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Mitch Williams: “I would rather have chemistry than talent”

Jun 22, 2013, 9:17 AM EDT

Mitch Williams

The purpose of this post is not merely to mock that silly statement from Mitch Williams. Lots of people say silly things about team chemistry and we’ve reached the point where pointing and laughing at it brings diminishing-to-the-point-of-non-existant returns.

No, it’s the run-up to that line that is worth considering:

Many people think you can build a team from a stat sheet. I don’t. I believe you have to have guys who fit together and have talent. Hence the success of the Orioles and Athletics. They ain’t even in the ballpark talent-wise with any of these teams who spent big. But none of these big-spending teams come across as having as much fun or trusting in their teammates like the O’s and A’s do.

Given the choice, I would rather have chemistry than talent.

Mitch Williams is paid to analyze baseball by a television network owned and operated by Major League Baseball. And yet he believes that the Orioles and Athletics “ain’t even in the ballpark talent-wise” with many other teams. Think about that for a minute.

Williams’ transgression isn’t his belief in team chemistry. It’s his utter inability, as a paid analyst, to recognize baseball talent in two teams — the A’s and O’s — that are absolutely loaded with it. And his apparent belief that high salaries famous names are the sine qua non of talented players.

It’s Mitch Williams’ job description to explain to MLB Network viewers how and why baseball teams win. To explain to fans who may not realize it that Players A, B and C are better than you think and Players X, Y and Z are not as good anymore as they are famous and why that is. The problem isn’t that Williams chooses to value team chemistry. Indeed, one can totally believe in the power of team chemistry if one chooses and still explain the A, B, C and X, Y Zs of it adequately. But Williams has either lazily or ignorantly chooses to make it an either/or proposition. To wave his hand and attribute success to magic while failing to see or simply choosing to ignore the baseball reasons behind successful teams.

I understand that sports networks like to employ ex-athletes, but what’s the point of having analysts who either can’t or won’t analyze? What end is being served by having a quasi-famous person actively promote ignorance on national television?

  1. schmedley69 - Jun 22, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    Mitch is an idiot. Can’t wait until Jonathan Papelbon retires and gets a job as an analyst. That should be fun.

  2. recoveringcubsfan - Jun 22, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    So yesterday you were pointing and laughing at Jayson Werth’s stupid statement, but today it’s no longer worth doing. OK.

    • cur68 - Jun 22, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      No one, least of all MB Network, is paying Jayson Werth to say anything. His opinion, while it may be insightful, isn’t the contract work for which he was engaged. However, Mitch Williams IS paid to analyse. And his analyses indicates a pretty dismal grasp of…of….of, well, ANALYSIS.

      Werth isn’t failing at his job with his statement, juts saying something puzzling and intellectually a bit amusing. I certainly thought so. Our Boy Mitch, though . . . yeah that’s a fail at your job right there. Its not so much funny (though I did laugh at it) as it is a perplexing. My local sports radio DJ does a better analysis than that and she’s getting paid in hair products (so she says). The mild outrage that this is so seems to be worth the tone, if you ask me.

  3. offseasonblues - Jun 22, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    If the point wasn’t to mock that silly statement, why put it in the headline? Why not lead with “Orioles leading majors in fWAR, Mitch Williams says they lack talent”?

    • recoveringcubsfan - Jun 22, 2013 at 9:41 AM

      I get that Craig’s wanting not to mock Wild Thing outright, but to make a better point about why he’s wrong. And he did. But it’s a fairly mundane point that’s been made many times before. I object to how often this blog singles out players and coaches with “look, athlete/manager says something stupid, ain’t be nutty?” posts that do only exist to mock. It seems that only some topics can get a longer treatment but when the writer has nothing to contribute he can simply scoff and make a shitty comment and that’s acceptable. But the. Sometimes we get these “serious” ruminations about the same kind of foolish statements. I question the moving target that is standards for this kind of thing.

  4. gallaghedj311 - Jun 22, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Damn Craig, your even hating on ex Phillies 20 years later. You should….get a hobby or something, lol

  5. mancave001 - Jun 22, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Tell us how you really feel, Craig. In context it’s not that bad. It might be wrong due to several reasons you mentioned, but it doesn’t require bashing all player-analysts and slamming Williams for not analyzing at all. Geez.

