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I have done some research to find the origins of striking and fielding games in Spain and have found that Gilli-Danda and Basque Pelota are the oldest forms of striking and fielding games played in Spain. But now I'm wondering whether or not there is a story to how the game was formed. For example, the beginning of rugby was in a football game. While the players were playing normally, one person just picked up the ball and run to the end -- hence, rugby was born. Is there a story like this one for striking and fielding games?
The Grand Canyon is a mile-deep gorge in northern Arizona. Scientists estimate the canyon may have formed 5 to 6 million years ago when the Colorado River began to cut a channel through layers of rock. Humans have inhabited the area in and around the canyon since the last Ice Age. The first Europeans to reach the Grand Canyon were Spanish explorers in the 1540s. President Benjamin Harrison first protected the Grand Canyon in 1893 as a forest reserve, and it became an official United States National Park in 1919.
The Dropped Third Strike: The Life and Times of a Rule
The dropped third strike is a peculiar rule.1 Three strikes and you are out seems a fundamental element of baseball, yet there is this odd exception. If the catcher fails to catch the ball on a third strike, and first base is open, or there are two outs, then the batter becomes a runner. Most of the time this makes no difference: The catcher blocks the ball, and as the batter begins to stroll back to the dugout the catcher picks it up and tags him, if only for form’s sake. Occasionally the ball gets a few feet past the catcher, and the batter takes this more seriously and makes a run for first base, only to be called out as the ball beats him there.
But on rare, magical occasions, the rule matters. The pitcher throws a breaking ball in the dirt: the batter and the catcher lunge after it, neither successfully it skitters to the backstop and the batter ends up at first base with the gift of a new life. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be costly, as the Dodgers found in the 1941 World Series, when with two outs in the ninth inning the Yankees’ Tommy Henrich missed the strike three, followed immediately by catcher Mickey Owen missing it as well, extending the inning and allowing the Yankees to score four runs to take the lead and win the game.
Why is this? What purpose does it serve? If it is a penalty for wild pitching or poor catching, why only on the third strike? The rule seems inexplicably random.
The answers to these questions lie in the very early days of baseball. The strike out and the dropped third strike turn out to be sibling rules, and the strike out not quite so fundamental to the game as it would seem. The strike out would grow into a centerpiece of the struggle between the pitcher and the batter, while the dropped third strike would move to the margins, surviving as a vestige of the early game.
The story begins in an unexpected source: a German book of children’s games published in 1796 titled Spiele zur Uebung und Erholung des Körpers and Geistes für die Jugend, ihre Erzieher und alle Freunde Unschuldiger Jugendfreuden i.e. “Games for the exercise and recreation and body and spirit for the youth and his educator and all friends in innocent joys of youth,” by Johann Christoph Friedrich Gutsmuths.2 Gutsmuths was an early advocate of physical education. He is best known today, outside the rarified field of baseball origins, for his promotion of gymnastics. In 1793 he published the first gymnastics textbook, Gymnastik für die Jugend, i.e.”Gymnastics for Youth.” His 1796 work extended the scope to additional games. These include a chapter Ball mit Freystäten (oder das Englische Base-ball), i.e. “Ball with Free Station, or English Base-ball.”
The game he describes, in quite some detail, is clearly an early form of baseball. There are two teams of equal size. The game is divided into innings, with the two sides alternating between being batting and fielding. A member of the fielding side delivers a ball to a batter, who attempts to hit it. Once he hits the ball, he attempts to run around a circuit of bases, which serve as safe havens, and to score by completing the circuit. The fielding side, in the meantime, attempts to put him out.
There are, of course, many differences from the modern game. Prominent among them is that there are only swinging strikes. Called strikes are as yet far in the future (enacted in 1858, and not even remotely consistently enforced before 1866). Less obvious is that there was no strike out in the modern sense. The feature that would evolve into the strike out was, in Gutsmuths’ time, a special case of being thrown out.
The pitcher in Gutsmuths stands close to the batter, five or six steps (fünf bis sechs Schrit) away. He tosses the ball to the batter in a high arc (in einem gestrecken Bogen: literally ‘in a stretched bow’). There are no called strikes or balls. The pitcher is not required to deliver the ball to any particular spot, nor the batter to swing at any given pitch, but neither is there any incentive for the pitcher to toss a purposely ill-placed ball, or the batter to refuse to swing at a well-placed ball.
This presents a problem. If the pitcher proves so inept that he cannot make a good toss, he can be replaced by a more capable teammate. But what about an inept batter? The game can be brought to a halt by a sufficiently incompetent batter, unable to hit even these soft tosses. The solution is to add a special rule. The batter is given three tries to hit the ball (Der Schläger hat im Mal drei Schläge.) On his third try, the ball is in play whether he manages to hit it or not. He has to run toward the first base once he hits the ball, or he has missed three times (oder hat er dreimal durchgeschlagen). Either way, any fielder, including the pitcher, can retrieve the ball and attempt to put the batter out by throwing it at him. Thus a missed third swing is equivalent to hitting the ball.
This solution is very inclusive. It allows even the hapless batter to join in the fun of running the bases and having the ball thrown at him, which a harsher penalty of an automatic out would deny him. Gutsmuths points out that the batter is at a disadvantage with a missed third swing, since the pitcher is close at hand to pick up the ball and throw it at him (und da der Aufwerfer den Ball gleich bei der Hand hat, so wirft er gewöhnlich nach ihm), so the batter’s ineptitude is penalized, but the fielding side still has to work for the out.
We see in the likelihood of the batter being put out the ancestor of the modern strike out. We see in the possibility of his reaching the first base the ancestor of the dropped third strike rule. Both would come to fruition a half century later.
By 1845, when the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club put their rules in writing, some structural changes had been introduced that would change the effect of the three-strike rule. The pitcher had moved away from the batter, toward the center of the infield. This meant that the pitch was no longer a soft lob in a high arc but was swifter, with a more horizontal path. This in turn required that one of the fielding side be positioned to block balls that went past the batter. Another difference was that in the Knickerbocker game, unlike the version described by Gutsmuths, a batted ball could be caught for an out either on the fly or on the first bound.
The three-strike rule in 1845 takes this form: “Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught, is a hand out if not caught is considered fair, and the striker bound to run.” This retains the logic of the rule in Gutsmuths, but with the possibility of the third strike being caught by the catcher: Should the batter swing at and miss three pitches, the ball is in play, just as if he had struck it. If the catcher catches the ball, either on the fly or on the first bound, then the batter is out. This is no different from if any fielder had caught a batted ball. If the catcher fails to catch the ball, the batter runs for first base, just as if a batted ball had gone uncaught.
