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Group Differences: An Analogy: Yankees vs. Cubs
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Commenter Judah Benjamin Hur writes:

Moreover, even though groups differ from each other, the most you can do is generalize. Let’s put it this way (I believe I got this analogy from someone a long time ago, can’t remember where). The New York Yankees baseball franchise has been vastly more successful than the Chicago Cubs. If you could randomly import 25 Yankees from history to your team you would probably beat 25 random Cubs. But the Cubs have produced many great players and the majority of Yankees are nothing special. Knowing if a player was a Cub or Yankee is of some value, but I’d really need a whole lot more to make any judgments.

Let me take this analogy more literally than it was intended. That’s an interesting question that the Sabermetricians now have the tools to evaluate using 21st Century baseball statistics such as Wins Above Replacement (player): how much of the Yankees’ greater success as a team over the last 100 years versus the Cubs is due to the Yankees’ average player being better and how much is it due to the Yankees having more historic superstars? To put it in Bell Curve terms, has the Yankees’ bell curve been shifted to the right overall or is it just that the Yankees have had a more impressive far right tail?

Most of the time when comparing groups, we see the right tail of probability distributions being related to the mean. But baseball operates under rules that would seem to equalize and randomize results, so the historic record of the Yankees (27 World Series championships compared to number two-ranked St. Louis Cardinals with 11, and only 3 for the Chicago Cubs) calls for analysis.

Baseball Reference ranks four Yankees, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio (names that even nonsports fans, at least in America, have likely heard), as each contributing more value to the Yankees winning regular season games than the biggest contributor in post-Cap Anson Cubs history, Ron Santo (a name that only American sports fans would recognize).

This would be an interesting way to quantitatively test one example of the Great Man theory of history that Tolstoy pooh-poohed in War and Peace.

A narrative popular in Boston is that the pivotal event in 20th Century baseball occurred after the 1919 season, when young Boston Red Sox pitcher/outfielder Babe Ruth smashed the home run record with 29. The Red Sox has been the leading franchise of the 20th Century up to that point, and appeared poised to dominate the next decade with Ruth in his prime. But the owner of the Red Sox needed money to mount a Broadway production of the musical No No Nanette, so he sold Ruth for $100,000 to the cash-rich but undistinguished New York Yankees. The Yankees leveraged Ruth’s revenue generating ability to build giant Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx, which allowed them to dominate baseball for the next 45 years.

The mid-Century Yankees didn’t pay all that well, but the players regularly cashed big World Series checks. That argument persuaded a teenage Mickey Mantle to sign with the Yankees for a smaller bonus than was being offered by a less successful rival team.

But then the Yankees, along with the South Bronx, fell apart in the 1960s. In 1974, Donald Trump’s mentor George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees and decided to Make the Yankees Great Again, which he more or less did, in part by spending lavishly for superstars like Reggie Jackson and Alex Rodriguez in the new free agent market. Steinbrenner violated the then-reigning conventional wisdom popularized by teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers that there was no fast road to success: a franchise needed to invest in a strong farm system and patiently wait for home-grown prospects to mature.

In return, Steinbrenner demanded his employees produce wins now, which led to a lot of Trump-like public feuds that were gleefully reported in the press.

 
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  1. Marty says:

    “But baseball operates under rules that would seem to equalize and randomize results,”

    But was that really true before 1965? By the way Steve, did you ever hear the story of how the Yankees got Lefty Gomez? Had nothing to do with money. A Cleveland scout, Cy Slapnicka, saw him undressed in the locker room and said, “nobody with a p**** that big will ever pitch in the big leagues.”

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    • Replies: @Njguy73

    A Cleveland scout, Cy Slapnicka, saw him undressed in the locker room and said, “nobody with a p**** that big will ever pitch in the big leagues.”
     
    Funny. In Moneyball a scout praises a player for being "the kind of guy who walks into a room and his dick has already been there for two minutes."
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  2. anon says: • Disclaimer

    From Wikipedia: “… popular myth held that the show was financed by selling baseball superstar Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, resulting in the “Curse of the Bambino.”[1] However, it was My Lady Friends, rather than No, No, Nanette, that was directly financed by the Ruth sale”

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    • Replies: @Not Raul
    Harry Frazee must have had some lady friends in the cast.
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  3. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    “nobody with a p**** that big will ever pitch in the big leagues.”

    As a Senators fan I beg to differ…why do you think they call it a Johnson?

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    • Replies: @MC
    Randy "The Big Unit" Johnson might be the only ballplayer whose proper name AND nickname could reasonably be construed as a phallic reference.
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  4. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Naw. This illustrates “magic dirt” theory in action. The Yanks didn’t really get going until they left the Polo Grounds for Yankee Stadium.

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  5. Can’t agree that A-rod was a big part of Steinbrenner’s winning formula for success from the 70s onward. He came in the year after the Yankees run of 4 championships between 1996-2000, and was only on the one somewhat fluke World Series winning squad of 2009 that was well after the late 90s dynasty squad with Jeter, Bernie Williams, Posada, Rivera et al.

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    • Replies: @justwonderingaboutbaseball
    While this may be true as a general overview, A-Rod added value on and off the field for a mid-00's Yankee team which allowed them to continue to be perennial contenders (and a box office draw) long after their roster aged. A-Rod, pre-steroid revelations, almost single-handedly built the Yankees YES television network by drawing in high ratings.

    He also anchored the middle of an order for those insane Yankees teams from '04 to '06 with mediocre pitching staffs but nuclear line-ups, which powered them to average 100 wins a years*- "Murders' Row Plus Cano" as coined by then Tigers Managers Jim Leyland.

    *those teams have to be the worst 100 win teams ever, pitching wise; or among the greatest 100 win teams never to win the World Series.

    , @anonymous
    Totally agree. In fact, his contribution to the team was pretty much a zero.
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  6. Njguy73 says:
    @Marty
    "But baseball operates under rules that would seem to equalize and randomize results,"

    But was that really true before 1965? By the way Steve, did you ever hear the story of how the Yankees got Lefty Gomez? Had nothing to do with money. A Cleveland scout, Cy Slapnicka, saw him undressed in the locker room and said, "nobody with a p**** that big will ever pitch in the big leagues."

    A Cleveland scout, Cy Slapnicka, saw him undressed in the locker room and said, “nobody with a p**** that big will ever pitch in the big leagues.”

    Funny. In Moneyball a scout praises a player for being “the kind of guy who walks into a room and his dick has already been there for two minutes.”

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  7. Glossy says: • Website

    But the owner of the Red Sox needed money to mount a Broadway production of the musical No No Nanette

    I’m guessing that this caused the actress who played Nanette to say yes yes to the owner. Could have been worth it.

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  8. The Ruth trade also came (more or less) with the deed to Fenway Park as the Yankees paid 100,000 straight up for Ruth as well as floating Frazee and the Red Sox a 300,000 loan with the park as collateral. They used the brief ownership of Fenway as a way to get the original Yankee Stadium built after the New York Giants kicked the Yankees out of the Polo Grounds. That, coupled with several other Red Sox all stars/future hall of famers brought over during that same time period formed the backbone of those early World Series teams before the Gehrig/Ruth tandem really took off and launched the Yankees into the stratosphere and perennial contender for the next four decades.

    Frazee’s problem wasn’t necessarily his plays but that he wasn’t wealthy enough to actually own a baseball team. He was a black sheep owner disliked by league president Johnson and had several star players pulling stunts in hopes for a better contract, Ruth ultimately being the most prominent. It also didn’t help that the World Series caliber team he purchased in the mid-teens was under-performing or ended its window and wasn’t drawing big crowds during an era of financial growth league wide.

    Frazee only received two offers for Ruth in 1920 (a pitcher coming off a bad season on the mound with a good but largely unproven bat): The Yankees with their 100,000 and the White Sox with 60,000 and a still unbanned Shoeless Joe Jackson.

    As badly as history has treated the Red Sox for the trade, they likely made the best of the choices available.

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  9. @415 reasons
    Can't agree that A-rod was a big part of Steinbrenner's winning formula for success from the 70s onward. He came in the year after the Yankees run of 4 championships between 1996-2000, and was only on the one somewhat fluke World Series winning squad of 2009 that was well after the late 90s dynasty squad with Jeter, Bernie Williams, Posada, Rivera et al.

    While this may be true as a general overview, A-Rod added value on and off the field for a mid-00′s Yankee team which allowed them to continue to be perennial contenders (and a box office draw) long after their roster aged. A-Rod, pre-steroid revelations, almost single-handedly built the Yankees YES television network by drawing in high ratings.

    He also anchored the middle of an order for those insane Yankees teams from ’04 to ’06 with mediocre pitching staffs but nuclear line-ups, which powered them to average 100 wins a years*- “Murders’ Row Plus Cano” as coined by then Tigers Managers Jim Leyland.

    *those teams have to be the worst 100 win teams ever, pitching wise; or among the greatest 100 win teams never to win the World Series.

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  10. I am not going to argue with the value of Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and DiMaggio, but Yogi Berra was one of the, if not the best, catcher of all time. He was the glue on the great Yankee teams.

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    • Agree: Desiderius, MBlanc46
    • Replies: @Judah Benjamin Hur
    I don't have the time or interest to study the matter, but I'm pretty sure WAR has a big flaw with key position players. You can't offensively replace a catcher with a 1b. A typical catcher is horrible at hitting so having a guy like Berra or Bench is of extraordinary value.

    I had an idea for the baseball HOF (it won't work for football because some positions are worth a lot more than others). You have to keep a balance of all positions. So if you're down a 2bman, can't elect anyone until you've got your man. You can lump RF and LF together. There should be 4 or 5 starting pitchers for every position player. If you did this, some of the idiotic mistakes like making poor Ron Santo die first before making the HOF would have been corrected.
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  11. Anonym says:

    I am not going to argue with the value of Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and DiMaggio, but Yogi Berra was one of the, if not the best, catcher of all time. He was the glue on the great Yankee teams.

    Yeah, Yogi was 90% of the reason those Yankee teams were great. The other half was those other guys.

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    • LOL: bomag
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  12. Hubbub says:

    I’m a Cubbie. Don’t say no bad about my Cubs!

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  13. In return, Steinbrenner demanded his employees produce wins now, which led to a lot of Trump-like public feuds that were gleefully reported in the press.

    Trump definitely reminds me of sort of a political Steinbrenner. (Which, i’m sure must prove that he’s anti-Semitic.)

    But while Trump has “won the big one” electorally, i keep waiting for the political/policy victories.

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    • Replies: @anonymous

    But while Trump has “won the big one” electorally, i keep waiting for the political/policy victories.
     
    Don't you consider putting a young conservative on the Supreme Court a victory?
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  14. D. K. says:

    The Reserve Clause was largely responsible for the New York Yankees’ ability to dominate Major League Baseball for forty-five years, through 1964, while it was still the National Pastime. As for my Chicago Cubs, they have not been nearly as bad as most casual observers assume, hearing of the “Lovable Losers” endlessly through the media, over the course of the “Modern Era” that began with American League play, in 1901 (when today’s New York Yankees began– as the Baltimore Orioles!):

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/

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    • Replies: @Judah Benjamin Hur
    I just checked and the Cubs have an impressive lifetime winning % of .512, but it's just more interesting with the Cubs. I guess you could do the Phillies, which are truly the worst century+ old team.
    , @Njguy73
    No. It was the Yankees developing a deep farm system earlier than other teams which enabled them to dominate, as the Cardinals did in the National League. The Cubs were one of the last teams to develop a farm system. The Reserve Clause may have kept players bound to their original teams, but the Rule V Draft was put in place to give tail-enders a chance to take flyers on high-end teams' surplus talent.
    , @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    "The Reserve Clause was largely responsible for the New York Yankees’ ability to dominate Major League Baseball for forty-five years, through 1964, while it was still the National Pastime."

    Actually, no it wasn't. You're missing it. The Reserve Clause was a form of a salary cap in practice. It was first put into play ca.1879 in the minor leagues by a then obscure owner, John T Brush, who later owned the CIN Reds and NY Giants. Brush's influence helped convince MLB owners to adopt the Reserve Clause for all of MLB, especially after the jumping contract salary wars of 1901-03, when some NL players broke their contracts by jumping to the AL for relatively higher pay. The Federal League, (1914-15), also managed to lure some MLB players. After the Federal League folded in 1916, MLB's standard contract for every single player was the Reserve Clause, until the Messersmith case of '76. The Reserve Clauses main purpose was for every single MLB owner to hold onto its own players. In other words, each team was guaranteed to hold onto its stars. Since there was no free agency, the player had to accept the offer his owner made at salary time, or else go home and possibly never play again. I said that the Reserve Clause was a salary cap in practice: it prevented owners from poaching or coming in a la Steinbrenner and buying up all the stars from other teams. In theory stars could be traded; in practice it didn't always happen. Each team held onto its homegrown talent. It's really nobody's fault but that of the individual AL teams that they never could come up with the smarts to overtake the Yankees during their near half century of dominance.

    Steve mentioned Connie Mack's A's being awful bad at times. Why do you think they were? Because although Connie Mack was owner and could have held onto his own players during his WS appearance yrs, he decided the more prudent move was to have fire sales and sell their contracts for basically money and not much else. As he also didn't always develop his farm systems, he would have years with nothing to show for it, from a Pennant/Contending point of view. Who's fault is that? It's Mack, for being a tightwad and not wanting to pay his players after helping to win Pennants. Hence the fire sales for no players/or substandard players in return (basically he got cash and not much else in return most of the time).

    Also, some of BOS's '15, 16, and '18 WS wins were players picked up from other teams (like the A's).

    The Reserve Clause was well entrenched way before the Yankees came to dominate the league. They just were better at maintaining their dominance and holding onto their stars. After all, if you're a starter on the Yankees, you were guaranteed a WS appearance at least every third season from 1921-64. Why would you even think of demanding to be traded? And to who? The Senators? The Phillies?

