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Chat: Steven Goldman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday October 18, 2004 12:30 PM ET chat session with Steven Goldman.

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Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Steven Goldman: Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, chickens of all ages... The Steven Goldman Chatastophre Experience is now on the air! I am Steven Goldman, your host, as well as the author of TEAMS and YOU COULD LOOK IT UP on this very site, the Sports-Illustrated endorsed PINSTRIPED BIBLE on www.yesnetwork.com, the forthcoming biography of Casey Stengel FORGING GENIUS, and many other works too mystical and far-seeing to even discuss. Warning to youngsters: there will be absolutely no sexual content in today's discussion, so stop asking already. With two playoff games today there's lots of baseball bearing down on us, so let's hit that beach!

Pizza Dude (NY, NY): Dude, I met you at a Pizza feed once and I was shocked at much you resemble both Kevin Smith and Bill Bryson. Is there something about Big Fat Bearded men that make them good authors? Please advise.

Steven Goldman: I get the Kevin Smith thing a lot. Hadn't thought about Bill Bryson, whose work I greatly enjoy. There's nothing mystical about being sedentary and too lazy to shave. I think you've simply stumbled into a very small artistic subgroup. I am endeavoring to be less fat and less bearded in the future, so hopefully my powers are not linked to my decrepit physical condition. And now, some baseball questions!

DavidCrowe (Canada): Mussina - a guy with all the real numbers but not the superficial ones that matter to Hall of Fame voters - joins the Yankees - an organization that has propelled many a lesser man (Scooter, Catfish, Jeter?) onto enshrinement - and yet he still seems to be falling short - what gives?

Steven Goldman: The writers are like magpies, birds that are attracted by shiny baubles. It's premature to say that the Moose has fallen short of enshrinement. He's going to finsih with upwards of 250 wins and a strong ERA for this inflationary period. Those stats are going to look better and better as time goes by. If anything hurts Mussina, I think it's probably his reputation as being cold with the media, if not outright disdainful.

I disagree about the trio of lesser men in the Hall. Maybe Catfish is a lesser Hall of Famer, Scooter too, though allowing for World War II and his defense, which a number of stems rate very highly, not to mention the performances of his teams, I think he's deserving. Jeter is going to be a class above both of them.

Urbane Legend (Hollywood, CA): Hello. Where do you think Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez will end up, and for how much money? Thank you.

Steven Goldman: The real issue is not how much money Martinez and Beltran are going to make. The real issue is that we have a problem in this country, and the name of that problem is "tort reform!" There is nothing more relevant to solving baseball's problems than tort reform, and I for one, uh, um... what was the question again?

The presumption is that the Yankees will blow the competition for Beltran out of the water, as well they should; maintaining their edge up the middle is a key to their persisting at the top of the schedule, and CF is a great place to steal a march on the opposition. At that point, it's just a question of where Beltran wants to go. As for Martinez, I don't think New York is a real option. There's something about his situation that just screams "Baltimore." Sore-armed pitcher, very expensive... yeah, Baltimore.

Gabed2200 (PA): Red Sox win today, and could the yankees really be in trouble? that would basically leave the series the same as it stood last year, with the Sox having all the Momentum, and both bullpens shot. As a Yankee fan, I am officially worried. Your thoughts?

Steven Goldman: The chances of the Yankees losing three straight are still remote, so at the risk of sounding like Peter Cushing in "Star Wars," ("Evacuate? In our moment of triumph?") I'm still confident about the Yankees moving on. What worries me, as you'll see in today's Pinstriped Bible over at YES, is the lack of a LOOGY in the pen. I've been ranting about this all year. Not that I love LOOGYs, but the Yankees needed one to take Ortiz out of the series. It's already cost them big a couple of times.

Momentum is, I think, overrated.

Paul Mocker (Goleta, CA): Scooter deserving? Giving him credit for time he did not play? Playing with great players? Either you are not objective or Edgar Martinez is a Hall of Famer too!

Steven Goldman: Mocked... by the Mocker! Sounds like something out of Stan Lee... Paul, I try to be very objective about the Scooter, a guy who I don't necessarily love as a person for various things he's said (in a non-broadcasting capacity) over the years. As I said, various systems rate his defense quite highly. Defense is, I think, as much a contribution to the winning effort as anything else, and if baseball wants to credit that as being a key to the Yankees dynasty, fine. The MVP voters liked him too, his contemporaries lauded him, and he wasn't a terrible hitter. There is also no reason, no reasonable way, to divorce Rizzuto from the winning teams for which he played, or to deny him a role in their successes. I see Rizzuto as being less of a stretch than several other HOFs. As for Martinez, I don't see what he has to do with it, but I'd have no problem seeing him in Cooperstown. The man could hit.

