Bob Nightengale writes about baseball for USA Today and has now forced The Clown Show out of hibernation with the hottest take of the summer. Don’t blame me, folks. Blame Bob.

Bob’s title is chronic, radioactive click-bait in its raw form: “From Field To Front Office, Many Believe Chemistry Still Matters In Baseball.”

You hear that sabermetricians? BOBBY IS COMING FOR YOU. Because if you believe in numbers, you don’t believe in chemistry: they inherently contradict one another, not sure if you knew that. Numbers guys are all like, “fuck chemistry dude, we want a bunch of dudes that look good on paper but don’t even look each other in the eye in the locker room. Hopefully, with any luck, they’ll hate each other and play baseball real good anyway.”

The article is a must-read.

In a sport where the desire to quantify every movement only grows with each season, it is a sabermetric aficionado’s worst nightmare.

Really strong first sentence, best read in the voice of the guy that does movie trailers that always begin, “IN A WORLD…”

You can’t measure it. You can’t define it. You can’t put a number on it.

Seriously, is this a preview for a sci-fi thriller? Cuz I’m eating popcorn and ready to fuck up some aliens right now.

We’re talking about clubhouse chemistry, and the culture that can raise a major league team to extraordinary heights without having the biggest payroll or most talent.

BING BANG BOOOOOM. Clubhouse chemistry: not sure if you’ve heard of it, NERDS. It’s when players speak the same language and have sleepovers and wear matching pajamas, and sometimes, sometimes they get ice cream after the games together and invite their wives that were their high school sweethearts but if they are single that’s cool too they can come and hit on the smalltown waitress that scoops ice cream in the big city for strapping ballplayers who tip FIVE whole dollars in the tip jar like it’s nothing (and really, it’s nothing).

“It’s really undervalued,’’ St. Louis Cardinals veteran starter John Lackey told USA TODAY Sports, “especially in today’s world with all of the numbers guys.”

All of the NUMBERS GUYS. Remember back when we had totally useless statistics that we liked but all these fucking nerds came in and ruined it and now, hey, let’s just play baseball. Let’s not even keep track of the score, let’s just decide who won based on how well they played as a TEAM. Bob Nightengale: commissioner and official scorer of that league, folks.

Also: that’s right, the first quote in this article is from noted clubhouse leader John Lackey, the guy who is famous for yelling at his coaches on the field and selling out his own teammates for their inability to make him suck less back when he sucked.

We can put all kinds of numbers on players’ talent, from RBI to WAR, to ERA to FIP, but when it comes to the heart and soul of a clubhouse, there remains no measuring stick.

What, you can’t just measure these players in Ecksteins Bobby?!

“The numbers guys can’t quantify that one,’’ Lackey said, “so they don’t want to believe in it.’’

Exactly! That is why nobody wants to talk about the Giants! Because THEIR SUCCESS IS INEXPLICABLE. Hosts of Baseball Tonight and other baseball shows that nobody really gives a fuck about are like, “Jerry, it looks like we are supposed to discuss the Giants here, but their success can’t be explained by numbers so let’s just scrap it, I don’t want to talk about it.” It has nothing to do with the fact that they play on the west coast and are boring as fuck (as long as we are tossing around subjective statements, here).

Also, important. Giants payrolls and rank by championship season:

2010: 98 million (10th)

2012: 117 million (7th)

2014: 154 million (7th)

2015: 172 million (5th, and let’s just assume the Giants ride Peavy and all his chemistry vibes to another World Series)


“Come on, how to do you put a number on a guy like (Chicago Cubs backup catcher David Ross) and what he brings to the clubhouse? This guy hit (.184) last year, and he got multiple two-years deals on the table. Why is that?’’

This is the best. “Come on, how do you explain a guy getting a 2 year, $5 million contract by using a stat that sabermetricians have been trying in vain to devalue for the last forty years? HUH?!”

“He means so much to every single person in here,’’ Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.

Go ahead, try to put a number on that.

(a bunch of people run around with both hands on their foreheads screaming things like, “OHHHH SHIT!”)

The St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals have the two finest records in baseball. If you go by the numbers, the Royals were supposed to win just 72 games this year, according to Baseball Prospectus’ projection system, PECOTA. The Cardinals, who have had more injuries to key players than any team, shouldn’t be leading their division, let alone be on pace to eclipse 100 victories, if you go strictly by sheer talent.

Hey guys, I’ve been saving something for you. It’s fucking beautiful. You ready?

Here is Bob Nightengale’s 2015 preseason World Series pick:

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Now, Bob, was it the chemistry of these teams that had you sold? Or the talent? Or maybe a combination of the two?

“People that don’t understand what team chemistry means don’t work in baseball,’’Toronto Blue Jays ace David Price said. “It makes me mad, because obviously they don’t know how important it is. Ask the Giants. Ask the Royals. Ask the Cardinals.

“People who have control over baseball relations deeply value team chemistry and I’m upset because other people that have no control over creating baseball teams don’t know how important it is. Ask the Giants. Ask the Royals. Ask God.”

The Blue Jays placed more emphasis on a player’s character than any time in GM Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure.

That’s not a complete thought, but thanks for trying Bob. The chemistry you share with your interviewees is strong.

He shipped out the guy who didn’t fit in.


He chose character over talent.

THAT’S YOU, R.A. DICKEY (not really).

