Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just Let it Go...

Not just yet. I'm going to take a look at three of the main aspects regarding the Barry Bonds issue as pertaining to the article written by Jack Marshall over at the Hardball Times. I know, I have went over this article twice already, but I feel as though there are a couple more issues which need to be addressed.

This article will address Marshall's flawed argument regarding 'Baseball uphold[ing] the American ethical standards more so then any other professional league in America'. With this argument, Marshall asserted that baseball would never put up with a Pacman Jones. In fact, as I mentioned, the argument regarding Clay Buchholz holds little water.

The next article will address Marshall's assertion that Bonds would not be of a help to a Major League roster. While Marshall can always fall back on the fact that Bonds is 'old' and invariably vulnerable to injury, I will provide evidence that even if Bonds does succumb to injury, he was likely to be more valuable in 2008 then a great deal of players.

The final (hopefully) article will return to the question regarding baseball's place in upholding America's ethical standards. That article will touch on ideas offered by John Brattain as well as those found throughout other portals of the web.

Once this is all taken care of, I will return to my regular articles, Under the Radar, Trade Reflections, as well as getting back to work on my prospect lists.

Back at the topic at hand, a response to Marshall's article at Ball Hype brought up an excellent point, one that Marshall unethically ignored. That is, baseball is different then the other major sports leagues in North America, this, from a socio-economic perspective.

The commenter wrote,
Furthermore, I disagree that baseball has less crime than football or basketball, at least relatively speaking. If you compare the crime rates of baseball players against their socio-economic peers prior to becoming professional baseball players, you will see the same thing that you see in football and basketball: the crime rate is slightly lower...It just so happens that football and basketball (particularly basketball) draw from a socio-economic group that has a higher crime rate than baseball. That has more to do with the fans of the sport - it's not something that baseball itself cultivates. My point is your belief that baseball somehow upholds a higher ethical standard is pure fantasy.
Now this is based on relatively vague evidence, and something that could certainly be further investigated, but stay with me.

In America, African Americans are substantially more likely to be imprisoned then any other race. While there are many reasons that lead to this result, of which I will not spend the time going over, the fact remains that an African American male is six times more likely to be imprisoned then a Caucasian male. While this does not equate to criminal activities as a whole, the trend is large enough not to ignore.

If we take this generality and look at it from the perspective of sports, it would appear obvious that baseball (and it's fewer then ten percent population of African Americans) would follow only hockey in terms of imprisonment league-wide.

This seems to hold true as it is rare to hear about any ballplayer going to jail or being charged criminally. It is even more rare to find this within hockey, that is even more dominated by Caucasians.

Marshall cited the Cincinnati Bengals and their players continual involvement with criminal activity. He brought up Pacman Jones who is the exception for football players, not the rule. But even still, the NFL has nearly seven times the amount of African American's that baseball has, would it not be obvious that football then would have around seven times as much criminal activity?

The same can be said within basketball, which has nearly ten times the amount of African Americans.

None of this is to say that African Americans are invariably, not in the least bit. Rather, statistically, there is a greater chance for an individual of color to end up imprisoned then a non-Hispanic, white.

The next thing to look at is in regards to culture. The culture in these sports is vastly different. In hockey and baseball, even the most prolific prospects are stuck riding in buses, making little to no money (relatively speaking) until around their 25th birthday.

Conversely, the amateur stars in both football and basketball are praised prior to becoming professionals. We hear about the party life that is so closely tied with football. Basketball has an annual All-Star binge that is highly publicized. And to the fact that a great deal of players in both sports are multi-millionaires prior to their 25th birthday, and there is a perfect storm for irresponsibility.

Stan McNeil of the Sporting News wrote an interesting piece of the lack of African American's in baseball, part of his conclusion read,
Youth baseball has become so organized (translation: expensive) that kids from poor families have little chance of keeping up with players on traveling teams that participate in 80 games a summer across various states.

Baseball competes with football and basketball, games which appear to provide a quicker path to fame and fortune.

"It's simple, really," the Blue Jays' Wells says. "The length of time it takes to get to the big leagues is a turnoff, and having to go to (minor league) cities that most people have never heard of is a turnoff. The NFL and NBA make for a quicker way to be famous."

We also have another factor at play, a factor that is outside of race and ethnicity-press and media.

Think back to the final weeks of this season on SportsCenter or otherwise. This should be a time when baseball is at the forefront of American sports media, but this isn't the case. While baseball logs a substantial amount of time at this point of the year, it is still battling football (both college and professional), basketball, and to a lesser extent, hockey, and soccer.

Baseball is clearly not as popular as basketball, and especially football. Thus, even if the criminal activities were the same in baseball, we wouldn't hear about them as frequently as we do the criminal activities of basketball and football based solely on the amount of media coverage.

Consider the amount of criminal activities we hear about in MLS? Because we rarely, if ever, hear of anything of this sort, does that mean there are not any wrongs being committed by the players in this sport?

So perception is the catalyst of criminal activity in professional sports, if we hear about it more, it must be happening more frequently. Interestingly, baseball plays the most games and for the longest periods of time, yet we hear about it less then we do football.

Perception can also be seen from another angle.

In each of the other professional sports there are legitimate 'faces' of the league. Basketball has LeBron Jame, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, etc. Hockey has Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, etc. Football has its Eli and Payton Manning, Tom Brady, Reggie Bush, etc. But who does baseball have?

Yes, Albert Pujols is a household name, but I would wager that there are even a casual baseball fans who couldn't pick him out in a lineup. I wouldn't be surprised if the only time a non-baseball fan saw Alex Rodriguez's face was when it was linked with Madonna.

In baseball, unlike the other professional sports in North America, it appears as though the heroes and legends are built locally. Each team has a face, but there are few players who would be recognized outside of the context of baseball.

As we can see, there is a lot more to the story then what Marshall decided to report on. Marshall decides that 'counting stats' are the way to go in this discussion when there are clearly more logical ways to analyze it. True, this is a minor part of Marshall's argument, but by dissecting his article and pointing out the major flaws, much of his explanation begins to unravel.

That is, the evidence behind baseball holding up America's ethical standards is weak at best (and lessens when looked at from yet another angle). So what is Mr. Marshall trying to say?

Well, he has somewhat changed his tune to suggesting that he 'told you so'. I'm not sure if it surprises many people that Bonds was not signed, rather, I think there is enough of the population that simply do not agree that Bonds shouldn't have been singed.

"Personally, I (Jack Marshall) DO feel the same about Brendan Donnelly, Giambi, et al"

That's false, he does not.

In his article he wrote that he would stop supporting the Boston Red Sox as long as the regime that employed Bonds was still intact. Yet comically he does not have the same angst toward the Red Sox for buying Paul Byrd? In other words, he does not feel the same about Donnelly, Giambi, et al. that he does about Bonds.

Which helps confirm the fact that Marshall is more a Bonds hater, then anything else.

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