    GM Branch Rickey showed the way for smaller market teams to dominate: Thru the farm system. STL Cardinals became an NL powerhouse from 1926-46, largely in part because of Rickey's modern conception of the farm system (e.g. rating blue chip prospects, knowing when to move them up to MLB, etc). There was actually more parity for MLB as a whole in the NL, and many interesting AL Pennant races during the Yankees 45yr dominance than its been for the last 25yrs.

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  15. @Buffalo Joe
    I am not going to argue with the value of Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and DiMaggio, but Yogi Berra was one of the, if not the best, catcher of all time. He was the glue on the great Yankee teams.

    I don’t have the time or interest to study the matter, but I’m pretty sure WAR has a big flaw with key position players. You can’t offensively replace a catcher with a 1b. A typical catcher is horrible at hitting so having a guy like Berra or Bench is of extraordinary value.

    I had an idea for the baseball HOF (it won’t work for football because some positions are worth a lot more than others). You have to keep a balance of all positions. So if you’re down a 2bman, can’t elect anyone until you’ve got your man. You can lump RF and LF together. There should be 4 or 5 starting pitchers for every position player. If you did this, some of the idiotic mistakes like making poor Ron Santo die first before making the HOF would have been corrected.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    "A typical catcher is horrible at hitting so having a guy like Berra or Bench is of extraordinary value."

    Right. Wins Above Replacement is supposed to adjust for all that, but it has Yogi Berra as merely a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, when he was the pitch-caller and often clean-up hitter on ten World Series champions, the most rings of anybody in baseball history. A big reason Casey Stengel is in the Hall of Fame as a manager is because about 140 games per season for about dozen or so straight years he wrote on his lineup card "Batting 4th -- Berra -- Catcher." Yogi seldom got hurt, much less had an off season the way even Johnny Bench or Roy Campanella might hit .207 in between MVP years.

    Plus he was Yogi Berra.

    , @Njguy73
    I'm a stats geek, so I'll help you out here. When calculating WAR, there is a positional adjustment "value dependent on the player's position: +10.0 for a catcher, −10 for a first baseman, +3.0 for a second baseman, +2.0 for a third baseman, +7.5 for a shortstop, −7.5 for a left fielder, +2.5 for a center fielder, −7.5 for a right fielder, and −15.0 for a designated hitter."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wins_Above_Replacement#Position_players

    And here's one writer who states that like pitchers, catchers should have a unique WAR formula, one that factors in pitch framing and other catcher-specific actions.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/tht-live/criminals-of-war/
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  16. @D. K.
    The Reserve Clause was largely responsible for the New York Yankees' ability to dominate Major League Baseball for forty-five years, through 1964, while it was still the National Pastime. As for my Chicago Cubs, they have not been nearly as bad as most casual observers assume, hearing of the "Lovable Losers" endlessly through the media, over the course of the "Modern Era" that began with American League play, in 1901 (when today's New York Yankees began-- as the Baltimore Orioles!):

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/

    I just checked and the Cubs have an impressive lifetime winning % of .512, but it’s just more interesting with the Cubs. I guess you could do the Phillies, which are truly the worst century+ old team.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    The Athletics haven't been that good overall, but when they were good they were very good.
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  17. anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @AnotherDad

    In return, Steinbrenner demanded his employees produce wins now, which led to a lot of Trump-like public feuds that were gleefully reported in the press.
     
    Trump definitely reminds me of sort of a political Steinbrenner. (Which, i'm sure must prove that he's anti-Semitic.)

    But while Trump has "won the big one" electorally, i keep waiting for the political/policy victories.

    But while Trump has “won the big one” electorally, i keep waiting for the political/policy victories.

    Don’t you consider putting a young conservative on the Supreme Court a victory?

    Read More
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  18. Hodag says:

    Ryne Sandberg was the best Cub of my lifetime (Chris Bryant, who blew his bid for the cycle this afternoon by hitting a second home run instead of a double in the 8th inning, has a chance).

    Sandberg went years between errors with the toughest hometown official scorer in baseball.

    Maddux might have been the best Cub, but he spent his best years in ATL.

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    • Agree: (((Owen)))
    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Way way wait. Ernie Banks is the best Cub of the post '45 yrs. Come on. What other Cub hit 500 HRs for such an awful franchise (per the determinant that winning is everything in sports).
    , @dr kill
    Whoever said the Phillies are the worst team of all time wasn't kidding. Trades like this one didn't help.
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  19. Not Raul says:
    @anon
    From Wikipedia: "... popular myth held that the show was financed by selling baseball superstar Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, resulting in the "Curse of the Bambino."[1] However, it was My Lady Friends, rather than No, No, Nanette, that was directly financed by the Ruth sale"

    Harry Frazee must have had some lady friends in the cast.

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  20. @Judah Benjamin Hur
    I don't have the time or interest to study the matter, but I'm pretty sure WAR has a big flaw with key position players. You can't offensively replace a catcher with a 1b. A typical catcher is horrible at hitting so having a guy like Berra or Bench is of extraordinary value.

    I had an idea for the baseball HOF (it won't work for football because some positions are worth a lot more than others). You have to keep a balance of all positions. So if you're down a 2bman, can't elect anyone until you've got your man. You can lump RF and LF together. There should be 4 or 5 starting pitchers for every position player. If you did this, some of the idiotic mistakes like making poor Ron Santo die first before making the HOF would have been corrected.

    “A typical catcher is horrible at hitting so having a guy like Berra or Bench is of extraordinary value.”

    Right. Wins Above Replacement is supposed to adjust for all that, but it has Yogi Berra as merely a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, when he was the pitch-caller and often clean-up hitter on ten World Series champions, the most rings of anybody in baseball history. A big reason Casey Stengel is in the Hall of Fame as a manager is because about 140 games per season for about dozen or so straight years he wrote on his lineup card “Batting 4th — Berra — Catcher.” Yogi seldom got hurt, much less had an off season the way even Johnny Bench or Roy Campanella might hit .207 in between MVP years.

    Plus he was Yogi Berra.

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    • Replies: @whorefinder
    I have long wondered why really good catchers aren't among the highest-paid players in the league.

    Besides pitchers, a good-hitting, good-fielding, good-play-calling catcher is worth more to a team than a superstar position player, simply by virtue of the fact that its so much harder to be a 5-tool catcher who also calls games well and is a good field general and is involved in every dang play.

    Most catchers are pretty smart too, and end up managing somewhere (Torre, Scioscia, Berra, etc.). So it can't be a lack of knowledge about their value to the team.

    I wonder if its just the injury factor or the wear-down factor. But I do know that the old cliche is that, outside of pitching, you need to concentrate on building your team "up the middle" (catcher, shortstop, center-field, second base). It's hard to name a multi-year dominant team that didn't have a high-caliber catcher at its core.

    About the only exception to this rule I can think of is the highly-paid, big name Mike Piazza, who was an awful catcher but insisted on remaining in the position because his stats as a hitter made him the best-hitting catcher in baseball (and thus entitled to more $$$) rather than a good hitter at any other position (Piazza parlayed that right into the HOF, I believe).

    , @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Yogi is the only catcher to call a perfect game in the World Series, by the way. And he also won two Pennants, one in each league.

    That's why such a stat as Wins Above Replacement doesn't tell the full story. 14 Pennants and 10 WS Championships? And who was calling the games for most of that time? A catcher's job is to anchor the pitching staff. It's no surprise that many future MLB Catchers, then as now, were first catchers.
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  21. whorefinder says: • Website

    Sports leagues, surprisingly, really do like long-term dominating franchises, or Overdogs. The reason being that over the long haul:

    -Overdogs drive up the gate when they visit a town, especially for lousy teams
    -Overdogs give an air of glamour to players on it
    -Overdogs are the Bad Guys because they win so much, so you root for their opponents, even when its not your team
    -Overdogs drive bad bettors to the sportsbook, who bet the underdogs to win because “they’re due, dang it!”
    -if your team is in the hunt, you get extra-excited because they have to fight the Overdogs

    The games don’t even have to be that exciting if there’s an Overdog.

    In contrast, leagues going through an “anyone can win” time (i.e. parity) where everyone is competitive means actually fewer fans. There’s no Bad Guy to root against, and if your team is out of it, you don’t watch or bet or root. The play has to be pretty exciting to get the numbers very high.

    In baseball, when the Yankees and Dodgers were the Overdogs, the leagues were hot news. In basketball, the Celtics-Lakers overdogs drove the NBA to new heights in the 80s. In the NHL the domination of the Montreal Canadians kept the league popular. And the NFL’s time with the 49ers, Cowboys, and Steelers winning all the time were among the most popular times.

    And the NFL today? What about all the talk about parity? Well the New England Patriots have been the big bad overdogs since 2001, and the league has been thriving (minues the Kapernick-caused 10% revenue drop last year). Everyone hates the Patrtiots and Brady, and thats good news for the league; everyone wants a villain.

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  22. whorefinder says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    "A typical catcher is horrible at hitting so having a guy like Berra or Bench is of extraordinary value."

    Right. Wins Above Replacement is supposed to adjust for all that, but it has Yogi Berra as merely a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, when he was the pitch-caller and often clean-up hitter on ten World Series champions, the most rings of anybody in baseball history. A big reason Casey Stengel is in the Hall of Fame as a manager is because about 140 games per season for about dozen or so straight years he wrote on his lineup card "Batting 4th -- Berra -- Catcher." Yogi seldom got hurt, much less had an off season the way even Johnny Bench or Roy Campanella might hit .207 in between MVP years.

    Plus he was Yogi Berra.

    I have long wondered why really good catchers aren’t among the highest-paid players in the league.

    Besides pitchers, a good-hitting, good-fielding, good-play-calling catcher is worth more to a team than a superstar position player, simply by virtue of the fact that its so much harder to be a 5-tool catcher who also calls games well and is a good field general and is involved in every dang play.

    Most catchers are pretty smart too, and end up managing somewhere (Torre, Scioscia, Berra, etc.). So it can’t be a lack of knowledge about their value to the team.

    I wonder if its just the injury factor or the wear-down factor. But I do know that the old cliche is that, outside of pitching, you need to concentrate on building your team “up the middle” (catcher, shortstop, center-field, second base). It’s hard to name a multi-year dominant team that didn’t have a high-caliber catcher at its core.

    About the only exception to this rule I can think of is the highly-paid, big name Mike Piazza, who was an awful catcher but insisted on remaining in the position because his stats as a hitter made him the best-hitting catcher in baseball (and thus entitled to more $$$) rather than a good hitter at any other position (Piazza parlayed that right into the HOF, I believe).

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    • Replies: @Marty
    Gary Carter was the first 2 million/yr. player. This year Posey is making 18 mil.
    , @snorlax
    Like drummers and goalies, catchers are underpaid and underappreciated, because there's an oversupply, because 10-year-old boys think they look the coolest.
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  23. @Judah Benjamin Hur
    I just checked and the Cubs have an impressive lifetime winning % of .512, but it's just more interesting with the Cubs. I guess you could do the Phillies, which are truly the worst century+ old team.

    The Athletics haven’t been that good overall, but when they were good they were very good.

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    • Replies: @whorefinder
    Connie Mack's legacy was forever tarnished by his end-of-his-career poverty-stricken A's.
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  24. whorefinder says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    The Athletics haven't been that good overall, but when they were good they were very good.

    Connie Mack’s legacy was forever tarnished by his end-of-his-career poverty-stricken A’s.

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  25. Njguy73 says:
    @Judah Benjamin Hur
    I don't have the time or interest to study the matter, but I'm pretty sure WAR has a big flaw with key position players. You can't offensively replace a catcher with a 1b. A typical catcher is horrible at hitting so having a guy like Berra or Bench is of extraordinary value.

    I had an idea for the baseball HOF (it won't work for football because some positions are worth a lot more than others). You have to keep a balance of all positions. So if you're down a 2bman, can't elect anyone until you've got your man. You can lump RF and LF together. There should be 4 or 5 starting pitchers for every position player. If you did this, some of the idiotic mistakes like making poor Ron Santo die first before making the HOF would have been corrected.

    I’m a stats geek, so I’ll help you out here. When calculating WAR, there is a positional adjustment “value dependent on the player’s position: +10.0 for a catcher, −10 for a first baseman, +3.0 for a second baseman, +2.0 for a third baseman, +7.5 for a shortstop, −7.5 for a left fielder, +2.5 for a center fielder, −7.5 for a right fielder, and −15.0 for a designated hitter.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wins_Above_Replacement#Position_players

    And here’s one writer who states that like pitchers, catchers should have a unique WAR formula, one that factors in pitch framing and other catcher-specific actions.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/tht-live/criminals-of-war/

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    How about pitch calling?
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  26. Anonym says:

    This would be an interesting way to quantitatively test one example of the Great Man theory of history that Tolstoy pooh-poohed in War and Peace.

    What exactly was Tolstoy’s criticism? Some is excerpted here:

    http://www.finfacts.ie/Irish_finance_news/articleDetail.php?War-and-Peace-Tolstoy-s-rejection-of-the-Great-Man-theory-472

    Tolstoy wrote on the 7 Sept 1812 Battle of Borodino, located about 70 miles (110 km) west of Moscow, near the river Moskva. It was fought between Napoleon’s 130,000 troops, with more than 500 guns, and 120,000 Russians with more than 600 guns. After the loss of 30,000 French and 45,000 Russian casualties, Napoleon prepared to occupy Moscow:
    “And it was not Napoleon who directed the course of the battle, for none of his orders were executed and during the battle he did not know what was going on before him. So the way in which these people killed one another was not decided by Napoleon’s will but occurred independently of him, in accord with the will of hundreds of thousands of people who took part in the common action. It only seemed to Napoleon that it all took place by his will…Napoleon at the battle of Borodino fulfilled his office as representative of authority as well as, and even better than, at other battles. He did nothing harmful to the progress of the battle; he inclined to the most reasonable opinions, he made no confusion, did not contradict himself, did not get frightened or run away from the field of battle, but with his great tact and military experience carried out his role of appearing to command, calmly and with dignity (Book X: Chapter XXVIII).”

