You could look it up, but then you might miss out on chatting with BP's Steven Goldman, here to take your baseball questions, related to the present and to matters historical.
Steven Goldman: Good afternoon, friends. Steven Goldman here to take you through the afternoon at BP. Apologies for missing you on Monday. I'm here now with the usual accouterments of chatting--a classic rock mix, a cuppa Earl Grey, and pants. There's so much to talk about today, including Troy Tulowitzki's two HR game last night--nice to see Troy get crazy hot this month after a lost 2008 and a slowish start to 2009. That just happened to be on my mind... That and Nick Swisher, who some readers want to bench. And with that red meat thrown out, let's get started.
Mike (Queens): When a chat is rescheduled, do the questions we submitted last time disappear?
Steven Goldman: Didn't Holden Caufield ask that question in the vastly overrated "Catcher in the Rye?" Honestly, I don't know. As the Magic Eight Ball says, "Ask again later."
Mike (SLC, Utah): Although the Yankees are falling behind in the AL East, where would they be if they hadn't signed Sabathia, Burnett, and Tex?
Steven Goldman: Jersey City?
Of those three players, Burnett has been the most problematic, with up and down performances and a league-leading 44 walks. The idea that his contract runs through 2013 is just staggering.
Trevor (San fran): How good will The giants be in 2012 Thanks Steve
Steven Goldman: All I can think of is references to an early Rush album, and not my favorite. Do I even have a favorite Rush album? Would I admit to it if I did? I guess I can admit to "Moving Pictures," with honorable mentions to "Permanent Waves" and "Signals," and a friendly wave to the first side of "Power Windows." There's no accounting for taste. Anyway, 2012 is a long way off, and the Giants could be good enough to make the postseason right now with a few tweaks. They presently lead the NL wild card race, but will probably require another bat to hold the spot. I don't know if they have the trading chips to get that bat... It seems like we talk about every team needing to pry Adam Dunn away from the Nats, but were the Giants to get him and stick him at first base or left field, we'd probably see them in October. What happens three years from now is hard to forecast given just how few of the current Jints are going to be important parts of that team - Sandoval, Lincecum, maybe Cain (his contract is up after 2011), and I guess we can assume Buster Posey will be there. I'm not sure about anyone else.
Mike (Queens): Well, just in case my question disappeared last time, I was wondering what you thought of Barry Larkin's HOF chances. The guy doesn't seem to get enough credit for his fantastic career.
Steven Goldman: I think it was Bill James who said that the only thing Larkin couldn't do was stay healthy. Even with that caveat, he was still a tremendous player and easily one of the best all-around shortstops of all time. If anything makes me nervous about his chances, it's that his numbers are broadly similar to Alan Trammell's, and the voters have missed badly on him. That said, his numbers are a little better and a little flashier due to playing a bit later. He'll also gain in luster as long as he's not connected with PEDs and all the A-1 candidates are (fairly or not). In short, he'll be going. Maybe he'll wait a bit, but he should be in there. That is, he should be and he will be.
themcneills (PDX): Let's talk Prospectus Idol. It seemed to me like the overall quality of submissions this time around has been pretty mediocre -- aren't things supposed to be going the other direction? Do these writers just need more structure to shine? Thoughts.
Also, is Richard Bergstrom Nate Silver's nom de plume?
Steven Goldman: I wanted to thank Kevin, Christina, and Will for inviting me to their party this week. I really enjoyed the chance to participate and hope I get to again before the thing is all over. I agree that this week didn't have the strongest submissions so far, but it was also a very difficult assignment. First, it was open-ended beyond the very broad category of "historical," and trust me, self-generating topics can be very, very hard. Facing a blank page is never easy, and it gets harder when you have no real parameters. Second, the way the voting has broken down, the six candidates are more inclined to pursue a statistical approach to things instead of a narrative approach. The latter was probably also made difficult by the limited amount of time involved. I can do these things overnight (or two-three nights more usually), but I've spent years surrounding myself with the resources to do these things without having to camp out at the library. We do have one contestant who I think could probably do a good job with the narrative angle, but he doesn't seem to want to commit to doing serious work. Anyway, I don't know what this week's assignment is, but I'm sure with a more closely defined assignment the boys will be back on the beam.
As for Richard Bergstrom, I've noticed that some commenters like to jump on him because he posts so frequently, but I'm sure I speak for all of us here when I say that I look down on such tactics. The guy takes the time to be involved with what we do here. That's a dedicated reader, and no writer can be less than thankful for any example of that rare species.
J.P. (Hartford): So I'm going to the Mets game on Thursday and I don't think I own a jersey of a single healthy current player, so guess I will be the guy in the stands in the Edgardo Alfonzo jersey. I don't really have a question.
