Prince Fielder, His Estranged Father, and $200 Million

When Prince Fielder accepted a $214 million contract to play for the Detroit Tigers for the next nine years, it was hard to escape the obvious: Detroit is where he first came to prominence in baseball, famously hitting a home run over the fence as a teenager while his father was on the big league team. Detroit is where Cecil experienced his greatest success, of course, as his 51-homer season in 1990 was the only 50-homer season between George Foster in 1977 and Albert Belle in 1995.*

* Of course, while there were only three 50-homer campaigns in the 29 seasons from 1977 to 1995, there were 22 such campaigns in the 12 seasons from 1996 to 2007.

He appeared to have a good childhood with his father.

But their relationship soured when he got older. One day in 2002, when Prince was in A-ball, a process server came on the field to give Prince papers for his father, who was being sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and who was living with Prince at the time. During the divorce proceedings, Cecil alleged that his wife had been “physically and mentally abusive” to him and had attacked him with a fork and a broomstick. Prince has said that his father took $200,000 of his $2.4 million signing bonus without asking, as reported by the Detroit News in 2004. “My father is dead to me,” Prince said in 2004.

While Prince has rarely spoken about it publicly, Cecil has given a number of interviews about his relationship with his son, sounding alternately defensive and gracious. In 2008, he told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, “My son is acting crazy.” Last June, Cecil told reporters about a conversation with his son that had gone badly, saying, “I wanted to drop a right on him instead of talking to him.”

But after it was reported that Prince was signing with Detroit, Cecil went on Sirius XM Radio and said he was “shocked,” and announced that he was hopeful that he and his son could reconcile: “[We] are doing a lot better than we were… Time heals all wounds, man.” Then, Cecil told ESPN, “I don’t understand why I’m getting all the attention. They should be trying to find him.” But then he said, “I hope I don’t have to do another interview,” and it’s harder to believe that. After all, the reason Cecil is getting all the attention is that he wants to talk about his son, and his son doesn’t want to talk about his father.

Still, just because Prince doesn’t want to talk about it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t think about it. Whatever the nature of their relationship, it’s clearly very important to both of them. In 2007, Prince’s Brewer teammate Bill Hall told USA Today:

He still will have small conversations about his dad… He’ll go out and imitate his dad’s swing. He’ll hike his pants up real high like his dad, and laugh about it. Deep inside, you know that he loves his dad.

It’s not clear quite how much of Prince’s success he directly owes to his father, but it’s almost certainly greater than zero. Scouts and prospect-hunters place a great deal of stock in “bloodlines,” being directly related to a major league ballplayer, because a prospect with bloodlines has a leg up on his peers not just genetically, but also culturally. Countless prospects get derailed in the minor leagues before realizing the full potential of their talents, and Prince’s exposure to the major leagues at a young age undoubtedly helped him tap into the full extent of his abilities. And some of those abilities clearly resemble his father’s. After all, of the 26 men in major league history who have hit 50 homers, two are named Fielder. (They’re the only such father-son pair in history.)

I’m frankly a little uncomfortable devoting so much length to a personal relationship that Prince understandably and justifiably wants to keep private. As Craig Calcaterra wrote yesterday:

Even though it would be nicer if the two of them had a good relationship than a poor one, I hope that Prince doesn’t get pestered too much about it by virtue of the public’s need to seek closure or resolution of a relationship that, by all rights, shouldn’t concern us.

The fact that Prince took Detroit’s contract offer doesn’t necessarily mean anything about how he and his father are currently getting along. The number of eyes that widened here and elsewhere is enough to suggest that Prince didn’t have too many other $200-million offers to choose between. So it may be a simple coincidence that the team that offered him the most money, because its 82-year old owner urgently wants to win a world championship, is also the team that made his father the highest-paid player in baseball.

But even if Cecil is right that time heals all wounds, money has a way of salting them. And money, after all, appears to be one of the greatest strains in their relationship in the first place. So Prince’s newfound wealth may not make him immediately magnanimous toward the father whom he regards as having stolen part of his first big league contract. It may not make Cecil any more gracious rather than defensive regarding his own struggles to keep money rather than losing it. As long as he can avoid his father’s addiction, Prince has finally signed a contract that will take care of him and his children for the rest of his life. How he deals with the rest of his life is entirely up to him.

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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.

117 Responses to “Prince Fielder, His Estranged Father, and $200 Million”

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  1. Raymond says:

    “After all, of the 26 men in major league history, two are named Fielder. (They’re the only such father-son pair in history.)”


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  2. Ian R. says:

    Of the 26 men in major league history, 2 are named Fielder? Wow. I didn’t know only 26 guys had ever played in the big leagues.

    I’m guessing you mean 26 50-homer men.

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  3. Slartibartfast says:

    Retired athlete blows all of their money after retirement, becomes a deadbeat.

