July 08, 2003

Quick Question for the Stat...

Quick Question for the Stat-heads: By now, you've heard about Dusty Baker's comments on how Black and Latino baseball players are better suited for playing in hot weather. My question -- do you remember seeing any study about stuff like performance of players from warm-weather states or countries, performance of Latin American or Black players, etc.? I seem to recall at least anecdotal evidence about warm-weather players being famous for having miserable Aprils, but I don't know if anything systematic was ever done. It's for an upcoming column....

Posted by at July 8, 2003 11:34 PM
Comments

He has a point. Whether it's something he should say - rather than a real anthropologist or MD - is another matter. It's an indisputed fact that people with light colored skin - especially those with blond or red hair and blue eyes - are at higher risk for skin cancer. Generally speaking, in the 1800s and before (i.e., before jets and steamships), lighter skinned people lived in the more northern and colder areas and were exposed to less direct sunlight, and darker skinned people lived in the more southern and warmer areas, and each had become adapted over thousands of years to their environments. Here's one of the results for a search for "environmental adaptation ucla". Let's not all go Lysenko on poor old Dusty.

Posted by: Lonewacko at July 9, 2003 12:08 AM

Dusty Baker is:

--someone with thirty-plus years of major league experience;

--a pretty sharp guy, as evidenced by his superlative performance as a major league manager;

--not previously notable for racially insensitive comments of any variety, and;

--as far as I know, a pretty decent human being.

Based on that, and the fact that, ya know, what he says kind of makes sense intuitively, I'm not inclined to think that he's a racist jerk for stating his honest beliefs on this subject. I'd like to think that a white man of similar good character and experience would get the benefit of the doubt if he said something similar.

That being said, he damned well should have put Dontrelle Willis on the All-Star team instead of Kerry Wood. Dumbass. :-)

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at July 9, 2003 02:20 AM

I seem to remember that Bill James once commented that the legendary failure of the Cubs to be able to make it to the World Series more or less seemed to begin when they kept playing all day games at home while the rest of the NL went to predominantly night games at home, and that using their bench more intelligently might well help alleviate the problem. Of course, they're playing some night games at home these days, but IIRC they still play a majority of their home games in the daytime. The question you're asking might well have real significance to the mystery of the Cubs' inability to get to the World Series since the Truman Administration, since anything that might help them avoid wilting in the August heat can't hurt in getting them over the hump--and if that happens, Dusty won't have to worry about dimwits accusing him of being a racist, because he will be God Almighty as far as Cub fans are concerned.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at July 9, 2003 02:46 AM

One of the Bill James Abstracts (1982?) found that Latins who played winter ball had longer careers.

I thought Baker was an idiot and one of the most overrated men in baseball before he made these statements. (The Giants, freed from his shackles, are having their best season in a decade.) That he has thirty years experience tells me nothing: he surely hasn't learned in thirty years the importance of having a lead-off man with a decent on-base average.

Posted by: Ted Frank at July 9, 2003 04:40 AM

Say what you want, if Jimy Williams or Art Howe had said something akin to 'We want white guys because the World Series is in October and it's cold and white guys play better in the cold weather' they'd be looking at the end of the unemployment line today. Call it a double standard or whatever but that's the way it is. I don't think Dusty's a racist but I think he blew the WS last year and IMHO he was an idiot for allowing those little kids on the field and in the dugout. However, saying really stupid things doesn't seem to be the sole domain of any racial or ethnic group and there's overwhelming evidence of that everyday.

Posted by: Jack Tanner at July 9, 2003 06:23 AM

Dusty is my new hero. The fact that white guys like Campanis and Jimmy the Greek got axed over somewhat similar statements don't mean it was right. What's amazing is that we've become a society where it takes real courage to utter a sensible opinion and stick by it. Time for the rest of us to acknowledge that the racial taboo has no clothes. And Jack, that "but that's the way it is" type of thinking indicates you might want to look in the mirror when accusing anyone of stupidity.

Posted by: Lloyd at July 9, 2003 09:20 AM

I don't think you can compare Jimmy the Greek, who said that Blacks were better at sports because they were bred that way by Plantation owners. Regardless of the truth or nontruth of his statement, bringing up breeding techniques by southern slave owners is just not a topic that anyone wants to hear about-- on MLK day to boot.

If Baker had said that he doesn't want White guys on the field because Europeans spent their lives in caves and were unsuited for sunlight, it might be a little more comparable, but even then it doesn't work.

Al Campanis said that Blacks may not have what it takes to be managers or general managers. This isn't talking about something as benign as adjustment to hot and cold, it's talking about intelligence.

SO I don't think you can compare either case.

Posted by: Ted at July 9, 2003 11:34 AM

Oh and btw I don't think that that's what Campanis really meant, I thought he got a raw deal at the time, and perhaps so did Jimmy the Greek. The problem is not really these men, it's the issue of race in society.

Posted by: Ted at July 9, 2003 11:35 AM

1. I know James did look at power vs. finesse pitchers in cold weather (1986 Abstract, I believe; he was writing about Storm Davis). He also looked at black vs. white in terms of retaining foot speed as the player ages (1987 Abtract, maybe?). But I've read most of his stuff and I don't think he's put race and weather together.

