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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Jason Epstein: Political and news journalists weigh in on the national pastime

Charles Krauthammer! Chuck Todd! Rick Klein! Adam Housley!...The only thing missing is an unknowing Mika Brzezinski glint glance!

Krauthammer: To my mind, no question: Miguel Cabrera is the MVP. Anybody who does something major — mindbogglingly difficult — that hasn’t been done since 1967 is automatically MVP — I don’t care if his team finishes behind the Astros or if some godlike rookie is (temporarily) denied the honor. The Trouter will win Rookie of the Year this year, and MVPs in many years to come. It has to go to Cabrera.

Todd: The Triple Crown has never been done in my lifetime. So I’d pick that historic accomplishment for my MVP vote. As for the other issue, let’s create a hitter-only award . . . then we don’t have this debate. The MVP should be open for any player. . . . I like the Cy Young, so let’s create the Babe Ruth or the Hank Aaron or whatever for the best offensive player in baseball.

...Epstein: From your vantage point, who understands statistical analysis better: journalists who work the politics beat or those who cover baseball?

Klein: I actually think baseball beat writers have a better grasp on statistics than journalists who cover politics — present company excluded, of course. Maybe it’s because baseball fans/writers have an intuitive sense of numbers that many political junkies don’t; I learned math from batting averages, not the Electoral College. Politics is also inherently harder to quantify, since the only real “games” are held in elections, and it’s hard to sort out the good polls from the bad. The best I can say for both groups of writers is that we’re getting better — and I think we can actually thank Nate Silver for helping us all out.

Hemingway: Well, my vantage point includes an education in economics, so I think neither group does terribly well. My worst newsroom experiences have been overhearing colleagues attempt to analyze numerical changes over time. But obviously baseball journalists do much better than those who cover politics.

Pretty much every new sports reporter of the last 15 years has had to dive pretty deeply into the sabermetric movement. Whether you agree with it as a tool of evaluation or not (and I don’t), if you don’t understand VORP [value over replacement player], or WAR [wins above replacement], or why BABIP [batting average on balls in play] matters, you’re not going to go far.

Repoz Posted: October 09, 2012 at 09:25 AM | 49 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Chris Needham Posted: October 09, 2012 at 09:40 AM (#4260271)
ENOUGH OF THESE ####### ARTICLES ABOUT POLITICO TYPES AND WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT THE NATS. ENOUGH!!!!

ahhh.... much better
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 10:03 AM (#4260291)
No votes for Sammy Sooser or David Orteez?
   3. salvomania Posted: October 09, 2012 at 10:07 AM (#4260294)
so let’s create the Babe Ruth or the Hank Aaron or whatever for the best offensive player in baseball.


If anyone knows this guy's email, please send him this link to the Major League Baseball web site and its list of winners of the Hank Aaron Award, "awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in both the American League and National League."

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/awards/mlb_awards_content.jsp?content=hank_aaron_history
   4. Depressoteric Posted: October 09, 2012 at 10:13 AM (#4260300)
Fun little roundtable, and a nice group of 'gets' assembled for it by our own JE.
   5. Depressoteric Posted: October 09, 2012 at 10:23 AM (#4260317)
Reading the entire thing now, wow was ABC's Rick Klein ever prescient about the Infield Fly Rule.

Again, great job with this, JE.
   6. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: October 09, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4260335)
Wonder who'll be the first sleazy politician who has never gone to a Nats game before that we'll see mugging for face time in the Lexus Club or a private suite tomorrow.
   7. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 10:44 AM (#4260347)
Wonder who'll be the first sleazy politician who has never gone to a Nats game before that we'll see mugging for face time in the Lexus Club or a private suite tomorrow.


Pelosi
   8. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 10:45 AM (#4260350)
Pretty impressive group of contacts, Jason. Good work.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4260356)

Wonder who'll be the first sleazy politician who has never gone to a Nats game before that we'll see mugging for face time in the Lexus Club or a private suite tomorrow.


If its a Yanks/Nats World Series, we can expect to see lifelong Yankees fan Hillary Clinton there.
   10. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4260402)
Krauthammer: To my mind, no question: Miguel Cabrera is the MVP. Anybody who does something major — mindbogglingly difficult — that hasn’t been done since 1967 is automatically MVP


That might win the Most Krauthammer Player award, but that is not the MVP award.

What an incredibly silly line of thinking.

— I don’t care if his team finishes behind the Astros or if some godlike rookie is (temporarily) denied the honor. The Trouter will win Rookie of the Year this year, and MVPs in many years to come. It has to go to Cabrera.


