Jim Cramer can't stand still. It's not just that the colorful Wall Street rock star is perpetually in motion during his Mad Money television show on CNBC. He's also been known to weave in and out of stocks the way most people would dodge the obstacles in a high-stakes game of Frogger.

But rather than take Cramer to task for his propensity to go hot and cold on a plethora of popular stocks, I decided to focus on just one: surgical robot maker Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG).

It started 18 months ago, when I started to chronicle his calls on the fast-growing company behind the da Vinci robotic arm that's revolutionizing operating tables everywhere.

If you're a believer in the company -- and I'd like to think that most shareholders are buying in for the right reasons -- it has to be frustrating to watch Jimbo's changing moods. It's also hard to take his show seriously when he says "ring the register" one day -- as he did in one show in January of last year -- only to say merely "I like the stock" when it's trading 10% higher just a few trading days later.

Just how back-and-forth has it been?


Cramer's Recommendation

Opening Price

























Take a look at those six months of calls. The trades would have resulted in a 59% overall gain. What investor wouldn't love a shot at that kind of half-year return? You could have done far worse than ignore Cramer's advice.

Unfortunately, you could have done a lot better, too. As you can see from the table, investors who bought in at the first point -- and held -- would have more than doubled their investment in those six months.

Oh, and I didn't even factor in the profit-killing aspects of frenetic trading, such as short-term capital gains taxes and the trading costs behind brokerage commissions and the bid/ask spreads.

Back to the future
Now that Intuitive Surgical is on a tear again, those same initial investors would have more than tripled their money at this point. Folks who tuned in on that Jan. 17, 2006, show would be doing OK, too.

That is, of course, assuming that they were nowhere near their television sets on Dec. 14, 2006.

"I have felt this stock has been too expensive ever since it went north of $100," he said during that show's lightning round. Ouch. Even if he did ultimately turn bullish on the company -- and he did -- it's not as if viewers get email alerts on his zig-zagging ways. Oh, and before anyone thinks I've just tipped TheStreet.com (NASDAQ:TSCM) off on the beauty of a stock-specific alert service, let me say that it would be as devastating to subscribers as trading out of Intuitive Surgical has been over the past two years.

In defense of Cramer
I've made it clear in the past that I appreciate how Cramer's energy has made investing cool for the masses. You don't find too many market mavens who are household names in everyday settings. You certainly don't find too many who have been repeat guests on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.

I have even pointed out how Cramer seems to like a lot of the same stocks we've recommended in our own Rule Breakers newsletter service. The stock that he told Colbert was his top pick for 2007 -- NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX) -- was one we recommended in our growth-stock newsletter several months earlier, at a much lower price point. When he ran a special series last year on companies that Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) should acquire to get back on the growth track, a couple of them were also active Rule Breakers picks.

My beef was, is, and will always be how Cramer doesn't take the time to consider his equity-based mood swings. Intuitive Surgical is a pretty special company. It has blown past Wall Street's profit targets in each of the past 19 quarters. It is pointless for investors to time their way in and out of the stock that is perpetually one step ahead of the market's prognosticators. I'm not suggesting that Intuitive's ascent has been a straight line. It most certainly has not been. However, valuation arguments when it comes to the company have been flawed because the pros keep underestimating the company's actual growth potential.

In the name of accountability, my request for Cramer is simple. Whenever he waxes bullish or bearish on a company, let a screen pop up with the dates of his previous calls on the company and the price that the stock opened at the following day. Let the viewers decide whether I'm just envious, or whether there's more to my accusations that Cramer treats ticker symbols like numbers on a roulette wheel.

Yahoo! is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Intuitive Surgical and NYSE Euronext have been big winners as Rule Breakers picks. Sample any Foolish newsletter service with a free 30-day trial subscription.  

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is still a fan of Cramer, but he would love to see a more responsible Cramer. He does not own share in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.