Friday, August 22, 2008


The Stankeye Baseball Reference Curse

Three years ago to this day, Randy Winn was possessed by the spirit of Mickey Mantle. Seriously. What other possible explanation could there have been for the havoc that Winn wrought upon the hapless pitchers of the National League in August and September of 2005? Certainly not his unspectacular past performance, which indicated a good hitter, but not a guy who could rip 14 homers in two months. Whatever the reason, in those penultimate months, Winn went on a tear the likes of which hadn't been seen by Giants fans since Barry Bonds's post-All Star Break home run binge in 2001.

Winn's reward for this surge was twofold. One, he was awarded a rich new contract extension that paid him a little over $23 million for three years. Second, and most importantly (in some circles), his Baseball Reference page was sponsored for a cool $20 by yours truly. That's right, I was excited about Winn's ability to at least replicate a modicum of the production that he offered in 2005, and I figured if he was a big success and people liked him, they'd see Stankeye linked on his BR page and come flocking over to this blog. Well, sometimes the best-laid plans...

One of those moves looked questionable at first, then turned out to be OK, depending on your point of view. The other looked great at first (at least in come circles) but by the end turned into a flaming disaster.

The first one? That's the contract that the Giants gave Winn, and it looked horrid following his sub-par '06 campaign. Winn suffered a poor year in 2006, hitting just .262 with no power or anything else of note, and started to get ripped in Giants circles. It didn't help that the expensive part of his contract was about to kick in the following season, and it looked like Winn might be declining fast. Fans were not happy. Not only did he not hit, but there was a guy named Fred Lewis in AAA who appeared to be able to replicate (or surpass) Winn's production for a fraction of the cost. Then the Giants went out and signed Dave Roberts (to a deal that is inarguably ridiculous) giving them two center fielders and seemingly rendering Winn's extension pointless. Ugh.

Well, in August of 2008 we can look back and say that that contract wasn't the end of the world. You can still debate the wisdom of it, but you can't debate Winn's production. In 2007, he hit .300/.353/.445 with 15 stolen bases and good defense. This season, he's hitting .308/.365/.431 with 22 steals (he's been caught just twice, both on botched hit-and-runs) and again with good defense. Say what you will about not having enough power for a corner outfielder, but ceteris paribus he's been a very good hitter. So that's two productive seasons for $12 million (the Giants probably would have exercised his 2006 option regardless). While the limited no-trade clause and the dollar amount might act as a hindrance to a trade (which the Giants should make), on a pure production scale, not bad.

So that second reward? Yeah, not so good. Winn's bad 2006 suddenly made my decision to sponsor his page and attach my blog and reputation to his name look like a terrible investment. When the one-year sponsorship expired in November of 2006, I got an e-mail from Baseball Reference asking if I wanted to renew my sponsorship. I couldn't say no vehemently enough. I was ready to move on to bigger and better things, and I had Matt Cain's page already in my sights for 2007 (we'll get to that in a second). Winn's page may not have been the worst $20 I've ever spent on a baseball-related subject (that award probably goes to this unbelievably boring book by Dayn Perry), but it was close.

To get to the point, Winn's bad year in '06 wasn't even his fault. It was mine. You see, for the 2007 year I decided to sponsor Cain's BR page, and with much the same business plan in mind. Young stud turns into a pitching star, fans flock to his BR page on a daily basis, and my blog sees an up-tick in hits. Well, as we all know, Cain wasn't bad by any means, but he suffered from a horrendous lack of run support and bad luck and ended up losing 16 games, despite being 10th in the NL in ERA.

Now, obviously wins and losses aren't indicative of real performance, but even in these enlightened baseball ages there are throngs of less illuminated individuals who still live and die by W-L percentage and would look at Cain as some simpering choke artist who couldn't bear down in the close ones. If Cain is stuck with this stigma, it's my fault, because apparently my sponsorship of any player's BR page carries a curse. Winn immediately turned back into a good player once Stankeye left the top of his page. This year Cain, while still struggling with run support and a mediocre record, at least won't lose 16 games now that my name is out of the picture.

I once thought about sponsoring the Giants' 2002 BR team page and commenting that they were one of the unrecognized great teams of the 00's (which they absolutely were), but then decided against it, figuring that, knowing my luck with these things, I'd be responsible for either retroactively cursing the Giants in that World Series, or something even more unholy, like preventing the Giants from ever making the World Series again. So if you were ever wondering about Randy Winn's blip of a 2006 season in his Giant resume, blame me. When Cain is inducted into the Hall of Fame and years from now analysts scratch their heads over his bizarre Nolan Ryan 1987-esque season, just send them a note and tell them the jerk from Stankeye is responsible. So for the Giants' sake, and their players, I'll never touch another Baseball Reference page again.

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I sponsored Brad Hennessey's page. Hmmm. Maybe "sponsoring" is a curse, regardless of who does it. I also sponsored Billy Sadler, and well, the jury is still out. Nice to see you posting again, keep it up.
WB, Stank Eye!
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