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Chat: Steven Goldman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday September 01, 2005 1:00 PM ET chat session with Steven Goldman.

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Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Steven Goldman: Good afternoon, friends. It's a beautiful, cool day here in the northeast, the Randy Johnson-Felix Hernandez match-up lived up to expectations, MIND GAME is just a couple of weeks away, and I've finally heard that my family in the gulf is safe and dry. In short, I'm in a good mood, so let's hit that beach!

jtsports01 (Boston, MA): Can I please read Mind Game before we have a new World Series champion. You guys really missed the boat on that one.

Steven Goldman: Let's get this one out of the way right off. MIND GAME did indeed have a gestation period longer than that of blue whales and elephants (because when a blue whale and an elephant mate it's always something special), but I think the delay will have been worth it. This book is not meant to be a quickie, read-it-in-the-moment-and-donate-it-to-the-library-booksale disposable title. We want you to keep this one on your shelf for awhile. Boston '04 is merely the springboard into any number of excursions into the baseball mind. And, oh yes - it's finally going to be here in just a couple of weeks.

Peter Bean (Washington, D.C.): Which is worse - a difficult to get to wedding in Vermont or the NL West?

Steven Goldman: I guess I'd still have to take the NL West - at least you can get hot dogs and fish tacos at the Padres game. Note to anyone who plans on serving pad thai at your wedding: YOU TAKE THE D-MNABLE tails OFF of the SHRIMP before SERVING! PAD THAI should NOT go CRUNCH!

...Having a sub-.500 team make the playoffs was always in the cards with the expanded format. Now we just have to hope that that team doesn't win the whole thing and make a mockery of the system... or should we?

Steve (Manalapan): What did you think of Randy's reactions after big outs last night? Yes, he looked intense, but I thought he was showing up the Mariners. Also, for someone who's only been slightly better than mediocre all season, I thought it was a bit much.

Steven Goldman: I think the hype got to him. The M's advertises the game as "our past vs. our future." It was like it was Father Time vs. Baby New Year. If Randy wanted to show some bravado in response to that, I don't have a problem with it. And if he's been mediocre this year, well, he has more than enough of a resume to steal a little from the past.

Andy Phillips/Colter Bean (Columbus): They're not really leaving us down here for the AAA playoffs are they? Wayne Franlkin is in the majors right now, and we're not! What (besides getting traded this offseason) do we have to do to get real playing time?

Steven Goldman: Of the many inexplicable things that the Yankees have done over the years, Andy and Colter have been the inexplicable-est. They're useful role players and can give you wins when used correctly. That being said, I do think that the moves for Lawton and Bellhorn show the Yankees waking up and smelling the coffee a bit, realizing that they can't just drift into the playoffs as always.

Of course, you knew you wouldn't see Bellhorn after his first 0-3. That's the Andy Phillips rule of Joe Torre. If you're not one of his guys, you only get one bad day.

PJ (Parsippany): Did you keep a list of all the Whitesox fans who were whining that BP wasn't giving their team enough love? as an aside, don't you just love telling someone "i told you so"

Steven Goldman: When you're in the prognostication business, you miss a few. Hopefully you get most of your calls right or they don't keep you around too long (Casey Stengel said this of Mike Marshall once - "They say he's educated, but if you don't throw strikes they don't leave you in too long.") I have no trouble admitting that I missed it on the White Sox this year. Back in April I thought they'd have 90 losses. I STILL don't believe in them to tell the truth.

Tony Womack (Bronx, NY): I think you owe me an apology for all that bashing you did of me early this year.

Steven Goldman: Tony, I apologize if you ever took it personally. I didn't mean it that way. Everyone I know who is in regular contact with you says you're a really nice guy, and I feel bad that I had to be so down on you.

...Here's a good example of a safe call in the prognostication biz. I bashed the Womack signing from the moment it happened. There was NO chance I was going to be wrong about him. None.

jsp377 (Williamsburg, VA): First, I'd like to say that Randy Johnson rocked last night, and they'll need him like that for the rest of the season and through the postseason if they want to go anywhere. Secondly, when did Jeter become a good fielder? His FRAR and FRAA this season are exceptional...did he drink some of A-Rod's "Special Stuff"? Any ideas as to what's caused the improvements? And where can I find FRAR as a sortable statistic? I can't find it in BP's stats page.

Steven Goldman: I'm with you, Williamsburg, I want to see all those Davenport-y stats made sortable. You'll be pleased to know that the superintelligent techodroids here at BP are working on it. Only problem -- they run on gas and with the price going up, it might be awhile before we can afford to feed them again. It's their gas or my Oreos, and I'm just not willing to give up my puffed lard 'n' wafers.

