TIME MLB

Could This French Shortstop Be the MLB’s First Female Player?

Melissa Mayeux, 16, became the first female player to be included in the MLB's international registry

After over 150 years, Major League Baseball might have taken a step closer to finding its first female player.

Melissa Mayeux, a 16-year-old shortstop on the French U-18 junior national team, made MLB history on Sunday as the first female player on the international registration list.

Her addition to the list means she is eligible to be signed on July 2, although MLB.com reported that it is unlikely she would be signed next month. However, the site says only players with serious potential to be signed usually make it onto the international registry. There is no official rule that women cannot play in the MLB.

If signed, Mayeux, who has been watched by the MLB’s Director of International Game Development Mike McClellan for two years, would probably not play professional baseball until she is 18. If she is not signed, she would still be able to play for a U.S. university.

Mayeux speaks little English and is, according to MLB.com, “unaware that her presence on the registry might be seen as newsworthy in the United States.”

TIME Baseball

The San Francisco Giants Could Become the First MLB Team to Ban Chewing Tobacco

Minnesota Twins v San Francisco Giants
Brace Hemmelgarn—Getty Images A general view of the exterior of AT&T Park following the game between the San Francisco Giants and the Minnesota Twins on May 23, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Players have been dipping for as long as anyone can remember, but that could soon change

A San Francisco city ordinance could make the Giants the first team in Major League Baseball to ban chewing tobacco on the field.

City supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to ban smokeless tobacco in playing fields throughout the city and specifically targeted baseball—a sport infamous for the player’s use of tobacco, according to a statement from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which pushed for the law.

The ordinance must pass one more vote and, if San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signs, the rule will be implemented on Jan. 1 2016—in time for the MLB baseball season.

Jess Montejano, a legislative aide for the ban’s chief sponsor, Supervisor Mark Farrell, told TIME that legislators began working on the ordinance in the beginning part of 2015 because “it’s a serious health issue” in which “kids are seeing their athletic heroes chewing tobacco on the baseball diamond.”

Montejano also added the San Francisco Giants “are fully aware of the intention” and that proponents of the ban believed the team would support MLB’s stance on the issue of chewing tobacco.

After the law was initially proposed in late Feb., MLB issued a statement saying that it “has long supported a ban of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level” and that it had been seeking “a ban of its use on-field in discussions with the Major League Baseball Players Association.”

A study published April 10 from the University of California San Francisco suggested that seeing players chewing tobacco was akin to product endorsement. It found that “modeling of smokeless tobacco use by…elite athletes is strongly associated with smokeless tobacco initiation among adolescent males.” The study also cited an NCAA statistic that found that 52.3% of collegiate baseball players tried smokeless tobacco at least once in 2012 to 2013.

When asked if the ban would essentially force players to quit, Montejano cited former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, who blames tobacco for his mouth cancer. “Schilling said it was the worst thing about his life and if he could change one thing from his younger years it would be to quit.”

TIME

What the New Faces in Your Baseball Team’s Opening Day Lineup Say About Its Chances in 2015

Compare your team's lineup to last season and see how the changes bode for this year

For baseball fans who do not follow off-season intrigue, Opening Day can feel a lot like the first day of school. Who’s that new kid at third base? And what happened to that guy who used to play left field?

On average, teams replace between three and four players in their Opening Day lineup each season. (3.6, to be exact.) But that figure varies widely from team to team and season to season. Of the 1,434 Opening Day lineups that TIME examined going back to 1960, 23 teams have kept the exact lineup from one season to the next, while 24 teams have swapped out eight or more of their previous season’s starters. (To be fair, that latter number includes the first season of expansion teams, who naturally have all new players.)

Here’s a quick picture of how much a team’s Opening Day lineup changes from year to year, going back to the 1960 season.

Changes to lineups, while often unavoidable, are decidedly bad for a team’s immediate outlook. There is clear correlation between the number of new players in an Opening Day lineup and the team’s winning percentage for that season.

See where your team falls on this curve by clicking or tapping the logo:

Lest you see a lot of new faces on your team and give up hope, there is a huge amount of variation in the data, and new faces can be a bonus for a stagnating team. Just ask the Dodgers, whose new shortstop, the veteran Jimmy Rollins, hit a clutch three-run homer yesterday to power them past the Padres.

