Finally Joining the Old Guard
Bill Simmons is one of my favorite writers on the planet. An inspiration. The highlight of my 11th-grade Physics class was being pulled from class by a friend who told me that I had made Simmons’ mailbag. Reading his latest piece on Friday made me smile. Profusely. But I thought it would be funny for a Sabermetrician to write the exact opposite type of piece.
Question: Who’s going to have the biggest decline in baseball this year -- Ben Zobrist, Joel Pineiro, J.A. Happ, or Joe Mauer?
Answer: None of the above. The answer is me.
See, I’ve loved writing about baseball these past two years, developing stats too complicated for the common fan’s liking. Did I respect the work of ESPN, Murray Chass, Dan Shaughnessy, Mike Lupica, and everyone else in that community? Of course not. I just hated the ignorance of it, the concept that opinion could trump data. If whimsies always prevailed, what was the point of analysis? I longed for the future when I could say things like, “Brett Gardner has had the 11th highest WAR rate among outfielders in the last two years. Calling him a fourth outfielder is batshit crazy.” And there wouldn’t be some dude calling WFAN and WEPN saying, “Well, I think…”
Look at that last sentence again.
Fundamentally, it’s fundamental. I just admitted I longed to be objective with my analysis.
My first favorite player was Scott Brosius, New York's flappable third baseman. I don’t know why. I was a third baseman as a kid and I guess I just thought he was a really good defender. Fun to watch. Don’t really care if he stood the test of time, although he does rate well by WOWY. I just enjoyed watching him barehand bunts and hit World Series home runs off BYK like any True Yankee. Hence, my attitude for the past few years could be summed up like this:
“Who cares if your favorite player/team sucks? I’m just presenting the data, no need to take offense. Shouldn’t change how you enjoy watching the game.”
Things shifted this winter when a guy told me that I live in my mother’s basement. Instinctively, I understood that I don’t live in my mother’s basement. I live in a dorm room on campus. Why would somebody tell me that I live in my mother’s basement when he has no bearing for that remark? Why would you try to purposely offend me, when you don’t even know me? Why are you so angry? Calm down, bro. Have a beer.
Baseball friends I trusted kept telling me, “Think of it existentially. The mother’s basement is a metaphor for “the past,” and the guy was really talking about himself. So in actuality, he was saying that he lives in the past and feels that you’re encroaching upon his territory. He’s getting older and more out of touch, and he’s uncomfortable with change.”
I wanted to believe it. Cautiously, nervously, I started researching where my tuition and room and board were coming from, begrudgingly coming to one conclusion: I do “live in my mother’s basement.” My mother’s basement is a painfully unoriginal insult disguised as a cliché. I am my parents’ genes with arms and legs. I am dependent on my parents. Does this paragraph make sense? No. Ignoring logic…that’s the trick. And the nonsense indicated that my sensibilities were wrong.
Little did I know, the ball was rolling for me. I spent March making myriad friends and clearing my acne and losing my virginity and GTLing, and not speaking with a nasally voice for mostly unselfish reasons (The world is a better place when I’m socially active.), but also because I realized that the only way to avoid insults from the old guard is to conform. I even understand why mainstream guys take it so personally whenever a stat junky spouts out an informed baseball study. It’s too hard to be a Sabermetrician these days. Takes a lot more time than you might think.
Without further ado, I am leaving the world of Sabermetrics. Getting out of my mother’s basement makes life more fun. At least for me.