I posted this thread as a response to the discussion that was starting to take place in the Pedro thread, about which athletes have the most demanding jobs / are deserving of the most respect as competitors, etc. It's not a new debate and I sort of get tired of mulling over the same things every time, so I thought I'd do my part to put it to rest.
Things were started when it was debated how taxing a sport baseball can be, in terms of physical exertion and skills required. Having played and watched baseball for many years, I’ll just say this:
In its purest form (big stadiums and glitzy contracts need not apply), baseball is great. It has its own aesthetic and timing. The feeling you have playing the game is something special, especially when you're out there with other people who love the game and want to knock the ball around a little (and nothing more). I don't deny it, and that part of the game will always have me by the heartstrings.
But I've also played a lot of basketball, a lot of hockey and even some soccer, all with people who played at the collegiate level (and a few higher than that in the case of soccer and hockey). Never played anything but pickup football in college, but I have a sense of that game too. Anyone who has played three or more of the major N Americn sports will probably tell you that baseball does not require (on the whole) the same kind of athleticism (which I'll define as a *combination* of acquired skill and physical task) the other sports do. It just isn't the case IMO.
Yes, hitting a curve ball or a knuckler is the hardest single task in team sports probably, but that's only one aspect of the game; it requires excellent eye-hand coordination much more than anything else. You don't have to be a physically strong individual; I know guys skinny as a rail that could pound the crap out of anything you throw at them (line drives all over the park) because they have excellent eye-hand skills and "quick wrists". Throwing and fielding require a combination of things, but mostly eye-hand coordination. Baseball is simply not a taxing sport most of the time.
If I had to list by position the athletes tasked with the most difficult combination of acquired skill and physical exertion, in professional and semi-professional team sports (the list would change a lot at less competitive levels), according to the following criteria…
Physical Abuse (PA),
Overcome Fear (F),
Degree of the above items required:
(For clarity: "Agility" I define as the ability to quickly dart from one position to the next (usually a short distance and while moving at relatively high speed) while simultaneously changing your body's orientation or posture, in order to get by an opponent or score…
"Mobility" is the ability to keep yourself in position over relatively short distances as a play develops; basically it's agility but performed while moving at a slower pace / from a relatively stationary position. A point guard requires high agility; linebackers require high mobility.
"Physical Abuse" is not necessarily just the act of taking a hit or getting slammed into the ground / ice, but could also be constant wear and tear on a single area of the body (pitcher’s arm, soccer player’s knees, etc)
"Overpower" simply means the task(s) require great physical strength of some kind or else you cannot play the position.
In general, all of the categories rated imply what level is needed to play the position well against skilled opponents. You could almost think of it this way: assuming someone is a good all-around athlete (good enough to be a professional), which things does he absolutely have to have in order to excel at a high level, at a given position? Note: this is different than saying that "most players at this position in this sport only rate this high". We all know there are baseball players out there who would make great football players, football players who can compete on the hardwood, basketball players that can tear it up on the soccer field, etc...
…anyway, the list would go something like this:
Defensman - hockey A-5, C-5, D-4, M-5, S-4, R-4, PA-5, F-4, O-3 (39)
Middle LB - football A-3, C-3, D-4, M-5, S-5, R-4, PA-5, F-2, O-5 (36)
Center - hockey A-4, C-4, D-3, M-4, S-4, R-4, PA-5, F-3, O-4 (35)
D Back – football A-5, C-4, D-5, M-4, S-4, R-4, PA-3, F-2, O-3 (35)
Scoring Wing - hockey A-5, C-5, D-4, M-4, S-3, R-3, PA-5, F-3, O-2 (34)
Quarterback - football A-3, C-4, D-3, M-4, S-4, R-4, PA-5, F-5, O-3 (34)
Ch Wing – hockey A-3, C-4, D-3, M-4, S-4, R-3, PA-5, F-2, O-4 (32)
Midfielder - soccer A-5, C-4, D-4, M-5, S-5, R-3, PA-3, F-1, O-2 (32)
Receivers – football A-5, C-4, D-5, M-2, S-3, R-3, PA-4, F-4, O-2 (32)
Goalie – hockey A-3, C-5, D-2, M-3, S-4, R-5, PA-3, F-3, O-3 (31)
Shortstop - baseball A-3, C-5, D-4, M-5, S-1, R-5, PA-2, F-2, O-3 (30)
Forward - soccer A-5, C-5, D-5, M-3, S-3, R-3, PA-2, F-1, O-2 (29)
Goalie - soccer A-4, C-3, D-1, M-5, S-1, R-5, PA-2, F-5, O-1 (27)
Forward - basketball A-3, C-3, D-2, M-5, S-4, R-2, PA-3, F-2, O-3 (27)
Catcher - baseball A-1, C-4, D-1, M-2, S-4, R-5, PA-4, F-3, O-3 (27)
Pitcher - baseball A-1, C-5, D-1, M-2, S-4, R-4, PA-3, F-3, O-3 (26)
Infield - baseball A-2, C-4, D-3, M-4, S-1, R-4, PA-2, F-2, O-3 (25)
P Guard - basketball A-5, C-5, D-3, M-4, S-3, R-3, PA-1, F-1, O-1 (25)
S Guard - basketball A-3, C-5, D-3, M-4, S-3, R-3, PA-1, F-1, O-1 (24)
Defensman – soccer A-3, C-3, D-4, M-5, S-3, R-4, PA-2, F-1, O-2 (24)
Outfield - baseball A-3, C-3, D-4, M-3, S-1, R-3, PA-2, F-1, O-3 (23)
Center - basketball A-1, C-2, D-2, M-3, S-3, R-3, PA-3, F-1, O-4 (22)
Sorry if there are any math errors; I checked over it a couple times but my eyes grow tired. And no I didn't spend all this time on this post. I had to stop for a few hours in the middle to make some lunch, watch some football, etc.