Just a Bit Outside
Political and news journalists weigh in on the national pastime.


Krauthammer: To my mind, no question: Miguel Cabrera is the MVP. Anybody who does something major — mindbogglingly difficult — that hasn’t been done since 1967 is automatically MVP — I don’t care if his team finishes behind the Astros or if some godlike rookie is (temporarily) denied the honor. The Trouter will win Rookie of the Year this year, and MVPs in many years to come. It has to go to Cabrera.

Futterman: If there was only one Rookie of the Year Award (as there was the first two years of the award 1947 and 1948) rather than separate ones for NL and AL, I would clearly give it to Trout. 

Todd: Trying to remember when there were two dominant rookies like Trout and Harper in same year like this who had such an impact on their respective teams. Not just great rookies, but tone setters.

Epstein: Maybe 1951?

Willie Mays: .274/.356/.472
Mickey Mantle: .267/.349/.443

Futterman: And Mantle did not win Rookie of the Year!!

Epstein: Mantle only played a little over half of the ’51 season in the majors. Another Yankee, third baseman Gil McDougald, won the award.

Todd: The Triple Crown has never been done in my lifetime. So I’d pick that historic accomplishment for my MVP vote. As for the other issue, let’s create a hitter-only award . . . then we don’t have this debate. The MVP should be open for any player. . . . I like the Cy Young, so let’s create the Babe Ruth or the Hank Aaron or whatever for the best offensive player in baseball.

Futterman: Not even close. Unless Trout has the most amazing legendary final three games and tie breaker to get Angels into post season — Cabrera the obvious choice. 

Epstein: When you hear or read sports columnists opine that experience is such an important factor in postseason success, does that strike you as being overly simplistic? (On a related note, the A’s are poised to enter the playoffs with a starting rotation comprised entirely of rookies. Has that happened before?)

Klein: In baseball, where getting into the postseason is truly all that matters (though of course the wild-card teams have a significant disadvantage starting this year), I’m beginning to think experience is a disadvantage. Witness A-Rod, and his overthinking at the plate that leads to pop-up after runners-in-scoring-position pop-up.

Maybe you need a bunch of kids who don’t know they’re supposed to be nervous. I’d take that attitude going in to a five-game series over veterans worried they’ll never make it back.

Housley: I believe experience does help. A-Rod is in his own head and we’ve seen that with other stars as well, but we’ve also seen stars completely shine. I think what helps the young guys is confidence that comes from the coaches and confidence that comes from seeing journeymen finally get their shot. Seriously, the A’s have a number of guys who have bounced around and might have been more likely to play for Yakult than in the playoffs. A young pitcher/player sees that determination, that desire, and it helps him appreciate the game more. Appreciate his opportunity. The A’s have a way of building ball clubs full of hustlers . . . and I don’t mean the type who run the pool table.

Epstein: From your vantage point, who understands statistical analysis better: journalists who work the politics beat or those who cover baseball?

Travers: Baseball writers — they are dealing with stats on a daily basis on a much more intricate level than political reporters are. Plus they have crazy fans who do the amateur sabermetrics at home who are calling them out on every little detail or error, because they have all the info right at their fingertips at home. We see polling results, voter-registration stats, demographic trends, but political reporters don’t crunch the numbers so much as analyze the results someone else has computed. I think you see more wonky numbers work from baseball beat writers because fans are calling for it and they have the data to do it.

Klein: I actually think baseball beat writers have a better grasp on statistics than journalists who cover politics — present company excluded, of course. Maybe it’s because baseball fans/writers have an intuitive sense of numbers that many political junkies don’t; I learned math from batting averages, not the Electoral College. Politics is also inherently harder to quantify, since the only real “games” are held in elections, and it’s hard to sort out the good polls from the bad. The best I can say for both groups of writers is that we’re getting better — and I think we can actually thank Nate Silver for helping us all out.

Hemingway: Well, my vantage point includes an education in economics, so I think neither group does terribly well. My worst newsroom experiences have been overhearing colleagues attempt to analyze numerical changes over time. But obviously baseball journalists do much better than those who cover politics.

Pretty much every new sports reporter of the last 15 years has had to dive pretty deeply into the sabermetric movement. Whether you agree with it as a tool of evaluation or not (and I don’t), if you don’t understand VORP [value over replacement player], or WAR [wins above replacement], or why BABIP [batting average on balls in play] matters, you’re not going to go far.


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