Steven Goldman: I'm not the type that wears living player jerseys (I do have a Casey Stengel #37 T-shirt), but if I were, I would think that a David Wright garment would be worth having. Given that he's only 26, it should be good for another ten years... I don't suppose you can get an Alex Cora model, can you? Tim Redding?
I do want to get an Ebbets Field Flannel 1948 Oakland Oaks jersey (Casey again, this time #1), but those suckers are pricey! I just can't bring myself to spend almost $200 on a shirt, even if I think said shirt would dramatically elevate my mood whenever I wore it.
Joshua (Austin, TX): The Houston Astros will next be relevant in 20__.
Steven Goldman: 20,000? Going into this year's draft, their minor league system was among the weakest in the game, and they seem extremely unlikely to go 1970s George Steinbrenner in rebuilding the team. Kevin had good things to say about their draft, and with one or two more like it, they could rebound sooner than I've predicted, anyway. They could spur that process by trading some of their vets, but bloated contracts probably make that a difficult proposition...
Tim (Tampa): So after the hubbub about bringing David Price up too late, does it look like perhaps the Rays brought him up a bit too soon?
Steven Goldman: No, not really. I think we've forgotten that there can be a transitional period for minors players coming to the majors, regardless of how impressive they are. You wouldn't have forecast Roger Clemens for 19 Cy Youngs off of 1984, Carl Hubbell was bounced out of Detroit before clicking with the Giants, the Braves sent Warren Spahn back to the minors after his first audition, and Jim Palmer didn't post an above-average ERA+ until year three. Price's minors numbers are what they are. Now he just has to evolve one more time. It should happen, but perhaps not instantly. This same impatience is something I see daily with the Yankees and Joba, Hughes, et al.
RHughes (nj): I have a Mitchell & Ness 1969 Yankees road jersey #1 (Bobby Murcer). Very cool, but I bought three cars for less when I was younger.
Steven Goldman: Exactly... It's a lot of money these days.
I don't feel comfortable wearing a current player jersey or T-shirt as I feel like it would somehow compromise the appearance of objectivity, but if someone were to hand me a Roy Sievers #15 1949 Browns jersey I would wear it no problem... I miss Bobby Murcer. It's not like we were close. We were barely acquaintances who happened to work for the same people. But he was very nice to me personally in our few encounters, everyone I work with spoke incredibly highly of him, and the cancer thing strikes close to him. Also, just purely on a baseball basis, I wish his 1971-72 seasons got more appreciation. He towered, towered above the league in those years.
...And yes, Sievers really did wear #15 in 1949.
ejohnson (westbury): If the 2009 Nationals faced off against the 1927 Yankees in a best of seven series, who wins? In how many games?
Steven Goldman: That should have been "close to home" in the previous. When I do these chats I try to type quickly and make a crazy number of errors. I assume you know that and give me a pass... This question seems mildly sadistic. I think even with adjustments for modern conditioning, relief pitching (which the Nats don't have), the slider (which the Nats may not have either), night baseball, you'd still have to give it to the Yankees, but it might take more than the minimum four games. That said, the pitch-to-contact style of Yankees pitchers would probably lead to a lot of long home runs for even the most lowly National.
P Bu (St. Louis): "I just can't bring myself to spend almost $200 on a shirt, even if I think said shirt would dramatically elevate my mood whenever I wore it."
Even with the now-broken zipper, I'm approximately 1,000 times happier while wearing my Crackers jersey than while wearing a suit.
Steven Goldman: I'm never happy when wearing a suit. A suit feels a lot like a set of pajamas to me. And what is it with people wearing pajamas out in public these last few years? One of the privileges of being a writer is not having to get dressed up too often, and even when I do I rarely wear a tie. This is a special benediction granted to us by Ted Williams, and I feel I am honoring the splinter whenever I leave the neckwear at home. The man hated ties more than he hated left-handed pitchers.
dianagramr (NYC): Speaking of RUSH, you DO know Geddy is a HUGE baseball fan, and can be found at many games while on tour.
Oh, and I think the Giants will certainly be relevant by 2112. :-)
Steven Goldman: I do. I know he's a big fantasy guy with multiple teams. I've often wondered if he reads us. If he does, he hasn't made it known to me, anyway. I will now spin "Closer to the Heart" in his honor. "And the men who pitch six innings/must be the ones who start..."
mattymatty (Philly): In reference to J.P. from Harford's non-question about jerseys, purchasing a jersey is an interesting conundrum. On one hand you want to have one of your favorite player, but on the other you have to be careful that your favorite player doesn't end up playing against your favorite team in a year's time. This is not only embarrassing (see "Damon, Johnny"), but expensive (see "Damon, Johnny"). I just recently put in for a Jon Lester jersey. Lester is signed through 2014 if the Red Sox want him that long. By that time I'll hopefully have saved up for another jersey if necessary.... I guess I don't have a question either.
