Like Barry Bonds, Baseball Widow hasn't retired; she's just not playing.
Enjoy the archives. . .

Monday, January 24, 2005

Baseball Widow, the BCS, and Dale Murphy

Ask anyone who's married to an Auburn fan (perhaps Baseball Widow, for example), and s/he'll tell you about the college football Bowl Championship System: it's bunk. Actually, Baseball Widow could have told you that well before this year. Prior to BCS, there existed the polling system. It was arbitrary. We all knew it was arbitrary. So, if we liked the #1 choice, we cheered the system, and if we didn't, well, we wrote the system off as arbitrary.

Post-BCS, we have a system that is just as arbitrary. Preseason rankings, unevenly skilled conferences, pre-delegated votes--it's all pseduo-scientific, and the result is the same. . . If we like the winner, we cheer the system, and if we don't, well, we write about how arbitrary the system is.

So, that's the BCS part of the post. I suppose now it's time to talk about Dale Murphy. In Baseball Widow's utterly unscientific poll, she stumbled across some common arguments utilized in discussions about Murphy's increasingly less likely Hall of Fame bid. (For a more scientific take, check out Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT.)

Strongest Pro-Murphy Arguments:
398 Homers before the offensive boom of the 90s. (Seriously, in the homerun era, how long is 400 going to remain impressive?)
Back-to-back MVP Awards while he was on a crappy team.

Stupidest Anti-Murphy Arguments:
398 isn't 400.
Short career.

Baseball Widow isn't the first to have said this, but who cares about a long career? Murphy could have stuck around to hit two more homers, but what would have been the point? Four hundred is an arbitrary number. Would the existence of those two homers have radically altered anything about Murphy as a player? Why not respect those who leave when it's time rather than stick around well past their primes, prolonging their careers and therefore inflating their stats (ahem, Pete Rose)?

There's one more pro-Murphy argument that Baseball Widow hears a lot: the "He's a Good Guy" line of reasoning. Yes, Hall of Fame voting is supposed to consider character, but Baseball Widow thinks it cheapens Murphy's independently impressive accomplishments to use that argument. Sure, he's a great guy, but he was a great player, too. Lately, Baseball Widow has come to realize that Murphy's absence from the Hall might be the greatest testament to his nice guy status.

Hall of Fame balloting is like any other popularity contest. Namely, it's a contest. It involves campaigning and butt-kissing and self-glorification. Remember, Randy Johnson's trade deal was held up because Wade Boggs was inducted this year. (The two share an agent.) Yeah, that's right, for some reason Boggs needed his agent to help negotiate a deal FIVE YEARS AFTER HE RETIRED! He needed negotiation (in some form or another) to make it to the Hall.

Can anyone even imagine Murphy running his own campaign for the Hall? I don't think so.

Every year, Baseball Widow and Hubby hope in vain that Murph will get his due. This year, however, Baseball Widow realized that, like the BCS, it just doesn't matter: it's bunk. From now on, Baseball Widow is going to keep in mind the pseudo-science of Cooperstown induction. If I like the new inductees, that's fine, and if I don't, well, it's arbitrary, and it has absolutely zero effect on how well my favorites actually performed.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

False Positives

Seriously, you'd think that Baseball Widow would tire of the Performance Enhancing Drugs conversation by now, but she's still not over it--probably because this seems to be one of those issues where people are most likely to spew mindless babble and least likely to engage in meaningful dialogue.

Baseball Widow has made her views regarding PEDs fairly well known, but she isn't afraid to admit that there are some aspects that still stump her. Yes, I fervently argue the difference between a violently-inclined drug dealer and a professional athlete who uses steroids. I think that one should be discouraged as a blight on society and one probably harms no one. Where would I draw the line 'twixt the two? I have no idea, but that just means that I'm going to think about and discuss the issue until my ideas are clearer. It is not a reason to belittle or ignore the intelligent thoughts of others.

Baseball Widow wants to make two points tonight about PEDs.

First, regarding the Dave Pinto discussion I referenced last week, I want to emphasize one more time how logically inaccurate it is to classify behavior as "good" or "bad" based solely upon that behavior's status as it pertains to the law. I can think of no better story to illustrate this than one I ran across elsewhere on the web.

. . .In 1932 if Jack and Jill were walking down a street in New York City, and if Jack was carrying a pint of whiskey in his back pocket and Jill was carrying some gold coins in her pocket, Jack would have been violation of the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. . . .However, Jill would have been carrying the currency of the land and would have been in no legal peril.

A scant two years later, Jack’s behavior would have been legal, as the 21st amendment of 1933 repealed the 18th. However, in 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order forcing Americans to turn in their gold coins in exchange for paper money; the coins were melted down to form gold bars, which were then used to pay the national debt. . . .Hence, Jill would have been the criminal.

My second point, and one that I feel is more interesting, deals specifically with the processes through which baseball players are going to be tested for banned substances. Actually, I suppose it's more observation than point, and I again thank Dave Pinto for hosting a most stimulating discussion on the issue.

Let's assume for a moment that it is possible to suspend all of the thorny issues that surround the existence of PEDs in baseball. Let's assume that there are, in fact, a finite number of specifically identifiable substances that should be banned in all circumstances due to their documentable negative impact upon the game. Even if Baseball Widow were to buy into that line of reasoning, mandatory testing simply doesn't make sense at this point.

