Friday, November 16, 2012

Baseball tradition trumps trend in MVP vote


Baseball tradition carried the day in the final voting results for the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player Award, which Miguel Cabrera won in a relative landslide over Mike Trout in a showdown of old school versus new school statistical analysis.
By a margin of more than 3-1, baseball writers gave more weight to Cabrera's Triple Crown than they did to Trout's WAR, or wins above replacement - a more all-encompassing statistic that measures baserunning and fielding as well as hitting. There's nothing wrong with advanced science, but batting average, home runs and runs batted in still resonate with the overwhelming majority of fans and within the baseball community. They're not outdated notions in the same sense that denying women the vote or using hot plaster smeared with pigeon dung as a treatment for kidney stones have been discredited.
Baseball traditionalists don't reject the new way of looking at things as much as they resent the unchecked arrogance of the sabermetric community. It's perfectly legitimate to argue the case in Trout's favor, but to call Cabrera's MVP win an embarrassment or a travesty is the height of pretense, and smacks of the worst kind of know-it-all attitude - one that not only presumes to know better, but summarily dismisses dissenting opinion regardless of its legitimacy. That's a special brand of pomposity, and it's gratifying to see it put in its place.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Porn star mascots and other Monday musings

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the right call when he cancelled the New York City marathon and postponed the Brooklyn Nets historic NBA home opener in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Sporting events were important to New York's recovery from the September 2001 terrorist attacks, because except for the localized physical devastation around Ground Zero, the 9-11 trauma was psychological, and sports gave New Yorkers an opportunity to come together by tens of thousands to commiserate and grieve. Picking up the pieces from Sandy is a logistical nightmare on such a vast scale that it would have been insensitive to divert public resources from the recovery process to a glorified foot race and a basketball game...New Jersey authorities decided to go ahead with yesterday's NFL game at the Meadowlands, although as a Giants fan I wish they'd put the kibosh on that one, too...If you only watch or listen to one highlight from the weekend in sports, make it the postgame locker room speech by Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who's on leave of absence while he battles leukemia. It's a powerful and humbling demonstration of leadership and courage...Does anyone really believe that Jesse Marsch's departure from the Impact was by mutual agreement, or that the only thing mutually agreed upon wasn't that the outgoing coach would bite his tongue about what was obviously a dismissal in exchange for a golden handshake? As hands-on owners go, Joey Saputo is giving Jerry Jones and the late George Steinbrenner a run for their money, with decidedly mixed results...The newly relocated Brooklyn Nets of the NBA are considering renaming their mascot after learning that Brooklyn Knight was already taken - by a porn star. Presumably, the short list for a new name doesn't include Flick Shagwell, Candy Bangs or Buster Hymen.