“Deflategate” Is A Conspiracy Theory

I have a new computer but still none of my old documents and information. I would guess there is a 10% chance that I will ever see any of that old info. So, here I go, starting from scratch.

You cannot possibly be any more tired of hearing about “Deflategate” than I am. Since I do not know what happened, I am not going to pretend that I do. What I would like to say here is that there are lessons for all of us when we are faced with stories of this kind and I would like to use the current “debate” to illustrate.

    Here is one sure way to tell if a story is really about a conspiracy theory and not just the events that triggered the story. In a conspiracy theory, the absence of evidence about some aspect of the story becomes proof of the conspiracy itself. Because Tom Brady did not say some specific thing at his news conference or because the NFL has not made the referee and other officials publicly available becomes part of the “proof” of a conspiracy. Not exactly Aristotelian-level logic there.

When someone says – as a talking head on ESPN or as a caller to a sports radio show – that such-and-such MUST have happened, there is an immediate follow-up question that has to happen. The question is:

    OK, if you are CERTAIN that such-and-such happened, then how did the perpetrators effect it?

The answer to that question has to be just as certain as the first assertion plus there has to be good objective evidence for how it all came about. Certainty is a very robust stance and when someone claims to KNOW what HAD TO HAPPEN, that person had also be ready to provide some specifics when facing follow-up questions.

ESPN New York reports that the Yankees are “devising legal arguments so Alex Rodriguez won’t be able to collect any of the bonuses he is owed per the $30 million ‘milestone home run’ marketing agreement he signed in 2007”. As I understand the contract, A-Rod can collect $6M each time he gets to a milestone along the way to the all-time home run record. The nearest of those milestones comes if he hits 6 more and ties Willie Mays for #4 on the all-time list. You can read the entire report here. Frankly, I think this makes it look as if the Yankees are sinking to A-Rod’s level. He and they signed a contract; neither side coerced the other to agree to the terms.

The new Commissioner of Baseball said that he is open to ideas for rules changes that would prevent teams from using “extreme defensive shifts”. I am not trying to nit-pick here, but this is not enough of a big deal that it qualifies as something the new Commish should jump to as soon as he takes office. I have no idea when “extreme defensive shifts” started in baseball, but I recall seeing teams use what was called the “Ted Williams Shift” back in the 1950s. Perhaps that was the origin of shifting; perhaps it goes back a lot further than that; I will leave that to baseball historians. I guess one could argue that by limiting defensive shifts the amount of scoring would increase in baseball. The problem with that simplistic view is that if nothing else materially changes, increased scoring will necessarily have to increase the length of games and the games are already long enough thank you very much.

Personally, I think the best way to defeat an “extreme shift” is for left-handed hitters to learn to lay down a solid bunt that will end up in the vicinity of where a third baseman would normally play. It would not take a jillion of those events to convince managers to put players in more “normal defensive positions”. I do not want to jump all over the new Commish and draw any wide-ranging negative conclusions about him from this one early statement. So, I will chalk this one up to him trying to do something to keep MLB in the sports conversation while the majority of the focus in the US is on the impending Super Bowl game.

One other thing about MLB is interesting at this moment. The folks who are in charge of MLB have named a new Chairman of the MLB Finance Committee. Normally, that would be no big deal but in this case the new Chairman is Fred Wilpon – the owner of the NY Mets. Recall that Wilpon was a “major investor” with Bernie Madoff and basically lost his shirt in that Ponzi scheme. I recall reading one estimate that he might have been into the investment club to the tune of $300M. Assume that number is the right order of magnitude and then realize that this guy is now in charge of the MLB Finance Committee… What could possibly go wrong?

One last baseball item… The Nats’ acquisition of Max Scherzer took a starting rotation that was as good as any in baseball and made it clearly the best starting rotation in baseball. The Nats now have 6 quality starting pitchers; most teams do not have three. Nevertheless, I do not think this acquisition will scratch the itch for Nats’ fans. Consider:

    The Nats have had the best team in the NL East by a wide margin for the last two years. They waltzed into the playoffs.

    In the playoffs, they have laid eggs and they have been ostrich-sized eggs.

    Nats’ fans – many of whom are bandwagon-hopping front runners – want to see the team in the World Series.

    A six-man starting rotation is not of great use in a playoff scenario.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………