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Chat: Steven Goldman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday July 15, 2004 1:00 PM ET chat session with Steven Goldman.

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Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Steven Goldman: Good afternoon, everyone. Steve Goldman, host of TEAMS, YOU COULD LOOK IT UP, and, on yesnetwork.com, THE PINSTRIPED BIBLE here. I'm nine feet tall, weight 750 pounds, and I can take anything you can dish out. THere are a million things to talk about and I hope we talk about all of them. Hell, we could spend an hour on Phil Garner alone. You could hear Cal Eldred crying all the way from my farm. Whoever can identify where "all the way from my farm" came from gets a cookie at my next Feed.

ciepley (manhattan!): If Maria Sharapova is the AL MVP, who is the AL's *Least* Valuable Player? Ann Coulter?

Steven Goldman: I'm not touching that one with a ten foot... This brings up a good question, though, "Why do you drag outside stuff like music and politics into your columns?" The short, snappy answer is that I've yet to see the manual that says that a column can't take in more than one subject. The better answer is that the stuff we do here and elsewhere is about critical thinking, and the muscles you use can be applied to anything, not just baseball but politics, relationships... Come on - hit me with your relationship problems and we'll attack it with rationality.

Mat (Minneapolis, MN): Consider this for a moment. Money is not a factor, and each team has the opportunity to acquire either Bonds or Rolen for no cost in players or salary, and the team wouldn't have to keep the player after this season, so age doesn't matter. If you can tell me that more teams would choose Rolen over Bonds, for this season only, I'll buy your argument that Rolen has been the NL MVP so far.

Steven Goldman: It's not automatic that every team would choose Bonds in that situation. Let's say you're the White Sox and you have Carlos Lee in left and Crede at third base - in other words, something sort of decent in the pasture, not much at all at third. If that team is smart and reacts according to its needs, it's going to choose the third baseman.

Jonny (Queens, NY): What would it take for the Yanks to get Randy Johnson? the Mets?

Steven Goldman: Yankees: some willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the Diamondbacks. Not that the Yankees farm is as dead as most make it out to be - there's a faint pulse, though no blue chippers right now. The Mets certainly have ammo, but - maybe it's the eternal optimist in me - I don't think they'll bite.

Having spent the last three days acting as Sancho Panza on the Will Carroll "Saving the Pitcher" media blitz, I feel obligated to say that this chat is powered by Wawa vanilla creme coffee. Vanilla Cream? Vanille Kream?

R.J. (Washington, DC): Are you insane? I'm a White Sox fan and I'd take Bonds over Lee any day of the week for one season and keep Crede to boot. For one, the difference between Bonds and Lee is greater than the difference between Lee and Crede. Also, you can always throw Lee at third, where he played much of his minor league innings. At this point, screw defense, this team'll score some runs. I think you've been drinking the Derek Jeter Kool Aid for too long.

Steven Goldman: Correction: this chat is powered by Derek Jeter Kool Aid. Yes, Derek Jeter Goes to Jonestown! Watch this heartwarming television event... What is the DJ Kool Aid anyway? That he's good? He's not good. He's great. I'm the biggest critic of his defense and I still think he's great.

Perhaps the White Sox are a bad example - I was just speaking off the top of me head. What I'm trying to show is that there are scenarios in which Rolen is more valuable IN THAT TIME AND PLACE than Bonds.

Not to sound wishy-washy about the Bonds-Rolen thing, but I voted that way more to open up the topic for discussion than from deep religious belief.

AlexBelth (NYC): In a recent column for YES you compared the current Yankee team with the 1947 team, which boasted plenty of offense and not-so-spectacular pitching. Gary Sheffield has been a fearsome addition to the Yankee line-up this year. When was the last time the Yankees had such a hard-hitting and intimidating batter? Especially from the right side of the plate?

Steven Goldman: DANNY TARTABULL! ...Just kidding. Dave Winfield isn't a great comparison, but he's the most recent all-service righty. I don't think it's too extreme to put Sheffield in the same vicinity as Joltin' Joe DiMaggio. Having not done the math, having never thought about it much, it would seem that Sheffield is a better hitter than Joe D, wouldn't it?

Tracy (Chicago): Steve - seriously, what drugs are the Astros front office dispensing? Phil Garner, who, if there was justice, would be known as Losing Manager Garner?

Steven Goldman: I should have mentioned above that in one season with the Yankees (must have been 1993), Tartabull failed to get a hit 0-2 all season long. His at bats were effectively one strike shorter than anyone elses. Once the pitcher got ahead it was guaranteed that he was going to strike out.

I think the Astros are drinking the Phil Garner Kool Aid, and in their case the Jonestown analogy is more apt. Then again, I didn't sit in on the interviews, if there was an interview - maybe Phil has a definite, revolutionary program for making the Astros click. Ha ha - no, I can't write that with a straight face.

