Beloit College Mindset List: baseball versionby Chris Jaffe
August 31, 2009
Well, it's that time of year again: schools are back in session. Speaking as someone who teaches at the college level, there is one thing I check every year around this time: the Beloit College Mindset List for incoming freshman.
It's nothing I take too seriously, but it's a fun list whose apparent purpose is to show how life looks from the perspective of someone 18 years old. (That might be its official purpose, but sometimes I get the feeling its true goal is to make me feel old when I read it.)
For example, this year's version notes that the Warsaw Pact is: "as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents" and that Clarence Thomas "has always sat on the Supreme Court." That doesn't mean people age 18 think Thomas has been on the bench since the Big Bang (or even that they know who Clarence Thomas is, frankly), but that the Supreme Court before Thomas is history rather than memory.
Like I said, it's a list meant in fun, so naturally I thought it would be a good idea to rip it off and present a baseball version of it.
I have a few ground rules that need to be discussed in order for my list to make sense. First and foremost, unlike the actual Beloit Mindset List, I'm not usually aiming at discussing how the game has changed from their birth until right now. Instead, I'm interested in looking at how it's changed since they became aware of baseball.
People really don't remember what's going on in the world of baseball in their first few years of life. In fact, they don't remember their first few years, period. Speaking as a sample size of one, I first began noting what went on in the world of baseball when I was seven years old. That sounds about right. I'm sure some kids start noting the game a bit earlier and others a little later, but I reckon age seven works pretty well. Heck, just in the last year White Sox Fan Brother's eight-year-old son has begun to live up to his given birth name of White Sox Fan Nephew.
Age seven is something of a guideline rather than a fixed point that shall never be crossed, but in general I hold to the age seven principle. If and when needed, I'll use the appropriate weasel words to cover myself.
So even though many (though by no means all) things on this list don't hold true if you go back to their birth, I believe the items should hold true for America's new college students. I'm pushing it with a few of them—well, with one I think I pushed it too far, but I couldn't resist. Hey, it's a list—it's supposed to be fun, right?
Without further adieu, here is a list of items designed to make you feel old (and if this list doesn't make you feel old, then pal, you make me feel old).
Baseball Mindset List
They may have been born the night of the Jack Morris game.
Baseball-Reference has been around for as long as they can recall.
Unless they have really good memories, they don't recall a time when the game contained only 28 teams. And Milwaukee's a National League team as far as they are concerned.
Mid-season interleague play is natural. So is the wild card. The National League winning an All-Star Game? Now, that is unnatural.
Baseball cards have always looked regal, the packs never included gum, and no company ever made a 792-card set.
If they remember an announcer named Caray, it's Chip or maybe Skip, but probably not Harry. Well, except for old news clips and Will Ferrell imitations.
Even though the franchise has won 15 pennants since WWII, these freshmen have never seen the Dodgers play in the World Series.
George Steinbrenner never fired a manager.
They can't recall any baseball strikes.
Pete Rose has always been a disgraced former player and never the embodiment of What The Game Is All About.
Players have always had that earflap on their batting helmet.
Bud Selig: now and forever, baseball's commissioner
Remember the time the Orioles had a good season? They can't either.
They can't imagine a world in which Peter Angelos is popular among Orioles fans and a scourge to Bud Selig instead of the other way around. At this point, neither can Orioles fans.
Greg Maddux has always been in decline. He's still been really good (he is, after all, Greg Maddux), but his glory run is history, not memory, to the young'uns.
The last man to win 300 games has always been widely hailed as the last man who will ever do that. Come to think of it, the preceding sentence is true of their fathers as well. And their grandfathers.
Why would teams have an organist play music when you can play some rock'n'roll music?
Japanese stars have always come across the pond to play in America.
Mark McGwire the first single-season homer champion some of them can remember.
A team that averages 20,000 fans per game is doing pretty bad. (Yet despite that, people have always moaned that the excessive length of games is ruining and dooming the sport.)
A sixth game to a World Series is a rarity.
They might not have seen much of the most memorable moments of the 2001 World Series, what with them being in fifth grade at the time and all.
