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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Silva: Bo Jackson, The Baseball Reality

Jeff knows [____]

According to Bo Jackson, football was just a hobby he did in the offseason. In reality, it was baseball that should have been a hobby.

...For as much of a specimen Jackson was on the baseball field, he was a high-strikeout, low average home run hitter. His best season, 1989, saw him strikeout 172 times to just 39 walks.  Today, his career .309 OBP would overshadow any of his muscles or athletic plays on the field. From 1986-1990, there were 141 players with a higher Wins Above Replacement than Jackson. Among them were Brett Butler, Mike Greenwell and current Mets third base coach Tim Teufel. None of those individuals had national commercials or an ESPN documentary made about them.

Remember, we were in the infancy of cable television. Anecdotal stories were still the main thesis of sports reporting for both the electronic and print media. Bill James and his advanced stats were better known amongst Strat-O-Matic players. Today, he might be called one of the most overrated players of that time period. Breaking bats over your knee or climbing the outfield wall like Spiderman is nice, but doesn’t mean you an All-Star, much less on track for the Hall-of-Famer. It certainly doesn’t justify the big commercials and being among the highest paid players in the game.

...Bo Jackson could have been a Hall-of-Fame NFL running back. In baseball, he was nothing more than another high-strikeout power hitter in an era full of them. If we had the knowledge of what makes a good ballplayer courtesy of some modern day statistical theories and common sense, Bo Jackson probably would be treated with as much skepticism as another Kansas City Royals outfielder – Jeff Francoeur.

Repoz Posted: December 09, 2012 at 10:14 PM | 87 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: December 09, 2012 at 10:33 PM (#4320535)
None of those individuals had national commercials or an ESPN documentary made about them.

I'm at a loss to explain why.

Bo's baseball career was, give or take, the young Sammy Sosa. Would he have developed enough patience as Sosa did? Who knows but his age-27 season showed some signs of it.

The point of Bo is, of course, not the reality. It is that, at his age, not having played in some time, Bo could hold his own and then some at the ML level. It was very easy to look at Bo and think about what might have been had he never detoured into football.

A better comp than Francoeur is probably Ankiel at 27-28 -- 270/334/515 with enough speed to play CF after all that time concentrating on his pitching.
   2. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: December 09, 2012 at 10:45 PM (#4320545)
The things with Bo is that it really looked like he was figuring things out. In his last three seasons, he went from a 108 OPS+ to 142 OPS+. He was starting to get better with the strike zone judgment with 12 walks against 71 AB.

I think most people judge him correctly. He was a great physical talent and one of the great what might have beens in both baseball and football.
   3. Dale Sams Posted: December 09, 2012 at 11:03 PM (#4320560)
Bo Jackson, before joing MLB, played 53 minor league games. As noted, at age 27 he had a 142 OPS+ season. Jeff Francouer has not had a 142 OPS+ season.

He also lost his arbitration case in 1990. Any money he made after his injury is just a team taking a shot in the dark. As for being a one-time all-star...big ####### whoop. Much worse players have made the all-star team once.

And he is absolutely worthy of a 30-30 story.
   4. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 09, 2012 at 11:32 PM (#4320573)
Jeff knows [____]

Delta
   5. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: December 09, 2012 at 11:35 PM (#4320574)
Less Bo, more Tim Teufel!
   6. Tim D Posted: December 09, 2012 at 11:38 PM (#4320575)
Without a doubt the best athlete I've ever seen. I still root for Auburn just because he wore that uniform, and I am from Michigan with no connection what ever to the school. Attempts to dumb down Bo's career with sabermetrics do him no justice; he was split between sports, injuries destroyed him early, he put up big numbers with very little time in the minors. etc, etc. If he had been drafted as an 18 year old baseball player and come up to the bigs at 20 or 21 he would have been an incredible HOF outfielder. That we only got a glimmer and that his OBP was nothing to write home about doesn't change the fact that he was very, very special.
   7. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 09, 2012 at 11:52 PM (#4320583)
...For as much of a specimen Jackson was on the baseball field, he was a high-strikeout, low average home run hitter. His best season, 1989, saw him strikeout 172 times to just 39 walks.


1990 was pretty clearly his best season.

Today, his career .309 OBP would overshadow any of his muscles or athletic plays on the field. From 1986-1990, there were 141 players with a higher Wins Above Replacement than Jackson. Among them were Brett Butler, Mike Greenwell and current Mets third base coach Tim Teufel. None of those individuals had national commercials or an ESPN documentary made about them.


None of those individuals played two pro sports. Is the author unclear as to this point?

But I think he's unfairly harsh on Jackson, who hit for good power and showed some flashes of being able to control the strike zone. This when his time/body were divided between MLB and the NFL. And that's to say nothing about him slugging .500 and hitting to a 117 OPS+ on a fake hip.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: December 09, 2012 at 11:52 PM (#4320584)
Jesus, what a grump.
   9. Manny Coon Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:00 AM (#4320589)
Sort of weird to say Jackson would have been off focusing on football when his injury that ruined his career happened playing football.
   10. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:02 AM (#4320590)
Here's an interesting r.s.bb post from 1998:

From: Sean Lahman <s...@baseball1.com>
Subject: Re: Home Runs: Mark McGwire vs. Bo Jackson
Date: 1998/06/11
Newsgroups: rec.sport.baseball

Rob McLean wrote:
>
> Can someone do a Brock5 on Bo and seem if he
> would've had HOF numbers?

