Tag: Interviews

The Value of Sabermetrics: An Author’s Perspective

Co-author Alan Hirsch was kind enough to answer and respond to questions and criticisms of his new book, The Beauty of Short Hops: How Chance and Circumstance Confound the Moneyball Approach to Baseball.


Q: Billy Beane didn’t/doesn’t watch A’s games because, in your words, “He can’t bear seeing the damn players muck up what should be a perfectly predictable contest.” 

Don’t all GM’s wish their moves would work out as planned and wish the game was predictable in some sense?  And is the wish and goal of GM’s and sabermetrics in general actually to make things perfectly predictable or to just gain as much insight as possible into who players are and what they are capable of? 


AH:  Yes, GMs are in the business of winning, and when they hire sabermetricians they try to improve their teams’ chances via statistical study. There’s obviously no problem with that.  We were on the Bill James bandwagon early, and we hope the teams we root for find edges wherever they can.  

It’s the excesses we argue against, and the failure to recognize limitations.

Here’s Moneyball’s description of Billy Beane’s perspective: ‘The game can be reduced to a social science…It is simply a matter of figuring out the odds, and exploiting the laws of probability’ because ‘baseball players follow strikingly predictable patterns.’  As for other GMs, I can’t speak for them but I know that many of them watch the games!

Q: I think one of the strong points of this book is your critique of Moneyball. But don’t the problems of Moneyball have more to do with oversimplifying the A’s and their use of sabermetrics into a narrative of stats versus scouts or sabermetrics versus tradition (for lack of a better word)? 


AH: It’s true that the flaws of Moneyball don’t necessarily carry over to sabermetrics.  At the end of the chapter on Moneyball we specifically note that the errors we identified by Michael Lewis and Beane could be their own and thus it would be unfair to judge sabermetrics accordingly. Then we turn to a chapter which discusses sabermetrics more broadly and directly.  


Q: Also, it seems Michael Lewis suffers from a lack of perspective on how sabermetrics influenced the game. It was published in 2003, when sabermetrics was shedding the label of being a dirty word amongst baseball insiders. Shouldn’t Moneyball be viewed differently than sabermetrics?  

AH: It’s true that a lot has happened in sabermetrics since 2003. 

That’s why we have a chapter called “The Third Wave,” devoted to post-Moneyball developments. But your question also raises the relationship between Moneyball and sabermetrics more broadly. Moneyball revolves around Beane’s success with a small budget, principally due to insights allegedly gleaned from sabermetrics. 

If Michael Lewis had just written a book that looked at how some low-budget team succeeded, without introducing a new paradigm for success, it wouldn’t have had nearly the impact it did. 

But if sabermetrics is central to Moneyball, how about the converse—is Moneyball important to sabermetrics? As an historical matter, yes (Moneyball publicized and accelerated the sabermetric revolution), but as an analytic matter, you’re right—you can’t judge sabermetrics by Moneyball. We don’t.  


Q: You focus a lot of attention on Jeremy Brown, the slow catcher drafted in the 2002 “Moneyball” draft, and how he was a prominent figure in Moneyball. But you conveniently fail to note that the A’s took Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton and Mark Teahen in that draft.  Again, I think this points out the failures of Moneyball focusing too much on narrative more so than it points out the failures of sabermetrics. 

AH: We focus on Jeremy Brown rather than Swisher and company because Lewis does, and he does because Brown illustrates his central point: Beane won with little money in large part because sabermetrics enabled him to identify undervalued players. 

The issue is not whether Beane won on a limited budget, which is indisputable, but how he did so. In that regard, Jeremy Brown took on symbolic significance. Beane craved him because of a new paradigm of how to recognize undervalued talent (which was not the case with Swisher, who was widely recognized as a top prospect).

Thus Brown is not just one player whom one general manager misevaluated. In fact, Beane didn’t evaluate him at all—he thought Brown’s college statistics were all he needed to know. 

Brown and Brant Colamarino (another player Beane craved based on statistics despite his non-athleticism) are pretty good examples of one way in which statistics can be over-valued—in this case at the expense of old-fashioned scouting. 

Q: You say, at the highest level Bill James’s doctrine comes down to idea that baseball decision-makers can’t know what they’re doing without numbers.  How can one objectively break down everything that has happened in major league baseball, in a meaningful way, without measuring everything that happened (i.e., without numbers or statistics)? 


AH: We were praising James. 

That’s the part of the book where we talk about how he rescued baseball from a tradition of ignorance. We’re all for objective data. It’s true that elsewhere in the book we give many examples of data that are useless and things that simply cannot be quantified. 

For the record, I am pretty sure that James would agree with a good deal of what’s in the book. He’s publicly expressed misgivings about sabermetrics that track closely some of our criticisms.


SP: You are critical of Voros McCraken’s ideas of Defense-Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS), the idea that besides strikeouts, walks and home runs, pitchers basically have little or no control over what else happens.

You point out that Sandy Koufax, for example, had a much lower BABiP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) than most other pitchers, therefore McCracken’s theory doesn’t hold water.  His theory was built around evaluating pitchers without looking at hits allowed or statistics that are heavily influenced by hits allowed (ERA, WHIP). 

Yes, certain pitchers are better at preventing hits but that will almost always show up in home runs allowed and strikeouts. 

AH:  It’s not just Koufax, of course. 

We offer substantial evidence to refute the suggestion that pitchers have no control over outcomes except home runs, walks, and strikeouts. It’s no surprise that Mariano Rivera has a low BABiP—all those broken bats tend to produce weakly hit balls. I disagree with your suggestion that BABiP can be dissociated from the other metrics of DIPS; they are all of a piece.  

We discuss all this in the Moneyball chapter.  Michael Lewis argues that, thanks to his attention to McCracken’s idea, Beane was able to identify undervalued pitchers — guys whose ERAs were high solely due to a randomly high BABIP, while their more reliable numbers suggested their true quality. 

In fact, when followed long enough, BABIP is not random—one of the ways pitchers can succeed is by inducing weakly hit balls. As for your suggestion that this skill almost perfectly tracks pitchers’ ability with respect to strikeouts and avoiding home runs, look at Dave Stieb and Catfish Hunter—not big strikeout pitchers and gave up plenty of home runs, but succeeded in large part because of low BABiP.


Q: You bring up the fact that Roger Maris had no intentional walks in 1961 hitting in front of Mickey Mantle, and conclude that one can’t quantify value with precision because of variables like Mantle helping Maris to get better pitches or increasing his opportunities to hit with runners on base and not walk. 

But maybe we can’t quantify the value of these players in terms of overall influence on the team but can’t we quantify the value of these players in terms of their results?  Doesn’t a distinction need to be pointed out there?

Statistically Ben Zobrist was one of the most valuable players in the game in 2008, but that doesn’t mean his value was representative of his skills rather than factors outside his control. 


AH: You can certainly limit yourself to Mantle’s and Maris’ statistics, but precisely the point we were making is just how many variables go into a player’s value that one can’t even begin to quantify.  If you were ranking these two in 1961, how do you factor in what Mantle did for Maris by batting behind him? 

Bill James has said that there’s no evidence suggesting that a player can help the batter in front of him. Mantle and Maris are an apparent counterexample, as we show. But we also show that the extent to which Mantle helped Maris can’t be quantified. I don’t just mean it can’t be quantified with precision. I mean that any effort to begin to estimate it runs into several problems that apply to many sabermetric projects and that have not been acknowledged. 


