but are we sure he isn't just doing this in alphabetical order?
James is going to spend the winter publishing 30 articles about each franchise, its history, and its turning points. He states his intent as follows:
The general purpose of this study is to represent the history of each organization in such a manner that we can see clearly the turning points, the moments at which an organization began to decline or began to get better. I would take it to be obvious why we should do this. "Why do organizations get better?" and "Why do organizations decline?" are fundamental questions of baseball research. Do organizations get better because they hire the right manager? Do they get better because they hire the right General Manager? Do they get better because they come up with a star player? Does moving into a new park tend to help an organization get stronger? These are basic, fundamental questions, of immense significance to baseball research.
He's done three franchises so far: the A's, Angels, and Astros. I did really good on my SAT's and can deduce for you that one of the next two articles will be fun for us.
Each article so far has been (1) fascinating and (2) teeming with light bulbs. (Can light bulbs teem? My SAT's are failing me) So it's a great time to chip in that $3/mo if you're so inclined. These 30 articles would have been one of his best books. Very readable also, of course, full of colorful anecdotes, besides the insight.
LIGHT BULB 1
At one point in the Angels series, discussing their 1978-86 down cycle, he offers a plot spoiler:
In this series of articles that I am beginning here there will be many times when I will note that a franchise’s era of growth—an "up" era—ended exactly at the moment when a superstar either left the team or left his prime behind. In this case the opposite is true. Nolan Ryan, one of our 50 true superstars, was in his prime from 1972 to 1977. After 1977, although he still had 16 years in the majors and a couple of brilliant ones, he was not the same guy, the guy who pitched 300 innings with 325 strikeouts and a no hitter every year.
Up-and-down the series, he talks about the "oomph" a SuperDuperStar normally gives to a franchise. Energy. Money. Fans. Willingness to pay players. Impetus to trade. So apparently we get the last line of the book up front.
This would imply what, to the 2018 Mariners? That whatever you were going to do to get Ohtani, do more. Does Dr. D have that application right, do you think?
LIGHT BULB 2
Nolan Ryan's career is SO hard to figure out. Just for (heh) starters, he had extremely bad luck in his W/L records. You can look at his baseball card from 4 directions and still not quite figure out what happened with him.
But it had never occurred to me, anyway, to look at him the way you would Tom Seaver: a planet-buster early, with lots of bulk "good" years added on later. In WAR terms, you'd usually get a 6-8 wins season out of him until 1977, but later lots of 1's and 2's in there. In 1985 he made the All-Star team with 1.7 WAR.
That could be a little off; you could ask Terry or maybe DaddyO. Funny though how I never just thought of him as a Seaver or Felix type. Because his career divides by IP rather than by K rate, I guess.
The Athletics article is quite a read. I unnerstan' they weren't always in Oakland? Anyway here is one of the random anecdotes:
Lefty Grove was the first power pitcher with a modern delivery. If you look a video clips of old pitchers, Walter Johnson era, for the most part they kind of look like talented but untrained high school pitchers, with deliveries that range from awkward to bizarre. Lefty Grove, on the other hand, has what looks like a modern delivery—leg kick, rock back, stay on time and follow through. He was ahead of his time—and he may well have been the greatest pitcher of all time.
But he started with the Philadephia A's, so ... ya, maybe. Hope not :- )
My first thought was alphabetical, but then I don't pay much actual attention to baseball these days so my data chunking for divisions wasn't as prominent in my cognition.
And went, "Huh! Who knew the AL West controlled the A section of the dictionary UZR. Hope this doesn't lose style points. Type it over again? Naaahhhhh"
98% sure though, that James would think of clubs in terms of their cities rather than their nicknames. And of course the A's are the ATHletics. So naturally here comes the 2%...
Who WOULD be the next two teams if he were alphabetizing nicknames? And would the above 3 teams be 1-2-3 among 30?
Then I cheated and saw the Blue Jays go before both of them. D'oh!
But you know James better than the rest of us combined (in all likelihood) so I'd happily defer to your judgment. It's just fascinating to me how we can look at the same Rorschach and some of us see a half-naked woman while others see a terror-inducing creature from our deepest nightmares.
Only now do I see that particular chunking in play!