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Cardinals hero David Eckstein: Wins & losses 'only stat' that matters

October 26, 2013|By Bill Shaikin
  • David Eckstein runs the bases during Game 5 of the 2006 World Series, in which the St. Louis shortstop was voted most valuable player. The Cardinals won the series, four game to one, over the Detroit Tigers.
David Eckstein runs the bases during Game 5 of the 2006 World Series, in which… (Jamie Squire / Getty Images )

ST. LOUIS -- For the hard-core baseball fan, this was the finest in inside humor. On last week's episode of the NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation," the fake law firm name was "Babip, Pecota, Vorp and Eckstein," a nod to three sabermetric concepts and David Eckstein, the former Angels infielder who defied them.

In the entertainment department of Major League Baseball, this was an opportunity. So MLB one-upped the fake law firm name with a fake commercial, rounding up Eckstein and handing him a script in which he poked fun at his sabermetric reputation as a scrappy, high-grit, low-talent player.

"Let me save you from capital punishment by dishing out some gritty scrappital punishment," Eckstein says in the commercial.

Eckstein, 38, played 10 years in the major leagues. He was an above-average offensive performer once, according to the OPS+ statistic. However, the 2002 Angels and 2006 St. Louis Cardinals each won the World Series with him as their shortstop and leadoff hitter. He was the MVP of the 2006 World Series.

Eckstein had a good laugh with the fake law firm. He said he embraces advanced statistics as an aid in rating players, but he fears some teams might tilt too far toward evaluating players in categories that lend themselves to measurement.

"At some point in time, you have to put the human element back into it. Sabermetrics lose that quality," Eckstein said here Saturday, before Game 3 of the World Series. "I'm not opposed to numbers at all. They don't really show the true value of a player."

Eckstein also saw another danger in a sport that touts a decreasing  emphasis on intangibles.

"You're getting agents filling players' minds that it's all about your numbers, so you get paid," Eckstein said.

"We lose focus on wins and losses. That's the only stat that really matters."

As an example, Eckstein cited the Tampa Bay Rays, who reached the playoffs with hitters who scarcely appeared on the American League leaderboard.

"Which of their guys would you have on your fantasy team?" Eckstein said.

Does Eckstein believe he would have a place in today's game?

"I think there is still a place," he said, smiling. "The on-base percentage better be higher."


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