"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: July 2003

Older posts           

IT’S 4:00 PM: DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR PLAYERS ARE?

The Yankees and Reds went through with the Boone-White for Claussen-cash-and-a-player-to-be-named-later deal after all. Jay Jaffe, The Futility Infielder thinks this is a terrible mistake and is presently somewhere in Alphabet City destroying furniture. (I’m sure we’ll hear more from him by tomorrow.)

“This will not stand. This aggression will not stand.”

Here are the trades that I know about, thanks to Lee Sinins:

1. The Yankees traded Robin Ventura to the Dodgers for a minor league pitcher and a minor league outfielder.

2. The Pirates traded P Jeff Suppan to the Redsox for prospect Freddy
Sanchez. The Redsox also get Brandon Lyon (damaged goods) back, “as well as the minor leaguers who were in the first trade go back to their old teams.”

3. The O’s moved Sidney Ponson to the Giants for Kurt Ainsworth and Damian Moss.

4. The D-Rays sold pitcher Al Levine to KC.

WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?

So I’ve been waiting to see the official report confirming the Boone/White deal to the Yanks and it hasn’t appeared yet. I spoke with my source again, and now it is not so certain that the trade will happen at all. I apologize for jumping the gun and publishing a rumor.

But if the Yanks can’t get Vlad or Giles, and they can’t get Boone, who does that leave? Juan Gone?

Duck and cover. Only a couple of hours left. You have to figure Epstein is looking to put a cherry on top of his great rookie campaign.

YANKS TRADE CLAUSSEN

I just received word from a reliable source that the Yankees have agreed to send Brandon Claussen and cash to the Reds for third baseman Aaron Boone and injured relief pitcher Gabe White.

PARTING SHOTS

The newest member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Raul Mondesi, had some predictably weak jabs for his former team yesterday. The Yankees had some choice words for Mondi as well.

Joe Torre told The Times:

“I know Mondy was very sensitive about not playing or whenever I pinch-hit for him,” Torre said. “When that happened Sunday, maybe he got to the point where he was so frustrated that he didn’t think about what he was doing or he didn’t care about the repercussions. He was never a volatile guy or anything like that. I keep coming back to the word frustrated.”

But Torre made it clear he was in no way condoning Mondesi’s actions.

“It was not acceptable what he did,” he said. “George Steinbrenner was obviously aware of what was going on, but this was our decision. I think George was rather fond of Mondy. Brian and I were the ones who pulled the trigger on this.”

ET TU, LOUIE?

There was an amusing bit in the early edition of The Post which is not available on-line. George King reports that Mondesi isn’t the first Yankee to shower and leave early on Torre’s watch:

“I did the same thing in 1998,” Luis Sojo told The Post. “I had two hits and [Torre] pinch-hit for me. I was mad. I took a shower and left before the last out. I was hot. The next day I come to the park and I know I was wrong. I was also trying to sneak around so mabye nobody would say anything to me,” Sojo continued. “But soon I was told that Joe Torre wanted to see me in his office. I went in there and he was furious. He told me that it was [bleep] to do that and that he never expected that out of me, of all people. Maybe some others, but not me. He also told me he was finning me $2,000.”

Sojo got the fine reduced to $1500.

“But I didn’t pay it, not then and not in 1999…When I got traded back in 2000, I walked into the clubhouse and everybody was glad to see me,” recalled Sojo. “It was, ‘Hey, Louie, great to have you back.’ Everybody was slapping me on the back. Then I went into Joe Torre’s office and he was real serious. He said, ‘Do you want to play?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘Then give me the $2,000.’ It was a lot of money but I paid it.”

Mess with the bull and you get the horns.

RIDING THE ROCKET

Roger Clemens pitched a complete game for the first time in three years, and the Yankees shut out the World Champs, 8-0 last night in Anahiem; he allowed five hits.. Clemens is 29-8 against the Angels during his career. I didn’t stay up to watch any of it, but I sure was a happy camper riding to work this morning. Jason Giambi had two doubles, two walks, a homer (30), and three RBI (83). Hideki Matsui hit his 33rd double of the year and added 3 RBI (77) of his own. Joe Torre gave Lil’ Sori the night off. Derek Jeter lead off, and Bernie batted behind him in the two-hole.

The Yankees gained a game on Boston, who fell to the Rangers, 9-2. Former Yankee, Ramiro Mendoza was pounded. The Sox dropped relief pitcher Chad Fox. Alex Rodriguez also made some news intimating that he would entertain any trade offers that come up now, or next year. Or did he?

SWEATIN’ THEO

Add John Harper to the list of baseball observers paying their respects to the efforts of Theo Epstein. With the Yankees hoping to swing a big deal this afternoon, you would have to imagine the Sox are planning a deal of their own (although given Epstein’s ability to make sound, unspectacular moves, perhaps he will lay in the weeds until the waiver period kicks in).

