October 29, 2014

Posnanski On Bill James: Vanguard After The Revolution

Here is Bill James on one of his favorite words and causes: "Bullshit."

"Bullshit has tremendous advantages over knowledge. Bullshit can be created as needed, on demand, without limit. Anything that happens, you can make up an explanation for why it happened. ..."

Bill James is 65 years old, and he still has an acute sensitivity to bullshit. This has been the defining instinct in his professional life. For forty years now, he has been writing purportedly about baseball, but more about that grating buzzing sound of bullshit that has served as background music to our National Pastime. ...

Nobody was doing what Bill James was doing in the 1970s. He had predecessors, of course, people who tried to look objectively at baseball through the numbers, outsiders who studied the game's data and came to interesting and unexpected conclusions about the limitations of batting average or the self-defeating nature of bunts or whatever.

But no one before James had ever concluded that there was an AUDIENCE for such thoughts. ...

As it turns out, there was a very large audience of baseball fans who had grown tired of the same bullshit that drove James to distraction, tired of being spoon-fed clich├ęs about valiant pitchers who simply knew how to win, tired of reading quotes from managers about a .200 ballplayer who helped the team in so many hidden ways, tired of only being told a story from the insider's point of view.

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