Normally, I try to avoid being baited by a hapless demagogue like Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, but this waste of trees/bandwidth was too much to abide.
You see, Griffin, in a column delightfully free of facts, is wringing hands over how “sabermetricians” are forcing traditional scouts to the margins of the industry or, in some instances, taking their jobs altogether. And Griffin’s bang-spoon-on-highchair tone suggests statheads are also stealing the wives of scouts and rounding up “good baseball men” everywhere in internment camps.
Unfortunately, this sentiment is somewhat common these days. Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi cut back on his scouting staff after taking over for Gord Ash, and Oakland GM Billy Beane–at least according to Moneyball author Michael Lewis and his license to dramatize–likes junk food, working out, screaming at Grady Fuson and ignoring his scouting staff. Then comes Theo Epstein in Boston and his subsequent hiring of Bill James. Ever since, Griffin and his ilk have been vociferously defending scouts and G.B.M. (Good Baseball Men) everywhere from a cabal of imaginary enemies. That is to say, the animus that Griffin is so damned sure stathead types have for scouts and other purveyors of traditional methods isn’t really there. And it doesn’t need to be.
Esteban Loaiza’s a fine candidate for the Cy Young Award this year…he’s the right height, you see. He’s 6’4″, as all the cool kids are these days, as well as the last two winners of the AL Cy Young Award. On the other hand, he was born late in the year, and there hasn’t been a late-born winner since Pedro Martinez in 2000. That’s pretty dumb, huh? Who cares how tall Esteban Loaiza is, or what color his eyes are? You’ve already spotted where I’m heading with this, so I’ll give it up: speculation around the Cy Young beyond who should win it is counter-productive. Like the MVP, the Cy Young speculation centers around a bunch of indicators of pitcher ability that every year reinforce the importance of those statistics. If everyone runs an article saying Tim Hudson can’t win because he doesn’t have the win total, it makes it less likely Hudson’s going to get the award. Even if the effect seems small–voters making a choice between equally-qualified second-place candidates on their ballot, for instance–the knowledge that their vote might help a winner over the top can lead them to go with the bandwagon. And in turn, this leads to speculation on which candidates for each award have the needed momentum. They in turn get mentioned early and often on sports pages. It’s unfortunate that baseball coverage on the end-of-season awards has been reduced to the level of political coverage.
So there I was, sitting at Victory Field, ready for the last three-hour baseball talk-fest of the season, ready with facts, opinions, and data at my fingertips. I expected calls and debates and excitement for one of the best “pennant chases” of recent memory. And Larry Bird had to go and screw the whole thing up. You see, I live in a state where basketball is king and one legend pink-slipping another is big, big, big news. Baseball was pushed aside and for about 40 minutes, and I had to talk hoops. It was an ugly scene. Tonight, let’s stick to baseball.
Oh, and how cool is it that Julio Franco finally admitted his age?
Brendan Donnelly has managed to put together one of the most auspicious beginnings to a career in recent memory. Dusty Baker sure loves his veterans. And Brandon Inge is having the month of his life for the Tigers. All this and much more news from Anaheim, Chicago, and Detroit in your Thursday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.