I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down and speak with Keith Law, a Senior Baseball Writer at ESPN and ESPN Scouts. Keith is a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and a nationally renowned baseball writer and analyst. He formerly wrote for for Baseball Prospectus and worked in the front office for the Toronto Blue Jays.
He shared wonderful insights into the state of Major League, Minor League, and College Baseball.
But Keith is more than “just a baseball guy.” His blog, ‘The dish’ (https://meadowparty.com), covers topics that range from board games to literature to movies/music to food. It has a running segment called “Stick to baseball,” in which he provides his quick-hitting thoughts and links to an array of different baseball and non-baseball-related topics. Keith is also outspoken and on the right side of important social issues, like social justice, domestic violence and abuse, and mental health.
During our below far-ranging conversation, we covered a variety of different topics, including:
- The state of Major League and Minor League Baseball
- MLB’s exciting youth movement
- The tension between “old school” and “modern” baseball
- Sports leagues and MLB’s handling of domestic violence issues
- Race issues and baseball
- How to strengthen youth and collegiate baseball
- The use of “robo-umps” for calling balls and strikes
- The use of data-driven analytics in baseball
- Favorite current players and baseball writers
- Mental health
- Blogging and writing
On the state of Major and Minor League Baseball, and baseball’s exciting youth movement.
Let’s start with your thoughts on the state of major and minor league baseball. I know that you do a lot of minor league analysis and MLB Draft-related coverage. I’m curious to get your thoughts on minor league baseball, including where it is, and where it should be.
For example, what’s your take on where minor league baseball is in terms of salary structure, development, and how fast players move through the system to the major leagues, especially in light of some of the recent things we’ve seen like Carter Stewart, the 19 year-old Atlanta Braves draftee who took the creative step of deciding to skip the minor leagues and MLB Draft entirely to go abroad to play baseball in Japan.
I think the talent level right now is higher than it’s ever been before. So, on the one hand, I think it’s easy for MLB baseball to look and say ‘Everything is great. We’re still getting some of the best athletes in the world. They are getting to the Majors sooner and producing younger than they ever had before.’ I’m sure that there is a strong strain of thinking within Major League Baseball saying. ‘We don’t have to change anything. This is all great.’
But I do worry that we could continue to lose athletes to other sports.
We lost Kyler Murray. Kyler Murray probably never wanted to play baseball. Particularly after the draft, I heard from scouts who said they thought football was always his real passion but it was thought – before he had that great season and combine – that he simply didn’t have professional prospects there.
There was another player in this year’s draft, Maurice Hampton, who was a borderline first round talent and had indicated earlier this Spring that he wanted to play baseball and then changed his mind to say he was going to play two sports at LSU, but football was the driver.
We’re going to continue to lose kids like that to other sports, if other sports offer better financial opportunities or greater scholarship opportunities.
So, we need to pay minor league players more, period. Just as I think, as a human rights issue, we should be. I think certain clubs, like the Toronto Blue Jays, have recognized maybe there’s a competitive advantage and maybe there’s a development advantage to paying kids more.
But also if Major League Baseball is going continue to use the college ranks as a development pipeline for players that don’t sign directly out of high school, then I think the two need to work together to make sure there are more scholarships available. This would make college baseball a more viable path for kids who are not yet physically or emotionally ready to go play professional baseball.
I’d be glad to see college baseball look a bit more like the minors in terms of how they develop players. There are many kids, at 18 years old, not physically ready or mature enough to go play pro ball. Create a parallel path for them. We’re happy to pay those kids in three years once they come along. And to me, again, it’s just money. Baseball is swimming in cash. MLB can afford to pay all their minor leaguers a living wage, and they’d be fine.
They could partner with college – with the NCAA – and help fund additional scholarships. They can. But they don’t feel like they have to. And I think fan pressure is one thing that would help push Major League Baseball to do better in those regards.
I agree. That makes a lot of sense.
It’s interesting, one thing I want to talk about is how well baseball is doing vis-a-vis competing with the other major sports. We know the great job that the NBA does. The NBA Draft is an absolute spectacle. The NFL has become almost a full year marketing exercise where everyone is engaged, and they’re always on the front pages.
