Every so often, something speaks to me and I hear it better than I hear most things. In high school, it was the beautiful prose of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truman Capote, the wit of Kurt Vonnegut. In college, it was the rhythm of Shakespeare and Chaucer as well as the cinematic grace of Douglas Sirk and Paul Verhoeven (I hope you’re reading, Joe). Yesterday, something spoke to me as a baseball fan.
Colin Wyers of Baseball Prospectus wrote a rebuttal to a post on Bill Simmons’ new site, Grantland. The last two paragraphs are what connected with me most:
Well, guys, I appreciate your concern, I really do. But do me a favor, would you? Just shut up. I know which end of the bottle the beer comes out of, I really do. I’ve watched ballgames outside, in actual sunlight—no, really. If knowing that a pitcher’s BABIP against rate in a small sample is largely unpredictive of his rate in a larger sample makes it harder for you to enjoy watching a game, I’m sorry. But if knowing more about baseball makes it harder for you to enjoy the game, then I’m really not seeing your case that you’re the better fan than someone like me.
I know those things and I still love baseball. Love love love it. And you can have whatever opinion you want to of people like me and the work we do. But stop, please, just stop questioning whether or not we love baseball. It’s demeaning, it’s insulting, and it’s been a hoary old cliché for longer than I’ve been alive. Let it rest in peace.
In my baseball fan life, I don’t think I’ve ever been vilified too harshly for taking the sabermetric point of view and here on the Internet, I’ve been nothing but accepted. But, in real life, it’s something that I don’t get to show off very often. To my knowledge, I’ve had one real-life, back-and-forth discussion based around sabermetrics. The rest have all featured a lot of talking on my end along with the half-interested looks of my family and friends (though I do remember my cousin’s boyfriend being genuinely interested at some family function). Despite my relatively positive experiences, I have seen the “get your head out of the stat sheet” sentiment that Wyers alludes to and what he says is absolutely true. Just because I enjoy stats and they give me a source of enjoyment during baseball games doesn’t mean I enjoy baseball any less. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the game any less.
I’ve loved baseball since I was a boy. I’ve loved watching it; I’ve loved playing it. Now I love talking about it and analyzing it using every piece of information that’s available to me. I’m going to try to get you to do the same, too. It’s only enhanced my enjoyment of the game, and I hope it would do the same for you. If not, cool; I won’t knock you for it as long as you don’t knock me for it.
Numbers and statistics help tell a story of the game; so do the events that happen on the field every ngiht. No matter how I look at baseball, whether it’s the numbers or whether it’s watching the game (not that those things are mutually exclusive), it is beautiful.
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