#SheGone Anti-Guru, Jeff Frye
"We’re taking the skill out of the game. We’re taking control of the game away from great baseball men who have seen more games than just about anyone and spent their whole lives in the game."
As The Dude stuck his nose in a carton of Half & Half in the dairy aisle at Ralph’s in the opening scene of The Big Lebowski, The Stranger declared, “Sometimes there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place.”
Jeff Frye is the man for his time and place, and he is tired of your bullshit infiltrating the beautiful sport of baseball.
Frye’s angst is directed towards a few distinct areas and he is fast becoming a voice for those disillusioned with the way the game is devolving on the youth and professional level. It’s a burgeoning movement and Frye’s army grows with each like, share and comment on his social media platforms. Even his detractors, and there are more than a handful, only feed the movement and help the #SheGone movement expand.
Specifically, Frye has had enough of analytics driving the game into a summer-long snooze-fest and he has most certainly had his fill of private batting instructors and their ilk infiltrating youth baseball with the latest gimmick that is going to turn Little Johnny into Mike Trout for a hefty fee.
Frye joins BallNine for this week’s edition of Spitballin’ and he is in friendly territory with his message.
To see Frye going after one of the lowest common denominators in youth baseball is gratifying to just about everyone except the people who are trying to separate mom and dad from their money with empty promises and PVC-laden gimmicks.
Baseball has become a country club sport over the past three decades. It used to be a sport that was introduced to kids on the sandlots and stickball courts of America and then refined by playing Little League, high school and maybe summer American Legion ball.
Now, it’s a sport where parents push their kids onto every travel ball team they can afford while also signing them up for specialized individual instruction.
It’s not always the parents’ fault; they see their child’s teammates on all of these teams and hear conversations around the ballfields about the new cons their guru is peddling. They want the best for their kids, so they try to keep up.
Maybe Jeff Frye isn’t TOTALLY conventional
While there are plenty of legitimate instructors who are informed and do truly care about your kid’s progress, a growing majority are snake oil salesmen who roll around the youth baseball landscape like Lyle Lanley shilling the Monorail to the poor residents of Springfield.
At least Lanley had a catchy song.
Frye’s #SheGone movement has taken shape in the form of short videos that mock ridiculous drills and claims by self-proclaimed online hitting gurus. There is no shortage of material and when you see someone doing anything athletics-related while wearing jeans, it’s right to call them out.
“ Young fans are now making their own videos mocking these “gurus” ”
His videos draw thousands of views and Frye happily shares photos and videos of fans supporting his movement. Young fans are now making their own videos mocking these “gurus” and are proudly wearing their #SheGone shirts in doing so.
While this is all a fun way to expose this dark branch of baseball development, it is a serious issue in baseball and many youth sports. The world of individualized sports instruction, travel ball, college showcases and the like prey on parents who may not be fully educated on how nefarious this world can be. Here’s to hoping Frye’s grassroots exposure of these people starts a trend.
The privatized world of youth sports is not the only target for Frye either. Frye is coming at the world of analytics as well. This is a slightly more divisive topic as there is a very large group of people in and out of the game who support analytics. Frye’s main points are hard to argue against though. He contends that three-outcome baseball is boring, scouting has become devalued and knowledge gleaned from baseball lifers is dismissed.
Analytics can be a useful tool when incorporated properly. But full reliance on analytics to the point of flying in the face of common sense is flat out ridiculous. Imagine playing in the most important games of the season, going against a pitcher who can’t hold a runner on and then refusing to steal a base because “analytics” told you that a stolen base is a high-risk, low-reward play. Do you think Billy Martin would have told Mickey Rivers to stay put in that situation? He would have had Steve Balboni on the move for Christ’s sake.
Frye’s views come from an informed position. He carved out a nice career for himself, especially for a 30th round draft pick. His 7.1 career WAR is better than 20 of the 30 first round picks from the year he was drafted, including five of the top 10 picks. Frye batted .290 over eight full seasons, was a solid second baseman to start his career and became a valued utility player in the second half of his career.
