Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Steven Goldman: Good afternoon, campers. Sorry for not getting underway precisely at the stroke of one, but as my editors can attest, punctuality and I aren't on speaking terms these days. In fact, I can't say that we ever have been. I've often wondered about the strangeness of a life in which a guy who never did homework wound up in a line that's all about deadlines. Anyway, I've got my green tea at hand and "Ticket to Ride" on the stereo, so I'm ready to go. You've got a ticket to ride too, so let's get this train rolling.
Ethan (Philadelphia): Hello, Steven. I wanted to ask when the next 'project' book was coming out from Baseball Prospectus. I thought "Mind Game" was very good, and "Baseball Between the Numbers" is one of the best books ever written, on any subject, and stands as the best work Baseball Prospectus has ever produced. What's the next specialty book, and how soon can I get it?
Steven Goldman: I always like to start off with a question about BP itself - if you look back at my past chats, they all begin with questions like, "Why is it I've never seen Nate Silver in a tuxedo?" and "Why does Joe Sheehan hate cats?" and of course that old favorite, "Why do you guys think and act and speak exactly alike?" Which, of course, we don't. And we all agree on that.
I appreciate your enthusiasm for our recent book projects, Ethan. We do have something new cooking but I'm not at liberty to say precisely what it is as of yet because the editors and the writers and the agents and the lawyers and the oliphants haven't finished skirmishing just yet. When the fog of war lifts (does it ever lift?) I'll tell you about it at length.
In the meantime, believe it or not we've already started laying the groundwork for Baseball Prospectus 2007, the next installment of our annual guide.
Rob (Middletown, CT): Steve,
It sounds like Sheff may be out for the season. Even if he can come back at some point, it won't be soon, and there's no real guarantee he will be able to play up to his normal ability.
You mentioned Abreu in the pinstiped blog (which I enjoy quite a bit, btw). One assumes, given the bad position the Yanks are in, that the Phillies would be able to demand a lot for him. A whole lot. I know *I* would, where I their GM. Besides, aren't the Phillies in contention (I admit I largely ignore the NL)?
I agree that an outfield of Damon (banged up), Melky, Bernie and Long/Thompson/Bubba is not championship caliber. And I do want my team to win. But at what cost for the future? The only really good trade chip I figure is Hughes. Would you give up Hughes for Abreu?
Steven Goldman: I'm answering this one to the sound of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," which seems appropriate. Did you know this is one of the most covered Beatles tunes? One of the best is Elvis Costello's version, which you can find on the "Spike" bonus disc, if memory serves. One of the most annoying is the version to be found on "Beach Boys Party," the live album that produced the "Barbara Ann" single. Some chick in the studio thought it would be very amusing if she shouted an off-key "HEY!" each time the chorus came around...
Thanks for the nice words on the PB-Blog. The Phillies are nominally in contention at a game over .500, but unless Cole Hamels and Randy Wolf come back strong from injuries and the rest of the staff starts pitching with more consistency they're really not going to make much progress.
The Yankees are in their usual difficult spot with trades because they need what little is on the farm. They can't go through season after season penciling Carl Pavano into the rotation only to have to scramble for a replacement (which is exactly what they're contractually bound to do). As such, trading Hughes seems like a bad gamble. The Yankees do have some exciting lower level position prospects, but if they deal those fellows they really denude the system completely.
The sense with Abreu is that the Phillies and their fans are unhappy enough with him and his perceived lack of hustle that he can be had for less than his true value. Somehow that seems doubtful.
Dennis (Newark): You recently wrote an article that gave examples of Torre using Mariano in non traditional closer situations. Several of these situations included coming in with a four run lead. You then ended the article with: "Credit Manager Torre for recognizing that Rivera is the best man for any situation, not just the one's that the book (and many fans) says he should be restricted to."
Is there anyone in this world who doesn't realize that Mariano is the best relief pitcher on the yankees? Shouldn't we instead be worried that Torre doesn't realize how low leverage a 4 run lead in the 9th is? Why are we ignoring scarcity of resources?
Steven Goldman: By including Torre's use of Rivera with big leads I was trying to underscore the way the manager inevitably lets Rivera drift out of the "pure closer" usage pattern after annually promising to do the opposite. Using Rivera with big leads is not ideal, but at the time the Yankees had the sense that one of the reasons that Rivera had struggled just a bit was that he hadn't pitched enough. Torre was just trying to get him some work.
As for people not realizing that Rivera is the best relief pitcher on the Yankees, I think everyone gets at least that, but judging by my mail there is a lack of understanding about how he should be used. Because of the save rule, some people really believe that "ninth inning and only with a lead" is a higher leverage situation than an appearance in a tie. We know that's not the case.
Keith (Portland, ME): Hi Steve, love your work both here and on the YES Network; I'm willing to overlook your affiliation with the Evil Empire. Do you or have you ever had a favorite player, and why? VORP arguments not accepted.
Steven Goldman: This will surprise exactly no one, but the player who kindled my enthusiasm for baseball was Don Mattingly. Until I was about 14 I was a very casual baseball fan. Something about Mattingly captured my imagination. This was 1984 or thereabouts, where Mattingly first emerged as a star. He really could do anything in those days. I've never seen a player quite like him since, and that's not just fan worship. He had such a great eye and bat control that he could wait just a little longer than everyone else when evaluating a pitch. At the last second he would say, "Hmm. That seems too close to take," and then he would flick the ball right out of the catcher's glove.
I talked quite a bit about the origins of my fascination with baseball in the introduction to "Forging Genius." Besides Mattingly, it had a lot to do with a 1978 edition of the Avalon Hill game "Statis-Pro Baseball" that my cousin kept beating me with, and the Bill James book I purchased so I could better compete.
Eddie Vedder (Seattle): I do a pretty decent cover, too, if i may so myself.
