LINK: The Power of PR

Screenshot 2014-07-30 00.42.11Josh Levin and Jeremy Stahl at Slate do some sleuthing about a website that has popped up that presents itself as the work of former Redskins players, but is actually (apparently) the work of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller.

Which is fine. I could list all of Burson-Marsteller’s heinous clients and former clients, as a way to cast doubt on this enterprise, but that’s the way PR works. Those who want to shape public opinion hire experts to create arguments that appeal to regular folks, whose regular voices resonate more widely than regular advertising or political graft might. Or give ideas authenticity, at least. And I’m sure BR also has some non-heinous and virtuous clients.

It is not unreasonable, of course, for people to question the veracity of claims made by those buying ad and airspace trying to shape public opinion. We all should. There’s no smoking gun here, no defining moment of cynicism, but rather an example of how far people who have money will sometimes go to try and sway the world to their opinion.

The story also links to a Washington Post story from last November about William “Lone Star” Dietz, the legendary coach for whom the team was named. If you’re interested in this issue it is a must read, since it clearly lays out the evidence about whether or not Dietz was actually a Sioux, as he claimed his entire adult life.

And it also raises the question of whether that matters. If Dietz was able to make everyone think he was a Native American (well, one fourth), and advocated for Indian rights and respect throughout his life, wasn’t it a sign of respect (as claimed) when team owner George Preston Marshall named the team in his honor?

Read the story to come to your own conclusion about that. Then we have to decide whether, even if that was the intent (then), that matters now.

 

 

 

 

DEAR ROTOMAN: I Love the Washington Football Team’s Name Too Much to Buy The Fantasy Football Guide 2014!

Screenshot 2014-07-27 18.58.42The Fantasy Football Guide 2014 appeared in stores last week, just as it has each of the past 15 Julys. It was also the week that my trusty but aging computer managed to breath its last.

Now replaced, the email flows, including this letter that reminds me that in this year’s Guide we wrote about the Washington football team. I’ll let the writer explain:

Rotoman,
I had your magazine in my hand, ready to buy it, like I’ve done for the past 15 years. Until I saw your Letter from the Editor.

I am buying your publication for football fact and insight, not mindless politically correct, cattle following opinions. When I see someone with other than white skin complaining then maybe I’ll look up and listen. The courts will rightly give back their trademark for all the obvious reasons.

Until then, I’ll get my info elsewhere from more astute and football passionate people. I put your rag back on the shelf.

Mike
The most ardent Giant fan there is

Now, I bristle a little about the claim that political correctness is the reason reasonable people want to do the right thing. And while there certainly are times political orthodoxy has led to idiotic extremes, there are a lot of times that wanting to do the right thing leads to doing the right thing, once enough people turn political correctness into political power.

redskins+logo+petaI’m not rabid about the Washington football team’s name. I don’t think Daniel Snyder means to be racist or offensive, but it is clearly offensive to a broad swath of Native American people, and the idea that it originated as a tribute is fairly laughable. Read this story by the Washington CBS affiliate to the end to understand why, as well as to see how the name is acceptable in some Native American communities.

Comparisons to the N-word in its defense are not a winning argument. Suggestions to change the logo to that of a potato with the same name got my support in the Guide, by the way. Artwork by PETA.

Those who read the Fantasy Guides and this blog and my posts on Twitter (@kroyte) and Facebook (PeterKreutzer) know that I think discussion changes minds. Me telling you something might get you to put the magazine back on the rack, but my hope is if you and I get to talking we’ll each gain a better understanding. Together we might get to a better idea.

So please write if you disagree, let me know why, and give my arguments as much of a shot as I give yours. In Mike’s case, his main point was that my point was pointless because I’m a slave to a political view that has no Native American supporters.

I wrote to him:

Dear Mike,

Thanks for writing. I think there are more than a few people with other than white skins who are complaining, which is why the tongue in cheek suggestion that the Redskins refer to potatoes seemed to me like a light-hearted way to comment on this situation.

Clearly you disagree, and I’m sorry about that, since the editorial content of the magazine is exactly the same as it has always been. One word has been excised, and the editor explained why he thought that was a good idea.

