The Physical Obstacle for Women in Baseball

While it probably won't be Jennie Finch, hopefully a woman will break into the majors someday (via Jim).

While it probably won’t be Jennie Finch, hopefully a woman will break into the majors someday (via Jim).

My wife is pregnant. Friends ask me, “Do you want a boy or girl?”

I answer, “It doesn’t matter. The child’s playing baseball either way.”

This is a joke, of course. I can no more force my child to enjoy baseball than my own artist father could convince me to prefer painting over mathematics. But there is a kernel of truth in there. I want all my future children to pursue athletics, especially baseball. And I do not want a matter of gender disqualifying them from the sports they like.

When I say, “I hope women will one day play in the majors,” I don’t say this with a passing fancy. I hope women play in the majors because, yes, I think it would be fun, but also I think it would be right.

Half of baseball fans are women. And they’re not there just to ogle Joey Votto‘s biscuits (and suggesting as much is offensive, so stop it, MLB apparel companies). This sport has a history of female athletes that predates the NBA and the Union of European Football Associations. Women love this sport; it is as much theirs as it is men’s.

In 2011, I wrote an article for FanGraphs suggesting that female athletes could be an untapped resource for baseball talent. To the delight of my family, the very first response to the article was an all-caps: “NOPE.”

I was less delighted by the blunt response and by the fact the proposal engendered over 300 comments of debate. I would much have preferred the idea of women in baseball had met a resounding “Huzzah!” as baseball fans around the world recognized that our fine sport is in a unique position to accommodate the athletic talents of both genders.

I realize now that I will need more work, more evidence, to convince not only the open minds out there, but myself. I had enough smart minds disagree with me that I recognized I needed to study the issue more fully.

The Matter of Testosterone

Let’s begin with what we widely believe: Men are predisposed towards greater physical ability than women. Male basketball teams shoot the ball further and dunk the ball more frequently; male golfers hit the ball further; male sprinters and long distance runners finish the races faster and hold the fastest records; male swimmers do the same. Beg for equality as much as I may, genetics (namely, the distribution of testosterone) favors the male athlete.

It is this greater muscle mass [resulting from testosterone differences] that most researchers agree gives men a distinct advantage in many sports. On average, women are about 66% as strong as men according to [Dr. Carol Christensen], with the greatest disparity being in upper-body strength (56%).

This is what primarily rules out contact sports like football, boxing and wrestling from head-to-head competition between the sexes. And even as women continue to improve their training techniques and times in other sports, there are indications that they may have done all they can to erase the inherent physiological differences between the sexes.

The Wall Street Journal, 2012

But this is what is so great about baseball. As Greg Simons noted in December, baseball is about specialization; players do not need the same athletic talents to produce the same results:

While many pitchers fit the mold of the 6-foot-4, 220-pound flame-throwing beast, there are numerous exceptions. Bartolo Colon and David Wells have succeeded despite having the physiques of couch potatoes. Tim Collins has been getting people out as a member of the Royals bullpen for the last three seasons in spite of his listed size of 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds.

So here was my theory: Female athletes do not need to be better than the best male athletes to be viable major league candidates. They need to be better than the 25th man; they need to outplay Nick Green, not Mike Trout.

This is all thought experiment, though. The most legitimate pro female league in the world, the Japanese Women’s Baseball League (JWBL), draws from a shallow talent pool. So throwing these female players against a male baseball team would not produce much useful information. They might be around the talent level of a high school team, but the female pros have unequal physical maturity.

We do have players like Eri Yoshida, Ila Borders and Tiffany Brooks, women who have played in traditionally male independent leagues, but the sample is too limited–and perhaps more of an indication about the population of female baseball players. Many potential baseball players get syphoned into softball–whether they want to or not. So we have to look elsewhere around the world of sports for analogies, instructive examples from obliquely similar sports.

The Athletic Gap in Other Sports

I run 5Ks. Running is a sport I like and one that has direct tie-ins to baseball. According Justine Siegal, founder and head of Baseball for All, running may be the biggest physical hurdle preventing women from reaching the majors as position players.

Most players don’t get looked at if they can’t run. So that would count out most women from the beginning.

When she told me this, I was surprised. When I run 5Ks, I usually finish in the top 30 or so, and recently even finished third–though I think that was an event for kids, so imagine something like this. Anyway, there is almost always an overlap in the top group of runners. The top 20 runners have two or three women sprinkled in, or at least so it seems. Fourth place in the kids event was a female athlete.

This, I hoped, would further illustrate my point. I am not saying the average female athlete can compete in the majors; I am saying a superior, unheralded female athlete will. So I looked at track results from the 2012-13 NCAA indoor field and track season. These are finely-tuned male and female athletes competing in a sport with as few external factors as we can get in athletic competitions. Considering there are 750 players in the major leagues at any given time (and +two players for every doubleheader), surely among the top 500 male sprinters or 5K runners we’ll find a few female runners:

NCAA Running Results

Wow. What a blow to my hopes. The best female time in the 60 meter dash, Aurieyall Scott’s 7.13, is still worse than the 500th male time, a 16-way tie at 7.02. Sure, some amateur female runners may finish well in my local 5K, but that appears to be a comment on the population of amateur talent, not the nearness of physical ability between the genders.

In fact, Olympic results across a variety of physical sports suggest the talent gap is about 10 percent:

A stabilization of the gender gap in world records is observed after 1983, at a mean difference of 10.0% ± 2.94 between men and women for all events. The gender gap ranges from 5.5% (800-m freestyle, swimming) to 18.8% (long jump). The mean gap is 10.7% for running performances, 17.5% for jumps, 8.9% for swimming races, 7.0% for speed skating and 8.7% in cycling. The top ten performers’ analysis reveals a similar gender gap trend with a stabilization in 1982 at 11.7%, despite the large growth in participation of women from eastern and western countries that coincided with later-published evidence of state-institutionalized or individual doping.

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, “Women and Men in Sport Performance”

This general rule of 10 percent makes sense with what Justine Siegal told me, that 82 mph is the hardest fastball she has seen from a female pitcher, about 10 percent slower than the average major league fastball.

But running–though it is a component of baseball–is still unlike the whole of baseball. It is part skill, yes, and part mental (with regard to pacing and such), but it is largely physical. That’s why I chose to look at running, because it represents raw athletic ability more than technique.

We could perhaps move a step closer to baseball on the spectrum of talent and skill by looking at tennis. There we have the famous Battle of the Sexes–all, like, six of them–in which only once has female won (the famous Billy Jean King). And that victory now has a fresh haze of game-fixing controversy around it, deserved or not.

Tennis requires a more multi-faceted athlete than a baseball player. You cannot survive as a great server only. You still need a forehand and backhand and other tennis-type words. But in baseball, a player–Mariano Rivera–can throw one pitch and make a career of it. Darwin Barney and Neifi Perez can/could play defense well enough to keep them in the majors despite their ability to do little else.

There is a talent base that presumably could be more instructive about female baseball talents. The thriving softball culture in the U.S. does give us a solid glance at some elements of hitting ability.

Softball Talent in a Baseball Universe

This video makes several interesting points–some obvious, some more intriguing–about the differences between softball and baseball pitching. The key differences, for the present moment, are the angles (softballs literally rise; baseballs necessarily fall) and the reaction time (softball hitters have about 20 percent less time to react to a pitch).

Granted, softball bats are metal and therefore lighter–I believe–and possess larger barrels, all for aiming at a much larger target. So even though softball hitters have less time to react, they are still trying to make an easier connection. But that did not stop Jennie Finch from striking out Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza and Marcus Giles in a 2004 All-Star event, an event I witnessed with my tender TV-watching teenage eyes, an event that may have, some ambling decade ago, seeded this very article.

And it was not the only time Finch showed the surprising oomph of softball pitching. She also managed to K minor leaguer Bryan Byrne, and this footage we still can see.

No disrespect to Byrne, who had five great minor league seasons and one bad one, but it is a bummer to see Finch working against only a minor leaguer in this video, especially considering Byrne had not yet reached Double-A when this was filmed.

The Professional Opinions

I spoke with a major league scout about female baseball players, and he thinks we already have seen the approximate height of female baseball.

As far as women in baseball, I think Yoshida is probably the closest thing that’s ever gonna happen. I hate to be pessimistic, but there are so many things that would have to go right for a woman to make MLB, like obvious velocity or a wicked trick pitch like a knuckleball or some speed demon that could bunt or something.

And the outlook grows dimmer when we consider that, for every female pitcher or position player in high school stuck at an 80-mph fastball ceiling or a 30-grade power ceiling, there are just as many male high school players, a population of players who have, for decades, filled the independent leagues or quit the sport after high school.

What does Yoshida have that Joe High Schooler doesn’t? That is the question we have to ask. She has a commitment to a trick pitch, if we may call the hallowed knuckleball that, but otherwise has no discrete advantage over male peers.

I polled 14 writers at The Hardball Times and our sister site FanGraphs. Seven of my colleagues felt that women would likely never reach the majors, even assuming an absence of prejudice or bias. Two writers were unsure, and the five remaining–myself included–believed women would eventually break into the major leagues.

Brad Johnson then offered an excellent perspective:

I think it just depends on the time horizon you set. I’m not confident we’ll see one within our lifetimes, but I think technology and changing perceptions will eventually allow it to happen. Assuming the world doesn’t implode first.

