The New York Times on Wednesday published an op-ed with the headline “Don’t Let Statistics Ruin Baseball.” Some of the baseball nuts at FiveThirtyEight staff couldn’t contain themselves after reading it. Here’s an edited transcript of our Slack conversation.cwick: This is the kind of thing that gets our attention around here. A sample of the op-ed: “Thanks to ‘Moneyball’ and stats-driven fantasy leagues, advanced statistics have changed how fans think about the game. On the whole that’s a positive trend — but not when the numbers begin to eclipse a more nuanced appreciation of baseball.” Nate, you created FiveThirtyEight for all sorts of reasons, but surely it has no more sacred duty than to respond to this piece. What’s a sabermetrician to think about this op-ed?natesilver: One litmus test for any writer: Does he know his subject? Steve Kettmann might know a lot about baseball, but he doesn’t know very much about baseball statistics. For instance, he describes how wins above replacement compares a player against “some hypothetical median player, the ‘replacement.’” Actually, it compares him against a replacement-level player, who is way worse than the median major leaguer.He doesn’t describe fielding independent pitching (FIP) correctly. Its goal is not to provide a “broader measure of a pitcher’s performance than the traditional E.R.A.” Rather, it’s to measure how effective a pitcher is independent of his defense (fielding) — as its name implies!On the other hand, he favorably cites “a previously obscure statistic: batting average against relievers.” That statistic hasn’t become much less obscure — it’s not something that we stat geeks are talking about very much. And that’s because we know it’s probably just random noise. Batting average is noisy enough, let alone when you cut the sample size by two-thirds.The point being, the better advanced statistics are all about deepening our understanding of how the game is played. If a pitcher has a 2.85 ERA, is he really good — or is it the defense behind him? That’s what FIP can tell us (although there are better ways now to account for the impact of positional defense).By contrast, when statistics were cited in, say, the 1980s or 1990s, they were mostly just trivial crap. “Claudell Washington is 6-for-25 on cloudy days against left-handed relief pitchers with runners in scoring position.” Shit like that. Totally useless and distracting. And there were dozens of them on every broadcast.carl: Nate’s response shows how these debates are always about which numbers people arbitrarily approve and which ones they don’t. You can’t have baseball without numbers. How would you count strikes, outs, runs and wins?cwick: Right, there have always been stats in the game because the game is such a structured one. Baseball happens in discrete steps. There’s an action and there’s an outcome. Pitcher throws, it’s either a ball, a strike, a foul, a hit, or an out. (Or some other possibility I’ve overlooked.) That creates stats that are robust and complete. Stats can’t help but bubble up and out of those.benm: As I understand it, he is all for statistical advancement of baseball to enhance understanding of the game and quality of competition and other more utility-based purposes, he just objects to the obsession with statistics from an aesthetic perspective. He compares it to listening to a symphony: There’s nothing wrong with understanding how the tuba works or how many clarinets you need, but when you’re there in the audience, you should just let the music wash over you and appreciate it.I find watching baseball tedious in part because I feel like nothing I’m seeing in front of me matters — and I can trace this back to when I was young and learned the factoid that the difference between a good hitter and a bad hitter was “one hit a week.” So if I had a more robust appreciation of the non-statistical aesthetic quality of baseball, it might make it easier to enjoy a game.But the other way it cuts is that, without statistics, I probably wouldn’t be interested in baseball at all. Like many people, my fandom started out with baseball cards. Fast-forward 30 years, and while I’m not as nutty about the game as some of my colleagues, I still take time to follow the fascinating statistical developments in the league, and can appreciate Mike Trout or Billy Beane’s greatness in a way that has something of an aesthetic aspect for me.carl: Like with so many of these pieces, the headline and opening are more radical than the author seems to really be. For example, this is pretty hard to argue with, unless you’re a straw man: “There is a risk that numbers become an end in themselves, and arcane stats proliferate. A good rule of thumb is that the more a stat relies on abstraction, the less likely it’s going to be consistently useful to a wide audience.”rarthur: I agree with @carl. These pieces always boil down to, “This is the exact, right, perfect amount of numeric detail that should be permitted in the game.” And it’s never clear why we should have stopped at batting average/RBIs/saves, as opposed to moving on to more accurate and more descriptive statistics.carl: The related point is that the stats that seem “traditional” (to use his word) just have to do with familiarity, not how arcane they are. The definitions of saves — which itself seemed radical to some when it was introduced — RBIs and pitcher wins are arcane and arbitrary.cwick: @carl, I hear you, but I think there are some passages in here that are pernicious in their misinterpretation of sabermetrics. “When it comes to watching a matchup of, say, the Mets pitcher Matt Harvey and Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, statistical analysis is about as helpful in deepening an appreciation of the human drama unfolding before us as it would be for a Pavarotti aria.” PITCHf/x data and Stanton’s BABIP have a ton to tell us about that matchupcarl: @cwick, that’s only pernicious if we assume that statistical analysis can’t help us appreciate an aria. The jury is out on that. Where’s opera’s Bill James?cwick: @carl that’s a story for you!ollie: You’ve all nailed the statistical points. I’d like to mention something else. Kettmann seems very concerned with our attention spans. Let’s take his analogy of music, and going to the symphony to hear Mahler’s Ninth. I need to pay attention. To clear my mind. How would I enjoy it otherwise? But if I knew that disease plagued Mahler’s mother and 13 siblings, or that he had an abusive father, or that he was obsessed with death, and that the last line of that symphony’s score reads “ersterbend” — German for “dying away” — I’m going to appreciate the piece of music more, not less. This echoes how I feel watching Anthony Rizzo bat knowing that he had an OPS+ of 163 against lefties last year, or whatever. Statistics are a complement, not a substitute.rarthur: Right, @ollie. Above and beyond that, I would never presume to tell a music theorist that it was incorrect to be thinking about notes and scales while listening to an aria. You can enjoy it the way you want to. If you prefer not to know the statistical underpinnings of baseball, no one is forcing you to learn them.natesilver: @rarthur: Actually the music theorists are pretty damned interesting when you corner them at a party!carl: @ollie and @rarthur — totally agree. His implication is that quantitative context is less valuable — less artistic, less charming — than qualitative context. That’s personal taste.cwick: Well, Kettmann’s point is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to pay attention to the stats, @rarthur. Which I sympathize with — I’m the words guy at a numbers site! But his argument comes across as a Luddite’s. “The art of hitting a baseball starts with emptying the mind. As Jonathan Fader, a psychologist who works with Mets players, told me: ‘Essentially, what we’re trying to do in sports psychology is helping people to not think.’ Fans and writers need to adopt a similar attitude.”natesilver: Some of this is just plain old anti-intellectualism. Us nerds want to understand how the world works. Statistics are one way to do that, but not the only one. @carl, you’ll remember when we were at the US Open last year and I was constantly peppering you with tennis questions. Some of them were stats-y questions and some weren’t. I just wanted to learn more about tennis. I’m curious about the world, both as a “fan” and as a journalist.carl: Yeah, @natesilver, I think we nerds are fine with people who don’t want to understand the sport or opera or whatever they’re watching. They should be fine with those who do. We can all sit side by side and enjoy the game. Except for those terrible tweeting/texting/Googling press-box reporters.ollie: Or the guy on his phone at the symphony, @carl.carl: @ollie probably checking operareference.com.carl: Which is available. We should buy it before Sean Forman does.cwick: opera-reference.com, obvs. (God, that might be the nerdiest joke I’ve ever made.)carl: Also available.benm: I know that a musician may appreciate Bach in a way that I can’t. But I think the visceral experience is still very immediate for them, so I don’t think that would be inconsistent with Kettman’s argument. I presume that in his ideal world, we all understand these stats but don’t let them be the main thing we appreciate when watching. They should be more like butter or MSG than like steak or fish.natesilver: @carl: I’m totally fine with the dude who just goes to the game with his friends and drinks about 5 beers and cheers when the home team hits a home run. Sometimes that’s me! I’m NOT fine with journalists who are incurious about the world, however.david: I think Ben hit on something important. This argument — and I can understand both sides — reflects opposing approaches to life. Some people appreciate these events — whether Mahler, Springsteen, or baseball — at the purely sensual, aesthetic level, and don’t see any need for their cerebral cortex to interfere in that appreciation. Others need to find deeper patterns and hidden movement in everything they see, and those patterns are usually there to be found. Each approach is legitimate, but the two sides will never really understand each other.rarthur: I would challenge the idea that the two sides can’t understand each other. At its best, baseball (or perhaps sports more generally) bridges the gap and allows you to experience both a statistics-driven and purely aesthetic enjoyment. In the World Series Game 7 last year, as Madison Bumgarner pitched inning after inning, I was simultaneously trying to calculate whether it was a good idea to bring him back out and also just enjoying how awesome, how calm, how controlled he was. And I was thinking about him pitching up in the zone, and about how Sal Perez was tired and injured, and everything all at once.natesilver: On one level, I agree with Kettmann about the aesthetics of actually going to a sporting event. Some of the scoreboards — like the new Jumbotron at Wrigley — are overkill. They rarely abide by good principles of information design, which usually means clean, somewhat minimalist presentations that fit naturally into their environments.carl: My ideal world would not be one in which I or Kettman or anyone else decides how we should appreciate baseball, music or anything else. I think in our current, suboptimal world, there are plenty of ways for him and for like-minded fans to avoid the statistical distractions he dislikes — apparently, according to @natesilver, by avoiding Wrigley.natesilver: @carl: It’s really about distractions in general, and not statistical distractions. I like going to soccer games because it’s a very clean experience. At the World Cup at Maracanã in Rio, there weren’t a lot of statistics. But there also weren’t a lot of distracting PA announcements, or cheap gimmicks, or anything else.So give me a clean experience at the ballpark — I really don’t need to see Bumgarner’s FIP on the center field scoreboard. But also give me a fast Wi-Fi connection in case I’m in “curious nerd” mode and have something I want to look up.cwick: @natesilver’s prescription for baseball’s future: Wi-Fi in stadiums We reached out to Steve Kettmann for a response to our conversation. It’s below:Thanks for seeking me out and asking me to offer a response. I see far more common ground between the view I articulated in the piece and your arguments than I might have expected. For example, I loved the discussion of how knowing more about Mahler only adds to the experience of listening to the music — but I’d point out that usually you read the program (and the biography) before the lights go down and the music starts. My piece does not argue against having statistical analysis in mind during the watching of a game; it argues against not even bothering to watch the game, because the action on the field is considered irrelevant. Benm states directly he finds “watching baseball tedious in part because I feel like nothing I’m seeing in front of me matters.” Wow! We can all enjoy baseball, even with differing perspectives on how best to understand it, but anyone who says they find watching events on the field to be “tedious” to me does not really love baseball, they love the playground of numbers the game provides. Are the players just numbers to you? That’s seriously what you’d like people to believe? I don’t buy it. My reference to Jonathan Fader and the mental side of baseball is characterized as anti-intellectual, because I talk about the importance of “not thinking.” It does not bother me if the esteemed crew responding to my op-ed has other areas of interest than the question of how baseball players do what they do, but in fact the mental side of performance is the big uncovered story in baseball and in sports. More and more teams, in all sports, are hiring mental-strength coaches and counselors. Ignore all of this, if you like, but others might find it thought-provoking.Nate Silver accuses me of being “incurious about the world” for daring to question how much is too much. I was an Oakland A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle from 1994 to 1998 and had a front-row seat to watch the unfolding relationship between the young Billy Beane and his mentor, Sandy Alderson, who introduced Beane to Bill James and Eric Walker and advanced statistical