It’s like the Colbert Report, except with me and Joe Posnanski

March 22nd, 2007 → 1:09 pm @

For those of you who don’t know who Joe Posnanski is, well, shame on you: he’s, for my money, one of the best baseball writers working. (I’ve said this before — using the exact same language, actually.) His new book, The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America is excellent. Go buy the damn thing. (Posnanski earns bonus points for living in Kansas City, the ancestral seat of the Mnookin clan. That also means he can eat all the Arthur Bryant’s he wants. Lucky bastard.Recently, Joe and had a little e-exchange, which he printed on his site. Here are some excerpts. He’s doing the questioning, I’m doing the answering. The whole thing is humorous, but go check out his blog for everything else that’s on there.

Who do you think is the best player in the division?

David Ortiz. There’s a good argument to be made that the best player should also play in the field, but that argument doesn’t hold up here. Pedro was the best player in the league in the 1999-2000 era, and Papi is now. He’s the most fun to watch, he makes his teammates better, he changes the complexion of every game when the Red Sox enter the 8th or 9th down a couple of runs. Someday we’ll look back and realize that, over the last four years, we all witnessed something truly incredible.

True of false: Derek Jeter is a lousy defensive shortstop.

True. He’s perfected the Nomar move: make an average play look remarkably difficult, thereby drawing oohs and aahs from fans and ignorant broadcasters alike. He’s not as bad as some think – he’s far from the worst shortstop in baseball – but he’s in the lower half.

For your first book, Hard News, you appeared on Bill O’Reilly and on Jon Stewart’s show. Which one was more fun?

That’s such a gimme. C’mon. Stewart. He’d actually read the book; he wanted to engage on a real level; he repeatedly called (former New York Times editor) Howell Raines a dick on the air. O’Reilly really is more of a kabuki theater experience: you’re having a conversation, the red light comes on, and all of a sudden there’s lots of yelling and sudden movements. It wouldn’t be a good show for an epileptic to do.

Who is the best starting pitcher in the division?

Chien-Ming Wang. (Doesn’t it sound crazy to say that?) Nah, just kidding. Right now it’s kind of a toss-up. Roy Halladay would be if he stayed healthy. I’m interested in what happens with Daisuke-san, although even in the best of circumstances he’s not going to be the best pitcher in the division. Outside of that, who knows? Phillip Hughes could come up and blow everyone away. Scott Kazmir would pull it all together. We could have a Papelbon-esque emergence somewhere. One thing I know: it won’t happen in Baltimore. Because Baltimore sucks.

Who is the best closer in the division?

Mariano. He’s older, he’s slowing down, but he’s still the best. This is assuming Papelbon stays in the rotation.

You started out as a rock critic. A friend of mine who works for Warner says Linkin Park will have the No. 1 selling album in America this year. This depressed me. The question: Is there a great rock and roll band left in the world?

Oh, sure. There are a lot. Radiohead’s a really great rock band – when I saw them in Madison Square Garden a couple of years ago, I was blown away. Wilco is occasionally a great band. The Arcade Fire is on its way to being a great band. U2 is a great rock band. And there are lots of small and smallish bands that I think are great; it just depends if you’re defining the term as someone/something that can blow away 20,000 people at a time.
Remember, too – and I’m saying this only because I hate to see you depressed – there have been lots of awful bands that have had the best selling album of any given year: The Saturday Night Fever, The Bodyguard Soundtrack, albums by REO Speedwagon, Bobby Brown, and Ace of Base.

Editor’s (i.e. Posnanski’s) note: I can’t get into Wilco. And I feel like I’m a traitor to my Generation X or something. I’ve had dozens of people try to get me to appreciate Wilco. My friend Brian, the Warner Music guy, has given me something like 493 free Wilco discs, others have played Wilco in the car when we’ve been together and slowly explained to me why Wilco is great. I don’t deny Wilco’s greatness. I really don’t. I just can’t get into the music. I know it’s me.

Two part question. Do you: a.) Believe in clutch hitting? and b.) Believe that Big Papi is a bonafide clutch hitter?

A. Yes.
B. Yes.
I don’t see how there’s any way you could have watched baseball for the past half-decade and not believe that Ortiz rises to the occasion; ergo, clutch hitting exists. As Bill James told me in Feeding the Monster (available for just $17.16 from Amazon! Cheap!), just because we don’t know how to quantify it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

The Yankees pitching staff features 39-year-old Mike Mussina, 37-year-old Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettite, who is 498. While the Yankees will still have the youngest pitching staff in New York, does the Yankees staff give you hope?

Hope for the Red Sox? The Yankees also have Phillip Hughes. The Sox have 40-year old Schilling and the Depression-era Wakefield/Timlin duo. Either rotation could end up clicking – Pavano could have a good year (unlikely, but theoretically possible); Wang could replicate ’06; Hughes could come up and dominate circa Papelbon ’06. And in Boston, Beckett could get electro-shock treatment and cure him of the misconception that he can blow his fastball by AL hitters, Dice-K could gyro his way to a 40-0 record, Papelbon could make the transition to starter and finish the year with a .03 ERA. Or it could all go to shit. Who knows?

