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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Posnanski: Finding Their Way Back

No, it ain’t Penn State, wiseachers. It’s Bill James and the Red Sox!

Bill James is a friend, and so I can tell you this from personal experience: I have never met anyone who cares so little about what people say or write about him. But he does care about loyalty, and the Red Sox were his team. If people wanted to blame him for the team’s flaws, he happily would accept the blame. If people wanted to believe that the team won despite him, he did not discourage them—he didn’t want or believe that he deserved any credit anyway. But if the team itself or the people in the organization were somehow hurt by something he said, well, that was not acceptable. James will admit: He doesn’t always know how people will take his jokes or comments or theories. He says that he was born without that filter. So, he decided that when it came to the Red Sox, it was better for him not to say anything at all.

... In several parts of Boston and New England, this bit of news stirred up precisely the sort of inane criticisms that Bill James does not care about. Clichéd talk about Bill’s apparent lack of human emotion, his purported inability to see anything beyond numbers, his callous distaste for those all-American baseball qualities like leadership and courage and guts and heroism crackled in newspapers and on radio and so on. Of course, there were those who thought it might be good for the Red Sox to actually consider the opinion of one of the most influential thinkers in baseball history, since he actually works for them.

Bill James, let’s be honest, didn’t listen to or read what they thought, either.

...And James won’t listen. He won’t care. The last three years have been tough for him, but not because he was an outsider again. Heck, he’s been an outsider since the start, and it hasn’t discouraged him yet. The hard part was watching the Red Sox gobbled up by their own hubris. Maybe he could have helped. Maybe not. He will never know.

“On a personal level, I have failed before,” he says. “I have written books that didn’t quite work and had other ventures that failed. On a personal level, I can deal with that. It’s embarrassing, the performance of the organization.

“But at the same time it presents a new challenge. In some ways I’ve been impatient, waiting to get to the point where we could start to fix this. We’re there now.”

Repoz Posted: September 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM | 94 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, media, red sox, sabermetrics

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   1. Dale Sams Posted: September 12, 2012 at 01:18 PM (#4233815)
Injuries, bad management, bad trades, bad luck....have led to a nigh-impeneatrable malaise. This malaise needs to be fixed before anything else is. Winning helps of course, time helps some. BUT you have got to get into these guys heads: to stop going up there and not give a professional AB. You have got to start giving Ciriaco the take sign on the first pitch to give the illusion that he can recognize a curve-ball.

And it would sure help if the FO, media and fanbase took a long look in the mirror. Feel free to stop smearing every sing le GD person who walks out the door.
   2. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 12, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4233831)
Bill James is a friend

Is he now?

Snark out of the way...James is saying all the right things here, I think.
   3. AROM Posted: September 12, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4233833)
So, he decided that when it came to the Red Sox, it was better for him not to say anything at all.


That's pretty much the way you have to approach it when you work for a team. Sometimes even a contractual obligation. I never post anything about [redacted].


   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2012 at 01:39 PM (#4233849)
The hard part was watching the Red Sox gobbled up by their own hubris. Maybe he could have helped. Maybe not. He will never know.

I think this is a side effect of having too young a front office leadership team. Guys who rise to the top so young, tend to have an over-inflated sense of their ability.

They've been lucky (otherwise they wouldn't have risen so fast) and lack the experience of failure, that tempers hubris. They also have no experience recovering from failure.

As a 41 year old, I'm terrified of the idea of someone my age (or younger) in a top management role. You see it all the time in Finance, where the young guns think "X" can never happen, even though it happened 30 years ago.

There's a difference in reading about something, and living through it. I know I'm a much better finance exec having lived through a company being bankrupted by the Financial Crisis.
   5. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 12, 2012 at 01:47 PM (#4233867)
There's a difference in reading about something, and living through it. I know I'm a much better finance exec having lived through a company being bankrupted by the Financial Crisis.

There's a line in The History of the Peloponnesian War about war breaking out between Athens and its enemies every 25 years or so because the younger generation had no knowledge of how awful war could be and so they were gung ho for the adventure. History seems to be more determinative than illustrative when it comes to human behavior, I guess.
   6. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 12, 2012 at 01:49 PM (#4233871)
Bill James
Understands
That
The

Superb
Executive
X's out

Critcism;
Has
Ironclad
Logic,and
Disregards

Ridiculous
Advice
Proposed by
Everyone
   7. The District Attorney Posted: September 12, 2012 at 01:53 PM (#4233877)
It's common for overly invested fans to think of their team's front office as a good vs. evil struggle. Yankee fans claim every good move was Brian Cashman's idea and every bad move was the Steinbrenners', Red Sox fans are similar with Theo Epstein/Ben Cherington as the heroes and Larry Lucchino as the villain, etc.

I have always thought that this was baloney, a result of fans not having any actual information about or insight into how these decisions are made, and then imposing their preconceptions onto a blank slate.

Now apparently we're taking it a step further, where the guy who could be making all the right decisions if they just let him isn't even the general manager. I'm not saying the Red Sox shouldn't utilize James more as a resource. But I don't think that a guy well down the hierarchy who lives 1,000 miles away from the office is in position to change the team's fortunes all that much in either direction.

And although I don't want to go so far as to defend the Carl Crawford contract, I find it problematic that one of the main pro-James-involvement arguments is that he "presumably" would have been against the contract. If the claim is that James realizes that "fast players don't age well" and that corner OF defense and speed aren't important, then either Bill James and/or the person making that claim doesn't follow sabermetrics all that closely. (There were certainly good arguments against the contract -- it was, after all, a bad contract -- but I'm not sure that the typical summation of James' hypothetical opinion gets to them.)
   8. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4233886)
I initially read this title as "Posnanski: Finding My Way Back" and thought for a fleeting moment that he had found the light. Sadly, no.
   9. NJ in DC (Now with Wife!) Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4233889)
There's a line in The History of the Peloponnesian War about war breaking out between Athens and its enemies every 25 years or so because the younger generation had no knowledge of how awful war could be and so they were gung ho for the adventure.

