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October 15, 2004

From The Mailbag

Feedback on the Feedback

by Baseball Prospectus

Whither Youppi: The Expo-tortion Racket Is More Difficult Than It Looks
Neil deMause's math today breaking down the DC ballpark deal is a bit slanted. He puts $2.5 million of the annual rental fee in the 'Public cost' column because the city is giving up the stadium naming rights. This doesn't jibe--if there is no stadium, there are no naming rights. It's an asset that currently doesn't exist. This $2.5MM isn't costing the public, it's costing the corporation that buys the rights. This $2.5MM cannot be subtracted from the public side of the ledger.

As a longtime D.C.-area resident, I seriously doubt deMause's breakdown of the fan base. deMause claims that D.C. is the 'region's entertainment hub' and 50% of the dollars spent at the D.C. ballpark would otherwise be spent in D.C. Very doubtful. Ask a Virginian who holds Redskins season tickets how often they otherwise spend money in Prince Georges County. This answer is never. Because of the uniqueness of D.C.'s location, the 'bowling alley effect' in this case is negligible--probably less than 5%. Money spent by VA/MD/WV surburbanites at the D.C. ballpark is truly money that would not go to D.C.

deMause has done the public a terrific service by exposing the fallacies of bad deals like the New York Jet Manhattan convention center. But he needs to go back and understand D.C. better before criticizing Mayor Williams on this one.

--J.G.

On the naming-rights issue, this is somewhat of a semantic argument. Let's say that, in appreciation for all his good works as baseball commissioner, I decide to buy a house and let Bud Selig live in it rent-free. Then let's say it turns out there's a treasure chest full of gold in the attic, and I tell Bud, "Hey, you're a good guy, you went from owning two baseball teams to zero in the course of a week, you look like you could use some cheering up--go ahead, keep the gold." Does that count as an additional cost to me, on top of the rent I'm forgoing? If not, and if you ever find a winning lottery ticket, can I have it?

As for the "bowling alley effect" (a much better name than "substitution effect," I agree), I used 50% because it was a good bit lower than what I was finding for other cities that don't have a pair of neighboring states competing for entertainment dollars. Five percent seems unbelievably low to me; are you telling me that of all the baseball fans in D.C. and the surrounding burbs, only 5% spend their money at Wizards games, or D.C. United games, or on a miser wat dinner at Fasika's? But even if you crank the bowling-alley effect all the way down to, say, 20%, that's at most another $3 million a year shifted from the "D.C." column to the "neighboring states" column. D.C. taxpayers would still be on the hook for about two-thirds of the stadium cost, which is a lot of dough no matter how you slice it.

--Neil deMause

Rational Exuberance: The Over 30 Crowd

You will note the distribution over time:

1973-78: Five in six years. OK, we can discount that some due to the paucity of pre-1972 data. Note that three are in 1973, when the DH was introduced.

1979-92: Thirteen in 14 years, two of which were in the high-offense 1987 season.

1993-2004: Thirty in 11 years.

Logical inference? Well, could just be a small sample size. But it could be either that (1) physical fitness and simlar issues have created greater opportunity for late-career advancement in the post-1993 environment, or (2) players can be affected unequally by an upswing in offense, leading some guys to blossom more than others (consistent with the 1973 & 1987 results).

--Dan McLaughlin

Excellent point on the distribution of the curve, Dan, and one I could have explored in more depth. I think all three arguments of small sample size, physical fitness leading to late-career production and higher offensive era could be feasible (though of course, on a basic level, the numbers used in the article do reflect the basic of the better offensive era, even if the more subtle issue of a higher base leading to wider swings isn't accounted for).

One thing I keep coming back to, though, is that even with the rate of about three a year that we've seen the last decade, it's still fair to say that what Mark Loretta and Melvin Mora have done is pretty rare. Further, I find the fact that neither of them has ridden a massive Brady Anderson-like home run spike, but rather across the board gains in every offensive facet, a really interesting occurrence. If the sample were bigger, I'd want to break this down and see how players fitting the profile of Loretta/Mora compare to the Anderson group, after the spike year in question.

