Watch enough sports and you’ll get the feeling that while analysts seem like pretty nice guys that enjoy interacting with the fans, don’t ever forget: you never played or worked in the game, so leave the heavy lifting for us.  When you’re younger, you tend to give them the benefit of the doubt because, well, what do you know anyway?

Of course, as you get older, those feelings of reverence dissipate… rapidly.  AOL Fanhouse “columnist” Steve Phillips is a prime example.  Setting his personal foibles aside (he’s not exactly husband of the year), before Phillips became a prominent personality on ESPN’s baseball programming (and was subsequently fired – for personal reasons), he was also General Manager of the New York Mets. 

Phillips, much like his former colleagues at ESPN, never miss a chance to point out that while casual fans (especially those who are statistically inclined) may love the game, they’ll never “get it” because they didn’t play the game.  It’s a convenient tool to keep most fans from being critical when a commentator suggests guys that walk too much “clog the bases.”  So at the end of the day, who do you trust more: the guy who drafted David Wright; or the guy named “Rob” who probably has never set foot in a locker room?  Logic unfortunately favors the former.

Well, that’s an interesting question, because for every David Wright and Jose Reyes acquisition that Phillips throws around, there’s an overpriced and aged Mo Vaughn or Jeromy Burnitz also lurking on his resume (just above the Jason Bay trade). 

But don’t you dare tell Steve Phillips that you could have done his job any better.  It’s impossible.  Don’t even think about it. Being a GM is tough: you gotta watch video, answer phone calls and go to games.  You don’t know – you didn’t play the game!  Really Steve?  Would stupid fans like us be ignorant enough to suggest a Roy Oswalt for Stephen Strasburg trade, straight up?  Oh wait, you just did that yesterday

I’m not trying to pick on Phillips, although his ineptitude has bothered me for a long time, but it’s stories like this that highlight the old boys’ club culture that pervades most sports: you’re either in or you’re out.  So, unless you played the game years ago, you better know someone else who did.  Sure, things have started to change, but the fact that guys like Phillips can still command a presence in baseball is sad: fans deserve better.      

And you know what?  He may have never set foot in a locker room, but Neyer seems like a pretty nice guy who knows his stuff (and who also apprenticed under Bill James — you may have heard of him).

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