RCCook (Dallas TX): Assuming that Carlos Beltran is probably out of the Rangers' price range this winter, what should the team's shopping list look like? And should they use Alfonso Soriano as a trade chip, or wait a year for him to (possibly) re-establish his value?

Steven Goldman: Without addressing specific free agents or trades, the Showaltermen suffered from an appalling lack of plate discipline and a Rockies-like aversion to hitting on the road. Adding even one Walking Man to the lineup would pay huge dividends. Second, center, or catcher would be the obvious weak spots to upgrade, but real bats are obviously tough to find at those positions. I'm not a big believer in Soriano, but unless he brings a return at those positions - including his own, which isn't going to happen, they should probably, as Casey Stengel used to say, hold the gun on trading him.

bctowns (chicago): Steve, You are aware the Carlos Zambrano plays for the Cubs, right? He's far too good, and far too cheap to play for either the Rays or Mets. Other than that, keep up the good work. TEAMS is highly entertaining.

Steven Goldman: Sigh, yeah. I've been getting email on that little error since 5AM. It has since been corrected - Uncle Joe Sheehan could hear my screaming without benefit of a phone. I'm in New Jersey and he's in California, so you get a sense of my self-hatred over that faux pas. As I get older and more distracted, the rosters get bigger and each one was two players whose names sound like two players on every other roster. If I might invoke Casey one last time, I think I might go his way from now on and just stop using names. The next column will talk about how that guy is pretty good, but not as good as this other guy, and the fella they got on the other team can't hit the curve when the guy is on the mound. That ought to solve the problem.

EschewingTobacco (MD): Two things: 1. I'm a long time reader and fan, "Monument Park Project" era. And, Sgt. Peppers is better than Pet Sounds. 2. In your opinion, when is it acceptable for Derek Jeter to bunt? It drives me nuts to see perfectly heatlhy outs disappear like that.

Steven Goldman: Love the name, ET... Thanks for being a longtime reader. No fair baiting me on the Peppers/Pet Sounds argument now. ET refers to a series of old columns in which the readers and I debated the concept of peak vs. career value through those two albums. I rated the Beach Boys the edge on peak, the Beatles the edge of career. You can parse the argument a million ways... As for Jeter, ET has hit on one of the great mysteries of 2004. Who the hell turned Jeter into Mr. Bunty? Who said this was a good idea? For his career that guy has averaged about three SH a year. This season, he had 16! This should be like Clue - who took the bat out of Jeter's hands? Mr. Torre in the Billiard Room with the Candlestick? Mr. Randolph in the Library with the Knife? Mr. Jeter with the self-inflicted gunshot wound in the Lavatory? It makes no sense.

otis (san antonio): is it just me or does it seem like all the BP authors are sleeping in after last night's late game?

Steven Goldman: Wouldn't you if you could? I'm hoping to catch a quick nap before Game Five ALCS myself.

Jay (Madison): Don't you find it surprising that with all their resources the Yankee pen has no reliable left (and most leave a spent El Duque to face Ortiz) and must rely on Tanyon Sturtz for key outs? If I'm George and our bullpen costs us the WS, BC will have some 'splainin' to do.

Steven Goldman: Jay, this was something I discussed extensively in the last Pinstriped Bible and will do so again in today's episode, which will hit the Net not long after we conclude this here affair. It's hard to believe that even with their decayed farm system (The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting, sang Woody Guthrie) the Yankees couldn't buy, beg, borrow, or steal a LOOGY from somewhere. David Ortiz would have been greatly reduced in stature if the Yankees had given themselves a better option in the pen. As it stands, Felix Heredia is on hand to travel with the club and boost his frequent flier mileage.

Pierre (Paris, France): Hey, don't complain about not sleeping. Games start at 2:00am here in Europe, and last night's finished at 7:30, just in time for me to head off to school. (PS: MLB TV RoOlz)

Steven Goldman: What's French for Tivo?

Paul Mocker (Goleta, CA): Fair response! I agree with you about being credited for the success of his teams (and that is why Jeter, because of the dynasty he has helped build, should have won an MVP by now.) I mention Edgar because many feel he should get credit for 1 or 2 years he played in the minors (even though Seattle management could not see that he belonged with the big club.) And, like Rizzuto, he has played on great clubs (along side great players.)

Steven Goldman: Giving Edgar credit for time served in the minors is redefining Hall qualifications in a silly way. If he goes in on that basis, then Joe Hauser and Ike Boone and Buzz Arlett and all the minor league stars of the 20s and 30s can go in too. That seems like a different Hall of Fame to me (though arguably the PCL of the 1930s and 40s was every bit as good as the majors).

Jeter should have won the MVP in 1999, flat out.

