Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Strawman! Get yer strawman!

Alternate sophomoric title: Poopy Dejan

I realize that this isn't within our bailiwick at Nats bloggers, but I'm going to invoke a little long-arm jurisdiction, so to speak, and link to a chat Pirates' beat writer Dejan Kovacevic conducted today at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website. (Full disclosure: If found it via Baseball Primer.)

Now, Dejan probably doesn't stop by Nationals Inquirer on a regular basis, but if he does . . . Hey, Dejan! Special delivery! You can kindly go to hell!

In a strangely ironic set-up, Kovacevic was just finishing with a wiping away of a previously-held erroneous belief that females don't read his "Q&A" sessions when he returned to a carry-over topic on which he requested some audience participation: namely, why on earth are many Pirates so enamored of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane? In reply to one poster, Kovacevic reported his findings:



I am increasingly convinced that the Beane love affair is more about numbers than anything else. As I wrote above in the Q&A, I am not big
on emphasizing statistics above all else. Seems to me there is an entire segment of the baseball-loving community that feels completely comfortable analyzing the game from a cubicle rather than getting out to the stands and watching it. I find such practice to be preposterous. The game is played by humans, not by matrix dots on your PS2 screen.


Of course, Kovacevic wasn't speaking to Nats' fans; 'course, let's be completely honest---he wasn't limiting his purported observations to the behavior of Pirates' fans, either. As one Primer poster commented, Kovacevic's remarks could just as easily been the product of Richard Griffin in Toronto; I'll add Bill Conlin in Philly or, well, name any of other scores of baseball writers and columnists who could and do say basically the same thing.

Just for fun, let's deconstruct the statement:

1) I am increasingly convinced that the Beane love affair

Hey, let's call a pig a pig, okay? He's talking about "Moneyball," which is now euphemism for "stathead," which is a synonym (not just a kinder version of) for "stat dork."

2) is more about numbers than anything else.

What in the evaluation of baseball isn't about numbers? Everything in the game is recorded---including, you know, wins and losses.

And what is this about "than anything else"? How about a little nuance, a little subtletly, a little honesty?

People, including---I dare say---statheads, appreciate baseball for the evocative moments the sport credits to our very souls: visually, the sight of a perfectly-timed 6-4-3 double-play, with the second baseman leaping over a charging, sliding runner at the very last second; audibly, the ineffable crack of the bat or merely the constant hum and murmur of ten thousand conversations taking place simultaneously; emotionally, the jolt a pitched ball into the catcher's mitt provides, launching us back into the hyper-competitive environment of fourth grade recess, when a given day's victor was a star.

Of course, people also evaluate the effectiveness of players and teams based on stats. And when I say "people," I mean "everyone." We just choose different stats, differently measures. I say mine are better than yours, Dejan, whatever they are. Live with it. Disagree. Who cares?

3) As I wrote above in the Q&A, I am not big on emphasizing statistics above all else.

Sure you are, you tool. You just like different stats and different measures. Be honest.

4) Seems to me there is an entire segment of the baseball-loving community that feels completely comfortable analyzing the game from a cubicle

Veiled "computer geek" reference. What's next? "Dungeons & Dragons"?

5) rather than getting out to the stands and watching it.

Now, this one is funny. I know Kovacevic isn't at all contemplating Nats' fans in this chat (obviously), but he's going beyond Pirates' fans; he's talking about so-called "Moneyball" groupies, of which every team is bound to have a handful or two. Nats' fans are included in that list, so let me offer an observation: There are, what, at least a dozen Nats' blogs that are reside in cyberspace? (There are bound to be more than I have listed on the side; in fact, I know there are, but I'm lazy sometimes.) How many of them express a bent toward statistical analysis/analytical performance evaluation? One-half? At least. Two-thirds, three-quarters? Maybe so. Okay, watch this: These guys all begged, pleaded, pined, lusted for a team in DC. Why?

SO THEY COULD GET IN THE STANDS AND WATCH BASEBALL.

6) I find such practice to be preposterous.

More preposterous than erecting neat little strawmen?

7) The game is played by humans, not by matrix dots on your PS2 screen.

Very true, Dejan, very true. For instance, on my PS2 screen, Cristian Guzman is hitting about .300/.410/.490, whereas Brad Wilkerson is hitting about .180/.230/.300. I think we know which one is real.

Anyway, I've probably completely ripped poor Dejan's chat quote out of its context, and beyond that, it's more than a little odd for me to take a sensitive posture after last night's post, I suppose. Nevertheless, I cannot express the annoyance that fills my defiled, Texas Instruments-laden soul when I hear someone "important" imply or outright state, by implication of course, that I do not appreciate the game of baseball properly because I know what "VORP" stands for.

Is it so hard to realize that we all appreciate The Grand Game, but we may evaluate it differently?

Before you jump in, let me clarify: Sure, I know that Kovacevic didn't actually bring up the word "appreciate," but let's cut to the chase---he's stating that there's a whole legion of guys masquerading as baseball fans who get off on their need to calculate things by picking apart box scores on the 'net. He's being an elitist, misrepresenting buffoon; he's just doing it sort of nicely. Well, that or he's really carrying the whole "Hey, Billy Beane drafted some guy sight-unseen" pretty darned far. In that sense, he's also acting like a buffoon. Maybe Dejan's a versatile buffoon.

Anyway, as to his substantive point, I'd say Pirates' fans have a "love affair" with Beane because Beane's teams have been quite successful for awhile---remarkably so, given their Pirates-like payrolls. So Dejan prefers the Marlins. Super. Sure beats whatever the P-men are doing right now.

Now stuff it, you smarmy little Thought Cop.

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