    Ok. So who decided where the battle would take place, where the forces were arranged, what tactics they had drilled, what they were equipped with, which men were selected? Who decided which generals to listen to, which course of action to take when there was disagreement, and when to ignore their advice entirely when they were wrong?

    At least where management and leadership are concerned, there are multitudes of decisions made every day. In most cases there is a definite course of action that is superior. This is not to take away from the rank and file, whose decisions are also very important in aggregate, as evidenced by the US military setting a minimum IQ for enlistment. However, a great leader can prove decisive even when the forces are otherwise outmatched.

    Scientific history is the direct work of multiple geniuses pushing the boundaries of human understanding. It is filled with great men.

    As to “great men” of a baseball team, I would like to see the stats. Is the median player better, is probably the question to ask.

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  27. Njguy73 says:
    @D. K.
    The Reserve Clause was largely responsible for the New York Yankees' ability to dominate Major League Baseball for forty-five years, through 1964, while it was still the National Pastime. As for my Chicago Cubs, they have not been nearly as bad as most casual observers assume, hearing of the "Lovable Losers" endlessly through the media, over the course of the "Modern Era" that began with American League play, in 1901 (when today's New York Yankees began-- as the Baltimore Orioles!):

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/

    No. It was the Yankees developing a deep farm system earlier than other teams which enabled them to dominate, as the Cardinals did in the National League. The Cubs were one of the last teams to develop a farm system. The Reserve Clause may have kept players bound to their original teams, but the Rule V Draft was put in place to give tail-enders a chance to take flyers on high-end teams’ surplus talent.

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    • Replies: @Brutusale
    Yeah, primarily their farm team called the Kansas City Athletics.
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  28. Marty says:
    @whorefinder
    I have long wondered why really good catchers aren't among the highest-paid players in the league.

    Besides pitchers, a good-hitting, good-fielding, good-play-calling catcher is worth more to a team than a superstar position player, simply by virtue of the fact that its so much harder to be a 5-tool catcher who also calls games well and is a good field general and is involved in every dang play.

    Most catchers are pretty smart too, and end up managing somewhere (Torre, Scioscia, Berra, etc.). So it can't be a lack of knowledge about their value to the team.

    I wonder if its just the injury factor or the wear-down factor. But I do know that the old cliche is that, outside of pitching, you need to concentrate on building your team "up the middle" (catcher, shortstop, center-field, second base). It's hard to name a multi-year dominant team that didn't have a high-caliber catcher at its core.

    About the only exception to this rule I can think of is the highly-paid, big name Mike Piazza, who was an awful catcher but insisted on remaining in the position because his stats as a hitter made him the best-hitting catcher in baseball (and thus entitled to more $$$) rather than a good hitter at any other position (Piazza parlayed that right into the HOF, I believe).

    Gary Carter was the first 2 million/yr. player. This year Posey is making 18 mil.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Joe Maurer got a huge deal, but has been pretty worn down since.
    , @whorefinder
    Fair enough, maybe I've missed a few. For example, Pudge Rodriguez had some big contract years; at one All-Star game where he and A-Rod both represented the Rangers, the announcers said that Pudge and A-Rod had each traveled at the game on separate private jets.

    But I'd like to see an "average salary" chart for both catchers v. other position players, and then see a chart of "all-star" catcher salaries versus all-stars at other positions. I hypothesize catchers are at the low end of both.
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  29. @Njguy73
    I'm a stats geek, so I'll help you out here. When calculating WAR, there is a positional adjustment "value dependent on the player's position: +10.0 for a catcher, −10 for a first baseman, +3.0 for a second baseman, +2.0 for a third baseman, +7.5 for a shortstop, −7.5 for a left fielder, +2.5 for a center fielder, −7.5 for a right fielder, and −15.0 for a designated hitter."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wins_Above_Replacement#Position_players

    And here's one writer who states that like pitchers, catchers should have a unique WAR formula, one that factors in pitch framing and other catcher-specific actions.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/tht-live/criminals-of-war/

    How about pitch calling?

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    • Replies: @Njguy73
    That's something which "remains the black box of catcher defense. No one has cracked this code. Catchers play a huge role in determining which pitches to throw and how a pitcher navigates a given lineup. Honestly, there is no public research that provides much insight into game calling. By all accounts, it should matter, we just don’t have any idea how to measure it."

    http://www.fangraphs.com/library/defense/catcher-defense/
    , @The Last Real Calvinist

    How about pitch calling?

     

    Good catchers also are good at calming pitchers down and getting them to focus, i.e. 'handling' pitchers. When you put this together with pitch calling, and crouching down 120-200 times a game and getting pounded behind the plate, and throwing out runners, and on and on, it's a very demanding position.
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  30. Dee says:

    Why does it have to be the super stars or generally good players?

    They had the super stars, but the rest of the team was still better than the other 7 teams in the American League.

    Their MO was to play the better 2 teams and split a 4 game series. Then with the doormats, it was a 4 game sweep or 3-1. That was how you win 106+ games for decades.

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  31. @Marty
    Gary Carter was the first 2 million/yr. player. This year Posey is making 18 mil.

    Joe Maurer got a huge deal, but has been pretty worn down since.

    Read More
    • Replies: @The Last Real Calvinist

    Joe Maurer got a huge deal, but has been pretty worn down since.

     

    Mauer has indeed been a disappointment. He looked like a generational player when he came into the league, was very very good (but still 'promising' more), then had that phenomenal MVP season when it looked as if the whole story was coming true. And then he turned into Jason Kendall (who was a similar disappointment). Mauer still hit for pretty good averages after the MVP, but the power never came back.

    Durability -- in two senses, i.e. not getting injured and missing time, and maintaining production -- is an aspect of superstardom I've noticed the sports talking heads paying more and more attention to lately.
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  32. “But the Cubs have produced many great players and the majority of Yankees are nothing special.”

    The asterisk of this sentence should read, that yes, Chitown produced many great players, the bulk of which played BEFORE 1945, which until last year, was the last time the Cubs made it to the WS. They won 10 Pennants between 1906-45, and won only 2 WS Titles. Meanwhile, over the same period, the Yankees won 14 Pennants while winning 10 WS Titles. Nothing special? Guess again.

    “the biggest contributor in post-Cap Anson Cubs history, Ron Santo (a name that only American sports fans would recognize).”

    Oh, its not Ernie Banks or Billy Williams? Even in America, how many sports fans immediately recognize the name Ron Santo, as opposed to Babe Ruth? And Santo played more recently in MLB. I mean, one is considered among the greatest players to ever play in MLB, and the other is tied to the “lovable losers” teams of mid to later part of 20th century.

    “Steinbrenner violated the then-reigning conventional wisdom popularized by teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers that there was no fast road to success: a franchise needed to invest in a strong farm system and patiently wait for home-grown prospects to mature.”

    Now hold it, hold it. In addition to having an excellent farm system during their 1921-64 AL dominance, the Yankees also would poach on weaker teams. In other words, at the time it was legal for a team to purchase a players contract from another team, or “trading” for said player for cash. During the ’50′s, the KC Athletics, then a mediocre team, kept dealing many of their prospects or good up and coming players to NY simply for cash–Roger Maris, for instance, came from KC as did 3B Clete Boyer.

    What the Yankees did better than most (if WS Titles are to be a fairly accurate judge of a teams’ total Wins Above Replacement, and, it should be), is that in addition to Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, etc. they had an above average nucleus core of supporting cast.

    During the 30′s, they had an excellent group of infielders like Red Rolfe (3B), and Joe Gordon (2B), Lazzeri/Crosetti/Rizutto (SS).

    In the ’50′s, they had an infielders consisting of some of the best fielders in the AL: from Gil MacDougald; Moose Skowron (1B); Bobby Richardson (2B) and Tony Kubek (SS).

    An above average to excellent infield helps make a pitching staff. Yes, they had an excellent farm system during these decades but they also knew when to go out and spend money on spare parts for their bench (for roster depth) during the pennant stretch.

    For the 20th century, for any era you want to name, the Yankees, bar none, remain MLB’s team of the Century.

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  33. @Steve Sailer
    "A typical catcher is horrible at hitting so having a guy like Berra or Bench is of extraordinary value."

    Right. Wins Above Replacement is supposed to adjust for all that, but it has Yogi Berra as merely a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, when he was the pitch-caller and often clean-up hitter on ten World Series champions, the most rings of anybody in baseball history. A big reason Casey Stengel is in the Hall of Fame as a manager is because about 140 games per season for about dozen or so straight years he wrote on his lineup card "Batting 4th -- Berra -- Catcher." Yogi seldom got hurt, much less had an off season the way even Johnny Bench or Roy Campanella might hit .207 in between MVP years.

    Plus he was Yogi Berra.

    Yogi is the only catcher to call a perfect game in the World Series, by the way. And he also won two Pennants, one in each league.

    That’s why such a stat as Wins Above Replacement doesn’t tell the full story. 14 Pennants and 10 WS Championships? And who was calling the games for most of that time? A catcher’s job is to anchor the pitching staff. It’s no surprise that many future MLB Catchers, then as now, were first catchers.

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  34. @Hodag
    Ryne Sandberg was the best Cub of my lifetime (Chris Bryant, who blew his bid for the cycle this afternoon by hitting a second home run instead of a double in the 8th inning, has a chance).

    Sandberg went years between errors with the toughest hometown official scorer in baseball.

    Maddux might have been the best Cub, but he spent his best years in ATL.

    Way way wait. Ernie Banks is the best Cub of the post ’45 yrs. Come on. What other Cub hit 500 HRs for such an awful franchise (per the determinant that winning is everything in sports).

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    • Replies: @Njguy73
    Yes, 512 HRs is impressive, but Banks had little or no defensive contribution for the second half of his career, while Santo's defense gives him a slight edge. In addition, Santo's best offensive years were during a lower-scoring era than Banks', the '60s vs. the '50s.
    , @MBlanc46
    Santo was an excellent player, but it's beyond doubt that the best player in Chicago post-WWII was Banks.
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  35. @D. K.
    The Reserve Clause was largely responsible for the New York Yankees' ability to dominate Major League Baseball for forty-five years, through 1964, while it was still the National Pastime. As for my Chicago Cubs, they have not been nearly as bad as most casual observers assume, hearing of the "Lovable Losers" endlessly through the media, over the course of the "Modern Era" that began with American League play, in 1901 (when today's New York Yankees began-- as the Baltimore Orioles!):

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/

    “The Reserve Clause was largely responsible for the New York Yankees’ ability to dominate Major League Baseball for forty-five years, through 1964, while it was still the National Pastime.”

    Actually, no it wasn’t. You’re missing it. The Reserve Clause was a form of a salary cap in practice. It was first put into play ca.1879 in the minor leagues by a then obscure owner, John T Brush, who later owned the CIN Reds and NY Giants. Brush’s influence helped convince MLB owners to adopt the Reserve Clause for all of MLB, especially after the jumping contract salary wars of 1901-03, when some NL players broke their contracts by jumping to the AL for relatively higher pay. The Federal League, (1914-15), also managed to lure some MLB players. After the Federal League folded in 1916, MLB’s standard contract for every single player was the Reserve Clause, until the Messersmith case of ’76. The Reserve Clauses main purpose was for every single MLB owner to hold onto its own players. In other words, each team was guaranteed to hold onto its stars. Since there was no free agency, the player had to accept the offer his owner made at salary time, or else go home and possibly never play again. I said that the Reserve Clause was a salary cap in practice: it prevented owners from poaching or coming in a la Steinbrenner and buying up all the stars from other teams. In theory stars could be traded; in practice it didn’t always happen. Each team held onto its homegrown talent. It’s really nobody’s fault but that of the individual AL teams that they never could come up with the smarts to overtake the Yankees during their near half century of dominance.

    Steve mentioned Connie Mack’s A’s being awful bad at times. Why do you think they were? Because although Connie Mack was owner and could have held onto his own players during his WS appearance yrs, he decided the more prudent move was to have fire sales and sell their contracts for basically money and not much else. As he also didn’t always develop his farm systems, he would have years with nothing to show for it, from a Pennant/Contending point of view. Who’s fault is that? It’s Mack, for being a tightwad and not wanting to pay his players after helping to win Pennants. Hence the fire sales for no players/or substandard players in return (basically he got cash and not much else in return most of the time).

    Also, some of BOS’s ’15, 16, and ’18 WS wins were players picked up from other teams (like the A’s).

    The Reserve Clause was well entrenched way before the Yankees came to dominate the league. They just were better at maintaining their dominance and holding onto their stars. After all, if you’re a starter on the Yankees, you were guaranteed a WS appearance at least every third season from 1921-64. Why would you even think of demanding to be traded? And to who? The Senators? The Phillies?

    GM Branch Rickey showed the way for smaller market teams to dominate: Thru the farm system. STL Cardinals became an NL powerhouse from 1926-46, largely in part because of Rickey’s modern conception of the farm system (e.g. rating blue chip prospects, knowing when to move them up to MLB, etc). There was actually more parity for MLB as a whole in the NL, and many interesting AL Pennant races during the Yankees 45yr dominance than its been for the last 25yrs.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Branch Rickey was the Great Man in the history of the National League's long comeback, starting the farm system in St. Louis and integration in Brooklyn.
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  36. Lugash says:

    Is it possible that the right tail also shifts the curve to the right in baseball? I.e. the superstars make everyone around them better, as was often said of Michael Jordan?

