First of, Happy Holidays to everyone.
Malcom Gladwell's new book "Outliers: The Story of Success" shows us how an "outlier" can have a profound inpact on why people become successful. Here's one example from an ESPN.com Page2 interview with Gladwell:
For example: Bill Gates, successful because he's a genius? Yes, but also because he had access to a powerful mainframe computer at a time (1968) when few others did. This enabled him to build his programming skills for thousands of hours before the personal computer, upon which his initial success with MS-DOS was built, became widely available. So Gates isn't just a genius and a good businessman. He was also lucky, took advantage of unusually available resources, and then proceeded to work like mad.
You're probably asking what that has to do with sports and baseball. I'll tell you.
Gladwell talks about the eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey programs in Canada is Jan. 1st. We all know how serious Canada takes it's hockey, so coaches start funneling the best hockey players into the best programs, where they get better coaching, better training at an early age, usually 8 or 9. But the best players are 8 or 9 are normally the oldest, and at that age 10 or so extra months of maturity makes a big difference. Those older kids get more attention, basically giving them a giant leg up on the rest of the children. There are many many more NHL players born in Jan-March than the other months. The same applies for baseball.
The cutoff date for most baseball leagues in America is July 31st, which results in more major league players being born in August than any other month. The book gives us the data; Among Americans playing in the majors 505 were born in August, with only 313 born in July. That made me curious, so I went and looked at the Rays roster. I included players from last season(Johnson is Dan Johnson), as well as Matt Joyce and Jake McGee.
Nine players, and seven that contributed to last year's team. That's more than the Yankees and Red Sox combined(Yankees had 2, Red Sox 3), though the Rays do have more American born players than those two.
I'm not suggesting the Rays won the AL East and the American League Championship because of this, and no great breakthrough is going to be made of that data, I just thought it was interesting.