Unlike many of my colleagues I did not grow up reading the Bill James Abstracts. I wasn't interested in numbers (I was given a copy of The Hidden Game of Baseball for my birthday when I was ten or eleven and didn't open the book until I was over thirty). I didn't read Bill James until about eight years ago when I inherited my cousin's collection of the Abstracts. I still wasn't especially interested in numbers (though is arguments were appealing), but I found James to be a wonderful critic and lucid writer (hey, I used to read Ruth Reichl's restaurant reviews all the time even though I never intended to go to any of the places she wrote about, I just liked reading her). In fact, the first post ever here at Bronx Banter was about the Red Sox hiring of James.
Which brings me to the 60 Minutes segment on James that was aired this past Sunday. Anyone catch it? I thought it was superficial at best. The worst part about it was that it divided baseball people into two groups--stat heads and the people who go by their "gut," by what their eyes tell them. In other words, the same, tired, old song. You would figure that 60 Minutes would be above this uninspired kind of journalism, even though they are a populist program. Billy Beane was mentioned as the man who brought sabermetrics to organized baseball. Nevermind Sandy Alderson, or Branch Rickey. Forget about Allan Roth. I guess it didn't fit their narrow profile, which didn't shed much light on the Red Sox or James.
There were numerous silly moments, my favorite being when Morley Safer whose first piece for 60 Minutes was, I believe, on Napoleon made his statement about how Bill said there's no such thing as a clutch hitter, and Red Sox Manager Terry Francona replied, "I've heard him say that (ed. note: very doubtful) but then I'd want him to be introduced to David Ortiz."
Really? Does Francona really think Bill James is somehow unaware of David Ortiz?I'm always baffled when people say goofy stuff like this when they go up to coaches and say, "Have you guys thought about playing zone?"* To me, this is a lot like hearing that a doctor has come up with a new method to perform a heart transplant, and saying, "Yeah, but have you tried that like thing where you have people open their mouths and stick tongue depressors on their tongues and stuff?"
*Roy Williams always had a classic Roy Williams-like answer whenever anyone came up to him with the "Have you thought of this" type suggestion. He would say, "No offense, but believe me, we've thought of it. Anything you have thought of, we've thought of. It's our frickin' job."
Veteran scribe Peter Golenbock is writing a book on George Steinbrenner. Peter asked if I'd be kind enough to post the following request. Here goes:
Dear Yankee fans, I am researching a book on the life and times of George Steinbrenner. If any of you have any interesting stories about him, as fans, employees, or recipients of his generosity, I would love to hear them. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your address and telephone number.