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Chat: Steven Goldman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday March 31, 2004 5:00 AM ET chat session with Steven Goldman.

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Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Steven Goldman: Good morning. Iím Steve Goldman and Iíll be your host on this cruise of the damned to 7 or 8 AM. Hey Ė Iíve got a great idea! Letís take the most lucrative franchise in baseball and stick its first two games in a place where no one in America will get to see it! Bud Selig has less sense than God gave a wedge of gorgonzola cheese, and half again as much sympathy for the fans. Still, here we are so letís make the best of it and talk some baseball. One other note: itís early and Iíve not had much sleep, so I hereby disclaim any responsibility for misspellings, factual errors, un-PC remarks, cusswords, swearwords, intemperate language, snappish comebacks, insults, blasphemies, and declarations of romantic affection for any woman that I happen to meet during the course of these proceedings. If weíve got that straight, then away we go!

Chris (Raleigh): GO BACK TO SLEEP

Steven Goldman: Wish I could, but I'm hopped up on very strong tea, Coca-Cola, and a vanilla latte. It doesn't take much. Besides, I'm a martyr to RICOH, and I wouldn't miss a minute of it.

Alex Sims (Houston): Will Arthur Rhodes be a succesful closer? If you had to pick either Rhodes or Dan Kolb to close out your games, who would you choose?

Steven Goldman: I suppose Rhodes will work out well enough, if only because the distance from the best to the absolute worst of the closers is only a few saves - with only three outs to get, the odds are greatly on the side of the pitcher.

That being said, Rhodes scares me a bit as a closer. He obviously has some of the best stuff in the game, but he's had a few too many blow-ups, particularly against the Yankees, who IIRC, have slugged about .500 off of him.

Elton (The Netherlands): Hi Steven! I've been enjoying your articles on BP and I was wondering what kind of sources you use to do your historical research. Do you have shelves and shelves full of baseball books and access to newspaper archives?

Steven Goldman: Hi, Elton. I'm always glad to hear from readers overseas. Thanks for the good words. Yes, I have a very large library of books, several hundred baseball volumes, plus even more of the other kind. I also have my own microfilm reader, though it's been rendered largely redundant by the recent proliferation of newspaper archives on the Internet. Most of the articles, though, are sparked by good old memory. I mostly use the books to make sure that I'm remembering things correctly. It would be very embarrassing to me and BP if I put Lou Gehrig on the 1972 Brewers or something.

Will (South Bend): how many losses will this trip cost each team

Steven Goldman: As the game begins, I am reminded of the last song in the historical musical "1776:" "Is anybody there?/ Does anybody care?" or maybe an old Paul Simon lyric: "My words like silent raindrops fell." I wish people really talked like that.

The revolution will be televised, but no one will be awake to watch it.

I imagine this game will have some effect on the two teams, but it will be hard to tell, particularly since the Devil Rays will soon commence losing regardless. As for the Yankees, they are an old team and as evidenced by Giambi's already balky knee, it won't take much to wear them out.

It can't be over-emphasized that this trip makes a mockery of the pennant race. I'm all for good will tours, but they should be restricted to the off-season. Parenthetically, A-Rod said that the mission of this trip was to grow the game internationally. Seems to me the Japanese are already sold on the game and that if you really want to proselytize, you might want to play in France, Russia, or Madagascar.

Yanks1302 (Blacksburg, VA): Torre's hitting Matsui second today, and Lofton ninth, because of Lofton's struggle in the spring and Matsui's homecoming. Don't you think that it would be better, during the grind of the regular season, to hit Matsui sixth or seventh like last year? It seemed like he struggled more last year when he hit higher in the order, and he did better when some of the pressure was off of him.

Steven Goldman: Matsui should be kept away from the heart of the order as he's yet to demonstrate any great offensive ability in an American context. His main proclivity last year was hitting into double plays.

What's lower than the heart of the order? The liver of the order? The spleen of the order?

