This Apparently Still Passes For Journalism

Jerry Thornton is a “columnist” for WEEI, a New England sports radio network. So he writes an online column, which reads more like an inane op-ed piece from a delusional wacko, for a radio station. Good gig.

This is his most recent offering that WEEI pays him (with money) to write: The Geeks Will Inherit The Earth

There already has been a response at TedQuarters by Ted Berg, a senior editorial producer for SNY.tv where he also writes a column…so a step up from a column for a radio station…right? Have you even seen my beautiful head of hair, Jerry Thornton of WEEI.com? Also, check out that ridiculous picture Berg’s article links to at the end.

Anyway, as all sports bloggers aspire to recreate the success of FireJoeMorgan (since there is no other way to be successful as a sports blog) I will run through through the litany of baseless assertions that Thornton makes.

He begins rather tamely, building excitement as he rounds out the intro with the claim that the Red Sox will be winning the World Series. But that comes with a horror story:

I’m afraid that if … when … the Sox win it all this year, it will mean total victory has been achieved by that odd, creepy little subculture that lives among us: the Stat Geeks.

Later he will mention Theo Epstein being the poster boy for the stat geeks. Epstein is a “stat geek” and he apparently had nothing to do with 2004 and 2007. I am a stat geek. I’m not odd and creepy…well, not creepy anyway.

They’re like the Communist Party plotting to take over Hollywood in the 1950s before Ronald Reagan got wise to them and kicked their pinko butts all the way back to Moscow and Harvard Square. Only, instead of trying to write screenplays full of anti-capitalists rants, the Stat Geeks have succeeded in making otherwise normal, decent, God-fearin’ Americans start talking about VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) ratings and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) numbers like they really believe in this nonsense.

When did Sarah Palin get a column on WEEI?
But seriously, this is only the beginning of Thornton’s ability to create a piece where he provides no story, no plot, no facts, no evidence…nothing really, by just stringing together segments of a hate speech against “stat geeks” whose only crime is that they have found one more (in depth) way to love the game of baseball.

And call me overly paranoid, but part of me is afraid Theo Epstein is their prize project. The one they’ve brainwashed into bringing their message of Sabremetric supremacy to the world. The Staturian Candidate.

How is being incredibly successful at your job, finding a way to succeed when one team has an unfair payroll advantage, wearing a Gorilla costume, rejuvenating the faith that a fanbase has in their team…how is all that “brainwashing”? It’s a ridiculous theory, because Thornton has no other explanation for the fact that he should actually hate Epstein, a man who operates under stats geekitude and employs like minded individuals (yeah, we’ll get to Bill James in a bit).

Look at the Red Sox roster as it’s currently constituted: While there’s still a core of blue chip, proven, battle-tested baseball lifers who’d be winners in any era … the Pedroias, Becketts, Lesters, Papelbons and Youkili … it seems like this offseason, the rest of the roster was supplanted with Stat Geek favorites.

Ok, the Red Sox have an unfair advantage now…they apparently have at least two Pedroias, Becketts..etc. Youkilis was called The Greek God of Walks. He was coveted by Billy Beane. HE IS A STAT GEEK FAVORITE. Players that were drafted by Epstein and his brain trust are in this group. Thornton is essentially blind…or he just halfheartedly wrote this in 10 minutes without much thought.

Agents who were trained in a basement at the Baseball Prospectus HQ to infiltrate the Sox and destroy them from within.

Ah, I see, people who can actively and concretely help in creating a great baseball team are actually “agents” who want to destroy it…because that’s good for business. Most teams employ stat-minded people in some shape or form. Some teams don’t do it enough (METS!) so try following them and see how you like not winning two WS and failing to consistently reach the post-season.

And suddenly, a legit All-Star like Jason Bay is body-snatched away and replaced with Mike Cameron with his 70 RBI but his to-die-for Rtzhm (total fielding runs above average at home) numbers. I don’t know Cameron and maybe he’ll be a great addition to the club.