Which brings forward a great point: the changing universe of sports technology and medicine. A hundred years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have players throwing 100 mph regularly. It would have been impossible to rip a tendon from somewhere else in the body and stuff it into a pitcher’s elbow and keep his career alive.

Sports technology is changing. Baseball is changing. Both are moving targets. The ancient farmer, I’ve heard it said, never asked for a tractor. He asked for a stronger mule. We cannot anticipate what is coming next and how it will obliterate the old ways.

A New Dawn for Specialization

The story of Jackie Mitchell is an important one. She was a sidearm lefty who famously struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during an exhibition game in 1931–the veritable heights of both men’s careers. The game may have been either farce or fact; it’s hard to say. John Thorne, whom I respect with every ounce of Super Respect I own, claims the event was more vaudeville than authentic.

Conversely, Tim Wiles at the Hall of Fame, says (rightly) that Ruth was also a strikeout king, and he facing a soft-tossing lefty with a hard sinker. As a lefty himself and having just seen a more traditional pitcher, it is not inconceivable that Ruth would have struggled against Mitchell. In the same way, we have found teams struggle to regain their rhythm after facing the Knuckleball Prince, R.A. Dickey.

The game is changing, and so is the means of preparing for it and healing from it. Although it is unlikely female athletes will ever find a workaround for the 10 percent testosterone gap–or, rather, find a workaround that male athletes themselves can’t also utilize–other factors could render the issue moot anyway.

Smaller stadiums may mean a female hitter–smashing a ball 10 percent shallower than her male counterparts–could develop into a legitimate home run hitter. Perhaps lowering the mound or narrowing the strike zone will suddenly render a hitherto unnoticed advantage to shorter position players.

Or maybe, just maybe, a girl is going to force her way onto a roster like a baseball breaking through a chain link fence. Maybe Chelsea Baker will take her continued high school success (19 IP, 9 K, 3 BB, and a 0.74 ERA on the muscled back of Joe Niekro’s non-twirler) into the collegiate sphere. Maybe Yoshida, still just 22 years old, will find her strike zone as a member of the Ishikawa Million Stars (where she is a teammate of Charles Nading and Derrick Loop, and a student of Shinji Mori). Perhaps outfielder Iori Miura will someday manage to translate her 2013 success–a .407/.515/.536 slash and 27 of 30 stolen bases–from the JWBL to an independent league with greater pitching talent. She already has nine doubles, six steals and a 1.815 OPS in 36 plate appearances this JWBL season.

The great frustration of this idea, this adventurous notions of baseball for everyone, is that it’s just an idea right now. Yoshida is bouncing around unheard-of independent teams, Baker is still a universe away from the minor leagues; and Miura is a name you have read for the first time today.

All our projections and all our estimations of female baseball abilities mean nothing every time a high school coach takes a chance on an aspiring female athlete. When a girl steps into a batter’s box, all that will matter is the game and what she does with the next pitch. Until then, we can estimate that the road is difficult, but it is not impossible. It can’t be.

As Justine Siegal told me: “If Tim Wakefield can pitch with a 72 mph fastball, then anything is possible.”

J.P. Howell has an 86-mph fastball and a seven-figure salary. Mark Buehrle has clocked around an 84 mph fastball these last few years, and he and his near-60 RA9 wins (and counting) may just saunter on down to Cooperstown if he ever decides to retire. Also: Jamie Moyer. Q.E.D.

Can a woman make it to the majors? Yes. Too much about this game is changing in unpredictable ways for us to ever close a door like that. Will she look like that typical male baseball player? No. She will not hit homers. She will not throw 100 mph. Not unless something big changes.

Is she playing right now? Is the first female major league player out there somewhere? I don’t know. Maybe she is playing softball. Maybe she is not born yet. Maybe she is named Eri, Chelsea or Iori.

Either way, I will be rooting for her.

References & Resources

  • A big thanks to Justine Siegal, Brad Johnson, Greg Simmons, and the MLB insiders who entertained my questions on this topic.
  • “Women and Men in Sport Performance: The Gender Gap has not Evolved Since 1983,” by Valérie Thibault, et al., in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine
  • “Taking Aim at an Old Debate: Can Female Athletes Compete Against Men? In Shooting, Yes—But Not in the Olympics,” by Mark Yost in The Wall Street Journal
  • “Chelsea Baker proves talent trumps gender on baseball diamond,” by Kelly Parsons in the Tampa Bay Times

Further Reading

  • “Gender Differences in Sport Injury Risk and Types of Injuries: A Retrospective Twelve-Month Study on Cross-Country Skiers, Swimmers, Long-Distance Runners and Soccer Players,” by Leena Ristolainen, et al., in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine
  • “Age-Associated Changes In Vo2 and Power Output – A Cross-Sectional Study of Endurance Trained New Zealand Cyclists,” by Stephen J. Brown, Helen J. Ryan and Julie A. Brown in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine
  • “‘…If I Had a Choice, I Would….’ A Feminist Poststructuralist Perspective on Girls in Physical Education,” by Laura Azzaritoa, Melinda A. Solmonb and Louis Harrison Jr. in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
  • “Family Socialization, Gender, and Sport Motivation and Involvement,” by Jennifer A. Fredricks and Jacquelynne S. Eccles in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology
  • “Ng Disappointed at Lack of Women in MLB,” by Alex Remington at FanGraphs
  • “Women Are Coming to Baseball, Like It or Not,” by Alex Remington at FanGraphs
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Comments

    • Tracy said...

      The first female payer will be a Moyer-Burle type with pin point control. She will not have an overpowering fastball of cource , but will be able to locate it inside outside and all six quadrant of the strike zone. She will have great movement on her fastballs which will include a four seamer , two seamer and a cutter. She will have a great circle change and curve ball. Changing speeds will be key. Finally she probally will be a tall strong woman with big hands. You need big hands to throw a change-up. We need a womens baseball league again like in Japan.

  1. The Stranger said...

    Jamie Moyer might be the best comp for a potential female major-leaguer. The problem is, a woman with a low-80s fastball, 4-5 good pitches, and great command would be the female equivalent of Pedro Martinez or Sandy Koufax – a generational talent who’s elite in every facet of pitching. That woman will definitely come along someday, and she might be out there now. But when you think about the pool of millions of boys who grow up playing baseball, and the fact that out of all those millions of young players we only get a guy like that every 20 years or so, and the number of girls who play the game, how long will it take for that woman to come along? How many girls with the potential ability to be that woman will just never play baseball, for whatever reason?

    • Bradley Woodrum said...

      I agree. It appears an impossibly difficult calculation. But that once-in-a-generation talent never appears if we discourage girls from playing baseball at an early age.

      • The Stranger said...

        I agree 100% – I wasn’t suggesting that we should discourage girls from playing baseball. But there are lots of reasons fewer girls than boys play baseball, and parents who think that baseball isn’t for girls are just one of them. The good news is that the girls who do play baseball are already self-selecting for the top 1% or so in both ability and commitment to the game, so the math probably isn’t as bad as it looks at first glance.

      • Will said...

        Why shouldn’t we discourage girls from playing baseball? If the odds are so slim against a girl making the majors, shouldn’t a responsible coach steer her toward a sport where she will have a better chance at success?

    • Believer said...

      I believe it will happen. We’ll see some girl out of high school with a mid-eighties fastball and pin-point command. She will most likely go to an independent league first, and be lights out. Then, a major league team will sign her to a minor league contract. It will probably be more of publicity stunt at first, but if she performs the team will give her a shot.

      As covered in the article, players that pitch in the eighties have found success in the show before. It’s not likely, but it is definitely possible. The biggest obstacle for her won’t be her own ability for success. Instead, it will be the same obstacle that every young talent of her caliber faces; why would a team bother to draft a pitcher that can’t even throw a 90 MPH fastball?

      The one advantage she might have in this regard is the novelty of being the first woman drafted by a Major League club. The positive publicity the team will receive might be just enough to convince a team to give her a shot. Plus, the chance — no matter how slight — that she actually makes it all the way to the big leagues is hard to ignore, considering the financial impact this would have on the club. Her presence alone would be enough to fill up any ball park and bring in millions of dollars worth of merchandise sales.

    • CircleChange11 said...

      The problem is Jamie Moyer didn’t get drafted as a low-80′s throwing lefty. He threw in the low 90s and had his velocity decrease with injuries and age.

      We are to the point now where if you don;t throw 90+, you don;t get scouted. Mark Buehrle is likely the last of his kind.

    • Cam Winston said...

      Lotta physiology to overcome.

      And saying the possibility that “some” female with an 82 MPH fastball “might” break some team’s roster is too narrow an argument, IMO. That female would also have to be able to have muscle recovery on par with any other MLB pitcher so that she could go out there & pitch again, just like a man. What makes muscles recover? Well, there’s a reason athletes take steroids, and it’s not because taking testosterone or other synthetic substances instantly make one’s muscles bigger…it’s because it makes the athlete recover faster & the rebuilding process is where the ‘magic’ happens over a natural athlete. That’s why HGH is so preferable for ‘cheaters’…it works. Growth hormones/testosterone recovers the muscles & helps rebuild & make them stronger (or, faster for fast twitch muscles, see Ben Johnson). Men have more, sorry, it’s just biology.

