In short, Cincinnati had capitalized on the age-old strategy of addition by subtraction.
Now, to explain addition by subtraction in statistical terms is certainly doable. One would need only to compare Stubb’s lack of production with what anyone (seriously, ANYONE) else could provide, and you’d have your answer.
However, that instructional approach seemed way, way too boring.
So, instead, I give you this....
Case Study #1: As a teenager, I played on a spring soccer team called the Dayton Flood. Most of us had played together for years, so we all knew each other pretty well. We’d face off every fall with our school teams, our parents all got along, and we’d have end-of-season pizza parties that would last until like 11pm. We were like a little family.
However, every year at our first practice our coaches would present us with a few dudes we’d never seen before. We’d stand in the circle, they’d tell us who they were, and then they’d spend the rest of the evening trying to prove they weren’t completely worthless (or at least that’s how I remember it.)
Typically, we welcomed these one-year mercenaries. Guys like Derrick Harrell, who only had one move (dribble to the corner and fall down), but were nice enough that we found ways to utilize their one-trick pony show. Or guys like Rico, the French dude who insisted everyone call him “Butter” because his moves were so smooth. (Rico would eventually get “too cool” for soccer (read: fat) and quit, but he lived on in Flood lore because he was flat out hilarious.) In short, team cohesion was rarely an issue because we were all pretty nice dudes. And, let’s face it, no one was really trying to win a World Cup.
But then there was Aaron Finkel.
We all hated Aaron Finkel’s guts. He was one of those kids who was about half as big as everyone else and used his mouth to make up the difference. His shin guards were always too small, his hair was curly and stupid, and his shots on goal always went wide. The perfect blend of personally annoying and athletically worthless. He’d spend practices talking about stupid shit like how high the diving board was at his pool, or how much money he got for his Bar Mitzvah. At one point he even tried to fight Butter, which made every single one of us want to tie him to a rock and throw him in the river.
To put it plainly, Aaron Finkel was a little bitch. He was eventually forced off the team, and immediately we got better. Partly because he was straight up garbage on the pitch, but mostly because he was a total dickhole. We’d never pass to him, which basically turned our 11-man team into a 10-man team and gave all of our enemies a distinct advantage. So, not only did jettisoning Aaron to the Jewish Community League make us 100% less angry, it also allowed us to once again become the lethal futbol juggernaut that the Miami Valley had always feared.
Addition by subtraction.
Case Study #2: When I was 23, I dated a girl who was 19. Originally, I was drawn to Lisa (sure, let’s call her Lisa) because she was cute, full of youthful energy, and seemed mature for her age. And for a while it worked, even though I was in grad school and she was only a sophomore in undergrad.
Then, one night, my grad school friends and I got drunk. We’d just finished exams, were coming off 4-5 hours of half-price margaritas, and had just returned to my place to keep the party going when my dalliance with a teenager became the topic of conversation. Perhaps it was the fact that Lisa had just been up to visit, or perhaps it was the 20 liquid tons of tequila that we’d accounted for, but for whatever reason, my friends decided to come clean.
For about 20 minutes, they sat there and told me all the reasons Lisa sucked. She was clingy. She was flighty as all hell. And for God’s sake, she was still taking classes that ended in “101”. Naturally, I didn’t respond well. Like most people do when their blood alcohol level is .37 and they’re being attacked, I got really defensive and basically told them all what they should shove in their mouths. They were supposed to be my friends, but instead they were acting like a bunch of predatory jackals.
Eventually I just told them all to get the F out and to kindly get molested by the hobos on the walk home. But I didn’t forget that fight. Because, if I was being honest, I knew they were right. Not only was Lisa a college sophomore who still doused herself in hairspray for frat parties, she was also kind of, as they say in France, a bonehead. Our conversations were never actually about anything meaningful, and yeah she came to my lectures, but she also sat glassy-eyed through all of them, doodling flowers on her notepad and trying to hold my hand under the desk.
She was a child, in a lot of ways, which is why when It came time to break up with her (barely a week later) it seemed perfectly acceptable to do it over AIM (shutup). In the middle of one of our typical cyber arguments, she suggested that “maybe we should just take a break”. Now, being that I’m almost 30 and know a lot more about the weird/irrational language that women speak than I did 7 years ago, “maybe we should just take a break” (to her, a woman) probably meant “all I want is for you to reaffirm your love for me”. However, at the time, “maybe we should just take a break” sounded (to me, a man) an awful lot like “maybe we should just take a break”. And seeing as I’d been waiting for an opening like this for days, I readily accepted.
The next 30 minutes or so was a flurry of “Lisa is typing” notifications, quickly followed by 18-line messages that all could have easily just been reduced to one big “OMG WTF WHYYYYYYY?” She did her best to convince me I was making a mistake, but I stood my ground.
And damn son, am I glad I did. In the six months that followed, Lisa would hack into my email twice, send me 18-page novellas on what a tyrant I was, and leave three-minute voicemails on my phone that were just her making up new curse words/trying to simultaneously break the sound barrier. In no way did she make the breakup easy, but in the end it was totally worth it.
