Archive for Interviews

The fine folks at Talking Chop were kind enough to engage in a Q&A with us leading into the Yanks-Braves series this week. What follows is our exchange. You can check out Talking Chop’s questions and our answers here.

1) Is the Nate McLouth acquisition enough, or the Braves have to swing a move for another outfielder? Any chance Jordan Schafer makes a return appearance later on?

The McLouth trade was a great start, and a surprising one in which we didn’t give up anything that we needed from our minor league system for at least the next two years. But no, it doesn’t seem to be enough. The question we keep asking ourselves is, “do we wait for the guys currently on the team to start hitting, or do we jettison some of them for more of a sure thing.” Just about everyone in Atlanta has had enough of Jeff Francoeur, and just about any mediocre replacement player would be better than him. I don’t think Frenchy is in an Atlanta uniform next season, one way or another.

Another problem with adding another bat, is that we can’t really add that much more salary. This is why the McLouth deal was a good move (he’s signed affordably), and this is also why we will probably see Schafer again (he’s currently out with a hand injury that he actually suffered pretty early in the season),

2) What’s the general feel for Kelly Johnson? His OPS is down over 100 points from last year and 150 points from 2007. Is he just suffering from some bad luck (.250 BABIP way down from the past two years)? It seems like his Iso-D and Iso-P are right in line with 08 and 07…

Like I said in the previous answer, he’s one of the guys we keep waiting on to start hitting. If Omar Infante were not on the DL right now, there’s little doubt that Johnson would not be starting, and that might happen when Omar returns next month. So Kelly’s got a few weeks to put it together, but he seems to have gotten the Jeff Francoeur disease. I’m not sure advanced stats can measure what’s wrong with KJ, it’s more about watching him every day and seeing him pop up or ground out when last year he would have hit a line drive somewhere. Kelly’s a guy who, once he figures it out (if he does), can go on an absolute tear and carry the team for a week or two (and again, we’re still waiting on that to happen).

3) As the Braves blog of record, what is your recommended course of action regarding Jeff Francoeur?


But seriously, I offered the Red Sox blogger last week to trade him Francoeur for a pair of Monster seats. I guess I should offer you guys the same deal, Francoeur for a pair of reasonably priced Yankees tickets (do reasonably priced Yankees tickets exist?).

But seriously, seriously, the Braves are trying everything they can to trade him and the sooner the better. In the end, I think we’ll end up releasing him this off-season, and every team knows that so they’re not going to give us anything for him.

4) A.J. Burnett at five years, $80 million, or Derek Lowe at four years, $60 million?

With the injury problems we’ve had the last few years in our starting rotation, I’ll take Lowe and his streak of 7-straight years making 32 starts over Burnett and his streak of only performing well in contract years.

5) To follow up one of your questions, what do you think a fair price, from the Braves’ standpoint, would be for Xavier Nady?

How about Jeff Francoeur? I kid, I kid. If Nady proves he’s healthy and can hit, I would say a guy like Jo-Jo Reyes straight-up or Brandon Jones straight-up — sort of a B prospect who’s major league ready or almost there. Nady’s a free agent at the end of the year, so he’d be purely a rental, and I wouldn’t think you’d get too much for him, unless a team was just desperate.

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Over the weekend, we witnessed a mini-viral baseball phenomenon. Late on Friday night, David Pinto at Baseball Musings tossed up a post with a link to a site called Flip Flop Fly Ball. The site, run by a baseball fan/graphic designer, features some fascinating infographics about America’s Pastime. The one on the right, for example, is a quiz of any fan’s baseball field acumen. It’s nigh impossible.

As I poked around the site on Saturday, I dropped a link to it on Twitter via both the River Ave. Blues account and my personal feed. It was re-Tweeted all over the place, and one RAB reader wanted to know if prints of the graphics were available.

I inhaled the site. The combination of interesting graphics and baseball made for a good amount of high-quality wasted time over the weekend. Take a look, for example, at the height of the Green Monster as compared to some well-known landmarks, the directional orientation of home plate at every stadium and the amount of travel the Royals have to do this season. The rest are equally as entertaining.

