Join Steve to talk baseball prior to Thursday's Beckett-Sabathia duel/disappointment(?).
Steven Goldman: Good afternoon, pilgrims. Steve Goldman, BP Editor-in-Chief, Pinstriped Bible proprietor, and all-around swell guy (if I do say so myself) here to take you through part of the afternoon on the day Bob Geren got fired. Drinking tea 'n' Tylenol and listening to Dave Edmunds' greatest hits. Now we know what we should know, so let's get started.
McNulty (The Boat): What franchise is the least desirable right now, all things considered? Its gotta be Baltimore, right?
Steven Goldman: We talking in terms of nose hair, or some other quality? "Desirable" is too open-ended a term.
dianagramr (NYC): On the heels of the Geren firing, and as an (excellent) biographer of Casey Stengel, can you tell us how Casey reacted to being let go as manager of the Yankees?
Steven Goldman: Thanks for the gimme, D, and Happy Birthday! Casey at first didn't contradict the cover story that he was retiring, but at his farewell press conference he made it very clear, with some apparent bitterness, that he had been fired. He finished, though, by saying, "Don't give up. Tomorrow is just another day, and that's myself." I think that's one of the most wonderful things he ever said, and one that summed up his character pretty well.
mef (Brooklyn): Do you think the Yankees will release Posada before Jeter gets to 3,000 hits? I could see them waiting until then and then Posada just retires...
Steven Goldman: No, not a chance. They won't want to tarnish Jeter's big moment by putting Jorge out of his misery too close to it...
...Immensely frustrated because I just accidentally deleted, without saving, the document I spent the last hour editing. First time I've done something like that in YEARS. [EXPLETIVES REDACTED]
Travis Buck (Pawtucket? ): Name one consistent All-Star with a swing as bad as Brandon Belts.
Steven Goldman: It's a little bit early to be making those kinds of calls, innit?
Paul (DC): Some interesting juggling of Howie Kendrick and Maicer Izturis this year by Scioscia. Kendrick, so far, is having his best offensive season. But Izturis, who's been pretty decent himself with the bat this year (119 OPS+), has almost as many starts at second as Kendrick. Is Kendrick that worse a defender than Izturis, or is Scoscia simply playing the lesser defender in LF and 1B to cover up other weaknesses in the Angels lineup?
Steven Goldman: It's a bit of both. Kendrick isn't Eddie Collins around the bag and Izturis has been an above-average contributor for a middle infielder, so Scioscia has tried to squeeze both into the lineup.
Can't tell you how burned I am by losing all those edits. I may set fire to my own head.
Michael (Detroit, MI): Ever since I read one of your columns last month, I've had difficulty getting the John Cale "Paris 1919" song out of brain. I'd like to ask for home but dread that it could be a much more annoying song the next time.
Is there any way to get career EQBRR or (EQBRR - EQSBR) from the website without downloading CSV files for every year and doing a whole of spreadsheet work?
Steven Goldman: It's a pretty good song, though, isn't it? I listen to that album all the time.
Career stats is an area of weakness for us in terms of our on-line offerings, and one that I would like to see us improve as we work through an overhaul of our whole stats department.
Mark (NYC): You ever see someone so fast look so hesitant on the basepaths as Gardner? Does he know he is one of the fastest in baseball? So frustrating!
Steven Goldman: It's very strange how much he has regressed on the basepaths, and I wonder if there has been some negative reinforcement somewhere, like he's overly nervous about the consequences of being caught, so his instincts have been taken out of play. And yes, it's very frustrating.
kent (los angeles): Most analysis think that the selection of Chris Reed was a signability pick. I don't know of any Boras client who was chosen to save money. What do you think?
Steven Goldman: This is more a question for Good Ol' Kevin Goldstein, but if I might take the liberty of uninformed speculation, even Boras must sometimes have players where he knows he can't push too hard. I would also like to say that no Dodgers first-rounder will ever be worse than 1988 #1 Bill Bene.
Let's have some chatter out there!
achaik (Maine): Have you read the recent-ish biographies of Aaron, Mays and Mantle? If so, could you rank them on an "in which order should I read them on the beach this summer" scale? If not, any other recent baseball history books you would recommend?
