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Chat: Derek Zumsteg

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday August 27, 2003 3:00 PM ET chat session with Derek Zumsteg.

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Derek Zumsteg is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Derek Zumsteg: Hey everyone, Derek here.

Kenny Galen (Tallahassee, FL): Why did anyone care about your Pete Rose story? You said that an agreement was in place, and anyone could have read that between the lines based on all sorts of signs and statements from MLBs front office and others involved in the discussions. The statements by MLB since you broke the story state that Selig has made no decision, but it will go to the top of his to-do list after the season. There's no way that something like that will get started after the season if they want to make an offseason announcemet. Wouldnt they have to have the deal ready to sign by the time it gets to Bud's desk? And do you think Pete should be in the Hall? Thanks for answering, if you do.

Derek Zumsteg: I'm chat cheating here -- I ducked in a ten minutes ago to check out how big the queue was, and saw this question leading a huge number of similar Rose questions. So I wrote this up quickly before I joined. I'm going to burn it now and run up a huge lead, and see if that helps with the normally glacial pace of Internet chats. And if you're into slow pacing and quicker answers, I'll do what I can.

To your questions: While there were a lot of hints about Rose's return, what really got people going was the conditions we reported -- specifically, that there would be no requirement of a public admission of wrongdoing by Rose. In every interview I did, people asked about it. Much of the coverage that disagreed with us cited that specifically: people thought that for Rose to get in, that admission was one thing he absolutely would have to do.

On the statements by MLB: There's a deal in place. They're going to have a ceremony with Rose and Selig where they sign some giant novelty deal, and until then neither of them have signed anything: it's someone in Rose's camp for Rose, and someone for MLB high up, but who is not Selig. Selig gets to deny he's made any decision, even if the deal is done, and MLB gets to deny there's an agreement between baseball and Rose. And at the same time, if Rose stays out of trouble, after the World Series, bang, it's all ready to go.

Another interesting piece is that Pete Rose has a book deal in place with Rodale Press, the book's set to come out in March with the start of the next season. Yet they're not going to send out any advance press copies, no one at Rodale or the guys who represented Rose will say a word past "no comment" on anything about the book, the content, the page count, the font... they've all signed some kind of thermonuclear NDA.

I would give almost anything for a copy of that manuscript right now. Or even the proposal, if there was one. Transcripts of the meetings. Um, if anyone here happens to see one fall off a truck, could they pick it up and mail it to me? Keep an eye out, that's all I'm asking.

So Rose and Selig make a public deal, rainbows and puppy dogs all around, and lookee here, after the off-season victory lap, a feel-good book you can buy about the whole saga.

Whether I think Rose should be in the Hall... I've written some editorials that were pretty harsh on Rose. But that's not all that was in there. Reading them you'll see I have a dilemma I think many people face: the urge for particularly harsh vengence, to extract payment for harm done to the only sport I really, truly love, and the contrary urge to love my fellow man, and to struggle to accept and empathize even with people who make that really hard. I know that might seem hokey coming from someone notorious for flame-throwing invective, but there it is.

I want to see baseball help Rose, if they can: to try and get him into some kind of gambling addiction program, if he hasn't sought help already out of the public eye. And in doing that, themselves consider if the lifetime ban rule is excessive, if there's a better approach to preventing and treating these kind of problems, and see what good both sides can salvage from this 14-year disaster.

To answer your specific question more directly: I think Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame on the basis of his accomplishments, but ultimately it's Rose's fault that he's not. Without some kind of true resolution to the issues that led to Rose's downfall, and a recognition that you can't exempt Rose from the rules just because he was so good, the compromise the Hall of Fame has struck (no Rose but having Rose-related-items on display) is a just one.

Hope that answers a lot of the questions.

Will (Fredericton, NB): Which former player has become the best broadcaster?

Derek Zumsteg: I know he isn't for everyone, but Tim McCarver is the best of that group by a huge margin.

