Monday, July 16, 2018

How Baseball Resembles the Market System and Why Rod Carew-Style Hitters Will Return

By George Will

It is a prudential axiom: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. This reflects the awareness that things can always be made worse, and it reflects the law of unintended consequences, which is that they often are larger than and contrary to intended ones. As baseball reaches the all-star break amid lamentations about several semi-broken aspects of it, it is time to amend the axiom: Don’t fix it, even if it is broken.

The itch to fix complex systems often underestimates the ability of markets, broadly understood, to respond and adapt to incentives. So, even if you are an unsatisfactory American — i.e., uninterested in baseball — read on, because the debate about some of the game’s current defects contains lessons about lesser things than baseball, meaning everything else.

Today’s all-or-nothing baseball is too one-dimensional. There are too many strikeouts — for the first time in history, more than hits, a lot more. And the number is increasing for the 13th consecutive season. Also, too many of the hits are home runs. It was imprecise for Crash Davis (Kevin Costner’s character in “Bull Durham”) to say that strikeouts are “fascist,” but he was right that they are “boring,” at least in excessive quantities. So are home runs (and caviar, and everything else except martinis). In about one-third of today’s at-bats, the ball is not put in play (home run balls are put in the seats). Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci notes that by the end of June there were “more strikeouts in half a season than there were in the entire 1980 season.” And “on average, you have to wait [3 minutes and 45 seconds] between balls put in play — 41 seconds longer between movement than 20 years ago.” Steals (hence pitchouts), sacrifice bunts, hit-and-run plays — interesting things for fans — are becoming rarer.

This is not the main reason attendance is down.

Read the rest here.


  1. George Will interviews Hayek 1975:

    Irving R. Levine of NBC News
    George F. Will of National Review
    Hobart Rowan of The Washington Post
    Eileen Shanahan of The New York Times

    Will: "Dr. von Hayek, in the 30 years since World War II, some nation's economies have done very much better than others. West Germany, for example, has done much better than Great Britain. Are there any generalizations that you can draw from these? What is the secret to success and the secret to problems?"

    Hayek: "Well of course it's a very complicated issue but there is one simple point: the German trade unions were extraordinarily sensible, and they were sensible because they remembered what inflation meant. However, there's a certain implication; this sense may not last long, because the generation which remembers it is now going off. I'm rather apprehensive about the future."

    Will: "Dr. von Hayek, we have a basically conservative administration in the United States today, but even it is facing planned deficits (more or less planned deficits) exceeding perhaps $100 billion in the next two years. Do you think this will cause a renewed and perhaps socially destructive inflation?"

    Hayek: "It's not unlikely, I'm afraid. So long as the governing people are persuaded that inflation of this sort is even beneficial in its effect, the tendency in that direction will be very great. I think it all depends on persuading the responsible people of the danger of inflation."

    Will: "Dr. von Hayek, capitalism and particularly American capitalism would seem to have a good record at giving people a rising standard of living. Why are so many intellectuals, and particularly so many economists, skeptical about and even hostile to capitalism?"

    Hayek: "Well, I've been puzzling about it for a long time, particularly about the economists who ought to understand better. It's very difficult to know why they don't. I think it's the intellectual attraction of a system you can deliberately control, which is fascinating to the intellectual."

  2. Will is the worse k8nd of conservative. He waxes philosophical about complex systems and puts on a conspicuous display of a sort of intellectual humility when discussing the latest fads of the left, but boy oh boy does he get nervois about legalizing drugs and dismantling the empire. Hes a square little teacher's pet and needs a good hard smack across the face from a bully. Plus baseball is just lame. Dorks like baseball because it's players are so unathletic they can kinda imagine themselves doing it.