Whether you want to look it up, talk with the co-editor of the bestselling annual about the season to come, and dig into Ynakees trivia, drop in on Steven Goldman during his Friday the 13th chat.
Steven Goldman: Good afternoon, fellow seekers of wisdom and truth. Steven Goldman here to travel with you through part of this sharply clear afternoon in New Jersey, the Empire of Liberty and Convenience Stores. I have a glow on me today because I've gotten to meet many of you on the tour recently, and I'm basking in something that Cliff Corcoran reminded me of at yesterday's NYC event -- that I don't have to watch Daniel Cabrera pitch against the Yankees this year. That little alteration alone guarantees that this coming baseball season will be a sweet one. I'm also glowing because I'm probably radioactive, but that's the price of staying alive in modern times. The format is the usual: you choose the topics and the questions, I choose the answers, and we all have a really good time. Tea is on, so let's go.
dianagramr (NYC): Hi Steven ... thanks for the chat, and good to see you at B&N last night.
So, did you catch any/all of the 6OT deathmatch between Conn. and Syracuse?
Steven Goldman: Nope. It's not my game, though I have been known to bestir myself for the odd historic moment. By the time I got home from the city last night, I was so whipped I couldn't bring myself to budge from my chair. I love the book tour, but as Satchel Paige said, "The social ramble ain't restful." And good to see you too. I hope we were in good form. I thought we were.
Doctor Jeckyl (New York): Braves: bullish or bearish as a surprise team this year? They look real good so far in ST even without some of their core guys.
Steven Goldman: I was on their bandwagon last year, and looked pretty smart for it (I thought) for the first few weeks of the season. Then their pitching imploded, Jeff Francoeur threw away the season. For that reason, I'm leery of them this year, though they are greatly improved in the starting pitching department. The offense strikes me as potentially thinner than you'd like.
collins (greenville nc): Thanks for chatting. There's something of a disconnect in the book between the quantitative evaluation of defense and the player comments (Kelly Johnson, for one, but there are plenty). What does this signify?
Steven Goldman: That we're allowed to think. The translations are a guideline, not an imperative. When there's a discordance between our analysis and the stats, we do try to make a point of explaining why.
john (ct): Jose Posada's aging quickly and has all the signs of heading to first or out of baseball within the next two years. Given what you've seen what are the odds he'll be replaced behind the plate by Jesus Montero?
Steven Goldman: I haven't seen enough, to be honest. Reviews of his defense still aren't great, but the Yankees are wise to stick with Montero at catcher until he 200% proves he won't be minimally acceptable, because though the bat should play well in a corner, it looks even better there, and the corners might be locked up for awhile. I remain intrigued by Austin Romine as an alternative. He had a terrific second half last year playing at the same level as Montero, with better defensive skills.
HonusCobb (Hopedale, IL): Would you agree that the best three teams in the American League are all in the AL East?
Steven Goldman: I think the three best teams in the universe are in the AL East.
jsheahan (DC): Daniel Cabrera won't pitch against the Yankees this year? Does that mean that you expect him to be in Syracuse when the Nationals visit the Bronx on June 16-20?
Steven Goldman: Nooooooooooo!!!
Steve Culver (NY): Is it a reach to expect 180 innings from Randy Johnson this year?
Steven Goldman: Probably. The list of pitchers to throw that many innings at his age is rather short (just five), and he hasn't exactly been Mr. Healthy in the recent past. Most of the pitchers to show any durability at this age were knuckleballers -- of the five seasons I just mentioned, three were by Phil Niekro, one by Charlie Hough, one by Jamie Moyer... The thing with Randy is that he's such a historical outlier, physiologically speaking, that predictions are tough to make. Niekro obviously isn't an acceptable comp.
Rob Phillips (NY): 3 months into 2009, what's your take on best movie so far?
Steven Goldman: Man, all I've really seen is "Watchmen," and I can't figure out if I liked it because I'd read the book so many, many times, going back to the original pamphlets, that I have the thing memorized. All the critics said it was boring, but I was always looking forward to what happened next. But was that because it was grabbing me, or because I was anticipating the story from the book? "They just filmed page 59. I wonder how they'll visualized page 60." I think I was doing that. I thought Jackie Earle Haley did Rorschach exactly as I'd always imagined him... I've never bought any version of the ending in any format. The ending happened in the real world on 9/11 and it didn't work out that way then either.
Aloisius (NY): Steve, Yankee prospect Chris Malec, thoughts? Seems to be able to get on base a lot. Why isnt he in the mix to fill the A-Rod hole?
