Sunday, May 4, 2008

Conversation with a professional

While checking out the Improv in Irvine, I happened to cross paths with a real-life professional beat writer/sports journalist/someone who gets paid to do this while I do not. Namely, Matthew Hurst over at The Press-Enterprise ( I told him early in the conversation that I wrote for a fantasy baseball blog (his eyes glazed over in thinly veiled disinterest), so I figure everything he said from that point onward is fair game. I didn't ask him if he thought all bloggers lived in their mom's basements ... I was afraid what his answer might be.

Traveling with the team

I asked him if any of the old stereotypes about beat writers traveling with the team apply. He said, no, they don't. In fact, they are expected to maintain a professional detachment from the players, and it's quite a big taboo to fraternize. He makes every road trip, so I can imagine the temptation to mingle must be overwhelming. This also means no fantasy baseball. The horror!

Who's the biggest jerk he's met amongst MLBers

*Warning: Gigantic Tangent -- I'll be honest, I don't have a lot of baseball stories. But, I do have one great one. I worked my way through college and law school by bouncing and working security. If I toss on a black shirt and black jeans, I could still pass for security. (I've gotten a bit doughy, but can still bench over four plates.)

When the Angels won the series back in 2002, a buddy and I decided we had to be there. I looked for the weak link to the underground stadium, then we walked right in. After mingling with obvious employees and Angels family members, I took advantage of a lull to then intrude upon the Angels clubhouse celebration and reception. (I'm making it sound simpler then it is. There were multiple stairwells and reams of security to maneuver around. The key is to look like you belong.). Champagne everywhere, free food, and I basically met every member of the 2002 team. I partied with them all, then when I left, there was a huge crowd waiting to greet the exiting players. I could overhear people asking, "Who the hell was that?" in reference to me. Well, I was an interloper who followed a player's family into the World Series celebration. Troy Glaus and John Lackey were both gigantic men, by the way.

The only memento I have is Jarrod Washburn's signature. He was a huge prick about it. I realized later that he was such a jerk because I was having him sign a newspaper with a front page headline discussing his loss in the World Series. Whoops. Scott Spiezio was drunk and went up to try and play/sing with the band. Hmm, sounds like not much has changed. Nobody cheered for Kevin Appier.

And there was one player was a gigantic jackass. Nobody talked to him, and he basically remained aloof and then wandered off. That player was Garret Anderson. Matthew answered my question as to his pick for "biggest jerk." Let's just say I wasn't surprised who he chose.

What do you think of Joakim Soria?

I look at the Angel's, and their bullpen seems to be the biggest mystery going forward. Is K-Rod staying or going? Why'd they let so many guys go? Since he was on his way to Kansas City, I figured I'd ask him about (IMHO) the most surprising stud reliever in the game.

Soria was a Rule 5 pick. IIRC, the Angels (along with many, many other teams) could have had him. Matthew felt that Soria "had good location but not very impressive stuff." I have to admit, I'm not a beat reporter. I watch baseball more often on television versus live by a factor of 10,000. Soria doesn't have good stuff? Really? He locates real well, but whatever that slurve thing he throws is -- it's nasty. He is managing to strikeout over a batter an inning through his young career. I have to disagree.

Why'd the Angels let Kevin Gregg go?

Answer: he sucked. Well, he certainly doesn't suck now. He's one of the best bargains in the Major Leagues, averaging over a K an inning through 2007 with a sub 3.50 ERA and a sub 1.30 WHIP (with lots of saves). I'd certainly rather have five Kevin Greggs versus one Scot Shields, which is basically how the economics break down. Was Gregg that bad with the Angels? Well, he wasn't great in 2006 (his last year with them), with a 4.14 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Then again, he struck out more than a batter an inning! Take away a seven-run disaster, and maybe one of his two or three four run implosions, and he was a pretty damn good reliever. That's the kind of guy you can't let get away. I'll have to respectively disagree.

What's going on with K-Rod?

Answer: They're not going to pay him Vladimir Guerrero money. Well, that's a good decision. If K-Rod wants $14 million a year for four years, let him walk. You could buy twenty Kevin Greggs for that. Matthew didn't seem to feel there was anything wrong with Rodriguez's mechanics, as it had "worked for him so far." Well, I suppose that's true. Maybe his UCL is made of titanium and he can keep this up. We'll see.

Who's done a worse job: Wayne Krivsky, Brian Sabean, or Ned Colletti?

Colletti was the choice. Krivsky, apparently, rebuilt the Reds farm system. I had to disagree that the Kearns, et al., trade wasn't a "disaster," as I think it obviously was. Brian Sabean also entered the conversation as a possible choice.

So there you go. I don't know how often I'll break bread with the professional rank and file, but if I do, you can be sure I will post my innocuously phrased questions and their unguarded responses here!


waters96 said...

As the #1 Angels fan of the world, I was fortunate enough to attend Games 3, 6 and 7 of the WS. After Game 3 which was at the stadium in Frisco (I can't remember what they were calling it then and it always pleases me to piss them off by calling it Frisco), I ran into Tim Salmon's sister and her small children who was being abused by some nasty Frisco's because she was carrying an Angels sign. Anyway, after shooing them off we had a nice chat. After Game 7, I ran into her again in front of the Angels clubhouse. We chatted for a couple of minutes, but unlike you, I didn't get invited into the clubhouse. That would've been way great. I'm totally jealous. Regarding GA, I know he's a quiet guy, but I don't think he's the biggest asshole in baseball. I don't see how that can be reserved for anybody but Barroids. Anyway, I enjoyed today's column. Kevin Gregg did suck for the Angels. But so did Jenks and Turnbow. And one of them has actually turned into a better reliever than K Rod, who always gives me a heart attack when he's pitching. I don't know what we're going to do about a closer next year but 14k a year for K Rod should be a non-starter.

Anonymous said...

"...a bit doughy..."

Nice adjective.