Jump in to talk with Steven Goldman, the co-editor of the new edition of the annual, to talk about the book, his column "You Could Look It Up," or to answer that question about Snuffy Stirnweiss you've always been afraid to ask.
Steven Goldman: Good afternoon, pilgrims. Steven Goldman here to help you avoid working on this chilly Friday afternoon. Remember that BP 2009 streets just after Valentine's Day (I'm pleased to announce at last check we are up to #58 on the Amazon hit parade), and that several of us will be coming to a town near you in March, starting with the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, NJ on March 1.
dianagramr (NYC): Hiya Steven ... thanks for the chat ...
So did Snuffy Stirnweiss actually star in any ... ummm ... "snuff" films?
On a more serious note ... how do you see the "Citi Field" naming rights brouhaha ending up?
Steven Goldman: Hi, D. Good to see you here as always. Snuffy never made a snuff film, although he did die an at an untimely 39 years old in a train accident. And there's an upbeat way to start our latest chat!
Aaron (YYZ): For a position whose only qualification is an ability to hit, how is it that so many AL teams struggle to get passable production out of their DH?
Steven Goldman: Joe Sheehan did a good column about this just last week. More than 30 years on, there's a stigma as to playing DH, and teams often don't do the obvious thing and stick their best young defensively challenged hitter at the position. I was making this argument to some pals at YES yesterday -- if Jesus Montero is ready in two years, and he's not a catcher, not a left fielder, and first base is blocked, well, who cares? I guarantee you they'll let him rot in the minors before that happens. ...I also wonder if there's a financial element to the decision-making that goes into DH.
Jack (NJ): Do you believe that the Wilpon's involvement in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme could possibly have cost the Mets Manny Ramierez?
Steven Goldman: Yes. That's not based on any inside info as much as the kind of chatter I'm hearing from the chattering classes.
Joe (Washington, DC): Steven: Joel Sherman has a piece up today about Jeter and what the Yanks will do when his current contract expires. It seems clear that he won't be moving off of SS within the next two years (and it seems just as clear that at age 37 he won't have a real position). So what does the team do?
Steven Goldman: This is the zillion-dollar question, one that I've asked both in the Pinstriped Bible and in BP 2009. I don't know, because it's hard to imagine the Yankees passing up Jeter's hunt for 3000 hits -- even though said hunt could shackle them the way Craig Biggio shackled the Astros.
Greg (NYC): Speaking of DHs, I think a team with NO options for the position currently on it's roster could do a lot worse than a strict F. Thomas/Griffey Jr. platoon. Plus it would be cool and fun to watch. I realize it's kind of a waste of a roster spot but one could PH for the other late in games, or the team could carry one less useless BP arm.
Steven Goldman: The roster constriction would be a problem, though you could still run Junior out to the various OFs as need demanded. I don't know that either player would want to play such a diminished role, and I worry that Thomas might just be finished. That's one part of the fretting that has accompanied the "ZOMG, there are a BILLION players still free agents! Collusion!" stories that has been overblown. Thomas is one of my favorite players, but were I a GM I wouldn't want to bet very many dollars on him or many of the other vets still unemployed. No doubt Thomas and those vets don't see it that way.
Rich (NJ): Steven,
Taken in context with the era he was playing in, where would you rank Bobby Murcerís 1971 offensive season (.331/.427/.543) with those of other Yankee stars of the past 40 years? The numbers are gaudy enough by todayís standards, but given the norms of the early 70ís (1971 A.L. average .247/.317/364), that has to be considered a bona fide monster season.
Ironically, Murcer finished 7th in the MVP voting that year, while he finished 5th the following season after a somewhat inferior, if still impressive, performance (.292/.361/.537).
Itís been 34 years, but aside from rumored personality clashes with Gabe Paul and Bill Virdon, I still canít figure out what the Yanks were thinking when they sent Murcer packing to S.F. in October, 1974. His disappointing showing at Shea that season (though he caught fire in September and carried the offense during the teamís ill-fated pennant drive) seemed to be insufficient reason to jettison the teamís best player; especially when theyíd shortly be returning to Yankee Stadiumís short porch after one last season at Shea.
Steven Goldman: I know I've written about Murcer's 1971-72 before. He was crazy good in those years, a 10-win player in context. If you ranked all the big seasons by the Yankees, these would rank somewhere after all the big Ruth/Gehrig/DiMaggio/Mantle seasons, but still quite high up the list. I don't know what went wrong between Murcer and George Steinbrenner and I got the sense that neither did he, though it might just be that George's hair-trigger impatience got the better of him after Murcer's rough showing at Shea. You're right that those years deserve to be better remembered. Unfortunately, no one was thinking about offensive context in the early 70s.
shamah (NYC): OK, channel your inner New York City Sports Talk Radio host, and answer this question. Yankees have lots of corner OF's: Matsui, Damon, Nady, Swisher. Yankees have no co-catcher to help Posada. Mets have no left fielder. Mets have two catchers, Schneider and Castro. Is there a deal to be made here?