The currently available testing methods are woefully inadequate. Baseball Widow doesn't need to rehash the science here, but she does strongly encourage everyone who supports immediate mandatory year-round testing to educate him/herself upon the real science that underlies the tests that now exist.

False positives in the baseball world could ruin careers, but false positives in the legal arena have ruined lives. This is a transcript of an ABC news broadcast about junk science. It's basically just an amusing collection of common myths and mistakes in "science". This is a collection of much more sobering facts. Everyday, junk science is accepted as fact in the legal system. Sometimes the scientists themselves are wrong. Sometimes the science itself is faulty. On the diamond or in the courtroom, false positives are a dangerous thing.

Testing won't solve any problems related to PEDs in baseball, and, at this point, it will definitely create more.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Fun with other people’s ideas

A combination of inspiration (other bloggers) and desperation (an utter lack of ballgames . . . anyone else notice that?) has led me once again to fiddle with the numbers. I was really interested in the evaluation of the Mets’ 2005 roster by Mike Carminati at Mike’s Baseball Rants. Using Win Shares and his own estimations, Mike projected that the new Mets are about an 87 win team – good, but probably not Division Champion good. I’ve basically copied Mike’s procedure to see what the Mets’ division rivals the Braves might perform like next year. I suggest you take a look at his post before continuing with this one.

For information on the Braves potential 2005 roster I looked to Mac Thomason at Braves Journal, and for help with players possible 2005 performance I looked at Dan Szymborski’s 2005 ZiPS Projections.

Name2004 G2004 WS2005 WS Proj2005 G ProjPOS
Rafael Furcal1432121143SS
Marcus Giles10218251432B
Chipper Jones13719211503B
Andruw Jones1541919154CF
Raul Mondesi33011143RF
Johnny Estrada1341919134C
Adam LaRoche125991251B
Julio Franco12512121251B
Ryan Langerhans0010145LF
Tim Hudson2702033SP
John Smoltz73121530SP
John Thomson33121233SP
Mike Hampton299929SP
Horacio Ramirez1041230SP
Brian Jordan00690LF
Wilson Betemet220022IF
Nick Green959331IF
Eddie Perez722272C
Dan Kolb640964CL
Tom Martin761276RP
Kevin Gryboski695569RP
Chris Reitsma846684RP
Gabe White640346RP
Roman Colon182654RP
Sam McConnell101440RP
Others 1110
Total WS290260

Guessing Guide:
Giles – 40% more playing time
Chipper – 10% more playing time
Mondesi – 2003 values
Langerhans and Jordan – this is really just a guess, and not a particularly educated one either. I’m just not sure how management is going to handle the outfield – will they let Langerhans play or are they going to use Brian Jordan. Will they platoon the two? In addition, I’m not really sure how to project win shares for a guy like Langerhans who hasn’t had a full season of major league experience. I’d love to hear educated guesses by someone who does.
Green – one third 2004 playing time
Roman Colon – three times more playing time
McConnell – four times more playing time
Gabe White -- 2003 values
Smoltz – This is another mystery spot. Will Smoltz fire it up or flame out in his return to the rotation. It’s anyone’s guess, and mine is optimistic.
Martin – 2004 totals for Dodgers and Braves

The hardest thing about this estimation was figuring the contributions and the playing times of the bench and bullpen. It showed me just how little I understand about the difficult task managers face juggling backups and pitching changes.

As for the result? Well, the Braves are looking like an 87 win team, quite similar to the Mets. The biggest question mark for this roster is the outfield. How will Mondesi perform? Who’s in left? Who’s the fourth outfielder? Will management entrust Ryan Langerhans with major playing time or waste ABs on Brian Jordan? There’s a lot of production missing out there.

The other question is John Smoltz. I don’t know how he’ll do, but I’m not betting against him.

If the Braves can figure out the outfield, and if Smoltz’s arm holds up, they look like they’re going to be competitive again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Long time. . .
Insert usual apologies for Baseball Widow's protracted absence.

It's not that there hasn't been baseball news during the last month. It's a rare occasion indeed when a January episode of SportsCenter leads with a baseball story (as it did a few days ago with the Beltran and Johnson deals). Hot stove season has certainly been, well, hot. And the newly-minted disaster that is steroid testing also promises to be interesting at the least. Don't forget the Hall of Fame voting which, of course, never manages to surprise anyone despite the host of sports writers (many of whom actually get to vote) complaining about the short-sightedness of those who are enfranchised in the matter.

Honestly, Baseball Widow tends to become distracted during December, and she doesn't usually ponder much baseball until Hubby starts the countdown to pitchers and catchers. Baseball Widow's not particularly interested in trade talk--Braves loyalty excepted, she's a fan of the game more than the teams, so she doesn't usually care who's traded or signed where. Still, if Baseball Widow doesn't express her opinions, I suppose no one else will do it for her, so consider me back on my usual semi-regular basis.

You know Baseball Widow has her pet issues, and Performance Enhancing Drugs have topped that list for a while. Dave Pinto has posted a series of thoughts that are worth pondering. In fact, I'm going to ponder them tonight and try to write more tomorrow. Now, be good readers and go do your homework.