I think Jeter has been able to reposition himself a bit now that A-Rod is in town. A-Rod, btw, has been spectacular, really put on a show last night in helping they Yankees get their shutout. He had some yips early in the season, but he's long over that.

Tony Womack (Bronx, NY): have you noticed that I come out to a booming rap song when i bat? Don't you think light jazz is more appropriate?

Steven Goldman: Or Mozart's Minuet in G, as performed in "The Music Man." LA-DEE-DA-DEE-DA-DEE-DA (long pause) DA-DEE-DA...

Peter Griffin (Quahog): Steve in an earlier chat, you said that if the Yankees miss the playoffs, someone could write a book called Cashball (the anti-mind game). Will you write it if they dont make the playoffs?

Steven Goldman: I'd love to, but whenever I mention it to anyone, they say, "We'd love to publish it, but we can't in good conscience assist you in your professional suicide." I'm just stupid enough that I still might do it.

Dan Friedman (New York City): What's the deal with the Mark Bellhorn acquisition? I think it's a fine move, since he's got to be an improvement over Escalona as a reserve infielder, but my friends tell me that he can't play shortstop, and Escalona can;

Steven Goldman: We have a bunch of Bellhorn/Cano/Escalona questions here today. As I wrote over in the Pinstriped Bible, it's a great move as long as they actually give the Horn (he blows at midnight) playing time. Otherwise he's just another piece of furniture. He needs to play - even in a year-long slump, he'll get on base more often than Cano.

He can't play shortstop, 't is true, but he doesn't need to. If Jeter explodes, A-Rod can slide over and the Horn can play third.

Velez (Miami): If you were in control of the Mariners, how would you use Felix? I think they should go the Johan route and keep him in the bulpen until the risk of injury decreases.

Steven Goldman: That could be years, or never. They should handle him cautiously, of course, but there's no surefire way of avoiding injuries. Their liklihood can be decreased, but it won't ever be a defintive prophylactic against muscles going "twang."

Robert (Cleveland, Ohio): A quick question for all of us who love BP but don't vote the way most of the authors here do.....Why include all of the political comments in your articles? Why not just stick to the baseball? Question not directed just for you Steve but for all of BP. Thanks

Steven Goldman: This is my favorite question in the world. Honestly. It gives me a window into how people think. I have two reasons for doing it (which is, consciously, a lot less lately as I finally prepare my own venue for such thoughts): first, it's just another chance to say something funny. It's topical humor, something everyone can relate to because they know the players involved. Second, we're all WAY too sensitive about this stuff. Any mockery is inappropriate to half the population, but if they could only see the humor in some of their own positions, the body politic would be a lot better off.

Third, I can't help tweaking a sacred cow. That's just my nature.

Finally, I feel like my job here is to educate and entertain. I'm fortunate enough to have a soapbox, and I feel like I should use it, just a little, to get at things that are bigger than sports.

Everything we do here is about critical thinking skills. We should apply them to everything, not just baseball.

I can't speak for the others, of course. This is just me.

beanpj (Washington, D.C.): What has impressed you more - Billy Beane's reload-while-contend 2005 or John Schuerholtz's reload-while-contend 2005?

Steven Goldman: They're both pretty cool, aren't they? I like Schuerholz's willingness to jetison the vets and go with youth. Maybe it's the Yankees-watcher in me, but it's really refreshing to see a team understand that you have nothing to lose in going to an inexperienced young player if that player has, oh, a 90% chance of outhitting that old guy who's batting .211/.298/.325. Heck, if the young player can't do it, you should be able to find another five who will. It's such a low threshold, and so obvious that 1 is greater than zero...

anthony (long island): I'm always amazed that you actually work for the YES network, considering that you dare speak ill of the Yanks on occasion. Is Steinbrenner even aware of your existence?

Steven Goldman: YES has been very fair with me over the years. As long as I'm respectful in the way I say things, they figure the truth is out there for people to see anyway. Since I keep the vituperation to a minimum by nature we haven't had too many conflicts. There is always a way of saying things that gets the point across without being rude.

Joe (Trenton): Any real chance Desalvo gets called up? And any chance Pavano never pitches for the Yankees again?

Steven Goldman: The latter: I wish, but right now it seems likely he'll be here at least through the spring. He's going to have to prove he's healthy before the Yankees can even consider undoing that signing (again, 2004-2005, worst off-season in team history).

I doubt Desalvo gets called up, so I'm going down to Trenton on Saturday to see his last game and chat with him a bit. I'll have a report in the Pinbstriped Bible next week, assuming I don't keel over again.

FJM (g): Steve, you (and others) occasionally dont asnwer the question. You provide good anaylsis to all of them, but not answering the question is too joe Morgan for me.

