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“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” –Shakespeare

"Jeter RARELY argues calls." --Common knowledge?

The only thing I heard more about today than the fact Michael Jackson apparently died, is how Jeter never contests balls and strikes. The first one I can accept (despite prior nebullous details about the body's location), but the second matter is a little harder for me to get on board with, ranking right up there with Anne Hathaway's looks in the "Who the hell decided this was legit?" bucket.

The fact is, it may be easier to escape a bases loaded 0 outs jam than it is to escape a reputation, good or bad. People define us before we define ourselves, and the Yankees are more vulnerable to the hardened shell of public perception than any other team in baseball. They have everything working against them, and in anything in life, once you’re on the wrong side of the consensus popularity line, everything you do just exacerbates your already mushrooming reputation.

The conclusion of ManBan09 demonstrated how staggeringly warped the public mind is in its reception of players. After his 50-day suspension for testing positive for drugs, Manny Ramirez returned to the game, to warm embraces, and to stubborn championing and allegiance. ARod not so much.

How accurate is anything thought about the Yankees? Does anything the baseball-viewing universe purports about the Evil Empire hold water? Or is all just a murderer’s row of Yankee Urban Legends?

Beginning with the play that inspired this list, here are The Top Myths Governing the New York Yankees

“Jeter NEVER argues calls.”

Am I the only person who thinks the fact that I hear announcers at least once a week say, “…and you rarely see Jeter doing this…” is testament to the fact that indeed, we see him doing it enough to make this clause inaccurate? Yes, he’s classy, and yes, he plays the game the right way.

But just because he does his little look-down-with-head-tilted-while-passive-aggressively-shaking-his-head-and-murmuring-unfairness thing, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t argue calls. It just means that he doesn’t get all puffy and break bats over his knee (or throws bats) after grunting indignation at the ump.

"Jeter is the worst defensive SS in the game."

I could really wring the necks of the clowns at UPenn whose extensive committment to disproving Jeter's fielding credibility produced a cherry-picking of statistical data retrofitted to their thesis. Because now whenever someone starts railing on Jeter's uselessness at short, he has this little ace in his pocket to yank out like it's a Case-Closed-Trump-Card.

My gainful employment is largely centered on finding clinical studies to support medical marketing claims, and the biggest challenge in doing so is avoiding the trap of cherry-picking data. If I wanted to, I could find a published study supporting almost any claim made about any medicine.

But the United States FDA isn't impressed with a clinical trial from 1963 evaluating 13 Hungarian patients over a 2 week period. In other words, one study means nothing. Unless I can provide a body of evidence that demonstrates I'm not splicing up the data to accomodate my own allegations, then I'm going to be shot down more adamantly than Pete Rose.

While volumes can written defending this point, I can debunk the UPenn credibility simply by countering with the fact another set of statistics prove he is an above average fielder.

"ARod is useless in the clutch."

I've cited this piece from BaseballSuite101 before, but it bears repeating here:

A-Rod has come to the plate 68 times in the 7th inning or later when the Yankees are within one run of their opponent. In those plate appearances, Rodriguez is hitting .328, has a .412 OBP, and has 6 home runs and 19 RBI. It gets better. In 46 ninth inning at bats, Rodriguez is batting .447 with 8 home runs (one per every 5.8 at bats) and 20 RBI (one per every 2.3 at bats). He also has four game-winning walkoff hits, two of them home runs, one off Jonathan Papelbon.

That was 2007.

And in 2009?

"Yankees only acquire trendy players."

Yes, Brett Gardner, Ramiro Pena, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Francisco Cervelli, Nick Swisher, and Phil Hughes have all been household names since as far back as any of us can remember.

And Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettite, and Hideki Matsui were all purchased like indentured servants from their small budget team and forced to play on the Yankees.

"Mo is DONE. DONE."

Mo's alleged over-the-hill status has been nipping at his heels for the last 3-4 years. Why? Most recently in 2009, in between wrestling with his debilitating lights of senility and the Large Print Editions of Reader's Digest, Mo has garnered the following stats:

1 blown save all year.

135 batters faced. 3 walked. 42 struck out. 29 got hits.

"CC's arm is gonna fall off, he's too old and fat."

This may or may not be the most ridiculous of the lot. I have to assume this one originated with my mom, who is the only person I know who considers 29 old and dangerously close to becoming obsolete.

And in terms of his weight making him unable to get through games...7 of his 17 games he started last year were complete games.

"Yankees' bullpen is a mess."

The 5 relievers with the most innings pitched have an average ERA of 1.34 in the 30 days.

Since June 1, the bullpen's WHIP is .935.

Phil Hughes has allowed 6 hits in 14.2 innings with 16 strikeouts as a reliever.

Phil Coke has allowed 5 hits in 15.2 innings, with 16 strikeouts.

Dave Robertson has allowed 8 hits in 11.2 innings, with 17 strikeouts.

And don't even get me started on Aces...

"Yankees suck!"

Really? I mean..really?? If the most successful team in sports history sucks, then what does that make the rest of the league? So low they could sit on a dime and dangle their legs. This assertion holds around the same amount of accuracy, credibility, and evidentiary support as a love letter from Ted Bundy.

* * *

When or even if these myths will ever evaporate in favor of the reality of statistics remains to be seen. But public opinion is stubborn and enduring, and as long as fans maintain the same level of borderline irrational fervor that's fueled the game since its inception, baseball urban legends will persist, indifferent to stats that to them may as well be an organized collection of idiocies.


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