Archive for March, 2009

Vacation Update: Aging, UFL, and Gwinnett Stadium

As I mentioned, my blogging vacation doesn’t preclude occasional updates.

— My article on aging in baseball is now available from Journal of Sports Sciences. Here is the abstract.

Peak athletic performance and ageing: Evidence from baseball

Baseball players exhibit a pattern of improvement and decline in performance; however, differing lengths of careers and changes in rules and characteristics of the game complicate assessments of age-related effects on performance. This study attempts to isolate the impact of age on several player skills while controlling for relevant outside factors using longitudinal data from 86 seasons of Major League Baseball. The results indicate that players age in different skills in accord with studies of ageing in other athletic contests. For overall performance, multiple-regression estimates indicate that hitters and pitchers peak around the age of 29 – later than previous estimates. Athletic skills such as hitting and running peak earlier than skills that rely heavily on experience and knowledge, such as issuing and drawing walks.

— You can read why I think the United Football League (UFL) is more likely to succeed than many people believe in the April 09, 2009 issue of ESPN Magazine.

— I am quoted as a Gwinnett Stadium critic in the April 2009 issue of Atlanta Magazine. Commissioner Bert Nasuti thinks what the Board of Commissioners did—revealing its secret deal to the public a few days before approving it without opening the floor for discussion—was consistent with good representative democracy. I disagree.

— I offer my sincere thanks to the US Military Academy at West Point for hosting my visit to the school last week. It is an impressive place to visit, and I very much enjoyed my time there.

How Do You Celebrate Five Years? A Vacation

It’s hard to believe that I have been doing this for five years. I started blogging with one arm, while the other one held my infant daughter. She’s now in kindergarten. I’ve moved, I’ve had a second daughter, I’ve published one book, and I’m writing another; yet, nearly every morning of my life for the past five years has been spent staring at the content field of a blog post.

I haven’t written something every day, but it’s always been an option. And I have to be honest, it’s weighing on me. I can’t write the way I used to. I’m still sitting on posts that I had planned six months ago. I can’t give this up—I really do enjoy the outlet—but I need a break…a forced break. I’ve tried to take time off before, but nearly every time a big story breaks and I get pulled back in. So, I’ve decided to take a vacation (hiatus is probably the more appropriate term): no blogging for the next four months. I don’t care if Buzz Bissinger finds Jeff Francoeur buying human growth hormone in Gwinnett Stadium; I’m not going to comment here.

I won’t quit writing or commenting. I have a few articles in the works, and I may pop up from time to time to point out where articles and commentary are published. But, other than that, I won’t be posting here until August. This will also give me more time to spend on my current book.

Thanks for all of you who stop by to read what I have to say. I appreciate your support, and I look forward to returning to regular blogging in August.

Step 1: Learn the Basics

Excellent advice from Greg Mankiw:

Suppose that an 18-year-old student comes into a science classroom and says, “My grandmother is ill with a serious, rare, and hard-to-diagnose disease. I want to become a doctor to help figure out a cure.” What should the student study? Probably not this specific disease, at least at first. The place to start is with basic biology, chemistry, and so on. Only after these fundamentals have been mastered can the student go to medical school, become a doctor, and be in a position to study the illness that motivated him in the first place. Much the same is true with the study of economics.

College Athletics Monopsony

Here is a better (relative to this) economic analysis of the NCAA’s prohibition on paying players from Richard Vedder and Matthew Denhart.

Top-level college sports is big business, but very little of this flows to the student-athletes. Ohio State, for example, receives about $110 million in revenue each year from ticket sales, television rights, concessions, parking, logo sales, etc. — over one-fifth of what it receives in tuition revenue from its more than 50,000 students. And its basketball players are paid about $29,500 each.

In a competitive market, companies cannot exploit workers in this way for long, as rival firms will hire them away at higher salaries. In basketball, however, the NCAA cartel prevents that, dictating limits on pay (essentially college costs) and even penalizing transfers to other schools. Strict rules also prevent college athletes from signing lucrative endorsement deals or accepting gifts beyond a certain amount. Soon after entering the NBA, Mr. Durant further augmented his earnings by signing a $72 million deal with Nike; he inked other endorsement contracts with Gatorade, EA Sports and Upper Deck.

If all of that money from ticket sales and television rights isn’t going to student-athletes, where does it end up? In 2006, salaries for coaches and administrators accounted for nearly 32% of total athletic-department expenses. Many head football coaches at top universities earn five times the salary of their university president. At a time when most schools are tightening their belts with salary freezes, staff layoffs and the like, the University of Tennessee just announced it was going to start paying two assistant football coaches $650,000 or more each (the head coach makes $2 million). Jim Calhoun, head coach of the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team, recently made headlines when he launched into a tirade at a blogger who questioned his $1.6 million annual compensation. Those high salaries are financed from the talents of unpaid student-athletes. (Talk about income inequality.) So not only are the young being exploited, but the exploitation is being committed by their adult mentors.

