Held and Hansen

March 7, 2018
                                                               113.  Held and Hansen
 

              While neither man ever reached the #1 spot, Woody Held and Ron Hansen were two of the better shortstops of the Roger Maris era.  By our system Held ranked 3rd after the 1959 season—his first season as a regular shortstop—and then ranked 5th, 3rd, 5th and 5th over the next four seasons.   Hanson ranked 3rd after the 1960 season—his rookie season—and then ranked 6th after the 1963 season, 2nd after the 1964 season, and 6th after the 1967 season. 

              Roy Smalley the Elder in 1950 became the first major league shortstop to hit less than .260 with 20 or more homers.  He lost his job after that season, in part because of the low batting average but mostly because he was charged with 51 errors.   Eddie Joost hit .244 with 20 homers in 1952; he never played regularly again, either, although he had been around a long time before then.  Daryl Spencer hit .208 with 20 homers in 1953, but he was drafted by the US Army after the season, so he didn’t keep his job, either.   When he returned to the majors a couple of years later the Giants played him at second base, although he played a lot more shortstop later on.

              I mention Smalley, Joost and Spencer to acknowledge that the statement that Held and Hansen were the first low-average, power-hitting shortstops is not unarguable truth, although it is sort of true.  They were the first low-average power-hitting shortstops who were able to keep their jobs. 

              In the early 1950s the Yankees had a talent production machine.   Baseball didn’t have the rules in place then that would limit how many young players an organization could control, so the Cardinals in the 1920s and 1930s and the Dodgers and Yankees in the 1940s and 1950s ran lots of minor league teams which produced more players than the major league team could use.  The Yankees would choose the cream of the crop, of course, but also they were able to pick and choose the KIND of guy that they wanted on their team.  The kind of guy that they wanted on their team was white, usually, but also he was. . .well, he fit the image.   He didn’t fight the system.  He did what he was asked to do.  

              The Yankees were described as the General Motors of baseball.  Part of the deal was, the Yankees didn’t want stars.   They had Whitey and Mickey and Yogi; that was all the God Damned Stars that we need around here, thank you.   Hank Bauer and Gene Woodling had the ability to be bigger stars, but they were platoon players on the Yankees.   Bauer accepted and embraced the role completely.   Woodling, I think, was less happy about it; he accepted the role, let us say, but never quite embraced it.  Woodling had the ability to be a guy who hit .300 to .320 with 25 homers and 90 RBI every year, and he knew that he did.

              Moose Skowron, although he hit .300 every year and made the All Star team in 1957, 1958, and 1959, was never really a regular until 1960, when he was 29 years old.  Elston Howard, although he also made the All Star team in 1957, 1958 and 1959, didn’t become a regular until 1961, when he was 32.  Gil McDougald, one of the three or four best shortstops in the major leagues, would play second base or third base or wherever he was needed today to work around the aging Phil Rizzuto, and he also embraced that role.   Being a Yankee was more important to them than being a Star.   That was part of the deal; buy in or get out. 

              There wasn’t room for everybody in the ship. The two best catchers in the American League in the late 1950s were both Yankees, Berra and Elston Howard, but the two best catchers who weren’t Yankees, Gus Triandos and Sherm Lollar, were ex-Yankees.   They were guys who got a trial with the Yankees and got shipped out.  Jackie Jensen, the 1958 American League Most Valuable Player, was a guy who got a trial with the Yankees and got shipped out.   Lew Burdette, one of the best pitchers in the National League, a 200-game winner, was a guy who got a trial with the Yankees and got shipped out.  Jerry Lumpe and Norm Siebern, the two best players on the Kansas City A’s of my childhood, were guys who got a trial with the Yankees and got shipped out.  Deron Johnson, who drove in 130 runs for the Cincinnati Reds in 1965, was a guy who came up with the Yankees and got shipped out, and Lee Thomas, who drove in 104 runs for the Angels in 1962, was another.  Marvellous Marv Throneberry was a guy who got a trial with the Yankees and got shipped out.  Vic Power was a Yankee farmhand at the same time as Moose Skowron, but he didn’t get a trial with the Yankees at the major league level because he really didn’t fit the image.   And they had Moose Skowron.

