Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Friday, April 25, 2014

Barra: The 4 Biggest Myths About Baseball

No…this isn’t just another one of those “Even Dag Wentim of The Zwen Nine Laughs at Derek Jeter’s Defense” type articles.

Myth No. 3: Baseball’s Talent Pool Has Been Diluted by Expansion and Competition From Other Sports

“The quality of baseball was at an all-time high after World War II because there was such a concentration of talent on just sixteen teams,” wrote Ralph Kiner in his 2004 memoir, Baseball Forever. “By the time each league added two more teams in 1961 and 1962, you had guys on major league rosters that would have been on Triple-A minor league rosters just years before.”

George Gmelch in his 2006 book, Indies Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball, wrote that, “Expansion (four new teams since 1993) has created many more openings, and many great athletes who once would have played baseball now are siphoned off into other sports, shrinking baseball’s talent pool,”

Those two quotes show how this myth started to catch on after World War II and still exists today. In 1945, the population of the United States was around 140 million. It’s a popular assumption of old timers that the quality of baseball’s talent pool has been diluted ever since. But the only concretely observable shift in the league’s population in that time is racial. The number of white players in the big leagues has declined since the end of the Second World War—but, of course, at the end of the Second World War the league excluded blacks and most Latinos from playing.

By 1960, when both leagues had expanded, the U.S. population had risen to 180 million and the talent pool included blacks and Latinos. In the 21st century, we now have a population of nearly 320 million, and the 30 teams are drawing not only Americans but the best from the Dominican Republic and many other Caribbean nations, plus the top talent from Japan, Taiwan, and even an occasional Australian. (Perhaps MLB will even pick up a few recruits from India in the wake of Jon Hamm’s baseball movie, Million Dollar Arm.) People of color now make up 38 percent of the league.

It’s true that over the last half century, baseball has lost talented youth to football and basketball. But it’s also true that many of the positions on football and basketball teams demand body types that aren’t suitable to baseball anyway. (Just ask a former unsuccessful minor-league baseball player named Michael Jordan.)

To the extent that the talent pool really is shrinking, it’s mostly because American youth are dropping out of team sports in general. In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that from 2008-2012 youth participation in the four major sports—basketball, soccer, football and baseball—declined by four percent overall. When comparing the 2008-2009 season to 2012-2013, the number of high-school football players declined by 2.3 percent and the number of basketball players fell 1.8 percent. The number of baseball players actually increased 0.3 percent.

Repoz Posted: April 25, 2014 at 09:11 AM | 86 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 09:37 AM (#4693864)
I also wonder how many talented players back in the day couldn't play because they were in abject poverty, or had to help out on the farm, or had other familial obligations. I would bet that's less of an issue today, and the escalating salaries probably provide more of an incentive to pursue a career in MLB than back in the day.

I agree with Barra that the "baseball isn't competitive" is an outdated meme from the 90s, but I don't think he quite addresses the point that, while you may have more teams competing for a title in baseball than in football, the economics of the game have a lot to do with who is competing and who is not (less so now than say 5-10 years ago, but it is still a factor, and moreso a factor than in the NFL or NBA). I think the Maher criticism he points out isn't really a competitive argument, its more of a fairness argument. The proponents of that argument have done it injustice by confusing parity and competitiveness as part of that argument.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 09:47 AM (#4693870)
I also wonder how many talented players back in the day couldn't play because they were in abject poverty, or had to help out on the farm, or had other familial obligations. I would bet that's less of an issue today, and the escalating salaries probably provide more of an incentive to pursue a career in MLB than back in the day.

I'm not sure which way that one cuts. The abject poverty was also a huge incentive to play ball to get out of poverty.

We don't see any shortage of NBA and NFL players today coming from very poor backgrounds. Likewise, lots (most?) of the Latin Americans coming to play baseball in the US come from poverty.
   3. Shibal Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:24 AM (#4693896)
I'm not sure which way that one cuts. The abject poverty was also a huge incentive to play ball to get out of poverty.

We don't see any shortage of NBA and NFL players today coming from very poor backgrounds. Likewise, lots (most?) of the Latin Americans coming to play baseball in the US come from poverty.


A poor kid in the city might have had time to play ball. A kid on the farm certainly wouldn't. He'd be lucky to go to high school over helping out on the farm.

It's a bit different nowadays. Family farming is kaput, and there's a lot fewer jobs out there for kids. Plenty of free time for them to hone their skills.
   4. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:26 AM (#4693898)
I also wonder how many talented players back in the day couldn't play because they were in abject poverty, or had to help out on the farm, or had other familial obligations. I would bet that's less of an issue today, and the escalating salaries probably provide more of an incentive to pursue a career in MLB than back in the day.


Baseball's a cheap game to play, and even the poor kids would play ball in their leisure time. I would figure that more kids lost out on a chance because they lived too far out of the way for a scout to discover them than kids who didn't try because they were too poor.

MLB-level professional baseball players have always been relatively well paid compared to the regular person.
   5. BDC Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:28 AM (#4693900)
I'll agree with Barra on 3 and 4 (talent pool and popularity), and 1 (competitiveness) depends on how you figure it and how you feel about it, to some extent; he makes a good case.

2, though (baseball games aren't too long) includes a fallacy, IMO:

As for what constitutes action, as Peter Handrinos points out in Errors and Fouls, "the average pro football contest has only about 12 minutes of in-play time (from the snaps that begin plays to the whistles that end them)." The average major-league game, meanwhile, has about 25 actual minutes with the ball actually in play.


But that's kind of a fractal thing, like measuring a coastline, isn't it? When is a baseball "in play?" Is a pitch in play? Is the throw back from the catcher? Is a routine fly ball "in play," given that 99.9% of the time you can assume the rest of the play once you see an outfielder settle under it? In football, should we measure from snap to whistle? A lot of maneuvering goes on before a snap: the ball isn't in play, but the players certainly are. Etc, etc.

IOW, the whole process of measuring how much "action" a given sport contains is a fool's errand. I think individual baseball games are too long for a daily pastime over six months of the year. Even if a single football game is absolutely slightly longer, it's a weekly treat for four months of the year.
   6. Russ Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4693902)
Baseball's a cheap game to play, and even the poor kids would play ball in their leisure time


This is not true these days. The number of convenient spaces for kids to play baseball has probably shrunk considerably.
   7. JE (Jason) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:32 AM (#4693906)
By 1960, when both leagues had expanded, the U.S. population had risen to 180 million and the talent pool included blacks and Latinos. In the 21st century, we now have a population of nearly 320 million, and the 30 teams are drawing not only Americans but the best from the Dominican Republic and many other Caribbean nations, plus the top talent from Japan, Taiwan, and even an occasional Australian. (Perhaps MLB will even pick up a few recruits from India in the wake of Jon Hamm’s baseball movie, Million Dollar Arm.) People of color now make up 38 percent of the league.

Paging Henry Aaron...
   8. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:37 AM (#4693912)
IOW, the whole process of measuring how much "action" a given sport contains is a fool's errand. I think individual baseball games are too long for a daily pastime over six months of the year. Even if a single football game is absolutely slightly longer, it's a weekly treat for four months of the year.

And unlike baseball games, the vast majority of NFL games don't end late at night. Long games that can seem exciting when they begin at 1:05 or 4:05 can seem to drag on forever when they begin between 7:05 and 10:05.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:39 AM (#4693914)
This is not true these days. The number of convenient spaces for kids to play baseball has probably shrunk considerably.

