Print

The early Mets’ unseen and unused advantage over the rest of the NL

March 12, 2017
 

 

Recent speculations in "Reader Posts" about outfielder Gene Woodling have stirred up for me one of my older and livelier contributions to "Reader Posts," that one concerning Woodling’s final MLB destination, the 1962 New York Mets. Like evanecurb, who started the Gene Woodling thread, I also missed Woodling’s actual career, if just barely. Aware of the 1962 Mets in the same sense I was aware that JFK was in the White House and that Mrs. Mirsky, my third-grade teacher, had lost her mind (i.e., with absolute certainty but not in great detail), I remember first actively rooting for them in April of 1963—I’m sure I never saw Woodling play, though I’ve turned researching the 1962 Mets (http://www.kcmets.com/MetsHistory62.html) along sabermetric lines into an obsessive hobby that keeps me off the streets and keeps the public safe. One of the themes that I always have great difficulty explaining is my amazement that this perfectly inept team, a serious nominee for "The Worst Team Ever Assembled," actually led the NL in an important category, offensive Bases on Balls, compelling me to wonder about this team’s unrealized upside. Of course, there is a built-in upper limit to the 1962 Mets’ potential for anything: improving this terrible (40-120)  team two-fold, literally doubling their season’s wins, would only make them a .500 team, and doubling any team’s wins is a nevagunnahapn fantasy,  so what am I raving about here, anyhow?

As long as I’m questioning my own sanity, I’d like to share one of the nuttier approaches to baseball I took at the beginning of my exposure to sabermetric thought in the very late 1970s. Thumbing through a volume of the Baseball Encyclopedia, I would find the roster of some team that never went anywhere, the Cleveland Indians or the Kansas City A’s of the early 1960s, say, and through the miracle of hindsight, see if I could mastermind a series of trades that would make them into an instant powerhouse. For example,  I would find on their roster some veteran third baseman, say, who had a decent year, and find another team that needed a third baseman, and "trade" him to that team for some young catcher, say, who hadn’t hit in two partial seasons. Of course, hindsight would enable me to know that that catcher would blossom into a perennial All-Star and that the third baseman would never hit .250 again. Repeat this process a dozen or two dozen times, and I would make a decent team out of the failing franchise I started with, but I could never, even with my superpowers of "Retrospective Vision" and redefining what a "plausible" trade was, make a real superteam. The best I could do was make a pretty good contender, and often as not my chosen team would be able to do that themselves anyway within a decade or so.

This retrospective look at how I think the 1962 Mets might have managed their own roster is a variation on that wool-gathering theme. With the benefit of knowing in hindsight what we know now about sabermetrics, particularly the value of OBP, I am still completely unable to build a magnificent offensive powerhouse (as LBJ said, "You can’t make chicken-salad out of chicken-shit," and I’m not talking, kids, about Lebron James).  I think, however, I’ve come up with a provocative conclusion that I will get to in only a few more thousand words about Casey Stengel’s Mets.

I once got into a funny online argument on the subject of 1962 Mets’ OBP, on a general-interest website from which I’ve since been banned (nothing to do with this particular debate, I can be obnoxious on many subjects) with a science-fiction author.  Mr. SF, as I’ll call him here (both because of his chosen genre, and because his biggest hit was entitled Staroamer’s Fate, which you could Google if you like and learn his actual name),  took me severely to task for impugning Casey Stengel in the course of my citing the 1962 Mets’ unused potential.  He defended the Old Man (actually not all that much older then than I am now, or some of you are, or Bill is, though Casey sure looked in 1962 like Methuselah’s great-grand-dad) on these grounds: since Casey couldn’t possibly have known about OBP, and other new-fangled saber-whatzis nonsense, how can I possibly expect him to have chosen his players based on how often they got on base? "NOBODY DID BACK THEN!" Mr. SF would thunder, so who am I to dare rip Casey? I tried suggesting to Mr. SF that, even if nobody was aware of "OBP," as such, most managers, including Casey, probably noticed that getting on base was beneficial, and that walking was a pretty good way to get on base.  I wasn’t so much ripping Casey as pointing out that, by using knowledge we’ve developed since 1962, there was generally much unused potential for winning games nobody applied systemically back then. I thought it might be fun to try to apply current thinking to pre-sabermetric ball and speculate about ways the results might have changed.

Anyway, evanecurb’s Woodling discussion reminded me of this line of thinking because he had a pretty damned good lifetime OBP, .386, and he retired voluntarily after the 1962 season, when he’d gotten on base very well, especially for a 1962 Met: .379 for the year. (An oddity here is that while the 1962 Mets led the NL in walks by a wide margin, their hitting was so weak that they finished ninth in overall OBP.) The Mets needed players who could get on base—as Bill has pointed out many a time, OBP is THE most helpful element in scoring runs that we know of, more critical than Slugging Percentage, more critical than any other single measure.  They needed to keep those players who got on base a lot, not to get rid of them. My point, then and now, was simply that although the Mets actually owned the contracts of various players who were talented at reaching base, it almost seems in retrospect that they were systematically dumping them, some quite young, in order to retain those players who had demonstrated clearly that they had never had any ability at all to get on base, and most likely never would. This jump in OBP I’ll speculate about below would certainly not have made them into a contender—they were far too bad a team for that—but they could certainly have won a few more games than they did, if only they knew which players to keep and which ones to dump.

For what it’s worth, Stengel’s Mets (1962 through July of 1965) did underperform their Pythagorean projections pretty consistently. The Mets under Stengel from 1962-4 actually put up a 144-340 W-L record, while their Pythagorean W-L record during those 3 seasons was 159-325. Most of that inequity came in 1962, when the Mets underperformed their Pythagorean projection by a neat 10 games—again, 50-110 is a terrible record but doesn’t quite reach the depths of their actual and legendary 40-120 record. (Stengel broke his hip halfway through the 1965 season, but that year their overall record was only a game off the Pythagorean figure.) Richie Ashburn’s famous statement (or one of them—Whitey was a very witty guy) about the ’62 Mets was that they were routinely screwed by the umpires as punishment for being such a bad ballclub—whatever the cause, they were certainly an unlucky club as well as a bad one.

So Woodling retired—actually not so much after the season but while it was still going on. He played pretty regularly from the day the Mets acquired him in mid-June up until September 16th, two weeks before the season’s end, but he never played again after September 16. His SABR bio says he retired because his knees were bothering him, so maybe he told Casey that his knees were hurting and he’d like to rest while they healed, a rest that lasted the remainder of Woodling’s life.