              Woodie Held was one of those guys; he had quite a lot of ability, so the Yankees sat on him for years before they shipped him out.  A key thing for a lot of these guys was that they were right-handed hitters with power or a little power.  Triandos and Lollar and Jensen and Deron Johnson and Woodie Held were right-handed power hitters; Power was a right-handed hitter who had some power, 14 to 19 homers every year, although he was more of a line drive hitter.  That wasn’t the right type.

              Woodie Held is listed at 5-10, 167, but he looked more like 5-9, 190.  He had blacksmith arms.  You would notice it; you would think "that guy looks too muscular to be a shortstop."   In the Yankee system he was fighting for space with Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek and Jerry Lumpe and Gil McDougald and Phil Rizzuto—and he’s a right-handed power hitter, so that ain’t working in Yankee Stadium.  By the time they shipped him to Kansas City he was 25 years old.  He hit 20 homers for KC in a little more than a half a season.   He was playing center field then.  He was in a slump early the next season, and the A’s traded Held and Vic Power to Cleveland for Roger Maris. 

              The Indians, who had outfielders coming out of their ears, made Held their regular shortstop.  In 1959 he hit .251 with 29 homers.   In all of baseball history through the end of the 20th century, no other shortstop hit less than .260 with as many as 29 homers—nobody.   Held was the only one.

              The 1959 Indians were a good team (89-65, second place), but after 1959 they started to fall apart at the seams.  They traded Colavito for Kuenn the next April. They didn’t make good long-term decisions.  They didn’t MAKE long-term decisions; they just reacted.  Jim Perry was a great young pitcher, had a so-so year; they moved him to the bullpen and moved him out.   Mudcat Grant, Gary Bell, Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Tommy John, Sonny Siebert, Steve Hargan; the system produced great young arms like it was nothing, but they never had a top pitching staff because they had no plan.  

              Held got caught up in that miasma.   He was an OK defensive shortstop.  In terms of range, fielding percentage and double plays, he was almost exactly average.   The Indians would play him at shortstop, second base, the outfield.   He’d sit on the bench.   The games of June 27 and June 28, Indians at Boston, symbolize the problem for me.   Held’s position in the box score for June 27 is listed as "ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss", and for the 28th, as "ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b,ss,2b", which is the same but with one more "2b".   What they were doing was, the Indians listed Held as the starting shortstop and Granny Hamner as the second baseman, but when a left-handed hitter came up they would switch Held to second and Hamner to short, since Held was younger and more athletic than Hamner.

              The Gil McDougald stuff worked, for the Yankees, because they had so much talent.  It doesn’t work, doing things that way, unless you have LOTS of talent.  The less talent you have, the more respect you have to have for the players you’ve got.  

              Woody Held was, in a sense, the first low-average, power-hitting shortstop, and Ron Hansen was the second.   Held in 1959 became the first American League shortstop to hit less than .260 with more than 20 homers, and Ron Hansen in 1960 became the second.  In a sense they are almost the same player.  Held played 1,390 games in his major league career; Hanson played 1,384—same league, same years, basically.   Held hit .240, Hansen hit .234.

              Of course they are not EXACTLY the same.  Held, short and powerful, was a better hitter.  Held hit 179 career homers to Hansen’s 106, and thus has a 70-point advantage in slugging percentage, although their doubles and triples are almost identical.   Their walks and stolen bases are about the same.

              But while Held was short and powerful, Hansen was large—seemingly overlarge for a shortstop; one of the largest shortstops in baseball history up to his time—but tremendously athletic.  He was strong, quick, and agile.  He was a much better defensive shortstop than Held.

