Great essay, but one quibble: Before he was hurt, Jake deGrom was having one of the greatest seasons in history. Yes, as a pitcher not directly comparable to Mays, but still . . .. Also, IMHO, deGrom is underpaid by today's standards

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Nice essay. I have always thought Mays was one of the most incredible athletes of my lifetime in part because of his output late in his career. From age 37 to 40, Mays produced over 20 WAR in aggregate including two seasons over 6 WAR! Amazing. From ages 31 to 34 he produced over 40 WAR, including two seasons over 11 WAR, one of which was at age 34, that is, six years after most players reach their physical peak. (For comparison, 6 WAR is certainly an All Star, maybe competitive for MVP; 11 WAR is certain MVP and (I’m guessing) one of the top 10 seasons ever; a final context, there are a lot of lauded players in the HOF with around 60 lifetime WAR; by that standard, Mays would be in the HOF if he had started his MLB career at age 31!). I wonder if Arnold would agree that a way to test the race hypothesis would be to normalize both WAR and salary (by percentile?) and then see if there is substanial divergence for black players in that (or any) era. Mays was a “1 percenter” at age 34 in both WAR and salary, but what about the entire population of MLB players? Hypothesis would be: substanial divergence would be found by race. There are problems here. WAR might not translate into salary until later in a career, for example. And Arnold mentions the issue of discrimination translating into better black players being excluded altogether from the MLB. Some of us would like to see more from Arnold on the economics of baseball.

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In the late 1980s, Bill James noticed a difference between the age profiles of black and white players. Black players stayed better longer into their careers. Mays would be one example. Frank Robinson would be another--the Reds traded him because they thought at age 30 he would soon be over the hill (he subsequently had many outstanding seasons).

I think I know how the breakdown of "wins above replacement vs. salary" by race would go. Hal Lanier, the Giants' white second baseman, had a career WAR just below zero!

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