What you're saying about the Joyce-Galarraga call

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Joyce blown call.jpgThe best thing about this blog are the comments. Sure, there are some knuckleheads that show up here from time to time, but find me any comments section of any major website that has as consistently high-quality conversation and argument as this one and I’ll eat my hat. And if any of you saw me in that video yesterday you know one thing about me: I’m a man who needs a hat.

The quality of HBT’s readership shows up the best when a big controversial thing happens like the Joyce call last night. People obviously disagreed about the replay thing and people disagree about whether Selig should have overturned the call — which he didn’t — but, a couple of those lovable knuckleheads notwithstanding, everyone in the HBT comments had had a pretty sober and insightful take on it. Let’s share, shall we?

On instant replay:

  • JimmyY: If we can see the play on TV within 30 seconds and determine it was a
    bad call instant replay can surely be implemented . . . Getting it right
    and undoing an injustice, that’s what matters not some lame excuses.
  • Josh: If I were an umpire, I would be begging for this. Who wants to be the
    next Jim Joyce / Don Denkinger?
  • Catch 22:
    My father was a professional umpire. Not major leagues,
    but still a professional umpire. As he used to say, the umpires call is
    as much a part of the game as any player on the field. While I am not against the replay system that Mr. Calcaterra is
    recommending, the way a game is called by the umpire is what it is.
  • Andy: No matter if this call is overturned or not, nothing will
    replace the emotion that could have been felt in Comerica Park tonight.
    Nothing will replace the fact that Galarraga walked into a locker room
    with fans booing instead of cheering. Nothing will give him his moment
    back. As someone who was born and raised in Detroit, we are used to rolling
    with the punches. I’ve had enough. Instant replay is needed, and now.
    Five extra minutes could have lead to a spectacular night for a
    pitcher, and an entire city.

On Bud Selig overturning the call and giving Galarraga the perfecto

  • JoeRo23: I’m not in favor of this happening in any other situation, but this is
    that one special, unique, once in a lifetime case, in my mind, in which I
    think MLB should change the call and give Galarraga his perfect game.
    There could not be fewer repercussions than in this situation – he’d
    change (fix is a better word) the outcome of a SINGLE at-bat, and
    nullify the following at-bat (taking an out away from the guy who was
    the eventual 27th out of the game, so he won’t mind).
  • Kirk: It’s ALWAYS amazing to see anyone argue against doing the right thing.
    What’s the point of being the commissioner if he cannot correct errors.
    If not he’s useless and might as well be a sports reporter!
  • Tim J: My sons and I were at the game…as much as I would like to have
    witnessed a perfecto, we feel like we did. I’m mounting the kid’s
    tickets on small plaques for them with text like “Galarraga’s 1-hit
    perfect game”…lol. I felt sick to my stomach after the call but after
    finding out that it was a blown call, I was angry. BUT I don’t think it
    should be reversed. It would be selfish of me to want that. What about
    all of the calls over time that may have robbed someone else of a piece
    of history? At least it was cool to be a part of it all.
  • Matt J: I’m not looking forward to a do-over culture invading baseball. This conversation strikes me as vaguely reminiscent of Little League
    coaches believing themselves to be Earl Weaver and playing a game under
    protest because of a close call at first base in the second inning of a
    game in mid-March. Calls can’t be arbitrarily made “correct.” There is
    integrity (in a limited, sports sense) in making a mistake and
    realizing the result. There is no integrity (again in the most limited
    sense) in changing something the next day.
  • CA: The contention that commissioner intervention to overturn Joyce’s call
    would set some sort of dangerous precedent is overly legalistic. If the
    commissioner has the power to see that justice is served in an obvious
    case like this, then why shouldn’t he do it?