Steven Goldman: I've dipped in and out on all three, and this year's Campanella book, without really being able to say anything substantive about any of them. Right now, I'm back researching in my favorite area, managers, for a chapter in our upcoming book. To be honest, I feel like we're a bit short on really compelling baseball histories right now. Player biographies, some clearly good, those we've got. Something that looks at a team or a bigger slice of time, it has been a little thin.
tommybones (brooklyn): Hypothetical Fantasy question for 2012: Let's say Strasburg never pitches in the majors this year, but his mound sessions look good and all indications are he's on track for spring 2012. If you had a draft prior to the spring starting, how low in the draft would you be willing to take Strasburg?
Steven Goldman: Keep in mind I haven't been a fantasy guy in a long time. Mostly my fantasies these days involve finding the time to write more books. My experience, though, was that I always did better when I concentrated on certainties and took fewer fliers on risky or unproven players. That's my advice, for what it is worth.
Youpi (Winnipeg): Gardner on the basepaths looks like he's afraid to break the eggs in his pockets, while Carl Crawford seems to have forgotten he can steal bases....which condition will last longer???
Steven Goldman: Probably the latter, because the Red Sox have rarely cared much about steals in recent years, if ever. Until Jacoby Ellsbury came along, their single-season list was Tommy Harper '73 and a bunch of Deadball-era guys. Your comment on Gardner reminds me of Casey Stengel's explanation of why Paul Waner was so good at sliding--he had to be graceful to avoid breaking the flask in his hip pocket.
Peter Q (Austin, TX): The comments from the A's current and former players about Geren have been pretty interesting and perhaps a strong indication that he didn't have much of a future. But how much of their mediocrity do you think was due to Geren's ineptitude?
Steven Goldman: I just don't know how you pin all of that offensive ineptitude on Geren's lack of communication skills. I just don't know what another manager could have done to get more pop out of this group. You know what really interests me here is that it has been 16 years since Tony LaRussa left, and they A's have had just three managers in that time--Art Howe, Ken Macha, and Geren. I know the manager is supposedly just a puppet for Billy Beane, but it is probably long-since time they find a stronger, more experienced hand, go the Showalter route the Orioles took. I admit I'm not sure who that is, off the top of my head. Lure Bobby Cox out of retirement? Don't snap back--I know that's fanciful.
jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): Since I started subscribing to BP 4 years ago, almost all the changes I wanted have happened (more overall content, varying posting times, chats, a blog section, more fantasy content), but one still remains: I would LOVE to see more writing that is sheerly for entertainment purposes, and not analysis. Baseball is a funny game, after all, right?
Steven Goldman: Thank you for the good words on the changes we've made. We're really trying hard, and the only constraints are the size of our organization sometimes conflicts with the boundlessness of our ambitions... As for more pure entertainment, I try to do that sometimes, and that's Emma Span's purpose here as well. For myself, I find that when I'm not pointedly breaking down something with current impact, the piece just doesn't attract the same audience. That hasn't stopped me from writing what about what I want to, but as I said recently when I talked about Derek Carty coming aboard, the audience has made it pretty clear to us through its clicks that it has certain preferences.
Matt (Chicago): What would be your advice to Tom Ricketts, with respect to fixing his new toy? You need to bring a Sandy Alderson type ( Gillick/Schuerholz) in, right?
Steven Goldman: Just as the A's haven't had a strong manager in a 1.5 decades, the Cubs haven't had a strong GM EVER, something I wrote about back in February (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12968). They have a lot of players likely to move on after this season, but not necessarily all the pieces in-house to replace them, and it would be good to have someone with a more cohesive plan than the current administration has shown to guide them through this transition period to, one would hope, the next strong Cubs team. That has to be the most attractive job in baseball--great town, ballpark, fanbase, and over 100 years of history saying it can't be done. Who wouldn't want to take that on? Sign me up now, please.
Matt A (Raleigh): What's the deal with the Braves lately? 7 of their last 10 games have been one run affairs. The offense sucks, and the pitching's been good. Is this kind of high-wire act what we should expect going forward until one of those two things changes?
Steven Goldman: They weren't set up to be a great offense in the first place, and with the injury to Jason Heyward and that utter catastrophe we call Dan Uggla, that's two pieces of the offense that were expected to contribute that haven't been able to. No wonder Chipper Jones is pushing Heyward to return. In an ideal world, they could get Martin Prado (also dinged up) back to the infield to sit Uggla, but they just don't have the depth of outfielders to do that. ...Not sure if it's so good that three Braves are among the leaders in games pitched, including Kimbrel at #3.