Steven Goldman: Y'know, Eddie, I'm not sure I have that one. Oh, wait - it's on the "I Am the Son of Sam" soundtrack, isn't it? Yeah, that one was okay, I guess. I felt like you were overselling the pathos a bit there, Eddie, like you were a contestant on "American Idol" or something.
RichieD (Bridgeport): You've already started groundwork on the '07 BP? Any early thoughts on the White Sox chapter? After '05 ('Ozzie Guillen is Dumb') and '06 ('The White Sox were really lucky'), I figure '07 could be either 'White Sox fans smell bad' or 'White Sox fans have ugly children'.
Steven Goldman: Actually, it's going to be, "The White Sox Have Benefitted from Divine Intervention." Look for Diety-Sharing to be a bone of contention in the next labor negotiations.
I don't think you're being quite fair, RichieD. I thought Nate Silver did a bang-up job on our White Sox chapter from this year, and it did a good job of explaining why we evaluated the Sox the way we did and why the outcome differed.
I would suspect that, all things remaining as they are, the 2007 discussion of the White Sox will focus on the way that Kenny Williams aggressively retooled his team in the off-season. After all, this year's Sox differ in some important regards from the championship edition.
martywinn (thelandofmakebelieve): If you had to be stranded on an island with a BP author, what island would you prefer?
Steven Goldman: Manhattan or Australia.
jsp377 (NYC): I've heard a lot of people (read: radio personalities) say that Melky Cabrera isn't a long term solution for the Yankees because a singles hitter isn't sufficient in an outfield corner. While the reasoning is sound, Cabrera is only 21, and certainly has a lot of time to improve; he also hit a decent number of XBH earlier this year in Columbus. Is power really lacking in Melky, and if it is, is there a track record of young singles hitters developing corner-OF power?
Steven Goldman: Y'know, JSP, I heard that one too, and I think we both know precisely which radio personality we're talking about. Let's just say that generalizations like that aren't very bright. Tony Gwynn was a signles hitter in an outfield corner. So is Ichiro. I imagine the Yankees wouldn't object to having a player of that ability in their glorious left field - one of their few positions where they haven't had a long-term, hall of fame-type star, actually (though Babe Ruth actually played there about half the time).
I pause to delete the 10,000th email I've received informing me of fraudulent activity on a non-existent email account.
It is vastly premature to decide what kind of a hitter Cabrera is going to be, but if he's a .300 hitter with 75 walks, which is kind of what he's doing now, it would be foolish to scoff at that. As for power, I think that will come, but it doesn't look to me like he's going to be a real slugger.
Players do develop power sometimes - think Kirby Puckett (off the top of my head, not wanting to take too much time between questions as a I gaze into space) or Steve Finley. Those are more than the exception that the rule, I would hazard.
Nick (SF): Most underrated rock group ever? My vote: Television. How about you.
Also, what's a greater need for the Yanks at this point? Outfielders or starting pitching?
Steven Goldman: Funny that you bring up Television. I am ashamed to admit that despite the band's legendary status I have somehow failed to really explore them. About a week ago my wife said, "I think you really ought to listen to Television" and handed me a copy of Marquee Moon - which I threw down on my desk somewhere and I've yet to get around to digging it out, let alone listening to it. I've been listening to Elvis Costello lately, Talking Heads, the new Springsteen, the Velvet Underground (after a long period of being mad at Lou). I've also been contemplating buying the new Neko Case album...
The Yankees need Outfielders. Cabrera, Limping Damon, and "Staff" is not a championship-quality unit.
ssimon (Pelham, NY): Steven,
The refund on returning a plastic/glass bottle has been five cents for the past twp decades, but Carl Pavano is making $8MM a year. Somebody tell the recycling people to get with the program!
Steven Goldman: Could you imagine that Carl Pavano is worth 160,000,000 nickels? As Yogi said, a nickel ain't hardly worth a Carl Pavano anymore.
P Bu (St. Louis): Seriously: you do recognize that White Sox fans have ugly children, don't you?
Steven Goldman: But they love their offspring just as much as any group of normal humans. I read that in a National Geographic article.
Twinsguy (Minnesota): Hi, Steve --
When will Twins GM Terry realize that the team he's put together can't compete as it's currently constructed and start to rebuild? The left side of their infield with Juan Castro and Tony Batista has got to be the worst in baseball. Why not trade Shannon Stewart for a decent young third sacker with an upside, and install Jason Bartlett at shortstop and Jason Kubel in LF. I'm sure most Twins fans would rather see the team go 71-91 while cultivating some fresh, young, exciting talent to watch, rather than seeing them go 72-90 with this sad group of uninspired, boring retreads. What are your thoughts? Also, where do the Twins trade Kyle Lohse, and what can they expect to get for him? Thanks for the chat....
Steven Goldman: Given injury problems and vanilla production over the last four seasons or so, weak defense, and impending free agency, I'm not sure that Stewart's trade value is that high.
As for GM Ryan, the problem isn't just in the front office but on the field and with the player development staff. The Twins have done less with more than any team in recent memory. It can't be a coincidence when nine of ten highly rated prospects fail to establish themselves in the majors. Part of that was the team's inability to choose between prospects and a truly OCD-focus on defense over all else. This is an organization that needs an overhaul in a big way.
blamberty (Bozeman, MT): Hi Steven, thanks for the chat. Your YCLIU of May 22 was a nice synthesis of the convergence of Bonds and Ruth on the career home runs list, but it seems fashionable to bag on Babe Ruth these days for having played against weak pre-integration competition. I undestand these are divergent social issues, but isn't baseball's talent gain brought by ending the segregation's injustice more or less offset by other sports (FB and BB, most notably) syphoning top-shelf talent over the ensuing half-century?
Steven Goldman: I don't think so, not with the influx of international players in baseball. Football and basketball have siphoned off some top talent, particularly in the African-American segment of the population. At the same time, the influx of Dominican, Cuban, Venezuelan, and Japanese players has tempered that somewhat.
