The Boston Red Sox are in the process of remaking their front office, having fired president Dave Dombrowski back in September, less than a year after winning the World Series. Whatever form that takes, it won't include another one of the baseball operations department's prominent names. That's because on Thursday Bill James announced his retirement from the team.
A longtime writer and analyst, James had worked for the Red Sox for nearly two decades. He wrote about his decision to step away on his website, noting that he "should have left a couple of years ago" due to his declining production. Here's a snippet:
I was very fortunate to work in and around Fenway for a couple of decades, but my time has come. I'm 70 years old, maximum take-your-Social-Security-dammit age, and, to be honest, I haven't earned my paycheck with the Red Sox for the last couple of years. I've fallen out of step with the organization. The normal flow of work assignments to work products has deteriorated to basically nothing; honestly, I should have left a couple of years ago.
James's exit comes at an odd time, as the Red Sox are said to desire a return to a more analytical approach. It was James who coined the phrase "sabermetrics," and who helped usher in a new way of thinking about baseball through his popular Baseball Abstract series. James is also responsible for the widespread public availability of baseball statistics, and for the rush of outsiders landing front-office gigs.
Of course, James was likely no longer on the bleeding edge. His contributions tended to center around logic and more basic math, at times venturing into the "junk stat" realm. These days, teams are engaging in complicated machine learning analysis. Still, James's historical and industrial knowledge is unlikely to be replaced within the Red Sox front office.
James, for his part, notes that he isn't retiring completely -- just from the Red Sox.