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    There's less overlap in baseball than in basketball, but I wouldn't be surprised if Babe Ruth made the famous slugging 1927 Yankees possible by showing his teammates just how hard a human being could hit a baseball. Most notably, Ruth's younger teammate Lou Gehrig put up batting statistics that had been unthinkable until Ruth decided he wasn't going to pay attention to the conventional wisdom about playing smart, conservative baseball.
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  37. Njguy73 says:
    @Steve Sailer
    How about pitch calling?

    That’s something which “remains the black box of catcher defense. No one has cracked this code. Catchers play a huge role in determining which pitches to throw and how a pitcher navigates a given lineup. Honestly, there is no public research that provides much insight into game calling. By all accounts, it should matter, we just don’t have any idea how to measure it.”

    http://www.fangraphs.com/library/defense/catcher-defense/

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  38. Whiskey says: • Website

    The Dodgers and the Giants of the last say, 10 years would seem to indicate just how that argument goes in Baseball, while the Pacific War would argue the opposite.

    The Dodgers won the division, what four times straight? Save Clayton Kershaw they did not have the best players; they had the erratic Yasiel Puig, a deep but undistinguished pitching roster (like say Dan Haren), and overperforming moneyball players like Yasmani Grandal but no one dominating. The Giants by contrast won what, four World Series in the last 12 years or so? With a lot of nobodies and a few superstars like Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Pence and Buster Posey.

    The METS have had more post-season success and gone deeper, actually reaching a World Series, than the Dodgers. In Baseball, it seems that having a few great players beats having a lot of really good ones; particularly in the post-season where all the opponents are great; the San Diego Padres have not reached the post-season for decades IIRC.

    But in the Pacific, Victor Davis Hanson makes much of the fact that the US was able to turn-around the badly wounded carrier from the Coral Sea, Yorktown, while Japanese carriers relatively undamaged but missing pilots and planes returned to Japan for retraining. Moreover, during the battle the US airmen and admirals displayed individual initiative and did not wait for orders, while the Japanese admiral in charge famously dithered between having air cover and rearming his planes for an attack on the American carriers thus being sitting ducks when by luck the dive bombers found them (following the wake of a Japanese destroyer delayed by a US submarine) and all the remaining air cover Japanese fighters were at low altitude destroying the doomed torpedo squadron 8 that almost to a man died in the attack.

    In war, generally, having more competent soldiers has beaten a few brilliant generals. Hannibal for all his brilliance could not beat the plodding Fabians after they settled into a denial strategy and sought to prevent naval reinforcements by building a navy (yes it was the Roman navy not army that defeated Hannibal in Italy). Lee, Forrest, and the rest were way ahead of the plodding Burnside and McClellan, but the latter had more men, with more supplies, food, arms, and naval transport.

    In sports it seems often a different story, a few really superstar players can dominate for some time; even against really good teams with better average players. The Dodgers won, what one series against the Yankees in the late 1970s-early 1980s?

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    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
    The Padres won the AL West in 2005 and 06. Probably not coincidentally, those were Bruce Bochy's last two years as manager.
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  39. Njguy73 says:
    @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Way way wait. Ernie Banks is the best Cub of the post '45 yrs. Come on. What other Cub hit 500 HRs for such an awful franchise (per the determinant that winning is everything in sports).

    Yes, 512 HRs is impressive, but Banks had little or no defensive contribution for the second half of his career, while Santo’s defense gives him a slight edge. In addition, Santo’s best offensive years were during a lower-scoring era than Banks’, the ’60s vs. the ’50s.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Ernie Banks was great when he was a slugging shortstop in the 1950s, but after his bad injury in the early 1960s he was just a (less) slugging first baseman. Which is a good thing to have, but a first baseman who can hit 20 or 30 home runs per year in Wrigley Field isn't all that special, not like a shortstop who hit over 40 homers five times.
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  40. whorefinder says: • Website
    @Marty
    Gary Carter was the first 2 million/yr. player. This year Posey is making 18 mil.

    Fair enough, maybe I’ve missed a few. For example, Pudge Rodriguez had some big contract years; at one All-Star game where he and A-Rod both represented the Rangers, the announcers said that Pudge and A-Rod had each traveled at the game on separate private jets.

    But I’d like to see an “average salary” chart for both catchers v. other position players, and then see a chart of “all-star” catcher salaries versus all-stars at other positions. I hypothesize catchers are at the low end of both.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Why would you hypothesize that catchers are underpaid? Baseball is a highly competitive business, all the information is public, and amateurs do intensive analyses of the market for free.
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  41. @Steve Sailer
    Joe Maurer got a huge deal, but has been pretty worn down since.

    Joe Maurer got a huge deal, but has been pretty worn down since.

    Mauer has indeed been a disappointment. He looked like a generational player when he came into the league, was very very good (but still ‘promising’ more), then had that phenomenal MVP season when it looked as if the whole story was coming true. And then he turned into Jason Kendall (who was a similar disappointment). Mauer still hit for pretty good averages after the MVP, but the power never came back.

    Durability — in two senses, i.e. not getting injured and missing time, and maintaining production — is an aspect of superstardom I’ve noticed the sports talking heads paying more and more attention to lately.

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    • Replies: @whorefinder
    It's amazing what happens when a new drug test comes along and can suddenly find the drugs they previously missed.
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  42. @Steve Sailer
    How about pitch calling?

    How about pitch calling?

    Good catchers also are good at calming pitchers down and getting them to focus, i.e. ‘handling’ pitchers. When you put this together with pitch calling, and crouching down 120-200 times a game and getting pounded behind the plate, and throwing out runners, and on and on, it’s a very demanding position.

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  43. whorefinder says: • Website
    @The Last Real Calvinist

    Joe Maurer got a huge deal, but has been pretty worn down since.

     

    Mauer has indeed been a disappointment. He looked like a generational player when he came into the league, was very very good (but still 'promising' more), then had that phenomenal MVP season when it looked as if the whole story was coming true. And then he turned into Jason Kendall (who was a similar disappointment). Mauer still hit for pretty good averages after the MVP, but the power never came back.

    Durability -- in two senses, i.e. not getting injured and missing time, and maintaining production -- is an aspect of superstardom I've noticed the sports talking heads paying more and more attention to lately.

    It’s amazing what happens when a new drug test comes along and can suddenly find the drugs they previously missed.

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    • Replies: @The Last Real Calvinist
    Yeah, it's hard to avoid the subject, isn't it?

    Mauer's career arc is actually quite representative of the Bill James/Rob Neyer school, in which a position player peaks at 27, which is much earlier than most fans assume (Mauer's peak was age 26), and then declines, often depressingly rapidly, once he's in his 30s.

    So how many baseball stars who've had extended peaks extended them via pharmaceuticals? We know of some who did, that's for sure.
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  44. @whorefinder
    Fair enough, maybe I've missed a few. For example, Pudge Rodriguez had some big contract years; at one All-Star game where he and A-Rod both represented the Rangers, the announcers said that Pudge and A-Rod had each traveled at the game on separate private jets.

    But I'd like to see an "average salary" chart for both catchers v. other position players, and then see a chart of "all-star" catcher salaries versus all-stars at other positions. I hypothesize catchers are at the low end of both.

    Why would you hypothesize that catchers are underpaid? Baseball is a highly competitive business, all the information is public, and amateurs do intensive analyses of the market for free.

    Read More
    • Replies: @whorefinder
    By comparison with the NFL.

    In the NFL, the second-highest paid position is Left Tackle. QB is #1, but Left-Tackle is #2. Why? Simple: left tackle is the primary defender of the QB's blind side. A great left tackle can give a rookie QB the massive confidence to develop and check down all his positions, while for a vet QB will protect him from having to scramble and duck. In all cases, the left tackle protects your QB, your most important player, from injury. So a left tackle is the second-most important player on the team besides QB.

    However, the NFL salary cap and the non-guaranteed nature of the contracts prevents eye-popping headlines on contract price.

    In baseball, the second most important player is catcher, after pitcher. Pitching wins games, but catching, with all its duties, is the most burdensome and physically taxing of all position players.

    In baseball, however, because the salary cap is only a luxury tax, players still vie to be the "highest paid" player and top the contract of the guy the year before. I constantly hear how X's new contract makes him the new highest paid player. Except X is rarely a catcher. Pitchers get the big contracts, but the big "highest paid" guy is otherwise some superstar outfielder/firstbase man/DH/ etc. I almost never hear of a catcher being in the top, even though they are most important.

    A guy like Jorge Posada or Jason Varitek was infinitely more important to their team's success than JoeSchmo .300-30-100 outfielder, yet I never heard big numbers out of them.
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  45. @Njguy73
    Yes, 512 HRs is impressive, but Banks had little or no defensive contribution for the second half of his career, while Santo's defense gives him a slight edge. In addition, Santo's best offensive years were during a lower-scoring era than Banks', the '60s vs. the '50s.

    Ernie Banks was great when he was a slugging shortstop in the 1950s, but after his bad injury in the early 1960s he was just a (less) slugging first baseman. Which is a good thing to have, but a first baseman who can hit 20 or 30 home runs per year in Wrigley Field isn’t all that special, not like a shortstop who hit over 40 homers five times.

    Read More
    • Replies: @whorefinder
    So Ernie Banks and then Mark Grace? That's two HOF-caliber first basement with little power. That's gotta be some kind of record---the Cubs getting two such statistical weirdos who were HOF worthy. That's like getting two HOF catchers who average 20 steals a year.

    And that's even doubly weird when you remember they were playing in Wrigley Field.

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  46. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    "The Reserve Clause was largely responsible for the New York Yankees’ ability to dominate Major League Baseball for forty-five years, through 1964, while it was still the National Pastime."

    Actually, no it wasn't. You're missing it. The Reserve Clause was a form of a salary cap in practice. It was first put into play ca.1879 in the minor leagues by a then obscure owner, John T Brush, who later owned the CIN Reds and NY Giants. Brush's influence helped convince MLB owners to adopt the Reserve Clause for all of MLB, especially after the jumping contract salary wars of 1901-03, when some NL players broke their contracts by jumping to the AL for relatively higher pay. The Federal League, (1914-15), also managed to lure some MLB players. After the Federal League folded in 1916, MLB's standard contract for every single player was the Reserve Clause, until the Messersmith case of '76. The Reserve Clauses main purpose was for every single MLB owner to hold onto its own players. In other words, each team was guaranteed to hold onto its stars. Since there was no free agency, the player had to accept the offer his owner made at salary time, or else go home and possibly never play again. I said that the Reserve Clause was a salary cap in practice: it prevented owners from poaching or coming in a la Steinbrenner and buying up all the stars from other teams. In theory stars could be traded; in practice it didn't always happen. Each team held onto its homegrown talent. It's really nobody's fault but that of the individual AL teams that they never could come up with the smarts to overtake the Yankees during their near half century of dominance.

    Steve mentioned Connie Mack's A's being awful bad at times. Why do you think they were? Because although Connie Mack was owner and could have held onto his own players during his WS appearance yrs, he decided the more prudent move was to have fire sales and sell their contracts for basically money and not much else. As he also didn't always develop his farm systems, he would have years with nothing to show for it, from a Pennant/Contending point of view. Who's fault is that? It's Mack, for being a tightwad and not wanting to pay his players after helping to win Pennants. Hence the fire sales for no players/or substandard players in return (basically he got cash and not much else in return most of the time).

    Also, some of BOS's '15, 16, and '18 WS wins were players picked up from other teams (like the A's).

    The Reserve Clause was well entrenched way before the Yankees came to dominate the league. They just were better at maintaining their dominance and holding onto their stars. After all, if you're a starter on the Yankees, you were guaranteed a WS appearance at least every third season from 1921-64. Why would you even think of demanding to be traded? And to who? The Senators? The Phillies?

    GM Branch Rickey showed the way for smaller market teams to dominate: Thru the farm system. STL Cardinals became an NL powerhouse from 1926-46, largely in part because of Rickey's modern conception of the farm system (e.g. rating blue chip prospects, knowing when to move them up to MLB, etc). There was actually more parity for MLB as a whole in the NL, and many interesting AL Pennant races during the Yankees 45yr dominance than its been for the last 25yrs.

    Branch Rickey was the Great Man in the history of the National League’s long comeback, starting the farm system in St. Louis and integration in Brooklyn.

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    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    His other nickname was "El Cheapo", in that he upheld the Reserve Clause system and never challenged it. Had he lived to see free agency, Branch Rickey most likely would've done what Connie Mack and also Charles Finley did in the '70's (right as modern free agency was coming), and that is to sell the contracts of all their star players for money or little else.

    "We can finish in last place without you."--Rickey's quip to HOF Al Kiner, who after leading the NL in HRs for seven consecutive seasons demanded a raise. Rickey promptly traded him to the Cubs. PIT's '60 WS was due in large part to Rickey's farm system development of Clemente, Law, Mazeroski, Virdon, etc. at the expense of trading away star calibre players such as Kiner who were getting to be too expensive (e.g. asking for a raise in salary to $25,000 per yr, rather than be greatful with making $15,000 per yr).

    Branch Rickey wasn't a person who was known for generously paying his players any more than Connie Mack. On the field, the main color he cared about was green, and keeping it in the owner's coffers.

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  47. whorefinder says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    Why would you hypothesize that catchers are underpaid? Baseball is a highly competitive business, all the information is public, and amateurs do intensive analyses of the market for free.

    By comparison with the NFL.

    In the NFL, the second-highest paid position is Left Tackle. QB is #1, but Left-Tackle is #2. Why? Simple: left tackle is the primary defender of the QB’s blind side. A great left tackle can give a rookie QB the massive confidence to develop and check down all his positions, while for a vet QB will protect him from having to scramble and duck. In all cases, the left tackle protects your QB, your most important player, from injury. So a left tackle is the second-most important player on the team besides QB.

    However, the NFL salary cap and the non-guaranteed nature of the contracts prevents eye-popping headlines on contract price.

    In baseball, the second most important player is catcher, after pitcher. Pitching wins games, but catching, with all its duties, is the most burdensome and physically taxing of all position players.

