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Weekend Links with Jon Marthaler: Baseball literacy and the Vikings stadium deal revisited

Posted by: Michael Rand under Professional baseball, Twins fans, Vikings Updated: June 2, 2012 - 8:15 AM

Commenter Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you every weekend. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?


There's a new study in Nature magazine, as reported by The Economist, that I think has big implications for baseball. Oh, sure, if you actually read the study or the article, you'd conclude it was about climate change, but I think we all know the real truth: it's about baseball.

The upshot of the study is that increasing scientific literacy does nothing to increase whether people believe, like the overwhelming majority of scientists, that climate change is a real thing. In fact, for people with a "hierarchical, individualistic worldview" - i.e. Ted Nugent - an increase in scientific literacy actually makes people less likely to believe that climate change is real. Says writer David Roberts, "Getting smarter, in other words, only makes us better at justifying our own worldviews."

We sports fans can recognize the type. All of us, no matter what sport we follow, have at some point covered our ears with our hands as an otherwise-expert commentator spouts some half-baked opinion that grates on our ears. I'll give you an example - and this is not to pick on the commentator, only as an illustration. Bert Blyleven is the color guy for the Twins. He is a Hall of Fame pitcher and threw perhaps the best curveball in baseball history; all available evidence shows that he's one of the few to master the art of throwing the baseball so that players can't hit it. He is, by almost any definition, a baseball expert. If you replace "scientific literacy" with "baseball literacy" in the above paragraph, Bert would score far higher on the scale than you or I would.

And yet, I heard him the other day say the following, about a player he was trying to compliment: "He's like a Nick Punto, or a Denny Hocking-type player." Now, I could have launched into a whirlwind of statistics, pointing out that both Punto and Hocking were equally likely to get hits if they held the bat upside down, such was their lack of offensive talent. But literacy here isn't the problem; worldview is the problem, and as the study shows, education - which in this case would take the form of long, number-filled screeds - won't actually change anything. It's a change in worldview that would be required. And honestly, I don't think there's any changing that, unless you can invent a time machine and go back in time to replace batting average, RBI, pitcher wins, and other such old-fashioned baseball statistics with newer, more-useful stats.

On with the links:

*The Vikes Geek is, to put it mildly, unhappy about the public obligations as part of the Vikings stadium deal.

*Eric Nusbaum educates us all on Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, who is the greatest folk hero you've never heard of.

*In Florida baseball news, Charlie Pierce checks in with the Rays, the most fun team in baseball, while Aaron Gordon reviews the Marlins' new stadium.

*Last Sunday was the Indy 500, the race formerly known as The Crown Jewel Of American Racing. (Proof it's not: for the eighth time in nine years, it lost to the evening's Coca-Cola 600 in the ratings.) Despite this, Mark Titus was at his usual place in the Turn 3 infield, and he's fully of the opinion that it's still the best party in America.

*Brian Phillips thinks that the US Men's soccer team is turning a corner, for real this time, not like the 4,378 corners that the team has turned over the past ten years or so.

*And finally: Here's this week's entry in the "Oh ESPN, you used to be cool, what happened?" file.


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