They have never lived in a world in which Steve Garvey was considered a positive role model. That is remarkable when you consider that, according to the most scientific estimate, approximately 42 percent of all incoming freshmen are his illegitimate children. (rimshot)
Talk of how big a guy's head is meant as a steroid allegation, not the punch line to a joke about Bruce Bochy.
Speaking of Bochy, he has always managed somewhere for as long as they can remember.
Tony LaRussa has always managed the Cardinals.
A slew can't remember Ken Griffey Jr. playing for the Mariners. Well, prior to this year that is.
In their lifetime no one has ever stolen 80 bases in a season, let alone 100. Speaking of their entire lifetime, since the 1991 season began, only Kenny Lofton has stolen more bases than Rickey Henderson. That doesn't tell you much about them kids, but I just love me some Rickey facts.
As far as they know, the Minnesota Twins' pitching staff has always been among the American League's top three control units in baseball. (OK, it's an obscure as hell fact, but I find it incredible that the last time the Twins weren't in the top three in fewest walks allowed, George Burns was alive and the OJ trial was still going on.)
Dan Quisenberry has always been dead. Ditto Mark Belanger. In fact, more than a few can't remember Darryl Kile.
Nolan Ryan has always been the strikeout king. Aside from highlights reels, they've never seen him throw a pitch, let alone beat up Robin Ventura.
Baseball roofs have always been retractable.
Baseball Prospectus has always been around and its annuals have always been in stores. Meanwhile, THT began "only" when they were in junior high.
Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game is history, not memory to many of them.
Pittsburgh has always sucked. In fact, no Pirate pitcher has ever won 16 games in a season as far as they know.
They can remember a time preceding the Cubs sale, though really at this point it seems like none of us are old enough to remember that. (I know the Ricketts family finally cleared the dang hurdle, but God knows it took long enough.)
The incoming freshmen can barely remember a time when Nomar Garciaparra was a highly talented infielder. Sadly, I don't think Garciaparra does either.
Exactly half of the players who have hit 400 career home runs broke that barrier in their lifetime (22 out of 44). OK, that fact makes them seem old instead of you feeling old, but I just found that one amazing.
Camden Yards is an old ballpark to them.
While it's possible they could've been conceived in Old Comiskey Park, none of them ever saw a game there.
A bunch of them can't think of a time when Frank Thomas was a .300 hitter.
They've never seen a pitcher win 25 games in a season.
Some can't remember life before Pujols. If they're Cardinal fans, they ain't complaining about that.
Pitch counts have been regular features in the game's box scores.
They can't recall a time when all MLB managers were white.
50 homers in a season? Yawn. It always takes 40+ homers to lead the National League in that category. Last year was the first year in their life the AL champ had fewer than 40 homers.
For them, a major league game in San Francisco has always meant a trip to a nice ballpark. Clearly, they are the first generation in history that can say that.
The Cubs make the playoffs on a semi-regular basis. (Of course, once they get there...)
The Royals have always sucked. Paul Byrd's the only pitcher they've ever had win 15 games in a season.
Montreal could never support a baseball team.
The Veterans Committee doesn't believe in electing veterans to Cooperstown. Was there actually some point when it did? (I mean the main part of the VC, not the miniature VCs that put in non-players and Joe Gordon.)
The rooftops across the street from Wrigley Field never featured building residents hanging out. It's always been big commerce with multi-tier bleachers upon them.
Los Angeles has always featured a fat guy managing the team there. No, not Tommy Lasorda. Mike Scioscia.
Do you realize Jeff Suppan made his MLB debut when they were about to enter preschool? That's nothing: Omar Vizquel played in nearly 1,000 games before they entered kindergarten.
You can always expect a perfect game to happen every few years.
ESPN has always broadcast baseball games. Sadly, Joe Morgan has always been like that. Even sadder, so has Chris Berman.
The Game of the Week has never been on NBC. It's always been on Fox.
TV broadcasts have never shown utter morons who ran onto the field.
To them, a veteran sportswriter isn't Jerome Holtzman. It's Aaron Gleeman.
References and Resources
Yeah, I know that last one is going too far. I just couldn't resist.
Sources: Beloit College Mindset List for the inspiration, and Baseball-Reference.com for the baseball. Its Play Index helped out with stuff like the Pirates and Royals not having someone win X-number of games in a season since three eternities ago.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.