Who better to play Q&A with than BP\'s David Laurila?
David Laurila: Greetings, and happy Friday, baseball fans. This is my first chat in quite some time and I'll do my best to answer whatever you throw my way -- but only until Finland and the USA drop the puck around 3 o'clock EST.
Max (Kansas City): Okay, I know it's waaaaay too early, but playoff predictions?
Also what's the best new music you heard this year? That is, new to you, not necessary new this year.
David Laurila: We do an article on the dawn of each season where each member of the BP staff makes this, and other, predictions, and it is always an interesting exercise. It is also one that has made me look pretty stupid a few times, possibly because I sometimes think Iím smarter than PECOTA (wrong!!!). So, predictions arenít my forte, and what mine will look like when a gun is put to my head -- the proverbial BP This-Is-Your-Obligation, Son Gun -- is hard to say. And hey, can anyone really predict the AL in 2010? I can see myself picking the Twins, Rangers and Yankees as division winners, but would I be surprised if any of the three ended up in third place? Not really/
The best-music question is far easier, as I recently discovered the Raveonettes. I had heard Whip it On when it came out, and found it to be interesting but nothing special, and then kind of forgot about the band for a few years. Last month, my brother in law played In and Out of Control for me, and I said ďWow.Ē The he played Lust Lust Lust, and I fell in lust, lust, lust. To my ears, the Raveonettes are Jesus and Mary Chain with a female lead, and that is a very good thing.
singledigit (San Diego): The over/under for the Tigers this year is 81. I'm thinking they had so many players have awful years last year, the over is looking pretty good. You?
David Laurila: With the caveat that my predictions are nothing to take to the bank, of yeah. Definitely over. The division is arguably the most interesting in baseball just now, but it isnít exactly loaded with powerhouses. Verlander/Porcello/Scherzer looks like a nice one-two-three. This team has a chance to be better than a lot of people might think.
Ron (Vancouver): Who is going to win the Men's Olympic Hockey Tournament?
David Laurila: Hard to bet against the home team, but I'm 100 percent behind the Finns. All four of my grandparents were born in Suomi, and how does one not root for a nation with a small poplulation and a whole lot of sisu?
Karen (LA): Why isn't Baseball part of the Summer Olympics anymore? Would you like to see MLB players play in the Olympics?
David Laurila: Yes and no. I think it is fair to say the WBC hasn't exactly captivated most baseball fans here in the us, and it could be argued that more woes than wonder have resulted as a result of the timing of the event. I see no way MLB allows it to happen mid-season, so...
Joel (San Francisco): What's the most surprising comment you've heard about a prospect this year?
David Laurila: HmmmÖ.good question. Maybe that Aroldis Chapman has a chance to break camp with the Reds? I donít see it happening, but the speculation is out there. Iím surprised that Jim Leyland is talking about hitting Austin Jackson in the lead-off spot. My incliclation would be to let the kid ease in a little more slowly, perhaps as ďthe second lead-off hitterĒ in the nine hole.
And while it isnít a comment, per se, Iím intrigued by a conversation I had recently with Alex Hassan, a 2009 Red Sox draft pick out of Duke. Hassan was a two-way player in college and the Red Sox drafted him as a pitcher. Rather than sign right away, Hassan opted for the Cape Cod League where he continued to both pitch and play the outfield. He hit the hell out of the ball, so the Red Sox came back to him with a better offer -- to sign as an outfielder, which he did. What interests me is the fact that scouts -- for the same team -- either disagreed or changed their mind based on this. Hassan isnít a Casey Kelly-level prospect, certainly, but he has tools.
marmour (Corvallis OR): Can you name some players you have interviewed who seem to be well-read? I don't mean players who read, I mean players who have likely read and enjoyed Hemingway or Faulkner?
David Laurila: Fernando Perez is an obvious answer. Gabe Kapler, certainly. I'd have to think about it a little to really pull out a bunch of names, but not because there aren't a number of players who are well read. Many are. There are some smart guys out there and a lot of plane rides -- bus rides in the minors -- and they don't all read comic books. Craig Breslow. Kevin Slowey. As I type, I find myself wondering what Lastings Millege reads. He struck me as being thoughtful when I spoke to him last summer, so he may be into things far different than what his image conveys.
paulbellows (Calgary): How skeptical are you that Votto will be able to fit in a full year without any setback due to his anxiety issues?
David Laurila: Is this being viewed as an issue going forward? My understanding is that a death in the family was the catalyst for this, and things like that can take awhile to get over. Is Votto more prone to such reactions than most other athletes? I have no way of knowing that, but my guess is that heíll be fine. The human psyche isn't a simple thing, though. And players are people like you and me.