Words like launch angle, spin rate, Driveline or Rapsodo will cause some to roll their eyes so far into the back of their heads they can see their brain stem. It will cause others to drool with glee and call them the keys to success. Who’s right? The correct answer is that there is probably a very beneficial common ground for all. However, like political and social movements, getting to that middle ground is much easier said than done.
So, come on and Spitball with Jeff Frye, he’s got a lot to say. After all, he is the man for his time and place.
Thanks for joining us Mr. Frye. Before we get into tearing apart some of these online baseball heroes and diving into analytics, let’s talk about your baseball career a bit. You were drafted in the 30th round out of Southeastern Oklahoma State in 1988 as an undersized infielder. What was your mindset as you started your pro career?
I looked at it as an opportunity that I worked my whole life for. I didn’t care what round I got drafted in or how much of a signing bonus I got. I just felt like this was my chance to see how I stacked up. I always considered myself the underdog and tried to prove everybody wrong along the way who told me I was too small or not good enough. I looked at it as a challenge.
You developed into a nice utility guy who could steal bases, score runs and do all the little things that help teams win. Is that the way you always played the game or was that how you developed through the minors?
I wasn’t really a utility guy until later on in my Major League career. I came up through the minors as a second baseman. I didn’t really play all over the field growing up. I played shortstop or second base, never outfield. My first full season in A ball they penciled me in as the utility infielder, which was kind of odd because I had never played anywhere but second base, so how was I going to be the utility guy? It just so happened that the starting second baseman in Gastonia broke his finger the first game of the season and I stepped in and took his place. I ended up leading the league in batting that year and became an everyday second baseman.
You moved up through the minors really quick for someone who was drafted in the 30th round. You made your Major League debut in 1992 for the Rangers, who had incredible talent on their roster. You batted leadoff in your debut in a lineup that featured guys like Juan Gonzalez, Pudge Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Ruben Sierra. To top it off, Nolan Ryan was the starting pitcher that night. Was that surreal to you? What are you thinking standing out there for your debut looking at all those guys?
I got called up because the starting second baseman Julio Franco went on the disabled list. He had won the batting title the year before, so I took a superstar’s place because of injury. I was just trying to stay in the big leagues. This was my chance. If I had never done any more than just make it to the big leagues, to me that still would have been a success, especially for someone who nobody thought would get there.
It was definitely surreal and honestly the first month I was in the big leagues, I was trying not to fail and not to embarrass myself. It’s a lot of pressure when you’re looking around and you’ve got Palmeiro, Pudge, Dean Palmer, Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra. We got all these studs on the team and I’m just trying to keep my mouth shut and do the best I can. I just wanted to make my best impression and get another shot the next year.
Did any of those guys or any of your teammates take you under their wings as a youngster?
The guy who did that the most was Geno Petralli, the backup catcher. He took me under his wing and is still a really good friend today. I mean all those guys treated me great, they really did. I think it’s because they saw I was tough a kid who was trying to play in the big leagues. I wasn’t flashy, but I was a hard-nosed player who would take out guys on double plays and just played the game the way I was taught growing up.
That’s great you mentioned Geno Petralli. Growing up as an Italian kid in New Jersey collecting baseball cards, I used to separate out all the Italian players into their own pile. I had way more than my fair share of Geno Petralli cards. He was one of my guys.
You probably had Mike Pagliarulo in there too! I played with Pags in Texas. He was an awesome guy, I loved Pags. He’s funny as shit too. Real funny guy. He used to put a tack in his glove, that way when we used to throw the ball around after an out, he would scuff the ball with his tack and throw it in to the pitcher.
That’s awesome! Good for Pags. Now, looking back at your career in the Majors, you stuck around for eight good years and were a productive player for longer than a lot of people expected. You also overcame two major injuries. When you reflect on your career, what do you see?
I think I made the most of my opportunity. I was willing to do anything I could do to get on the baseball field. After my second knee injury the Red Sox signed a second baseman to a four-year contract, and it looked like my days were numbered with them. I only played one position and they just signed a guy to a four-year contract who plays that same position and I was coming back from an injury.
