Note: My friend Dr. Stan has graciously invited me to expand on my earlier comment on this blog ( A Call for Amnesty, dated August 6, 2013), and I am pleased to do so.
Baseball prides itself on being our national pastime, brightening even the darkest days of the Civil War. It is also a team sport in which individual accomplishments are readily tracked. This combination has led to a wonderful affair between the sport and statistics, which is celebrated in this blog and all of Dr. Stan’s efforts. By following the numbers, one can put any player or team, past or present, into a marvelous stream of history. Any fan can become a participant, simply by scoring the game with a stub of a pencil. Unfortunately, hand scoring is becoming a lost art.
The statistical chain adapted as the game has evolved. Most of the changes have been evolutionary.
- The formation and incorporation of the upstart American League.
- The end of the “dead ball” era.
- Integration. (Jackie Robinson was the chief reason for my being a Dodgers’ fan.)
- The rise of the “closer”, largely thanks to Elroy Face and his “fork ball,” now called the split-finger fast ball.
- The lowering of the mound after Bob Gibson decimated batting averages.
- Playoffs, which battered [sic] the records for “post season” play.
- The designated hitter. (Ugh!)
- Interleague play. (Double Ugh!)
Despite these developments, the chain has held, albeit with some problems along the way. Some of us remember the Great Asterisk War after the 1961 season, when Roger Maris (and not the beloved Mick) took advantage of eight extra games to overturn the Babe’s cherished record. (My wife, another Dodgers fan from The Bronx, heard number 61 through her open window, three blocks away from the Stadium.)
to include this sorry situation, but it does not look promising. For a related view see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/12/opinion/how-to-play-baseball-in-all-innocence-and-fun.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fopinion%2Findex.jsonp&_r=0.
I would argue, however, that today’s drug-enhanced players represent a qualitative change in the nature of the game which we cherish. Compare the physiques of Mark Maguire, Barry Bonds and A-Rod to Mantle and Maris (or even to their own younger selves) and the difference is manifest. Does it truly make sense to place their statistics in the same data set? (Of course, those earlier players ingested various chemicals, but it is doubtful their stats were improved by them.)
Furthermore, unlike earlier breaks, which had clear start dates and affected all (or at least half) of the teams, this change is difficult to quantify. When did it start? Which players were affected? When will it end, or will it? In essence, another variable has been added to the analysis of baseball data – the drug influence axis. The problems for the Hall of Fame will make the Pete Rose issue seem piddling. Perhaps someone like Dr. Stan can find statistical means to include this sorry situation, but it does not look promising..
See the following post for important links that go with this post and help porve the Codger’s viewpoints about the effects of drugs.
After reading his blog post titled “Baseball and Statistics: The End of an Affair?” use these links to further understand the Trolley Codger’s viewpoints about the effects of drugs in baseball.
Here are where these references appeared in the post:
In paragraph one:
In the bulleted list:
The Trolley Codger is, in real life, Dr. Martin E. Cobern. Marty grew up in The Bronx rooting for the Brooklyn (Trolley) Dodgers. (Yes, that was how they got their name!) After the joy of 1955 was followed by the 1958 betrayal, he tried other National League teams. The arrival of the Metropolitans in 1962, and their hiring of neighborhood hero Ed Kranepool, ensured his allegiance to the team. This loyalty persisted through many moves around the world. Later in life, however, his two daughters, both Tufts alumnae, convinced him to root for the Red Sox as well. After all, both teams hate the Yankees! At his advanced aged, codger seems more appropriate than dodger.