      After overcoming the hormone conundrum, the woman would have to have the hand/eye coordination & quickness to field the position, especially bunts. So, she’d need to be the fastest female thrower on the planet, > 80 MPH, PLUS also being fast enough on her feet to field bunts down the third base line/outrun the batter to the first base line. All this on top of having enough testosterone to recover in time to pitch the next night or start 5 days later.

      BTW, these things listed are found on basically every Division 1-AA team’s staff.

      Nancy Lieberman tried to be a specialist & make it to the NBA by being a quick shooter….couldn’t make it, despite being the best female on the planet. Every other guy on the court had no trouble keeping up with her.

      Maybe a Babe Diedrickson or a Wilma Rudolph could’ve done something back before modern day science helped athletes perform at levels few could’ve forecasted back then, but today…..not likely. Sports is a game of inches, strategy, etc, but it boils down to ATHLETICS. And the biggest/fastest muscles usually win athletic competitions, especially among elites. And by usually, I mean every time.

      • RadBravita said...

        As far as hand/eye coordination and quickness on her feet: a woman can field a position just as well as an any MLB player right now. Your argument holds no factual logic.
        There are plenty of poor defensive 3B out there who hit for average and a woman could the same thing.

        Comparing women and men in Olympic events in strength is not only illogical when it comes to baseball, it doesn’t require the same skills.
        Baseball players come in varying degrees of strength, speed, height, weight, and overall skill that I could see in female form if and only if men would allow them to play the game, starting with youth and continuing up through high school, college and beyond.

        Bottom line, men need to give women the opportunities. Women can compete, they don’t need to be compared to the men already in the game to do it.

      • BobbyCheesburger said...

        RadBravita is operating on a level of delusion that I’m not sure how to even respond to.

        If there were women capable of being major leaguers, there would be women in MLB. Open tryouts are held every year. There is no evil coalition of men conspiring to keep women out of MLB. You’re off the deep end.

      • CircleChange11 said...

        Saying a woman “could” is misleading.

        Could a woman throw 82 mph and have enough pinpoint control to make it to MLB?

        Sure.

        Is is likely? Heck no. Even a male throwing 82mph with pinpoint control is likely to go undrafted in today’s game.

        ———————————————–

        Could a male player hit 100 home runs and steal 100 bases? Sure, it could happen.

        This word “could” is misleading, because almost anything imaginable “could” happen.

  2. hopbitters said...

    While I would like to see it happen, I think it would be extremely difficult for a woman to compete successfully at the major league level without having gone through the previous levels (minors, college, high school, little league, etc.) competing as an equal. Major league success isn’t just about physical talent and drive. Playing against the best softball players isn’t the same. Playing against men in practice isn’t the same. You have to have the experience of playing real games with and against the best players at each level. So, by my way of thinking, it isn’t a matter of if a woman can do it, it’s a matter of if baseball as an institution is willing to accept and facilitate women in the sport.

    • RadBravita said...

      Yes. It has to happen from the men coaching and women need to keep pushing for playing time.

      MLB should and needs to acknowledge that it’s not just a “man’s” game.

  3. carl said...

    great article. I think there is also a touch of discrimination when it comes to gender and baseball that starts at a young age. most girls know or are told there’s no pathway to the the pros and they do not pursue it seriously, whereas boys with promise will join travelling leagues etc.

  4. A father said...

    The problem I see with this is not talent but motivation. Why in the world would the young woman we are positing — one of the most phenomenal female athletes we’ve ever seen — choose to be, at best, a mediocre baseball player rather than using her athletic talents to be a famous and rich star at softball, track and field, etc.? I actually think there are quite a few women who, if they chose to focus all energies in that direction, could get to the level of a good high school or college or minor league player, with the off chance of achieving the success of a scrub major leaguer. But these are women who could be Olympic athletes and achieve monumental success in other directions. I would never counsel such an exceptional young woman to go down this path.

    • hopbitters said...

      Because they love the game?

      And even a scrub major leaguer would be party to plenty of fame and endorsements.

    • EB said...

      This is the problem I see.

      “they need to outplay Nick Green, not Mike Trout”

      Well here’s the thing–Nick Green wants to be Nick Green because that’s the very highest level he can attain. If he was gifted enough to have the choice of being the 25th man on a baseball team or the #1 guy on an NFL team, I’m pretty sure he would take the NFL gig. But he doesn’t have that option; his actual choices are to be the 25th man, or go sell insurance.

      Our hypothetical super-woman has the choice of either being the 25th man on the baseball team, or being the greatest softball player/whatever other sport she preferred…it would be hard to turn away from those kind of achievements just to sit on the bench for a major league team.

      • RadBravita said...

        Because men like you continue to discount women’s place in major league baseball, along with a majority of other professional sports.

      • Roberta K said...

        Well, when you compare the salaries, endorsement deals, etc. between the back of the bench baseball player and the elite softball player, the choice would be obvious. You don’t see professional softball every Sunday night on ESPN, there’s no Softball Network the way you have MLB Network. And the first woman professional baseball player would probably get a ton of endorsement opportunities, hopefully for more than just feminine hygiene products.

    • Jason said...

      Actually, imagine a woman actually made it to the majors. Who would get more publicity/endorsements? Gold medalist of an olympic event that happens every four years or being the only woman in the majors? If some girl could break in, she would be very very wealthy and well known whether or not she’s a particularly amazing player

  5. LHPSU said...

    I would like to see women baseball leagues, whether amateur or professional. But women in MLB is another issue altogether. The locker-room is a significant part in professional sports where a lot of crucial communication takes place, and unless there is a massive change in our culture, a woman will be excluded from it. So is physical contact, players giving teammates high-fives, hugs, leaning on each other, friendly butt slaps – with women, this creates the issue of either potential accusations of harassment, or a problem with exclusion as male player treat female teammates more cautiously than they treat male teammates.

    Some people might bash this as being akin to segregation, but this isn’t an issue of hostility as it was with Jackie Robinson. Male players will probably treat female teammates very politely (at least on the surface), which is basically the problem, because if they treated the female teammates the same as they did male teammates, the consequences can be very negative, from both the female player and from the outside response. The entire team atmosphere is changed in the presence of a female – conversations become more guarded, there is a certain degree of nervousness, etc. This isn’t likely to change and frankly I’m not sure changing it would be a good thing – men definitely act differently when there is a woman in the midst, compared to when it’s just the boys. Ladies would probably agree that girls talk is a more relaxed and open atmosphere when it’s just girls, than when there is a guy in the room.

    At the amateur level, we can live with this. A little tight politeness in the dugout, maybe, but not too much is at stake. At the professional level, though, each win and loss involves millions of dollars and fans. If the team performs badly, how much blame is going to fall on the “nervous locker room atmosphere”?

    I expect to catch a lot of flak for this, but this isn’t the same situation as Jackie Robinson. Not unless we live in a society where women in general are comfortable sharing the same restroom and changing room with men. Even in Jackie Robinson’s era, toilets were not segregated by race (at least in the civilized parts of the US), and blacks and whites could change and pee next to each other and shower in adjacent stalls (at least in the civilized parts of the US). I don’t see the same situation happening with men and women in my lifetime.

    • Anon21 said...

      No offense, but this sounds a lot like the “gay panic” rationalizations that homophobes deployed to forestall open acceptance of gays in the military. Millions of dollars are at stake for the players individually, and with that in mind, I think they would be expected to act and would act professionally towards their female teammate.

      • hopbitters said...

        Nothing engenders acceptance like success. See the ’71 Pirates. And while we’re on the subject, some openly gay players in MLB wouldn’t hurt the cause.

      • LHPSU said...

        With gays, the typical practice is still that they use the same bathrooms and changing rooms as anyone else in everyday life. We have not developed segregated bathrooms and changing rooms for gays, or at least have not put them into widespread use. This is not the case for male/female, and this a thing that is highly relevant for professional athletics. And in the case of the military and gays, you are taking norms that are already accepted in society, and trying to change a more conservative military to accept such norms. If you want to apply this analogy, society at large would have to accept joint use of changing rooms by both men and women, or , if not, face the reality that the female player would be subject to a degree of isolation without any ill intention.

        With regards to professional conduct, the issue is NOT whether the players would act professionally. Of course they will act professionally. But professional conduct is not the same as building intimacy, and in many cases even at odds with each other, and unfortunately building intimacy is an important part of professional sports. For a male player to act professionally (as commonly accepted) towards a female teammate automatically entails keeping a certain distance and refrain from actions and words that would have been acceptable and even expected in an all-male dugout. The result is that the female player would be subjected to a certain degree of isolation because of said professional conduct, and a certain degree of tension will exist in the clubhouse, because of the need to observe professional conduct that would otherwise not have been applicable in an all-male environment. Sure, nothing engenders acceptance like success, but such an environment is not exactly conductive to success, if we accept that team chemistry isn’t just an imaginary concept.

        Gay men are not women and should not be treated as such, and gay men do not view heterosexual men the exact same way that women do. For myself, if I were in a company of acquaintances that are all men, some of whom I know to be gay, I don’t expect the conversations to be very much different from if the company was all heterosexual men. I cannot say that same if the company was of a mixed gender, but I digress – which is precisely why I don’t think the issue of women in sports is even remotely related to the issue of gay athletes.