    If I had a nickel…

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  4. Anon says:

    To be honest, I’m not sure why this article is appearing here at Fangraphs. That’s not to say it’s a bad article – it’s fine, well written, etc. But it has very little, if anything, to do with baseball analysis. It’s pretty much all off-field stuff, and there’s not really even a suggestion that these issues have affected Prince’s on-field performance, in which case it might be relevant. Personally, my feelings are that this type of stuff are private matters, and to the extent that they don’t impact on-field performance should be left alone. But even if it’s media-worthy, I just don;t understand how it fits into the raison-d’atre of this site

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    • Slartibartfast says:

      Remington gets all the mushy emotional/character/non analysis articles. Google women+baseball+alex+remington and that will give you an idea of what type of article he likes to write.

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      • It’s true: on this site, I tend to engage in qualitative analysis rather than quantitative analysis.

        Sabermetrics has taken shape as a response to sloppy analysis and lazy writing that tends to ignore available data. But I think there’s a danger of overcompensation, and believing that if there’s no numerical measure for something then it doesn’t matter — all the soft, mushy stuff like race, gender, sexuality, family, and individual personality. All of those are worth discussing intelligently. They all matter.

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      • Detroit Michael says:

        I enjoy many of Alex’ articles. Variety is good.

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      • Slartibartfast says:

        But you’re getting typecasted, Alex! Fight back or you’ll end up like… someone really typecasted…Hugh Grant?

        I thought this piece was moderately interesting. Better than usual when compared to the rest of your catalog. At least it wasn’t preachy.

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        • TishTash says:

          Boy, you are one for the lefthanded compliment.

          And to think you had me at your handle.

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    • I wrote about this issue because basically every article about the contract mentioned Prince and his father, and so I wanted to delve into the issue a bit more deeply. I’ve always believed that analysis doesn’t begin and end with numbers.

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      • Anon says:

        I’m not saying analysis begins or ends with numbers. I’m fine with qualitiative analysis. What I’m saying is, I fail to see how this has anything to do with baseball, other than father and son both played baseball. If you were more broadly looking at the effect of father and sons who boh played baseball, alright, maybe. But if it’s just, well everyone else is talking about this, therefore so should Fangraphs, it doesn’t strike me as particularly useful. As other have said (and as I did above), it’s a fine read, I just don’t see any relevant baseball takeaway.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Anon, it’s a human interest story about two people that are famous baseball players. It’s not trying to be anything more than that. I found it to be an interesting and well-written piece.

        Personally, I’ve never read anything in depth about the Cecil/Prince relationship before (though I had a vague idea that they were estranged).

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      • Fiery Furnaces says:

        My analyst tends to think it ends with numbers. In cash if you please.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        I prefer quantitative analysis over qualitative analysis every day of the week and twice on Tuesday. However, this piece was interesting because it put my thoughts on the Fielders’ position into words. Their lives are not are our business, however, I believe there is a quantitative answer to Cecil’s plight (if any) and that is to keep trying to reach out to Prince until the wounds heal. Expecting a wound to heal on its own is wrong and smothering is not the answer either. However much the problems from Prince’s youth caused he and his father to drift apart, as much effort needs to be put in to rectify that drift.

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      • Hurtlockertwo says:

        Bill James just turned over in his grave, and he isn’t even dead yet!!

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    • Adrock says:

      God forbid the only thing that should appear on Fangraphs are articles about statistical analysis. It’s a clear article, interesting, not sensationalistic, and as a long-time fan of the Fielders, added something to what I know about them.

      Alex, Keep up the good work!

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      • jim says:

        the website headline is “baseball statistics and analysis.” not “worrying about prince fielder’s relationship with his father,” or “kim ng will go on a date with me if i write this article about women in baseball”

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      • John says:

        Agreed. Statistical analysis dictates that if this article gets abnormally low page views or TOP, Fangraphs will tell Alex to stop writing pieces like this. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading it.

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      • Paul says:

        The way I see it, this isn’t any worse than the several articles on here every day still exclusively using fWAR to draw broad conclusions about small samples, or using FIP instead of SIERA to evaluate pitcher talent/future performance.

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      • I have never been asked to write about something or asked to stop writing about something on the basis of pageviews.

        In fact, no one here has ever told me that there’s anything I shouldn’t write about.

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  5. Ousy says:

    I usually prefer stat heavy articles but this was still a good read. Thanks Alex!

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  6. Jarvis says:

    Triple Cheeseburgers for everybody!!

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    • ABC says:

      Those were the days…69 cents, and those cheeseburgers I bet were much bigger than the easy bake oven minis they sell now.

      PS like father like son, for whatever reason I get the impression that Prince is a douche like his deadbeat selfish old man

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  7. Yirmiyahu says:

    The way Cecil says “I’m gonna take you deep” creeps the hell out of me.

    +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Marver says:

    And the point of the article is…Prince got a large contract and can do whatever he wants with it? Not seeing what this article brings to the table…

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  9. Slartibartfast says:

    By the way, Prince had some serious run on that 4 seamer when he was 8!!! Dang.