Still, I wonder when players retire while their stats (or some of their stats) are still decent.  Certainly such retirements were far more common in the days when players’ incomes would rise, often substantially, after they quit playing baseball and took up their off-season employment all year round. One of Woodling’s Yankee teammates, Allie Reynolds, is a great example of someone who retired when he was still playing excellent baseball (13-4, a career-high W-L percentage, and a 3.32 ERA) because he could make more money outside of the game, but I don’t doubt that a few million dollars could serve as an excellent counter-incentive to retirement. A more apropos example is Woodling’s 1962 Met teammate, Richie Ashburn, who compiled a .424 OBP in 473 PAs ( 29 shy of qualifying for the league lead), but who opted to retire right after being named the Most Valuable Met of 1962. (Ashburn famously quipped that he wasn’t sure how to interpret "most valuable player on the worst team ever," but I think we understand that he had actual value.) Again, a million dollars here, another million there, and I suspect Woodling’s bruised knees and Ashburn’s wounded pride might have been overcome for another year or two.

Incidentally, and stop me if you’ve heard this already (I’m never sure which rants I’ve indulged myself in here before—I’ve definitely ranted about this before, just perhaps not on BJOL) I am of the belief that Mickey Mantle’s career could have been extended a few more seasons at least, given only a sabermetric awareness of OBP, plus later salary levels, to say nothing of colossal bad timing. Probably only one of those inducements would have extended his career—two would have, for sure, and all three might have extended his career considerably.  Mantle, like Woodling, cited his worn-out knees in announcing his retirement, but there was also a sense that he wasn’t playing at Mantle-like levels anymore. Mantle winced at the thought of his final season’s batting average, a mere .237, as well as other depressed stats, persuading him that he just wasn’t Mickey Mantle anymore but, actually, he was, and I don’t mean just literally. .237 was actually seven points above the league average in 1968, and his .385 OBP was third in the AL, just behind the previous two years’ MVPs, Carl Yastrzemski and Frank Robinson.  His OPS was eighth in the AL, and he’d been playing a decent first base, not putting too much wear and tear on this knees, but who knew from OPS (or WAR, or Win Shares) back then?  The only stats that Mantle heard about were his BA, HR, and RBI, which owed their depressed levels much more to the Year of the Pitcher than any supposed Diminishment of Mickey Mantle.

Of course it’s entirely possible that Mantle (2.6 WAR in 1968, second on his team), and Ashburn (2.1 WAR in 1962, also second on his team) and Woodling (and Reynolds and….) were just worn-out and aching and exhausted, and no amount of recognition of their remaining talent, and no amount of money on earth, could have persuaded them to play another game, but I think the greater probability is that our myopic view of stats disguised the fact that these players were still near the top of their game, or at least that they were not even close to the bottom and were still among the better players on their teams.

I certainly never heard about the Mets trying to talk Woodling or Ashburn into signing up for another year. They were cheap sonsofbitches, of course. (Actually, it was the same cheap son of a bitch, George Weiss, who negotiated with all of these 1950s Yankees and 1962 Mets, though by 1968, the new Yankee GM, Lee McPhail, was willing to pay Mantle handsomely to come back in 1969.)  I’m sure Weiss thought he could save a few of Mrs. Payson’s hard-earned pennies by dropping the veterans Woodling and Ashburn from the roster. Woodling at $36,000 and Ashburn at $29,000 were among the highest paid on the 1962 Mets roster.

Weiss’s boss, Mets’ owner Joan Whitney Payson was actually a bit of a spendthrift herself, authorizing Weiss to spend bucks where necessary to acquire talent, especially when it came with a 1950s New York baseball imprimatur. (Her most famous expenditure came a decade later, of course, when the Mets bought the contract of her favorite 1950s New York baseball icon, Willie Mays.) Early in 1963, the Mets doled out a few shekels and acquired the contract of one Duke Snider, well past his slugging prime but still able to get on base for the 1963 Mets at a healthy .345 rate.  (His lifetime OBP was .380. Ashburn, Mays, and Snider had been the three best NL centerfielders of the 1950s, all three now in the Hall of Fame, all three acquired when they could still contribute though none of them could actually play centerfield any more by the time the Mets acquired them. In early 1963 they also briefly acquired Jimmy Piersall, thereby cornering the market on once-gifted centerfielders who could no longer actually cover centerfield.)  Two months before acquiring Snider, the Mets had also acquired, again for cash, the services of a rookie who would finish second in the 1963 Rookie-of-the-Year balloting, a second baseman named Ron Hunt, who would go on to sport a nifty .368 lifetime OBP.  And as I’ve argued before (and will not here) the 1962 Mets also had a 25-year-old shortstop who seems to have played adequately in the field and put up an OBP of .368 in 449 PAs, with a lifetime .351 OBP at the plate.

Assuming they could have gotten Snider and Hunt as they did (both were straight cash deals, and not much more cash than some of us today keep in our checking accounts), and persuaded Woodling and Ashburn to stick around another year or two, and not banished the afore-not-mentioned shortstop, Elio Chacon, to spend the rest of his career in the minor leagues, it seems to me that these Mets could have put up a productive lineup for the next few years: between Woodling, Snider and Ashburn, they had rightfield pretty well covered (and a little centerfield, too, though two younger players, Jim Hickman and Joe Christopher, who would each eventually go on to have one excellent fluke career year, plus several more decent seasons, would have been better suited to cover centerfield on a daily basis.) They had Frank Thomas, a respectable power hitter, in left field, so I think between these six outfielders, they were basically set in the outfield for the next few years, getting either OBP or power from each spot.

They were arguably okay, too, up the middle, between Chacon and Hunt, for another five seasons or so, maybe more, both pesky little guys who knew how to get on base. But wait, I’m not nearly done yet:

The 1962 Mets had a pretty good first baseman as well. No, I don’t mean Gil Hodges, who would retire when he got an offer to manage the Washington Senators about two weeks after the Mets acquired his old (and I do mean old) Dodgers’ teammate Duke Snider. (Gil and the Dook were in the same lineup on the 1963 Mets for a grand total of eight games.) And I don’t mean Ed Kranepool, whom my projections would have kept safely in the minor leagues for several more seasons, sparing (at the very least) Duke Snider from putting up with the insulting retorts of this teenaged lefty who would spurn the Duke’s batting tips, supposedly, with a "You’re not doing so hot yourself, old man." No, the Mets consigned a 29-year-old first baseman named Ed Bouchee to precede Elio Chacon at Buffalo, also never to return to major leagues. Why do I think Bouchee could have contributed to the mid-1960s Mets? Again, he wasn’t a great ballplayer, but he did do that one thing that makes for pretty good offense in itself: he had a lifetime OBP of .368 in 2592 PAs up until his final plate appearance at the age of 29.

