Clarification on the Conlin Comments

I didn’t expect the firestorm that ensued as a result of Conlin’s comments, but when you essentially tell bloggers that they are a group worthy of an untimely demise, as the Jews were to Hitler, you’re not going to win any new friends.

With all the anti-Conlin sentiment, there has been the odd comment questioning me or my motives, and I welcome that. However, a lot of what I read was either misinterpretation or a misunderstanding, so I’d like to clear those up in a pseudo-FAQ fashion.

You revealed a private conversation that occurred via E-mail. This is illegal and/or immoral.

It’s certainly not illegal. Once you click “Send,” you lose all rights to the content of your E-mail. What if, instead of through E-mail, my correspondence with Conlin occurred via paper mail? Imagine me opening up the letter, seeing the “Hitler” comment and being shocked. Is it illegal for me to show that letter to anyone else, since it was intended (presumably) only for my eyes? Of course not.

Especially in this age of technology, the fault lies with the person sending the offensive comment for not preparing for the comment being seen by unintended eyes.

As for its immorality, you’re neither right nor wrong for viewing it either way. I can’t say whether it was immoral or moral, as my set of morals probably differs from yours.

You were being intentionally inflammatory and baiting Conlin into saying those nasty things.

In retrospect, a couple things I said were almost definitely going to be interpreted as inflammatory, as pointed out by a couple readers, but my intent (I don’t know what that counts for) was never to incite what has occurred. I simply read Conlin’s article (linked in FJM’s article debunking it) and decided to E-mail him. I thought it was rather nice, and my comment about not bashing him was sympathetic, or at least, that was my intent.

I thought he was getting beat up enough, as I had read from a few different sources how idiotic his article was, and there were quite a few attacks on his character.

Linking to the sites bashing him probably was a bad idea, but I don’t think he clicked on them anyway. He barely read the E-mails I sent him, as evidenced by his mistaking me for a Mets fan after I clearly stated that I was a Phillies fan (twice), so I doubt he ever read FJM’s dismantling of his article.

Conlin’s comment is anti-Semitic.

I can’t faut anyone for taking it this way, but it wasn’t actually an anti-Semitic comment. It probably minimalized what happened in Hitler’s holocaust, but his intent behind the comment was that the world would be better if bloggers didn’t have a voice provided by the Internet, and that Hitler probably would have made sure we didn’t.

Plenty of readers have pointed out that his comments about pampleteers and such were historically inaccurate and/or hypocritical. The Good Phight does a good job of proving most or all of this.

Bill Conlin made those comments as a private citizen, not as a writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, so they shouldn’t reprimand him.

While others are calling for Conlin’s head to roll, I am not. In fact, I am taking the coward’s way out and am not espousing an opinion on what should happen to him as a result of his comments.

To factually clear up the above statement, though, the E-mail address I used to contact Conlin was listed right next to his name on the website of the Philadelphia Daily News. Whether or not he uses that E-mail account for purely personal purposes is irrelevant — it is on a web page of his professional work for his employer, so any E-mails he sends from that account, he is also representing his employer, as well.

You were just as close-minded as Conlin with your use of Sabermetrics.

In my E-mail exchange with Conlin, I explicitly refrained from citing Sabermetrics, and instead made my case with just standard statistics.

If this refers to my article(s) on the MVP award, yes, I do make heavy use of Sabermetrics and pay almost no mind to statistics like batting average, win-loss records, strikeout totals for hitters, etc. In addition, I don’t factor in intangibles when opining about the “most valuable player” in a given league. My feeling on that is that, if you can’t prove it, I’m not going to factor it in. Intangibles, since they can’t be proven by definition, are wholly subjective, and thus incredibly prone to error.

Some may think Jimmy Rollins is a leader, and David Wright is not. Others feel that Wright is more of a leader than Rollins. Who’s right? You can’t prove it, so it’s all moot in the end. That’s why I don’t factor it in at the risk of having some inaccuracies in my points. It very well may be true that, without Rollins’ leadership, the Phillies would have been dead in the water.

In that respect, I don’t view that as me being close-minded, just selective of which factors I personally use to determine value.

Publishing emails without permission will have a negative effect on everyone else’s possible correspondence with journalists.

If journalists cannot communicate with E-mailers without insinuating that they are worthy of having no freedom of speech and/or worthy of being killed, then that falls on the journalists.

