Ryan Howard’s ability to hit lefties is not a matter of opinion

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I was just reading this profile on Ryan Howard over at Philly.com. It’s your standard spring optimism piece. Howard feels way better now than last year and is ready to return to form. Nothing all that notable in the story.

But midway down the story, a poll appears:

source:

Internet polls are all pretty meaningless, especially the actual results. But this one is particularly astounding to me inasmuch as it treats something which is wholly empirical — whether or not Ryan Howard can hit lefties — as though it were a matter of opinion or belief. Which may not seem like a big deal, but when you think about it this is the exact reason why so much sports conversation is stupid.

For better or worse, people have been conditioned to think that their opinions and beliefs, no matter how loony they are, are just as valid as anyone’s else’s. So when one challenges a given opinion or belief, one understandably gets an extreme amount of pushback and intransigence. That’s well and good when we’re talking about a lot of opinions or beliefs. I believe that “Tonight’s the Night” is the best Neil Young album. I don’t care how many of you ninnies think “After the Gold Rush” is better, I’m simply not going to buy it and if you insist on it I’m ultimately gonna think poor things of you and ignore you. For your part, I hope you feel the same way about me in this respect.

But when someone treats something that is purely empirical as thought it were belief, that’s the road to lunacy and ignorance.  No matter how big a Phillies fan you are and no matter how badly you want to see Ryan Howard take Clayton Kershaw downtown the next time they meet, it is inescapable — it is a matter of pure, immutable fact — that Ryan Howard has struggled mightily against lefties for his career and that he has gotten worse, not better, at hitting them as time has gone on. This is true whether he has been healthy or injured. With few, long ago exceptions, he has always been a liability against lefthanders.

Sports fans — and even a lot of sports writers — treat empirical things as though they were matters of belief. They believe Howard can hit lefties. They believe Jack Morris was the best pitcher of the 1980s. They believe that Michael Young’s leadership and professionalism make him an MVP-caliber player. They believe that Derek Jeter is a good defensive shortstop.  And if someone says “he can’t,” “he wasn’t,” “it doesn’t” and “he isn’t,” you’re not just wrong, you’re assailing one’s belief system, and that makes you an awful person.

Empiricism vs. Belief. It’s the core of a lot of political arguments. It’s also the core of a lot of baseball arguments. If only we could all agree which things are matters of which, imagine how much better everyone would get along.

We now have photographic proof that Tom Ricketts and Ted Cruz are different people

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A lot of people think they have a double walking around someplace on Earth. They may actually be right. We have an example of this in baseball and politics.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts looks a lot like Texas senator Ted Cruz. Or, since Ricketts is older, I guess Cruz looks like Ricketts. Either way, they could play brothers if someone put on, like, the worst ever production of some play about brothers.

If you’re not familiar with one or both of those guys, take a gander at the photo that was taken of the two of them in Washington this morning as the Cubs made the rounds with their World Series trophy:

If they put those rings together, Tom can turn into any animal and Ted can turn into anything made out of water. True story.

 

Anthony Rizzo calls out Miguel Montero for calling out Jake Arreita

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The morning we posted about Miguel Montero calling out his pitcher, Jake Arrieta, for allowing the Nationals to steal seven bases last night. Our view, of course, was that (a) it wasn’t all Arrieta’s fault; and (b) even if it was, publicly calling out your teammates like that is probably not a great idea and certainly isn’t a good look.

When I saw Montero’s comments I assumed that they would not play well in the Cubs’ clubhouse. I was right about that. Anthony Rizzo appeared on ESPN 1000 in Chicago this morning and had this to say:

Referring to Willson Contreras, of course, who has allowed 31 stolen bases to opponents while behind the dish. Coincidentally, Montero has allowed 31 stolen bases when he has played as well. Contreras has played in 24 more games than Montero, by the way.

I predict that, by around 3pm when the clubhouses open, we’ll see a public apology by Montero.