Ruth would have been a tremendous player in any era, and we shouldn't take too much away from him. That being said, some of the advantages he had were real.
scoper (Farmingdale, NY): Hello to a fellow Fruhead! When's the hiatus gonna stop?
Regarding the Yankees, I don't see them holding their position in the East unless they miraculously get an impact outfielder without giving up anything.
Cabrera's stock may never be higher than right now - package him and a minor leager or two - any way for that to happen?
Steven Goldman: I got into Moxy Fruvous just as they disbanded, so I never did get to see one of their legendary live shows. Jonah Keri, native of Canada, told me he saw them a zillion times when he was younger. I hope the hiatus ends soon, but as I understand it they all have other things going on.
The problem with dealing Cabrera while he's hot is that the Yankees would have to get two outfielder back for the one they had given up, or an outfielder and a top starter or something. It's not going to happen, and of course dealing him for other prospects would mean running up the white flag, which you know the Yankees will never do.
Ali Nagib (Chicago): I thought you guys didn't like to admit who writes the team chapters in the annual....was that a slip, or did you realize that one look at "Persistent Underlying Team Ability" was a dead giveaway to any fan who's been reading BP for more than a day?
Steven Goldman: It's not a secret who writes the team chapters. It's just that the annual is the most collaborative thing we do so sometimes assigning sole credit for a team chapter would be misleading. Still, there often is one person who is primarily responsible for a chapter, but we would like the reader to feel that the book speaks for the group consensus rather than just my take, or Chris's, or Nate's, and so on.
That being said, if someone asks about a chapter we generally don't hesistate to give credit where it's due. Two of my favorite chapters in the book were by Nate and he deserves credit for a job well done. Also, he's the boss.
Bill (KC): Is Dayton Moore the savior of KC baseball? It sounds like the Glass family is giving him complete control- that has to be a step in the right direction - right??
Steven Goldman: I think "complete control" is a chimera. Just by virtue of the owner setting the budgets he sets boundaries on the GM. I also believe that owners who have been doing the same thing over and over again for ten years without appreciable results have shown a limited capacity to learn.
whosonfirst (Austin): Any word on the prospect of seeing Carlos Pena with the big league club anytime soon? Will anybody save us from repeat episodes of "Terrence Long, Starting Outfielder"?
Steven Goldman: Clay Davenport translates Pena's minor league line to .207/.319/.347. I don't believe he'd be that bad, but the way he's hit he hasn't exactly forced the issue.
As I wrote in today's Pinstriped Blog entry, Kevin Thompson is not an impact player by any means, but - to damn him with faint praise - he'd out-produce Terrence Long.
I really do like Joe Torre as a manager, but when Long went 0-for-4 and threw to the wrong base twice in his first game and Torre said, "I thought he was great," I had to rub my eyes. And ears. And other body parts.
Omar Minaya (Queens): Do I need to make a deal for another starter or can I survive with Trachsel, El Duque and some combination of Soler, Maine and Bannister at the bottom of the rotation?
Steven Goldman: If you don't, someone else in the division will. The one thing that's protecting you right now is that the other team's in the division aren't equipped to make a race of it. If the Phillies or the Braves add a big pitcher that could change. It seems unlikely that they will, so perhaps you can muddle through to the playoffs, then reduce your rotation to Pedro, Glavine, and (maybe?) El Duque and squeeze through.
Seems like kind of a longshot to me, Omar. Better get back to the drawing board.
Anthony (Long Island): Who wins in a race: Superman or The Flash?
Steven Goldman: I think I have every Superman/Flash run-off issue, including the classic Superman #199 (see the cover at http://www.milehighcomics.com/cgi-bin/genresearch.cgi?action=issue&issue=83754703976%20199), which as reprinted in the "Superman vs. Flash" tabloid of the 1970s was one of my favorite books as a kid. That same tabloid edition also contained a guided tour of the Fortress of Solitude drawn by Neal Adams.
I was called a geek on the radio once. Why would anybody think that???
Anyway, I don't think this matter has ever been definitively settled, but my feeling is that from a story and characterization point of view the Flash has to be a scintilla faster, otherwise there's nothing that makes him unique.
Jessica (New Brunswick): Next time Long goes 0-4 (which is probably tonight), i'll think of you after a line like that!
Steven Goldman: Uh-oh. Didn't your husband threaten to do me violence after the last chat?
Baseball (Alabama): I did not know that BP was so closely associated with the Republican Party, they have No Child Left Behind, and today you guys have No Yankee fan Question left behind.
Steven Goldman: That's not true - I've also answered a comic book question.
I think given my other affiliation it's natural that people would want to chat about the Yankees a lot when I'm around. Of course, I'll try to answer most anything.
Jerry (NYC): The Yankees must teach that whole, "I thought he was great" line to all of their coaches. Willie said the same thing about a couple (which turned out to be all) of Jose Lima's starts this year.
Steven Goldman: I think there's a subtle difference there in terms of context, in that you're supposed to understand that Willie wouldn't have pitched Lima if he had any other choice, and he wasn't going to have any other choice in the near future, so being honest about Lima at that particular moment wouldn't serve any productive purpose. Also, Willie plays things close to the vest as a matter of personal style.
Torre is generally a little more candid than that, and he does have choices. There was no sense that he didn't really mean it.
Steve W (Boston, MA): I'm finding myself getting more and more addicted to baseball. What do you think would be the top 5 baseball history books that an interested fan shouldn't miss? Thanks, and I your articles are some of my favorites on BP.
Steven Goldman: Thanks for the kind words, namesake. Five easy choices - "The Glory of Their Times," the first and best oral history, "The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract" (either edition and try not to mind the typos), either Robert Creamer's or Marshall Smelser's bio of Babe Ruth, Harold Seymour's "Baseball: The Golden Age," and Bill Veeck's autobio, "Veeck as in Wreck."