Have a great season. We will miss you.
Peter

ASK ROTOMAN: Is Melky Back On The Juice?

Hi Rotoman:

Four homers in four games, is he back? Is he using the Juice? Or the Clear?

I guess I’m asking if Melky is good, is Melky dirty?

“Supernova”

Dear SuperN:

I know a few things that I think are relevant.

The majority of the players who were suspended for violations in the Biogenesis affair (let’s keep it sexy), never tested positive. They were found out because of the records the clinic kept and the information the Miami New Times dug up. Testing wasn’t working.

Our most biggest PED users, deserved Future Hall of Famers, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, never failed a test (though they were subject to other protocols which suggest they cheated.).

Ryan Spilborghs column about this made it clear that most players don’t want the drugs, but given the money involved, it is not a simple decision to reject them. Especially since some of them promote healing, which is an especially important way to beat the clock.

So let’s recap:

Players will do their best to perform their best, which sometimes includes PEDs.

Many if not most PEDs tests are beatable, or manageable.

What do we have?

Something like a management program. Football could care less about their drug users. For them it is all PR.

Baseball’s PR likes to present the league as vigilant and clean.

But there are clearly a lot of athletes out there in all leagues doing what they need to do to play at the level they’re expected to perform. If they can get an edge from drugs that are illegal but can avoid detection, the bias (a competitive one) is to go for it.

The bottom line is you can’t tell if Melky is the Melkman again because he’s found his groove or because he found a new drug regime. I’m personally not sure whether it’s worthwhile to go too far with conjecture, but I am sure that the athletes we pay millions and scores of millions to will avail themselves of every advantage they can legally find (or they think they can get away with).

Take that to the bank.

Revolutions Per Minute: A Bowling Story

Mike Salfino is the Wall Street Journal’s extremely sharp sports analyst, with a focus on the numbers side of things. Usually he looks at baseball and football, casting a gimlet eye on weak analysis and demonstrating an enthusiastic love for the metric that reveals hidden value. Not only for fantasy players, but also fans of the game.

jasonbelmonte

He has a story today that brings his usual acuity to a somewhat surprising subject: Bowling.

It seems that a young bowler by the name of Jason Belmonte is turning the world of keglers over and over and over really fast by delivering the bowling ball with forward speed and a ton of spin. Mike explains it all here.

The one question I have. The ball is traveling 20 miles an hour down a lane that is 60 feet long. The travel time is measured in seconds, but the metric is scaled to a minute? It seems to me the number would be more manageable and meaningful if they scaled it to the second.

60 revolutions per second. Sounds good to me.

And here you get what the Wall Street Journal can’t offer: video.

Random Roster Notes March 21, 2013

AL

Oakland’s Hiroyuki Nakajima is having a horrible spring. I had a fairly aggressive projection for him, based on him being a full-time player this year, but he’s slipping fast and doesn’t seem likely to be a starter coming out of camp. Handicapping NPB players is more art than science at this point, especially since the league changed the baseballs a couple years back. What samples we had up ’til then became much less useful. But the other issue is the one of short-term failure or success. Nakajima may actually have all the talent implied by the projection, but his slumping month could deprive him of regular PT. I’ve trimmed him to 250 AB for now, but kept his offensive rates intact. This doesn’t make sense, such a player would likely be a regular, but it tries to reconcile his slow start with my original estimation of his talent. There may well be further adjustments in the next 10 days.

Houston’s Jason Castro is healthy and having a torrid spring, the sort of thing we expected a couple of years ago. I’ve bumped up his projection, both power and batting average, and bid price a bit.

Chicago’s John Danks is struggling and not healthy. He’s likely to start the season on the DL. I dropped his bid price a bit, though it’s still higher than his prices in CBS and LABR.

I already had a modest bid price on Kansas City’s putative closer Greg Holland, because the team has two excellent alternatives in Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow. Holland’s velocity is down this spring, so be careful here.

I had the Yankees’ Derek Jeter with too many AB given his age.