Steven Goldman: Do I HAVE an inner NYC sports talk radio host? Would I admit to having one even if I did? Isn't that like being a secret sheep-ophile or something? I like Castro, but he breaks when you use him. A 33-year-old reserve catcher also seems like a pitifully small return on a starting outfielder. Finally, all those guys cost money and I don't think the Mets are up for that. Finally, what's wrong with Daniel Murphy?
kingstephanos (boston, ma): Would trading for a very young catcher like Carlos Santana (Indians) or Willin Rosario (Rockies) be viable options that the red sox should explore?
Steven Goldman: I certainly think they should look for a C, but perhaps something more ready than the fellers you named. They're at a place in the team life-cycle and in a division where you don't want to wait for a backstop to mature, you want to just plug one in and keep up the high level of competitiveness. They are probably still keeping tabs on the Rangers' excess backstoppage. The Sox have a deep enough system that they can make a lot of things happen if they want to splurge... I want to thank our Colonel Ben Lindbergh for the big pile of Sloan tracks I'm listening through as I do this.
ericturner29 (Chicago): Say nice things about the Cleveland Indians. (Honesty optional)
Steven Goldman: They're a very well-run organization, they have a solid farm system, and they should finally be rid of Andy Marte by the end of spring training. I also look forward to their trying to filter Matt LaPorta into left field somewhere in the second half.
Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Sloan? Really.
I'm underwhelmed if that's word.
In all seriousness, they lead a short-lived amount of hype that Halifax, NS (A beautiful little city that's also their hometown) was going to be Seattle North in the early 90s. Still, I saw them in Halifax a few years ago on the Stones bill, and they weren't well received.
Let me ask about that baseball thingy while I'm at it: Aceves in 2009 and beyond, what's your prediction?
Steven Goldman: Colonel Lindbergh is a huge fan of anything Beatles-derived, and Sloan fits the bill, hence my ending up with the tracks. I haven't listened enough to pass judgment yet, but on a superficial level the stuff has been pleasing to the ear. You're going to make the Colonel weep, Clancy. ...I'm not sure about Aceves yet, his rise was so meteoric. He's a smart pitcher, but the low strikeout rates trouble me. Maybe I'm just seizing on the too-easy Mexican/Mexican analogue, but the player who keeps coming to mind is Esteban Loiaza. There's an "ace" in "Aceves," but I don't think he'll live up to that.
Andrew (Ohio): Which absurdly young stud has the better '09: Jay Bruce, Justin Upton?
Steven Goldman: I still cannot see Bruce's name without getting ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" stuck in my head. So thanks, Andrew. Thanks a lot. My instinct is Upton based on his strong September, though Bruce was also quite good that month. If I say I think they'll both be good, is that a cop-out? If I had long-term chips, I'd bet Upton.
Eli (Brooklyn): Should the Yankees make a run at Pudge Rodriguez or did him running over Joe Girardi's dog close that avenue?
Steven Goldman: One of the really disturbing things that Yankees fans will see coming out of spring training -- well, let me correct that. There are two scenarios, both equally disturbing: (1) Posada is healthy enough to catch, but the Yankees feel nervous enough about this durability that they carry both Jose Molina AND Kevin Cash, or (2) Posada isn't ready to start the season so the Yankees start the season with Molina and Cash as their catchers. As such, YES! YES THEY FREAKING SHOULD BRING IN ANYONE BREATHING! YES!
...I actually raised this point on last night's Hot Stove show on YES, though somewhat inarticulately: Brian Cashman's biggest gamble last season was not relying on young pitching, but in going to war with an old catcher and assuming his (to that point) incredible durability would carry them through another year. That he has decided to double up on that bet is really disturbing and will reflect very poorly on him should Posada not be ready to go.
Aaron (YYZ): Will Jeremy Hermida ever pan out as anything near the player he appeared to be as a prospect in Triple-A?
Steven Goldman: One of the things about Hermida that keeps me up nights is, "where did the walks go?" Who coached him out of his selectivity? Can he get it back? I was excited when there were rumors that he might be moved, as I figure he's still young enough that a hipper organization might be able to sort him out, and it's also clear that his ballpark is doing him no favors. He hit .203/.273/.312 at home last year -- how do they NOT trade him? Right now I would have to say that the answer to your question is "no," but I hold out hope for the Red Sox or some other team getting him and building on the guy who has hit .284/363/.467 in 755 career road PAs.