Is this a strike-out rule, or a missed third strike rule? The Knickerbocker rules make no distinction. They are the same rule. Over the ensuing years the strike out aspect would move to the center and the missed third strike aspect move to the margins, surviving as an oddball vestige of an earlier age.
This unity was more theoretical than practical. Although balls got past the catcher far more commonly than they do today, through a combination of pitchers wildly overthrowing and the catcher having no mitt or protective equipment, even then the normal expectation was that the catcher would take the ball, sometimes on the fly but more often on the bound. A third strike usually meant an out, and this became the status quo to be maintained.
This became an issue in December of 1864, when the rules were amended to adopt the “fly game.” Fair balls caught on the bound were no longer outs. They had to be caught on the fly. This change applied only to fair balls. Foul balls caught on the bound were still outs. This allowed catchers a chance to take foul balls hit into the dirt: a difficult and much admired play. This play gradually disappeared as catchers adopted protective equipment and moved up closer to the batter, leaving the less attractive play of a first or third baseman fielding a foul ball on the bound. The foul bound was eventually abandoned when the modern rule was adopted, briefly in 1879 and permanently in 1883 in the National League, followed in 1885 by the American Association.
The Knickerbocker rules stated that a third strike “if not caught is considered fair”—language which was retained through 1867. With the adoption of the fly game, it would seem to logically follow that a missed third strike, being considered fair, would only be an out if caught on the fly, like any other fair ball. The rules did not explicitly address this, and when the question was raised it was perfunctorily dismissed based on obscure and inconsistent logic:
Every ball caught on the bound—unless the strike be a fair ball caught in the field—puts a player out just the same in the fly game as in the bound. Thus a player is put out on three strikes by a bound catch in the fly game for although the ball is not called foul, it is equivalent to being so from the fact of its first touching the ground behind the line of the bases, like a foul ball.3
[Enterprise vs. Gotham 6/6/1865] In this innings the Enterprise were put out in one, two, three order, the last man being put out on three strikes by the usual bound catch. By many present this was regarded as an illegitimate style of play in the fly game, but the rules admit of the bound catch in this instance, it being regarded in light of a foul ball from striking the ground back of the home base, the sentence in rule 11, which reads, “It shall be considered fair,” referring to the character of the strike and not the ball.4
Not until 1868 was the text of the rule brought in line with the practice: “If three balls are struck at and missed, and the last one is not caught, either flying or upon the first bound, the striker must attempt to make his run, and he can be put out on the bases in the same manner as if he had struck a fair ball.” This revision, while not euphonious, removes any mysterious distinction between the strike and the ball being fair.
The missed third strike had been divorced from its original logic. No longer was a third strike regarded as a fair ball, which might or might not be caught. A third strike was expected to be an out. The catcher failing to catch the pitch, much less the batter taking first on a missed third strike was the exception to this expectation. The fly rule was not understood to have anything to do with this. The fly game rule had been a topic of lively debate since it was first proposed in 1857. There is no record of third strikes entering into this discussion. When the fly game was finally enacted, the rules makers had no intention of it affecting third strikes. They seem not to have realized the logic of the matter before the fly game was adopted. By the time this was brought to their attention it was too late to rewrite the dropped third strike rule to accommodate the fly game. At that point they really had no choice but to bluff.
Had they succumbed to the argument that a third strike caught on the bound was not an out, this would have resulted in an important unintended consequence. A missed third strike, while usually to the benefit of the batter, could instead result in a double—or even triple—play. Catchers tried to take advantage of this by dropping the ball deliberately:
[Mutual vs. Union of Lansingburgh 9/17/1868] [bases loaded] Galvin … struck twice ineffectually as he struck at the ball for the third time and failed to hit it, Craver, who, as usual, was playing close behind the bat, dropped the ball and deliberately picking it up stepped on the home base and threw it to third Abrams passed it to second, but not before Hunt, who ran from first, reached the base. This sharp feat of Craver’s was much applauded
This was not an easy or common play. Fielders did not yet wear gloves. There was no such thing as a routine play:
[Baltimore vs. Philadelphia 8/7/1873] The umpire gave [Charlie] Fulmer his base on called balls, and a singular series of misplays followed. Treacy made three strikes, and McVey [the catcher] missed the last in order to effect a double-play. He threw the ball splendidly to Carey [the second baseman], who missed it, and, instead of catching Fulmer, Charlie was soon trotting to third, where he would have been caught had not Radcliffe [the third baseman] missed the ball sent to him by Carey. Fulmer got home, and Treacy to second.6
Intentionally dropping the third strike to get a double play was an acceptable tactic precisely because it was difficult, requiring skillful execution. Had the dropped third strike rule applied to pitches taken on the bound, this play would have become more common, and much easier. The catcher would no longer have to consciously drop the ball while taking care not genuinely to lose control of it. Rather, a catcher playing back from the batter would automatically activate the rule, with the catcher well positioned to make his throw. The dropped third strike would move in from the margins, which the rules makers neither intended nor desired.
The logical discrepancy was removed in 1879, when the bound catch was removed both for foul balls and third strikes. The 1878 rules state that “The batsman shall be declared out by the umpire … if after three strikes have been called, the ball be caught before touching the ground or after touching the ground but once.” The 1879 version removes the clause “or after touching the ground but once.” The elimination of the foul bound out had been discussed for several years. The discussion of abolishing third strike bound catch went along with it, if only for the sake of consistency.7 This turned out to be premature for the foul bound out. It was restored the following year, and not permanently abolished from the NL until 1883 and the AA in 1885. The new third strike rule remained in place.
With this change the logic of the rule was restored. Through the 1880s one section of the rules stated when the batter became a runner, including (quoting the 1880 version) “when three strikes have been declared by the Umpire.” This is much as Gutsmuths had described it over eighty years before. But then in a subsequent section, the rules stated how the base runner could be put out, including “if, when the Umpire has declared three strikes on him while Batsman, the third strike be momentarily held by a Fielder before it touch the ground…” The modern rules organize these possibilities differently, but with the same result.
