Monday, May 21

Be Precautious

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. While Jose mentions politics in the KEYS from time to time in order to make a funny point funnier or a salient point…ummm… salienter, Jose has, as a rule stayed away from the most controversial issues of the day. Today that changes as Jose addresses—abortion. (Note: Gasp.)

Why would Jose take the risk of jumping directly into the middle of one of the most polarizing issues in American society today? Comments. Jose would like to get some more comments on this blog, and short of attacking Pride and Prejudice or Bob Stanley, he can’t think of any better way to do it then by tackling the abortion issue. Besides, the door was opened this morning when conservative/Red Sox blogger Dean Barnett took a crack at the abortion issues in today’s Boston Globe.

In the column, Barnett argued that even without believing in the Creator, pro-life is the only moral position one can have on abortion. His argument can be boiled down to one simple, logical fallacy. “Because we don't know where life begins, the only logical thing to do is to err on the side of caution -- the side of life. In other words, because an abortion might take an innocent life, it should be avoided. It should also be illegal in most cases.”

While Barnett declines to say so, he is applying the famed “precautionary principle” to abortion. The precautionary principle dictates that if the consequences of an action are not scientifically certain, one who might act should err on the side of caution and refrain. In other words, unless one is 100% certain that doing something will not cause irreparable harm, don’t do it. It is the case for inaction.

The irony of Barnett using the precautionary principle is that conservatives typically hate it. (Note: And rightly so.) Most often it is used to advocate for environmental controls to prevent global warming or to battle against the use of agricultural biotechnology. It is also, of course, insane. If it is even a tiny bit possible an action could cause harm, you shouldn’t act? What if you know that inaction will cause harm?

Allow Jose to illustrate the absurdity with a number of hilarious baseball examples.

In Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Grady Little, lacking certainty that his relief staff would be effective, chose not to bring in Mike Timlin, even though he had certainty that Pedro Martinez was tired. He chose the known danger over the hypothetical risk of danger, with predictable results.

In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, John McNamara failed to remove Bill Buckner from the game, choosing the certainty of playing with a hobbled first baseman over the uncertainty of putting in Dave Stapleton. But wait… maybe that’s an issue of him not applying the precautionary principle? Maybe since he had uncertainty about whether Buckner could scoop a ground ball, putting Stapleton in would have been the right act?

Ah…Jose gets the problem now. The precautionary principle is stupid. It can be played either way. You can use it to justify inaction unless one is 100% certain that action will cause no harm (note: see frankenfoods, abortion, Grady and Pedro) or if you prefer you can use it to demand action unless you are 100% certain that not acting will cause no harm (note: see global warming, pretty much any pinch hitting situation in history.) Since there is precious little certainty in this world, you can use it to argue either side of any issue. As the Red Stripe beer spokesman might say, “Hooray pointlessness!”

What the precautionary principle is, at the end of the day, is a cute philosophical mask for a value-based decision that one wishes to make anyway. McNamara made the evaluation, incorrectly mind you, that having Buckner out there for last out was worth the risk that his injury would yield disaster. Grady left Pedro in because his baseball values told him to leave in a gassed “best pitcher” rather than go to an inferior fresh pitcher. And Barnett advocated the pro-life position because his values dictate that a risk, however small, that a cluster of cells a few week old is a person, is more important than a risk of physical or psychological harm, or any other consequence for the woman . All of those decisions are fine. They are wrong, but they are perfectly good values based decisions. But it is every bit as absurd for Barnett to claim that some pseudo-scientific moral calculus validates his belief as it is for McNamara or Grady to do so. They all hold their positions because of what they believe, not because of scientific evidence.

All of human endeavor is about weighing values and risks and making the best decisions in light of imperfect information. It is certainly what baseball is about, and it is just as certainly what public policy is about. So let’s weigh the pros and cons of the hit and run with two men on or of abortion or the death penalty, but let’s not rely on the precautionary principle as some pseudoscientific basis for our own values, be they moral or sabermetric.

