Results tagged ‘ Bill James ’

A High Priest in Tweed

A lot of baseball purists hate Bill James.  By attempting to intellectualize aspects of a game that had up until then been left to “experts” who used their gut feelings to lead teams in one direction or another, James sought to overturn baseball orthodoxy.  These experts/purists/fundamentalists hate James because they no longer get to employ their mystical powers to direct the religion of baseball.

This should hardly come as a surprise, though.  Baseball is a uniquely American sport and Americans are uniquely anti-intellectual.  It only makes sense that a group of people who disparage America’s professors and other learned people would also disparage someone who tries to apply reason and science to America’s pastime.

But those who hate intellectuals the most are also those who fear them the most.  The old school scouts hated James because his emphasis on the quantifiable aspects of baseball undermined their previously hallowed positions as arbiters of all things baseball.  They feared losing their previously sacrosanct positions so these high priests of the game had to evolve or risk becoming irrelevant.

Something similar is taking place in the Republican party today.  The party of belligerent anti-intellectualism has somehow embraced a self-styled intellectual as their new savior.  The truth, though, hides a little deeper in the phenomenon.  Newt, intellectual that he claims to be, brings nothing new to the game.  He’s merely a priest dressed up in the trappings of an intellectual but he uses this affectation to scare his flock into believing what sounds intellectual to them.  Newt is riding high on this image but hopefully his new religion will soon follow the same path as the baseball scout’s “sure thing” and the Contract With America.

-A

MLB’s Red State of Mind

No, I’m not saying that Major League Baseball is communist. Although, now that you mention it….

No, what I’m talking about is a frame of mind that seems to have taken over both MLB and Red America. Neither one of them can’t stand intellectuals. College boys (and girls) who have impressive vocabularies, use logic in the decision-making process and understand that the world is painted in shades of gray, not just black and white, just don’t have a place in MLB or the fly-over states. Let me explain.

The red state anti-intellectualism is pretty clear cut. A Harvard law grad with impeccable credentials and a strong history of community organizing is nothing more than a namby-pamby, arugula-eating, out-of-touch, East-coast liberal elite. Nuance is seen as flip-flopping or waffling and the only way to make a decision is to decide which side is evil and which is good and always go for good. Of course, this also means simplifying every argument.

elaine_v2.jpgFor instance, let’s take Elaine Benes, uh, I mean Sarah Palin. Although her oldest daughter got knocked up at 17 which would be unlimited fodder for Republicans if it had been a Democratic candidate, somehow the “Family Values” party doesn’t have a problem with this because the kids are getting married. Nevermind that this might be the worst possible outcome for the kid and for the two getting married. But, that’s the red state mindset. There is no gray. Only black and white.

In a similarly antiquated manner, red state politicians see no reason for their views to evolve beyond the social mores of 1776. If it was all right for Thomas Jefferson, it’s all right for them.

It’s just like the view that MLB takes when it comes to many of the technological and statistical updates that have inundated sports in the past few years. Of course there are people like Billy Beane and Theo Epstein who understand that using technology does not cheapen the game and, in fact, makes it more competitive. But the powers that be within the MLB hierarchy have fought back. People like Bill James get blackballed.

palin_v2.jpgAnd in the same way, it took a flurry of botched calls at the beginning of the season before they even considered instituting limited instant replay. No one wants to see the ump behind the plate replaced with a computer calling balls and strikes. But what’s wrong with taking another look at a play that took place 200 feet from where they were standing?

In the end, we have no control over what MLB does. It will take time but they’ll have to evolve to stay relevant. But we do have a choice when it comes to who leads our country. A little arugula anyone?

-A

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