Never before has an article made me so giddy! Yesterday, the New York Daily News reported that ESPN may not bring back Joe Morgan and Jon Miller as their Sunday Night Baseball atrocity...I mean tandem. First, I should say, I have no ill will toward Jon Miller. In fact, outside of his brutally irritating pronunciation of latin player's names (Ru-BEN Sierra instead of RU-ben Sierra), I actually like Miller. He's solid with play-by-play, adds just enough anecdotal tidbits to keep the broadcast interesting, and occasionally humiliates Joe Morgan by subtlety pointing out some of his most egregious errors.*
*My personal favorite occurred during a Sunday Night broadcast in 2008. Joe Morgan was talking about how Luis Castillo was having trouble adjusting to life in the National League after playing his entire career in the American League. Miller seemed overjoyed, yet oddly reserved when he casually pointed out that Castillo had played all or part of ten seasons with the Marlins prior to spending a season and a half with the Twins in the American League. This was met with at least ten seconds of dead silence before Miller finally picked it back up with play-by-play.
Joe Morgan, on the other hand, is a different story. Morgan was a tremendous baseball player. He hit .271/.392/.427 for his career, while playing a big chunk of his career during one of the most offensively deficient eras in baseball history. To minimize the effects Morgan's era had on his triple slash rate statistics, I prefer to use weighted on-base average (wOBA) over on-base plus slugging (OPS). The reason I don't prefer to use OPS is because it takes two imperfect metrics, on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG), assumes they're both equally important, and crudely combines them together to create a single statistic. While OPS correlates very well with offensive effectiveness, it's not the best metric to use. If you have a good metric and a great metric, why not use the great metric instead? wOBA is a metric designed to show the effectiveness of a specific player's offensive abilites using specific run values based on every potential outcome. It's calculated as:
(0.72xNIBB + 0.75xHBP + 0.90x1B + 0.92xRBOE + 1.24x2B + 1.56x3B + 1.95xHR) / PA*
*NIBB = non-intential base on balls; HBP = hit by pitch; 1B = single; RBOE = reached base on error; 2B = double; 3B = triple; HR = home run; and PA = plate appearances.
To make things a little simpler, wOBA is calculated on a similar scale to OBP, and adjusted for era. A top tier offensive player will put up a wOBA of .400; an above average offensive player will put up a wOBA of .340; while a replacement level player will put up a wOBA around .300. Joe Morgan put up a career wOBA of .382, which is truly amazing for a player who spent nearly his entire career playing at second base, a physically demanding defensive position. Need further proof of Joe Morgan's greatness as a player? Look no further than Wins Above Replacement (WAR), that attempts to measure a player's value by looking at multiple factors like offensive, defensive, durability, and positional abilities. For his career, Morgan put up 103.5 WAR (good for 24th all-time), and puts him in the same breath as Alex Rodriguez, Tom Seaver, Frank Robinson, and Mike Schmidt.
Ok. Now that I've pimped up Morgan's playing career, I feel much more comfortable about trashing his broadcasting career. In a word, Morgan's broadcasting career could be best summed up as irritating...frustrating...ill-informed...tedious...cringe-worthy... Ok, that's more than "a word," but you can see where I'm going here. Morgan was supposed to be one of ESPN's most knowledgeable baseball analysts. Look, I don't even think could spell the word, let alone actually perform the act. He made critical mistakes (like the anecdote I mentioned above) that made you wonder if he even followed baseball. He championed baseball conventional wisdom like the importance of sacrifice bunts, "manufacturing runs," and pitching wins despite the fact that there was overwhelming evidence showing his views were tragically outdated, and quite frankly, wrong.
The point where I finally decided to wash my hands of Morgan was when felt the need to speak in depth about Michael Lewis's influential book Moneyball--a book he admitted that he'd never read. He made erroneous claims about who wrote the book (Billy Beane rather than Michael Lewis), the subject of the book (glorifying OBP as the miracle metric rather than identifying market inefficiencies), and the impact statistical analysis would have on baseball (Morgan claimed no impact would be felt; instead the book started a revolution inside most front offices). To this day, he still rails about Moneyball and Billy Beane every chance he gets despite the fact he's still probably never read the book.
This brings me back to being overjoyed about their potential parting from ESPN. Yes, it's true, their expire at the end of the post-season. Could they be re-signed at some point in the near future? Of course. But as Bob Raissman (NY Daily News) stated, the longer they hang out their without a contract, the less likely it becomes they'll re-sign with the World Wide Leader. So for now, it's all just speculation. I can dream though, right? Now, if only ESPN would get rid of Rick Sutcliffe as well. Only then would baseball be safe to watch on ESPN...
By the way, Joe Morgan proves that Emmy Awards mean absolutely nothing. Just saying...