Skip to content

Ryan Howard’s ability to hit lefties is not a matter of opinion

Feb 15, 2013, 8:55 AM EDT

I was just reading this profile on Ryan Howard over at Philly.com. It’s your standard spring optimism piece. Howard feels way better now than last year and is ready to return to form. Nothing all that notable in the story.

But midway down the story, a poll appears:

source:

Internet polls are all pretty meaningless, especially the actual results. But this one is particularly astounding to me inasmuch as it treats something which is wholly empirical — whether or not Ryan Howard can hit lefties — as though it were a matter of opinion or belief. Which may not seem like a big deal, but when you think about it this is the exact reason why so much sports conversation is stupid.

For better or worse, people have been conditioned to think that their opinions and beliefs, no matter how loony they are, are just as valid as anyone’s else’s. So when one challenges a given opinion or belief, one understandably gets an extreme amount of pushback and intransigence. That’s well and good when we’re talking about a lot of opinions or beliefs. I believe that “Tonight’s the Night” is the best Neil Young album. I don’t care how many of you ninnies think “After the Gold Rush” is better, I’m simply not going to buy it and if you insist on it I’m ultimately gonna think poor things of you and ignore you. For your part, I hope you feel the same way about me in this respect.

But when someone treats something that is purely empirical as thought it were belief, that’s the road to lunacy and ignorance.  No matter how big a Phillies fan you are and no matter how badly you want to see Ryan Howard take Clayton Kershaw downtown the next time they meet, it is inescapable — it is a matter of pure, immutable fact — that Ryan Howard has struggled mightily against lefties for his career and that he has gotten worse, not better, at hitting them as time has gone on. This is true whether he has been healthy or injured. With few, long ago exceptions, he has always been a liability against lefthanders.

Sports fans — and even a lot of sports writers — treat empirical things as though they were matters of belief. They believe Howard can hit lefties. They believe Jack Morris was the best pitcher of the 1980s. They believe that Michael Young‘s leadership and professionalism make him an MVP-caliber player. They believe that Derek Jeter is a good defensive shortstop.  And if someone says “he can’t,” “he wasn’t,” “it doesn’t” and “he isn’t,” you’re not just wrong, you’re assailing one’s belief system, and that makes you an awful person.

Empiricism vs. Belief. It’s the core of a lot of political arguments. It’s also the core of a lot of baseball arguments. If only we could all agree which things are matters of which, imagine how much better everyone would get along.

Latest Posts
  1. Dodgers get Justin Ruggiano from Mariners

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:51 AM EDT

    Seattle Mariners' Justin Ruggiano watches his two-run home run in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Wednesday, May 20, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) AP

    Ruggiano will provide some depth with Yasiel Puig and Enrique Hernandez on the disabled list.

  2. Report: Giants to acquire Alejandro De Aza from Red Sox

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:37 AM EDT

    BOSTON, MA - June 24:  Alejandro De Aza #31 of the Boston Red Sox during the fourth inning of the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on June 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Giants made a last-minute deal before the waiver trade deadline expired, picking up outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the Red Sox.

  3. Shelby Miller’s winless streak extended to 19 starts

    Aug 31, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT

    Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller reacts after Colorado Rockies' Charlie Blackmon hit an RBI-single in the seventh inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, in Atlanta. Colorado won 6-3. (AP Photo/Jon Barash) AP

    Miller could use a little bit of luck these days.

  4. Cubs designate Mike Olt for assignment

    Aug 31, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 05:  Mike Olt #20 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the St. Louis Cardinals during the Opening Night game at Wrigley Field on April 5, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs 3-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Olt was designated for assignment after the Cubs acquired Austin Jackson from the Mariners.

  5. Dodgers place Enrique Hernandez on disabled list with hamstring injury

    Aug 31, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Kike Hernandez can't get to a ball hit for a single by Cincinnati Reds' Brayan Pena during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) AP

    Enrique Hernandez has begun to take away playing time from the struggling Joc Pederson in recent days, but now the Dodgers will have to make due without him for a while.

  6. Royals pick up Jonny Gomes from Braves

    Aug 31, 2015, 9:43 PM EDT

    Atlanta Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes, who was pitching in relief, tips his cap as New York Yankees' Chris Young rounds the bases after a solo home run in the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) AP

    Gomes, 34, is batting .221/.325/.364 with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 83 games this season.

  7. The Yankees intend to bring CC Sabathia back as a starting pitcher

    Aug 31, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 23:  CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees is taken out of the game in the third inning against the Cleveland Indians during their game at Yankee Stadium on August 23, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

    CC Sabathia was shut down earlier this month due to an arthritic condition in his right knee.

  8. Video: Kevin Kiermaier takes to the sky to rob Manny Machado of a home run

    Aug 31, 2015, 7:53 PM EDT

    kiermaier 1

    Kiermaier makes a leaping catch to rob Manny Machado of a home run.

  9. Cardinals skipping Carlos Martinez’s next start due to back issue

    Aug 31, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT

    SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 22:  Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park August 22, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Marco Gonzales is expected to start in his place Tuesday.

  10. Report: Giants talking to Red Sox about trade for Alejandro De Aza

    Aug 31, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 15:  Alejandro De Aza #31 of the Boston Red Sox rounds the bases on a home run in the third inning against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park on August 15, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

    De Aza is batting .292 with 18 extra-base hits (including four home runs), 25 RBI, and an .831 OPS in 60 games since joining the Red Sox in June.

  11. Cubs acquire Austin Jackson from Mariners

    Aug 31, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT

    Seattle Mariners' Austin Jackson celebrates after scoring the go-ahead run on a single by Mike Zunino during the 12th inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. The Mariners won 10-8. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) AP

    Jackson, an impending free agent, is batting .272/.312/.387 with eight home runs, 38 RBI, and 15 stolen bases over 107 games this season.

  12. Carlos Correa back in Astros’ lineup after missing four games with hamstring injury

    Aug 31, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Houston Astros' Carlos Correa throws before a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Monday, June 8, 2015 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty) AP

    The Astros will have their young phenom back at shortstop tonight against the Mariners.

  13. Mark Teixeira sent back to New York, will not play in Red Sox series

    Aug 31, 2015, 4:25 PM EDT

    Mark Teixeira Mark Teixeira

    He hasn’t played since last Wednesday and now will miss at least the next three games.

  14. The Mets won’t discuss Terry Collins’ status until after the season is over

    Aug 31, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    New York Mets manager Terry Collins, back, watches from the dugout in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) AP

    He was on the hot seat back in June. What a difference a couple of months make.

  15. Wanna see “El Paso’s fastest wiener?”

    Aug 31, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 3.09.51 PM

    Actually, the fastest wiener is boring. You want to see the wiener which runs free.

  16. Coaching third base in the AL East is no easy job

    Aug 31, 2015, 1:13 PM EDT

    Pesky's Pole AP

    And Buck Showalter is uniquely unimpressed with Fenway Parks dimensions.

  17. Unknown Cuban ballplayer sleeps outside of Dodger Stadium, hoping for a tryout

    Aug 31, 2015, 12:28 PM EDT

    dodger stadium getty Getty Images

    Thats one way to do it. Not a way likely to bring success, but certainly one way to do it.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. B. Crawford (2766)
  2. Y. Puig (2439)
  3. C. Correa (2420)
  4. G. Stanton (2378)
  5. G. Springer (2288)
  1. H. Pence (2211)
  2. J. Hamilton (2106)
  3. M. Teixeira (1891)
  4. H. Ramirez (1891)
  5. J. Fernandez (1862)