On Jim Joyce having to live with this forever:

  • Kyle S: Instead of a celebration of a perfect game it’s a pity
    party for an umpire. I’m sick of hearing about umpires. He ruined something that would have been huge for a lot of people. It’s his job to get important calls right and he didn’t do his job. I
    have no sympathy.
  • J Rose: I think the the way everyone involved reacted should be used as an
    example of how to handle tough situations with dignity and class. From
    Galarraga to Joyce to the Tigers players, they handled it just about as
    well as anyone could, and much better than the fans are. They are trying
    to set an example, yet the angy mob doesn’t seem to be following their
    lead.
  • doug: The problem with this piece is that Jim Joyce’s feelings
    are meaningless compared to the feelings of Armando Galarraga who,
    through no fault of his own, had his victory stolen in a way that
    frankly appears to be almost intentional. In short: why should we car how Jim Joyce “feels?”
  • Nick: I feel for Joyce because he owned up to the mistake and apologized. But
    no matter what, he will never live this down and that’s unfortunate.
    No one deserves to have one mistake in a freakin’ game define their
    life.

  • Tom: Everyday people must suffer the consequences of bad decisions made on their jobs every day.  Umpires should be no different.  While the apology is nice, it is not enough.  Joyce should be fined or suspended.

Tough crowd, and as often happens, I’m in the distinct minority when it comes to this stuff.  That’s fine. If everyone agrees with me I’m probably not doing my job.

Anyway, thanks for all of your comments, folks. And keep them coming.

Chipper Jones says the Mets are his pick to “go all the way”

Braves Spring baseball
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Chipper Jones may believe some weird things but he’s pretty savvy and clear-eyed when it comes to analyzing baseball.

Remember back in 2013 how he picked the Dodgers to beat the Braves in the NLDS? And how, because of his perceived “disloyalty,” Braves players had an immature little temper tantrum and refused to catch his ceremonial first pitch? Yeah, that was a great look. If I was more inclined to the hokey and irrational, I’d say that created “The Curse of Chipper” and that it condemned the Braves to two straight years of sucking. Hey, people have built careers on curses sillier than that.

Anyway, kudos to Chipper for apparently not giving a crap about that sort of thing and, instead, saying what he thinks about baseball. Stuff like how he thinks the Mets are going to win it all, saying “They’re really setting the bar and they’re my early-season pick to probably go all the way.”

Keeping in mind that anything can happen in baseball, it’s as good a pick as any other I reckon. Even if it means he has to say that the team who was his greatest rival during his playing career — and whom he thoroughly owned during that time — is better than the one that pays his salary now. Or any other one.

Did Tony La Russa screw Jim Edmonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy?

2011 World Series Game 4 -Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
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Yes, that’s a somewhat provocative question. But it’s still an interesting question, the relevancy of and merits of which we’ll get to in a second. I pose it mostly so I can tell you about some neat research a friend of mine is doing and which should make Hall of Fame discussions and the general discussion of baseball history a lot of fun in the coming years. Bear with me for a moment.

There has long been a war between metrics and narrative. The folks who say that so-and-so was great because of the arc of his story and his career and those who say so-and-so was not so great or whatshisface was way, way better because of the numbers. Those views are often pitted as irreconcilable opposites. But what if they weren’t? What if there was some data which explained why some players become narrative darlings and others don’t? Some explanation for why, say, Jim Rice is in the Hall of Fame while Dwight Evans isn’t despite having better numbers? An explanation, that isn’t about voters being dumb or merely playing favorites all willy-nilly? What if there was some actual quantitative reason why favorites get played in the first place?

That’s the thesis of the work of Brandon Isleib. He has just finished writing a very interesting book. It’s not yet published, but I have had the chance to read it. It sets forth the fascinating proposition that we can quantify narrative. That we can divine actual numerical values which help explain a player’s fame and public profile. Values which aren’t based on some complicated or counterintuitive formula, but which are rooted in the very thing all baseball fans see every day: games. Wins and losses. The daily standings. Values which reveal that, no, Hall of Fame voters who made odd choices in the view of the analytics crowd weren’t necessarily stupid or petty. They were merely reacting to forces and dynamics in the game which pushed them in certain ways and not others.

“But wait!” you interject. “Jim Rice and Dwight Evans played on the same dang team! How does Brandon distinguish that?” I won’t give away all the details of it but it makes sense if you break down how the Red Sox did in certain years and how that corresponded with Rice’s and Evans’ best years. There were competitive narratives in play in 1975, 1978 or 1986 that weren’t in play in 1981 or 1987. From those competitive narratives come player narratives which are pretty understandable. When you weight it all based on how competitive a team was on a day-to-day basis based on how far out of first place they were, etc., a picture starts to come together which explains why “fame” works the way it does.