Such elegance was short lived. The final change was to remove the incentive for the catcher to intentionally drop the third strike. The logic of the intentionally dropped third strike is familiar: it is the same as that of the intentionally dropped infield fly—a play also well understood in 1860s. In both, the fielder responds to a perverse incentive. Fielders usually are admired for their skill at catching the ball, but in these plays he instead purposely muffs it. In both, the base runner cannot know whether to stay at his base or to run. The result, if the play is well executed, is a double play where normally there would be but one out.
The intentionally dropped third strike and the intentionally dropped infield fly were considered skillful plays so long as they were difficult to execute. Both plays became easier as fielding equipment improved, and a sense of injustice developed. The infield fly rule was enacted in 1895, making an infield fly (with first and second bases occupied and fewer than two outs) an automatic out. The dropped third strike rule similarly was amended in 1887, to substantially its modern form. A runner on first base now removes the dropped third strike rule, thereby removing the potential for a cheap double play on a force, unless there are two outs, neutralizing the concern. This is confusing, but largely goes unnoticed.
The infield fly rule invites controversy. A memorable example was on October 5, 2012, in a wild card playoff between Atlanta and St. Louis, when Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons hit a soft fly ball to shallow left field with runners on first and second. The ball dropped between the St. Louis shortstop and left fielder, as umpire Sam Holbrook called it an infield fly. Controversy followed about whether the infield fly rule should have been invoked, or if the rule should even exist. The dropped third strike rule avoids similar controversy, benefitting from unambiguous implementation. A casual observer might not understand when it does or does not apply or why, but there are no questions raised by its being invoked or not.
While the tactical purpose of intentionally dropping the third strike is long gone, at least one catcher of the twentieth century is purported to have done it three times in one game (though that story may be apocryphal). Marty Appel tells of the day in the early 1970s when he, in his capacity as Yankees public relations director, included in his daily press notes that Carlton Fisk had two more assists than did Thurman Munson. Munson took this poorly, and proceeded in that day’s game to set the record straight with three dropped third strikes, each followed by a throw to first for an assist. His point made, whether about Fisk or the meaningfulness of the statistic, he completed the game in the normal manner. 8
What is the place of the rule today? It could be abolished and few would notice. Neither, on the other hand, is there any movement to abolish it. It flies under the radar. Absent a reform movement to completely rewrite the rules, it will remain indefinitely. It is a quirky rule, seemingly without purpose, a vestige of baseball’s earliest days. It is part of the charm of the game.
RICHARD HERSHBERGER is a paralegal in Maryland. He has written numerous articles on early baseball, concentrating on its origins and its organizational history. He is a member of the SABR Nineteenth Century and Origins committees. Reach him at [email protected]
1 The rule is variously called the dropped, missed, or uncaught third strike rule. “Uncaught” is the most accurate of the three, but the least euphonious and by far the rarest. Google n-grams shows that “dropped third strike” is by far the most common, and so is used throughout this article.
2 This discussion is based on the translation by Mary Akitiff, published in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 2005, 275-279.
3 New York Clipper March 25, 1865. Henry Chadwick was at this time both the baseball editor of the Clipper and a member of the National Association’s rules committee, and so his opinions, if not quite authoritative, were at the least those of an informed insider.
Who’s Hot, Who’s Cold: Blue Jays Batters
Two weeks in, the Blue Jays are 6-6, second place in the AL East, 3 games back of the Red Sox.
On the offensive side, we’ve averaged 4.50 runs per game, slightly below the league average of 4.61. Not exactly what we were expecting. We are tied for third in home runs, with 16. In OPS+ they sit at 96.
Bo Bichette: Started all 12 games. Hitting .327/.358/.653. 16 hits, 4 doubles, 4 home runs, 2 steals (halfway to his career high), 2 walks and 13 strikeouts.
He’s hit in 11 games in a row, but he’s gotten hot in the past few games, hitting .500 in the last four games. His swing seemed a little wild early, but he’s been a bit more under control. We should enjoy this hot streak. Defensively, he is what he is. He’s had 3 errors, 2 fielding, 1 throwing. I think he’ll make fewer errors, but his range isn’t exactly what we’d like.
Vladimir Guerrero: Started all 12 games. Hitting .390/.519/.585. 16 hits, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 1 steal, 9 RBI, 9 walks, and 9 strikeouts.
Yeah he’s been great. Lots of hard hit balls. Mostly singles, but a home run every 6 games is ok. I’m sure there will be streaks of extra base hits. Defensively, he’s improved on last year. He’s dealt with more bad throws than we’d like but he’s been pretty good doing it. I think he’ll continue to improve. We haven’t seen him overrun a popup yet this season. I’m sure it will happen, but he’s been much better at getting them. DHed in 3 games, which is likely about the right ratio.
Randal Grichuk: Started all 12 games. Hitting .310/.375/.476 with 4 doubles, 1 homer, 1 caught stealing, 5 walks and 8 strikeouts.
He started the season great, but his bat seems to have slowed up lately. He’s striking out less (16.7% from 21.2 last year, it is early). He’s always been a streak hitter. Every time he’s on a good streak, we get told he’s figured it out. But enjoy the good streaks and try to live through the bad. He started 9 games in center, 2 in right and 1 as DH. He is kind of a constant in the outfield. Doesn’t have the range you’d like in center, but he’s consistent, catches what he gets to, and doesn’t make glaring mistakes.
Danny Jansen: Played in 8, starting 7 of 12 games. Hitting .091/.200/.136. 2 hits, 1 double, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts.
He’s had some good long at bats, but he hasn’t been hitting the ball hard at all. On defense he’s been fine. He hasn’t caught a base stealer yet, but then only 5 have tried. I know Kirk is equally cold, but I’d like to see him play a bit more.
Cavan Biggio: Started in 11 games. Hitting .179/.304/.385. Has 1 triple, 2 home runs, 6 walks and 15 strikeouts.
He’s been doing better in the last five games, hitting .235/.381/.529, so hoping his season starting slump is over. Striking out too much. Still taking close pitches with 2 strikes. He has made a couple of errors at third, one fielding, one throwing, which makes his fielding average slightly better than league average at third. Vlad has made some nice catches to save him errors, but his throws haven’t been all that bad. Started all 11 games at third, but played 7 innings in right.
Lourdes Gurriel: Started 10 games. Hit .167/.211/.167. No extra base hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts.
He’s been a streak hitting since coming up. I’m hoping there is a hot streak coming. His defense is still not very good. Every fly ball hit towards him is an adventure, but he hasn’t made any official errors. He’s not great going back on balls. And sometimes coming in he defaults to the infielders more than I’d like. But, when he gets hitting, we’ll overlook the defense.
