Monday, February 18, 2008

When it comes to Bill Plaschke, I'm willing to go the extra mile to make him look like an idiot...

...not that I really, you know, need to or anything. But it feels good to nitpick the most obsessively minor details of his scribblings. You see, my thesis is this: Bill Plaschke is wrong about everything. Shall we see? Let's go.

Five minutes into spring cleaning, and Matt Kemp and I are already having a fight.

I think if this was literally happening, that sentence would have to more accurately read: "Five minutes into spring cleaning, and Matt Kemp has already beaten me to a bloody pulp." And would anyone doubt that that had, in fact, happened? Hell, I'm already buying hypothetical Matt Kemp a medal.

"I'll buy," I said, holding out my credit card to the man working the cash register at Mack Daddy's, a soul food place next to his gym on a cluttered street.

Here's how much I hate Bill Plaschke: I researched the hell out of Mack Daddy's on the off-chance that Bill is inaccurate in calling it "a soul food place." The verdict? Yeah, I guess it's "a soul food place", but I think a more accurate description would be "a soul food place run by a health nut Taekwondo expert with a truly worrying fear of salt who has some sort of crazy Atkins-meets-Weight-Watchers health plan ('cause it's not a diet!) that involves eating three things and drinking two things." Also, Mack Daddy's proprietor Mack Newton thinks the fact that he helped monitor Charles Barkley's shape and physical fitness is something to brag about, which I believe means Mack Newton was born without shame.

Basically, I'm saying I'd rather read a profile of possibly crazy restaurateur Mack Newton than suffer through whatever half-baked ramblings Bill Plaschke has concocted about Matt Kemp. Is Tom Wolfe available? Because he's gangbusters at writing profiles.

(Also, Barkley 2014! WOO!)

"Listen," I said. "I buy for young players. I always have. When you make the big money, you can buy mine."

And why am I guessing he makes dudes like Brad Penny take him to eateries where the average dish costs more than fifteen bucks? Maybe he used to make Eric Gagne take him to Bastide so that he could better "understand" the closer's French roots.

Although it has to be said, Mack Daddy's half-order of spicy chicken salad with field greens and balsamic vinaigrette is a steal at seven dollars.

"No, dude," he said, firmly. "I can pay my own way."

He gets a plate full of catfish nuggets. I get a side dish of insight.

But what was your main course, Bill? I bet it was the C.G. Ribeye Wraps, right? Right!?

Also, and anyone who reads any of the other bad sports journalism attack blogs already knows this, Bill Plaschke is the world's shittiest poet. I mean worse than Vogons or even Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings. (That's my gift to you, Douglas Adams fans. Feel free to repay me by pointing out I used the wrong name.)

Seriously, making a parallel out of literal thing X and figurative thing Y is about as obvious as it gets. Bill Plaschke writes bad poetry. I write another black mark on my soul. See, Bill? See how much that just sucked? (Now random Hitchhiker's references, that's where the REAL writing's at.)

Five minutes into spring cleaning, and already I like Matt Kemp better than last year.

What seemed like clubhouse defiance is now calm confidence.

That deer-in-the-headlights look has become an unfettered focus.

Lesson to everybody who wants to get in Plaschke's good graces (I can't imagine anyone who this applies to beyond L.A. Times interns, and honestly you guys just have my pity): if you want to win Bill Plaschke's undying respect, just save him fifteen dollars. Then sit back and watch the fawning columns roll in.

Matt Kemp will pay his own way?

The Dodgers' season depends on it.

I think this means that because Matt Kemp isn't relying on Bill Plaschke to constantly buy him dinner, Plaschke won't be forced to steal money from his BFF Frank McCourt during one of his many Paul DePodesta effigy burnings in the Dodgers owner's box, which in turn will save McCourt enough money to be able to buy Roy Halliday. (Matt Kemp eats $12,750,000 worth of catfish nuggets per year.) Makes perfect sense to me.

Their unwillingness to deal him prevented them from obtaining this winter's top traded pitchers -- Johan Santana, Erik Bedard or Dan Haren.

The Dodgers believe that by keeping his cannon in the middle of their lineup, Kemp would blow enough smoke to shroud the hole at the top of their rotation.

WARP-3 of Santana, Bedard, and Haren in 2007: 9.4, 8.1, 8.0
WARP-3 of Matt Kemp in 2007: 3.5

Admittedly, Kemp played in only 98 game and PECOTA might really like him in 2008, but I think it might be a tad unfair to ask him to singlehandedly compensate for the non-presence of Johan Santana. Although it has to be said, people who eat Mack Daddy's catfish nuggets as often as Matt Kemp do tend to blow their fair share of smoke. (That's right, people, a flatulence joke. Because I'm the highbrow one.)

Also, even if Matt Kemp has a superstar-quality season in 2008, something he's quite possibly capable of, there's still the tiny issue that Plaschke's arguments to that general effect are inane, pointless, and I think reveal he knows nothing about baseball. Which is not surprising.

Now Matt Kemp has to save the season.

He can save it with his bat, capable of at least 20 home runs, at least 80 runs batted in, at least an on-base percentage in the mid-.300s.

