Nov
17

Open Thread: Unbiased, you say?

By

In theory, reporters are supposed to be our objective lens. They’re supposed to cast aside fan biases and tell us what happened. Yet as we enter awards season it becomes clear that reporters cannot hide their biases. No one can, really. We are human, after all, and part of our humanity is that we all see the world differently. Still, for a group that touts objectivity, I’d like to see them at least feign it when voting on awards.

This is not an indictment of all reporters. Some of them have an excellent sense of the game and can put their own teams aside when voting on awards. As has become clear over the past few years, though, some just can’t help but vote for the hometown team — or, in a case last year, against the rival player. It usually doesn’t have a huge effect on the outcome, but it does speak to a biased viewpoint.

In 2007, Alex Rodriguez won the MVP in a near unanimous decision. His 54 home runs and 156 RBI led the league by wide margins, and since those are the numbers writers tend to focus on the most, it’s no surprise that he got all but two first place MVP votes. The problem wasn’t that two writers voted for Magglio Ordonez over Rodriguez — Magglio had a great season, leading the league with a .363 batting average. No, the problem was that both writers were from Detroit, and that their reasons reek of bias.

Said Jim Hawkins of the Oakland Press in Pontiac, Michigan: “I saw Magglio play every day. What I saw was a player having an MVP year. I have no quarrel with anyone who voted for A-Rod. He also had an MVP year. But with the injuries the Tigers had and the effort and performance I saw from Magglio, there’s no question he had an MVP year.”

Said Tom Gage of the Detroit News: “I went with what I saw. So many times, you have to vote off the stat sheet. I fully expected A Rod to win. He had a great year. But I saw an MVP year. There were stats to back up the impression that I came away with from the regular season.”

So they voted for Magglio because that’s who they saw during the season. That’s about as biased as it gets. They could have cited Magglio’s superior batting average, on base percentage, and doubles, but instead focused on their bias — which they are not supposed to have, being “objective” reporters.

Last year, Mike ranted about Tom Haudricourt’s ballot. Haudricourt covers the Brewers, and that bias seemed to have shown on his MVP ballot. He voted Albert Pujols, clearly the NL MVP last year, seventh. Seventh place. It wouldn’t have been so bad if Haudricourt hadn’t placed three Brewers on his ballot, and also three first basemen ahead of Pujols. It looks like Haudricourt voted on his NL Central bias.

This year brings us back to Detoit, where Steve Kornacki used his Cy Young vote on Justin Verlander. Verlander had a good season for sure, but he wasn’t at the level of Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez. Yet Kornacki voted for Verlander anyway, with the following justification:

Verlander received my first-place vote because nobody was tougher on the mound with the season on the line for his team.

Verlander threw at least 120 pitches in six of his last eight outings and won his last three starts, forcing a one-game playoff against the Minnesota Twins with his final victory.

He was an inspirational ‘horse,’ using Tigers manager Jim Leyland’s term for him, on a fading team.

This pretty clearly falls victim to the base rate fallacy. It also looks like a case of confirmation bias. The decision looks even worse because Verlander pitches in the same division as Greinke, so even if Kornacki wanted to discount Greinke’s accomplishments because of a weak division, he couldn’t honestly vote for Verlander instead.

All that said, these are subjective awards, and we should expect the voters’ biases to play a role. My problem is with the facade of objectiveness. Reporters are not some select class who can set aside their biases and deliver down the middle news. They’re just as subject to cognitive biases as you and me. That might not be as clear during the regular season, but as we enter awards season, their biases come out front and center. I just wish they’d admit to them more, rather than continuing to feign objectivity.

If you don’t feel like talking about how reporters vote for awards, you’re in luck. This is your open thread for the evening. Have at it.

Categories : Open Thread

214 Comments»

  1. Said Jim Hawkins of the Oakland Press in Pontiac, Michigan: “I saw Magglio play every day. What I saw was a player having an MVP year. I have no quarrel with anyone who voted for A-Rod. He also had an MVP year. But with the injuries the Tigers had and the effort and performance I saw from Magglio, there’s no question he had an MVP year.”