Jorge Posada just bobbled a ball on a SBA for the second time in two days. He's really not much of a defensive catcher, but he hits enough that it doesn't matter at all. For Matsui's sake, Posada should ALWAYS bat higher than Matsui. That's the best way to maintain the Matsui RBI illusion.

While on the subject of batting orders, one of the dumbest things I heard today was a caller to WFAN that excoriated Joe Torre for batting "his only leadoff man" ninth and Jeter first. "Lofton gets on base a lot," the caller said, "and Jeter doesn't." You have to wonder what game people are watching.

Anthony (NY): So Lofton is hitting ninth against righties. Will he be firmly attached to the bench against lefties? I'd imagine Torre is fully aware of Tony Clark's lefty-mashing ways.

Steven Goldman: As the game rolls on, we see another example of Posada's defensive shortcomings - in this case, his tendency to try to block home plate from inside the dugout. It wouldn't have made a difference this time.

Lofton should be strictly platooned. I don't think Joe Torre necessarily puts great stock in platooning except when absolutely obligated (Shane Spencer or something), but in this case his desire to keep Giambi's legs fresh and get Bernie into the lineup once he gets back is almost certain to reduce Lofton's playing time. He's going to be so happy.

Matt (California): Wow, random chat right here. Why the Marlins over the Phillies in the NL East?

Steven Goldman: Good morning, Matt. Glad to see someone else awake. If you can truly say that I am awake. I'm not certain. Currently I am watching a cucumber bat against some kind of purple hippo.

I'm leaning towards the Marlins because they have some intangibles in their favor - they won't be hobbled by any Torborgs early in the season, and I expect more consistency from the young starters and Miguel Cabrera. Their bullpen is also deeper with Benitez in front of Fox and no Looper around. I also have great faith in the Phillies' ability to somehow mess things up. I could very easily be wrong about this, but that's sort of my daily mantra anyway: "I could very easily be wrong about this."

Marcel Proust (Paris): You are absolutely the best new writer BP has come up with in a while I love your Remembrances of Things Past.Keep up the good work.

Steven Goldman: Thank you, Marcel. I hear you do good work too. Is it true your whole book was prompted by biting into a cookie? Fig Newton? Oreo? One of those cakey types with the three colored stripes that taste like amaretto? If so, please send me some immediately. I like those.

It has been a great honor to bring a new perspective to BP with You Can Look It Up, and be a part of the BP gang. To be in the company of such clever, witty, perspicacious writers is a great thrill and also gives me a wonderful feeling of validation about the work I've been doing with the Pinstriped Bible at yesnetwork.com and other places all of these years.

BP is like the Legion of Super-Heroes of baseball writers. I couldn't be having more fun and I'm glad the readers are enjoying it too.

Brad (NYC): Rough guess, how many runs did the Yanks cost themselves by signing Lofton instead of ponying up for Cameron or moving Matsui over and signing Reggie Sanders or a similar mid-quality corner OF bat?

Steven Goldman: ...Tony Clark's first at bat as a Yankee ends in a strikeout. Predictable. And Enrique Wilson looks nothing like Cocky Collins. Well, there is some facial resemblance, but we're talking ability here.

Several readers have written me asking why Derek Jeter should not be asked to be played second base. Well, take a look at what happened to Mark Ellis the other day. Second basemen have an alarming habit of getting killed. They're like baseball's version of the drummers from Spinal Tap.

Cameron would have been a great signing for the Yankees (and he would have been better off in the Stadium than he will be at Shea). Heck, there are a lot of players who are more productive than Kenny Lofton, but every ten or twelve years the owner of the Yankees decides he has to channel his inner 1982 Cardinals. That's why Lofton is here.

Having said that, if Lofton is used intelligently, alternated with Tony Clark and given frequent rest, he could be very useful.

Hands of Stone (Middletown): What do you think of A-Rod's glove at third?

Steven Goldman: He's looked pretty darned good so far, but we all know about not making judgments based on 1.5 games... or three dates with the same girl... Or a whole season of Kevin Maas at bats.

The Rabbi of Seville (Seville, dummy): Who were your favorite players growing up?