They are the knights of summer...and winter is coming.
   10. SteveM. Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:08 PM (#4233895)
There's a line in The History of the Peloponnesian War about war breaking out between Athens and its enemies every 25 years or so because the younger generation had no knowledge of how awful war could be and so they were gung ho for the adventure. History seems to be more determinative than illustrative when it comes to human behavior, I guess.


In James Mann's mew book _The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power_, there are scenes that resonate for me, a U.S. diplomatic historian, about the loss of institutional memory. In 2008, Obama's advisers hurriedly read books on Vietnam to try and get a grip on the war in Afghanistan. Yet, once in power, they systemically ignored Richard Holbrooke, who had served in Vietnam and was appointed as envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, because he constantly harped of his Vietnam experience.
   11. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:12 PM (#4233901)
In James Mann's mew book _The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power_, there are scenes that resonate for me, a U.S. diplomatic historian, about the loss of institutional memory. In 2008, Obama's advisers hurriedly read books on Vietnam to try and get a grip on the war in Afghanistan. Yet, once in power, they systemically ignored Richard Holbrooke, who had served in Vietnam and was appointed as envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, because he constantly harped of his Vietnam experience.

That doesn't sound good but it makes it all the weirder that Rumsfeld and Cheney who are old enough to know better were so gung ho to get us in that slog. I don't want to make this a left-right thing, it's more an observation about human nature and our ability to be really damned smart and really damned stupid at the same time. I fully expect us to do dumb things in the future, too, no matter who is in power.
   12. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:15 PM (#4233903)
I initially read this title as "Posnanski: Finding My Way Back" and thought for a fleeting moment that he had found the light. Sadly, no.

Nope. And he wrote hosannas to the guy who backed him most strenuously.

Bill James, at this point in his life and career, is a crank (*) -- likely a bitter crank. Any organization with brains is phasing him out, not re-empowering
him.

(*) Who is entirely unable to judge conventional wisdom objectively. If a piece of information or a theory is widely believed, he's against it end of discussion. You don't want someone like that making serious decisions.
   13. Steve N Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:37 PM (#4233934)
"corner OF defense and speed aren't important" I've never read anybody saying this. I do think that they are only marginally important. That is, we could each come up with 5 or more things more important.
   14. SG Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:44 PM (#4233947)
You don't want someone like that making serious decisions.


Does James have decision-making power? He's really just an advisor, isn't he?

He really does come off as a crank.
   15. Ron J2 Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:51 PM (#4233959)
#13 RDP among others suggested that Fenway limits the amount of defensive value a fast LF can contribute. I may have said something of the sort (my specific objection was that the Red Sox were paying for a career year)
   16. The_Ex Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4233969)
Did Bill James defend Poz and the Paterno book?

Is this the back-scratching suggested in post #12?
   17. Swedish Chef Posted: September 12, 2012 at 02:58 PM (#4233973)
Did Bill James defend Poz and the Paterno book?

He defended Paterno, and with quite some bad arguments (crowned with the adult-men-used-to-shower-with-boys argument).
   18. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: September 12, 2012 at 03:27 PM (#4234015)
That doesn't sound good but it makes it all the weirder that Rumsfeld and Cheney who are old enough to know better were so gung ho to get us in that slog. I don't want to make this a left-right thing, it's more an observation about human nature and our ability to be really damned smart and really damned stupid at the same time. I fully expect us to do dumb things in the future, too, no matter who is in power.
There's never a bad time to re-read Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest.
   19. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: September 12, 2012 at 03:34 PM (#4234029)
@6/'zop:

I haven't seen an acrostic poem in ages.
   20. SteveM. Posted: September 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM (#4234033)
There's never a bad time to re-read Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest.

Yep, and supplement it with Howard Jones's _Death of a Generation_. Honesty compels me to admit that Howard was my dissertation adviser, but it is an exhausting account of the Kennedy's administration greater involvement in Vietnam, despite JFK's adamant refusal to consider the use of U.S. combat troops.
   21. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:01 PM (#4234064)
#19

Jim Furtado
Intimated
More and

Further
Unwarranted
Repeated
Tsk-tsking
About the
Defense
Of Paterno/
Sandusky

Is
Discouraged,
Even
Anathema
   22. AROM Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:04 PM (#4234067)
That doesn't sound good but it makes it all the weirder that Rumsfeld and Cheney who are old enough to know better were so gung ho to get us in that slog.


They didn't exactly have the kind of experience that say, John Kerry had there. In Rumsfeld's defense he was older, had served before Vietnam, and was already in congress at that point. Cheney, well, he had other priorities.
   23. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:13 PM (#4234071)
I thought about Paterno when I recently re-read the Pete Rose entry in the BJNHBA. Bill's awesome and all, but he does venture off the reservation at times.
   24. McCoy Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:13 PM (#4234072)
Bill James is a friend, and so I can tell you this from personal experience: I have never met anyone who cares so little about what people say or write about him.

I don't think I've ever met a single human where this is actually true. I've met a lot of people who claim this is how they feel but it's never actually true.

   25. SG Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM (#4234075)
I don't think I've ever met a single human where this is actually true.


You don't think it's true that Posnanski has never met anyone who cares so little about what people say or write about him than Bill James?
   26. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:24 PM (#4234081)
Cheney, well, he had other priorities.


I.e. five draft deferments.
   27. SandyRiver Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:25 PM (#4234084)
I initially read this title as "Posnanski: Finding My Way Back" and thought for a fleeting moment that he had found the light. Sadly, no.

This may be totally correct, but I saw nothing in the article to support either a yea nor a nay. (Unless one is of the opinion that Pos must offer a comprehensive mea culpa about he and Joe Pa before he writes another word on any other subject.)
   28. Steve N Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:35 PM (#4234101)
Ron J2, I think we're saying the same thing.
   29. McCoy Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:36 PM (#4234104)
You don't think it's true that Posnanski has never met anyone who cares so little about what people say or write about him than Bill James?