By comparison, MLB has really lagged. Some excuses that people make for why baseball isn’t as popular are “pace of play” and “the young kids aren’t engaged” and “the game is too slow,” which – as a baseball fan – I love the pace of the game. But it’s also unique to baseball that, even though you can be drafted as a high schooler, it takes years to actually get to The Bigs. In the NBA and NFL, rookies play immediately after they are drafted.
Yes. That is completely accurate. I one-hundred percent agree, and it’s a structural problem around the Draft.
And yet, how many 19 year-olds are we seeing in the Majors now?
There are more of these guys – Vlad, Jr., Tatis, Jr.
These guys are getting to the big leagues younger now and performing right out of the chute, which really has not been true in baseball history for about 50 years.
It feels like this type of youth movement has never happened before. It’s kind of shocking to see it, right?
The last time it happened before World War II, and that was because we were just short of players. So we had teenagers getting the Big Leagues, because they weren’t drafted. And I’m talking about the other draft!
There’s really no reason that the advanced college pitchers that are drafted shouldn’t be in the Majors within a year.
Health permitting, workload permitting, I understand there are other variables, but those guys can move through the system pretty quickly. But we don’t do that. The paradigm inside the sport has not really changed to catch up to the fact that players are going to the Majors younger and are being productive younger.
Maybe some of these kids who are drafted out of high school do need those four or five years in the minors, but many others probably should and can move very quickly. We just don’t think of the players that way. There’s trepidation at moving a kid too fast.
So maybe that needs to shift, because if we could get to Draft Day 2020, and I can turn around and point to the 2019 Draft and say “Hey, four of these kids are in the Majors already,” that’ll get people to pay attention to it.
It really provides incentive for fans to pay attention: “Hey, these guys are going to be in the majors fast. They’re going to be on my favorite team. They’re going to be the players I’m thinking of picking up on my fantasy team. I should tune in.”
Right. And the young kids are exciting. Remember, MLB ran that commercial earlier in the season with Judge and Francisco Lindor – with his blue hair – and these guys are exciting players. They’re the guys people want to see.
Yes. They’re the guys! They’re the guys!!
It’s funny. I’ve written about this more than a few times by now, since I first saw Wander Franco in the Rays system. I’ve had scouts tell me – when he first saw Franco in June or July of last year – “This kid’s going to be the next teenage Big Leaguer.”
Just think of that expression! That’s not a thing! The only teenage Big Leaguers we saw the previous twenty years were Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and maybe I’m missing one? Maybe throw Manny Machado in there?
Was it – maybe – it was it was Pujols? Maybe he was 20, but he was pretty young.
I think Pujols was 21, since it was a junior college draft. So he was just a tick older. But the idea that we’re talking about – not just ‘this guy is going to be a teenage Big Leaguer’ – but ‘this guy is going to be the next in a sequence of teenage Big Leaguers’? That’s huge.
And from everything I’ve heard about Franco – he is 18 years-old and at Low A ball – and he is right on track. If the Rays want him in the Big Leagues before he’s 20, it seems like he’ll be ready for that. And that should be a shift.
MLB should be jumping on that, saying “All right, well, players are getting younger. Great. Let’s market them more while they’re young.”
On the tension between old-school unwritten-rules baseball and modern day sabermetric bat-flipping baseball, and between old-time baseball culture and the youth wave of younger players…
So let’s talk about the youth movement for a minute. I know on Twitter you and I both have follow incidents like this Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster who criticized Ronald Acuña’s jewelry after he got hit by a pitch, and these crusty TV and radio guys that are saying “You can’t compare Trout to Mantle,” or “You know, back in my day…,” and holding forth on these ‘unwritten rules’ versus the bat-flipping / express-yourself-on-the-field type modern day players.
who’s the grumpy old man https://t.co/pxfNDO7ZAp
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) June 5, 2019
And it seems like that’s very front-and-center. And side-by-side with that we also see the old-school way of managing versus the very analytic sabermetrics-type approach. That’s another big tension in baseball today.
How do you see all this playing out? Is it good for the game? Which side of that do you sit on?