Harper notes, “Passionate and historic as this rivalry has been since Babe Ruth changed uniforms, it’s quite possible the two franchises have never been this obsessed about it.”

The Sox believe they are in good shape:

“I think they really sense that the Yankees are vulnerable,” was the way one GM who recently has dealt with the Sox described their mindset. “They believe they can win it all.”

…”That’s where the difference lies,” one Sox insider said yesterday. “They’re not following up on moves the Yankees make. They know what they need and they’re going after certain guys. It’s a different philosophy.”

LET’S MAKE A DEAL

With the trading deadline looming (4:00 p.m. est this afternoon), the Yankees are in the mix for some kind of deal. Surprised? Rumors are flying, but the one that seems most likely involves Reds’ third baseman, Aaron Boone, and injured reliever Gabe White. There are also big dreams of a blockbuster—Vlad, Giles—but those are most likely just dreams. One thing is for sure, Brandon Claussen will be part of any package the Bombers make. So much for the pitcher of the future.

TOAST OF THE TOWN

After making another good trade yesterday, Theo Epstein is enjoying some much deserved love from the press. Rob Neyer admires Epstein’s rookie campaign in his latest column:

“I don’t really buy the notion that it’s only now that Theo Epstein has proved his worth. In addition to building what now looks like a pretty good bullpen, isn’t Epstein also the guy who, months ago, built a roster that’s leading the major leagues in runs scored?

There’s really not much more that Epstein can do. Sure, the Sox could use a quality starting pitcher, as neither John Burkett nor Ramiro Mendoza inspire great confidence these days. But whatever happens from this point forward, it’s been a great first year for the youngest general manager in major-league history.”

STOP THE PRESS

ESPN’s Peter Gammons is reporting that the A’s have just traded Aaron Harang and two other players to the Reds for Jose Guillen. The sounds like good news for Oakland fans. Michael Lewis will be able to digest tonight.

OH YEAH

The Yankees traded Dan Miceli to the Astros yesterday for a player to be named or cash.

CIRCLE JERK

The Yankee inner circle is meeting today in Tampa. After the Sox beat the Yanks out for another bullpen arm, you think George wants to trump them with a splashy move in the next 24 hours? How would you like to be Brian Cashman today? Sweat much? The names Brian Giles and Vladi G are being thrown around in the press. It’s hard to imagine that the good people at MLB are going to let George swipe Vlad, and the Pirates have been looking to unload Jason Kendell with Giles.

Still, stranger things have happened. Put George in a corner and he’s likely to come out spending.

I almost forgot to mention, thirteen years ago today Fay Vincent suspended George Steinbrenner from baseball. George actually received a ‘lifetime ban,’ which curiously only last until 1993. Anyhow, the date is important, because Stick Michael began building the Yankee dynasty during George’s absence.

Jay Jaffe has a good write-up on the Mondesi trade over at The Futility Infielder. Larry Mahnken isn’t shedding any tears for Mondesi either.

The Baseball Crank has a good piece today about how the current Red Sox offense ranks against some of the great offenses in history. (Good news for Sox Nation, sobering news for Yankee fans.)Aaron Gleeman has an equally impressive post about the newly designed Red Sox bullpen. (More kudos for Theo.)

Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus has nothing but raves for Mr. Epstein:

“The question I’ve been getting peppered this week on the radio is, ‘Who’s going to win the AL East?’ I’ve been circumspect up until now, pointing out that the two teams are pretty evenly matched, and that it should be a good race, with the Sox coming out on top. With the addition of Williamson, however, I believe the Sox have moved well ahead of the Yankees. They’re the clear favorite.

If the Red Sox do make the playoffs, they’re going to be downright scary, with Pedro Martinez starting every fourth game and Kim and Williamson available for multiple-inning outings in the ones he doesn’t. Combined with an offense that won’t quit, and it might just take extraordinary happenings–a curse, perhaps–to keep this team from winning it all.”

To round things out, Rob Neyer has an angry response to those readers who think he lets his emotions and bias’ dictate his writing. I can’t remember Neyer ever being so irked before. Granted, I’m only familiar with the work he’s done over the past year and a half, but in his most recent column, Neyer’s in no mood to play. Frankly, I don’t blame him for losing his patience with some of his readers, but this is the first time I’ve seen him lose his cool, and his sense of humor. Nothing like a Yankee vs. Red Sox piece to drive him–and apparently his readers—over the edge.

TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM

When Nomar Garciaparra attempted a sacrifice bunt Saturday in the ninth inning a tie game many observers—including his own manager, Grady Little

HOLDING PATTERN

Andy Pettitte won again for the Yankees last night, improving his record to 13-7. The Bombers scored four runs with two out in the first inning, Pettitte went eight, and the Yanks beat the World Champs, 6-2 in Anahiem. Jeter continued his hot hitting and is now batting .325. Godzilla Matsui had three hits including a double and a homer.