Addition by subtraction.
Case Study #3: One of the first jobs I had when I moved to Philly was as a manager of the City non-emergency call center. As a bushy-tailed 25-year-old with very little experience managing people and even less municipal acumen, I was naturally forced to do like seven people’s jobs, work long hours, and try to coerce 60 people who were twice my age into doing the job they were hired to do.
A lot of my staff was really cool, even if they weren’t hard workers, so I can’t say life was that bad. However, as is probably the case with most workplaces, we had one dude that just wouldn’t fucking fall in line. His name was Stacy, and he was 60 years old, about 5’4, and had an out of control salt and pepper goatee. Stacy spent about half of every day walking up and down the aisles of cubicles, flirting with disgusted women and asking his supervisors dumbass questions. The other half was spent taking like a billion 15-minute breaks, wherein he’d either take smelly dumps in the communal bathroom (capacity:1, square footage: about 4) or get into heated cell phone arguments with his girlfriend. In the 9 months or so that I worked there, the higher-ups held several meetings to reshuffle their team members. Every one was like a Turkish bazaar, wherein each supervisor’s singular goal was to NOT get Stacy.
Because not only was Stacy a lazy fuck, he was also a logistical nightmare. It seemed like every week we were adding to his disciplinary file (already a multi-volume monstrosity that had carried over from his last City position). Whether it was showing up in Spiderman tracksuits and calling it business casual (“don’t this look casual, baby??”) or spilling his 7-11 big gulp of Kool-Aid all over his workstation, Stacy spent more time pounding the organization in the ass than he ever did taking calls.
As I hear it, the call center eventually piled up enough dirt on Stacy to can him. It took awhile (mainly because firing a unionized City employee is about as easy as marching into the White House with a potato gun), but they got it done in the end. From the way my old co-workers tell it, the place immediately started running smooth. Without Stacy around to give customers wrong information/take naps in the bathroom/sexually harass the cleaning lady, tensions eased up and work actually started to get done. All’s well that ends well, and rumor has it that Stacy is now driving handsome cabs at Independance Hall.
Addition by subtraction.
* * *
The Stubbs trade, for me, was all about addition by subtraction. It was about removing the black hole from a batting order that otherwise is pretty potent. As much as I loved him in an “Ah shucks, he and Jay Bruce and Joey Votto and Chris Heisey seem like such good buddies” kind of way, his production has only gone down over the last 3+ years. Plus, the organization has been handcuffed by the “he’s a first round pick so we are obligated to wait for his talent to blossom” mentality, and only booting him from the roster entirely could rescue us from that.
So...there’s that. And honestly, that’s enough for me. However, trading for Choo brings a wealth of other positives...
1. He solves the leadoff problem. This one’s the most obvious, and possibly just as important as kissing Stubbs goodbye. The Reds were absolutely woeful out of the leadoff spot last season, and Choo (when batting first) hit .310. He also got on base almost 40% of the time out of that spot, which improves on whatever the Reds were able to cobble together by light years.
2. The lineup becomes “Dusty-proofed”. I can’t take credit for that phrase, as it was tweeted by a Cincy sports writer shortly after the trade was made, but it is so, so true. Dusty Baker loves to tinker with his lineup. If he doesn’t have a super-obvious option for a particular spot (see: Votto, Joey; three-hole), he’ll dick around with it for weeks, leaving the team out of sorts and confused. Then he’ll generally settle on “fast guy at lead-off, shortstop at two-hole, catcher batting eighth” and call it a season, paying very little attention to numbers/common sense/what his eyes see. There is absolutely zero doubt that Choo was obtained so he can lead off, so lead off he will. After that, things will most likely fall into place to the tune of Phillips/Votto/Ludwick/Bruce/Frazier/Cozart/Catcher (because Dusty needs to maintain at least some level of control.)
3. We gave up exactly jack. Besides losing Stubbs, which is kind of like American Idol losing Kara Deoguardi (aka Fartface McGhee), the Reds gave up almost nothing. Didi Gregorious, the guy we sent to Cleveland (who they eventually sent to Arizona) isn’t a bad player. In fact, all reports are that he is a sterling defenseman and will, at some point, be Major League ready. However, we’ve got Zack Cozart manning the position for the next _____ years, so Gregorious was a luxury. No top prospects were moved, and all our young pitching remains. Bullseye, boys. Bullseye.
* * *
Time will tell how the Choo trade will affect the Reds chances in 2013. His contract structure says he’s only here for one year (probably), and it’s hard to know if that will be a productive year or not. However, what we do know is that Shin-Soo Choo is a far better player than Drew Stubbs. We also know that Stubbs has shown almost zero signs of improvement. And, we know that Choo happens to be my buddy Pickford’s “number-one favorite South Korean baseball player of all time (sic)”, which, at this point, seems like a pretty good deal. And who knows, maybe he’ll be so successful in Cincinnati that his countrymen will rise up and unseat that pesky Kim Jong Un once and for all.
Addition by subtraction.
JOURNEYMEN Creator and Supreme Leader