analysis. I’ve spent four years researching that period for my book “Baseball Maverick,” published this week by Grove Atlantic.My argument in the Times is in part based on a distillation of what Alderson himself would say. Alderson believes that the human side matters; that you learn from close study of advanced statistics, but you also tune into human elements. Talking today with Jonah Keri for his podcast, Alderson observed “most analysts believe the intangibles are subsumed in the numbers. But I’m not sure that’s the case.”Look, we’re all media savvy here and understand writers write articles, editors write headlines. I think, as I observed, that the application of advanced statistical analysis to baseball is a boon to the game, and is providing tremendous energy that is shaping the way the game is played — and the way the game is understood. Where I part ways with some of you is simply in whether it’s worth watching the games themselves: I was lucky enough to spend a summer at the New Yorker working with the great Roger Angell, and I will always be a fan of his close observation of the details of a baseball game. I’m saying: Can’t we have it all? Love stats, but don’t forget also to love the quirky little details of a baseball game as it develops in real time. Editor’s Note: For the record, all of us (except maybe benm) enjoy watching baseball. Bonus Podcast: Nate Silver Talks with Steve KettmannAudio Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/natesilver_stevekettmann.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.This conversation will also air in this week’s episode of “Hot Takedown” — FiveThirtyEight’s new sports podcast.
Carmelo Anthony announced that he’s going to test free agency after this season. Now, Knicks coach Mike Woodson has some words for him.“If he’s going to test it, he’s got to test it. That’s on him,” Woodson said Thursday. “But at this point, he’s got to worry about this season and this season only, because that’s what’s staring him in the face.”Anthony has mentioned to the media that he will opt out of his last season of his contract with the Knicks and try out free agency next summer.“It’s definitely an opportunity that I’m willing to explore and experience,” Anthony said Thursday. “That not whatsoever means that I’m not coming back to New York or I don’t want to be here in New York. So I don’t want nobody to get that impression.”While Woodson doesn’t like Melo talking about free agency at this time, he doesn’t expect the situation to present a distraction for Anthony.“It shouldn’t weigh on him,” Woodson said. “Melo’s going to be fine. He’s put himself in a great position.“We’re expecting big things from Melo. It’s been that way since I’ve been here, and it’s not going to change. He’s a major centerpiece of what we’ve done here the last few years. That’s important. [His performance] weighs heavily on this season.”Anthony has two years left on his contract but can opt out of his last season, which is worth $23.3 million.
It seemed easy enough to count out the Washington Mystics at different junctures during the WNBA playoffs.Elena Delle Donne’s knee injury looked flat-out brutal — and potentially season-ending — when it happened in Game 2 of the semifinals last week. Things appeared bleak when the Mystics were pushed to the brink of elimination after a Game 3 loss in which Delle Donne sat out to rest the bone bruise. And with the Atlanta Dream hosting the decisive Game 5 on Tuesday, and Delle Donne hobbled but playing, Washington still didn’t seem to be in the driver’s seat.Nonetheless, here the Mystics are, in their first WNBA Finals, a stage on which they’ll again be underdogs — this time against a skilled Seattle club that had the league’s best record. Yet despite what figures to be an uphill battle for Washington, the Mystics have something of a blueprint to work off of in hopes of winning the title when the finals begin Friday night. Above all else, they’ll need to grind the games to a halt as best they can to maximize their chances.Yes, some of that slowdown would be aimed at helping out former league MVP Delle Donne, who worked tirelessly to make it back from the knee injury last round. But the Mystics’ offense thrives while playing at one of the slowest paces in the WNBA — a contrast from Seattle, which likes to push the tempo when possible.Washington takes more possessions into the last four seconds of the shot clock than any team, and it’s found success that way. In fact, according to data from Synergy Sports Technology, the Mystics lead the WNBA in efficiency when the clock is down to its last four seconds — not only in terms of points per possession but also in score-frequency rate and free-throw rate.1There is some risk involved in taking possessions that deep into the clock — particularly for Washington, which had the league’s most efficient offense after a defensive rebound, according to Inpredictable. But the numbers paint a compelling picture that the team would be best served by not engaging in a track meet, which is probably what Seattle wants. That could come in handy given that the team’s already-slow attack has been even more tortoise-like since Delle Donne returned. (While her presence is huge for this offense, her scoring is down in the two games since her injury — 14.5 points per game, off from the 21 she averaged in the regular season. Delle Donne also averaged 30 points per game against Seattle during the regular season.)The Mystics and Storm have faced off three times this year. Seattle took the first two, while Washington won the August game, which featured the slowest pace of the three, at just 73 possessions per 40 minutes. For context, Seattle’s offense — arguably the best in the NBA — usually is far faster than that (it averaged 83 possessions per 40 minutes during the regular season). Also noteworthy: The Mystics grabbed an eye-popping 35 percent of their own misses that night — up from a season average of 26 percent — giving them ample second chances and allowing them to win the time-of-possession battle with the Storm, who would prefer to get up and down. Given all this, taking care of the ball and limiting the number of possessions against the perceived on-paper favorite — which will host the first two games of the series at KeyArena — would be ideal for the Mystics.Still, there are a couple of unusual factors that could make the matchup tougher to call one way or the other. For starters, there wasn’t a whole lot of playoff experience on either of these teams entering this postseason — let alone WNBA Finals experience. So there could be some initial jitters. The Mystics, who played their entire regular season home slate at Capital One Arena in D.C., had to host their semifinal round home games at George Washington University because of renovations at their normal home, and now scheduling conflicts will push them to George Mason University — which is in Virginia — for the WNBA Finals.If there’s a safe bet to be made in these finals, though, it’s that the 3-point shooting will be plentiful. Nine of the league’s top 25 3-point shooters this season, in terms of accuracy, are represented by these two teams alone.2Minimum of 25 threes made to qualify.Another: To have a chance of winning the series, Washington must find a way to at least contain 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart. She scored 25 points in each of the Storm’s first two games against the Mystics this season, but she was held to just 10 — tied for her second-lowest total of the season — during Seattle’s loss in D.C. last month. The 24-year-old, who ranked in the 99th percentile of offensive efficiency this season, according to Synergy, is almost unstoppable. But the Mystics found some success in double-teaming Stewart in the post, a scenario in which the Storm scored only a third of the time — and committed a turnover 17 percent of the time.