Letters to the Editor

Week of Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Will the Real Joe Morgan Please Stand (or Shut) Up

Arrogant as a doctor:Picked up Moneyball about two years ago and thought it was one of the best-written and [most] insightful sports books I had read in a long time. Your conversation with Joe Morgan ["Angryball," July 6] reminds me of some of my daily conversations with some of the people from one of the most traditional professions -- physicians. Hearing nonsensical opinions offered [in response] to obvious statistical conclusions just baffles me, especially when the individual(s) are so intelligent and insightful.

Matthew Guldin
Somerville, Mass.

Ego bigger than the universe:I still believe Joe [Morgan] is a very intelligent man; perhaps this article, and others of similar intent, will force him to realize that baseball has evolved past the Big Red Machine. If not, thanks for attempting to deflate a man of small stature with an ego swollen far beyond bounds of reality.

Brian Schram
Minneapolis, Minn.

Better than anyone save Vin Scully:I must ask you: What ever happened between you and Joe Morgan? Your article could not hide the personal animosity you have for Mr. Morgan. Your "conversation" with him, at least in the article, consisted of a few questions and answers between you and Morgan, but the majority of the space was devoted to you explaining why you believed he was an idiot.

Personally, I love computers, but I have to tell you that I have learned more baseball from Joe Morgan than any other broadcaster, with the exception of Vin Scully.

Lance Barschak
Portland, Ore.

Blowhard and idiot:There wasn't a single word that you wrote that I disagreed with. Joe Morgan is a blowhard, and the book Moneyball (which I HAVE read) is a classic. Of course, I should mention that I am an A's fan, but that aside, I think you bring up excellent points and have read in NUMEROUS baseball chat rooms that Joe Morgan is an idiot.

Woody Clark
Los Gatos

Harbinger of the next revolution:I'm a Moneyball guy myself -- and a Joe Morgan fan. I loved your article, the writing and the ideas, but I won't bore you with flattery. Your article seems to reflect the same factionalism that you accuse Morgan's brain of suffering from.

I think if you take a step back from the culture wars, you might grant that Joe has many interesting points to make, and his blinders make him an even keener observer of what he values. The debate reminds me of styles of literary criticism learned in college: the new critics (the words are all) versus the historical critics or the agrarians or whomever. Paying close attention to the words is damn valuable, but context is pretty important, too.

Joe Morgan believes in personal observations. He's played the game, after all, as he is fond of noting. He watches very closely. (New Criticism?) The stat guys are the historical critics. What does the past and the outside world tell us about the individual on the field at a moment? As you note, the lessons of Moneyball will be absorbed into baseball knowledge. Arbitrage will become harder. That's when Joe Morgan's way of thinking becomes the new revolution.

A small example. Watching the home-run derby last night, Joe immediately noticed the players in the second round were struggling to pull the ball and hitting fewer home runs. They were tired and losing bat speed. I might have figured this out myself, but Joe, the observer, picked it up immediately. Can just 15 or 20 swings really tire out a player? Apparently yes. Can the player really be so tired he can't get around on a grooved 70 mph fastball? Apparently yes. Did Bobby Abreu fall from 24 homers in the first round to six in the second partly because he swung in the batting cage between rounds? By golly, I think so. Statistical analysis could prove it. (Do too many swings weaken a batter in a game?)

And I think you want a Moneyball-informed Joe Morgan in the dugout and in the booth because, when the game is played, the real arbitrage is using the nonstatistical knowledge that hasn't been long known and vetted.

I think we should honor Joe Morgan, not ridicule him. The footwork on a double play is darn important. Statheads should be less worried about their victory and status, and more interested in: Did Joe see something that I can test?

Dennis Cauchon
Reporter (news, not sports)
Granville, Ohio

Another Carefully Crafted Stiletto Aimed at Matt Smith's Manhood

But he's really quite practiced at dodging Lohans and Cruises:I recently read "Political Insurance" [July 6]. Matt Smith did an excellent job of taking dictation from local attorney-cum-author Ray Bourhis, faithfully reporting every item on Bourhis' list of favorite things about himself.

Perhaps Mr. Smith would be better suited to a career in entertainment reporting, capturing the musings of Lindsay Lohan on the debut of her new movie or Tom Cruise's latest thoughts on psychiatry.

At the very least, he should be compensated by Mr. Bourhis for the charming endorsement of the upcoming book.

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