The Red Sox went into the seventh inning trailing Texas 4-2, and then broke out the whooping stick, and went on to win 14-7 . They remain just a game-and-a-half behind New York. Bill Mueller hit two grand slams; one from each side of the plate. Onions.

DRAMA QUEENS

I heard from several Red Sox fans yesterday who couldn’t have been happier with George Steinbrenner’s need to remind the Nation that they haven’t won anything yet. Tell them something they don’t know. Fair enough. George will always provide cheap fodder for Yankee-haters (he just can’t help himself), but now it appears he is not alone in the drama department.

Red Sox owner, John Henry joined the tea party with a bit of self-righteous hyperbole of his own. On Tuesday, Henry told the Hartford Courant:

“In that one inning and in that final out,” Henry said, “it was as if Jason and Johnny and David and Nomar and Manny – 25 men, a manager and his coaches – were collectively throwing off the shackles of decades of frustration and proclaiming, `It’s a new century, damn it. It’s 2003 and we don’t believe in ghosts.’”

You have to appreciate Henry’s optimism, but if this is how he feels in July, he’s apt to be downright Biblical come fall.

GONE, GOODBYE

The Yankees traded Raul Mondesi to the Arizona Diamondbacks last night for utility outfielder David Dellucci, right-handed reliever Bret Prinz, and a minor league catcher, Jon Sprowl. Who? The Yankees lose Mondesi, an undisciplined hitter, and the Yankees’ only defensive threat in the outfield. Evidentally, this is Joe Torre’s call.

After being pinch-hit for in the eighth inning on Sunday in Boston, Mondesi showered and left the park before the game was over. This is a huge no-no in Torre’s Yankeeland. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as Mondesi began complaining about playing time a few weeks ago in Cleveland.

“The Yankees and Mondesi are not going in the same direction,” [GM, Brian] Cashman said, “so I decided to get more aggressive with some of the interest we had for him.

“He’s a player that plays hard, but I don’t know if he was ultimately on the same page with us.”

Joe Torre added: “It’s not acceptable what he did. George was obviously aware of it. I think he was fond of Mondy. Brian and I pulled the trigger on this one.”

Karim Garcia and Ruben Ruben will now play right field. The Yankees lose a head case in Mondesi who was not a good fit on Torre’s team, but again, they also lose their only defensive threat in the outfield. Does this mean Cashman has another move up his sleeve? We’ve got a little more than 24 hours to find out.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox picked up Reds’ reliever Scott Williamson for a single A prospect, cash and a player to be named later. Score another victory for Boston who continues to rebuild their bullpen. The Yanks were in the hunt for Williamson too, but according to Cashman, the Reds wanted Brandon Claussen. What Cincy got from the Sox appears to be a whole lot less than Claussen. Maybe teams simply don’t want to deal with the Bombers. Conspiracy theorists start your engines.

Either way, after a ‘rough’ start last winter, Theo Epstein is doing just fine for himself, don’t you think?

no title

DON’T SLEEP

Ben Jacobs’ Universal Baseball Blog, Inc. is one of the most complete and thorough blogs running. Ben is a die-hard Red Sox fan—and he is downright giddy after hearing Steinbrenner issue a ‘warning’ to Red Sox Nation yesterday—but he doesn’t just cover the Sox. Jacobs writes with clarity and conviction, and he covers a myriad of baseball topics. His site should be on your short list of daily stops. And that’s the scoop, Cecil Coop.

no title

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES

Buster Olney has a nice article on how to win friends and influence trades over at ESPN. Will the success of “Moneyball” effect Billy Beane’s ability to make a big move this year? We’ve only got a couple of more days to find out.

no title

POOR LITTLE RICH TEAM

The Yankees had Monday off as they flew out west to start a three-game series against the World Champs. That gave them a day to stew in the juices of two difficult weekend losses in Boston. Maybe the team isn’t stewing at all, but that didn’t prevent Boss George from issuing a brief statement. “This will not stand, man. This aggression will not stand,” a stoned Dude once said. The New York Times has an article today about the Yankees’ troublesome bullpen, while Joel Sherman assigns some blame to the Bombers offense, who have been lousy in clutch situations.

Meanwhile, Rob Neyer has a piece comparing Yankee Stadium with Fenway Park. As much as I want to disagree with him, Neyer makes some good points, especially about how loud, and noisy Yankee Stadium is. Almost every time I’m there, I wish they could turn down the volume on the nonsense, and replace it with a simple organist. (For what it’s worth, Neyer does think the Yanks are better than the Sox.)

If you haven’t been to Larry Mahnken’s Replacement Level Yankees Weblog yet, you are missing out. Mahnken delivers the goods; he has made so many sharp observations during the past week, I don’t know where to start (OK, today’s post is about “The Curse of Jeff Nelson”). Do yourself a favor and make his page a part of your daily Yankee fix. You won’t be sorry.