Steven Goldman: I'm practicing to be a presidential press secretary. I just got done watching the current White House flack say that the response to the hurricane has been so weak because it was "unexpected." Holy Cow. It was out there in the gulf, for days, man. Earlier the president said, "No one expected the levees would break." What? I beg your pardon?

Oh, sorry... Is that politics? See, it seems to me that's just calling a liar when he's obviously lying. I don't care what party he's in.

Anyway, rather than be accused of Morganism, is there anything I can be more specific about? And how about an appetizer before you order?

Chaz (Yes boards): Steve on the YES netwrok message boards, there was a poll. "Who would you take Brosius or A-rod?" The fact that somebody created the poll was ludicrous, the fact that 1/3 the people voted for Brosius makes me fear for the educational system. I tell you this, b/c I think your comment would be funny.

Steven Goldman: I would never say anything bad about my brothers and sisters on the YES message boards. We are all children of Mother Earth and are equal in her eyes regardless of our beliefs. They are the salt of the (hmm) infield. Between shortstop and third base.

Tommy (North Carolina): Does Derek Jeter deserve the MVP award for being such a great leader and thus making Arod so good?

Steven Goldman: Speaking of the YES message boards...

I would like a YES massage board. My job doesn't come with enough perks. Other than sleeping in, getting paid to watch ballgames, and never having to spend money on dry cleaning, I mean.

F.M.K. (NJ): Morgan, Kruk, Steve Phillips.

Steven Goldman: The answer to the question, "Who will be playing the Three Stooges in the Martin Scorcese biopic?"

Dennis (Newark): Can you explain why there is a power struggle in Boston's front office? Theo has already proven himself very succesful. Why aren't the owners and others conflicting with him?

Steven Goldman: What's the old saying, failure is an orphan, success has many fathers? I think the daddies just want their slice of power and recognition pie. Also keep in mind... In my organizations, GMs have been corporatized. They're middle management. Brian Cashman has to run through the Tampa politburo so it's very difficult to know when he's acting as a free agent and when his strings are being pulled. Boston isn't that bad, but there are constituencies that Theo has to satisfy. The problem with all puppetmasters is that they sometimes start to think that they're the star of the act, not the puppet. That's not to say that Theo is a puppet, but some within the organization may THINK he is.

Dennis (Newark): Does your book go into depth regarding the Arod trade that didn't happen?

Steven Goldman: Lots of depth. Nate Silver chews it up in all kinds of ways, including running models of what the teams would have looked like using various alternative scenarios. I think it's one of the best parts of the book.

I really like that Nate Silver guy. And I'm not just saying that because he runs BP and could have me blacklisted.

Chuck (West Babylon, NY): Gary Cohen just mentioned VORP during the Mets broadcast. Is this the first time a mainstream broadcaster tried to provide actual insight into their baseball analysis?

Steven Goldman: I really like the Mets radio guys going back to before Bob Murphy's retirement. They are quite polished, they time their anecdotes and stories perfectly between batters, and let you know exactly what's going on in the game. They're also just a bit younger than is the norm, so perhaps they're more receptive to newfangled baseball ideas. I should single out Howie Rose, who I've enjoyed for years, going back to when he was the host of "Mets Extra."

We've seen quite a few BP stats in the mainstream media lately. Some of us were chatting earlier today about whether we've reached a tipping point of some kind.

coreyk626 (Chicago): For how many different franchises would BP have written a separate pulication like Mind Game? If Oakland had won the World Series? If the Cubs had?

Steven Goldman: I would have been up for either of those. It's not just that it was the Red Sox won, though there was certainly a market-driven incentive there. For us it wasn't WHO won that provided the hook for the book (that's the emotional appeal that everyone else too - We DESERVED it! Not too interesting) but HOW they won. If Houston won a World Series and the team-building angle was novel enough, I'd do a book on it. Whether anyone would publish it would be a different matter.

PJ (Parsippany): Can you guys go underground for a little bit? i'm getting a little nervous that you guys are becoming so mainstream that I will no longer be able to dominate fantasy baseball.

Steven Goldman: Sure. Make room for all of us in your basement 'cause we're coming to dinner!

Cris E (St Paul, MN): It appears that the New Orleans Zephyrs managed to finish the bulk of their season before recent events shut everything down. Have there been cases in the past where a team lost its stadium in mid-season? Didn't fire destroy the Boston Braves stadium long ago?

Steven Goldman: There were a number of events like that back in the days when ballparks were made of wood and not concrete (the first one was Shibe Park in Philly). The Polo Grounds burned down at one point, causing the Giants to be tennants of the Yankees at Hilltop Park for half a season. This paved the way for the Yankees to move into the Polo Grounds later. More recently, the Expos undertook a neverending roadtrip when part of the Olympic fell down and the Yankees shifted over to Shea for awhile when a small part of that building fell... But yeah, it used to happen quite frequently.

a777b (NY): Ok, what's the opening day '06 lineup for NYY?

