Jim Leyland’s latest rant about “experts” that make baseball predictions wasn’t as much a reaction to something specific as it was an explosion resulting from long-simmering tensions about seismic changes in the way baseball is viewed and analyzed.
You can read what he said here on the Chicago Tribune website.
This was a reply to structural shifts and wasn’t directed at any individual in particular. It was a defense of himself and his work; work that’s been increasingly decried with the rising number of people who make snarky comments after insinuating themselves into his world without the foundation to do so.
His raving mania was a diversionary tactic, factually inaccurate and will only be judged in hindsight. He used the White Sox as a tool to get his point across.
Leyland’s been managing the Tigers since 2006 and the White Sox were good in some years and horribly disappointing in others.
Are there reasons to think the White Sox will struggle this season? With a neophyte manager, poor defense and shaky bullpen?
Could they surprise if, as Leyland said, the starting pitching performs and the hitters account for the team’s deficiencies?
What pretense he used for his soliloquy is neither here nor there.
Leyland and Tony LaRussa, among others, have shown righteous indignation bordering on condescending arrogance to being questioned by those perceived intruders.
They have grounds to feel that way.
How would you like it if an unwanted interloper—probably half your age—barged into your place of business and started telling you how to do it in an overtly obnoxious manner as if you’re a fool whose experience is irrelevant.
In spite of the old-school and over-the-top method of delivering the message, Leyland’s not wrong.
Leyland and LaRussa are coming from a place where they can be condescending to critics who don’t have their resumes; who cram stuff into their heads to put forth the image of expertise.
We see it all the time. There’s a difference between having a genuine background in the game by participating, watching, understanding and assessing and forcing a load of facts into one’s head, regurgitating statistics and terminology, then presenting a case based on bottom-line numbers as if it’s a math problem rather than a game played by human beings.
The line between knowledge and understanding is subtle, but imperative when determining who and who not to listen to. If Leyland has people who are saying foolish things and questioning his strategies without accounting and accepting the context of dealing with baseball players, running a clubhouse and keeping the media at bay, then he has a reason to go on a tangent to express his displeasure at the direction in which modern analysis has gone.
You can memorize names and numbers; quote concepts you scarcely comprehend to fit the profile, but that’s not going to replace having been in the trenches and deciding on a course of action with confidence in one’s position; there’s no validation for this from a formula or reading facts from 50 years ago in a book and attacking a Leyland or LaRussa because they disagree with you and don’t constantly discuss numbers or studies as a defense.
How does one proclaim himself qualified to question Leyland and LaRussa if they don’t know who Jack Buck was? If they don’t know that a knuckleball is thrown with the fingertips and not the knuckles?
The puffed up, self-indulgent, ego-aggrandizing titles you see on what essentially amount to fan websites—senior editor; founder; creator; lead writer—mean absolutely nothing in terms of credibility.
Such credibility has to be accrued through years of legitimate and verifiable work. That work doesn’t always have to have been retrospectively “right” such as “I was right about X team losing 95 games.” Or “I predicted Y would bat .225 this season with 8 homers.”
Predictions have to come from a basis of reason. If it’s just from some random statistic, where’s the analysis?
There’s a significant difference between looking at the numbers, for example, of Tim Lincecum and making broad statements as to why he’s off to a poor start. It’s easy to mention the decline in his velocity and to come to a random conclusion of him “breaking down”. It’s not so easy to study at his motion, determine glitches that would be imperceptible to laymen and to have a practical reason why he’s struggling and formulate ways to fix it.
Leyland’s diatribe came across as a wide-ranging spray of bullets directed at anyone and everyone in its path, but there’s a method to his madness. When someone who’s never picked up a baseball is sitting behind a laptop on Starbucks and makes references to random studies on numbers, innings and pitch counts and decides to criticize Leyland’s choice to leave Justin Verlander in to throw 131 pitches, does he not have a reason to retort?
Leyland’s had enough and was sending a message that will be ignored, misunderstood or scoffed at by the same pompous people who he’s referring to—people who don’t know anything—thereby defeating the purpose.
At least he vented. We don’t want him to spontaneously combust in the dugout.
It’s not the last time we’ll hear him go off on this subject.
And that’s a good thing.