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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Sunday, February 11, 2007

1995 Ballot Discussion

1995 (March 5)—elect 3
WS W3 Rookie Name-Pos (Died)

467 157.4 1973 Mike Schmidt-3B
363 116.1 1971 Darrell Evans-3B/1B
301 109.8 1972 Buddy Bell-3B
289 108.5 1964 Tommy John-P
282 84.3 1975 Jim Rice-LF
206 90.9 1971 Chris Speier-SS
200 69.0 1974 Jim Sundberg-C
194 68.3 1970 Jerry Reuss-P*
192 68.3 1971 Doyle Alexander-P
173 54.9 1979 Dwayne Murphy-CF
159 62.8 1975 Kent Tekulve-RP
155 58.1 1975 Rick Rhoden-P
149 59.3 1977 Bob Stanley-RP
140 55.5 1978 Glenn Hubbard-2B
154 44.8 1974 Bob Forsch-P
146 46.0 1975 Manny Trillo-2B
134 38.2 1977 Lee Mazzilli-CF/PH
109 46.7 1977 Willie Hernandez-RP
131 37.6 1977 Tony Armas-RF/CF
126 38.8 1980 Leon Durham-1B
115 42.1 1977 Craig Reynolds-SS
102 43.4 1978 Shane Rawley-P
109 39.4 1977 Mike Krukow-P
118 36.0 1975 Alan Ashby-C

Players Passing Away in 1994
HoMers
Age Elected

None

Candidates
Age Eligible

92 1938 Jimmie Reese-2B/Coach
87 1953 Si Johnson-P
85 1951 Mike Kreevich-CF
82 1957 Ray Mueller-C
80 1953 Eddie Smith-P
80 1959 Ray Dandridge-3B
79 1957 Buddy Rosar-C
77 1955 Elbie Fletcher-1B
77 1959 Joe Dobson-P
77 1960 Allie Reynolds-P
75 1958 Don Kolloway-2B
72——Chub Feeney-NL President
68 1971 Harvey Haddix-P
66 1969 Johnny Temple-2B
63 1976 Hank Aguirre-RP
60 1969 Marv Throneberry-1B
54 1982 Cesar Tovar-CF/LF

Upcoming Candidate
37 1997 Eric Show-P

Thanks, Dan!

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 11, 2007 at 09:43 PM | 343 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   301. sunnyday2 Posted: March 01, 2007 at 10:37 PM (#2305459)
>The implication is that players in the 18th century were just as good as the ones playing today, they just didn't have the benefit of modern technology and coaching. I don't think that's true at all, for the reasons I already laid out. Its not just the quality of play that was lower. It was the quality of the players as well.

Well you quoted me talking about nutrition and conditioning, etc., too, then you brought it back to technology and coaching. You misrepresented what I said right after quoting it. There are other factors besides coaching and technology though they are important.

Everybody knows the mental aspect of elite athletics, and I think the win-at-all-costs mentality of today was not present in earlier times, either. That is not insignificant.

But the point is: Take Dan Brouthers forward 100 years and place him in modern life from birth with all of the stuff that goes along with that. And place Roger Clemens back 100 years--not AFTER he learned how to pitch, but before. This is the scenario I am interested in, not as I said in what would happen if they just took the time machine back and stepped directly out of it and on to a playing field.

But besides all of that, the real question is to accept the changing conditions and ask who and to what degree stood out from his peers. As voters in this process we then have to compare individuals across eras but the first question is how they compare within eras, how much of an advantage they gave their team in their own time and place.

But as John said, nobody disputes that players today are more skilled. But so what?
   302. Dizzypaco Posted: March 01, 2007 at 10:49 PM (#2305464)
But besides all of that, the real question is to accept the changing conditions and ask who and to what degree stood out from his peers. As voters in this process we then have to compare individuals across eras but the first question is how they compare within eras, how much of an advantage they gave their team in their own time and place.

I completely agree. This is why I support evaluating all players in terms of their own time, rather than if they would have been equally good playing in a different time period.

