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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Schoenfield: There will never be another Mickey Mantle

Agreed. Or as my old NYC swanky-jernted veteran barmaid used to tell me…“Mickey Mantle was handsomest man she ever saw…and the ugliest man she ever met.”

There will never be another Mickey Mantle. That’s what the Baseball Writers are protecting.

To be fair, they’re not the only ones. Baseball-Reference.com has something called the Fan EloRater, where readers can vote on player comparisons. The top 15 hitters are Ruth, Mays, Wagner, Speaker, Williams, Cobb, Aaron, Hornsby, Musial, Gehrig, Mantle, Collins, Lajoie, Kaline and Foxx.

Not a single player who began his career after 1954. Not a single player who played a game in the ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s or ‘10s. Nine of 15 who never played against a black player. The top five pitchers all played before World War II, and four of those pitched in the dead-ball era. At least Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson crack the top 15.

This is how we view baseball. The greats of yesteryear are untouchable.

Players today can’t hit home runs as far as Mantle or throw as hard as Feller or pitch like Cy Young. The players were better in the old days. Of course they were.

You can believe that if you want. The stories, after all, do help tie baseball’s present to baseball’s past. Or you can believe this: You can believe that when you see Mike Trout, you’re seeing the ghost of Willie Mays, excepting that Mays is still very much alive, of course. When you watch Justin Verlander, you can see Bob Feller, only with much better control. When Clayton Kershaw pitches, he evokes the dominance of another Dodgers left-hander. Miguel Cabrera is a right-handed Lou Gehrig.

The greats are playing now, just like they played in the ‘30s and the ‘50s and the ‘80s. So create your own stories, your own legends. I remember that game when ...

Repoz Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:11 AM | 124 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, yankees

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   1. TomH Posted: January 15, 2013 at 09:30 AM (#4347330)
FanEloRater suffers from the same problems many fan-based populairty contests do; stuffing the ballot boxes with opinions of those who care more (and may not understand much), in disproportionate numbers. Is there much doubt that if fans voted on the equivalent of the "all century team" today that Jeter would be one of the top 2 shortstops?

Exhibit A: I submit to you the 1999 results of the all century team vote totals for second base.
1. Jackie Robinson, 788,116
2. Rogers Hornsby, 630,761
3. Joe Morgan, 608,660
4. Rod Carew, 430,267
5. Nap Lajoie, 90,402
6. Eddie Collins, 58,836

Let the moaning begin.

   2. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: January 15, 2013 at 09:41 AM (#4347334)
Let the moaning begin.

If you exclude Jackie (as he's getting votes for non-baseball reasons, I'd wager) that's not terrible. I'd go Morgan, Hornsby, Collins, Lajoie myself and, maybe Dihigo ahead of Lajoie if you want to classify him as a 2nd baseman. But for the results of voting from non-baseball geeks, that's pretty good.
   3. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 15, 2013 at 10:23 AM (#4347350)
I agree with Shooty. That's not a bad list. And Robinson is arguably in the top 3 if you give him credit for his years in the military and negro leagues. I'd probably rank them Morgan, Collins, Hornsby, Robinson, Lajoie.
   4. bjhanke Posted: January 15, 2013 at 10:41 AM (#4347356)
I can't read Tom's mind, but I think the point of his list is to show that 1999 voters had largely forgotten about Collins and Lajoie, so the voting skewed heavily towards players who some people could remember seeing, and many more had seen on TV. The difference in votes between Jackie (1st) and Rod Carew (4th) is about 350,000 votes. The difference between Carew and Lajoie (#5) is about 340,000 votes, so Carew/Lajoie is the big dividing line. Eddie Collins has less than 1/10th the votes of Joe Morgan. The most interesting thing to me is that Hornsby's reputation had remained so high that he got votes like the modern guys, not Nap and Eddie. On the broader point, I think that it is generally true that if you let random modern baseball fans vote for all-timers, you'll get a mix of modern guys and a few "inner circle reputations" from the earlier days. The average modern baseball fan has absolutely no idea who Deacon White might have been or why he's going into the Hall of Fame. - Brock Hanke
   5. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 15, 2013 at 11:01 AM (#4347366)
FanEloRater suffers from the same problems many fan-based populairty contests do; stuffing the ballot boxes with opinions of those who care more (and may not understand much), in disproportionate numbers. Is there much doubt that if fans voted on the equivalent of the "all century team" today that Jeter would be one of the top 2 shortstops?

No question that Jeter and Ripken would be voted the top 2. Throw out the 2 platinum-level "icons" Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, and I'd bet there's an almost perfect correlation between the "best" players chosen in any fan poll and the average age of the responders.

And that FanEloRater list isn't much more than the flip side of polls that say that Nolan Ryan was better than Lefty Grove, or that the "best" movies by sheer coincidence all came out within living memory of today's core moviegoing demographic. Most people base their opinions on such a limited range of knowledge that it makes no sense for anyone but a marketer to take polls like these seriously. Which is pretty much what Brock is saying.
   6. TomH Posted: January 15, 2013 at 11:05 AM (#4347367)
right, it's not the ordinal ranking, it is that given the opportunity to vote for the best two second basemen ever, less than 5% of voters picked Eddie Collins.

to the author's other point about Mantgle-era worship: What is the 20th-to-80th percentile age range of the BBWAA HOF voters? Given the 10-yr MINIMUM criterion, I would guess it is 45 to early 60s. Most of those guys didn't grow up reading Bill James. They read summer of 49. Glory of their Times, etc., and Joe Dimaggio was the greatest living player.
   7. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: January 15, 2013 at 11:12 AM (#4347373)
to the author's other point about Mantgle-era worship: What is the 20th-to-80th percentile age range of the BBWAA HOF voters? Given the 10-yr MINIMUM criterion, I would guess it is 45 to early 60s. Most of those guys didn't grow up reading Bill James. They read summer of 49. Glory of their Times, etc., and Joe Dimaggio was the greatest living player.


Which also explains the Jack Morris lovefest from those corners. They're enthralled by two eras of baseball - the heroes of their youths (Mantle, Dimaggio, etc) and the greats of the era they covered. Jack Morris is the last chance for someone from that era to be elected as a starting pitcher, and they know it.
   8. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 15, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4347387)
But the voters still put three players from the teens and twenties in the top six, and no 2b from the 80s or 90s. It's actually amazing that Lajoie got 90,000 votes and that Alomar wasn't in the top five. I don't think fans of other sports would vote the same way. How many basketball fans would put guys from the 50s or 60s in a list of top players all time? How many football fans would put QBs from the 40s, 50s, and 60s in an all time list?

Of course, you could argue that this isn't a bad thing, and that baseball fans simply have a better understanding of the sport's history than fans of other sports.
   9. AROM Posted: January 15, 2013 at 11:46 AM (#4347411)
How many basketball fans would put guys from the 50s or 60s in a list of top players all time?


I think quite a few would put Russell, Chamberlain, Robertson, and West in a greatest player list.

I don't think they'd go back any further than that. Mikan was a dominant player in his own time but viewed more as a pioneer who played a precurser to the modern game. Russell is the first great one who holds up.

