Blogger and message boarder extraordinaire 'MtRoyals' joins us in this week's segment of 'Raw.' Antonio, or "The Great M.T.", as I deem him, permeates RoyalBoard like perhaps no other blogger. Although he has posted slightly less frequently, recently, he possesses the greatest non-virus infected post count for a poster over at that website. He also contributes at the Royals blog Royally Speaking, which contains Major and Minor League analysis. He began as an uber-controversial blogger, frequently proving conventional baseball wisdom and its followers wrong with the utmost of new-school sabermetrics. He reigned controversial over at RB, although his attacks seldom, if ever, became personal. He has feuded with several bloggers in the past, but since elevating himself to moderator status has become quite non-confrontational, despite rigidly holding to a bold and uncompromising writing style.
Forewarning: The views of the interviewee do not necessarily reflect the views of the interviewer. The 'Raw' series of this blog is simply an opportunity to interview uncompromising, bold, and at often times controversial members of the Royals blogosphere. MtRoyals has drawn ire and praise over at RB and RS, among other forums.
Recently, I had a chance to sit down in the The Royal Treatment megastudio with 'Mt'...business suit and all. Without further ado....
TRT: Introduce yourself. How did you become baseball-obsessed?
MtRoyals: Obsession seems to come very naturally to me. If you love something, why not love it with the entirety of your heart and soul? As far as non-baseball related things, I have read the book It 15 times. I've read a ton of books devoted to the Beatles, and even to individual Beatles. I'm currently reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich because I LOVE things related to WWII. But to baseball, I left the US when I was eight and I had just really got interested in baseball when I left. When I came back in June of 90, George Brett was in the middle of winning his third batting title (he missed about a week when I came back and he was batting .259--amazing that he got up to where he did) and I lived as close to Royals Stadium as I ever had before. And there was finally someone wanting to take me to the games. (I remember the game well enough that I was able to look up the exact game on B-R, which isn't bad considering I was in the fifth grade.) My brother had already started a small baseball card collection and I started adding to it as well. Ahhh...1990 Donruss, what a fantastically appealing and ugly card! Considering that I was really "coming" to the game "late", I wanted to waste zero time catching up.
TRT: Some Royals fans claim that Jose Guillen had a successful year in 2008 because he hit .264 with 20 home runs and 97 RBI's in 153 games. Why and how can you prove this argument false?
MtRoyals: A successful year shouldn't be restricted to any small group of bland statistics like .260-20-97. Making outs matter. A lot of people, for a nonsensical reason, want to detach not getting out (OBP) and hits of any kind. Being on the base paths matter. Getting on base, whether via a walk, a single, double or a dropped third strike doesn't transfer your pressure as a hitter to your teammate hitting next but to the pitcher. You can sacrifice one way or the other, of course, as long as the proper value is assigned to each. Getting on base isn't just for the top 1-2 hitters. It's important for the at least the first six, but the further down the line it goes, the better, of course. Comparative stats matter in this game because the rules of the game are not uniform. What the environment does to affect the game is not uniform. Basketball/football, these sports exist in controlled settings of time/field and court dimensions/set heighth for hoops and field goal posts. Other than what the crowd does for the local team, the stadiums/areanas are neutral. And when the control is as variable as the baseball field, you have to adjust the stats. Hitting 40 in the 1980s was much harder than hitting 40 in the 30s. You have to adjust.
TRT: Over at RoyalBoard, there seems to be a growing rift between the "sabermetric" and "non-sabermetric" crowds, for lack of better terms. You obviously identify with the former group. You have managed to bridge the gaps - or communication barriers - between the two groups quite well. Question: Which elements of traditional, or conventional, baseball wisdom do you still embrace to this day?