I think if you were to look directly into front offices, player development and scouting departments, a lot of them already have changed. Maybe not completely flipped, but it has changed to the point that a lot of this “Old man yells at cloud” stuff that we get is much less prevalent.
The goal inside most teams is “We want to win.” If certain players are going to help the team win, as long as anything extra that they do isn’t detracting from the team, it’s fine. Certainly you want players who play with energy and who play with enthusiasm. You hear that constantly from scouts and coaches: “He loves to play.” “He loves to work.” “He carries himself like a Big Leaguer.” These are all positives.
I think the biggest problem – the reason we perceive this, what you’re talking about, as a problem – is because these largely old-time broadcasters are the gatekeepers of a lot of information. Broadcasters can have undue influence over how fans perceive the game.
If I were Major League Baseball, I would say that we need to have some kind of cultural sensitivity training for all broadcasters. I understand that there are some who don’t need it. But there are clearly some who do. MLB needs to make sure that they understand that a lot of these things they are saying – for example, criticizing Acuña’s jewelry, you may not be trying to be racist, but the language being used is coded language. And its a way to put players of color, players from different cultures, down, without making direct reference to skin color.
If you go watch baseball in the Dominican or in Japan, it’s just different. [Editor’s Note: In the US, its long been frowned upon for a player to celebrate a Home Run. But the the Korean Baseball League has a tradition of bat-flipping. In Latin America, home run celebrations are more exuberant.] It’s a different culture. It’s not better or worse. It is simply different. And there’s not a lot of respect from broadcasters who are overwhelmingly older white males.
I really think that’s a great point.
And here in the New York area, I grew up listening to WFAN sports radio and Mike Francesa, who is still on the air. This season, he mispronounced Edwin Encarnacion’s name about thirty times in the course of a minute. And when someone called in and corrected him, he was like, “Yeah, thanks for that. Whatever.”
Finally, someone told Francesa how to pronounce Edwin Encarnacion’s name. So Mike carefully sounds it out, and still gets it wrong. Our nightmare continues.
— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) June 18, 2019
That’s exactly what we’re talking about.
Well what if somebody got his name wrong. His name – Francesa – is an “ethnic name.”
I’m of Italian descent. My mother’s maiden name was constantly mispronounced. She was so glad when she married somebody with a three-letter last name. It made her life a lot easier.
If I started rattling off the family names from my three Italian grandparents or other family members from Italy, I’m more Italian than everything else combined.
If I started rattling them off, certainly in an earlier era, I think people would have seen them as very difficult-to-pronounce names. Now, they’re considered “normal.”
Well, why can’t we get the same treatment to players from Latin America or players from East Asia? It’s not that hard.
On how baseball handles domestic violence incidents involving its players…
The other thing I noticed that you’ve been outspoken about is the way that baseball has handled and talked about some of these domestic violence incidents.
I wanted to get your further thoughts on that, if you can unpack that a little bit?
It just seems that folks aren’t talking about these incidents with the seriousness that they should be talked about, and maybe they won’t until fans care more. And maybe fans won’t care more. So I don’t know what the answer is.
In the NFL, for example, this issue has been very front-and-center with high profile players like Kareem Hunt, Ray Rice, and others. But this issue also exists in baseball, as in the case with Aroldis Chapman or with Addison Russell, but it seems its not being discussed as much.
So, I have two thoughts.
One is, I actually think the Commissioner’s Office has done a pretty good job with this issue. I wish the suspensions were longer.
But MLB acted outside of regular CBA negotiations, and they put a domestic violence policy in place. Under that policy, the Commissioner has pretty wide authority to issue lengthy suspensions for domestic violence allegations, even ones that do not go to the court system. Which is good. I think it’s actually made Major League Baseball a bit of a leader on the topic, and MLB used to be kind of a laggard on a lot of subjects like this.
I also would like to see Major League Baseball – I’d like to see all sports leagues – be leaders in the sense of helping educate fans. This is beyond sport. This is more important than your sports ball team. The idea that we’re all going to just cheer and support a player – like the Cubs, Addison Russell – who has done this when he comes back because he’s our guy —
Simply because he’s said he was sorry, you know…
Right. Yet there was no indication of actual remorse. In fact, Russell has done some things, like choosing certain walk-up music or making Instagram posts where people think he’s actually mocking the allegations and mocking the suspension process. I’m certainly not seeing contrition.
