The Futility Infielder
A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe
I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.
Monday, February 26, 2007
...and sometimes you're just wrong, as I was when I thought my BP chat
was on Monday at 4 PM. It's Tuesday
at 4 PM EST, two hours after the Veterans Committee voting results are announced by the Hall of Fame. If there's a silver lining to the fact that I was all sugared up with no place to go this afternoon, it's that we discovered a malfunction in BP's chat system which was sending any questions readers had left into a parallel universe, so my Chicken Little act to the BP tech crew was slightly less embarrassing than it would have otherwise been. The bottom line is that if you dropped by to leave a question before 4 on Monday, it's gone daddy gone, so please resubmit it.
The chat won't be an epic, as I'm scheduled to make an appearance on XM Radio 175, "On Deck" with Chuck Wilson at 6:25 Eastern, discussing the VC vote. Chuck had me on back in January
, on the occasion of the Hall of Fame BBWAA ballot; he's a knowledgeable, enthusiastic host who's a fan of BP and who does his homework, asking substantial questions and listening to the answers. We talked for 27 minutes and it was the most fun I've had on the air (you can hear the results here
). This one won't be as long but I'm looking forward to it just the same.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
On Tuesday, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the results of this year's Veterans Committee voting. The new VC
-- which has taken the process out of the hands of 15 senile men in a smoke-filled room, accountable to nobody, and put it in the hands of the living Hall of Famers, Spink and Frick award winners (writers and broadcasters) in a BBWAA-type balloting process, has thus far gone 0-for-2 in electing anybody despite the presence of a few qualified candidates on the ballot
. I'll have a JAWS-themed article up at BP on Monday (update: it's here
, with a sidecar here
), and will be hosting a chat
at 4 PM Eastern. Drop by and ask a question, or feel free to leave one beforehand.
Labels: Chats, JAWS
Saturday, February 24, 2007
On Thursday night I got together with Bronx Banter
's Alex Belth and Cliff Corcoran and SI.com's Jake Luft
for some burgers and balltalk. It was typically rambunctious, with the four of us barely restraining ourselves from talking over each other like sugared-up six-year-olds as we discussed Bernie Williams, fantasy baseball, Ronnie Lott (how'd he get in there?), Steve Rushin, Tropicana Field, spring training and the Hall of Fame. If only I could remember what I was supposed to check out on YouTube...
Cliff, who edited Baseball Prospectus 2007
for Plume (a division of Penguin), showed up carrying his hot-off-the-press copy of the book, promising mine would arrive Friday, albeit with slighly less ketchup on the cover. It did, and aside from a couple of surprise commas -- them's the breaks when you play subordinate-clause chicken as often as I do -- I couldn't be happier. My contributions to the book were the Dodgers and Red Sox chapters, as well as a back-of-book collaboration with Will Carroll on the effects of the amphetamine ban.
The book is 48 pages longer than last year, weighing in at 602 in all (biggest BP ever, I'm told), and the switch in publishers from Workman to Plume looks like the difference between Scranton and New York City. Hats off to BP editors Steven Goldman and Christina Kahrl, as well as Cliff, for a job well done. We at BP like to say that we write the baseball book that we'd want to read. Here's hoping you readers come along for the ride and enjoy the advances we've made.
On the promotional front
here in NYC, the March 22 Columbia University time and location have been changed:
March 22, 6 PM
2920 Broadway (@ 114th Street)
New York, NY
The changes inadvertently accomodate my previous commitments (Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price getting their Western Schwing on at Radio City) and thus shift me from tentative to probable, with a 60 percent likelihood of watermelon smashing
. Consider yourselves warned.
Labels: BP07, promotion
Friday, February 23, 2007
A couple years ago I was talking with a Yankees fan, a true-blue New Yorker as typified by that classic Saul Steinberg New Yorker
cover, "A View of the World from 9th Avenue,"
. We were talking about our online baseball reading habits, sites we visit regularly and such, and I mentioned an article I'd read earlier that day by Joe Posnanski.