I'd also throw in Peter Golenbock's "Dynasty," which despite inaccuracies is the best look at the 1950s Yankees, Leo Durocher's "Nice Guys Finish Last," any of the three Glenn Stout team histories (Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers), "My Turn at Bat," by Ted Williams, all four of the old "Fireside Book of Baseball" anthologies, Marvin Miller's autobio, "A Brand New Ballgame" (with my pal Allen Barra), and - look out for shameless plugs falling - my own bio of Casey Stengel, "Forging Genius."
TGisriel (Baltimore): So far Mazzone has not had the effect on the O's staff that had been hoped for. Does he need more time, better pitchers to work with, or is he overrated, benefitting from the coincidence of having been with the Braves all those years?
Steven Goldman: I don't think that Mazzone and the Braves were a coincidence. I think that the opportunities for a pitching coach to make a good pitcher out of a bad one are very limited. More likely the impact of a good coach is that he can take a good pitcher and make him 5% better. The Orioles just haven't given him the material to work with. It's also going to take some time for his philosophies to get imprinted on the organization, as they were with the Braves.
Wiki (Uh, from Wiki): "On several occasions, the Flash has been shown in various races against Superman to determine which one is faster (or as part of a mutual effort to thwart some type of threat); these races, however, often resulted in ties (or indeterminate results). However, in recent races between Wally and Superman, West has been shown to be the faster of the two. It should, however, be noted that the Silver Age Superman was much faster than the current one."
Steven Goldman: Well, DC vaporized Wally West (or as Casey Stengel would have said, disappeared him) during the recently concluded "Infinite Crisis." We'll see what the new deal is. Maybe the new Flash won't run at all - he'll just be very snappy on an intellectual level.
blamberty (Bozeman, MT): The player from baseball's history, pre-1970, most like Albert Pujols is:
Steven Goldman: They're not at all alike physically, but the guy that first came to mind was Jimmie Foxx. The similarity is in the results.
Steven (Manalapan): Did you get a chance to read the long article written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr regarding possible voter fraud in the 2004 election?
Steven Goldman: LOL!
If you're going to get me in trouble you're going to have to be more subtle than that. Let's just say that I don't think that the All-Star balloting should be tabulated on Diebold machines.
Philly is Crazy (Philadelphia, PA): Doesn't the perceived lack of "hustle" on Bobby Abreu's part smack of rampant stupidity and just a little bit of a bias against Latin players among Philly fans? For god's sake, Jimmy Rollins is seen as some kind of fan-favorite, prototype leadoff hitter by "Joe Average Philly Fan," even though he's a hopeless putz in the 1-hole! I hope the Phillies do trade Abreu, for his sake, because when he's a star in NY he can enjoy his rings and laugh at how stupid Philly fans are.
Steven Goldman: I think it probably does smack of bias, but maybe I've been overly influenced by Allen Barra, having been on the receiving end of a good number of his tirades about how Dick Allen should be in the Hall of Fame and the way HE was treated in Philadelphia.
JJ (Wailuku, HI): How could you forget Bobby Cox pulling a young Andy Jones mid-inning for loafing on a pop fly into center?
Steven Goldman: This refers back to the last YCLIU, on the Tearful LeCroy incident. I shouldn't have forgotten Jones being pulled - roughly the population of Botswana has emailed me about it - but I didn't have the time to conduct my usual obsessive search before writing the piece. I felt satisfied talking about two incidents that had greater historical significance - the Jones incident was (retroactively) considered a turning point for the Miracle Mets, while the Jackson-Martin fight contributed to the disfunction that would cause Martin to be fired/resign a year later.
Rob Neyer (Portland, OR): Goldman, I'm chatting now! Only one sabermetric analyst can chat at a time; them's the rules. You'll have to wait until 2pm!
Steven Goldman: Gosh, I'm sorry, Rob. When we endangered species end up competing it makes it that much easier for the poachers to pick us off.
Was that the lesson of a Dr. Seuss book, or am I thinking of someone else? In any case, no doubt you're pulling in huge numbers despite my sideshow here. I'm content with my loyal, cult following and my comic book questions.
blamberty (Bozeman, MT): As you see it, does race play any role in public reaction of Bonds chasing and catching Babe Ruth? How do you see the environment if/as he nears Henry Aaron?
Steven Goldman: Call me naive, but I'd like to think we've made SOME progress in 30 years. Also, given the passage of time, people who were closely invested in Babe Ruth based on personal experience of having lived through his career or seen him play are no longer around now, or at least a vastly smaller number of them are. I think the cool reaction to Bonds has everything to do with steroids and his personality and less to do with the color of his skin - though I wouldn't be SO naive as to think that it didn't make a difference to SOME people.
Paulo (NYC): Is that really Eddie Vedder?
Steven Goldman: "Is that John Wayne? Is this me?"
Stan (NJ): If the 'Stros to put it together by the deadline, any chace Clemens approves a deal?
Steven Goldman: You mean from the Astros to someone else? No. After all, if he had wanted to pitch outside of Houston he could have signed with any other team.
carlosrubi (Mexico): "At the same time, the influx of Dominican, Cuban, Venezuelan, and Japanese players has tempered that somewhat."
No love for Mexico?
Steven Goldman: Lots of love for Mexico. I was worried I would leave out a nation and someone would have a problem with it. "You got issues with Oceania, man?" "Any reason you forgot about the Netherlands Antilles?" I didn't leave them out intentionally.
Handol (Fort Lee): Music - check. Comics - check. Politics - check. Yankees - Check. Please tell me you watch House, M.D. and/or Six Feet Under and I'll start working on your shrine in my basement.
