60 Minutes’ Lame Piece on Bill James

1206972251In retrospect we probably shouldn’t have been surprised that 60 Minutes’ piece on statistical guru, and Red Sox adviser, Bill James had less bite than John Halama‘s slider. CBS certainly sent up enough warning signals with its promo hype: There’s this guy and he’s kind of schlubby, but he’s the man responsible for the Red Sox winning the World Series.

Anyone who follows baseball with any seriousness knows who Bill James is, and everyone who does already knows the story—frustrated genius works as a nightwatchman in a factory and satisfies his creative Jones by turning conventional baseball wisdom on its ear. Apparently not CBS though.

Instead we were treated to Morley Safer‘s skeptical narration. On base plus slugging? Mad. No such thing as a clutch hitter? This man must be crazy. I know clutch hitting exists because I’ve seen it. The only surprise in the piece is that were zero surprises.

Safer trotted out Tito Francona to give the old reliable dictum that people play the game, not numbers, which is exactly what the manager should say since he has to make all 25 guys feel like Super Man regardless of their home/road splits. Mike Lowell confirmed that ballplayers don’t think about fielding percentage (but what about range factor, Mike?), and Larry Lucchino even got to throw out his tired bit about the Yankees spending a lot of money. Two words, LL: Daisuke Matsuzaka.

We were told that to end the curse (ugh) the Red Sox were willing to do anything, the obvious conclusion being that they would hire this bearded nut from the pork and beans factory. And we were also reminded that Sparky Anderson was once mean to him. Over 20 years ago.

The Red Sox don’t like to share with people what they do, and James likes to share even less. He’s a tough man to profile mainly because he seems to have long ago come to peace with the realization that there will always be people who won’t accept what he does at face value, and he doesn’t particularly feel the need to explain it to them.

But the best Safer could do was guess that James was behind the signing of David Ortiz (James, himself, debunked that one) and also that he was behind the non re-signing of Johnny Damon and Pedro Martinez, because, the piece speculates, only James knows that players decline when they get older, which is total nonsense.

The only good thing that could come out of this cliche-ridden rehash of nothing would be if the geniuses over at Fire Joe Morgan would do that thing they do to it.