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Does age matter?
April 17, 2008 8:22 PM   Subscribe

Miguel Tejada lied about his age. It's not the first time a public figure has lied about his age. Gary Hart, Ann Coulter, Tom, the list goes on. But should we hold someone in contempt for lying and wanting to get ahead?
posted by parmanparman (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This happens quite a bit with players from Latin American countries. Adrian Beltre ended up on the lucky side of lying about his age. Because it was learned he was only 15 when he signed his initial contract, it meant that the rules changed for his current contract. Where he would've been previously locked into the remaining years of his contract at a low price (relative to his perceived value), he was able to renegotiate for a fatter contract.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:26 PM on April 17, 2008


Don't forget Traci Lords.
posted by grounded at 8:31 PM on April 17, 2008


Let's see. Lying is generally wrong. Lying purely for personal gain is clearly wrong. It seems pretty clear that we should hold them in contempt. Why is this even a question?

(Of course, if a person were pressured to lie at a young age, as Tejada claims, then that person was coerced and should not be held fully accountable. Other extunating circumstance can also apply.)
posted by oddman at 8:31 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone remember Danny Almonte, that Little Leaguer who lied about his age and ended up getting his team's records invalidated? Maybe not, because it happened right before 9/11.
posted by danb at 8:45 PM on April 17, 2008


And Jack Benny. And all of those fossils that are trying to disprove creationism.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:46 PM on April 17, 2008


I like to tell people I'm about five years older than I really am, because then they say "Wow, you look great for your age!" Nobody says that if I tell the truth.
posted by padraigin at 8:52 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let's see. Lying is generally wrong. Lying purely for personal gain is clearly wrong. It seems pretty clear that we should hold them in contempt. Why is this even a question?

Yes, damn them for thwarting our attempts at prejudice! If they don't admit that they're old/young, how are we supposed to dismiss them for it?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:56 PM on April 17, 2008


I don't lie about my age, I'm just uncertain. I mean, a lot was going on when I was born and I didn't bother to take notes. And I was just a kid, for goodness' sake.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:58 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone remember Danny Almonte, that Little Leaguer who lied about his age and ended up getting his team's records invalidated?

Oh, hells yes. There was a hilarious ad for either Fox Sports or ESPN several years ago that touched on it. A guy was trying to "return" the Montreal Expos like they were a normal product from a department store.

Guy: I'd like to return the Montreal Expos.
Employee: Do you have a receipt?
Guy: No, I lost it.
Employee: Well, you have to exchange, then.
Guy: What have you got?
Employee: Well, we've got a Bronx Little Leaguer.
(Out comes a forty-year-old in a Little League uniform roughly fourteen sizes too small.)
Guy: How old is he?
Little Leaguer (with fake Spanish accent): Once.
Employee: He's...uh...once....
posted by middleclasstool at 8:59 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not that age matters, or that it should matter. What really should matter is the fact some feel they have to lie about it. That's bowing to the absurd.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:05 PM on April 17, 2008


It doesn't matter how old you are, only how many years you've got left. And hardly anybody knows that.
posted by king walnut at 9:09 PM on April 17, 2008


Roger Clemens don't see age.
posted by Corduroy at 9:22 PM on April 17, 2008


I don't blame him for what he did. He was trying to get out of a bad situation. He's a great player and that's all that matters. Now if he comes out and says he cheated in the game, that's a different story. (i.e. steroids) It's just a number, so leave him alone.
posted by Brent Mitchell at 9:52 PM on April 17, 2008


Let's see. Lying is generally wrong. Lying purely for personal gain is clearly wrong. It seems pretty clear that we should hold them in contempt. Why is this even a question?

Yes, damn them for thwarting our attempts at prejudice! If they don't admit that they're old/young, how are we supposed to dismiss them for it?


I wonder if you feel that way had you made an investment of tens of millions of dollars in an athlete.

Tejada isn't a knowledge worker, for whom age is irrelevant. He's a baseball player, whose best years are behind him, to an even greater extent than previously believed. If he's discriminated against because of his age, it's only because the discriminators are informed enough to be discriminating.

I agree that if I was in his position as a young teen in the DR, I would have lied, too. But he had other opportunities to revise his age as a grown up, rich man. I don't know if I personally would have had the courage to admit I'd lied about my age (and thus value to a team), but I do know that doing so would be the right thing to do.
posted by YoungAmerican at 10:35 PM on April 17, 2008


there was a period of time (if memory serves, after 9/11, visa requirements became more stringent) that quite a number of latin players were found having lied about their ages. it's pretty uncommon these days--but tejada is an older player, from an era when that did happen. i don't think many people in baseball are surprised; in fact, it's possible baltimore and houston factored his possible age when signing and trading for him (respectively).
posted by moz at 10:45 PM on April 17, 2008


If he's discriminated against because of his age, it's only because the discriminators are informed enough to be discriminating.
Yes, obviously the man's performance history is irrelevant when compared to the day, month and year of his birth. Perhaps we ought to go as far as hour and minute, too. No more players with Mars in the seventh house, dammit!

