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Thread: Interview with Bill James

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Interview with Bill James

    Hey Cowboy... if you're reading this maybe you could learn something that might enhance your radio booth arrogance.

    http://sheafaithful.blogspot.com/200...-james_26.html


    Former independent writer turned revolutionary Bill James, who is now a part of the Boston Red Sox Front Office, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Bill and I discuss Mark McGwire, his own potential website, parody in sports, and more. Below you will hear the words of one of the most important people (if not THE) ever to study and analyze the game of baseball. His Baseball Abstracts are now historical texts to be read as the works of a baseball genius. You pan purchase the Bill James Handbook 2007 here, which is always an annual must-have.

    Pat Andriola: How has Nomar's value changed since his departure from Boston and his switch to first base? That is, how does he compare to the player he was in his prime?

    Bill James: Well, I wouldn't want to say anything that was disrespectful of Nomar, who is still a great player. As a player ages he loses some offensive value and some defensive value. Most players lose more defense than they do offense, and, with the injuries Nomar has had, certainly that has been true of him. Offensively, he's not that far away from where he was seven or eight years ago.

    Pat Andriola: Where would you have pegged Mark McGwire's chances of going in to the Hall on the first ballot had he not been implicated in the steroids controversy? Given the circumstances, can you make any guesses about what will happen with McGwire in future elections? What is your opinion on the situation, and do you think he is being treated fairly?

    Bill James: McGwire, even leaving out the steroids issue, does not have a career that fits the traditional pattern of an obvious Hall of Famer. He wasn't a .300 hitter, or anything close. He doesn't have 200-hit seasons. He's nowhere near 3,000 hits. He didn't have a series of 8 or 10 consecutive outstanding seasons, as most Hall of Famers did. He only had about 7 healthy seasons in his career, and he stunk in a couple of those. No, he hasn't been treated fairly. Questions are asked of him that are not being asked of other Hall of Famers, and there is really no reason for it. McGwire tried all of his career to be a credit to the game, to be someone that we could all look up to. He isn't being judged by the standard that I would choose for him, but then, it isn't my choice, and there is no logic to admiring athletes, anyway. It's just arbitrary. It's like admiring people who won the lottery.

    Pat Andriola: If you were Willie Randolph in the beginning of 2006, would you have started Jose Reyes in the leadoff spot, coming off OBP years of .271 and .300? What would your Mets batting order have been?

    Bill James: Oh, I don't know. Reyes is a phenomenal talent. What order you put the players in makes very little difference. I don't know what the optimal order was there.

    Pat Andriola: Have you considered starting a blog or website of your own?

    Bill James: Not a blog, no, but a web site, yes. Based around information.

    Pat Andriola: Omar Minaya signed Tony Pena's son, Francisco Pena, to a multi-million dollar deal at the age of 16. He has also signed young, international players such as Fernando Martinez and Deolis Guerra. Just this month, he was promoting baseball in Ghana. What do you think of Minaya's determination to gather prospects from around the world, and at ages where they should be starting to study for their SAT's?

    Bill James: You're mixing up several issues in a jumbled question. Omar Minaya's record can speak for itself; I don't need to comment on that. The players he has signed. . .only time will tell us whether that works out; I don't have any idea. We all sign players from all over the globe at ages when, were they in the US, they might be preparing for college. But you need to understand: many of these kids are signed from places where there is no> public school system. Talking about these kids going to college, in many cases, is like talking about their sprouting wings and flying to Australia. Their chance of going to college is zero percent.

    (Pat Andriola: Just to clarify, I didn't make my question clear enough. I intended to use the SAT phrase as another way of showing how young these players and not at all condemning MLB teams for scouting young players and possible "stealing" away their possible education, which I know is non-existant. However, Bill does make a very good point about how desperate these kids are to play baseball, as they have little to fall back on.)

    Pat Andriola: After spending decades as an independent (to say the least) baseball writer, how has being a member of the Red Sox front office affected your perspective on the game?

    Bill James: Well, I learn a lot. I'm working hard to try to understand the things that other people in the organization know, but I'll never really get there in some areas. The scouts see things about the game, things about the players, that I try to see, but I am way behind and have limited ability to catch up. A lot of decisions in baseball are made on the basis of things that you never think about as a fan. The internal discussion of the front office is vastly more sophisticated than the discussion that takes place in the public arena, more subtle, more layered, more complex, and with hundred of times more information. This doesn't mean that we make better decisions; sometimes we make worse decisions.

