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Lobbying for Teddy

May 9, 2022
                                                  Lobbying for Teddy


Did you ever notice this:  Ted Williams was probably the best player in his league seven times, and won two MVP Awards. Willie Mays also was probably the best player in his league seven times, and also won two MVP Awards.  

            About Ted Williams, every MVP Award that he did not win is still regularly re-litigated on line, 80 years after the fact.   Why didn’t Ted Williams win the MVP Award in 1941, when he hit .406?  Why didn’t he win the MVP Award in 1942, when he won the Triple Crown?  Why didn’t he win the MVP Award in 1947?    

            But nobody ever asks the same questions about Willie Mays.  In 1955, Mays had 40 Win Shares and 9.1 WAR; Roy Campanella had 28 Win Shares and 5.2 WAR.   Why didn’t Mays win the MVP Award?   In 1958 Mays had 40 Win Shares and 10.2 WAR; Ernie Banks had 31 Win Shares and 9.3 WAR.   Why didn’t Mays win the MVP Award?    In 1960 Mays had 38 Win Shares and 9.5 WAR; Dick Groat had 25 Win Shares and 6.1 WAR—yet Groat won the MVP Award.  In 1962 Mays had 41 Win Shares and 10.5 WAR; Maury Wills had 32 Win Shares and 6.0 WAR.   THESE ARE NOT CLOSE CONTESTS—and yet, no one says anything about them.  Well, OK, The Steagle talked about the 1962 vote. 

            And it is not just Mays; the same is true of many of the greatest players in history.  Stan Musial was the best player in the league eight times, but won only three MVP Awards.  Mantle is ten and three; the ten times that Mantle was the best player in his league is a record for the MVP era (1931 to the present.)  Aaron was 4-1, Yastrzemski 4-1, Schmidt 7-3.  For purposes of these counts, I counted "tied for the league lead in Win Shares" the same as being the sole leader.

            In the modern era this is not as true, because Sabermetrics tracks and publishes actual value estimates, which provoke people to argue on behalf of Mike Trout not only in his best years, but also in his just-better-than-everybody-else years.  But what I am trying to get to is, Why does this argument only hang around in the case of Ted Williams? 

            I actually know the answer to that.

            I think.

            I think the reason that it hangs around in the case of Ted Williams is that people complaining about the MVP votes use the same biases that the voters do, and are especially upset when those biases do not prevail.   Fenway Park was/is a tremendous hitters park, and this has helped MVP candidates consistently across time, at least until sabermetrics came to be widely used.  The 1941 vote is actually fairly reasonable—perhaps wrong, but reasonable.  I have Williams with 42 Win Shares, DiMaggio with 41.   WAR has Williams at 10.4, DiMaggio at 9.4. I would be loathe to assert too casually that the math has it right and the MVP votes had it wrong; it could be the other way around.  It’s not like Willie Mays kicking Dick Groat’s butt in 1960. 

            But in 1960, Mays was playing in a terrible hitting environment, the worst hitter’s park in baseball by far, so his numbers don’t LOOK that good, so it doesn’t draw as much attention.   In 1941 Williams was playing in a far better hitter’s park than DiMaggio, so the difference between them looks much wider than it really is. 




Roe v. The Law of Competitive Balance


            The leaked draft of the Alito Decision is a GREAT example of the Law of Competitive Balance Operating. 

            I can remember even as a young boy, perhaps as early as 1960, puzzling over how Presidential elections could possibly be so close, with many Presidential elections being decided by less than 1% of the popular vote.  Intuitively, it seems almost impossible for so many elections to come down to such a narrow margin.

            It’s the Law of Competitive Balance.  When one political party holds too much of the power, or holds power for too long, they begin to do things that the public does not expect or does not support.  This reduces the margin of their advantage.  Meanwhile, the other party is also going over-the-top on whatever they can control.  Both sides are pushing the percentages toward 50/50.

            Two weeks ago, it seemed extremely likely that the Republicans were headed to large victories this November.   They still think they are, because the new polls haven’t come out yet, so they don’t realize yet what has happened to them.  They—meaning the persons added to the Supreme Court by Republican Presidents and Republican Senates--have motivated their opposition in the strongest way that it was possible to motivate them.  Over the next five months, this will push the polls closer and closer to 50/50, probably (although not certainly) depriving the Republicans the gains that they were anticipating. 

            Joe Biden is 10% more popular than chronic diarrhea.   He got elected because of the many millions of us who were not going to vote for Donald Trump come rain, come shine, come hell or high water. 

            I watch Fox News pretty regularly, because they are less crazy than CNN, so I know that this is true:  that they still don’t believe this will happen.  They’re still talking as if the Democrats will gain no political advantage from this.  They’re going to learn different.  It’s the Law of Competitive Balance. 


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