"Who?" he replied.
"Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star
. You know, Poz."
"Why would I care what's going on in Kansas City?"
The conversation ground to an abrupt halt. There was no sense in pressing the issue with my provincial acquaintance; it was like showing a pig a wristwatch. We simply consume baseball differently; he's a rabid fan of the hometown nine, and I'm someone who likes to -- needs to
, given my writing responsibilities at Baseball Prospectus and Fantasy Baseball Index -- be conversant about every team. Fair enough. I like knowing what's going in Milwaukee, Miami, Pittsburgh, or Kansas City, not just because they're exotic non-New York City locales but because just as there are players worth watching on other teams, there are writers worth reading all over the country, and they don't write about the Alex Rodriguez v. The World
soap opera twice a week.
Posnanski's one of them. He's had to endure some pretty dark days covering the Royals, yet he always seems to strike the right note, never strident, neither too suicidally pessimistic nor too insanely optimistic about the home team's situation. And his street cred, as far as I'm concerned, is impeccable. He's a SABR member, friends with Bill James and Rob and Rany
, hip to Baseball Prospectus, he's interviewed with Rich Lederer
, he actually gets to vote
for Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammell and Rich Gossage in the Hall of Fame balloting, and he counts the futile Duane Kuiper
-- one home run in 3,379 career at bats -- as his all-time favorite player. With stats like that, the dude can pound Budweiser at my table anytime.
Posnanski's got a new book on the way out called The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neill's America
, and alongside a more traditional book home page
, he's rolled out a blog
that's been pretty entertaining thus far. Here
he reflects on the cast of zombies that make up the Royals' five previous Opening Day starters; they combined to go 31-58 with a 5.68 ERA, while opposing hitters wailed the tar out of them at a .291/.354/.500 clip. Here
he writes at length about the Royals' infamous Gil Meche signing and a possible rationale behind it, one that doesn't involve photos of executives with dead hookers. Here
he offers a rather surprising and contrary take on Barry Bonds, even while admitting that Bonds has painted himself into a corner. Here
he writes about James' seeing the light on Blyleven (believe it or not, this took until recently).
Even if you don't agree with every position he takes (and I don't), it's good stuff, several cuts above what many of his ink-stained colleagues are offering up elsewhere. The world of mainstream baseball writing needs more Joe Posnanskis; failing that, at least we've got more Poz.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Back when I had a roommate, I watched more football than I do these days. I find the sport rather mundane relative to baseball, except for the really chaotic moments -- trick plays, blocked punts, laterals, fumble returns, Steve Atwater-driven collisions, Urban Meyer-designed offenses and so on. The running joke we had was that nothing was more exciting than a safety, and as such, we were going to start a website, Safeties.com, devoted to tracking this rare bird. Alas, the domain was already registered, and our dreams of filthy Internet lucre died a hard death.
Not that the example I'm setting here shouldn't have tempered our enthusiasm.
To take our nascent empire cross-platform, we were similarly going to carve out a chunk of turf for DefensiveIndifference.com
. "Because, damn it, somebody cares!" would be our motto. I guess apathy took hold there, too, because nothing ever happened. Until now.
Because damn it, somebody cares: my BP colleague Dan Fox
notes a change pertaining to the crediting of Defensive Indifference among the latest batch
of rule changes. Dan reports that DI is apparently enjoying a renaissance, with about five percent of all stolen base attempts being scored as such. The rules changes might even up that rate, given that they allow official scorers more latitude to award these little jewels.
Such information completes me, and since it's clear that Defensive Indifference is finally the hip topic among baseball cognoscenti, I've decided to start caring
. Vive l'indifference!
Labels: site gags
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Three Quick Strikes, Again
Meticulously not fixing what ain't broke, I'll revisit this format again...