You could argue that Bouchee forgot how to get on base in 1962 (his season’s OBP was a piddling .308 in 50 games) but that’s probably an illusion caused by the Mets dumping him overboard in the middle of a slump. He had a .400 OBP through his first 25 games, then he seemed to get hurt or something (he didn’t play a single inning between June 3 and July 19) and had a miserable next 25 games, so there’s every reason to think that was just a bad month of games rather than a loss of OBP ability, which he had demonstrated convincingly over his first six and a half years, including the start of the 1962 season. At Syracuse, where the Mets sent him on July 29, 1962, he put up an Ashburnian OBP of .424, and at Buffalo the next season his OBP was .416, so I think he still knew how to get on base. 

That gives the Mets of 1963, and ‘64, and maybe ‘65, and possibly ‘66 a pretty good base, five positions where they had a player, sometime two, who could get on base reasonably well, plus Frank Thomas who was a pretty fair power hitter (and a league-average OBP guy himself), leaving them only two holes to fill, at 3b and catcher. They had traded a decent defensive catcher with a Frank Thomas-like .320 lifetime OBP, Hobie Landrith, to acquire the left-hand-hitting Marv Throneberry, which would have been a redundant acquisition if they’d known enough to install the lefty Bouchee at 1B and leave him there.

Third base would remain a difficult spot to fill for years, though they had a decent hitter, Felix Mantilla, playing there in 1962 (second on the team in RBIs, fourth in OPS, and third with a league-average .330 OBP). They traded Mantilla to the Red Sox, where he would have one flukish career year (.910 OPS in 470 PAs in 1964), and another All-Star year in 1965 (at shortstop, suggesting that maybe he wasn’t such a terrible third baseman).  Immediately following the 1962 season, they traded Mantilla (right before Mickey Mantle alphabetically, btw) for Elijah (Pumpsie) Green.  Aside from his proclivity for boarding mid-season flights to Israel, as befit his given name, Green also sported an impressive lifetime OBP. In only 954 lifetime PAs, spread over five MLB seasons, Green had an OBP of .357.  He began the 1963 season at the Mets’ AAA team at Buffalo, where he put up a .404 OBP. The Mets called him up, gave him 66 September PAs, playing him at 3B, where he had a fairly spectacular OBP of .409. He was promptly returned to the minor leagues in 1964, again never to play another MLB game.  Like Bouchee and Chacon, his OBPs at Buffalo and Syracuse the next few years would continue to be very strong, .387 and .371 in almost 700 minor league plate appearances. Also like Bouchee, he was 29 years old when he played his final major league ballgame.

So to review, the Mets could have begun the 1963 season with a batting order like this:

 

Name

Position

Age

Comments

Elio Chacon

SS

26

Lifetime .351 OBP

Ron Hunt

2B

22

Lifetime .368 OBP

Snider/Ashburn/Woodling

RF

Ancient

Minimum .360 OBP

Ed Bouchee

1B

29

Lifetime .368 OBP

Frank Thomas

LF

34

Just off a 34 HR year, .320 lifetime OBP

Pumpsie Green

3B

29

Lifetime .357 OBP

Hickman/Christopher

CF

26/27

Lifetime .335/.329 OBP

Hobie Landrith/Cannizzaro/Gonder

C

32/25/27

Lifetime .320 OBP between them

 

Now the Mets’ actual OBP in 1963 was an abysmal .285, ninth in a ten-team league where the average OBP was .306, so I’d guess that this roster would have gotten on base pretty well. (The 1963 Cardinals led in OBP with .326, or about the combined lifetime OBPs of these Mets’ three worst positions, LF, CF and C.) All of these players were essentially free to the Mets, being selected in the original expansion draft (Chacon, Bouchee, Hickman, Christopher, Landrith), or traded for one of the original draftees (Thomas for Gus Bell, Green for Mantilla), or purchased for cash (Hunt, Ashburn, Snider, Woodling, Cannizzaro, Gonder). This was talent available on the open market that the Mets had in their possession but which they chose, for the most part, to get rid of asap.

(You could argue, if you like, that these OBPs were flukes themselves, the product of small sample sizes in the cases of Chacon, Bouchee, and Green, except I don’t think you could argue that each of the three samples were small or that the sample-size argument would apply to all of them collectively. These three guys played in the majors and the minors for over 25 years between them and they posted very consistent and very high OBPs. The older guys, Snider and Ashburn and Woodling, were of course on the very tail ends of their careers, with their abilities declining, but they were so good at their peaks, and their OBPs were still so good, that again the best argument would be that one of them would probably fall off the cliff, not all three simultaneously.)

OBP was out there for the picking in 1962, and it wasn’t as if Casey Stengel hadn’t noticed that when players get on base, they tend to score. If the Mets had recognized that they were a strong team in one pretty important category, getting on base, I think they could have concentrated their efforts on bolstering their weak pitching staff instead of trading it off for parts. Roger Craig and eventually Al Jackson, their two best starting pitchers, for example, were swapped out to the contending Cardinals for help at positions that, as I just showed, they already had decent players at. If the Mets would have stabilized their lineup, simply by retaining those position players they had drafted, or those position players they traded the draftees off for, or those players they were able to purchase, then they could have put some effort into improving their woeful pitching staff.  Instead they traded off their few decent pitchers to fill the offensive weak spots that weren’t all that weak.

It’s a lot easier to fill a few glaring holes than it is to try and fill every hole on the team, 24/7/365, which was what they tried to do, often forcing young players into major league roles before they were ready, out of a desperation that they really needn’t have felt.  (Those young players included Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool and others who were given chances to start in MLB probably two or three years too soon, and it showed.) It takes a while to develop a strong minor league system, but the Mets brought young players up once they’d had a few good games at Buffalo.

Several of these players could have platooned, making their impressive numbers even more impressive. At 3B, where Pumpsie Green sported a pretty good OPS overall, he had a .139-point career OPS advantage batting lefthanded. When he needed some rest, he might have copped some pine against certain lefthanded pitchers, so that Charley Smith (another 3B-man whom the Mets picked up in early 1964 in exchange for someone who had ultimately arrived off the waiver wire) could bat right-handed. Not a great third baseman either, by any means, though he was one of my early favorite ballplayers, Smith hit 36 homeruns during his two partial seasons with the Mets. He didn’t have a platoon split either way, hitting for power but a very low OBP against righties and lefties alike,  striking out over 100 times each year. If Smith were used as a part-time fill-in player, instead of as the Mets’ regular cleanup hitter (which he was during his only full season with the team), I can see him making a contribution.  As it was, sticking a guy in the #4 hole with Smith’s career OBP of .279 was not a winning move, no matter how you slice it.  Five times in his MLB career, Smith played regularly (over 400 PA), which was probably five times too many. He could have been a decent backup, possibly a platoon partner to a left-handed first baseman (more about that in a moment) but they forced him into the cleanup spot.

