Tom Tango is a very smart writer about baseball and researcher of baseball stats. He is one of the most well known and prolific contributors to Sabermetrics. Many of his stats get used on Fangraphs. He is the co-author of “The Book,” a book about baseball strategy that employs authoritative language and some dodgy math. He is the co-proprietor of InsideTheBook.com, one of the better blogs on the internet.
And Tom Tango is also a surprisingly giant douche.
If you are reading this, you’re probably familiar with the internet. It’s a place where towering intellectuals roam amid abject racists; where high art co-mingles with bizarrely niche porn; where ideas and images are served up as an infinite buffet, leaving each individual to decide whether to digest them or move on, with a simple click, to the next dish. It’s a paradise of choice that has vindicated everything enlightenment liberals have been saying for centuries about free speech and the marketplace of ideas.
The Book blog has largely been a good representative for these ideals. Sports, politics, statistics, and economics are discussed at a relatively high and civil level, in the posts and in the comments. There isn’t much in the way of spamming, trolling, racial or ad hominem slandering, or irrelevancies that plague the comments sections of many blogs. While every blogger obviously has the right to control the content of his or her own website, anyone with a basic appreciation for the marketplace of ideas knows that a free-flowing exchange of conflicting arguments is the hallmark of the pursuit of truth.
Unfortunately, as we shall now see, Tom Tango is not really on board with this. When he doesn’t like the contents of someone’s ideas or when he feels the limits of his intellectual capacity are threatened, he reveals himself to be a petulant bully, an arrogant stuffed shirt, and an irrational jerk. In short, a douche.
In November, Tango wrote a mediocre post about the Jerry Sandusky case entitled “Child Rapists.” I read through the post and its 40 some odd comments, and found it to be an echo chamber of pablum. I was particularly put off by the advocacy of violence in some of the comments. I decided to write a contrarian, but sincere, comment (#45). I knew the subject matter was extremely controversial and that I would be seen as defending the indefensible, but I hoped the gently syllogistic form of my argument would provoke some thoughtful & interesting conversation. And, indeed, it did. My post sparked a few comments vehemently arguing against my position, to which I responded in comment #50.
The came Tango, with comment #51, which- after some fallacious arguments- ends:
“Wexler has simply not thought through what he’s saying. And, I hope, we don’t hear more about him justifying what he’s saying.”
Now, this in itself does not quite reach the level of utter douchebaggery. But it’s an ad hominem and an attempt to shut down the conversation because his sensibilities were offended. I said as much in comment #54, but added that I would respect his wishes not to comment further on that thread. Despite my ensuing silence, readers continued to discuss (or, rail against) my argument for another 35 comments. Some comments were thoughtful, some less so. After one comment dismissed my argument as unworthy of a charitable response, MGL (Tango’s book and blog co-author) stepped in to take up the cudgel in my defense:
“I was going to stay out of this discussion because, like religion, I don’t think that it can be discussed rationally even among otherwise intelligent, rational, and objective thinkers.
But, I don’t like when someone presents an unpopular but rational, reasonable, and cogent argument, and then gets lambasted. I don’t think Wexler deserves that…
…Wexler’s principal thesis…is absolutely true.”
This upset Tango, and he proceeded to pissily argue with MGL until the thread came to a close. The real douchocracy starts soon after when Tango wrote a post entitled “Fighting In The NHL.” The following three comments were made on the thread:
#7 Tangotiger (see all posts)2011/12/05 (Mon) @ 10:45
I should have been clearer: not only am I not accepting opinions as to why I move posts, or otherwise conduct business on my blog, I’m not going to explain it unless I choose to. This is my home, you are my guests, and I will give wide latitude. But when I decide to take action, you either take it like a man, or just leave my place. This isn’t Occupy Tango. Any reply on this editorial issue will be automatically deleted, regardless of its content.
WTF?! Dbag central. Junior high school kids recognize this kind of wanton use of authority for the patent douchicity that it is. I found the buried thread where Tango stuffed the offending comments and let rempart know where he could find his writings:
rempart- I thought you might like the courtesy of knowing where your deleted posts have been buried…
“Since Tango bothered to create a thread to move the deleted posts to, I hope he will see fit not to delete the link to it that I posted. However, given that he created the new thread instead of simply deleting the posts completely, I strongly suspect he knew there was something utterly irrational and, indeed, wrong with deleting them in the first place.
That he did so very quickly- while burying the moved posts without giving a link to the new thread- betrays the fact that he would be embarrassed if the discerning readership of this blog saw the posts he decided delete for themselves.”
“Since Tango will delete any comment on his “editorial decision,” I’ll just remark on what I’ve observed in general from other sites that have a high-level of discussion but decide to start censoring posts beyond spam:
1)They usually start doing so in response to a relatively mild problem (too many tangents, minor incivilities or ad hominems, “inappropriate” words) that would have been naturally constrained anyway by the level of conversation among other participants.