    Said Tom Gage of the Detroit News: “I went with what I saw. So many times, you have to vote off the stat sheet. I fully expected A Rod to win. He had a great year. But I saw an MVP year. There were stats to back up the impression that I came away with from the regular season.”

    This reminds me of the people who say that Tex is the best defensive first baseman in baseball based on the fact that they watch him every day and thus deduce that nobody else they’re not watching every day could possibly have had a better season.

    • RichYF says:

      Two words: Gold Glove

      BAM!

      • Edwantsacracker says:

        It doesn’t bother me that much when the writers become subjective. It kinda proves that they too love the game, and they can’t help but become fans of the guys they watch everyday.

        I like to read the stories from people who genuinely draw enjoyment out of the game. I think thats part of the reason blogs like RAB do so well.

        • It doesn’t bother me that much when the writers become subjective. It kinda proves that they too love the game, and they can’t help but become fans of the guys they watch everyday.

          I love the game, and I have become fans of the guys I watch every day.

          That being said, if you hand me a Cy Young ballot, I’m voting Greinke-Felix 1-2 every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Being objective and logically consistent in my evaluations does not prevent or lessen me from loving the game or being a fan of the guys on my team.

          • Edwantsacracker says:

            You don’t ever catch yourself thinking for justifications for your players to win these awards?

            Jeter should get MVP because he was the best leadoff hitter in the game a good defensive shortstop this year.

            A-Rod deserves MVP votes because he was able to hit another 100 RBIs in this season despite missing so much time. One player transformed the Yankee lineup proving how valuable he was to the team.

            But yeah, I know that catcher should get the award…

    • Chris says:

      For some people (not all) the assertion that Tex is a very good defensive 1B is also based on the comments of numerous scout-type people that regard him as a very good defensive 1B. It also doesn’t hurt that UZR rated him as the best defensive 1B in baseball in 2008.

      • I agree with everything you said. I don’t quibble with the notion that you can say that Tex is a good defensive 1B based solely on watching him extensively.

        I quibble with the notion that you can compare his greatness to the greatness of other first basemen based solely on watching him, and not other people, extensively.

        That’s ludicrous.

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

          I was originally like that, to the point of stubborness, and I confess that it was a fallacy. However, like being a former B-jobber, I have converted due to overwhelming statistical evidence and logic pointing me in the wrong.

          So: While I don’t think UZR is perfect, and it’s flawed for measuring 1b, I do think that if there’s a significant gap either way in UZR that that is sufficient to tell whther someone is good or bad, and that UZR is very good for OF’ers and for middle infielders.

          So while I still think Tex is a SUPERB defender, who did not have a bad defensive season, and who w/the 1b flaws that UZR has probably had a better defensive season than UZR allotted to him, I do acknowledge that he is not as good as I first thought, which was a very high standard. Not that Tex doesn’t have the ability to reach that standard, he just didn’t reach it this year.

          In short, I was wrong, UZR was right. There, I said it.

          • It’s nice of you to admit that now, and I hope that in the future you’ll be able to admit it when the conversation/argument is actually happening instead of weeks or months later.

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

              I realized I was wrong much later, and when the subject was brought up (and I remembered even having that discussion) I admitted I was wrong.

              • Oh I hear you, I’m picking up what you’re putting down. I still hope that in the future you’ll be able to admit it when the conversation/argument is actually happening instead of weeks or months later.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  When I realize I’m wrong, and I remember it, and it’s important enough to bring up, I’ll admit it.

                • That’s great. I hope that in the future you’ll be able to admit it when the conversation/argument is actually happening instead of weeks or months later.

                  I can play this game all night.

                  My point really is that hopefully we can realize (and admit) when we’re wrong when someone actually points it out to us instead of much later, after the conversation has ended. I said this recently in another thread and it applies here: The idea is what is important, not the person stating the idea. We shouldn’t be so slow to evaluate the things we say, there’s way too much pride-of-authorship around here that gets in the way of the progress of the discourse.