    In baseball, however, because the salary cap is only a luxury tax, players still vie to be the “highest paid” player and top the contract of the guy the year before. I constantly hear how X’s new contract makes him the new highest paid player. Except X is rarely a catcher. Pitchers get the big contracts, but the big “highest paid” guy is otherwise some superstar outfielder/firstbase man/DH/ etc. I almost never hear of a catcher being in the top, even though they are most important.

    A guy like Jorge Posada or Jason Varitek was infinitely more important to their team’s success than JoeSchmo .300-30-100 outfielder, yet I never heard big numbers out of them.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Catchers Buster Posey will make $21 million next year and Yadier Molina $20 million. Russell Martin is making $20 million and Brian McCann $17 million this year. Posey is about the highest paid endorser in baseball with $4 million in ad earnings per year.

    But catchers are riskier for giving giant contracts than other position players because they take such a beating behind the plate that often they get moved to other positions to protect their bats. Or they decline as offensive players. Joe Mauer makes $23 million per year, but he hasn't played catcher since 2013 and he's not as good a hitter as he was when he got his giant contract. That kind of thing happens to catchers a lot.

    Russell Martin was a fast baserunner and a pretty high average hitter when he came up with the Dodgers a decade ago. But the Dodgers kept playing him 150 games per season behind the plate and you could see the toll it took on his offense year by year. The Dodgers thought he was worn out and let him get away, but he's put together a good career by being a terrific defensive catcher / leader and hitting as many as 23 homers per year.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there are fewer superstar catchers than in the past, as recently as, for example when Mauer hit .370. I wouldn't be surprised if catching has gotten harder due to longer games with more pitches and more strikeouts, which means more things like foul tips: you set up to catch a 95 mph fastball but the batter gets just enough of it to deflect a foot off its path and it hits your body at 94 mph. Foul tips cause a lot of mini-injuries and then a catcher who could hit .280 in perfect health is hitting .220.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the number of pitches per game that get to the catcher has gone up, say, 10% over a generation ago and 20% over a couple of generations ago. You'd expect that that would lead to increased demand for catchers, but on the other hand, the increased workload diminished their offensive capabilities through increased injuries. So it's less likely that a catcher these days will post a 45 homer 148 RBI season like Johnny Bench in 1970. Posey might be the most popular player in baseball, but his career high in RBIs is 103.

    The highest paid position players tend to be first basemen, but that's because it's an easy position to play so famous sluggers wind up there after they put on weight. Ten years from now, Mike Trout will probably be making $50 million per year and playing first base instead of centerfield.

    A lot of the differences in average salary among positions have to do with age since players aren't eligible for free agency until after six (?) years. Shortstop, for example, often is low paid on average not because shortstops aren't valuable but because they tend to be young: e.g., Alex Rodriguez moved from short to third when he signed a huge contract with the Yankees in 2004.

    At this point, starting pitchers tend to be the highest paid: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is making $34 million per year. I'm not sure why: starters don't throw all that many innings these days, which puts a cap on their Wins Above Replacement figures. Kershaw's highest in a season has been 7.9, while outfielder Mike Trout has been over 10.0 twice in five seasons. This would suggest that WAR might understate pitchers' value.

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  48. whorefinder says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    Ernie Banks was great when he was a slugging shortstop in the 1950s, but after his bad injury in the early 1960s he was just a (less) slugging first baseman. Which is a good thing to have, but a first baseman who can hit 20 or 30 home runs per year in Wrigley Field isn't all that special, not like a shortstop who hit over 40 homers five times.

    So Ernie Banks and then Mark Grace? That’s two HOF-caliber first basement with little power. That’s gotta be some kind of record—the Cubs getting two such statistical weirdos who were HOF worthy. That’s like getting two HOF catchers who average 20 steals a year.

    And that’s even doubly weird when you remember they were playing in Wrigley Field.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Mark Grace was really good but he would have been more valuable in a larger ballpark than Wrigley Field.
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  49. @whorefinder
    So Ernie Banks and then Mark Grace? That's two HOF-caliber first basement with little power. That's gotta be some kind of record---the Cubs getting two such statistical weirdos who were HOF worthy. That's like getting two HOF catchers who average 20 steals a year.

    And that's even doubly weird when you remember they were playing in Wrigley Field.

    Mark Grace was really good but he would have been more valuable in a larger ballpark than Wrigley Field.

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    • Replies: @whorefinder
    Why do you say that? Curious.
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  50. @Whiskey
    The Dodgers and the Giants of the last say, 10 years would seem to indicate just how that argument goes in Baseball, while the Pacific War would argue the opposite.

    The Dodgers won the division, what four times straight? Save Clayton Kershaw they did not have the best players; they had the erratic Yasiel Puig, a deep but undistinguished pitching roster (like say Dan Haren), and overperforming moneyball players like Yasmani Grandal but no one dominating. The Giants by contrast won what, four World Series in the last 12 years or so? With a lot of nobodies and a few superstars like Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Pence and Buster Posey.

    The METS have had more post-season success and gone deeper, actually reaching a World Series, than the Dodgers. In Baseball, it seems that having a few great players beats having a lot of really good ones; particularly in the post-season where all the opponents are great; the San Diego Padres have not reached the post-season for decades IIRC.

    But in the Pacific, Victor Davis Hanson makes much of the fact that the US was able to turn-around the badly wounded carrier from the Coral Sea, Yorktown, while Japanese carriers relatively undamaged but missing pilots and planes returned to Japan for retraining. Moreover, during the battle the US airmen and admirals displayed individual initiative and did not wait for orders, while the Japanese admiral in charge famously dithered between having air cover and rearming his planes for an attack on the American carriers thus being sitting ducks when by luck the dive bombers found them (following the wake of a Japanese destroyer delayed by a US submarine) and all the remaining air cover Japanese fighters were at low altitude destroying the doomed torpedo squadron 8 that almost to a man died in the attack.

    In war, generally, having more competent soldiers has beaten a few brilliant generals. Hannibal for all his brilliance could not beat the plodding Fabians after they settled into a denial strategy and sought to prevent naval reinforcements by building a navy (yes it was the Roman navy not army that defeated Hannibal in Italy). Lee, Forrest, and the rest were way ahead of the plodding Burnside and McClellan, but the latter had more men, with more supplies, food, arms, and naval transport.

    In sports it seems often a different story, a few really superstar players can dominate for some time; even against really good teams with better average players. The Dodgers won, what one series against the Yankees in the late 1970s-early 1980s?

    The Padres won the AL West in 2005 and 06. Probably not coincidentally, those were Bruce Bochy’s last two years as manager.

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  51. whorefinder says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer
    Mark Grace was really good but he would have been more valuable in a larger ballpark than Wrigley Field.

    Why do you say that? Curious.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Njguy73
    It's harder to hit .300 or slug 30 homers in a place like the Astrodome than Wrigley. WAR takes that into account. That's why Rick Reuschel has been reevaluated by WAR. He pitched a huge workload in a hitter's park with a bad defense behind him.
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  52. dr kill says:
    @Hodag
    Ryne Sandberg was the best Cub of my lifetime (Chris Bryant, who blew his bid for the cycle this afternoon by hitting a second home run instead of a double in the 8th inning, has a chance).

    Sandberg went years between errors with the toughest hometown official scorer in baseball.

    Maddux might have been the best Cub, but he spent his best years in ATL.

    Whoever said the Phillies are the worst team of all time wasn’t kidding. Trades like this one didn’t help.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    In 1982 the Phillies traded Larry Bowa and an unknown named Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/tht-live/30th-anniversary-the-ryne-sandberg-trade/

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  53. @whorefinder
    It's amazing what happens when a new drug test comes along and can suddenly find the drugs they previously missed.

    Yeah, it’s hard to avoid the subject, isn’t it?

    Mauer’s career arc is actually quite representative of the Bill James/Rob Neyer school, in which a position player peaks at 27, which is much earlier than most fans assume (Mauer’s peak was age 26), and then declines, often depressingly rapidly, once he’s in his 30s.

    So how many baseball stars who’ve had extended peaks extended them via pharmaceuticals? We know of some who did, that’s for sure.

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  54. MC says:
    @anonymous

    "nobody with a p**** that big will ever pitch in the big leagues."
     
    As a Senators fan I beg to differ…why do you think they call it a Johnson?

    Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson might be the only ballplayer whose proper name AND nickname could reasonably be construed as a phallic reference.

    Read More
    • Replies: @FPD72
    I think the reference was to Senators' pitcher Walter Johnson. Since was of his nicknames was "Big Train," both names might be construed to work for him as well.
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  55. @whorefinder
    By comparison with the NFL.

    In the NFL, the second-highest paid position is Left Tackle. QB is #1, but Left-Tackle is #2. Why? Simple: left tackle is the primary defender of the QB's blind side. A great left tackle can give a rookie QB the massive confidence to develop and check down all his positions, while for a vet QB will protect him from having to scramble and duck. In all cases, the left tackle protects your QB, your most important player, from injury. So a left tackle is the second-most important player on the team besides QB.

    However, the NFL salary cap and the non-guaranteed nature of the contracts prevents eye-popping headlines on contract price.

    In baseball, the second most important player is catcher, after pitcher. Pitching wins games, but catching, with all its duties, is the most burdensome and physically taxing of all position players.

    In baseball, however, because the salary cap is only a luxury tax, players still vie to be the "highest paid" player and top the contract of the guy the year before. I constantly hear how X's new contract makes him the new highest paid player. Except X is rarely a catcher. Pitchers get the big contracts, but the big "highest paid" guy is otherwise some superstar outfielder/firstbase man/DH/ etc. I almost never hear of a catcher being in the top, even though they are most important.

    A guy like Jorge Posada or Jason Varitek was infinitely more important to their team's success than JoeSchmo .300-30-100 outfielder, yet I never heard big numbers out of them.

    Catchers Buster Posey will make $21 million next year and Yadier Molina $20 million. Russell Martin is making $20 million and Brian McCann $17 million this year. Posey is about the highest paid endorser in baseball with $4 million in ad earnings per year.

    But catchers are riskier for giving giant contracts than other position players because they take such a beating behind the plate that often they get moved to other positions to protect their bats. Or they decline as offensive players. Joe Mauer makes $23 million per year, but he hasn’t played catcher since 2013 and he’s not as good a hitter as he was when he got his giant contract. That kind of thing happens to catchers a lot.

    Russell Martin was a fast baserunner and a pretty high average hitter when he came up with the Dodgers a decade ago. But the Dodgers kept playing him 150 games per season behind the plate and you could see the toll it took on his offense year by year. The Dodgers thought he was worn out and let him get away, but he’s put together a good career by being a terrific defensive catcher / leader and hitting as many as 23 homers per year.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there are fewer superstar catchers than in the past, as recently as, for example when Mauer hit .370. I wouldn’t be surprised if catching has gotten harder due to longer games with more pitches and more strikeouts, which means more things like foul tips: you set up to catch a 95 mph fastball but the batter gets just enough of it to deflect a foot off its path and it hits your body at 94 mph. Foul tips cause a lot of mini-injuries and then a catcher who could hit .280 in perfect health is hitting .220.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of pitches per game that get to the catcher has gone up, say, 10% over a generation ago and 20% over a couple of generations ago. You’d expect that that would lead to increased demand for catchers, but on the other hand, the increased workload diminished their offensive capabilities through increased injuries. So it’s less likely that a catcher these days will post a 45 homer 148 RBI season like Johnny Bench in 1970. Posey might be the most popular player in baseball, but his career high in RBIs is 103.

    The highest paid position players tend to be first basemen, but that’s because it’s an easy position to play so famous sluggers wind up there after they put on weight. Ten years from now, Mike Trout will probably be making $50 million per year and playing first base instead of centerfield.

    A lot of the differences in average salary among positions have to do with age since players aren’t eligible for free agency until after six (?) years. Shortstop, for example, often is low paid on average not because shortstops aren’t valuable but because they tend to be young: e.g., Alex Rodriguez moved from short to third when he signed a huge contract with the Yankees in 2004.

    At this point, starting pitchers tend to be the highest paid: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is making $34 million per year. I’m not sure why: starters don’t throw all that many innings these days, which puts a cap on their Wins Above Replacement figures. Kershaw’s highest in a season has been 7.9, while outfielder Mike Trout has been over 10.0 twice in five seasons. This would suggest that WAR might understate pitchers’ value.

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    • Replies: @MC
    Part of the gap between starting pitcher salary and WAR is that their utility goes way up in the playoffs, where they might log 2 starts in a 5-game series, and 3 starts in a 7-game series (or 2 starts plus a relief appearance).

    For example, in the 2014 World Series, Madison Bumgarner pitched 21 of the Giants' 61 innings pitched. He only gave up one run the whole series, and got 2 wins plus a 5-inning save in Game 7. That's as close as you can get to single-handedly winning a series.
    , @The Last Real Calvinist

    I’m not sure why: starters don’t throw all that many innings these days, which puts a cap on their Wins Above Replacement figures.

     

    I wonder if the practice of posting the speed of each pitch on stadium scoreboards and on screen for telecasts is one reason for this. Starting pitchers now seem to go all-out, all game long.

    When I was a kid, and started pitching myself, I read all I could about MLB pitchers and how they approached the game. I recall quite a few of them saying that they would coast at points during games, i.e. with a decent lead, with two and and none on, when facing the bottom of the order, etc.

    But how many pitchers are now willing to see their fastball being broadcast to the world clocked at 89 instead of 92 or 93?

    Fans and commentators might think they're slacking off, or are secretly injured, or are disrespecting the opposition, etc. Lineups are likely tougher end-to-end, too, I suppose.

    The focus on micro-level statistical analysis when it comes to contract time might also exacerbate this. In the past, a big name pitcher might have been willing to give up a run or two here and there if he figured he was getting a win anyway, so he would take it a bit easier, and especially throw plenty of strikes. But now wins mean much less, and every run, no matter how meaningless, counts against a pitcher's reputation.

