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When I said that Carney Lansford was an awful third baseman, I didn’t mean, of course, that he was a...

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When I said that Carney Lansford was an awful third baseman, I didn’t mean, of course, that he was as bad a Bobby Bonilla. Bonilla, listed at 240 pounds, has played about 8,000 career innings at third base, so I suppose that makes him a third baseman, and if you sent him into space a few times I suppose that would make him an astronaut, but apart from that, he was no more a third baseman than he was an astronaut." --Bill James, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, 565. James ranks Bonilla as the 41st greatest third baseman of all time. Fun WIth the New Historical Abstract, or Why I'm Doing This: Recently, I was talking to a friend (and lifelong Royals fan) about the greatness of the Historical Abstract. My friend replied that he would love to look at it because he appreciates the statistical approach to baseball, but that he thought a book that was just rankings and statistics would be boring to read. But, as has been pointed out before (by James himself and others), James thinks of himself primarily as a writer who happens to writes about something that has required him to use (and create) statistics to get a handle on his subject matter. And that is where I think the Abstract shines. If it was just rankings and methodology, it would be worth looking at in the library or on the web, but, for most of us not worth buying. The anecdotes, comments, and essays are what make the book worthwhile. The above quote about Bobby Bonilla is always one of the quotes I mention when telling people about how fun the book is to page through. With the offseason approaching, I thought about once a week I would put up a relatively brief quote from the New Historical Abstract without much comment from myself. I do not pretend to be a sabermetrics expert or a "James scholar" (make no mistake, somewhere, probably in a "cultural studies" department, someone is writing a dissertation on the significance of Bill James, not in terms of statistics, but as a representation of something or other. Hey, that would be about 100 times better than 90 percent of what goes on in those departments). I do not think this is "my" book -- there are multitudes who know the book and James inside and out (this is the only book by Bill James that I own). But that's why it's great -- you don't have to know all that to enjoy it. I'm not saying that one has to own the book to be a "real baseball fan." I simply like it very much, and recommend it to all baseball fans, even if they hate sabermetrics, the stories and impromptu essays are wonderful, whether you're a baseball historian or, like me, came relatively late in life to baseball fandom and have to piece together baseball history from the backs of sugar packets. If people want to talk about the statistical element, that's fine, but that's not the main reason I'm doing this. I simply think this is a fun and easy way not only to share some of my favorite stuff from the book, but to start discussions about history, James, writing, how it relates to baseball today (and the Royals in particular, of course!) and sometimes life in general. Or maybe it will just give people something to chuckle about during the slow offseason. If people don't respond at all, I'm fine with that. If people don't like it or whatever, I'll stop, but I wanted to give it a try. Let me know what you think of the "series" proposal.

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