Our manager Jimy Williams really liked me in the lineup, so he asked me one day if I can play the outfield. I said, “Yea Jimy, I can play anywhere.” I never played the outfield before but figured that I’d get a big glove and do my best to catch it. If I didn’t catch it, I’d hit the cutoff man. Can’t be harder than playing second base, so I started playing the outfield.
That year, I played every outfield position, started at short, second, third and DH. I also played one inning in one game at first base. We had to pinch run for the first baseman late in a game and Jimy Williams asked me if I can play first. I said, “Of course I can!” So, he said that I was going out there. I needed to borrow a first baseman’s glove to go out there and this thing was twice as big as the one I use at second. I just thought, I’m an athlete, of course I can play first. Then the one inning I played first base, I made a diving catch and an unassisted double play. It was the only inning I ever played at first base. It can’t be that tough!
Absolutely incredible. Now let’s get into the #SheGone movement. I have to say I love your message. It has always bothered me seeing parents get taken advantage of and kids being taught these ridiculous methods. I’m glad to see you call these people out, as are many other people. How did this get started?
I have a friend of mine who is a former scout. We always sent each other these silly videos of what we see being taught to kids. One day I was in the backyard with my son and I said, “Hey, I want you to film me making fun of this video.” So, I did it and I put it on Twitter. One of the scouts texted me and said it had four hundred views in an hour. I thought that was cool, no big deal. Then he texted me a little while later and said I had 4,000 views. At that point, I was like “Are you serious?” Then I started getting direct messages on Twitter from guys I didn’t know. Apparently one of them was one of the guys that teaches this stuff. Then it got really ugly and they were attacking me, saying awful stuff about me and my kids. I didn’t have anything to do with the social media stuff before, I just thought I’d make a funny video. But they really pissed me off, so I decided I had to make another video. I did some research and the next video had over 100,000 views in total and then these dudes really started coming after me.
I started getting phone calls, prank calls with no caller ID’s, messages, threats and stuff. I thought, “Man, I really struck a nerve.” In the second video I made, I just blurted out, “She gone” after I hit the ball. It wasn’t intentional or planned, but one of my buddies told me I had to hashtag SheGone on all my videos. Next thing you know, people start sending me stuff all the time. People were sending me videos saying, “Look at this crap!” These messages came from parents, coaches, scouts, front office people, guys in the game. Now they send me stuff to expose and it happens all the time now. Then it turned into, “We gotta have a SheGone t-shirt.” Now I’m selling t-shirts and I have shegonehitting.com. We have t-shirts and hats. I’ve done over 100 podcasts and interviews and it’s taken off. It’s a whole SheGone movement. Everybody who is sick of all this crap and nonsense being taught to kids. Kids are getting bad instruction. Everyone’s just jumping on the movement now to expose this.
Man, do I love that. You’re a voice for a lot of people who are fed up and I am glad to see the response you’re getting. By getting all that pushback from “gurus,” I think it just shows how threatened they feel about being exposed.
Ok, onto the next movement. Analytics. It’s another touchy subject that’s really divisive. People on both sides have strong feelings. What are some of your biggest issues with the world of analytics?
I just think it’s out of hand. I agree, I used to look at numbers and stuff when I played. I liked to look at how I did against different pitchers. I looked at scouting reports on the guys we were facing. But never would it supersede the things I know from the experience of playing the game my whole life. Now it seems like everything is based on analytics instead of understanding the game. Now, the strategy of games is based off everything analytical.
We’re taking the skill out of the game. We’re taking control of the game away from great baseball men who have seen more games than just about anyone and spent their whole lives in the game. They have spent more time in the game than the people who are analyzing this data have been alive. They don’t understand the strategies, hunches and gut feelings that make this game beautiful. That’s all being removed and replaced by data and I think it’s ruining the game.
Every generation has their own opinion of the sport and what it was like when we were growing up watching it. I just picture the havoc that happened When Rickey Henderson got on base or the strategy needed when Tim Raines was out there. It puts a ton of pressure on a pitcher and catcher to have to focus on the batter and runner at the same time. There’s no analytic for that.