But the point is: Take Dan Brouthers forward 100 years and place him in modern life from birth with all of the stuff that goes along with that. And place Roger Clemens back 100 years--not AFTER he learned how to pitch, but before. This is the scenario I am interested in, not as I said in what would happen if they just took the time machine back and stepped directly out of it and on to a playing field.

This is my point. Lets say there were 20,000 people who were interested in playing major league baseball during Dan Brouthers' time, and had the time to play. I have no idea what the real number was, but I don't think it was much more than that. Lets say you took all 20,000, and gave them all the advantages of a person born in 1980. Would Dan Brouthers still dominate? I think he would. But now, lets say that he had to compete with million or more other people born around 1980 who had the interest in playing major league baseball, and the time to play it. Would Brothers still dominate? Its possible, but its very, very unlikely, even with all the modern advantages you can think of.
   303. DL from MN Posted: March 01, 2007 at 11:16 PM (#2305479)
I think the whole talent pool argument gets pretty thin from the 1920's on though. After Babe Ruth appeared baseball was clearly the most popular sport and teams had pretty much all of the best white athletes to choose from. After integration they picked up the rest. I can't see a reasonable argument for timelining from integration forward and you'd have a hard time convincing me that Rogers Hornsby would not be a star today. I think it's probably an S-curve of some sort. In other words don't lump Bob Johnson in with Pete Browning.
   304. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 01, 2007 at 11:26 PM (#2305487)
If you took a pretty good athlete from today, good enough to play minor league ball but not good enough to play major league ball, and you stuck them in 19th century baseball, my guess is that the player would have been good enough to play in the majors, and possibly even dominate - even without modern technology, etc., on his side.

Yes, but how would he do if he were born in 1860? He wouldn't be as big or strong. He would have years of other professional ballplayers' experiences to rely upon. Many of them just wouldn't have the opportunity to pick up a ball and bat.
   305. Dizzypaco Posted: March 01, 2007 at 11:49 PM (#2305502)
I think the whole talent pool argument gets pretty thin from the 1920's on though.

I agree. By the 20's, the number of people competing for spots, who could be found by a scout, had grown enormously. My issue is with 19th century ball.

Yes, but how would he do if he were born in 1860?

If he was born in 1860, he would no longer be able to compete with people born in 1980. But, I think that if he had chosen to play baseball in the 1880's, competing against other people born in 1860, he would have done quite well, given the natural talent. You don't make it to the minor leagues today with a great deal of natural talent, even with all the advantages people get in the modern age.
   306. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 01, 2007 at 11:59 PM (#2305510)
But, I think that if he had chosen to play baseball in the 1880's, competing against other people born in 1860, he would have done quite well, given the natural talent.

I might be misinterpreting what you're stating, but it sounds like you're saying players today are born with more talent than generations ago. I respectfully don't think I can buy that.
   307. jingoist Posted: March 02, 2007 at 01:00 AM (#2305544)
I contend that since about 1980, if timelining is "your thing" perhaps you ought to reverse your considerations since the overwhelming majority of african american athletes no longer even consider baseball growing up; they look to baskeball and the NFL first.
I believe that african american players in MLB are at an all-time low since about the mid-sixties.

Now that void has been ably filled by our good friends from the Dominican Republic and other latin american countries (especially from the Dominica where the grinding poverty makes 7 year olds spend every waking hour they aren't scrounging for food playing stick-ball in the hope of hetting to America and MLB).
Someone who is skilled with the proper knowledge for applying the correct mathmatics (certainly not me) should/could do a study of successful MLB players today, taking into consideration their country of origin and the population of those countries and explain why we have so many superstars from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and proportinately fewer from the US and Mexico. Is it cultural? Is it opportunity biased?
Just curious.

Keep up the great work guys; like a vintage wine you are all improving with age.

ps...like Howie, I too saw Jim Ryan run and he was truly fabulous. The only high-schooler I can think of who really challanged his times was Allan Webb from South Lakes in Reston, VA.
Jim Ryan would kick-butt were he 17 years old today; hell, I'd be willing to bet he'd be setting even greater records were he exposed to modern training methodologies.

