The first panel consisted of former Dodgers GM Dan Evans (who has recently accepted a position as a writer for BP), SABR President Vince Gennaro, Pirates Director of Player Personnel Tyrone Brooks, Cardinals Assistant GM Michael Girsch and Orioles Director of Baseball Operations Tripp Norton. Just from reading the names and titles of these men, you can tell they know their shit. And it showed. Some of the highlights:
- There was some discussion regarding how someone could get into working in baseball, specifically geared toward getting jobs with MLB front offices. Gennaro said, "The teams I consult for hire people who can make a contribution on day one...Interpreting the new CBA and really understanding it; if you wrote a piece on that and sent it to every team, that would be an eye-opener."
- Girsch fielded a question regarding Oscar Taveras by saying, "Taveras wasn't a big July 2 guy. He was a $150,000 sign guy who just started hitting and never stopped. When Beltran's contract is up and Jay hits arbitration, he'll be a big part of our team, probably hitting high in the order." I found this to be an extremely candid remark from an Assistant GM, as he basically came out and said that at least one of, and implying both, Beltran and Jay would be gone by the time Taveras is ready.
- Norton was asked about the recent Adam Jones extension, and responded with, "If we don't sign Adam Jones to that deal, we probably have to trade him." Interesting glimpse into the mindset of a mid-market team with a disinterested fan base right there. No way they were locking up Jones long-term if they let him hit the open market.
- Vince Gennaro really opened my eyes to the genius of the second wild card implemented this year by MLB. I had been mostly indifferent until he said, "I love the new wild card system. There's finally the inequality and rationalization that the playoffs never had. All these teams are not equal. It makes being a team hunting a wild card berth kind of a sucker's bet." As a fan of hockey as well as baseball, this really struck a chord with me. In recent seasons, the NHL playoffs have seen a slew of low-seeded teams tearing through the playoffs riding a hot goalie and making for lackluster matchups in the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals. We don't want that in baseball, at least not regularly. The more rare those scenarios are, the more intriguing they are when they do pop up.
- Evans discussed the player personality and clubhouse management aspect of working in a front office by telling a story about one day when he casually asked a player how he was doing, and the player responded, "I saw myself hit into the game-ending double play eight times on SportsCenter last night." Sometimes baseball fans, especially sabermetrically inclined individuals like myself, need a reminder that these are human beings and not robots.
The second panel of the day included former ESPN columnist and current SB Nation Baseball Editor Rob Neyer (a last-second addition to the panel), Kevin Goldstein, Jason Parks, Rany Jazayerli, Bradford Doolittle and Jeff Euston of Baseball Prospectus, along with VP of Stats for MLB.com and co-host of the Fantasy 411 podcast Cory Schwartz, and Jason Martinez, the founder of MLBDepthCharts.com.
- This panel was very lively, starting with the introductions. Each panel member was told to introduce themselves and tell the audience what he does. Schwartz: "I was told I had a minute to introduce myself, so I'd like to take the next 45 seconds in silence." Parks: "I say offensive things on Twitter and teams contact me and tell me to stop. *Long pause* Thank you."
- Parks discussed the impact of fantasy baseball on prospect analysis, saying, "Fantasy baseball has led to unrealistic prospect expectations because people are constantly asking, 'When's this guy coming up? Should I add him to my roster now?"
- Someone in the audience asked about baseball's "new market inefficiency," which prompted Parks to say, "Talking about the new market inefficiency is the new market inefficiency!" If you read my piece on the Arlington BP event, you already know that Jason was way more active in this panel than that one.
- Goldstein talked about the shift in MLB toward either one-year or extreme long-term contracts. "The Cespedes deal was fascinating to me. Most guys either get deals like Pujols or they're clamoring for a one-year deal. Nobody does the four-year, $32-million deal anymore. And that's [a contract] every team can defend, its just that those contracts don't exist anymore. And maybe that's a good thing, because Julio Lugo got a contract like that."
- A question came up about the future of baseball journalism, to which Neyer said, "Edwin Encarnacion is having this amazing year. Don't you want to know why that's happened? I know I do. So you search on Google and in the first ten results, you find a story about all the adjustments he's made. I think that's the future of baseball writing. I think the game story will die off because we don't really need that anymore." I found this to be a particularly interesting response when I thought about beat writers who have to turn in a story about each night's game. Perhaps stories like that will give way to more advanced analysis as the baseball-viewing public becomes more attuned to the advanced aspects of the game.
- Parks got the whole auditorium busting out laughing a couple more times. In response to a question about teams overhyping their own prospects, he said, "It's like saying your kid's going to grow up to be president. Your kid is not going to be president. Your kid is going nowhere." Finally, when Goldstein was discussing Taveras, saying, "The way Oscar Taveras plays, and this is not a comp--" Parks interrupted, exclaiming "Jesus Christ?" That was officially the first time I've heard a player comped to Jesus, that's for sure.
I'd like to apologize again for the delay in getting this piece out. I think the content is still completely relevant, I just would've liked to get it out sooner. Life tends to get in the way sometimes, though, especially for someone who has his fingers in as many pots as I do. I am playing shows tonight and tomorrow night, but will try to have Part 3 of this series up on Sunday or Monday. Speaking of, if you would like to check out my music page, go to www.myspace.com/scottstrandberg. I recently posted my new acoustic EP/demo as well as a work-in-progress track from my upcoming debut solo studio album. There is also a calendar of events for those of you who happen to live near Oklahoma City, and I keep it updated with out-of-town gigs as they come up as well.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @scottstrandberg. Feel free to give me feedback on my writing, ask me fantasy baseball questions, music questions, really whatever strikes your fancy. Until next time, be well.