• Kevin Goldstein's Top 100 Prospects
list is out at Baseball Prospectus. It's Goldstein's first one for BP, and it comes on the heels of his Organizational Rankings
and team-by-team Top 10 Prospect lists (indexed on the aforementioned rankings). Goldstein's writeups for each of these prospecs are in Baseball Prospectus 2007
, which may be shipping from Amazon by the end of next week.
Yankee fans will be delighted to see Philip Hughes ranked #2, just behind Kansas City's Alex Gordon. He's one of five righthanded pitchers the Bombers placed in the Top 100 or among the honorable mentions; the others are Joba Chamberlain (56), Humberto Sanchez (65), Dellin Betances (92), and Tyler Clippard (HM). The team's only positional prospect, outfielder Jose Tabata, ranked 22nd. Overall, the Yanks rank fourth out of the 30 teams, an excellent turnaround from what was a rather dire state of affairs a few years ago.
Meanwhile the Dodgers placed four prospects: lefty pitcher Clayton Kershaw (16), third baseman Andy LaRoche (20), lefty Scott Elbert (32), and first baseman James Loney (54). That may seem like a relatively small group, but remember that the Dodgers graduated many of their top prospects to the majors last year: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Billingsley... Overall, the Dodgers rank fifth by Goldstein's methodology, with a monster list
of under-25 talent.
The Devil Rays placed the most prospects on the list, with seven, from #3 Delmon Young to #100 Elijah Dukes, with a lot less attitude in between those two. On the other side of the coin, the Nationals placed just one prospect on the list -- Mumbly Joe Somethingorother -- at #93 to boot.
Adding Goldstein to the team might rate as BP's best move since the advent of PECOTA. Aside from the high-quality content he produces, he's a fantastic resource behind the scenes, quick with great anecdotes or off-the-record scouting scuttlebutt, and able to dig up hard-to-find stats, whether they're from the New England League circa 1947 or the Dominican Summer League circa 1995. He's certainly helped me through many a pinch, so a tip of the cap to him here.
• Speaking of the Nats, Joe Sheehan
gets off some good lines at their expense today in an article about Non-Roster Invitations:
Just this week, the Nats snapped up the last reasonable free agent by inviting Ron Belliard to camp. Belliard becomes the team’s best second-base option, allowing them to keep Felipe Lopez at shortstop and turn Cristian Guzman into a conversation piece for the living room, or lawn furniture, or a slightly uncomfortable beanbag chair.
Alas, the more likely scenario is that Guzman keeps his job—the contract must play, you know—and Belliard gets time platooning with Lopez or pinch-hitting a lot. This scenario, where a team has multiple options and lands on the least-productive one, is common enough to warrant a piece of its own.
The Nats, who right now have two Senate pages and an extra from “D.C. Cab” in the rotation, have invited a whole bunch of pitchers to camp. Of particular note are Brandon Claussen, who isn’t that far removed from being on the road to what Chris Capuano actually turned into. Claussen had his left shoulder scoped last year, and isn’t likely to make an impact before the second half. Remember the name, though.
As if Yankee fans could ever forget Claussen...
• Mussina versus Pavano. A-Rod versus Jeter. Bernie versus Father Time. Mariano versus Cashman. Sheffield versus Torre. Good Lord, I'm already sick to death of every single Yankee storyline coming out of Tampa, but then I'm an idiot for paying too close attention in the first place. As my friend Nick says, "Reading spring training clubhouse articles by beat writers is like making a dinner out of Cheetos and broken glass." Not healthy at all.
All of which serves to highlight the wisdom of Earl Weaver, as passed on today by Alex Belth at Bronx Banter
. Weaver used springtime to get his cliches into shape; "The hitters are ahead of the pitchers," "The Second-Time-Out Theory," and "The Lee May Syndrome" are all classics worth rehearsing while ignoring the faux-controversy rites of spring.
Oh, and speaking of Weaver, here's video
of one of his great tirades. Most definitely not safe for work, just as it should be.
