Bill James’ detractors have a point. The man is unquestionably intelligent and deserves a large chunk of credit for getting baseball fans to look at their favourite game in new and interesting ways. He also, without a doubt, has come up with some excellent tools that tell one a lot more about the game than was possible with traditional statistics. But his ego is large, and worse, he doesn’t seem to realise this.
He comments early on in The Politics of Glory that he’s a “centrist”. He notes in passing that his opinions are in the dead center of political thought. Now, maybe he does tend to agree with both political parties in the US about some issues and disagree on others, but the only people who think they’re dead center are misguided. What that statement really means is, I’m the only reasonable person in the world. Bill James says that the two sides of the political spectrum are 80% bovine scatology and everyone knows it. That is to say, everyone in politics is deliberately dishonest and if they’d only listen to Bill James, we’d immanentize that old eschaton in no time. And, to me, this calls into question everything else he writes. It’s normal to always think you’re right, but it’s not normal to think you’re always right. (Ponder that for a second if it doesn’t strike you right away.)
But, even if he hadn’t done that, he claims he won’t make any arguments about who does and doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame and then spends the next 350 pages or so doing exactly that. I don’t mind opinions, but don’t tell me you aren’t taking sides out of one side of your mouth and then do just that out of the other side.
Leaving that aside, the book is an interesting look at what the standards of the Hall of Fame are and how they got that way. I think his idea for how to “fix” Hall of Fame voting is problematic and too democratic, but I do think he’s right that it couldn’t be worse than the procedures have been often in the past. The process is probably worse now than when he wrote the book, too.
Listening to: Metallica – S&M (Disc 1) – 08 – No Leaf Clover