Jim Souhan, of the Star Tribune, wrote a column for the baseball preview section that appeared in today's paper. Titled "Short and sweet gives way to long and bor-r-r-ing," it decrys players who go to the plate looking to walk, rather than going up there to "do something spectacular."
After the jump: the numbers don't lie - unless you ignore them.
Souhan laments the loss of players - he names Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle in particular - who supposedly went up to bat looking to slash away, while vilifying entire teams (the Athletics, the Yankees, and the Red Sox are named) as well as the book "Moneyball" for introducing the idea of plate discipline, thereby ruining baseball.
Supposedly, guys like Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill turned every at-bat into a "siege", instead of looking to make something happen like the Mick and the Say Hey kid.
And so we go to the numbers. Hey, that jerk O'Neill averaged 70 walks per 162 games! And Jeter is averaging just over 66! Those darn Yankees - heck, Jason Giambi walked 76 times last year to lead the team. JD Drew led the Red Sox with 79. And in Oakland, though only one player had more than 70, Jack Cust had 111 free passes.
It's just not like the old days, is it? After all, look at the averages for Mantle and Mays:
MANTLE - 116 walks per 162 games
MAYS - 79 walks per 162 games
That bastion of spectacular plate appearances, Mickey Mantle, actually led the American League in walks five times. He had more than 100 walks in a season NINE times. Jeter and O'Neill have combined to walk more than 100 times exactly once. Cust was one of only four players in the major leagues (along with Adam Dunn, Albert Pujols, and Pat Burrell) to walk more than 100 times last year.
I didn't make these numbers up. These are not some grand newfangled stats. Souhan simply didn't do a darn bit of research to confirm what he thought was obvious. And frankly, I wish he would; my blood pressure could use the rest, and Star Tribune readers could use a columnist who wasn't too lazy to check his assertions.