Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Kevin Millar brings his leadership skilz to the Cubs

In honor of the recent free agent minor league acquisition of Kevin Millar, AJ EMailed me with a suggestion of republishing an article from 2008.  I will be doing so now, verbatim, about the value (or lack-thereof) of Kevin Millar

Recently in the Shout Box, Keith wondered why Al Yellon seems to
have a man crush on Kevin Millar.  Were you to mosey on over to Bleed Cubbie Blue,
you would read the following sentence: "I would still like to see the
Cubs sign Kevin Millar to back up LF, RF and 1B... and to be that
clubhouse presence that was missing, somehow, during the disastrous
2008 postseason."

Now, I'm not Al Yellon - obviously, because I permit links to and
discussions about other Cubs blogs, even though to do so apparently
threatens to eat into my readership and ad revenue somehow - but his
desire for Millar is obviously based on more than a clinical review of
the numbers.  It's about a call into question regarding the intangibles
of baseball.

Let's take a close look at Kevin Millar
The first thing we might notice is that the dude will be 37 next year. 
After that, we might encounter that he batted .234 with a .323 OBP and
a .394 slugging percentage, although he did hit 20 homeruns and walk 71
times last year.

Going beyond that, we also find that, while Yellon wants Millar to
serve as a backup to 1B, LF, and RF, the guy has played a grand
whopping total of 3 games in the outfield in the past 3 years.

In other words, Millar's not going to win you games with his bat or
with his glove.  I guess that he must have a high leadership score or
something, I don't know.  Similar to Kyle's Scrappy White Player
Factor, maybe there would be a way to clinically determine a player's
Leadership Factor Score.

Some things that could go into calculating the score ...

Number of times player has had sex with a teammate's wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/daughter
A promiscuous player is perhaps well respected by certain elements of
any clubhouse (like Mickey Mantle, who was a legendary skirt chaser),
but if he risks crossing a line, it could negatively effect how he is
seen by his teammates.  If Lee Dershipman, our hypothetical example,
caves in at a moment of weakness and nails every piece of tail in a
teammate's immediate family, then he's going to lose Leadership Cred.

Points are assigned based on a scale of 1-10.  If Lee has nailed a
teammate's wife, daughter (if she is under 18, multiply this loss x5
for every year she is underage), mother, or girlfriend, he loses 10
points.  He loses 5 points for a teammate's sister - which can be
regained x2 if he winds up marrying her and 3 points for a cousin (1
point if the cousin is distant).  If Lee sleeps with a teammate's
mother but then goes on to marry her, it's still creepy and upsetting
and he loses an additional 10 points.  All losses are cumulative, so if
Lee bangs the teammate's wife on Monday, girlfriend on Tuesday, sister
on Wednesday, mother on Thursday, daughter on Friday, and a cousin on
Saturday, he loses 53 points over the span of the week.  If he has them
all in one epic love-making session, multiply the losses x10.

Times a player has injured himself making a game saving play. There's
nothing a teammate respects more than when a player will throw his body
into a brick wall to make a game-changing catch.  10 points for each
catch that result in a minor injury, 5 points if it just looks painful,
and 20 points if the player has to go on the DL.  Additional points get
tallied if:

  • Lee Dershipman has never been caught watching his own highlights by
    a teammate.  Nobody likes a narcissist.  -10 points if he gets caught,
    +10 points if he doesn't get caught.
  • Lee makes the bone-crushing catch during a contract year.  Points
    are doubled if the injury occurs before July, because he has basically
    sacrificed his season - and shaved millions off his potential contract
    offers - in the name of winning.  Up to +40 points for this one.
  • Lee brags constantly about his catch to the media and others.  -10,
    unless said bragging lands him some trim, at which point it becomes +5

Times a player has delivered a game-winning hit. +2 points
for every successful game-winning hit, but -1 point for each time he
fails.  There is also an additional cumulative effect to this
calculation.  If Lee wins 2 games in 2 tries, he gets his score of +4,
but winning them consecutively adds a multiplier of x2.  If he goes 4
for 4 in game-winning situations, Lee Dershipman scores +8 points x4,
for a total of 32 points.  Similarly, if Lee goes down swinging
multiple times in a row, those failures culminate as well.  So, if he
goes 0 for 5 in a row in clutch situations, he doesn't lose 5 points,
he loses 5 points x5, or 25 total.

Gives a rousing speech to his teammates. This is a tricky category because it can be used too often, but probably has to
be done occasionally in order to deliver enough leadership points to
make a real difference.  If Lee gives a rousing speech to his teammates
while they are suffering through a losing streak and they are inspired
to win, he gains +10 points.  However, if Lee gives these little
speeches too often, they begin to lose their potency, even if the team
keeps winning - 7 points for the second one, 5 for the third, 3 for the
fourth, -1 for the fifth, -3 for the sixth, and so-on.

