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Great Moments in Straw Man Arguments: Jon Heyman

Apr 28, 2010, 5:10 PM EDT

SI’s Jon Heyman was the first major national writer to weigh in on the Ryan Howard contract the other day, tweeting his strong approval of the pact. Today he has a lengthy column up elaborating on his support for the deal.

There are some passable, though ultimately unconvincing (in my view) arguments in the piece, but there was also one ridiculous passage, the sort of which causes so many people to want to lay into Heyman they way we so often do:

Everyone agrees that home runs are an important stat, but to those who
believe RBIs are only a reflection of one’s teammates, and thus pure
luck, here are the top five RBI leaders since 1900: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Five very
lucky fellows.

Heyman knows full well that no one argues that RBI are “only” a reflection on one’s teammates or that they’re “pure luck.”  The argument is that RBI are dependent upon one’s teammates and a function of opportunity, thus they do not isolate a player’s individual value, thereby allowing you to do things that are dependent upon knowing one’s individual value like, say, figuring out what you should pay a guy or voting for him as the MVP.

Put differently: you still have to be able to hit the ball to get the RBIs, but even if you rake with the best of them, you’re not going to get a ton of RBIs if your teammates don’t get on base. Ask Mickey Mantle, who drove in 100 runs only four times and stands at a mere 50th on the all-time RBI list, right behind Carlos Delgado at 49.

Surely Heyman doesn’t believe that Delgado was better than Mantle, does he? Of course he doesn’t, because he’s not a dumb guy. He’s just a guy who can’t resist taking a shot at modern statistical analysis whenever the opportunity arises, and that’s what he’s doing here.

  1. tolleyjenkins - Apr 28, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    Jon Heyman is literally retarded. I repeat: literally retarded. Not “literally retarded” in a “figurative” sense, but just good ole “franks and beans” retarded.

  2. Jon Heyman - Apr 28, 2010 at 6:05 PM

    I am not retarded, Mama says “I’m special”! And Mickey who?

  3. Mahoney - Apr 28, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    Let it go Craig. Let. It. Go.

  4. Grant - Apr 28, 2010 at 7:28 PM

    I disagree. Don’t let it go. Heyman is terrible and deserves to be called out.

  5. Raffy - Apr 28, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    Did Heyman try to sleep with Craig’s wife or something?
    Craig’s critical coverage of Heyman’s pieces are starting to become a bit obsessive, and kind of sad.

  6. Lashman - Apr 28, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    But Craig, your argument is even more silly.
    Heyman says lots of RBI means you’re a pretty effective player. He’s not saying that a lesser amount means you’re a lesser player. And he’s not saying it’s the only thing you look at. There are lots of ways to be really effective, walks and stolen bases and runs are all something to look at. Utley doesn’t match Howard’s RBI but he gets on and scores runs which is pretty damn important. But he needs Howard to knock him in. If someone is knocking in runs year in year out, that’s a guy you want to keep. The Mickey Mantle thing is a cheap shot because he never said RBI is the only thing that matters.
    I also think Heyman is usually an idiot, but not because of this.

  7. mattjg - Apr 28, 2010 at 7:48 PM

    Maybe you didn’t read the whole article. He clearly said Howard is a “winner.” There’s no comeback for that. Also, intentional walks. Teh feared.

  8. jwb - Apr 28, 2010 at 8:18 PM

    Oddly, Howard has been much less feared since Aaron Rowand stopped batting fifth. . .

  9. j-fi - Apr 28, 2010 at 8:49 PM

    Yeah, let it go already. Geez. I’ve been a Phillies fan for 30 years, and I can assure you that Ryan Howard is worth every damn penny. The guy is a beast and puts up huge numbers year after year. Sure, he has flaws, but without him the Phillies wouldn’t have won 3 straight division titles, a World Series and an N.L. Pennant. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs their head examined.
    The Phillies had 2 choices: pay him, or let him become a free agent and watch the Mets or Red Sox pay him. He beat them in arbitration (which no one ever does), so it’s the arbitrator who set the floor for his salary. Then the Yankees established a market value with the Texeria signing.
    The Phillies are experiencing the greatest era in the their 125+ year history and are selling out the ballpark night after night. They are printing money. Why in the Hell would they risk upsetting their competitive balance by letting their cleanup hitter (who is perfect for their park) sign with another team? Why? To appease you anal, nit-picking stat geeks?
    I can’t help but think that a lot of your complaining about this deal is due to the fact that you are a Braves fan, and that you are jealous of the Phillies recent success. It’s a shame that the Braves don’t have Ted Turners bottomless pockets to fall back on anymore and have to actually turn a profit now. Philadelphia is the 4th largest market in the country and has rabid, passionate fans who are spending their hard earned money to watch their team. The Phillies ownership is raking in the cash, and they rewarded one of the guys responsible for their success with a contract is fair for both sides.