        Being aloof and distant are not viewed as positive traits for baseball players, nor is the ostracization of a teammate the sign of a successful clubhouse. Trying to incorporate women in a dominantly male sport creates the same situation, even if all involved have the best intentions – or shall I say because of these best intentions. It might work if a considerable volume of players are women – say maybe 20-25% – but I can’t see having just one woman on the team working out very well for that team. It’s either at least a significant proportion, or none at all.

      • CircleChange11 said...

        “Gay men are not women and should not be treated as such, and gay men do not view heterosexual men the exact same way that women do.”

        I’m pretty sure research shows that men are not really capable of being “just friends” with women, and that the only thing stopping them from being “partners” is the opportunity.

        On the other hand, women were able to be friends with a male and generally had no idea what the male was really thinking.

        I’m not sure I would make the statement that a gay man doesn’t look at a heterosexual man differently than a woman does.

        That would be like saying a straight guy showering with a lesbian doesn’t look at her as a sexual being or someone he wants to have sex with.

    • RadBravita said...

      Discrimination much?

      Your comment has no significant bearing on a professional atmosphere whatsoever.
      Typical male chauvinistic remark.

  6. Susan P. said...

    I’ve always suspected that the best way for a woman to break into the majors would be as a shortstop or second baseman–positions where agility and skill play a larger role than size and brute strength. It worked for Toni Stone and Connie Morgan (and Mamie Johnson, who switched between pitcher and second). At any rate, thanks for your article and your research.

  7. stank asten said...

    There’s no ‘allegation’ needed to show that the King-Riggs match was rigged. The rules were changed to heavily favor King, and King was in the prime of her career while Riggs was well past retired. BJK was a great athlete and an ambassador of the game, but she never beat a male tennis player on equal terms.

      • Paul G. said...

        Anon21: “The rules were changed to heavily favor King”

        Urban legend. Riggs vs. King was straight tennis. It may be confused with the Connors/Navratilova rules were changed to heavily favor the female (and Connors still won).

        There was a huge age difference. King was 29 and still in her prime (she won Wimbledon that year) and Riggs was 55. As to the idea that the fix was in, there have been revelations recently to that effect, though Riggs denied it at the time. Riggs did play especially poorly and he was a well known tennis hustler, so the idea that he did something uncouth is certainly not out of character for him. He had also played the #1 ranked woman Margaret Court earlier that year and had crushed her 6-2, 6-1, so he really should have done better than dropping three straight sets.

  8. Eric said...

    Maybe this can give you a bit more optimism Bradley, in response to your quote, “Considering there are 750 players in the major leagues at any given time (and +two players for every doubleheader), surely among the top 500 male sprinters or 5K runners we’ll find a few female runners:”

    In MLB for 2013 Bradley, don’t know if you know this, but there were 1,304 players that had at least one plate appearance, a third of an inning in the field, or threw at least one pitch to a batter, So this might make your odds better towards your assumptions. Now, of those 1,304, 679 were pitchers or about 53% of all MLB players, meaning 625 or so were position players that batted. There is a lot of turnover/opportunity in MLB especially at the pitching spot it can be a revolving door due to injury etc.

    It would be neat to see a female pitcher in MLB. I am sure the rules would require them to throw from 60 1/2 feet away, but there is nothing that says they couldn’t still pitch underhand, correct? – just like rick barry shooting his free throws underhand, nothing that says in the rules you had to be over the top?

    • Cam Winston said...

      I’m pretty sure the rules won’t let them release the ball underhanded while their anchor foot is 2 to 4 feet in front of the mound, as is often the case with fast pitch softball players. They jump forward, land, then release well in front of the mound (watch the video in the Finch link, for example). Pretty sure that’d be a no-no in MLB.

      • Eric said...

        Tim Lincecum’s anchor foot is so far off the rubber when he pitches, its not funny. Regardless, my point was, even if a female had to throw from 60.5 feet away, she could still throw underhand and will a smaller ball that would probably give her more velocity. You know what they say about assumptions, but I think its a reasonable assumption that its an easier adjustment to learn to be able to plant the anchor foot by the pitching rubber when you throw, a lot easier than the adjustment of throwing overhand, since a woman that has pitched all her life in softball has done so underhand, rather than over the top. Besides, underhand goes with the natural “grain” of the arm. I would think that would be less stress anyway.

    • Matthew Murphy said...

      I believe this is true. Apparently the fastest softball pitch recorded is 77mph. It would be interesting to see if this would change with a baseball on a mound, the baseball might make it easier to throw a little bit harder. I feel like a softball pitcher throwing in the mid-70s could have some success against major league batters, but I doubt that it would be sustainable.
      The forward spin on the underhand throw should, in theory, make it move like a curveball.

    • Paul G. said...

      It is legal to throw underhand in the major leagues, though I’m pretty sure that the standard softball pitch would be illegal. When the Silver Bullets were playing I saw them on TV and there was one pitcher that threw similarly though not the same as a softball pitcher.

    • Tim said...

      It also helps that the vast majority of the fastest males are playing football. Apart from speed specialists, baseball isn’t picking players from the top of the heap there. (Whereas there’s not a lot for a woman who is just really fast to do. Sure you can be an Olympic runner, but that hasn’t stopped men from also playing baseball.)

  9. BobbyCheesburger said...

    “Half of all baseball fans are women”

    This just isn’t true. I’m sorry. I don’t care if half of the people who actually attend games are women. I don’t care if they can claim half of merchandise sales are to women. I ESPECIALLY don’t care if Hello Kitty is doing an MLB partnership.

    They say that half of video game players are women, too. Well, ya know… I spent 120 hours playing Mass Effect and my girlfriend plays Bejeweled on her iPhone. Guess what? We both count exactly the same on the survey!

    Yes, I know that there are hardcore female baseball fans. Lots of them. I just hate those kinds of studies where the result clearly doesn’t line up with reality.

    • RadBravita said...

      You are obviously not well read enough to understand studies and/or research.
      I have been a baseball fan (female) for over 20 years and my daughter, several of her friends(female) are Mass Effect players (also computer programmers as well), and also they (females) make up a large portion of the attendance at events such as Dragon Con, PAX, RTX and others.
      Like it or not, you can’t claim total control over “men’s” activities any longer. Please climb out from under your chauvinistic rock.

      • Dorsey said...

        You start off with a personal attack, saying he doesn’t understand “studies and/or research”, then you spend the next paragraph justifying it with anecdotal statements about the personal experiences of yourself and your family.

        I can’t tell if you’re trolling or just stupid.

  10. james wilson said...

    It’s not even close, but hope springs infernal in the breast of the beta male.

    There are, at least, six major levels of baseball for each player to pass through on the way to the lowest order or professional ball, where there are five more. Women are capable of being extraordinarily competitive, which all successful baseball players are, but to their credit, after bumping up against men in this sport, they know they do not belong. This is a thing most guys have to face themselves sooner or later, but the women get it right away because they have better evidence. Besides, as a man said, the difference between the sexes is that given a choice between catching a fly ball and saving an infants life the woman will save the infant every time.

    • Anon21 said...

      beta male

      Hello! Go back to your PUA wasteland, you flaming pile of garbage. Nobody in the normal world wants to hear what you think about anything.

      • james wilson said...

        Women do not respect white knights, betaboy, and they also have a better understanding of their physical limitations than you do. Anyone who played baseball at a high level understands limitations, his own. The only people who wear the preposterous idea that women can play with men are betaboy non players who didn’t make the second cut in little league.

  11. Plucky said...

    Focusing on pitchers is probably a tougher slog than position players- beyond velocity, height and hand size are a real physical problem. Getting enough movement for an ML-quality pitch involves having big hands and really long fingers. Also, it’s really tough for any pitcher under 6′ to get taken seriously by ML franchises.

    A position player would be far more likely in my opinion, in part because there are more ways for a position player to help a team win that aren’t contingent on physical size. At the raw physical level, to hit for AVG/OBP what you need is pitch recognition and quick reactions, areas I’d think the gender gap would be smaller. In terms of reaction times for a hitter, high level softball is pretty close to high level baseball. Lack of HR power is not a dealbreaker at all to have a succesful or even elite offensive career (see Gwynn, Ichiro, etc).

    I do think you’re on the right track with tennis though- the qualities that make for an elite tennis star are the ones that would tend towards a plus-defending up-the-middle, slap-hitting to doubles power, good eye type of player. It’s also much less of a problem if you’re only 5’9″. To me it’s a lot easier trying to imagine Serena Williams holding down 2B than it is to imagine Jenny Finch on the mound for real.

    • BobbyCheesburger said...

      “In terms of reaction times for a hitter, high level softball is pretty close to high level baseball.”

      Wait, what? You don’t see the enormous difference between hitting a 77 MPH softball, and hitting a 98 MPH hardball that’s half the size? The gap is gargantuan.

      • Matthew Murphy said...

        The mound is much closer to home plate in softball than baseball. A low-90s fastball thrown from 60.5′ will reach home plate in about the same time as an upper-60s softball from 46′. Therefore, softball and baseball hitters have about the same time react to the pitch once it is thrown.

    • BobbyCheesburger said...

