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Tuesday, June 26, 2007
David Ortiz's War on Umpires

Over on The Situationist--which was recently named Best Social Psychology Blog--Jon Hanson and I have a piece entitled "What's Eating David Ortiz?" that you may find interesting.

Our piece offers a psychological explanation for why Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz--described by some as the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history--has become so acrimonious in his relationship with umpires this season, a season in which Ortiz has played well, but has lacked the flair for the dramatic that has signified his Red Sox career.

We contend that his frequent questioning of calls relates to a particular set motivated attributions that leads him to explain his less heroic performance in a way that doesn't compromise the hero disposition that he’s been enjoying but still explains his cooling bat (even though, in truth, his cooling bat better reflects the statistical flukiness and fortuitous circumstances of his past clutch hitting).

We hope you check out our piece on Ortiz. You might also like our post, "The Magic of Jonathan Papelbon's Knuckle-Knock."


Ortiz just needs to loosen up.

Anonymous Giant Sports Blog -- 6/26/2007 5:19 PM  


First of all, GREAT piece on The Situationist, I really enjoyed it.

but I wonder some of us dont just overanalyze the world of sports from time to time. I think there is such a thing as a hot hand or a hot bat. But it all comes down to the nerves as far as I'm concerned. When an athlete is in the zone, he or she relaxes, and the game just kind of flows. Without the worries or the preassures of breaking a cold streak, it is a lot easier to sink that next ball or hit a good pitch.

And another factor is exactly what Papi is complaining about, umpire error, or human error if you will.
A player that gets a reputation as a crybaby and constantly nags at the umps or refs will get more adverse calls, its just part of how things work. Lawyers that argue with judges and clerks arent likely to get more favorable rulings when a decision is within the discretion of the court, same thing in sports. Whether its intentional or unintentional on the part of the umps...I'll leave that for everyone to decide for themselves.

Blogger Jimmy H -- 6/27/2007 1:29 AM  

Thanks for these comments.

Giant Sports Blog,

I agree, players typically perform better if they are relaxed and "in the zone." There is some interesting literature out there by sports psychologists on how players' performance usually suffers when those players are under stress, as stress distracts and interferes with how the mind operates. More generally, the role of anxiety in depressing performance is well-documented in literature on stereotype threat and exam performance (see, for example, writings by Claude Steele of Stanford and Joshua Aronson of NYU).

Jimmy H,

Thanks for your kind words. I agree with your comment about players performing best when relaxed. That point reminds me of a piece we recently had on The Situationist regarding how baseball players rely on their unconsciousness (which was based on some fascinating research by Timothy Wilson of UVA):

I also really like your analogy between players who often complain to umpires and lawyers who often complain to judges, and how neither groups benefit by doing so. That's a great analogy and, from what I have seen, very true.

In terms of whether players really get, figuratively-speaking, "hot" at the plate, most empirical studies suggest they don't, despite the apparent evidence to the contrary. The most cited study is one by Amos Tversky et al. on NBA players, and it suggested that “streaks” occur no more than is predicted by chance and that the proportion of shots any single player makes is unrelated to how many shots that player had either hit or missed prior to that.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 6/27/2007 10:53 AM  

The problem is that Ortiz, is not having a good season so far. Yes he is under alot of stress. Boston, is just like the Yankees, if a player such as Ortiz. Which A-Rod, was been through this many times in New York. Only difference is that A-Rod can take the heat.

Blogger Lummpy -- 6/28/2007 2:36 AM  

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