Steven Goldman: I initially read that as "I just recently put in for a Johnny LeMaster jersey," which would make you my hero of the day. Or I would feel really sorry for your delusional state. I'm not sure which. Roy Sievers would be a much better choice.
Matt (Chicago): What one non-HoF retired player would you most like to have seen play in person? What one current player have you not seen that you would like to see play in person?
Steven Goldman: Hmmm. Ron Santo last played when I was three, and his prime was about five years before that. Of course, he should be in the HOF, you know it, I know it, so perhaps that answer is a bit of a cheat. As far as active cats, I've not yet seen Lincecum pitch in person.
BB (palo alto): if you can project posey on the 2012 team, why not project bumgarner and alderson in the rotation. they might arrive before posey?
Steven Goldman: I'm a little more squeamish about making assumptions about the progression and health of pitchers in three years than I am about position players, for the simple reason that the position player is somewhat less likely to have a carer-altering shoulder or elbow surgery (don't tell Coco Crisp I said this). That said, even if we assume they'll be there and be good, there's still the matter of the rest of the lineup to figure out. The pitching staff could be good, the offense questionable, which is exactly the problem they have now.
Weeserman (Milwaukee): Is it bad to wear the jersey of a living player? Lame?
Steven Goldman: I feel a bit weird about that kind of idolatry, even beyond my professional qualms, but that's just me. I don't think it is. Being a fan of the local nine can be about community, and wearing identifying tribal gear is part of that. I'm not a joiner by nature, but I don't begrudge others.
When I'm home working I wear pretty much 100% comic book T-shirts (I've got an Alex Ross-drawn Superman on now), which is probably ten times as lame to most people.
JFerg (MD): 1927 Yankees were unbelievable for there era, but I'm sorry they could not compete with any Major League Baseball team now.
Steven Goldman: Well, this is a bit like saying that even Napoleon's best troops couldn't stand up to the US Marines because we'd drop a nuke on them before the Marines even got there. If you're going to compare teams across vastly different eras, you have to rule out some anachronisms--Ruth would put down his 40-oz bat for something larger, etc--and assume adjustments would be made. Yes, you're in the realm of science fiction, but so is the question. That said, the '27 Yankees had some guys who would be fine today. If you've ever seen a picture of Gehrig with his shirt off, he was a buff guy. Not by today's bodybuilding standards, but he was strong, and films of him, which show a massive upper body with a powerful swing, don't invite any kind of pity for his primitive, emaciated state. Players like he and Ruth were also highly selective, which plays well in any era. They'd have to adjust to a smaller strike zone, but they would, and they'd also have some benefits, like being able to stand on top of the plate with the umpires stopping the pitchers from throwing inside.
hanjna (NYC): hey steven, whats the story with furcal this year? i know joe is resting him here and there on account of his offseason back surgery, but seems like hes undershooting his projection for other reasons
Steven Goldman: I think the back surgery is a big part of it. It just seems like he's not the same guy. He has hit a bit better this month, with some improved selectivity (11 walks), so perhaps the real recovery is still in process.
dianagramr (NYC): and if Ruth and Gehrig had access to PEDs ...
Steven Goldman: The idea of Ruth with access to anything like dangerous controlled substances is scary to contemplate. He was bad enough with bootleg gin. He would have gone away for the winter one day and come back looking like a giant grape or something.
oira61 (San Francisco): The replica baseball jersey worn by an obese fan has to be one of the worst fashion disasters of our times.
As a non-East Coast fan, can I ask you why Red Sox and Yankee fans feel the need to be insulting when visiting another team's park? Don't they teach manners in the northeast?
Steven Goldman: I could resemble that remark, but for the lack of $200... They teach manners in the northeast, but they don't teach good comportment while inebriated anywhere.
dianagramr (NYC): If you had to take a guess, how much do you think the Yankees had to shell out to insure A-Rod's contract?
And what happened to the plan to "ease" him back into playing upon his return .... 5 straight weeks of games without an off-day ... one HOPES there is no long-term impact.
Steven Goldman: Hey, D. I wrote about this in the Pinstriped Bible. I think what happened there was that the manager had competing imperatives. One was to win, the other was to keep A-Rod healthy, and guess which he picked? As long as Broken-Rod was hitting home runs it was undoubtedly easy for Joe G. to put concerns about his recovery aside, particularly since the potential substitutes were so dramatically unappealing. That's why I've been railing at the Yankees to make swapping for a 3B a priority. You can't expect rational decision-making without rational alternatives.
J.P. (Hartford): Yeah, that Lastings Milledge t-shirt didn't work out too well. Though I still wear it to bed sometimes. When I was at the Mets store in Manhattan a few years back they actually had a Jason Phillips one. It was marked down to like forty bucks, should have bought it. Also flirted with a Kaz Matsui jersey for a while. There is always the chance, too, that Omar will trade David Wright so we can get more grittier. (or that he will get fired and replaced by Mike Francesca, same result), so I am leery. Maybe I will wear the Piazza one and recall a time where we had someone who could hit twenty home runs.
