Tourtellotte: Matching Jackie Robinson

From SABR member Shane Tourtellotte at The Hardball Times on January 31, 2018:

Jackie Robinson is unique. Explaining the primary reason for his uniqueness, especially to baseball fans, is an exercise in redundancy. What he did in 1947 made both his game and his country much better, and while there are other individuals who could have done it, there is nothing conditional or speculative about what Robinson did.

He has become so much a shining civil-rights symbol, in fact, that Robinson the icon has put Robinson the baseball player in the shade. This isn’t to say the icon is unimportant, it’s to say that the player is important, too. (At the very least because a so-so player breaking the color line would not have been the rebuke to the institution of segregation Robinson proved to be.)

Robinson was one of the outstanding players of his age, an age that had a lot of outstanding players. Both main WAR sources peg him as a six-win player through the entirety of his career, one which, by current understandings of performance curves, began after his peak. Branch Rickey didn’t hire Robinson just to make the world a better place—or if he did, his expansive definition of that term included the Dodgers winning the pennant. They did that six times in Robinson’s decade with Brooklyn, and it was no coincidence.

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Originally published: January 31, 2018. Last Updated: January 31, 2018.