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Chat: Steven Goldman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday January 19, 2010 3:30 PM ET chat session with Steven Goldman.


You could look it up, but Steven Goldman's pale and rested from his BP annual exertions, and happy to talk baseball and take your questions.

Steven Goldman: Good afternoon, BP readers and fellow travelers. Steve Goldman here to take you through another Tuesday afternoon during this swampy pre-spring training period. Thanks for joining me despite the later start to this chat--had to make an unscheduled visit to the doc's. That aside, things are good: the annual is away to the printer and will be winging its way to you in early February, it IS the biggest annual ever (as I speculated in an Unfiltered post a few weeks ago), and a book tour is beginning to take shape. Remind me to say more on that later. I've got a mug, I've got a cat, I've got tunes, let's talk some baseball.

Conan (LA): Give me 5 reasons why I should buy BP2010.

Steven Goldman: In no particular order:

1. More players and in-depth comments than we've ever done before by perhaps the best group of writers we've had since I've been working on the book. As always, this is not just a fantasy guide, it's a book you can read and, I hope, enjoy for the content. I checked out a competitor's product recently and once my eye adjusted to the tiny font I was disappointed to see that it was, in fact, not in any language I recognized.

2. We've put a lot of energy into fine-tuning PECOTA and I think the projections will better than ever. We've also added MLB percentage to the comp line, which shows what percentage of the season the comparables played in the majors.

3. Three words: Kevin Goldstein, centerfold! Well, we've spared you that, but we do have Kevin's 101 top prospects.

4. The most up-to-date book on the market. We made our last changes last week. As my first answer in this list indicated, most fantasy books/mags are put to bed waaaaay earlier, which means they don't know about most of the offseason moves. We do, and what we don't have we'll be updating here on the site, be it through Christina's TA, revised PECOTAs, and so on.

5. That lovely green cover can also double as a very, very small pool table when your friends drop by unexpectedly.

Fred (Pequannock, NJ): Hi Steven. I think your McGwire/steroid comments over on the Pinstriped Bible make a lot of sense. When I use them to argue with friends, however, they always come back with: "Yeah, if we 'don't know' how much of an impact that steroids had, then how come all of those records were smashed during the so-called 'steroid period' and the three main guys who were doing the smashing were obviously using?" Help?

Steven Goldman: Because a lot of other things were going on. The composition of the ball changed. The composition of the bat changed. There was a great wave of park-building and a lot of them were friendlier places for the home run than the old ones. There was an expansion. There was a tightening of the strike zone. And as I suggested somewhere in the Pinstriped Bible last week, the country is a half-degree warmer than it used to be. And yes, players discovered weight training, with or without extra help. I'm sure I'm forgetting about a half-dozen more.

doog7642 (Blaine, MN): Beatles Rock Band has changed my life. Well, at the very least, it's given me something to do while I wait for the PECOTAs. You can't truly appreciate the genius of Paul's bass line in "I Am the Walrus" until you can pretend to play it on a video game.

Steven Goldman: You know, I read the other day it hadn't sold as well as anticipated. I don't own that system so I don't have it, but somehow as a Beatles enthusiast I'm disappointed anyway... Paul is the great uncelebrated bass player. Want to really test your chops? A pro-bassist friend of mine was saying this: try to play the bass part of "Silly Love Songs" while singing it at the same time. It's really hard. Of course, I'm kind of a cro-magnon with any instrument I pick up, so don't take my word for it... Actually, at the risk of embarrassing myself, I'm going to have a web site up in the near future where you'll get to hear some examples of my cro-magnon musicianship, including at least one song about baseball. Yeesh, I'm blushing already.

Christina Kahrl (BP Volcano Hideout): Gotten used to seeing sunlight again?

Steven Goldman: Barely. My skin seems to burn in the light. I've taken to wrapping myself up like Claude Rains in "The Invisible Man" before going out. The chicks seem to dig it. You?

AJ (PA): Is there a historical precedent for D.Wright's HRs falling off like they did last year? HOF-type talent at age 26? Is it significant in predicting where he goes from here?

