So, Derek Jeter has another Gold Glove despite possessing less range than a hobbled cow, and Vince Young is 5-0 even though he has roughly the same throwing motion and velocity as my aunt Sandy. What does this tell us? It tells ME that sabremetrics are not the be-all and end-all; it tells ME that there are, in fact, intangibles. Yes, Virginia, there are qualities you cannot measure that separate great athletes, things like: leadership; clutch; grit; and winning. The phrase "all he does is win ballgames" has meaning.
Objectively, of course, Vince Young is a terrible quarterback. His throwing mechanics, even though they are much improved, are still terrible. His ball wobbles through the air no matter how far or how hard he throws it. He makes poor throws and poor throwing decisions at least half the time, I'd wager, and has yet to master progressions. His most glorious moments--the win over Ohio State and the National Championship Game against USC--came courtesy of his legs, not his arm. His best quarterbacking decision then, and probably now, is to pull the ball down and run. Yet, he WON the National Championship and he's winning now.
Make no mistake, without Vince Young, Texas is not even in that conversation and Tennessee would not be thinking playoffs. Kerry Collins isn't a terrible QB; he carried the Panthers for a while, went to a Super Bowl, and was more than adequate with the Giants. He has a much better arm than Young, and throws a much better ball. Yet no one on the Titans was able to catch a thing Collins threw, and the alarmingly duck-like balls Young throws into traffic, over the head of a DB, and behind his receivers all seem to stick to their hands like magic. How do you explain that?
How do you explain the fact that while Jeter doesn't get to nearly as many balls as he used to, much less as many as a young stud like Elvis Andrus, he always gets to the ones that count and he always makes the right play? Remember "the flip"? How many shortstops make that play? Maybe Ozzie Smith, maybe Dave Concepcion in his prime. Maybe. I'd bet my last dollar that A-Rod, for all of his physcial gifts--and they are prodigious--would never have made that play at ANY age. I know, in my head, from watching baseball closely for the last 30 years, that Jeter is not the best shortstop of this decade, or any decade. He's not the best hitter in baseball either, yet he always comes through and yes, all he does is win. The latest rise of the Yankees coincided with the rise of Jeter; when he's going well, they go well. How do you explain that?
How do you explain the fact that some players, who are clearly talented beyond their peers, never make it to the top while others, even though they have less physical talent, win championships? Is it all the mental aspects of the game? Is it just hard work? I find it hard to believe that Dan Marino didn't work hard, but he just never got over the hill. Walter Johnson was one of the greatest physical talents to throw a ball from a mound, and (reportedly) a right smart fellow as well, but he labored for cellar dwellers more often than not. Is it circumstance and teammates? These are the debates that make sports, and they will go on forever. So congratulations, Derek Jeter; good luck to you, Vince Young. And to all those out there who "make it happen" ... don't let the statisticians get you down.
Intangibles; you gotta love 'em.
Posted on: December 2, 2009 6:24 pm