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15 Most Recent Questions

I loved your peak and prime article.  Seeing Ken Williams on the list caused me to look up his record.  He had one of the greatest post-30 careers ever.  I know nothing about him other than his statistics.  Do you have any Ken Williams stories or why his career was so late getting traction?
Asked by: Robinsong

Answered: 6/4/2020
 I really know very little about him, honestly.  He used to be famous as, I think, the only player before Willie Mays to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season; that used to be a bigger thing, but so many people have done it now that no one cares anymore.  There are occasional outbursts of cries for him to be added to the Hall of Fame, but it seems clear to me that he is well short of that standard, although, as you say, he was an outstanding player for about five years in his 30s.   

 

Are you optimistic that as a society, we can figure out how to effectively solve the income inequality problem--even just get most of us into general agreement that it IS a problem urgently in need of redress--without having to endure a catastrophic civil war first? How much time do you perceive we might have? I worry that it might not be much.
Asked by: Zeth

Answered: 6/4/2020
 It's not a problem that you can "solve", exactly; as I recall, Jesus said at the Last Supper that the poor will always be with us.  Whether he said it or not, it is probably true.  It's a problem that you can MANAGE, and you can LESSEN, but you'll never really solve it.  Socialism pretends to solve the problem, but really just disguises it, as George Orwell illustrated in Animal Farm, by appointing some to be first among equals.  
 
You can't SOLVE the problem, but you can control it, first of all, by recognizing that it is a problem.  That's why it is damaging to just march forward, blindly insisting that baseball players are just common working fellows, oblivious to the fact that they have, in fact, achieved wealth far beyond anyone's needs, and far beyond their actual value.  

 

Bill,  
I love you and you've done more to influence my thinking than anyone other than my parents.  But for the love of all things holy, will you stop mentioning Rick Monday and his 1981 season?  
Thanks,  
ALL MONTREALERS
Asked by: Michael P

Answered: 6/3/2020
 MOnday, Monday,
Can't trust that day. 
Every other day,
Every other day of the week is fine,
But whenever Monday comes,
But whenever Monday comes
You can find me cryin',
All of the time.  

 

It seems like back in the 60s and early 70s when players were underpaid and had no freedom of movement, fans sided generally with management on labor issues.   Now that players are very well paid and have free agency, it seems that fans are very much for the players and against management.  It seems rather the reverse of what I would expect.  If I add a question mark, is that a question?, and
Asked by: raincheck

Answered: 6/3/2020
 Well.  .
 
(a) the external world is vastly more complicated than the human mind, and
(b) the "societal mind" is significantly simplified from the individual mind.  
 
We form "community agreements" about things based on extreme simplifications, and, having formed those community agreements, we hold on to them long after the truth has been aqueezed out of them.   The community has great difficulty changing its mind, no matter how obvious it is that they're a step behind the facts.  
 
I remember when I was a child, maybe 7 or 8 years old, I asked my father whether a man we knew was a good man or a bad man.   My father replied that he was just a man, that he did good things and not so good things, just like all the rest of us.  Probably you had a conversation like that with your parent, about the same age.  It's a child's way of thinking about the world, that people are good or bad.  As you mature, you learn to see the good and bad in others. 
 
Society thinks like a child, in simple terms.   It's Hegel's thesis-antithesis-synthesis, worked out over time.   There was a thesis that teams represented the public, that teams represented the interests of the public.  Marvin Miller created an antithesis, and the public swung gradually to his side, to their side.   Eventually, over time, the players became so powerful that they began sucking up all of the money that would naturally go to all of the employees of the team--the scouts, the minor league players, the minor league coaches and workers, the field staff, the front office workers.   Eventually the public will figure this out, and there will be a new antithesis, leading to a new synthesis, a new thesis created from the old.   
 
I remember one time, when I was living in Boston, somebody asked me whether I went to the park in the Winter.   I said, "Sure, I go every day.  Pretty often I go even on Saturday, sometimes on Sunday."   He asked me how many people were at the park every day, in the off season.   "I don't know," I said.  "A couple of hundred, maybe."  His jaw dropped, and he looked at me with absolute astonishment.   "What do they do?" he asked.
 
