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December 30, 2009
Best Q&A Quotes of 2009
For the third year running, I had the pleasure of authoring the Prospectus Q&A series here at BP, and I continue to hope that you, the reader, find it to be both informative and entertaining. We heard from a number of interesting people within the game in 2009, and from the insightful to the head-scratching to the sublime, here is a selection of what they had to say:
"From the most statistically-oriented team to the least, I think there's a large gap. But if you look at it, every organization uses statistics in some manner. There are probably 10 where there is a heavy influence, 10 in which there is a significant amount of input but it isn't a critical-mass type of input, and there may be 10 where statistics have relatively little weight. But I guarantee you that all 30 teams use statistical analysis in some manner."
"I had given up a walk and a hit to the first couple of guys before I got the next three hitters out and [a reporter] asked me, 'So, what happened with those first two guys?' I said, 'Well, the first guy walked on four pitches, and I think the second guy got a hit.' Then you kind of see a smile come on their face and they're like, 'Is that it?' and I say, 'Yeah, that's what happened.'"
"As a media person, the things that stand out for me are when Peter Gammons began his Sunday column in the Boston Globe, when Bill James mimeographed his Baseball Abstract as a night watchman in Kansas, when Michael Lewis published Moneyball in 2001. Those, from a fan's viewpoint, are astonishing developments in terms of what each has meant to the game."
"I think that people on both the left and the right are voicing their frustration with our public servants. That's what leads to them getting nothing done, and it leads Congress to grandstand and take hold of an issue like steroids in baseball, and then try to take credit for helping the drug problem in baseball, as if that's really going to help our tax burden or our housing market."
"For me to stand in against a 95 mph fastball would be pretty scary, and for a baseball player to go into the corner against Z [Zdeno Chara] would probably be pretty scary. It's just a matter of what you're used to."
"Can you imagine what Bert Blyleven would think if he knew that Sandy Koufax, Warren Spahn, and Tom Seaver voted for him to be in the Hall of Fame? See, you can't question that… I mean, I know if I ended up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I knew that Jeff Beck voted for me, I'd be delirious!"
"When Gold Glove voters vote for pitchers, they never ever consider how well they hold runners. But when they vote for catchers, it is almost the only thing that is considered, how well they hold runners. The irony of it is that pitchers are more responsible for holding runners than are catchers."
"Oh yeah, there's absolutely no question about it. I play shallow. That's something we talk about every day in here. The percentage of balls that are hit shallow, and fall in, is a lot higher than the percentage of balls that are hit deep and get over a center fielder playing at normal depth."
"By no means can everything about a player be expressed as a number, and as an industry we must be careful not to exclude a variable from any type of analysis simply because it's the toughest to quantify on paper."
"I was in winter ball for a lot of years, and I saw the way they grew up and the backgrounds that they have. I more or less understand that, yeah, they can be a little bit temperamental, but hey, there are a lot of gringos that can be the same way."
"There's always hope in my eyes."
"I've talked to Mr. Kaline a lot, but I haven't talked to him about being a young player and coming up to the big leagues. I think that if I happen to make it up, that might be the time to maybe have that conversation with one of those guys. But for right now, I'm just working hard in camp, and we'll see where it goes."
"I've seen guys warm up over the last umpteen years and maybe not have their sharpest stuff in the pen, but the pen really means nothing. What happens from the pen to between the white lines is a transformation."
"Right about then it dawned on me, 'Oh yeah, he's probably going to send a message.' Well, that message went across the tip of my nose! To this day I can still feel that ball grazing off the end of my nose. He knocked me right on my ass. But I respected it. He wasn't trying to kill me; he was just trying to send a message."
"I think that baseball, at its core, is the purest form of capitalism that we have in our society. There is no favoritism. There is nobody pointing with a curve, and that's the way it should be."
"I'd had a bad outing, and my daughter ran out and she goes, 'Hey Dad! Did you see Billy the Marlin?' I was kind of over my outing then, because all she really cared about was that I was home and got to see Billy the Marlin."
"These hitters are doing a lot of stuff that you have to keep up with. It's just like technology, man; technology keeps getting better and better, and so does the hitting."
"Bill Rigney was the manager, and he came out with kind of a smile on his face. He said, 'Welcome to the big leagues, son. That probably will not be the last home run that you give up.' And he was right."
"The catcher called for a changeup, and I was 19, and he hits it off the foul pole in Baltimore for a home run. Later I threw him about a 97 mph fastball down and away, and he hit it into right field for a single, and I realized that Al Kaline may be better than I was."
