Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Christian Lopez - Hero Or Fool?

Okay, let's talk about Derek Jeter.

The Yankee captain is one of the greatest shortstops of all time, and he was a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall-of-Fame selection before he got to 3,000 hits.

Having said that, TigerBlog can't stand the whole movement to deify Jeter and his "intangibles." Want to know what his primary intangible has been? The good fortune to play on a team with a, well, great fortune, one that enable it to spend nearly $2 billion more in salaries during Jeter's career than the next-highest team.

Like Mariano Rivera, Jeter's presence on the Yankees has enabled him to perform in the playoffs almost every year. Would other players have earned the reputation that Jeter and Rivera have had they been on the Yankees? Would, say, Paul Molitor (3,319 career hits) have become the poster child for "intangibles" instead?

Rivera has been, for the most part, lights out in his entire career, with a few major, major notable exceptions (vs. the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series, vs. Boston in the 2004 ALCS, for example). At the same time, the fact that he plays for the team he plays for has given him the opportunity that many others haven't had.

If TigerBlog had to choose between Jeter and Ozzie Smith, TB would take Smith every time. Smith, who had 2,500 hits in his career, won 13 straight Gold Gloves and was a 15-time all-star. He didn't have the power numbers of Jeter, but if there was a stat of runs saved + runs scored, Smith would probably be No. 1 all-time.

When Jeter homered the other day for his 3,000th hit, the ball was caught by a young fan named Christian Lopez, a recent college graduate who works as a mobile phone salesman.

Lopez, who played football at St. Lawrence and has student loans to repay, hauled in the ball and then smothered it like a fumble recovery, in his words.

Then, rather than try to squeeze every last penny out of the ball - a figure in the neighborhood of $250,000 - Lopez returned it to Jeter. In exchange, the Yankees gave him tickets for their remaining home games this year and a few other small gifts, as well as the opportunity to meet Jeter.

Lopez was immediately launched into the public eye for his noble gesture.

And almost as quickly, the backlash began.

TigerBlog listened to enough sports talk radio to be amazed at how many people called in ripping Lopez, calling him an idiot and sucker. In fact, out of every 10 calls on the subject, it was probably 8-2 in favor of the fact that Lopez had done something dumb.

TB would like to think he would have done the same as Lopez. And the cynic in TB thinks that Lopez' gesture in the long run will pay off more than simply selling the ball would have.

Still, is this where American society is now? A 23-year-old does something selfless, and the majority of society turns on him? Is America that jaded? Maybe it is.

As for memorabilia, TigerBlog has never been that big a fan of the whole concept.

One thing he does wish, though, is that Princeton had an athletic museum of sorts. As a department, Princeton Athletics is woefully short on old-time memorabilia, which is a shame, since there has to be so much great stuff out there.

Every now and then, TB will receive some stuff or an offer for some stuff, usually when an older alum passes away or when a class does a group project. Through the years, some good stuff has turned up, though not enough to create an actual museum.

And where would it be? The lobby of Jadwin would be great in terms of the number of people who would see it, but there is a question of space. Areas with more space attract fewer people who happen to be walking by.

When TB is offered old Princeton stuff, he always asks if there is old game footage, which would be his No. 1 choice.

Unfortunately, most of what people have is old game programs or tickets or printed stuff that Princeton already has archived.

Maybe one day it'll start to change, and some big collection of Princeton stuff will be unearthed.

Until then, one of the things on TB's wish-list here is a museum with Princeton memorabilia.

Oh, and Christian Lopez?

Good for him.


Anonymous said...

As anybody who has ever pitched at any level knows, every at-bat is a chess match between pitcher and batter as each battles with his strengths and weaknesses within the confines of the game situation and the ball-strike count.

Somebody like Bill James should do a statistical study on how many incremental hits any competent batter would accumulate over the course of a 16-year career if he played on a team that consistently put the pitcher in difficult situations.

Specifically, Derek Jeter is much more likely than Paul Molitor to come to the plate with men on base. Furthermore, Jeter over the years has had much better hitters behind him in the batting order than Molitor did.

So basically pitchers are forced to throw Jeter (and any other Yankee) more strikes than they have to throw to Molitor.

This isn't an anti-Yankees soliloquy. It's just an observation that, statistically, over the course of 10,000 career at-bats, coming to the plate with men on base and good hitters behind you is a huge advantage, probably worth a couple hundred hits by itself.

BMcD83 said...


And yes, Princeton does need a "Hall of Fame" but I'd suggest that Athletics be a wing of a wonderful hall of fame and not the whole thing. Imagine the Princeton flag that Pete Conrad took to the moon in one part of "The Hall" and Dick Kaz's Heisman in another - I think that would be consistent with Gary W's focus on athletics as an integrated co-curricular component of the Princeton college experience. Attach all of this to a wonderful Alumni Center and I think that we'd have something very special.

Anonymous said...

On July 6, the Wall Street Journal ran a short article about Derek Jeter's suitability as a leadoff batter. In the piece, Mark Teixeira was noted as batting .290 with men on base and .219 with nobody on, over the past two seasons. Alex Rodriguez batted .293 with men on board and .266 with the bags empty.

That's a difference of .027 at the low end and .071 at the high end, more than the difference between a great hitter and a mediocre one.