We’re all guilty of it. I may not be a fan, but this team basically dominates my life – what little of one I have – for the better part of 10 months a year, if not more.
Now in the midst of this brutal and record-setting losing streak, the frustration of fans is evident. You see lamentations and rants on Twitter and in blog comments. It’s not just the end of the season, but the end of the world.
But no matter how magnificent the win, no matter how painful the loss, in the end, our lives go on. Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we become too caught up in the importance of it all, of series wins, of losing streaks, of on-base percentages and ERAs, of Cy Young Awards, of all-star appearances, of salary caps, of player call ups and prospect rankings.
There are times when we all need a Michael Pineda fastball to the ribs to wake us up and remind us that this is still just a game. Yes, it’s a great game, and for me probably the greatest game, but it is still only a game that was made to be played by children.
Today that fastball ribs came in just under 140 characters in this tweet from Dave Cameron of USS Mariner and Fangraphs.
He later explained his situation in more detail in this post for USS Mariner. From his piece …
I’m now in one of those situations. Last week, I was informed that I have Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a particularly nasty member of the cancer family. History has given my doctors all kinds of data about cure rates and life expectancy, and statistical analysis is helping them decide just what kind of chemotherapy I’ll be taking in a few hours, which I’m really thankful for.
But really, those numbers do nothing for me. I’m not going to be making very many decisions over the next few months. I’m just going to be rooting like crazy for the drugs to work. I need reasons for hope, and I won’t find much of that in the harshness of raw data.
Data isn’t always what is needed. If you’re a Pirates fan right now, does it help you at all to know that your team probably won’t keep this up? You’re not going to be making any decisions that will change the outcome anyway, so why not root for the outcome you want, even if it isn’t statistically probable?
Yeah, it kind of puts things in perspective. Doesn’t it? Maybe a 15 game losing streak or the MLB trade deadline doesn’t seem so life-altering.
I consider Dave Cameron a friend. In the time, I’ve been covering the Mariners I’ve gotten to know him as a professional colleague and as a person.
Before I first met him, he was this nebulous nerdy figure, a person obsessed with statistics (most of which I didn’t really know or care to understand), probabilities and analytics. He had this blog that was a must-read for all Mariners fans, and therefore all Mariners writers. It was a different, an important voice.
So I started reading USS Mariner, and I hated it. HATED IT.
Dave looked at a baseball in such a different way than I did. My first reaction was to disagree and disaparage. Why would I think of the game I loved in such a cold, numerical way. In my college playing days, the only stats I used to keep were hits and homers inside the bill of my hat next the initials of Mickey Mantle and the No. 7.
OPS? WAR? UZR? BABIP? FIP? xFIP? Bah, who needed them? Certainly not me, I knew everything.
Then I realized, the reason I hated it was because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t grasp the stats and metrics he was using and the significance of them. I think it was something written by Joe Posnanski about sabermetrics that finally made me come around. The gist of it was this … baseball is great because you can look at it in so many different ways — and there are NO wrong ways. And to not acknowledge a viable and often informed take on baseball just because you didn’t understand it was just being uninformed and ignorant.
So I decided at that moment I wouldn’t be ignorant. I learned. I emailed him. I asked questions. I met him. We had lunch. We talked baseball. Suddenly the nebulous figure in my mind was replaced by an ordinary looking dark-haired guy with a Kermit the frog-ish voice, a surprising sense of humor and a passion for the game like me.
Do I agree with everything he writes? No. I’ve embraced many of the new metrics, but sometimes the old player in me comes screaming out. I’m sure he looks at some of the things I write, and shakes his head at my neanderthal thinking. I know he does. But that’s part of what is great about baseball is the debate and the types of relationships that can be built through it.
Like his work or not, we are all on the same team when it comes to the battle against cancer. Every person has had their lives touched by cancer in some way. It’s a cruel opponent that shows little mercy in its victories and unrestrained determination in its defeats.
What can you do?
Like Dave said in his post, donate blood and platelets to the Red Cross, donate a few dollars when you can to cancer research, volunteer, be a presence and keep up the fight any way you can.
For Dave, whether you believe in the power of good thoughts or prayers, send some his way. There are no statistics to prove they help. But this isn’t about statistics anymore, just ask him.
Statistics can be powerful, useful tools, and at times, they can be critical to understanding what to do. Other times, though, they’re useless, and so, for this situation, I say screw the data; I choose hope instead.
Good luck Dave, don’t give up hope. I know I wont.