Steven Goldman: Maybe you can get a Wayne Garrett #11 jersey... David Wright might not hit 20 HRs this year, but he could win a batting title, something that hasn't happened too often in the history of the Mets. In fact, using the standard of 400 PAs, the Mets have had just 35 .300 seasons, and only 19 of .310 or better.
dianagramr (NYC): "Is it bad to wear the jersey of a living player? Lame?"
Does David Ortiz count as living?
Steven Goldman: Given the preponderance of vampire films and TV shows and zombie literature, I would argue that these days the dead are more popular than the living. Man, pop culture is in a sorry state.
Drungo (SoMd): I desperately want a 1894 Boileryard Clarke Orioles jersey, but with no numbers and no name on the back people wouldn't get it. And I don't have the handlebar moustache to pull it off anyway.
Steven Goldman: I think I might break with authenticity there and just have "Boileryard" put on the back. Shame the Cubs didn't adopt numbers until Hack Wilson left. He did wear #4 with the Dodgers...
Tim (DC): Steve, what do the Yanks need to be doing to improve over the last 2/3rds? Is it just getting healthy? I am not sure I see a huge gaping hole...maybe their pen in front of Rivera? Or is that the problem...no clear upgrades?
Steven Goldman: I think the pen is going to be fine, and devoting more resources to pitching is missing the point. Outside of Wang starts, they're a .580 team, which may be a reason to stop screwing around whatever the perceived upside is. There's some park-inflated offense on the team, offense which may not last, and you could make an argument that replacing a Damon or Matsui would be in both the short and long-term interest of the team, especially since both expire at the end of the year.
WilliamWilde (Watertown, MA): Have you given any attention to the recent Grizzly Bear album? If you hear one "indie rock" album this year Veckatimest may be the most deserving.
Steven Goldman: With one more 'e' in there that would be "Veeckatimest" and then I'd be really interested. How is it the Baseball Project guys didn't get in a song about Bill Veeck? ...I've heard a lot about the GB album, but haven't had a chance to check it out yet. I don't buy a lot of new music these days, alas. The thing I'm most pscyhed for is the September Beatles reissues.
mattymatty (Philly): "When I'm home working I wear pretty much 100% comic book T-shirts (I've got an Alex Ross-drawn Superman on now), which is probably ten times as lame to most people."
I'm afraid... well, yes, yes it is.
Steven Goldman: You sure know how to hurt a guy, Matty.
Mike (SLC, Utah): I've heard some media member opine that the Sox could trade Buchholz and get something really good in return. The problem is, will the Sox still have Penny or Smoltz after this year? Plus Wakefield is no spring chicken. They really need Buchholz long term, so they can't really trade him, can they?
Steven Goldman: I think you've answered your own question. It would be extremely short-sighted.
RHughes (nj): My wife gave me a Roy Hobbs jersey one Christmas. Not a living, player, not even a dead one! Not even REAL. Not sure if this is REALLY cool, or REALLY lame. By the way, Hobbs never won a World Series ring, so, like A-Rod, he was a "loser," and the Knights would've been better off without him.
Steven Goldman: Plus, in the book he threw the big game, so you've got the fictional equivalent garment of a Chick Gandil jersey. I vote for lame, but give your missus an A for effort. How could she know what you really wanted was a Boston Red Sox Don Buddin jersey?
DanLong (NYC): where does Montero move on the top 100 Propsect list (in your eyes) after his performance this year and jump from Low A to AA?
Steven Goldman: The Top 100 is Mr. Goldstein's department, but I would guess that while Montero does move up, especially if he maintains the hitting at Double-A (and he's batting .302 so far, albeit with only two extra-base hits, both doubles, in 15 games), he's still a defensively limited player who doesn't necessarily have a major league position yet. He'll rank high on the bat alone and being a 19-year-old at Double-A, but my guess is that he'll still be a bit down the list behind more rounded position players.
That shouldn't take away from the justifiable excitement about this kid. It's amazing to think that with steady progress he could get a call-up as soon as next year.
Pat Andriola (Tufts): Does it make me a bad person for rooting for Oliver Perez extra hard because I own his jersey?
Steven Goldman: No, but it does suggest you occasionally suffer from poor judgment in picking the thing up in the first place.
Ted (Gainesville): You really think Hobbs threw the big game? I always thought that he really tried in that last at bat and messed up. But since you can't see intent, it looked like he threw it to everyone else, and that was the tragedy in the story. Any way you look at it, though, it's better than the movie.
