Statistics can measure a lot of things, but they can't measure heart.
"Clutch" is a very nebulous term, I know, and difficult to define.
Yes, I realize they have stats for a hitter's average with runners in scoring position (RISP), with men on and less than two out, and probably even with a runner at third and Gilligan's Island re-runs on the clubhouse TV.
But that's not exactly the kind of clutch I'm referring to.
Stats change from year to year. But winners are always winners. I'm talking about that burning desire, that winning attitude, that confident swagger (but not arrogance A-Rod fans), that...something that goes beyond a batting average, and defines who you are at the root core of your being.
And besides, WHIPs and VORPs scare me.
I think Dallas Green used to call this type of player a "gamer."
Larry Bowa was a gamer.
Reggie Jackson was a gamer.
Pete Rose was a gamer.
Heck, even little Freddie Patek was a gamer. Scrappy, hard working, smart ballplayers all. And guys who wanted to win at all costs.
I know, guys like Bill James and Keith Law hate these kinds of unmeasurable, subjective terms for a player.
In fact, at its worst, it can even be considered racist.
Ever hear a black player called "scrappy?" Probably not.
And I agree with them to a point. You need talent to win. But where I start to gravitate toward the dark side where no stats dare to go is when I see talent like the Cubs have, for example, yet I also see a team lacking that...well, that something.
Look at the 10th inning of Monday's Cubs game against the Pirates. Soriano, D-Lee and Ramirez all come up with men on base and all whiff. I know it happens to all players, but it just seems to happen to these Cubs more often than not.
For whatever reason, these guys simply aren't "clutch." They produce useful statistics, and by the season's end, you say, boy he is a pretty good player with his 25 homers, 100 rbi (don't get me started on the value of rbi—let's just say it's overrated), and .280 average.
Look at last year's playoff series against the D-Backs. I'm still waiting for Ramirez, who had that useful season of stats we've talked about, to get his first hit.
He even looks like he doesn't care.
I know that's not fair. But hey, no more Mr. Nice Guy. It isn't fair that the Cubs have gone a century without a title.
Derrick Lee has a monster season, gets paid and never comes close to that type of season again.
Soriano can't run anymore, bad hammys ya know. Apparently he forgot how to hit, too. He's currently batting a robust .024. Yes, that's right, this is not a misprint, do not adjust your computer screen.
Look, isn't it just the Cubs damn luck that the year they finally decide to unlock the Tribune vault they get the goose that no longer lays the golden egg?
I hope I'm wrong, but this current Cubs team needs a heart transplant. Not the kind that DeRosa almost had this spring, but the kind that makes grown men dive for baseballs, hunger for wins, with an insatiable desire for success.
For talent alone isn't usually enough. Unless you have gobs of it. And even then, look at the Yankees. They have talent and success year after year but haven't snatched the big prize in quite some time (at least per their lofty standards).
It's a long season, so maybe the Cubs will overcome like last year and win the division anyway. But come playoff time, it may be clear once again what this team is lacking.
By the way, Lou has it. Always did, even as a player. That fire. Maybe he can be a fire starter for the Cubs.
Come to think of it, you can't start a fire without a spark. Or a spark-plug like Brian Roberts would have been.
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