Thursday, March 30, 2006

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem

Hi, my name is Martin and I am no longer Biased - I am an Obsessive Giants Compulsive. I am compelled to post in the middle of the night my thoughts on the San Francisco Giants. I was even caught by my wife posting on our wedding anniversary (fortunately, I was able to make it up to her plus she's a great person), but I just had to comment on a diary on McCovey Chronicles.

My Philosophy

I was reading through the various blogs and websites devoted to the Giants and baseball and the comments placed there by posters and it got me thinking about how each person's philosophy affects their view of the Giants and how they are doing. And I'm no exception, I'm aware that my own personal biases affect how I interpret things. My perspective is definitely skewed, though I do try to be aware and account for them when I can. I've written a bit about my philosophy, specifically in my blog intro paragraph and my profile section, but I thought I would spend one post on it extensively, with my first post here, just to be clear to readers of this blog what they can expect from me, what they can expect to see in my blog, how my view on things has come to be.

No Spin Zone

I honestly and truly want to view the Giants objectively and without rose-colored glasses. It might be that I hold one particular opinion strongly, but it is not because I refuse to change, but rather I refuse to change my opinion if I think I am correct or at least is convinced that you are wrong. And I'm aware that sometimes I'm wrong so I'm always testing and re-testing my beliefs, to put myself in the other person's shoes, to be sure that I have what I feel to be the correct and clear view. I guess that's the obsessive part (or is it the compulsive).

I've always been blessed (or cursed, depends on the situation) by the fact that I tend to see both sides of the arguments, or at least is aware enough to account for both sides of the argument. Makes me seem wishy-washy at times. Plus then I go into this soliloquy and the listener's eyes glazes over (I guess this is compulsive).

And while my background is definitely that of the geeky scientific type whose favorite character (and one whom I most identify with on that show) in Star Trek is Mr. Spock, I am also a touchy-feelie guy who can accept subjective, qualitative types of information. Like for now, I still believe in clutch hitting, I just don't believe that any study that has researched it thus far, and that I've read, has done it correctly yet. And I believe that pitchers like Rueter exist. And there is something terribly wrong with how park factors the way it is being generated right now, but I just cannot figure out yet what the correct way is, though it involves how some parks are skewed by the players who happen to hit well there and how the schedule is now imbalanced towards the parks in your division, so the park factor has to reduce it's overwhelming reliance on the home stats.

But I am definitely a saber-type of guy, I believe that there are things that can be drawn out of the numbers that human observation cannot capture adequately. However, I do believe that there is value to scouting, that there are qualities about a prospect's state of mind and maturity that cannot be measured completely in a survey plus qualities that you can only see by observing the players. I believe that there are qualitative factors in how a player goes about his business on the diamond that a good scout should be able to see. The old "maturity" factor. Nonetheless, I do believe that scouting is definitely still an art that a forward-seeing baseball organization will someday start to develop into a science (the A's appear to have a start towards this, don't know their situation enough to definitively say so).

The Clear

I have been realizing over time that my perspective about the Giants also is misunderstood by some as a bias for the Giants. When I write about my research into the Giants and their methods and strategies, I take a question that I myself would like answered or that I've seen others bring up and I thought, "hey, that would be interesting to investigate". I do my best to not allow my own personal opinions affect what I'm looking for, to not have it taint my research.

Then I present the results, whether it makes the Giants look good or look bad or look like an idiot or whatever. I don't take any pleasure in deluding myself into thinking a team is good when they are not. I am happiest when I think I got a clear picture of what's really happening.

I am not one of those sports fanatics who totally identify with their team and feel that they are a reflection of me. The team does not have to do well for me to be happy. I simply love my team and follow them, come hell (for most of my first quarter century of following them), come highwater (for most of the Sabean era).

I love a 16-14 slugfest as much as I do a taunt 1-0 game (well, maybe not quite as much, I admit I am a homer lover, but I can greatly enjoy a low scoring game that is well-pitched). I simply want to know what to expect from them: for the season, for the series, for the game, for the rest of the season. I like knowing what to expect and then seeing if the team meets them or not.

Thus I was able to enjoy watching the Giants during the 70's and 80's even though in terms of pennant and playoff success, they were a total dud. And, of course, I have enjoyed the Sabean era greatly, winning is definitely, infinitely, better than finishing in the second division continuously. And I enjoyed 2005, though I was definitely disappointed as I expected a lot more, but I knew the Giants would be toast without Bonds, and then additionally losing the production from not just a handful of our most important players, but most of our players, meant that I expected a limping team the rest of the season, not good, but that's life sometimes. You just need to know the various scenarios that might play out, and be prepared for them.

Dark and Stormy Night

There has only been one period of time that I didn't follow baseball assiduously and that was after the strike of 1994 that took out the World Series. One big thing was that I had been waiting all those years for the Giants to have big homerun hitters and Matt Williams and Barry Bonds were having a year worthy of the Mantle-Maris battle in 1961. Both were not only battling for the homerun title, both were within reach of the coveted 61 of Maris. That's something people forget when they say that Bonds was "abnormal" the year he hit 73, when he is on, he hits them good.