Thing is in basketball if you go back about a generation before Russell, I think I could gather a team that could compete with what were considered pro teams right out of my office. I've got a 6'7 center, a 6'5 PF who benches 400, and a pair of 6'3 guys.
   10. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 15, 2013 at 12:03 PM (#4347433)
Question: For anyone in the broad age group of 80 and under, what former Major League players that they would have seen were considered truly "iconic"** pretty much all during their careers, as opposed to only towards the end when their careers began to be fully appreciated? If you use a fairly high bar, I can think of these, in the order of the ML debuts:

Dimaggio
Feller
Williams
Musial
Robinson
Mantle
Mays
Koufax***
Jackson
Bench
Ripken
Clemens
Griffey (a marginal choice due to late career fade)
Maddux
Randy Johnson***
Pedro

And that's about it, in terms of what I'm talking about. There were others who started out on the "icon" path (Eddie Mathews, Robin Roberts, Harmon Killebrew, just to name a few) but slipped below it fairly quickly, to the point where today it's hard to imagine just how "special" they seemed to be in their early 20's.

**I realize that it's very hard to agree on what that means, but Reggie Jackson was threatening Roger Maris's record at the age of 22, and fortified it with his postseason heroics, whereas Hank Aaron, a far greater player, wasn't really appreciated in that way until he was in his late 30's. The same thing applies to Barry Bonds, whose signature skill---home runs by the bushel---wasn't central to his image as a player until 2001. Before that it was mostly statheads who realized how much better he was than Ken Griffey Jr.

***Two exceptions to the "early appreciation" rule, but as soon as they put it all together, they were immediately being compared to the all-time greats.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: January 15, 2013 at 12:20 PM (#4347446)
Tom Seaver. Not Maddux.
Arod and Jeter.

Before that it was mostly statheads who realized how much better he was than Ken Griffey Jr.


There was the three MVPs, tying the record for most ever (til then). He wasn't exactly flying under the radar.
   12. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 15, 2013 at 12:26 PM (#4347450)
Thing is in basketball if you go back about a generation before Russell, I think I could gather a team that could compete with what were considered pro teams right out of my office. I've got a 6'7 center, a 6'5 PF who benches 400, and a pair of 6'3 guys.

True, but isn't that the case in all sports? It's probably far more pronounced in basketball and football because the level of athleticism has changed so much in the last 50 years,l but if you sent a AAA team back to the 20's in a delorean they'd be able to compete with any of the top teams of that era.
   13. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 12:30 PM (#4347456)
But the voters still put three players from the teens and twenties in the top six, and no 2b from the 80s or 90s. It's actually amazing that Lajoie got 90,000 votes and that Alomar wasn't in the top five. I don't think fans of other sports would vote the same way. How many basketball fans would put guys from the 50s or 60s in a list of top players all time? How many football fans would put QBs from the 40s, 50s, and 60s in an all time list?

That is because the ballot contained their names. Fans weren't given a blank ballot and told to vote for the best second basemen they could think of. "Experts" compiled a list of the top 100 players in baseball history and then let the fans vote who among that list they thought were best of their position.
   14. BDC Posted: January 15, 2013 at 12:39 PM (#4347460)
One fan's icon is another one's wouldn't-cross-the-street, but Andy poses an interesting question. I'm 54, so I only saw Mantle on TV when he was fading and I wasn't really much of a scout :) I don't remember Koufax as a player, though he was certainly iconic in the immediate past. Reggie Jackson was the first player I "saw" (again on TV) who very quickly became super-famous. Bench was phenomenal, but I don't know about "icon"; his personality didn't lend itself to that. Nolan Ryan, I obviously read back through a huge and continuing hype, but he was an extremely fast pitcher in his youth, and was setting strikeout records soon thereafter, and always conveyed a certain mystique. Seaver, yes. In latter years, maybe it's just because I wasn't a kid anymore, but I was slow to perceive iconicity among young players. Fernando Valenzuela was a candidate, but of course faded much faster than even Griffey. Mariano Rivera? AROD? Barry Bonds was unremarkable for a couple of years, but then was at the center of conversations soon and for the rest of his career. Ripken, OK. McGwire and Canseco broke in iconic: José became a joke, McGwire faded for a while, came back bigger than ever, and then acquired some tarnish and is busy polishing it away. Oddly enough the guys who do have a chance to be Mantle types – Trout, Harper – are well on track to do it already (thereby prompting stories like TFA).
   15. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 15, 2013 at 12:55 PM (#4347475)
So were those six 2b the only choices available to the voters?
   16. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:03 PM (#4347482)
No, there was a total of 8 second basemen on the ballot. Gehringer and Frisch were also on the ballot.
   17. KJOK Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:05 PM (#4347483)
Of course, you could argue that this isn't a bad thing, and that baseball fans simply have a better understanding of the sport's history than fans of other sports.


This is certainly true. Just ask the most fervent football fan you know to name the top 5 players of the 1950's, or even the top teams of the 1950's, and you're likely to get at most a name or team or two. For football, it's almost like nothing before Super Bowl I even exists. Someone MIGHT remember Jim Brown. And NBA basketball history at most starts with Chamberlain, and for most fans even later than that - Magic, Bird, Jordan....

   18. cmd600 Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:09 PM (#4347485)
if you sent a AAA team back to the 20's in a delorean they'd be able to compete with any of the top teams of that era


I would say more than compete. They'd mop the floor with those old timers.
   19. Greg K Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:22 PM (#4347497)
This is certainly true. Just ask the most fervent football fan you know to name the top 5 players of the 1950's, or even the top teams of the 1950's, and you're likely to get at most a name or team or two. For football, it's almost like nothing before Super Bowl I even exists. Someone MIGHT remember Jim Brown. And NBA basketball history at most starts with Chamberlain, and for most fans even later than that - Magic, Bird, Jordan....

I don't really know other sports well enough to answer this, but is part of it continuity?

Baseball certainly requires a degree of era adjustment, but since about Babe Ruth the game has been static enough that the average fan can conceptualize a comparison between a guy from the 1920s and a modern player. That combined with the added ability to translate stats. Again, there are era adjustments the casual fan probably isn't doing, but he can say to himself "hitting .300 is hitting .300" and only be wrong by degrees.

Whereas in other sports it seems like until recently the game being played was entirely different. To the point where comparing players across eras just isn't something the casual fan can do intelligibly.

EDIT: In other words, the 19th century (which I think a lot of fans just ignore when evaluating players because it seems like an entirely different game) lasted longer in those other sports.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:29 PM (#4347501)
I don't really know other sports well enough to answer this, but is part of it continuity?

Baseball certainly requires a degree of era adjustment, but since about Babe Ruth the game has been static enough that the average fan can conceptualize a comparison between a guy from the 1920s and a modern player. That combined with the added ability to translate stats. Again, there are era adjustments the casual fan probably isn't doing, but he can say to himself "hitting .300 is hitting .300" and only be wrong by degrees.

Whereas in other sports it seems like until recently the game being played was entirely different. To the point where comparing players across eras just isn't something the casual fan can do intelligibly.


I think the size component plays a big role (as well as the fact that other sports feature physical contact where that size comes into direct contact). We know how much size plays a role in the NBA and NFL, with guys getting bigger (and more athletic) all the time.

While the same is true in baseball, it's less so. Short guys or thin guys or fat guys can continue to achieve at very high levels. Thus, you can envision a guy from the 20s competing now a lot easier than it is to envision some 6-7, 210-pound center with limited athleticism matching up with a 7-1, 245-pound guy who can run the floor, or a 240-pound offensive lineman holding off a 310-pound defensive end with speed.

Oh, and we better appreciate the sport's history because we're better fans. That probably goes without saying.
   21. JRVJ Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:30 PM (#4347502)
Many of you may disagree, but I think Mariano Rivera and his career has been treated like an All-Time Immortals.