Sure, but bear in mind that Bo Jackson was already 26 when he played his
first full season, and played only four seasons before his injury.

I ran the Brock projection based on his play before the injury. The top
of the chart shows his actual stats (1986-1990). The bottom shows what
Brock projects.

Year Age   G   AB   R   H  2B 3B  HR RBI  BB   AVG
1986  25  25   82   9  17   2  1   2   9   7  .207
1987  26 116  396  46  93  17  2  22  53  30  .235
1988  27 124  439  63 108  16  4  25  68  25  .246
1989  28 135  515  86 132  15  6  32 105  39  .256
1990  29 111  405  74 110  16  1  28  78  44  .272
------------------------------------------------
1991  30 133  505  69 121  16  3  28  81  46  .239
1992  31 133  484  69 120  17  2  27  78  48  .249
1993  32 140  512  66 124  17  2  25  78  49  .242
1994  33  73  240  30  57   8  1  11  34  26  .237
1995  34  43  124  16  29   4  0   5  17  20  .232
1996  35  19   43   5  10   1  0   1   6   5  .233
Tot     1052 3746 532 921 128 23 206 606 339  .246 


The most similar player to that would be Pete Incaviglia (.247/206
HRs). Others would include Ron Gant (.258/223 HRs thru 1997), Kevin
McReynolds (.265/211 HRs), Dave Henderson (.258/197 HRs).


I'm not sure whether that takes into account that offense increased in 1993.
   11. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:09 AM (#4320598)
Wait a minute. Scratch my last post. This was kind of important:

From: Sean Lahman <s...@baseball1.com>
Subject: Re: Home Runs: Mark McGwire vs. Bo Jackson
Date: 1998/06/12
Newsgroups: rec.sport.baseball

NawrockiT wrote:
> According to what I've seen and what Dave Nieporent posted, Bo was
> born on 11/30/63, which makes him 23 in 1986, not 25. Thus, he was
> only 27 after the injury in 1990.

It's 11/30/62 (David was right). That makes him 23 on July 1,1986 ,
which is the date we generally use to determine the player's season-age.

> Those two years probably would have meant quite a difference in his
> development, wouldn't they?

Here's the projection again, with the right birthday.

Year Age   G   AB   R    H  2B 3B  HR RBI  BB   AVG
1986  23  25   82   9   17   2  1   2   9   7  .207
1987  24 116  396  46   93  17  2  22  53  30  .235
1988  25 124  439  63  108  16  4  25  68  25  .246
1989  26 135  515  86  132  15  6  32 105  39  .256
1990  27 111  405  74  110  16  1  28  78  44  .272
--------------------------------------------------
1991  28 133  491  76  122  16  3  35  93  40  .248
1992  29 137  495  79  122  17  2  38  98  47  .247
1993  30 141  523  80  131  18  2  36  98  47  .250
1994  31 144  516  75  127  17  2  35  94  48  .246
1995  32 146  524  68  124  17  2  32  88  48  .236
1996  33  77  251  31   58   8  1  14  40  25  .233
1997  34  45  128  17   30   4  0   7  20  20  .233
1998  35  20   45   5   10   1  0   2   6   5  .200
Tot     1356 4809 709 1184 164 27 308 852 424  .246 


That's abot 100 more HRs than I erroneously projected yesterday. If we
prorate 94/95 for the strike, he loses about 9 HRs. For the sake of
discussion, let's call it an even 300. That puts him roughly in the
company of guys like Jim Wynn (.250/291 HRs) and Darryl Strawberry
(.259/308 through 1997), maybe even Tom Brunansky (.245/271 HRs) or
Bobby Bonds (.268/332 HRs). Better company for sure, but still nowhere
near the Hall of Fame.


   12. valuearbitrageur Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:47 AM (#4320610)
Any projection system that says a healthy Bo Jackson, with his speed, athletic ability and power, would be done as a full time player by age 33 is completely broken.
   13. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:05 AM (#4320623)
Any projection system that says a healthy Bo Jackson, with his speed, athletic ability and power, would be done as a full time player by age 33 is completely broken.


Yes, if you read the thread there was a lively discussion about the projection.

As to players like Jackson being done by 33... I don't know; it doesn't sound too crazy to me. The typical player is out of the league or close thereto by 33, certainly by 35.

On that subject, it was pretty shocking to see Strawberry basically done by 30. Griffey had just 6 WAR after age 31. Canseco and Rice and Murphy and Belle and Kevin Mitchell and Pedro Guerrero and Bobby Bonds were done by 33-35. Tartabull and Jessie Barfield and Jason Bay were done by 30-32.
   14. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:54 AM (#4320659)
The projection is cute but it tells us nothing. Bo Jackson was outrageously talented and fun to watch. He was a very good baseball player and he had the potential to get even better. And Silva is a big stupid grumpy face.
   15. puck Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:55 AM (#4320660)
And he is absolutely worthy of a 30-30 story.

Yeah, what a bizarre take. Talk about a guy who needs to get his nose out of a spreadsheet and watc HOLY #### DID YOU SEE WHAT BO JUST DID??!1111
   16. Walt Davis Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:57 AM (#4320661)
On that subject, it was pretty shocking to see Strawberry basically done by 30. Griffey had just 6 WAR after age 31. Canseco and Rice and Murphy and Belle and Kevin Mitchell and Pedro Guerrero and Bobby Bonds were done by 33-35. Tartabull and Jessie Barfield and Jason Bay were done by 30-32.

Yet Alfonso Soriano marches on!

