Thursday, June 26, 2008

Checking in From SABR

We are coming to you live from beautiful Cleveland, Ohio!

Well, it does have its nice points. Like the hotel that is hosting the SABR convention. It's in the building on the lower righthand side of the pic, connected to Terminal Tower.

So far it's been a nice little convention. This morning I saw a presentation about Oscar Charleston and Bullet Joe Rogan playing in a Filipino baseball league while stationed in Manila with the U.S. Army in 1914. The presenter was an English professor from Ball State University named Geri Strecker, who really knows her Negro Leagues. The only hitch was that she called home plate "fourth base" once, and I am still scratching my head over that one.

I just now got back from a broadcaster media panel. The panel consisted of Indians broadcasters Rick Manning and Tom Hamilton, and retired Plain Dealer reporter and columnist Russ Schneider. It started off pretty poorly, actually, as the first question -- how has the game changed since you first broke in as a journalist/player -- led to all three of those guys talking about how free agency is the devil's work, players aren't friendly to reporters anymore, etc. A lot of people who do what I do are accused of railing against strawmen when we rail against the traditional media, but those alleged stereotypes are still alive and well and visiting SABR in Cleveland, Ohio. To be fair, things improved as the questions improved, and all three of the panel members had their moments.

I haven't really circulated much. I had lunch with Mike McClary of the Daily Fungo, who made the trip all the way from Scottsdale, Arizona. I like Mike a lot. Partially because of his blog, but also because, like me, he kept suggesting Mystery Science Theater 3000-style zingers after every other comment by the broadcaster's panel. I've also met Rob Neyer, Aaron Gleeman, BTF's Repoz and Jim Furtado, Chris Dial, Mike Emeigh, Will Young and some other names statheads and baseball obsessives would recognize. Those guys are the exception and not the rule here, however, as most SABR attendees are, well, really really old men. Seriously, there's a group of people in their 20s and early 30s, and then it jumps up to the sixtysomethings and older. Well, Emeigh is in between, but there really is a pretty big gulf between the old schoolers and the statheads.

Fun so far. I may or may not report in again later. I may or may not go to the Indians-Giants game tonight. If anything interesting happpens, however, I will certainly let you know.


Larry said...

Iced espresso here! Hope to find you tomorrow with the Spitball/Knuckleball Book.
I was there today too. Concern gripped me when the panel started off like three retired used car salesmen that you just can't use the same old sales gimmicks anymore. I love Tom Hamilton, but he's so slightly venturing into a curmudgeon...not much, but the hints are dropping. His line about lawyers using performance enhancing drugs to look younger even had Rick Manning wondering, Where did THAT come from?
Also could have done without lectures from the audience about Pete Rose into the HOF and the DH. The questions were bad. How about something more SABR-like? For example, how do they see themselves utilizing metrics like OBP and Slugging and (god forbid) WARP or VORP to describe games?

Roger Moore said...

How about something more SABR-like?

I know that it's hard to believe, but the stats people make up only one relatively small part of SABR. There are a lot more people who are interested in the historical and biographical side of the game.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Excellent point, Roger.

For those who don't know, Bill James just sort of appropriated the "Saber" portion of the word "sabermetrics" from SABR becuase he correctly thought that it sounded neat. The Society predates virtually all of the work we've come to call sabermetrics (this is the 38th convention) and the membership is certainly skewed in favor of the history buffs as opposed to the statheads.

Just walking around the convention, I'd estimate that the statheads -- very losely and charitably defined -- are outnumbered on the order of something like 10-1, and to my eyes seem less invested and less seriously involved than the history people.

Not that there's anyting wrong with that, of course, because the convention can be many things to many people. It's just important to recognize who the Society truly "belongs" to, if I may use that word, and to whom the programs should probably cater.

Larry said...

You're right! That's the source of my confusion. My impression of SABR was derived from the loathing heaped on the word from the MSM. My expectations were of younger and more progressive crowd, so to speak. Little did I know. That certainly explains the atmosphere, and the questions.