setlist junkie night two
alec baldwin enters the emmy race early

champions

Two stories that merge:

In 1977, a man named Bill James self-published a book he called The Baseball Abstract. By 1982, James had gotten enough attention that a "real" publisher began putting out his books. Over the years, James became the world's most famous "sabermetrician" (a term he coined, which describes a particular approach to baseball analysis). James is pretty much universally recognized as the person most responsible for the state of baseball analysis today, even as others have taken that analysis into new and important areas. It should be noted that not everyone thinks James's contributions have been positive ... the San Francisco Giants, for instance, have a General Manager who is rumored to have once said that statistics gave him a headache. I've described the gradually increasing influence of sabermetric analysis as a "new paradigm" which, to my mind, is not coming quickly enough (but then, stats give my team's GM a headache).

Story #2: In 1920, the Boston Red Sox sold a player named Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Ruth went on to have arguably the greatest career of any player in baseball history, and the Yankees became the most successful team in baseball. The Red Sox, who had won four World Series in the 1910s, including one in 1918, did not win another World Championship for 86 years. The Curse of the Bambino became part of baseball lore.

And here the two stories converge. In 2003, the Boston Red Sox gave Bill James a job in their front office. James was not the first sabermetric analyst to find his way onto a club, but as the most famous of the analysts, he was a lightning rod for anyone with an opinion about the new paradigm.

In 2004, after 86 years, the Red Sox won the World Series. And tonight, they won it again, their second title in four years.

And you'll hear stories about heart and all those great Boston fans, and about Schilling and Ramirez, and all of those stories will be at least partly true.

But if you're going to allow for the existence of curses, you have to accept the possibility of their opposite. And so I give you The Blessing of Bill James. If I was a praying man, I'd be sending out a special message to the powers that be: please, oh great one, get rid of those fuckers in the Giants front office and bring us a blessing for a change.

That's not really the point, though. Analysis is the antithesis of irrational belief in curses and blessings. Quite simply, the Boston Red Sox are now successful because they know what they are doing. And they proved that when they gave a job to Bill James.

Comments

Pica

What I especially like about this team is that it's not the high flyers who won it. I mean they showed up and they did their bit. The three young guys who were picked up because the scouts were following James's rules had as much to do with it. In fact I think series MVP could just have easily have gone to Pedroia/Ellsbury, joint, with Papelbon thrown in. Pedroia is making Major League minimum wage... Even the A's could've afforded him, and he was just up the road here in Woodland.

But I share your impatience and despair about the Giants front office and hope somebody was watching this series...

San Francisco Giants

The Boston Red Sox are slowly becoming the Yankees. It's a sad day in baseball. Long live the Giants!

Jeff

The timing of this is really funny. The Association where I work is in the midst of a strategic planning process, and over the past three weeks we've been conducting "roll-out" meetings to the entire staff. Because of my position within the Association I'm the primary spokesperson for this process. One of the areas within the plan has to do with data, and it is probably the area where it is most likely that significant changes are going to be made. So as I'm pondering how to approach this in a non-threatening way the night before the first meeting, I decided to do an intro about Bill James - explaining who we was (some knew, but not many), how he challenged the conventional wisdom, people began to approach the game differently, he got hired by the Red Sox, Red Sox finally win World Series...and close with his own definition of his role, which he has said is to ensure that everything the organization does is based on actual evidence. And that's how I lead into the presentation, and it's gone over incredibly well - folks who had no idea who James is have told me that it made it "real" for them.

After these meetings I usually need a little time to unwind, since I've been talking non-stop for two hours. And what is the first thing I read when blog-surfing? This! Definitely brought a smile to my face.

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