But it was true when a lot of people lived in abject poverty.

A poor kid in the city might have had time to play ball. A kid on the farm certainly wouldn't. He'd be lucky to go to high school over helping out on the farm.

Baseball was hugely populated by poor farm kids.

I don't think there's any evidence poor farm kids had less leisure time than poor city kids. And, they had a lot fewer alternative activities than the city kids.
   10. Sunday silence Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:40 AM (#4693915)
poor kids is the new market inefficiency.
   11. Jeltzandini Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:45 AM (#4693918)
The number of convenient spaces for kids to play baseball has probably shrunk considerably.


Yes. And baseball unfortunately does not scale down to small numbers of participants. A credible basketball game can be played with two people (and even one person can amuse himself shooting around). Football can go as low as three (two on offense, QB can't run). Baseball needs, what, at least six? And that's for a pretty crippled version of the game.

It's a great sport that is very hard to play casually. Not sure how accurate the old picture of a couple dozen unattended kids playing dawn to dusk in the local vacant lot ever was. If that indeed is how it was, it sure isn't like that now.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:49 AM (#4693920)
It's a great sport that is very hard to play casually. Not sure how accurate the old picture of a couple dozen unattended kids playing dawn to dusk in the local vacant lot ever was. If that indeed is how it was, it sure isn't like that now.

Well, BITD, many more people lived in rural or semi-rural areas with tons of empty fields. Even where my dad grew up in the Bronx, there was lots of empty land. Also, there were far more children per household (especially post-WW2), so a neighborhood would be much more likely to have a critical mass of boys.
   13. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: April 25, 2014 at 10:59 AM (#4693928)
But there are plenty of baseball like bat and ball games that can be played with as few as 2 people. And the baseball equivalent of a single person shooting around is a single person pitching into a pitchback, or throwing a rubber ball to a brick wall. When I was a kid, we had a chimney made of irregular stone. I could play for hours throwing a tennis ball against it, and the ball would carom off at crazy angles. Made for nice web gem diving catches.
   14. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM (#4693930)
It's a bit different nowadays. Family farming is kaput
Here in Ohio, family farming is alive and well. It's a bigger business than 100 years ago, and much more expensive, but most farms around here are still owned by individuals.
   15. GregD Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4693932)
We don't see any shortage of NBA and NFL players today coming from very poor backgrounds. Likewise, lots (most?) of the Latin Americans coming to play baseball in the US come from poverty.
I don't know about the NFL, but when they've examined NBA players they tend not to come from very poor backgrounds. LeBron is an exception. They are much more likely to have at least one employed parent and to live in private housing and to be from relatively better off ZIP codes (or at least not to be from the very poorest ZIP codes). Presumably large numbers of very, very poor kids are lost to the NBA because they disappear from the school system or organized basketball before they get deep into high school. It's one of the interesting disjunctions between what people think they know and what happens.



One report

another
   16. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:03 AM (#4693933)
I used to go out and throw a baseball in the air and then hit it, and create imaginary fielders and baserunners in my head. Entire imaginary leagues with imaginary histories and imaginary champions.

I was always the last player on the bench on these imaginary teams.
   17. Publius Publicola Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:07 AM (#4693937)
I used to go out and throw a baseball in the air and then hit it, and create imaginary fielders and baserunners in my head. Entire imaginary leagues with imaginary histories and imaginary champions.


I used to do this with a wiffle ball bat and a bag of horse chestnuts. I even batted lefty for the southpaw batters in my head. My lefthanded swing actually became more level and efficient than my righthanded swing over time but I never developed anywhere near the power I had from the right side.
   18. DL from MN Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4693939)
It only takes two kids to play catch or hit a bucket of balls.
   19. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:12 AM (#4693940)
And the baseball equivalent of a single person shooting around is a single person pitching into a pitchback,


This statement is extremely fascinating if you misread that last word as pitchfork, I learned just a few seconds ago.

Otherwise, yeah -- I played with a pitchback & also by throwing a ball up on the roof of one house we lived in. The house after that, I threw a tennis ball against the side of the building & also against the roof.
   20. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:14 AM (#4693941)
My best friend and I would play wiffle ball in my back yard. We would set up various objects (bikes, wheelbarrows, chairs) in the positions on the field, if a batted ball hit one you were out, otherwise it was a hit. We would do this for hours. Wasn't great for the lawn.

The best part was his backyard and my back yard were just different enough to create different parks. My house had a porch off the back that was the "short porch" for a home run. You had to be careful though, a well hit ball might travel beyond the porch for a double rather than landing on it for a home run.

Oh, and a sled was propped up behind home plate as the strike zone. Eephus pitches and a good screwball were tough to hit.
   21. fra paolo Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:24 AM (#4693948)
I think individual baseball games are too long for a daily pastime over six months of the year.

I have a theory that when people complain about the games being too long, what they are in fact complaining about is that baseball requires more attention than they are willing to give. And one reason it requires too much attention is because there are so many games. 162 games is a tremendous amount for any one person to follow. I've never been able to watch or listen to every single one in any single season. Someone who isn't such a big baseball fan (it is really the only sport I follow at all nowadays), which means the vast majority of people, isn't going to make the same commitment.

People always complain about something. It's what they do. Baseball could cut back by two games per team per week on average, and then they'd complain about the higher ticket prices, or that baseball wasn't on enough times in the middle of the week, when they get home from work and want something to watch on the television in the summer. Then they turn into the aging moaner who complains about how it wasn't like it was, and there are too many footprints on the lawn. Do you kids think those people emerge out of nothing?

Judging by the audiences on the television, most people go to the ballpark as a social event. More power to them. I imagine they just get bored with their company after a couple of hours, but don't blame the game for that.
   22. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:24 AM (#4693949)

It's a bit different nowadays. Family farming is kaput, and there's a lot fewer jobs out there for kids. Plenty of free time for them to hone their skills.


Downstate Illinois is also still viable for family farming (my grandparents were farmers there, and many of our family friends have younger generations getting agriculture-related degrees from U. of I. and going into the family business). That said, the kids with the free time to hone skills seem to be confining that honing to texting, making and consuming terrible music, and general invasion of my lawn.
   23. fra paolo Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:25 AM (#4693952)
It only takes two kids to play catch or hit a bucket of balls.

It only takes one to bounce a ball off a garage or porch steps.
   24. Greg K Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4693967)
I used to go out and throw a baseball in the air and then hit it, and create imaginary fielders and baserunners in my head. Entire imaginary leagues with imaginary histories and imaginary champions.

In my front yard I used to throw a ball as high as I could (and off in random directions) then try to run it down. If it dropped, but I got to it right away it was a single. Double or home run depending on how far I was when it landed. I couldn't remember batting orders, so I'd just go through teams by C-1B-2B...and so on.

There was an alternate version after my dad bolted a giant board covering the entire garage door. Throwing a tennis ball against it you could make yourself chase ground balls from one side of the driveway to the other. Cleanly fielded balls are outs, bobbles or poor throws singles, anything behind you is a double, if it gets all the way to the road home run.

