Blame the Superstar
In response to my SI column yesterday calling out, among other early-season phenomena, the relentless booing and media-bashing of Mets superstar David Wright, I received a flood of emails from disheartened Mets fans, pointing out the reason for their frustration over Wright’s play.
Here’s a good one…
Dear Mr. Keri:
The reason Mets fans are booing David Wright is that he has been absolutely abysmal in the clutch. I agree that he won’t end the season with 8 home runs and 203 strikeouts but any self-respecting Mets fan could care less if he finishes with his usual numbers if he continues to fail miserably in big situations. This pattern of coming up empty in big spots was established two years ago and continues today. Unlike Beltran and Delgado, Wright was given the benefit of the doubt because he’s a home grown product and so-called face of the franchise. But, enough is enough, he’s long removed from his rookie season, and it’s time to stop treating him with kid gloves.
The reason Beltran gets booed is because he has the same reputation. The Mets thought they were getting the guy who carried the Astros in that playoff series but instead they got a player with solid season-ending stats that don’t reflect how few times he came through in the clutch during the year. I agree, however, that he does not deserve such wrath coming out of the gate how he has this year.
Bottom line, the fans don’t want to see Wright become their version of A-Rod: all personal numbers and no big hits when it counts.
To which I replied:
Hi Ward, thanks for the note.
The problem with the argument that Wright deserves scorn because he doesn’t come through in the clutch is that…it’s completely false. Here are David Wright’s splits from 2006-2008:
Overall: .312 AVG/.396 OBP/.537 SLG
Runners On: .313/.399/.546
Scoring Position: .304/.400/.504
Bases Loaded: .341/.392/.610
Oh, and while we’re here, here’s Carlos Beltran:
Runners On: .290/.382/.558
Scoring Position: .292/.389/.537
Bases Loaded: .294/.333/.824
And here’s A-Rod:
Runners On: .301/.413/.582
Scoring Position: .303/.433/.549
Bases Loaded: .426/.441/.851
If these three supposed chokers are so lousy in clutch situations, then why do the numbers say that they’re actually very good in clutch situations–about the same in those spots as overall, or in some cases even better?
The idea that Alex Rodriguez, and now David Wright, is a choker who never comes through in the clutch is a giant myth perpetuated by mainstream media, shrill talk show hosts and pundits who blow one at-bat or one game out of proportion, and refuse to acknowledge any hard evidence that contradicts their theory. Further, it’s a perfect example of the obsession of media members, and sadly, of too many fans, to vilify a team’s best player for no good reason.
If I were a Mets fan, I’d be far more pissed off about the colossally stupid managing decision made by Jerry Manuel yesterday, or on a larger scale, Omar Minaya’s inability to adequately address the team’s starting pitching woes in the off-season, than I would about David Wright, who’s one of the 10 best players in baseball and could be on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
If I were a Yankees fan, I’d be far more angry about management’s over-reliance on aging players and the team’s inability to collect adequate depth behind those aging starters than I would about Alex Rodriguez, a player who for all his interpersonal faults and rule breaking, is one of the 2 best players in baseball and one of the 20 best of all-time.
Thanks again for reading and for writing in. Looking forward to corresponding with you in the future.
Now, one could certainly nitpick my reply. For one thing, bases loaded stats are subject to small sample size issues. For another, and forgive me if I’m wrong here, but I’d be willing to bet that hitters as a whole perform at least somewhat better overall with runners on base than otherwise, because pitchers as a whole would intuitively seem likely to fare worse while pitching from the stretch/monitoring baserunners/getting fatigued etc.
With that said, I think Occam’s Razor applies here. People want to pick on superstars, so they fixate on perceived weaknesses, none more so than a supposed inability to deliver in the clutch. Because, you know, if a $15 million player doesn’t hit .650 with runners in scoring position, then he’s not doing his job.
I actually laughed out loud as a I constructed this post, because I was simultaneously reading a screed from a Cleveland writer who argues that Grady Sizemore — GRADY SIZEMORE!!! — is overrated, and gets too much sympathy from local fans for being the golden boy du jour. You can’t make this stuff up.