A conversation with the Pirates' skipper about his influences and how the game has changed since his days behind the plate.
There is more to John Russell than humility and stoicism, although those two qualities fit the Pirates skipper like a well-worn catcher's mitt. Now in his second season at the helm in Pittsburgh, the former backstop is Neal Huntington's sergeant-at-arms, entrusted to help lead a young and rebuilding ball club out of the doldrums of 16 consecutive losing seasons and back into contention in the National League. The Pirates' third-base coach from 2003-2005 as part of manager Lloyd McClendon's staff, Russell also has 10 years as a minor league manager on his resumé, eight with the Twins' organization (1995-2002) and two with the Phillies' (2006-2007). Being behind the plate for Nolan Ryan's sixth career no-hitter in 1990 was the highlight of a playing career in which Russell saw action in parts of 10 big-league seasons, primarily with Philadelphia and Texas.
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The Orioles Hall of Famer discusses his contemporaries, solo home runs, commanding the strike zone, and... solo home runs,
A lot of great pitchers have worn an Orioles uniform over the years, but none have been better than Jim Palmer. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990, Palmer won 268 games over 19 seasons, winning 20 games or more eight times and twice leading the American League in ERA. Signed by Baltimore as an amateur free agent in 1963, Palmer made his big-league debut in 1965 and went on to play his entire career with the Orioles, pitching 3,948 innings and earning three World Series rings. In Game Two of the 1966 Fall Classic, Palmer became the youngest pitcher to throw a World Series shutout when he defeated Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers 2-0 at the age of 20. The winningest pitcher in team history, Palmer is currently an analyst for Orioles TV.
The Rays starter discusses confidence, consistency, and being a student of the game.
When the BP staff was asked to make their annual pre-season predictions on the eve of Opening Day, yours truly typed the following name in the AL Cy Young column: James Shields. While such a prognostication doesn't exactly qualify as an extreme stretch-the Rays' right-hander also garnered a second-place vote from Will Carroll and a third-place vote from Clay Davenport-he has yet to establish himself as one of the game's elite pitchers. That may be about to change.
A year-end best-of from the interview columns of 2008.
The Prospectus Q&A series was once again a regular Sunday feature in 2008, and as the primary author I hope that you found the interviews to be both informative and entertaining. A wide range of personalities from within the game of baseball shared their thoughts and opinions with BP readers from January to December, and here are some of their best quotes:
A conversation with as diehard a baseball fan as they come, one who also happens to be one of America's great voices in sports. UPDATED 11/7 with a transcript.
If you've watched sports in the last 25 years, you know who Bob Costas is. Bob sits down with Will to talk about the place of baseball in the American psyche, from Jackie Robinson to Mickey Mantle to Barry Bonds. Costas has a unique perspective reaching from coming up with the classic Cardinals and Yankees to today's global era. Join us for a special BPR with one of the biggest names in sports, Bob Costas.
The Rays' fourth starter has contributed by virtue of reliably being better than some, no easy feat.
In his first full season and just his second year in the majors, Andy Sonnanstine has turned into an important part of the Tampa Bay Rays' rotation. As their fourth starter, he takes the mound tonight with the Rays down two games to one. It's a role he's filled more than admirably this season, but is the progress he has shown a sign of what's to come from the young hurler, or is he just a product of his environment?
A hitting coach discusses what it's like to be in the zone and becoming an unlikely World series MVP.
Gene Tenace transcends eras. Hired as the Blue Jays hitting coach when Cito Gaston replaced John Gibbons this past June, Tenace was a World Series MVP at a time when statistics like OBP and SLG meant little or nothing to most baseball fans. One of the most under-appreciated players the game has seen, Tenace has been rated by Bill James as the 23rd-best catcher in big-league history despite a lifetime average of .241. Now 62 years old, Tenace earned that distinction thanks to an ability to get on base and hit with power, having posted an OPS of 817 between 1969 and 1983 (versus a league average of 694). Tenace talked about his hitting approach, and about his spectacular 1972 World Series performance, during a Blue Jays visit to Fenway Park in September.
The road ahead is full of hope and dread for teams chasing berths in the postseason, plus news and notes from around the major leagues.
It's been another long year for the Orioles, in last place in the five-team American League East, 17 games behind the Rays with a record of 60-65, and on pace for an 11th straight losing season. Brian Roberts thinks it would be grossly unfair to say that these are the same old Orioles though, and the standout second baseman has a rather wide perspective from his years with the organization, having made his major league debut in 2001 after being drafted in the first round in 1999. "Every organization goes through some rough years and we certainly have," Roberts said. "When you're going through those rough years, you want to go through them with the idea that there are better times ahead. That hadn't been the case here until this year. Now, we're finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Losing is never fun but it is more acceptable when you're making progress. Hopefully, in the very near future we'll be in the pennant race at this time of the year and competing for championships."
The Blue Jays prospect talks about his approach to hitting, and sizes up a few promising pitchers from his draft class.
The 14th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Travis Snider is not only the top prospect in the Blue Jays organization, he's one of the best hitting prospects in the game. Rated a five-star prospect by Kevin Goldstein, Snider led the Midwest League in several categories last year as a 19-year-old, including slugging and extra base hits. Built like a tank at 5'11" and 245 pounds, the left-handed-swinging outfielder is currently with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats after beginning the season in High-A.
A conversation with the man who made the MLBPA the industry force it remains to this day.
Marvin Miller served as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 to 1982, and in doing so changed the game irrevocably by leading the challenge against the Reserve Clause and ushering in the era of free agency. Despite his considerable impact on the game, he has yet to be elected to the Hall of Fame thanks to confusion over his eligibility amid an ever-shifting vote process, and recently, the 91-year-old Miller announced his desire to be taken out of consideration. Jay Jaffe interviewed Miller to discuss his announcement in preparation for this feature article.
Last season's World Series MVP talks about hitting, and finding his stroke after his disastrous 2005 season.
A World Series MVP, a cancer survivor, and a four-time All-Star, Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell is one of the most highly-respected players in the game. He is also an author, having chronicled his life in the recently-released Deep Drive: A Long Journey to Finding the Champion Within. The book was written with Red Sox beat writer Rob Bradford, who covers the team for the Boston Herald and writes the insightful and sabermetrically-friendly Bradford Files blog. David talked to Lowell about one of the subjects he covers in Deep Drive: his approach to hitting.
Time for the Bill James-style test now that the Joe Torre era is over in New York.
In 1984, looking to find a way to characterize managers beyond the then-meager statistical record, Bill James introduced the "manager in a box" questionnaire. Assuming one answers the questions accurately, James's list of questions remains a good way of making visible those aspects of a manager's background and habits that he may not carry on his sleeve, but nonetheless influence the way games in his charge play out.