Correct.
   30. Dangerous Dean Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4234111)
There's never a bad time to re-read Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest


+1...and The Making of a Quagmire just as good, imho.

On a related note, I really wish that the intelligencia who came up with the bailouts had read Halberstam's The Reckoning, too. Can't really fix the problems in Detroit without knowing their causes. But then, who I am to say that? I am not a union boss or a managment stooge.

RIP, David. Few have ever written as insightfully or as well.
   31. Greg Schuler Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:47 PM (#4234124)
In James Mann's mew book _The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power_, there are scenes that resonate for me, a U.S. diplomatic historian, about the loss of institutional memory. In 2008, Obama's advisers hurriedly read books on Vietnam to try and get a grip on the war in Afghanistan. Yet, once in power, they systemically ignored Richard Holbrooke, who had served in Vietnam and was appointed as envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, because he constantly harped of his Vietnam experience.


Afghanistan was relatively quite until 2007, when the Marines, tired of garrison duty in Iraq, decided to redeploy to Afghanistan and start a new tempo of operations. The commitment from ISAF until then was small enough to not be a burden, especially compared to Iraq. But, the Marines wanted a fight to call their own, which wasn't happening in Iraq at the time - the Marines could not participate in surge operations, for example, since they didn't have anything to surge with. This was couple with the resurgence of the Taliban as a coherent organization and Pakistan's desire to keep the west busy while it plotted against India. Top it off with the retreat of Al Qaeda elements from Iraq to the rest of the world (Africa, Afghanistan) and you get a situation that was going to brew up regardless of who was president.

The correlation to Vietnam is apt for managing the PR war, but practically, it offers nothing that the Soviet, British and Indian experiences in Afghanistan could provide. CIA operations in the 20th century would also be more applicable than VietNam. Then again, if Charlie Wilson tried to offer any advice, they should lock him up as well.

   32. Greg Schuler Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:49 PM (#4234128)
I don't think I've ever met a single human where this is actually true. I've met a lot of people who claim this is how they feel but it's never actually true.


Define care - while I care how I am perceived, I do very little to act on that information. I know plenty of people who do care and do change, which I find disingenuous. Popeye had it right.
   33. villageidiom Posted: September 12, 2012 at 05:34 PM (#4234168)
Now apparently we're taking it a step further, where the guy who could be making all the right decisions if they just let him isn't even the general manager.
I don't think anyone is making the case that James would have made all the right decisions, if he even made decisions at all. I think they're saying Boston started making all the wrong moves around the same time that James' advice was being ignored. These two changes could be directly connected - i.e. had they listened to James they might have been better off - but that's not what Posnanski is saying. He suggests the two changes are merely the effects of another change, that of hubris. They didn't need to be challenged by James. They didn't need to avoid big free agent signings.

To me, in retrospect, it seems the moves in the waning days of the Epstein era were those of an organization that felt their mission had already been accomplished. On the field, they won two WS, the second one "proving" the first was not a fluke. Off the field, they remade Fenway, diversified into other sports (NASCAR, soccer), started a real estate development boomlet, and maximized revenue streams from all interested parties. All of this gave them license to take bigger risks - which is fine, except one shouldn't take risks just because one can.
   34. Greg K Posted: September 12, 2012 at 07:06 PM (#4234239)
I don't think I've ever met a single human where this is actually true. I've met a lot of people who claim this is how they feel but it's never actually true.


Define care - while I care how I am perceived, I do very little to act on that information. I know plenty of people who do care and do change, which I find disingenuous. Popeye had it right.

This line of discussion coupled with the Knights of Summer led my inevitably to this clip.

"I could care less what anyone thinks of me"
"That's what you want people to think of you"

Also, get ready for an assault by the grammar police Jaime!
   35. Greg K Posted: September 12, 2012 at 07:17 PM (#4234250)
On a more serious note, 1620s England may fit that Athenian pattern.

James I had given England 20 years of peace, so much of the nation (though not just the young) were champing at the bit to have themselves a nice war. Throw in a little Elizabethan nostalgia - if we sent out a bunch of Raleighs and Drakes to raid Spanish treasure fleets war will actually make us money, plus sinking the Armada was fun.

Of course reality sets in when a marginal power (England) declares war on the greatest power in Europe (Spain), and when that fails miserably declare war on the second greatest power in Europe (France) for good measure. The people get pissed that the war they pushed on the King actually costs a boat-load of money, parliament and the King have their row and democracy is born, huzzah!
   36. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: September 12, 2012 at 07:56 PM (#4234280)
I have written books that didn’t quite work and had other ventures that failed. On a personal level, I can deal with that. It’s embarrassing, the performance of the organization.


Which of his books failed? The Neyer/James Guide To Pitchers was probably my least favorite, but I still flip through it from time to times. Maybe he's talking about THe Great American Stats Book. That might be the only one I don't own.
   37. The District Attorney Posted: September 12, 2012 at 08:15 PM (#4234290)
Which of his books failed?
From an old mailbag:
Why no Bill James Goldmine for 2011? Just curious, Bill. Thanks.
Asked by: Tom Rathkamp
Answered: March 2, 2011


It was a lot of work to create something that didn't have a lot of value.
   38. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: September 12, 2012 at 08:41 PM (#4234308)
Ahhh, I must have forgotten about those, TDA.
   39. dlf Posted: September 12, 2012 at 08:58 PM (#4234319)
Maybe he's talking about THe Great American Stats Book. That might be the only one I don't own.


If I recall correctly, that book came out for two years and had almost no Bill James content. (The earlier of the two did, however, contain dlf writing a couple of very brief player comments, the only time I've been published outside of my narrow field.) But while they weren't commercial or artistic successes, they were a focal point for Project Scoresheet which morphed into Stats, Inc. and Retrosheet, key contributors to the wealth of information presently available.
   40. base ball chick Posted: September 12, 2012 at 11:40 PM (#4234409)
Shooty: Applying to be Fearless Leader Posted: September 12, 2012 at 01:47 PM (#4233867)


There's a line in The History of the Peloponnesian War about war breaking out between Athens and its enemies every 25 years or so because the younger generation had no knowledge of how awful war could be and so they were gung ho for the adventure.