I also have a soft spot for Dave Valle, who made me laugh to crying -- he does color for the M's and when Glenallen Hill was with the team, Hill stumbled and fell rounding first and Valle said "Oop! Sniper got him."

One of the funniest things I ever heard in a broadcast.

William O'Brien (Las Vegas): Tim Hudson has been the best pitcher in baseball this year, but gets absolutely no mention in the Cy Young race (thanks to Keith Foulke). Does he have a prayer of winning it?

Derek Zumsteg: Not unless he can reel off a stretch of dominating wins, preferably against the Mariners, that get them into the playoffs.

John Hart (Arlington, Texas): Hey, do you guys think that Grady and I have finally turned things around in Texas? And what do you guys think we should do this offseason? Push hard for one of the top free agent pitchers, like Colon or Millwood? Or maybe go after that centerfielder who plays for your Mariners, who can hit everywhere except Safeco?

Derek Zumsteg: Mr. Hart, glad you could make it.

The team has turned around in their approach -- clearly, they're trying to punt the veterans and rebuild around their killer youth core, rather than tread water and contend badly.

Texas should sort through their rotation honestly and see who's going to be around in a couple of years, and who might develop into something interesting, and plug the rest of the holes with whatever's handy. We've made this call before, but the Rangers could contend with a rotation of Travis Driskill clones if they made good roster decisions elsewhere.

I think Cameron, incidentally, may end up with a team that's really good at picking up undervalued assets. Like the A's, if they can scrape up the cash, but Texas is a good possibility too.

scott (wash, dc): Forgive me, I am a new subscriber and missed any comments made about MLB coming to DC; but, what's the REAL reason DC is (probably) out? S

Derek Zumsteg: No money behind it yet. N. Virginia has site issues, but they've got political will and some money already, and while Portland has a funding mechanism, the funding mechanism prohibits the state/local gov'ts from issuing or backing the bonds, which means a magical funding fairy has to come down and do it for them... and MLB has always had a clear preference for government funding.

If MLB was interested in making the Expos competitive in the long run and can't get DC to fund a stadium, they should finance it themselves. If stadiums are such great deals, shouldn't it be a profitable move for the league?

Bryan Smith (Chicago): Derek, I strongly disagree with Joe Sheehan and his view on TINSTAPP. I know the chances are against pitchers, but I still believe we shouldn't miss the next Clemens, the next Maddux. What is your opinion on the subject, and how excited do you get about a guy like Felix Hernandez?

Derek Zumsteg: I think there is such a thing as a pitching prospect, and too much is made of that phrase. You do have to recognize that they've got a terrible survival rate, and many of them that do survive won't be the aces they were projected to be.

Which is to say, I get plenty excited watching pitchers in the minors and imagining what might be. The last time I saw Rett Johnson pitch, I walked away convinced he was going to be huge, even knowing that the chances of that happening were slim.

BobD (Boise): Have you or anyone else that you know of asked MLB players (or former) if someone that does not walk were to buy into the value of BB, does it take just a decision, or is the adjustment too great to make at a certain age? How has Barry Bonds known to take all those walks, and Henry Aaron didn't?

Derek Zumsteg: It's a decision and it's ability. You can talk to some players who don't hit well, and it's not because they're dumb, it's because they can't come around on some pitches, or for whatever reason they're suckers for a 12-6 curve.

But it's also a willingness to work deep into counts, to not be afraid to take an outside pitch and have the ump ring you up if he sees it differently.

One of the great things we're going to get to see in the coming years is this approach tested: do the A's, by rewarding OBP through the minors, produce better hitters? Or is there a better way to teach hitting?

Harrison (Austin, TX): Hi Derek. Love BP, love your writing, addicted to premium. My question is about GB/FB ratios. Gary H ran an article about platooning using GB/FB earlier this season, and the results were inconclusive. Managers already do this intuitively by having a GB guy to try to get double plays. When would you use a FB guy?