The Jim Ryans, Jim Browns, Wilt Chamberlins and Babe Ruths are the sports-world true out-liers, the fringe of the fringe, they would skew almost any analysis.
   308. OCF Posted: March 02, 2007 at 01:30 AM (#2305571)
The Jim Ryans, Jim Browns, Wilt Chamberlins and Babe Ruths are the sports-world true out-liers,

Jim Ryun. If we're going to claim he was all that memorable, we should at least remember how to spell his name, right?
   309. sunnyday2 Posted: March 02, 2007 at 01:59 AM (#2305592)
I've always thought that we should only count votes if the player's name is spelled right.
   310. Mongo Posted: March 02, 2007 at 02:01 AM (#2305593)
I might be misinterpreting what you're stating, but it sounds like you're saying players today are born with more talent than generations ago. I respectfully don't think I can buy that.

I believe that the point is that in the 19th century, we are looking at a 'big fish in a small pond' situation.

If the available talent pool was 1 percent the size of today's talent pool (which sounds about right to me), then for every person of a given level of talent available to the 19th century major leagues, there are (on average) 100 people of the same level of talent available today. In other woirds, the 8th-most-talented major-league player in 1880 (probably a borderline superstar) is most likely equal in native talent to the 800th-most talented major-league player today (probably a fringe player).

This is looking only at native talent, without considering improvements in nutrition, training, etc.

Bill
   311. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 02, 2007 at 02:47 AM (#2305616)
If the available talent pool was 1 percent the size of today's talent pool (which sounds about right to me), then for every person of a given level of talent available to the 19th century major leagues, there are (on average) 100 people of the same level of talent available today. In other woirds, the 8th-most-talented major-league player in 1880 (probably a borderline superstar) is most likely equal in native talent to the 800th-most talented major-league player today (probably a fringe player).

My problem with this is, while I acknowledge that there are more good players today, why is it assumed that the elites of today are necessarily better of yore (taking into account all of the advantages of today)?

My other problem is San Pedro de Macoris. How many major leaguers have come from there, despite it's small population?
   312. Howie Menckel Posted: March 02, 2007 at 03:12 AM (#2305625)
Grandma,
I think San Pedro's baseball academy draws players from all over, no?
My impression was that saying they all are from San Pedro de Macoris is like saying that all Catholic high school sports stars are from the town where the school is.

But if I'm wrong, this is the perfect place to find out.
   313. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 02, 2007 at 03:15 AM (#2305630)
I think San Pedro's baseball academy draws players from all over, no?
My impression was that saying they all are from San Pedro de Macoris is like saying that all Catholic high school sports stars are from the town where the school is.

But if I'm wrong, this is the perfect place to find out.


You might be right, Howie. Others here may know better than both of us.
   314. Mongo Posted: March 02, 2007 at 03:16 AM (#2305631)
My other problem is San Pedro de Macoris. How many major leaguers have come from there, despite it's small population?

Given a random distribution of talent, I would expect that a few talent clusters like San Pedro de Macoris would be found, by sheer random chance. There are many other towns of comparable size in Latin America -- it would be much more impressive if it were correctly predicted that a particular town would produce (some large number) or more of major-leaguers in the years 2010-2020. Finding a cluster of talent after the fact, of the size of that found at San Pedro de Macoris, is interesting, but not (as far as I can tell) unexpected.

Bill
   315. yest Posted: March 02, 2007 at 08:32 AM (#2305717)
scouting today is no better then it was before they just moved their scouts elsewhere while today they'll send their scouts to foreighn locations they'll miss out on the North Eastern Cities players

I'm quite confident (even assuming that theil put up the exact same stats they put up then) that many North Eastern city players like Greenberg, Koufax, Keeler, Gehrig, Ford, Frisch ext. would (I don't mean all of them just a decent number) not not make the Majors due to terrible scouting in North Eastern city's

out of 427 players who had their debuit in beetween 2005 and 2006 only 9 came from New York state
out of 1530 players who played in beetween 2005 and 2006 only 44 came from New York state

out of 253 players who had their debuit in beetween 1970 and 1971 11 came from New York state
out of 1020 players who had their debuit in beetween 1970 and 1971 52 came from New York state

I seavly doubt all the reason for loss is souly do to New York players being worse then Non New Yorkers and it has nothing to do with bad scouting.
   316. sunnyday2 Posted: March 02, 2007 at 01:39 PM (#2305732)
>s like saying that all Catholic high school sports stars are from the town where the school is.