Bobby (Philly): Roy Halladay 21.5 wins. Over or Under?
David Laurila: It is much harder to win 20 than it used to be, for obvious reasons, so as good as Halladay is, I'd bet the under. Without lookingf it up, I'd guess PECOTA has him around 16-17?
Asinwreck (Chicago, IL): David, your interviews are among the highlights of BP's site. I especially like the variety of subjects you choose, from retired players and coaches to prospects. Can you name a few living people you'd like to interview someday? Any people who have died since you started this who you regret not covering?
David Laurila: Thanks. Kind words are always appreciated, to say the least. As for people who died (and, oh yeah, RIP poet/musician Jim Carroll; I was a fan), the one who first comes to mind passed away about a year before I began writing for BP. That was Dick Radatz, who was not only a brilliant closer but a bit of a character and apparently a wonderful man. Much more recently, I never did get a chance to interview, or even meet, Mark Fidrych. I regret that.
As for who Iíd like to interview, there are certainly many. Talking to Barack Obama about baseball would certainly be enjoyable. Sitting down with Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire to talk hitting -- and only hitting -- would be great (has anyone actually done that before?). Iíll be in Ft. Myers in early March, and Iíd love to run into Harmon Killebrew and/or Tony Oliva in Twins camp. I want to talk to Darrell Evans.
TheFlyingBernard (Acton, MA): I've visited every US state except Michigan. Where should I go when I visit Michigan?
David Laurila: I wish I could say, "Tiger Stadium."
There are some very nice minor league parks in Michigan. The West Michigan Whitecaps, in suburban Grand Rapids, are well run and I've really enjoyed my visits there.
As for non-baseball, I love Ann Arbor. Great college town with a great atmosphere. And northern Michigan is great if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle. Go up to Marquette and then on to Copper Harbor. It will be you, blue skies, trees, deer, water......
marmour (Corvallis OR): Is it just me, or are you getting tired of the "OMG, Joe Baseball Player doesn't understand advanced stats!!" meme. I mean, when did this become a mockable offense?
David Laurila: Joe Baseball Player doesn't have a whole to gain by understanding most advanced stats. All knowledge is good, but on the field? Not so much. Does Brian Bannister gain from some of what he's studied? Sure, but is something like his fly-ball-ground-ball rates "advanced ststs"? In today's day and age, they really aren't.
Bill (New Mexico): I'm surprised you didn't put Brian Barton on that well-read list. His mind is reportedly ... interesting.
But how about the other extreme? I once read that the ideal athlete, for coachability purposes, has "slightly above average" intelligence. The reasoning is that the very bright ones may resist coaching because of their own ideas, and the dim ones never "get" what they're supposed to be taught. Does that fit your observations? Without naming names, have you ever dealt with players who left you thinking, "Man, how can somebody this dumb ever play major-league baseball?"
David Laurila: Barton is absolutely someone who belongs on such a list. This is a great example of: I wish more people sent in questions ahead of time so I could think about my answers rather than just respond off the top of my head.
Have I ever walked away thinking,"Man, how can somebody this dumb ever play major-league baseball?" I've walked away thinking someone isn't a MENSA cnadidate, but hell, being dumb might sometimes help you play baseball. Or even pretending that you're dumb. Dustin Pedroia might fit that category. He gives a lot of mundane non answers to questions and claims to pay zero attention to stats. Bullcrap. Dustin Pedroia knows every one of his numbers short of maybe VORP.
Tim (DC): Dave, as always, love the interviews. The subjects have run the gamut! I am sure you have a "wish-list" of potential interviewees...but is there on particular segment of MLB you feel you have not interviewed, or you would like to spend more time interviewing?
David Laurila: Thanks, and I think this is something the readers should be telling me -- not that they love the interviews, but rather which segment I should spend more time on. Until recently I had been somewhat neglecting old-timers, and they're a group I absolutely love talking to.
I do want to pursue a few owners and some more GMs. This is a group(s) that can be harder to get, but I'd like to hope I've garnered enough respect in my series that it can be accomplished.
cpaddock (Cambridge): Have you noticed any trends across certain organizations regarding how forthcoming a given interviewee is, or is it usually more of a one-to-one personality thing?
David Laurila: I think it is mostly the latter, but some clubhouse/organizations have a different "feel" than others. The Twins are fantastic, for example. On the other extreme, a few teams seem to have cultivated a someone aloof and "be careful, it's the media" attitude. Fortunately, that isn't nearly as prevalent as the lower-key clubhouses. My take is that the media relations departments play a huge role in this dynamic.
