I caught up with Steven Taylor of PoliBlog this week via IM to discuss his post on the Sammy Sosa corked bat affair. The setup is that he get’s to pitch himself, his site, and his post (Corked Reasoning) in a Today show style interview format. As you can see we spent a lot of time talking baseball.
Kevin: I know from your blog that you are a political science professor. Where do you teach and how long have you been there?
Steven: I am a professor at Troy State University in Alabama. I have been here for 5 years.
Kevin: What prompted you to start PoliBlog?
Steven: Partially because, as a political science professor, I really enjoy talking and writing about politics. The real inspiration was when James Joyner, a former colleague of mine, started his blog Outside The Beltway. We used to send a lot of E-mail commentary back and forth each day, and he started posting his comments on the blog instead. This seemed like a good idea, and potentially a lot of fun, so I decided to start PoliBlog. Also, I have had a long-term interest in trying my hand at column-writing, and this seemed a good way to spur myself on.
Kevin: Great. Other than James – who influences you in bloggerdom?
Steven: Hmmm, good question…I read quite a number of blogs, but I can’t say there are any particular ones I seek to emulate.
Kevin: “I do know poor reasoning when I see it.” was a quote that caught my eye in your Sosa piece. I assume that the professor in you applies that same outlook to a lot of the stories that make it into PoliBlog.
Steven: Yep-it is something that catches my attention, to be sure. And something I like to comment on when the opportunity arises. Between the need to quickly report the news, and often poor reasoning skills (something that really ought to be better taught in school – both K-12 and higher ed), it is not hard to find good examples of poor reasoning.The reaction to the Sosa story has been an excellent case in point: People will believe what they want to believe, even when there is strong evidence to contradict their position. People have been told that corked bats help batters, so they believe it, even when the evidence shows otherwise.
Kevin: If a corked bat was scientifically proven to be more effective, would that change anything for you?
Steven: Sure–but really that’s the point: firm conclusions require evidence that is systematically acquired and analyzed. There are experiments that could be run to determine if a corked bats helps a batter. But the anecdotal evidence of a few players, or the prevailing conventional wisdom doesn’t qualify as the systematic acquisition of knowledge. That is the bottom line; understanding comes from rigorous study, not just the perceived experiences of individuals.
Kevin: Because Sosa is an approachable media friendly guy, does this hurt him financially more than say Albert Belle who got caught in a similar situation?
Steven: I think it does. Belle was considered a problem child anyway, so he had less shine to dull, so to speak. Sosa will recover, but by putting doubt in our minds (or at least showing that he was willing to cheat in some capacity–even if his story is true, he was willing “cheat” in BP to impress fans) he has clearly tainted his reputation. Not to mention that baseball is already dealing with the whole enhancement question anyway, so this just elevates distrust.
Kevin: Are you a big baseball fan? If so, what are your fondest childhood baseball memories?
Steven: I am big sports fan, and really a moderate-level baseball fan. I always joke that was scarred as a child, because I was a Rangers fan (still am), and so didn’t become a bigger baseball fan. My fondest childhood memories were going to Rangers games in their old stadium when I was seven or eight. (I have been to their new stadium, and it is MUCH nicer)
Kevin: So the definition of power hitter has changed form a 20 HR year to a 50 HR year?
Steven: Some things have clearly changed in hitting. I do believe that part of it is lack of pitching and part of it is that players practice more and work out more, but really, something else is going on, as much as one hates to think that that is the case. My moderate-baseball-fan status means I am not so good on history and stats. I am much better at NFL stuff 🙂
Kevin: So you’re still not sold on the value of the corked bat?
Steven: At this point, no. The only systematic studies, by physicist who are expert in such things, show that while you do get a lighter bat, and theoretically more batspeed, the lighter bat also results in less distance-and that the effects on one’s hitting is negligible at best. The only possible advantage, therefore, is that it may, via a placebo effect, give the batter more confidence, and therefore is that it may, via a placebo effect, give the batter more confidence, and therefore have a marginal effect on his hitting. Now, that isn’t to say that Sosa shouldn’t be punished–he did break the rules.
Kevin: Best baseball movie?
Steven: A toughie. I must confess that “Field of Dreams” didn’t really make sense to me. “The Natural” was good, but I think I will go with a tie: “The Rookie” and “A League of Their Own” (the latter may not be a manly choice, but it was a great flick).
Kevin: Got any trolls or nasty comments yet at PoliBlog?
Steven: A few–the cool thing about MT is that one can delete them 🙂 The only rally obnoxious one was a guy who said I was being a racists for suggesting that Nick Van Exel looked like the mini-me version of Charles Barkley.
Kevin: What do you see in the future for PoliBlog? I assume you’re going to keep at it?
Steven: Yup–I expect to keep it up for the long haul. Right now I am just trying to climb up the TTLB Ecosystem 🙂 I need a few more details to make it to “Large Mammal” 🙂 And the blogging has led me into the world of column writing, which has been fun. The blogging feeds into that. At any rate, I expect to be around for while.
Kevin: That’s about it for my questions… Any parting words of wisdom?
Steven: Hmm, can’t think of anything wise to say, but thanks for the interest in the piece and for the interview!
Well there you have it, installment number two of the blog authors book tour on Good Morning Blogosphere. Thank you to Steven for participating. I’m going to change the frequency to every two weeks, so solicitations for next guest will come out in a post on 6/23.