Great article, as usual, Alex. A few questions/beefs though:
1) It would’ve been great if you could offer some sense of the political dimensions of these kidnappings. Who tend to be the victims? Given the U.S. government’s desire to take down Chavez’s govt, what role might the CIA have?
2) The issue of “high security compounds” is a complex and politically sensitive issue in a state currently run by a democratic socialist political party…
Sorry, just in case I wasn’t 100% clear, I meant “Given the U.S. government’s desire to take down Chavez’s govt by any means necessary, what role might the CIA have had in kidnappings in the past or supporting/abetting certain fringe groups that might be responsible for the kidnappings?”
I love sabremetrics and have since I read my first Bill James book as a kid (Loved reading the projections). Baseball Prospectus knocked me off my feet when they introduced repacement level and VORP. I thought it was so cool. Now we are to the point where we are able to quantify a players worth in dollars to a baseball team. All incredible advacements. The Ramos story got me wondering if the sabremetric movement has not perhaps reduced players from stars to commodities. As a BoSox fan looking for wins I have begun to look at players in a different light. Instead of looking at them as Stars I now see them as investments. I just wonder if perhaps we have played some small role in further dehumanizing players into dollar amounts and done them some type of humanitarian disservice. After all 24 year old catchers coming off a season of 3 WAR seasons who are under team control fo 4 or 5 more years don’t grow on trees and we now ALL know just how much that is worth.
Comment by sheath1976 — November 17, 2011 @ 6:22 pm
What proof do you have of the government’s desire “to take down Chavez’s govt by any means necessary”? You don’t believe that if we desired to, we wouldn’t have already made an attempt?
For REAL? I know our governments hands get dirty internationally. And NO, we don’t love Chavez but how does Ramos figure into this? If your theory is right did we not just make Chavez look good by allowing him to put the orders forward to save Ramos. Maybe Chavez set the whole thing up so he could look good when Chavez was returned safely.
Comment by sheath1976 — November 17, 2011 @ 6:50 pm
As that is not at all related to baseball players, I would prefer it if that discussion happened elsewhere.
Comment by williams .482 — November 17, 2011 @ 6:52 pm
Excuse me, when Wilson Ramos not Chavez was returned safely.
Comment by sheath1976 — November 17, 2011 @ 6:52 pm
No, I’m pretty sure kidnapping wealthy people for ransom predates sabermetrics, and even baseball for that matter.
No IT HAS EVERYTHING to do with baseball players. A baseball player got kidnapped. All you care about is stats not baseball players. If you are gonna be such a sabrenerd at least keep up with the times and use wOBA instead of OBP. You know like Williams.493. A baseball player got kidnapped. This article deals with baseball players without the mention of advanced metrics. Pehaps you are commenting on the wrong article. Williams.482 needs to understand baseball players are people to.
Comment by sheath1976 — November 17, 2011 @ 7:25 pm
I don’t know why you would ask such a question on a Fangraphs page, it’s not like the author knows how to answer such a question any better than you or I. I guess you are just bringing up the subject.
As for Big Oil, they have indeed already made an attempt…..the US may not have taken credit publicly for the failed 2002 coup, but they were definitely backing it, if not orchestrating it.
Really I had no idea. Yet Wilson Ramos is not wealthy yet, at least not wealthy enough to kidnap. He’s not in arbitration yet. Look I’m not saying this never happens without people quantifying his value as a baseball player. I’m only saying that when we start looking at people in terms of dollars and cents perceptions of people change and their are uninteded consequences to that. Of course; I’m only speculating. An admittidely its a reach at that.
Comment by sheath1976 — November 17, 2011 @ 8:06 pm
You’d be surprised. Even the ML minimum would go quite far in VZ. Ramos may not be wealthy, but he’s ahead of the curve, when compared to the rest of his countrymen
A saberist response to this situation would be analyzing how much money the Nats should have hypothetically paid in ransom had they been contacted by the kidnappers. However, had that article been written, it would come off as callous and un-humane. This article is nowhere near that. This is a well thought out, well constructed look at what the future holds for Venezuelan ballplayers. Bravo Alex, good read.
I know he is wealthy for Venezuela but it was not his relatively miniscule fortune they were after as the article above states.
“When the kidnappers make ransom demands, they aren’t hoping the player’s family comes up with $10 million to $15 million,” writes The Washington Post’s Tracee Hamilton. “They are hoping the team or MLB does.”
The kidnappers obviously new their were bigger fortunes to be had.
Comment by sheath1976 — November 17, 2011 @ 9:07 pm
Whoops I need to proofread my comments. Knew not new.
Comment by sheath1976 — November 17, 2011 @ 9:09 pm
Could y’all super fine, sweet-assed writers perhaps routinely read your articles once you’re finished writing them. I appreciate all that you gifted individuals do, but I come across simple mistakes (like an extraneous letter or inverted letters) in ~70% of the articles I read. Trying to be as sincere as possible.
LOVE YALL. BIG KISSES.
Comment by complainer — November 17, 2011 @ 9:55 pm
That’s entirely my bad. I caught a stupid typo right after it was published, didn’t fix it. I’m stupid. Sorry.
I’ve been reading fan graphs for almost a year now, and I’m making my first comment ever to say you are 100 percent right, Sheath. Even though my knowledge is limited, saber metrics have ruined baseball for me in a sense. I can hardly enjoy the game itself anymore, as i am always concerned with is player X actually this good, etc, etc. Granted, I know most people here probably don’t share this view, but as a 17 year old, i see baseball so much differently than my peers and don’t know if I’ll ever get back to enjoying the essence of the game like I did pre my discovery of saber metrics.
