30 July 2012


This story reminds me that, recently, baseball commentators particularly have been complaining that there are too many teams. Jerry Reinsdorf has been on a contraction spree of late. The notion is that there too many players, too few of whom are as good as players were "in the good old days". Being demographics aware, I've never bought into that notion.

Let's look at some base figures.

In 1950, 150,000,000 Americans
In 1950, 16 teams with 25 players: 400 major league players
In 1950, 17,462,000 went to baseball games

In 2010, 308,000,000 Americans
In 2010, 30 teams with 25 players: 750 major league players
In 2010, 73,000,000 went to baseball games

So, there are now slightly fewer major league baseball players per capita than in the heart of the "good old days", and these numbers don't factor in the influx of foreign players, principally Latin American; the per capita value is now even smaller. Don't believe everything you hear. Not only that, even those who bemoan "dilution" acknowledge that today's average ballplayer is far more athletic than back in the "good old days". The reason for calling for contraction is that Americans, at the median, are less able to afford baseball in the flesh and there are far more avenues for wasting time and money on diversion; despite these pressures, attendance is keeping up with population growth and then some. Until the last couple of years, when attendance fell from the 2007 high. D'oh!!! I'll let it go at that. It ain't the quality of ballplayer.

While I haven't spent the time, for this posting, to confirm it, but I'd strongly suspect that the median earnings of major league baseball players is a higher multiple of USofA median earnings today than it was in 1950. Moreover, until Curt Flood, the reserve clause kept ballplayers with the teams at effectively arbitrary salaries. While not as dramatic as LeBron going to South Beach, and Dwight's inability to make up his mind where he's going, there may well be more concentration of talent in the big market teams. If this is true, and does have an effect on attendance will require much more data and time.

It ain't the quality of ballplayer.

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