After looking at a few graphics and poking around the site, I realized that Craig Robinson, the man behind Flip Flop Fly Ball was a Yankee fan and a River Ave. Blues reader. In fact, he sent us the ticket prices infographic a few months ago. I e-mailed Craig yesterday, and he answered a few questions about himself and the infographics. The interview follows. Be sure to visit the site as well.

What inspired you to develop the infographics at Flip Flop Fly Ball?

The main reason is that I’m relatively new to the game (I’ve never known a World Series-winning Yankees team), and I was finding it difficult to retain so much information about the Yankees and the sport in general. For whatever reason, I found it easier to remember team relocations and stuff if I made charts and graphs. It spiraled out of that.

I saw you recently added an amusing new one on the felonious side of stolen bases. How often do you plan to produce new sports infographics? From where do you derive ideas for the new graphics?

Hopefully, I’ll be doing a new one every week. That may not be the case in the next month or so, unfortunately, as my wife and I just split up and, without a green card, I’ll be leaving the country soon. Ideas tend to pop up just from little things I see watching games. Just seeing Chief Wahoo; one day it just seemed an obvious question: How many native Americans live in the Cleveland area?

As a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, I loved the one entitled Really Fantasy Baseball in which the Wu Tang Clan, behind a complete game by RZA, tops the E Street Band for Eastern Division champions. What’s your personal favorite? Which ones were the most fun to make?

I’d agree that the Wu vs. E Street one is definitely one of my favourites. Mostly because I enjoyed spending a day working out how each half-inning was played out. The Cleveland Indians one is probably my favourite, though; it just seems to sum up the ridiculousness of their name quite nicely.

Tell me a little about your background. I understand from your website that you are a UK native who spent some time in Bellingham, Washington but you are a Yankee fan. How did you find your way to both baseball and the Yanks?

Yeh, I was born in the UK, lived most of the last decade in Berlin, Germany. Until last weekend, I lived in Bellingham and went to see Mariners games. I’m returning to Berlin shortly, but hopefully, I’ll be breaking the piggy bank to try to get a ticket to see my first game at the new Yankee Stadium, ironically, against the Mariners. I’d always been primarily a soccer fan, but I was on a business trip, and one of the people I was working with was an NY-based lifelong Yankees fan. His colleague was a Mets fan. When I expressed an interest in going to see a baseball game, I left it up to them to fight it out whether I’d be going to the Bronx or Shea. The Yankees fan was on it right away, and I went to a fairly pedestrian defeat at the hands of the Twins, but, I know it’s a cliche, I fell in love straight away. The sport just seems so perfectly beautiful. The next day, I watched a Yankeeography of Mickey Mantle on YES in my hotel room, and, well, the rest is a history of very late nights watching live streaming games on, and more recently, having people in Washington continually reminding me that the “Yankees suck!”

Can you preview any upcoming FFFB infographics? And at the request of some readers, do you plan to offer prints of the infographics for sale?

Once I get my life sorted out again, I’d love to do some prints. I’m working on a few new ones at the moment. Once this current round of Interleague play is done with, I’ve got one about how each league’s teams fared in the history of Interleague play; a Venn diagram about the origins of team nicknames; a history of Japanese teams in a style like the history of the NL and AL teams; and a more research-intensive one, looking at how much of each team’s opening day roster were homegrown/traded/free agents.

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I’m looking forward to the new graphics. In the meantime, the current ones provide enough of a distraction. A big RAB thanks to Craig as he gets everything straightened out.

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Although the first weekend of Interleague Play was once reserved for geographic rivalries, this year will be different as the Yankees will host the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Now, you might be asking, “Who are they? What should we know about them?” Stay tuned.

As sports fans in New York, we pretend not to know much about Philadelphia and their teams. There is, of course, a bitter rivalry between Eagles and Giants fans, between Northern Jersey residents and Philadelphians, between Santa Claus and batteries. We know that cheese steaks are delicious — provolone is the way to go — and Philadelphia could become a surrogate sixth borough if this whole high-speed rail thing happens. But what about the Phillies?

To prepare for the weekend, Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley e-mailed me about doing previews on each other’s sites. My Yankees preview went live on his site last night, and you can find it here. Below are Bill’s answers to my questions. Bring on the Phillies, I say. We can handle ‘em.