Steven Goldman: He was 25 at Double-A last year, and when you start in a-translatin', most of the production disappears. Maybe he gets a utility cup of joe sometime, but there's no reason to look at him as a potential regular right now.
glenihan (nyc): Any chances the yankees sign Esteban German now that he's an FA?
Steven Goldman: I think it's worth a try, as he's a more useful player than Angel Berroa (though not a shortstop, a strike against any U-guy). I'm troubled by the decay in his walk rate last year.
dan (nj): When are the Yankees going to move Jeter to leadoff? Move Damon to the 2 hole so he can be platooned against lefties? Shouldn't the Yankees try to get all of Matsui, Nady, Swisher and Damon around 525 pa to keep them all fresh?
Steven Goldman: Swapping Damon and Jeter is just a difference of 20 PA a year or so, even fewer if you're only doing it on a platoon basis. Also, Damon out-hit Jeter by quite a bit last year, for what that's worth. Keeping the lads fresh runs into the problem of Matsui being anchored at DH, but in principal a decent idea.
ChuckR (Chicago): Cody Ransom - serviceable placeholder, or run out of the Bronx by mid-April?
Steven Goldman: I'm rooting for the old guy, but that .250 career minor league batting average keeps smacking me in the face. If Rodriguez comes back on schedule, Ransom could do almost anything in the relatively short period of time he'll be playing, but I think the odds are against a really good outcome.
John Doe (Parts Unknown): As a tranplanted NYer, I haven't followed the Swisher/Nady battle. How do you feel that is going to play out once the season starts?
Steven Goldman: Swish Nicker has been walking a lot but not hitting, Nady hitting with a little more consistency, but unspectacularly. I continue to believe in Swisher, and emphasize that teams making key decisions based on 30 spring training PA is for the most part dumb, after last season's problems, Swisher is going to have to show that he can hit .250, walks or not. Until he does, short leash.
mattymatty (Philly, PA): In terms of the final standings, what does missing A-Rod for two to three months mean? "I don't know" is an acceptable answer, by the way.
Steven Goldman: Hey, mattymatty - your question is a good excuse for me to mention that Jay Jaffe and I will be appearing at the U Penn bookstore at 5 PM on March 24 (see www.baseballprospectus.com/events/), hope to see you there, and a lot of other people as well... I lean on "I don't know." Sometimes a team can get enough hot performances from other quarters that they don't miss a key player for a short period of time. I'm bearish on the Yankees offense in general, even WITH A-Rod, so I'm leaning towards their feeling his absence keenly, rather than getting to skate by.
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Are you optimistic that Cashman will improve our situation after Posada on the depth chart before the season starts? Thanks!
Steven Goldman: No. Why is this year different than any other year? He's neglected the situation for virtually Posada's entire career, got incredibly burned by that neglect last year, and doesn't seem to have taken anything away from it. It's a glaring oversight on his part. Huge, condemning oversight.
Matt Holiday (Oakland): Where am I playing come July 31st? Will my production be as good now that I'm no longer tapping the Rockies?
Steven Goldman: I think Holliday might just still be in Oakland. The A's may have improved enough, and the Angels slipped enough, that the divisional race will be tight enough that it's worth it for the A's to hold on. Now, give me three weeks of the season on that one, because when I consider Oakland's starting pitching, I begin to question my own instincts here. And no, Holliday's production will slip with the change of environments, but he should still be solid.
mattymatty2000 (Philly, PA): Tom from Brooklyn brings up a good question: what do you think of Cashman as a GM?
Steven Goldman: On the whole, solid, and tough to evaluate because even now he doesn't seem to function with real autonomy, though almost certainly more than he did in the years when George and his cadre of Tampa advisers were still a going concern. He's also not easy to compare to other GMs, because the Yankees GM functions in a very different way from most others due to the financial advantages...
...Mattymatty, re your writing question, I'd be happy to give you some thoughts but in more depth than I can in this format. Feel free to email me with the same question.
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): When are you going to come out with your "Cashman is a middling or worse GM" article? Is that the line of censure for PinstripedBible?
Steven Goldman: Shockingly -- and I say "shockingly" because sometimes I am even surprised by this -- there is no line of censorship on the Pinstriped Bible. I have always insisted that honesty is the best policy, and to the credit of the people who have hosted the PB - including YES, MLB.com, and (way back in the day) the Yankees themselves, no one has ever even hinted that it should be otherwise.
DanLong (NJ): Say Posada does get injured, what are the chances of seeing Romine or Cervelli come in as a regular/platooned with Molina?
Steven Goldman: Romine is way, way off. Cervelli would presumably get some trigger time, though I don't expect him to hit. Remember, this is a guy who has only had a few at-bats above high-A due to last year's injury.