Platooning doesn’t solve every problem, but I think it could have helped cobble together a lineup here. I said before that right field could have been split up between the aged triumvirate of Ashburn, Snider and Woodling, figuring that one of the three would have been healthy and rested enough to start on a given day, plus playing in right field is the usual position for an aged centerfielder, which two of the three had been. The chief problem here is that all three batted lefthanded, while the other three outfielders (Thomas, Hickman and Christopher) batted righthanded.  The obvious solution, to platoon all six, doesn’t work because you need Thomas’s power on a regular basis, but I think you get around that problem by including first base in your calculations: on days when a lefty starts, you could play Thomas at first base, giving Ed Bouchee a rest, and play an outfield of Hickman, Christopher and one of your aging rightfielders, or put Thomas in LF, his best position, and find a right-handed infielder (like Charley Smith?) to spell Bouchee at 1B.

You do have a natural platoon at catcher, with Hobie Landrith, a decent defensive catcher, batting lefthanded, and Chris Cannizzaro, batting righthanded.  The catching isn’t strong, but it’s okay defensively, and Landrith and Cannizzaro could get on base adequately (about .320) in the #8 slot. Jesse Gonder, your number 3 catcher was nothing defensively, as I recall, but was a hell of a lefthanded pinch-hitter—he had a gigantic platoon split (basically, useless against lefthanded pitching, lifetime .306 OPS—that’s OPS, not OBP!) but was effective against righties (.732 OPS). By settling on this platoon through 1963 and perhaps a year or two beyond, you not only limit the roster-churning that was disastrous for the early Mets but you also avoid having the really bad catchers, both defensively and in terms of OBP, like Choo-Choo Coleman (.266 lifetime OBP) and Sammy-Sammy Drake (.238) and Norm-Norm Sherry (.279) clogging up your roster.

One of the weaker decisions the early Mets made, especially in the face of the guys who had at least demonstrated some OBP potential, was giving chances to guys (like Sherry and Drake and Coleman) who had shown on their previous clubs that they had no ability to get on base. This tendency is nowhere clearer than their decision to give Ed Kranepool a shot at the 1B job and, eventually, to give him that job outright. Not only was Kranepool incredibly young (17 when he debuted) but he was always incredibly slow (Stengel cracked wise that Kranepool was "only seventeen and he runs like he's thirty") and not particularly gifted at getting on base (lifetime .316 OBP). Despite this double-whammy of no speed and few OBP-skills, Kranepool started 70 games batting leadoff or #2, mainly in the early part of his career. Seems to me smarter to find out in the minors whether a young player has certain basic abilities before you put him at the top of the order in the major leagues, but that’s not how the early Mets rolled under Casey Stengel. I just don’t get what Casey was thinking in sending a veteran like Bouchee down to Buffalo and elevating teenagers like Kranepool. Knowing what I know now, I’d have identified the guys who had shown decent OBP and let them prove that they couldn’t play in the NL rather than give chances to those who’d never exhibited any ability at all. Kranepool ending up playing 18 seasons for the Mets, and still holds the franchise record for games played, including a charity All-Star pick in 1965, but his long career is a testament to poor professional judgment. With a few more humbling years of instruction in the minors, Kranepool might have fulfilled the upside of Stengel’s prediction: "He’s 20 years old, and in ten years he’s got a chance to be a star." (Of Greg Goossen, Kranepool’s contemporary, of course, Stengel’s punchline was scathing: "He’s 20 years old, and in ten years, he’s got a chance to be 30.")

Of course, I’m imposing current values and perspectives on 1960s baseball, and quite unfairly in several ways. Since neither Stengel nor any other professional understood the value of OPB (or even knew what any player’s OBP figures were) we can’t really judge them by their inability to evaluate anyone by his OBP. Moreover, it made sense for a team to play someone like Kranepool as early as they could, because the downside of doing so today—accelerating someone’s progress towards free-agency—wasn’t an issue in the 1960s, and the early Mets had very little to lose by doing so. And though the sums of money I’m talking about here seem very petty now, it was standard practice for all teams to make personnel decisions based on saving a few thousand, or a few hundred, dollars.  But in retrospect, based on what we know about OBP today, and what we know about playing teenagers in the major leagues who haven’t shown a lot of ability, and what we know about the ultimate value of a thousand bucks, and many other factors, most teams could have improved themselves vastly only by knowing then what we know now. The Mets are a particularly sharp example, being that they were such a poor team in the early 1960s, and their only plentiful resource was having money available to buy the contracts of players whom other teams severely undervalued. 

"But there is always talent available," Bill wrote in the 1987 Abstract. "[T]here are always players at each position who can be had cheap because they have not shown well in trials and have been squeezed out. The good organizations can identify those players and use them to plug gaps, sometimes turning those gaps into big plus signs….That’s one of the things that Stengel did so well in the fifties."

And not so well in the sixties.

The critical problem I’ve mostly ignored, of course, was the Mets’ pitching, and I admit I have no easy solutions for that problem even in retrospect.  But they squandered much of their small base of talent trying to fix problems that weren’t in dire need of fixing. For example, they had a young pitcher named Bob Miller. (Actually they had two pitchers named Bob Miller on the 1962 team—I’m talking about the younger one now, the one who would have a 17-year career in MLB, not the veteran pitcher hanging on to qualify for a pension.)  They got rid of Miller by sending him to the Dodgers for Tim Harkness, another young lefthanded first baseman who would go on to—well, he wouldn’t really go on to anything. He hit one dramatic extra-innings grand slam HR in the Polo Grounds, and that was pretty much his entire big league career. Miller, though young and untested, was actually a pretty good pitcher and ready to go against MLB competition: though he pitched mostly relief over his 17-year career, saving 99 games in total, by the next season he was the #4 starter on the World’s Championship Dodgers team, putting up better stats than anyone on the Mets’ staff would until Tom Seaver arrived.  Also in the Miller-Harkness deal was a young second baseman named Larry Burright who would lose his job to Ron Hunt a week into the 1963 season. All in all, they would have been better off to slot Miller into the rotation (or the bullpen) and focus on solving other problems on the team. The lefthand-hitting 1B man slot they were churning and discarding players like crazy to fill—giving Kranepool, Throneberry, Harkness and a cast of thousands a crack at it—they had filled quite well with Bouchee before they ever played a single game.