Absolutely. And the infielders too. It puts a ton of pressure on infielders when someone like that is on base. You can’t measure that. Now it’s become a three-outcome game. You either walk, strike out or hit a home run. It’s boring to watch.
The most exciting World Series I ever watched was the Cardinals against the Royals in 1985. Once Willie McGee and those fast guys got on base, everything changed. To me, it was so exciting. The strategy that happens with both teams when someone like that gets on base.
Now, you have a situation like a few years ago where it’s the Cubs and Dodgers in the playoffs. Everybody knows that Jon Lester can’t throw the ball to first base, but you don’t even try to steal? Kike Hernandez has a 40-foot lead and every time a pitcher who can’t throw to first lifts his leg, Kike goes back to first. What are you doing? It’s sad and it’s these analytics guys who say that the stolen base is a low percentage play. They’re asking why you should take a risk on making an out on the bases when you have a guy who could hit a three-run homer. I just don’t get it. Why play Major League Baseball for that?
Could you possibly see this changing at any point? Trends kind of come and go in most sports, so what would it take for that to happen here?
I hope so. Trends do come and go, and I think it’ll just take one team to say, “Hey, we don’t have a chance to win against these big teams with our roster playing this analytical game. We’re gonna go back to old school baseball with scouting and small ball like the way Billy Martin did.” A team is going to realize they’re not gonna win going toe-to-toe playing the same way they do and they’re gonna try to do something different. Why not try it? What it’s gonna hurt going back and playing old school baseball? You’re not gonna win the other way.
I thought maybe we might see a little more of that after the Royals won the 2015 World Series. They were the one successful team recently who played that style of ball and were successful in a small market, but that didn’t really pan out.
Well, we had the Nationals last year. They rely on old school scouting and things like that. But if you think about it, if you’re the Nationals and you buck the system last year, why would you tell the other teams your secrets? Let them learn on their own. As good as the Dodgers and the Astros are, they’re two of the teams that use analytics more than anyone. Well, we know why the Astros won. I think that should be a red flag. You have so many guys in the game working for the Astros when they had their cheating scandal that don’t understand the unwritten rules of baseball. You don’t really do stuff like that and now they’re gonna have an asterisk by their title forever, at least in people’s minds.
Do you see anything positive with all of the reliance on analytics?
I know there are some things positive about it but launch angles and exit velocities are worthless. Who cares? To me, that’s video game stuff. It’s not stuff to make things more interesting to fans because it kind of ruins the excitement and the mystique of baseball with all this garbage. They have to do something, so they say, “Oh look, that ball went 450 feet and had an exit velocity of 108 and a launch angle of 32 degrees!” Who cares? It’s a home run. You don’t get extra points for hitting it 450 when the fence is 400.
That all makes sense to me. Opinions are really divided, but on my end, I do miss the anticipation and excitement of a hit-and-run or squeeze play. I can see the benefit of analytics, but I just wish there was some kind of marriage between analytics and common sense, and I don’t think that exists at all.
We covered a lot in this edition of Spitballin’, touching on analytics and also the seedy and ridiculous side of the business of youth baseball. If you could pick any closing message on any topic to leave with our BallNine fans, what would that be?
I would just say that I’m targeting the guys who claimed to have found the secret to hitting, the secret swing that everyone has to have to be successful. It’s a bunch of garbage. It’s a bunch of lies. All the evidence you need is that these people are trying to diminish what Major Leaguers did for their professional careers by saying that we don’t know anything that we’re talking about. That their way of teaching is the only way to do it. How could you have any common sense and agree with that?
Jeff Frye is the voice of the SheGone movement and is on a crusade to rid the beautiful game of baseball of bullshit. You can join the movement by following Jeff on Twitter @O3JFrye or at his website, www.shegonehitting.com. Search the hashtag #SheGone on social media to see the nonsense that Jeff Frye is exposing in the baseball world.