BRONX BANTER INTERVIEW: MICHAEL LEWIS

BRONX BANTER INTERVIEW: MICHAEL LEWIS

STRAIGHT, NO CHASER

The author of “Moneyball” was in Boston to throw out the first pitch last Friday night. (David Halberstam, eat your heart out.) A week earlier, Lewis was in New York, putting the finishing touches on the press tour for his latest best-seller. He took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with Bronx Banter. Here is our conversation:

Bronx Banter: Have you sold the movie rights to “Moneyball” yet?

Michael Lewis: I didn’t have much hope that anyone would buy them. Because I can’t really see how you could make it into a movie—a good movie, anyway. What happens is, if somebody bought it for the movies, you’d have to create some sort of female role. They would just have to. You just have to twist so much. Having seen “Liar’s Poker” get bought for a lot of money, and then completely mangled in the creation of the script, and eventually never getting made. If they can’t make that, I can’t imagine how they can make this. There have been, oddly enough, some feelers from people who say they want to buy the rights. A lot of things sell, that shouldn’t sell, accidentally. That might happen, but I’d be really surprised if it ever became a movie.

BB: It’s tough too, because baseball movies are notoriously bad.

ML: Yeah, that’s right.

BB: The Billy Beane characterization is the dramatic structure for a movie treatment. It might have to be a very male movie, but so be it. It could be a classic, and I think I got the feel for it when I read the book.

ML: The hope for it as a movie would be having very few baseball scenes. And lots of scenes of Billy in his office.

BB: The greatest sin of baseball moviemaking is that the sport has never properly been captured on the screen. Football was lucky; NFL Films was the best thing that ever happened to that sport. Most action shots in baseball movies are static, shot in super slow mo. You get close-ups and super close-ups. It’s terrible. You never feel the vast amount of space and isolation that exists on a baseball field. It doesn’t seem like it would take a real genius to figure this out, but there it is. As a visceral subject-which are what movies are all about—baseball is still an unpolished pearl. But imagine the comedy you can find in Ron Washington going through infield drills with the butchers they send through. The scout stuff is a cinch for great machismo movie melodrama.

ML: That scene would work as a movie. I agree. And it would work having these misshapen oddities that show up. Ron Washington would be a wonderful movie character: a guy who is hired to be the third base and infield coach of a team that won’t waste money on foot speed or fielding skills. This beleaguered, veteran guy. I can see that, but what I can’t see is the narrative thread. I don’t know exactly how you’d do that.

BB: It’s about a personality tour de force, surrounded by a very strong supporting cast of characters. It’s about Beane being one kind of player as a kid, and eventually becoming a man as a general manager who is obsessed with signing players who are his exact opposite.

ML: There you go. But how would you end it? Maybe you wouldn’t have to. I used the 2002 A’s season as a very loose narrative frame. Which was, from the point of view of making a movie, unremarkable.

BB: Yeah, you’d have to make the anti-baseball movie, baseball movie.

ML: You would have to do that. I’d say the only good baseball movie I have ever seen is “Bull Durham.”

BB: I got another one for you, and I actually think it’s the only other really good one. “The Bad News Bears.”

ML: Oh, there you go. That is a good baseball movie. “The Natural” was horrible.

BB: You want to think movies like “Band the Drum Slowly,” and “Bingo Long ” is better than they really are, but they’re lousy. Even “Eight Men Out,” which had a lot of good things going for it, wasn’t really a good movie.

ML: Yeah, it was ok. So I don’t have any plans to make “Moneyball” into a movie. If somebody wants to call and give me money, I’ll take it. That’s sort of how I feel about it.

BB: You’ve been promoting your book “Moneyball” for the past few months. Has the publicity tour been different from your previous experiences promoting your work?

ML: Ah, no. There have been very slight differences; it’s disturbingly the same. If the publisher had been a little more innovative, I would maybe follow the A’s around, and just go to the ballparks, and talk to the reporters at the ballpark. But we didn’t do that. We did a very conventional promotional tour, and it was maybe a couple of extra cities. Even then, I think I’ve had tours that were even bigger than this one [has been]. So no. It’s fifteen, sixteen, seventeen cities. The tour itself last about four weeks. And then I stopped. Now, I’m coming to do a couple of more things this week, and then I’m completely done. I promised them I’d come back to New York for a couple of days, so I’m here now, doing that. But that’s normal for a book tour. I mean book tours are like running for president. You land, there’s a handler. You’re taken to three or four radio shows, a TV show or two; you give a talk at night, maybe one in the middle of the day. And then you go to bed and you do the same thing the next day, somewhere else. That has been no different from the other books. But the only difference is that I’m doing sports media [now]. And I’ve never done that before. Every city seems to have six radio shows that do nothing but gab about sports. And that was a new experience for me.

BB: Who was the target audience for the book?