2. What Campanis and the Greek said were bad things; the reason they got such a raw deal was the circumstances. Both of them were in their 70s, the Greek had a mike stuck in his face at a restaurant when he was probably drunk, and Campanis was a last-minute fill-in on a late-night show (he was there because he had actually been part of the breaking of the color line, unlike most of his critics). They should have caught a break for being old men caught off their guard.

Posted by: Crank at July 9, 2003 02:23 PM

Concur on the Greek and Campanis, though their comments not quite as inocuous or sensible as Dusty's. Check out Volokh and Clayton Cramer for the full disection. I would tend to minimize the importance of heat tolerance tho it might have been interesting to compare black vs white before and after advent of night baseball.

Posted by: Lloyd at July 9, 2003 04:04 PM

Matt, at least one Latin pitcher you should be familiar with pitches poorly in the cold, Ramon Ortiz. I watched a game last year he pitched in Chicago where you could see the guy was very uncomfortable on the mound. I remember Hudler saying during pregame that Ortiz doesn't like playing in the cold, he got shelled.

Posted by: Bob at July 9, 2003 05:09 PM

I think it's a generalization.

You could say cold weather affects, say, an El Duke, because he had pitched in Cuba all his life before coming to the majors.

But what about a guy like Alex Rodriguez, who was born in New York?

Posted by: Nik at July 9, 2003 05:37 PM

Lloyd,

since both Dusty and I as I read in the local paper today Darrin Jackson both said that they can say what they want about black people because they're black but couldn't say it if they were white that's some pretty solid evidence that they recognize the existence of a double standard. If you could read you'd see what I wrote is that's the way it is, not that it's right. As I mentioned in my post there's no monopoly on stupid statements and you're living proof of that. If you want to defend Dusty's statements that's your perogative but they're based on ignorance and as I mentioned stupidity is an equal opportunity employer.

Posted by: Jack Tanner at July 9, 2003 05:47 PM

Blacks and Latinos don't necessarily perform better in heat. Why do you think there are things called siestas throughout Latin America? They just won't get their skin as harmed as white skin if they are forced to do labor in a field all day. If baseball players and football players had to play without uniforms Dusty might have a small point.

I went to the same High School as Dusty. By Dusty's reasoning that gives me a right to comment on Dusty nobody else here has. Dusty is a nice guy. He talked to me once when I had to see the principal because I was in trouble, and he was visiting the school. As a manager I suspect Dusty has more than a little 'Art Howe' disease. Good in the regular season, a guaranteed find-a-way-to-screw-it-up in the post-season.

Posted by: ct at July 9, 2003 06:14 PM

...just scoped this Wash Times editorial on Dusty Baker via Fark.com:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/sports/20030709-121007-9584r.htm

It's surprisingly sensible.

The link also has some of the more ridiculous things said by people in sports about race (all the way at the bottom). I had never seen these two quotes before:

"Jews are stubborn. Why did they persecute Jesus unless he knew something they didn't want to accept? They had his blood on their hands. Then they spit in Jesus' face and hit him with their fists. There are Christians getting persecuted by Jews every day."
NBA player Charlie Ward, 2001.

"Tell Yao Ming: 'Ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh.' "
NBA player, part-time comedian Shaquille O'Neal (right), 2003.

Posted by: Nik at July 9, 2003 06:38 PM

Here's a long discussion of race and sports. As implied above, I think that if you interviewed an anthropologist or an MD, they'd tell you that Dusty is at least somewhat correct. The wash times editorial on this is pretty good. Maybe if he'd said that "White people are merely mutated inbred albinos" the PC police would have decided to take action.

Posted by:

"If you interviewed Leonard Jeffries, Lester Maddox, Reggie White and Louis Farrahkan they'd agree with Dusty too. I guess we won't be discussing any of these major leaguers abilities as if they were individuals. We'll just classify them into ethnic groups and let our prejudices take over."

Yes, of course individuals can be different from their groups. However, once again, ignoring environmental adaptation is just Lysenkoism.

Posted by: Lonewacko at July 10, 2003 01:37 PM

Nobody here has a right to comment on Dusty Baker unless you went to the same high school as he did, like I did. Period. You can't understand.

Having said that, manager of the year awards aside, that is all thrown out the window when you make a move in the post season (or crucial last game of the season when your team has 103 wins and doesn't make the playoffs) that makes all the fans collectively pull their hair out or suspect you are in debt to the mafia.

I'm an A's fan and I saw this with Art Howe, and I've listened to enough Giant's fans to get the impression Dusty has the same syndrome Howe has...

Posted by: ct at July 10, 2003 02:41 PM

I think Dusty does have it wrong. The most plausible reason that thousands of African slaves were shipped to the Americas has not to do with heat or sun tolerance, it has to do with resistance to malaria. People whose ancestors lived for a long time in swampy tropical areas (not just Africa)tended to develop through natural selection a sort of genetic immunity to the malaria parasite. African slaves transported to mosquito laden areas of the New World in general outlasted indentured servants from Europe.