Steven Goldman: The guy I always think of is Gary Gaetti, Twins third baseman, in 1984. In his rookie year of '82, Gaetti hit 25 home runs. In 1983 he hit 21. In year three, at age 25, he hit five and in doing so probably cost the Twins a division title in a year in which the Royals scraped into the postseason with just 84 wins. The next year he was back up to 20 and of course hit 360 in his career. He wasn't as good a player as Wright, being a badly impatient hitter, but there seems to be a similar arc there in that it wasn't park changes that did him in (the HHH was the HHH was the HHH) but some kind of mechanical failure. Wright DID change parks, but given his road performance was less than Ruthian, it seems mechanical issues are to blame here as well. As far as predictions, I would think he'd get over it, and if you see him blasting away at the fences in spring training you can bet that he has..

David (Seattle): Mwah hah hah! King Felix is ours for 5 more years! No Yankees poaching!

Steven Goldman: Curses! Foiled again!

...The Mariners have made some really interesting moves the last couple of seasons, and particularly this winter. They could really surprise in the weak soup that is the AL West, especially with the A's going Lackey-free. They're a bit short at catcher and it would be nice if Michael Saunders hits, but still, you have to like their chances.

casey (cal): The book is too big. It intimidates and mocks me.

Steven Goldman: Think of it as your bigger, tougher friend, one that can double as a weapon in a tight spot. Besides, you know what they say about guys with big books...

strupp (Madison): Steven, how are you feeling, hope the book didn't stress you out too much. Thoughts on Granderson in New Yankee Stadium?

Steven Goldman: I think he's going to do very well there. His PECOTA didn't blow me away (.268/.351/.491) but I think it's in roughly the right place. Even if not, it will be a nice bounce-back from 2009, a year in which Comerica really savaged left-handed hitters for some reason. Granderson hit .267/.345/.516 on the road last year, and PECOTA seems to think that's where he's going to be overall this year. The Yankees will take it, but now that Johnny Damon has moved on, there's a lot of pressure on Brett Gardner and whoever they mix in with him to provide enough offense that the Yankees didn't merely transfer their LF offense to CF and vice-versa.

formersd (San Diego): Since you just finished the Annual, any team who chances you view more favorably than popular opinion?

Steven Goldman: I know I just talked about the Mariners, but probably them. Some GMs (Ed Wade) come in for a lot of criticism in the book (Ed Wade), others for praise. Off the top of my head, because the book is a kind of jumble to me (I last read it in lots of little disconnected fragments, Jack Zduriencik probably comes in for the most praise.

Mike (NYC): Would the Yankees make a trade for DeJesus and if they would what would be a fair deal for both sides?

Steven Goldman: There have been times in the past when I thought that they should, and it still makes sense for the Royals to make a move if they can get a few prospects from someone. This is especially true this year, as DeJesus moves into his option/buyout year (although his $6 million for 2011 is not exactly killer-- it's just $750,000 more than they're giving Kyle Farnsworth).

Nick (Jakarta): This is a serious question: Does the book ship to Jakarta? Anything in PDF form? I'm worried my BP annual fix won't happen this year.

Steven Goldman: It will go anywhere that Amazon, B&N.com, or the publisher (Wiley) is willing to ship it. If you've got a place to receive mail, I'm sure someone will send it to you.

Matt (SD, CA): How much editing vs. writing did you do for the annual?

Steven Goldman: If I answer that honestly, will it be a good thing or a bad thing?

I wrote a couple of chapters on my own, wrote a couple of other essays, contributed the odd comment to a few others, and added or subtracted a line from virtually every other bit of the book as part of my co-editor gig with Christina. It's our job to smooth out the batter and pick out any bits of coconut that inadvertently got added to the recipe.