This is about as deeply ignorant and ill-considered a comment on domestic abuse you’ll ever hear. And then he gets all the baseball stuff wrong too. https://t.co/rDu7vYwsh4
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) June 30, 2019
But the point is that the leagues could be leaders. The vast majority of Major League Baseball players are not these guys. The League as a whole, the players as a whole —
Of course. Absolutely.
But you’d like to see them working together, because obviously the Players Association agreed to the policy, to get out front and make sure that people are more aware and understand this is an extremely serious issue.
It’s still pretty common in our country. It’s still not talked about enough. Domestic violence is a thing that’s often kept behind closed doors. And this is an opportunity for the all these sports leagues and the players associations to continue to educate fans and say, “Not only is this not acceptable, but there are going to be consequences for your team on the field.” And of course there’s life consequences off the field.
But I would just like to say again that I think this is the one area where Major League Baseball has done a really good job. Of course, they can always do more.
I should also say though, that I acknowledge that domestic violence policy is a really complex issue. MLB’s domestic violence policy is good, but flawed, because there actually is no good answer for how employers or even the law should handle domestic abusers. Also, as an extra-legal authority, MLB has no power whatsoever to compel the victim to do anything. The only thing the league, or any employer, can do to aid the victim in a domestic violence case is to require therapy, which could help or not. However, there are evidence-based treatment protocols for domestic abuse, and substance abuse treatment has a strong, positive effect on cases where substance abuse is a contributing factor.
We want sports leagues to come down hard on domestic abusers, because it’s an abhorrent crime, because we hope it might deter other players from doing the same, and because the law so often falls short in these cases. But sports leagues can’t give victims what they might truly need – separation and/or protection from their abusers – in the best circumstances, and in some cases that might be the opposite of what the victims say they want.
[Editors Note: Law has asked MLB about its therapy requirements for players suspended for DV but haven’t heard back yet. They may consider that information private, since it’s related to mental health.]
On race issues and MLB…
Thanks for your thoughtfulness and the deep dive on that issue. That makes a lot of sense.
You spoke earlier a little bit – or alluded to – race issues, and we’re in a place where, by the numbers in baseball, there are a lot of Latin American players and very few African-American players. This season, we’ve had a couple of incidents, first with the Red Sox dividing along racial lines in terms of who was and who wasn’t visiting the Trump White House. There was also the Tim Anderson suspension, where he used the N-word and – people come out on this different ways, but I’ve come to learn that him using that word, as a black man, is a very different thing from me using it, as a white man.
I’m just curious if you have any insight into how it is in locker rooms in this ‘Age of Trump’ and social media, where you kind of know what people are thinking? Do you have views on this issue, race in baseball?
I think my view on it is probably skewed by the fact that the players I interact with more are the ones who tend to be like-minded and more progressive.
I don’t go to Major League clubhouses, pretty much ever. They have so much media in there as it is, they don’t need me in there. I’m not there for work, and if I need to reach a player with a question, I’ll either go through social media or I’ll go through PR. For example, when I talked to Mike Trout for the piece I wrote, The Oral History of the Drafting of Mike Trout, I went through his PR. I can only imagine what it’s like for him after every game. Everybody wants to go to Mike Trout’s locker. Everybody wants to go to Manny Machado’s locker. If I need those guys, I’ll get them at a different time when they’re not barraged by reporters.
So the players I have more interaction with are the ones who tend to be like-minded and more open thinking about these issues. And so I would worry that my perception of how this stuff plays out in clubhouses in the Majors and the minors is probably not accurate, because I’m only talking to a sub-set of the players who tend to think similarly.
Yeah. I hear you.
The one thing I will say is this. You mentioned the low participation rate of African-Americans, at least in the Majors. That trickles down, going back to what I said earlier about the college ranks.