For one thing, these charts measure the number of new faces on the Opening Day roster, which can include veteran pitchers like the Red Sox’s Clay Buchholz who finally moved to the top of the rotation. And plenty of teams with a turnover of six or more players have had successful seasons. It’s just less likely. It turns out there is, in fact, a lot of truth to the notion of a rebuilding year.

Methodology

A player’s appearance on an Opening Day roster is counted independent of what position he played, so players who move around the diamond are not counted as new faces. Players traded from one team to another do count as new, so a player making his first Opening Day appearance with a team is not necessarily a rookie.

The correlation between the number of new players on Opening Day and the team’s winning percentage for the season is -0.34. The distribution of each point is shown here with the line of best fit.

Data comes from Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com and Major League Baseball. For the portions of the data that come from Retrosheet, the following statement applies: “The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at www.retrosheet.org.”

TIME Baseball

Baseball to Players: Hurry the Heck Up

Baseball Chart
Lon Tweeten for TIME

New rules should quicken games and capture today's short attention spans

Opening day has arrived, and baseball’s 2015 story lines are set. The Washington Nationals are the favorite to win the World Series, according to the Vegas oddsmakers, mostly because of a starting pitching rotation that was already stellar, and then added free agent Max Scherzer to the mix this off-season (for a cool $210 million). You may have heard the Chicago Cubs went on a little spending spree, too, as they nabbed respected manager Joe Maddon and ace starter Jon Lester, whom Chicago signed to a six-year, $155 million contract. (Lester lost to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.) Sticking with the big contracts: the Miami Marlins signed power hitter Giancarlo Stanton to the richest deal in sports history, 13 years, $325 million. And the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, who turns 40 in July but will still make $22 million, returns from his PED sabbatical.

These (ridiculously rich) players and teams are worth watching. But for fans, a more pressing issue will unfold in 2015: baseball’s efforts to finally hurry up its act. The average time of a nine-inning Major League Baseball game in 2014 was three hours and two minutes, up from 1999 (two hours and 54 minutes) and way above 1981 (two hours and 33 minutes). The increase is the result of additional pitching changes–due to the rise of specialist relievers–and hitters spending more time square dancing in and out of the batter’s box.

That languorous pace hasn’t helped America’s pastime attract younger fans–one reason that new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has made faster play a priority. As 2015 season begins, hitters will be generally required to keep one foot in the batter’s box. And a stadium clock will count down the time between innings: a two-minute, 25-second break for locally televised games, and a two-minute, 45-second break for national ones.

Playing fast has its perks: just look at those World Series favorites, the Washington Nationals, in the graphic above. In 2014, Washington fell in the “quick and painless quadrant”—the Nats played relatively quick games, and won a lot. The Los Angeles teams, on the other hand, took their time. Sure, both the Dodgers and Angeles won their divisions in 2014. But do they have to play like traffic on the 405?

At least one star player has griped about the new rules. “I call that bullsh-t,” Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said during spring training about the batter’s-box policy. No, Big Papi, that’s progress. Baseball can’t afford to bleed any more fans. Hurry up, already.

MONEY Sports

This Multi-Billion-Dollar Business Is Trying to Get Your Kid Hooked

150403_EM_BaseballIndustry
Mitch Diamond—Alamy

In the quest for higher and higher profits down the line, the indoctrination must start young with this business—which is probably not at all what you think.

It’s … baseball.

For American kids today, the idea that baseball is the national pastime holds true only in the past. The number of kids who play baseball fell 24% during the ’00s, and it has continued to decrease since.

Unsurprisingly, the percentage of kids who are fans of the sport has been on the decline as well. In an ESPN Sports Poll conducted last year, 18% of 12- to 17-year-old Americans described themselves as avid baseball fans. That’s the lowest it’s been since the survey started being conducted in 1995. It’s also the first time ever that baseball’s level of fanaticism among kids was matched by that of (gasp!) Major League Soccer. Four in ten, meanwhile, say they are diehard NFL fans.