“Every team goes through ups and downs, and I think with a better clubhouse and with better character, that allows you to handle the downs a lot. That’s the separator. So rather than the floor caving in on you, you stay afloat.

One thing I really hate is when the floor caves in on me and I can no longer float. I need a better house with better character so I can handle the downs.

Certainly, adding a guy like Price at the trade deadline, and having MVP favorite Josh Donaldson the entire season, may have something to do with the Blue Jays’ success, too.

It may have something to do with it. Not sure, let me check my team chemistry measurement tool, OH WAIT THOSE DON’T EXIST HAVEN’T YOU BEEN READING THE ARTICLE.

I am a little confused here though, because I was starting to believe that you wouldn’t want cocky, former-Cy Young winners and MVP candidates bringing their massive egos into the clubhouse…

Yet, manager John Gibbons can’t stop raving about Donaldson’s leadership skills, and Price is revered throughout the game.

“…and Price is revered throughout the game for having a pretty good Twitter account.”

“…and Price is revered throughout the game for throwing left handed yet writing with his right hand.”

“…and Price is revered throughout the game for having encyclopedic knowledge of Savage Garden’s entire discography.”

For whatever reason, the Blue Jays are 18-4 since consummating the Price deal.

It’s chemistry though isn’t it, Bob?

“I think it’s important David Price fit into in the clubhouse, but let’s don’t forget he’s got a (2.40) ERA, too.’’

Let’s don’t forget his ERA, but let’s don’t forget his immeasurable, intangible gifts either.

Yeah, dude, it’s the team chemistry. Not the team’s .777 OPS.

Sure, you’ve got to have talent to win, but talent alone doesn’t guarantee a thing. If the standings were based strictly on talent, you think the Washington Nationals would be trailing the New York Mets by five games?

And here we’ve come to a really, really amazing paradox. The standings aren’t based strictly on talent! The standings are based mostly on team chemistry, some on talent, and then won/loss record is like #5 on the list of Things The Standings Are Based On.

This is why the Cardinals and Royals are each on pace to finish 162-0, because it’s the Yordano Venturas and John Lackeys that keep them spiritually undefeated.

You think the Los Angeles Dodgers, and their $307 million payroll, would be only up 1 ½ games on the Giants?

… when the Giants have spent a meager 172 million on their payroll?!?! Huh? You think that?

You think the Texas Rangers would be winning the second wild-card spot, or that the Minnesota Twins – projected to lose 92 games – would be just 1 1/2 games out of the wild-card race?

Here are USA Today’s “Fearless” 2015 preseason projections that were quite clearly based on talent instead of team chemistry:

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I’m willing to believe Bob Nightengale missed that day’s meeting because he was just out with some other guy’s from the office, staying tight-knit and doing team-chemistry-building exercises and stuff like that.

“If you have good clubhouse chemistry, you going to win,’’ New York Yankees veteran starter CC Sabathia said. “It’s not something you can fake. It’s real.

Just an amazing statement. “If the players on your team get along, they going to win.” Mind you, it’s definitely not the other way around, that if you win ballgames you start to get along. Couldn’t be. Can’t start a fire without a spark, baby.

Sure, numbers are fine for fantasy leagues,

Oh my god, we finally have a fantasy pot shot in here, I was getting worried. It was like the whole article was building toward this orgasm and Bob finally let it shoot all over our collective face.

but if you want to truly define a player’s value, or recognize the importance significance of clubhouse culture, it’s time to wake up and embrace character, too.


P.S.: I don’t suggest repeating this sentence in a school zone or anything like that.

“I think we’re losing part of our game because so many of these people in charge don’t have the scouting background or playing background,’’ Peavy said. “All they have is a great education and they’re really good at math. Some of these front offices crunch all of these numbers, and think they’ve got it all figured out.

“I don’t know the formula for winning, but I do know what it means when teams are inseparable, enjoy their time together, care for each other, and play for the higher cause. I’ve seen it. I’ve been part of it.

They play for a higher cause. That’s right: Jesus.

“You can have all of the education you want, and break down every number you want, but unless you get to know what’s inside a player, you really don’t know the player.’’

“You can have all the education you want” should be reason enough for us to discount everything and anything Jake Peavy says.

The Royals certainly noticed the tepid external expectations. Public relations directorMike Swanson, in his recent pre-game notes, reminded everyone of Baseball Prospectus’ projected 72-90 record. The Royals have already won a league-leading 75 games, and could clinch their first division title in 30 years by Labor Day.

“Fortunately, games are won on a field and not on paper,’’ Swanson wrote in the Royals’ notes distributed to the media, “thus a computer ‘time out’ might be appropriate for some.”


“We had our Moneyball movie, and they didn’t even win,’’ Peavy said of the Oakland Athletics. “How about let’s make a movie about the good ol’ fashioned baseball people, and how they judge team chemistry, and put together guys that fit in.

“How about a movie about a team that actually wins in the end?’’

(picks up phone)

“Uh, hey, Hollywood. I’ve got this idea for a baseball movie. I think it’s pretty original. So, a team of not-that-talented guys with lots of personality get together and it’s a little weird at first but they start rallying together and low-and-behold it’s going well and there’s just so much team chemistry that it’s crazy and then they make it into the playoffs by some miracle and, get this: THEY WIN IN THE END.”

You can have all the education you want, but you can’t make this stuff up.