ML: There wasn’t one. We didn’t sit around and say, ‘Who’s going to buy this?’ Actually, I’m the wrong person to ask. It’s possible my publisher did. But I didn’t think about it. I can tell you who has bought it. Broadly. There is a whole—as you must know—subculture of baseball—

BB: Nerds.

ML: –Nuts. They bought it. There is the whole world of Wall Street. The people who read “Liar’s Poker.” They bought it in a big way. I don’t know how many copies we’ve sold to people who work in baseball, basketball, football, but we do seem to have sold quite a few. To people who are actually in the sports business. Agents, scouts, people in the organizations. So that’s an audience. But a lot of business people seem to be reading it.

BB: One of the things I liked about it is that you made very definite narrative choices. It seemed broader than an insider baseball book. It wasn’t just written for the baseball nut, it has a wider appeal.

ML: That’s because I’m not a baseball nut. So I wouldn’t be interested in it if it was just a baseball nut subject, that’s right. I just thought it was a great story. I’ll tell you who is not reading it: women. My sense is that 95 out of every hundred readers are male. There have been very few responses from women; lots and lots of responses from guys. I was in Chicago yesterday and I had dinner with an economist named Richard Thaler, do you know who he is? He essentially invented the field of behavioral economics. Those economists start with the assumption that people aren’t rational. As opposed to are. He’s at the Business School of Chicago. And he found himself in an argument about the book with one of the economists who believe that people are rational. He said it was being heavily read there. So academics. Maybe academics are reading it, to.

BB: What interested me are the dramatic choices you made in the book. You kept the focus, sharp and exact, with no fat. You know, for many baseball nuts, the book could have been 200 pages longer, and they would have been perfectly happy.

ML: And you know how many people would have been unhappy? Including me.

BB: I think it’s funny that the criticism against the book was aimed at Beane, when it’s not just a book about Billy Beane.

ML: It’s still going on. You see the Joe Morgan columns?

BB: He’s such a dope as an analyst. There are guys who make a regular habit of busting his chops in the baseball blogging world.

ML: But I have the impression that he thinks of himself as a great success as an analyst. He seems to be oblivious to the kind of criticism that you hear from any thoughtful person who has listened to him. But he wrote a couple of columns where he said Billy Beane shouldn’t have written this book. That kind of stuff. But there has been a lot of that kind of stuff, I agree. There have been also a lot of people who have been hostile to a section of the book and after, admitted that they hadn’t read it. They are hostile to the idea of it, and I can understand that.

BB: Most of what people criticized about the book was the portrait of Beane as a big, egomaniacal schmuck. But I always got the impression that Beane is a shrewd guy who is smart enough to surround himself with very talented people.

ML: I agree with that. I think what happened was, people mistook the reaction to the book. People in baseball thought he was arrogant because he had a book written about himself. That is where the charge of arrogance is coming from, and it’s bizarre. All of it—whether they think he wrote it or not-is prefaced on the idea that he somehow orchestrated this thing. Which could not be further from the truth. This thing happened in spite of him not because of him.

BB: Is it just jealousy?

ML: That would surprise me. I would think it’s more that. This is a very sensitive environment, because a lot of guys sense they don’t know exactly what they are doing. A lot of people are aware that there is this organization [the A's] that has been doing a lot more with less money than their organization. How bad does that look? Is there a good reason why they are doing better for less money? It’s not just luck. It can’t just be swept away with a wave of a hand. All of a sudden, it’s very damning and very threatening. This explains the hostility of GMs. The hostility of the scouts is obvious enough. They need to channel that into something, but instead of picking an argument with the book-which would be very dangerous-and me, who can answer back in print and have a lot of fun doing it. If they can make it seem like this is some arrogant asshole GMs doing; I think it is their attempt to mute the message of the book. It may not be so conscious as that, but I think that’s where it’s coming from. They are trying to mute the message of the book.

BB: Have you read any of the write-ups on your book in the blogging world?

ML: I don’t go on and read—I know there have been long threads on the various websites about the book, but I haven’t gone on and read any of that.

BB: For a lot of the super stat nerds, this book is like the Torah. It’s had a real impact.

ML: It’s funny. I could understand as I was writing it, that would be somewhat unsatisfying to a hardcore stats nerd because all he wants in the statistical secrets of the Oakland A’s, and he wants them in a cold-blooded fashion. He doesn’t want a story. The truth is, I wasn’t ever going to get all of the secrets. I got some of the secrets, probably the most important ones, but there is still stuff I didn’t get. The other thing the stats geek wants me to do is dismantle whatever fallacies they might have. And I had no interest in doing that. I just wanted to give the reader a view of what they were doing. I didn’t want to say, ‘It makes no sense that on base percentage is three times better than slugging percentage ‘ I didn’t have any particular interest in sifting through the minutia of the A’s statistical arguments. I thought the big point, is that they are even making them. If they are wrong, and it’s really only two-and-a-half times slugging, then who really gives a shit? I mean I give a shit sort of, but not really. The point is, the A’s are thinking rationally and analytically about it. We can argue about the finer details, but I didn’t care to do that. I knew when I was writing it that there would be a feeling with the hardcore baseball fan that they were being lead to the alter. It would miss the point too heavily to focus on just those arguments. These are people that basically embrace the same worldview, and they are arguing amongst themselves, in a language they can understand.