Mike (Chicago): Over/under 1 on playoff victories for the cubs this year?
Steven Goldman: Over. The Cubs aren't a perfect team, and as Kevin and I have been saying at various tour stops, the DeRosa trade really wasn't a good one, but they remain the class of the NL.
Norm (Cheers): Thanks for chatting Steve. Any chance Austin Jackson gets a chance in CF this year for the Yanks if, A) he's showing progress and having a good year in AAA and B)Gardner and Melky dont pan out?
Steven Goldman: Lots of Yankees questions today, stands to reason with me here... Given the situation that you posit, it would seem logical, though the Yankees being the Yankees, I'd expect them to pursue a veteran solution first... Keep in mind, re Jackson, to expect solid, not spectacular. There isn't really the suggestion of coming star in what he's done so far.
Nick (Allston, MA): As near as I can tell, there were five African Americans out of the 293 pitchers who started a game last year: Sabathia, Jackson, Snell, Willis, and Price. Is this some kind of modern record?
Steven Goldman: Nick, it's an interesting observation, and one I don't have a good way of confirming right now without taking too long a pause here in the chat. There have been intimations in the distant past that teams shied away from making African Americans pitchers for the same reason that the NFL lacked African American QBs. I'd like to think that if that prejudice existed, it has long since died an ignominious death and that we now deal with a true meritocracy in which the lack of such pitchers you describe is a fluke or simply a function of the declining numbers of African Americans in the majors as a whole.
Aaron (YYZ): Diablo 3: Q4 2009 or 2010? Can the world survive that long without new warriors to hold back the legions of hell????
Steven Goldman: I read the second half of the question first, "Can the world survive that long without new warriors to hold back the legions of hell????" and thought you were applying for a job as a writer on Baseball Prospectus 2010. I'm still looking forward to the game. Kevin says I have to play more games, and he's the boss, so I guess I'll be playing it. I finally got a copy of Bioshock and will probably do that next -- I'm just waiting to feel sufficiently lazy to get around to it. Right now there are a bunch of things clamoring for my attention.
Yatchisin (Santa Barbara): If you were the Mets, would you kick Ray Durham's tires, hoping he had enough left to run over Luis Castillo? At the least they could form a once-famous platoon....
Steven Goldman: If I were the Mets, I would kick Eddie Collins' tires hoping he had enough left to run over Luis Castillo. I would kick Ron Hunt's tires. I would kick the man on the street. Better yet, I never, never, never would have offered that contract. That's a first-guess too.
Silv (NY, NY): Thoughts on Ryan Spillbourghs? I have a feeling he's going to play his way into 500 at bats this year and will be one of the surprise Ludwick/McClouth successes of 2009. He's done nothing but hit in the majors and is a decent CF play.
Steven Goldman: I don't think he'll bust out like the guys you mention, but at this point he deserves the benefit of the doubt. I do wonder if his right/left platoon split will become a little more pronounced with more playing time.
Rob (Alaska): Speaking of holding back the legions of hell, what's it like to be a Yankees fan? [ducks] Actually, it's sort of a serious question. It seems from my far-removed perspective like a hard team to cheer for.
Steven Goldman: Why?
Silv (NY, NY): Re: Posada and his support - the Yankees failure to snaffle Piazza when he left the Mets (giving them scores of Met fan transplants, a defensively-weak but serviceable backup and a still healthy bat) was one of the most egregious 'obvious' moves I've ever seen.
Steven Goldman: Not sure what went on behind the scenes there, but it certainly had a logic to it on the surface. Part of it, I suspect, is that Joe Torre seems to prefer his catchers to be as un-Torre-like as possible -- all glove, no bat.
Jason Giambi (Oakland): Most think that Matt Holliday is going to be an Athletic for one season at the most. Do you think I can convince him that leaving for greener pastures might be less important than winning? Didn't really work out for me in NY.
Steven Goldman: I expect that money will speak louder and that Billy will happily collect the draft pick... It's hard to say that Giambi's NY sojourn was a bust either -- he didn't get a ring, but overall things were good, and he was popular - far more so than, say, A-Rod, despite some similar problems.
rich (nj): Is it safe to say that the bottom of the ninth inning of the 2004 ALCS was one of the great turning points in Yankees history? The greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, is facing the bottom of the Red Sox order just three outs away from completing a crushing 4 game sweep of their arch rivals. If he closes the deal, the Yanks displatch the Cardinals with relative ease, A-Rod becomes a god in NY, Terry Francona is fired, and the revitalized Yankee juggernaut lords over the shell-shocked A.L. for the next fours years.
Or Rivera walks Kevin Millar and...
