Thursday, September 17, 2015

In Which Fire Jay Mariotti Hops into the DeLorean, in More Ways than One

Since reading this little nugget by Murray Chass, I've had to check my calendar several times.

It's September 17th, 2015.


Moneyball was published exactly 12 years and three months ago.  Fire Joe Morgan has been gone for almost seven years.

Once again, the year is 2015.

Ready for this headline?


This is not a "breaking news" item, Murray. This is a thing that has slowly happened as people gradually realized that thinking about stuff is good.

“Keeping Score” column in The New York Times last week caught my attention with this start to a sentence: “While batting average may no longer hold much sway…”

It is 2015 and you should not be batting an eyelash at that opening to a sentence. 2015. Eyelash-batting expectation = zero.  Your eyelash-batting average is too high.

Written by Benjamin Hoffman, the piece was about Yoenis Cespedes, the New York Mets’ surprising sensation, and his chances of winning the National League most valuable player award.

Curious about that “batting average” phrase, I called Hoffman Tuesday night and asked him about it.

I don’t know Hoffman, never met him, never had spoken with him. However, simply by taking my call, he showed a lot more class than his superiors in the Times sports department.

Them's fightin' words, Murray. It sounds like you may have an #agenda.

“I think there’s been a pretty widespread move to emphasize other statistics, with organizations, even with fans,” Hoffman said.

And with Metrics Monsters. Don’t forget them. 

Metrics Monsters!  Monsters who promote metrics!  This is a mutually exclusive group from "organizations" who completely ignore them and fans who have never ever contributed anything to baseball research.

They concoct new metrics – I don’t like even the sound of that word 

Murray, are you reading this particular Fire Jay Mariotti article?  If so....

Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics Metrics

and in their arrogant way expect everyone to accept them as the Ten Commandments of baseball.

Still 2015.

You know, Thou shalt use WAR to vote for MVP and the Hall of Fame.

First of all, I think that anyone who blindly ranks players by WAR to vote for something like the MVP is a moron.  Second of all, if you do not even consider WAR to vote for MVP, you are an even bigger moron. And third of all, IT'S THE FUCKING YEAR 2015. STOP WITH THIS SHIT.

What has taken the place of batting average? “People have gone all over the place with it,” Hoffman said, “with some emphasizing on-base, slugging, adjusted figures that account for different parks and eras.”

I cannot tell you what magical letters denote those adjusted figures. I don’t want to know what they are. They are meaningless to me.

"Abbreviations confuse me.  I don't want to learn things. I don't understand things I don't already know, so those things must be meaningless." Classic Chass.

Baseball has been played for more than 100 years in parks of many different sizes. My parents were great baseball fans. They never gave a second’s thought to the difference between home run distances at Forbes Field and Wrigley Field. No matter where Ralph Kiner hit a home run; it was a home run, and they didn’t care how he compared with Johnny Mize or Hank Sauer.

"Home runs are home runs!  My parents, who are somehow older than me, didn't care about park factors. Neither should you!"

When Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams played as contemporaries, the Yankees and the Red Sox briefly considered swapping them because Fenway Park and its Green Monster would have benefitted the right-hand hitting DiMaggio while Yankee Stadium with its short right field porch would have been great for Williams.

The players, however, were fan favorites and entrenched where they were, and the teams never made the trade. It didn’t matter. DiMaggio and Williams were two of the greatest players in baseball history, and their playing location didn’t detract from their careers or the fans’ appreciation of them.

For crying out loud, THAT'S what you think of park factors? Listen, DiMaggio and Williams were baseball superhumans.  They were going to be awesome at baseball regardless of which major league park they played in.  Now, if one of the major league parks had a surface made of quicksand with swarms of locusts so thick that you couldn't see the outfield from the batters box, zombies, wet paint, and speedbumps, then MAYBE Ted Williams would've been more like Wily Mo Pena.

Also: The only baseball park with park factors that affect "fans' appreciation" is Tropicana Field.

Meanwhile, if batting average has lost its sway, you can’t tell from the daily statistics, whether they’re in newspapers, on websites or on lists of league leaders in all MLB press boxes.

Well yeah, it's not like they're just going to stop publishing it overnight. It's not like batting average is meaningless. People understand it. It still means something.  This does not mean that it is the best thing to use to evaluate a baseball player.