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/StewartDouble2.mp400:0000:0000:13Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/StewartDouble.mp400:0000:0000:07Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.With Delle Donne at less than 100 percent, Kristi Toliver (who scored 38 points combined in the first two games against Seattle) and Ariel Atkins (who averaged 16 points against Seattle this season while shooting 47 percent) will likely need to shoulder more of the offensive burden against the Storm. Meanwhile, Sue Bird — who’s won two WNBA titles already with Seattle, the most recent in 2010 — will almost certainly stretch Washington’s defense after her late, ice-in-veins showing in Tuesday’s Game 5, marking Diana Taurasi’s first loss in a winner-take-all game.With all the spacing on the court in these finals, both teams could find it difficult to truly settle in on the defensive end. And against an uptempo team like Seattle, that wants to push the other way in transition, Washington taking every possession to the end of the clock could throw the Storm even more out of rhythm. It could be Washington’s best bet here, as the Mystics and Delle Donne vie to overcome their last, and most daunting, hurdle.
Again, you can see that QBs who are consistent contributors are concentrated very early in the draft – so much that, by the time you get 30-40 picks into the draft, a QB’s expected contribution drops below Brock Osweiler/Cody Kessler levels.It’s amazing to me that Osweiler has spent three years on the bench, played reasonably well for half a season, and played badly enough in his only year as a full-time starter that his team gave away draft picks to avoid paying him – and yet, for all that, he has had above-average production for a second-round draft pick. That’s why you don’t reach down for QBs in the draft.The three quarterbacks taken high in the draft may yet prove to be as good as their draft positions suggest. Projections are often wrong, and NFL teams presumably know how to evaluate talent. You’d think as much, anyway. But reaching down in the first round hasn’t worked out very well of late. ESPN’s scouting gave Trubisky, Watson and Patrick Mahomes grades of 89, 88 and 85, respectively. Since 2009, six quarterbacks with grades lower than 90 have been selected in the first round, and a quick “where are they now” isn’t pretty: Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Brandon Weeden, Tim Tebow and Teddy Bridgewater did not play in 2016 (whether on account of poor play or injury), while E.J. Manuel had 131 yards passing (for the season) as a backup in Buffalo.And again, the Browns already have two players on their roster who have performed like late-first-round QBs!Of course, it’s always a gamble – and I have nothing against gambling – but part of being a good gambler is understanding the odds you’re getting. If the Browns thought none of these prospects was worth betting the franchise on (putting them in agreement with projections), their first-round choices were prudent. That chart may look like taking a QB at the top of the draft is even more imperative. But the key point is that, after the blue-chippers, things get dicey. So when you’re sitting in a blue-chip draft position (as the Browns were), and you don’t see any blue-chip QBs, taking the next-best thing doesn’t get you a rough approximation of a blue-chip QB. It gets you something substantially different.OK, that’s just a snapshot of where things stood last season using a crude (though dramatic) metric. Ultimately, a QB doesn’t contribute just by playing games, he contributes by playing well in them. (Though one, of course, can certainly follow from the other.) While I generally still think QB value is a mystery, there are some metrics – such as ESPN’s QBR – that at least try to divide credit between a QB and his team.Using the QBR breakdown, we can estimate how many points each QB has contributed to his team’s scoring. Here’s the average QBR points above replacement contributed by QBs depending on where they were drafted, from 2006 to 2016: The Cleveland Browns entered the 2017 NFL draft with a haul of draft picks and a dire need for a quarterback. Yet, despite rumors swirling for days that the Browns might use their No. 1 overall pick to take North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (ESPN’s 27th-ranked prospect), they were conservative and selected the draft’s top prospect, Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. By the end of the round, the Browns still didn’t have a QB, having passed up the chance to take Deshaun Watson in the 12th spot, as well.So how could the Browns, pick-rich and desperate, fail to pick up one of the top QBs available in the draft? This has been cause for some criticism. For example, here’s ESPN’s Kevin Seifert:But failing to use any of [their draft picks] on a high(er)-end quarterback will doom them in the short- and mid-term. Unless you think the Browns can grow with 2016 third-rounder Cody Kessler or — gasp — recent acquisition Brock Osweiler, it’s difficult to see how they can move forward while continuing to slow-play the position.I see this type of argument made a lot: A team that needs a QB needs to take a QB. But it isn’t quite that simple. Quarterbacks are almost always high-risk prospects, and investing in a bad quarterback can kill a franchise just as easily as not having one.It’s a bit of a cliche, but there is only a small group of people walking this earth who are capable of playing quarterback for the NFL. And most QBs taken in the draft aren’t among them. QBs have long careers, and (by definition) there are only 16 at any time that are better than average starters.Most are not Tom Brady. Brady, a sixth-round choice in 2000, almost single-handedly gives late-round picks everywhere hope. But most successful quarterbacks entered the league as top prospects. For example, of the 37 QBs who started at least five games last season, nine were former No. 1 overall draft picks (of 12 drafted in the Brady era1Brady was the only starting quarterback last year who was drafted before 2001.). Another eight came from picks 2-10 in the draft (of 14 taken in the Brady era), and four came from later in the first round (of 19).2Two were undrafted, though the pool of undrafted would-be NFL QBs is impossible to measure.Of the 211 QBs drafted in the Brady era, what share from each round were in starting roles last year?
