Today in bad journalism: Ken Fidlin, Toronto Sun

Now, I don’t claim to be a professional journalist; even though technically I am (I write wire service re-writes for barely minimum wage, so not really), but I can’t help but think that I would be better at it than a lot of people who currently call themselves journalists.

Is that a ‘high horse, down my nose’ opinion?  You’re damn straight it is.  But, why have a blog is you can’t be critical of the stupid shit that sometimes goes on in the profession?

This time ‘round, I’m not referring to Jon Heyman, although we all know my distaste for him; no, no, this time I’m referring to Toronto Sun writer Ken Fidlin.

You see, just hours after the Vernon Wells trade on Friday night, Mr. Fidlin wrote himself an article.  It started off well enough as Fidlin recognized what seemingly every non-MLB Network moron realized; that the this was a deal meant to give the Jays’ franchise a lot more financial flexibility going forward.

Then Fidlin loses me:

“This is all good for the long-term outlook for the franchise, but it can’t be considered anything but an immediate step backward.  Wells, for all the criticism he has borne since he signed that monster $126-million deal after the 2006 season, remained the face of the franchise and a class act in most every way”

As I detailed on Saturday, the acquisition of Napoli alone is comparable to Wells at a fraction of the price.  His career on-base percentage, slugging percentage, (obviously) OPS and walk-rate are all better than Wells’; and he did it in a known pitcher’s ballpark, whereas Wells has spent his career in the SkyDome/Rogers Centre which routinely ranks as one of the more hitter friendly parks in the game.  Not to mention that Napoli is only 29 compared to Wells’ 32.

Acquiring Napoli also removes Wells from centerfield, where his ability has most certainly deteriorated to the point where he can’t really be considered an option there much longer.  Rajai Davis and even Corey Patterson are much better options defensively.  That of course, does not stop Fidlin from saying stupid things.

“…as much as people have been picking at Wells’ defence, he was still good enough to make an all-star team in 2010, providing veteran leadership in the locker room.  The contract was a mistake, a huge overpay as it turned out, but that can’t take away from the contributions he made on and off the field and in the community.”

Oh well shit, he made an All-Star team last year.  I stand corrected on everything!  I forgot that All-Star game selections precluded defensive success and were not totally arbitrary and pretty much useless.  I have been shown the error of my ways!

Although Fidlin is admitting that the Wells contract was a bad one, he is citing that the Jays are worse off because of, among other things, Wells’ contributions on and off the field (which were great, don’t get me wrong) and the fact that he was a leader in the locker room; even though baseball doesn’t really have locker rooms, they have clubhouses, but that’s not important here.

It’s almost as if Fidlin is subtly trying to make the case that Wells’ demeanour and community reputation should allow us to put up with his terrible contract.  Again, Wells was great in this regard, but this trade still cannot be viewed as anything but positive for Toronto.

Then Fidlin decides to comment on what the Jays received in return for Wells; and this is where it’s clear he did not do his research.

“Napoli is an all-or-nothing slugger…coincidentally a similar player to the departed John Buck”

Except that the two are miles apart in both on-base percentage (.346-.301) and slugging percentage (.485-.421), suggesting that Napoli has far more power and is far more patient at the plate.  The only really comparable things are their defence and their batting average, which is clearly where Fidlin stopped his research.

Fidlin then goes on to subtly suggest that along with Jason Frasor and Jose Bautista, the Jays will be overpaying all three in arbitration negotiations.

“[Napoli] will be Toronto’s second-highest paid player behind Jose Bautista. He will join Bautista and Jason Frasor as players who are possibly headed for an arbitration hearing.

Napoli has asked for $6.1 million and the Angels offered him $5.3 million. Bautista is going to be paid at least $7.6 million even if he loses his case, but he will get $10.5 if he wins it.”

Because, you know, three players for one season each whose collective salaries still wouldn’t add up to Wells’ 2011 salary even in the worst-case scenario is clearly a bad financial call.

Fidlin suggests that there are too many corner-infielder/DH/catcher-types on the team without realizing that J.P. Arencibia is by no means a tested talent and could show that he’s not quite ready to handle the everyday catching job just yet; and Adam Lind cannot hit lefties to save his life.

“Napoli’s presence also puts Molina on notice. There are only so many first base/DH at-bats available. Lind is going to get his four swings per game, either at DH or first base. Encarnacion could also end up as a bench player.”

Napoli fits in nicely given his favourable splits and ability to handle both catcher and first base.  I firmly believe that either way, Jose Molina has a spot on this roster in 2011; or at least until Arencibia proves himself to be ready beyond a reasonable doubt.

All of this leads to Fidlin’s final claim:

“There is little question that Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell want to change the offensive approach of this team. Getting Davis installed as the leadoff hitter will be a start, but none of the other newcomers has any of the qualities that haven’t been present in the recent past. This is still a team that will have to rely on the three-run homer and there is one less bat in the middle of the order to deliver it.”

Now, we all know that Juan Rivera was a throw-in to this deal, in order to balance the Angels’ budget, but $5.25-million for one season is nothing compared to $86-million for four, so I’m willing to overlook a player I would hope would never otherwise be a Blue Jay.

Napoli, on the other hand, does bring something different, and it does fit into Anthopoulos and Farrell’s new approach.  He’s a very patient hitter; his career walk rate of 11.1% is actually well above average.

Not only that, but Napoli is a more consistent home run hitter than Wells, so saying the Jays are less capable of hitting the three-run home run is actually quite uninformed.  He said himself that that was the one redeeming quality about Napoli.

Not only that, but Napoli’s ability to get on base should actually increase the ability of the team to hit three-run home runs.

For some reason, Fidlin seems to think that there is a downside to this trade.  When Wells regresses back to his old self this season, he’ll eat his words.

Before you go, here are some interesting links regarding the Wells trade:

MLB Trade Rumors takes a look at the future payroll obligations for the Blue Jays and gives you some reasons to be extremely hopeful if you follow the team.

And the Orange County Register illustrates the Vernon Wells trade in a word cloud from the Angels’ fans and Jays’ fans perspective, pretty freaking hilarious stuff.

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2 responses to “Today in bad journalism: Ken Fidlin, Toronto Sun

  1. Save yourself a lot of time and a lot of angst, and don’t read the Sun.

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