BB: There was an article on Bill James in The New Yorker a few weeks ago and James said one of the frustrating parts of working for the Sox is that he’s discovering all this new knowledge and he can’t share it with his public. When did you first read Bill James?

ML: Not until I saw his books on Billy Beane’s bookshelf. I had never even heard of him. There was a long row of the old Abstracts in his office, and I said, ‘What’s that?’ I took them away. I actually took them away, and I kept them for about six months.

BB: Who were some of the characters that didn’t make it into the book, or got cut down drastically? I would have loved to had more of Sandy Alderson.

ML: That’s not a bad example; I could have gone farther into him. Well, Tim Hudson ended up on the cutting room floor. For a very specific reason. Zito got left on the cutting room floor too, but I was less interested in Zito than Hudson. And they were both very available. I could have really gone places with them as characters, but I decided very early on-or more like in the middle of [writing] it— that I wanted the reader to encounter players that the reader didn’t know were valuable. I wanted the reader to have the experience of undervaluing. While it is true both Zito, and especially Hudson, had been very badly undervalued in their youth, they are now such established stars that you don’t get that experience with them. If Sports Illustrated came to me and said, ‘Okay, let’s look at the outtakes and see if we can make a couple of magazine pieces out of this. What would you like to do?’ First I would say, let me do a profile of Ron Washington. He’s just so funny. Without meaning to be funny. He’s one of the funniest people I have ever run across. And he’s in such a funny predicament. I would put Ron Washington on the cover of Sports Illustrated. “The Unluckiest Coach in Baseball.” Hudson would be the second one. I did quite a bit of reporting outside the A’s organization with other ball clubs, and that all ended up on the cutting room floor. I spent quite a bit of time with the Toronto Blue Jays, some time with the Red Sox, some time down with the Rangers. As discreet pieces of writing, I would have loved to write about Tom Hicks. I would have loved to write about J.P. Riccardi, and what he was doing in Toronto, and I would have loved to write about John Henry. I had a whole chapter that I wrote about the Blue Jays, and I just dropped it. It just didn’t work in the story, so I dropped it and left it all behind.

BB: The story is the thing. What I like about the book is the choices that you make are confident and assertive.

ML: There are some ruthless decisions that have to be made. It’s more than the story is the thing. The story has got a point to it, and the story and the point rub along together and you don’t want to distract from it. I had this other body of material that is entertaining, that’s colorful, that works on its own, but the thing had a momentum to it, and I felt that every time we left the Oakland A’s the story lost some of that momentum. And I didn’t think I could add anything to the point I was trying to make. It wasn’t so frustrating because I was wed to the story I was telling. I was very happy with that. But there were times where I was like, ‘Shit, I’m sorry I’ve got to lose this, but I’ve got to lose it.’

BB: The A’s are all about finding efficiencies and you have to find efficiencies in writing as well.

ML: You do, you really do. I think there is a power to narrative, in that you have an almost economic relationship with the reader, in that they pick up a book, and it’s a story. And in the first 50 pages, they become invested in the story. They become partners in the story, in a funny way. If they feel confident in your ability to manage the story, they’ll go all sorts of places with you that they wouldn’t otherwise go. But if you abuse that trust, you are in real trouble. So I always feel that decisions have to be made in the interest of the story. They are sometimes ruthless decisions but it’s all in the interest of being able to take the reader someplace that he can’t believe he’d go. I’ve had a lot of people tell me, ‘I can’t believe I read all this shit about statistics and Bill James.’ Then, to get them to read about Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford.

BB: I love how chatty Scott Hatteberg is, and how conversational first base is as a position. It got me to thinking that all first basemen must be some of the best talkers in baseball.

ML: If they are not, they are wasting an opportunity. He actually is made to be on first base. He is unlike a professional baseball player in his conversational abilities. He is a delight to talk to

BB: Did you find that the players ranged from gregarious to mute?

ML: Some of them were almost monosyllabic. I would hate to have to write about Eric Chavez. Miguel Tejada would be a delightful subject if you spoke Spanish. Some of them were easy to draw out. Corey Lidle: very easy to draw out, very easy to talk to. Hudson. I could develop a relationship, a conversational relationship with them. Then there are some of them like Chavez

BB: He looks burnt to me.

