A few years ago, I painted the interior walls of an apartment with a friend. Neither of us had ever endeavored a paint job of that magnitude before, but we figured it wasn’t exactly rocket science — tape the moldings, paint the walls.
The actual painting part wasn’t terrible, but taping all the edges turned out to be a huge pain in the ass. We spent at least as much time taping as we did painting, and the project took us about twice as long as we expected.
Just before we finished, the cable guy came. He complimented our paint job, and asked if we had taped up all the moldings. We said that we had, and he informed us to the existence of paint edgers, an inexpensive tool that paints the edges of walls without the need for all that tape.
We cursed ourselves for not doing more research and cursed fate (and probably Cablevision) for sending the cable guy so late in our process, but at no point did we curse the paint edger.
That’s why it’s a bit weird to me, as I sort through all the reactions to Sandy Alderson’s introductory press conference at Citi Field on Friday, that so many people seemed to get so riled up about sabermetrics.
For one thing, I don’t even know what “sabermetrics” means. I know it involves baseball and statistics, and I know that lots of people seem willing to speak or write on behalf of all so-called sabermetricians. But which stats define sabermetrics? It’s not batting average; we know that. Is it on-base percentage, or is that still too basic? It strikes me as strange that we should need a fancy term for those who recognize the merits of hitters that get on base often.
My understanding has always been that the numbers we throw under the umbrella of sabermetrics are those that aim to give us a more precise understanding of a player’s value than the so-called traditional ones on the back of a baseball card, and that “sabermetrics” itself refers to the pursuit of those more precise metrics.
The book Moneyball, contrary to widespread belief, was not just about sabermetrics. It was about a cash-strapped baseball team identifying an inefficiency in the market and taking advantage of it. Running a successful business.
So I get a bit confused when I see debate over when Alderson first started using sabermetrics, like he at some point flipped on a light switch to enact sabermetrics, and from there his team was a sabermetric team. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that. All stats are just tools, and every team uses stats, among other tools, to evaluate players.
That’s all. No real point in getting frustrated about it. Some teams use the tape and some teams use the edger, and probably most teams use both depending on the circumstances, and everyone’s got an opinion on which option works better. The point is there’s no real good reason to get upset and say, “f@#$ you, it’s tape!” or to be all, “yield to the dominance of the edger!” because it’s really silly to get so worked up over tools.
If you hope Sandy Alderson uses sabermetrics and Moneyball to run the Mets, then great. If you hope he doesn’t, that’s fine too. Both of those words are just big sweeping labels assigned to reasonably simple concepts, and if you want to use them or not use them to describe what Alderson does as Mets GM, you know, whatever.
All I care is that he seems dedicated to running the team the right way, and appears apt to do so.