Ted (New York): Regarding the steroid issue: I really don't know or think steroids had much, if any, of an effect. And you're right to point how that there are examples throughout history of athletes seeking competitive advantage through drugs and other means. But what I find frustrating about the discussion (and I'm not saying you do this) but is the tendency for people on your side of the discussion to belittle people for being angry and upset with steroid users. Their decision was an ethical failure. It's not as if McGwire didn't think he was doing something shady and wrong when he did them. He did it in secret. He didn't come out until years later. In using, he helped contribute to the culture that compelled people to do these potentially dangerous drugs. Just because Babe Ruth ate horse balls for testosterone and tons of players did greenies back in the days, doesn't exactly excuse McGwire and Co's crappy decision-making.

Steven Goldman: I don't feel that I'm belittling anyone. You know, I had this reader over at the PB say something like that the other day, that I was "huffy" in a response to a reader. When I said I wasn't, another reader quoted something I wrote back to me and said, "Read that and say it's not huffy." Well, it doesn't. In my head it sounds the way I wrote it, which was in my usual tone. My job is to craft things well enough that you can't read more into it than I intended, but it is also true that the reader brings a great deal to the table, and you want to perceive me as angry or self-centered or thin and handsome, well...


Anyway, I agree with you completely in my essay on this for Commentary, I said the same thing, that their sin was one of omission, as the lie about what they were doing was bigger than the impact of the thing itself. I don't excuse that at all. What frustrates me (gets me "huffy," if you will) is the failure by the mainstream media to consider this point, to assume that they know what the effects were, and for someone like Harold Reynolds on the MLB network to say that even if he was just doing it for medical reasons it was still a competitive advantage. Which is bull. At that point you're just drawing lines between different colored pills. In the PB I talked about Thalidomide, which was good, then evil, and now, when used properly, is good again. This ground shifts all the time, and there's no acknowledgment of that.

Nick (Manhattan): I'm curious about the annual. Did Joe Sheehan contribute? And are the authors cited at the end of team sections so that we know who is writing what? I've always thought it would be nice to know who did what because you have such distinct voices.

Steven Goldman: Hi, Nick. No, Joe did not contribute. It's not something he had chosen to do in recent years. Consistent with long-standing BP tradition, we still have not by-lined the chapters. As we've said many, many times before (and as I alluded to a couple of answers ago), too many fingers get into each chapter to make that an easy thing to do. Let's talk about the St. Louis Browns chapter in the 1953 Baseball Prospectus annual. I might write the essay and the Rogers Hornsby manager comment. Jay Jaffe might do most of the comments, but as editor I might feel that his Dick Kryhoski comment missed the point, so I might ask him for a redraft or for various reasons (Jay may be skiing in Utah) change it around myself. Then I'll ask Kevin Goldstein to come in and take a look at what we wrote for all the prospects on the team, and in a couple of cases, Kevin might say, "You know, the Joe DeMaestri comment really overestimates his minor-league numbers. I have three scouts who tell me he hits with his eyes closed." So Kevin will rewrite that one. Then Christina will take a look and add her two cents and add and subtract a few more details (sometimes this happens in the opposite order -- she starts, I close). After that, it goes to the publisher's editor, who makes his own comments. Those come back to us, we evaluate them and keep what we can use, and stamp it finished -- at which point they trade the whole roster and Christina and I have to scramble to account for the changes, which causes even more rewriting.

See what I mean? And aren't you sorry you asked?

Harold James (Brooklyn): What are your thoughts on the Leno/Conan debacle? I'm With Coco.

Steven Goldman: That it was a spectacularly predictable series of events. Those evening talk shows are painfully vapid, and at 10 O'clock, when there's much more competition in terms of viewing that might actually surprise you, they have no chance. At 11 people want a soporific. At 10, they're still looking for stimulation. Just a huge misjudgment by the folks at NBC that doesn't make sense even if you only look at your margins for just that one hour.

CTYankee (Hamden, CT): I saw your post on Lou Gehrig on the Pinstriped Bible. I looked up Gehrig's minor league records on Baseball Reference and there's no data for the 1922 season. My guess is that the records are simply missing but I was wondering if you could shed any light on that.

