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At My Back I Always Hear... Rob Neyer

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Sometime in the 1840s Tennyson remarked to a friend that he was haunted by a line from Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" despite not being able to account fully for its sublimity.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near
Considering the deep melancholy which pervaded Tennyson's youth and middle age, his inability to express (or admit) the power of Marvell's image is likely another example of droll English understatment. If not, only Tennysonian stupidity fits.

I thought of Tennyson and Marvell this afternoon while reading the latest Rob & Rany. (The post is actually a week old, but I put off reading it until this weekend as a kind of delayed gratification line.) As many of you know, Neyer takes Moore to task (again) for the Meche for $55 million moment in time:

Rob: I read an article the other day, wherein five general managers were asked to defend/justify a questionable off-season move. As you might imagine, Dayton Moore was asked about Gil Meche, and part of his response was this: "Guys just don't break into the major leagues as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Look at Johan Santana, Chris Carpenter, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz. It takes time." Does anybody reading this need me (or you) to explain just how irrelevant those names are in this discussion?

As these things usually go, Rany dutifully plays good cop, arguing that Meche may become a #3 starter and that, finally, its simply a matter of methodological dispute, "I look at Moore's rationale for offering that contract, and while I don't agree with it, I respect the line of thinking enough to say, okay, it was a bad move, but it doesn't dim my estimation of Moore all that much". Rany plays the credibility card, as well as pointing to GMDM's pristine reputation within the game.

But at my back I always hear,
"Meche for 55 million" in my ear

For those of us under a certain age, Neyer has been a constant in our lives as fans. Back when he was a free writer on ESPN I had his url memorized (it ended with something like "mlb/columnists/neyer") and knew the weekly schedule of his columns. Similarly, the "Rob and Rany" exchange has been around for a long time. It was essentially a blog before there were blogs. And through it all, Neyer's been commenting on the Royals. The Royals-angle is a standard staple of his radio hits, interviews and chat sessions. Not surprisingly, he's been overwhelmingly critical.

And he's been right.

Because he "didn't play the game" and is associated with sabermetrics a certain segment of the Royals fanbase dismisses him as a negative nelly, as a "hater" or worse. Everytime a Neyer quote gets posted on a Royals message board the same stock responses come up, you might as well just post "Do you like Sweeney and why?" or "Is Barry Bonds a Cheater?". Like debates over global warming and abortion, people just like having the same debate over and over again, despite the fact that no one is gonna change their mind.

Does anyone wanna go back in time and defend Tony Muser, Allard's Oakland trades, the Roberto Hernandez deal, the Chuck Knoblauch deal, Colt, the Minky-Elarton-Grudz extravaganza and the like?

Unlike some columnists, Neyer's consistent. He damn near pioneered the "Jeter is a bad short-stop" analysis, and got ripped for three years before it became semi-mainstream. He also famously came around on Allard, singing praises in 2003-4 that he'd started to improve as a GM. Despite the strawman theory that he's simply Billy Beane's lapdog, he's given Beane proper lashings (the T-Long contract and the Kendall trade) when he's felt they were warranted.

As we've already established this off-season, for better or worse Meche for $55 million isn't going away. While ultimately, as a citizen, I can sit back and mutter some combination of "its not my money" and "dem ballplayers get paid insane money" as a mildly engaged fan who follows the team it remains a defining moment. In this case, both the contract itself and Neyer's disbelief in it always return to my mind. Whats Simmons line about those things that you hear from a girlfriend's past that change everything?

Right now the Meche deal is the equivalent of she was in a threeway with two guys. It effects everything.

Rob: Wait a minute, are you suggesting he was able to sign Dotel and Riske because he had overpaid for Meche? I think that's a highly questionable assertion, and even if you're right, how long will this wonderful halo effect last? Let's say Meche goes 6-10 with a 5.48 ERA this season, which is what PECOTA says . . . is there going to be a halo effect next winter, and the winter after that, and the winter after that, and the winter after that? If the benefit here is credibility, it would have been much, much better to overpay somebody for one year or two years or even three. It's clear that Moore believes PECOTA is dead wrong about Meche. I hope he's right. But if he's wrong and PECOTA (and every other projections method) is right, the contract isn't a loss leader. It's a loss and a big one. You referenced the possibility that "Moore's reputation is wildly overstated," but he never really had a reputation. Right now, Gil Meche is Moore's reputation.

Do you really want to disagree with him?