Yesterday's news from the weird: the Oakland A's cut home run/OBP poster boy Jack Cust after signing him to a $2.65M contract in the off-season. Cust is one of the most extreme players in recent years: he's the biggest all-or-nothing hitter we've seen in years. Every year, he is among the league leaders in home run rate, walks, strikeouts and low batting average:
He's also a terrible fielder - not the worst in the league by any stretch, but let's just say he's never going to get an inning in center field. All of this prompts local neanderthal sportswriter Bruce Jenkins to write:
"Any team interested in Jack Cust should take heart in his rage. He really has something to prove now, and a little motivation can go a long way. Still, A's fans shouldn't be too upset with this move. Given the nature of their team, and the division, Jack Cust doesn't take you anywhere. It's just a few more bombs, a pitiful batting average and way too many strikeouts."
Again, we have a sportswriters' confirmation bias. Jack Cust just got cut - ergo he is a P.O.S. Of course, Jack Cust was worth - even with horrible defense - $26.7M over the last three years, a period during which Oakland paid him less than $3M. It's possible Cust won't be worth the $2.65M he's owed this season, but he was one hell of a bargain for the A's.
Interestingly, Bruce Jenkins has the following to say this week about new San Francisco Giant and "professional hitter" Aubrey Huff:
"Giants fans will like what they see from...Aubrey Huff"
Jenkins must not think very much of Giants fans. According to Fangraphs, Aubrey Huff was the 2nd-least valuable player in the majors last season, coming in at -$4.7M. That's the 6th-worst player season in Fangraphs eight-year database. But again, we have confirmation bias - Huff made the team, so he must be good; Cust got cut so he must suck.
It's amazing that anyone can engage in these fact-free mental gymnastics. Huff is a poor-fielding first baseman; Cust is a poor-fielding left fielder. Advantage: no one. But Huff hit .241 with 15 HRs and 51 BBs last year while Cust hit .240 with 25 HRs and 93 BBs - and Huff hits into twice as many double plays as Cust. Advantage: Cust. Huff is even making more money than Cust this season ($3M to $2.65M). So why is Cust's batting average so pitiful and his contribution so limited, while Huff is someone I'd want to watch?
If I could answer that, I guess I could be a sports reporter for one of the largest newspapers in the country.