When Brandon McCarthy, then with the Oakland Athletics, now of the Arizona Diamondbacks, said the 2012 Athletics would have won 70 games instead of 94 without veterans like Brandon Inge and Jonny Gomes, a lot of people didn’t buy it. McCarthy basically was saying that veteran leadership really does matter, and it shouldn’t be shrugged off as a baseball myth.
At what point does on-field performance outweigh the leadership? If you asked me, I’d say just look at Inge in 2013. His on-field performance–or lack thereof — has definitely outweighed his veteran presence. Obviously, I’m not in the clubhouse everyday — or any day for that matter — but Inge has been horrible. With a .207/.232/.272 slash line, along with his 27.1 percent strikeout rate, he hasn’t helped offensively. Inge is still a very good defender at second base and third base. The versatility can be valuable at times, but it’s not enough to make up for his inability to get on base.
It’s not like the Pirates don’t have any veterans to take over the leadership role if Inge is designated for assignment; in fact, A.J. Burnett and Andrew McCutchen are already doing a nice job leading this team. Sprinkle in veterans like Gaby Sanchez, Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Russell Martin and the Pittsburgh Pirates have a ton of leadership.
I am not going to sit here and try to convince you that a veteran presence isn’t necessary in a clubhouse, especially in the Pirates’ clubhouse, but I’m also not going to pretend it’s the most important thing to a baseball team. Talent and production should outweigh leadership every single time.