No doubt Garner is going to get the Astros back to playing inside baseball, which isn't what their built for, isn't what their park requires... Dinosaurs evolved into chickens, chickens evolved into people, and not much has changed in a million years.

Dean (NY, NY): Hi, Steve. What do you make of Derek Jeter's improved zone rating and range factor this year? He is in the top 12 for MLB shortstops in both catergories, when he usually is at the bottom of those rankings. Could it be the acquisitions of groundball pitchers Brown, Lieber, and Quantrill? Could this signal that these statistics are more correlated to staff make-up than previously thought? Thanks.

Steven Goldman: This is probably a more simplistic answer than you're looking for, but the conventional wisdom comes down in two spots on this - one is that competition with A-Rod has pushed Jeter to improve his game. I don't buy that one. It's a nice thought, but sometimes trying hard doesn't change anything. For years, I've been trying like crazy to play my guitar as well as Clapton does, but it just ain't happening. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And when Clapton comes over to my house, boy, am I motivated to play better, but I'm still just a strummer.

The other CW answer is that A-Rod's super play at the position has allowed the Jeter Self-Monument to cheat a few steps and get better positioning. I buy that one.

R.J. (Washington, DC): The Derek Jeter Kool Aid is that Jeter contributes something "magical" to a team because he's a winner. It's not that he's a great hitter/baserunner and an adequate fielder (and, like you said, a great player); the Kool Aid makes you think he's spreads his magic pixie dust over the Yankees, turning them from ugly slobs to mystical winners.

Steven Goldman: I know that there are people who believe that, but I don't think they're floating about here at BP, either on staff or in the audience. We don't believe in magic, in a young girl's heart or otherwise - although Joe Sheehan can levitate furniture, fly through the air, and tell you the day of the week of any date in history.

That being said, any team that has a Derek Jeter has just taken a giant step towards the post-season. Another interesting point is that although we can't demonstrate "inspirational leadership" statistically, we can show that it exists anecdotally. Talk to any member of the 50s/60s Yankees and they will say, "How could I take a day off when Mickey Mantle was getting taped head to toe to play against the St. Louis Browns?" You'll also get the same stuff about Joe DiMaggio and Thurman Munson.

It's not about magic, just about setting a tone.

Will AKA RCS (Fredericton, NB): Please fill in the blanks: The Jays are ______ years away from competiting for the AL East crown or just plain _________'ed trying to go against the big spenders.

Steven Goldman: DOG and BUGGER.

I couldn't resist that... Actually, things COULD turn around fast. The Jays have been completely gammahooched by injuries this year. Their front line talent has been devestated. All the neato prospects have been in the infirmary so often that General Patton personally slapped every one of them.

There are a lot of plotlines that are going to be resolved over the winter, such as where the franchise turns in the post-Delgado era.

Josue (Brooklyn): Steve. Who do you think is the greatest pitching trio of all time, in terms of starting pitchers? Off the top of my head, Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz are incomparable.

Steven Goldman: Jo Sue, are we talking peak or career? There are a whole bunch for which you could make a good case, but my sentimental favorite is the 1948-1953 Yankees trio of Eddie Lopat, Vic Raschi, and Allie Reynolds. They got wins, they got saves, they led the league in important categories, threw no-hitters, and won five straight World Series. In 1949, Casey Stengel did brilliant things with the roster to keep a devestatated offense functioning, but even that wouldn't have helped had he not had those three pitchers to keep the opposition of the board long enough for him to choose a pinch-hitter who would win the game.

Always nice to see a female in the crowd. Heck, it's always nice to see a female anywhere.

AlexBelth (NYC): What are the greatest baseball-related pop tunes of all-time?

Steven Goldman: Come on... Doesn't anyone have a relationship problem they want to attack with performance analysis? Identities will be protected. Sensitivity guaranteed. No problem to weird, too sticky, to solve.

Just don't kiss and tell on Sheehan. I'd have to report that to the board.

Pop songs: I'm partial to "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio," "Piazza, New York Catcher," "Paradise By the Dashboard Lights," and "Give Me Your Tongue, Yogi Berra."

Danny (Columbia, SC): Is Miguel Cairo the answer at second base for the Yankees? Do you think that the team will promote Robinson Cano anytime soon?

Steven Goldman: I don't think Cano is coming unless there's an injury or a sudden attack of rationality.

Cairo... I don't believe in Cairo (I just believe in me, Yoko and me). However, he is doing very well and it's possible, just possible, that he could sleepwalk through this year, Mariano Duncan style. I would like to see Cano get a shot, but this is the Yankees they don't stuff like that... Also, no one is thrilled with Cano's defense. If he fielded like Eddie Collins, it might be different.

What's up with this Fiery Furnaces CD I'm listening to? I think I like it, but then I keep hearing noises from Ms. Pac-Man.

Josh (MA): Steven, not to nitpick, but I'm pretty sure that's "Josue" (spanish for "Joshua") and not "Jo Sue." Though females are still nice.