              As a rookie in 1960 Hansen was the American League Rookie of the Year, and also was fifth in the Most Valuable Player voting, drawing one first-place ballot and 110 points in the MVP vote.  This was the best performance by a rookie in MVP voting since Joe Black in 1952.  Hansen did better in MVP voting, as a rookie, than guys like Orlando Cepeda, Frank Robinson and Luis Aparicio, who had very impressive rookie seasons. 

              After that season he fought injuries and weekend military commitments for several years, but in 1964 Hansen had an almost-historic season, earning 7.7 WAR—third-highest in baseball—although this time the MVP voters ignored him, dropping him to 14th in the MVP voting.  It is a season which is much more impressive to a modern analyst than to a 1964 sportswriter.  He hit just .261 with 20 homers, 68 RBI, but with 73 walks giving him a .766 OPS.    The American League OPS in 1964 was .697, and Hansen’s team—the White Sox—had a park factor of 83.    And he’s a shortstop.   His OPS was at least 100 points better than average.  Defensively, he led all major league shortstops in Assists and Double Plays, was third in fielding percentage and second in Range Factor.   His team won 98 games, and came within one game of beating the Yankees.  

              I am not arguing that either Held or Hanson was a Hall of Famer, even given better luck, but I would argue that Held’s "career luck factor" was quite low, and that given better luck he could have wound up in a very different place.   If he had come up with the Red Sox in 1954, rather than the Yankees, he would have been a right-handed power hitter in Fenway Park, and he might have become a regular several years earlier.  If the team had accepted him as a shortstop and stuck with him, rather than jerking him around like the Indians did, it could have been a much more impressive career. 

              Hansen fought injuries, and did not have as many good seasons as Held, but he had two seasons better than Held’s best, his 1960 season (fifth in the MVP voting) and 1964 (third in the majors in WAR).  Held was the better hitter, but Hansen edged him in career WAR, 24.1 to 22.0.  

              Toward the end of the Held/Hansen era, the Yankee dynasty collapsed.  Many people assume that they collapsed because their farm system went dry, but that’s not my understanding of what happened.  What actually happened was, the Yankee way turned on them. 

              Did you ever know. . .well, I won’t even ask, because you have known.   You have known parents who were too strict, and it backfired on them, right?  You try to pass your values on to your kids, you try to get them to embrace the virtues that have worked for you, and sometimes you have to be strict when they don’t make the right decisions—but sometimes parents are TOO strict, their kids don’t buy in, and it turns bad.   That’s what happened to the Yankees.   They over-sold this "Yankee Way" stuff until the  young players didn’t buy in. 

              If you look at the talent produced by the Yankee system in the early 1960s, you realize that not only is it solid, it was tremendous.   Tom Tresh, Joe Pepitone and Jim Bouton in 1962, Al Downing in 1963, Mel Stottlemyre in 1964, Roy White, Bobby Murcer, Fritz Peterson and Bill Robinson in 1966.   I know Robinson was a trade acquisition, but the point is that there was plenty of talent there to keep the team strong.  If that much talent comes out of YOUR farm system in the next six years, you should be in good shape. 

              But they oversold this "Yankee Way" stuff, the young players didn’t buy in, and the organization tanked. That’s why the Phil Linz Harmonica Incident is so relevant; it’s the marker that marks the end of the Ruth-to-Mantle dynasty.  It’s a young player Not Buying In.  It is the Revenge of Woodie Held. 

 

             

 

 
 

COMMENTS (27 Comments, most recent shown first)

ThomasQ260
This is what is happening to the Patriots right now. Players know the organization will win, but even our big stars are unhappy with the current system (Gronk).
10:24 AM Apr 2nd
 
MidnighttheCat
This is a brilliant article, that also happens to hit a number of things that matter to me in baseball.