Steven Goldman: I do watch "House" when possible, if only because I'm a big Hugh Laurie fan going back to his Black Adder days and I had to see what he would do in the part. I sometimes have problems with the formulaic nature of "House" and the season finale was a perfect lesson in bad writing and how TV shows sometimes show contempt for their audience, but Laurie is great in the part.
I have a friend who lobbies me on "Six Feet Under" a lot, but I find the very setting on the morbid side. This may be one time that I miss something good out of squeemishness.
I've gotten really into "Deadwood" lately - tore through both seasons in about two weeks - and was really disappointed to learn it will end after the forthcoming season.
TGisriel (Baltimore): As an O's fan, I still have a fondness for Mike Mussina, even thought he signed with the Yankees. What is he doing different this year that is making the difference in his results?
Steven Goldman: New changeup. If he wins the Cy Young or even 20 games the story of how Jorge Posada pounded him in a spring training scrimmage and Posada's answer that he knew what was coming will be repeated for years.
ssimon (Pelham, NY): Steven,
Present loyalties notwithstanding, which model do you prefer for a regional sports network: Model A - 24/7 coverage of TEAM; or Model B - gameday coverage of TEAM with news about other local pro/college sports? Is there a Model C you prefer over those?
Steven Goldman: I haven't watched every regional sports network, but it seems like Model B makes the most sense. After all, you want to have a viable 24-hour network that appeals to a large segment of the population, not just fans of a particular team. Not to shill for YES, but I think they've done a decent job of trying to mix in Yankees games, programs ABOUT the Yankees, programs of general historical merit like the Yogi Berra Museum roundtable with great catchers (catch that as a repeat if you can - they had Berra, Fisk, Bench, and Gary Carter, with Fisk dominating the discussion), and other sports programming like the Nets or soccer. I just wish they had a few more original shows.
wce (high and tight):
Speaking of bad outfields that aren't the Yankees, is there any hope for the (current NL champ) Astros to improve their OF production via trade, farm, threats, or mysterious oils, unguents, lotions, pastes or salves?
(Also, isn't Australia counted a continent these days? You can still choose Great Britain, or of of New Zealand though...)
Steven Goldman: Sorry about the minor delay - chatting is thirsty work. And if BP had a chat endorsement deal I'd even tell you what I was drinking. The outlook for Houston's outfield isn't great, though it should improve if only because of the law of averages - they're locked into Preston Wilson who should hit something at some point, and Jason Lane isn't reall this bad. I'm less sure about a Taveras rebound, but even he should have a .300 streak somewhere.
I imagine we'll see Chris Burke a little more in the near future. In the long term, I don't suppose they can rush Hunter Pence up, can they? Clay translates his current production to .268/.314/.552 at the major league level.
bowie (TX): Any interest in the new Babe bio by - gasp! - a Boston writer?
Steven Goldman: Sure, but I'm not sure the book has broken enough new ground for me to be really excited. I saw it a couple of weeks ago and gave it a little litmus test - did it have anything new to say about the mysterious stomach abscess/venereal disease incident of 1925? Ruth was officially hospitalized with the former, but it was always rumored to be the latter. Montville didn't have much to add on that score.
blamberty (Bozeman, MT): My all-time starting outfield is:
Steven Goldman: Ask me tomorrow and I'll give you a different answer, but... Ted Williams, Tris Speaker, and Babe Ruth.
Or Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle, and Frank Robinson.
Or Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb, and Stan Musial. I really like that one. It would not only be good, it would be flashy as heck at the bat and on the basepaths.
Dave (NJ): Williams, Mays, and Ruth looks pretty. Someone's gotta get the fly balls.
Steven Goldman: That's why I had Tris Speaker in there. No one talks about Speaker much but he could hit just about as well as any of the other greats and his fielding defined center field play for generations.
I just accidentally vaporized a comment saying I should have mentioned "Eight Men Out" and "Ball Four" in my list of great baseball histories. No argument from me on that score.
Keith (Portland, ME): Do you find yourself watching the Yankees with the emotional response of a fan? Or has your work as a writer and analyst divorced you from the final result? Also: Hammett or Chandler? Coltrane or Davis? Rubber Soul or Revolver?
Steven Goldman: After so many years of doing this I think I've become objective. At the same time, watching so many Yankees games I want to see them do well, because who wants to follow the Royals? I get frustrated at things I disagree with and excited by moves and plays I think are good, but I imagine that would happen no matter what team I was following.
As a matter of personal taste, I don't believe in being a fan the way many people are, creating an imaginary "We" where they are part of the team. I just don't feel the need to make a corporation part of my personal identity.
Chandler, Louis Armstrong, Revolver.
Dave (NJ): I realized what a hitter Speaker was, but what's a good resource to find the fielding ability of players from his era? Which metrics "stand up" going back so far.
Steven Goldman: Clay or Keith might have a better take on this than me, but all the disparate fielding methods hold Speaker in high regard. There is also the observations of contemporaries, which were unanimous in praising the Grey Eagle's abilities.
Not so much in the clubhouse, though, where he had some tolerance issues.
C. Joseph (Bend, OR): Okay, you did baseball histories. How about a top five baseball novels? I think I'd put "The Iowa Baseball Confederacy" and "The Brothers K" on my list, but after that, I get a little stranded . . .
Steven Goldman: I have a huge stack of the suckers set aside with the intention of making a study of the subject someday. For me, any list has to include Eric Rolfe Greenberg's "The Celebrant," about Christy Mathewson and hero worship, and, close to #1, "The Universal Baseball Association" by Robert Coover.
Double-J (Villa Park, CA): Robinson Cano leading all AL second basemen in All-Star votes? It seems safe to conclude that 1)as much as the media talks about Moneyball and the importance of OPS, it clearly isn't sticking to the minds of average fans, and 2)there are lots of biased Yankee fans in this country.
Steven Goldman: Obviously he doesn't deserve to be there, but I don't see much purpose in getting worked up about it. Every year the fans vote without regard to actual performance and every year whole forests are cut down so sports hacks can write about it. Not me. It's just a fact of life.