Steven Goldman: I know, man, but don't burst my bubble. Say it with me - altogether now: BASEBALL PROSPECTUS NEEDS WOMEN!!!

(I should say, with must humble respect to our current women, that you could read the above with "MORE" in the middle of it)

If there is a female writer out there with the knowledge, the insight, and the writing chops to give the BeeP a distaff perspective, I will personally champion her to the rest of the staff. Tell your little sisters...

ciepley (Goodbye Brooklyn!): I go into a 5-year coma and awake to find that in baseball the big stories of the day are...

Steven Goldman: Commissioner Sheehan is personally scheduling each team on a day by day basis... Five years from now we'll be talking about how have confiscated everything but George Steinbrenner's dickey and the Yankees are still winning.

Cliff (Madison, NJ): What's your take on Barry Bonds' walk rate and the number of IBBs he's getting this year. Should we be angry at NL managers, in awe of Bonds' stats, or distrustful of both?

Steven Goldman: Seems to me that a .500 OBP is perferable to a 1.000 OBP. It makes no sense. Babe Ruth wasn't confronted with this kind of superstition... Also, as Goose Gossage pointed out to me, there are ways of pitching to Bonds that haven't been tried.

Rudy (Timbuktu): If Bud Selig attempts to change the World Series back to a best-of-nine format, in which circle of Hell will he eventually burn? Thanks, Steven!

Steven Goldman: He's already there, and we're all there with him. Fortunately, you can still get good sushi in the bigger cities.

Cliff (Madison, NJ): It strikes me that great art is like a great pitch, it could be the third strike for the final out of a perfect game or it could get launched over the fence by a hitter who's every bit as good as the pitch. It's all about right place/right time. So give us one album and one film that got launched out of the park when it should have been the final strike of a perfect game.

Steven Goldman: Film: Godfather III. A painful botch that forgot everything about the characterization of its leads in the first two films. Album: Abbey Road. The Beatles just didn't have the kind of cohesiveness to make an album equal to their peak moments.

Chris Hartjes (Toronto): Okay, a relationship question: why is it that I continue to draft Blue Jays for my team, watch them play too much and focus on their flaws? And why does my wife keep asking me why my team never wins my simluation league even though I'm the commissioner?

Steven Goldman: I have the same problem in my football league. After years of dominating fantasy baseball leagues, my wife got into it and beat me (and everyone else) at which point I stopped doing fantasy baseball.

Gonna do just a few more here as I have multiple deadlines to meet, miles to go before I sleep, and all that jazz.

Tell your wife you're an honorable man, and that's the best that any woman can hope to marry.

Elmo (Tickletown): When Barry Bonds is proven to have taken the steroid THG, do you think he'll slink away in shame, or angrily blame the racist media? Thanks for chatting, Steven.

Steven Goldman: If one is confronted with that level of duplicity, he has but two options: defiance or tearfully throwing himself on the mercy of the public. Go on Oprah. Dedicate himself to random acts of charity.

Is there really any doubt that the media displays some racial bias where Bonds is concerned? There's a lot about his clubhouse persona that gets exaggerated...

Hennelly Mekon (Wainscotting, U.K.): Hello, Steven! Is Bud Selig America's most wretched and mendacious sports figure of the new millennium? Will his desiccated corpse oversee baseball in 2030?

Steven Goldman: It will be like Asimov's Foundation series, where Selif holograms will periodically be broken out whenever there's a problem.

Selig is no prize, but he's just of a piece with every other commissioner of this benighted sport. I can't name anyone better, but I could definitely give you some that were worse. Every single one of these guys was a mediocrity, an intellectual mediocrity. Maybe not Giamatti, but then again, his "baseball will break your heart" poesy demonstrated that whatever his mental powers, they didn't involve using a pen.

How's that for an answer you wouldn't expect to see on BP? "Selig: Not the Worst of Possible Evils."

No real relationship questions so I can prove a point, huh? Is it possible that Selena Roberts is right and that we all have no lives? Actually, just about everyone I know at BP and the blogging community is successfully ensconsced in a longterm relationship, married or otherwise. It was a pathetic cheap shot. What is this, gym class?

texpope (Austin): How long until some team (which plays in proximity to the Harlem River) breaks the $200 million payroll barrier?

Steven Goldman: Last licks here... When the owner feels like it. You have to understand that the owner has oceans of dough to wade through until he begins to feel the pain. And it's not just NYC, by the way - he knows what he has and is good at exploiting the property. Anyone who thinks being in NY hands you winning on a silver platter should just look at the Mets.

Steven Goldman: I want to thank all of you for coming out on this workday afternoon and spending some time with me. I hope I did a good job of answering your questions and providing some entertainment as you make your way through the penultimate day of the work-week. We'll do this again soon, and remember... DANNY TARTABULL! See ya - Steve


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