Last Minute Radio
Those of you with XM Radio, tune in to XM 144 at 3:25 Eastern when I'll be on "RotoWire Fantasy Sports Hour" with Jeff Erickson.
Labels: Chats, radio
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Three Quick Strikes
• With the Dodgers slated to move
their spring training facilities to Glendale, Arizona in 2009, Dodgertown's days are numbered. Having been to Vero Beach in 1989
and again in 2003
, I have some fond memories of the place, and I'm not the only one. Over at Dodger Thoughts
, reader Eric Tenbus shares some wonderful memories of spring training in Vero. Tenbus got to serve as a batboy during the '78 spring training, which sounds like my idea of heaven:
I was allowed to leave school early for those games in March 1978 so I could play catch with Steve Garvey, practice pitching to Yeager, and laugh at Dusty Baker's jokes. I also had to work, running out to the plate to retreive Reggie Smith's bat, and wipe off the plate with a rag because Billy Martin had complained to the umpires that the plate was too dirty for his pitchers. I remember that March Yankees game, only five months removed from Reggie's three-HR game that crushed the Dodgers' World Series hopes in 1977, with Martin bitching about the overflow of people sitting on the outfield "wall," which as you know was a hill, replete with royal palm trees (this was before the fence was put into place) and how this would affect ground-rule doubles. I also remember Tommy swearing loudly about Martin's grandstanding. I took seriously my responsibility to bring Davey Lopes bubble gum for each game after he confided to me that his numbers would be much higher if I was his supplier. I was damn sure not going to let his OBP suffer due to my sixth-grade negligence.
As he got older, Tenbus worked in the publicity office during spring training and made friends with youngsters Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez. Lucky bastard.
Doesn't look like I'm going to make it to spring training this year, but I may try to get to Vero for one last go-round next spring. And as bummed as I am about the move, I'm certain that I'll give Glendale a shot at some point; if nothing else, it's closer to my dad and my brother, and taking in a few games in the spring sun wouldn't be a bad way to go.
• Gaslamp Ball, a Padres blog, has an excellent three-part interview with former Dodger GM and current Pads special assistant for baseball operations Paul DePodesta: I
. Anybody looking for dirt on his Dodger days will be disappointed; the interview is mainly focused on DePodesta's current role, the Padres' front office's way of doing business, their offseason activities, and the lengths to which one can go to get a leg up at miniature golf. Though the Pads are the Dodgers' top competition in the NL West at the moment, I have a great deal of respect for Kevin Towers, Sandy Alderson and company, and I'm happy to see DePo land on his feet.
• Feels like I wrote this
just a few months ago, but lo and behold, another two years have passed. Today it's 12 years since I loaded all of my worldly possessions into a U-Haul and drove from Providence to New York City. Time flies...
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Two days shy of two years ago I found
a dog-eared copy of John Helyar's classic book on the business of baseball, The Lords of the Realm
, randomly discarded atop a community newspaper box, as if waiting for me to walk by and claim it. I'd never read LOTR, but it quickly became one of my favorites. Published in 1995, at a time before the players' strike had even been settled, the book nonetheless remains relevant and readable, the easiest reading of any 600+ page book I've ever come across.
Though he's never done a follow-up book, Helyar is back writing about baseball via an ESPN article
on the convoluted Braves sale between Time Warner and Liberty Media. Head over to BP Unfiltered for my quick blog hit
on the piece and Helyar's book.
Friday, February 16, 2007
It's still a few weeks away, but I'll be making several appearances to promote Baseball Prospectus 2007
, along with many of the other usual suspects. Mark your calendar for these confirmed dates where we'll be administering savage sabermetric beatdowns:
- Thursday, March 8, 7:00 PM with Christina Kahrl and Steven Goldman
Barnes & Noble
1805 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
I've done this one a few times. Philly's a nice hop, skip, and a jump away from NYC, and I'd make the trip more often if it wasn't for that ungodly awful switchover in Trenton.
