Monday, 5 May 2008


Permit me one more post on the dispute about sending runners when there are two outs and a full count. Let “The Rule” refer to the rule that you should (i.e., that there is reason to) send the runners in that situation. We now know that there are at least two possible rationales (grounds, bases) for The Rule. The first is to increase the likelihood of scoring runs. Call this “Rationale 1.” The second is to increase the likelihood of getting the batter on base. Call this “Rationale 2.” Let us say that if either Rationale 1 or Rationale 2 applies in a given situation, then The Rule applies in that situation. Finally, let “Situation S” refer to the situation that gave rise to the controversy, namely, the Texas Rangers at bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, trailing the Kansas City Royals, 9-5, with runners on first and second bases, two outs, and a full count on the batter. Here is my reconstruction of Hawk’s reasoning this past Tuesday:

1. Rationale 1 applies in Situation S.
2. If either Rationale 1 or Rationale 2 applies in a given situation, then The Rule applies in that situation.
3. The Rule applies in Situation S (i.e., there is reason to send the runners).

The reason I think this is Hawk’s argument is that he kept repeating 3, and when I asked for his reasoning, he mentioned that a ball could be driven into a gap between outfielders, scoring both runners. Hawk’s reasoning is valid and his second premise is true, but his first premise is false. His reasoning, therefore, is unsound. He had a true belief that The Rule applied in Situation S, but his belief had no basis. Hence, we wouldn’t say that he knew that The Rule applied in Situation S. He was just lucky.

Here is my reasoning:

1. Rationale 1 does not apply in Situation S.
2. If Rationale 1 does not apply in a given situation, then The Rule does not apply in that situation.
3. The Rule does not apply in Situation S (i.e., there is no reason to send the runners).

My reasoning is valid and the first premise is true, but the second premise is false. My reasoning, therefore, is unsound. What I failed to realize is that there is more than one possible rationale for The Rule. Hawk was right, but for the wrong reason. I was wrong, but for the right reason. If you had to choose between those two, which would it be and why?

Twenty Years Ago

5-5-88 There was spectacular footage of Mt Everest tonight. A team of Japanese climbers has scaled the world’s tallest mountain with a movie camera, of all things. Each night for the past week we have seen portions of their ascent on the evening news. What a desolate place! There are no trees or other foliage; the wind is ferocious; and the temperatures are well below zero [degrees Fahrenheit] at all hours of the day and night. To top it off, breathing is difficult at that high altitude. The climbers appear to be exhausted. But on they pushed, and tonight they made it. I’d love to see a feature-length documentary of their trek. Imagine: Standing atop the world’s highest mountain. Everything else on the planet is below you. Only a handful of people will ever experience that feeling.

Twenty Years Ago Yesterday

5-4-88 . . . The divisional leaders in baseball are the New York Mets, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cleveland Indians, and the Oakland Athletics. The Mets, who are widely regarded as having the best personnel in baseball, are trying to live up to expectations. St Louis [the Cardinals] has won two of the past three divisional titles. Dwight Gooden seems to have recovered from his drug problems of last year. Los Angeles has both hitting and pitching, but a suspect defense. Kirk Gibson is already paying dividends, and Pedro Guerrero is having another fine year at the plate. I expect the Dodgers to battle with San Francisco [the Giants] and Cincinnati [the Reds] before year’s end. In the American League, Cleveland is surprising everyone, even Indian fans. It’s been ages since the Indians won a pennant. But I don’t expect them to last long. Quality always prevails, and there’s too much quality in their division. Finally, Oakland is playing good ball, as everyone expected. The Athletics improved both their hitting and their pitching during the off-season. Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire are stronger and more experienced, which bodes ill for other American League teams.

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

David Brooks notes the obvious: “Globalization is real and important.” He points out that “employers now require fewer but more highly skilled workers,” but does not address the question, What happens to everyone else?

The great lie of pro-globalizationists is that losing semiskilled jobs frees Americans (and other educated people) to do more rewarding and higher-level occupations. But I have yet to encounter a pro-globalizationist who can state exactly what these jobs are.

We are not all going to be engineers, accountants or information systems specialists, and the great neglected duty that our evolving society has failed to address is that since we need fewer and more skilled workers, what happens to the average and mediocre?

The answer seems clear. The great American working-class success story was simply a pinpoint on the timeline of history. It’s over.

Steven Johnson
Redondo Beach, Calif., May 2, 2008


Of baseball he said:
“It’s designed to break your heart”
Giamatti was right

John O’Sullivan on the Politics of Immigration

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of the immigration debate but also, because the media firmly took one side in that debate, even harder to grasp its proper significance. This was a battle in which the president ignored the anxieties of most Americans about national cohesion, adopted a policy redolent of open borders and corporate multiculturalism, and led a vast establishment coalition that included both party leaderships, the media, academia, the labor unions, Corporate America, the Catholic Church, and the foundation world—and lost twice. He was defeated by a handful of brave senators and conservatives nationwide in grassroots organizations like NumbersUSA, opinion journals, talk radio, and the blogosphere. These pressure groups ignited a popular revolution against a bill that was originally expected to sail through the legislative process in a few days. And as the presidential election process has proceeded, candidates in both parties have increasingly embraced the arguments and solutions advanced by the conservative grassroots. The immigration debate was an education for our leaders and the media—they learnt that, once the issues are clearly outlined by debate, the people are open to such conservative ideas as the rule of law, the importance of borders, the distinctiveness of America, and the right of Americans to decide who should enter the country and on what terms.

(John O’Sullivan, “The Conservatism of the Future,” The New Criterion 26 [January 2008]: 28-34, at 33)

Roger Clemens

Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.

From the Mailbag

How are Wikipedia editors (and editrices) chosen? Are they paid? How much? By whom? Who has an incentive to ensure that Wikipedia is unbiased?

Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)