Interesting Careers

I love the random things that you can find on Baseball Reference. Take, for example, the career of Robinson Cancel.

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That’s a long time between major-league appearances.

Don’t Pay College Athletes?

Andy Zimbalist says no to paying college athletes.

It is difficult in the extreme to imagine how a labor market for student-athletes would work. For instance, football teams in Division IA generally have 85 scholarship athletes plus some 30 walk-ons. Should all the players receive a wage? Only the starting 22 players, plus the punter and place-kicker? Of those receiving a wage, how much should they be paid? What about the players on the men’s basketball team? The women? Should the players sign contracts while seniors in high school? And what about the first violinist in the school orchestra or the leading thespians in school drama productions?…

It’s neither economically feasible nor ethically desirable to pay student-athletes.

The argument is not pay all players or pay none of them. Right now, a system where some athletes get in-kind transfers (scholarships), and others don’t is already in place as schools don’t give scholarships to every athlete. Has he not even heard of semi-pro sports? What do violinists or thespians have to do with this? Why not bring in the High-Q team while you’re at it? College artists are free to sell their work to wealthy alumni, and often do. If they generate revenue for the school, I’m all for paying them.

Erasing the dead-weight loss of monopoly is undesirable? Taking away captured surplus of a state-supported cartel is undesirable? I’m not seeing the obvious moral errors here.

Here’s how you do it. If your marginal revenue product is positive (MRP>0), you get paid; if not, you don’t. Some people get paid to produce fine art, others do it for free because they enjoy the activity. Athletics is no different, except for the fact that rules forbid exceptional college athletes from being paid more than a scholarship.

In terms of ethical behavior (on which Andy is no expert), I’m more concerned about the kids generating vast profits for their not-for-profit institutions to host big parties for wealthy alumni to gather for the school’s benefit than I am about the feelings of players who want to play for the sake of playing.

TP on Thin Ice?

Maybe Andruw Jones and Jeff Francoeur will never improve; but if they do, Terry Pendleton doesn’t look so hot.

Star-Telegram

Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is what makes the Rangers attractive.

“These guys have the system,” Jones said. “The hitting coach they’ve got, they work on the things they want to. We’ll see what happens.”

Third baseman Michael Young still expects Jones to have a good season, no matter where he ends up playing.

“He and Rudy have worked hard together,” Young said. “He’s not going to get a hold of Rudy’s system overnight, but he’s definitely got the ability, the experience and the know-how to master the system.”

AJC

During a three-day November tutorial with Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo in Texas, Francoeur changed the position of his hands, opened his stance a bit and widened his feet. The changes were to simplify his approach, improve his balance and help him see the ball better.

Why Bother?

AJC

With opening day at its new minor-league ballpark a month away, Gwinnett County officials are still scrambling to make sure fans who attend Sunday games can have a beer with their hot dog.

The County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday on two measures designed to help make that happen at the new home of the Gwinnett Braves. The first is a request to the state Department of Community Affairs to approve the stadium, an adjacent mixed-use development and the county’s convention center and arena in Duluth for certification under an economic development program that allows Sunday sales for qualified projects.

The other strategy is an amendment to the county’s alcohol sales law that would allow Sunday sales so long as at least half of the stadium’s food and beverage sales come from food. County and state rules already allow Sunday sales at restaurants and similar establishments that are primarily in the business of selling food — not booze.

Why are County officials so concerned about this? What percentage of the concessions revenue go to the County from Sunday alcohol sales? 0%—the County gave away all concessions revenue rights to the Braves in the stadium lease. So, the County is going out of its way to make sure Liberty Media gets even more money.

It has to make one wonder: whom do the County Commissioners work for?

Another Interesting Statement

[W]e find that contending teams do pay more for scarce superstars…. The 40% premium paid by contending teams is especially interesting given that the conventional wisdom might imply otherwise…. Given that the expected extra revenue associated with making the playoffs may be worth about $11 million, paying such a player an extra $2.8 million should be considered a bargain.

Anthony C. Krautmann and James Ciecka. “The Postseason Value of an Elite Player to a Contending Team,” Journal of Sports Economics, 2009 10: 168-179.

Proud Moments in Fatherhood

Five-year-old daughter: How old will you be on your next birthday?

Me: 36

Five-year-old daughter: You’ll be as old as Chipper Jones!

Also, my two-year-old daughter likes to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” by herself.