You’re wonderful, please continue to provide wonderful, insightful web publishing’s in my lifetime.
Comment by complainer — November 17, 2011 @ 11:57 pm
You mentioned the impact on players returning to Venezuela, but I’m also wondering if this will have any impact on player development in that country? Will as many young kids be looking to play the sport (particularly at a high level) if a successful baseball career is synonymous with emigration and victimisation?
Chair – How do you know what Alex knows or doesn’t about politics? This stuff isn’t all super-secret, as you yourself demonstrated to Big Oil. Maybe he’s had an interesting thought or a certain insight after interviewing some Venezuelan players. Your response is pretty inane, to be honest.
“Don’t ask questions because no one knows the answers anyways!”
??? How do you find our unless you ask? If you’re mad at my very verbalizing of the question, then get mad at yourself.
I wanna see a graph comparing Infante, Zambrano, Ramos and Sanchez and who would fetch the highest ransom from their perspective teams. Can anyone name a Venezuelan ballplayer who is worth more going forward right now than Ramos. I don’t say this to be callous only to suggest that the kidnappers kinda knew what they were doing. The Red Sox posted 50,000,000, excuse me 51,111,111.11. to negotiate with Daisuke. Ramos is under team control and looks to be at least to be a league average starting catcher going forward. BTW, if you are a Marlin stay stateside, your owner is a cheapskate.
Comment by sheath1976 — November 18, 2011 @ 9:49 am
This is entering dangerous territory for civil discussion, but I’ll contribute anyway as I believe you all are not trying to be crass (yet). I doubt, when comparing relative wealth and the cost/benefit analysis, a MLB team would ever have a greater incentive to do “whatever is necessary” to rescue a Venezuelan player than the Venezuelan government. I also think blaming SABR for any of this is intellectually dishonest.
Squelching academic inquiry? It sounded like you were airing a CIA conspiracy theory. From all the facts we know or can reasonably conceive, nothing about the CIA is relevant to the scope of my column. What did you actually mean by your question?
I was a friend of Dernell Stenson’s. He was killed on November 5, 2003. I first heard of it early in the morning when I went on internet. I found a TV clip from the local news in Arizona. He was bound, shot in the chest and head, and run over by his own SUV. I caught a glimpse of one of his clean white sneakers – which he always wore – on the street at the scene. To this day, I always ask God why he didn’t take me instead of Dernell. Close friends are like that. I broke down and cried when I first heard about the kidnapping of Wilson Ramos. I had the shakes all day. Thank God he was returned safely. Granted, he wasn’t physically hurt but what happened will stay with him and his family for the rest of their lives. I say a prayer every night for Dernell.
Comment by Eleven Ten — November 18, 2011 @ 1:19 pm
Thank you, Eleven Ten, and I’m so sorry for your loss.
Whether or not you identify with a sabermetric disposition, the great thing about baseball is that, ultimately, all of us have limited knowledge. There’s always so much more to learn. You can never reach the bottom of it.
I really think it’s more likely that the groups were connected to the Venezuelan government, given strange circumstances of the rescue – – heavy gunfire, no deaths. Police are often connected with kidnappings, and the violent crimes prosecution rate is incredibly low. I doubt Chavez ordered the kidnapping, but I think it’s certainly possible that his government had connections to them, and pressured them to end this in the most favorable way possible.
I don’t think it had anything to do with sabermetrics in this case, but I couldn’t help but think of the idea of WAR and dollars per win when questions like “how much do they think he’s worth to the Nationals?” come up.
But the degree of precision doesn’t really come into play in this case. As long as they know he’s worth money to someone, and they can get a large ransom, if they’re the kind of people who will capture humans and hold them for money, they’re going to want to do it.
Just a clarifying point – a commodity is a good whose price is determined by the market, but not by individual quality – like iron ore. One pound of iron ore is as good as another on the commodity market. But players differ wildly in quality, and sabermetrics proves it.
But it’s fair to say that win value (WAR, WARP, VORP, there are different popular measurements) IS treated as a commodity, and that players are treated as different quantities of that commodity. So it does make sense to bring up commodities for the point you’re making, just a small technical difference in the language.
I really hate to put it like this, but this is really sort of a non-story. Kidnappings in Venezuela are very common, and they are actually way more common in what we sometimes consider more advanced countries (regions in countries) like the south of Brazil. People get kidnapped all the time and it’s never reported. As one commenter alluded to, the police are sometimes involved even if tangentially, not to mention that they are corrupt enough to involve themselves if a kidnapping does get reported.
That alone does not make this a non-story, it’s more the notion that politics in Venezuela has been like this for quite a while. We’ve seen ballplayers like Magglio going out and explicitly endorsing Chavez during campaigns, others speaking out against. Fans in places like Miami with large Venezuelan populations making political statements. Politics in Venezuela has been an ongoing #OWS for over a decade. Kidnappings have been around for a while, but there seems to now be widespread suspicion that they could be partisan and not just about money. That’s sad, but it is what it is.
I would like MLB to take a stand against the political and civil society repression that’s been going on in Venezuela, and some people would agree with me, but then an equal number of people would oppose the idea, in large part because they believe incidents like this to be all about money. I’m not sure we’ve been in a place as societies (plural) where we distrust each others’ motives this much since the 30’s.