This Week In Hot Takes: Bill James says replacing every MLB player “would make no difference whatsoever” three years later

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes, this time looking at the hottest media takes from Nov. 2-8. 
5. Phil Mushnick’s still whining about “acts of excessive immodesty” and “hips-gyrating me-dances”: If a celebration happens, you know Mushnick will be there to criticize it. The New York Post‘s resident curmudgeon is back on that beat this week, ranting about NFL celebrations:
With 35 seconds left, fourth-and-10 from their 48, [Jets’ QB Sam] Darnold threw a deep pass that, again, was foolishly intercepted, this time by [Dolphins’] CB Walt Aikens, who next obligatorily demonstrated his excessive self-affection to the approval of teammates.
“Demonstrating his excessive self-affection” sounds like a euphemism for what Randy Howe got arrested for this week. But that wasn’t the only anti-celebration take in this column:
Late in the third, Washington RB Kapri Bibbs ran it in from the 5 then made with a hips-gyrating me-dance. His team was down, 28-13? So what.
Also on Fox, Sunday, the Bears were in the process of beating the Bills, 41-9, when Chicago LB Aaron Lynch, another college man — Notre Dame — drew extra attention then a flag for a lewd post-play me-dance that Moose Johnston classified as “classless.”
“Hips-gyrating me-dance” and “lewd post-play me-dance”? Here’s an exclusive look at Phil Mushnick:

But we all know how this ends:

One day, the great hero named Kevin Bacon will teach a New York Post columnist with a stick up his butt that dancing is the greatest thing there is.
Rating:
4. Skip Bayless says Tim Tebow “definitely earned” a promotion to Triple-A, has “some of the strongest winners’ intangibles in the history of professional sports”: The new New York Mets’ GM Brodie Van Wagenen (sadly, not the New New York Mets‘ GM) used to be the agent for Tim Tebow, as well as several other Mets’ players, and that perhaps helps explain his comments about promoting Tebow to triple-A or even the majors at the start of next season despite his subpar stats. Van Wagenen was roundly and deservedly roasted for that, but Fox’s Bayless, known for promoting Tebow more than anyone else on the planet, is of course in Tebow’s corner here too:

One great part of that comes about 1:30 in, where Bayless says “He definitely earned a promotion to Triple-A to see if he can then earn his way into the big leagues.” Tebow hit .273/.336/.399 with 103 strikeouts and six home runs, which for most 31-year-old left fielders wouldn’t be close to earning a Triple-A promotion. And he hasn’t exactly earned his promotions so far, but keeps getting them anyway to sell tickets and merchandise. Even his signing was attributed to the director of marketing.
But this gets even better at the end, where Bayless says “You know what Brodie knows as well as anybody outside of me? He knows about Tim Tebow having some of the strongest winners’ intangibles in the history of professional sports.” Yep, intangibles, all right; that’s what you have to use to defend Tebow, as the tangible stats sure don’t speak well for him. It is quite funny that Bayless’ constant Tebow promotion has gone from an entire day on ESPN to a short segment not even spotlighted on Undisputed‘s Twitter or Youtube channels, though. That’s a further suggestion that while Bayless is still on the Tebow train, a whole lot of the world is tired of hearing him talk about it.
Rating:
3. Stephen A. Smith calls the Wizards “a disgrace” and “an abomination”, says “It’s time for a blowup”: There are few things as funny as ESPN’s Smith getting truly incensed about something, and boy, did he deliver on that front this week with this First Take rant about the Washington Wizards:

Some highlights, via Scott Allen of The Washington Post:
“It’s time for a blowup,” Smith said. “It didn’t work, Ernie Grunfeld. It didn’t work . . . This conversation hurts me, because Ernie Grunfeld and I go back to his days with the Knicks. I’ve known this man for over 25 years, I love that man. But this is a disgrace taking place in the nation’s capital. People have their opinion of a negative around here about what else goes on in the nation’s capital. Thank God they didn’t contaminate themselves further by going over to the damn Verizon Center. What a disgrace that is taking place in the nation’s capital! Scott Brooks? Gotta go! Gotta go! And listen, let me be very clear: I’ve known Scott Brooks, like him. I’m not trying to say he can’t coach. He is not the right man for this job. This job requires a heavy hammer. Scott Brooks is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. The problem with that is, unfortunately, you don’t like confrontation. And with the Wizards, you need confrontation.”
Well, hey, Smith managed to produce that confrontation himself, and to get the Wizards mad at him. Good work.
Rating:
2. Leafs’ blogger That’s Kappy says Wayne Gretzky “was not good at hockey,” “nobody was good at hockey until probably 2000”: Sports evolve over time, and comparing players across eras is always difficult. There are some well-constructed arguments that early stars like Babe Ruth probably wouldn’t be as dominant in today’s game (although you never really know; what if Ruth had become a devotee of today’s strength and conditioning regimes?), and those are reasonable; they’re not provable one way or the other, as no one has a time machine, but there’s some merit to those arguments in considering how eras impacted players’ performances. And then there are takes that take that idea to the extreme, such as one this week that got a lot of play from Twitter user “That’s Kappy,” who writes for Toronto Maple Leafs’ blog Leafs Nation:

Wayne Gretzky was not good at hockey. Nobody was good at hockey until probably 2000. Go watch 80s highlights before you @ me.
— That's Kappy! (@ThatsKappy) November 5, 2018

Everybody on the ice was dogshit. Goalies literally could not stand up and weren't remotely good at the sport. If you come at me with any best player of all time who was drafted before 1990 you can shut up.
— That's Kappy! (@ThatsKappy) November 5, 2018

Even being better than your cohorts in the 80s though means literally nothing, imo. And we'll never know. Just better to focus on the era where, you know, we kind of figured out how to be good at the sport.
— That's Kappy! (@ThatsKappy) November 5, 2018

Pretty amazing how everyone who is mad at this clearly had their nostalgia goggles sewn onto to their faces.
— That's Kappy! (@ThatsKappy) November 6, 2018

Again, the base point of a different era’s somewhat valid, especially when it comes to Gretzky’s scoring numbers and the offense-heavy era he played in. (However, it’s notable that even after adjusting for era, Gretzky still dominates the scoring numbers.) And there are reasonable debates to be had about if Gretzky was the best player ever (there are cases for the likes of Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe, and possibly Mario Lemieux if not for injuries), and if he would be the best player in the league if he played today (maybe not, but it’s impossible to completely tell how well or not he’d adapt to modern changes). Saying Gretzky “was not good at hockey” and “nobody was good at hockey until probably 2000” is a hell of a take, though, and involves a ludicrously narrow definition of “good at hockey.” But sure, fire off the bold takes. Even Gretzky advocated for that sometimes, and so did Gretzky-channeler Michael Scott:

You sometimes miss the shots you take too, though, and this one was definitely a miss.
Rating:
1. Bill James calls all players “replaceable,” generates huge backlash: James, currently a senior advisor to the Boston Red Sox, laid a lot of the groundwork for advanced statistical analysis in sports, and he deserves praise for that. Recently, though, he’s been dropping quite a few bad takes on Twitter, such as running a poll on “the likelihood [then-Supreme Court nominee Brett] Kavanaugh’s accuser is telling the truth,” and he really made waves with one this week. In a discussion with Chris Towers of CBS, James tweeted “If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, 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.”
That sparked huge backlash from media, players and the MLBPA, and it even led to a lame statement from the Red Sox trying to disassociate themselves from James:

The #RedSox Statement Regarding Bill James’ Recent Remarks: pic.twitter.com/JffB08Hqad
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) November 8, 2018

Yeah. Sure.

"he's literally one of 25 people identified as executives of our very large company (with links and bios), but he's not an employee and can't speak for us" –@RedSox, draft 1, which they somehow decided to publish
— Bill P[ilgrim] (@Bill_TPA) November 8, 2018

But hey, that’s on-brand for the Red Sox, who have repeatedly criticized partners they choose without actually doing anything about it. And the take here is on-brand for James, at least in this day and age. He did eventually delete the tweet in question, but still argued that this was mostly about how his comments were perceived, not what he said:

I think that's right; in fact, that's a remarkable Twitter-short summary. I don't think of myself as the Establishment or part of the establishment, but I do think that this controversy has arisen because yesterday's comments were perceived in that way. https://t.co/1DURExzhgK
— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) November 8, 2018

I do my best not to offend people. Can't say that I have much talent for it.
— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) November 8, 2018

What I said here yesterday, I once said to Marvin Miller. Marvin very strongly disagreed with it, but we were still friends. He understood that it was not in any way disrespectful to the players; he just thought it was factually wrong.
— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) November 8, 2018

And really, that’s the bigger issue with James’ comments. “Disrespectful” is one thing, as is the idea of an ownership consultant making these comments about players, but James is also just wrong. Yes, professional baseball absolutely could exist in some form if every current major leaguer suddenly retired, or if they were somehow barred from the game and replaced with a minor leaguer (and hey, that’s a form where Tim Tebow might be able to make the majors on somewhat-merit), ignoring all the labor and legal controversies that would arise from an attempt like that and ignoring how it’s probably impossible barring Rapture. But “In three years, it would make no difference whatsoever” is completely inaccurate.