I guess the journalists could be hesitant to respond to E-mailers for anything that might get taken out of context and blown out of proportion, but then again, they can just comb over their E-mails and make sure they were professional, factual, and rational.

It’s the journalists’ loss — not the readers’ — if they don’t respond to E-mails. When they respond, they are representing the publication they work for, and thus, are advertising in a sense. A good rapport with a reader increases the chance that they will purchase the publication in the future, and a bad rapport decreases that chance. With most print publications hurting, behavior like Conlin’s only sets himself and his employer(s) back.

You’re a hypocrite: Your previous article was titled, “Political Correctness Has Gone Too Far,” and now you’re whining about Conlin offending you.

I haven’t heard this one yet, but I wanted to address it since I was thinking about it. I haven’t complained about being offended. Frankly, I’m not offended by what Conlin said or how he acted. I’m disappointed more than anything, especially since he represents a sizable amount of journalists in terms of his views on bloggers and Sabermetrics.

A lot of other people have been offended by what Conlin said. Based on a particular reader, most of the people at The Good Phight are Jewish, so they have a gripe with Conlin because of his Hitler comment.

I would never assume I have the power to tell people what they should or should not be offended at. The Good Phight has every right to be offended by Conlin’s comments. The only problem I take with anyone getting offended over something is when they try to limit others’ freedom to do something as a result of that offense.

That’s a bit vague, so let me clarify. I support Conlin’s freedom of speech to make tasteless jokes like that. That is not to say that I share his intent behind it, or the literal interpretation of it, but I support his right to say idiotic, tasteless things. That goes for anyone. To have true freedom of speech, you need to be willing to take the good with the bad. So, for every noble crusader speaking out against the Bush administration and the Iraq war, for instance, there is presumably an idiot making a tasteless joke about a minority group. As long as they’re not espousing anything that would take away the rights or enjoyment of life away from members of that minority group, he has the same right to make that joke as that noble crusader has to make noble political statements.

Please let me know if anything else needs to be clarified.

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18 comments

  1. rfloh

    November 24, 2007 03:36 PM

    Nice explanation.

    I sympathise highly with you.

    I agree with you that the “private correspondence” issue is ridiculous. IMO, email == snail mail. If he is unwilling to stand behind what he said, whether electronically or not, then he shouldn’t have attached his name to it.

    FWIW, I also doubt whether Conlin read through those links. However, he did reference “insults” in his reply to you. The link to FJM could be interpreted as an insult.

  2. SeriouslyWTF

    November 24, 2007 03:47 PM

    I wholeheartedly echo your comments in regard to the Hitler flap.

    I do happen to be Jewish, and I can say that I am far more offended by Conlin’s unprofessionalism and close-mindedness than by his invoking of Hitler.

    The fact is that people compare current events and personalities to Hitler all the time. None of these things can hold a candle to what Hitler was, but it just seems to be the go-to analogy when people want to express utter contempt. I don’t like this trend at all, but it’s not going away any time soon.

    The true offense here is, as you said, Conlin’s disgusting lack of respect. To be suspicious of blogging is one thing, as I am sure Conlin is confused and possibly threatened by its emergence. But to advocate that bloggers should not be allowed to express their views in ANY medium is despicable.

  3. lkoh

    November 25, 2007 07:54 AM

    There is no set universal standard for the speaking terms of email correspondence. Judging by the nature of Conlins informal correspondence, he thought the emails were off the record. I would expect him to say similar things if posed with the same questions in a sports bar.

    It might have been a good idea to ask him for permission, or just clarification, before publishing his emails , but you are correct in saying you were under no obligation to do so. I would expect newspaper columnists to ask for my permission, or at least if I wanted to clarify anything, before publishing a private email with my real name on a topic of a controversial nature.

    Some writers I’ve corresponded over email use a disclaimer that states: this email is off the record unless we agree otherwise. Conlins would be a lot better off if he just included a disclaimer like that underneath his emails.

  4. dajafi

    November 25, 2007 12:47 PM

    Small point of clarification–while some of the contributors and commenters at The Good Phight are of Jewish ancestry (as I am), in no way is “the site” Jewish, and I don’t think anyone is accusing Conlin of anti-Semitism. If that was the perception at any point, I apologize for it as the author of the story linked here.

    Dickish insensitivity? Sure. But not Jew-hating as such.

