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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bo Jackson to Russell Wilson: Stick to football

An All-Star in both baseball and football, Jackson said his advice for Wilson is the same he offers to kids who attend his Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports complex in Lockport, Illinois.

“Stick to what got (Wilson) in the headlines, not baseball,” Jackson said. “Twenty-five or 30 years ago when I did it, I’m not trying to say anything negative about other athletes, but the talent pool wasn’t that deep. In this day in age, with all the high-tech training, computer-engineered workouts and the proper food and diet, if you try to concentrate on two sports, I guarantee you’re going to ride the bench in both because the talent is that deep. Stick to whatever sport you’re comfortable with and let everything else go.”

...But Jackson, who turned 51 in November, doubts that he’d be able to have the opportunity to do both now. That’s why he thinks Wilson, a Rule 5 pick by the Rangers, should focus on football.

“I probably couldn’t, no,” Jackson said. “Just because the talent pool is that deep now. If my kids want to do both sports – ‘No. No. No.’ … If you try to do both you’re going to be riding the bench in both. You’ll never get to that level that you want to get to if you split your time between multiple sports.”

Thanks to Mike.

Repoz Posted: March 19, 2014 at 05:52 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 19, 2014 at 07:55 AM (#4673748)
I guarantee you’re going to ride the bench in both because t?h?e? ?t?a?l?e?n?t? ?i?s? ?t?h?a?t? ?d?e?e?p? I was the best athlete the world has ever seen.


Edit: so my attempt at strikethrough code didn't work......
   2. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: March 19, 2014 at 08:52 AM (#4673784)
Russell Wilson to Bo Jackson: Thanks, genius. I hadn't figured that out.
   3. SouthSideRyan Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:05 AM (#4673795)
Refreshing to see an actual "back in my day players weren't for ####\"
   4. John Northey Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:11 AM (#4673799)
My thoughts exactly - amazing for a player to admit that the talent level has only increased since they retired. The old stories about Ty Cobb saying how he'd hit about 270 if he was playing, then his saying 'well I am 73' is how many players think - that the talent has only gone down and that they could still compete if they wanted to.
   5. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:19 AM (#4673809)
My thoughts exactly - amazing for a player to admit that the talent level has only increased since they retired. The old stories about Ty Cobb saying how he'd hit about 270 if he was playing, then his saying 'well I am 73' is how many players think - that the talent has only gone down and that they could still compete if they wanted to.


It depends on the sport. Baseball has undergone significant changes in equipment and roster construction, it isn't the same game it was even 50 years ago. The talent level in boxing is far, far lower than it was 100 years ago.
   6. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:20 AM (#4673810)
I was going to post the same thing as [3].
   7. Lassus Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:28 AM (#4673816)
The talent level in boxing is far, far lower than it was 100 years ago.

I think this would be directly related to the interest level in the sport. Way, WAY fewer people feel like being punched in the face for a living is a good idea lately.
   8. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:39 AM (#4673823)
I think this would be directly related to the interest level in the sport.


Oh absolutely. But this was true even in the 1990s, when the sport was still thriving (even non-fans knew the names of Tyson, Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Foreman, The Guy From the Rocky Movie, etc., and Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, JC Chavez, et al were still headlining major cards). There were more registered professional boxers in the state of New York in 1927 than there are in North America today. The equipment and rules changes of the last 50 years have further decreased the value of skill and endurance in building a championship fighter.

Of course plenty of people feel like getting punched in the face is a good living, as evidenced by the UFC. This weekend's Lawler vs. Hendricks fight was thrilling, but just the sort of slugfest that create another generation of compromised retired fighters. Hard do jiu-jitsu wrestler no let takedown, is sad my fren.
   9. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:53 AM (#4673831)
Refreshing to see an actual "back in my day players weren't for ####\"

IMO that comment has just elevated Bo Jackson into the upper 1% level of IQ among all retired athletes. Boxing aside, anyone who doubts his conclusions about the talent pool is delusional, and if you took it back a generation or two beyond the 1980's and 1990'ss, his point can be multiplied.

   10. AROM Posted: March 19, 2014 at 10:18 AM (#4673856)
Why would a Bo Jackson clone have more trouble in baseball today than he did in 1989?

The only argument I can see is that the quality of pitching has improved to the point where his lack of plate discipline would be even more of a problem than it was, and he just couldn't make enough contact to hold a job.

