Friday, February 06, 2004
Not So Gleeman-Length ThoughtsThere are a few things I wanted to make sure to discuss before the weekend hits, so let's get right to it...
Operation Tickle Ass: Phase One
You may remember last week I "tickled your ass with a feather" by hinting at three upcoming announcements related to my writing. Well, since some of you took offense to my hinting and not telling (don't worry, "some of you" take offense to nearly everything I write), I wanted to make sure to spill the beans as soon as I could.
I still can't quite let you in on two of the three things, but I am now able to officially tell you all that I will be writing a weekly column for Rotoworld.com, starting next week and lasting throughout the baseball season. The column will have a slight fantasy baseball slant, but will still basically be the same type of writing you've come to know and love (or hate) on this blog.
In fact, being fairly new to writing about fantasy baseball, I would love to hear from you regarding what sort of things you find helpful and interesting to read about. What sort of fantasy information and discussion do you find yourself wanting but are unable to find most places? If you've got a good idea, feel free to drop me an email.
In addition to that, I contributed quite a bit of writing to Rotoworld's 2004 Baseball Reference Guide (pictured below), which should be hitting shelves and newsstands any day now. For those of you looking for good fantasy baseball information for your upcoming draft, Rotoworld's magazine is something you should definitely consider. I did lots of work on it, including a lengthy article on the Top 100 Fantasy Prospects, and tons of the individual player comments that are featured throughout the magazine.
If the magazine isn't enough to satisfy your fantasy baseball needs, Rotoworld also offers an online draft guide, which features all of the great information found in the magazine (including all of my writing), plus tons of additional stuff. Profiles of hundreds and hundreds of players, completely sortable and customizable cheat sheets, player projections, minor league stats, major league stats, up-to-date depth charts and player news, and much, much more.
As you might expect, both the online draft guide and the magazine cost money. However, they are very reasonably priced. Rotoworld has a "limited time offer" going on right now where you can get the magazine for just $4.99 (plus shipping), which is 38% off the cover price. Even the online draft guide is just $9.95, making both well worth the money for serious fantasy players. And hopefully I've built up enough trust for you to know that I wouldn't recommend something unless I really meant it.
More to come on the other two bits of news before Opening Day...
Billy Beane the author (again)
First it was Joe Morgan. Then last week it was some guy at the Long Beach Press-Telegram. And now it is the Fanball.com writing staff. What do all these people have in common? They all think Billy Beane wrote Moneyball.
Here's a quote from a Fanball.com article about Eric Chavez seeking a contract extension with the Oakland A's, which was on Yahoo!'s sports page this week:
"With Giambi and Tejada, Beane played the small-market card, suggesting he could never compete with offers from the superpowers in New York, for example. However, as he indicated in his own book Moneyball, Chavez is one of his favorites."I've said plenty on this subject already, so instead of rehashing everything yet again, I'll just point you to my rant on this subject from Monday. The only new thing I will say is that at least this latest article doesn't use the incorrect idea that Beane wrote the book to bash him for doing so.
More on blogging
On Tuesday I talked about the recent explosion in blogging, touching on the incredible number of new baseball blogs, the positives and negatives that go along with not having an editor, and where the blogging universe may be headed in the future.
Fellow blogger and Baseball Prospectus injury savant (he doesn't like the term "injury guru") Will Carroll picked up right where I left off, offering up his own thoughts on the blogging world on Wednesday.
As usual, Will's take is very interesting and he doesn't pull any punches, which makes it well worth reading. He wonders about why more good bloggers "aren't being co-opted by larger formats" and then later follows that up with this passage:
"David Pinto slightly shifted his blog to be associated with [Baseball Information Solutions], his new employer. While there aren't any visible changes yet, I'd imagine David might just get better access to stats and might start being a good marketing tool. There's NOTHING wrong with that.Like Will, this potential aspect of blogging interests me a great deal.
We are at point now where traditional forms of media are gradually giving way to newer, non-traditional ways of providing people with news, information, opinions and discussion. One example of this is that fewer people are reading actual print newspapers these days and more people are getting their news online, from various sources. In my case, I read multi news websites each and every day, but I haven't touched an actual newspaper in weeks.
In addition to all the websites like NewYorkTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com and StarTribune.com that provide all the stuff you can get in a newspaper, delivered right to your computer screen, there are places like Yahoo! News that provide tons of up-to-date news content and information. There are also online magazines that have big subscriber totals and there are even blogs out there that allow their author(s) to make a living from their blogging.
