1. Alex Rodriguez: Get Weird
Alex, it’s been a tough year. You’re coming off a yearlong suspension; your position at third base is occupied; and at 39 years old you’re looking at your last season or two in baseball. Just getting on that lineup card (heyyooooo!) is going to be an uphill battle. And so, my advice to you:
Get real weird with it.
Look, nobody wants A-Rod to say all the right things and ride the pine. That would be boring and a little sad. But you no longer have the capital to truly play the villain. To be as entertaining as everybody wants you to be, you’ve got to get creative. Insist from Day 1 that you’re a right fielder now. Include a song title in your answer to every question. Pick one teammate’s wife to wave to before every at-bat. Really, you could go a million different ways here.
Twenty-fourteen was a messed up year, Alex, and we need an escape from reality. We need surreality. So please, for all of us, bring a big, exotic bird onto all Yankee flights. Try to switch your uniform number from 13 to 2. Constantly reference “what Assange would do." You’ve been the anti-hero we deserve; in 2015, resolve to be the one we need right now. —Andrew Hopen
2. Nick Swisher: Just Loosen Up
It’s no secret that Swisher battled through his worst season statistically and physically last year. Now in 2015, entering the autumn year of his four-year deal with Cleveland, he faces more playing time competition with the addition of Brandon Moss. Perhaps a year of good health is all he needs to again become a capable starter, but what his real New Year’s resolution should be is: just loosen up. Throughout his career, Swisher has acquired the reputation of visibly being an uptight ballplayer, showing little to no personality and when he does it’s always pessimistic. The Cleveland team deserves a fun locker room atmosphere, and imagine if he was just a little goofier, showed some state pride … and heck, just smiled more. Maybe grow out those sideburns.
3. Baseball Writers and Researchers: Collaborate
The "stats vs. scouts" debate is over, if it ever was. At least in the sense of "Which of these is more important?" Information is the lifeblood of good decision-making and drawing on information gathered by open-minded insightful people, no matter how they gained that insight, is a good thing. But there's another stats vs. scouts debate that struck me, and it has to do with how the two professions go about their business. In scouting circles, whether prospect writers or working for a team, the primary activity is going to games. And at games, you sit with the other scouts and you chat. Hey, have you seen Smith? What did you think of him? Stories get swapped. Data get shared. It continues at home on GChat. You call a couple of #sources. It's all very collaborative.
I look at that in contrast to what I normally do. I don't often call "people." Many times, an article will appear on BP and the only other person who has read it before you do is one of the BP editors. Some of that is logistic. People who work for teams often have non-disclosure agreements and the work that they do is top-secret (for obvious reasons), but we do know what the words "This one stays between us…" mean. Then there are the people who work in public. And yeah, occasionally, we'll pass an idea back and forth around the offices at BP World Headquarters, but pretty much, the stuff I write is a solo effort. Analytics work is project-based. There's a specific question. There's a data set. There's someone who knows how to do that sort of analysis. In the scouting world, the project is much more open ended. The question is "Who's good?" but there's no one person who can collect all the data, and "Who's good?" is constantly changing. Plus the nature of the data set lends itself well to chit-chat. In analytics, I can download the history of everything that's happened on the field in the last 25 years, make reasonable claims about a topic, and never leave Mom's basement. Even if I transferred my data set to someone else, I can do that in a three word e-mail, with an attachment. We're people of few words.
I don't know that the full-on "Everybody talks to everybody" model of scouting (not that it actually works like that, but you get the idea) would work for us stat-heads. The mechanics of it are different. But I'd like to think that we might borrow at least a little something from the world of scouting. The constant chatter means that you always have to incorporate someone else's point of view into your own thinking. That has its ups and downs, but I'd argue it's a net benefit. So, my New Year's resolution is to borrow a bit of that scouting culture and to reach out to be more collaborative with my fellow quantitative researchers, and maybe (gasp) to a scout or two. I might even learn something. —Russell A. Carleton
4. The Hall of Fame: Change Your Procedures
I have pretty much given up on the Hall, especially since visiting it for the first time in 2014, but this year’s voting process has annoyed me enough that I guess I still have some interest in seeing it fixed. It’s really gotten ridiculous. This year, the Hall of Fame’s voting system and rules have been exposed to perhaps a worse and more shameful degree than ever. So many intelligent and honorable and well-intentioned people have invested so much of themselves in the cause, as they do every year: thoughtful, elaborate cases for and against candidates, long and rich historical insight, considerations of the complex moral issue of PEDs, and so much more—all in noble and widely varied attempts to get the most deserving candidates their due enshrinement (with lively and complex debates about who those candidates should be). But it’s all so corrupted by the noxious byproducts of the Hall’s outdated production that the labor we’re expending on its behalf is rendered almost poignantly futile. We wind up with a sad and unsatisfying compromise. We’re using sharp, precise tools on a blunt and rusted old machine, which dulls them, and we’re further hampered by a blinkered old guard clinging to some of the levers. So much about the Hall and its voting needs to be overhauled that I sometimes think we need an entirely different one instead of efforts to fix the one we have. But this is overreacting. It can be fixed. Enough with the 10-man limit. What is the official PED stance, please? Maybe the five-year wait is no longer appropriate—should it be longer, shorter? Should we have voting every year, or maybe less often? The Hall needs to ask itself and answer questions like these, examine old policies and establish new ones where they are missing, and provide clarity to its constituency, which is the entire world of baseball—and that world is not a completely passive majority. The resolutions to be made here include some by Major League Baseball and the BBWAA, who are partners in the Hall’s ongoing crime.