NL

Colorado’s Josh Rutledge made a strong impression last season after he was called up, hitting for power and average. He’s the team’s second baseman going into this season and looks like he’s a $17 player this year, kind of prorating out what he did last summer. There’s a few reasons to be cautious. Most importantly, he’s a swinging machine with just fair contact skills. That matters because if he gets off to a bad start and Nolan Arenado stays hot, the Rocks have plenty of alternatives, so his position is far from secure. This isn’t a prediction of doom, just a reason not to like all the things about Rutledge’s there are to like uncritically.

Miami’s Juan Pierre should be going at a goodly discount to his projection, a reflection of his advancing age. At some point he’ll get injured or slow down.

Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun is the NL’s best hitter, reflected in a $40 projection and $40 sticker prices in CBS and LABR, but he’s under investigation for the Biogenesis mess. He’s too good and the story is too weird to knock his price down a lot, but I did erase the premium I built in because he’s so extraordinary. But he’s now a risky play, rather than a safe one.

The Brewers’ Jean Segura is a player attracting divergent positions. He’s got good speed, but is young and unproven and without any power at all. Plenty of players are effective with those skills, if they can lay bat on ball and use their speed to get on base. Segura doesn’t walk that much and a slow start could cost him playing time or his job. It’s that risk that has my price on the low side.

Pittsburgh has Travis Snider slated to play right field this year, but Snider’s past failures weigh heavily on him. He’s still just 25 years old, so chances are good he’ll overcome, but a slow start and he could give ground quickly to Jose Tabata, who comes with baggage of his own. That’s a good reason to bid lightly on both of them.

Arizona’s Adam Eaton is perhaps the young player fantasy punters are most excited about this spring. He’s having a fine spring and seems to be in position to see the bulk of the AB playing CF for the Dbacks. His Triple-A stats came from Reno, and it’s really hard to adjust the outsized offensive stats coming out of that park in that league, so there’re a range of possibilities. I’ve said before I’m not convinced he’s going to set the league on fire, but he’s a solid prospect with good speed who will take a walk.

For some reason my mechanical projection for Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman was very modest. I’ve had a strong bid price on him, however, and he’s showing this spring that he’s added a very effective change up. Don’t let him go cheaply.

Milwaukee’s Wily Peralta is in the rotation to start the season, and could make some noise this year. He should be cheap.

San Diego’s Jedd Gyorko will see regular time to start the season because of Chase Headley’s injury. The projection for him in the software was fairly wack (really low BA, lots of RBI), and has been tidied up. This happens sometimes with the minor leaguers and is usually caught by this time. Gyorko’s season could turn on that limited audition in April. If he kills he could be a major leaguer for life, but if he gets off to a slow start he could end up returning to Triple-A when Headley returns.

San Francisco’s Brandon Belt is having a nice spring. My bid for him was too low. I’ve bumped it up a few bucks, but am still below CBS and LABR. He’s a good post-hype sleeper, but is a lot less attractive if you’re paying him as if he’s a reliable piece.

Where I Stand: Miggy v. Trout

First off, a link to Joe Posnanski making some strong points in favor of Mike Trout as AL MVP over Miguel Cabrera this year. My favorite is his suggestion that you vote for whoever Brandon McCarthy thinks should be MVP.

Since the season ended, I eventually came to the idea that Mike Trout was most deserving of the award. The preponderance of the evidence weighs in his favor, even if I don’t think it’s quite so clear a case as some. By that I mean that despite Trout trouncing Cabrera in WAR, the award isn’t solely given to the best hitter or the best player in the league. The MVP is supposed to go the player who was most valuable to his team.

This has led some people to suggest that Cabrera was most valuable to his team because he led it to the playoffs, while Trout was only able to lead his team to third place. These people should note that Trout’s team won more games than Cabrera’s and step away.

But I think a case can be made, sort of, that Cabrera was the more important player on his team. If you use as your measure WAR, and if we’re having this discussion why not, Cabrera contributed 6.9 WAR of Detroit’s hitters’ total of 13.7 WAR, or more than 50 percent. Trout, on the other hand, was worth 10.7 WAR, which was 28 percent of the Anaheim team’s 37.9 batting WAR.

