MLBPA executive director Tony Clark and several major league players have taken Boston Red Sox special adviser Bill James to task for saying players are as important to the game as “beer vendors” and that “the game would go on” with whoever replaces them.
In a series of tweets, some of which were later deleted, James challenged on social media “to explain why a player making $3 million a year is underpaid” and why it’s “disingenuous to argue that [players] are taking money out of the mouths of concessions workers.”
“If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them,” James continued. “The game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are.”
James’ comments drew the ire of Clark and players past and present, including Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander.
“The comments Bill James made yesterday are both reckless and insulting considering our game’s history regarding the use of replacement players,” Clark said in a statement issued Thursday. “The Players ARE the game. And our fans have an opportunity to enjoy the most talented baseball Players in the world every season.
“If these sentiments resonate beyond this one individual, then any challenges that lie ahead will be more difficult to overcome than initially anticipated.”
Wonder if the @RedSox win the World Series with a replacement player for @mookiebetts or @JDMartinez14 or @DAVIDprice24 or #Bogaerts or @JackieBradleyJr or #ChrisSale or @RickPorcello or @asben16 or #Devers or @kimbrel46 or…….. https://t.co/jtk6lz96y2
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) November 8, 2018
So smart that Bill James lost touch with reality! True ballers can’t be replaced but you can! https://t.co/nZEjQzgdXz
— Torii Hunter (@toriihunter48) November 8, 2018
Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. thanked Verlander on Twitter for sharing his opinion. The team has not addressed James’ comments publicly.
In a series of tweets, former player Michael Young, a seven-time All-Star, called James’ comments “nonsensical” on Twitter and challenged him to ask coaches and staff if players are easily replaceable.
“They’ll tell you the game is entirely about the players. The players and fans then connect and bond. That isn’t something that gets tossed aside … it matters.
“… Don’t forget that baseball is special because it’s passed down through generations and young fans are told stories of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, and Mike Trout.”