DUSTIN PEDROIA (ANGRY LAND): YOU CALLIN ME STUPID?!
David Laurila: See you in Ft. Myers, Dustin. Just don't send Beckett after me.
Chris (Cambridge): Who did you most enjoy interviewing in the past year that you've never interviewed before, and why?
David Laurila: Cody Ross, because I walked away thinking more highly about the human race.
James (The Baseball Tavern): Have you ever been in major league clubhouses where there was a palpable atmosphere that that team was going to lose?
David Laurila: Not really, but I have been in the Baseball Tavern with a feeling that I was going to lose if I didn't get home fairly soon.
One of my most notable "palpable atmosphere" experiences came in the visiting clubhouse at Fenway after the Red Sox had pounded the Twins on a weekend afternoon. It was clear that Gardenhire's club takes the game seriously, because there was an absolute pall in the room.
Scott (Chicago): I don't think you've interview Ozzie Guillen, so I apologize if you have, but what on earth would you ask him?
David Laurila: I'd ask(ed) him this:
TheFlyingBernard (Acton, MA): Thanks for the chat, and the Michigan recommendations. You mentioned your Finnish ancestry, so I'm hoping you can give me some insight on the Upper Peninsula. Why in the world is it part of Michigan instead of Wisconin? Also, does Mike Bordick qualify as a yooper? I know he was born in Marquette, but I think he went to school in Maine.
David Laurila: Bordick views himself as a Mainer, which isn't as good as being a Yooper, but Maine is cool, too.
Kevin Tapani was born in Iowa (I think) but went to high school in the UP. Dick Pole is a UP native. The late George Brunet was. John Hiller -- a wonderful man who I had the pleasure of talking to recently -- is from Ontario but has lived in the UP for years.
The Upper Peninsula is part of Michigan because the State got it from Ohio in exchange for Toledo. Seriously.
Bill (New Mexico): OK, so following on Tim's question and per your request: CAN you interview umpires? Or are they off limits by dictate of MLB?
David Laurila: My understanding is that you cannot, although I have never asked directly.
James (The Baseball Tavern): What players, that you've met, have seemed most different from their media image and how?
David Laurila: Lastings Milledge and Milton Bradley in baseball, Jarkko Ruutu in hockey, all three in a positive sense. The opposite has also happened, but my mother drilled into me the concept of "If you don't have anything nice to say about somebody..."
dianagramr (NYC): Curling ... great sport, or curiousity?
David Laurila: Maybe the latter, but I have been watching some of it. I find the women's teams more interesting than the men's, and I'm not sure if that is subliminal sexist bias or more a case of not seeing it as a masculine sport. Any psychologists out there in the audience?
marmour (Corvallis OR): How do you envision the role of Bill Hall in Boston? As injuries are inevitable, do you think he could have regular stints at a corner outfield spot and all over the infield? Have you had a chance to speak with him about his role?
David Laurila: I haven't spoken to Hall yet, but plan to when I get to Ft. Myers. I see him as an interesting Prospectus Q&A subject given his somewhat odd career path.
I'm not sure what the Red Sox should expect from him. Barring an injury somewhere, it will hard for him to get a lot of at bats. I kind of wonder if an injury to either Cameron or Ellsbury could result in Hall platoon in LF with either Hermida or Reddick?
devine (Portland): Any minor-league lifers you've got on your interview radar? It would be great to hear from a real Crash Davis, as opposed to the Hollywood version.
David Laurila: I was actually thinking about that recently, and yes. I need to track down Tim Kester, who I believe has hung it up, although I may be wrong. Tim Kester is a wonderful story teller who has played all over, including plenty of winter ball and Europe. He'll be a must-read if you see him pop up as a Prospectus Q&A.
BMoreGreen (charm city): David - thanks for the chat - have you done any recent work with the Oriole brass? Would love to see a Joe Jordan interview post draft.
David Laurila: Good suggestion. I haven't spoken with Jordan, but the Oroles organization has been a pleasure to deal with in the past. Please feel free to remind me of this idea once draft time is upon us.
Steve (NJ): Do you think Jason Heyward will have a full time big league job by July?
David Laurila: Will? Not sure. Should? If he is as good as the reports say he is, yes. I'm of the opinion that elite prospects shouldn't be held back as long as many are. Buster Posey comes to mind as I type. Maybe even that right-hander in DC.
Will (WV): What do you think Pedro Alvarez ceiling is?
David Laurila: Kevin Goldstein has him rated ahead of Desmond Jennings, Carlos Santana and Buster Posey. I think that is as good of an answer as is needed.