(Whether that is warranted or whether relievers are all that valuable is not the point. The point is that even though relievers - let alone closers - are a fairly new development in the history of baseball, Mariano is treated as being on a different plane from his peers).
   22. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:33 PM (#4347505)
Tom Seaver. Not Maddux.

That's a grey area. I probably should've included Seaver, and maybe George Brett, but I wouldn't drop Maddux.

Arod and Jeter.

Sure, but I said former players, not those still active like those two and Rivera, Pujols, etc.

And of course Trout and Harper are on track. IMO Harper had the buildup that's been the closest to the one Mantle got in Phoenix in 1951, a total five tool Mr. Natural. Trout's got the baseball kavorkanow, but when he came up he was much more under the radar than Harper.

Before that it was mostly statheads who realized how much better he was than Ken Griffey Jr.

There was the three MVPs, tying the record for most ever (til then). [Bonds] wasn't exactly flying under the radar.


I realize that, but he still wasn't discussed in the same semi-worshipful terms that Griffey was. This isn't about sabermetric value or black ink points or even current opinion. It's about how he was perceived for his entire career, and in terms of full appreciation Bonds was more like Aaron rather than the ones on that list.

--------------------------------------

And Bob, I would've added McGwire, except during those down years in Oakland he wasn't seen as much of anything beyond the latest incarnation of Dave Kingman. With the two noted exceptions, the above list consists of players who were perceived as something transcendent almost as soon as they'd completed their first full season. If I'd gone beyond that, then obviously the list would have been much, much bigger.
   23. NJ in DC (Now with temporary employment!) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:35 PM (#4347508)
Many of you may disagree, but I think Mariano Rivera and his career has been treated like an All-Time Immortals.

I agree with this.
   24. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4347509)
if you sent a AAA team back to the 20's in a delorean they'd be able to compete with any of the top teams of that era


I would say more than compete. They'd mop the floor with those old timers.


I'm having trouble with the degree of timelining it takes for a modern AAA team to mop the floor with the 1927 Yankees.

I'm comfortable with it in basketball or football because of the degree to which the jaw-dropping athleticism of modern players would overwhelm the Mikans or Starrs of the world.
   25. SoSH U at work Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:39 PM (#4347513)
That's a grey area. I probably should've included Seaver, and maybe George Brett, but I wouldn't drop Maddux.


I don't know why Maddux would possibly fit. He was a good pitcher, no doubt, but he won his first Cy in his seventh season (fifth full). He was by no means iconic before that, and probably not until he won Cy No. 3.

Sure, but I said former players, not those still active like those two and Rivera, Pujols, etc.


I can see making a distinction between Harper and Strasburg, who have the makings of icons but must follow up with careers to support the status. But by this point, there's nothing that Jeter and Arod (and Pujols and Rivera) can do to remove themselves from the list.

I realize that, but he still wasn't discussed in the same semi-worshipful terms that Griffey was. This isn't about sabermetric value or black ink points or even current opinion. It's about how he was perceived for his entire career, and in terms of full appreciation Bonds was more like Aaron rather than the ones on that list.


True, to an extent. At the same time, he was the son of a very good player, had a great college career, was expected to be great and was great pretty early. I wasn't really championing him for the list (I could go either way), but I'd say he's a lot closer to belonging than Maddux. He wasn't as pedastaled as Griffey on this list, but few of those guys you named actually were. If Griffey's the standard, then your list is significantly shorter.
   26. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:40 PM (#4347514)
I'm having trouble with the degree of timelining it takes for a modern AAA team to mop the floor with the 1927 Yankees.

Agreed. And to be at all fair, we have to take away the weight training and nutritional supplements from the AAA guys (or give them to the oldsters).
   27. cmd600 Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:42 PM (#4347516)
24 - Fine, not the 27 Yankees, who mopped the floor themselves with the rest of the league. I'll revise. They'd mop the floor with any non-Yankee team, and hold their own with most Yankee teams.

we have to take away the weight training and nutritional supplements from the AAA guys


And we'd have to do this with the other sports too, meaning we have a lot fewer 240 lb O-lineman going up against the modern guys.
   28. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4347519)
Just ask the most fervent football fan you know to name the top 5 players of the 1950's, or even the top teams of the 1950's, and you're likely to get at most a name or team or two.

I can probably name many of the entire starting backfields of the 50's, but in terms of the game on the field it's like night and day in a way that even baseball isn't---and baseball itself is a lot more "night and day" in terms of talent than most sportswriters from that era like to admit. I watched every NFL championship game from 1952 to 1963, and I saw more unbelievably athletic catches in any given game last weekend than I saw in the entire 1950's decade. In spite of the multiple expansions and increased roster size, I doubt if more than half a dozen ends from then could have even found a spot on an NFL roster today, and maybe at most 2 or 3 of them (Elroy Hirsch, R.C. Owens, Ray Berry) might have been able to start for one of the lesser teams. And as for running backs, Jim Brown, Ollie Matson, Hugh McElhenny and maybe Jim Taylor and Joe Perry. And that's it.
   29. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:44 PM (#4347521)
Agreed. And to be at all fair, we have to take away the weight training and nutritional supplements from the AAA guys (or give them to the oldsters).


I'm willing to give the modern players the weight training and nutritional supplements and withhold them from the 1927 Yankees, and I still don't see it making that kind of a difference. Again, unlike football, where if you were to send Adrian Peterson back 60 years, he'd be worshipped as some sort of minor deity.
   30. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:45 PM (#4347523)
Agreed. And to be at all fair, we have to take away the weight training and nutritional supplements from the AAA guys (or give them to the oldsters).

My point was the opposite -- that the AAA team would be as good as the 1927 yankees because of modern nutrition and weight training. Just as a bench player on Duke's basketball team would be a superstar in the NBA of the 1950s.

EDIT: And maybe the 1927 yankees is a stretch, but I have no doubt that a AAA team would be as good as most of the other teams of that era.
   31. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:46 PM (#4347525)
And we'd have to do this with the other sports too, meaning we have a lot fewer 240 lb O-lineman going up against the modern guys.

Right. It's absurd to think that greats of the past wouldn't have played at much higher weights and been much stronger if they had modern techniques and "supplements". Hell, the Yankees actively prevented Babe Ruth from working out in Spring Training.
   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:49 PM (#4347528)
I can see making a distinction between Harper and Strasburg, who have the makings of icons but must follow up with careers to support the status. But by this point, there's nothing that Jeter and Arod (and Pujols and Rivera) can do to remove themselves from the list.

I don't disagree, and you could add Pujols and possibly a few others, but I'd already said I was listing former players only.
   33. Greg K Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:51 PM (#4347530)

I don't know why Maddux would possibly fit. He was a good pitcher, no doubt, but he won his first Cy in his seventh season (fifth full). He was by no means iconic before that, and probably not until he won Cy No. 3.

I think I'd agree with that. Maddux wasn't Maddux around roughly 1990-1991. By which time he had thrown over 1000 innings in the majors. He was actually my favourite player because A) his name was Greg, and B) he was quietly good rather than a great player like all my brother's favourites.

Imagine my horror when he actually turned out pretty great soon after. I instead turned my affections to a catcher in Houston who had a name that sounded close to mine. Then he moved to 2B and it happened all over again!