Steven Goldman: It has been 20 years or so since I read the book, but IIRC your interpretation is the correct one. He put himself into the position to throw it, changed his mind, and whiffed anyway. I'm sure someone else will chime in with the right version if we've missed it. So maybe I change my Chick Gandil comp to Buck Weaver. That's a more nuanced shirt.
mattymatty (Philly): No offense intended, Mr. Goldman. I guess I just can't think of anything that is more dorky than comic books... other than maybe constantly updating an online chat of a statistical baseball website while sitting in a corner in my mother's basement.
OK, the last part wasn't true. [sob] yes it was!
Steven Goldman: Go read the Neil Gaiman "Sandman" series and then get back to me on dorky. Comic books are a delivery device for entertainment, and like all of them -- TV, movies, books -- there's good and bad, more of the latter than the former. Sometimes, though, as with the Gaiman, you get something worth holding onto. Occasionally there are even super-hero stories that transcend the cliches of the genre, though these are even rarer. And I make no apologies for liking Alex Ross's art.
Ken (NY): Which is more lame, your collection of comic book shirts, or the fact that I bought my Rivera jersey mostly because of Douglas Adams?
Steven Goldman: Another guy I miss. Maybe I'm also missing the connection, but I'm not sure how Adams relates to Rivera. If Rivera was a dolphin, I'd sort of get it...
Jim ((Cleveland)): How about Kenny Lofton's HOF chances?
Steven Goldman: My guess is he's got a very small chance, especially when a legitimately superior leadoff man like Tim Raines can't get a fair shake. Nor do I think he should go... He started a bit late, so his peak came up quickly, and then that was followed by a long coda that had some good in it but also a lot of just decent performances.
RHughes (nj): Speaking of THE NATURAL, I sometimes fantasize about A-Rod fouling off a ball behind the plate into the press booth and shattering the glass in front of Joel Sherman. But that's just me.
Steven Goldman: No glass, I'm afraid, and the new press box is big enough that the ball would have to change directions a few times to find a specific target. For the record, the spot for YESnetwork.com correspondents is in the last row, so the main danger to me is not foul balls but someone spilling sauerkraut on me as they pass by on their way back from the kitchen... The otherwise obscure Bama Rowell of the Braves actually did the clock-shattering thing at Ebbets Field in 1946. You could look it up.
Ken (NY): I didn't think I'd need to spell it out: what is Mariano Rivera's number?
Steven Goldman: Yes, nine of you just entered that. D'oh. And I don't think it's lame at all.
...My kids' babysitter just asked me if I'd heard anything good about "Transformers 2." I sobbed.
rawagman (Toronto): It seems as if the Jays have recovered from their hiccup following their early season hot-start. If the standings look the same once Doc Halladay returns next week, what odds would you give the Jays of hanging tight in the playoff race through to September? Making the playoffs?
Steven Goldman: I'm still not a believer in the long-term viability of that offense. I also don't know if they'll continue to have success with Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil patching the rotation (though I hope they do, because it's fun to watch).
mgibson (DC): Somebody (Simmons?) once talked about a "McNulty" Orioles jersey. That would be awesome. "Stanfield" or "Barksdale" would be good too, but then everyone would be scared of you.
Steven Goldman: How about Floyd Rayford?
Christina Kahrl (BP Volcano Hideout): This chat's decidedly Zog-less.
Steven Goldman: Anyone know where Christina can get a jersey with the name and number of a deceased Albanian monarch?
Louis (New York): Hi Steve, I find player jerseys, of players active or retired, fairly embarrassing for adults to wear... if they signal allegiance to a tribe of sports fans, it's an allegiance I'd rather not advertise in my day-to-day life (regardless of the team).
Wearing jerseys to a game makes sense, and I'm even fine with wearing a team hat in day-to-day life, but for some reason I find jerseys a little too over-the-top for everyday use. (Except when my wife wears her Posada t-shirt, cause she only became a baseball fan after years of watching me watch the Yankees, so I think it's kind of cute when she does it.)
Steven Goldman: I don't know what your wife looks like, but I'm imagining her wearing it without pants. Is that too personal?
Mark (CT): No question here, just want to say I completely agree with you about outfield fences. There is no good excuse for not protecting outfielders by padding all outfield walls.
Steven Goldman: One of the comments I got after writing that little rant was, "Would you pad Wrigley Field," the implication being that I'd be some sort of philistine if I said yes. Well, yes. I would pad Wrigley Field. Put pads under the ivy. I don't know how you'd do it, but I do know that nostalgia is not a good reason to risk someone's safety.
ashitaka (long beach, ca): Wait, Babe Ruth used a federally banned substance? The horror!