Q: What about the fact that Maris, by some measures, was actually as good or better in 1960 than in 1961? 

In 1960 Mantle mostly hit in front of Maris, not behind him. And Maris only had four intentional walks in 1960 hitting mostly in front of the rather mediocre Bill Skowron.  Should we question the impact of Skowron on Maris’ performance in 1960, the season in which he was probably more deserving of the MVP award?   

AH: First, I’d take issue with the suggestion that Maris was as good in 1960 as in 1961. His slugging percentage and OPS were significantly better in ‘61, and he hit 22 more homes runs.

In terms of the intentional walks, keep in mind that ‘60 was his breakout season—he was quite ordinary until then. In ‘61, he was the reigning MVP and quickly established himself as a truly feared slugger.  

So if your implication with the Skowron stat is that the zero intentional walks in ’61 wasn’t because of Mantle, I’d respectfully disagree. It’s staggering that, in the midst of a record-breaking home run season, Maris received zero intentional walks. 

But the 1960/61 inquiry is a diversion from out main point. We provide significant data suggesting that Mantle’s presence in ‘61 helped Maris, but we fully acknowledge, indeed emphasize, that the extent of the benefit cannot be quantified.  Moreover, we explain why additional data (from 1960 or 1962 or any other year) won’t help much, if at all.  

This is one of several examples we cite in which potentially important aspects of a player’s contribution simply can’t be measured.


Q: Regarding Ricky Henderson’s baserunning, you point out that many sabermetricians discount what he did to disrupt opposing pitchers and help his teammates at the plate.  You point out that several hitters—Dwayne Murphy, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield—had their best seasons with Henderson batting in front of them. 

This simply isn’t true. 

Mattingly was as good in 1984 without Henderson as he was in 1985 with him. And Mattingly’s best season was 1986, Henderson’s worst or second-worst. 

Winfield’s best season was clearly 1979, without Henderson. Murphy hit behind Henderson from age 24 to age 29. Is it really saying anything that his best season was one in which he hit behind Henderson? What about the other five, rather mediocre seasons behind Henderson? 

AH: I think if you look at the data comprehensively (and don’t forget Edgardo Alfonzo, who may be the clearest example), you will find that overall players batting behind Henderson seemed to prosper. 

But let’s put this in context. 

For a long time, sabermetricians argued that stolen bases were attempted too often because the negative effect of a caught stealing was insufficiently considered. They were probably right, but their analyses neglected the fact that the threat of a steal might unnerve a pitcher and produce better results for the next few batters. 

Then a prominent sabermetrician wrote an article which did consider this dynamic but nevertheless concluded that Henderson (because he was caught so often) was barely more valuable on the bases than guys who never steal. 

The problem is that, in considering a player like Henderson’s effect on subsequent batters, he ignored several variables. This wasn’t just a failure that can be corrected by the next study.  Rather, there are simply too many variables to consider, and no way to do a prospective study even if you somehow cataloged them all.  More data is not always the answer. 

Sometimes you’re just spinning your wheels and not getting any closer to the truth. I doubt that we’re closer today than we were 20 years ago to quantifying Mantle’s value to Maris or Henderson’s impact on a game. 

You gave a good example why (and we actually made this very point).  Dwayne Murphy had his best years playing with Henderson, but there’s no way of knowing how much of that was for reasons unrelated to Henderson. 


Q: You discuss Babe Ruth’s stolen base attempt in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series.  You write that Ruth’s odds of a successful attempt in that situation were probably anywhere from 20 percent to 80 percent.  And if he’d have stolen successfully, then only the batter at the plate (Bob Meusel) needed to get a hit to tie the game. 

But with Ruth on first, the Yankees needed hits from both Meusel and on-deck hitter Lou Gehrig to tie the game. So Ruth attempting a steal may have given the Yankees a better shot at winning. 

You seem to be guilty of that which you criticize sabermetricians, you fail to take the specific situation. Meusel led the American League in homers in 1925 and posted a  respectable slugging percentage in 1926. Plus, if by chance Meusel got on base (he had posted a .361 on-base percentage to that point in his career), then Gehrig comes up with the tying run at least on second.    


AH: Meusel’s power is actually one of the many variables we consider. 

There are additional variables we don’t consider. Part of our point is that you couldn’t possibly know them all. We argue that numerical analysis simply cannot help Ruth decide whether to steal, which is just one example of the larger point: Sabermetrics generally does not provide much help with respect to in-game decision-making such as whether to steal or bunt. The conclusion to the contrary rests on over-extrapolation from base rate data. 

Look at this way.  If Ruth is a 55 percent successful stealer and sabermetricians find that you need to be successful roughly 75 percent of the time to make a stolen base attempt worthwhile, isn’t it obvious that Ruth should not have attempted the steal?

Actually, no.  

Both the 55 percent and 75 percent figures are highly variable depending on the specifics of the situation—score, inning, pitcher, catcher, and any number of other things…Ruth’s likelihood of stealing the base in that very specific situation was a virtual guess. 

And while sabermetricians can tell us that, on balance, you need to succeed 75 percent of the time to justify the steal, you don’t face “on balance” situations. The percentage needed to justify a steal when Grover Cleveland Alexander is throwing the way he is in a one-run game in the ninth inning—good luck figuring that out. Even if you could, by the time you did the inning would be long over. 


Q: The way I understand it, 75 percent is kind of an estimated break-even point over the course of a season. Obviously you can’t know if a guy is going to be successful that often except through trial and error. If a guy has the speed and baserunning skills, he should utilize it until it’s proven he shouldn’t. 

But I would argue, and I think most sabermetricians would argue, that a guy shouldn’t steal in any specific situation unless he’s almost certain he’s going to succeed, especially when the hitter at the plate has a decent shot for an extra-base hit and an out would end the game. 

Even 80 percent certainty of success wouldn’t have been good enough in that situation. The odds are still probably against the Yankees even if Ruth steals the base and the batter in that situation has a pretty good shot at a game-tying extra-base hit, whether Ruth is on first or on second. 


AH: I disagree that one should always be “almost certain of success” before stealing.

That really depends on inning, score, pitcher, batter, and more.  You’re down one run in the ninth inning, two outs, a singles hitter at bat against a dominant closer—you should be willing to gamble quite a bit. 

What percentage is needed to justify an attempt in that situation? It can’t be known, just as you can’t know the likelihood that the runner will be successful: his overall success rate may be a poor predicter in the specific situation.  T

That’s why when you quibble over the particulars of the Ruth example (e.g., whether Meusel’s OBP of .361 tips the balance), you seem to me to miss our main point. When Babe is standing on first base deciding whether to steal, he has to take into account whether or not the pitcher is holding him on tightly, short-striding or not, throwing fast balls or breaking balls, and a host of other situation-specific variables which he can’t think about because he doesn’t even know.  The decision whether to steal necessarily rests on old-fashioned judgment and intuition.

Q: You seem to argue that from a sabermetric and statistical perspective, Pete Rose doesn’t appear to have Hall of Fame credentials because his career on-base percentage and slugging percentage were both too low and that the primary reason he’s considered a solid candidate statistically is because he played for so long and racked up impressive counting statistics. Context matters and sabermetric stats that attempt to adjust for context suggest that Rose is indeed at least a decent Hall of Fame candidate. Plus, longevity matters to some degree. 


