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Bad Arguments for a Good Idea
2003-03-26 09:00
by Jon Weisman

In the Times today, Bill Plaschke writes:

Is the Dodgers' need to promote the future larger than their need to win today?

His answer is yes. My answer is also yes.

But he then uses this as an argument to send Joe Thurston to the minor leagues, while I, as you saw Tuesday, use it as an argument to keep him in the majors.

Here are the reasons Plaschke thinks sending Joe down is a long-term solution:

Bill says: "...if Thurston stays, then the confidence of this 23-year-old kid could be permanently damaged."
I say: And if Thurston is sent down, the confidence of this 23-year-old kid could be permanently damaged. But in either case, I don't think that a guy nicknamed "Joey Ballgame," who scrapped his way just to get this far, is going to fall apart mentally over this.

Bill says: "...if Thurston stays, then Shumpert would be lost to another team, because he will not agree to be sent to the minors. And that could be a mistake because, despite his age, he is the sort of solid-hitting veteran that would fit in well here."
I say: Solid-hitting? Over the past three seasons, Terry Shumpert's OPS has been .752, playing with the Rockies. At Coors Field, his OPS is .920. Everywhere else, it's .595. I'm sorry, Terry might be a nice guy, but calling him a solid hitter is the kind of analysis that leaves you with Tom Goodwin as a starting outfielder.

Bill says: "...demoting a guy because of a poor spring can be as unfair as promoting a guy because of a great spring. But when a player is trying to make the full-time jump from triple A to the major leagues the biggest leap in baseball the rules are different.
I say: First of all, the jump from AAA to the majors is not the biggest leap in baseball, for obvious reasons. Second of all, why are the rules different? Why should a 50-at-bat sample be the defining one, no matter how old you are?

BIll says: "Spring training is his final tryout. Spring training is his most important stage."
I say: Can we revisit this statement in April ... June ... September - and see if it holds true?

Bill says: "If a player can't at least modestly succeed in front of an overweight pitcher and vacationing umpire and a couple of thousand dozing fans in Kissimmee, how is he going to fare in April at Dodger Stadium?"
I say: I guess the season's over for Alex Cora and Andy Ashby.

Plaschke then wraps things up with the story of how a young Roberto Alomar was sent down, but recovered and came back up to be an All-Star. I guess if it's just that simple, let's send everyone down.

Okay - I'm starting to get a little hyperbolic myself, so I'll dial it back some. I don't think sending Thurston down would be a horrible thing. If he's good enough to play at this level, he'll probably be back later this spring. And again, with the Guillermo Mota situation, you could even just say to Thurston that you're sending him down for the four games that Mota is out, and then you're bringing him back. I've really got no problem with that.

What I can't understand is how you can talk sending to the minors a young guy who has a rough five weeks while advocating that the team build for the future.

If you really believe in constructing your team for the long term, you keep Joe Thurston on the roster. And if he starts the season hitting .189 and Bill Plaschke comes around to say that you've made a mistake - you're ruining this guy's confidence and you've lost solid-hitting veteran Terry Shumpert to boot - then you tell Plaschke, "Thank you kindly for your thoughts." And then you say emphatically that you believe in Joe Thurston, and that you have your best people working with him, and that you're gonna give him a real chance, not one that expires in March.

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