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  10. vivalajeter says:

    What I don’t understand is, why does everybody say this guy is going to suddenly put on a lot of weight in his 30′s and decline faster than the typical player? Based on that video, he weighs less now than he did in 1992 – how many ballplayers can say that?

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  11. Bill Peper says:

    As a diehard Tiger fan, I kept reading this article with the expectation that it eventually would involve baseball in some way. It provided some salacious (albeit interesting) details, but their father-son relationship has nothing to do with baseball.

    I agree that Fangraph devotees tend to underestimate qualitative analysis. Unless I missed something, the qualitative analysis in this article boils down to this: Prince Fielder signed with Detroit, where his dad found stardom; they are estranged; and Prince’s huge contract may help their relationship, as their estrangement involved money among many issues. This article seems better suited for TMZ than Fangraphs.

    For what it worth, I have and no doubt will continue to appreciate Mr. Reminton’s contributions to Fangraphs. But publishing this article was a poor decision in this forum.

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  12. Joe H. says:

    Pretty sure the title of the article implies that it would be a qualitative piece. If you expected some quantitative analysis and are frustrated that this article has none, then I think you need a lesson in reading comprehension.

    Well-written piece. Keep up the good work, Alex.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jimbo says:

      THANK YOU.

      I love fangraphs, yet I read ‘maybe’ 1 out of 6 articles that gets posted. Baffles me that people would make the effort to read a piece like this and then make even more effort to comment about their disappointment.

      Apparently not everyone has that thing call “free will.”

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  13. baycommuter says:

    Really, what’s wrong with qualitative analysis? I would like to see a companion piece that referred to the Fielders in the context of other high-quality players who signed with their father’s teams– Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. The Bonds situation is particularly interesting because the Giants fired Bobby as a coach while Barry was playing for them (rumored due to his alcoholism).

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  14. Smallball says:

    I think this article is trying to tell Prince to eat meat again.

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  15. pft says:

    What about the mom? Any siblings?

    I am still trying to figure out who has custody of Carl Crawfords kid, and if it’s Carls wife, ex-wife, or simply a girl friend who is the mother. Not that it keeps me awake at night.

    I guess it’s none of our business, but in a sense us fans do pay their salaries, and they are public figures/entertainers, so losing some privacy is part of the job description.

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    • Prince has a younger sister, Ceclynn (pronounced “Ses-lin,” like Cecil). An article I read from a couple of years ago suggested that Ceclynn was living with Cecil and his second wife, but I don’t know if that’s still the case.

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  16. Robert Thacher says:

    The whole thing is sad. You could tell from the press conference that Prince was still unwilling to rectify the situation. Prince should grow up and realize that he could be working day job if not for the gift he received from his father. Cecil proved to be loving father by taking care of Prince while growing up, and was proud enough of him to bring him to the games. In Prince’s finest moment, his father was not able to participate, and got hit with a cheapshot from his son.. Thats just silly.

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    • Valuearb says:

      I’m pretty sure Prince knows his father better than you. And why should Prince have to share his moment with a degenerate deadbeat dad who left his mother and sister destitute?

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  17. dscottncc says:

    Cecil needs to get a job at McDonald’s and prove to Prince that he does not need any more of his newly signed contract money. Actions speak louder than words Cecil, be humble and get a real job turn your life around and you can start to build that relationship back with your son. Without a job, it just looks like your trying to get your hands on some of that 9 year contract.

    And to you Prince, treat your father with respect, and hear the man out.

    On a serious note: I hope these two mend their relationship, as well all know life can be too short. I have seen people lose a mother/father when their relationship was not at its best point and that guilt never leaves you.

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  18. james wilson says:

    If Cecil Fielder has a gambling addiction, it was wise of his son to write him off, and wiser still now. Nobody can compete with that; it’s a fools game to try.

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  19. Jaik Jarrkjens says:

    That was a good read, Alex. I enjoy having a little human interest peppered on top of my daily baseball. I go crazy sometimes, trying to boil everything in baseball down to numbers, and it’s refreshing to step back and look at something baseball-related that one can’t even attempt to reduce to a definite, hard number.

    #food metaphors

    I did come to an interesting statistical conclusion after reading up on Cecil’s career once I finished reading this article, though: Ryan Howard is Cecil Fielder.

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  20. rotofan says:

    While you write that this piece is qualitative analysis, I fail to see any analysis at all, qualitative or quantitative, not at least as it applies to baseball. You’ve documented through snippets an off-field relationship and what might happen to that relationship but I fail to see how that has anything to do with either how Prince Fielder has performed on the field or how he might perform in the future.

    I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t write such a piece. While I didn’t think you did enough research to tell the story in a compelling way, some who read it clearly enjoyed it. But it’s simply not qualitative analysis of baseball.

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  21. John says:

    It’s very hard on a father/son relationship for the child to have to take care of the adult, especially when the adult is able-bodied and of working age. Some people are just lost causes, and will be for their whole life. Prince has every right to shut a deadbeat like Cecil.