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First off, there are a lot of young players in the game today who would still be expected to be stars in three years if not for whatever event wipes out all the players here; the entire MLB rosters are not replaced on merit every three years. Beyond that, and this comes up with every “why are athletes paid so well?” argument, being able to excel at a professional sport is an incredibly rare skill. There are very few people who can do it, which is why teams pay big for stars in free agency (if they can) instead of just saying “Fine, you leave, we’ll replace you with rookies.”
Those who argue that Billy Beane did this with the Moneyball approach, an approach that owes a fair bit to the writings of James and others, are missing the point on three levels. One, Beane grabbed players whose talents were undervalued by the market then, but those talents aren’t undervalued anymore; two, Beane was forced into that approach by the necessities of the A’s budget, and gladly would have paid to keep some stars if he could; and three, more stats-focused approach only led to World Series titles when teams like the Red Sox, Cubs and Astros started combining stats insights with larger payrolls. So yes, you could theoretically replace all MLB rosters with minor-league players (again, barring legal fights), but arguing that it would make “no difference whatsoever” in terms of the quality of play is absurd.
And the quality of play does matter. Many leagues have tried replacement players and replacement officials during particular labor fights, and it never ends well. Yes, some fans will still tune in to watch their team even if it’s clear the sport is no longer employing the best players possible, but many won’t. And that means less revenue for teams and for leagues. Ultimately, professional sports are businesses, and they’ve figured out that it’s more valuable for them to pay the best players (even if there are regularly squabbles about just how much those players should be paid) than to try and replace them on the cheap. You’d think James would also have figured that out by now, but apparently not.
Rating: 
Honorable mention: Jim Matheson doesn’t understand sports revenue and TV contracts: Long-time Edmonton Journal columnist Jim Matheson dropped not just a “please like my sport” take this week, but one sincerely wondering why a top MLB player will make more than a top NHL player:

Let me get this right…Nats offer Harper $300 mil for 10 yrs and that's not enough for his agent. The glorious McDavid makes $100 mil for eight yrs and he's a generational player too. Harper batted .249 this past season.
— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) November 7, 2018