WHY??? why start another war? why go out and kill other people and get a bunch of your friends ad neighbors and possibly your self, spouse, kids, killed?

Greg Schuler Posted: September 12, 2012 at 04:47 PM (#4234124)


Afghanistan was relatively quite until 2007, when the Marines, tired of garrison duty in Iraq, decided to redeploy to Afghanistan and start a new tempo of operations. The commitment from ISAF until then was small enough to not be a burden, especially compared to Iraq. But, the Marines wanted a fight to call their own,


WHY????? Why start another war?


35. Greg (U)K Posted: September 12, 2012 at 07:17 PM (#4234250)

James I had given England 20 years of peace, so much of the nation (though not just the young) were champing at the bit to have themselves a nice war.


WHY??? Why start another war? what FOR? if you aren't having problems, WHY??? go look for trouble???

i don't understand. i really don't.

what is it with you males??????!!!!!

   41. Dr. Vaux Posted: September 12, 2012 at 11:52 PM (#4234417)
I'm a male, and I don't understand either.

One thing we have to remember is that their quality of life wasn't nearly what our is, and they didn't generally live as long, anyway. Getting killed in a war was much less of a catastrophe to them than it is to us. None of that explains why we keep having wars, though.
   42. base ball chick Posted: September 13, 2012 at 12:22 AM (#4234436)
vaux

i know their quality of life wasn't near as good as ours, so why make it worse?

and these days???

i guess it is the same thing it always has been
1 - greed/coveting thy neighbors' whatever
2 - my god is bettern your god and He/they sez to kill you and/or make you a slave and/or make you agree to say whatever i tell you to say

really sorry story
   43. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 13, 2012 at 12:48 AM (#4234442)
what is it with you males??????!!!!!


The funny thing is, the three most noted female Prime Ministers of the 20th Century, Britain's Margaret Thatcher, Israel's Golda Meir, and India's Indira Ghandi, all led their countries during wartime...
   44. Walt Davis Posted: September 13, 2012 at 01:32 AM (#4234460)
WHY??? why start another war? why go out and kill other people and get a bunch of your friends ad neighbors and possibly your self, spouse, kids, killed?

That's just how we roll
   45. base ball chick Posted: September 13, 2012 at 01:52 AM (#4234465)
vortex,

golda meir didn't start any war and neither did margaret thatcher. i had to look up indira ghandi and war - looks like her country got caught between 2 other countries' war and india had to defend itself.

none of those female leaders decided - like, what the heck, let's go bomb/invade country X, rape and pillage their males, take home their porn stash for ourselves

or something
   46. base ball chick Posted: September 13, 2012 at 01:55 AM (#4234466)
walt

i asked Husband this question. he said because there wasn't any football back then. so i said - well, there's football NOW and ain't nothing changed. he said that it's because Those People play soccer and we can't let soccer take over the world. or something close enough.

translation - any excuse will suit a tyrant.

as aesop said several thousand years ago...
   47. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: September 13, 2012 at 03:32 AM (#4234476)
I don't think I've ever met a single human where this is actually true. I've met a lot of people who claim this is how they feel but it's never actually true.

It's always been true for me (IE, I've always cared what others wrote about me), though I wished to god it wasn't.

I like people to like me and I don't like people to dislike me. I'm surprisingly human that way. It is a trait which has caused me significant problems, though I suppose there have been significant benefits to it as well.
   48. Greg K Posted: September 13, 2012 at 06:34 AM (#4234489)
WHY??? Why start another war? what FOR? if you aren't having problems, WHY??? go look for trouble???

i don't understand. i really don't.

As my thesis deals with how manhood was defined in the 17th century this question is pretty central to my research.

After two years looking into it I'm not sure if I understand it any better than you.
   49. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: September 13, 2012 at 07:28 AM (#4234494)
One word: primogeniture.

In a stagnant economy -- and any economy where wealth is based primarily on land ownership fits, since the quantity of land is fixed -- they have to answer the question, "What are we going to do with all these men?" (Note: this is the same reason society-wide polygamy doesn't work.) Either the excess get sent off to kill other people/get killed, or they cause trouble at home.
   50. Chip Posted: September 13, 2012 at 07:40 AM (#4234497)
Either the excess get sent off to kill other people/get killed, or they cause trouble at home.


At least one son could be sent off to the priesthood. It's those extra sons that needed to be culled.
   51. Greg Schuler Posted: September 13, 2012 at 07:54 AM (#4234501)
Don't forget the Great War - Europe hadn't had a proper bashing since 1870 (not true) and wanted to test themselves against each other - so the popular histories goes. Of course, most of Europe had been in conflict in one way or another since 1870, especially those nasty Balkans, but it'd been a while since France and Germany had slugged it out and with the decrepit Hapsburg empire tottering and Russia eager to distract the population from dire conditions, it seemed inevitable the various parties would use their web of treaties to start a conflict. Throw in the pervasive curiosity of the General Staffs of modern Europe at modern technology and strategy and you have generals and politicians in alignment to light the fuze.

As with any question about why men do the things they do, look no further than the groin. Mine is bigger than yours syndrome...

WHY????? Why start another war?


Well, the Afghanistan conflict was already going on and simmering on low boil. The Afghan opposition was content to snipe at the ISAF troops and run like hell to avoid the smart bombs in response, while not yet resorting to IED attacks (which most Afghanis consider to me unmanly and beneath them). The Marines, fearful of losing a lot of wartime funding if they couldn't stay relevant with a wartime mission, decided to make Afghanistan their personal battlefield. Initially, the US Army was not opposed, seeing Afghanistan as a simmering backwater of corrupt locals and deceitful Pakistanis. Once Iraq sorted itself out, the US Army was left without a mission and decided it should ramp up operations in Afghanistan - to continue the mission, which appears to be feeding at the budget trough.