Steven Goldman: This is all from memory, so if I screw up the fine details here, forgive me: In 1921, Gehrig was scouted by the Giants and was encouraged by John McGraw to turn pro and play in the minors, albeit under an assumed name so that he could retain his college eligibility. Gehrig did this at first (I think he played under the name Louis), but soon realized that McGraw had asked him to make a risky move and quickly left and went back to college. For this he always resented McGraw, who, Gehrig felt, had taken advantage of his youth and inexperience. The reason you see that gap is that he spent 1922 at Columbia University, batting balls off the library. His career resumed in 1923 when he was more legitimately signed by the Yankees.

Chris (Boston): How come the barnes and noble description of the annual doesn't say anything about a top 100 prospect listing? I got it for the first time this year and wasn't sure if its included.

Steven Goldman: Because the publisher supplies those descriptions, not us, and they somehow opted to leave it out. We have Kevin's top 101 prospects in the book this year, as always.

Joe Mauer's Dad (Minny): Is my son better off signings with the Twins or heading to the bright lights in New York wearing the pinstripes?

Steven Goldman: He wants to live, doesn't he? He's from Minnesota, played in Minnesota, how about varying things up a little bit? In all seriousness, this is kind of the crux of the matter. If the Yankees are interested there is little doubt that they (or the Red Sox or Mets or Angels) could top whatever best offer the Twins make. If Mauer wants to get every last penny out of his skills, play the big stage, and so on, then he should take the best offer and scoot. If he's happier enjoying home cooking, then there's no sin in leaving a million or two on the table. In terms of your question, it really depends how you define "better off."

Phil S. (NJ): Prepare to reap the whirlwind of taking the unpopular side of a raging debate. No question here, Steve. Just wanted to say I enjoy your writing and I'll catch you at the Yogi in March(ish?) if the promotion schedule allows a visit.

Steven Goldman: That's the fun part. Yes, we'll be at the Yogi. I think we'll be filming the event, too. And we look forward to seeing you as well. These events are the big payoff for spending a quarter of the year alone in your office checking that the correct number of Fs are in Trevor Plouffe.

Sal C (Brooklyn): How much do you think Xavier Nady can possibly command? And also, don't you think a couple of mil for a guy they gave up "prospects" for would make sense for the Yanks?

Steven Goldman: You put "prospects" in quotes correctly. As much as I hate to say it, Nady wouldn't be a bad signing if the Yankees are going to restrict him to platoon work most of the time. That said, I'd rather have someone like Rocco Baldelli, who you can at least run out to center for Granderson now and again. Nady doesn't give you that kind of versatility.

Jquinton82 (NY): Trade Stephen Drew, Austin Jackson and Budd Norris for David Freese, Scott Downs and CJ Wilson? In a dynasty league and have no relief pitching

Steven Goldman: I don't usually answer fantasy questions, but you do know that the Rangers are going to try Wilson in the rotation this spring, right? Even if he does go back to the pen, seems to me you're overpaying.

JZirinsky (Washington, DC): Steven,let's talk politics for a minute: What are your thoughts on the MA special election today and what it might mean for healthcare in this country?

Steven Goldman: My feeling is this: the people tend to punish the party they think is screwing them. Whereas Obama and pals have had just a year to do that, as opposed of eight years of the other guys, well, the other guys are out of sight and out of mind. Specifically, the administration has taken its eye so far off the ball they look like late-career Ruben Sierra. It was, from day one, not the war, not healthcare, not any other danged thing, it was jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Instead, they got involved in other stuff, much of it important, but not as important as that. So they gave the banks billions and did relatively little for jobs creation, and everyone can see where their priorities are. If they had just helped put people back to work, they could have had anything they wanted on healthcare (which, btw, they mismanaged) or anything else. Coakley, win or lose, is just the people's pinata of disillusionment. As for healthcare, my guess is that the so-called centrist Dems take a Brown win or even a narrow Coakley wins as a rebuke and go running for the hills. Given that the bill is so badly flawed, I'm not sure that's a bad idea.

Ryan (Pittsburgh): You don't think Jose Tabata is a prospect??

