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.
MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports that umpires Bob Davidson, Bob Hirschbeck, Jim Joyce, and Tim Welke have retired.
Davidson, 64, was known as “Balkin’ Bob” for his tendency to call pitchers for balks. Davidson has also made a name for himself picking fights with players and managers, as well as unnecessarily escalating situations.
Hirschbeck, 62, didn’t quite have the reputation Davidson had, but he had a couple of notable incidents on his profile as well. Last year, when ejecting Twins slugger Miguel Sano, Hirschbeck said, “Get the [expletive] out of here.” In 2013, he threw a drum of oil on a fire that very easily could’ve been snuffed out with Bryce Harper.
Joyce, 61, was a well-liked and well-respected umpire who will go down in history for one mistake. On June 2, 2010, Tigers starter Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game. Indians second baseman Jason Donald hit a weak grounder about halfway between first and second base. Miguel Cabrera went to his right to field it and flipped to Galarraga covering first base. It was a close call, but Joyce incorrectly ruled Donald safe, ruining Galarraga’s perfect game. To both Joyce’s and Galarraga’s credit, both handled the mistake with the utmost class.
Craig also wrote in detail about Joyce a few years ago. It’s worth a re-read.
Tim Welke, 59, actually announced his retirement last year, but I guess it wasn’t made official until recently. He underwent a left knee replacement procedure in January last year and then had his right knee replaced five months later.
CNBC, citing Reuters, reports that Facebook and Major League Baseball are in discussions to stream one game per week.
Streaming is becoming more and more ubiquitous as it’s a more convenient way for people to access media they like. MLB Advanced Media, which handles MLB’s streaming service, is worth several billions of dollars. Last year, Disney paid $1 billion to purchase a 33 percent stake in BAMTech, the independent company MLBAM launched for its streaming.
Millennials and “Generation Z,” in particular, are driving the streaming trend. Forbes, citing the Digital Democracy Survey in 2015, reported that 56 percent of millennials’ media consumption was done via computer, smartphone, tablet, or gaming device. Those 30 years and older rely on television to watch film and TV shows at a clip higher than 80 percent.
Twitter is already in the sports streaming arena. It streams MLB, NFL, and NHL games as well as the PGA Tour.