As these changes continue and these newer forms of media develop, I think we will also begin to see a change in the way people are evaluated for jobs in the media. Everything is becoming more specialized and many people are abandoning the traditional ways of learning to be a member of the media, instead choosing to take their own path.
In my case, I am trying to straddle the line between traditional and non-traditional. I am currently enrolled in the School of Journalism here at the University of Minnesota, which is about as traditional a route to becoming a member of the media as someone could possibly take. At the same time, when my efforts to write for the school newspaper (another traditional approach) were unsuccessful, I decided to start this blog.
It is now about 18 months later and this blog has a very sizable audience that has grown each and every month. I have written for Rotoworld's print publication, which is a very traditional form of media, as well as for websites like BaseballPrimer.com, Rotoworld.com and...well, you'll have to wait for my other announcements, I suppose. At the same time, I am still taking those journalism classes and I am still interested in a potential career working at a traditional media outlet.
My point has nothing to do specifically with me, but instead it has to do with people like me. In this day and age, you can't always wait around for things to happen while you take traditional steps, especially when those steps become impossible to climb. This new wave of opportunities in media is something that is very exciting and the possibilities are really endless.
Whether or not completely ditching traditional ways of becoming a member of the media can be a successful way to do things for many people is up for debate, but there is no question that it has and will continue to be successful for a number of people interested in sharing their voice, their talent and their passion with the public.
And on that note, I'll see ya Monday...
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, February 05, 2004
The Perfect CatcherThe biggest story this off-season for the Twins, aside from the departures of several key players, is that Joe Mauer, at 20 years old, appears set to be their starting catcher in 2004. As I have said here several times already, I don't think Mauer is ready to be a great player yet and I wouldn't have been against the Twins giving him a little more time in the minors. That said, I have never seen the Twins organization, from Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire, down to the players, so thoroughly and strongly in support of a young player.
Minnesota GM Terry Ryan has never been one to hype a prospect and he is often very conservative when it comes to talking about the roles he expects young players to play. Yet from day one, it has been different with Mauer. Ryan talks about him as though he is truly a once-in-a-lifetime player and that talk has become even stronger this off-season.
The expectations for Mauer are going to be extremely high immediately. I've already seen it said several places that he is the top AL Rookie of the Year candidate. While I think Mauer will eventually become one of the best players in baseball, I remain cautiously optimistic about his rookie season. In my opinion, he will have had a successful rookie year if he can simply play good defense and hit a little bit. At the same time, I have to admit that the confidence Terry Ryan has shown in Mauer is gradually making me feel more confident about Mauer's chances of making a big impact in 2004. At this point, Mauer's rookie season is the thing I am most looking forward to seeing in 2004.
Baseball America has been unveiling their Top 10 Prospects for each team gradually over the off-season, and they posted the Twins Top 10 a few days ago. The #1 guy on the list is, of course, Joe Mauer. BA prospect expert Josh Boyd took questions about the Twins and their prospects in a recent chat, and Mauer was often the topic of choice.
As with Terry Ryan, everything Josh Boyd said about Mauer made this Twins fan smile. Here are a few of the things Boyd had to say about the sweet-swinging catcher from St. Paul, Minnesota...
On if Mauer has the ability to succeed, despite the failings of many other highly touted high school catching prospects:
"Mauer does it all and has the perfect makeup to continue excelling. One scout went so far to say Mauer will be the best defensive catcher in the AL by Opening Day."On Mauer's throwing accuracy:
"It rates as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He puts every throw on the bag."On Mauer's overall defense:
"Mauer is a 70 now [on that same 20-80 scale] and projects as an 80, winning Gold Gloves year after year."On if all the hype Mauer is receiving is undeserved, despite universally praised defense, because he hasn't shown the ability to hit for power yet:
"What? We're not talking about Ron Karkovice here. Fine, you don't want the Gold Glove defense, which I don't ever recall using as the trump card or an excuse for the fact he hasn't hit home runs yet, but you must be ignoring the fact that we are calling him a future batting champ who is going to control the strike zone like no other, drive the ball to the gaps for frequent doubles and hit 10-15 jacks early in his career. What else do you want?"Anyone who has ever seen Mauer play or even just looked at his minor league stats knows the guy can flat-out hit. His batting averages at his four pro stops thus far? .400, .302, .335, .341. But the thing that has really caught my attention of late, whether it is Terry Ryan talking, Ron Gardenhire talking or someone like Josh Boyd talking, is how incredibly impressed everyone is with his defense.
