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 didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didnâ€šÃ„Ã´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. Donâ€šÃ„Ã´t ask what it means. I donâ€šÃ„Ã´t know.
I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fansâ€šÃ„Ã´ enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.
People play baseball. Numbers donâ€šÃ„Ã´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 This doesn’t undermine enjoyment of the game any more than learning the historical references contained in Shakespeare plays leeches the enjoyment out of a night at the theatre.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.