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Red Sox special adviser Bill James draws a rebuke from Sox, players union

The Red Sox championship banners from this century hang outside of Fenway Park.
The Red Sox championship banners from this century hang outside of Fenway Park.(Michael Swensen for the Globe)

Bill James, a senior adviser to baseball operations for the Red Sox, came under fire from the Major League Baseball Players Association and eventually the Sox Thursday for disparaging comments he made about the worth of players.

On Wednesday, James opined via Twitter, “If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are.”

James, in response to agent Scott Boras’s criticism of noncompetitive teams, also wrote, “Because, of course, some players getting more money than they are worth doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with it.”

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The comments, since deleted, drew the ire of MLBPA executive director Tony Clark.

“The comments Bill James made yesterday are both reckless and insulting considering our game’s history regarding the use of replacement players,” Clark said. “The players ARE the game. And our fans have an opportunity to enjoy the most talented baseball players in the world every season.

“If these sentiments resonate beyond this one individual, then any challenges that lie ahead will be more difficult to overcome than initially anticipated.”

Clark was referring to MLB using so-called “replacement players” during baseball’s 1995 work stoppage.

About two hours later, the Red Sox issued a statement sharply condemning James: “Bill James is a consultant to the Red Sox. He is not an employee, nor does he speak for the club. His comments on Twitter were inappropriate and do not reflect the opinions of the Red Sox front office or its ownership group.

“Our championships would not have been possible without our incredibly talented players — they are the backbone of our franchise and our industry. To insinuate otherwise is absurd.”

Present and former players — among them Justin Verlander, Torii Hunter, Al Leiter, and Michael Young —

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also criticized James, who is considered one of the founding fathers of statistical analysis in baseball.

James, 69, has been with the Red Sox since 2002. While they may not count him as an employee, he is among the 21 executives with a photo and profile in the first 35 pages of the team’s 2018 media guide.

James also was invited to the gala the club hosted before Game 1 of the World Series last month.

James softened his remarks via Twitter Thursday and said he does not consider players to be commodities.

“I do my best not to offend people,” James wrote. “Can’t say that I have much talent for it.”

This is not the first time the Red Sox have publicly admonished James for controversial opinions.

In 2012, the team issued a statement saying principal owner John Henry (who also owns the Globe) spoke to James regarding comments he made supporting former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in the wake of the school’s sexual abuse scandal.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com.