EDIT: Soriano actually is probably a pretty good comp for what a healthy Bo might have done. He started at 25, doesn't walk, Ks a lot, ISO of 230, 272 steals.
   17. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: December 10, 2012 at 02:01 AM (#4320663)
I understand he might be available in trade.
   18. Phil Coorey is a T-Shirt Salesman Posted: December 10, 2012 at 03:05 AM (#4320695)
What did everything think of the 30 for 30 on Bo anyway?

There was some great stuff in there , though I got a little sick of Klosterman and that Mike idiot , I just wanted more Bo.

In any case , I think 30 for 30 is struggling this season - they really need to pull their finger out.
   19. Bug Selig Posted: December 10, 2012 at 07:39 AM (#4320731)
From 1986-1990, there were 141 players with a higher Wins Above Replacement than Jackson.


How about if you don't include his 82 AB rookie "season", Jackass?

You have a point, but are such an a$$hat in making it that it gets lost. And to think you communicate for a living.
   20. Bug Selig Posted: December 10, 2012 at 07:53 AM (#4320733)
Any projection system that says a healthy Bo Jackson, with his speed, athletic ability and power, would be done as a full time player by age 33 is completely broken.


Projections always "err" toward the middle - they are supposed to. Nobody projects to be Albert Pujols - even Albert Pujols - because being Albert Pujols is unlikely as all hell. Even someone as amazing as Mike Trout, no logically valid system can project him to be an inner-circle HOFer, because its damned unlikely. And we might be talking about the best player his age, ever.
   21. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: December 10, 2012 at 08:28 AM (#4320737)
Any projection system that says a healthy Bo Jackson, with his speed, athletic ability and power, would be done as a full time player by age 33 is completely broken.

Yes, if you read the thread there was a lively discussion about the projection.

As to players like Jackson being done by 33... I don't know; it doesn't sound too crazy to me. The typical player is out of the league or close thereto by 33, certainly by 35.

On that subject, it was pretty shocking to see Strawberry basically done by 30. Griffey had just 6 WAR after age 31. Canseco and Rice and Murphy and Belle and Kevin Mitchell and Pedro Guerrero and Bobby Bonds were done by 33-35. Tartabull and Jessie Barfield and Jason Bay were done by 30-32.


I'm obliged to agree w Ray. Even on a website as filled with stellar minds as this one, I'm regularly surprised by how many people don't consider 35 particularly old in baseball. It's old, and 38 is ancient. The number of fine players out of the game (or who should be) by 33 is a lot longer than the converse.

That part of my baseball education was filled in by James in an essay I can no longer find, on the McReynolds trade and what the Mets could expect from him. In it James also listed the number of full-time players by age, and didn't set the bar for "full-time" particularly high. That year the number of full time players in their age 36 season was all of four. The drop off after 29 was particularly striking. It read like the casualty rate during trench warfare.

James also wrote about McReynolds after his crappy age 31 season in 1991, saying that McReynolds' numbers were those of a guy who was essentially done. James also wrote that GMs and announcers never believed that 31 was old, and that McReynolds, because of his record, was going to be allowed to be crappy for quite a while before GMs understood he was done. Mac stayed in the game for 3 more years, 1.7 more bWAR, and around 10 million dollars.
   22. Greg K Posted: December 10, 2012 at 08:56 AM (#4320740)
I'm obliged to agree w Ray. Even on a website as filled with stellar minds as this one, I'm regularly surprised by how many people don't consider 35 particularly old in baseball. It's old, and 38 is ancient. The number of fine players out of the game (or who should be) by 33 is a lot longer than the converse.

One of the few times I tried to be a snotty baseball know-it-all with friends was a rant I had about Paul Konerko about five years ago. Finding comparable players and looking at how they did after the age of 33 to demonstrate how it wasn't likely he had much of a career left. I'm pretty sure the Paul Konerko of 2010-2012 is God telling me no one likes a smug dick.

That being said, you're going to be right way more often than you're wrong predicting a pretty heavy mid-30s decline.
   23. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 09:52 AM (#4320764)
Eh, Silva does have something resembling a point. I do suspect if Bo came up in 2005 and stayed healthy, a lot of us here would be regularly writing variations on the theme of 'yeah he's the most incredible athlete I've ever seen, but his career OBP is .321 and his defense is actually good, not great, and he's nowhere near worth that 10 year, $325 million contract the Yankees gave him'.
   24. bunyon Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:15 AM (#4320777)
It certainly doesn’t justify the big commercials

Commercials aren't based on WAR. Or even AVG. They're based on appeal. And Bo was appealing as hell. Bo could probably still do commercials (maybe he does, I fast forward a lot).
   25. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:54 AM (#4320801)
What did everything think of the 30 for 30 on Bo anyway?

There was some great stuff in there , though I got a little sick of Klosterman and that Mike idiot , I just wanted more Bo.

In any case , I think 30 for 30 is struggling this season - they really need to pull their finger out.


