For the past two offseasons, all the agents (and especially Scott “Ass Face” Boras) have been shouting about collusion between the teams — how else can you explain the fact that mid-30s veterans who were once getting 5/$75M deals have to choose between a 1/$3M deal and retirement? There’s simply no other explanation!
As it turns out, of course, yes there is another explanation. And it’s not “the economy,” which is fun to use as a scapegoat,* but rather it’s the fact that MLB front offices are hiring people who are willing to “think,” or “use a computer,” or other such things that we’ve been told are antithetical to the true essence of baseball.
* I was back in Minnesota for Thanksgiving, and my dad pointed out a tree in our neighbor’s yard which appears to be dying. I blamed it on the economy. Thank you! I’m here all week!
Matthew Leach of MLB.com discusses it — in very ownership-friendly terms, I might add, which is to be expected of anything posted on MLB.com — quoting Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash:
It’s a combination of things. Of course there are the general economic concerns, but there is also more data going around, like FIP [fielding-independent pitching statistics], and others that give you a better feel for a pitcher rather than the traditional wins and losses and ERA.
I suppose nobody should be surprised about this — we’re well passed the point where Wall Street analysts have abandoned a hunch and a handshake as a basis for their deals and moved to computer models. Baseball is big business too, and there’s no reason these large companies shouldn’t be taking advantage of whatever mode of analysis is a) the best, and b) currently available to them.
Increasingly, it seems that the only people still resisting the move to a more complete and quantifiable way of measuring and enjoying baseball are the sportswriters.* As Calcaterra notes:
compare [the quote from Gord Ash] to the aggressive dismissal of advanced metrics by the majority of your mainstream baseball writers and ask yourself if the statheads are really as out-of-touch as they’re made out to be. If anything, the geeks and the game’s movers and shakers are speaking the same language.
* Also, the managers.
But this leaves me legitimately worried — the Twins front office continues to be a bastion of old-fashioned thinking, having missed several previous new movements in baseball (including “striking batters out is good,” “drawing walks is good,” and “home runs are good”) and continue to play the game like it’s the 70s.* Thus far, there has been no indication that they’re going to get on the “accurate player/value evaluation” boat any time soon.
* Oh, and also as if each team got to play several middle infielders at once. It remains important to have an abundance of utility infielders on your major league roster and throughout your minor league system, right? Additionally, I feel that it’s worth pointing out that back in the 60s and 70s, the Twins were actually pretty forward-thinking when it came to “striking people out” and “hitting home runs.” Too bad that all went away, right?
Is it time to start fearing that the Twins will start signing old, declining veterans to bloated, ill-advised contracts … especially as those same veterans find it impossible to find such contracts in their former pastures? Maybe this isn’t such a great time for the Twins to be boosting their revenue and payroll significantly.29 comments