Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hat Guy, A Man of the People, Loves Steroid Users

I was bored and wanted to post. So I found the latest from an old friend.

"If Fans Don't Boo Manny, Why Should the Media?"

Though I realize that sometimes writers don't create their own titles... this title already suggests a logical conclusion that I do not support. Let's remind ourselves that HatGuy has, in the past, praised the efforts of Sammy Sosa in overcoming steroid judgment and coming back to the game. HatGuy, by all accounts, has little problem with steroid use. Here are the major problems with this article:

1. HatGuy bases a huge argument about baseball, the press and moral indignation based on one anecdote of evidence from a Mets/Dodgers broadcast.

2. HatGuy takes pointless potshots at people who enjoy the historical tradition of baseball.

3. HatGuy makes himself into a people's champion. In that respect, I'm perfectly happy with the blind leading the blind. But it still smacks of arrogance.

The Mets’ play-by-play guy couldn’t believe what he wasn’t hearing. Manny Ramirez, fresh off a 50-game drug suspension, was stepping to the plate for the first time this year in front of the toughest fans this side of Philadelphia, and there were more people taking pictures than booing.

Whose fans are tough? Since when are Mets fans notoriously tough? But the man's right: where are the boos?

“They just don’t care anymore,” SNY’s Gary Cohen said, with a distinct note of disappointment. “Most of them seem to care not much at all about performance-enhancing drugs.”

Which is a significant charge. The player just got caught for cheating and suspended for almost a third of the season... and nobody seems to care.

The camera panned the crowd, catching Dodgers fans wearing novelty caps with Manny dreads attached or waving signs welcoming their hero back from exile. Oh, there was a smattering of boos, but nothing remarkable. They weren’t even as loud as those showered on Mets starter Mike Pelfrey when he let the Dodgers jump out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth.

Well, at least the Mets fans are tough on their bad baseball players, if not on actual cheaters.

Cohen kept talking about it, as if the fans’ behavior was incomprehensible.

HatGuy keeps writing about Cohen, as if his reaction is somehow incomprehensible.

HatGuy is clearly on the side of the fans here - in fact, HatGuy is almost always on the side of popularity and what the ordinary mindless idiot fan thinks.
In an earlier post, pnoles notes that HG said there's "no freer spirit in the game" than Manny Ramirez.

Manny had been caught with a drug in his system that’s used to restore normal testosterone production after using steroids.

Fact. Good to see one of these in HatGuy's work.

He was slammed with a 50-game suspension that cost him more than $8 million.


Though he has never tested positive for steroids, all the commentators are calling him a cheater who may never get in the Hall of Fame.

Debatable fact (given the word "all").

He’s sullied the game.

Actually, this is a rhetorical trick by old HatGuy - sticking an opinion with which he does not agree after a series of facts. He's making it seem like this is an obvious fact, so that he can set it up to question it.

You're tricky there, HatGuy, but I'm on to you!

He’s lower than a snake’s belly in a canyon.

Another quality HatGuy comparison. I thought he'd go with his old favorite comparison, but I imagine that snakes' bellies in canyons are pretty low. I thought maybe he would go with something creative and relevant, like "He's lower than Eliot Spitzer's moral compass" or even "He's lower than Eddie Gaedel's jockstrap".

Why aren’t the fans booing?

Because they don't care. Also because they don't care much about the game of baseball.

“Either they put it behind them or they didn’t care to start with,” Cohen finally decided with an almost audible shrug.

What does an audible shrug sound like? Also, Cohen's conclusions are correct.

We in the opinion business like to talk about how players don’t have a clue about just about everything — money, fame, contracts, respect, the real world.

We in the sarcastic blog business like to talk about how journalists don't have a clue about just about everything - sports, logic, basic conventions of English, writing skill, basic statistical maxims, the real world.

But on this subject, the guys in the electronic pulpits are the ones who are clueless, and have been for a long time.

Actually, HatMan, I'm not clueless, I'm just mad. I'm well aware that hordes of morons are baseball fans.

And calling a blog an "electronic pulpit" is amusing. There's an interesting dose of anti-evangelical sentiment in this particular article of HatGuy's. I mean, I always figured HatGuy believed in faith over reason, but maybe not.

I’ve been saying this for years: The fans don’t care.

Bloggers have been saying it for years: you're an idiot.

[I here omit three paragraphs of storytelling about what happened on Manny's return].

The real issue is the fans, who have been packing ballparks at record rates ever since chemically-enhanced players started hitting balls out of the park more than a decade ago. Scandal after scandal was going to destroy the game. Scandal after scandal has produced little more than a collective yawn.

That's the truth: the steroid scandal is not affecting baseball's bottom line and people are still coming out in droves. Even Bud has claimed that "this could be our greatest season". Now - that doesn't mean it's right. Just because people show up doesn't mean that steroids are not a problem and were not a problem.