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s lawyer would not disclose who is paying the quarterback’s legal bills, but he did tell The Lantern on Thursday that he does not anticipate any further sanctions for his client regarding the cars he has driven during his time at OSU. Larry James, a Columbus attorney who represents Pryor, explained the quarterback’s vehicle history and said his client did not commit any infractions. “In order to have infractions, he would have to receive something of a benefit that other students or the public would not normally receive,” James said. James said Pryor’s mother, Thomasina Pryor, purchased a Hyundai Sonata in 2008 for her son, then a high school senior in Jeanette, Pa. James said the car died sometime during the first year and a half, and was traded in for a Dodge Charger, for which Thomasina also paid. When the Charger began having problems, Pryor traded it in for about $7,800, and purchased a Nissan 350Z for about $11,000 after the trade-in. “The monthly payments are $289 a month,” James said. “That is about a nickel difference between the Charger and the 350Z.” Pryor drove three or four loaner cars during the times the Charger was being serviced, James said. “The idea of getting a loaner when your car is being serviced is pretty standard,” he said. James would not identify who is paying for his client’s legal bills. “I can’t tell you and wouldn’t tell you, and it’s inappropriate to tell you,” James said. “The public does not get to know that.” James said Pryor had his license reinstated since receiving a ticket for running a stop sign Feb. 17. “He has his license as we speak,” James said. “He went down today to show proof of insurance.” James said he doesn’t understand the current media scrutiny. “Particularly for a young student-athlete, I think it’s been awful,” James said. “If you look at allegations about the cars, they have been anything but factual. It has been punitive and I don’t get that.”
Police were alerted to the death of an eminent professor after she told her internet company she planned to kill herself at 7pm that evening, an inquest heard. Professor Avril Henry, 82, had made it clear she did not want to carry on living and instead wished to visit the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, which allows voluntary euthanasia, but was too ill to go, it was said. Her body was discovered by police and friends in her detached cottage in Brampford Speke near Exeter just after 6.40pm on April 20th this year. The property had been raided by police just days earlier after officers got a tip she had drugs that may be used in a suicide. The inquest heard on the day of her death Prof Henry, who had been a professor of English Medieval Culture at the University of Exeter, had phoned her internet provider, Zen Internet, to ask for her account to be continued after her death.She also informed the company she planned to kill herself at 7pm. She had previously told a number of professionals – including her GP, cleaner and solicitor – that she wanted to die and was in contact with Dr Philip Nitschke, an outspoken euthanasia campaigner.At the time of her death, Prof Henry, who was not married and had no children, was suffering from a number of debilitating conditions, including arthritis, spinal degeneration, incontinence, vertigo, deafness and sleep apnoea. She was also a member of Exit International, which advocates the legalisation of euthanasia. In a letter headed ‘Suicide Note’, which was left near her body, the academic said she had been planning her death for a year and added: “I am alone. The decision is wholly mine.” It also contained details regarding what should be done with her body and assets, asking for her bath, where she was found, to be cleaned and her body to be buried in an orchard. John Tomalin, assistant coroner for Exeter and Greater Devon, on Thursday reached a conclusion of suicide and described Prof Henry as “a bright, intelligent” lady.”Prof Henry seemed as if she was a lady who certainly knew her own mind,” he said. “She was a bright intelligent person, a retired professor. In later life she had suffered with a number of painful, debilitating conditions for which unfortunately there was no cure.”He added: “She made no secret of her intentions and was assessed by her GP and psychiatrist on more than one occasion.”The medical profession all concluded that she wasn’t depressed, she had full mental capacity to make decisions about when and how she would end her life.”The evidence to me is quite clear. Prof Henry set about a course of action that was intended to end her life at a method, a time and place that she decided herself.” She was in contact with Dr Philip Nitschke, an outspoken euthanasia campaignerCredit:Exit International / SWNS.com I am alone. The decision is wholly mineProfessor Avril Henry Prof Henry’s GP Stephen Vercoe told the inquest his patient was intolerant to many medications, meaning it was difficult to prescribe effective pain relief.In November 2013, she told Dr Vercoe: “Life is not really worth living any more but I am not depressed.”She continued to express her intention to end her own life, telling doctors in July last year that she wished to end her life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.On April 15 this year, police forced entry to Prof Henry’s home after receiving a tip she had drugs that may be used in suicide. A quantity of drugs were seized but not her entire supply.William Michelmore, her solicitor, said she “was very upset by the infringement on her personal space”. He added that Prof Henry had poor mobility, which was why she could not travel.Dr Nitschke said at the time of Prof Henry’s death that she had written a letter to him detailing her anxiety that there would be further police raids and that she might lose her remaining drug.A post-mortem examination found Prof Henry’s death was caused by the drugs she had taken. Prof Henry set about a course of action that was intended to end her life at a method, a time and place that she decided herselfJohn Tomalin Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