Matt A (Raleigh): As long as Bobby's willing to come back, as a Braves fan I know I'd love to have him.
Steven Goldman: I assume the Braves have him signed to a personal services contract until death do they part, but I really don't know.
Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Assuming he's back in form next week for the rest of the year, should the Nats sign Zimmerman long term, or should they be scared off by his injury history?
Steven Goldman: This most recent injury seems a fluke, Zimm is a good-not-great player, but a franchise that doesn't have many of even those. Now, he's also signed through 2013, which is plenty of time for him to be healthy and productive before the Nats make a decision. Just because the Phillies stupidly tear up contracts and tack on self-defeating extensions doesn't mean the Nats have to.
Matt (Chicago): Do you think Zambrano might be a decent fit for your Yanks? Burnett didn't look good to me last night.
Steven Goldman: Even this year, Burnett has been a mediocre pitcher. That's an improvement on what he was last year, but it's not anything to get excited about. Zambrano's low strikeout rate and contract are unappealing, but since the Yankees seem determined to trade their prospects rather than try them, I wouldn't be surprised if Z is on their list.
jim (boston): Would you still take gardner over ellsbury? Not your smartest statement.
Steven Goldman: Thanks. Obviously, not based on their performances so far this year, although Gardner is still the better glove, I think, a center fielder in left, whereas Ellsbury is still a man of esoteric routes in the middle pasture. The real question is if Ellsbury's newfound pop endures over the rest of the season. Discounting 2010's injury season, 2008-2009 were not reflective of what he's doing this season OR a player who was dramatically better than Gardner.
Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Mike Morse - has he really turned into a 870-ish OPS hitter who can bat against righties? Other than this year's April slump, he's been doing this since the beginning of last year. Am I allowed to start believing in this?
Steven Goldman: I very much doubt it lasts, and as much as he's propping up the lineup right now, I would be looking to see if someone was willing to overpay for that by the deadline.
Sully (Los Angeles, CA): If Capps keeps dropping the ball, so to speak, who's next in line for saves there?
Steven Goldman: I guess it's still not time to go back to Joe Nathan, ay? I don't know, and I'm not sure that it matters in real-world terms. Even with as much life as they've shown lately, the Twins are 11.5 games out and don't have the ammo to make a real push. Closers will come--just look at the Astros and Mark Melancon... Who the Yankees threw away.
Jquinton82 (NY): Thoughts on young Jemile Weeks? And any word on Brett Anderson - is this a surgery thing or will he be making his annual visit to land of the lost?
Steven Goldman: As good a player as Mark Ellis has been at times, it was really past time to look elsewhere. Weeks isn't going to make anyone forget Ellis on the fielding job (how is it he never won a Gold Glove?)and offensively I don't know that he's going to be anything special, but he should be closer to being a contributor with the bat than Ellis has been in most years.
Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Re: Mike Morse - it's now been 472 PAs of .867 OPS over two seasons. How much longer would he need? Or is it so far out of the realm of possibility because of his age? He's got a career OPS of .820, and 30% of those PAs came from his .718 age 23 season.
Steven Goldman: Well, I like what he's done. He's hit .300/.352/.511 since that season you mention in 608 scattered PAs. He has real value given that he can move around the field and knock the ball. But his 39 walks/140 strikeouts makes me nervous about the inevitable cold streaks or bad BABIP stretch, because players of this model, be they Robinson Cano or Alfonso Soriano, when they go cold, they just contribute nothing. Put that together with his age and that he should be up for arb after the season and I think, "Go fish."
Tim (DC): Can you grade Harper's mustache on the 20-80 scale?
Steven Goldman: I leave the mustache questions for Jay, though I will suggest that this is probably the one place where players of the 1890s can whip every modern player, hands down.
...This is probably the quietest chat I've ever had here at BP. If there's not an influx of new questions I'm going to call discretion the better part of valor and come at you again a different day.
Steven Goldman: Well, I suppose the high heat has got us all feeling too drained to talk much. I'll be back soon for what will hopefully be a longer, deeper, rounder chat. As always, thank you for spending part of your day with Baseball Prospectus.