      “In terms of reaction times for a hitter, high level softball is pretty close to high level baseball.”

      Wait, what? You don’t see the enormous difference between hitting a 77 MPH softball, and hitting a 98 MPH hardball that’s half the size? The gap is gargantuan.

      *

      • Anon21 said...

        Well, read the sentence you’re quoting. The commenter said “reaction times,” not “hand-eye coordination.”

      • RadBravita said...

        Go back to your chauvinistic rock, until you learn how to read and comprehend. No one cares what an imbecile like you may come up with.

  12. Mike Harber said...

    I recently read a great book called “the Sports Gene” by David Epstein. He devoted a chapter to just this argument, not specifically about baseball but high level athletics in general. While the conclusion ultimately sides with the argument of genetic differences making it incredibly unlikely that women ever catch up to men in the realm of general athleticism, there is a special and noteworthy difference between the sexes when it comes to throwing ability, a natural requirement in baseball. The finding is that in just about every physical and athletic trait, women differ from men by about 10%-15% (running, jumping, endurance, etc..) except for throwing ability, where men and women have a 3 standard deviation difference in ability. literally 999 of of 1000 men can throw harder than the average woman. consider the world records in the Javelin throw….the men’s WR is 40% further than the women’s despite the fact that the implement is also 25% heavier.

  13. Paul G. said...

    The point about the first woman in MLB would be making a lot of money from endorsements, even if she was a scrub, would make the effort more appealing to a female athlete. And it is not like scrubs on the major league level are paid poorly either.

    But it is still a steep hill to climb as first she would need to accomplish enough on the AAA level that it wouldn’t seem like a cheap stunt, and the team would want to deal with the circus involved. Jackie Robinson caused a circus but Jackie was a really good player so it was worth it. To bring up the first woman MLBer with the real potential that she will fail horribly really isn’t all that great for the team or for anyone else involved really. She will have to earn it. Hopefully she wouldn’t want it any other way.

    Still, compared to many Olympic sports where the money can be very good and the competition is easier, going the baseball route seems more of a lottery ticket.

    • RadBravita said...

      All players have to earn it.
      Why would a woman be any different? That’s the problem I have with this entire thing. If any woman were playing throughout her youth and into the minors, why would she be any different than a man?
      You can not discriminate against her because she is female, just as you couldn’t against the first Japanese, Chinese, Latino, etc in the majors. Period.
      Every player is treated equally, but until males in the majors and the public realize this, it will be an eternity until a woman wants to be put through that kind of scrutiny. Simply because it’s BS.

  14. Jfree said...

    I really hope some team has the cojones to DRAFT a woman – and keep drafting them. If they make it, great. If they don’t, then draft some more. Theory is all kind of irrelevant. Excuses are irrelevant. Separate league for women is irrelevant (and long-term as destructive to ‘women in MLB’ as Negro leagues were to integration – just delays things). A team has to just go ahead and do it. That is what will shut up the peanut gallery. Of course, MLB teams haven’t even drafted a lefty male for any field position other than 1B/OF for 100 years so it’s probably not wise to hold one’s breath waiting for MLB to exhibit ‘courage’.

    I doubt that MLB will ever become statistically ‘integrated’ with equal numbers of men/women – because I do think that the gender skill distribution patterns that exist in a whole bunch of fields (males have much wider distribution around ‘average’ than women do – which is one reason why men will tend to dominate fields that select from one end of a spectrum) also exist with baseball skills. But it is long past time for baseball to recognize that artificial habits/traditions simply don’t make much sense – especially if baseball wants to reverse its decline here in the US.

    And no – a single team drafting (but not signing) a female (daughter of a coach) 20 years ago doesn’t count. Nor does a single publicity stunt during the 1950′s.

    To MLB – draft a woman next week in some round. If that happens (don’t hold your breath), I think MLB will be gobsmacked at the response. And whichever team acts first will secure a serious advantage (both in marketing itself and who knows in four years on-field)

      • RadBravita said...

        Bobby- continue stuffing your pathetic mind with cheeseburgers. That’s all your brain is made of to constantly spout nonsensical discriminatory crap.

    • Cam Winston said...

      // Of course, MLB teams haven’t even drafted a lefty male for any field position other than 1B/OF for 100 years so it’s probably not wise to hold one’s breath waiting for MLB to exhibit ‘courage’. //

      I’m sorry, but was that entire post intended to be read as sarcasm? I cannot imagine you were being serious.

      I mean, you KNOW why LHers aren’t middle infielders, right? And why women haven’t been drafted, right?

      • Jfree said...

        I know exactly why lefties haven’t been drafted – and why women haven’t been drafted. It’s the same reason why blacks weren’t drafted for decades. Because MLB is constipated by tradition and excuses and teams are paralyzed into stupidity if they ‘do anything different’.

        None of this has anything to do with whether some 30th round pick will ‘make it to the majors’. They don’t now – and no one pretends that they are expected to be anything other than org filler. Nor does it have anything to do with ‘cost’ (those late picks cost roughly nothing – and are paid poverty level wages – and the publicity would more than pay for that). So don’t pretend that somehow a woman or a lefty MI needs to somehow be ‘MLB-capable’ if they are drafted in the 30th round.

        The NFL doesn’t seem to have a problem drafting TE’s now – who haven’t even played FOOTBALL in college. And until MLB actually drafts a woman or a lefty MI; then there won’t be any woman or lefty MI with baseball experience in college/HS. This is purely a chicken/egg problem. And MLB is just the chicken.

      • BobbyCheesburger said...

        I’m starting to get the feeling JFree actually doesn’t know why there aren’t lefty infielders.

        Jfree: A lefty MI would have to turn across his body to throw to 1st base. Not saying it would be IMPOSSIBLE to have a lefty MI, but you would just be putting them at an automatic disadvantage and therefore severely limiting their chances of making it in MLB.

      • Jfree said...

        I am very aware that in some situations a lefty MI’s throwing motion is more difficult than a righty’s. In other situations, it is reversed (eg easier for a lefty 2B to throw to a SS covering 2B). And those situations can even be predictable and change during the game – which could create opportunities to manage them and create an advantage. And at the plate, a natural lefty has a pretty significant platoon advantage over both a natural righty and a learned lefty v a right-handed pitcher.

        Which is all pretty irrelevant until – coaches allow lefties to play positions. So that the decision can actually be made on the basis of – you know – evidence. Rather than perpetual repetitions of this is always the way we’ve done it and I can pull all sorts of support for that out of my derriere to justify doing things exactly the same way.

  15. 21_22 said...

    One of the things thats been said about the differences in reaction times between softball and baseball and the inability for someone like a pujols to hit a softball is that a person doesnt just react to the ball, but to the entire pitching motion. a player’s neuromuscular system has been trained with 1000s of repetitions to specialize at one thing. thus, i have a hard to imagining that a women that spent those 1000s of reps in softball instead of baseball will ever make it in the majors. if there is ever a women in the majors, they likely will have spent their child hood playing baseball instead of softball.

    • BobbyCheesburger said...

      If you put Albert Pujols in the toughest softball league in the world, he would be hitting around .600 within two weeks. With a shitload of homers and exactly ZERO strikeouts.

      If you put the best softball player in the world into MLB, she would almost certainly instantly be the worst player in the major leagues within two weeks.

      I want women in MLB. But these are facts.

  16. Carl said...

    The averages wont matter, it’s only the elite that count. We need just 1 woman (or Indian give the movie that’s coming out) to make the team, whether as a pitcher or as a slick-fielding, not hit SS. If my now-6 year old daughter is the first, that’s okay. Yours can be the second.

    Then, just like the Dodgers dominated at both the gate and the pennant, that team will also reap the rewards.

    • BobbyCheesburger said...

      “We just need a slick fielding, no-hit SS to make the team.”

      I’m sorry, but WHAT team? Even “NO HIT” shortstops are still expected to hit .200
      I don’t care if Sally Baseball was as good a fielder as Ozzie Smith, if she hit .050, she wouldn’t be on a big league club.

  17. David P Stokes said...

    “I’m sorry, but was that entire post intended to be read as sarcasm? I cannot imagine you were being serious.

    I mean, you KNOW why LHers aren’t middle infielders, right? And why women haven’t been drafted, right?”

    He doesn’t even seem to know that there wasn’t a draft of amateur baseball talent 100 years ago.

    And I have no idea what he meant by the follow-up comment about tight ends not playing football in college.

    • Jfree said...

      The reality is that lefties were barred from MI and C when the AL and NL merged to form MLB in 1902. They did that in order to ‘allocate’ players by shortcut from the existing ‘farm league’ teams of the NL that were to be raided once by the AL teams before the players could be scouted. No lefty MI/C was signed by a minor league team from that point on – protected from challenge by MLB’s anti-trust exemption. And then perpetuated by the draft once minor leagues became a complete puppet.

      The only existing lefty C at the MLB level at the time (Jiggs Donahue) was moved to 1B for the rest of his career. The best lefty C (Jack Clements with a career JAWS comparable to Yadier Molina, Victor Martinez, and Roy Campanella) had just retired – so he remains the only example of a lefty C. Now conveniently dead.