"Somehow Dick Allen got out of the way of that ball. His helmet went straight up and his head went straight down, and the ball went between his helmet and his head. Dick got up, and he has his glasses on, and he didn't do anything. He acted like nothing happened, really. The next pitch [Pete] Broberg threw, he hit the ball to dead center field in the upper deck like there was nothing to it. He just went around the bases and back into the dugout, and I said to myself, 'There goes a man right there.'"
"I think that all 30 teams feel like they either have information, or do things, that are proprietary and unique. My guess is that there are a certain number of those things in which there is a great deal of overlap in the industry. But I think that when you look along the continuum, there are clusters of teams along that continuum in terms of what they do and how they go about it. One of the key factors to keep in mind is that each market has its own rules and constraints."
"Scientifically, the kinetic link that you have to provide... that is the best possible thing that you can have when you break a swing down biomechanically. Then you teach off of that. Those five steps... it's what we do. We try to get the best kinetic-link swing there is. That's scientific, and there's an art to it."
"I think your swing goes through periods of change, and the last year and a half I feel that I've had more of a swing path for ground balls and line drives as opposed to a lofty swing for driving the ball in the air. But I still feel that I have the capability to hit for power. That will always be there."
"I'd much rather throw a runner out than hit a home run, and that's the same mindset as Yadier Molina has. He really loves his defense, and he works harder for his pitchers than he does for himself in the batter's box. That's the way I try to play."
"What's interesting is that I've always thought of myself as a pitcher, but no one has coined that for me. They've always thought of me as a guy with stuff. But to go through what I've gone through, I've thrown every kind of pitch from every angle... I've gone through a lot. When I look at my evolution, I've maintained my velocity and stuff, but I've also been able to pitch under some pretty incredible circumstances."
"I recently read The Plague, which was good, because I like to read stuff about how people react to terrible situations. The Plague could mean a different thing for a different person. The author may have it meaning the bubonic plague, but someone reading it may be going through, 'Aw shit, I had a bad month of baseball,' and that could be their plague. Or you could have a bunch of stories that you wrote and your editor says, 'Rewrite them,' or 'This is horseshit, I'm not printing it.' That could be your plague."
"Art, to me, is like an escape from all the pressure that happens in baseball. Maybe I reflect a lot of sadness and a dark side of me when I do art, because sometimes you can be a little frustrated or you are not having a good time when you paint. It's really just a way of expression… But when you actually finish the piece, you can sit back and kind of have a conversation with your painting about the things that you did."
"I try not to judge how other people do their jobs. Everybody has a different way of skinning a cat, you know. I think that I'm very comfortable with a lot of the old-school ways, but at the same time, I have a lot of people who help me. We're certainly not oblivious to statistical analysis and things like that."
"[Jair Jurrjens] has probably impressed me more than anybody that I've ever played with. I mean, to be as young as he is, and to be as talented, and to be as humble-he goes out there wanting to get better every single day. We all see that around the clubhouse and everybody respects him. What he's done so far has just been remarkable."
"Pitchers are always going to give you red flags; they're all going to have the alarms. With some pitchers, the alarm starts at 75 pitches, while with others it starts at 105 pitches. From the side is where you're going to get that determination. We like our pitchers to throw deeper, but again, if they're not very effective, there is no sense in leaving them out there."
"He said, 'Cody, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that you're not with us anymore. The good news is that I just traded you to the Florida Marlins.' I was like, 'Yes!' I said that: 'Yes! Thank you!' I was hoping that I didn't sound too excited."
"What I have to say about flair is that it's more, like, emotional than anything. It's just showing emotion and showing how much fun you're having in the game. I don't think it's, 'Oh yeah, I just want to look pretty out there.'"
"I think that when it comes down to it, I'm a pretty good offensive player. If you had a team full of guys that took my type of approach, you'd have a good team, offensively."
"Hype is something that is always going to be there, but you just have to try to live up to your own expectations."
"I think that we, as humans, want something for a higher power. We want to look at something that is greater than us and what we have going on in our present life. It's very intriguing to me that so many people feel that way. So many people believe in different things, but they all believe that there's something higher and greater than them."
"He asked me if I was interested in getting back in the game. Initially I told him no, because I wanted to make sure I was looking after my son and my family and everything. I showed my son the e-mail and said, 'Ben, if I tried to get back in the game, I'd miss you. What would I do without you? He turned around and said, 'All I need is God, food, and water.'"