Still, baseball executives say other sports have little to do with kids losing interest in baseball. “Today, the fastest growing activity among young people is nothing,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred recently said, rather bizarrely, in a Sports Illustrated for Kids interview. He quickly clarified that “being involved with electronics and non-sporting activities” is largely why baseball has become less popular with kids.

In any event, baseball has fallen so far off most American kids’ radar that the problem is being openly discussed around the league. Newly adopted rules meant to speed up the game are aimed at removing the lulls and making the game more exciting for all fans—but especially for young people, what with their nonexistent attention spans. Teams across the country are also pumping up promotions and freebies to new heights to woo the next generation of spectators.

“I think we all recognize that we can’t live by the long-held premise that a child will automatically fall in love with baseball,” Boston Red Sox senior adviser Charles Steinberg said to the Boston Globe in early March. “We have to recognize that we are one of many options.”

With that in mind, the website of every Major League Baseball team has a section devoted specifically to kids—where else would you learn fun factoids about the team mascot?—and teams also encourage children to sign up for their special kids club programs. Membership is often free, and comes with perks like team swag, baseball cards, and access to discounted or free ticket promotions.

The Red Sox program, dubbed Kids Nation, used to cost $30, but this season ownership decided to make membership free for fans 14 and under. Each member gets a free ticket to Fenway Park (with an adult ticket purchase, of course), plus a 10% discount on team merchandise and “Exclusive Kid Nation Email Newsletters.”

Other MLB teams with free basic membership for kids programs include the Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Miami Marlins. The latter comes with buy-one, get-one-free tickets at select games—kids club members eat free at the ballpark at some games too.

Most teams try to upsell families on VIP kids club membership, which runs $20 and up and includes more perks and freebies. Other MLB franchises charge for all kids club memberships, though they don’t seem to be making money on the sales considering what’s in the package. For example, the Los Angeles Angels Junior Angels program costs $18 but comes with a voucher good for four tickets, plus a team shirt, socks, and shoelaces and a $5 gift card at the Angels Team Store. Meanwhile, the Seattle Mariners’ $15 kids club membership includes a team cap, cooler, activity book, and access to $1 tickets at select games.

Obviously, the short-term goal of these programs is to boost attendance and revenues for this season. Even though the programs may break even or lose money on the surface, they succeed in attracting more people out to the ballpark—and bringing them out more often—where they’ll undoubtedly fork over cash for parking, food, beverages, and souvenirs.

But wooing kids is hardly a short-term play. What baseball truly hopes is that kids programs and other child-centric marketing efforts help create lifelong fans who head out to the stadium, buy team merchandise, and watch on TV for decades to come. The idea is to hook them while they’re young with cheap tickets, free swag, face painting at games, and whatever else it takes. After all, few people wake up when they’re grownups and decide that they will suddenly become diehard fans of the Cincinnati Twins or San Diego Padres or whoever.

Data collected by the Red Sox indicates that people who went to games as children are nearly three times more likely than others to turn into “core” fans or at least go the ballpark a few times per season down the road. In his SI for Kids interview, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred agreed that it is absolutely essential to turn children on to baseball while they’re young: “Our research shows the two biggest determinants of fan avidity are did you play as a kid? And how old were you when your parents took you to the ballpark for the first time?”

MONEY millennial

8 Gen X Favorites That Millennials Scorn

Millennials will probably never understand why Gen X, or anyone, was once so enamored of U2, Gap, and these six other things.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that — no matter what Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys wore 25 years ago — Adidas is not cool, with sales faring especially poorly among young people. It’s not easy for any generation to accept that the zeitgeist has left it behind. (The Boomers still haven’t.) But with the oldest Gen Xers having reached 50 and the youngest well into their 30s, that conclusion looks unavoidable. Here are eight other things that Gen X loved, but that millennials just don’t seem to care about.

 

  • Saab

    1989 SAAB 900i
    Bob Masters Classic Car Images—Alamy 1989 SAAB 900i

    Oddly shaped, with a pathetic engine and the ignition inexplicably located on the floor: The Financial Times described Swedish automaker Saab as “the anti-brand brand.” Could it be any wonder that Generation X loved them? Saab sales climbed steadily throughout the early 1980s and, after a drop off in 1986, rebounded through much of the 1990s. The car took a star turn in such slacker classics as High Fidelity and Sideways. But as the FT concluded, “the commercial drawback of being an ‘anti-brand brand,’ of course, is that many people drive Saabs precisely because other people don’t.”

