Not from Major League 2. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Knowledge is Power, or is Ignorance Bliss?


There is a seminal scene in the baseball opus, Major League 2.  It’s game 7 of the ALCS.  The Indians are trying to get to their first World Series in decades.  They have a small lead, but the hated White Sox are threatening.  Jack Parkman, a former Indian who for no explained reason despises his former team, is at the plate.  As if it were scripted, Parkman launches a go-ahead home run that squashes the enthusiasm of the Cleveland home crowd.  As he arrogantly runs the bases, the scene cuts to a disillusioned Indians fan in the crowd.  This fan had long grown tired of having his team rip his still-beating heart out.  He was the only fan in the building who wasn’t surprised and therefore crushed by this turn of events.  He simply says, “see, I told you,” and then some more stuff about bringing out the tarp.

This fan couldn’t have his heart ripped out anymore.  He knew that home run was coming.  Maybe it wouldn’t be Parkman, but then again, the movie didn’t really establish any other White Sox players as viable characters.  His knowledge that the Indians would collapse in the end had empowered him to not let his former love destroy his life and happiness any longer.  The rest of the crowd was crestfallen.  They didn’t see this coming.  They gleefully cheered for their favorite team, not seeing this devastating event ready to hit them like a wrecking ball.

There is a happy ending though.  The Indians would come back to win that game, go to the World Series and then mercifully not make an actual Major League 3 (I don’t consider the 3rd Major League a true Major League 3).  All Indian fans, including the disillusioned fan who knew his heart would be torn from his chest cavity were wildly celebrating the first World Series in recent Indians history.  The beautiful streets of Cleveland were likely running rampant with happy Indian fans of all shapes and sizes!

Oh yeah, spoiler alert.

This isn’t meant to be a written transcript of a movie.  You could go watch the movie, if you really want to.  There are some boring parts, so you can get some laundry or other chores done in between the baseball scenes.  My point is that the disillusioned fan knew that history stated that the Indians would fail.  He could no longer be ignorant to his team’s devastating history.  However, the adage is that ignorance is bliss, so why gain knowledge if it is only going to hurt you?   Of course, this fan didn’t feel the pain of that home run, but what did he lose as a result?  He got to celebrate the eventual win, but he didn’t get to enjoy the ride that brought them there.

Trevor Plouffe hit 18 home runs between May 16, 2012 and July 3, 2012.  18 home runs!  18 home runs in 38 games is roughly 77 home runs in a season.  Plouffe is 26, so he could reasonably play 12 more seasons.  12 seasons at 77 home runs per is 924 career home runs.  I’m not going to add his current home run total, you know, to account for potential injuries and whatnot.

Trevor Plouffe:  Home Run King!  I won’t lie and say I didn’t just have a short vision of Trevor Plouffe, glorious hair and all, standing at a Hall of Fame podium, talking about how that month and a half launched his career into the stratosphere.  But wait, Plouffe only hit 6 home runs outside of that crazy hot streak.  Maybe I should dial back my expectations.

Trevor Plouffe: So much eye black. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Plouffe’s 924 home runs is an extreme example.  However, I did go to one of the late June games when Plouffe was in the middle of his torrid streak.  I was there with a few friends and Plouffe launched a home run over the left field wall.  We all cheered and exchanged over-the-head high fives, as is customary.  We did not go “flip-side.”  When the excitement subsided, we started to talk about Plouffe and his future.  My friends wondered where this power was coming from.  They also thought that this current hot streak pretty much lined Plouffe up for a job at 3rd base for the next several years.  Everyone assumed he was like 22 years old, because he was a rookie.

So, I got to be the bearer of bad news, when I explained that Plouffe was a 26 year old, former first round pick, who had little minor league success, much less prior major league success.  I mentioned that he really didn’t project as a power hitter in the Minors.  I also had to be the one to state that guys with no track record don’t explode like this and maintain their 924 career home run pace.  One of my friends mentioned that Albert Pujols did.

I slapped him.

No, I didn’t.  I would never do that.

I did explain that Plouffe and Pujols are nowhere near each other in terms of talent.  I mean, he was kidding anyway, so explaining this was kind of useless.  Regardless, I decided to go into some stats that seemed to indicate that Plouffe’s home run binge was at least somewhat driven by good luck and that he likely will not sustain this power pace.  By this point, my friends were pretty much bored with me, done politely listening to me and completely ready to move to different seats, far away from their friend who they just (I think) found out is a huge nerd.

One of my friends turned to me and very deftly said, “It must be super fun to watch baseball when you already know everything that is going to happen before it happens.”

I slapped him.

No, I didn’t.  I’m not a violent person.

He had a point.  Knowledge is a dual-edged sword of sorts.  I study baseball extensively; probably more than I should.  I know what statistics point toward breakouts.  I pretty much know what luck looks like, at least in the short-term.  I love prospects, so I usually know which rookies are worth getting excited about and which rookies might not be worth following.  I know for a fact that Trevor Plouffe will never hit 924 home runs.  Ok, everyone knows that.  I know for a fact that Trevor Plouffe is unlikely to play a stretch of baseball like he played this June ever again.  The odds of all his talent, luck and opportunity lining up in that way again are very low.

This is starting to read like an extended self-high-five.  It isn’t meant to be.  I can say with quite a bit of certainty that Trevor Plouffe will never enter the Hall of Fame.  This isn’t even negativity, it is just reality.  I do think Plouffe can be a productive player for the next few years.  I’d like to see him split time with a left-handed hitter, but that is a completely different column.  My friends didn’t really think Plouffe was going into the Hall of Fame either.  It isn’t extreme one way or the other.  My friends are also not ignorant, so that word is completely unfair.

Would I enjoy baseball more, if I knew less about it?  Could I take a hot streak like Plouffe’s at face value, instead of searching for reasons why it might not be sustainable, or at the very least trying to statistically prove that it is?  Was it easier for me to understand Plouffe’s decline, because I saw it coming?  Did I enjoy his home run binge less, just because I thought it was unsustainable?  Did anyone really think it was?  To be fair, he was injured, so maybe it wasn’t a decline at all.  Yeah, there we go.  Plouffe was hurt.  924 home runs, here we come!

Math!

I do love baseball, which is why I read so much about it.  I am not sure how you don’t learn more as you read more.  I guess the burden of knowledge is something I will have to learn to live with.  I’ll paint a scarlet K on my chest and see if that helps.  What actually helps is knowing that I don’t know everything.  I could have studied baseball 24/7/365 and I still wouldn’t have seen the 2012 Orioles or 2012 A’s coming.  As much as I knew of Mike Trout’s pedigree, I didn’t see his crazy 2012 season coming.  I also would have never called a 2012 Trevor Plouffe power binge.  I fully enjoyed all of those surprising developments.

Knowledge IS power.  There are many people who know more about baseball than I do.  I want to learn everything they know.  The word ignorance just sounds wrong.  I don’t feel that having less knowledge than an expert makes me ignorant.  It just means I haven’t read what they have or learned what they know, at least not yet.  I enjoy sharing what I have learned with anyone who will listen to or read what I have to say.  I won’t act like a snob because I know some stuff and I hope that everyone else shares what they know with me.  That is my goal at Puckett’s Pond and I promise not to slap anyone.

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