I honestly thought I wouldn’t say anything more about this. There have been way too many words written about it already and most of them have been pointless. I’m partly doing this as personal therapy, but I also want it as a record for when things go really wrong. My whole life has teetered somewhere between being a cautionary tale and screaming “I told you so!” at people who never learn. This is one of those times I fear it’s the latter.
I’m talking about the mess with the Astros, of course. What else can people talk about? I’ve addressed what the team did and I stand by every word I said. I suppose that once the country you live in has descended into being a third-world-style kleptocracy, you’re going to be pissed off about the circuses because you can’t do squat about the bread anymore. Man, if only people got as upset about the Emoluments Clause in the actual Constitution as this… But that’s crazy talk.
Somebody is going to get hurt. I don’t know if it’s going to be a player getting beaned by a pissed-off pitcher, somebody sliding in spikes-high into a base, or some dumb-ass righteous “fan” seeking a ballistic redress of grievances. But someone is going to get hurt. The Outrage-Industrial Complex is going full bore. We haven’t heard from the hotdog vendors at Dodger Stadium yet, but I’m sure it’s penciled in somewhere in The Athletics editorial planner. I bailed out of all social media back in November, and I’m so glad I did. People are nuts. It’s just a matter of time before someone with an AK-47 goes looking for the basement of the basement-less pizza parlor where the Astros stored all those buzzers.
Here’s “the take” you’re unlikely to see anywhere else: I don’t believe knowing the called pitch in advance helps the batter that much. Computationally the amount of information that provides versus the cascade of real-time calculations that have to be performed in order to place the bat on the ball is way too small. If you can tease out the effect of that little information on the overall task of hitting, you don’t need to be worried about baseball; You need to be worried about your travel plans to Stockholm to pick up your Nobel in Medicine.
I know, I know, I know. Every major league hitter is lining up to talk about how much it helps. I’m sure they believe it. Strongly. And we all know that the strength of an anecdotal personal belief constitutes reliable evidence of empirical phenomena. Ask any Anti-Vaxxer or Biblical Literalist. They’ll be happy to explain it to you. In excruciating detail. Attribution Theory is a thing, y’all.
I’m sure knowing what pitch is coming helps. Except for all the times that it doesn’t. Good luck finding the difference between the two. Sure, you might know slow or fast. But placement? Trajectory? Break? And have I really stolen a sign if the pitcher actually throws the pitch to the backstop? I’ll be happy to look at any evidence that it works, but I’m profoundly disinterested in the opinions of people who won’t wash their socks during a hitting streak. For Jobu’s sake, think for a minute.
And, yes, I know about the L-Shaped screens for live BP. Of course no one actually got hit once in an entire season-and-a-half of systematic sign-stealing during actual games, but they … could have? But remember: it was only wrong if it was a pitch known in advance because of an electronically-stolen sign. Analog sign stealing isn’t illegal, it’s tradition. It’s only when those darn electrons get involved that things go wrong. So be selective in your outrage when a traumatic brain injury occurs.
It’s not that what the Astros did was right. I’ve explained what I see wrong in what they did, and how the punishment they were given was richly deserved. What I can’t — and won’t — accept without saying something is the degree to which people are willing to shut off their brains in order to be sanctimonious.
Somebody’s going to get hurt. And when that happens, no one is going to understand how that happened. This is just my way of telling you that you could see this coming. Don’t try to say you couldn’t. And it will be your fault. After all, everybody who’s calling for automatic lifetime bans for everyone in the organization is clearly fine with collective sanctions regardless of personal participation.
Hey, I don’t make the rules. But I’m perfectly fine applying the ones you make for others to you.