The tendency when talking about a prospect like Mauer is to try to find major league players to compare him to. I've said here that I think his downside is something similar to Jason Kendall (a .304/.385/.422 career hitter) and that his upside could be Johnny Bench. But really, with a player like Mauer, finding similar players is very difficult.
I still like the Kendall comparison for his downside, but who wants to discuss downside? Certainly not a Twins fan. For upside, the Bench comparison is decent when you consider overall value, but it really doesn't work all that well. Joe Mauer is a .330 career minor league hitter whom almost everyone projects as someone who will compete for batting titles year after year. Meanwhile, Johnny Bench was a career .267 hitter who never finished among the top-10 in batting average and hit .300 exactly one time in 17 seasons.
In that same Baseball America chat, someone asked Josh Boyd if he thought Mauer was potentially "a left-handed Ivan Rodriguez." Boyd responds by saying, "That might not be far off."
Like the Bench comparison, the Ivan Rodriguez comparison works in regard to Mauer's defense. But the offense? Well, unlike Bench, Pudge Rodriguez has always had good batting averages - .304 career, including .290+ in 10 consecutive seasons and counting. Pudge has also shown the power that many project Mauer to eventually have, smacking 50+ extra-base hits in each of the last eight seasons.
So why doesn't the "left-handed Ivan Rodriguez" comparison fit Mauer perfectly? Because Rodriguez almost never walks. In fact, he is one of the biggest free swingers in baseball history. Prior to last season, when he walked 55 times, Rodriguez had never walked as many as even 40 times in a year. Mauer, on the other hand, has tremendous plate discipline and projects as someone who will walk a ton in his prime.
To find a perfect comparison for Joe Mauer's upside, you need to find a Gold Glove catcher who competes for batting titles every year, possesses impressive power and controls the strike zone incredibly well. In other words, you need to find the perfect catcher.
Basically, the things that make it so hard to find a good comp for Mauer are the same things that have everyone so incredibly excited about his potential. I mean really, what fan in their right mind wouldn't get excited about a left-handed Ivan Rodriguez with plate discipline, or Johnny Bench with much better batting averages? I'm drooling on my keyboard just thinking about it.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
The wrong side of 30I have often said, when talking about a player's age, that he is "on the wrong side of 30." The theory being, of course, that players tend to peak in their mid-to-late 20s, and then tend to decline in their 30s.
A good example of this saying in use would be with Detroit's recent signing of Ivan Rodriguez. The Tigers signed Rodriguez for four years and my response to a contract of that length might be to say: "Pudge is a very good player right now, but he's also a catcher on the wrong side of 30, so there's a good chance he won't be a very good player by the time the contract is over."
Rather than study the peak years and decline years of players, which has been done by people much smarter than me already, I simply want to look at some of the all-time best performances in major league history for players on the right side of 30 and the wrong side of 30.
For the purposes of this little exercise, we'll break down the entire history of baseball into two groups:
1) The right side of 30 (30 and under)
2) The wrong side of 30 (31 and over)
*Lee Sinins' invaluable Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia was used to make this possible and only seasons from 1900 to the present are included.
Let's take a look at the leaders...
WINSGrover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander is the only pitcher to appear on both top-10 lists and, not coincidentally, he ranks 3rd all-time in total wins, with 373. Cy Young would also appear on both lists, ranking 3rd on the "30 and Under" list in addition to 3rd on the "31 and Over" list if seasons before 1900 were counted. Young, in addition to having an award named after him, ranks 1st all-time in total wins, with 511.
I think probably the most amazing things to me here are Phil Niekro and Warren Spahn's win totals after the age of 30. If you only take their wins on the wrong side of 30, ignoring what they did in their first three decades on earth, Niekro ranks 36th all-time in career wins and Spahn ranks 38th. To me, that is absolutely amazing.
To put it into a modern-day context, both Phil Niekro and Warren Spahn won more games after the age of 30 than Tom Glavine (251 wins) and Randy Johnson (230) have won in their entire careers.
Niekro didn't get a chance to be a starting pitcher until he was 28 years old. In his first year starting games, 1967, he pitched 207 innings with a league-leading 1.87 ERA. He went on to pitch until he was 48 years old, starting a total of 716 games, which ranks 4th all-time.