I didn't get to see it. The 30 for 30s that came after the initial series has seemed to use the Klosterman types more often to its detriment. The story of Ole Miss was badly harmed I thought by the amount of on screen time Wright Thompson had.
   26. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:56 AM (#4320803)
More on topic Bo wasn't a great baseball player but he was a good one. Silva acting like Greenwell or Butler being better than Bo is a knock on Bo demonstrates a lack of understanding that those were very good baseball players in their own rights. There were a lot of players not as good as those guys in the late-80s.
   27. GregD Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:59 AM (#4320805)
One of the few times I tried to be a snotty baseball know-it-all with friends was a rant I had about Paul Konerko about five years ago. Finding comparable players and looking at how they did after the age of 33 to demonstrate how it wasn't likely he had much of a career left. I'm pretty sure the Paul Konerko of 2010-2012 is God telling me no one likes a smug dick.
Mark Buehrle, I tried to use you to my friends to show my predictive abilities and ended up just showing my ass.
   28. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:36 AM (#4320835)
First sports poster I ever had in my room was Bo. He was incredible to watch, but I did always feel like he was overrated. Would make a sensational catch one inning, miss a routine line drive at him the next. IIRC, the Royals once won a game in which he had the game winning strike out - he swung at a pitch so far out of the strike zone it went back to the backstop, allowing him to reach first and the winning run to come down from third.

I don't really get why people think he would have become a more refined player. Its not like he took up baseball as a hobby as a 24 year old. Baseball had always been his passion since he was a kid and he played high school baseball and SEC college baseball, the best conference in the country. He was what he was - a massively powerful hitter with great speed who had terrible plate discipline. I don't think that was going to change much.

What do the advanced stats say about his defense? I'm always curious about how much the legend outstrips the data. I'm guessing he was probably a liability in the field overall although his incredible arm may have mitigated that somewhat.
   29. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4320839)
That part of my baseball education was filled in by James in an essay I can no longer find, on the McReynolds trade and what the Mets could expect from him. In it James also listed the number of full-time players by age, and didn't set the bar for "full-time" particularly high. That year the number of full time players in their age 36 season was all of four. The drop off after 29 was particularly striking. It read like the casualty rate during trench warfare.


I think James noted that one of the early studies on this compared general performance from, say, 25-30 and 35-40 and was like, see, not too much of a dropoff. And James pointed out that that the study wasn't controlling for the fact that most of the players were out of the league by 32 and so weren't being included in "35-40."

Anyway, add Juan Gonzalez to the list of players broadly similar to Jackson in raw "tools" - maybe not speed - who flamed out in his early 30s.
   30. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:44 AM (#4320841)
I wouldn't mind seeing a projection for Jackson that took his actual stats, pretended he played full seasons using those actual stats, and projected him out from there.

More on topic Bo wasn't a great baseball player but he was a good one. Silva acting like Greenwell or Butler being better than Bo is a knock on Bo demonstrates a lack of understanding that those were very good baseball players in their own rights. There were a lot of players not as good as those guys in the late-80s.


Agreed. That was odd on Silva's part.

Mark Buehrle, I tried to use you to my friends to show my predictive abilities and ended up just showing my ass.


Eh. That's nothing. I was insisting to my friends in the late 90s that the wheels were about to come off of Mariano Rivera's wagon. Short shelf life of top drawer closers and for a while there his K rate was dropping.
   31. steagles Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:48 AM (#4320847)
In any case , I think 30 for 30 is struggling this season - they really need to pull their finger out.
i thought 9.79 was good, and this one was pretty good. and then i thought benji was one of the best they've done in the whole series. broke was mediocre, but watchable. and ghosts of ole miss - eh.


honestly, i don't care if they make a few, or even a lot, of bad movies, because when they get one right, it's one of the best things you'll see all year.
   32. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:54 AM (#4320850)
Any projection system that says a healthy Bo Jackson, with his speed, athletic ability and power, would be done as a full time player by age 33 is completely broken.


I disagree. I think his football injury is quite telling. It was a pretty routine tackle. But I think its quite possible Bo's body was stretching the human body to its limits in terms of athleticism. The stress on his tendons and bones would have been great over the years, particularly as he reached his 30s. I'm not sure he would have aged very well.
   33. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:59 AM (#4320857)
What a weird article, especially 20+ years later. Is there anyone who seriously doubts -- was there anyone who seriously doubted -- that Bo was a useful baseball player who was fun to watch, but a tremendous and almost unprecedented football player who was extremely fun to watch?

It's like the author is thinking he's come up with some kind of Great New Theory by saying, I don't know, "Jethro Tull isn't really heavy metal." Except it's worse than that, with the weird comparison to Francouer - it's really more like "Jethro Tull isn't really heavy metal, and they're actually kind of like Milli Vanilli."
   34. Sean Forman Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:09 PM (#4320869)
But I think its quite possible Bo's body was stretching the human body to its limits in terms of athleticism. The stress on his tendons and bones would have been great over the years, particularly as he reached his 30s.


Hmmm. Hmmm. Wasn't Frank Thomas a teammate of Bo's at Auburn?
   35. Belfry Bob Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:20 PM (#4320881)
Silva, get off my lawn!
   36. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:24 PM (#4320893)
Hmmm. Hmmm. Wasn't Frank Thomas a teammate of Bo's at Auburn?


One of the most bizarre things about the entire steroids controversy is the sheer number of people who wouldn't believe players like Sosa or Bagwell, and yet swallowed Thomas's loud and unprompted claims of non-use whole. But if ever there was a player who fit the typical profile of a steroids user, it was Thomas. Big, strong guy, played football growing up and in college, a three-sport guy, around locker rooms his whole life, came of age as the steroids culture was blossoming -- and by his own admission was ultra-competitive and, moreover, was sore that he was not drafted out of high school, as players he knew he was better than were. From wiki:

Thomas was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, and attended Columbus High School, where he was a standout in both football and baseball. As a Columbus High School sophomore he hit cleanup for a baseball team that won a state championship.

