Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lies, Damned Lies, No Statistics

Certain headlines repeat themselves year after year at spring training. Some are harmless. Some are true. And some are unmitigated hooey. For example:

  1. "Team X spent $400M this offseason!" - No they didn't. They may have signed contracts for $400M, spread out over however many years, but that's not the same thing as saying they plunked down a half billion dollars all in one spot. Throw in the interesting tax ramifications of player salaries (thanks for nothing, Bill Veeck), money that's coming off the books at the same time those contracts are going on, and various and sundry other factors, and the actual dollar amounts teams are "spending" at any given time is slightly less jaw-dropping - or sensational.
  2. "Player X is in the best shape of his life!" - Quite possibly. Somebody is always in the best shape of his life. Someone else - probably Bartolo Colon - is probably in the worst. But even the most out of shape of these guys could almost certainly kick your ass in whatever athletic endeavor you challenge them at. And remember, it's these guys' jobs to be in good shape. 
  3. "Player Z reported to camp having added 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason" - Meet the guy who's going to be zinged with baseless steroids rumors if he performs well. There is, of course, no chance than in the era of protein shakes, creatine, personal trainers, whey powder sold by the truckload, and suchlike that a world-class athlete could possibly have bulked up any other way.
  4. "We're doing this [highly restrictive thing] to improve the fan experience." - No, they aren't. They're doing whatever they're doing, like the Yankees completely submarining the secondary ticket market, to make more money. That's it. Now, I'll believe Yankees official and human puff pastry Lonn Trost when he says that he doesn't want fans buying the expensive seats behind home plate on the cheap; I also believe it's because the folks sitting there don't want to risk getting cooties from The Poors on them. And if the Marlins are fencing off a popular autograph hunting spot, odds are it's to try to drive traffic to one of those in-stadium "buy game used memoribilia" shops that have sprung up like weeds.
  5. "Team X has no hope of making the playoffs this year." - Which means Team X reduced payroll. This is not entirely synonymous with having no chance, as the Astros and Cubs will tell you - both of them crashed pennant races ahead of schedule on their rebuilds. But hey, there's nothing quite like the weirdly self-hating nature of some of the baseball media to sap the joy out of spring training.
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