Skip to content

Great Moments in Non Sequiturs

Feb 21, 2013, 1:31 PM EDT

savingsaccountcalculator

Michael Hurley of CBS Boston has a column up criticizing Sam Miller’s quite good piece for ESPN.com about the ascendance of WAR. It’s your standard anti-sabermetric rebop. Hurley attempts to paint himself as a sensible moderate type, but make no mistake, the guy is definitely threatened by advanced metrics.

But that’s not a big deal. There are a lot of people like that. What separates Hurley is this little rhetorical flourish:

The blurb on ESPN’s homepage read, “After WAR helped heat up the 2012 AL MVP debate, it’s now a permanent part of looking at player performance.”

That’s certainly a bold claim, considering it wasn’t more than 65 years ago when the color of a man’s skin was a determinant for selecting an MVP, and also considering Miguel Cabrera won in a landslide over Mike Trout, the man with the significantly better WAR last season.

Can someone help me out here? Is Hurley equating WAR and segregation? Does he believe they are both artifacts of their time, with one thankfully being cast into the dustbin of history and the other, hopefully, soon to be?  If that’s not his angle, what is it, exactly?

Whatever. If, in my own assessment of players, I’ve cited WAR more than a couple of times in past three years I’d be shocked, so it’s not like I’m on the front lines of the WAR war.  I’m a stathead sympathizer and fellow traveler  but I risk hurting myself and others when I attempt to actually calculate anything.

But I think I can say this much: if WAR is eventually set aside and considered a not-particularly useful stat, it will be because another, better stat is devised to replace it, not because enough people have yelled and screamed about the folly of trying to quantify player performance in the first place.

  1. chill1184 - Feb 21, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    /facepalm @ Hurley

  2. heyblueyoustink - Feb 21, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    Mr. Hurley, you can’t hug your children with nuclear arms….. since we’re bringing up things that don’t make sense.

    • cur68 - Feb 21, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      I bet he thinks he could tuna fish because he could tune a piano.

  3. cur68 - Feb 21, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    I read Miller’s piece (beats working). Its pretty good. WAR is not the be-all, end-all but its useful, about which Miller’s very reasonable. The same cannot be said of Hurley. I’m not sure where he’s going with his “WAR/Segregation” argument. Whatever he means, I doubt he could defend it.

  4. APBA Guy - Feb 21, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    Painful. A lot of the print media and their on-line outlets are manned by guys who were hired in the 70′s, an artifact of shrinking print revenues and the attendant layoffs. Unfortunately it shows when they pander to their readership, rather than lead. You don’t have to be in your 20′s to embrace “advanced” stats. But Hurley’s “in my day, I ate gravel and liked it” nonsense is indefensible, even as pandering.

  5. Bill Parker - Feb 21, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Had a back-and-forth with him about that on Twitter this morning. He doesn’t know what he meant, basically. He took the blurb as arguing (because that’s what blurbs do, apparently, argue things, never mind the 3000 well-reasoned words that followed) that WAR is here to stay BECAUSE it was an issue in this year’s MVP race. Which is, of course, ludicrous.

    And that doesn’t even get to the question of why, in the entire universe of baseball things that won’t always happen just because they happened once, he picked the one that puts statheads in the position of the segregationists. Just a weird, really bad idea all around.

    • The Common Man - Feb 21, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      In fairness to him, Bill, it’s not like choosing words and arranging them in an order so as to project some kind of meaning is his job. Cut the guy some slack.

    • cur68 - Feb 21, 2013 at 2:00 PM

      Well it doesn’t take a genius to tell he couldn’t defend that argument (hence, I knew that) but at some point a guy’s gotta say, or at least his editor does, “this right here is not equivalent. I cannot defend this”. How does a guy slip that past an editor? How does he slip it past his personal internal editor, even? I’m going to say if this is the sort of thing that flys then any flippin’ hack could write for CBS Boston.

      • IdahoMariner - Feb 21, 2013 at 5:29 PM

        well, hey then, i would love to write about baseball…i should call cbs sports. i’m not just ANY flippin’ hack…but maybe they’d take me if i can start mixin’ methors and spewin’ non sequiturs and drinkin’ at lunch (i grew up watching oscar madison as sportswriter archetype. yes, i am both old and confused easily).

