It’s not uncommon to hear retired athletes — and the fans who watched them when they were children — to claim that the teams of yore could beat the teams of today.
Sometimes this is just an exercise in comparing players. Was Mantle better than Trout?, etc. As far as that goes it’s fine. When we get involved in those conversations I think we’re all tacitly assuming adjustments for era and equipment and level of competition and stuff. Who was greater for their time is the inquiry we’re really making, even if we don’t really say so.
Other times, though, it’s just nonsense. Like when someone says the 1939 Yankees would beat the 1998 Yankees head to head, despite the clear size, speed, skill and specialization advances that the latter team has over the former. Nothing personal against DiMaggio and friends, but athletic progress is ever-forward and the players of today would crush the players of yesterday. If you doubt this, go look at track and field and weightlifting records and any other athletic accomplishment for which there are objective forms of measurement.
Yet the unreasonable beliefs persist. This week they’re floating around the NBA, as the Golden State Warriors stand on the brink of sweeping their way through the playoffs. As this happens, people are arguing about whether the 1990s Bulls or the 1980s Celtics or Lakers teams were better. Which seems comical to me absent era adjustments and the like. If you’re not making that kind of comp but, rather, are arguing that if you put those teams in a time machine and brought them to the present day, they’d beat the Warriors, you’re crazy.
I think their coach, Steve Kerr, put it best:
It may do violence to your childhood memories to think that Mickey Mantle would be merely good today and the merely good players of that era wouldn’t crack a big league lineup, but it’s true.
The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.
Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:
Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:
In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.
The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.
The Athletics called up their top prospect on Saturday, inserting shortstop Franklin Barreto into the lineup for their second game against the White Sox. Barreto was originally scheduled to make his major league debut on Sunday, but got a head start after Jed Lowrie sustained a minor knee sprain in Friday’s 3-0 win and was scratched from Saturday’s lineup.
Barreto, 21, has been rapidly climbing the rungs of the A’s minor league system after getting dealt by the Blue Jays in 2014. He got his first taste of Triple-A action late last year, going 6-for-17 with three RBI and getting caught stealing in two attempts. He fared little better this spring, slashing .281/.326/.428 with eight home runs and a .754 OPS through his first 309 PA in Nashville.
While his minor league production has been solid, if underwhelming for a prospect of his caliber, the A’s are expected to give the rookie infielder a long leash with both Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder sitting on the disabled list. Pinder landed on the 10-day DL after suffering a left hamstring strain on Friday. Semien, meanwhile, is still working his way back from the 60-day DL with a right wrist fracture and likely won’t rejoin the team until he completes a rehab assignment with High-A Stockton.