Morning Wood: Nerds, Eskin, Hamels… and a Ruben Body Surfing Update

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OK, this is starting to get hard to write when, ya know, the Phillies only play two games in five days. Let’s make it quick, giving you some news and a very important Ruben J. Amaro body surfing update.

Cole Hamels underwent an MRI on his stiff shoulder yesterday. Leslie Gudel had the report on CSN Philly. No further details given. CSN says Hamels may skip his scheduled start on Friday, even though he called the problem only “dead arm,” something Roy Oswalt (and many others) suffered from last year.

Leslie’s report brings up an interesting topic: Has there ever been a more underrated sports reporter in Philly? It appears Leslie’s workload has been drastically reduced, as she recently founded the Nap Nanny, a sleeping aid for babies (as best as I understand it). Every once in a while, however, she pops up with a scoop like this and is always over at the ballpark during the most significant Phillies moments. She’s one of the few reporters who rarely gets in the way of a story and always brings it to you straight- yet with a likable personality. She’s like Jeff Daniels’ character, Harry, in Speed. Years of applaudable work have led to a reduced role, but when you need her most, there she is helping to defuse a bomb or report on Cole Hamels’ shoulder. And when necessary (like when the Phillies clinch an NL East title… or Dennis Hopper goes crazy), she springs to action, jumping right in the middle of a chaotic clubhouse with rock solid on-camera work. Let’s just keep her out of boobie-trapped homes, OK?

In case you haven’t heard, Howard Eskin is calling it quits on his afternoon talk show. He wants to pursue national opportunities. John Miller has a nice piece on his departure.

I know your feelings about Howard- they’re not good ones. But, if for just a moment, let’s briefly applaud him for 25 successful years on the radio. There’s a reason why he stuck around that long: he usually gave it to you straight. Not unlike Simon Cowell on American Idol, Eskin was the guy you went to when you wanted to validate your opinion. Excited about a recent signee? Let’s get Howard’s thoughts. Think the Phillies will make the playoffs this year? Let’s see what Howard thinks.

Often times, he splashed a very cold glass of water on your figurative boner. It was annoying, but, well, often justified- our teams only won one championship in the 25 years Eskin was on the radio.

It was the same thing with Cowell. When watching Idol (don’t pretend you didn’t), you always waited to hear his opinion. Like a performance, then hear Cowell say it sounded like a pig blowing a wolf? You likely changed your mind- even if only subconsciously. Hate a performance only to hear Cowell praise it? You probably went back and listened again because surely you missed something. That was Eskin.

What cost him, in the long run, was, unlike Cowell, his failure to ever be positive. Critical became curmudgeonly in a time when there’s not a whole lot to be negative about. There’s a time and place for bitter, tell-it-like-it-is pundits: 2011 is not that time in Philadelphia. Throw in a dash of Ike Reese, who may be a very nice man but is awful on the radio, and you have an on-air disaster. Perhaps this all reached a head when Eskin needlessly took shots at Roy Halladay for not being more available to the media… during the offseason. It’s that sort of negativity, combined with Reese’s woefully uninformed opinions, that quickly made Eskin’s show unlistenable… allowing Mike Missanelli to saunter to the finish line.

That said, Eskin is one of the hardest workers you'll find (raise your hand if you saw him standing courtside or behind the glass or on the sidelines) and had enough sources to give every beat reporter in this town penis envy (or something like that). 

Moving on.

I thought long and hard (read: two minutes) about the shots I took at SABR nerds yesterday, feeling that perhaps my strong words may have been uncalled for. But after seeing the ludicrous comments, Tweets, and blog posts it generated, I’ve decided that I was right on the money. Not one response addressed any of the points I made. The nerds defended their stats, called me a douchebag, I think one or two wished me bodily harm, and in a fit of jealousy, several wondered why people read my work instead of theirs, but not one of them addressed my defense of Howard… which is: If SABR folks call him "overrated" because he has more RBI opportunities (and more RBIs) than any other player – yet he capitalizes on those opportunities with the proficiency of the widely regarded “best” players in the league (every single year, mind you) – then why does he not belong in that category? 

They penalize him for being on a good team, and say things like (I actually saw this): If other top first basemen like Fielder or Votto played for the Phillies, they would have as many RBIs. 

Great! They’re really good players. That doesn’t make Howard overrated, it makes him one of the best players in baseball.