Steven Goldman: It's certainly a big one. There was a subtle change after that, too, that was harder to see - we pointed it out in Mind Game (still a damn fine book, forgive me for saying so) -- the "patient" Yankees went to hacking after that game. Their selectivity just went out the window.
Josh Conklin (NH): I keep hearing Lyle Overbay comps regarding Logan Morrison. Please tell me he'll hit with more power.
Steven Goldman: His top PECOTA comps include Kent Hrbek, Greg Walker, and Justin Morneau, none bearing the least resemblance to Overbay.
Corkedbat (Dallas): Who are the win-now teams before they fall off the plateau like Detroit last year? What will they need to do to win now?
Steven Goldman: The Cardinals; get a defense.
collins (greenville nc): I don't know what Rob in Alaska has in mind, but as a fan of a small-market and only occasionally competitive team, it is hard for me to imagine how it can be thrilling to root for a team with all the advantages, which is always expected to be on top. (NY signed *three* FA's this year greater than any *one* MN has signed in the whole FA era.)
Steven Goldman: Yeah, but Minnesota could have done a whole lot more, and that's without making any assumptions about their having greater financial flexibility than they cop to. For example, Jason Kubel is exactly the kind of player the Twins should NOT be signing. Adam Dunn is getting $20 million over the next two years, Kubel is getting $7 million. If they'd signed the former and foregone the latter, they're only down $13 million. That's just off the top of my head.
glenihan (nyc): Nevermind Cubs just signed German...
Steven Goldman: Good move in the DeRosa spirit, though clearly German lacks DeRosa's pop.
Silv (NY, NY): Because rooting for the Yankees, from a non-Yankee fan perspective, is like rooting for the IRS: yes, they do things that are obliquely good for us as a whole, but it's a harsh and unforgiving monstrosity that simply grinds you down.
Steven Goldman: I guess. To expand on my previous answer, I think the thing about Yankees money or Red Sox or Mets money is that you have the flexibility to live down mistakes, to sign a Carl Pavano and not be entirely screwed by it. If the Yankees always spent their money wisely, I could see feeling more frustrated with their advantages, but the fact is that they often throw that advantage away.
collins (greenville nc): My point wasn't that MN has a better plan for winning than NYY does; it was that it's more thrilling to root for a team when you there isn't an expectation from the outset that the team would have to screw up to not win. Rooting for the American Olympic basketball team, for instance, just seems depressing. If they win, they were supposed to. If they lose, oh god.
Steven Goldman: But I think that's a straw man. It certainly didn't apply to this year's Yankees, even before A-Rod got hurt. It's just a slightly different flavor of the thing you're describing. Frankly, I wouldn't find it thrilling to root for a team like the Twins. I love an underdog as much as anyone, but teams that self-inflict their underdog status are just annoying. Were I a Royals fan watching them lead the market to Kyle Farnsworth this winter, I might have joined a NASA deep space exploration project and quit the planet altogether.
brian (Brooklyn NY): I know the Mets have a huge payroll comapred to most other teams but isnt the fact that Luis Castillo is still on the team proof that they cannot (or will not) just eat a contract like the Yankees do? Also they released Duaner Sanchez to save less than a million dollars...
Steven Goldman: Lots of financial weirdness afoot with the Mets. Can't really say where the origin of it is, but there has been plenty of speculation in the NY papers. Again, the issue is less eating the Castillo contract than not making such an obvious mistake in the first place.
Alex (SF, CA): Are A's fans fears about moving to somewhere (anywhere) or contraction groundless? They seem groundless (esp. contraction) so tell me they are groundless.
Steven Goldman: Neil DeMause got this question at our NY event last night. His answer was that they're probably not going anywhere for now. Neil, if I've misquoted you, chime in here.
Shaun P. (Medway, MA): Hey Steve - there's a lot of spring training left, but Gardner has been killing the ball (for whatever that's worth) and Melky has not, so I suspect Gardner probably gets first crack at CF. Melky, though, is out of options . . . so what happens? Do the Yanks keep 6 OFs (though I guess Matsui doesn't really count), or figure no one will take Melky off waivers at $1.4M and if they do, c'est la vie?
Steven Goldman: You know, Shaun, I think I have a scary ex-girlfriend living in Medway. Run into any really weird women in their late 30s lately? ...Gardner should get the first shot. It seems like Girardi wants him there, and his good hitting only helps him make the case internally. I know we're supposed to be skeptical about Gardner, and officially I am, but in my private moments I wonder if last fall's little surge and this spring's power suggest that maybe he's become a bit more of a rounded hitter. That seems unlikely, but I've had enough of Melky, so I'm rooting. Not sure how the Yankees will handle the Melky thing. If he gets to hitting again, there could be a trade market for him based on the assumption of a tiny bit of offense and some defense. That hasn't happened yet.
