Wednesday, November 25, 2015

0 comments Murray Chass Thinks the Most Valuable Player Award Should Be a Team Award

Murray Chass and the writing he posts on his non-blog hasn't really been covered by me of late. He's usually at his best (worst) when it comes time for awards season, because that's when he takes his boring and repetitious stabs at criticizing Sabermetrics. He specifically doesn't like WAR, not because he understands WAR, but because it is the easiest metric to spell. Simplicity in all things. WAR is the most popular advanced statistic for the anti-stats crowd to criticize, just because it's easy to spell and sticks in one's mind. Murray writes on his non-blog about how Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are not MVP candidates as much anymore because their team may not make the playoffs. Murray wants to be clear that he understands a team's record and whether that team makes the playoffs isn't what determines which player(s) should win the MVP. That's not what Murray is saying. What he is saying is that he won't vote for a player as MVP if his team doesn't make the playoffs, because he can't be individually valuable if the players around him aren't good enough to make the playoffs. So the MVP can go to a player whose team doesn't make the playoffs, except not really. As always, Murray explains his idiotic point of view in the most aggravating way possible.

At some relatively early point in the season some people were already proclaiming Bryce Harper and Mike Trout this year’s most valuable players.

Yes, "people" were doing this. "People" always do this, especially when referenced in such a vague manner.

Send the plaques to the engraver, etch their names on them and just wait for an appropriate moment to put them in their hands.

That appropriate moment being when that appropriate moment always happens, which is after the season is over. 

One minor problem. Four weeks remain in the season, and no votes have been cast. The voters haven’t even received their ballots.

What? So "people" are going to have stop handing the MVP awards to Harper and Trout. Stop that, "people" who are doing this! Stop right now. Murray will further explain why you must immediately stop or face the wrath of bacne accusations from Murray on this here non-blog. 

Both Trout and Harper have encountered potholes en route to their anticipated awards.

Both have been only slightly worse at hitting the baseball in the second half of the season (or were when Murray wrote this), and therefore even though they are still hitting the hell out of the ball Murray is going to use this as an excuse to say neither player should be MVP? Is that the pothole?

Their teams, contenders earlier in the season, have fallen by the wayside.

Individual awards presented to a player based on his team's achievement. It's a shining day for those who seem to think individual athletes should be rewarded based on the team around him. I am not one of those people. 

The Angels were in first place in the A.L. West at the All-Star break, but they lost 27 of 41 games before Sunday and fell 5 ½ games from the division lead and 3 ½ games off the second wild-card spot.

The Nationals were also in first place at the All-Star break in the N.L. East, but a subsequent 20-26 stretch left them in second place fighting for their post-season lives as the Mets barreled past them with a rejuvenated offensive onslaught.

And obviously, because the Mets are a better overall team than the Nationals then this means Bryce Harper is less valuable. The Nationals team moves down in the standings, but this is really just a reflection on one person's ability to be valuable. Harper is the constant for the Nationals, but his value is determined by the variables around him. Makes sense in Murray's head.

What does their teams’ status have to do with their candidacy for the most valuable player award?

Not as much as Murray seems to think it should. I won't completely dismiss a team's record when evaluating a player's MVP candidacy, but it's pretty far down the list of things I believe should be considered when evaluating a specific player. 

Voters generally focus on the word “value,” which is what they should do no matter what the analytics-obsessed non-voters think and say.

I don't think analytics-obsessed non-voters fail to focus on the word "value" at all. Some people simply have a different method they use to evaluate a player's value. That's all. Murray wants to frame this as a "right or wrong" argument, but it's more of an argument over the best way to evaluate a player's value to his team. 

These relatively new-to-the-party noisemakers fail to understand the award’s meaning. They cite their WAR rankings – that would be wins above replacement for the ignorant and unwashed among you – and proclaim the player with the highest WAR ranking most valuable.

Murray is always using WAR. It's easy to write, that's why. I don't know if anyone just looks at WAR and then ends the discussion there. Murray wants to believe this is true so he can portray those who use WAR as a way to evaluate an MVP candidate as being narrow-minded and not thoughtful. In reality, Murray is the narrow-minded and not thoughtful person when tying a team's record to a member of that team's MVP candidacy. 

The player’s value to his team doesn’t seem to have a bearing on his selection. In other words, they are choosing the player they think is the best in the league, not the most valuable.

What is the difference in "best" and "most valuable" though? Isn't a player who contributes the most Wins Above Replacement the "most valuable" player because he contributes the most wins compared to a replacement player? I'm playing devil's advocate in part, but a player who brings the most wins compared to other players in the majors is certainly also most valuable. It's not that anyone who disagrees with Murray is wrong, as he insists they are, it's is simply that those who are new-to-the-party use a different method of determining the best in the league.

That’s what is good about the Baseball Writers Association award. They require the voters to think, perhaps to debate.

If thinking were really required then I would have to think many of these voters would understand it doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense to base a significant part of a player's MVP candidacy on where that player's team is in the playoff standings. The whole "If he was so good then why didn't his team make the playoffs?" line of reasoning is such a shockingly lazy way of voting for MVP. Yet, that's the reasoning given by Murray and other voters when explaining why they didn't vote for a certain player. It's so lazy.

WAR doesn’t require thinking, as far as I know.

It doesn't require thinking? Then calculate Bryce Harper's WAR right now. Go for it. 