- Thursday, March 22, 7:00 PM with Christina Kahrl, Steven Goldman, Neil DeMause, Derek Jacques, and Will Weiss
Barnes and Noble
New York, NY
Slightly more tentative than the other appearances, as it was announced just after I bought tickets to see Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price at Radio City later that night, and that's not the kind of thing I can easily pass up.
- Saturday, March 24, 2:00 PM with Christina Kahrl, Steven Goldman, Ben Murphy, John Erhardt, Neil DeMause, Jim Baker, Derek Jacques, Will Weiss, Clay Davenport, Will Carroll, Kevin Goldstein, Marc Normandin
Yogi Berra Musuem
Monclair State University
8 Quarry Road
Little Falls, NJ 07424
I talked so much at last year' Yogi Berra Museum event that BP decided to fly in even more heavy hitters.
- Monday, March 26, 6:00pm with Steven Goldman and Neil DeMause
Barnes & Noble
New Haven, CT 06511
Look out, Connecticuticians!
More BP07-related events are listed here
Thursday, February 15, 2007
I'd be back soon. The other day I broke radio silence with a quick BP Unfiltered post
on Bernie Williams, commenting on his sad puppy-dog act as he declined the Yankees' offer of a minor-league contract:
So Bernie Williams has undertaken his version of Operation Shutdown, refusing the Yankees‘ admittedly half-assed offer of a minor-league contract for a player who — no matter his long list of accomplishments or central place in building their recent dynasty — has no business being on their 2007 roster. Instead Williams plans to continue spurning guaranteed offers from other teams and wait for the Yankees to change their minds and offer him a guaranteed roster spot. In other words, he’s painting himself into a corner roughly the size of the spot on the Venn diagram where the keen strategy of a four-year-old’s hold-breath-until-blue temper tantrum meets a paraphrased Yogi Berra chestnut: if he doesn’t want to come to spring training, nobody’s going to stop him.
Even for a Yankee fan who enjoyed Bernie’s best years, I’m finding it harder to sympathize amid this sad final act than I usually do for a favored player whose career is clearly behind him. Williams’ combined offensive and defensive production has been inadequate for the past four years, and while the Yankees covered for him until 2005, they paid a price (count da rings… hmmm, that would be zero) for their latter-day delusions. As Williams’ talents have faded, he’s done little in the way of acquiring skills that might have allowed him to hang on in a reduced capacity, say by learning first base — a position the Yanks have struggled to fill during the period of his decline — or adapting to the admittedly difficult world of pinch-hitting. Bernie’s stats there, according to the fabulous new splits feature at Baseball-Reference.com show him at .205/.360/.282 in the pinch for his career, with about 2/3 of that experience coming in the last two years. Furthermore, Williams’ PECOTA projection (.258/.320/.388, for an MLVr of -.114) has fallen well below that of the man taking his fourth-outfielder job with the Yanks, Melky Cabrera (.282/.341/.408 , -.033). And that’s without even mentioning the defense and a throwing arm only slightly stronger than your average Thanksgiving turkey — on the plate.
The rest of the post is about Bernie's Hall of Fame chances per JAWS (not quite there on the numbers, but likely with the peripherals -- Fielding Grammies, Series rings and other things), but for the moment I wanted to address to my colleague Joe Sheehan's advocacy
of a roster spot for Ol' 51. I've probably strained my neck muscles agreeing with Sheehan so often on a wide variety of topics, particularly regarding the Yankees, but I think he's off base this time.
The thrust of the piece is better a roster spot for Bernie than a 12th pitcher, and while I agree with it conceptually -- no 12th pitcher, please, ever -- the Yankees can still do better than a lefty-masher with little power, versatility or aptitude to a bench role than Williams. There are younger lefty-mashers out there with more sock and skill sets better suited to the task at hand; as Steve Goldman
writes regarding the Yanks' related first base situation, where Andy Phillips, Doug StinkyMinky and Josh Phelps are all imperfect solutions:
You know the old baseball saying about the ubiquity of defense-only players, how you can shake a tree and have a million gloves fall out? It's wrong. The minor leagues don't mint defenders with anywhere near the consistency that they stamp out right-handed first-base types whose main skill is that they can stomp left-handed pitchers. They breed like rabbits. You don't have to shake a tree — you can find them lying around on the ground.