From this, you start to realize why certain players, no matter how good, never got much Hall of Fame consideration. And why others’ consideration seemed disproportionate compared to their actual performance. All of which, again, is based on numbers, not on the sort of bomb-throwing media criticism in which jerks like me have come to engage.

Like I said, the book won’t be out for a bit — Brandon just finished it — but in the meantime he has a website where he has been and, increasingly will be, talking about his quantification of narrative stuff, writing short articles posing some of the questions his book and his research addresses.

Today’s entry — which is what my headline is based on — isn’t really numbers-based. It’s more talking about the broader phenomenon Brandon’s work gets at in terms of trying to figure out which players are credited for their performance and which are not so credited and why. Specifically, it talks about how Tony La Russa, more than most managers, gets the credit for his success and his players probably get somewhat less than they deserve. In this way La Russa is kind of viewed as a football coach figure and his players are, I dunno, system quarterbacks. It’s something that is unfair, I think, to guys like Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen and will, eventually, likely be unfair to players like Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday.

It’s fascinating stuff which gets to the heart of player reputation and how history comes together. It reminds us that, in the end, the reporters and the analysts who argue about all of these things are secondary players, even if we make the most noise. It’s the figures in the game — the players and the managers — who shape it all. The rest of us are just observers and scribes.

Corey Seager tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager warms up before Game 1 of baseball's National League Division Series against the New York Mets, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Associated Press
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Yesterday it was the top farm systems, today it’s the top-100 prospects from ESPN’s Keith Law.

As Law notes, there’s a HUGE amount of turnover on the list from last year, given how many top prospects were promoted to the bigs in 2015. Kris Bryant seems like a grizzled old veteran now. Carlos Correa too. Eleven of the top 20 from last year’s list have graduated into the bigs. Are we sure it’s only been a year?

So, obviously, there’s a new number one. It’s Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ infielder. Not that everything has changed. Byron Buxton is still number two. This will obviously be his last year on the list. If you want to see and read about the other 98, go check out Keith’s excellent work.

And yes, like yesterday’s farm system rankings, it’s Insider subscription only. There were comments about how much you all hate that and I am sure there will be many more of them today. I get that. No one likes to pay for content. I was somewhat amused, however, by comments that said things like “hey, maybe if we don’t click it, they’ll have to give it to us for free!” Maybe! Or, more likely, the content simply will cease to exist!

It’s good stuff, folks. There aren’t many paid sites I say that about.

Ozzie Guillen to manage again. In Venezuela

Ozzie Guillen Getty
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With Dusty Baker getting back into action with the Nationals and with there being at least some moderate sense that, maybe, inexperienced dudes might not be the best choice to manage big league clubs, I sorta hoped that someone would give Ozzie Guillen another look. Nah. Not happening.

Not that I’m shocked or anything. I can imagine that, under the best of circumstances, a guy like Guillen is hard to have around. He tends to find controversy pretty easily and, unlike some other old hands, Guillen never claimed to be any kind of master tactician. He famously said that he was bored during games until the sixth or seventh inning when he had to start thinking about pitching changes. Refreshing honesty, yes, but maybe not the sort of dude you bring on to, say, be a bench coach or to mentor your younger coaches or to show your hand-picked manager the ropes. Nope, it seemed like Guillen was destined to stay in broadcasting with ESPN Deportes or someone and that his days in uniform were over.

But they’re not over! Guillen was hired yesterday to manage the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan Winter League next offseason. It’s not the bigs, but it is is first on-field gig since he was canned by the Marlins in 2012.

 

Guillen managed the White Sox from 2004-11 and was voted AL Manager of the Year in 2005, when Chicago won the World Series. He may be a bit of a throwback now, but he knows what he’s doing. While I can’t really say that a major league team would be wise to hire the guy — I get it, I really do — a selfish part of me really wants him back in the bigs. He was fun.