Thursday February 12, 2004
Eric Justman Reichart
The Baseball Boys
Tuesday, I shared a conversation with David Bergner, The Baseball Savant. Yesterday, we had a conversation with JD Arney of Redsfaithful Baseball Blog. The other night, I had the great opportunity to chat with another baseball writer, Eric Justman Reichart, who is an author of The Baseball Boys, another great website.
As always, we certainly hope you enjoy this discussion. We talk about the Twins and much more. If you have any questions or comments for me or Eric, e-mail me and also check out The Baseball Boys. Let’s get to the chatting:
THE CONVERSATION BEGINS
SethSpeaks: Let’s start with the basics. What's your name, and where are you from?
BaseballBoys: Eric Justman Reichert (that's right TWO last names-I'm progressive), and I'm from Minneapolis, MN.
SethSpeaks: Now, your site is "The Baseball Boys." Are you the boys, or is there someone else involved in the site as well?
BaseballBoys: It's basically my friend Josh and I. Josh is a huge Pirates fan. I'm a big Twins fan. We started tossing around the idea of a website about a year and half ago, and in February of 2003, The Baseball Boys was born.
SethSpeaks: What was the final step in deciding that you were going to start publishing your page?
BaseballBoys: OK, here's the pre-cursor. Josh and I have known each other since we were five years old. Josh and I were REALLY into baseball when we were kids, and he kept with it and I kind of fell out for awhile. We started really thinking about doing the site when an email volley we had about Bill James lasted about 3 days. Josh brought up the idea since he had been reading some baseball blogs and thought that we could put our minds together and come up with a fairly decent site. I guess you could say Bill James was our catalyst, even though Josh is way more into the numbers than I am.
SethSpeaks: That is very cool! Would you say that you are primarily a Twins site or Pirates site, or a baseball site?
BaseballBoys: I would say that we're primarily a Twins AND Pirates site, since that's what we write about the majority of the time. But we certainly don't limit ourselves to the two teams. My "Small Ball" columns are evidence of that. Josh is a lawyer, so he doesn't have as much time to write as I do, which is unfortunate because he's a great writer.
SethSpeaks: I can understand that. What do you do?
BaseballBoys: I'm the Director of Sales for an Audio Visual Production Company. Nerdy, yes. But it pays the bills. Plus I have lots of time to write!
SethSpeaks: That's all that matters sometimes!!! Paying the bills is a good thing!
BaseballBoys: Yeah, with a house and two kids...money matters. (Side note – Eric has two children. A son named Wrigley (yes, after the field), and a daughter named Tyrah (after Ty Cobb))
SethSpeaks: OK, let's just cover some "baseball topics"... First, where do you stand on the SABRmetrics versus the Traditional baseball thinking?
BaseballBoys: OK, this is something that I've grappled with for awhile. I'm not a math guy. Not in the least. Numbers scare the bejeezus out of me. BUT, I think traditional baseball thinking is insane. There are basically no stats involved. I just finished reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis (for the second time) and traditional thinking is absurd. "He's got a great baseball body." "He's a five tool player." The beauty of stats and Sabermetrics is that there are absolutes. You can actually see the past and, to a degree, predict the future (Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA cards are a great example of this). So I've started to overcome my fear of numbers and embrace them instead. I even used VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) today in my column about Corey Koskie. That's a big step for me. (Begins weeping uncontrollably)
SethSpeaks: I am the same way. I see their value, but I think there is so much more to a game than you can put into numbers. I also don't know (or maybe understand) the PECOTA thing. To me, it's all just a guess.
BaseballBoys: That's very true. But when it comes to my fantasy baseball team, I'm going to take a good hard look at Baseball Prospectus over the site who ranks players based on their "body", or whether they went out to the bars a lot during Spring Training. I'm actually thinking about using On Base Percentage (OBP) as my main factor for drafting a player in our fantasy preview. It just intrigues me. Josh and I are also working on a formula for a stat to determine a pitcher's dominance.
SethSpeaks: So, what is the allure of fantasy baseball, in your mind?
