The late Harvard scientist Stephen Jay Gould called science and religion a "non-overlapping magisteria." Meaning, each has its own set of criteria to explain the universe, but that neither overlap into one another: Science is based on testable hypotheses, while religion is based on faith.

In science, skepticism is a necessity, whereas in religion, belief without evidence is a virtue. Science believes that nature is ordered and can be mathematically measured, but religion is either you believe or you don't believe. And if you don't, you'll most likely go to hell.

Baseball is similar.

Numbers mean a lot to baseball fans, and, they say, numbers are the true determination of whether a player is great, pretty good, or so-so. For example, the baseball mathematicians point to the hypothesis of Rodriguez vs Burrell. In other words, great numbers vs pretty good numbers. It's measurable, they say. Just open up  the statistical websites and see for yourself.

On the religious side of the fence, they counter that the handsome Burrell is way overpaid, strikes out too much, and is a  defensive liability. And if you don't believe that, then you CAN go to hell.

In baseball, however, and no disrespect intended toward professor Gould, the magisteria sometimes do overlap. Take the case of the J-Roll Hypothesis, or, the Multiverse Theory, sometimes known as the Meta-Laws Theory of  Explaining Hits and Errors.

Code name J-Roll, or Jimmy Rollins, certainly has the MVP numbers. Numbers, on a mega-cosmic scale, that no shortstop in baseball history has, in a single season, accumulated. Let's look at them to test our theory:

  • 716 at bats, a record--and proof that he didn't miss many games with an in-grown toenail
  • a .296 batting average
  • 212 hits
  • 139 runs scored
  • 38 doubles
  • 20 triples
  • 30 home runs
  • 41 stolen bases
  • .380 total bases
  • .531 slugging percentage usually reserved for the Thomes and Howards of the game
  • 94 RBIs--see reference above to larger, more powerful men
  • the fourth player in ML history to have 20 or more doubles, triples, homers, and stolen bases in a season
  • all the while, playing his shortstop defensively and statistically better than any shortstop in either league 
All measurable numbers that prove without a shadow of a doubt, that J-Roll is a great player.

On the other side of the fence the baseball purists say "hogwash" to the statistical analysis of one J-Roll. This man, they claim, cannot be viewed in facts and figures, RBIs and slugging percentage, but only from the heart.

This word makes the physicists uncomfortable. That can't be measured, they claim, how can one measure feelings from the heart. No, only mathematical equations and data can tell if J-Roll is truly an MVP.

But that's where you are wrong, the Love purists say. Did you notice throughout the season  when he made great play after great play at shortstop, bringing the Citizens Bank crowd to its feet? When he went deep in the hole behind second and flipped the ball back-handed  to Utley to complete the double play; did you notice the roar of the crowd?

And how about when he hit one of his 20 triples--that you analyzed in your numbers--and he rounded second, his helmet flying off, digging all the way like his very life depended on making third. The headfirst slide, beating the baseball by inches. And the crowd going bananas all the while. Did you put that into your slide ruler?

Don't tell me about your statistics, say the purists. Game after game during the season our J-Roll either set the table, or cleared it, either drove in the run, or scored it...with the type of hitting reserved for a player who is loved. He has been a Phillie from day one, while most players have been jumping from team to team like frogs leaping on a blistering hot pavement.

In numbers or in the heart, he's just one damn good ball player.


Thanks Ron, this is a great article. I've seen a lot of whining articles in Denver about how Holliday should've gotten more votes, and it's starting to tick me off. I've been playing baseball my whole life, and we as players know that the intangibles (such as leadership, defense, and not missing any games) are what makes a real MVP. In the East the voters know this... hey it's where baseball was invented. I'm worried that the Western voters and fans haven't learned to look past the stats and really understand the complexity of the game.

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