People just have no idea.  People have no concept of what it takes to run a major league organization.   The people who do the everyday work of the organization have been simplified out of existence in the public's mind, which supports this absurd notion that "the players are the game."  
 
But income inequality is damaging to our culture.   Eventually, people will figure this out, and this will form part of the antithesis, and then there will be a new synthesis.  

 

Piggybacking on jwilt’s question about the minor leagues and the article in the 1988 Abstract, which also had a large influence on my thinking even though I was 32. Would something like this be feasible? Each major league team can have one "farm" team. The annual draft is only about ten rounds, and only of high school and college players the major leagues are willing to place among their top 50 players. (MLB and the farm team.) All other leagues are independent and can sell contracts to higher levels as in the old days; these teams find their players among the undrafted. There would have to be some adjustments made due to the absence of the reserve clause, but that could be worked around with shirt, but still multi-year contracts at the minor league level. Could something like that work?
Asked by: DanaKing

Answered: 6/3/2020
 Yes.  Most or all or that is workable, and would be better than the current system.  
 
Systems--like marriages--cease to work because of power imbalances.   In the major league/minor league relationship, the major leagues, acting on the natural instinct of all businesses and all people, pulled constantly on the rope, trying to gain more power in their relationship with the minors.   Eventually, by about 1965, they had ALL the power in the relationship, and the minor leagues became essentially slaves, servile "partners" of the major leagues.  
 
This was unhealthy.  Any "partnership" in which one partner holds all of the power is inherently unhealthy, because it leaves the other partner unable to contribute to his/her maximum capacity.  It's just an unhealthy relationship--as the relationship between players and other major league workers is an unhealthy relationship.  
 
 

 

In your Peak and Prime article, you used Ellis Burks as an example and said he had 6 Peak seasons, but the year 2000 was not one of them.  By my calculations, 2000 was his third best season using your method (WS + WAR + Season).    
 
Am I missing something about your method (or making a calculation error) - how could his third best season not be one of his peak seasons (if he had six peak seasons)?
Asked by: phorton01

Answered: 6/3/2020
That isn't a "Hey, Bill" question. That's a comment on the article.  

 

Your article referencing Rick Monday’s 1981 season was spot-on. I had the entire 1981 season in Strat-O-Matic and Rick Monday’s card was one of the best. I remember it was full of Home Runs and Walks. It was very similar to the Mike Schmidt card. I think Monday had about the same HR% as Schmidt that year and Monday had a .423 on-base percentage. I would play little 7 game series with my friends but I would play Monday full time in right field. Also, Fernando gets all the attention from 1981 but people forget how good Jerry Reuss and Burt Hooten were on that ‘81 Dodger team.
Asked by: John-Q

Answered: 6/3/2020
 Yeah. . .I mentioned that pitching staff in a tweet about a month ago.   As I recall, Reuss and Hooten both had better ERA's and better Winning Percentages than Fernando.  And Fernando won the Cy Young Award.  

 

Have you always been so ridiculously pro owner and anti player or did this happen gradually over time?
Asked by: Steve

Answered: 6/3/2020
 Well, I was asked to write the introduction to Marvin Miller's autobiography.  So there's that. 

 

To me, minor league baseball and major league baseball would be more fun if the minors were a separate entity, and then MLB had an NFL-like draft from the minors.
Asked by: rtayatay

Answered: 6/3/2020
 RIght. . . a player has to have a right to move up to higher levels of competition.   But also, minor league teams have to have competitive integrity.  They can't really thrive without it.  

 

Does this question make sense to you? If you take the average MLB player, what are points of advancement in his curve to that averageness?  
 
Making up some numbers here, as an example of what I mean: signed at age 20, plays first game in A ball at 20.5, after 68 games in A ball is promoted to AA at 21.5, plays 101 games at AA, is promoted to AAA at 22.7 etc.  
 