  5. Squonk64

    November 25, 2007 08:48 PM

    I know you’re on a rush, but it’s time to calm down and write about something else. You poorly described why Wright should have won the award, and Conlin did a poor job defending himself. That is all this discussion is about.

    The correct reason why Rollins won the reward was, and I think you have written about this in the past–not sure if it really was you because there are too many blogs out there. Rollins won and deserved to win the MVP award because he surpassed the standard for a Short Stop winning the award.

    The nearest comparison is Cal Ripken. If you look at Riken’s stats the two times he won the award, Rollins was a far better player. Ripken admitted this on the TBS broadcast of the Phillies playoff series. He admitted that Rollins put up better numbers than he did when he won either of his two MVPs. That is the end of the argument. There is really nothing more to say.

    Now, it pains me to ridicule Ripken’s play. He was the best short stop of his era. But Ripken had no range in the field. I witnessed every one of Ripken’s seasons, first as an adversary in the 1983 series, then as a “homey” living in DC for nearly every year afterwards. Believe me, I never saw Ripken make a play on a ground ball well to the right of second base like Rollins, I never saw Ripken shag a fly ball in the middle of the outfield because his Left Fielder misplayed the ball, I never saw Ripken take the hits on double plays like Rollins did this season. Hell, I never saw Ripken dive for a ground ball! Again, if there was a hole in Ripken’s play, it was that he was, at best, a great Third Baseman playing Short Stop.

    In some way, therein lies the method of Ripken’s success. George Will raved about Ripken’s knowledge of the balls he could get, and those he new were questionable. The fact is Ripken was slow, and played an overly “safe” defense for his position. This is coming from a man who has six posters of Cal Ripken on his walls at work.

    Now let’s get to the statistics. All statistics lie without a subjective analysis to figure out what they mean. This especially applies to statistics like “range factor,” that does not subjectively adjust for effort. Effort is inversely proportionate to range factor because, after all, the plays that take the most effort to bring about the most errors. A player may get more errors simply because he tried to make plays he could not make. You can not mathematically grade this. But Rollins won the Gold Glove because he did more, on effort, than any other Short Stop in the league. And that’s what we want from our Philly players–effort.

    PLEASE stop this discussion! You were wrong on the facts. Conlin was wrong for not being more familiar with the legacy of e-mail. I think we all want the Phillies to be a better team next year. Can we concentrate on that. Please?

  6. Nick

    November 25, 2007 11:30 PM

    Bill, personally I think you are courages for posting what he said. Most people would have shyed away from it in fear of being ‘blackballed’. You didn’t.

    I’m disappointed with what Conlin said. I happened to major in journalism at Penn State, I was the sports editor of the student newspaper, and I have wrote for a few newspapers. Just because I stepped back to regroup and refocus my career path because I didn’t want to cover high school sports am I less credible as a writer now because I started website? I don’t neccessarily think of it as a blog, but others do. That’s irrelevant though. Should I not write anything as I bide my time? Personally I think writing on the internet has helped me. It has given me an outlet to keep my skills sharp, play around with my tone and style, but more importantly it has let me interact with my audience on a more personal level. Due to this I have become more aware of what works and what doesn’t. What connects with an audience and what doesn’t. What illicits a response and what doesn’t. I think a lot of ‘newspaper’ guys would benefit from this because they have lost touch of what people care about, The funny thing is most of the people on the net are more accomplished writers than those in print. You don’t really have to be a wordsmith to produce an article for a newspaper. In College Newspaper classes you are encouraged to dumb down your content to an eighth grade level. Magazine writing is completely differnt, but that’s a different rant. That should tell you all you need to know about Conlin and his peers.

  7. Nick

    November 25, 2007 11:43 PM

    Posted by Squonk64
    -Now let’s get to the statistics. All statistics lie without a subjective analysis to figure out what they mean. This especially applies to statistics like “range factor,” that does not subjectively adjust for effort. Effort is inversely proportionate to range factor because, after all, the plays that take the most effort to bring about the most errors. A player may get more errors simply because he tried to make plays he could not make. You can not mathematically grade this. But Rollins won the Gold Glove because he did more, on effort, than any other Short Stop in the league. And that’s what we want from our Philly players–effort.- PLEASE stop this discussion! You were wrong on the facts. Conlin was wrong for not being more familiar with the legacy of e-mail. I think we all want the Phillies to be a better team next year. Can we concentrate on that. Please?

