Bill James twitter

strek1

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IMO we have more important people in our society to villify other than Bill James. I refuse to pile on this guy if he made an ill advised and poorly thought out comment.
 

E5 Yaz

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But aren't your favorite players replaced by other favorite players? We lose David Ortiz but we gain Mookie Betts.
It's like the Michael Keaton character in Multiplicity. Each subsequent version means less to me

Part of the experience of following baseball is following individuals. To say that they're interchangeable, or easily replaced, because it's the game itself that matters misses a great deal of what should be the joy of the game.

Nathan Eovaldi became a hero around here for an amazing performance. That's a personal achievement that -- to coin a phrase -- transcends the nature of the game itself.

It's that implication in James's tweets that makes them so chest-thumpingly ridiculous
 

moondog80

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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?
Of course I have a favorite player. I never made the argument that the players don’t matter. Neither did Bill James. He said they are replaceable. Which is true. The least and most important person in any company are both ultimately replaceable; that doesn’t mean they are equal. The point is that the thing is bigger than the individual.
 
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At least he has good company:

"It is the Red Sox name that matters, not the players wearing the uniform."
-- Buddy LeRoux, explaining why spending money on Fisk, Lynn, and Burleson would have been dumb
 

bosox79

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It's like the Michael Keaton character in Multiplicity. Each subsequent version means less to me

Part of the experience of following baseball is following individuals. To say that they're interchangeable, or easily replaced, because it's the game itself that matters misses a great deal of what should be the joy of the game.

Nathan Eovaldi became a hero around here for an amazing performance. That's a personal achievement that -- to coin a phrase -- transcends the nature of the game itself.

It's that implication in James's tweets that makes them so chest-thumpingly ridiculous
On one hand, people talk about how important the players are, on the other hand they are talking about who to replace and who to bring in. Part of the experience of sports is the trade deadline and the off season due to player movement. Players are interchangeable and easily replaced, at least among other MLB talent. Some are harder than others but the Sox are going to be a very good team next year even if they don't re-sign Eovaldi, Kelly, Kimbrel and Pearce.
 

JohntheBaptist

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For me, even if I believe the more innocent interpretation of his comments--why make them?

JMOH's significant other example is instructive to me. On some level, even if it contains some truth, its like, "well yeah, no shit." Saying it is inherently antagonistic. What point does it advance?

The players you're saying it about are human beings. Why, as someone employed by an organization that includes those human beings, do you need to tell them they're essentially replaceable? The only thing I can come up with is a gross attempt to drive down salaries for people that are making said organization a great deal of money.
 

Devizier

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No thanks! Players and beer vendors aren't the game. Neither are the grass, police cars, or ham sandwiches. The game is the rules.
Why follow MLB at all? There's minor league ball, independent leagues, collegiate and high school ball. You can watch many of those games for free!
 

bosox79

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For me, even if I believe the more innocent interpretation of his comments--why make them?

JMOH's significant other example is instructive to me. On some level, even if it contains some truth, its like, "well yeah, no shit." Saying it is inherently antagonistic. What point does it advance?

The players you're saying it about are human beings. Why, as someone employed by an organization that includes those human beings, do you need to tell them they're essentially replaceable? The only thing I can come up with is a gross attempt to drive down salaries for people that are making said organization a great deal of money.
Marriage is different than sports, though. After x amount of years of marriage, you aren't granted free agency so you can explore your other options or get a better deal from your wife.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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IMO we have more important people in our society to villify other than Bill James. I refuse to pile on this guy if he made an ill advised and poorly thought out comment.
No one is vilifying Bill James. I am not advocating for him to be drawn and quartered in Kenmore Square or fired from a cannon into the sun or terminated from his position. I just don't agree with what he's saying and I think that's okay. There are plenty of things that Bill James doesn't agree with and he's not shy about saying them.

Of course I have a favorite player. I never made the argument that the players don’t matter. Neither did Bill James. He said they are replaceable. Which is true. The least and most important person in any company are both ultimately replaceable; that doesn’t mean they are equal. The point is that the thing is bigger than the individual.
You're right, a player (singular) is replaceable. But when you specifically say that all players are replaceable then there is a fallacy. While the game of Baseball is bigger than the sum of the players at the major league level, Major League Baseball is not bigger than its players. Because you're right, we all live in areas where we can find some sort of baseball game to watch. Whether it's a town team, high school, Little League, sandlot; whatever. And that's baseball. But it's not Major League Baseball.

And that's what I care about. I don't want to see AAAA players compete in games that "mean" something.