John Zirinsky (Washington, DC): Steven: I love your political stuff, and am wondering what your thoughts are on President Obama and his team so far (and please don't cop out and say it's too early)?
Steven Goldman: Thank you, and I guess I should note that I've kick-started www.wholesomreading.com again and should be updating it today -- restarting during the book tour was not my brightest moment, but if you're a writer and you're ready to write, you can't suppress that urge (it's a bit like being a character in a musical who is ready to sing... sing! SING!). In answer to your question, I'm ambivalent so far. I like the general drift of things, but I'm concerned about what seems like a tentative approach to the economy and to the political opposition. Now, over at 538.com, Nate has made some good points about how Obama/Geithner have to at least SOUND tentative, because even hinting could have a very powerful effect on events, and that's a fair point. As for the opposition part, even back during the campaign, I felt that the talk of bipartisanship was naive. I think it remains naive. Maybe it needed to be tried for appearances' sake, but now that time is past. The other side isn't going to help, being too busy pretending that we didn't learn anything about macroeconomics in the 1930s and 1940s.
Toni (Berkeley, CA): Can you explain briefly how calling up a prospect starts that player's "clock" for instance would the A's get another full year of Cahill, Anderson, Mazzaro if they waited until July to call them up this year?
Steven Goldman: The faster a player piles up time in the majors, the quicker he becomes eligible for arbitration (three years in most cases, but also a percentage of so-called Super-2s, players with two years and change of major league time) and free agency (six years). Prior to arbitration, the player doesn't have much leverage over his salary. With arbitration, natch, the compensation can explode exponentially. For a team, the longer you put that off, the better.
DanLong (nj): I would have said the exact opposite; so far his committment to reckless spending sends me the signal that he's going to push us further into a recession, with a looming deval of the dollar, and an eventual default on gov't debt. china is rightly worried. from an accountant's point of view, we're in for a long 4 (or 8?) years if he continues this trend.
Steven Goldman: I'm worried about that too, know smart people who are worried about it, but I'm not well-versed enough in economics to balance the benefits of Keynesian spending now vs. paying for it later. The one thing I do feel certain of is that the Keynesian approach, if properly and enthusiastically executed, should bear fruit.
cal (chicago): What criteria makes a good lead off hitter?
Steven Goldman: Being a good hitter, period, which means an ability to get on base. All the stuff about speed is bull -- it's nice but not necessary. Wade Boggs was one of the great leadoff men of all time and never stole a base - he just got to first 45 percent of the time... I like to think about the batting order like this - it's less a function of setting up scoring (the difference between the best, second-best, third-best batting order is quite small in terms of generating offense), but in distributing playing time. Your leadoff guy will get more PAs than anyone else on your team. You want that guy to be a good hitter, not a fast one.
SaberTJ (Cleveland): Steven: You're not at all concerned how large of a deficit Obama and his team is placing on our country? Or at least concerned with anyone making a decent living eventually having to pay big time for it in taxes?
Steven Goldman: I am, but as I said in my previous answer on the topic, I haven't yet figured out how to balance the needs of today with those of tomorrow. BTW, I typoed my own URL before: www.wholesomereading.com, for me on politics and occasional other stuff.
David (DC): FWIW, Keynesian spending means targeted bits of government spending here and there to tweak the economy and keep it firing on all cylinders.
MASSIVE Government bailouts are NOT Keynesian. They are just boondoggles on a scale so huge 99% of us don't even comprehend it.
Steven Goldman: I don't know about that -- during FDR's first term, he and Keynes were frequently in touch via mail, and one thing that Keynes wrote to Franklin was, "The main thing is, KEEP PEOPLE IN THEIR HOUSES." There is an obvious logic to this -- if you're living out of your car, you're not going to buy a refrigerator, a washing machine, and a 42" LCD TV... Having said that, I'm not completely defending the bank bailouts, which have been haphazard and without an overarching logic (though a lot of that goes back to Paulson, not Geithner).
Jason (NY): When has Keynesian economics ever worked? It certainly didn't in the '30s.
Steven Goldman: Yeah it did. It did until they turned the spigots off in 1935 in a misguided attempt to get deficits under control, which triggered a second depression within the depression. After that, rearmament helped pick up employment. WW II was, among other things, a government spending program.
Matt (PBG, FL): When did this turn into a Yankees chat?
Steven Goldman: Not enough political questions for you? Instead of complaining about Yankees questions, which are a natural when I'm here because of my YES network/Pinstriped Bible affiliation, send in a baseball question that's not about the Yankees and I'll do my best to answer it.