Nater1177 (Philly): The Rays massive improvement from '07 to '08 screams 'regression to the mean' for '08. Alternatively, the players ages (and swapping the Floyd for Burrel) screams 'more development ahead'. Which competing force wins out?
Steven Goldman: I think the latter, as long as they have so many pitching alternatives in front of them. Don't forget that David Price in the rotation should also be an upgrade over Edwin Jackson, Carlos Crawford should have a better year in him, and right field and DH weren't solid areas of production and they've taken steps to upgrade those. The D should also continue to be solid. They did overachieve, and maybe they won't be +5 on their pythagorean again, but they might not need to be.
Adam (Rochester): Your best guess, who has a better 2009, Burnett or Joba? Alex Gordon or Chris Davis? And why are the A's spending millions on Russ Springer?
Steven Goldman: Joba, Davis, and "veteran leadership?" Billy's interest in Springer frankly surprised me. That said, I do admire Springer's longevity and late-career productivity.
ScotMartin (TX): In this year's BP book, did you pass on the Rangers chapter to a different author?
Steven Goldman: Why?
Ryan (NY): BP 2009: Great book? or The Greatest Book?
Steven Goldman: I've now worked on four of these and written for five. You wouldn't ask me to choose between my children, would you? I think we did what we always set out to do, which is to give you a book which is not only a thoughtful look at the upcoming season, but is readable, provocative, and entertaining. There are a lot of fantasy aids out there, but there's only one BP annual. That's the standard we set for ourselves and I'd like to think we met it.
Ryan (NY): Is there any way for us to see who the author is on each chapter?
Steven Goldman: No, although if asked we generally tell. It's really more correct to say PRIMARY chapter author, and maybe even that is a misnomer. The annual is a collaborative, staff-wide exercise, and a lot of hands touch every bit of the book. As such, in many cases it would be unfair and inaccurate to credit a single author. That's why we don't do it. "Baseball Prospectus" is the author of the book, with Christina and I overseeing things to assure a consistency of quality and tone. It's not like the authors are in witness protection or anything.
Matt (Chicago): Steven -- I know in the past, some have raised the issue of the annual being somewhat sloppy in terms of typographical errors and the like. I know that the writing and editing time is fairly condensed, but what (if anything) have you done this year to address those complaints/concerns?
Steven Goldman: Matt, I'm glad you asked that question. Copy-editing is a highly technical skill, and to the extent that Christina and I have expertise in anything, it's not focused in that direction. Our main job is to make sure that the baby is born, not that its hair is combed. We fix what we catch, which is a lot, but given that we're dealing with a 450,000-word (plus numbers) MS that comes together in only a few weeks, there's always more -- but again, our focus is on getting it all assembled and making sure we don't leave out the Cardinals chapter, or leave Albert Pujols out of the Cardinals chapter (times 30), and fishing Nate off the talk show circuit so we can have PECOTAs in the book, and so forth. A copy editor does come in later, but because of the haste with which the book is assembled, they do more of a copy-skim than a full edit.
I think this is always going to be something of a problem, and it frustrates the heck out of me. The trade-off we could make is to start assembling the book earlier, but that would mean a less timely product - and you know that we pride ourselves on being the last of these books to go to press (ours went out on 1/15). All I can ask is that you be patient with us and know that it's not about sloppiness, and not about a lack of care, but simply the result of the way the process takes place.
glenihan (NYC): When do the pre-ordered BP 2009's ship out?
Steven Goldman: One more on the annual: as I said at the outset, the book should start shipping out right after Valentine's Day. I will post a note to BP Unfiltered when I receive notice that the copies have gone out.
ScotMartin (TX): The Rangers chapter last year felt to me like it was written with the intent of emphasizing *only* the negative and ignoring anything positive about the current organization. I am hoping for a different perspective this year.
Steven Goldman: See my previous comment about how authorship works in the BP annual. Also, allow me to quote you part of the last line of the chapter essay: "It isn't implausible to suggest that they'll be confronted with the additional challenge of transitioning young pitching talent while climbing back into a title chase."
LSUdavidterry (Dallas): Here's a quote from Steve Phillips from ESPN's $40MM challenge.
Steve Phillips: Ö I was also surprised as to how much talent you can get for $40M.
Steven Goldman: That's hilarious. I am consistently amazed that Phillips can make a living as an analyst. Having him explain team building is a bit like having Henry Kissinger give a lecture on how to foster peace and amity in Southeast Asia.
