Nationals Baseball: This ain't the movies, kid.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

This ain't the movies, kid.

Awards in sports always have always been a funny thing to me. I get the idea of awards in other fields, the arts especially. Actors want Oscars because the difference between a great performance and a good one can vary by person.  The Oscar serves as a necessary tangible validation of that great performance. Sports aren't subjective. There are already tangible results that can be objectively compared.  You did well or you did not do well. There is little room for debate. Things like "All-Star", "MVP", "Hall of Famer" are nice to have but are ultimately meaningless because they don't change the actual results on the field.  You were one of the best players that season or not.  You were one of the best players ever or not. It all seems so insecure to be taken so seriously. You play to do your best so your team can win games and hopefully, ultimately win a championship. You don't play to win an ESPY, even one with more history and prestige, which is all something like "Hall of Famer" really is. 

Which makes this whole fuss over the #1 ranking thing kind of funny. If the Nats were #2 or #3 they would still have a great farm system. Mike Rizzo and his staff would still have done a great job using the resources the Lerners gave them to repair a broken organization that was bereft of talent. But does Rizzo send the same email to his people if they aren't #1?  If this collection of individuals decides that team X is slightly better, do the Nats receive as much attention?  Probably not. As Kilgore says in his opening line, this is a "jolt of validation" but it's nothing more than that. Validation of good work in a field where there is an hard tangible goal out there (winning), shouldn't be a big deal.  It shouldn't be taken with more than a "that's nice, we're glad we're appreciated, but that's not our ultimate goal" type of attitude.  It feels that the team is taking this celebration way too seriously, like jumping up and down at mile 25 of a marathon when they found out they were voted "Most Improved Runner". 

Bah bah bah.  I'm a spoil sport, fine. There's nothing wrong with celebrating awards, fine.  I just hope Rizzo is sending out congratulatory emails when the team breaks .500, makes the playoffs, wins a playoffs series, etc. because those are the huge days that should be made big deals out of.


cass said...

Oh, I think individual awards are very important in team sports since championships only cover teams. For an individual to get recognition, you need an award. This is especially true for a sport like baseball where any single player isn't going to suddenly make the team a winner. In a sport like basketball, I'd expect individual awards to be less important.

Harper said...

But a .300 30 120 season and 15 million dollars isn't enough for you to feel like you did good? You need the MVP?

Anonymous said...

Harper: I agree with your main point that the real measure of success will come with winning.

However, it's sound management practice (in whatever industry) to praise your employees when they've done well. Even secure people like to be appreciated for their efforts. (Indeed, confident and competent people are more likely to bolt at the 1st opportunity if they feel under-appreciated.) Receiving validation gives Rizzo, who after all knows from personal experience how the development "grunts" feel, that opportunity.

Harper said...

Anon - I guess I see the #1 ranking being used as a motivating tool, when a #2 or #3 ranking would not be, even though there'd be the same organization in place. Of course I'm arguing hypotheticals now.

You gotta assume Rizzo knows the people under him, and if this motivates them, then by all means praise away. But I still don't get why this motivates you, silly underlings!

michael k said...

There's still differences in performances. Is 320/380/400 with 60 SB and GG defense or 290/360/550 with 40 HR and mediocre defense better (don't answer that, it's hypothetical). Of course, this leads to considerations which have nothing to do with baseball ability, such as how good your team was and RBIs and how much the fans like you. But it also includes considerations that stats can't capture, such as game winners and "clutch."

The fact that the Nats had the #1 minor league system *is* validation. You're right that the difference between 1 and 2 is negligible, unless you're referring to the championship or something like that. But it's an indication that the team is getting there. That they can compete in the future. That other people are taking notice.