Seriously, I agree with ZachsMind and Steve. It's not that he lied about his age to get into the team; it's that if he hadn't, the team wouldn't have looked at him properly in the first place, and, as clearly demonstrated, they were right to look at him.

The basic problem is, there are several orders of magnitude more applicants than there are positions on the team. Even granted a total willingness to dump the worst player on the team when a better one comes along, it's impractical to fairly assess all applicants on their genuine merits. So, as human beings tend to do, the recruiters devise some rules of thumb: height/weight, body fat levels, age, and then anyone who meets those criteria, gets to show performance.

Which is kind of dumb, IMO, when the performance criteria are what actually matter. The team should sign up a thirty-eight-year-old woman if she has the relevant speed, agility, aim, arm strength, etc. Now that is ridiculously unlikely. But between a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old, the individual specific difference so far swamps the age-based expected difference that there's absolutely zero point in even asking the question.

As with race: the genetic and ethnic heritage of players of various races does make a small difference in terms of muscle mass, reaction time, eyesight, etc. But it would be stupid to turn away a player merely because members of his race are expected not to be able to see as far, or hit the ball as hard. Assess him on his individual merits, or lose him to a team that does, or (since they're probably all that stupid) lose him to the game entirely.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:14 PM on April 17, 2008


Tejada isn't a knowledge worker, for whom age is irrelevant. He's a baseball player, whose best years are behind him, to an even greater extent than previously believed. If he's discriminated against because of his age, it's only because the discriminators are informed enough to be discriminating.

Precisely the same argument, resting on the same equally valid assumptions, can be made for knowledge workers. Aged 43? Likely to be significantly slower to learn and adapt than a 23-ish candidate with the same (relevant parts of the) resume. However, not necessarily so.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:16 PM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Posts like this remind me of how much I hate Ann Coulter.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:18 PM on April 17, 2008


Ack! Ann Coulter! You reminded me she exists! That's like Losing The Game. I've been very successful for four months three weeks five days sixteen hours twenty-three minutes and forty-two seconds with a blissful mind unaware of Ann Coulter's existence. Damn you, JimmyTheFish! Damn you and the horse you rode in on! Now I'll need to pull out the mental floss again! Dammit!
posted by ZachsMind at 11:43 PM on April 17, 2008


But should we hold someone in contempt for lying and wanting to get ahead?

If you don't, your society is not viable, and will eventually disintegrate and collapse around you.

Oh wait...
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:00 AM on April 18, 2008


But to be fair, unlike most other types of employment I do think that a team has every reason to know the real age of a player before signing a contract. Surely, whatever else you might feel about poor, misbegotten Miguel Tejada (whom I remember best for his surly temper and hyperbolic stupidity in unneeded profanity laced ranting about Derek Lowe's alleged "obscene gesture" when his team was being blown out by the Red Sox in the playoffs a few years ago- in other words, Tejada is a grade-A asshole), as a matter of contract law he lied, and the team should be able to pursue that as a contract issue. He knew what he was doing when he was lying: he was giving himself a better chance to become rich. Maybe the teams themselves are glad for it in discovering him, but since he entered the majors he had every opportunity to set the record straight, but he has never done so until now, after he's entered his declining playing years.

There are very good reasons to understand a player's age; a 23-year-old hitting .320 with high OBP/walk numbers is considerably more impressive than doing the same thing at 26. Differences in body development, emotional maturation, understanding of the game, instinct, etc, as well as the simple known "peak" years when hitters/pitchers tend to have their best performances are all important criteria when structuring a contract. During the heyday of the Oakland A's under Billy Beane, one of his trademarks was to know when to cut a player loose: if you structure the contract well, you can have a player right through his best years, then know that when it comes time to renegotiate he is just about to drop off: let some other, richer (read:Yankee) team take him off your hands for big bucks; you got him when he was at his best. Whether you like it or not, baseball players and hitters especially tend to become significantly worse after about age 30- the years 27-29 are usually their prime performance years.

When he signed his contract with Baltimore, they presumably thought they were signing a contract with a player who would turn 28 in 2004; and while his performance in his four years in Baltimore weren't bad at all, there's a big difference between "turns 28, has perhaps his best year with probably a couple more in the tank" versus "secretly turns 30, probably at the end of his peak, and should start to decline over the next few years". On the whole, his performance has been good and the teams can't complain too vociferously that they got a faulty product- but they might not have gotten the product they'd expect. He's started off strong this season, but what if he continues to decline with the steepness of a 33 year old and not a 31-year old? Would Houston have still traded for him if they knew what they knew then? If you look at his OPS+ (his OPS over the league average, a measure of "how much more valuable he is than a typical player/shortstop), you can see how his likely "peak" looked, and how if you thought he was two years younger that'd he'd probably still have another couple of good years in him. But if he has a year like last year, or worse... then he's showing signs of aging, and committed I should think actionable fraud against the Houston Astros.