One thing we have to remember is that their quality of life wasn't nearly what our is, and they didn't generally live as long, anyway. Getting killed in a war was much less of a catastrophe to them than it is to us. None of that explains why we keep having wars, though.


While true to an extent, a lot of it was cultural - it was simply what you did as a male member of society and a great deal of the culture was spent convincing everyone it was a good idea, with varying degrees of success. In truth, the history of warfare is about two things - lengthening the battlefield and finding new and better ways to convince people to kill each other for rather superfluous reasons. There is plenty of documentation that even the vaunted Spartans weren't nearly as gung-ho for killing as we assume them to be, and the increasing amount of literature around PTSD shows that it is in fact chemical as much as emotional.
   52. Greg Schuler Posted: September 13, 2012 at 08:01 AM (#4234504)
At least one son could be sent off to the priesthood. It's those extra sons that needed to be culled.


For some European nobility. For everyone else, you breed prodigiously to simply keep the population up and have the necessary hands to harvest the muck and mire to produce enough food so as to not starve in winter - this is true across all cultures. As Delbruck showed, ancient texts exaggerate quite a bit, but even reducing manpower counts by 10-20%, it takes an awful lot of manpower to keep the army marching, which is why ancient armies tended to be polygots of differing factions, Alexander's army of conquest being a good example, and also why battles tended to be short and sweet, as was campaigning. As much time was spent foraging, raping and pillaging as fighting until the 20th century.

It is interesting that warfare impacts all cultures in much the same way - it's been suggested and either scoffed or lauded that conflict is baked into the genetic makeup of humans. Darn aliens...
   53. Greg Schuler Posted: September 13, 2012 at 08:02 AM (#4234506)
i asked Husband this question. he said because there wasn't any football back then. so i said - well, there's football NOW and ain't nothing changed. he said that it's because Those People play soccer and we can't let soccer take over the world. or something close enough.


Apparently Brad Davis and Brian Ching still have work to do in Houston...

And note to husband - soccer has taken over the world and the US is the lone holdout, though that is slowly changing.
   54. Greg K Posted: September 13, 2012 at 08:06 AM (#4234507)
One word: primogeniture.

Well I think that's a large part of the explanation, especially in medieval Europe,* I think that kind of emphasis is simplifying a lot of other issues and is perhaps economically deterministic.

*It's not my area, but the motivations of Crusaders seem like the most actively explored area in this regard. The whole "second son" thing plays a role, but so too does genuine belief and devotion to the cause, the dominance of "the pilgrimage" in medieval society, and the fact that the crusade acted as an outlet for increasing attempts by the Church to curb violence within Europe.

EDIT: With a second on Mr. Schuler's note that primogeniture doesn't really explain the participation of the lower orders in warfare. As there appears to be a much better informed party on the subject of military history in this thread I should probably wade out of the waters before they get over my head.
   55. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 13, 2012 at 08:23 AM (#4234513)
#53 - well, let's not exaggerate, the US, India, and China are all "holdouts", and they comprise a majority of the world population. Soccer is basically a European sport played in many post-colonial countries.
   56. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 13, 2012 at 10:14 AM (#4234599)
WHY??? Why start another war? what FOR? if you aren't having problems, WHY??? go look for trouble???

i don't understand. i really don't.

what is it with you males??????!!!!!


BBC, it's very simple: MORE

People are greedy. They always want more. There's a reason Envy and Greed are two of the 7 deadly sins.

The same instinct that causes rich men to have 50 cars, and women to have 500 pairs of shoes, cause Kings want more territory, and landless, powerless men to seek riches and status in war.
   57. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4234629)
what is it with you males??????!!!!!


There is no small number of males who find it as baffling as you do. There are also no small number of females who fully endorse going to war.
   58. TomH Posted: September 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM (#4234637)
snapper, I will show my ignorance; is "42" in your handle a ref to Hitchhiker's Guide, or Jackie R, or something else?
   59. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 13, 2012 at 10:44 AM (#4234642)
snapper, I will show my ignorance; is "42" in your handle a ref to Hitchhiker's Guide, or Jackie R, or something else?

Nothing really. Someone snarked in a thread that I was "history's 42nd greatest monster", for holding one of my unpopular views (can't remember which one), and I just liked the sound of it.
   60. McCoy Posted: September 13, 2012 at 10:46 AM (#4234643)
It should also be said that the vast majority of peasants had no real say in going to war or not going to war. It was the privileged class that decided they wanted their peasants to die in some foreign land and as was mentioned peace requires tremendous amounts of growth if it is to last. If you have peace without growth you'll get a war somewhere. Either at home or abroad.
   61. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 13, 2012 at 10:52 AM (#4234658)
peace requires tremendous amounts of growth if it is to last. If you have peace without growth you'll get a war somewhere. Either at home or abroad.

This is a great point.

We have to remember that for most of history, there was no growth in per capita income, or living standards. Rises in productivity (technology, good weather, etc.) just lead to larger populations, which decreased productivity (bad weather, disease, war, etc.) led to smaller populations.

Even the nobility couldn't expect life to get better by just minding your own business and managing your estates.

The way to grow was to get somebody else's stuff. Which usually meant war, except for the Habsburgs who seemed to always marry the right person.
   62. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: September 13, 2012 at 10:54 AM (#4234660)
Nothing really. Someone snarked in a thread that I was "history's 42nd greatest monster", for holding one of my unpopular views (can't remember which one), and I just liked the sound of it.

Since we're on the Internet, I'm going to assume that person intended it as a Hitchhiker's Guide reference.
   63. Bob Meta-Meusel Posted: September 13, 2012 at 11:09 AM (#4234694)
Bill James is a friend, and so I can tell you this from personal experience: I have never met anyone who cares so little about what people say or write about him.

