Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote a great piece the other day taking the Sabermetric community to task. At the risk of angering the Sabermetricians among you, I am going to agree with Rosenthal (and yes, I am already seeking places to hide).
Rosenthal's argument relates to this year's American League Most Valuable Player voting. Here is some of what he said.
I'm inclined to agree with the choice of (Minnesota's Joe) Mauer, but that's not why I'm writing. No, I'm writing because of the cyber-shoutdowns of anyone who offers dissent, anyone who dares suggest Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis or whoever is a legitimate alternative to Mauer.
There is more than one way to look at this. I can argue for Mauer. I can argue for others. Taking a contrary position does not make me just another unenlightened member of the MSM (translation: mainstream media). But it will subject me to a certain level of scorn for rejecting SGT (translation: sabermetric groupthink).
Don't get me wrong. Sabermetricians have significantly broadened our understanding of baseball — and by "our," I mean fans, media and club personnel, virtually everyone in the game. Advanced statistics reveal not only tendencies, but also greater truths. Smart teams effectively combine sabermetric principles with scouting orthodoxy. Very few, if any, disregard the numbers entirely.
Here's the problem: Sabermetricians were ignored for so long, they had to shout to be heard. Now they are getting heard — properly heard in the highest levels of baseball media and front offices. But some continue to shout, dismissing those who disagree as ignorant dolts.
Last I checked, it's a free country. Last I checked, the MVP is a subjective choice. Yes, voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America occasionally screw up. But the beauty of the award, as outlined by the instructions given to voters, is "there is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means." Which, of course, drives sabermetricians nuts.
The award is not for highest VORP. It is not for most win shares, most runs created, most wins above replacement player. It is for something that no one can quite define, and — goodness gracious! — voters sometimes apply different interpretations from year to year.
As a diehard Yankee fan, of course, I would love to see Jeter win the MVP. I think he got robbed in 2006 when Justin Morneau was voted the winner.
That's not why I am siding with Rosenthal here, though. I am siding with Rosenthal because I think he is right.
In politics, you simply cannot debate with anyone on the far right or far left of the spectrum. They are right. You are wrong. Because what they believe is right and what you believe is wrong. Why? Because they said so.
It is kind of like that entering into an argument with a Sabermetrician (which, I know, I have stupidly just done). Because a certain set of mysterious statistical calculations says something, you're often judged an idiot if you voice a different opinion.
As Rosenthal has said quite well, I believe, all statistics are useful. What happened to watching the games and using your eyes to form opinions, though?
And now I enter my super-secret hiding place.