Aren't they?

What are you saying? ;-)
   317. Dizzypaco Posted: March 02, 2007 at 02:42 PM (#2305746)
I believe that the point is that in the 19th century, we are looking at a 'big fish in a small pond' situation.

This is exactly the case.

My problem with this is, while I acknowledge that there are more good players today, why is it assumed that the elites of today are necessarily better of yore (taking into account all of the advantages of today)?

I'm sorry if I haven't been clear, but I think you are misunderstanding the statistical argument. Lets say that 1 out of every 100,000 boys born who have the opportunity to play baseball also have the natural talent to be an elite major league player. If the talent pool is 100 times bigger today than in the 19th century, and inherent talent doesn't change, there should be 100 times more elite players today. Or in other words, out of the 100 best players in the 19th century, only 1 should have as much natural talent as the 100 best playing today - not taking into account any changes for nutrition, technology, coaching, or anything else.

Lets say you had two leagues - one comprised only of the best players born in the state of Florida, and the other comprised of the best players born everywhere else in the world. Wouldn't you pick the latter league to be better, due to the available talent pool? Wouldn't there be more elite players born outside of Florida than in the state of Florida? There's a statistical chance that all of the elite players born in Florida are just as good as those born elsewhere, but its a tiny chance. In reality, one or two elite players from the Florida league would also be an elite player in the other league, but most of the elite players from the Florida league would not look nearly as good if they had to face the much higher level of competition.

As for the San Pedro de Macoris issue, I agree with Bill's position.
   318. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 02, 2007 at 04:06 PM (#2305784)
I think Bill James wrote about this in one of his annuals. While the population theory has a lot of merit, we just can't assume that smaller communities can't develop just as many, if not more, quality players as larger ones. Almost everyone played baseball 125 years ago, while a person today has many sports, recreations and hobbies to choose from. That doesn't mean that can totally compensate for smaller populations, since there will be fewer inherently talented individuals, but it does have an impact.
   319. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 02, 2007 at 04:16 PM (#2305795)
scouting today is no better then it was before they just moved their scouts elsewhere while today they'll send their scouts to foreighn locations they'll miss out on the North Eastern Cities players

I think you might be right, yest. I remember reading a piece by Silver or Rany Jazz in the last couple years that talked about how teams can maximize amatuer scouting dollars. Besides just hiring more scouts, they recommended that teams with small payrolls pump a lot of money into local and regional scouting for this very reason (or one like it). I think their argument went something to the tune that
a) in cold weather states, there are lots of very talented players going unscouted or underscouted because teams want to see players more often and so scout in the warmer climes, missing out on great cold-area guys
b) even in warmer areas, there's a ton of ground to cover and you can't see the whole country, so focusing in on the local area gives you depth and multiple chances to see guys at less expense.

Anyway, IIRC, they cited the Twins and Braves as examples of teams who did local/area scouting really well. The Twins have been getting guys like Joe Mauer out of local high schools, while the braves have a long tradition of nabbing excellent Georgia talent. And, of course, for smaller market teams, that generates some excitement.

The master of local scouting might have been the Tall Tactician. Mack's Philadelphia A's got big stars from his back yard: Maryland and central PA. Foxx, Bishop, and Grove all from Maryland (either by agreement with the O's or through scouting). Lots of goodies from PA: Bender and Plank were signed on the same scouting trip IIRC.

Which is all to say that I think yest makes an interesting point, and one that should help us remember that even with the most modern scouting systems out there, teams still miss guys.
   320. DanG Posted: March 02, 2007 at 04:21 PM (#2305801)
Almost everyone played baseball 125 years ago, while a person today has many sports, recreations and hobbies to choose from. That doesn't mean that can totally compensate for smaller populations, since there will be fewer inherently talented individuals, but it does have an impact.