    This, plus long at bats leading to high pitch counts, really makes it hard to rack up the big innings.

    , @anonymous

    Catchers Buster Posey will make $21 million next year and Yadier Molina $20 million.
     
    Those high salaries illustrate the good fortune the Kansas City Royals had to have found perhaps the best catcher, Salvador Perez, and signed him to a long term deal while he was still a teenager. In 2016, Perez only made $2 million and was still under long term control of the Royals. So the Royals modified his contract to reflect his status. But they are still only going to pay him about 10 million annually over the next five years.

    Perez at $10 million per year, during his prime years aged 27-32, is perhaps the best signing in baseball.
    , @ScarletNumber

    Russell Martin is making $20 million and Brian McCann $17 million this year.
     
    These were the Yankees' starting catchers for 5 out of the last 6 years. They are saving some money by having Gary Sanchez this year.
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  56. @Lugash
    Is it possible that the right tail also shifts the curve to the right in baseball? I.e. the superstars make everyone around them better, as was often said of Michael Jordan?

    There’s less overlap in baseball than in basketball, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Babe Ruth made the famous slugging 1927 Yankees possible by showing his teammates just how hard a human being could hit a baseball. Most notably, Ruth’s younger teammate Lou Gehrig put up batting statistics that had been unthinkable until Ruth decided he wasn’t going to pay attention to the conventional wisdom about playing smart, conservative baseball.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Ganderson
    Bill James made this argument in, I believe, the Historical Abstract. Ruth led the way in terms of showing people that home runs COULD be hit- within a couple years lots of players were hitting for power. He also argues that, while there was no real change in ball construction in 1920, as manny believe, the death of Ray Chapman led to fresher, harder and whiter balls being kept in play.
    , @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Babe Ruth stated that he learned his swing by copying Joe Jackson, of the CLE and CHI White Sox. Had Jackson focused more on an uppercut with his swing, perhaps HRs would've been identified with Jackson.

    Keep in mind that Babe Ruth's career BA was .342. He won a batting title in 1923, hitting .378. In 1924 he hit .393. Contrary to most HR sluggers, Ruth never struck out 100 or more times in a season.
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  57. MC says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Catchers Buster Posey will make $21 million next year and Yadier Molina $20 million. Russell Martin is making $20 million and Brian McCann $17 million this year. Posey is about the highest paid endorser in baseball with $4 million in ad earnings per year.

    But catchers are riskier for giving giant contracts than other position players because they take such a beating behind the plate that often they get moved to other positions to protect their bats. Or they decline as offensive players. Joe Mauer makes $23 million per year, but he hasn't played catcher since 2013 and he's not as good a hitter as he was when he got his giant contract. That kind of thing happens to catchers a lot.

    Russell Martin was a fast baserunner and a pretty high average hitter when he came up with the Dodgers a decade ago. But the Dodgers kept playing him 150 games per season behind the plate and you could see the toll it took on his offense year by year. The Dodgers thought he was worn out and let him get away, but he's put together a good career by being a terrific defensive catcher / leader and hitting as many as 23 homers per year.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there are fewer superstar catchers than in the past, as recently as, for example when Mauer hit .370. I wouldn't be surprised if catching has gotten harder due to longer games with more pitches and more strikeouts, which means more things like foul tips: you set up to catch a 95 mph fastball but the batter gets just enough of it to deflect a foot off its path and it hits your body at 94 mph. Foul tips cause a lot of mini-injuries and then a catcher who could hit .280 in perfect health is hitting .220.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the number of pitches per game that get to the catcher has gone up, say, 10% over a generation ago and 20% over a couple of generations ago. You'd expect that that would lead to increased demand for catchers, but on the other hand, the increased workload diminished their offensive capabilities through increased injuries. So it's less likely that a catcher these days will post a 45 homer 148 RBI season like Johnny Bench in 1970. Posey might be the most popular player in baseball, but his career high in RBIs is 103.

    The highest paid position players tend to be first basemen, but that's because it's an easy position to play so famous sluggers wind up there after they put on weight. Ten years from now, Mike Trout will probably be making $50 million per year and playing first base instead of centerfield.

    A lot of the differences in average salary among positions have to do with age since players aren't eligible for free agency until after six (?) years. Shortstop, for example, often is low paid on average not because shortstops aren't valuable but because they tend to be young: e.g., Alex Rodriguez moved from short to third when he signed a huge contract with the Yankees in 2004.

    At this point, starting pitchers tend to be the highest paid: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is making $34 million per year. I'm not sure why: starters don't throw all that many innings these days, which puts a cap on their Wins Above Replacement figures. Kershaw's highest in a season has been 7.9, while outfielder Mike Trout has been over 10.0 twice in five seasons. This would suggest that WAR might understate pitchers' value.

    Part of the gap between starting pitcher salary and WAR is that their utility goes way up in the playoffs, where they might log 2 starts in a 5-game series, and 3 starts in a 7-game series (or 2 starts plus a relief appearance).

    For example, in the 2014 World Series, Madison Bumgarner pitched 21 of the Giants’ 61 innings pitched. He only gave up one run the whole series, and got 2 wins plus a 5-inning save in Game 7. That’s as close as you can get to single-handedly winning a series.

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  58. @Steve Sailer
    Catchers Buster Posey will make $21 million next year and Yadier Molina $20 million. Russell Martin is making $20 million and Brian McCann $17 million this year. Posey is about the highest paid endorser in baseball with $4 million in ad earnings per year.

    But catchers are riskier for giving giant contracts than other position players because they take such a beating behind the plate that often they get moved to other positions to protect their bats. Or they decline as offensive players. Joe Mauer makes $23 million per year, but he hasn't played catcher since 2013 and he's not as good a hitter as he was when he got his giant contract. That kind of thing happens to catchers a lot.

    Russell Martin was a fast baserunner and a pretty high average hitter when he came up with the Dodgers a decade ago. But the Dodgers kept playing him 150 games per season behind the plate and you could see the toll it took on his offense year by year. The Dodgers thought he was worn out and let him get away, but he's put together a good career by being a terrific defensive catcher / leader and hitting as many as 23 homers per year.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there are fewer superstar catchers than in the past, as recently as, for example when Mauer hit .370. I wouldn't be surprised if catching has gotten harder due to longer games with more pitches and more strikeouts, which means more things like foul tips: you set up to catch a 95 mph fastball but the batter gets just enough of it to deflect a foot off its path and it hits your body at 94 mph. Foul tips cause a lot of mini-injuries and then a catcher who could hit .280 in perfect health is hitting .220.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the number of pitches per game that get to the catcher has gone up, say, 10% over a generation ago and 20% over a couple of generations ago. You'd expect that that would lead to increased demand for catchers, but on the other hand, the increased workload diminished their offensive capabilities through increased injuries. So it's less likely that a catcher these days will post a 45 homer 148 RBI season like Johnny Bench in 1970. Posey might be the most popular player in baseball, but his career high in RBIs is 103.

    The highest paid position players tend to be first basemen, but that's because it's an easy position to play so famous sluggers wind up there after they put on weight. Ten years from now, Mike Trout will probably be making $50 million per year and playing first base instead of centerfield.

    A lot of the differences in average salary among positions have to do with age since players aren't eligible for free agency until after six (?) years. Shortstop, for example, often is low paid on average not because shortstops aren't valuable but because they tend to be young: e.g., Alex Rodriguez moved from short to third when he signed a huge contract with the Yankees in 2004.

    At this point, starting pitchers tend to be the highest paid: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is making $34 million per year. I'm not sure why: starters don't throw all that many innings these days, which puts a cap on their Wins Above Replacement figures. Kershaw's highest in a season has been 7.9, while outfielder Mike Trout has been over 10.0 twice in five seasons. This would suggest that WAR might understate pitchers' value.

    I’m not sure why: starters don’t throw all that many innings these days, which puts a cap on their Wins Above Replacement figures.

    I wonder if the practice of posting the speed of each pitch on stadium scoreboards and on screen for telecasts is one reason for this. Starting pitchers now seem to go all-out, all game long.

    When I was a kid, and started pitching myself, I read all I could about MLB pitchers and how they approached the game. I recall quite a few of them saying that they would coast at points during games, i.e. with a decent lead, with two and and none on, when facing the bottom of the order, etc.

    But how many pitchers are now willing to see their fastball being broadcast to the world clocked at 89 instead of 92 or 93?

    Fans and commentators might think they’re slacking off, or are secretly injured, or are disrespecting the opposition, etc. Lineups are likely tougher end-to-end, too, I suppose.

    The focus on micro-level statistical analysis when it comes to contract time might also exacerbate this. In the past, a big name pitcher might have been willing to give up a run or two here and there if he figured he was getting a win anyway, so he would take it a bit easier, and especially throw plenty of strikes. But now wins mean much less, and every run, no matter how meaningless, counts against a pitcher’s reputation.

    This, plus long at bats leading to high pitch counts, really makes it hard to rack up the big innings.

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  59. @dr kill
    Whoever said the Phillies are the worst team of all time wasn't kidding. Trades like this one didn't help.

    In 1982 the Phillies traded Larry Bowa and an unknown named Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/tht-live/30th-anniversary-the-ryne-sandberg-trade/

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    • Replies: @Desiderius
    I remember thinking that was bad trade for the Phils at the time just on a straight-up Bowa-DeJesus basis.

    DeJesus was always an easy out for the Reds.
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  60. Hhsiii says:

    From ’81 to ’94 the Yankees missed the playoffs despite Steinbrenner’s spending and win now edicts. It was only once he backed off a bit and let the front office hold onto some young talent instead of trading it off for quick fixes that you got the core 4: Jeter, Williams, Posada and Pettitte, and Rivera, that you could then supplement. WAR probably really underestimated Rivera’s contribution to the dynasty. Not so much the regular season, although there’s that, but in the playoffs.

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  61. Hhsiii says:

    Yogi was also a clutch hitter, something even the sabr guys, who don’t usually believe in clutch, admit:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/yogi-berra-was-certifiably-clutch/

    I met a Yogi as a kid a couple of times. He lived in my hometown, and his son Dale went to high school with my older sister. He was very approachable and didn’t even get upset when I went up to him at the local hockey rink when I was 8 and asked him why he didn’t play Cleon Jones more. I think Jones was injured. He just smiled and said I should write for the Daily News.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius
    He was on TV a lot in the 70s. Seems like celebrities were just better people then.
    , @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Didn't Yogi do ads for the beverage Yoo hoo? Or he owned stock in the company and sold it or something in the off season? Yogi and Yoo hoo seems apt.

    "Meanwhile I'm out here hauling Yoo Hoo..."--From Seinfeld episode "Bubble Boy".
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  62. @Steve Sailer
    In 1982 the Phillies traded Larry Bowa and an unknown named Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/tht-live/30th-anniversary-the-ryne-sandberg-trade/

    I remember thinking that was bad trade for the Phils at the time just on a straight-up Bowa-DeJesus basis.

    DeJesus was always an easy out for the Reds.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Buck Turgidson
    A few fellow wise guys and I used to enjoy Harry Carey's unique and entertaining ways to pronounce Ivan DeJesus' name.
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  63. FPD72 says:
    @MC
    Randy "The Big Unit" Johnson might be the only ballplayer whose proper name AND nickname could reasonably be construed as a phallic reference.

    I think the reference was to Senators’ pitcher Walter Johnson. Since was of his nicknames was “Big Train,” both names might be construed to work for him as well.

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    • Replies: @MC
    I got the reference to Walter Johnson, but "Randy" beats "Walter" as adjectives go.
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  64. Ganderson says:
    @Steve Sailer
    There's less overlap in baseball than in basketball, but I wouldn't be surprised if Babe Ruth made the famous slugging 1927 Yankees possible by showing his teammates just how hard a human being could hit a baseball. Most notably, Ruth's younger teammate Lou Gehrig put up batting statistics that had been unthinkable until Ruth decided he wasn't going to pay attention to the conventional wisdom about playing smart, conservative baseball.

    Bill James made this argument in, I believe, the Historical Abstract. Ruth led the way in terms of showing people that home runs COULD be hit- within a couple years lots of players were hitting for power. He also argues that, while there was no real change in ball construction in 1920, as manny believe, the death of Ray Chapman led to fresher, harder and whiter balls being kept in play.

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  65. anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Steve Sailer
    Catchers Buster Posey will make $21 million next year and Yadier Molina $20 million. Russell Martin is making $20 million and Brian McCann $17 million this year. Posey is about the highest paid endorser in baseball with $4 million in ad earnings per year.

    But catchers are riskier for giving giant contracts than other position players because they take such a beating behind the plate that often they get moved to other positions to protect their bats. Or they decline as offensive players. Joe Mauer makes $23 million per year, but he hasn't played catcher since 2013 and he's not as good a hitter as he was when he got his giant contract. That kind of thing happens to catchers a lot.

    Russell Martin was a fast baserunner and a pretty high average hitter when he came up with the Dodgers a decade ago. But the Dodgers kept playing him 150 games per season behind the plate and you could see the toll it took on his offense year by year. The Dodgers thought he was worn out and let him get away, but he's put together a good career by being a terrific defensive catcher / leader and hitting as many as 23 homers per year.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there are fewer superstar catchers than in the past, as recently as, for example when Mauer hit .370. I wouldn't be surprised if catching has gotten harder due to longer games with more pitches and more strikeouts, which means more things like foul tips: you set up to catch a 95 mph fastball but the batter gets just enough of it to deflect a foot off its path and it hits your body at 94 mph. Foul tips cause a lot of mini-injuries and then a catcher who could hit .280 in perfect health is hitting .220.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the number of pitches per game that get to the catcher has gone up, say, 10% over a generation ago and 20% over a couple of generations ago. You'd expect that that would lead to increased demand for catchers, but on the other hand, the increased workload diminished their offensive capabilities through increased injuries. So it's less likely that a catcher these days will post a 45 homer 148 RBI season like Johnny Bench in 1970. Posey might be the most popular player in baseball, but his career high in RBIs is 103.