Scott Boras actually raised this point to me at least five years ago: If you want more African-American players in the Majors, fund more scholarships, because those kids, African-American kids in particular who have athletic prowess in any sport, they’re going to choose the sports that offer more scholarship opportunities.
If any of those kids have multiple skills in multiple sports, football has a ton more scholarships. Basketball has more scholarships. Baseball only has – well the number always changes- but around 12 give or take some fractional scholarships spread out across an entire roster. A lot of those kids go to school on a quarter scholarship. But if your choice is a quarter scholarship in baseball and you have the opportunity for a full scholarship in another sport —
It’s just not competitive.
Right! So fund more scholarships.
Sure, you won’t only pull in more African American players; you’ll also pull in white kids, obviously. You’re pulling in kids from disadvantaged economic backgrounds. But given that African Americans tend to be disproportionately disadvantaged economically, if you want to have more African-Americans playing baseball, getting into pro ball, and maybe getting to the Majors, you need to provide more economic opportunities to play. This is one way to do that.
Major League Baseball does a lot at the youth level, but you have got to carry it forward so that these kids can keep playing once they get closer to the point of where we’re drafting.
On strengthening youth and college baseball…
Absolutely. Very interesting stuff.
Do you have any connection to what they’re doing on the youth level, or organizations like PlayBall.org? I’ve coached Little League baseball, and I’ve read quite a bit about youth sports and pitching and overuse, and those types of issues.
What’s your take on those issues?
I really like that they’re doing this stuff there at the youth levels. As I said, I think the investment has to be carried forward to the high school and college levels. I’ve raised this point a few times, but I think if MLB is going to invest at the college level, they can and should go to the NCAA and say, “Hey, we’re going to fund more scholarships, but you have to agree to pitch counts. You have to create hard pitch limits, so that these kids aren’t getting broken before they get to the Majors.”
There’s actually plenty of incentives to do it; if you waive enough money at the NCAA, they will agree.
And I think that would be a win-win. Actually, it’ll strengthen the game at the college level, and it will make it more of a development pipeline, and it’ll protect the players.
Today, there are good college coaches who still will exceed the recommended limits from MLB as experts for pitch counts.
Yes. You see it all the time.
All the time.
Vanderbilt generally has a very good track record of developing pitchers and of protecting pitchers. But when Kumar Rocker had a chance for a no-hitter in a Super Regional game, they exceeded the limits. And if you saw the end of the game, Rocker, who was a first round prospect out of high school and is going to be a first round prospect in two more years, he was gassed. And when that happened I thought, “Hey, that’s Vanderbilt. Tim Corgan almost never does that.” Yet in that moment, where Rocker had the opportunity for a rare individual achievement and the team had an opportunity to win a crucial playoff game, he decided to exceed those limits.
We should take the decision out of the coaches hands. That way, after the game, the coach can say, “I had no choice. I had to take him out because he hit the number that’s mandated for us.” I know coaches would say now that they don’t like that, but I think taking it out of their hands would actually make their lives easier in the end. There would be no, “Oh, did you think about pulling Kumar at 120 pitches with the no-hitter?” It would be, “You know what I had to take him out. Those are the rules.”
I think it’s true, and it is a very powerful thing. You see it all the way down to even Little League baseball, in a tournament at the season where you’re riding an 11 year-old kid. And if you stop and think about it, it’s insane.
Well most youth teams – and this is even true of certain mid-major teams, or Division II or III, or Junior Colleges – have that one kid that we’re looking at as a prospect. He’s the best kid on the team, by a light year. Right? That one kid right there – you’re in the Junior College World Series – he’s your one pitching prospect. A tired version of that pitching prospect is probably far better pitcher than anyone else on the pitching staff.
As a coach you have too much incentive to overuse that guy, when in fact you should be spreading the workload around just to keep that guy healthy and be developing him for the long term.
The incentives are clear. We need to change the system, so that coaches have incentives to use these guys differently.
On whether its time to use ‘Robo Umps’ to call balls and strikes in the Majors…
So, jumping back to the Major Leagues, is it time for Robo Umps? Are we there yet? Or — ?
<laughs> Well, look, I want to see that solution.