Since then I've played it safe with favourite players...Craig Grebeck, Gregg Zaun. The kind of guys you can rely on never being stars. Though now that I think of it I haven't replaced Zaun since his retirement. Here's hoping Didi Gregorius is worthy of the name!
   34. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:52 PM (#4347531)
Okay, strike Maddux. As an AL fan, I never really noticed him until he jumped to the Braves.
   35. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:53 PM (#4347533)
And maybe the 1927 yankees is a stretch, but I have no doubt that a AAA team would be as good as most of the other teams of that era.


On this point, you're probably right. While I think Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, etc. could step right out of a time machine from the late 1920s and be stars today, I do think a modern AAA team could hold its own against an average team of that era. The most reasonable form of timelining in a sport like baseball is probably to assume that the talents to the extreme right of the curve would likely be at the extreme right of the curve in any era, but that with systematic instruction, a minor league system focused on developing major leaguers, and a much more efficient talent identification system in place, the left and middle of the talent curve have shifted rightward.
   36. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4347539)
My point was the opposite -- that the AAA team would be as good as the 1927 yankees because of modern nutrition and weight training. Just as a bench player on Duke's basketball team would be a superstar in the NBA of the 1950s.

But what does that say? Give the 20's guys the same nutrition and training, and they'd be a lot better. If anything that says today's players really aren't much better.

You can't run Jesse Owens against Carl Lewis and make Owens run on cinders, with leather shoes, and no starting blocks. What's the point to that comparison?
   37. JRVJ Posted: January 15, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4347540)
One thing to keep in mind when sending teams forwards and backwards in time: there are pitches today that did not exist in the 1920s (the split-finger fastball, for example), and there are pitches from the 1920s that are hardly used today (the screwball, for example).

I would tend to think that a modern team would have the advantage here (because there are more new pitches than old forgotten/hardly used pitches), but who knows.
   38. jobu Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:00 PM (#4347543)
Just ask the most fervent football fan you know to name the top 5 players of the 1950's, or even the top teams of the 1950's, and you're likely to get at most a name or team or two.

I would say that the MOST fervent football fans might be able to mention Jim Brown plus players for the team they root for, since football teams tend to celebrate their own tradition as opposed to the league. So if you root for a team that was around before the 1960s, you might come up with a Red Grange or Sid Luckman, or a Sammy Baugh.

Between expansion and the AFL, though, a lot of teams didn't exist before 1960--there were only 12 teams in 1959. Many of the iconic NFL franchises don't have a through-line that predates the 1960s--there are no old-time Patriots, or Cowboys, or Raiders. Most of baseball's expansion teams still feel newer in some way--not just the Rays and the Marlins, but also the Mets and the Angels. I am not at all a Yankee fan, but the homage that the Yankees pay to their own tradition contributes a lot to baseball's linkage to its past.

Pretty much every major NFL record has been broken since 1980, which means there is no inherent reason to bring up old-time players. Baseball still has old .400 hitters, Old Hoss Radbourn, Jack Chesbro, Chief Wilson, Earl Webb, Joe DiMaggio, and Cy Young, so you inevitably get some media coverage about whether this could be the year that a given record is broken, or how insurmountable a record is.

Thinking about the other major sports, what are the old-time records that really get talked about? I think it's pretty limited, and highly concentrated in Wilt Chamberlain (100 points, 55 boards, 50 PPG, 20K women). Jim Brown's rushing yards/game. Bill Mosienko's 3 goals in 21 seconds.
   39. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:00 PM (#4347544)
One thing to keep in mind when sending teams forwards and backwards in time: there are pitches today that did not exist in the 1920s (the split-finger fastball, for example), and there are pitches from the 1920s that are hardly used today (the screwball, for example).

I would tend to think that a modern team would have the advantage here (because there are more new pitches than old forgotten/hardly used pitches), but who knows.


Are we letting the oldtimers use the spitball/shineball?
   40. Greg K Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:05 PM (#4347546)
What's the point to that comparison?

I think this gets at the heart of this discussion (which has been bandied about many times here).

Is the point of it to remove each player from his historical context and assign him a era-neutral value that encapsulates his "true" ability as a player? [Edit] Or is it simply to argue that in the modern game balls are thrown faster and with more bite, hit harder, fielders and batters run faster, make more athletic catches (and whether this is because of some innate quality the modern player has that the older ones didn't, or because of historical context, is irrelevant)?

One claim is that players of today aren't better than players of yesterday because they have modern advances helping them. But the other claim is that players of today are better than players of yesterday because they have modern advances helping them. They're not really opposing claims so much as each one assumes a different answer to the question, "What's the point?"
   41. JRVJ Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:10 PM (#4347550)
39, pick your poison.
   42. cmd600 Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:12 PM (#4347554)
but I have no doubt that a AAA team would be as good as most of the other teams of that era


I'm trying to find something even resembling a cite, this will take a while, but I seem to recall that B-Pro tried to compare Ruth to Bonds, and found that the natural increase in talent in MLB (that is since more of the talented people want to join than leave, we'll almost always be improving as we kick out the flotsam) and increasing population pools (Ruth competed against white American citizens while Bonds had to go up against a culturally diverse international group) led them to believe that Ruth would have been roughly the equivalent of Tino Martinez.

Just for fun, and not to try to convince anyone.

Martinez's per-162 career line pumped into a MLE calculator suggests a .317/.408/.574 line in the International League. Great, but well short of Ruth. If the B-Pro study and MLE calculators are to be believed, Ruth faced competition lower than current AAA-ers.
   43. BDC Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:12 PM (#4347555)
I do think a modern AAA team could hold its own against an average team of that era

Of course, a modern AAA team could hold its own against some modern major-league teams: if by "holding one's own" one means winning a short series, or going, I dunno, 30-132 over a full season. That's inherent in the sport. (In football, we can be pretty sure that Alabama would go 0-16 over a full NFL season, seeing lots of non-starters in second halves.)

The problem a modern AAA team would have against, say, the 1927 Reds, who were the closest thing to a .500 team that year, is in matching up against the pitching. Those Reds had Red Lucas, Dolf Luque, and Eppa Rixey in the starting rotation. They happen to have been pitching-heavy, of course, but take some team that wasn't, like the 1929 Dodgers, and they've got Watty Clark and Dazzy Vance at the top of an otherwise poor rotation. Even bad major-league teams of 80 years ago would have one or two pitchers who were tough, professional starters. (Whether those starters could adapt to the modern game is one of those have-to-guess-at time-machine questions.)
   44. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:16 PM (#4347557)
There are a couple of different issues here that are getting conflated. The first is simply about changes in athleticism. I was responding to an earlier point about the changes in basketball from the 40's to today -- in many ways it's a completely different game because the players are so much bigger and more athletic, and so it's hard for fans to relate to players from earlier eras. That doesn't mean a player from today is inherently better than a player from the 40's, and the players would probably be comparable if raised in similar environments. My point was that this phenomenon applies to baseball as well, but it's less extreme and less obvious.