"We're privileged to be in the situations that we're in. We're knocking on the doorstep of a future that is set up for us. If you make it to the big leagues for a couple of years, and… I mean, that's decent money. It's money that some people won't make in their whole lives."
"That's another way in which [Frank Thomas and Jim Thome] are similar. There was never any complacency. Every time they took the field, they'd get after it as if they were hungry to do more, and that gets you a lot of respect. With what they've done in their careers, it would be easy not to do that."
"The more guys that get on base, those are the times you have big innings. You'd rather have three or four base hits than two guys on and than a home run, because that stops the inning right there."
"I don't know what to tell you about that, man. Like I said, I've been trying stay aggressive and attack the ball in hitter's counts. I'm trying to do something with the ball as opposed to just trying to shoot it over to right field."
"You look for a fastball up; you look for something that you can hit. Like [former Louisiana State University baseball coach] Skip Bertman said in college, 'You sit for the express, and adjust for the rest.'"
"I never really know what is being said about me in the media. I'm not one to get caught up in that. I mean, the way I look at it is that no words are going to dictate what I do. You know? You can write whatever you want in the paper; you can say whatever you want to say."
"It's easy to say that somebody is too aggressive when they're thrown out in a situation where you don't want somebody to get thrown out. That's easy to see. But what you don't see is the 20 times when we're safe, when other people would have stopped and not gone to that extra base."
"Strikeouts are strikeouts, but, I mean, what's the difference between a three-pitch strikeout and a three-pitch ground ball? I don't think there is any difference."
"Some people will say that I didn't meet expectations, but I met my expectations. I never thought I'd be in the big leagues, period. I struck out 20 in my fifth start, and expectations were that I had to be the next Roger Clemens, I had to be the next Nolan Ryan, I had to break records, I had to do this, I had to do that. And if you get a couple of injuries and don't do it, then all of a sudden your career is a failure. I don't see it that way at all. I've had a great career."
"I think the steroid era will be viewed as just another era where some statistics were skewed for some reason. Not a lot different from the Deadball Era or the period before integration."
"One of the things with Orlando [Hudson] is that he was more of a two-handed guy. I firmly believe that at second base, in order to be a good pivot man-with your back turned to the runner on a double-play pivot-you've got to be able to play with two hands. And I think that it's always been difficult for guys who have been predominantly one-handed for most of their lives to make that switch and go on the other side of the base and play two-handed."
"The words 'fag' and 'gay' are always used as a negative, and they're always used when you're losing, or if they don't like the other person. Then again, if someone like Derek Jeter announced that he was gay, and then became a coach, everyone would get over it."
"When I walked into the clubhouse, I looked over at Bill Fischer's locker, he was the pitching coach, and I saw the radar gun. It had about an inch-thick coat of dust on it, and I thought, 'This is my kind of place.'"
"It was a fascinating exercise to go through, to talk to other general managers about, 'Who would you trade for Pedro Martinez?'… And to be honest, and I don't know if Pedro ever said this, but he wasn't excited about coming to Boston. He was hoping that he was going to go to, maybe, New York, or to some other clubs. Boston was not something that he was all that excited about."
"I don't rely strictly on statistics or managing by the book. I still believe you use your instincts, go by your gut, and do what you think is the best thing to win that ballgame."
"We scored 640 runs last year, and I went back and looked at the history of the Seattle Mariners, and no team had a winning season with 640 runs, and the majority of those had lost over 90 games. So, we're going to stay the course with pitching and defense, and in the meantime try to get the best bats that we can possibly get."
"In the case of Stephen Strasburg, we will do what we did with Jordan Zimmermann. We'll be extremely careful, and as careful as we can be, there is no guarantee. That's the thing where the ownership has really shown great courage in making this kind of financial commitment to a pitcher, because he clearly was the best in the nation, but there is nothing saying that he isn't going to get hurt. We can try to minimize the risk, but we minimized the risk on Jordan Zimmermann, and he got hurt."
"I think you can look back at the Moneyball draft and a lot of people were saying, 'What the heck were they doing?' We were doing what we thought was, at the time, the best… we were trying something that we thought had an opportunity to work well, and 29 other clubs probably didn't agree with it at that time. That's just the nature of scouting. Scouting is a very, very subjective business."
"Anything you'd ever want to know about me is probably on somebody's blog or on the internet somewhere."