Wednesday, June 17, 2015
HACKING INCIDENT EXPOSES BASEBALL'S PROPRIETARY INFORMATION FETISH
Obscured in the hue and cry around the improper accessing of Astro executive Jeff Luhnow's user account is the fact that an absurd, inappropriate, and wrongheaded culture of proprietary entitlement has developed over the past fifteen years as MBAs have emerged as the inheritors of baseball's bizarre version of the "auteur theory."
In our view, all forms of proprietary information systems--with the exception of internal memos about actual personnel decisions--should be banned from MLB and replaced by a centralized operation that makes any and all analytical work about baseball available to all.
Transparency was the watchword of sabermetrics in its infancy, though one wonders if Bill James even remembers that this is what he instinctively--and correctly--insisted upon when he first "broke the wand" after his initial series of Baseball Abstracts in 1988. (Bill, of course, "jumped the shark" in 2003 and joined the Boston Red Sox, glamorizing the function of "consultant" and creating a floodtide of corporate copycatism that he'd spent the bulk of his career castigating.)
Of course, the world is a different place now--thanks (among other reasons...) to the damned Soviet Union self-desctructing and leaving America to screw up the world on its own, causing a majority of its citizens to absorb a mindset at once arrogant, defensive, and knee-jerk self-justifying, sniffing out new pretexts for "exceptionalism" and privilege in the manner of a steroid-laced pig searching for truffles.
And that seems to suffice in the minds of careerists everywhere as they pour like lemmings into the front offices of MLB with visions of proprietary information systems dancing in their heads like PCP-laced sugar plums, their brains altered by infantile visions of ongoing domination. A mutant subpopulation has emerged, fueled by a hyperintense immersion in overdetermined math modeling and some kind of fluke enyzme reaction to particular dosages of energy drinks--and they have poisoned baseball's intellectual currency for the foreseeable future.
Some will want to argue that this is the capitalist spirit at work--that the "pure competition" in the game is what will promote the best new information. But the "competition," as we now see, is anything but "pure." What's needed instead is a centralization of baseball's information development system, and a strict set of bylaws that create the maximum amount of blowback on individual franchises who attempt to develop information on their own.
This isn't the first time we've broached these ideas at this blog...but today the ground has shifted in the situation in a very urgent way. We call on Commissioner Rob Manfred to seize this moment and call for a study group to implement significant changes to baseball's information management and advanced statistical development efforts--changes that will deliver baseball from the poisonous, self-aggrandizing climate of elitist exceptionalism that is a blight upon the culture of the game.