Will it change? Is there any real motivation for that? In its current misshaped form, the Hall and its annual vote resembles something like the old BCS system in college football: everyone knew it was muddy and unfair and needed redress, but it generated so much publicity and attention that it succeeded as sheer entertainment and controversy far above and beyond the issue of its rectitude, which was overrun by the media hype (and all the money, as always). Yet the BCS did finally change, so there’s hope for the Hall’s procedures to change, too. They need to, or the institution could finally devolve into a mealy mockery of honor and history, and the only museum worth visiting in Cooperstown will be the Fenimore. —Adam Sobsey
5. Jed Hoyer: More Camera Time
"Theo, Joe, Jon, any one need a water? Hot towel?" – Jed Hoyer at every major press conference
In 2014, the Cubs made significant moves to improve their ball club and their GM sat out of frame in most of the press conferences. Here's hoping that Theo loosens the reigns and doesn't force Jed to resort to dressing up like Morganna "The Kissing Bandit" to get on screen.
6. Teenaged Reporters: Learn Before You Scoop
Hey, teenaged reporters, I get it. I’m not too far away from being a teenager myself, and that desire to skip the awkward years and get on with being an adult already is extremely strong, as is the need to be one up on everyone else.
However, you’d do yourselves a lot of favors if in 2015 you resolved to start where a lot of really good, really respected reporters and writers did: with the smaller stuff. Yeah, in this internet age it may feel a little childish to be on your high school paper, but if you’re 14 or 15, that’s where you learn how to be a good reporter. This stuff, seriously, only comes through experience. You’ll look back on this some day, and possibly wish that you’d only broadcasted your current style and output to 1,000-2,000 people, rather than the entire internet. I know I’m thankful that none of my high-school writing is particularly find-able on the web.
It’s not that I don’t think all y’all are talented teenaged reporters. It’s just that I think that there’s still value to maturity, particularly where news (or, in this case, sports “news”) gathering is concerned. So do this: Resolve to take a journalism class, if you can. Put yourself in situations where you can learn rather than “scoop.” Don’t give up, and just realize that it’s a long, worthwhile road. —Kate Morrison
7. Gerardo Parra: Get Caught Stealing Fewer Than Five Times
“Hey skip, this is Gerardo Parra, just calling to talk about next year, and letting you know that I’d really like to be a Brewer next April. I’ve heard some trade rumors but Milwaukee is the town for me and I’d love to be your right fielder next season. I’ll hit anywhere in the lineup, give you Gold Glove defense in the field, and if you need me, I can handle center, too, boss.
“But I’m not calling to talk about defense, or hitting either. Sure, 2014 wasn’t my best season, but we both know I’ll be back at 'em with the bat. No, what I’m calling about is my base-stealing. I had a look at the numbers and, man, I don’t know what happened. I know that I’m not particularly fast and that my reads need some work, but I thought practice would make perfect out there.
“Not yet, I guess. As you probably know, I was caught seven of the 16 times I tried to run last year, a year after getting thrown out 10 times in 20 attempts, a year after I got caught or picked off nine times, a year… well, you get the point. I’m trying to turn over a new leaf in 2015 though, and so my baseball resolution is to get caught stealing fewer than five times next season. Now, I know what you’re thinking: We all know how much you hate to give away outs and I’m fully on board with that.
“But I think my stolen-base percentage is unsustainable and is really nothing more than a little bad luck. N not being high enough and all that. So don’t worry skip: I’ll still be the same aggressive Gerardo you know and love.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go work on my jumps.” —Brendan Gawlowski