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Jeff Francoeur and ANT (Announcer Nonsense Talk)

May 20, 2013, 11:03 AM EDT

Kansas City Royals Photo Day Getty Images

Posnanski hits the nail on the head:

What player in baseball do you think has the most ANT — Announcer Nonsense Talk — spoken about them?

By ANT, I’m not just referring to stuff announcers say. I’m referring to a sort of universal praise that does not tie to logic or anything tangible but instead to a sort of whimsical hope and powerful narratives … You know ANT when you hear or read it — it is when people start speaking in broad generalities about a player (“This guy just wants it more”) or when they start over-crediting a player for dubious achievements (pitcher wins and RBIs tend to be the sweet nectar of Announcer Nonsense Talk) or when they start to turn sports achievement into life achievement (“That was just a courageous pitch!”). And like I say, it’s not only announcers who do this — far from it. You see it everywhere.

We’ve talked about this with Michael Young quite a bit, and anyone else who gets labeled a “professional hitter,” or a “competitor” while little or note is taken of the fact that there are serious flaws in his game which undermine the “he’s a superstar!” narrative. Heck, Jim Rice made the Hall of Fame based on a form of ANT which had him being the most “feared” hitter of his era. Despite there being nothing whatsoever to suggest he was particularly feared by the pitchers of his day.

Posnanski applies ANT to Jeff Francoeur and he’s dead-on. I’m more curious as to how players become big ANT guys in the first place. I think it has something to do with early promise leading to a lot of speculative praise that, once unfulfilled, needs to be bolstered by ANT so that all of that early praise doesn’t seem so misguided. Jeff Francoeur splashed big and then appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the words “The Natural” on him with a partial season under his belt. Do you think the narrative industrial complex is simply gonna say “Oops! we were wrong!”? No, they’re gonna spend the rest of his career acting as if the early awesome stuff was the norm and the rest of the data — which creates the bulk of the overall data set — is explained away or ignored.

And it doesn’t just happen in sports. Orson Welles got this treatment. If you don’t think so, listen to some cinephile trying to convince you how good some of his later stuff was.

Where sports differs, however, is that I think there’s also an element of media-friendliness too. Orson Welles was a pain in the butt, but reporters and announcers like Jeff Francoeur and Michael Young for very good reasons: they’re friendly guys who help make the media’s job easier. It’s understandable that, in turn, the media will look to say nice things about them. That’s not some cynical point. I don’t believe it to be some unholy and disingenuous quid pro quo. Humanity is such that we like to be nice to those who are nice. If anything, there’s something good underlying the perpetuation of ANT. Something which speaks to the better side of our nature.

But however nice it is, there’s no escaping that it’s nonsense.

  1. danaking - May 20, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Pos i right. By all accounts, Francoeur is a hell of a nice guy. he also looks great in uniform, like what a ballplayer is supposed to look like. The things he does well are the things people can see with their eyes on a superficial level: cannon for an arm, has some power. My first memory of him is hitting a game-winning home run as a rookie for the Braves, his home town team, and the look on his face as he rounded the bases. I like him. I want him to be good. I want me to be better looking and rich, too. That ain’t gonna happen, either, so I keep it mostly to myself.

  2. mustbechris - May 20, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    CHASE UTLEY. THE most overrated player in baseball, by fans and announcers alike. I’m not just saying this because Harry Kalas said the “Chase Utley, you are the man!” thing, though it certainly stems indirectly from that. It’s because of how often the announcers and fans refer to him as an “old school” baseball player and say “they don’t make em like him anymore!” The universal hardcore misguided love of Chase Utley – from the announcers, the media, the fans, local magazine covers – is too much. Feeding kittens at the SPCA doesn’t mean he can hit left handed sliders.

    I say all of this as a Phillies fan.

    • Kevin S. - May 20, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      Utley’s a little different from guys like Young and Francoeur, who had occassional spikes up to “very good” but were typically average players. Chase Utley was a legitimate superstar with a shot at the Hall of Fame before injuries crushed his career.

      • mustbechris - May 20, 2013 at 10:38 PM

        But that’s my point, injuries crushed his career. “What if”s are irrelevant. He’s still treated as if he’s what he was. He gets very different treatment than other similar players, and teammates, who have declined in similar ways to similar degrees in similar timeframes. Utley’s coated in teflon compared to them.

    • heyblueyoustink - May 20, 2013 at 11:29 AM

      Dude. Take Chase’s 2005-2010 years and compare with the best 5 years of Frenchy from any parts of his career.

      That math just doesn’t add up, dog will not hunt.

      • mustbechris - May 20, 2013 at 10:39 PM

        I’m not comparing Chase Utley to Jeff Francoeur, I’m comparing Chase Utley to Chase Utley.