Especially in baseball. Native talent does not weigh as heavily as it does in other sports. There are more complex, sport-specific learned skills in baseball. Isn't it true that baseball players peak at a later age than other major sports?
   321. Dizzypaco Posted: March 02, 2007 at 04:38 PM (#2305814)
While the population theory has a lot of merit, we just can't assume that smaller communities can't develop just as many, if not more, quality players as larger ones.

I may be misunderstanding you, but you are saying there is a possibility that there are just as many elite players born in Delaware as in every in the world other than Delaware - there is no reason to think that Delaware has less elite players than in the rest of the world. Or that we shouldn't assume that there are less elite players in your hometown as in the rest of the world.

I think your argument works if we are comparing one population of 800,000 with another of 500,000. But if we are comparing a potential population of 800,000 with a population of 800, then statistically, it is overwhelmingly likely that the larger population will produce more elite players. Wouldn't you agree that if the difference in population is extreme enough, the much, much larger population would be statistically likely to produce more elite players?

If so, isn't the disagreement not over small versus large populations, but how great the difference really was in the potential population of players? If I take 20 random off the street and have them play a number of games, one of them may prove better than the rest. I'm not going to assume they can outhit Albert Pujols.
   322. sunnyday2 Posted: March 02, 2007 at 04:51 PM (#2305820)
At a macro level, I think we can assume that baseball talent (or whatever it is called) is pretty randomly distributed through large populations. By talent I mean everybody from the klutz to the elite, the whole population. And I think that Delaware is a large enough population to have a random distribution of talent +/-5 percent.

But when we talk about elite, ML caliber talent, we're at the far end of the Bell curve, way beyond the margin of error or of confidence. I don't think you'd expect ML talent to be randomly distributed, but that cultural factors and other local factors would play into it very heavily. Possibly even some genetics.

The question then becomes whether there were such places where local factors worked strongly in favor of the development of baseball talent in the distant past. In a relatively small population (like the U.S. in 1880, relative to today), a few such locales where those local factors are at work and where a fair number of talented athletes emerge could have a big impact on skewing the distribution. E.g. Troy, NY, may not seem like much but in the relative population pool of that day it probably had a vastly greater impact than San Pedro de Macoris. The San Pedro example, in other words, militates against the idea that the population pool is the major determinant of the distribution of skills.

In short, taking the macro "statistical" argument down to the micro level gets tricky, I think.
   323. rawagman Posted: March 02, 2007 at 05:09 PM (#2305833)
Dizzypaco - on the grand scheme of things, you are probably on to something, statistically speaking. But in an institution like the Hall of Merit, we are talking about the outliers of the outliers. The top 250 or so of all time (or the last 200 years).
Statistically speaking, the greatest player ever would come from the largest city in a period of population boom, right? I haven't done any research in this matter, but it would seem to be that someone out of New York City (as I don't think we have non North Americans in the hall right now, I'm talking the biggest North American city) born during the baby boom (late 40's early 50's).
Let's look at the top ten from the TNBJHBA. MOst of our choices for best ever will probably be on this short list.
1)Babe Ruth - Baltimore, Maryland (1895)
2)Honus Wagner - Chartiers, Pennsylvania (1874)
3)Willie Mays - Westfield, Alabama (1931)
4)Oscar Charleston - Indianapolis, Indiana (1896)
5)Ty Cobb - Narrows, Georgia (1886)
6)Mickey Mantle - Spavinaw, Oklahoma (1931)
7)Ted Williams - San Diego, California (1918)
8)Walter Johnson - Humboldt, Kansas (1887)
9)Josh Gibson - Buena Vista, Georgia (1911)
10)Stan Musial - Donora, Pennsylvania (1920)