    Saab sales hit a wall in first part of the last decade, in part because GM, which acquired the brand in 2000, watered down the car’s distinctive flavor in an effort to expand its appeal. Saab essentially stopped production in 2011. Millennials, lukewarm on cars to start with, don’t seem to notice what they are missing, at least according to AutoGuide.com.

  • Michel Foucault

    French philosopher Michel Foucault
    AFP—Getty Images French philosopher Michel Foucault

    If you went to college in the 1980s or 1990s, chances are you smugly obsessed about (or just as smugly avoided) abstract yet strident discussions of the way language shaped our perception of the world around us. It was kind of like “checking your privilege” through abstruse academic jargon. If “the theory wars” no longer rage, maybe it’s because there is no one left to fight them. In 2010, just 7% of college students majored in the humanities, down about half since the late 1960s. Yale, which graduated 165 English majors in 1991, had just 62 in 2012. So what exactly do college students get overwrought about these days? Apparently, it’s who’s going to get that internship at Facebook.

  • Gap

    1990s UK Gap Magazine Advertisement with Miles Davis
    The Advertising Archives 1990s UK Gap Magazine Advertisement with Miles Davis

    It now seems strange that a mall store known basically for T-shirts, khakis and other basics became a fashion icon. But it just kind of happened. Here is writer Lucinda Rosenfeld’s take in Slate: “It’s hard to overstate the importance of black pants to young women in the early 1990s. Once you found a pair that fit perfectly — and maybe a good square-toe black ankle-boot to match — half the work of assembling a sleek, confidence-building wardrobe was done.” She goes on to explain that, while her favorite pair cost “a week’s salary” back in the day, her second favorite pair, which she wore three days a week, came from Gap. How did Gap — or The Gap as we used to call it — lose its lucrative role as the workhorse of 20-somethings’ closets? Perhaps anti-fashion could only be in fashion for so long. And the company has faced plenty of low-cost competition from chains like H&M and Uniqlo.

  • U2

    U2 Fans
    Daily Mail—Alamy

    How long is any rock band’s shelf life? U2 managed to remain cool longer than most — from at least the early 1980s through the 1990s and into the oughts. They even made Christian rock seem cool. But the jig was finally up last year when Apple’s decision to gift U2’s new album to iTunes users sparked a backlash. One obvious explanation is age — Bono is past 50. Another is the decline of guitar-oriented pop. But don’t overlook changes to the brand of U2’s homeland. Once associated with post-industrial poverty and violence, the Irish Republic traded its troubled but defiant image for computer chip factories and real estate speculation. Maybe U2’s social justice street cred went into the bargain.

  • Cameron Crowe

    SINGLES, Bridget Fonda, Matt Dillon, Kyra Sedgwick, Campbell Scott, 1992.
    Warner Bros—Courtesy Everett Collection SINGLES, Bridget Fonda, Matt Dillon, Kyra Sedgwick, Campbell Scott, 1992.

    The New York Times called Cameron Crowe “something of a cinematic spokesman for the post-baby boom generation” in 1992. At the time Crowe had Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Say Anything already under his belt, and was just getting ready to release Singles. (If you haven’t seen it, let’s just say it’s aged far better than Reality Bites.) The former Rolling Stone writer later hit box office gold with Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, which deliciously skewered Boomer narcissism from a vantage that’s somehow both younger and less credulous. Since then, however, Crowe has failed to match his ’80s and ’90s success. Elizabethtown, which inspired the mocking “manic pixie dream girl” trope, was widely seen as a disappointment. In 2011, Crowe managed something of come-back with We Bought a Zoo. The film, which earned about $75 million at the box office, was better than the title makes it sound. But it’s hardly going to inspire any garage bands.

