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Chat: Jim Baker

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday October 03, 2005 8:00 PM ET chat session with Jim Baker.

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Jim Baker is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Jim Baker: Hi. Thanks for dialing in. You'll have to forgive me for being a little down. My fantasy season came down to one at bat and it didn't go well. I won't name names, but let's just say the player who could have won my team its division is featured prominently in Moneyball. And is father was a big leaguer. But I'm not bitter. OK, let's go:

oneofthem (NYC): Sup Dr.Baker, who do you think is in better position to sign damon, yanks or sox?

Jim Baker: The Yankees are always in a better position to sign just about anyone except for those poor unfortunates who suffer from Gothamaphobia.

shall14 (Boston): Do the Twins recieve enough ridicule for letting David Ortiz go for absolutely nothing?? It seems the Mets recieve more flack over the Kazmir deal.

Jim Baker: I think I heard John Miller giving them some grief the other day on the ESPN telecast. Aside from that, no, they don’t – so let’s pile on ‘em!!! The Twins don’t have a Scary Monster in the lineup, so he would certainly have come in handy the last few years.

Tim (Syracuse, NY): How does Brian Sabean still have a job?

Jim Baker: I met Sabean one time and he made fun of how thick my glasses were. If I were a sensitive sort, I would still be boiling inside from that juvenile slight ten years ago. Instead, after years of expensive counseling, I’ve moved on, so I won’t use your question to say something snide about Mr. Sabean, Tim. The fact, is, the Giants are usually in the hunt. They’ve finished in first or second nine straight years. That’s going to keep you in your job nine times out of ten.

John (Chicago): In what order would you put the following pitchers? Prior, Sheets, Felix Hernandez, Zach Duke, Oliver Perez

Jim Baker: F. Hernandez, Prior, Sheets, Duke, Perez. Maybe not in 2005 or even 2006, but all-time, that’s how I see it winding up.

Timmy Turner (Dimmesdale): What is baseball really about? The next 3-4 days between boston and the Yankees or 12 year old kids playing 8 hour games on the sandlot?

Jim Baker: I love getting questions from fictitious characters because then I can ask them questions back. Timmy – when are you going to take advantage of your situation and wish for baseball stardom? (For those of you in the dark, Timmy is the star of Fairly Odd Parents). Baseball is really about the big leaguers because, as far as I can tell, the impromptu sandlot baseball of old is dead and gone. I wish it weren’t so, but it appears to be. I think we all have this picture in our minds taken from old newsreels of scrappy-looking kids knocking a ball around a vacant lot behind an autobody shop, but I’m not sure how much that has to do with reality anymore.

Bob (DE): How much of Thome's contract are the Phillies going to have to pay in order to trade him?

Jim Baker: My guess would be at least half but more like two-thirds. Now, if they could just get someone to take David Bell in the deal.

DrLivy (Charleston, WV): Jim: The Cardinals sat Larry Walker for much of the year just to keep him fresh for the post-season. He nailed two homers yesterday. Do you think he can be a major force in the playoffs?

Jim Baker: Absolutely! His EqA this year was .302, just a bit south of his career mark of .308. True, it’s not near what he did last year, but if Walker plays, he rakes.

BL (Bozeman, MT): I'm embarrassed to have to ask this, but can you explain the ridiculous tie-breaking procedure, why we are subjected to it, and when it came into being?

Jim Baker: With one week to go in the season, each team is asked to submit a cash bid to the offices of MLB. Tie goes to the highest bid. That’s not codified anywhere, though.

bctowns (Chicago, IL): Jim, Follow up question to one I asked you a chat or two ago: What has been your favorite storyline to the season so far, and to what are you looking forward in the playoffs? As always, thanks for chatting.

Jim Baker: I like the turnarounds that Cleveland, Houston and Oakland pulled off. In the end, two of them didn’t get there, but it was fun to watch them come on.

packerfan0042001 (miami): fairly new subscriber jim, big marlin fan down here in miami. there have been tons of reports that due to lost revenue from not making the playoffs, the marlins would trade carlos delgado becuase of the jump in salary. how worried should i be and what is the marlins future looking like for the next couple of years? thanks

Jim Baker: If the Marlins could get some serious young talent for Delgado, that situation could work out in their favor very nicely. They’ve got one of the best young players in the game in Miguel Cabrera and you could do a lot worse than to build from there. If that doesn’t include Delgado, so be it. I think the fact that they were willing to sign Delgado in the first place was a good sign. If they can move him and his fairly sizeable contract for some solid prospects, it will work out all around for them. Let’s not forget that they wouldn’t have been as close as they were without him this year – which is why it’s imperative they get good return on a trade and not do a circa-1998 Marlins-type salary dump-off.

Terry Francona (heading for Chicago): How shaky is my bullpen right now? How much help can I expect from guys like Paplebon and Hansen?