Jeterfan (YESmessageboards): Sosa in pinstripes?
Steven Goldman: Juan Gonzalez in herringbone! Raffy Palmiero in a tux!
LucaBrasi (With the fishes): Is it just me, or is Rickey Henderson really underrated? It just doesn't seem like a lot of people know how great he was.
Steven Goldman: His personality overshadowed his play a lot of times, which was a shame. No, he wasn't really valued as high as he should have been. Had the way things worked been better understood, he would have won the 1985 MVP over Mattingly. Not that Mattingly was a bad choice, but Henderson giftwrapped that RBI title for him.
GeekLove (SF): Given all this Man-of-Steel talk, what do you think of the upcoming Bryan Singer adaptation? Will it be better than that steaming pile we saw last weekend from Ratner?
And what's your storyline for a Superman movie? How do you dramatize such a boring character? Is it just a question of doing what Raimi did for Spider-Man 2 and really focusing the conflict on how hard it is to balance your dual identities? And do you think it's a problem that Superman, more than most famous comic book characters, has really lacked good villains overall?
Steven Goldman: I had a couple of questions about the X-Men flick. I haven't seen it yet. With kids, the job, and a general distate for hobnobbing with the movie-going public (I've written about this at YES over the years) I don't go to the theatre very often, and then I have to be assured I'm going to have a grand time. In the case of the X-Men, things seem to be split between the fans, who thought it was awful, and the less-invested reviewers, who thought it was kind of okay. I guess I'll get around to it, maybe even in the theatres, but I'm not certain.
I have high hopes for the Superman film. I don't think there's anything inherently boring about the character. There are so many spins you can put on him, from the dual identity conflict, to the stranger in a strange land aspect - which doesn't have to mean Krypton - as Jeph Loeb has discovered, it could mean Kansas. Then there's the conflict, increasingly relevant, of someone who always tries to do the right thing in an increasingly grey world, or a world that doesn't value the "right" thing anyway. There's also the visceral thrill - I think this has to be an element of all good Superman stories - that he gets beaten down but because he's Superman that inner certainty, that unshakeable feeling of duty, he rises up again.
He's had some good villains - Lex Luthor as reconceived by Marv Wolfman as immmoral tycoon was quite good because they had opposing strengths. Hitting the other guy wouldn't solve anything for either of them. They either fought through proxies (too often) or had to out-think each other.
One of the lame things that happened with Superman is that if you go back to the golden age, you can see just how quickly the writers ran out of ideas and started playing the character for laughs. It took decades to undo the damage and get back to the heart of the character.
Glenn (NJ): Why, as fast as he was, did Rickey play so much more LF than CF? Was he really that bad out there? BTW-I was at Derek Lowe's no-hitter in 2002 and Rickey played CF that day. He look OK out there and he was like 57 at the time.
Steven Goldman: He was okay as a center fielder range-wise, but he didn't have much of an arm and he also felt that there was less wear on his legs playing left. In the mid-'80s hamstring pulls were really a problem for him.
caernavon (Belmont, MA): Best baseball novel (from my small sample size): Brittle Innings, by Michael Bishop. And from the "underrated laughs" department: "The Year I Owned the Yankees" by Sparky Lyle, and "Screwballs" by Jay Cronley.
Steven Goldman: "Brittle Innings" is a new one on me. I'll have to check it out. Cronley too. Somehow the Lyle thing never, uh, sparked my interest.
Rob (Middletown, CT): Steve,
Do you have a particular baseball memory that stuck in your head for absolutely no reason? If so, what is it?
Mine is a Bernie Williams AB from the dynasty era, wherein Bernie took ball 3 and thought he'd walked. He got most of the way to first before (the ump?) got his attention and got him back in the batter's box. Next pitch (3-2)... Grand Slam.
Steven Goldman: Claudell Washington winning an 18 inning Detroit @ Yankees game September 21, 1988 (I think that was the day) with a home run off of Willie Hernandez. Don't ask me why - maybe it was the insane home run call by then Yankees color guy Tommy Hutton. It sounded like something unwholesome was happening there in the booth.
Dennis (Newark): With regards to rickey henderson, isn't part of the problem that his skillset kind of interfered with each other. In other words, a team could never trully maximize the value of his power b/c of his leadoff skills (speed / getting on base). Obviously, having the total package is great, but Rickey's homers were less valuable than don's.
Steven Goldman: I don't agree with that. The team that gets on the board first wins a great deal of the time. Leading off with a guy who might give you a 1-0 lead before a single out has been made is a great advantage.
collins (greenville nc): Wow, long chat. Thanks.
Do you think the Yanks are interested in getting Torii Hunter, and if they did, would they get Damon to move over to left?
Steven Goldman: I guess the could, and Hunter is one of the few sorta-interesting OFs who is a free agent in the fall. But moving Damon to left makes him a below-average hitter, especially at his current level of production - which, foot injury or not, stands to be roughly what he's going to do. Hunter also won't be an impact hitter in Yankee Stadium.
dempseer (boston): The Great American Novel by Phillip Roth. It's got everything -- war, politics, masculinity crisis, baseball managers with delusions of Biblical grandeur...
Steven Goldman: I like that book a lot. Laugh out loud funny in places- and don't forget Gil Gamesh, the murderous pitcher. One of these days I have to write the Johnny Allen story for YCLIU - as Bill James has observed, Allen and Gil Gamesh were kind of similar.
Patton1941 (NYC): Stones or Beatles?
Steven Goldman: Stones AND Beatles. But Beatles.
dirk (il): What about Survivor or Journey?
Steven Goldman: All I know is that as the Beatles sang on Sgt. Pepper's, we're getting very near the end.
Anthony (Long Island): We can't let you leave this chat without talking about the historic Tony Womack-Neifi Perez double play combo.