I don't think I've ever met a single human where this is actually true. I've met a lot of people who claim this is how they feel but it's never actually true.


I've met people for whom it was true, and I've met people who've claimed it. The two groups of people don't overlap. If you have to announce that you don't care what people think about you, then you care what someone thinks about whether you care what people think about you, and thus you've rendered your own statement untrue.
   64. McCoy Posted: September 13, 2012 at 11:16 AM (#4234707)
I've met people for whom it was true,

I think it is true that some people care little about what some people think about them but I don't believe that there are some people that care so little about what people in general think about them.

   65. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 13, 2012 at 11:17 AM (#4234708)
I think it is true that some people care little about what some people think about them but I don't believe that there are some people that care so little about what people in general think about them.

Hermits?
   66. McCoy Posted: September 13, 2012 at 11:18 AM (#4234709)
If it was true that Bill cared so little then I don't think we would have had "Breaking the wand"
   67. alilisd Posted: September 13, 2012 at 11:48 AM (#4234756)
The Marines, fearful of losing a lot of wartime funding if they couldn't stay relevant with a wartime mission, decided to make Afghanistan their personal battlefield.


What is this thesis based on?
   68. bjhanke Posted: September 13, 2012 at 11:53 AM (#4234762)
McCoy above: "If it was true that Bill cared so little then I don't think we would have had "'Breaking the wand'".

Nor would Bill have been willing to license the Abstract name out for a year to some guy from STL (me) whom he had met exactly once before, and a gentleman from Silicon Valley named Rob Wood. Nor would he have OFFERED to lend me $3,000 to help with the printing budget. Nor written an article under his own name to help promote the thing on the back cover.

I've never seen Bill mention that he did all that for me, but he did. I was truly pleased when the thing made enough money that I could pay Bill back his whole $3,000 and still have a little money left to split with my contributors. So, if you want to know why I almost never post up even a disagreement with Bill, well, I can't, in all honor, have anything less than nice to say about the man. I also got, for one afternoon, to see how he treated his family. The idea that Bill is a robotic "analytical engine" who can't make human contacts is absurd. He is a good and loving husband and a good and loving father who makes sure that his family gets mention in his books and also credit when they help him out. When your wife, who is an artist, not a mathematician, is figuring out the last-minute defensive stats for catchers, which happened one year, she's not exactly standing there with one foot in a divorce lawyer's office. Artists are notoriously volatile, like most creative arts people, but Bill has had a stable marriage for decades. If he was ignoring his wife's emotional needs, I absolutely guarantee you she would have been long since gone.

Like I said, I have nothing but good things to say about Bill James. - Brock Hanke
   69. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: September 13, 2012 at 12:15 PM (#4234787)
. i had to look up indira ghandi and war - looks like her country got caught between 2 other countries' war and india had to defend itself.

Which war are you describing here? Indira Gandhi's (aside: the "ghandi" for "gandhi" thing is weirdly annoying for an Indian. I'm not sure why :p) primary war (the one which catapulted her to fame and allowed her to maintain her popularity and support, even through Emergency) was the 1971 Indo-Pak war (the third one). That's, uh, not at all India getting caught between two other countries or something. Did you mean something else?
none of those female leaders decided - like, what the heck, let's go bomb/invade country X, rape and pillage their males, take home their porn stash for ourselves

or something

While this is true, Indira Gandhi's little Sikh expedition was certainly of the "let's invade Gujarat and desecrate the holiest site of the fifth-largest religion in the world" sort. As well as the "let's quash media reports of what we did" sort. Emergency in general was basically her declaring a kind of stealth dictatorship in India (though my parents like to joke [a joke I've heard referencing Mussolini and Italy] that Emergency was the only time that trains in India ran on time. I'm being somewhat extreme when it comes to Emergency - if the experience of my family members is any indication, Emergency had much less of an effect on regular people as you might have expected. I'm not over-emphasizing the Golden Temple affair, however [confession, though, many of my close ancestors, including two of my grandparents, were Sikhs]).
   70. CH Luke Posted: September 13, 2012 at 12:17 PM (#4234790)
#44
"Poor man wanna be rich,
rich man wanna be king,
And a king ain't satisfied,
till he rules everything,"
   71. SOLockwood Posted: September 13, 2012 at 02:48 PM (#4234988)
Well, the 71 War was basically India helping one country (West + East Pakistan) become two countries (Pakistan & Bangladesh).
   72. Greg Schuler Posted: September 13, 2012 at 03:25 PM (#4235028)
#53 - well, let's not exaggerate, the US, India, and China are all "holdouts", and they comprise a majority of the world population. Soccer is basically a European sport played in many post-colonial countries.


Well China is catching the bug - the Chinese professional league is now poaching older star players away from MLS with hefty paychecks and European clubs scheduled pre-season tours of China to cash in on the growing popularity.

World futbol/soccer events are among the most watched and therefore profitable in the world. Take the Euro Cup 2012 - it was a worldwide ratings monster and many anticipate the World Cup 2014 to be even bigger. I don't think it an exaggeration to say that futbol/soccer would be the world's most popular professional sport, regardless of the Subcontinent holdouts, who much prefer cricket, of course, but follow soccer to a large extent. The lack of a viable national team program shouldn't be a determination of the popularity of a sport. In fact, there are several Indian owners in England and team sponsorships are now global affairs. The audience is massive, so much so that a US car company is paying an unheard of amount to be the Manchester United primary sponsor because of the brand loyalty the Reds have worldwide, which if even a small percentage translates to product sales would cover the sponsorship costs many times over.
   73. Greg Schuler Posted: September 13, 2012 at 03:28 PM (#4235039)
EDIT: With a second on Mr. Schuler's note that primogeniture doesn't really explain the participation of the lower orders in warfare. As there appears to be a much better informed party on the subject of military history in this thread I should probably wade out of the waters before they get over my head.