Derek Zumsteg: When Ichiro's up. Gary and Nate's 6-4-3 on this showed that you want to run against a batter's G/F platoon, but also, tactically, you look for situations where the force out isn't in effect, or you only need one out.

And you should make sure your defense suits your pitcher, if it's crucial enough.

Bums Lie (Seattle): Is Kazu Sasaki worth the 8 mil or whatever the Ms pay the guy?

Derek Zumsteg: It's not a on-field decision: the M's make huge, huge amounts of money by being massively popular in Japan. And as the M's remind us Seattle fans constantly, they're about being hugely profitable, not necc. about making the best baseball decisions.

I wouldn't ever spend $8 million on a closer, though. And with Kazu's injury history and his weird fixation on throwing so many pitches on the side... yeagh.

Paul Mocker (Seattle): You picked Giants vs. Yankees in the World Series. Are you sticking with your preseason choices? Will, Keith and Joe picked the Mariners last. What do you say to them about these premature predictions of demise.

Derek Zumsteg: I stick by my predictions. I will be vindicated!

(that's going to be funny for the 2 people that saw me on MSNBC)

Ben (San Diego): What did you think of the San Diego Pittsburgh trade?

Derek Zumsteg: San Diego makes out like bandits. I'm shocked Kendall doesn't come over, and I've heard others speculate maybe that's still in the works.

Say it's not, though -- is this what a Giles is worth these days? A young pitcher who may never get over his control problems, and what, a grab bag of second-tier guys? That seems absurdly low to me.

Bobby (Bothell, WA): The next big name coming out of Japan is a shortstop named Matsui (I think that's his last name). With the Mariners being so popular in Japan already, will they outpay the Yankees to get Matsui?

Derek Zumsteg: Boy, I hope so. Guillen's so fragile, and he's not good enough that they should allow him to block the acquisition of a potential star like Matsui.

At the same time, Gillick supposedly passed on some minor upgrades during the season because he was concerned about how Bloomquist would feel about them, which is ridiculous garbage.

On the pro side, the M's think of acquiring players like Matsui as a sort of weird line-item expense that doesn't really count against payroll, like a home-equity loan they can tax-deduct. I don't understand it, but it's part of why they get into a lot of international bidding.

Plus, more Japanese players keeps the Japanse money spigot turned on.

IPF (Springfield): When not at a Mariners games, how do you watch games on TV? Dish? Some kind of DVR device?

Derek Zumsteg: TiVo, the only way to watch games. I wrote a column about this once.

I cracked mine open and upgraded it to like 220 hours of recording time, which leads to frequent conversations with my wife like:
"Do you want to keep all these Mets-Astros games?"
"Yes! Don't delete those!"

TiVo and MLB Extra Innings package: ooooh, baby, that's a sweet deal.

basha (seattle): Hi, Derek. Looks like the Mariners got a little too comfortable with their 4-game division lead once again. What's your theory on why they always seem to play .500 after June every year?

Derek Zumsteg: I did a lot of delinquent-type things in my well-spent youth, and I'm being punished for it.

Also, their inability to assemble a quality bench means that as players wear down or get injured, they're unable to replace them and continue to play effectively.

Josh (Philadelphia): A lot has been made here in Philly about all the men the Phillies leave on base and that Chase Utley should not be starting because he is not a "clutch" hitter. What is your take on whether "clutch" hitting actually exists and whether playing a guy like Utley instead of going out and getting a replacement with "experience" would make a difference?

Derek Zumsteg: There are no clutch hitters, only clutch hits. Except for Paul Molitor. And Will Clark*.

I wouldn't give it any thought when filling out a linup. The hits will come.

* no evidence will be offered for this second wild assertion

Jason (New York): In all the articles that are oozing out about how there's no clear-cut frontrunner in the AL MVP race, why is it that nobody seems to mention Jorge Posada as a viable candidate? I think a catcher with a .900+ OPS (and, more importantly, a .400+ OBP) makes an excellent candidate, especially given that Alex Rodriguez will be ignored again with the Rangers finishing the season with another losing record. Sure, Bret Boone's having a great season too, but he doesn't catch.