Do teams use this sort of measurement to calculate if someone is making quick or slow progress, or do they do it more loosely? I presume there are some general standards that apply.
Asked by: Your orphan with his gun

Answered: 6/2/2020
 I wouldn't say that it is "Loose", because teams are extremelly focused on where the player is in his progression, but it is not programmed in exactly the way you outline.   You're very aware if a player is behind schedule, and you're in a way almost paranoid about a prized prospect slipping behind schedule.  But the schedule is not written in stone the way you outline. 
 
 
A big variable here is injuries.  Most guys get hurt.   You get hurt when you're 19, you can lose a year, it's not a big deal.  If you get seriously hurt when you're 23 and at Double-A, it usually causes you to drop like a stone in how organizations evaluate you.  

 

When FrankD asked what you would do to make the minors better, you said that would be a 10,000 word answer.  I'd be very interested in that response. Your piece called "Revolution" in the 1988 Abstract had an oversized influence on my then 17-year-old brain.  I've mulled it over for many years, daydreamed endlessly on higher level independent leagues and startup major leagues and why they don't happen, but would eagerly read a follow-up.  Sorry, not really a question...
Asked by: jwilt

Answered: 6/2/2020
 Appreciate the thought.   College basketball/football and minor league baseball are alike, in that both are (A) developing talent for the next level, and (B) trying to win games so as to develop their own following so as to make money themselves.   The difference is that minor league baseball is 95% A and 5% B, and college basketball/football are 5% A and 95% B.   Minor league baseball started out as 100% (B), gradually started selling players to higher levels, and eventually, the (A) function completely took over, reducing the (B) function to more of a pretense than a fact.   
 
The minor league model is not a good one.   To move forward requires either revolutionary innovation, or that the major leagues behave with enlightened self-interest.  Meaning that they allow the minor league teams to maintain their integrity, rather than making them wholly subserviant.  

 

The latest I heard about the on-going negotiations between owners and players is that the owners sent the players (or rather insulted the players with) a low-ball offer. 
Asked by: Michael Skarpelos

Answered: 6/2/2020
 I thought the opening offer was astonishingly generous, in that it meant that the owners would obviously lose a good deal of money on the season.  

 

About that Yankee day in 1939: It doesn't seem accurate to call it an "Old Timers Day. Maybe I'm being too narrow in how I see the term, but, here's what it was. (There's a highly detailed story about it in the NY Times of the next day, by John Drebinger.) They had members of the 1927 team there as part of the celebration of Lou -- which was how the thing was seen, a celebration of Lou, not an old timers day in the way we view it. Also there was no old timers "game" -- not that I consider the game important; for me it's 99% about the presence of the old timers, and the introductions, plus, for me, seeing stuff like Jesse Barfield throwing the ball around during the warm-ups -- but I do think the "game" is part of what makes it the Old Timers Day as we now think of it. On various levels, the 1939 thing wasn't that. Not that I wouldn't have liked to be there....
Asked by: MarisFan61

Answered: 6/2/2020
 Thanks.  

 

It is correct that the first Yankees old timers' day was in 1939 when Gehrig's speech was, but according to a 1984 article in Yankees Magazine by Jim Ogle, there wasn't another one until 1948. In 1948 the Yankees retired #3 for Babe Ruth and invited a group of alumni, and the event has taken place every year since.  
 
I always thought there was an old timers' game as part of the All-Star game events that featured former players from all of baseball, but I don't see that anymore. There is a celebrity softball game, which includes some former players. I told the kids I work with at the schools how Bill Nye the Science Guy was in the softball game at the all-star game a couple years ago, and he kept getting the loudest ovations. He was the biggest attraction in the softball game.  
 
Wasn't there an old timers' game with the All-Star game at one time?  
 
 
Asked by: jerpol

Answered: 6/2/2020
 I don't remember that, if there was. 

 

Local Yankee broadcasts of the annual Old Timers' Day claim that the first occurred on the famous Lou Gerhig speech day.  Don't know if this is true, but that is what the Yankee announcers always claim.  Sorry, not a question.
Asked by: jfenimore

Answered: 6/1/2020
 Yeah, I have heard that, now that you mention it.  

 

 
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