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Chat: Derek Zumsteg

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday September 24, 2003 8:00 PM ET chat session with Derek Zumsteg.


Derek Zumsteg is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Derek Zumsteg: Sorry about the delay, I had some computer issues on my end, but it looks okay now.

Jacob (Waukegan,IL): What do you think of Rocco Baldelli, is he going to be one of the best Outfielders in the AL/MLB and will he ever become patient at the plate? 29 Walks is alot more than I predicted at the beginning of the season.

Derek Zumsteg: I didn't like Baldelli as a prospect and I don't like him much more now (you can see I picked him on my Hacking Mass team, for instance). Almost no player succeeds in the majors without taking walks in the minors. And whether patience can be tought, well, he's got one of the best hitting coaches in baseball to work with, and he's obviously a talented player, so there's certainly a chance.

Silvio Berlusconi (Rome): If you could have proven conclusively that the Red Sox have been cheating, would you have cared, and if not, why do the study in the first place?

Derek Zumsteg: Yes, because I think this kind of thing is cool. In monetary terms, a win is worth $1-2 million to a team's bottom line, and there's only a gentleman's agreement not to steal signs. I think we may see a lot more of these sacred cows led to the slaughterhouse as teams try to press any advantage they can.

Thom (Randle, WA.): Are you sticking with the Giants and Yankees as World Series opponents?

Derek Zumsteg: Yeah, because it'd be really cool if I nailed it right after all the nasty email I got for last year's playoff pieces. Not that I'm, uh, petty, or anything.

Seriously, the Yankees are awesome and deep, if defensively bad. The Giants don't have the same kind of balanced attack, but I love Bonds.

Travis (Decatur, GA): Hello, Derek. This may sound like an attack, but it's not intended as such; it's a serious question. I want to know why you and Will Carroll haven't had a more public profile in response to MLB's denial of your Pete Rose Reinstatement story. At every turn, they continue to deny that there's any truth whatsoever to your story, and you guys have offered no additional evidence, no identification of sources, no clarification, no nothing. Your silence has made me, and I expect others as well, question the accuracy of your story. I have reviewed your story, and the MLB denial directly contradicts you, Jayson Stark says there's no truth to it, and no other outlet has come forth with any corroborating evidence.

Derek Zumsteg: How could we have had a more public profile in response? Will was on ESPN twice, the interviews played all day, I was on MSNBC, one of us (Will, almost entirely) was on every major sports radio station in the country...

Stark disagrees with us on specifics: that Rose will or will not admit wrongdoing, but he's said reinstatement's in the works and will happen.

In the meantime, Mike Schmidt's made comments about Rose having an agreement with Selig.

We haven't updated the story because there's not a lot to say. If you read my last chat, I talk about what I thought the state of things were, but basically there's no new story here: I can't write "Rose has suspicious book deal, everyone involved is bound, gagged by suspicious NDAs, and also we got confirmation of the deal from more sources we're not willing to burn."

We're right. Reinstatement's coming, it'll happen this year. Read me now, believe me later, and see it happen in November.

Ken (California): Who would you rate as the top 5 GMs in baseball?

Derek Zumsteg: In no order, and I know I'm going to regret trying to answer with only five:


Peter Bean (Washington, DC): Are you one of the BP staffers that thinks Pujols should be NL MVP? If so, can you justify your vote for us? Thanks...

Derek Zumsteg: Nope, so I get off scott-free on the second-part. Woo-hoo!

beast (Seattle): Who do you think is the NL MVP?

Derek Zumsteg: D'oh. Bonds. Bonds has much less playing time than Pujols, but his contributions while in the lineup are so huge their value isn't close. Further, I think there's something heroic about Bonds' performance this year, it reminds me of Tyler Hamilton's Tour de France (and I have now made the 2 bicycling-baseball crossover fans in the audience immensely happy).

Portland Phil (The Rose City): When will MLB announce who gets the Expo's?

Derek Zumsteg: I'd have guessed next May-June, but I don't know anymore. I feel like once they get next year settled (split/no-split), they'll be more likely to put off the decision, especially now that Las Vegas is muscling into the debate.