Looking back it's actually a bit weird my brother and I were so into baseball. Pretty much none of the other kids in the neighbourhood played baseball. There was always sports going on...our street was able to put up 6-10 person road hockey games every weekend, or 2 on 2 basketball at our place. But the only time I ever actually got to play baseball was at league games. Other than that catch with my dad or my brother was the closest I got.
   25. G.W.O. Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:07 PM (#4693997)
I think theres a fallacy in saying "shorter than an NFL game" debunks the idea that the game is too long. NFL games are ridculously too long, which why everyone prefers sitting at home flipping around than watching one game intently. Soccer, rugby, 3 sets of tennis, an NBA game, most hit movies, a Broadway musical, most setious theatre - theres a reason these things all last 2hrs to 2hrs 30
   26. Ron J2 Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:13 PM (#4694005)
#18 You only needed 3 for 500 up. And a wall will do if you don't have a second person for catch.

EDIT: Coke to Fra
   27. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:17 PM (#4694011)
I used to go out and throw a baseball in the air and then hit it, and create imaginary fielders and baserunners in my head. Entire imaginary leagues with imaginary histories and imaginary champions.




And this is kinda underrated. You don't need 18 kids playing a baseball game to learn how to get better at baseball. Just throwing against a wall, developing hand-eye coordination can drastically improve your skills, and that is extremely cheap.
   28. BDC Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4694014)
when people complain about the games being too long, what they are in fact complaining about is that baseball requires more attention than they are willing to give

Strictly speaking, you're right about my complaint: games that verge on 3½ hours every night are beyond my patience.

It's not so much when I'm at the park, because I very rarely miss an inning there (I go to about 20 games a year). Some drag on and some are exciting, and that really is the way baseball go. And you're right about the "social" fan who tends to arrive for the top of the third because the traffic was so bad, and leaves after the bottom of the seventh to beat the bad traffic. They'd probably do the same if the games were consistently 2 or 2½ hours instead of 3 to 3½.

But aside from the World Series, I can't remember seeing the end of a TV game in years. As Andy notes, they just stretch on past my bedtime. (When the Rangers are on the West Coast, they start after my bedtime.) And when I was living on the East Coast, I didn't even see the end of any of the Series games – in 2005, for instance. I'd ask BDC Jr. in the morning how they'd gone. I became an old coot early, but the timing and pace of baseball haven't helped me stay young :)
   29. SuperGrover Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:23 PM (#4694022)
It only takes two kids to play catch or hit a bucket of balls.


And an open field. And a #### ton of time to pick up the balls (especially since there is almost certainly no backstop). And the ability to replace balls that are lost when fouling them off.

I was lucky enough to grow up with a huge, somewhat groomed open field in the back of my house (at least until I was 10). Every Summer, the neighborhood would cut move the field and trim the weeds around the "diamond." It was a ton of work but we loved it. Even with this, we lost 5-10 balls per "game" and usually ran out of equipment within 3 weeks. From then on, we played basketball, football or kickball, all activities that could be done safely within the street or within someone's yard.

Playing pickup hardball is an absolute pain in the ass.
   30. SuperGrover Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:25 PM (#4694024)
And this is kinda underrated. You don't need 18 kids playing a baseball game to learn how to get better at baseball. Just throwing against a wall, developing hand-eye coordination can drastically improve your skills, and that is extremely cheap.


Yes it is, but it is also insanely boring and is difficult to gamify. On the other hand, a basketball and a hoop allows you to essentially play the entire game, allowing for the fun of group competition to be introduced.

Throwing the baseball is analogous to practicing driblling in a drive way. yes it is beneficial and some kids do enjoy it, but it is not at all the same as playing a full game.
   31. SuperGrover Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4694029)
NFL games are ridculously too long, which why everyone prefers sitting at home flipping around than watching one game intently.


1. Everyone? Really? Is that why the wait list for Bears season tickets runs about a decade to get filled?

2. You think it might have something to do with pacing of the game? Football lends itself to television well which is one of the reasons it has such ridiculously expensive TV packages.

3. I have never thought NFL (or college games, for that matter) were too long.
   32. SuperGrover Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:30 PM (#4694032)
And one reason it requires too much attention is because there are so many games.


Agreed. An NFL team plays at most 4 hours per week. Baseball teams average about 18. Which is more cumbersome to follow?
   33. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:31 PM (#4694034)
Playing pickup hardball is an absolute pain in the ass.


It definitely can be. Maybe 6 or 7 of us used to play in our fairly spacious & utterly vacant (except for a big sycamore, I think it was, tree on one side) backyard. We tended to use those really cheap ($1.25 comes to mind) balls from the 5-&-10-cent store that went lopsided as all hell after one good whack.
   34. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:31 PM (#4694036)
1. Everyone? Really? Is that why the wait list for Bears season tickets runs about a decade to get filled?


Idiots gonna idiot.
   35. SuperGrover Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:33 PM (#4694039)
And the baseball equivalent of a single person shooting around is a single person pitching into a pitchback, or throwing a rubber ball to a brick wall.


Nah. You can work on maybe 75% of an offensive game in basketball with a ball and a hoop. In baseball, it's pretty difficult to work on anything other than fielding on your own unless you have extra tool sets to assist (a net for pitching into, for example).

I don't think it is surprising that the best baseball players I knew growing up all consistently worked out with their Dad in batting cages or on public fields. This wasn't the same with basketball or football where kids without parental involvement were able to hone their skills solo.
   36. BDC Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4694045)
Despite falling asleep during TV baseball games, I am proud of my Sitzfleisch, because I really like NFL games live, and I love opera (it's festival season now in Ft Worth).

But as others have been saying, I go to 2 Cowboys games a year and it's always a treat. I go to 20 baseball games a year – the same percentage of the season – and it can be a drag at times. Not always, of course, and I've appreciated some of the snappier lower-scoring games so far this year.
   37. Shredder Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM (#4694048)
I think he's wrong to say that expansion and the prevelance of opportunities in other sports hasn't diluted the talent pool. He's probably right that the talent pool has increased because of other factors (integration, international players, etc.) so as to off-set the affects of expansion and other sports, but it would be hard to argue that the average level of talent in the majors would not be much, much greater if we only had 16 teams and baseball was at the relative level of popularity that it was 70 years ago.

If he had argued that expansion grew the game, and the growth of opportunities in sports have been a rising tide lifting all boats, that's an argument I'd be willing to listen to. But I don't think that's the argument he's making. It's not wrong to say that a) the talent level right now is as good as its ever been, and b) expansion has made the talent level worse than it would have been without expansion. Those aren't mutually exclusive.
   38. Booey Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM (#4694050)
It’s true that over the last half century, baseball has lost talented youth to football and basketball. But it’s also true that many of the positions on football and basketball teams demand body types that aren’t suitable to baseball anyway.


I've always wondered why more people don't bring up this point when you hear about baseball losing all it's talent to other sports. The average NBA player is something like 6'7". The average NFL player is probably over 250 pounds. Very few baseball players hit either of these extremes. Baseball could still take most of the "normal" sized athletes and the other sports could still get their share of talent without stepping on MLB's toes much at all.

The sports are even drawing from largely different talent pools from the foreign market. Euro's and an occasional African make up most the foreign born players in the NBA. Hockey foreigners usually come from Europe or Canada. I imagine most foreign NFL players are probably Polynesian/Islanders. MLB gets most it's foreigners from Latin America and east Asia.