      So yes – unlike you – I actually KNOW why lefties are restricted to 1B/OF. You OTOH can merely spout whatever nonsense has been spouted for the last 100 years – which basically amounts to ‘there haven’t been any lefties at MI/C for 100 years which is proof that they can’t play those positions. Don’t you KNOW that?’

      And re TE’s and lack of football experience. Women don’t play baseball. They play softball. That lack of experience is used as evidence of ‘they can’t play’. Same as above. And conveniently ignored is — MLB has an anti-trust exemption and can and does quite legally use any and all methods to crush any BASEBALL competition. Which is a major reason softball is the alternative.

    • Jfree said...

      Personally I don’t much care whether a woman actually ‘makes it’ (presumably to MLB). What I despise however is justifying and defending the hurdles that prevent anyone from even having the opportunity. Which is why my main focus is the draft itself. That is the entry point to professional baseball. That is where MLB teams quite deliberately choose to sign NO ONE (for roughly 20 of their ‘picks’). Where every single MLB team chooses to sign NO ONE 20 times per year – rather than ‘risk’ drafting a woman.

      • BobbyCheesburger said...

        Imagine you are a left handed shortstop. A ground ball is hit to the hole between short and third. You range to your right and field the ball cleanly. You now have two choices. You can either do a 270 degree turn and throw to 1st while moving away from 1st base. OR. You can completely stop momentum, turn your back to 3rd and fire to 1st. But will you have enough on the throw to beat the runner in that situation? Probably not, depending on how hard the grounder was.

      • BobbyCheesburger said...

        Mark Buehrle was drafted in the 38th round.
        Jorge Posada was drafted in the 24th.

        You’re suggesting that these draft picks are entirely meaningless, but they’re really not. It’s not reasonable to suggest an MLB team waste a draft pick simply because it will make people feel good.

        Who would they even draft? A softball player? I guess your football analogy is suggesting that an MLB team draft someone who has never played baseball. Which is ridiculous. A Tight End is told “Run here, hit this guy, catch the ball.” and can get by on physicality alone. A baseball player NEEDS to have a very finely tuned, very specific set of skills before they should even be allowed on a field at ANY professional level. That’s how you end up with the 1st baseball onfield death in a loooong time.

      • Jfree said...

        Read what I wrote. Teams do not even SIGN many of their draft picks. And in most of those cases, they know ahead of time that they are not going to sign them. They draft that name to ensure that they can blacklist a group of players (still going to college) if any new competitor league decides to recruit from that part of the potential player pool. Part of the draft has nothing to do with baseball at all. It is all about MLB exerting its anti-trust muscle so that owners can get richer from media contracts.

        And yeah – in year one, it would mean drafting NCAA All-American softball players and sending them to rookie league. But the next day, HS and colleges throughout the country would start setting up baseball camps and maybe baseball leagues – and within a year or two – that first-mover would get their choice of the best baseball players.

    • Tim said...

      Mark Buehrle was drafted in the 38th round.
      Jorge Posada was drafted in the 24th.

      You’re suggesting that these draft picks are entirely meaningless, but they’re really not. It’s not reasonable to suggest an MLB team waste a draft pick simply because it will make people feel good.

      Mike Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round just to make people feel good, and it worked out OK. (Unfortunately there isn’t a 62nd round anymore. This would have been a good idea in the unlimited-draft era, now I’m not so sure.)

      As for who to draft, I’m not sure who’s draft eligible vs tryouts, but I’d like to see a team give somebody like Maya Moore or Angel McCaughtry a shot.

      • BobbyCheesburger said...

        MLB holds open scouting tryouts every year. If Elizabeth Grandslam walked into open tryouts and started lacing doubles all over the outfield, I’m pretty sure people would take notice.

        I’m all for encouraging women to play baseball. But until there is a woman who proves she belongs on the diamond, all you’re doing is jerking off.

  18. Mike said...

    The pitch worked only b/c it was the first time the hitters ever saw it. There is a reason there aren’t many submarine style pitchers. It just isn’t a significantly superior way to get hitters out.

    • BobbyCheesburger said...

      Because 2014 Equality or something. If there is something that only men are doing, it is now necessary for women to do it as well.

      • sarcasmftw said...

        cause it would be interesting? Cause there’s no reason there shouldn’t be a woman, and given the fullness of time, there will probably be at least one woman with the necessary physical abilities to play MLB at a very high level, and it would be a shame to miss out on her just cause of some silly prejudice.

      • RadBravita said...

        No- women have been equal to men a long time before 2014. Nice of you to take notice this late in the game though.

        Drafting women as position players would be a great start by MLB to give youth leagues and on up to greatly influence young women/girls to play baseball instead of being forced to go the softball route and develop their talent.
        MLB has the most influence and financial resources to get something like this started/done, however, as long as it is a “boys’ club”, nothing will change.

        It takes a lot of publicity and positive outcry for women to join the sport for any kind of change to happen and I hope that with continued articles and education on what women can do to impact the game with their skill, we can make this a reality sooner rather than later.

  19. watwatwrsrsly said...

    Dude, I wrote a comment in the last article about the 10% difference in objective sports like running and moat likely sprinting. It’s a ginormous hurdle; the world’s best female sprinter/distance runner is equivalent to a token ok D1 male athlete.

    And most evidence shows sports involving the upper body to be even more markedly different between the two sexes.

    I’m a big advocate for treating women well and for women’s rights. However, I’m extremely objective and also have no horse in this game. I also know more about medicine and human physiology than you have in your right pinky unless….well no unless
    Thanks college science courses and medical school.

    • watwatwrsrsly said...

      And yes. I’m on a phone so typing quickly yields mistakes in orthography and grammar as can be observed above.

  20. watwatwrsrsly said...

    Be aware that Moyer’s pitches have crazy action on them. 84mph is not 84mph is not 84mph. Look at tennis serves: women can approach men in serve speed occasionally but their balls don’t have the topspin or sidespin that heavy male serves do.

    Also, if women improve X%, wouldn’t men also imrpove the same X%? Duh
    I’m not going to expound anymore because illogical people irk me. Drink the kool aid if you want to though.

    • RadBravita said...

      I hear you and I also have advanced degrees in science. Regardless of the 10% increase in strength or speed, there are players in the majors right now that a number of women could compete with, if given the opportunity. I stated above about the number of poor defensive 3B and average offensive players in the game that any number of women could replace.
      The fastest woman in the world would not have to be on the field to be in the majors. Obviously, the fastest men in the world aren’t, therefore, why is this argument in the article?

      There are plenty of other skills in baseball that are highly valued and translated well to success if you pay attention.

      By the way, you don’t have to have advanced degrees from medical school to acknowledge this.

      • Cam Winston said...

        // there are players in the majors right now that a number of women could compete with, if given the opportunity. //

        Name one. One.

  21. Mitch said...

    With the ever increasing understanding of pitch framing I think catcher may be the real open door for a woman to make it to MLB.

    • BobbyCheesburger said...

      Disagree. Another poster cited research earlier that showed throwing strength is the area where women are actually most disadvantaged physically. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it certainly passes the smell test based on my own personal observations. My guess is that a female catcher would get ran on till the cows came home.

      I say 2B is the way to go. Either that or LF, but she’d have to be one of the greatest OBP players ever to justify that position.

      • Tim said...

        My guess is that a female catcher would get ran on till the cows came home.

        Yet again, that wouldn’t be much of a loss to the Twins.

  22. athlinksresearch said...

    FYI, a lot more girls “race” in local 5K–half marathon races because they like the social aspect. But the average time differential between these female joggers and their sedentary male counterparts is much greater than between olympic female and male athletes.

    Another factor is, and this is a politically incorrect but true statement, female athletes are much less competitive than male athletes at HS, college, and sub-professional levels.

    Supporting evidence: difference between professional male and female athletes is 10% in running. Thus, difference between equivalently skilled males and females at HS, college, and sub-professional athletes should be 10% also, correct?

    Wrong.

    Go to a big D1 college and you’ll have super slow women making the track and cross country teams while the men are about 20% faster.

    Go to a competitive HS and girls will make varsity while training only a few months a year. Boys will have to train intensely all year long to make it. Our cross country team had like 8 girls. To make varsity you need to be top 7. Thus, just beat one person! On the other hand, our boys team had like 25 guys. And this was a competitive team, all-state in an above-average speed state.

    • Matthew Murphy said...

      If you’re going to try to convince everyone that women are at more than a 10% athletic disadvantage, you’re going to have to do better than claiming that big D1 colleges have “super slow” women on the track team and that your high school only had like 8 girls on the cross country team.

  23. BobbyCheesburger said...

    The people arguing that MLB teams should give female softball players a crack at a roster are living on Jupiter.

    The most reasonable action you could argue would be to get some WNBA players into the NBA. I mean, we’re talking about an already established professional league that exists in coordination with the men’s league. And yet we’re still Decades away from a WNBA player to be able to compete in the NBA, if ever. If Lisa Leslie can’t make the NBA, “Jenny All American Wisconsin Right Fielder” doesn’t have a snowflakes chance in hell of making even a AA roster.

    Suggesting an MLB affiliate let a woman who’s never played baseball at even a collegiate level on the field is stupid as all get out.

    • Tim said...

      Basically everybody in rookie ball has never played baseball at a collegiate level. How come the boys are special?

    • Cam Winston said...

