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Legend of the Fall


 Mr. Goldman on Mr. Mauer, Mr. Jeter, Mr. Teixeira and the AL MVP:

Mauer had a historic year at catcher, even having missed the first month, and there should be nothing remotely controversial in his winning the award. What is more interesting is the way the rest of the votes fell, and the apparent perception that Teixeira, a first baseman having a very good but by no means great season. Jeter had a season that ranks among the top 25 by a shortstop in the past 60 years. Both were integral to the success the Yankees experienced this season, but there’s a huge difference between a shortstop contributing at the level that Jeter did and a first baseman doing what Teixeira did.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter — Jeter has been robbed in previous awards voting. He wasn’t robbed this time. This is more a cri de coeur against misapprehensions about the replacement value of a great shortstop season versus a good season by a first baseman. Before anyone jumps on me for saying Teixeira’s season was “good,” not “great,” it’s not meant as an insult. It’s just that the hitting standards at first base are so ridiculously high that to call Teixeira’s season great would be ludicrous given the existence of Albert Pujols.

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1 williamnyy23   ~  Nov 24, 2009 1:29 pm

I guess Lou Gehrig wasn't great because of the existence of Babe Ruth?

It's one thing to say that Jeter's season was better because of the position he plays, but I am not sure why one needs to denigrate Teixeira's year. Just because Jeter and Pujols may have had better years doesn't mean that Teixeira wasn't great. Sometimes, it seems as if in trying to be too clever and provocative, we wind up outsmarting ourselves.

2 Sliced Bread   ~  Nov 24, 2009 2:13 pm

[1] yeah, I'd say Teix had a great season. He didn't put up Pujols numbers, but his defense pushed his game into the "great" category.

I'm a fan of Mr. Goldman, but the other nit I'd pick with this column is his John Wayne analogy. How do you mention the Duke's Oscar snubs and fail to bring up "The Quiet Man"? I think that was one of his greatest performances, and maybe his best film.

Funny, the year Wayne coulda won an Oscar for "The Quiet Man," he accepted the trophy on behalf of Gary Cooper (High Noon) who wasn't at the Awards show.

Also nominated that year:
Moulin Rouge (1952) - José Ferrer
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) - Kirk Douglas
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) - Alec Guinness
Viva Zapata! (1952) - Marlon Brando

Anybody familiar with all these performances? Was Wayne robbed in '52?

3 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Nov 24, 2009 2:13 pm

[1] No, Ruth played a different position and Gehrig was the most productive 1B of all time, but nice straw man.

You could say, however, that Teixeira's season wasn't great because of the existence of Lou Gehrig.

That said, no one's denigrating Teixeira year, he had a fantastic season, no one denies that, but it wasn't out of proportion with the standards of his position or of his career. I expect, and certainly hope, that when he retires, his 2009 season won't stand out as anything special. Jeter's '09, however, was among the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career and will stand out upon review when we look back at his career.

4 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Nov 24, 2009 2:15 pm

[4] Man, I thought I was a decent fan of film history, but I've seen exactly none of those six films from '52.

5 Sliced Bread   ~  Nov 24, 2009 2:17 pm

[4] I've only seen The Quiet Man and High Noon, and I highly recommend both. Classics

6 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Nov 24, 2009 2:26 pm

[5] Yeah, those two are both on my big mental list of things I'm embarrassed I've not seen, but westerns as a whole are a hole in my viewing history.

7 Sliced Bread   ~  Nov 24, 2009 2:39 pm

[6] High Noon is arguably the best Western, definitely in the discussion. Now, if love-stories set in Ireland are another hole in your viewing history, definitley check out The Quiet Man.

8 FreddySez   ~  Nov 24, 2009 2:40 pm

Interesting how Wayne was able to put aside his well-documented hatred for the film "High Noon" (he thought it was commie fellow-traveler allegory) to pick up the Oscar for his friend Cooper.

