When it came time to select an interview subject for our One-Year Anniversary Celebration, it was really no contest. There may be more powerful figures in sports (Bud Selig, I’m still awaiting your call). There may be more controversial subjects (Ditto for you, Barry), but Rob Neyer seemed a perfect fit for a number of reasons.
For one, while I really dislike how some view the word “blog” (look, I don’t live in my mother’s basement and don’t post dribble like, “Who’s the Hottest Wife in MLB?”), the fact is, for now, The Biz of Baseball is an alternative electronic media outlet (read: blog). Neyer has been the one guy who was able to bridge the gap between mainstream and alternative media during his long career (11 years and running) as a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com. Rob is arguably the “crossover guy” – the man able to take the heady world of objective analysis and make it cool to all in the mainstream. Bill James may have been his mentor, but Rob was able to present it in a way that everyone could easily digest.
He’s also spun several books that are entertaining was well as informative. Whether it has been "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers" (with Bill James) or "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders" or Rob’s upcoming Big Book on baseball myths, his style of writing rarely seems to offend, and often brings a smile.
Neyer is also accessible. This isn’t something being said because the guy was willing to an interview, it’s that in the years I've known him, he’s been one of the nicest and easily approachable people in the media. That, and rarely do most allow you to rifle through their personal research library.
So, on the one-year anniversary of The Biz of Baseball, we present, “5 Questions with… Rob Neyer. - Maury Brown
(Select Read More to see Neyer’s interview)
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also a contributor to Baseball Prospectus.
He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.
Maury Brown for The Biz of Baseball: I don't know about you, but I'm having a hard time getting worked up about Ankiel and Glaus being implicated as using hGH before MLB had a drug-testing policy for PEDs. That, and I'm not sure how to take Walt Jocketty's comments about this being "tragic" for the Cardinals. Am I on or off base on this issue?
Rob Neyer: I think you're on, mostly. I do think the "drug-testing policy" is a bit of a red herring. In terms of what's "right" and what's "wrong," the question isn't whether there was a drug-testing policy in place, but whether there was any policy in place at all. And the fact is that before 2005, hGH was not on MLB's list of banned substances. If somebody's proved to have taken delivery of hGH after 2004, I think MLB has every right to punish him. But if a doctor told Ankiel to take hGH and he did, before hGH was prohibited by Major League Baseball . . . well, that's hardly tragic, though perhaps slightly illegal. And I thought Jocketty's comment was ill-considered, at best.
Bizball: The Giants seemed to be in on two bad deals. One in which they seemed to make the mistake (Zito), and other the unloading of Morris to the Pirates. On the Pirates…
The move for Morris has to be flat out the worst deal this year in my mind. Why they picked up the entire contract when they didn't have to -- on top of the fact that Morris is past his prime -- was just stupefying to me. They've now fired Littlefield and installed Graham in the interim, which to me will be fine as long as the "interim" tag is left on Graham's status. You also had McClatchy stepping down and Coonely hired as a replacement. Are the Pirates moving in the right direction, or is it just a case of rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic? Seems that the Littlefield firing was long overdue.
Neyer: Yeah, the Morris deal is one of those where you just sort of scratch your head and figure maybe there's something we don't know yet, because nobody entrusted with the future of a major-league franchise would do something so obviously dumb. Could he, possibly? Apparently he did. Morris has been exceptionally durable, which of course has a particular value in itself. But over the last four seasons (including this one) he's posted an ERA better than the league average just once. Stability and veteran leadership are both nice things for the roster, but not for $9.5 million (Morris's salary next year) and not on a sub-.500 team. I still wonder if we discover something later about this deal, like the Giants are kicking in some of Morris's salary, or they're giving the Pirates a player after this season. But as things stand now, it's just a mistake of colossal proportions.
Bizball: What did you think of the housecleaning in the front office of the Astros with Garner and Purpura?
Neyer: We don't really know what's going on inside the front office of any team. Well, maybe the Yankees and Red Sox to some degree, because so many reporters are swarming around. But the Astros? Sometimes you lose so many games that you basically have to make a move, or moves. I think Purpura did more right than wrong, though, and it looks to me like he's been scapegoated for the owner's failings.
Bizball: You're just about to wrap up a book on baseball myths. What's the one myth that stands out more than others?
Neyer: Oh, I don't know if there's just one. Many of the myths in the book are really just stories that have been told in one place or another, sometimes many times but sometimes just once. Most of the best-known myths have been debunked so many times already that I didn't really bother. I should also point out that some of the "myths" in the book wind up being absolutely true (or nearly true). Those are my favorites, actually. Well, my favorite really is about the home run that caused a fatal explosion at a bean factory. But I'll leave the rest of that one for the book.
Bizball: I've been thinking of a few games that I wished I had been able to see in person. There's more than I can count, but a couple of recent games that come to mind. The Indians beating the Mariners in 2001 after being down 12-0 in the 3rd is one. The other is the 18-inning classic between the Astros and Braves in the 2005 NLCS. What are some of yours?
Neyer: Oh, I think I'd come up with a list of games that I simply cannot see without a time machine. If you want to see either of those games you mentioned, you can. Via the wonders of 20th century technology. But there simply isn't film of any complete game before (I think) the 1956 World Series (or thereabouts). So for starters, how about Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, when Ruth hit two homers -- including the supposed Called Shot -- and Gehrig also hit two? That'd be a good start, I think. I'd also love to see a game in the Dead Ball Era, perhaps a game pitting the Tigers and Ty Cobb against the Senators and Walter Johnson. I would LOVE to know how hard Johnson really threw.
Interview conducted by Maury Brown on the week of 9/10/07