Anyway, this is all by way of leading up to a point, quite apart from an exercise in nostalgia and hindsight about the early ‘60s Mets: a keen awareness of the value of OBP would have been a huge advantage for ANY team in the 1960s. The Mets are a comically good example, because they were such a comically dreadful team with all these high OBP guys under contract whose careers they pretty well shitcanned.  But if a good team—say, the Yankees—had had any kind of awareness of OBP, they could have picked these guys off the Mets’ roster, or any team’s roster, for a song back then, and quite possibly stockpiled them and even staved off the disaster that befell them in the late 1960s.  This one bit of knowledge, years ahead of its general dissemination, would have given any team an unbelievable advantage. Knowing to look for players with high OPBs, which any bright 9-year-old putting together a fantasy team today knows, would have been a gift from heaven.

That is only one advantage that 2017 teams have over teams from 1963.  Just think of the things Bill alone has championed, aside from OBP, to make teams smarter, sharper, much more competitive: 2017 teams know to devalue basestealers who get thrown out on more than a third of their attempts. A guy gets thrown out 40% of the time? Give him the red light, and bench him if he tries to steal on his own.  Use the IBB very sparingly. Bunt just often enough to keep the other team on their toes, not every time you have a runner on first base and less than two outs. Stuff like that has all been assimilated into the game, and every team has access to it so it’s not as if one team is exploiting this kind of thinking and every other team is suffering from the lack of it. This sort of knowledge is now well distributed throughout baseball.

Bill has come up with other ways, of course, to improve a team’s in-game strategies but that is not all that Bill has contributed to teams’ edges over the years. He has also come up with edges that are NOT in-game.  His groundbreaking thesis that players’ primes come much earlier in their careers than was previously accepted throughout baseball, for example, a thesis that was scoffed at and dismissed at first, has by now long since become universally accepted. This means that teams with several stars in their early thirties are well aware of a large problem looming, and presumably are routinely looking to acquire replacements, in trade or from their own minor league systems, to prepare for the likelihood of a sudden, but not unexpected, blowout in one of their 30-something stars’ careers. And they have more confidence in their minor league projections because of Bill’s work in developing reliable Minor League Equivalents. These changes represent better, more competitive rosters throughout MLB, but again the effect isn’t noticed as sharply as it might because of its universal application: if every team is smarter, more aware, savvier, more realistic, then no one team has a gigantic edge. But ALL teams in 2017 are much better constructed than earlier decades’ teams had been.

And of course the many changes Bill has advocated and teams have incorporated into their standard operating procedures are far from the only improvements in the modern game. I’m just mentioning some of them prominently here because those are the changes that I need not re-explain at length to a BJOL readership.  I think it's safe to speculate that at least as many positive changes in the game as the dozens that Bill could (if he were less modest) claim credit for bringing to MLB’s awareness have been invented and practiced WITHOUT Bill’s personal involvement. What I’m saying is that MLB has been improving itself by tremendous leaps and bounds over the years, but we hardly notice the improvements because every team is copying the successful ones more or less simultaneously. If every team is improving its methods and techniques and strategies and tactics at the same time, then the score of an average baseball game may still be 5 to 3, but it will be a far better played 5-to-3 game than we saw a decade or two or three ago. And no one will notice.

These improvements in the game are far from the only ways the game has gotten much more competitive: aside from physiological improvements of today’s taller, stronger, faster athletes themselves, we have learned a great deal about training and conditioning. Forget about modern machines and regimens and techniques—just focus on all the stupid, counterproductive methods of training that we (you and I) used to do that have been exposed as actually harmful, the back-killing sit-ups, the no-warmup routines, the foolish workout schedules, that we no longer practice because they’re now seen as destructive.  (Also the ferocity of teams as recently as the 1990s in discouraging their players from conditioning at all in the winter:  again, in the 1987 Abstract, on which I’m preparing a thirty-year appreciation, Bill noted Sparky Anderson’s extreme unhappiness with a young player named Nelson Simmons "because Simmons had spent the off-season lifting weights and becoming muscle-bound. Simmons was optioned out at the end of spring training… and was released by the Tigers." Released! For working out with weights! A power-hitting 22-year-old switch-hitter with "an unusually good strikeout and walk combination"!) Then you factor in medical procedures that have jumped new hurdles every year, and the absence of a need to sell clothing and cars over the winter, allowing players to come into spring training in better condition and health than they used to have at their peaks, and—I could go on and on about the advantages that individual players have over their 1980s counterparts, who of course had tremendous advantages over their 1960s counterparts, who of course….

There is no question in my mind but that contemporary MLB teams could beat the ears off previous decades’ teams. We just can’t notice the massive improvements easily (for some of us, at all) because contemporary teams are playing each other, as previous MLB teams also played against their own contemporaries. These improvements are not only massive in themselves, but cumulatively they make this argument, to my mind, into a clearly settled issue. A team that won a game by 5 to 3 in the 1960s would not only lose that game played against a 2017 opponent, they would lose it badly, not just 5 to 3, but maybe 6 to 2 or 7 to 1. And that 1960s team would do the same to a 1940s team (who wouldn’t have a single black or Latin player in their organization, an advantage I haven’t even touched upon) who in turn would do the same to a 1920s team.  

And if you could somehow arrange to have a 2017 team playing against a team from 1917, well, I don’t want to predict the score, because to me that’s like asking how would a good college team do in a game against the sixth grade. The results would be so lopsided that there’s no way to predict them accurately. Would a sixth-grader even be able to get the bat around on a college pitcher’s fastball? Probably not. Would the college players get disgusted at the endless batting practice they would be able to take against sixth-grade pitching and eventually—after 10 or 20 or 30 first-inning runs—start striking out on purpose just to get on with their lives? That’s the level of non-competitive baseball I’m seeing in a game between the best players from 2017 and 1917.

Somebody in Reader Posts (sorry--forget who) said he’d like to see an angry Ty Cobb bat against some 2017 full-of-themselves hotshots who were much bigger and stronger than he was. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Cobb would belt modern pitching like he was playing pinball—BING! BOOM! BANG! FREE REPLAY!!—but I have to wonder how often Cobb faced 90+ MPH fastballs. I’ll guess that most of what he hit was off-speed pitches that topped out in the mid-80s. It’s entirely possible that, facing Aroldis Chapman or Noah Syndergaard, Cobb’s bat would stay welded to his shoulder.

But let’s say that Cobb could, somehow, get around on pitches that routinely reach 90+ MPH, on pitches that have increased their average speeds by 5-10 MPH easily during MY lifetime, much less during the past five generations, and Cobb would be able to whack them (and the sliders, circles-changes, split-finger fastballs, and the rest of the repertoire pitchers have developed since Cobb’s time) all over the ballpark at will—do you suppose that Cobb’s much less talented teammates would be able to do the same? Mind you, a 90 MPH fastball is considered eminently hittable in 2017, but would have been a state-of-the-art hummer in Cobb’s day. And that’s only one of the many, many ways that baseball has become far more competitive in the past 100 years.