Steven Goldman: He paid for sex too, buffet style. Thoroughly disillusioned now?
seanp (Los Angeles ): I wrote you an email that you didn't answer awhile back about the Yankees and planning. I had a pretty good argument going that the Yankees NEEDED to get someone who could help fill in at 3rd on a constant basis (this was during the Ransom days of April). Now ARod looks like he could use some extended days off and the Yankees decided the brilliant solution is another dose of Ransom. Is this not horrible planning?
Steven Goldman: I get a lot of mail and I'm admittedly not good at keeping up with it, in part because I seem to be always running behind. I need a nanny... As I said before, it is poor planning, or poor reacting, because this is something the Yankees should have been working on from the moment A-Rod's hip required surgery. There is one major fault with Brian Cashman. He gets a lot of big stuff right, but seems to take a lot of small things for granted. "Sure, we have a 42-year-old catcher who is due for an injury, but he won't break, and if he does, well, Jose Molina will be jusssssst fine." Uh, no. Same thing with A-Rod. "Cody Ransom will pick up the slack and we'll roll on as usual." Wrong again.
frank leja (DC): Damon, Matsui, Cashman, Girardi --- how would you rank order the likelihood of their returning to the Bronx in 2010?
Steven Goldman: Frank Leja??? Now there's an obscurity for you. And a deceased one. I say Damon and Matsui no, Cashman and Girardi yes. I don't think Girardi has done a bad job. He's sometimes a little too enamored of the small ball, and his usage of the bullpen isn't always what I want it to be, but he's been more aggressive in trying to work out relief problems on a staff-wide basis than Joe Torre ever was. He also favored Brett Gardner over Melky Cabrera (or did) which earns points with me, has Joba in the rotation, and has tried batting Nick Swisher second. He's also a lot more candid with the public than he was last year. I'm not sure why he should take the fall if this club doesn't win.
Robin Ventura (Shea): I'm underrated historically, aren't I?
Steven Goldman: You were quite good for a long time without rising to an MVP-type level more than once or twice. In the history of White Sox third basemen you are unsurpassed. Admittedly, that's not saying much, but it's something.
Tim (Tampa): RE: Comic book nerdiness, may I remind the chat that "Watchmen" was named as a Top 100 NOVEL of all time by Time Magazine. Just because it's a graphic novel as opposed to a written novel doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad thing.
Steven Goldman: Exactly. And I think "Watchmen" is way overrated due to the lame last chapter.
arne0102 (Minneapolis): Catcher in the Rye overrated? You don't know how it feels to be real.
Steven Goldman: Hey, that book killed John Lennon, and I'm not forgiving it.
Tim (DC): Steve, regarding player safety. Isn't this a topic that, in the end, is the responsibility of the MLBPA? If the players feel that their work environment is unsafe, then they will be the ones pressuring the owners.
Steven Goldman: Yes, and I meant to say that in the initial post (didn't I?). It's for the MLBPA to argue working conditions with the owners, and this is one area where it seems like they're letting down.
Jon (Milwaukee): Dude, you can't talk about somebody's wife like that. Shame.
Steven Goldman: How about their mom?
carina (ny): So where do I get photos of Lou Gehrig without a shirt?
Steven Goldman: Not the one I was thinking of, but a quick search of Google shows this one- http://www.maniacworld.com/Lou-Gehrig-The-Pride-of-the-Yankees.jpg - which I believe is a still from a film taken at spring training... There's a more common one that's been in a couple of books about Gehrig, but if I go digging around in my stacks for it this chat will have to take a 30 minute hiatus. I not only need a nanny, I need a librarian.
...This year marks the 70th anniversary of Gehrig's farewell speech, and MLB is going to do some cool things to celebrate it, tying in to ALS research.
Jim (MD): Buffet style? How did the fit the girls under the sneeze guards?
Steven Goldman: See, no sneeze guards back then. I'm sure someone is nostalgic for sneeze-guard free food and feels that they're a sacrilege the way that padding Wrigley would be, and yet...
JFerg (MD): Do you think the HOF has been watered down due to people wanting to pay such close attention to career counting stats?
Steven Goldman: I think it can cut both ways. Those numbers are an excuse for the voters not to think. The numbers say yes or no, and you don't have to actually work out the player's actual quality for yourself. Hence a 300-winner is in, and Bert Blyleven isn't.
seanp (Los Angeles ): Since I got you here now, I'll bring up my other question I had for you. When I think of good bench, I'm thinking of a Tim Raines or a Darryl Strawberry- guys who can platoon, start in a pinch, that kind of thing- maybe a Rueben Rivera- I mean even Girardi and Leyritz were better offense backups then Molina is at this point, right? I mean even going back to the glory days, and I'm talking 47-64 here, we had Enos Slaughter on our bench for most of the 50s, the future HOFer and Cardinal great. We had Bob Cerv, Johnny Mize, Jerry Coleman. Every year before the season I read Dynasty: The New York Yankees from 1949-1964 by Peter Golenbock which is my favorite Yankee book. He has some great interviews with forgotten YAnkee legends, I think my favorite is with Allie Reynolds. Have you ever read it? Yeah I know the game was really different then with how everything worked but its just an example.