Put it this way, if you love soccer and you're given the option of watching a Premiere League or La Liga or Serie A game or watching MLS, what will you watch? Most people will pick one of the former. Why? Because the soccer is played at a higher level. It would be the same with this new league of non-MLBers. If you're old enough to remember the NFL games with scabs, you'll remember that those games were awful.

So yes, people are replaceable but the quality of the product goes down. To say that we, as baseball fans, wouldn't care after three years is ridiculous.

EDIT:
But aren't your favorite players replaced by other favorite players? We lose David Ortiz but we gain Mookie Betts.
Right. But just because David Ortiz retires, doesn't mean that you don't like the guy any more. If I ever saw Bo Jackson walking around, I'd freak out. If I saw Michael Jordan at the dentist, even though I know he's probably not the nicest dude in the world, I'd still be pumped to meet him.

I never saw Ted Williams play. He retired 14 years before I was born. But I still think he's pretty awesome.
 

santadevil

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On one hand, people talk about how important the players are, on the other hand they are talking about who to replace and who to bring in. Part of the experience of sports is the trade deadline and the off season due to player movement. Players are interchangeable and easily replaced, at least among other MLB talent. Some are harder than others but the Sox are going to be a very good team next year even if they don't re-sign Eovaldi, Kelly, Kimbrel and Pearce.
I definitely agree.

I wonder with Bill's phrasing. For me, looking back at the 2013 World Series roster, the only active player on both was Xander. There has been that much turnover in 5 years and I still love that 2013 team, just as much as I love the 2018 team, even with recency bias attachment. Really, the same characteristic on team was the name on the front of the jersey...but the players made it fun and memorable in each of those years (and 2004 & 2007 as well), which is why they will be special to me
 

JohntheBaptist

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Marriage is different than sports, though. After x amount of years of marriage, you aren't granted free agency so you can explore your other options or get a better deal from your wife.
Well yeah, but the analogy wasn't meant to extend across those lines. James himself followed things up by stating that "we're all replaceable," and if that's a problem, "talk to God." Yeah if my wife had grabbed a different dog at the shelter we'd obsessively love her too, but my god what does it serve anyone to litigate that reality? My dog is a perfect creature, full stop :)

If that's his point, no shit. Why say it? Again, some of those people are his colleagues, none of them really need to be told they're basically replaceable because philosophically speaking he may be right.

And again, if it is some path to making the argument they deserve less of the very large pie they are instrumental in making, I find that pretty shitty.

eta--Bill James has long been one of my favorite writers. I don't hate him, genuinely not sure why this needed to be said.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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The question of what matters - "the game" or "the team" or "the players" - is inherently faulty, because it implies an either/or choice of one that, for most fans, I think, does not exist. The answer is all three.

I like baseball because I like the sport itself. I liked playing it and watching it. I enjoy the strategy, the unique blend of individual and team elements, at all levels of it.

I also like the Boston Red Sox - that team, in particular. I've spent a lot of emotional and financial capital following the Red Sox for 4+ decades. I do not enjoy watching the San Diego Padres nearly as much as the Boston Red Sox. Other than secondarily rooting for the Twins, and hating the Yankees, I don't really care how any other MLB team is doing at any point in time (except as it affects the Sox).

I also like (and dislike) specific players. In the late 80s, I bought a Yaz jersey just after he was enshrined, because he was my favorite player as a kid. I still wear that jersey. I wore it to Game 2 this year. And not because it's my only Sox jersey. Of course, Yaz retired, and I cheered for the next group of Sox players. I've liked some more than others. On and on, until I die.

I like the game. I like the team. I like certain players. It's all possible. And it's a reality that James myopically missed in making a narrowly correct but broadly incorrect point.
 

E5 Yaz

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Well yeah, but the analogy wasn't meant to extend across those lines. James himself followed things up by stating that "we're all replaceable," and if that's a problem, "talk to God." Yeah if my wife had grabbed a different dog at the shelter we'd obsessively love her too, but my god what does it serve anyone to litigate that reality? My dog is a perfect creature, full stop :)

If that's his point, no shit. Why say it? Again, some of those people are his colleagues, none of them really need to be told they're basically replaceable because philosophically speaking he may be right.

And again, if it is some path to making the argument they deserve less of the very large pie they are instrumental in making, I find that pretty shitty.

eta--Bill James has long been one of my favorite writers. I don't hate him, genuinely not sure why this needed to be said.
I think he fell back on that defense when he got slammed, then tried to turn the argument around by using that "tell me where what I said was wrong" type of argument in an attempt to aggressively cover his ass.
 

bosox79

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Well yeah, but the analogy wasn't meant to extend across those lines. James himself followed things up by stating that "we're all replaceable," and if that's a problem, "talk to God." Yeah if my wife had grabbed a different dog at the shelter we'd obsessively love her too, but my god what does it serve anyone to litigate that reality? My dog is a perfect creature, full stop :)

If that's his point, no shit. Why say it? Again, some of those people are his colleagues, none of them really need to be told they're basically replaceable because philosophically speaking he may be right.