                  This isn’t directed solely at one person, it’s a general comment.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  The truth, in this case, is that the arguements didn’t convince me until much later when I heard them over and over and thought back on them. So now, when UZR is mentioned again, I admitted I was wrong about it.

                  Why’d it take so long? It’s just how long it took for the arguements to convince me, and for me to remember to bring it up.

                  Pride of authorship can be a problem, though.

                • Look, obviously I’m not saying one side has to be convinced of the opposite position and admit as much in every single conversation/argument. If it took some time for you to come around on this one, that’s fine, it happens. Like I said, it was more a general comment about the way arguments sometimes go around here. Ideally, we can see the faults in our arguments when those faults are explained to us.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  “Ideally, we can see the faults in our arguments when those faults are explained to us.”

                  Of course. But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

                  Honestly, I consider it kind of unimportant.

                • Me: “If it took some time for you to come around on this one, that’s fine, it happens… Ideally, we can see the faults in our arguments when those faults are explained to us.”

                  You: “Of course. But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.”

                  So what you’re saying is… You agree with what I said. Glad we got that straightened out.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  So what you’re saying is… You agree with what I said. Glad we got that straightened out.

                  Yep.

    • toad says:

      Well put.

    • Pete says:

      For the record I personally never said Tex was the ‘best in the game’ simply because I ‘watched him every day’. However I still stand by the notion that a steady diet of viewing a player’s on-field performance CAN aid one’s judgment, just not to the point of complete bias.

  2. Rey22 says:

    Well, I must say Greinke winning the Cy Young despite his 16 wins restored my faith a bit on the voters. That said, there are some things I can’t get over, that make me severely facepalm.

    Early prediction time, Edinson Volquez for ROY 2010!

  3. Justin Verlander during the 8 game stretch to end the regular season when “nobody was tougher on the mound with the season on the line for his team”:

    5.2, 3.66 ERA

    Felix Hernandez during that same 8 game stretch run, when his Mariners also had their “season on the line”

    7-0, 1.79 ERA

  4. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    To be fair, shouldn’t we question how 2 voters could vote CC second?

  5. Mike Pop says:

    Bought the new Rakim album….. pretty disappointed.

  6. So Ball Four might be the single best book I’ve ever read and that says something because I’ve read a lot.

  7. Mike Pop says:

    Nets get their first W tonight.

    Book it.

  8. Screw waiting.

    2010 awards:

    NL ROY- Todd Frazier
    AL ROY- Brett Wallace
    NL Cy Young- Josh Johnson (BOOOOOM!!!)
    AL Cy Young- F-Her
    NL MVP- Prince Fielder
    AL MVP- Nails Krzyzewski

  9. JobaJr says:

    In a perfect world, King Felix wins Cy, but that’s just me.

  10. The whole not having a job or job prospects thing is really fucking depressing.

  11. Hey ZZ says:

    Remember when everyone though Damaso Marte was terrible in the regular season:

    In 12 of Damaso Marte’s 13.1 IP in the regular season:
    3.0 ERA, 1.0 WHIP

    In 1.1 of Damaso Marte’s 13.1 IP in the regular season his ERA was: 67.5 ERA, 6.75

  12. Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

    http://thefastertimes.com/mlb/.....inbrenner/

    Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre was in New York Friday night for his annual Safe at Home charity fundraiser. Although he told reporters he was “happy” that the New York Yankees won the World Series, he recently made a more insidious comment about his former team’s owner, comparing George Steinbrenner to Torre’s abusive father.

    In a recent interview with Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers, Torre and his wife Ali both explicitly compared Steinbrenner to Joe Torre Sr., the wife-beating ogre who threw Torre’s mother down the stairs when he found out she was pregnant with Joe Jr.

    “George was such a domineering figure in Joe’s life and his father was like that,” says Ali Torre.

    Joe Torre backed that comment up, saying about his experience as Yankee manager, “That was a big part of it with George too. I don’t know how many times I told George, ‘The only thing I wanted to do was make you feel proud of what I’ve done.’ “

    Just STFU Torre. There was no reason for this. Way to kick an old, sick man while he’s down, while at the same time comparing him to one of the biggest piece of shit douchebags ever to walk the planet Earth. Yeah, that’s fair.

