Sunday, June 29, 2008

SABR38 Wrapup

After the movie yesterday, I grabbed lunch with a couple of folks at a Mexican place in the alley at East Fourth Street. Chalk it up as one of those things you simply don't expect, but my lunch companions -- both of whom live out west -- thought that their burritos were the best they'd ever had. Cleveland, Ohio. Who knew?

After lunch we booked back to the hotel to catch a roundtable with minor league executive/eccentric folk hero/disco demolisher Mike Veeck and Cleveland Indians' GM Mark Shapiro. It was entertaining and informative. Mike Veeck is everything you've read about. During the audience Q&A, someone asked him a question that required him to tell the story of Disco Demolition Night. Now you know and I know that he has told that story hundreds if not thousands of times in his life, so you might expect it to be a little rote by now. Except it wasn't. Sure, it was obviously a long-rehearsed, frequently-repeated, and sharply-polished account, but he told it with such enthusiasm and humor that you'd think it happened yesterday. I have this feeling that I wouldn't be half as enthusiastic talking about something that essentially derailed my career for a decade.

Not that he was there just to talk about the past. There were several questions about the state of the minor leagues and, not surprisingly, Veeck has some pretty interesting ideas about that. One, which Mark Shapiro agreed with more enthusiastically than I expected, was that given how the major prospects basically jump from AA to the majors anymore, it might be a good idea for AAA to revert to some form of quasi-independent system. Definitely something worth thinking about.

Shapiro was a lot of fun too. You can tell by listening to him that the man is scary-smart. The thing that struck me the most, however, was when he said that he has kids that are the same age as mine. Knowing how hard one has to work at running a Major League team, and knowing how exhausting two kids under five can be, the man must be on greenies or something to simply get through the day.

Later that afternoon I caught a presentation on clutch hitting by sabermetric legends Pete Palmer and Dick Cramer and another on game scores, what they mean, are they useful, etc. I'll be honest, though, and admit that by the time those presentations came around the carnitas plate and two Tecates I had at lunch were starting to mess with my attention span. When they were over I went upstairs to my room, caught a couple of innings of the Cubs-White Sox game on TV, and listened to a pretty hellacious thunderstorm outside my window.

Thankfully the thunderstorm passed quickly, because I was going to the Reds-Indians game. Unlike Friday night's nosebleeders, last night's were pretty amazing seats a handful of rows behind the first base dugout. The company was pretty amazing too: Rob Neyer, Don Zminda from STATS, and SABR member and all-around smart and hilarious guy Jeff Bower. Wanna feel inadequate? Watch a game with these guys. As we sat down, Jeff, Don, and Rob each took out scorebooks already full of dozens of other games. Me? I ordered a beer and made a mental note not to buy that foam finger I had my eye on. The game itself: ho-hum. The Reds won 5-0 behind 6+ uneven but obviously effective innings from Johnny Cueto, an Adam Dunn home run that cleared the fence by about three inches, and a three-run double from Paul Bako of all people. The highlight(s) of the game, however, came when Indians' catcher Sal Fasano threw out two runners in one inning to get Paul Byrd out of a jam. At least temporarily.

After the game it was back to the hotel where it seemed like all of SABR had congregated in the lobby/bar area to drink and, of course, talk baseball. The SABR trivia contest had taken place while we were at the game, and folks were rehashing some of the questions for those of us who had missed it. I actually got one right -- what NL pitcher in 1985 actually had a better strikeout and hit per-innings pitched ratio than Doc Gooden? Answer in the first comment below -- but the rest of the questions made my head hurt. Of course people had answers for almost all of them, which made me feel pretty damn inadequate for the second time in four hours. After that pizza was ordered, beer was consumed, and the end of the Angels' not-really-no-hitter was watched on somebody's laptop.

I went upstairs at around 1:30 and hit the hay, and with that, SABR was over for me. Despite the fact that I have learned exactly how little I know about baseball over the past few days, I am truly glad I came. I enjoyed finally putting faces to the names of baseball fanatics I have known only online for so long -- guys like Repoz, Jim Furtado, Sean Forman, Mike McClary, Dave Studeman, John Daly, Rob Neyer, Chris Jaffe, Steve Treder, Joe Dimino, Matt Young, Aaron Gleeman, Mark Armour, Dan Levitt, and many, many others -- and I really enjoyed getting to know some of them a bit.

SABR39 will be in Washington D.C., and I'm not going to miss it for the world.

17 comments:

Craig Calcaterra said...

Answer: Sid Fernandez

David said...

Sounds like an awesome weekend...

Osmodious said...

Craig, glad you had a good time at the convention, ditto what david said...

