Anti-stats rant: This is either the worst column or the best satire ever written

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Jerry Thornton of WEEI starts his latest column off good enough, waxing optimistic about the Red Sox, and imagining that they’ll be popping champagne corks in November. But then he gets in a time machine and heads back to 2002 or so:

And as I do, there’s only one thing I see spoiling the party. One
small, nagging turd in the punchbowl, mitigating an otherwise perfect
celebration. I’m afraid that if … when … the Sox win it all this year,
it will mean total victory has been achieved by that odd, creepy little
subculture that lives among us: the Stat Geeks.

There’s no escaping this conclusion: the Stat Geeks have quietly and
insidiously taken power. Every hot stove report I’ve read this
offseason, every article written from Fort Myers, every statement from
Sox brass, has the Stat Geeks’ grubby little fingerprints on it.
They’re like the Communist Party plotting to take over Hollywood in the
1950s before Ronald Reagan got wise to them and kicked their pinko
butts all the way back to Moscow and Harvard Square. Only, instead of
trying to write screenplays full of anti-capitalists rants, the Stat
Geeks have succeeded in making otherwise normal, decent, God-fearin’
Americans start talking about VORP (Value Over Replacement Player)
ratings and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) numbers like they really believe
in this nonsense.

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not entirely sure this isn’t satire. It’s so badly over the top that I am this close to believing that it’s not real.  But if it is satire it’s so dry that there’s alost zero evidence suggesting as such, so I’m going to proceed as thought it’s a straight up thing.  With that out of the way . . .

Every single front office in baseball believes in this “nonsense.”  Actually, I take that back. Most of them consider VORP and UZR to be nice starts and have developed their own, proprietary metrics that take things even further. Stuff that would probably make Thornton’s head explode in rage, fear and confusion.

While I don’t expect writers to be conversant with the intimate details of statistical analysis, there is no excuse for this kind of retrograde ignorance. It’s like reading a national security journal and finding an article in which the author says he doesn’t trust newfangled things like radar and anti-aircraft installations and wondered aloud whatever happened to barrage balloons.

I realize that WEEI isn’t supposed to be a scholarly journal, but if I was in charge over there and one of my guys turned in copy so blindingly ignorant of decade-plus old developments in the sport in which he’s supposed to have at least a modicum of expertise, I’d run him out of his job on a rail.

How long do you stay a fan of a team that left town?

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File this under “not a really deep thought, but there isn’t much going on this morning, so why not?”

I was catching up with the latest, and final, season of “The Americans” over the weekend. I will give no spoilers and ask that you do the same, but I want to talk about something that came up in the second episode.

The episode takes place in October 1987 and a character is listening to a Twins playoff game on the radio. He later talks about baseball and the Twins with some other characters. The context is not important, but the guy — probably in his mid-late 40s, living in the Washington D.C. area — makes a point to say that he has been a Twins fan since the beginning, and then says he was, in fact, a fan of the franchise back when they were still the Washington Senators.

In case you are unaware, the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota following the 1960 season and became the Twins. At the same time an expansion team, also called the Senators, was placed in D.C. to replace them. That franchise would stay in D.C. for 11 seasons before moving to Texas in 1972 to become the Rangers.

In light if that, am I the only one who has a hard time buying that such a man actually existed? How would the character, who was a kid when the original Senators moved, be a Twins fan some 26 years later?

There were relatively few televised baseball games back then. Just a game of the week and some out of town coverage of local teams. There was obviously no internet. Outside of the 1965 World Series, it’d be a shock if more than a couple of Twins games were broadcast to the D.C. area during the rest of the guy’s childhood. Maybe he kept up with the Senators players like Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison via box scores, baseball cards and The Sporting News, but I couldn’t imagine a D.C. guy raised on the Senators keeping up with the Twins through the 1970s and 1980s. Would he not become a new Senators fan or, eventually, a Rangers fan? Maybe, like so many people on the D.C. area, he picked up the Orioles as his team due to their 1960s-70s dominance? Any number of things could happen, but I’m struggling to imagine the existence of a Senators guy who becomes a hardcore Twins fans up to and including 1987.

All of that got me thinking about other relocated teams.

The Dodgers are the most famous example, of course, with the narrative being that Dodgers fans in Brooklyn felt betrayed by Walter O’Malley and thus turned their back on the club, later adopting the Mets as their rooting interest. The betrayal narrative is less pronounced with the Giants, but that’s the same general story with them too. I mean, there’s a reason the Mets picked orange and blue as their colors. They wanted to, and largely did, co-opt the old NL New York fans.

I’m sure a lot more Dodgers and Giants fans continued to follow their teams in California than would let on, given that many of the same players starred out there in the ensuing years, but that likely died out as those players retired. Bob Aspromonte was the last Brooklyn Dodger to play in the bigs, retiring after the 1971 season. Willie Mays played through 1973. I assume NL fans in New York kept some nice thoughts for them — particularly because the Mets picked both of them up for the tail end of their careers — but I can’t see those guys rooting for, say, Steve Garvey and John Montefusco in 1979.

Others:

  • There likely aren’t many St. Louis Browns fans left — they last played in Missouri 65 years ago — but even if the ones they had in 1953 felt like rooting for the Cardinals was impossible, I bet most of their kids and grandkids became Cards fans;
  • The A’s fans in Philly — and later Kansas City — probably have a similar story. I mean, there’s a reason that franchise skipped town twice, so to expect undying love over the decades, with the Phillies and Royals around, is a bit much. The Philadelphia A’s glory years were like 90s years ago now anyway, and all of those fans are dead. The A’s modern glory years have all come in Oakland. No one in Philadelphia or Kansas City is looking to the California with an aching in their heart;
  • I could imagine someone’s grandfather in Milwaukee still thinking that the Braves are his team, but not many other people. The Braves won a World Series and two pennants in Milwaukee, but that was an awful long time ago and they moved to Atlanta before the A’s moved to Oakland. Don’t even get me started about Boston Braves fans. They all have to either be dead or have long since moved on. Following a team to a new city is a big ask, but following them to two new cities over 66 years seems pathological. UPDATE: OK, there are some pathological people out there.
  • I have some Nationals fan friends and they tell me that there is a small, weird contingent of Expos fans who root for Washington now. I get that since it wasn’t terribly long ago, but was Brad Wilkerson really a good enough reason to carry a torch? I’d like to talk to some of those people and ask them about their value system;
  • The only other team to move was the Seattle Pilots. They played one season in Seattle and no one would remember that if it wasn’t for Jim Bouton’s book, “Ball Four.” If you find someone claiming to be a Pilots fan in Seattle, you’ve found yourself a hipster peddling revisionist b.s.

Anyway, that’s a lot of words wasted on a couple of lines from a TV show, but as always, your thoughts are appreciated.