Wednesday, February 06, 2008


One of the things that I’ve become increasingly aware of in the past year is the influence of paradigms. A paradigm is window that we all have, but may not recognize. It is a deep-seeded belief that affects how we view the world.

Here’s an example that I have heard. Imagine you are sitting on a subway car when a father and his four children get on. It takes the kids about 45 seconds before they start misbehaving, getting on each other nerves, wrestling, and disturbing other passengers. Meanwhile, the father sits passively, almost detached.

Ok, so put yourself in that subway car. You probably feel a little annoyed. As it continues, you wonder if you should say something. Maybe you scold the children, or shoot a dirty glance at the father?

Well, it turns out that someone does ask the father if he could do something. The father reacts almost as if he’s awakening out of a dream. He apologizes, saying they all just came from the hospital. His wife had just lost a fight with cancer. He had been lost in thought. He speculates aloud that the kids probably don’t know exactly what to do with the feelings they’re experiencing.

OK, now put yourself in that subway car again. Still feel annoyed? Still planning on scolding the kids? What look are you giving the dad now?

Here’s the thing: the actual reality inside that subway car hasn’t changed. You still have a detached father, four misbehaving kids, and a crowded subway car. Only the background story changed. Before you were stuck in a moral drama about the decline of parenting in society. Now, you’re in the middle of a tragedy. And so your reality, both how you view this and how you react to that car, is totally different.

You see this all the time in journalism, whether it be blogging or the corporate media. For example, reactions to the drafting of Ben Revere by the Twins in the first round of the 2007 draft were all over the chart. Pretty much the sum total of what we knew about the guy was that he was fast and some draft experts had projected him to go in the 3rd or 4th round. And so we fit that into our paradigm and got differing vastly differing opinions.

Those that thought that the Twins weren’t spending enough money criticized the pick, convinced that Revere was chosen that high because the Twins wouldn’t need to pay him much. And, indeed, Revere signed for less guaranteed money than any first rounder since 1997. Plus, the Twins made moves later, such as releasing Jeff Cirillo and trading Ramon Ortiz and Luis Castillo, that suggest that finances really were a concern for the draft last year.

However, those that find the Twins were adept at finding diamonds in the rough praised the Twins for recognizing Revere’s skill and grabbing him early rather than risk him being gone by the 92nd pick. And in Revere’s first season, he had a monster introduction to the rookie leagues including hitting .325 with 10 triples (in just 191 at-bats). In fact Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the Twins #1 prospect, and the only five star prospect in the Twins system.

But on the other hand, there were also people who were frustrated with the Twins lack of power, and they criticized the pick because it smelled like another overhyped piranha. And, sure enough, Revere hit exactly zero home runs those 191 at-bats, and Baseball America warned that his ceiling will be limited unless he develops some power.

So which one do you pick? Well, all three sound pretty valid, but again, the reality of Ben Revere hasn’t really changed. Whichever one you pick doesn’t tell you that much about Revere, or even about the Twins. Mostly it tells us about you, and particularly what you believe about the Twins.

Hmm. It appears these windows work both ways.


SoCalTwinsfan said...

I would like someone to do a study on the relationship between the signing of first-round draft picks and their future success, especially those that signed for more or less money in relation to the rest of their draft class.

For instance, do you think the Twins wish they had used another $5M and drafted Prior instead of Mauer? And I don't think Adam Johnson was exactly cheap, considering he was a successful college pitcher.

A player's demand for money a lot of times seems more to do with the individual situation, such as the agent he has represent him (cough, cough, BORAS, cough, cough), if he has college to fall back on and/or how much he wants to start his pro career right away.

And I think it's funny that some panned the pick of Revere because he's a speed guy, since as I look at the Twins' projected lineup, I see little to no speed outside of whoever is playing CF. This is assuming that Harris is the second baseman. This is why I'm hoping Casilla turns it around and wins the job, otherwise I'm afraid we'll see to much of Punto somewhere in the lineup to make up for the lack of speed, which the Twins prize so much.

Jake said...

This kind of column is exactly why I show up here almost every day. Not only did you just introduce me to a potential Twins prospect in an interesting way, you also took the time to define a philosophy in just about the most concise way I've ever seen it done. Kudos, Sir Blogger, your way around the keyboard again reminds me why I'm such a big fan. When are you going to follow in BG's footsteps and write a book?!

Kyle Eliason said...

I'd still go back in time and take Prior, knowing what we know now. A 2003 team featuring Santana and Prior at his peak would have torn through the playoffs and there would be a third banner hanging in the Metrodome right now.

Mauer looks like he'll have the far longer career of the two, but flags fly forever. And who is to say that the Twins wouldn't have done a better job monitoring Prior's workload than a Dusty Baker led Cubs team? They did a fantastic job with Santana (he was always pulled prior to 115 pitches).

John said...

Thanks Jake. I appreciate the kind words, because I was really second guessing myself about this posting on my drive into work today. I relied heavily on 2nd person, which can sound awfully confrontational, and I wasn't totally satisfied with the intro or conslusion.

And I promise I'll think a lot about writing a book when my current gig ends. It's definitely on my to do list. If anyone has any ideas on a topic, spit 'em out - I'd love to hear them.

As for Prior/Mauer, I think we should save that debate for the next bar/NYE evetn Kyle. I was HEAVILY in the Prior camp three years ago, and I tend to agree with you.

And SCTF, you bring up an interesting point about the team's speed this year. The Twins pendulum seems to have swung quite a bit, and I don't think that's a bad thing. The Twins fixation with that speed might also explain their acquisition of Gomez, even if other decent offers did exist. He's hell on wheels.

SoCalTwinsfan said...

"I'd still go back in time and take Prior"

Well, if the Twins didn't have Mauer, they wouldn't have traded Pierzynski and made the greatest trade of all time. And I believe offense was the biggest problem for the 2003 Twins, not pitching, especially in the playoff series against the Yankees.

Anonymous said...

Related to the idea of paradigms limiting our understanding of reality: I have printed up two bumper stickers for my car, one of which says,

"I don't know everything.
I'm not always right.
How about you?"

and the other says,

"Are you sure?
How do you know?"

Thanks for giving a little support to the idea of humility, TG--that's got to be as rare in the blogosphere as it is in politics.


Anonymous said...

Can't say I agree with Prior over Mauer.

Friend of a friend played ball with Prior in collage. Suspects Prior of juicing which makes some sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Are we now seeing a Paradigm Shift in the Twins philosophy? I was discussing the Santana trade with a student of mine & had to explain that even with Johan & Torii the Twins were a third place team last year.

With the focus seeming to be more on the offense side of the equation, Harris and Lamb vs Punto & Castillo/Casilla as well as Garza vs Young. I wonder if the Twins just came to the conclusion that they had gone as far as they were going to go with the Best Pitcher in Baseball and had decided to go a different route?

King of the run-on sentence,

D_Lane said...


Thinking about paradigms and how the lenses we use color the world is the kind of thing I do often in my work as a psychotherapist.

I think yours is my favorite blog--it helps that I'm fanatical about following the Twins.

For the last couple of years I've used Gleeman's site as my entry into reading about the Twins on the 'net, and linked to your site from his. I'm now moving Twins Geek into my bookmarks instead and maybe I'll link to Aaron after I've read you.