Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Wisdom of Conventional Wisdom

I've pretty much given up on sports, for a variety of reasons, leaving all that to The Boy. One of my reasons is just a general weariness with the hype and the bluster and the sports equivalent of political pundits passing on "wisdom" just as sound. However, I do still pay occasional attention and have come across a new example of the "wisdom" at work.

The CW right now is definitely that the Red Sox would be far better off putting rookie phenom Jonathan Papelbon into their starting rotation next year after an exceptional year closing. Closers are overrated and more easily come by than good starters, the "wisdom" holds. What good is a closer if your starters give up blowouts that don't need closing?

Not irrational, but always and every time true? Look at the Braves since John Smoltz let his ego overrule the team's needs and returned to the rotation. Did the Braves do better last year with him starting than they did with him closing the last 3 years? Uh, no. This year? Before picking up a bonafide closer (not one of those "anybody can basically do it" guys), the Braves had 27 blown saves in 47 chances. If Smoltz had remained as closer, the Braves wouldn't have blown probably 22-25 of those (or, frankly, any of them). Which would have translated into 22-25 wins, not losses. In the meantime John as a starter has won half as many games as he would have saved. And the Braves, instead of being 20 over .500 and in the playoffs will be watching on tv for the first time in many young people's lifetimes. (And Smoltz is reportedly ticked that the Braves management isn't negotiating cheerfully with him this year.)

Does this prove the CW on Papelbon wrong? Not completely. But, like the political CW, the only real CW that should ever be taken to the bank is that the CW should never be taken to the bank.

Enjoy the playoffs, John.