But that’s the best case, and it isn’t that persuasive, since Detroit’s total WAR (they had great pitching, with Justin Verlander worth more WAR than Cabrera at 7.6) was 36.9, while the Angels’ total was 40.5. Trout’s contribution of 26 percent of his team’s total versus Cabrera’s 19 percent of his team’s total is a decisive edge.

Which leaves one final mode of attack: dWAR, defensive Wins Above Replacement, is far from established as a reliable measure of defensive value. Even those who champion it point out that it really takes two years of defensive play to start to establish a fielder’s performance baseline in fielding WAR. In 2012, Cabrera did a decent job playing third base, exceeding expectations but probably not adding to his own value with his defensive contributions (but not hurting it either–some argue that his agreement to play third also helped the Tigers because it meant they didn’t have to play Ryan Raburn), while Trout was simply amazing. Still, if you discount his defense because the measure isn’t reliable (and don’t believe your own eyes), Trout’s contribution in WAR drops to 8.6, or 21 percent of the Angels total, which at least makes it a horse race.

I’ve enjoyed the argument about this MVP race because in discussion new ideas come up. Nate Silver, championing Trout but expecting Cabrera to win, pointed out that Trout was superior to Cabrera while leading off an inning, a not inconsiderable skill that compares nicely with Cabrera’s better stats in the clutch this year.

The bottom line, however, is that the MVP awards are given by voters or judges, and they reflect the values of that constituency. If the BBWA says these 28 voters are the judges, we have to look at who they are to see what values are reflected. They’re the bosses. There was a time when the fans’ access to the records of the game was limited, and some favored Maris while others favored Mantle, for example. Some of that argument was based on numbers, of course, but it was also personality and some ineffable human streak that drew fans to one or the other. And the judges then were Olympian.

We’re now our own best judges, as the ballots of the BBWA so ably demonstrate every time they vote, and this discussion among fans with a much broader understanding of how the game works ideally serves the purpose of helping us better understand baseball, baseball players, baseball teams, winning baseball, and the stats and numbers and opinions that help us describe them. The awards themselves are wan, the judges are suspect, but the discussion is lively, which is just great.

Dan Lozano and Albert Pujols: A Brian Walton Winner.

Deadspin has published a takeout of “King of Sleaze Mountain” super agent Dan Lozano based on anonymous files it was sent recently. It is no endorsement of Lozano and his behavior over the years to say that this story of a preternaturally adept chameleonic salesmanship and cheesy hooker procurement leaves one feeling a little dirty, because there are only two real issues that seem to have legal legs and a sports implication:

Does Alex Rodriguez own part of Lozano’s business? This is not allowed under the rules of baseball, I gather, for all the obvious ethical reasons you can imagine, but there is some evidence that he does, and Deadspin doesn’t dig beneath the surface of the accusation to find out if that evidence is real or not. And,

Did Lozano push Albert Pujols into an ill-advised contract back in 2004 in order to generate cash flow he needed personally? Again, Deadspin makes the accusation and leaves it at that.

My friend, Cardinals-watching Brian Walton, didn’t leave it at that, and takes a look at the facts of what happened in 2004 with Lozano, the Cards and Pujols at scout.com. You can read his excellent piece at stlcardinals.scout.com.

All we can say to Deadspin is, That wasn’t hard now, was it?

Cubs Fans Opening Day Outrage

A NY Times story explains it all. Tremendous Upside Potential provides the picture and another comment.

A Nathan Mourns…

Everybody knows about Joe Nathan, the man with the most saves in baseball the last six years, who has a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. The problem right now, for me, is that I’m preparing updated projections for the Patton Software and there is no way to know whether Nathan is out for two months or two years. You see, the odds of Nathan getting back onto a field after rehabbing from surgery are real long, so the first medical approach is to wait a couple/few weeks, try to strengthen the supporting muscles, and see if he can pitch through it.