As a senior he hit .440 for the baseball team, was named an All-State tight end with the football team, and played forward with the basketball team. He wanted desperately to win a contract to play professional baseball, but was not drafted in the 1986 amateur draft.[6]

"I was shocked and sad," Thomas recalled in the Chicago Tribune. "I saw a lot of guys I played against get drafted, and I knew they couldn't do what I could do. But I've had people all my life saying you can't do this, you can't do that. It scars you.
No matter how well I've done. People have misunderstood me for some reason. I was always one of the most competitive kids around."

   37. BDC Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:26 PM (#4320898)
the list of players broadly similar to Jackson

Kirk Gibson too, also with a football connection. And though Gibson played till he was 38, he was notoriously banged-up despite leaving football for good in his early 20s. He played about 600 games in the last seven years of his baseball career.
   38. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:27 PM (#4320900)
...Jason Bay were done by 30-32.


Oh ye of little faith.
   39. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:32 PM (#4320906)

Hmmm. Hmmm. Wasn't Frank Thomas a teammate of Bo's at Auburn?


Yes, but I don't think they really compare athletically. Bo stole 27 bases in 1989. Frank stole 32 in his career.

Frank also had tremendous plate discipline while Bo hacked at anything with 15 miles of Royals Stadium. I think Bo's lack of plate discipline would have really hurt him late in his career when maybe his bat speed was reduced.
   40. puck Posted: December 10, 2012 at 12:42 PM (#4320917)
Hmmm. Hmmm. Wasn't Frank Thomas a teammate of Bo's at Auburn?


And Jim Edmonds starting hitting homers the season after being Bo's teammate!
   41. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:13 PM (#4320953)
Surprised nobody has mentioned Bo's contemporary and fellow two-sport player, Deion Sanders. Also an electrifying football player, much inferior to Bo as a baseball player. He made the football HOF.
   42. BDC Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:31 PM (#4320974)
I did think of Sanders, but he had a different body type, and was much more durable. A better baseball player than I remembered: from 1992-95 Sanders was a pretty fair CF – of what I think of as the Tom Goodwin type, but a better hitter than Goodwin. Just an astonishing football player. When he came to the Cowboys, it seemed as if his only impact was on returns, and the occasional stint as WR. But that was deceptive, because on defense he simply eliminated whatever receiver he was covering. Teams never threw in his direction, and he shut down a good percentage of every opponent's passing options, and hence you never saw what he was doing. And that increased his durability, because he didn't spend a lot of time tackling ballcatchers.
   43. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:36 PM (#4320980)
Brian Jordan was also a two-sport star at the time, but he quit the NFL to play MLB. Was a Pro Bowl safety IIRC, and ended up being a very good, albeit not great baseball player.
   44. The District Attorney Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:40 PM (#4320984)
Deion Sanders. Also an electrifying football player, much inferior to Bo as a baseball player.
I certainly wouldn't say "much." Bo is estimated at 7.2 WAR in 694 games; Deion at 4.9 WAR in 641 games. And that's counting the -1.2 WAR Deion racked up playing very irregularly as a 21-23 year old (a stirring 183/256/321 line), which might not have been a "Deion" with whom we need to concern ourselves.

If we want to move beyond what did happen on the field to what could have happened, it becomes even less clear. Deion had much better control of the strike zone than Bo. And although Bo did have ridiculous speed, Deion had even more ridiculous speed. I think it's very much up for grabs which one would have been the better baseball player, had both devoted their lives to baseball.
   45. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4320989)
And although Bo did have ridiculous speed, Deion had even more ridiculous speed.


One of my favorite stories which I tell from time to time is when Deion was playing, I think for the Reds, and he was on third base and Ozzie Guillen settled under a pop-up at short probably on the lip of the outfield grass or maybe a couple of feet into it. Guillen catches it, checks on Sanders, who bluffs towards home and returns to third. Guillen nods his head to Sanders, as a dare to Sanders to go ahead and try it.

Sanders takes off.

Damned if he wasn't nearly safe, out on a bang-bang play at the plate on a perfect throw by Guillen.

Nearly safe, on a routine pop fly to short.

Sanders dusted himself off and went to the dugout where his manager was waiting for him.

I'll try to find the game on b-r.
   46. bachslunch Posted: December 10, 2012 at 01:50 PM (#4320995)
Coke to Bob DC on his evaluation of the NFL Deion Sanders -- well put. Paul Zimmerman, a sportswriter with a specialty in film study, wrote once that Sanders and 60s-70s 'Niner CB Jimmy Johnson were the two best pure cover corners he had ever seen. Do that over a long and productive NFL career, mix in world-class KR ability to boot, and you've got an ironclad PFHoF argument. He's rightly in as far as I'm concerned.
   47. Papa Squid Posted: December 10, 2012 at 02:02 PM (#4321009)
i thought 9.79 was good,


Indeed. Despite that it happened 24 years ago, I was riveted. Especially by some of the revelations at the end. As a fellow Scarberian, I still have a soft spot for Ben Johnson.

Also, Deion Sanders absolutely terrified me in the 1992 World Series. He reached base 10 out of 17 times, and stole five bases. I still remember being relieved when Bobby Cox pinch-hit for him in Game Six with Ron Gant after Cito brought in David Wells.

