Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Misleading journalism

I don't know why, but for some very poor reason, I found myself reading this piece by Wallace Matthews of the New York Post.
There's no need to go through [Alex Rodriguez's] October numbers once again except to say that he did more in the three games of the Division Series against the Twins than he had done in his four previous Yankees postseasons, at least after Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS.
Let's try to forget for a moment that this piece is the predictable response on a good series by A-Rod: a backhanded compliment designed to remind the reader of how much A-Rod sucks and to set up the story line in case A-Rod plays poorly in the future. Baseball writers just can't get enough of the "A-Rod is a choker" story, so they're gonna try to keep it alive at all costs.

But let's try to forget about that for a second. The real highlight of the above quote is the way Matthews deliberately skews the reader's perception of Alex Rodriguez's past postseason performance with the New York Yankees. You see that last dangling clause there" The one that says, "at least after Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS"? That phrase does three things to poison the well against A-Rod:
  1. Conjure up memories of the 2004 ALCS, every Yankee fan's worst nightmare.
  2. Sweep away games before Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS as being irrelevant to the discussion.
  3. Leave the impression that the period before Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS only barely alters the argument.
There's only one problem: Matthew's claim is completely unsupportable if one considers the period he's trying to exclude! The impression that he's deliberately attempting to leave is completely at odds with the facts, and it's not close! A-Rod's performance before Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS was incredible. He hit .421 against the Twins in the ALDS that year with three doubles, a home run, three runs scored, three RsBI, and one very clutch stolen base. In the first three games of the ALCS, Alex accumulated six hits, including a home run and two doubles, scored seven runs, and picked up three RsBI.

So, yeah, if we ignore some minor games where A-Rod got fourteen hits, five doubles, two home runs, ten runs scored, and six RsBI, then his series against the Twins in 2009 obviously dwarfs all his previous accomplishments.

Also, it should be noted that in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, Alex hit a two run home run in the third inning while the game was scoreless. You'd have been forgiven for thinking that Alex was a one man postseason wrecking crew at that time. He didn't start playing poorly until Game 5.

Remember: never let facts get in the way of a good story.


D.Cous. said...

RsBI! Yes!

Lisa said...

In other words, selective data never gives good results. This is a case of pride and prejudice both working against A-Rod. (Too proud to admit they're wrong, too prejudiced to see that they are wrong.)