Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Grade Deflation

Are you Red Sox fans crazy? Fakakta? Looney Toons? The Boston Globe offers Sox fans (and Internet-accessed space aliens) the chance to grade their heroes, from top to bottom.

Not surprisingly, at the top were wunderkind Jonathan Papelbon, who achieved a 99.6% 'A' rating from Red Sox fans. As for the others, now we know who the 8 writers were who didn't vote Willie Mays into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. David Ortiz wasn't far behind at 97.5%. Evidently, chicks do dig the long ball, and RBIs. On the other hand, Manny Ramirez only gets 68% 'A's. What's a guy got to do? Shave and a haircut, two bits.

Well, let's think about the whole process. Are you graded on what you've done or what you're expected to do? Trot Nixon and Craig Hansen both have a dominant 'B' rating. Hansen's pitched a handful of innings and Nixon's practically 'the one'. Of course, Trot gets 6 'extra large' for his trouble, and Hansen's only a millionaire. And Trot still struggles a bit against the southpaws, and maybe fans have the Nixon-Varitek 0 for 17 Sunday Matinee-Soiree game in their craw.

And why the lack of love for Terry Francona? Okay, so maybe I'm taking it personally as ridiculing the follicle-challenged guys among us. Well, you haven't read Tony Kornheiser's Bald As I Wanna Be. Francona didn't leave Pedro in during the fateful eighth, he stuck with Mark 'The Pole' Bellhorn, and said whatever was needed to get the most out of 'Idiots' like Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar. Sometimes those personalities do get old, and I'm sure Francona would attest to that.

Francona has done pretty well with no fourth starter, crafted a bullpen out of the Kiddie Corps, and gets guys to show up and play hard every day. Where does he fail? I'd give him an 'F' in self-promotion, the antithesis of the 'Hawk Harrelson' approach.

And the piece de resistance is the ultimate in parsimonious voting, as 56% of fans give the Sox A's and 43% 'B's. I mean, without Matt Clement, David Wells, Bronson Arroyo, and Keith Foulke, would you have picked the Sox to be in first by three games at the break? Don't lie, either.

So, how do I grade? It's on the Olympic figure-skating scale, first as on 'Technical Merit' (what you did, absolute scale) and second on 'Artistic Merit' (what it looked like to the fan - vis a vis expectations). I'll stick to the A to F scale, with no waffling with pluses and minuses. Guys who really didn't play much, like Willie Harris and J.T. Snow don't get grades.

Metric............ Technical Artistic
Jason Varitek C C
Doug Mirabelli C D
Kevin Youkilis A A
Mark Loretta A A
Alex Gonzalez A A
Mike Lowell A A
Alex Cora B A
Manny Ramirez A A
Coco Crisp C C
Trot Nixon A B
Gabe Kapler A A
Wily Mo Pena B C
David Ortiz A A

Curt Schilling A A
Josh Beckett A B
Tim Wakefield B B
Jon Lester B A
5th starters D F
Jonathan Papelbon A A
Mike Timlin A B
Manny Delcarmen B A
Craig Hansen B B
Javier Lopez B B
Rudy Seanez C D
Julian Tavarez C C

Terry Francona A A

Boston Red Sox '06 A A

Yes, I have some biases. I view shortstop and catcher as first defensive positions with offense desireable but not essential. Also, the expectation level for a bench player isn't the same as for a starter.

Grading is SUBJECTIVE. I accept that. But grading down guys like Jim Rice who dominated a league for a decade isn't acceptable. Knock yourself out, and enjoy the All-Star Game. As one wag said, "it's the most important game in Pittsburgh for the past two decades."


Lori said...

We are three games ahead of the evil empire at the break. I give 'em an A. Enough said.

Sox Spot said...

I love it - that you for being the one to say this "out loud."

Your grading scales put quite a different perspective on it and its one that the typical fan can't ignore unless they really tried hard enough. I suspect that the voters at Boston.com don't think of such things - they do vote based on what they expect from a player rather than what they got... otherwise Pap and Ortiz would be at 100% (who votes against?) and the Sox in general should be far above 60%.