Peter (Manassas, VA): Do you see Edgar Martinez returning in 2004? If not, how do you anticipate the Mariners filling that hole in the lineup? That's a nice chunk of change the Mariners would save without Edgar, but would they spend it? Are Raffie Palmeiro and Junior Griffey serious options to consider? Do you think the Mariners might make an effort to acquire Carlos Beltran?

Derek Zumsteg: I don't, but I hope he will. There is a lot of buzz about Rafael Palmeiro, who has been a Mariner-killer for his whole career, but that's a bad decision. Still, it's an easy decision and he's a name player.

It'll be an important test of whoever they hire to replace Gillick.

Brad (Palo Alto): In light of what we know about the Mariners' ownership, what is the likelihood that Gillick's replacement (whether hired next month or next year) will be sabermetric-friendly?

Derek Zumsteg: Low. There's always a possibility that someone will come in (as JP Riccardi did in Toronto) and blow them away in the interview process, and they'll think "Man, we can loot this town for tens of millions of dollars a year and compete for the World Series at the same time? Sign us up!"

The Baseball Club of Seattle is, for all their profiteering, composed largely of baseball fans.

But the M's are not a particularly nimble or imaginative organization, and I don't see it happening. They'll probably get Dallas Green or something (that's a joke, I hope nobody had a heart attack out there).

Greg Tamer (West Lafayette, IN): With regards to the Red Sox and the claims that they are "cheating", are we to assume that the other teams are NOT "cheating" in any fashion? Where is the line drawn to separate acceptable and unacceptable methods?

Derek Zumsteg: It's so widely believed that the Sox are cheating that it's almost funny. I know that there are players who try to steal signs, and some coaches are notorious for picking off steal/hit-and-run/etc signs, but that's all old-school cheating.

I think the defining unacceptable cheating is: does it involve someone not involved in the game, or does it involve technology that's not on the field?

That is, if you have to employ a spotter, it's unacceptable. TV, unacceptable. Don Zimmer figuring out you touch the brim of your hat to signal a pitch-out? Annoying but okay.

beast (Seattle): Bonds and Tyler Hamilton, the Tour De France! Does this mean you expect Armstrong to ask Hamilton to come back and take over US Postal when he retires in a year or two?

Derek Zumsteg: See, I knew there was one out there.

No, especially with Hamilton leading his own crew now. I've been thinking that Ullrich might join US Postal for next year -- it makes sense if you think about it for a minute. But back to everyone else now...

Mariner Fan (Seattle): I'd like you to look into your crystal ball and let us know Randy Johnson's future. 1) Does Randy Johnson get elected into the Hall? 2) Does he enter as a Diamondback?

Derek Zumsteg: Yes. His dominance is astounding. It'd be nice if he hung around a little longer, but he could retire today and I'd picket the HoF for him.

Yes. World Series and all that.

Suraj (New York): Which of these young players do you think will have the best season next year: Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hinske, Luis Matos, or Jose Reyes?

Derek Zumsteg: Reyes.

Boonie Babe (Seattle): Any thoughts about Pat Gillick?

Derek Zumsteg: Yes but, unfortunately, I'm in a particularly bad mood w/r/t this after the last couple of games and I've been told this is a family website.

I frankly cannot understand why anyone regards Gillick as the best GM in the game. You can ask him who he thinks his best acquisition ever was, and he says Joe Carter. Joe Freaking Carter. Of all... arrrggghhhhhhh.

So yeah.

wmcdonal56 (South Bend IN): Is it bad for baseball that the Angels have fallen so fast, so quickly? Maybe a little too NFL-ish? People always complain about the Yankees, but at least they make success look like something other than randomness.

Derek Zumsteg: No. People have gotten to see the swings of fortune in the AL this year, from the competition and failure of the Royals to the White Sox chase for redemption, and the improbable World Champions falling almost into the cellar... the Yankees going from division winners to... oh.

It's bad for Angels fans, of course, but their swing may also lead people in other cities to believe that their team might flare into greatness one year as well.

Jimmie (Tacoma, WA): Should I spend my hard-earned cash on M's season tickets or Rainiers season tickets for next year?

Derek Zumsteg: The quality of play and the experience is so much better at the major league level, I have to lean that way.

