Baseball Prospectus: One risk that you took last year was an unorthodox relief strategy. In retrospect, do you think it would’ve been more prudent to just go ahead and try it, rather than announcing it beforehand? Theo Epstein: In retrospect, if I could do last year’s bullpen over again, for starters I hope I’d do a better job putting together quality relievers. I didn’t do a very good job. No matter what we said about it, I didn’t have the right guys in here to get the job done. I think both sides of the debate missed a big issue. The general public and traditional media thought we were trying to do a “bullpen by committee,” a revolutionary idea. They decided to just blame the whole thing on Bill James, and got it all wrong. On the other side, the new school guys like yourself thought, great, they’re not going to overpay for saves, and they’re going to try to apply what Bill wrote about the ace reliever and unconventional usage to create the “optimal bullpen.” The truth was really somewhere in the middle.
“Who of us would not be glad to lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden, to cast a glance at the next advances of our science and at the secrets of its development during future years? What particular goals will there be toward which the leading sabermetric spirits of coming generations will strive? What new methods and new facts in the wide and rich field of sabermetric thought will the new years disclose?” Here at Baseball Prospectus, we’re not completely immune to the general fascination with the recent turn of the world’s odometer. So, with this edition marking the final year of the second millennium, let’s take a look forward at what the third holds for us seamheads. Our inspiration comes from a similar effort nearly 100 years ago. In 1900, a mathematician named David Hilbert addressed the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris and delivered what was to become history’s most influential speech about mathematics. Hilbert outlined 23 major problems to be studied in the coming century. In doing so he expressed optimism about the field, sharing his feeling that unsolved problems were a sign of vitality, encouraging more people to do more research. The above quote is, in fact, a bastardization of the opening statements of Hilbert’s speech. Hilbert referred to mathematics instead of sabermetrics and spoke in terms of “centuries” instead of “years.” Given the relative youth of sabermetrics and baseball analysis compared to math, it’s appropriate to use a period of smaller scope than Hilbert. The quotes that appear periodically throughout this essay are similarly taken from Hilbert’s speech and altered to refer to baseball analysis.
It remains one of my clearest memories of the winter meetings: A breathless Will Carroll coming up to a group of writers with the news that an MLB employee had just told him that Miguel Tejada, Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero were all ready to sign contracts with the Baltimore Orioles.
While Tejada did join the Os fold that night, the other two deals fell through. The Birds eventually had to settle for Javy Lopez instead of Pudge, and Rafael Palmeiro instead of Guerrero. Not quite as sexy, but still enough to help the Orioles, who got ridiculously little production from shortstop and catcher last season…