WAR is a statistic, which after being calculated, speaks for itself. This is much like where a player's team is in the standings doesn't require thinking either. How WAR combines with other factors that determine a player's MVP worthiness is a matter of debate and thought.

If I’m wrong, I’m sure someone will tell me.

Murray says this as if it is ridiculous someone would correct him when he's wrong. Yes, God forbid someone should tell Murray when he's disseminating misleading or incorrect information. It just shows how these Stats Geeks love to be right that they won't allow Murray to unfairly criticize and mock advanced statistics without them pointing out the factual inaccuracies in his arguments. How silly of them to expect Murray to be honest and informed. 

I recall the BBWAA selection of Justin Morneau as A.L. MVP in 2006. The metrics monster attacked the choice as if it were a violation of one of the 10 Commandments. They brought out their rankings and proudly and boastfully showed why Morneau should not have received the award. Again, they failed to consider Morneau’s value to the Twins, counting only his value to their WAR rankings.

If I remember correctly, the argument was being made that Justin Morneau may not have been even the MVP of his own team. Joe Mauer hit .347/.429/.507 that season while playing the position of catcher, while Morneau hit more dingerz but hit .321/.375/.559 while playing first base. Yes, Mauer had a higher WAR then Morneau that season, but Morneau's selection as AL MVP was questioned in that he may not have even been the most valuable player on his own team, much less the most valuable American League player.

If their teams don’t make the playoffs, it could undermine their chances for MVP. I’m not saying a player’s team has to reach the post-season, but if, say, the Angels fall short, how valuable was Trout?

Murray isn't saying a player's team has to reach the postseason, but if a player's team doesn't reach the postseason then how could he be valuable? That's his point apparently. So it's not required for a player's team to make the playoffs, except it sort of is. And to expect a player to singlehandedly drag his team to the playoffs is unrealistic. Trout can still be the most valuable player in the American League if the team around him just isn't very good. 

That would especially be the case if a playoff team had a player who was valuable in helping his team get to the playoffs. I’ll get to those players after looking at another element of the award that outsiders don’t understand.

Yes, those things "outsiders" don't understand. Murray wrote about sports for a living a decade ago and those people who love baseball don't understand those things that Murray understands. It's fun how Murray brags about the BBWAA voters being open-minded and up for a debate, while using closed-minded and narrow reasoning for why he personally understands the debate better than those without a vote understand the debate.

Both Goldschmidt, Arizona’s first baseman, and Arenado, Colorado’s third baseman, are having terrific seasons, but MVP?

If they are the most valuable player in the National League, regardless of how good their teams are, then they should be considered for NL MVP. 

The Diamondbacks started Sunday tied for third in the N.L. West. The Rockies were in last place in the division, both with losing records. As good as Goldschmidt and Arenado have been, what have they done that is so valuable? Maybe the Rockies could have lost a few more games than the 79 they have already lost.

Probably the same thing Josh Donaldson has done to make himself so valuable. They are good players who put up great statistics, except Paul Goldschmidt doesn't have David Price, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and and Russell Martin on his team. Here's a question for Murray. If Josh Donaldson put up the exact same numbers, but played for the Diamondbacks, does he believe the Diamondbacks would then make the playoffs while the Blue Jays with Goldschmidt would miss the playoffs? If he does, he is stupid because that's ridiculous, and if he doesn't, then how does it make sense for Donaldson to be suddenly less valuable because he plays for a Diamondbacks team that stinks? 

Once more these analysts, whether or not they realized it, were mistaking “best” for “most valuable.”

Once more Murray Chass, whether he realizes it or not, doesn't understand that the argument is over how to evaluate what makes a player so valuable. 

Despite the Nationals’ effort to undermine Harper’s chances, they have been in post-season contention and continue to be even if they have been shoved to the fringe, and Harper has been the primary reason.

He leads the league in batting average (.337), on-base (.469) and slugging (.647) percentages and runs scored (100), is second in walks (106) and total bases (280) and is third in home runs (33) and extra-base hits (67).

And so, if Harper puts up those numbers with the Blue Jays then he is an MVP candidate. Same numbers, different team. All of a sudden Harper is more valuable because his teammates are more talented. My point is this doesn't make sense to judge Harper on his team's ability to win games. Sure, factor it in a small amount, but don't dismiss his candidacy because the Nationals are better at talking about how good they are at winning games than they are at actually winning games. 

Some other names to consider for the N.L. award, though no likely winner in the bunch:

Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant of the Cubs, Matt Carpenter and Jason Heyward of the Cardinals, Curtis Granderson of the Mets, Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers and Buster Posey of the Giants.

Harper's numbers are below. Here are other candidates for MVP (and their stats around the time Murray wrote this post) who play for winning teams and therefore are more valuable than Harper:

Harper: .337/.469/.647, 100 runs, 106 walks, 280 total bases, 33 home runs, 67 extra base hits.

Rizzo: .276/.386/.516, 84 runs, 71 walks, 271 total bases, 29 home runs, 65 extra base hits.

Bryant: .270/.364/.486, 79 runs, 68 walks, 243 total bases, 24 home runs, 55 extra base hits.

Carpenter: .261/.360/.468, 85 runs, 77 walks, 242 total bases, 22 home runs, 61 extra base hits.

Heyward: .293/.355/.466, 72 runs, 47 walks, 222 total bases, 12 home runs, 48 extra base hits.