I’ve talked to Major League Baseball people about this. They say “If we want to switch to TrackMan or a system of automated balls and strikes, it’s not going to be any more accurate. Our error rate is not going to drop with the switch from what we currently do, because currently umpires get somewhere north of 98 percent of calls correct.”
I have two counter-arguments to that:
One is that the errors with an automated system should be more predictable. You’re not going to see a pitch that bisects the plate being called a ball. We see that once or twice a week. I think hitters and pitchers would prefer a system where if it’s clearly a strike, it’s called a strike, and if it’s clearly a ball, it’s called a ball, and all the errors would be around the margins. I think players would be more comfortable with that.
The second thing is if Major League Baseball flipped the switch and turned on an automated strike zone, say next year, it wouldn’t necessarily be more accurate right out of the chute. But once the system’s on, they will continue to invest in it, and they’ll have the incentive to improve it. And then maybe we get from 98 percent to 98 1/2 percent, or maybe up to 99 percent.
And that would just take out all of this B.S. that happens. Now, every night on Twitter there are people discussing some series of bad calls. And I’m just talking about bad balls and strikes calls; not even any of the other stuff.
You know I coined the “Ump Show” term, to refer to umpires who insert themselves into the game. I’m not even talking about bad balls and strikes calls, because even good umps are going to sometimes get the balls and strikes calls wrong. If we can just take that out, it’s kind of like what I was saying with college coaches and pitch counts. You just point to the pitch count and say, “It’s not my fault. Those are the rules.” In the same way, home plate umpires would no longer be getting yelled at for balls and strikes calls and hitters and pitchers wouldn’t be getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes, because you can’t argue with a computer. It’s not even there. And if you did argue, it’s not going argue back!
On the use of analytics in baseball….
OK. Let’s do just one more baseball question. Then we can get into some fun stuff.
Do you think baseball today is over-reliant on these advanced metrics or is it the right amount? And which way do you see it going in the future?
There’s such a wide variety across all thirty MLB teams that I don’t think there is a right or wrong. Some teams use them more. There are teams that don’t use them enough. That I can say for sure.
I don’t know that I agree with the Astros approach of using analytics and what they call ‘video scouting’ almost to the complete exclusion of in-person scouting. I don’t think I agree with that. Certainly their draft was not my favorite this year. But maybe they see things I don’t. Because it’s not that they’re not trying. They’re doing something very different. And looking at players the way I do, I look at their draft and say, “I don’t understand that.” Time will certainly tell on whether this is a viable approach.
I am also probably biased on the subject. Many many of my good friends in the sport are scouts. I don’t want to see them all lose their livelihoods through what is essentially the baseball equivalent of automating jobs out of existence.
That’s a fair point.
At least with the Astros – and I’m less familiar with their draft and draft strategy, but at least, as a fan – you hear things about how they’ve changed the way pitchers pitch. Like when Charlie Morton came to the team, they changed the percentage of how often he threw certain pitches, and he seemed to have really positive results.
Well that, I love. Using analytics as a way to better inform your coaches and scouts? To me, that’s tremendous.
A lot of the conversations I have with scouts today now will include a discussion of, “Hey, the spin rate on his fastball is here – and yes he’s throwing 98 MPH – but its just an average spin rate, and that’s why he’s giving up contact in the zone.”
In this way, we’ve managed to fill in the story more. I love that information!
I think it’s really cool too. It’s really changing the game, and it’s fun to watch that aspect of it.
On his current favorite players in the game…
OK. So just a couple of quick-hitting fun questions now: Do you have a favorite player to watch currently?
Again, I’m little biased here, but I do *love* Fernando Tatis, Jr. ♥♥♥
I have ranked the guy highly forever, and I want more players like him. He kind of models himself in a lot of ways after Manny Machado.
I remember watching the game where his father, Fernando Tatis, had the two Grand Slams in one inning, and he had one of those great years. This year, my son has Tatis, Jr. on his fantasy baseball team, and he is very happy!
Good call by your son!
I love players like that who play with skill, instincts, and that kind of enthusiasm. I’m all in on that!
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) June 23, 2019
Give me more Francisco Lindors.