So that’s my takeaway from the early 1960s Mets ignoring the value of the OBP potential they had on their roster for free: there are dozens and dozens of clear competitive advantages that teams have now that we don’t even see because every team in MLB also has those dozens and dozens of advantages.  Great teams from the past were great only because they played head-to-head against their equally disadvantaged contemporaries—put them on a field today against today’s teams, and their greatness would be no longer obvious or even visible. We are living in a Golden Age of Baseball right now, and that’s the beauty of every fan’s experience from the 1850s through the 2050s: "right now," whenever that is, is the best baseball that’s ever been played.

 
 

COMMENTS (26 Comments, most recent shown first)

Steven Goldleaf
I found this recent interview with Hobie Landrith by my friend Ralph Tyko:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df5XDBBEc3o


10:28 AM Mar 16th
 
Steven Goldleaf
That's the really valuable thing about Strat and other simulations--they tune us in to our own BS. I certainly would have taken Ashburn's two-out-in-the-9th HR, if it had happened in real life, as a sign of veteran cool in the clutch, the value of experience, blablabla, but the fact that this wasn't a grizzled veteran, a man who had seen a lot of pitching in his day, and so on, but simply a 3' x 4' piece of light cardboard, showed me not to read things into events that weren't there.

Although I did have more respect for that 3' x 4' piece of cardboard after that performance.
4:41 AM Mar 16th
 
rwarn17588
Nice story about the '61 Yanks vs. the '62 Mets. Of course, Bill would say the Yankees that year really weren't that good compared to other Bronx Bomber teams from the Mantle-Berra era.

The single most exciting simulated game was when I paired the 1927 Yankees against the 1934 Cardinals. I thought the Cards would get drilled, but Dizzy Dean kept coming up with clutch strikeouts against Ruth and Gehrig. The Cardinals won the game, 3-2, with ol' Diz striking out 10. I was a teenager at the time, and it sorta cemented for me how crucial strikeouts were to a pitcher prevailing in game.​
10:03 PM Mar 15th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Obviously, didn't work. Now we know we can't do tables in "comments."
7:13 PM Mar 15th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Interesting work. Let me try an experiment and see if I can get a table to show up in comments--that would make your hard work more easily visible, if it works:



1 2 3 5 4








1 2 3 5 4



















2:29 PM Mar 15th
 
jrickert
I thought I’d try to get a sense of the numbers involved regarding players who retired while productive. I started by counting batters with 300PA and an OPS at least league average. I broke it down by decade, and made three age groups: early 30s(30-34), late 30s(35-39), and 40s. Then I counted how many never played after their still-productive year.
First I’ll list totals for the decades spaced by
1900s-10-20— 30-40-50— 60-70-80— 90–2000

Early 30s 15-15-7— 6-14-4- 3-3-1— 2-3
Late 30s 5-4-5— 0-8-5— 2-2-5— 7-10

Then the percentage of players with still-productive years who retired

Early 30s 5.9-7.1-2.9— 2.3-5.4-1.5— 1.1-1.0-0.3— 0.4-0.6
Late 30s 9.4-11.1-8.2— 0.0-14.0-10.4— 4.9-2.7-4.2— 6.3-5.6

Big years in 1915(Federal League close) and 1945(end of the war)skew the 1910s and 1940s numbers some. I think that this coarse data does support Steve’s view that players are more reluctant to retire early now. The early 30s have almost disappeared - possibly contributing to a recent small increase in the late 30s.

Folks in recent decades who were listed as retiring after still-productive seasons while in their early 30s:
1950s Bobby Doerr, Ralph Kiner, Al Rosen, George Kell
1960s Gil McDougald, Jackie Jensen, Roger Maris
1970s Wes Parker, John Briggs, Doug Rader
1980s Roy Smalley
1990s Mark Carreon, Leo Gomez
2000s Albert Belle, Scott Brosius, Shawn Green
2010-2015 Troy Glaus, Adam Dunn, David Murphy


A better filter could give a clearer picture. If anyone has any suggestions I’d be glad to run a better study.

11:52 AM Mar 15th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Also you can't really have had the option of playing both Landrith and Throneberry--they got traded for each other.
4:07 AM Mar 15th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Choo-choo? Why? And with Landrith in the lineup? How the hell did you "manage" that?

I once played the 1962 Mets vs. a friend's 1961 Yankees in Strat-o-matic game where they pulled out a 9th inning squeaker (via an Ashburn HR, as I recall, that was something like a "column 3, number 4, HR 1-6, flyout 7-20") to win the game. Single most exciting game of Strat I ever played.

We were trying to see if the Mets would EVER win a game against those Yankees, and we got it first time out of the box. Kind of put the kibosh on the whole long series we had planned.

Which (with your anecdote) is my point here--bad as they were, the 1962 Mets were not that far from being a respectable, close to .500 team. We just didn't have a clue to structure their lineup.
4:05 AM Mar 15th
 
rwarn17588
Interesting you should bring up the 1962 Mets. A couple of years ago, I played with a baseball simulator and paired the awful Mets against the 1969 Mets. Here's the key difference -- I packed the 1962 Mets lineup with guys who had good OBP, good power or both.

So Gil Hodges, Choo-Choo Coleman, Ashburn, Woodling, Marshall and Landrith got into the lineup, while guys like Cannazzaro, Throneberry, Christopher, et al, took a ride on the bench.

Yes, the pitching and defense still was awful, but at least the offense gave me some sort of fighting chance. Pair that with Roger Craig or the other starters periodically having a decent game, and the '62 Mets beat the '69 Mets four games to two in one seven-game simulated series.
6:17 PM Mar 14th
 
steve161
I could have mentioned Alan Roth, but it would have been beside the point. He is certainly a reason that Walter Alston was receptive to Earnshaw Cook.

Sabermetrics had many fathers, as Alan Schwarz documents in The Numbers Game (well worth reading, by the way). Bill James is undoubtedly the most significant of them, partly because of original ideas, but largely I believe because he was a better writer than his predecessors. As noted, Cook was touting OBP and the negatives of the sacrifice while Bill was still in high school. His impact wasn't zero, but it was less than it might have been, to an extent because some of his more off-the-wall ideas contaminated the good ones, but mostly because he was a struggle to read. Bill was fun to read. His worst ideas weren't as nutty as Cook's, but even when he was wrong, we kept reading.

