Four years ago, Joe Posnanski asked me a bunch of questions about the American League West, among which was, "Who do you think is the best everyday player in the division?"
My answer -- Michael Young -- resulted in a blog post titled, "Rob Neyer has totally lost it."
Here's my favorite part:
Young's a career .276/.317/.413 hitter away from Ameriquest, and even if you think his "actual ability level" is a little higher than that, calling him the best everyday player in the division is beyond batshit insane. In no particular order, and discounting contracts, I'd rather have the following AL West position players:
Ichiro, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jose Lopez, Adrian Beltre, Kenji Johjima, maybe Raul Ibanez, Mark Teixeira, Gerald Laird, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis, maybe Bobby Crosby, Vlad Guerrero, Howie Kendrick, Orlando Cabrera, Maicer Izturis, and Juan Rivera. Chone Figgins and guys like Gary Matthews Jr. and Mark Kotsay are borderline. I might even be forgetting a few.
Calling Michael Young the best everyday player in the AL West is laughable, and a fantastic example of why Rob Neyer is no longer relevant. He's done a lot of good in his life for the analyst community, but he's been finished for a while now, and this is Exhibit Z.
Oof. Only 41, and I'd already been finished for a while?
Let's look at all those guys, though, including the five players obviously more desirable (to the blogger), the 12 maybes and the three borderliners (and one that didn't make any of those lists but probably should have).
I don't know that it would change the results much, but I prefer to look at two seasons (2007 and '08) rather than just one, as that irons out some of the luck. And for the same reason, let's look at a couple of metrics: Win Shares, and Wins Above Replacement (via Baseball-Reference.com).
I won't keep you in suspense.
Over those two seasons, Young's got 43 Win Shares, good for sixth place. He's well behind Teixeira (53), Ichiro (52) and Guerrero (51), and essentially tied with Cabrera (44) and Ibanez (44). Mark Ellis ranks seventh with only 33 WS. So according to Win Shares, I missed badly by three players. Which isn't good.
Over those two seasons, Young fares somewhat better in WAR. With 6.9, he's tied for fourth behind Ichiro (11.2), Guerrero (7.8) ... and Ian Kinsler (9.1), who didn't make any of those lists above. Meanwhile, Teixeira (6.0) comes in seventh, behind all those guys plus Ellis (6.9) and Beltre (6.2). I'm not sure why Tex fares so poorly here, though I'm happy to knock him down a peg for spending roughly half of this two-season period in Quadruple-A (a.k.a. the National League).
So Young's (roughly) fourth in Win Shares and fourth in WAR. Is it reasonable to suggest that he was the fourth best American League West player entering the 2007 season? Or even the third best? Kinsler racked up 41 Win Shares (along with that hefty WAR) during those two seasons, and I'm happy to allow that he was better than Young.
I was wrong. I was terribly wrong about Ichiro not being better than Mike Young, and I was significantly wrong about Guerrero not being better than Mike Young. That blog post would have been more informative if it had simply taken me to task for missing Ichiro, Guerrero, and perhaps Teixeira, who'd been real good in 2006 and was just entering his peak seasons. And bonus points to the blogger if he'd flagged Kinsler, who was 24 and coming off a solid rookie campaign.
That would have been more educational than throwing names like Yuniesky Betancourt and Mark Kotsay and Gerald Laird at the wall and hoping some of them would stick.
It wouldn't have been nearly as much fun, though. If it was just three or four legitimate names ... well, then maybe Neyer -- the old geezer! -- just forgot a few guys. But 20 guys? If you miss 20 guys, then you're just downright incompetent, if not demented. Finished. Which makes for a more entertaining blog post. And it's a World Wide Web; if you're not entertaining them, they'll find somewhere else to kill time.
I don't know. Maybe there's a middle ground in there somewhere. An overreliance on facts has always been one of my weaknesses as a writer, and always will be. Even aside from not underrating Ichiro, I could learn a lot from blog posts, including the awareness that every writer, but especially those (theoretically!) "middle-aged," must forever remain vigilant against the deadly specter of Irrelevance.
So who wrote all those terrible things about me?
Our very own Jeff Sullivan, who then (as now) ran Lookout Landing and currently does fantastic work every day on this very page.
I think I'm going to learn a lot from this kid.