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  22. Keystone Heavy says:

    Cecil Fielder’s wDAD+ was an abysmal 17 in 2002, most likely due to stealing 200,000 dollars worth of his son’s money. That stands as one of the worst single season marks in MLB history. Even Josh Hamilton at the height of drug addiction didn’t come anywhere near that. Also, Cecil’s Ultimate Paternity Rating that year was -12.1. He might as well had just gone to prison when Prince was nine years old.

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    • AA says:

      Cecil didn’t really steal the money. He apparently had a contract to manage Prince at the time. Not that contracting with your son isn’t stupid, bad parenting, screwed up, etc., but it wasn’t really stealing.

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  23. Craven says:

    Prince was sure adorable as a child!

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  24. bonestock94 says:

    Maybe everyone complaining about this article should ask for a refund.

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  25. Eric says:

    I thought it was a very good article. I didn’t even know the prince fielder in cecil fielder were different people

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  26. Ralphie Baby says:

    What is this, Sports Ilustrated?

    I thought this site was dedicated to statistical analysis??

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  27. Randy says:

    If I were a psychologist, I would wonder if there might be an underlying reason (aside from the obvious) that he chose Detroit. Clearly he has fond memories of his dad and would welcome a reunion at some point. Perhaps this move will trigger it. After all, he has at least 9 years to spend in Detroit. This lacks quantitative analysis, but is actually the most informative article I’ve read about Prince Fielder since I don’t think the background is well-known.

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  28. Bobby A says:

    These Tigers are going to have one heck of a hangover in about 7 years.

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  29. Rob says:

    Maybe most of these folks aren’t Tiger fans but as one, I am interested. Cecil is STILL well liked in Detroit, for 5-6 years he was the Tigers. I’ll bet any XL size middle-aged black man with a mustache (maybe even without one) living around Detroit has been called “Cecil” a hundred times. This topic will hang around in Detroit for a long time until Prince addresses it more directly. It ain’t just going to go away.

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  30. Karlita says:

    Another fantastic article by Remington – just barely better than when he accused the world of being prejudiced against Milton Bradley.

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    • What I said was that racism exists, and Milton Bradley suffered from its effects, even though he brought a lot of suffering upon himself.

      “He saw himself as a victim, and often was one… Milton Bradley is quite right when he says that many people simply don’t want to see racism.”

      If you don’t believe that racism exists, then I have a bridge to sell you.

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      • Marver says:

        You’re right, racism exists. When I applied for colleges, it was easier to get in if you were African-American, of Native-American descent, or of some other “underrepresented” minority group.

        Some of the most blatant discrimination in today’s world is the type of “positive discrimination” affirmative action policies that actually place, in law, more value in being one skin color than another.

        You continue to place your evidence of racism in income disparity statistics, when the units used in those statistics are not consistent across the races.

        You simply cannot state family income rates for blacks and whites when the definition of family is not consistent. Blacks have a much higher rate of husband desertion than whites; when the demographic is missing the largest contributor to family income, of course it’ll have a lower aggregate income! That isn’t racism, that’s a result of some other characteristic of those comprising the race itself.

        Please do not try to make conclusions about society at-large based upon non-normalized statistics.

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      • Marver says:

        I recommend the following pdf as a great read on the fallacies of income and racial inequality statistics commonly sourced:$2C+Thomas+-+Economic+Facts+and+Fallacies+$28Basic+Books$3B+2008$29.pdf

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      • I have read Thomas Sowell. (Not that book; I read “Black Rednecks and White Liberals.”) Suffice to say that I think it’s very telling that the two blurbs on the back of this book are from a syndicated columnist and a television host, not from economists. At this point in his career, he’s more of a polemicist than a scholar.

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      • Also, it’s worth noting that your phrase, “the largest contributor to family income,” acknowledges that women have lower salaries than men. So racism is not the only form of discrimination at play in the workplace.

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      • Marver says:

        Women have lower incomes for very natural reasons. Particularly, being a mother is a drastic interruption of a career; for many industries — especially technical — specific qualities can become obsolete in a matter of years. Even the anticipation of motherhood results in a natural selection of a career which could be suitable to the potentiality of having a lengthy interruption in the career.

        Women, however, that follow the same career paths as men, that do not have their career interrupted by motherhood, actually earn slightly MORE than men in the same industry.

        Married men, in general, have income statistics buoyed by having someone else do tasks for them that a bachelor would otherwise have to do — laundry, shopping, etc. — which gives them significant leverage over bachelors. That’s why married men, at the same age with the same IQ and the same education, consistently earn more than bachelors.

        If you’re going to a priori dismiss Thomas Sowell — whose list of sources in his books commonly exceeds 100 pages — while quoting misleading, non-normalized statistics from an advocate of reparations, you’re going to be unable to have a qualitative conversation about modern-day racism.

        You wouldn’t be the first to plug your ears at evidence that counters your pre-conceived notions about the world. I used to be in your boat, but private research of my own investigating the various issues overwhelmingly supports the majority of Thomas Sowell’s work. I am not a parrot.