Spahn pitched 15.2 innings as a 21-year-old and then didn't return to the major leagues until he was 25. He then pitched at least 240 innings in every season from the time he was 26 until he was 42. For the mathematically-challenged among us, that means he pitched 240+ innings in 17 straight seasons. During that time, he had an ERA above 3.50 just once (3.71 as a 27-year-old) and posted an ERA below 3.00 eight times.
Greg Maddux (165), Roger Clemens (163) and Pedro Martinez (152) are the active leaders in wins through the age of 30, while Randy Johnson (149), Clemens (147) and David Wells (142) are the top three active winners after turning 30.
HOME RUNSUnlike the wins leaderboards, the home run leaderboards are filled with guys from this era. The 30 and Under list includes four players who are active and the 31 and Over list includes three, plus Mark McGwire, who retired just a few years ago.
I think my favorite thing from the home run leaders is that Alex Rodriguez ranks 9th all-time in homers through the age of 30. This might not seem particularly interesting, except for the fact that Rodriguez will be playing his age-28 season in 2004. That means he's got three seasons to add to his 30 and Under total, which likely means he'll be at the top of the list at some point.
ARod has averaged 52 homers a season over the last three years. If he can duplicate those numbers over the next three years, that would put him at 501 career homers through the age of 30. That's nearly 15% more than the current 30 and Under leader, Ken Griffey Jr.
Another active player, Barry Bonds, is in a position to become the all-time leader in homers after the age of 30 this season. He needs 40 homers to jump over Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, and Bonds has hit 40+ homers in each of the last four seasons, including 45 last year.
Speaking of Hank Aaron, he is the only player to appear in both top-10s, ranking 7th all-time in homers through age-30 and 2nd all-time in homers after age-30. Aaron is, of course, the all-time total home run leader with 755, although Bonds is about two good seasons away from passing him.
Sammy Sosa ranks 10th all-time in homers before age-30 and he already has 203 career homers after age-30, despite being just 34 years old last season. With two more typical Sosa years, he'll also be on both lists.
Mike Schmidt is the only player among the top 10 all-time home run leaders who doesn't make the top 10 for 30 and Under or 31 and Over. Schmidt's 548 career homers ranks 9th all-time, but he hit "only" 283 homers through age-30 and just 265 after age-30.
The only name on either home run list that isn't a household name to most baseball fans (myself included) is probably Hank Sauer, who ranks 9th all-time in homers after the age of 30, with 281. Sauer appeared in a total of just 47 games in his 20s and played his first full-season as a 31-year-old in 1948. He hit .260/.340/.504 that year, finishing 4th in the league in homers with 35.
Despite his incredibly late start, Sauer hit 30+ homers in each of his first five full-seasons, including a 37 HR/121 RBI season in 1952, which got him the NL MVP. He then hit just 19 homers in 1953, but bounced back in 1954 and hit a career-high 41 homers, which was good for 3rd in the league.
Sauer finished his career with 288 homers in just 1,399 games. Among non-active players with fewer than 1,400 career games, Sauer ranks 2nd all-time, behind only Hank Greenberg and his 331 homers in 1,394 games.
RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE*Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) is a Lee Sinins stat that is defined as "the difference between a player's Runs Created total and the total for an average player who used the same amount of his team's outs."
30 AND UNDER 31 AND OVERThe best 30 and Under hitter in baseball history? According to RCAA, it is Ty Cobb. Through his age-30 season, Cobb was a career .370/.434/.516 hitter with 2,361 hits, 1,077 RBIs, 1,240 runs scored and 704 stolen bases. He also had already won nine batting titles while leading his league in OPS+ 10 times.
The entire 30 and Under RCAA leaderboard is really a who's who of inner-circle Hall of Fame hitters. Cobb, Mantle, Ruth, Williams, Foxx, Gehrig, Hornsby, Ott, Musial. Even Frank Thomas, the only active player on the list and someone whom I think is often overlooked, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those all-time greats.
One thing I noticed looking at those two lists is how much higher the RCAA totals are for the 30 and Under guys. All 10 of the 30 and Under leaders were 600+ RCAA, while just three hitters reached 600+ RCAA after they turned 30. All of which would go along with the idea that there is such a thing as "the wrong side of 30."