The other issue is timelining: adjusting for the increased level of competition in the modern game. Performances from 80 years ago have to be discounted somewhat because the leagues weren't integrated and the quality of competition just wasn't as good. So it was easier for a guy like Ruth to dominate than it is for a modern player.
   45. BDC Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4347558)
On the other subthread here, I think that baseball has always, often quite intentionally, cultivated links to its own past. There was a period in the 1970s when the idea was to build ballparks and design uniforms sharply unlike those of 1910-1968, but even then there was lots of continuity. Football and basketball have by contrast changed looks (as well as rules and styles) every few years. The marketing of those sports has stressed how silly the old guys looked even pretty recently. (With some exceptions: Dick Butkus is still an icon of kicking your butt; Bill Russell has never looked silly.) There's no real parallel in baseball. It was the 1970s guys who looked silly. Or when they looked cool, it was because they were trying to look like guys from the 1890s.
   46. dlf Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4347561)
Question: For anyone in the broad age group of 80 and under, what former Major League players that they would have seen were considered truly "iconic"** pretty much all during their careers, as opposed to only towards the end when their careers began to be fully appreciated? If you use a fairly high bar, I can think of these, in the order of the ML debuts:


I'd add Rod Carew. Rookie of the Year. Batting titles after batting titles pretty much right from the start and during an era when, like Ivory soap, 99.44% of us thought BA was the bee's knees. Annually was the highest vote getting in the All Star game.
   47. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:20 PM (#4347563)
I think a good AAA team could beat the 1927 Yankees. Something out of the Rays farm system perhaps or maybe the Brewers at the beginning of the 21st century.
   48. Greg K Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:21 PM (#4347565)
Question: For anyone in the broad age group of 80 and under, what former Major League players that they would have seen were considered truly "iconic"** pretty much all during their careers, as opposed to only towards the end when their careers began to be fully appreciated? If you use a fairly high bar, I can think of these, in the order of the ML debuts:

Not to blow up the thread (and I'm not entirely sure he fits anyway - he seems on his way to putting together 4-5 pretty meh seasons on his way out the door), but...

Ichiro?

EDIT: And of course ignoring Andy's "retired players" rule. But hey, the first rookie I can clearly remember coming up was...Chipper Jones maybe? So the list of retired players I've followed for their entire careers is pretty short.
   49. SoSH U at work Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:22 PM (#4347566)
Ichiro?


Without question.

   50. Greg K Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:24 PM (#4347570)
Correction: John Olerud is the first rookie I can recall coming up and following.
   51. AROM Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:25 PM (#4347572)
One thing to keep in mind when sending teams forwards and backwards in time: there are pitches today that did not exist in the 1920s (the split-finger fastball, for example), and there are pitches from the 1920s that are hardly used today (the screwball, for example).


I think the baseball might be different enough that whichever team got to play with their own ball would have an advantage. Combine that with the progression of talent and maybe it means using the old ball we'd have a close game, using the modern ball the moderns would blow out the old timers.

I'm trying to find something even resembling a cite, this will take a while, but I seem to recall that B-Pro tried to compare Ruth to Bonds, and found that the natural increase in talent in MLB (that is since more talented people want to join than leave, we'll almost always be improving as we kick out the flotsam) and increasing population pools (Ruth competed against white American citizens while Bonds had to go up against a culturally diverse international group) led them to believe that Ruth would have been roughly the equivalent of Tino Martinez.


That conclusion is pretty far out there. I believe last time we had a good timelining thread, GuyM came up with much more kind to the Babe results by setting pitcher hitting as a constant.

It's been a long time since we've had a good timelining thread.
   52. JJ1986 Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:29 PM (#4347574)
I remember Frank Thomas being a superstar from the moment he came up until at least 2001.
   53. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:30 PM (#4347575)
The problem a modern AAA team would have against, say, the 1927 Reds, who were the closest thing to a .500 team that year, is in matching up against the pitching. Those Reds had Red Lucas, Dolf Luque, and Eppa Rixey in the starting rotation. They happen to have been pitching-heavy, of course, but take some team that wasn't, like the 1929 Dodgers, and they've got Watty Clark and Dazzy Vance at the top of an otherwise poor rotation. Even bad major-league teams of 80 years ago would have one or two pitchers who were tough, professional starters. (Whether those starters could adapt to the modern game is one of those have-to-guess-at time-machine questions.)

On the flip side, imagine the 1927 Reds facing a AAA closer in the 8th or 9th inning.
   54. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:30 PM (#4347577)
The problem a modern AAA team would have against, say, the 1927 Reds, who were the closest thing to a .500 team that year, is in matching up against the pitching. Those Reds had Red Lucas, Dolf Luque, and Eppa Rixey in the starting rotation. They happen to have been pitching-heavy, of course, but take some team that wasn't, like the 1929 Dodgers, and they've got Watty Clark and Dazzy Vance at the top of an otherwise poor rotation. Even bad major-league teams of 80 years ago would have one or two pitchers who were tough, professional starters. (Whether those starters could adapt to the modern game is one of those have-to-guess-at time-machine questions.)

We can counter that with say, the 1999 Vancouver Candaians.

Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. The team wasn't stocked with a lot of great hitters (it had some major leaugers) but I don't see any good hitters on the 1927 Reds.
   55. BDC Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:33 PM (#4347580)
Something out of the Rays farm system

Two problems occur to me: one, even good AA and AAA teams have thin pitching staffs, often anchored by grade-Z journeymen; and two, on some of these teams you're getting Longoria or whoever, but you're getting them very young. You could still be right, but the assumptions are that Ruth and Gehrig can't get around on a mediocre 21st-century fastball, and that a 21-year-old Evan Longoria easily outclasses a 30-year-old Bob Meusel.
   56. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:33 PM (#4347581)
Is the point of it to remove each player from his historical context and assign him a era-neutral value that encapsulates his "true" ability as a player? [Edit] Or is it simply to argue that in the modern game balls are thrown faster and with more bite, hit harder, fielders and batters run faster, make more athletic catches (and whether this is because of some innate quality the modern player has that the older ones didn't, or because of historical context, is irrelevant)?

I find question 1 interesting and question 2 utterly irrelevent.

Was Norman Schwarzkopf a better general than Napoleon? Sure, if you give him tanks and jets.
   57. BDC Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:37 PM (#4347584)
On the flip side, imagine the 1927 Reds facing a AAA closer in the 8th or 9th inning

But one also has to imagine someone like Greg Reynolds (hate to pick on him, but he was the Rangers' AAA-team ace last year, and has had no success in the majors) trying to pitch into the 9th inning of a game against the '27 Reds. AROM's point about which ball to use extends to style: does the 2012 team keep its starters in, does the 1927 team assemble a modern-looking bullpen?
   58. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:39 PM (#4347586)
Two problems occur to me: one, even good AA and AAA teams have thin pitching staffs, often anchored by grade-Z journeymen; and two, on some of these teams you're getting Longoria or whoever, but you're getting them very young. You could still be right, but the assumptions are that Ruth and Gehrig can't get around on a mediocre 21st-century fastball, and that a 21-year-old Evan Longoria easily outclasses a 30-year-old Bob Meusel.

I'd say a mediocre 21st century fastball would be a grade A fastball in 1927.
   59. smileyy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:40 PM (#4347587)
what former Major League players that they would have seen were considered truly "iconic"** pretty much all during their careers, as opposed to only towards the end when their careers began to be fully appreciated?


Jeff Bagwell is the first one that springs to mind from my baseball-watching career. Tore the cover off the ball in his rookie season and never looked back.

I also remember watching the White Sox on cable, and liking Ivan Calderon, and being a little upset that this "Frank Thomas" guy was displacing him.
   60. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:42 PM (#4347589)
Was Norman Schwarzkopf a better general than Napoleon? Sure, if you give him tanks and jets.

Well, I'd say if we let Norman know what we now know and gave him Napoleon's opposing forces he'd beat Napoleon.

Napoleon was the general of his time but I think Grant and Lee having learned the tactics of the Napoleonic era and created and refined new ones during the Civil War would have beaten Napoleon in his time.
   61. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:42 PM (#4347592)
I'd say a mediocre 21st century fastball would be a grade A fastball in 1927.