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      • I have read enough of Sowell to know how he approaches the sources he cites. He may have been rigorous earlier in his career, but he is not rigorous now; he is a pundit.

        Conley was the second scholar I cited, and he based his op-ed on the work of another economist, Wolff, who is frequently cited in these conversations. You did not dispute either Wolff or William Bielby, the first scholar I cited.

        Then you made another unsourced assertion: “Women, however, that follow the same career paths as men, that do not have their career interrupted by motherhood, actually earn slightly MORE than men in the same industry.” Please cite the source.

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      • Marver says:

        First, let me just state that you’re such a pick-and-chooser of which statistics matter in passing judgement on discrimination in the workplace.

        For example, though men are just 54% of the work-force, they are 92% of work-related deaths. * – Diana Furchtgott – Roth and Christine Stolba, Women’s Figures, 1999 edition, p. 33

        Where is your lambasting of the discrimination against the workplace that results in the disproportional number of deaths to men?

        Women receive less than 20% of the doctorates awarded in engineering, one of the highest paying fields that exists. That will obviously effect income statistics — which is why I state that you must compare like industries to like industries. * – Thomas B. Hoffer, et al., Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report 2005 (Chicago National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, 2006), p. 13.

        “Among college – educated, never -married individuals with no children who worked full-time and were from 40 to 64 years old— that is, beyond the child-bearing years— men averaged $40,000 a year in income, while womn averaged $47,000.” * Ibid., p.xxiii; Ted Balaker and Sam Staley, The Road More Traveled:
        Why the Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think and What We
        Can Do About It ( Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).

        I understand your natural incentive is to preserve the quantity of mushy topics to speak about, like the plights you overtly declare racism — but doing so at the expense of honest research does not make you a virtuous writer.

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      • My interest is in truth, justice, and the American way. I also like apple pie, puppies, and baseball.

        Seriously, I’m not challenging you because I’m dogmatically convinced that racism exists, and furthermore, that America’s history of racism is a reason that disparities still exist between whites and African-Americans. I’m challenging you because I am empirically convinced that racism exists, and that America’s history of racism is a reason that disparities still exist between whites and African-Americans.

        I appreciate your citing your sources this time. Certainly, men tend to work more hazardous jobs than women. For one thing, at least for now, women are legally prohibited from being soldiers on the front line. I see that the quote you cited for your assertion that women make more than men is in Thomas Sowell’s “Economic Facts and Fallacies.” It is not, however, in Balaker and Staley’s book, “The Road More Traveled.” I just searched that book on Amazon for that quote.

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      • Marver says:

        Right, it is sourcing the statistics from that book. Not all sources are direct quotes — that’d be plagiarism on a large enough scale.

        But you can’t even access the page that the statistics come from on Amazon — try searching xxiii … you will find no results. Amazon limits the number of pages that appear in the preview that you can search, so it may actually be a direct quote.

        I can check that book itself when I return home, as I actually have the book on my shelf; highlighted, mind you.

        You say you are empirically convinced, yet the empirical evidence you continually source is non-normalized. It compares black families to white families without even acknowledging differences in the composition of families, on aggregate, between racial groups that is the driver of the income disparities.

        And if African-Americans are so discriminated against, then why do Asian-Americans earn MORE than Anglo-Americans? Discrimination against Asian-Americans is pretty damn apparent in American history, as well.

        And you still haven’t challenged my assertion that the most blatant racism that exists today is the racism that abounds in the book of law in “positive discrimination” policies; where is the outcry for that? Essentially, the law dictates that I, the child of immigrants who fled Europe in WWI, must suffer such that others — who may not be in any way related to those who were enslaved — can have advantages that they haven’t actually earned. But you instead focus on racism that, on aggregate, isn’t seen in contextualized statistics.

        If you want to say that there are remnants from previous racist generations, fine; but you also must admit that you’d rather live in present-day USA than present-day Nigeria. You can’t exclude that from the conversation without missing the bigger picture.

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        • TishTash says:

          Marver, can anyone make the argument that from the get-go, a white (or as you politically put it, “European”) male has a 100-mile head start? Sure, it used to be a million, but I guess that’s progress. I hate to say this, but a racist, even one with as florid a vocabulary as you, is still a spade.

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  31. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Does anyone know why Cecil was essentially done in baseball at age 32-33??
    Was it injury or rapid decline? I ask because Prince certainly looks a lot like his dad and genertics are a powerful indicator.

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  32. dscottncc says:

    Racism exists because people allow it to exist. If you don’t think of yourself as different, then no one else will. I am a caucasian teacher, who has worked in the inner-city my whole career (a brief 4 years) and the one thing i stress to my students while covering the Civil Rights movement is that Racism exists on both sides. If we continue to dwell on racism it will never go away. Do away with BET, celebrate the history of African Americans by celebrating what both white and black citizens did to help integrate our communities. There were tons of injustices brought against African Americans, but in order to get past those you need to learn about them but not dwell on them. I always find it funny when a student says to me, “Mr. Bob” <not my real name your family probably owned slaves back then. I always have to explain to the students that my family moved to America after slavery was abolished, and that not all white people owned slaves. Just an example of one of the many misconceptions behind slavery/civil rights.

