You can’t know the game unless you’ve played it. And the people who use stats to provide analysis haven’t played the game. They haven’t been in the batter’s box when the pitcher is bearing down on you. And they haven’t been on the mound with runners on and the game up grabs.
In baseball, the only thing worse than pretending to know more than you do is to spill secrets about the inner workings of a team. Unfortunately, in his latest bit of writing for ESPN, former Washington Nationals general manager Jim Boughton, whom I normally respect, did both.
Boughton suggests that as a former GM, he’d use this quick method to evaluate a player’s performance: Take his on base percentage add it to his slugging percentage and then add his total amount of RBIs. Talk about complicated! That’s three different things added together, and they’re not even all counting stats.
Now, Boughton already had a reputation for revealing baseball secrets thanks to his popular book that was eventually turned into a movie. In it, he revealed such closely guarded secrets as Mickey Mantle’s alcoholism. But this time Boughton has gone too far.
His complex statistic, which must be used quite often by Major League teams, involves adding two formulas to a static number. I’m disgusted that Boughton would reveal an industry secret like this to the public. It will only be a matter of time until FanCharts picks up on this industry standard and begins using it. They, like Boughton, already feel as though they know more than they actually do, and armed with industry insider information, they will only get more dangerous.
As a former player and coach, I’d like to call on my comrades in the game to blacklist Boughton and avoid sharing any more interviews or inside information with him. There’s no code of silence since he left the game and joined the media. He’s simply not to be trusted.
I’ve got a number of secrets that I could reveal, like methods for timing a pitcher’s throws to the plate, effective fielding drills and ways to maintain focus and hunger while batting. But I don’t because I recognize that some things belong to the people who play the game.
Jim Boughton should’ve known better than to spill the beans like this.
I remember playing on a team in North Carolina in the early seventies. I was on my last legs but a rookie with the club was getting friendly with one of the local writers, likely aiming for a gig once his playing career was over. He thought he was something else on the team bus, always reading books while the rest of us played cards.
We showed him a thing or two though. Before a game in Lafayette, I took aside the opposing pitcher whom I knew from a Sally League team I played on a few years before. He owed me a favour after I introduced him to his wife, or maybe his road girlfriend. I can’t remember. Anyway, I told him to hit Chatty Kathy between the numbers if he got the chance, and sure enough with two out in the second, he planted a fastball in the rookie’s back.
As he dusted himself off and took first base, we taunted him from the dugout, asking if he was going to tell his reporter friend about that.
That rookie was actually my son. And while he may have started out as a disappointment to me, he now runs a profitable plumbing business in Central Florida based on the lessons he learned from playing baseball.
And, so that’s why you shouldn’t reveal secrets from the world of baseball to the world outside it.
Hunter Roscoe is a former Minor League Baseball player and coach. You can follow him on Twitter.