Red Sox, union bite back after Bill James says players are as replaceable as beer vendors

Yahoo Sports
Comments from Bill James devaluing MLB players drew swift criticism from the player’s union and prompted the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/bos" data-ylk="slk:Red Sox">Red Sox</a> to distance themselves. (Getty)
Comments from Bill James devaluing MLB players drew swift criticism from the player’s union and prompted the Red Sox to distance themselves. (Getty)

Bill James is learning some harsh Twitter lessons.

The stats guru and baseball historian best known for developing sabermetrics is now working as a special adviser to the Boston Red Sox. He’s also busy tweeting some very controversial takes.

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James compares players to beer vendors in terms of value

James got involved in a Twitter debate late Wednesday with CBS Sports writer Chris Towers over the value of baseball players, taking the side that MLB players, well, don’t inherently have much value.

During the back-and-forth, James unleashed this red-hot take.

“If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are.”

That tweet has since been deleted, but NBC Sports documented the exchange that swiftly drew an uproar from players and the MLBPA.

MLBPA’s pointed retort

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark released a statement Thursday morning condemning James’ comments as reckless.

“The comments Bill James made yesterday are both reckless and insulting considering our game’s history regarding the use of replacement players,” Clark wrote. “The Players ARE the game. And our fans have an opportunity to enjoy the most talented baseball Players in the world every season. If these sentiments resonate beyond one individual, then any challenges that lie ahead will be more difficult to overcome than initially anticipated.”

Players react too

James’ statements also drew the attention of some prominent current and former MLB players on Twitter.

Problematic comments from front office adviser

If James were making those statements from his seat as a historian and influential statistician, they would have been controversial. But the fact that he’s an active adviser to the Red Sox front office make them particularly troublesome.

It’s not a great look for a front office representative to outwardly question the value of baseball players for obvious reasons. Especially coming from the front office of the World Series champions with a roster stacked with talent that just demonstrated its value quite effectively.

James’ statements prompted the Red Sox to distance themselves from him on Thursday, claiming that he is not an employee and doesn’t have the authority to speak for the team.

James, meanwhile spent much of Thursday on Twitter reacting to the fallout.

Whether the Red Sox can still tolerate James representing them as a “special adviser” is yet to be seen.

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