Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Who’s the Best? The Danger of Bias

Even if you don’t like baseball, stick with me through this, I think it will make a point worth your time. It is a little test just to see how our feelings and attitudes change when we let unhealthy ‘bias’ get involved. I will give you the statistics for four players. The question is, who is the best hitter among the four?
Player #1 – .366 career Batting Average with 4189 hits in 24 seasons
Player #2 – .342 career Batting Average with 2873 hits in 22 seasons
Player #3 – .344 career Batting Average with 2654 hits in 19 seasons
Player #4 – .300 career Batting Average with 2730 hits in 19 seasons

Now which one is the best hitter? Go ahead and pick one. That being done, let us move on to the next question, ‘who is the best baseball player of the four?’ Here are a few more stats to help you out.

#1 – threw people out from the outfield 410 times, stole 892 bases, and drove in 1934 runs.
#2 – threw people out from the outfield 204 times, stole 123 bases, and drove in 2213 runs.
#3 – threw people out from the outfield 140 times, stole 24 bases, and drove in 1839 runs.
#4 – threw people out from the outfield 166 times, stole 506 bases, and drove in 1834 runs.

Having those statistics which is the best player all around? Have you made your choice? Now let me give you their names and see if you feelings change.

#1 = Ty Cobb
#2 = Babe Ruth
#3 = Ted Williams
#4 = Barry Bonds

Did anyone have Barry Bonds as best all around base ball player before seeing his name? Did anyone have Ted Williams as best hitter before seeing his name? Yet, over and over if you listen to Sports Radio or watch ESPN or any baseball game you will hear people say Barry Bonds is the best baseball player ever. Or people will say Ted Williams is the best hitter of all time. They do this despite the numbers, and they do this despite the rule changes in baseball that have made it easier for hitters such as banning the spit ball and lowering the pitcher’s mound that benefit Barry Bonds and Ted Williams. Why do people do this? It’s their view of history. We all have a tendency to neglect history. People naturally are drawn to the ‘new’ no matter if it is baseball or if it is theology. People would rather argue that Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player ever just like some Supreme Court justices would rather listen to the new thoughts about the death penalty in France than see what the authors of the Constitution thought. People value new things much more than old things. History means very little in today’s society.

Yet there is another point that needs to be made and these same four players can make it for us. Here is the one stat that is important to people today.

Ty Cobb – 117 homeruns
Babe Ruth – 714 homeruns
Ted Williams – 521 homeruns
Barry Bonds – 703 homeruns

There is a danger in riding one’s favorite hobbyhorse. Soon it is the only thing one can see. It distorts the view of everything else. In baseball it is the homerun that gets all of the emphasis. Barry and Babe are the two great players even though they don’t have the rest of the qualifications that Ty Cobb has. What they do have is more homeruns and that makes them better, in most people’s minds. Those people have lost the view of the whole. A great example of that fact is Ted Williams’ Hitters Hall of Fame. Here Ted supposedly ended the debate about who is the greatest hitter of all time by applying a formula to each players’ resume and seeing who was number 1. Who was it? Surprise, surprise, it was Babe Ruth. Ty Cobb finished a distant 6th. The man with the highest career batting average and second in hits finished 6th in the best hitter category. Why? Because Ted’s formula put a greater emphasis on home runs than singles. When we emphasize something too much it distorts our view of reality. Saying that Babe Ruth is a better hitter when he has a batting average 20 points lower and almost 2000 hits behind is pretty strange. Yet, again this goes for far more than baseball. If you emphasize justification too much, you lose sight of sanctification. If you emphasize sanctification too much then you lose sight of justification. If you emphasize the sacraments too much, preaching often suffers. If you emphasize National Security too much you forfeit personal rights and privacy. If you emphasize the National Government you lose sight of the State governments and their role, if you emphasize the States, you lose sight of the Union. Endless examples could be sighted to prove my point, but I bet enough have already popped into your head. It is important to always have the big picture in mind. We can’t major in the minors, or we will end up with a distorted view of reality. No matter what the subject is.


Andrew McIntyre said...

I vote for Ty. The very fact that he drove in so many runs with so few homers shows how well rounded he was without the roids, the inflated compensation, the muscles, and the sissy rules.