But if you have to commute from Tacoma for the games, it depends on your tolerance for traffic.

Man, a lot of special-interest questions today.

bokosox (San Diego): If Houston doesn't make the playoffs, can it almost completely be blamed on Bagwell's and Biggio's insistance that Brad Ausmus be given the bulk of the playing time at catcher?

Derek Zumsteg: No one decision can take the credit or blame like that.

But I have no idea what they were thinking, and if they barely miss the playoffs, I think the good people of Houston should run him out of town on the next train.

So a little, yeah.

bokosox (San Diego): Assuming Boston makes the playoffs and that Pedro, Lowe and Wakefield are their top 3 starters, what should be done with 4th spot? Burkett? Suppan? Arroyo? Just use 3 starters?

Derek Zumsteg: Suppan, I think, but I've seen him a couple times and he looks pretty bad. Still, from a talent/stuff/etc total package view, he's better than the other options.

See what I mean about specialized questions? Seriously, I've got a whole queue.

J (Seattle): Today, the roster for the Team USA qualifying team was released. The focus this year is that the USA team will play in the Arizona Fall League against the teams already in place there. My question is how does this affect players who are on both Team USA and one of the Fall League team, i.e. Mauer who is also on the Rafters, Sizemore who is also on the Desert Dogs, Leone who is also on the Javelinas, etc. Are they replaced by the parent club or has this even been discussed yet?

Derek Zumsteg: Wow. I love international competition, for anyone who's not aware--I wrote a ton about the US Olympic Gold Medal teams, and I still think Mike Neill's a national hero.

I have no idea how this affects these players. I think they'll play for Team USA, and they'll beat the stuffing out of these other guys on their way to a gold medal in 2004.

Also, we as fans need better chants for the games. Even Ozzzie/Ozzie/Ozzie/Oy/Oy/Oy is way cooler than USA! (repeat)

Josh (Philadelphia): Last night, after nearly missing the entire season, the Phillies, in the midst of a playoff battle, decided to bring David Bell and his .200 EqA back to the lineup (after he went 1-7 in instructional league). What on earth were they thinking?

Derek Zumsteg: Veteran presence. Bell was on the 116-win Mariners team, and then on a Giants that did well, so he's obviously good luck.

Suraj (New York): I'm a big New York Mets fan, and I know that they're rebuilding b/c throwing money at the problem last time blew up in their face. So here's my question: what will it take for the Mets to get back into contention?

Derek Zumsteg: Ah, nice, I've been following the Mets this year... I like their announcing crew a lot.

A good GM hiring, a commitment to spend on player development, some smart moves to pick up free talent and waiver-level guys to fill gaps, and 2-3 years.

Jimmie (Tacoma, WA): What in the heck is up (or not up, as the case may be) with Ichiro this season? Is he trying to hard or has he been figured out?

Derek Zumsteg: Every year, there are people that think he's been figured out, and the next year, he tears up a storm. Last year, I attributed his late-season problems to that run-in with a wall he had, but after this year, I'm not so sure... maybe he really can't play 162 games a year, and needs a lot more frequent rest because he's so intense when he's on the field. That's a huge problem in Seattle, where their bench often includes whoever delivered the Gatorade that day as the pinch-hitter.

beast (Seattle): I recently saw a comment from Lou Pinella, skipper of Tampa's Rays, that he expects the playoff formula to be expanded to include more teams. Is this good or bad, do you think it will actually happen.

Derek Zumsteg: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

And maybe. Selig's claiming 'success' with the Wild Card playoffs, and his basic formula for follow-up runs

failure = more of same
nothing = stop
success = more of same

But boy, I hope not.

Shane (New Brunswick): Derek, since no other media outfits seem willing to do it, why don't you? Where is the outrage or the mocking laughter directed at the '03 Mariners collapse? Gillick's been a great GM, but just because you're a senior and a sacred cow doesn't mean you don't still warrant critisim. Not that i'm complaining, GO A's!

Derek Zumsteg: I belive our own Joe Sheehan has something in the works about this, and I have no doubt he'll do a fine job on it.

Greg Tamer (West Lafayette, Purdue): You're the GM of the Mariners. What do you do this offseason?

