The Blue Jays And The Nature Versus Nurture Debate.

The Toronto Blue Jays boast several prospects who come from MLB lineage. But, does that automatically translate to success?

 

 

 

 

So much has been written on the topic of nature versus nurture, especially in the world of sport. The idea that genetics and predisposition play a part in sport success more than pure training and will has been debated and studied at length, and many Blue Jays fans have, even if subconsciously, bought into the players with pedigree coming up through the Blue Jays farm system. Is pedigree what will make these players elite?

 

The most famous pedigree in the Blue Jays system at the moment is Vladimir Guerrero Jr., followed by Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. Their presence in the system has given hope to throngs of fans looking to have a championship team in the very near future. Is there added pressure on these players simply due to the fact they come from budding baseball dynasties for lack of a better term? Does nature beat nurture?

 

In discussing the roles of nature and nurture when determining human athletic ability, on the nature side there are gene variants that are brought up, a predisposition so to speak. On the nurture side, environmental variables including deliberate practice, family support and the birthplace effect are discussed.

 

There are quite a few studies that have been accumulated in recent years that detail the gene variants and how they explain, somewhat, the differences in physical capabilities. According to studies investigating the DNA polymorphisms and their association with elite athlete status, a link has been detected with at least 36 genetic markers located within 20 autosomal genes, mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome. Is this proof that your DNA matters in determining elite status? Maybe not.

 

In the book “The Sports Gene” by David Epstein (Penguin, 2013), the debate of nature versus nurture in the context of athletic ability is looked at through examining the lives of professional athletes as well as examining the factors contributing to athletic development. Epstein noted that while a genetic factor does exist, it doesn’t discount the need for solid training. Years of dedication has to count for something. In his book, Epstein concludes in the nature versus nurture debate, that one is useless without the other. It also highlighted the fact that genetics do play a factor as a reason why two athletes can have the same training schedule but see dramatically different results. Genes do indeed make a difference, albeit not on their own.

 

One only has to look at the baseball dynasties to see this in real time. Families like the Guerrero’s are foremost in the minds of Blue Jays fans these days. Vladimir Guerrero had a 16 year career in the majors playing for four teams, one being the Montreal Expos. A nine-time All-Star, he was once voted the most feared hitter. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018. His son Vladdy Jr. has become the most celebrated and watched prospects in the Blue Jays system, his career up to this point under a microscope as the Vladdy watch continues. A dynasty in the making for sure, but there are others.

 

Former Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek, son of Cy Young winner and All-Star pitcher Doug Drabek, was brought to Toronto as part of the trade that had Roy Halladay off to the Philadelphia Phillies. Interesting to note that while he was with the Blue Jays from 2010-2014, his pedigree did not keep him in Toronto. Sometimes that nature effect doesn’t take hold.

 

The Stottlemyre dynasty began with Mel, a pitcher with the Yankees for 11 seasons with five World Series championships to his credit. His son Todd played 15 years in the MLB and was a two-time World Series champion with the Blue Jays. Keep a lookout for any more Stottlemyres out there please.

 

The Alomar family continue to be Blue Jays baseball royalty. Sandy Alomar had an impressive 14 year MLB career and went on to coach in both the minors and majors. His son Sandy Jr. was a six-time All-Star catcher with a 19 year career in the MLB and Roberto has a 16 year MLB career – known as one of the best second basemen to play the game- whose accolades include two World Series championships and ten Gold Gloves among others. Roberto Alomar remains the only player in a Blue Jay cap in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 2011.

 

The Bichettes, the Biggios and the Clemens families – all with prospect players in the Blue Jays system – Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Kacy Clemens are all second generation players on their way to the MLB to create dynasties of their own, though Biggio and Clemens aren’t facing the same scrutiny Bo Bichette and Vladdy Guerrero Jr. are, which is interesting in the context of nature. What factor highlights the difference in these budding dynasties? Performance on the field and training it seems. Add in Braden Halladay and Dwight Smith Jr.to the dynasties in the making mix and there will be a lot to watch for in the coming seasons.

 

While there are many other families that can be included in the baseball dynasty category- included here are only some of the Blue Jays affiliated families- it doesn’t discount the reality that environmental factors play a big part in athletic success. Genes are unable to accomplish this on their own, hard work and training have to go hand in hand with any talk of the roles genes play.

 

With the excitement of players like Vladdy Jr. coming up, it is important to recognize that it is the hard work and perseverance that dictates success more so than the gene factor. One only has to look at players like Bryce Harper, proud son of an iron worker who he has said gave him his strong work ethic, to see what intense and sustained training can do.

 

Becoming elite with a combination of pedigree and training is possible. Becoming elite with training is possible. Becoming elite with pedigree alone is not. There are many players coming up without the pedigree that are striving to create their own dynasties. The fact is, there is the possibility of some really good baseball and it’s going to be fun to watch, nature versus nurture be damned.

 

 

 

 

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Catherine Stem

Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.