      // Suggesting an MLB affiliate let a woman who’s never played baseball at even a collegiate level on the field is stupid as all get out. //

      As is the notion that some imaginary woman exists who can throw a fastball not only as hard as Jamie Moyer (at the time, the slowest FB in MLB) but who has his pinpoint control, his mastery of placing any of his four pitches anywhere in the zone he wanted, and at any count. And, that she can chase down bunts down the 3B line as well as outrun batters who bunt down the 1B line.

      Chances are she’ll be as realistic as the guy who was just as athletic, quick and had the same basketball IQ as Michael Jordan during his MVP years, so he would be able to shut him down. (the writeups on pre-knee injury Ralph Sampson would provide endless internet geeks to swear that all the evidence would show that Sampson would be the guy to shut down Jordan. Look at the possible numbers!. Don’t laugh, on par with presuming a woman would make it in MLB)

  24. Cam Winston said...

    // Basically everybody in rookie ball has never played baseball at a collegiate level. How come the boys are special? //

    Other than physical dominance over girls? Other than physical superiority in every possible aspect of the game?

    • Jfree said...

      Yes – baseball is clearly the sport for only supreme athletes. Finely sculpted machines like – Bartolo Colon.

      This tangent of the argument really is funny.

      • Cam Winston said...

        Bartolo Colon is physically dominant, as an MLB pitcher, to any female on planet earth. In pretty much every aspect of pitching, actually. Any and all aspects.

        FYI, physical dominance does not equal beauty. That’s remedial stuff, btw.

        I’m starting to think Bobby was right, you are drunk.

    • RadBravita said...

      Clearly, you are another ignorant discriminatory male who needs more education.

      JFree has the right idea.

      You need to climb back under the rock with the cheeseburger “brain” until you learn how to have an intelligent conversation without being chauvinistic in every aspect.

      • Tim said...

        Insulting the other posters is not helpful, even when they make terrible points.

      • Cam Winston said...

        Apparently the drinks are free in some parts of the country (or maybe people are posting from Bizarro world, where women are NOT physically inferior vis-a-vis sports and do NOT have less muscle mass than men).

        FYI, ladies, men can’t have babies. It’s not offensive to speak factual truths. And that women have less muscle mass is a factual truth. Put down the whiskey.

  25. kilroy69 said...

    The major problem any woman will ever have is changing their eye level on the release point. Unless they played baseball from the start they are going to be used to the release point of a softball pitch that is coming at them up to 103mph. For some woman to overcome these problems would be a modern miricle.

  26. Hamranhansenhansen said...

    The physical obstacle for women in baseball is the men in baseball. If there were really a reason why a woman couldn’t make it in the Major Leagues, then there wouldn’t be so many stupid things said when a man is asked if a woman can make it in the Major Leagues.

    Women can’t run? WTF? Florence Griffith Joyner can’t get down the line fast enough? You know how slow the typical catcher or pitcher or 1st baseman is?

    The main obstacle is psychological. Nobody could lift 500 pounds in competitive weightlifting until a coach put 500 pounds on the bar and told the lifter it was 499. Then he lifted the 500 pounds. After that, lots of people lifted 500 pounds.

    So if you tell young girls they can’t grow up to be MLB players, then young girls won’t grow up to be MLB players.

    I think a woman will break in to MLB as a pitcher and a generation later there will be lots of women in MLB. I say as pitcher because she could be a knuckleballer in the AL and the question of throwing hard and the question of hitting would be moot. She would only have to prove herself by getting batters out. That is the path that seems to be the clearest one. But out of the young girls who watch her and are inspired, there will be some 95 mph throwers and great hitters who simply didn’t know they weren’t supposed to be able to do that.

    Any man who says women can’t do this — just ask him to fight a female Marine or police officer, and then take him to a female doctor afterwards to get stitched up and bones set.

    Another thing that needs to be talked about is why there are 750 MLB players and apparently, all of them are straight. Statistically, 75 of them should be gay. Are the 75 gay players in the closet, or are they being artificially kept out of the Major Leagues?

    • BobbyCheesburger said...

      There does not exist on Planet Earth a woman who could play herself onto an MLB roster at the present time. All I’m hearing in these comments is that men are holding women back and they could play to if they were given the chance. So, go ahead and tell me EXACTLY which women you think can make it in MLB, and who they are going to replace. I’ll wait.

      “Any man who says women can’t do this — just ask him to fight a female Marine or police officer, and then take him to a female doctor afterwards to get stitched up and bones set.”

      Oh, lord. Give me a break. Expecting an untrained man to fight a female Marine is like expecting an untrained woman to break into Major League BasebaOH WAIT

      • Jfree said...

        There does not exist on Planet Earth a woman who could play herself onto an MLB roster at the present time. All I’m hearing in these comments is that men are holding women back and they could play to if they were given the chance.

        There does not exist on Earth a man who could play himself onto an MLB roster at the present – unless he is currently playing in AA or AAA right now. And you can take that right down each level to rookie league. And no one on Earth can play at rookie league level unless they have been drafted and signed by some MLB team.

        Are you seriously arguing on the basis of absolutely no evidence that there is no woman who has the skills to possibly play at rookie league level? That is clearly a nonsense argument. It may well be that women can’t play at even that level – but the only way to find out and to make a valid argument against is going to be to draft them and sign them and send them to rookie league to see whether they can or not. The ONLY reason that that hasn’t happened is because no MLB team has ever drafted and signed a woman. MLB may have all sorts of excuses why they haven’t – but none of those excuses is based on actual evidence.

    • BobbyCheesburger said...

      Oh, and about the 75 gay MLB players. I’m sure there are quite a few closeted players, but just because 1 in 10 men is gay, doesn’t necessarily mean 1 in 10 MLB players is gay. Statistical anomalies exist within highly specialized groups of people.

      • Tracy said...

        Gays would like you to think 10% is a factual number, but the real number is 2-3%.

    • watwatwrsrsly said...

      The fastest male HS sprinter in each state is faster than the fastest woman ever. In the history of the world. And professional runners are all doping. Look it up.

      You’re telling me that physchological factors are greater than physiological ones in baseball. Can’t argue against that. One gold star for illogical comment of the thread.

      • BobbyCheesburger said...

        Come on dude, if we just told girls to *~bELieVe iN TheMSeLvES~* they would be dominating this league.

  27. Vizque? said...

    “Perhaps outfielder Iori Miura will someday manage to translate her 2013 success–a .407/.515/.536 slash and 27 of 30 stolen bases–from the JWBL to an independent league with greater pitching talent. She already has nine doubles, six steals and a 1.815 OPS in 36 plate appearances this JWBL season.”

    Yes, Iori > Yuki Kawabata. Slightly. :/

  28. LongTimeFan said...

    I totally believe that women can and eventually will play in the majors – it’s just a matter of time and opportunity, getting beyond sexism and logistics.

    There is no one-size-fits-all in baseball, that’s part of the game’s beauty – the vast array of of tools and body types. A 6-foot, 175 lb women with speed, defensive prowess, compact swing, plate discipline who hits to all fields, steals bases and plays with energy and passion, is every bit capable of a successful major league career as her male counterpart. The talent is out there, and the time is now to start the development process to make it possible.

    • Cam Winston said...

      // A 6-foot, 175 lb women with speed, defensive prowess, compact swing, plate discipline who hits to all fields, steals bases and plays with energy and passion, is every bit capable of a successful major league career as her male counterpart. The talent is out there //

      It is?
      Do tell. MLB scouts would be interested in cheap signees who can fit the bill.
      ~3 billion females on earth…please name one who meets that criteria.

  29. Carl said...

    What about as a follow-up the physical attributes that would help a woman playing baseball? Better balance? Great flexibility?

  30. terracool said...

    RIght idea, but this column is about the wrong conversation. Why are we talking about what it would take for a woman to play MLB? Why does the article speculate on the acrobatic alignment of this kind of woman and that kind of physique and this exact role in that exact set of circumstances to conclude that there is no reason that women shouldn’t be able to play in MLB.

    The topic of a lone woman in the MLB should wait another 20-30 years. In the meantime, get rid of the softball industry and let girls start playing baseball from the youngest ages on up. The problem with women in MLB isn’t that the exact right set of circumstances has arisen to allow ONE woman to crack the 25th spot on a team somewhere. It’s that women get to that age with little or no opportunity to even have played baseball in an organized and training structure.

    It’s premature to try to wrangle one exact type of person into the spot. Use the pulpit of this space to ask why girls and women still play softball at all. Because it’s more genteel and safer? What? Have you seen the hardware those women wear into the batter’s box? The day of safer sport is gone. Women played baseball 100 and 150 years ago in droves. There were teams all over the US until somehow softball became the only acceptable faux-baseball for “ladies”.

    Let’s get the girls back to playing baseball. Women’s softball at high levels isn’t even watchable – I used to play and can’t stand to watch it because it’s so dang boring. Fast pitches and slow everything else. Thanks for all the 1-0 games. If they played baseball as girls, they might even grow up to be MLB fans.

    But let them get started young in honing the baseball skills instead of asking them to translate softball skills and muscle memory and then wonder why none have cracked an MLB roster yet. There’s a reason that the discussion of females in the NBA has died down – it’s called teh WNBA. Let girls and women develop their own infrastructure in baseball including a semi-pro level. Get a generation or two through that system and then see about MLB rosters.

