Craig Calcaterra

Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry II fields questions from the media during baseball spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016.  (Corey Perrine/Naples Daily News via AP)  FORT MYERS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press

Red Sox owner: “We have perhaps overly relied on numbers”


Red Sox owner John Henry spoke to the media yesterday about the team’s offseason moves and last year’s hiring of Dave Dombrowski. Henry says that those moves and other, less-visible shifts inside the Sox’ front office are something of a correction. That they are a function of his realization that, perhaps, the team’s thinking had gone too far in one particular direction:

“We have perhaps overly relied on numbers. Over the years, we have had great success relying upon numbers. That has never been the whole story, as we’ve said over and over again, but perhaps it was a little too much of the story, too much reliance on on past performance and trying to project future performance. That obviously hasn’t worked three out of the last four years.”

I’ve seen this getting some play as “the Red Sox think they went too far with sabermetrics!” but as the quotes in the article from John Farrell and even John Henry himself demonstrate, this is not some sort of repudiation of stats or analytics, however you define it. All clubs, even clubs who were early adopters of statistical analysis like the Red Sox were, take in all sorts of information and use it to make decisions. There are variations in balance and philosophy which make the question of “scouts vs. stats” an utterly obsolete and distinctly false choice. There is no referendum on sabermetrics going on in baseball like it still is to some degree among a certain subset of fans and members of the media.

It’s also the case that saying bad decisions in the past were based on “numbers” are counterfactual. This article attempts to say that the Pablo Sandoval signing was a “numbers” choice and, frankly, I find that ridiculous. There were a lot of pros and cons to giving Sandoval $95 million, but the people who are most concerned with projections and aging curves and hardcore statistical analysis were far less bullish on that move, I presume, than people who were impressed by small sample sizes in the postseason and raw star power.

None of which is to impugn either the numbers or the non-numbers people. It’s simply to say that there are always competing voices and philosophies, even within organizations. Sometimes one side of the conference table is listened to more closely than the other. Henry is merely suggesting, I think, that his attention has been turned to one side a bit more and way from another than in the past. It’s interesting, but not necessarily shocking or meaningful in ways some are likely to portray it.

Shocker: columnist finds Yoenis Cespedes’ fancy cars to be a problem

Yoenis Cespedes
Associated Press

For the past three days Yoenis Cespedes has rolled into the players parking lot at Port St. Lucie with a fancy car. Here is this morning’s model. Yesterday he had the fire-breathing, waffle-retrieving Lamborghini. The day before that three-wheeled thing. It’s been great fun.

That is, unless you’re New York Daily News columnist John Harper, who has decided that Cespedes’ cars are a problem. Today he writes that Cespedes’ convoy of luxury cars is only OK if he backs up his “swag” on the field and that fans will “tire quickly of hearing about Cespedes’ luxurious lifestyle if he doesn’t put up big numbers.” He goes on to note that his other apparently eccentric behavior like, um, playing golf and taking batting practice indoors could also raise the ire of fans if he’s anything less than a superstar this year. Because no ballplayers play golf I guess? I don’t know.

But I do know that this, in a word, is crap. And it’s crap infused with no small amount of casual racism.

Harper has been covering baseball for a long time and he knows, I am certain, that player parking lots have been filled with crazy, tricked out rides forever. Remember Jon Lieber’s truck? How about Mark Buehrle’s? Grant Balfour’s? Just this week we read about Dustin Pedroia’s $300K Jeep. How many guys are driving Maseratis and Porsches? Even the guys making the major league minimum buy tricked-out Ford Raptors which have a base of around $50K and can get WAY more expensive once you modify them. I don’t recall them being called out for their “swag,” let alone warned that their cars will become points of contention should they not produce. But Cespedes had better be humble! He had best not drive a flashy car unless certain arbitrary benchmarks are met and fans and columnists are satisfied.

Harper didn’t use the word “uppity” here, but he didn’t really have to. Minorities have long been subject to the view that their conspicuous consumption of luxury goods is a negative in ways that it isn’t for whites. That when they do it they’re being “flashy” with the sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken implication that they either haven’t earned the right to flaunt wealth or that they could lose that right at any time, subject to someone else’s judgment or whim. Like, say, the judgment or whim of some Mets fan who has decided that Cespedes isn’t playing as well as he’d like him to. No one tells a rich white player how to spend his money, but everyone, apparently, gets to sit in judgment of Cespedes and tell him that he’s on probation given the way he’s spending his.

Cespedes is doing nothing different here than a ton of ballplayers have done in the past. He has earned tens of millions of dollars playing baseball and has decided to spend the money on some cars. A much smaller percentage of his money, it should be noted, then some dentist buying a BMW 5-series or some tech-bro buying a Tesla has spent, but we don’t blink at that. The only difference at all is that this week, unlike most weeks in spring training, some reporters, bloggers and fans are having some harmless fun talking about Cespedes’ cars.

That Harper has decided to turn that fun into a “put up or shut up” column speaks volumes of his character and speaks volumes about the sort of ugly dog-whistling he and the Daily News thinks its readers will respond to.

What goes into a ballplayer’s physical

Muscle Man
Library of Congress

Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times wrote a fun, participatory journalism kind of article. It’s about the physicals Mariners players and coaches go through at the beginning of spring training. He himself went through it too in order to tell us what it entails.

Unlike what normals like you and me go through once a year, it ain’t five questions from the doctor, a blood draw and a turn-your-head-and-cough. It consists of 13 different examination stations, going from dental exams and oral cancer screenings to X-rays and, finally, a grueling treadmill stress test which Divish took himself and which he describes in detail.

A player starts on a treadmill running at a designated speed — ranging from 6 to 9 mph. Once the speed is determined, the player is supposed to run at that speed until he can’t go any longer. But here’s what makes it difficult. Every two minutes the treadmill is raised by an increment of 2.5 degrees until it reaches a 10 degree incline . . . For a middle-aged sportswriter in average shape, it was less than enjoyable.

I’ve met Divish and he sells himself short. While it’s not saying much given the physical condition of most sportswriters, he’s in pretty fantastic shape for a scribe. That it was tough for him means that it would likely kill most of the rest of us. At least if we were to take the time away from calling some ballplayers fat from the comfort of our couches to actually get on a treadmill.

Anyway, congratulations for making it through, Ryan. I think that entitles you to an honorary Best Shape of His Life designation.