When looking at corner infielders and cleanup hitters, these folks overvalue on-base percentage, fielding, and baserunning. That’s not what Ryan Howard is there to do. He doesn’t need to have a high on-base percentage. What he needs to do is drive in the runners that stand on base while he’s batting. And he does that- 19% of the time, which is as good as or better than most of his peers. Further, his reputation, durability, and consistency make him as reliable as any player in the game in producing runs. Sure, during any given year, a few outliers may surpass him in their efficiency, but they rarely do it on a consistent basis, the way Howard does. 

The problem is, these folks don’t understand roles and team. Howard doesn’t need to get on-base 40% of the time. He doesn’t need to be a vacuum on the right side of the infield. He doesn’t need to go first-to-third on balls hit into left. His role, on the best team in baseball, is to put up monster power numbers- something he does every year. You can count on it. Book it, if you will. Because Michael Morse’s WAR is higher over the last four months does not mean he’s a better player than Ryan Howard. It means he’s on a shitty team and seeing pitches that pitchers would not dare throw Howard. That’s all I have to say.

Finally, Ruben Amaro was body-surfing yesterday:

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If I know Rube, he somehow managed to not only ride the wave in, but also grab two Pina Coladas, three perfectly-symmetrical shells, and two bikini tops en-route to shore.

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27 Responses

  1. Seems CSN is more interested in looks than journalistic chops and the ability to read a teleprompter without sounding like an ESL student

  2. ^^^is that a shot at leslie? because she’s not exactly a milf. i’m not saying she’s ugly, she’s just not jenn sterger. she’s earned any respect given to her through her years of work. i’d put lisa hillary in the same category.
    if it’s a shot at amy fadool, it might be more warranted, although not necessary relevant here. even then, she’s better at her job than most attractive women who have jobs and opportunities a man or a less attractive woman would never have. see: any woman on ESPN. or sarah palin.

  3. my comment was in response to Jsaq. the up arrows don’t work as well once there are comments between mine and the reference comment…oh well.

  4. I think ESPN radio gave a good example yesterday of why the article on Howard is wrong. They said, Howard is first in RBI opportunities since 2006 and has the most RBI’s since 2006 with 93 more then the next person (Pujols). Texiera is 2nd in RBI opportunities since 2006 but is not 2nd in RBI’s since then. There for the player still has to come through and get the hits and produce the runs. There for Ryan Howard is a great player.

  5. Ryan, I feel like the explanations and justifications shouldn’t even be necessary. Anyone who watches how Ryan Howard flips a switch in September knows how valuable he is to the team. He makes it count in crunch time. Citing his season-ending strikeout in the NLCS as the reason why he’s overrated is flawed logic, and people who are still bringing that up are absolute clowns.

  6. I’m pretty sure that was a shot at Amy Fadool, and it was totally warranted. Here’s a fun game…next time she’s anchoring count how many times she trips over her words or just flat out says an athlete’s name wrong. It happens several times per broadcast, every single broadcast. We all make mistakes but I expect someone at that level to be polished or they have no business being there, she comes off like someone in a high school AV club. Now ask yourself, if she had the exact same skillset and made all of the same mistakes repeatedly but she looked like the average woman you see walking down the street…would she have that job? Of course not. She’s nice to look at, no doubt about that, but that’s about it.

  7. Leslie decided she was going to step down from the CSN desk to concentrate more on Nap Nanny. She only reports on baseball now because baseball is her passion.

  8. WIP – why doesn’t Derek Jeter always play like he does in October? Why can’t A-Rod hit in October? Why did Mark McGwire have absolutely 0 power come playoff time? Some people are clutch and some others are not. RyHo is clutch when it matters most, that’s why he “flips the switch.” To hate Ryan Howard and his ability tells me one thing, you probably sucked at baseball growing up and are envious of his majestic homeruns and run production capabilities.

  9. ever notice when amy fadool was doing an interview in the tunnel or around any clubhouse/locker room she would be blinking CONSTANTLY?
    not so much anymore but i thought that was hilarious, used to call her blinky fadool.

  10. I’m sorry but are you kidding with the Leslie Gudel being an “underrated sports reporter”? Her voice sounds like a deeper version of Kermit the frog, and what stories has she uncovered?
    CSN also needs to get a clue with Dei “Shrek” Lynam. She is just awful all around: reporting, looks, and the pronunciation of the English language.