Derek Zumsteg: Posada's a fine candidate. And while Boone doesn't play catcher, he does play a premium defensive position, too. Nomar's a shortstop having a great season on a contending team, too.

But Alex Rodriguez is the Most Valuable Player to any team in the AL, and it's a shame he'll get robbed again.

Jake (Bismarck): Do you think baseball will continue to run the Arizona Fall League after this year?

Derek Zumsteg: I do. They get a lot out of having a domestic winter league. Consider what happened in Venezuala this last winter, and I think they'll invest.

The real issue is pitching -- few organizations want to send good pitchers there for fear of overwork, so you get a weird mix of guys thrown out there to see if they have anything interesting going on, retreads, and pitchers who lost a lot of time to injury. It results in a lot of non-prospects having monster AFL seasons and suddenly turning into super-prospects who return to AA/AAA and get munched on by real pitching.

BobD (Boise): Of all the upper tier all-time superstars, doesn't Barry Bonds have the most career end laden numbers ever? His first half of career seemed to be between Duke Snider and Bobby Bonds, and now he's a Babe Ruth plus.

Derek Zumsteg: Bonds is doing something really unheard of. I don't think there's another player ever who was so good for so long, and then got better. It's amazing to see. I'll be telling my hypothetical future kids that I got to see Barry Bonds play (they won't listen, being tied into a super-addictive VR simulation of Victorian England or something, but that's what I'll tell them).

Andy (New York): how about the NL MVP? With Bonds missing even more time recently because of his father's death, would you take him or Pujols?

Derek Zumsteg: I'd still vote for Bonds. Bonds is so much better, even in the limited time. You could sub anyone in for those missing games and the gestalt Bonds-Bragg would still beat Pujols in production.

Scott (Edmonds, WA): Say your team had a 17-year old phenom that just got promoted to low-A ball. Would you want him to be pushed along and handled with kid gloves (i.e. pitch count), or just sequestered on a desert isle until his 23th birthday to prevent injury?

Derek Zumsteg: Kid gloves. It's important to keep them working on their mechanics, their pitches, and to get them experience, but I would watch them closely -- velocity, delivery breakdowns, make sure they're open and honest about reporting their condition before and after starts. It'll be a long time before teams can do regular uninvasive shoulder and arm scans on their minor league pitchers and things like that to really drive the injury rate down. In the meantime, there's a lot more to be done to protect these guys.

Paul Mocker (Seattle): The 2003 edition of BP shows Ichiro and Juan Gonzalez to have the same fielding ability (at 3 runs above average.) What is your opinion of Clay's Fielding Rating system? We both know what Ichiro can do - isn't 3 runs better than average absurdly low? Thanks and keep up the great coverage of West Coast Baseball.

Derek Zumsteg: I think Clay's work is the best we have, and yet... yeah, I know. You look at these things sometimes and think "that has got to be way off."

And in times like this, I like to think of the wise words of my high school physics teacher (and NCAA football ref), Craig Wrolstad, when I asked him a particularly thorny question about relativity he couldn't answer: "Derek, physics is a changing science."

Defense is a huge and challenging thing, and we're getting ever closer.

Still -- there's no way Juan Gonzalez is as good defensively as Ichiro. Then I remembered Peter Gammons and the Alomar/range-factor dispute when I typed that, and I feel a little uneasy.

Erik (Seattle): Many of us in Seattle are secretly hoping Gillick doesn't return next season. If we get our way, do the M's have any chance at all of snagging the next sabermetric GM? Who might that be?

Derek Zumsteg: I don't think it'll happen. I think they'll hire a baseball guy, probably Asst. GM Lee Pelekoudas.

