The news of Bill James joining the Boston Red Sox as a senior advisor, reported by his former protoge Rob Neyer yesterday, sure is a curious way to initiate the Hot Stove League this winter. It is a move that is certain to attract the attention of those of us who follow baseball writers and writing as much as the game itself. As Neyer points out in a seperate piece, James is not the first Sabermetrician to be employed by a Major League team, but he sure is the most famous.
Although I have no idea how much the Sox will benefit from James' expertise, it does make sense that the team with perhaps the greatest literary history, should hire a heavyweight like James. It's a weird but delicious marriage, one that appears to have been an easy call for Boston's owner John Henry, who has long been a fan of James' work. If you are progressive enough to value the benefits of Sabermetrics, why not go directly to the Don?
I'm interested to see how the media in Boston will react to James. Will Bob Ryan or Gordon Edes at the Globe have access to James, or will the Sox keep him an in-house presence?
James has enjoyed great success as a baseball analyst and observer, and yet he's operated outside of the game, on his own terms. Will he be like Pauline Kael, the film critic, who left her post at The New Yorker in the late 70's to work for Warren Beatty at Paramount, but only lasted 4 or 5 months in Hollywood before returning to her post, or will he truly flourish within the confines of Fenway park? No matter how it pans out, I can only hope James will one day write a book about his experience with the Sox. That way he can cover his ass with prose if his sage advice somehow fails. Either way, we will have another entertaining an enlightening book to gobble up.