Great Moments in Non Sequiturs

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Michael Hurley of CBS Boston has a column up criticizing Sam Miller’s quite good piece for ESPN.com about the ascendance of WAR. It’s your standard anti-sabermetric rebop. Hurley attempts to paint himself as a sensible moderate type, but make no mistake, the guy is definitely threatened by advanced metrics.

But that’s not a big deal. There are a lot of people like that. What separates Hurley is this little rhetorical flourish:

The blurb on ESPN’s homepage read, “After WAR helped heat up the 2012 AL MVP debate, it’s now a permanent part of looking at player performance.”

That’s certainly a bold claim, considering it wasn’t more than 65 years ago when the color of a man’s skin was a determinant for selecting an MVP, and also considering Miguel Cabrera won in a landslide over Mike Trout, the man with the significantly better WAR last season.

Can someone help me out here? Is Hurley equating WAR and segregation? Does he believe they are both artifacts of their time, with one thankfully being cast into the dustbin of history and the other, hopefully, soon to be?  If that’s not his angle, what is it, exactly?

Whatever. If, in my own assessment of players, I’ve cited WAR more than a couple of times in past three years I’d be shocked, so it’s not like I’m on the front lines of the WAR war.  I’m a stathead sympathizer and fellow traveler  but I risk hurting myself and others when I attempt to actually calculate anything.

But I think I can say this much: if WAR is eventually set aside and considered a not-particularly useful stat, it will be because another, better stat is devised to replace it, not because enough people have yelled and screamed about the folly of trying to quantify player performance in the first place.

Manny Machado rips MLB Network talking heads over double standards

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Manny Machado has had his fair share of controversies. There was the stuff about his lack of hustle last fall. He’s thrown bats and ran into and over guys and has argued with umpires and all of that stuff. Is he well-liked? Not really. Is he a dirty player? Some say so. But even if you don’t say so, he’s been involved in some dirty plays and he’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. We chronicled much of that last fall.

But he’s certainly not the only guy who has done that sort of thing before. Others have and, I think it’s fair to say, others have not caught as much flak for it as he has. There are reasons for that too, of course. Part of it is that a couple of Machado’s transgressions came in very high-profile situations like last year’s playoffs. Part of it is that he’s a big star who makes a lot of money and guys like that tend to get more attention and heat than others. Part of it is that a lot people simply don’t like Machado for whatever reason.

Machado talked at length about that last night when he took to Instagram to mock MLB Network analysts Eric Byrnes and Dan Plesac, who were going on about the Jake Marisnick plunking and his barreling into Jonathan Lucroy that led to it. Byrnes and Plesac were defending Marisnick. Machado noted that he would never have gotten that kind of defense had it been him doing the barreling instead of Marisnick.

Watch (warning: NSFW language):

 

I don’t think he’s wrong about that. Again, some of it would be justified in that Machado does have a reputation and when you have a reputation you don’t get as much benefit of the doubt. But it’s also the case that Machado was not getting much benefit of the doubt — including from these guys in particular — well before that reputation was established.

Over at the Big Lead, they found examples of Byrnes going after Machado way back in 2014. Machado’s transgressions have, from the beginning, been cast as a those of a dirty, hotheaded player who lacks class. Other players who have done exactly what Machado has done often get excused for showing “passion” and “competitiveness” or for “playing hard” instead of “playing dirty” even when there isn’t all that much actual difference between the acts in question.

Machado says it’s attributable, at least in part, to him being Latino. I think people can reasonably disagree on the question of whether Machado, personally, has been unfairly judged. But I think it’s pretty indisputable that, generally, Latino players get way, way, way less benefit of the doubt for “hard play” vs. “dirty play” and for being “hotheaded” as opposed to being “competitors” than non-Latinos get. Those stereotypes are well-established. Academic research has been conducted on that stuff, confirming such inherent bias on the part of white commentators. Some of Machado’s peers in the game have said the same thing, both in general, and about Machado’s treatment personally.

Which is to say, whether or not Machado has earned the treatment he gets, he has a point here.