When I took the helm of Beyond the Box Score just under two years ago, I sought to use the power of having a staff behind me to answer the simple question: “Is sabermetrics good?” This question fascinated me for years, largely because the supposed scientific underpinnings of the analytics revolution were largely, in my eyes, co-opted by powerful forces for their own gain and not for the greater good of learning and understanding. The obsession with hyper-optimization that killed the seven-inning starter is the exact same logic that, say, drives Amazon warehouse workers to wear diapers to keep up with their performance numbers.
What underlies that is actually a deeper feeling that an increasingly alienated population feels in our neoliberalized world, which is that there is an inherent conflict between basic, human dignity, and the need for profit.
When I decided that my tenure at this site had run its course, it was largely because I felt that we had made that case and we made it forcefully. Whether it was covering the introduction of private equity into ownership, or the plight of minor leaguers, or the ravages of domestic violence and its ill-conceived remediation, I didn’t mind genuinely being a hammer to every nail until we got the point across that peoples’ right to be safe in their effects and to be afforded the respect they deserved was more important than the trivial concerns of the league itself.
Yet I have a life myself, too. I am six months away from being married, and with the introduction of a dog into my life over the last year and a job where I have actually enjoyed to scoop up more responsibilities and knowledge, it was high-time for a realignment in how I stack up what I find to be important; namely, that this site became the last of my concerns beyond everything else that is going on.
When I made that decision, which I still stand by, I didn’t exactly realize that we were on the precipice of a world historical global pandemic that would scuttle baseball, and all sports, for months if not more than a year.
If anything, this whole affair only makes me more confident in BTBS’ ability to cover events even in the absence of baseball. If sabermetrics was a way to unpack the ways in which baseball labor is converted into wins and thus dollars, there is no better example of how that math is done writ large than an event that severs the most important limb of global capitalism: the ability for workers to gather to produce surplus value.
In our little world, this disruption has massive effects on how baseball’s largess will be dealt out. We have covered CBA negotiations extensively here, and this will likely swing power in the owners’ favor; with a year of revenue lost (despite MLB’s record profits and >$10 billion revenue in 2019), they will have the upper hand to demand payroll concessions.
How service time could be dealt out depending on the next 18 months will have massive ramifications. The draft could be delayed, causing seniors and international amateurs to lose millions as the 2020 and 2021 classes are potentially consolidated. Pay for arena workers has not been uniform, and minor leaguers continue to get the short-end of the stick as players genuinely contemplate their futures in the face of little or no pay, despite the league paying them through early April.
All of the signs of a massive crack in our society were present, running like a seam through a swelling dam. It’s no surprise that a cataclysm like this would cause water to flow through those exact seams. Labor is obviously affected across the board, as workers are just now being laid off or having their time reduced as all in-person facilities close down, and the most precarious among us—like delivery workers, health care workers, grocery store workers, the homeless, and the disabled or immunocompromised—will deepen in precarity. Our institutions will be wholly inept to handle this, as decades of decaying federal power, health care funding, and social safety net systems are put on a historical stress test.
I highly doubt that your average person, who could potentially face 18 months of disrupted income with no abatement of the horrors of health insurance payments, rent, and shortages of supplies, will walk out the end of this portal and look at the world the same way. That’s why, given the turbulence of our current moment, I fully expect for this site to rise to the challenge.
Thank you all for reading my words over the last two years here, and thank you to anyone crazy enough to have followed my work from Pinstripe Alley to here over the last six and a half years. I almost thought I would need to take months off to write another word again, but it seems we’ve just entered an age where the written word might be the only way for us to find meaning.