Rowdy Tellez: Played in 10 games, starting 8. Hitting .121/.171/.212 with 1 homer, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts.
He has hit in his last three games, 4 for 12. And he has hit a few balls hard in these last few games. He’s got the sort of power that you’ll wait around for. Started 5 games at DH and 3 at first base. He’s better at first than I thought he would be. Let’s see what he is hitting in a month’s time.
Alejandro Kirk: Played in 7 games, starting 5. Hitting .063/.167/.250. 1 home run, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts.
I’d like him to get 3-4 games in a row at some point, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. He seems fine behind the plate, 3 steals again, none caught. He shouldn’t be the runner on second in the extras ever.
Teoscar Hernandez: Started 7 games. Hit .207/.207/.310. 6 hits and 1 home run, 0 walks and 14 strikeouts.
Now out with Covid. Hopefully he’s healthy and he won’t be out more than the ten days.
Marcus Semien: Started all 12 games. Hit .212/.281/.442. 11 hits, 4 home runs, 5 walks, 15 strikeouts and 2 steals.
Hitting right at a 100 OPS+. Kind of weird there haven’t been any extra base hits that haven’t been home runs. Striking out more than I expected. 26.3% of the time, up 5% from last year. His defense at second has looked really good. He turns the double play nicely. Played DH in one game and short in one game. Really shouldn’t be at the top of the lineup. Springer has to come back at some point.
Joe Panik: Played in 7 games, started 5. Hit .278/.278/.333. 5 hits, 1 double, 2 strikeouts.
About the best you could expect, other than he hasn’t had a walk. He should never DH, he shouldn’t pinch hitting, but he has 1 games at DH, 3 at second, 1 at third.
Josh Palacios: Started 5 games. Hit .375/.500/.375. 6 singles, 2 walks and 5 strikeouts.
The four hit game was fun. I’d like to see more than singles out of him and I’m sure they will come if he hangs around long enough. His defense is well, much what we expected. Not great, not awful. Him not making that catch yesterday was not good. But one play. He is getting playing time. Started 4 games in right, 1 in left.
Jonathan Davis: Played in 8 games, started 3. Hit .000/.154/.000. 13 PA, 0 hits, 1 caught stealing, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.
He hasn’t impressed in his limited time and has lost playing time to Palacios. If Hernandez comes back before George Springer, it will be interesting to see if they keep Davis or Palacios. Davis is the better pinch runner and better defensive player.
Santiago Espinal: Started 1 game. Went 3 for 5, with a double, strikeout.
Defensive Debacles: How Do Fielding Errors Affect a Pitchers Mentality?
On Saturday, March 17 at the SABR Analytics Conference Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro held a Q&A, moderated by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. When the topic of current defensive metrics was brought up Shapiro said this:
"We look at conventional statistics that are available to everybody, and we've got our own proprietary statistics. Where we feel we're at as far as objective measurement of defense today is somewhat around the equivalent of using batting average for offense. It has some value, certainly very limited value . but we factor it in…"
The fact that a major member of the sabermetric research community said this in a public forum is fascinating. While most analysts understand that the current defensive metrics have holes, this statement has to have some resounding influences.
First, can the theory that sabermetrics only look at stats and nothing else be put to rest? The main argument I personally have with readers of my own blog and on twitter (and I know many others deal with this too) is that the sabermetric statistics used only look at numbers and not the on field performances, the whole picture, if you will.
As I constantly have to explain, sabermetrics are used to further our understanding of the game, not replace the traditional fundamentals (pitcher wins excluded, but that’s another topic for another day).
Second, without discrediting any of the defensive metrics that are currently out there, (I use them as much as anyone) I simply ask what Shapiro asked: where do we go from here? Sure, we have UZR and DRS and Fielding Percentage and Rtot (etc, etc, etc) but there are still some obvious holes that need to be considered.
On Sunday March 18 th , the Tigers were playing the Nationals in a grapefruit league spring training game. Doug Fister was starting for Detroit and started the game off strong. He struck out the first two Washington batters, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa and looked like he had a great feel for his pitches.
Ryan Zimmerman came to the plate and grounded a ball up the middle of the infield, a playable ball for second baseman Ryan Raburn that should have gotten the Tigers out of the inning. However, Raburn bobbled the scoop and then proceeded to throw the ball behind the first baseman, Don Kelly . Zimmerman was safe at first base and with two outs, Fister was forced to throw against another batter, Jayson Werth .
This time, Fister was unaffected. His fastball had zip, his curve had a snap, and he struck Werth out to end the inning, and despite Raburn’s error, ended up striking out the side.
The top of the second inning ended for the Tigers offense like the first did a few threats but in the end scored no runs. Fister walked out to the mound in the bottom of the inning with the score 0-0 and a positive first inning under his belt.
Chad Tracy led off the inning by promptly striking out just as the other Nationals before him. Five batters, four out, four strikeouts. The next batter, Jesus Flores , managed to fight off a pitch and single on a soft line drive near Ryan Raburn at second. Six batters, four outs, four strikeouts. Bryce Harper came to the plate and struck out on four pitches. Seven batters, five outs, five strikeouts.
Tyler Moore hit a line drive to left field that should have been caught by Andy Dirks . It should have ended the inning. It didn’t. The Tiger fielder misjudged the ball and dropped it for an error. Flores went to third base on the play.
So now the situation looks like this: Fister had struck out five of the first eight batters he faced before Roger Bernadina came to the plate. Fister had been rolling up to that point, if you like to use that term, and he looked comfortable. However, with two outs and two men on base, the latter because of the error, the point many argue, "Well it’s not Fister’s fault", isn't necessarily accurate. Instead a question should be asked, such as: "How is Fister going to respond to this situation?" The ball was still in his court. He has one out to get and can get it anywhere on the field. It should be no different than the situation in the first inning.
Yes, we know that if Dirks had made the catch, Fister wouldn’t have had to deal with the next batter, Bernadina, who in turn singled to the right fielder Brennan Boesch , scoring Moore. We know the runs are unearned on Fister’s ERA, even after Ian Desmond followed Bernadina with another single and gave the Nats a 2-0 lead.
The small rally was killed when Desmond was thrown out at second to end the inning, but the damage was done regardless of how it happened.Unearned runs are still runs and Fister still had control over allowing those runs to score even though the defense had just as much responsibility making the plays to get out of the inning.
