Jerry Thornton of WEEI starts his latest column off good enough, waxing optimistic about the Red Sox, and imagining that they’ll be popping champagne corks in November. But then he gets in a time machine and heads back to 2002 or so:
And as I do, there’s only one thing I see spoiling the party. One
small, nagging turd in the punchbowl, mitigating an otherwise perfect
celebration. I’m afraid that if … when … the Sox win it all this year,
it will mean total victory has been achieved by that odd, creepy little
subculture that lives among us: the Stat Geeks.
There’s no escaping this conclusion: the Stat Geeks have quietly and
insidiously taken power. Every hot stove report I’ve read this
offseason, every article written from Fort Myers, every statement from
Sox brass, has the Stat Geeks’ grubby little fingerprints on it.
They’re like the Communist Party plotting to take over Hollywood in the
1950s before Ronald Reagan got wise to them and kicked their pinko
butts all the way back to Moscow and Harvard Square. Only, instead of
trying to write screenplays full of anti-capitalists rants, the Stat
Geeks have succeeded in making otherwise normal, decent, God-fearin’
Americans start talking about VORP (Value Over Replacement Player)
ratings and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) numbers like they really believe
in this nonsense.
I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not entirely sure this isn’t satire. It’s so badly over the top that I am this close to believing that it’s not real. But if it is satire it’s so dry that there’s alost zero evidence suggesting as such, so I’m going to proceed as thought it’s a straight up thing. With that out of the way . . .
Every single front office in baseball believes in this “nonsense.” Actually, I take that back. Most of them consider VORP and UZR to be nice starts and have developed their own, proprietary metrics that take things even further. Stuff that would probably make Thornton’s head explode in rage, fear and confusion.
While I don’t expect writers to be conversant with the intimate details of statistical analysis, there is no excuse for this kind of retrograde ignorance. It’s like reading a national security journal and finding an article in which the author says he doesn’t trust newfangled things like radar and anti-aircraft installations and wondered aloud whatever happened to barrage balloons.
I realize that WEEI isn’t supposed to be a scholarly journal, but if I was in charge over there and one of my guys turned in copy so blindingly ignorant of decade-plus old developments in the sport in which he’s supposed to have at least a modicum of expertise, I’d run him out of his job on a rail.