Francisco Lindor is a cheat code on defense pic.twitter.com/QJXWu1Brhn
— Sports Daily (@SportsDGI) June 26, 2019
Give me more Javy Baez-es.
Javier Baez decides to troll the Reds with this left-handed swing.pic.twitter.com/aEYYmI1H6X
— Stadium (@Stadium) August 9, 2019
I also given Javy Baez as my answer to questions like that before. I just want more guys like him. I know he drives people a little crazy, but it always the best guys who drive people crazy.
On his current favorite baseball writers and baseball writing…
Turning to writing about baseball, who is your favorite baseball writer these days?
Oh gosh. I don’t know that I have a good answer to that.
I mean I just bounce around. I read so many different writers. And I have a lot of friends in business too.
I just read Alex Speier’s upcoming book Homegrown on how the Red Sox built last year’s champion through drafting, international scouting, and player development.
I read it in pre-release, and it was tremendous. It’s a story that doesn’t necessarily have a linear narrative. It’s all these players, and he really managed to weave everything together into one coherent story that was really moving. Of course Alex covered the Red Sox for so long and he had tremendous access to their executives to talk about these players.
Yes. I love those kind of stories. Now that I’m in my forties, the stories about how you put these teams together are also a really interesting part of the game for me, for sure.
On men and mental health, and fighting the stigma of talking and writing about these issues…
Changing it up for a moment from baseball, and continuing to talk about the power of stories, I wanted you to know that I read your piece on anxiety that you wrote for Stigma Fighters. I happened to come across it. I know Sarah Fader very well. I’ve been on her podcast, and we did a Stigma Fighters/Good Men Project collaboration a couple of years back.
It’s great work. So thank you for your leadership on that front.
Yes. I think they do great stuff. Anything to raise awareness, and to just help get rid of the stigma.
Exactly. That was one of our big pushes at The Good Men Project with mental health. Getting men to talk about this stuff is not always easy. We had a campaign called #NotWeakJustHuman that was focused on precisely that.
It is true. Men do not like to talk about this stuff. Initiatives to change that are so important.
On blogging and writing…
I also know you’re quite a prolific blogger. I blog a bit as well. I started blogging when I moved to Japan years ago; it was more of a travel/life experience blog, but I haven’t kept up with it to the degree that you have.
But I think your blogging over at The dish is great. It’s fun stuff.
Thank you. I find it therapeutic to write. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. It’s just extremely satisfying. It’s something on my agenda every day. For example, I did a game review today. But no matter the topic, it’s all just writing.
On the three people he would invite over if he were hosting a dinner party…
So how about we close this out with the New York Times Book Review question: Who are three people you’d invite over if you were hosting a dinner party? I know you have a lot of interests, and you and I think share a fandom for Neil Gaiman. I also know you’re into board games, literature, food, and movies. Do you have three people you’d invite over to hang?
Oh God. It’s funny, because lot of the board game people I like, like Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau, are two of the leading designers right now. I’ve also met those guys. I had Rob Daviau on my podcast last year, so I would certainly have him over for dinner, but I’m very very fortunate, because I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a lot of those people. Jumping into the board game world first as a hobbyist and now, I mean, it’s not my job but I do sort of treat it like a second job, I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of really interesting people on that side of the fence. Going to more of the conventions now, I see them more and more frequently, and I get a kick out of it. (And they see me on TV talking about baseball, so it works both ways!)
So, I don’t know. I would need to put in more thought to come up with good answer to this one, but I probably would just try to pick three people from totally different worlds. Like an author and somebody from the science world. Maybe somebody like an Alfred Hitchcock and one of the greats of early cinema, or maybe somebody like Raymond Chandler who is one of my all-time favorite authors. It wasn’t just Chandler’s story-craft – and he wrote quite a bit about the art of writing a story – but his prose style is so different from the way I write. My writing tends to be florid and tortuous, and his was so spare and precise. He and Dashiell Hammett kind of created the ‘hardboiled’ genre or at least refined it and turned it literary. So, I think Chandler would definitely be on my list.
I’ll have to get to back you with the rest!
Photo Credit: ESPN Images (with permission of Keith Law)