BaseballBoys: I like fantasy baseball because it takes a lot of thought. It's a day-to-day thing. With fantasy football, you check your guys on Tuesday, make sure no one is injured and then throw them in your line-up. With baseball, it's (to use a cliché) a marathon and not a sprint. Players in baseball go on hot streaks, they slump, and they get injured and come back. It's much more interesting. With fantasy football, if a guy tears his ACL, he's out for the year. In baseball, if he does it at the beginning of the season, he may be back by the All-Star break. People complain about the number of games in baseball, but to me that's what makes it so interesting. Especially from a fantasy standpoint.
SethSpeaks: I completely agree with you!!! OK, to your analysis that you've started on the Twins...
BaseballBoys: Bring it on.
SethSpeaks: You started with Joe Mauer. Summarize your thoughts on the type of impact he could have on the Twins 2004 season.
BaseballBoys: Honestly, I don't think he's going to be a huge impact. Filling AJ Pierzynski's shoes is going to be hard. I think if Mauer can keep his batting average and on base percentage at a good level, he'll do ok. I sarcastically wrote in that column that Mauer was the messiah of the Twins franchise. I think if he hits .275 with a .320-.350 OBP, he'll be ahead of the game. It makes me nervous that the Twins are bringing him up so early. Granted the Cubs brought up Mark Prior early, but that was Mark-freakin'-Prior. Mauer may need a little more time to develop. As long as the front office of the Twins doesn't put too much pressure on him and just let him enjoy being in the show, he'll be fine.
SethSpeaks: I think he'll be fine. He's 20. And the really good ones get started early. I think .275 would be good! OK, you're Terry Ryan... what is your plan for the next two seasons at 1B?
BaseballBoys: Minky in 2004. Morneau in 2005. It's that easy. Doug's (I'm NOT spelling Mientkiewicz 8 times) a great defensive first baseman, but he doesn't have the power the Twins need at first. What they give up in defense they'll make up in home runs and extra base hits once Morneau takes over. Plus, Doug wants a big raise every time it's available, and the Twins just aren't going to pony up. I wrote a column saying I think that he'd be a great fit for the A's in 2005.
SethSpeaks: I agree completely, even with him making sense with the A's, even though they inexplicably gave Scott Hatteberg an extension!
BaseballBoys: But they also signed Eric Karros for a year...
SethSpeaks: OK, you're pretty clear in your disdain for Luis Rivas. Is there any hope for him? (My thoughts on Rivas? Now that he's making over a million dollars, he will have to put up or he'll be gone. He has to improve! And he hasn't in three years.)
BaseballBoys: I don't think so. I noticed in your interview with Dave from Baseball Savant that you said you got tired of hearing people rip on Rivas. I think it's deserved. He's just been awful. At second base you don't have to be Jeff Kent, but for the love of all things holy, HIT THE BALL. He's had one decent year, and people still have hope for him. Injury or no injury, he's not getting the job done. If the Twins had a better option in the high minors, I think they might have taken it.
SethSpeaks: Unfortunately, they really don't...
BaseballBoys: No, they don't. They've spent so much time focusing on getting hard hitting outfielders that they've totally forgotten about the middle infield. In baseball, it's a Janet Jackson vibe-'What have you done for me lately?"
SethSpeaks: Good use of pop culture knowledge! I assume you have similar thoughts regarding Cristian Guzman?
BaseballBoys: Yes. Guzman drives me crazy. He's got LOADS of talent, but just doesn't seem to get it done. I don't blame him solely, though. The Twins hitting coach (Scottie Ullger) taught him how to 'slap hit' in the Dome to get on base, which is fine, but it killed the rest of his game. He's been worthless at the plate and lazy in the field.
SethSpeaks: You and I both agree that, when healthy, Corey Koskie can be a Top 5 third baseman in all of baseball.
BaseballBoys: Definitely. Koskie is a BASEBALL PLAYER. He was number one in fielding at the 'hot corner' last year for American League third basemen (700+ innings played) and he hit something like .292 with 14 home runs. Keep in mind for the second half of the season he had a broken bone in his wrist and a back that probably felt like mine when my wife makes me sleep on the floor. The guy is a stud. He's getting old in baseball years, but he does nothing but improve from year to year.