AH: This was the chapter in which we praised sabermetrics’ major contributions but also argued that some people overrate those contributions. We used Rose as a case in point of a player who, with the benefit of sabermetrics, we realize was overrated. 

Just compare his OPS to many players who no one thinks worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. But we also point out that Rose had spectacular intangibles, and these must be taken into account when evaluating a player. Rose is hard to rate right—considerably overrated if you don’t crunch the numbers, considerably underrated if all you do is crunch them. 


Q: You argue that Rose is a Hall of Famer largely because of intangibles. If intangibles are a primary reason why a solid player like Rose should be in the Hall of Fame, why not put someone like Brett Butler in the Hall?  I don’t see how taking intangibles into account makes Rose a Hall of Famer when, as you claim, he doesn’t have the statistics, but intangibles do not make someone like Brett Butler a Hall of Famer. 


AH: Judgments about who belongs in the Hall of Fame are extremely subjective but I’m not sure what we said that you disagree with.  

Both statistics and intangibles are relevant to assessing whether a player belongs in the Hall. Rose clearly belongs (putting aside gambling, an issue we don’t touch) and Butler obviously doesn’t. Rose has better statistics than Butler, and may have better intangibles too. 


Q: You write, “When data trumps all else, you end up…underrating Rickey Henderson and Mickey Mantle.” 

I don’t know many sabermetricians who underrate Henderson and Mantle.  In some respects, sabermetricians argue that Henderson and Mantle were underrated and belong in a tier right at or just below elite-level Hall of Famers like Ruth, Williams and Mays. 

AH: You’re right that by emphasizing OBP, sabermetricians enhanced appreciation of both Mantle and Henderson. 

In context, we were making a specific point about the value of Mantle batting behind Maris and the value of Henderson in unnerving and tiring pitchers. I think we make a strong case in the book that these non-measurable contributions (and, of course, similar contributions by other players) have been underrated by sabermetricians.  


Q: You spend a great deal of time on whether hitters own certain pitchers. I’ve read sabermetricians who argue that while we can’t say for certain whether hitters own particular pitchers, we may be able to determine whether hitters may own certain pitches. 

For all intents and purposes, this may be a minor distinction but a distinction nonetheless. And I think sabermetrics is closer to your view on this subject than you realize. 


AH: This was in the context of whether Joe Torre should have played Enrique Wilson against Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS when Wilson seemed to own Pedro, but based on a very small sample size. 

We talked about the way such decisions were traditionally approached, and contrasted that with how we think sabermetricians would have approached it based on an interesting article by James Click. 

And we proposed a “third way” which synthesized aspects of the traditional approach and Click’s perspective. If you’re saying sabermetricians would actually embrace our analysis, my answer is: I hope so.  We’re not looking to pick fights for the sake of it.  There are any number of places in the book where we express agreement with   sabermetricians.   


Q: You bring up the Minnesota Twins as an example of a very successful anti-sabermetric team in the “Moneyball” era.  I would argue, in a broad sense, the Twins are in fact a “Moneyball” team, although I agree they are not really a sabermetric team. 

Again, I think this points out the flaws of the narrative within Moneyball of stats versus scouts.  Sabermetrics is more about meaningful evidence (mostly statistics) versus seemingly intuitive guessing or meaningless statistics. The Twins and other quality organizations, like the Phillies, fall into neither of these categories.  And most serious sabermetricians will tell you that it’s better to look at no stats than the wrong stats.

AH: We quote Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and their assistant general manager Rob Anthony about their contempt for sabermetrics. Rob Neyer says they show an “utter lack of sophistication regarding statistical analysis.”  In any event, we can agree that they’re doing something right. 

Q: You make the claim that one reason sabermetrics is misguided is because there is not a narrow path or formula for team success. 

I would argue there is.

The formula is outscoring your opponents through good offense, good pitching/defense or both.  There is strong correlation with some statistics and team success. A team doesn’t necessarily have to use sabermetrics to outscore opponents, but I think you have to admit sabermetrics made a significant contribution into which player attributes were overrated and which were underrated. 

AH: Yes, the formula for winning is to outscore your opponent! 

We point out that there’s enormous variety in the construction of successful teams (regular season and postseason alike). 

Teams win with great offense or great defense or both, and offense built around power or small ball or both—every permutation. When you say we “have to admit” sabermetrics has made a contribution to baseball understanding, I’ll go further: we not only “have to” admit it but we do so without reluctance. 


Q: It seems you misinterpret Dayn Perry and Nate Silver’s study on postseason success. 

I don’t think any sabermetrician would argue that luck isn’t a huge factor in winning over the course of 5-7 games. The study was about factors that may influence postseason success, not coming up with a definitive formula for guaranteeing postseason success. 

AH: In a way I hope you’re right, because I’m a fan of Nate Silver—particularly his political analysis. If you convince me that FRAA and WXRL are in fact meaningful statistics, and weren’t used by them tendentiously, I’ll admit the error. But we may want to have that conversation in private lest we put most of your readers to sleep. 

Q: Regarding Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), I think the section of the book on it speaks to a misunderstanding of sabermetrics as claiming to be final and complete. 

UZR measures something and attempts to adjust those measurements for context.  No one claims that it’s flawless. But neither is watching every play a defender makes. Does that mean we should discount watching games?  In the same way, we shouldn’t discount UZR.  Both ways of analyzing fielders is useful.


AH: I readily agree that just watching defense will not always yield reliable assessments. That point extends to everything. 

We mention a scene in Ball Four when Bouton starts reciting statistics to let his manager know how well he’s been pitching. Joe Schultz says, “Aw ****, I don’t want to see any statistics.  I know what’s going on out there just by watching the games.” 

We do not endorse Schultz! Rather, I agree with what you said earlier—the key distinction is between statistics that are meaningful and those that are not.

With respect to those that are, there’s a question of how meaningful. In the book, we try to show why UZR is not very meaningful. Is it possible that better fielding statistics will be developed that don’t share some of UZR’s flaws? I’m skeptical (so, apparently, is Bill James)—this may be a case where more and more data simply do not help overcome inherent limitations in the measurement.

Q: You write, “We are, needless to say, not opponents of data. To the contrary, as should be clear, we’re prone to traffic in numbers ourselves. But one needs to do so with a healthy dose of skepticism and awareness of limitations. One senses sabermetrics careening almost randomly from one pole to another.  Baserunning and defense are overvalued, then undervalued.” 

But, in a broad sense, that was pretty much the whole point of Moneyball. Players’ market values often careen almost randomly from one pole to another. I think sabermetricians are more aware of its limitations. No one only uses sabermetrics or statistics and most on the scouting side do not avoid statistics. The “holy war” is overplayed, and Moneyball certainly didn’t help to put this “struggle” into the appropriate perspective. 


AH: Sabermetricians are not monolithic. But do many of them overstate the extent to which baseball decisions can be quantified?  I think we make pretty good case that they do. It’s hard to discuss this in generalities, but we give examples throughout the book.

Q: I’ve never known a sabermatrician write or say, “a walk is as good as a hit.”  You make the claim that it was actually Little League that taught us what sabermetricians claim to have taught us. 

But I think most sabermatricians would take a player who posts a high on-base percentage via hardly any walks, especially if that means more extra-base and home run power. How often a player gets on base or how many bases he gains at one time is more important than how a player gets on base. Sabermetricians understand this as well as anyone. 