1. I know that New York and Philadelphia sports fans have a rather uneasy relationship. There’s no love lost between fans of the Giants and fans of the Eagles. But considering the esteem in which Yankee fans generally hold the Mets, shouldn’t Yankee fans also root for the Phillies?

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If anyone is missing Jason Giambi this spring, you can head over to Athletics Nation where Tyler Bleszinski has conducted an interview with the former Yanks first baseman. It’s quite the long one — and it’s only the first part. Jason talks about the difference between playing in Oakland and playing in New York, how he views himself on each team, and the adjustments he made to his swing upon coming to the Yanks.

Head over to read the whole thing — I can’t possibly do it justice without completely reprinting it. However, there were a couple of parts I found particularly interesting. The first of which is Giambi’s reply to the question of how he views himself as a defensive first baseman. I didn’t know what to expect after reading the question, but it certainly wasn’t this: “I view myself as great.” Yeah, right. Tyler’s talking about playing first base, Jason, not about chugging Jack. Jay at Fack Youk takes a closer look at this statement.

Most interesting, though, is the revelation that Giambi very well might not have been a Yankee had ownership not intervened. The A’s and Giambi apparently had a place in deal before the 2001 season which would have paid Big G around $90 million over six years.

Trust me, I wanted to stay in Oakland. We had a deal done. You can ask Billy Beane. It was my free agent year before the season started. And ownership at the time pulled the deal off the table. I had flown my parents out, my agent, everybody. A lot of people don’t know that.

That creates one massive what-if scenario. Looking at the list of free agents that year, there was really only one superstar bat available: Barry Bonds. Would the Yanks have pursued him to fill their left field void? He was, after all, fresh off a record-breaking season. The Giants ended up signing him for four years and $72 million with a $18 million club option, but without another blue-chip slugger on the market perhaps the Yankees would have put their resources towards Bonds.

Barring that, they could have gone forward with a Johnny Damon signing, putting him in left field. Considering the money they would have saved on Giambi, they could have as easily signed Rondell White, too, to play right field.

I love how one little interview sparks so many questions. We’ll never know how Yankee history would have unfolded had Giambi re-upped with the A’s in 2001. But it’s fun to think about for sure.

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I recently sat down and exchanged emails with Chad Jennings, author of the brilliant Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees blog. Chad’s site is one of the truly great baseball blogs on the internet, and his analysis is always insightful, accurate and entertaining. If you haven’t already bookmarked his site, well, what are you waiting for?

I asked Chad a bunch of questions about the Yanks’ minor league system, and he was kind enough to reply, in record time no less. Let’s get to it…

Prior to the Yanks coming to town, the Phillies occupied the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market. With all due respect to the Phillies organization, they aren’t the Yankees and the buzz just isn’t the same. How different were things around the team this year with the Yanks compared to years past with the Phightin’s?

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I have to admit, I’m extremely exciting about our latest draft coverage pinch hitter: Keith Law, Senior Baseball Writer for ESPN’s Scouts Inc. One of the best talent evaluators around, Law and his army of freelance scouts travel this great land to bring you firsthand information on the nation’s top amateur players, unlike many other scouting publications which provide hand-me-down info.

Prior to his gig at the Worldwide Leader, Law spent 4+ years in the Jays’ front office, serving as a Special Assistant to the General Manager. He’s also written at Baseball Prospectus. So yeah, not only are we honored to have him, I think it’s safe to say that he’s most qualified person to ever talk baseball here at RAB.

You can check out Keith’s baseball thoughts in a variety of ways at ESPN, including his blog, chats, and frequent television spots. You can also head over to his personal site to find his non-baseball musings.

I…ahem…sat down with Keith and asked him some questions about the upcoming First Year Player Draft, which is now barely a week away.

Who has been the most impressive draft-eligible player you’ve seen this spring? Why?

Jarrod Parker was the guy who really made me say “wow.” I had heard he was throwing hard, but what I hadn’t heard was how good his delivery was, or how advanced his slider is. If he can keep the ball down – or if he’s drafted by a team in a big park – he should be excellent.

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