I am really glad to see to Held get some notice. It is for a dumb reason: I play simulation baseball both at home on one game and online on another. In the first team I ever had on each of these games, I had Woodie Held. Somehow, he has come to symbolize my virtual baseball life, even more than any player that I actually ever saw play.

But this has made me very familiar with his weird stats - the home run power, the shifting from 2B to SS to 3B to CF to 2B and so on, almost Pete Rose like.

So...some strange non-nostalgic nostalgia for Held.

The Cleveland Indians of the late 50s and early 60s really are one of those cases of a team that should have been good that got so badly mismanaged it is bizarre - a rotation of Tiant, McDowell, John, Siebert, etc. with Colavito and Held and a few other decent position players could have been pretty competitive.

But my real emotions are always for those strange Yankees of the 1960s. It is hard to explain why the 1972 and 1974 Yankees along with the 1976 club are really my favorite teams of all time, even more than the Series winners of the following years, or the 1996-2001 dynasty. The Phil Linz incident WAS exactly the turning point you say it was, as Fritz Peterson points out also in his autobiography.

They traded Boyer, not sure why, and Pepitone, everyone knows why, but got little in return. So the long wait for Sparky Lyle began...
1:33 PM Mar 11th
 
MarisFan61
Re the other things Hansen did around the time of Hansen's unassisted triple play:
I'm always interested to try to look up stuff like that, because usually it's not that hard. :-)
Not sure I've got the right things in this case, but Hansen's wiki page mentions these things:

-- He struck out in his next 6 plate appearances after the unassisted TP.
-- Two games later, his last game before being traded, he hit a grand slam.
-- He was traded for the same guy (Tim Cullen) that he had been traded for earlier in the year. (The first trade was multi-player, this was even-up.)
1:08 PM Mar 11th
 
FrankD
Re: Yankee collapse. George Weiss had a huge impact in Yankee farm system and the "Yankee Way". He left after 1961 and the decline hit not much later. But, how much of the Yankee dynasty was do to luck? The Yankees of that era were very good at spotting talent but how many times do you pick players who greatly exceed expectations? I would love to read scouting reports on Berra, Mantle when young. What did the Yankees think of them to say nothing of other teams? To some extent, the Yankees luck just ran out. The Giants found a lot of good players and some great (Mays, Stretch) but never put it all together like the Yankees. Why? I dunno ....... I think with a little luck the Jints would/should have had many more pennants ........... and it must have been easier to dominate back then: Yankees, Jints, Dodgers, jeese who else won then? Braves should have done more...the Braves made some poor decisions but maybe were unlucky too (3 pennants in a row but lost playoff to a weak team)?
6:22 PM Mar 9th
 
FrankD
Great series. I like to read about players who contributed over several seasons but aren't the well known stars. An interesting history of baseball could be told by using stories of these types of players: as a Twins fan I think a fun history would be created by telling the stories of the likes of Bob Allison, Rich Rollins, Ted Uelander, Earl Battey, Larry Hisle, Kent Hrbek, Gagne, Newman, and onto today ...... that's what I really liked about the BJHBA - reading about good players who greatly contributed to the game but that are now largely forgotten ......
5:58 PM Mar 9th
 
trn6229
Thank you, Bill. A lot of players were thought to be disappointments because after 1962 baseball made the strike zone larger and the second dead ball era took place from 1963 to 1968. Tom Tresh was a fine player from 1962 to 1966 then he had injuries. The Indians also had Tommie Agee but never game him a chance to play. Woodie Held was a good player but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I remember Cliff Johnson. The Astros tried to make him a catcher. Had he moved to first base and played his entire career with the Cubs and Wrigley Field, he would have hit around 400 homers I think. Another case of wrong team, wrong time. You wrote about Walt Bond in your Historical Baseball Abstract.

