Joe Morgan has become an embarrassment. For further proof of this, take a look at this article in the SF Weekly, about Morgan’s strange relationship with Moneyball and sabermetrics:

Me: It seems that you almost take [the book] personally.

Joe: I took it personally because they had a personal thing about me saying Durham should’ve stolen second base in the game that they lost — he stayed at first base, and they hit three fly balls, and the A’s lose another fifth game.

Me: And that’s the chief reason you don’t even wanna read the book?

Joe: I don’t read books like that. I didn’t read Bill James’ book, and you said he was complimenting me. Why would I wanna read a book about a computer, that gives computer numbers?

Me: It’s not about a computer.

Joe: Well, I’m not reading the book, so I wouldn’t know.

Me: I’m not —

Joe: Why would I wanna read the book? All I’m saying is, I see a game every day. I watch baseball every day. I have a better understanding about why things happen than the computer, because the computer only tells you what you put in it. I could make that computer say what I wanted it to say, if I put the right things in there. … The computer is only as good as what you put in it. How do you think we got Enron?

How do you think we got Enron?

What the heck does that mean?

There are lots of silly statements like those contained in the rest of the article, and it’s just sad. Poor ole Joe Morgan, perhaps the greatest Cincinnati Red of all time, has gone off the reservation. And it’s such a shame, because he has no clue that the traits that made him great as a player are exactly the traits that are most admired by proponents of sabermetrics.

5 Responses

  1. Brian B.

    I don’t know if any of us can go so far as to say Joe Morgan “has no clue.” I mean, yeah, some of us went to some fancy schools to learn how to interpret and analyze, but Joe has a point about why he is a walking primary source and doesn’t need secondary sources for validation. But that last statement about Enron really lost me.

  2. Jim McCullough

    Morgan needs to realize that his arguments would be taken more seriously if he was open-minded enough to read the book.

    I don’t think I necessarily agree with everything about it but I was open-minded enough to read it.

    I do think the “Moneyball” obsession that stolen bases are “outs” is invalid unless you are talking about a Sean Casey trying to steal. Lou Brock, Ricky Henderson, Joe Morgan, etc. produced runs with their stolen bases. They even produced “big innings” with their stolen bases. A low percentage of the time they may have killed a possible big inning.

  3. Tyler

    I haven’t read the book, so this statement isn’t neccessarily about moneyball, but stolen bases.

    Bill James says that if a play succeeds 75% of the time, then they can be useful and are worth the risk. Much less than that, they are being counter productive. That’s the way I’ve heard(or rather read the transcript of an interview). They’re not anti-stealing, just anti-getting caught, which makes sense really.

  4. Chris

    That’s a situation where “a computer” can really give you great information that your gut can’t. If you’re trying to decide if stealing is a good bet, all you have to do is compare the chances of scoring in situation #1 (runner on 1st and 0 out) with situations #2A (success – runner on 2nd and 0 out), #2B (failure – nobody on and 1 out), and #2C (lucky break – runner on 3rd and 0 out). Once you figure out how much you gain if you succeed, you easily work backward to see what chances of success on the steal you need to the attempt worthwhile, generally.

    THEN, the manager’s eyes and experience come in, as he figures out what chance his runner has in THIS situation (THIS pitcher, THIS catcher, THIS day). And he probably also alters the “expected runs analysis,” depending on who’s pitching, who’s batting, who’s on deck, etc.

    The smart manager has read the probability tables and chooses to follow them or not. The ignorant Joe Morgan puts his fingers in his ears and says he doesn’t want to know – whatever it is.

  5. Bill

    Chris, great explanation… to me it’s like playing poker. One guy watches the cards to see what’s been played and bets accordingly. The other guy just bets his gut every time. Which one do you think does better?