9 williamnyy23   ~  Nov 24, 2009 2:47 pm

[3] The Ruth/Gehrig comparison was not meant literally, but rather has a means of illustrating how it is silly to disqualify something as great because someone else is better. Sorry you missed that. The same example could be made with countless players at similar positions.

It is denigrating Teixeira to call his Gold Glove defense and 149 OPS+ less than great. Whether it stands out from others in his career is irrelevant.

10 williamnyy23   ~  Nov 24, 2009 2:51 pm

[2] The Quiet Man was a very good movie, but by 1952 it was probably too much of a departure for the Duke to garner him an nomination.

11 thelarmis   ~  Nov 24, 2009 3:11 pm

pujols. unanimous.

12 Hank Waddles   ~  Nov 24, 2009 3:15 pm

I agree that there are some serious flaws in the voting. First, I'm not sure how anyone votes for anyone besides Mauer, but at least he got the award that he deserves. When you look farther down the list, though, you see that -- shocker! -- the voters have no clue what they're doing. They only got the ultimate result correct because it was so obvious. Consider:

Miguel Cabrera received a first place vote, but was completely left off another ballot.
Alex Rodriguez got a third place vote, but only six other writers put him in the top ten.
Mariano Rivera received two sixth place votes, and finished ahead of Greinke, Sabathia, and Hernandez.

Looking at all this, it's not surprising that the writers don't get it right when things are less obvious. Again, nothing new, just more evidence to support what we already know.

13 RIYank   ~  Nov 24, 2009 3:30 pm

[9] Comparison with other years in Teixeira's career doesn't seem particularly relevant (otherwise we'd have to say Pujols didn't have a great season!), but comparison with others at his position does. Teixeira really didn't have a great year for a first baseman. He did have a good year, but not a great one. (For instance, Youkalis arguably had a better one.)
I don't see how it's possible to avoid thinking of these things comparatively. How else would you decide if someone had a great year?

14 williamnyy23   ~  Nov 24, 2009 3:51 pm

[12] While I think the BBWAA are far from the most enlightened electorate, I think most of those examples can be explained (not necessarily justified, but explained):

1) Cabrera had a 142 OPS+ on a team with an OPS+ of 93. When considered relative to his team, Cabrera does close the gap on Mauer.

2) Was Arod responsible for Tex' revival and the Yankees surge? If so (reasonable), he is a worthy MVP candidate. If not, missing 5+ weeks is a serious demerit (also reasonable).

3) Mariano Rivera is a closer who pitches high leverage and imparts a psychological advantage to the Yankees (i.e., the game is reduced to 7+ innings). If one believes that statement, he is worthy of MVP votes. If not, they he isn't.

15 williamnyy23   ~  Nov 24, 2009 3:58 pm

[13] Teixeira lead ALL 1B in the (better) AL in OPS+ and was fourth overall. Compared to other 1B, I think he did have a great season. But, even if every 1B in the league had an OPS+ of 150, I don't see why that means they all weren't great. While it makes sense to compare to 1B to each other to determine who is better, that doesn't mean they can't all be great. Production in the OPS+ 150 level along with gold glove defense is *great* regardless of how many others perform as well at the same position.

16 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 24, 2009 4:01 pm

The Lavender Hill Mob was one of the Eiling Studio comedies and is good. Viva Zapata, directed by Elia Kazan, was one of my old man's five favorite movies of all time.

17 Shaun P.   ~  Nov 24, 2009 4:23 pm

Its all about the definition.

If "great" is defined as one of the 15 best 1B seasons of all time, (then one cannot call Tex's season "great", because there are at least 15 other, better seasons at first base (such as Pujols, 2009, among others). Thus, viewed in such a way - or that is to say, comparing what Tex 2009 did against all 1B across all time - Tex's 2009 season was not great, and Goldman is absolutely correct.

FWIW, I think this is exactly what he was saying, and it makes sense to me.