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): For a WARP wash like Melky/Gardner, what criterion do we move onto? The player least likely to collapse? The guy furthest from arbitration?
Steven Goldman: I really don't see them as a WARP wash. Even PECOTA, which doesn't love Gardner, seems him as a two-win guy vs. a one-win guy in Melky. I see Gardner as a rangier defender than Cabrera with better routes, but less of an arm, and I'll take the range over the arm any day. As for hitting, I think his worst is pre-2008 Melky-type production, but with 40 SBs thrown in. These are small but significant differences.
jaymoff (Salem, OR): Your argument for the Yankees having their advantage negated due to them throwing their money at bad contracts in and of itself is an advantage. They have the ability to make mistakes yet still not be buried by them, whereas most other teams would be sunk altogether. The fact is that they are so financially well-off that they can make poor financial decisions yet still be unharmed when the decision goes south . . . and for that, that's why non-die hard Yankee fans love to hate them.
Steven Goldman: Oh, it IS an advantage. It's a huge one, but even so, they don't always execute. If the Yankees attacked player development like they do free agency then you would have an argument, but what happens more frequently is the Pavano scenario, where they have no good prospects for a position, so they go free agent, except that the free agent market has no good alternatives either, so they take a flyer on a Pavano, get burned, and end up with half a season of Sidney Ponson. Maybe they can live down mistakes so that they remain competitive, but not enough that they win while carrying so much dead weight.
DanLong (Nj): FYI, the leading economists today tend to lean towards an austrian school view of FDRs economic policy during the great depression; it prolonged it rather than cured it. They also maintain that WWII did not actually pull us out of a depression or recession, or what have you. there is an article from maybe 2 years ago or so in the economist regarding it, i wish i had more off hand information on it to refer you to an exact site or issue.
Steven Goldman: I strongly and violently disagree with this. You have to really skew the stats to say that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression. It was not perfectly executed by any means, but it clearly, indisputably, helped. Also, politically, morally, it was what HAD to be done.
Mike w (Chicago): For the love of God, no more macro questions!!!! Where is Jeter in three years? Still at short? DHing? Banging starlets full-time?
Steven Goldman: I'm with you for now, Mike. I might have pretensions of being a historian (and a pretty fair one), but I make no such claims as to being an economist... I get yelled at about this a lot, but I don't know that Jeter is a viable major leaguer in three years. My standard line -- his glove will no longer play in the middle infield, his bat won't play anywhere else.
Charlie (Bethesda, MD): I've mentioned this before on your blog but I'm curious what your thoughts are. 20-pound lighter Belliard could probably be obtained cheaply by the Yankees. Should he be?
Steven Goldman: I answered it on the blog, too. It's an interesting idea for an A-Rod substitute (or even a Cano institute, should his current soreness prove to be anything lasting), but I have my doubts about his being able to take on 3B defensively. I know he's played roughly 80 games there in the past, but they don't seem to have been very good games.
Eric (Denver): People need to read some of the blistering critiques written about The Forgotten Man before using that as the end-all-be-all of knowledge on Depression-era economic policy.
Steven Goldman: To borrow a title from Roger Ebert, I hated, hated, hated, hated, hated that book.
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Who is the greatest bunter of all time (please say Alvaro Espinoza)?
Steven Goldman: Can I say Phil Rizzuto instead? Espinoza was one of the very good ones that I've seen. Jay Bell was another. Man, I used to have arguments with my best friends about Espinoza. They would say he was a great bunter, great defender, and I would foam at the mouth and scream that he had an OBP of .250, so who cared if he was a great defender, could fly, or heal the sick? After awhile they did it just to watch my reaction.
mattdi02421 (Lexington, MA): Many people consider Jacoby Ellsbury's season a dissapointment last year, however looking at his minor league stats it really should have been somewhat close to what people should have expected. If not a budding superstar, what do you see Jacoby eventually developing into?
Steven Goldman: I thought our comment on him in this year's annual did a good job of covering the Ellsbury issues:
[Snip] This season was a learning experience for the speedy 24-year-old: he started out hot, but pitchers quickly figured out that he lacked the muscle or the swing to be a power threat, and began to bust him inside. The result was an awful run through June and July during which he hit .246/.271/.308. He did finally adjust, hitting .314/.352/.463 over the final two months by switching to an all-fields approach. The Red Sox believe he\'s turned a corner.
...I'd like to think he's turned a corner, too. His #4 PECOTA comp is Johnny Damon, and I still lean in that direction.
