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.

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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