Monday, September 29, 2014
Being unfamiliar with the work of sports writer Dan Carson, I may be having a
Poe's Law moment* here,
Carson positively drips with sarcasm -- or at least he sounds like it, and he arguably should -- as he writes of a statistical "proof" that the walk-off single with which Derek Jeter closed his Hall of Fame career was staged:
Can you argue with that? No, you can't. It's math, and it proves that while the Orioles had all the reason in the world to win Thursday night, they likely colluded with powers unknown to intentionally drop the game. Why else would they throw to a struggling 40-year-old in the trough of his career?I don't follow baseball, but a quick read of the American League standings and schedule shows that Baltimore had a shot at securing the best American League record at the time, and so a slight home field edge throughout its post-season. And that's just one of many reasons to reject out of hand the whole idea that this event, as incredible as it might seem, was staged. A few others: The pitcher, not being a machine and having a psychology, may have simply had a "bad day at the office"; sports are incredibly hard to choreograph; and conspiracies are actually quite rare due to the universal problem of loose lips.
I also don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to believe that the Yankees gave up three runs in the ninth to force a final Jeter at-bat. And I don't believe that Nike co-founder Phil Knight is above pulling multiple levers at Buffalo Wild Wings if it means sending off his company's golden boy in style. [bold added, links removed]
This kind of analysis, to have any probative value, would require lots of other corroborating evidence indicating, that -- against even greater odds than a poor pitch being thrown -- some big, pre-arranged conspiracy somehow successfully orchestrated a baseball game with playoff implications to come down to a certain player and to achieve a particularly dramatic result. Strangely enough, our mathematician never tries to tackle those odds, although he needn't.
This will sound like beating a dead horse to some readers, but the kind of argument our misapplied mathematician made is quite common, and is an example of what Ayn Rand called rationalism:
[Philosophers came to be divided] into two camps: those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge of the world by deducing it exclusively from concepts, which come from inside his head and are not derived from the perception of physical facts (the Rationalists)--and those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge from experience, which was held to mean: by direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts (the Empiricists). To put it more simply: those who joined the [mystics] by abandoning reality--and those who clung to reality, by abandoning their mind. [bold added]Will Carson, or I, or anyone else who shoots down this theory deprive it of adherents? No, and the above paragraph goes a long way in explaining why. The problem with rationalism is that it affects how a mind deals with reality. One who starts by ignoring most of the data and sees deductive proof as some kind of a gold standard is unlikely to question such an "air-tight" case in the face of data that any old Joe can bring up. (Indeed a lack of respect for the minds of most other people is one common hallmark of rationalists.) This isn't to say that nobody can, with hard work, change his psycho-epistemology, but this case should highlight how hard it can be -- and why reaching someone like this is often a fruitless endeavor.
And so, most people will laugh off this theory, those who don't just laugh it off will ridicule it (or react with sarcasm since ...), and some will go to their graves convinced Derek Jeter's last at-bat was a fake.
* Regarding the possibility that Carson is serious: I know nothing about him, but many journalists, being of the leftist persuasion, make similar arguments all the time about "big business", hence my uncertainty.