HatGuy, the ultimate populists, equates moral correctness with popular opinion. I realize that I'm getting a bit preachy here, but isn't that a problem?

And this brings a larger issue to the table: is MLB's job to entertain its fans, or produce the best quality baseball on the planet? HatGuy says the former, I say the latter. If you ask me, too much of HatGuy's entertainment will destroy the quality of the baseball, whereas if the quality of the baseball is held high, it will certainly entertain the fans.

Oh, sure, you won’t have any trouble finding people on message boards and bar stools yawping about how these guys should be hung by their thumbs in Times Square and beaten like piƱatas with the Naked Cowboy’s guitar.

This is what you call humorous hyperbole, a standard tool in the writer's arsenal.

To them, the guys who cheated with steroids are the only people who ever broke the rules of the game.

No. This is what you call "stupid hyperbole", or a straw man logical fallacy. It's where you misrepresent your opponent's argument and then refute the misrepresentation.

The guys who stole signs, used corked bats, gobbled down amphetamines like they were M&Ms, threw cut balls, spitballs, scuff balls, emery balls and Vaseline balls weren’t cheating at all. They were just trying to win.

Not the same thing, HatGuy.

They’re a vocal minority, and their voices are amplified by commentators and columnists who are the baseball equivalent of creationists.



Did I just get called a "creationist" by the most illogical and unreasonable sportswriter on the entire interwebs?

The reason that all forms of cheating except using performance-enhancers are OK is because it’s written in some sacred book somewhere.

In fact, right here it states that all those types of illegal-substance-balls are clearly banned with the penalty of a ten-game suspension. HatGuy does not seem to know the rules of this game.

Or is he talking about an unwritten sacred book of sportswriters that are designed to crucify steroid users? I wonder who wrote this book. Probably Bill Simmons. I want a copy of this book.

Are there suspicions that anyone in the current game is throwing spitballs?

The book says that if a player takes something that helps him hit more home runs, he’s cheating. If he doesn’t hit more home runs, it doesn’t matter what he does.

Tell that to this list of guys, who were suspended for using corked bats.

Also, unless I am very mistaken, the use of the spitball has been effectively curtailed, putting pitchers on the same level playing field. Obviously, only now has steroid use been effectively curtailed.

Most fans don’t make such fine distinctions.

Most people don't make fine distinctions in anything. That hardly strengthens your argument.

They also don’t have their home pages set to and don’t give a rat’s patoot about the sacred numbers that give meaning to the lives of true believers everywhere.

I see what you're doing here, HatGuy. Really, this whole article is about HatGuy's praise of the common baseball fan and his criticism of the ivory-tower blogointellectualfan, who might actually know why OBP is important, or care that hardworking, reasonably-honest players' records are being surpassed by roiding sluggers.

HatGuy's homepage is probably

I understand where the true believers are coming from, and it’s kind of touching that people can be so obsessive about it all.

You don't really believe that. Now you're patronizing me, you asshole.

Baseball, like physics, is numbers. There’s nothing in the game that hasn’t been broken down by the wonks and given mystical meaning.

I think balks have never been broken down by the wonks and given mystical meaning. But yes - anything that might have a bearing on how baseball games work and how they might turn out... might actually be fun to think about.

I have to admit, it’s pretty cool, and I’ve bought Bill James’ books and spent more time wandering around than is probably healthy.

I'm pretty impressed that he bought them, though he chooses his verbs carefully enough to suggest that maybe he didn't actually read them. And I have no doubt that HatGuy's exprience on was truly wandering, since he never goes there with a focused research goal in mind.

But what leaps out at me in baseball’s immutable numbers is that they are always changing. You want unfair? How about 1930, when the National League hit better than .300 and the Giants as a team hit .319? You don’t think that skewed the numbers?

It did skew the numbers. As a result, baseball took action and introduced a less lively baseball in 1931, hoping to bring the game back into a normal competitive balance and preserve the integrity of the numbers.

1920, 1931, 1968... and now in the early 2000s, baseball has always taken steps to retain the competitive balance between hitters and pitchers, no matter what the fans have thought. That's why McGwire's 62nd in 1998 was such a big deal - because it was actually comparable to Ruth and Maris. What other sport can consider a statistical season in 2009 (Pujols possibly hitting 62) somewhat statistically comparable to a season in 1927?

The great majority of fans understand that in their guts. They’re sports fans, and baseball is the sport they follow in the summer.

I wonder if this is the case - are there more or less "dedicated baseball fans" than just "average sports fans who watch baseball in summer". But even then: the great majority of the fans probably still want Manny and other steroid users punished. But they still want to come to games.

They’re used to the collective yawn that greets steroid abusers in the NFL. Their interest in numbers is confined to how their fantasy teams are performing, and if one of their guys hits 89 home runs, they’re not going to complain about it.

Disagree. Well, maybe the home fans won't complain about it, but you can bet the rest of baseball will. See: San Francisco Giants fans.

