Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Cynical World

I haven't written anything about the Red Sox lately. That's probably certainly not much of a drag on society.

First, we mourn the passage of Marvin Miller, who literally made today possible. By limiting the available supply of free agents via the '6- year rule', Miller and the MLBPA produced a supply-demand imbalance for free agents, leading to exponential baseball salaries. Can you blame players for being overpaid, or simply recognize the fruition of Richard Thaler's "The Winner's Curse?"

But the baseball Winter Meetings have come, and the Red Sox unleashed a flurry of 'activity', reminding me about John Wooden. As you know, the Wizard of Westwood said, "Never confuse activity with achievement."

After trying to rebuild the Sox of yore with right-handed power, albeit base-clogging, with Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli, they opened the vault to sign Shane Victorino today.

Baseball-reference.com shows us who Shane Victorino is...or to whom he is likened.

These gentlemen are 'not exactly' Murderer's Row.

Of course, part of the problem is the money. Players are judged not on ability or production, but utility per dollar. Frankly, I'm skeptical that big money for Victorino gets you so much more than Ryan Kalish produces.

Yes, the secondary argument goes that Victorino replaces Jacoby Ellsbury when he leaves for greener gra$$. And the way the Sox are throwing around money for mediocrity, maybe Scott Boras is right, and Ellsbury will get 4 by 15 million or more.

Here's a possible Sox lineup:

CF: Ellsbury
2B: Pedroia
3B: Middlebrooks
1B: Napoli
LF: Gomes
RF: Victorino
C: Ross/Saltalamacchia/Lavarnway
SS: Iglesias/Ciriaco/Escobar(?)

Some of you may have read (or are reading) Nassim Taleb's new book, "Antifragile", in which he explores that which can suffer or prosper from volatility or stress. I fondly recall that Mark Belanger, a career .228 hitter, hit .287 in 1969 for the Orioles. In other words, players can have production at considerable variation to their average.

Restated, several Sox players could produce at higher than expected norms, and produce a competitive season. Of course, we are also left with Damon Runyan's caveat that "the race is not always to the swiftest or the battle to the strongest, but it pays to bet that way."

And therefore, the Sox have plugged the holes in the Fenway dam. But relying on statistical anomalies, rather than better talent strikes me as fradulent. But maybe as Jerry Maguire would say, because "we live in a cynical world."

And, oh yes, we haven't discussed the broken pitching staff. Maybe another day.

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