The culture of debate

How much this entry has to do with baseball, I’m not sure yet, but it certainly relates.

The more I observe, the more I conclude that for every passion in this world, there is a group that equates posturing and doctrinaire stances to purity within that passion, i.e. taking a hardline stance is the way to show loyalty to the cause or some such. Each of these passions has their litmus tests, shibboleths, et cetera to enforce this. Religions, academia, gangs, nerd cliques, political parties, and baseball writing all have manifestations of posturing, and in each area they are damaging to meaningful discourse.

Perhaps in the United States, our bipolar political system engenders this idea in other endeavors. Perhaps it’s human nature. Regardless, many meaningful questions get lost in the shuffle to pick one of two sides. Some of us, as much as it pains nerds to hear, don’t care about Star Wars or Star Trek. It happens.

I don’t know what mainstream writers or sabermetricians hope to gain when they diss the other side. There seems to be a search for identity or brand name in it, a call to action, fealty, or orthodoxy. But for every time each side engages, it causes others to lose passion while others are gaining it. There’s only so much attention span to go around, and not everyone intends to use it for debating.

I’m not saying this as a “big picture” or “let’s not fight” person; I’m saying it as a call to efficiency and clarity of purpose when discussing statistics and baseball. I’d rather discuss sabermetrics than sabermetricians, and when you think about, I’m sure you feel the same.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
12 years ago

Here here – good to see this website in particular embrace this notion. Both sides of the debate are guilty of this- IMO lately the sabermetric side has been more aggressive in attacking people who express a different view point- and not being open to the shades of grey issues that shape so much of what is being debated. I agree with your points.

12 years ago

When what makes you part of the “shades of grey” crowd is believing something that is incorrect, you’re still wrong(if I embrace FIP, but prefer BA over wOBA, that doesn’t make me a sabermetric moderate, it makes me half-wrong).

Which is not to say – and I want to make it clear that I’m not saying this AT ALL – that there aren’t legitimate shades of grey, or that people that like some SABR stuff and not all of it are wrong. But using one advanced tool in baseball doesn’t mitigate using one that sucks. It, like everything else, is on a case-by-case basis.

12 years ago

“We do not understand the world; the world is billions of times more complicated than our minds. You can make a useful contribution to a discussion if you can figure out specifically what it is you don’t understand and try to work on it. If you try to start from the other end – ‘I’ve got the world figured out and I’m going to explain it to everybody’ – maybe there are a lot of people who succeed in doing that, but it doesn’t work for me.”
Bill James