Cook's writing was dry as dust, James' was colorful. Cook got a few people's attention, James offended everyone in sight. It took the better part of a generation for the people who were impressed by James, attracted as much by his writing as by his ideas, to get into the game and transform it completely--people like Billy Beane, John Henry, Theo Epstein and the current crop of Ivy League GMs. Like a Kuhnian paradigm shift in science, a generation had to die out. Could the shift have happened a generation earlier if Cook had been a better writer? We'll never know.
9:10 AM Mar 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
steve161--you win today's "Pedant of the Day" award. If OBP is mentioned and no one pays the slightest attention to it, has OPB really been mentioned? I didn't claim Bill invented OBP, did I? (I might have, but I'm a fool if I did.) I claimed (or I meant to) that when Bill first wrote about it, in the late 1970s, he still had to persuade his readers--us!--that walks weren't purely a function of pitchers' wildness, that certain batters had a genuine talent for drawing walks, that things other than walks--HBP, IBB, not GIDP, reaching on errors, etc--made batters more effective in quantifiable ways. There was a revolution in how we--or the 99.99999% of us who live outside Earnshaw Cook's skull--think about OBP, and that revolution took place in the 1980s. There are still a few stalwart holdouts even now, the Japanese soldiers hiding out on isolated Pacific islands, prizing batting average as the most important measure. I'm surprised you didn't mention Allan Roth as the true father of sabermetrics.​
4:16 AM Mar 14th
 
shthar
Every time someone writes about how teams are smarter than they used to be, a team goes out and signs Johnny Giavotella.
9:55 PM Mar 13th
 
therevverend
There were lots of players in the 40s and 50s who's only skill was OBP. Leadoff men who's primary skill was drawing walks. Connie Mack had these kind of guys. Eddie Joost, Maxie Bishop. Branch Rickey and Durocher had Eddie Stanky, Augie Galan, among others. Bill wrote in one of his abstracts about how baseball in the 50s was about drawing walks and waiting for home runs. Kind of boring.
I think something happened, Luis Aparicio.
Walks are a boring, passive skill. Stealing a base is fan friendly and exciting. The strike zone changed making it harder to draw tons of walks. Attendance lagged so base stealing became important to drawing crowds and making money. I think OBP was lost in the mix. At least to most of the teams and GMs.
Houk had Richardson and Kubek at the top of the lineup. Check out their OBPs. Takes six or seven years to run down a great team, just like it takes six or seven to build a good team out of a 120 loss team. In the real world. Like I said before, what Stengel and the Mets management did was incredible. Too bad Stengel wasn't able to make it until '69.
9:49 PM Mar 13th
 
steve161
Earnshaw Cook wrote specifically about OBP the statistic in Percentage Baseball (1964). According to Alan Schwarz (The Numbers Game, 2004), it impressed both Walter Alston and Bill Veeck, among others. He also insisted that the sacrifice bunt was counterproductive. His work got national attention in the early and mid sixties, including a lead article in Sports Illustrated in 1964 by Frank Deford, I believe before the book came out.

Unfortunately, many of his other ideas were rather wacky, his statistical methods were questionable and his prose was deadly: I was in college when the book came out and it was a better sleeping draught than my economics textbook. So he was easy to ignore and his impact minimal. Nonetheless, it is at least an exaggeration to state that OBP was unknown to baseball people at the time.
8:27 PM Mar 13th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Houk won 4 straight pennants, including 2 World's Championships. We should all suffer such declines.

I think I said several times too many that of course managers recognized that getting on base was a good thing. Blind Nigerian first-time visitors to the ballpark probably get that after a few innings. What managers didn't recognize was that this skill could be measured with a simple three digit stat that would distinguish effectively who could and who couldn't get on base.
1:21 PM Mar 13th
 
therevverend
Polo Grounds was shape like a race track. For horse racing. I assume they used to play Polo there after the races. Before the first one burned down or collapsed or whatever.
It was 279 to left, 257 to right. But the fences went back quickly, 360 in left back to 447 in left center. Right was 338 to 395 to 447 in deep right center. 455 to center. Actually the dimensions are similar to Yankee stadium without a huge death valley. You could get by with two slow corner outfielders and a fast center fielder. With Mays it wouldn't have mattered. Watching him cover all that turf must have been incredible.
Starting those 3 guys at the same time would have been a disaster. Ashburn had 54 games in center, 45 in right. I doubt those games in center were at the same time as the other two.
It's always bothered me that Ashburn didn't play longer and get 3000 hits. And it's bothered me that the writers penalize players for retiring when they can still play.
12:25 PM Mar 13th
 
therevverend
We're also talking like mangers in the '50s and '60s had no idea that getting on base was a key skill. That was true for most of the run of the mill mangers but the smart successful mangers, Durocher, Stengel, Alston, valued OBP quite a bit.
The Yankees had lots of those guys under Stengel. Woodling of course, Hank Bauer, Norm Siebern, Gil McDougal, Enos Slaughter, Bob Cerv, etc. Stengel valued role players who could get on base.
After Stengel left one of the reasons for their decline I think, Houk didn't collect those kind of guys. I doubt Stengel forgot that when he went to the Mets. It's the reason why there's so many guys with good OBPs on the roster.
In the 50s and 60s there were no where near as many old players as there are now. It was much rarer to keep playing into your late 30s. I'm sure Ashburn and Woodling had egos. Woodling was a good player on some great teams. Ashburn was a great player that was underrated in his time.
The '62 Mets where a joke. Those guys could still hit some but their running and defense had atrophied. Being part of a team that's a laughing stock with a manager who the media considered a clown couldn't have been fun. I doubt they would have come back regardless of what they were paid.
12:05 PM Mar 13th
 
doncoffin
"Ashburn earned a strong upper-middle-class salary in his final season, $29,000"

The CPI for 2016 was almost exactly 8x the CPI for 1962. So, $29,000 in 1962 would correspond to only $232,000 in 2016. That would put you in the top 5% of households ($166,000 would put you in the top 5% of households).
11:48 AM Mar 13th
 
pob14
I also Googled Staroamer's Fate.

If the cover art isn't enough to keep you away (and it should be), the fact that these are actual quotes from the back cover blurbs will be:

"Worth passing on . . . very little is dull here."
"Nothing profound, but I liked it."