Jason Bay is a bad defensive OF. He can be a demon at bat, but he was too costly for the risk factor the Sox thought they would be dealing with. Mike Cameron, who costs less than half of Jason Bay, can produce at least half of Bay’s production, while being a huge upgrade defensively. In fact, by him taking over CF and moving Jacoby Ellsbury to LF the Sox are defensively upgraded in two positions.

But I also won’t be surprised to find out he talks in a robot voice and repeats “I am Mike. I play center field. Would you care to discuss my lgRF9 (league range factor for 9 innings) numbers?” over and over again all year.

I didn’t realize that Thornton was so up on robotics (that haven’t been developed yet).

If he says pitching and defense are the keys to victory, who am I to argue? Even if the defense is judged on obscure, impossible-to-understand and largely subjective stats that some pale virgin made up in his mom’s basement, I’ll trust Epstein.

Michael Lichtman is the creator of the previously mentioned UZR, but the Red Sox have already stated that they use their own defensive metrics to judge players. I’m guessing Bill James has a lot of say in there. I am fairly sure that neither of these guys live in their mom’s basement and from this interview with The Hardball Times we learn that he is married and has three offspring…so there goes the virgin thing. James is a little pale, but he is a white guy who lives in New England, what do you expect?

Thornton then needlessly reiterates his paranoia about nerds and talks about them taking over baseball. People are always going to look for ways to streamline their operation so that they can achieve more for less. Every single play has at least one number attached to it. The game takes place within a confined space that can be turned into a grid. It’s a simple step to employ numbers-minded professionals to find a capable player for cheaper than some expensive guy everyone thinks you should have.
Operations Research is a field of mathematics that involves finding the most effective way(s) to reach the solution you want with maximum profit or minimum loss. Businesses, governments, the military use this field because it makes sense to do so. If you can save money and increase your capabilities at the same time why the hell wouldn’t you. Baseball is a business and teams have to find new ways to get ahead of other teams. For a while the Yankees were just throwing money at players and they were winning, but they weren’t as successful as they should have been. Now they have changed their ways and while still being the largest payroll by a large percentage they aren’t overpaying players. The Tampa Bay Rays have created a system that builds their team from within and the Red Sox have managed to build a team stronger than that of the Yankees a couple times and remain competitive all the time. I don’t know how Thornton would like to create a team, but it apparently involves throwing wads of money at players who can hit or who have those “intangibles” and needless to say he would make a horrible GM.

At this point you might be saying “Gee, Jer. How do you know so much about Stat Geeks anyway?” Glad you asked because the answer will surprise you. Because I, for a very brief time in my life, was one. Yes, it’s true. Looks like mine and brains, too? As implausible as it sounds, I Was A Teenage Stats Geek. I read the backs of guys’ baseball cards. I studied the day’s box scores. I committed to memory the tops of the all time career statistical rankings in dozens of categories.

When I was a kid the backs of my baseball cards had the simplest of stats AB, H, 2B, 3B, HR, SB, AVG; W, L, IP, SV, K, BB, ERA. I didn’t realize that enshrines you into the world of stats geekery. Here is the truth, the box score will give someone a rudimentary explanation of how the game went for someone who wasn’t able to watch it. The new stats that have been created give you a better valuation of a player, because someone who hits .280 for a season with 20 HR isn’t nearly as valuable because he OBPs .305 and it shows with his 50 runs. People decried OBP when it first made the steps into baseball journalism and guess what, it was proven to be useful and it now has it’s place next to AVG on the backs of all those baseball cards. It’s a process that is involved with every change that takes place. People want to keep their traditional values and shy away from the change would remove them from their comfort zone. It happens with everything in the world and you know what…there are studies pointing to the ability to try something new and go the non-traditional route is a sign of intelligence and possibly higher evolution.

But then, I made an amazing discovery. Something that the Stat Geek population doesn’t know and never will. Women.

What the hell is a women?

