Wednesday, March 5, 2008 Updated: March 12, 9:03 AM ET
Stop the revolution . . . I want to get off
By Art Garfamudis Page 2 guest columnist
So Jeremy Brown has called it quitskies, huh? You'd think that the retirement of a guy who is built somewhat like me would make me sad, but it doesn't. Instead, I danced a hora when I heard it.
At least, I did the dance after the person who told me about the retirement explained to me who Brown was. I had never heard of the guy myself. For those of you who, like me, made the smart literary choice and didn't read "Moneyball," Brown was the undraftable catcher the scouts passed on, but whom Oakland GM Billy Beane took with the 35th pick of the 2002 draft. (A lot of people think Beane wrote the book. Not true. The author, Michael Lewis, was an A's intern who wanted to make the boss look good.) When books are written about guys like Brown, you gotta wonder about the intelligence of the American book-buying public that made it into a best-seller.
We can only hope that Jeremy Brown's retirement will burst the bubble on the "Moneyball" experiment.
Don't get me wrong. I love "Moneyball." Though I never spent more than $3.99 for the book, I probably own more copies of "Moneyball" than anyone in America. I've got one propping up the table I'm writing on right now. I trained a puppy with two other copies, and lined the cages of some parrots with a couple of others. I don't even like birds, but I saw an opportunity to do what was right with that book, so I bought the birds and resisted the temptation to pluck 'em and fry 'em. To this day, they do nature's business on the silly words contained therein.
I have a copy of "Moneyball" under the sink in my bathroom for when we run out of toilet paper. When I go to the pistol range, I always bring one along and hang it on the line. I know book burnings have gotten a bad reputation, but if a guy came to the door and said he was starting a bonfire with copies of "Moneyball," well, I'd donate the high-test.
Here's the thing: We used to enjoy baseball just fine before all this "Moneyball" stuff started. You'd go to the ballpark or to a bar and people would talk about the game and never mention made-up stats like VROOM or SHIRK or PMS. Everyone got along just fine. Teams played, pitchers pitched, batters batted, the won-loss columns would fill up and, at the end of the year, you'd have the World Series. What was so hard about that?
Now, I look at the stats page and it has more columns than the Parthenon. Puts an antebellum plantation to shame. What do we need all these extra numbers for? The game is being ruined by people who would be better off watching "Star Trek" (come to think of it, one of their cockamamy stats is called WARP). What was wrong with the way things used to be? Was the game losing fans because it didn't have enough ways of measuring itself? (Did I mention the stats page has a lot of columns? It has more than the rich-boy frat house at an Ivy League school.)
The first thing we need to do is go back to our roots stats-wise. Stats pages on this and other Web sites should get back to basics. I suggest these time-honored baseball accounting practices, laid across the page in the traditional format: games played, at-bats, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, homers, runs batted in, batting average and maybe, if there's room, stolen bases. That's 10 items. For pitchers, there's games, games started, wins, losses, winning percentage, saves, innings pitched, hits, strikeouts, walks and ERA. That's 11, which might be too much. Forget strikeouts. If the guy's getting people out, it will show up in his ERA.
What else do you really need to know about a guy? If you can't tell how good a player is from those basic stats, there's something seriously wrong with you -- I mean brain-damage wrong. If you can't tell how good a player is from those basic stats, then maybe your daddy was drunk when you were a baby and he dropped you on your head and never told anybody because he was too embarrassed or didn't remember. If you can't tell how good a player is from those basic stats, maybe you ate some lead paint in the basement or crashed your motorcycle and hit your head against a telephone pole. If you can't tell how good a player is from those basic stats, maybe Timothy Leary was your family doctor, or maybe it's just that you don't know very much about baseball.
Here's the problem: All these extra numbers that the figure diggers brew up in their maternal subgrade lairs (that's moms' basements for you laymen) make it possible for people like Jeremy Brown to try to crash the party, and that can't be a good thing.
The number-crumblers like equations so much, so here's one for them:
Infinite stats = infinite players
Makes sense to me: Keep adding statistics and eventually, you'll find something that will qualify everyone on the planet for being a pro ballplayer. Mark my words: Jeremy Brown was the first step on the slippery slope that will eventually lead to the ballplaying ranks being filled with ungainly looking types who should be stocking shelves or digging ditches. This is the kind of world that the "Moneyballists" have wished on us.
That's why Brown's retirement is such good news. Maybe this so-called revolution is being strangled in the crib. Though this country was founded on a revolution, that doesn't mean all revolutions are a good thing. Here's hoping this one is DOA, and that it has died without a single championship to show for itself. What a fitting end to a bad idea borne in a bogus book. Here's a vote for leaving the game to the real athletes and getting the stat pages that contain their heroic deeds back to normal.
Art Garfamudis is a writer and secretary-treasurer of the baseball chapter of the SLWEA -- the Society for Leaving Well Enough Alone.