If you think these guys are all too old, let's also take the top 7 players he's listed whose primes started in the 60's or later:
1) Henry Aaron (12) - Mobile, Alabama (1934)
2) Joe Morgan (15) - Bonham, Texas (1943)
3) Barry Bonds (16) - Riverside, California (1964)
4) Mike Schmidt (21) - Dayton, Ohio (1949)
5) Frank Robinson (24) - Beaumont, Texas (1935)
6) Rickey Henderson (26) - Chicago, Illinois (1958)
7) George Brett (30) - Glen Dale, West Virginia (1953)
   324. rawagman Posted: March 02, 2007 at 05:34 PM (#2305851)
Of these 17 players, only 4 come from big cities (although how big was San Diego in 1918?) Two more are good sized towns. That leaves 11 of the greatest baseball players of all time having been born in small towns. Very small towns.
   325. Dizzypaco Posted: March 02, 2007 at 05:34 PM (#2305853)
Statistically speaking, the greatest player ever would come from the largest city in a period of population boom, right? I haven't done any research in this matter, but it would seem to be that someone out of New York City

I don't think this is right - there are very good reasons why people raised in rural areas, or raised in warm weather climates, may have an advantage. It doesn't negate the general population argument.

I agree with most people - relatively small differences in population should not get in the way of our debates. I don't have any real problem comparing Babe Ruth to Barry Bonds, or Honus Wagner to ARod, and assuming that potential competition hasn't changed dramatically. In both cases, players were drawn from very large populations, and were clearly outliers of those very large populations.

But it becomes much more of a problem when discussing players who played their entire career prior to 1885 or so. This isn't just academic. In a recent thread, the issue of the greatest second basemen of all time was discussed. One of the candidates for this honor was Ross Barnes. To me, this just isn't plausible.
   326. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 02, 2007 at 07:30 PM (#2305911)
Of these 17 players, only 4 come from big cities (although how big was San Diego in 1918?) Two more are good sized towns. That leaves 11 of the greatest baseball players of all time having been born in small towns. Very small towns.

Not to quibble too much, but I think it's also fair to ask whether or not a persons' birthplace is significant. Maybe it is, but, as OCF has recently mentioned to me, Jackie Robinson was born in George but was a star in California. Especially in this era, mobility is increasingly common.

I do think that Diz is right that certain living conditions promote baseball players. I would think that contemporary city conditions would actually discourage baseball due to the space crunch, and the cost of equipment (given that cities are often pricey to live in for everyone except for the super rich).
   327. rawagman Posted: March 02, 2007 at 08:26 PM (#2305945)
Eric, I think you got my point, in a roundabout way. My point was that simple population metrics will not ever be a real meaningful factor when searching for clues in finding outliers. There are so other factors that go into making a baseball player, beyond just geography, and genetics.
Let's look at just the two top players, Ruth and Wagner.
Born around 20 years apart, east/NE USA.
Ruth was an raised in an orphanage. Would his talent have developed in an upper-middle class home, with parents that stressed the quality of a good education?
Honus, IIRC, grew up in a coal-mining town. What if his family lived in Pittsburgh and he wasn't playing as a means to maximize his time above ground?
As is often the case with outliers, there are several extenuating circumstances that push a young person into working more at something he or she is skilled at. Many people never discover their true talents, because they never receive the push needed to get there.
   328. OCF Posted: March 02, 2007 at 09:09 PM (#2305973)
OCF has recently mentioned to me, Jackie Robinson was born in George but was a star in California.

Jackie Robinson is "from" Pasadena, and in exactly the same sense, Ozzie Smith is "from" the south side of Los Angeles (along with Eddie Murray, Darryl Strawberry, and Eric Davis). And the whole DiMaggio family is from San Francisco, and so on - never mind the exact birthplaces.

Baseball is historically a city game, not a rural game. The cities and towns contained large enough concentrations of people to play a game that requires a lot of players. The northeastern cities were the original home of the game - we've all learned enough history through our participation in this project to realize that.

But something has changed drastically. I'm not sure where the center of this change lies - perhaps the 1960's-1970's. Adult-organized and parent-dominated formalized youth baseball grew in importance, and youth-organized informal baseball declined. And with that change, it's not really a city game any more in the U.S. - it's a suburban game. And as the trends continued in the last couple of decades, I think we've had fewer all-around athletes who played everything in its own season, and more youth who specialize in one sport. And the city kids (as opposed to the suburban kids) aren't, by and large, specializing in baseball.
   329. Chris Fluit Posted: March 02, 2007 at 09:25 PM (#2305984)
310. sunnyday2 Posted:
I've always thought that we should only count votes if the player's name is spelled right.

