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Scandal, Murder, Errors (discussed) at SABR National

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 1, 2012

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The header on this post may be a little more dramatic than needed but, still, scandal, murder and errors took the stage at the National Convention of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, which was held in Minneapolis, June 27 to July 1.

Michael Fallon gave the 34th and last presentation of SABR 42.  It deserves to go first here.  It was one of the best.  The Dodgers’ Class of ’68 was a study of a remarkable draft orchestrated by Al Campanis.  The free agent draft was launched in 1965 over the objections of the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets and Cardinals.  The Dodgers struggled in the first 3 drafts.  Dodger brass placed the responsibility for finding a new approach in the hands of Campanis.  The future Mr. Intangibles made an inspired decision to pick the brains of NFL draft experts.  The footballers stressed 3 things:  Be organized.  Set standards.  Select a ton of players.  The result was a draft of 101 baby Dodgers that produced 9 major leaguers who averaged 16.4 year MLB careers.  The nine included Garvey, Buckner, Alexander, Cey, Lopes, Valentine, Zahn, Ferguson and Paciorek.   No other team has drafted a class that produced a higher number of service years.

Robert Garratt regaled us with The Scandal of Candlestick.  Robert detailed how the Giants played for 40 years in a windy & cold hell because a San Fran construction magnate succeeded in a money grab.  Charles Harney first bought 41 acres on the Stick peninsula from the City for $2,000 an acre and then sold it back to the City at $65,000 per acre.  Harney only agreed to sell the land back to the City at the inflated price after he was hired to build the ballpark, which cost $15 million.  Could Harney have cleared $6 million on the deal ?  Yes.  Did he try to have the stadium named after him?  Yes. Did he succeed in doing so ?  No, thank God.

The Former MLB Players Panel featured Tim Laudner, Frank Quilci, Rocky Johnson and Bill Davis.  There were many laugh lines, including this one from Davis about his many Managers:  “When I did something wrong, different Managers had different explanations.  Birdy Tebbets would say it was because of something my mother did to me as a child.  Alvin Dark said it was because I didn’t go to Church on Sunday.  And Joe Adcock said it was because I wasn’t doing it like he would do it.”

 Mark Kanter defined the News events which caused the cancellation of baseball games in history in The Decision Making Process of Canceling or Postponing Games Not due to Weather.  These events include the Al Queda terrorist attacks (2001), the death of Charles Ebbetts (1925), the World Series earthquake (1989), the assassination of President McKinley (1901), the suicide of NL President Harry Pulliam (1909), the Work or Fight Decision by Secretary of War Baker (1918), and the Allied Invasion of Europe (1943). 

Mark Pankin detailed the 4 year track record of using instant replay in Baseball in Reviewing the Reviews.  70% of all initial home run calls (for HR and not HR) have been upheld in review.  Fenway Park, with its problematic homer ledge atop the Green Monster, leads all MLB ballparks in Instant Replay useage.  Target Field is #2 on the list.

Alan Nathan took us down the scientific path about wood and metal with What Have We Learned From a Decade of Bat Research ?  Every bat has a BBCOR (Baseball Bat Co-efficient of Restitution).  BBCOR reflects the degree of “trampolining” that occurs on collision.  Metal bats have a high BBCOR.  Wood bats have a low BBCOR.  After the NCAA forced Colleges to use metal bats with BBCOR’s equal to those of wooden bats starting in 2009, HR’s by College players fell by 50%.  If that does not sate your bat related curiosity, please also know that the next time you hit a home run it is perfectly OK to just let the bat go on the follow through.  Nathan explained that the impact wave does not reach the bat handle until after the collision is complete.  Once the ball is struck, your grip has nothing to do with the ball clearing the fence.

Terry Ryan, Twins GM, was the featured speaker at the General Manager Panel.  Two of his more quotable thoughts:  “Sometimes dealing with Scott Boras is good, sometimes it is bad.  We drafted Jason Varitek in 1994 and Scott was his agent.  We could not sign him.  That one still hurts.”   And……“Rick Aguilera was one of my favorite players. (Beat.)  I traded him 3 times.”  J

 The Official Scorers Panel was flat out out-of-sight GOOOD !  Greg Wong, Kevin Hennessy and David Vincent participated.  They are, respectively, the official scorers of the Twins, St. Paul Saints and Nationals.  These men were frank, knowledgeable, and funny.  With regard to a perceived recent decrease in error calls, Vincent said, “There was a rule change 5 years ago.   We were told that when in doubt, help the hitter out.”   In regard to the David Wright play in the R.A. Dickey non-no-hitter, the panelists effortlessly replied that the scorer made a perfect call when they ruled the play a hit, and not an error.  Vincent elaborated that the batter, Upton, is a fast man and that had Wright attempted a conventional (non-bare handed) approach it would have been an easy single.  Thus, the fielder shouldn’t be penalized with an error for attempting a low percentage bare handing of the ball.

The above is just a short and vastly incomplete post about the National.  The pleasure was ten fold.  Games at Target Field, just 2 blocks from the hotel.  John Thorn delighting all from the podium with masterful imagery on the nature of geeks.  500 Baseball loving men and women chatting, debating, laughing and making friends. 

Hope I see you in Philly next year.


Go Sox.

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