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    • Others will be far better equipped than I am to opine on this subject, but I disagree with you. I don’t believe that racism will “go away” if we refuse to talk about it.

      I think that the level of racism in our society has diminished greatly, but that doesn’t mean that it no longer exists — indeed, because it started out at such a high level, it will take many more years before there is no more racism.

      And it will take many more years before African-Americans and whites will have income parity. A recent study I read is an excellent examination of why that is: the author examined African-American financial advisers at Merrill Lynch (a company that had an African-American CEO at the time, Stanley O’Neal), and found that whites had persistently higher salaries than African-Americans, even though it was an ostensibly merit-based job in which salary was largely based on sales commissions.

      There were multiple reasons. One was that the very low number of African-Americans at the firm meant that in many offices, there was only one African-American financial adviser, and African-Americans so African-Americans were far less likely to participate in “teams” where brokers would pool resources and split the commissions; financial advisers in teams averaged far higher salaries than those who were not. This was not because of overt racism, the author explains:

      Social science research shows that African Americans and other persons of color in predominantly white work settings receive less support in the form of mentor- ship and professional development and are more likely to be socially isolated and excluded from informal workplace social networks than their white peers…

      If African Americans tend to be isolated and excluded from informal social networks, and if, through the operation of cumulative advantage mechanisms, African American FAs are generating fewer production credits than non-African Americans and are perceived to be less productive, they are less likely to be invited to join established teams.

      Another reason that African-American brokers may make fewer sales than white brokers is that African-American clients are less likely to be in a position to invest. Dalton Conley is a social scientist at NYU who has frequently written on this topic. His work can be controversial; in 2003, he published an op-ed in the New York Times, “The Cost of Slavery,” arguing in favor of slave reparations. As he explained, wealth disparities between whites and African-Americans are persistent as well:

      The typical white family enjoys a net worth that is more than eight times that of its black counterpart, according to the economist Edward Wolff. Even at equivalent income levels, gaps remain large. Among families earning less than $15,000 a year, the median African-American family has a net worth of zero, while the corresponding white family has $10,000 in equity. The typical white family earning $40,000 annually has a nest egg of around $80,000. Its black counterpart has about half that amount.

      This equity inequity is partly the result of the head start whites enjoy in accumulating and passing on assets. Some economists estimate that up to 80 percent of lifetime wealth accumulation results from gifts from earlier generations, ranging from the down payment on a home to a bequest by a parent.

      African-Americans do not face a level playing field. That isn’t because you and I are racist, it’s because the history of racism and its long-term consequences continue to affect us in the present day.

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      • dscottncc says:

        Great response Alex, and I think you misinterpretted my original post a little bit. We can’t completely ignore it, but yet if you take it to far in the other direction, this in turn adds to the problem. It is funny that you mention that article in the NY Times because my economics class looked at that very article. I think this is a very real problem, and that young African Americans in our society do have to work a little harder to achieve the so called “American Dream” because of a lack of family wealth or passed on assetts. But many of us face this problem, and this is what is great about America in my eyes: Anyone that works hard enough, and never gives up can make something for themselves in America. Give me one example of a person making under 40,000 in America and tell me they worked as hard as they could, made enough sacrifices, and continued to pursue even after they had failed but just couldn’t cut it. (let me save you the trouble you won’t find one.)

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      • I can, actually. I recently met several at a nonprofit community newspaper in Vermont. They work their tails off, publish a great newspaper, and struggle to make a living wage. Obviously, journalism is a tough industry to make a living in right now. Making a $40,000 salary is not a measure of merit.

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      • Marver says:

        Income disparity between races completely disappears if you adjust for IQ. As in — the probability distribution in IQ for various races is different. In particular, African-Americans have a slightly lower median IQ than Anglo-Americans who have a slightly lower IQ than Asian-Americans.

        The difference in the probability distributions is most warped at the two tails; the higher end of which constructing the pool of potential CEO candidates.

        In other words, the 99.99% percentile of each race results in a different IQ — 150 compared to 153 or whatever. This is not a negligible difference that can allow all CEOs to be looped in an analyzed group titled ‘CEOs’.

        If you compare, however, a 150 IQ CEO with a PhD with a 150 IQ CEO with a PhD across the races, there is no income disparity.

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      • First of all, IQ tests are largely specious. Second of all, I am unaware of the research that you are citing. Please point me to it.

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      • Marver says:

        IQ tests are not largely “specious”, as IQ is well-established at being strongly correlated with success (on aggregate, of course). IQ differences amongst racial groups is similarly well-established, though there are different theories about the differences.

        What is important, though, is that IQ correlates with success between racial groups, as well as within those racial groups. So, no matter how you view what IQ tests are actually testing, it is still worth normalizing against since it is a predictive factor. That income disparities disappear between similar people of difference races but identical career paths, education, and IQ is encouraging — and a valid point when dismissing the notion that racism is the source of disparate incomes among CEOs.