    Have fun in L.A. Enjoy having your number retired. I know I won’t.

  13. JMK aka The Overshare says:

    I haven’t really followed basketball much in the past few years but decided to get back into it. So I’ve been watching the Knicks. Wow, what a train wreck! So, a few questions:

    Did the Knicks make a mistake passing on Jennings? (Does Jordan Hill inspire confidence in anyone?)

    Chances LeBron calls The Garden his home in 2010.

    What kind of supporting cast can be expected if he signs?

    If given the opportunity, and knowing you would get away with murder, how would you kill James Dolan?

    P.S. Nets-related: What’s the status of Atlantic Yards now?

    • donttradecano says:

      1) maybe, too early to tell

      2) 50-50

      3) depends. right now saying they only sign him: Douglas-Chandler-Lebron- Gallinari-Hill. However they should pursue monta ellis and hope the warriors take a shit deal like they did for jackson. Say that means you trade chandler, then you have Douglas-Ellis-Lebron-Gallinari-Hill. Maybe package Lee and Jeffries for a pick and draft a SG or trade them for a SG.

      4) guillotine.

      • donttradecano says:

        then ellis plays PG

        • JMK aka The Overshare says:

          It sounds fun and all, but I’m not sure a backcourt of shoot-first 6’2 guys is particularly appealing. Gallo looks like just a shooter, not much of a guy who can get you rebounds and play solid defense at the 4. Hill…well, he’s not bad but he looks good-to-average.

          With Lebron, he nullifies a lot of the issues, but that still doesn’t look anywhere close to a championship-caliber team.

          • donttradecano says:

            Gallos defense has improved, but hed need to add some weight to play the 4. I think Hill will be above average-very good. Big guys just take time to develop.

    • Did the Knicks make a mistake passing on Jennings?

      Yes. Just like last year with Gordon/Gallinari.

      (Does Jordan Hill inspire confidence in anyone?)

      Yes. I’d rather have Jennings, but Hill does inspire confidence in me. He’s good. Not as good as Jennings, but he’s still good.

      Chances LeBron calls The Garden his home in 2010.

      Hmmm…. 80%.

      What kind of supporting cast can be expected if he signs?

      Not sure. He may have to wait a year or two for the next wave of free agents (i.e., Chris Paul/Deron Williams/etc.)

      If given the opportunity, and knowing you would get away with murder, how would you kill James Dolan?

      I’d lock him in a room with a loaded gun and his own music on constant repeat.

      • JMK aka The Overshare says:

        It really upsets me to think we could have a backcourt of Jennings and Gordon right now. what do you think is a realistic ceiling for Hill?

      • Marcus says:

        What do you guys think of Allen Iverson joining the Knicks? I’m in the same boat as JMK (haven’t watched much NBA recently, but a Knicks fan), and on its face it seems like a bad idea.

        I’d love to read a retrospective of the past 10 years of the Knicks, because I can’t keep track of how many bad decisions they’ve made. I’m a glutton for punishment.

        • Meh, why not? This team’s not going anywhere anyway. Give it a shot, see if he can still ball at all. If he sucks and starts complaining and getting into it with the kids, cut his ass.

          It’s just a one year deal anyway. Maybe he plays well, likes the city, and re-ups for another year to play with LeBron. Crazier things have happened.

        • donttradecano says:

          While hes a headcase, wont practice, etc., nobody is gonna play harder than him for the 30-40 minutes hes out there. Cant hurt at this point, plus Gallinari is the perfect player for him- a guy he can kick out to when his drive to the lane fails.

          • True. I worry about Iverson hogging the ball and stunting the kids growth, but frankly, LeBron is gonna hog the ball too.

            I’d like to see what Chandler/Gallinari/Hill/Douglas/Lee can do playing with space on the floor as supporters of a legit scoring option.

