The Harris Poll has released its annual baseball popularity index thingy, and tells us what we all probably knew anyway, even if a lot of us don’t care to acknowledge it: the Yankees are America’s most popular baseball team. They’ve taken the top honor for nine straight years, putting lie to the notion that America loves an underdog.
In second place are the Red Sox — again, not a huge surprise — followed by the Braves at three, the Cubs at number four and — tied for fifth — the Dodgers and the Mets. The Phillies are seventh, which will probably make Phillies fans accuse the Harris Poll of bias and hate and all of that because Phillies fans tend not to take well to what they perceive as disrespect.
The funniest result though is probably the Giants, who moved down — way down — from number seven last year to number 14 this year. Guess winning a title doesn’t help anything. Indeed, given that it suddenly thrust a very colorful Giants team in front of so many people’s faces, it probably serves as an instructive referendum regarding what baseball fans think of colorful teams. Non-Giants fans may fear the beard, but we apparently don’t like it very much.
Dead last: a tie between the Padres and Jays. I can’t say I’m shocked.
Coolest part of the story: go to the link and scroll down to the demographic breakdowns. They have the usual “Baby Boomers” followed by my posse, “Generation X.” But rather than using the somewhat annoying “Generation Y” thing, they call the 18-34-year-old pod “Echo Boomers.” I’m pretty sure “Echo Boomer” was one of the pilot call signs in the movie “Top Gun.”
Which, by the way, is a very Generation X thing to observe. As is my annoyed insecurity at the fact that the Generation Y people are stealing my generation’s name.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. I’m gonna go watch “Reality Bites” and rough up a pair of jeans to wear later. No, I’m not hot. I just like wearing my jeans. With my boots.
If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.
While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.
The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.
A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.
A great read and a great history lesson.