MtRoyals: Let's talk about the growing rift a bit. The first question that comes to mind is: why does it matter to the point of ditching the sites/trashing on the people? Right now, I'm at my dad's and he's watching Fried Green Tomatoes with his wife. I watched Saw IV last night and Rocky Balboa the night before that. I like When Harry Met Sally and I like Swingers and I like Johnny Dangerously. Is it that bad to be different? To have different ideas? To make suggestions contrary to ideas held to be true? The things that we enjoy and the way we choose to enjoy them are a part of our individuality. If you say something "positive" that I think is more delusional than positive, I'm going to call you on it. If I say something "negative" that you think is more cynical than probable, I need to be called on it. When I write about baseball, I put my allegiances to the side because it is too often subjective.
As far as traditional and conventional baseball wisdom, I haven't turned my back on any of it other than the things that really don't matter. The Face: Alex Rodriguez is a fine looking guy and his personal life is in a state of disarray. It hasn't affected his baseball ability. Colt Griffin threw the ball crazy hard and he wasn't ever close to making it to Omaha, let alone Kansas City. Some things are just beyond reasonable thought. Asking a scout how good a player will be is asking a bit much. Yes, Alex Gordon was a phenomenal talent and did every thing right but there's at some point a difference between personality and ability. Did George Brett become a Hall of Famer because of his tenacious personality? Or because of his talent? It's because of both but mostly because of talent. And how do I know that? Because plenty of tenacious guys fall short. Plenty of jerks succeed. Plenty of good guys are nothing more than Ross Gload. Scouts are good at getting an idea of whether a player is a hard worker, commited to his craft and bettering himself, but people change. Trying to decide whether a player is capable of learning the strike zone, of doing this, doing that and whatever other imagining/daydreaming/hoping/praying/predicting a player can/will do is nothing short of a false assumption. There are too many individual personalities. Now statistics cannot predict that stuff and they're actually worse at predicting it than a person would be because a person can get to know a person, stats cannot. Stats can not predict Josh Hamilton picking up a habit, but obviously, neither could the scouts. But the stats were right about Josh Hamilton. The stats said that, if given opportunity, Josh Hamilton will beat the shit out of the ball. And he does. Neither method is perfected on its own but when it comes to predicting what a player will do, the stats are going to hit more on a player with good stats than a scout will hit on a player with lagging stats. How much leeway to give either side isn't an exact science because again, it's always down to the individual.
TRT: You have cited the book Moneyball as a primary influence to your baseball expertise today. Which theme of the Michael Lewis book ("biography" is probably too loose a term) do you readily embrace the most? Which elements of the book (if any) no longer apply in current baseball front office work?
MtRoyals: The theme that I most embrace isn't any one particular statistical idea, but more of a way to be economically sound. If you're buying a car and the most you can spend is 3500 dollars, you don't keep bidding when it's at 4200 dollars. It's not like you're looking through the crap bin at Wal-Mart. How many times have the Royals spent entirely too much on replaceable talent? What is it that Ross Gload really brings? TPJ was arguably a worse player than Angel Berroa. Scott Elarton? Mark Redman? Bringing in players that are slightly less talented but many multitudes cheaper creates opportunities to spend better money at other places. If you're commited to a player that's going to hit .285/.315/.375, why not get a minor leaguer and save a few million dollars? And not money to be put into the owner's pocket, but back into the team some way or another. Yes, let's celebrate spending 10 million on the draft, but let's also ask why people were questioning me for saying it should be doubled or tripled when we were spending 5.5-6.0 million on the draft. Ramirez and one of the catchers and Farnsworth equals Orlando Hudson, financially speaking. And we couldn't "make due" with Shealy/Brayan/reliever like Musser/Colon/Rosa? The Royals restrict themselves by being closed-minded about a lot of things. As far as people that are positive, positive, positive and questions the fandom of people that aren't of the mindset take things entirely too far. Yes, Dayton knows more than most of us (and I am in that group), but that doesn't mean that you can overlook something you disagree with. No, complaining about it isn't going to change it but as I've said many times, what fun would a blog/message board be if you just agree with things over and over again no matter what happens. I'm a surly bastard if you ask many posters, yet this surly bastard is guessing 83 wins. And I've been close in my past guessing.
