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"No one has a penchant for game-winning RBIs," James counters. "There is no such ability. If Harvey were to go to arbitration next year, certainly he would introduce his clutch performance record on his behalf, and probably this would be granted a certain amount of weight. But if you generalize the argument from performance to ability and argue that Ken Harvey has an ability to produce in game situations, then I would think it was unlikely that anybody would pay attention to you. The arbitrator, in other words, tends to be more skeptical and more sophisticated than the typical talk-show host."
Another sports-talk-show staple is the theory that a baseball team is easier to manage than a basketball or football team because it calls for fewer in-game strategic decisions.
"There are a million facets to the job and, on this one facet, less is demanded in baseball," James says. "But baseball managers are probably more second-guessed than any other coaches or managers, for related reasons. Rather than a lot of decisions, each of which really doesn't affect more than a few possessions, the baseball manager has a relative few decisions, which are tremendously important. Is that easier or harder?"
All of this would make great fodder for a new Abstract, but James, who was free to take the Sox job in part because he had no publishing deadline, has filled his table. He and Neyer are collaborating on a book about pitchers' arsenals (what they threw, how fast, etc.), and he is devising a way to use play-by-play analysis to rate players' defensive skills.
Then there are his Red Sox duties, which include submitting his observations in report form regularly and making occasional trips to Boston to meet with the rest of the brain trust.
"I have never been busier," James says. "I am just running myself ragged."
But he's running himself ragged at his own pace, from his own home. James says he's not sure if he would have taken the Boston job if it had required him to move away from Kansas.
"I designed the current system, where I work in Kansas and report to Boston, and they accepted the design. If they had insisted I move to Boston, that would have created a hard decision for me. I have children. They have lives, too. They have friends and family here, and we place a value on stability."
That, and the world finally knowing you are right.