As feelings of mortality and transience plague the average NotGraphs reader’s psyche, allow me to provide the following examination on the dying flame that is baseball. When last we convened we examined some of baseball’s smaller deaths, like the loss of some of its dear follicles. Today we engage in the pre-post-mortem itself, and look at when major league baseball, in its current (and, for comedic purposes, unchangeable) state of being, expires.
The cause of death for baseball might surprise you: it is not steroids, or zombies, or steroid-ridden zombies. Instead, it’s a far more subtle disease, almost a tooth decay, wrought by our own vainglory that brings down the sport. The horrible, unspoken truth is this: someday, because of our love for pomp, circumstance, and the archaic need to identify players from 500 feet away using only opera glasses and programs, we will run out of numbers. Teams are retiring numbers constantly, as if one-to-two-digit numerals were some sort of renewable resource. In time, each team will run out, and without the necessary digits to compose a roster, will have to disband and forfeit immediately.
Because this is NotGraphs, I am of course bound to provide you with a rigorous methodology for these calculations. I counted each team’s numeric retirements and divided them by the number of years that team has been in the business of retiring numbers. This latter number is their years of existence, minus ten (long enough for the first players in each franchise to become eligible). For older teams where I could not easily (read: with zero effort) determine their first use of jersey numbers, the year 1935 was allotted (being the first year in which it was mandatory). I used this rate to determine when each team would retire seventy-six numbers, which along with 42 left them only 24 (including both 0 and 00) left to assign, triggering their death. Then, the study underwent a rigorous peer review process where I asked Carson to edit it and he pretended that he wasn’t online.
This is all. However, I do understand that there are external effects on the life of baseball as a pursuit, and thus I crossed these end-years against the years in which each city would, again via a conservative straight-line projection based on the IPCC Third Assessment Report, be swallowed by the sea due to the effects of climate change. For the sake of brevity, I chose a rate of 2 feet of sea level rise per century. Your mileage and politics may vary.
Our lengthy premise established, please be informed by the following graphic:
As you can see, once the polar ice caps have melted and the sea has risen its maximum 230 feet, the Colorado Rockies will stand alone as baseball’s sole and permanent champions. Denver may not deserve a baseball team, but once overpopulation and roving leatherclad bandits have driven the other remaining vestiges of American society into subterranean prison cities, they’ll be all baseball has.
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