Cobb, Ruth, Williams, Gehrig and Musial each appear in both the 30 and Under and 31 and Over top-10s for RCAA. As I talked about in some depth last month, Ted Williams' RCAA rankings (4th and 3rd) are particularly impressive, considering he missed all of his age-24, 25 and 26 seasons, as well as almost all of his age-33 and 34 seasons while serving his country. Despite missing all that time, Williams still ranks 2nd all-time in career RCAA, behind only Babe Ruth. For more on Ted Williams and his missed seasons, check out this entry from last month.
Edgar Martinez's appearance on the 31 and Over RCAA leaderboard was surprising to me. I am generally of the opinion that Martinez has been underrated for a long time, but apparently even I am guilty of that in this case. Edgar wasn't an everyday player until he was 27 and he still ranks 5th among all active players in career RCAA. And, as you can see above, he is 2nd to only Bonds among active players in RCAA after the age of 30.
What exactly does all this stuff mean? Well, I'm not sure exactly, but I thought it was interesting. In case you're curious, the following players will be "on the wrong side of 30" for the first time in their careers in 2004:
HITTERS PITCHERSInterestingly enough, studies suggest that the decline phase for baseball bloggers begins much earlier than the decline phase for baseball players. Luckily I still have some time left before I'm on the wrong side of 22.
See ya tomorrow...
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
BloggingI've noticed lately that blogs and blogging really seem to be gaining steam, with new ones popping up all over the place. The baseball blogging community, which has expanded an incredible amount over the last two years, is perhaps the best example of the growing blogging phenomenon.
I started this particular blog on August 1, 2002, nearly 18 months ago. I recently stumbled across a print-out I had of what the blog looked like on September 19, 2002, about a month and a half into its existence. Beyond a layout and color-scheme I am thrilled to be rid of, the other thing that I immediately noticed was how few other blogs there were back then.
I counted up all the links to other blogs that I had on the sidebar and there were exactly 25. Many of them are still around today and, not coincidentally, they are some of the best - Baseball Musings, TwinsGeek, Mike's Baseball Rants, Futility Infielder, Curse of the Bambino, The Cub Reporter.
In the 16 months or so since I had links to those 25 early baseball blogs on this blog's sidebar, the total number of linked-to blogs has consistently and rapidly grown. A look at the sidebar of this blog today reveals links to no less than 125 different baseball blogs, the majority of them less than a year old and many of them in their first few months of existence.
That number of 125 would be much, much larger if I hadn't recently trimmed the fat, removing links to blogs that hadn't been updated with new content recently. In addition to that, I probably have emails from 15-20 people asking me to add links to their new blogs in my mailbox right now. And I will, eventually, and then there will be 150 baseball blogs with links on this site. If I weren't interested in linking only to those blogs that consistently update their content, there could easily be links to over 200 baseball blogs.
When I started this blog I really thought I was simply jumping on the bandwagon created by guys like David Pinto, Christian Ruzich, John Perricone and John Bonnes. It's clear to me nearly two years later that, while I was jumping on the bandwagon created by others, that bandwagon has expanded in such a way since then that this blog is now, in the context of the entire baseball blogging community, one of the longest running blogs around.
In addition to the hundreds of new "personal" baseball blogs popping up recently, larger media outlets have started to jump on the blogging bandwagon too.
During last season, several large newspapers used blogs to supplement their online baseball coverage. For example, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Mariners Weblog was frequently updated throughout the season and even included multiple links to Mariners-related blog entries written by Yours Truly. Similar, newspaper-produced blogs were also done for the Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Red Sox, among others.
This past week, Bill Simmons, my favorite sports writer anywhere, updated a "Super Bowl blog" for ESPN.com several times per day. I also recently stumbled across a "daily entertainment web log" on USA Today's website, called "Hip Clicks."
Even the New York Times is getting in on the act, publishing "Times on the Trail," which is essentially a blog about 2004 presidential campaigns, although they aren't calling it a blog. Instead they say it is "a continuously updated report from the campaign trail." Well, whatever. I know a blog when I see one.
Personally, I think this trend towards more and more blogging is great. With each passing day, computers become a bigger part of our lives and the amount of people who rely on the internet for their news and reading entertainment is substantial and growing.
Heck, I am a journalism student who has wanted to write about sports for a newspaper for as long as I can remember, but even I haven't read an actual, ink and paper newspaper more than a few times in the last month. I get my news and do most of my reading online, and more and more people are doing the same all the time.
