Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Something To Believe In

Karl Popper thought Marxism and Freudianism weren't genuine scientific theories, as they were often believed to be, because proponents of those systems did everything they could to interpret whatever they saw as confirmation of their -ist beliefs. For Popper, what made a belief scientific was the willingness to see that belief falsified, and not clinging to a belief despite evidence to the contrary.

Former catcher and current Yankees color commentator John Flaherty started with the simplistic belief that when Wakefield's knuckleball is up, it's hittable, and when it's down, it's not, and implied this hypothesis had predictive power- it looks like a good night for the Yanks, he suggested in the top of the 2nd.

In the 5th inning, after many high knuckleballs weren't hit, and some low one's were, Flaherty amended his statement, slightly, analyzing that now Wake's knuckleballs were hittable because they were falling down into the lefthanded hitters' zone, and they had no lateral movement. Ahh. How scientific.

Many philosophers think booing doesn't state a belief so much as express emotion. Yankee fans, no scientists they, expressed their displeasure, much to my satisfaction, booing A-Rod after he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the 7th inning, keeping the Yankees down 7-3, and just moments after they had given a standing ovation, anticipating a heroic moment. But this theory was proven wrong. Clinging to their belief in A-Rod's talent, they were disappointed. Yankees play by play jerk Michael Kay said something to the effect of 'it looked like the crowd had the electricity pulled out of it', and that they were 'stunned' and filled with 'incredulity.'

Incredulity- disbelief-, the not-so-scientific response to reality contradicting expectation, theory, and prediction. I don't suppose scientists boo the petri dish when their cells don't culture. Though maybe they should. Or perhaps they could reinterpret the recalcitrant evidence; 'it's not the wrong enzyme, it just doesn't catalyze in the clutch.'

Man, A-Rod played such a shitty game. That's awesome. A K looking in the 1st, an inning ending double play in the 3rd, as the tying run in the 5th with 2 runners on- a fly out, as the tying run in the 7th with the bases loaded- an inning ending double play, and a K swinging to end the game. That's an 0-5, with 0 bases gained and 7 outs made. And he also committed an error. He was booed mercilessly in the 7th, 8th, and 9th. During the broadcast, Kay said that in the 8th and 9th innings in 2008, A-Rod has 2 RBI, contrasted with 31 in '07. ESPN said A-Rod is 0-7 this year with the bases loaded and 2 outs. David Ortiz, naturally, had 2 walks and 2 doubles. Ortizism is empirically sound; Rodriguezism is bunk.

Meanwhile, Michael Kay was looking forward to Wednesdays' starter Sidney Ponson coming to believe that his was a big game, a necessary game, a season saving game, and that he should prepare accordingly. Al Leiter strongly disagreed, and said that that kind of stuff doesn't enter the players' mind; a player can't have such different beliefs and attitudes about a big game than a regular one. Instead, he's got to keep it out of his head, clear his mind of beliefs about his place in the game, the season, the context. Kay challenged Leiter, in disbelief, asking that when Leiter started Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, he really wasn't believing it was such a huge deal? When Leiter said 'no', he had to stay in the zone, or some such, Kay responded, disappointed and a little afraid, that it sounded "robotic." Kay's theory of humans as nervous meaning-sensitive clutch warriors remained unaffected.

The inning ended. And after the commercial break, Kay returned to the subject with one of the greatest not great lines I've ever heard. He said to Al Leiter, "Al, it's not that I don't believe you. I'm just incredulous."

I can't say I know what Popper would say about that.


Jere said...

Can I ask you something? Don't answer that. But answer this: Did you hear boos for ARod before the 7th? Watching on NESN, with two on in the fifth, I said on Joy of Sox, "don't hit into another DP ARod, or you'll get seriously booed." He flied to center--and was booed anyway. Then there was the second DP with the boos, and the ensuing grounder to him which also brought about the "you've done nothing wrong on this play, but since you have the ball and the focus is therefore on you, here are some more boos" boos.

But since you were watching on Yes, and another Yankee blogger* watching on Yes both stated that the boos started on the second DP (he said it specifically, you just implied it), I'm thinking that he earlier boos weren't audible for whatever reason on Yes. What do you think?

*I do not read Yankee blogs. But on Baseball Toaster, they show the headlines from their various bloggers on the side, and occasionally if something catches my eye, I'll click, even if it's the one Yankee blog.

Micah said...

this point has been made a million times, which is why its so shocking that it has so little an effect beyond the stats people. jeter's range to balls up the middle sucks. i am not a frequent baseball tonight watcher so maybe they have recognized this in the past, but it does seem like from what i've seen, they cling to their non-falsifiable idea of his greatness. last night, i watched a few minutes of baseball tonight, and saw the yanks sox highlights. they showed the highlight of jason bay's rbi grounder up the middle. when he hit it, i thought "why are they showing the replay of a relatively routine out?" but then it became clear as it slowly bounced passed a diving jeter. What did the pundits say? "wow, that play seemed like it was in slow motion" This implies that play magically appeared to be going slower than other similar plays with the same result. This wasn't appearance, it was going slower. the ball was slower, and so was the shortstop. which one would think would elicit some sort of criticism. but no, it's just an illusion when Jeter sucks.
i didn't see the play live, nor as i said do i watch baseball tonight regularly, so i am fine to revise my sentiments. and to be clear, i'm not trying to be crotchety just because he's a yankee, it's a general criticism of baseball tonight, and how i haven't seen them say anything interesting in a long time, which is why i don't watch it much

Soxlosophy said...

Jere- what i like most about being asked a question is not being sure of the answer. doh. i don't remember, actually, whether he was booed in the 5th. oh well. sorry.

micah- good call. yeah, a commentator saying 'it looked like it was in slow motion' called attention to jeter's no range to his left, but he didn't follow up on it. and the theme of non-falsifiability certainly fits in- i'm kind of kicking myself now for not including it in the original post. oh well again. also, baseball tonight is not the business of being scientific or even thorough, they're just marketing the game, so its superficial, flashy and gimicky. if you have time for just a clip of 5 seconds, why spend it showing a home run trot where nothing is really happening? why not show an entire well edited pitch sequence? less glamorous, i guess.

Richard Goldwater said...

Yankees and Red Sox are states of mind, like Brooklyn. Yankees win even when they lose, and Red Sox lose even when they win. The score has nothing to do with it.

Barry said...

Somehow, I missed this post until now. I think it is the best one you have written.

Soxlosophy said...


skepticism belief science religion stuff is catnip for you!

Tyrannosaur said...

As a matter of fact, I did boo a petri dish once, back in college. Damn thing was getting paid way too much not to grow the bacteria cultures I wanted it to grow.

Soxlosophy said...

sounds reasonable. microorganisms should respond to will power, i say.