There aren't any players today who can run as fast, hit the ball farther, and throw as well as Bo could. Mike Trout might be a good match on the first two, but can't throw as well. Harper might match his hitting and throwing, but while fast does not have Bo speed.
   11. AROM Posted: March 19, 2014 at 10:25 AM (#4673863)
Yeah, that's probably it. He was striking out 33% of the time in 1989. Since then, AL pitchers have gone from 5.5 K/9 to 7.7.

If Bo's strikeout increase is proportional to the league, and he maintains his actual power rates and .320 BABIP, then he'd struggle to hit .200.
   12. GuyM Posted: March 19, 2014 at 10:32 AM (#4673870)
10/11: I think that's right. The other way to look at it is that Bo's strength, which was greater than nearly every other MLB player, allowed him to keep a job in baseball despite his limited hitting skills. That athletic advantage would be much smaller today. In 1989, only two players with at least 500 PAs outweighed Bo at 220 lbs (Dave Parker and Gallaraga). Last year 32 players weighed more than 220. In 1989 there were only 7 guys over 210; last year it was 63. Today's MLB players are simply a lot bigger and stronger.
   13. tshipman Posted: March 19, 2014 at 10:41 AM (#4673881)
I think what this thread is trying to say is BO KNOWS athletic ability levels in sports.
   14. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 19, 2014 at 10:43 AM (#4673887)
And there's also the little matter that Russell Wilson hasn't demonstrated any real baseball talent beyond the college level. In his brief forays into the minors in 2010 and 2011 he did done absolutely nothing that would convince anyone otherwise.
   15. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: March 19, 2014 at 11:00 AM (#4673904)
Yeah, Wilson's two real baseball skills appear to be drawing walks and playing good defense at second base. There's not a lot of demand for slick-fielding 25-year-old middle infielders who have never hit higher than .230 or played above the Sally League.

And I could be wrong about him, but one thing that strikes me about Wilson as a football player is that he has an excellent grasp on what he can and can't accomplish, and never tries to do more than is reasonable. If that's how he approaches other things, he'll know as well as we do that he isn't a MLB ballplayer, and that he'd be crazy to put his football career in limbo to try.
   16. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: March 19, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4673907)
TShip wins @13. Close it down.
   17. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: March 19, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4673922)
As Bill James has pointed out, there is a hard limit on how fast the talent pool can be improving, and that has to do with the longevity of players.

To take one example, Julio Franco was four years _older_ than Bo Jackson, and yet he was still playing as a regular in 1997, and continued in MLB until 2007. If a 24-year-old star in 1985 would be riding the bench today (as a 24-year-old), then it is difficult to see how Franco could still play (even part-time) at 48.

ETA: Put another way: Franco had an OPS+ of 99 in 1985 at 26 years, and an OPS+ of 107 in 2005 at 46 years. How much could pitching have really improved over those two decades?
   18. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: March 19, 2014 at 11:26 AM (#4673925)
As Bill James has pointed out, there is a hard limit on how fast the talent pool can be improving, and that has to do with the longevity of players.


Player longevity seems to have taken a bit of a hit around 2003.
   19. AROM Posted: March 19, 2014 at 11:37 AM (#4673931)
It doesn't have to be a night and day thing. It could be that a 24 year old star in 1985 would be a non-star, but still an above average player. And it's possible that Bo's specific skill set would suffer more than others in today's game - considering the biggest change is the rise in strikeouts.

If Tony Gwynn came up today, I wouldn't expect his stats to be much different. Nobody could strike him out, and he's got the skill to adjust any time the fielders try to play him differently. He could be the exact same player though, and have OPS+ numbers that are less than what he did because you've got more power hitters driving up the league averages.

In 1989, only two players with at least 500 PAs outweighed Bo at 220 lbs (Dave Parker and Gallaraga). Last year 32 players weighed more than 220. In 1989 there were only 7 guys over 210; last year it was 63. Today's MLB players are simply a lot bigger and stronger.


My first thought was what silly weight is Canseco listed at? But he's probably accurate at 240, just didn't play a lot in 1989 due to injury. In any case, there certainly are more big guys today.
   20. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: March 19, 2014 at 11:41 AM (#4673934)
Bo plays the modern Tecmo and is amazed at how good the players are.
   21. Curse of the Andino Posted: March 19, 2014 at 12:45 PM (#4673988)
If Tony Gwynn came up today, I wouldn't expect his stats to be much different. Nobody could strike him out, and he's got the skill to adjust any time the fielders try to play him differently. He could be the exact same player though, and have OPS+ numbers that are less than what he did because you've got more power hitters driving up the league averages.