Steven Goldman: "Hello! Welcome to Wrigley Field! I'm Diane, your tour guide! Don't we have a lovely stadium? Note the ivy. It was planted by a young Bill Veeck when his father was president of the team. Don't worry, it's safe to look at it close up. Our team is at bat and fly balls are rarely hit this far. When you get a chance, though, do examine our authentic-looking baseball players. We've gone to great expense to put a team on the field so you can see what this ballpark looked like back when they played major league baseball here."
Brent (Raleigh): The Hartford Whalers Victory March song or the Meet the Mets song?
Steven Goldman: The Meet the Mets song in a walk. Love the change from the chorus to "'Cause the Mets are really rocking the ball, socking the ball, hocking the ball..." or whatever the words are.
The Yankees theme also has words but you rarely hear them. Whenever it's played I hear something in my head along the lines of "Here come the Yankees/dripping with chocolate sauce/ the Yankees/ playing ball for The Boss/the Yankees/ Everyone knows they have a great big payroll..."
bowie (TX): is T. Long the first sign of the apocalypse?
Steven Goldman: More like the last sign.
The penultimate sign was the length of this chat. It was keep going or get a haircut. I didn't feel like getting a haircut.
Shaun P. (Medway, MA): Sgt. Pepper or Pet Sounds?
Or is that kinda like asking Ted Williams or Tris Speaker?
Steven Goldman: A few years ago in the Pinstriped Bible I said that it had to be Pet Sounds. I got as much email as anything I had written about to that point, with the exception of the times that I said that Mattingly wasn't a HOFer. As good as Peppers is, there's some real filler there. Harrison and Lennon agreed.
Raz (NYC): Steven, help me understand why Angels would pay $28.5 MILLION dollars to Kelvim Escobar for 3 years of his services. Am I missing something, is he future Cy Young or do all mediocre pitchers make this much now?
Steven Goldman: As Christina said in her most recent TA, Escobar has proved to be a reasonably versatile pitcher. As for the specific amount of money, if Carl Pavano is worth $8 mil...
mcscolo (Colorado): I realize that you guys get 1000s of questions, but I still wonder why I can never get a question answered about DIPS ERA, particularly when it was discussed so frequently in BBTN. What's the deal? Does McCracken have you guys under a gag order? And when is BP going to make this stat available in books or on the web.
Steven Goldman: One thing that's kind of difficult about these chats is that as the questions come in they just roll down the screen, and there are hundreds of them, and while you're answering one question the next one you wanted to answer has scrolled own about six pages and it can be hard to find it. I had wanted to answer a previous question about the possibility of having DIPS stats in BP 2007. The short answer is that at the beginning of each annual, we have a meeting about changes we're going to make to the book. Last year, Chris, Nate, Keith, Clay, and myself batted around a bunch of ideas and the result was the revised stat line you saw in this year's book.
We'll have the same conversation again at some point later this year, and no doubt DIPS will be one of the things mentioned. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that space is very limited, so we have to take something out for each thing we add, lest we have to shrink the type to the point that you need a magnifying glass to read the book.
We already have some stuff planned in terms of having more/better stats in the books that I think will please a lot of people.
TGisriel (Baltimore): Will there be any market for the O's to trade Javey Lopez, Jeff Conine and/or Kevin Millar this summer?
Steven Goldman: I imagine so, but don't expect a great return. None of them are difference makers - they'll be "he can win a game for us off the bench" guys.
Teams may want them, though, because the coming free agent class is so thin so premium talent likely won't be in abundance on the trade market.
C. Joseph (Bend, OR): I thought that song about the end was on Abbey Road.
Steven Goldman: Nope. That's "In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make." The line I was quoting was, "We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/We'd like to thank you once again... We're getting very near the end." It's the second to last thing on the record before "A Day in the Life." ...Which may be a higer peak moment than anything on "Pet Sounds" OR "Dark Side of the Moon," another contender for all-time great that people like to bring up.
Josh (West Palm): Is the original Superman movie still the best superhero movie ever made? Do you give next year's Wonder Woman any chance of cracking the top 5? I mean, sure, it's Wonder Woman, but it's also Joss Whedon, aka Stevegeorge Spielberglucas.
Steven Goldman: The original Superman movie or the first Spider-Man movie. The problem with the former is consistency of tone. It's solid right up until Gene Hackman comes in. I enjoy Hackman's performance in a visceral way, and I like Hackman in general (especially "Unforgiven"!), but he's yukking it up, Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine are yukking it up, and it becomes very difficult to take things seriously at that point.
Similarly - when Lois is dangling from the helicopter and you see Superman going into action for the first time and they interrupt the moment with a lame joke (the guy saying, "Whoa, nice threads!") the excitement of the moment is undercut. You can't make a hero and mock him at the same time.
The dead Lois/time travel bit is laying it on a bit thick too.
One of things I always disliked was Margot Kidder, who I found grating and kind of un-sexy. But if you get the most recent DVD release, they have screen tests for a number of other famous actresses as well as Kidder, and you can see that she was the only one who even remotely attuned to the role.
Sam (Seattle): Speaking of trades, what are the chances that the Mariners will deal raul Ibanez? He's starting to get old and I predict a a decline like Olerud had. And when will Bavasi get fired?
Steven Goldman: They certainly should deal him if at all possible, but rumor has it they are holding on tight - their outfield is thin as it is after Ichiro. You can't have 90 days of Willie Bloomquist to finish out the season, can you?
I meant to say with the last post that I have great faith in Joss Whedon't abilities, but I question whether that character can be nailed. There are some internal contradictions in her backstory that need to be reconsidered.
Dave Littlefield (Steel City): Do I have: a) a plan, b) no clue, c) photos of Kevin McClatchtey molesting the livestock, or d) none of the above?