And is especially focused just on Europe, whereas the rest of the world exists. Globally, warefare has been about possession, as others have noted in other threads - times of peace are short-lived and hard to propel until very recently. Even now, economic hardships are threatening to turn into conflict in many areas of the world or already have - the Sudanese conflict is a prime example (South Sudan secedes because they have the oil, but China and Sudan want to control the oil, which leads to South Sudan buying arms on credit through Kenya to repel the anticipated invasion from Sudan proper, which is armed and advised by China).
   74. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: September 13, 2012 at 03:32 PM (#4235045)
I don't think it an exaggeration to say that futbol/soccer would be the world's most popular professional sport, regardless of the Subcontinent holdouts, who much prefer cricket, of course, but follow soccer to a large extent

This is true. I think I've made this point before, but jerseys from all the major European clubs are a common sight in Indian cities, thousands of people crowded into the airport to get a glance of Messi when he came to India for a friendly last year, etc (quick google: post 138 here, where I say exactly the same things, and a few others on a thread with the same subject matter). Football isn't cricket, but it is really, really popular.
   75. Greg Schuler Posted: September 13, 2012 at 03:35 PM (#4235050)
What is this thesis based on?


Based on the redeployment of USMC assets from Iraq to Afghanistan to "finalize" that conflict while the USA "finalized" the Iraq conflict. The US Army ran the show in Iraq fulls top and was, while not eager, was supportive of the decision. The inference of this for budget reasons is my own, but the US Army has been very careful to keep the war budgets focused on the warfighters, as they like to call themselves, and the only real challenge to the US Army for ground combat is the USMC. If the USMC shows competency above and beyond the US Army, then money flows there, which means more Marines and less grunts. It's a very childish exercise, but war is big business and budgets are where the bureaucrats fight.

The Marines are now, surprise surprise, touting a return to their amphibious warfare roots after the dismal failure in Afghanistan - the highly touted counter-offensive in 2008-2010 led to few gains in the provinces and the USMC model for counter-insurgency they hoped to use throughout Afghanistan was dropped or is being dropped.
   76. The District Attorney Posted: September 13, 2012 at 04:18 PM (#4235093)
James' mailbag:
Bill, Thanks to Joe Posnanski I now understand that you probably had nothing to do in the signing of Carl Crawford...and I`m glad he put the records straight. I`m sure a lot of us didn`t understand that particular move (and some other ones) but had too much respect for you and your position with the Red Sox to ask questions about it. Hopefully your input will be put to better use in the rebuilding of my favorite team. Regards.
Asked by: gingras
Answered: 9/13/2012


Well, I don't know what Joe wrote about the signing, and I'm not trying to duck responsibility for any bad decisions the team has made. Joe and I are close friends, had lunch today, and I'm sure whatever he wrote is probably right, but I won't read it. But back to Carl Crawford. ... When we win, we all get rings, you know? When we screw up, we're all guilty.
   77. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: September 13, 2012 at 04:23 PM (#4235099)
Bill James, at this point in his life and career, is a crank (*) -- likely a bitter crank.


Very sadly I tend to concur


That doesn't sound good but it makes it all the weirder that Rumsfeld and Cheney who are old enough to know better were so gung ho to get us in that slog.


There are people who with respect to Vietnam (or any other historical morass) will argue, if we only did X rather than Y- with Vietnam it was, if only the Tanks rolled all the way to Hanoi...
So in Iraq the hawks got to try that out, this time the tanks rolled all the way to Baghdad.

In fact Iraq wasn't Vietnam, you want an historical parallel? The Philippines 1898-1910 or so.
Afghanistan has kind of devolved into something like Vietnam with the corrupt inefficient Karzai regime standing in for the corrupt inefficient South Vietnam Regime(s)



   78. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 13, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4235114)

Well China is catching the bug - the Chinese professional league is now poaching older star players away from MLS with hefty paychecks and European clubs scheduled pre-season tours of China to cash in on the growing popularity.


That's one way to look at it. Another, more accurate way to look at it is that basketball is far more popular than soccer in China and on a steeper slope upwards in popularity and, by dint of being second fiddle (at best) in China and the US, soccer will never be truly global.
   79. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: September 13, 2012 at 04:57 PM (#4235128)
Joe and I are close friends, had lunch today, had a nice shower together, because there's nothing wrong with that ...
   80. Greg K Posted: September 13, 2012 at 04:58 PM (#4235131)
That's one way to look at it. Another, more accurate way to look at it is that basketball is far more popular than soccer in China and on a steeper slope upwards in popularity and, by dint of being second fiddle (at best) in China and the US, soccer will never be truly global.

Can we compromise and say soccer is the closest thing to a global sport?
   81. Greg K Posted: September 13, 2012 at 05:00 PM (#4235134)
Well, I don't know what Joe wrote about the signing, and I'm not trying to duck responsibility for any bad decisions the team has made. Joe and I are close friends, had lunch today, and I'm sure whatever he wrote is probably right, but I won't read it.

This is what I found interesting. I'm reading this as, James doesn't like to read articles about himself. Though some of these terse responses in his mailbag leave a lot open to interpretation. (I suppose this is nothing new - "Pass" after all)
   82. Swedish Chef Posted: September 13, 2012 at 05:05 PM (#4235139)
by dint of being second fiddle (at best) in China and the US, soccer will never be truly global.

A sport has to be #1 everywhere to be global? Sounds like a rather useless definition.
   83. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 13, 2012 at 05:09 PM (#4235142)
Can we compromise and say soccer is the closest thing to a global sport?


I guess, but I'm not sure how meaningful a statement that is when east Asia and North America are the holdouts. It's probably safer to say that places that were significantly influenced by European culture from 1900-1950 tend to like soccer and the rest of the world is not that into it.
   84. Greg K Posted: September 13, 2012 at 05:14 PM (#4235148)
I guess, but I'm not sure how meaningful a statement that is when east Asia and North America are the holdouts. It's probably safer to say that places that were significantly influenced by European culture from 1900-1950 tend to like soccer and the rest of the world is not that into it.

