Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell On Barry Bonds

I don't know what the hell I have been doing, but I missed out on Klosterman's new post until Kevin pointed it out, and I had no idea at all that Malcolm Gladwell had started his own blog, even though I faintly remember seeing something about it in his Simmons conversation. I'm so ashamed.

Make sure to check out Gladwell's blog for some sports related thoughts, including whether there is any truth to the idea that athletes over-perform in the last year of their contract, elaboration on the UConn/Duke dream team and the GM of the Knicks, as well as thoughts on Barry Bonds. Avi will be both devastated and orgiastic about Gladwell's thoughts on Bonds:
When the book first came out, and several baseball writers predicted that Bonds’ reputation was destroyed and his chances are getting in the Hall of Fame seriously damaged, I thought they were overstating things. Now I’m not so sure. “Game of Shadows” is a death sentence for Bonds. More to the point, it’s impossible to read the book and accept that Bonds has a right either to the single season home-run record or, assuming he keeps playing, the career home run mark.

So what should we do? I think we need to set the bar a little higher for record-setters. Justin Wolfers, an economist at Penn, just did a study analyzing college basketball scores, concluding that there is ample statistical evidence for point-shaving in about five percent of college games. Steven Levitt (I know, I know. I’m obsessed with him) has done the same kind of work on student test scores. Forensic economics look at large data sets and draw surprisingly sophisticated inferences about behavior and intention. I think we should loose the forensic economists on all record-setters, and require that athletes pass a statistical plausibility test in the wake of their achievements.


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