  6. bringbackkosar - Jun 22, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Patient: It hurts when I do (this).
    Doctor: Don’t do (that) anymore. That’ll be $100 please.

    Hit the mute button and keep your blood pressure down, Craig! BTW your spell-checker is non-existEnt.

    • Old Gator - Jun 22, 2013 at 11:32 AM

      He’s ignoring his spell checker this morning. You think he’s working on a Saturday because he wants to?

      • historiophiliac - Jun 22, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Is it Log In To Bitch About Content Day? I *thought* it was Saturday. Hmmm. Hey, you know what I do when one of the writers here posts something I’m not interested in? It’s really unfortunate there are only 5 sports blogs on the whole internet and not much to read. 57 channels and nothing on.

  7. Bob - Jun 22, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    Williams has said plenty of equally dumb things like this as an analyst, and he’s not a very good one. The problem with remarks like these is that a lot of times the Mitch Williams and Harold Reynolds-types making the remarks believe them as absolutes, as if chemistry is always a substitute for talent.

    Usually, you don’t have chemistry until you win and you don’t have a lack of it until you lose. Winning creates good feelings, losing creates bad feelings. The results create the chemistry, not the other way around.

    • Bob - Jun 22, 2013 at 10:05 AM

      And, BTW, Reynolds is even worse than Williams. I have no idea what kinds of pictures he has on people to keep getting hired as an analyst.

      • Old Gator - Jun 22, 2013 at 11:33 AM

        One can only imagine. Too bad his snaps of Glen Rice and Sara Palin devalued so completely.

  8. contraryguy - Jun 22, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    More proof that all the really good TV baseball analysts are managing a team this year.

  9. stevietimmy - Jun 22, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    So team chemistry is now “magic,” eh? Uh huh…

  10. going4iton4th - Jun 22, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    I agree with Craig, what brilliant analysis Mitch Williams. I actually find John Kruk to be the moe annoying of the Philly broadcasters. Mitch Williams should know something about being individually talented compared to “chemistry”. His Philly teams were arguably the most talent teams with the Krucks, Daltons, and Eisenreichs, but he gave up the home run to Joe Carter chemistry doesn’t apply in that situation. It sounds like an excuse given by a guy who has had to defend himself throughout his career for that one horrific moment.

    • cur68 - Jun 22, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      Horrific moment? Chootalkin’bout going4it? That was a GREAT moment. One of my favourite moments in all sports. It was a 2-2 slider with 2 men on and it was GLORIOUS! Henderson and Molitor plated ahead of Joe and Joe pretty much circled the bases running on air.

      Thank you, Mitch Williams.

      • Old Gator - Jun 22, 2013 at 11:36 AM

        Ah, there you have it. Carter, Henderson and Molitor had chemistry together. Williams all by hisself had talent.

  11. cohnjusack - Jun 22, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Ozzie Smith pointed out the chemistry/winning connection better than anyone:

    “Let me put it like this: You know, people ask me how do you spell chemistry, I spell good chemistry w-i-n. When you win, chemistry is always there… When you’re losing it’s just like anything—you fight with your brothers… with the daily grind of everything, the more you win, the better things are.”

    That’s exactly the point…they’re not winning because they have great chemistry (whatever the fuck that means), they have great chemistry because they’re winning.

    I can rail off countless teams that had the *opposite* of good chemistry who won. I remember back in 2004, during the Cardinals “MV3” season, where Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds were all having incredible years. There was an article in ESPN the magazine that praised their chemistry, how they were all so different, basically never talked to each other, and each lead the team in their own way. Now, imagine that same article if the Cardinals *weren’t* winning that year. It would cite their lack of communication as they reason they were losing and paint it as poor chemistry, I guarantee you!

    It’s such a frustrating, easily disprovable myth that continues to persist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure everyone hating each other probably isn’t the best for your team. But I’d rather have 25 Barry Bonds’ who all hate each other over 25 David Eckstein’s who love each other.

    • yahmule - Jun 22, 2013 at 12:53 PM

      The Swingin’ A’s of the early 70’s are a perfect example.

      • jwbiii - Jun 22, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        The Bronx Zoo Yankees, also.