Think about it this way: last year, the complete group of major league right-handed hitters averaged .275/.346/.442 against lefty pitchers, with a home run once every 30 at bats. Josh Phelps, who no one thinks of as a particularly great hitter, has a career record of .292/.357/.500 against lefties, with a home run every 19 at-bats. Lance Niekro, a miserable hitter despite good baseball bloodlines, is a career .296/.330/.574 hitter against lefties with a home run once every 17 at-bats.
In other words, Williams' one remaining skill, hitting lefthanded pitching, just isn't all that special, at least at the level he's able to manage. Don't tell me that his .323/387/.549 versus southpaws in 150 PA last year is any more valid than the .231/.305/.286 he hit in 203 PA against them the year before, or the previous two years of adequate but unremarkable production from that side which preceded it. They're all small sample sizes, and one shouldn't let sentimentality dictate the reading of them as anything but. The total against lefties in those four years, in a much more valid, season-sized sample of 713 PA, is .271/.369/.421, which is the kind of basically average production that necessitated Williams' early entry into the shuffleboard market in the first place.
Furthermore, Sheehan's piece rests on the fallacy that the starting outfield of Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu, though they may be "wired, in most years, to play virtually every day," (his words) will in fact be such. Just look at last year. If it can be said that "shit happens," the lesson of the 2006 Yankees is that it certainly goes double for outfielders over 30 (even green-lighted ones
or guys with an impressive consecutive-game streak). Bernie Williams circa 2007 is in no way able to take up the Melky Cabrera fourth-outfielder role should the Melkman be pressed into starting for two weeks or two months. The Yanks require able-bodied contributors off the bench, not charity cases who can't carry their roster spaces no matter how championship-infused they may be. Sheehan's suggestion that there's any
roster configuration that could justify Cabrera summering in Triple-A Scranton is so dubious I'm not even sure I can bother to break it down except via a non-sequitur citation of a Tony Soprano quotation: "It's like Scranton with clams." In other words, "No, thanks."
Sheehan also dismisses the good works of reliever Brian Bruney (25 K in 20.2 innings as a Yank, with an 0.87 ERA -- and yes that's a small sample, but it may well represent the kind of nonlinear leap forward that young pitchers often make) relative to legitimate 12th man fodder like T.J. Beam. While it's true that Torre favors a top-heavy bullpen where he overworks the principals and neglects those on the margins, the presence of Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Proctor, Luis Vizcaino, Chris Britton and Bruney in front of St. Mo, with Mike Myers or the re-upped Ron Villone regrettably along for the ride, gives the Yanks a legitimate surplus of live arms (that's eight there, making for a 13-man staff) in an area where they've been thin in the past. Brian Cashman has gone out of his way this winter to give Joe Torre a bigger pool to draw from by netting Britton in the Jaret Wright dump and Vizcaino in the Big Eunich trade. If Torre's bullpen crashes and burns, it's on him, not on the GM, and if you think all of those pitchers are going to be healthy at once, you obviously haven't been paying attention to Yankee pitching in recent years. Or maybe you gone gooey thinking about those good times we had with Wayne Franklin and C.J. Nitkowski. You can have too many pitchers on a roster at a given point in time, but You Can't Have Too Much Pitching, Ever. Because if "shit happens" goes double for outfielders over 30, it goes exponentially for pitchers.
