak up and tell them this isn’t cool and they are being racist when they say stuff like this. Being gritty shouldn’t even mean anything, and shouldn’t be what teams are looking for. Being great at playing baseball should be the most important thing, always.
Comment by Forrest Gumption — January 28, 2013 @ 1:49 pm
I had the same thought about leadership. Why would you expect that from a guy who’s probably (without actually looking it up) been the youngest or at least one of the youngest guys on your team his whole career.
That’s like how Joe Morgan used hate on OBP and walks…
Comment by Forrest Gumption — January 28, 2013 @ 1:54 pm
To be fair, Gregorius and Sipp are a lot more black than Bauer, Shaw, or Albers
Comment by hellothere — January 28, 2013 @ 1:56 pm
Two of the players the Diamonbacks traded away were Trevor Bauer and Justin Upton. One is is white, the other black. Some of the returning players acquired include Martin Prado, a Venezuelan, and Didi Gregorius, who grew up in the Netherlands, but is quite black.
Seems all very American, Melting Pot type of players moving about. The Diamondbacks biggest failure is by talking down players they intend to trade, basically creating a scenario where they’ll get less on the dollar. Racism? No. Prejudice? Maybe. Prejudice against a personality type that Bauer and Upton displayed. Perhaps the Diamondbacks are correct. Shocking thought.
“However, perhaps lost in the criticism of the process is that the Diamondbacks aren’t just collecting gritty players who can’t play baseball; they’re targeting players who are very likely undervalued by the market, and building a pretty decent baseball team in the process.”
The only problem is the D-backs are traded highly-valued assets for these undervalued assets. That simply does not make sense. If these assets are truly undervalued, then they shouldn’t have to give up Upton and Bauer for them.
I’m not so sure Dave was completely playing Devil’s Advocate. He argued that the Dbacks could very well be better in 2013, but conceded that they, perhaps, mortgaged too much of their future. I think the point of the article, though, was to highlight the 2013 scenario.
Athletic players make the difficult look easy … so they very rarely look as if they are hustling or going all out, because they are so fluid.
Seriously, am I to believe that annoying Jarrod Haase gave more effort than Michael Jordan.
We also have to stop rewarding the fake hustle of Eric Byrnes and the fake intensity of Mike Fetters.
Baseball is more similar to golf than it is football. I know male fans don’t like to admit that, but it’s true (I say that as one that played it from age 5 through college).
It does seem at times that minority players “can’t win” in the emotional arena. If they don;t display frustration after making an out, thejn they don’t care. If they display a little too much emotion after an out, then they’re an angry black guy (or Latin hothead).
It reminds me of what I say when we’re coaching our 11U travel team. Instead of saying the 46 reminders that dads/coaches often like to say to sound smart, I just say “be perfect”, because in the end, that’s the real expectation. Do what I think you should do, when I think you should do it … without me actually having to give you specific expectations or directions.
There will always be a bias against the incredibly athletic, muscular, etc because they make it look easy or they look as if they should be even better than everyone else.
Comment by CircleChange11 — January 28, 2013 @ 2:14 pm
Loved the article, one thing I hated seeing was the “unnamed former teammate.” That stuff bugs me. I hate it when guys are “man enough” to talk smack about someone behind their back and then hide who they are. Stand up, stand behind your words like a real man. Take the consequences that come from them. I just have this sinking feeling it’s a guy who was close to Justin Upton on the team and is remaining friends meanwhile he’s dragging his reputation through the mud behind his back. I don’t agree with it and never have. If you have something to say about a man, say it to his face, or if you do it through the media, don’t hide your name. Face the music.
Bauer I agree with. Upton they didn’t have much of a choice on. Towers has said more bad things about Upton than good and when you are the GM trying to trade him, that makes 0 sense at all. He may have lowered Upton from high value to mid value just by constantly having nothing good to say. Such a weird way to handle this situation.
