"Multiple Sources Say..."
Or: Work Ethic & Fantasy Sports
Today on Rotographs, Fangraphs writer Brad Johnson presented his thoughts on the fantasy values and possible lineups of the 2016 Phillies. At first glance, it's a normal article with normal takes and normal commentary on why Peter Bourjos is an intriguing possibility in centerfield.
About halfway through, though, Johnson's comments take a turn for the bizarre. The first time I skimmed this thing, I actually missed why TGP stalwart John Stolnis had a problem with it. To wit,
Me too. Lack of work ethic for Darin Ruf? I'm really wondering where he got that. https://t.co/I6uYrDP5GU— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) January 20, 2016
Yes, it appears Mr. Johnson put the equivalent of a blind item in his fantasy analysis about Darin Ruf not working hard enough to earn a full-time starting spot. So I don't get accused of taking words out of context, here they are verbatim (emphasis mine):
Ruf hasn’t really played enough to draw firm conclusions about his splits. They exist, and they appear to be large. Last year, he had a preposterous .371/.447/.660 line (201 wRC+) versus southpaws. Multiple sources have indicated that his work ethic is lacking – perhaps explaining why he’s never received a full time opportunity.
Now, as I mentioned above, John Stolnis -- a man who does yeoman's work for The Good Phight and knows this team backwards and forwards -- thought this was odd. Spencer Bingol, a darn good and plugged-in writer for Beyond the Box Score, thought this was odd. More importantly, I thought this was odd, because at no point in the last however many years have "Darin Ruf" and "lack of work ethic" been paired together. Not even as a gag. Hell, the joke is that Ruf just isn't that good, but GOL-LY, don't that big beast of a man work his tail off.
Let me show you some examples:
Back in 2013, when Ruf was still in the minors, John Murrow of the Philadelphia Daily News lauded the big guy's work ethic, if not his skillset. This article would more or less be repeated in form and tone over the next couple of years while we all waited out Ryan Howard's sad decline: "Ruf knows he has deficiencies and is working hard to improve."
Bob Brookover's April 9th, 2015 column for the Inquirer asked "Why won't Phillies give Darin Ruf a chance?". The answer from the scouts seemed to be "he's bad," but Brookover didn't quite believe Ruf had been given the chance to improve. Nowhere in this is any indication that Ruf has a problem with his work ethic.
On October 1st, 2015, CSN Philly Insider Jim Salisbury said Ruf was "leaving a good impression" to the front office, gradually improving the deficiencies that Johnson correctly pointed out. Anything in there about a poor work ethic? Hello? No?
Sure, this is just three articles, but it shows a reasonable cross-section of the Philly baseball media's bead on Darin Ruf, who is someone they're assigned to cover, think about, imagine, dream about, ruminate on, whatever other synonym you want. You want to know what that bead is? Darin Ruf isn't that great, but works his tail off in spite of it.
Ah, but Mr. Johnson has his "multiple sources."Now, I don't know Brad Johnson from Adam (or Adam Eaton), but compared to a Bob Brookover or a Jim Salisbury or a Liz Roscher (the blogmistress for TGP), I'm willing to bet his understanding of the Phillies' landscape ain't that deep. And even if it is, he'd have to have sources more embedded than Giraldo Rivera in 2003 Iraq for such a contradictory take to have any meaning whatsoever.
Not only that, if it's well-sourced, such blatantly contrarian opinion is wasted on a throwaway line in a fantasy preview. That's not something you put in a fucking blog, that's something you try to massage into an actual story. That's something you E-LAB-O-RATE upon if you have any scruples or facts beyond "a couple of people told me."
In statistics, we often talk about extraordinary claims needing extraordinary evidence. Well, Brad Johnson, you've just made an extraordinary fucking claim.
Time to pony up.