If Lee gives a rousing speech but the team loses, there is no
negative effect to his score.  However, if they get blown out, he
receives a -5, and if they lose because he makes an error or fails to
deliver a clutch hit, he receives a -10.

If Lee is more of a quiet leader type, and only gives one of these
speeches per season, he gains +25 points should his team win.  Also,
all points are doubled if he wins the game for his team with either his
glove or bat.

There are other minor factors that would go into the Leadership Factor Score.  I'll outline some of them via bullet point:

  • Is the first one out in a bench clearing brawl +5
  • Is the last one out in a bench clearing brawl -5
  • Takes a rookie under his wing +5, cumulative
  • Maintains a kangaroo court in the clubhouse +5
  • Yells at the manager in front of his team if the skipper is stepping over the lines +5
  • Yells at the skipper in private if he is stepping over the line +10
  • Never stands up for his teammates - 10 per situation
  • Has won a World Championship, +0 (sorry, any idiot can win a World Series)
  • Doesn't talk about his salary in the clubhouse or during a game +10
  • Talks excessively about his salary -10
  • Talks to the media, but only to take the blame for losses or to humbly discuss his successes +5 per time
  • Talks to the media excessively -10 per time

I'm sure there are others we can include as well, but what is
certain is this - no fan of baseball can accurately calculate these
numbers.  It would take an impartial player in the clubhouse to observe
and log all of the relevant factors toward the LFS.

But is this Kevin Millar?  Does he have such a high LFS that
it makes up for his poor production, his lack of defensive skill, and
his age?  I dunno, are we having this conversation because he was the
one who coined the term "idiots" and said "cowboy up" to the Red Sox
during their '04 drive?

Regardless of what Millar's LFS is, I would have to argue that it's
just a smidgen overrated.  I mean, yes, I'm the same guy who wrote
recently about the Cubs not having that guy on their team, which spurned a debate at Another Cubs Blog, but I've never suggested - nor would I - that that guy should be an over-the-hill hack like Kevin Millar.  If the Cubs even need that guy, then he should be somebody who can actually hit the ball and play regularly.

Besides, for some reason I think I've heard stories about what an unmitigated douchebag Millar is.

So, Keith, to answer your question, Al Yellon is caving in to the
worst kind of overthinking fan mentality.  He's subscribing to the
magic bullet - or, in this case, magic baseball bat - theory that one
player of a certain type can make all the difference in a season.  I
don't know if Yellon took this point of view 10 years ago, but it's the
same sort of thing as proclaiming that 1998 19-game winner Kevin Tapani
"knows how to win" because he did it so often that year, despite
posting a 4.85 ERA.  I guess Tapani must've immediately forgotten "how
to win," though, because he went on to lose 15 more games than he won
over the next 3 years (his record was 6-12, 8-12, and 9-14 each of
those years).

If Kevin Millar "knows how to win," if he has that intangible,
leadership quality the Cubs so desperately lacked these past two years,
if he swings a hefty, magic baseball bat, then how did the Orioles lose damn close to 100 games?

So much for leadership.

Naturally the html eats up

Naturally the html eats up the article, but I am too lazy to fix it for now. Sorry about that.

Sure, but...

Is Kevin Millar a good or decent player? Likely not (neither were Ryan Freel or Aaron Miles).

Can he fill a bench role for the Cubs? Marginally. Optimistically, between Millar and Tracy, the Cubs definitely have a backup 1B/3B. I don't think Millar has any business in the outfield, but I'll assume he can still play 3B as well as he plays 1B (remembering in fact, that his defensive prowess was why Doug Mientkiewicz played for the '04 Red Sox).

Does his personality (douchebag or leader) serve some purpose on the Cubs (even limited to Spring Training)? Absolutely. Based on intense analysis separated by hundreds of miles away from any Major League clubhouse, I'd say that Millar can be a guide to baseball fun for the Cubs this Spring and into the year if he makes the cut.

As a fan, the prospect of hearing about Millar pranks is uplifting after how the Milton Bradley experience went. Maybe he can get Soriano back into a good (and productive) mood. Maybe Soto will be more joyful around Millar despite the loss of his jolly belly. Maybe Aramis will remind us of that other Ramirez character's good days. Maybe Mr. Lee will stop being as stiff as a man on stilts. I doubt that he makes the team, but I can hope that he'll be a positive influence on a depressed clubhouse.

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