Andrew (Fayetteville): I have been tearing my hair out watching the Angels sign Rivera and offer 160 million to Teixeira, but not be in the market for Manny. Obviously it would help them offensively. Also with a huge latino population in the Anaheim area it would put more people in the seats and generate massive revenue. Frustrating. Anyways, can you give me one bit of info that makes me feel optimistic about Angels in 09?
Steven Goldman: I keep wondering if the financial crisis has affected Arte Moreno in some substantial way, because he's been uncharacteristically conservative this winter. Before yesterday's Hot Stove show, I said to Tyler Kepner, "The Angels haven't done anything," and he said, "They got Fuentes." I thought to myself, "Like I said, they haven't done anything," getting Fuentes being a break-even move on the loss of K-Rod. I think they're still the team to beat in the division given their pitching depth, it just might be a bit more of a struggle this time around.
...Stephanie in DC, if you're serious and have real bona fides, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll talk.
dianagramr (NYC): Re: Murcer and Boss George ...
If I recall from Bobby's autobiography (still can't believe my all-time favorite Yankee is no longer with us ... sigh), the friction was more between he and Gabe Paul, and Murcer wanting a $100,000 contract. The fact that Bobby couldn't tater in Shea gave the Yanks the excuse to get rid of him.
Steven Goldman: Sorry for the slight delay there - momentary technical difficulties on my end. Mainly what I recalled of the Murcer dispute was that George had promised him that he was a Yankee for life, and then he quickly wasn't. I miss Bobby too - a very good man. Re your question about Oscar predictions, I have seen so few movies this year that I don't feel qualified to answer. I'm pretty strictly a home video guy these days, and I'm well behind on that. I think I will take my daughter to see Coraline this weekend, though.
AlexBelth (Bronx, NY): Steve, I caught you on the YES hot stove show last night. Your point about the team's biggest flaws last year--Posada's injury, Melky Cabrera's poor offense and Robbie Cano's poor everything--and how they haven't changed this year is well taken. But how good could the team be if all three players improve from their 2008 seasons?
Steven Goldman: Let me get another member of the Bronxbanterblog.com team. You can catch said appearance at www.pinstripedbible.com. Please disregard my unpleasant face and inability to form coherent sentences. Brother Alex, I think you're positing a best-case scenario. Obviously the Yankees would be in good shape to overcome their other weaknesses, which could include very weak production from the outfield corners, and be very tough to beat assuming consistency around the field. As for whether that will happen or not, I don't have high hopes for Melky and am hoping that Brett Gardner overcomes his mostly weak projections. I feel good that Joe Girardi joins me in that wish. I expect a significant bounceback for Cano. I'm very worried that Posada won't be ready for opening day. One out of three ain't bad?
TGisriel (Baltimore): Do you think Pie will emerge in Baltimore,or will he hit like he did in Chicago?
Steven Goldman: I have high hopes. The worst-case scenario seems to be a terrific defensive unit out there with Pie, Jones, and Markakis - shades of the Steve Finley, Brady Anderson, Mike Devereaux outfield that helped revive Baltimore's fortunes in 1989. The thing with Pie is always going to be selectivity. If the Orioles can help him on that front maybe he can break through. I feel like 2008 was a lost year for him, one of stagnation. He has more in him than he was able (or allowed) to show in Chi, but stardom seems like a big, big reach to me.
hdl327 (Montclair, NJ ): Why are the Yankees letting Bobby Abreu go? He has been so good for the team, and I can't see that this guy Swisher has stats even close to Abreu.
No one seems to address this. Did he not get along with someone??
Steven Goldman: They didn't want to get locked into a multi-year deal for a declining player. It's that simple. Given that Abreu's walks and power were trending downward and his defense was abysmal, the only real edge he had on Swisher is batting average. If the Swish can get back to just .250, he'll be right there with Abreu in productivity. That's if he plays. If the Yankees stick with Nady in right, your question has a great deal more validity. The Yanks would be letting the tail wag the dog - "We got him, now we have to play him."
mschroeder14 (WI): Can we get a one-sentence 2009 Travis Snider preview/prediction?
Steven Goldman: He could have enough trouble making contact that he has trouble hitting for average and gets into some frustrating slumps, but he's young enough to make big strides if the Jays show more patience than they have did Adam Lind. ...Switched to Squeeze at random. Does the guitar solo from "In Quintessence" ever get nominated as one of the best ever?
