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This review is from: Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong (Hardcover)
"Baseball Between the Numbers" contains 29 provocative questions handled with numbers and critical thinking. One of the first topics involves deciding whether Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds is the best player. The first step was to determine how much each was relative to his league, after taking park effects into account. Doing so demonstrates that Ruth was the superior hitter relative to his time.
However, athletes are bigger, better than they used to be - eg. gold-winning time in the men's Olympic 100-meter swimming even fell over 40% between 1896-1996. At the same time technology has improved - baseball bats, gloves, and sports medicine and nutrition. Meanwhile, the U.S. population roughly doubled from Ruth's time til today, and blacks and players from Latin America have also been added to the player pool. (Foreign-born players now make up close to 30% of major league players; in '30 there were about 300,000 people/major league player - now it is close to 900,000.
The authors addressed these problems by tracking and comparing performance of players remaining in a league from one year to the next - generating an index of difficulty change, and also comparing one league to another. Doing so shows Bonds far superior to Ruth (even though he undoubtedly would have benefited from better nutrition and not drinking for his depression, while Bonds has benefited from surgery not available to Ruth). Two more adjustments later (for factors not well explained), it is concluded that Ruth was the better.
Then there is the question of steroids. Bonds' post 2000 performance was compared to that expected based on his stats to that point. Conclusion: Bonds produced 142 more H.R. between 2000 and 2004.
Bottom Line on Ruth vs. Bonds: Who knows; however, if you can follow all the math you probably belong on Wall St, if you're not already there.
Players' Salaries vs. Ticket Prices: Salaries averaged less than $30,000 in 1970. Then an arbitrator ruled that players could play out their "option year" and become free agents. Since '76 (first year of free-agency), average player salary went from $51,501 to $2,632,655. Average ticket prices during the same period rose 68% above inflation to $19.82 - the big event was the 6/89 opening of Toronto's Sky Dome with 161 luxury suites and a concession mall. Attendance skyrocketed there. But 12 teams without new stadiums raised prices about 50%, after inflation, from '91 - '05.
Analysis found that the only segment attending more games in the '90s than the '80s was households with over $50,000 income (plus those in the new skyboxes). Normally this new demand would be met with increased supply - but not in the closed world of baseball. Bottom Line: No link between player salaries and ticket prices.
Another particularly interesting chapter was titled "Are New Stadiums A Good Deal?" (for taxpayers). The short answer - "No," the money would be spent elsewhere anyway and be more likely to stay within the area (vs. rich team owners, players). In addition, creating room for skyboxes has resulted in cheap seats being located further away. As for revitalizing the area, there are too many "dark nights" for local businesses to grow and thrive. Finally, auditors have found that new stadiums don't even cover the costs of construction and operation - subsidies are required. Yet, it goes on - N.Y. city plans about $400 million in subsidies (free land and infrastructure; foregone taxes, etc.) for both the Mets and Yankees to build new stadiums.
And then are are almost 20 other chapters!