Plus Mantle and Maris and Howard were starting to get old. You wrote about the 1961 Yankees in the last Historical Abstract. I am a Celtics fan and the team was great from 1971-72 to 1975-76. Then Havlicek, White and Cowens got older. They stunk in 1977-78 and 1978-79. Then Larry Bird joined the team.

Brief is the time of excellence. I remember Rick Burleson. He replaced Luis Aparicio and he was the Red Sox starting shortstop from 1974 to 1980. The Red Sox were stupid letting Burleson, Lynn and Fisk go for not much in return. Burleson was a tough, take no prisoners player. He became an excellent defender and he had a strong throwing arm. He was fine with the Angels in 1981 then in the beginning of 1982 he hurt his arm and became a part time player after that. The Angels picked up Tim Foli and won the AL West in 1982.

Take Care,
Tom Nahigian​
12:41 PM Mar 9th
 
DaveNJnews
Very interesting piece. Thanks for writing it.
10:12 AM Mar 9th
 
Marc Schneider
Even the really down years for the Yankees weren't really horrible, at least by today's tanking standards. From 65-70, they won 77, 70, 72, 83, 80, and 93. Not good but not awful. But the Yankees were owned by CBS, which really didn't know what to do with them. (I recall CBS renaming it's Saturday package "The Yankee Baseball Game of the Week.")

Interestingly, and perhaps supporting Bouton's statement that the Yankees were worse than they should have been, their Pythagorean for 1965 and 1966 were, respectively, -5 and -9.
8:58 AM Mar 9th
 
bjames
Yeah. . .in the same week that Hansen pulled off the un-assisted triple play he did something else relatively ununusal. . .what was it? Can't remember. . .and then, also in the same week or the same ten-day period, he was traded. So he was in the headlines three times in a week, basically at the end of his career.

I had never thought of Bobby Cox as being an Earl Weaver type; I guess it makes sense. They had the two best starting rotations of my lifetime, had Hall of Fame third basemen, and clearly were willing to sacrifice offense for defense at some key positions.
9:11 PM Mar 8th
 
BobGill
It seems to me that Ron Hansen suffered from chronic back troubles. His last gasp as a regular player was 1968, when he was traded to the Senators -- for Tim Cullen or somebody like that. He hit maybe .190 in half a season in Washington, but if I recall correctly, he did manage to pull off an unassisted triple play that summer, which was the first in the major leagues since 1950-something. For what it's worth, I remember eating outside in our neighbors' back yard and hearing it on the radio.


8:44 PM Mar 8th
 
wilbur
I never saw Woody Held play, but his baseball cards were intriguing. I had a few, and he would be listed at two or three positions on the front of every card I had, posing in those ugly Cleveland or Kansas City uni's, and with the low batting average ... I was not impressed at age 10. I don't think his team was ever on a Game of the Week, with Ol' Diz and PeeWee.

Saw Ron Hansen play; once, in person, on our famiiy's only trip to Comiskey in 1965. It was the only night game we ever went to. I think Bruce Howard pitched for the Sox.

My father would try to go to Wrigley every couple of years or so.


4:53 PM Mar 8th
 
Arrojo
wovenstrap, I remember that Bouton comment about salary negotiations. And I loved his response to "Don't forget, that doesn't even include a World Series share": "Do I still get the money if we don't win the World Series?"

Such a wiseass, love it.
3:24 PM Mar 8th
 
wovenstrap
The entire introduction to Bouton's Ball Four is an elaboration of the same theme. In the introduction Bouton recounts his negotiations with the club when he was a hot young stud with a live arm around '63, '64. The Yankees lowballed everybody and would say while doing it, "Don't forget, that doesn't even include a World Series share." Which may have been true but in a certain way sound like bullshit or what the guy who runs the shady police collection scheme says (come on, we have the payout coming).

Bouton was kind of the poster boy for not buying into the Yankee Way, not only did he want a better paycheck from the mothership, he thought we shouldn't be in Vietnam!
1:56 PM Mar 8th
 
Manushfan
Bill wrote a rather interesting couple of articles about some of the Yankee players of that era-Roy White, Horace Clarke and Bobby Murcer, all of whom were better than they were given credit for and unfairly considered 'losers' in comparison to what came before. And he's right-and it's a shame. The early 70's teams were pretty okay actually-70 team won 93 and was second in the E, 72 and 73 teams competed, the 74 team played great in the second half and narrowly missed out by a couple. So it's not entirely correct to call these guys 'losers' or whatever as the received wisdom seems to be saying. Murcer especially was an impressive player period.
1:53 PM Mar 8th
 
Marc Schneider
Very interesting piece. I remember Held and Hansen playing when I was a kid, but I always thought of them as basically journeymen who just were able to hang around on bad teams. Of course hitters' stats were suppressed by the larger strike zone, etc., in the mid-1960s so they don't look as good.

As for the Yankees, I always wondered why they collapsed so completely when they seemingly has a pretty good supply of young players. I remember reading that in the early 1960s people thought the Yankee dynasty would go on forever because they had so many good young players, such as Tresh, Al Downing, etc. But things happened; Tresh and Downing never really progressed after their first few years, Jim Bouton hurt his arm, Joe Pepitone plateaued at a certain point. But, even at that, the Yankees in 1965, as Bill pointed out, had some talent. Ford, Stottlemyer, Downing is not a bad pitching staff. But Maris was hurt, Mantle struggled relative to his previous years. In Ball Four, Bouton suggests that the Yankees could have done better but they deceived themselves about how good they were and sort of collapsed when it became clear they weren't going to win the pennant. Bill's point about the young players not buying into the Yankee Way makes sense, especially given the increasing importance of African-American players at that time. Also, perhaps the Yankees were so used to having an excess of talent that they felt they could afford to mishandle Bouton when he developed a sore arm. By that time, they couldn't simply discard someone and bring in a fungible piece.
11:43 AM Mar 8th
 
shthar
Maybe less overall star power, but Cox and Weaver seemed to always have lots of pitching. How much of that is due to them and how much to the GM, I dunno.
11:12 PM Mar 7th
 
Brock Hanke
Thanks, Bill. I remember the Jays of that era because they were managed by Bobby Cox. At about the middle of his career, I started calling Cox the class valedictorian of the Earl Weaver Graduate School of Managing. Strong starting staff. Not too worried about closer. Power down the lines. Defense up the middle. Strong emphasis on 3B, because it has to field like an up the middle, but hit like a down the line. Very willing to platoon given any opportunity. Later, the numbers of pitchers needed on staff finally left Bobby with too few roster spots to platoon with, though I do remember Ryan Klesko. So, does that seem right to you - that Cox was a VERY similar manager to Earl Weaver, and won pennants with less star power than most?
10:20 PM Mar 7th
 
bjames
The 1985 Blue Jays were a platoon team with no big stars that managed to win. Bell and Barfield were 25-year-old pre-stars at that time. But I would agree it is really tough to win that way.
8:06 PM Mar 7th
 
Manushfan
Then there's the question, what exactly DID Woodie Held? Anyways, sorry. I always liked that 59 Indians team-Minoso, Colavito, Tito's .363, Mr Held, etc-lots going on there. Wasn't too long and they decided that winning wasn't fun anymore so they put a stop to that for a while. Bill's right-you get Sudden Sam and Looie Looie and Jim Perry etc and you can't make that stick--you're doing it wrong.
3:27 PM Mar 7th
 
337
The Yankee Dynasty ended while Mantle and Ford were still playing excellent ball--Ford won 16 games and pitched 244 innings in 1965 on a Yankee team that won just 77 games, while Mantle put up a 149 OPS+, averaging 130 games per year from 1965-68, so it's incorrect to put the blame on them aging poorly. Bill has it right. There were plenty of young stars in the system to replace them, but those young stars' careers faded early on.
2:47 PM Mar 7th
 
