Thursday, February 23, 2012


We have two parallel exercises in what might be called "transparent sidestepping"--the art of feebly waving one's arms in one direction while diverting one's eyes the other way, thus revealing the truth inside the sham and the sham inside the truth.

The first one is found in the news that Ryan Braun's suspension appeal has been upheld due to MLB's apparent usage of the LAPD "chain of custody unit" (which, by the way, was never actually proven to be the weak link in the O. J. Simpson case--the "Trojan horse" there was a racist cop).

The second one is found in the latest incarnation of the Hall of Fame wars, this time in the hands of Joe Posnanski, who found it necessary and desirable to take a passive-aggressive swipe at Jim Rice so copiously parsed (a la Bill Clinton's excruciatingly arcane hair-splitting on the definition of oral sex) that the actual motive shines like a crazy diamond even as it seemingly remains hidden in the sleight-of-hand that is Poz' shell game.

Let's save the brains for later and start with Braun. Rob Manfred, MLB's counsel, isn't going to win an Oscar for his "vehement disagreement" with the panel findings that tossed out Braun's test results.

Rob Manfred: secretly untying the
Gordian knot??
Folks, please remember that we are still in the Bud Selig era (which still abbreviates to the BS Era, in case you've forgotten). MLB doesn't want to have a tainted MVP, now, do they? So why would it be so surprising that they would figure out a way to ensure that Braun's appeal would prevail, even as they purport to disagree?

Please note that there is no assumption of guilt or innocence here with respect to Braun. The argument is simply that MLB would find it in its best interest to not have the embarrassment of an MVP who was found guilty, even in a "false positive" scenario. So the best way to ensure that the entire matter will flutter off into a morass of confusion and anti-climax is to botch the chain of custody.

With such a strategy implemented, Bud and his boys can concoct a hand-wringing, highly plausible (if you throw a towel over your head to muffle that uncontrollable giggling, that is...) scenario where human error trumps HgH, where a rogue twit (conveniently deployed as a courier...) tramples the vintage where the grapes of wrath (aka testsoterone) have been ruined by promiscuous refrigeration.

And the game can go on with everyone clearing their throats on cue, grimacing and gesticulating, vowing that their unmitigated disaster of a testing program will one day become the type of protective shield you can take home to Mother.

Those "curiously long" posts from Poz have more than a little bit
in common with this geographical phenomenon....
That's how you get paid the big bucks, kiddies.

Now, on to Poz and his pose. Let's face it: you know Joe is up to something when he tries to sneak Mike Cameron past us as a proxy for Jim Rice and "fails" to reference his friend and mentor, Bill James--whose Win Shares system could have answered the question with about nineteen hundred fewer words than Poz deployed in what is becoming a more and more pronounced Parkinsonian "ox-bow rhetoric" (you know, when the river just keeps bending back and forth, back and forth).

It's clear that this approach is deliberate, as ol' Poz tries to make it look like he's not dumping a load on the BBWAA for putting Rice in the Hall by comparing him to someone whom everyone knows is not a Hall of Famer. But Poz' need to linger over the back-and-forth, meandering around the same point, is a dead giveaway that this is a passive-aggressive act of solidarity with the man who just posted a metric ton's worth of his Win Shares data in a tiresome "open letter to the Hall of Fame" (the organization he kicked in the head back in 1994).

Coinkydink? James brings out his archer's set to aim
for a bullseye HOF argument on Dwight Evans; a week or
so later Poz brings out the scaled-back "tainted X" for
Jim Rice...
Poz could have saved a lot of time by simply quoting Bill's system, which shows that Rice is ahead of Cameron by about thirty Win Shares (or ten wins). The exact figures: Rice 279, Cameron 246. (Mike makes up a lot of ground from Win Shares' defensive component...and in support of Bill, let's just note that the scale he uses to measure defense in his system is a helluva lot more credible than the ones built around Wins Above Replacement--which aren't consistent with the method used to calculate offense, are built around shaky premises and assumptions, and just otherwise smell funny.)

But this wouldn't have been enough of a knock on Rice, or such a carefully-calibrated meander around the so-called "art" and "science" of baseball. It was necessary for Poz to toss up the road numbers of the two players, which bear some superficial resemblance to one another.

Again, a simple summary stat--adjusted on-base-plus-slugging (OPS+)--would have been the best way to compare those numbers. In fact, ol' Poz uses those to look at the overall hitting accomplishments of Rice and Cameron. For some reason, though, he doesn't choose to use it when looking at their road stats.

And why is that? Well, possibly it's because if he did so, he'd have to acknowledge a bit more overtly that the differences in offensive levels between Rice's career (70s-80s) and Cameron's career (90s-00s) are significant enough to put some distance between their road stats when these are presented in league-relative terms.

Mike Cameron, whose overall performance in Fenway
didn't measure up to the rest of his career.
When we do that, we see that Rice's OPS+ on the road is 119, while Cameron's is 111. While that puts Cameron within shouting distance of Rice as a road hitter, it is not "pretty much identical," as Poz is so off-handedly attempting to claim (and the wording there is masterful in its casualness, the unmistakable signature of someone whose parsing skills are on a par with those of our controversial, too-sexy-for-his-smirk 42nd President). It's a brilliant attempt at scale distortion--where the larger issue is granted, but the special pleading, the appeal to a context that is presented with the most scant amount of evidence possible--worthy of some of his mentor's brusque efforts in this regard over the years.

Rice, of course, used Fenway at a level that clearly overawed his supporters. Many others didn't. (Cameron, for one. He hit only .227 there.) Another player who took major advantage of his home park was Ron Santo, but this remains the most carefully buried of all statistical facts in the long campaign to get the Cubs' third baseman enshrined. Santo has seemingly gotten credit for Wrigley Field as somehow being just part of his repertoire, while Rice is dressed down for his success in Fenway.

Now please don't think that any of this constitutes a defense of Rice's induction. We are still on record as supporting Santo's induction, while finding Rice to be a player whose peak has been overvalued by the Hall of Fame voters.

What we really are saying, of course--to Poz and Bill James, and all of those who've rallied around (G)rantland as a place to gleefully jump the shark--is simply this:

Get. Over. It.

Even this kind of shambling, ox-bowed, excruciatingly parsed, infinitely resigned posturing is clearly nothing more than the pea of rage being slung around in a rhetorical shell game.

You guys are still mad about Jim Rice, and you are showing virtually no ability to put it behind you.

Just let it go.

Prediction: if Poz writes about Jack Morris in 2012, that will be the tipping hold your tongue, Joe!!