Where Have You Gone, Yogi Berra?
I take issue with the editors’ comment that “Berra’s personal career statistics — batting average, home runs, wins above replacement value — were strong but not world-beating” (the Week, October 19). Are you kidding me? He’s top five or six in virtually all career batting statistics for catchers. He’s ahead of Bench in RBI, batting average, runs, hits, OPS, MVPs, all-star, World Series appearances, and world championships. His WAR statistic is distorted because defensive stats pre-1955 (so, the first eight years of his career) are missing. Bench has a few more HRs (389, No. 2 all-time catcher, while Berra had 358, No. 4 all-time). Clearly his batting stats are “world beating.” R.I.P., Yogi!
The Editors respond: Berra holds the record for playing on the most teams that won the World Series: ten. More than any player in baseball history, he was world-beating. His personal statistics were not. “World-beating” means “better than everyone else,” not “up there with the lead pack.” In WAR (wins above replacement), the metric that comes closest to capturing in one number a player’s overall value to his team, Berra ranks fifth among catchers — slightly ahead of Joe Torre and Mike Piazza and slightly behind Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, and Johnny Bench. Alas, the contribution that Berra made by calling and framing pitches is hard for statisticians to measure. But the composite record of the pitchers he caught is clearly brilliant, suggesting superlative skill behind the plate. That most of his career numbers are not superlative — they’re only superior — casts into doubt the value of statistics more than the value of Yogi Berra. Two weeks after the first issue of this magazine was published, he was named Most Valuable Player in the American League. It was his third MVP award in five seasons.
On the cover of our November 2 issue, the first name of Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus was misspelled as “Rence.”
In the review, in the same issue, of David Pryce-Jones’s book Fault Lines (“The Lost Continent”), Daniel Johnson stated that the book does not include a family tree. Mr. Johnson had an advance copy of the book; the final, published version of the book does include a family tree. And “Royaumont” was misspelled in the review as “Royaument.”
We regret the errors.