Most likely he won't do that, but even if he does he would still have lost one that he deserved.

Todd: The Triple Crown has never been done in my lifetime. So I’d pick that historic accomplishment for my MVP vote. As for the other issue, let’s create a hitter-only award . . . then we don’t have this debate. The MVP should be open for any player. . . . I like the Cy Young, so let’s create the Babe Ruth or the Hank Aaron or whatever for the best offensive player in baseball.


I haven't RTFA so I presume his next sentence was "Nah, I'm just kidding."

   11. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: October 09, 2012 at 11:23 AM (#4260407)
Pelosi

Oh please, dear God, anyone but the Joker.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 11:48 AM (#4260425)
Krauthammer: To my mind, no question: Miguel Cabrera is the MVP. Anybody who does something major — mindbogglingly difficult — that hasn’t been done since 1967 is automatically MVP


Its funny that we are the ones that get accused of being slaves to stats.
   13. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 12:12 PM (#4260452)
Its funny that we are the ones that get accused of being slaves to stats.


Unfortunately, the views expressed by several people here - that they would be "ok" with Cabrera winning the MVP because he won the Triple Crown - are not far off from Krauthammer's view.
   14. Bob Tufts Posted: October 09, 2012 at 12:15 PM (#4260457)
Thanks JE.

I'd like to know how many members of Congress have season tickets - and how they and DC City Council members were treated during the process of planning, funding and building the stadium.

"Feeding the Feds" time for Seth?
   15. Bug Selig Posted: October 09, 2012 at 12:21 PM (#4260467)
Its funny that we are the ones that get accused of being slaves to stats.


But that's THREE stats.
   16. KT's Pot Arb Posted: October 09, 2012 at 12:23 PM (#4260472)
I'd like to know how many members of Congress have season tickets - and how they and DC City Council members were treated during the process of planning, funding and building the stadium.


I think we both can intuit fairly accurate answers to those questions, can't we?

And if thie participants inthe roundtable represent what passes for political intelligence nowadays, it well explains how we ended with these two candidates.
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: October 09, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4260481)
I'd like to know how many members of Congress have season tickets - and how they and DC City Council members were treated during the process of planning, funding and building the stadium.

The DC City Council was given a certain number of season tickets (can't remember how many), but I'm pretty sure that no season tickets were given to individual members of Congress.
   18. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2012 at 12:31 PM (#4260486)
Unfortunately, the views expressed by several people here - that they would be "ok" with Cabrera winning the MVP because he won the Triple Crown - are not far off from Krauthammer's view.


Yes, "I'd personally vote for Trout" is a damn-near perfect match for Cabrera should automatically be MVP." It's like I'm looking in a rhetorical mirror.



   19. PreservedFish Posted: October 09, 2012 at 12:39 PM (#4260492)
So we know that the Hank Aaron award exists, but we also know that nobody cares about it at all. My question is this: suppose the Hank Aaron award gets promoted heavily and all of a sudden it's considered a fairly prestigious award. How quickly does the MVP devolve into "the best story" award?
   20. Bob Tufts Posted: October 09, 2012 at 12:50 PM (#4260505)
The DC City Council was given a certain number of season tickets (can't remember how many), but I'm pretty sure that no season tickets were given to individual members of Congress.


I've heard tales that members and talking heads were taken on tours when they bought tickets and specifically asked to have a better location than their peers and got upset if not shown superior locations.
   21. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:00 PM (#4260517)
So we know that the Hank Aaron award exists, but we also know that nobody cares about it at all. My question is this: suppose the Hank Aaron award gets promoted heavily and all of a sudden it's considered a fairly prestigious award. How quickly does the MVP devolve into "the best story" award?


With two different groups promoting these awards, and the Hank award just hanging out there by itself (particularly considering how ill-defined it is), very little.

For baseball to really take the recognized MVP award from the BBWAA, I thik they'd have to develop an awards system similar to hockey's, where the league has a big awards night where a number of honors are handed out.

So what does a full baseball award night look like?. Borrowing from the success of the Cy, the awards can't just be named for a great player, it also needs a catchy name.

Best Overall Player - the Babe.
Best Pitcher - the Cy Young (unless the BBWAA has squatter's rights, in which case this becomes the Big Train.
Best Catcher - the Yogi. (I'd really like to honor Josh Gibson here, but man that's a boring name).
Best Infielder - the Honus.
Best Outfielder - the Say Hey.
Best Hitter - the Splendid Splinter.
Best Defensive Infielder - the Wizard
Best Defensive Outfielder - the Spoke.
Best Relief Pitcher - the Goose. Or maybe the Handlebar.

