FanGraphs Audio: Craig Edwards Decries Lazy Cheating

Episode 874

On this edition of FanGraphs Audio, I welcome Craig Edwards back to the program. Craig and I discuss the Astros sign-stealing scandal and how much is too much cheating in baseball, before we turn our attention to the offseason, the free agent market, the motivations of baseball owners, and the troubling trend of good teams seeming interested in shedding good players to reduce payrolls and avoid rich extensions.

You can read Craig on the Yankees’ payroll here.
You can read Craig on the Cubs’ potentially eschewing their window of contention here.
You can read Craig on the wisdom of the crowd when it comes to free agent contracts here.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @megrowler on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximate 47 min play time.)

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Meg is the managing editor of FanGraphs, the host of FanGraphs Audio, and the co-co-host of Effectively Wild. Her work has previously appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Lookout Landing, and Just A Bit Outside.

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Dr. Dave
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Dr. Dave

Suppose, hypothetically, that some MLB player had Jedi mind powers. If that player were to use those mind powers to influence umpire judgments regarding balls and strikes (“These are not the strikes you’re looking for…”), would that be cheating?

To me, it seems obvious that it would be — even if the mind powers weren’t 100% reliable. And then I ask myself what’s the difference between that and pitch framing, and I have to conclude that there isn’t one. Sleight of hand or Jedi mind trick, it’s the same intent and the same effect.

mgwalker
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mgwalker

The difference is that the victim of a jedi mind trick is has no agency. The umpire is well aware that the catcher has an interest in making the pitch appear more strike-like. The umpire also maintains the freedom to call the pitch either way, so there is not the same effect.

Dr. Dave
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Dr. Dave

The umpire’s agency is illusory; clearly, if he could really correct for the catcher’s influence on his judgment, he would. The umpire might think that his mental discipline would protect him from Jedi mind tricks, too, but he’d be equally wrong.

mgwalker
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mgwalker

I can agree to the umpire’s agency being illusory only at the level of a metaphysical discussion of free will, but certainly not in the everyday sense of the term that you suggest. It is simply not true that any action of the catcher can control the mind of the umpire in the way you are suggesting.