True or False: The Red Sox will rue the day they signed J.D. Drew.

True. That day will be on April 1, 2010.

You are one of the few people who have had the good fortune of talking with Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair and James Frey: the Elvis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard of untrue journalism. Give us a scouting report on each:

Actually, I didn’t really talk to Frey. (Or I did, but only when I mistook him for someone else at a charity auction. He’s short. And really pathetic.) Jayson is, legitimately, a manic loon; Stephen is, legitimately, smart and also seemed to me to be aware of what he’d done, although I found his decision to write a “novel” instead of dealing with the people he’d screwed over a bit odd. Or at least indicative of his not fully accepting the consequences of what happened.

What are your favorite and least favorite Yankees-Red Sox moments?

I’m going to limit this to the last decade. Favorites: the ’04 playoffs, the two ’04 July games (the brawl and the Jeter-into-the-stands), the ’03 playoffs, the ’99 Pedro 17-K game in Yankee stadium. Least favorite: the opening series of the ’06 regular season (the Sheffield into the right-field stands series) and the final series of the ’06 regular season. The first series was just ugly; the final one clearly signaled the jump-the-shark moment of the rivalry. (Incidentally, I was at all of these games/moments save for the Fenway July ’04 match and the ’03 playoffs.)

Many people have said that the Red Sox are the new Yankees … they just go out and spend money and buy players. Does this in any way cut into your enjoyment?

Actually, yes. If I was the god of all things baseball, I’d have a salary floor and a salary ceiling. It’d make the game more interesting.

I asked Alex Belth if that thing Yankee fans do — where they call out each player’s name until recognized — is cool or unbearably obnoxious. What do you think?

It’s not so much obnoxious as stupid and childish. It’s what a three-year-old would do if he were trying to get his dad’s attention while he was at work.

True or false: Curt Schilling will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Tough call. I’d vote for him. He’s the best postseason pitcher of his generation, and arguably the best postseason pitcher ever. That counts for at least as much as having the good fortune to be part of a double-play combination that was made into a catchy ditty. His ERA+ was pretty much always above 120, his WHIP was below 1.2 for six straight years, and he has more than 200 wins and 3,000 Ks. He was killed by those years in Philly, though, and too many of the writers who vote on the HOF (Hi, Murray!) are boobs who seem to be proud of their ignorance.

Post Categories: Joe Posnanski & The Soul of Baseball

Don’t cry for me: explaining the weird economics of the publishing industry

March 22nd, 2007 → 12:25 pm @

A clarification from a point I made in in yesterday’s cuddlefest, prompted by a couple of comments and couple of private emails I’ve received.

It’s true: I won’t ever receive royalties from Feeding the Monster, but that’s not because I’m being taken advantage of or being underpaid; if anything, it’s because I was overpaid at the front end of the deal. For the most part, authors are paid advances for their books (I say for the most part because it’s certainly true that some writers work on books in hopes of enticing a publisher after said book is completed). In publishing, the term “advance” is a bit of misnomer, since the author will never be asked to return an advance if he doesn’t make it back. (Well, almost never: in 1996, Random House sued Joan Collins, claiming she had delivered an unpublishable manuscript. They lost.) And the vast majority of books don’t earn out their advances. This is especially true in non-fiction, where the research costs and time it takes to finish a project generally mean a publishing house can’t offer, say, $25,000, which they can do with a first novel.

This creates an odd system in which the author has no real economic incentive to sell more books. (That’s a bit simplistic: future advances are effected by past sales figures, although this is less true in non-fiction — where books are seen as more topic-dependent — than it is in fiction. Plus there’s the ego factor.) If it seems as if under this model, publishers must lose money on a lot of books, that’s because that’s true…although not as true as it may seem as first. An author generally needs to sell a bit more than twice as many books to start earning royalties as a publisher needs to sell to break ever, because the publisher gets somewhere around 2x as much per book as the author does. (Ex: author X gets a $100 advance from publisher Y. Author gets $2 per book; publisher gets closer to $4. Publisher needs to sell 25 books to start making money beyond that $100 advance; figuring in another $25 or so in printing, labor, and other attendant expenses on the publisher’s part, it would need to sell about 31 books to clear a profit. The author, meanwhile, would need to sell 50 books before he earns out his advance.) So, for the most part, my shameless shilling isn’t because I’m hoping to see more dough rolling in at the end of the day. It’s because I crave affirmation. And I crave readers.

All of this raises an interesting question: how is it that publishing houses stay in business? The (also slightly simplistic answer): because of the Stephen Kings of the world. So thanks, Stephen, for helping out with my advance. Since you’re a big Sox fan, I know you don’t mind.

Post Categories: Joe Posnanski & The Soul of Baseball