Jun 212002

Turns out the new poem by Shakespeare isn’t really by Shakespeare after all. No one ought to care a great deal because it wasn’t much good. But you have to admire anyone who can say, as Donald Foster did in his attribution retraction, “No one who cannot rejoice in the discovery of his own mistakes deserves to be called a scholar.” Or a blogger for that matter. Worth reading is Ron Rosenbaum’s reaction to the attribution retraction (this link, alas, appears to be temporary).

Jun 212002

Read Part One. Go on, it’s short.

Watching baseball actually impedes understanding. When I was fourteen my father took me to a Yankee game. The Yankees lost and Bobby Bonds struck out four times, twice on changeups in the dirt. After the game my father said, “I never realized Bonds was such a bum.” Now, of course, Bonds wasn’t a bum; Bonds was a borderline Hall of Fame player in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career. But that’s what happens when you string up a hammock at some local minimum or maximum and proceed to draw conclusions about the shape of the graph.

When blowhards like Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver exult over “the little things that don’t show up in the box scores” this should be regarded as a paid commercial announcement — as if you have to listen to them to know what’s going on. Just about everything shows up in the box scores, and if it doesn’t, then we just need better box scores. Box scores used to show next to nothing, not even walks. And then they showed hit-by-pitches, and intentional walks, and pitch counts, and ball-strike ratios, and stolen-base attempts, and caught-stealings. Soon they will show runners advanced, and groundball/flyball ratios, and out charts, and the margin of baseball events that don’t show up in the box scores (what Bill James used to call “the swamp”) will dwindle, inexorably, to zero, just as science gradually asserts its dominion over all kinds of problems that used to belong to philosophy.

In the meantime, at least turn the sound down.