Toni (Oakland, CA): Thanks for the info about playing time... how do think Giambi will do in Oakland this year? I admit to not watching him much when he went to play for the Yankees. Even at his worse, he has to be an hitting upgrade over anybody the A's had last year.
Steven Goldman: Clearly, Barton's 2008 has to be short-listed among the worst offensive seasons by a regular first baseman -- I kept thinking of Johnny Sturm, who played 1B and batted leadoff (!) for the 1941 Yankees. As for Giambi, don't expect a batting average, do expect some platoon problems, do expect teams employing a shift to rob him of about 30 singles, do expect a bunch of walks, strikeouts, home runs.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Hi Steven. I'm looking for a good book on the 1918 World Series, any sugestions? Also, any good Honus Wagner bios out there you'd recommend? Thanks.
Steven Goldman: There have been a few Wagner bios, but if a definitive one exists I haven't yet found it. BTW, I'm currently enjoying (full disclosure: my good friend) Allen Barra's new biography of Yogi Berra. I know there are books out there on the 1918 Red Sox, but no single volume is leaping to mind right now. Perhaps a reader will suggest one.
MarinerDan (SF, CA): Adrian Beltre: Good free agent target next year?
Steven Goldman: For some team, sure -- a 31-year-old with a strong glove and fair bat. The price should be right and the term short, because Beltre doesn't have that much offensive ground to yield to age.
Corkedbat (Dallas): Anyone ever suggest a NASCAR Prospectus? or Golf Prospectus? or UFC Prospectus? now that you guys keep growing.
Steven Goldman: If you can put a word in front of "Prospectus," chances are that someone has suggested it to us or we've considered it. If there's something out there you'd like to see our style of analysis applied to, write in. If there's a groundswell for (say) Ping-pong Prospectus, we'd take a look at it. Not saying we'd do it, but (to borrow an expression from earlier in this chat) we'd kick the tires.
P ((MPLS)): You're right that being a Twins fan is frustrating. I can't buy their poverty excuses when they routinely spend/waste millions of dollars on garbage like Luis Ayala. But it is exasperating to hear NYY fans say anything short of winning the Series is failure.
Steven Goldman: You always hear that said in the media, but I've never actually heard any fans say that. Maybe I'm not talking to the right fans. Not even the organization has said that, exactly -- just that the goal every year is to win a Series. But what organization doesn't say that?
tonipeluso (Oakland, CA): I'm going to the book signing/Q&A in Alameda on the 26th... any "good" questions I can ask Gary, Christina or Kevin? :)
Steven Goldman: The best question is the first question, in that audiences are usually a little shy at first, so it always helps to have someone get the ball rolling. Again, for this event and others please check out http://www.baseballprospectus.com/events/. Next up: Jay and I will be doing two events in Washington on March 18, and that same day Kevin and Christina will be wowing 'em in Chicago.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): Iron Chef Prospectus! Zowie!
Steven Goldman: I love that idea. I've been looking for an excuse to chat up Alton Brown. He's sort of the sabermeterician of cooking.
...Dan: I'll read the economics article you sent and possibly respond to it at Wholesomereading.com.
dianagramr (NYC): Scrabble Prospectus!
You CAN make this happen ... I can help! I know people ...
Steven Goldman: Not as crazy as it sounds at first, is it?
DanLong (nj): sadly, i fear that there are a good amount of organizations who, at the top, have the goal of "turning a profit", rather than winning the WS (though winning a WS is a goal as a means of turning a profit). thats why the yankees can be as attractive a team to cheer for as they are attractive a team to jeer at. the commitment to winning from teh bottom to the top, profits be damned, is nothing short of the essence of the competitive spirit.
Steven Goldman: I think this too often goes unremarked... I'm pretty certain that there are years that the Steinbrenners and their partners have taken less out of the Yankees in profit than some smaller market teams have. There is an alternative -- certainly for years and years the Cubs operated on the principle that they had the nice WGN deal, the historic ballpark that people would go to regardless of the quality of the team, and if they happened to win, great, but they weren't going to chase it. The Yankees could dial it down by half and be more profitable for the ownership.
don (michigan): When you mentioned wade boggs I looked at his career stats again: how in god's name does someone hit 51 doubles and only 3 homers in a season? That spread has to be some kind of record, no?
Steven Goldman: I don't know the answer off the top of my head in terms of the record, but Boggs was an opposite-field hitter who in his Red Sox years played pepper with the Monster. A great many of those doubles were hit at home. One of the interesting things about his going to the Yankees was that in his first year in NY he maintained that approach and hit a lot of popups to LF and batted only .302. By the next year, he had figured out that he had to change things, started pulling the ball more, and hit .342.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): I need a good baseball read in addition to BP '09. Any suggestions beyond the Yogi Berra book? Maybe some suggestions from others on board this afternoon's chat wagon...