  31. Stephen said...

    Just stop with this. There will not be women in the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, ever. If you’re going to argue for women competing with men, go to volleyball or golf or something. The best female competitor would have hundreds of male counterparts able to outperform her, it’s just never going to happen, stop, so pointless. Hope this article made you feel warm and fuzzy inside, overflowing with optimism.

  32. David Jones said...

    Years ago, someone — it might have been Peter Gammons — predicted that the first female major league player would be a soft-tossing lefty reliever. Maybe this fits into your argument about specialization. Every year teams keep mediocre relievers in their bullpens because of the platoon advantages. Maybe a female lefty with decent stuff could crack the barrier as a LOOGY.

  33. Mike said...

    I’d like to see a woman play MLB, as long as she was good enough and not just some publicity stunt.

    Having said that, I can’t imagine that it will ever happen.

    I think the author’s use of running to compare men and women in this case is a poor choice. Women’s lower body strength is a lot closer to men’s than their upper body strength.

    For a pitcher, he mentions some MLB pitchers who throw ~80mph. Even if there’s a woman who can throw that fast, what’s the likelihood that she could throw it with precision and movement ? Virtually nil.

    For a second baseman, what’s the chance that a woman could have the range, arm, speed and batting skills necessary to succeed in MLB ? Again, virtually nil.

    I like to use this as a litmus test for female vs. male athletes in sport where multi-dimensional skills are required: how would the top rung of female athletes / teams fare against an average High School male athlete / team ?

    Take basketball, for example. A WNBA team vs. an average h.s. boys team. Could the women’s skills trump the boy’s size, strength, speed and jumping ability ? I don’t think so. I think that women would be beaten handily.

    Two good sports to use, I think, are golf and tennis. They pass my test in that a woman pro would beat an average high school boy golfer of tennis player. Easily.

    Yet how do women pro tennis players and golfers compare with their male counterparts ? That’s easy, they don’t compare. The best female tennis player in the world probably couldn’t beat the 100th ranked male player and the best female golfer couldn’t make the cut (none have so far) at a PGA Tour event.

    Sorry, ladies. As I said right off the bat, I’d like to see it happen. But it ain’t happening.

    • CircleChange11 said...

      “A WNBA team vs. an average h.s. boys team. ”

      I think the WNBA kills the average HS boys team.

      I’m guessing you haven’t watched much HS basketball. The average HS basketball team ain;t much to brag about.

      • Mike said...

        My golf buddy said the same thing as you just did when I presented him with the scenario today. He couldn’t imagine high school boys beating professional women in basketball.

        Until I presented him with some facts.

        I went to a relatively small high school of 400 total students. The “average” high school is about twice that size.

        I watched that team plenty. 4 out of 5 starters could dunk a ball. They ranged from 5’10″ to 6’9″.

        When a woman dunks a basketball, it’s national news. ‘Cause it’s so rare.

        Half of them also ran on the track team. They could seriously run circles around professional females, even the 6’6″ forward.

        I see the WNBA professional females having an advantage in skill. That is to say, strategy and shooting.

        I see the boys having the advantage in speed, strength, and jumping ability.

        The women could not keep up with the boys on the break, nor could they get a rebound unless a ball happened to bounce right at them.

        My golf buddy remained unconvinced after my arguments, but the facts I laid out had an effect. He wasn’t arguing much after that.

        How ’bout you ?

  34. Andrea said...

    I am a female who loves golf and I played softball for many years and I agree that women are physically challenged in both these sports. Our boobs get in the way of getting a proper handle on things, it’s true.
    Enjoyed the article.
    Andrea

  35. Dave P said...

    As long as softball is the most popular bat-and-ball game for girls, it won’t happen. The sample size will be too small, as it is now.

    IF girls baseball ever supplanted softball, then I’m sure an MLB-quality woman would play in the majors a decade or two later.

  36. Go Nats said...

    I have read that Woman are more likely to survive disease, are less likely to contract disease, are more likely to survive car accidents, are less likely to be maimed in an accident, and recover from serious injuries quicker, so Woman do have some advantages physically over men. Those advantages lead to woman having a much longer life span, but I am unsure if these abilities would help much in baseball other than perhaps with less decline as they aged or less DL time.

  37. Hurtlocker said...

    I’d love to see it in my lifetime, I just don’t see it happening though. Most MLB players when they were young were the best players in sports against all the other boys. I don’t think there are many girls in HS that are better than all the boys is any given sport.

  38. Alex said...

    Why try to compare women’s fastball to men’s hardball? There are men’s fastball leagues out there. Let me tell you, many of the local teams even around where I live in Canada would slaughter the us women’s olympic team, and these are men who are too old, fat, injured, or bad to play baseball at a local level. Besides that, you can’t just cherry pick someone who seems like a good athlete. Greatness emerges from having a huge pool of people and weeding them out survival of the fittest style.

    So with that said, I could see a knuckleballer from Japan perhaps making it someday. There is a system there and the physical barrier is much much smaller for a knuckleballer. But that would be a one-off and not a sea change.

    The only way you see women on multiple teams’ rosters is if there is some kind of law or social change that forces the MLB to integrate women. And I actually think a co-ed league would be really interesting (ie. mandating each team to field and bat 3 women at all times), though I would not want to see it completely replace regular MLB play. Better yet, it would be fun to force MLB franchises to field 3 teams, a men’s, a co-ed, and a women’s team. Franchises could move players between them to try and maximize their pennant chances. There are lots of fun ideas that would shake things up without destroying what’s been built over hundreds of years.

    • BobbyCheesburger said...

      “It would be fun to force MLB teams to field 3 teams…There are lots of fun ideas that would shake things up without destroying what’s been built…”

      (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━━┻

  39. Jenstrom said...

    I called the commissioner’s office several months ago and left a question for Mr. Selig with his assistant. My question was, “What would the commissioner be willing to do to clear the path for women to play in the majors?” I never heard back.

    Bradley, perhaps you could call him (212-931-7800) and repeat my question, and get a campaign going to encourage others to do the same.

  40. Kevin said...

    There IS that ‘small’ problem with women, in that they can’t throw due to bone-length ratios, and other factors. Maybe 1B/DH. Now that would be a very tall, strong woman…….

  41. argonbunnies said...

    I have no idea what MLB’s rules say about the legality of the softball delivery; from what I know, it should be legal, but I’m no expert. If it were legal, I would love to see Jenny Finch come out of the Mets’ bullpen and blow weird rising pitches by hitters who hadn’t seen her before. (Or, well, I would if Finch hadn’t retired 4 years ago.) It’d be way better than watching some kid who throws 98 with no idea where the ball is going, mixing walks and homers with his strikeouts.

    I asked a college baseball pitcher about this last week; he agreed that MLB hitters would have trouble with a softball release point and ball movement, unless they saw it often enough to adjust.

    Sadly, Finch isn’t the only player I’d like to see but can’t. I’d like to see all those Roy Oswalt types who go undrafted because they’re too short. I’d like to see the guys who become Chad Bradford or R.A. Dickey early in their careers, rather than late. I’d like to see the guys learning screwballs from Mike Marshall. Despite its demystification (it’s basically a back-up slider, and Glanville claims Maddux already threw one), I’d love to see a Japanese pitcher who uses a gyroball.

    MLB scouts appear uninterested. They’re all competing with each other to get the best read on the 6’6″ dudes who throw 95. And as much as MLB teams today like to talk about how analytically savvy they are, many of them are lying (see Zduriencik in Seattle) and all of them, every single one, rely on their scouts.

    Perhaps some small-market innovator will make the leap one of these years and hire a scout who isn’t a traditional old baseball insider; or maybe they’ll sign a player without involving any scouts whatsoever. Maybe the lure of a screwball, knuckleball, gyroball, or rising softball-style pitch will persuade them to take a shot. I can hope…

    Thanks for reading. Now I’m off to watch Mets catchers try to get their gloves on the offerings from Mejia, Rice, Familia, and Black.

  42. Statistics don't lie said...

    Wow. Congrats on the number of comments!

    We would all agree that the woman who first merits a spot on an MLB roster will be an unusual physical specimen – in terms of talent and abilities. In terms of the Bell curve normal distribution, she would be on the extreme right end of the curve. She will be as common among women as Nolan Ryan types are among men. Odds are, the only way she will be found is by drastically increasing the female baseball player population.

    Guesstimations: If you can only draw 1/10 of 1% of the female population into competition you won’t find her in 500 years. If you can entice 25% of the female population to compete in fastpitch baseball, perhaps you find her within 30 years if you are lucky.

    So, start by abolishing girls softball everywhere on the globe and make them all play baseball. Next, find a way to interest 3 or 4 times as many girls as that. I think it is going to take girls hardball being as common as boys hardball. Then, it will take co-ed competition becoming the rule, not the exception. When HS and college girls are found that can compete at the same level as boys, these are the ones who will get the chance. Separate is not equal and MLB doesn’t need a study to tell them that.

    IMO, if a first female MLer is ever found, she will be a “AAAA” utility IF with max 150 ABs in a season over a career – a true 25th person on the roster. I think she will be a LH hitter and play in Ichiro’s style, but would be lucky to have BA of .200 or OPS of .450.

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