Steven Goldman: He's a prospect, but not a prospect worthy of the ?? you just gave me, particularly not at the moment of the trade, when the Yankees dealt him after some major discipline problems. Yes, he's operating at a high-level for a 20-year after a few years of not doing too much, but this is a guy who also has 26 career home runs in 431 games. He doesn't walk, not yet, and he's not a big speed guy, so if the power doesn't develop he's going to have to be a consistent .300 hitter to play.

Drew (Oakland): Brett Anderson 2010 = Ace, or Ace-in-training?

Steven Goldman: If Oakland's D improves noticeably than he might do a decent impression of ace. Even an incremental improvement on his second-half performance (3.48 ERA) would get him there.

Jack Zduriencik (Seattle): Have I done enough in my brief time with the Mariners to be considered a top 5 GM selection if their was a GM Draft?

Steven Goldman: I'd have to take a moment to figure out just who is in or out of my top five (Theo, definitely, Beane, I think so... Kenny Williams? He's done more good than bad whatever his rep, but Alexis Rios is a real negative. Cashman? He probably has to be there...) As I said earlier, I'd like to see how this winter's moves pay off, but he's definitely a comer with some original ideas, which seem to work out to, "Bring back the Deadball era." A Damon or a Dye might have disproportionate value to them, don't you think?

collins (greenville nc): Would you say the Twins are Central frontrunners right now? Would it behoove them to pony up $6M (or whatever) to get O-Hudson? Or Washburn? Or both? Thanks for the chat.

Steven Goldman: Thank you for hanging out. It's the Twins or the Tigers. The Verlander-Scherzer, Porcello top three is pretty intimidating if everything breaks right, Valverde gives them a bit more bullpen depth... I'm a bit skeptical of the offense. As for the Twins, every extra bit you give that infield helps. Hardy is a step in the right direction, Orlando Hudson would be another. That still leaves them short a third baseman, but with the Twins asking for a professional-level infield is apparently like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. It's just unthinkably demanding and presumptuous... I'm not a big Washburn believer.

ripfan008 (Baltimore): Hi Steve. Thank you for chatting. What is your opinion on the Speaker/Cobb affair regarding throwing the final game of a season? Although they were officially cleared by the commissioner, do you believe they were guilty?

Steven Goldman: It has been a long time since I really scrutinized the details, but I suspect that they decided to make a few bucks, yes. Thing is, Judge Landis did the right thing in many ways, something that Bud Selig should have done during the whole Mitchell Report period, which is to say, "I declare a general amnesty on anything that happened before X date. If you do anything now, I'll throw the book at you, but otherwise I don't want to hear about it." That's what Landis did after the Cobb-Speaker affair, saying that if it happened before 1920 it was none of his business. There was no other way to get people to let sleeping dogs lie.

tommybones (brooklyn): So athletes from numerous sports, across the globe, all in unison are simply fooling themselves when they claim steroids make them faster, stronger and better? And a bunch of stat geeks who get the flop-sweats if they drink too much caffeine know better than those who use? Olympic athletes risk their reps and careers over a placebo? And the enormous power surge in the steroid era was simply a coincidence that had more to do with El Nino than the PED cocktails these clowns were taking on a regular basis? Which made their forearms grow into tree trunks? I love you guys, but when you keep making these statements about steroids not helping performance, it makes me think you're all completely out of your bloody minds. In my mind, you've seen something that looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and decided to call it a fish.

Steven Goldman: You're vastly oversimplifying. Steroids lead to the production of testosterone in the body which, when combined with crazy exercise, can lead to the building of additional muscle. It's not like Barry Allen getting struck by a lightning bolt and a few chemicals and turning into the Flash. So bigger? Sure, but I'm not certain that adds a great deal to hitting a baseball. Stronger? Granted, but strength isn't the only aspect of hitting a ball, even hitting it farther -- you still have to hit it right, and there are also consequences to being over-built in your swing. To go back to Ruben Sierra again, he became so musclebound he had no flexibility at the plate and couldn't reach a pitch an inch outside. Faster? Okay, but track stars pick these things up and gain fractions of a second over a complete race, so much is the average player going to gain running 90 feet?