   22. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:10 PM (#4260531)
Best Overall Player - the Babe.
Best Pitcher - the Cy Young (unless the BBWAA has squatter's rights, in which case this becomes the Big Train.
Best Catcher - the Yogi. (I'd really like to honor Josh Gibson here, but man that's a boring name).
Best Infielder - the Honus.
Best Outfielder - the Say Hey.
Best Hitter - the Splendid Splinter.
Best Defensive Infielder - the Wizard
Best Defensive Outfielder - the Spoke.
Best Relief Pitcher - the Goose. Or maybe the Handlebar.


All this would do is dilute the significance of the MVP/Cy/ROY awards, to the point where nobody would care about any award.

   23. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:13 PM (#4260536)

All this would do is dilute the significance of the MVP/Cy/ROY awards, to the point where nobody would care about any award.


That's a distinct possibility.

The above wasn't really advocating for such a night, but trying to come up with the best awards names if it ever happened.

   24. RJ in TO Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:16 PM (#4260541)
For baseball to really take the recognized MVP award from the BBWAA, I thik they'd have to develop an awards system similar to hockey's, where the league has a big awards night where a number of honors are handed out.


Oh god, no. The NHL award show is an event that's only barely more watchable than the ESPYs.
   25. PreservedFish Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:18 PM (#4260544)
They should have a 10th man award. Best hitter that started, at most, 50% of his games. Actually I'd be curious about seeing that one.

If that award caught on I could see it being something like the saves rule, where it actually impacts strategy and team construction. "You can't start Dan Johnson! You need to deploy him in the clutch." Well, maybe before the nerds took over.
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:24 PM (#4260553)
Oh god, no. The NHL award show is an event that's only barely more watchable than the ESPYs.


Oh, there's no way in hell I'd watch the thing. But somebody's watching that ####.
   27. RJ in TO Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:32 PM (#4260558)
Oh, there's no way in hell I'd watch the thing. But somebody's watching that ####.

Shut-ins, insomniacs, the too-drunk-to-find-the-remote crowd....
   28. GuyM Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:38 PM (#4260561)
I don’t care if his team finishes behind the Astros or if some godlike rookie is (temporarily) denied the honor. The Trouter will win Rookie of the Year this year, and MVPs in many years to come. It has to go to Cabrera.

This seems a common but very odd justification for a Cabrera MVP: Trout will surely win MVPs in the future. The only reason one would confidently predict multiple MVPs for a rookie is if he is alreadly clearly the best player in the league, or at least one of the top 2 or 3. You would have to believe, for example, that Trout is a much more talented player than Miguel Cabrera, who has never won an MVP award. And how could you reach such a conclusion after observing just one season? Only if the player had put up an all-time great season. To argue Cabrera should get the MVP because Trout will get several of them in due time is really to admit that you are rewarding the inferior season.
   29. Mefisto Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4260569)
It's also odd to believe that Trout will ever again have a season this good. Hank Aaron never did. Willie frickin' Mays only had 2 this good. While Trout is a great player, this may very likely be his best season; why not reward that?
   30. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 01:55 PM (#4260580)
Yes, "I'd personally vote for Trout" is a damn-near perfect match for Cabrera should automatically be MVP."


Much like "I'm ok with Cabrera winning" is a damn-near perfect match for "I'm not ok with Cabrera winning."

Nobody was calling for you and your fellow TC compatriots to riot over this; all you had to say was that you were "not ok" with it. Had you done that, I wouldn't have commented.
   31. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4260596)
Much like "I'm ok with Cabrera winning" is a damn-near perfect match for "I'm not ok with Cabrera winning."


I never said or hinted anything like that, so I'm not sure the point you're trying to make with that.

You and I clearly disagree on the subject. You plan to get worked up if the BBWAA makes another in a long series of mistakes in the MVP vote, and will be angered if I won't join you. I, and many others, have instead said we'll greet it with indifference, since at least in this case Cabrera is a legitimately great player doing something historically significant (even if it's something that you personally don't care about). The only one who's been rioting is you, big feller.


Nobody was calling for you and your fellow TC compatriots to riot over this; all you had to say was that you were "not ok" with it. Had you done that, I wouldn't have commented.


And isn't that just RDP in a nutshell? As long as you agree with him, you're welcome to your opinion.