Anyway, despite his own efforts, I think Joe's still falling into the trap of using his heart more than his head on this one. The baseball reasons he cites for keeping Williams around just aren't very convincing, and the bottom line is that there's just too much sentimentality governing this particular sentiment.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Please Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself
Please allow me to reintroduce myself... yes, I'm back in circulation here. Back on the street, back on the beat, back in the saddle again. Back, back, back... waaay back! Pitchers and Catchers are reporting, my winter travels are over, and nearly all of my projects have been put to bed, meaning that it's time for me to scrape the barnacles off this site after the longest hiatus I've taken in its nearly six-year history. If you came here through the front door
, you've probably already had a look at some of the fun stuff I labored over this winter.
Labored as in for real cash money, the kind you don't get to take if you don't deliver quality product on deadline, hence the reason I had to short myself the opportunity to blog here on a regular basis. It's a tough tradeoff, but the exciting part is the money was hardly incidental, allowing me to turn away even some lucrative design projects I would have leapt for at a different time. It's a wonderfully exciting thing to write about baseball for a living, though it's hardly a rose garden. While I wish I could say I handled the overwhelming workload that I took on with all the grace and professionalism of a Derek Jeter, the truth is a bit more... well... they say a picture's worth a thousand words, so:
Yes, dear readers, I'm afraid that's me. With as many as four projects going at the same time and four editors to answer to, I got a wee bit stressed out as deadlines approached, the 14-hour days blurred into one another, and the pile of books, papers, unopened mail, CDs, computer cables and assorted detritus took on organic qualities as a living, breathing entity that demanded ever more floor space. Only by donning the superhero costume given to me for Xmas by my in-laws was I able to take the heat, shut out the voices in my head, and breathe without the assistance of a brown paper bag. Seriously, it was either that or some trepanning
. Somehow, I survived, and kept my editors from putting a price on my head instead of my words.
You see, what happened was that I took on three months worth of work without realizing that I'd already booked myself into a month's worth of vacations during that span. From a wonderful week in Barcelona with my wife (cashing in those frequent flyer miles), to five days over the holidaays with my folks in Salt Lake and four more with Andra's in Milwaukee, to a recent week in Maui (again with my folks as ell as my brother and his fiancé), I had plenty of opportunities for recreation and was able to take advantage of almost none of them, at least after the Spain trip. I drank no eggnog while suckling at the wireless teat of the Milwaukee Public Library, nor did I tan in Hawaii, so much time in front of my laptop (a new MacBook, bought just in time for all the action) did I spend. The phrase "guilt trip" took on new meaning, though my parents, in-laws, brother, and most of all wife were incredibly understanding and supportive throughout. I am in their debt for their eternal patience.
Outside of the trips, day-to-day socializing was almost nil once you exclude instant messaging; I was chained to my desk, working insane hours, writing more than 500 player capsules and something like 14 different feature-length essays (including my annual JAWS series, which was horribly ill-timed within this workload). Aside from my allotted hour of TV every night before bed -- needed to decompress so that I wouldn't toss and turn over spreadsheets in the bedsheets -- "relaxing" meant considering my next task instead of the one directly in front of me. Conversations with friends were conducted with all the patience of a guy with one eye on the meter of a double-parked taxicab during rush hour. I was a workaholic, addicted to workahol and able to deal with little else.
Anyway, this ain't no pity party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' round. Vacations, unconditional love, and being able to make a living doing something that you enjoy are all blessings, though the combination of same nearly drove me insane without the ability to vent now and then here at my little blog. Which is why I'm so glad to be back. With the exception of one chapter still on my plate, and probably some revisions here and there, those projects are in the can.
Already on newsstands is Fantasy Baseball Index 2007
, the essential Rotisserie mag. This year I wrote the pitcher capsules, a task that no matter how exciting it may seem on the surface, takes on a brutal edge once you're forced to come up with 75 words about the fourth fifth-starter candidate on a second-division club. I also wrote a feature on estimating ERAs, covering fun stuff like DIPS (2.0 and David Gassko's fine 3.0 -- and yes, that means I can announce my retirement from tending that particular store
), FIP, and QERA.
