• Rickt: I am the biggest Cal Jr fan around but one of my good friends played minor l...

gammons.jpgI don’t think that I would ever dare challenge Peter Gammons and his views on things. We’re talking about a guy who has elevated his profession to a point that I can’t even fathom me doing in mine (which, by the way, is far less interesting than baseball journalism and will never get me into Cooperstown).

But now, more and more often, I feel like the man is indirectly criticizing me for liking non-conventionalĀ  statistics. And I guess I didn’t expect any of this from a guy like him, especially because it wasn’t too long ago that he was considered one of the old school writers who was open to utilizing sabermetrics.

But since late October, here are some things that Gammons has written (seemingly unprovoked, mind you):

Want to know about winners? (Dustin) Pedroia gave up his scholarship at Arizona State to free up money to sign a much-needed pitcher, so when the Sun Devils reached the College World Series, coaches and players had “DP” on their caps in honor of their leader who never got to Omaha. The sabermetrics guys in their garages never understand these things.- October 29, 2007

Raines, Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs were the best of the ’80s and early ’90s, and while some of our sabermetric fellows do not believe players are humans, Raines made every team he was on better – December 29, 2007

I voted for (Jim Rice), but it’s been interesting that there have been people like Rob Neyer who are so obsessed with degrading Rice’s career. - January 3, 2008

What gives, Peter? All three of these comments were written regarding topics that didn’t necessarily have to include sabermetrics. Gammons was the one who brought up the topic.

peter-gammons.jpgLook, I get it. I’m not sure if I’m good enough at analyzing numbers to even qualify as a sabermetrics guy, but as a group, we can be incredibly snarky and too stubborn to take intangibles into account – not because we “do not believe players are humans”, but because none of the hard data proves that these things help in any way shape or form. If we can’t prove that Jason Varitek’s leadership helped David Ortiz hit 5 more homeruns than he would have otherwise, then we can’t take it into account when crunching numbers. It’s all it is.

And I don’t want to speak for Rob Neyer (who has probably penned a few too many words against Rice’s candidacy) because he can take care of himself. But I don’t think that he ever even thought to “degrade Rice’s career” to any extent. I think it’s far more accurate to say that Neyer and others (including myself) disagree with the manner in which Rice is perceived. Simply put, it doesn’t appear to me that Jim Rice would have been even close to the Hall if he didn’t play so many games in Fenway Park. And if he really was feared to the extent that’s been written and spoken about him, he’d have been walked far more often than he actually was. Does this stance qualify as “degrading”? Not to me, it doesn’t. If it does, then it stands to reason that I degrade Miguel Olivo’s career by claiming that he can’t hit a lick.

I really doubt that I would have been bothered by any of these comments had they been written by Skip Bayless or Bill Conlin. But Gammons is obviously a guy I have tremendous respect for. And it makes me a little sad to be honest. See, Peter? We have feelings too.

9 Responses to “When Did Peter Gammons Become So Crotchety?”

  1. Jojo Fireball says:

    When this gets out to the S&M community I bet Baseball Express will have a rash of sales on their two wheel jugs gun and practice balls…. Just looks “nutty” enough to take off and become the next trend for lonely s&m couples looking to spice up the bedroom atmosphere….

  2. Peter is just getting old. The same thing is happening to my grandma. She was the nicest, sweetest person. Now she is getter more combative and argumentative than she ever was before.

  3. george foster's dad says:

    guess what? Jim Rice is not a hall of famer. he’s George Foster. except he played for the Red Sox.

    get the f*ck over it Gammons.

    Gammons is just becoming more and more of a schill for the Red Sox.

    which is fine. but when you are trying to pass yourself off as any sort of objective journalist for a national media outlet, it’s a little embarrassing.

  4. Three of the five guys Peter was getting cranky about were or are redsox.I know the man has all the props but i believe the man has been known to be a bit of a homer.Always in a reasoned,fatherly way.Unless you disagree with him and then you must die.

  5. To me it seems like it’s a combination of two things. One, Gammons being a homer and two, sabermatricians really are close minded, similar to they way they accuse traditionalists of being. I’m like you Paul in that I lean to the numbers, but sometimes it seems people lean too far that way.

