There are some things in sports you can’t quantify
Picked-up pieces while unpacking from two weeks in Fort Myers . . .
■ Information is good. Every sports team can benefit from data. But why do I feel like there are people who want to erase all scouting and experience from sports? The eighth annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was held at the Hynes Convention Center last week and drew a raft of A-listers from the world of sports. Owners, general managers, and even some ballplayers and ex-ballplayers are knee-deep in the data.
But can we just stop the madness and acknowledge that there are some things in sports that never will be quantifiable? And I’m not just talking about heart, character, makeup, leadership, and ability to play hurt and perform under pressure.
Hockey analytics? Really? Calgary hockey boss Brian Burke told the Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa, “I think it’s still an eyeballs business,’’ while explaining that he has yet to see a worthwhile numbers-based system for evaluating hockey players.
You know why he hasn’t seen it? Because it’s impossible to evaluate hockey players with data!
Must all the intangibles be sucked from our games until all that is left is spreadsheets and blinking computer screens? Sports trekkies have made significant strides and teams are better for having the information, but it’s still OK to admit that there always will be things in sports that cannot be measured. These are games played by humans. That’s why it’s fun.
■ Love the idea of Wyc Grousbeck retiring Danny Ainge’s Celtics number (44). That would mean every member of the mid-’80s starting lineup is retired. Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Dennis Johnson are already immortalized in the rafters.
This would not be a first for the Celtics. The early ’60s Celtics started Bill Russell, Tommy Heinsohn, Satch Sanders, Bob Cousy, and Sam Jones. When Cooz retired, K.C. Jones started with the other four and he, too, is in the rafters. Sixth man John Havlicek is also up there.
■ Olympics in Boston? Worst. Idea. Ever. Please, stop.
■ The Tampa Bay Rays’ theme for 2014 is “Eat Last.’’ That means you win the World Series.
■ There’s something wrong with the Red Sox “Legendary” banner that provides the great backdrop for so many spring training photos outside the big league clubhouse at JetBlue Park. There’s no image of Wade Boggs. No Roger Clemens.
Sorry, but if you’re going to have Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek alongside Tony Conigliaro, Pedro Martinez, Carl Yastrzemski, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Dwight Evans, Luis Tiant, Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, and Johnny Pesky, there has to be room for Boggs and Clemens.
■ Count me as one who is dubious about baseball’s new instant-replay system. Look for umpires to call everything “fair” on balls down the line. Given the what-ifs regarding base runners and continuous action, it’ll be easier to change fair to foul than foul to fair. Think about it. It makes your head explode.
Meanwhile, no one seems to understand the new home-plate collision rules. Another disaster waiting to happen.
■ It used to be safe to leave your hotel room television on ESPN for “SportsCenter” looping. Now the Worldwide Leader’s obsession with the NFL sends you to the Food Network or “Wahlburgers” on A&E.
■ Sports connections to the Oscars: White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn has a small role in “Dallas Buyers Club,’’ and attended the Academy Awards. Best actor Matthew McConaughey is the son of the late Jim McConaughey, who played for the Green Bay Packers. Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley grew up in the same neighborhood with Jennifer Lawrence.
■ Anybody else think it was weird that Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel wouldn’t speak to reporters when he came to Sox camp for a very public appearance with Sox players? Manziel was at JetBlue because he is represented by LRMR marketing, which has a partnership with Fenway Sports Management. So endorsements and sponsorships are OK, but interviews . . . not so much?
■ Harvard women’s basketball coach Kathy Delaney-Smith (Jackie MacMullan’s high school coach at Westwood) goes for an Ivy League-record 515th win Friday night against Yale.
■ Congratulations to WBZ radio’s Jonny Miller, covering his 43d Red Sox spring training.
■ When do the Knicks officially give up on the silly notion of building a winner around Carmelo (Overrated Ball Hog) Anthony?
■ I had forgotten that the Red Sox selected Clay Buchholz with one of the compensatory picks they acquired when Pedro Martinez signed with the Mets. And as much as we all complained when the Sox let Orlando Cabrera walk after 2004, it needs to be remembered that one of the picks acquired in the Cabrera loss resulted in Jacoby Ellsbury coming to Boston.
■ Spring Training Vignette No. 1: Arriving at a mostly empty JetBlue Park at 7:45 a.m., I was greeted by the sight of a pile of cash registers stacked like cordwood atop a forklift pallet. The only thing missing from the scene was a cardboard cutout of Larry Lucchino holding a sign reading, “Welcome to spring training.’’
■ Spring Training Vignette No. 2: Sunday morning, Feb. 23, Felix Maldonado Practice Field 3. David Ortiz takes a break from batting practice in a group that includes Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, and Grady Sizemore. Ortiz plops himself down on an aluminum bench on the third base side and fans — holding all forms of baseball memorabilia and Sharpies — gather at the chain-link fence behind him and to his immediate right.
In the big group to the right, Ortiz spots 7-year-old Haley Tracey. She is with her dad, Doug Tracey, a sixth-grade teacher in Fort Myers. Papi motions toward the little girl, telling her to come into the dugout (photo at right). She breaks through security, gets face-to-face with Big Papi, watches him sign her ball, gives him a hug, says, “Thank you,’’ and skips back to her dad.
This is why we love spring training.