2. The Red Sox head in to New York this week to take on a struggling Yankees team that has lost more pitchers than Crate and Barrel during a shoplifters' convention.

It is also a Yankees club that is considering trying to void Jason Giambi’s contract, now that Giambi, after many years and a grand jury leak, admitted to using “stuff.” Jose can understand how the Yankees would feel misled. After all, when they signed Giambi, they had no idea he was a stuff user, unlike say, Steve Howe, whose problem putting “other stuff” up his nose was legendary.

In related news, the Yankees announced that they will no longer allow Oreos in the clubhouse, particularly “double stuff” Oreos.

While coming clean about his stuff abuse, Giambi also appeared to be unrepentant about other enhancements.

“It’s a lot better with the new orthotics,” boasted Giambi to the New York Post, predicting that his new performance enhancing devices will lead to a turn around. Whether the Yankees will try to use these orthotics as additional grounds to invalidate Giambi’s contract is unknown. What is known is that they do not plan to validate the contract of Alex Rodriguez for his lip implants.

3. Javier Lopez came in for a struggling Brendan Donnelley in the sixth yesterday and got yet another double play. As SoSHer Steve Brady points out, that gives him eight double plays in 24.2 innings with the Red Sox since last year. That is downright absurd. And it gets more absurd. If you count the double plays he was involved in while masquerading as catcher Javier Lopez last year, he’s got 85.

Seriously, he is so good at turning double plays that Jose’s heard that sometimes he walks a man just to set up a double play. Other times, after a strike out he’ll run up and tag the guy in the on deck circle. It doesn’t count, of course, but Jose appreciates the enthusiasm.

Moreover, Jose can’t confirm it, but he’s pretty sure Lopez stared alongside William Shatner in the 1997 film Double Play, which describes as “The Prince and the Pauper meets The Parent Trap, which is, ironically, exactly how The New York Times described the last Yankees-Royals series.

Okay, that was completely all over the place but the important thing is that Javier Lopez got some well-deserved love, and maybe, just maybe, moved one step closer towards not being known as “the other Javier Lopez,” or even worse “the guy Jose keeps calling Javier Vasquez by mistake.”

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.


Jon said...

jose, I've been a big fan of yours for years, reading the blog as it jumps around from host to host, occasionally following KEYS-related traffic on SoSH whenever they let non-members view the forums, and even considering buying KEYS merchandise (although not actually buying KEYS merchandise. I'm cheap and have too much crap as it is, no offense to your KEYS-related crap). But with today's KEYS you have really gone over the edge. I get it, you've decided to ape the publishers of the Boston Herald by hiring a rabble-rouser and known polarizing voice like Howie Carr or Tony Massarotti to offend some, delighten others, but generally drive up more business in the form of comments. And I suppose it worked, as here I am, commenting. But how dare you, How Dare You Sir, insult the fine field of shoplifting to presume that shoplifters would deign to steal pitchers from a Crate and Barrel? Everyone knows their placemats are much more valuable and easy to steal than the rinky dink pitchers they bring in from who knows where. Of course that doesn't make as good a metaphor for Key 2. Well so what? Find a better metaphor, sir. Don't go wading in politically murky waters if you can't cut it.

Jose Melendez said...

It works, it works!!!!!!

And Jose will have it be known that Crate and Barrel pitchers are both sturdy and elegant unlike, for instance, Chien Ming Wang.

Whereas their placemats are as overpriced and tacky as Roger Clemens.

Anonymous said...

...however, I don't root for the placemats to have their right arms fall off, or feel my stomach clench and the hair on the back of my neck rise up every time I hear the word "placemats".

Anyway, you said you wanted comments, so here one is. Great keys, Jose! May the laughter you provoked stay with me until Papelbon has closed another W.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Precautionery. With this principal who would ever have an operation or innoculation (political or otherwise).