Thursday, May 10, 2007

On Clemens

One of the more debated stathead arguments is the stance against the existence of clutch hitting. The argument goes that there is no evidence that getting hits in clutch situations is a repeatable skill. Nonetheless, all statheads get a little uncomfortable when David Ortiz is brought up.

In the same vein, statheads doubt that there is a connection between team chemistry and winning. There is much more negative evidence here. One only has to look at the 1970s, when Reggie Jackson divided clubhouses on both coasts, in the early part of the decade in Oakland and the end of the decade in the “Bronx Zoo,” on the way to multiple world championships at each stop. But like the clutch hitting argument has Ortiz, the team chemistry argument now has Roger Clemens.

Roger Clemens’ ability to leverage his value in a way that allows him to come and go from the team has drawn criticism from a wide array of current and ex-players. Now, I don’t think for a second that Clemens’ special arrangement will cost the Yankees a single win this season. However, his arrangement looks even worse when it’s juxtaposed with the cross-town Mets’ new team haircut. I don’t think the Mets getting their heads shaved together will win them any more games than Clemens’ arrangement will cost the Yankees. But there’s something to be said for appearances. While the Mets have Tom Glavine—no Clemens, but a first-ballot Hall of Famer in his own right—willing to shave his head, at the suggestion of a teammate who was eight-years old when Glavine won his first Cy Young Award, just to be part of the team, the Yankees can’t get Clemens to go on a team plane.

In all likelihood none of this has anything to do with winning. But if the Yankees find themselves in a losing streak in August, forgive Yankee fans if they find that they have the same lump in their throats that is normally reserved for the bottom of the ninth—when David Ortiz is walking to the plate.