Cubs, Red Sox punt; ask Bud Selig to solve the Theo compensation issue

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It occurs to me on occasion that someone stumbling onto a headline like that will not comprehend it at all unless they already know everything about the issue it refers to, in which case the post is kind of pointless to begin with.

Sorry. Feeling existential this morning.

Anyway, the headline does kind of say it all.  Unable to come to any kind of agreement on what kind of compensation the Red Sox are owed by the Cubs for hiring Theo Epstein away, the sides have asked Bud Selig to make a decision. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times:

It’s unclear how long Selig will take. Also unclear is whether the solution will involve ordering a specific player or players to the Red Sox or setting parameters. There appears to be no precedent for it.

Hmm, a complicated issue with little or no precedent is being put on Bud Selig’s plate.  In that case the question isn’t what the solution will look like. It’s all about who’s gonna be on the blue ribbon committee and what epoch will the Earth find itself in when a report is finally released.

Snark aside, this is probably the right call. I’m not sure how the parties here can possibly negotiate about what Epstein is worth without it being insanely awkward.  The Cubs have to be in the position of saying that he’s not worth anything of value or else they’re not zealously negotiating, and that makes them look bad. The Red Sox have to be in the position of saying he’s worth the moon, and that makes them look bad for allowing him to leave.

Oh well. The best part: ultimately there’s going to be some minor leaguer or something who is sent to Boston who has 50 reporters mob him and ask what it feels like to be worth a year of Theo Epstein’s services. Which should be fun.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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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.