Granderson: .259/.366/.454, 88 runs, 85 walks, 240 total bases, 23 home runs, 55 extra base hits.

Gonzalez: .280/.356/.493, 73 runs, 58 walks, 259 total bases, 27 home runs, 58 extra base hits.

Posey: .328/.392/.487, 70 runs, 54 walks, 245 total bases, 18 home runs, 44 extra base hits.

Notice something? I do. Bryce Harper is better than every one of these other MVP candidates in every single category Murray listed. Not one of these other candidates beats Harper in any category, except one, and that category is "Will his team make the playoffs?" So obviously, (notice two teams have multiple players on this list as "most valuable") Bryce Harper isn't as valuable as these other players. After all, how could Anthony Rizzo benefit from having Kris Bryant in the lineup with him everyday? Inconceivable. So yeah, Harper should be the NL MVP.

And then there’s Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, the 2013 MVP. He started the season at a standstill, batting .194 in April with .302 on-base and .333 slugging percentages. However, he proceeded to fuel the Pirates third consecutive wild-card bid, culminating in his N.L. player-of-the-month August in which he batted .348 with .470 on-base and .609 slugging percentages.

A similar September with the Pirates clinching a post-season spot could make McCutchen a formidable challenger to Harper if Harper is unable to spark the Nationals into the post-season.

McCutchen: .298/.397/.502, 86 runs, 80 walks, 258 total bases, 22 home runs, 58 extra base hits.

Murray can hide behind the fact these other players are just as qualified, but it simply isn't true. The only difference in the MVP candidacy of Harper and these other 8 players is Harper's team isn't going to make the playoffs, so that makes him "less valuable" despite his performance exceeding the performance of every other serious NL MVP candidate.

With Trout sinking slowly – or rapidly with the Angels in the West – the A.L. MVP award should go to Josh Donaldson, the Toronto third baseman, however the Blue Jays get to the playoffs.

Donaldson has had a lot of help from Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista – and I’ve always felt that the more good players a team has the less valuable each one is – but Donaldson has been too overwhelming to ignore. He plays a pretty good third base, too.

Murray has always felt the more good players a team has the less valuable each one is, but he's going to totally ignore his own beliefs in favor of the belief that no player whose team isn't going to make the playoffs should win the MVP. It seems Murray only has one belief, no matter how much he denies it, and that belief is a player can't win the MVP award if his team isn't going to make the playoffs. 

Acquired from Oakland last November for Brett Lawrie in what has to be one of Billy Beane’s worst trades, Donaldson leads the A.L. in runs batted in (112), runs scored (104), total bases (304) and extra-base hits (74), is second in slugging (.581) and third in home runs (36).

Trout, last season’s A.L. MVP, has not disappeared completely in this season’s MVP contest. He is second in on-base percentage (.396), fourth in slugging (.575), tied for fourth in runs (87), sixth in home runs (33) and third in total bases (277), extra-base hits (63) and walks (73).

I don't really care if Trout gets the MVP or not. Donaldson is pretty deserving, and believe it or not, I try not to get too worked up over stupid awards. I don't think Trout's candidacy for AL MVP should be downgraded because the team around him isn't as good as the team around Donaldson. I'm betting the Blue Jays would have as good of a record as they do now if they replaced Donaldson with Trout. It's just a guess, but just don't downgrade Trout's candidacy based on his team's performance. That's what aggravates me.

Joining teammate Alex Rodriguez in a twin comeback, Teixeira was a primary force in the Yankees’ surprising run for the post-season, if not the division title.

Injuries limited the first baseman to 123 games each last season and in 2012 and to 15 games in 2013. But he came back healthy this season, hitting 31 home runs and driving in 79 runs in 111 games. His production and contribution both offensively and defensively warranted MVP consideration.

Plus, the Yankees were going to make the playoffs, which automatically makes Teixeira more valuable than if he had put up similar numbers on a team that wasn't going to make the playoffs. Obviously, this makes sense. Murray is one of those BBWAA voters who is able to think, so if you think about it in non-Stat Geek terms then you see it makes sense to base an individual award on a team's performance around that individual. 

Missing much of the last six weeks of the season, if not all of the games that remained, doesn’t work well for an MVP candidate, especially when his team is in a division race and a playoff race.

Unless his team makes the playoffs and every other MVP candidate's team didn't make the playoffs. Then the player who was injured for six weeks all of a sudden becomes more valuable because the team around him was more valuable and he will be handed the MVP. Obviously.

Worse, Teixeira has lost a chance to win an unusual double – MVP and comeback player of the year.

Can the Comeback Player of the Year be awarded to a player who is on a team that doesn't make the playoffs? After all, how can the player comeback from anything if he doesn't make a difference for his team when he does comeback? 

Posey won both in 2012 after suffering a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments in a home plate collision the previous season.

