I wasn’t going to write anything in response to Jason Whitlock’s article on why sabermetrics are such a bad thing, not because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The ease with which one targets marine life in a confined space has never held me back before, and it doesn’t here either.
Put plainly, my hesitation was caused by this sort of nonsense just being a case of Whitlock being Whitlock. At this point, it’s expected. His ridiculously lazy, poorly thought out opinions carry about as much weight as a toddler portaging a canoe with two coureurs de bois.
However, I read his piece over again, and it made me think that there might be something of value in pointing out flaws in an argument. It’s not to embarrass the writer. Whitlock does a good enough job of that on his own without my assistance. No, we call stupid things stupid so that future arguments are strengthened.
So that when I suggest Brett Gardner is the best defensive outfielder in baseball, you can say no, Peter Bourjous is because he plays center field instead of left field, and use that as your argument instead of bringing up a specific anecdote, like his one great catch from last night. It’s about finding better reasoning to support the claims we make and challenging each other’s beliefs like iron sharpening iron.
And also it’s kind of fun to make up snarky insults. So, let’s take a look at the most egregious of Whitlock’s paragraphs, which look as though they could’ve been texted in to his editor from a smart phone.
There’s a stat for nearly every action in baseball. Little is left to the imagination. Sports were never intended to be a computer program, stripped to cold, hard, indisputable, statistical facts. Sports — particularly for fans — are not science. Sports, like art, are supposed to be interpreted.
It’s difficult to interpret baseball these days. The stat geeks won’t let you argue. They quote sabermetrics and end all discussion. Is so-and-so a Hall of Famer? The sabermeticians will punch in the numbers and give you, in their mind, a definitive answer.
It’s boring. It’s ruining sports.
God forbid someone derive pleasure from an aspect of sports that Mr. Whitlock can’t spin a fanciful and ultimately faulty narrative around. I understand that it must seem as though “stat geeks” won’t let you argue when they bring reason and logic to a debate rather than mere race baiting, but there’s actually a difference between not letting you argue and winning an argument.
And as long as logic and reason are celebrated in arguments, a record of factual occurrences is always likely to be more persuasive than the volume of one’s voice increasing or the attempt to hammer a square object into a cylindrical hole simply because one is more familiar with equilaterals than circles.
Don’t blame stat geeks for “ruining sports.” Blame the arrested development that stopped Mr. Whitlock from finding new and intellectually stimulating aspects that only enhance the expierence of sports and the passion that erupts in its followers.