Steve Kettmann — the man who just published a book about Sandy Alderson which I have on my desk at the moment and, so far so good — has an op-ed in today’s New York Times which . . . is less good.
The headline: “Don’t let statistics ruin baseball.” The complaint: that advanced statistics and analysis has crowded out some of the more nuanced and sensory experiences in the game.
The real problem isn’t in the dugout, though. It’s with the way the game is discussed off the field. I grew up on vivid reporting that teased out details from the day’s action to give us a more flavorful and insightful narrative — not just by accomplished magazine writers like Roger Angell, but by the scores of beat reporters covering the game nationwide. These days there are some great baseball beat writers, but too many — especially among the younger ones — are so awash in stats that they can’t seem to see the game beyond the numbers . . . The importance of being fully present for a game, shorn of distractions, lies not in sentimentality about the nobility of baseball . . . but in continuously deepening one’s understanding of the game.
I get what Kettmann is on about here, but I think he has presented a false choice and, in some ways a straw man. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who is so overwhelmed with statistics and analysis that they miss or don’t enjoy the game in front of them. If anything, people who are deeply into stats usually are so because they love the game so much that they can’t get enough of it and want to understand and appreciate it in even deeper ways.
But who cares if there are people who care only about the metrics? Why does it bother folks if someone enjoys the game in a manner different than they do? I’m not sure why this upsets people so much.