Man, that 1992 Blue Jays pitching staff... look at who pitched Game Six. Cone started, then Stottlemyre, Wells, Duane Ward, Henke (with the blown save... Maldonado's throw was over everything!), Jimmy Key for the win, and Timlin for the save.
   48. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 02:02 PM (#4321010)
Ah. Found it. It was Reds v. White Sox, June 15, 1997:

Bottom of the 7th, Reds Batting, Behind 4-14, White Sox' Carlos Castillo facing 1-2-3

CIN D. Sanders C. Castillo -0% 100% Single to 3B (Bunt to Weak 3B)
CIN C. Goodwin C. Castillo -0% 100% Single to RF; Sanders to 2B
CIN H. Morris C. Castillo -0% 100% Groundout: 2B-1B; Sanders to 3B; Goodwin to 2B
Lenny Harris pinch hits for Barry Larkin (SS) batting 4th
CIN L. Harris C. Castillo 0% 100% Double Play: Popfly: SS (Deep SS); Sanders out at Hm/SS-C
0 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 LOB. White Sox 14, Reds 4.


Suffice to say that Ray Knight was not happy with Sanders's antics, particularly in a 14-4 game:

Top of the 8th, White Sox Batting, Ahead 14-4, Reds' Felix Rodriguez facing 2-3-4
Bret Boone replaces Deion Sanders (LF) playing 2B batting 1st

   49. Ron J2 Posted: December 10, 2012 at 02:33 PM (#4321059)
He was a great physical talent


And seemingly the ... honesty(maybe not the right word) to see his weaknesses and the work ethic to tackle them. I honestly don't know what the reasonable (optimistic) career arc was, never mind the potential upside.

The usual assumptions simply don't apply. He was so raw and so willing to learn.
   50. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: December 10, 2012 at 02:36 PM (#4321065)
Anyway, add Juan Gonzalez to the list of players broadly similar to Jackson in raw "tools" - maybe not speed - who flamed out in his early 30s.


I sure you can ask any of one of the ex-Mrs.Gonzalez about Juan's raw tools.
   51. Ron J2 Posted: December 10, 2012 at 03:02 PM (#4321098)
#21 An old study I did had the number of players with 300+ PAs in consecutive years from 1955 to 1995 (age is the first year. IE, there 723 players who had 300+ PAs at age 26 and 27). It's not a bad way to look at the aging curve in baseball.

AGE  #
18   1
19   6
20  36
21 109
22 217
23 379
24 514
25 650
26 723
27 699
28 658
29 599
30 503
31 413
32 348
33 255
34 185
35 130
36  90
37  65
38  41
39  24
40  14
41   6
42   3
43   2 


Not many make it to 38 and there's a disproportionate number of formerly excellent players (James' studies on aging show that great players hold a higher percentage of their peak value at any given age)

Exactly how Jackson fits into the general aging trend is anybody's guess.
   52. BDC Posted: December 10, 2012 at 03:25 PM (#4321124)
Very interesting, Ron. It would be great to see the study through 2012. One of my least favorite memes is the notion that "in the steroids era, everybody played past 40," which is demonstrably untrue. (In 2000-01, for instance, which would seem to be about the height of the "era," exactly six guys age 37-38 or older played 300+ PAs both years: Galarraga, Rickey, Edgar, O'Neill, Ripken, and Randy Velarde; only Henderson was over 40 both years.) But there could have been some change, which one would have to account for somehow (steroids hardly being all of it in any event, because medicine and salaries and expansion would all figure, too).
   53. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: December 10, 2012 at 03:36 PM (#4321132)
Bo was a better baseball player than Deion, but he never threw a bucket of cold water on Tim McCarver.
   54. tfbg9 Posted: December 10, 2012 at 03:37 PM (#4321134)
Deion had a bit of a rep for being a candy as$ against the run, no? But oh yes, he could cover. Wow.
   55. Ron J2 Posted: December 10, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4321158)
#54 True about the rep, but you know you can live with a shutdown corner who isn't a great tackler. It's a tricky weakness to exploit.
   56. Ron J2 Posted: December 10, 2012 at 03:57 PM (#4321162)
#52 On my list of things to do.

Of course raw numbers wouldn't tell the full story. 16 teams (and no DH) in a 154 game schedule in 1955. I'm thinking of looking at % of PAs by age over time.
   57. Gamingboy Posted: December 10, 2012 at 04:19 PM (#4321178)
I miss the days of multi-sport athletes. Why can't I see RGIII (pre-yesterday) try out for hurdles at Nationals? Why can't Samardzija be a WR on weekends? It's not like the Cubs ever play in the fall.....


Specialization ruined everything.
   58. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 04:25 PM (#4321183)
I can see Jake Locker washing out of the NFL pretty soon - would he jump to pro baseball?

Any other multi-sport candidates out there?
   59. Gamingboy Posted: December 10, 2012 at 04:33 PM (#4321189)

Any other multi-sport candidates out there?


Every year there are guys drafted in MLB or NFL drafts where there is some talk of what sport they will choose. Even those who have said one way or another might end up getting drafted late as an insurance policy for a team in case they change their mind.

Oh, and Ichiro could play any sport. If he wanted to. /Obligatory
   60. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:19 PM (#4321228)
Re #51: It flabbers my gast that there were more regulars aged 23-24 than aged 29-30.
   61. JJ1986 Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:23 PM (#4321232)
Jarrad Page hit .182 last year at high-A as a 27-year old.
   62. dlf Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:23 PM (#4321233)
Re #51: It flabbers my gast that there were more regulars aged 23-24 than aged 29-30.