Sorry Ray, but you really don't have any say in what people get lathered up about. You want to get in a tizzy because some guys you don't respect anyway make another in a long line of blunders in an award.* Knock yourself out. I'm not going to join you. And try as you might (and oh how you've tried), you can't make "I'd vote for Trout but I won't complain if Cabrera wins," into "Cabrera better win or I'll burn down Jack O'Connell's house," into remotely similar ideas.

* Assuming the mistake is made, and I've got to say I have no idea how the vote is going to turn out.

   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:07 PM (#4260602)
The DC City Council was given a certain number of season tickets (can't remember how many), but I'm pretty sure that no season tickets were given to individual members of Congress.

I've heard tales that members and talking heads were taken on tours when they bought tickets and specifically asked to have a better location than their peers and got upset if not shown superior locations.


Now that I can certainly believe. Back when the Deadskins were among the elite teams and played at RFK Stadium, I could always depend on Carl Rowan to be outside the DC Armory on Eastern Avenue selling his surplus tickets**, after which he'd go up to sit with George Will, Robert Novak, and other media members in Jack Kent Cooke's private suite.

**For face value only, I should add. I got the strong impression that he was doing it mostly as a favor to friends of his who couldn't make the game, since the seats were always scattered throughout the stadium.
   33. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:09 PM (#4260604)
You and I clearly disagree on the subject. You want me to get worked up if the BBWAA makes another in a long series of mistakes in the MVP vote. I, and many others, have instead said we'll greet it with indifference


I never said anything about getting "worked up."

Here is my simple question to you: Would you be ok, or not ok, with Cabrera winning the MVP award simply on the basis of the Triple Crown?

If you answer that you would not be ok with it, I won't have a disagreement. No rioting required.

(Also a valid answer: "I would be ok with Cabrera winning the MVP award because I think Cabrera was more valuable, having nothing to do with the Triple Crown.")
   34. The District Attorney Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4260618)
They should have a 10th man award. Best hitter that started, at most, 50% of his games. Actually I'd be curious about seeing that one.
I was too and wanted to try to figure it out, but I couldn't easily find the "games started" position player stat. It's weird, since that's usually the second stat you will see in a basketball statline. Of course, I realize that the two sports are very different in terms of their substitution rules, but I'm still surprised.

I've got to say I have no idea how the vote is going to turn out.
You have no idea? I think it's like 95% chance of Cabrera (and as we know, 95% means a lock and it's over.)
   35. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4260630)
I never said anything about getting "worked up."


Your entire argument is based on the fact that we aren't getting worked up.

Here is my simple question to you: Would you be ok, or not ok, with Cabrera winning the MVP award simply on the basis of the Triple Crown?


Here is my answer: I will be OK if Miguel Cabrera wins the 2012 AL MVP as a result of him winning the TC.* He is a legitimately great player having a legitimately great season, which included accomplishing something histroically significant, historically rare and, yes, valuable (even though the accomplishment itself doesn't equal most valuable). As mistaken MVP awards go, it would be among the most palatable.

Now, my preference is that Mike Trout wins the AL MVP. He was the better player, and he's the guy I'd vote for, if I had one.

I wouldn't be OK if Jeff Francoeuer wins the AL MVP.

See, there's a sliding scale. I think Trout should win. I'm not going to get hot and bothered if Cabrera wins. I'd look a bit askance at any other selection, though if Cano slides ahead of either of them on a ballot or two, that wouldn't ruffle my feathers either.

I'm sorry if this is too nuanced for you, but what can you do?

* I do not believe the TC=MVP. If Dante Bichette or some other mid-90s Rockie managed to snare the TC, I would have joined you in arguing vehemently against his election (to the extent that I'm ever going to get worked up over who wins the MVP award, which I try to avoid doing).
   36. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:31 PM (#4260637)
Good stuff, Jason. Great read.
   37. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:32 PM (#4260638)
You have no idea? I think it's like 95% chance of Cabrera (and as we know, 95% means a lock and it's over.)


No, I don't. I know how Andy-aged columnists like Murray Chass and Bill Madden would vote, but that's not the same thing as how the beat guys* who make up the electorate will. I haven't read anything from an actual voter.

I'd guess Cabrera, but I think it will be pretty damn close.

* The guys who defied the Chassholes by voting for Greinke over King Felix and King Felix over David Price.


   38. squatto Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:47 PM (#4260657)
Shut-ins, insomniacs, the too-drunk-to-find-the-remote crowd....