    The highest paid position players tend to be first basemen, but that's because it's an easy position to play so famous sluggers wind up there after they put on weight. Ten years from now, Mike Trout will probably be making $50 million per year and playing first base instead of centerfield.

    A lot of the differences in average salary among positions have to do with age since players aren't eligible for free agency until after six (?) years. Shortstop, for example, often is low paid on average not because shortstops aren't valuable but because they tend to be young: e.g., Alex Rodriguez moved from short to third when he signed a huge contract with the Yankees in 2004.

    At this point, starting pitchers tend to be the highest paid: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is making $34 million per year. I'm not sure why: starters don't throw all that many innings these days, which puts a cap on their Wins Above Replacement figures. Kershaw's highest in a season has been 7.9, while outfielder Mike Trout has been over 10.0 twice in five seasons. This would suggest that WAR might understate pitchers' value.

    Catchers Buster Posey will make $21 million next year and Yadier Molina $20 million.

    Those high salaries illustrate the good fortune the Kansas City Royals had to have found perhaps the best catcher, Salvador Perez, and signed him to a long term deal while he was still a teenager. In 2016, Perez only made $2 million and was still under long term control of the Royals. So the Royals modified his contract to reflect his status. But they are still only going to pay him about 10 million annually over the next five years.

    Perez at $10 million per year, during his prime years aged 27-32, is perhaps the best signing in baseball.

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  66. Njguy73 says:
    @whorefinder
    Why do you say that? Curious.

    It’s harder to hit .300 or slug 30 homers in a place like the Astrodome than Wrigley. WAR takes that into account. That’s why Rick Reuschel has been reevaluated by WAR. He pitched a huge workload in a hitter’s park with a bad defense behind him.

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  67. anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @415 reasons
    Can't agree that A-rod was a big part of Steinbrenner's winning formula for success from the 70s onward. He came in the year after the Yankees run of 4 championships between 1996-2000, and was only on the one somewhat fluke World Series winning squad of 2009 that was well after the late 90s dynasty squad with Jeter, Bernie Williams, Posada, Rivera et al.

    Totally agree. In fact, his contribution to the team was pretty much a zero.

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  68. @Steve Sailer
    Branch Rickey was the Great Man in the history of the National League's long comeback, starting the farm system in St. Louis and integration in Brooklyn.

    His other nickname was “El Cheapo”, in that he upheld the Reserve Clause system and never challenged it. Had he lived to see free agency, Branch Rickey most likely would’ve done what Connie Mack and also Charles Finley did in the ’70′s (right as modern free agency was coming), and that is to sell the contracts of all their star players for money or little else.

    “We can finish in last place without you.”–Rickey’s quip to HOF Al Kiner, who after leading the NL in HRs for seven consecutive seasons demanded a raise. Rickey promptly traded him to the Cubs. PIT’s ’60 WS was due in large part to Rickey’s farm system development of Clemente, Law, Mazeroski, Virdon, etc. at the expense of trading away star calibre players such as Kiner who were getting to be too expensive (e.g. asking for a raise in salary to $25,000 per yr, rather than be greatful with making $15,000 per yr).

    Branch Rickey wasn’t a person who was known for generously paying his players any more than Connie Mack. On the field, the main color he cared about was green, and keeping it in the owner’s coffers.

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  69. J1234 says:

    If you could randomly import 25 Yankees from history to your team you would probably beat 25 random Cubs. But the Cubs have produced many great players and the majority of Yankees are nothing special.

    Individuals can defy the law of averages, but populations are the law of averages (to a great degree.) A mistake that too many race realists make is assuming a specific yet unfamiliar black guy is dumber than they are. Then they are either humiliated , angry or disillusioned when they find out the black guy isn’t dumber than they are, or is maybe even smarter. And this means they aren’t race realists at all, because a race is a population, not an individual.

    Read More
    • Replies: @dr kill
    Settle down.
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  70. @Steve Sailer
    Catchers Buster Posey will make $21 million next year and Yadier Molina $20 million. Russell Martin is making $20 million and Brian McCann $17 million this year. Posey is about the highest paid endorser in baseball with $4 million in ad earnings per year.

    But catchers are riskier for giving giant contracts than other position players because they take such a beating behind the plate that often they get moved to other positions to protect their bats. Or they decline as offensive players. Joe Mauer makes $23 million per year, but he hasn't played catcher since 2013 and he's not as good a hitter as he was when he got his giant contract. That kind of thing happens to catchers a lot.

    Russell Martin was a fast baserunner and a pretty high average hitter when he came up with the Dodgers a decade ago. But the Dodgers kept playing him 150 games per season behind the plate and you could see the toll it took on his offense year by year. The Dodgers thought he was worn out and let him get away, but he's put together a good career by being a terrific defensive catcher / leader and hitting as many as 23 homers per year.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there are fewer superstar catchers than in the past, as recently as, for example when Mauer hit .370. I wouldn't be surprised if catching has gotten harder due to longer games with more pitches and more strikeouts, which means more things like foul tips: you set up to catch a 95 mph fastball but the batter gets just enough of it to deflect a foot off its path and it hits your body at 94 mph. Foul tips cause a lot of mini-injuries and then a catcher who could hit .280 in perfect health is hitting .220.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the number of pitches per game that get to the catcher has gone up, say, 10% over a generation ago and 20% over a couple of generations ago. You'd expect that that would lead to increased demand for catchers, but on the other hand, the increased workload diminished their offensive capabilities through increased injuries. So it's less likely that a catcher these days will post a 45 homer 148 RBI season like Johnny Bench in 1970. Posey might be the most popular player in baseball, but his career high in RBIs is 103.

    The highest paid position players tend to be first basemen, but that's because it's an easy position to play so famous sluggers wind up there after they put on weight. Ten years from now, Mike Trout will probably be making $50 million per year and playing first base instead of centerfield.

    A lot of the differences in average salary among positions have to do with age since players aren't eligible for free agency until after six (?) years. Shortstop, for example, often is low paid on average not because shortstops aren't valuable but because they tend to be young: e.g., Alex Rodriguez moved from short to third when he signed a huge contract with the Yankees in 2004.

    At this point, starting pitchers tend to be the highest paid: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is making $34 million per year. I'm not sure why: starters don't throw all that many innings these days, which puts a cap on their Wins Above Replacement figures. Kershaw's highest in a season has been 7.9, while outfielder Mike Trout has been over 10.0 twice in five seasons. This would suggest that WAR might understate pitchers' value.

    Russell Martin is making $20 million and Brian McCann $17 million this year.

    These were the Yankees’ starting catchers for 5 out of the last 6 years. They are saving some money by having Gary Sanchez this year.

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  71. @Desiderius
    I remember thinking that was bad trade for the Phils at the time just on a straight-up Bowa-DeJesus basis.

    DeJesus was always an easy out for the Reds.

    A few fellow wise guys and I used to enjoy Harry Carey’s unique and entertaining ways to pronounce Ivan DeJesus’ name.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius
    He had unique and entertaining ways to pronounce and, the, and I.
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  72. @Buck Turgidson
    A few fellow wise guys and I used to enjoy Harry Carey's unique and entertaining ways to pronounce Ivan DeJesus' name.

    He had unique and entertaining ways to pronounce and, the, and I.

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  73. MBlanc46 says:
    @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Way way wait. Ernie Banks is the best Cub of the post '45 yrs. Come on. What other Cub hit 500 HRs for such an awful franchise (per the determinant that winning is everything in sports).

    Santo was an excellent player, but it’s beyond doubt that the best player in Chicago post-WWII was Banks.

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  74. HOF catcher Carlton Fisk had a successful 24-year career behind the plate. Fun fact from Wikipedia –

    Fisk was one of two final active position players in the 1990s who had played in the 1960s. The other was Nolan Ryan. [Fisk] is one of only 29 players in baseball history to date to have appeared in MLB games in four decades.

    Fisk played more years with the White Sox than the Red Sox.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    That's a weird thing about being catcher: although you probably will get beaten down by the job fairly young, you can still be adequate at it at an advanced age. Fisk was a useful contributor to the White Sox well into his 40s. Bob Boone went on forever, too.

    On the other hand, it's hard to put up giant offensive numbers as a catcher when you're past your young manhood. Johnny Bench hit 45 homers and drove in 148 runs at age 22.

    , @Brutusale
    They build them tough in upstate Vermont.

    Of all the great memories of Fisk, this may be my favorite.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kDWSzrCkD0
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  75. @E. Rekshun
    HOF catcher Carlton Fisk had a successful 24-year career behind the plate. Fun fact from Wikipedia -

    Fisk was one of two final active position players in the 1990s who had played in the 1960s. The other was Nolan Ryan. [Fisk] is one of only 29 players in baseball history to date to have appeared in MLB games in four decades.

    Fisk played more years with the White Sox than the Red Sox.

    That’s a weird thing about being catcher: although you probably will get beaten down by the job fairly young, you can still be adequate at it at an advanced age. Fisk was a useful contributor to the White Sox well into his 40s. Bob Boone went on forever, too.

    On the other hand, it’s hard to put up giant offensive numbers as a catcher when you’re past your young manhood. Johnny Bench hit 45 homers and drove in 148 runs at age 22.

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  76. dr kill says:
    @J1234

    If you could randomly import 25 Yankees from history to your team you would probably beat 25 random Cubs. But the Cubs have produced many great players and the majority of Yankees are nothing special.
     
    Individuals can defy the law of averages, but populations are the law of averages (to a great degree.) A mistake that too many race realists make is assuming a specific yet unfamiliar black guy is dumber than they are. Then they are either humiliated , angry or disillusioned when they find out the black guy isn't dumber than they are, or is maybe even smarter. And this means they aren't race realists at all, because a race is a population, not an individual.

    Settle down.

    Read More
    • Replies: @J1234

    Settle down.
     
    Huh? If I settle down any more, I'll have to take a nap. (??)
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  77. @Hhsiii
    Yogi was also a clutch hitter, something even the sabr guys, who don't usually believe in clutch, admit:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/yogi-berra-was-certifiably-clutch/

    I met a Yogi as a kid a couple of times. He lived in my hometown, and his son Dale went to high school with my older sister. He was very approachable and didn't even get upset when I went up to him at the local hockey rink when I was 8 and asked him why he didn't play Cleon Jones more. I think Jones was injured. He just smiled and said I should write for the Daily News.

    He was on TV a lot in the 70s. Seems like celebrities were just better people then.

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  78. @Steve Sailer
    There's less overlap in baseball than in basketball, but I wouldn't be surprised if Babe Ruth made the famous slugging 1927 Yankees possible by showing his teammates just how hard a human being could hit a baseball. Most notably, Ruth's younger teammate Lou Gehrig put up batting statistics that had been unthinkable until Ruth decided he wasn't going to pay attention to the conventional wisdom about playing smart, conservative baseball.

    Babe Ruth stated that he learned his swing by copying Joe Jackson, of the CLE and CHI White Sox. Had Jackson focused more on an uppercut with his swing, perhaps HRs would’ve been identified with Jackson.

    Keep in mind that Babe Ruth’s career BA was .342. He won a batting title in 1923, hitting .378. In 1924 he hit .393. Contrary to most HR sluggers, Ruth never struck out 100 or more times in a season.

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    • Replies: @Desiderius
    He must have generated tremendous batspeed.
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  79. @Hhsiii
    Yogi was also a clutch hitter, something even the sabr guys, who don't usually believe in clutch, admit:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/yogi-berra-was-certifiably-clutch/

    I met a Yogi as a kid a couple of times. He lived in my hometown, and his son Dale went to high school with my older sister. He was very approachable and didn't even get upset when I went up to him at the local hockey rink when I was 8 and asked him why he didn't play Cleon Jones more. I think Jones was injured. He just smiled and said I should write for the Daily News.

    Didn’t Yogi do ads for the beverage Yoo hoo? Or he owned stock in the company and sold it or something in the off season? Yogi and Yoo hoo seems apt.

    “Meanwhile I’m out here hauling Yoo Hoo…”–From Seinfeld episode “Bubble Boy”.

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    • Replies: @Hhsiii
    Yup. And he and rizzuto owned a bowling alley in Clifton, near the office where my dad worked for Walter Kidde Inc, which made Kidde fire extinguishers.

    Of all the Berra lines my favorite is when he comes to the door at his house and the guy says I'm here for the Venetian blinds and Yogi says I gave at the office. Surely apocryphal. Or when the Yankees gave him a check made to bearer and he says they spelled my name wrong.

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  80. MC says:
    @FPD72
    I think the reference was to Senators' pitcher Walter Johnson. Since was of his nicknames was "Big Train," both names might be construed to work for him as well.

    I got the reference to Walter Johnson, but “Randy” beats “Walter” as adjectives go.

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  81. J1234 says:
    @dr kill
    Settle down.

    Settle down.

    Huh? If I settle down any more, I’ll have to take a nap. (??)

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  82. snorlax says:
    @whorefinder
    I have long wondered why really good catchers aren't among the highest-paid players in the league.

    Besides pitchers, a good-hitting, good-fielding, good-play-calling catcher is worth more to a team than a superstar position player, simply by virtue of the fact that its so much harder to be a 5-tool catcher who also calls games well and is a good field general and is involved in every dang play.

    Most catchers are pretty smart too, and end up managing somewhere (Torre, Scioscia, Berra, etc.). So it can't be a lack of knowledge about their value to the team.

    I wonder if its just the injury factor or the wear-down factor. But I do know that the old cliche is that, outside of pitching, you need to concentrate on building your team "up the middle" (catcher, shortstop, center-field, second base). It's hard to name a multi-year dominant team that didn't have a high-caliber catcher at its core.