Derek Zumsteg: Get Edgar to come back. See if Olerud's serious about retiring, take him up on it if he is. See if anyone wants to give me a bag of baseballs for Garcia, non-tender him if there's no interest. Try and get Cirillo to accept a buy-out at x% of contract value. Let Cameron go (but send him a nice parting gift or something, it's mutually beneficial). Take Winn to arb, put him in CF.

Buy a bench. Spend what I can on bats at LF, 3B, 1B (Fullmer?).

See if Melvin's willing to run his game smarter, fire him if he's not.

And so on. I'll be applying for the job this off-season if Gillick retires, but there's 0% chance I'd get it.

Adam (RI): is there a more annoying thing than when the ESPN announcers feel the need to wonder out loud why *insert player with decent stats for a playoff contending team" isn't getting more MVP support? Especially in the National league where there are really only 2 possibilties (one to be honest).

Derek Zumsteg: Yes, there are more annoying things.

I've never understood why there's a debate over who should be "in the debate" or "discussion" or "mentioned in any talk of" the MVP.

Either a player's the Most Valuable Player, or they aren't. You rank them by how closely they fit the criteria. If you don't believe, say, Jose Hernandez can seriously be the NL MVP, then you shouldn't say we should talk about him as a candidate.

I don't know, it's just another of these things were the media's opinion of the story becomes the story, because then they can interview themselves.

Bill Gates (Medina, WA): Jay Buhner as a broadcaster... yes or no?

Derek Zumsteg: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

I love Jay, I know for a fact Jay's a great guy and he was a good player, but holy mackeral, everyone else in the country should thank their lucky stars that Buhner's only inflicted on fans here in the Emerald City.

beast (Seattle): Two big names in Seattle's bullpen become free agents, Arthur Rhodes and Armando Benitez. Benitez is listed at 6.75 mil, Rhodes at 3.5 mil. Is either of these guys worth this at today's market and do you think Seattle even makes a serious offer to either of them?

Derek Zumsteg: Nope, and nope.

Rhodes spent much of this season concealing his injury, and by the time he fessed up it was pretty much too late, and without another lefty, the team decided to keep running him out there, and he stunk it up. Teams don't like being put in that kind of position.

Plus Rhodes hasn't been particularly happy with being ignored while other relievers got cushy deals.

Elliott (La Jolla): If you think Buhner is bad you should hear Paul O'Neil.

Derek Zumsteg: I've heard Paul O'Neill and he's awful too. David Justice is the newest pain inflicted on me for being a baseball fan.

Josh (San Diego): If the Cubs end up playing the Red Sox in the World Series, which team deserves to win it all more? Which team would win?

Derek Zumsteg: Red Sox. Red Sox.

The Cubs are plain evil. That ticket scam is worthy of Monty Burns.

Josh (Boston): Whose your pick for the Cy Young in the American League? How about the MVP?

Derek Zumsteg: Pedro Martinez in the AL, maybe Hudson, but it's almost the same Bonds-Pujols argument: would you want fewer innings of Pedro or more from the lesser workhorse? And again, Pedro's contributions outweigh his decreased playing time. But it's much closer than the other debate.

MVP is Alex Rodriguez (I have a friend of mine in Texas who called me today to rant about how Alex is a garbage player who only gets hits in garbage games... I think he's a little frustrated with the Rangers this year).

Kurt (Providence): What are your feelings on the possibility of an international draft?

Derek Zumsteg: Oh, this is gold.

I don't like it at all. I don't even thing baseball should have a draft.

What happens if you open all prepdom to bidding? The teams with fat wallets fall over themselves for the hyped prospects, and they might get some, but because it's so risky, they'll largely be burning their money.

But meanwhile, teams with smarts, teams trying different approaches, and whatever else, don't have to spend $1m on a first round guy -- they can spend $200k on five junior college guys they like, or build an academy in Novia Scotia, or whatever.

That's a simplisitic overview, of course, but baseball should allow more flexibility and creativity, and punishing teams for doing good recruiting internationally discourages that, and that's bad.

Derek Zumsteg: Hey, I've got to go. Thanks for the fine questions, I hope everyone noted that I type way faster than Billy Beane, which means... nothing at all. Enjoy the last games of the season.

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