I will leave aside the obvious "RsBI are a bullshit stat" point and at least give Bill a little credit for citing OBP, not batting average. The interesting thing is that the season he describes is pretty much precisely that of Eric Byrnes, he of the 21 home-runs, 83 RsBI, and .353 OBP. Byrne's 2007 WARP-3? 9.2. So maybe Plaschke is onto something after all.

Of course, he's also describing Adam LaRoche, with his 21 homers, 88 RsBI, and .345 OBP. His WARP-3? 4.9, which is still respectable, but not exactly Santana-amnesia-inducing, if you catch my drift. So I think I'm going to have to go back to the original "RsBI are a bullshit stat" point and throw in a slightly modified "Bill Plaschke knows just enough about baseball to construct arguments that sound like they might make sense until you look at a stats page for like fifteen seconds." Eh, screw it: "Bill Plaschke is wrong about everything" is punchier.

But there's more!

He can save it with his arm, which is right-field strong, and his feet, which are 20 stolen-bases fast.

With the standard caveat about the imprecision of fielding stats, Matt Kemp's 2007 FRAA: -3. Not terrible, but you're not exactly defeating Lex Luthor with an arm like that, if you get what I'm saying. (Note: I don't even get what I'm saying.)

Also, 20 stolen bases? Good for, what, fiftieth best in the Majors? Gary Sheffield got 22 stolen bases for crying out loud, and I'm not sure anyone this side of Joe Morgan is delusional enough to call him "fast." Besides, unless we're talking a plus-80% SB percentage, stolen bases aren't really helping your team, whether you swipe 20 or you swipe 130. Matt Kemp got caught stealing five times last year in only fifteen attempts. Yeah...that's not helping anybody.

This post is already plenty long, so let's speed through the rest of this.

Has this small-town 23-year-old grown enough to handle the big-city pressures of being a Dodger?

I thought LA was famously apathetic about all their teams except the Lakers, and even then only when they're doing well. This is why the second-biggest city in the US doesn't have a football franchise. Although I guess the pressure of knowing Bill Plaschke could turn on you at any second can't be underestimated. Honestly, I'm not sure it can even be estimated at all.

Will he show up at the park early for extra work? Will he stay late for interviews? Will he win the praise of veterans who will judge him as much on his hustled groundouts as on his home runs?

Reason number one why baseball veterans shouldn't be given any positions of authority in baseball after they retire: they think hustle on groundouts = home runs. Unless you're hustling towards first to take out Albert Pujols in some sort of Ty-Cobb-inspired lunacy (which would be sort of awesome, but also very illegal, so I want to make it perfectly clear to longtime reader Mark DeRosa that I am not even remotely advocating this), hustle on groundouts doesn't matter.

Remember last year when he was criticized for loudly complaining that a garbage can had been put next to his locker?

"If I see that trash can this year, I'm going to call a press conference with all the writers and say, 'See, I'm moving it without complaining,' " he said.

Could we get Rasheed Wallace to do this, please? I miss the full-on malcontent Jail Blazer Rasheed. "Both teams played hard" indeed.

He pauses and smiles.

"No, no, just kidding," he said. "This year, I'll just move that trash can without saying a word."

That trash can incident was part of the reason that last year's veterans complained about youngsters such as Kemp and James Loney.

The veterans thought the kids didn't respect winning. They thought they didn't respect the game.

The veterans quietly complained about everything from late clubhouse arrivals to dumb baserunning errors to smiles after losses.

Stupid veterans, just because they fought in some long ago foreign baseball war in a faraway land (in this case, I believe they were Expos games back in 2003), they think they can tell the young generation what's what. Also, "smiles after losses"? Who do these veterans think they are, the dads on Matt Kemp's Little League team?

Those complaints reached the ears of Dodgers management, whose thoughts reached me, so I wrote a column about the possibility that Kemp would be traded.

It wasn't my idea, it was the Dodgers' idea, yet judging from the angry responses I received, you would have thought I put a "For Sale" sign in front of Kemp's locker.

Of course you didn't, Plaschke - how the hell would you have time to visit the Dodgers clubhouse when you're so busy with Around the Horn (you'll catch up to Mariotti and Paige one of these days!) and writing Hostel-inspired torture porn about Paul Depotesta?

Also, I choose to take Plaschke's words ultra-literally and assume his use of "whose thoughts reached me" means he telepathically intercepts whatever Ned Colletti is thinking. Prove me wrong!

In the end, the Dodgers decided to keep him.

Now they have no choice but to embrace him.

I've got nothing to add except that I'm almost certain Plaschke thinks that sounds really poetic and stylistically inverted and shit. Uh huh.

He first dealt with his body, spending the winter working in Phoenix with fitness guru Mack Newton.

Mack's back!!!! WHEE!!!! It's like I got all my St. Patrick's Day presents early or something. You get presents on St. Patrick's Day, right? Or at least some cheap bourbon?

But he has also listened to Newton's daily talks about becoming a man.

Mack Newton's exercise program: describing in explicit detail the night he lost his virginity.

Having grown up as a

star, he is not used to the criticism.

OK, that's actually how that is formatted. I know Plaschke can't write any paragraphs longer than a sentence, but even by his standards, that's just absurd. Sorry, I mean...








"See you in Vero," he said with a big grin as he climbed into his dirt-splattered SUV outside the restaurant.

We'll all be waiting.

So we shall, Bill. So we shall.


[Dramatic orchestral string...blackout.]

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