Some recent observations V 7-30-05

Sunday, January 28 2007 @ 12:40 am UTC

Contributed by: Staff

By Stephen Zielinski

Every so often I’ll write a few pertinent — or useless — comments for the Front Page. Doing so keeps me out of trouble. The fifth installment:



An ‘easy to get right’ prediction I

Since the Pirates will dump salary at the trading deadline, we who follow the rumor trails have often had an opportunity to read something like the following:

Rumor: ’The Pirates will trade X (mediocre vet) for Y and Z (known prospects or prearbitration major leaguers).’

A reply soon follows, something to the effect of:

Reply: ‘You are nuts! What GM in their right mind would trade Y and Z for crap like X? X sucks. Y is the great. We would count ourselves lucky if we were to get A or B (two C list, 27 years old ‘prospects’) for X. Get a grip!’

And so it would soon come to pass that the rumored trade of X for Y and Z would not happen and that no sensible person would expect it to ever happen (e.g. Redman for Hermida). As a result, the debunker of the rumor would find himself in that happy place generated by his discrediting of a bit of wishful thinking. Triumph in hand and basking in the glow provided by hindsight, he would look nearly omniscient because he had demonstrated his ability to separate the wheat from the chafe when it came to baseball rumors.

There is, however, a problem with his victory. Most trade rumors do fail to pan out. Why is this so?

First of all, generally speaking, major trades that decisively affect the franchises that make them are difficult to consummate (e.g. the potential Manny Ramirez salary dump trade of 2005, the Giles-Kendall trade of 2003). They surely are risky. They are judged risky because their beneficial (or harmful) effects cannot be predicted with any degree of confidence (e.g. trading Hermida for M. Redman would produce a Division championship in 2005 for the Marlins and an All Star outfielder for the Pirates). Hence, their rarity. It is due to these risks and the significance they have for the teams that make them that GMs constantly talk trades which never get done. They are hedging their bets. Sometimes they will fold because of cold feet. A major trade that flops can cost a team millions of dollars. It can destroy a GM’s career. Oftentimes, risk adverse behavior has a rational moment.

Second, baseball General Managers, like any dealmaker worth his beer, will look for an advantageous situation in his market — i.e., for a great deal or even for a steal of a deal (e.g. Ramirez and Lofton for Bruback, Hernandez and Hill trade). But they probably won’t make a profitable deal if they prove reluctant or unwilling to bait a trap; in fact, in order to have the opportunity to make a good trade, a GM would need to bait as many traps as he can so that he might enlarge the effective market for his players and to thereby gain the ability (opportunity) to play one team off against another. This ‘inundate the market with baited traps’ technique provides fodder for the rumor mill as one by-product. It enlarges the domain in which a deal might occur. And it enlarges the number of people interested in and thus talking about a prospective trade. It also increases the rumors to trades ratio.

Third, General Managers will leak information in order to gain an advantage over their potential trade partners, to manipulate their public (fans) or to gain publicity for their teams and themselves, etc. This exposure drives popular speculation which can only refer to and recycle the kind of self-interested stories which make up the rumor pool. Rumor making through information leakage thus produces a multiplier effect. It breeds a prolific rumor mongering within the public sphere. It increases the amount of trade talk beyond that equal to the initial leak itself. And it increases the interest in and publicity surrounding the team. Fan speculation is just one component of this publicity. It’s not the only component. Media reporting and speculation is another. Both can serve the interests of a team. Both enhance the number of rumors circulating per trade made.

In short, these rather normal features of the baseball player’s market ensure that the fans will have much to chat about and that most of their chatter will be little more than weightless talk or nearly so. Rumors, like gossip, are ear candy, and have the substance of candy. The problem the above poses for those who want to debunk rumors amounts to this: The probability of a rumored trade failing to occur will be rather high (i.e., there will be far more trade rumors than actual trades). Therefore, those who would debunk trade rumors will be right at the rate at which trade rumors amount to nothing. The debunkers can’t help but to be right most of the time! Unfortunately, this fact means their debunking efforts are nearly as worthless as the rumors their work relies upon as a source. Given this relationship between a rumor and efforts made to debunk the rumor, rumor criticism adds little to our stock of knowledge about a team and what it might and will do. The debunkers thus ought to remain focused on what they do best, namely, countering the ‘Tike for Vlad’ style fantasies which some fans use to keep themselves entertained.

What can we say about the trade rumors themselves, the stock in trade of writers like Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal, Will Carroll and numerous beat writers? We can say that the rumors they report might be true, might come true, might be false or might be utter hokum right from the start. We could also say that those insiders who know better than we common folk seldom tell us what they know or certainly can’t be trusted to tell us the truth in any case! Rumors, in short, construct a room full of mirrors.

They are entertaining, though!

An ‘easy to get right’ prediction II

Another cakewalk? Why, it’s: Predicting the Pirates will have a loosing record. How risky can that be? Not risky at all, I would say. Still, events will eventually make this prediction false. The Pirates will post another winning season, although it is certainly difficult to believe this right now. Who, on the other hand, would venture a guess as to the year of this happy event and what would they be willing to stake on the veracity of their prediction?

Quack Mac strikes again

Recently, Ryan Doumit failed to run out a fair ball. He apparently thought the ball was foul. It wasn’t. He was mortified, as one would expect, when the umpire ruled it fair. His failure probably cost him a hit.

McClendon gave his charge an instruction, as reported by Joe Rutter in the Tribune-Review:

”I told him that in the future, run until somebody tells you it’s foul.”

I wonder how embarrassing Doumit will find running to first base on obvious foul balls? How often will we see Ryan streaking down the line on popups drifting into the stands behind home plate? If McClendon had his way....

In McClendon’s world, #### just never happens! And when #### does happen, he responds by making up a silly rule!

Ollie’s follies, Mack’s errant whacks

Oliver Perez kicks a laundry cart, breaks his toe and is then crucified by some local sportswriters before he is fined by the team. He’s publicly labeled immature.

Mackowiak, on the other hand, takes a bat to something in the clubhouse, gets some bat wood stuck in his face (!!!!!), and then returns to the field with a blood-soaked bandage affixed to his chin. The response: He’s not crucified by any sportswriter and no one labels him immature. It’s not known whether the team fined him.

Strange....

Ciao!


Onlybucs
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