Canadians, in other words.
   39. Nasty Nate Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:53 PM (#4260667)
Best Overall Player - the Babe.
Best Pitcher - the Cy Young (unless the BBWAA has squatter's rights, in which case this becomes the Big Train.
Best Catcher - the Yogi. (I'd really like to honor Josh Gibson here, but man that's a boring name).
Best Infielder - the Honus.
Best Outfielder - the Say Hey.
Best Hitter - the Splendid Splinter.
Best Defensive Infielder - the Wizard
Best Defensive Outfielder - the Spoke.
Best Relief Pitcher - the Goose. Or maybe the Handlebar.




All this would do is dilute the significance of the MVP/Cy/ROY awards, to the point where nobody would care about any award.


Let me say, in the parlance of the times, that's a feature not a bug.

   40. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:53 PM (#4260668)
Thanks, everyone. It was most enjoyable "work." (I hope my editor felt the same way.)
   41. The District Attorney Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:56 PM (#4260672)
I haven't read anything from an actual voter.
And you won't. :-)

Putting aside that the actual voters aren't going to comment, a legit question: How many writers other than party-line sabermetricians (let's classify Poz as "sabermetric" for these purposes) have written in support of Trout? I think Jayson Stark has, so that'd be one. I know that this site is curated to elicit discussion rather than to summarize the status quo, so I don't want to go by what's reproduced here.
   42. Jim Furtado Posted: October 09, 2012 at 02:56 PM (#4260673)
Unfortunately, the views expressed by several people here - that they would be "ok" with Cabrera winning the MVP because he won the Triple Crown - are not far off from Krauthammer's view.

If we ever give out an award for "Best at Beating a Dead Horse into Pulp", you will certainly be the front runner.

As SoSH mentioned, as much as you might try to equate "I would vote for Trout for MVP but if Cabrera gets it, I'm not going to get worked up over it" with "Cabrera should win the award", the two phases don't mean the same thing. Why *you* are getting worked up over the opinion is curious. (Don't make the claim that you aren't. Nobody who keeps bringing up the point on multiple threads isn't worked up. )
   43. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4260686)
And you won't. :-)

Putting aside that the actual voters aren't going to comment:


That's not necessarily true. Awards voters can and occasionally do reveal who they are planning to vote for in advance of the election. I just haven't seen any of that this year.

Putting aside that the actual voters aren't going to comment, a legit question: How many writers other than party-line sabermetricians (let's classify Poz as "sabermetric" for these purposes) have written in support of Trout? I think Jayson Stark has, so that'd be one. I know that this site is curated to elicit discussion rather than to summarize the status quo, so I don't want to go by what's reproduced here.


I've seen a few (most recently, Keith Olberman, who obviously isn't a voter but also isn't a stathead), voiced his support for Trout.

My point is, based on what I've seen over the past five or so years from the guys who are actually voting, the beat guys, they are far more open to sabermetric ideas and stats than their predecessors. These guys are more conversant in advanced metrics, which has showed up in the aforementioned Cy votes for Greinke and Felix (and, if you recall, very few people thought either of those guys would win in advance of those elections).

* This shouldn't be surprising, since you really have to have some understanding of these numbers to do the day-to-day work any more. The front offices and other people you cover may use them. As do a lot of your readers, who you are being asked to interact with.
   44. The District Attorney Posted: October 09, 2012 at 03:25 PM (#4260700)
That's not necessarily true. Awards voters can and occasionally do reveal who they are planning to vote for in advance of the election.
For whatever reason, HOF voters do but MVP/Cy voters don't. It may even be an explicit rule, I dunno, but anyway they don't.

I seem to recall we had this same discussion with respect to Felix for Cy in '10 and he did win, so that's a big point for you there. I do think, however, that Felix was a bit of a perfect storm insofar as it was so obvious that W-L record would be affected by a 101-loss team, and perhaps even more importantly, there wasn't a single inspiring alternative. I think the writers find Cabrera's Triple Crown (plus playoffs) to be mega-inspiring...
   45. Rants Mulliniks Posted: October 09, 2012 at 03:26 PM (#4260704)
Ray DiPerna, purveyor of fine horse pâté.
   46. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2012 at 03:51 PM (#4260740)
For whatever reason, HOF voters do but MVP/Cy voters don't. It may even be an explicit rule, I dunno, but anyway they don't.

Not always. See here.
   47. Walt Davis Posted: October 09, 2012 at 05:21 PM (#4260874)
"awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in both the American League and National League."

Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis, 2008.
   48. The District Attorney Posted: October 09, 2012 at 05:47 PM (#4260904)
Not always. See here.
And a vote for Trout, at that. Interesting, for sure.
   49. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: October 10, 2012 at 01:10 AM (#4261421)
Krauthammer appeals to ontology to make his argument. Who'd a' thunk it?

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