Jim Baker: Let us not forget what happened two years ago in the playoffs: the troublesome Boston bullpen came alive in the playoffs. Red Sox fans can hope it’s cyclical.

Mike Jones ((281)330-8004): Does homefield in the LDS matter? Since 1995 the home team and away team is 10-10. Is this a fluke? Obviously Torre researched this ebfore deciding not to try yesterday

Jim Baker: I liked how the Yankee players were grousing about Buck Showalter yanking his starters in the third inning. If this stuff is going to matter, it needs to be codified. Baseball begs for this sort of thing by allowing September call-ups in the first place. On the other hand, how did Torre decide not to try? Aside from having Jaret Wright pitching, which is a form of not trying, he had his starters in. Derek Jeter was certainly trying!

John Henry (boston): Are we co-champs? I mean we did have the smae record

Jim Baker: John, what, really does a division championship mean in a world where there are six divisions? Is it really even worth hanging up a banner for it? The Padres won a division at 81-81 – how much should you be worried about it? The trick is getting into the crap game that is the postseason. Once baseball doubled the number of playoff teams, those little flags mean a lot less.

BL (Bozeman, MT): Aside from new ownership and a management overhaul, which we all know are truly necessary, how would you prioritize the Royals' needs this winter? I'd love to hear specifics rather than 'slugging corner outfield' or 'front-end starter.'

Jim Baker: BL – you have probably answered your own question. This organization needs a check-up from the neck up, to quote Sigmund Freud. Replace the head and the body will follow. Failing that, they could get an innovative manager in there. I don’t know who that person might be (Larry Dierker?) but somebody other than Buddy Bell would be a start. From there, I would defer to Rob Neyer and Rany Jazyerli, two people who live and die with the team and know more than I ever could about what ails them and what would fix them. I have suggested to both of them that they try to find a new owner themselves. That’s the most I can do.

Bryan (Toronto): Speaking of teams without a Scary Monster, what are your thought on the Jays this offseason. What do you think their chances are of landing a much needed Scary Monster, such as Adam Dunn or Brian Giles?

Jim Baker: I think we often forget that Giles is in his mid-30s – I know I do. If I were the Jays, I would only add Giles if I were a lot closer to contending. Of course, in that division with the two Scariest Monsters of them all, when exactly will that be? Dunn would be a nice addition, though. If the Jays could keep their runs allowed at the same level next year (705) and add 50 or so runs, they’d have a better differential than the Red Sox and Yankees did this year. Looking at their projected won-loss records, the gap between the three of them isn’t all that great. So, maybe this is the time to roll the dice. The problem is, neither Boston nor New York will stand pat in the offseason either.

Mark Bellhorn (???): Let's see I've bene cut by two of the Moneyball teams, the Yankees dont appear to want me, Toronto doesnt exactly have a shortage of IF's, and LA is set at 2B, where am I going?

Jim Baker: You’re going to have a helluva 2006 if you stay on the strict on-again/off-again schedule that you’ve been following. Whichever team figures that out will reap the whirlwind!

Mikey (My house): So how about a prospectus matchups that has BP authors facing one another? Who's the best matchup? Or the biggest mismatchup?

Jim Baker: It depends on the game in question. For instance, I wouldn’t want to face Christina Kahrl in a history trivia quiz and wouldn’t want to play poker with Nate Silver. I wouldn’t want to play Operation against Will Carroll.

Liam (TR): Someobdy has to do a study on free agent decisions, i'm confident that the 19 million the Yankees doled out for -19.3 VORP in Pavano, Wirhgt, and Womack has to be one of the worst

Jim Baker: Let’s put it this way: teams have been wrecked by this kind of signing – like Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton in Colorado. They haven’t been the same since. What did it matter to the Yankees, though? They still won the division. Their margin of error is so incredibly great that any discussion of this signing fiasco is academic. Remember Baker’s Yankee Axiom: Pinstriped corpses are more easily buried than those of other teams. Like an outfielder who is fast enough to outrun his mistakes, the Yankees are rich enough to outspend theirs.

ryan (marlin country): jimmy: quick, whos the marlins manager in 06? giradi,sweet lou,ozzie,other?

Jim Baker: Hold onto your rotator cuffs, boys – it’s the return of Jim Leyland! Not sure, but managerial openings are fun to speculate about. Me? I’d bring in Davey Johnson but I’m sentimental/crazy like that.

Elaine (San Diego): Why is MLB so greedy and ratings driven that they think it's ok to have a west coast game start at 10 am just b/c they want their precious east coast teams on in prime time?

Jim Baker: Uh-oh, an opening for a rant. Let’s ask the question I ask every year at this time: why do we need to have eight playoff teams if such a small percentage of the games are shown when the majority of the population is not at work? What is the point of the exercise? Don’t tell me advertising dollars because how much can they charge an advertiser to go up against reruns of Three’s Company? It’s nonsense, Elaine. As for the East Coast bias, the Yankees and Red Sox have huge diasporas and local support – arguably much more so than just about any other team save for the Cubs and Cardinals and, maybe, the Braves.