These are the hand-selected quotes designed to make you want to buy this book.
8:30 AM Mar 13th
 
Steven Goldleaf
“Much more outside the game” is relative. Ashburn earned a strong upper-middle-class salary in his final season, $29,000, and I don’t know what he made as a broadcaster, but he wasn’t making minimum wage. He was, at worst, making a weak middle-class salary. More important, to my argument and in Ashburn’s considerations, that weak middle-class salary was the bridge to a permanent career, and one in which his starting salary was going to rise, probably considerably, while his baseball salary was only going to fall (yes, players were routinely being cut in pay as they got older) and it would only last another year or two or three anyway. If he decided to play ball in 1963, that broadcasting offer may not have been there for 1964. This was an opportunity. So Ashburn’s decision to retire, even at a lower salary for 1963, was still keeping his immediate income level relatively close to what it had been, and greatly increasing his long-term earning potential—it was a rational financial decision, and that is the point I was trying to make.

Today’s players, to put it another way, simply play much longer than they did in 1963. This has probably been studied down to the day, but when Ortiz, to use your example, has a big year and then retires, it’s news but he’s doing it in his early forties. Ashburn, who had (to my mind) a big year in 1962, retired at the age of 35 (NOT 40, therevverend). That’s what I’m discussing here, those five years or so of difference in career length. I don’t think there’s any doubt that careers (absent injury, death, total loss of ability, etc., which are constants) are at least 10% longer than in the 1960s, probably much longer than that. Let’s not discuss what people thought was going to happen (which didn’t happen) but rather what actually happened to career lengths as MLB salaries multiplied by nearly a thousandfold.

As to therevverend’s other points, yes, of course you want some fast young outfielders. Where you gonna get them? The Mets HAD Woodling, Ashburn, and Snider, and the Polo Grounds had a small RF to cover (huge CF, small RF—I think it was 258 down the line in RF). If you have a young guy in CF, as I’m speculating, Hickman or Christopher, who were the best young outfielders the Mets had, you try to develop some more outfielders in your minor leagues (Cleon Jones was ready by 1966, and they had Paul Blair for a short time in 1962 until the Orioles grabbed him up) or acquire others (like Billy Cowan, who they got in 1965), but until they’re ready, you’ve got to play the best players you’ve got, not the worst. They had adequate RFers in the W-A-S trio—but they treated them like expensive clutter and problems instead of as the dirt-cheap aging stars they were. They could have done the job for a few more years, spelling each other, providing leadership, starting part-time, pinch-hitting other times—they were a solution that would have let the Mets solve other, pressing problems, of which they had many.

7:28 AM Mar 13th
 
therevverend
The one thing I think you may be missing is how demoralizing bad young pitching is. Especially paired with bad outfield defense. Thomas, Ashburn, and Woodling must have been so slow. Well, Ashburn okay but he's 40. Especially in the Polo Grounds, a ball rolls between Ashburn and Woodling or Thomas and it's never going to stop. Snider was probably the worst.
Trying to build the self esteem of crappy young pitchers, getting through some innings without two walks and a ball in the gap to ruin the day. Following bad teams going through that cycle is miserable and it can go on for years. i was an M's fan in the 80's.
I doubt you're worried about keeping some 40 year old ex stars with egos and salaries around. I'd chuck them and get fast young outfielders. Build for pitching and defense because you're looking 5 or ten years down the road instead of next season.
What's remarkable about he Mets is that it only took them 7 years. For an expansion team from that era it seems, I feel like an idiot for saying it, amazing.
12:23 AM Mar 13th
 
jrickert
The argument sounds reasonable but I'm not sure that it has much effect in practice. The salary gap was still pretty large.

From the SABR bio for Richie Ashburn: "He accepted a broadcasting job in 1963 with the Phillies to provide “color” to the regular broadcaster. When asked if he had been making more with the Mets, Ashburn said, “Much more.” And a query as to why he would quit such a good-paying job in a sport he loved and accept a much lower salary elicited a simple, “Well…” http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/cda44a76

Even in the 19th century players most players earned much more than they could outside the game. There were some like Ty Cobb who made themselves wealthy beyond their salary, but I think their number is small enough that there's not much impact on the retirements. (And Cobb didn't retire early despite having other options)
10:34 PM Mar 12th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Not sure I follow that. The proportion between MLB star salary/post-career income seems roughly equal in the 1960s. That is, Richie Ashburn earned something in the range of his last MLB salary, give or take a few thousand dollars, so he would have little financial incentive to keep playing. But a Rickey Henderson, to take a more recent elderly Mets OFer (and HoFer for his pre-Met achievements) faced a loss of millions. As I understand it, just financially, players have every incentive to keep playing these days, whereas they used to have at least the possibility that they could do as well, financially, if they quit baseball. Of course, you're right that once you're sitting on a net worth in the 100s of millions, the prospect of not having a decent salary in the future isn't too scary, but my point is that no one quits MLB now because they're being offered a partnership in a hardware store and they need to strike that iron while it's hot.
10:13 PM Mar 12th
 
jrickert
I was a little surprised by your comments about players such as Ashburn and Mantle not hanging around because of the lower salaries. I recall that many people in the 70s complaining about the high salaries claimed that no-one would play 20 years anymore because there was so much money out there that they would stop after cleaning up for a few years and not risk hurting themselves.

Also, the larger current salaries didn't keep Mike Mussina and David Ortiz from retiring after very good years. I suspect that the reasons for retiring after a good year are as varied as the players.

I do wonder what competitive and strategic advantages will be apparent 50 years from now that we're overlooking. I'll note that there is some research to show that stretching before exercise may not provide much benefit http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Do-I-need-to-stretch-before-or-after-a-run-or-sports-and-exercise.aspx
(I haven't found links to the actual research starting a few years ago)

9:41 PM Mar 12th
 
doncoffin
Ashburn also essentially did not play after Sept. 4--he appeared in 13 games, with a total of 18 PA (4 on 9/7, 4 on 9/30, and 8 in the other 11 games in which he appeared).
7:34 PM Mar 12th
 
doncoffin
Just so no one else has to, here's a link to an online review of Staroamer, *not* by Steven:
www.sfreviews.net/staroamer.html

The first paragraph of the review:
"Staroamer's Fate is such ill-conceived tosh I'm almost tempted to recommend it, if only as a helpful guide to would-be SF writers as a shining example of how not to do it. It's easy to see why Chuck Rothman did not exactly go on to a brilliant career following this debut, as he is utterly clueless as to even the most fundamental rules of plot logic and plausibility. It's as if he comes from a school of plot development called the "I'm making it up as I go" Theory, with all of the unintentional hilarity and eye-rolling embarrassment one would expect from such an approach. I can expect implausibilities like the ones that pepper this novel to come from a new and untried writer who has yet to master his craft. But for such lameness to get past an editor at a publishing company is another thing entirely, and much less forgivable."
7:22 PM Mar 12th
 
 
©2017 Be Jolly, Inc. All Rights Reserved.|Web site design and development by Americaneagle.com|Terms & Conditions|Privacy Policy