Thursday, November 15, 2012

How To Start a Twitter Shitstorm, With Evan Grant

Evan Grant is a sportswriter for the Dallas Morning News. He gets a vote in the post-season baseball awards handed out by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He voted for Miguel Cabrera as the MVP of the American League. That's a fine and legitimate pick. Hardly controversial, as Cabrera was the first Triple Crown winner in a long fucking time, right?

EXCEPT that it is a wee bit controversial. If you've got a baseball nerd in your Favorites Bar or on your radio, you know that a case can be made for Mike Trout. As it happens, I've got both - Aaron Gleeman, the Twin Cities baseball nerd, had this very argument with The Vox o' Vikings, Paul Allen (who is often a huge douche, but to his credit, had Gleeman on a lot this past season).

The Triple Crown is obviously something special - most hits, RBI's, most HR's! HOLY SHIT! No one does that anymore. What the nerds say is that while it is impressive, it doesn't take into account, AT ALL, defense, which is, in theory, 50% of the game. Also, RBI's are kind of a junk stat, because why is it up to the batter how many guys are on base when he slaps a double down the line? It isn't, clearly.

Did Miguel Cabrera have a good year? YES. Did Mike Trout have a good year? YES. Voter Jim Caple (and former Minnesotan beat writer) wrote the best article articulating the difficulty of picking between these guys.

The voice of the nerds can be voiced best in the Nerd of the Year, Nate Silver, who did in fact go back to his baseball roots to write this. Here is a key segment of Silver's thesis (though I think you should read all of it):

Between his defense and his base running, therefore, Trout was about 35 runs more valuable to the Angels than Cabrera was to the Tigers. By contrast, the 14 additional home runs that Cabrera hit (44 against Trout’s 30) were worth about 22 extra runs for the Tigers, based on measures that convert players’ contributions to a common scale.
Didn’t Cabrera also hit for a higher batting average? Yes, but barely: he hit .330 against Trout’s .326. And Trout had the slight edge in on-base percentage, .399 to .393.
Trout also made his offensive contributions in a more difficult ballpark for hitters. Detroit’s Comerica Park once had a reputation as a pitcher’s haven, but that has not really been true since the Tigers moved the fences in in the mid-2000s.

So you see what's going on here - a close race, and maybe decided by a close vote between traditionalists and the stat monkeys. Conservatives vs Liberals. Smurfs vs. Snorks. Jocks vs. Nerds. The whole vibe is familiar to anyone who listened to Paul Allen shout down Aaron Gleeman with a chant of, "Triple Crown! Triple Crown!" and then start a segment that was all about getting Aaron Gleeman a date.

So, back to Evan Grant, who voted for Miguel Cabrera, and for whatever reason, got annoyed enough by comments on his Twitter feed that he posted this, about four hours ago (at least, it was four hours ago, when I started typing this post). And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how you start a Twitter Shitstorm:

That little tweet was followed by many retweets, much name calling and cries of elitism, from people who maybe didn't like the use of the phrase "OUR awards" or their criticism to be called "carping". Grant, quickly realizing his mistake, made it clear he wasn't being exclusionary. He was just following the rules:

But there is an inherent problem with that, too. Out of 28 writers, six did chose Mike Trout. So, were they ignoring the ballot? Were they simply wrong to vote for Mike Trout? Clearly, Evan Grant agreed that Mike Trout had a great year - he was #2 on Grant's ballot. Compelling, post-season award awarding bullshit abounds! In the long run, let's be reasonable - it is just baseball, quickly becoming America's least favorite sport, if you don't count hockey and soccer.

But it does make for fascinating reading, yeah?

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