Much as I enjoy a good flabbered gast, I think you've misread. If I've I understand Ron correctly, there were 514 24 year olds who also played at 25 and 503 30yo who played at 31. There were only a little more than half as many 23yo surviving to 24 (379) than 29yo to 30 (599).
   63. DA Baracus Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:26 PM (#4321236)
Any other multi-sport candidates out there?


Rockies 4th rounder Russell Wilson, but he's got things going pretty well in Seattle right now.

Jarrad Page hit .182 last year at high-A as a 27-year old.


Brandon Weeden also sucks at both.
   64. Ron J2 Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:29 PM (#4321238)
#62 Yeah. 514 who played regularly at 24/25 and 503 at 30/31

Still, the age curve starts earlier than I'd realized (I too was surprised by the number of 24/25 year olds) and starts to decline quicker than most people realize. (though the latter won't surprise anybody who has read James)
   65. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:33 PM (#4321240)
Yeah, as we know, it is generally the HOFers who are able to turn in productive seasons in their mid-to-late 30s.

Re #51: It flabbers my gast that there were more regulars aged 23-24 than aged 29-30.


I don't see that. Do you mean 24-25 rather than 23-24?
   66. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:34 PM (#4321241)
What a weird article, especially 20+ years later. Is there anyone who seriously doubts -- was there anyone who seriously doubted -- that Bo was a useful baseball player who was fun to watch, but a tremendous and almost unprecedented football player who was extremely fun to watch?

This. Not to drag this old chestnut howling from the vaults, but Silva's piece reads as though written by someone who either wasn't alive during Bo's playing days or had not yet reached the age of reason. If ever a player were more than his numbers ...

Re: Deion ... I never liked controlling Deion on Super Tecmo because he was so fast I'd routinely overrun plays.
   67. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:50 PM (#4321255)
Bo Jackson was lightning fast on Super Tecmo. It was really fun.
   68. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:51 PM (#4321258)
Yeah, but, imo, the Bo/Deion levels of speed were more useful in an offensive player. LT had just the right level of defensive speed for me.
   69. Jim Kaat on a hot Gene Roof Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:55 PM (#4321263)
The case of Chad Hutchinson was interesting as far as multi-sporters go, maybe even unique? I can't think of another pitcher who was also a quarterback at relatively high levels for both. I wonder if the difference in mechanics, if any, makes it impossible to be elite at both jobs; Tom House would surely say no. Anyway, I'd like to have seen what Rick Ankiel could have done with a football and what, say, Todd Marinovich could have done with a baseball (besides grind it up and snort it).
   70. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:57 PM (#4321267)
"QB Eagles" (a.k.a. Cunningham) was great to maneuver - fast with a rocket arm. I loved how the QB arms would range from laser throws to balloons for the good/bad QBs.

Super Tecmo (and RBI2 Baseball) were, IMO, the last great generation of video football/baseball games (and maybe even general video games). Because by the time the advanced games came along in the mid-to-late 90s, you were dealing with too many variables to control, and all kinds angles/views, and 3D graphics levels, and wind currents for football games, and the controllers had 13 different buttons and 142 different button combinations, etc. It got silly. Of course, this is probably just a get off my lawn moment. But those games were simple and fun, and I think sometimes 'simple' is a virtue.
   71. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: December 10, 2012 at 05:59 PM (#4321268)
(a) Hit a monster HR in the ASG.
(b) Ran over Brian Bosworth on Monday Nite Football.
(c) Funny commercials.
(d) Greatest. Tecmo. Player. Ever.
   72. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 10, 2012 at 06:17 PM (#4321280)
#62 Yeah. 514 who played regularly at 24/25 and 503 at 30/31


Thanks, I misread that the first time through.
   73. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 06:19 PM (#4321284)
Super Tecmo (and RBI2 Baseball) were, IMO, the last great generation of video football/baseball games (and maybe even general video games). Because by the time the advanced games came along in the mid-to-late 90s, you were dealing with too many variables to control, and all kinds angles/views, and 3D graphics levels, and wind currents for football games, and the controllers had 13 different buttons and 142 different button combinations, etc. It got silly.

Agree with this. I'm sure this age 40 talking, but video games have so utterly passed me by in this regard that I have zero interest in them anymore.
   74. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 06:21 PM (#4321285)
I can't think of another pitcher who was also a quarterback at relatively high levels for both. I wonder if the difference in mechanics, if any, makes it impossible to be elite at both jobs


Not high levels, but Brandon Weeden played A ball and for the Cleveland Browns.

Why wouldn't more QBs be pitchers? John Elway played outfield for the Oneonta Yankees. What a waste of an arm!
   75. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: December 10, 2012 at 06:46 PM (#4321300)
you were dealing with too many variables to control, and all kinds angles/views, and 3D graphics levels, and wind currents for football games, and the controllers had 13 different buttons and 142 different button combinations, etc.

You may like Dragon Age II
   76. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2012 at 08:43 PM (#4321359)
Super Tecmo (and RBI2 Baseball) were, IMO, the last great generation of video football/baseball games (and maybe even general video games). Because by the time the advanced games came along in the mid-to-late 90s, you were dealing with too many variables to control, and all kinds angles/views, and 3D graphics levels, and wind currents for football games, and the controllers had 13 different buttons and 142 different button combinations, etc. It got silly.