  6. kirkvanhouten - Feb 21, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Come on Mr. Hurely, you know who else made this kinds of insane comparisons?

    Hitler.

    Think about it….

  7. natslady - Feb 21, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    I heard this yesterday (forgot who said it, sorry). “Baseball was never a clean sport. There were steroids, before that amphetemines, before that it was segregated… ” I don’t think PEDs should be equated in any way with segregation. Period.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Feb 21, 2013 at 3:01 PM

      I don’t think there is anything in that statement that EQUATES steroids or amphetamines with segregation. It’s just saying that baseball has never been clean and here are the reasons why. It uses no scale whatsoever.

      To give an example of something similar, let’s say we have this guy who is 50 years old, been in and out of prison for 30 years, and is now serving a life sentence for murder. I make the statement, “This guy has been dirty his whole life….first he stole a car, then he robbed a bank, and now he murdered someone.” I’m not comparing murder to stealing a car…I’m saying THIS GUY is dirty because he did both.

      The statement you reference does not in any way compare the severity of steroids and segregation whatsoever. It just makes the case that both are stains on baseball’s history. How can one disagree with that?

  8. b453841l - Feb 21, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say Wins Above Replacement now, Wins Above Replacement tomorrow, Wins Above Replacement forever!!!” -George Wallace, 1963

  9. phillyphreak - Feb 21, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    I was watching the twitter exchanges at a non-stalkerish distance this morning. After reading those and both columns, it’s pretty clear that Hurley wants (or wanted) people to think he is in favor of advanced stats (as Craig said) but he a) doesn’t understand them and/or b) hasn’t taken the time to really try to understand them. That’s my biggest issue with anti-saber folks like that- at least give it some effort man….

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 21, 2013 at 4:38 PM

      but he a) doesn’t understand them and/or b) hasn’t taken the time to really try to understand them.

      Not sure where that’s implied, as I saw nothing but the same ad hominum attacks against the SABR crowd as well as strawman arguments such as:
      I’d honestly be more accepting of the stat revolution types if they didn’t seemingly make it their life goal to attack the RBI and all it stands for. “Driving in runs is meaningless!” they argue, saying a batter can’t control how often runners get on base in front of them.

      No one has ever made that argument, ever and if they do, they should be discredited instantly.

      Also, if he wants to know more about it, go to fangraphs.com and check their glossary. Everything is explained. Or, and here’s a novel idea, he could read Sam Miller’s piece which he was unfairly criticizing…

  10. seeinred87 - Feb 21, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    Sam Miller is the best around, and anyone who criticizes him is an idiot.

  11. schlom - Feb 21, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    When exactly was the color of a man’s skin a determinate in the MVP voting? Obviously before 1947 there weren’t any non-white players in baseball so they couldn’t win the MVP. And looking at BR’s MVP voting page it doesn’t appear that any black player was screwed out the MVP Award – Jackie Robinson could have probably won a few more but he was great at things that are never counted that highly in the MVP Award, walks and defense. Same with Minne Minosa and Larry Doby, they didn’t have a ton of RBI which hurt their case in years which they might have been deserving. In fact, in the 16 years after Robinson debuted black players won 11 NL MVP Awards (however the first black MVP winner wasn’t until Frank Robinson in 1966).

  12. anxovies - Feb 21, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    So if your team has the highest aggregate WAR does it mean that you win the World Series? Just asking.

    • crackersnap - Feb 21, 2013 at 7:11 PM

      …If your team has the highest aggregate batting average during the regular season, does it mean you win the World Series?

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

This was 'the perfect baseball game'
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. S. Kazmir (5034)
  2. K. Uehara (4390)
  3. T. Wood (3711)
  4. G. Springer (3576)
  5. J. Kubel (3356)
  1. M. Machado (3325)
  2. T. Walker (3080)
  3. H. Rondon (3076)
  4. D. Pedroia (3001)
  5. J. Reyes (2975)