By Mike Steffanos
It's becoming increasingly clear that rational baseball analysis in the local papers has joined the endangered species list. There was once a time when explaining the nuances of the game to the fans was an important part of what a columnist did. Now it seems proclaiming outrageous statements at the top of one's metaphorical lungs is what masquerades for deep thought in many quarters.
The New York Post's Kevin Kernan has been as guilty as anyone of perpetrating journalistic fraud, and today's column is no exception:
Everybody knows how much Jimmy Rollins loves to beat the Mets. His world champion Phillies are the team to beat but Rollins' ultimate baseball dream is to beat both New York teams in the same season.
Whip the Mets in the NL East or in the NLCS, then topple the Yankees in the World Series; New York, New York.
"That would be the sickest," Rollins told me yesterday as he sat in the third-base dugout after Team USA's practice at Dolphin Stadium. "That's something for the history books, Philadelphia knocking off two New York teams. I might retire. I mean, what else can I do after that?"
He smiled and said, "Guess I got to live up to the rest of my contract, though."
That's how J-Rolls.
Winning back-to-back World Series is the goal. The Phillies have proven to everyone that you can never count them out.
"We're going to be ready," Rollins promised. "When you play in a city like Philadephia, you better be ready. We want it now. We want to win again.
"We have an edge, we enjoy hating the other teams," he said. "We really do. We want to take you by your head, put it under the sand, and then step on your neck, for real."
That is winning passion, something the Mets lack.
"That's how the Yankees did it as a team," said the 2007 NL MVP. "We're going to stomp on you, we're going to take your pride, everything about you, we are going to take from you. That's been our ambition the last couple of years."
The Phillies have done just that to the Mets.
"We love to despise them," Rollins said.
A couple of points here. First of all, what's Kernan's explanation for why Rollins and his teammates' mighty hatred of the Mets translated into losing 11 of 18 games against the Mets this season? I'd hate to see how many games the Phillies would have lost head-to-head if they didn't utilize their super-secret hatred weapon.
Second, the Mets watched their bullpen blow 29 saves in 2008, and yet managed to stay in the race until the end. Twice in series against the Phillies, the bullpen blew a game that Santana started and left with a lead, yet both times the Mets came back to win every other game in the series against Philadelphia. Does that really indicate a lack of a winning passion?
As a Mets fan, I was certainly ultimately disappointed last season. It was tough to take, but I didn't question the passion for winning. I questioned decisions made in formulating this bullpen and a lack of situational hitting. But I never doubted that this team was fighting to win it.
A team that lacked the "winning passion" never would have bounced back from literally one crushing defeat after another. While nitwits with a press pass like Kernan continually questioned their desire to win, they went out every day and played hard. They handed countless leads to their bullpen, never looking demoralized no matter how often those leads were handed back. To me, that was the one real bright spot I remember from last season.
The difference between the Mets and Phillies last season was the difference between a terrific bullpen in one city and a terrible one in the other. While the Mets lost a bunch of games late, the Phillies' Brad Lidge had a career season of not blowing any.
It wasn't Rollins. It wasn't the triumph of despising other teams. Note to Kernan: It was the bullpen, stupid.
Of course, if Kernan is willing to stand behind his "expert analysis", perhaps he can single out for us those Mets who lacked the winning passion, so we know who to target our boos toward.
Is this winning passion an all or nothing deal, or can we quantify it numerically? (David Wright only lacks it 10%, Beltran 20%, Delgado 40%, etc.) Perhaps we can lobby to make this an official stat and display it on the scoreboard when a guy comes to the plate. (Damn, runners on second and third with two outs and Jerry sends up a guy who only possesses a 40% passion for winning, and only slightly dislikes the other team. I don't care that he's batting .320...)
Kudos to the Phillies for beating the odds and winning it all last season. Whether you like them or not, you have to respect them for what they accomplished. As far as this power of hatred goes, however, I guess you'd have to ask Brett Myers' wife about that.
There is something going on in the local media. It is personified by folks like Mike Francesa, Wally Matthews and Mr. Kernan. You don't need to say something intelligent. You don't even have to make sense. You just have to assert your asinine ramblings in a definite voice, and the more folks you piss off with it the better. Like the other names mentioned, Kevin Kernan is an ass.
It is becoming increasingly popular for our professional pundits to make inane, indefensible statements and label them analysis. Every day, logic is the casualty of this and the world seems a little stupider.
Utter nonsense masquerading as analysis with an attitude...
That's how K-rolls.