But, that may be largely b/c 20's pitchers only used their best stuff for the elite hitters. They had to coast against weaker guys, in order to pace themselves to absord all those innings.

If you told them they only had to go 6-7 IP, 32 times a year, I'd bet the average velocity would leap.
   62. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:43 PM (#4347595)
Ryne Sandberg
Rickey Henderson
Don Mattingly
Mike Schmidt
Darryl Strawberry
Tony Gwynn
Barry Bonds
Mark McGwire
Jose Canseco
   63. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:44 PM (#4347598)
But, that may be largely b/c 20's pitchers only used their best stuff for the elite hitters. They had to coast against weaker guys, in order to pace themselves to absord all those innings.

If you told them they only had to go 6-7 IP, 32 times a year, I'd bet the average velocity would leap.


And if a modern pitcher got to "coast" against a bunch of hitters like pitchers did back then their velocity would go up as well.
   64. AROM Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:45 PM (#4347599)
If anyone wants to see where one the previous timelining threads ended up, try this.
   65. cmd600 Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:46 PM (#4347600)
They had to coast against weaker guys, in order to pace themselves to absord all those innings.


But that goes both ways. Tell the current AAA guy that all he has to do is find the plate with a couple low 80 fastballs to get 1/3 of the opposing lineup out just about every time, and he'd be ecstatic.
   66. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:46 PM (#4347601)
Napoleon was the general of his time but I think Grant and Lee having learned the tactics of the Napoleonic era and created and refined new ones during the Civil War would have beaten Napoleon in his time.

Highly doubt it. Lee and Grant fought in an entirely different context, given the minie rifle.

Napoleon was an actual genius. He ran wara, and an Empire while campaigning constantly. He would have quickly adjusted to any thing new they had to throw at him.
   67. jobu Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4347605)
For anyone in the broad age group of 80 and under, what former Major League players that they would have seen were considered truly "iconic"** pretty much all during their careers, as opposed to only towards the end when their careers began to be fully appreciated?


There's a key name missing from this list, in my view, and he fits the defintion supplied here (appreciated throughout his career) as well as a more classic "visual" definition of iconic (his batting stance, his running style, his head-first slides, his swagger and home run trot, and his one-handed snatch-catch--I can't think of another player I've ever seen who is as easy to conjure up mentally in so many facets of the game. Ichiro may come close). There may never be another Mickey Mantle, but I'm even more sure there won't be another Rickey Henderson.

   68. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4347606)
I think the amount of quality competition that all modern MLers face throughout their formative years is the biggest advantage they have over old timers. Its also just simple math - there are 30 ML teams that draw from a population of over 500 million (North America, Mexico, Central America, the Carribbean) whereas 80 years ago it was 16 teams and pretty much just the 110 million white people in the US.
   69. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4347607)
And if a modern pitcher got to "coast" against a bunch of hitters like pitchers did back then there velocity would go up as well.

No. Their velocity would go down as they coasted.

But that goes both ways. Tell the current AAA guy that all he has to do is find the plate with a couple low 80 fastballs to get 1/3 of the opposing lineup out just about every time, and he'd be ecstatic.

Right, but that's already built in to the quality of hitters they face.

The issue is you can't just say "modern pitchers throw 92 MPH FBs and '20s pitchers threw 87 MPH FBs, QED, modern pitchers are better". If modern pitchers had to throw 150+ pitches per game, and 300 IP per season, their velocity, and effectiveness would have to go down.

Pur another way. If you made a modern team play a 1920's season using the pitcher usage patterns of the day, and they tried to pitch like they do now, they'd collapse in May when all their pitchers got hurt.

   70. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:55 PM (#4347614)
Highly doubt it. Lee and Grant fought in an entirely different context, given the minie rifle.

The civil war was largely fought, incorrectly though, with Napoleonic principles and tactics in mind. Lee, Grant, and all the American generals were raised on Napoleon and his generalship.

He would have quickly adjusted to any thing new they had to throw at him.


And yet he was soundly beaten by a general of his era. Napoleon was not perfect. He made numerous mistakes and could be beaten. He had the good fortune to arrive at a time when his enemies were divided (Germanic states and Italian states), incompetent and or corrupt (Russia and Italy), fallen into ruin and chaos (Spain) and that the most powerful nation against him was a sea power that historically had little interest amassing large armies. That isn't to say he wasn't a great general but let us not go overboard.
   71. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:55 PM (#4347615)
I think the amount of quality competition that all modern MLers face throughout their formative years is the biggest advantage they have over old timers. Its also just simple math - there are 30 ML teams that draw from a population of over 500 million (North America, Mexico, Central America, the Carribbean) whereas 80 years ago it was 16 teams and pretty much just the 110 million white people in the US.

Agreed. But that is mitigated a good deal by the much greater competition among alternative sports today (baseball and boxing were the only sports you could make a living at in the '20s), and the much greater participation in baseball (everybody played) and the complete lack of couch potatoes (50% of modern kids are eliminated from the athletic population by age 12, due to obesity or indifference, before we know anything about their skills). The 2012 14 y.o. Babe Ruth may well already weigh 300 lbs., be pre-diabetic, and be playing Call of Duty all day.
   72. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:56 PM (#4347616)
One thing to keep in mind when sending teams forwards and backwards in time: there are pitches today that did not exist in the 1920s (the split-finger fastball, for example), and there are pitches from the 1920s that are hardly used today (the screwball, for example).


I think the baseball might be different enough that whichever team got to play with their own ball would have an advantage. Combine that with the progression of talent and maybe it means using the old ball we'd have a close game, using the modern ball the moderns would blow out the old timers.

About 20 years ago I amused myself and a few of my customers by writing a short story that centered on a time travel World Series between the 1911 Philadelphia A's (the Macks) and the 1989 Oakland A's (The Billionaires). The ground rules were simple: First two games in 1989 Oakland, next three in 1911 Shibe Park, sixth game back in 1989 Oakland, and the seventh game in 1933 Comiskey Park, set on the day before the first All-Star game. All ground rules and all on-field and off-field practices and mores, with the exception of racial discrimination, had to conform to the respective years of the particular games. IOW no shrunken strike zones or air conditioned single hotel rooms for the Oaklands in Philly, and no escape from modern distractions and temptations for the Macks when they were in Oakland.

What made it fun to write wasn't any sort of sabermetric comparisons; any second rate computer program could do that. What made it fun was imagining the dueling forms of gamesmanship that were played by Mack and LaRussa, involving stuff like polio rumors and AIDS rumors and so on, plus the reactions of both teams to the joys of flying over the Rockies during a thunderstorm in a 1933 prop plane while being taunted by the stewardess about their nervousness. The real question to me is what's harder for a cloistered athelete to adjust to, the world of the distant future or the world of the distant past? I don't think the answer to that question is all that obvious.

   73. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:57 PM (#4347617)
No. Their velocity would go down as they coasted.

Yes, to levels that a 1920's pitcher would use against the best hitters.

The issue is you can't just say "modern pitchers throw 92 MPH FBs and '20s pitchers threw 87 MPH FBs, QED, modern pitchers are better". If modern pitchers had to throw 150+ pitches per game, and 300 IP per season, their velocity, and effectiveness would have to go down.

Pur another way. If you made a modern team play a 1920's season using the pitcher usage patterns of the day, and they tried to pitch like they do now, they'd collapse in May when all their pitchers got hurt.


