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January 11, 2008

Prospectus Matchups

Here's a Thought: Stop Thinking

by Jim Baker

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I've decided to give up. Thinking, that is. Especially when it comes to baseball. I've given it a lot of a thought--and I promise you, it's the last I will generate in this direction once I commence the full thinking stoppage--and have decided it's much easier to live without thinking things through. From now on, I'm going to follow the Five Principles of Thought-Free Living:

  1. Go on gut reaction.
  2. Stick with initial gut reaction regardless of later input.
  3. Accept numbers at face value.
  4. Assume, assume, assume.
  5. Question nothing that is written or said.

Why am I doing this? For one thing, I realize that life was much simpler before I began worrying about the ramifications of everything. When I was a kid, if a guy hit .300, I thought he was great. I was a happy child. I had my Baseball Encyclopedia and my weekly stat updates in the newspaper and all was good with the world because I could look through those documents and immediately tell who was good and who wasn't based on their batting averages or how many games they won. Then, one day, I read in the paper where a writer said that Matty Alou was hitting "an empty .300." What could that possibly mean? I thought to myself, that .300 is .300, right? It vexed me. Whoever that writer was, he had shaken me to my core. It stayed with me, gnawing at the back of my brain. "Is it possible that everything is not as it appears, that there are ghosts in this machine we call baseball?" I asked myself one day in junior high school--although not in those exact words.

Then the whole sabermetric thing came along and that was the complete end of my complacency. Since then, nothing has been the same. Now I question every statistic I read. Unemployment figures, job growth figures, casualty counts from conflicts abroad, manufacturing production numbers, election returns, poll numbers, box office receipts of Hollywood films; it doesn't matter, their veracity is forever in doubt in my mind. And where does it get me? A head full of jumbled numbers and questions, that's where. Does it make me happy? Do I like living this way?

No, I long for the halcyon days of youth when everything was just as it appeared and all input was taken at face value. Life was a sunshiny proposition then, and there's no reason it can't be again. That is why I have developed those Five Principles of Thought-Free Living and why you should also seriously think about incorporating them into your lifestyle as well. Let's review them in fuller detail:

  1. Go on gut reaction: The first thing that pops into your head is, in all likelihood, the right appraisal. If a guy looks good, he is good. If your first exposure to a player is when he's on some sort of hot streak, then that should help you form a permanent impression of him. And vice versa, of course.

  2. Stick with initial gut reaction regardless of later input: Perhaps even worse than thinking is rethinking. You already thought about this once, so why are you wasting time doing it all over again? Don't you trust yourself? Are you weak? Show some spine and faith in yourself and stand by what you thought in the first place.

  3. Accept numbers at face value: Just think, 30/100/.300, or 20 wins: these are all good numbers. Why have you spent so much of my life looking past them? They should be good enough on their own. You need to free your mind of the urge to peel back the layers that allegedly hide underneath.

  4. Assume, assume, assume: Assumptions should be the cornerstone of my outlook on baseball and life in general. The further one moves away from assumptions, the more complicated life gets, and the more complicated life gets, the less fun it is. The short story: assumptions equal more fun.

  5. Question nothing that is written or said: Life was such a simpler proposition when you took the professionals at their word. If an announcer said it, it was so. If a beat writer wrote it, it was The Word. After all, these men see more games than you do. They talk to the players and managers. They know stuff. Who are you to wonder if maybe they were a little off-base about something? Everybody gets a fact or two wrong now and again, but when they make pronouncements about trends and the reasons for why things are the way they are, surely those have to be unassailable, right?

Here's the nub of the problem: where has all this thinking gotten me? I'll tell you where: very much out of step with the people who really matter. The real catalyst for this reversion to my Age of Pre-Thought was the release of the BBWAA Hall of Fame voting results this past Tuesday. When only one in four voters supported the admittance of Tim Raines, I realized that I--who had backed his candidacy to the utmost--might be the one who needs to reexamine my position. If I'm in league with the minority and at odds with the bulk of the most learned baseball minds in the country, then perhaps it is I who needs to reexamine my very existence. Clearly, I'm thinking way too much and must put a stop to it. I invite you to do the same.

Give it some thought.

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