I felt totally robbed of that experience. Whether or not they actually did it was not the point for me, I wanted to see if history was in the making or if it was another Brett .390. On a related note, Tony Gwynn was batting .394 and I wondered if I would get to see and experience a .400 hitter. Totally robbed.

The biggest thing however was losing the World Series. Even back then I believed that baseball was not equitably sharing everything. And I didn't even know about all the details of how teams can keep revenues, I was just aware of the lack of sharing of local media revenues and the lack of 50/50 sharing of even game receipts.

This was also the first strike that I was not backing the players, though the owners had their own problems that I wasn't backing them either. And McGwire infuriated me with some of his statements made during the strike too, though I cannot remember now exactly what he said. All I could think of was, "you obviously don't care very much for the fans, you've forgotten how it feels to be a fan." That's something that most baseball players go through, not just McGwire, but still that stung since he was acting as a spokesperson for the players.

On a personal level, it stung extra bad because that's the year my father-in-law passed away. I had just gotten married the year before and while we were awaiting our first child, we found out that he had stomach cancer. He was a big Giants fan like I am and was teased by his family for always having his transistor radio and his earplug everywhere he went during baseball season. That endeared him to me because that's similar to what I did throughout the 70's, listening surreptitiously to the Giants broadcast on KSFO when I was suppose to be sleeping.

I was looking forward to spending family events talking about the Giants with him or watching games together, but that never got to happen. I was hoping that the Giants would perhaps make the playoffs and make his final days a little bit bearable, but not only did that not happen, the players went out on strike just before he left us and he didn't even get the pleasure of listening to the regular season for his last remaining days.

I boycotted baseball for the most part - I still paid some attention to major happenings, I couldn't go cold turkey - until I was sucked in like everyone else when McGwire and Sosa had their homerun race of the ages. But the hurt from that still lingers, I sometimes catch myself wondering if he's watching from above and what he's thinking: he was a good man, a good person.

Dealing with Reality

At one point while reading about reality shows, I realized that baseball could be considered one of the first reality shows: it's something that people do in normal life that's played out for entertainment in front of an audience, following a set of rules for competition and championship. And the reality of the situation is what I prefer to deal with.

I see many a fan who spend their time living in the past - and I know I do it from time to time as well - raging at the windmills and the fates, but the past is the past, Neifi has been signed, Tucker has been signed, now we need to move on and figure out what the hell the Giants could have been thinking when they signed them and how we best can use them as the reality is this: they are here and nothing I can write will change that.

In some case, like Neifi, you cannot find any adequate reason for the signing, it is like the stone figures on Easter Island, it's just there, you don't know why or how, it is just is. In other cases, like Tucker, you find that the Giants were being cheap by trying to cobble together a better right-fielder by platooning Tucker with Hammonds instead of keeping Cruz or trying to get Sanders again. And while you don't agree with the plan ( they should have signed Vlad instead - see I can wallow with the best :^), you can at least see what they were trying to do and it made some sense given the team situation, though I certainly would have chosen the alternative option, the one where we get Vlad.

And some people complained about the deal losing a draft pick for Tucker, but they forget that the reality of the situation was that it was either the draft pick or signing Tucker. There was never a condition to get both. The budget was tight and Sabean made the choice to have someone who could help now versus someone who might give some help in 4-6 years, if ever. Given how Hammonds flamed out and how Linden was not ready yet, luckily the Giants had Tucker to help man the outfield as the starter. He and Mohr took up the slack there and provided good offense, Tucker had an OBP of over .350 and OPS of 765. Teams contending for a title normally don't put an unproven and, worse, unsuccessful (at the major league level) player like a Linden in at the beginning of the season - there is too much risk of poor performance with no backup plan that's economical.

Glass Half Full

I will admit that I tend to be a glass half full type of guy. I try to take the positives of a situation. That's a direct result of my father dying just before I was 16. It helped me cope with my loss and is my philosophy for life. This has allowed me to cherish and enjoy those moments of joy while a season is swirling down the toilet, whether it's a complete game 2-hit shutout by your prized pitching prospect or another walk off homer by Barry Bonds.

But I don't ignore the empty half of the glass though. I know it is there and I know that you cannot ignore it. Else the puzzle is incomplete and you are living and viewing the world with rose-colored glasses. Which brings me back full circle to what I was first talking about at the very beginning of this post and an end to my philosophizing.

Play Ball!

These are my guiding principles for my blog, for better or for worse. I cannot promise that I will be perfect (though that is my compulsion), but I can promise that I will seek to understand and illuminate whatever moves that the Giants do with their baseball team (my obsession). I will also share my love of baseball and, in particular, the Giants, in my postings. And I will try to teach, best that I can, the principles of analyzing baseball players that I've been slowly synthesizing from the various books on baseball statistics that I have been reading.


  1. Martin: It looks nice. Welcome to your Renaissance!


  2. Thanks, I appreciate your comment Kent.

    Yes, that would be nice, a Renaissance, it feels good to make the change, I was nervous and everything but it feels right and good.

    Take care.

  3. Congratulations on the new site. I look forward to reading your posts. Keep up the good work!



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