Steven Goldman: Tony Clark. Just kidding, but if he keeps hitting balls into the stratosphere as he just did, I might have to change my mind... Over in the Pinstriped Bible, I argued extensively that both Clark and Travis Lee should make the team, or Clark should ahead of Lee due to the former's ability to hit lefties. If the Yankees are lucky he'll hit enough during Lee's convalesence that the team will be ashamed to dump him. Torre does like to play the hot hand...

When I was very young, Graig Nettles was my favorite player. When I truly found baseball, it was Don Mattingly '84 who really captured my imagination. I also quite liked Willie Randolph and (in the non-Yanks category) Alan Trammell and Brian Downing.

To go on about Mattingly for a second, I have yet to see a player who was quite like him at his peak. He had the best bat control I have ever seen. Boggs was up there. I saw Tony Gwynn a lot less than I should have, so I can't compare the two as well as I'd like. Mattingly used to look a pitch almost into the catcher's mitt, and at the last second he would say, "Too close to take," flick out his bat, and line it foul. Amazing.

Don Zimmer (Japan): How you hanging in there, Steve?

Steven Goldman: I'm a little drowsy, Don, but I'm going to hang in a bit longer in case anyone else wakes up and wants to join in.

It seems to me that Kevin Brown pitching on turf is some kind of a travesty.

A few minutes ago, YES showed footage of T-Clark's exhibition HR from a few days ago, the one where he blasted a hole in the scoreboard. That's reminiscent of the scene in "The Natural" where Robt Redford homers into the clock. That actually happened in a real baseball game. It was Carvel "Bama" Rowell of the Boston Braves that did it. Rowell was the Todd Walker of his time, a good hitter for a second baseman who simply could not field the position.

We're running low on questions here in the fifth inning. Any last licks?

The Mad Second Guesser (Latveria): Matsui has about 12 RBIs in this game. Are you sure about his belonging in the liver of the order?

Steven Goldman: He's showing me up, isn't he? Maybe he can move up to the lungs of the order. Again, it's bad policy to fall in love on the first date.

Elton (The Netherlands): Any idea why Tampa Bay is the home team for both of the games in Japan? I assume they are forfeiting two real home games, which doesn't seem quite fair. Or is their attendance so bad it doesn't matter?

Steven Goldman: So what time is it in the Netherlands, anyway? You show unusual endurance, Elton.

I think you called it right re general indifference to TB home games. I do think that given the general direction of the franchise, it's a worthwhile gamble for them. If they're not going to get any exposure in the US, they might as well, uh, expose themselves somewhere.

Enter Damian Moss to pitch to Jason Giambi. This has about an 80% chance of resulting in a BB.

Mike Schmidt (california): How much do you hate the Yankee broadcast team? I don't think you're in any danger of nodding off with these guys braying like jackasses.

Steven Goldman: Schmidty, I take the fifth on the grounds that any answer I give may tend to incriminate me in the eyes of my pals at YES... In general, I don't pay much attention to any announcers. I do enjoy Ken Singleton and Jim Kaat of YES, Bob Costas the rare times he does baseball (his tendency to pontificate aside)... Boy, that's about it. At times I will turn the volume down on the game and put some music on the stereo, or play my guitar.

Parenthetically, I'm a big fan of two defunct Costas programs, the radio show Costas Coast to Coast and Later. In both shows he had a tendency to do, say, two hours of interviews with Ted Williams or Randy Newman. I'd love to hear/see some of those again.

Elton (The Netherlands): No way, it's 1:37PM here ... no endurance necessary for me. You, sir, are Gibralter in this exchange; I am merely tethered to your rock. (Also, I am an American expat and not Dutch, which presumably makes me less exotic and exciting to correspond with.) Another question then: Any idea what kind of park Petco is supposed to be like? Hitter's haven or pitcher's paradise? I have a lot riding on Jake Peavy this year ...

Steven Goldman: As long as you're wearing wooden shoes... Speculation on Petco tends towards the extreme pitcher, but the truth remains to be seen. Remember, the Devil Rays built their first ballclub on the assumption that the Trop Dome would play like Busch Stadium circa 1985. You would have thought their assumption had a foundation in some kind of objective evidence, but it turned out not to be the case. The park turned out to yield home runs fairly easily, and all the D-Rays had to respond with was Q McCracken.