Then Quincy/Quincey Troupe/Trouppe would never get elected.
   330. OCF Posted: March 02, 2007 at 09:28 PM (#2305988)
I would add that with increasing specialization, those who live in warmer climates gain an advantage in being able to play and practice over a larger portion of the year.
   331. Mike Green Posted: March 02, 2007 at 09:36 PM (#2305992)
Rawagman, apparently Brother Matthias in the home for "incorrigible" boys where Ruth spent much of his youth taught him not only to read and write and right from wrong (hmm), but also took a vicious cut at the ball with a bat in his hand. The Young Babe imitated him. So sayeth "Deadball Stars of the American League", recently published by SABR.

I'm not sure that the average suburban kid of today has a role model that good (in baseball terms). Which may account for the relative blooming of father-son pairings we see in modern baseball.
   332. sunnyday2 Posted: March 02, 2007 at 10:12 PM (#2306004)
It's not the role model, it's the genes.
   333. kwarren Posted: March 03, 2007 at 03:59 PM (#2306183)
The real question is, if they were in the here and now, but arrived by virtue of being born when today's stars were born, and got the same coaching, the same playing time, nutrition, conditioning, equipment, etc. etc., then could they play? Well, the truth is we don't know. But I believe the answer is yes.

I believe the answer is, most likely, no. Its not just about nutrition, conditioning, and equipment. Its about the true available talent pool. In the 19th century, very, very few people were (a) playing baseball regularly at a young age, (b) play some type of organized ball, (c)
in a location where a major league scout may notice them (d) were lucky enough to have a scout come to the location (e) have a good day when that scout was visiting and (f) have the right skin color. In the modern game, we not only draw from people around the world, of every ethnicity, but we have a sophisticated system for identifying potential talent, and then putting them into a minor league system that further determines the best players. In short, the reason some of us are saying that players are better than they used to be is not just nutrition and training - its that we have a much better system for identifying major league talent, bringing up the quality of play by a substantial amount.

If ARod and Pujols were alive in the 19th century, they wouldn't have been allowed to play. If Clemens was around, there's a good chance he would have never been discovered by a scout.



This puts in some perspective the huge difference in the overall quality of the major leagues over the years. I think that is important that we at least recognize this as we are inducting players who were great at their time given the constraints in the way that players were chosen to play in the major leagues.

In some ways it's analogous to the argument that relief pitchers should get consideration for the Hall of Merit, even they have all been negatively selected by being unable to hold down a spot in the rotation of a major league rotation. It's difficult to comprehend how the elite relievers can be considered to be among the best pitchers in the game. Certainly WARP and Win Shares analysis do not consider them so. It's like saying the best utility players should also get consideration, or field goal kickers in football, or the 6th man award in basketball which they aren't.
   334. kwarren Posted: March 04, 2007 at 01:14 AM (#2306348)
As I have also pointed out in the past, the tough timeliners never look at it the other way. Would Clemens, Pujols, ARod, etc. been the same players if they had been born in the 1860s as they are now? I seriously doubt it.

As has already been pointed out, but not necessarily digested. Pujols and A-Rod would not be allowed to play in the majors and Clemens would likely have never been discovered.
   335. kwarren Posted: March 04, 2007 at 01:30 AM (#2306355)
After Babe Ruth appeared baseball was clearly the most popular sport and teams had pretty much all of the best white athletes to choose from.

That talent pool is paltry compared to today's. Now major league teams get to chose from athetes of all races aroung the world. There are literally 100's of millions of potential major leaguers in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea with baseball now becoming popular in Australia and Europe.
   336. kwarren Posted: March 04, 2007 at 01:50 AM (#2306364)
My problem with this is, while I acknowledge that there are more good players today, why is it assumed that the elites of today are necessarily better of yore (taking into account all of the advantages of today)?