The same Buster Posey who was kept in the minors long enough to avoid being a Super-2 and Murray went on and on about how this wasn't fair to the Giants fans to keep Posey in the minors. Then it turns out Giants fans weren't negatively impacted at all, because the Giants won the World Series, and Giants fans knew that after Posey broke his leg and tore ligaments that the team could keep him for an extra season because he was kept in the minors for a few extra weeks.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

5 comments What A-Rod Has Done Wrong Today: He's Doing Harm to "The Kids" By Being a Fox Baseball Analyst

Alex Rodriguez hit .250/.356/.486 this year with 33 home runs, which surprised the shit out of me. That's pretty damn good for a guy who is 40 years old. Of course, as soon as he starts hitting poorly next year the New York media will jump all over him again for the mistake of continuously getting older. Regardless of how good of a year A-Rod had at the plate, and regardless of how little controversy he stirred up, he still did many things wrong. He participated in an unfunny skit, he didn't increase YES ratings, he made his teammates like him, and most egregiously, he showed up early to Spring Training. Simply because the season is over doesn't mean that A-Rod still isn't doing things wrong. Of course. Now he was hired as an analyst for Fox during the playoffs and is ruining everything for "the kids," while poisoning their mind with the idea if they use steroids to enhance their performance then they may one day also be able to be a sports analyst. Christine Brennan has had enough of this and does a public service by finally speaking out about this travesty. In fact, Brennan says they (Fox) "swing and miss" (GET IT?????????) by hiring A-Rod as an analyst.

Of the thousands of baseball players and experts Fox Sports could have selected to appear on its postseason shows, it picked the worst.

You mean the guy who has been banned from baseball permanently, Pete Rose? 

It chose the most notorious, earnest and purposeful cheater to ever play the game. It chose the man whose name is synonymous with performance-enhancing drugs.

Barry Bonds? Roger Clemens? Mike Piazza's bacne? 

It chose A-Rod.

Oh no, not A-Rod. His mere presence on the Yankees roster has caused steroid use among youth to be nearly tripled since April. Millions of kids are dying, with their last breath screaming, "I just wanted to be like A-Rod!" What about "the kids," doesn't Fox care about the kids at all? 

Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to using steroids from 2001-03 and then was suspended for the entire 2014 season for his big role in the Biogenesis scandal, isn’t just any old baseball steroids guy. He is the guy.

He's the guy unless you want to consider Mark McGwire "the guy," Barry Bonds "the guy" or Roger Clemens "the guy." It all depends on the type of article being written really. In this case, A-Rod is "the guy" but this could change if the column is about which current Hall of Fame eligible players should receive the honor of induction. When it comes to a Hall of Fame discussion, McGwire, Bonds and Clemens are the face of steroids. In fact, I would argue given all the government resources and the hysteria surrounding the breaking of Roger Maris' home run record that these three players will always be the face of the Steroid Era. I don't see A-Rod in that role. 

Congratulations, Fox.

You're ruined the world's ability to prevent drug use among teens and driven thousands of young children away from the heroin they are using and into the arms of steroids by hiring A-Rod. Congrats. 

What a terrible message this sends to children


if kids actually watched playoff baseball games anymore.

Oh, so it's not hurting the kids at all because they don't watch baseball? So disaster averted and we can all move on to other things. Though, if "the kids" did still watch baseball then A-Rod being on Fox would be a total disaster. Let's assume kids don't watch baseball, acknowledge nobody watches FS1 (yet...ever?), and still work under the assumption that A-Rod is singlehandedly poisoning today's youth. Sound like fun? Great, Christine Brennan will now continue. 

Experts say the use of performance-enhancing drugs by kids in high school sports has reached epidemic proportions.

Experts also say kids in high school are increasingly getting addicted to heroin and other drugs such as that. I'm not going to downplay the impact of steroids, but the use of heroin among high school kids has also reached epidemic proportions. I really don't believe A-Rod being an analyst for Fox is going to drive more kids towards using steroids any more than his playing baseball for 162 games a year would drive them in that direction already.

Seeing superstars suspended or hauled before Congress can act an a deterrent to these kids.

This is the biggest crock of shit I have read in this column so far. Hauling these superstars before Congress can serve as a deterrent to these kids? I have quite a few issues with this statement.

1. How does Christine Brennan know this is true? Is there research she can cite that says seeing superstars hauled before Congress is a deterrent to drug use among kids? Is there anything she can use to show this as a true statement, outside of any anecdotal evidence or the idea this is what she WANTS to believe is true? I see nothing in this column confirming this statement isn't a lie.

2. If superstars being hauled before Congress or being suspended really served as a deterrent, then how come experts say the use of PED's by kids is reaching epidemic proportions? Using logic, which I know isn't something Christine is doing right now, wouldn't the stricter MLB drug policy after the Steroid Era where big name players (like A-Rod) have been suspended have served as a deterrent to using PED's?

3. Christine Brennan can't cite how A-Rod has been suspended twice, in an effort to expose his true villain tendencies, then explain that's why he shouldn't be working for Fox, and then claim seeing baseball players get suspended serves as a deterrent to kids. It doesn't work this way. So if seeing players get suspended did serve as a deterrent, then it wouldn't make a difference at all if A-Rod works for Fox during the postseason.

4. If seeing superstars hauled before Congress was a deterrent, then there should be a decrease in high school kids using PED's. These kids grew up seeing Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa, and Clemens hauled in front of Congress and in court fighting accusations of PED use. Seeing this would cause a decrease in PED use among high school kids, if this statement by Brennan wasn't a crock of shit.

Seeing them propped up on pre-game shows as faux stars does not.

But A-Rod has been suspended! That's the deterrent for "the kids," right? 

Perhaps next year, Fox can put together a panel featuring A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro.