AH: To be fair, what you’re talking about was in the chapter that discusses sabermetricians’ contributions…Some of their insights did not emerge ex nihilo, and in that context we note that the value of the base on balls was apparent to many observers long before sabermetrics made OBP a point of emphasis.  \

But credit where credit is due and we give credit where appropriate to lots of folks, including Michael Lewis, Billy Beane and (very much so) Bill James. Contrary to what many of our critics (those who have not read the book) assume, and as I think you can attest, Short Hops isn’t a Joe Morgan-like screed against sabermetrics.


Q: You make the common mistake of equating on-base percentage with walks. But it’s  about baserunners and avoiding outs. I don’t know any sabermatrician who is more concerned with how a player arrives at a high on-base percentage than if a player arrives at a high on-base percentage. 

Most sabermetricians would agree with you that Kevin Youkilis was more valuable in 2008-2010 when he walked less but posted a higher cumulative on-base percentage and slugging percentage than in his previous seasons when he walked more. 

In other words, most sabermetricians have always understood that walks and even on-base percentage aren’t the be-all, end-all. 


AH: The Youkilis example was in the specific context of an irony in Moneyball. 

Lewis emphasizes Beane’s annoyance with players who are impatient at the plate, over-valuing power and under-valuing walks. The A’s front office worshipped Youkilis (“The Greek God of walks,” though he isn’t in fact Greek), and we point out that Youkilis became a superstar only when he changed his approach at the plate in the direction that Beane generally opposed.   

Q: You fail to address the fact that team on-base percentage has a very strong correlation with runs scored. I know, correlation isn’t causation, but it’s not just correlation; it’s also reasoning. The more baserunners, the more likely a team is to score runs. But slugging also matters. I’ll get to slugging later.   


AH: Actually, we’re very clear that the emphasis on OBP was a major contribution by sabermetricians. That’s because it correlates with runs scored—that’s what counts.     

Q: When Jack Cust finally got a chance to play regularly, with Billy Beane’s A’s, he slugged .457 during his time with the A’s and Giambi slugged .445 with the A’s.  These are not outstanding slugging percentages, but hardly Eddie Yost and Eddie Stanky, especially when you consider Oakland is not really a home run park. 

In your “cheers” for sabermetrics, you absolutely ignore the second key batting statistic that sabermetrics helped bring to the forefront as the sister stat to on-base percentage: slugging percentage. No sabermetrican prefers players who are like the Eddies and are likely to post higher on-base percentages than slugging percentages.


AH: It’s not true that we ignore SP.

We write, ‘Of course OBP isn’t everything. To many sabermetricians, OPS (the sum of OBP and SP) is the best gauge of offensive production.’

We agree with all sabermetricians that some combination of OBP and SP captures performance better than either statistic alone, while either alone is more revealing than batting average. 

The discussion of the “Eddies” that you refer to involves an effort to answer this question: if Beane values players who are underrated because of high OBP, why hasn’t he acquired more of them? 

Cust and Giambi are examples of such players.  (The fact that they also hit home runs–more power to them, ha-ha.).  The question is why Beane hasn’t found more players like them and continued to get such great bang for his buck.  I think we offer some good explanations (which, for the record, do not denigrate Beane).  

Q: Another aspect of sabermetrics you fail to address in your “cheers” section is sabermetrics’ attention to context, especially position scarcity and park effects. 

The reason the Eddies were as valuable as they were was because they were middle-infielders.  It’s always been harder to find a middle infielder who can actually play even adequate defense in the majors everyday, yet still post respectable on-base and/or slugging percentages. 

A huge contribution of sabermetrics, I would argue at least as important a contribution as bringing on-base percentage and slugging percentage to the forefront, is its attempt to bring context to the world of statistics.

AH: Perhaps we should have talked about that more. We do note that, long before Bill James came along, there were plenty of statistics thrown around. James’ search was for meaningful statistics and to a large extent he succeeded. But later generations of sabermetrics have also produced a plethora of less helpful statistics, as James himself has acknowledged and lamented. 

Q: The last 50-or-so pages of the book deal with the strange occurrences during 2009 Red Sox games, unique qualities of some individual players and other things that help point out that the beauty of the game is its majesty, mystery and colorfulness. 

You imply that sabermetricians (with the possible exception of Bill James) do not appreciate the game’s “majesty and mystery” because sabermetrics reduces the game to numbers. 

Just because someone pours themselves into sabermetrics or has an appreciation for sabermetrics, does not mean they find the mystery and majesty of the game disturbing.  In fact, I would argue the game’s qualities that make it somewhat measurable and somewhat predictable, that makes its strange occurrences even more enthralling. 


AH: We emphasize James’ fascination with all sorts of extra-statistical aspects of baseball, and we certainly don’t say he’s the only one. On the other hand, we give plenty of examples of sabermetricians missing the forest for the trees. 


Q: Some devote themselves to sabermetrics, but that doesn’t mean those people reduce the game to pure numbers and statistics or view players as robots or a series of zeros and ones. 

Bill James defines sabermetrics as a search for objective knowledge about baseball.  Just because some baseball analysts prefer that search for objective knowledge about baseball, does not mean they are closed off to the subjective, the mysterious, the majestic aspects of the game. 


AH: Here’s a quote from the book: “While I still believed that numbers could reveal things about the game that were invisible to the naked eye, my own eyes had glazed over as the combination of fantasy baseball and mathematical arcana conspired to squeeze the life from the game I loved.”  That’s not us talking. That’s John Thorn, a leading sabermetrician. 



Q: With all due respect to you and Mr. Thorn, I see no reason why in-depth statistical analysis and sabermetrics would squeeze the life out of the game unless one is reaching for something that will squeeze the life out of the game. 

I’m not a sabermetrician but I’m very sympathetic to sabermetrics and try my best to learn and understand as many sabermetric concepts as possible. Perhaps it’s because I’m not really a sabermetrican that I don’t understand the joylessness of those sad sabermetricians who are merely watching the game of zombie or robot baseball. 

The predictable and the statistical have taught me a great deal about the game and give me more appreciation of its majesty and mystery, not less.  

I appreciate the unpredictable as much now as I ever have, largely because I have a better understanding, through statistics and sabermetrics, of what the numbers say is supposed to yet doesn’t happen.  The fact that the meaningful numbers usually get things right makes the unexpected events in baseball seem even more miraculous.  

I would argue that sabermetrics in a certain sense is an anti-statistical movement in that it opens the door to the organic parts of the game.  Sabermetrics make baseball statistics into a language and not just cold and limited symbols on the backs of baseball cards. 

AH:If you see no merit in Thorn’s reflection, and disagree that sabermetrics has been taken to excess, I doubt I can convince you.  But you gave Short Hops a thoughtful read and clearly take seriously the issues we raised. That’s all we can ask.


From the Short Hops website: “Alan Hirsch, a visiting professor at Williams College,  is the author of numerous books and articles. His articles on sports  and other subjects have been published in the Los Angeles Times,  Washington Post, Washington Times, and Newsday, among many other  publications. He contributes a regular sports column to Frumforum.”

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

B/R Exclusive with Top Milwaukee Brewers Prospect Logan Schafer


I had the good fortune of connecting with the Milwaukee Brewers 2009 Minor League Player of the Year, Logan Schafer, and asked if he would have time for a quick interview. He didn’t at the time but we agreed to connect somewhere around the beginning to middle of spring training.