They’re at the park not to worship numbers or to watch perfect human beings play a perfect game. They’re there to have a beer and a brat and cheer for the home team and have fun.

And go home and punch nerds in the face. For HatGuy, apparently enjoyment of the historical tradition and numerical comparison aspect of baseball is mutually exclusive with eating and drinking. I think I can do both.

In their view, Manny had a slip-up. He got caught. He paid for it. Now he’s back, and ain’t that grand?

Sort of, maybe if you like the Dodgers.

They love Manny because he’s a character who does goofy things and has crazy hair and hits the ball like few others ever have. Guys like him are the reason we buy tickets.

Wild generalization.

The fans got over it a long time ago. It’s getting to be time for those of us in the press box to do the same.

It's never going to be time for those of us in the FJM press box to get over your ignorance.


Tonus said...

"We in the opinion business"

That's about the point where I started to hope that HatGuy would suffer a massive coronary and spend the rest of his life unable to do anything aside from lick a spoon and shit into a metal pan.

How can such a pretentious dickwad spend so much of his column sneering at statheads and insinuating that they're ruining the ability for anyone else to enjoy the game?

rich said...

But what leaps out at me in baseball’s immutable numbers is that they are always changing. You want unfair? How about 1930, when the National League hit better than .300 and the Giants as a team hit .319? You don’t think that skewed the numbers?

Dan-bob, nice analysis on how baseball has taken steps to keep the numbers relatively comparable.

However, even if baseball did nothing to try to normalize the numbers, they are subject to interpretation and context. Ya, the Giants hit .319 (but if the league average was .300, then this wouldn't be so extraordinary), but unless you give it context to today's numbers, then they're meaningless. HG seems to not like .319 because it seems too high for a team BA.

I don't think some people realize what numbers are. They don't tell a story , they're just the plot pieces that allow you to follow the story more accurately.

Think about all the numbers you see and how little they mean without the context. Amps in a vacuum cleaner, HP in a car, processor speeds, money, so on so forth. To point to a statistic and say the number isn't fair is pretty asinine.

As for steroids in baseball. I honestly don't care about what happened in the 1990's and early 2000's because it wasn't against the rules and so it can't be defined really as cheating any differently than spit balls, pin tar or greenies were before they were banned. Does it really matter who has a certain record? Ya, Bonds has the most HRs probably thanks to some nifty PEDs, but you again have to put it into context. He had more help getting there (training staffs, medical technology, stadium sizes, worse pitching staffs and PEDs), just because the numbers indicate he has the most HRs doesn't make him a better player than Aaron or Ruth and most quasi-intelligent people understand that. HG doesn't.

Tonus said...

I think that if they sought an edge via means that were illegal, it's cheating. The spitball and corked bats are pretty obvious there. Other stuff, like stealing signs for instance, is a bit more of a gray area because it's not explicitly against the rules, it's just one of those things that you're "expected" not to do. When ARod shouted "mine" to cause a Blue Jays player to drop a pop-fly, was he cheating?

Steroids and other PEDs are also a bit gray, except that since the early 90s they're illegal, so even if they're not explicitly outlawed by baseball you could say it's cheating. But before that, I don't know. Are cortisone shots illegal? High-tech rehab facilities? If your team has them and the other team doesn't, do you have an unfair advantage?

In any case, this is not the important point to me. The important point to me, is that if this type of behavior has been going on for decades, and apparently was pretty widespread, how can we invalidate one guy's records? Gaylord Perry admitted to throwing the spitball, but not only did baseball not modify his records, the BBWAA voted him into the Hall of Fame. I am pretty sure that the same guys who call Barry Bonds a cheater and a disgrace would call Gaylord Perry "cagey" and "a competitor."

But he cheated, too.

pnoles said...

Hooray for the trip down memory lane! Excellent job with the linkage, dan-bob!

(even if you are a creationist)

I bet HatGuy had a great trip to probably went there to look up who was leading the MLB in HR, but somehow became lost in seeing the percentage of bequeathed baserunners that Scott Baker has allowed to score.

Who am I kidding, Scott Baker doesn't play for the Yankees.....

Anonymous said...

This is just weird. Hatguy's entire column rests on the premise that the fans who are cheering Manny and the other roiders at the ballparks are somehow separate and distinct from bloggers and people on barstools(?). That premise seems untenable at best and, most likely, just plain old absurd. I really cant get my head around what he's trying to say here. Which is pretty much par for the course.

Also, stop referring to yourselves as FJM. I know it's the same initials, but c'mon.

Chris W said...

There are reasons not to be outraged about Manny (i.e. people like me who are pretty well inured against outrage by this point because of the like 11 years during which steroids have been an obvious issue).

Hat Guy missed them all. Good for you, shat guy.

Angelo said...

Dear fjm-
It's not up on yet, but Sports Guy's latest article in ESPN the Mag is shocking. As long as it's not some sort of publicity stunt. You must read it immediately.