    I’d like to beg to differ. Are you familar with a player named Hanley Ramirez that plays for the Marlins? I’ll just drop that right there though because the Marlins sucked so he would never win the award.

    The reason that Rollins won the award and Wright didn’t was because two seperate events that were interwined throughout September: the Met’s collapse and the Phillies surge to the playoffs. The face of the Phillies franchise, Rollins, benefitted and got the accolaids for this. The face of the Mets, Wright, was punished for this and made out to be the fall guy. Unfortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t know if it’s because the writers are lazy, or simply misguided, but a simple look at Wright’s split stats reveal that he didn’t let his team down. Sure they lost 12 of their last 17 to blow their division lead, that’s undeniable, although it wasn’t because of their third baseman. It was in spite of him. The guy was simply on fire down the stretch. From August 2 through the end of the season, he hit .377 and scored 48 runs in 54 games. Not to mention during those 17 infamous games Wright collected a hit in each one while batting .397.

    Rollins had a great season; he scored a ton of runs, recorded the quadruple 20, won a Gold Glove, and was the catalyst behind the Phil’s late season run. That last criterion seems to be the kicker for everyone, but it’s a misconceived truth, he simply just wasn’t that guy for them. September was arguably one of Rollins worst months of the season. He was relatively consistent with the numbers he put all along, and by doing more of the same he helped them qualify for the playoffs, but in no way did he put Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on his back and carry his teammates to the finish line. It just seemed that way.

    I know we’re at a psuedo-Phillies blog so some of you will argue the numbers until the end of time. But just look at them. No matter what walk of life you find yourself in 3 is going to be bigger than 2, and let’s not forget we’re talking basebal here, not golf.

  8. Jonathan

    November 26, 2007 12:22 AM

    Huh? Range factor absolutely takes into account effort. The whole point of it was to come up with a way of giving credit to players who get to a lot more balls whether or not they make more errors. If a player gives maximum effort and tries to make 20 plays that he “can’t” and makes 19 errors and gets to 1, he will have a better RF. If there’s some other definition that prefers how hard a player is trying to the plays that they make, then it’s useless. A guy with lead feet who gives his all but doesn’t have the tools to play his position doesn’t deserve a fielding award because for his level of “effort”.

    And why is range factor being taken as the definition of Sabermetrics anyway? It was developed over 30 years ago by Bill James as a first attempt to come up with something other than fielding percentage and is obviously not perfect. There have been leaps and bounds made since then and better metrics that look at so much more (none of which are particularly fond of Rollins).

  9. zeke5123

    November 26, 2007 12:29 AM

    Ohk. Effort and range are not negatively rated. Perhaps fielding percentage is, but not range factor. It basically determines how many balls you turn into outs. So if someone has what you term little effort they wont turn as many balls into outs. So RF is a good stat, furthermore your idea of effort is misguided. I will take the more talented player who doesn’t bust his ass off but makes more plays then the scrapy player who sucks. I want wins, and if one player plays with minimum effort but creates one more win a year then the all effort little talent guy, who can you say you want the scrapy on?

  10. Doctor Dribbles

    November 26, 2007 01:23 AM

    Bill-

    Kudos for handling this entire episode with not only grace, but self-examination too. I can’t admit to being a regular reader of Crashburn Alley before, but you’ve won me over.

  11. mike arias

    November 26, 2007 10:43 AM

    I have been following your go around with Conlin since they posted the link for it at the “the700level” website. The first few sorties were very entertaining but I admit, after that, your intentions seem to clearly be to rile this big league media figure up. Perhaps the true intention has been overwhelmed by the one that has since evolved, but it is clear enough.

    Firstly, I don’t agree with any method of computation over the MVP…this year especially. David Wright, apparently, did nothing to get his team into postseason (not that this should neccessarily be a qualifier). When we pour ourselves into mass bundles of statistics, we simply remove the human element from the situation. Obviously, stats are the fingerprint of a great season, but what of the intangibles? How many records did Jimmy set? How about his “iron man” performance? What about the, “preseason prediction?” What about his baton pick up from where Chase was felled? You need to ask yourself, “do stats really aswer these questions?” …which, if you think about it, are all directly related to whether or not a player is Most Valuable.

    By the way, you and others are simply reading waaaayyyyy to into the Hitler comments. Conlin should have used more tact with that notion, but his intent is painfully obvious and it wasn’t anti semitism. Get over it people.