I agree with the principle expressed, but last year, only three players in the NL cracked the 30 HR mark. 1987, Gwynn's second-best offensive year by OPS+, 8 guys in the NL did. And there were fewer teams in '87.

I only bring this up 'cuz, watching mostly AL ball in general (and Chris Davis in particular), I assumed somebody in the NL must've cranked out 40 HR last year...
   22. AROM Posted: March 19, 2014 at 01:10 PM (#4674003)
87 was a real outlier though. 1.06 HR/game, highest in MLB history to that point. 1986 was .91, 1988 was .76. The 1987 HR level was not topped until 1996.
   23. AROM Posted: March 19, 2014 at 01:13 PM (#4674004)
You're right though that very recent offensive levels are back down, MLB OBP/SLG from 2010-2013 is about the same as it was from 1982-86.
   24. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: March 19, 2014 at 01:39 PM (#4674024)
It doesn't have to be a night and day thing. It could be that a 24 year old star in 1985 would be a non-star, but still an above average player. And it's possible that Bo's specific skill set would suffer more than others in today's game - considering the biggest change is the rise in strikeouts.


It's also interesting that Bo had a grand total of 212 PAs before his call up. He was drafted in '86, went straight to AA and then was called up by the end of the season.

Even Yasiel Puig had more (not by much) PAs spread across 2 seasons than Bo did and he played in fairly decent "pro" league prior to his signing.

A Bo drafted in 2013 probably wouldn't have been put in AA after being drafted or called up in the same year.* I'm not sure that GMs are any smarter now, but they are far wiser about the implications of service time than they were in the 80s (or at least it seems that way).

* That said, we only know that Bo was drafted and called up in the same year and we can only analyze based on what we know
   25. AROM Posted: March 19, 2014 at 01:50 PM (#4674035)
Bo's fast track to the majors didn't have anything to do with unwise decisions about service time. It was about convincing a guy with exceptionally rare athletic skills to give this baseball thing a try.

If they had told him he'd be riding the buses and making $500 a month (or whatever it was back then) for 3 years until they were convinced his baseball skills were developed, then Bo Jackson would only be known as a running back.
   26. Curse of the Andino Posted: March 19, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4674070)
87 was a real outlier though. 1.06 HR/game, highest in MLB history to that point. 1986 was .91, 1988 was .76. The 1987 HR level was not topped until 1996.


Yeah, it was the year I became a fan and read my first Abstract. I still remember James' review of San Diego--"Tony Gwynn is Gweat; The Padres are Awful...."

'87 was Gwynn's age 27 year, and he led the league in WAR. Too bad they didn't give out MVP awards to guys on last-place teams back then. (James in '87 wanted to give the award to Ozzie Smith, I think.)

'87 was such a strange year. I can remember "Eric Davis! New Willie Mays!" all over the sports news for the first two months of the year, then it was the amazing season Jack Clark was having, then he got hurt too much and... Dawson. All this as the Orioles were falling off a cliff by the end of the year.
   27. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: March 19, 2014 at 02:34 PM (#4674075)
Bo's fast track to the majors didn't have anything to do with unwise decisions about service time. It was about convincing a guy with exceptionally rare athletic skills to give this baseball thing a try.

If they had told him he'd be riding the buses and making $500 a month (or whatever it was back then) for 3 years until they were convinced his baseball skills were developed, then Bo Jackson would only be known as a running back.


I sorta get that, but in recent history, the only fellas who have made the show after they have been drafted are relievers (Paco Rodriguez comes to mind). I get that the Royals might have made concessions, but I doubt those same concessions would be made today.
   28. AROM Posted: March 19, 2014 at 02:56 PM (#4674090)
It's not a perfect comp, as the guy was signed out of Cuba instead of drafted, but Yasiel Puig made the majors last year after a total of 262 minor league PA (over parts of 2 seasons). Dodgers had little incentive, based on service time, to keep him in the minors because of the contract he signed.

If Russell Wilson had as much baseball talent that Bo had, and your choices were to fast track him to MLB or else he'd stay in football, I have no doubt the same concessions would be made.
   29. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 19, 2014 at 03:57 PM (#4674114)
I understand what Bo is saying, but "talent pool" is probably the wrong way to phrase it. What he's really saying is that the amount of specialization and dedication required to be successful at a sport today would preclude an athlete from being successful at more than one.

