A few items for people trying to escape the Kobe talk…
After the letter this morning, here are a couple rebuttals, First as presented by Matthew Martinelli:
The letter published today on your website by Kevin Gilligan is not only an insult to those who have entered the journalism field, but also an insult to those who drop a few quarters down each day to read those journalists. His shoddy stereotyping of all writers as not very bright and his claim that no sports writer ever got a job awarded on merit is one of the most outrageous claims I have ever heard. To let you know how the process usually works it is basically, a few years covering high school sports at a minor paper, then covering major league sports at a minor paper and then a jump to a major metro.
It is utterly ridiculous how much flak sportswriters in this town get. Have Boston sports fans ever read other papers? The quality of the coverage in the Boston Globe and the Herald far surpasses just about any other papers in the country. The constant criticism of hall-of-fame caliber writers such as Shaughnessy and Ryan may sometimes be merited, but it is often not. The criticism comes from an interior feeling in some sports fans around here that they know more about the local teams than anyone else. They're simply jealous of many sportswriters for having a pretty nice job.
Note: Mr. Gilligan, who wrote the letter from this morning, has a doctorate in molecular biology. While that may not qualify him to judge sports writing, I feel fairly certain that he is happy with what he’s accomplished in life, and isn’t too jealous of the sports writers. I would also concede that the Boston writers for the most part, are far above the quality found in many other cities. That’s not the issue here. At issue is the personal attacks and negative reporting style that flourishes among them.
Next, Howard Bryant, who has been critical of Bill James in the past, has a response to the letter of this morning. With his permission, here it is:
I wanted to respond to your item today about Bill James. I know you or the letter you quoted doesn't refer to me by name, but I thought for clarity's sake, writing might do some good.
First, I am not a Bill James hater, or a basher, or a person who has any real philosophy about his value. I wrote critically last week of him not because of his theories, or his intellect, but of his lack of tact. There is a big difference there.
James, this season, has been on a real and noticeable campaign to draw attention to himself and by doing so is fair game to be scrutinized. Just like everyone else. His joint-book tour with Michael Lewis, I thought, was inappropriate, as is the Red Sox decision to let Lewis throw out the first pitch this Friday against the Yankees.
What I don't understand about him is why he _ and the writer of the letter in today's article _ needs to attack the intelligence level of people who disagree with him. Why is his word unassailable? Why can he call Don Zimmer a "Neanderthal" but cannot be questioned himself? This, I don't understand.
The comment that people who cover sports "aren't very bright" offers the kind of "axe-grinding" James-bashers are supposed to be guilty of. I never said I was smart, or played baseball at a high-level, but neither has Bill James.
Why is a person who is skillful at analyzing data untouchable in evaluating the full scope of a baseball player, the heart, the preparation, the desire, the mentality? Like virtually everything else, James offers a valuable perspective that should be respected. but he can be disagreed with, can't he? To say that clutch hitting, as James and Billy Beane do, is merely luck, is nonsense. Does that make me an idiotic James basher who simply is too unevolved to know better?
No matter how you choose to interpret it, the CBC, as applied by the Red Sox this season, was a failure. Does this mean James is a failure? No. Does it mean we can all gloat about it? No. Does it mean that with better pitchers, it will still fail? No. But it does mean that during the winter and at the beginning of spring training, he and Theo Epstein not only promulgated an idea, but did so with an intellectual smarminess that offended many people in the game. That's a fact.
We all have our axes to grind, no question about that. James does, too, especially (and sometimes rightfully) at the Lords of Baseball for how they treated him over the years. But I think it is quite simplistic to take issue with James critics as knuckle-dragging morons. That sounds more like how James himself would consider any one who differs from he in opinion.
Fair enough. I suggested to Mr. Bryant that perhaps the average fan or reader might not be aware of the things that he describes here. They just read James’ book, and then read unflattering things about him in their local newspaper. They’re not sure of the reasons why, and thus conclude that the writers must be threatened and scared by James’ intellect. (Which still might be a factor in the whole equation.) Bryant then told me to feel free to put his thoughts on-the-record.
Couple other things. Remember the big stink Gordon Edes made about the Red Sox lack of African-American players? The Toronto Blue Jays have been fighting similar accusations. Boston media pal J.P. Ricciardi has been under a small spotlight in this area. Bob Elliot reports on the story. One paragraph:
This spring a scout cracked "so how are things covering the Boston Celtics?" The implication was that new Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, highly unpopular in the scouting fraternity after firing so many scouts in 2002, was making the Jays like the Celtics, who concentrated on white players.
The issue, similar to the Red Sox this spring, appears to have no real legs, though I wonder if the recent Stewart for Kielty trade raised any eyebrows. (Thanks to Ryan Baker for the article.)
Jeff Merron of ESPN Page2 grades Fenway Park.