And again, if it is some path to making the argument they deserve less of the very large pie they are instrumental in making, I find that pretty shitty.

eta--Bill James has long been one of my favorite writers. I don't hate him, genuinely not sure why this needed to be said.
He's always struck me as a bit socially awkward.
 

JohntheBaptist

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I think he fell back on that defense when he got slammed, then tried to turn the argument around by using that "tell me where what I said was wrong" type of argument in an attempt to aggressively cover his ass.
I agree. It is odd from an older guy, but typical (in my observation) of a strain of internet argument that, as you say, bogs down in pedantry.
 

InstaFace

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Marriage is different than sports, though. After x amount of years of marriage, you aren't granted free agency so you can explore your other options or get a better deal from your wife.
I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
 

edoug

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Marriage is different than sports, though. After x amount of years of marriage, you aren't granted free agency so you can explore your other options or get a better deal from your wife.
Even in California?
 

oumbi

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He also seems to be saying implicitly that Peddy is beloved and adored, but in a few years we will love and adore another player. Nomar may be a great example.

If indeed all the players retired today, the game would go on and fans would soon love the new players. The World Series would still be played and the media would praise who ever the new champion would be.

James make sense.
 

charlieoscar

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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."
Well, I've been a baseball fan for nearly 70 years and I started playing with stats before I got into high school (I was good in math and had an uncle who was an electrical engineer and who gave me advanced textbooks and answered questions). Would I stop following baseball if the Red Sox replaced their entire 40-man roster over the winter? No. I'd miss some of the players but would soon adapt. If the Red Sox swapped franchises with the New York Yankees (remember the Celtics and Buffalo Braves in 1978), would I become a Yankee fan? Would any of you?

James is not a lot younger than I am and maybe we old-timers look at the game differently than you younger ones do.
 

timlinin8th

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Marriage is different than sports, though. After x amount of years of marriage, you aren't granted free agency so you can explore your other options or get a better deal from your wife.
What about opt outs? Do they favor the player or the team?
 

OurF'ingCity

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James is right in the literal sense - the players are not "the game" insofar as a baseball game can be played without any of the current MLB players participating.

Where he is quite obviously dead wrong is in his implication that the identity of the players doesn't matter at all in determining the level of enjoyment a fan takes from watching an MLB game. Here's a thought experiment that I think disproves his point - imagine that all the players were removed from their current teams and randomly switched around so that no one knew who was on what team, and they were all required to wear burqa-like outfits so that the only way fans could differentiate players was by number (it's a thought experiment so I'm ignoring height disparities, etc.). Obviously that would make baseball way, way less fun and interesting.

Or think of another example - stadiums. Stadiums are quite obviously not "the game" either, but if we replaced all current stadiums with Tropicana Field replicas, that would obviously make watching MLB much less enjoyable. Can make the same point about announcers, owners, GMs, etc.

Basically - his comment was asinine: it was either so obvious as to be axiomatic, or revealed an utter misunderstanding of what makes baseball (and sports more generally, for that matter) enjoyable.
 

moondog80

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Yes, and from his perspective, he’s right. His problem is having the hubris to think that his is the only true perspective. It isn’t. So he’s wrong.
What makes you say that he thinks his is the only true perspective, moreso than anyone else who offers an opinion on whatever?
 

Minneapolis Millers

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What makes you say that he thinks his is the only true perspective, moreso than anyone else who offers an opinion on whatever?
His words. He doesn’t hedge (“in my opinion” or “I think...”). He speaks authoritatively and, frankly, dismissively, in the first person: “We would replace them...”. That might be factual, but he sounds like he’s speaking on behalf of the team and telling the players they don’t really matter and the fans who - naively, apparently - pay good money to buy jerseys of specific players that they don’t really understand what “the game” is. As others have said, if you just take a couple steps back, most people would realize how asinine and narrow-minded such a position is.

And if his point was “the game transcends us all,” then fine, say that. Puts us all on an even plane and recognizes that none of us mere humans lasts forever, though the game might. Of course, others have said that.

I don’t read James as waxing poetic here. He seems to be making a more narrow point that calls into question the value and import of the actual players (why else compare them to beer vendors except to be derisive?). He might not have expected blowback, or maybe he did and was trying to be provocative. Either way, he deserves criticism.
 