The only thing we know is that some players got bigger. Given the population of known users, we don't even have a uniform series of effects, because not every user turned into McGwire, not by a long shot. I'm not dismissing the effects of steroids, I'm just an agnostic as to what those effects were. As for walks like a duck, lays eggs like a duck... Sometimes it's a duck and sometimes its a honkin' platypus.

Do I sound huffy? What does huffy sound like, anyway?

Finally, I really dislike the whole "If they didn't do that much, why did they use them argument?" People put all kinds of garbage into their bodies thinking it will be helpful.

Yatchisin (left coast): I know all you BP writers have forsaken southern CA, but it would be great if there was a book event somewhere south of San Francisco this year. Please.

Steven Goldman: We'd love to, but publishers quail at the expense of flying a bunch of us out there and then paying for the four-star hotels and restaurants which is the natural-born right of any BPer. More seriously, I should point out that the days of the book tour are dying a rapid death, because the expense of doing more than what's in the author's back yard is making publishers nervous in these tight economic times. If you'd like to see us keep going out on the road and talking baseball, then please make a point of coming to this year's events, and not only coming, but buying something, be it our book or a Charles Dickens novel or a Harlan Ellison collection. Heck, one of us will be happy to make a recommendation. Or browse with you.

Hawkeye (ND): Brandon Morrow or Trevor Cahill? Long term who do you like?

Steven Goldman: That's a really tough question, because you have Cahill's low K-rate versus Morrow's high walk rate. I'd like to think that with the latter, the Jays might leave him alone long enough for him to get the problem nailed down to a point that it's livable. Cahill really needs to imrpove his command past where it was last year to be a long-term success.

Jake (LA): Remember when Jets fans called Mangini - Mangenius? I think people should relax on Zduriencik. Just let Milton stir the pot some.

Steven Goldman: Like I said, I like what he's doing in principle, but I'd like to let this year develop before I give him a Branch Rickey Award.

...Thinking about the question on bylining chapters in the annual, one of my favorite lines in the book is in the Red Sox chapter, and it's not by the chapter's main author. I happened to be talking to Marc Normandin as I was working on the chapter, and as he follows the Red Sox very closely, asked his opinion about a particular player. He said something that was both wise and very funny, and I added it to the chapter. Just another example of the all-hands aspect of the tome.

Christina Kahrl (BP Volcano Hideout): That said, I'm going to the All-Star Game in Anaheim this summer, and pulling something together in SoCal in July would totally work.

Steven Goldman: So be on the lookout for something from Christina on that front. We'll always continue to do our own events, no doubt about it.

Workmanlike Procrastinator (Grey Cube, DC): Twins : infield :: Oliver Twist : gruel was clever. Did you think of that just now, or have you been saving the line for a while? I'm wondering if you're a naturally quick wit, or if you're like me, thinking of a great retort ten minutes too late.

Steven Goldman: A little of both, WP. Part of being a writer is having a quiver full of analogies ready to go, and Oliver Twist is a classic response that is filed in my brain under the subject of "MORE." Sometimes I can be johnny-on-the-spot with a good quip, but like just about everyone else I've had more than my share of what the French call (I'm going to screw this up, so pardon my old high school French) l'espirit d'escalier moments, which refers to all the good things you think of to say as you're storming down the stairs after having just lost an argument.

You know, this thing wasn't refreshing for a couple of minutes, so I thought you had all left. Now I see I have more questions. I felt really unloved there for awhile.

Patrick (MPLS): Hello Mr. Goldman, thanks for the chat. While I'll admit to being more of a Yankee hater in the past, I don't think they (or their fans) are evil or that they should really be doing anything different. I just want to know that Yankee fans understand what it's like to have a favorite team that isn't able to outspend everybody else by a wide margin. Believe me, I wish my team was "putting its money back into the team" or "doing everything it can to win," but that's not going to happen. Is it any wonder the fans of most teams want MLB to do more about the revenue disparity between teams? And isn't it in the best interest of baseball to have all teams able to compete on a regular basis, thereby increasing the overall fan base?