            • donttradecano says:

              Id think their numbers all go up, but they still wont have anyone playing defense. Think of it as a pre-Lebron training. See what these guys can do without trying to force everything themselves, since if Lebron comes, they wont be the focus of the offense. Id also like to see what douglas can do side by side with a legit scoring option

      • donttradecano says:

        Durant and Horford could be a availabe in 2011. and Paul in 2012.

  14. Jake H says:

    AT BP today, Kevin Goldstein said in his chat that he talked to a scout who said he liked Jesus defense more than Austin Romines’ defense.

    • Marcus says:

      I’d like to believe that, but that just strikes me as evidence that if you ask enough scouts, you can get any answer you want.

      • whozat says:

        Couldn’t agree more.

      • The Artist says:

        +1

        It’s like economists. Talk to 10 of them and you’ll get 10 different answers, all of them expert, and all sound plausible. That’s why you often hear of “Economic SURVEY” in news reports, where they get a few hundred to weigh in and see where the consensus lies and who the outliers are.

    • Well now, that’s not something you hear often.

      • Jake H says:

        Ya I was surprised too. He also said that scouts he talked to said that while Montero isn’t great behind the plate that he has made huge strides. Also that scouts could see him staying at catcher.

    • vin says:

      He probably just got them mixed up.

      (DISCLAIMER – I’ve never seen either play defense)

    • JMK aka The Overshare says:

      On the plus, Montero’s D might be a lot better than what people think…or Romine’s horrible defensively.

      It could just be that the scout saw a few games of Montero where he looked better than he normally does, and saw a game (or a few) in which Romine was particularly poor behind the plate.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about what one scout said.

    • Drew says:

      Eh, I don’t believe unnamed scouts when there is something negative, I’m not going to start listening when they say something positive.

  15. ATTN: TSJC:

    Since I’m sure you won’t look back up at the top of the thread:

    http://riveraveblues.com/2009/.....ent-689615

  16. Guest says:

    Can someone explain the whole “Nails Krzyzewski” thing to me? I understand that it refers to A-Rod; but I would love to know the origin of the name.

  17. JMK aka The Overshare says:

    I love open threads. Anyway, I’d like to know what new music you guys have been checking out lately.

    I’m a bit strange, so I’ve been bumping a lot of Party in the U.S.A. lately. In fact, this morning a middle-schooler called me some derogative terms after hearing it booming out of my headphones. Owl City, too. And Justin Bieber. That kid be poppin’ cherries and sending the nondescript black hat market into a boom. Tell ‘em one time, Justin. One time.

    My final recommendation: Ill Mitch (I mentioned it earlier in the thread)

    Lyrics from Fast & Danger:

    Your momma’s whack
    Your granny’s whack
    Keep a handy wipe in my fanny pack…

    When I board I never aloner
    On full moon I ride with boner

    So…your recs?

  18. Awesomeness says:

    in relation to what this thread talked about originally check this nl moy picks on espn and look for who jon miller picked
    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/.....id=4663182

  19. Salty Buggah says:

    From Keith Law’s Twitter:

    #parityfail #salarycap RT @vegaswatch There are eight NFL teams that are at least 77% to win this weekend. That may be some sort of record.

    And people say Baseball’s bad

  20. donttradecano says:

    TSJC and other knicks fans:

    could hurt taking a flier on Dionte Christmas or Russel Robinson to see what they got? Or what about Rasahd Mccants?

  21. The Artist says:

    New York Yankees team ownership revealed Tuesday that the phrase “Yankees suck,” one of the most popular chants in sports, was trademarked by the 27-time World Series champions prior to the 1996 season, a business strategy that has earned the team close to $100 billion over the past 13 years.

    In addition, by creating and obtaining the trademarks to the phrases “A-Roid,” “A-Fraud,” and “Jeter sucks, A-Rod swallows,” as well as acquiring partial intellectual property rights to the concept that “All the Yankees are overpaid ######## who make it virtually impossible for smaller-market teams to compete,” the team has accumulated a fiscal safety net that is estimated to last until 2210.

    http://www.theonion.com/conten.....ed_yankees

    Oh, this is brilliant. Somebody send this to Fack Youk.