We had originally thought that we could do a phone interview but that had been discussed just prior to Schafer’s thumb injury which he suffered during a spring training game.

Instead, we decided that I would email him some questions and he would respond in kind.

Below are the results of that exchange.



Big Rygg: Thanks for doing the interview. I really appreciate your time. The first question I like to ask a professional athlete is always the same basic one and that is: When did you first realize that you were better than everybody else at baseball?

Most pros tend to be the best on every team they’re on growing up. From that feeling, when did you decide to pursue baseball as a career?

Logan Schafer: I have never been better than everybody else at baseball. In fact, I was rarely the best player on my team. Baseball has been a passion of mine since i was a little kid playing wiffle ball with my brothers and friends in my backyard. My love for the game has never changed or diminished.

What set me apart from other players at a young age was my ability to focus and learn how to play the game the right way. I am so thankful to have had such great coaches from a young age up through the present.

I was able to put a lot of time and energy into learning the intangibles of the game that have given me this incredible opportunity to be where I am today.

BR: How did you feel when you were drafted by a professional baseball franchise?

LS:  I was drafted three times out of college, and there was no feeling like it. I was drafted in the 31st round of the 2006 draft by the Boston Red Sox, the 47th round of the 2007 draft by the Colorado Rockies, and the third round of the 2008 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.

My first draft was incredible. It is such an unbelievable thrill to see your name pop up on that screen in front of a Major League Baseball team. I held out however, because I was physically small and felt I had more to learn before I get into pro ball and try and have success.

I continued to have two good years at Cal Poly after attending Cuesta College, and had the happiest day of my life to this point in June of 2008 when the Brew Crew selected me in the thirrd round.

BR: To be drafted that many times, no doubt plenty of scouts had seen you over the years, but I’d like to get your opinion on you. Give me a scouting report on Logan Schafer. What is/are your best tool(s)?

LS: A scouting report of Logan Schafer would have to start with the glove. I take great pride in taking hits away from people, holding runners from taking the extra base and being able to determine where the ball should be thrown before the pitch. I spend a lot of time working on positioning and getting jumps to give me the best chance to be in on every play.

Offensively I hit more for average than power, but will have occasional power to the gaps. The small game is also a big part of who I am, so controlling the bat is also something I concentrate on quite a bit.

BR: Let’s talk about the injury bug for you these past couple of years, starting with the thumb and then the groin and foot last year and whatever update you could give us after surgery, including a projection for when you think you’ll be back on the field.

LS: The injury bug is a very frustrating one, in every facet of life. Typing this is tough with a broken thumb for instance (laughs). I had surgery on my thumb yesterday and everything turned out well. The doctor is sticking with four to six weeks, but they buried the pins so I can do some workouts and keep my arm in baseball shape after a week.

My groin tear turned hernia was the worst last year, since the pain and actual injury were so hard to diagnose. It was very humbling and disappointing to find out that I broke my navicular bone in my foot in late May (last year) coming back from the other injuries.

I just had to keep my head up, and that was tough to do when that light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be running away from me at the time. I played a few games in the Arizona Fall League and started off getting back into the groove in Spring Training, and then I break my thumb breaking up a double play.

I have learned the value of patience, and as frustrating as this might be, I got to spend a few weeks of incredible baseball at big league camp. Learning from the big leaguers and seeing how they go about their business is something special. It has helped me great amount and it gives me more fire to get there again, this year.

BR: To that end, I have to ask what you think about manager Ron Roenicke’s comment that you’ve earned his call-up confidence should the need arise?

LS: Ron has been outstanding towards me since I arrived in camp. He has been such a personable and outgoing skipper and has treated all of us with the (utmost) respect.

I never once felt out of place or as if i didn’t belong in that clubhouse. I have so much respect for the way he keeps the game of baseball fun and encourages guys to test themselves by taking chances. In a short few weeks, I have learned so much that I will take with me into this year.

The comment he made about me earning his “call-up confidence” is undoubtedly a very high honor. My goal has always been to get to the big leagues and have a long career. I will continue to play the game hard and see where it takes me.

BR: So, finally, whether it happens at some point in 2011 or whenever it finally does happen for you, what will it mean to you the first time you step out on a major league field as a big leaguer?

LS: The first time I step out onto a major league field wearing a major league uniform is going to be a humbling dream come true. Every year, month, week, day, week, hour and minute I have spent playing this wonderful game of baseball has been to become a Major League Baseball Player.

I see that day all the time; I am a very big visualizer. It will be the greatest day of my life without a doubt.

Again, I wanted to make sure that I mention how much I appreciate Logan’s time for this interview. I’ve had a fun time doing prospect interviews and I plan on continuing the tradition going forward.

Thanks again to Logan Schafer and here’s to a quick call up to Miller Park!

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

EE Sports World Interview with Mets Prospect Darrell Ceciliani

I got the pleasure of getting to chat with Darrell Ceciliani today, prospect for the New York Mets.

Ceciliani hit .351 with a .410 OBP and had two home runs, 35 runs batted in and 21 stolen bases in 68 games last year for the short A Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Pennsylvania League. He also set franchise records of 95 hits, 56 runs and 12 triples.

He was selected as a NYP Mid-Season All Star and won the Mets’ Sterling Award for the Brooklyn Cyclones, which the Mets hand out to a player on each of their nine teams in the minors representing the most improved player.

Ceciliani is a player quickly on the rise to the top, and if he continues his hard work and dedication he will be in the majors in a matter of years. Here at EE Sports World, we are pulling for him every step of the way.

Brandon Berg: What’s the life of a minor league player like? What do you do on a typical day during the regular season?

Darrell Ceciliani: We get up and at ‘em around 10 a.m. and have some breakfast. We get out to the field by one or two. I get my arm worked down and take some batting practice. After that, we just chill and relax. We prepare for the pitcher whether it be a righty or a lefty, and just get into the right mindset. We then do some defensive work, and then play at about 7 p.m.

What level are you going to start at this year? What is the schedule like for Spring Training?

DC: They have been telling me I’ll be starting at Low A Savannah. We get up at seven, get on field at nine, take defense and batting practice then play a game at one. We are usually done by four and then do some lifting and eat around six.

You had a great year last year, what’s the next step for you in terms of development as far as developing your game to get ready for your future baseball playing career?

DC: I have to improve every part of my game to get to the ultimate dream: The big leagues. I go out every day and just work hard to improve everything in my game. If I had to single out a couple of things, it would be that my bunting and base running needs to improve. I use my speed to the best of my advantage to put pressure on the defense. That’s one of the biggest things I’m going to be working on this season.

What was your most memorable moment in your time in the minors so far?

DC: Last year during a game in Brooklyn, I came up in the bottom of the 9th. I hit a walk-off home run. It was a rush, never had a feeling like that. It was really cool to go out there and win the game for the team.

What was your MLB draft experience like?

DC: I actually was in class, taking a couple final exams. My dad was also with me that day to go through the experience with me. I got a call from the coach asking, hurry up, finish the final and get to his office because I had just been picked up by the Mets in the 4th round. That was a great day for me. I was excited, and it was an honor to be chosen where I was and to go out and start my baseball career right away.

How long did it take you to get on the field after the draft?