    • ryand17 - May 20, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      Are you out of your mind? Utley is the greatest player to wear a Phillies uniform since Schmidt. Every announcer could bring up Utley’s play 10 times a game and it wouldn’t be enough. Seriously go back and look at some BR pages from the past decade. Pick a stat, any stat and he’s either first or second. Even this year, he’s the only regular player keeping the Phils near .500. If it weren’t for some good bench hitting they’d be 10 under. Utley was one of the greatest 2Bs ever in his peak and he’s still a very good, if not great player. If you don’t want the announcers to talk about him anymore, who do you want them to talk about? Their 5 regulars with .302 or less OBP??

    • hisgirlgotburrelled - May 20, 2013 at 11:58 AM

      From 2005-2009 Utley posted a WAR between 7.1 and 8. Michael Young has never posted a WAR above 4.4. Utley was praised for playing well. Young was praised for the perception of being a good player. See the difference?

      “I say all of this as a Phillies fan.”

      I’m not going to judge someone’s fandom by how many games they watch and attend, but you need to mold your opinions more around what a player has actually done on the field rather than what you hear on the radio.

      • conjecture101 - May 20, 2013 at 2:11 PM

        There isn’t a difference, other than that the Phillies announcers are accidentally right. There intention was the same. Most home announcers, and home fans overvalue the players that they see on a daily basis, and quite frankly that’s why baseball is as popular as it is.

      • hisgirlgotburrelled - May 20, 2013 at 2:39 PM

        There isn’t a difference? Why not? Chase Utley cannot be called overrated or overvalued because he was that good. He was the best 2B in the game for 5 years. Yes, every city has announcers that praise players that aren’t as good. But it’s not like they talk about them like they’re as good as Utley. The problem is that Michael Young does get talked about like he is that good, when he should just be talked about like all the other average players.

      • mustbechris - May 20, 2013 at 10:41 PM

        AGAIN, the arbitrary timetables. He WAS good. He’s treated like he’s still that player, and he hasn’t been for years. And it’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. The fact that the same stereotypes are applied to Utley and Young really just proves my point in calling him an ANT candidate.

    • mustbechris - May 20, 2013 at 10:36 PM

      I’m glad this generated some discussion.

      You can’t take arbitrary timeframes and tell me that makes me wrong. Looking at the whole picture, he’s treated a certain way now and has been since 2009 that his play does not warrant.

      • hisgirlgotburrelled - May 21, 2013 at 10:02 AM

        To call Chase Utley “the most overrated player in baseball” is absolutely wrong. There’s no other way to put that. To be overrated you have to be talked about as one of the best. He is not talked about as being the best 2B in baseball now. You couldn’t think of one player in all of baseball who people think is better than they actually are??

        Since you haven’t noticed because you don’t watch the games, Utley is having a pretty good year and is by far their best player this season.

      • mustbechris - May 21, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        Utley’s actually on my fantasy team, for whatever THAT is worth. I don’t watch the games? Ok dude. Being the least worst and being the best are two different things. In particular with Utley, he is HIGHLY overrated by Phillies fans.

  3. heyblueyoustink - May 20, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Enough! We need to upgrade from the human element of broadcasting. The announcers, henceforth, should be none other than something like Rosie from the Jetsons.

    • conjecture101 - May 20, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      Robot Announcers in development.

  4. Liam - May 20, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    “At this moment, Jeff Francoeur is hitting .209 with five walks and one home run. We are about a quarter of the way through the season, so you can multiply those numbers by four to get a sense of where he would finish the year at this pace.”

    I know twenty walks and four home runs are both on the low side, but it can probably be forgiven if Francoeur hits .836 this season.

    • bfunk1978 - May 20, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      That was laugh-out-loud funny.

    • kollin7 - May 20, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      You win, sir.

  5. mustbechris - May 20, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Also, it says nothing nice about our nature because it only gets applied to white guys in most cases. Calling Michael Young a “professional hitter” is no different than that article from months ago about that clown saying the Diamondbacks trading their overpaid inconsistent (minority) stars for “a bunch of scrappy (white) guys”. How often does the “scrappy” or “professional hitter” standard get applied to non-white baseball players?

    • Kevin S. - May 20, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      While that usually seems to be the case, Martin Prado is Venezuelan, Didi Gregorius is a black Dutchman and Trevor Bauer is a white kid out of UCLA.

      • mustbechris - May 20, 2013 at 10:43 PM

        Are you aware of the article I’m talking about? You’re telling me that the article that I’m saying is ridiculous…is ridiculous. I agree with you.

      • Kevin S. - May 21, 2013 at 7:42 AM

        Ah, I misread what you were saying then.

