I confess, I am numerically challenged. The most impressive mathematical skill I have is long division, more specifically, hits divided by at-bats = batting average; or earned runs divided by innings pitched x 9 = earned run average. There is no math teacher to thank. In fact, my high school yearbook would provide evidence to the contrary, but the truth is my high school math teacher was Arthur Friedman, former New York Mets statistician and author the 1978 book The World of Sports Statistics. Thank you, Mr. Friedman. Thank you, baseball.
This ability never turned me into a saber-centric fan. I've never been in a fantasy league. I've read a few Bill James books, but I do not pay much attention to VORP, WHIP or WAR. I appreciate all of them, and the value they add to the game, but statistics aren't the what glues me to the television or drives me back to the ballpark ever spring and summer. "Baseball isn't statistics -- baseball is DiMaggio rounding second," wrote Jimmy Cannon. I can relate to that notion.
I find joy in watching a player stretch a double into a triple; a complete game shutout; a nasty curveball; a great pick-off move. I love baseball because of guys like Bill Lee, Reggie Jackson, Mark Fidrych, R.A. Dickey, Pete Rose, Derek Jeter, Steve Carlton and Barry Bonds. Yes, Barry Bonds. Managers like Bobby Valentine, Billy Martin and Lou Piniella. Broadcasters like Vin Scully, Bob Costas and Ken Harrelson. I didn't say I agree with everything these players, coaches and broadcasters say and do, but they made/make baseball more exciting to watch and listen to.
Baseball fandom is a true democracy. Every fan is a manager , general manager or owner. We all know what is best for our respective team and the game. Can you imagine watching a game without having an emotional response? No opinion? No feeling? For me, if that day ever comes, it's time to stop watching. It will be a sign that -- for me -- the game is no longer interesting.
That's what made this week's debate between Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson and MLB Network host Brian Kenny so much fun to watch. Both guys love baseball. Both guys are watching the same games. Both guys see and think about the game differently. For 10 minutes they debated about the importance of sabermetrics. Who won? That's a trick question. There is no such thing as winning a baseball argument. That's another thing I love about the game.