Steven Goldman: Substantially similar to the current one, because the free agent class is really not very interesting. That discounts random Japanese free agents of which I'm not aware or someone jumping up and trading Babe Ruth for Carl Pavano.

Getting into the home stretch now. I have to take a half-hour drive to a doctor's appt (I spend a lot of my time doing that). I shudder at spending the precious gasoline. That's another thing we've been chatting about here at BP today - peak oil. Scary, scary stuff.

Dan Friedman (New York City): I got in an argument with someone yesterday about whether or not it would be worth it to trade Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang for Barry Zito. I said that it would absolutely be worth it, but my friend took the opposite view, arguing that Wang and Cano had too much potential and Zito is declining. It's a moot point, anyway, because I don't think Beane would ever do it, but what's your opinion?

Steven Goldman: I would go with your friend. Cano and Wang's value will almost certainly be higher next year (assuming growth for Cano/recovery for Wang), so let's revisit this one later.

Steve (Manalapan): So, Michael Kay is technically your coleague?

Steven Goldman: There are actually three Michael Kay comments here! Remember the old "I Love New York" commercials? Everyone sing with me:

I
LOVE
MY
JOB...

I
LOVE
MY
JOB...

Michael Kay, Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell, Red Barber... When I take off my glasses they all look alike to me.

Kenji Jojima (Japan): I've been called the best right ahnded hitter in Japan (and the numbers back it up). The best part is I'm a good defensive catcher. The probelm most teams will see is I don't speak English (though I'm currently on an all English site, typing in Enlish) should a team with an aging catcher, and lots of cash, and a Japanese player already in the lineup forget the language barrier and take a chance?

Steven Goldman: I've been thinking about this a lot, Kenji-san. Given that Posada is in the last year of his deal next year and seems to be slipping, maybe the answer is yes. The problem is that the team can't keep both of you, so what if you turn out to be more of a Kaz Matsui instead of a Hideki?

Furcal (Atlanta): Am i a yankee next year?

Steven Goldman: If Cano continues to slump I think the odds of it are pretty good.

James (Bath, NY): Steve, I broke out a mid 80's Bill James product, the BROCK projection system, and it gave me a .360/.440 line for Posada in 06, is that too optimistic?

Steven Goldman: I was just talking to a fellow BPer about BROCK the other day. No, I don't think it's too optimistic given Posada's age and skills. There has been something off this year. We normally expect players to get more selective as they age. Posada has been more impatient this year than at any time in his career. I think Don Mattingly is probably the wrong hitting coach for him. Not to say that Mattingly doesn't have his positives, but not every teacher fits with every student. The question about taking the road to Japan is, what happens the year after? Resigning Posada for 2007 up would be a bad idea. So do you jump out a year early (Branch Rickey sez)? I think maybe you do.

Maria (Caldwell): Is George good or bad for the yankees?

Steven Goldman: I can't believe all the questions we have here today, 'bout 100 all told, most for any of my chats. I could do this all day, but without that trip to the doctor I might start forgetting to comb my hair or start to laugh at inappropriate moments.

George Constanza? He's been great for the Yankees, the power behind the throne, and one of my best friends while he was there.

The James (Australia): What % of the books sold will be by people who aren't fans of either 1) the bosox or 2) this site?

Steven Goldman: You forgot (3) my parents.

I don't know. It's the goal of every book to break through from whatever preestablished audience you have, if any, into the mainstream. Mostly it depends on publicity and marketing, and, of course, how good a job we did.

Again, MIND GAME uses the BoSox as the jumping off point, but the issues we discuss apply to all teams.

PJ (Newark): Why are the general public so anti-labor union when it comes to player-owner disputes? Is it just another example of the corporate media determining the mindset of your average joe?

Steven Goldman: Yes!

And on that appropriately leftist note...

Chas (YES): Steve, you should check out the YES boards occasionally. There is actually a group of people calling for Flaherty as the full time starter.

Steven Goldman: I used to all the time and would post occasionaly, but haven't had time lately for a variety of reasons - birth, life, rebirth, that kind of thing. I'm going to wade back in soon.

Maria (Caldwell): nice dodge.

Steven Goldman: Thank you, madam, and I admire your Honda.

And so we move to close...

Steven Goldman: Thank you for coming everyone. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. I'll be back again soon to chat about MIND GAME, the playoffs, old time radio, comic books, female baseball fans who dig fat, bearded, one-eyed baseball writers, and all of the usual topics. Until then, I do hope you will buy and enjoy MIND GAME. Stay well, stay dry, stay safe, and thanks again.


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