Bonds has worked with Giants hitters during Spring Training and McGwire has been a hitting coach in the majors. I get how Christine Brennan is upset, but it's well-known in baseball that A-Rod is a student of the game and knows something about hitting. He's a cheat and has a huge ego, but he's also really good at hitting a baseball and analyzing the game. 

Fox Sports’ baseball audience is minuscule compared with the NFL’s, but that doesn’t make the network’s decision any less egregious. In fact, that’s probably why Fox did it, to try to boost ratings.

Let's one watches Fox, players like A-Rod who get suspended serve as a deterrent to kids and kids don't watch baseball anyway. So how are A-Rod and Fox ruining kids by having him show up on their postseason coverage again? 

It’s not a coincidence that one of Rodriguez’s fellow studio analysts is Pete Rose.

It's not a coincidence. Fox wants ratings and they want guys on their postseason shows that have played in the postseason and played the game at a high level. They also want eyes on their show and Rose/A-Rod also serve that purpose. ESPN hired Tim Tebow, but is he more qualified to talk about college football because he's a good person, as compared to the qualifications of Rose/A-Rod to talk about baseball even though they haven't always been good people? I wouldn't think so. 

Our senses are so dulled by the misbehavior of athletes these days that most of us probably don’t give it a second thought when a bad guy like Rodriguez shows up talking about the playoffs. Do we have any standards anymore?

I bet Christine Brennan's editor asked this same question when reading this article. 

Or maybe we still do. Could you imagine an Olympics telecast featuring Ben Johnson? Lance Armstrong hosting coverage of the Tour de France?

It feels different with A-Rod being on MLB's postseason coverage. Perhaps because he is still an active player and has served his suspension. I can't explain the difference honestly. 

Tonya Harding on Olympic figure skating? Thankfully, I think we’re safe from all three, at least for a few more years.

If she knew enough about Olympic figure skating these days, then I would have no issue with Tonya Harding commenting on Olympic figure skating. The issue is there are more knowledgeable commentators available to discuss Olympic figure skating. A-Rod is a really knowledgeable source about baseball and knows today's players because he is still an active player himself. 

For all baseball’s talk and action on the subject of PEDs, it has never taken them as seriously as the Olympic world has, and it still does not.

But MLB takes PED's much more seriously than every other major sport. Sorry, but the NFL and the NBA have a PED problem (mostly the NFL) even if they don't know it yet. Human beings don't look like NFL players look and I don't believe some guys in the NBA get as strong as they are without some additional help. I'm not pointing a finger at any certain players, but MLB has a strong PED policy. It's not strong enough for some people, of course. It never will be. 

That’s why the sport allows someone who has flaunted the rules as badly as A-Rod has to still be one of the faces of the game.

A-Rod is not one of the faces of MLB. He is not. He's never really even been the face of the Yankees either. A-Rod doing postseason work for Fox doesn't make him a face of baseball. Max Scherzer does postseason work for Fox too and I'm not sure he can be considered one of the faces of baseball (perhaps wrongly). Even on his own team, Bryce Harper, Jonathan Papelbon and Stephen Strasburg move the needle more than Scherzer tends to, even if Scherzer appears on Fox's postseason coverage. 

This tells us that the game, and Fox Sports, will do anything to get attention.

"The game" had nothing to do with Fox hiring A-Rod. That was a decision by Fox. Trust me, if MLB really had an issue with Pete Rose and A-Rod being hired by Fox then neither of these individuals would be working on Fox's postseason coverage.


What about "the kids?" What will the kids who don't watch baseball on Fox and who are already deterred from using PED's by A-Rod's suspension for PED use think about A-Rod being seen on Fox's postseason coverage? Will it drive them right back into the arms of PED's, seeing that they could also one day get a job as a studio analyst if they just use enough PED's to get there? What will happen if an entire generation of studio analysts use PED's in order to further their career and make an even playing field that much more uneven?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2 comments The Kansas City Star Shows How to Report on a Story and Then Make Themselves a Part of the Story

Lee Judge of "The Kansas City Star" writes a blog-ish type online section of the paper called "Judging the Royals." It gets updated daily or so. No journalist whose last name is "Judge" should allow an opportunity to go by without inserting his/her last name into the title of his column. So Judge wrote his opinion on the subject of Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper, which again, is a great metaphor for what the Nationals team has been doing all year to Harper. Of course, Judge's take on Harper was pretty hot and it drew some attention, which I am sure was by pure coincidence. This then gave the editor of the "Star" a chance to publicly comment on the attention this post by Judge received. So now Judge gave an opinion and an editor is commenting on that opinion. This is how you make yourself a part of the story. Give an opinion, then comment on your own opinion and the attention it receives. ESPN would be proud.

"Hey, look at the attention we received for something one of our columnists wrote!"

Then, OF COURSE, Judge had to address his previous comments in his next "Judging the Royals" blog-ish post. I mean, he would be remiss if he didn't address the story he had created. Now Judge is commenting on his comments about a story. I may have missed it, but I'm surprised an editor didn't then comment on Judge's comments about his comments about the story. Really, he tried to explain himself at more length, because any chance to get more attention for the "Star" (which I do understand by the way) can not be passed up. People are paying attention now to what he's said and discussing his opinion. He's become part of the story. That's how it goes.