Which is where blogs come in. For a major media outlet, a blog is an easy way to provide fresh, new, timely content on a regular basis. Instead of asking Bill Simmons to write a typical Super Bowl recap article after he returned from Houston, ESPN.com had him write several shorter, less polished articles per day. This not only provided the reader with more content on a daily basis, it also gave them a reason to come back to ESPN.com multiple times per day.
For Simmons, it no doubt allowed him to write about things while they were fresh in his mind, and the fact that the entries were usually shorter than his regular columns allowed him to be less polished and more off-the-cuff (although Simmons' writing style is fairly off-the-cuff as it is). Of course, at the same time, Simmons' Super Bowl blog and the blogs on USAToday.com and NYTimes.com are presumably edited before they are posted for mass consumption. This fact is one of the things that sets a major media outlet's blog apart from a personal blog like this one.
The lack of an editor for a blog like this one can be both one of the best and one of the worst things about blogging.
It is one of the best things because it allows for a freedom of thought, expression and opinion that you aren't likely to find at a place where everything a writer writes is looked over by others before it is printed. Even if ESPN.com asked Simmons to write three blog entries per day, I am certain someone gave them each a thorough look to make sure nothing ESPN.com doesn't want said gets posted.
On the other hand, if an interesting piece of news breaks, like say Vladimir Guerrero signs with the Angels, and David Pinto from Baseball Musings wants to comment on it, he can have an entry up on his blog in the time it takes him to type it. He can make it however long or short he wants and he can say whatever he wants.
Of course, that same freedom can also be a negative. Just as there was nothing stopping David Pinto from quickly posting his thoughts on Guerrero signing with the Angels, there was nothing stopping Joe Ptak, author of the Cleveland Indians Report, from deciding to spice things up by writing a fictitious article about the Indians being close to signing Guerrero to a long-term contract earlier this off-season. Ptak's lengthy article included insider information, specific monetary figures and details about how the startling turn of events came about.
It was a complete hoax, of course. Ptak later said "it was intended to be nothing more than a humorous diversion so that Indians fans would laugh and say 'boy, I wish that was true' before returning to the reality of a very quiet winter meetings and offseason."
After receiving a fairly intense backlash to his "humorous diversion," Ptak said, "As is now known, the Vladimir Guerrero story that I posted on Thursday was a joke. It was never intended to be read as fact or rumor. Aside from how unbelievable the story itself was, clues hidden within the text pointed to the fact that it was a joke."
The clues, as Ptak went on to explain, were that the first letter of each paragraph spelled out "J-U-S-T K-I-D-D-I-N-G." I personally was duped by Ptak's story and, say what you will about my gullibility, but so were many others. While I didn't completely believe the Indians were close to signing Guerrero, I did believe Joe Ptak had sources telling him that was the case.
And why did I believe it? Well, for one thing, it wasn't April Fools' Day, so I had no reason to suspect what I was reading was a hoax. For another thing, Ptak had never done something similar before and had built up enough trust with his substantial audience, including even someone like me who only read his blog infrequently, to make them believe what he was telling them, despite Ptak using "how unbelievable the story itself was" as a reason why no one should have fallen for it.
Looking back on it now, there were certainly some aspects of the story that were fairly unbelievable, chief among them the idea that the Indians were going to sign Vladimir Guerrero. However, it seems obvious to me that Ptak went out of his way to make the story seem believable, if for no other reason than, without a certain level of believability, there is really no hoax at all.
I don't mean to specifically pick on Joe Ptak, because he certainly has taken enough heat for what he did already. I instead use him as the perfect example of what can go wrong when someone builds up an audience with a forum that is without an editor of any sort.
I know I have written many things on this blog that perhaps I would have been better off not writing. I would like to think that I would never do something that would anger or disappoint as many people as the Guerrero-hoax Ptak wrote, but honestly, who knows? The point is that a person writing to an audience without any sort of editing separating what they type and what appears on the page is extremely dangerous.
For me, that's part of the appeal of writing a blog. It is also a big part of the reason why I think you will see more and more blogs like the ones from ESPN.com, USA Today and the New York Times popping up all over the place. Trying to find a way to combine the freedom of expression and immediacy of information with the safety and security of having an editor looks to me like the next big step in blogging.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, February 02, 2004
Moneyball-haters of the world, unite!I have criticized Joe Morgan plenty in the past, usually for things he has written for or said on ESPN.com. I often find that Joe Morgan speaking is about 100 times better than Joe Morgan in writing. That's particularly interesting to me, because I suspect people who know me might say Aaron Gleeman in writing is about 100 times better than Aaron Gleeman speaking. It's not that Morgan is completely unable to write or that I am completely unable to speak, just that we both, like the majority of people in this world, lose a certain something when we step outside our comfort zone.