I don't think we are. Albert Pujols and Babe Ruth are both the best players of their time, but Pujols is a big fish in a pool of sharks while Babe played in a pool of comparative guppies. This is why it is very misleading to compare great players by how dominant they were in their respective leagues. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Pujols and/or Bonds would have been at least as dominant as the Babe, at least in terms of hitting, if he had played in that era. In fact when Bonds was at his peak he was just as dominant as Babe was in a much tougher league.

Can anybody imagine a player dominating the league now in terms of both hitting and pitching the way the Babe did in his time. It will never happen again, and that doesn't mean that there hasn't been or ever will be a player as good as Ruth. It just means that the overall quality of play, thanks to $$$$$$ for rewardig excellence and the even increasing talent base, has risen exponentially. The exact same phenomenon has happend in football, hockey, soccer, golf, tennis, track, skiing etc. If you're going to pay somebody $20 M annually to dominate a sport instead of $50 k, is in not natural that the number of people world wide interested in giving it a shot is going to increase exponentially, to say nothing of the effort and committment (financial, physical, chemical) devoted to such a goal?

This is all independent of the natural increases in ability over time through improved diet, coaching, equipment, PED, etc.
   337. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 04, 2007 at 01:53 AM (#2306366)
As has already been pointed out, but not necessarily digested. Pujols and A-Rod would not be allowed to play in the majors and Clemens would likely have never been discovered.


As I already pointed out, I think everyone here knew what I meant. If I mention that Hank Aaron would have x numbers during the Deadball era, that doesn't mean that I don't know he wouldn't have been allowed to play at all.
   338. kwarren Posted: March 04, 2007 at 01:55 AM (#2306368)
My other problem is San Pedro de Macoris. How many major leaguers have come from there, despite it's small population?

Given a random distribution of talent, I would expect that a few talent clusters like San Pedro de Macoris would be found, by sheer random chance. There are many other towns of comparable size in Latin America -- it would be much more impressive if it were correctly predicted that a particular town would produce (some large number) or more of major-leaguers in the years 2010-2020. Finding a cluster of talent after the fact, of the size of that found at San Pedro de Macoris, is interesting, but not (as far as I can tell) unexpected.


It is my understanding that the Blue Jays set up a baseball academy in San Pedro de Macrois, using their coaches and scouts in the early eighties and had all the players there to themselves for a brief period of time. There wasn't any unusual flow of talent from this city before that happened.
   339. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 04, 2007 at 03:56 AM (#2306401)
BTW, until further notice, all elections will end at 11 PM instead of 8. I have a real estate meeting scheduled at 6 PM every Monday from now on.
   340. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: March 05, 2007 at 03:12 AM (#2306772)
Speaking of elections closing, I mentioned after the, um, confusion over the 1991 elections that it might be more fun to have an IRC chat going while we're waiting for the announcement. Nobody said anything then, but is there any interest? (The cool thing is that I'd be working too late to make an 8 PM announcement - it's a sign, I tell ya!) I'll post this in the ballot thread, too.
   341. DL from MN Posted: March 05, 2007 at 03:52 PM (#2306928)
1890 baseball - 112 active players (NL)
1940 baseball - 400 active players
1990 baseball - 750 active players

I don't believe that the talent pool is so much bigger now as to counteract expansion so significantly that the best players from 1930 would not be successful today. Like I said before what we have is an S curve and we've been nearing the asymptote since 1950.
   342. Dizzypaco Posted: March 05, 2007 at 04:29 PM (#2306958)
I don't believe that the talent pool is so much bigger now as to counteract expansion so significantly that the best players from 1930 would not be successful today. Like I said before what we have is an S curve and we've been nearing the asymptote since 1950.

As I've said before, I agree that the talent pool is bigger now, but not so much bigger than it was in the 30's or 40's, so that I think you're right - the best players from 1930 probably would be successful. By 1930, organized baseball was being played virtually everywhere in the United States, and MLB had a scouting system that covered most of the country.

In the 19th century, this was not the case, making the real talent pool tiny, even putting aside issues of population growth.
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