    About the only exception to this rule I can think of is the highly-paid, big name Mike Piazza, who was an awful catcher but insisted on remaining in the position because his stats as a hitter made him the best-hitting catcher in baseball (and thus entitled to more $$$) rather than a good hitter at any other position (Piazza parlayed that right into the HOF, I believe).

    Like drummers and goalies, catchers are underpaid and underappreciated, because there’s an oversupply, because 10-year-old boys think they look the coolest.

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  83. Does the catcher’s equipment look cooler these days? It used to be called “the tools of ignorance” and the 1970s Bad News Bears era stereotype was that little league teams made the fat kid catch.

    But I think in the next generation, baseball dads fell in love with the idea that their sons could make it to the Show as catchers via technical skills rather than talent, which then led to an oversupply of catchers.

    You don’t have to be a fast runner to be a catcher, whereas most players who get drafted out of high school are centerfielders or shortstops, just because even an average major leaguer is really fast. So guys who love baseball and aren’t fast fixate on pitcher or catcher.

    On the other hand, baseball is very prejudiced against lefthanders as catchers, even though lefthanders have major advantages as hitters. There aren’t that many lefthanders in the population, but they are maybe 1/4th or 1/3rd of MLB players. But there hasn’t been a lefthanded MLB catcher since the 1980s.

    I personally think it’s mostly prejudice, but nobody cares about lefthanders as an identity politics category.

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    • Replies: @snorlax
    Today's catcher gear has a superhero motif that still looks pretty goofy to the adult eye but awesome to 10-year-olds.

    http://imgur.com/a/htgUP

    http://imgur.com/a/Hb3Q4

    And, though I (still some ways south of 30) may just be dating myself here, at that age my friends and I thought wearing your cap backwards was the very height of cool and shocking rebellion.
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  84. snorlax says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Does the catcher's equipment look cooler these days? It used to be called "the tools of ignorance" and the 1970s Bad News Bears era stereotype was that little league teams made the fat kid catch.

    But I think in the next generation, baseball dads fell in love with the idea that their sons could make it to the Show as catchers via technical skills rather than talent, which then led to an oversupply of catchers.

    You don't have to be a fast runner to be a catcher, whereas most players who get drafted out of high school are centerfielders or shortstops, just because even an average major leaguer is really fast. So guys who love baseball and aren't fast fixate on pitcher or catcher.

    On the other hand, baseball is very prejudiced against lefthanders as catchers, even though lefthanders have major advantages as hitters. There aren't that many lefthanders in the population, but they are maybe 1/4th or 1/3rd of MLB players. But there hasn't been a lefthanded MLB catcher since the 1980s.

    I personally think it's mostly prejudice, but nobody cares about lefthanders as an identity politics category.

    Today’s catcher gear has a superhero motif that still looks pretty goofy to the adult eye but awesome to 10-year-olds.

    View post on imgur.com

    View post on imgur.com

    And, though I (still some ways south of 30) may just be dating myself here, at that age my friends and I thought wearing your cap backwards was the very height of cool and shocking rebellion.

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  85. Brutusale says:
    @Njguy73
    No. It was the Yankees developing a deep farm system earlier than other teams which enabled them to dominate, as the Cardinals did in the National League. The Cubs were one of the last teams to develop a farm system. The Reserve Clause may have kept players bound to their original teams, but the Rule V Draft was put in place to give tail-enders a chance to take flyers on high-end teams' surplus talent.

    Yeah, primarily their farm team called the Kansas City Athletics.

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  86. Brutusale says:
    @E. Rekshun
    HOF catcher Carlton Fisk had a successful 24-year career behind the plate. Fun fact from Wikipedia -

    Fisk was one of two final active position players in the 1990s who had played in the 1960s. The other was Nolan Ryan. [Fisk] is one of only 29 players in baseball history to date to have appeared in MLB games in four decades.

    Fisk played more years with the White Sox than the Red Sox.

    They build them tough in upstate Vermont.

    Of all the great memories of Fisk, this may be my favorite.

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    • Replies: @Desiderius
    Note college administrators:

    Sanders got the message and is now a very successful and productive member of society.
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  87. Hhsiii says:
    @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Didn't Yogi do ads for the beverage Yoo hoo? Or he owned stock in the company and sold it or something in the off season? Yogi and Yoo hoo seems apt.

    "Meanwhile I'm out here hauling Yoo Hoo..."--From Seinfeld episode "Bubble Boy".

    Yup. And he and rizzuto owned a bowling alley in Clifton, near the office where my dad worked for Walter Kidde Inc, which made Kidde fire extinguishers.

    Of all the Berra lines my favorite is when he comes to the door at his house and the guy says I’m here for the Venetian blinds and Yogi says I gave at the office. Surely apocryphal. Or when the Yankees gave him a check made to bearer and he says they spelled my name wrong.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Making up Yogi Berra jokes was probably started by his boyhood friend Joe Garagiola, the future NBC baseball commentator, and was a sizable cottage industry for awhile. Other catchers may have had higher on-base averages, but they aren't quoted as much in philosophy of science debates.
    , @Steve Sailer
    Yogi Berra Jokes are a good example of the Sapir-Whorf theory at work. Once the concept of the Yogi Berra Joke existed, it was easy to mine them from actual quotes he gave during all times he was interviewed and also to make up more of them.
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  88. @Hhsiii
    Yup. And he and rizzuto owned a bowling alley in Clifton, near the office where my dad worked for Walter Kidde Inc, which made Kidde fire extinguishers.

    Of all the Berra lines my favorite is when he comes to the door at his house and the guy says I'm here for the Venetian blinds and Yogi says I gave at the office. Surely apocryphal. Or when the Yankees gave him a check made to bearer and he says they spelled my name wrong.

    Making up Yogi Berra jokes was probably started by his boyhood friend Joe Garagiola, the future NBC baseball commentator, and was a sizable cottage industry for awhile. Other catchers may have had higher on-base averages, but they aren’t quoted as much in philosophy of science debates.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    That's because other catchers didn't win 10 WS Championships. Who really cares about the Cubs numerous catchers during '60's/'70's? How often did they help their team avoid sixth place? Who recalls their names and the other list of catchers that donned the royal blue stripes in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field?

    Does seem to say something that until last season when Cubs finally won the WS, the ballpark was more famous in culture, and among ordinary non-sports fan in particular, than the team.

    The fact that Yogi played with the Yankees also had a lot to do with all the added on stuff (Yogisms; etc). If Yogi had played for the Cubs from 1946-65, he probably wouldn't be in Cooperstown, much less remembered for what he said. (Much like Casey Stengel--the team made the player and the manager).
    , @Desiderius
    If you wanted to watch baseball on TV in the 70s, you got Garagiola and Kubek once a week. As influential as Dr. Seuss.
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  89. @Hhsiii
    Yup. And he and rizzuto owned a bowling alley in Clifton, near the office where my dad worked for Walter Kidde Inc, which made Kidde fire extinguishers.

    Of all the Berra lines my favorite is when he comes to the door at his house and the guy says I'm here for the Venetian blinds and Yogi says I gave at the office. Surely apocryphal. Or when the Yankees gave him a check made to bearer and he says they spelled my name wrong.

    Yogi Berra Jokes are a good example of the Sapir-Whorf theory at work. Once the concept of the Yogi Berra Joke existed, it was easy to mine them from actual quotes he gave during all times he was interviewed and also to make up more of them.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    You know who also came across as a Yogi Berra type? Ringo Starr. In the Q & A section during Hard Days Night, Ringo's answers sound very similar to something Berra would've responded with. And similar to the Yankees, Ringo Starr happened to be the drummer of the 20th century's all time biggest selling musical group.

    Per his answers in the media, oftentimes Ringo Starr is the Yogi Berra of rock music.
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  90. @Steve Sailer
    Making up Yogi Berra jokes was probably started by his boyhood friend Joe Garagiola, the future NBC baseball commentator, and was a sizable cottage industry for awhile. Other catchers may have had higher on-base averages, but they aren't quoted as much in philosophy of science debates.

    That’s because other catchers didn’t win 10 WS Championships. Who really cares about the Cubs numerous catchers during ’60′s/’70′s? How often did they help their team avoid sixth place? Who recalls their names and the other list of catchers that donned the royal blue stripes in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field?

    Does seem to say something that until last season when Cubs finally won the WS, the ballpark was more famous in culture, and among ordinary non-sports fan in particular, than the team.

    The fact that Yogi played with the Yankees also had a lot to do with all the added on stuff (Yogisms; etc). If Yogi had played for the Cubs from 1946-65, he probably wouldn’t be in Cooperstown, much less remembered for what he said. (Much like Casey Stengel–the team made the player and the manager).

    Read More
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  91. @Steve Sailer
    Yogi Berra Jokes are a good example of the Sapir-Whorf theory at work. Once the concept of the Yogi Berra Joke existed, it was easy to mine them from actual quotes he gave during all times he was interviewed and also to make up more of them.

    You know who also came across as a Yogi Berra type? Ringo Starr. In the Q & A section during Hard Days Night, Ringo’s answers sound very similar to something Berra would’ve responded with. And similar to the Yankees, Ringo Starr happened to be the drummer of the 20th century’s all time biggest selling musical group.

    Per his answers in the media, oftentimes Ringo Starr is the Yogi Berra of rock music.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Desiderius
    Very good comparison.
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  92. Dang! A baseball post prominently featuring Da Cubs and I’m late to the party! Well, when you’re away for the weekend.

    Basically agree with your premise Steve. Statistics don’t lie, but they can be massaged and spun. That said, clearly, the Yankees are head and shoulders above all other MLB teams the past 100 years.

    But you can unpack a lot of iSteve themes and weave them in here. For starters, pre-1865 America had several urban centers that were roughly equal in terms of cultural influence: Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Charleston (to a lesser degree). No cities west of the Appalachians would be counted in that mix. Post-1865, the Yankee moral/cultural paradigm won out and became dominant; NYC became increasingly influential, particularly as the Turn-of-the-Century immigration wave hit. Chicago wasn’t even founded until 1833, and by 1870 (year before the Great Fire) only had 300K population, while NYC had 1.5m in 1870.

    Chicken and egg: NYC’s cultural pull, well established by 1900, was always going to give it an edge in attracting the best talent, with the competing urban centers in the Northeast corridor getting the next tier. If you were a baseball-talented young man of any drive in the small towns across America from Montana to Michigan to Mississippi to Massachusetts, you wanted to go play in New York to maximize your earning potential (ok, maybe Boston if you were from Massachusetts! :-)). Even with all that, I’ve pointed out before that the Cubs (if you measure WS appearances as one measure of talent/success) were right there with the Yankees. From 1903 to 1949, the top 5 franchises with WS appearances are:

    16 – Yankees (won 12)
    12 – Giants (won 4)
    10 – Cubs (won 2)
    9 – Cardinals (won 6)
    8 – Athletics (won 5)

    The Cubs teams of the first half of the Century were very good; good enough to reach the Series 10 times. Their problem, as with any team that finishes second, is that everyone remembers the winners, not the losers. So, even with a pay-talent deck tilted towards NYC, the Cubs did pretty good. They just couldn’t close the deal. And they had two NYC NL teams (Giants, Dodgers) they had to beat to get there.

    The two times the Cubs faced the Yankees in the WS, the talent disparity was pretty clear: they were swept both times. The Cubs’ big guns (Hartnett, Grimm, Hack, Hornsby, Cuyler) were no match for Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, DiMaggio, Dickey et al. In fact, in the 1932 sweep, the Yankees scored a total of 37 runs to the Cubs’ 19. It wasn’t really close at all. The closest score was 7-5 in game 3. Same deal in 1938; the Yankees scored 22 runs to the Cubs’ 9. Lower scoring games, but non closer than 2 runs, and the Yankees won going away (5-2 in Game 3, 8-3 in Game 4).

    So, no, I won’t argue in futility that the Cubs players, on average over 100 years, were just as good as the Yankees players. The wasteland of post-1950 Cubs talent, despite the occasional oases of Banks, Williams, Santo, Jenkins, Sandberg, Grace and Woods, was far too large to make any statistical comparison meaningfully close. Besides that, my overall point still stands: culturally, NYC was (and still is to a lesser degree, though its changing) the center of gravity pulling in young men of top baseball talent. (To underscore that point, Joe DiMaggio was originally from San Francisco, and went all the way across the country to play ball for the Yankees).

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  93. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Babe Ruth stated that he learned his swing by copying Joe Jackson, of the CLE and CHI White Sox. Had Jackson focused more on an uppercut with his swing, perhaps HRs would've been identified with Jackson.

    Keep in mind that Babe Ruth's career BA was .342. He won a batting title in 1923, hitting .378. In 1924 he hit .393. Contrary to most HR sluggers, Ruth never struck out 100 or more times in a season.

    He must have generated tremendous batspeed.

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  94. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    You know who also came across as a Yogi Berra type? Ringo Starr. In the Q & A section during Hard Days Night, Ringo's answers sound very similar to something Berra would've responded with. And similar to the Yankees, Ringo Starr happened to be the drummer of the 20th century's all time biggest selling musical group.

    Per his answers in the media, oftentimes Ringo Starr is the Yogi Berra of rock music.

    Very good comparison.

    Read More
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  95. @Steve Sailer
    Making up Yogi Berra jokes was probably started by his boyhood friend Joe Garagiola, the future NBC baseball commentator, and was a sizable cottage industry for awhile. Other catchers may have had higher on-base averages, but they aren't quoted as much in philosophy of science debates.

    If you wanted to watch baseball on TV in the 70s, you got Garagiola and Kubek once a week. As influential as Dr. Seuss.

    Read More
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  96. @Brutusale
    They build them tough in upstate Vermont.

    Of all the great memories of Fisk, this may be my favorite.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kDWSzrCkD0

    Note college administrators:

    Sanders got the message and is now a very successful and productive member of society.

    Read More
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