Some pretty good soccer teams from Korea, Japan and South America are left out of that (depending on how broadly you are defining "influenced by European culture 1900-1950"...and setting aside that the influence of European culture itself was pretty close to global in that period).

I mean, if you want to argue that there is no such thing as a global sport, fair enough. But I think it's pretty clear that soccer is the closest thing to that theoretical sport.
   85. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: September 13, 2012 at 05:19 PM (#4235150)
I guess, but I'm not sure how meaningful a statement that is when east Asia and North America are the holdouts.


The sport is pretty popular even where the "holdouts" are concerned. I guess to put it a different way, what team sport is more global than soccer?

Baseball certainly isn't.
American football certainly isn't.
Basketball might actually have a case but I don't think it's the most popular sport anywhere.
Hockey obviously isn't.
Rugby isn't.
Cricket isn't.
Field hockey isn't.

I think soccer is legitimately more global than any of those.
   86. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 13, 2012 at 05:20 PM (#4235153)
Some pretty good soccer teams from Korea, Japan and South America are left out of that (depending on how broadly you are defining "influenced by European culture 1900-1950"...and setting aside that the influence of European culture itself was pretty close to global in that period).

I mean, if you want to argue that there is no such thing as a global sport, fair enough. But I think it's pretty clear that soccer is the closest thing to that theoretical sport.


Well, soccer is big in pretty much any place that was a colony up to WWII. It's also big in South American countries that aggressively aligned themselves with European culture and away from America's sphere of influence at that time.

It's not big in China, Japan, North America, and Australia, countries that by and large were charting their own cultural path b/w WWI and WWII.

This is not a perfect breakdown - soccer shares Korea with baseball, and it's a popular (though second tier) sport in places like Japan, but it's as good a breakdown as any.

I find the whole soccer-is-so-global thing to be really weird. It's almost like a dying echo of European imperialism - look, they still play our sport! We're so influential!
   87. Swedish Chef Posted: September 13, 2012 at 05:23 PM (#4235159)
I find the whole soccer-is-so-global thing to be really weird. It's almost like a dying echo of European imperialism - look, they still play our sport! We're so influential!

Americans trying to deny the patently obvious are even more weird.
   88. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 13, 2012 at 05:30 PM (#4235167)
Americans trying deny the patently obvious are even more weird.

I'm saying, the better fit for the model of popularity of sports is "sphere of influence in 1920 or so". If the US was big then in your country, you play baseball. If Europe was big, you play soccer. If you were still actively governed by the UK, you play soccer and cricket.

There are some minor changes to this model - basketball is spreading now to South America and parts of Europe; soccer is spreading to parts of Asia, but basically, it's just a map of spheres of influence in 1920.
   89. Greg K Posted: September 13, 2012 at 05:48 PM (#4235187)
That's more an explanation for why there's a larger geographical spread of soccer nations around the world than an argument against that fact.
   90. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: September 14, 2012 at 10:58 AM (#4235687)
and it's a popular (though second tier) sport in places like Japan


If by second tier you mean 2nd most popular, then sure, if by 2nd tier you mean in the way soccer is popular in the US then that is false.
   91. Dale Sams Posted: September 14, 2012 at 01:10 PM (#4235867)
We're all just going to give Thatcher a pass? The Falkland theatre definitly had a male-flavored taste like this.
   92. GregD Posted: September 14, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4235936)
golda meir didn't start any war and neither did margaret thatcher. i had to look up indira ghandi and war - looks like her country got caught between 2 other countries' war and india had to defend itself.

none of those female leaders decided - like, what the heck, let's go bomb/invade country X, rape and pillage their males, take home their porn stash for ourselves
Dale is right, alas. And bbchick is my favorite poster, but is just off on this one. Even Derek Jeter misses a grounder every once in a while!

Indira Gandhi launched a war with Pakistan over Bangladeshi independence. Maybe that was good or maybe it wasn't, but it will still a choice of war. She called the first-ever state of emergency in India to repress her enemies. She sent the Army to invade her own territory in Operation Blue Star. Maybe all of these were good decisions but she was a well-known bellicose figure. She liked military strength; it wasn't forced on her.

It's not fair to blame Meir for the Yom Kippur War, obviously, but she was also famously a tough guy, frightening even people like Kissinger who had sympathy for Israel and his share of experience with tough cookies.

Thatcher was one of the more bellicose world leaders of a bellicose time. The ultimate cold warrior. And fought a war over the Falklands.

None of them was Dr. Strangelove, but all, alas, suggest that the question of war comes, not from testosterone, but from running a large country with both threats and interests. You don't have to go to war to deal with those threats or extend your interests, but almost every leader ends up considering it. Gandhi himself exulted over bomber planes flying to blast Kashmir, calling it one of the holiest sounds of his life.

Anyone walking around the Meatpacking District on a weekend would have a hard time holding down a belief in the natural inclination of women to resolve their problems by talking it out. The catfights are way wilder than the dogfights.
   93. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: September 14, 2012 at 02:22 PM (#4235964)
Indira Gandhi launched a war with Pakistan over Bangladeshi independence. Maybe that was good or maybe it wasn't, but it will still a choice of war. She called the first-ever state of emergency in India to repress her enemies. She sent the Army to invade her own territory in Operation Blue Star. Maybe all of these were good decisions but she was a well-known bellicose figure. She liked military strength; it wasn't forced on her.

Exactly (this is a much more coherent/well written explanation than what I said in #69 [where I mistyped "Gujarat" when I meant to write "Punjab", something that I'll probably have to give up my Punjabi heritage having done]). It's also useful to note that Indira Gandhi's approach in Operation Bluestar was far more aggressive and violent than that of her son, four years later, with Operation Black Thunder, the latter of which was more successful and had far fewer casualties (as well as destroyed far fewer portion of holy temples).
   94. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: September 14, 2012 at 03:28 PM (#4236036)
When we win, we all get rings

Speak for yourself, Bill. :D

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