Patrick (MPLS): Thanks for chatting, Steven. As an apparent fan of power pop, what are your thoughts on the New Pornographers? I saw them close out a show with a cover of "Don't Bring Me Down" that floored me. Baseball-wise, is it wrong to wish my favorite team (Twins) would be a little less successful so as to learn from their abundant mistakes? They do the same thing every winter, yet are just good enough to think they don't need to change their approach.
Steven Goldman: I'd like to hear what their excuse for not making a run at signing Adam Dunn is. Had they non-tendered or traded Jason Kubel, they could even have considered the salaries they gave him each of the next two years (roughly $3 million and $4 million) as a discount on Dunn's dough. The Twins hit the fewest homers in the AL last year and they didn't walk either -- what a difference a 40-homer/100 BB DH could make to their outlook.
Ryan (NY): As I go for the all valuable 3rd question in a chat. How about this one: What is the worst thing about being on TV?
Steven Goldman: You know, I don't keep track. I should. Honestly, the worst thing for me is having to see the playback and look at myself. The second-hardest thing, and I'll be doing this shortly, is being booked on a morning TV show for (say) a 7 AM appearance. That usually means getting up at 5 AM, practically before I've gone to sleep, getting into a jacket and tie, taking a cab in the predawn darkness to some studio in the middle of nowhere (which inevitably still has its front door locked and you have to go looking around the loading bays for someone to let you in). You then wait for an hour or so before going on set. When you get there, the weather man who will be interviewing you tells you he doesn't really follow baseball. He then asks you 2.5 minutes-worth of softball questions before they bring on the next act, some young woman who has just published a book about doing pilates at home with buckets of cement. Now it's 7 AM, you're physically destroyed, and your day is just wrecked. Twelve hours later, you have to go to a book signing and be alert and entertaining... I always tell myself I'll do some sightseeing or something in those 12 hours, but I inevitably end up going back to my hotel room and falling asleep.
Aren't you sorry you asked?
mike (chicago): quick take on wuertz trade to A's? are ellers/robnett enough of a return?
Steven Goldman: Wuertz is an interesting guy in that he's not necessarily LOOGY material - righties seem to have a little more trouble with him. I don't think the Cubs got any kind of return for him, really - barring some kind of breakthrough you won't be hearing from those guys again - but then they always treated Wuertz as an afterthought.
Andrew (Washington, DC): Cashman has more or less re-stocked the pitching part of the farm. However, I predict that Goldstein will describe a huge drop off in talent after Jackson/Montero in terms of position players. Has signing too many FA destroyed the farm?
Steven Goldman: Not so much signing FA as simply very poor drafting and development when it comes to position players.
Ron Gardenhire (Metrodome): "I'd like to hear what their excuse for not making a run at signing Adam Dunn is"
We have Carlos Gomez, who even though he runs around like a chicken with its head cut off, plays defense!
We have Denard Span, who despite having his best year ever last year after years of crap in the minors, we are sure will get better!
We have Mike Cuddyer, who does magic tricks in the clubhouse and throws hard!
We have Jason Kubel, who showed grit by coming back from an injury!
We have Jason Pridie and Luis Matos in AAA, and they both can run fast!
We already have the worthless Delmon Young, who I'll trade for a bowling ball! Why add another guy that won't play the Twins way?
Steven Goldman: I don't know that I can add anything to that except, "Also, he costs money."
...Jim in PA, email me with your bona fides.
G-MOTA (West of Bumpus, now): Hi Mr. Goldman!!! You are the finest in the land. I'm writing because I just found out that Bowie Kuhn was a Knight of Malta and it completely blew my mind. Did you know that? Does it fit in with your conception of Kuhn's politics, or his tenure as commish? And have any other commissioners been members of the SMOM?
Steven Goldman: Does that mean that Bowie tried to stop Indiana Jones from getting his hands on the Holy Grail? That would have been just like Bowie. It also explains why he stopped Charlie Finley from trading Vida Blue for the head of John the Baptist.
greg (San Diego, CA): What team makes the most sense for Andruw Jones, considering he seems to be focused on going somewhere for playing time rather than competing for a championship?
What about Pittsburgh? They have a gaping hole in LF and could use a RH bat.
Steven Goldman: What kind of shape is he in? It would be good to see him really committed before someone tries to buy in. The rumored Yankees invitation took me by surprise, but it makes all kinds of sense...
Steven Goldman: Pals 'n' gals, I had been prepared to go on at my usual length, but I've just been informed that a family emergency (nothing mortal, so worry you not) requires my attention. Keep watching BP Unfiltered for information about the BP 2009 release and our upcoming tour dates. As always, thank you for electing to spend part of your day with Baseball Prospectus and myself. Stay healthy, and I look forward to seeing you in person on the tour.