    Pat Andriola: The St. Louis Cardinals had an 82-Pythagorean-win season last year, but went on to win the World Series. Are there any changes to the system that could make it less of a chance affair, and would you want to make those changes if you could?

    Bill James: I'm not a great fan of the Wild Card. But it is tremendously important, for the health of the sport, that the best team doesn't always win. That's the real problem with the NBA. . .the best team is going to win in the long run, and everybody knows it. The season becomes a long, crushing battle in which, ultimately, you have no chance to escape justice. . .as opposed to college basketball, which is vastly more exciting, simply because you never know who will win, and therefore have to do everything you can do to maximize your chance. In the NBA you don't really HAVE a chance to win, if you're not one of the two or three best teams, and everybody knows this on some level. . .therefore, why play hard, why dive for the ball on the floor, why fight for the rebound, why sacrifice your body to score a point, when you ultimately can't win. No sport can survive if the best team always wins.
    Last edited by westofyou; 03-26-2007 at 10:52 AM.

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  3. #2
    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    "Parody" in baseball? Well, there's the Onion's Sports page, the Sports Pickle, and of course my old stuff...
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

  4. #3
    Five Tool Fool jojo's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    Thanks for this!
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    What order you put the players in makes very little difference.
    I did not know this.
    "Baseball is a very, very complex business. It's more of a people business than most businesses." - Bob Castellini

  6. #5
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    Quote Originally Posted by lollipopcurve View Post
    I did not know this.
    Good thread on it here

    http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=49703

  7. #6
    Reds 5:11 coachw513's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    wonder what it's like to be a guy that so dramatically changed the way many (not all) view the game of baseball...his theories spawned so many ways of viewing the nuances of this sport...

    oh, I can't wait to pass on the HK stuff to the next rookie...I need to start reppin' some promising youngsters
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    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    I agree fully with what James says about the best team not always winning being a good thing.

    That's why I'm very concerned about the proposed changes in the playoff format.
    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

    http://dalmady.blogspot.com

  9. #8
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    Quote Originally Posted by oneupper View Post
    I agree fully with what James says about the best team not always winning being a good thing.

    That's why I'm very concerned about the proposed changes in the playoff format.

    What proposed changes?
    The Rally Onion wants 150 fans before Opening Day.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rally-...24872650873160

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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    Quote Originally Posted by oneupper View Post
    I agree fully with what James says about the best team not always winning being a good thing.
    I understand it too, but of course the trick is finding the right balance, or there is no point to the regular season at all. Just ask the NHL. That's why I have mixed feelings at best about the wild card -- in my opinion I think it comes down a little too far on the side of chance.

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    Member GullyFoyle's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    I wouldn't say the best "team", but the best "teams" (which James alludes to). A number of NBA finals could have gone either way based on one or two baskets. After all the team with the best record doesn't win all the time and with so many games the best record would be a good determinate of the best team.

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    This one's for you Edd Heath's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    Quote Originally Posted by oneupper View Post
    That's why I'm very concerned about the proposed changes in the playoff format.
    Spill it.......
    Some people play baseball. Baseball plays Jay Bruce.

  13. #12
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    Quote Originally Posted by knuckler View Post
    I understand it too, but of course the trick is finding the right balance, or there is no point to the regular season at all. Just ask the NHL. That's why I have mixed feelings at best about the wild card -- in my opinion I think it comes down a little too far on the side of chance.
    I think the NHL playoff format really is a different type of hockey then you get in regular season, Baseball not so much, the beauty of baseball is the season is really the magic of the game, the ebbs and flows, the climbs and falls. Playoff baseball is a lot like regular season baseball, just with media added pressure, the style of the game stays intact whereas in the NHL and the other back and forths the game drama builds in the battle atmosphere, it's less cerebral on the surface and more us vs them in the trenches. It makes wonderful viewing, but poor poetry.

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    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    Quote Originally Posted by Heath View Post
    Spill it.......
    We had a thread here about it here on REDSZONE. Can't find it now.
    The proposal IIRC was to have 6 teams go to the playoffs, with the wild cards pairing off against each other...

    In any case, teams with better records would get a big boost.
    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

    http://dalmady.blogspot.com

  15. #14
    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    Bob Costas has advocated eliminating the wild cards while retaining three divisions in each league. The team in each league with the best record would get a first round bye, and then play the winner of a first round playoff series between the other two divisional champions.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

  16. #15
    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: Interview with Bill James

    I'd rather see that then more playoff teams.
    Go Gators!


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