  6. Sarah Green says:

    george foster’s dad, that’s “shill” not “schill,” unless of course that was just a clever allusion to one Curt Schilling. Also, everyone from Boston is a bit of a homer, myself included (we can’t help it, it’s in that dirty water we all love so much).

    I share some of Gammons’ frustration with sabermetrics, and that’s as someone who often makes use of them herself. There’s a lot of overlap between SABR-types and bloggers, and both are pretty annoying groups. It’s nice to think that bloggers are these sort of revolutionary firebrands holding the MSM’s feet to the fire, and sometimes we can be, but let’s be honest—how often do we do any real, first-hand reporting? A lot of what we do is just fact-checking with an attitude. If you’re a guy like Peter Gammons, who plies his shoeleather every day, it would get very frustrating to be shouted down by “these guys in their garages.”

    It seemed like the first sabermetrics guys were just interested in applying more rigorous models to baseball to study things that had been overlooked before. This brought about vast improvements in scouting, because the previous system was so terribly archaic (with scouts saying ridiculous things like the famous line in Moneyball, “he’s got the Good Face”). But now it just seems to have gone way too far. After all, even “sabermetric” GMs like Billy Beane and Theo Epstein still ask about a guy’s character when they’re evaluating him. But a lot of “these guys in their garages” think that’s bullshit. As much as those snarky asides by Gammons might seem unprovoked, I’ve seen similarly random snark coming from stat-geeks on blogs and message boards, where off-topic mockery of “grit” or “intangibles” is de rigeur. This goes too far in the other direction. Yes, the players *are* human beings. They *are* affected by factors that aren’t always statistically measurable. This is just common sense. It doesn’t surprise me that a solid guy like Peter Gammons would staunchly defend common sense.

  7. Gammons might be doing “first hand reporting” but that does NOT mean that he’s reporting anything of value. The fact that he talks to players/managers doesn’t give him or his opinions some divine right not to be criticized. Most of what Gammons says (Jason Varitek is so valuable because he’s a leader) seems directly influenced by personal relationships that he’s developed as a reporter. Those types of opinions deserve the least amount of respect.

    It’s also kind of snarky to present your opinions as “just common sense.” If we have no way of understanding what factors affect baseball players (and I have yet to see a good argument saying that we do have a way), then it really doesn’t matter. It gets very tiresome listening to reporters and fans trying to play psychologist. At least with “sabermetrics” the methods are transparent and can be easily checked for accuracy and consistency. The intangible crowd doesn’t bother to state assumptions, walk through the thinking behind a conclusion, or allow serious room for discussion or disagreement. That’s far, far worse than making fun of intangagrit on a message board.

  8. Sarah Green says:

    Assumption: going through a bitter divorce may negatively affect a player’s performance on the field.

    Thinking behind that conclusion: bitter divorces affect most people’s ability to perform at work, so why should a ballplayer be any different?

    Can you prove that with math? No. Is it nonetheless true? Yes.

    All I’m saying is that the same emotional and psychological factors that effect all human beings (except perhaps the tiny percentage of people who are sociopaths) also affect ballplayers. To me, that’s just common sense. Of course, though they’re loath to admit it, the worst of the blogger/SABR wannabe guys hate so-called intangibles largely because it’s a realm to which only real reporters have access. Yes, that means they’re not easily checkable for transparency or accuracy. You might have to just take some beat reporter’s word for it that Chipper Jones is an ass! Quelle horreur.

    Maybe you’re not interested in the players as people, but I am. When P-Gam tells me Albert Belle used to do the NYT crossword in 20 minutes flat, I find that interesting. So you don’t find it valuable? Don’t read it.

  9. I agree with Sarah.

    The pendulum has (appropriately) swung away from the older method of scouting and evaluation, primarily due to the rise of sabermetrics. However, it may have swung too far when sabermetricians refuse to consider anything cannot be validated by “cold, hard stats.” That is no better than disallowing agreement based on personal opinion.

    As with most things, the best method is somewhere in between.

    Peter “Crotchety Old Man” Gammons is simply reminding you of that.

    (Side note: see Rob Neyer’s critique of Nick’s post for some examples of non-stat based influences on HOF candidacy)

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