A defensive error led to two runs, but how do we quantify the runs after the error? How do we quantify the fact that Fister lost his momentum and obviously became unsettled? He was cruising before the error. His pitches had zip on them. After the error they flattened out. The result was obvious.
Personally, I don’t think this is something that can be valued in a numerical format. Raburn made an error in the first inning and it resulted in no damage. Dirks made an error in the second inning with a man on and two runs scored before the inning ended. Where’s the difference? Where’s the reason that one inning resulted in zero runs and the other resulted in two?
How do we quantify that? How do we know that Dirk’s specific error was a direct reason for Fister’s ensuing struggles? We can't answer that with a definitive solution. How do we measure the effect error’s have on a pitcher just as the debate how we quantify "closer mentality" or "batting slumps"?
I think this is what Shapiro was referring to when he compared the defensive metrics to batting average in terms of what they tell us. It’s not the whole story. It’s why there is such a divide in how people view Fister’s teammate Miguel Cabrera ’s move to third base. We just don’t know. We assume it's going to be bad. But what if Cabrera has 25 errors this year and 20 of them come in a situation where the error doesn't result in any runs such as Ryan Raburn's error in the first inning?
Frankly, unless some genius flies in on wings of the baseball gods, I doubt we ever can know fully how errors effect pitchers other than a case by case basis.
The dassler brothers
A first step in a long history driven by speed and performance: The brothers Rudolf and Adolf Dassler founded the company “Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik” (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) in their hometown Herzogenaurach, Germany. Unbeknownst to them, they place the founding stone of the world capital of sports shoes.
Within the town, they're not the only shoe factory. More, smaller factories are scattered throughout the town, though many did not manage to survive past the 1950s and 60s. The brothers started their factory in their parents' home in 1919, moving into its proper facility in 1924.
Within the first few years, both gain notoriety. A majority of German athletes wear Dassler spikes at the Olympic Summer Games in Amsterdam, 1928. In 1936, Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Olympic Games in Berlin, all while sporting Dassler spikes. More medals soon followed: seven gold and five bronze medals, all for world class athletes wearing Dassler shoes. The first records are smashed as well: two World and five Olympic records. It’s their international breakthrough.
28 years after founding their company, the Dassler brothers fell out and went separate ways. Rudolf Dassler moved into another building, which belonged to the family. Together with 14 employees, he transformed this storage facility into a factory and founded his own company:
The “Sportschuhfabrik Rudolf Dassler (RUDA)” was registered as a business in January 1948, commencing operations a few months later on June 1, 1948. It took another four months until the PUMA brand was born: on October 1, 1948 “PUMA” was registered at the German Patent and Trademark Office. In December 1948, in a letter to partners and customers, Rudolf Dassler announced his decision to name the company “PUMA Schuhfabrik Rudolf Dassler”. The details of the new company were added to Germany’s commercial register on January 14, 1949.
Even though he had to start from scratch, Rudolf Dassler’s success continued. PUMA’s first football boot, the “ATOM”, convinced many athletes of its qualities. Several members of West Germany’s national team wore this boot during the country’s first post-war football match, a 1-0 win against Switzerland in 1950. Among the players: Herbert Burdenski, who scored the winning goal. From that moment on, the history of sports and the history of the company became inseparable.
Herzogenaurach has been a shoe makers town since the middle ages. And over the years it has developed into the world's sport shoe capital.Mr. PUMA Helmut Fischer
Cricket is believed to have begun possibly as early as the 13th century as a game in which country boys bowled at a tree stump or at the hurdle gate into a sheep pen. This gate consisted of two uprights and a crossbar resting on the slotted tops the crossbar was called a bail and the entire gate a wicket. The fact that the bail could be dislodged when the wicket was struck made this preferable to the stump, which name was later applied to the hurdle uprights. Early manuscripts differ about the size of the wicket, which acquired a third stump in the 1770s, but by 1706 the pitch—the area between the wickets—was 22 yards long.
The ball, once presumably a stone, has remained much the same since the 17th century. Its modern weight of between 5.5 and 5.75 ounces (156 and 163 grams) was established in 1774.
The primitive bat was no doubt a shaped branch of a tree, resembling a modern hockey stick but considerably longer and heavier. The change to a straight bat was made to defend against length bowling, which had evolved with cricketers in Hambledon, a small village in southern England. The bat was shortened in the handle and straightened and broadened in the blade, which led to forward play, driving, and cutting. As bowling technique was not very advanced during this period, batting dominated bowling through the 18th century.
Mondragon through a Critical Lens
I recently completed a study tour to Mondragon, a small town in the Basque region of Spain, which is the home of the world’s largest and most advanced cooperative economy.
In the United States, the cooperative sector, which represents over $500 billion in revenues and employs about two million people, is surprisingly invisible. Despite its size, it is seldom, if ever, discussed in business schools or economics programs. Nonetheless, when you mention specific cooperatives or types of cooperatives, most Americans will have had at least some exposure to:
· Credit unions, which are member-owned financial cooperatives
· Agricultural cooperatives, such as Sunkist, Ocean Spray, Land o’ Lakes, Organic Valley, etc.
· Purchasing cooperatives, such as those in the hardware sector (Ace, Coast to Coast, and True Value)
· Consumer cooperatives, such as REI and a host of independent grocery stores
· Housing cooperatives, which have been used to address the needs of seniors, students, mobile home park residents, and (occasionally) low-income communities.
Worldwide, cooperatives are even more significant, representing well over $3 trillion in turnover, 12.6 million in employment, and over a billion people in total membership.
Within the global cooperative movement, the Basque town of Mondragon occupies a special place. Founded in 1956 by Father José María Arizmendiarrieta, the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation currently consists of 102 federated cooperatives employing over 73,000 people. The vast majority of these worker-owners are in the industrial and distribution segments of the economy, competing successfully in global markets. In addition, the Mondragon cooperative system owns its own bank, university, social welfare agency, several business incubators, and a supermarket chain.
I went to Mondragon to see this system in action and to explore its relevance to the US. Like many Americans who are concerned with rising inequality and environmental degradation, I was seeking an alternative to our current system’s focus on maximizing shareholder value.
The surprise was in the scale of the experiment.
