When did professional sports become math class? When did a baseball game become a discourse in senior-level economics or statistics? When did sports become so nerdy? How does it make sense?
It’s the Tri-Lambda Effect. A conspiracy theory bigger than the Illuminati, shape-shifting aliens and Israeli-controlled shark spies. Yes, that last theory actually exists. Its effects have been far-reaching and equal to those brought around by the creation of the 3-point line and the “Lew Alcindor Rule,” which was designed to keep Kareem from embarrassing white boys by dunking on them.
Here are the nuts and bolts of “The Tri-Lambda Effect,” in the form of a Q & A:
What’s the Tri-Lambda Effect?
In short, it’s the Geek fraternity from “Revenge of the Nerds” defeating the Jock Alpha Beta’s in the Greek Olympics. You can only unleash a herd of pigs into somebody’s house so many times before they form a dope new wave group and kick your ass in the talent show and take over the Greek Council.
Today’s GMs are just as likely to have been bankers or economists than catchers with bad knees and sluggers with tobacco-stained teeth. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the Tri-Lambs’ Poindexter will build the next great sports dynasty and play a mean electric fiddle at championship celebrations and parades.
Gone are the days where players were measured on intangibles: mental toughness, hustle, game knowledge and play-making abilities. GMs no longer look at how well a guy can bounce back from an 0-for-4, three-strikeout performance, how hard he’ll hustle for a loose ball or how he gets along with others. Instead, players are now based solely on numbers and promoted or demoted by how they look on an Excel spreadsheet or some computer program.
Remember Bo Gentry from “Trouble with the Curve?” That’s the Tri-Lambda Effect. Sure, the kid could crush a fastball, but couldn’t come a foot within a curveball, yet the Braves selected Gentry as their first draft pick solely based on what their computers and his stats said.
Where did it come from?
I created the theory after reading an ESPN article about Bartolo Colon’s hard-hit rate. It was at that point, I knew numbers had taken over.
After coming up with the concept, I went to YouTube and watched the endings of eighties flicks where nerds were harassed by jocks and found the nerd always get his or her revenge. Think Ralph Macchio kicking the shit out of William Zabka in “The Karate Kid.”
Thus, the Tri-Lambda Effect was born.
What’s an example of the Tri-Lambda Effect at its best?
The 2004 Boston Red Sox. Hands down. The Sox had a grizzled staff with elderly hitting and ancient pitching. Somehow, though, Boston won four straight against the Yankees and never lost again.
Some credit David Ortiz and Curt Schilling for the Sox’s success, while others say it was Theo Epstein who was responsible and both would be right. Epstein, the Yoda of sabermetrics, fit the puzzle pieces together perfectly and the players took care of the rest.
P.S. The other candidate was the 2016 Chicago Cubs. Can somebody just go ahead and make Epstein the Don Corleone of sabermetrics?
In the end, the Sox won out because of emotions. I remember crying when Keith Foulke gloved Edgar Renteria’s grounder and tossed it underhanded to Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out and the title. However, I didn’t shed a tear when Anthony Rizzo caught Kris Bryant’s throw for the final out in last year’s series.
What’s an example of the Tri-Lambda Effect at its worst?
That’s easy. Baseball’s Wins Against Replacement (WAR) statistic. Here’s Baseball-Reference.com’s definition:
“We want to know how much better a player is than a player that would be typically available to replace that player.”
Huh? Do what? That definition suits a Mother Goose nursery rhyme better than it does a baseball player.
In general, WAR is used to measure a player’s contributions to his team, which is a great stat to have, but it really has no validity. For example, Bryce Harper’s WAR currently sits at two, meaning he gives his team two extra wins. However, he’s also on a team with Ryan Zimmerman and Trea Turner, who are killing it right now. Place Harper on the Kansas City Royals, though, and his WAR will skyrocket right through the ceiling.
What are some famous movies depicting the Tri-Lambda Effect?
1. “Teen Wolf,” 1985: Michael J. Fox finds out his family comes from a pedigree of werewolves. Fox uses his newfound powers to ruin the state championship dreams of Mick (Mark Arnold) and steal his girlfriend, the smoking hot Pamela (Lori Griffin).
2. “Can’t Hardly Wait,” 1998: I know this isn’t technically a sports movie, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t serve its purpose in this blog. William, the school valedictorian and constant target of Mike, the high school quarterback, takes some incriminating photos of Mike and uses them to get him fired from his job at the car wash.
3. “Better Off Dead,” 1985: Lane (John Cusack) defeats Roy (Aaron Dozier) in a downhill ski race. Lane’s ex-girlfriend, who dumped him for Roy, embraces Lane after his victory, but Lane rejects her and runs off with Monique. The movie ends with a shot of them kissing behind home plate at a Los Angeles Dodgers game.
4. “The Mighty Ducks,” 1992: Emilio Estevez gets arrested for drunk driving — come on Emilio, that’s your brother Charlie’s job —and is sentenced to community service coaching a ragtag Pee Wee hockey team. However, Estevez pulls a Herb Brooks and leads his squad to a championship over the hated Hawks after Joshua Jackson scores a game-winning penalty shot by faking out the Hawks’ goalie with a triple-deke.
What would be the Tri-Lambda Effect’s defining moments?
1. Theo Epstein’s Cubs or Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics pulling off a Yankees’ style three-peat.
2. The Cleveland Indians winning their first World Series title in nearly 70 years.
3. The Philadelphia 76ERS winning their first NBA title since 1983.
Can the Tri-Lambda Effect be applied to romance?
Of course. Haven’t you seen “Van Wilder?” Remember the members of Lambda Omega Omega using their unusually large medulla oblongata to pick up some smoking-hot, roller-skating brunettes? How about Leonard picking up Penny in “The Big Bang Theory?” Remember how happy Penny’s dad was that she had chosen Leonard over a backwards-hat wearing meathead?