“With this photo I don’t mean to offend or upset anyone. Perhaps by seeing this photo people will be made aware of the darkness that is childhood cancer, and perhaps the same people will be able to do something in the future so that no child has to suffer this pain, and so that no parent has to bear witness to their own flesh and blood deteriorating daily.”Jessica was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma on September 23, 2015. Initially, after suffering pains in her arms and shoulders, doctors diagnosed Jessica with a bone infection. But just as she was about to be discharged, after ten weeks in hospital, doctors decided to examine her one more time. Harry Styles said he will record a message for JessicaCredit:AP Jessica Whelan in a police carCredit:Andy Whelan/Facebook Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. “Jessica had been crying out in pain during the night,” Mr Whelan said. “One of the nurses told the doctor so he decided to check her tummy to make sure it was nothing more than constipation.”During the examination the doctor found a mass in her stomach.”It was devastating,” Mr Whelan said. “Jessica was all ready to come home. She was even in her coat. Then we were told she’d need to stay in hospital for more tests.”An ultrasound showed there was a mass around Jessica’s liver, but it was after an MRI the following day that doctors broke the news that Jessica had cancer.”The news felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest while someone sucked the air from my lungs “I asked the doctor how long she had left, and he said he couldn’t give a figure but it was likely to be a couple of years,” Mr Whelan explained.Jessica started chemotherapy and then doctors started her on a clinical drug trial. When her hair started falling out they cut it into a bob, then shaved it all off.After three months, Jessica went into hospital for tests.Mr Whelan said: “The consultant told us the tumour was the same size, they hadn’t budged it at all. But he said there was another trial we could try, and not to lose hope.” The call comes as the family break their fundraising target of £20,000 on their GoFundMe page to “give Jessica as much happiness and enjoyment is as possible in whatever time we have left with her.”The donations, which have almost doubled the initial target at the time of writing, were a response to the photograph shared by Mr Whelan on the page: Jessica Whelan – A fight against Neuroblastoma. “This is the hardest photograph I have ever made,” he wrote in the picture caption.”A few days ago she was given what is most likely a few weeks to live. This was taken at a moment where we as parents could offer no comfort – Jessica pushing us away as she rode out her searing pain in solitude.”Jessica, who has been fighting stage four neuroblastoma for 13 months, but has now been given just weeks to live after Mr Whelan and his partner Nicki Prendergast decided to stop treatment in a bid to allow her to enjoy whatever time she has got left.’This is the true face of cancer,” he said. “My baby girls blood vessels protruding from beneath her skin, a solitary tear running down her cheek, her body stiffened and her face contorted in pain. Jessica was given four weeks to liveCredit:Andy Whelan/Facebook Beverley Macca, the host of a local radio station in the Wirral, had contacts at Styles’s management company and arranged for the singer to call Mr Whelan, the Mail Online reports. Jessica Whelan suffers from NeuroblastomaCredit:Andy Whelan/Facebook Harry Styles has contacted the family of a four-year-old girl with terminal cancer after the heartbreaking photograph of her suffering went viral.Andy Whelan on Sunday shared a distressing black-and-white photograph of Jessica in pain as she battles the disease that has given her just weeks to live.On Wednesday, One Direction star has contacted the family to promise he will record a video message for the four-year-old. Mr Whelan, an electrician from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, announced the news on the Facebook page on which he posted the heartbreaking picture.”Well that was a surreal telephone call…” he wrote on Wednesday. “An unknown number I answered for it to only be HARRY STYLES ringing from USA!!!”
Credit:Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, left, stands with her daughter Princess Charlotte, bottom leftCredit:AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth The Duchess of Cambridge was seen telling the page boys and bridesmaids to ‘Ssh’, with her finger to her lips, as she escorted them in to Pippa Middleton’s wedding.Among them were her own children, Charlotte and George. “The service will be attended by close family and friends, including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.”Prince George will be a page boy, and Princess Charlotte will be a bridesmaid.” Princess Charlotte, who has just celebrated her second birthday, walked down the aisle with Miss Middleton on May 20th, at St Mark’s Church, Englefield.Meanwhile, Prince George, who turned four in July, acted as page boy as Pippa marries James Matthews, a 41-year-old hedge fund manager. All wore bespoke outfits by Pepa & C.Prince George and Princess Charlotte looked utterly adorable dressed up as pageboy and bridesmaid for their auntie Pippa’s wedding on Saturday. Their roles were confirmed in April when a spokesman for Kensington Palace revealed: “Miss Pippa Middleton and Mr James Matthews are pleased to confirm their wedding will take place at St Mark’s Church, Englefield, on the morning of 20th May. The bridesmaids are Countess Philippa Hoyos, Lily French, Avia Horner and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. The page boys are Casimir Tatos, Edward Sebire, William Ward and Prince George. The Duchess of Cambridge escorted in the childrenCredit: Max Mumby Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
The Queen will use her Christmas message to pay a rare public tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, praising his “unique sense of humour” in the year of their 70th anniversary.In her annual address to the nation, the Queen will deliver poignant thanks to the Duke, hailing his valuable support this year and throughout her record-breaking reign.The Duke stepped down from his official public duties in the autumn, but has remained by his wife’s side for key moments including Remembrance Sunday.The televised address, pre-recorded and delivered to viewers at 3pm on Christmas Day, will this year be focused on the theme of home.”We think of our homes as places of warmth, familiarity and love,” the Queen will say. “There is a timeless simplicity to the pull of home.”Acknowledging terrorist attacks in Britain in 2017, she will go on to observe how the concept of home can extend to a home town or city, saying: “This Christmas, I think of London and Manchester, whose powerful identities shone through over the past twelve months in the face of appalling attacks.