Steven Goldman: Dynasty is a valuable book, though something of a missed opportunity for all the uncorrected factual errors. It also misses input from Casey, who was still around when Golenbock was writing it but might have been too ill or borderline senescent to participate. Since a lot of the players take shots at Casey, his inability to respond unbalances the thing, and the author makes no effort to provide that balance himself... The late 1990s Yankees had a terrific bench, though that might have been something of a unique circumstance. The 50s bench definitely was, the combination of a productive farm system and a Kansas City team willing to store players the Yankees weren't using until they needed them back.
keef66 (Spartanburg, SC): With Pudge about to break the record for games caught, I'm wondering why almost all the top 10 leaders (Al Lopez the exception) are from fairly recent times. It's the opposite historical trend from complete games, innings pitched, etc. Are there people grousing (conversely from Bob Feller) about how all those old-time catchers were a bunch of sissies compared to modern iron-men catchers? Why the longevity now?
Steven Goldman: The expectations for catchers were different in the past. They weren't usually counted on offensively, which meant they were more interchangeable and could be rested more often, whereas taking Johnny Bench out of the lineup could kill you. The evolution of catching equipment was also slow and there were a lot more injuries, and thus a greater tolerance for vacation time.
willjosh09 (Poughkeepsie): How awesome is David Robertson's K rate?
Steven Goldman: Very awesome, and we need to see him in some higher leverage situations. You can have the fabled "Bridge to Mariano" if you want it badly enough.
kenraty (Houston): During the Rangers/Astros telecast yesterday, Tom Grieve mentioned the common policy for corner infielders to "guard the line" against extra -base hits late in the game. This was done right after what would have been a routine groundball out instead scooted past Young and Andrus into left field for a base hit. My question is, given how sophisticated measuring defense has become, has there been a study to support or denounce this popular move?
Steven Goldman: Not that I'm aware of, but I've often wondered if was a good play, since it stretches the defenders away from the middle of the field where the ball would seem more likely to be hit. I don't know that we have the data to do the study from the defensive point of view, but I bet we could see how many balls are typically pulled right down the line. My guess, strictly a guess, is that it's too small a number to pay for the other effects of the alignment.
g-mo (west bumpus): no, dude, MK-ULTRA killed lennon. you know it's true.
Steven Goldman: Funny, but that seems to have been the least of his problems, especially with the government off his back post-Nixon. I have often wondered, given that he had been a chain smoker for something like 25 years, if the cancer sticks might have gotten him not too many years after the assassin did. Still, he would have had those years... I also sometimes wonder if emergency response was better run in NYC in those days if he might have made it.
mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): It's much better to be a Pittsburgh sports fan than a Cleveland sports fan. But is it better to be an Indians fan or a Pirates fan?
Steven Goldman: The Pirates had the more recent World Series win, but I figure the Indians are more likely to win their next one before the Pirates do, regardless of the current standings.
willjosh09 (Poughkeepsie): I know you already answered a Montero question, but does he have a reasonable shot at being Miguel Cabrera?
Steven Goldman: Clay's peak translations for Montero's Florida State League partial season is .333/.409/.634. I take that with a grain of salt, but he just might be that good. It's always dangerous projecting exactly linear growth in one so young, but we'll know a lot more the further Montero gets into his Double-A campaign. Again, the question is, even if he is that good, where and when do the Yankees make room for him?
Holden Caulfield (New York): thank you, phony
Steven Goldman: Go ride your merry-go-round, Holden. The ducks in the pond are calling you.
Pierre (Paris): About chain-smoking musicians : how many of them have actually died of lung cancer ? I actually can't think of that many (make that any), yet any self-respecting rocker or jazzman would smoke his way to the hospital ward, right ?. Maybe Lennon would've been protected from that then.
Meanwhile your football team is beating European champions Spain 2-0. Congratulations.
Steven Goldman: George Harrison comes immediately to mind.
rich (nj): Whenever I hear someone singing the blues about Robinson Cano, I think of Horace Clarke. I was 7-years old when Clarke took over 2B for Bobby Richardson. The Yanks’ switch-hitting second baseman of the late 60s/early 70s - best known for breaking up no-hitters in the 9th inning three times in 1970, and rarely turning the double-play - actually had a fairly productive season in 1969 with career highs in nearly every offensive category. But what still blows my mind is his 9 – yes nine! – extra-base hits in 579 at-bats in 1968,
Compared to “Hoss,” Robinson Cano IS Rod Carew; heck compared to Clarke, Cano is LOU GEHRIG!!