Also agreed, although there have been one or two recent games that try and correct this. MLB Power Pros is like a modern RBI Baseball, simple controls and adorable characters, but it also has the real teams and players and tons of modern stats.
   77. Moeball Posted: December 10, 2012 at 08:57 PM (#4321367)
And that's counting the -1.2 WAR Deion racked up playing very irregularly as a 21-23 year old


Wasn't it during this time with the Yankees that the legendary "Carlton Fisk kicked Deion's a**" incident happened?

Also - Deion was part of some controversy with the Braves that also helped lead to more spiraling salary madness - after NY released Deion, he signed as a free agent with the Braves (Jan 1991) - for more than twice as much $$ as David Justice had gotten from Atlanta after winning the ROY award in 1990. It's one thing to have free agency and know salaries are going to go up - it's another to sign a free agent with marginal baseball skills and pay him more than twice as much as a legitimate player who is vastly superior. Justice was justifiably furious after this and the "relative worth" component of salaries gets skewed upward dramatically when teams do stupid stuff like this.

(a) Hit a monster HR in the ASG.


Was at the '89 AS game in Anaheim and it was very cool for several reasons:

1)Bo's HR was breathtaking out to the tarp in CF - he just crushed that pitch - he also stole a base later in the game IIRC
2)Nolan Ryan back in the A.L., got a huge ovation back in Anaheim Stadium and I believe he also ended up as the winning pitcher in the game
3)Taking my dad to the game was awesome since he had taken me to the last AS game played in Anaheim back in '67 (longest AS game ever and we met Hank Aaron in parking lot after the game!)
   78. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 10, 2012 at 09:06 PM (#4321375)
I can't think of another pitcher who was also a quarterback at relatively high levels for both. I wonder if the difference in mechanics, if any, makes it impossible to be elite at both jobs


The Patriots' Brian Hoyer seems to have been a great high school pitcher. Of course he wasn't even drafted in the MLB draft.

So was the Bengals/Bears QB Jeff Blake.

Mitchell Boggs was a star high school QB and switched from college baseball to football one year, then switched back.

This guy Zach Lee may become a Hutchinson situation if he doesn't make it with the Dodgers.
   79. smileyy Posted: December 10, 2012 at 09:49 PM (#4321389)
Also - Deion was part of some controversy with the Braves that also helped lead to more spiraling salary madness - after NY released Deion, he signed as a free agent with the Braves (Jan 1991) - for more than twice as much $$ as David Justice had gotten from Atlanta after winning the ROY award in 1990. It's one thing to have free agency and know salaries are going to go up - it's another to sign a free agent with marginal baseball skills and pay him more than twice as much as a legitimate player who is vastly superior. Justice was justifiably furious after this and the "relative worth" component of salaries gets skewed upward dramatically when teams do stupid stuff like this.


Was understanding of how "free agents" and "players under team control" really that primitive in 1991? It was, wasn't it?
   80. vortex of dissipation Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:03 PM (#4321400)
Among HoF football players, Ernie Nevers was a fullback in football but a pitcher in baseball, and Sammy Baugh was a quarterback in football, and a (very bad) third baseman in baseball.
   81. puck Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:09 PM (#4321403)
(d) Greatest. Tecmo. Player. Ever.

That was in the documentary; they were very thorough.

Was it common knowledge that Bo thought the Buccaneers conned him into taking a plane ride and losing his remaining eligibility for baseball?
   82. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:22 PM (#4321413)
(d) Greatest. Tecmo. Player. Ever.

Thank you for the eye-watering laugh.

Best thing about that video to me was that the run takes up 5 minutes of time on the play clock. Talk about winning the time-of-possession matchup!
   83. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 01:52 PM (#4321848)

If we want to move beyond what did happen on the field to what could have happened, it becomes even less clear. Deion had much better control of the strike zone than Bo.


I may just be thinking of Sanders' 1991 Strat-O-Matic card, which went something like this:

Home Run
Strikeout
Strikeout
Single
Strikeout
Strikeout
Strikeout
Strikeout
Double
Strikeout
Triple
   84. steagles Posted: December 11, 2012 at 08:58 PM (#4322455)
You Don't Know Bo was the highest rated 30 for 30 ever. 2.3 rating.
   85. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:27 PM (#4322497)
Any aging projection for Jackson would need to take into account the incredible punishment that NFL RB's take. Most RB's are washed up by 30. Even if you hand-wave away the actual injury and also assume he quit football at that time, the hits that he took up to that point would have to have taken their toll.
   86. Jay Z Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:39 PM (#4322513)
Bo was injury prone before his hip injury - 116, 124, 135, 111 game in his four full years. Doesn't seem like that would project to a long career.
   87. jobu Posted: December 13, 2012 at 11:44 PM (#4324461)
I watched the 30 for 30 tonight. As with most of the ones I've seen, it was outstanding. It didn't gloss over Bo's imperfections as a baseball player--it was very clear he was raw, and he struck out a lot. The baseball pieces celebrated some of the outstanding moments--the flying catches, the titanic home runs, the throw to nail Harold Reynolds, the Spider Man climb up the wall. There is really no need (or way, for that matter) to downplay his football skills, of course.

I would encourage anyone who hasn't seen the movie to find it and check it out. The interviews with Bo's high school and college football and baseball coaches are terrific, and guys like George Brett and Howie Long--all-time greats in their sports--speak about Bo in awe of his athleticism.

I had previously explained to my 7 year-old (who has led his football and baseball teams in TDs and HRs each season he's played) that there was once this amazing two-sport player named Bo Jackson, but the doc really helped Bo come alive for my son. And I just took my Auburn #34 jersey and, with my boy's permission, hung it up in his room.

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