  10. Curious George - Apr 28, 2010 at 11:15 PM

    I can assure you that Ryan Howard is worth every damn penny

    Who are you and what exactly are your credentials?
    Anyone who thinks otherwise needs their head examined.

    I don’t believe that anyone has argued that Howard has not been good, is not currently good or figures to not be good in the short term. People have argued against (a) the merits of signing a player to an extension who is already under contract for this season and next and (b) forking over a lot of money for a player’s age 32 to 36 seasons when players of his size tend not to age very well.
    pay him, or let him become a free agent and watch the Mets or Red Sox pay him

    And if that happened, they could sign Fielder or Gonzalez or somebody. Or they could even compete with Boston and NY in the bidding for Howard and sign him themselves after the 2011 season.
    Why? To appease you anal, nit-picking stat geeks?

    When a compelling argument can’t be found, one can always resort to name-calling. Bravo. We have been schooled.

  11. j-fi - Apr 29, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    You don’t really present a compelling argument there yourself, Curious George. Who knows if Fielder or Gonzalez will be available 2 years from now? And even if they were, who’s to say they wouldn’t cost more than Howard, and why would the Phillies want them over Howard anyway? Fielder is going to eat himself out of the league. The fans are emotionally attached to Howard. He helped their team win a championship for only the second time in 125 years. Sure Howard could decline big time between 32-36, but no one knows for sure. If he had another big year this season, his price would have gone up and the chances of locking him up would have been that much slimmer. The Phillies window of opportunity is between now and 2013. If they win another championship in that time-frame, then it won’t really matter what Howard does between 2014 – 2016. His contract will have already paid for itself.

  12. Jonny5 - Apr 29, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    I can’t wait until people drop this topic, it’s done. No matter what anyone thinks about it, it’s a done deal. We all know now it’ll be a few years before anyone KNOWS if it was a good deal or bad deal,so to over anaylize it now is a waste. Let’s play ball!!! And get Werth signed btw.

  13. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Apr 29, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    Sure Howard could decline big time between 32-36, but no one knows for sure. If he had another big year this season, his price would have gone up and the chances of locking him up would have been that much slimmer.

    The problem is he’s declining already. Since his monster ’06 year, his walks, OBP, and SLG are all declining(b-ref.com). And this doesn’t take into account that this new contract kicks in two years down the road. there was absolutely no reason for them to offer this contract now.

    Then the Yankees established a market value with the Texeria signing.

    The Tex signing had nothing to do with Howard’s contract figures, unless you believe that HR and RBI are the be-all and end-all arguments to a players ability. While Tex has put up 1.5 more WAR over the last four years than Howard, Tex signed his deal at age 27 going into his age 28 season so his decline will happen in the back half of his contract. Howard signed his deal for age 32 and is already declining in his performance. No one is saying Howard is a bad player, they are saying that his recent performance does not suggest being the second highest player in baseball.

  14. Howie B. - Apr 29, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    I always look at Heyman’s spin asking “how is this good for Boras?” Its a fun little game.
    Fielder probably has more to gain from the Howard contract than Pujols or Gonzalez. Pujols was going to get ARod money no matter what. Gonzalez will get paid when he hits the free agent market, or by whoever trades for him later this year. But Fielder is the most comparable pending free-agent over-sized firstbaseman with ‘old player’ skills. So the Howard contract is most relevant to him as a direct comp.
    And who represents Fielder? Ding, ding!! We have our connection!

  15. Benny Blanco - Apr 29, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    Be realistic. Its doubtful that anyone else would pay him more than 25 million a year when he’s current contract is up.

  16. BC - Apr 29, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    RBI is not a useless statistic, but it’s not worth a lot. Case in point: last guy to lead his league in RBI three straight years? Cecil Fielder. Not even close to a hall of famer. That being said, Howard is a power-hitting beast at the plate. But still, why the $25mil now, who were they bidding against?

  17. dtro - Apr 29, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    John Heyman IS a dumb guy.

  18. Mike - May 2, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    wow, tolleyjenkins, I didn’t realize that you earned that advanced degree enabling you to diagnose different degrees of mental retardation.
    Your comment was sophmoric and hurtful to those living with special needs. Funny, you probably never thought they had feelings or got when they are being mocked. how wrong you are.

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