I just don't see the talent pool overlap to be as great as others seem to.
   39. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:41 PM (#4694051)
It's funny to see conversation about how much attention baseball requires as a spectator sport. I was just on Facebook last week explaining that I loved how baseball was so much more relaxed and less demanding of your attention than an NFL game. Every NFL game is THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE SEASON CAN'T MISS MUST WATCH MUST SEE. The results of every game are endlessly picked apart and grand, dramatic narratives are constructed around them.

Baseball...there's just so damn much of it during a season that it's impossible to get as worked up over any individual event. Baseball's the friend who says it's OK to miss an inning while you go pick up some food, but hey, don't forget that Mike Trout is due up in a couple frames. Have to miss a game? No biggie, I'll be here 161 more times throughout the summer. I'll see you tomorrow.

On a different note, I think RoyalsRetro makes a good point in #1. Perceptions of competitiveness and parity are driven by the way the sports are organized. The Steelers and Ravens and Packers (or perhaps the Seahawks and 49ers moving forward) might be perennially competitive, but it doesn't really offend anyone's sense of fairness because they haven't reached those heights through the exploitation of structural, economic advantages. They just keep doing smart things year after year.

Conversely, for many fans it does seem unfair in a very visceral way for the Dodgers and Yankees to use their massive resource advantage to stockpile an overwhelming talent base (the Yankees' 2014 infield notwithstanding). That unfairness can be (and is) dramatically overstated, and there's an underrated amount of parity in baseball. But still, the "how" of perennial contention matter as much as the "who" or the "what" to many making these arguments.
   40. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:42 PM (#4694052)
NFL and baseball games are both far too long and for the same reason, they have both diluted their product with too many commercials.

I haven't watch a full baseball game in years. If I go to the park I have to go home before the end, for my kids bedtime. I have the MLB package and watch partials that's where I spend 90% of the time on the couch on my laptop writing code on a project, and every once a while pop my head up when the crowd noise spikes. My wife doesn't mind because she reads a book.

It's a testament to baseball that it's a sport you can watch while you are doing other things, but it's also an indictment. I know that most of time nothing is going, either the screen is blank when commercials are running, or the Pitcher is scratching himself, or the batter is stepping out etc. every sport stops in the action for its fans so you can run to the bathroom, the refrigerator, or just take a breather. But I'm pretty sure optimal break times are not minutes long in between seconds of action.

I've said this before I said again if the MLB prohibited teams from running so many commercials, the revenue loss would be minor. Teams could run only 80% as many spots, they would not lose 20% of the revenue because their spots just became more exclusive, supply is less while demand remains the same, letting them increase spot rates. If spot rates increased 10% they would only lose 12% of revenues. And ratings would increase to the point they lose lose litlle to nothing in the short run, and build a stronger Fanbase that generates higher ratings and higher revenues over time.
   41. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4694062)
And this is kinda underrated. You don't need 18 kids playing a baseball game to learn how to get better at baseball. Just throwing against a wall, developing hand-eye coordination can drastically improve your skills, and that is extremely cheap.

There was the longtime scout who insisted baseball skill is 87% below the waist, and the single best way to get better is to throw off a wall. I think he was right: I always tell the newer players on my softball teams that if they want to get better, it's not going to happen at a practice (a couple of hours, once a week), but if they go throw off a wall for even a few minutes every day, they absolutely will improve, and faster than they think.
   42. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:03 PM (#4694092)
A kid on the farm certainly wouldn't. He'd be lucky to go to high school over helping out on the farm.

It's a bit different nowadays. Family farming is kaput, and there's a lot fewer jobs out there for kids. Plenty of free time for them to hone their skills.


as a retired farmer, as someone active in the farming community both locally and nationally and an avid baseball fan a few points:

--baseball of years back was heavily populated by ex-farm boys who managed to play baseball every moment not needed around the farm
--the 'ex-farm boy' demographic has shrunk in baseball solely and exclusively due to the country moving away from an agrarian based economy. fewer farms producing FAR more stuff makes for fewer farm boys
--family farming is not kaput. family farms are now no longer considered 'family farms' because the average farmer in the Midwest is rich beyond the dreams of avarice. farmland prices have exploded to an extent that the federal reserve governors of kc and dallas continue to express concerns of a 'farmland bubble'. but as the saying goes with respect to farmland, 'they ain't making any more'. that coupled with the absurdly generous subsidy and price protection programs and the u.s. farmer could not be in a better situation financially.

thus endeth my rant
   43. Shredder Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:07 PM (#4694098)
NFL and baseball games are both far too long and for the same reason, they have both diluted their product with too many commercials.
I don't really think this is true for baseball, at least not as true for baseball as football. If you go to a baseball game, there's pretty much always something going on. Even between innings, pitchers and fielders are warming up. My point is that's a natural break that the game needs in order to function properly (though I suppose you could argue they don't need eight pitches). If you go to a football, hockey, or basketball games, you have media timeouts. You have stoppages in play, lasting several minutes, solely for the purpose of showing commercials, and there is absolutely NOTHING happening on the field/court/ice. In football, you just see a guy standing there with a ref. It's the most boring thing I've ever had to sit through, and its why I don't care for actually attending football games.

If the NFL ran major league baseball the way they run the NFL, we'd have a commercial break every time a batter stepped out of the box or a pitcher stepped off the mound.
   44. Good cripple hitter Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:11 PM (#4694101)
It's a testament to baseball that it's a sport you can watch while you are doing other things, but it's also an indictment. I know that most of time nothing is going, either the screen is blank when commercials are running, or the Pitcher is scratching himself, or the batter is stepping out etc. every sport stops in the action for its fans so you can run to the bathroom, the refrigerator, or just take a breather. But I'm pretty sure optimal break times are not minutes long in between seconds of action.


It's reached the point where Blue Jays broadcasts frequently cut to commercial in the middle of an inning. Like "Ryan Goins just struck out, there's two outs in the inning, let's show a quick ad before Melky reaches the plate". It's ridiculous.
   45. cardsfanboy Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:17 PM (#4694113)
In other words, baseball's critics complain about an economic structure that has so-called big-market teams like the New York Yankees pulling in an estimated nine times what small-market clubs like the Kansas City Royals earn


I've participated in tons of discussions over the years about the difference in baseball and football economics, and I have never, ever heard someone utter that as a complaint. The complaint has always been about the salary of the teams, nobody cares about the disparity difference in income between any teams, except how it factors into salary.

I agree with the "myth---baseball isn't as competitive as football" but the way he started the argument is a point that I've literally never heard anyone bring up as a complaint before this article.

Agree with pretty much every point made in the article though. Point two (pace of game) still needs a little tweaking, but it's hardly that big of a deal, not as much as the non-fans make it out to be.
   46. Shredder Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:18 PM (#4694116)
Like "Ryan Goins just struck out, there's two outs in the inning, let's show a quick ad before Melky reaches the plate". It's ridiculous.
Guess I'm mistaken. But is there any indication that this slows down the game? Which is to say, does the next batter hold back until the commercial is over like in a media time out in other sports?

