“The quality or state of being exactly as purposed: neither spurious nor false” — Webster Dictionary
“Drafting a constitution is only the first step. The constitution has to be granted legitimacy by open discussion and a fair, representative referendum.” — Emma Bonino
“Government loses its claim to legitimacy when it fails to fulfill its obligations.” — Martin Gross
These are all excellent definitions and/or descriptions of the word “legitimacy”, but I’ll give you an easier one. Legitimacy is never fearing being questioned. Whether you look at this from a religious, political, or baseball perspective, legitimacy implies having power and/or being right, so let’s think about this logically. If I believe I am right, I must have a reason to think so. If I have a reason to think so, I must have a basis for my belief that I am right. If I am right, no question can harm me because I am right. If I am actually wrong, my legitimacy was false to begin with, and the world can change for the better. This is terribly simplistic, but it is sound (go ahead, ask).
Here’s the problem, however, with legitimacy. It implies power, and people like power. When they become legitimate, they gain power, and whenever a new thought, question, or challenge arises, it threatens that power, if only temporarily. For a long time, sabermetricians were that threat, constantly questioning the baseball intellectual hierarchy. Sabermetricians, however, have begun to gain legitimacy and, thus, power. They, of course, have not gained total legitimacy, but they have gained significant in-roads as the mainstream begins to take on, acknowledge, and accept these new ideas and eschew some old ones. Significant resistance remains, and sabermetricians continue to fight for the legitimacy of their ideas.
But they have some, and they are obviously very protective, even to the point of becoming close to what they fought against. Hippeaux’s post yesterday was thought-provoking, and while I didn’t agree with all of it, the purpose of questioning WAR was well-intentioned. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I thought that’s really what sabermetrics was all about–continuously questioning the accepted. I didn’t think it was simply questioning traditional strategies and notions, but by some reactions yesterday (go to Hippeaux’s post from today to see), you would have thought otherwise.
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