Batting averages appear in every box score, they are the first category listed in NL and AL leaders, team batting averages are the first column in team statistics and in listings of individual statistics, batting average is listed ahead of on-base and slugging percentages and OPS, which combines on-base and slugging. If and when newspapers run league leaders, batting average leaders are the first listed.

In the NBA, "minutes" appears first in every box score.

Why, then, is batting average so prevalent?

“I may not believe there is much predictive nature in r.b.i.,” Hoffman said, “but I still look at it.”

"r.b.i."? But I thought you were talking about.....huh.

The supposed diminished significance of batting average is reminiscent of something I “learned” a couple of years ago when I was told and then read that wins for pitchers no longer mattered and never really did matter.

The Metrics Monsters and their allies decided that too many variables and factors entered into pitching’ decisions, and it therefore made no sense to credit a pitcher with a win just because he started a game, lasted at least five innings and his team won the game.

That's not even the correct criteria for a pitcher win.

Just think. All those years we talked about 20-game winners, and now we had to discard all of that information and those records. It was bad enough when an MLB committee in 1992 defined or redefined what a no-hitter was. I didn’t agree with the committee’s decisions, and I don’t agree with all of this WAR and VORP business, though as a writer friend pointed out the other day we don’t hear much about VORP these days.

"I have no idea what those magical letters mean, nor do I want to, but I'm damn sure I don't agree with them!"

When the Times created the Keeping Score column, I was a baseball columnist for the paper and I told the sports editor I thought it was a bad idea. It was mostly used to open the paper’s sports pages to statistical nonsense in which most readers had no interest.

Yeah, readers are far more interested in things written by old, out-of-touch people who say stuff like "Heavens to Murgatroyd" and reference current pop-culture icons such as Jimmy Durante, Oliver Hardy, and Stan Laurel.  You wrote that column in 2006 for the New York Times. Two of those people died in the 60's. One died in 1980.  "Heavens to Murgatroyd". But that stuff isn't "nonsense" to readers. Statistics with weird abbreviations are.

The sports editor didn’t heed my warning and look at the Times sports section now. Soccer has become the sport of the Times. Baseball has become a minor league sport.

Incidentally, the "Baseball" section appears above the "soccer" section on their website.  And we're back on #agenda

It has been part of a desperate effort to attract new readers and new advertisers for the paper and its web site. I don’t know if it has succeeded, but it has ruined the sports section for those of us who have been long-time readers.

So, you openly admit that you have no idea whether this new effort was successful. But you are sure that it was desperate, ruined everything, and is generally responsible for world hunger and epidemics. Got it.

The New York Daily News is suffering the same plight. On Wednesday, after the owner had failed in his effort to sell the paper, it dismissed about a third of the sports staff, including the sports editor, Teri Thompson, and the long-time baseball writer, Bill Madden, who is a fellow winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink award from the Baseball Writers Association.

DAMN YOU VORP!!!! VORP took'r jeerrrrbssss!

At the time, the Times’ move reminded me of the Florida Marlins’ slashing their payroll after they won the 1997 World Series. The Times, like the Marlins, was slashing payroll, offering attractive buyouts to induce its highest-paid employees to leave. Just as the Marlins traded away its best players to shed their salaries, the Times willingly let many of its best and most experienced people leave to reduce its payroll.

All of this because Batting Average is joining Pitching Wins in baseball's attic.  I am not sure if you have any clue what the fuck you're talking about anymore, if you ever did.

Contributing to my decision to take the buyout and leave was a series of lies told to me by the then sports editor, Tom Jolly.

He subsequently was moved to the news side as a night editor. Times people said it was a delayed punishment of his direction a few years earlier of the Times’ aggressive coverage of the Duke University lacrosse scandal, in which three players were accused of sexually assaulting a stripper who had performed at a team party.

The case turned into a fiasco, and the players were subsequently cleared when police determined that the woman had lied.

My, that seems like Mr. Jolly may have wound up regretting his actions a little bit!  I wonder why you are pointing this out?

Jolly, incidentally, was the sports editor who started the “Keeping Score” column.

Oh. #agenda.

So new baseball statistics are bad because the guy who wanted to bring them to the New York Times  may have made some mistakes while covering the Duke lacrosse scandal. Got it.

September 17th.