Idiots Write About Sports

Verducci on Bonds

He links to the original, which is rather amazing in its hyperbole. Ahab had his whale, that’s a good one. The whale, of course, was a whale.

No Record, No Foul: There’s No Need to Salute Bonds

Murray Chass – New York Times

Chass is too often interested in oddball ephemera (most AB without a HR in a season, for one) and less than exciting inside information, while abjuring the trade rumors and the real inside baseball scuttlebutt we crave and he would seem to have at his disposal daily, to be interesting. But he’s a very nice writer and he clearly lives in some odd Timesean baseball universe that, like the NY Times itself, is a little too insulated from the hatred it inspires, but is admirable for its stubborn embrace of staunch liberal values, no matter how mutable they end up being.

This Chass story quite correctly and pedantically points out that MLB not honoring Barry Bonds for passing Babe Ruth is quite correct, because passing Ruth is not a record. Barry has (when it happens) simply moved up the list. But in this same story he also conducts a rather spurious survey of Bonds career that indicts him for hitting more homers than anyone else after he was 37. The fact that he did this (hit so many more homers than Ruth or Aaron or Mays) is Chass’s evidence that Bonds used steroids, which then improved his performance, which put him in the position, this week, to become the second most prolific home run hitters of all time.

This is crap because:

Stats aren’t really comparable across eras. The context in which they were created is constantly changing, and it is a romantic illusion to think that the records themselves confer some sort of grandeur. Stats should always be judged in the context of when they were created.
We don’t know what effect steroids have had, and it’s certainly possible that Bonds got extra years out of his career because of whatever drugs he took. It’s possible he got stronger and hit more homers because of drugs. But he’s never tested positive for a banned substance, and others have, so to attribute all the gain to him is misleading, at the very least.

And, most obviously, just because someone does something that hasn’t been done before doesn’t convict him. Could be. I think Barry juiced in some way. I’m not happy about that, but it has to be dealt with. Maybe the George Mitchell commission will give us some way to measure the context in all this, I hope so. But the bottom line is we pay our athletes to perform at peak value every day.

When they don’t we boo them. To think that whatever drug use there is hasn’t been sanctioned by our failure to make rules and our demand for impovement is dopey. So let’s make rules and enforce them. Let’s continue to consider context when considering whether a player is the greatest of all time.

But let’s not be stupid about our moralizing. Athletics are about performance, and it’s absurd to think that competitors wouldn’t use every means necessary to win, if they thought they could get away with it. And it would be hyper-hypocritical to call them on it as if they shouldn’t have.

Lou Reed, Please Meet Mr. Chuckles

TJ Simers, by Bruce Bauman

A short newspaper piece by a novelist friend of mine about an LA sports writer I’d never heard of, with references to Penn and Teller, Lester Bangs and Mr. Chuckles, among others.

Don’t count on these starts staying hot

FOX Sports

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with this list. Obviously.

In baseball, times change, and so do the standards

The Boston Globe

The stupidest argument of outrage in re the steroids era is the one about the defilement of baseball’s great records. Bob Ryan does a fine job demolishing it in this story in the Boston Globe.

The BPification of the Baseball World

STLtoday – Sports – Columnists

We used to get pissed off at baseball writers who wrote dopey stuff informed by the game’s common wisdom, much of which wasn’t all that wise. Now we continually find, and this example is one of many, writers whose main talent seems to be to be able to convert the various Baseball Prospectus metrics into somewhat-analytical prose. He analyzes Juan Encarnacion’s prospects using Eqa, criticizes his fielding based on his Davenports, and then questions the sabermetric wisdom of the Age 27 peak, since Encarnacion posted his highest Eqa as a 29 year old.

I’ll let you (and the good citizens of St. Louis) judge if this is worthwhile information. My problem isn’t that it is or isn’t, we’re still trying to sort out which objective information is useful and which isn’t, but that these tools in the hands of the lazy or the dunderheaded end up the basis for all sorts of thoughts that are just as wrong as the old ideas.

Like writing a column about Juan Encarnacion four days into the season that judges him based on some hypothetical ideal ballplayer and how his four-day stats compare, rather than describing what he does well and what he does poorly. Encarnacion may not be all the player he could be, if he did things differently, but he does enough things right to be a legit major leaguer. Getting all high and mighty about his style of play is goofy, probably lazy, certainly dunderheaded.