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      • It sounds like you’re referring to Charles Murray’s book “The Bell Curve,” which has been challenged many, many times.

        The reason I said IQ tests are specious is this: it has been documented that a person’s IQ tends to change over the course of that person’s life. It is not an innate trait. It is very context-dependent. But that defeats the very purpose behind most IQ research, which attempts to take IQ as an independent variable, an innate trait of a person.

        Higher IQs are correlated with success because success is a determinant of IQ. If you take a baby and place her in a high-income family, that baby will grow up with a higher IQ than she would if she grew up in a low-income family.

        You still haven’t pointed me to any research.

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      • Marver says:

        No, I’m referring to actual research — which, by the way, you haven’t sourced either. In fact, your primary source thus far was a New York Times article written by an advocate of a policy as demonstrably ridiculous as reparations.

        Here’s a good research piece that examines two different models of what drives IQ — the conclusion is that IQ is closer to 100% genetic than a 50/50 split or genetics/environment…and it isn’t close, either:

        And another, more recent, biological genetics approach to the issue:

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      • I think you missed the research study I cited above. Here’s the link again:

        Also, I’m not sure that your second source helps your case. Here’s an excerpt:

        William Shockley, inventor of the transistor, Nobel Laureate, and member of the National Academy of Sciences, in his last years argued that African descent is inextricably associated with a 15% decline in the intelligence quotient, as James Watson asserted much later. That was a serious error, contradicted unequivocally by analysis of the earlier data and current evidence.

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      • Marver says:

        Again, you’re so selective:

        First, the data used in your source is “from expert reports submitted in racial discrimination litigation” as if using data from an already biased sample produces results that mean anything on aggregate.

        And from the writeup of the second article I sourced:

        “It was no longer defensible to argue that race is meaningless, although it remained possible to speculate that some unspecified subsamples might be biased by environmental effects. This is an incredibly difficult hypothesis to test convincingly, because there is no information to test for the effects of unspecified but possibly relevant environments.”

        “Enthusiasts of environmental differences can no more prove their hypothesis than geneticists can at present disprove it.”

        “Some effort was devoted to testing this hypothesis with the conclusion that heritability may well be less than conventional estimates, but no model yet invented is consistent with zero heritability.”

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      • I am not arguing that race is meaningless, obviously. I’m arguing that it is very meaningful.

        America’s history with race has a great deal to do with why African-Americans at a financial services firm where financial advisers are paid on commission make less money than their white counterparts.

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      • Marver says:

        I simply love how you phrase this as if America is the only country with a history of racism. This despite the fact that America was one of the first countries to eradicate slavery — which still exists, in various forms, in other countries around the world, including many in Africa itself. The first documented abolishment of the slave trade was on February 27th 1807 by England; Western Hemisphere societies which were offshoots of Europe all abolished slavery before the end of the nineteenth century, and Westernized countries placed massive pressures on Asian and African countries to abolish slavery. Most demonstrably, the Turks — under the Ottoman Empire — only began to abolish slavery once British ships threatened to board Ottoman ships in the Mediterranean to search for slaves. This in addition to the blockade of Zanzibar until the slave market there closed down, which it did.

        Instead of celebrating the downfall of slavery, you’re condemning Western society based on non-contextualized statistics that you continue to recklessly float around. You’re stating that African-Americans are disadvantaged in the present due to the institution of slavery and the racism that perservered from it, despite no evidence of aggregate present racism amongst like subsets of different races. Nevermind that a lot of African-Americans aren’t descended from slaves, and that the very people who were enslaved from Nigeria also enslaved other Nigerians, that those Nigerians enslaved North Africans, and that those North Africans (along with Arabs) enslaved so many Southeastern Europeans that the word for slavery was derived directory from the heritage of those people: Slavic. If you want to talk about remnants of racism, don’t arbitrary cut it off at ‘American’ when the fabric of history is interwoven with so many different races enslaving one another over the history of time.

        Racism is abhorrant and I’m glad that the aggregate statistics, amongst like subsets of different races, supports that it is no longer a statistically significant reality in present-day America. You’d do well to adhere to the analytical lean of this website and further scrutinize the statistics you continue to site.

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      • dscottncc says:

        You can honestly say that those who work at a “NON FOR PROFIT” company do not work their for the interest of the people, and that they don’t understand why they don’t make more money. Go find a real job if you want to make over 40,000 (what i would qualify as living comfortably). Journalism is an interest not a career :) besides they could always work for that non for profit job during the day, and make more money at night getting a job unpacking goods at a clothing store during the third shift. America is beautiful, you can make as much money as you want, do you really want that money??? if so work your ass off, it’s the American way. Of course your not going to make money just by writing articles with your pen and paper, get out and get some dirt on your hands.

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        • TishTash says:

          Wow, Alex didn’t respond to your comment, and I can venture why:

          1) you paint all not-for-profit employees as good-for-nothings spitting in the eye of the American Dream

          2) your rather naive take that gumption and good works pay off handsomely regardless of luck and unlevel playing fields. Ever read Steinbeck much?