I'll start first with the original post that asks if Jonathan Papelbon should have choked Bryce Harper. Considering choking seems like an extreme act, I would go with "no," but Judge takes a more nuanced view. Much like a nagging wife, sometimes a person is just asking to get choked a little bit. Bryce Harper is one of these people begging to be choked.

(By the way, I am not a Bryce Harper fan because I don't like the Nationals. I'm sure I've wanted to metaphorically choke him at some point, but never literally)

I don’t know Bryce Harper from Adam,

"I know nothing about this person...but I'm going to go ahead and say that my perception based on watching him play a sport is probably 100% accurate. I mean, I'm advocating for him to get choked by a teammate. How could I be wrong?"

but he certainly seems like a young man who needs an attitude adjustment.

It's a good thing Lee Judge isn't a policeman.

"I don't know this kid standing on the corner, but he looks like he is up to no good. I'm going to go ahead and arrest him, perhaps shoot him if he insists too intently he's done nothing wrong."

I feel bad for the defendant if Judge is ever on a jury. And yes, I have no doubt he would write a blog post about his jury experience and call it "Judge and Jury."

"I don't know this kid who is on trial, but he has hair longer than I'd like to see on a young man. Plus, he just looks like he needs an attitude adjustment. I've heard the evidence against him, which was all unpersuasive, but my intuition has never been wrong. I say convict him." 

Unfortunately he was choked by the wrong guy in the wrong place.

Bryce Harper needed to be choked, but the wrong person choked him. Much like a disobedient woman MUST be choked by her husband and only her husband, this is a very strict rule with no exceptions, Bryce Harper must be choked by another position player. It's only right. If Lee Judge sees a child being hit in the head with a baseball bat, he will immediately stop and make sure the person doing the hitting is the parent. If so, carry on. If not, this isn't right and he is not afraid to be the hero and do something about it. 

In baseball culture, pitchers — especially relievers — do not get to criticize position players for lack of hustle. 

So the choking was fine, but the wrong person choked Harper. I can't see how this doesn't make sense. 

So if you spend a fair amount of time sitting in the shade eating popsicles, you don’t get to criticize position players for failing to run out a fly ball.

In fact, if the world were fair then someone would choke Jonathan Papelbon for choking Bryce Harper. It just has to be a position player or starting pitcher who chokes Papelbon though, because another reliever doesn't get to criticize Papelbon for choking Bryce Harper.

And I hope you realize the irony of a sportswriter, a person who works hard but literally could spend an entire baseball game eating popsicles in the shade, commenting on which baseball players can and can not choke Bryce Harper based on whether that player can eat a popsicle in the shade during a game.

The second problem was location: if you want to choke Bryce Harper — 

I know what Judge is going to say. Do it in private. Beat your loved ones, commit senseless violence in life to anyone you know or work with, but for God's sake keep it private. 

and I suspect if you played with him, you might — 

This suspicion being based on the fact that Lee Judge has already stated he in no way knows Bryce Harper. It's a strong take for someone who doesn't know Bryce Harper at all. 

ask him to come up the tunnel and then choke him. 

You don’t do it in the dugout for everyone in the world to see; you keep that stuff private.

To an extent, yes, but maybe just don't choke a teammate. Now I realize that teammates get in scuffles all the time. That's not really my issue here, despite the fact Judge will later try to frame that as the issue his critics have with his comments. My issue is Judge essentially is excusing Papelbon from choking Harper because he just feels like Harper is the type of person who should be choked. Therein lies my issue. Scuffles happen, I get it. Saying a guy should be choked has nothing to do with privacy though.

So you can blame either guy for what happened, but you should probably blame both. 

I'm not sure Harper should be blamed for seeming like he should be choked. But hey, when could Judge's perception of an athlete ever be wrong? 

Then Judge has some thoughts about a manager using his closer in a tie game on the road. I don't think I agree with these thoughts. There is some logic to his explanation as to why a manager shouldn't use his closer on the road in a tie game that I think Judge is missing.

So using a closer in a tie game at home gives you two shots to win a ball game.

But use your closer in a tie game on the road and no matter what you’re closer does, you’ll still need more pitching to win the game. 

And you will also need more offense to win the game, as well as make sure your pitcher on the mound doesn't give up a run or else the game is over. So a good way to ensure your team gets another chance to score a run and win the game is to make sure the relief pitcher who is pitching in the bottom of the inning doesn't give up a run to lose the game. I don't think hoping an inferior relief pitcher doesn't give up a run is the best way to win a game. The assumption your team will score a run and the closer will get an opportunity to pitch seems like a faulty assumption to me. If the point is to win the game, do all you can to ensure your team gets a chance to do so. This means potentially pitching your closer on the road in a tie game.

Not using the closer in a tie game on the road is like not filling up a plane with gas before going to the next destination. I mean, you still need gas when you to your next destination, so why fill up twice? 

So if you were wondering why Ned Yost didn’t use Wade Davis on Monday night — and apparently some fans were — if Wade had pitched a scoreless bottom of the eleventh, someone would still have had to get three outs in the bottom of the twelfth.

Right, but that someone would have had an opportunity to get three outs in the bottom of twelfth, while using an inferior pitcher means the game may not get to the bottom of the twelfth. 

So if Miguel Almonte is going to give up a walk-off homer, you want him to do it before you waste an inning from your closer.

If ensuring the game is still tied and the Royals still have a chance to win the game is "wasting" an inning from the closer then I am all for "wasting" an inning. How is it a waste of an inning to ensure the Royals still are playing in a tie game at the top of the twelfth? 