Ed (Chicago, IL): Which team would you rather own right now ... the White Sox or the Tigers? Do the White Sox even have a chance to win a title with the current personnel in place or are we just kidding ourselves?

Steven Goldman: Well, if you're just giving me one to OWN, I'll take either and see what I can do - though economically I think you'd rather own a team in Chi. If it's just coming in as an employee, I'll take the Tigers. An overlooked trueism of sport is that when the personnel on field changes, the front office management changes, and the team still suffers, the blame has to be put in the one place that remains consistent, ownership.

Right now the White Sox don't know what constitutes a functional offense in their park, they're about to lose one of their biggest bats to free agency, and they can't get any of their minor league pitchers turned into major leaguers. I don't see this outfit winning soon.

Jason Lee (Red Park, NJ): With Pedro and whatever is left of Curt Schilling going in the next two games, any chance the Sox can make it to game 7? You know, anything can happen in game 7, like Arroyo getting out of the 4th inning.

Steven Goldman: As that Berra guy said, it ain't over 'til it's over (I mentioned this on the BBC the other night and they seemed very amused, though I don't think they knew who Yogi Berra was). Anything can happen, though I think the odds still greatly favor the Yankees. Francona is going to be obligated to go long with Martinez today, and as we all know by now, long is where Martinez turns into a pumpkin. A pumpkin that really need a haircut, but a pumpkin nonetheless... If you watched the post-game interviews last night on YES (YES does a post-game show after the Yankees games, even though they're not broadcasting them), you noticed that on various walls in the Fenway Park clubhouses there are diagrams explaining the proper way to wear a Boston uniform. Talk about irony. Does ANYONE notice those things?

Ian (Austin): Post-season baseball is filled with late-inning game winning home runs, but can you think of any that came on a nastier pitch than the one Beltran golfed out of the dirt in the seventh yesterday? This astros fan is happy that Pujols only came close to matching it in the ninth. Thanks

Steven Goldman: If we watched footage of Yogi Berra's (there he is again) 1,121 post-season games we would see something similar. A lefty with a strong ability to make contact with anything and hit it hard, he hit a number of home runs on impossible pitches. He would jump out of his shoes to get on top of the ball. Also, he was occasionally quotable.

hamneggz (Vancouver, B.C.): How unreal is it that Ben Sheets pitched the last two months of the season with a herniated disk in his back? Cy Young runner-up after the Unit?

Steven Goldman: So many good questions today, the most I've ever had. Yet, as the Beatles sang in Sgt. Peppers, that album that's not quite as good as Pet Sounds, we're getting very near the end. Just a few more. Sheets was terrific this year, with historically great control and a ton of strikeouts. Draft him for your Strat league, give him a real offense, and watch him win 25 games for you.

I imagine the Cy Young voting will have the Rocket and the Big Unit at the top in some order, followed by Oswalt, and then, at some great remove, Clean Sheets.

lefty (Houston): Brandon Backe said in a press conference that he feeds off the hometown crowd, and his home/away split lends evidence to his words. Is it common for a pitcher to want a loud crowd? Doesn't it disturb his concentration?

Steven Goldman: One of the great things about baseball is that it ain't tennis. In baseball we naturally assume that teams are affected by their home stadiums because of differing dimensions and environmental conditions. Sports like football, basketball, and hockey, where the arenas are nigh identical, amply demonstrate that there is a legitimate psychological benefit gained from being in front of the home crowd.

huckabay (The Real World): Steven -- the proper comparison for Pet Sounds is Rubber Soul, rather than Sgt. Pepper's. The media points to Sgt Peppers, but RS was the real breakthrough.

Steven Goldman: I'm with you there. Rubber Soul or Revolver, which is even better. This came up in the original discussion too, and reflects my personal opinion, but I felt that Sgt. P made for a better point of debate as it's the most-hyped record ever.

Zoidberg (NY): Fill in the blank: As early as next season, _________'s contract will be an albatross for the Yankees (you may use one name or two names, or none at all).

Steven Goldman: Miguel Cairo, after the Yankees resign him off of this year's flukey, sort of semi-productive batting average. I'd like to think Jason Giambi will make a comeback, but I'm skeptical. You could argue that his contract is already an albatross, was an albatross at the moment they signed it.

Did you know an albatross lives practically its whole life at sea?

Cris E (St Paul, MN): So last winter the Yankees front office closed their eyes, covered their ears and sang "La La la" until the questions surrounding defense went away. What about this year? Does Derek get moved from SS this winter? Does Bernie get moved out of CF? Sketch out a couple Yankee offseason scenarios and pick a favorite.