Steven Goldman: Shameless plug department: Have you read BP's Mind Game? BP's It Ain't Over? BP's Baseball Between the Numbers? How about my own Forging Genius, on Casey Stengel?
Tony (Brooklyn, NY): Doesn't it go even more unremarked that baseball is a cartel made up of local monopolies/oligopolies (NY and Chicago), and that owners and players both benefit enormously at the fans' expense, with the govt's acquiescence?
Steven Goldman: If you read our own Neil DeMause, it goes remarked on all the bloody time. Another good book is his Field of Schemes, recently issued in a revised edition.
Jason (NY): Wilpon won't touch the luxury tax. Won't pay it. Period. I think the Madoff effect has been slightly overstated. Recall the payroll still comes in at a stout $147 mm.
That doesn't excuse some iffy decisions, but it does provide a non-baseball explanation for not signing Dunn, Abreu, Manny, another second baseman, and so on and so forth.
Steven Goldman: You might be right, but is that smart? You could do the math on this (I can't in-chat, obviously) but if you sign a Manny and win the division, do you take in enough dough to erase the luxury tax hit? I think you might.
rich (nj): The Decline and Fall of the New York Yankees (1967)by Jack Mann - well written, entertaining.
Steven Goldman: A good book, out of print insofar as I know, but worth tracking down. At last night's signing I mentioned that two of my favorite baseball books are Veeck as In Wreck and Nice Guys Finished Last, by Bill Veeck and Leo Durocher, respectively, both collaborated on by Ed Linn.
Corkedbat (Dallas): Fly Fishing Prospectus. I once saw fantasy fishing as a fantasy sport. Along side fantasy supreme court... that ought to be the new direction for yours or Nate's blog.
Steven Goldman: One thing I still wonder about from time to time... When I first started looking at becoming a writer, I consulted a Writer's Market in which publications list the kind of freelance submissions they'd be interested in receiving. One entry was from something like North Atlantic Salmon Fishing Quarterly: Interested in receiving reportage, non-fiction, fiction, erotica, related to North Atlantic Salmon Fishing. I've always wondered exactly how the erotica was supposed to go... I kind of regret not pitching something, just to see if you could do it. I just wasn't clear if it was supposed to be man-woman, man-fish, or something else.
...Sorry about the delay there, but connectivity issues are threatening to end this chat.
Toni (Oakland, CA): Connie Mack's '29 Triumph : The Rise and Fall of the Philadelphia by William Kashatus... I loved this book.
Steven Goldman: To Everything a Season by Bruce Kuklick is also excellent on the A's and their interaction with the city of Philadelphia.
Joel (GA): Even as a Yankees fan these questions are getting a bit much. What are your thoughts on this year's WBC and the future of the WBC in general? Do you think this year will improve the public perception of the event or not?
Steven Goldman: I seem to be the one guy at BP not spectacularly enamored of the WBC. I like it from the perspective of international scouting, but I still can't get overly psyched up for what seem to me to be exhibition games. I also don't like that they detract from the purpose of spring training, to build for the coming season, while at the same time lengthening something that is already punishingly long.
P Bu (St. Louis): "Were I a Royals fan watching them lead the market to Kyle Farnsworth this winter, I might have joined a NASA deep space exploration project and quit the planet altogether."
Wow. Shot at Rany out of nowhere.
Steven Goldman: I don't see that as a shot at Rany, I see it as a shot at the Royals. They are not one and indivisible. There's no excuse for a small-budget franchise to blow bucks on middling relievers.
mattymatty (Philly, PA): Beer Prospectus. I'd read the heck out of that.
Steven Goldman: I'm not sure I'd want to be the enabler of the writers for that publication. How do I know they'll spit instead of toasting their livers?
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): "Forging Genius" is what got me interested in reading about the early years of baseball. I'd like to learn more about the Pirates of Honus Wagner. I have Christy Mathewson's "Pitching in a Pinch", which is a lot of fun.
Steven Goldman: I like Charles Einstein's bio of John McGraw as well. More than 75 years after his death, McGraw remains one of the most compelling figures ever to be involved with baseball.
Steven Goldman: Friends, though it has been a swift three hours and change, my computer threatens to eat itself, rendering a continuation impractical at this time. I thank you all for the many wonderful questions. I had a ball. I hope to see some of you in Washington next week, more in Philadelphia (and at Rutgers university on the 26th!). As always, thank you for spending part of your day with Baseball Prospectus and myself. Have a swell weekend.