I'm not sure that's true, but if it's true anywhere it's probably in baseball and at the QB position, where specialization is very high, and less so at positions where the premium is on raw athleticism.

I don't think player longevity really disproves Bo's point, because those older players are just as specialized and have access to the same improvement in training and nutrition that younger players have. Julio Franco, who admitted he did not take great care of himself in his younger days, was known for his strict diet and workout regimen later in his career. He wasn't trying to play two sports professionally.
   30. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: March 19, 2014 at 04:34 PM (#4674135)
Why would a Bo Jackson clone have more trouble in baseball today than he did in 1989?

I suspect Bo would be roughly the same fun to watch, if a little over rated player today as he was. Big, strong and fast plays pretty well in today's game.
   31. billyshears Posted: March 19, 2014 at 07:09 PM (#4674208)
As Bill James has pointed out, there is a hard limit on how fast the talent pool can be improving, and that has to do with the longevity of players.

To take one example, Julio Franco was four years _older_ than Bo Jackson, and yet he was still playing as a regular in 1997, and continued in MLB until 2007. If a 24-year-old star in 1985 would be riding the bench today (as a 24-year-old), then it is difficult to see how Franco could still play (even part-time) at 48.

ETA: Put another way: Franco had an OPS+ of 99 in 1985 at 26 years, and an OPS+ of 107 in 2005 at 46 years. How much could pitching have really improved over those two decades?


I don't think this is necessarily the right way to look at the issue. A 48 year old Julio Franco in 2007 can take advantage of the the improved training regimens in 2007. Maybe a 48-year old Julio Franco who was a part-time player in 2007 would be a star in 1985.

Of course, there is still the question of the extent to which the expansion in the talent pool leads to an increase in quality of player (rather than improved training regimens allowing all players to be the best versions of themselves), but I'm not sure that impact is all that material over the lifespan of any given player (and in particular, I don't think it's all that material from 1985 to 2007), which I guess is sort of Bill's point.
   32. Walt Davis Posted: March 19, 2014 at 07:11 PM (#4674210)
Of course in his aged years, Franco was riding the bench (never more than 383 PA after age 38) -- still amazing but not necessarily contradictory to Bo's claim.

To steal a line from Steve Treder (that he may have stolen from elsewhere), Franco was one of those guys you could haul out of bed at 3am, stick a bat in his hand and he'd hit a line drive somewhere. Dude was putting up the same BA at 40 as he was in his prime. Moises Alou was like that too -- guy hit 341/392/524 at 40 and still a BA of 347 in his last season and I bet could still hit 300 (with a 300 SLG).

Player longevity seems to have taken a bit of a hit around 2003.

Nope. 2007 or so maybe.

Ages 39+:

1982-86: 38 seasons by 18 players (26 team league) -- Rose and Perez with 5 each. 10 with 500+, 18 with 300+, 5 < 100.
1998-02: 46 seasons by 22 players (30 team league) -- Rickey with 5. 8 with 500+, 23 with 300+, 6 < 100.
2004-08: 63 seasons by 33 players (30 team league) -- Finley/Franco/Bonds with 4. 15 with 500+, 33 with 300+, 14 < 100.
2009-13: 46 seasons by 28 players (30 team league) -- Vizquel/Giambi with 4. 3 with 500+, 13 with 300+, 9 < 100.

I'm not sure where the myth of steroids and longevity came from but it doesn't really hold up even if we just look at the "obvious" suspects. Sure, Bonds and Clemens lasted forever and put up pretty incredible numbers. But McGwire and Sosa were done early. Palmeiro only lasted until 40 (Murray played until 41, Perez until 44). Kevin Brown until 40. Meanwhile Moyer, Vizquel, Wells, Rogers kept plugging away (not to mention Rickey and Franco but I assume the anti-roiders put them in the wink-wink category).

The best case for such a link is that the aging roiders of the early 00s either kept using after 2003 or they were able to run on the fumes of their past steroid use for a couple of extra years.

By the way 89-93 looks a lot like 82-86 and 98-02. It's interesting the 09-13 looks like the worst -- number of seasons is in line but number of players is higher and number of 500/300 seasons is much lower. No greenies or just statistical blip?

(Note, some players overlap between those cutoffs. And feel free to apply your own year cutoffs.)

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