I hated that part of the article about McCarthy, because it’s not like they couldn’t keep Bauer and sign McCarthy – that was just part of the personality-clash idiocy (Bauer told them pre-draft that he needed to be left alone, but nooo), not that Towers was thinking Bauer is expendable because McCarthy is available.
I can see this DBacks team being a contender in the NL West. Not to get short winded and not back anything up (in a hurry, at work) but who really saw the concoction of players in Oakland last year as a threat? It can be done and the DBacks don’t have a bad roster really.
The thing to remember about DCameron’s pieces is that they’re not always directed entirely (or even in some cases primarily) at the FG readership. He’s having conversations across baseball and responding to what has been written by others elsewhere, and sometimes his responses don’t fit into 240 characters so we get articles like this. It may be preaching to the choir, and thus a bit of a waste for us, but this is the outlet he has for longer responses (unless it involves the Mariners, for which he has USSM). The straw man arguments he’s refuting are not his.
Dude being some undergrad engineering student does not make you a ‘near genius’. Nor does it mean you’ve all of a sudden developed some secret to pitching. It’s the DBacks fault for drafting him, but Bauer is kind of a prat.
Funny, I didn’t take the teammate as talking smack about him. I thought he was defending his effort but simply stating that his style wasn’t a fit with the Manager/GM. The teammate talked about his ‘quiet intensity’ and the fact that he ‘played hard’ – those sure sound like positive characteristics to me.
Agreed. I read that as praise for Upton and implicit criticism of his former employer for being unable to accept his “style” — and given that this employer still employs the source, perfectly reasonable that he’d want to remain unnamed.
I definitely am. I also want the Diamondbacks to fail miserably and be under .500 this year.
Comment by Forrest Gumption — January 28, 2013 @ 3:51 pm
My issue with the ZiPS projections preferring the new outfield is two-fold:
First, they assume that Ross, who sucks at defense, would be playing CF over Upton who came through the D-Backs system as a CF.
Second, their projection for Upton is straight up awful. He never has an ISO of ~.195 (20-25 HR power), he has 15-20 HR power when he’s injured, and 30+ HR power when he’s healthy. That is, he’s a 110 wRC+ guy or a 130 wRC+ guy. There isn’t a median.
Of course, Prado is way, way better than Chris Johnson, so I guess that might be the difference.
Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — January 28, 2013 @ 3:52 pm
Thinking that it’s a mistake to trade your only impact bat for a good but not great player and a few mediocre prospects is far from a “melange of feelings that conveniently affirm [his] opinion.”
Comments like this are why people think we’re dicks.
Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — January 28, 2013 @ 3:54 pm
Oh boy, I’d love to see someone try to turn “heart and hustle” and “grit and determination” into a stat. I’m sure guys like David Echkstein and Adam Rosales would love to see it too.
Comment by Forrest Gumption — January 28, 2013 @ 4:00 pm
Gritty players are a subset of white players. They need to have a certain set of skills (often, the same skills in a non-white player would indicate the opposite of grittiness – this is where your casual racism comes in), look a certain way, definitely have certain mannerisms, and maybe have certain perceived personality traits. FWIW, Brandon McCarthy doesn’t seem very gritty: being a known smart/funny person kills your grittitude.
Your Bauers, your Drews both J.D. (the absolute posterboy for white gritlessness) and Stephen…they’re as white as anyone, but for grit purposes they might as well be Manny Ramirez.
an alternate reality where a few more things break their way, they defeat the giants a few more times, the dodgers go to the playoffs, lose to Cincinnati, Cincinnati wins the WS, drew stubbs is ws mvp (because if scutaro and delmon young can be playoff mvps why not stubbs?), cincy signs stubbs to extension and aren’t looking for OF help in offseason, cleveland and arizona make 3 way trade with minnesota swapping span for stubbs, dc trades for revere, atl is still looking for an OF and towers still doesn’t like Upton because towers never liked upton, and the upton trade still happens.