  11. There’s MANY people, especially in this area, who think they know baseball because they watch the Phillies and SportsCenter. Or people who think they know football because they watch the Eagles AND SPORTSCENTER. They watch a Phillies game and see Howard strike out twice, and therefore Howard sucks. Then they turn on ESPN and all they ever see is Votto or Fielder hitting 3 run HR’s, or Pujols ringing bases-clearing doubles off of the outfield wall, and therefore they’re SO MUCH better than Howard. This leads me into my Eskin point- I applaud the way he would call out idiot callers, and there are MANY of them. “Lifelong” fans who dont know the sport they’re a fan of, and people with moronic trade proposals, etc. SHOULD be called out. Nothing worse than listening to a callers intelligence being coddled for two minutes while a sports radio host explains basic sports knowledge.

  12. I will never applaud the douche bag known as Howard Eskin. This is the douche bag that somehow got Charlie mad enough to want to go toe to toe with him. I hope his next gig is being Rosie O’Donnel’s douche bag instead of Philly’s.

  13. this characterization of Eskin is spot on, a man who did his job at a very high level but at the end of the day was just a miserable prick.

  14. Pursue national opportunities? Not quite but we’ll see I guess. I was actually thinking Howard’s clock was running out just last week when Mikey Miss scored Howie’s old pal Charles Barkley for TWO hours. Had to kill him. Just kill him. Eskin even appeared on Charles’ dumb Hank Haney golf show as a “special guest” a couple years back. Not sure if it was a network connection that Charles had to honor but if ever came on radio in Philly it was always with Eskin. That ended last week and the very next week Eskin quits. Have to think this was not voluntary on his part but WIP saying…”if we can’t rely on you to get your friends on air, then why do we need you…”. Bye.

  15. Eskin was great…time caught up to him and you can’t be the king forever. The style that made him great wore off over time and crossed over to pompous arrogance that alienated a lot of his fans. As much as people love to hear someone who knows a lot about sports, they really get sick of hearing someone put others down on such a consistent basis. When a fresh voice (mikey miss)showed up on a new station people were bound to make the jump. Mike did coddle his callers at the beginning and was nice 98% of the time. Throw in the FM offering, and even more people jumped ship. I don’t care what anyone says, it does make a difference. Also, add the fact that people are insane about anything affiliated with ESPN. Plus, it’s a better show all around. Mike Miss has flipped the switch a bit and doesn’t put up with all the joe blow callers now, but still realizes the way he needs to talk to these people to alienate listeners. just my opinion obviously, and not even sure i expressed it as best as I could have

  16. @Nick T
    Derek Jeter is a .309 career postseason hitter, which is actually lower than his lifetime batting average of .313. And by the way, A-Rod isn’t a slouch in the postseason, unless you think a career .925 OPS is bad.
    It’s really easy to make an argument when you want the statistics to go your way, isn’t it?

  17. Listening to the radio on the way home from the shore yesterday, some local sports talk radio hosts were going over the day’s most notable tweets. The one about Ruben bodysurfing came up. They went on to mention your response kyle, asking if he walked on the water. I recognized your name right away from cb, but the hosts thought it was really corny. Either way, I think it was 97.5’s afternoon guys, not quite sure

  18. @Paulson
    “A-Rod isn’t a slouch in the postseason” Am I the only one who remembers how ABSOLUTELY ATROCIOUS he was in the postseason until the 2009 playoffs? Eskin would have a name for you…