Steven Goldman: Thing is, the defense could have been better this year, but it didn't really hurt the Yankees tremendously, except maybe in the outfield, where Mastui looked dazed, Bernie and co were slow, and Sheffield takes routes to fly balls that resemble Magellan's. Jeter has been better than ever, which is not saying much, but he certainly hasn't hurt the team.

In a world without Beltran, it would be fascinating to see the Yankees sign Troy Glaus, move Jeter to center and A-Rod to short. Jeter has the speed and athleticism to play the outfield and the offense would benefit tremendously. That team would repeat.

theironhorse (Hempstead, NY): to make everything a little more insane: brian wilson created Pet sounds after hearing rubber soul, then paul mccartney wrote sgt peppers after hearing pet sounds. it makes my head spin in a good tilt o whirl like way.

Steven Goldman: Right. The chain of causality is fascinating. A lot of classic rock got written that way, with the various groups feeding off of each other. Still, this makes SGP the derivative work, and while many of the songs are great, HOF great, they don't quite approach the sophistication of "God Only Knows" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice." Only "A Day in the Life" really nails that level. Thank you, John Lennon.

Will E Coyote (New York): The way both bullpens have been exhausted the past two games, how do you see Joe Torre and Terry Francona lining up the relievers should Pedro and Mussina not give any length? The fate of two teams' seasons could hang on guys pitching on no rest.

Steven Goldman: Pedro and Mussina are going to have to give length. This is the moment where the team gets to go down with the ship. The manager who blinks first, who goes to the pen first, is the manager who loses. These pens really need a break... The way Torre used his pen on Monday, he retains an advantage because he should be able to follow his usual game plan. Francona has a more difficult job, with Foulke likely having little to offer.

Houston's Rocket (Mississippi): If Rocket Roger Clemens faces the Yankees in the WOrld Series. WHO WILL YOU CHEER FOR? The Rocket, or the Yankees?

Steven Goldman: You may not believe this, Houston, but I maintain objectivity about this thing I do. People sometimes tag me as a Yankees fan, but the main sense in which I root for them is in the sense that their winning perpetuates a rare excellence. Otherwise, I'm just watching the wheels (one more John Lennon mention for you). Personally, I can do without the "Roger Returns" storyline chewing up the air for two weeks. That would get really tedious.

Alex C (New York, NY): The disappointment of the bat caves being closed at the D.C. zoo :: the disappointing production of _______ on ______ team.

Steven Goldman: Damn budget cuts. Feds can't even afford bats these days. "Sammy Sosa" and "an unnamed."

theironhorse (hempstead, NY): What position do the yankees plan to throw matsui at next year, or sheffield for that matter? is DH in the cards for either?

Steven Goldman: Not as long as Giambi is on the team. Remember, the Yankees didn't want to play him in the field when he was HEALTHY... To get out of his contract at this point, they may have to stand him up next to Ruth, Gehrig, and Huggins and claim he's ineligible to play because he's a monument.

huckabay (The Real World): Heresy -- all of those albums pale in comparison to King's X's seminal 1989 work, "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska", which is the answer to "What would the Beatles sound like if they could actually play their instruments and had a young James Brown as their singer?"

Steven Goldman: I have that on cassette somewhere. I haven't listened to it since, oh, 1990 or so. I remember it sounded something like Rush crossed with King Crimson. I'd be willing to give it another try (note: if I disappear from BP sometime soon, it is due to this comment).

Cris E (St Paul, MN): As a member of the YES team, do you ever meet Kay or Sterling? Have you ever shared your opinion of their work with them? Any chance you'll get to move up the foodchain next year and fill in as a cameraman or something?

Steven Goldman: Yes, I have met the Kay and the Sterling, but like Uriah Heep I am far too 'umble to attract much notice from them... I like my place in the YES food chain, and next season they've promised me a pair of those sweat pants with YES across the backside. Bonus!

Peter (NY): Steven, is it just me or are you a seriously slow typer?

Steven Goldman: I type pretty fast, actually. I'm just thinking a lot. I like shooting from the hip but long experience teaches that when I do I get a hundred angry emails about one omission or another.

...An informed critic advises me that the reason King's X went under the radar is because Living Color beat them to the mainstream. I'm not positioned to evaluate that comment, I'm just passing it along.

jittoku (Madison, WI): I hear Bruce Hurst is coming out of retirement to pitch Game 7 of the ALCS, if necessary. Your thoughts?

Steven Goldman: I think Francona should avoid letting him pitch to Matsui in the eighth inning. Oh, and the Yankees will be countering with Whitey Ford.

Steven Goldman: Time to ride off into the sunset and finish that next Pinstriped Bible (like all great cowboys, I ride the ragged edge of disaster). Thanks to everyone for turning out with their questions. It's been a swell way to spend 1:45 as we work up to more playoff games. See you here again soon.


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