Mind of the modern fan

Every year, right as freshmen leave home and move into the dorms, Beloit College publishes its “Mindset List.” Quoting Beloit, the list “[provides] a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college.” Even though we are a long way from the start of the academic year, we are, of course, at the start of the baseball year.

So this got me thinking about baseball fans who will be entering baseball season at the same age students will be entering college. This means baseball fans who were born, roughly, in 1994. Before we begin the list, it is important to remember that a person born in 1994 will not actually remember everything in those 18 years. This is not, therefore, simply a list of the events which have taken place since 1994, but rather a snapshot of what baseball looks like to someone born that year.

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are the voices of October

It is possible, I suppose, that someone born in 1994 might remember bits and pieces of the 1999 World Series but I doubt it. That was the last time someone other than Buck and McCarver—occasionally with a third man, but always those two—broadcast a World Series game. That is 12 straight years of the FOX broadcasting duo. For 18-year old fans imagining their team with World Series glory, the voice of that glory will be Buck and McCarver.

They have never seen a Hall of Famer in his prime

Even fans born in 1994 likely have memories, albeit limited ones, of Hall of Fame players. Players like Barry Larkin, Roberto Alomar and even Rickey Henderson were all active at a time 18-year olds might remember. Nonetheless, all those players—and everyone elected to the Hall since 1994—were past their prime, if sometimes still effective, in the period 18-year old fans would remember. Of course, these fans have seen the prime of future Hall of Famers like Albert Pujols, but the best of moments of current members of the Hall exist only on film and Baseball-Reference.

Roger Maris has never held the single season home run record

This is also—if you’re into launching that discussion, which I’m not—a commentary on the PED era in baseball. In the conscious memory of our mindset fan, the only men to a hold the single-season home run crown are Mark McGwire (if only briefly) and Barry Bonds.

James Shield: a workhorse for the Mindset fan (US Presswire)

The only world they know

As far as anyone born in 1994 can remember, there has always been a Wild Card in baseball—and three divisions in each league as well. Many baseball fans, my age and even much older, cannot remember a time when baseball was played exclusively outdoors. Fans born in 1994, however, cannot remember a time when baseball wasn’t played in stadiums whose dome could be opened and closed. They also cannot remember a time before domed stadiums opened so extensively as to allow real grass to be grown.

Finally, baseball fans born in 1994 cannot remember the league ever missing a game due to labor strife. They might even attribute that to Bud Selig, the man who has always been Commissioner in their lifetime.

The Yankees have never missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons

For a fan born 20 years before our theoretical mindset fan, the idea of the Yankees the team so dominant that they inspired Joe Hardy to sell his soul for a chance to lead his team to a pennant must have seemed very strange. Too young to remember the team’s late 1970’s revival, the nearly 40-year old fan would have grown up without seeing the Yankees in the playoffs every year from 1982 until 1995.

For the mindset fan, however, the team is even more consistent than earlier iterations. A fan turning 18 this year has only seen one playoffs—2008—without the Yankees. Fans of my age might remember the Braves as a regular presence in the playoffs, but the truth of the matter is that no one has owned October appearances—albeit in an easier era to reach the playoffs—for a generation the way the modern Yankees have.

Closers do not pitch multiple innings regularly

Since 2000, no pitcher has appeared in more than 94 games in a season and only two—Salomon Torres and Pedro Feliciano—have even topped 90. In the same period, only five full-time relievers have recorded than 100 innings. There have been 33 seasons in which a pitcher threw 100 or more relief innings and recorded 30 saves, but none since Doug Jones in 1992. For those fans who will be attending a baseball game while contemplating their presidential vote for the first time, the idea of a closer (or any reliever, really) throwing multiple innings is a foreign as the idea of Pete Rose managing a team.

And speaking of pitching usage changing…

My father can remember pitchers consistently making 40 starts in a season, and some making many more. Recent fans, on the other hand, have never seen a pitcher start more than 36 games in a season. They’ve never seen a starter pitch more than 266 innings in a season, nor throw more than 11 complete games. In fact, only two pitchers (James Shields last year and CC Sabathia in 2008) have even managed double-digit complete games.

No longer with us

This is the only category where I use straight date-of-birth, rather than conscious memory. For fans born in 1994, Don Drysdale, Roy Campanella, Alan Wiggins, Red Barber and Leo Durocher have always been dead. Robin Yount, George Brett, and Nolan Ryan have always been retired. Don Baylor has always been the former Rockies and Cubs manager, rather than the many-teamed player. Similarly, Dusty Baker has been a manager practically every year the 18–year old can remember, but his time as an All-Star outfielder might as well be ancient history. Finally, Arlington Stadium, old Comiskey Park and Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium have always been former major league stadiums.

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  1. masternachos said...

    I’m four years older than this group, but if it’s true for me, it’s true for them:
    Jamie Moyer has ALWAYS been old.

  2. MikeS said...

    (Puts on James Earl Jones Voice)

    The one constant through all the years, Richard,  has been…Jamie Moyer.

  3. Shane Tourtellotte said...

    Heck, I’m still wrapping my brain around the fact that the Dodgers have played at Dodger Stadium five years longer than they played at Ebbets Field.  And they made the move west more than a decade before I was born.

    Baseball will eventually make you feel old.

    Of course, actually getting old might have a little to do with that.

  4. Michael Caragliano said...

    They probably have absolutely no memories of scanning boxscores in the paper the next morning to see results from the West Coast. Or, for that matter, taking a transistor radio to bed to hear a game under the covers. All the games are on TV now, and the internet lets you get the games in real-time, so you just put on the dish to get the hometown nine and click your favorite website to see the other games in progress.

    They also think 30 teams sounds like a fair number of franchises. By the time they started watching games, the D’Backs and Rays were on the field. They also think nothing of interleague play; the novelty is the everyday for them. And the Brewers have always been a National League franchise.

  5. gdc said...

    Moyer is a couple of years younger than I.  I think Clemens was the last active player born before I was.

  6. Matt C said...

    Ken Griffey Jr was always old and frail… The Braves have never been an elite team… George Steinbrenner changed managers one time… Mariano Rivera is the only player to wear #42

  7. Lee Panas said...

    Michael C, I think you hit on the biggest difference of all.  The way we followed the game twenty years or more ago is completely different from today and younger people of today probably can’t relate to it at all.  Today’s way is better, but I’m glad I got to experience the old way as well.

  8. Caitlin said...

    I’m 18 and a huge baseball fan. I’ve always been very interested in the history of the sport and have done lots of reading on the subject. I’ve always wished I could experience what the sport was like in a time that wasn’t really so long ago but seems like it to me. Just imagining going through a time machine and seeing a game at Ebbets Field is one of my favorite day dreams. Fans my age are spoiled to be able to watch any game in real time online. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy the technology because I do, but it takes away the connection to older generations and thus an appreciation to baseball’s history. This is making me think about what it will be like for the next generation that won’t know what it was like to only have one wild card per league.

  9. Andrew said...

    A few more:

    All the teams have always worn grey rather than powder blue road uniforms, jerseys have always had buttons, uniform pants have always had belts rather than mulicolored elastic waistbands, and nobody except eccentic old-timers like Moyer has worn high-cut stirrups.

    Modern “retro” stadiums aren’t a new development, but rather date back to the days when they built that old stadium in Baltimore.

    No pitcher has ever won 25 games.

    Dippin’ Dots may claim to be the ice cream of the future, but that stuff’s been around forever.

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