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December 31, 2010

Prospectus Q&A

Best of Q&A 2010

by David Laurila

It was a busy year for the Prospectus Q&A series in 2010. Over 100 full-length interviews graced these pages from January through December, and I hope that most were entertaining and/or informative. As always, it was a pleasure to bring them to the BP community. Here is a selection of the best quotes from the interviews:

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“A lot of people say that the game is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. I've given this a lot of thought, and I don't think that's a true statement. I mean, this game is probably 95 percent physical and five percent mental. But the five percent that is mental is bigger than the 95 percent that is physical.” —Pedro Grifol, January 2010

“Take the deal we just made with Philadelphia. We think that we probably gave them three very nice young players who are going to be big-leaguers for a long time. That serves what they were looking to do and we, in turn, got a pretty good pitcher (Cliff Lee) that fits nicely in our rotation. So, at the end of the day when I sit down with Ruben (Amaro), we can say that we met each other’s needs and let’s talk again in the future. I think that is how deals come together.” —Jack Zduriencik, January 2010

“They saw me walk into the office, then I walked out, and everybody was kind of looking at me. I kind of had that look on my face, like not so good. It was like, ‘I got traded,’ and, ‘Really?’ I said, ‘Yep.’ Then I just went around giving a bunch of hugs.” —Justin Masterson, January 2010

“All of the on-field experience, the data research, the statistical analysis, they're all parts of this pie. They're all pieces of the pie that can help lead an organization to being a winning organization. What I want to be is someone who never turns away a piece of that pie if it's going to help us get better and help us win more games.” —A.J. Hinch, January 2010

“Every market in scouting is different. I see a lot of times where people will try to compare the amateur draft market to the Latin America market. Well, they’re pretty different… We’re not seeing the 16-year-old kid from Venezuela playing in the Area Code Games. But do I think that Aroldis Chapman is worth a lot of money? Absolutely.” —Chris Buckley, January, 2010

“I had three saves in that World Series, the first game, the fourth, and the fifth. Then, in the seventh game, I threw that home run to (Yogi) Berra to put us down, but then Hal Smith came back and hit a three-run homer to put us back ahead by two runs. So, I would have won that game had we gotten them out in the ninth. It ended up that (Harvey) Haddix got the win because he relieved (Bob) Friend. I kid Friend about it. I say, ‘All the games I saved for you, and you had one game to save for me and you couldn’t do it.’" —Elroy Face, January, 2010

“Jimmy Merritt had a great balk move, and he picked Norm [Cash] dead to rights. Before the first baseman could tag him out, Norm threw up his hands and tried to call time out to the umpire on first base. The umpire hesitated before he made his call, so it was a comical scene, to say the least.” —Johnny Goryl, January 2010

“They used to say: If you want that base hit in the clutch, Al Kaline is your guy. If you want that party, Norm Cash is your guy. If you want a friend for life, Frank Howard is your guy.” —Frank Howard, February 2010

“Kids can be tricky. Some of them have a way of talking to make you believe in certain things. The bottom line is that as an evaluator you have to use your instincts. You have to use your eyes. Yes, you do have to listen, but at the same time, sometimes when you're listening to a kid it's hard to tell if they're just talking the talk or if they can actually walk the walk. —Bruce Seid, February 2010

“It’s probably like a relationship. With my wife and me, our friends know who we are and everything, but there’s maybe 10 percent of our relationship that nobody knows. When you think that everything is an open book, that’s when you’re going to get beat on a Dee Gordon or a Matt Kemp… If there are no secrets, how can we get Dee Gordon in the fourth round and have him become our top-rated prospect?” —Logan White, March 2010

“The more I digest it, especially the older I get, the more proud I’ll become of it. I’m not sure that it’s an accomplishment as much as a feat—it’s not something I was striving for. I wasn’t striving to go 240 games without a loss.” —Trever Miller, March 2010

“Being a fan is different than being a manager. If you manage like a fan, you're going to be a fan.” —Terry Francona, March 2010

“Remy thought he should have gotten a hit because the first baseman couldn't have gotten him anyway, which may have been true, but I ruled a good throw would have gotten the runner, who wasn't running hard, at the plate. He threw a can of beer past me that hit the clubhouse wall.” —Chaz Scoggins, March 2010

