Red Sox Adviser and Sabermetrics Guru Bill James in Hot Water for Saying MLB Players Are as Valuable to Baseball as Beer Vendors

CBS Sports –  In a series of since deleted tweets, sabermetrics godfather and Red Sox special consultant Bill James responded to general criticism by agent Scott Boras, who ripped teams for tanking during the GM Meetings earlier this week. In those since-deleted tweets, James called all players replaceable (transcript via Hardball Talk):

If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are.

Yikes. Bill James is the godfather of modern day baseball. He made analytics, sabermetrics and Moneyball cool. He changed the game, there’s no denying that. But he’s also been know to say some pretty outlandish shit. Like back in 2012 when he defended Joe Paterno for turning a blind eye to child rape.

“During an interview on ESPN radio, James claimed…that it wasn’t Paterno’s responsibility to report allegations of child molestation to the police… When asked if he knew anyone who had showered with a boy they were not related to, James said it was a common practice when he was growing up. “That was actually quite common in the town I grew up in. That was quite common in America 40 years ago.”

Soo yea, Bill James is all over the place. Revolutionary baseball mind? Yup. A guy that probably has a few screws loose after spending the majority of his life playing baseball in excel sheets? You bet.

I can kind of understand what he means when he says baseball is bigger than any one player; its the centuries of fandom, its listening to the game on the radio with your dad, the old adage we all root for laundry. But to flat out say that if Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and the rest of the Red Sox quit it wouldn’t make a difference?

If a high school baseball team was playing under the lights at Fenway rocking the classic white and red home unis, ya know what? That game would be unwatchable. There’s a reason minor league baseball is a niche sport in terms of spectators. Theres a reason nobody gives a shit about the CFL. Theres a reason nobody watches Boston College football. Theres a reason only degenerate gamblers watch Division II football. It’s the players. It’s the talent. If your team, league, or sport doesn’t have the best talent in the world then I’m not really interested.

Well it came as no surprise that the MLB Players Association was pretty cheesed when they heard Bill James say the players are as valuable to the game as BEER VENDORS!

MLBPA chief Tony Clark responded to James’ stunningly dense tweets with a statement Thursday morning.

These comments Bill James made yesterday are both reckless and insulting considering our game’s history regarding the use of replacement players. The Players ARE the game. And our fans have an opportunity to enjoy the most talented baseball Players in the world every season. If these sentiments resonate beyond this one individual, then any challenges that lie ahead will be more difficult to overcome than initially anticipated.”

Not to mention, Bill James’ comments come right on the heels of Scott Boras accusing the entire league of collusion against big money free agents. So Tony Clark has every right to be bullshit here. If an employee consultant of the Boston Red Sox and someone with a vast influence as the most respected sabermatrician ever is publicly downplaying the value of the league’s players, you can imagine the conflict of interest. Maybe the GM of one team says you know what he’s right, I’ll just pay 25 beer vendors the league minimum instead and people will still show up. I mean, the Marlins tried it and they had 39 of the 50 Lowest Attended Games in baseball last year, but you get my point.

Players around the league, including the one who just won the Gold Glove for the team that employs Bill James, were less than pleased with his comments.

Even the guy who credits analytics for making him his fortune, Red Sox owner John Henry, is side stepping the bus to let his old friend Bill James take this hit on his own.

The Red Sox issued the following statement Thursday afternoon in response to James’ comments:

“Bill James is a consultant to the Red Sox. He is not an employee, nor does he speak for the club. His comments on Twitter were inappropriate and do not reflect the opinions of the Red Sox front office or its ownership group. Our Championships would not have been possible without our incredibly talented players — they are the backbone of our franchise and our industry. To insinuate otherwise is absurd.”

Live look at the Red Sox front office calling Bill James in for a meeting:

While nothing is quite as entertaining as the drama that is the NBA offseason, the MLB offseason is off to a roaring start with Bryce Harper turning down $300 Million contracts, Craig Kimbrel claiming to be the GOAT, Scott Boras blaming everyone for everything, and now Bill James is referring to real life MLB players like they’re his own personal MVP 2005 on PS2.

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