It does seem inconceivable, by today’s standards, that great pitchers like Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer would end the year with a double-digit number of complete games, and that wasn’t deemed extraordinary. Seaver, in ’71, finished 21 games; Jack Morris was there from beginning to end 20 times in ’83; and Palmer went the distance a (now) astonishing 25 times in ’75. We needn’t even go back to guys like Warren Spahn. By comparison, the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay, had nine completions in 2003, which gave him the reputation as a latter-day Ironman. In fact, as David Pinto wrote on his invaluable website baseballmusings.com on May 24, the Jays had back-to-back complete games last week, and Halladay’s five are more than the total of any other American League team.I have no idea why if Smith -- who is something of a traditionalist when it comes to baseball -- can see this, so many people who claim to be traditionalists can't. I love a complete game. I miss complete games. I totally understand, however, why we don't see that many anymore, and it has little or nothing to do with generational pansyfication. I mean, I used to grind the gears of my Chevy Cavalier until Hell wouldn't have it, but I'm a little more careful now that I have a car that cost more than four figures off the showroom floor.
On the other hand, when my son Booker and I riffle through a baseball card collection that dates back to the early 50s and, with a gap in the 70s, goes up to this year, it’s amazing to see how many players are lost to memory. “Who’s Greg Booker?” my son will ask, pointing to a card from ’86, and I’ll have no idea. Which got me thinking about how until recently so many players, after being groomed in high school, maybe college, and the minors, probably blew out their arms a few years into big-league careers and were tossed aside by owners and general managers. You gamble on a $5000 bonus signing and it’s no big deal: today, with upper echelon draft picks drawing an immediate million dollar check, no wonder there aren’t more complete games.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Hall of Fame Data Set
Russ Smith, in the course of an engaging and wide-ranging account of three generations of baseball fans taking in the Orioles and the Yankees over the weekend, reminds us to beware of observational selection: