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Discussion in 'Red Sox Forum' started by Beale13, Nov 8, 2018.
Bill James apparently thinks baseball rosters are fungible. Thoughts?
Soooooo...what were his comments?
Here we go: https://www.usatoday.com/story/spor...or-bill-james-replacement-players/1930130002/
He basically said that you could get rid of every single major league player and in three years no one would give a shit and they'd still watch baseball.
Between this tweet and others, Bill James probably needs to step away from the old Twitter box.
I think he's arguing that we're all rooting for laundry, that WHO the players actually are doesn't matter long term.
He's taking a relatively logical argument on the surface and embiggening it to an absurd shape. On the one hand, none of us would know who Mookie Betts is if he didn't play baseball. On the other hand, we do form attachments to the players once we know them so to argue that they are all easily replaceable and the show will go on is rather obtuse.
I follow him on Twitter, and I've noticed he does this a lot. He has a good point and then spoils his argument that taking it to an illogical conclusion.
BTW this is not a new position for James. He's said the same thing many times and in different guises over the years. There's a lot on this topic in his New Historical Baseball Abstract, IIRC. His larger position is that the game is stronger and more important than any of the individuals in it. He has also argued that the owners are not the game either.
I interpreted it more as people rooting for the game itself rather than the laundry. I.e., the game's appeal transcends the particular skills or personalities of the individuals who happen to be playing it at any given time or on any given level. So if all the current MLB players were raptured tomorrow, and in 2019 we had to watch whoever was promoted from the minors or acquired from other countries to replace them, the level of play would certainly be lower, but the interest would be largely unchanged.
And I think this is true, or at least truer than in most sports. To me, there's nothing on earth more boring than a youth soccer game, because that sport just doesn't become interesting to watch until the participants gain a certain level of athletic mastery; it's just a bunch of people running around a field and trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to control a ball with their feet. But baseball (again, to me) is inherently interesting; its geometry and dynamics and rules make for a spectacle that doesn't require highly skilled players to fascinate me. So even a Little League game is fun to watch, even if the players are struggling with the basics.
Ehhh.....baseball is excruciating to watch if the pitcher can't find the plate with two hands and a flashlight.
I get what you're saying because I think that the first part of his statement is what you suggest. But then he submarines it when he follows up with: "The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are.”
For Bill his troubles are almost always about style: he's blunt to the point of rudeness and he often loses his goal in the midst of trying to be forceful.
Full respect to Bill James' groundbreaking work and I read many of his books a few decades back, but I am quite certain that if he disappeared tomorrow, no one would really notice. If the 750 MLB players disappeared, though, I would personally certainly stop watching baseball. I mean, I'm sure some people here remember replacement player games in the NFL, right? Yikes.
To an extent, I find this noncontroversial.
Mythmaking is inextricable from pro sports. Years from now I won't remember Brian Johnson or Hector Velasquez. I'll probably forget Felix Doubront, Craig Breslow, and Will Middlebrooks (not Jenny Dell, though. And that's not merely a poor joke, just a function of her being a constant presence in Red Sox telecasts). I had already forgotten that Quentin Berry played the Dave Roberts role on the 2013 championship roster. Years from now I might even forget the crowd serenading Victorino with Three Little Birds when he stepped to the plate.
It's easy, objectively, to support James's argument. Pick two comparable players and do the old Player A vs. Player B stat-line comparison.
To your point, SJH: James isn't ignorant of the mythologizing in sports. I think his style is a poor match for the constraints of Twitter.
I love you.
I really like this as a summary of him. He undermines his own points by saying them in assholeish ways.
I was hoping someone would notice.
Is he really going to play dumb on this?
I know a few people like that here.
Why is he doubling down on this? Good lord.
Cram it with walnuts, ugly.
Is he trying to say the same thing that James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams---that baseball rolls on, endures, etc. no matter who's playing?
"It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time."
I don't think he was saying, as some players responded, that the Sox would win just as much replacing Betts and JD with AAA guys, because that is quite obviously not his point.
I think he's reached the point where he likes being seen as a jackass. The "what did i do wrong?" post is all sorts of foolishness in this regard.
If he doesn't understand that fans -- even analytically astute ones -- still root for individual players, then he should step away from the keyboard. additionally, the notion of saying that players and beer vendors are equal rubs it in the face of non-sabermetric fans ... it comes off as, all that matters is the math, and that sort of attitude simply sucks.
He might be, but he'd be completely wrong. JEJ wasn't speaking about the players; he was talking about America and how it's changed and how even though the country is different now, the relationship with the game is the same.
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time."
This is a lot different than what James (Bill) said.
“The cemeteries are full of indispensable men.”
― Charles de Gaulle
He never said beer vendors and players are equal, and I'm pretty sure he understands that fans root for individual players. He just thinks that the fans would find new individual players to root for. Which is true, IMO.
He said that each are as valuable to the game. So, pedantically, he did not say "equal," but the implication is there
He didn't say that, either.
He lumped them into the same category as being "NOT the game" ... so fuck off with the pedantic bullshit
Bill James is one that shouldn't opine about anything not related to baseball box scores.
No thanks! Players and beer vendors aren't the game. Neither are the grass, police cars, or ham sandwiches. The game is the rules.
Then maybe teams should just assemble rosters in the offseason and someone can run the numbers and declare the World Series winner. Would save months of waiting.
Sometimes even smart people lose the forest for the trees. This is such an example.
No one is bigger than the game..except:
I can't make sense of your point at all now. I like watching baseball, which is a game that's defined by the rulebook. I like watching the players play that game. When those players are gone, I'll still like watching baseball as played by different players. If someone took the entire Red Sox roster and stuck them on a soccer field, I would not like watching that, because I don't like soccer.