So now the editor of the "Star" comments on the attention the post received. Because, commenting on the story is a great way to keep the original post alive, right?

Twitter is the most negative corner of the Internet, in my opinion. Its short bursts of 140 characters tend to be long on outrage, and media sources are constant targets.

This is partly true. Sometimes a person is asking to be a target when they suggest a human being deserves to be choked though. Twitter is long on outrage, but there are ways to make yourself a target on social media and Lee Judge managed to do so. 

The Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon got into a fight in the dugout during a game Sunday. Papelbon has been suspended for four games without pay. The Star’s Lee Judge wrote about it in a blog post asking, “Should Jonathan Papelbon have choked Bryce Harper?”

Writing a post titled "Should Jonathan Papelbon have choked Bryce Harper?" is asking for negative feedback. It's begging for negative attention. 

It starts: “I don’t know Bryce Harper from Adam, but he certainly seems like a young man who needs an attitude adjustment. Unfortunately he was choked by the wrong guy in the wrong place.” An earlier version read, “…he certainly seems like a young man who needs choking.”

The critics, such as Gawker sports commentary site Deadspin, called the post things such as “psychopathic.”

I mean writing that is a bit psychopathic. Saying a person needs to be choked sounds a little bit crazy. 

I reached out to Lee, who it should be noted has also been a political cartoonist for The Star for some 30 years. He’s well accustomed to expressing provocative opinions, sometimes in blunt language. His reply, in which he stands by what he wrote:

Judging the Royals is an inside look at big league baseball; it not only deals with how the game is played, it also reveals some of the game’s unwritten rules. In today’s column I said that if Jonathan Papelbon wanted to choke Bryce Harper, he should have done it in private. Ballplayers have scuffles and arguments more often than fans know, but those scuffles and arguments are supposed to take place out of the public eye.

If Judge thinks the sum total of the outrage is over his comment that the scuffle should have taken place in private, then he's missing part of the point. It's the whole "I don't know Bryce Harper but think he needs an attitude adjustment and should be choked" comment that is part of the point as well. 

Whether fans like it or not, baseball players throw at each other, do takeout slides on each other and sometimes fight with each other. When they do those things, there’s a right way to do it and that’s what today’s column was about.

He's still not totally getting the point on why there was some outrage. 

My own opinion is that a blog may be a place for frank ruminations on these sorts of topics, and I find some of the Twitter hand-wringing disingenuously genteel. You hear stuff far less considered than this every day on sports talk radio and — for crying out loud — from well-known voices on Twitter itself.

If sports talk radio is the standard by which Lee Judge's columns are held, then the bar is being lowered for him further than it should be.

"The opinions at our newspaper are consistently on-par with the opinions of the lowest common denominator of sports fans."

That's the defense. R.I.P. sports journalism.

So now Lee Judge must of course re-comment on his own story and how he "accidentally" became a part of the story.

In 2010 I was given space on this website and the freedom to cover baseball in my own way.

I’d been hanging out with pro ballplayers for years and thought the way they looked at the game was fascinating and I wanted to bring that point of view to other baseball fans.

I love baseball, but I find the point of view the players have to be less than fascinating. Unwritten rules, bizarre beliefs that dinosaurs don't exist, and various other bizarre theories about life and politics...I like to watch them play the sport though. It's just I don't necessarily care about their point of view simply because I like to watch them play baseball. 

We’re in a bold, new age of journalism, which is a nice way of saying we sometimes put stuff on the web site and if an editor has time, he might proofread your work after it’s been posted.

"We lowered our editing standards, but that's not our fault at all. It's just what we are forced to do. This is what 'the people' want in this new era of journalism. Don't blame us." 

On Tuesday morning, the freaking out began early and editors almost immediately changed “seems like a young man who needs choking” to “seems like a young man who needs an attitude adjustment.”

"Almost immediately." So it got fixed almost immediately, what's the big deal?

"I cursed out my co-worker, but almost immediately apologized and handed her a Kleenex. Can't we all move on?"

One night back in 2010 while I was writing a column and trying to think of another word for pitcher. I came up with the word moundsman.

That night I decided my writing was bad or sucked. I have never in my life uttered the word moundsman and thought it was BS that I was about to write it. That night I decided to just tell readers what I had to say in my own words, just like if I’d met them in a bar on the way home from a game, and if you go to the right bar, that’s entirely possible.

The defense of "shooting from the hip" or having "real talk" doesn't serve as an excuse for the comments that you are making. This is a general rule me thinks. 

So when I said Bryce Harper needed choking I was probably only 97 percent serious.

It was a joke! Judge was only 97% serious. So he was pretty much entirely serious, except for when you want to criticize him, because then it was a 3% joke. I'm guessing Judge isn't a fan of Sabermetrics and numbers, but even a third-grader knows 97% of anything is pretty damn close to 100% of that thing. 

But here’s why I would say that, even in jest: Bryce Harper has acted like a jerk on a baseball field and I’m not the only one that thinks so.

But it was 97% serious. That doesn't even come close to qualifying for "even in jest" status. 

Here’s a headline from The Washington Post published last summer: “Bryce Harper is still just 21 years old, but he needs to stop acting like he’s 12.”

That headline appeared above a column written by Mike Wise.