Steven Goldman: I don't know, but the public waffling on playing/benching Freddy Sanchez when/if Randa comes back really makes you doubt their grip on things.
Rob (Middletown, CT): I enjoyed Batman Begins more than I enjoyed Superman or Spiderman.
Steven Goldman: "Batman Begins" was quite good. The third act degenerated into a standard action movie scenario.
Fargo, MI (Novi, MI): Tigers vs. Yankees series. I think the Tigers had an inferiority complex going into this series, despite their record to date. They (including Leland and even the Tigers' announcers) almost seemed in awe of the Yankees' offensive depth. And then the Yankees were so adept at taking advantage of even minor "errors" by the Tigers (failure to complete a couple of potentially rally-ending double plays).
Your take on this series? Injuries aside, didn't the Yankees really show the Tigers who was boss? Will the Tigers learn anything positive from this series?
Steven Goldman: It's a bit facile to say they were intimidated, especially because the Yankees they saw really didn't have all that much depth. Also, Mike Mussina is a very good pitcher, so is Mariano Rivera, and anyone can lose to them when they perform well.
I was a bit surprised that Verlander got wacked around as much as he did. Still, the Yankees have a good offensive mindset, and even when playing reserves they make pitchers work for their outs... Except T-Long.
I think the Tigers can hang in. They're NOT the new 2005 Orioles. They have greater depth than that and a manager who, while we haven't always agreed with his one-outedness, seems to know how to deploy the players he has to best effect. Can't say the same about the O's last year.
carlosrubi (Mexico): What's better than a baseball-loving girl?
Steven Goldman: A girl who loves baseball AND comic books. And me. Which describes my wife. Eat your heart out, fellers.
bennoj (seattle): Ummm... the 'original' Superman movie was the animated short series in the 1940s... The world didn't spring into being in 1970 you know...
Steven Goldman: Those are great, too. The Fleischer Superman series was beautifully done. The Batman animated series of the 1990s took its look directly from those films. It's a shame they made so few of them.
A lot of the Fleischer Popeyes from that period are nicely done too, not like the crap that came after.
Handol (Fort Lee): Is there a danger in going into a season with a definite DH? In other words, I'm worried about the Yankees picking up Sheff's option with the notion of making him the everyday DH only to have guys like Matsui or Damon get banged up. Where do you put them then?
Steven Goldman: I think every team is different. You have to configure your team according to what you have on hand. And Sheffield isn't SO immobile that he couldn't be played in the outfield for a week or two if someone else got hurt.
I might argue that given a healthy set of outfielders, Damon shouldn't DH when not playing CF. He doesn't/won't hit enough.
lpiklor (Chicago): I'll never forget how disappointed I was when I DIDN'T believe a man could fly. I HATED all the Superman movies... Now then: In your rankings of best managers of all-time, where do you put Billy Martin (and don't forget HIS book... #1 rocked!)
Steven Goldman: As I said, Superman one was a pretty good effort, with reservations. I know a lot of people like Superman II, but it's really just a bastard stepchild of a movie with problems of tone and story structure. III and IV just aren't worth talking about.
I enjoyed Billy Martin's (Peter Golenbock's) "#1," but as I told Derek Zumsteg recently, it's also 300 pages of self-justifying bulls--t.
Ross (England): When you start a chat, do you have any expectations of talking just about baseball? I love how these always diverge into something completely different!
Steven Goldman: Nope, I don't. A lot of the other things we talk about, you exercise the same critical thinking muscles that we use here at BP to evaluate baseball, so I see it as sort of one big thing. And as long as you readers enjoy it and understand that we're going to wander a bit I'll keep on in that vein. Besides, I try to make sure that we do 70 or 80% baseball or baseball-related material.
Last time I did this someone complained - "Why aren't you just talking about baseball?" I thought, "When have I ever done that?"
Doggert (Holbrook): Superman sucks, he is perfect. Fine, the green stuff is the only weakness, thats boring.
batman is the best superhero ever!
Steven Goldman: Dude, you can be physically impervious and psychologically vulnerable. That's the trick to making him interesting. I was trying to say that before.
Sam (Seattle): You can have 90 days of Shin-soo Choo instead. Shouldn't he get a promotion soon? About Bloomquist, why can't people realize that you can't have a guy with a .300 OBP in a starting role?
Steven Goldman: Clay translates Shin-Soo's current numbers at about .272/.337/.399. Last season's translation was just a little better, at .276/.369/.409. This is very similar to what I wrote about Kevin Thompson over at YES today. That's not an impact player, but if it's better than what you've got, you might as well use it until something better comes along.
TGisriel (Baltimore): 2 baseball books you haven't mentioned, which are definitely in my baseball books pantheon are Earl Weaver's autobiography "It's What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts", and of course "Weaver on Strategy"
Steven Goldman: Both great, and you can thank Christina Kahrl for getting the latter back into print.
phil44 (Boston): The best second baseman ever is: a) Collins b) Hornsby c) Lajoie d) Morgan e) Womack? (He's just too easy of a target these days).
Steven Goldman: Making allowances for difficulty levels, probably Morgan. Among players I never saw, I have a soft spot for Joe Gordon, who could hit for power and was reputed to be a rangy, acrobating fielder. Growing up Willie Randolph was one of my favorite players too. Very underrated. The problem was that he got hurt just enough that he has four 90-something runs scored seasons instead of 100-run scored seasons.
Ben (Buffalo): Longest chat ever!!!! I'm impressed. High levels of VORP from Steven Goldman today.
Steven Goldman: Friends, we've just passed the four-hour mark and I should probably move on lest I lose circulation from the waist down. Thank you so much for all the great questions on a variety of subjects and giving me the pleasure of your company and the fun of THINKING. As always, I'm grateful for your patronage of the BP site and books, YCLIU, and of course the Pinstriped Bible. I look forward to next time. Have a grand weekend everyone.