The tour I took was organized and led by Georgia Kelly of the Praxis Peace Institute. Our local guide was Ander Etxeberria, Director of Cooperative Dissemination. Here are ten takeaways from the trip:
I was not aware of my assumptions about Mondragon until I arrived and found myself surprised. For U.S. citizens sharing an affinity for a leftist critique of capitalism, the very name “Mondragon” conjures up a humane, economic alternative in which the interests of workers trump the dictates of capital and the well-being of the many trumps the self-interest of the privileged few. These values are well reflected in Mondragon’s operations. The surprise was in the scale of the experiment.
While I had imagined a “local living economy,” somewhat focused on bartering in line with E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful philosophy, that is not how Mondragon functions. In Mondragon, “large is beautiful” because large makes it possible to compete in global markets and thereby maximize employment — the ultimate goal of the worker-owned system.
2. Mondragon is an advanced industrial economy competing in global markets.
Mondragon today consists of 102 individual cooperatives united in a federation called the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, which is also organized as a cooperative. Although Mondragon cooperatives now operate in multiple sectors, the most significant cooperatives are worker-owned industrial enterprises competing globally in niche markets.
We visited one of the industrial cooperatives, ULMA Packaging, which makes machines that make packaging for perishable food products. Note: ULMA does not make packaging for these products — it makes the machines that make the actual packaging.
There are several characteristics that make this an appropriate and potentially sustainable niche for a global competitor coming from a high wage country. First, in global terms, this is a relatively small niche market, less likely to attract a large number of competitors. Second, it is a highly technical niche, relatively insulated from competition from countries with large numbers of low-wage, unskilled workers. Third, each machine is customized to its specific application, thus requiring continued human intervention, providing continued employment. Finally, because these machines play a critical role in their customers’ production processes, they tend to compete on quality and reliability rather than price, and the customer necessity of maximizing “up-time” (that is, the time in which the machines are running properly and production is not halted) creates an important after-market service opportunity.
The plant that we viewed was an assembly plant, which utilized components, materials and logistics provided by both cooperatives and non-cooperatives. As our local guide, Ander Etxeberria, observed, “In Mondragon, on the one hand, we do not have enough companies to provide to us and, on the other hand, it is not mandatory to buy in our cooperatives.” Instead, their choice hinges on the most competitive bidder.
In an export-led economy, such as Mondragon, much of the “local living economy” is based on what Michael Porter and others call “industrial clusters.” In fact, according to Etxeberria, Michael Porter created a strategic plan for the Basque government in the 1990s and helped to shape the industrial clusters operating today.
The thing that was so refreshing about Mondragon was its willingness and ability to deal with facts on the ground, to allow practice to modify theory without losing sight of values.
3. Pragmatism is the only enduring “ism.”
Over and over, I was struck by the non-doctrinaire adaptability articulated by our guide and demonstrated by the history of the individual cooperatives. We heard (and read) many stories of economic crises and how the cooperatives, individually and collectively, weathered them. In all cases, they remained true to their core value — providing long-term employment (and other benefits) to their worker-owners — but they did so with creativity, self-sacrifice, an emphasis on fairness, and an impressive commitment to collaborative decision-making.
The desire for theoretical purity strikes me as a critical failure of both mainstream and alternative economics. When facts fail to conform to theory, there is a strong tendency on both sides to throw out the facts in order to preserve the theory.
The thing that was so refreshing about Mondragon was its willingness and ability to deal with facts on the ground, to allow practice to modify theory without losing sight of values. As I review my experience of Mondragon, I’m thinking this may well be its “secret sauce,” the key to its long-term success.
4. The social safety net.
In Spain, the state-run social safety net is designed to cover employees. As members of a cooperative, Mondragon’s worker-owners were not originally considered employees under state law. As a result, Mondragon had to set up its own social safety net, which it organized as a cooperative called Lagun Aro. Spain has since revised its position on coverage for worker-owners and Lagun Aro now provides benefits side by side with those offered by the government.
Benefits offered include health care, pensions, and unemployment. Each of these inspired considerable envy among our American tour group.
Spain offers universal health care to its citizens and Mondragon offers its own universal coverage system. We didn’t have an opportunity to discuss the thousand relevant details, large and small, that would give us the basis for a good comparison to the rest of the US system, but we already know our ailing system offers the worst care for the highest price of any system in the developed world. Mondragon may offer a worthy alternative.
The Mondragon pension system is now well aligned and fully integrated with the Spanish government system. Mondragon retirees receive 60 percent of their pension from the government and 40 percent from the Mondragon system. In total, they receive 80 percent of their former salary, enabling them to retire without having to make major shifts in their lifestyle.
The government pension program is an unfunded system (pay-as-you-go), while Lagun Aro is an individual capitalization system. Lagun Aro pension funds are invested conservatively, thereby avoiding some of the self-inflicted insolvency problems created by the US profit-maximizing system. That said, for the public part, the Mondragon system faces the same basic funding issues of defined benefit programs worldwide: uncertainty about where the money will come from in a volatile economy where current workers paying into the system are not keeping pace with the extended lifespans of retirees.
This is an issue that I think Mondragon has figured out really well, striking an important balance between the need for democratic decision-making and managerial discretion.
The cooperatives are structured consistently, roughly as depicted below:
Most of these structures have simple analogs in conventional capitalist firms. The Governing Council is roughly equivalent to the Board of Directors the Audit function corresponds to the audit committee of the board the Managing Director to the CEO the Managing Council to the executive leadership team and the Departments to standard departments, whether organized functionally, divisionally, geographically, or along some other line.
The critical difference, as noted previously, is that the purpose of the firm is to benefit its members rather than its shareholders. The governance structures supporting that critical difference are the General Assembly and the Social Council.
General Assembly: In most of the Mondragon industrial cooperatives, this is the organization of all worker-owners. In the “second level” cooperatives, that is, the cooperatives that serve other cooperatives, such as the bank and the health system, member-owners include both employees and representatives of the cooperatives served. The General Assembly meets at least once a year to act on what sounds like a mostly pro forma agenda. That said, its members elect the Governing Council, which in turn selects the Managing Director. Thus, in a very significant way, the workers are directly responsible for the long-term strategic direction of the firm and they select their own boss, who reports to them. And in times of trouble, the General Assembly is a place for the entire cooperative to thrash out difficult issues.
Votes in the General Assembly are strictly apportioned on a one-member, one-vote basis. In a cooperative, the janitor and the CEO have the same voice in the General Assembly — in contrast to the capitalist shareholder system, where the number of votes is based on the amount of money invested in shares of the enterprise — typically by absentee shareholders who have no other interest in the firm.