I know some Canadian broadcasts will shoehorn in a quick commercial before a faceoff in an NHL games, but those don't really slow down the game. The players and officials on the ice aren't taking time off so that the commercial can be run.
   47. DL from MN Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:22 PM (#4694123)
The baseball diamonds at the school near my house are routinely empty except when there is an organized game. I know because I can always take my daughter down on a Saturday and find an open field to practice. The skateboard park, however, is packed to overflowing.
   48. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:27 PM (#4694136)
I remember playing two-man baseball with a friend when I was a kid. You had a pitcher, a hitter and "ghost runners." Smack a double, call "ghost runner on second" and trot back to the "plate." Then you got to argue whether the ghost runner scored on a resulting single.
   49. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:27 PM (#4694138)
I go to 2 Cowboys games a year and it's always a treat. I go to 20 baseball games a year – the same percentage of the season – and it can be a drag at times. Not always, of course, and I've appreciated some of the snappier lower-scoring games so far this year.

When I take my daughter to a Dodgers game, I bring everything. Electronics, books, a friend, etc. I buy her food, we'll go for a mid-game walk around the ballpark, and she's still ready to leave be the top of the seventh. Most of the time I am too.

When I take my daughter to Kings game, I bring nothing. We stretch our legs during the intermission and that's it. We don't leave until the game is over 99% of the time. The McFlurry Minute is marketing gold.

Lakers and Trojans games fall somewhere in the middle.
   50. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:30 PM (#4694148)
hockey games are great for kids. the action has very few interruptions and the ones that do happen are well timed. the rules don't need to be understood to appreciate what is happening. hockey fans are boisterous so a kid yelling and whooping it up is just part of the gang, not an annoyance
   51. cardsfanboy Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4694156)
I used to go out and throw a baseball in the air and then hit it, and create imaginary fielders and baserunners in my head. Entire imaginary leagues with imaginary histories and imaginary champions.

I was always the last player on the bench on these imaginary teams.


and

Yes it is, but it is also insanely boring and is difficult to gamify. On the other hand, a basketball and a hoop allows you to essentially play the entire game, allowing for the fun of group competition to be introduced.


Really? difficult to gamify? basketball I could see, because there is nothing to do by yourself except shoot the ball... how do you practice passing, defense etc? Unless you were one of those kids who only wanted to play, when it was time to bat, there was a #### ton of ways to gamify baseball.


I would do all different types of games.

1. I would stand at where the pitcher would be, facing the backstop and throw a ball up and hit it...would have to hit the ball in the air onto the backstop in each of the bottom six sections, consecutively and in order, then I would move back ten feet and do it again, by the time I was done, I was hitting the ball on a line drive from centerfield into a designated section of the backstop. (our backstop had 9 sections...3 bottom, middle and top, but the top right and left were curved and smaller, so it wasn't practical to hit it to them...plus if you missed you had to chase the ball...only time I would play with those would be if I was about 20-30 feet from the backstop and wanted to practice fly balls)

2. Throw the ball as high and as far as you think you can practically run and chase the ball, the goal is to get it exactly to the range where you had to dive to make a catch.

3. Same as two, without throwing quite as far....catch the ball and do the Willie Mays throw home having to hit an assigned area of the backstop.

4. brickball...this is done with a tennis ball.. you throw the ball at a brick wall on the house, and it bounces to you, you field and you assign one brick to hit as the first baseman's glove(fortunately my house, had a darker brick at about the right height) your goal is to practice the transfer into your hand as fast as you can, and to hit the correct brick without "aiming"....you can throw the ball at angles to force yourself to range left and right and practice off balanced throws.

   52. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:33 PM (#4694159)
But there are plenty of baseball like bat and ball games that can be played with as few as 2 people.

Best thing that ever helped me become a pretty good hitter was getting my biggest and strongest friend to pitch to me from a Little League mound. The ball got to the plate every bit as fast as a Major League heater, even if it was only going around 80 to 85 at best. The only drawback was that this ############ was sometimes a bit wild, and I didn't have one of those Barry Bonds pads for my arm, but I guarantee it developed my reflexes.
   53. DL from MN Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:43 PM (#4694181)
52 works except a comebacker to the mound could kill someone
   54. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:50 PM (#4694196)
Throwing the ball against the wall is how I learned how to pitch. I'd mess with different grips and pretend I was in game situations and try to work on my command. That's how you gamify it.
   55. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 25, 2014 at 02:00 PM (#4694214)
52 works except a comebacker to the mound could kill someone

That was his problem, not mine, but he had pretty good reflexes and only got crunched once or twice. Another friend and I used to play a 2 man game called "tennis baseball", which was pretty much the same exercise, only using a tennis ball with the fuzz burned off so you could throw curves. Needless to say, that was a lot less hairy.
   56. Good cripple hitter Posted: April 25, 2014 at 02:06 PM (#4694224)
Guess I'm mistaken. But is there any indication that this slows down the game? Which is to say, does the next batter hold back until the commercial is over like in a media time out in other sports?

I know some Canadian broadcasts will shoehorn in a quick commercial before a faceoff in an NHL games, but those don't really slow down the game. The players and officials on the ice aren't taking time off so that the commercial can be run.


No, it's a symptom and not a cause. It's more that the game's slow enough that they can safely run the ad.
   57. Chris Fluit Posted: April 25, 2014 at 02:08 PM (#4694228)
I remember playing two-man baseball with a friend when I was a kid. You had a pitcher, a hitter and "ghost runners." Smack a double, call "ghost runner on second" and trot back to the "plate." Then you got to argue whether the ghost runner scored on a resulting single.


My brother and I played that game as well. We also played another game as pitcher and catcher except the catcher would occasionally call out a batted ball and the pitcher would have to field a flyball or a grounder. I guess we had active imaginations.

Now, I play frontyard baseball with my daughters. I pitch, my eldest daughter hits and the younger daughter pinch runs (though they occasionally trade spots so that they both get a chance to bat).
   58. Ziggy Posted: April 25, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4694252)
A pitcher-bounce-back (at least that's what I called it, a net stretched tight across a frame) was the best thing I ever got for Christmas. I got one when I was 13 or so, and used it constantly. In the rain. In the snow. At night I'd turn on the porch light, which provided just enough light to see the ball hit the net, but not enough to see the ball on the way back to you. It was probably a little bit dangerous at night, but a lot of fun.

In retrospect, it was probably the happiest time of my life.

I wish I was 13 again, or still had a pitcher-bounce-back.
   59. cardsfanboy Posted: April 25, 2014 at 02:34 PM (#4694260)
A pitcher-bounce-back (at least that's what I called it, a net stretched tight across a frame) was the best thing I ever got for Christmas. I got one when I was 13 or so, and used it constantly. In the rain. In the snow. At night I'd turn on the porch light, which provided just enough light to see the ball hit the net, but not enough to see the ball on the way back to you. It was probably a little bit dangerous at night, but a lot of fun.

In retrospect, it was probably the happiest time of my life.

I wish I was 13 again, or still had a pitcher-bounce-back.


That was a johnny bench pitch back. (at least that is what I thought it was...looking at the webs, it appears it was marketed with the johnny bench batter up, and it was called the triple action pitch back. ) Arguably the greatest toy I ever got.
   60. Hank G. Posted: April 25, 2014 at 03:04 PM (#4694282)
I'm not sure which way that one cuts. The abject poverty was also a huge incentive to play ball to get out of poverty.


On the other hand, someone in a good white-collar job could make about as much as a major league ballplayer, without the necessity of finding a different profession after age 30.