          If you really are a teacher, please tell me where NOT to send my kids.

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      • “I simply love how you phrase this as if America is the only country with a history of racism.”

        Not sure how you got that from my comments, but it certainly wasn’t my intention. Many countries have a history of racism.

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  33. Sandlot Scrub says:

    I realize this is primarily a numbers site, but I enjoyed this perspective on the Fielders. I knew they were estranged, but hadn’t heard the reason. I’m probably a little old for Fangraph’s prime demographics (59), and never been a math whiz, but I like learning something new about fantasy baseball and this site always provides the information whether it’s the numbers data or background info such as this. Good article, Alex…thanks.

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  34. Mdx2 says:

    Anyone else notice that from this video that the price of the McDonald’s hamburger has only gone up about $0.30 in 20 years? How is that even possible?

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  35. Mitch says:

    ” Prince has finally signed a contract that will take care of him and his children for the rest of his life.”

    I think he probably did that when he signed his 2-year/$17m extension before the ’09 season.

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  36. themick says:

    I’m not sure I would want to spend 9 years of my life in the war zone looking city they call Detroit. Some of the streets are not even policed. Empty buildings falling apart by the hundreds, street gangs hawking your every movement. I have been going to Tiger games since the 60′s so I have seen the ups and downs of this city and there is more downs than ups.

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    • jim says:

      yeah, because the guy with the $214 million contract is totally going to be living in the crime-ridden slums with the unemployed gang members, and definitely not in the wealthy parts of the city/county

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  37. The Virginian says:


    I appreciate the variety and change of pace your articles bring. One analysis article after another can become very dense to try and read through. I value detailed analysis of statistics and such, but also appreciate the human element.

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  38. Bookbook says:

    I can’t put my fingers on the research I did in high school, but yes IQ is very much dependent on upbringing and cultural references. The test was designed by white researchers and some questions assume meanings that do not apply in the same way outside of white, middle-class contexts. Like the sats, you can raise your IQ by prepping for the test.

    About the glories of hard work and social mobility in America, please note that social class and economic standing are far more static in The US than in the stratified lands of just about every western European country, and have been so for more than a generation. The land of opportunity has been a myth for a long time.

    About the vile reverse racism in college admissions, cry me a river. You’re vastly underrating the challenges that students of color face to get to “almost your level”.

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    • Marver says:

      The original IQ test, yes, was designed by a white research. Present tests are composed by members of all races in many different languages, and the results remain unaltered.

      The very notion that white researchers devised a test in a way that benefits Anglo-American test-takers is a completely absurd notion once you consider that Asian-Americans test better than Anglo-Americans.

      I’m not sure where you got the “almost your level” quote, but you fail to even discuss whether affirmative action is a beneficial policy to those it’s intended to help; it isn’t! Studies, for years now, have shown that student submitted through positive discrimination policies have higher dropout rates than any other group admitted, and the mismatch in their academic ability forces them to end up with a higher proportion of graduates in non-science/engineering degrees than any other admitted group; ie. they switch majors in order to avoid academic expulsion. Besides, I’m not crying a river; I had no trouble getting into 91% of the colleges I applied to. I’m simply stating that the only current proof of racism amongst like subsets of people is the actual racist laws that people like you continue to support, even in presence of evidence that shows that it hurts those you intend to help.

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      • TishTash says:

        There are certainly times when forced integration had its merits: Little Rock, AK; Petula Clark and Harry Belafonte; Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura.

        In all seriousness, until there’s an equal playing field, society tends toward inertia. The more I read your posts, the more I hear the voice of Al Campanis on Nightline.

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  39. Joey B says:

    “Protection is a myth.

    If protection was a myth, there would be no such thing as an intentional walk.

    You throw balls to a batter because you don’t mind pitching to the next guy in the lineup. You throw strikes to a guy when you don’t want to pitch to the next guy in the lineup. If the next guy in the lineup after Fielder was a SS, then every pitch thrown to Fielder would be on the corner, since they wouldn’t mind walking him.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      First of all, you did nothing to rebut the statistics shown in those two links. Even your logic doesn’t support your premise. If a guy sees more strikes down the middle, he benefits by getting more pitches to hit, but will lose walks. If a guy sees more pitches on the corners, he may accumulate more walks, but won’t see as many hittable pitches. The net result is the same.

      If erring one way or another (either throwing more strikes or more borderline pitches) were more effective at getting out a good hitter, then the pitcher would simply employ that strategy with every batter. And if a pitcher was capable of throwing a pitch on the corner every time, he’d be The Greatest Pitcher Ever.

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  40. Adam says:

    Cool article but it doesn’t say HOW MUCH Fielder Sr got paid to make him the highest paid baseball player in MLB history

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  41. rugerchipper10 says:

    I’m surprised that it wasn’t mentioned that Prince was also the youngest ever @ 23 to hit 50!!!!

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