How many articles, blog posts, interviews, and radio shows start with a statement like that, or a very similar question? I’ll be clear up front, I don’t believe the Cubs should sign Chris Davis, so get that out of your head. But I could write an article explaining why it makes sense, how it fits the budget, how it would improve or balance the lineup, and set it afloat in the ocean of speculation to be sliced and diced by a million pundits, fans, and trolls.
When free agency goes into full swing, especially as it did this year with so many top talents being bartered, our collective baseball minds go into a sort of neutral gear. I mean, you have to find a way to fill the time, right? Way too early to think about Opening Day when you aren’t even sure who will be on your team, or those of your rivals.
This is the time of year, though, mid-to-late January, when it all starts to sound like background noise. We’ve heard everyone’s opinion of why each available player fits, or does not fit, in every lineup in the major leagues. We know batting averages and ERAs by heart of players we’ve never followed, and might never follow again, just in case they land on our team. And we are more often than not, absolutely surprised after all of our mental athletics when something actually happens, because it’s almost never what anyone predicted.
There’s a simple reason for this, of course. If it was an equation, we’d have to conclude there were too many missing variables. Consider just for a moment, a make-believe player. He bats left handed. He throws left handed. He hit 25 home runs last year, but has never gotten over fifteen before that. He’s twenty-six, and he suffered a knee injury early last season from which he seems recovered – but his base running stats are slightly down, and he only played 100 games. He bats .271 against left-handed pitchers, but only .258 against righties… unless he’s batting in a home game, where that number goes up to .269. He struck out more times last year than in previous years, but there are the home runs, that sort of balance this. He’s a veteran, but just hitting his prime. The team he left has a lot of older stars, so he wasn’t really a leader, but he shows signs that he might be.
These are all things that we know. These are things we can get from articles, news reports, baseball blogs and just watching games. As fans, we perceive our favorite teams through a lens of our personal experience, and what we would like to see the team do. It’s the same for the aforementioned bloggers, newscasters, journalists and pundits. They each have their sources, some better than others, some that will, and other that will not be shared. For all of that, they are no more often correct than the rest of us, really – because we tend to take what they tell us and then work through it in our own way, often seeing their logic – at times thinking they’ve lost their minds.
Imagine the player is picture of a ballplayer on a really big bulletin board. Then imagine all the combinations of things that matter for that player fitting into a single team as strings, like something off a CSI episode. What stadium did he play in? What league? How far does he hit, and how does that other stadium match with yours. What are his stats against your division rivals? The entire thing is going to look like a crazy piece of string art before you are done, and still – there are whole balls of string to be considered that you just don’t have enough information to attach to pins.
There is a world we’re hanging on the fringe of, but not really privy to. I heard a GM telling a radio host the other day that he simply didn’t have enough data – that he didn’t have the same resources, and so, his confusion on this deal, or that one, was only based on the situation as he knew it. The sportscaster blustered, but only for a moment, because it’s the truth.
Our imaginary player fits differently into every single team. Those teams each have their own scouts. They know their intentions with their farm system. They know what their current and future intentions are for their batting lineup and whether that left handed bat fits their needs better than the five other available guys. They know how they perceive the defensive and offensive skills of players. They have medical reports, meetings with agents and players, and plans that are very simply – secret. As often as not they aren’t looking in anywhere near the same direction as the rest of us, but that’s fine – because I would hate to think the folks running my favorite team (The Cubs, in case you didn’t guess) didn’t know any more about the situation than I do. We’d be in trouble.
Owners and managers and front office dynamics vary from team to team, filled with personalities, brilliance, bickering, and a variety of blueprints for teams that might, or might not exist when the dust settles. There are accountants and budgets, contracts that have so many years left, can be arranged differently, traded to make room for just the right fit, and those that cannot budge. You have arbitration eligible players, those eligible next year, and those going into free agency. You have rookies, and further blueprints for how they will be brought up, traded, developed and trained.
I could go on. There are more stats and lines on players available now than anyone could truly collect and analyze, and half of them will be ignored in the face of guys who live and breathe baseball, and have their gut feeling about this, or that scenario guiding them.
The point of all of this is simple. When it seems as if your team’s owners and managers should be jumping on this, or that player – they know things you don’t. When all the ‘experts’ say a thing is going to happen, it’s as likely not to happen. You can bet that every time something actually happens, everyone will be surprised, and the wheels will start turning again, in smaller circles (since the pool of prospects is smaller). It’s the maddening nature of the game, and the offseason. It’s what made you click the title to see why this crazy guy thought the Cubs needed Chris Davis.
And the answer is OBVIOUSLY to get another power bat in that lineup, moving Jorge Soler to bring in another starting pitcher for the bottom of the rotation… isn’t it? I mean, can you really have too many home runs?