“Baseball lends itself to a lot of blending of ideas, and I like some of the new stats, but there are also some stats I’ll call bullshit on. A guy comes in with pie charts and tells me that a guy can play center field, but I know that my eyes tell me he can’t play center field. I’m not sure if anyone can adequately quantify defense.” —Buck Showalter, April 2010

“To be put in the same breath with a guy like that is a huge compliment… I always say that when baseball is over, you want to be remembered for the guy you are because the statistics and everything is great—it’s nice to be a good player and have all the nice stats—but I think in the end, you look at a guy like Killebrew and you watch how people kind of gravitate to him.” —Jim Thome, April 2010

“I’ve always wondered when we’re doing a game from Seattle, and it is one o’clock in the morning back in Texas, who in the world is listening? And then I’ll go out and do a speaking engagement and somebody tells me, ‘I’m a park ranger and I love it when you do those late games from the West Coast, because when I’m driving around the park at midnight, I’ve got your game to listen to.’" —Eric Nadel, May 2010

“The aspect of baseball that really thrilled me was discovering that women were playing ball back in the 1870s, in long dresses, in the Seven Sisters colleges. I thought, ‘How amazing!”” —Dorothy Seymour Mills, May 2010

“What happens with why a ball curves is a multi-faceted phenomenon, with gravity maybe being one of the more pronounced facets. If you rotate a ball kind of clockwise and you tip the axis of the ball in such a direction—a 3-9 axis, and spin the ball 6-12, you’re essentially building up a low-pressure pocket under the ball, which causes the ball to drop.” —Dr. John Bagonzi, May 2010

“The spin of a curve (and of a fastball, too) stabilizes the pitch, just as a gyroscope is stabilized by rotation. Therefore, the trajectory of a spinning pitch is smooth, with no sudden “breaks” as batters claim. The rate of curvature of a curve isn’t constant, however. From application of the coordinate right-hand rule, note that the direction of forward motion (indicated by your index finger) is continuously redirected by the Magnus force (second finger) and that the rate of curvature increases continuously.” —Dave Baldwin, May 2010

“Now I’m borderline sidearm and with that comes me not being able to get on top. I’m trying to throw the slider from right here. I’m trying to get it from [a lower angle] and it’s not going to happen. You’re not going to get that good snap. All you’re going to get is a lazy slider spin that has no movement at all. But if you’re [up] here with it, ‘Bam!’” —Scott Kazmir, May 2010

“After that, they had me, finally, working on turning on the ball and driving it. I almost felt like I… I don’t want to say "wasted" three years, but I was working on something for three years that I don’t think I should have been.” —Denard Span, May 2010

“I think that the first time it struck us was when we were talking about one of our relievers and Manny [Acta] said, “Did you see his batting average on balls in play last year? He not only said that, he used the acronym, and we’re not used to hearing that come from someone in a uniform.” —Mark Shapiro, May 2010

“I’m just like everybody else except I do have a very important job and people sometimes like to put you on a pedestal. But I’m just like your next-door neighbor. I just manage the Cleveland Indians” —Manny Acta, May 2010

“The lack of African-American ballplayers is a big topic right now, but it’s such a hard and long road to go down because the game of baseball is not marketed the same as the NBA or NFL is. It’s not the hip-hop generation. Baseball is more of a mathematical game.” —Vernon Wells, May 2010

“You can’t give 110 percent. There’s no such thing as 110 percent unless you’re talking about something like the amount of calories you can take into your system as opposed to what the daily allowance is.” —Michael Cuddyer, May 2010

“I want to be a guy who initiates fear into that pitcher every time I come up to the plate. I want them to be scared of me. That’s my goal.” —Billy Butler, June 2010

“Playing the guitar in front of people isn’t an easy thing for me to do and my wife gives me a hard time, because on the mound I’m in front of 30,000 people, and they’re all staring at me, but that’s completely different. I’m doing something I’m comfortable with and something that feels natural to me.” —Nick Blackburn, June 2010

“I remember that there were times last year when we played and people were chanting, ‘Let’s go Steelers,’ and ‘Let’s go Penguins,’ and I have nothing against the Steelers or the Penguins—they’re two good teams—but it would be good to hear them say, ‘Let’s go Pirates’ every night.” —Andrew McCutchen, June 2010

