Sabermetrics godfather and occasional Joe Paterno apologist Bill James has spent the past many years as something of a paradox. You can be confident that he’s smart at something, but a great deal of what he says and does flies in the face of that knowledge.
Currently, James is up his own ass on Twitter trying to compile a list of the top 50 players in baseball history who can be called “true superstars.” He has 40, and another 48 bubble candidates, on whose virtues he’s polling his followers. What does “true superstar” mean? Not even James knows. Why invite Twitter into your collecting of data? I guess he just loves chaos. The whole thing is so pointless that we might as well get T.I. to bring back the old “Who’s Now” theme song.
The thing here is that even if you accept that compiling a list of 50 baseball superstars is a worthwhile endeavor, and that choosing the final 10 superstars via Twitter polling is also a worthwhile endeavor, James’s choices remain baffling. Not in all cases! Here he is asking Twitter users to choose between two perfectly good Hall of Famers, top-50 players in career WAR who might well make or not make a list of the top 50 true superstars in baseball history:
Here he also is, though, asking Twitter to decide between two of the most influential and well-known baseball players of all time—inner-circle Hall of Famers on on-field merits, with considerable, well, superstar credentials besides—who apparently couldn’t make his top 40 and so were resigned to bubble-candidate status:
(Who are the 40 superstars truer than these two James has identified? We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose.)
Let’s not even worry about James’s whole “I COULD make an exception to my own arbitrary rules, but I need consistency in my made-up personal competition” routine, though. Let’s look in on what should be a compelling debate about two icons between some of baseball’s most widely known sabermeticians.
Okay ... that’s former MLB consultant, author, and infamous Internet user MGL apparently making the case against Negro League play being taken into consideration in arcane Hall of Fame debates (despite the presence of dozens of Negro Leaguers in the Hall of Fame) and writing off the idea that players get credited in these debates for seasons they didn’t play while serving in the military despite the well-established Jamesian principle that allowances should be made for any clear major leaguer who is prevented from playing in the majors by forces beyond their control? Well, let’s hope this gets better.
Goddamnit. You lost me, Mitchel. And yet, I’m too stunned to look away.
James is continuing this mockery of all that is rational, posting more polls that put guys like Al Kaline and Wade Boggs on par with Clemente and Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr., who is also for some unclear reason not on James’s list of the top 40 superstars in baseball history. Bill, if you have any decency, please stop these polls. I can’t stop refreshing. I can’t focus on anything else. Add Jackie and Clemente to your stupid, infuriating list and let me close Twitter. You were once much too good for this.
Bill, I may not make that long!