Red Sox Advisor Bill James: Players as Important to MLB as Beer Vendors

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2018

A rain-covered logo is seen at Fenway Park before Game 1 of the World Series baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Boston Red Sox consultant Bill James, best known for his work with baseball analytics leading to the Moneyball era, said MLB players are no more vital to the sport than beer vendors. 

James posted a series of Twitter messages, which were later deleted, downplaying the importance of individual players, saying they could all be replaced if necessary, per ESPN.com.

"If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them," he wrote. "The game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are."

The Red Sox released a statement about the comments:

Boston Red Sox @RedSox

The #RedSox Statement Regarding Bill James’ Recent Remarks: https://t.co/JffB08Hqad

Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark called the remarks "reckless and insulting":


Executive Director Tony Clark’s regarding Bill James’ comments... https://t.co/UHa4j1LSqD

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander was among the stars to speak out against James' point of view, referencing the recent World Series triumph by the Red Sox in a Twitter post.

"Wonder if the Red Sox win the World Series with a replacement player for Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez or Davis Price or Xander Bogaerts or Jackie Bradley Jr. or Chris Sale or Rick Porcello or Andrew Benintendi or Rafael Devers or Craig Kimbrel or ........," he wrote.

James has made a career of creating ways to identify hidden value. His initial foray into advanced stats has undeniably changed the way the game is consumed with websites like FanGraphs providing a seemingly endless amount of metrics for evaluating players.

So the 69-year-old Kansas native should know better than most that the likes of Betts, Mike Trout, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer can't simply be replaced, especially in a three-year span.

If Trout, who has two years left on his contract, leaves the Los Angeles Angels after 2020 it could take a generation before the franchise finds another player on that All-World level.

To think every baseball player could suddenly retire and the Angels would find another five-tool outfielder walking around the streets of L.A. is a mind-boggling opinion. Even if the game would go on, as he said, the product and competition would suffer. 

As a result, it's no surprise James' comments have received so much kick back in a short period of time.