Sam broke down baseball's eras in Episode 454:
- We all have different time periods we like to use for our Play Index searches. Sometimes I like to think that baseball started in 1950. Sometimes I think that baseball started in 1969, when they raised the mound. A lot of times, I like to think that it started in 1988. I basically think that everything after 1988 is real baseball. Everything before 1988 is pretty close, like real close, but so much changed from year to year that it's hard to treat it with quite the same certainty. And then everything before, like, 1923, or maybe a couple years later, is completely made up. Like, totally useless. Not baseball. Not recognizable. Get out of here.
In Episode 493, Sam justified limiting a Play Index analysis to post-1988 "to avoid having to go to the old boring baseball, because those guys have names we don't know," and to "smooth out the offensive environment".
In Episode 676, Sam said that modern baseball cards begin in 1989, because that was the first year with 1988 stats.
Ben recalls in Episode 1840 that Sam chose 1988 because that was the first year we have full pitch data.
Ben occasionally teased Sam about his belief that baseball begins in 1988. In Episode 718, Sam expands his search back to 1988, and Ben says, "All of recorded history." In Episode 755, Sam does a second search over the years 1950 to 1987, and Ben says, "Back to pre-history."
This inside joke was also used by Baseball Prospectus:
- Since 1988—and we pick 1988 as a tip of the hat to new BP boss Sam Miller, who believes modern baseball history begins then...
- — Skewed Left: What Is An All-Star Pitcher?
- Sam misspoke: 1969 was the year that they lowered the mound.
- The year 1950 is significant because Retrosheet has reconstructed play-by-play data for nearly all games since 1950.