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Articles Tagged 1970s 

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March 7, 2012 3:00 am

Sobsequy: Do We Care About Characters?

8

Adam Sobsey

The players of the 1970s couldn't compete with today's players on the field, but they may have had more compelling personae. Which do we prefer?

It’s spring training. The eyes of baseball open again. It’s a good time to take stock of the game.

Are we happy with it? Happy with the whole game—its character, its color, its quiddity? Is there anything missing? Is there anything overmuch? What is right, and what is wrong with baseball? Has it acquired qualities it used to lack? And has it lost anything it once had?

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An attempt at an exhaustive guide to MLB mascots.

Oh, the mascot. Love 'em or hate 'em, they are as much a part of today's game as nine-figure contracts, HD ribbon boards, and journalistic digs at Alex Rodriguez.

These costumed, oversized creatures are clearly intended to appeal to the elementary school set, with their bright colors, funny shapes, and/or cartoon influences, but one need not look far to see that they often appeal to much older groups. The Racing Sausages, Mariner Moose, the Phillie Phanatic... people of all ages get excited by these classic mascots on a nightly basis.

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A slow September game at Wrigley suspends time, but can't rewind it.

Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.

Josh Wilker is the author of the memoir Cardboard Gods (now out in paperback from Algonquin Books) and of a forthcoming book for Soft Skull Press on the 1977 film The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. He continues to explore and hide from his life through his baseball cards at cardboardgods.net.

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In March 2002, Baseball Digest said we were living in "the era of the shortstop." After all, the late 1990s ushered in a crop of offensive-minded shortstops like Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Derek Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra. The article included the Royals' Neifi Perez, but given the benefit of hindsight, I'll leave him out of the discussion. A popular conception was that this represented a new era where the once defense-dominated position was no longer going to be a wasted spot in the batting order. As the other teams scrambled to keep up with the Joneses, was something lost in the process? Is the quest for the next batch of power-hitting shortstops leaving defense in its wake? To answer this question and others, we will use the Win Shares system to help us.

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Geoff Young recently used a BP Unfiltered post to come clean about his unrequited man crush on David Eckstein, setting off a wonderful comment thread in which readers described the players that they consider "guilty pleasures" - those that may not be stars, but are fun to watch nonetheless. Reading through the comments, I was struck by the many different types of players that can catch a fan's fancy, but one variety seemed to be particularly popular: The Little Guy. Maybe it's the David vs. Goliath matchup of the smaller batter versus the hulking pitcher that appeals to us; maybe we just identify with a more normal-seeming scale of player; in any case, shorter players seem to have some level of curb appeal that can't be explained by their stats.

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September 12, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Never Enough Pitching?

0

David Pinto

The increasing number of pitchers crowding big league rosters hasn't improved the quality of a club's performance from its hurlers.

The increase in scoring over the last fifteen years is taken as a sign of the decline in the quality of pitchers, either through a lack of ability or a dilution of talent. As pitching has declined, however, the number of pitchers used has increased. Does this make sense, or is this a logical contradiction? If a team's roster consists of ten people pitching poorly, why would adding an eleventh or twelfth arm improve things? To be clear, roster management changed to add pitchers rather than look for the best nine or ten pitchers to carry on a team. Why did this strategy develop?

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August 30, 2007 12:00 am

Schrodinger's Bat: Tilting the Playing Field

0

Dan Fox

Returning to a subject from this past winter, Dan digs in to discuss the all-time greats.

"It is the best game because the players look like us. They are not seven feet tall, they don’t weigh 350 pounds, and they don’t bench-press 650. We can relate to them. We can see them—they’re not obscured by some hideous face mask, and they don’t play behind a wall of Plexiglas—we can touch them and we can feel them. I see Greg Maddux with his shirt off, with his concave chest and no discernible muscles, and I marvel: This is one of the six greatest pitchers in the history of the game? I see Tony Gwynn with his shirt off and I see a short, fat guy with the smallest hands I've ever seen on an athlete, and I wonder: 'This is the best hitter since Ted Williams?'...They are regular guys, at least most of them, who just happen to be really, really good at something that everyone else is not."
--Tim Kurkjian, from chapter one of Is This a Great Game, or What?: From A-Rod's Heart to Zim's Head--My 25 Years in Baseball


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June 18, 2007 12:00 am

Watching the Detectives

0

Mike Carminati

The tendencies of field umpires are put under the microscope.

This is the second part of a series on umpires. Read the first part here.

Bad Calls

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January 25, 2007 12:00 am

Schrodinger's Bat: A Triple Redux

0

Dan Fox

Dan looks into the relationship between triples and body mass index over decades to get a better sense of baseball's ever-increasing level of play.

"I don't know why people like the home run so much. A home run is over as soon as it starts....The triple is the most exciting play of the game. A triple is like meeting a woman who excites you, spending the evening talking and getting more excited, then taking her home. It drags on and on. You're never sure how it's going to turn out."

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In the beginning, there were no rotations. There were no relievers. There was only one pitcher, and the term "everyday player" had no meaning. In 1876, George Bradley started all 64 games for the St. Louis Brown Stockings, completing 63 of them; his teammates combined to throw four innings all year. Of course, in the early days of the National League, the task performed by the pitcher bore little resemblance to what we call "pitching" today. At various times in the first two decades of professional baseball, the distance from the pitcher to home plate was less than 50 feet; a walk required nine balls; bunts that landed in fair territory before skidding to the backstop were considered fair balls; hitters could call for a "high" or "low" pitch; pitchers could throw the ball from a running start; and curveballs and overhand pitches were illegal. The game changed quickly, and it quickly became impossible for a team to rely on a single pitcher for its entire season. And once that point was reached, the question of how best to maximize each pitcher's usage was born.

Of course, in the early days of the National League, the task performed by the pitcher bore little resemblance to what we call "pitching" today. At various times in the first two decades of professional baseball, the distance from the pitcher to home plate was less than 50 feet; a walk required nine balls; bunts that landed in fair territory before skidding to the backstop were considered fair balls; hitters could call for a "high" or "low" pitch; pitchers could throw the ball from a running start; and curveballs and overhand pitches were illegal.

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Last July, I published an article here at Baseball Prospectus Online on the best teams in baseball history. At the time, the 1998 Yankees were plowing through the American league like Arnold Schwarzenegger through "Commando", and I noted that by my measurements, they could wind up as one of the best teams ever.

"The Best Teams in Baseball History" dealt with the question of competitive balance throughout baseball history. While in the 19th century .700 teams were common, today they are quite rare. This is because the aggregate quality of the game and its teams has been rising over the years. Moreover, this rising quality manifests itself more forcefully at the lower end of the standings. Bad teams, in a general sense, have been getting better and better throughout history. So, the question emerges: is a .630 team of today better than a .700 team of 80 years ago?

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