Marshall (Wilmington): Derek you and BP rule. I've told my friends about BP, and your Breaking Balls is always a good read. I want to know how come Billy Bean talks a good game about analysis, but doesn't put together a team that you'd want hitting for you. OBP is supposed to be the center of the A's offensive philosophy, but look at the actual offense. Chris Signleton, Miguel Tejada, Mark Ellis, Terrence Long, Ramon Hernandez, this is not a good offensive team even in Network Associates. Those guys ride those top starters, but the Mariners, Red Sox, and Blue Jays all walk the walk better than Oakland, and Texas is getting there. How come?

Derek Zumsteg: This is a great question, and I love that people are questioning the teams that (are said to) question conventional wisdom.

I don't understand it either. Long was a weird signing. As a team, these are not walk-drawing, power-hitting guys: Chavez has never put up the Jason Giambi-type walk numbers. In fact, if you go back and look at those teams, they're not an OBP team without Giambi's huge bat.

That said, Beane and DePodesta are smart guys, and I think what's happened is they've looked at the numbers and taken some bad gambles. I know I shouldn't ever play unsuited connectors in Hold 'em, but sometimes I do anyway.

The good thing about the A's, though, is that they're constantly looking to improve. If Beane could deal Long for an upgrade, I don't doubt he'd set aside his pride, admit his mistake, and make the deal in a couple of minutes.

And now that they're going to compete with the Blue Jays and Red Sox for their favorite kind of high-OBP floatsam hitter, they may have to go hunt for other undervalued players.

Ryan Wilkins (Moraga, CA): Derek -- Haven't you answered enough questions from readers who live in Washington yet? Give the rest of the country a try!

Derek Zumsteg: Don't you think the East Coast gets enough media service as is? I'm only trying to rectify a historical imbalance.

Dirk (Seattle): What, Derek? We thought you were applying for the Seattle GM job, no?

Derek Zumsteg: I don't think I'm going to get hired. Or interviewed.

In fact, I would bet the Mariners have set up a special shredder for my application, and that shredder will immediately be dumped into a second, larger shredder, which in turn will be dumped at night into the Puget Sound.

Donnie (Provo UT): Hi, Derek!!!!!!!! I was wondering why Minnesota chooses to let KC and Chicago in the AL Central Race. Is Gardenhire just a congenital idiot, or is it more sinister than that?

Derek Zumsteg: Hi!!!! It's a conspiracy!!!!!

Bobby (Bothell, WA): After losing Mulder for the season, do you think the A's will give any starts to Justin Duchscherer in the heat of the September pennant race? He's gotta be better than John Halama.

Derek Zumsteg: Another Washington question. Next time, let's all get together and set up a fake location we can all use to keep the other BP guys off my back.

I think they will, though I'd love to see Halama get some crucial starts against the M's, who eat lefties and spit them out like so many tasty sunflower seeds.

Strong Silence (Seattle): The Pete Rose Agreement you recently uncovered. If MLB did not want this story to come out until after the World Series, why didn't you respect that? I admire you as a journalist but I am a bit curious about your reasons for wanting to do this story now. At any rate, the issue seems to have died down. Did you expect the issue to get to the back page so soon after your article?

Derek Zumsteg: That's a question I haven't heard before. MLB didn't say anything about not wanting the story to come out when I talked to them. They didn't say "hey, this is a sensitive topic, here's what's going on, you can see where premature disclosure hurts us".

And as for doing it now -- it's a story, and we made the right choice in running it. Fans of baseball who are on both sides of the issue want to know what's going on with it, and the conditions we reported obviously touched a nerve.

I figured there was a 75% chance it would die down within a couple days, and the other 25% of that was someone (or many someones) that also had good sources would offer additional substantive evidence to support us.

Now we wait for the deal to come through, and we'll see what happens.

Brad (Kansas): Oversea's tv/radio monies.I heard this was distributed among all MLB teams regardless of what team signed the contract. Can You explain?