  • Sony Walkman

    ca. 1991 Sony Walkman cassette player
    Dorling Kindersley—Corbis ca. 1991 Sony Walkman cassette player

    Just like millennials, Gen Xers put on their headphones on and tuned out the world. There were differences. Unlike today, fancy gadgets were never white but black or silver. (A notable exception was the youthful, yellow “Sports” model that made a cameo appearance in Hot Tub Time Machine.) And there were a lot more buttons, partly because music players came with a radio and partly because in an analogue world, more rather than less signaled connoisseurship. But there were similarities too: Gen X’s technological marvels were also conceived in a far off place whose special culture fostered unique capitalistic virtues that our betters admonished us to learn from and imitate. It just happened to be Japan rather than California.

    Sony managed to transverse the mid-1980s move from cassette tapes to CDs, with the Discman. It wasn’t as if digital music caught the company blind sided. Sony introduced something known as the “memory stick Walkman” in 1999, more than two years before the iPod appeared. But Sony’s reluctance to embrace the MP3 format and its struggles integrating hardware and software proved to be just the opening Apple needed.

  • NBC

    FRIENDS with Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox Arquette, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry, (Season 1), 1994-2004.
    Warner Bros—Courtesy Everett Collection FRIENDS with Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox Arquette, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry, (Season 1), 1994-2004.

    Young people tend to identify themselves more with music than with television, especially network television. But few would argue that in the 1990s NBC was the envy of its competitors. Jerry Seinfeld is a boomer. But Seinfeld’s quartet of ne’er do-wells, whose humor mostly involved aimless complaining, fit right in with Gen X’s celebrated ambivalence. As for Friends, well, Generation X may now be faintly embarrassed that they watched. But watch they did. The show was a top 10 series for its entire run, averaging 20 million viewers, according to Slate. It’s finale garnered more than 50 million. Since then NBC has had hits — even with millennials — like The Office and 30 Rock. But the rise of cheap-to-produce reality television, new competition from cable channels like HBO, and, of course, the Internet, mean networks just don’t enjoy the same cultural relevance or profits that they used to.

  • Major League Baseball

    Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa (L), shares a laugh with St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman Mark McGwire (R), after receiving a walk in the third inning. McGwire stayed at 63 home runs and Sosa stayed at 62 as neither had a home run in the 3-2 Chicago victory.
    Peter Newcomb—AFP/Getty Images Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa (L), shares a laugh with St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman Mark McGwire (R), after receiving a walk in the third inning. McGwire stayed at 63 home runs and Sosa stayed at 62 as neither had a home run in the 3-2 Chicago victory.

    The 1990s was a golden age for baseball. Or so it seemed in 1998 when Mark McGwire’s and Sammy Sosa’s race to surpass the home run record riveted fans. The long ball helped (along with a fashion for building new, smaller “bandbox” ball parks) to boost attendance and television ratings, making baseball seem secure in its role as the national past time, even in era of Michael Jordan. Today, the sport is still trying to cope with the fall out of what we now call The Steroids Era. Average attendance, which climbed from about 25,000 following the strike-shortened 1994 season to roughly 30,000 by end of the decade, has been more or less stuck there ever since. This year’s gambit — a clock to speed up the pace of play — is apparently designed to appeal to millennials. But many of them seem more excited about soccer.

TIME Baseball

Yankees Slugger A-Rod Apologizes for Misconduct

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez runs to third base in their MLB American League baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Massachusetts, August 18, 2013
Dominick Reuter—Reuters New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez runs to third base in their MLB baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston on August 18, 2013

"As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training"

Alex Rodriguez apologized to New York Yankees top executives on Tuesday, ahead of his return to professional baseball after a yearlong suspension for steroid use.

The strain was created when Rodriguez, widely considered one of the top talents to ever play the game, was suspended for the 2014 Major League Baseball (MLB) season as punishment for his role in the Biogenesis of America steroids scandal that ensnared the MLB in 2013.

In an effort to reverse the suspension, the three-time American League Most Valuable Player sued MLB, its players’ union and a Yankees team physician.

The Yankees and Rodriguez issued a joint statement on Tuesday.

“Alex initiated the meeting and apologized to the organization for his actions over the past several years,” the statement said. “There was an honest and frank discussion on all of the issues. As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training.”

Rodriguez, who turns 40 in July, is set to make $61 million over the next three years, thanks to a 10-year $275 million contract he signed in 2007.