DC: I was drafted on either the 10th or the 11th. I got to Tennessee to start playing by the 23rd or 24th of June because I had to take a couple finals to finish up.

We want to thank Darrell for the interview and wish him the best of luck as he speeds toward his ultimate goal of reaching the majors.


Also check out:

Ubaldo Jimenez

R.A. Dickey

Yadier Molina

Francisco Liriano

NL East

AL East

NL Central

AL Central

NL West

AL West

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson Interview With Bleacher Report

Going to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York is a place where you can dig your mind into a gold mine of artifacts and have an amazing day in one of the greatest sports-related places in the world. I have gone to the Hall of Fame multiple times, and diehard baseball fans can never leave Cooperstown without new chunks of baseball knowledge.

The man that runs sports’ most storied Hall of Fame, Jeff Idelson, has been its President  since April 2008 and has been in baseball for almost 25 years. Here’s my interview with Mr. Prez:

Brad Wolff: How did you get your first job in Major League Baseball?  

Jeff Idelson: My first job in baseball was being a vendor at Fenway Park in Boston.  I was a vendor in junior high school, high school and part of college.  My first internship was with the Red Sox in 1986 after I graduated from college.  I produced Red Sox home radio broadcasts in 1987-88 for WPLM Radio and my first full time paid job was as the assistant director of media relations and publicity with the New York Yankees, starting in 1989.  

BW: Who are some of the greatest people you have gotten to meet through your job? 

JI: There have been many.  From Johnny Unitas to Tip O’Neill to Tom Hanks and Robert Redford to Colin Powell to President Bush to Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Sadaharu Oh, Doris Kearnes Goodwin…it’s a long list! 

BW: What do you daily for the Hall of Fame? 

JI: I oversee a 100-person staff and the oldest and best-known sports history museum in the nation.  From fundraising to public speaking to artifact acquisition to building sponsorships to staying connected to our Hall of Famers and the baseball community at large are all parts of my daily responsibility.

BW: What new ideas do you have to make the Hall more fun and interactive? 

JI: We recently opened our first ever bilingual exhibit, Viva Baseball, which explores baseball in Caribbean-basin countries and their impact in Cooperstown.  Next year we will open a cool exhibit on baseball records.  Both are very interactive.  We also have a ton of cool programs where you can meet and talk with Hall of Famers and other stars connected to our great game.  

BW: What advice would you have for somebody trying to get into the MLB as an executive? 

JI: Work hard in school and learn how to write and learn how to listen well.  It does not matter what major you pick, as long as you can leave college knowing how to read, write and think on your feet.  Stay connected to the game any way you can.  Internships are very important, either within the game or connected to the game. Most of all, be patient.  It is a very competitive industry.  It took me three full years to find a full time job after graduating. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Dave Jauss Holds the Secret of the New York Mets’ Successes

Dave Jauss is a man of few words, but when he speaks, people listen.

He has a unique perspective on the game, where neither the past nor the future has any impact on his opinions, and where the here and now are the only things in the world.

He’s an astute baseball man with more than two decades of experience and know-how to draw from, and he encapsulates the “taking it one day at a time” cliche better than anyone in pro sports.

Speaking with him on the field after batting practice on Tuesday, the Mets’ bench coach was his usual self, signing autographs for every kid in line and not passing a single person by without smiling and saying hello.

I asked him for his impressions of the 2-4 road trip against Atlanta and Philadelphia, the two teams above the Mets in the standings, and without pausing even for a moment as if to search for a way out of answering, he said:

“It’s Tuesday, and I can’t remember Monday. It was an off day, too, so it’s like a week ago. In this game of baseball, you only remember today, and today we have a great BP, we’re swinging the bat well and we’re ready to go out and get Ubaldo Jimenez.

“The only thing I want to do is go 1-0 each day. I don’t even look at the standings until October 3 or whenever it is. It’s just not important.”

It’s a different take for a bench coach to have, for sure, but his reasoning comes from the fact that you can’t change the past. If you can’t change it, then why dwell on it?

All of a sudden, his logic seems a little clearer, because why stay negative about something that is over and done with when there are more pressing matters at hand that you can do something about?

A few questions later, I asked him about the future; about what will make the difference with the Mets over the next month or so if they hope to get back into the playoff hunt.

The response was equally non-committal.

“It’s the same thing as not remembering the last day or even the last week,” he said. “You can’t think about tomorrow.

“If we play good baseball today, then all of the other little things will take care of themselves. We’ll get on a roll and take care of ourselves.”

I don’t know if I expected a different answer, but as he smiled, I decided to change the topic to something I knew he’d be happy to talk about…prospect Fernando Martinez.

Martinez hit .255 with 12 homers and 33 RBI in 68 games in the International League for Buffalo before being called up to the big club last week, and I knew that Jauss had seen more of Martinez than most of the other coaches on the team.

Speaking about Martinez earlier in the day, Chris Carter

had said: “Fernando is a very mature 21-year-old. He’s very professional, and I see a lot of potential in him for sure,” while Ike Davis called him “a talent with a lot of tools.”

I wanted to know if the coaches saw in him what his teammates did.

Jauss added: “I know him a little bit because he was on the other club against me in January, and all he did was wear me out. He was in Escogido and I was managing in Licey.

“It’s the same young man I saw in the other dugout, and I’m glad he’s now in my dugout. He had a good start on Sunday, he made a nice throw to home, took good swings, and his BP was good today, and we’re excited to have him in the lineup.”

Even then, the focus came back to batting practice and the events of the last 20 minutes. Jauss isn’t a man to concern himself unnecessarily with the big picture, about the past and the future, and maybe living in the moment is the secret to success.

Maybe one pitch at a time, one swing at a time, one throw at a time really is the way to handle this game. Jose Reyes said today that he has a hard time concentrating on every single pitch in an at-bat, and in a season of so many games, what will the final verdict on the Mets’ season come down to?

Most fans will define the year with a number of individual plays, just like the whole of 2007 was remembered for Carlos Beltran keeping his bat on his shoulder and 2009 was the year Luis Castillo dropped A-Rod’s game-ending pop-up.

Individually, fans don’t remember a single the other way in May, a 1-2-3 inning of a pitcher in July, a routine double play up the middle.

They’re not interesting, and they’re only newsworthy when things go wrong. Like if the single had hitter the runner going from first to second, or if the 1-2-3 inning came from a position player, or the double play recorded the final two outs of a game in the 18th inning, or something similarly unexpected.

In a season of 2,420 games, tens of thousands of pitches, baseball is remembered and defined by moments. While those moments alone account for very little, mathematically speaking, it is those same moments that account for everything.

If living in the moment is the key to understanding baseball, maybe Dave Jauss, a former coach, scout, and psychology graduate, is the smartest man in the world.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ike Davis, Chris Carter Know New York Mets Can Challenge in NL East

The New York Mets might be 8.5 games out of first place in the National League East, but the players know that they are capable of turning the deficit around if they’re given time.

Therein lies the kicker, though. The Mets are more than two-thirds of the way through their schedule and time just isn’t something that is on their side. Still, they say, you can’t stop believing now.

 Ike Davis knows the Mets are still right in the thick of things, but he also appreciates that the club can’t continue to drop series, especially to divisional rivals like they did on their last road trip.

 “We’re trying to get something started right now,” the first baseman told me in front of the Mets dugout. “The season’s not over and we have time—not a lot, but we have some time—to put something together and see if we can rattle off a couple good streaks.”

