Yesterday on 97.5, some incredibly ingenious program director got Keith Law, national ESPN writer, to come on to Mike Missanelli’s radio show on the ESPN affiliated radio station to discuss Howard’s contract extension. This was to be a beautiful showdown between old school mentality and current objective analysis. What we got were two smug jerks sounding like two smug jerks. Most people will know that we here at The Good Phight fall clearly into Law’s side of analysis. So, it would seem like I would be happy to see him go head to head with Mike, who clearly has a sloping forehead, hair in places he shouldn’t and got recently laid off from his car insurance commercials. The end result was that I actually felt like I was on Missanelli’s side, only cause Law just really really sucked.
I think what bothered me the most is how unprepared Law was. He fights for the nerds with numbers side, yet he really had no defense to almost anything Mike said. I felt like he was trying to not look like a numbers dork and instead, he looked wishy washy and ignorant. Mike starts the interview off being extremely dismissive. You don’t like this deal because of actuarial tables and sabremetrics. That basically is as undermining of a first comment as possible. Law comes back with generalities that Howard isn’t worth the money now, he doesn’t play in the middle of the diamond…all stuff that is intuitive to a stat nerd, but clearly means nothing to someone who watches the games.
Mike shoots back with chicks dig the longball and you put the other aspects in a box, because he has a specialized skill that he should get paid for. Not sure what that really means, but it ends up being a trap where Law now starts to argue something he shouldn’t…Howard and the homer. Keith goes on how it is 8% of his total At Bats and you have to account for the other aspects of the game, which is really short sighted. Now we get into the meat of the argument when Missanelli calls Howard the preeminent power hitter of our generation. Now, I am not going to argue for or against that cause Howard has done things nobody has ever done before (like his speed to 200 homeruns) but it is also a useless moniker that really has no meaning. What do you do with a moniker that has no real meaning? You certainly don’t let them argue it on their terms.
Mike shoots at Keith asking who is a better power hitter now, and stupidly Keith starts to name players like Fielder and ARod. Really Keith Law? That is how they told you how to argue your points? Instead of refuting with facts and trying to define what you are talking about, you throw names out there and expect that to suffice. None of those guys have hit homeruns like Howard has and in no way would that appease Misasanelli. So, Law then mentions that other power hitters who get on base and contribute in other ways and Missanelli shoots back with Howard’s career .375 OBP. Mike then puts words into Law’s mouth and Law goes on the defensive. Missanelli is 100% correct here that Law brings up OBP and walks and when Mike refutes it by saying Law implied Howard was bad at it, Law says, "I never said that". Keith, it doesn't matter what the truth is when you let the other person define what you say.
Law then compares Howard’s OBP to the guy to his right (Chase Utley), which is a useless argument to make since most people here would be happy with Utley making $25 mil a year. However, he finally comes back with some hard hitting data, that Howard’s OBP the last 2 years has been rather weak, and something he should have mentioned right at the beginning of the discussion. Then Law goes back to being a know-it-all and tangents about pitchers and how they pitch better with nobody on base and now Howard is a slightly better hitter cause Chase gets on in front of him. Just more garbage that adds nothing to the conversation and really detracts from his point by diluting it.
The conversation starts to degrade about the preeminent power hitter and what it doesn’t mean and nothing gets explained. Law asks who is going to pay for Howard and Mike says the Yankees. Instead of being intuitive and stating that the Yankees don’t spend $25 mil on a DH and they might need a spot for ARod in 2 or 3 years, he mentions Jesus Monteros. Seriously? Think about who you are discussing with and how this sounds to them and the audience. I cannot fathom how he thought that this was going to refute that the Yankees won’t pay for Ryan Howard. Now anyone who listens to that argument thinks Law and his stat nerds think that Jesus Monteros is equivalent to Ryan Howard.
Eventually Missanelli thanks Law for coming on and Law hangs up like a little baby. The guy just came off as sounding like an elitist and hangs up instead of shaking hands at the end. Thanks buddy for reinforcing the stigma that us nerds with number have. I am just thankful he didn't go into his Howard can't hit lefties diatribe. Maybe he knew that would be a losing argument from the get go. Either way, I am pissed cause Law was sucky and he should have been able to wipe the floor with Missanelli.
Here is a link to the interview for those who haven't heard it.