Murray Chass defends his right to be ignorant, uninformed

February 27th, 2007 → 10:04 am @ // 13 Comments

In today’s cranky old man column, Murray Chass pulls a move that surprises even me. (Close readers of this blog will know it’s hard for Murray to shock me; they’ll also know I’ve only put up one Chass-related post this month, which is truly a sign of how hard I’m trying to keep from getting crazy about that ol’ coot.)

Anyway, here’s Chass on VORP:

“To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn’t care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn’t know what it meant either. Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don’t ask what it means. I don’t know.

I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that’s their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans’ enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.

People play baseball. Numbers don’t.”

It’s been a good long time since I’ve heard a reporter actually brag about his total and utter lack of curiosity regarding his work. One of the biggest changes in baseball over the last decade has been the emphasis on using everything possible to understand the game. This doesn’t undermine enjoyment of the game any more than learning the historical references contained in Shakespeare plays leeches the enjoyment out of a night at the theatre. Information is knowledge, as that hoary old cliche goes. Lord knows Murray ain’t much one for knowledge — he practically shouts his ignorance from the rooftops every time he puts pen to paper — but it’s embarrassing for him to beat his chest about it. If a fan doesn’t want to get bogged down in the minutia of VORP or OPS or equivalent averages, that’s all well and good; I loved watching baseball in the days when I couldn’t identify a breaking ball from high and tight heat. But if it was my job to watch baseball games and then inform the public about these very same games, I’d sure as shit make sure I knew everything I could about the sport, regardless of what language I used to write about what was taking place on the field. And anyone who thinks that being better informed makes for a less enjoyable day at the ballpark clearly hasn’t ever watched a game with Bill James.


Post Categories: Murray Chass & New York Times

13 Comments → “Murray Chass defends his right to be ignorant, uninformed”


  1. Jack

    10 years ago

    What a dolt. Too bad he doesn’t have Cashman’s job.

    Reply

  2. tmurph13

    10 years ago

    So how much do you think a guy like Murray makes from the Times? I suppose he hangs around for the pension.

    Reply

  3. drleather2001

    10 years ago

    Numbers are evil. Just look at what they’ve done to Jim Carrey lately.

    Reply

  4. rog

    10 years ago

    It really surprises me that the Times would continue to employ this guy. He really does belong in the Post or Daily News. He makes Dan Shaughnessy look OK in comparison.

    Reply

  5. branatical

    10 years ago

    The other points in that column were good albeit cantankerous…they were all made void when he exposed his laissez-faire approach to sabermetrics.

    Reply

  6. dbvader

    10 years ago

    Unfortunately, Chass’ statement isn’t very surprising or noteworthy. Too many sportswriters proudly trumpet their disdain for any advanced statistics without bothering to attempt to understand them (Shaughnessy and Mazz in Boston for instance).
    It’s childish logic, but sportswriters have no trouble employing it.

    Does anyone know sportswriters who use advanced metrics in an intelligent fashion? Art Martone is the only one I have come across.

    Reply

  7. kgilpin

    10 years ago

    Maybe the concept of Value Over Replacement Journalist would make more sense to him.

    Reply

  8. jthewes

    10 years ago

    Who’s more annoying, Murray Chass or Carl Pavano?

    Embattled Pavano brings in Chris Chandler as personal trainer

    Reply

  9. deversm

    10 years ago

    You may already be aware of this, but the good folks over at Baseball Prospectus have chimed in:

    An Open Letter to Murray Chass

    As well as the entertaining crew at Fire Joe Morgan:

    This Is Why This Site Exists

    Reply

  10. mdlamster

    10 years ago

    Wilfull ignorance is bad; but don’t forget, on this day, his ethical lapse regarding the VC voting:

    http://yanksfansoxfan.typepad.com/ysfs/2007/02/more_on_the_hof.html

    Reply

  11. Ogie Oglethorpe

    10 years ago

    From a Keith Law chat:

    Tom Tuttle (Tacoma): Here’s what Murray Chass had to say about VORP in today’s column in the NY Times: “I suppose if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that’s their prerogatve. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans’ enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.” How in the world does the addition of a little more (and more sophisticated) information into the analysis of a sport threaten anyone or anything other than the reputation of a writer who refuses to change with the times?!

    Keith Law: It reads wonderfully as a satire of dinosaur journalism. Sadly, it’s not.

    Reply

  12. jjcardis

    10 years ago

    @dbvader: The Hardball Times, though not a “traditional media,” do some of the best work in combining great writing with statistical analysis.

    Reply
  13. […] –Here’s a smart take from Seth Mnookin. Mnookin, by the way, wrote a clear-eyed book about The New York Times called Hard News a couple of years back. At the time, I gave it a positive review in the Austin-American Statesman. […]

    Reply

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