That wasn't the scenario put forward. The initial scenario was putting a AAA team of now into a DeLorean and travel back in time.
   74. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:57 PM (#4347618)
And yet he was soundly beaten by a general of his era. Napoleon was not perfect. He made numerous mistakes and could be beaten. He had the good fortune to arrive at a time when his enemies were divided (Germanic states and Italian states), incompetent and or corrupt (Russia and Italy), fallen into ruin and chaos (Spain) and that the most powerful nation against him was a sea power that historically had little interest amassing large armies. That isn't to say he wasn't a great general but let us not go overboard.

When was he beaten when not greatly outnumbered?

He lost at Leipzig (outnumbered ~3:1), Waterloo (outnumbered 2:1, with lots more coming), and in Russia (enemy action had nothing to do with it; he would have lost if the Russian Army disbanded and went home).
   75. Ron J2 Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:58 PM (#4347619)
#37 The thing about the 20s specifically is that you have a lot of major league pitchers stripped of the pitch (spitball) that got them to the majors. As is pointed out in the James/Neyer book on pitchers, in 1919 everybody threw a spitter.

You also have a pretty fair number of pitcher in the early 20s who knew zip about HR avoidance. With the grey/deadened balls in play until 1920 flyballs were a pitcher's best friend.

Took a while for all of this to shake out. I'm doubtful that it was complete by 1927.
   76. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:58 PM (#4347620)
There's a key name missing from this list, in my view, and he fits the defintion supplied here (appreciated throughout his career) as well as a more classic "visual" definition of iconic (his batting stance, his running style, his head-first slides, his swagger and home run trot, and his one-handed snatch-catch--I can't think of another player I've ever seen who is as easy to conjure up mentally in so many facets of the game. Ichiro may come close). There may never be another Mickey Mantle, but I'm even more sure there won't be another Rickey Henderson.

He just missed my final cut, but the truth is that base stealers and snatch catchers are never described with the sort of "iconic" terminology that's applied to power hitters and strikeout pitchers.
   77. cmd600 Posted: January 15, 2013 at 02:59 PM (#4347621)
f you made a modern team play a 1920's season using the pitcher usage patterns of the day


I don't see why you would do this any more than make the 1920's team play by pitcher usage patters today. Both teams get to construct and manage their rosters as they see best.
   78. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:00 PM (#4347623)
Yes, to levels that a 1920's pitcher would use against the best hitters.

I don't think we have any idea. Bob Feller and Walter Johnson were estimated to throw in the high 90's.

How many guys in 1920 could have thrown 95 if they only had to pitch one inning at a time, 60 IP per year? I don't see how we have a clue?

Since velocity is governed by the strength and flexibility of joints/cartiledge, there's little season to think modern strength training has improved it much.

That wasn't the scenario put forward. The initial scenario was putting a AAA team of now into a DeLorean and travel back in time.

Well, the league is going to make them play 154 Games.

   79. Ron J2 Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:02 PM (#4347625)
#61 Thing is that pitchers weren't selected for their ability to throw hard in the 20s.

I have little doubt that Dazzy Vance and Lefty Grove could bring it. And George Earnshaw supposedly threw harder than Grove, but they were exceptions. Look at how different Vance's K rates are from other pitchers of the day. Pretty much everybody pitched to contact all of the time.
   80. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:04 PM (#4347626)
I was just about to propose Rickey, but #67 beat me to it. He certainly meets the requirement of early success (if that's indeed a requirement - the Maddux comments suggest it is): in his age 21 season he was stealing 100 bases, an All-Star, and getting substantial MVP support.
   81. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:07 PM (#4347628)
When was he beaten when not greatly outnumbered?

I'm not sure what that proves in terms of Napoleon vs Grant or Lee. Napoleon was a megalomaniac who brought about his own downfall by trying to take over the world. You beat Napoleon, and they did, by giving him enough rope to hang himself.
   82. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4347630)
Well, the league is going to make them play 154 Games.

The same amount they play in the AAA Pacific Coast League.

I don't think we have any idea. Bob Feller and Walter Johnson were estimated to throw in the high 90's.

How many kids in the minors can we say that about right now? 2? 10? 100?

How many guys in 1920 could have thrown 95 if they only had to pitch one inning at a time, 60 IP per year? I don't see how we have a clue?

Probably not as many as can do it nowadays considering that they didn't let blacks play, had virtually no hispanic players playing, and Asian kids were either just starting to play or hadn't played yet.
   83. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4347631)
PS:

You're also forgetting that Napoleon's Spanish and Egyptian campaigns were absolute disasters.
   84. AROM Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:17 PM (#4347634)
About 20 years ago I amused myself and a few of my customers by writing a short story that centered on a time travel World Series between the 1911 Philadelphia A's (the Macks) and the 1989 Oakland A's (The Billionaires).


Any chance you'd post that online somewhere? Sounds like fun.
   85. BDC Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:20 PM (#4347636)
Pretty much everybody pitched to contact all of the time

Which doesn't mean batting-practice pitches, though. Jered Weaver throws about 87 MPH these days; I doubt if he'd strike out many 1920s major-leaguers who were looking to make contact. But conversely, they wouldn't hit him very well either, just as today's hitters don't. And changing speeds is an asset in any era, perhaps more so than raw speed.
   86. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:37 PM (#4347656)
I'm not sure what that proves in terms of Napoleon vs Grant or Lee. Napoleon was a megalomaniac who brought about his own downfall by trying to take over the world. You beat Napoleon, and they did, by giving him enough rope to hang himself.

OK, I didn't say he was a great Emperor, we were talking about his skills as general. The fact is Napoleon won pretty much every battle he fought, unless he was massively outnumbered. And, he won some of those too.


You're also forgetting that Napoleon's Spanish and Egyptian campaigns were absolute disasters.


Napoleon never commanded in Spain, and in Egypt, his fleet was destroyed soon after he landed. He was completely cut off from reinforcement/resupply. Still they held Egypt for 3 years, and almost conquered Syria, with only the original 40,000 troops.

   87. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 03:56 PM (#4347676)
The fact is Napoleon won pretty much every battle he fought, unless he was massively outnumbered. And, he won some of those too.

It is also a fact that he almost never had to face an army that was competently trained or led as well.


Napoleon never commanded in Spain, and in Egypt, his fleet was destroyed soon after he landed. He was completely cut off from reinforcement/resupply. Still they held Egypt for 3 years, and almost conquered Syria, with only the original 40,000 troops.

Napoleon didn't personally lead his men into battle even when he commanded them. Like all leaders and great generals he subordinates and his were outstanding. But Napoleon did command in Spain and it was his orders to strip Spain of massive amount of troops for his Russian invasion that led to him losing Spain to the British.

As for Egypt, sailing to Egypt and then having his fleet destroyed is a major mistake on his part. Completely abandoning his army and fleeing back to France is a defeat. Allowing his entire force to die off and the rest get captured is a major defeat.
   88. BDC Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:01 PM (#4347680)
Plus Lee was what, five-eleven? Napoleon was like 4'9". Plus he had the hand in the vest all the time. No contest.
   89. SandyRiver Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:08 PM (#4347684)
"Agreed. But that is mitigated a good deal by the much greater competition among alternative sports today (baseball and boxing were the only sports you could make a living at in the '20s), and the much greater participation in baseball (everybody played) and the complete lack of couch potatoes (50% of modern kids are eliminated from the athletic population by age 12, due to obesity or indifference, before we know anything about their skills). The 2012 14 y.o. Babe Ruth may well already weigh 300 lbs., be pre-diabetic, and be playing Call of Duty all day."

