Intangibles in baseball are those qualities that affect the performance of the team as a whole, rather than the individual. They are unquantifiable by statistics. Things such as, clubhouse chemistry, leadership qualities and team morale which can’t be measured by stats. But, they are arguably as important to a team’s success as individual statistics.
Nowhere are these intangibles more on display than with recently traded, AJ Ellis, and recently demoted, Yasiel Puig.
AJ was traded as if his clubhouse contributions weren’t important. Puig was demoted as if his were all that mattered.
AJ Ellis statistically was having a sub-par year, although he did only play 53 games. He was predominately a backup catcher to Yasmani Grandal. Ellis is a Free Agent in 2017 and more than likely wouldn’t have been a Dodger next season anyway.
Yasiel Puig was statistically turning things around. He is currently a better player than his replacement, Josh Reddick. Josh has struggled mightily since donning the Dodger blue.
However, Ellis, despite his positive intangibles – team favorite, clubhouse leader and the most studied baseball mind of the group was traded due to mediocre statistical showings.
Reading a few of AJ’s teammates (one former) comments below, despite his stats, his intangibles were benefitting this team and contributing to their success.
It's rare that a player can wholly embody a club's energy and ideals. Dodgers inside and outside the clubhouse walls will miss @AJEllis17
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) August 25, 2016
Couldn't ask for a better teammate or person in general than @AJEllis17. I'm genuinely happy to have had the opportunity to play with him.
— Brett Anderson (@BrettAnderson35) August 25, 2016
Thank you @AJEllis17 ! One of the best teammates I've ever had & one of the best baseball minds I've gotten to be around!
— Alex Wood (@Awood45) August 25, 2016
— dan haren (@ithrow88) August 25, 2016
On the other hand, Puig’s negative intangibles – rumored clubhouse dramatics, not following rules and poor preparation led to his demotion. Despite better stats than his replacement. Does anyone doubt Puig would be contributing more on the field than Reddick currently is?
So, my question is – do intangibles matter or not?
I think they do matter. Some player’s may bring a valuable piece to a team that doesn’t show up on paper, but are no less important. I think AJ Ellis did that. Not just for his friend Kershaw, but seemingly to the rest of the team as well. Outside of Rick Honeycutt, I’d imagine nobody knows the intricacies of the pitching staff as well as AJ Ellis. We are in a tooth and nail pennant race, will Carlos Ruiz even have the time to familiarize himself with his new pitching staff? These things matter.
Andrew Friedman mentioned that Ruiz has the same leadership qualities as AJ. I don’t doubt he does. But, Ruiz built this up over years with the Phillies. The same way AJ built it up over years with the Dodgers. There are no guarantees this makes them interchangeable and with a few short weeks to go, time is a factor.
And if intangibles don’t matter, than Puig should be playing right field and Reddick should be working out his issues at OKC. This by no means is a bash on Reddick. I honestly hope he turns his struggles around. He’s a Dodger now and I’m rooting for him.
If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.
Furthermore, I want to be perfectly clear here – I don’t think fans get a vote in this matter either way. An opinion, yes, of course. But, I don’t believe a player being a fan favorite warrants consideration. That’s where the tiring (to me anyway) “Baseball is a business” argument comes into play. Yes, we pay the money to go to games, buy overpriced team gear and add the intangible rooting squad. But, at the end of the day, management has to field the team that is most likely to get them to their (and our) World Series goals. That’s their business – their success and job count on it.
I’m just looking for understanding on whether intangibles matter or not to the Dodger’s management. Because they are sending contradictory messages with Ellis and Puig. I realize they don’t owe me, as a curious fan, answers. But, that’s where my frustration with the AJ Ellis and Yasiel Puig moves live. You can’t have it both ways and when you try it simply angers and frustrates a large section of the Peanut Gallery.
Look, we’ll get over it, humans have short attention spans. The fans want the same thing the team and management want – a World Series win for our Los Angeles Dodgers. This is something we can all agree on. But, how we get there and what factors lead to a winning season, well, that debate will live on. Especially when we watch Yasiel Puig tearing it up in the minors, while Josh Reddick starts most games and struggles. Will Carlos Ruiz’s better stats benefit the team more than AJ Ellis’ team leadership did? That answer may only come at the end of the season, when we see where the Dodgers end up. Whether they’re playing in the World Series or watching from home.
So, do intangibles matter to a team’s success?