Monday, June 16, 2008


The Washington Post urges casual fans to take up the VORP craze:

The time has come, you traditionalists, grizzled holdouts and old-school .300-hitter-lovers, to let a little VORP into your lives. C'mon, don't be scared. You can still have your batting average, particularly when a Chipper Jones comes along and extends a spring flirtation with the hallowed .400 into the summer. And you can still show off how progressive you are by dropping an occasional "OPS" into casual conversation, and act indignant when you must explain it means "on-base plus slugging."

But deep down, you know even OPS doesn't give a full measure of a player's value. Which is why it is time to acquaint yourself with VORP.
There's a nice simple explanation of it too. It won't stop the avalanche of cognitive dissonance-filled letters to the sports editor complaining about perils of cyber ball, spreadsheets, and mothers' basements, but nothing will ever stop that. Choice quote from VORP-daddy Keith Woolner:

It became common enough in the online baseball-sabermetrics world; the fact it had a pronounceable name that was kind of odd and goofy probably helped. And then I started seeing it creep into other places. I distinctively recall watching 'Baseball Tonight' and hearing a discussion of VORP, and someone asked John Kruk about it, and he made some snide comment. I figured if it's being ridiculed on national television, that meant it had arrived."
Sabermetrics are decidedly more dorky than say, the original hippie aesthetic, punk rock, or any other cultural phenomenon you can think of, but the progression in the public consciousness is kinda the same. Statistical analysis in the 80s and 90s was roughly equivalent to Ken Kessey and the Merry Pranksters-era hippies or 1975 at CBGB's. Moneyball was much like a Time or Newsweek cover story "exposing" the putatively underground phenomenon to the masses after the true vanguard had already moved on to something else. Right now we're in the era of wider cultural dissemination a la the faux-flower power stuff on Laugh-In or the "Hoodlum Rock" episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. Up next: the Sabermetic equivalent of latter-day Bobby Darrin or the Billy Joel Glass Houses album in which people who have no business or aptitude for the stuff try mightily to co-opt at least some aspect of the aesthetic in a vain effort to remain relevant.

Not that I'm any better. A lot of the writing here is basically a co-option and sanitation of Sabermetric principles. Yeah, I'm occasionally identified with the punks of the Sabermetric world and I find myself reacting to the same things they do, but I can't really do what they do. I'm Country Joe and the Fish to their Jefferson Airplane. Adam Ant or the Boomtown Rats to their Ramones. My edges are softer and I'm safer for general consumption, but it's pretty diluted actually.


John Peterson said...

All great movements and revolutions need popularizers, Craig.

Paul Thomas said...

Goddammit, I LIKE that album. (Glass Houses, that is.)

Hotspur said...

Hey... I like Glass Houses. It's one of my three favorite Billy Joel albums. And I like VORP.

You're hurting my head.

Voros McCracken said...

You're even co-opting my "Knack of the Baseball World" analogy now.

You shameless co-opter!!