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Thursday, September 9, 2010
The limits of our knowledge

Yankeeist has a nice interview with Alex Langsam, who works in the Pirates' front office. The whole thing's worth reading -- especially if you're a Pirates fan, or young and ambitious, or a young-and-ambitious Pirates fan -- but here's just one bit for you:
It's important for people like me to seem utterly confident, because confidence is (in most situations) more compelling. If, every time I'm making some argument or another, I pause to throw in a qualifier every few sentences, you're going to find something else to read.

This is simply the bargain that editorialists and analysts must strike.

Just occasionally, though, I'll let you know in on this dirty little secret: There's a lot of stuff we don't know. There are also things we do know, but can't write because we don't want to betray the confidence of our sources.

But it's mostly the stuff we don't know. Sometimes when a team makes a trade that seems lopsided against them, there are reasons the writers just don't know (or can't write) about. Often, when a general manager does something that seems particularly idiotic, he's merely carrying out the orders of the man who signs his paycheck. Dozens of things like this happen every season, and we analyze blindly as if everyone's a rational actor playing in a Strat-O-Matic keeper league.

But they're not. They're intelligent-but-flawed individuals who have to worry about families and egos and money and all the other non-logical things that contribute to human behavior. Mel Brooks once said, "As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes." And sometimes we're gonna do things that we just can't tell the baseball writers about.