Chris (Los Angeles): The Tigers 1-3 punch looks pretty scary, but no one is talking about the White Sox rotation this season. Peavy, Buehrle, Danks, and Floyd. That's pretty good, no?
David Laurila: The White Sox rotation certainly has a chance to be very good, but a lot of that will depend on whethger Peavy is Peavy or less than Peavy. And Buehrle is so darn hard to define. Sometimes I wonder how he does it, but somehow he does. But as for the comparson, the Tigers trio has a chance to be special. I don't know that the ChiSox group has the same perfect-world ceiling.
Rick (Chicago): Have you had any experiences with players or coaches who went through a surprising amount of maturation or development in their thinking in a short amount of time?
David Laurila: Tgis past year I happened to turn on a minor league player to BP -- he had heard of it, but never really paid attention. From what he has told me, a whole new way of looking at the game has been opened up for him. That qualifies as maturation and development in thinking, eh?
Aly Walk With Me (Auburn, CA): What are the chances of Blake DeWitt winning the 2b job in LA, or he's doomed to back up Belliard as well as Casey Blake at 3rd?
David Laurila: Belliard is 35 years old and has been Belliard-esque for quite some time. One would think DeWitt is the guy the Dodgers want to win that position battle.
lemppi (Ankeny, IA): I'm Finnish and from the U.P. as well! Kevin Tapani went to Escanaba HS. My father pitched against George Brunet in youth baseball. When the copper mines were running full bore there was more population and lots of good baseball up there. Visiting Copper Harbor would be a lot of fun for anyone...go in early September when the Fall colors are getting in gear.
David Laurila: Love the Brunet connection there. Many readers won't be familair with him, but he had a long big league career.
Not as many Finns in the UP as there used to be. When I was growing up, I'd hear it spoken more than just rarely. That is no longer the case when I go back to visit. Times change.
bobdoowop (Pa): What do you expect out of Dempster this year-----I noticed that he had a very strong September which you always like to see-----so I think he might be an overachiever this year. I have a chance to pick him up in a trade (he's very cheap) so I would like your opinion.
David Laurila: I just pulled out BP2010to look at Dempster's PECOTA and i see 9-10, 4.21 with a 4.11 SIERRA. If that is all the Cubs get out of him this year, look out below. This might be a long summer in Wrigleyville. A lot has to go right for Jim Handry's club in order for them to be more than just another Cubs team that didn't.
Tim (DC): Personally, I love the "behind the scene" stuff. Like Masterson talking about his trade to Cle. And not even necessarily players: equipment managers, trainers, a team's traveling secretary, etc.
David Laurila: Thanks, Tim. Personally, I love the behind-the-scenes stuff, because a lot of fans don't get glimpses at that stuff. That is especially true in the minor leagues, which is something I hope to help change once we roll out our new-and-improved look in the very-near future. My blog will focus on life in the minors, with mucho input from the players themselves. I'm very excited about this.
A quick note on Masterson. I believe he is the only person I've featured more than once in my Q&A series. This was accident more than design -- both interviews were done for other publications, only to have circumstances bring them to BP. The big right-hander, who I see being a huge contributor to a better-than-you-think-they-are Tribe team, is a guy you want to look to grab for your fantasy team.
paulbellows (Calgary): Women's hockey? In or out?
David Laurila: I have a clever answer to that, but I'll refrain...
As for a level-headed answer, it is disconcerting to see someone penalized for checking, but the skill level is very, very high. I enjoy watching at the Olympic level.
Brian (tinley): David -
I really enjoy your segments. I was thinking, since you brought up Buerhle, why don't you ask him some questions? He has always had a pretty down-to-earth view on all things baseball and his accomplishments.
David Laurila: Another good suggestion. I will make him a priority when the ChiSox visit Fenway this summer.
SeanDoyle (Toronto): How well do you speak Finnish, if at all? Just curious, thanks!
David Laurila: Valitettavasti en ole.
Noah (Kalamazoo): Over/Under on Vegas' 82 wins for the Twins?
David Laurila: Over, by several games.
paulbellows (Calgary): Who has the most difficult GM job right now? Ed Wade, Jim Hendry. other?
David Laurila: Ned Coletti would be on the list, given the ownership issues and expectations.
Mike W (Chicago): We were in Helsinki last summer and tried to buy some liqueur, and it seemed like alcohol was a big secret there. What's up with that?
David Laurila: I'll end with this question, although not because I can actually answer it.
Finland-USA is about to get under way, so I'll thank everyone for stopping in and particiapting in the most Finnish-Upper Peninsula BP chat ever. I hope to bring plenty of good material back from spring training. In the meantime, Go Suomi!
David Laurila: Thanks taking part in my chat! That's all for today!