Steven Goldman: Let me answer this question with a question: doesn't the recent joint statement by MLB and the Players Association regarding the Marlins put any doubt into your mind that the impact of revenue disparity has been grossly distorted several teams?

macman (va): I think Nick Johnson could turn out to be a very good grab for the Yanks. How much playing time do you see him getting and what stats do you expect?

Steven Goldman: I'd like to think that keeping him off the field will help him stay healthy, but who knows -- he not only got hurt with the Marlins, he got sick as well. If the Yankees are smart, they might treat him a bit like they did Hideki Matsui last year, which is to give him the odd scheduled day off, skip him against the occasional left-hander, and if there's turf involved, let him watch the game from the best seat in the house. Short of wrapping him in Mylar and filing him between the team copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 and Showcase #4, I think that's probably the best formula.

Jack (Chicago): Have you seen the photos of Geovany Soto from this past weekend's Cubs Convention? He has lost 40+ lbs. Is there a point where a player can lose too much weight, especially behind the plate?

Steven Goldman: Never mind him, have you seen Alton Brown? I turned on Iron Chef the other day and thought the man was dying -- just turned out he had worked some Atkins variation. Atkins scares me, both from the point of view of cardiac health and I also understand the boomerang possibilities are pretty good. ...There is a long history of players who have struggled to keep their weight up during the long season, just as there has been some, like Soto, who have struggled to keep it down. Both have their negatives. Will Carroll would probably have a more informed answer to this question than I do and maybe he'll chime in here before we quit.

gecko1 (cupertino, ca): Not to beat a dead horse but the steroids discussion is really frustrating. The point isn't whether the steroids did any good, or whether the decision by the government or baseball to ban them was arbitrary. The use of HGH, anabolics, etc. was illegal. Full stop. Say I'm running a marathon. The course layout is by definition arbitrary. Heck, ALL the rules in a sport are "arbitrary". That doesn't mean it's OK for me to run a different course than the other entrants - even if I could argue later that I gained no advantage from it. Cheating is cheating. Watching people rationalize it just drives me up the wall. If you want to criticize writers, managers, owners, etc. for not saying or doing anything about it in the 90s but moralizing now, that's fine. But Mark McGwire and crew don't deserve ANY sympathy at all. They knew it was wrong. Frankly, merely having their reputations tarnished is getting off easy.

Steven Goldman: I agree with you, Gecko. They did something that was against the rules. Yet, people do that all the time, don't they? They speed. They park in the handicapped spot. They smoke where it says "no smoking." They pay the children's menu price for their kids when the kids are over 12. They cheat on their taxes. They buy stocks on insider tips. Batters erase the batters' box lines and load their bats. Runners go out of the baselines. Fielders make phantom tags. Pitchers have balk moves, or cut the ball. Granted, not all these things are equal, but there are degrees of breaking the rules. We don't run our world in a way that you're either okay or you're committing murder. So you're right, you're right, you're right -- so if the PEDs didn't really do that much enhancing, what level of dudgeon do you think is really appropriate?

BL (Bozeman): You wrote eloquently in Forging Genius about Casey Stengel's indifferent play while with lower division teams (Philly and Boston, right?) before being 'liberated' by McGraw. Wouldn't indifferent play like that be crucified today? Can you think of contemporary examples other than Manny?

Steven Goldman: Thanks for the shout-out on the book. The first player who comes to mind is Derek "Operation Shutdown" Bell and Chuckie Carr, who wouldn't bunt. And Reggie Jackson bunting on two strikes when he was told not do. I suspect that there are some undermotivated players out there but that their level of effort might be more visible to their manager, coaches, or teammates than it would be to us watching from the stands or on TV, and these things are dealt with behind the scenes, sometimes with a trade or a release.

Kenny (Chicago): Peavy, Buehrle, Danks, Floyd. Those four can hide the fact that my lineup would lose a slap fight with Richard Simmons, right?

Steven Goldman: Right, but the good news for you is that Richard Simmons is playing third base for the Twins this year.

Playwright22 (Baltimore): Will B.J. Upton be terrible or wonderful this year? There seems to be no in-between.