  12. historiophiliac - Jun 22, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    I take exception to the claim that talent-loaded teams don’t have fun. I think the Tigers have great fun on the field. Or, maybe he’s saying we don’t have talent? Whatever, dude. I think it can be easier to have chemistry with someone who has talent, but then again, you can develop skills in people with whom you have chemistry…but then again, lack of talent can kill chemistry and you just want it over with then, but you tend to be forgiving with nice guys because yeah. I’m totally talking about baseball.

    • indaburg - Jun 22, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      Agreed. Totally talking baseball. Totally.

      It’s amazing though how great winning is for team chemistry. And winning comes easier with talented guys. You know, like the guys who play for the Tigers, A’s, and O’s.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 22, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        I really don’t think you can separate O’s from talent and chemistry. Still talking baseball.

      • indaburg - Jun 22, 2013 at 4:48 PM

        Absolutely. Me too.

    • jwbiii - Jun 22, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      ¡Si! They certainly seem to be having fun.

  13. anthonyverna - Jun 22, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    Actually, I think it’s worth the time to mock anything Wild Thing says.

  14. yahmule - Jun 22, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    I would rather be handsome than rich.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 22, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      Meh, rich is easier.

    • byjiminy - Jun 23, 2013 at 1:36 AM

      But which would make you more attractive?

      • byjiminy - Jun 23, 2013 at 1:36 AM

        Or rather, which would make you have better chemistry with women?

  15. tony1111 - Jun 22, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    If there’s not good energy on a team then it messes with the chemistry. I agree with Mitch. Obviously anyone person in MLB is talented. I’m sure Mitch didn’t state that because it is the obvious. Every team has different levels of talent, but if all you basically have is the same amount of talent but terrible chemistry then the talent is almost useless. I played a Division 1 sport in college. If it wasn’t for our teams good energy and very in tune chemistry then our team wouldn’t have been as half as successful as we were.

  16. icanspeel - Jun 22, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I wouldn’t exactly agree with his statement, but I can kind of make a case for it.. Take the Padres for example. 2 games over .500 with not 1 player who has 30 or more RBI’s and even half of their everyday players currently hurt yet they are playing well as a team. Then compare them to the Angels and Dodgers and on paper those teams have way more talent, yet aren’t better.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 22, 2013 at 1:00 PM

      Except there’s a huge difference between talent and production. Talent can lead to production, but it’s not a guarantee. So even if you have the best team on paper, if they don’t produce, you aren’t going to be successful.

    • gloccamorra - Jun 22, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      You may have said what Mitch Williams meant, but didn’t say coherently. He didn’t say the A’s and Orioles don’t have talent, he probably meant they don’t have superstars at every position like some other clubs. The Padres have at least major league quality talent at every position – no weaknesses, and as has been noted, MLB quality backups, but no superstars.

      What Mitch means by chemistry, and Ozzie meant by w-i-n, is nothing more than playing team baseball. That DOES require players to be a little selfless, to pull for teammates and cover for them, and by the end of the season they look like a tight-knit group, but it all comes down to helping each other play fundamentally sound baseball, even if it means getting on a teammate to make him better.

      What Mitch’s garbled point leads to is the possibility that having superstars at every, or several, positions may prevent the team concept from developing, as the superstars are expected to carry the club with individual effort. You want your power hitter to take full swings, not bunt or go the other way to move the runners along, for instance. the manager can mandate those efforts, but that does nothing for other players developing an intense interest in helping each other get better and work together.

      That’s not to say teams loaded with superstars can’t develop a close-knit, team results oriented approach, because they have in the past. But it might explain the success of those “little teams that could” that MLB has seen regularly over the years. It may be that the superstar teams need a first among equals to set the tone.

      • cohnjusack - Jun 22, 2013 at 1:57 PM

        This is the most astounding bit of half truth drivel I’ve ever heard. I also enjoyed how you took Mitch Williams’ and Ozzie Smith’s statements, which were completely opposite and made them seem like the same position.

        No, Ozzie Smith’s point was that chemistry happens *because* you’re winning, chemistry *does not cause* you to win.

        And, by the way…what is selfless baseball? Anybody? More than any other team sport, baseball is a series of individual actions. How does the third baseman hit the ball “selflessly?”. How does the shortstop on a team that lacks chemistry field the ball in a selfish manner? What, does he scoop up a grounder and put it in his pocket because he refuses to share it with his teammates?

