Brian Kenny has been leading the charge for the mainstream media and public to accept advanced sabermetric stats on MLB Network, thanks to his position on MLB Now debating Harold Reynolds. As someone who uses sabermetric stats on a daily basis over at The Outside Corner (shameless plug), I appreciate what Kenny is trying to do. But quite frankly, the way he's going about it is turning the battle about sabermetrics and advanced thinking in baseball into First Take.
The purpose of sabermetric stats is to inform and to educate – it's not to berate people for not thinking the same way as you. Kenny was on the Baseball Prospectus Effectively Wild podcast on Friday, discussing his role as the mainstream face of the sabermetric movement. His logic for being confrontational was "they're mean to us, so why not be mean to them?" And while that line of thinking might make sense on the playground, it's really not too great of a mindset to further your agenda. If someone snaps at you about what you think and berates that line of thinking, I'd be more likely to simply ignore that person as opposed to continue to listen.
The people who want to learn and advance their thinking will respond to well thought out arguments, not yelling. On First Take, what do Skip Bayless and Stephen A Smith do? They yell, they call each other names, they draw stubborn conclusions, and none of that does anything to change anyone's opinion at all. And while I understand how frustrated Kenny is that he can't break through to the portion of baseball fans that are resistant to change, that's not the part of the population he should be trying to convert.
It's a lot like politics: neither of the two major parties in this country are trying to convert people that are firmly on the other side of the aisle. They're going for that lovely part of the population smack dab in the middle, and that's what Kenny needs to be doing. Going on some sort of crusade against Hawk Harrelson and the will to win isn't going to help anything. Becoming some sort of anti-bunting superhero is just going to get you laughed at, it's not going to further your agenda.
Another comparison I might make is to your typical zombie movie. The general rule of zombie movies is that once you're bit or infected, you're done. It's just a matter of time. The old guard of sportswriters? They're infected. There's no saving them. Leave them behind. It doesn't matter how much you try to save them, it's not going to help.
Once again, it all comes back to Kenny's method of spreading his message. By being loud and confrontational and going after people who just don't want to change, Kenny is potentially alienating the fans in the middle who might want to advance their thinking, but are put off by his style. Isn't it like that in any community? I'm a huge fan of craft beer. If one of my friends is drinking a boring adjust lager, slapping it out of his or her hand and shoving a 9% IPA down their throat wouldn't be a great way to get them to upgrade to better beer. Offering them tastes of what you're drinking is a much better way to possibly convert someone into a craft drinker as opposed to berating them for their choices. If they're not receptive – move on!
It's a matter of picking and choosing who to go after, and Kenny's style is making the wrong choices and turning off people who should be in his prime demographic. He means well, but is just running in place, if not digging the hole deeper.
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