According to ESPN sources, Rodriguez will also apologize to the media prior to the start of spring training in late February.

MONEY

S.F. vs. K.C. By the Numbers: How the World Series Teams and Towns Match Up

The World Series championship will be determined by how Wednesday night's Game 7 plays out, but how do San Francisco and Kansas City match up off the ball field?

After the Kansas City Royals stomped the San Francisco Giants in Game 6 of the World Series, the stage is set for an exciting winner-takes-all Game 7. The Royals, who skipped through earlier rounds of the 2014 playoffs without a loss, were named as a slight favorite to win the championship when the World Series began, and the Royals’ run is all the more impressive because the Giants’ payroll is more than 50% higher ($148 million versus the Royals’ $91 million).

For that matter, San Francisco blows away its opponent in terms of global cachet and higher incomes, and the home markets of this year’s World Series contenders couldn’t be more different. San Francisco is a hip, high-powered, and high-priced magnet for tech startups where the average home sells for close to $1 million, compared to a mere $186,000 for the typical house in Kansas City, a low-key, highly livable Midwestern hub famed for top-notch barbecue. Nonetheless, the secondary market price of World Series tickets for Kansas City home games has been roughly 30% higher than games hosted by San Francisco. That somewhat unexpected disparity likely comes as a result of San Francisco owning the edge on most recent World Series title. Giants fans have been spoiled of late with championships in 2010 and 2012, whereas Royals’ fans have been waiting since 1985 for another World Series title.

With the Series wrapping up tonight, click through the gallery above for a look at how the competitors match up, on and off the field.

TIME

Major League Baseball Is Less Competitive Than We Think

the Washington Nationals Nationals play the San Francisco Giants in the 3rd playoff game
The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images Washington starting pitcher Doug Fister (58) as the Washington Nationals play the San Francisco Giants in game two of the NLDS playoffs at AT&T Park in San Francisco CA, October 6, 2014.

David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University.

Salary caps and other "luxury taxes" aren't needed to even the playing field

Next January Bud Selig’s reign as baseball’s commissioner will come to an end. For more than 20 years, Selig has guided baseball through labor disputes, a canceled World Series, and steroids. Although these issues seem important, Selig had a different focus when he was asked about his legacy: “When it’s all said and done,” Selig said, “I’d say the economic reformation of the sport because there has been so many manifestations of that. We have the best competitive balance we’ve ever had, and it’s let [sic.] to so many other things.”

Competitive balance refers to how much parity there is among teams in a league. And Selig’s focus on this issue is hardly new. Back in 2002, Major League Baseball and its players faced another contentious labor dispute. The agreement that settled this dispute introduced the competitive balance tax, also called a luxury tax. The league imposed a financial penalty on teams that exceeded a certain payroll threshold, in hopes that these penalties would limit the spending of the richest teams. In fact, when the deal was reached, Selig noted in an interview on PBS, “the issue here was competitive balance, and I feel this deal clearly deals with that.”

So in 2002 Selig believed progress was made with respect to competitive balance. And 12 years later, he thinks this a significant part of his legacy. Unfortunately, the research in sports economics disagrees.

To see this, let’s briefly discuss how one can measure competitive balance. There is a temptation to focus on outcomes in the playoffs. But the post-season in any major professional sports is not a scientific experiment. This is especially true in baseball, where outcomes are often more about luck than team quality (as the Angels just discovered). So if we want to talk about balance — or differences in team quality — we need to focus on the regular season.

Back in the 1980s, Roger Noll and Gerald Scully (in separate work) introduced a measure of balance that “compares the actual performance of a league to the performance that would have occurred if the league had the maximum degree of competitive balance (in the sense that all teams were equal in playing strength).” If a league were perfectly balanced, then the dispersion of regular season wins would match the dispersion from a league that was equal in playing strength. In other words, the Noll-Scully ratio would be 1.00.

In the past 100 years, baseball has never achieved this ideal. In fact, in the first half of the 20th century it wasn’t uncommon for this ratio in the American League and National League to exceed 3.00. In other words, baseball used to be very imbalanced.

