Friday, April 24, 2015

Gold Gloves and Nobel Prizes Devalued Equally

In 1993, Chloe "Toni" Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for having written something or other that was deemed worthy that year.  In that same year, a young shortstop named Derek Jeter was toiling for the single-A level Greensboro team in the South Atlantic League, committing 56 errors in 126 games (hint -- that's not very good).

You would think that a poet/author and a minor-league shortstop might not have a great deal in common, but I thought of the latter when I heard some news about the former.

Toni Morrison is one of those revered old (84ish) people whose color has elevated their stature, or allowed us to think higher of them, or in her case, gotten her a Nobel Prize.  Unfortunately our adulation can easily lead to enablement, and to facilitate their doing or, in her case, saying, something that is contemptible beyond belief, but where our previous enablement makes it harder to criticize.

To wit: As reported recently, in an interview with the London Telegraph, Morrison was talking about her favorite subject, "race."  In the interview, she claimed: “People keep saying [that] we need to have a conversation about race. This is the conversation. I want to see a cop shoot a white unarmed teenager in the back.  And I want to see a white man convicted for raping a black woman. Then when you ask me, ‘Is it over?’ I will say ‘yes'.

I mean, if that's her criterion, then it should be, in her words, "over", and she should shut up.  It happens, although it doesn't fit the media narrative and therefore is not widely reported.  One black cop shooting a white unarmed man, for example, occurred right after the Ferguson incident last year.  Did you hear about it?  I know I didn't; in fact, I was only able to find it searching for corroboration for this column.

She might have a far more difficult time getting "over" it, though, if she insists on also finding a case of a white man convicted for raping a black woman.  That is not for the reason she would think, however.  It isn't that judges and juries don't want to convict white males for raping black females.  No, it's because that particular racial profile for rape practically never happens.

I confess that I wasn't aware of a disproportionate ration of rape case reporting, and I'll bet you weren't either.  So here is the reality. In the United States, in a typical year, more than 30,000 white females will be sexually assaulted or raped by a black man, while between zero and ten black females will be sexually assaulted or raped by a white man. In 2008, for example, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Statistical Tables for Criminal Victimization in the United States for 2008, there were no white-on-black rapes recorded the entire year.
That apparently is unknown to Mrs. Morrison.  Also unknown to her are, apparently, decency and propriety.  Either of those would have stopped her from making a statement calling for shootings and rapes.  I'm just thinking that those Nobel folks over in Stockholm and Oslo are probably wishing this would all blow over.  I'm thinking that the current president, Mr. Obama, who awarded the murder-and-rape proponent the Presidential Medal of Freedom, would be embarrassed (if he had the capacity to be embarrassed), especially given his frequent comments about how much he loves her work.
Besides, Obama has his own Nobel Prize to polish up, the peace prize given him in 2009 for not being George W. Bush.  I suggested he politely return it, as it was an insult to his predecessor and to the office he serves, but I guess he doesn't read UberThoughtsUSA.  His loss.
So ... Derek Jeter?  I'm sure that Jeter, who went on to a long career with the New York Yankees, is reading this and wondering what possible connection he has, given his rather above-board and scandal-free career, to a lady who grew up to be an advocate for murder and rape.

Well, they do have one thing in common.  They are the recipients, as is Obama, of awards whose subsequent honorees get devalued versions because of who got them first.

In Jeter's case, it has to do with his long and sad career in the field.  In spite of his playing on five championship teams, and hitting for a high average over a long career, his record will always be tarnished by having been awarded five Gold Gloves.  The Gold Glove is given, ostensibly, to the best fielder at his position in each league.  Derek Jeter was not only never the best fielder at his position in his own league, but several times he was the worst-fielding shortstop, by contemporary metrics, in both leagues.

If this shocks you, it is simply because for so many years, having successfully repaired the error-proneness of his minor league days, he had far fewer errors in his 20 years at short.  Low error counts and high fielding percentages were long thought as the metric for fielding competence.

Those stuck in that evaluative methodology should note that we now are able to look not just at the plays made, but the plays that should be made, i.e., the fielder's range.  And Jeter, who played far longer at short than his skills would suggest he should have, was a virtual stone-foot out there.  He made the plays he got to, sure, but he got to far fewer plays than a league-average shortstop would.  Accordingly, he cost his teams 236 runs over his career at short vs. a league-average glove, 40 more career runs lost than any other player at any position in the history of the game.

And yet ... in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010, Jeter was awarded Gold Gloves at short, including seasons in which he rated out at 8, 11, 15 and 24 runs below league average at his position. 

So what is the value, not just of those Gold Gloves, but every other one at every other position?  Does the guy who won one last year wonder, "Well, cheez, what the &%$# is this worth if they gave one to Jeter five times?"

Well, I would wonder.  No, I wouldn't give it back, but it is devalued considerably by the haphazard way it must have been given.  And I notice that Barack Obama, who earned his "Nobel Prize" even less, hasn't given his back either.  And Toni Morrison, advocate for murder, rape and personal lack of accountability, well, she's got one of those things now. 

How would you like to have a Nobel Prize now and look back and wonder if maybe it isn't worth nearly as much.

I'll take the Gold Glove, thanks.  Jeter may not have deserved it, but he at least honored it.

Copyright 2015 by Robert Sutton
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