“Fans are passionate and that’s something I don’t really understand. I’m not a fanatical sports fan about really anything. I enjoy watching sports, but since I play, I don’t understand the mentality of a fan sometimes.” —Brian Fuentes, June 2010

“What you have to remember is that baseball is a very boring game to watch, and if you’re going one base at a time, waiting for that three-run home run, or guys who bang the ball out of the ballpark—it doesn’t happen too often. So unless you love the game and grew up with the game, this game can become very monotonous, very quickly.” —Davey Lopes, June 2010

“I think baseball is still a sport that requires patience, not just from the players but from the fans. I think that’s why it’s such a great sport, because all the other things seem to get fast and faster—more offense, more offense. Maybe you can design a field smaller, or something like that, but at the same time, baseball is what it is. It doesn’t change.” —Brad Lidge, June 2010

“I think we all, at a certain point, feel like we deserve something from this game, but the old-school train of thought is understanding that we need this game; this game doesn’t need us. I also like to take that one step further and understand that I don’t define this game, and this game is not going to define me. I treat it for what it is. It’s a game, the most hallowed, beautiful thing on this earth.” —Dallas Braden, June 2010

“Cust is a great teammate. He’s just like Dallas in that he likes to keep it loose. He always has nicknames for himself. He goes by the self-proclaimed “El Nino.” I don’t know why; I don’t know where it came from, but it’s a self-proclaimed nickname, I believe. He walks around the clubhouse, “El Nino! El Nino!” and all that stuff.” —Andrew Bailey, June 2010

“I don’t really sit in on the pitchers’ meetings… I just think it’s information overload, and if they’re describing a hitter—what he likes to do—it doesn’t really make sense to me, because all pitchers are different.” —Dan Haren, June 2010

“I’ve always felt that if I over-prepare, by over-analyzing, then when I get into the game, what I would revert to would be a step below over-analysis, which would still be analysis as opposed to just heaving the ball in there and hoping. I don’t believe in hope at all. Hope isn’t a very good strategy when you’re out there pitching and trying to get guys out.” —C.J. Wilson, July 2010

“If we have the technology, why not use it, but on the other hand, human error is something that makes sports great. It gives you something to talk about at work or at barbecues. I think that if you ask players if they want replay, they would tell you no.” —Javier Lopez, July 2010

“No, but I also didn’t use steroids. That’s a big difference.” —Mark Grace, July 2010

“My second year, I played in Danville, Virginia [in 1958]; I played left field and people used to call me everything in the book. That is why Felipe Alou prepared us to face those types of situations. It was a part of life. Even in the big leagues, I went through a lot of stuff and saw a lot of stuff, segregation-wise, but I didn’t let it bother me. A lot of it was away from the ballpark; there were ignorant people.” —Manny Mota, July 2010.

“On August 13 [1947] against the Detroit Tigers, down two runs with a runner on, [Willard] Brown pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. He smashed a ball off of the 426-feet sign in center field, and before the ball could be returned to the infield he had already rounded the bases, tying the game. His inside-the-park home run was the first home run hit by a black player in American League history.” —Chris Wertz, July 2010

“You could say that my life story has been somewhat of a roller coaster in the sense that I grew up in a town where… I guess you could say that there are a lot of rejects. Maybe that’s not the best way to put it, but it’s a beach town with a lot of hippies, you could say. I was always caught in the middle.” —Sequoyah Trueblood Stonecipher, July 2010

“I think that a lot of people tend to look at somebody and let the game define the person, and you can get carried away in that… A guy that hits 35 home runs is going to get more respect, and it’s hard for me to look at things that way. For me, it’s more of the decisions that a person makes in life that are going to really get that respect. I think it’s important for people to realize that even if you play well out on the field, you still have to be a human being. You have to share on the same level as anybody else.” —John Jaso, July 2010

“There’s no question that when you have brain surgery—and the other time I got hit in the face—that it’s got to hurt. But I was a lucky man in that I was able to play 12 years after that. I’ve been in the game for a long time.” —Don Zimmer, July 2010

“There were times where it felt uncomfortable standing 90 feet away, or playing in on a guy where you have to get the out at the plate and he’s a pull hitter who hits the ball between 115 and 120 mph down to third base. But that’s why they give you that glove.” —Matt Williams, August 2010

