What should one do with ignoramuses like Jason Whitlock?

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If you want to read a dumb, reactionary column about how statistics have ruined sports and that people who use statistics should “STFU,” by all means, go read Jason Whitlock’s latest thing over at Fox.  Just know ahead of time that it  is aggressively stupid, profoundly lazy and provides no insight whatsoever.  Even if you hate stats and are looking for ammo in that argument, you’ll find nothing there. It says a lot about Jason Whitlock’s personal aversion to thinking hard about sports, but not much else.

But I mention it anyway because I really find myself wondering what should be done when such drivel is encountered.

The usual response I get when I link this kind of thing is that I shouldn’t have done so because I’m just giving the columnist what he wants. Attention. Page views. Traffic.  And I suppose I am.  But I find the notion that I should just ignore this kind of thing problematic on a number of levels.

For one thing, there’s no evidence that he is writing this as some massive troll or con in an effort to get page views anyway. Whitlock is a contrarian by nature, but there’s no knowing eye-wink here. He’s not poking the “stat geeks” here. He’s whining about them and raging against the dying of some light that only he and a small handful of other gray hairs still see. I think he believes this stuff.

Moreover, I don’t think Jason Whitlock is in desperate need of page views. He gets a lot of them already and makes a boatload of money doing what he’s doing for reasons other than this blog and others like it linking to him.  He’s a big personality. He’s not some guy looking to make a name for himself by baiting me or someone else into a debate.

But it’s exactly for that reason that I have a hard time ignoring him.  He shapes the opinion of a lot of people. More people than you probably realize.  I understand the concept of ignoring this sort of thing — so many people tell me to leave it alone — but ignorance thrives on apathy. For years big time columnists wrote demonstrably incorrect things about baseball. It was only when people started to question them — in print — that opinion on these matters changed.

Maybe it’s different now that Whitlock’s position is by no means held by the majority of sportswriters — indeed, his own Fox-mate Ken Rosenthal wrote a great piece yesterday that serves as a better rebuke of Whitlock than anyone actually setting out to do so could have written — but I still have a hard time nodding and smiling at this kind of nonsense being passed off by someone who is supposed to be an expert about sports.

I’m not sure what the right balance is, but calling stupid things stupid has value to me. And letting stupid stuff slide doesn’t sit right with me, even if I understand the reasons for doing it.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.