Well stated, and I'd never considered the (valid) decrease in overall active-sport participation in today's America. Also, the urbanization of much of the population mitigates against playing baseball. When NBA/NFL "drain" has been noted in past threads, one counter is that their players are "physical freaks" who would never be in MLB. However, I'd venture that's true for maybe 40-50% of the 2,000 total roster positions in NBA/NFL (centers, power forwards, and the taller guys in other positions, and only OL/DL in football.) Also, prior to about 1960 there were hardly any Americans in the NHL (and only 6 teams), while now the much bigger league is 1/3 or more (I'm guessing here) American players. I don't think this outweighs the talent pool in Blacks and non-Americans, but it strongly mitigates it.

Going back to #10: I wouldn't put Killebrew on this list. He became an instant (and short-lived) celebrity because, after doing nothing for 5 yr in MLB, he hit bunches of HR in May of 1959. Some overimaginative reporter, remembering a then-famous Broadway play, wrote, "Joe Hardy is alive!" Killer's 15 minutes of "icon" ended when he tailed off badly during the 2nd half. Then his real peak came in 1966-70, his age 30-34 seasons, which averaged OPS+ of 162 (1959: 137) despite an injury-limited and mediocre 1968.
   90. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:08 PM (#4347685)
Napoleon didn't personally lead his men into battle even when he commanded them.

At most major battles he could see the entire battlefield, and make all key decisions.

It is also a fact that he almost never had to face an army that was competently trained or led as well.

Really? The Prussians were considered the best army in the world before he dismantled them. The Austrians were never brilliant (except under Eugene of Savoy), but always competent. And the Russians did quite well under Suvarov against the Turks and even in Sitzerland/Italy vs. the French.

Napoleon's opposition looks incompetent because he made them look that way.

As for Egypt, sailing to Egypt and then having his fleet destroyed is a major mistake on his part. Completely abandoning his army and fleeing back to France is a defeat. Allowing his entire force to die off and the rest get captured is a major defeat.

He really had nothing to do with losing the fleet, and the loss of 20,000 men was trivial to France vs. the loss of Napoleon.
   91. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:17 PM (#4347697)
He really had nothing to do with losing the fleet, and the loss of 20,000 men was trivial to France vs. the loss of Napoleon.

He had everything to do with losing the fleet. He's the one who sent the fleet to Egypt. That was a major command mistake.

Napoleon's opposition looks incompetent because he made them look that way.

The Russians and Italians always looked incompetent. Prussia was a shell of its former self by the time Napoleon took command of France. The one great enemy of his era (England) was the one enemy he could never soundly defeat and in the end defeated him by doing what they do best. Cutting off the sea to their enemies and getting the rest of Europe to align against their enemies.
   92. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:24 PM (#4347702)
He had everything to do with losing the fleet. He's the one who sent the fleet to Egypt. That was a major command mistake.

He didn't control the grand strategy at that point, his coup was after coming back. And I don't see how it's his fault the French navy was too incompetent to defend a superior position? Given how poorly they performed in the war, the potential loss of the French fleet wasn't particularly costly. If Nelson didn't sink them in Aboukir Bay he would have sunk them somewhere else.
   93. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:33 PM (#4347719)
He didn't control the grand strategy at that point, his coup was after coming back.

Napoleon is the one who wanted to go to Egypt and it was he who planned the campaign. There could be no real victory in Egypt, no matter how many battles he won. He could not hold the land nor supply his men or get them out so going was a major mistake.
   94. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:47 PM (#4347730)
Napoleon is the one who wanted to go to Egypt and it was he who planned the campaign. There could be no real victory in Egypt, no matter how many battles he won. He could not hold the land nor supply his men or get them out so going was a major mistake.

Even if we grant all that, I don't see how it was a "major mistake".

The loss of troops was trivial to France, and even the fleet had little value against a vastly superior Royal Navy. The losses suffered didn't hinder Napoleon running amok all over Europe for 12 years by one iota.

It was a reckless gamble, that didn't work out, but didn't cost much at all.
   95. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:49 PM (#4347732)
I'd like to see a comprehensive thing like:

* Here's how hitters hit against pitchers in year Z;
* Here's how X-year-old hitters hit against pitchers in year Z;
* Here's how hitters-hit against Y-year old pitchers in year Z;
* Here's how X-year-old hitters hit against Y-year-old pitchers in year Z.

"Comprehensive" meaning for all possible combinations of X, Y, and Z that don't result in zero PAs.

It would be interesting to see if there would be years or spans of years where, say, young players hit significantly better or worse against prime-age players than young players usually hit against prime-age players (relative to league average), and if that carries forth over the careers of the players in those groups.

For example, you could imagine that pitching took a great leap forward at some point, and this is reflected in the fact that (say) 27 year old hitters hit a lot worse against 22 year old pitchers, relative to league average, than 27 year olds normally do against 22 year olds. And then the next year, 28 year olds hit a lot worse against 23 year olds than 28 year olds usually do against 23 year olds, etc.
   96. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:55 PM (#4347738)
It would be interesting to see if there would be years or spans of years where, say, young players hit significantly better or worse against prime-age players than young players usually hit against prime-age players (relative to league average), and if that carries forth over the careers of the players in those groups.

For example, you could imagine that pitching took a great leap forward at some point, and this is reflected in the fact that (say) 27 year old hitters hit a lot worse against 22 year old pitchers, relative to league average, than 27 year olds normally do against 22 year olds. And then the next year, 28 year olds hit a lot worse against 23 year olds than 28 year olds usually do against 23 year olds, etc.


I'm guessing talent improvement doesn't happen this way. Things like weight training, supplements, PEDs, new pitches, and usage patterns don't arrive with a new generation, they are adopted across the league gradually. Likewise, addition of new talent sources (integration, Asia) hasn't only come via 18 y.o. amateurs, older players have entered too.
   97. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 04:59 PM (#4347748)
It was a reckless gamble, that didn't work out, but didn't cost much at all.

Because Napoleon was Napoleon. Egypt could have ended his rise or even killed him but Napoleon being Napoleon he deserted his men and spun the campaign in his favor.
   98. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:34 PM (#4347774)
Because Napoleon was Napoleon. Egypt could have ended his rise or even killed him but Napoleon being Napoleon he deserted his men and spun the campaign in his favor.

Well, yeah. If Napoleon wasn't Napoleon, he meets his disgrace and/or in Italy before he even gets a chance at broader power.
   99. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:39 PM (#4347783)
I'm comfortable with it in basketball or football because of the degree to which the jaw-dropping athleticism of modern players would overwhelm the Mikans or Starrs of the world.

In basketball its about rule changes. Under the rules of their day, the Mikans would mop the floor with the modern players, who would turn the ball over virtually every time they tried to dribble.

The same, I suspect, is true in football.

That's less of an issue in baseball.
   100. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:49 PM (#4347795)
One thing that I have done before is use height age and handedness to predict statistics for modern players (going back to say 1994 or so). And then use that formula to predict the stats for all the players in a league like the 1920 American League and use that as the baseline to compare rather than bringing that league all the way up to "league average."

For example the AL in 1920 would have players expected to hit fewer home runs, strikeout less, draw fewer walks and steal a few more bases, and all around be on average worse hitters than their 2011 counterparts by virtue of being smaller.
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