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. With remarks often characterised as “gaffes”, the Duke reportedly aims to make strangers laugh within 15 seconds of their meeting with Royalty.His sense of humour was evident on Christmas Eve as he attended church, stopping to greet American mother-of-two Heather Hudgins and her three-month-old daughter Abby.Observing the decorative green bow on the child’s head, he joked: “Is it a baby? I though it was a bunch of flowers.” The Queen sits at a desk in the 1844 Room at Buckingham PalaceCredit:John Stillwell/PA In a moment of personal reflection, she will voice praise for the Duke’s “support and unique sense of humour.” The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh celebrate their 70th wedding anniversaryCredit:Matt Holyoak The Queen and Prince Philip enjoy the Braemar Gathering in 2016Credit:Getty On their golden wedding anniversary, she hailed him as her “strength and stay”, noting that the family and nation “owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.” In 2012, at her Diamond Jubilee, she proclaimed him a “constant strength and guide”, and in 2015 at a speech to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting recognised his “boundless energy and commitment”.The Queen and Duke will be seen together in public at Sandringham on Christmas Day when they will attend church with senior members of the Royal Family including their four children, the Cambridge family and Prince Harry.The Prince will be joined for the first time by a partner, as convention is relaxed to allow his fiance Meghan Markle to attend alongside him.The Queen and Duke both appeared in good spirits and health on Christmas Eve, greeting wellwishers as they attended a carol service at the church.This year’s Christmas message will be broadcast on television, radio and the Royal Family’s YouTube channel at 3pm on Christmas Day. The National Anthem and Christmas carol, entitled It Came Upon The Midnight Clear, will be performed by the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra and Choir, made up of 52 children representing each nation of the Commonwealth.The Queen is wearing a dress in ivory white Bouclé designed by Angela Kelly, embellished with Swarovski crystals, and a festive diamond brooch in the shape of a star. Prince Philip leaves the ladies of the Glasgow Wrens Association gigglingCredit:AFP The Queen’s words about family, delivered in the 1844 Room at Buckingham Palace, will be illustrated by photographs on her desk: her 1947 black and white wedding picture, the official photograph to commemorate the 70th anniversary, and portraits of Prince George and Princess Charlotte.Although the strong bonds of their 70-year marriage are always evident during their public appearances, the Duke is famously reluctant to hear gushing praise or acknowledgement of his achievements.The Queen has generally reserved her public tributes to him for special occasions. She first wore the dress, with a matching coat and hat, for the Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant in 2012. Royal commentators regularly underline the importance of humour in the Royal marriage, with the Duke livening up the Queen’s many public engagements with unexpected quips to break the ice.The Countess of Wessex once said of her in-laws: “They make each other laugh – which is, you know, it’s half the battle, isn’t it?”
Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey said on BBC Five Live: “I fear there may be more situations like the one we’re in this morning.”Some men from the corporation showed their support, including Amol Rajan who said the situation was a “big, big headache” for the BBC.Presenter Christian Fraser commented that “there are a number of awkward conversations ongoing between colleagues, and justifiable anger. Fair pay for same work. I would want it for my daughter. #IstandWithCarrie.” BBC Women, a group of journalists in the company fighting for equal pay wrote in response to her resignation: “It is hugely regrettable that an outstanding and award-winning journalist like Carrie Gracie feels she has no option but to resign from her post as China Editor because the BBC has not valued her equally with her male counterparts.”We wholeheartedly support her and call on the BBC to resolve her case and others without delay, and to urgently address pay inequality across the corporation. A woman I already greatly admired – now even more so. BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie steps down over over unequal pay:Read this to know why: https://t.co/pMTV75JlIt#bbcwomen #equalpay #istandwithcarrie— Naga Munchetty (@BBCNaga) January 7, 2018 An absolute disgrace. BBC‘s China Editor resigns over unequal pay. Please read her letter in full https://t.co/teuyqBM0ej #istandwithcarrie #bbcwomen #equalpay pic.twitter.com/FtZ4bAcWFU— Aasmah Mir (@AasmahMir) January 7, 2018 The BBC’s impartiality rules meant that John Humphrys, her co-presenter, was not allowed to interview her about the letter she wrote. He said “presenters can’t suddenly turn into interviewees on the programme they are presenting.”She responded after he asked her one question about the reaction, and was allowed to give a short response. She will be discussing the issue at greater length on Woman’s Hour at 10am.Mariella Frostrup discussed the issue on the Today Programme with John Humphrys as Carrie Gracie listened. She told the presenter: “I probably earn a tenth of what you do, John.”Her colleagues have criticised the BBC, saying its attitude to equal pay is “disappointing” and “an absolute disgrace” as the broadcaster continued to claim it was “performing considerably better than many.” “A separate report for on air staff will be published in the not too distant future.”Mother-of-two Gracie joined the World Service in 1987 as a trainee producer working around the world before becoming a correspondent in China in 1991.Fluent in Mandarin, she returned to the UK in 1999 to present on the news channel and appeared on a host of flagship current affairs shows before she later returned to China as the region’s editor. Brave, brilliant @BBCCarrie please read her letter as she resigns as China editor over #equalpay @thetimes #IStandWithCarrie— Jane Garvey (@janegarvey1) January 7, 2018 Carrie Gracie spoke of her frustrationCredit: Nick Moore / Alamy Stock Photo Depressing that in 2018 the brilliant @BBCCarrie feels compelled to step down as BBC China Editor over unequal pay: https://t.co/YElqZJiAwy#bbcwomen #equalpay #istandwithcarrie— Kasia Madera (@BBCKasiaMadera) January 7, 2018 “Enough people are saying that [about