Poke around the internet and it’s not hard to find stories about Harper blowing kisses to pitchers, taking an exaggerated amount of time to jog around the bases, getting ejected from games and yelling at opponents, umpires and teammates.

Bryce Harper is an asshole. I can absolutely agree with this. I don't like him and I don't like the Nationals. 

His defenders tend to make three points:

1.) He’s really good at baseball.
2.) He’s changed.
3.) And he’s really good at baseball.

Letting a guy get away with bad behavior just because he’s good is how Bryce Harper became Bryce Harper.

So why does Jonathan Papelbon get away with some of his behavior? What gives him the ability to be the Official Unofficial Unwritten Rules Spokesman for the Washington Nationals? Isn't he getting away with bad behavior by choking Harper? 

And I gotta say that if Bryce Harper managed to provoke a teammate into choking him in front of the whole world, he probably hasn’t change all that much. 

You gotta say it. It has to be said. Ask Stephen A. Smith about it. If you provoke someone constantly, then whatever act of violence that happens to you is most likely deserved in some way. 

After my original blog was posted, it got picked up by Deadspin — the website that will tell you why your team sucks —

Yeah, but they are only being 97% serious. So it's all a joke. 

I began getting emails saying I was promoting violence in the workplace and if Papelbon had attacked Harper anywhere but a baseball field, Papelbon could be charged with assault. Co-workers should not solve their differences with violence.

If every NFL player who got in a scuffle with a teammate was charged with assault, you couldn’t field a team.

I personally recognize the difference in a normal work place and a work place in the athletic arena. Scuffles will happen in the athletic arena. Placing "right" and "wrong" in these situations where the person getting choked feels like a bit much, especially when you don't know for certain what happened and have no idea first hand about the personality of the two players involved. 

If Papelbon putting his hands around Harper’s throat was assault — and I’ve seen a third-grader’s birthday party with more actual violence —

What kind of third-grade birthday parties is Lee Judge attending? I'm assuming by looking at Judge that all of his children are grown by now. Does he still attend third-grade birthday parties? If so, does he attend these parties in anticipation of the violence? If so, I think that would answer a few questions I have about his take on Harper v. Papelbon. 

Pretending that professional sports teams are bound by the same restrictions that apply in an accountant’s office or a grocery store is disingenuous; it’s just isn’t so and the people who do it are looking for an excuse to be outraged.

You are missing the point. The point isn't really the fight. It's that a person got choked and you said he deserved to get choked without even knowing that person. Also, you indicated you had no issue with a fight, but it just should have happened in private. Fights happen. I get that. It's reasonable also to accept that fights happen, but this doesn't mean they are justified fights and it doesn't mean a person deserves to be choked. 

“Retired pitcher C.J. Nitkowski, writing for, laid out the old-school case against Harper and for Papelbon.

If you want the ballplayer’s point of view — and that’s the main reason you might want to check out this blog — I gave it to you. Teammates sometimes scuffle (I know of several physical confrontations that never got public scrutiny). Bottom line: If you’re going to scuffle, don’t do it in the dugout.

Nitkowski bravely got anonymous players to comment on the Harper versus Papelbon scuffle. For that, these players should be admired. After all, they feel so strongly one way that they aren't even brave enough to put their name to their opinion. It's "old-school" to suggest Bryce Harper should be choked and not put your name to the opinion. So anonymous players saying Papelbon was in the right doesn't really do it for me. 

The same thing applied to the Papelbon-Harper confrontation, so I thought fans who want to know how things work in the big leagues would be interested in that distinction. It wasn’t a long bit and originally it was tucked in at the bottom of a longer post.

But, pageviews! The editors knew they had a hot take that could get them some web traffic. 

But we’re being encouraged to do everything we can to increase traffic to our website, so I figured I’d put it at the top of the post because it was big topic of conversation in the world of baseball. If increasing traffic was the goal, I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

Increasing traffic is always the goal. It would be nice if Lee Judge increased traffic by not suggesting violence against an athlete was justified, but hey, take the pageviews where you can get them I guess.

But right now I just want to take the opportunity to say something to all the people I offended and I say it with complete sincerity:

Thanks for the page views.

Edgy! You know, if acting like a jerk means a person should be choked, then maybe Lee Judge would suggest that Lee Judge suggesting Bryce Harper should be choked is a jerk thing to do. Therefore, maybe Lee Judge would believe he should be choked by one of his co-workers.

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But here’s why I would say that, even in jest: Bryce Harper has acted like a jerk on a baseball field and I’m not the only one that thinks so.
Here’s a headline from The Washington Post published last summer: “Bryce Harper is still just 21 years old, but he needs to stop acting like he’s 12.”
That headline appeared above a column written by Mike Wise.

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Read more here: he was choked by the wrong guy in the wrong place.
In baseball culture, pitchers — especially relievers — do not get to criticize position players for lack of hustle. Guys like Jonathan Papelbon play every once in a while, guys like Bryce Harper play all the time. So if you spend a fair amount of time sitting in the shade eating popsicles, you don’t get to criticize position players for failing to run out a fly ball.
The second problem was location: if you want to choke Bryce Harper — and I suspect if you played with him, you might — ask him to come up the tunnel and then choke him. You don’t do it in the dugout for everyone in the world to see; you keep that stuff private.
So you can blame either guy for what happened, but you should probably blame both.

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