Scouting was much more haphazard then too. There were surely many players who could have played in the majors who were never found. We know that there were players in the PCL who could have been major league players, but for various reasons stayed on the West Coast.
   61. zachtoma Posted: April 25, 2014 at 03:13 PM (#4694295)
This is not true these days. The number of convenient spaces for kids to play baseball has probably shrunk considerably.

But it was true when a lot of people lived in abject poverty.


A greater percentage of Americans live in poverty today than they did as recently as the 1960's
   62. SandyRiver Posted: April 25, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4694310)
I've always wondered why more people don't bring up this point when you hear about baseball losing all it's talent to other sports. The average NBA player is something like 6'7". The average NFL player is probably over 250 pounds. Very few baseball players hit either of these extremes. Baseball could still take most of the "normal" sized athletes and the other sports could still get their share of talent without stepping on MLB's toes much at all.


IMO, this is a bit overstated. Most NBA guards and small forwards are of body sizes commonly found in professional baseball, albeit in the tallest 25$. Same goes for NFL DBs, WRs, QBs, and most LBs. Even the OL/DL behemoths may not be as naturally huge as their NFL game-day wieght. One surprising example was a former NFL player who was on last year's Survivor series. He looked to be 6' to 6-1 and maybe 200 lb and ripped, so I figured DB or WR. When I looked him up to check (he played mainly for the Bucs so this Pats/Bosox fan had no memory of him) I found he had played DT - at 290 lb - then lost nearly 100 lb after retiring from football, much of it likely due to allowing his (artificially?) enhanced musculature to shrink back to normalcy. It wouldn't surprise me if many/most NFL lineman who play at 280+, at least those that could hit (and had been interested), would've played baseball at 200-240. Had Frank Thomas played NFL, he'd probably have bulked up to Vince Wilfork hugeness.
   63. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: April 25, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4694313)
On the other hand, someone in a good white-collar job could make about as much as a major league ballplayer, without the necessity of finding a different profession after age 30.


Richie Ashburn and Hank Greenberg are two examples of players retiring while still productive because they got offers for well paying non-playing baseball jobs.
   64. Brian Posted: April 25, 2014 at 04:23 PM (#4694384)
I grew up in NYC in an area that we later realized was a slum (Never dawned on us that it wasn't the greatest place to grow up). The advantages were:
A few empty lots that weren't worth anything so no one built condos on them like every spare inch in NYC now.
A seemingly endless amount of kids as the Irish were birthing some babies during the boom. There were so many kids you had a "crowd" for about every 2 years. I.E. the 10-11 year olds hung around together and had enough kids to field 2 teams. So did the 12-13 year olds, etc.
Small, crappy apartments that no one wanted to sit around in when you could be outside playing.

We played two different kinds of stickball: One bounce with a broomstick and Pensy Pinky or Spaldeen and against a wall with a drawn strike zone, a real bat and either a spongeball, tennis ball or rubber ball (PP or Spaldeen), whatever we could find.
We played stoopball, where you threw a rubber ball of the stairs (the stoop) and there were markers across the street for how far was a single, double, triple or HR. If you threw a grounder the infielder could field it and throw to the stoop. If he hit the designated step it was a dp. Outfielders could catch the fly balls.
We played full field games of "baseball" with whatever ball we could find, either a hardball or a spongeball. Always lob pitch because we didn't have catchers equipment.
We'd also play softball with underhand pitching if that was the only ball we had.
We played hours of "running bases." Two kids played catch between two bases (not real bases, usually a flattend piece of cardboard) and the rest had to make a mad dash from one base to another. Get tagged three times and you were eliminated.
The only wiffle ball we ever played was when the City opened the Public School up in the Summer and had softball size wiffle ball leagues in the gym. Lots of fun.
If by some unbelievable chance you were alone for a few minutes you threw a ball against the strike zone on the wall until other kids came out to play.

It only took 2 kids to play wallball style stickball and we played 20 or so kids for full field. We became pretty good baseball players and loved baseball pretty uniformly above all other sports. We also played basketball and roller hockey but football was confined to touch in the street and only was played for a month or two in the fall during the day. Baseball was king.
   65. bjhanke Posted: April 25, 2014 at 04:24 PM (#4694387)
I can contribute something small (sample size of one) to the issue of farm boys in the old days and baseball. My grandfather, who was born in the 1800s, was a farm boy. When he completed 8th grade, his father said, essentially, that it was time for Granddad to give up this schooling foolishness and get started using his now more or less adult body in farm work to support the family. Granddad refused, and announced his intention to go through schooling all the way to a Ph. D., whereupon his father disinherited and disowned him and sent him out into the world with instructions to NEVER come back to the family farm. Granddad put himself through high school by teaching grade school (which you could do at the time with an 8th grade education) and put himself through college teaching high school, which you could do at the time with a high school diploma. But teaching means that you have no paycheck in the summer. So Granddad would find a prosperous farmer and, in return for room and board, do things like chop the cords of wood that the farm would need in the winter (a cord is a LOT of wood).

But on Sundays, Granddad pitched baseball. It was for the town team near to the farm he was summering on, but he had an arm and town teams paid their pitchers at least a little for the Sunday game and Granddad's value system was based entirely on making money. Well, once a year or so, the town team would save up some money and pay a MLB team or a strong black team or maybe just a good minor league team to come in for an exhibition. So my Granddad, the professional school teacher / economist, pitched against MLB hitting (which, according to Granddad, absolutely annihilated him). If he had had any real talent, organized baseball had several chances to see that. The point to remember is that my Granddad was a school teacher by profession at the time, not a full-time farmer. He had no serious interest in playing ball, compared to getting an education, and was anything but someone who played ball all his childhood. But still, he was able to get good enough at baseball that he could get paid a little for playing it, in spite of having no intention of ever trying to play ball for a living. And if he had had talent, organized baseball would have had chances to see that. In short, it was not necessary to play thousands of hours of ball as a kid in the early days. You could get to the majors without it. - Brock Hanke
   66. Ron J2 Posted: April 25, 2014 at 05:08 PM (#4694440)
#30 I had no problem gamifying it. Throw the ball low and hard and treat it like a grounder to short. Softer (but low) and try to pick the ball up one-handed and make the play like a 3rd-baseman. You can stand a little closer for line drives. Pop ups and fly balls require an outdoor wall but there was one available.
   67. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4694444)
I am proud of my Sitzfleisch, because I really like NFL games live, and I love opera (it's festival season now in Ft Worth).


What are they doing this year, fatass?
   68. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4694446)
I remember playing two-man baseball with a friend when I was a kid. You had a pitcher, a hitter and "ghost runners." Smack a double, call "ghost runner on second" and trot back to the "plate." Then you got to argue whether the ghost runner scored on a resulting single.


Everyone knows ghost runner don't take extra bases, you fink.
   69. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 05:15 PM (#4694452)
In high school we'd get a pretty good game of stickball going with 3-5 people.

We'd played on the tennis practice wall. Painted a strike zone on the wall. Used a tennis ball and sticks (of varying type). There was one batter, a pitcher and 1-3 fielders. Ghost runners. Each person was their own team.
   70. Steve Treder Posted: April 25, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4694467)
Not sure how accurate the old picture of a couple dozen unattended kids playing dawn to dusk in the local vacant lot ever was.

I lived it. It was as accurate as can be.

If that indeed is how it was, it sure isn't like that now.