SethSpeaks: We know the Twins have a plethera of outfielders. If you're Terry Ryan, what do you do with them all? Stewart, and Hunter are going to be around. Who knows what will happen with Jacque? What about Cuddyer, Restovich, Ryan, Ford, Kubel, Rabe, and the others? Do you trade?
BaseballBoys: This is a tough one. Why they have all of these outfielders is beyond me. Here's what I'd do: obviously keep Hunter, Stewart and Jones. Jones has been rumored to be on the trading block this off-season, but why? He's got very good stats and a great arm. Move him to right. If Morneau doesn't to the job at first, move Cuddyer there because he's got a great bat. Ryan, Ford, Kubel and Rabe should either toil in the minors until their shot comes, or used as trade bait. Ford especially could go the way of Casey Blake...Blake, by the way, was a great deal for the Tribe.
SethSpeaks: I think Ford will do well for someone. He just needs a chance.
BaseballBoys: I agree completely.
SethSpeaks: Excellent point on Blake too! He did well in his first real big league shot.
BaseballBoys: Yeah, and if the Twins held onto him for another year or two, he would have made a fine replacement for Koskie, who is on the wrong side of 30 right now.
SethSpeaks: Blake's thing, like Ford's though, is that he is no longer real young either. Are you as worried about the Twins pitching staff as it seems many Twins fans are? Me? I'm not worried at all. They have the Big 3 and a lot of guys that won't hurt them, plus some young guys that I think will do better than many think. What do you think?
BaseballBoys: I think trading away Milton solely for salary purposes was a mistake. Other than that, not worried at all. Radke's starting his slide because he's getting older, but he's still a good pitcher. Lohse, I think, can have a great breakout year, and Santana, well geez, the guy gets over a 1.10 on the BBDN. It's the last two spots that worry me.
SethSpeaks: the BBDN?
BaseballBoys: Oh, that...it's nothing...just that formula I mentioned earlier that Josh and I are working on. The Baseball Boys Dominance Number. Yes, it's a shameless plug, but I'll take it.
SethSpeaks: so, 1.10 is really good, huh?
BaseballBoys: Yes, 1.10 is very good. Let's put it this way-Mark Prior scored a 1.32 on it. Joe Mays scored a -.32. I have a feeling that Santana is going to end up being the real ace of the Twins staff next year.
SethSpeaks: Would you like to explain the formula for us?
BaseballBoys: Not yet. It's still in the 'tweaking' stage. I'm going to introduce it next month for the fantasy preview. It's basically what OPS is to hitting.
SethSpeaks: OK, what is your baseball history? Did you play growing up?
BaseballBoys: I played Little League. I was basically the Babe Ruth of Little League except for all the home runs. I was a fat little kid who loved baseball and could throw the ball from Point A to Point B. As I mentioned, Josh and I grew up fanatical baseball fans. I sort of got out of it in high school, he didn't. I read the paper, kept tabs on my teams, but didn't ever become a fanatic...until I met my wife. She was a HUGE Brewers fan, and I went to my first baseball game since 1988 with her at the old County Stadium in Milwaukee. I was hooked again. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I became obsessed. This, of course, to her is a double edged sword. That was in 1999.
SethSpeaks: That's great!!! How romantic!?
BaseballBoys: We've been married four years, and we're FINALLY having our honeymoon
SethSpeaks: does it involve baseball?
BaseballBoys: In Phoenix at Brewers Spring Training.
SethSpeaks: Sweet!! Brewers fans though???
BaseballBoys: I love the Twins, they are my team. But the Brewers have a soft spot in my heart. I'm actually going to write about the Brewers for Baseball Interactive this season. It's a site I believe you're familiar with, Seth.
SethSpeaks: You mentioned that. That's a great thing! I enjoy the Baseball Interactive site!
BaseballBoys: And yes, I realize Bud Selig "owns" the Brewers. But not for long.
SethSpeaks: Are you a fanatical anti-Selig guy, or does anything he says make sense to you?
BaseballBoys: I actually have respect for what he tries to do. I think he could have starred next to Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber sometimes, but what he wants is to make the game popular to a broader audience, which is admirable. But these Wild Cards? C'mon.
SethSpeaks: I agree! So, growing up, who were your favorite players? Any obscure names?
