Yesterday, I linked to two great discussion pieces about the state of Pirate dialogue in 2010, much of it focused on the polarity of the pro-front office and anti-front office camps. At almost the same time, I read a third item that made me re-think my focus a bit; Nate Silver’s post at FiveThirtyEight about political polarization. Silver points out that while the internet has given a larger voice to what he calls political “extremism” and that this has in turn caused many political commentators to act like the country is coming apart at the seams because of blue state/red state polarization, people’s self identification as “conservative” and “liberal” hasn’t significantly polarized at all since the ’70s.
When a multi-faceted debate is presented as two-sided, the only possible result is polarization. I think that, maybe as a result of the way politics is covered in the media in this country, people tend to assume that every debate is two-sided. When an argument is presented as black and white, no one wants to fight over gray for fear that they’ll be lumped in to the wrong side of the argument.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone; I wonder myself if the Pirates could’ve done better in the Jason Bay trade, but so long as people say that the Pirates got nothing in return for Bay, I feel compelled to point out that while Bay was a 3.5 win player for the Red Sox last year, he certainly would’ve left the Pirates after 2009, his value is diminishing in the future, and over four more years Andy LaRoche, who was a 2.5 win player for the Pirates in 2009, will certainly replace the one win difference between him and Bay from last year, meaning that the Pirates, who probably could’ve gotten a better return for Bay if they had taken Tampa’s offer or Cleveland’s the prior winter, still managed to get more value from the return trade than one year and two months of Bay would have provided them. And so while I wonder what Jeff Niemann and Reid Brignac could do as Pirates or what Huntington could’ve flipped Cliff Lee for this summer, I still feel like it’s my job to defend LaRoche because he’s not just a pile crap and while Huntingon may have been able to get more for Bay, he also certainly could have gotten less.
Sometimes it’s easy to give Huntington a pass just because he’s operating with logic where there once was none; it’s certainly true that the Pirates are in much better shape on December 30, 2009 than they were when he took over in the fall of 2007. But there are still lots of questions left, and so let’s consider this my resolution to focus more on the gray in 2010.