TRT: You have mentioned on several occasions that you would like to become professionally involved with baseball in some way. What are your top three "dream jobs" with regard to working in a baseball-oriented profession?
MtRoyals: I wouldn't want to be the GM and I wouldn't want to be over many (or maybe any) people. I'd want my opinion to be considered and valued. I don't want it take as gospel but as another man's opinion. Assistant to GM
If I could get paid for Royally Speaking (and if my computer was working so I could actually post on there) or if it lead to a gig that didn't have to pay much but paid enough to have it as my primary source of income, that would be pretty ideal. I do a lot of writing outside of baseball and I'm confident that I could write any thing about any point of view. Baseball scribe
I'm a pretty big fan of analysts and I love being at the park. I would hope that if/when given proper training on what a team is looking for, that I'd be good enough at it to get paid. I love ballpark food. It would be great if I could be able to give the team what they needed/wanted without selling my own ideas of what really makes a successful ballplayer short. Baseball scout
TRT: You're a contributor over at the informative Royals blog Royally Speaking. What can this site offer that another blog cannot?
MtRoyals: That is kind of hard to say because there are so many good Royal blogs out there. What Royally Speaking brings to the huge collection of blogs is a chief writer who is upbeat and positive and a moderate on the stats/scouts issue and mixes that with someone who is a very good writer and does a lot of in-depth information on the prospects and adds a dash of MtRoyals, someone who was once described as, "Blogger and message boarder extraordinaire" and "The Great M.T." haha It's kinda hard for me to honestly say what I bring to Royally Speaking because of two reasons: one, I like to come off as modest (which is quite the task) and two, I really haven't been able to stretch my legs there as much as I would want due to some things in my personal life (roommate moved out and took a functioning computer). Jeff Parker knows that I don't pull any punches. I deal with a lot of "what if" scenarios that are meant to challenged the established view of Royal fans. I want to not only think outside and inside and all around the box, but I want to encourage people to do that as well. As long as I'm not accepting regurgitated crap that they've been saying about baseball and its teams over the many decades, I think I'm doing quite well. A cliche, I was once told, is a cliche because it is true. Not so. A cliche is a cliche because it's been repeated so many times that perception often makes it true.
TRT: You have responded on several occasions at perhaps the most fervently anti-"Mother's Basement" Royals blog, Hapless Royals. How can you bridge the gap between, say, a "Dr. Thunder" and a "Jobber", if it is possible?
MtRoyals: Hapless Royals is great fun, first and foremost. He doesn't see things that way I do and that's what I need out of my baseball entertainment. I want people to be real and to be able to back up what they say, and I'm like that in all walks of life, when they are trying to pass off something as fact. Dr. Thunder and I are night and day, but I've never really had a problem with him even though I've been under his skin.Jobber types things that lean towards sabermetrics, but I find myself disagreeing with a lot of the things he says. Mostly because I see it being very contradictory.As far as being able to bridge gaps, I'd first have to say to both that it should occur to them that the friction is personality, not fandom. To Dr. Thunder and his attitude, I'd have to ask why does he let differing opinions piss him off to such a huge degree. To Jobber, I'd say, yes, OBP goes a long ways towards what you're saying it does, but you treat it like an end all of statistics. The question isn't "when does it end", the question is "why should it end"? Do the message boards die when a team like the Royals win? Because as they slowly get better, more and more of the elated group are getting pissy about ANY dissent. I'd like to tell the elated group that fandom isn't just being happy about progress, just as I'd tell the gloom and doom weary group that fandom isn't just about fretting over every single move. I'm not a fan of the Mike Jacobs trade and I'm questioning the Coco Crisp trade, yet I see clearly what each deal gives the Royals. And at the same time, progress isn't enough for me. Securing a dynasty is what I selfishly want and I will not apologize for that. I have more to add here but I see another question that is more suiting for where my mind is going.