BaseballBoys: Not really obscure. I loved Dan Quisenberry because of that side arm throw, but growing up I was a Nolan Ryan guy. For some reason I had a thing for the Astros as a kid and loved Ryan when he played for them. I wish Josh were here, he could probably list off all the marginal players I thought were the best ever. Here's a funny story.
SethSpeaks: Perfect. I like funny!
BaseballBoys: When we were in high school, Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds both played for the Pirates. Josh was convinced that Bonds was a flash in the pan, and that Bonilla was going to be 'The Next Big Thing'. He ended up buying something like twenty of Bonilla's rookie cards and only a couple of Bonds' rookie cards. He gets a little ornery when I bring that up now.
SethSpeaks: I can't imagine why... those '87 Fleer Bonds cards are pretty valuable! Did you collect cards growing up?
BaseballBoys: That's all we did growing up. We'd get our allowances and head down to the Ben Franklin in Washburn (WI) and blow every cent on baseball cards. We'd race back up to Josh's house and open them up to see who we got. Keep in mind, we grew up in a town of 2,000 people, so there wasn't much to do. Some of the best memories I have of growing up are of me, Josh and (his friend from Minneapolis) Charlie Westerman trading baseball cards on his porch on rainy summer afternoons. If I ever feel down about life in general, THAT'S my "happy place".
SethSpeaks: I'm right there with you. I still buy a box of cards every now and then because it makes me happy, and it's so much fun to open packs!!!
BaseballBoys: I buy the Topps series at Target from time to time. Charlie, by the way, had an extreme adoration of Mickey Hatcher. Not because he was a tremendous player, but he was the only Twin that he didn't have in his collection (Josh had two and wouldn't trade because it was funnier that way).
SethSpeaks: That's just cruel!
BaseballBoys: Yes, but it sure was funny!
SethSpeaks: How 'bout some quick questions and answers.
SethSpeaks: Thoughts on the Pete Rose situation?
BaseballBoys: Josh will kill me for this, but Hall of Fame: Yes, Back in Baseball: No.
SethSpeaks: OK, you're entitled to your opinion, I guess! Ha!
BaseballBoys: C'mon, he's the all time hits leader. Give him his plaque and forget about him, otherwise he'll never go away.
SethSpeaks: How good is Rickie Weeks? And, with Weeks, JJ Hardy, Prince Fielder and Anthony Gwynn in the Brewers system, how long before they're good again?
BaseballBoys: Rickie Weeks is probably that good. The Brewers only have a couple of minor leaguers that have real potential and the other one is Prince Fielder. I think Weeks is a year away from being a bona fide major leaguer. I think Hardy and Gwynn are just OK. JJ Hardy may even be the better of the two. Gwynn gets hyped because of his name, but with the right instruction may make a fine major leaguer. How long before they're good again? Let's see, YOU predict the next Red Sox World Championship and I'll predict when the Brewers win their division. They sure have a nice ball park, though....
SethSpeaks: Yeah it sure is. OK, is there anything you'd like to share with our readers that I haven't asked yet?
BaseballBoys: Enjoy the game of baseball. Encourage your friends to enjoy it. The NFL and NBA are so 'sexy' right now, it makes me want to puke sometimes. There is beauty and even art in baseball, and the 162 game journey is part of the fun. If you've got a minor league or independent league team in your town, go out to the ballpark, sit in the sun and just enjoy. You're watching a game that has well over 100 years of history. And who knows? You may catch a T-shirt out the cannon the mascot shoots in between innings!
SethSpeaks: Well put, and on that note, let's call it a conversation!! I appreciate you taking the time to do this. It was fun!
SethSpeaks: Oh, one more question... I need your thoughts on My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance.
BaseballBoys: I've only caught one episode...shame on me....so I can't really say, but the episode I saw was insanely funny. I'm looking forward to "The Little Groom"!
SethSpeaks: That does look good, huh?
BaseballBoys: seriously, Twins division champs in 2004?
SethSpeaks: I think so. None of the other teams scare me. Eric, thanks again for taking the time to chat!
So there you have it. A conversation with Eric from The Baseball Boys. I hope you enjoyed it. That is it for today. E-mail me if you have any questions or comments! Have a very wonderful day!
Back to Archives Home