So a blogger, a beat reporter, and a pitching trainer (and a radio personality, a radio reporter, a baseball analyst/website founder, and four more bloggers for good measure) walk into a bar...
Last night at Barboza in Capitol Hill, Pitch Talks, a baseball speakers series that brings together a number of different people involved in the game for roundtable discussions
The evening was split into three different rounds, with Mike Salk of 710 ESPN serving as the moderator (and occasionally interjecting with his own stories along the way).
Round 1: Kate Preusser, Patrick Dubuque, Jeff Sullivan, and Meg Rowley
This panel felt a bit like a live version of the Lookout Landing Slack, with a number of different questions and conversations about the current state of the team, and how these writers manage to sustain their love for the game. Highlights included Patrick ruminating on baseball fandom (“I’m okay with baseball just going on forever in the background...but you can’t let people like Christian Bergman into your life for too long”), suggestions for making baseball more entertaining (Jeff wants MLB to eliminate the rule where you aren’t allowed to throw your glove at the ball, while Patrick cited Brendan Gawlowski’s idea of shrinking glove sizes down), and the silliest they had ever felt about predicting baseball (Jeff: an optimistic post about Carlos Peguero; Meg: paid money to customize a Mike Zunino jersey; Kate: wrote about how Zunino was unfixable the day before he hit a grand slam). The panel ended with Jeff proclaiming, “James Paxton is better than Chris Sale,” followed by a literal mic drop and uproarious applause.
Round 2: Kyle Boddy
Boddy is the founder of Driveline Baseball, a sabermetrically driven baseball training program used by players such as Trevor Bauer, Matt Boyd, Dan Altavilla, Sam Gaviglio, and Andrew Moore. A number of the people who work for, or train at, Driveline were in the audience and could be easily distinguished from the Jeff Sullivan fans based on the width of their shoulders. Boddy gave an overview of his program, explaining that they focus on the sabermetrics of player development; “instead of finding Scott Hatteberg, let’s create Scott Hatteberg.” He also spoke about the Mariners’ decision to hire Andy McKay, and “the psychological damage that comes from being hurt doing something you love.” Highlights included an anecdote about Jeff Luhnow’s failed efforts to institute long toss throughout all the Astros affiliates, a discussion about Boddy’s belief that teams don’t place enough emphasis on character in the top 100 draft picks, and the two guys training at Driveline this summer who were under the impression that Jeff Sullivan and Jeff Passan were one and the same.
Round 3: Shannon Drayer, Ryan Divish, Dave Cameron
This panel was the big feature, and it was filled with entertaining anecdotes and behind the scenes insight. We learned that Carlos Silva once ate four 4x4s (four burgers made up of four patties each, aka 16 total hamburgers), that all Richie Sexson wanted was to be a basketball player, and that Divish can do a painfully accurate imitation of Drayer. Other notable highlights:
- Dave, when asked about no longer covering the Mariners, “I don’t have to watch garbage baseball every day.”
- Divish on covering the team honestly, “I don’t take cheap shots, but it’s not all gumdrops and rainbows.”
- A lot of MLB teams have nap rooms now, but Nelson Cruz doesn’t like to use them. Instead, he’ll show up, do his work, grab a big stack of towels, lie on a sofa in the middle of the clubhouse, cover himself entirely with said towels (including his face), and fall asleep. When asked if lying like that made his back hurt, he simply replied “Well, I roll over onto my side.”
- Robinson Canó was the first one who came to mind for both Drayer and Divish, when asked about players who really love the game.
- Not even the reporters who cover the team can always keep up with Dipoto’s constant roster moves: Drayer was gone for a day, then came back and upon seeing Tyler Cloyd walk past went “Who the hell is that?”
- Dave Cameron believes that sports media is only going to grow more specialized from this point on, while Divish maintained that you always “have to have someone who gathers the information, you have to have someone who’s there to ask the questions.”
- All three panelists agreed that if they were to identify a new market inefficiency it would be health and sports medicine. Dave cited the Dodgers long list of affiliated doctors, while Divish quoted Dipto’s claim that “the next frontier in baseball is sport science.”
- The mystery of Mike Zunino’s walk-up music has been solved. Zunino had been talking with Steve Cishek about his troubles at the plate, and Cishek (despite the fact that they were at an away game) blamed his walk-up music. Zunino, a consummate Good Sport, offered to let four different bullpen guys with four different tastes in music pick his walk-up songs. Cishek is responsible for 50 Cent, Edwin Díaz picked a Latin song that apparently caused Jesús Sucre to crack up when he heard it last series, Marc Rzepczynski chose Slipknot, and Tony Zych craftily selected Seminole Wind (a not-so-subtle dig on Zunino, who hates Florida State). They’re now keeping track to see how many hits Zunino gets with each respective walk-up song.
- Shannon Drayer ended the panel by speaking passionately, and eloquently, about how MLB needs to make baseball more accessible, and how the rise of sabermetrics helped with that a little bit, but that “the game needs to be more accessible to the city that it’s in.”
It was an entertaining night, and served as a good reminder of how fortunate we are, as Mariners fans, to have some of the best people in the sports/sports media industry covering our team. For those who were unable to attend, there should be a podcast of the whole evening coming out soon. Thanks to Joe, in the red hoodie, who kept the table steady while I typed and shared his beliefs that the Mariners should hit Justin Smoak square in the back to assert their home field dominance in this upcoming series, and that Taylor Motter is only capable of being good every other month. And a special thanks to the Pitch Talks folks for providing our staff writer John Trupin with a media pass, and thanks to John for traveling across the country during this time and subsequently handing the pass off to me.