TRT: Joe Morgan. Tim McCarver. Murray Chass. Jon Heyman. What thoughts come to your mind?
MtRoyals: Closed-minded. What have they brought to the discussion of baseball themselves? Where is any evidence that they've thought about the game? Why have these men neglected their jobs to the point that it doesn't even occur to them that there MIGHT be a better way to analyze and report on the game than what their daddies told them in the 50s and 60s? I found something that I wrote someone and it pairs well with both this question and the question about Guillen and it also kind of goes with the question about conventional stats: But I've been at odds with the BBWAA (not that I know any of them or communicate with any of them) for quite some time. Well before I became aware of many of the stats that are available, I could never figure out why they were so intent on basing their voting on RBIs. I was talking about this with some people on a Royals message board in regards to Mike Sweeney. Years ago, when Sweeney was good (can anyone remember such a time?), Mike set a team record with 144 RBIs. WOW! But then next year, he wasn't as good *cough* and only had 99 RBIs. What the heck happened to Mike? Nothing really. He was as good or pretty close to it. When you look deeper into the numbers, you'll see that Mike only had 99 RBIs because the team OBP dropped from .348 to .318. It's kinda hard to knock people in when your teammates aren't doing their job. So it takes more numbers than the basic .290-25-100 to decide if a player has had a good season. I emailed that to someone about 18 months ago. And that's how these men and the people that say Guillen had a good season see the game. It is a team sport, of course it is a team sport. But unlike basketball and football, it's built upon nine guys mostly doing individual things collectively. It doesn't have the same level of cohesion that football has.
TRT: How would you rank G.M. Dayton Moore's job performance thus far in his tenure? What are his primary strengths and what are his primary weaknesses; in other words, what aspects of management does he need to improve upon?
MtRoyals: B- (I'm so negative!) His primary strength would be bull pen construction. This isn't the only one he has, of course, and had he not signed Cruz, his esteem in this regard would have gone down a bit. A strength would be drafting young pitchers in general and high school hitters in the first round. A strength would be front office hiring: Picollo, Francisco, Arbuckle, Medina. I'm not really a fan of Dean Taylor yet. A weakness would be draft strategy, which most of your readers will take as an insult. When he took over the team, many would have said he took over a farm system with the best top three prospects in the game. But they were all about to graduate (and all sent time in KC in '07). But he's only drafted and signed players that were at least four years away from Kansas City. You can't exactly call him a failure in drafting but he doesn't seem to alter his draft philosophy to fit the organizations immediate needs very well. He traded Dotel for a young player that had a lot of unsucessful time accured in the bigs when we needed a prospect that was almost ready and had zero time on his clock. He let Riske walk and took the draft picks when the players that will be ready in '09/'10 needed another teammate. He takes Moustakas/Hosmer (GREAT picks) instead of Wieters/Smoak (GREAT picks that will be ready much sooner than Moose/Hosmer). That's not to say that Moustakas/Hosmer are bad picks or will falter or that I don't like them being with the team. It's just that Wieters/Smoak would have better served the teams needs at the time of those respective drafts. Drafting should never be about high school versus collegians or about positional need. It should always be about the best player ... unless ... there are several "best players" and some of them will get to the bigs much, much sooner. The more you restrict your options when making a decision, the more often you're going to make the wrong decision. (Again, Dayton didn't fail by going the way he went.) Another weakness would be loyalty. Loyalty is great and I see myself as a very loyal person, but it is very possible to be loyal to a fault.
TRT: Which, if any, times have you been proven demonstrably false in the Royals blogosphere?
