Thursday, March 24, 2005

Stand up for old-fashioned values

Like---oh, I don't know---honesty and responsible reporting

Okay, right; I don't know how much of an American value responsible reporting is. Good point.

Nevertheless, as noted by fellow bloggers, this situation just stinks like an oil refinery town, and the Guardians of the Press Pass aren't doing much to illuminate things. For instance:

Well, today, I'll note that Ed Waldman gets his opportunity to play "Baghdad Bob" in the Baltimore Sun.

No, let me amend that: Baghad Bob's demeanor---impervious over-optimism in a face of defeat as ugly as Helen Thomas' mug---would have been preferable to the enourmous pity party Waldman's story heaps upon his poor readers:

The Orioles have done much to counter the competition from the Nationals, who in September were relocated to the nation's capital by Major League Baseball over the bitter objections of owner Peter Angelos.


The drop in Orioles ticket sales would seem to back up Angelos' claim that the presence of a team in Washington would hurt his franchise.


This team is so improved, and with the addition of Sosa, the [ticket] deficiency is far greater," the owner said yesterday. "I would expect
that right now we would have been 15 or 20 percent ahead of last year."

I've gotta poop REAL bad!

"We should be around 3 million," Angelos said. "That's where I think we were headed until they put that team* there."

That's MY blankie!

Dryer said he couldn't predict how many tickets the Orioles would have sold if they had signed Sosa but didn't face competition from the ationals."Wow. That's a tough question," he said. "We'd definitely be ahead of last year. How much more it's tough to gauge. It's very hard to measure how much
it has hurt us."

Bowtie Man keeps making faces at me!

Hell, the article isn't even internally consistent. The unending, dirging, tiresome theme of the article is that the Nats are siphoning off ticket sales from the O's, but it:

1) notes that the Nationals haven't even done ticket give-aways or promotions yet and just started putting single-game tickets on sale less than two weeks ago;
2) quotes a PR hack as claiming that there's just this palpable buzz about the O's now; and,
3) significantly, and as pointed out by every DC blogger or other sentient this side of Sri Lanka who cares, and as reinforced by a neat little chart AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE, Waldman's story mentions that O's attendance declined every year for over half-a-decade before last season---which is strange, considering the attendance went UP during the season when the rumors and subsequent reality of a DC baseball team took shape.

All of our heads are ready to explode, I know, but I thought I'd point out one last Ebola-infested line from the Waldman article:

The Orioles didn't raise ticket prices.

Angelos is truly a magnanimous guy, eh? Of course not. As long-time poster David Grabiner once put it:

The answer to this question is usually "none", regardless of X. Most commonly, X is something like "higher salaries" or "a smaller TV contract"; in these cases, "none" is correct. Baseball owners, like most business owners, are interested in maximizing profits or minimizing losses. Thus they set ticket prices with that goal in mind. Since having an additional fan attend the game does not have much effect on the cost of holding a game, this
means that prices are set to maximize revenues.

Angelos isn't looking out for the great fans of Baltimore (and I really do think that they're great; no sarcasm), as you imply, Waldman. Rather, he just lets his consultants set the ticket prices to maximize revenue in the best manner. And don't try to bootstrap the so-called "Nats' effect" into this conversation, either; ticket prices are set based on last year's numbers, obviously---and, last season, attendance went UP.

* Sounds an awful lot like Clinton's "that woman" quotation, no?

---Bravo to Capitol Punishment Chris, who was interviewed for Fantasy Info Central's Nats preview. Chris tells me that the interview was conducted awhile back, but his response have aged pretty well still. They seem intentionally fantasy-geared (for instance, he projects Jose Guillen's numbers by AVG/HR/RBI, something, knowing him, he wouldn't normally do), but there were quite a few interesting ones. I'll select one; okay, let's try Terrmel Sledge (of whom the writer mysteriously labeled "a bust"---something Bowden and definitely Robinson would ever dream of saying). Here's Chris:

CN: Sledge is getting to the point where he's getting overrated because he's underrated. If he played full time, he'd definitely put up some solid numbers. But, just because he doesn't have Major League experience, it doesn't mean he's young. This will be his age-28 season, so he's probably about as good as he's going to get.The other problem he's going to run into is that he's competing for playing time with several other players. Nick Johnson, Endy Chavez, Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel are all fighting for three slots in the lineup. No one's quite sure how that's going to play out. If I had to guess, I think that Terrmel would get a similar number of At Bats as last year, in some sort of rotation.While, as far as I know, he's not openly on
the trading block, Bowden seems willing to shop Sledge.

Sledge does strike me as one of those "so underrated that he's overrated" guys as well.

Look, I know some people criticize bloggers for referencing the work of other bloggers; I guess the inference is that bloggers intentionally try to pack together and create legitimacy through volume. Heck, some bloggers probably have the same criticism about their peers. But you know what? First, I am a complete outsider to blogging politics; I just do this 'cause it's fun. Second, I work fairly hard on my blog in my spare time, and I know there are other guys who work as hard and even much harder on theirs. And they do good work. So their good work deserves to be commended, I say. Chris represented the Nats' blogging community well, I think.

Your check is on its way, good man!

I'll just raise one objection, counselor. I did bring up the stats in the context of a fantasy article. But, in other things, I would continue to use average, HR and RBI. I've used them several times on my blog. (And even in my Meet The Nats series from my blog's infancy)

I think they're useful numbers when trying to assess a prediction of how a player will do and the types of skills he has. But that they're useless for identifying how a player DID. That is, if a player hits 15 HR, you don't know if that's good or bad because you don't know the context.

Saying that someone's a .300/30/100 hitter gives you a pretty good image of what kind of player that is. I guess I'm using the numbers in a more qualitative, instead of quantitative sense. It paints a picture in your mind of a classic number three hitter. That's what I was going for.

And good deconstruction of the PR Flak errr... independent journalist in the Sun!
Ah, that's an interesting point, Chris. I didn't really think of that possibility---especially shocking since just yesterday I got all indignant about "appreciation" vs. "evaluation" of the game.
And I guess I should define that last comment a little more. I do see what you're saying: You're not foisting AVG/HR/RBI as evaluative tools, but as essentially projectible imagery instead.

BTW, I think the neatest thing I've ever read by Bill James was the essay where he constructs the entire "life story" of fictional players' careers just based on simple stat lines. The most poignant is the one of the "momentary superstar" who could do it all---avg., power, doubles, steals. Then one year (his career) his at-bats stop, and subsequently his avg., doubles, and steals all go down, and then he's later reduced to pinch-hitting PT. It's obvious the guy injured his knee, lost his speed, and was no longer a superstar.

And James told the story all with simple counting stats.

So, yeah, I appreciate them too.
You nailed it 100% with the allusion to James.

If you read through his old abstracts, especially the player comment sections, it's filled with counting stats. He's not afraid to discuss how a player's an RBI man in the back, while he's developing Runs Created in the front. They're not mutually exlusive, depsite some people's attempts to make them so.

Some statheads believe that you could turn Endy into an RBI guy just by batting him cleanup. Nope. Not gonna happen. He'll have more RBI than usual, but he's not Albert Pujols. Or even Juan Gonzalez. The trick is uncovering the context of the numbers. When Joe Morgan talks about RBI men, he means guys with high slugging percentages. It's two ways of looking at the same issue.

There's a terrific essay that James wrote in the coffee table book to Ken Burns baseball series. And it's all about how the numbers in baseball paint pictures, as opposed to numbers like the Dow Jones. No one knows what the hell it means when they say it's up a point and a half. But, if you tell someone that player X had 130 RBi, you know damn well what kind of player he is.
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