“Am I surprised that they haven’t gotten more support for the Hall of Fame? Not really. I’m surprised that no middle infielder gets much support for the Hall of Fame, but nothing about the Hall of Fame really surprises me. I think that the best thing guys can do, like Alan [Trammell] and Lou [Whitaker], basically, is just know that they had great careers and not depend on the Hall of Fame to define that they had great careers." —Frank White, August 2010

“I put baseball in front of my academics always, which might not sound like the right answer, but that’s just the fact. I always knew that I wanted to be a baseball player and I didn’t go to Cal to become an engineer; I went to play in the Pac-10.” —Brennan Boesch, August 2010

“I’m a very mathematical guy. I can really handle numbers, so for me, the advanced metrics that are coming out throughout the game—the ones I’ve been able to come across the past couple of years—have helped me to understand and simplify the game to an easier point. So if a duck fart gets over the second baseman, I don’t worry about it anymore.” —Max Scherzer, August 2010

“I speak English. We have a dialect of Dutch, which is from the Netherlands, that we call Afrikaans. Then there is my mother’s tongue, which is Sutu [Sotho]. There is also a dialect of my homeland tongue, which is Sutu, but that is southern Sutu and mine is northern Sutu. Then there is my stepfather’s language, which is Zulu. And then there is Spanish.” —Gift Ngoepe, August 2010

“When I came into the dugout, they gave me the ball. At least I thought it was the ball. It had ‘Peter Bourjous, first major-league hit’ and the date and everything, but I’m looking at it closer and my last name is spelled wrong and I’m like ‘Oh man, they spelled my name wrong.’ Then I flip it over and it says ‘Hey, congratulations on your first hit. It should have been an error, and you’re never gonna get another hit again.’ [Jered] Weaver had written it as a joke, and they had the real ball up in my locker.” —Peter Bourjos, August 2010

“I like to be on the radar, man. Still, I look at some of these guys around the league and they can’t go to the mall without having security around them, and stuff like that. I take solace in knowing that I can go anywhere I want and nobody is even going to recognize me or care. So for me, it’s the best of both worlds. I get to play in the big leagues and nobody bothers me.” —Aubrey Huff, August 2010

“I love growing my hair, but you get to the point where you need to get it trimmed, because it’s too much and you have to be professional. It is different for a closer than it is for a shortstop, though. We can be a little different and a lot of us are.” —Chris Perez, August 2010

“Tenacious. We’re going to win it all.” —Brian Wilson, August 2010

“I think the best was probably the year I had a 2-14 record. I had 27 saves that year [1970, with the Senators] and didn’t give up that many runs, and I had a low ERA. The won-loss record obviously was not indicative of the year I had. Everything else was good.” —Darold Knowles, September 2010

“A coach once told me that with a strikeout, you stay out of the double play. I don’t think it’s that simple, but it’s definitely a plus when you have a guy up there in a certain situation and you know there is a high [probability] that he’s going to stay out of a double play. He’s going to keep the inning going and allow the next guy to hit, even if he makes an out.” —Russell Branyan, September 2010

“I think the whole Moneyball deal was to find value in undervalued players, and I think they thought they were doing that because I was at a small college in the open hills that not a lot of teams knew about. I mean, I would have been drafted somewhere, but to take me in the first round was probably a surprise to some people.” —Mark Teahen, September 2010

“Bill James, who I have the greatest respect for, says that there is no such thing as a clutch hitter. You can’t tell that to Boston fans and David Ortiz. Then you look at Derek Jeter. I’m a Boston fan, and therefore a Yankee hater, and you watch him dive into the stands and come up bloody to catch a foul ball. Or you find him on the wrong side of the third base line to catch an errant throw from the right fielder, or pitch the ball to Posada to tag out a standing Jeremy Giambi—one of the greatest defensive plays of all time—you don’t have a statistic for that.” —Ken Burns, September 2010

“I’ve received several awards during my broadcasting career, but none of them am I more proud than one I received a couple of years ago from the Washington State Association of the Blind. They said their people could literally see the baseball game though my eyes. I think that probably meant as much to me as the Ford Frick Award.” —Dave Niehaus, September 2010