Suddenly Butch Hobson’s RBI total didn’t mean quite as much. Jim Rice’s total bases faded from my mind. And for me that mean putting away the Baseball Encyclopedia, getting outside and living an actual life. It also led to other discoveries like jobs, cars, activities, beer and sunlight.

I have no life, I have never had a job, I don’t know a thing about cars, activities?, never had a beer, and sunlight is the devil.
None of those things is true.
Also…he discovered activities? Researching stats is an activity. Walking to the door is an activity. Pooping is an activity. ANYTHING IS AN ACTIVITY.

But not everyone has evolved the same way.

Remember that link from NatGeo? Thornton is non-evolved.

There is a growing subculture of stats-crunching troglodytes among us, and I for one am frightened that these mouth-breathing, greased[sic] stained Gollums might actually be influencing something vital to our national interest.

Troglodytes and Gollums? Influencing…I hate to break it to you, Thornton, but the game has already been influenced.

I mean, consider Bill James, who is like a god to these Sabremetric trolls. He’s made an industry out of making up silly, useless formulae to prove things like Alex Gonzalez should be bussing tables in the Fort Myers Waffle House, and yet Theo has given him a position of power and influence in his inner circle. It’s the equivalent of my old Missle Command skills getting me a job with NORAD or my Bill Belichick building a gameplan around my Coleco electric football offense.

Your hyperbole is useless on me. The equivalent of someone using mathematics to not only make money, but also get a job with your Red Sox, is using video game skills for a profession? What we have here is a false analogy.

So as a public service to all like-minded fans, concerned Red Sox citizens worried about the direction the Nation is headed, I’d like to put my ex-Stat Geek skills to us and offer my own formula for judging all statisticians. Let’s call it the NSGR/MMUSRI (Nerdy Stat Geek Ridiculous/Meaningless Made Up Statistic Rating Index).

Take a guess as to the direction this is going to go.

You take any new, obscure baseball evaluation stat and you start with the weight of the guy who invented it, times how many days he’s been wearing the same “Han Solo Shot First” T-shirt, divided by how many times he’s had sex in his life, multiplied by how often his mom cooks his meals add how many days a month he sees the sun times the percentage by which he throws like a girl.

Sigh. I hate to relate this to sexism or racism, but it has similar elements. False stereotypes, unthinking and discriminatory hate-speech. There are way too many instances of supposed journalists, columnists, talking heads, etc. making the same picture of a single, nerdy, male living in his parents’ basement with an irrational fear of sunlight. Stop it already, it lost it’s laugh factor after the first guy did it (possibly before).
Oh right, sexism: “throws like a girl.” Good one.

Then you throw them all out and go with what your eyes tell you. And stop wasting our time with this Sabremetrics foolishness.

My eyes tell me to stop reading your lame attempts at journalism. Columnism? Writing? Typing.
I understand writers wanting to come off as being funny and maybe that was the primary force driving Thornton here, but the end result is just so poor and it’s been done so many times before, there is nothing new here. So good job earning that paycheck.

Anyway, if all few of you who read this would refrain from listening to WEEI or at least send them an email condemning them for their insistence to employ Jerry Thornton, that would be greatly appreciated across the blogohedron.

Advertisements

3 Responses

  1. Hey Man, I loved this blog-post. I, too, am so tired of lazy morons who claim to be traditionalists (which apparently means, I stopped thinking years ago.) I really can’t understand what they’re so afraid of. Well, yeah, I guess I do know. They are threatened by what they don’t, and won’t take the time, to understand. It is called Will-Full Ignorance.
    Only disagreement I have with you is that Sox fans need to stop pointing up at the Yankees as “those rich guys,” as if Yanks lived on Park Ave. and Sox were working class. C’mon, man, you have a what, top 3 payroll? 27 other teams would love to be as poor as you. Still, excellent blog-post. Bill (ondeckcircle.wordpress.com)

  2. […] This Apparently Still Passes For Journalism […]

  3. Pooping IS an activity and boy what an activity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: