Dr. James has graciously given SSI permission to excerpt his site. In the currently-public section of Ask Bill, he says
In the 1983 Abstract (first one I read), after describing baseball in the 1960s as "the most [desperately - jjc] boring brand of baseball ever conceived of," you wrote, "If I never see another Dave Nicholson, I think I can live with it." Do you ever have flashbacks in the current era while watching the likes of Mark Reynolds, Adam Dunn (especially thinking of his years with the White Sox) and Chris Carter?
Asked by: BobGill
Yeah, well. . .I certainly hated watching Adam Dunn play. He had some impact years, but he was absolutely terrible to watch.
This is an interesting sports concept. The idea that somebody can be (1) good and (2) no fun to watch. It is the job of the administrators to minimize this. The NFL will make 15 rules changes per offseason, fighting against the combatants' natural tendency to win boringly. For example, you did not enjoy watching points after touchdown kicked, right? Bang! That rule is different now. It's almost weird, how willing the NFL is to change its rules. Let's try an oval field, what say.
Major League Baseball, of course, is insufferably arrogant. It imagines that MLB was birthed in near-pure form, and that any suggested rules change is 99% likely to corrupt that which has been heaven-sent. The rigidity of its structure --- > creates a tensile fragility that leads to severe fractures, such as the National League basking in the fact that it is the only league in the world to make pitchers bat.
In other words, if the game would be more fun to watch with fewer relievers, then you should change the rules.
James liked baseball on artificial turf. He thought it was fast-paced, exciting. Things are happening. Adam Dunn is not exactly an "artificial turf" player. LOL! When you watch Adam Dunn stalk pitches, nothing happened and nothing happened and nothing happened and then once a week, a home run happened.
Take it from here Dept: I'd really enjoy seeing an SSI reader list the current M's that were most/least "Artificial Turf" players. And/or his list of M's who were most effective - least fun to watch or vice versa. Mark Trumbo has always hit me as a guy who was pretty decent, but also not a lot of fun to watch. There have been a fair number of these guys lately, the Corey Harts and so forth.
Application 1: In Safeco Field, there is a lot less happening than there is in Fenway Park. M's management has, as a group, imagined lower-scoring baseball to be more "pure" baseball ... we should say that to their credit, they have moved in the left field fence. But the point is: you might very well want to take a moment to remind yourself that road Mariner games -- especially in small parks -- are basically fun to watch.
Application 2: I just now realized that yesterday's 43-pitch bottom of the first, although it was pregnant with Mariner possibilities, was actually no fun to watch. Walks are great, but they're the foul shots of baseball. :: shrug :: Don't oversell the point. But Mike Zunino is okay wit' me.
Application 3: Glove-first players -- that is, UZR-based Fangraphs heroes -- might be in individual cases kinda fun to watch. We can all appreciate a diving catch in the gap. But I challenge you to name a glove-first player, not a catcher like Molina or a shortstop like Simmons, who over the course of 162 games is more enjoyable to watch than is Nelson Cruz.
I don't say that the Casey Kotchman / Endy Chavez 513-run approach might not be effective. I just note that it kills the product.
Right now, the Mariners have a lot of players who are fun to watch. Brad Miller, it's really fun to watch him swing the bat; it's even kinda fun to watch him YIP a smooth rolling groundball just like Dr. D would in a softball game. I don't know whether bat-first players win pennants, but I do know that life's too short to be without them.