Maria (Caldwell): Is there a more embarassing story than the 2005 Baltimore Orioles? their season ended both with a bang AND a whimper.

Jim Baker: A spectacular fold – not like the Indians final week fold, but a spectacular fold nonetheless. By now, they hold the patent on this action, though, so we shouldn’t be too surprised. When a team has the best keystone combo in baseball, you’d like to think the rest is easy, wouldn’t you?

packerfan0042001 (miami): hey jim i pre-ordered mind game, anyn ews on the official date it will come out?

Jim Baker: We have had some bookstore sightings. I’m just glad it got out before the Red Sox were eliminated this year. That would have been weird. Regardless, you owe it to yourselves to read the book.

Handol (Fort Lee): Don't you know that Jeter ALWAYS trys? count the ringz baby.

Jim Baker: Speaking of Mind Game, it fell to me to discuss THE PLAY from last year’s June 30 game. Handol is right – Jeter always does try his best and there’s something to be said for that. A topic for debate would be this: does there come a time where it would be better to take it down a notch? How about in yesterday’s game? Would it have been worth missing the playoffs? Just wondering… on the same lines, Handol asks this:

Handol (Fort Lee): Hypo: If Showalter came out and admitted that he benched his good players out of spite to the yankees, what kind of trouble would he be in? Is that borderline game fixing?

Jim Baker: Not at all because it is not codified anywhere. In fact, getting back to something I said earlier – baseball practically begs for this sort of thing to happen by allowing the rosters to be expanded on September 1. Let me put this out there again: only in games where both teams have been eliminated should call-up players be allowed.

w. randolph (queens): so...who would you have hit leadoff? Because...um...my guy didn't do so well.

Jim Baker: What puzzles me so much about the whole Jose Reyes thing is that Randolph was a wonderful top-of-the-order player himself and he just spent the last decade watching a team that clogged the bases like nobody’s business. Did he learn nothing from those experiences? Mike Cameron would have been OK at the top – pre-accident, of course. Carlos Beltran (2004 Carlos Beltran) would have been fine up there. Apart from the lost run revenue, I just think Reyes would have been better off out of the lineup limelight, taking his hacks in the eight-hole.

Boston fan (Mass.): O.K., are we going to trade Manny this offseason? If we do what can we get, didn't we almost have Cameron, Huff and two big time prospects? How about we do that again?

Jim Baker: What is the hurry to trade this guy? Yes, he looks strange in the field and yes he is a direct mental descendant of Rube Waddell, but, to the best any of us on the outside can tell, it doesn’t seem to be hurting the team.

sbaxamusa (Cambridge): Mr. Baker, is there a BP orthodoxy on revenue sharing? Do you have an opinion on "parity," "hope and faith," and the other buzzwords used to describe baseball's economic system? Why have the AL's top three teams in payroll made the playoffs the last two years without anybody batting an eyelash?

Jim Baker: For the record, there is no “BP orthodoxy” on any one subject, although we generally come from the same philosophical school on many baseball-related subjects. There will never be true parity in baseball or any other sport because there will always be some teams that are especially stupid or especially smart who will overcome any attempts to stabilize things. No league does a better job of distributing funds than the NFL and, somehow, the Arizona Cardinals still find a way to lose just about every week while the New England Patriots are in a dynasty. The Yankees and Red Sox have had a run of success because they have money AND savvy. There are teams with one or the other and some with neither (KC, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh) but very few with both.

drizzle (deep in the heart of): Is there any realistic hope for the Rangers? Don't you dare bring up hockey!

Jim Baker: Hockey? I thought you were talking about Queens Park. To answer your question, why not? They won the division in the old days, didn't they? Heck, they only have to beat out three teams to get into the playoffs -- that's the easiest gig in MLB right there. I think it's a good organization and you should hang in there with them -- they'll figure it out very soon.

Dennis (Newark): Following up on Handol's question...I'm sure there is something codified somewhere about putting forth a good faith effort to win. or, at the very least, best interests of the game.

Jim Baker: Agreed, however -- managers do things all the time that would indicate otherwise, don't they? They let position players pitch in blowouts. They yank starters after 90 pitches, they let proven worthless players like Lenny Harris hang around for intangible reasons, they bunt and hit and run when we KNOW those strategies don't usually pay off. Heck, the Angels themselves pulled their starter after two innings on Saturday. They also benched Vladimir Guerrero in the same game. If they weren't that serious about winning, how serious should Showalter have been?


What I'm saying is this: define what is meant by "trying to win," be specific and codify it. Until then, there really isn't much we can do except complain.

Jim Baker: Thanks for a great chat. Thanks to John Erhardt for jumping in and helping relay the questions to me (a technical problem). Enjoy the playoffs!


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