Schmidty (California): I'm with you on Kaat and Costas...Costas' two-part "Later" with Letterman is a classic...

Steven Goldman: The five consecutive shows with Paul McCartney were pretty good, and I fondly remember a show with Little Richard in which Costas askmed Mr. Penniman (sic?) about how he felt when Pat Boone put out a truly vanilla cover of "Tutti Frutti" and outsold him with it. Richard was initially polite, talked about how he and Pat were friends, but later Costas came back to it. Richard thought about it for a moment, looked both ways, and then whispered "I HATED Pat Boone."

To bring it back home to baseball, the weeklong series with Williams was great. I wish I remembered more about it.

Schmidty (California): Hey, I forgot to mention how much I enjoy your column. The entire 1984 run brought back great Strat memories, and I enjoyed the Gene Bearden stuff as well...did you see the film of Babe Ruth in Japan from 1937? Amazing...

Steven Goldman: Thanks much, Scmidty. 1984 was fun to write, possibly more fun to write than it was to live through.

The story of Lou Piniella bucking up rookie A-Rod's spirits by kissing him was just told. In my new BP column Teams: A Critical Guide, I questioned whether Michael Lewis was correct to call Piniella "legendary." I take it all back. I just wrote a book about Casey Stengel (out this fall), in the course of which I spent quite a bit of time on the great managers of the past - Connie Mack, Joe McCarthy, Uncle Robbie, John McGraw - and I am certain that none of them ever kissed a player.

Pretty certain.

As for Babe Ruth in Japan, the Bambino was very popular there. They turned on him during the war, shouting "To Hell with Babe Ruth" at American soldiers across the battlefields. Hearing this, the Babe bought $100,000 worth of war bonds.

Elton (The Netherlands): Thanks for doing this Steven ... hope getting up early wasn't too bad. One last question then if you're still there: If Boston wins the big one in the next few years, who gets the credit? Will Epstein be King of New England for life? Will BP go under when all of the analysts get hired by copycat teams?

Steven Goldman: Happy to be here, Elton, and happier that there were some readers like yourself who felt like coming out and chatting for awhile.

I imagine Epstein could dine out on a Boston championship for the rest of his life. Ironically, with so many players up for free agency at the end of the year (Pedro first and foremost) if the team doesn't win it this year, Epstein may be remembered - unfairly - as the man who dismantled the Red Sox.

In the unlikely event that baseball orthodoxy opens itself to a couple dozen BP'ers, well, I'll still be here, because I can't imagine any GM saying, "No, no! I don't want a numbers guy! Get me the FUNNY one! We don't need hard analysis, we need witty staffers!" Beyond that, one of BP's assets is her youthful, up and coming next generation of aspiring writers and editors. As Chris Kahrl said in this year's book, with luck they'll outdo the present generation.

Of course, I just got here, so I'm not in any hurry for that to happen.

Schmidty (Cali): Does Matsui hit the Granny here?

Steven Goldman: Not after being down 0-2, no. This brings up a good point about aggressive hackers (not Matsui) but guys like Alfonso Soriano, who love to get themselves down 0-2. To be really terse about it (first time for everything) it doesn't work. No one hits well 0-2. Working the count improves every hitter.

Steven Goldman: Okay, kids. It's been 2.5 hours and seven innings. With the Yankees up 12-1, I think I can safely say I've managed them to yet another win. I want to express my gratitude to the readers who submitted their questions in advance and the hearty few who got up early to join me here. I'll do this again soon, perhaps at an hour more conducive to human interaction. I hope you enjoyed this chat and will continue to tune in to my BP columns You Can Look It Up and Teams: A Critical Guide (not to mention the Pinstriped Bible over at YES, which I will commence writing after an all-too-brief nap). Enjoy the rest of the game, the remainder of the morning, and all of this fine spring Wednesday.


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