Upon finishing Solid Fool’s Gold I had to check my bookshelf to see how many more Bill James books I had left to read. A few years back before I had gotten too deep into the more analytical side of baseball I had bought a handful of James books based on reputation alone. I haven’t been able to recommend one yet, and that’s not changing with Solid Fool’s Gold. Thankfully, I only have a couple of James books left so you’ll only have to hear me rant about him a couple more times. That’s good for everyone, trust me.
As far as Solid Fool’s Gold is concerned, this is the book that moved me solidly from the Bill James is a smart baseball guy who happens to be racist and misogynist camp into the Bill James is a baseball guy who is racist, misogynist, and really dumb camp. You see, the main problem with Solid Fool’s Gold is that it doesn’t just deal with baseball. Someone, and I know that book mentioned who but I’m not trudging through the dreck to find the dude’s name again, decided it would be a great idea to gather a bunch of baseball and non-baseball columns from James’ website Bill James Online together and publish a book. I’m not sure why this person thought something as inane, boring, and dumb as James’ thoughts on the Transportation Security Administration or tipping needed to be delivered to the public, but they have been and anyone who read those thoughts is slightly less intelligent for the effort.
What really bugs me about James, beyond the obvious racism and misogyny, are the passages when he isn’t quite that dumb. There’s a chapter on the minor league system that is really smart and a great read. It just so happens to be surrounded by absolute hogwash, including the majority of the baseball content, that isn’t worth anyone’s time. In the end, it doesn’t matter what James has to say about the minor league system when the rest of the book is absolutely dreadful.
Look, I get that I’m one man pushing against the tide when it comes to Bill James. Even those who don’t like him for the many valid reasons one could have to not like him seem to respect him for his contributions to the baseball world. I don’t think any of that matters though. Not a single thing he has contributed to baseball matters when placed alongside his racist and misogynistic traits. His contributions are devalued even more when the rest of his “throw shit at a wall and see what sticks” politics are laid bare. They are devalued even further when he starts making dumb statements and writing in a style that can only be described as boring with a healthy side of boorish. I don’t get why James has his fans, I don’t get why his contributions matter to anyone when compared to the person he is, and I certainly don’t get how people can continue to champion his writing when it is so very dreadful.
Bill James isn’t a good person and Solid Fool’s Gold is further proof of that. It’s also extremely dumb and a book to be avoided. Bill James is Bill James though, it doesn’t matter how brutally awful I felt Solid Fool’s Gold was or how unrepentantly terrible of a person I find James to be; he will still have his fans. Solid Fool’s Gold is that simple: if you like James you’ll like this book, otherwise don’t waste your time.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – ACTA Publications