2)They create a new principle for censoring (no cursing, no harassment, no racism etc) but the admins largely end up applying that standard wantonly- usually when they either disagree with the post or dislike the poster, while ignoring other instances of the offense (including their own).
3)Posters respond angrily to having their posts censored. The admins harden their stance and respond rigidly and dogmatically and with an authoritarian streak that undercuts the free flow of ideas, for which the site was in part originally intended. Irrationality is propagated all around.4)Because of #3 and because intelligent and useful contributors no longer find such an open and welcome atmosphere & depart, the level of conversation suffers.”
Tango deleted it. I resolved not to comment on Tango’s posts anymore. By and by, MGL wrote an interesting post arguing that Mark Buehrle is not in the same class as CJ Wilson. I offered a counter-argument, and ended with a snarky comment:
#4Wexler (see all posts)2011/12/06 (Tue) @ 23:34I totally accept your main point that the mainstream community’s process for evaluating players is behind sabrists, but how’s this for a case that Buehrle & Wilson should be projected to be in the same category:Wilson’s career ERA is 3.60. Buehrle’s is 3.83. Not a huge diff if we disregard sequence (ie, Wilson’s better ERA years have come recently).CJ seemingly still has the edge, but:1)MB’s ERA is a more reliable indicator or his true talent since he’s held it over ~2500IP. CJ’s is only in 708IP, so once you regress towards the league average I’m guessing you get something like a tossup.2)MB’s ERA also came entirely as a starter. You have to adjust CJ’s ERA higher because 40% of his IP came with the advantage of being a reliever.3)You also need to adjust for quality of competition & run environment. I presume CJ has faced the easier competition by a bit because of his division schedule (M’s, A’s, Angels). And MB certainly has pitched in a higher run environment throughout his career.Does that move you at all?Wilson’s HR/FB happen to be very low over the last three years. I don’t know how the projection systems work, but does that low rate factor into the FIP that they spit out?Hopefully, Tango doesn’t my delete my post again.
#6Wexler (see all posts)2011/12/06 (Tue) @ 23:43#1-1)There are 262 pitchers with over 2400 career innings. Shouldn’t we expect to see at least one with with an FIP .4 runs below his ERA just by random chance?2)I think DCam over at Fangraphs wrote that ERA isn’t the best metric for Buehrle because he systematically allows a lot of unearned runs relative to average (he’s a low k, low bb, high gb guy).Tango- please don’t delete this post!And this:
#7Wexler (see all posts)2011/12/07 (Wed) @ 00:00MGL-Can you help me out with a general question about projection systems and pitching age curves?I presume your system and others use just the last three or four years of data, weight the recent years more heavily, and apply some kind of age adjustment (plus maybe some other fancy but fairly minor stuff). But I’ve read a post by you contending that pitchers seem to simply decline by x runs each year (or each year after 25 or whatever, but let’s disregard that for now).So then why just use the last few years and why bother weighting the more recent years? If what’s going on in the population as a whole is pitchers are declining by x runs each year, then aren’t we just seeing random fluctuations when pitchers’ ERA deviate from that? Meaning that if a guy’s ERA last season got a run better than it ever had before, we shouldn’t count it towards his true talent level more than the the previous years like we do with batters.Doesn’t it make more sense that we should take his career averages and presume that’s the best indicator of the average true talent over his career? And then presume that was his true talent level at about the midpoint of his career, and subtract x runs for each year it’s been since that midpoint?Just trying to understand how your projection methods for pitching square with your belief about pitching age curves. Sorry if this naive. Doesn’t really matter though as Tango is probably just going to delete this.
#6 Tangotiger (see all posts)2011/12/07 (Wed) @ 00:14Wexler: Your snide comments are disrespectful to me. Please don’t post here for a week.
#10Wexler (see all posts)2011/12/07 (Wed) @ 03:456/TangoMy comments were disrespectful towards towards your specific actions- ie, wantonly deleting the posts that I and others thought worthy of taking the time to compose. That was the much greater disrespect and you plainly know this to be the case. Your ensuing decisions to cover up the initial deletion of posters’ comments and subsequently delete of all my comments and questions reek of irrationality, hypocrisy, and an ugly, bitter animus that is of your own creation.You were embarrassed by your initial actions, but instead of simply saying you made a mistake in the moment you choose to dig yourself in deeper and rationalize deleting all writings at the mildest provocation.You know that it’s unbecoming, but you’ll keep doing it anyway. First you deleted peoples’ posts and said you didn’t need to offer an explanation and would not do so. But you realized that was so dogmatic as to violate your own principles, so you then created a principle that any questions about your “editorial decisions” were worthy of deletion. You then deleted a slew of comments even when they were not about your editorial decisions.Now you create a blanket ban, so you don’t have to bother with keeping your explanations and principles straight. You can just delete away because, after all, you called “no postsies.”Enjoy. But I’d suggest that an apology would be much more effective than hoping no one notices that you have acted like a jerk to other people.