That is extremely true.
   71. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: April 25, 2014 at 05:52 PM (#4694493)
I remember playing two-man baseball with a friend when I was a kid. You had a pitcher, a hitter and "ghost runners." Smack a double, call "ghost runner on second" and trot back to the "plate." Then you got to argue whether the ghost runner scored on a resulting single.


Me and five other kids in my fifth-grade class (including a girl!) formed a kickball "league" of three teams. You were out if you were hit by the ball while running between bases, or "pitcher's hand" (the pitcher got to ball before you could run to first). Games were six innings, or if recess ended early, whatever the score was after the last completed inning. We kept stats and everything. (And, yes, the girl was the MVP.)

Everyone knows ghost runner don't take extra bases, you fink.


Ghost runners could advance an extra base if there were two outs, and a ghost on third automatically scored on a flyout. (For ten-year-olds, we knew the rules of baseball pretty well.)
   72. Walt Davis Posted: April 25, 2014 at 06:15 PM (#4694504)
I used to make the same mistake so I sympathize, but looking at the growing US population is not the right way to go about it. The composition of the US population (and most other Western countries at least) has changed rather dramatically over the decades and skews much older.

In 1940 there were about 10 M US residents aged 16-19.
In 1950 that number was down to 8.5 M
By 1960, things are a bit back to normal and it's at 10.7 M
By 1970, the baby boom is flowing through and there were 15.3 M
In 1978 we have the estimated peak at 17.3 M (this is my generation)
By 1990, that number is down to 14.5 M. We are currently seeing the very end of this generation of players.
In 1992 we have the recent trough of 13.8 M
In 2000, it was at 16.2
In 2009, it's estimated at 17.9, a new peak
In 2010, it was down a bit, last year in the table I'm looking at.

So in 1960 the pool from which emerging talent was to be drawn was the same size as 1940. Of course if not for historical events, maybe they would have expanded in the 40s -- there was a MASSIVE amount of minor-league ball in that era -- and of course you could trace "expansion" really to move out west which seemed at least a few years later than it should have been.

Anyway, with the baby boom kids coming through and beginning to draw more talent from Latin America, it seems likely that the talent level of the 60s and 70s remained at least as high and probably higher.

But, at least in terms of US talent, the expansion of the 90s probably did dilute things. The NUMBER of 16-19 year olds had fallen back to mid-60s levels. There was a baby boomlet on the way but still as of 2010 the number of 16-19 is the same as in 1978 but there are 4 more teams. So even if the production process for young baseball talent (competition from other sports, etc.) remained the same, we would be getting the same number of new players but spreading them across more teams.

This should partly explain the expansion into Latin and Asian labor markets. The number of "qualified" US kids is probably at best the same but the available slots have increased.

Anyway, the main point is that although the US population has increased substantially over the last 40 years (by 50% from 1970-2010) and that growth has been constant, the young population has not increased at all really (about 14% from 1970-2010) and actually declined for a good chunk of that time -- from 1984-1996, it was below 1970 levels; it has only just returned to 1978 levels.

Based on these data, it should remain pretty steady. The report I'm using gives number of 0-4 and 5-15 and those numbers have been very, very steady over the last decade.

On the other hand, let's not overstate things. We're still talking about 1200 players on 40 man rosters being drawn from a US population of (at its nadir) 13+ M and LA and Asia. In any given 4 year cohort we might expect, what, 8 HoFers and maybe another 22 stars. Reduce that by labor pool by 20% and you lose 1.5 "true" HoFers and 4 stars -- not exactly a tragedy.

By the way, Barry Bonds turned 16 in 1980, a near-peak year. Trout turned 16 in 2007 and was still in the 16-19 group at its new peak in 2009. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that all-time great players were produced by all-time large cohorts. (Or maybe we should since they'd be competing against a more talented bunch, all else equal.)
   73. odds are meatwad is drunk Posted: April 25, 2014 at 06:29 PM (#4694515)
This reminds me of calvin and hobbes where the ghost runners and fielders get into a ghost brawl.
   74. Booey Posted: April 25, 2014 at 08:40 PM (#4694549)
This reminds me of calvin and hobbes where the ghost runners and fielders get into a ghost brawl.

I thought the exact same thing! If someone who's more computer saavy than I (and that's pretty much everyone) could find and post that comic, I would be very appreciative.

The comic pretty much explains perfectly why the ghost runners rule never worked too well with my brothers and I...
   75. cardsfanboy Posted: April 25, 2014 at 08:50 PM (#4694551)
I thought the exact same thing! If someone who's more computer saavy than I (and that's pretty much everyone) could find and post that comic, I would be very appreciative.

The comic pretty much explains perfectly why the ghost runners rule never worked too well with my brothers and I...


Here you go

And here is the Calvin and Hobbes search engine
   76. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 25, 2014 at 08:54 PM (#4694552)
Ghost runners could advance an extra base if there were two outs, and a ghost on third automatically scored on a flyout.


Did you get to hit the ball off a tee too, Nancy?
   77. KingKaufman Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:08 PM (#4694610)
It's not wrong to say that a) the talent level right now is as good as its ever been, and b) expansion has made the talent level worse than it would have been without expansion. Those aren't mutually exclusive.


But that's never the argument. The b) part of the argument is "Expansion has made the talent level worse *than it was before expansion.* The Kiner quote represents it well: "“The quality of baseball was at an all-time high after World War II."

Watching five minutes of a "classic" broadcast of a game from the '50s reveals this statement to be nonsense. You can just eyeball that the players back then were playing a completely different, much lesser game than is being played now. Most of the players in the postwar period, magically transported to today, would be overwhelmed in Double A.
   78. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:28 PM (#4694616)
But that's never the argument. The b) part of the argument is "Expansion has made the talent level worse *than it was before expansion.* The Kiner quote represents it well: "“The quality of baseball was at an all-time high after World War II."

Watching five minutes of a "classic" broadcast of a game from the '50s reveals this statement to be nonsense. You can just eyeball that the players back then were playing a completely different, much lesser game than is being played now. Most of the players in the postwar period, magically transported to today, would be overwhelmed in Double A.


That Double A part is an exaggeration, but I doubt if anywhere near half of the AL players of the 50's could find spots on a Major League roster today. As a group they were too small, too slow, not enough power, and the pitching depth and specialization was nowhere near as great. Both first hand memories of that era and many videos reinforce that thought in spades. Obviously there were plenty of individual exceptions, but the second division teams would be lucky to have half a dozen players at most who could compete in today's game.

Christ, that Kansas City pitcher (Yordano Ventura) who completely shut down the Orioles tonight was throwing up to 98 and 99 the whole game, and has reached as much as 102.9. You couldn't find a single pitcher in the entire postwar decade who could bring it over 95 or 96, and even pitchers at 95 were few and far between, but today's game probably has half a dozen pitchers like that on every roster.
   79. Walt Davis Posted: April 26, 2014 at 02:04 AM (#4694646)
Obviously the talent level "drops" the second after expansion. But that's a worthless point. Equally obviously, all else equal, if you had to cram today's players onto 16 25-man rosters rather than 30, the talent level would "rise." That's a worthless point and a thoroughly unrealistic counter-factual.

As King notes, it's a question of whether expansion (and competition from other sports, etc.) has had a lasting, long-term effect on the "quality" of play.