“What I try to do is have a white canvas every day—it’s a fresh painting—and you paint it, and at the very end of the broadcast, when it’s over, you initial it down in the lower right-hand corner. Then you start a fresh canvas the next day.” —Jerry Howarth, October 2010

“I’ve always said that my best weapon wasn’t [throwing] 100 mph, or anything like that. It was understanding what I was all about out there—who I am. I always ask guys, ‘Who are you?’ and I don’t mean Bob from Omaha. I mean, ‘Am I a strikeout pitcher?’ or ‘Am I a ground-ball pitcher?’ And that’s where we get into trouble, when we try to be somebody else.” —John Wetteland, October 2010

“Pitchers are stubborn… We are too. If we weren’t like that, it would be an easy job, right?” —Miguel Montero, October, 2010

“That’s something where you don’t know what the market is going to be, so you don’t know if you’re going to get a two-year deal or a one-year deal with incentives. I just hope that I get the opportunity to pick where I go and get what’s best for my family. Hopefully I’ll go to a contender.” —Lyle Overbay, November 2010

“As for how the revenue function works, there are really high returns to winning. If you’re not doing that well—if you’re just stumbling along—you’re not losing much by dumping your best players. You’re at the low end of the revenue curve anyway, and fans are coming out just to get the major-league experience. They know you’re going to lose anyway, so dumping a few of your top guys—like if Kansas City does that with Greinke—that’s a very smart move.” —J.C. Bradbury, November 2010

“As a player, sometimes perspective is hard. You’re doing things the right way and you know that a guy is taking steroids, or doing whatever, and he’s having a lot of success. It’s just one of those things in life that is an unfair situation. Sometimes things in life are unfair.” —Corey Patterson, November 2010

“Mantle appealed to those who feared the loss of white hegemony in baseball. That was part of the ‘this is our guy’ ethos. Everybody could see the handwriting on the wall with the great influx of African-American talent that was about to transform baseball. Mickey was this white kid from Middle America who could do everything. He was a white boy who ran black. He had the kind of power that reminded us that we were great. He reminded us of the incredible natural resources on the American continent. He had it all.” —Jane Leavy, November 2010

“Role models are guys that you follow from afar. I want to be that hands-on guy that you can come up to and talk to. I don’t think I’m any different than the next man, I just happen to have been blessed with a talent that puts me on the national stage. I’m still the same guy who came up through neighborhood pickup games in Moss Point, Mississippi, it’s just that now you can see me on television giving up a home run or something.” —Tony Sipp, November 2010

“When I came in there, we had talked about how they’re young, how they’re learning… well, it was time not to be young anymore. It was time for them to take the end of that season and to put themselves on a path to make money and do well the rest of their careers.” —Mike Quade, December 2010

“If the spray chart is telling you, ‘Hey, this guy hits the ball here; here are the percentages that this guy hits the ball on the ground to this side,’ why not use that to your advantage? You can’t cover it all. You can’t cover the shift and you can’t cover the bunt, but if somebody like Ryan Howard wants to bunt, let him do that all day long. He can have that bunt any time he wants.” —Fredi Gonzalez, December 2010

“First time up, home run, dead center field on the black tarp out there. The first person that met me at home plate was Reggie Jackson and I ran right by him. Then I sat down on the bench, and he came down, and to make a long story short he thought my nickname ‘The Toy Cannon’ didn’t fit me because I played in the National League and not the American League. When he came down to the bench he said, ‘Jimmy Wynn, you are truly the ‘Toy Cannon,’ and I just told him ‘Don’t you ever forget it.’” —Jimmy Wynn, December 2010

“Scouting is the bloodline of the major leagues. They have a Hall of Fame for baseball players, they have a Hall of Fame for sportscasters, the press—they should have a Hall of Fame for scouts. These are the guys who go out and find the players. These are the guys that are away from home all season trying to get ballplayers. These are the guys who are the backbone of baseball.” —Tommy Lasorda, December 2010

 “Indeed. But it’s still cool when you first come out. You’re not really making any money, but what else are you going to be doing? You just graduated from college and you’re basically going to continue to live that lifestyle—one where you don’t have too many responsibilities. You’re just playing baseball.” —Will Rhymes, December 2010

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