Yeah, no, even in the alternate reality this still happens. I checked.
Comment by tylersnotes — January 28, 2013 @ 4:21 pm
Sensible POV, and Gibson’s schtick will get very old sooner or later.
Comment by chanelclemente — January 28, 2013 @ 5:06 pm
“Grit” basically refers to the quality of working hard to try to make up for a lack of innate talent. Of course, there are plenty of players who work hard without having a lot of talent. You only get called “gritty” if you’re good enough to make the majors.
Martin Prado is a remarkable case of a player who was not particularly heralded in the minor leagues but has had a very effective career in the majors due to an ability to hit .300 while playing above-average defense at multiple positions. He is renowned in the Braves organization for his work ethic, which is one way that he has been able to play significant innings for the team at left field, second base, third base, and even as an emergency shortstop and first baseman.
“Grit” is racially coded for a couple of reasons. First, most of the paradigmatically “gritty” players are white, from Pete Rose to David Eckstein, though Martin Prado and Chone Figgins are nonwhite but gritty. Second, though, it is related to the racist stereotype of whites as brainy and hardworking and African-Americans as talented but lazy, able to get by on talent alone without working hard. Those sort of characterizations were all over the press in the 1950’s, such as when sportswriters would talk about how Hank Aaron “shuffled” in the outfield and never appeared to try very hard.
To be fair, people did say the same things about Ted Williams in the outfield.
Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — January 28, 2013 @ 5:20 pm
If Martin Prado wouldn’t sign a team friendly deal with the Braves I doubt he will sign one with the Diamondbacks. The only reason he became expendable was that the Braves front office learned that he wants a 4 to 5 year deal paying at least 11M-12M per season.
This is clearly not a racial stereotype issue but a team philosophy issue. Look at the two light hitting shortstops arizona acquired. Cliff Pennington and didi Gregorius. Its there in black and white. They’re shortstops are going to be terrible whatever the color of their skin.
I enjoy watching “gritty” players, partly because that’s how an untalented athlete like me had to play sports just to get by, and partly because I believe sports are more exciting to watch when a maximum effort is clearly on display.
But all this time I was an incorrigible racist. Thanks for clearing that up, fangraphs readership.
Comment by china_dave — January 28, 2013 @ 6:14 pm
Bauer is not literally a mechanical engineer. He is literally a minor league pitcher. Perhaps he could literally become a major league pitcher someday if he takes his head out of his ass and listens to his coaches.
Prado is clean cut and plays hustle ball. White people love that. The race thing is definately an issue, but managers do lots of halo/horn stuff. Bauer as the cocky young player, the braves have THE “lazy black” outfield. People assign archetypes to workers all the time in all lines of work.
Comment by Antonio bananas — January 28, 2013 @ 9:50 pm
Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — January 28, 2013 @ 9:56 pm
Isn’t Stubbs on the Indians?
Comment by Ivan Grushenko — January 28, 2013 @ 10:21 pm
you have uncovered the only flaw in my logic
Comment by tylersnotes — January 28, 2013 @ 10:30 pm
I think Bob Gibson, Kirby Puckett and Derek Jeter, as well as the aforementioned Adam Rosales count as black and latino players considered “gritty” in the mainstream media. I do think it’s easier for a black anglophone player to be considered gritty than a native Spanish speaker. Anglophone reporters seem to identify better with anglophone players, black or otherwise. A latino player like Mike Lowell can be gritty though, if his name isn’t Spanish and he speaks English with an American accent.
Comment by Ivan Grushenko — January 28, 2013 @ 10:31 pm
Williams was Mexican
Comment by Ivan Grushenko — January 28, 2013 @ 10:34 pm
I like watching gritty players too — I loved Eric Byrnes when he was on the A’s, but even I wouldn’t have traded Rickey Henderson for Kirk Gibson, no matter how intense Kirk was, how smooth Rickey was or anything else related to personality. There’s no way you trade a superstar for merely good player and not feel it in the win column.
