Calling Bullshit: Baseball Edition!
A story about Adolf Hitler, Sandy Koufax and electronic strike zones...
The World Series has started and if you’re still trying to decide which team to root for, don’t forget the Houston Astros are a bunch of cheaters which Major League Baseball really, really, really hopes you’ve forgotten.
Some of the players haven’t.
Last summer LA Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly called the Houston Astros players a bunch of snitches and rats because they cooperated with the investigation of their cheating scandal to get immunity and threw their manager and coaches under the bus while they kept playing, which doesn’t bother MLB even a tiny little bit because players sell tickets and nobody comes to see A.J. Hinch manage with the possible exception of A.J. Hinch’s relatives and even they might take a pass if Jose Altuve wasn’t in the lineup.
Face it: If people would by tickets to see Adolf Hitler play baseball, big league baseball would find a way to put him on the field which actually sounds kind of entertaining because Adolf would be 132 years old and as long as I’m fantasizing, I wouldn’t mind seeing an In-His-Prime Sandy Koufax pitch to Adolf and then we’d see about all that Master Race stuff.
Joe Kelly made the point that the cheating would not have happened without the Astros players’ cooperation and if you want to read more about that, here’s the link:
Also, you can see just exactly how much MLB cares about cheating when you look into the Red Sox and/or Tiger dugout and see Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch because after they got caught cheating, both were rewarded with managing jobs.
Some people (meaning me and at least one friend) suspect they got rewarded with jobs because they’re the kind of managers who will do whatever the front office tells them to do and that includes cheating or batting Adolf Hitler 4th in the lineup.
It would seem Shoeless Joe Jackson’s main crime was having the bad judgment to play in the wrong era.
The strike zone
These days pretty much every broadcast puts up a box that’s supposed to show the strike zone and those electronic strike zones are pretty much bullshit.
Most of those electronic strike zones are two-dimensional (like an upright pane of glass) and the actual strike zone is three-dimensional (like an argument with your spouse), so it’s completely possible to miss the two-dimensional strike zone set up at the front edge of the plate, but still have a ball pass through the three-dimensional strike zone behind the front edge of the plate which is what every pitcher wants to do when he throws a backdoor breaking pitch. (Start the pitch off the plate and then have it break over the plate at the last second.)
Just because your TV says it’s a strike, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a strike.
To my eye, the zones seem to be the same approximate size whether the batter is the three foot, six inch tall Jose Altuve or the seven foot, five inch tall Freddie Freeman (I might have exaggerated the height difference) and I may be right because an article on baseballscouter.com says the zones have trouble dealing with the varying size of hitters, so they use a human operator to make that adjustment (which sounds like it includes some guesstimating) and I’ve been in a press box when a game resumed and the guy who was supposed to put balls and strikes on the stadium scoreboard was still in the bathroom.
When humans are involved, human error becomes a factor.
The electronic zones can also be thrown off by rain, radio interference and body movement (so I guess the hitters need to hold real still), but the TV people still claim they’re accurate within one-inch which isn’t all that accurate with a borderline pitch that barely clips the zone and a World Series on the line, but nobody knows for sure because the people who make the systems refuse to provide information on their “accuracy deviation” and anytime somebody says, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” you gotta wonder if that’s because the man behind the curtain is a fraud.
Any system has to be calibrated correctly and we have little-to-no information on how that’s done or who’s doing it, but imagine your IT guy at work being in charge of strikes and balls during a World Series and you might lose some confidence.
Here’s the baseballscouter.com article, but I’m gonna warn you I couldn’t find a posting date and any time the tech guys screw up they have tendency to say, “We may have had problems in the past, but we’ve fixed all that” and I feel fairly confident the astronauts were told something similar right before they blew up a second space shuttle.
Whenever someone says, “Trust me” but won’t provide evidence my tendency to trust goes way down and that brings us to baseball owners and those...
This comes from an Associated Press story about Opening Day salaries and it’s worth reading unless you really want to keep spouting off about overpaid ballplayers and don’t want your misplaced outrage to be diluted by inconvenient facts.
Of the 902 players on opening day rosters, 417 had salaries under $1 million.
And 316 of them had salaries under $600,000.
The 50 highest-paid players made one third of all the salary.
The 100 highest-paid players make more than half the payroll, so 802 players got to split the remaining 47.6%.
The average salary dropped 4.8% to just under $4.17 million, which sounds like a lot until you figure out if I made four million dollars and you made nothing our average salary would be $2 million and people would think you were a whiner if you complained about your financial situation.
According to the Princeton Review, once a player makes it to the big leagues the average career lasts 2.7 years, so do the math and the vast majority of big league ballplayers do not play long enough to cash in on free agency and make big money.
It’s definitely not an accident that major league baseball makes sure you know exactly how much the players make, but next-to-nothing about how much the owners make and the owners like to claim they’re not making out like bandits, but whenever a team comes up for sale the team’s more valuable than the last time it came up for sale, so I think it’s fair to call bullshit on the idea that these teams are money losers.
In 2000 David Glass bought the Kansas City Royals for $96 million dollars and 21 years later sold it for $1 billion dollars which is a pretty good rise in value for a business that does not make money.
Before the Dodgers got eliminated, Trea Turner hit a grounder and raced down to first base and whatever announcer was doing the game cited Turner’s “sprint speed” and said Trea was one of the fastest players in the game which might be true, but would depend to some degree on how far Turner was running.
Assuming the system that measures this is calibrated correctly: sprint speed is based on the fastest one second window during a player’s sprint.
But as a Royals coach pointed out to me a few years ago: Jarrod Dyson would beat Paulo Orlando from first to second base, but if the race was first to home plate Orlando would beat Dyson.
That’s because Jarrod is shorter than Paulo, so Jarrod gets off to a faster start, but Paulo’s longer legs would make up the distance if the race were long enough. So who’s faster depends on how far the race is and if the bases were 26.2 miles apart the fastest major league ballplayer would be Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge, assuming someone would open up a roster spot by cutting Adolf Hitler and signing Kipchoge and if that ever happens I wouldn’t mind being the one to break the news to Adolf.
When someone says this player is the fastest guy in baseball, you should ask how far he’s running.
Game 1 of the World Series: Braves 6, Astros 2
I figured I’d throw that score in because if you’re like me (insert self-deprecating joke here) you gave up when the game was three hours old and they’d only completed six innings. The nine-inning game took four hours and nine minutes to complete.
During the 2021 regular season the average time of a nine inning game was three hours and 11 minutes (which is still too long), but postseason games can take even longer, so what’s up with that?
I haven’t got out my stopwatch to check, but I’ve been told that World Series commercials are longer than regular-season commercials, so that’s part of it, but they’re also using more pitchers to get desired pitcher-hitter matchups and if that happens in the middle of an inning you’ve got to wait for that pitcher to warm up and because everyone’s trying to walk or hit a home run, in last night’s game there were six walks and 23 strikeouts which meant you got to watch 29 plate appearances where a ball was not put in play.
Not exactly Must See TV.
The World Series is supposed to be baseball’s showcase and maybe people who aren’t already baseball fans might watch a game and get hooked, but you’re not going to hook too many fans with four-hour games and anytime you can get me to say to hell with it, I’m going to bed, baseball has a problem.
Enjoy Game 2…if you can.