I say the teams that have signed with Tejada should be able to pursue any and all legal recourse since Tejada signed that contract in bad faith and with misleading information. If he can reap the rewards of being one of the hot young shortstops when he wasn't in fact as young as people thought, he should suffer the consequences.
posted by hincandenza at 3:22 AM on April 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is also a useful read; notice in particular the graphs, and how players tend to improve until about 25, then their skills in hits-per-plate-appearance as an example stat begins to decline steadily. Of course, not every player is that way, but in general one will expect a slow but steady decline of 5-10% a year, which equates to 2-3 points in batting average. In evaluating Tejada as a young player, him being 17 versus 19 is HUGE in terms of truly evaluating his future potential. Not that any evaluation is ever bulletproof; again, no teams can really complain he's been a complete flop, but Houston may have a legitimate grip if he ends up this year playing like a 34 year old, and not a 32 year old squeaking out one or two more great years. The expected difference in a player's batting average between 32 and 34 is some 20+ points; hardly insignificant, if that's how Tejada performs this year!
posted by hincandenza at 3:31 AM on April 18, 2008


Tejada has had a rough year, his dad dies, he gets accused of steroid use, he signs with the Astros, and now he ages two years before our very eyes.

Poor guy.
posted by drezdn at 6:24 AM on April 18, 2008


This is a common occurrence with athletes...there are questions out there about Sammy Sosa, Ramon Martinez (Pedro's brother, who was a pretty good pitcher, then suddenly got old), and so on. Is it good or bad? I don't know...I guess it depends upon whether or not the teams would have paid the money regardless of their age, and my guess is they would have.
posted by Todd Lokken at 3:00 PM on April 19, 2008


There's a major elephant in the same room as that graph, hincandeza: as much as a player declines, he declines from his own peak. Assume some kind of points system is set up to objectively assess how good at baseball you are. You are assessed points on the basis of your speed, strength, aim, whatever. I don't really know what the specific abilities the game requires are, but I know it requires specific abilities.

So, Freddie Baseballer has 1500 points at age 19. Since the typical A1 league player has 1000 points under this system (ie, it was calibrated to achieve that), Freddie is a walking dream and probably the best player in the league, at 50% better than average. Freddie drinks like a fish and smokes like a steam train and cannot be induced to exercise by any means short of a shock collar, and therefore declines 10% per year across all of his perfomance metrics. It takes him five years to fall to 984 points. Since 1000 is the average big-leaguer, he probably has another year (885) or two (797) before he gets booted.

Joey Baseballer is just as good: 1500 at 19. Except he, unlike Freddie, is a clean-living, near-vegetarian, closet-gay Mormon who sublimates his intense sex drive and self-loathing into three hours a day of aerobic exercise. Joey not only does not decline, he actually gets better, until he reaches about age 30, when he starts to decline from 1600 at 2% per year. At 37 that decline hits 5%; at 42, he's up to 10%. It takes him to age 44 to be worse than 24-year-old Freddie. At 53, he's still the best player on his church team, including the 19-year-olds.

Since starting performance and decline per year varies with individuals, we can't do any more than get a rough guideline of expectations. What skeeves me about this issue--as with age discrimination among knowledge workers--is the attitude of "oh no, now we have to recalibrate our graphs about you! curse you!". As though statistics about performance were of greater importance than performance itself. This comes more than anything else from the injection of money into sport. As soon as money comes into anything, a whole bunch of people descend on it to calibrate the living fuck out of it (which is fine), and then they try very hard to force their calibrations back into reality (which is not). It's bad science, and worse philosophy.

Houston may have a legitimate grip if he ends up this year playing like a 34 year old, and not a 32 year old squeaking out one or two more great years.
He'll play like himself.

The expected difference in a player's batting average between 32 and 34 is some 20+ points; hardly insignificant, if that's how Tejada performs this year
But the expectation is not reality. If something has an 80% probability, and you bet on it, and the 20% event comes up instead, that's life. Expectations are not certainties.

Again, the problem here is that we have a player saying "at age 19, I'm this good, I'm worth X points, see" and the calibrators are saying "19-year-olds are that good, worth Y points according to our charts, therefore you are worth Y points". The fault is with the assessment model, not the individual being assessed.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:41 PM on April 19, 2008


To clarify, I do understand the point, and I do believe there is a legitimate place for averaging, chunking, expectations, sterotyping, and so forth. Assessing a baseball player, we're looking at a big pile of unknowns. Whatever is not known, insert the expectation. Once it becomes known, dispense with the expectation, insert the fact, and recalibrate the unknowns according to the new fact.

So assuming Tejeda has 1100 points (10% better than average player) and is aged 32, and 32-year-old men are expected to decline 5% over two years, he is expected to drop to 993 at age 34. Assuming he has 1100 points and is aged 34, and 34-year-old men are expected to decline 6% over two years, he is expected to drop to 971 at age 36. In the event, he might not drop at all, or he might drop 20%. Who knows?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:52 PM on April 19, 2008


(read:Yankee)
Or, well, Orioles. Like the time they threw a bunch of money at that guy Miguel Tejada. (Just a pet peeve. Yes, they spend the most, but the Yankees aren't the only team that throw money around.)

he gets accused of steroid use
I don't feel too much pity on this front; the evidence is pretty strong against him.
posted by inigo2 at 12:37 PM on April 21, 2008


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