Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wrestling With Roy White

Part of what makes baseball such a unique experience is the nostalgia that a lifetime of watching the game brings. This site has featured many memories of days gone by. The past isn't as important as the present, but it's still a nice place to visit. This bit of nostalgia revisits Roy White. White's career spanned the CBS to Steinbrenner years and the awful years to the glory years of 77 and 78 for the Yankees. He played his entire career and was for a long time, an institution in New York. Despite him being a focal point of the team the Fan grew up watching, White was never a Fan favorite. His game sort of left this writer cold. Why is that?

Well, White never hit .300. He never drove in 100 runs. He never had 200 hits despite playing every game for several seasons. He never hit more than 22 homers. He stole 232 bases in his career, but was thrown out a third of the time he attempted to steal. Probably the deal for the Fan was that he was solid, but never spectacular. And yet, for many years, he was considered the star of the Yankees. He only made two All Star teams and only cracked the top 15 in MVP voting once. And yet, the noted Bill James loves this guy. Why?

Well, he walked a LOT. He averaged 80 walks per 162 games. What makes that more impressive is that he only struck out 61 times per 162 games. He played good defense in left field (lousy in center) and finished with 4.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for his defense in his career. That's saying something. The dWAR added to his oWAR gave him a career WAR of 44.5. That's a pretty darn good career when considering that he only played fourteen full seasons. So why does the Fan have such negative feelings about him?

Well, Roy White wasn't fuzzy. His typical countenance was impassive. He never pumped his fist. The Fan can't ever remember him smiling. Watching Roy White play baseball was a joyless experience. He was, by his carriage, a proud man. We as fans could read that. There is nothing wrong with that. But the pride wasn't offset with anything that you could embrace.

Plus, he was one of the better players on some really, really bad teams. That's sort of like being a town politician when the town has 800 people. You may think you're a big shot, but after all, it's still just Perham, Maine. But the numbers don't lie. With his walks, his lack of strikeouts and his fielding stats, Roy White was a very good player and the body of his work merits a call to the Hall of Very Good.

Oh! For those of you who have no idea who the Fan is talking about, Roy White played left field (mainly) for the Yankees from 1965 to 1979. He wore Number 6 (the Fan thinks!). He was born in Los Angeles in 1943. He is known for two big things: First, he was on base when Bucky Dent hit the most famous home run of his career. Second, he hit an insane number of sacrifice flies. In 1971, White led the league with 17 of them. They made up 20 percent of White's 84 RBIs that year.

White was a slight guy at only 5'10'' and all of 160 pounds. But he seemed well muscled. The ladies would have liked his butt. After his career, White all but disappeared from the Yankee universe. This Fan reads a lot of Yankee-based blogs, but never reads anything about Roy White.

Okay, the Fan has been wrestling with Roy White for about a thousand words now and can't get any closer to feeling anything. He was a giant part of the Fan's childhood as he was there on the Fan's telly for 15 years. And Bill James and White's numbers show that he was a very good ball player. But the Fan's overall feelings for the guy haven't changed after all these years. The thought of him still leads to the same shrug. Meh.

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