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Smiling Joe Hesketh

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In his books, James is/was very good at clarifying or limiting his possibly-caustic or controversial remarks. He would often write "Now I am NOT saying (absurd logical conclusion), I am NOT saying we should (action that stems from absurd logical conclusion)." He would find ways to make strong statements while clarifying the limits to them.

On Twitter that's impossible. I think he continues to use his usual hyperbolic, caustic, blunt style to make statements and on Twitter that doesn't translate well. I think if you delve into his statement deeper, all he's saying is that the game is deeper than any individual players currently in it, and that it will endure as those players retire or move on. That's a pretty reasonable statement once taken into some depth and context. I'm sure in the 1920's there were writers and fans who would have thought the game couldn't survive without Ruth or Mathewson. But it did.
 

Archer1979

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Guy who is really, really, really good with numbers exhibits disconnect from humanity.

Is that you, Asperger's??

Wouldn't go that far, but actuarial types aren't necessarily known or hired for their interpersonal effectiveness. I'm genuinely surprised that this is getting the play in the media that it is if it wasn't for the calendar. There wouldn't have been a tenth of the ink dedicated to this if this happened in July. Too many reporters, too few stories.
 

Smiling Joe Hesketh

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Wouldn't go that far, but actuarial types aren't necessarily known or hired for their interpersonal effectiveness. I'm genuinely surprised that this is getting the play in the media that it is if it wasn't for the calendar. There wouldn't have been a tenth of the ink dedicated to this if this happened in July. Too many reporters, too few stories.
James himself has said that he is capable of communicating in the written word what he is entirely incapable of communicating through speaking interpersonally. I'm reluctant to put any type of label on that, but it's clear the written (or typed on a screen) word is the milieu where he's the most comfortable.
 

Archer1979

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James himself has said that he is capable of communicating in the written word what he is entirely incapable of communicating through speaking interpersonally. I'm reluctant to put any type of label on that, but it's clear the written (or typed on a screen) word is the milieu where he's the most comfortable.
That's most likely true, but in his attempts to explain his original tweet, he doesn't understand what the big deal is. In other words, while he may communicate better in prose, the thinking behind it is still lacking the interpersonal perspective. Very logical, not so much on the emotional level.
 

RGREELEY33

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What about opt outs? Do they favor the player or the team?
<<Standing Ovation>>

That made me laugh at Starbucks. Well played.

I think what James is saying is his typical caustic comment said in a dickish manner that if you look at it from a top-down perspective is correct, but all the people whose brains work from a bottom-up perspective get pissed. ‘Murica.
 

Seven Chinese Bros.

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Having read a good deal of James's work over the years, I don't think he meant a number of the things that are being inferred from his tweet. He probably didn't mean....

-- That nobody would miss the current players much if they all vanished.
-- That human beings aren't important to baseball.
-- That the owners should stand up to the players in their labor disputes.

He probably wasn't thinking about any of that. He was more likely thinking about an opinion he has pursued in print off and on for decades, which is that talent of the rough kind we are accustomed to seeing at the ballpark is more widely available than most people realize. Yes, if the current players retired, they would be personally missed (just as they are missed in fact when they do retire). But if we had to replace them with players now in the minor leagues, the level of play would turn out to be excellent (and perhaps better than MLB play of several decades ago). People who like the game would form new attachments and the game would soon enough be as much fun for most to watch as it is now. Those who get hung up on the imaginary trauma of seeing everyone retire at once are missing the point of the thought experiment, which is all this was. He was philosophizing a bit. Or so I'm guessing.

If the response is "yeah, maybe, but why did he have to go say that on Twitter -- it's so tactless" -- well, sure, he probably now regrets using that format. But a discussion of the substance would be more interesting, wouldn't it? If I'm right about what he had in mind, for example, substantive questions raised by it might include...

-- Whether baseball was any less fun to watch fifty years ago or so when (let us assume) the average talent level was lower;
-- Whether the game would be less fun to watch if current minor leaguers were inserted in place of the major leaguers without anyone realizing this and becoming indignant about the principle of the thing; and
-- If the game isn't really about the players (at least to the extent we all imagine, because it's fun to imagine that), what is it about?
 
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JohntheBaptist

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As the one (genuinely) wondering “whats the point of even saying it?”, appreciate the walking through a perspective on it, great post.

I wasnt so much worried about tact (although a little I guess), it just didnt track to me as something worth saying, but good points. I think your last question there is a particularly fun debate for sure.

Definitely beats “this is stupid.”