Social Council: This is an entity that is, in some respects, like a labor union, because it represents the concerns of worker-owners, but from the lens of their experience as workers. Since the traditional division of interests between workers and owners cannot, by definition, exist in a worker-owned cooperative, the Social Council was hard for me to understand initially.
It is an elective body that represents worker interests to the Governing Council and Managing Director. It has an advisory role and does not make decisions. However, if an issue is particularly contentious and the Social Council is opposed to the decision of the Governing Council and Managing Director, it can bring the issue to the General Assembly for a vote of the broader membership.
According to what I’ve read, this happens very rarely (as one would hope and expect), but when it has happened, the decisions of the General Assembly have gone both ways — sometimes supporting “management” (i.e. the Governing Council and Managing Director) and sometimes supporting the “workers” (i.e. the Social Council). Disputes are resolved by the “owners” (i.e. the General Assembly), where all three roles are united in a one-member, one-vote democratic system.
While I don’t have enough data to draw firm conclusions, I believe this structure produces decisions that are both different from and better than those of capitalist firms in two specific ways. First, I think it strikes the right balance between the economic survival of the firm and the economic benefits to the individual workers. And second, because economic decisions may impact individual workers differently, the structure helps produce decisions based on “fairness” in balancing the needs of the few directly affected individuals with the needs of the many who are not. And all participants in the system are free to make choices with broadly defined benefits — not the narrow capitalist dictates of maximizing returns to shareholders.
6. A case in point: “intercooperation” and the bankruptcy of Fagor Electrodomésticos.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Fagor Electrodomésticos, the largest of the industrial cooperatives, failed, eliminating the jobs of 1,800 worker-owners in 2013.
The cause of the failure was a “perfect storm” of three related issues. First, immediately prior to the recession, Fagor Electrodomésticos had expanded by buying a competitor in the household white goods sector it financed the acquisition by taking on major debt. Second, the number of its Asian competitors was growing every day. And third, just as the cooperative’s expanded capacity came on line, the recession hit and the bottom fell out of the market.
What happened next is what was unusual. Because of the principle of “intercooperation” among the Mondragon cooperative enterprises — that is, the idea of connectedness and reciprocity among all the participants in the system — most the employees were relocated to other cooperatives. Some were offered employment in CATA Electrodomésticos, the private sector enterprise that took over the assets of Fagor Electrodomésticos. Some took early retirement, and a handful took a compensation package to leave the system. Some received unemployment benefits from Lagun Aro, the social welfare cooperative. By the time of our 2017 visit, only 60 former employees (three percent) remained unplaced.
Despite its many virtues, Mondragon is not utopia.
Despite its many virtues, Mondragon is not utopia. In the course of our visit, three issues came to light that brought this truth home.
The first, and most troubling, was the issue of international workers who are not members of the cooperatives. As with many successful firms, regardless of structure or industry, much of the growth in recent years has come from international markets, which now account for 70 percent of Mondragon sales. This has necessitated hiring new workers in those new markets. Few, if any, of these new workers have been offered membership in the cooperatives. As a consequence, they do not participate in the benefits of worker-ownership. While they are reportedly treated well they do not participate in the governance of the firm and are not eligible for many of the other unique benefits of the cooperatives.
The most compelling reason we heard for why these international workers are not also owners is that there is not a culture of cooperatives in these foreign markets and Mondragon does not believe in, or have the capabilities for, proselytizing the cooperative form. Admittedly, it might also be against their economic interest to include more worker-owners in the confederation. But whatever the motivation, the net result is to create a set of second-class citizens on whose backs the growth of the firm now depends.
According to our tour leader, Georgia Kelly, “You cannot impose a cooperative culture where nothing like it exists,” she said. “It takes a tremendous re-educational effort to bring people into a culture that carries the responsibilities of running a business and sharing in a democratic process. Even with businesses they have acquired in Spain, an educational process must take place before assuming people are ready to be worker-owners. And, of course, not all people want to be worker-owners.”
The second contradiction at Mondragon relates to environmental issues. Even as “sustainability” issues have found a place in most global firms, I did not see much traction in Mondragon in either practice or articulated values. There is nothing in cooperativism that is inherently greener than any other structure.
On this issue, there is good news on three fronts. First, as environmental responsibility becomes an important consideration for both customers and worker-owners, it is likely to find its way into the mission and function of the cooperatives. Second, as the environmental crisis worsens, it will create many new business opportunities for companies with the technical skills to address them. Mondragon, with its strong technical and industrial skills, will be well positioned to take advantage of these new markets.
Third, the sustainability orientation of Mondragon is potentially further along than I could observe on the ground. According to Michael Peck, North American delegate for Mondragon, “in the area of sustainability, where Mondragon cooperatives started with EU adhesion to the Kyoto Protocol starting in 1997 (something the U.S. never achieved), they have been very conscious of both sustainability practices as well as essential green industrial certifications (the EU versions of LEED) which they need in order to compete in global markets. The Basque region of Spain is an absolute EU leader in recycling and reuse — having won awards and this sustainability mentality has also influenced Basque leadership on the GINI coefficient.”
The third issue of concern had to do with the status of women. They were not very much in evidence on either the shop floor as worker-owners or at the management level. Our local guide, the father of two daughters, acknowledged that this situation was less than desirable, but noted that the situation is improving, particularly at the level of the Governing Councils, where they now represent 25 percent of the membership. In Mondragon and elsewhere, there are still far fewer women than men studying engineering, a critical issue in Mondragon’s engineering-heavy industrial economy.
We were also told that to achieve a livable family wage, most families required two incomes. Although there were a handful of cooperatives where women were in the majority (such as the food service operation supporting the cooperatives) and we did see women in administrative positions in offices, I did not see or talk to enough women to get a feeling for their position in the Mondragon system.
Georgia Kelly, our US-based tour organizer, countered that she has seen a definite increase in the number of women in managerial positions and training programs in the nine years she has been coming to Mondragon. She notes that the biggest change is in the younger generation and further notes that men and women doing the same jobs receive the same pay — an obvious gender equity goal that has yet to be achieved in the US.
Michael Peck also offered specific examples of women in leadership positions, as the General Secretary for Mondragon’s Governing Council, the Mondragon Corporation’s CFO, and the CEO positions in several of the individual cooperatives.
8. Final reflections: Democracy.
As Winston Churchill and others have observed, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms.” I’ve certainly had occasion to reflect on that statement since the 2016 election and the advent of the Trump administration. Mondragon gave me further cause for such reflection.