        You know why the Padres are better? Because they’ve been outscored by 11 runs while the Dodgers have been outscored by 51 runs. Overall, they’re group of players are better at baseball then the Dodgers group of players. Sure, it may have seemed coming in that the Dodgers had the better group of guys. Turns out they don’t. That’s the way it works and it’s not because the Dodgers aren’t patting each other on the ass enough.

      • gloccamorra - Jun 22, 2013 at 5:41 PM

        @cohnju: You don’t think baseball is a team game? You think the shortstop throws to first and the first baseman just happens to be there to catch it? You think the third baseman just hits, and doesn’t care if there’s a runner on first, or it doesn’t matter if there’s a runner on third, he’s just hitting for himself? You’re easily astounded by your perception of “half truth drivel”. Come on, dude, it’s half truth or drivel, it can’t be both. Thanks for missing the main point, and being rude and insulting in the process. I’m putting you down as “doesn’t play well with others.”

  17. thegreatstoneface - Jun 22, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    it’s a funny thing. i’m not thrilled with the idea that you *have* to have ex players to make your commentary/analysis…worthwhile. you end up with tim mccarver, eventually, because the timeliness of the commentary and the insideriness…passes.

    on the other hand…i actually enjoy watching and listening to mitch williams.

    and…with the context provided in this example? i agree with him.

    don’t you?

    • thegreatstoneface - Jun 22, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      sure, the way he expressed himself is a bit off, but unless we’re going to just nit pick him to death, the general point was perfectly sensible.

      there are teams built in such a way that you have to dig deeper to see why they’re winning…whereas the big money teams are essentially going old school traditional with big names that makes it obvious what they’re trying to do.

      the fact that he’s putting it on chemistry doesn’t bother me in the least. it’s misleading, because there are other reasons those teams are doing better than a glance at their rosters would indicate, but…

      it opens the conversation for a sharp broadcast partner to engage, at that point, in a discussion about the more subtle things we all look for.

      that’s a good thing, not a bad one. if that conversation didn’t happen? that ain’t mitch, it’s the fucker who let it sit on the table without taking the opening…

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 22, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        it opens the conversation for a sharp broadcast partner to engage, at that point, in a discussion about the more subtle things we all look for.

        Except it doesn’t. Most broadcast parterns, in my experience, don’t call out their partner for a dumb comment. Chemistry always, ALWAYS, is used as an ex post facto reasoning for why a team does well. Is it really Chemistry that the O’s* are doing well, or is it that Machado is leading the league in 2Bs and Chris Davis is hitting everything he sees out of the park (27 HR and 0.724 SLG!) the reason? Do the A’s like each other, or are they winning b/c they are 4th in the AL in runs scored and 6th in runs given up?

        *Btw, why is he mentioning the O’s when he talks about no-name talent teams? the O’s are 1.5 games ahead of the Yanks, who are running out their 3rd string 3B, 3rd string SS, 2nd string 1b, 5th OF, 3rd string C….If you want a team that’s playing well with no-name talent, how about the Sox? It’s Pedroia and Ortiz who are the big names, but Nava (121 OPS+), Carp (179 OPS+), Iglesias (185!!!!OPS+) along with Saltalamacchia (112OPS+) and Napoli (113 OPS+)?

  18. skerney - Jun 22, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    Mitch Williams is a thing because of Will Clark and Joe Carter. He is Ralph Branca, twice over.

    • yahmule - Jun 22, 2013 at 11:45 PM

      His is Ralph Branca with .01% the class.

  19. pa9erfan - Jun 22, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    What end is being served by having a quasi-famous person actively promote ignorance in a national publication that totally ignores the relevence of team chemistry…

  20. pa9erfan - Jun 22, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    and ya gotta love the springsteen reference… 57channels, loveit!!!!

  21. kollin7 - Jun 22, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    I hate how he said the Orioles/Athletics don’t have the talent of the bigger spending teams. It’s like he never watches baseball… Yoenis Cespedes is one of the most talented players in MLB. A’s and Orioles bullpens have both been great for two years. And, Hello? Chris Davis has 27 home-runs…

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