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.”