Anyway, one of the main things I have criticized Morgan for is the fact that he commented, on multiple occasions, that Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane should not have written Moneyball, the best-selling book about the Oakland A's that came out last year.
Morgan does a "chat" on ESPN.com every week during the season, and essentially each time he was asked a question even remotely related to Beane, he would work in some sort of jab at Beane in his response.
Near the trade deadline he was asked: "you're Billy Beane where do you look to add some pop?"
Morgan's response? "I wouldn't be Billy Beane first of all!! I wouldn't write the book Moneyball!"
Asked in another chat session what he thought of Moneyball, Morgan replied: "It's typical if you write a book, you want to be the hero. That is apparently what Beane has done."
At the time, it really amazed me that not only would Joe Morgan, a Hall of Fame player and respected national broadcaster, comment strongly on a book he clearly never read, he would do so while getting one of the most important aspects of the book, its author, completely wrong. He did it multiple times, weeks apart, which means apparently no one at ESPN.com felt it necessary to tell him who the actual author of the book was (Michael Lewis, for those of you wondering).
Well, Joe Morgan can rest easy today. It is getting close an entire year since Moneyball came out, and a sports journalist at a relatively large newspaper has just now written an article criticizing Billy Beane for doing the thing Joe Morgan incorrectly accused him of doing way back in the middle of last season.
From "staff columnist" Doug Krikorian, in a column about the Los Angeles Dodgers in last Thursday's Long Beach Press-Telegram:
"The other person being mentioned as [LA GM Dan] Evans' possible successor, Oakland's Billy Beane, has done a terrific job with modest funds with the A's, but he's also a shameless self-promoter who wrote a book about his imagined genius and is despised by scouts around baseball.""He's also a shameless self-promoter who wrote a book about his imagined genius."
This is absolutely mind-boggling to me. There are so many things wrong with this that I'm not even sure where to begin.
For one thing, a columnist at an actual newspaper, one with articles and editors and advertisers and readers, is unable to distinguish, nearly a year after a book is released, whom the author of the book is.
Not only that, but it is apparent Krikorian didn't bother to actually read Moneyball. I suppose that is fine, although I think a California sports writer might have thought about picking up a book about the Oakland A's.
However, if you haven't read the book and you don't even know who wrote the damn thing, at least don't make a complete mockery of yourself and your column by commenting on it. And not only commenting on it, commenting on it in a way that ridicules Billy Beane for writing a book he didn't write (and a book Krikorian didn't read!).
Basically, what we've got here is a California sports columnist...
... not bothering to read a best-selling book about the Oakland A's.
... mis-identifying the author of the book as the GM of the Oakland A's, as opposed to Michael Lewis, who actually wrote the book (and several others).
... using the incorrect "fact" that Billy Beane wrote the book to criticize Beane for doing so, using it as evidence of him being a "shameless self-promoter" with an "imagined genius."
... stating that Moneyball is "about [Beane's] imagined genius," despite the fact that, even if the book were about such things, the columnist hasn't actually read the book, so he wouldn't know and wouldn't be in a position to comment about it anyway.
I've said before in this space that I enjoyed reading Moneyball immensely. I have also said that I think there are several "holes" in the book that could be seen as Lewis (the book's real author) exaggerating things in order to make the story better. Along with that, there are certainly aspects of the book that are open to criticism, whether those are related specifically to Billy Beane, more generally about the A's organization as a whole, or simply about the way things and people are portrayed in the book.
With all of that said, you simply can't comment on, praise, or even criticize a book if you haven't actually bothered to read it. For someone like Joe Morgan (multiple times) or Doug Krikorian (nearly a year after the book was published) to talk about Billy Beane writing a book he didn't write, while using that "fact" against Beane, is absolutely stunning to me.
If you aren't going to read an important book about the sport you are being paid to follow and give opinions on, then at least don't comment on it as if you have read it. If for some ridiculous reason you feel the need to comment on the book, despite not reading it, at least get the identity of the author correct. And if you can't stop yourself from commenting on something you haven't read, and you can't bother to get the name of the author correct, then at least don't make a total fool out of yourself by criticizing a guy who didn't write the book for writing it.
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