A few years ago, somebody coined the term "mom's basement" in reference to baseball fans who used sabermetric stats to evaluate players.
Since then, a litany of baseball writers have used them, presumably thinking they were the first - unless the industry is somehow full of ludicrously uninspired pomposity.
The idea is that grown adults are living down there, microwaving pizza rolls, living off exhausted mothers who wonder why they never amounted to anything, and wearing the wizard hat - the one they used to only put on during 'D&D' night every Thursday - more and more days of the week. It's probably a finished basement; I'm not sure if these nerds could survive in a world of hard concrete and growling water heaters.
The term is supposed to strike back at the sinister SABR crowd – those devious baseball souls who look to tear baseball apart at the seams with their new age statistics that provide better, more accurate takes on players by attempting to eliminate aspects of the game that the player in question cannot control (e.g., after the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, he is reliant on his defense; a batter's RBI total is effected by the abilities of his teammates to get on base, etc.).
Those horrid nemeses to baseball's traditional methods ascended the basement steps Thursday – they also got in cars, boarded trains, and flew from as far as Canberra, Australia – to gather in Philadelphia on a day as dreary as their intentions to discuss how to further poison the game they love with deep thought.
Entering Level 5 of the Marriot for SABR 43, one would assume these jovial men and women, loudly discussing such menacing topics as "baseball" and "the weather," were every day folk who enjoy a good RBI or pitcher win when they see it. And fortunately, they allowed me in as one of their own, giving me complete access to their plot to bring down baseball, one new combination of upper and lower case letters at a time.
Though thankfully disappearing, the divide between "old and new school" can be screened regularly, as MLB Network has taken the debate and packaged it into a marketable gag – Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds routinely scream at each other from opposite sides before taking to Twitter to raise respective armies.
Here's a transcript of nothing being said or explained during a classic Harold Reynolds rant on why pitcher wins are important.
Outside of the Reynolds/Kenny corollary, the argument has died down, or at least been cared about less, in recent years. "Traditionalists" have either realized SABR offers no threat to their desire to eat a hot dog or simply stopped ranting so loudly.
Every so often some "WAR: What is it Good For?" writer will feel particularly snarky one morning and toss a SABR character assassination onto Twitter, then claim his goal all along was just to stir up the nerd-hive. It's more a symbol of writer's block than legitimate thoughts or words.
Phillies president and CEO David Montgomery hinted at the concept of progress in his opening remarks on Thursday. The Phillies were stuck with the stigma of more stubbornly holding onto traditional scouting methods in lieu of modern statistics, since Ruben Amaro's infamous "I don't care about walks, I care about production" statement earlier in the year.
"I think there's a misconception," Montgomery said, upon being asked how the Phillies factor in more accurate analysis to their acquisitions. "I think we have a lot of emphasis on statistical analysis. But we've known to be a club that believes in scouting. And I don't see those two things to be mutually exclusive."
They're not, and there's no reason either side can't help the other move forward. It's baseball; anything useless will disappear organically eventually.