Baseball has much more revenue than hockey, Jim, as shocking as that might seem to you.
Hot Take Standings: 
Jason Whitlock – Hall of Fame
Stephen A. Smith – 220
Skip Bayless – 194
Phil Mushnick – 164
Colin Cowherd – 74
Rob Parker – 44
Doug Gottlieb – 44
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Dan Shaughnessy – 26
Albert Breer – 25
Ray Lewis – 25
Britt McHenry – 20
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Danny Kanell – 17
Darren Rovell – 17
Jason McIntyre – 16
Tony Massarotti – 15
Ben Maller – 15
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
The Sporting News – 13
Andy Benoit – 13
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
John Middlekauff – 11
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Keith Olbermann – 11
Bill James – 10
Jason Smith – 10
Joe Simpson – 10
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Chris “Mad Dog” Russo  – 9
Michael Wilbon – 9
Mike Francesa – 9
Ross Tucker – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Mike Felger – 8
Steve Simmons – 8
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Mike Bianchi – 7
Kirk Herbstreit – 7
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
Pat Leonard – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Bill Welt – 5
Jack Todd – 5
Aaron Murray – 5
Chris Childers – 5
Mark Knight – 5
The Herald Sun – 5
David Booth – 5
Tom Nichols – 5
Keith Hernandez – 5
Bill O’Reilly – 5
Brandel Chamblee – 5
Michael McCarthy – 5
Mike “The Reputation Doctor®”  Paul – 5
Dennis Dodd – 5
Rich Lowry – 5
Chris Reed – 5
San Diego Union-Tribune – 5
David Hookstead – 5
Tomm Looney – 5
Alex Shaw – 5
Rick Reilly – 5
Randall Mell – 5
Ian O’Connor – 5
Michael Bamberger – 5
Bob Bubka – 5
Cathal Kelly – 5
Pete Prisco – 5
Damien Cox – 5
Bill Simons – 5
Christine Flowers – 5
Jason Lieser – 5
John Steigerwald – 5
Josh Peter – 5
Alexi Lalas  – 5
Greg Gabriel  – 5
John Moody  – 5
Marni Soupcoff – 5
Ryan Rishaug – 5
Kurtis Larson  – 5
Rod Watson  – 5
Dan Wolken – 5
Chuck Modiano – 5
Joel Klatt – 5
Steve Buffery – 5
Joe Morgan – 5
Michael Felger – 5
Howard Eskin – 5
Nancy Armour – 5
Richard Justice – 5
Ameer Hasan Loggins – 5
Jesse Watters – 5
John McGrath – 5
Mike Sielski – 5
Gordon Monson – 5
Scott Fowler – 5
Terry Frei – 5
David Jones – 5
Sabrina Parr – 5
Abbey Mastracco – 5
Terry Cushman – 5
Rob Rossi – 5
Rick Bozich – 5
Michael O’Doherty – 5
Simon Briggs – 5
Dan Wetzel – 5
Mike Parry – 5
Bob Ryan – 5
Robert Reed – 5
Pete Dougherty – 5
Dan Le Batard – 5
Marcus Hayes – 5
Kyle Turley – 5
Mike Ditka – 5
Erril Laborde – 5
Lowell Cohn – 5
Rosie DiManno – 5
That’s Kappy – 4
Mitchell Nathanson  – 4
The New York Daily News – 4
“Big” Jim Murray – 4
Jeff Diamond – 4
Marc Berman – 4
Evan Roberts – 4
Corbin Smith  – 4
DJ Siddiqi  – 4
The Express  – 4
Mark Kiszla – 4
Greg Witter – 4
Myron Medcalf  – 4
Bill Polian – 4
MJ Franklin – 4
Alex Reimer – 4
Joan Vennochi – 4
Graham Couch – 4
Matt Yglesias – 4
Bill Livingston – 4
Michael Irvin – 4
Shawn Windsor – 4
Brock Huard – 4
Byron Tau – 4
Maggie Gray – 4
Michael Powell – 4
Mark Spector – 4
Chad Forbes – 4
Gary Myers – 4
Mark Schlereth – 4
Andy Gray – 4
David Fleming – 4
Jeff Pearlman – 4
Tony Grossi – 4
FanSided – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Bill Simmons – 3
Mark Teixeira – 3
Wally Hall – 3
Damien Woody – 3
Victor Cruz – 3
Andrew Walker – 3
Jim Kaat – 3
Jason Gay – 3
The Wall Street Journal – 3
Steven J. Brams – 3
Aaron Isaksen – 3
Will Muschamp – 3
Buck Lanford – 3
John Feinstein – 3
Stan Fischler – 3
Sonnie Wooden – 3
Chris Jones – 3
Kelly Smith – 3
Reggie Miller – 3
Mark Madden – 3
Larry Brooks – 3
Dan Canova – 3
Steve Rosenbloom – 3
Stephen Jackson – 3
Mike Sando – 3
Walt Borla – 3
Nick Cafardo – 3
Ice Cube – 3
Justin Peters – 3
Elise Finch – 3
Kevin Skiver  – 3
David Bahnsen – 3
Harold Reynolds – 3
Kevin Reynolds – 3
Mike Sheahan – 3
Bob Ford – 3
Steve Greenberg – 3
Matt Burke – 3
Malcolm Gladwell – 3
Mike Milbury – 3
Mac Engel – 3
Nick Kypreos – 3
Caron Butler – 3
Don Brennan – 3
Robert Tychkowski – 3
Mike Johnston – 3
Jeff Mans – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Mike Greenberg – 2
Trent Dilfer – 2
Grant Paulsen – 2
Jeff Ermann – 2
Ed Werder  – 2
Ben Mulroney – 2
Ron Cook – 2
Brian Kenny – 2
Barrett Sallee – 2
Craig Calcaterra – 2
Max Kellerman – 2
Gareth Wheeler – 2
John Cornyn – 2
Tony Dungy – 2
Bruce Jenkins – 2
Chris Wesseling – 2
Seth Greenberg – 2
Doug Smith – 2
Newsweek – 2
Teddy Cutler – 2
Will Cain – 2
Bill Cowher – 2
Paul Finebaum – 2
Charley Casserly – 2
Amin Elhassan – 2
Jim Henneman – 2
Mitch Lawrence – 2
Nick Wright – 2
Domonique Foxworth – 2
Gary Parrish – 2
Michael Farber – 2
Andy Furman – 2
Donovan McNabb – 2
Seth Davis – 2
Jon Heyman – 2
Jason La Canfora – 2
Booger McFarland – 2
Joe Schad – 2
Cork Gaines – 2
Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for more This Week In Hot Takes. As always, you can send submissions to me via e-mail or on Twitter.
 
 
The post This Week In Hot Takes: Bill James says replacing every MLB player “would make no difference whatsoever” three years later appeared first on Awful Announcing.