Comment by Ivan Grushenko — January 28, 2013 @ 10:36 pm
Anything’s possible but it won’t be easy — Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Nationals all seem to have more talent. Brewers, Giants and Phillies aren’t bad either.
Comment by Ivan Grushenko — January 28, 2013 @ 10:37 pm
Comment by Willie Bloomquist — January 28, 2013 @ 11:17 pm
Forrest, are you a D’back’s fan upset with the trades, or something else? I agree only so far as I like to see talented young players do well. I feel nothing bad toward the Diamondacks beyond how they handled this whole process, talking down the value of their players when they fully intended to trade them.
That our language is overdetermined by race doesn’t mean that every player is judged by cookie cutter racial stereotypes. In other words, just b/c there is a white player some people think of as lazy or a black player some people may think of as gritty doesn’t mean that the way that we think or talk about baseball isn’t profoundly affected by racial stereotypes, even when we don’t think it is.
Comment by BurleighGrimes — January 29, 2013 @ 12:54 am
Tennis is awesome, but that is unrelated to this argument.
Comment by BurleighGrimes — January 29, 2013 @ 12:54 am
The problem is how we assess grittiness. Some players — Carlos Beltran comes to mind — have been disliked in some quarters b/c it seems that they aren’t putting in enough effort. That is a part of being a gifted athlete! Making extraordinarily difficult things look easy!
Comment by BurleighGrimes — January 29, 2013 @ 12:56 am
Whew, thank God. I thought for a second the Diamondbacks had decided to pencil pitcher Adam Eaton into their rotation. I’m not even a Diamondbacks fan in the slightest and it still makes me cringe to think of it.
Well, the difference between Rickey and guys like Upton was that Rickey made looking cool look… cool. It’s pretty easy to do that when even your bad days are pretty good.
When you’re someone like Upton that gets into slumps more, people are going to get pretty annoyed that you still looking unflappable. Moral of the story: if you’re going to be someone who plays it cool, you should either be so good that you’re untouchable or so unimportant that no one notices when you suck.
I really despise the leap to ‘racism!’ in these posts.
People I would describe as gritty, in no particular order of grittiness:
Jerome Bettis (or any other smash mouth, up the gut running back in the NFL), Juan Manuel Marquez, Antonio Barrera, Josh Koscheck, Phil Davis, Dog The Bounty Hunter, the entire cast of Swamp People, none of the cast of Arrested Development and Patricia Arquette for surviving the absolutely vicious beating Tony Soprano put on her back before he got famous with his TV deal on HBO.
People I would describe as athletically (or otherwise) talented, but in my opinion lacking a certain mental toughness (grittiness) generally associated with sustained success at the highest level: Rafael Nadal, Gil Meche, Brock Lesnar, Andy Roddick, the Segue creator, the entire cast of Arrested Development, none of the cast of Swamp People and Christopher Moltasante, who caught more breaks than anyone and just couldn’t figure out how to undo his cranio-rectal inversion, notably highlighted by his smothering a dog while on a bender because he was too lazy to sit up for two seconds and lit it transfer to the floor.
Comment by misterjonez — January 29, 2013 @ 4:59 am
that quote isn’t about how he looks, it’s about how he plays the game…
and anyway, Prado being a good defensive player and a solid hitter doesn’t make him an impact hitter. It makes him a good defender and a solid hitter.
Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — January 30, 2013 @ 12:29 pm
Ivan, everyone knows Jeter got his grit from his mom’s side.
Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — January 30, 2013 @ 12:30 pm
and, furthermore, Prado being roughly as productive in his age 26-28 seasons as Upton was in his age 22-24 seasons is almost as much a point in my favor as the fact that he outproduced Prado’s 25-28 seasons from 21-24 and his 27-28 seasons from 23-24.
Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — January 30, 2013 @ 12:33 pm