 Although young, Davis is among those leading by example, both in the clubhouse and on the field. He took extended batting practice ahead of Tuesday’s home opener with the Colorado Rockies and he has been keeping loose in and around his teammates.

The streaky slugger also appears to be adopting a more patient approach at the plate, even if he would like to be ripping the ball to all fields a little more.

He added: “You could say I’m doing better, yes, I guess. I mean I was laying off some pitches, but I wasn’t really driving the ball. I was getting my hits and taking some walks, but I need to drive the ball.”

 Similarly, fellow Mets newcomer Chris Carter understands that the club is capable of mounting a late-season charge.

“The guys and the coaching staff know that we are still in this,” Carter said, “but we’re running out of games and we need to start playing well.”

While Davis will continue to get regular playing time at first base, Carter knows he will have to make the most of every single at-bat that comes his way.

The pinch-hitting specialist is tied for seventh in the Majors with 10 hits off the bench, while his .294 batting average as a pinch hitter is 11th in the NL. He has more pinch hits than any rookie in all of baseball in 2010, and he is fifth with five RBIs.

Carter added: “Every opportunity I get I’m happy to have and I’m happy to be here and excited for trying to make a playoff run because I really believe in this team.”

After the series with Colorado, the Mets will host the Phillies to complete their six-game homestand. Road trips to Houston and Pittsburgh follow are sandwiched between sets at home to Florida and Houston and then, if the Mets are still in contention, the run-in really begins.


Six of their next eight series are against NL East opponents, with New York facing Atlanta and Philly for a combined 13 games in 28 days. This will truly make or break their season, although games against the Marlins and Cubs won’t be easy either.

The players believe they can still challenge for the playoffs in 2010, and although they’re going to need almost everything to go their way, it could just happen.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Meet the Mets: Interview with New York Mets Top Propsect Wilmer Flores

Wilmer Flores is one of the Mets’ top prospects and one of the top prospects in all of baseball. At just 18 years old, Wilmer has already been playing professional baseball for three years.

After a strong performance in Single-A this year, Wilmer was called up to High-A ball to play for the St. Lucie Mets. At 18 years old, Wilmer is the second youngest hitter in the Florida State League.

Wilmer’s success continued as a member of the St. Lucie Mets. He has a .349 batting average with two home runs and 19 RBI in 29 games.

Wilmer was recently kind enough to take some time out of his schedule for an interview with me.

At 16, most kids are still in high school and you were already playing in the minor leagues. What was that experience like at such a young age?

“You know, its not that easy playing with guys older than you. But you know, its just baseball. You just gotta worry about hitting the ball, catching the ball, and and run, but that’s basically what I do”.

At what age did you realizes that you were talented enough to become a professional baseball player?

“13, I just played to have fun though.”

Do you feel that it has been an advantage or disadvantage that you have always been one youngest players at each level you have played at?

“Like I say, I just go out and play. I mean I don’t see these guys as… (to read the rest of the interview click on the link below)

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

2010 MLB All-Star Game: Rex Hudler Promotes Volunteerism and Charity

While many baseball fans will get wrapped up in the allure of Evan Longoria playing next to Derek Jeter on the left side of the infield or Hanley Ramirez swinging for the fences in the Home Run Derby, it is former Major Leaguer and longtime Angels broadcaster Rex Hudler who is really going beyond baseball at the 2010 All-Star game by highlighting a cause close to his own heart.

The allure of home field advantage, dream lineups, and majestic blasts over the terraced bullpens in the outfield may help craft this week’s headlines, but Hudler is in Los Angeles promoting volunteerism and celebrating some very special all-stars among us who don’t receive the fanfare they deserve.

Hudler’s first son Cade was born with Down Syndrome 13 years ago, and it was the Wonder Dog who was on hand to emcee a heartwarming game between youngsters with special needs to kick off All-Star weekend in southern California on Friday.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that affects one in 733 babies—approximately 4,000 children each year—and causes delays in a child’s physical and mental development, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.

Hudler, who spent 30 years playing and commentating on professional baseball, created the non-profit Team Up For Down Syndrome charity with his wife Jennifer in 1997, and he said he was thrilled to work with the MLB and Bank of America to support the Little League Challenger Division. The LLCD is a branch of Little League which enables children with physical and mental challenges to enjoy America’s national pastime.

“To see the joy on my son’s face, it just lit me up like a tree,” Hudler said, when talking about watching Cade play baseball. “I was so excited to see how much joy it brought him.

“It wasn’t as structured as Little League, but they played. They went to the plate and the coach flipped a ball up there and they hit it and ran and they did the best they could to throw them out and catch the ball.”

For Hudler, who has three other children besides Cade, it was just one more reminder that youngsters with special needs can do just as many things as typical children.

“I had the typical dreams that a dad has of his kid becoming a big league player, but they [the doctors] told us three days after we had Cade that we had a child that had Down Syndrome.

“It didn’t change the way that I felt at that moment because he was healthy and felt good and was a typical child as far as I knew, but then the reality set in that he did have Down Syndrome. We had to let go of the dreams we had for a typical child, and we had to change our dreams around a child with a disability.

“I have to tell you 13 years later that it can be tough and it can be challenging at times because he is a little more emotionally delayed, but he gives more joy, more unconditional love, than I ever imagined possible. We are blessed to have three other kids besides him, he not only enhances my life, but his other siblings’ lives as well.”

With this year’s midsummer classic set in and around the Los Angeles area, Bank of America and the Little League Challenger Division have been providing an abundance of opportunities to highlight these inspirational athletes.

They donated more than 3,000 tickets to LLCD programs in Orange, Riverside, and Los Angeles counties and are hosting an exhibition game between two LLCD teams to mark the official opening of MLB All-Star FanFest.

“My son wanted to play baseball,” Hudler, 49, said. “They didn’t have a Little League that could take care of him when he wanted to play baseball, but I found out that there was a league called Challenger League for children with disabilities. So we drove him across town and he played with other kids with disabilities.

“Challengers are starting to sprout up everywhere because kids with disabilities love to play baseball just like typical kids, and it’s more exciting to watch them play because of the joy they have on their face.

“The typical kids in the league get to shadow and buddy up with the kids with disabilities and they help them play baseball. It gives the typical boy a perspective on life and how thankful they are to be able to walk, and catch a ball, and talk and it makes overall life better.”

But it’s not just the children who learn valuable life lessons about living, playing, and working with people with disabilities. For Hudler, it meant literally re-writing his idea of parenthood and changing his perceptions of being a father.

“As a parent you always strive for patience,” he said. “That’s one thing as human beings that a lot of us are short on, but I’m getting better. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m learning how to breathe two or three times before I react.

“Most males have a hard time when the kid spills the milk or breaks a pane of glass or drops a plate or something like that, but I’m learning how to take a take a few deep breaths and not say anything which is hard for me being a ‘Type A’ high-strung male like I am. So I’m learning a lot about patience but also about unconditional love, how to love people unconditionally.

“I’m learning about differences in people all the time. People are different, things are different, and my acceptance level is at a much greater spot, a much higher level of accepting differences, so that’s a big impact my son has had on my life.”

With Hudler knowing first hand just what impact special needs children can have in families and societies, he said it was fantastic that a corporate sponsor such as Bank of America had teamed up with the charities to raise awareness of the condition.