Derek Zumsteg: It is, and I should have been more clear. When I talk about the money that flows to teams like the M's, I mean the huge numbers of group ticket sales they sell to Japanese tourists, and their tremendous merchandise sales.

Okay, I'm going to try and hit a couple quick ones before I have to run. If you've got anything for the lightning round, now's the time.

Adu (Xanadu): Who is the best position prospect in the Mariners organization?

Derek Zumsteg: Chris Snelling, still. Second is OF Shin-soo Choo, who I'd take over SS Jose Lopez right now. BP's own Dave Cameron, who I fully endorse, takes Lopez over Choo, which means you should too.

Jorens (New York): What do you think of the Mets prospects in '04. They're beginning to build a solid foundation and if Reyes, Heilman Phillips, and Wiggington show improvement next year, they add a couple of cheap bats in the outfield, sign a solid pitcher, I really think they have a chance to contend. They could be stacked in the pen with young arms, as well.

Derek Zumsteg: I don't think they're going to contend in 04, but I'm interested in where the Mets are going to be in a couple years, which is a huge step from where I was at the start of the year.

Bobby (Bothell, WA): With 7 teams within 2 1/2 games of the NL Wild Card, wouldn't it be great if they all ended up tied. I can see Bud Selig now, throwing up his hands and shrugging, without a clue as to what to do next. Maybe he'd call a press conference to announce that the tie-breaker will go to "most-expensive ballpark paid for by the fans."

Derek Zumsteg: Ties = playoffs, and that's exciting baseball.

Tom (Burlington, VT): How about Cameron in Beantown? Damon can be moved to a team that values speed. I envision another #@$%-A trade for Theo next season like Hilly-Kim.

Derek Zumsteg: I don't see Cameron heading to Boston. They'll stick with Damon.

scott (wash, dc): D, Any chance Curtis Pride will be called up for the Yankees? Thanks, S

Derek Zumsteg: Sure, it could happen. I haven't bought into Pride yet, really, and I'm a little baffled at why I seem to get emails about Pride that are particularly anxious. Did he come cheap in fantasy drafts? And I ask that seriously. [ah -- someone just submitted that Pride is deaf, which I should have remembered, and a good guy to root for]

Brad (Kansas): do you see realignment in baseball anytime soon?

Derek Zumsteg: Only if the Expos go to Portland. Otherwise, we get the dumb status quo for a while, with the dumb interleague schedule and... argh.

Will (Fredericton NB): Hi, great work on the site; I was just wondering which player(s) and / or general manager(s) have proved to be the most disappointing to you personally. I keep thinking of Gillick and Guzman.

Derek Zumsteg: I thought Jim Bowden would achieve great things with the Reds, but it never happened. Personal skills do count, and he reminded me in a lot of ways of the fantasy league owner who makes one too many trades and runs himself out of contention every year. Bill, I think his name is.

Sven Opitz (Germany): Hi, in BPs trading analysis the latest Cubs trades (Simon, Womack) are critizized to the point, where it becomes flaming. Why are you so insistent, that Simon won't help the cubs into the Playoffs, or that it is the worst possible thing, that Choi and Cruz await the september in the minors? (Allthough, I at least agree on Cruz) I sometimes get the impression, that whoever writes these reports has a kind of feud with Dusty Baker. Bye

Derek Zumsteg: Guten tag, Herr Opitz.

There are organizations and people that are frustrating to cover, and sometimes, it's hard to keep that out of the next thing you write. I have trouble not getting frustrated with the Mariners, for instance, because I've been so close to the team for so long.

That aside, I think Chris Kahrl (which is who I think wrote the piece you're talking about) does a fine job giving credit for good moves by bad orgs, and the Cubs are making some dumb moves.

Derek Zumsteg: I gotta go. I know I tend to get doused in email (both interesting and abusive) and don't respond as well as I like, but drop me a line at dzumsteg@baseballprospectus.com if I didn't get to you and you're still itching for an answer, and I'll try and get back to everyone. Thanks for a fine chat.


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