Brock Hanke
This was a great article about two players from my childhood whose reputations always seemed to be better than their stats. Now I know that they were, in effect, pioneers. Pioneers always get that treatment for a while. But an actual question occurred to me. The Yankee Dynasty ended, basically, at the time that The Three Anchors - Berra, Mantle, and Ford, all got old. The new recruits, while a very good class, didn't have anyone quite THAT good. Neither White nor Murcer, though excellent, was Mantle. What I'm wondering is whether it's easier to put together a platoon-based team if you have superstar anchors than it is without them. Even back in 1914, George Stallings had Evers and Maranville, who played every day, and one outfielder, Connolly, who had more Win Shares that year than anyone else on the team and was 6th in the league among position players. He played every day, too. So the question is whether it is possible to put together a pennant-winning platoon-based team if you don't have any superstars. Have you ever run into anything about that?
2:23 PM Mar 7th
 
doncoffin
I still remember Held's 1959 baseball card...yellow background, showing him swinging a bat. I also remember liking what I knew of him--which, in the late 1950s/early 1960s wasn't much. I saw him occasionally on the Game of the Week (when the Indians were playing the Yankees; that's also when I saw Vic Power mostly--and I thought Power was about as cool a name as you could have as a baseball player, and I thought Vic was a very cool baseball player. He has a sort of swagger that set him apart). Held seemed like one of those guys who was a very blue-collar sort of player, getting more out of his talent than a lot of guys.
12:50 PM Mar 7th
 
bearbyz
Thank you. I don't remember Woodie Held at all. I remember Hanson, but never realized he was that great of a player.
11:38 AM Mar 7th
 
steve161
What? WAR? Not Win Shares?
11:10 AM Mar 7th
 
BobGill
I bet this is the most anybody has written about Woodie Held since 1965 or thereabouts. I was happy just to see him appear on the seasonal lists before; I never expected to see a substantial article about him too. As I said after the last installment about the shortstops, it couldn't happen anywhere but here.

10:05 AM Mar 7th
 
MarisFan61
That portion that Dan just quoted is very suggestive of a certain current political figure too, but forget that. :-)
(We could well say that some of his stuff circles around certain core issues, but largely, it's "just react.")

Really enjoyed the material about Held and Hansen.
I'm feeling skeptical that Held deserves to rank that high because I wouldn't have thought he was as good a defensive SS as he comes out by the method -- I would have thought he was well below average, which BTW is also what I thought of Ernie Banks, who comes out decently on defensive analytics.
(Bull$hit alert): One specific that I do recall about Held's fielding -- with the disclaimer that this was from what announcers said, and whatever 'observation' a 10 year old could make -- is that he had a very strong arm, I thought the strongest arm of any SS of the time -- but not that accurate.​
8:45 AM Mar 7th
 
danfeinstein
Bill has an almost throw-away line buried here that I think is great, "They didn’t make good long-term decisions. They didn’t MAKE long-term decisions; they just reacted." I find that the failure to make any decision, more so than the failure to make good decisions, is one of the hallmarks of bad organizations, whether in baseball or in my professional life.

In baseball, a team can with with youth, or savvy vets; it can win with a focus on starting pitching or a deep bullpen; it can win with a power or patience; at least in days before the 13 man pitching staff, it could win with a settled lineup or it can win with a series of platoons. What it can't do is never decide what it is trying to do and aimlessly drift from strategy to strategy. In business, you'll often find companies that try to do a little bit of everything rather than focus on a few things and do them really, really well. The lack of direction, the lack of a decision on the focus is fatal.

To put it another way, I believe that far too often, as Pynchon wrote, "There is no real direction here, neither lines of power nor cooperation. Decisions are never really made – at best they manage to emerge, from a chaos of peeves, whims, hallucinations and all around assholery."
7:31 AM Mar 7th
 
 
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