    • The Artist says:

      “If you multiply that $2 by 13 years of chants, hundreds of sellout games in opposing teams’ stadiums, and the hundreds of millions of people who hate the Yankees, you can see that this was a brilliant financial tactic,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said during a televised press conference at the team’s spring training facility. “Where do you think we get the money to keep Mariano Rivera here? Or sign a bust like Carl Pavano without making the slightest dent in our bank account?”

      “You know what? Why don’t you all join me in a ‘Yankees suck’ chant right now. Come on, you know you want to,” Steinbrenner added. “Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck! That’s another $9 million right there.”

      Article of the year.

      • The Artist says:

        General Manager Brian Cashman told reporters that baseball fans who muttered “Yankees suck” to themselves while on the grounds of major-league ballparks during the second half of the 2007 season alone essentially funded the team’s new $1.2 billion stadium.

        “Owning the ‘Yankees suck’ property is the best thing that ever happened to this organization,” Cashman said. “CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira were both signed with ‘Yankees suck’ money. And people who said ‘Yankees suck’ over the course of our 2000 World Series run helped foot the bill for executive bonuses and the organization’s annual Christmas party. To be honest, I actually can’t remember the last time we had to dip into our funds from merchandising, broadcast rights, or ticket sales.”

    • Salty Buggah says:

      Yea, I read that before and was going to post it here but forgot.

      “”You know what? Why don’t you all join me in a ‘Yankees suck’ chant right now. Come on, you know you want to,” Steinbrenner added. “Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck! That’s another $9 million right there.”"

  22. Salty Buggah says:

    “A Texas man says a low-flying bird and a dropped cell phone caused him to crash his million-dollar car into a salt marsh. The French-built Bugatti Veyron sinks into the brine after the accident. “Salt water isn’t good for anything,” says a police officer when asked if the car is salvageable.”

    Ouch.

    “In another sign of the times, the New Oxford American Dictionary names “unfriend” as the word that best sums up 2009. The term means to drop someone as a friend on a social networking site.”

    Odd.

  23. Salty Buggah says:

    “But I’m also a follower, since Brian Bannister’s on our team, of sabermetric stuff and going into details of stats about what you can control.”

    “David DeJesus had our best zone rating,” Bannister said, referring to the Royals’ left fielder. “So a lot of times, Zack would pitch for a fly ball at our park instead of a ground ball, just because the zone rating was better in our outfield and it was a big park.”

    “That’s pretty much how I pitch, to try to keep my FIP as low as possible,” Greinke said.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11.....38;emc=rss

    This makes me appreciate Greinke even more.

    • “That’s pretty much how I pitch, to try to keep my FIP as low as possible,” Greinke said.

      My knees just weakened a bit. I’m very close to swooning.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      I now have a man crush on Zack Greinke. Not only for dominating pitching categories in fantasy but for having brains.

      IPK, melky and Gardner should get this done for this man to come to NY.
      Make is happen Cashmoney.

  24. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    I read that Lane Meyer at NoMaas is joining Pinstripes Plus’ reporting staff. I wonder if he’s leaving NoMaas for good? I actually enjoyed his draft coverage. Nomaas will be nothing more than the comic strips without him.

    • Reggie C. says:

      That’s a shame. PinstripesPlus is a subscription site so all those draft interviews / talk / scouting that Meyer provides is going up behind that wall. I use to subscribe to PinstripesPlus, but that was before I found RAB. I then decided to drop the subscription for the irreplaceable BaseballAmerica.

      Yep… i got too much free time on my hands.

  25. Pasqua says:

    When even Mariano Rivera can’t pull a 100% Hall of Fame vote in a few years, remember that ridiculousness like this is the reason why.

  26. [...] Joe Mauer grabbed 27 of 28 first place votes, and took home AL MVP honors today by a rather wide margin. Mark Teixeira came in a distant second, while Derek Jeter trailed him for third place. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers finished fourth, and got the only other first place vote. I’m calling Detroit bias. [...]

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