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Bronx Bombers and Patrick Ewing

When someone who isn’t even a baseball fan, let alone a sports fan hears the team name “Yankees”, they undoubtedly can name a few players on the team, with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez (also known as A-Rod to baseball fans) being most likely on the list. Derek Jeter is famous for being a wholesome role model who has led the New York Yankees to five World Series titles while A-Rod is known for using steroids and being a media favorite. A-Rod never the less, is an All-Star and a home run champion who is still one of the most feared hitters in baseball. When A-Rod was injured this summer, many were concerned that the Yankees were doomed. Statistics showed, however, that starting in 2010 the Yankees have gone 63-29 (.685 win percentage) without A-Rod and have a 188-142 record (.570 win percentage) with him.

Braess’s Paradox is the phenomena that adding resources to a transportation network at equilibrium can sometimes hurt performance. This was demonstrated in class using the example of a six-lane highway being destroyed in Seoul that improved commute times. The reason this happens is that with the addition of the highway, everyone is selfishly motivated to use the “faster” route, which becomes overloaded and in fact slower. Sports is certainly no transportation network and there are many more factors influencing the outcome of baseball games than one hitter (in fact a strong argument can be made that pitching is the key influence over the course of a season) but it seems that the Yankees are better off when their All-Star third baseman is not in the game. This is known in sports as the “Ewing Theory” which was popularized by sports writer Bill Simmons. The idea is that a team becomes better when it relies less on its star player and allows other role-players to get more playing time. It remains to be seen whether or not the Yankees improve now that A-Rod is back in the lineup after missing close to forty games. As of now they Yankees have a 3-4 record since he has returned and were 20-19 when he hasn’t played this season. Unless A-Rod and company can turn things around and defy the odds, they very well might find themselves watching October baseball from their couches.

– MrOctober2


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September 2012