Last year there were rumblings — primarily from the Giants, but from others as well — that the Rockies were messing with the baseballs from the humidor at Coors Field, giving their pitchers the deader ones and the opposing pitchers the good old, high-flying dried out balls. Baseball now has a new policy, explained by the Denver Post:
An authenticator employed by MLB meets the umpire-room attendant at the humidor before the game, watching as the baseballs are removed. The authenticator follows the attendant to the umpire’s room, where the baseballs are rubbed down. He then accompanies the attendant as the baseballs are placed in the Rockies’ dugout.
During the game, the authenticator sits in the photo well just to the right of the Rockies’ dugout with the ball bag in sight. Because the authenticator cannot leave his post, an MLB-contracted security officer meets the umpire-room attendant at the humidor if more baseballs are required during the course of the game.
That’s not at all complicated. And, it should be noted, it’s the second tweak to the procedure since late last season when umpires were charged with monitoring it all. Now we have the authenticator.
In other news, “The Authenticator” would be a great name for a b-grade super hero. Maybe one whose mission is to thwart memorabilia fraudsters and stuff.
If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.
While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.
The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.
A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.
A great read and a great history lesson.