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Why Are Major League Baseball Players Hitting Fewer and Fewer Home Runs?

There is a power outage in Major League Baseball.

Since the late 1990s, professional players have hit fewer and fewer home runs. In 2014, there were a total of just 4,186 home runs in MLB, down from 5,692 dingers across the league in 2000.

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There are many reasons for the recent league-wide decline in power. Many people cite the league’s steroid testing, which now forces players to strengthen themselves naturally, without the aid of illegal substances. In 1998, sluggers Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire each hit over 60 home runs. Both were later discovered to be steroid cheats, as were many other hitters from their era.

However, better drug testing is only one of the causes of the drop in home runs. Other factors — including better relief pitching, new pitcher-friendly ballparks, rising strikeout totals, and increased pitcher velocity — have all played a part in dampening hitters’ power totals.

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While MLB players did manage more home runs in 2015 than they had the previous season, many fans still miss the days of prodigious power hitters like Ken Griffey, Jr., and Barry Bonds.

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America’s Favorite Pastime, Part 1 of 3: Immigration in Baseball – How Far Have We Come?

 

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The spring is upon us, and that means it’s time for baseball. Or, for Spanish speakers, beisbol. If you hail from Japan, it’s yakyū. Chinese-speaking players say bàngqiú, while Koreans call it yagu.  No matter what language they speak, though, people all over the world love baseball.

Long known as the “national pastime” in the United States, the sport’s global popularity has grown so much that Major League Baseball now features players from over 20 different countries. Even though kids all around the world love baseball just as much – or more – than many Americans, the best players still all strive to play in the top league in the United States. More than a quarter of the players in MLB now hail from foreign countries. Some of the game’s biggest stars – like the Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig and Japanese pitching aces Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka – have traveled thousands of miles to compete against the world’s best players.

However, life in the majors is not as easy as immigrant players like Puig, Darvish, and Tanaka sometimes make it look. In addition to getting used to the extreme difficulty of professional baseball in America, most foreign-born players must overcome language and cultural barriers in order to succeed.

For American fans, it’s important to remember that some of their favorite players are young men working hard to fulfill the same dream as millions of American immigrants before them.

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America’s Favorite Pastime, Part 3 of 3: Immigration in Baseball — Barriers to Entry

 

Baseball Players Are Rollin’ in Cash, Right?

Most of us would agree that a half-million dollars is a lot of money. Well, the minimum salary for a Major League Baseball player is more than a half-million dollars. The point is, don’t cry for the best baseball players, whether they’re American or foreign-born — they’re doing just fine.

However, that doesn’t mean that all professional players live a life of luxury. The majority of minor leaguers — young guys who haven’t yet made it and veterans clinging to a last chance — make less than the federal poverty level. Many international players earn more money than those minor leaguers as a result of signing bonuses given to international free agents. But that doesn’t mean that international players have it easy by any stretch of the imagination. Let’s take a look at some of the areas where MLB players come from and examine the primary obstacles faced by players from different places around the world.

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Asia: Long-distance Travel and Language

In Part 1 of this series, NuSkool examined how far players must travel from various countries to play in MLB. Asian players have it the toughest in that regard. The Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, for instance, must fly almost 7,000 miles from home to play for the New York Yankees. In addition to the distance they must travel, Japanese players have larger language barriers than their Latin American counterparts. Since there are so many Spanish-speaking players in MLB, those players can rely on each other to overcome language struggles. There are fewer Asian players, though, so most of them are forced to hire their own translators to help them navigate the big leagues. Finally, Japanese players must adjust to the size of the American baseball, which is a bit larger than the standard Japanese ball.

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The Caribbean: Sharks and Milk Cartons

While Cuban players have much less distance to travel than Asian immigrants, Part 2 of NuSkool’s series highlighted the considerable obstacles Cubans must overcome in order to reach America. Those include harsh immigration laws, limited opportunities to defect, and journeys through shark-infested waters.

Players from other Caribbean countries also face various obstacles. Young players in the Dominican Republic, for example, often learn the game using makeshift baseball “bats” made out of tree limbs and “gloves” fashioned out of milk cartons. (Suddenly, the different size of the Japanese baseball doesn’t seem like a big deal.) Whereas many American players grow up with high-tech baseball gear, Caribbean boys must overcome their significant lack of resources to reach MLB.

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Central America: Lack of Resources and Exposure

Players from Central America overcome some of the same obstacles as those in the Caribbean. High poverty rates lead to a lack of equipment, and while some countries have baseball academies, such resources are not accessible in all places. Therefore, even talented players are sometimes overlooked because MLB scouts have not had the chance to see them play. Who know how many big league-quality players have lost out on the chance to play in the majors due to lack of exposure?

 

The Money Makes it Worthwhile!

All of the obstacles mentioned above contribute to the difficult journeys of immigrant baseball players. However, for talented ballplayers from foreign countries, the allure of the high wages in MLB — a minimum salary of a half-million dollars! — make it totally worthwhile to take on those obstacles.

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