Steven Goldman: If you accept his excuse that his shoulder wasn't right all year, then you have to believe he's going to be better. We'll also see what kind of competition Desmond Jennings gives the Rays outfielder this year.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Rumor has it the Orioles are looking at Crede and Tejada for third base. If it was your decision, which one would you want?

Steven Goldman: Talk about a Hobson's choice... If those are the only two options, the upside play is Tejada, who is far more durable and whose bat, while not what it was at his peak, is still playable. The only question is his glove at third. Over the last three years, Crede has played 234 games and hit .232/.293/.413. Though Tejada is a few years older, he's a lot less likely to spend the summer on the DL.

Rob (Alaska): Bengie Molina re-signs with the Giants for 1 year. This seems like a disaster all around. Who's a worse GM, Sabean or Minaya?

Steven Goldman: I think the Mets got saved from their own stupidity. Any time a team spends half its offseason chasing a guy with a .300 OBP, you really have to ask what the heck they're thinking. As for the Giants, they get a familiar face who is lame but allows them not to force Buster Posey's schedule. That's the best face I can put on the Giants' end of it, anyway. We ask some hard questions about Sabean in the Giants chapter of the annual. I'd rather have Sabean rather than Minaya, not because I think he has any great insights, but because I think Minaya not only lacks them, he's shown an astounding lack of character, particularly during the Tony Bernazard imbroglio.

casey (cal): your favorite beatles copycat/rip-off band is?

Steven Goldman: Kind of obscure, but there's a group called Cotton Mather, not sure that they're still around, whose 1997 album "Kon-Tiki" sounds a great deal like the Beatles "Rubber Soul." Check out the tunes "My Before and After" and "She's Only Cool."

ChuckR (Addison, IL): Have you heard the Todd Snider song on Dock Ellis? I suppose PEDs can theoretically come in many different varieties.

Steven Goldman: I haven't and I've meant to, but this is a point I've been trying to make about PEDs when I say, Joe DiMaggio calmed his nerves during his '41 hitting streak by chain smoking in the dugout tunnel. Yes, he was taking a drug, nicotine. And readers go, "ARE YOU KIDDING, COMPARING CIGARETTES TO STEROIDS?" and miss the point. I'm not saying that nicotine can help you get a hit or a home run, though I would argue it probably did in DiMaggio's case. Rather, I am arguing in the specific case that taking a drug to help you stay on the field is cheating, when there are ALL kinds of drugs, be they PEDs or aspirin or antibiotics. We just choose which ones are in and which are out. That was the whole point of this week's You Could Look It Up.

Stephanie (DC): There have been several recent studies done on HGH indicating that the muscle mass you develop from taking it does not lead to any increases in muscle strength. You'd think that would come up in the discussion of PEDs in baseball, wouldn't you?

Steven Goldman: Yes, but it doesn't, because we'd rather be Puritans or something and start the dunking trials. It's a more complex issue than it is given credit for being.

Tex Premium Lager (NJ): Wow, got home from work and you're still chatting! With Doc Halladay and King Felix off the table, it seems certain that the Yankees will make Cliff Lee a very rich man sometime next offseason, yes?

Steven Goldman: Just for this last question, Tex. There's a very good chance, though they'll have to be careful because they'd be buying something like Lee's age-32-36 seasons. They should have an opening, assuming they don't want to keep paying Andy Pettitte into his Jamie Moyer years, and what he did in the postseason will probably stay with them for awhile.

ChuckR (Addison, IL): So you're suggesting that we get should conduct a controlled study to discern the effects of LSD on pitchers? After all, as far as we know (unless Ellis was lying), 100% of MLB games pitched on acid resulted in no-hitters. Seems like a good project for a Northern League team to try out - does Mike Veeck still own a franchise?

Steven Goldman: And the last comment of the day is the funniest...

Steven Goldman: Friends, thank you for spending the last three-plus hours with me and Baseball Prospectus. I look forward to reading your comments on the BP annual and future installments of You Could Look It Up, and the Pinstriped Bible, and I speak for all of us when I say we can't wait to see you on the road. Have a good evening now, y'hear?

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