To understand why baseball was so imbalanced, consider the people that have historically played Major League Baseball. Prior to Jackie Robinson, the league was essentially just white Americans. Since the population employed was restricted, the league consisted of a few outstanding talents (like Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, etc.) and a collection of less than great players. And as I argued back in February, when outstanding players get to consistently play those with much less talent, the outcome is more predictable and the level of competitive balance much worse.

After Robinson, though, that changed. Once baseball began to consider everyone in America, as well as people from around the world, the supply of outstanding talents increased dramatically. The expanding talent base – as noted by Martin Schmidt and myself in an academic article published 10 years ago – led to an improvement in competitive balance. From 1915 to 1964, the average Noll-Scully ratio was 2.50 in the American League and 2.30 in the National League. In the 50 years since 1964, the ratio in each league was 1.80 in both leagues.

What about the impact of baseball’s competitive balance tax? Since 2003, the average ratio was 1.90 in the American League and 1.69 in the National League. In the 12 years prior to this tax, the two average ratios were 1.86 in the American League and 1.80 in the National League. None of these changes are statistically significant. In sum, balance has not been impacted by this tax.

In essence, Selig inherited a game that was already as balanced as it is today. The tax didn’t change anything. And this is not surprising. None of the labor market restrictions leagues have imposed (i.e., salary caps, payroll caps, luxury taxes, etc.) have been shown to statistically impact balance. Balance appears to be primarily about the populations employed. This is why baseball’s balance improved from what we saw in the early 20th century.

And this is why the NBA — where the Noll-Scully ratio is persistently above 2.50 — remains imbalanced. Basketball players tend to be extremely tall. The average height is 6 feet, 7 inches, and across the entire planet these very tall people are in short supply. With such a small population base, the NBA is often games between amazing players (like LeBron James and Tim Duncan) and less amazing players (most everyone else).

Despite the NBA’s competitive balance issues, fan interest has grown across the past few decades. And this illustrates another point to consider in evaluating Selig’s focus on competitive balance. There simply isn’t much evidence that fans truly care about league balance. A variety of published studies fail to find that attendance in sports is very responsive to changes in league balance.

So why did Selig focus so much attention on this issue? It’s important to remember that Selig was an owner before he became commissioner. Although owners might argue that labor market restrictions help competitive balance, it’s also clear they have another impact. The restrictions that the owners have advocated for over a century also reduce the bargaining power of players. Consequently — as economist Stefan Szymanski has noted — there are significant differences in how much revenue leagues give their players. In Major League Baseball and the National Football League, less than 55% of league revenue goes to the players (it’s the same story in the NBA). In contrast, English Football Leagues — which play in Europe, where many of the labor market restrictions employed in North America are not permitted — give 76% of their revenue to their players.

The owners’ focus on competitive balance predates Bud Selig. In fact, it first appeared in the 19th century. And across the decades it has paid off. Professional athletes in North America receive less than what Europeans are paid in a less restrained market. So when you hear people like Selig talk about balance, you should remember: This is not about the fan experience. It is really all about the owner’s bottom line.

David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University. He is the lead author of The Wages of Wins and Stumbling on Wins and continues to serve on the editorial board of both Journal of Sports Economics and the International Journal of Sport Finance.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME MLB

Giants-Nats Game Longest in Postseason History

Division Series - San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals - Game Two
Patrick Smith—Getty Images Brandon Belt #9 of the San Francisco Giants runs the bases after hitting a solo home run to right field in the eighteenth inning against Tanner Roark #57 of the Washington Nationals during Game Two of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on Oct. 4, 2014 in Washington, DC.

It lasted for six hours and 23 minutes

The San Francisco Giants’ 2-1 victory over the Washington Nationals this weekend was the longest Major League Baseball postseason game in history, going for 18 innings — literally two games’ worth of innings — and lasting for six hours and 23 minutes.

The record-setting event technically spans days: the second game in the National League Division Series began around 5:37 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 4, but finished after midnight on Sunday, which also happens to be the birthday of Nats pitcher Tanner Roark, according to MLB.com.

The previous record for longest postseason game was set in 2005, when the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 7-6 in game four of the NLDS, which took five hours and 50 minutes.

[MLB]

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