MtRoyals: People seem not to realize this about me, but I take so many shortcuts to allow myself to never be wrong. I can currently argue in favor of the Meche deal or against the Meche deal. I was against it and thus far (thus far being one of those key things you can use to get away with things), I have been wrong. However, all I have to do is slightly shift the argument/question and ask, "was the risk one that the Royals of that offseason should have taken" and you can continue arguing the position because there is no real, factual answer to that question. Yes, Meche has done quite well, but "what if he hadn't" was a very strong possibility. The Royals beat the odds, but they really can't afford to play those risks too often or they'll get Guillened, I mean, burnt.
TRT: Quick: Give a profile of yourself as a baseball player. Which MLB player - current or all-time - do you mirror the most? Or which player would you compare yourself to?
MtRoyals: I'll e-mail you my home address so you can laugh in my face: Ross Gload. I don't deserve to be on the diamond, but relative to my peers, I am Ross Gload. I get a decent hit here and there, rarely with any power (especially considering my position--first base), and I play pretty good defense. Actually, relative to peers, I'm a better defender than Gload since I'm the best in my leagues. Also, I take walks. I used to play on a co-ed team and there was this girl that wasn't very good when she started out but was doing her sister a favor. I would always tell her, "Be Hatteberg when you're up there." I never made her baffled look go away.
TRT: "Sabermetric junkies cling ruthlessly to 'made up' statistics' and are nothing but Mother's Basement types." How would you respond to this statement?
MtRoyals: First, musclehead, high school is well over. Second, my mother is dead and I don't get along with my step-mother too well sometimes. Third, what is a made up stat exactly? Fourth, who is Harry Chadwick (without looking it up)? Fifth, which player/executive/manager came up with the "non-made up statistics"? The only real made up statistics are the ones that don't get reported on. If you come up with some kind of metric that says that Tony Pena was the best hitter in Royal Blue last year, that one is made up. If you come up with a metric that says Dom DiMaggio was the best DiMaggio the game has ever seen, that one is made up. The thing is that these so-called made up statistics are tested again and again to discover and faulty material. It's not that I necessarily blame the "muscleheads", most of which are PROBABLY as visually unappealing as us Mother Basement types, because when you take something that we love and make it confusing and over our heads, we as people tend to get defensive. If you tried to explain a moment of history, which I love, to me and used a let statement from a geometry textbook, I'd probably get a bit bent out of shape too. But, for me, it still goes back to my obsession for baseball. I have always loved the numbers of the game, though I don't really like complex math, and when I first started reading about stats more advanced than the typical 99 year old stats, I was excited to learn more about the game I obsess over.
As I once read, why do people get so bent out of shape about VORP, but QB-rating seems to be perfectably acceptable? It's no crazier than some of the baseball stats that get railed on. How about saves? How did they become acceptable? They have only been counted since 1969. How about IBB? And if you don't want new stats because they change the perception of the game, what about the changes to the game itself? Shouldn't those against the new stats be against the DH, the 60'6 distance to the mound, the batting helmets, the rise and fall of the mound, the AstroTurf?
As long as you're not bending the numbers to come up with something fallacious, it should be encouraged to explore many new ways to state how good a player is. Going just by HR means Barry was without a question better than the Babe. That Rickey was better than Cobb. You need more than the crude numbers that is BA/HR/RBI/SB The year Rickey stole 130, he was tossed 42 times. That's only a 75% success rate. Was it really worth going for it that many times?
And for the record, http://www.firejoemorgan.com was HILARIOUS!
As a side note, 'Mt' and I have held quite a few exchanges over on RoyalBoard. For instance, we debated fervently about the signing of Jose Guillen, at the time. In essence, I supported the decision, while 'Mt' did not. I was wrong. 'Mt' would deem himself one of the more pessimistic (and certainly bold and uncompromising) posters of RoyalBoard. Several similar posters throughout Royals Blogosphere exist, I think. (NYRoyal from Royals Review comes to mind). Nonetheless, thanks to 'The Great Mt' for agreeing to discuss baseball among other things with The Royal Treatment.