  6. dwrek5 - May 20, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    In reverse, I would be interested in which announcers talk the most ANT. Speaking of Frenchy, I’m sure Huds is up there. Hawk’s gotta be leading the charge though.

    • sportsdrenched - May 20, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      Exactly! It’s like the perfect strom. Frenchy gets a lot of ANT because the broadcast team that covers him goes ANT on EVERYONE on the team. It’s beyond annoying. I expect a little bit of homering from the local broadcast; after all their job is to sell tickets.

      However, with the excpetion of Denny Matthews the Royals broadcasts have gone into comdeic territory with their chearleading almost to the point where I wonder if they recruited the Information Minister from a Despotic Regime to run things.

    • worldseriestiger - May 20, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      I bet there isn’t a single White Sox player that doesn’t have TWTW, but only while on the Sox.

      Some one find a White Sox/Reds or Nationals game when Dunn was playing for them. I guarantee Hawk badmouths his strike outs and his Sabermetric appeal. But, listen now and Dunn is amazing b/c he is always a threat to go deep.

    • 18thstreet - May 20, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      The MASN announcers offer nary a criticism of any Nationals player.

    • gregbeau - May 20, 2013 at 8:11 PM

      Interesting phenomenon… Is it a function of the announcer, the player, or some magic combination of both? Some announcers – the homer types – seem particularly prone to it. The usual suspects include Harrelson, Hudler/Physioc, the absolutely horrible Buck Martinez in Toronto, the Nats TV crew, possibly some others that escape me. Then you have players like Frenchy, any of the “scrappy competitor” types, and the occasional one who befriends the announce team.

  7. hushbrother - May 20, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    Personally I think Touch of Evil is overrated, but think Chimes at Midnight is underrated. And yes, I am a cinephile.

    • mattraw - May 20, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      It seems much easier to build a case for “F for Fake” as one of the best films ever made than to try to convince someone that Francouer is a decent ballplayer.

  8. tfbuckfutter - May 20, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    This article isn’t gritty enough for my taste.

    And without grittiness it can’t be clutch.

    This article is the Alex Rodriguez of articles.

  9. Uncle Charlie - May 20, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    What about Thom Brenneman questioning why more people don’t recognize Bronson Arroyo as an elite pitcher. After all, since 2005 he’s 7th in wins and 3rd in innings pitched, plus he’s just in phenomenal shape.

  10. chipperforever - May 20, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    If you are unsure of ANT watch a broadcast with Ron Darling. Over weekend he was all over that kind of stuff during the Dodgers vs. Braves games sunday.

    • conjecture101 - May 20, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      Yea but it goes both ways. Darling rips Jordany Valdespin every chance he gets with no actual facts to back it up, just merely conjecture.

  11. kbeau19 - May 20, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    The funny part about this whole thing is I don’t see any micheal young fans here, why is micheal young “average” that’s just stupid I’m sure whoever thinks he is average thinks jester is better but here is something I guarantee know one INCLUDING THIS WRITER knows….since micheal young entered the league 12 years ago he has completely beat Derek jester in GP RBI AVG Hits doubles and if combined runs and RBI produces more than jeter so everyone hop off young cause he is a better hitter than y’all’s beloved jeter

    • tfbuckfutter - May 20, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      His career OPS+ of 104 suggests that you’re right. He’s not average.

      He is 4% better than average.

      For the record, and I hate defending a Yankee….Jeter’s posted an OPS+ of 116 in the same amount of time.

      But, you know….that’s just an independent measure of one’s performance….it’s not as good as using something like RBIs.

    • Kevin S. - May 20, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      Since 2001, the year Michael Young entered the league (we’re ignoring the two games he played in 2000), he has a lower average, .309-.301, fewer hits, 2296-2272, fewer stolen bases, 240-89, fewer walks, 698-555, WAY lower OBP, .376-.348, didn’t play shortstop the entire time, and played in the most RHH-friendly ballpark in the league. That’s why Jeter out-wRC+’s Young 120-104 and out fWAR’s him 51.4-27.7. This analysis tosses out two MVP-caliber years of Jeter’s career and includes more of his decline phase, comparing Jeter’s age-27 through -38 seasons to Michael young from 24-36. Try again, young grasshopper.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 20, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        What about RBI’s Kevin? WHAT ABOUT RBIS!

        sorry, I tried

  12. kbeau19 - May 20, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    Oh and uncle Charlie to back you up since arroyo has been a red he is actually 1st in IP and wins so yes he is very under appreciated

  13. benrob99 - May 21, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Reading this article was two minutes of my life I’ll never get back. SABR metrics (which has been way worse for the game than steroids ever were) now want you to stop rooting for players that are nice guys. Hopefully, for the author’s (and I use that term very loosely) sake hopefully someday very soon the entire game of baseball can be played SOLEY on a spreadsheet.

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