Wow it’s amazing to see people defending him. Mookie Betts is not the equivalent of a beer vendor. Sorry. He’s not.
We spend a lot of time here taking the dumbest, worst interpretation possible from people's statements, and assuming that's what they meant.
The front office missed a "some of our franchise championships were won without consultants, but none without players" opportunity here.
I never said he was. And I don't want to see the beer vendor playing right field (although I wouldn't mind buying a beer from Mookie).
I like that -- maybe you should post that on Twitter to find out.
It's also belied by compensation, that hallmark of capitalism. If the players truly were fungible, because there's no financial returns to winning more than you lose, they'd all make near league minimum and would be marketed and paid based on personalities and doing charity appearances rather than their ability to hit or pitch. Except the top ballplayers are now making thirty million dollars a year because it's worth it to some owners for what they bring to their team's ability to win. That's, like, the very definition of not-fungible. It's like saying "if we wiped away Coke and Pepsi, the next tier of colas would step into the void and the soda show would go on". Or "if we wipe away the A-list actors in Hollywood, the B-list would step into their shoes and the show would go on." Yeah, maybe it would go on, rather than folding up shop and stealing away into the desert, but not with the same financial returns or consumer willingness to pay.
I bet he would sell more beer than any other vendor in the stadium.
Your soccer example is faulty though. Because baseball players playing soccer is not the same thing. Honestly, if you wanted to make a much better argument; you could say if the 25-man roster of the Boston Red Sox were traded straight up for the 25-man roster of the New York Yankees, there would be a lot of guys in pinstripes that you once loved, but now you hate. And vice versa.
In that case, you're rooting for laundry.
BUT it's not that simple, is it? There are players who transcend that sort of "rooting for the laundry" POV. When Pedro Martinez showed up in Fenway as a Met, he got a huge ovation. Same thing for when Nomar Garciaparra came back. When Dwight Evans finished the back nine as an Oriole, people cheered like hell when he showed up. Even Clemens got a standing ovation when we all thought he pitched his last game at Fenway in 2003.
When we see old timers come back to Fenway, they usually get the biggest cheers of the night?
Why is that? I mean, the old-timers aren't playing baseball any more and the guys coming back to Boston are actively trying to beat the Red Sox? If you're looking at this as black-and-white those old guys have zero use to the club any more and the returning guys are screwing up the game for the new team. I know that we're in the warm glow of a recent World Series, but tell me that you won't have any fondness for JBJ's grand slam in the ALCS or Eovaldi's heroic pitching in Game 3 (and Eovaldi probably won't be back with the Sox next year, but I bet he gets a huge ovation from the crowd). Why is that?
Because those players are people and we're invested in them. Yes, we don't know them all personally but it doesn't matter; we're able to connect with the people on the field. JBJ went through a lot of shit this year and emerged not only as a champion but the MVP of the ALCS. Eovaldi had how many surgeries and pitched like a machine. How about the Red Sox pitching staff going into Cora's office and offering to pitch the day after Game 3?
I like the analytics part of baseball as much as the next guy on this board. But don't tell me that there is no human element here. Or that if every baseball player were snapped out of existence by Thanos (SPOILER ALERT!) that you wouldn't care. Why did you start following baseball as a kid? It's not because of the math. It's not because you were some weirdo rules fetishist. It's because there was something about the game, about one of the teams, about one of the players that appealed to you on a human level.
We like baseball because we like baseball. We also like baseball because of the people who play it. The people who are beamed into a little box in our homes every night for (if we're lucky) seven plus months. You have to like those people otherwise, why watch?
Do you really think he means that people don't connect with individual players?
No, I think my example is spot on. I love Pedro. My kid's middle name is Jaime because of him. But if Pedro spent 1998-2004 scoring a goal per game for Manchester United, I wouldn't give a shit about him.
The game is baseball, which is the rules. If someone replaced the baseball rulebook with the one for quidditch overnight, keeping the same players, owners, beer vendors, and stadiums would not get me to watch.
You wouldn't watch Mookie on a fucking broom? You lie.
Bill James is the one that made the comparison of the players to the beer guy. For the most part* the beer guy in all major US stadia are anonymous suds slingers. It doesn't matter whether Ronnie or Bobby or Ricky or Mike gives you a Bud Lite, all that matters is that your frosty brew is in your hand as you watch the game.
It does matter who's patrolling right field for the Boston Red Sox.
If it didn't matter, Carl Everett would have been here longer. Wilfredo Cordero would have been here longer. The turns of John Lackey and David Price from whipping boys to post season heroes wouldn't have mattered at all.
Let me ask you two two part, very related questions: do you have a favorite player, do you have a least favorite player? Why is her your favorite and why is he your least favorite?
* I will concede one exception: the first year that the Cards visited Fenway during Interleague Play, I was talking to a couple of people from St. Louis. They were part of a large group of Cards season ticket holders and they traveled to watch their team play at Fenway. They brought along (at no expense to the this person) their beer guy. I also may have read this -- all I know is that the story is truthful and I drank a lot in the early 00s.
Except there would be other Pedros and Nomars, and when they do leave, the Redsox replace them and continue to do just fine.
edit: If Jeter played here instead of Nomar, we'd all love him.
But that's a separate issue. I have latched onto favorite players through the years, and following the Red Sox is always lessened for me when those players leave the team.
There are still Red Sox teams, sure, but my enjoyment of the team is diminished. And that's because of the absence of those players/beer guys
Yes. You’re making my point. In life, you know good people, you know bad people but most are somewhere in the middle.
It’s like saying, “if you never met your wife, who gives a shit, you’d marry some other lady.”
If you believe that, I don’t know what to tell except we’re not going to agree on this issue.
But aren't your favorite players replaced by other favorite players? We lose David Ortiz but we gain Mookie Betts.