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Gross Domestic Product?
2006-04-09 13:28
by Mike Carminati
Foreign policy is really domestic policy with its hat on.
—Hubert H. Humphrey as in the Metrodome

Go to foreign countries and you will get to know the good things one possesses at home.
—Johann "Santana" Wolfgang Von Goethe

The other day, it was reported that "[t]he percentage of major-league players born outside the United States dropped slightly to 27.4 on Opening Day from last year's record of 29.2." Before you start getting xenophobic and think this vindicates us for the poor showing in the Wannabe Baseball Classic, the percentage of minor leagues born outside of the U.S. is almost 50 percent (though it fell from 45.4 to 45.1 this past season.

Also, consider that baseball has been in an inexorable trend towards more foreign-born players that started in the mid-Thirties when it was not unusual for 99% of the players in the majors to be American-born. (The all-time low for foreign-born players was 0.8% in 1930 or 4 out of 492 major-leaguers.) There may be slight upswings one season, but they are invariably reversed within a year or two. Besides given the percentage of foreign-born players in the minors, the increase in American players may be erased later this season as teams start dipping into their minor-league systems.

Here are the numbers for the last 20 seasons, in which the percentage of U.S.-born players dropped by about 15 percentage points:

YrUS PlayersForeign Players%US bornChange

Also, consider that the Dominican Republic has been the top foreign producer of talent since 1978, but has more than quadrupled its number of major-leaguers since that time (31 in 1978 and 134 last year).

And the Dominican Republican is not nearly the fastest growing foreign country in terms of major-league representation. Both Japan and South Korea have seen 700% growth over the last ten seasons. Venzuela has witness 160% growth since 1995, and seven other countries have seen infinite growth given that they had no major-leaguers in 1995 (Colombia, Cuba, Curacao, Philippines, South Vietnam, Spain, and Taiwan). The D.R. has seen "only" a 70% increase over that time. That's comparable to Canada's 67% growth, and is slightly behind the overall growth of foreign-born players (73%).

However, the other regions of the world will have to go quite a way to display the Caribbean isles ad the greatest foreign producer of major-league talent. Nearly 56% of all foreign-born players come from the Caribbean or Atlantic though that was as high as 72% in 1992 and has been falling steadily since.

In baseball's early history, nearly all foreign-born players came from England or one of its former territories. Of course, most were converted cricketers back then. The Caribbean/Atlantic players took the lead in 1950 and have yet to relinquish it.

The first Caribbean exporter was Cuba, which produced the most foreign-born players from 1950-70. They were followed by Puerto Rico (which I know is a U.S. territory but usually is counted as a foreign country in baseball matters—look at the WBC—and) which led 1970-77 and shared the lead briefly in 1981. Since 1978 it's been the D.R.

By the way, my research got a mention on when the Giants fielded the first outfield of players all 39 years old or older the other day.

2006-04-09 14:26:23
1.   joejoejoe
Do you think the minimum age for baseball contracts has anything to do with the # of Carribean players in minor league ball? I think the MLB minimum age for signing a contract is only 16 - teams just aren't going to sign US kids while they are in high school. The culture of US team sports has not supported junior leagues like other countries (think Canadian Junior hockey). It's nothing for a 16 year old US figure skater to train full time but a 16 year old US ballplayer does not. So it's reasonable that US players be seen in lower numbers in the minors - many are in college. Is it possible that many US players play college baseball while their Carribean peers are in the low minors?

I would be interested to see the percentage of foreign born players in Triple-A - it might more closely track the majors because it accounts for more players with collegiate experience.

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