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Thursday, December 13, 2018

MLBPA director rips Bill James for ‘reckless’ comments

Bill James

The MLB world became outraged on Thursday after a tweet by Bill James went viral, leading to plenty of backlash.

James is viewed as the father of analytics in baseball. His analysis revolutionized the way the game is viewed and has helped shape the way front offices build teams. James remains a consultant for the Red Sox and also stirs debates with his thinking both on his Twitter account and his website. This week he sent a tweet diminishing the importance of the current players in MLB as baseball free agency is set to kick off.

“If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are,” James said.

That kind of harsh comment was obviously going to be met with a harsh response, and it has been.

The Red Sox distanced themselves from James in a statement.

“Bill James is a consultant to the Red Sox. He is not an employee, nor does he speak for the club. His comments on Twitter were inappropriate and do not reflect the opinions of the Red Sox front office or its ownership group. Our Championships would not have been possible without our incredibly talented players – they are the backbone of our franchise and our industry. To insinuate otherwise is absurd.”

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark called James’ comments “reckless and insulting.”

“The comments Bill James made yesterday are both reckless and insulting considering our game’s history regarding the use of replacement players. The Players ARE the game. And our fans have an opportunity to enjoy the most talented baseball Players in the world every season. If these sentiments resonate beyond this one individual, then any challenges that lie ahead will be more difficult to overcome than initially anticipated.”

James’ comments come across as cold but are not much different from many of the principles that were put on display in “Moneyball.” Billy Beane was portrayed as emphasizing an impersonal approach to analyzing players so he could see the game in an unbiased manner. The concepts aren’t revolutionary. But while you may think it, you have to be cognizant of the reaction you will receive for saying such a thing.

Furthermore, from a fan standpoint, I disagree with James. People like seeing the incredible, the amazing, the world-class talent. Fans don’t respond as well to seeing a lesser product. If you replace all the players and bring in new ones in three years, you’ll likely suffer lower ratings and attendance across the board, which would be bad for the game.

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