ML He’s just so insecure. This horrible combination of cocky and insecure. He’s cocky because it’s a front. I always felt kind of embarrassed for him, talking to him. He didn’t know what to think about anything actually. He would cover up by being rude and gruff. I just didn’t have time for it. Mulder. Mulder is vacant. There is nothing there. He’s like a beautiful woman who has never had to think. I would hate to have to write about Mulder in a way that required me to actually tease quotes out of him. Or anything from him. I talked to all of these people, and some of them were better than others, but there were plenty of them that were good.

BB: Hudson just looks like he’s got personality. He’s so poised.

ML: He’s the leader of the team. There is no question. I’ll tell you a story. When they lost to the Twins in the playoffs last year, the next morning there was supposed to be media availability from 9-11 in the clubhouse. All of the players came, got all of their crap, and left by 8:30 in the morning. The place was vacant when the press showed up to ask questions. The only one there was Tim Hudson. And Scott Hatteberg. But Scott Hatteburg had had a great series. But Tim Hudson, who essentially fucked up the whole thing, sat there and answered everyone’s questions. That’s the kind of leader Hudson is.

BB: Why didn’t Billy Beane take the Boston job?

ML: In the book I don’t explain why he didn’t go; I explain why he even entertained it in the first place. He wanted the validation. Why he didn’t go? I think his daughter had a lot to do with it. I think that he almost breaks out in hives when he’s in an east coast city. I mean, he doesn’t own a suit. Being in a more corporate, conservative, or business-like environment makes him uncomfortable. I think that the Red Sox job is actually a really shitty job right now. Because you’ve got this organization that looks to the fans and the media like, ‘Oh, we could win a World Series this year,’ but in fact, the minor league system’s bankrupt. Four of your stars’ contracts are coming up after next season. To do it right, what they need to do is rebuild. Not to max out right away at the major league level, but actually take a longer view. And that is such a bad environment to try and take a longer view because everybody wants it now.

BB: It’s like trying to rebuild in New York.

ML: Boston is insane though. They haven’t won it since 1918, you’d think they could put up with someone who came in and had a plan. But they can’t. So I think Beane saw that. In addition I think he understands that the opportunity cost of making a decision is that he would have been locked up for five years in Boston, and who knows what’s going to come down the pike. Whereas I think he feels he can walk out of his contract in Oakland any day if something comes up.

BB: Do you think Beane is going to run into difficulties when Paul DePodesta eventually leaves Oakland and takes a GM job himself?

ML: Yes. Yes, I do. I think Paul is extremely valuable. Having said that, I think Paul might have some trouble adjusting to a job of his own. I think they are more valuable—I think they know this too—much more valuable together than they are apart.

BB: Do you like baseball more after writing the book?

ML: I get too invested in how the book is doing right when it comes out. Then I’ll just forget about it. In three months I’ll have forgotten about it. But right now every week the publisher calls and tells me where it is on the best-seller list and how many copies are selling and all that stuff. It’s impossible for me not to get engaged. So, it’s ruining the baseball season for me because every game becomes, ‘How does it affect “Moneyball”?’ If the A’s lose, it ruins my night. If the Mariners win, it ruins my night.

BB: Now you sound like a real baseball fan.

ML: Almost any game can arguably have some effect on how “Moneyball” is perceived. When the Blue Jays lose, I get upset. And when the Red Sox lose to the Yankees, I get upset. So I’m actually, not enjoying it right now. But I will go back to enjoying it next year.

BB: There is still a lot of time left this season for things to turn your way. Will you write an additional chapter for the paperback edition?

ML: I think there’s a chance that I’m going to write a response to the critics. It wouldn’t be exactly that. It would be a piece making observations about the reaction. It would include a discussion about sports writing and the state of sports writing. Baseball writing. It’s curious the way baseball writers are. It’s curious to me that Joe Morgan can write pieces saying that Billy Beane wrote the book, and nobody says anything. It’s just weird. In a way, the response to the book has explained why all these inefficiencies existed in the first place. I might do that, if I have the energy. But my inclination is to move on. The pleasure of the book is largely in doing it. It’s done. And now, I’m going to write a sequel to the book. Which is going to take me six years to do, and the sequel is going to be about what happens to the kids they drafted. I am following them through the minor leagues. Traveling on the buses with them and all that other stuff.

BB: So you are sticking to baseball for now?

ML: Well, that won’t be published for six or seven years. I really want to see what happens to them. I’ll do other things in between, but I am going to do another baseball book.

DOH! Jeff Weaver continued to

DOH!

Jeff Weaver continued to pitch well through the middle innings, and I turned the game off after the sixth with the Yanks ahead, 3-0. I had been debating whether I was going to watch the game all weekend. But with Weaver enjoying a good outing, I thought I’d quit while I was ahead. Turned out to be a good thing, sort of…Naturally, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so instead of waiting until the morning to discover the results, I had to check the score 45 minutes later. I didn’t know if my eyes were working when I saw that the Sox now led 6-3. But sure enough, there it was.

I turned the TV off, and went to sleep. I didn’t even want to know what had happened. I was so tired, I didn’t even let it keep me up.