The basic principle of democracy, in cooperatives and in nation-states, is one person, one vote. To work properly, democracy assumes that voters take the necessary time to educate themselves on the issues and participate in the process. In a cooperative, where the democratic process has a direct daily impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, the participation rate and level of thoughtfulness would be expected to be higher than in the more distant matters of representative government.
And sometimes it is. I was impressed in my reading by the complexity of the decisions worker-owners were asked to make, collectively, about salary adjustments, unemployment benefits, overtime pay, required capital inputs, retirement benefits, and a myriad of other issues.
However, while individuals can evaluate complex issues, they don’t always take the time to do so. When asked about specific issues at Mondragon that were troubling to me, our guide would sometimes shrug and say, “This is a democracy.” To me, that shrug said it all: sometimes people make thoughtful decisions, sometimes not sometimes they take the time to participate in decision-making, sometimes not. But always there is another day: so long as democracy continues, there is the opportunity for another vote, a different outcome.
Also at work, however, was the notion of the “tyranny of the majority.” In winner-take-all voting decisions, the will of the majority is imposed on all, including the dissenting minority. In Mondragon, the worker democracy explicitly seeks to balance the general interests of the firm with the particular interests of the individual workers, which are not always internally aligned. Nonetheless, the Mondragon worker-owners are a fairly homogenous group, so one doesn’t have to travel far to experience empathy for “the other,” and the system is not being asked to address such intractable issues as homelessness, racism or multi-generational poverty, none of which were visible to me in Mondragon. That said, when Father Arizmendiarrieta came to Mondragon, it was the poorest area of Spain. Today, it is the wealthiest, with the majority of its residents as worker-owners of Mondragon. So, ownership has compounding social benefits, stable wages and livelihoods reduce income inequality and improve public health.
“ There are three kinds of power. Power than can crush us and we can and must resist it. That’s oppression. Power can assist us and we must guide it. That’s advocacy. But then we can also be power ourselves. This means organizing and building institutions together for what we need.”
9. Final reflections: Social change.
At one point our guide reminded us that Father Arizmendiarrieta was not interested in creating a cooperative economy. His goal was social transformation and the economic structure of the cooperative enterprises was simply a means to that end.
This observation prompted some musings about different approaches to social change — specifically, the differences between the goals of social responsibility, social justice and social transformation.
Corporations tend to talk about social responsibility, by which they mean taking responsibility for both the positive and negative impacts of the activities they pursue in the normal course of doing business. Their method is sometimes incremental improvement toward the goal of reducing harm, while preserving the essential characteristics of the existing system.
Social justice movements tend to talk about social justice, by which they mean some sort of redress of past wrongs — whether that takes the form of backward-looking reparations or forward-looking policy adjustments. I find I have a deeper understanding of the limitations of the social justice approach as a viable platform for social change, as opposed to building the institutions that undergird economic transformation, like cooperative structures. The Mondragon cooperatives talk about social transformation, a more far-reaching, future-oriented goal that seeks the creation of social and economic systems that reinforce the best in human nature. At the heart of this transformation is the desire to emphasize cooperation as opposed to competition as the most likely path toward creating a future that maximizes the well-being of all. In the United States, a social justice culture focused more on creating our own alternatives, as opposed to fighting old paradigms needs further nurturance. And in the culture overall, we need to take responsibility for our contributions to our financial destinies, to the extent we can under existing contraints.
As Ed Whitfield, Co-Managing Director of the Fund for Democratic Communities recently put it, “ There are three kinds of power. Power than can crush us and we can and must resist it. That’s oppression. Power can assist us and we must guide it. That’s advocacy. But then we can also be power ourselves. This means organizing and building institutions together for what we need.”
10. Final reflections: Could the Mondragon system work in the US?
This is the question that brought me, and most of my traveling companions, to Mondragon in the first place.
The answer is, at best, a “maybe.” I would have thought that the biggest obstacles to cooperativism in the U.S. would be American individualism, access to capital, and access to talent. In the end, I have come to believe the biggest impediments would be our culture and the weakness of our K-12 math and science education.
The issues of individualism and the availability of talent are related. The assumption of the dominant culture — reinforced by our current economic system — is that each of us is on our own, out for ourselves (and our immediate families), and that the pursuit of material rewards (including extraordinary rewards) is the primary motivation for our economic behavior. These are old, ingrained habits of thinking that will continue to persist among large segments of the US population, reinforced by neoliberal orthodoxy and business-driven consumerism. But there is growing evidence and support for alternatives that seek to satisfy deeper human needs, such as compassion for one’s fellows and the pursuit of meaning in one’s work.
As for the availability of capital, all cooperatives — and the Mondragon cooperatives in particular — require that their member-owners invest seed capital in the enterprise, giving them a definite sense of “having skin in the game.” While these contributions are unlikely to be sufficient to meet the capital requirements of the enterprise, they are an important start. The chief obstacle to attracting additional sources of capital is a lack of understanding of the cooperative model and investors’ reluctance to supply capital without clear collateral or recourse. There are ways to overcome this issue, beginning with loan guarantees from those who understand and support the model.
The two other obstacles — culture and K-12 education — seem far more intractable at this point. Unless that shifts, the cooperative model will not work. And the capitalist model — at least for the 99% — may fare no better.
As for K-12 education, the current U.S. educational establishment’s emphasis on improving STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education is not misplaced. A majority of the Mondragon cooperatives are in the industrial manufacturing sector, an increasingly sophisticated part of the economy, where the need for math and science skills is clear — and the US ability to compete successfully is marginal. But it’s not just manufacturing. One can imagine a sophisticated, cooperatively organized, service-based economy that would also require significant technical expertise. STEM education is the right approach, but we are far from figuring out how to deliver it effectively.
There are a host of intractable social problems in the US — homelessness, racism, addiction, obesity, violence, to name just a few — that may have economic elements, but cannot be solved even by a cooperative economic utopia.
But all of these issues cited here exist in the United States and elsewhere, regardless of whether our economies are organized under capitalist or cooperative principles. The fundamental issues that are well addressed by cooperativism — a reduction in economic inequality and a better alignment of the interests of workers, owners and managers — are critical. I am deeply grateful for the lessons learned in the 60 years of the Mondragon experiment and hope we can apply some of them here in the U.S. as we work to create a more equitable, sustainable economy.
Jill Bamburg is a Co-Founder of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute and on the Faculty of Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco.
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