I am elated to report that Dutton Books, a publishing division of the Penguin Group (USA) has acquired the rights to:
A Story about Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball*
*Not Necessarily in that Order
By Joe Peta
Like the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings in the Amazon and ultimately triggers a tornado in Oklahoma, a development this remarkable owes its existence to an astounding chain of events. As a result, the Acknowledgments section of the book will take longer to get through than a typical Red Sox/Yankees game. For now though, it must be noted that without my wife, Caitlin Sims, I never even learn what a non-fiction proposal is, let alone assemble one anything close to as competent as the submitted proposal which she edited. Even once I had a viable proposal, the idea I'd get it in front of a literary agent was little more than a pipe dream. Enter ds2, aka "Deric Senne" and his friendship with a top-flight agent, a friendship heretofore unknown to me and I've been friends with Deric since 1996. From that point forward, Laura Dail, of the Laura Dail Literary Agency, convinced me that I should aim much higher than the small publishers of arcane baseball literature I thought might be interested in the book. She quickly had my proposal in the hands of the largest publishers in America and within no time at all we had a deal. I thank them all for making this book a reality.
Trading Bases is tentatively schedule for publication in February/March of 2013 and I can't wait to work with Dutton over the next year to make it happen.
St. Louis vs. Texas – World Series
With one vicious swing of the bat last night that brought back memories of Tom Hanks clubbing tennis court home runs in Bachelor Party, Mike Napoli turned the 2011 World Series into a compelling Fall Classic going forward. Tied at two games a piece entering tonight’s crucial Game 5, every situation, every match-up, and every strategic decision has added leverage from here on out. That would seem to create an edge for Tony LaRussa.
Picking on Ron Washington has become sport among a lot of sportswriters covering the World Series so rather than rehash his decisions and reset the situations, I instead want to take a look at two of his post-game quotes. After tabbing Esteban German to pinch-hit with two on, two out, and down one run in the top of the seventh inning of Game 1, Washington rightfully came under intense questioning from reporters. German hadn’t batted since September 25 and had only batted in four major league games all year! Further Washington had a number of other options on the bench. German, predictably, struck out on three pitchers. (I said predictably because watching his body language after he stared at strike one, I texted to a friend of mine, "3 pitch K here. He's scared.") Afterwards, fed up with the line of questioning he encountered, Washington asked the assembled press corps, “Can you guarantee me if I used Torrealba he would have done anything different?”
Think about that sentence. In business terms, that’s your most important line manager, the one in charge of corporate strategy, essentially defending his decision by saying, “Can you prove your idea wouldn’t have been as bad as mine?” That's the line of reasoning of the guy that thought up Zima right? Would you allow that person to manage your business? How about the blackjack player who hits his fifteen with the dealer showing a six, busts, and when the table explodes in protest asks the other players, “Can you guarantee me standing wouldn’t have also resulted in a loss?” Wouldn’t you just shake your head and question if he should even have input on decisions as trivial as where to get dinner?
Saturday night, even before Game 3 started, Washington again came under minor attack from the press. He was asked why, with the series moving to an American League park allowing for the return of the DH to his line-up, he’d move Mike Napoli from catcher to first base in the process effectively installing Yorvit Torrealba as the DH instead of Mitch Moreland. This decision weakened Texas in two and possibly three ways. Yorvit Torrealba is not as good offensively as Mitch Moreland. Moreland may be a below-average hitter for his position, but that’s only because he’s a first baseman. Even a below-average first baseman wields a better stick than an above-average hitting catcher. On top of that, Moreland bats left and the Cardinals were starting right handed Kyle Lohse. It also weakened Texas in the field as Mike Napoli is barely serviceable defensively at first base, a fact made all too obvious during the Cardinals big innings in Game 3.
Finally, while it’s not definitive, there’s at least some evidence Napoli helps the pitching staff more from behind the plate than Torrealba does. Long ago Bill James suggested catchers should have ERA’s as well as pitchers since they have tremendous input into pitch selection. While it’s true Torrealba spent materially more time catching Ranger pitchers this year than Napoli, you could argue there is enough critical mass for each pitcher to at least start a discussion. Catching the same pitchers for 2,052 batters as Torrealba did for 3,510, Napoli had the better ERA, 3.16 to 4.31.
So how did Washington defend his decision to start Torrealba? “He deserves it. I want to get him a game out there.” Washington made clear his reasoning was based on sentiment, loyalty, and respect for Torrealba. I’d ask him this: Is putting a mildly, but unmistakably inferior team on the field for Game 3 of the World Series showing the proper respect for the other 24 players on the team? Steve Janaszak may have been a great guy, beloved teammate and busted his tail as Jim Craig’s back-up goalie on the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team, but do you think any of that mattered to coach Herb Brooks? (Janaszak never played a minute during the gold medal run.)
Look, I love sentimental stories that sometimes take precedence over maximizing win expectancy. Plus, Ron Washington is still a manager of people and there are very few workplaces that don’t benefit from managers who are aware of qualitative aspects of employee morale. But this isn’t Pete Rose, Jr. getting one start and one start only while the Reds snuck his banned-from-baseball father into the stadium, so he could see his son possibly get a hit in the major leagues, or John Kruk and his manager hatching a plan for Kruk to have one last chance at hitting .300 for his career, or even Jose Reyes being pulled in the first inning of this year’s season finale to enhance his chances at winning a batting title. And it certainly isn't a team of players blatantly disobeying their head coach and engaging in questionable sportsmanship by running up the score, all so a walk-on could play in his final college football game.
In respecting one player, Washington disrespected twenty four others.