A few weeks back, I went to a Yankee game with my brother and his friend. Sitting with them, I felt like a dilettante as well, so I can only imagine what sitting with the likes of Rob Neyer would be like. One thing I have noted about the people who really know a lot about this game, though, is that they are almost always unselfish about sharing their knowledge and love of this game...and they rarely, if ever, look down their noses at those of us who do not possess the encyclopedic knowledge and recall that they have.

Perfect example: Tim Kurkjian on Baseball Tonight last night. It was like the Rangers' 30 run game last year...he was giddy as a schoolgirl when he was talking about the Angels' 'no-hitter'. This from a guy who has eaten, slept and breathed baseball his entire life.

Guys like that know far more about this game than I can ever hope to learn, yet this game still excites them...that is amazing to me. How many other things in this world can boast that experts in the study of them can still find things which astound them? As I find myself saying at least weekly: God, I love baseball!

RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

We're all glad you got your Baseball Geek Batteries recharged with that whole scene, Shyster. I get the impression you had a good time. Now - back to peeling melted crayons off the back seat of the car, trying to get puked oatmeal out of your ties and stepping through the minefield of 'Little Tikes' items scattered all over your house.

I'll second osmodious's observation on the unselfish nature of hard-core baseball geeks. I get the feeling that they regale in an opportunity to share their insight with us less than big-brained types. And hey, keep in mind one important fact: baseball is a talkin' sport. A big part of the fun from following it is the chance to share minutia from your observations with fellow baseball lovers. Hence, the popularity of sites like this.

Good work, Shyster. Have a safe ride home.

rbn

Fred Trigger said...

Craig, this is off topic. it actually has to do with your job as a lawyer. Its one of those things I have been curious about. I watch a lot of law and order, and i was wondering, what does it mean to treat a witness as hostile? I'm sure its a dumb question, but I figured you could answer it.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Trigger -- treating a witness as hostile means cross examining someone whom you initially attempted to call as witness in support of your own case, but who is now either not cooperating with you or who is being difficult or whatever.

The basic distinction comes down to the difference between direct examination and cross examination. On direct -- like when you're questioning your own client or a friendly in order to elicit helpful evidence -- you have to ask open-ended questions and let them talk. In other words, you can't "lead" them by asking the accusatory "isn't it TRUE that . . ." kind of questions designed to force them to make admissions. That you have to reserve for the "bad guys."

When you start questioning a friendly and he starts to go off the reservation or backtrack on previous testimony or something, you need to do something. Specifically, you need to force them back to where they are supposed to go by "leading" them back. You can't do this without the judge's permission, however, so the lawyer will ask the judge for permission to treat such and such as a hostile witness. If granted, you're good to go. Though of course you never want to have to do that in the first place because it makes you and your case look really bad.

The most famous recent example I can think of is when the prosecution treated Kato Kaelin as a hostile witness in the OJ Simpson trial. He was supposed to provide evidence harmful to Simpson, but he backtracked on the stand, and Marcia Clark treated him as a hostile.

Fred Trigger said...

Thanks for answering my question. Huge fan of the blog. Keeps me entertained at work.

Anonymous said...

Craig,

Do you have a man-crush on Rob Neyer?

Craig Calcaterra said...

Yes. I spend all day writing "Mrs. Rob Neyer" in my Hannah Montana spiral notebook.

David said...

As an attorney who has dabbled in white collar criminal defense, there is nothing more pleasurable than a prosecution witness on the stand who just isn't giving the prosecutor what he/she wants.

I can only imagine the sinking feeling a prosecutor must feel when they see the case slipping away because of a witness who decides to tell a different story once they're on the stand.

Jason said...

Great recap. Makes me wish like hell I was there.

Maybe SABR39.

Chris said...

Craig,

Nice recaps. Great description of Mike Veeck.

Hope you don't mind the cheapshot I take at your hairline in tomorrow's THT article on the convention.

Chris J.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Chris -- I gave up defending the honor of my hairline when it gave up trying to hold steady at merely receding. Feel free to fire away at that shiny head of mine and anything else that deserves it.

Mark Armour said...

Nice wrapup, Craig. This was my 15th convention, and they get harder every year because of the sheer number of people I feel that I "know" and want to spend time with. After spending time with you this year, you have complicated my plans for DC. Good dude.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Thanks Mark. It was good to meet you too. Given the lack of development around the ballpark in DC, however, I think the solution will be to have long conversations during the very long walks from the hotel to the games.

Anonymous said...

APBA Guy-

Keep in mind when in DC that you'll only be 33 miles from Camden Yards. You can probably drive from your place to DC, so you'll have a car. You can certainly get better tickets there since you may be the only ones in the stands.

I doubt you'll find any world-class burritos in DC though. Take advantage of the subway to improve your dining choices.

Anonymous said...

Is it a coincidence that the SABR-ites (Society of Aspiring Basement Residents) visit to Cleveland seems to have highlighted that Ohio is "now getting poorer, older and dumber "?