Not many do, but if he can, then he might get a few months of the season in and have some value this year. If he can’t, he has no value this year at all, and no value next year either. So, what should I do with his projection? And what should I do with the interesting set of relievers in the Twins’ bullpen, any of whom might actually be able to do the job if given the chance?

Let’s call what I do “pussyfootin’,” because it’s a lot like the gait of Violet, the cat that just walked over my keyboard and curled up on the back of my desk and didn’t knock over a thing (and only introduced a few typos along the way). I’m careful, thoughtful, and when I’m clear I leap. And, like Woody Allen, I always usually (yeah, right) land on my feet.

In the new set of projections I cut Nathan’s projection in half, to 35 innings pitched, and I bump his ERA and WHIP up just a bit, then cut his bid price down to $10, which I don’t think I’d pay if I was drafting tonight, but I do think someone else would bid $11 if I did. $10 isn’t likely to be the bid price in two weeks, when we’re supposed to know more, but it does reflect the market now. I don’t think you want Nathan, but you don’t want someone else to get him too cheaply. There is too much we don’t know.

My first impulse after Nathan’s injury was to bump up Jon Rauch’s projection, giving him most of the saves, but while I still think he has to be the favorite to win the job, because he did some time in the past as a closer in Washington, he’s not a lock. I made him $9 at first, because he can earn that as a middle reliever even if he doesn’t get the job, but I’ve now knocked him down to $7 because, well, there are too many alternatives to assume that he will get the job, and too many questions about his work last year to be confident he’ll hold the job if it is given to him.

Matt Guerrier is usually cited as next in line after Rauch, but even though he was a closer in college and has been an excellent middle reliever–other than in 2008–he doesn’t profile as a closer. He doesn’t blow guys away, in other words. I’ve bumped him up to $4 (he earned $15 in 2009) and allocated him some of the saves sliced from Nathan’s line. I think that’s safe, even though he doesn’t have closer upside.

The guy everybody likes for the job, talentwise, is Pat Neshek, who missed most of the last two years following a 2008 breakdown that led to TJ surgery. He’s healthy now, but still working his way back. He’s got an interesting sidearmed delivery that is deceptive and brings lots of movement. Historically, he hasn’t had much of a platoon split. The issue is whether he is really back. Chances are the Twins aren’t going to throw him into the fire immediately, so I give him a few of the saves and a bid of a couple dollars in the new version. You have to be aware of him, but he’s still a long shot at this point.

The other closer-quality pitcher on the Twins’ staff is Jose Mijares, who is the only lefty in the Twins’ pen right now. Even if that situation persists he could get some saves, but he won’t get a lot of saves. I added a couple of saves to his projection, but kept him as a $1 bid. He won’t go for more until the Twins add a lefty to their pen.

Saves are a tricky business. Any pitcher going good can get saves, but we can see with our own eyes that not everyone is able to keep going good when the pressure rises. There are some who say that Mijares is a choker, but his Leverage Index (see baseball-reference.com) shows that he performed best in the toughest situations last year. Until we’ve seen a big enough sample, it’s impossible to really judge a pitcher’s readiness for the role, but easy to understand why guys in high leverage jobs lose their jobs before they can prove that they are victims of the random thing.

Projecting player performance is a tricky business. The talent evaluation part is fairly straight forward, but projecting playing time is usually the difference between a good and bad projection. While pussyfootin’, I try to split the difference, to balance the expression of talent with the possibility of opportunity. Those of us drafting next week are going to have to make catlike choices when it comes to selecting the Twins’ closer. My adjusted bid prices are an attempt to equalize the odds of success vs. price for each player.

Ps. There was speculation today that the Twins might move Francisco Liriano to the pen, maybe even the closer spot, given their situation. This isn’t an obvious move, but if Liriano is struggling as a starter it seems like a natural next step. That, of course, screws all the values above, all of which will be updated next time no matter what happens.

That’s How Easy Love Can Be

I found this clip over at boingboing.net and it seems the perfect view with which to remember Michael Jackson, whose music as a young boy is marked by its sweetness and exuberance, but which grew increasingly paranoid and sour as he grew older and it became more reflective of the pains and abuses of those early years.