Dubuque: The free will of free agents

From Patrick Dubuque at Baseball Prospectus on August 17, 2018:

Last week, the civilian formerly known as Jayson Werth engaged in some radio conversation with Howard Eskin, and the conversation turned to sabermetrics. If you haven’t read his comments at this point, you’ve read them under other guises, but they are also included here:

“They’ve got all these super nerds in the front office that know nothing about baseball but they like to project numbers and project players,” Werth said.

“… I think it’s killing the game. It’s to the point where just put computers out there. Just put laptops and what have you, just put them out there and let them play. We don’t even need to go out there anymore. It’s a joke.”

“When they come down, these kids from MIT, Stanford, Harvard, wherever they’re from, they’ve never played baseball in their life,” Werth continued. “When they come down to talk about stuff like [shifts], should I just bunt it over there? They’re like, ‘No, don’t do that. We don’t want you to do that. We want you to hit a homer.’ It’s just not baseball to me. We’re creating something that’s not fun to watch. It’s boring. You’re turning players into robots. You’ve taken the human element out of the game.”

It’s an argument that’s bound to soak the average baseball interneteer in nostalgia, and pine for the heady days of Fire Joe Morgan. The computers in the field, the “kids” who have never played the game: these are honored cliches, artifacts from a battle long since fought and lost. The nerds who know nothing about baseball proved how little they knew by winning, and winning so much that the rest of the league was forced to assimilate.

But there’s actually something compelling in Werth’s very old argument, which is that it’s even older and more well-worn than 10 years of talk, or a hundred. It’s an argument we’ve been having for more than two millennia, and may for as long as we exist as a species. And it goes far beyond baseball. The computers and their projection systems are just one facet of a universal threat to our human identity: our free will.

Read the full article here: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/42113/cold-takes-the-free-will-of-free-agents/

Originally published: August 17, 2018. Last Updated: August 17, 2018.