  19. Saying Ryan Howard is overrated means that he doesn’t deserve to be a Top 5 (or even Top 10) MVP candidate every year. Even in this post, you concede that NL players like Joey Votto and Prince Fielder could drive in just as many runs as Howard in the middle of this lineup. Let’s add Albert Pujols to that list. RBIs are far-and-away the #1 reference point for Howard-promoters, and we can already see that there are at least 3 other NL first basemen who can equal him there. If you think that driving in runs is the only thing that really matters for clean-up hitters, then they’re all equal. I’m sure that you’d at least consider a little value for every other part of the game though. All three of the other guys get on base more, strike out less, and 2 of the 3 run the bases and play the field better than Howard. Thus, they do what Howard does best as well as Howard, and do the rest better – they’re better players.
    I think you’re driving toward extremes here, Kyle. Most people who respect advanced stats don’t think they’re the end all be all, and are merely trying to point out that Howard isn’t the flat-out superstar that the MSM says he is. We can already see in this post how Howard is at best the 4th best first baseman in the NL. He’s a very good player. He’s by no means an MVP at this point in his career.
    You can defend the guy while still being rational, but I think you’re descending into pettiness. You claim that you want to consider SABR stats, just not make them the most important thing. Then why launch such a screed against anyone who goes a little bit farther with them, and questions an athlete you like? Why go with incessant namecalling and condescension? Why make silly defenses of things you know aren’t true – saying things like Ryan Howard is an “above average fielder” (come on we’ve both watched this guy go from horrible to decent in the field) and “Howard isn’t that bad of a baserunner for his size” (OK, but Votto, for “his size,” is just at good at everything Howard can do and can run faster too). Stay within your means. You can win the argument that says that SABR stats aren’t perfect, that Carlos Lee isn’t a more valuable player than Ryno. Just stop getting emotional about it, stop engaging in pettiness, and try to be rational.
    PS: Just for fun, and without looking at any WAR rundowns or anything like that, these are the players who I think have been more valuable to the Phils this year than Ryan Howard: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Victorino, Utley (when healthy). Pence is probably pretty damn close too.

  20. howard leads the majors in rbi’s….think about the phillies without half of his rbi’s…just think about it. I can’t believe there are so many howard haters..wait for a full year with healthy utley in front of him, and pence behind him. May even better his MVP year stats. I love how people only focus on things that help their stupid statistical creation

  21. Kyle,
    Apparently you didn’t read much of the comments, just cherry picked the ones which were misguided and poorly worded just so you can prove what you believe to be true. I don’t really have an issue with you disagreeing with advanced stats, I don’t think many people do either. What people have an issue with is the way by which you went about trying to disprove them and the language and name-calling you used. Once again, it is tremendously sad that you have to resort to calling a group of people “nerds” just to try to prove your point.
    If you read the comments in your article you would have seen a lot of people disagreeing with you in a friendly, respectable manner and using stats (some of the same ones you used and understand). A difference of opinion and skepticism regarding a very complicated statistic, WAR, is okay. Some people don’t like it. It is not perfect or the end of the discussion when regarding comparing players. But resorting to name-calling or curse words really disproves your point.
    Kyle, if you want to have a serious discussion, without vulgar language, without negativity, and without bias, about Ryan Howard and whether he is over-rated or not, feel free to e-mail me. Many people who use sabermetrics are easy to contact and quite pleasant to talk to. I would also recommend going to a sabermetric website like and learning a few things about them, it can really enhance someone’s knowledge of the game. In fact, you can e-mail fangraph’s authors yourself if you want a really detailed explanation of some stuff.
    Also when you say that some commentators, “called me a douchebag, I think one or two wished me bodily harm, and in a fit of jealousy, several wondered why people read my work instead of theirs, but not one of them addressed my defense of Howard…” you are wrong. The word douchebag is not used in the comments, not a single comment wished bodily harm on you (if one did, that would be just as sad, if not more so, than resorting to name-calling), and nobody wondered why people read your work over theirs. Although some of the comments were rather nasty, they are by no means a representation of sabermatricians or people who enjoy their work.
    I really do hope you e-mail me or a fangraphs author. I think going about it in a positive manner could really enhance the knowledge of everyone involved.

  22. Kevin: What’s surprising to me is how voraciously you want to defend Sabermetrics. Ever read TGP? Anyone who isn’t SABR-minded is lumped into the ‘WIP crowd’ (not a compliment) and encouraged to comment elsewhere. Which is lame, because I’m sure there are rational folks out there like me who are always down for all types of Phils dialogue but get turned off by all the axe-grinding. There’s nothing wrong with having or defending an opinion, but going to such lengths is, sorry if I sound insensitive, loony.

  23. Kevin- check people who tweeted at me yesterday, and the blog post that called me a jackass. then come back and talk to me.
    Mac- haha really? Didn’t catch that.

  24. But brand image isn’t all fun and games. Flashback 10 years to England, where Burberry clothing and accessories became the uniform of certain hard-partying young Brits. Sales in England were very weak by 2005, when Burberry acknowledged that the brash new customers had alienated some of its higher-end traditional shoppers. Tommy Hilfiger had a similarly unpleasant experience in the U.S. in the 1990s, when it became a hip-hop staple that no longer clicked with preppies.

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