Posted by: Fred at July 10, 2003 05:30 PM

The new world needed labor too. Lots of land, few people to work the land.

Anyway, lets do an experiment: let's put Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton buck naked in a field of unpicked cotton and see who drops first...

Posted by: ct at July 10, 2003 09:51 PM

ct -- You know, I'm totally against Speech Codes and whatnot, but I'm tempted to arrest you after such a horrid image...

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 10, 2003 10:38 PM

Lloyd -

'without the usual church ladies like you getting all huffy,'

WTF are you talking about? What I wrote is that I don't care what Dusty said, i don't think he's a racist it's just that he doesn't know what he's talking about. His statement is based on his own personal prejudices and his ignorant lack of knowledge of history. If he and Darrin Jackson think the 1st Amendment applies only to black people that's good for them, they're just dimwits.

LW -

'ignoring environmental adaptation is just Lysenkoism.'

Absolutely right but Dusty obviously isn't a scientist or a historian or a social scientist. He's making statements based on his own observations and prejudices just like the other people I mentioned.

Fred - the most plausible reason that blacks were brought to America from Africa is that the Africans who captured them in their tribal wars and raids and the Arabs who bought them and sold them to europeans all thought of them as lesser humans who could be enslaved. Science had little or nothing to do with it.

MSE -

Say what you want Dusty blew the 7th game of the WS last year when he started Livan Hernandez and left him in to get beat when he obviously had nothing. Dusty said he was a big game pitcher because of the '97 WS. Hernandez was the MVP of the '97 series eventhough he got knocked around and had an ERA over 5. I could tell he had nothing in the first inning and he looked like he didn't even want to be out there. Dusty didn't even have anyone warming up until they were 5 runs down.

Posted by: Jack Tanner at July 11, 2003 08:16 AM

Jack: That doesn't explain why slavery was not widespread in New England, as opposed to the coastal areas of the southern colonies. Yes, it took African kings and Muslim and African middlemen, and also highly stratified societies like Royalist Colonial Virginia. Mortality rates for black slaves in New England was higher than for white laborers; the opposite was true in the Carolinas. Genes did play a role.

Posted by: Fred at July 11, 2003 10:22 AM

'That doesn't explain why slavery was not widespread in New England'

It wasn't widespread in Nuritan churches in Boston.

Posted by: Jack Tanner at July 11, 2003 11:17 AM

Re: Dusty's "success" with the Giants, I would simply point out that a team with that much talent should have won at least three World Series championships.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at July 12, 2003 03:47 PM

"Re: Dusty's "success" with the Giants, I would simply point out that a team with that much talent should have won at least three World Series championships."

There's always been a lot of holes in that talent (particularly the pitching staff), and some pretty good competition within the division. As for World Championships, I'd have to say that from 1996 on there were always at least two or three teams in MLB every year with more on the field talent than the Giants, and usually more. The Giants generally would have a couple of stars to go along with BB, and be otherwise weak. Bill James analysis in "Win Shares" of team depth did a good job of comparing the 2001 Giants with the 2001 Cardinals (they won about the same number of games). The Giants beat the Cardinals as far as their top three players went (by a mile), but after that the Cardinals dominated. Even last year when they made the Series, the offense was full of holes to the degree that walking Bonds virtually every time he came up in a situation where he could hurt the other side became an arguably effective tactic.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at July 12, 2003 06:05 PM
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nies. Yes, it took African kings and Muslim and African middlemen, and also highly stratified societies like Royalist Colonial Virginia. Mortality rates for black slaves in New England was higher than for white laborers; the opposite was true in the Carolinas. Genes did play a role.

Posted by: Fred at July 11, 2003 10:22 AM

'That doesn't explain why slavery was not widespread in New England'

It wasn't widespread in NE for 2 reasons. Not commercially viable on smaller farms and religious opposition to it. Earliest abolitionist movements were from Puritan churches in Boston.

Posted by: Jack Tanner at July 11, 2003 11:17 AM

Re: Dusty's "success" with the Giants, I would simply point out that a team with that much talent should have won at least three World Series championships.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at July 12, 2003 03:47 PM

"Re: Dusty's "success" with the Giants, I would simply point out that a team with that much talent should have won at least three World Series championships."

There's always been a lot of holes in that talent (particularly the pitching staff), and some pretty good competition within the division. As for World Championships, I'd have to say that from 1996 on there were always at least two or three teams in MLB every year with more on the field talent than the Giants, and usually more. The Giants generally would have a couple of stars to go along with BB, and be otherwise weak. Bill James analysis in "Win Shares" of team depth did a good job of comparing the 2001 Giants with the 2001 Cardinals (they won about the same number of games). The Giants beat the Cardinals as far as their top three players went (by a mile), but after that the Cardinals dominated. Even last year when they made the Series, the offense was full of holes to the degree that walking Bonds virtually every time he came up in a situation where he could hurt the other side became an arguably effective tactic.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at July 12, 2003 06:05 PM
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