Steven Goldman: The problem with Cano is that he's inconsistent, and as I have written many times, he kills you when he's cold. In contrast, let me offer Nick Swisher, who batted something like .150 in May but still had a .311 OBP because he took a ton of walks. Cano can be on a hot streak and still not produce a .311 OBP.
wilk75 (houston): Also...I can't figure out exactly why, but this is a very strange chat.
Steven Goldman: A lot of stuff about jerseys and one woman without pants. Also, I'm doing it so it's bound to be esoteric. Usually there's one guy who comes in and complains that not every exchange is squarely focused on baseball (he also shows up at Normandin's and Goldstein's chats), but he seems to have taken the day off.
mglick0718 (Oakland): In today's article you conclude that only the Phillies' own ineptness can save the Mets, but if you were Omar Minaya would you be looking to deal for reinforcements to try to save 2009? Or waiting and seeing, thinking that that could be a wasted effort, or maybe praying that the team can stay close until guys come off the DL?
Steven Goldman: I don't know how much ammunition he has to trade. When I talked about the Angels, I tried to show that having that one extra piece in Willie Aikens really made a difference for them that year. The problem is, the Mets need more than one extra piece. If they get one, they might be able to win a few extra games on the margins now, stay close, and then make a run in the second half, but that assumes everyone comes back healthy and productive. That seems like a big if just now.
Joe (Washington, DC): Steven: When you missed the chat on Monday you should have said that you were hiking the Appalachian trail. Oh, and how overrated is Tony LaRussa?
Steven Goldman: You know, I should have, but that story hadn't broken yet. Besides, he wasn't on the Trail, he was in Argentina(?).
Had to stop to seal the window in my office here as the grounds crew is outside with weed-whackers and I'm literally being gassed...
I don't know that LaRussa is overrated. I look at this year's Cards and I see an offense that is Pujols and little else, a not particularly impressive rotation (except for Chris Carpenter -- how can he pitch so well when he's never healthy?), and an improvised bullpens. Seeing this, it sure seems like all his manipulations are bearing fruit. He's also one of just 14 managers to take his team to five or more World Series, and he's done this while never managing in New York or LA--and his Cardinals are neither those of the Branch Rickey or the Busch years. You can't dismiss all that.
sbryk7 (Brooklyn, NY): I never liked Holden Caulfield. What about "A Farewell to Kings" from Rush? Is there a favorite in the NL East anymore. They all seem be falling apart.
Steven Goldman: I recall it as a decent album, tho' I probably haven't listened to it since I was 16... I've said all season long that the first of the NL East contenders to add talent via trade is going to be the one that wins, and I think that's still true.
The Indians just purchased Jose Veras from the Yankees, btw. Any reliever in a storm...
BR (NYC): Dude, thanks for the exceptionally long chat. Much appreciated.
Steven Goldman: My pleasure. I always enjoy exchanging ideas with you fellers and ladies. Unfortunately, I've got to be on other missions, so just one more.
Eric (Manorville): Do you approve of the way the Yankees are using Phil Hughes?
Steven Goldman: I do in the short term. I think there's nothing wrong with giving a young pitcher who has had trouble with consistency some lower pressure outings in the pen. Hughes has been good enough, though, that it's time to explore the upside, be it back in the rotation, which might eliminate the will he/won't he Wang stuff, or in higher leverage relief situations.
Shaun P. (Medway, MA): Hey Steven - is some bright person (young or old, doesn't matter) ever going to figure out a way to properly value the contributions of a manager to a team? Or is the consensus going to remain, most really don't help or hurt too much, and so who cares?
Re: the '48 Oaks jersey, don't think of it as $200 paid once, think of as $5 paid each of the first 40 times you wear it - $5 is a trifle to pay for happiness.
Steven Goldman: Yeah, but I also have to buy a new car -- my current one melted its engine on the way back from my appearance on YES last week -- and $200 sounds like roughly the size of a payment. I don't want to do a whole exegesis on managers here at the end of the chat, but I think that in most situations the manager can hurt a lot more easily than he can help, and then every once in awhile there's an important decision about playing usage that comes up (this guy starts/that guy gets benched) that can have a massive impact. The stuff about when to bunt/pinch-hit/pull the starter mostly washes out assuming a minimal understanding of the game, which just about every manager this side of Trey Hillman seems to have.
Jon (NJ): Longest chat ever! go for it!
Steven Goldman: But I've got blisters on my fingers!
Steven Goldman: Friends, as always I've had a grand time spending the afternoon with you and I look forward to next time. I hope our speculations have helped you pass the afternoon pleasantly and painlessly. On behalf of Baseball Prospectus and myself I thank you for spending the time. I'll be back here ere long, and if you have any other thoughts you want to share with me, leave your comments for today's new installment of You Could Look It Up, on injured Mets, the 1925 Yankees, and the 1979 Angels. Thanks again, and Steve out.