Turns out Chris Hammond came on for Weaver in the seventh, with one out and two men on. He promptly served up a game-tying homer to Jason Varitek and then a solo blast to Johnny Damon. Orosco and Benitez coughed up a couple of more runs and the Sox won the game and the series. The Yanks now lead the season series, 7-6.

It turned out to be a tough weekend for the Bombers. They lost two games they should have won, games they have traditionally pulled out. They were awful with men in scoring position last night, and squandered many opportunities. But the Sox are grinders, and were impressive after losing on Friday night. With six head-to-head match ups left, there is still more drama to be had.

I recieved an e-mail from a reader detailing just how many close games these two teams have played recently:

I was also thinking last night about the magnitude of 1 run games in the
last few years; luckily, so was the Hartford Courant.

“Going into Saturday, the Red Sox and Yankees had played 22 games that
were decided by one run since the start of the 2000 season. The Yankees
had won 15, including 13 of the last 17″

So that’s 23 1 run games in less than 3 years. That’s astounding. And
when you see what the recent trend has been, I guess that explains why my
fellow Sox fans were eerily silent in the 9th yesterday, waiting for the
other shoe to drop…

Keep up the good work…

Tim

I heard a lot of Yankee fans complaining about Pedro’s tantrum on Friday, when he showed-up Dana Demuth. Hey, just be happy the Bombers beat the guy. Think how upsetting it would be if he pulled that nonsense and then won the game.

I thought last night could very well be Jeff Weaver’s last start for the Yanks. He pitched well though, and perhaps Cashman can hang onto him after all.

The Yanks head to California to play three against the World Champs and then three against Oakland over the weekend. They return to New York next week to play Texas and then Seattle. Meanwhile, the Sox go to Texas and then Baltimore this week. Next week, they host the Angels and the Orioles.

This is Boston’s chance to make a run because from August 11th through August 25th, the Sox only play the A’s and the M’s (followed by the Jays, Yanks, White Sox, and Yanks). Let’s see if they can bump the Bombers out of first. Even if they don’t, the Sox don’t look to be going anywhere.

Johnny Damon, who had a big hit on Sunday, told the Times, “We feel we’re a better team than the Yankees; but they don’t lose games they’re supposed to win. They’re definitely the Road Runners; they have 26 championships. We’re trying to catch them.”

AND NOW A WORD FROM

AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSERS

Jeter got a cheapo hit and Matsui later drove him in with an RBI single in the third. Yanks up 2-0. But Derek Lowe was wild and soon the bases were loaded, with 2 out. Nick Johnson looked at a ball before the ESPN signal went dead. After 15 seconds of black they cut to the Sunday Night Baseball banner, and cued the music. Then cut to commercial. Why didn’t they run a radio feed? What gives here people?! We got an at bat in progress.
They stay on the commercials long enough for me to guess that Johnson somehow made an out. But no, the next thing I see is Trey Wingo reporting some technical trouble in Boston. He’s going to show us some highlights instead. We get no update on the Nick Johnson at bat. We get highlights.

By the time I get the radio on Weaver has just retired the first batter of the third inning. Todd Walker followed with a clean single to right. The crowd stirred. Nomar comes to the plate and the ESPN is back, with the Spanish commentators. I couldn’t have don’t it better myself. And now the radio commentators.

Count goes full to Nomie and with Walker running, he fouls the ball off. Weaver throws over to first. Then Garciaparra grounds out to third with Walker running. Man on second, two out.

Manny: Curve, low and outside. Manny lays off, ball one. The crowd is a bit livelier tonight. Ball, low and inside, 2-0. Breaking ball, and Manny misses it; he lofts a fly ball to Godzilla to end the inning.

I still don’t know what happened to Nick Johnson. The Yanks didn’t score a run, so it couldn’t have been too good. What’s the matter with ESPN? Don’t they have the sense to give us an update?

Lowe gives up a hit but gets a double play in the fourth. You can hear the “Yankees suck” chants tonight. This is a different crowd than Friday.

SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE FENS…

SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE FENS…

Jeff Weaver looks sharp through the second inning in Boston. In the first, Weaver struck out Johnny Damon on three pitches (all looking), and after retiring Todd Walker, beaned Nomar with a fastball in on the hands. Apparently Garciaparra has owned Weaver. Manny walked, although Weaver made a couple of good pitches; he lost on him on a 3-2 count. Then walked another to load the bases. But Weaver didn’t implode, and his stuff looked good. Fastball in on the hands, then moving away with sharp movement. He got a fly ball to get out of the inning.

Giambi hit a bomb in the top of the first. Way out over the green monster. His first hit of the series. Good a time as any. Derek Lowe faced Matsui to start the second and he brushed him back with the first pitch. The next one went behind him. But Lowe didn’t get tossed. Instead, the ump issued a warning to both teams.

Weaver had a one-two-three second.

Older posts           
feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver