Back in the early 1990s, George Will burst onto the baseball book scene with the hilariously titled “Men At Work.” It detailed how Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Orel Hershiser, and Tony LaRussa go about their business, and while it was overly fawning of the main characters, contained some above-average reading material.
One section in particular stayed with me. Will was a fan of the Cubs as a kid, and the Cubs’ shortstop in those days was one Roy Smalley (senior, not junior). Smalley was a dismal hitter, yet Will vividly recalled the team’s announcers talking about how Smalley was “due for a hit.” Will argued that Smalley was never due – that he was just a bad hitter and wasn’t due for anything beyond a strikeout.
Bill James took up this argument in a different form, in regard to people “breaking out of slumps” in one of his annual abstracts in the 1980s. James’ argument was that even if someone goes 4-for-5 after weeks of 0-for-4s, it doesn’t mean he’s going to run off a streak of multi-hit games. It just meant he went 4-for-5 today.
Why am I bringing up all of this on a website devoted to the Sonics? Because there seems to be some sort of idea that Ray Allen has broken out of his 3-point slump because of his stellar 4th-quarter performance on Saturday against the Jazz.
After 3 quarters of play on Saturday, Sugar Ray was all of 2-for-9 from the field – flat-out lousy. Of course, in the final quarter he caught fire, nailing 4 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Does that mean anything, though? Why does one good quarter outweigh 3 lousy ones – or about 30 lousy ones if you count the previous half-dozen games? Is it just our desire for the universe to become orderly, for the sun to rise in the west and Ray Allen to shoot lights-out?
I’m sorry, but the last time Ray went 4-for-9 from long-distance he followed it up by hitting 10 of his next 46, the very slump he’s supposed to have emerged from in Salt Lake City.
I’m not an idiot – I know Ray Allen’s a borderline superstar and quite possibly the best shooter in the game. But something’s wrong with his stroke this year, and whether it’s the new ball, poor health, or jock itch is anybody’s guess.
Just don’t expect me to believe all is better because of what happened in the course of 10 minutes in Utah.