I covered two teams for Baseball Prospectus 2007
, the Dodgers and the Red Sox. While the latter may net some double-takes from those of you who know my feelings toward the franchise, rest assured that I'm quite capable of objectively analyzing them. I've written chapters for Mind Game
and made appearances on NESN, all without referencing, say, my eternal loathing for the Big Schill, and there's no way in hell the BP editors would jeopardize such a huge portion of our demographic with anything less than quality analysis. Hell, they even cut my Kevin Jarvis capsule down to a "Line Out" (the catch-all in the back of chapter, sans PECOTAs), which isn't to say that all my punches got pulled. Anyway, after last summer's dreadful collapse, I suspect most intelligent Sox fans can stomach a clear-eyed take on the state of the organization.
Which doesn't mean I left the Yankees out of this winter's equation. On the contrary, I contributed two features to Bomber Broadside 2007
, a 112-page collection of essays from Maple Street Press, edited by Cecilia Tan. Last year MSP did a similar book about the Red Sox, and this year they decided to expand to cover the Cubs (Wrigley Season Ticket 2007
, edited by Stu Shea) and Tigers (Tigers Corner 2007
, edited by Gary Gillette) as well as the Sox (whose annual
is edited by MSP founder Jim Walsh).
The book is full of thought-provoking essays covering the past, present and future of the Yanks. From the website:
Bombers Broadside 2007 gives you a report on the 2007 Yankees through scouting reports from real working major league scouts. This insider information is exclusive to Bombers Broadside, and will get you up to speed on the new team quickly. Also included is an analysis of Chien-Ming Wang and his leap to Cy Young contention in 2006. Further, a look at the age factors on the 2007 roster is provided, along with which of the Yankee stalwarts is likely to fade. The enigmatic Alex Rodriquez is also examined in detail, and what led him to become such a lightning rod in the Bronx. You'll also learn just how much revenue the team generates for each win on the field and the financial differences between 85 wins, 95 wins, and even a World Championship, as well as the importance of the YES network, and how it changed the landscape of Major League Baseball.
Further, you'll get a look at Yankees history, including a 30th anniversary look back on Reggie Jackson's arrival in the Bronx and the eventual World Series championship he would help deliver. The career of Billy Martin is also re-considered, and where he fits in the Yankees legacy. Moreover, the book looks at the Babe's called shot in the 1932 World Series and looks to separate fact from fiction in this famed tale.
Bombers Broadside also evaluates the entire organization, including an overview and ranking of the team's top prospects, an interview with phenom Philip Hughes and a look at the production the Yankees have got out of their farm system in recent years. Moreover, the fallacy of the bankrupt Yankee farm system is explored, along with the emergence of young Yankee players like Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera.
The essay on Wang's ascendancy is mine, as is a piece about Brian Cashman's bold power play -- putting the Tampa mafia in its place -- and the the fruit borne from his efforts to remake the Yankees' rotation. Those topics will be somewhat familiar to FI readers, but rest assured, there's a whole lot of new stuff there, particularly given that I've said next to nothing about the Bombers this winter in this space. I'm not sure I'm at liberty yet to reveal who else is on on the project, but there are some familiar big names (at least within the blogosphere) that won't disappoint you.
As for the final project, it's just starting to come into focus in the public eye, and again, I'm not sure I can say too much yet. The BP team is in the process of creating a new tome to be published by Basic Books, It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book
. It's our first historically-based book, our effort to rank the great races in baseball history. Peerless leader/editor Steven Goldman wrote a bit about the project here
(scroll down to the 1984 heading at bottom) and spoke of the book on BP Radio
(23:30 in, roughly, and yes, there's some feedback there which forces him to repeat himself). I'm proud to say that I'm one of the book's lead writers, covering two of the best races (believe it or not, the Dodgers and Red Sox pop up again) and writing several features on various aspects of those seasons and others. The book should be out in August, and rest assured I'll have plenty to say about it as time marches on.
Anyway, I'm full of stuff to share here, and I'll begin doing so over the next several days. Hibernation is over, it's time to play ball!
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