I’m not usually a fan of TED talks — and this one from David Epstein doesn’t mention baseball once — but I found it fascinating and quite relevant to some of the things we talk about around here from time to time.
Specifically, the arguments about eras and comparing players across them. And, by extension, a lot of the arguments which get made about performance-enhancement and the notion that one can look at the accomplishments of Player X at age Y in year Z, compare it to what Player A did at age B in year C and claim — somehow — that one of those players is unnatural or some such thing.
But the fact is that changing technology, changing gene pools and the changing mindset of athletes make what the athletes of today accomplish fundamentally different than that which the athletes of yesterday accomplished. It’s apples and oranges, dudes, and your claim that what a guy did decades ago is somehow better than what a guy has done today is up against some pretty hard evidence.
Now, of course, you can normalize, or at least attempt to, across eras. Epstein does this with track and field records and shows that Usain Bolt is, actually, much closer in skill and speed to Jesse Owens than the stopwatch alone would lead us to believe. But it’s much more difficult to do with multi-variable pursuits than it is when it’s basically man vs. clock.
Anyway, some illuminating facts here about the human body and athletic achievement. And about how much the human body and athletic achievement have been aided by what one could generically call “performance enhancement” over the years.
The entire Marlins roster will wear the number 16 on the backs of their uniforms in remembrance of pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident on Sunday morning. After that? “No one will wear No. 16 for the Marlins again,” team owner Jeffrey Loria said on Monday evening, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reports.
Though Fernandez only pitched parts of four seasons for the Marlins, he already ranks fifth in career WAR in club history, according to Baseball Reference. He also owns the best career winning percentage as well as the second-lowest single-season ERA (2.19 in 2013) and the second-lowest single-season WHIP (0.979 in 2013). Fernandez was already one of the best pitchers in Marlins history and was on his way to becoming a perennial All-Star, if not a Hall of Famer.
Then add to that his outstanding personality and what he meant both to the Marlins organization and to the city of Miami. Loria has gotten a lot of criticism over the years, but he nailed it with this decision.
As Craig mentioned earlier, the Marlins will all wear No. 16 jerseys to honor pitcher Jose Fernandez, who tragically died in a boating accident on Sunday morning. It’s a fitting tribute as the Marlins return to the playing field after Sunday’s game was cancelled.
We don’t often hear about the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on during these special circumstances. As Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports, workers at the Majestic manufacturing facility in Easton, PA — about two hours north of Philadelphia — stayed up all night Sunday night into Monday morning in order to make those custom No. 16 jerseys for the Marlins. They were shipped via air so they would arrive in time for the game tonight.
FanGraphs writer Eric Longenhagen notes how hard those Majestic employees work — often for low pay :
Kudos to Majestic for making a concerted effort to help the Marlins out in their time of need.