The expansion of the 60s probably did have a fairly long-term effect but, by the 70s, the young US population was up over 50% while you had 50% more teams so the amount of new talent available was (all else equal) right in line with expansion, probably even ahead enough such that the move to 26 teams was quickly absorbed.

What I don't think anybody really foresaw was that the number of young people in the US would remain steady and even drop. The 90s expansion came in a period when the US youth cohort had been smaller than it had been in ages -- the talent in ML at the time may have been better than ever but the US supply line was running low. The question is whether the expansion into Latin America and eventually Asia was enough to offset that. I would guess probably not quite because it was a little slow. But it probably has by now and the US youth cohort is back up to peak levels so we may see a huge wave of talent coming in throughout the 2010s, presumably started by Trout, Harper, Machado, etc.

Based on the numbers above, in terms of the number of highly talented players, the peak was probably around 1990. The big cohorts of the 70s were coming to the end of their careers and pretty much the entire 2014 HoF ballot (the peak cohorts of the late 70s and early 80s) was starting their careers or in their prime. Some batters with at least 400 PA in 1990: Rickey, Bonds, Ripken, Sandberg, Trammell, Strawberry, Mac, Larkin, Edgar, Canseco, McGriff, Griffey, Murray, Fisk, Palmeiro, Brett, Whitaker, Jack & Will Clark, Ozzie, Bo, Alomar, Walker, Eric Davis, Molitor, Boggs, Sheffield, Randolph, Gwynn, Biggio, Raines, Puckett, Yount, Ventura, Dawson, Olerud, Baines, Parker, Dw Evans, Murphy, Winfield, Sosa, P Guerrero, Mattingly. Frank Thomas had 240 PA.

To clarify, "cohort" is "aged 16-19 cohort" not birth cohort. Brett was in that age range from 69-72; Yount from 71-74. Those were very big cohorts, peaking in 78. Guys like Thomas (16 in 1984) were coming from smaller cohorts but they were still substantially larger than those of the 50s and early 60s.

Anyway, I have little doubt that since 1970 or so, we have seen many more talented players in MLB (without even timelining). Whether the number per team has gone up or down or stayed the same I can't say. Still, for every player with "true HoF talent"* in, say, 1950 MLB, I bet we're seeing two today.

None of them are playing for the Cubs of course.

* In case it's not obvious what I mean, Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry had "true HoF talent" regardless of how their careers turned out. Possibly somebody like Tony Perez did not have it but made the HoF anyway. In case my timelining point isn't obvious, what I mean is if you take Ernie Banks in 1955 (age 24) and transport him to 2014, he might well struggle (#78); if you take Banks at birth and transport him to 1990, he'd be crushing the ball in 2014. My point is somewhere out in MLB right now there are two Ernie Banks. (Granted, they're hiding.)
   80. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: April 26, 2014 at 02:24 AM (#4694648)
My point is somewhere out in MLB right now there are two Ernie Banks.

Let's play four!
   81. Booey Posted: April 26, 2014 at 03:02 AM (#4694650)
#75 - Thanks cfb!

Calvin and Hobbes - still awesome 25 years later.
   82. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 26, 2014 at 08:23 AM (#4694656)
NFL and baseball games are both far too long and for the same reason, they have both diluted their product with too many commercials.
No. That's true of football, but not baseball. Baseball is too long, but it's not because of commercials; it's the pace of the game. Pictures take too long between pitches, aided and abetted by batters who step out/call for time. And worsened by managers who make three mid-inning pitching changes during a rally.

It's a testament to baseball that it's a sport you can watch while you are doing other things, but it's also an indictment.
Baseball has always been a sport made for radio. You can 'watch' while doing other things because baseball is an audio sport.
   83. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 26, 2014 at 08:26 AM (#4694657)
So in 1960 the pool from which emerging talent was to be drawn was the same size as 1940.
Uh, Jackie Robinson says hello.
   84. DL from MN Posted: April 26, 2014 at 08:52 AM (#4694665)
Pictures take too long between pitches, aided and abetted by batters who step out/call for time.


Is there a better time to take selfies for their Instagram account?
   85. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: April 26, 2014 at 08:59 AM (#4694667)
Ghost runners could advance an extra base if there were two outs, and a ghost on third automatically scored on a flyout.

Did you get to hit the ball off a tee too, Nancy?


I told you the best player in the league was a girl. And her name was Lou Ann, not Nancy. (She was constantly yelling at her teammate, calling him names if he didn't play well enough to suit her. She probably wound up marrying the poor b@stard.)

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that all-time great players were produced by all-time large cohorts.

As we say in the insurance business, it's the Law of Large Numbers.
   86. Bhaakon Posted: April 26, 2014 at 11:43 PM (#4695104)
So in 1960 the pool from which emerging talent was to be drawn was the same size as 1940.

Uh, Jackie Robinson says hello.


This got me thinking: How disruptive was the military draft, and the expansion of the military in general, between 1940 and 1960? There were less than half a million active service in 1940, which grew to 2.5M by 1960 (with spikes during active conflicts). That's a lot of healthy 18-25 year old males being drained from the talent pool.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Phil Birnbaum
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - November 2014
(918 - 9:49pm, Nov 21)
Last: Paul D(uda)

NewsblogPablo Sandoval’s Brother: Red Sox Showed ‘First Class’ Attentiveness | Boston Red Sox | NESN.com
(15 - 9:45pm, Nov 21)
Last: madvillain

NewsblogESPN Suspends Keith Law From Twitter For Defending Evolution
(6 - 9:41pm, Nov 21)
Last: frannyzoo

NewsblogRunning list of 2014 40-man roster additions | MiLB.com News | The Official Site of Minor League Baseball
(37 - 9:29pm, Nov 21)
Last: The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-21-2014
(43 - 9:27pm, Nov 21)
Last: Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy

NewsblogOTP Politics November 2014: Mets Deny Bias in Ticket Official’s Firing
(4097 - 9:24pm, Nov 21)
Last: bobm

NewsblogJosh Lueke and the Ways of Anger
(5 - 9:06pm, Nov 21)
Last: Matt Welch

NewsblogMatthews: Cashman sleeps on the street, says all is quiet on the free-agent front
(2 - 8:59pm, Nov 21)
Last: Jim Wisinski

NewsblogFemale Sportswriter Asks: 'Why Are All My Twitter Followers Men?' | ThinkProgress
(110 - 8:42pm, Nov 21)
Last: tfbg9

NewsblogMLB Transaction Trees «
(22 - 8:40pm, Nov 21)
Last: The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott)

NewsblogOT:  Soccer (the Round, True Football), November 2014
(367 - 8:17pm, Nov 21)
Last: frannyzoo

NewsblogReds at least considering trading big names, reducing payroll | FOX Sports
(8 - 6:41pm, Nov 21)
Last: smileyy

NewsblogMLB to tweak replay system, but managers’ challenges will stay | New York Post
(18 - 6:30pm, Nov 21)
Last: Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

NewsblogExamining our assumptions about Pablo Sandoval
(31 - 6:26pm, Nov 21)
Last: tfbg9

NewsblogDodgers Acquire Joel Peralta – MLB Trade Rumors
(30 - 6:17pm, Nov 21)
Last: zachtoma

Page rendered in 0.9454 seconds
52 querie(s) executed