China] that I know it won’t get buried.” “I chase around being surveilled the whole time, dealing with intimidation dealing with police harassment, I try and put everyone from yak herders to Communist Party officials on camera in a heavily censored one party state. I speak Chinese, I have a degree in Chinese, I have been reporting the story for nearly 30 years.” In resigning as BBC’s China Editor in a stand against unequal pay, @BBCCarrie tells viewers & listeners, “I believe you have a right to know that the BBC is breaking equality law”. Her full letter here: https://t.co/cz0NKwjlyV #equalpay #BBCwomen— Victoria Derbyshire (@vicderbyshire) January 8, 2018 Senior BBC women have stepped up their revolt over equal pay in their company after the resignation of their respected colleague Carrie Gracie over the wage gap at the broadcaster.Presenters including Victoria Derbyshire, Clare Balding, Jane Garvey and Sarah Montague tweeted the hashtag #IStandWithCarrie and co-wrote a letter claiming hundreds of women are in pay disputes with the BBC.Gracie, who was China Editor, has described the reaction as “very moving” and said it speaks to the “depth of hunger” for fair pay for women everywhere. Statement from #bbcwomen in support of @BBCCarrie #EqualPay #IStandWithCarrie pic.twitter.com/tueh1aCW8W— Sarah Montague (@Sarah_Montague) January 8, 2018 Equal pay for equal work of equal value is the law. If it’s happening to #BBCWomen, it’s happening to you. #istandwithcarrie https://t.co/1xJipPzVkh— Samira Ahmed (@SamiraAhmedUK) January 7, 2018 “Up to 200 women that we know of in various pay grades and roles across the BBC have made pay complaints.”The NUJ alone is involved in more than 120 of these cases.” Carrie Gracie, who last night resigned from her post over equal pay, has said the broadcaster’s top salaries are “unacceptably high”.Gracie, who was China Editor, revealed she turned down a £45k pay rise and suggested male journalists in equal roles to women should take a pay cut in order to close the gender wage gap.She told BBC Woman’s Hour: “I believe in public service broadcasting and I do think salaries at the top are unacceptably high both for presenters and stars of various kinds and also for managers.”I didn’t want more money, I wanted equality and this was not equality.”There was still a big gap between myself and my male peers. This was an exercise in understanding how the BBC approached pay, and at the end of the exercise I felt the BBC was not approaching pay in an appropriate way.”The journalist also revealed that she had a six-month battle with the BBC, during which they did not make her pay equal to that of her male peers, who were earning significantly more. Political correspondent Chris Mason described Ms Gracie’s missive as a “zinger of a letter” that was “brave, thoughtful, powerful, forensic, dignified”.Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said there was a “scourge of unequal pay” at the BBC. She said: “[The letter] makes it clear what a difficult decision it has been to speak out about what she calls a crisis of trust at the BBC, but why it is vital that the British public are clear about why she has been forced to resign her post.” Powerful, dignified and courageous stand by @BBCCarrie for equal, fair and transparent pay #IStandWithCarrie #bbcwomen #equalpay— Ben Wright (@BBCBenWright) January 8, 2018 She spoke of her struggle to be valued equally, telling the programme: “For six months this has made me unhappy, it has been a huge job of work to try and put it right, to understand the law, I set about it like any other reporting task, I looked at employment tribunal outcomes, I spoke to colleagues male and female, I talked to my bosses, I talked to lawyers and at the end of all of that it is very hard to do the job of China Editor…which I do see as one of the most important and most difficult reporting jobs of our time. Good morning. Today’s presenters are John Humphrys and @BBCCarrie. Join the conversation using #r4today— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) January 8, 2018 This is a letter to everyone who loves and values the BBC from one of its finest journalists. @BBCCarrie has resigned as China editor. Please read and retweet. It’s time for #equalpay https://t.co/eSMU3x5aCS #bbcwomen #IStandWithCarrie— Clare Balding (@clarebalding) January 7, 2018 Presenting the Today programme, she said: “The things have struck me about it are the scale of feeling, not just from BBC women but across the country, does speak to the depth of hunger for an equal, fair and transparent pay system.”What’s lovely for me is that people are mentioning my China work.”I do not want to be remembered forever as the woman who complained about money. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Gracie resigned her post after discovering her male counterparts were earning significantly more than she was.In the published list of earnings which came out last year it was revealed US editor Jon Sopel earned £200,000-£249,999, and Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen earned £150,000-£199,999.Gracie was not on the list, which means was less than £150,000. Emphasising that she was seeking parity rather than a pay rise, and that she is already well remunerated, Gracie said she had asked the BBC to ensure that all international editors were paid the same amount before being instead offered a higher salary which “remained far short of equality”.The journalist wrote in an explosive letter of the BBC’s “secretive and illegal” attitude towards equal pay.She claimed the corporation is “breaking equality law” in its dealings with staff, and adopting a “bunker mentality” which is failing to address the significant pay gap.Asked to respond to Gracie’s allegations, the BBC issued a statement saying: “Fairness in pay is vital.“A significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many and are well below the national average.“Alongside that, we have already conducted a independent judge led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed ‘no systemic discrimination against women’. Women in every broadcaster, boardroom and office are cheering her on. https://t.co/zreI6xnfOq— Penny Marshall (@pennymitv) January 8, 2018 “The support that I’ve had speaks to the depth of hunger for an equal, fair and transparent pay system.”@BBCCarrie says she has been moved by the support for her resignation over gender pay row. More here 👉 https://t.co/pMJE08Hsoq#r4today pic.twitter.com/J1KuTF40kg— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) January 8, 2018