  12. Squonk64

    November 26, 2007 03:27 PM

    To Nick:

    I believe I am correct on the facts, and thank you for point that out to me. I really don’t know what else to say.

    No, I am not familiar with Hanley Ramirez, nor do I give one rats ass about anybody who played for a team in Miami.

    I have spent my 43 years living in an area where I saw loads of Phillies games, with an occasional O’s game mixed in. Have you seen Brooks Robinson pull off the front end, meaning the first two outs, of a triple play against the Yankees? I don’t think so.

    Look, if you want to debate minutia, find someone else. I just want to make sure my Phillies have a great team next year.

    ~ Squonk64

  13. Squonk64

    November 26, 2007 06:55 PM

    Dear zeke5123:

    I disagree, strongly, with your analysis. Statistics are based on the “randomness” of the sample, so it also needs “all other things being equal” for it to give a meaningful result. But baseball is not an “all things are equal” kind of sport. Talk to visiting relief pitchers at CBP, and you start to understand what I mean.

    Fielders do not receive the same plays, in the same sequence, and in the same situations. Therefore, “pure statictics” are not accurate in determining a player’s fielding worth. You need to qualitatively figure out what it means. Otherwise, one’s quantitative effort leads to “garbage in, garbage out.”

    Range Factor is a valuable statistic, but absolutely worthless without some qualitative discussion describing it’s meaning. For instance, in the real world, major league batters are able to pretty much hit the ball where they want. That means, if they want to avoid hitting the ball to the Short Stop, they can do that. That will mean the Short Stop wil get less opportunities, and the few opportunities he does get, will take far more effort to make.

    That’s where pure statistics fails. It cannot, nor does it attempt, to take into account what others intended to do, or the result. That’s why one needs to qualitatively understand the statistics before they make overly broad assumptions regarding what they mean.

    ~ Squonk64

  14. Squonk64

    November 26, 2007 08:53 PM

    I hate to trumpet my own horn, but I just got a totally unprompted e-mail from a major league manager that read this blog and thanked me for having the balls to tell the truth.

    Which major league manager? I dunno. You figure out what major league manager grew up in the Phily area, is in his late 40s, and had two female cousins that I dated in high school.

    The short term lesson for you young ones is not to burn your bridges. You never know when you might need to pull something like this out of your a$$.

  15. Jonathan

    November 26, 2007 11:03 PM

    Fortunately, the guys who have been working on advanced fielding stats aren’t totally brainless and statistics have gone far beyond a simple quantitative look at fielding and assuming that balls are distributed randomly. When you break the field down into zones like you do for the advanced fielding metrics, it takes into account batters attempting to hit balls away from fielders. A stat like +/- gives a fielder way more credit for making a play on a ball hit away from him, and it doesn’t matter if the hitter had the intent to do that or not. To steal a line from the Hardball Times, critiquing fielding statistics by taking shots at RF is like saying personal computers are no good because they run on DOS.

    I love to trumpet my own horn. Bill James just knocked on my door and told me I’m awesome.

  16. Snowman

    November 28, 2007 05:41 AM

    Surely I’m not the only one who, through all of the debate as to whether or not making the e-mails public was morally correct, thinks that by starting his end of an exchange with someone who has identified himself as a blogger with “Know what, pal? Bash this. . .Tell your bloggers, my career against theirs. . .” has more or less opened the door for their publication?

  17. Snowman

    November 28, 2007 06:03 AM

    I hate to trumpet my own horn, but I just got a totally unprompted telegram from a former President who rose from the grave, read this blog, and thanked me for the comment above.

    Which former President? I dunno. You figure out what former President is on the twenty-dollar bill, was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, followed closely the words of pamphleteers, and whose private letter to a Baptist Association gave us the phrase “separation between church and state.”

    The short term lesson for you young ones is not to burn your bridges, even once they’ve passed on… I mean, been torn down. You never know when you might need to pull something like this out of your a$$.

  18. ckp

    November 29, 2007 11:26 AM

    Like Doctor Dribbles above, I only found your site due to this little flap. I felt that your emails to Conlin were respectful and reasonable. His responses were not. I will be reading your posts from here on due in part to the even-handed approach you’ve displayed throughout this mess. Oh, and your comments regarding baseball itself are pretty insightful, too. That would be another reason to read your posts, too, I suppose.

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