This week alone, 275 Bank of America associates will devote 1,200 volunteer hours to community projects—including a series of Little League Challenger programs—as part of their goal to donate one million hours in 2010

Bank of America staff also helped baseball fans attending the MLB All-Star FanFest on Friday discover local volunteer opportunities. Everyone who visited their booth and committed to donate their time was entered for a chance to win a pair of tickets to Tuesday’s All-Star game.

Hudler, who played for six different teams including three years with the California Angels in the mid ’90s, added, “They’re not just writing a check. Bank of America is a great sponsor and they have their people out there in the community doing stuff and that’s what we’re excited about…getting some corporate sponsorship and raising awareness of these Challenger Leagues.

“Pick out something that is worthwhile to you. Maybe it’s something in your family, maybe you want to get involved with the environment. By getting involved you can make the world a better place, and I really mean that.

“I’m loving giving back because I’m learning more about myself and I feel good about myself as a human being. It’s about giving back, it’s not about ourselves. If you want to grow as a person, reach out and do something for someone else.”


• To contact Team Up For Down Syndrome, call 714-665-TEAM or 1-888-4-TEAMUP. You can also visit the charity’s website here or get involved by contacting the NDSS here.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

New York Mets Trade Rumors: Players Discuss Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee

While talk around the baseball world is whether the New York Mets will make a trade for a top-end pitcher like Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt, the players themselves are taking somewhat of a laissez-faire approach to the whole rumor mill circus.

While everyone acknowledges what another ace like Lee or Oswalt could do for the rotation, the players on the field are somewhat more muted in their expectations, saying the team will continue to play hard and challenge for National League honors with or without a trade.

Just 24 hours after Johan Santana reportedly said he’d like to see the Mets progress a big name hurler to help strengthen the pitching staff, Santana took a step backwards on Tuesday by saying he is happy with the state of the club as it is, and that it’s entirely up to the front office.

“I never said they are going to [deal for a pitcher],” Santana said during pre-game warm ups. “If the front office wants to improve the team there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s always good when you improve your team. We feel good with what we have right now.”

Santana’s thoughts were echoed by left fielder Jason Bay who said that while every team in the league wants to get better and improve, it’s not going to be a deal-breaker when the final standings start to take shape in late September.

Bay added: “I think any team in the big league wants more pitching, there’s no doubt about it. Any team would probably like a little bit more, so if you can get a premier guy like that it will make us that much better.

“I think a lot was made of wanting another guy, but that doesn’t mean it has to happen. We’re doing well with the guys we have. The guys we have right now are doing pretty well and that’s no slight to them. They are a huge reason why we’re here. Without those guys filling in—not just the numbers they have, but the innings they’re giving us—we wouldn’t be here, so they deserve as much credit as the Johans and the Pelfs.”

The players know the decision rests firmly with the management and owners, and most seem content to let the trade dealing scenarios play out in the background.

“It’s up to them,” first baseman Ike Davis said.  “Anything that they feel will help the team is up to them. Right now we’re playing pretty well and…the GM will do what [he] needs to do.”

With so many rumors swirling around in the media, Jeff Francoeur says it often detracts from what the current crop of players are doing on the field. Still, Francoeur—as he always seems to do—lightened the mood in the dugout Tuesday afternoon when he said with a smile, “Bring them both,” referring to Oswald and Lee.

“We’d love to see them both, but that’s managament’s job. But the way we’re playing I’m sure they’re going to give us something. I’m sure they’ll boost this team up and give us something to work with and go forward, but until then we got a great team with what we’ve got, and you keep fighting with what you’ve got.”

“If we’re able to land one of those guys that’s great because it’s only going to help us, but if you worry too much about that you get off beat with what with we’re doing here. Right now that’s winning games with the team we got and the players we have. If it happens, good we’ll welcome it, but until then we’ve got to keep going.”

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

David Wright and the New York Mets Eager for Carlos Beltran’s Return

Carlos Beltran will begin his minor league rehab assignment with the St. Lucie Mets tomorrow, and the atmosphere and expectations within the team can’t be any higher.

Beltran will have to be activated to the big league roster by the time the season resumes after the All-Star break, and players just know the boost that the outfielder will bring to the team when he is back patrolling centerfield and hitting in the heart of the lineup.

The Mets announced Beltran’s timetable yesterday, prior to the first of three home games against the Detroit Tigers. As the news spread around the team during batting practice and pre-game warmups, there was a collective agreement that his return would be a massive boost.

Jason Bay told me it would be similar to trading for an All-Star, and David Wright called Beltran “special”. As much as the Mets can’t wait to welcome him back, the overwhelming feeling was that the Mets should not push Beltran too hard the day he rejoins the big club.

Angel Pagan leads the club with a .304 batting average, and only Jose Reyes has more stolen bases. It’s an understatement to say Pagan has simply “filled in” for Beltran, and he reminded front room staff that he shouldn’t be overlooked when he fell a home run short of the cycle on Tuesday night.  His effort hasn’t been lost among his peers either, who said they have been impressed with just how well Pagan has embraced the challenge of starting full time.

“Carlos Beltran is a special player, but with that being said, Angel Pagan really deserves a ton of credit for doing what he’s been able to do this year. He’s not only held the fort down, but really excelled and he’s been a very valuable player for us this year,” said David Wright. 

“It will be exciting to see what Carlos does in his rehab, but it’s also been a blessing having Angel here doing what he’s been able to do.”

Pagan has only sat out two games this season for the Mets, and it has been his performance that has left some to question whether it should be Jeff Francoeur who moves to the bench after the All-Star break when the Mets travel to San Francisco on June 15.

Francoeur didn’t speculate on who would become the fourth outfielder three weeks from now, instead highlighting how important Beltran is to the team and the need to ensure he’s 100 percent healthy when he returns.

“Obviously it’s one of those things where he’s a great player,” Francoeur said.  “Hopefully he’s healthy and we are going to welcome him back, but until then we have to play with what we’ve got and that’s what we’ve done all season.

“The last thing you want to do is get him back and then have hum hurt his knee two days later. So hopefully he can keep rehabbing and getting better, and I’m sure when he gets back it will be a huge boost.”

The outfielder least likely to lose his starting job, Jason Bay, said the importance of Beltran’s return cannot be overestimated.

“I think it’s almost like making a big trade,” the left fielder said, standing next to the Mets dugout on Tuesday. “You don’t have a guy and all of a sudden, boom, you get him back. It’s like acquiring a guy.

“Carlos isn’t just an average guy. I mean, he’s one of the better plays in the game and like I said, it’s like picking up a huge piece for us and it can’t do anything to help us, that’s for sure.”

As well as giving the team a huge morale boost, an upgrade at the plate, and Gold Glove defense in the outfield, Beltran will bring that winning mentality to the club, Johan Santana said.

“He means a lot to this team. He’s been around for a long time and he knows how to win games. It’s definitely going to be a plus for us, but at the same time we want him to be 100 percent to help us out. It’s going to take time to get back on track into baseball activities, but definitely the sooner the better.” 

Pundits said the Mets would be lucky to tread water until Beltran returned, and that was when the front office thought he might be back much sooner. The Mets, 10 games above .500, have done more than stay afloat, and now they are primed to get a massive cog back in their lineup.

If Beltran has even part of the impact his peers expect, the Mets could become a very serious contendor in the National League in 2010.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress