On Big Game Players and Leadership
Rob has stirred the pot, again, regarding this time-and-true issue, and I'm glad. I'd been wanting to write something about this anyway. But before I jump into it, I'd just like to preface this post with a comment directed to Sman, who recently complained over having an article written in direct response -- and contradiction -- to an opinion of his.
Sman, I'm about to rebuke Rob, a co-writer on this site, a man who has been cheering for the Cubs for at least a full decade before I was even born (and two full decades before I became a fan myself), a man with more experience and knowledge than I can ever hope to accumulate. If I can disagree with Rob with him being man enough not to get offended or angry, then I'm sure you are man enough to be disagreed with by Sayers or myself, or anyone else on this blog, without taking -- or making -- it personal.
What I don't think Rob gets is that, while players can certainly have a negative impact on team play and chemistry through bad attitudes (see Major League Baseball's very own Kanye West, aka Bradley, Milton), they are rare. Besides that, "leadership," "big game players," and all that stuff is, for the most part, complete and total crap.
On one hand, you've got a guy like Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was the poster child for the "big game loser," who lacked leadership, who couldn't buy a win with a thousand dollar bill. Then you've got guys like Derek Jeter, whose game presence probably sells as many MLB tickets as anybody else in the game -- including Pujols -- who is Mr. November, the team captain of the Yankees, a man who has victory know-how ingrained in his soul. You want a sure-fire winner to elevate your team in the playoffs? Get Jeter!
But apparently, A-Rod's presence on the Yankees was evidence that he was incapable of winning, because they just didn't win with him for a long-ass time. But -- but -- I thought Jeter was a winner and his leadership was elevating! Is A-Rod leadership kryptonite? Or is it just a huge honking load of B.S.?
Same deal with Kevin Tapani. In 1998, Tapani won something like 19 games for the Cubs while posting an ERA of 4.85. Fans touted him as being a Superior Pitcher, because he quite clearly Knows How to Win. The following season, he dropped his ERA to 4.83, and his record went from 19-9 to 6-12. Then, in 2000, he went 8-12. Then, in '01, he went 9-14. What the hell happened? Did he just suddenly FORGET how to win one day?
The point is, Rob is calling out Lee for lacking the intangibles that the Cubs apparently need in order to win. Lee should be the leader, I guess. He should get the game-winning hits more often, he should be more vocal in the clubhouse, I dunno, he should do something or else he isn't worth his roster spot and his production is valueless.
Or maybe he does exactly what he needs to do, and he fills an important role in the clubhouse, and he hits well for a guy his age with his injury history, but the Cubs are hurting in so many other areas that it just doesn't matter. Because I'm telling you now, you could dumbo-drop Derek Jeter In His Prime onto the worst Cub team in the last 10 years (the '06 model, maybe?) and it would only make a difference of 6 games -- or maybe 10 at the most.
Rob, I get it, you want the Cubs to have something they've been missing for a long ass while, but it isn't the lack of the Leader's Winning Attitude that has kept the Cubs out of the World Series. It's been the inability of the players to execute when necessary, it's been their flawed fundamentals, and it's been their poorly constructed roster composition. Plain and simple. It's not Derrek Lee's fault. The blame rests on Jim Hendry.
Oh, and by the way? That guy, A-Rod, who couldn't be a Winner? World Series MVP last year. You can't pass judgment on how somebody will do in the playoffs based on their past experience there. And that is, without possibility of refute, the truth.