Now, if one defines "great" as william does in [15], that is, an OPS+ (ugh) of 150 or better while playing gold glove defense at 1B, then being strict Tex is still not great, because his OPS+ was 149. ;) But in any case, by william's definition, "great" is much broader than how Steven defined and used it, and he clearly means it to include Tex.

Thus whether or not Tex had a "great" season depends (duh) on how you define

Nothing more to see here, move along . . .

18 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Nov 24, 2009 6:20 pm

I thought all the fielding metrics suggested Teixeira's D was another of those 'mostly rep' things. Am I wrong? I think he scooped a lot of balls, has a nice glove on bouncers, even can be said to play a role in DJ's improved stats (fewer throwing errors) but why, WHY is anyone citing a Golden Glove in this sage and sapient website?

I mean, Toriiii Huunter? Golden Glove. Oy.

For what it is worth, I didn't think Tex was being dissed in the piece, I thought Goldman was (rightly) suggesting Jeter's season, in overall context was a more valuable one. I'd have put Tex 4th, myself, behind Cabrera until the last weekend. Think Cabrera got hurt by the drinking disaster? I do. And I think he deserved to be. This is 'most valuable' not 'best'... you don't show up on the last weekend?

19 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 24, 2009 6:44 pm

[17] Great equals within the top 2% in history for the position.

20 Chyll Will   ~  Nov 24, 2009 7:06 pm

Sliced, I would argue that John Wayne was better in both The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance and The Searchers; not because I consider him a great or even a very good actor, but because both of those movies highlighted his strengths without being overbearingly typecast (especially with the former; he was paired with an excellent actor in Jimmy Stewart and a great ensemble supporting cast.

I did see some of those movies; Viva Zapata was interesting, as Brando was always interesting when he was young, The Bad & The Beautiful was excellent and Jose Ferrer is riveting in just about anything, so don't run away from this Moulin Rouge. I don't quite remember The Lavender Hill Gang, so I reserve comment. High Noon is top shelf Gary Cooper and indeed one of the best westerns straight up and down. Still, I prefer Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, so in terms of the top shelf, I include it with them, but don't think it's better than The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

The Quiet Man? I think he's done better; I seem to remember Ward Bond more in that movie than John Wayne...

Another good western of the vein of High Noon, if not the same echelon, is The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck. I would love to do a modern adaption.

21 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Nov 24, 2009 8:53 pm

"John Wayne, was a hero to most but he never meant "#$% to me..."

Any movie with Alec Guinness in those days is worth seeing! Especially "Kind Hearts & Coronoets" where he plays 7 characters...amazing black comedy.

22 pugzilla   ~  Nov 25, 2009 1:06 am

Although tangential, may I present for your consideration my favorite Western: Will Penny (Charlton Heston was superb as this loner). Saw it one night in the '60's with a colleague on the house staff at a NYC Hospital on a rare night off, completely unaware of how good this movie was and we were both blown away. To be considered IMO on a level with High Noon, etc.

23 Sliced Bread   ~  Nov 25, 2009 9:20 am

[20] "The Good,Bad, & Ugly" vs. "High Noon", pick 'em. The former might win in a quick draw gunfight, but the latter has stayed with me longer. The Gunfighter I don't remember as much, but Peck is always excellent.

re: Wayne. The Searchers & Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance are probably his best Westerns, so you could argue they're his best performances. I just think his character in Quiet Man was his most interesting, and I loved the story, the setting and Maureen O'Hara (I'm a sucker for a pretty redhead) in that one. I agree with you that Ward Bond was great in that too, and Barry Fitzgerald (another regular sidekick and Duke drinking buddy) but I maintain Wayne showed bonafide leading man chops here.

Wayne's Westerns and World War II movies sorta blur together for me. Seen one, seen 'em all. Quiet Man stands alone.

I've made a note to check out Viva Zapata. Early Brando's a ham, but I like his brand of ham.

[22] and on a tip from pugzilla sounds like I gotta hunt down Will Penny.

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