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Are Short Players Getting Shorted in Baseball?

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In this July 2, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Aaron Judge, right, and Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve have a conversation during the first inning of a baseball game in Houston. Photo: Yi-Chin Lee / Houston Chronicle via AP

By James Barone

Baseball has been getting bigger, and so have the players. For years, baseball has been acquiring large, talented players that have been changing the game. For example, 6’7” Aaron Judge arrived as an unknown rookie and is now one of the most popular players in baseball. Giancarlo Stanton, 6’6”, is equally popular and led the league in homers.

Then there is little Jose Altuve, 5’6” of dynamite who can run, field and win games. He led the Astros to win the World Series, but he is not a household name like Judge or Stanton. And what about little Ronald Torreyes who was sent packing to minors while batting .339 for the Yankees? The Yankees brought up Greg Bird 6’3” whose batting average was .190. Is small size a reason why players like Altuve and Torreyes don’t seem to get the respect that is enjoyed by bigger players, even though they produce on the field?

It could be.  Judge and Stanton are two of the most talked about players in the game. By comparison, Altuve is not talked about as much, despite a whopping .346 batting average. Is he little talked about because of his small size?  Could we be witnessing size discrimination in baseball?

The discrimination between big and small players seems to be real and could be market based.  For example, put yourself in the scouts’ shoes. You scout a 6’ 7” player hulking in left field. After the game his batting stat line is unimpressive, but he hit a towering home run. His height also helped him snatch one that was going to be knocked over the fence. Standing unnoticed at second base is a comparatively short player who went three for three and made essential plays that helped his team win the game.

Who will the scouts and fans, notice most? The left fielder of course!  But who is the better player and who is more valuable for the team? Well, that depends on what is most important to scouts and the team. Is it the little guy who has good stats and can help teams quietly win games?  Or is it the big guy, who can fill the seats and hit the long ball?

Picking the smaller player might help teams win games, but it might also disappoint fans who like to see the big guy hit balls over the fence. Fans want to see the impossible become possible. Everyone remembers a home run blast for years, but quickly forgets a game winning single up the center. Is size discrimination in baseball real?  Perhaps, but it does seem the little guys get relatively short shrift compared to the giants of the game. The little guy has the ability to win critical games and take their team to the championship, grinding out win after win.  However, the ability to fill stadiums, smash long balls, and to be on the cover of a cereal box are things better left to the big guys.

James Barone is a free lance sports writer and avid sports enthusiast.

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