Cabrera vs. Trout: Old Math vs. New Math

November 16, 2012, 7:38 pm
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I had hoped against all hope that Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout wouldnt be this, but it was. New Math vs. Old Math. New People vs. Old People. New School vs. Old School.It had to be, because what we have learned about the debate is this: Its about arguing at people you like to make fun of. Its fourth grade gone to the big kids.And its going to be this way as long as stupid is more important than smart.Look, heres what happened Thursday. Twenty-eight people wrestled with the meaning of the word valuable. It wasnt math. It was semantics. And semantics cannot be quantified.Oh, there were some slackjawed dullards who wanted to take the easy way out and frame it as numbers vs. better numbers, or nerds vs. dippers. There were a lot of folks who needed an easy column, essay or blog, and only had to stereotype the extremists on the other side. A monkey could have done it. And monkeys did.REWIND: Tigers' Cabrera named MVPBut the argument misses a more salient point. Most of the 28 people who actually voted use new AND old numbers. They dont distrust the advancements in analysis, and they dont dismiss history as unimportant. In fact, the most compelling argument for Cabrera over Trout wasnt the triple crown, but the triple crown plus the fact that Cabrera was a better hitter down the stretch than Trout.Which was true.And which brings us back to how people define valuable. And the biggest tiebreaker in valuable has always been how your team finished the year and how much you had to do with it.The hidebound quantifiers want valuable to mean best. As in, This was the best player, and I have the paperwork to prove it. But valuable is a nebulous term that includes other things, an eye-of-the-beholder thing that makes quantifiers crazy and non-quantifiers joyous.And when you shake the argument to its core, what this really is about is which side thinks it understands baseball better. And I say this with complete confidence and even metaphysical certitude.Youre all idiots. Youre both right but would rather spend your time screaming that the other guy is wrong. If that isnt idiocy, then Fernando Rodney is the AL Cy Young winner.Baseball is all these things, and more. Its what makes baseball a great game its ability to be all things to all people. Even the stupid ones. The San Francisco Giants have won two World Series in three years because they have both trained eyes and numbers-crunchers, and Brian Sabean combines their wisdom into a plan that, for the most part, works.And if they get it, why shouldnt you?Well, maybe its because you think bitching about people who dont see the world your way is an easy essay. Or maybe because youre an old Civil War soldier complaining about the Civil War soldier in the next chair who fought for the other side., Maybe you need the fight more than the wisdom.Or maybe its just the convenience of dumbassery.But the truth is this. The word valuable is the crux of the disagreement here. A word, not a number. Old school people ought to enjoy that distinction. And so should new school people, because they use words too. The similarities between the two sides are so much greater than their points of dispute, but they need the shrieking mindless inflexible arguing as though they want to live in a world of ESPN morning television.And if that isnt the tenth circle of hell for everyone involved, I cant imagine what would be. Let that rattle around in your barbed-wire-encased heads while you consider what you want your future as a baseball fan and analyst to be.Ray Ratto is a columnist for

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