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Clubhouse Egosim

Before the Rays opened the 2007 season in New York, I wrote about the Yankees' stadium. The Yankees are great rivals. Their history allows for mocking and dramatization like few others - Boston is also in this boat, seriously, great division from a literature standpoint - and on this occasion I wrote something like, "The Rays mustn't allow the ghosts to stress them out ..." Because, you know, it's Yankee Stadium. It's opening day. Ken Burns makes documentaries about these things. The ghosts were probably too hung over to care, plus the Yankees' talent made the Rays' lineup look inadequate so they needed little help from their floating alumnus.

Maybe the Rays did play worse because Juan Salas was aware that Babe Ruth once hit some home runs on the grass' grandfather.  Or maybe they just weren't good. The larger point here is that people will find things to attribute success (or lack thereof) to. Chemistry is a long-standing goat. Frankly, the entire argument around chemistry is so monotonous and cloned that I'm going to skip that part and summarize it as such: if you think it plays a role, that's fine, but at least acknowledge that it probably plays a marginal role, rather than a marquee role - the same should be said about the majority of managerial decisions.

Ignoring the fact that every key player who racked up a full season in both 2007 and 2008 actually played worse in 2008 - despite great chemistry - let's focus on the ideology behind the chemistry scene. Psychological egoism suggests that human being always act in the way in which is deemed the best act in their self-interest. Even charitable donations have roots in self-interest. Not many folks want a selfish tag thrown upon them, which means that, yes, being a good teammate also involves being the very antithesis of what supposedly makes a teammate bad.

Ignoring the concentric circles aspect of player-to-player relationships, let's focus on something that really irks me: the concept that every baseball player is incompetent and incapable of making his own decisions. For instance, take Matt Bush's presence in a minor league clubhouse. Pretend that Bush is a horrible human being, one with blasphemous moral and ethical views, and one who belongs on a desert island. Not a single player on the same roster should follow Bush. Not if they have their best interests in mind. And if their best interest involves following Bush to go tip cows or whatever, then no amount of ‘veteran leadership' or ‘experience' was going to help them.

Analysts who use quantitative analysis are often accused of forgetting that the players are human, yet they aren't the only ones who, at times, treat the most basic human qualities as ghosts.