--Jonah Keri

Teams: A Critical Guide - In Which Darin Erstad Is Queried

'Though pundits throughout the land have dismissed Boston's chances of winning the American League East...'

(most unabashedly of course by the resident YES man...)

'The epitaph for this Sox team will be: much was expected, little was delivered, and then like leaves they scattered to the winds.'

'At this writing the Crimson Hosiery are the AL Wild Card. They will soon yield that position to a team from the AL West, and will have the devil's own time getting it back.'

--Patrick Sullivan

You know, I was wondering if someone would call me on that, and I'm glad you did. The possibility of contradicting myself is something I think about often. As a columnist who has to formulate a new worldview every couple of days or so, you sometimes tend to live in the moment. You comment on what is happening now, and the danger in that is you can overemphasize the trend du jour. A player goes 0-for-15 and he's ready for retirement. A team loses five in a row and it's crashing.

I think that generally I have been pretty good at stepping outside of the constraints of deadlines to find the big picture, but in this case the Red Sox tossed me a change-up, finding themselves at the exact moment the Yankees faltered. I had anticipated the Yankees' struggles, but wasn't sanguine on the possibilities of the Red Sox putting themselves back together.

Or, to put it another way, just before he died, John Lennon began praising Paul McCartney's music after years of criticizing it. Asked why, Lennon said, "I changed me mind!"

--Steve Goldman

Infield Hits

Seeing David Ortiz leg out an infield hit last night got me thinking about how many Big Papi had in 2004. I just spent 20 minutes searching the nettrying to find out how many infield hits David had in 2004 and I couldn't find it. Do you know how many he had or where I can find this info?

--K.F.

Surprisingly, Ortiz has 10. Ichiro Suzuki led the league with 60, but he had so many singles in general that he was only 32nd in the league in the percentage of singles which were infield hits. Here's the top and bottom 20 in that metric, min 100 PA.


PLAYER             YEAR   SINGLES  INF_HIT  INF_HIT_PERC
Alfredo Amezaga    2004     11        6        .545
Kerry Robinson     2004     23       10        .435
Alex Sanchez       2004     93       37        .398
DeWayne Wise       2004     18        7        .389
Nook Logan         2004     30       11        .367
Justin Leone       2004     11        4        .364
Lew Ford           2004    120       43        .358
Rocco Baldelli     2004     99       34        .343
Miguel Olivo       2004     38       13        .342
Nick Punto         2004     21        7        .333
Jeff DaVanon       2004     57       18        .316
Dave Ross          2004     19        6        .316
Ryan Freel         2004    108       34        .315
Adam Everett       2004     80       25        .313
Doug Devore        2004     16        5        .313
Jason Bay          2004     62       19        .306
Yorvit Torrealba   2004     23        7        .304
Kenny Lofton       2004     56       17        .304
Luis Castillo      2004    143       43        .301
Aaron Rowand       2004     87       26        .299
......
Mark Sweeney       2004     24        1        .042
Orlando Palmeiro   2004     24        1        .042
Mike Lamb          2004     49        2        .041
Johnny Estrada     2004    100        4        .040
Ricky Ledee        2004     25        1        .040
Todd Pratt         2004     25        1        .040
Tino Martinez      2004     76        3        .039
Bobby Hill         2004     51        2        .039
Bucky Jacobsen     2004     26        1        .039
Jason Phillips     2004     54        2        .037
Yadier Molina      2004     28        1        .036
B.J. Surhoff       2004     85        3        .035
Javier Valentin    2004     30        1        .033
Trot Nixon         2004     31        1        .032
Dave Berg          2004     32        1        .031
Robert Fick        2004     32        1        .031
J.T. Snow          2004     68        2        .029
Brent Mayne        2004     35        1        .029
Toby Hall          2004     74        2        .027
Jeromy Burnitz     2004     82        2        .024

--James Click

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