June 16, 2008

Reading Room

I never found the time or energy to comment on Buzz Bissinger's bizarre reaction back in April to Will Leitch and sports blogs in general, but reading this personal story of a Portland columnist (found thru Glenn Greenwald and Attytood) led me to Smittblog's take, which is quite good. (Plus he's a Sox fan.)

Morgan Ensberg was a guest poster on Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes's blog back on April 25. It was short but interesting. I never knew this about second base umpires between innings:
TV contracts are a really big deal in baseball. So much so that the umpire at second base has a stop watch and starts it immediately following the last out of the inning. We all sit and warm up and wait until a minute and 30 seconds (I think that is how long) has passed. You will see the home plate umpire standing and waiting, the batter will be outside the batters box waiting, and you will see the pitcher standing behind the mound and looking at second base and waiting for the umpire to move back into the outfield or put his hat on (the signal that we have passed the time needed for commercials) and that tell us we can start. It drives all of us crazy.
Here's two articles from Dugout Central: An interview with John Paciorek – who went 3-for-3 (with two walks) in his only major league game on September 29, 1963 -- and a question: "Does Bill James Belong in the Hall of Fame?"


allan said...

Just some random shit while I pack. See you at game time.

Jack Marshall said...

Random shit, but GREAT random shit.

Hadn't thought of it, but it's so obvious: of course Bill James belongs in the Hall. He's changed the game and perceptions of it, as well as standards for evaluating player quality. If a sportscaster or sportswriter belongs (and I'm not saying they don't), then James has to be in.

allan said...

Yeah, of course he belongs.

Thinking of the true baseball revolutionaries of the 20th Century, could James be one of the Top 5? Certainly Top 10.

That Marvin Miller (one of the 5) is not in the Hall is a complete disgrace. I was going to make a list, but maybe that should wait until I have more time.

Branch Rickey (also one of the 5) gets a lot of attention because of Jackie Robinson, but he and Dodgers statman Allan Roth were Bill James before Bill James was born (or when he was very young).

Alan Schwartz's The Numbers Game is a fasinating history of stats. You'll find that several of James's ideas and statements were put forth by writers 110+ years ago.

9casey said...

Jack Marshall said...
Random shit, but GREAT random shit.

Hadn't thought of it, but it's so obvious: of course Bill James belongs in the Hall. He's changed the game and perceptions of it,

I will agree he has changed the perceptions, but those perceptions need to be postive...If he has in some sort of way made the game better , than yes he should be in the Hall , some would argue a lot of his stats are silly and overthink the game a little......I just think you need to come up with some way he has helped the game......

Jack Marshall said...

Casey, I think its pretty certain that James has changed the ways the game is played and managed, talent is evaluated, trades are made, and teams are constructed. He has never misused stats, and in fact has railed against the use of stupid stats. James, when he stopped writing the Abstract, regretted the fact that some morons have distorted his work, but his contributions are way, way to the positive side.

And he helped the Red Sox finally win the Series!

Jack Marshall said...

Redsock: James was always generous with credit to others, and it isn't surprising that he was the one who finally broke through the barriers of public consciousness with ideas that have been around a long time. But that's a major contribution all by itself.

When I started listening to every single Red Sox game in 1962 on my transistor radio, nobody mentioned on base averages or slugging. If you hit .220, you stunk; if you hit .300, you were terrific. Players like Bobby Richardson were called "great lead-off men" even though they never walked. A good fielder was one who didn't make errors, that's all. I need to think about all the ways the focus on using stats to understand the game, led by James, has made the game richer, more interesting and better, but I know it's a lot.

I'd love to know your top five. Ten would be easier.

nixon33 said...


laura k said...

I was going to mention Marvin Miller. If he dies without being in the Hall of Fame, that will be a disgrace. I'm glad at least he's had the chance to see a few prominent sportswriters make the case for him.

allan said...

If you called James a statistician, he'd probably want to slap you. The mainstream sports media does that, but they are hopelessly ignorant. At best, it's a simplification.

What James has always done -- since the very beginning -- is ask questions.

To get the answers, he has to look at the records that are kept about players and the games. That's the only place where stats come into play.

For 30+ years, James has helped millions of fans think about the game they love in a more intelligent way than ever before. And whether they know it or not, they have been touched by James's work.

Honestly, I can't think of any negatives when it comes to James's work.

allan said...

In the last interview I read with Miller, he has come to terms with not being voted in -- and possibly never being voted in.

His attitude now is "whatever. fuck 'em".

Bartman said...

Good on ya for mentioning Glenn G.